Oct 1, 2012

Mitten Month

“ ‘Would you tell me please which way I ought to walk from here?’ ‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.  ‘I don’t much care where—‘ said Alice.  ‘Then it doesn’t much matter which way to walk,’ said the Cat.” From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

I found myself extremely focused this weekend.  On to the finish line with many-a-project, I was.  My sweater is done and ready for steam blocking prior to wearing.   (Toshi loves it. . .or maybe she just wanted dinner?)

Joanie’s vest is as done as it’s going to be until she decides for sure on whether she wants a zipper or clasps as closures.   

I have two Little Coffee Bean sweaters awaiting new born children to warm,

and a cute bracelet from a kit I purchased last spring.

I frogged my Acorns sweater that I began last June, deciding my lack of serious progress on it meant it wasn’t going to be a joy to work on for me, and made good progress on a vest I’m knitting for a friend.  I have been FOCUSED.  And honestly?  I feel pretty darn good about it.

My juniors and seniors would say I was using Habit 2, Begin with the End in Mind, from Sean Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly EffectiveTeens.  (Guess what we’re reading in class right now?)  I have a goal.  Today begins October, and while the weather is somewhat fickle this time of year in these parts. . .cold weather is coming.  For my friends and family, this means mitten weather.  I’ve designated this October as “Mitten Month”.  Want to play along?

I’ve been so caught up in the excitement of other things that I’ve neglected some of the things I love.  I have a couple of new stitch dictionaries and technical knitting books that I’ve perused, but haven’t really put to good use.  I haven’t written up any new designs lately, and I’ve been feeling bad about it.  I’ve gotten bogged down by larger projects that I’ve neglected to finish.  To say my chi has been blocked might just about cover it.

How does this all connect to Mitten Month?  I can hear you asking. . .I’m committed to doing some design work this month, committed to completion, committed to getting some gifts in my gift basket ready for the holidays which are only eighty-some days away.  

Four Weeks + Four Designs = Eight Warm Hands

That’s it.  I’m going to knit four pair of mittens this month; designs that have been banging around in my head for a while will finally find their way out.  And just to keep my focused my intent is to write up the patterns and have them submitted or self-published by Thanksgiving.

I’m sure you’ve seen some cute mitten patterns along the way, check out your Ravelry queue, they might have made it there.  Or look through your library, I’m sure you’ll find a pair of fingerless mitts or two you’d like to cast on.  Or do a pattern search for a pair that gets you excited.  Pick a pair, knit along.  Just knit one pair.  For you, for someone you love, to donate to someone who doesn’t have a warm place to put their hands. 

No real rules, just knit mittens.  You know you want to. . .Mitten Month.  Everyone's doing it.

Sep 24, 2012


If September 22 and the Autumnal Equinox isn’t enough to let folks know that fall is here, I had to put on wool socks yesterday.  That makes it official.  That plus the fall knitting.

I realized a few weeks ago that while my summer was productive, it didn’t contain a lot of knitting projects.  I cleaned my crafting room and found SIX sweaters in progress.  Two of these are vests that just need a front, a couple are sweaters waiting for a sleeve or two, and one is a hope of a sweater that I’ve only knit a few inches on.  (That one may end up in the frog pond soon, I’m not sure I love the pattern enough to keep going and the yarn is too nice to spend knitting something I don’t love.)  One is a KAL that I was talked into, and the pattern is a hot mess.  I’ve been frustrated with it from about the fourth row, but I still kept knitting.  It’s only about a 150 yards from completion, but it’s annoying me.  Another one of the UFO sweaters has been a UFO for over two years. . .what is wrong with me?  I really love it, and want to wear it soon, why am I not finishing it?

So I made a plan.  I was going to knock out some UFOs.  And then I was shown this.  How cute is that little sweater?  Two coworkers are expecting, surely I could knit a wee sweater for them, right?  They sit in a bag now, one awaiting sleeves, the other needing some ends woven in and buttons to call them gifts instead of UFOs.

And then I received Wool Gathering in the mail. . .a vest on large needles using unspun Icelandic yarn would knit up fast, right?  I cast on almost immediately.  It only needs some icord to call it done.
This weekend I spent some time working on the UFOs and hope to have some FOs to show soon.  After all, if wool sock weather is here, sweater weather isn’t far behind, right?

