Monday, June 30, 2014

Pop quiz: what kind of a knitter are you?

You know the quizzes that run in those ladies' magazines that don't feature a craft column?  I thought we needed one here at Hugs.  One that could run as a craft column, I mean.

knitting personality quiz

What kind of a knitter are you?

1. You're walking in your neighbourhood and spot a stick with two sharp points at the ends.  You pick it up and recognize it as a knitting needle.  You...

a/ take it home - after all, it's sharp, somebody might step on it and hurt themselves - and use it to stake one of your houseplants.

b/ look around, knock on a few doors, ask your neighbours whether they have lost a knitting needle.

c/ all of b/, plus panic and empathetic stress-sweat.  You post 'Found' posters with your number on the bottom and flag your find on a local Ravelry forum in case the owner is a Raveler.  I mean, a lost needle??? how will that knitter finish that project?

2. You're hosting a gathering and are shopping for party nibbles at the grocery store.  In the dairy department, you spot some creamy goat cheese.  You...

a/ go for it and then pick up a bag of carrots.

b/ get two packages because creamy goat cheese is great for dips and spreads and you never know what people will want.

c/ say EW! and turn away in horror.  Goat cheese will totally smear all over the cabled vest in progress that you've set aside specifically for this get-together, to say nothing of your friends' projects.  Because naturally what you're catering is knit night.

3. You're on vacation in a new place and, while strolling through its shopping district, spot a yarn store.  You...

a/ think, 'how charming', and consider stopping in for local colour.

b/ turn to your companions and say, "Let's go in. It's important to support small businesses like this, and I was thinking of starting a new knitting project."

c/ go in immediately because it's not that you 'spotted' the store, you 'located it.'  Naturally, you planned the entire vacation and your accommodations around any yarn stores in the area.

4. It's movie night and you're about to settle in for two hours of sitting and escapism.  You...

a/ tug a blanket over your feet and get comfortable.

b/ tug a blanket over your feet and get comfortable with the sweater project you started after you went on vacation.

c/ tug a giant bag of yarn over your feet and get to work on making a blanket.

5. While out with friends, somebody suggests playing 'what's in your bag?'  When it's your turn, you empty your purse/briefcase/messenger bag to reveal...

a/ paperwork, your wallet, a compact umbrella, a magazine, your cell phone, house and car keys, and the other half of a sandwich you didn't get to finish at work.

b/ your wallet, some makeup, a knitting magazine you picked up to read while waiting for your friends who are always late, your cell phone, house keys, and a half-empty package of gum.

c/ your wallet, a compact sewing kit, a hat you started knitting this morning on your way out the door, your cell phone, your e-reader fully stocked with every pattern book you own, the cuff of a twined mitten you thought you might have time to work on today, house keys, and a pair of socks in progress.

6. You are househunting with a real estate agent.  When asked to list your priorities you say...

a/ proximity to public transit, a private driveway, one more bedroom than there will be people in the house so you can have an office, at least two bathrooms, and a kitchen with two entrance points.

b/ parking for two cars, as many bedrooms as there will be people, a den as well as a living/dining room for guest room potential, all at a reasonable distance from work perhaps a shopping district that hopefully includes some sort of craft store.

c/ a bright sunny room to knit in, and a large room you can dedicate specifically to your yarn stash; you're okay with a long distance from work as long as there's public transit nearby, because 'more knitting time!'

7. It's your birthday and you get to do whatever you want.  You...

a/ sleep in, meet friends for a meal, go for a walk on the beach, take in a concert, and blow out candles.

b/ take a day trip to that amazing sight you've always wanted to see but never made time for; you bring friends, eat some cake, and wear the sweater you made after that great vacation you took.

c/ knit for as long as you like, no stopping to do anything for anybody.  Bliss!

8. Your best friend's birthday is next week.  You want to give something really special so you...

a/ find out when s/he's available and block off that part of the day to treat your friend to something fun like ice cream and mini-putt, or a comedy show, or lunch in that great new restaurant everybody's talking about.

b/ all of a/, plus a handknit gift you made with leftover yarn from your sweater just for this special day.

c/ book two spots in an amazing lakeside knitters' retreat for next year.  You guys have always wanted to go there together but it's always sold out before you can make it happen.

