Saturday, February 25, 2023

When things do not go as planned

Hello all and I hope your past week has been lovely! Mine has been... interesting. Sort of like the experience of getting from A to B while serving as a target at a paintball birthday party for seven-year-olds. AFTER they've had the cake. I seem to have reached the other end of my to do list anyway, but recovery might be required. I'm starting right now with a mug of tea and this week's throwback picture of a hat from 2015 - back when our porch  had two layers of paint colours on it! Good times.

I really really loved inventing the design for this hat and I was sure it would be as amazing to wear as to look at. All those purly lines... I think garter stitch is lovely and it's so dense and warm, too. I mean it takes forever because it grows so slowly, but kinda worth it, right? Except not, as it turns out, for a hat. Well, maybe for someone with no hair it would be good. *With* hair, garter has a knack for catching on it and creating frizz and knots. I don't think I wore this hat more than once or possibly a very hopeful twice before I gave up and moved on. 

Sometimes life is like that, like when you order a laptop to replace the one that died no longer recognizing its AC adapter, only to find its replacement has the same failing and can stagger along for all of four days before refusing to charge. I feel a lot less cavalier about having bought a cheap laptop to tide me over till the new one came, now that I'm waiting for the new new one to be approved and shipped. Also: can't help noticing the cheap one is extremely reliable and does everything I need it to. Hmmmm.

Despite my many tech and other issues this week, I did manage to meet my deadlines and help a friend meet hers AND dive into a new/old obsession - tiny home design. 

Okay, let's be honest: I will probably never purchase, stay in, or even step into a tiny home (though that last one is I guess a possibility.) But I cannot resist the lure of imagining tiny boltholes and boy do these tick the boxes. I'm sure you will be not at all shocked to know the areas I spend the most time plotting and scheming over are kitchens, places to sit with tea, and how to get the best natural light and views. Forget sleeping or tucking in washing machines - that's for a real house. For a little nest, for me, it's all about the creative space.

The idea of a tiny home, usually parked on rural properties and often decked out with dollhouse-cute textiles and decor like a camping caravan, made me think of Lucy from Attic 24, who often wrote of her caravan holidays back when I was compulsively reading her blog. Lucy is a top crochet artist who favours super cheery colours. She's also a magnificent photographer and very, very generous with images of her breathtaking village in North Yorkshire, as well as its rural surroundings. And she still is! Check out this post from November 2022... wouldn't it be amazing to walk out your front door and into one of these pictures, then follow up with a cup of tea and a piece of cake and a chat with a friend over some yarn?

My area is not Attic 24-level cute, but the snow dustings on our flagstone looked pretty enough this week to tempt me outside in short sleeves (worth it):

And I was delighted to find a the fondant-smooth snow blanket on our back deck halfway through our latest storm:

Later, cleared away for a fresh layer, we even got Morse code!

What we did not get was knitting. Not once, all week long. I must say I'm very impressed that Lucy at Attic 24 is still keeping up with her gorgeous stripey blankets. In a snowy season like this, blankets are one thing you can plan on enjoying!

This weekend I'm going to make a new schedule that builds in room for the unexpected, and for disruptions generally. It may not guarantee actual knitting, but I'm going to aim for downtime somewhere, however brief. And I'm also going to finish the latest Ann Cleeves mystery (The Rising Tide. SO GOOD.)

Naturally, a highlight in the schedule I'll make will be popping in for a Hug next weekend, yay! And in the meantime, take care. I hope there's plenty of cute in your days, and absolutely no computer problems - not even one.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

My laptop died but books are forever

Hello again and I so hope your computer didn't curl up and die this week, like mine did. Let's look at something pretty before we dig in to that awful story, shall we? 

Is it just me or does this remind you of a houseful of pets watching the day unfold?

I found this picture on an old blog post about matching up yarns to make quite a lot of sock kits, which reminds me that I still have a few of these left to work on. If anything else bad happens, I may race to the storage cupboard and get a pair onto needles. This mohair/wool blend has always been the best for calm blue ocean knitting.

So, my laptop. It was a slow-moving disaster, and one I certainly should have addressed before the crisis. It's not like I hadn't noticed the battery wasn't charging, or that the processor was moving like a geriatric turtle. But you know, if leaning a book onto the power cord is enough to improve the contact points inside the machine enough that they touch the points on the cable, why fuss?

