I’ll be honest. In case you haven’t picked up on it from my less-than-enthusiatic posts of late, I’ve been feeling kind of burnt out about knitting. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s been crazy hot around here for the last few months. Maybe it’s because I’m wildly busy and exhausted from taking care of my kids (the bigger one has stopped napping, and refuses to fall asleep before 9 at night, severely cutting into my knitting time). And maybe it’s just because I’ve knit essentially every day for the last 20+ years and just need a break.
So, instead of powering through (which is my usual mode of dealing with stress), I’m going to actually pay attention to what my brain’s telling me and actually take a break.
That’s right. For the month of September, my knitting blog is a no-knitting-zone. I’m going to be breaking out my sewing machine, my paints, and who knows what else. It’s going to be fun! (And maybe embarrassing… I haven’t done a lot of “art” since high school. It’ll be interesting to see what I come up with.
So join me on this knitting-free adventure!
What have you been doing lately (that’s not knitting)?
Well, it’s been a minute for me. Last time I wrote a post, I had a sizeable backlog/buffer of posts, but I’ve fully burned through them. I’m now coming to you in real time, or near enough, anyway.
And, I gotta tell you, it’s been a wild month+. First, my (vaccinated! Yay!) in-laws came for their first visit since well before my (6-month-old) baby was born. Then, a few weeks later, my (also vaccinated!) parents came to visit, too! Both visits were lovely, and it was so fun seeing my kids get to interact with their grandparents in person for the first time in ages. But, having gone so long without visitors, suddenly having so many people in my house was tiring for this introvert.
And then, the baby got a couple weird diagnoses that, while not unexpected, we had been hoping against. He’ll be fine in the long run; we caught everything early, have good insurance and even untreated, nothing is life-threatening. But it’s been really hard having to go through the whole diagnosis-and-treatment thing with such a little guy. He’s handling everything well, but it’s been tough to have to watch him go through.
AND THEN, the entire west coast was basically cooked for the last week. We’re in Seattle, and we’re one of the “lucky ones,” which means we have a sad little window air conditioner and a basement. It got up to 102 degrees in our back yard. Our upstairs was in the low 90s every afternoon for 4 days. Trying to keep 2 kids safe, fed, hydrated and sleeping on schedule under those conditions is stressful to say the least.
So, all that’s to say, I haven’t really been in the knitting mood lately. I’ve been making some progress on the wedding blanket, which I still like a lot, but for some reason I haven’t been feeling real inspired to have a gigantic wool blanket on my lap. It’s a true mystery.
I’m thinking I might do something simple and familiar- maybe socks? Or something fun and silly- a stuffed animal for one of the kids? Or I might change medium entirely and try busting out the sewing machine. Not sure yet. But, I’m letting myself take the time I need to get back to my knitting. After all, knitting’s not a race, and it’ll still be there whenever I’m ready for it.
What do you do when you’re too stressed out to knit?
So you guys know I’ve been trying to finish up abandoned projects and use up yarn that’s been languishing in my stash for far too long. I’ve made some progress. It’s kind of satisfying, if I’m being honest. I do like finishing things.
But if we’re talking about unfinished projects, there’s one that I can’t ignore. The Grand Kahuna of WIPs. The White Whale of UFOs.
One major project that’s been languishing for far (far, far, far) too long.
It’s been in my studio since… before we moved (almost 7 years ago), and honestly, probably several years before that. If you told me this was a 10-year-old project, I would believe you.
And the ridiculous part? It’s probably been about 75% finished for the better part of a decade.
It’s my monster quilt.
It’s huge- about 80″ square. No idea why I picked that size. It’s not a standard bed/quilt size, and it’s freaking huge! I don’t know where I got the design, or if there was a pattern, or why I picked the colors I did (yellow is not a color I usually gravitate to…). But, I know I put the quilt top together, made the sandwich, basted the layers together did about half of the quilting before I got bored/distracted and forgot about the quilt. Every few months/years I’d see it in my closet and go, “Huh… I should work on that,” then forget about it again.
At the beginning of quarantine, I really started to buckle down on this project, alternating hand-quilting a square or two with working up a baby sweater sleeve or a few inches of scarf. It’s coming along, I’ve only got about 9 more squares to go (plus the edges and sewing on the binding… but let’s not dwell on that yet).
It’s a satisfying project, but if I ever say I want to make a quilt again, maybe don’t let me…
Have you ever actually finished a ridiculous unfinished project?
Well, we’re now “Sheltering in Place,” and I haven’t been out of the house (other than daily walks with my kiddo around the block) in a couple weeks. Social media is stressing me out, but it’s also the only way I can keep in touch with everyone, so I feel like I can’t just ignore it. It’s not been great. (Though, again, we’re safe and healthy, we haven’t lost our jobs, and we are in a really good place to weather this storm.)
When we first went into quarantine, I thought “Sweet! I’ll get so much knitting done! I”ll make a new sweater for the kid, and for me, and for my husband. I’ll do some designing, and maybe self-publish a pattern or two.” But to be honest, I haven’t done any of that. I have barely even picked up my needles.
