The Magic of Tiny Things

The Magic of Tiny Things

This weekend was a long one. It was Family Day in Ontario which meant I could spend Monday doing whatever I wanted and still get paid for it; my favourite kind of day off. My girlfriend and I had cleaned on Sunday and been out for dinner/arcade fun on Saturday, so we had Monday to relax.

As a result, I decided that I was going to make a thing. But that thing was not to be crochet or knit, oh no. This thing was to be something a little different.

A while back (I’m speaking 2012) I did an open-house class on needle-felting at my local yarn store. We made tiny cat toys. It’s a very vague memory but it made me want to try more; I just never got around to it. I have since tried needle-felting a few times on and off, but mostly I’ve just made splodges of fluffy into slightly denser splodges of fluff, so it hasn’t been much use.

This time I had an image in my head of what I wanted to make, so I made it. And now I have a tiny raccoon in my life.

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His name is George.

George may be my favourite random creation in a long time. I keep picking him up and going ‘awwww!’ and putting him back down again. Repeat ad nauseum. I love raccoons enough to get an enormous tattoo of one, so it’s not surprising I am so enamoured of this thing, but it’s not just that.

Guys, needle-felting is super satisfying. You know all that pent up rage over politics and injustice that many of us are feeling? It is INCREDIBLY THERAPEUTIC to stab something hundreds of times with a very sharp needle. Even if a few of those stabs were accidentally in your finger. Ow.

Worth it.

I have Ideas now. I want to make many little creatures. While I don’t think this is something I will do all the time like knitting, it’s certainly a good way to reset the brain and try something different.

Plus, tiny raccoon. That’s basically my entire point.

Have you guys ever tried it?

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The Return of the Crochet Bug

Today I have an announcement to make: I’ve stopped knitting. No, I’m not going back to level one, I’ve just remembered that crochet exists. After fighting with an awkwardly written but very pretty pattern (link here) I’ve started a shawl with my hook and some very pretty yarn because, well, crochet is awesome.

Sometimes I forget this. I started out with an intense love for crochet and rarely picked up the needles, preferring to keep a hook on me instead. Slowly I learned that I liked to knit more than I liked to crochet and I turned to that instead, but sometimes I make a trip back down memory lane and here I am, crocheting pretty lace.

Well, um. It’s not so pretty yet, so I can’t really share a picture. This is going to need some intense blocking when it’s done, but at least I understand the pattern now. It made my head hurt a lot when I started.

The yarn I’m using is from Blue Brick Yarns, which is one of my favourite dyers now. The colours are gorgeous. It fades from my favourite shade of blue/green into a grey, and they balance each other out well. It is soft and fun to work with too. A shawl I’m designing is made with this yarn, but that’s currently on time-out because I was knitting it at a time when I needed to stop knitting and return to level one for a while.

I can share a picture of the yarn; this is from my Instagram last Thursday when I bought it. It was destined to be socks, but it said no.

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Okay. My cat is doing her awkward slow-creep onto my arm to see if I’ll cuddle her, and since she’s damn cute I’m going to go do that. Are any of my fellow knitters bi-craftual? Do you pull out a hook all the time or just for special occasions?

Also if you do crochet and you use Instagram please let me know – I need more hookers, uh I mean crocheters on my feed!

How things are now

How things are now

I’ve found that I have levels of functioning.

At level one, I can eat three meals a day, get myself to work, and walk the dog.

At level two, I can do the above with the added bonus of healthy meals, decent effort and focus at work, and long dog walks. I can also knit, paint, create in general, and I can write small things that no one will see. I can read, though not too much.

At level three (my ideal), I can do the above with confidence, and I can read book after book on any topic. I can get my online courses done without freaking out. I can write and share that writing. I can engage with my own education and development, and I can put in lots of energy to help other people that I love do the same where it’s needed.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who works like this, but let’s just say I’m not super self-aware about my own behaviour and I’m not very compassionate about it either. I can forgive anyone else for almost anything, but I cannot forgive myself when I decide I’ve dropped the ball. Setting out my emotional/physical state into the above categories really helps because I can accept it without being mean to myself about it.

