Category Archives: Inspiration
Every year, when Fall arrives, I have the urge to drop all my summer knitting and start a whole bunch of new projects. This September, the urge has been especially strong. All through August, I faithfully worked on my light summer sweaters: Ivyle
and Westbourne Kinu Love. I stopped working on this one because I couldn’t decide if I wanted to continue the stripes down the arms or not. Any thoughts or opinions would be welcome here.
However, as soon as September 1 rolled around, I was casting on new things, on an almost daily basis.
First, was a Recoleta sweater by Joji Locatelli. I didn’t get very far with this one yet. It’s one that needs my full attention, so not a good one to knit at the end of the day when I am tired, which seems to happen most days now.
The next day, after a lot of stash sorting, I also started a What the Fade Mystery Shawl. I am somehow strangely compelled by these knitalongs that use a lot of different skeins of yarn. Part of it is that they are a great way of using up single skeins of yarn in my stash.
I got through clue 1 on this one when I discovered that I failed to do a couple of increases along the left side (a mistake that seems to be common among those knitting this shawl) and I decided to start over.
The second time, I chose more neutral colors because the first set of colors was not agreeing with me and I was afraid I would never wear it.
This is my first time knitting the brioche stitch and I have found that it is not as hard as I thought it would be. There’s a certain rhythm to it that makes it interesting. My only complaint is that since each row has to be done twice, the rows seem to take forever.
I’m not sure about this dark brown color on the back. It’s a laceweight that I am using doubled and it seems a bit too heavy compared to my other yarns, but I am hoping that will become less noticeable as the shawl gets bigger. Perhaps I will even leave it out in the rest of the shawl.
Sometime in there, I also started the September project with A Year of Techniques. I thought this would be a great thing to knit while I was teaching. It turns out, however, that I really don’t have a lot of time to knit during the school day.
Then last Monday, the new Knitworthy 4 pattern came out, and I had to start that one right away.
Unfortunately, that project suffered a little setback during which I had to rip out about 10 rows. After moments like that, projects often lose their momentum and this one is no different. It is languishing while I go on to knit other things, like this hat that I’ve had on the needles since May.
However, lest you think I never finish anything, both hats that I had on the needles are finished now. Hats are such wonderfully quick knits. Maybe I should just stick to hats?
Oh, I don’t know. I think it might be time to cast on a new sweater.
After all, I already did the gauge swatch and got the right gauge on the first try. It’s almost like it is meant to be.
Hi friends! Remember me? I know I’ve been gone a long time, but this summer was just crazy busy. There’s no way that I’m going to be able to fill you in on all the details, but I can give you some highlights. This is actually harder than it sounds. You know in school how it is harder to summarize a long passage into a few sentences than it is just to retell the whole thing? That’s true here in real life, too! But, I will try, if only to prove to my kids that this is a skill worth learning and maintaining.
First off, we took an “mind blowing” trip to Jasper National Park in Canada. The words in quotes are not mine, they belong to my teenage son. I’ve tried to include a good selection of pictures below, but I’ll say what everybody says–that the pictures just don’t do the place any justice.
From our drive into Jasper until our last moment there, the place enchanted us with its amazing views.
There were gorges.
Views of glaciers.
Challenging hikes. (This picture in particular does not convey how difficult this part of the trail was to climb. See all the switchbacks? That means it was too steep to go down in a straight line. I’d guess it was at least a 45 degree incline.)
We even had a few triumphant moments.
And we had an amazing half hour on an actual glacier. (pro tip: It’s cold on a glacier. You should probably wear more than I did, which was basically shorts and a light jacket. A full length down jacket would be appropriate.)
Four days in Jasper was not enough to do everything we wanted to do there. We would go back in a heartbeat if we could. The only consolation we had in leaving was that we were moving on to Banff National Park, which was equally enchanting, but in a different, less wild kind of way.
In Banff, you never feel too far away from civilization. This picture is taken just a short walk from Banff town, which is quite a hub of activity.
