Advent Yarn Calendar Week 3

Funky Shawl – Day 15

Remaining scrap colors I believe are in the blue range with maybe a single strip of yellow. This will definitely be a one of a kind shawl that screams, “I am an artist. You don’t have to like it.” I believe this is the first time I’ve ever “free-styled” completely making up something as I go, incorporating random stitches and random color scraps.

Running out of room on my 40-inch needle cord, so will need to move some onto a second needle before Christmas. After Christmas is past, I will post what I’ve been making for gifts. That is, if they are done before New Years. ; ) There are not enough hours in the day and night.

Side note: I do not own a TV despite working for media, so I go down YouTube and podcast rabbit holes to accompany my knitting. Recently, I’ve become strangely addicted to watching a series of makers and cooks in rural villages who post videos. They capture daily routines that fill me with admiration for the level of craft, expertise and care that I only glimpse a hair of when sketching my own designs or am involved in the act of knitting that seems to slow time.

Here’s one you might watch if you live in the Western world and have never grown rice, because it may cause you to never look at rice the same again, in terms of labor and inherent value of every grain. https://youtu.be/xSDMTIe90AY

I am mesmerized by this elder woman’s strength and knife skills in this series, and have watched enough of her cooking to start incorporating spice combinations into my own concoctions. Open fire and fresh air must add much to the flavors. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hinixe8QehU

Then for the Swedish version of Liziqi, I visit the spectacularly gorgeous videos of Jonna Jinton, a nature-connected soul who broadcasts Earth’s beauty. Here she recorded the sounds of lake ice freezing and cracking that are similar to whale sounds, and set it to her drone footage of winter lakes near her. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qd-CwJa1SHE

Advent Yarn Calendar Week 2

Experimenting with increases created a feathering effect at the top before I reverted back to triangular structure. Seems half my scraps are in the red/yellow category and half in the blue/purple. It will definitely be a funky, one-of-a-kind shawl, but possibly not as ugly as I first thought, once washed and flattened. With different yarn weights, I’m doubling up the thin ones.

Yesterday got notice there is a planned power outage all day Friday where I live, forcing me to be unable to work. It’s hard for me to miss more than half a day out of 7 and still make bills, and Saturday is already scheduled for a family holiday gathering, so I was a bit nervous. But as luck would have it, a large amount of work came in to allow me to make up for it by working late nights. Someone’s watching out for me. : ) Looking forward to a day of hanging out knitting gifts somewhere that’s warm.

Normally I don’t have a Christmas tree. I never really wanted one, since I worship trees where they are. But this year, I got a potted miniature red/white rose instead. I enjoy it!

My spirituality is nearly inexplicable to anyone else, but I’m happy with it. I don’t consider myself Christian but grew up loving Advent calendars and lighting a candle each week leading up to Christmas. I practice Buddhist meditation, have studied Buddhism quite a bit, but don’t belong to a group or particular branch of Buddhism. I believe in angels, love Tarot and oracle cards as divination tools and feel close to spirit realm daily. I literally never feel alone.

For years, I’ve appreciated the practices created on Zen Habits blog. Whenever I can, I find it helpful to sign up for a month or two of the Sea Change program to focus on a specific topic or habit. This month it’s the Sacred Bow Challenge, and it’s allowing me to do a year review in an entirely new way. If anyone’s looking for an affordable program to methodically review your past year and set intentions for the new, it’s fun and enlightening.

Nature’s art during forest bathing – walking in the woods is my favorite medicine

Advent Yarn Calendar Week 1

Stash Advent calendar shawl, week one

Pulling random leftover yarn balls with no regard to color mixing, in addition to making up pattern as I go along makes me suspicious I might make a Guinness world record for ugliest handknit when this is all over. Thankful two things are in my favor: 1) I work from home so ugly won’t stop me from wrapping myself in it, 2) Playing with yarn is fun.

December Yarn Calendar

Two Advent calendars

A few years ago when I first became aware of yarn companies selling Advent calendars of mini-skeins for hundreds of dollars, I thought, what a brilliant marketing scheme. And I used to feel left out. Until I finally did something about it this year and made little bags from my stash yarn as a gift to myself and other(s). I’d seen a few on social media post about this idea, but dagnabbit, I’m done with sitting on the sidelines.

