Lockdown Mode

It’s official! Our governor has joined many in imposing a stay-at-home order.

Other than grocery shopping, medical care, going to essential jobs or getting exercise, we have to stay inside!

UNTIL JUNE THE TENTH.

June 10th. JUNE TENTH.

That is… Let me see… MORE THAN TEN WEEKS FROM NOW.

That is just mind-boggling. We’ve already been home for two weeks, and just the thought of not being able to leave the house for any extended purpose for that long is enough to set me nervously twitching.

What can I say that you don’t already know?

This is HARD. This is BORING. It’s CONFINING. It’s ANXIETY-PROVOKING.

It’s so many things in ALL CAPS.

Learning to live with it

This situation has brought forward so many insecurities I had about myself as a mother, a spouse, a housekeeper, a knitter… Even as a reader.

(Yes, you can be insecure about your reading skills, choices, tastes…)

I’ve had a lot of time to look long and hard at my insecurities. And as I look at them, they gradually lose some of their frightening power. It’s like I’m getting to know them all, one by one.

I’m becoming more aware of insecurities I didn’t know I had, and little by little coming to understand them.

That’s not to say I’ll come out of social distancing cured of all my ills and ready to take on the world like She-Ra.

Though I can still dream…

But perhaps this time in social isolation will help me to better accept my insecurities and understand how they play on me.

And who knows? Maybe I’ll figure out how to face one or two of them.

An Uptick in Readership

I got an email from Google Analytics the other day. It told me that suddenly I’d had quite an uptick in readership of my blog. Hooray!

Progress?

This was exciting news!

Don’t get me wrong, my numbers are DISMAL. Absolutely abysmal. It could be because I’ve shamefully neglected this blog over the years. It could also be that I’ve never really written this blog with a mind to SEO or driving clicks.

But suddenly in February my numbers weren’t quite so dismal. (They were still bad, but not rock bottom bad, you know?)

What had happened??

I assumed that this was because I had returned to writing on a fairly regular basis.

I write an article and then automatically publish it to a number of social media platforms, including the (rather neglected) Facebook page I have for this blog.

But as anyone who works in the blogosphere knows, the more you write, the more people read.

So, hooray!

But that’s not all…

Granted, writing more frequently and publishing more on the blog is bound to attract a few more readers. However, what seems to be the catalyst in my readership increase is…

Drumroll please…

RAVELRY!!

Yup! That wonderful website, that glorious database of all things yarn is the reason for my (slight) increase in traffic on my blog.

Let me explain.

I checked out a local Stitch n’ Bitch group back in the fall, and as they haven’t kicked me out (and even seem glad to see me!), I’ve started to attend regularly.

The lovely ladies of this group have generously added me to their Facebook page, and also to their list of Ravelry friends. And since I have links to my blog sprinkled around my Facebook page and my Ravelry profile, BAM! Some of these curious souls clicked! And voilà!

I would never have known the reason for my blog’s sudden surge (HA!) in popularity (GUFFAW!) had one of my fellow stitchers (n’ bitchers) not mentioned to me last night that she had been reading my blog.

So to all you wonderful ladies of the Stitch n’ Bitch…

THANK YOU FOR READING!

It really does mean a lot to me.

And here’s where you can find my Facebook page, and my Ravelry profile.

the_tempestry_project

The Tempestry Project

Are you a crafty person? Have you ever wondered how you can bring the reality of climate change to life?

Wonder no more, friends! Meet the Tempestry Project!

The Tempestry Project allows you to visualize “climate data in a way that is accurate, personal, tangible and beautiful.”

“Uh… what,” you say? It’s a marriage of crafting and climate change activism! Hooray!

Temperature Tapestries

Each Tempestry is a knitted tapestry of temperature data. You select your location and your year, and the Tempestry Project folks will send you the temperature highs for each day that year.

copyright the Tempestry Project

For example, I ordered a Tempestry kit for Geneva Switzerland, 1985. My kit arrived with an Excel spreadsheet with 365 lines, starting January 1st 1985, ending December 31st. Each line shows the date, the day’s high temperature, and which color you need to knit to correspond to that temperature.

