Day 30

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In the video from Day 6, Renate Hiller talks about the spirals in spinning that are repeated throughout nature, and the empathy with others fostered by creating yarn. I have always felt a connection to the past through my crafting but spinning has also taught me to find myself in the actual process.

I have been using the guided meditation from GetSomeHeadspace.com. In these, the repetition of your breathing is used as a focus. (I am sure this is true for other meditations but I have no experience with those.) Spinning yarn is a very repetitive process. From preparing the fibre through to the actual spinning. Your hands and the texture moving through your fingers becomes your focus, the rhythm of your heart beating to match the beat of your foot working the treadle and the spinning of the wheel in motion becomes hypnotic in your peripheral vision. Rhythm and repetition. I have lost many hours to this activity and come through it feeling slightly hazy and much calmer, just as I do after meditation. It is a time of intense but low pressure focus, and a time when the mind can be free to wander or to turn inward.

Meditation is, at least for me, about looking inward to re-establish my equilibrium. Some people exercise to do this. Some people clean house. I make, which allows me the opportunity of bringing happiness to other through gifts and through sharing my knowledge. I am very grateful for these skills and talents. In a society that places so little value on them, it is not about proving myself but about improving myself and the portion of the world I inhabit.

I have studied music on various instruments throughout my life. Do not think this makes me some sort of virtuoso. I got bored *a lot* but loved music so would eventually return. A few years ago I decided I would sit the music exams for an instrument. I lack the coordination to be a good piano player, and lacked the funds for a flute or something similar (I adore the oboe!) but I could afford a recorder. For 2 years I learned and perfected and enjoyed. The recorder is capable of such beauty and for many many years it was an instrument for which concerto’s were written. It was not a cheap instrument inflicted on children and parents alike but a valued talent.

It was during this time that I discovered the much celebrated recorder player Michala Petri and by extension some beautiful music that is so rarely heard because the recorder is considered such a nuisance as to never be played beyond childhood.

I fell in love with the music of composer Giuseppe Sammartini through Michala Petri’s performances and this is what I am sharing today. It is more than 12 minutes long but well worth listening to.

While listening to this I knitted another rectangle onto the blanket in the beautiful purple Fortissima Shadow Color yarn.

day30

My goodness! How am I getting worse at taking these photos?!

I’m more than halfway through the layout I shared a couple of weeks ago. I’ll be adding more to it in the next week or so.

Day 25

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Something of a cautionary tale today. Even if you knit a swatch (a square to see how many stitches and rows you get in a given area) and check that you are getting he number of stitches the pattern tells you to have per inch, measure your garment often. No really, keep checking just as you check that you have the right number of stitches n your needles.

driftwood-finished body

From this, plus half a right sleeve…

So, yeah, swatching is important…. but I’ve never had anything but frustration when I bother with it. I am fortunate that I usually knit to gauge naturally.. You’ve all seen the sweater I’ve been knitting – all those lovely, brightly coloured stripes. With only a sleeve and a half to go I was double checking sleeve length with J and discovered that even though I was knitting to the prescribed gauge, the blasted thing is coming out at the measurements for a size smaller.

.. to this. * It's called a frog pond because when we undo knitting we say that we will 'rip it back'. Rip it = ribbit = frog = frogging... It's a bit heartbreaking to do this so we make our own amusement about it.

.. to this. * It’s called a frog pond because when we undo knitting we say that we will ‘rip it back’. Rip it = ribbit = frog = frogging… It’s a bit heartbreaking to do this so we make our own amusement about it.

I have spent the last couple of hours sending the sweater to the frog pond*. I will cast it on again in the morning but will ignore the swatch I did and just knit on the 4.5mm needles the pattern says instead of the 3.75mm needles the swatch indicated I should use.

I’m casting on a short cardie for myself tonight in an effort to calm down a bit. Frogging is always saddening.

