29 December 2012

90 seconds

That's how long it takes me to knit a metre of yarn in plain knitting.

That extrapolates to forty meters an hour.

Your fact for the day.

25 December 2012

Simple pleasures

Ornaments filled with history and meaning.

Snow on the tree.

Lights in the darkness.

Knitting by the fire, with my family around me.

~  ~

May I always be able to remember these simple pleasures.

24 December 2012

Merry Christmas, all

The mental health flu is slowly abating, and I have managed to free a few of my words … just in time to wish everyone a lovely holiday filled with peace and love.

The tree is lit, I baked a few cookies, the buns are made for tomorrow, and the giant genetic freak of a turkey that The Reluctant Farmer got as a Christmas bonus from his employer has been thawed and cut into pieces (I prefer hacking apart a turkey when it is uncooked) and made into a giant turkey roll. The drumsticks look like something Fred Flintstone would eat! I won’t touch industrial poultry, but the rest of the family don’t have the same qualms, so it’ll be enjoyed by everyone else and there’s plenty of side dishes for me to enjoy. At the market in early December there was a lady selling nylyshnyky and piereshke, and boy am I looking forward to those!

Time to stoke up the fire and get some dinner going, then it’ll be a quiet evening of knitting and looking at the pretty tree with The Boy and The Reluctant Farmer. The Small People will join us tomorrow.

In all the bustle and activity, may you find a few moments of peace to reflect on the things that really matter … which aren’t things at all.

Peace to all.

19 December 2012

A shortage of words

A bout of mental health flu has taken most of my words hostage.

Posts will return when their release can be negotiated.

14 December 2012

So much sorrow.

After reading about the shooting at the elementary school in the US today, I want to carpet bomb the world with tea sets and meditation cushions. A cup of tea and a bit of quiet for everyone, not guns and murdered children and murdered teachers.

So many heartbroken families today. So much pain and sorrow, because one person's pain was more than he could bear on his own, and the only way he knew how to cope with it was to hurt those around him. So sad.

Take care of yourselves. Take care of everyone around you, whether you know them well or not. Get help when you are hurting. Help others when you can.  Share a cup of tea. Sit for a bit in the quiet.

11 December 2012

German Potato Soup

Peel several potatoes (if necessary) and chop into bite sized bits.

Chop up an onion into small bits.

Put in pot with enough water to cover by about 1 cm.

Boil. Then simmer.

When potatoes are soft, turn off the heat and let it sit about 20 minutes if you can, but if you are hungry go ahead and skip this. It just helps the broth thicken.

Add salt and pepper and eat.

Super easy and more delicious than you'd expect.

Recipe from "the More With Less Cookbook", from MCC.

10 December 2012

Christmas Knitting: COMPLETE!

It’s done.

Ten projects, done.

Five already given away, five under the tree or en route to recipients.



Yeah, me too.

07 December 2012

Almost done

Christmas Knitting Project update!

Projects 1 and 2 were given out already (for my inlaws, when they were here earlier: socks and mittens) … 3 and 4 have also been delivered (to my parents: a sweater and another pair of socks), 5 was also given away (a little headband made of handspun alpaca, for my friend who knits and spins all the the time but sells or gives away everything she makes and has no hand knits of her own unless someone ELSE gives them to her!), and projects 6, 7, 8 and 9 are all wrapped and ready to go. Project 10 (the last one!) has just a little bit of finishing work left, then it, too, will be ready to wrap up.

Yes, folks, it is possible to get your Christmas knitting done before mid-December.

You just have to start in August.

Mexican Supper

I modified a recipe the other day and came up with an awesome, super fast, super easy, super inexpensive supper.


If you have dry beans, use those as they are the cheapest. I used black beans, but pretty much any kind of dry bean will work for this. If you are organized, soak the beans overnight. if you aren’t, then at lunchtime (or in the morning) of the day you want to make this, put the beans in a pot and cover with three times the amount of water as beans, then boil for a couple of minutes and shut it off. Let it soak for a couple of hours. Then, if you have a pressure cooker/canner, dump the soaking water off the beans and put them in the pressure cooker, just covered with water. Put the weight on the steam vent and heat it right up to 15 lbs of pressure, but just for 2 minutes. Take it off the heat (and set it outside if you want it to cool fast!) and you’ve got cooked beans. If you haven’t got a pressure cooker, just dump the soaking water and cover the beans with water plus a little bit, and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until they are soft (see why you want a pressure cooker?).

If you don’t have the time to do all that, or don’t have dry beans, substitute a can or two of the beans of your choice, rinsed and drained.

You want some tomatoes: I put about half a can of leftover stewed tomatoes in the blender and made tomato puree. A jar of tomato paste would be fine too. Or some tomato soup.

Now, look in the fridge for interesting additions. I found a few mushrooms, and a bit of corn would also be nice, or whatever leftover cooked veggies you might have around. I think some rice would be good too: uncooked rice would work if you upped the liquid by a good bit, or leftover cooked rice would work fine as well. I grabbed a handful of dehydrated red peppers from the pantry and soaked them in the tomato puree for extra flavour.

Last but not by any means least, you need some salsa. I used most of a jar of the zucchini salsa I made this summer, nice and spicy. If you haven’t got salsa, use more tomatoes and add some salsa-ish spices: dehydrated onion, garlic, peppers, jalapenos, cilantro.

Mix together all the ingredients, mashing some of the beans if you want a thicker texture. Put it all into a greased casserole dish and then crumble some stale nachos or tortillas over the top, then add a layer of grated cheese.

Heat in the oven until it’s heated through – I put it in the oven of the woodstove for an hour, but half an hour at 300 would probably do it (maybe longer if you used uncooked rice). When the cheese is really melty it’s probably good.

Serve in bowls and be ready to offer seconds!

02 December 2012

At some point, you know enough

I went to visit a friend of mine a little while back, to talk about … well, life, the universe, and everything I suppose. He does personal coaching work and leads group spirituality workshops (after leaving a successful career in software development, believe it or not) and has generously offered to help me any way he can. He’s one of the few people outside of my family to have witnessed all of my story so far, and he’s been a great support to me through so many parts of this difficult journey. I am blessed by his friendship.

Anyhow, as we were talking, I realized that what I’ve been feeling most often these days is frustration: it seems as though further treatment is a waste of time (recognizing as I say this that I’m probably wrong). It feels like there’s no more to ‘uncover’, nothing else to ‘dig up’ or ‘unearth’ or ‘face squarely’. I’ve done all the thinking. I’ve processed all I can stand to process, at least for now. Yeah, there might be more stuff buried down in there (actually I know there are a few things that still need to be washed out, but they’re just now starting to appear, and I have the sense that it’s not quite time to do that work yet). He had a good answer for me:

At some point, you know enough.