9. It's time for the big family reunion picnic party.  You unload your cooler from the car, unpack its contents onto the picnic table, and stake out your spot for the day, which is...

a/ a nice shady lounge chair at the side of the pool, not that you'll be in it much because Swimming!

b/ a nice shady lounge chair near the picnic table so you can visit with Aunt Gertrude and help her set up yarn for the blanket she's guaranteed to be crocheting for one of her grandchildren.

c/ a nice shady lounge chair where you can hold court; everybody's going to be coming to you, because you are the maker of everybody's Christmas socks, and they will be currying your favour.

10.  You look around the house and decide it's a bit messy.  You...

a/ tidy it up.

b/ tidy up enough to have something to show for the effort, then get distracted by the scraps of yarn still left over from that now long-ago sweater and pick up that old knitting magazine to see how much yarn you'd need for that other sweater you kind of liked.

c/ ignore it.  It will only get messy again, besides which, the best way to clean up is to knit the stray balls of yarn into useful items.

Ready for your scores?  Allow 1 point for every 'a' answer, 2 points for every 'b' answer, and 3 points for every 'c' answer.

10-15 points: Hello, Nice Person: Are you sure you're a knitter??

15-23 points: Creatively Bent: You are a healthy-minded knitter with a good life balance.  You should really think about casting on a hat, though.

23-30 points: Monarch of the Yarn-o-Rama Kingdom: You might have a bit of a knitting 'problem'... which means your friends and family are probably very, very happy (and warm.)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Weight loss for knitters

Knitters can do pretty much anything, but combining Crafty with Active?  Simultaneously?  That's hard.  And that can make 'staying healthy' - with the whole 'eat right and exercise' directive thrown in - a little challenging too.

People who spend their non-working hours running, or playing beach volleyball, or twirling around inside a hula hoop, are lucky because exercise is just built into what they love.  Our knitting time on the other hand has to come from someplace... and if you wanna knit, you're gonna sit.

weight loss tips

It's the same for writers, or anybody else whose job puts them in a chair for the duration.  Sitting more than a few hours a day - in total, including driving or public transit time - has been linked to a lot of health hazards.  Plus, unless you compensate for all that sitting with a lot of exercise or calorie-watching, you're probably going to gain weight.  Yay!

True, you can get a standing desk.  You can even get a desk attached to a treadmill.  Those are terrific adaptations for people with space and/or money, not to mention motivation.

And that, my friends, is the word that gets left out of the Eat Right And Exercise message.


As in, you need some.  Especially when there's yarn sitting beside the sofa saying Hello, I'm Delightful.

Weight management options

how to lose weight
Pretty colours: highly motivational for this knitter

Let's look at a few popular weight-loss approaches and how they use motivation to help people achieve their personal goals.

Weight Watchers: widely regarded as the best system for getting a body to a healthy weight, whatever that means for the individual who lives inside it, this system is built around a social core.  You go to meetings.  You weigh in.  Humans are social beings and it's hard for us not to appreciate the reward of others' support and encouragement.  There's an online Weight Watchers option too, which shifts the in-person social support network to a virtual one.

The FAST Diet: this approach is based on the medical benefit resulting from seriously restricting how much you eat for no more than two days a week.  One motivator comes from the knowledge that you only have to do this today - tomorrow you can eat whatever you want - but another comes from the good chance that you will be reducing your risk of diabetes and heart problems by giving your body a rest from digesting, without losing as much muscle mass as you would through daily dieting.

The Really Fast Diet: I'm lumping several kinds in here, but you know what I'm talking about - the ones that enable super-speedy weight loss through shakes or vitamin injections or whatever.  The motivation there is that you see a significant change in an insignificant period of time.

The Prepacked Food Plan:  you can get this through big-business programs or from a local chef who will plan your menu and deliver to your door, but basically, your motivator is the fact that somebody else is going to worry about your food intake for you.  The rest is simple: just don't eat anything (much) outside that plan.  Surprisingly freeing.

The Boot Camp Approach: apart from taking up running or cycling or some other activity and pursuing it several times a week, this might be an organized exercise class that meets often, or a personal trainer who coaches you through and keeps you accountable, or even exercise videos you use in your own home with or without equipment.  How much and what you eat has less of an impact on your body if you ramp up your exercise time in a big way, and hello: Endorphins?  Once you get over the initial resistance to taking the time to go exhaust yourself, this stuff feels good.  And that, my friends, is motivational.

The Low-Key Eat Healthy And Exercise Plan: the motivation here is the simplicity of it.  You don't have to think too much about calories, and you don't have to move that much more than usual.  Often, this sort of system advocates walking - like, park a block farther away from work (not hard if parking is as hard to find where you live as it is in Toronto), or climb the stairs instead of taking an elevator.  It's slow - you might not even lose as much as a pound a week - but it's also not painful.  And it's pretty healthy too because you're going to ramp up your unadorned fruit, vegetable, and water intake.  Those things are super important.

