Hold Onto What Matters…

When Its Unclear: Wooly Mastadon

In the past few weeks it has been a roller-coaster. I don’t like putting life updates here, this place is for the purpose of sharing projects, creativity, inspiration. Yet sometimes life just has to come to the forefront, needs to be seen. No matter how much you try to hide what is happening it shines through. It shines through here and elsewhere in my silence. Now, there have been some really good moments but there have been a lot of really hard moments too. It was to the point that all I wanted to do was run and hide from everything. Thankfully I have a really amazing person in my life who helped me get out of that but sometimes things hit you hard. One thing that I have shared on and off here was my Mom’s battle and defeat of cancer. Two months ago my family learned that that cancer had returned, and with a vengeance. She’s getting treatment and doctors seem pretty positive but it hit everyone hard, when something terrible was over…at least you thought it was, only to come back.

This was just one example of the downs that have hit these past few months. I lost track of what mattered and let things get to me. I let work drama creep into my time away from work and eat away at what was left of me. I gave up on knitting and reading, and really creating for a while. The only thing I really had to show for a span of time were some nature photographs from mini day trips to go escape for a while. I think somewhere in the mess that was my brain it knew the only way to get me out of my funk was to get me out of the house.

So I got out of the house. Some of my best friends came up to visit. I went on day trips, I took photos, and I worked. For whatever reason, possibly because some of the troubles are slowly being resolved, things are getting better. I have someone in my life who is constantly reminding me not to lose sight of my goals, and that it is always worth working toward the things that you find important.

What's Out There: Wooly Mastadon

And so in the past week I have made an effort to get back into the small things I love to do, the creative things that keep me going. I started designing some knitwear and brainstormed some big ideas. These big ideas reminded me that I still someday want to be a graphic designer at a knitwear magazine, or something like that. I want to move on and do the things I love for a living. And I have to work toward that, not give up, if I want to accomplish it.

Life isn’t always happy, it isn’t the perfectly edited photo posted to Instagram or the short witty post to Facebook. It isn’t the properly edited blog post filtered to make your life look perfect. Life has ups and downs, and sometimes the downs feel impossible to handle. It is possible, it will get better. You just have to hold onto what matters.

Hold onto what matters…it keeps you going when nothing else will.

I’ll be back, with projects, hopefully very soon. Thanks for listening.

~Stay Inspired

 

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A Spinning Update!

Spinning Update: Wooly Mastadon

After quite a bit of time, I finally can share a spinning update. I looked at my Ravelry page for this project, and noticed I started spinning this in November. I got a kick in the pants to start working on it again when Dianne of the Suburban Stitcher Podcast started her yearly Rainbow-Along. Since it was open to spinning, I used this as my motivation to finish it up. I went on a plying spree and finished plying the yarn, all on Saturday, but it is now finished and lovely. Here are the stats: 320 yards of about a sport weight to DK weight yarn from 100 grams of my hand dyed fiber.

Spinning Update: Wooly MastadonSpinning Update: Wooly Mastadon

I love it, and am excited to finally, after all this time, put something new on the wheel. I’ll be spinning my batt from Camelot Dyeworks next but I just had to share my project. I love this yarn and am so happy to have it in my yarn stash. I’m thinking a crazy colored shawl, but we’ll see. Until then.

~Stay Inspired

Snowdrifts and Sweaters

snow Wooly Mastadon

It’s here! The snow has finally hit Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and in full force. We are expected to end up with at least 20ish inches of snow after this. Yesterday morning the ground was bare. This morning it feels like the middle of winter. Originally I had requested a day off from work today so that I could go on a field trip with a class from my college (yay for small colleges and letting alum come along). That was postponed due to weather so I got myself and old fashioned snow day. It has been great. Although some basic chores still needed to be done (stupid laundry) I have been able to fit in some quality time with one of my current WIPs. The Splitstone has been on my needles for a few weeks now and in hibernation for most of them. Because of the events in my last post, I ended up abandoning any projects that took a lot of attention and space and went for plain socks. Today I veered back onto the path of my sweater.

Splitstone: Wooly Mastadon

I wasn’t sure how I would keep track of all of the cables and shaping and I had read that some people created spreadsheets to track the progress of the sweater. I decided to get out my graph paper and go to work. The result is a grid with tons of numbers color coded and highlighted sections to alert me to a cable cross or increase/decrease section. I am not the best at memorizing patterns, I end up being one of those people who obsessively checks the pattern (unless I have done serious mods, in which case I ignore it) and makes sure I am on track. This chart has made that so much easier. At this point, my best tip for this sweater: make a chart. It helps so much.

