Knitting Series: Christmas Stockings

Let’s talk about hand-knit stockings.

Last year, 2017, my big project of the year was to knit four colorwork stockings for my family for Christmas. One each for my mom, dad, little brother, and myself.

Bear in mind, when I started this project I had never knit an actual sock in my life. It was my first time putting in a heel or decreasing for a toe, and it was all in colorwork.

The project took me about six months to complete. I took a couple of breaks when making them to work on some other knitting projects as well. This usually occurred when some aspect of the pattern was particularly frustrating to me, like when I realized that I’d messed up the pattern on my dad’s stocking more than ten rows past the mistake. Or when I realized that I put the heel in the wrong place on my stocking.

In the end, I made it work, mistakes and all, but it was certainly a labor of love. And it was a learning process.

All the patterns that I used were from the same designer, Cindy Steinberg. I wanted to make sure that the stockings all appeared uniform, and of the stocking patterns I found on Ravelry, hers were the ones I like the most.

The first stocking I knit was for my mom.

I learned two big lessons from knitting this stocking.

First, I was not going to use stranded knitting to put the names in ever again. Ever. At that point I didn’t know instaria existed, and given that I still don’t quite know how to do it, I ended up using duplicate stitch for the names on all the other stockings I made.

Second, I needed to loosen my gauge. Mom’s stocking turned out beautifully on the outside, but the float tension in the back was too tight. Unfortunately, by the time I finished my own stocking, the last one I did, I still hadn’t mastered this technique, and had in fact gone the other way. My float tension was probably too loose by the end.

The next stocking I did was my dad’s.

I think this one took me the longest of all four. The hockey player pattern was not intuitive like my mom’s snowflakes or my eight point star.

The only thing I really learned from this one was that it’s ok to take breaks from your projects sometimes, but it’s important to have goals set for when you intend to pick it back up again.

Next up was my brother’s stocking.

Evan’s was tricky mostly because of the floats. That polar bear is, if I remember correctly, about 29 stitches at its widest point. You simply cannot carry a strand across that distance. You really aren’t supposed to do more than 5 or 6. Which means I had to twist my working yarn and my secondary yarn together to catch the float every few stitches. It just felt like a lot of extra work, and that was annoying.

I did learn with his stocking that writing out the chart, rather than counting and recounting and counting again every few stitches was a much better way to go. It made this stocking, as well as my last one, go so much more quickly than the former two.

Last but not least was my stocking.

This one I messed up in a few places. First, the red background of the main pattern at the top should have been extended on the top and bottom.

And, as I mentioned before, I didn’t put the heel on the right side. It’s not noticeable in this picture, but it meant that it was on the opposite side to all the other stockings I’d finished. Fortunately the pattern on my brother’s stocking was good on both sides, so I was able to simply flip his, since I hadn’t put names on any but my mom’s yet.

There were a few lessons that I should have learned while making these stockings that I didn’t figure out until long after they were finished.

Most importantly, I never properly learned how to do stranded colorwork.

Wait, what? I knit four colorwork stockings without properly knowing how to do colorwork??

Oh yes.

And let me tell you, it was a pain. I didn’t realize while working these stocking up that 1) you’re supposed to hold both yarns you’re working with at the same time and 2) they aren’t supposed to twist together!

The way that I knit these stockings, I twisted the two yarns together over and over with each color change, and had to stop every few changes to untangle the yarn! Apparently that’s not how it works. I’ll definitely be doing more research before I get started on my next colorwork project.

I’m still glad I did it, whether or not it was the right way. Having knit these stockings makes every other project I do seem easy. They got me started on more complicated knitting, as well as wanting to try pattern design. So no matter how badly they’ll age as I get more experienced, which I expect is very badly, I will always love them.

Advertisements

Travel Journals: The Vienna Opera House

Let’s talk about Vienna.

For most of my Travel Journal posts, I like to focus on one aspect of a city or one attraction that I visited, rather than the entire city, and write several different posts about the city. For example, I wrote a post about The Louvre in Paris, but I also intend to write many more posts about all the different places I visited while in Paris.

This, however, will be the only post hat I write about Vienna.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the greatest time when I visited Austria’s capital. I met some not so great people that were uncomfortable to be around, and even when I was on my own I was pretty stressed out (see my Traveling with Anxiety post for an explanation there).