You can keep reading the self-help books, keep attending workshops, keep searching and reaching and trying to find the answers … but at some point, you know enough. At some point, what you really need to do is just pick yourself up and start living. Wherever you are, with whatever you have, no matter how inadequate your resources may seem to be.

After all, life keeps on happening while we’re reading and attending workshops and meditating. Our inner lives most certainly need attention – even more so if we have unhealthy thought patterns that need to be changed – but maybe, just maybe, I know enough now to just get on with getting on.

My acupuncturist had said the same sort of thing to me: she encouraged me to stop thinking about “when I get better” and to instead focus on the moment, to realize that “right now, this is what my life looks like”, to learn to live right now with the resources I have, few though they may seem to be. Who knows what better will look like in another six months? Right now, this is what my life looks like. Better is a relative term. I am better now than I was before. I can do more. I sleep more soundly, often without waking at all in the night. The chest pain is now only occasional rather than constant. I can drive to town, do a bunch of errands, and drive home. I’ll be tired, but I can still make supper when I get back. These are major improvements.

I’m just getting on with getting on. I do as much as I can, and sometimes I do a bit too much and sometimes I don’t do as much as I’d like. Okay, I rarely do as much as I’d like, but we all know that my concept of “a reasonable day’s work” is badly skewed, so that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. In the fall I was doing chores every morning, hoping that come winter I’d be able to be the farmer on duty. As it got colder, though, my body called a halt by taking my feet out from under me for a couple of weeks. I didn’t post about it, but it was kind of scary … the palindromic arthritis that occasionally affects my ankle joints flared up noisily for awhile, forcing me to walk with a cane for about two weeks, and to walk rather gingerly for another week after that. It passed, as it always does, but I took it as a clear sign that I had been overextending myself. The Boy has taken up the chores now – fortunately it’s not a huge job, just 15-20 minutes twice a day, and I help out whenever I can, but I had really wanted to do it myself this winter. I don’t like being unable to do the things I feel like I ought to be able to do … I feel like I ought to be well by now, like there’s nothing more to be gained by resting and I need to get off my lazy behind and get back to having a busy and productive life.

But when I overextend myself, I end up shouting at someone, or crying, or in physical pain, or putting myself to bed at 7 pm so as not to inflict myself on my family any more than is absolutely necessary. I do know that overextending myself isn’t a valid option. it isn’t a smart choice. The smart thing to do is to carefully try adding one more thing and see how that goes. Then adding one more thing after that, and seeing how that goes. Unfortunately, I still haven’t figured out the subtle clues that indicate “you are almost out of spoons, you need to slow down now” and I only realize that I’ve overdone it after it’s too late.

Presumably there are subtle warning signs that will tell me what “approaching empty” feels like, but I haven’t learned to recognize them reliably yet. I suppose that would be the next thing I need to learn … not quite sure how best to go about learning it though.

Hmm. Maybe that’s what I need to work on next.

I don’t want to do that work yet though. Right now, I’m going to finish my holiday knitting (projects 6 and 7 are both underway, and both are more than half done!) and drink tea by the fire. Maybe for today, that’s enough.

01 December 2012

Warm Things without the Microwave

I love Warm Things.

In our house, that’s a proper noun which describes a particular object, not a general class of items. A Warm Thing is one of those fabric bags filled with barley or rice or some such substance, which you normally heat in the microwave along with a glass of water (it needs moist heat, or else the barley pops like popcorn and smells weird).

We’re keeping the thermostat pretty low these days: we have the woodstove(s) to keep things warm and wood is free but natural gas is not, so we start the fire in the morning and let it help keep the house warm during the day. Still, at bedtime or periodically through the day I feel chilly anyhow, and I want to do something about that.  I am making conscious efforts to keep my body warm this winter: my friend suggested that perhaps part of the reason I have so little energy in the winter is that I may be dealing with low level joint pain, and it’s a good theory. Particularly since my acupuncturist also says I need to be warmer (more spicy foods, more warm tea).

In addition to the kettle that stays on the stove all day now, we also have a big pot of water. The house gets really dry in the winter and the extra humidity is welcome. I realized, though, that I could use the pot to warm up a Warm Thing. It’s easy: just put a cooling rack over the top of the pot, lay the Warm Thing on the rack, and plunk a large bowl over the whole shebang. Inside the bowl it’s nice and steamy and the Warm Thing heats up nice and quick with good moist heat.

So there you go; another way to stay warm this winter, without using any electricity or natural gas to do so!

25 November 2012

The aftermath of cleaning up

The aftermath of a big cleanup is, of course, getting rid of all the stray stuff you found.

Thankfully, most rural transfer stations (where you drop off your garbage, it all gets hauled to a big dump from the various transfer stations around the county, hence the name) have a “Take it or Leave it” spot. Anything you don’t want anymore that you think someone else might use is left in the shed, and people just help themselves to whatever they might need. I found a nice brass fireplace tool set in there recently, and I’ve picked up quite a few books as well.

Today, I dropped off a whole lot of stuff: binders, cookbooks, wire shelving, an old cooler.

And there, sitting right at the end of a row of exercise equipment, was a recumbent exercise bike.

The Reluctant Farmer and I had just yesterday been talking about getting one. You see, I got on the scale when The Boy and I went to get our vaccinations updated last week, and was not pleased to see that I weigh nearly as much now as I did two days before he was born. I should not be carrying the equivalent weight of a full term pregnancy, it puts me up into the ‘overweight’ BMI category. Plus, my extra weight is all around my middle, which increases my risk for diabetes and other problems. I need to deal with the extra pounds.

However, I need to do it gently: I can’t handle harsh exercise, it stresses my body and my mind. Plus I hate it so I don’t do it. Even our nice elliptical trainer is too much for me. I figured a recumbent bike might be okay, as I’d still be sitting down, which I prefer, and then my hands would be free, so I can knit! Yes, I chose my exercise equipment based on the fact that I can knit while exercising. Doesn’t everyone?

So the new to us bike is downstairs by the TV, and I can watch Netflix and ride the bike and knit all at the same time. And I don’t have to put on running shoes or change into special clothes … I just go downstairs to watch Farscape with my knitting, and move my feet.

Very cool. I already tested it out, and it works fine.

Yay for recycling! And cycling!

12 November 2012

Changing Rooms: the household edition

Back when I had a TV, I enjoyed watching Changing Rooms, a British home redecorating show in which neighbours or friends would each take responsibility (with a designer, of course) for redoing a room in the other family’s  house. It could be quite hilarious, and sometimes very touching. I think one of my favourite episodes involved a dining room makeover for a deaf couple. They custom built a table that had a light built right into the middle of it, so the whole middle of the table was this glowing circle: the idea was to better light the faces of the other diners, to make it easier for the hosts to read lips when they had guests over who did not sign. Very neat.

