Monday, January 28, 2008

What's next...

Yesterday morning before leaving my bed, I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my day - the last of my three-day weekend. I work the 9-80 schedule which means Monday thru Thursday I work 9 hours and on alternating Fridays I have the day off or I work 8 hours.

This Friday off, I made a trip to Mill Creek to visit Main Street Yarn . George and his cold joined me, and our first stop was at Central Market for lunch. I was also looking for salt cod to try a recipe from the Saveur authentic Italian cookbook (and I found it, complete with a chef to talk to me about how to prepare it). George spent time in the University Book Store while I checked out the yarn store - in short order I found all the needles I was looking for, and a Mac&Me pattern for an alpaca ruffle scarf I think is simple and beautiful. At home, I worked in the yard until it was dark, then checked the drying progress of my pink variagated socks and my teddy bear top-down sweater - I had blocked them together before shopping. What to do next? Which takes me back to how I started today.

My mind percolates with such a variety of ideas that there are days I am nearly paralyzed into inactivity just trying to decide. I want to knit and read, I need to get to the gym for a workout, I like to talk and spend time with my friends, and the house needs cleaning. I want to cook wonderful, healthy foods, I want to take Maverick for a walk, I want to complete several sewing projects, I love reading my friends' blogs, and want to keep my posting more regular... and so on. The good news is that it's such a gift to have these choices - reading A Thousand Splendid Suns reminded me of my good fortune to just be born an American. The challenge for me is organizing my time to approach my own fulfillment and give the maximum joy to my dog, friends and family in the process. The things I most often give up are sleep and time for peaceful reflection - it can really be a vicious cycle, so I want to improve every day.

So next in knitting I have begun the alpaca ruffle scarf using the vintage yarn Laurie gave me in return for knitting cashmere wristlets for her. Also, I have cast on the Ferals Fair Isle challenge tam, and while the color chart reading is a new lesson for me, I'm cautiously optimistic about making the April 1 completion date. I'm determined to complete my Forest Canopy shawl before Madrona, and in Rebecca's class on Thursday, I'm planning to use my swatches to calculate the sizing for my Silky Wool top-down pullover sweater. And I can't imagine not having some socks in the works, so tonight I'll decide which yarn and pattern I'll begin.

In books, I just finished Laurie King's "With Child" (action taking place partly in the Seattle area) reading it while I worked out on the eliptical and while riding on the bus, and her "Touchstone" at home. Sarah Waters' "The Night Watch" is in my car on CD so I can listen while I drive, and after completing Ian McEwan's "Amsterdam", I've begun ordering other previous Booker Prize winners from the library. I'll begin the first winner tomorrow: "Something to Answer For."
In photography, I've finally opened a Flickr account and have been mulling which photos to add. A basic digital photography course through North Seattle Community College Continuing Education exposed a few new things about my camera - I've already begun to use a couple of features I hadn't known how to access. A 2008 promise to myself is to take computer courses on a regular basis to keep up with the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, I'm not giving up on finding balance combining my love of reading, knitting, and photography with my love of a clean and serene home filled with good, healthy homecooked food, friends & family, and a happy, healthy self and dog. Oh yes, and applying myself at my job during those 80 hours each two weeks.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Jumping into 2008...

Is it already three weeks into the new year? I've been throwing myself into my unfinished projects with abandon; and not just knitting projects! I knitted the tam for Emily's friend Abby, and had to change Emily's design a bit because the colors I had available were too close in tone for the way they were laid out. Abby put the hat on immediately and her mother said she wore it for three days straight - it looked great on her.

I also finally set up the "new" sewing machine and made a fleece bedcover for Cherie's pug, Hugo. Since the machine came to me via Cherie (it had been her grandmother's) it seemed right for that to be the first project. I sewed a cover from olive fleece for Maverick's family room bed while he closely monitored my progress, following me from room to room as I cut, pinned, and stitched. He sat watching George and I add the styrofoam beans to the liner then put the cover on the bed. Then he plopped down immediately, looking up at us. He knew it was his, of course. I have his larger nighttime beanbag bed left; I'll be sewing a chocolate brown fleece cover. I'm preparing to paint that room, so he needed a new cover to fit in. I never imagined co-ordinating home dog accessories, but then, I never imagined a dog like him!

We started our top-down sweater class within a class with Rebecca, and it's so fun! We are doing a teddy-bear size first to practice the techniques - it's fun for each of us to be doing the same thing. Rebecca has all these wonderful samples knit from Karen Alfke's top down pattern, and since she refuses to sell me any of them (I think the sock monkey one is my favorite, but they all fit like a dream) since they are, after all, HER samples. And she would be wearing them herself if she wasn't keeping them for her classes. My excitement could be attributed to the feeling I have that learning this method of sizing will help me learn to better plan my sizing for any pattern I want to make based on the gauge I get from the yarn I choose. I feel a little like I'm just about to be set free! My first top-down in my size will be with the fabulous red Elspeth Lavold Silky Wool that Gail let go of at the Village New Year's Day sale when she decided on the green. (If she had stayed with the red, I would have bought the green - both colors are that beautiful.) Based on my swatches, I'll be knitting with size 3 or 4 needles instead of the recommended 6.

My first toe-up sock is finished, with an alteration to the pattern I was following. This was also my first "afterthought heel" and I like the way it turned out. It's so nice to have all these new tools in my toolbox. I've already cast-on the next toe and knit the first couple of inches on the second sock. This is the biggest yarn I have so far used to knit socks - amazing how much quicker it goes on size 1's than size 0's!

And tonight at Ferals, I used the German cast-on for my Fair Isle tam. I actually had learned this cast-on in December, but hadn't really used it yet. I got lots of practice tonight since I twice miscalculated the long tail and had to start again. I finally got my 144 stitches with a tail of less than 2". It's inspirational to see how others are progressing with their tams; Naomi and Ellen were both working on theirs and encouraging me. It was great to see Rebecca and Peggy there - the first time I've seen them at Ferals since I began. Lori came with her finished Fair Isle swatch from Janine's class and began doing the math for her cardigan. She's an intuitive knitter who doesn't really like to follow patterns, so watching her process is fascinating for me... this is going to be an amazing sweater! And Gail is nearing completion on her beautiful blue Aran - she sure convinced me of the beauty and simplicity of Cascade 220!