Friday, January 29, 2010

Getting organized (and a few ATCs)

Okay, don't judge me too much.

This is what my knitting needle drawer looked like up until a few hours ago. Needless to say, I had a really, really hard time finding what I needed. Not to mention there were another dozen needles scattered around my bedroom.

Enter this expandable file thingy I bought at Wal-Mart for storing important papers. It's been sitting empty underneath my desk for several months. (Sorry for the ugly picture but I didn't feel like getting out of bed.)

I numbered each pocket with a needle size and put the corresponding needles inside. It worked out really well-- it's large enough to hold circular needles and the extra-long straight ones, too. We'll see if they stay in there.

The theme for one of my artist trading card (ATC) swap groups this month was "You." I picked the theme, and then I had all sorts of trouble figuring out what to do. I finally drew a golden bird with colored pencils and added fiber and beads. It's not too fancy, but it was fun because it's the first time I've created a hand drawn ATC.

I also picked the theme for my second ATC swap group. The theme was "wild card", meaning we could do whatever we wanted. Again, I had trouble getting started on it. Having a specific theme really does help. I finally went with a vintage-style collage, and I like how it turned out.

Would you like to win some sock yarn? Pop over to Jenny's blog on knitting for her 100th post giveaway. I just met Jenny through the Adventures in Lace KAL and she is adorable with mad knitting skills. (Can I get away with saying "mad knitting skills", or am I too old? Or maybe that phrase is just way out of date. I picked it up from watching Buffy.)

Thank you for your get well wishes earlier in the week. Boy did I get sick. I've been in bed all week and will probably stay here through Sunday. I felt so awful I couldn't even knit for a few days. I think I'm on the mend now.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A few words ...

... about my friend Rachel.

Rachel is the first friend I met through blogging. She left an encouraging comment about one of my knitting patterns, and I was so happy that someone out there was reading my blog. 

We've gotten to know each other over the last year through our blogs, emails, and monthly artist trading card swaps. Now Rachel seems like an old friend, even though we've never met in person. If you don't already know her, the above word cloud includes some of the words I associate with her. But I couldn't quite capture how funny she is, or thoughtful, or creative. Rachel leaves the best comments, she remembers the names of my cats, and her artwork blows my mind. She is an amazing friend.

In conclusion  ...

Happy birthday, Rachel!

PS. Please stop by her blog at Not-So-Plain Jane if you'd like to meet Rachel and wish her a happy birthday!

Monday, January 25, 2010

We might have a suspect

I think I *might* know who has been wreaking havoc around the house.

But I'm still not quite sure.

I didn't get a good look at his face.

He fled the scene before we could get a positive ID.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Yarn shopping

Yesterday I unexpectedly received a couple of American Express gift cards from the company that I work for. I could barely sleep last night because I was so excited about the shopping spree that I planned the moment I saw those gift cards.

I woke up this morning with a cold, but managed to drag myself to a local yarn store that I've been wanting to check out for months. Their selection of yarn was small, but I didn't mind because I usually go in to sensory overload when I walk in to a yarn store. It was nice to be able to take it all in without needing to bolt outside for air. I ended up buying this hand painted blend of silk and cotton from Misti Alpaca. It's incredibly soft.

I also picked up 200 Ripple Stitch Patterns , a book I've been wanting for a long time. I love, love, love ripples, and will hopefully knit a pattern from the book with my new Misti Alpaca.

On the way home I stopped at another yarn store and got a couple skeins of bamboo sock yarn. Now that I'm learning to knit socks, a whole new world of yarn has opened up-- I never used to pay attention to sock yarn because I had no use for it.

Well, time to curl up in my pajamas, drink lots of orange juice and watch a movie. I hope you are having a nice weekend and staying toasty warm. We got a break in the rain today for the first time all week, but it's supposed to start up again tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rain + Knitting + Cats = Joy

I really, really like sock knitting. I'm almost done turning the heel, and only had to rip it out once (so far). Fortunately I have a little bit of experience with short rows, otherwise I would have been lost during the last sock class. Next week we learn how to pick up stitches to close gaps in the heel.