Anyway, not quite as cool as all that but we have had our own mini version of Changing Rooms here this past weekend. The Boy swapped his old room (the loft of the South Wing) for the room that was originally my bedroom and has most recently been the Fibre Room / place to stash all manner of things. This was something of a sacrifice on his part, as the new room is smaller by about 1/3, but it does have a door and is quieter than the loft. He has had one night in there so far and says it is just fine (though he needs heavier drapes, as the windows are a bit chilly this time of year, even with bubble wrap on them).

The move was a huge mess. I can’t believe how much was stuffed into that room … and how much of it was junk! Several bags have gone out to the pile waiting to go to the dump, and there are about four boxes of things to deposit at the Take it or Leave It centre at the dump (where you can leave things others might be able to use, and take anything you want, free). Four more boxes have fabric and notions (already claimed by a friend whose church is making gift bags for a charity out of fabric bits), and a few other treasures that will be rehomed in short order.

Then, of course, there’s the fibre. There’s the contents of the shop, which is now slightly more accessible than it was before, but there’s also my personal stash, which is clearly oversized. However, with everything spread out now, it’s easier to see what I have and hopefully easier to get to it and work on it. I see a few things that can be gotten through in fairly short order (carding I need to finish for someone else, for example), and then hopefully I can start plowing through the stash. I am borrowing a friend’s rigid heddle loom, and hope to do some weaving-as-stashbusting! Once I have a bit more room, I can bring the big upright loom up from the basement, too, and be truly all in one place.

The living room has benefitted from the changes too, as The Boy’s big recliner came downstairs and my ancient but comfortable gold fuzzy tub chair has gone up, and all my wheels except the Great Wheel are upstairs now too. The buckets of works in progress and bits of stash are all upstairs now as well, and I have just the project I’m working on (more Christmas knitting) with me.

Of course, I am tired after two days of non stop hauling and sorting and packing and burning and dumping. Last night I couldn’t get to sleep (despite being tired) … too much energy expended gets me wound up too tight and even with an extra dose of tincture and two different types of audio to put me under, it took two hours to get back to sleep when I woke at 3 am.

Tonight should be better though, as the ‘to do list’ in my brain is much, much shorter!

What a relief. What an incentive not to accumulate that much stuff ever again!

09 November 2012

Flatbread: easier than you think

Winter is a good time for warm stews and thick bean dishes and spicy Indian food, all of which go really well with nice fresh flatbreads.

Of course, you can buy packages of flatbread at the grocery store, but they are expensive … especially once you realize how easy they are to make at home with a grand total of three ingredients.

One of which is water.

The other two ingredients are flour and oil. Salt and multiple kinds of flour are optional (I like a mix of 2 parts wheat flour to one part corn flour, but I’m not picky, I’ll use whatever is handy).

About an hour before you are going to need them (or sooner, they can be reheated in the microwave or the oven right before your meal), put about three cups of flour in your breadmaker / stand mixer bowl / regular bowl. If you want, sprinkle in a little salt, but that’s optional. Use less flour if you’re only making a few .. three cups will make enough for four people, easily.

Take your cooking oil and, while stirring the flour around the bowl, gently drizzle in a bit of oil … just enough to make some crumbs show up, about a tablespoon. This part is actually optional, though if you’re using a breadmaker or mixer I think it helps things not squeak and stick so much. Then take a glass of warmish water and just drizzle it in, again, while mixing, until you get dough forming. Let the breadmaker run through the dough setting / run the mixer with the dough hooks for 10 minutes or so / knead it with your hands until it is nice and stretchy and feels like a not-very-spongy bread dough. If you can, let it sit for half an hour or more, though you can roll them out right away if you’re in a hurry, they just might be a bit stickier to work with.

Take a golf ball sized lump of the dough and smash it down flat on a cutting board / rolling cloth / countertop and roll it flat. They always stick to my rolling pin, so I just roll it once or twice then peel it of the rolling pin and turn it 90 degrees and roll it again until it’s about hand sized. They will stick to each other, so stack with a tea towel between the individual flatbreads, or just roll them as you cook.

To cook, heat a frying pan that is lightly (lightly!) coated with cooking oil. Flop the flatbread in the pan, wait about 30 seconds, and flip. Wait 30 more seconds, then take it out and put it in a tortilla warmer (if you have one) or on a tea towel. You can keep them in the microwave wrapped in your tortilla warmer/tea towel, too (a microwave is a convenient place to keep things warm, being an insulated box with a handy dandy door).

If they’ve cooled off before meal time, reheat for about a minute in the microwave or set them in the oven on warm for a few minutes on a cookie sheet, spread out a little bit so the ones on the bottom don’t get too soft. You can also put them in the toaster (which is what I do when reheating leftovers the next day).

That’s it. Honest. Sure, you have to stand at the stove and flip the flatbreads, but I do it while setting the table or getting the last few things ready for supper. Put one in, put two plates on the table, flip it, put out two more, remove that one, put another one in, go back to the table… it works.

And all it takes is about 3 cups of flour and a bit of oil. Fresh, hot flatbreads for a whole lot less money than you’d pay at the store.

08 November 2012

Thoughts on the US Election

I think, speaking as a Canadian, that those of us outside the US really do not have a real grip on exactly how divisive the American political situation is. As a result, we may inadvertently step into the muck simply because we can’t imagine how much our American friends have invested in the political situation, how deeply these things are felt south of the border. The whole thing looks familiar enough: you listen to the debates, read up on the issues, choose someone to vote for, go to the polling station, and cast your vote then wait to see what happens. The reality, however, seems to be quite a bit different … in the details of the process, certainly. (An *electoral college*? A senate that can have a majority that isn’t the same party as the guy in charge of the country? Confusing.) But it’s more than that.

The biggest difference is in the tone of the discussions. It goes on and on and on, for one thing … and every election has some mudslinging and rumour mongering, no matter where you are. But I’ve had to hide the Facebook feeds of my good American friends simply because I was overwhelmed by the level of anger and wildly overstated rhetoric in the posters and articles and comments … things that, judging by the media coverage I’ve followed, are pretty much run of the mill for a US election campaign. We believe in free speech too, but a lot of the stuff that is routinely thrown around in American political circles would get you into court for libel or defamation if you said that kind of thing in Canada. I’ve been absolutely shocked by the tenor of the discourse leading up to and following the election. It’s so … so … impolite. So rough. So full of wild rhetoric. And everything I am saying here applies to both sides.

Up here, after the election everyone just keeps on talking much the same as they did before, because hey, one set of politicians are not that much different than the next set: they all try, and they do have differences of course, but the system is big and you don’t turn the Titanic on a dime, and complaining about politicians of ALL parties (even the ones you voted for) is about as much a national past time as complaining about the weather.