You may have guessed from this post that I’ve been at level one for a while. Basic functioning. I’ve managed to mostly stay on top of the news, though I took a few breaks. I’d say this week I’ve hiked back up to level two, and now I’m crocheting/knitting a bit here and there and reading again. I’ve been to a protest this weekend and I’ve started volunteering both for PFLAG (a local LGBTQ+ organisation) and as a reading buddy for a kid at the local library. I went to the vigil for the Quebec Mosque shooting in my town too, though that involved friendly coercion from a friend.

Knitting is one of the main ways I figure out how I’m doing. If I haven’t picked up my knitting for a while or if I recoil at the thought of it, it’s one of the first signs I should do some serious self-care before things turn bad. Knitting is one of the main ways I unwind, and if I stop doing it the chances are I’m on a bad route.

I’m curious to know if anyone else feels this way or if their slow-knitting/crocheting periods are arbitrary. I know it’s kind of personal, but when I think about deleting the post I remember that I’ve found strength in hearing people talk about their own struggles with mental health, so why shouldn’t I share in turn?

An addendum: I’m not holding myself to posting as often as I used to for now, for many of the reasons above. I’m going to post at least once a week. Anything else is a bonus. I also want to send out love to the knitting community that’s one of the best things on the internet, as proven by science. I love you all.

Polo Gets Political (to no-one’s surprise)

I want to talk about craft and activism can come together, because it’s been on my mind.

There’s a lot of talk about the role of crafts when it comes to politics, and I think it’s an important conversation to have. After all, there are a lot of people (like me, and probably like you if you’re reading this) who put a lot of stock in sitting down and making something, and it can often feel like a fantastic antidote to the world around us. It is the act of creating something and making something from scratch while it seems as though he people at the top are doing their level best to destroy.

I think that’s a beautiful thing: when destruction becomes the norm, we focus on creating.

By doing this, we reject the notion that destruction is the most important thing. Crafty people can pick up their sticks or their yarn or their clay or whatever they use and make something in the face of loss of hope. Not only does that mean there’s one more beautiful (and useful) thing in the world, but it also shows we can focus our energy into making things better instead of letting things happen. If we don’t pick up that yarn it will never be a hat.

A popular topic in the knitting world nowadays is those pink pussy hats from the Women’s March, and that’s important. Those hats made a statement and brought people together against a common enemy. However, it’s not the only version. When reading a book on adult education and activism recently I found the example of some quilters on Vancouver Island who helped stop a power plant being constructed that could harm the environment. By bringing the community together and then piecing the quilt together in a public place as part of a protest, they provided people the chance to ask questions and learn about the topic in a fluffy, harmless way which opened the eyes of many locals and helped stop a potential disaster for the area. Craft really can make a difference.

Knitting a pussy hat is not enough to turn this tide of shit, but there’s good news too: crafty people tend to congregate in groups both online and off, which means that we have the chance to share our views and motivate one another. I see it on Ravelry all the time. If you’re a member of LSG, you probably see it too (don’t look it up if you’re not!). It’s happened in every civil rights movement of the past century: groups of people come together and figure out how to make change happen. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does.

It might seem like I’m an idealist and maybe I am. That said, I’m also a realist. I know things are bad and they’re going to get worse, but I believe anything that helps people come together and focus their energy can help. It also helps that knitting (for many, including me) is a form of meditation, since we’re going to need to keep sane and calm through a lot of nonsense if we’re going to make a difference.

I wish I had something more to say about what to do next, but I’m working on it. I think the pussy hat project proves that many knitters and other crafty folk are willing to try to make a difference, and I hope that it continues. We may not be able to make a difference with one person (or one hat), but with thousands, they might shut up and listen.

