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February 2018

Unraveling, or . . . You Can't Always Get What You Want

Today's soundtrack.

We'll just begin with this:  I was completely smitten with Kate Davies' Carbeth pattern the first time I saw it.  Long before "banging out a Carbeth" became a rallying cry in the knitting world, I was crushing over that distinctive shoulder line, the cropped and slightly boxy shape, and (I'll admit it) Kate standing there with her arms flung open wide in that brilliant Scottish winter setting.

I wanted one.

But I was concerned about the cropped thing.  Could I pull that off?  Once I decided to just suspend my judgement on that little point, I set to looking for yarn.  Now, the pattern calls for a DK weight held double, and I happened to have this most lovely Madeline Tosh DK just sitting there, deep in the stash, waiting for its turn to shine.

I swatched.  And I washed and dried my swatch (because Tosh DK is superwash, and superwash is always a bit of a crapshoot).  I found my gauge, made some adjustments for the superwash, and set about to knitting. 

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The yarn was lovely to work with.  It was going to be just glorious, I could tell!

But.

It turns out . . . not all Carbeths are meant to be "banged-out."  Including mine.

I could show you this photo (where the final sweater looks just fine; passable, even), and we could call it done.  But I'm a Full Disclosure kind of gal, and this is a Full Disclosure kind of blog.

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Ooooo.  Ahhhhh.  Isn't it lovely?

Not so much.

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(Does this look like someone who is pleased with her sweater?  Nope.  No joy.)

Let's break it down.

  • Remember that this is supposed to be a cropped sweater.  I knit the body a half-inch longer than the pattern called for (because chicken), knowing that the superwash would stretch (according to my swatch) by about an inch and a half.  That would mean my body length should be 10 inches.  By the time I took this picture, the body was measuring 14 inches -- and growing longer by the moment.
  • As I was posing for the photos, I had to do a lot of Positioning of the collar and the shoulders.  Because they were also growing by the moment, and the whole sweater was in danger of falling off.  The underarm had stretched down almost to my elbow (major batwing action), and I could barely keep the collar from slipping down off my shoulders (think Flashdance).

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(This is where I wanted to insert a rather hilarious video of me adjusting and fussing with this sweater.  But when I tried, I blew up this entire post and I had to re-start.  So try to imagine it for yourselves.  Sorry.)

Here's the main thing I learned from my Carbeth experience:  There is barely any structure up top (no seams; the shoulders hold all the weight of the sweater), so it is highly sensitive to weight.  The weight of the yarn - and the sweater itself - can make a huge difference in fit.  My yarn (doubled) was super heavy -- and it pulled that sucker South in a hurry!  (I did have an inkling about this as I tried the sweater on a various points during the knitting process.  Every time I put it on, it was longer.  I should've seen this coming much quicker than I did.)

If you're going to knit a Carbeth - and especially if you are going to add weight by lengthening the body - really consider the weight of your yarn.  I would suggest using something light and lofty (Brooklyn Tweed's Quarry comes immediately to mind).  I would avoid doubling DK yarns, too (unless using super light and lofty DK yarns - like the one Kate used for her original).  And I would avoid superwash like the plague (because Problem Children).

Carbeth is a great pattern -- fast, fun to knit, and a great design.  Just think carefully about your yarn!

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You can't always get what you want.
But if you try real hard, you just might be able to prevent someone else from making the same mistake.


About Saying No

"You can be a good person with a kind heart and still say no."
                                            --- TinyBuddha.com

All my life, I have managed to get myself into things I had no business getting myself into. Things that actually made me miserable and anxious and stressed.

Would you serve. . . 
We're looking for a co-chair. . . 
Can you help. . . 
Will you sew. . . 
Can we count on you . . . 
Would you adopt . . .
Can you just look at this . . . 

Every time, I should have said NO.  Nicely.  Firmly.  With a smile.

But I didn't.  

And every time I ended up feeling bad and resentful.  I dreaded the task I'd committed to doing, and couldn't wait for whatever it was to be finished.  A drain on my time and my energy -- and a stumbling block to my doing things I actually wanted to be doing.

