A Bit of a Mental Health Break

This is slated to be one of my busiest months all year.  Which is something I have not entirely wrapped my head around.  I’m traveling for work, then going to Rhinebeck.  There’s M’s birthday and Halloween.  Then some more work travel.  As mentioned in my last post, I admit that I had moved past stressed into a state of overwhelm.  With the new school year, I was determined to take back my life, say “No” much more often and schedule time for myself.

So when staring down this jam-packed month – how am I going to keep my sanity?  By making sure I keep up with my planning.  I don’t like to admit it – but I tend to be unorganized.  I can usually be super and sometime overly organized for work.  It’s the rest of my life where it tends to fall apart.  It’s like I only have so much organization within me that I use it all up for work and then there’s nothing left.

This year, though, M and I have been setting up systems and really holding each other accountable. Things as simple as picking out our clothes for the week and packing all the things at night for the following day have made a huge difference for both of us.  In the past, I have implemented these systems and even stuck to them for a few weeks… However, this year, I’m determined.

Several times in my adult life, I’ve caught myself saying things like “I can’t keep living like this”.  In my current state of self-awareness, I’ve instead asked myself “Then how do I want to be living?”

I know that to slow down and enjoy the time I have with my daughter, I need to refocus on the systems that remove stress and almost magically give me more time.  Spending an hour every weekend to prep outfits for the week alone saves both of us so much time every morning.  When I’m not rushing around in the morning finding clothing that fits (for both of us), getting our lunches together and packing our bags – I’m sitting down, having a cup of coffee or tea with breakfast and talking to M – really setting our up our day to be more intentional. It’s fantastic.

Does every day look like that?  Goodness no.  But more of them are every week.

This isn’t a mental-health blog by any means.  However, I know that a lot of the reasons why I knit and spin are for my mental health and that’s great.  Now, I’m making sure that I’m also showing my daughter how to slow down and enjoy the time we’re given with the people around us.  She may not realize the benefits I get from crafting – but we both feel the benefits from spending quality time together every day, instead of rushing around trying to find her sneakers while I desperately throw an “almost completely healthy” lunch together.

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Back Again – Maybe?

I could make a lot of excuses for my absence, tell my life story or give a laundry list of accomplishments.  But I won’t.  Honestly, you don’t want/need to know, and I don’t want to waste time thinking or writing about it.

In a society where being busy is praised, but showing that you are stressed is looked down upon – I’ve finally thrown in the towel.  I’m at the point where I am openly saying no and admitting that I have reached a state of overwhelm.  Admitting it to others, really, because I had been trying so hard to not admit it to myself for months. It was somehow easier to allow myself to accept that I have limits if I told others that I did.

All that being said – I’ve mentioned time and time again that Fall is my favorite season.  Apple picking, sipping wine outside at my favorite vineyard while M runs around, watching football with my parents on a Sunday afternoon, Halloween.  Fiber Festival Season.  Every part of it makes me happy.  But honestly, it also adds to the stress.  Needing to make all the apple things before the apples rot, driving two hours each way to get far enough out into the country to feel like I’m really appreciating Fall, and traveling to and from festivals.

This weekend is the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival.  When M woke up this morning (after actually sleeping in!), she was on me about leaving the house and doing something.  Meanwhile, I was sitting on my craft room floor soaking in the fact we had NOTHING scheduled for this weekend.  Planning to savor every unplanned moment of the day.  And I felt guilty about it.  I hadn’t told her that there was a festival this weekend because I knew she would want to go. She loves festivals and she’s already “mad” at me about going to Rhinebeck without her again…

I slowly weighed my options. It’s not like I wouldn’t enjoy the festival – I enjoy most of them and this one is pleasantly small and much less crowded.  But it’s over an hour away, with traffic likely two.  It was late morning and (we’re being real here) I hadn’t even showered.  The idea of rushing around to get ready so we could get there at a reasonable time was stressful.  I carefully chose my words and told her about the festival.  She asked if there would only be fiber there.  I honestly relayed the details.  She thankfully declined once I told her the distance and the length of the drive.

Instead, she asked for me to get her “Box of Projects” out of the craft room closet and she disappeared for another hour working on her own crafts.  We’ve since spent a lovely day crafting, making waffles together, butterfly watching (our three butterfly bushes out our front window are still blooming), and just breathing.  One of the many benefits to parenting – having a child who can read you and your needs sometimes, and understanding that sometimes, even moms need a break!

I hope you all are having an amazing start to your Fall!  But I also hope you are finding ways to slow down and take some time for yourself, too!

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Single Skein Maddness

It’s no surprise, especially after the photographic proof in my last post, that I have numerous one-off skeins.  Many are from when I first started cultivating my stash.  Let’s be honest, though – I’ve accumulated single skeins of yarn throughout my knitting lifespan.

I mean, how can you really resist – that one perfectly beautiful skein that seems to beckon you across a festival booth.  You have no idea what you could possible make with it, you’re trying not to buy the entire booth full of yarn, so you tell yourself it’ll be okay to buy just one skein.  Then you hoard that skein.  Sure, I can call my stash a yarn collection and these single skeins are the gems of the collection.  Or I could be honest – most projects I want to knit call for more than one skein of any given yarn.

