Get Cozy

This is Orlando the Marmalade Cat II, also known as Brolando, Lando Catrissian, and Fat Boy. We are trying hard to not let him become a truly obese cat, but he’s such a snuggler, he gets far more treats than he should. Notice that he is so intent upon his position on my lap that I can actually crochet right on top of him. I actually finished the shawl with him right there. He won’t tolerate hardback books though.

Before I paused to take the picture, my daughter came in and exclaimed, “AWWWW!! you are so cozy!” Yes, very. A lot has been said about the mentally restorative powers of yarn arts and pet ownership, some very serious scientists have researched these avenues to healing and found very positive results.

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/dogs-and-health-a-lower-risk-for-heart-disease-related-death-2018061114020
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/98432.php
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4248608/
http://anxietyresourcecenter.org/2017/10/crochet-helps-brain/
https://www.headspace.com/blog/2016/12/11/meditating-with-ptsd/

Every pet owner can corroborate the peace that the unconditional love our pets give us. But those of us who work with yarn frequently, know this ‘mindfulness’ that they speak of. We have known it since the very first time we hit ‘the zone’. Making stitch after stitch, focused only on the rhythm of the pattern, mind completely focused on the flow and rhythm of the project in hand. This mindfulness of yarn work allows one to let go of other worries, if only for a little while. But it’s a break our minds need.

Then the phone rings or the baby cries or a car horn honks and we are shaken out of our peaceful state. I remember the first time it happened, my youngest was a toddler and I’d been learning crochet for maybe three or four months. I know I was doing ordinary rows of double crochet, focused on creating a square and not a trapezoid. She woke from her nap peacefully, I could hear her talking to the air the way toddlers do. I started to put the project away and had to do a double take. Not only were my edges beautifully even and square, but I had crocheted for almost two linear feet, it was half a baby blanket! I looked at the clock, an hour and a half had passed in complete peace. I remember thinking “ah, this is ‘the zone’ they talk about”. I know this zone of mental peace can be achieved via other methods, like running, but you can’t run with a cat on your lap. And there’s all the sweating.

That’s the yarn side of it, but there is more to being cozy than just working on something peacefully. The Danish have known this for a long time, their word is one that has probably entered your realm in the last year or so: hygge.

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-year-of-hygge-the-danish-obsession-with-getting-cozy

This was definitely a hygge moment for me. What you don’t see in the picture is my husband to my right, reading, and a mug of hot tea to my left. All I was missing was some chocolate. It was an ‘extra frosting on top’ type of night in that I finished the shawl. So satisfying. I slept well.

So, the next time you sit down to do a few rows, don’t just grab the yarn and plop in your favorite chair, get cozy. Make the tea, grab a blanket, call the dog over. Not only will it instill guilt in anyone attempting to disturb you, your existential being will be better for the deeper mindfulness you achieve in the time given. And the project at hand will turn out beautifully.


What’s in the bag?

I’m a ‘bag lady’. I have a work bag, a knitting bag, a crochet bag, an embroidery bag, a whole bunch of reusable grocery totes that occasionally become secondary project bags, a bag in my car with emergency supplies, a tool bag, and as I look around my crafting space I currently have a bag of clean and empty Oui yogurt jars and a bag of pecans waiting to be shelled. Yup, bags are my primary organizational system.

In my knitting bag, I have a needle roll with 60% of my needles in it. The huge clunky ones are in a jar in my craft space, along with same-size-different-length needles on the longer side. My crochet bag has a hook roll. Neither of these organizers really hold any tools. Those tool bags are the bags I’m going to talk about today.

The little tool bags inside the big bags are all small zipper totes, all roughly 9” x 9 ” x 1 1/2” and similar to cosmetic bags. Inside my knitting bag and both* crochet bags, I have quite a few common items.

  • a 3”x3” Post-It notepad, lined for writing
  • a pencil
  • an eraser (the pink rectangular type)
  • a small snap-close plastic container of stitch markers
  • a small plastic needle or hook measuring gauge
  • a seamstress type measuring tape
  • a couple of safety pins
  • a couple bobby pins
  • travel scissors or nail clippers
  • a couple yards scrap yarn. This is rolled into a little ball no bigger than a jawbreaker candy.

My knitting bag has a few things my crochet bags don’t: cable needles in several sizes, some point protectors, a crochet hook, and some vintage safety-pin-looking stitch holders.

So, what’s the reasoning behind these? Some are pretty obvious, but I’ll elaborate on the less obvious.

Three by three Post-It note pad

I don’t write small, this size allows me to put a full sentence reminder to myself. It’s big enough to do math on. It’s small enough to not dominate the zipper bag and go in and out easily. I use singles as place markers in my patterns, underlining the row I’m on, the size really blocks out following rows well for easy focus (sometimes I block the above rows too). I can put one off to the side to make tally marks on to keep counts in various patterns. And when I’m in public, I stick one to my business card with additional information because I’m always telling people where they can take a class from me. I’ve tried ordinary note pads, bigger and smaller, but Post-It’s are just plain awesome and this size works exceptionally well for me. If you write small you may be happier with smaller ones, but a sticky type beats plain paper every day.