In Banff, seeing the most popular views also means seeing some interesting hotels and sharing that experience with hundreds of other strangers. Still, there are moments where you can feel like you have the place to yourself, such as 7 am in the morning at the shores of Lake Louise.
One of the most charming things about Banff is that there are several trails that have teahouses on them. So you don’t even have to bring your lunch!
This makes up for the crowds of people that you have to share your incredible views with.
Ok, maybe crowds is a bit of an exaggeration here. But, there were a lot more people on the trails in Banff than Jasper.
One interesting thing we saw in Banff was an ice cave.
Another nice thing about being closer to civilization is eating incredible ice cream.
We sadly only really had two days in Banff before we had to move on to a place that felt more like home, but was no less amazing because of that. If I could only go to one national park for the rest of my life, it would probably be Glacier National Park in Montana.
Even though we had been there 4 years before, there was no shortage of new things to see. Some things we had seen before looked new and different. The view of the mountain next to our campsite glowed red with the sunrise when I got up one morning.
The Highline trail gave us incredible views, albeit a bit smoky/hazy.
We saw waterfalls we had not noticed before, even though we passed right by them on the road.
Here, in Glacier, we also had more wildlife encounters, like this moose having her lunch right next to the trail.
Some places, we visited again and loved them just as much as we did before, maybe even more for having seen it twice.
When it was time to leave Glacier, we left with mixed feelings. We were tired of camping and a little footsore. Ten straight days of camping without any campfires (There was a fire ban. There had been very little rain in the Rockies over the summer.) was probably one or two days too long for us. There’s only so much you can do to make an airbed more comfortable. But, I was loathe to leave the mountains behind.
However, there was more adventure ahead as we had planned to end our trip with a couple of days in Seattle. In Seattle, we all got to see something that interested us.
My younger one wanted to go to the Boeing museum.
And my older one wanted to go to the Smith Tower and see the old fashioned elevator.
The husband got some great food.
And I got to go to the amazing Chihuly Glass Gallery.
If it looks like an awesome trip in the photos, it was exponentially more awesome to be there in person. It was actually a lot harder to pick which pictures to include here than it was to write this paragraph. This is partly because, between the four of us, we took over two thousand pictures! I’m glad we have those pictures, though, because you never know if we’ll ever go back to those amazing places. The pictures will help us remember them and I hope you enjoyed them as well!
Now, we’re more or less back into the swing of things at home with school and work and life. I’ll be back soon with some details on some fun things I’ve been working on. How was your summer?
Well, the last few weeks here have been quite a whirlwind! We had some houseguests, which meant we had get ready for houseguests. It’s great to have houseguests because we finally get around to cleaning the whole house all at once. There’s a brief moment when one can enjoy an entirely clean house (well, except for that closet where you shove everything to make the rest of the house look nice:) Then, there’s the super fun of having people in your house. I got the chance to try making liege waffles. Those were fun and totally tasty and gone so fast I didn’t have a chance to take a photo. But, I did have a chance to take a picture of the funnel cakes we made.
We love having guests because we can make stuff we might not make for ourselves. I mean, when else can one make 6 funnel cakes and not have any guilt?
We also get to play tourist in our local area, which, to be honest, is not hard since we haven’t lived here long. This is my favorite picture from the whole week.
These pouffy flowers at the Boston Public Garden had us scratching our heads. Such interesting plants!
We also watched the ducks and swans.
And tried our first cannolis from Mike’s Pastry in the North End. Really tasty, by the way. Totally worth the wait, which we did not have, but if we had to wait, it would have been worth it.
One highlight was a little organ music at the Old North Church. It wasn’t a concert. He was clearly practicing for a future event, but it was fun to listen to him practice in that space.
On our way to and fro, I even got a little bit of knitting time on these new socks.
They are the Head Over Heels Foothold socks, by my friend Helen. Yarn is from IndigoDragonfly.