The Food Diary: This one is a component in a lot of different programs, but it can be effective on its own.  Basically, you keep track of everything you eat, every day.  You don't need to be a fitness trainer to know that if you sat most of the day and then consumed 3000 calories, you're not likely to see a lower number on the scale the next morning.  A food diary keeps you accountable so that you are more likely to consume the right number of calories for the ones you're burning off.

Knitting: Can it possibly be - bad for you??

As if we didn't know it already without scientists weighing in, there is a lot of evidence that knitting is fantastic for your mental health.  It challenges your brain while soothing your nerves, it's tactile, and it increases your confidence even as it eases high stress.

weight loss motivation

If you don't do it in moderation though, what it does for your physical health is another story.  My own experience is that turning back to knitting after a 20-year break definitely impacted how much I sit.  And that in turn impacted my consumption/exertion ratio.

When I'm writing, I get up and walk around a lot.  Writing is hard work.  You have to think about how to say what you wanted to say, after you figure out what you wanted to say in the first place - and frankly, both of those things are more bearable once you've moved away from a blank computer screen.

But knitting?  It's not uncommon to sit for hours at a stretch because you're so incredibly driven to get to the next project.  And sitting for any length of time is really, really not good for you, quite apart from its not using up enough calories to support a delicious array of eating options.

So... which compensation approach is best?

Which exercise/consumption system to choose really depends on which goal is most inspiring for you.  And remember, that goal may change over time.  Any combination of any of the approaches I described at the beginning of this post may become part of your overall method for losing and/or maintaining your weight.

The statistics on keeping weight off in the long term show the biggest success comes out of the 'no more than a pound a week' camp.  So if your goal is both getting and keeping it off, the 3-4 pound a week approach might not be your best bet.  It's depressingly common to gain back everything you lost and more if you don't change your lifestyle in a way that is sustainable from this day to your last one.

Similarly, if your goal is "Please! No gallstones!" you might want to steer clear of super rapid weight loss and long-term calorie restrictions. I can't speak from experience.  But the comments I read from actual long-term users on review sites for some of those programs?  Yikes!

If endorphins are the thing that inspires you, then running and biking and the like are great.  Especially if you live in an area where it's easy to do that year round, or you have space for equipment in your house, or you can make yourself get to a gym to work out indoors in brutal winter months.  It also helps not to have any hip or knee issues going in (Hello: me, and insert: sad face.  I hated running most of the time I was doing it, but nothing puts you in good shape faster, and it really does feel good at the end.)

When it comes to simple weight loss, I've read many times that the most effective approach is tracking both what you eat and what you do - that in fact, without that tool, you won't be successful in the long term.  But it's got to be easy to keep those records, because if it's not practical for you to maintain whatever system you choose the results don't last.

It costs rather more than a pad of paper and a calculator, but my favourite tracking system so far is the mobile phone app for Fitbit, used in conjunction with a Fitbit One.  It's just so fast to tap in what you've just eaten, wherever you go, and the Fitbit device takes care of everything else.  Your only remaining interventions are pressing a button to note when you go to bed at night and when you get up, and recording specific activities like weight training or swimming or - okay, making stuff.  It all counts!  And the app offers instant motivations and rewards, thanks to the colourful bar charts and smiley faces that appear as you work your way through the day.

I mean: I will walk up and down the stairs at home for no reason other than to make those colours and images change on my phone's screen. They are that compelling.

Yeah, yeah.  But like we said: we're knitters.  What motivation will work for us?

Take a deep breath, folks.  What about - knitting?

Knitting a sweater?

Knitting a sweater that's a size or two too small for you, depending on your goal?

Rewarding yourself with knitting every time you complete a certain amount of exercise in a day?

Fitting into that sweater when it's done and then...

Knitting another sweater?

Just a thought.

Nothing to do with my finally deciding to pull out this sweater I started just as life started to get unmanageably stressful a few years ago, and stopped when I realized it would no longer fit even if I finished it.

And now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get up from my desk and go for a walk.  See you on Monday!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Plucking beauty from disaster

The other night Pete came in cradling a closed, broken blossom from our peony bush.  We were very sad about it because the bush is small and its flowers are few and anyway: peonies aren't out for long.  It was disappointing.

"Should I put in a bowl of water to see if it blooms?" he asked.

