Festivals Once More

After a year of missing both Maryland Sheep and Wool and New York Sheep and Wool festivals, I couldn’t handle the wait leading up to MDSW this year.  Since I didn’t have any purchases that were necessary, we took a different approach than in years past.  This was the year M took the lead… and did she ever.

For every festival we have attended in the past, my mother has joined us – both to help out so there were two of us keeping an eye on M when she was super young, and to enjoy the festivities.  This year, though, my mother opted out so it was just M and I going to our first festival alone.  Oddly, it was also the first festival we went without a stroller….

Losing both my mother and the stroller did present some obstacles – especially including me not having a place to put my growing shopping bags and M not having another adult to distract her.  But M wasn’t phased.  She was so excited to be spending the entire day just the two of us to celebrate Mother’s Day a day early.  What I didn’t expect was her shopping enthusiasm.

Though, really, she is my daughter.  I’m not sure why this was a surprise.  I encouraged her to lead me wherever she wanted to go throughout the fair grounds.  We made it only steps past the gate before she was pulling me into a booth.  Luckily, that was the information booth and I didn’t start hemorrhaging money yet.

Our first several purchases of the day were definitely for M – she fell in love with a basket, a hand-woven coin purse and a stuffed llama within ten minutes.  I then, somehow, managed to convince her we couldn’t buy an entire ceramic tea set at the very beginning of our day as it would likely be broken by the time we would head to the car.

I am incredibly lucky, though.  She hasn’t lost her love of sheep. We spent the majority of our time in the barns staring at and petting all the different breeds and loving every minute of it.

I also can’t complain about M’s love of shopping as she pulled me into several amazing booths to purchase yarn and fiber.  She even helped me pick out a new Jacob fleece – this one only about a pound and much smaller than my last.  I couldn’t justify buying anything larger, since I still haven’t spun up the last Jacob fleece…

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Overall, it was everything I needed it to be.  M and I had some serious mother-daughter time and enjoyed being outdoors and surrounded by the things we love.  M’s favorite part? “Walking and spending time with you, Mom.”  (Insert a serious AWWWW face here – because my heart totally melted)

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The Epic Blanket of 2015

Alright, it’s definitely been a significant amount of time since I finished the epic project and I think it’s finally time to talk about it.  This project completely changed how I think about myself as a crafter.  For those of you who are new to this blog, I started off as a knitter.  I’ve been knitting now for 15 years and I began spinning over 4 years ago.  But could I crochet? Not hardly.  I tried once back in high school before deciding that learning to knit might be a better idea for me (I ended up with the wonkiest piece of fabric when first trying to crochet).  Over the last couple of years, though, I’ve slowly taught myself basic crochet stitches and even successfully made a few items.  However, all of these were somewhat simple projects, usually involving only one type of stitch.

So of course, when I found out my sister was having her first child, I decided to go all out and find the most complex crochet blanket I have ever seen.  Okay – in my credit, that’s not exactly how this went down.  I saw the pattern on Pinterest and fell in love.  The colors were so bright and cheerful and all the textures looked like a baby’s dream come true.  I was so smitten that I couldn’t dream of NOT making this blanket.

Seemingly, anyone who crochets, and even many knitters, now know that I’m talking about the Sophie’s Universe blanket by Dedri Uys.  At the time that I found the pattern, it was just Sophie’s Garden – a much smaller blanket that I decided I would just add more rounds to until it was a size I was happy with.  But then when I was ready to buy the yarn, I noticed that the designer was hosting a mystery KAL for this larger version, and clearly I had to join in!

Little did I know that this blanket would take me nearly nine months to finish!  I took little breaks here and there when I had NO idea what I was doing and I just wasn’t mentally capable of learning another stitch or technique.  Plus, once it got to a certain size, and I couldn’t bring it back and forth to work on it during my lunch breaks, it became a bit more slow-going.  However, most of the slow down was that almost every round, I had to learn even more about crochet.

Some of my knitting friends joked with me at a retreat that I could no longer go around saying that I don’t really know how to crochet.  This blanket was essentially a master-crochet project.  I don’t really believe that’s the case – even though it certainly felt like it – but it definitely threw me into the deep end of crochet!  Or maybe off the deep end, I can’t decide….

