Monday, May 25, 2020

Same day, different knit: Coping with quarantine*

“Barley Light” baby hat in progress
Some days are easier than others. But I’ve been doing a few things that seem to help, so I thought I’d share them with you. (If you’re still there — and, if you are: Thank you!)
  • Take a shower and get dressed every day. Just jeans and T-shirts. No fancy make-up. I don’t know why this makes me feel so much better less depressed about everything that’s happening in the world, but it does. So I do it.
  • Walking the dog. Exercise is good. Doing it with a friend is even better. But doing it with a big-hearted dog who finds joy in simple pleasures like rolling on the lawn? Perfect.
  • Meditation. Seriously. I got into it a few years ago, and it’s made all the difference. When I’m not in the mood to tackle it alone, when I want company, or when I want to learn or practice a new technique, I use the Ten Percent Happier app. Love it.
  • Rest/Water/Vitamins and No Sugar. Good food is important, but not always doable right now. I try, but often fall back on vegan protein bars and shakes. (Garden of Life’s chocolate plant-based protein drink is delicious.) I look for sugar-free, because sugars of all kinds really ruin my mood. To boost my energy and immune system, I take lots of vitamins, and drink tons of water. Sleeping always helps, too — if you can tolerate the crazy quarantine dreams.
  • Writing. For my #1462PoemsProject. For pay. For fun. For no reason at all. I always find solace in writing. When I lost two people close to me this January and February, writing about it helped me access the emotions I’m prone to covering up with chronic busyness. Take a look at Writing Down the Bones by Nathalie Goldberg for inspiration. 
  • Now and then, do something for someone else. Send some flowers. Cook them dinner. Write a note in a pretty card and mail it. Or turn your knitting skills to good charitable use. (In the photo is a baby-sized Barley Light hat — pattern by Tin Can Knits — which I intend to donate when COVID-19 is under control and donations are accepted again. Yarn is a deepest-of-the-deep-stash skein of Shalimar Zoe Sock.)

These are some of the things helping me get through the pandemic. I’m far from perfect, and often let one or two slip. But what I’m shooting for here is a healthy, balanced structure for those stretches of days that can feel a bit...amorphic. I’m hoping you might find something here that comforts or inspires you.

Now, tell me, because I truly do want to know: How are you doing? And what’s helping you and yours get through these challenging times?

* Maybe sheltering at home or social distancing would have been more accurate, but I like alliteration.

Re: Links. I’m not an affiliate — just a fan. 


Tuesday, November 05, 2019

FO Update: Love Note Sweater

Ah, the ubiquitous Love Note. This ultra-popular sweater pattern from designers Alexa Ludeman and Emily Wessel—the duo of design geniuses behind Tin Can Knits—swept through the knitting community like a fluffy storm when first released in May 2019. Six months (and almost 1500 Ravelry projects) later, it’s still going strong. 

I cast on my version on September 29, and considered it “finished-finished-finished" (to borrow from the “Knitmore Girls”) on October 20.* So, three weeks. It might have been done sooner had I not put it on time-out for five or six days while I stressed out about sleeve and body length. More on that later…

In addition to being fun to make, this sweater liberated some “vintage” yarn from my stash, which feels Oh, so satisfying. The pattern calls for two strands, a fingering-weight wool and a lace-weight mohair/silk blend, which you hold together throughout.  
I used Dream in Color “Baby” (lace/light-fingering weight, 100% superwash Merino, now-discontinued ) in the November Muse colorway, a tonal chocolate brown with navy and burgundy speckles. Holding this together with Rowan Kidsilk Haze in Liqueur yielded a rich, wine color that’s exactly what I wanted. And the fabric is so soft and fuzzy I can hardly stop petting it. 

The fit and style of the finished sweater are terrific, but the jury’s still out on a couple of issues that have nothing at all to do with the perfectly-written pattern and everything to do with my own personal preferences: 
  1. Kidsilk Haze sometimes sheds and irritates my nose and eyes. My hope is that holding it together with another yarn will offset that tendency. I’ve worn it a couple of times and it’s been OK, so far. So…fingers crossed.
  1. Despite lengthening the body and sleeves by several inches, it still feels a bit short. The sweater is meant to be cropped, but I want a lower hem, and like my wrists to be covered when it's cold out.