A pencil and eraser

A Ticonderoga pencil specifically, because it’s real wood and they are well made for about 3 cents more than those awful plastic ones. I stock up on supplies at back-to-school time. I have also found the fun kid and holiday motif pencils sold at Target and Michael’s are often really good wood too and have had several in my bags over the years. My work crochet bag has a red pencil with white polka dots and blue flowers. I do not use mechanical pencils, because those require a hard surface to write on. The fine lead will just poke a hole in your paper if it’s on your knee because you are working in the doctors office waiting room. I feel no concern writing on my pattern, making a tiny note in a book, or scribbling out the math for a project if I’m using pencil. That’s what erasers are for, and I carry a big one. The other reason I carry a separate eraser is that the ones that come on pencils are never big enough. I like the Pink Pearl type in my bag. I like the ones that fit over the pencil’s eraser, but I’ve found they don’t hold up well in a bag. Too much movement cracks them, then you have little bits of eraser all through your bag.

Safety Pins

These don’t really get used for knitting or crochet. I have them there for giving away. In an emergency, me and my yarn bag look like a good source of rescue to those having wardrobe malfunctions. It’s sort of passive advertising, and non-crafty people don’t know that knitters do not have a needle and thread on their person at all times. I keep my bags stocked because that guy on the bus who just realized his fly wasn’t down but broken is going to look for the craftiest looking person he can to get him out of a pinch. The young mother whose purse strap just bit the dust, the toddler whose lovey just lost it’s arm, all have sought me out in public because of my yarn bag. “Um, well, this is crochet, but I have a safety pin” has flooded needy strangers with relief on many occasions. It’s an opportunity to be a Good Citizen.

Bobby pins

The Clover company has an amazing array of tools and products for all kinds of fiber arts, I own many of them. I’m really happy with their quality too. But they have yet to improve on the humble bobby pin. I suppose this is a bit of a ‘hack’, but it is really just practical and frugal. Nothing Clover sells can be got in the quantity of 50 for a dollar. I feel no guilt losing or giving them away at that cost.

So how do I use them? They are my ‘locks’ when I put my project back in the bag. For crochet, I slip it through the loop on the hook, then down over the completed rows. For knitting, I slide one on each end of my needle(s) through the front of the stitches. They won’t snag the yarn. If it comes off the needle/ hook, it holds the loops from un-looping and to each other. They can be got in several sizes and occasionally fun colors (look in the kid section of the hair accessory section the next time you are at a dollar store). And, you can put them in your hair to keep it out of your face while working.

Scrap yarn

This is useful in a bunch of ways. I have a large skein of Red Heart in a hideous orange I got in a freecycle box. It’s my primary source of scrap yarn balls as it’s not a yarn I’d ever make a gift from or wear myself. It’s really the most dreadful shade of orange ever produced. Scrap yarn is often called for in knitting for the trying on or holding stitches instructions. In crochet, I’ll sometimes swatch a stitch or section before going to it in my good yarn on my project. I use it to demonstrate the basics when that curious kid comes and starts asking lots of questions in random public places. I’ve even given it away to children after teaching them how to make a chain using just their fingers. It’s another Good Citizen thing, and the yarn was free.

So, that’s more than you ever needed to know about what’s in my bag. What’s in your bag?

*because I teach crochet, I have one that lives at work permanently along with a few hooks, my class handouts, beginner patterns, and the student yarn.

What to Say When a Stranger Comments on Your Making in Public

We’ve all been there. You are minding your own business in the waiting room of the oil change shop/ dentist/ your child’s baseball practice, knitting or crocheting peacefully and a Total Stranger says:

“Are you knitting?”

I am, by nature, an extrovert. Most days this opens up a lovely discussion with a person about all the benefits of working with yarn, I share the love of my hobby and feel better for it. But some days, I’m just not in the mood. Maybe the project has a deadline. Maybe the project is keeping me from yelling at a loved one. Maybe I just need a little quiet time with myself. No matter the specifics, sometimes you just don’t feel like interacting with strangers today. So many feel like a deer caught in the headlights in this situation.

Never fear! Just memorize a few of these handy responses to answer and end the conversation. Bear in mind, my sarcasm quotient runs very high, but said in a polite tone of voice and followed with an innocent smile, many can be perceived as light humored instead of bleak sarcasm. Of course, if you are like me and bleak sarcasm is just your speed, pair these phrases with a raised eyebrow or firm eye roll as you see fit.

via GIPHY

P.S. That actress is an avid knitter, her name is Kristen Ritter!