Luckily, there was only one time that I was seriously discouraged while working on this blanket.  I foolishly started looking at other Ravelry project pages and nearly cried when I saw that someone had managed to crochet the entire blanket in 15 days.  15 DAYS!  At this point, I had put in a solid 6 months.  I was a little bit devastated by my incompetence and slowness.

In the end, I have no regrets.  This blanket became everything I dreamt of and every time my sister posts pictures of my niece even near this blanket, my heart sings.  The somewhat sad part – I’ve already promised my own daughter that I will eventually make her one.  I just have to somehow muster the inner-strength to take that one on… I’m thinking monotones and less color changes will likely be the game plan!

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New Year, New Goals?

Now that the holidays are solidly behind us and all the decorations have been put away, I’ve finally started to think about whether or not I’ll be setting any goals for 2016.  I’m not big into resolutions that just make me feel like a failure halfway through the year.  I’m totally okay with setting goals, though.  It’s a small difference, I know, but I can look at a goal that’s even half-achieved and see the accomplishment.

That being said – I’m not making a ton of knitting goals this year.  Last year, I spent over half the year on one crochet project – a true labor of love – and this year, I just want to knit or crochet whatever I’m drawn to.  I do have a couple projects I definitely want to finish, like a well-deserved sweater I’ve been working on for my mother.  Otherwise, I just want to knit whatever inspires me.

However, I did find that my spinning fell by the wayside last year.  Mostly because I was so determined to finish that one project (I’m clearly not even ready to talk about the project… maybe soon).  I also think I was just in a spinning funk.  The last few spinning projects I worked on all ended up being fingering weight or finer and took me what felt like forever to finish.  In fact, the spinning project I finished today, is a three-ply fingering weight.  I’m ready to cleanse my palate, so to speak, and do some fun and easy spinning.  Mix things up a bit.  Spin some small sample projects, even.  Especially since my biggest goal of all this year is finally spinning my jacob fleece for my Rhinebeck sweater.

I’ve decided to make up a spinning bin.  There is already a group on Revelry that does a Spin Your Bin spin-along.  I’m not taking part in the spin-along, but I’m definitely taking inspiration from it.  I pulled out some of my oldest fiber, as well as other new and interesting things to keep me on my toes.  I’ve gathered it all up, photographed it for some accountability and put it all in a nice clear bin by my spinning wheel.  This way, when I finish one spinning project, I won’t go into analysis paralysis when deciding what to spin next.

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As you can see, there is quite a lot in the bin, but I already have a pretty good idea how I want to spin each project.

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Some of the projects are already in progress.

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Some are samplers of different fiber blends.

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Some are even combinations of different fiber braids that I’d like to play with plying together.

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The real goal: I want to get back to playing and experimenting with my spinning while getting some major, maybe even looming, spinning projects completed.

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The Big News

This may end up being a much longer post than my norm.  But I really do want to let you in on a few things that have happened over the course of the year that have caused me to refocus!

In case you didn’t pick up on the little hint in the last post, one of the biggest changes is that I am now a first-time homeowner.  M and I moved into our first house back in July and we’re absolutely in love with our new home!  Of course, one of the wonderful joys of owning a house: LOTS of projects!  We were very lucky to find a house that was completely move-in ready and there still aren’t any major projects that are needed.  We are incredibly grateful!

That being said, the projects I’m referring to are not major renovations and I have, sadly, done absolutely no furniture building thus far.  At this point, we’re only working on organizational systems and little crafty projects to make the house feel like home.  But we’re loving every minute of it (even when it means I have to go up on the roof)!

One of the other major changes is that M is now in grade school! Not only is this just awesome and she impresses me daily, but it also means so many adjustments to our daily lives.  Instead of driving her to daycare every day, at whatever time fit with my work schedule, we’re now pressed to drop her off at school right when the school opens so that I can get to work on time.  Plus, we have to pack her lunch EVERY DAY!  The HORROR!😉 *yes, I know we were super spoiled before….. and I only mini-miss it..*

Obviously, packing a lunch isn’t the end of the world and, sometimes, it’s even super fun when I can get M involved.  But packing a lunch for a child who was lucky enough to be served a healthy, hot lunch everyday at her old daycare tends to be a crazy challenge.  Especially when most of her suggestions go like this:

M: How about soup?

Me: To eat cold? There are no microwaves…

M: Oh.  What about pasta?