That being said, I did have one very cool experience while I was visiting Vienna, so I wanted to write about it.

I would like to preface this story by saying that, yes, I know, it seems a bit strange. Maybe even a little unsafe. But please keep in mind that everything worked out very well, though I wouldn’t necessarily encourage others to take the risks that I did. I was lucky. But at the time, it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

So, on that ominous note, let’s begin.

This story actually starts in Venice. While I was standing in line to go in and see Saint Mark’s Basilica (the line was ridiculous for that), I got to talking to a couple of fellow tourists. I mentioned that I was heading to Vienna after my stay in Venice, and the couple I was talking to very excitedly recommended that I visit the Vienna State Opera.

Given that I really didn’t have a plan of what to do once I got to Vienna (the biggest mistake I made on this trip, really), I was happy enough to take their suggestion.

And boy did it work out for me.

First of all, the building itself is pretty incredible.

I took a tour of the complex, which was led by a guide who discussed everything from the history of the building – including its destruction during World War II and the consequent rebuilding – to some of the backstage workings.

It was a fascinating experience, and served to make me extremely eager to see a performance on the stage.

Now normally, these sorts of performances are extremely inaccessible for your average person. Most tickets cost far too much for a recent college graduate to afford.

But the Vienna State Opera has a program in which they offer standing room tickets for only a few dollars! Granted, you end up having to stand for the entirety of a three hour performance, but I was 20 at the time, I figured I could handle it.

The tickets are offered a couple hours before each performance, so I was standing outside the opera house waiting for my chance to rush inside and hopefully claim a standing spot, when I was approached by an older British gentleman.

Apparently, I looked either English or American – enough so that he assumed that I spoke fluent English. He asked me what I was waiting for, and when I explained that I hadn’t already purchased my tickets, he asked if I knew where he could pick his up. I pointed him in what I thought was the right direction, but explained that the theater wasn’t open yet, hence all of us waiting outside.

I’m not entirely sure why he did it, but next thing I know, he’s explaining to me that he was meant to be meeting some business associates for this performance, but they were unable to come, so he had extra tickets. And would I like to join him for the performance. In orchestra seating. As in, some of the best, most expensive seats in the house.

Of course, this is sending red flags through my head like crazy. All that stranger danger, and don’t trust strange men, and all that that I’ve been taught all my life. But everything that he’s offering is extremely public, I don’t feel threatened by him (this is quite unusual for me, since I have a tendency not to trust men. Something that just kind of gets ingrained when you’re female).

And most importantly to me at the time, what he’s offering is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

So I said yes, and he told me to stay put when the doors opened, and he would bring me my ticket. And he did.

That night, I saw the first performance of the Ring Cycle, written by Richard Wagner.

The Ring Cycle is a four performance show, meaning that in order to see the whole thing you have to go see it on four different nights. It’s quite a famous opera, and takes an incredible amount of talent by the actors to pull off.

I was utterly blown away by the performance. It was an experience like absolutely nothing I’ve seen before or since. Of course, the acting and singing were phenomenal, but as an added bonus, seeing it made me feel mature and cultured in a way that only going to see a famous opera in a famous opera house can.

And the fun didn’t end there.

My new friend, supposedly impressed by my analysis of various aspects of the opera (but probably more likely just a man not wanting to have to see it alone, and taking the opportunity to provide a young person with a great cultural experience), offered me the ticket for the next night as well. Which, of course, I accepted.

I always feel so weird about telling this story. It makes me sad to know that not only to other people, but also to myself, this story seems like it could have gone very badly.

After the second performance, I accepted an invitation from this man to go for a glass of wine and a piece of cake from a cafe across the street from the opera (it turned out to be a super famous cafe and a super famous cake, just as a side note). We spent over an hour discussing the opera, as well as ourselves, and I learned that he was divorced. That he owned his own business. That he had daughters around my age.

And when the wine and cake were finished we parted ways. He didn’t offer to return me to my hostel or anything creepy. I walked to the metro, he walked the opposite direction, and I never heard from him again.

What’s sad is that I consider it luck, rather than my own good sense, that I didn’t end up drugged or something. Obviously this man was harmless, or he would have harmed me. Yet society says I was lucky not to have been raped.