The original kit also includes a color card (pictured above) with little yarn samples, and just the right amount of each color yarn for you to knit your full Tempestry.

Knit or Crochet (or Cross Stitch!)

Linen stitch Tempestries

You can choose either to knit or crochet your Tempestry. If you decide to knit, you can also choose whether to do it in garter stitch or linen stitch.

The lovely thing about the linen stitch is the texture it gives the whole Tempestry. The pattern recommends a small 3-stitch garter stitch border with the linen stitch, and I’m loving the way it looks.

Really, you can knit or crochet this any way you choose. You just have to be conscious that you only have a certain amount of each yarn. This project is easy to adapt and personalize.

Giving Climate Change Data Context

What this project does is it allows you to contextualize climate change data. If you’re like me and you struggle to see how climate change awareness and activism can fit into your daily life, then this might help.

I mentioned my kit for Geneva, 1985. I also ordered one for Geneva, 2017, because some extraordinary circumstances meant that our second son, our Bear, was born in Geneva in 2017 (we were expecting him to be born in Germany).

It will be interesting to see how these two kits compare once they’re knitted. How much warmer was Geneva in 2017 than in 1985? I remember it being hot as hell in 2017, especially as I traipsed around town the morning of the Bear’s birth, unaware that I was going to deliver a baby later that afternoon. The Tempestries should illustrate the difference.

A Tutorial for Your Tempestry

I discovered the Tempestry Project from Staci Perry over at VeryPink Knits. She published a video tutorial for knitting a Tempestry, and her colleague Casey from the (now defunct) VeryPink podcast interviewed the crew at the Tempestry Project.

I’m sharing Staci’s tutorial below, in case anyone is interested. Her YouTube channel has been my go-to resource for knitting lessons.

Other Ways to Participate

There are lots of other ways to participate in the Tempestry project. They sell their very own needle wranglers, as well as other patterns and kits on their websites.

They’ve developed a “new normal” series, which show “a visual representation of annual deviations-from-average temperature for different locations.” Some of the results are pretty nuts.

This is a great project, and a great way to dip your toes into what is now being called “craftivism.” More on that another time, perhaps.

Staci’s Video Tutorial

copyright VeryPink Knits
Fantasy knitting

Fantasy Knitting

You’ve heard of fantasy football? Well this is nothing like fantasy football. Let’s just make that clear from the start, shall we?

Since I am still off the knitting, it’s given me plenty of time to fantasize about what I want to knit once I’m allowed to. I’ve browsed through my copies of PomPom Quarterly for ideas, but mostly I’ve turned to the wonderful online world of:

Ravelry!

I have dutifully updated my stash on Ravelry, and because of the wonder of this database, I can then look at what other people have knit with my yarns and be inspired.

Of course, I inevitably start looking at patterns that do not call for the yarns I have stashed. Oh, dear…

Projects I’m Dreaming Of

© Martina Behm on Ravelry

Case in point: the Obvious shawl by Martina Behm.

I do not have all the sport weight yarn necessary to make this pattern! I don’t even own the pattern! What I do own are several other patterns that I haven’t knitted yet.

So let’s focus on the patterns I actually own, shall we?

In My Ravelry Library

© Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

First off, the Statis pullover by Leila Raven for Brooklyn Tweed. I have been wanting to make myself a yolked sweater for a while now, and I’ve seen this one in the flesh before. The original pattern did not have the contrasting color around the neckline, but when I saw it like this I fell in love with it. Happily, I also have a yarn to use for this project.

Originally purchased for another sweater, I decided against knitting that one and have set the yarn aside for this baby. It’s a gorgeous O-Wool O-Wash fingering in colors I do not usually select. It’ll be nice to branch out from my usual greens/blues.

tanisfiberarts on Ravelry

Next up is Tanis Lavallee’s Seaboard sweater. This one is an absolute gem. It’s got so many interesting details, it makes me drool! I love the dropped shoulders, the split hem, the boat neck, the combination of lace and cables… Pretty much everything about this is lovely.