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In my year of focus, I've decided it's time for me to really think about what I want to be doing.  Which means I need to avoid getting sucked into those things I don't want to be doing.

But this is so much harder than it sounds.  Because it's usually nice people - people we like and generally want to support - asking us to do the things we really don't want to do.  So there is a sense of obligation there.  And that not-wanting-to-disappoint thing.  And it's awkward to say no.  It's just easier to say yes, y'know?  (Just this once, you tell yourself.)  

This year, one of my goals is to learn to say no -- without feeling bad about it.

I need to be in the driver's seat of my own life.  I need to focus on the things I'm really interested and excited about.  I really need to get comfortable saying no.  I need to remind myself . . . if I can't say Hell Yeah about something, I need to say NO.

Last week, I was invited to a kick-off meeting for a very cool initiative launching here in Michigan.  The invitation sounded like a chance to learn more about the initiative, and possibly get involved in some way.  I'm very interested in voting rights, generally, so I wanted to learn more, and when I told Tom where I was going, he decided to come along.

It didn't take long for us to understand that the meeting was not quite what we thought it was going to be.  Instead of learning about the initiative and being presented with ways we might choose to get involved, it turned out to be recruitment and training for a petition drive.

Uh-oh.  I was uncomfortable right away.  My introvert alarm bells were in emergency-perimeters-have-been-breached mode.  Because asking strangers to sign a petition is a bridge too far when it comes to my personal comfort zone.  I sat there in the meeting, feeling completely pressured and mentally thinking through how I could get signatures on a petition without actually ringing any doorbells, wondering what Tom was thinking . . .  and sort of wanting to throw up.

This was definitely not a Hell Yeah thing for me.  But it clearly was for everyone else in the room!  (Pressure.  Pressure.  Pressure.)  The alarm bells in my head kept going off -- but I felt trapped; like . . . I knew I'd be going home with a clipboard and a set of petitions and a pit in my stomach.

But then Tom leaned over and said, "Is this what you thought this meeting was going to be?"

And something clicked.
Because it wasn't.  
And I didn't want to do this -- and neither did Tom.
This was not a Hell Yeah for either of us!

I took a deep breath, raised my hand, and asked if there were other ways for people to get involved.

Why, no, they said.
Right now we just need signatures, they said.

And I said . . . No.  
I'm sorry, I said.
We can't do this right now, I said. 

And then we left.

I was polite and I was nice.  We were pretty conspicuous and it felt a little weird to leave.  But we didn't come home with petitions -- and that was what really mattered.

I said no.  
Publicly.  
(And I'm still a nice person!)

 

 


A Bit of Reframing

Today is One of Those Days when my schedule is packed with activity. 

One thing . . . 
after another thing . . . 
followed by another thing . . . 
with another thing right after that.

I'll be running around.  Away for most of the day.

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When I looked at my schedule last night, I sighed a big sigh and lamented my busyness.

But, then, it occured to me. . .  

I'm in charge of my own schedule!  
I put this day together myself!

And I did a little reflecting.

So, yes.  My day today is "busy."  And I can choose to look at it that way, and feel overwhelmed and cheated, somehow, that I don't have any "time for myself."

OR . . . 

I can choose to reframe the whole thing.  After all, my schedule today is full of things I rather enjoy doing or being part of.  It's not like I've schedule unpleasant tasks or meetings with people I don't like.  

I'm choosing to see my day as "full" instead of "busy."

It feels better that way.

Full . . . not busy!
(And there's wine at the end of it, besides.)

 

 


3 Blooms on a Cold, Dreary Day

Last fall, I ordered 6 amaryllis bulbs from White Flower Farm.  Bulbs from WFF are stupidly expensive -- but worth every penny to me.  I consider it an Investment . . . in my health and well-being during the Dark Months.

Now, every amaryllis is a beautiful amaryllis -- don't get me wrong.  I have purchased many a box-store or grocery store bulb over the years, and I have enjoyed their blooms immensely.  But they tend to be rather short-lived, and in my experience, seldom get another bud after the first is spent.  That's why I started ordering my bulbs online.  (There are several other great online amaryllis sources out there.   I just settled on WFF.  It's where I order all my bulbs -- spring bulbs like daffodils and tulips and the amaryllis.)  When it comes to blooms -- color, variety, bloom-time -- you really do get what you pay for.