It’s an uncomfortable thought, and I try very hard not to dwell on it. I was lucky, but not because I wasn’t hurt by a stranger. I was lucky because I got to have this amazing experience that I will remember forever.

Knitting Series: Unconventional Tools

Let’s talk about knitting accessories.

Every knitter has a set of basic tools that they keep within reach whenever working on a project.

Obviously you have the needles, though some knitters have more than others. Personally, my needle collection is out of control. I have two sets of needles that I purchased on Amazon for cheap when I first got back into knitting, one is DPNs, the other straight. All of those needles absolutely kill my hands and need to be replaced ASAP, but they’re just so convenient that I can’t part with them yet, even though I know I should.

I also have a set of interchangeable Knitter’s Pride Dreamz, which are one of my prized possessions. Those are kept quite separate from the mess that is the rest of my needles, in an effort to keep at least somewhat organized.

Most knitters will carry their project in some kind of project bag.

Personally, I just use this tote bag, though I’ll be on the lookout for a good project bag in the coming Fiber Festival season.

In the project bag we usually also carry a pair of scissors and a tapestry needle, those being essential items for finishing project and weaving in ends.

Now those are the main things, but a lot of people also carry other items, such as stitch markers, cable needles, or progress keepers.

When it comes to creative solutions to unique, knit-specific problems, though, I think most knitters can get quite creative. So I thought I’d share some of the more creative items I’ve used or plan to use as knitting accessories.

First, can you tell what these are? If you guessed reinforcement tabs for keeping hole-punched paper from tearing, you’re half-right! I used these in an emergent once when I realized that I was not going to be able to knit a project without stitch markers, but had left all of mine at home.

These are cloth reinforcement tabs with gummed backs, like the glue on an envelope. I just stuck two of them together and put them between a couple of stitches, and it worked out perfectly!

Now this looks like a much more traditional stitch marker. I’ve seen these for sale at events in a rainbow of colors, but this gold one is actually not intended as a stitch marker.

One of the most common places that I shop for clothes from is Kohl’s, which is a Department store here in the US. One of the brands they carry is Lauren Conrad, and all of her clothes come with a free stitch marker!

Not really, of course. This pin is used to tie the tags onto the clothes. The price tag hangs from a ribbon, and the ribbon is fastened to an interior clothes tag with the pin. But to me, it’s a stitch marker.

Now this one is actually a tip I read online years ago. This little piece of plastic is a bread tag, one of the things they use to keep plastic bread bags (or in my case mostly bagel bags) closed in the store.

These are great to use for excess yarn from a cast on.

You just wrap the excess yarn around the tag, and you don’t risk accidentally starting to knit with the tail. It’s one of my favorite tricks.

This, my friends, is a selection box of tea from David’s Tea, one of my all time favorite tea makers in the world.

They’re a Canadian company, but they have a few location in the US, including Chicago, where I went on my trip for Yarn Con in April.

I am now obsessed with their tea. And as an added bonus, once some of these containers are empty, they’ll make great storage for some of my knitting things! In particular, stitch makers will fit perfectly in these things.

Speaking of David’s Tea, here’s another purchase I made from them, knowing that I’d be able to use it with my knitting.

It was on sale at the branch that I went to in Chicago, and contains a few sachets of their tea. Not only is the saying spot on for me, but it’ll be useful to hold my scissors, cable needles, and tapestry needles.

David’s Tea – looking out for the tea-loving knitter.

These rubber bands I bought years and years ago, back when I was in high school. They’re intended for use in your hair, when you need a super small tie.

I do still use them in my hair occasionally, but mostly they’re used on my knitting needles.

In particular, they’re useful to keep like DPNs together. I’d have random singular DPNs all over the house if it weren’t for these bands, and I’d be losing them constantly.

These are becoming more mainstream, but I do have to give them a quick mention as I finish up this post.

Taylor makes these needle cozies and sells them in her shop, Cat Sock Fibers. They are incredibly useful. They’re for DPNs or circular needles, to keep your project from falling off the ends.

You just put your WIP into the pocket, snap the ends closed. Not only won’t your project fall off the needles, but it’ll keep those particularly small pointy sock needles from poking a hole in your bag.

Ok, that all I have for now! Does anyone else have any unusual item that they use regularly in their knitting? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll see you in a few days.