American politics, though, is just too hot to handle, even among friends, it seems.

The world’s got lots of messes. It really is up to individuals to do the best they can to make things better where they are. Politicians - no matter how much we might wish for them to do more - can only do so much. It’s each of us helping our neighbours, being kind to those we interact with daily, reaching out to those who need a helping hand when we have one to offer … that’s what really makes a difference in this world. And that’s something we can do no matter who sits in the fancy chairs in the big buildings in the capital.

And, I bet it’s something we all agree on, too!

That’s a lot of snow in a short time

This is the weather map showing total snowfall from Wednesday  night to Thursday morning in our region:

I haven’t gone out to measure again … but our neighbour came and plowed our driveway yesterday around 4, and by this morning you could hardly tell she’d been here.

This is what it looks like on the south side of the house, which is in the lee of the wind, so not getting the full amount of snow as it’s coming from the north:

Of course we are accustomed to this kind of thing, though it’s a little early to have so much on the ground, and it is definitely unusual to get so much so fast.

The plows are out in full force, but we are planning to just stay home for the next few days. The Reluctant Farmer went into town to fetch the Small People, and we’ll all just stay home by the fire until things settle down out there!

Stay home, stay safe, stay warm!

07 November 2012

Snow Day

We have suddenly gotten a whole lotta snow ... they are calling for 10-25 cm all in one day! We easily have 8 cm out there now, and it is still falling steadily. (Actually I measured ... 9.5 cm.) Because it isn't all that cold and we had some rain earlier, roads are awful.

So, we stayed home and enjoyed the fire. Project #5 is about half done now, and I'm excited to see how it turns out.

What do you do on snowy days?

05 November 2012


There was a big howling gust of wind at five thus morning ... Loud enough to startle me awake.

Apparently my startle reflexes are still working in overdrive, as more than an hour later I'm still feeling jolted.

Ah well, I have knitting and an audio book. I can always have a nap later.

04 November 2012

Christmas Knitting

I was at the alpaca show yesterday doing the spinning demo, so today I am pretty tired. Not surprising, but I’m still not really adapted to having such a low level of energy. I slept in and everything, even with the extra hour of time change, and I still feel like taking a nap. This annoys me.

So, to cope with my annoyance, I have been working on Christmas knitting. For obvious reasons, I can’t share my projects with you yet … but suffice it to say  have a list of at least seven and possibly nine knitting projects that I’d like to have done for the holidays, and I have now completed four of them. Yay! Of course, a couple of those were started a very long time ago and just wrapped up recently, but since October I have been focused on my holiday knit projects with only a few distractions (like the goofy muppet hat).

Having just realized that I forgot to eat lunch today, I’ve had a fried egg and I am now headed back to the Big Comfy Chair to continue with Project #5.

After all, handmade gifts are the best kind of present, both to give and to receive. After wearing the lovely shawl that was sent to me a while back and experiencing the awesome feeling of being wrapped in something that was made just for me, I am determined to share that experience with as many people as I can.

03 November 2012


In May of 2011, my sister earned her Master’s degree in Intercultural Studies:

Today, her husband, my amazing brother in law, received his Masters degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

I just love the matching pictures. :)

Ribbons for Diablo’s Ribbons

The red one says “1st Place” and the blue one says “Grand Champion, knit”.

Yep, I won first place in the knitted clothing category … and grand champion of all the knitted items, as well. I am gobsmacked.

I didn’t get to see all the other entries, though the organizer said she would try to post some photos of the others … I know there were a few sweaters in the same category as the shawl, so I am very pleased to have won! The judge asked the lady who organized the show if she’d be seeing me, and upon hearing that yes, she would see me when I was doing my spinning demo at the show this weekend, the judge said, “Tell her I think she’s nuts to have spun all that yarn on spindles, and that she did a great job.”

So, there you have it folks: I am officially nuts, but it’s all worth it.

Diablo’s people were very happy with the finished product as well, and had a nice pile of yarn to display at their table along with the real ribbons Diablo won in the shows. Oh, and his fleece won top place this year again, and was in the display boxes out front, looking as gorgeous as always.

They even had a lovely write up about the shawl, and about meeting me! I definitely blushed when I read the sign under the picture of the shawl:

Thank you to Lonna Cunningham for having a vision and the passion and desire that resulted in this beautiful work of Art.

I believe in destiny

Lonna stopped by our little farm one day to get a post pounder fixed. She met all our alpacas. We met a very special lady.

Lonna has been coming to all our Alpaca Shows since then demonstrating her spinning talents.

When Diablo’s fleece won Spinner’s Choice in Lloydminster in 2011 we knew there was only one person that we wanted to work with the fleece – Lonna.

Together you and Diablo crated something extraordinary.

Thank you from

Dave, Kris & Diablo

It was an honour to work with such beautiful materials … a lot of work, but the end product is so lovely, it was worth it. I got pretty ribbons and Kris has a lovely shawl, and enough yarn to knit a scarf for Dave, too!

So if you are looking for gorgeous fleece to spin, talk to Kris and Dave of Tail Spin Alpacas. If you’d like the pattern for the shawl, stay tuned … I’ll be publishing it soon!

31 October 2012

Muppet Wild Jester Hat

Because life's too short (and winter's too cold) not to wear a goofy hat.

28 October 2012

Dealing with Fear: Just getting through it

Continuing the theme of coping with fear and anxiety, sometimes, even after you’ve talked yourself through the fear as much as you can and you’ve taken your medication (herbal or prescription), you still don’t feel okay.

Maybe you lie awake at night, your body all wound up for no good reason. Maybe your mind keeps going in circles, and you can’t get get yourself calmed down.

You need to find a way that you can 'stay out of the stories' your body is telling you. Understand first that fear happens - it's a feeling, that's okay, it happens. Then look to see if it is telling you something useful: we don't want to never feel fear, or we won't run away from the bear on the hiking path! But if the fear is not telling you anything useful about the present, then maybe it is an old feeling, as it is with my PTSD, or perhaps it is something else that wants your attention for it's own reasons.

If the fear isn’t giving you a useful message about the present (no bears, no clear and present dangers in the environment) then you get to just deal with the frustration of the stupid annoying bodily symptoms that are trying to scare you. Well, they aren't trying to scare you, they are trying to get your attention. So, give them what they need - like fussy toddlers, they may tug and tug and whine which isn't nice - but seriously, they just need to be embraced and held, like small scared kids. You can embrace your feelings, accept them and say "yep, fear, I see you, how are you today? anything we need to talk about? no? Well, I'm gonna do some breathing - into the belly and all that - and if you need something from me you let me know." Then after five minutes of listening, if you're not getting anything you need to do ... start your prayers, your meditations, your coping and relaxing strategies, whatever those may be.