Regarding the length: Right off the blocking wires, the fit was perfect, but the fabric seems to be floofing back up again (a technical term). A Google search while I was knitting revealed that superwash wool grows approximately 17 - 20% when washed and worn, though, so I’ll give the yarn a while to relax. I’d really, really, really like to avoid undoing the bind-off (JSSBO) and ribbing to extend the hem, as mohair is a major pain to unravel!
If I could go back and give some advice to Past Me, only change I'd make would be to skip the provisional cast-on in the beginning, use a stretchy CO of some sort, and just start with the neckline ribbing. A few knitters on Ravelry did this, and were happy with the results. 

Or, if I wanted to stick with what the pattern recommends, I'd do the provisional CO the traditional way (holding the live stitches on waste yarn). For this sweater, I worked the cast-on over a circular needle, which is great in theory, but a little tricky when you go back to pick up dual strands of fingering and laceweight mohair/silk. 

The Love Note pattern itself is wonderful—simple, quick to knit, clearly written, and size-inclusive (yay!)—the way Tin Can Knits patterns tend to be. It might be fun to knit one up in a DK-weight yarn. Something with a little alpaca blended in would be cozy, with just enough fuzz to blur the edges, without being super-fluffy. 
Please...just look at the sweater!
I do apologize for the sketchy images. My apartment has a nice view, but it is so dark! Someday soon, before Winter really sets in, I’ll ask a friend to help me get some nicer FO photos in natural light. 

*For the uninitiated, finished-finished-finished means a project is off the needles, blocked, and has all the ends woven in. If buttons or a zipper are involved, those would have to be done, too. In other words, as finished as you can possibly make it. And if you're looking for something to listen to while you knit, the Knitmore Girls' podcast is good fun, and has a backlog of 500+ episodes!


Friday, October 25, 2019

Blanket Weather! (Crocheted ripples and granny stripes)

Crocheted Ripple Blanket
The first blanket I ever crocheted took almost two years, off-and-on, to make. I started it when I moved back to Maryland in 2015, and wove in the final ends in 2017. 

Feeling desperate for cheerful colors at the time, I chose a basic ripple pattern and picked up a rainbow’s worth of Baby Bee Sweet Delight, a DK/sport-weight yarn from a big-box store I usually try to avoid. Honestly? The color choices offered in this line were terrific. And, for an acrylic yarn, it was surprisingly nice to work with. 

The fabric is just right for napping under on a summer afternoon, or for layering over other blankets in spring and fall. And it’s so bright and happy looking, it lifts my mood all year long.

Now, sometimes man-made fibers can turn harsh and crispy when laundered, so I chose not to wash or block the finished project right away. After many, many cat-and-dog naps, though, I just couldn't avoid it (nor did I want to). 

Nervously, I ran my blanket through the delicates cycle with a little detergent and a splash of white vinegar. Then I put it in a cool dryer for half an hour, and let it finish drying over a rack. And...the blanket stayed nice and soft! Charley gave it his seal-of-approval, so you know it feels good.
Granny Stripes Blanket
Fast forward to October 2019. Our weather is feeling really autumnal, now, and the leaves are finally starting to turn. This week, it was chilly enough indoors that I pulled out the Granny Stripes Blanket I started last year, and finished a few (long) rows. 

I just love the rhythm of crocheting swathes of colorful woolly stripes, especially since I started using Clover Amour hooks. The grips are comfortable, and the tips catch the yarn perfectly. In fact, I liked them so much that I eventually got rid of almost every non-Amour hook I owned. (I'm not an affiliate...just a fan!)

Granny Stripes patterns are a great way to use up gobs of the fingering/sock-yarn scraps I accumulated over the years, as well as a few gorgeous colors from my lovely friend Denise and her mom. You can find several variations on the theme, but I used Attic 24's for inspiration. 
Admittedly, making a blanket with lightweight yarn is a labor of love. It won't be done anytime soon, but a lot of wonderful memories have been crocheted in, and it's the perfect project to pick up when you want something simple and mindless to keep your hands busy. 

When warm weather rolls around, though, this is one project that definitely goes on hiatus. After all, who wants to climb under a pound of wool and work on a giant afghan in the infamous Mid-Atlantic heat and humidity? 


Monday, October 14, 2019

Meet Hester: A mini-review of my Schacht Sidekick spinning wheel

Hello! I'm back. I'll spare you the boring apologies and excuses for my long absence. 
Let's just give this another try, shall we? 
I've been knitting and spinning up a storm (instead of blogging, perhaps?), and have lots to talk about. For today, let's chat about the little, second-hand Schacht Sidekick spinning wheel I bought (a few years ago). 