Christmas Ornaments

Let’s talk about Christmas tree decorations.

In a previous post, I started going on a bit of a tangent about Christmas Ornaments, and since then I’ve been dying to write a post about them. So here we go.

Christmas ornaments have always been an important part of the season for my family. My brother and I got them as gifts from aunts and uncles every year until we turned 18, old decorations that the two of us made in elementary school are still used to this day, we even still have some ornaments that our grandparents used to decorate the trees that my parents had as children. Now, I collect Christmas ornaments whenever I travel somewhere new. They’re a big deal.

So I thought I’d share some of the stories behind a few of the ornaments that we hang on our trees every year.

This first ornament was given to me on my second Christmas, after I turned 1 year old. I have a series of these ornaments, all the way up to 6, and I think they are just the most precious things. They’re made of porcelain, but they’re surprisingly light so they don’t weigh the tree down too much.

I love them because of how gentle the colors are, and how adorable the little bears look.

I love this ornament. My parents got it for me last year, when we took our trip to Disney for Christmas.

It’s kind of incredible, actually; it’s probably the only ornament in the world that’s both Disney related, and knitting related! That blue ball is yarn, with two knitting needles sticking out of it.

And, even more cool, I found out only as I pulled this ornament out to take a picture that Tinker Bell actually spins! It’s super cute. One of the balls on the end of the knitting needle twists a mechanism, making Tinker Bell twirl. It’s so cute.

This ornament was purchased from the Keweenaw peninsula last fall, when Michael and I took our first vacation together.

We bought them from the gift shop after touring the Quincy Mine. The same gift shop where we purchased matching copper rings that we both wear every day.

I received this ornament from my godmother one year for Christmas. She gave it to me as she used to give me one every year, but this one has a funny story.

The year my aunt bought me this, she herself was in love with fairies. She’d taken to decorating her garden and home with fairies, and so I bought her a fairy ornament that year as well. By chance, we ended up getting each other the exact same ornament!

This ornament is one of my favorites, but my dad hates it! Not the ornament itself, at least not once it’s hanging on the tree, but this ornament takes batteries. And you can’t leave batteries in an item when it is just going to be sitting unused for 11 months. So each year, while I’m decorating the tree, my dad pulls out the screwdriver and batteries and puts the batteries in for me. And he does the reverse at the end of the season each year.

But the reason that this ornament needs batteries is because when you touch the harp strings, it plays music! It’s such a cute ornament, and as a kid I absolutely loved pretending to play that itty bitty harp.

This Scooby-Doo ornament is one of my brother’s, but I love putting it on the tree every year.

My brother and I loved Scooby-Doo when we were kids. We had an old VHS on which we had recorded a few of the really old, grainy episodes, and we watched it whenever we were sick. We also loved some of the newer episodes and movies, and they were one of our favorite things to rent on VHS from the video store (wow that makes me seem old…).

This is the bell that I mentioned in my previous post. It’s not technically my ornament, though it is my absolute favorite ornament that we put on the tree, so I’ve commandeered it as my own.

When you ring this bell, it sounds just like the bell from the It’s a Wonderful Life, when Clarence gets his wing. It’s the sweetest, most magical tone I’ve ever heard.

These pieces are all mini-ornaments from the Hallmark collection. They’re representations of all 12 days of Christmas. They come three to a box, four boxes in all. I bought them in the middle of summer from our local Hallmark store, they were on sale for a dollar per box! They only had three of the four boxes, though, so Michael ordered me the fourth while we were standing in the store, and the others we picked up there and then. I have a small, sparkly white tree that I hang these on, along with a few of the other minis that I have.

The minis are one of my favorite things now. They have some of the cutest designs, and they’re less expensive than the full size ornaments.

These two are a couple of the other minis that I have. They’re the first and second in their series, both came out last year.

If you’re not familiar with Hallmark ornaments, they frequently have sets that come out in a series. Typically, you’ll get one new ornament that comes out each year, up to a certain number that is determined by Hallmark.

Because the series started with two, it’s the perfect marker for how many Christmases Michael and I have spent together, and I intend to keep purchasing each new one as a way of marking each Christmas we have together.

This ornament is one that I got from my parents. When I was very little, I did ballet, and my parents got me this ornament during that time. It’s a Barbie ornament, but I love how sweet and delicate it looks. It’s such a perfect gift for a little girl who likes ballet.

