Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Scary Books!

Every year my front yard turns into a graveyard for the month...
 
I decided this month to spend my entire month reading books that had some sort of connection to Halloween...so here goes, my first ever theme month!
 
  1. The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield - This was very much a throwback to the type of Gothic ghost stories that I fell in love with during college.  I heard of it well over a year ago on a Halloween episode of Books On The Nightstand, and it's one of the first books I thought of when I decided to do a theme month.  Moody, sorrowful, elegant, eerie...it was quite simply a gorgeous book, if occasionally overwrought.  (but then, it is Gothic, and aren't Gothic novels supposed to be overwrought?!) A reclusive, bookish young woman is hired to write the biography of a reclusive famous authoress with a mysterious past....what's not to love?!  As a bonus, I honestly didn't see what was coming at the end....  This one is for people who love ghost stories which aren't scary.
  2.  
  3. The Twelve, Justin Cronin  - Wow.  I've been waiting (not so patiently) for this sequel to Cronin's The Passage for quite some time, and I'm quite happy to report that it was more than worth the wait.  My only complaint - it's now been announced that this is the second in a trilogy, so I will have to wait again!  (That's bad....very, very bad!)  There are sooo many things I could say, but I'll keep it brief.  One, Cronin's female characters are incredible.  Two, not only does he take us right into the heart of the apocalypse, he also takes us way beyond.  Three, his vampire/zombie outbreak is original enough as to make the whole thing feel new and fresh. 
  4.  
  5. Kiss the Dead, Laurell K. Hamilton - the most recent Anita Blake novel.  Yep, I'm still reading them...thanks to my library.  Don't judge.  The writing has certainly gone downhill (this is book 20ish, and they stopped being good after the first ten or so), but there's something to be said for a quick and easy mindless read once in a while.  Plus, it's fun to read books set in a city I know!
  6.  
  7. The Walking Dead, books 1, 2 and 3, Robert Kirkman - Yep, Sean and I LOVE the show.  I finally got around to checking the books out from the library.  The bad news is that the library has volumes 1-7 (I have put a hold on 4-7) but then skips up to volumes 12 and above.  That's going to be VERY frustrating.  Must admit, I may never have gotten around to reading them had Aisha Tyler not interviewed Kirkman on her podcast, Girl on Guy.  Kirkman was fascinating, and he left me wanting to know MORE.  Yep, the comics are absolutely nutballs...but Kirkman has managed to make everything seem absolutely plausible.  Plus, the zombies aren't the scariest thing out there...
  8.  
  9. The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly - Books on the Nightstand referenced this book a few weeks ago during a podcast which gave tribute to the legacy of the Grimm Fairy Tales.  I was intrigued, because as everyone knows I love fairy tales more than almost anything else!  To my surprise I then stumbled on it in iBooks Halloween sale page...and so of course I had to buy it.  (A $2 book is a fabulous thing!)  While yes some really scary things happened in the book, I am a bit confused as to why it was grouped with horror novels.  What it really is is a phenomenal book that uses traditional fairy tales, twisted just a wee bit, to tell a coming of age story about a boy coming to terms with the death of his mother.  It was so very beautiful....and I have to admit that I cried at the very end.  This one is for sure going on my best of 2012 list.  As a special bonus, at the end Connolly has included the traditional versions of the fairy tales he used in the book. 
  10.  
  11. The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova - Honestly, I just started reading it today.  It came up on a couple of Halloween book lists on various websites, and when I found out that it too was on sale through ibooks I had to have it!  Fun fact, Bram Stoker's Dracula is one of my favorite books of all time.  I'm also a total sucker for writers who take traditional works and repurpose them.  My plan is to tuck into bed this evening with this book just as soon as I can....

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lucky Thirteen

A few favorite photos....
 Easter, 1999
 September(ish), 1999
 Early October, 1999
October 30, 1999
September, 2012

Happy Anniversary, My Dear!
Here's to many, many more.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Big Things....Or Not

Her royal fluffiness making Herself at home in my knitting basket.
 
