Mind Games: A Gauge Story

I'm knitting a sweater.
A colorwork extravaganza of a sweater.
That's been taking up a lot of my brain's "bandwidth" for awhile now.

Because gauge.


(And what do you do with gauge swatches? I use mine as "coasters". . . )

So. I'm knitting this sweater in this yarn. I ordered a kit from Susan B. Anderson because I loved the colors so much. Plus I'd always wanted to knit with some of her worsted weight yarn. (Lovely stuff, by the way -- nice, "sticky" wool perfect for more rustic sweaters; light and lofty and a delight to knit with.) 

I started by knitting some swatches. First, let me say that I always knit gauge swatches when I knit a sweater. Always. I can't think of a time when I haven't. Usually, I find my gauge pretty easily. But sometimes? Not so much. And this was one of those times!

The gauge for this pattern is . . . 19 stitches per 4 inches with a size 7 needle. My gauge (before even trying it with colorwork but after blocking the swatch) was 17 stitches per 4 inches. Hmmmmm. That would indicate going down in needle size. But I already wasn't sold on the tension here -- it all just seemed . . . too dense from the get-go. And knitting a whole colorwork sweater on size 5 needles with this yarn just didn't seem . . . fun or comfortable.

So I went UP a needle to size 8. I know. Counterintuitive. But I wanted to see what the fabric would look like. And . . . guess what? My gauge was still . . . 17 stitches per 4 inches! But I did like the fabric better. I decided to go up another another needle size (9), y'know. Just to see. And. . . my gauge remained at a stubborn 17 stitches per 4 inches! Now, my row gauge was changing, but not drastically. And the fabric was much nicer with the bigger needles.

But . . . mind games.

And this is before even trying a colorwork swatch. (Which you know is a drag, but vital. Because . . . gauge gets even trickier once you start managing floats.) I'll save you the details about my swatching in the round with some colorwork. We'll just make a long story short and say . . . the gauge remained at 17 stitches per 4 inches. But I knew that once I had hundreds of stitches on a crowded needle for the yoke, that was apt to . . . change.

Given that gauge was completely eluding me, I knew I was going to have to turn to Math. So I got out my trusty pencil and paper - and a calculator - to figure out which size to make to get the size I wanted. (Complicated further - of course - because I actually wanted to build in more ease than the pattern calls for.) In the end, I cast on for the size I would normally knit for myself (with a size 8 needle) . . . hoping to get the next size larger in the end (to build in the ease I want).

A crap shoot? YES.
But I plunged in anyway.
Fingers crossed.
Deciding to use the yoke as my "real" gauge swatch.


Once I got to the point where it was time to divide the stitches for the sleeves, I decided my "real" swatch was ready. I stuck the whole thing onto 2 needles, and blocked it (needles and all). And was completely flummoxed because that yoke swatch? The gauge is All Over The Place! Sometimes what I want. Sometimes what the pattern calls for. All. Over. The. Place.

Fu@&ing. Mind. Games.
(I tell you.)

Decision tree moment: Just let it go? OR . . . Decide to knit a little further and see how it fits after the sleeve separation?
I went with the latter. And got to the try-on point yesterday.


(Workout hair in it's shining glory!)

I think it's going to work?
There seems to be the ease I want.
And my gauge settled down once I separated for the sleeves -- back to 17 stitches per 4 inches, and is remaining consistent as I plow ahead.


But, oh my. This is just way more thinking and angsting about a sweater than I've gone through in a long time!

(Does this happen to anyone else????)
(Please tell me it does.)

As of this morning, I'm nearing the end of the colorwork on the body. 


My next decision: Should I go ahead and do the colorwork on the sleeves before finishing the body? 


So. What are YOU making?
(And I hope there are no mind games involved.)


Be sure to check out other Unraveled posts today over at Kat's.



Start Your Engines . . . With Goals and Intentions

Good morning!
Grab a cup of coffee and join me to chat about . . . goals and intentions.

Begin cup

So, you say. Here we are on a Monday morning . . . in late January . . . and the topic is goals and intentions???


Sure. Why not.

I mean, I know we’re all much more interested in that topic at the beginning of the new year. But . . . January 1 is just an arbitrary date, y’know? It’s ALWAYS a fine time to set your intentions and goals! Any day works!

"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."
        --- John Lennon

So. Let’s start here:

What’s the difference between . . . a resolution, a goal, and an intention?

A resolution is something you determine to do from this day forward. Example . . . “Starting today, I will get in shape.”

A goal is focused on a specific achievement or destination in the future. Example . . . “I will run in the Capitol City 5K in September.”

An intention is focused on the inner relationship you have with yourself, here in the present moment. Example . . . “I am active and healthy.”