"I guess," I said, not particularly hopeful.  I picked up a prep bowl I hadn't put away yet, filled it from the tap, slipped the bud inside and set it on the windowsill to forget about.

The next morning, it had bloomed.

And it got me thinking.

It's still a broken bud, but it's also still beautiful.  Though it didn't feed its body or any insects, it reached another aspect of its potential - feeding joy - because Pete gave it extra attention by bringing it inside instead of leaving it on the ground, and suggesting a bowl of water which would never have occurred to me.

Even though I've seen this happen more than a few times, it still surprises me how terrible things end up being okay if you put in the effort to make them so, or having some good points that wouldn't have happened without the terrible.  In that scenario the good points never make up for the bad thing, but if the bad thing has to happen, it's important to acknowledge and value the good stuff that comes from it.

In knitting or work or life generally, it's not so much about a silver lining - I always think of those as a good that far outweighs the bad, a theory that applies more to trivial disappointments - as it is about finding the good wherever it might be. 

And lately, even before the blooming peony, I've noticed some good in a few places where I didn't expect to.  Maybe you've got some unnoticed good going on, too, and if so maybe our peony will help you see it more easily.

Have a great day, and I'll see you tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Knitting is better than most other things

As you know, I'm currently living the struggle between knitting and everything else I want to/should be/have to do.  Probably you guys are too because quite apart from schedule: who has the time, lack of eyestrain, ability to remain awake for three days at a stretch, and wrist strength to knit as much as we want to for reals?

The other day I stumbled across this disturbingly familiar description of writing by C. Wright Mills, on the subject of creating his book "White Collar":

To write it you have to wind yourself up tight and unwind for four pages; then depression for a month, then whip yourself up and unwind.  Repeat.  Repeat.

And then, he adds, even though you think it might be good, it's probably awful.  A sentiment with which one of his reviewers agreed to the tune of truly crushing enthusiasm.  Owie.

Okay, so ask yourself: What knitter has to go through that to come up with a perfectly fine mitten?  I'm asking myself, and my depression phase lasts only a few hours and I write through it anyway.  Clearly, I'm better off than Mr. Mills.

So: that's work.  What about leisure?

When we first started to have gorgeous weather after the horror that was this past winter, a friend and I were drooling over its sudden arrival. I confessed I was trying to enjoy the fact that I can sit out on my porch without a coat on but feel guilty about all the Things I am not doing while I am sitting.  She wisely pointed out that there will always be Things, no matter how many Things I might get done in an effort to quell them.  The porch, however, will not always be available. There might for example be rain.  Or, I added mentally, its now-rotten boards might suddenly collapse (the renovation - it can't come too soon.)

Knitting on the porch, however: perfectly acceptable use of time.  After all, the bathroom will only get dirty again and even if I find that elusive but essential article of clothing today, I will only misplace it tomorrow in the vital ten minutes before I need it.  I blame poltergeists, but it may only be a memory issue or a sign that I really don't get enough sleep.

(still: must confess I would feel much better about my porch time if I had a suitable setup for weaving out there.)

I'm sure you don't need me to argue that knitting is also better than laundry, dealing with bits of paper that float through the door and collect in piles, and preparing meals that you may not even get to enjoy eating.  However, let me try:

Knitting is so much better than housework.

Seriously, it doesn't smell of cleaning fluids or even vinegar, usually (I mean, some of the hand-dyed stuff might still carry more than a memory of some that was used to set the colour, but that's a fair trade for hand-dyed.)  And if knitting piles up, it makes a much more comfortable pillow than paper, assuming you are able to push any in-use needles out of the way.  Bonus: unlike cake on your birthday it really doesn't have any calories in it.

I don't have a solution to this problem of knitting being the best way to spend time, without being quite so pressing as the things that are less fun and yet necessary.  But I think establishing an International Day of Knitting would be a good start, don't you?

Especially if we experiment with a few different days before settling on which one is the right fit for everybody because Yum: guilt free knitting!

Maybe the International Day of Knitting should be a floating holiday, available to any one of us at any time during the year, as many times as needed.  I call next Tuesday.  What about you?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

New Yarn in the Empire of Indecision

Trish and I joined the indigodragonfly yarn club this year, together - it meant saving on shipping! because obviously a skein of yarn plus a braid of roving showing up at the door every single month is not enough for this knitter.  I refer to myself when I say this, because Trish has exercised admirable self-restraint on the yarn club front and is only doing one instead of three.

