Tuesday, March 28, 2017

In Limbo

Limbo. The word sums up so many aspects of my life right now.

Most notably, our house is still for sale and we cannot move until it sells. I’m applying for jobs but cannot supply a definite available start date. I don’t even know whether I should go ahead and book my next haircut. How much longer will we be here? It’s extra frustrating to repeatedly hear stories of houses that are selling within days of going on the market — always in a different market or at a different price point. This week, in my quest to feel like I’m doing something useful to move things along, I scrubbed down the mailbox. It doesn’t seem to have made an impact.

I’ve knit more of my entrelac scarf. While I must admit that I’ve been falling asleep with my knitting in my hands more than I’ve been knitting — no mean feat considering how much coffee I’ve been consuming — I’ve made it through probably three-quarters of the last skein of yarn. It's currently 39 inches long before blocking, and I still haven’t decided if I should turn the scarf into a cowl. I need to wait and see how far that last quarter of a skein will go, but I’m beginning to think the piece may end up being a good length for a scarf after all.

I’ve also made progress on the two books that I started reading last week, but have not yet finished either book. I did come across a line I liked from “In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists and Entrepreneurs” by Grace Bonney. The quote is from Hopie Stockman:

“No one can rip off authenticity.”

I think it’s an excellent point for artists to remember. Someone might be able to copy some aspect of what we do, but it won’t be the same because it will be missing that infusion of self that makes it ours. Creating from a place of inspiration and emotion is going to produce a different result than going through the motions to replicate someone else’s idea.

And where do those authentic, creative ideas come from? Experiencing life — yes, even the periods of limbo.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Reading About Making

The challenge continues: finding time for making while preparing for a move. This week, I waited out showings of our home by knitting in a Mexican restaurant and in a city park. Unfortunately, that is about the extent of this week’s making — unless you count my creative vacuum patterns in the carpet. I was, however, able to read about making and that’s the next best thing.

The first book that I started is In the Company of Women:Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists and Entrepreneurs by Grace Bonney. A routine set of interview questions resulted in 100 unique sets of responses. It is heartening to relate to the women’s outlooks and the challenges that they have overcome. At the same time, as a mother of three, it is daunting to realize how few of the women are mothers. It seems that even when work is passion rather than drudgery, the work/life balancing act continues. I expected enlightening light reading, and ended up with something that stirs much deeper thoughts. In addition, while the question-and-answer format of the book makes it easy to pick up and put down as needed, that same pattern makes it difficult to keep track of the individuals represented. At about a quarter of the way through the book, it was time to put it down for a bit.

I moved on to the Late Winter 2017 issue of VogueKnitting.” Years ago, I was given the magazine subscription as a Christmas gift. I am fortunate to say that each year since then, the gift subscription has been renewed. These days the issues sit for a little while, but I always find time to read them. I enjoy the magazine, even as it gently reminds me of how woefully behind the fashion curve I am. When I first read an issue, I usually only find one or two patterns that I want to make — but if I revisit an issue a few years later, after the cutting-edge of fashion has been softened by the mainstream, I typically only find one or two pieces that I don’t like. Ah, well, so much for being en vogue.

With my spirit renewed, I picked up All Art Is Propaganda,” a collection of critical essays by George Orwell. Drawn in by the title, I was unsure what to expect from my first time reading Orwell. I am really enjoying his writing and the way the essays are making me look at certain subjects from new angles. So far, the essays have all touched on the concept that a person cannot create without adding a message of some sort to the creation. Hence, the art becomes propaganda as that message or point of view is promoted. The essays are intelligently written, complex, and completely fascinating. Once again this week I find myself about a quarter of the way through a book, but I won’t be putting this one down any time soon.

I may even pass the time during our next showing by reading instead of knitting.

What making-related books have you read recently?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Under Pressure

Our house officially went on the market this week. That means a lot of my time has been spent tidying before making myself scarce for photos, an open house, and random showings. The experience unfortunately brings out the perfectionist in me, which makes it very stressful. This past Saturday evening, I swept the ceiling in the garage.

Let’s pause and allow that to sink in for a moment: I swept the ceiling in the garage.

That was before I received feedback that sent me on a late night drive to the hardware store in the rain. I needed to repair some silly item someone noticed but nobody in real life would ever actually give a second thought.

Perhaps it comes as no surprise, then, that I haven’t spent a lot of time making anything in recent days — unless you count prepackaged baked goods so the house will smell divine at any given moment.

On a brighter note, while I’ve been required to stay away from home I’ve spent some time using up local gift certificates and rewards. I was a bit disappointed to learn that I need to spend $200 before I earn my next $25 reward at my favorite local yarn shop — that’s not in the budget! But the yarn shop is not far from the local art supply store. You might recall that I read a book about hand lettering in the fall and needed some supplies before getting started. I finally picked up those supplies.

Ink, Paper, Brush Pen and Pen Nibs - Supplies for Hand Lettering

The paper, ink and brush pen are all a little different from what Ivan Castro recommends in “The ABC of Custom Lettering.” I did the best I could with what was available, and I think it will be a good enough start for when we’re settled again.

I have managed to knit some more of the entrelac scarf that I posted about recently, although not enough to warrant a photo of the latest progress. I have probably a little over a half skein of yarn left to knit, so I should have a “ta-da” post soon — if I can step away from the cleaning supplies.

What is the craziest thing you’ve found yourself cleaning while under pressure?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

More Cloths

Last week I took a mental break and knit five simple cloths, not yet declaring them either washcloths or dishcloths. This week I continued my mental break by knitting five more cloths with scrap cotton, but I changed up the knitting pattern.

Five cloths per week wasn’t a goal, by the way. Apparently it’s my default cloth-knitting rate.

Five Knit Cotton Washcloths or Dishcloths

This set of cloths was knit as garter stitch mitered squares. I was using double-point needles — the only kind I haven’t packed for some reason — which made these blocks a little more challenging than last week’s blocks. Last week’s blocks started with a few stitches, widened to the diagonal length of the cloth, then narrowed back down to a few stitches. The mitered squares, on the other hand, started with casting on all of the stitches along two sides, then narrowed down to one stitch at the opposite corner. I went from having at most about 55 stitches on the needles to having up to 85 stitches on the needles. As I was working, I had to be careful not to let the stitches slide off the other ends of the needles. Thankfully, the cotton was stiff enough to hold the stitches pretty well in those instances when I dropped a few.

Once again, I had fun mixing the colors, although as my stash dwindled so did my color options. I think the cloth that I had the most fun making was made from scraps of scraps in an assortment of colors.

Cotton Knit Washcloth or Dishcloth with Knotted Scrappy Ends

As I was knitting the cloths last week, I made a point of only starting a new color at the end of a row. It meant that I was left with some extra lengths of yarn after the ends were woven in that ranged in length from about seven inches to maybe 15 inches; not enough to really use on their own, but too much to throw away. I knotted those pieces together with simple square knots then knotted each end to a length of neutral-colored yarn. As I knit the cloth, I let the yarn ends poke out freely. I love the playfulness of this cloth, and almost wish I had cut the scraps down further so there would be more knotty ends.

Stack of Five Knitted Cotton Dishcloths or Washcloths

I still have a decent stash of cotton yarns, but I’m done making cloths for now. My goal, besides taking a mental break, was to work through the smaller balls of yarn and I’ve done that. The remaining balls of cotton are larger amounts that could maybe aspire to something more than a cloth — although I won’t say “just” a cloth because I’m so happy with how these turned out.

What are your favorite ways to use up your scrappy stash?