Random feelings of fear for no reason are frustrating in that you can't really trace it back to anything in particular. It's just, well, sort of like tinnitus of the emotions. Sounds with no relevant cause. But emotions don't take well to being shoved down or ignored - they ramp up the volume. Acknowledge the fear, do a quick check of the environment to see if it is a relevant message, and if not, ask your feelings: "Something we need to discuss here?" Wait for an answer. No matter HOW stupid the 'worry' is that bubbles up, ANSWER IT. If you get "did I turn off the stove?" Go check. If you get "what if I am having a heart attack?" answer with "you have been checked, you know that isn't what is happening, and this is a false alarm." If that doesn't stop the worry, go the next level "Okay, so what if I do have a heart attack? then what? Well, if I really do have one I'm sure the pain will wake me up and I'll be screaming in agony, and then we'll call 911 and they'll do what they do or maybe I'll die, and either way, I've already prepared for all those things so we're good." Then you can tell the fear you've given it every chance to convince you there is something you needed to do, you've done all the things it's prompted you to take care of, and now you are going to go to sleep.

Then you have to do the breathing / centering thing and find ways to self-soothe.

Something I learned from my acupuncturist will sound very weird, but it worked when I tried it and I intend to do it more. Bear with the weirdness:

Take a deep breath and "breathe into your lower abdomen" (if you have done yoga, you'll be familiar with these terms). You want to focus your awareness on the centre of your lower belly - and just ... not disconnect from that. Then say to yourself "I am willing to embrace the fear with loving awareness" - basically, you acknowledge the feeling and say "yep, there it is, it is part of me, I am not going to chase it away".

The more you chase the fear, the more tired you get. This is what I'm finding, anyway.

There are some good audio programs that can help take your mind out of the unhelpful cycle of worrying about things you can’t control or rehashing things that can’t be changed, and with a CD player, iPod, MP3 player or computer near your bed, you can listen as you fall asleep. I highly recommend the audio tracks from Health Journeys: there are guided imagery CDs for dealing with any number of issues from trauma to heartbreak to health problems to plain old insomnia. There is even a kid’s sleep CD called The Sleep Fairy that really works!

Also, I find repetitive prayers to be far more helpful than I would have anticipated. The repetition isn't because God doesn't hear me the first time - it's because *I* don't hear me the first time! Using prayer beads is not part of the traditions I was raised with, so it took me awhile to find my way to this form of meditation and prayer. I discovered that the physical action of running prayer beads through your fingers helps to anchor you in the present: very important when you are worrying about the future or remembering the past. You need to remind yourself that this moment, right here, right now, is where you are, not back then and not at some time in the future, you are right here right now. Focusing on physical sensations is how you can help anchor yourself in the present, and the texture of the beads in your fingers, moving constantly from one to the next, works really well to keep you from falling into that fear vortex.

There are prayer beads for any number of religious traditions, not just the Catholic rosary or Buddhist mala beads, and you can create your own easily enough. Just find or write the prayers that speak to you, and create or buy a set of beads, or dig through the jewelry box to see what you have that might serve (I keep thinking that those Pandora bracelets look like prayer beads). If you are Catholic, you probably have a rosary in your house already and know how to use it, but those from Protestant traditions may want to check out the  information on Anglican prayer beads. For a wide range of information on prayer beads from different religious traditions as well as information on how to create your own prayers and beads, check out Karen’s Prayer Beads page.

Go to a safe place, get yourself comfortable, and breathe, deeply. Sit with your fear, breathing through the tumult of emotions. It will pass, if you let it pass over you and through. Don’t fight it, let it come. Then you can turn the inner eye and see fear’s path: where it has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

24 October 2012

Pharmaceutical Interventions for Fear and Anxiety

Continuing with the theme of coping with fear and anxiety, I want to talk about pharmaceutical options for increasing your coping abilities.

ALWAYS get the advice of a mental health professional before deciding if meds are or are not appropriate in your situation. In my particular situation, they are not appropriate … at the moment. That could change. Everyone who takes care of me (my family, my therapist, my doctor) is on alert to watch for changes that might signify it is time to get out the meds. I am at high risk from taking medication (if there is a side effect to anything, I’ll have to deal with it, I can’t even handle children’s cold medicine) so it is lower on the list of choices for me than it would be for someone who tolerates medication better. Also, my anxiety symptoms (chest pain) are tolerable most of the time: I’ve had to use Ativan on occasion, but once I learned that the pain is not an indication of a pending heart attack and that although it hurts really badly it will fade if I just rest for awhile, I stopped trying to use the medication to make the pain go away. It didn’t really work anyway, I just had severe chest pain *and* I was sleepy. However, Ativan did help me get through a rather unpleasant hour in the dentist’s chair, so I’m glad I have a few tablets just in case.

Antidepressants can be very useful with chronic pain, with anxiety, and with several other issues. Don’t feel like you’re a loser if you need them: if you needed insulin, you’d take it, if your brain needs help balancing the chemicals, take the help. You’ll be very glad you did. St John’s Wort might be worth a trial. It is well tolerated by most people, and for me it starts making a difference in less than week (YMMV). TALK TO YOUR PHARMACIST before taking it though, as it may interact with other medications you are on, and absolutely never take it with other antidepressants. You won’t feel much different on medication, usually, you just manage to cope better with life. Side effects are real problems, though, so be sure to work closely with your pharmacist and doctor to find a medication and dosage that will make your life better and not worse.

If your body is giving you trouble with physical anxiety symptoms (panic attacks and so forth), getting those under control will allow you to do the mental work of resolving the underlying problems … harder to do when you can’t shut the body up long enough to think straight. With anxiety, it’s important to understand that just numbing the symptoms is not going to make the cause of the anxiety go away – you have to do that work yourself by changing the way you think (which will almost certainly require professional help). The anxiolytic medications are ‘compassionate measures’ that make life bearable and give you the ability to think clearly while you work on addressing the cause of the fear. If you’re terrified of going outside, for instance, the Ativan will make the shakes and queasiness and overwhelming feeling of panic go away, but you’ll still be scared to go outside the next time you try. It’s like taking painkillers when you have a broken arm: the morphine will take away the pain, but the arm still needs to be set and cast and taken care of so it can heal. Ativan is a painkiller, not a cure. Nothing wrong with painkillers though, so long as you are also treating the underlying problem!

