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2016 Recap: Well, I Made it Out the Other Side.


Normally I recap my previous year's goals in January, and then set new ones for the coming year, and off I go about my merry way. I recognize that it is February. Welcome to the theme of my 2016.

2016 was really fucking difficult, and not just because we were subjected to the US election. It was the year I went back to work after 6 years as a stay at home mum. The year that job turned out to be an increasingly toxic and depressing environment, so I made a risky play and ended up running the company, working overtime literally every day since. It was the year my hubby beat cancer. It was the year my dad did not beat cancer.

So now I'm a workaholic and I really miss my dad. I totally lost myself for a couple months at a time, a couple of times. Cumulatively it was a lot of months. But I'm still here. My job is awesome now. My family is tough and we have all found strength and positivity in difficult times.

I am here on the other side, and I am ready to try again. 

So. How did all of that affect the plans I made before shit got real? The life goals were:

  1. Reach and maintain a healthy BMI.
    • After well over a year of carefully monitoring my food intake and exercise, I hit this goal last spring. My total weight loss came to about 140 pounds. The story is a lot more complicated than all that, and I'll get around to sharing it some time, because I think the world needs a more nuanced, honest approach to the entire concept of weight loss. All that aside, I am proud of myself.
  2. Get a job.
    • Heck yes I did. I went from hanging off the bottom of the ladder at my husband's office to sharing the running of the business with him. I admit, the relationship probably got me the job (I was hella qualified, but it's nice to have an in), but I have been kicking ass on my own merits from then on. I now focus on HR, accounting, marketing, and client satisfaction. Weird. Not the sort of work I thought I would enjoy, but I do!
  3. Contribute to savings regularly, to the tune of at least $10k.
    • Crowing about money is rather gauche, so I will just say that I exceeded this goal and we are slowly working towards one day being able to own our own home.
  4. Paint the house.
    • No. Not even one wall. Not even a little bit.
  5. Read more, in print and audio.
    • There was more reading than painting, but not an appreciable amount. I'm rather sad about that.
  6. Get comfortable enough on my bike to use it for regular transportation, then do so.
    • I LOVE my bike. I've lost the habit a bit in the recent snow and ice (snow is sharp when it's flying directly into your eyeballs), but I've started using it as my main mode of transportation to and from work and on short errands. It works wonders for my cardiovascular health, and it's fun, and I feel like a little less of an eco-hypocrite.
  7. Take more photos.
    • Take, yes! Sort and catalogue? I'll get to it...
  8. Have more music in my home.
    • Thanks to Spotify, a consolidated iTunes library, and a portable bluetooth speaker, our house is a more cheerful place. I love having music back in my daily life.
  9. Take real vacations.
    • We were kinda busy, you know? But we did actually get away for a wonderful long weekend in Tofino and it was glorious.

How about those creative goals?

  1. Release four or more knitting patterns.
    • Oh dear god no. Hahahaha... No.
  2. Revive this blog and post regularly.
    • I killed and resuscitated it several times! So, no. Not really. Ah well.
  3. Knit sweaters for ME.
    • I did! I was going to lament that I only made four, but that would be silly. Despite everything that went on, I made myself four really great sweaters! And a knitted dress (I'll show you later)! Well done, me!
  4. Reduce yarn, fibre and fabric stashes.
    • I did, in all three arenas. I've been doing my best to work from my yarn stash almost exclusively. The fibre... well I only spun a skein and a half, but I kept my purchasing in check accordingly. I certainly bought new fabric, but I've used up lots of old stuff whether in in finished garments or muslins for fit testing.
  5. Finish Rei's cross stitched stocking.
    • This is the last time you will see this stupid, stupid goal. Not because I finished it, but because the dog literally ate it. At the time I didn't know whether to feel angry or relieved, but I've made my peace.
  6. Buy/make only indie sewing patterns, try new designers.
    • Success! This goal wasn't terribly hard as there are so many talented designers out there. I tried out Cloth Habit and Deer and Doe patterns to great success, and while I am not going to limit myself quite this much in the future, I will always shop indie first. This was a great experience.
  7. Thrift or make 80% of my new clothes, not including undergarments.
    • Partial success! I achieved about 70% make/thrift to new item purchases, and considering that included another weight-loss-related wardrobe replacement, I am damn proud. I found some absolute gems at the thrift store, and I made some really cool things, including a bathing suit! I adore my pre-loved and handmade clothes, and I'm a lot more attached to them because they took a little more work to obtain.

So there you have it. I'm not going to enumerate successes versus failures this year. It was a success. Hands down. I can tell because I was there and saw myself surviving the shit out of 2016.

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Playing Catch-Up, FO style.

It appears that over the past months I was a good deal more productive than I had realized. The pile of things waiting to be photographed grew tall enough that it kept falling over, so I decided it would be best to get a few snaps with my phone and actually wear all the cozy knits, instead of denying myself the wooly goodness because I can't be bothered to pull out a real camera. Let's take a tour, shall we?

On our left, you will see my Metalouse shawl. The pattern is by Stephen West (available for free on Knitty), and it was followed in spirit, if not always in practice. The yarn is a Schoppel Wolle Crazy Zauberball matched with some lovely local Cotswold wool yarn.

Up front and centre we have the Beeswax Hat by Amy van de Laar, knit in Muse Fiberworks Merlot DK. It's a lovely hat, if a little outside my usual proportions (it's more a toque than a slouch). The yarn was a perfect blend of amber and honey, and made the whole bee theme sing. Does it need a pom pom? I can't decide.

If you look to your right you will find a Brioche for Beginners cowl, pattern by yours truly. I added some stitches. How many? Beats me. I cast on a bunch of stitches and just started knitting. Sometimes that's how I roll. It's knit using the leftover Cotswold yarn from the Metalouse, and the leftover rainbow Kauni from my Rainbowtherapy sweater.

