I Love a Good Yarn

Yarn, stories, and sometimes stories about yarn

Yesterday I wrote about crafting for a cause, and how the generally supportive, generous nature of crafting communities lends itself so well to charitable efforts. That idea was spurred by the New York Times article I cited that discussed the needs of wildlife rescue organizations for warm coverings for both its animals and care-givers. The other article I read yesterday that really got me thinking was this one about using paper planners or calendars versus digital tools (it’s currently the #9 “most emailed” article on the New York Times website).

I’m very much a proponent of paper planners. I have a beautiful calendar book from Peter Pauper Press (the one with the kitties on the cover, of course) that I always have either next to me on my desk, or in my bag when I’m away from home. I’ve never warmed to digital calendars, like the Google or Outlook tools. I use Outlook for work, as that’s how we plan meetings with colleagues, but every appointment, dinner, movie, vacation, class or concert I plan in my personal life gets logged in the paper calendar. I can easily see my whole week (so I know when I’m overbooking myself), make lots of notes and stay on top of things I need to remember. I even like scratching out things I decide not to do or that need to be rescheduled. The digital calendars have always struck me as cold and judgmental. Moving appointments around is a hassle on my little iPhone screen, and those tiny slots on the calendar don’t tell me all I need to know without tapping the screen numerous time (which often leads to my deleting important entries by accident). I’m sure that judgmental thing is just my neuroses talking, but I’m wondering if there’s more to it than that, and if there’s some correlation to being a crafter.

In other areas of my life, I really don’t mind that technology has infiltrated. I’m writing this blog online on my MacBook Pro. I use Scrivener software for my longer-form writing. It would never occur to me to write on a typewriter or by hand when drafting a novel. I even self-published my first novel as an ebook, and have only fleetingly considered putting out a paper edition. But when it comes to crafting, with very few exceptions, I greatly prefer analog to digital.

Yes, of course, there is Ravelry, which is a wonderful tool for finding patterns, reviewing projects and connecting with other fiber enthusiasts. But, I think it’s the very tactile nature of knitting and crochet, and sewing and quilting for that matter, that makes so many of us a bit technology-averse. I love all the wonderful knitting gadgets, like interchangeable circular needles, Norwegian knitting thimbles, fanciful stitch markers and the like. But when it comes to any sort of digital gadget or tool, like battery-operated row counters, online color work chart tools or sweater pattern generators, I really want no part. And for that matter, I’ve never known anyone to use such things. Quite the opposite really–I find that, the more experienced the craft person, the more he or she is interested in getting into more of the low-tech aspects of the craft, such as the avid knitter taking up spinning, dying or even deciding to raise sheep or alpacas.

So, along with our compassionate side, I find crafters are also much more comfortable with things and activities that may be considered by some to be old-fashioned, outdated or even a bit Luddite in nature. But that’s just another aspect of the community that I find so very appealing.

The crafting community is known for providing an open and welcoming environment to all who are interested in joining. I’ve found knitters to be some of the most hospitable and warm people you could ever meet. It wasn’t surprising then when I ran across this New York Times article from Christmas Eve about the need for blankets for orphaned baby elephants in Myanmar and what one particular group is doing to help. The region has been experiencing uncharacteristically cold temperatures. As many of these animals come to the rescue organizations in already compromised conditions due to neglect, abuse or having to fend for themselves without their mothers (most of whom have fallen victim to poachers), the colder temperatures have put them at even greater health risks.

Enter Blankets for Baby Rhinos, founded in 2016 by Sue Brown. The organization coordinates the delivery of hand-knit and hand-crocheted items to wildlife rescue organizations for both the animals and their caretakers. Becoming a donor is easy–simply search for the group on Facebook, request to join the group and, once you’ve been accepted, view their guidelines for crafting and shipping your hand-crafted items.

Many knitters I know are also animal lovers. I’ve tried in the past to carve out weekend time to volunteer at a farm animal rescue organization in the next county, but the 45-minute drive each way and four-hour shift was more than I could could manage with the demands of my household chores and errands and the like. But, as is the case with many of knitting friends, I want to spend a fair chunk of my free time in activities that add meaning to my life (which, let’s be honest, my job does not provide) while somehow also improving the lives of others. This group is ideal in that my efforts will help animals in need while also feeding my desire to knit during every spare moment of every day. If you are an animal lover and a yarn crafter, I highly recommend joining this group and lending your skills to comfort these animals.

The east coast of the United States is anxiously waiting to see what this newest winter storm will actually bring–if it’s just hype, or the real deal this time. I’m ready for any eventuality (except loss of power–that would be a real drag), whether it’s a bomb cyclone, polar vortex or just some run-of-the-mill bombogenesis. I love a good winter storm. I work at home, so though I don’t get the childlike rush of a snow day, I do get to stay safe and sound in my house, off the slippery streets and out of the bone-chilling cold.

