Knitting socks (which actually fit)

Knitting socks (which actually fit)

Yesterday I picked up my knitting and started a new sock. It’s for a friend from yarn they bought. I have their foot measurements already, so I did a gauge swatch (I know, shocking for me!) and figured out the maths of the whole thing. This is much, much more organised than I usually am in sock knitting, but there’s a reason for it: if I’ve worked it out right, they’ll actually fit my friend.

In the past I’ve been lax about this, bizarrely. I’m a bit of a lax person when it comes to fine details anyway, so it’s not a shock that it transferred over to my knitting. Relaxed, that’s what I am. That sounds a lot better than ‘absent-minded and all over the place’. Sometimes I’ve knitted socks that barely fit my foot and are too loose around the leg, but I don’t care. I kept them, I wear them. I’m stubborn that way, and I still love my creations.

However, it is possible to make socks that actually fit, and I learnt that last year.

I think I mentioned that my friend and I went to a class with Kate Atherley at The Purple Purl. We turned up late because Toronto traffic is evil but even in that time we learnt so much.

Kate Atherley has very strong feelings on socks. I respect that. She showed us how to measure our feet and what gauge to aim for and what yarn is best for socks. By the end of the night I was so inspired by the awesomeness that is knitting and maths that I went out and designed my own shawl – not sure how that is what my brain took out of it, but you can’t account for the little grey cells.

If you want to learn about this magic and set your knitting brain aflame, you should check out Kate Atherley’s book Custom Socks: Knit to Fit Your Feet. No, this is not a sponsored post; I do not yet even own this book, though it’s on my wishlist and one day I shall have it, it shall be mine, my precioussss. However, I’ve had enough looks at it to know that it’s incredibly useful.

Even better, it’s logical thinking that’s tricked my illogical mind into actually planning ahead when knitting something. Sometimes. Okay, occasionally at best, but it’s a start.

Do you use unmodified patterns for socks or do you do your own thing to make it fit perfectly?

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Relaxing. Lots of it.

Last week my girlfriend and I took a week off to do, well, nothing. The weird thing is that I had plans to do all sorts of crafty/writing-related things and did none of them. I don’t regret it; it was really nice to just vegetate and not think about anything at all, not even what to knit.

I also bought a cactus. His name is Frank. This is because he is big and prickly, like Frank Castle (AKA The Punisher).

Now I’m knitting small baby things, none of which can be posted here. Instead, have a picture of Frank. You’re welcome.

Hi Frank.

GeorgeCactus

Why I use a bullet journal: flexibility over perfection

Why I use a bullet journal: flexibility over perfection

It’s the (not so) new thing. Normally I’m not one for trends (I’m too oblivious for that) but I came across the bullet journal online somewhere and decided it was something I had to try. I don’t like starting things at the start of a new year but in this case, the timing was right and I bought myself a journal and off I went.

A lot of people wonder why it’s any different from any other kind of journal. I’ll try to explain why it works for me and, since I am me, how it is helping me stay creative in my knitting and my writing. I’d be really interested to know if any of you use this method and how it’s working for you, too.

What is a bullet journal?

Created by Ryder Carroll, a bullet journal is a very simple system to track behaviours both in the short and the long term. The notebook and materials are unimportant to the method; you could do this with whatever you have on hand. I’d recommend watching the video on the site above if you’ve never heard of it.

The reason it’s so appealing is that it’s adaptable. I don’t use many of the rules that Ryder Carroll created but that’s okay. The point is that it’s a great system to use as a foundation for whatever you want to do.

People use it for all sorts of things and use all sorts of layouts. The fun part is figuring out what works for you and adapting it on a day to day basis until it’s the best tool for your wacky mind. You can make it as simple or as complicated as you want because it’s all for you, and that’s what got me obsessed.

What tools do I use?

As I said, you can use whatever you have on hand. However, I use anything at all as an excuse to buy a decent notebook because I am a stationery FIEND. Seriously, I have a problem.

KN Bullet JournalThe Leuchtturm1917 is the most fashionable of bullet journals. They’ve even teamed up to make a specific Bullet Journal, adapted for the system, but I don’t use that. I use a basic Leuchtturm1917 in the ’emerald’ colour. It’s really more of a pale turquoise. It has an index at the start and page numbers which makes it perfect for tracking what you’re doing, and it also has two (two!) ribbons to keep your place.

Since the start I’ve used my Faber Castell artist pens, the sepia set. I’ve used these for doodling for years and now they’re my favourite. They don’t smudge easily and the brown makes me happier than boring old black. I use the Faber Castell in superfine, fine, or medium for almost all of my actual writing in my journal.

Recently I discovered the Crayola marker set. This is a set of 100 markers for about $15 which have more colours than I will ever need and, more importantly, don’t bleed through the page like my more expensive Copic markers. I tend to pick two each month and keep them in my pencil case, then I can pretend to be deliberately coordinated when I make my layouts.

Even more recently I’ve started using a Paper Mate Flair set of felt tip pens. They were on sale when I was buying something else, and I love them. They’re crisp and bright and great for writing out titles and such. Plus there’s a nice range of colours, not just your standard. Again, they don’t bleed through; this is important to me.