For insomnia, be very careful with sleep medication. It has it’s place, believe me, but be careful as it can cause worse problems and is not safe for everyone, depending on other conditions (blood pressure issues, sleep apnea, kidney problems, etc). The first thing to do is get rid of stimulants in your diet: no caffiene, not at all, not even in the morning. Do all the things you’re supposed to do to have a good night’s rest. If that’s still not working, try some herbs. In order of increasing effectiveness in my opinion: Sleepytime Tea (which we can get at the grocery store and is safe for everyone, even children), catnip (yes, it’s a sedative for humans and makes a decent tasting tea), valerian root (get it in capsules, it tastes VILE, like someone’s old hockey gear or something), wild lettuce tincture (wild lettuce is legal in Canada and the US, you can get dried stuff from Richters’: soak in vodka or something similar for a few weeks, storing in a dark place and shaking daily, then strain and take one to three tablespoons at bedtime … it also tastes vile but it works without a hangover). You can also check at the health food store or the herbal aisle of the drugstore: London Drugs has a “Sleep Relax” mixture in capsules that works quite well, and is a mixture of several of these herbs plus chammomile and other relaxing things. These herbs are all believed to be safe for everyone (barring allergy to the plants involved), though pregnant and nursing women should exercise caution and speak to a health care professional before using them. Prescription or OTC sleep meds might be useful if the herbals don’t work, but unless you’ve been awake for weeks despite practicing good sleep hygiene and trying all the herbs you can think of, I wouldn’t try it. Too many risks involved, including dependency.

Above all, DO NOT MIX MEDS … if you take anything regularly, ask your pharmacist before trying anything, even “natural” stuff. Just because it grows on a plant doesn’t make it harmless … foxglove grows in the garden but it’ll kill you if you eat it.

23 October 2012

Living with Fear

I’ve been involved in a few conversations online recently about ways to cope with fear and anxiety. As a person living with PTSD, fear is part of my life … every day, I feel worried, though unlike most of the fear I’ve dealt with in my life, this has no name or shape, just a vague feeling that is really tough to grapple with because it’s not a response to anything in the present, it is an echo from the past.

Still, I’ve learned a few coping strategies, and the people I’ve shared them with found them helpful, so I thought I’d explain some of them here as well, in case what I’ve learned can be of use to someone else.

My personal philosophy has been heavily influenced by science fiction, so I have some odd ideas. This one comes from the Dune novels. There is a poem that is frequently repeated by some of the characters when they are frightened, called the Litany Against Fear. It goes like this:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind killer.
Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me, and when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see fear's path.
Where it has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

I took the time to memorize this, and I repeat it to myself when I am scared. I face my fear: I look right at what I'm scared of and I name it. It is awful when you are just scared and have no words. Words help to corral the thing and give shape to the fear. "I am afraid that my loved one will die." "I am afraid that my boyfriend will dump me." With the floating leftover echoes of past fear that dog me these days, I can say "I am afraid that this feeling isn't going to go away."

Once you have named the fear, you permit it to pass over and through. To me, this means imagining what will happen if the thing you are afraid of comes to pass. This is the hard part, but really, when you are afraid it boils down to something like bad things will happen if this occurs. What is really frightening is the consequences of the event. "If my boyfriend dumps me, I will be sad. Maybe nobody else will like me ever again. Maybe I will be alone for a long time, or always." When you list them out, making an explicit list of what it is that you think could happen, you can get a better handle on it all. When it’s just a vague sense of “bad stuff”, well, you can’t plan, or mitigate, or cope. You just go in circles, the fear getting bigger and bigger until it overwhelms you. The little death that brings total obliteration.

But if you make the effort to list the consequences, you are facing your fear fully. Carry it all through to the logical conclusion, no matter how silly the original statement might seem. No talking yourself out of it with “oh, that’s so unlikely” or “that’s a stupid thing to be afraid of”, you just say what you think, and then process it as a thought experiment. Like this: “If my boyfriend dumps me, I will be sad." And then what? "I will cry." And then what? "I will get angry." And then what? "I will write a letter to him telling him exactly how I feel, and then burn it." Okay. What else am I afraid of?  "If this relationship doesn’t work, nobody else will like me ever again." Is that realistic? "Maybe not but I'm afraid of it anyway." Okay, so what if nobody ever likes you ever again? "Well, I guess I can eat cereal for supper and nobody will chastise me, and I can dress any way I like and be the crazy cat lady at the end of the street." Could that be fun? "Yeah, maybe."

You get the idea. The key thing is to remember that even if the thing you are afraid of comes to pass, when the fear has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see fear's path... where it has gone there will be nothing, only I will remain. No matter what it is you are afraid of, on the other side of it, you'll still be there, making the next decision, and the next decision, and the next decision. (This is slightly different if the fear is "I am afraid I might die", because well, we all die eventually, and it's best to be ready for that no matter what, because when it comes, it comes, and that's all there is to it. In this case, the best thing is to say "and if that happens, what would I want to have had done/settled first?" and make sure all that is done so you are always ready for today to be the last day. It's actually a very freeing way to live, always being ready to go.)

This is a constructive way to look at fear: fear is a message that something is coming that requires your attention. Give it your attention, don’t try to run away and avoid it, put your energy towards facing the fearful thing and being proactive: do whatever mitigation or pre-planning you can, think through some possible coping strategies and get things ready for ‘just in case’ if you can. When you've done all you can do, stand bravely knowing you are ready for what is or might be coming.

At that point, get out your knitting.

If the worry comes back, repeat the process. If you start going in circles, try writing it down (I often go over and over and over things if I haven't written it down, but if I write it down, then I say "it's on the list" and can carry on). I recite prayers, memorized ones that are repetitive, not because God didn’t hear me the first time but because I need the repeated phrases and assurance that I’m being heard to help me stay calm. These are particularly helpful when I can’t sleep.

Through it all, I remind myself that no matter what may come, I am held in the hands of God, and I am perfectly, utterly safe. The part of me that is me cannot truly be harmed, not ever, and all the rest is just the journey I am on while I am here.

Socks and Mitts

My wonderful in-laws came for a visit this past weekend, so I was able to give my MIL her socks in person.

The mismatched socks didn’t *quite* fit, but they were pretty close … I was able to modify the toe on the one that was too long, and a trip through the washer and dryer ought to snug them up enough to fit well. I traced her feet so that the next pair I make should be a better fit, too.

As soon as I finished the socks, I found myself without an active project on the needles (gasp) and immediately cast on for a pair of mittens for my father in law. He’s got size 13 feet, so he wasn’t getting socks on short notice!

I had the first one worked as far as the fingertips by the time they arrived, so I was able to measure against his hands and make sure they would fit. I discovered that he’s got huge hands as well as huge feet! With some dedicated knitting time though, I got the pair finished before they had to leave.

Growing up, my father in law lived on a farm and went to a one room country school (when he could be spared from the farm work – he missed a lot of school because he was needed at home). He rode a horse to and from class, and since he grew so tall so quickly, most of his jackets had sleeves that were a smidgen too short: they’d pull up and leave a couple of inches of wrist exposed to the elements between the end of the sleeve and the top of the mitten, especially when he reached forward to hold the reins. Mittens like this, he said, with extra long cuffs, were just what he needed back then and he sure appreciates them now!