Socks: Wooly Mastadon

I also have started on yet another pair of toe-up socks (full disclosure, I finished that other pair of socks and have worn and washed them once…I just still need to photograph them). When I started them I had received the comment from the people I was talking with that they couldn’t figure out how I could possibly knit socks while not paying attention, especially the toe of a sock. For most of these people, they can knit basic things but have never ventured into sock knitting so they view it with a sort of awe. For me to sit down and start knitting the toe of a sock without any effort while carrying the conversation was amazing to them. I thought it was kind of funny but these are my sanity projects and if I have to pay real close attention to them they just won’t happen.

Spinning is on the docket for this evening, we’ll see if I can finish plying up some fiber and wash some yarn. Look for some exciting projects and new features to come in the next few months. I feel my love of creating coming back with full force and a renewed focus on what my real passions are in life. It’s going to be fun. In the meantime, all of the comforting fiber projects sound perfect right now, along with hot tea, cocoa, a fire in the fireplace, a good book, and a great hand made afghan…oh yeah, and my pooch.

~Stay Inspired

P.S. I may or may not have spent some quality time trudging through the snow, without a jacket, hat or mittens because I had to get the perfect photograph of the snow…now!

Works in Progress (WIPs): The Elder Tree Shawl

Elder Tree WIP: Wooly Mastadon

It’s Friday, and once again I’ll stop by to share my thoughts. I’ve had a UFO (unfinished object) lingering…no hibernating in my pile of UFOs for a few months now. It is the Elder Tree Shawl by Sylvia Bo Bilvia, a free pattern on Ravelry. I had started it at the beginning of April and hadn’t really touched it since. I’m using some beautiful yarn, not fancy mind you, but the colors are lovely (find more info here: lilwestie’s Elder Tree Shawl). It’s on size 8 needles and is lovely to work with. I just stopped. Now, I do have some background with UFOs. After knitting a relatively ugly fluffy pink blanket over all of around three years, I had decided I did not want projects to linger. Despite all that, I had created plenty of reasons in my head as to why I just didn’t have time to pick up this project.

  • It will take too much time.
  • The lace is too complicated.
  • i just can’t get into the stitch pattern.
  • I have to work in absolute silence.
  • I’m too tired after work.
  • etc……

Finally, about a two weeks ago, I decided to pick up that shawl. I love the color and the yarn, and knew I just couldn’t let it sit or frog it. One night, I sat down and knit 2 rows. That’s it, 2 rows. But that was all I needed. Those 2 rows showed me many of my excuses were wrong. At this point, it doesn’t take too much time. The lace is simple with every other row being a rest row, and I immediately was able to ‘read’ my knitting. I could work with music playing in the background, even music with words. I’m not too tired for this. Things have fallen into place.

I’m at a point in the shawl where 4 rows only takes me around 30 minutes. While I know that won’t last long as the shawl grows, I still have learned a few things about shawl knitting and myself in the process.

  1. Yes, lace takes effort and attention, but it’s doable.
  2. Knitting lace shawls is soothing. It takes just enough attention to keep you busy but still allows you to enjoy the process, the quiet, and the background music.
  3. If forces you to have a little uninterrupted knitting time which can help relieve stress from the day.
  4. The rest rows allow your mind to wander and help you calm down.
  5. You come closer to your knitting, you understand it.

Mostly, it helps me find some peace in my day, especially when I don’t have a routine. A big reason I didn’t pick up this project was because between my part time job, my internship, my freelance projects, and family and friends, I just didn’t have a schedule. Things were hectic and not being able to plan ahead gives me a headache. Slowly, as I learn this new lifestyle, I am getting back into things that I thought I just couldn’t start up again; music (my clarinet), friends, the shawl. It is helping me stay sane in the insanity that is life.

Its a lesson that I wish I had learned sooner…well, maybe I had learned it, but it got lost in the chaos and clutter. I have dug it out and with my shawl things are falling into place…for a little while at least.

~Stay Inpsired

Sweater Mod: Complete!