I like to have some sort of amaryllis blooming beginning in January and continuing right on through February.  They do an amazing job at brightening up my house -- and my spirits.  This year, my choices are doing the job splendidly.  One of the bulbs is just now opening for its first bloom, and two of them are in the process of blooming from their second set of buds.  

Here are the 3 blooms bringing light and hope to the dreary day outside right now:

One. . .

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(This one is in its first bloom.  The blooms are smaller and more compact than the more "standard" amaryllis -- and the colors are very intense.)

Two . . . 

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(This one is beginning to bloom from its second bud.  It takes a few days for this amaryllis to completely open because it's a "double" -- it has two layers of petals.   You can see the interior layers just beginning to unfold.)

Three . . . 

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(This one is just beginning to burst open, also from its second bud.  The blooms are deep red and kind of shiny -- living up to its name "Ferrari.")

This year, I think my blooms may take me all the way into March.  

You see, I have two other plants that I thought were finished after their initial set of buds.  They started putting out their leaves, which is usually a sign of  "done-ness."  But the other day, as I was giving them a water, I noticed these . . . 

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Each plant has a second bud coming.  

Bring it on!  
(Because these dreary days of winter will be hanging on for a while yet, I'm afraid.)

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Be sure to hop on over to Carole's today to read more Three on Thursday posts!

 


Not Unraveled . . . Just Undecided

Okay, gang.  

Here's the thing.

I've been just stuck with my knitting for several days now.  Right here.

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And, no.  I didn't run out of yarn.

It's just . . . well.  I tried on my sweater before beginning the charming Audrey Hepburn-style neckline. . . 

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and decided I kind of like it without the charming Audrey Hepburn-style neckline.

(I also decided that I wish I'd not chickened out and added that extra inch to the length.  Because it doesn't look very cropped now, does it?  But that train has left the station.)

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So.  I'm undecided.

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Charming Audrey Hepburn-style collar?

Or not?

Thoughts? *

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* Other considerations:

  1. I'm not a fussy-neckline kind of gal, and true turtlenecks drive me nuts.
  2. It was 68ºF  yesterday, so I've got a touch of spring fever.
  3. Although last night I had decided to cast off as is and put myself out of my misery, today I'm leaning more toward sticking a lifeline in the neckline with 4 rows of ribbing complete, and then knitting the collar as written to . . . just see.   (Then if I don't end up liking it, I have an easy place to rip back to.)

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To see other Unraveled posts today, check the comments over at Kat's.


Next Up: Adventure

Last month I told you about Jen Tulson's Sacred Invitation Deck -- a set of beautiful cards I won in a random drawing -- that I'm using as a tool in creating an "area of refuge" for myself.

The first card I chose was . . . savor.  And the card did its magical work!  Every time I glanced at it, I found myself thinking about simple things that I savored in my life (looking out the window at the snow, being able to throw a hand knit shawl over my legs when I was chilly, the smell of food cooking in the kitchen . . . that kind of thing).

I liked the savor card!  It brought me comfort and a daily gentle reminder to notice the little things.  I was in no hurry to switch it out with another.  And so it remained, sitting on my desk (in a little stand-up card holder I had stashed away in my junk drawer) for nearly a month.

Until it wasn't.

Over the weekend, it must have fallen to the floor under my desk.  And this pup . . . 

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normally so well-behaved - but with a strange penchant for cardstock (and only cardstock) that she finds lying on the floor - decided to, well . . . savor it herself!

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I decided, then, that the time had come for me to choose another card!  

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But I'm gonna be honest here.  When I saw my new card - adventure - I was disappointed.

Adventure?

In the middle of February?

I mean, seriously?  Adventure . . . conjures excitement and new and plans and going somewhere.  Not . . . exactly what my life looks like right now, y'know?