The power of the pink hats

The power of the pink hats

There’s a lot going on right now, isn’t there? Somehow the USA has a large Cheeto for a President, and he’s already trying to gaslight the average person on the very easily-observable facts about the inauguration. The only good thing to come out of it was the Women’s March that spanned the globe and brought out millions of people in support of the rights that the Angry Yam is threatening to take away.

I didn’t hear about the Pussy Hat Project until too late. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, but for the three people in the world who haven’t, here’s the website.

(There are people who missed it, by the way, like this star pupil:)

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It makes me proud to be part of a community that can come together and create a symbol for an important movement basically on the fly, then make it such a big deal that people outside of the community notice.

The march was just the start, of course. There’s a lot of work to do even if we’re not in the US. Still, it’s heartening to know there is a resistance, and that resistance will not die because the President pretends it isn’t happening or outright lies about it. Though I’m still not 100% convinced I didn’t knock myself out and end up in some strange dystopian coma dream, I think this proves that knitters, along with millions of others, are ready for the fight that’s coming.

Lack of Knitting Time

Due to some circumstances changing in my life, I don’t have as much knitting time as I used to. I haven’t finished a major project I’ve been working on, and nor have I finished a hat I’m knitting for a coworker. I started a pair of socks to knit on my breaks at work just because I’m so desperate to knit socks, but in general I don’t have as much time as I used to for the knitting frenzy.

Of course, tonight is knit night which is the best night of the week (proven by Science). It is when I go hang out at my LYS with a bunch of fabulous folk making bad jokes and eating cookies. Thankfully, it’s also two hours of completely uninterrupted knitting time, which is just what I need.

Since I can’t knit too much right now, help me out. Give me my fix! What’s on your needles? A link or a picture would be greatly appreciated. Let me live vicariously through you.

Raccoon Tattoo part deux

On Saturday, I finished my raccoon tattoo. I went to Toronto (New Tribe tattoos), sat down, and let someone stab ink into my skin again. It’s a great time. The raccoon is finished, although I suspect he might need a touch up once he’s healed (I have bad skin in the winter and think that it might have lifted some of the black from before). Despite that, I’m super happy with it, and I’m definitely going back to Wes in the future.

You might remember that this was originally a cover-up. I had a cat tattoo, very simple and small, that was badly done. There were bits I never got touched up and the moon looked terrible. I loved it despite its flaws, but it was time for a change, so I finally made the decision to cover it up.

Since I love raccoons more than most North Americans could ever understand, I decided upon a big raccoon surrounded by leaves. I had only a vague vision, and my artist made it awesome. Raccoons are so smart and adaptable, and have really touching family lives; they’re very generous creatures with one another, and they’re also hilarious. Definitely hilarious.

Without further ado, here is my completed tattoo. I’m using the picture from Wes’s instagram purely because all my pictures are blurry! Please click the link to go look at his work, he’s very talented.

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From Wes.Pratt @ Instagram

Once it heals I shall take more, but I have to get through a week or so of wanting to claw my own arm off, so I’ll get back to you on the other side of itchy-healing hell. (He said it will be worse this time because of all the colour. Yay.)

In the meantime I’m going to take today to knit, since I haven’t had much of a chance for a while. Luckily knitting doesn’t bother my still-aching tattoo.

KN Reads: Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard

Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard.jpgGoodreads rating: 4.10

Something you’ve probably noticed about me: I have a soft spot for stories where teenagers try to work out where they belong in the world. In Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard we follow the difficult transitional period from child to adult of Pen, a masculine girl who struggles with her gender identity and romantic interests. Despite what might seem like a complex subject, the story is a simple coming-of-age tale that resonates across its genre.

Pen wears her brother’s clothes and spends her days hanging out with a group of guys who pretty much forget that she’s a girl. This, in times past, would probably signal a romantic comedy where one of the guys realises that Pen is a girl when she takes off her glasses/goes to prom/etc and they live happily ever after, but that tired old trope is flipped on its head here. As Pen begins falling for another girl she fights to find her place among her friends, and even deciding if they were her friends after all.