I'm surprised by how much I'm enjoying the class. There is something wonderful about sitting around a big round table with a group of women, quietly knitting. It gives me that same peaceful feeling I get after meditating or doing yoga.

Last weekend I did something I've been thinking about for a long time-- I bought an MP3 player. I'm not ready for an iPod, so I got this tiny little thing that simply plays music and audio books. Buying music online is great fun. My latest additions are David Bowie, Don McLean and Cat Stevens, and I'm loving the soundtrack to the first Twilight movie.

The Adventures in Lace knit-along starts next month and I'm torn between lace socks and this gorgeous
bird nest smoke ring that I learned about from Maureen at 5 and a Beagle . (Both pictures are from Either project would involve learning new knitting techniques and would take me out of my comfort zone, so I guess I can't go wrong.

It's cold and wet here with back-to-back rain storms scheduled for the remainder of the week. Thank goodness! It's been dry for the last three years and we need a rainy winter. Last night I was curled up on the couch knitting and listening to music on my headphones, and the cats kept looking at me funny, like they were wondering if they should be alarmed. I turned off the music and was stunned to hear it POURING outside like I haven't heard in ages.

Knitting, rain, cats ... that's a recipe for joy in my book.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Knitty and Not-So-Knitty News

Did you know you could knit a poem? In October 2009, a giant handknit Dylan Thomas poem was unveiled in celebration of National Poetry Day Live in London. The project was coordinated by The Poetry Society and involved more than 1,000 knitters and crocheters worldwide who each knit individual letters of the words of the poem in 12-inch squares. The Poetry Society's website has a fun Knit a Poem game where you type in a poem and they "knit" it for you.

Lazy Kate Creates is having a lace knit along. This will be the first KAL (knit along) I've participated in. You have to love Kate's strict, no-nonsense rules:

1. You can use any pattern.
2. You can use any yarn you wish.
3. You must have fun.
4. Anyone can join at anytime- there are no deadlines.
5. There are no more rules.

Want to join us?

Speaking of lace, this morning I woke up super early and couldn't get back to sleep, so I trudged over to the bookcase to find a knitting book to browse. Low and behold, Lace & Eyelets jumped out at me. I forgot I had this book! I bought it a few months ago at a used bookstore and never got around to reading it. It felt like some sort of kind-hearted knitting fairy had left me a gift.

Yesterday while surfing around the Internet I learned about Knitzvah and I'm so inspired. Over the course of a year, volunteers at the Jewish Community Center in my area knit 2,000 items for distribution to children's shelters, hospitals, and refugees. It turns out there are Knitzvah groups all over the country doing this. The word "knitzvah" is a play on "mitzvah." In the Jewish tradition, a mitzvah is a commandment from God and also a general term for a kind deed.

I've enjoyed knitting for charity ever since I learned about it years ago from my friend
Dogwood and often wish I could start my own organization to help low-income mothers. One idea is to match an expecting mother with a volunteer who knits for the baby during the term of the pregnancy. I think many knitters (including myself) would like to know their knitting is going to a specific family and be able to hold that family in our thoughts while knitting for them. Another idea is to hold free classes for low-income mothers so they can learn to knit for their own babies, and offer free yarn donated by organizations and individuals. Maybe some day ...

In not-so-knitty news, I think my home is haunted. Last night when I went to sleep, everything was in order. When I woke up, a painting in the living room was mysteriously askew. Other weird things have been happening, too. A roll of toilet paper self-destructed while I was at work. Small kitchen items have been disappearing, only to reappear in the cat bed.