My school district is progressive, and we have the day off of school to celebrate Yom Kippur on Wednesday.  I may be atoning by completing a few of these pesky little projects so that I can get excited about new projects without guilt in the coming weeks.  I need to fall in line (get the pun?  I crack myself up. . .) and become serious about finishing up some of these loose ends soon!

Also ahead for me this week is the American SewingExpo.  You know those friends who you can talk into just about any challenge?  I have a friend like that, and she’s jumped blindly into a lot of fun things with me,  has felt pushed and stretched a few times, but is always up for the fun.  Last August she challenged me to stretch myself and sign up for a CraftWars like sewing contest.  Never thinking I’d be selected, I said, “Sure!” and submitted the form without thinking much about it.  Guess who was picked?  If you’re near Novi on Saturday morning stop on by the Expo center and cheer me on. . .I’ll be turbo crafting for prizes, hope to see you there! 

Jul 16, 2012

Summer Crafternoons

A few summers ago I realized that if I didn't have structure to my summer vacation, I'd feel like the time was just slipping away. Fall would arrive and I'd pout because I didn't have much to write for my "What I Did on my Summer Vacation" essay in my head.

Last summer, I had strict schedules. Monday:chores. Tuesday:chiro appt, massage, social knitting. Wednesday:dinner and knitting with friends. Thursday:kayaking. Friday:date night.
Plus I had a trip to Portland and Sock Summit, Michfest, and the Allegan Fiber Festival thrown in for good measure.
It worked. At the end of the summer I felt like I'd done a lot, but that I'd been running all summer.

This year I took a few things off my plate and decided I wanted to spend more time sewing and knitting. I thought Tuesday would be the perfect day for sewing and crafting. I planned to keep the kayaking and dinner and knitting, but just switch up the days a bit. But you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men?

I woke up somewhere around the fourth of July and suddenly realized that my summer was almost over and that I hadn't done much of anything. Sure, there was some knitting happening. I'd sewn a dress and had cut out some knitting bags to sew too, but nothing was getting done. I had no finished piles, only to do lists.

Suddenly everyday was Crafternoon. I've been working on a pair of socks for a friend, (I can't show too much in case she's reading, but will try to post some photos from camp)

a vest for another friend, sewn up about a dozen bags for camp,

purged some old projects in my sewing room, I've spun a couple of pounds of fiber into yarn,

completed swatches

and mending and planned out Christmas projects for my family...things are getting done. And just in time too. I leave for Knit Camp this week. When I get home, I have a few days to prep for the Wine and Wool Festival, then I head to Michfest, and get ready to go back to school. But what I've realized is that there is plenty of time to do the things I love. I just need to make them a priority. Napping and lounging the VERY cool basement after summer school is great, but doesn't make me feel good about using my time to the fullest.

Accomplishing things and trying out new techniques does, as does using up the beautiful fiber and fabric stash that I've accumulated over the years.

Here's one of the mending projects I enjoyed recently. It might be a fun up-cycle project for you to try before the summer fades away...

A friend had some shorts that didn't fit any longer, but that she didn't want to part with. You know how sometimes there are memories in clothing? She'd worn these shorts while hiking the Appalachia trails, working at a camp she loves...they were part of her history that she didn't want to let go of yet.

We secured the side pockets with a quick basting stitch, cut the seam out of the sides of the shorts and did some measuring. The width remaining in the shorts was about nine inches smaller than her waist circumference. We were adding two gussets, so each piece needed to finish at 4.5". We added seam allowance, made the hem edge slightly wider and cut a trapezoid shape that was the finished length of the shorts plus a few inches for waistband and hem. We then fused some stabilizing interfacing at the waist, sewed a hem and a facing for the waistband and stitched it in. Now she has some cute "new" shorts, all for far less expense than a new wardrobe, and they're already broken in!

Here's to sucking the life out of summer...in whatever way you choose.

Jun 25, 2012

That Vegan Lady

I was at a Black Sheep Knitting Guild gathering recently, and someone referred to me as "That Vegan Lady."  And while that name doesn't really offend me, it did surprise me that someone in my guild doesn't know who I am.  I am one of the founders, a past president, give presentations at least once a year and have designed this years' charity pattern.  (Davis if you're curious).
So it seems fitting that I post a vegan recipe as my first post after a long silence.  If the ingredients seem strange, it's because I created these wraps as part of a Vegan Chopped Challenge sponsored by The Post Punk Kitchen creator Isa Chandra.  I hope you enjoy.