 I have embraced the multi-color shawls and I keep trying to mix and match my varied skeins.  However, I can only seem to be so creative.  So when I heard on the Just One More Row Podcast that they planned to have a year-long single skein project knit along, I was in.  Every month of 2017, knit a project that uses all or most of a single skein of yarn that is at least 50 grams. Done.

 Then I went back to the planning.  Yes – all of my pre-planning to stay on top of gift knitting for the year.  A few months, I was able to overlap my gift knitting and single-skein projects.  Now, I’ve finished my May single skein project and feeling really great about the progress I’ve made thus far:

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There was a March project, as well – but as I said, I’ve been able to line up some of these single skein projects with gift knitting.  So I will have to keep some secrets! 😉

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Flash the Stash 2017

It’s Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival weekend.  So what does that usually mean for me?  An excessive amount of yarn and fiber purchasing.  Though it’s true that I seriously limit my craft-spending throughout the year, I do tend to go a bit overboard when I’m at festivals and retreats.

To counterbalance the overwhelming feeling of needing to purchase every beautiful skein of yarn and braid of fiber – I decided that the couple weeks before the festival would be a great time to go through and reorganize my stash.  What better way to remind myself that I already have plenty of amazing yarn and fiber?  Plus, I had let things get a bit out of hand in the craft room and was no longer certain what had and hadn’t been entered into Ravelry.

I started with yarn – I pulled out and sorted all of it by weight.  My yarn stash had originally been sorted this way, but over time a few added bins had entered into the mix and not necessarily following this guideline.

M decided she should give some perspective, so you can clearly see just how much yarn this is 😉

Once everything was sorted and it thoroughly sunk in just how much there is…. I started the fun and exciting job of confirming my stash listed in Ravelry.

I’m not going to lie this took forever.  This maybe might be why I didn’t finish this step for my next two sections of stash….

Next up – handspan yarn.  I definitely hadn’t realized how much of my handspun I haven’t knit up yet.  I usually am immediately inspired once it’s finished to find a project to knit.  However, I think once I started spinning and completing handspun projects more quickly, my knitting wasn’t able to keep up!  I also didn’t realize how many skeins I hadn’t entered into Ravelry…. not even the fiber prior to spinning.  This was a bit discouraging and I found myself placing these mystery skeins to the side as I will have to do some research to determine the fiber content.


Finally, I took out and sorted all of my fiber.  This included two Jacob fleeces (one of them I promise I have started spinning!) as well as samples I received in fiber boxes and my batt carding stash.  This is where I definitely still have an entire bin to catalog, but at least it has been isolated so that I don’t end up spinning it assuming it’s in Ravelry and somehow losing all the information in the process!


So now the question is – how good was I at Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival earlier today?  You’d think that after seeing all of my stash spread out in all it’s glory across my craft room floor I would definitely have kept myself in check?  Right?!


That would probably have been the case if it hadn’t been for M – the other spinner and new knitter in the house who has decided she needs a stash too…… (plus the tons of other goodies we picked up!)

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Year of Handmade

Happy Spring everyone! It’s been a while – as usual – but there has been a ton of progress since my last check in. This year, I am attempting to complete a year of handmade gifts.

Seriously.

The entire year’s-worth of presents will all be handmade. Okay, so there are two exceptions to this rule, but only because these gifts were actually purchased last year, and it would be silly to hold on to them for an entire year just to prove a point to myself.

At the beginning of the year, I made a list of people and events where a gift would be necessary – holidays, birthdays, baby showers. All of them made the list. Even end-of-year teacher’s gifts. Once I knew what I was trying to accomplish – then came the real fun: breaking down deadlines for each gift. In order to stay on top of everything, while still enjoying the holidays, I knew I needed a monthly breakdown. Aside from my niece’s birthday present, which has since been completed, I have been one hundred percent on track, thus far. Let’s also confirm, her birthday is still a couple months away – so the few extra days it took me to complete her present were definitely not devastating to my plan.

The sad news? Since nearly everything I am making this year is a gift – pictures may be limited. At least until after I have presented the gifts to their recipients! However, I will be sure to sprinkle in a few other projects here and there that will be safe to post. I know I need visuals, so I’ll try to keep things interesting for you, as well!

I am glad to say, that I have completed two crocheted baby blankets already this year. The first is seriously overdue (the baby is about to turn 1), and I maybe still have some ends to weave in (finishing always brings me down), but the crocheting is done!

The second I decided to keep simple so that I had any hopes of having it finished for the baby shower I was hosting…

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Sugar Wheel Baby Blanket by Elena Hunt knit in Knit Picks Brava Bulky in the canary and orange colorways.