Once again, I do not have a yarn for this project. So this one will have to wait, unfortunately, until I work through some of my stash.

Third is a pattern I’ve knit before, but in child sizes. Tin Can Knits make wonderful patterns for beginner knitters, and their Flax Lite sweater pattern is a favorite for baby gifts. I’ve knitted versions of this for my Bug and for other people’s kids. Now, however, I want to make it in adult size for my Chico.

© Tin Can Knits

It’s an easy top-down sweater knit in the round. The garter stitch detail on sleeves will look great on Chico, emphasizing his shoulders. The pattern is unisex, and shouldn’t require any shaping, but I can play with it and see if I want to taper it slightly just below the shoulder blades to give it a slimmer waist. I’ve never done any customizing, so we’ll see how that goes.

I bought yarn for this project at a fiber festival in Virginia back in the fall. But I had a forehead slapping moment earlier today when I realized that this sweater quantity of yarn I have is in DK weight, not fingering!! D’oh!! I’ll have to swatch and see what can be done.

Alternatively…

© Jill Zielinski

I’m writing this on Valentine’s Day, and the newly released Quill Crossing infinity scarf just went on sale for a 42% discount. So… I bought it.

But it calls for DK weight yarn! I have DK weight yarn! That’s justification, right? …Right…?

Okay, I have a problem.

Soon! SOON!

All of these plans and ideas are purely theoretical for the time being. I’ve also got the Mjolnir hat to re-knit, and I’m working on my ongoing Tempestry project (more information to follow).

My physical therapist has given me the go-ahead to knit for 10-15 minutes a day, with stretches before and afterwards. I have to be very careful of my posture, too.

Does anyone have any good suggestions??

Frogged Again

I’ve done it again. Once again, I have completely frogged a project.

(In case you’d forgotten, “frogging” is the process of ripping out a knitted project in order to correct a mistake, or–as in my case–to completely begin again.)

Thankfully, this time it’s not so bad as the last time I frogged a project. Last time it was a WHOLE. SWEATER. This time, it was just a hat.

Shoulder Protesting

This hat and the huge lace number I worked up for my MIL’s Christmas gift are probably the reason my shoulder finally said:

OH FOR GOODNESS SAKES WOULD YOU STOP ALREADY?

I could feel the ache in my shoulder, and I knew something was up. But I just couldn’t bring myself to set aside a project before it was finished. I like finishing things. I’m one of those knitters who usually doesn’t start a new project until I’ve finished my last one. And I just had… to… FINISH!

Now I’m paying for it.

The Guilty Project

The hat I didn’t want to put down was the Mjolnir hat by Raven Sherbo (free pattern on Ravelry!). I love the way it looked when I saw the photos, and I really enjoyed knitting it up.

However, I knew I was taking a risk right from the start. I started the hat while we were on Christmas vacation in Spain. I had planned to make a different hat pattern, so I only had my 3.5mm needles. Mjolnir calls for 2.5mm for the ribbing, then 3mm for the body.

Already a bit of a risk, but I figured I usually have a tight gauge and generally have to go up a needle size anyway.

Well… not this time my friends.

Ignoring the Voice

Using my absolutely gorgeous Rosy Green Wool Manx Merino Fine (in the Scots Pine colorway), I cast on and blissfully ignored the little voice in my head telling me this was not a good idea.

You know the voice I’m talking about, right? Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (AKA the Yarn Harlot) wrote about The Voice recently.

It’s the little voice of your own experience telling you you really ought to know better. It’s fun to ignore that voice. Until it isn’t and you have to frog an entire project. The hat was simply too big, despite my having a rather larger than normal head (literally: when I buy hats I have to buy a men’s XL).

Moral of the story: the voice is always right! The Yarn Harlot knows it! And now I do, too.

(On a side note, it is rather encouraging to know that I do indeed have such a voice–I’m getting to really know my knitting!)