And just in time, my newest cozy spot in the house is just about finished.

new office

What had once was a closet is now a very functional and comfortable office/guest room/lounge. It’s also got the benefit of being on the second floor, so even when the downstairs is chilly due to our negative temperatures (that’s on the Fahrenheit scale–crazy negative on the Celsius scale), this room is warm and inviting. It just needs some art on the walls and more yarn on the shelves.

Happy snowstorm knitting to everyone on the U.S. east coast!

Did any of you feel like this when rushing to finish up your holiday gift knitting? I managed to get all of mine done on time, though the Christmas 2016 project list was not that ambitious. I completed this Pittsburgh Steelers-style hat for my brother based on the shape of this Stephen West pattern and the color pattern of this aptly named “Go Steelers” hat. It came out pretty good, though I did end up with some visible ladders at the intersection of the double-pointed needles. I was careful to give a good firm tug as I passed from needle to needle, but I’m thinking I may have tugged too hard, leaving the stitches before and after that joining stitch a bit too lax. But, the hat was well-received, so I’m pleased overall.

The other gifts were four scarves in different colors for friends from Wales who were visiting over the holidays and had rarely encountered temperatures as cold as the ones we’ve been having in the Hudson Valley. The pattern was the simple yet very satisfying Easy Mistake Rib Scarf, which knitted up incredibly quickly using Cascade Yarns Pacific Chunky–I was able to finish one of them in a weekend when on the train to and from New York City. Unfortunately, there are no photos of them (and I’m hoping they’re firmly around their recipients’ necks now that these folks are traipsing around Niagara Falls!), but I will be using the leftovers of each color to make myself a scarf, which will always remind me of the lovely time spent with dear friends. I can highly recommend the pattern and the yarn, which knitted up well and provides some nice warmth due to the wool content, while still being easy to care for (wash and dry in the machine) because of the acrylic content.

Once the gift knitting was done, I dove into a long-awaited project for myself–the Bare Branches sweater.

bare branches sweater 2

I bought the yarn at the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival back in 2015 and am thrilled to finally be getting around to working with it. It’s Sonoma by Briar Rose Fibers, a booth many who’ve visited Rhinebeck may be familiar with, as it’s always packed to the rafters with eager knitters. Though I’m not usually a fan of sweaters that need to be seamed in multiple spots (the back, two front panels, and sleeves are all done separately, while the hood is knit off the back and shoulders), this project looked too beautiful to pass up. It’s from Botanical Knits 2: Twelve More Inspired Designs To Knit And Love, which is well worth adding to your pattern book collection (along with the first book in the series, both by Alana Dakos, the talented woman behind the Never Not Knitting blog and podcast).

Started on Christmas Eve, the leafless tree motif seemed the perfect fit for the beginning of what promises to be a long, cold winter.

bare branches sweater

… that is the question a lot of us are asking ourselves today. This year I’m choosing to set only those goals I feel I can really achieve. I weighed the various options, checked them all for gauge (couldn’t resist the knitting analogy), and found only a couple really fit the bill. These were the goals I rejected:

  • Walk the equivalent of a marathon every week
  • Do yoga every morning
  • Hit the activity goal set on my fitness tracker every single day
  • Do online French lessons at least three times a week (an hour each session)
  • Meditate every day
  • Read at least 30 books this year

Why did I reject them? They’re all too ambitious, they’re all linked somehow to the broader goal of self-improvement and they all carry with them an abundance of guilt should I fall short of the goal. And I would fall short of these goals. I believe that, when making resolutions and setting goals, we all beat ourselves up way too much when we don’t live up to our own expectations. We’re our own worst critics. I don’t want goals that are going to make me feel more on edge, rushed or frazzled. I want goals that make me feel happy, content and fulfilled. So, these are the ones I came up with:

  • Write something at least once a day (blog post, an entry on 100words.com, a letter to a friend, make progress on my second novel)
  • More often than not, when faced with a choice between healthy and unhealthy, choose healthy

That second goal covers the whole self-improvement/self-care spectrum. In restaurants or when eating at home, I’ll try my best to choose something with nutritional value over something easy or comforting, if easy and comforting are unhealthy. In the evening, I’ll either do something creative or active, rather than spending endless hours in front of the TV watching “Big Bang Theory” reruns on TBS. But it also means saying no when that’s what I truly want to do–no to invitations when I’d rather be at home reading or writing, no to changing plans to accommodate others, thereby inconveniencing myself. It also means speaking my mind, rather than keeping feelings bottled up, being myself and not trying to change who I am to impress others. It means being smart about money. The word “mindful” is overused, but it pretty well summarizes that second goal–I’ll think more about my words, actions and behavior and do the right thing, the healthy thing, the compassionate thing and the thing that will bring me contentment more often than the thing that brings momentary (and most often fleeting) satisfaction.

Happy New Year to you all. May you discover what makes you truly happy this year and have it in abundance.

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