I also had some time to order some new yarn to make a strokkur and a cabled sweater. I think I’ll wait a little while to get started on those, though. It’s been hot here and I don’t fancy a thick woolen sweater at the moment. Instead, I’ve cast on a laceweight sweater: Ivyle.
The chances that this will get finished before the summer is over are very slim, but I will try. I’ve also got a couple of shawls on the needles that I’d like to finish up. More on those next time. Summer is looking busy!
I’ve been a knitter for about 14 years now. One thing I have noticed over those years is how whatever project I am knitting somehow gets associated with whatever is going on with my life at the time. In other words, each project has memories attached to it that come to mind whenever I see or wear that knitted item. For example, there’s a pair of socks that I remember knitting one year at the beach. Every time I wear those socks, I remember back to those happy moments knitting contentedly while on vacation. There’s also a sweater that I worked on while the husband was in the hospital following a serious car accident. When I wear that sweater, I am reminded of those anxious times and feel grateful that things turned out ok. We knitters spend a lot of time with our projects and sometimes those projects become part of our lives during that time.
Two years ago, I started a sweater. Two years ago, we were also deep into house hunting for our move. Somehow, I was never able to really get into the groove of knitting that sweater. I think now that it was perhaps a reflection of how I was feeling at the time. Moving is stressful and as much as I knew it was the right thing to do at that time, it was also something I very much did not want to do. And, just as I struggled with adjusting to all the changes that the move brought to us, I really struggled with being motivated to knit that sweater.
Occasionally, I would pick it and work on it. A few times, I even managed to finish a piece of it.
This was the state of things at the beginning of May. All the pieces were finished except for the sleeves.
Sleeves don’t usually take too long for me, but I was not feeling particularly motivated to finish these. So, I did something that sometimes helps me to make some progress on a stalled project. I took it with me on a road trip and did not take any other knitting that I could do in the car.
It worked. At least, it worked for that first sleeve. The second sat around waiting for a bit until I decided that enough was enough and I cast on on that second sleeve.
A few days of dedicated knitting was all it took to get the second sleeve finished. All that was left was the sewing up.
Instead of diving into that, I found myself distracted by other things again. But, on the eve of going to the MA Fiber Festival last weekend, I wondered if I might be able to finish the sweater to wear the next day at the festival. Nothing gets a knitter motivated to finish something than the prospect of being able to wear it around a bunch of other knitters! I did not end up finishing the sweater in time, but it got me started and I did manage to finish by the end of the weekend.
It just needed a bath and rest after that. Now, two years later after I started the sweater, it is finally finished.
The sweater is really comfortable and I like it a lot. The pattern was great. It must be because every time I came back to it, I had to figure where I was and what I was supposed to be doing. And that’s sort of how I have felt on and off over the past two years. Where am I and what am I supposed to be doing? I would ask myself this often as I adjusted to our new normal here. I can’t really explain why I was so unmotivated with the sweater except that maybe it was somehow a reflection of how unsettled I have felt this past two years in this new place.
And now that it is finished, I think it is also a reflection of how I am feeling these days here; more comfortable, more settled, more at home. This is not to say that I am totally at home here because I still don’t feel like I really “belong” here. To be honest, I’ve never felt like I “belonged” anywhere but that’s a topic for some other time. I think there is always a part of us that lives in the places we leave behind, but those places also go with us and live in us.
There’s nothing magical or mystical about this sweater, but I do think it will always remind me of these last two years when my world was shifting and changing and I was struggling to figure out how to live in it. Thankfully, the sweater, just as this life, fits pretty well, looks pretty, and is really quite comfortable.
A couple of nights ago, I woke up in the middle of the night, and, in that semi slumber state when I was letting my mind wander while trying to go back to sleep, I thought of a solution to a puzzle that had been nagging me for a couple of weeks. I love it when things like this happen. It proves what I tell my kids all the time when they are working on something and having trouble with it: Go away and do something else. Your brain will keep working on it even when you don’t think you are thinking about it. This is especially true for creative endeavors like writing, but can also be true for more quantitative puzzles. Our brains are amazing.