 

$5 in Paris: Wooly Mastadon

I know it isn’t Friday, but my skill level in the patience department is at an all-time low and I just had to share this project. I actually finished modifying my $5 in Paris early last week but I never was home when there was good light to snap a photo (I apologize for the undead look, I wanted to share this sweater right away and it is that kind of day today), and finally punted waiting this morning (there is no hope for decent lighting in the near future, hello rain). Here it is! I am so excited, I can finally wear this thing. I started this sweater over a year ago (see this post) and just haven’t been able to wear it. Now I can.

Some quick stats:

  • I had leftover yarn from my original project that I saved for this purpose but it is Caron Simply Soft in a color with no dye lot so I wouldn’t have been out of luck if I had to purchase more
  • I couldn’t remember what size needles I knit the sweater on so I jumped and knit the mod in my size 6 (4 mm) KnitPicks interchangeables
  • The sweater was knit top-down. My mods would be knit bottom-up
  • The decreasing would all be done in the ribbing so the goal was to keep the stitch pattern symmetrical

I ended up picking up the stitches on the collar and cutting the cast-on yarn. This was an endeavor because I didn’t think and forgot that I would be knitting in the opposite direction that the original sweater was knit. Almost 2 hours later, I had all of the stitches on my needles and was ready to go. I decided that the best way to decrease was to slowly decrease the ribbing over the shoulders symmetrically into a single line. I just worked organically and decreased when I thought it looked good. trying on the sweater as I went. Knitting up and making the neck hole smaller didn’t take very long and sooner than I thought I was binding off again and presto, my sweater fit! I know this all sounds so easy, and trust me, the picking up of stitches was a nightmare, but I would be lying if I said that knitting up and decreasing was hard. It just worked for me, perhaps because my frustration with this sweater has been around for so long that I either wanted to fix it or have to scrap it because I really screwed up. Math comes easy to me and working organically does as well so everything fell into place. I was lucky and with future ventures probably won’t be but I’ll take it for this sweater.

Regardless I finished the sweater in time for the cold weather which will be next week (maybe that’s an exageration but seriously, they are forecasting and early winter starting in September for the UP of Michigan so this could get interesting). I can’t say how happy I am and even thought there are tons of flaws, by golly I’m going to wear this thing!

~Stay Inspired

Thoughts on Creative Highs and Lows

Creative Highs and Lows: Wooly Mastadon

I have been thinking about creative highs as of late. If you’re a creative, you know what I’m talking about. It’s those days when you have a vision to create something, and have to start it NOW. You get to it and are in the zone, time stops, and your creative juices flow so perfectly that your project just seems to come into being. There is no struggle, there is no headache, there is no creative block. You just create and when you’re done, it works. I haven’t had any major successes since I randomly decided to design my Etsy shop website that I was so sure I was going to code right away (but, newsflash, I didn’t…cue this space here for the time-being). On the fiber end, my last success was creating the slouchy hats with bulky yarn, I just went and, tada, it was done.

But back to those amazing times, the times when everything just works. As of late, those minutes, hours, of creative bliss just haven’t come. I’m not in a rut, so to speak, but I am most certainly starting my slippery descent down a mountain that has very few footholds. If I don’t find one soon, I might just slide into the depths. Yet this feeling has caused me to think, what is really causing me to slip? Is it my lack of drive, is it stress, is it loneliness, is it lack of creative stimulation? It’s hard to tell, but in the end, it’s all and none of these things.

I’ll start by addressing stress. On the graphic design side of my life, there have been a few pieces that became just draining. I wasted time on them, and neither me nor my client/boss were happy with the result. There was a unnecessary time crunch and bad feelings all around. Recipe for success…well maybe failure. This is the first time I have ever actually hated a project (and yes, the strong word is needed). It’s frustrating and draining. Cue next part.

Friends. I love my friends, and this is the first time in my life that I have actually spent time with them, the first time I get out of the house almost weekly and go out to eat, or go bowling, or go to a friend’s apartment for board game night (and no, don’t read into that, it’s exactly as it sounds. I don’t drink, not that I’m against it, I just typically don’t like the taste of anything and it’s expensive). I had never really done this, and i love it. I get to talk with fellow artists, my friends about everything. But that’s the problem…i had never done this. I’m getting used to it, but until I get more into it, it can be just plain exhausting. Granted my part-time job at a grocery store is forcing me to interact with waaayyy more people than I’m used to, getting together with friends is amazing, but it takes my energy. I like to whole up in my house with my pooch, podcasts, my computer, and my fiber. Quiet, alone, simple. I’m changing my lifestyle and my nonexistent social life is starting to exist. It can be draining, but good.