Alright, that’s ten! Obviously we have dozens more ornaments that we put on our tree, but that’s enough for now.

If you managed to get through that whole post, I think you deserve a treat, so here’s one of my favorite Christmas songs, that doesn’t really get played on the radio. It’s called Christmas Is A Comin’, sung here by Bing Crosby.

Knitting Series: Knitting Novels

Let’s talk about books.

We’re going to switch gears here from my usual posts. Don’t worry, it’s still knitting related. But I wanted to talk about something different – books.

Specifically, craft themed books. For me, this mostly means a knitting theme, but I’ve found a love for quilt themed books as well.

I’ve found, much to my surprise, a plethora of novels and series with various crafts as a defining factor of the book. Teenage me, who couldn’t imagine reading anything that wasn’t sci-fi or fantasy, would be shocked (and a little horrified) to know how much I enjoy these books.

The majority of books with knitting themes that I’ve discovered, however, tend to be murder mysteries. Some of these series have a dozen or more books in them, which would result in plenty of reading material for me, if only I could get into them. Unfortunately, although I can get behind a cheesy crime drama on television, I just can’t seem to develop any love for all these mysteries. Maybe I’ll come around when I get older, as I did with romances.

The series’ that I have to tell you about today are not mysteries, they are for the most part romances, but they are some of my all time favorite books.

Here are my top 3 favorite crafting related books/series.

3) Kilts and Quilts

Obviously this one is not a knitting related novel. It’s a series of seven books (so far) about a tiny little town in northern Scotland called Gandiegow. The first book in the series is called To Scotland with Love.

The series is by Patience Griffin, and it can get unbelievably cheesy, but they’re some of the most cozy, endearing books I’ve ever read. This series has actually inspired me to get into sewing again, which Taylor has been trying to help me do for ages! I intend to sew at least one quilt this year, and I’m going to be listening to these audiobooks while I do it.

Each book follows the story of two individuals. Throughout the book, the writing switches back and forth in perspective between the main guy and girl, which is a feature that I particularly enjoy. Each female character either learns to quilt, or is already a pro at the craft. And all the men are either fisherman or some other kind of gruff manly man (I did say that they were cheesy). They are all romance novels though, so they can get a little risqué, be warned.

2) How to Knit a Love Song

This one was actually one of the first knitting novels I’ve ever read. By Rachael Herron, it’s another romance novel.

This is the first book in a series, and I have read the series, but I like this book best of all, and it can stand alone perfectly well.

How to Knit a Love Song is about Abigail, a big city girl who moves to a farm in Northern California when she inherits a cottage from a recently deceased friend. In so doing, she finds herself with no choice but to live with her friend’s nephew, Cade, who’s none too pleased about sharing his home.

I love this book in particular because of how much the main character loves all things fiber. Her enthusiasm is contagious, in my opinion, along with her bravery.

I should mention a trigger warning for this one. By moving upstate, Abigail is escaping a stalker from her past, and the flashbacks, as well as some of the action later on, can be intense.

1) The Friday Night Knitting Club

This number one crafting novel is not only number one in this list, but my number one all time favorite book. I typically listen to this on audiobook, though I own a physical copy as well, and I will read it at least once a year.

The Friday Night Knitting Club follows the stories of six women, ranging in age between college student to grandmother, finding their way in New York City.

The main character, Georgia, owns the yarn shop where all the women meet on Friday nights. She’s a single mother, dealing with the sudden reappearance of her daughter, Dakota’s, father.

Anita, Georgia’s grandmotherly friend, confidant, and first patron, still feels the loss of her husband, although it’s been many years since he passed. She is trying to make sense of the guilt and wonder of falling in love again in her 70s.

Peri is one of Georgia’s employees, a college age student who doesn’t want to follow the path that her parents are insisting that she take.

KC is an ex-editor, having to deal with sudden unemployment caused by the recession. Too experienced to get a job in her old field, KC wrestles with the sudden changes in her life, including the onset of menopause.

Lucie is a struggling TV producer in her 40s, suffering from insomnia and a bit of a mid-life crisis. Realizing that she has to take hold of her future, she makes some decisions that will change her life forever.