It couldn't be the hijinks of this guy. He's an angel.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wednesday Medley

Last night I used one of the Michael's gift cards I received for the holidays to buy the book Socks from the Toe Up . It's written by Wendy Johnson of the blog Wendy Knits. I'm still working on the toe of my very first sock, but I definitely see more socks in my future and hope that in another month or so I will have the skills (and confidence) to attempt fancier socks, perhaps with lace or cables. The book includes over 20 sock patterns and lots of clear instructions for toe, heel, cast-on, and bind-off techniques.

I have to confess I love books on creativity. For many years I pushed away my creative impulses and still struggle with allowing myself the time and space to play and create. I'm currently reading Creating a Life Worth Living by Carol Lloyd, and it's one of the better books I've come across on the subject.

This weekend I'm finally going to watch Julie and Julia. I didn't like the book very much, but I'm hopeful I'll like the movie since it has Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, two of my favorite actresses.

The Sound of Music is probably my all-time favorite movie. I saw it for the first time three or four years ago and now make sure I catch it every year when it's broadcast on television around the holidays. I have this memory of a childhood friend telling me she couldn't come out to play one afternoon because her mom was making her watch The Sound of Music, and I thought that sounded like a cruel punishment. Little did I know. Last week I bought the soundtrack and oh boy, it's a joy to listen to. I've been singing Do-Re-Mi for days.

I'm still on my audio book kick. I don't read mysteries very often, but I love to listen to them in the car while commuting to work and sometimes when I knit. I'm currently listening to to The Associate by John Grisham and it's compelling. I lost interest in his books years ago, but this one has grabbed me.

Well, that's my Wednesday medley. What are you reading and watching and listening to? I'd love to know.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Smidgen of sock

Now I understand why sock knitting is addictive. I've only made a smidgen of sock, and I'm already looking at patterns for my next pair and scoping out the sock yarn at my local knitting store. There is something so satisfying about it.

The class I'm taking is for toe-up socks knit on two pairs of circular needles. Things didn't start out well. I think I'm the least experienced knitter in the class and had such a hard time in the beginning that at one point I considered giving up. The first step was a
Turkish Cast-on , and I was still struggling with it after everyone else in the class moved on to the next step. I've always found it challenging to learn in a group setting and do much better alone in a quiet room with written instructions. In a group I quickly get overwhelmed and flustered, and my mind goes blank. So I struggled through the first hour of the class, but finally figured out the cast-on after about ten tries. As it turns out, it's not hard to do. It was just new and took some time to wrap my head around it.

Next week we start on the heel, which will involve short rows. Gulp. If I can find the time, I might practice a bit before the class so I'll have a better chance of keeping up with everyone else.

After the class I sat on my couch for hours and worked on my smidge. It was so relaxing ... no television, no music, just blessed silence and busy hands working away with needles and yarn. Before bed I browsed through the latest issue of Somerset Life. I bought it because Kellie Rae Roberts mentioned on her blog that she'd written an article about friendship and intimacy. It was really good. There is also an excellent letter from the editor, Jenny Doh, about the importance of compassion and awareness of others. So touching.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

So far so good

Well, it's been a week and I've managed to keep my new year resolutions goals. It might be a record for me.

The stack of wash cloths is growing and I'm still enjoying knitting them.

This is the last wash cloth I completed. It's a fun pattern from the 2010 page-a-day knitting calendar my mom got me for the holidays. I made a mistake near the bottom. Can you see it? I'm kinda proud of myself for just leaving it-- it took a fair amount of restraint not to frog it.

I'm currently working on this dish cloth, also from the knitting calendar. I've never run across this pattern before and while I do like it, for some reason the cloth has a diagonal shape. It doesn't look like that in the picture, but that's okay, it'll work. Plus I love an interesting stitch in plain white yarn.

Pile of scrumptious cotton yarn waiting in the wings.

I've been getting out more, too, birdwatching and just enjoying nature. Isn't the sky a gorgeous shade of blue in this photo? Another one of my goals for the year is to learn to take better pictures, so I've been playing around with the camera settings. I'm not sure if that blue is the result of that.