Me: Still no way to heat it up….

M: Right…. ummmmmmmmmmmmm

Regardless, we’ve managed to make preparing her lunches almost an easy experience… after a few months of practice!

The final major change isn’t quite as upbeat as the other two, though it’s really not the end of the world.  I toyed with whether or not to mention it – but in the end, it will be a major part of my life now – and maybe discussing it here could help others who may be dealing with a similar issue.  I won’t go into a lot of detail in this post, as I’d like to give people the option to easily skip over a post about medical issues – which has little to do with the general crafty-nature of this blog.

However, I was diagnosed with Gastroparesis a few months ago after experiencing pain very similar to the pain I had prior to having my gallbladder removed last summer.  After freaking out thinking the major organ that had been attached to my gallbladder (i.e. – my LIVER) was failing (truth – the pain really does radiate throughout the chest making it incredibly difficult to really localize), my awesome specialist was able to confirm somewhat quickly – after many tests – that I have moderate Gastroparesis.  My specialists explained it to me as this: if I eat the same meal as a “normal” person – in three to four hours, the other person’s stomach would be empty.  Mine? Still half full.  I’m still super holding onto that optimistic “half-full” concept😉

Since I am still in the “moderate” zone of this condition, and due to the amount of pills I have to ingest for another unfortunate condition, my doctor and I agreed that for now we would try to maintain my health through dietary changes.  This is DEFINITELY still a work in progress. A couple times a week, I’m on a liquid diet to give my stomach a much-needed break.  I was warned that the best possible way to keep my stomach happy is to “eat” like I don’t have teeth.  Smoothies are my best friend.  Too bad I love solid food.  So everything in moderation has become an extreme and I’m struggling to find a balance with still enjoying food (even my love of salads isn’t helping me here) while not causing extreme pain that makes me want to both scrunch up in a ball of pain and bend all the way backwards to somehow stretch my stomach out… it’s bizarre, I know.

Though I’m not likely to spend many days writing about these struggles – there may be instances, especially during the holidays, when this condition will play a major role in our lives and will probably sneak its way into posts.

All in all, I certainly cannot complain about the past year.  I have so much to share with you all and I can’t wait to get started! I promise much more crafty-talk and pictures to come soon!! Now to get caught up with work so that I have the time to fill you in on all the exciting things we’ve been doing!!

 

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Reintroduction

To say it’s been a while would be both obvious and a huge understatement.  I could, and probably should, make a lot of excuses, such as how many life changes have occurred over the last year, but excuses would make it sound like I’m sorry for the things that have happened.  For the most part, I’m not.  Of course, there are always a few things a year we wish we could change or do differently. But my life has taken some wonderful new turns and instead of using them to explain my absence – I’d rather begin to explore some of them here on the blog.

Along with these new changes, my daughter and I have added a few more hobbies to our already fun juggling act called life.  Does that mean that I have suddenly stopped all knitting and this will turn into completely different content?  Of course not!  But it does mean that in addition to the knitting and spinning, there will be some more crochet, home improvement projects, gardening, weaving and other fun crafting/DIY/parenting experiments mixed in.  My original intent for this blog was to be open and honest about my life as a single parent raising a daughter with the outlook of taking on anything ourselves.  So to only share some of our crafting life and leave everything else out feels insincere.

I hope you join us in this new chapter of our lives and feel free to share some of your life changes and accomplishments this past year!

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Falling in Progress

Apples are currently in the crock pot, the smell of cinnamon is wafting through the air.  I have a new project on the needles and there is a crispness to the air.  It is the perfect first day of Fall.  Of course, the change in seasons brings some unpleasant things as well… such as seasonal allergies and the cold which our house has already been overtaken with.  But I refuse to let that bring me down.  This is my favorite time of year and I won’t let anything get in my way.  We have apple picking and American Football.  Then there’s pumpkin patches and fall vegetables.  To top it all off: we’re attending the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival this weekend to kick off the start of sheep & wool festival season.  There is just too much to look forward to!