In other words, intentions reflect how you want to BE; how you want to live your life. They provide integrity and unity in your life right now, in the present moment. Goals are all about an outcome, getting you where you want to be in some future moment. (And we’re just going to let resolutions sit right where they are . . . in the bottom of your champagne glass back on New Year’s Eve.) 

You need both. Intentions AND goals. (Also strategies and habits and a plan for how you’re going to get there, but that’s for another day.) Your goals and intentions should line up. If your intentions reflect what matters most to you, and your goals align with your intentions, well . . . you have a much greater chance of success at achieving your goals! (And you’ll be happier along the way, too.)


As for me . . . I spend quite a bit of time throughout the month of January each year figuring out what I hope to do during the months ahead (my goals) -- and then plugging those goals into my personal intentions. While I do review my intentions in January, too, I find they really don’t change much from year to year. Then, as the year rolls along, I review my intentions and goals with each new moon cycle to see how I'm progressing.

For the last several years, my overarching intention has been to . . . Live my best life for the rest of my life. (I like it. I haven’t seen any reason to change it.) Then, I come up with 8-10 “mini-intentions” to support it. (I try to compress my intentions into the fewest words possible that still support my meaning.) My goals for the year plug in to at least one of my intentions.


It’s a process that works for me. I know what I want to do (my goals) . . . and I know WHY (my intentions). That “why” part? That makes the goals much more likely to happen -- or, if the goals need to be changed or released or expanded during the year, it doesn’t throw me off so much.

(Those photos above are from my "root" journal for the year. You can see my overarching intention on the little envelope in the first photo. The envelope is filled with the cards you see in the second photo -- those are my "mini-intentions" for the year. On the back of each card, I've written out some of my goals for the year.)

So I’m curious.
What do YOU do?
What’s your process when you think about setting goals and intentions for the new year?
And does your process work for you?

Share your tips, suggestions, and frustrations in the comments. It's never a bad time to set (or review) your goals and intentions!


Want some more information about goals vs. intentions?

The Heart’s Intention by Phillip Moffitt from the website Dharma Wisdom. This article is a bit long, but does explain the differences between goals and intentions really well.

The Science of Setting Goals by Nadia Goodman from the website Ideas.Ted.com. This article is more about setting good goals and the interplay between goals and intentions.

Three Things About My Reading in 2018

I've reached that time of year . . where I begin reflecting.  Looking back over the past year -- before I look ahead to the coming year.  I usually start with some easy reflecting (what did I read, for example) before I tackle the harder stuff (did I accomplish what I hoped to accomplish, for example).

So. Let's talk about reading, shall we?


According to Goodreads, I've 66 books so far this year.  That's fewer books than I've read in years past, but that was actually by design.  (Yes.  That's right.  I opted to slow down my reading this year; to focus more on what I was reading, and to try to make deeper connections with the books I did read.)

Turns out I read mostly 4-star books (by my own grading system), which is typical for me.  I'm pretty choosy about the books I read, and I have a good idea of what I tend to like, so it doesn't surprise me that most of my books end up with 4 stars.  Besides, for me, 5-star reads just don't come along very often.  (A book has to be really fabulous for me to give it 5 stars.)  That said, I also read a few real duds this year, too!

My top 5 books of 2018? *

And here are three things I've learned from my reading in 2018:

  1. Early in the year, I decided I wanted to focus more on my reading.  I spent a while thinking about what that meant, exactly.  (Especially because I have always - all my life - focused on my reading!)  I came to the understanding that what I wanted . . . was to focus more on making my reading meaningful.  I decided to slow down.  To make better connections with what I was reading - and to, ultimately, remember more about the books I read.
  2. I started taking notes about each book I read this year.  I don't mean . . . notes like you take in school or anything (I certainly wasn't outlining chapters here).  But I did create a format for myself so I could jot down a basic synopsis, a list of characters, my impressions, and quotes I particularly liked from each book I read.  I discovered that by taking notes, I was connecting at a deeper level with what I was reading -- and I'm certainly remembering the books more than ever before.  These notes helped me write reviews on Goodreads (another reading goal of mine for the year), and it helped me create . . . space . . . between books.  In years past, I would open another book as soon as I closed one.  By taking the time to go over my notes and put together a review, I was creating a boundary between my books -- and that turned out to be a great strategy for me in slowing down and finding more meaning.
  3. I used my library more than ever.  While this was frustrating for me sometimes (because I couldn't always get the books I wanted WHEN I wanted them), it taught be other lessons.  Like just because a book finally pops up on Overdrive -- along with 3 others! -- you don't have to pressure yourself to read it Right Now.  You can put yourself back on the hold list and read it later.  (That was a big lesson in letting go for me.)  There were still times I purchased a book because I didn't want to wait (my Overdrive wait for Michelle Obama's Becoming was 8 months long, for example, so I purchased it on Audible), but I was much more likely to wait for books from my library.