  • I had intended to do a follow up to that last post on the bigger items in my knitting workbasket.
  • However, I soon realized that I can't share those things with you because the big things are mostly gifts for people who usually read this blog.
  • SOooooo.....this is where we'll start being creative with blog content!
  • Some news:
  • My husband is out of town on a business trip. 
  • On the one hand, I hate it when he's gone.  I miss him and I get more than a little bit paranoid (for no good reason) about home security.
  • On the other hand, I freely admit that after the first night I tend to sleep better. 
  • The man snores....and I'm a light sleeper. 
  • We have discovered the joy of FaceTime.  The girls absolutely LOVE it! 
  • I received some very good news on Monday.  My doctor had let me go off of my thyroid pills for a couple of months to test my theory that I didn't really have a thyroid problem.  From day one I had not felt right about those pills, and once I learned about my allergies I suspected that all of my symptoms were caused by a jacked-up immune system.  Looks like I was right!  We ran bloodwork last week, and the test results looked fantastic.  No more thyroid pills for me!  I'll test again in six months just to be sure. 
  • I've spent the last four years working really hard to improve my health, and it's often been a two steps forward, three back sort of journey.  This feels like a really big leap forward, and I can't even describe how happy I am about it!
  • A week or so ago I received an email from Ultramax, listing all of the upcoming races they are working on.  I find myself interested again.....
  • At the very least, our family is going to do the Turkey Trax 5K on Thanksgiving!
  • The girls have been crafting up a storm for a week now.  The house looks a bit like a Halloween themed craft store exploded on it.
  • We will be cleaning tonight. 
  • On Sunday the girls had their fall piano recital.  It was Tanith's first, and she was THRILLED to participate! 
  • October and December are the two most difficult months for me to comply with my dietary needs.  I will admit that I've slipped this week, and have the difficult task of getting myself back on track.
  • Don't worry, I feel crappy enough this morning that I WANT to get myself back on track.
  • My slip actually started last week when I discovered through a somewhat scary reaction that I am allergic to coconut.  I confess that led to a temper tantrum and cheating with things that cause less scary reactions. 
  • I'm human.
  • I don't think I like keeping my knitting a secret. 
  • I rather enjoy blogging about my work usually.
  • However, I am enjoying a great deal of pleasure in making things for my loved ones.  
  • Oh...one more health related thing.  I do have a surgical consult scheduled for next month over my gallbladder.  Long story...short version is that it probably has to come out. 
  • My theory - it's yet another thing that took a whole bunch of damage over 25 years or so of undiagnosed food problems. Both docs back me up on this.
  • Have I mentioned the fact that my dog is 16 + years old?  That I've had her for 15.5 years, and that she's been the best dog ever?  Yeah.  It's really, really rough watching her struggle because of her age. 
  • Also, we lost the guinea pig a couple of weeks ago after a rather heroic attempt on my part to save his wee life with four days of intense nursing.  No more G Pigs for us.
  • I have to clean the photos and things off of my computer.  My husband says I'm an IT specialist's nightmare. 
  • All for now...I need to go wake the kids for school!
  •  
     
     
     
     
 


Monday, October 15, 2012

Small Things

 Handspun hat and booties
 The booties were a special request!
They've joined the pair I made for big sister on the mantle.
 Heart to Heart Beaded scarf.
One of my Christmas Gifts.
 Socks for my husband - although admittedly not on the front burner.
Because sometimes blue doesn't suit, socks for myself.
I keep them in my purse for emergency knitting situations!
 
Coming tomorrow....Big Things!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Beauty















Heirloom Knitting Gossamer Merino - 5 balls purchased, used about 3.5-4
US 0 / 2.0mm Hiya Hiya circular needles, 32 inch length 
February 27, 2009 - May 3, 2012
Estimated 250-300 hours of knitting
Full project details and a list of all blog posts can be found on my Ravelry Princess page.
 
I'm rather overwhellmed by having come to the end of this project...and so for now I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

The Mother of the Mother of Repairs

Surprisingly enough, the big repair at the base of the triangle was not that difficult to do.  Really, it just needed some patience to make sure I was tracking the knit stitches carefully.
 
The real problem happened when I went to graft the edges together.
 