My friend who started at the same time as me in his bullet journal gave me a few of his pens that he didn’t want. They’re ‘Artist’s Loft’ pens; weirdly I cannot find anything like them on Amazon, so I assume he summoned them out of thin air. I have a teal, purple, and red one. I don’t think they’re expensive but I use them a lot for trackers and such.

Knitter Nerd Bullet Journal: pencil case

Other things I use include my pencil case and washi tape (which is just decorated masking tape).

I also use literally whatever is laying around because I’m a magpie.

How do I use my bullet journal?

When I started out, I got a bit carried away. I wrote out an entire month of daily spreads. This, as it turns out, does not work for how my mind likes to do things; it’s too constrained and doesn’t let me have the flexibility that I need. Plus it didn’t look as nice as I thought it would.

Halfway through the month I realised I hated it and decided to call those pre-written pages a loss and skip ahead. I started doing a daily spread every day instead, which was inspired by Boho Berry.

Knitter Nerd Bullet Journal: daily spreads
Left: original set up. Right: this week.

This works much better for me. It’s flexible, I can use as much or as little space as I need, and I can change up the decoration whenever I feel like it. As you can see, I do that often.

I’ve also started using dots instead of the squares I used originally, which makes my initial ‘Key’ page entirely moot. That’s okay though, because it’s working really well for me.

On top of the daily pages, I now use a weekly spread to organise my thoughts. I have a monthly thing at the start of each month too, but I haven’t used that much. I like to track on a weekly/daily basis and see what I have in store. I don’t have any kind of future log, despite the fact that’s one of the main features of the bullet journal system. See? You take what you need and leave the rest, it’s adaptable.

Knitter Nerd Bullet Journal: weekly/monthly trackers

As for other spreads, I like to track my mood against my habits. I tried a habit tracker that you colour in each day but that didn’t do it for me; leaving a blank square felt like failure, and made me miss it more often. I can’t be so specific, it bums me out. So I use a graph, again inspired by Boho Berry (she is the queen) and it’s fascinating to see my energy and anxiety levels move around. (I have anaemia right now so it’s all a bit of a mess, and last month’s tracker is hilarious because of it. But it’s also not here. Sorry!)

Knitter Nerd Bullet Journal: running and books

I also like to track the books I read each month and other distractions to see my habits that way. My running tracker is one of my favourite pages; it’s to keep me running even when I don’t feel like it, though the current spat with anaemia has slowed me down temporarily on that front.

What about the crafty stuff?

Since about 57% of my thoughts are on crafts at any one time, I figured I should use my bullet journal to match up to that. I have my Socktopus which I am going to use to track my sock-knitting through the year; I haven’t finished a pair yet, but mojo has been low. That’s on its way to changing.

Knitter Nerd Bullet Journal Details

I also have a page to track what I’ve made for a potential craft fair table later in the year, but that’s off to a slow start so I’m not sure if it’s going to work. I’ll share at another time if it does.

Since the square-filling-in trackers don’t work well for me, I decided to set out my monthly goals (including creative ones) in a way that will let me see how close to my target I get each month. Then I can work on improving it until I have real consistency. It’s working well for me and I can adapt it as I go.

On top of this, I have a bunch of pages I use for tracking my progress in writing and finances, but that’s not really relevant here.

Flexibility over perfection

Obviously I love using a bullet journal. It’s quick and easy, it’s adaptable, it gives me an excuse to buy all of the stationery. I have a lot of pens now. Like, a lot. Which isn’t actually new but now I use them even more.

The best thing about trying out a bullet journal is that you can figure out how to make it work for you. I use mine to force myself into flexibility when often I can be rigid about my own mistakes. I don’t like failing, so I end up never using things that I’ve done ‘wrong’. With a bullet journal, adapting it on a monthly/daily basis is part of the point, so it makes my mind give up on that perfectionist thing.

Plus if I do something wrong I can just tape over it with washi tape. (I do that a lot.)

Coming up: a post on my favourite bullet journalers to help you get some inspiration.

If you have a bullet journal, what do you like best about it? Do you use it in a similar way to me? Do you have any tips on how to use it for crafty things? Enquiring minds need to know!

International Women’s Day 2017

When we talk about knitting culture, there’s the assumption that it’s a feminine space. Having been a part of various knitting groups from 2010 onwards across four towns/cities and two continents, I’ve got a good sample size to work with, and yes, the majority of the people are women. It seems appropriate then to celebrate International Women’s Day as a part of the knitting community.

Honestly, the whole need for the day is depressing. The fact we need a day on the calendar to remember that women are people too and that feminism is necessary… that doesn’t make me a happy camper. But considering everything that’s going on right now it’s also a really necessary thing, and it’s good to focus people. I’m sure I’m not the only one starting to feel tired of it all, but this isn’t a fight we can abandon.

I don’t just mean women, either. Men need to be a part of this, and other genders too. We’re all equally important.