Finally, Darwin is a feminist graduate student with a thesis that’s rather contrary to the other knitters of the book. She attends the Club for research purposes (only research, she always insists), but soon finds support from the other members that she never knew she needed.

In case you couldn’t tell by the extensive description for this one, I’m a little obsessed with this book. The ending is extremely unexpected, but the next two books in the series, Knit Two and Knit the Season (which takes place at Christmas), really help tie up loose ends and make for an extremely satisfying and heartwarming read.

I hope you’ve found a little inspiration to check out some new crafting novels, and I’ll see you again in a few days!

Travel Journals: Traveling with Anxiety

Let’s talk about anxiety.

When I started traveling when I was 17, I was not aware that I suffered from anxiety. But knowing as I do now that I have serious social anxiety, so many of my less enjoyable experiences of traveling make more sense.

For anyone who is unclear on what it means to have social anxiety, it’s not simply that I’m shy or nervous around new people. I am those things, but it also affects how I perceive certain events or actions, especially my own. When a situation causes me anxiety, my heart rate increases, my mind blanks, my whole body heats up immensely, and all I can think about is ending the moment as quickly as possible.

It should be noted also, that different people experience anxiety differently. Just because those are my symptoms doesn’t mean that the way other people experience anxiety is any less valid. And the solutions I’ve come up with to handle my anxiety, which I’ll be discussing below, are not right for everyone.

So, here are my top three tips for traveling with social anxiety.

1) Bring a trusted friend

The trip that I remember being the most significantly stressful for me in terms of my social anxiety was my second ever trip to Europe. On that trip, I stayed the first week in Rome with a friend, then moved on to travel for some time by myself through Venice, Vienna, and Prague, before meeting up with another friend in Munich.

And while I remember that week in Rome with extreme fondness, the rest of that trip was varying degrees of horrible.

Any time I was by myself, I questioned every one of my decisions, I was certain I was making a fool of myself with the locals, and in general I felt extremely out of my comfort zone. While there’s something to be said about stepping out of your comfort zone in order to grow, there is a limit, especially when you have anxiety. I didn’t feel like I grew on this trip, I felt like a fraud.

So when I got the opportunity to travel again, I made sure to do it with friends. And with friends that I knew would understand and be there for me.

My Fall Break Trip (so capitalized because it was one of the best travel experiences I’ve ever had) to Sweden, Scotland, Amsterdam, and Bruges was the first trip that I took after learning these things, and it was far more successful.

When we found out that I had mixed up my flight when we’d booked our travel, for example, it was immeasurably helpful to have a calm headed person there to let me cry a little, and be there to help me get things worked out.

Or when we had to interact with other people, like the manager of the hostel, having a friend beside me sometimes gave me the will to complete the interaction myself. And if not, my friend was there to do it for me.

2) Have a plan

One of the biggest problems with my Europe trip was that I had been told by tons of extroverted, non-socially-anxious people that the best way to travel was to not have a plan. Just go with the flow, see what comes up, leave yourself open to possibilities.

No.

This is one of the worst possible things you can do, at least if you’re like me.

When I travel now, I like to plan as much as I can. The internet makes this so easy, it’s incredible. I pick out exactly which attractions I want to go to, I try to find a selection of restaurants that I can choose from, I know exactly what activities I want to go to and when they are happening.

Of course, this makes me a huge tourist in the places I go. I do not end up off the beaten path, and I like it that way. Going off the beaten path makes my anxiety flare like crazy. Trying to do things “like the locals” makes me feel like a fraud. The only thing that will get me away from the tourist attractions of a place is if I have a guide. Whether it’s a friend or a paid tour guide, it doesn’t matter, as long as there’s someone there to tell me if I’m doing something right/wrong.

And you know what, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. You’re on vacation to enjoy yourself, not have an anxiety attack.

3) Accept your limitations and be forgiving with yourself

This one can be the hardest of all of them, I think.

You do have to accept that, while traveling, you are going to make mistakes and do silly things. You’ll end up on the wrong train or have booked the wrong flight. You’ll try to order something on the menu and butcher the pronunciation. You’ll get lost and go the wrong way in the rain for thirty minutes, and end up giving up on the destination because at that point, you want a hot shower more than you want to see that place.

And it’s ok to be upset about that. It’s ok to have a little cry in frustration, it’s ok to freak out, it ok to be embarrassed.