Because someday the points will fail altogether, is why fuss. And maybe even when you've been working off the battery for a while, such that there's only an hour of life left in it.

You can imagine how I panicked as I saw what was happening and the implications set in. And no, I hadn't been on top of doing backups either. I did have an external drive, at least. Somebody else needed one and when I was picking it up for them, I spotted another in a pretty blue I thought would look nice on my desk when I was using it. I swear I am more computer savvy than this normally, but this is apparently what I have become over the last few years. 

Turns out not quite an hour is just enough to get a 97% complete backup, download all your browser bookmarks and note all your passwords, order a new computer, and email critical files to yourself. Thank goodness I had the wherewithal to think of this much.

Finally, with a startled squeak, my laptop shut down, and that was that. 

It's taken with it the title of every book I've borrowed from the library over the past three years, which means I finally understand why people keep book journals on paper. I figured, why bother when the library app keeps track? but for some reason, once I logged in on a new device, all that information was gone. 

Fortunately I remember the titles of two I particularly wanted to mention here, including this absolutely marvellous memoir/cookbook by Sally Schmitt with Bruce Smith - Six California Kitchens


I honestly can't think of another book I've read recently that I found as moving and insightful and riveting... I guarantee I will not make any of the recipes, with the exception of the one for pie crust, because I don't have easy access to the ingredients or the audience for most. But I pored over every one, learning a ton of kitchen techniques. I looked forward to every moment I could spend with this book. I learned so much about - well, so much. It's a very approachable, very personal story of a woman who became enormously successful doing exactly what she wanted to do in the way she wanted to do it. If that's not reaching the top of Mount Everest without tools I don't know what is. I cried reading it, and I laughed, and who does that with a cookbok? Highly recommended.

I dove into some Ngaio Marsh mysteries this month as well. These are 'golden age' stories published up to seventy years ago, now, but they stand up. 

The one I found most pleasing of the latest batch was Grave Mistake, because so much of it is told through the view of a witty, engaging character with a very practical view of the people around her. If you haven't read any Ngaio Marsh, I recommend this one.

Have I done any knitting? nope. I did however figure out a fix for my too-tight socks that only requires ripping back to the heel flap, so I'm going to do it. I thought I'd leap into that when my computer died, like it was A Sign I should turn my back on tech for a day, but then I looked at my upcoming deadlines and bought a budget backup laptop locally to keep plowing through the work.

Hope your week was a little smoother than mine! Let's meet up again next weekend and see if things have improved at all. I know there will be pancakes happening here in a few days so that's an automatic win, don't you think?

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Can these socks be saved

Hello again from from the knitting fail corner of Hugs! Looking over past posts, I see I started these socks as a Christmas present to myself in October 2021 (or more likely, the year before that, and hoped to knuckle down and have them ready for December 24, to tuck into my stocking.)


The good news is, they all but finished now. The second sock, currently filling a cute tinyhappy knitting bag, is also ready to graft at the toe. But I haven't done any grafting, because when I got this far and tried them on, I realized.... (cue the dramatic music)


Okay I am pretty sure I know how this happened. The yarn is practically all alpaca and it's a heavier weight than I normally use, so I had to improvise the number of stitches I cast on and trust in the stretchability of the fiber, which was asking too much of it because alpaca isn't known for its elasticity. I knew this at the time. I have no excuse for this error in judgement.

Alternatively, I may have gained weight. I mean we all know our ankles is the first place those extra cookies go, right? 


Apparently I've been considering this problem for nearly a year without coming to a decision, so perhaps it's time to go over the two options I've identified. 

I can finish them and never wear them, which isn't a much different outcome than the ideal because hello: white alpaca DK socks? I can only ever wear these on a chaise for reading while not even thinking about getting up to make more tea, or in bed for sleeping for the first twenty minutes before I wake up in a sweat and claw them off my feet. 

Or, I can rip them out and reknit them with more stitches, and hope I have enough yarn to get to the toe because my vision was so very much a monotone foot. This approach will probably involve ripping, skeining, Soaking, drying, and ball-winding because who wants to knit with seriously kinked yarn?

I guess these two options are really:

I can finish them and never wear them or

I can just not finish them. 

Let's leave this horrible thought for your subconscious to ponder, or not, and do what I've been doing all this time which is looking at something pretty.

Two people I like have birthdays coming up - well, more than two people, but two I'm actually thinking about making my own cards for - so naturally I got out my watercolour paints to make some rectangular backgrounds on heavy paper.