Back to the Drawing Board (or the cast-on)

So it’s back to the drawing board for my Mjolnir hat. I’ve already soaked and dried the wool back into a hank. I will likely take another stab at the hat, but this time I’ll use the right needle sizes, AND I will make it a double brim hat for extra coziness.

When I eventually get back to knitting, that is…

Reading READING reading

Hooray for public libraries! Hooray for living in a country where I speak the language!

Since I’m off the knitting AND since we now live in the US, my intake of reading has skyrocketed.

With all the stress and frustration of moving to a new place, my biggest joy and consolation has been the Loudoun County Public Library. I’ve done so much at the library! I’ve registered to vote (HOORAY!). I’ve volunteered to teach English. I’ve played with LEGO, made a bunny out of little melted plastic beads, and other fun kids’ activities with the boys. I’ve also attended a seminar on getting back into the work force after a gap in your career.

All this… FOR FREE!

And of course, I have borrowed books. Mountains of books! Cascades of books!

Okay so maybe not *that* many. But it feels like a whole world has been opened up to me that I was missing when we lived in Germany. While my German is pretty darn good, I could never read more than children’s story books in German.

Now, I’ve rekindled my love affair with the written word. And it feels soooo good. I’ve even branched out a bit! I’m a big reader of novels, but since joining the local library I’ve read one history book and now I’m reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. It feels good to try new things.

I’ve also got a little idea for a business germinating, and I know where I’ll go for resources and books to help me develop it…

That’s right. The library.

Check out my Goodreads button in the right-hand menu to see what I’ve been reading.

Let’s be Honest: Parenting is Tedious

Yeah, I said it!

PARENTING IS TEDIOUS!

C’mon, you all know it’s true. Yes, we adore our children. Yes, we share precious, unforgettable moments with them.

But let’s be real: those precious moments are balanced by an equal number of mind-numbingly dull interactions.

Most of our time as parents is taken up with negotiating somewhat healthy food into our children’s mouths, cleaning up after them and listening to them tell long, rambling stories that MAKE NO SENSE and HAVE NO POINT.

*Sigh*

Endless Needs

As a very wise (and honest) friend once said to me, the tedium of parenting comes from endless kids’ needs coming before our own.

As parents, we have to prioritize the survival of our children: clothing, feeding and getting them to school/daycare. Or just getting them through the day.

As a result, our needs come second (if at all).

I really admire those parents who can continue with their pre-kids activities with apparently as much dedication as ever. In my experience, while some things must continue (work, for instance), something always must give way in the face of our children’s needs.

I guess that is the sacrifice of parenthood.

Guilt Again…

In our family, we have each given up something in the face of parenthood. In my Chico’s case, it’s doing the sports he loves. For me, it’s been a career.

This is where the Mom-Guilt-Monster raises its ugly head.

I think: but if we don’t model self care and prioritizing of our interests to our children, how will they learn to take proper care of themselves?

I haven’t figured it out yet but I’m hoping we’ll all learn to strike a balance.

And in any case, even if we think we have everything right and we’re doing everything perfectly, I bet you our kids will grow up to complain to their therapists about us, anyway. Ha!

Ordered Off Knitting!

Stop the presses! I have been ordered to take a two week break from knitting!

I’ve given myself a repetitive movement injury in my right shoulder. Though it’s not terribly painful, it’s wise to nip this in the bud before it gets to be a big problem.

This is, as you can imagine, a blow. Over the past few days I’ve really come to appreciate how important knitting is to my well-being.

Knitting is therapeutic

Between caring for kids, job hunting and running the household, life can get a little dull. Let’s be real, many of these tasks are downright tedious.

Knitting gives me a break from that tedium. Because it’s easy to pick up and put down, I can seize a free moment to go into that meditative and calming trance. Usually I have the radio going, and knitting allows me to keep my hands busy and better focus on what I’m listening to.

But without knitting?

Well, contrary to what I would have expected, my productivity has fallen dramatically.

I thought that without the distraction of knitting, I’d use the time to fill out more job applications, get the chores done and devote myself to my children.

But actually, I’ve found that without knitting, there is no promise of relief from the tedium.