Loneliness, well that can be self-explanatory. But wait, you say you have started getting together with friends? That cant’ be right? It’s a different kind of lonely. It’s the kind that makes you think, did I do that right? What if I screw up and no one will talk to me. It’s purely self-doubt. I think everyone battles with that at some point, or often, and I find that I’m on the often end of the spectrum. My friends think I’m outgoing at times, that I can get away saying everything no matter how blunt and people will still laugh. Yes, sometimes this is true (thanks Dad for all you taught me) but it can also be exhausting. It’s a way to hide how embarrassed or self-conscious I am. I’m a klutz, and can be an idiot as much as everyone else. I laugh it off in public to save myself but never doubt that sometimes it means crying at home at night after I really blew it. All these feelings have a place, but if they start to overcome everything else, i start to slide further down my slope.

Lack of stimulation? I doubt that that is the cause, as I live on Pinterest, and in vacation land that is the UP. Or is it? Getting out more helps, but I always slide back into my routine and routine can drain your ideas just as much as it can give them. Routine can let your mind wander, but when your mind wanders to a place that tells you you need change, then it’s time to do just that. I am making changes, especially to create a social-life and a career, and all these things come into a giant UNKNOWN. It can be amazing but in mass quantities it won’t even let you slide off that slope. It pushes you off the mountain.

Maybe I need to be pushed off the mountain and forced to do something so different I won’t even know where to start. Maybe my creativity is there, in that crevice that I am so afraid to enter. But maybe, the adventure is just beginning. I’m not going to school next week, I graduated. I can create my own path, there is no one telling me I have to finish something, or start something to create my life. I’m here creating my life as I go. Perhaps that realization is all I need to bring my creativity back.

~Stay Inspired

A Sweater Mod

$5 in Paris Sweater Modification

Originally I was going to post about my victory finishing my tdf spinning and having two lovely skeins of yarn to show you, washed and ready to go. Then life happened. There was still hope. I thought, you know, I still have time. And then work happened and on top of that my design internship got interesting. That is when I realized that I was pushing it. Despite some dissappointment, life happens and you keep going and doing what you love. Thus, the fiber will have to wait and I will share what I currently started this week in the large project department: a sweater mod.

A little over a year ago I knit $5 in Paris by Anna Maliszewski. The pattern is well written, and for a first time knit sweater (I had already crocheted a vest) I thought it would be easy. It is in fact extremely easy so for a new sweater knitter, or a new knitter in general, I highly recommend the pattern. Fair warning: the pattern is almost solid stockinette so if that drives you nuts, it might not be the pattern for you. However, I didn’t mind it and felt comfortable adjusting the pattern to fit me. Yet, in those original mods, I overcompensated. I had to adjust the pattern to be slightly larger, so I added to the collar/shoulder area. I thought it would be fine, but I ended up making it HUGE. I added so many stitches that the one time I wore the sweater, I had to safety pin it to my shirt underneath. It’s supposed to be a dropped shoulder swaeter and I love it, but it falls off.

Cue an afterthought modification. I have been sitting on this sweater for a while, as I said over a year, and have just not known what to do with it or how to fix it. I thought about taking the fabric in a tacking it at the shoulders, but the more I considered that option, I knew it wouldn’t work. That would just create unsightly lumps that I don’t need to add. I thought about sewing up the sides smaller and cutting out the excess; again unsightly lumps would ensue. Finally the other night, after a long day, I just couldn’t calm down. I took my sweater out of the closet(where it had been hibernating for months) and looked at it. Then it hit me, I need to either invest a good piece of time to this sweater or call it a casualty of the modifications gone wrong. I opted for the former.

Upon inspection of the sweater I knew what to do. My plan of action would be to pick up the stitches just below the cast-on at the shoulder and put in a life-line. Then I would rip out the cast on and knit up, decreasing the ribbing strategically on the shoulders so that it would come together into the pattern while making the neckline smaller. I also opted to use smaller needles to help this process. Of course, the night I came up with this I just had to pick up the stitches.

So that is where it stands; stitches picked up, life-line installed. My next step is to (gasp) cut and pull out the cast-on edge and go from there. I want to be able to actually wear this sweater when the cool weather arrives, and in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, that will be very soon. I’ll post an update when I finish, but until then you officially know two things: I’m crazy, and I have a lot of things I want to do.

~Stay Inspired