Now, the result of my midnight ponderings is this block for the June quilt of my do. good stitches group, aspire circle. I wanted something really scrappy because my scrap bins have been filling up lately, but I did not just want to dig through my scraps for pieces that would “fit” in a pattern. What I really wanted to do was use up were those little odd shaped triangle scraps and other little odd shaped scraps that are hard to fit anywhere else. However, I didn’t want it to turn out to crazy looking, which is often what happens when you just throw a lot of scraps together. I had been playing around with an idea to make heart blocks and, in the middle of the night, I hit upon an idea to marry the two ideas together.
The heart portion of the block is pieced using an improvisational piecing method that I read about here. I started off by piecing together a bunch of little odd shaped blocks.
Generally speaking, I just tried to pick two pieces that had one side that were approximately the same length and then sewed those sides together. Sometimes, I chose a few at a time like below, and sometimes I started with one piece and dug through my scrap bin until I found one that matched nicely.
Once you have a bunch of little pieced blocks, it’s important to trim them a little before going on to add more. You want to cut off those little tails and just straighten up the edges to make it easier to keep piecing. I tried not to add pieces that would make it look too regular because I was going for a more random look.
Generally speaking, I tried to have mostly straight edges with obtuse angles. Once your pieces start to get bigger, this becomes more important. You don’t want all those inside angles because it is hard to add pieces at those spots.
The goal was to get a piece that I could trim to 6.5 by 12.5 inches for each half of a heart. When my pieces started getting bigger, I started to try to match them up a little to make rectangular-ish shapes.
For each pair of hearts, you will need two of these pieces, with some extra for the middle of the smaller heart. The final pieces before trimming looked quite crazy!
However, once trimmed down, it looked much neater. If your trims a big, save them. You might need them for the smaller heart.
Once you have two rectangles each measuring 6.5 by 12.5 inches, you will need cut your background pieces. I used just plain white. You will need:
two 6.5 inch squares in white
four 3.5 inch squares in white
Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of each background square.
Here are the pieces you need for the big heart.
Right sides together, match a large background square to one end of a scrappy block and sew on the line. Then, sew another line 1/2 inch away from the diagonal line on the corner side.
Now, do the same with the 3.5 inch blocks in the top corners of the scrappy block. Here’s what you will have after this step for each half heart.
Now, cut in between the sewn lines.
Do this again to the second scrappy block, making sure that the diagonal line is mirrored for the bottom of the heart. In the picture below, you can see how I made sure I was mirroring the pieces before I got too far in my sewing.
Iron the pieces and then add the other corner block in the same way. You will end up with two halves of a heart.
Sew the two halves together to make a big 12.5 inch square scrappy improv heart block.
Now, we will use up those odd half square triangles to make the smaller scrappy heart. You should have 4 small and 2 large half square triangles.
You will need to trim the half square triangles (HST) down to make an 8.5 inch square heart.
Each small HST should be trimmed to 2.5 inch squares.
Each large HST should be trimmed to 4.5 inch squares.
You will also need:
One 2.5 by 8.5 inch scrappy rectangle.
For this, I sewed some trimmings together to make a piece big enough to trim down. How’s that for using up scraps!
For the background, you will need to cut
two 2.5 by 8.5 inch strips in white
two 2.5 by 12.5 inch strips in white
Altogether, you should have this:
Sew all the pieces together, beginning with the heart and then adding the background sashing pieces to make a 12.5 inch square block.
My favorite thing about making this is that you essentially can make two blocks for not much more effort than making one. I must admit to feeling a little proud of these blocks and they were such fun to make. I still have a lot of scraps, so more of these might be in my future.
For now, I am really looking forward to seeing what my friends from the aspire circle will make with this method. It should be a fun and cheerful quilt!