Just don’t let it ruin your vacation.

Book a new flight, make a joke about your language skills, try again tomorrow. And know that you are doing something extraordinary, just by being there.

That’s my best advice.

Knitting Series: Growing as a Knitter

Let’s talk about knitting.

For those who read both my knitting series and my general series, you’ll know that I’m turning 24 this month.

I thought that now would be a good time to reflect on how I’ve grown as a knitter.

It’s hard to believe that when I first started knitting, I was only about eight years old. I made a few scarves, all riddled with holes and uneven sides as I made accidental increases or decreases.

Years later, I remember picking it back up again and feeling even more clueless than I was at eight. I recall finding a cool pattern on Ravelry and being so determined to knit it. It was a cowl that was knit flat, but seamed at the end. It had some mock cables, and called for worsted weight yarn.

It’s hard to believe, but I had absolutely no idea what worsted weight meant, and could not make sense of the descriptions online. So I popped into my local Joann’s and looked for something that said worsted, ending up with this terribly itchy wool that was, indeed, worsted weight. Though of corse, most of the things on the other shelves would have also qualified.

My next challenge came when I simply could not figure out how to purl. I kept watching tutorial after tutorial on YouTube, and I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t turning out right.

Eventually, I finally came to terms with the fact that I was knitting wrong. Now you may think that there’s no right or wrong way to knit, but that’s not true. If you physically cannot do a purl stitch because of the way you hold the needles, you’re doing it wrong.

This was probably around the age of eighteen or nineteen.

I found the two cowls I knit in that pattern recently. One wasn’t too bad, but the other must have lost some stitches at the end, because it was not the same size from start to finish.

After this extensive learning experience, I mostly dropped the knitting again for a few years. Not until I was laid up for six weeks, unable to put any weight on my left foot after surgery, did I start to get truly serious about knitting.

Taylor started coming over regularly, like the amazing friend that she is, and we would sit and knit together to help alleviate my boredom.

When I say I got serious, I mean it. I went from rarely picking up needles, to having them in my hands every day, pumping out project after project.

I started out making mitered squares for a quilt that I never ended up putting together, but in the process perfected my knits and purls, and learned my increases and decreases.

I did my first colorwork piece. A pair of fingerless gloves made with Red Heart that said Police Box on them, a gift for my friend who had gotten me into Doctor Who, which was another big alleviator of boredom during my healing time. It was also my first project knit on double point needles, a huge step up for me.

I taught myself to make some knit flowers that I found a pattern for, and really found my stride with those increases and decreases.

After that, I made a set of double knit coasters. Can’t for the life of me remember how to do double knitting now, but I know that I’m definitely capable, because those coasters sit on the coffee tables at my parents’ house to this day.

While I kept up the crafting – making a blanket for my grandmother while she was in hospice care, and learning to crochet to make my mom some slippers in the style that my great-grandmother always used to do for the whole family – it wasn’t until after I came home from Paris that I really started identifying myself as a knitter.

While in Paris, I made my first Hitchhiker, a staple in my pattern library now, and that pretty much cemented my fate.

Although I’ve still got a few knitter rights of passage to go through yet – I’ve yet to make my first sweater – I am unabashedly proud of my progress. I’ve gone from being incapable of purling, to being confident enough in my knitting to write a blog about it in just a few years!

I think that’s pretty good, if I do say so myself.

Birthday Blues

Let’s talk about birthdays.

It’s officially June, which means that very shortly, I will be turning 24!

Birthdays have always been a pretty big deal in my family. Nothing like Dudley’s birthday in the first Harry Potter book, with 36 presents (but last year there were 37!), but still, a fuss is always made. We typically go out to dinner, I get a few presents, and we have whatever my favorite dessert is that year (it’s been apple crisp for the past several, and I don’t expect that to change any time soon).

This is actually the first year that I’m living away from home on my birthday, and I’ve not really discussed what we’re going to do with Michael. We’ll still definitely be going to dinner with my family, it’s too much of a tradition not to, but my birthday’s on a weekday, so there’s not much else we’ll be able to do.

Anyway, I’m straying far from the point I was going for.

Since I graduated from my undergraduate program in 2015, every birthday seems to come with at least a little bit of existential panic. There is, after all, nothing like a birthday to remind you that you’re getting older every day, and there’s no going back.