Suddenly all the chores seem so onerous, and the job applications seem too hard. And honestly? I’ve felt more depressed than I have since the period after my mother died.

While there certainly are other factors contributing to that, it seems that not being able to knit has magnified these negative feelings.

Toughing it out

I’ve been reading more, which is great. But while reading is a favorite activity of mine, it’s not as easy to do with kids in the house. Reading requires complete focus, and I can’t engage in conversation or listen to something informative while I read.

*Sigh* I keep telling myself this is temporary, and that with help from an excellent physical therapist (hooray!), I should be able to get back to knitting before long.

A Slight Case of the Plague

You’ve all heard of the man cold, right?

That’s when a man gets a cold. Anyone who has shared a home with a man knows what I’m talking about. To listen to him you’d think he was dying.

Well, I have a man cold.

I am dying.

It feels like my sinuses are going to cave under the pressure, and I sound like I’ve been singing along at a K.I.S.S. concert.

Staying at home with the kids while Chico is away, it’s hard to take the time I need to rest and get well.

Mom guilt kicks in whenever I lie down for a bit, instead of doing the one million other things I think I SHOULD be doing.

Like preparing a healthy dinner for the boys, or applying for another job, or getting some exercise, or folding the laundry, or, or, or…

You get the picture.

So here’s a message to all the mamas out there suffering from a cold:

YOU CAN TAKE THE DAY OFF.

Well, you know what I mean. You still probably have to get the kids off to school, but it is TOTALLY OKAY if you want to get back into bed when you get home.

Your kids will not fail to get into Harvard just because you didn’t take them to the library this afternoon.

(Let’s face it, they’re probably not going to get into Harvard anyway…)

That extra episode of Sesame Street? Yeah, it won’t kill them.

They didn’t get much exercise today? Whatever. They’ll be fine.

Self Care Starts with Me

There’s a whole industry out there that tries to sell me products labeled as “self care” products. Things like manicures, scented candles, bath salts, facial creams, a glass of wine…

But if you ask me, that’s all horse hockey.

Self care is taking care of my mental and physical well-being.

When I have a cold, that means giving myself permission to take the time I need to recover.

This week, I’m setting the example to my boys of what it is to take care of myself when I don’t feel well.

I’m eating healthy foods, drinking lots of tea, bundling myself up like a babushka and resting as much as possible.

The Boys Kinda Love it…

The Bug and the Bear are so much enjoying all the extra TV time that I suspect they’re going to TRY and get me sick as much as possible.

Come to think of it, it WAS the Bug who gave me a full-on kiss on the lips and then sneezed into my face.

Clever boy…

fake-productivity

Fooling Myself into Feeling Productive

It’s so easy to feel like you’ve had a productive day!

Here’s the secret:

Start the day by cycling your kids to school.

Voilà! The rest of the day can be entirely misspent, but YOU CYCLED TO SCHOOL THIS MORNING!

So clearly I’m not an unproductive lump!

These October mornings are perfect for a bike ride with the kids. It’s not so cold that your fingers freeze to the handle bars, and not so hot that you arrive a sweaty mess.

Each time we cycle to school, our Bug does better. He’s still practicing starting on his own (it’s tricky to get one foot on a pedal and push off with the other!), but with each ride he gains confidence.

It’s a great way to kick-start the morning.

It is, however, no guarantee that the rest of the day will be as productive.

Avoidance

Sadly, cycling to school is simply a way for me to mask the feeling (really, the knowledge) that I’m avoiding something.

What am I avoiding?

Well, job applications. The knowledge that I am not putting as much time and energy into my job hunt as I know I should.

So instead, I thrive on fake productivity.

Fake Productivity

It’s not like these things don’t need doing: laundry, cleaning, cooking… They’re essential to smooth running of family life.

But they’re not what I really need to be focusing on right now.

And I know it. My Chico knows it. And now all of you know it.

How Can I Make it Better?

Try again tomorrow.

And if that fails, try again the next day. And the next. And the next…

Until I find a job.