Happier things now – the blanket is already getting big. 17″ x 20″ (43cm x 51cm) and we’re not even a month into the year of knitting it. It will be an enormous blanket, or a couple of slightly less enormous blankets.

day 25

The big grey square was yesterday’s addition (Schoeller+Stahl, Fortissima Shadow Color ‘Grey’). Today’s is the green square with the blue line (Opal, Sweet & Spicy ‘Plum’). I was going to give you a list of the yarns I’ve used but instead, have a photo of a mini wall o’ yarn made up of the yarn I’m using for the blanket. Yeah. I hadn’t realised I was using so many either.

wall o yarn

I’m go to finish with music today instead of starting with it. I adore Sarah Barielles’ music. She’s another artist I love singing along to. This song cheers me up and reminds me that bravery is an everyday thing. It’s not reserved for warzones and fairy tales. It’s in getting out of bed every day. It’s in trying again. It’s admitting when help would be appreciated. And sometimes it’s dancing when your feet want to move even if you are in a public library…

Day 24

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Today has not been a Good Day. You may be familiar with the analogy of depression as a black dog. I have 2 black dogs so I actually have a great deal of affection for black dogs but there is a large black beast that follows me. Sometimes it catches up to me and today was one of those days. So it’s got me thinking. To get where I am today – able to  take medication and advice as regards my mental health – it took re-evaluating how I looked at mental health. Not specifically mine but how society approaches mental health. Because it can’t be seen, there are people who don’t believe it’s real. Thing about that though is that you can’t see diabetes either. Nor can you see the flu but both of these things are considered real because they’ve been around a long time even though once upon a time epilepsy was considered a type of demonic possession. Here’s my point – if we don’t talk about it with a view to understanding it beyond myth and imagination, we demonise it. With the growing number of people who are seeking help for mental health concerns, we need to think about how we approach mental health.

Consider if we treated physical ailments as mental illness is so often treated…

Just like the illnesses in the above comic, mental ill health has a biological basis.

funny-chemical-glass-tubes

Mental illness like depression and anxiety are no less ‘real’ than illnesses like diabetes or cancer.

If you know someone who struggles with their mental health, sometimes it’s very hard to help them. It’s not because they don’t want help. It’s not because they’re being ‘difficult’. sometimes they don’t have words for it either. Sometimes this is the best you can do…

Please be patient with us. We will come through but it might take a little while. Hopefully you will never experience mental ill health, but if you do, you will understand why your patience and your willingness to be there is so appreciated.

Now for something that helped to lift my spirits some today. As you’ve seen, I love music. Every group of people in the world have their own music. It is something that we do socially, as entertainment, as celebration, in mourning. It’s a way to create and a way to share. But it’s not just a human thing.

it was a toss up whether to share jazz loving cows or piano-playing, head-bopping elephants. The elephants won – the one in the foreground actually shakes its booty!

The enjoyment of music is pretty universal and it’s beautiful.

Big square today, knitted with Fortissima Shadow Color in grey. I’ll list the yarns I’ve used so far and which square they were used for in tomorrow’s post.

(I’ll have to add the photo later when my camera is recharged enough for taking a photo)

 

 

 

Day 22

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Well, isn’t the universe an amusing place. I have been wanting to share some music by a pair of cellists called ‘2 Cellos’ with you for a few days now but every time something else catches my attention. Flicking through TV channels today, Sky Arts 2 is playing a concert by them, so that is today’s music after all.

2cellos became famous with a video on YouTube of them playing Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal‘. I had nitended to share their version of AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck‘ but I’m going to share something else. The piece in this video may sound familiar – it’s Ennio Morricone’s ‘Gabriel’s Oboe’ from the movie ‘The Mission’ and is another favourite of mine.

I love the sound of the cello – the resonant tones echo in my heart. The music is often urgent and passionate but without the frenzy that is often heard in violin music.