It’s so much fun knitting for people who grin like that when you hand them the finished item. :)

I sure do love my in-laws, they are such marvellous people, so warm and welcoming. They truly are all I could’ve hoped for!

16 October 2012

Mismatched socks for mismatched feet

I started a pair of socks in self patterning yarn oh, three or four years ago … and quit partway down the leg of sock two. They got put away for a loooooooooong time and I unearthed them just before we went on our summer vacation to The Reluctant Farmer’s parents’ house. I thought, ah well, I’ll have to frog that when I get back, there’s no hope of making them match now.

While we were sitting out by the fire pot one night, I happened to mention something about my mismatched socks. “Well,” said my mother in law, “I have mismatched feet!” She has post polio and one of her feet is a size six, stabilized with a foot and ankle brace, the other is a size eight. The one sock I’d already finished was too big for me … about a size eight. And they are in her favourite colour, green! Clearly they were just waiting for me to clue in and knit the second sock to match her other foot.

So I came home and knit the second sock in a size six, with a different heel (garter stitch heel, thanks to the Knit Better Socks blog instructions). I’m hoping it’ll hold up better with the wear of the brace, and also it makes it really easy to see which foot is which, without having to measure them.

One slightly too big for me, one slightly too small:


14 October 2012

socks, done!

I had the luxury of being a passenger during a day run to Jasper this weekend (many thanks to my friend who did the driving!), and so I got the second sock done very quickly.

They’re somewhat different than the pattern though not much … I did only two repeats of the cuff patterning as the yarn was hiding the stitches, so there wasn’t much point doing more. The ribbing is great, makes for nice shaping and stretch through the sock, and I love the toe design … easy to do and very simple and smooth when finished.

Pattern is Spey Valley, from Nancy Bush’s book Knitting on the Road.

10 October 2012

Finished sweater!

The Iced cardigan is done! I had forgotten how much bulky knits stretch in blocking, so my sleeves were a couple of inches too long. No problem, I just pulled out a few rows and bound off again - no garter stitch on the sleeves, as it doesn't seem to be curling and if it does, I'm okay with that. One of my favourite store bought sweaters had curled hems and cuffs.

Here it is, modeled with my new five yard black kilt and kilt hose ... Perfect winter wear! My kilt arrived just in time: we had our first serious snowfall today, and I am glad of the warmth and comfort!

Now I need to knit some fancy stockings ...

05 October 2012

Visible Progress

After finishing Diablo’s Ribbons (lace weight alpaca on 2.75 mm needles), I really (really) needed to work on something that went quickly.

I cast on for Iced, using Universal Yarns Deluxe Chunky Tones in Hawaiian Sunset on … get this … 8 mm needles!

Evening One: after about two hours of knitting, I’ve got fabric.

Evening two, after several hours with a good audiobook, we have a bolero:

Evening three, we have a full body and the start of one sleeve.

Evening four, we have one full sleeve and the second underway:

Days five and six had minimal knitting happening, but here on the evening of day seven, the collar is underway:

All this despite frogging the bottom six inches of the body (because I wasn’t happy with how some of the joins worked, and wanted to change where the garter stitch began) and attempting to put buttonholes into the collar band, then changing my mind and removing them. It’ll probably be done tomorrow or the next day.

I love the bright colours, the easy fit, the ability to try it on as I go and decide “yep,that sleeve is long enough”.

Can’t wait to see it all done … hmm, wonder what I’ve got in the button box?

Knitting is love in stitches

I have had a couple of wonderful gifts show up in my mailbox in the last little while … one of which I gave you a sneak preview of in an earlier post, as it was the backdrop for the photograph.

I received a wonderful random act of kindness gift from a spindler I know from Ravelry:

It contained this wonderful shawl, knit from Noro Silk Garden in bright and cheerful colours. I have worn it nearly every day since it got here – it just makes me so happy! It’s got the wild crazy colourful gypsy thing going on, and it is the perfect weight and warmth for our inbetween kind of weather, so as I head out the door I’ve grabbed it and tossed it over my shoulders and felt loved. The other really neat thing in this box was a hand carved spindle and dish – the spindle is called a phang (pronounced “fohng”, like song not like fang) and was whittled and woodburned entirely by hand.

Of course I had to spin on it right away!

What a marvellous gift.

I also received a parcel from someone I know from Homesteading Today, a knitter who loves bulky yarn (and I mean really bulky – he knits with six or eight strands of yarn held together at once) and does all his work without patterns – he designs out of his head. He’s recently taken up spinning, and I knew that my Indian Head flyer (meant for making bulky yarn) would be far more likely to be put to use at his house than mine, so I sent it off to him in the mail. In return, this showed up:

That’s the heaviest sweater I have ever seen, and it is WARM! I love the colours – multiple shades of blue, with a bit of purple in there as well, and it’s wool and mohair blended together, at least six strands from what I could find and count. If you look at the ribbing on the hem you can see how huge the stitches are – that’s 2x2 ribbing, each stitch is over a centimetre wide!

One just can’t help but feel special when you wear something that was knit for you.

I intend to pay it forward, you bet. :)

The trip

I showed you my travel knitting, but never did tell you about the trip.

We went to Saskatchewan to see The Reluctant Farmer’s parents, whom I adore. (After the last set of inlaws, really, anything would’ve been an improvement, but I really, truly, honestly love my husband’s parents and think they are fabulous people, I really couldn’t have made a better trade-up.)

Here’s The Reluctant Farmer with his stepdad, outside by the fire pot:

The fire pot – made by my father-in-law from an old washing machine drum, it is gorgeous in the dark … the firelight shines out all those tiny little holes, making really lovely golden sparkles. And yes, that’s a sock in progress.

They live right on a lake (which is filled with fish!). This is the view from the deck … honestly, any day that looks like this has to be a good one.

The lake level was down too low to get the boat out of the boathouse, so we fished from this sand bar.

I caught my first walleye:

We fished every single day we were gone, except the first one which was occupied with the long drive there.

On our way back, we swung south through the Cypress Hills. I had no idea landscapes like this still existed anywhere … there were vast areas of land with no sign of people at all except some fences and the odd Texas gate to keep the cattle in. No power lines, no houses, no barns … it was disconcerting, though beautiful. It just goes on and on and on and on:

I was actually quite relieved to get back to the landscapes I know, with trees and hills. You just shouldn’t be able to see that far!

We stopped at a really nice fishing spot by Drumheller on our way home and caught a whole bunch of big jack:

Including my first “respectafish” (respectable-sized-fish):

I’ve only been fishing for a couple of years, I had no idea I’d enjoy it as much as I do but I really do love it. Every cast is a chance to do better, a chance to have a different outcome … and bringing in a big fish takes some effort and skill, so it’s a fun way to challenge yourself. I don’t eat fish (never have been able to handle the taste) so we just catch-and-release (though we save the occasional trout for my husband), and enjoy being out in the sun doing something we enjoy together.