Sigh.
 
I had done one repeat in a contrasting color to facilitate the process.  Time, handling and the microscopic nature of the work would prove counterproductive to that idea.  My next best plan was to carefully cut that contrast yarn off, feeding the live stitches onto a needle as I went. 
 
And it would have worked....
 
Had I not accidentally snipped a stitch as I cut away the contrast yarn.
 
I had a really bad moment when I realized what I had done.  After all, it's one thing to rip back from the top of a piece of knitting - the stitches pull right out.  When you are trying to rip out from the bottom, though, you quickly find a snarled mess as the stitches are locked together.
 
Yep, it was a really bad night.
 
Ultimately I pulled myself together and picked out as much as I could so that I would have a tail long enough to weave back in.  I had fortunately left a yard long tail on the other end, and so I was able to knit in the three rows on that piece that I had removed from the other end. 
 After a good night's sleep I had a plan...and the pinning began. I removed the nice side from it's needle, pinning each stitch as I went.
 Then I pulled the mussed up edge to it and did my best to approximate where all of the stitches were.  After that it was a matter of creatively seaming it all together.
And I kinda can't believe I pulled it off.
 
Nope, it's not perfect and if you know what you are looking for/at you can easily see the problems.
 
It is, however, pretty damn close.
 
I once spent a good 30 minutes describing in great detail to a therapist my frustration over the fact that I had spent three days trying to fix a mistake in a lace shawl, ultimately failing to put it entirely to rights.  She asked two questions.  One, was the mistake easily visible?  No, it wasn't...not at all actually.  I doubted anyone would ever notice it.  Two, would I ever be able to accept a compliment on the piece without pointing out my mistake?  Uh...negative, probably.  (And in fact less than a week later I caught myself responding to a compliment with a 'thank you, but if you look here you will see that I messed up' before I even knew what I was doing.)
 
Point being...that's not going to happen here.
 
I am DAMN proud of myself for fixing that mistake, and THRILLED with the work I did to blend it in.  No one will EVER notice it, and I will NEVER bring it up again.
 
I guess this old dog has learned a new trick after all.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Worth Of One's Work

I love knitting in public, for the simple fact that it's given me the opportunity to have conversations with a wide variety of people.  They approach me frequently - drawn by the wealth of color and pattern in my hands - seeking to strike up a conversation about a world they may or may not know anything about.  I try to always be receptive and friendly, and as a reward I've had a many, many fantastic experiences.

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is, "Do you sell your knitting?"

Over the years I have developed a standard response to that question that goes something like this: 

No, I don't.  You just can't get what it's worth by the time you figure in both materials and cost - especially around here.  I do this because I enjoy it, and I'm not sure I would enjoy it if I were actively trying to profit from  it.  Also, the patterns I use are under copy write, and the terms of that prohibit knitters from profiting through the sale of items made with that pattern.  If I were to sell this piece, I would probably have to price it at (fill in the blank).

Generally speaking, that last statement ends the conversation.  While occasionally I have someone try to rapturously convince me I should sell stuff anyway because my work is oh so beautiful, most people let it go....recognizing at least some of the truth in my words.

I bring all of this up because last week I had just such a discussion.  In fact, had I named a lower price I'm quite sure that the woman would have bought my recently finished Tibetan Clouds stole right on the spot.  I came home, somewhat bemused, and reported the whole story to Sean....and then promptly got into a quasi-argument with him about what my knitting is really worth.

It's actually an old argument...what exactly is one's work worth? 