The 2cellos have an extensive selection on their YouTube channel including more clips for this concert in Arena Zagreb and from another concert in Arena Pula, their modern pieces and classical pieces. Their version of U2’s ‘With or Without You’ is exquisite.

The meditation blanket gained a large square in Fortissima Shadow Color in blue today. The pink rectangle in the photo is also a Shadow Color dyeway. I love how they both look in mitre-cornered shapes and how well the colours are displayed by it the design.

day 22

 

 

Day 20

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Firstly, busy day out of the house means I didn’t get to do the sewing-in tutorial. I have an empty day tomorrow so I shall do it then 🙂

Now, I was going to share 2 guys with cello’s playing AC/DC today but decided I would instead share some Nina Simone music. Yep, it’s my favourite – ‘Pirate Jenny’. It’s the audio from a concert in 1964 but because I found it on YouTube there is a series of stills of Nina Simone as the video.

One of the things I love about this song is her vocal control – the way she opens a note into a word, and the way you can feel ‘Jenny’s’ sneer of disgust and wry amusement at the situation through Nina’s performance. And of course her smug satisfaction at the end. There’s an almost laziness to the performance that lends an inevitability to the song, that they story she’s telling couldn’t have ended any other way. And all of this as she plays her own accompaniment.

I am incredibly grateful for music. It has given me words in my frustrations, company in my loneliness, solace when I have thought I was alone in my feelings. It has given my voice flight and I have revelled in getting a performance ‘just right’, or finding a perfect song. It has given me personal expression and a way to share my thoughts and feelings when there is more that just words needed to adequately explain, and to share in the thoughts and feelings of others. And it has given me the opportunity to bring these things to others.

Knitting is not dissimilar. Much knitting is done to be gifted to others, it is an opportunity for personal expression, and a chance to think. It is also, and ever has been, a reason to gather together and a chance to share knowledge. The opportunity for ‘just right’ is found in marrying a pattern with the perfect yarn. The greatest  satisfactions are found in the pleasure of an item well knitted, and the pleasure of a delighted recipient.

Day 20Today’s blanket piece has been knit twice. Not because I made a mistake or didn’t like the yarn. In fact it was
perfect, and the yarn is gorgeous. I knitted it twice because the first time I knitted it I was ranting at my friend E during our knitting session at a local cafe. She then mocked me or not actually paying attention to a single stitch I’d knit. So I frogged it and started again. (So there E :p)  I used Schoeller + Stahl’s Fortissima Mexiko colour #230 ‘hibiskus’ today.

So Charlotte, you finished a shawl earlier this week. What are you working on in its place?

Well, I’m still working on the sweater. It’s going very quickly now that I’m knitting in the round (aka endless circles).

New stuff though… J sent me yarn that finally arrived this week (I’m looking at you UK Customs and Parcelforce) and I actually cast on a new shawl last night because this yarn is so pretty, I couldn’t resist. It’s Malabrigo Lace in ‘Intenso’ and it’s incredibly soft and quite thin.

malabrigo lace - intenso

The pattern I’m knitting it into is called ‘Grouchy Geisha‘ which is one of the reasons I love it. To be honest, I’m not sure how much of my affection for the pattern is because of the name and how much is because the pattern is so lovely.grouchy geisha - designer photo

But I was feeling a very strong pull toward one of the projects unearthed in the bag from the loft. I started this shawl called ‘Light in Shadow’ about a year ago so it was no surprise that I couldn’t work out exactly what I had been doing with a certain set of instructions within the pattern. I had to pull back to the beginning of the ‘wing’ that I had been knitting onto the central triangle. This gave me the chance to make it a little bigger. I added a few more rows to the striped edges of the triangle then went back to knitting the wing.

Light In Shadows - 1

And the most awesome thing is that I am finally happy with my ability to work a technique called ‘wrap & turn’ that creates short knitted rows – that is where you only knit part of a row of knitting before you turn your work around and knit back to the beginning. The ‘wrap & turn’ is a way to disguise where this happens. It’s tricky to explain so I’m not going to do it now. To be honest, I may never as there are plenty of tutorials about it because a lot of knitters find it difficult to master.