While making 50 little balls of yarn took me longer than anticipated, several evenings this week, I now have one for myself and one to share. Wanted to post and pass along this lovely idea of a beautiful way to gift yourself and others by using whatever supplies are in your own stash, in case anyone should care to make their own. The cool thing about these inexpensive, nylon bags is, you can reuse them year after year, though finding a more sustainable material – like knitting one’s own bags to put one’s own balls of yarn in – would be super cool.

I’ll be starting a linen stitch small blanket or wrap by pulling and knitting a random yarn ball each day from the 1st through 25th. I grew up with the tradition of lighting an Advent candle each Sunday before Christmas without being religious, so I will post a photo of my progress each Sunday with the candle(s) of that week on this blog. To me personally, any ritual where we bring more light to the darkest season is helpful and healing. If anyone else wants to join in, let me know what you are making in the comments, or join on social media the #ciastashcal.

Excruciatingly Slow Building

A winter pattern in process – a tube cowl with half white on black, half black on white, of nature elements found on Whidbey Island

I had been on a mailing list for over a year for SWATCH Studio, a wonderful online network for knit designers, new and not so new. September, a note popped into my inbox that new members were being accepted for a brief window. I thought there’s no way I can manage this now. But noticing scholarships were available changed my mind, so I applied and graciously was accepted for a year access. I worked ten, 14-hour days to afford the fee, and walked in the door.

I’ve found many folks who are as busy or with more commitments than I managing to do the work and creating gorgeous things. What is absolutely brilliant about it is, everyone is encouraged to commit to 30 minutes a day. That’s it. Because my job relies so heavily on my arms and so does knitting, I end up doing an hour one day, skip the next, but averaging any given week 30 minutes a day in one of the following activities: Reviewing educational masterclasses, going through instructional videos on specific topics of design, tech editing, math, pattern writing, publishing software. One day a week I participate in a Zoom accountability group of three Pacific Northwest designers.

On the one hand, I’m finding myself amazed at how much it is possible to get done by committing to 30 minutes a day on anything. On the other hand, it feels excruciatingly slow with my pace of working seven days a week to pay bills. I have three patterns in the works, but honestly, because there are so many steps to professional pattern writing, at this pace I question whether I will get my first pattern published before next September.

My pattern goals: A light shawl based on a flower/leaf, a capelet based on turkey tail mushroom, and this cowl here by winter 2020, unless I decide to forgo all the steps of setting up my brand format, tech editing and test knitters, and just get it out there post New Year. Probably not a great way to start a second income stream.

Everything I create will be grounded in elements from the natural world around me, and once I get a platform set up, a big part of my mission is to support groups involved in restoration & regeneration of our ecosystem and soil, like global tree-planting groups, organic farm schools, and like-minded programs local to me. When possible, I’m using wool from local to me sources from local animals, like Abundant Earth Fiber’s cinnamon Merino/Targhee in the cowl design.

Today a little daydream of a scenario popped into my mind. Since to meet my current needs requires me to work daily without weekends, and since 30 minutes a day is great but frustratingly slow for absorbing coursework, teaching oneself software, sketching, designing and creating samples, I wondered what it would feel like to have 30 days of my bills magically covered to give me one solid month to devote to getting my infrastructure in place.

Pondering whether it crosses some ethical no-man’s land to do crowdfunding for a month’s living expenses with a clear schedule outline of what you intend to get accomplished with your time. I’ve seen people do such a thing for travel with a purpose, so why not creating with a purpose? I’m considering this.

Vignola – Top wool on steep sale, Oasis from Expression Fiber Arts,
bottom cake from Fidalgo Artisan Yarns Radiant DK as payment for test knitting

Always need to have a piece of on-the-go knitting I can take anywhere, something more mindless than chart work or design. This is my second Vignola, the result of a two-week love affair with mauve that no longer calls me so much. I intend to make this larger than the pattern with a third ball of charcoal gray, since most shawls are expandable and never seem quite large enough to stay on the shoulders for warmth. I’ve given away all but one of the more than 25 shawls I’ve made for this reason, something I’m keeping in mind for design.

I’m not so into Christmas whoo-ha, but this year I decided to create my own little advent calendar out of stash yarn, where I am wrapping tiny bundles of different colors, one for each day from Dec 1-25, with the intention to build a linen stitch blanket with the random colors, knitting one bundle each night. I’m making an identical “calendar” to give someone else as well. Great way to use up yarn available to me in a methodical, joyful way before anything new comes in the door in 2020.