I'm so in love with trees, especially the old gnarly ones.

I like the blurry reflection of the buildings on the surface of the lake. Normally I don't take pictures of buildings because ... well, ptooey. But this one turned out kind of neat.

This is my secret spot where I like to just sit. (You can't see it, but there is a wooden bench.) The stream burbles and gurgles and birds flit in the branches above. As I was sitting here last weekend I saw an odd movement in the corner of my eye that turned out to be a Downy woodpecker. It was exciting because I rarely see those.

I went birdwatching in a new place last weekend, too. There are tons of good birdwatching spots in my area that I haven't checked out because I tend to go to the same places over and over. It was a chilly, foggy day and I saw some interesting raptors and water birds.

The setting was so peaceful, but it's right next to the Model Airplane Sky Park, so the air was buzzing with tiny remote control airplanes. It didn't take long to tune them out and enjoy the scenery.

Tomorrow I am taking my first sock class! That is one of my goals this year, to learn how to knit socks. I'm a bit nervous but looking forward to it and hoping to meet some new knitty friends.

Hope you are enjoying your weekend and staying warm. I'm off to run some errands and then settle in for movies and knitting.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Thoughts on 2010

I'm not sure where I first heard about one word resolutions, but it's an idea I really like. There have been quite a few inspiring blog posts about it: Jane at Maiden Jane selected agape, Rachel at Not-So-Plain Jane chose focus, and Kelly Rae Roberts' is nurture. My word for 2010 is awareness. It's really more of a spiritual practice than a resolution. I want to carry the word with me like a touchstone to remind myself to be mindful of what is true for me and conscious of how I live that truth in my daily life.

I'd like to spend more time outdoors in 2010, taking long walks and birdwatching. I didn't do much of that last year and have missed it. Being outdoors is so calming, plus I feel good at the end of the day if I've spent time outside moving my body and taking in the beauty of nature.

Another goal is to do more journaling and blogging. I'm thinking about starting a second blog and even came up with a name and theme, but I'm hesitating to go forward because one blog takes up so much time, I'm not sure I'm ready to commit to two of them.

I would also like to learn new knitting skills this year, like knitting in the round on DPNs, making socks, and advanced lace patterns. While I love small projects like wash cloths and scarves, it's time to move on to new challenges. (I said that last year, too, so we will see.)

It's been interesting reflecting on what's important to me at this time in my life and clarifying my intentions for 2010. In past years I set great big goals that I was absolutely positively determined to achieve and never did. It feels good to have kinder, gentler aspirations this year because with it comes a greater sense of self-acceptance and an openness to letting the year unfold as it is meant to.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

All-day birding trip

So far, I really like 2010. Yesterday I went on an all-day birding trip through rolling hills, ranchland, and canyons. My sister and I go every year, but this was our first time taking the trip on New Year's day. We always stop at Mercey Hot Springs to see the wintering long-eared owls roosting in the tamarisks. It's one of the highlights of the day. I finally took the time to read the user guide for my digital camera the night before the trip so I could get good shots of the owls. This one is my favorite. He seems to be looking right back at me.

It's so good getting away from strip malls and traffic and city noise. There aren't too many other people on the backroads, and as I gaze out the window at the endless scene of undeveloped land my mind begins to calm and the tension in my body melts away.

This was the scene where we sat and ate lunch. Those hills in the background looked unreal, like a painting of a landscape. I think I could have sat there and looked at the hills all day.

In the afternoon we visited the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge , a birder's paradise. Among the many birds we saw on the five mile auto tour through the wetlands were Tundra Swans, Great Blue Herons, Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers, Western Meadowlarks, Black-necked Stilts, a variety of migrating ducks, and one very exciting Loggerhead Shrike (I had never seen one before and was quite thrilled). We also got to watch a beautiful young coyote romp and play in a field.

As the sun went down I could hear the soft hooting of an owl in the distance.

All in all, a heavenly day.