Light In Shadows - short rows

I’m still not a huge fan of ‘wrap & turn’ just because it’s a nuisance but I can do it, and it looks seamless so yay me 🙂

Day 18

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In deference to the Epic that is my photo tutorial in this post, I will keep other commentary to a minimum by saying that today I knit my blanket square with a turquoise coloured Fortissima Mexiko yarn by Schoeller + Stahl.

Day 18

Photo Tutorial : Picking up stitches

This photo tutorial will deal with picking up stitches in garter stitch – specifically the techniques I use for my meditation blanket project.

I’m using a thicker yarn and larger needles to make it easier to show you how I do this. I am using fewer stitches than in the pieces I’m making for the blanket. The technique is the same regardless of the number of stitches you are working with but this tutorial will be worked referring to the number of stitches I am using for the samples.

I will make a large square equivalent to 3 squares x 3 squares, using 2 squares, 2 trapezoids, 1 rectangle and 1 large triangle. In the diagram below you can see my layout plan. Each shape has a dot and an arrowed line. The dot represents the starting point, the arrow is the direction for casting on/picking up. You will cast on when the line doesn’t touch another shape. where the lines are shared between 2 shapes or more is where you will be picking up stitches. The plan and therefore this tutorial will cover how to pick up the stitches for each of the shapes I am using in my blanket.

layout

We’re starting with a completed square. I have used 21sts to make a square with 10 stitches along each cast on edge and 1 in the corner. the cast on edge is placed to the left and down with the line of decreases going  from lower left to upper right. we will be picking up stitches from the top edge.

1 - square

2 - edge detail

Detail on the edge for picking up stitches.

Cast on the stitches you will need for the longest edge of the trapezoid (shape #2), in this case 22 stitches. Once I have those stitches on my needle, I can start picking up the remaining 10 stitches needed to make the trapezoid. I start with the stitch created by the slip knot used at the start of casting on the square then move along the edge from left to right. In each case, I insert the needle into the fabric of the square under 1 strand of yarn between 2 bumps.

3 - picking up

Loop the yarn around your needle as if you are going to knit.4 - yarn round needle

Then gently pull the stitch from the square over the yarn loop and off the needle.

5 - new stitch

The last stitch is picked up into part of the last stitch of the square. If you are following my pattern, you will know that the square is finished by working 3 stitches into 1. To pick up the last stitch for this edge, I put the needle into the stitch along the edge. This is *not* the one you can see when you look straight at the square. It is the stitch that you knitted into before passing your stitches over in the final decrease of the square.  It is the bottom-most stitch of the trio. It will make no difference if you go into the one you can see on the top, but I prefer to separate the stitches that will be worked into this corner instead of having them crowded into the same space.

6 - cast off pick up

7 - all picked up

All stitches picked up.

8 -  back of work

Wrong side of the work after picking up.

part A

Pieces 1 and 2

Working piece 3 (the second trapezoid) starts with the cast off stitch of piece 2, or rather with the stitch under the top stitch. After picking up this stitch, pick up the rest of the stitches you need as described above. You will need to pick up an extra stitch between pieces 1 and 2. This is where you use the centre stitch in the trio at the point of square 1.

9 - centre pick upPick up the remaining stitches, working the last stitch into the cast on edge. To do this, locate the 2 strands of the last cast on stitch. Pick both of those up and work as you would for a normal stitch.

10 - cast on edge pick up

11 - picked up end of edgeI now need to cast on 11 stitches before I begin working the trapezoid pattern.

Part B

The large triangle is next and is pretty straight forward. Pick up 1 stitch as already  described along the angled edges of the trapezoids + 1 where they join to have 21 stitches.