With that said, Fall also brings the want… no, the NEED to cast on nearly everything in sight.  All I long to do is sit in a big pile of all of my yarn and decide what to do with it all.  And then do it.  I cast on a cowl last night out of some handspun that would have been a crime to have stored away another Fall and Winter.  I plan to cast on another cardigan in the next few days for my mom (that’s right, I said ANOTHER).  I’ve already planned enough knitting and spinning to last me all the way through to next Spring and I just can’t stop.  The only trouble is, I would need to seriously tap into my mythical free time to actually get it all done.  Clearly, the cinnamon fumes are getting to me.

Coming back to reality, I realize that I need to first finish a lot of projects.  Sure, the knitting is complete.  But I have a sweater for M, a cardigan for me (more to come in another post), two cowls and two wraps that need ends woven in, to be blocked and buttons sewn on so they can all be worn and enjoyed this Fall.  To accomplish this, I have at least gathered them all into a bag and placed it next to my favorite chair in the living room.  I’ve even conveniently left a sewing needle next to said chair to facilitate weaving in all the ends.  Plus, I’m convinced I will block at least one piece each night for the next week.  Because, really, who knows how many knit pieces I will want to wear this weekend!

It’s time to go stir the apples and breathe in some more energizing Fall fumes.  Tell me, what are your lofty Autumn plans and goals?

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Crafting on the Go

Since we actually took a family vacation this year… by car… I had to plan my projects accordingly.  I brought a couple drop spindles, which of course were not touched, as well as a few knitting/crochet projects in the hope of making some serious progress during our drives to New York and Boston.  Fortunately, I did not drive.  In theory that meant I would be able to knit.  Unfortunately, I did not drive… which meant I could do little more than sleep.  I have the horrible misfortune of getting car sick when I am not driving.  This was not made better by the fact that my daughter insisted that I ride in the backseat with her.  Not to mention the ridiculous amount of traffic we were stuck in on the way up to New York.  But since we are bringing it up, that ridiculous traffic did seem to help my knitting progress incredibly as we were stuck – cars off, not moving – in a tunnel for an hour and a half.  Which meant I could pull out the socks I was working on and complete most of the second sock.  Sure, it was darkish and the people around us were starting to cause concern as they randomly would call out or honk their horns, but this was the only real knitting progress I made on the trip up.

While staying at my sister’s place, I finally admitted to myself that the socks I was knitting were never going to comfortably fit my enormous feet.  They were too snug and I wasn’t knitting them at a tight enough gauge to feel like my toes wouldn’t break through the stitches within the first couple wears.  Luckily, my sister lives in a cold climate and is very knit-worthy… and her feet are about a size smaller than mine.  The socks fit her perfectly and project 1 was completed.

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The next project I brought along would not be what I would consider an awesome travel project.  I could never work on it in the car as I had to count and watch what I was doing the entire time I worked on it.  I also had to bring three gallon-size ziplock bags of fiber fill, which really made my attempt at packing light look like a huge fail.  Plus, it was crochet… which is not my strong suit.  However, I loved this project.  It was my first crochet project that wasn’t flat and it was pretty magically watching it take shape.  With a pattern name like “M. Richard the Whale” and it’s witty pattern description, I was hooked…. literally.  Project 2 was completed and then gifted to a good friend’s baby.

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The final project I brought with me was my Viajante by Martina Behm.  At that point, this project had not been touched in at least 6 months.  I had been worrying that it would never fit properly at the rate I was increasing and so I moved it on to some try-it-on tubing, soaked and blocked it before we left.  I figured I would try it on while we were gone and if I had to rip it all out and start over, at least the relaxing vacation would help ease the frustration.  Luckily, I came to my senses and realized it fit fine considering I was only about a quarter of the way through the 2,000 yards of lace weight yarn I would be using.  I moved it back on the needles and I was delighted to find that I could work on it without looking.  Thus, it was my car knitting for the entire trip to Boston, back to New York and all the way home.  We arrived in Virginia, and I arrived at the end of my first 1,000 yard skein of yarn.  This project was then kicked into high gear and became my serious “travel” project as I never left home without it and literally worked on it every possible second.

 

I may not have brought my typical small and easy projects, except the socks, but I found that the variety and excitement toward the projects is what was best.  None of them were too complicated and all of the knitting was basically stockinette, but there was enough of a difference between the projects to keep me interested and they were simple enough that I could still carry on a conversation or just relax while working on them.  In my mind, they were the perfect items to complete my vacation and set me up for success upon my return home…. And that final success will be shown shortly!

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