The Honest route:

“Yup. And this is the tricky bit, I need to concentrate”
“Yup, I’m trying to keep count, thank you”
“No, it’s crochet and I’m trying to keep count, thank you”

If they insist on conversing, you can add:
“I really need to focus on this”

The Sarcastic route:

“No, I just thought this yarn loop looked lonely so I’m giving it friends”
“Am I? I’m not sure, my hands aren’t connected to my brain at all”
“(Yes, I’m knitting.) (No, this is crochet, knitting has two sticks.) No, it’s not a dying art. I’m glad your grandmother (knit) (crochet). Yes, you can learn how. You can take lessons at [fill in your favorite LYS]”

If they respond with “well that was rude” or similar, you can add:
“I’m sorry you think so, but exactly what part of my quiet personal activity made you think I was doing it to invite conversation?”

Or even:
“The fact that I’m knitting (crocheting) in public does not mean I want to be a spokesperson for the hobby. It means I don’t want to sit here bored to death while I wait”.

If you live in the South or carry your Southern upbringing in your accent, feel free to add “bless your heart” to any of the above.

Advice void in New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, parts of Alaska and California or where prohibited by law. No refund value.

Sometimes they open with:
“Well that’s a dying art”

Honest route:

“Actually, no. Google can tell you all about how hot it is again”
“Cars have been around for a hundred years yet people still own horses. This to has become a hobby instead of a necessity. It’s not dying.”

Sarcastic route:

“What? I’m dying? How do you know?”
“Just because your grandmother who knit is dead, doesn’t mean the whole hobby died”

Or they open with:
“that’s a lost art”

Honest route:

“Umm, no, I’m doing it right now. Not lost”
“Amelia Earhart is lost. (Knitting) (Crochet) is not”
“Just because you don’t have any yarny people in your life doesn’t mean it’s lost”

Sarcastic route:

“Here it is! You had me scared for a second there! Phew!”
“I’m lost? Are you sure? I thought I was in [state your location]”

Small children

Small children are their own kind of interruption. I am always gentler in my speaking, but make sure to be very clear, especially if they are the touch-everything type.

“I’m (knitting) (crocheting) and it requires quiet so I can focus.”
If the small person asks more questions or states that there is music/ noise/ etc: “I’m sure your mother has told you not to speak to strangers, right?”
When necessary: “Please don’t touch my stuff”.
And the Death Blow, only when absolutely necessary: “Where is your parent?” [more embarrassing to the parent if they are nearby]

So, there ya go, a handy list of brief statements to acknowledge the stranger, but also not have an unwanted conversation.

9: My 10 Secrets to Knitting with Double Pointed Needles


  1. The first time you use them, use them with something like the decreases on a hat
  2. Cast on all on 1 needle and then move your stitches.
  3. Use wooden needles when you are starting to learn dpn’s
  4. Work with 5 needles, not 4
  5. Use small stitch markers
  6. When starting with dpn, start your round in the middle of the needle
    1. So if you have 40 stitches total, and you’re of course working with 5 needles, you’ll have 5 stitches on needle 1, 10 on needles 2-4, and 5 on needle 5, when you go to join you’ll knit the stitches from needle 1 to needle 5, joining it, but since it’s not where needles meet, you’ll get less of a gap.
  7. When you come to the end of a needle, snug up the first few stitches on the new one.
  8. Rotate your stitches are you work around. So when you get to the end of a needle instead directly moving to the next one, knit at least 1 or 2 stitches onto the needle you just filled
  9. Watch when starting a new needle how you are holding it in relation to your live stitches. Keep the new stitches as close to the old ones as possible.
  10. Most of all take your time!

Where you can come and see me this month (Sept 2018)

Endless Mountain Fiber Festival Sept 8-9

Knit Locally  Sept 15 Trunk show and Knitting with Hand Dyed Yarn Class)

Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival Sept 28th Knitting with Hand Dyed Yarn Class

Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival  Show- Sept 29-30

 

3: 12 Tips for New (and not so new) Knitters


Tips for Beginning Knitters

  1. Circular Needles can be used for flat knitting
  2. Short projects are good for learning new things
  3. Hats make great swatches when you use the same type of needle
  4. Check your work and count your stitches often the faster you find your mistakes the better
  5. YouTube is your friend, you can learn a lot there and if one video doesn’t help look for another one.  When that fails, reach out to your LYS for a class, they are worth the cost.
  6. Keep your stitches moving along your needle when you don’t keep the stitches you are working on moving up, you can get uneven stitches.
  7. Practice knitting without looking
  8. Learn to read your knitting
  9. Learn to fix mistakes without ripping everything out
  10. Paid patterns are often worth the price
  11. Like with other things, you get what you pay for with yarn.
  12. If you can’t get a ball winder and a swift, get a swift first.  Don’t use a mixer to wind your yarn!

 

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