On the one hand:
  • Generally speaking, I use the best possible materials for my knitting....and those aren't cheap.
  • My time is valuable...and if I put 40 hours into a shawl that I plan to sell, I would expect to be compensated fairly for that time.
  • I've spent a lifetime perfecting the skills that are necessary to produce my knitting...and those are not skills that everyone has. 
  • I also spend a great deal of time making sure each and every project is made to the absolute best of my abilities...with absolutely NO mistakes and/or professional fixes for any problems that may come up.
  • One of the largest problems the art/craft world has is that so many people undervalue their work that the general public has no idea what it is truly worth.  We cannot expect the general public to value our work if we are unwilling to do so.
  • It does truly horrify me to see someone selling - and these are real examples - hand knit socks for $30/pair (average time for me probably 20-30 hours and cost to me of $10-$30) or lace shawls for less than $100 (average time for me 20-60 hours, cost from $20 on up depending) 
On the other:
  • It's a hobby...wouldn't you like to be making something/anything from your hobby?
  • If you are going to make a go of a craft business you have to be willing to accept the prices your local or target market will support.
  • So long as you enjoy the process and recoup your materials, does it matter?
  • If you keep it, isn't it just sitting around doing nothing?
  • Seriously, anything is better than nothing (the implication is especially for me as I don't work out of the home)
  • Even a small income can help finance the hobby so that you can continue to enjoy it.
As with just about anything else, different people come to different conclusions based on whatever their own circumstances and life experiences bring to the argument.  In all honesty, if it were a purely academic argument I could probably justify either side.  I've had many discussions with fellow knitters on the subject in which no concrete conclusions have been drawn. 

Having said that, I've had two experiences which have influenced my own opinions.    

The first was that I did actually spend some time doing custom knit items.  When Gillian was a baby, I made a decent amount of money off of a baby poncho of my own design....but after the first two or three I quickly began to HATE what I was doing.  Knitting with a dollar sign in mind took most of the joy out of the entire process.  I also felt that I had to compromise a certain amount of quality (using acrylic yarn instead of natural fibers) in order to make enough money to justify the sales. 

Second, over the course of  a few years I donated several pieces to an annual charity auction for an organization I support wholeheartedly....and I was shocked at how little each piece actually brought in.  I continue to donate pieces periodically, but I now make sure I don't attend the auction.  Better to not know....and best to only donate things I'm not at all attached to and/or were exceedingly easy to make.

As a brief aside, I would like to state that I have several friends who've turned their artistic passions into careers.  Without a doubt these people are some of the most creative people I know.  They also tend to be some of the savviest business people I know, and they have learned to create opportunities for themselves - often in very unexpected places.  These are people who without question understand what they are worth, and I admire them greatly. 

I digress.

My own feelings on the worth of my work are probably obvious.

I value the things I make, and would far rather gift them to deserving friends and family than sell them for less than I think they are worth.  In fact, nothing gives me more pleasure than to surprise someone with a lace shawl out of the blue for no better reason than 'just because.'  I am a lucky woman to have friends and family who truly appreciate the things I make for them.  Yes, I would consider selling a few items - but if, and only if, the price matched the effort and time that went into the making. 

Besides, at the end of the day it's about so much more than money.  I create because I like to give a little bit of beauty back to the world, not because I have any desire for reward.  I use my hands because I believe that handmade is the best, and because I want to make sure that certain skills and techniques live on.  I knit and spin to teach my children where things come from and to fight against the sameness of the industrialized world.  I make because I am driven to do so.  That's important in and of itself.

My time and talents are precious to me, and I will not undervalue either.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Mother Of All Repairs....

 I've been avoiding the finish work on the Princess for quite some time.  It's partially a very bad habit of mine....as a process knitter I tend to either delay finishing so as to delay the inevitable or I just lose interest....but it's also partially because the finish work on this particular piece was so very daunting.
 However, these things can only be avoided for so long before they become the proverbial albatross...
And this was definitely becoming the albatross.
In addition to burying some ends I also had to graft the ends of the border edging together, check and fix any pulls and repair the snap that was heard round the world.
As you can see, the break was right at the base of a stitch at the beginning of the triangular center portion.  In fact, it pulled the stitches tight so technically the break was probably in the middle of that first row of five stitches.  I managed (THANK GOD!) to secure the wee tail of yarn when it first happened.  Had I not, this entire thing would have been a certified disaster and I could have lost 60ish hours of work.  (Gives one the shivers to contemplate.)
 
In order to repair the break, I am going to need to weave in about a yard of yarn - half back over the stitches in the central triangle so that the knitting doesn't unravel and half from the break outward in order to secure the tail.  Why yes I'm a bit paranoid so am going above and beyond with the amount of yarn.  You would be too if you had 200-300 hours invested in a project like this.
 