Shit. I never showed you the Rainbowtherapy sweater. I'm so behind. It's loosely based on Sperry by Amy Miller, and it's handspun, and I cast it on during my husband's first chemo appointment, and finished it over the course of the month of his treatment. We spent a lot of hours sitting together at the BC Cancer Agency watching him get pumped full of life-saving poison, and rainbow handspun was the best coping mechanism I could think of. It's full of memories and love.

Let's tie this whole thing off with two recent projects: A Seamwork Mesa dress (there are two but only one has a picture) and some vanilla socks for Jacob. The dress pattern was SO SO SO easy to sew up. It clings a bit around my belly, but that's really between me and how much I've eaten that day (it's a food baby dress...). The socks are just socks. Size 12's on 2mm (US 0) needles and 72 stitches. He's lucky he's cute.

Alright! FO tour complete! Hopefully I can keep current with things as they are finished from now on. Ha.


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Alliterative Adventures in Alterations

When I bought myself this wool fair isle pullover from the Men's section on clearance, I knew full well it wouldn't fit me when I had finished losing weight. I promised myself I would alter it, come the cold weather, so here we are. Please forgive the fact that I still haven't hung a mirror, and live in pj pants on the weekend.

I used Seamwork's Astoria as a guideline for the new sweater. The first step was to cut it apart at the seams (leaving the shoulders and neckline alone). Then I traced my pattern pieces onto the flat fabric.

Next, I used my serger to cut out my pieces. The goal here was to reduce fraying. It did stretch the cut edges a bit, which was fixed with a vigorous steam blocking. This wouldn't work as well with cotton so if you try this at home, keep that in mind.

The next step was to sew it up! I used a zig zag stitch and pressed my seam allowances open. For the waistband I pressed the allowance up and topstitched with a straight stretch stitch.

Ugh my bathroom needs some updates. Or to be nuked from orbit. I don't know.

The finished product is much more wearable! I should have made the shoulders narrower, and I still may, but it's not so bad that I really care. It looks great as a cropped sweater with jeans, and, while I found I didn't like it with a skirt at first, it turns out it looks much better tucked in. Yay revitalized sweater!

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The Pinkest Damn Thing You Ever Saw

I'd like to introduce you to what is probably my most successful sweater project yet. This is the Belmont Cardigan by Gudrun Johnston (also known as the Shetland Trader).  I knit it in Madeline Tosh Lace, (sadly discontinued) carried double, in the Coquette colourway. It turns out that when you set yourself up to win, you do. 

This pattern was an excellent choice. I knew I wanted a fingering weight cropped cardigan that was feminine and interesting to knit, with a relatively demure neckline. There are lots of patterns out there that fit the bill visually, but I was extremely happy with Belmont because it is a well written, well designed, and cleverly fitted pattern. Gudrun Johnston is really good at what she does. The knitting pattern design world has been wonderfully democratized with the many easy platforms for independent pattern sales, and I love that, but sometimes that leads to paying money for a bit of a dud. I'll be heading to Gudrun's catalogue again and again.

The yarn was my next excellent choice. First of all, look at that pink! Carrying it double meant that variegations in the colour were reduced, and saved me from the hell of having to alternate skeins. The dye certainly bled when I washed it, but with a colour this saturated that should be expected and planned for. It has held up with surprisingly little pilling over several wears.

Finally, I am so pleased with the buttons I chose. too many times I have knit an almost perfect sweater, only to fail miserably when it came time to choose notions. These buttons are light weight, washable, perfect for the buttonholes, and an excellent colour. They were also super cheap.

I'm feeling very smug indeed. Look at that smug face. It also looks fabulous with my Hollyburn Skirt. Smug smug smug.



FO: Making my Holy Grail

I needed to show you this project, even though it's been finished for over a year now. It all started with a dream. I dreamt of making the Evenstar circular shawl by Susan Pandorf, and I really wanted to make it out of hand spun. Things began to come together when I bought some luxuriously soft Sweet Georgia Merino/yak fibre a few years ago (it was a show special, I don't think they have it as a regular base). The colourway was a variegated hand paint called Tapestry, and it reminded me of all things mysterious and luxurious and serious and medieval. When I finally got to spinning it, I separated it by colour and made a gradient 2-ply lace weight. I ended up with about 1500 yards, total. In a knitting mojo slump last year, I decided the time had come to cast on.

Considering the extremely detailed lace and the delicate yarn, the knitting just flew by. I opted to exclude the recommended beads for the edging, not only because I rarely wear things that sparkle, but also because I couldn't imagine actually knitting thousands of the little buggers in. The border did take a while, but eventually I memorized the lace pattern and it became pleasant and almost soothing.

The finished object is everything I could have asked for. It's as soft as Merino and Yak down ought to be; it's gauzy and light with a delicate halo; it's beautiful and unique and obviously one-of-a-kind. If I ever find an occasion to wear it, I'll be shockingly warm and cozy, while looking elegant as balls (I said looking... nobody who knows me ever accused me of being elegant). I say "if" because I haven't worn it yet, a well over year later. Some projects are more about the process, and this is definitely one.

I think it also works as a more casual piece folded in half and wrapped around my shoulders like the world's snuggliest scarf. Of course, I tried for a photo last fall (my photographer was a flowerpot, forgive the terrible exposure please, he was doing his best) and managed to put it on inside out. It even looks good inside out!

This project is definitely the holy grail of my knitting and spinning experience. It challenged my patience and my skills, and it produced the most beautiful thing I've ever made. Yes, that list does include my 6 year old child. Don't judge. She's great, but she's NOT made of yak down.