Yarn surprise #1 arrived last week:

Yay! it's 50/50 silk and merino, and very pink and purple.  This is not a fiber combo I like to knit with, especially - not enough elasticity in the silk - but I am quite partial to silk tucked neatly around my neck inside a coat and luckily

I have a loom.

So I caked it.

I can't remember now what yarn I was going to use for my July scarf, but I think this is a pretty perfect colour to weave in summertime, don't you?  And I'm super afraid that if I tuck it away for future reference, it will stay tucked for a few years till I get around to making any scarf at all, because that's what happens to all the yarn that goes into the abyss of Tucked Away Neatly.  (and the fact that I have a yarn abyss is why I shouldn't be in any more yarn clubs till I catch up.  if only I would listen to my more practical self, le sigh.)

It will take a while to weave this yarn into scarfland because it's fingering weight, but that's okay if I have a marvelous audiobook to keep me company while I do it.  I'm thinking about getting All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, because it has amazing reviews and runs a loom-friendly sixteen hours.

But I'm slightly concerned that I won't be able to work with the narrator's voice that long, so... e-book, for reading on my phone?  I love reading books on my phone, because apparently something is terribly wrong with me.

But any book that runs 16 hours when read to you has got to be SUPER long when you read it yourself, and is maybe just too long to sustain interest on a tiny iPhone screen, so... print edition?
Or maybe I should just put off the agony and listen to The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore instead.  I should be able to weave a fingering-weight scarf in ten-and-a-half hours, shouldn't I?

Or maybe I should just put off that agony and weave the June scarf.  I mean, it's June 24th, and all I've done is set it up.

New Yarn: it's just never easy, is it?

(hope you have an easy day, and that any new yarn is huggable and friendly and doesn't produce book anxieties!)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Preferred porch knitting

Spring is officially over now that the neighbourhood mosquitoes have come out and started biting, which makes porch knitting a slightly less appealing pastime in the evening with a cup of tea at one's side.  For a couple of weeks there, I was tucking up after supper with tea and an audiobook and putting in an hour or two until the light started to fade and: bliss.

I cast on a pair of socks in that phase, and made some... er, progress.

Even though it's a ribbed sock and those are less mindless and take a bit longer (also, these ones are rather larger than my usual) I seem to have put in rather a lot of time outside after six.

I also knit a lot watching A Bridge Too Far.  Have you seen that lately?  Really, such a good film.  And so much fun spotting all those actors who were big then and went on to be bigger, or not.  There were a few mistakes in the ribbing I had to fix after, though.

This is what the sock will look like from the front and along the top of the foot.

I'm not super sure about that very wide band of knitting in the middle, but Pete says it's good, and he's pretty free about telling me when something looks a/ awful and b/ totally unsuitable for the person I'm knitting for, so I will trust him.  Anyway, it makes it easier to knit, because I've divided the stitches such that I can begin every needle with three knit stitches.


... that much knitting in the middle of ribbing does produce a little frilly bit at the top where I would much prefer it to lie flat.

I don't think anybody else will notice though because Golly... aren't these colours great???

(I'm still knitting on the porch, of course.  Just trying to stick to midday, when the mosquitoes are quieter.)

What's your favourite outdoor knitting these days?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Weaving a scarf for June

June is getting along now, but so is the scarf I decided to weave for this month:

See?  Loom's all set up.  Set up strangely, because I didn't expect to run out of yarn quite so soon after the middle part, and also I put the heddle thingy in backwards, but set up.

I really need to memorize the technical names for the loom's parts, don't I.

As I mentioned, this scarf is going to be woven with handspun yarn, so I kind of had to get to the plying before I could go any further.

I noticed something special about this stuff right away.  You?

What this shot has got that the others don't is the giveaway.


Hardly any barberpole!  I actually spun the singles so closely to each other, they mostly match up.  I canNOT believe it.  This bodes well, I think.

And looks so pretty on the shuttle thingy.

... almost as pretty as it does on the loom:

ahhh, June scarf: started.  Can't tell you what a relief that is.

Go have a great weekend (and wish me luck for progress on this thing) and I'll see you here again on Monday!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Knitting setup: time well spent

When I was away at university I had one of those friends who really transform you.

She knew about stuff I didn't, and she was fearless about doing stuff I wouldn't even consider, like successfully sewing her own expensive silk blouse for a fancy party with her parents' wealthy friends even though she only had the floor to cut the fabric out on and a community sewing machine that rarely worked.  She introduced me to the New Yorker, which I still read compulsively, and she once made me buy a pair of steeply discounted striped linen dress pants she had seen in a designer outlet earlier in the day and which felt were perfect for me (I was unconvinced but she was right: I wore them constantly for years.)