This piece will pull in on itself. I could have picked up double the number of stitches which would make the next couple of pieces easier but I didn’t. I could have done the decreases in the middle instead of at the sides but I didn’t. The triangle will stretch when it is knitted into. It will stretch when you wash and block the final piece of fabric into shape and it will look just like all the other pieces.

Part C

So, the next 2 pieces have some tricksy picking up in that you will be picking up both between the bumps and the bumps themselves. also, for this first piece – a rectangle – you will have to pick up stitches from halfway down the side of the triangle.

To make the rectangle, cast on the 11 stitches you need for the side then, including the bump of the final stitch worked in the triangle, count 5 bumps down the edge. Our first picked up stitch is the length of yarn you would normally pick up. For the next stitch pick up, you will be picking up the yarn that is crossed over between the straight thread and the bump. In the photo you can see that my finger is directly behind this spot. If you pick up the bump itself, it will all still work out but won’t look quite as neat.

12 - picking up bumps

 

Pick up and work as you would for any other picked up stitch.

13 - picked up bump

 

Continue to pick up stitches alternating with picking up the stitch between bumps and the bump stitch itself for a total of 21 stitches. Cast on the stitches for the other side of the rectangle so that you have 43 stitches.

You can see that it looks a bit more crowded than the other rows of picked up stitches.

14 - picked up detail

 

But it works out.
Part D

for the final square, pick up 10sts along the remaining section of the triangle side you have already worked in the same way. Pick up one in the corner between the triangle and the rectangle (11 stitches on your needle). Your last 10 stitches are picked up along the first cast on edge of the rectangle. This is another stitch that is picked up by putting the needle under 2 strands of yarn on the cast on edge.

15 - cast on edge pick up

 

pick up a total of 10 along this cast on edge for a grand total of 21 stitches on your needle.

16 - final pick ups

Knit the square as you did the first one. Congratulations, you have a complete large square!

Part E

Yeah, it’s a little wonky but if you pin it out you can see what it will look like if you block it.

Part E - blockedSo there you have it – how I pick up my stitches for the meditation blanket project. Let me know in the comments if you want this as a pdf.

 

 

Day 16

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Today I have worked almost exclusively on my Travelling Companion shawl. I have less than 30 rows to go until I’ve finished it! Mind you there’s more than 300 stitches in each of those rows… Regardless, I am determined not to start or return to a project I have not worked on this month until I finish a project that I have been working on this month. Cause, let’s be honest, if you’ve seen my project page on Ravelry you’ll know that I could really do with paring down my collection of UnFinished Objects (aka UFO’s). So last time we saw this rainbow coloured shawl I had just started the second section of black lace knitting. I finished that today and have knitted the first row of plain coloured lace and it’s going to be gorgeous! I really love the plum colour with the black. The yarn is called ‘Coton Fifty’ by Bergere de France. It’s half and half cotton and acrylic and is so much softer to work with than I expected this 4ply yarn to be.

traveling companion 4

Despite my wandering attention, I have really been enjoying this project. I haven’t been exacting in following the the pattern – there should have been less in the rainbow section and more in the second black lace section but I prefer it this way. I’ve also added a few rows so it will be larger than the original. I knitted about 20 rows today already and will knit a few more tonight so it ought to be finished tomorrow. I’m looking forward to wearing it this week.

My meditation blanket is a year long project that I had intended would be 365 of the small squares I started with. Obviously it hasn’t turned out that way. I have no regrets but now I need to do some planing for the layout. It’s subject to change of course but here’s what I’m intending for the first 52 pieces.

blanketplanYou can see in the photo that day 16 is another rectangle, attached to the remaining edge of Day 14’s trapezoid. Pick up 15sts along that side, then cast on 48sts to make 63sts on your needles, then follow the pattern from Day 6. I used a Schoeller+Stahl Fortissima Shadow Color yarn today in purple. I have already used petrol blue and red.

day16