As the work is so tiny, it really does require a dark background, bright lighting and something to hold the piece blocked open so that the stitches are easier to see.  Once I successfully satisfied all of these requirements (and it took some experimentation), I carefully untied that wee knot and started chasing the tail back through the stitches with needle and yarn.  It literally took me an an hour to get that first row just so (and the ornery part of me dares you to do it faster if you are shocked by that amount of time)  After that I had to set it aside because my eyes were starting to pop out of my head.  (I had already spent the afternoon burying loose ends and fixing the pulls.)
 
The plan is to get back to it just as soon as I finish up this post and do some housework.  With a bit of persistence and patience I can finish the repair this afternoon, follow that up by grafting the raw edges together on the border, wash it this evening and pin it out to block before bed.  If I can manage this, than I can take it to my guild meeting tomorrow and they can stop teasing me about it!
 
Of course, the real question then becomes....

What on earth am I going to do with something so beautiful?!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Playing Catch Up

 Sean thinks he looks silly, but I LOVE this picture of the two of us!
I took it on Sunday with the help of my wee tripod.
Yay us!  13th anniversary, coming up soon!
 
Let's get right to it today!
  • There are lots of things that I should be doing right now, but really all I want to do is take a nap.
  • I love sleep. 
  • It's a good thing....and one that I've been rather short on for the last month or so.
  • We shan't discuss the whys...they are all rather ridiculous anyway.
  • SO.
  • All you need to know for now is that I'm super tired, and feeling a bit of a writer's block because of it.  Ergo, this post might be stranger than usual. 
  • I went to my 20th high school reunion last Saturday.
  • I've been trying to figure out how to write about it....and find myself at a complete loss.
  • Which isn't like me. 
  • Seriously, I can generally write about anything I want. 
  • However, it escapes description so we shall just leave it for now.
  • The one thing I can tell you is that the experience confirmed one of my most closely held beliefs - a little kindness costs you absolutely nothing and may mean the world to someone else.  I am honored to have been on the receiving end of several kindnesses pertaining to my reunion over the last few weeks.
  • And heck, my hair is red again thanks to the reunion!  Wouldn't go without my favorite color!
  • I quite successfully survived my month on the autoimmune protocol!
  • In fact, I'd go so far as to say I THRIVED on my month of the autoimmune protocol!  Yay me!
  • I did take two days off so that I could have some dark chocolate and try the pumpkin pucks that I've been making for the family.  Given the massive headache I had yesterday as a result, I would say that I'm pretty sure I'm done with cheating.  So not worth it anymore!  However, those pumpkin pucks are AMAZING!  You can find the recipe in Eat Like A Dinosaur by the Paleo Parents.
  • So yes, my body LOVES the autoimmune protocol, and I'll be sticking with it for the foreseeable future. 
  • The picture above actually speaks volumes.  If you compare it with other pictures from the last 10 years or so, I look like a completely different person.  In addition to the clear skin and obvious weight loss, I look brighter, and more energetic...certainly happier. 
  • My husband and I went to Watkins Mill Saturday morning.  My plan was to walk the trail at a leisurely pace.  What actually happened was that I ran part of it.  It was soooo much fun, and I felt amazing the rest of the day! 
  • This is what you are supposed to feel like after exercising...which leads me to believe that I'm on the right track.
  • Also, I inadvertently did an intermittent fast leading up to that run.  I hadn't eaten for 17 hours prior to hitting the trail (not at all planned), and in fact actually felt better running than I ever had before.  If I needed any more proof that I've switched to being a fat burning beast...that was it!  (Paleo folk will know what that means.)
  • I'm supposed to be knitting Christmas gifts. 
  • I want to be knitting on the scrapbook blanket. 
  • A compromise will need to be reached soon.
  • I should probably be spinning as well, but quite frankly I don't have much interest in that at the moment.
  • Perhaps if I get caught up on my sleep....
Like I said, it's a bit of a strange post.  I'm trying to get back in the habit again because I do miss regular blogging.  In fact, I might even have - gasp - some ideas!