She also took one evening every few weeks to look after boring details, like mending or hemming or using an intensive facial mask or whatever.  The practicality of that approach - just book the time and put things in order, never mind trying to find a few minutes here or there, or while scrambling at the last minute - has really stuck with me. So I think of her whenever I do what I call...

Staging Knitting

If you like knitting and you have the materials for more than one project in your house, chances are you have a bit of a mess on your hands at least some of the time.  And if you like to have knitting with you for long car trips or doctor's office waiting rooms or to help you wind down in the evenings, you would probably benefit from starting several projects and then setting them aside so they're ready when you need them. Not only does it ensure you have a steady supply of projects, it really takes care of that mess.

Staging your knitting might involve choosing patterns and swatching with different needles to get your gauge right.  Just finding needles is often a biggie.  You might choose to cake some yarn you'll need soon, even if you don't have time (or free needles) to actually cast on yet, because this is the hour or two where you'll have time to get to your swift and ball winder.  Staging isn't just casting on, though it is the best part, if you ask me.

Here are some types of knitting you may want to have on standby:

Mindless knits: also known as 'emergency knitting' to deal with stress during an unexpected medical crisis, mindless knits don't require you to look at them much and are fantastic for watching a movie, catching up with a friend, or enjoying the scenery on a long car drive.

Gift knits: one thing that makes it especially great to be a knitter is that you can give truly one-of-a-kind labours of love to the people you care about or the people to whom you owe a lot of thanks.  Having a few giftable knits set by in advance is ideal, because you don't have to wait to mark the moment.  You can just be spontaneous.  Or, if you know you're knitting for a particular person, you can do some of the work during an event that is or might be special to that person. I often work on mindless gift knits during concerts, to build some of that beauty into the finished product.

Lately my perpetual 'gift knits' are scarves, woven on my loom at home.  I try to make sure I get a new one set up as soon as possible after I've finished the old one, just in case I have a few minutes here or there for weaving.

Comfort knits: this is the kind of project that makes you feel better.  It might be the softness of the fabric that soothes you, or it might be the way the colours blend, or it might be the motion of your hands as you work the particular stitches the pattern requires.  Regardless, comfort knits are an important resource for any knitter and you never know when you will need one.

Challenging knits: sometimes what you really need is to sink your teeth into a project, or you want something you can show off at big yarny gatherings.  Maybe it's time to push your limits and see what you can do with two sticks and a ball of string.  That's when you'll turn to a project that's challenging to you - cables, lace, colourwork, a new technique, whatever.

Travel knits: this is the one thing I always have to have ready - a compact project to throw into your bag so you're always equipped with ways to pass the time, no matter what the day throws at you.  One week I might not touch my travel knit, another I might work on it so much it's practically done.   And at that point, I've got to have another barely-started project to take its place, fast.

Obviously, some of these categories will overlap for different knitters.  And there are probably lots more categories to consider when setting up some knitting for later.  Is there a particular kind of knitting on your Must Have list?

(the purple cuffs are tops of a pair of gift socks I'm knitting in Twisted Fiber Art's 'Boreal' colourway from an old club collection, with the complementary purple for the cuff, heel and toe.  I've put them into play now so you'll be seeing a lot of them here - I hope you like the colours as much as I do!)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Knitter's Chat: Organic Cosmetics

If this were an in-person knitting group, one of the things I'd be meandering on about, probably, is my quest for organic cosmetics that actually work.

organic cosmetics

Maybe this is not something that occupies your mind while you knit, but I think often about what I can do to make my health tomorrow the best it can be within the restraints of my time and energy today.  And now that there are tools to measure what goes into makeup and shampoo and skin lotion, you can bet I check up on what chemicals and allergens are in the stuff I'm putting on my skin and hair.

I mean, obviously, we live in a world where we're exposed to a lot of stuff that may affect our health... but do we have to pay for the privilege and apply it ourselves?

Here are my favourite investigation tools:

Skin Deep, where you can search on specific cosmetic names;

Think Dirty, an iPhone app that even lets you scan products in the cosmetic aisle for emergency decision-making;

CosDNA, where you can plug in the ingredients of a product that isn't listed on the other sites, and find out whether or not they have known risk factors.

The horrible drag about these sites is plugging in your ol' faithful standby products and watching them light up red with ingredients that mess up your system.  Another horrible drag is buying organic things that show a nice safe green on those sites but smell terrible, go on yucky, or go on beautifully and then wear off in five minutes.  Or my personal sensitive-skin favourite: turn your face bright red and sting-y with an allergic reaction to something that's in it.  Bleah.