Curried Salad Wraps with Fresh Fruit Chutney

Fresh Fruit Chutney:
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 Mango, peeled and diced
1 pint fresh blackberries
¼ c dried currants
1 T plum vinegar
4 T white balsamic vinegar
4 T Agave
¼ c fresh mint, finely chopped
Juice of 3 limes
¼ t cloves
3 celery stalks, finely diced

Saute onion in a water until almost translucent, add all
ingredients except celery and simmer for about 15 minutes.  Add celery, remove from heat and cool.

Curried Salad Wraps
1 can Black Eyed Peas
1 c cooked sweet potato
1 T coconut oil
¼ cup cilantro
½ oz baking chocolate
2 garlic cloves
1 T curry powder
shredded carrots
seedless cucumber, cut into long, thin strips
spring roll wraps

Mix first 7 ingredients in food processor until it resembles a hummus.  Assemble wraps as
follows:  soak 2 spring roll wraps in hot water until they soften, place on clean towel and layer arugula (extra cilantro if you’re a fan), cucumber sticks and carrot on the wrap, smooth about ¼ cup of the curried bean mixture, and wrap up like a burrito.  Using two wraps together makes it easier to wrap without tearing the wrapper, but feel free to use one if you’re an expert wrapper.

Serve with Fresh Fruit Chutney. . .perfect for a light dinner, or lunch out in the kayak!

Mar 30, 2012


Nearly three months ago, I sat down and began to think about how I wanted to focus my attentions and actions this year.  I read a blog post recommended by a friend, and decided that I liked the idea of choosing words of intention rather than making resolutions for the year.  Each August, I purchase a piece of jewelry from K. Robbins, and that sets my focus for the next twelve months, so I knew instantly what my first word would be. 

That seems to me, a self explanatory word.  Who doesn’t want more joy in their life?  And putting that thought forward and moving your directions in that action can only bring good things, right?  Thinking about the others took a bit more time, but I came up with them during the first week of the year.  The next word?


Sort of as in selfish. . .but in a good way.  Too often I put myself out for others, and forget to feed Tanya.  Without giving to myself, how can I feel full and complete joy?  I knew that I needed to focus on myself mentally, spiritually, physically, and artistically.  Time was being spent on others, but not so much on me.  Gifts were being shared with others, but I wasn’t doing enough to honor myself.  Two thousand and twelve would be that year.  I had chosen two of my words.

But what about the third?  I auditioned many, and kept coming back to “finish”.  I rolled that around for awhile, liking many of the ideas that came to mind, but felt it was a bit limiting. . .finish what?  Finish how? What do I do when I am finished?  Was there another way to say, “get it done” without being so final?


I liked it.  Done.  Whole.  Applicable to so many arenas of my life.  That was it.  My third word.

I planned this blog post in my head a hundred times.  I worked on these goals.  Focused my actions.  I ignored the blog.  Not because I didn’t want to write, but because I didn’t have time.

We thought by asking a family member to live with us, we’d have joy in our lives, we’d feel complete.  Instead, we had frustrations and a tenant that stayed for a short time, but took up nearly two months of our energy.

Work spiraled from being busy and challenging to being out of control and demanding.

I was sick.

Our sick cat got sicker.

Deadlines for publication pushed me to knit more than I should, and there was an overuse injury.

Basically life happened.  We all have periods of our lives where we cannot imagine how we have muscled through and completed all that we have.  I think the last three months have been that for me.  I look at the calendar, and cannot believe that I’ll be turning the page to April in a couple of days.  The year 2012 is one fourth complete.  Complete.

Joy.  Self.  Complete.

I have found myself emptying my plate for the last couple of weeks.  Removing responsibilities, and making room for Joy.  Making room for Self.  Striving to feel Complete.

There have been lessons learned, for sure.  And I still believe that my three words are the right ones.  It’s time to see what the second quarter will bring in terms of how I will grow, and who I will become.  It hasn't been a bad beginning to the year, just one more challenging than I ever would have suspected when the clock struck midnight on December 31.

I have been knitting more lately, and reading for pleasure.  I am feeling more myself.  I suspect I’ll be writing more too—so for the few of you who check in here wondering when I’ll post again, it may be sooner than later.

I leave home in a few hours for a much needed break, and hope to have a lot of things to share with those who pop in to see how I’m doing.  I suspect there will be plenty of joy in the next week, and I’ll come home feeling a bit more complete.  I’ll be taking care of self.

I hope that this first bit of 2012 has been treating you well, and that your resolutions are not long forgotten.  I’d love to know what you’ve been up to.