One of the hardest decisions I made while living in Washington State was to sell my beloved Kromski Sonata to help fund my move back to the DC/Maryland area. (The yearly 9-month rainy season made me SAD, and, despite being a native San Franciscan, I never did kick my homesickness for the East Coast.) 

I found a lovely buyer, though, who told me the wheel helped her get through some really tough times, so I like to think it was meant to be. 

Eventually, I returned to Maryland, where one of my first goals was to get a new wheel. A brief search turned up a good deal on a used Schacht Sidekick (via Etsy). I’d been tantalized by Schacht’s Sidekick and Ladybug wheels for a few years, and, despite my love for the Sonata, this seemed like a good time to try something new.
Before I go on, let me say: Schacht wheels are amazing in their quality and engineering. And the Sidekick is super-portable, lightweight, relatively simple to collapse (I seldom do this), and offers a unique style and pop of color that I love. 

Still…I really miss my Sonata. 

One issue I’ve noticed is that the Sidekick is a tiny bit shorter. I’m 5’7” (not supermodel-tall, but not short, either), and find myself slouching a little when I use this wheel. That’s probably 100% mindset, and not something I actually need to do, but I did find the Sonata’s higher orifice more comfortable for my spinning style. 

Also, I kind of miss having the wheel facing me side-on, because it helped me keep track of the direction of twist I’m putting into the fiber. Again, this isn’t a deal breaker, and is probably just a matter of minor brain adjustments. But, if I’m being honest, this is something I feel visually-oriented buyers may want to consider.  
What I love about the Sidekick: 
  • The wide treadles, which make it so easy to get comfortable
  • The well-planted way she sits, never rocking or shifting, despite her overall small footprint (which makes this a perfect wheel for apartments)
  • The whispery-smooth, nearly-silent spinning action (except on the rare occasion when I forget to oil her, when she knocked gently, to nudge me)
  • The large amount of yarn I can squeeze onto her standard-size bobbins
  • The incredibly responsive settings—a hair’s breadth adjustment makes a major difference in take-up
My wheel’s previous owner, an alpaca breeder, “branded” the treadles with a wood-burner to prevent theft at fiber festivals. When she mentioned it, and from the photos I saw, I didn’t think I’d mind at all. However…I find myself a tiny bit annoyed that whoever did the job was inexperienced, and botched it slightly. 

After closer inspection, I also found a few drips in the stain they applied. But, my perfectionistic tendencies can result in some seriously-toxic stress, and these are very minor (and, ultimately, correctable) cosmetic issues that don’t affect how the wheel works. So, I decided not to say anything, and just get on with my spinning.
Ever the anthropomorphizer, I named my wheel Hester, after the heroine in Nathaniel Hawthorn’s novel, The Scarlet Letter. Hester Prynne bore the injustice of her “mark of shame” with courage, and, despite the odds, went on to build a life for herself (thus thumbing her nose a bit at the Patrimony). 

After all she went through, I felt this little Sidekick deserved a cool namesake. 

In the end, I really do love spinning on this beautiful, well-designed wheel. And, while I would still love to have a Kromski Sonata, it’s unlikely that I'll ever find it in my heart to sell Hester. 

Instead, maybe someday I’ll find a used Sonata calling my name, and become a two-wheel spinner. Stranger things have happened. 

*Links in this post are provided for information only, and are not affiliate links.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Rainbow in a box

I spent the last few weeks (on and off) organizing my embroidery threads from a huge bird's nest, to this... 

Some I've purchased, but most are gifts and hand-me-downs. All are beautiful! 

After more than two months without a single clear day, their sunny brightness is a little dose of happiness. I can't stop looking at them.


Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Lace (Poem 218)

Brilliant as a Bahamian 
beach, sinuous as a flute 
in a Mozart concerto,
glossy silk unfurls 
and furls patiently, 
a whisper guided by 
a dream and a gentle touch. 

(c) 2013, by Hannah Six


Sunday, November 03, 2013

Winter Verse (#215!)

It's winter 
     And my toes are cold
It's winter
     And the coffee's brewed
It's winter
     And the does grow bold
Searching for a meal
Where sweet green grass once grew

It's winter 
     And the frost has formed
It's winter
     And the fire's bright
It's winter 
     And your hands are warm
In the brown wool gloves
I knit for you last night

(c) 2013, by Hannah Six


Monday, October 21, 2013


Unblocked. Can you see the sparkles?

*Not-Quite-Finished Object