The reason these types of thoughts have only started affecting me as I’ve gotten older is simple – I always had a plan before that.

When I was in school, I prided myself on my ambition and my drive, on having a plan and sticking to it. But that was back when having a plan was easy, I only needed to look a few years ahead at a time. And besides, at that age, with the middle class upbringing that I had, most of my goals were easily set out for me.

So, in high school? Graduate at the top of my class, make sure to get good grades, find a university that I love.

Done.

In college I decided to step it up a notch. Graduate in three rather than four years, complete a study abroad, keep my grades up.

Done.

Then when I graduated, whoops, I had no idea what I wanted to do! Cut to me heading to Paris, thinking that the answer to my identity crisis was in Europe. If you don’t know how that turned out, go check out my Backstory posts, or just look at the name of my blog.

Now, at 23 years and 11 months old, I still have a feeling that I’m trying to figure out exactly who I am and what I’m doing, and never does it seem so pressing as when I realize how quickly time flies. It feels as though I just turned 23 a few days ago!

I often find myself reflecting on forgotten goals, unfulfilled resolutions, and old dreams these days.

And yet, ultimately, I do know that 24 is just the beginning. I know that each day is what I make it, and that all my goals are still attainable. Maybe I get the birthday blues, just like a lot of people, but I try to use them to motivate myself to do all the things that I want to achieve.

Knitting Series: Yarn Review – Northern Bee Studio

Let’s talk about Yarn.

Today I actually have two different yarns from the same company to review for you! Northern Bee Studio has a great fingering weight base that I used to knit some socks, as well as a worsted weight base that I made into a hat.

First, I’m going to tell you about the fingering weight yarn. The base is called their Shawl Sock base, and is 435 yards of 100% Superwash Merino, with 85 yards in a second colorway of the same base.

I bought this in a set, as is clear from the photo. I was immediately drawn into their booth from the other colors that they had, but these colors had me drooling from the moment I saw them. The purple is called Wine on the Dock, and the yellow is Gold Rush.

I’d been wanted to try a contrast cuff, heel, and toe on a pair of socks, and when I saw this set I thought it was perfect.

I will say that working with a dark yarn like this was harder than I anticipated. I used the Hermione Everyday pattern to knit up a pair of socks for my mom, and although it’s a very easy pattern, I found it a bit of a strain sometimes to count or keep track of stitches against the dark fabric.

But they did turn out absolutely lovely.

The yarn was wonderful to work with. Very smooth, didn’t split often, and easy to knit up. It did seem to be quite a thin yarn, I would almost go so far as to call it a light fingering, which did make for some very, very small DPNs that I had to use.

The yarn is also quite stiff. It doesn’t have a ton of elasticity to it, making me a bit concerned about having used it for socks. After blocking, for example, the cuff didn’t spring back as much as I expected, and despite using and extra stretchy bind off, there isn’t a lot of give in the cuff either.

Perhaps as a shawl sock base, the emphasis should be on shawl, because I’m certain that between the quality of the yarn and the incredible colors, this yarn would make a phenomenal shawl.

Next up is the worsted weight yarn. This Worsted base is 215 yards of 100% Merino. This skein is in the colorway Juvenile Bald Eagle

I absolutely adore this base!

It’s genuinely one of the best worsted weight yarns I’ve ever worked with.

It’s super squishy, incredibly soft, and a huge pleasure to work with. The yarn doesn’t split, it works up very smoothly, and the end product is a gorgeous, velvety piece.

This was only my second ever cabled piece, and the cables on this hat were quite intricate for a newbie. This yarn helped me along by being so smooth and easy to work with.

End verdicts? Get yourself some of this worsted weight for pretty much any project you want to feel squishy and soft and lovely, and get yourself some of that shawl sock for a shawl or other more delicate piece.

I should note, both of the yarns I discussed here were purchased from fiber festivals, the sock yarn from the Ann Arbor Fiber Expo, the worsted from Yarn Con in Chicago. I mention this simply because I highly recommend visiting their booth before making a judgement on the yarn they have available. I believe that they’re working on updating the website, but for now what they have listed on the site I linked above is absolutely nothing compared to their actual stock, which includes numerous bases and phenomenal colorways.

Just something to keep in mind if my review has made you inclined to purchase some of their yarn.