I can’t imagine a book being published like this ten years ago. Maybe not even five years ago, honestly. As our attitude toward gender opens up as much in the mainstream as it has in LGBTQ groups, stories like this come out and give a wider range of kids the chance to see themselves reflected in fiction.

One day I’ll write about why that’s so important.

For now, we’ll stick to the book itself. Pen is a lovable character, brittle and sullen a she is (after all, she is a teenager). The supporting cast feel realistic and layered rather than standing as a backdrop for Pen’s adventures, and that gives the story richness. It is a quick, easy read, but there’s a lot of emotion packed into those pages.

Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard was one of my favourite reads in 2016. If you’re a fan of queer YA books or a generally good story, keep an eye out for the striking cover at your bookstore.

Forgotten Knits

On Sunday it hit -17 degrees Celcius with windchill, so I rooted around in the closet for my snow pants in preparation for a dog walk. I could have worn tights under jeans as I usually would (I save the snowpants for -25 and below), but that would have meant taking off my pyjama bottoms. Snowpants hide them. My laziness is impressive sometimes.

I found the snowpants after some searching, but more importantly I found a box full of all my knitted items I’d stashed away when winter ended last year. There are two cowls and a shawl tucked away in there, all of which I’d completely forgotten, as well as the fancy orange shawl/cowl/thing that is still the prettiest thing I’ve ever knit.

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At first I wondered how I could forget such pretty things, but then I remembered that Ontario is humid and awful in the summer to the point where for sanity’s sake it’s best to pretend clothes as a whole don’t exist, let alone natural fibre things designed to increase your body heat.

I’ll be taking them all out and washing/blocking them for use soon.

Have you ever forgotten a bunch of your knitted items? Just me?

Yarn bowls and randomness

A while ago (maybe a year?) my lovely friend Frankie sent me a yarn bowl that’s just adorable. It has a pointy nose and little ears and it is pleasing to the touch. I use it whenever I knit at my desk, and it’s the only yarn bowl I have.

It’s interesting to me that a potter would sit down and make something like this. It’s very specific! I love that they do, though; it gives knitters something fun to use and look at, and I’ve seen some really creative examples. I’m sure some people who work with ceramics/clay are knitters themselves, or have knitters of their own. Creativity tends to overlap.

I love my yarn bowl. Do you have one? Do you use it?

For a general update on The Life of Polo: I am currently enjoying a continuation of renewed ambition that’s been building for a few months. It is aimed at all areas of my life. Over the past few days I’ve become totally overwhelmed by it to the point I began feeling like a failure in some areas and had a mini meltdown. It doesn’t help that though the Christmas holidays were fun, it was a lot of socialising and I am EXHAUSTED from all the people. I kind of want to nap for a year or so.

The fact is that I have a lot of interests. I read (a lot). I write. I am a salesperson in my working life. I knit. I crochet. I experiment with other fibrecrafts when the inspiration hits. I occasionally bind books. I journal. I do nail art. I run. I paint. I sing. I play guitar and ukulele. I try to get involved in activism. I am a plethora of random things, and that was entirely an excuse to say ‘plethora’.

Plethora.

What a great word.

Anyway, I have a vague idea of where I want my life to go now which should be determined quite soundly in whether or not I get into the MEd course I’m applying for in Adult Learning. We’ll see. In the meantime I am focusing my intense inspiration in other areas and hoping for the best.

Another random thing: for Christmas my girlfriend got us tickets to see the Matilda musical in Toronto. It was GLORIOUS. I identified heavily with Matilda as a kid; I was the weirdo who couldn’t quite connect with others around and mostly just got lost in books, so she was my idol. I loved the book and the movie a lot, and now I can say I love the musical too. I’m very grateful that my girlfriend gave me such an awesome present.

That’s a general update on me! I’m trying to be better about not getting overwhelmed by my blog, because I love it and want it to continue, and that’s a huge part because of all the wonderful people I’ve met through it.

So, wonderful people. What’s new?