But I stuck the card in the little holder on my desk anyway.  I'm going to live with it for awhile and see where it takes me.
Because hmmmm.  
You never know.

 


TGIF

It's been a really busy week around here.

But now it's Friday.

TGIF!

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T - Thinking about . . . gardening.  Our weather did another flip-flop, and that has me itching to be out in the garden.  (It's amazing how quickly 17 inches of snow can melt with a couple of 50-degree F days and a little sunshine.)

G - Grateful for . . . a low-key weekend ahead.  I need some time to breathe.

I - Inspired by . . . this new book (available as a pre-order for now).  My "uniform" is already tunics-and-sweaters, so this book is right up my alley.

F - Fun ahead . . . I'm starting to make some plans for a possible May visit from my sister.  Could it include "Hamilton?"  (Stay tuned. . . )

Hope you all have a great Friday, continuing right on through the weekend!


A Focus on My Reading

I've been a Reader ever since I discovered I could read at age 5.  As a child and throughout my adolescence, I always had my nose in a book.  I checked out books by the stack from the library, and my favorite classes in school were always "reading" or "English" or "literature."  The college years were tough on me -- because while I had plenty to read, it wasn't of my own choosing.  I missed reading-for-pleasure -- and always looked forward to semester breaks when I could dive back into my piles of books.

And . . . this reading habit just continued as I became an adult.  I read books.  Lots and lots of books!

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But one thing concerns me about my reading:  It seems like I don't have the retention that I used to.  I remember reading particular books, and I'll be able to recall key characters and plot points -- but I won't be able to go much further than that.

I know.  I know.  I'm getting older.  And my brain is getting full.  And my memory is not what it used to be.  And - after reading thousands of books in my lifetime (I estimated at one time that I've probably read over 3,500) - I guess it's not surprising that I can't remember all of them.  But still. . . I'd really like to remember more than I do.

So I've decided to . . . focus . .  on my reading this year.  Not reading more.  Not reading "harder."  Just reading more attentively. More mindfully.  With the intention of savoring - and, hopefully, remembering more details about the books I read.

I think it's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the books out there in the world -- especially when you're a Reader, and so many titles appeal.  (So many books, so little time . . . and all that.)  But I've decided to change three things about my reading habit this year to try to improve my retention and savor the books I read:

  1. Fewer books.  I know that it's "normal" in a goal-setting way to try to increase the number of books one reads in a year.  But I've decided to . . . just say no to quantity-based reading.  I'll still read a lot of books, sure.  (Because that's what I do.)  But I don't want to be driven by a number -- and I don't want to challenge myself to read MORE.  I want to choose fewer, high-quality books that really appeal to me this year.  And I'm not going to be concerned about hitting some arbitrary goal I set for myself.   (Disclaimer:  I still set a Goodreads Challenge for myself this year -- at 60 books.  Which is 15 books fewer than what I've typically read for the last few years.  I'll likely remove it altogether, though.  Eventually.)
  2. More time.  Rather than rushing through the books I read, I'm going to allow myself more relaxed time to read -- and build in occasional pauses for thinking-time.  Research (from one of my alma maters; Hook 'em Horns!) shows that hitting pause now and again while you're reading - actually allowing some time to rest and reflect on what you just read - can really help your brain connect the dots and synthesize the new information.  It turns out that giving yourself a mental rest and a little time to reflect on what you're reading really helps commit new material to memory.  (Here's a link to an article about the study.)
  3. Take notes.  I am not talking about outlining chapters here!  I'm just looking for a thoughtful way to ... pause and reflect while I'm reading.  Lately, I notice that I hurry to crack open my next book as soon as I finish my current book.  That can't be helpful in the retention department.  So I'm going to do a little writing to help my brain make sense of things.  I'm planning to write more thoughtful reviews on Goodreads, and I think I'll get back to "collecting" quotes and passages from books as I read.  I will probably even do a little journaling now and then as a way to think about and connect with the what I'm reading.

It's hard to pull back when there are so many books in the world waiting to be read.  But I'm going to give it a try!  Sometimes . . . less is more! 

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To read more Three on Thursday posts today, hop on over to Carole's!