So today I thought I'd post my best finds on the off chance it will save you some of the time and/or money I've been spending on this problem.  Because frankly, huge corporate drugstore-friendly products that light up red for hazards?  they are sooo much cheaper than the organic stuff.  Last longer too, thanks to the preservatives.  You will definitely be paying a premium for the smaller-batch organic stuff.  Even me, even though I'm writing about it.  This is not a paid advertorial here, by any means.

Hair Products, Body Lotion, and Shower Gel

John Masters Organics, which offers online shopping both for US and Canadian customers as well as overseas shipping and local dealers: I've been using these products for over a year now and don't see changing, ever. Certainly when it comes to the hair stuff, mine is shinier hair than it ever was before, which is something all the big-brand ads seem to use as their selling point.

john masters organics review

These shampoos don't foam up like drugstore brands, but they don't need to and I find the bottles go a pretty long way for the price.  Instead of 'conditioner' I use the 'detangler', which smells pretty good, but nothing is more gorgeous than the blood orange and vanilla shower gel.  YUM.  (you can get that scent in a skin lotion too.  Love it so much.)

You can get a travel size sampler of their bestsellers, if you want to give it a try.


I had a huge and recent breakthrough here, after trying tons and tons of organic lipsticks that went on like dry paste or wore off in seconds or bestowed absolutely no colour or some combination thereof.  Honestly I'd have given up if I wasn't getting very uncomfortable allergic reactions to the big-brand ones I was using.

dr. hauschka lipstick review

Two words: Dr. Hauschka.  There aren't a ton of colour options and it's not easy to tell on the computer screen what colour you're really getting, which makes it an expensive experiment to order online, but this lipstick goes on easily, does not smell nasty (or like anything, in fact), stays on for hours, and for me anyway - does not produce an allergic reaction.  It is also without sunscreen, I think.  This may be an issue for you, if you don't have a separate source of that.

Regarding colour, I can tell you that from left to right - 06 is a deep, dark, 1940s movie star red, 04 is of similar depth but with more of an orange cast, and 09 is kind of a sheer pinky-brown that looks very everyday.  I recently ordered 07 (pink) and 01 (pink/wine), and I'll keep you posted.

Eyeshadow and Concealer

Eyeshadow: it's again with the Dr. Hauschka.  If you look at organic makeup sites there is a lot of talk about mineral makeup, but I find I'm allergic to some of the minerals most commonly used - like titanium dioxide, which is in practially everything, including eyeshadows.  This stuff on the other hand is like the lipstick - it goes on easily, lasts a really long time, does not make my skin sting-y, perfectly covers any mis-steps with the eyeliner or mascara (even the light shades), and generally looks great.

dr. hauschka eyeshadow review

For a creamy concealer, I'm super happy to have found SukiColor correct coverage concealer in its tiny almost-1-ounce travel size.  I'm not allergic to it, it goes on nicely, and it lasts really well too.   Plus, so portable! (for powder concealer, keep reading.)

It's worth noting that both of these little compacts have a mirror in the lid, and the eyeshadow comes with a cute little foam applicator.  I feel about 16 every time I put that stuff on, because it's so adorable and fun and, apparently, I am easily amused.

I should also say that I've been trying lotion and skincare samples from different parts of the Suki line and they are without exception nice to use.  Definitely worth a try, in my opinion.

Makeup Removers

This was the first thing I found that I absolutely love.  Makeup removers almost never made it onto my list of priorities because I don't use a lot of makeup in the first place, but a few years ago I needed something to take on a trip that would be quick to use and easy to pack and blah blah blah.

kaia juicy bamboo cleansing cloths review

I spotted Juicy Bamboo cleansing cloths from Kaia at the cash desk of my local health food store, gave them a try, and have never looked back.  Briefly, when I couldn't find another supplier, I tried a few different drugstore brands of this sort of thing and it was like using sandpaper.  Bleah!  These days I use the larger package pictured here at home, and the individually sealed packets for travel.  They're even flight-friendly!  And they smell nice and they really work.

Mineral powder makeup

I mentioned that most of the mineral makeups don't do it for me.  I tried several and my skin started stinging within minutes.  Again - this is an allergy, probably to titanium dioxide, and many people love the very products that made my own skin so unhappy, so I'm definitely not disparaging random brands.

rejuva minerals review

What I did find that works well and is problem-free for me is Rejuva Minerals.  I've tried both the concealer and the foundation, and I like them both.  Even the process of putting them on is kind of fun.  Bonus: I was able to get both of mine in very small sizes that don't take up much room in my cabinet.  Look for travel-sized brushes to go with and you'll have a nice compact kit for home or away!