This paint - small specialty sets from Kuretake Gamsai Tambi - has a ton of glitter in it and, by some chemical miracle, none of it rubs off once it's dry. I'll tell you though, the water you use to clean your brush is like a glitter whirlpool when you shine light through it. 

Even with two layered together, the colours seemed a little depressing for a milestone birthday in particular, so I also painted some backgrounds in regular watercolour. After it all dried and I cleaned away the brushes, I got out a Micron pen and started doodling. 

I don't think any of these are ready for their Hallmark Card debut, but I am at peace with that. Well, mostly. After panicking just a tiny bit I decided to work with the depressing glittery ones.

At this angle you can really see the glitter, which kind of compensates for the meh colours, don't you think? And also, in the case of the middle doodle especially, the illusion of birthday snakes emerging from a basket to surround you.


Next up: the paper cutter and some double-sided mounting tape. Naturally, I have no idea where my art card stock with matching envelopes have gone, so I will be doing a flat panel and slipping it into a gift bag. Invention, meet your mom Necessity.

Hope you have a lovely week not grieving over the agonizing choice I am putting off for my beautiful, unwearable socks! Let's get together again next Saturday.

(oh, I just realized there's a third option. I can finish the socks and give them to somebody with very slim ankles and a chaise reading habit. sadly neither of my birthdaying friends qualify, but maybe if I wait long enough I'll know somebody else who does...)

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Snow Art and Knitting Horror

Hello again! Are you ready to be shocked to your core? Or perhaps you need bracing with a snow sculpture from my deck railing first:

This might be the local squirrels' attempt at carving out a winter sleigh or racing animals, but it might also be the product of artistic melt. Either way, I'm so glad I risked crossing the ice early on a cold morning to get this photograph. The whole thing sagged down under pressure from the sun by midday.

I use our deck quite a bit even in winter, just to step out from the kitchen and stretch, and to get a little air when I'm too busy for a walk. It makes a nice break when I'm waiting a few minutes for something on the stove or in the oven, or boiling water for tea, or when my brain is full. Even when it's desperately cold. The key to success here is: just stepping out. If I had to stop for boots and a coat, it wouldn't feel as liberating.

Pete bought me a special red shovel (my favourite colour! so sweet of him) so I can clear out a little space for myself after a snowfall. And quite often he clears one for me, which was very lucky the day a light snowfall turned to ice.

So grateful we re-stained the deck last summer. It's reassuring to know the wood is safe under all that cold and wet.

Since I took the sculpture photo, it's snowed, and now we have a giant fuzzy snow caterpillar instead:

Okay, I should think you're ready for the horror now. Are you? 

I was looking through my old Hugs from 2017, and discovered the hat I am currently not finishing was also being not finished that October:

And frankly, I don't think I've taken it very much farther from when I took this photograph five years ago. How is it possible I have had a hat on needles for five years??  And probably five and a half.

Reading through those old posts it seems like 2017 was a terrible year overall, though we did move back into the house after our lengthy renovation and had a big trip to Germany as well. On the upside, though various events at the time (breaking two fingers at the start of the year, packing and unpacking in the middle, and preparing a rental for a tenant at the end) all conspired to break me of my daily knitting habit, I did manage to get back to writing. And writing is my first love after all.

I read an article about knitting the other day, one of the type you see every so often about how knitting is a feminist or revolutionary act, or that people who knit are all united in some movement or other, and I was struck by how much I don't see it that way at all. 

Obviously it's true in some ways. Many knitters work to donate chemo caps or hats and blankets for preemie babies to hospitals, for example. But to me knitting is like cooking. Not everybody learns how to do it, but we all rely on the product of somebody's labour, unless we live in places where the only necessary clothes are woven. 

Sometimes it's relaxing, sometimes it's a creative outlet, sometimes it's a way to show love, sometimes it's simply necessary. 

There's no rule about who can do it and who can't. There are guides for people who struggle to learn. It never goes out of fashion. It's kind of a core survival activity.

So if you look at it that way, I seem to be going through a period of takeout, combined with eating from a pantry of food I put up earlier.  

Still, I hope I do end up finishing the hat before next winter comes, even if I never bother putting one on when I step out onto the deck.

Man. I never know what to expect when I get out there, but there's always something beautiful.

Hope you have something beautiful this week yourself, and that we get to spend a few minutes together again next weekend!