Thanks to Ciasbod Poddar for the idea.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWW-zbcwE2g

A Tale of Two Finished Objects

I.

Impressionists Shawl by Helen Stewart. A fun knit to dissuade me from biting nails during time of great transition: Sending my only child off to college and moving from the house I’ve lived in 14 years within the same month. Someone asked me why I continue to knit shawls when so few folks wear them. Answer: They give me a sense of accomplishment because I can finish a shawl faster than a garment, they make a simple shaped canvas in which to play, and more to my point are about a fifth to a sixth the cost of a sweater in yarn volume.

I did find blue-faced leicester whose texture I love to work with for nearly the cost of a shawl though, and will begin a winter rainy day project the Oban sweater or Oban cardigan but think of it as a no pressure slooooow make in the field of mindfully made items.

BFL Sheep

II.

A gift from my past to my future. During process of sorting through all belongings and packing to move, I uncovered this in a long line of nearly finished sweaters I thought I had dealt with by either unraveling or finishing. Usually they are missing only one sleeve or seams. It became such a consistent habit of mine, I stopped making sweaters. I have no idea what the pattern for this was, but I know I made it likely over 30 years ago. The condition it was resting in all these years was complete except for a 6-inch seam on a sleeve. Almost unbelievable I hid it away.

The sweater fits me well now, is super soft, and perfect for whenever fall arrives. I imagine I set it aside because of my severe tendency toward perfectionism in my 20s with the noticeable blip in the lace edging. I can hardly believe how even the stockinette is, looks machine made, but no, just two hands, two sticks and some yarn. Now I happily embrace the imperfection and, in the tradition of many design concepts of the world’s cultures I’m going to say this was intentional imperfection. Yes, I meant to do that.

If I could build a yarn store inside my mind, it would be this. I was thrilled to drop in and chat with the lovely people at the Starlight Knitting Society in Portland this week. I crammed so much into 48 hours of following my bliss away from work for the first time in four years, that I imagine a part of me is still there soaking in all the vegan eateries, hiking all the parks, hugging all the trees, and dreaming of a yarn library such as this beautiful space. I did walk away with something from the sale bin which I will share when I create a piece with it, and a free but priceless badge of courage.

Although I fit the millionaire to millennials meme in not ever being able to afford to buy a house in my lifetime, I eat avocado toast or restaurant food for that matter only 3-4 times per year. So housing and luxury eating in my life appear not to be correlated. Plus, this was a transcendent moment of peppery, lemony, plant fat goodness I wouldn’t trade for a house.

PS. The lace yarn in this photo is normally the price of a house, but I got it at an annual half-off sale. I knit in the lap of luxury but always for reduced prices.

Vision Mojo

I have not knit much in 8 months, which is something like a personal record. A piece of my ideal life has been strangely absent in order to prevent work injury. My mojo is most happy when I do two things: Get even a brief walk every day somewhere in nature and knit a bit every day. If someone should offer to pay me to knit and walk so those could be the core of my life, that would be even better, but not likely going to happen.

After reading an inspired article about physics and knitting in the New York Times, I encountered this lace designer’s work, Sharon Winsauer. So I bought a pattern and suddenly felt the return of that excited buzz of joy of creation. My mojo was back. I knew without a doubt, I have to attempt this piece of lace, no matter if it takes a year or a decade. The size will be big enough to cover a queen bed, a mandala of a bedspread. And it just so happens, I did enough test knitting last year to obtain hand-dyed, lace weight silk/wool for this in exchange.

https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/CrazyLaceLady

Then my brother sent me another great knitting idea where someone took data from his child’s first year of sleeping patterns and turned it into a baby blanket. And “poof” a vision was born for what I would really like to do if I won the lottery. You know that mythical brainstorm board titled “When Money Finds Me”? Mine has gone through a gazillion revisions. This is gazillion and one.

The vision: Host hiking/knitting retreats for nerdy folks from around the world based on nature connection and knitting. Transform data from nature observation (bird songs, fern frond math, Fibonacci, etc.) into blankets or wall hangings, with an option of giving an item away to people in need, like sand mandalas that get blown away, only in yarn. I would invite guest teachers like math nerds who can explain more than I can about mathematical structure, and knitting nerds who focus on a specific expertise of design, while I lead groups traipsing about the woods gleaning nature’s beauty, data, and spirit.

And then this feather fell from the sky literally in front of me. It’s always a sound idea to have a good dream for when money should find you.