It was nice to spend every day with my husband, no obligations, no deadlines, no schedules. The Boy kept things well under control back home, the Small People were busy with school and staying with their Mom, and we could keep in touch with everyone by phone and text message and email and Facebook – modern technology is wonderful that way.

It took me about a week and a half to recover from being away, but it was definitely worth it. I had fun.

28 September 2012

Diablo’s Ribbons

Almost a year ago, I was asked if I would take a prize-winning alpaca fleece, clean it, prepare it for spinning, spin it into yarn, and knit a shawl in time for a competition this fall.

It started out like this:

Well, actually that’s after washing and drying and sorting, and it’s a lot of fleece. That bucket is squished full, as is the tall bag beside it. Gorgeous stuff.

The fibre for the shawl was combed on big hand combs, then spun on spindles. That was my Tour de Fleece adventure:

I took the plied yarn with me on our recent holiday, thinking it was probably time to get a good start on the shawl. While we were away, I got an email letting me know the deadline for entries was about three weeks sooner than I’d anticipated!

I cast on. :)

It’s been a hard go getting this done – not because the pattern I chose was extremely difficult or anything (I had designed a custom pattern for this last winter, swatched and charted and everything, so I was ready to go) … but my brain seemed to refuse to grasp what we were doing and I had to really, really concentrate to get it right.

Yesterday, at long last, I was able to bind off.

I was not at all happy with the look of the finished shawl … it was just a gray blob. Very sad looking. However, I was pretty confident that the miracle of blocking would save the day and …

It worked.

The lace at the bottom edge is meant to look like the rosettes that the winning animals are given in the show:

The shawl is a semicircle, half a pi shawl:

The very beautiful animal who contributed his fleece is named Diablo, and he has won lots of ribbons (his fleece from this year took first at Olds, I saw it on the table and said “hey, I know him!”), and his People are very proud of him.

Diablo is from Tail Spin Alpacas, just west of St Albert … I met him when I was looking for a welder to repair one of our post pounders, and when I got out of the truck to deliver the broken metal to the nice man waiting for me in the driveway, I saw all these adorable alpaca and nearly forgot why I was there. I was invited to come spin at their alpaca show, and the rest is history.

So, Diablo, this one’s for you. Hope you like it.

27 September 2012


Today, I:
- finished the alpaca shawl and got it washed and blocking on the bed
- drum carded all the remaining alpaca fleece so I have big batts ready to spin
- led the calf on a lead rope for the second time
- mailed out the last of our first order of Malcolm Fielding spindles (more are coming!)
- took the first round of what's supposed to be Parmesan cheese out if the brine
- spun one very full CPW bobbin full of gray alpaca while watching Babylon 5
- had warm milk with brown sugar for bedtime snack.

Shawl pictures tomorrow.

25 September 2012

Apologies for the long silence...

... I'm still recovering from our trip, and knitting as fast as I can. This alpaca shawl has to be done in just a couple more days!

23 September 2012

05 September 2012

Travel knitting

The Reluctant Farmer and I are heading out on a bit of a road trip tomorrow morning: we are going to visit his parents (yes, I actually like m in-laws a lot) and on our way back we plan to take a couple of extra nights to see some parts of the province we’ve not visited before.

Of course, this means I need to pack travel knitting.

I have the alpaca yarn I’ve spun, which needs to be transmogrified into a shawl by November, as well as the pattern I designed loaded onto my eReader for ready reference.

I have stitch markers, and my tapestry needles. I have scissors, interchangeable needles, and my DPNs.

I also have sock yarn (enough for 3 pair of socks – this might be ambitious, but I really don’t know for sure). I even took the big balls of sock yarn and wound them into two smaller balls, evenly divided, so I’d know I have this much yarn for each sock. I’m also taking this book along:

My friend gave this to me at Fibre Week a couple of years back and I’ve been meaning to try some “real patterned socks” ever since. Now seems like a good time!

I’m starting with Spey Valley, as almost all the sock yarn I have is self patterning in some fashion or other and I figured a fairly simple sock design was best. This sock has a really neat horizontal chain of stitches in a couple of spots up by the cuff, done in a rather ingenious fashion that is sort of like binding off without binding off. I love learning new tricks.

Progress so far (it was important to be sure it was a workable project before embarking on the journey):

Seems to be working with the patterning yarn so far. We’ll see how it is once we get a little further along!

03 September 2012

Pretty copper things

I’ve been dealing with a bit of a “mental health flu” – nothing too serious, just enough to make me feel a bit off balance and short of words.

So, I will share some pictures instead. These are some lovely new hand made copper shawl pins that a local artisan makes – we have them in the Flannelberry Creek store, and they are just lovely!

Just the thing to hold your shawl or scarf in place. Light weight, with a natural finish that will age to an interesting patina over time.

As I was putting up the listings, there was one lovely spiral piece that simply refused to upload the image … even after trying three or four times. I took that as a sign that this particular one must want to belong to me. :)

29 August 2012

There are no Fibre Police

This past weekend was the local fibre guild’s annual retreat, and I was invited to be the instructor for the weekend!

I ran a workshop titled “There are no Fibre Police”, an exploration into the fun side of fibre arts. We did variegated dyeing, art yarn, and nuno felting over the course of two days and we had a lot of fun experimenting and seeing what happened when we tried different things.

We dyed skeins of yarn with Wilton’s icing dye – we got bright colours and funky patterns using entirely food-safe materials. Given what this stuff does to yarn, I’m not really sure about eating it … but hey, it is awfully pretty!

We spent Saturday afternoon playing with an assortment of fibres and ‘additives’, making interesting yarns:

We had bits of yarn shrapnel, feathers, fuzzy store-bought yarn, firestar, and a whole pile of assorted things on the table and people tried blending the various bits and pieces together to see what happened.

We made thick-and-thin singles, plyed them with crochet cotton or funky yarns. Some knitted their creations into headbands, and others talked of plans to make stuffed toys for their kids, or perhaps interesting cuffs on funky mittens or hats.

On Sunday, we took fabric scarves and felted bits of fibre and assorted other bits and bobs onto them. Fortunately we were able to work outside in the sun, since this is kind of a messy job!

(Yes, that is a baby sheep by her feet … a bottle lamb that needed to be fed and taken care of was one of our weekend participants!)

All in all it was a fun and adventurous weekend – several of the participants came by to tell me that they’d really enjoyed themselves, which is exactly what I’d hoped for!

If your guild, conference, or fibre group would be interested in having me facilitate a workshop like this, please feel free to contact me (frazzlehead at flannelberrycreek dot com) … I love to share the joy of fibre arts!