Though knitting hasn’t always been a feminine thing everywhere, it is considered it today. When I knit, people see me as a girly girl (I am not) or an old woman (I am not). However, when you step outside of the stereotypes of the outside world, the knitting community has one of the most accepting, loving attitudes I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t matter who you are, you’re welcome in the majority of the groups I’ve been to and most of the forums online that I’ve seen.

We need that. We need acceptance of ourselves and others. That’s what I see in International Women’s Day, so let’s celebrate it.


 

To celebrate in a more general way, I’m now going to include a list of three women who have inspired me in my life, and a little about what they mean to me. It’s amazing to have so many role models and to have people actively trying to get women’s names from history (and from today!) into the mainstream, masculine-dominated culture, so I figure I should share as well.

Frida Kahlo

Block_Kahlo_Rivera_1932
“Block Kahlo Rivera 1932” by Carl Van Vechten. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Yes, I’m starting with an obvious one. I’ve written about why she inspires me before, but here’s the gist of it: she turned her pain into art. No matter what happened to her, she just kept creating amazing things.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This fabulous author has been a vocal participant in today’s intersectional debates, and I love her. Even before I realised how awesome she is I was a big fan of her books. If you don’t know much about her, go look at the TED Talk she did on the danger of a single story, read her ‘We Should All Be Feminists‘ book, or watch her dismantle a racist idiot from a few weeks ago (above). Oh, and here’s a recent interview I just found where she continues to be a huge inspiration.

Kameron Hurley

KameronHurley.png

This author is, well, a little different. The books she puts out there are like nothing I’ve ever read before. I started with The Mirror Empire and its sequel, Empire Ascendant. After that, I read Geek Feminist Revolution. That should give you an idea of why I like her. Then last month I read The Stars Are Legion which is a science fiction book with zero men in it, and is apparently one big metaphor for abortion. Kameron Hurley does not do things in an expected way and even when she makes you uncomfortable (or totally grossed out), her work is fascinating.

Which women inspire you?

Exciting plans afoot

There’s something exciting happening.

I’ve been wanting to talk about this on the blog for a while but didn’t want to speak too soon and see it not happen. It looks as though we’re all set up for the event, so now I can let you guys know what I’ve got planned.

At the end of this month, I have helped set up a craft and social group with the local Islamic Centre/mosque. It’s going to be an informal thing here in Oshawa where we sit and chat and knit/craft while breaking down social barriers.

I had the idea after I went to a vigil for the Quebec mosque shooting early this year. The imam spoke of islamophobia and how they face it every day, and I could see how it was going to get so much worse and a lot of the ignorance comes from these lines we put up in society that say you should only interact with certain people. At a distance, anyone can seem scary because you only rely on stereotypes and rumours. Sitting down with other people and getting to know them is the only way to overcome this. It’s a form of education that’s incredibly easy and fun, so I thought: I should try to do that.

Of course, my mind went to craft because I love it, and because I think it’s a really good way to bring people together. After all, it’s how I found a place in Ontario when I moved here from England, and I think it’s a great way to meet and understand new people/cultures. Though England isn’t that different from Canada I still suffered from an insane amount of culture shock at the beginning but through going every week to my knitting group I understand everything a lot better now, and I have some wonderful friends to show for it.

With that in mind I sent a clumsy, awkward email to the mosque asking if they would be interested in something like that, and after a back-and-forth for a couple of weeks I met up with a lovely woman at the mosque. We chatted for a while and talked over what we could do. We’re going to run the group at the end of March, though we don’t have a set date just yet, and I’m really excited about it.

Ever since Trump was elected I realised that I can’t just think about doing things any more: I have to get past my fear of getting outside my comfort zone and act. Fortunately, I’m in a place emotionally/physically where I can do that now, so I have forced myself past the discomfort and it feels awesome. It’s such a small thing but it’s something.

If you’re thinking of doing something like this, I really think it’s worthwhile. And if I can help you in any way, please let me know. Even if you just wanna talk about it. I’m determined to make small changes in the world because I truly believe that grassroots movements are the only way for lasting change, so I’d be happy to speak with others who feel the same way.

Maybe I’m just an idealist, but at least I’m not the only one.

Project Hibernation: It works

Project Hibernation: It works

I finished a shawl a few weeks ago. It was fun, and it is my first self-designed shawl, but I finished it and decided I didn’t like it. The shape was wrong and the pattern didn’t look right and I decided that I would rip back a few inches to redo it, but put it down instead and forgot about it.

Fast forward a few weeks and I’m cleaning out my ‘office’ (which is really just a desk in the corner of a spare room) and I find the aforementioned shawl. Turns out… it doesn’t suck. Not at all. I held it up, went ‘huh’ a few times, then decided to block it to see what happened.

What happened is that I’ve got a shawl that I really, really love. It’s beautiful, guys. It’s simple and just a little bit weird and the yarn works so well with it.

I’m sick at the moment so I’m not up to taking artistic photos so I’ll save that for another day. For now you can take a peek at a preview of it while I get around to weaving in the ends.

Turns out that leaving a project in a random heap for a month or more does wonders for perspective.

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.

george2

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?

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.

sawks.PNG

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.