I also ended up adding a couple additional gifts into the mix at the last minute. We have two lovely, but somewhat fragile, Easter baskets in our family – handed down to me and my sister from my mother and aunt. Madison had been using one of them as her Easter Basket. However, the logistics of safely getting the other basket to my sister, as well as the knowledge that my daughter and niece will likely not be the only two grandchildren, gave me the silly idea that I should make them baskets. So back to crocheting I went (I swear I knit….) to make these using the Easter Basket pattern by Kara Gunza using various kitchen cotton for stability (and durability):img_0472img_0550

In addition to these blankets and baskets, I have also completed four sets of fingerless mitts using the Lovey Dovey Two Tone Mitts pattern by Jess Brown.  (See the below proof that I do actually knit).

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Knit using Knit Picks Swish Worsted in the wonderland heather colorway and Miss Babs Yowza in the dalmation of purple colorway.

Knit using Cascade 220 Superwash in the walnut heather and baby denim colorways.

Also knit in 220 walnut Heather and baby denim colorways, reversed.  Modeled by M.

Knit using Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice in the grey marble and charcoal grey colorways with a touch of Knit Picks Swish Worsted in the Bordeaux colorway.

This pattern has proven to be incredibly addicting, as it is fun, SUPER simple and conveniently has been using up some leftovers. While completing other less-than-mindless projects, these mitts have saved my sanity. Plus, they are the perfect carry along project! M has helped pick out the color combinations for both of her teachers, as well as for herself. The fourth pair may also be gifted (shhhh – it’s a secret 😉 ).

So far, I have completed 18 projects so far in 2017 – totaling about 3,500 yds.  That’s more than half of the yardage used for all of 2016. I definitely foresee a very productive year!!

I know it may seem late, but what are your crafting goals for the year?  Have you ditched your previously set goals and are starting fresh with the new season?  Or are you keeping light and just going with the flow?

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All of a Sudden

Here we are.  It’s fall again after a whirlwind of a summer.  Though it was an amazing summer, it was full of M (for the first time) having summer activities that our lives revolved around and me straddling two positions at work, just trying to stay afloat.  But now, school is in full swing and we’re starting to get back to a normal rhythm in our lives.

It’s no secret that fall is probably my favorite season.  Between finally breaking out the hand knits to apple picking and Halloween festivities – there’s really nothing that beats it!  Except maybe winter, with my love of layering and snow…

Regardless, M and I have already started our apple adventures and by picking four pecks of delicious, early-season apples.  We even made our first batch of apple sauce a few weeks ago.  Now we’re in prep-mode for M’s birthday and Halloween. But first:  New York Sheep and Wool Festival (aka – the beloved Rhinebeck).

I am glad to say that, though I didn’t manage to knit a new sweater for Rhinebeck this year, I have completed an epically large shawl and a poncho and I’m almost all packed and ready to go!  This is the first year that I’ll be heading up to Rhinebeck without M, staying in a house with friends and attending the festival both Saturday and Sunday.  So it was crucial (really just to me) that I had two major new pieces to wear.

First, I spent most of the summer, including hot Saturday mornings at swim meets, knitting up the Sixpence Shawl by Kristen Rengren.  I couldn’t be happier with this epically large piece!  There are different sizes in the pattern, and I definitely could have stopped sooner, but I basically wanted a blanket to curl up in.  I knit it up in my handspun from Gourmet Stash Tribbles (combining colorways Shrewd Slytherin and Screenager) with a “boarder” (because that’s probably the largest boarder I’ve ever knit…) out of Knit Picks Capretta in the Hunter colorway.  That’s right – this shawl is a Merino, Nylon, Cashmere and more blanket of heavenly cloud warmth.  I even enjoyed how light-weight, yet warm it was to the extent that I wore it multiple times at work – before weaving in the ends and blocking it.  It was the perfect layering piece over summer outfits in my freezing office – how could I resist?!

While blocking, it took up nearly my entire craft-room floor

While blocking, it took up nearly my entire craft-room floor

Once the shawl was done, and I finished the knitting aspect of my mother’s long-overdue sweater, I knew I needed to crank out another substantial piece before Rhinebeck.  Otherwise, I mean really – how could I show my face at the festival for day two? 😉

The problem was, what could I possible knit quickly enough that would make me feel super comfortable and confident?  Of course – the Rodeo Drive Poncho by Stacy Perry!  Even better – I had the perfect yarn already in stash from Aylin’s Woolgatherer’s massive store-closing sale this past summer: Filatura Di Crosa Zara in the beautiful 1962 colorway.  I love creative yarn companies and their love of yarn names 😉

I promise, it's a medium teal color....

I promise, it’s a medium teal color….

Now that all the knitting is done, both pieces have been blocked and most of my packing is done – I’m on to the next crazy struggle – what projects do I bring to work on while at Rhinebeck!? Do I bring my spinning wheel?!  Is that completely insane?! Then of course there’s making the “What to Purchase and Not Purchase” at the festival.  Yes – this year, I am telling myself there are actually things I have too much of (ex: Jacob fleeces, and really all fiber) and giving myself a real shopping list of the yarns I need to knit projects on my To Knit List for 2017.  More information on that list to come! 🙂

Tell me – what are your favorites about/for fall? Knitting/crafting musts?  Items you knew you needed to have done by fall so you could enjoy them? Favorite beverages? Foods?  Whatever it is – let me know – I should probably add it to my fall must-have list as well!

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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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