Eyeliner and Mascara

This is sad territory, folks, because I still haven't found anything that works as well as my inexpensive drugstore standbys that score 10 on the danger scale, and I don't want to give a less than stellar review of the ones with which I'm compromising on the days when longevity doesn't matter.  I'm hopeful that I'll track something down eventually though, and when I do, I'll let you know!

A Note on Availability

All the links here are to the specific manufacturer, but many of these products are available in small shops all over the US and Canada and other countries too I expect.  You can also buy them from smaller shops online, or on sites like Saffron Rouge.  At the links I've given, look for a link to local suppliers and see what's near you.

And a Thank-You

Thanks for bearing with me during an entire post that isn't about knitting.  I hope it's useful for some of you, or for someone you know!  Tomorrow will be all about the knitting, I promise.  Hope I see you then.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

An outdoor knitting companion

Knitting on the porch, you get more than just breezy lush surroundings as your yarn backdrop.  You also get new companions! and I'm not just talking about the neighbours' cats.  Meet Snaily:

Snaily turned up a couple of weeks ago behind one of the little tables I use to hold tea and knitting supplies.  I love his spirally shell.  But I guess he didn't love the knitting quite so much as all that, because after a few days Snaily disappeared from his post (ha! I made a funny) and turned up on the side of the one chair that faces away from the knitting nest and toward the front door.

And then after a few days there, Snaily was apparently alarmed to discover somebody sitting in the chair, thereby depressing the cushion that was very near his perch.  So he leapt to the ground (I think the sitter might have played a role here, but purely by accident), and made his departure across our peeling porch floor.

Bye bye Snaily!  I still love your spirally shell.

The morning after he left the chair I went looking to see where his new perch would be, and after much deduction and investigation, not really so much in that order, I found him...

... behind some lattice across the front of the porch.  Almost as though he really didn't enjoy being my knitting buddy and didn't want to be found.  But surely that can't be possible?  Because knitters are the best companions, even if they never seem to knit anything but socks.

Hope you have a great day, with or without a slimy gardeny knitting buddy, and I'll see you tomorrow!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Weaving: let's start the week with pretty

As Mondays go, the summertime ones are usually good.  But let's look at some pictures of a finished scarf just in case.

A finished 3-month scarf.  Yes!

So very glad to be taking glamour shots of this gorgeous thing, made from a skein of fingering-weight merino 'Ember' stripes from Twisted Fiber Art - a colour now apparently discontinued which tells you how long it's been sitting around here - and a skein of cashmere laceweight in 'Seastorm' from the long-gone, much-missed, Viola Yarns.

It came out very long, and because I was distracted by the joy of 'WOW! IT'S FINALLY DONE!' I cut the tassels a little shorter than I probably should have - just 2", instead of the 2.5" I usually default to - but that's okay because after I took all the pictures I showed it to Pete and he said, "For me?" so that's that.  Shorter tassels look less weird with a man's dress coat, is what I'm telling myself.

(I'm also telling myself he will be wearing this with his dress coat, and not just to shovel snow.  I mean: it's part cashmere, and took me three months to finish.   Did I mention the three months part too much yet?)

If it were mine, I would wear it like this.  In fact if Pete ends up only wearing it to shovel snow, I will, because he doesn't do that during the work day and might not notice.

After all, there's no reason this scarf can't be kind of like those mitten triplets where the middle one is designed for holding hands.  Kind of, as in, 'shared by people who like each other, and maybe don't notice when one of them is sneaking off with the other's possessions.'

Meanwhile, closeup?

... and long shot?  I love the way these stripes came out.  Especially now that I can see them off the loom and not have to pass the shuttle back and forth any more.

Here's a random picture of the scarf draped over the moss in the garden, because there is enough moss this year to serve as a backdrop, YAY. 

I started with a couple of three-inch square of moss five or six years ago and it's just filled in like crazypants.  Fingers crossed it survives the renovation next year.

Sorry about that digression.  One last long shot before we go have our nice days, some of us in places where the weather is far too warm to make cashmere scarves remotely appealing in anything but pictures?

Ahhhh, finished scarf.  And it's only halfway through June, so I still have time to do another one for this month (and finish it.)

Hope your Monday is completely wonderful, and I'll see you back here tomorrow.