Not to say I haven’t been productive, in other ways. I’ve done a ton of yard work, I’ve constructed a tent in the living room from our neighbor’s bamboo, string and blankets, and I’ve built more LEGO houses, tunnels and trains than I could count. But, I haven’t really been knitting.
I think it’s the quiet, meditative, part of knitting that makes it hard for me to sit down with my needles right now. I don’t want to be still and quiet. I want to be out in the back yard with a saw and a pickax and a shovel.
But, I know this will pass, and soon enough I will want to pick up my needles again and finish up that pair of socks I started as a “fun” project right before this whole thing went down. The day will come when sitting quietly on the couch with a cup of tea sounds calming, and not anxiety-provoking. And it will probably come soon. I just have to be OK with it taking a little time.
After all, the socks will be there waiting whenever I’m ready.
I started simply enough, with a fairly simple (or so I thought) quilt square. It’s just triangles and squares, in only 3 colors (dark blue, light blue, and white).
But then, as I tend to do, I started elaborating. First I planned out the entire quilt so that I will have to make 12 blocks (which increases work by a ton). Then I decided that instead of just picking one dark blue fabric and one light blue fabric, I’d pick 4 of each, and mix them up.
But still, while I was just cutting out the pieces, and sewing the first seams, I thought I was doing OK. I still was enjoying myself. Sure, there was a lot of cutting and pinning and sewing, but it wasn’t bad.
Then I got to the ironing.
I forgot about the ironing.
So much ironing. (I don’t like ironing.)What was I thinking?
Do you have the same problem with biting off more than you can chew?
From time-to-time I like to stretch my fiber-arts legs and try out something other than knitting (heresy, I know!). Sometimes, I roll out the ol’ spinning wheel and, well, take it for a spin.
This time, I impulse-purchased a big bag of bright white roving, and little tufts in a dozen bright rainbow colors. I couldn’t tell you what kind of fiber I bought, because, well, it’s taken me more than four months to finish this skein, and any notes or labels I might have had when I purchased the wool are long gone.
I spun the roving into singles with alternating long white stripes and short-ish (about 3 feet long) sections of random color. Then, last week, I finally plied the yarn into more than 250 yards of squishy 2-ply loveliness.
OK, it’s not perfect… I did my best to keep the yarn an even aran-ish weight, but with the weeks-long breaks between bouts of spinning, and my less-than-stellar spinning skills, the yarn ended up with a bit of a thick-and-thin consistency. And my first attempt at 2-ply yarn left it with less-than-perfect evenness. Oh well! It gives the yarn character, right? Right?
Despite it’s quirks, I’m happy with this yarn… now I just have to figure out what to make with it. (Or maybe I should just keep it to look at.)
Have you ever tried spinning? How did it turn out?
Of course knitting is my One True Love, but sometimes… sometimes I get itchy fingers and have to break out my sewing machine, my embroidery hoop, or my crochet hook. It’s not that I don’t love knitting. It’s that sometimes I need something… else.
And this time, it was my crochet hook.
I had a pile of Knit Picks Biggo in several random colors (leftover from making some Human Beans). Not enough to make a sweater, or even a really satisfying scarf.
But I did have my giant (size N crochet hook) and a crochet stitch that my mother-in-law taught me over Christmas break (she was making a huge, gorgeous afghan for a friend’s wedding).
The stitch, called the “Woven Stitch” looks a lot like the knit “Linen Stitch,” except that it’s crocheted. Which means it goes way faster.
All you do is chain 1, single crochet 1, across, making sure your sc’s go into the ch1 space of the row before. Over and over again. So easy!
And the fabric made with the super-chunky Biggo was thick and warm and cozy. Such a fun little break from my every-day knitting.
I think I’m in love!
What do you do wen you need a break from your usual crafting routine?
I heard one of my friends talking the other day, and she used a term I had never heard before, but totally understood the moment she used it. She was talking about how, when she had a crummy day, she would “watch Monk or Psych or something… you know, one of my mashed potato shows” and immediately feel better. I thought that was a great way to put it. Mashed potatoes are tasty, comforting and easy to digest. They might not be as fancy as a gourmet meal, or as trendy as sushi, or as luxurious as lobster, but they totally will make you feel better after a long day.
“OK,” you’re thinking, “so the girl has a thing for potatoes. What does that have to do with knitting?” After all, you’re here for the crafting, not to hear me natter on about food. My answer to you is: “It has nothing to do with Knitting!” Ha! Fooled you, didn’t I?
Actually, I wanted to give a shout out to my favorite mashed potato craft, counted cross stitch. When I’m stressed, or blue or just feeling lazy, and don’t want to do math, plan a new project, or dig out the right pair of knitting needles, I love to do some counted cross stitch. There’s something comforting about it. It serves no purpose, it doesn’t challenge my brain, and it is so totally easy. It’s like coloring in a coloring book or doing a paint-by-numbers, but with thread.
I’m especially a fan of those little kits you’ll find in the bargain bin at Jo-Ann’s. They’re always dumb stuff, like butterflies, or hearts, or little cutesy sayings, but they’re still fun and silly to make. They give you everything you need (except scissors, because for some reason scissors are never included in kits), so you really and truly don’t have to think. It’s the perfect mashed potato craft.