Looking back, it's been a really great reading year for me.  I know that there will always, always be far more books out there that I'd like to read . . . than I'll ever have time to read.  And you know what?  I'm okay with that!

How about you?  What were your favorite books this year?


* My other 5-star books this year:  Calypso (David Sedaris), The Overstory (Richard Powers), From a Low and Quiet Sea (Donal Ryan), Our Souls at Night (Kent Haruf), Gilead (Marilynne Robinson)  The Ninth Hour: A Novel (Alice McDermott), The Light of the World (Elizabeth Alexander), The Temporary Gentleman (Barry Sebastian), Winter (Ali Smith), and Reservoir 13 (Jon McGregor).


Be sure to visit Carole today, for more Three on Thursday posts.



This year, I've really been working hard to create space for myself.  Not just physical space (although there has been a lot of that), but also headspace.*


For some reason, it's been a struggle to allow myself the time and space to just . . . think.  To work things out.  To mess around and play with thoughts and ideas.  It seems frivolous, somehow.  A little self-indulgent.  

But I'm feeling a strong pull to do it anyway. 

You see, I've got a few Big Ideas . . . and if I don't take some time to think them through, well, I know I'll never think them through.

So.  I hereby give myself permission!  

Who knows where this will all end up.  Maybe nowhere.  Or maybe somewhere.  But I'm going to just . . . let myself hang out kind of close to the edge for awhile.

And see.






Keeping Things Zen

I'm trying to keep my cool this week.  To stay focused.  Practice mindfulness.  Keep it . . . Zen.


The downside to spending so much time up north is, of course, catching up with All The Things when you're at home again.  
So this week is full of appointments and meetings.  
While prepping for a big party on Friday.  
An outdoor party in the garden.
With rain in the forecast. 
Which means activating Plan B prep.  Just in case.

Zen.  I need to keep it Zen.

Because everything will work out.
And life is good.


Sometimes Life . . .

just gets so far off track that it's hard to get back on the track.  Y'know?


Even when things go off the rails for all the right reasons, sometimes it's a struggle to find that equilibrium again.  (At least . . . it is for me.)

But I've been here before.  Feeling off-kilter and way out of balance.  And I know just what to do!

Move my body.
Get outside.
Create something.

I'm back to my five-daily-requirements for a balanced life -- and I'll be back on track before you know it.

Focus: A Mid-Year Update

(Okay.  So it's not mid-year yet, but close enough.)

Way back in January, I explained that I had chosen the word FOCUS to . . . well, focus on . . . for the year.  

I quoted Ferris Bueller.  

I told you that I wanted to focus on what I might be missing -- at what I'm not seeing -- because I've been too busy looking at what I'm already seeing.

I told you I wanted to . . . adjust my focus.


Now I'm here to report back . . . that I'm doing just that.
Adjusting my focus!

And it's kind of fascinating, actually.

Early in the year, I worked out five basic elements to . . . focus on.  (I crack myself up.)

  • Re-thinking my priorities.  (Where do I want my focus to be?)
  • Hacking away at the unessential.  (Paring down.)
  • Ending the distractions.  (Identifying my focus-pullers.)
  • Being mindful.  (Staying focused.)
  • Paying attention to the "space between." (What am I missing?)

Although I'm thinking about all five things all the time, I pretty much started at the top of the list.  And I'm working my way down.

Initially, I did a lot of thinking about how I wanted to be spending my time and living my life by setting priorities and making some hard desicions.  I'm definitely living a more streamlined life now.  I've pruned out a lot of the unessential -- commitments, activities, stuff.  I'm saying NO more often than before, but also saying YES when it makes sense.  My actions are lining up with my priorities.

Right now, I'm taking a hard look at the distractions in my life.  Initially, I thought this would be easy.  But . . . well . . . not so much!  Turns out I'm easily distracted.  I chase shiny objects, and seek out rabbit-holes.  I like daydreaming.  And going off on tangents.  But I'm definitely making progress at figuring this one out.

So, here at (nearly) mid-year, I think I'm onto something:  This FOCUS thing . . . is working!

"Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand.  The sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus."
                                                                                                                --- Alexander Graham Bell




Moving Beyond the Obvious

So.  I have that deck of Sacred Invitations cards, y'know?*  Every now and then, I shuffle the deck and pull out a new card and stick it on my desk.  To think about and ponder and live with for awhile.  To see where it takes me.

Yesterday, I pulled this card.


And I laughed out loud.
Because I just randomly pulled the "grow" card from a deck of 48 cards?  Now?  


So initially, I thought . . . no brainer here, right? Because spring has arrived all of a sudden.  (As it does.)  And my garden is finally waking up.  GROW . . . it's just all around me.  I can see it.  Nothing to think about.  No need to ponder.


As the day wore on, though, I kept thinking about the card and the word.  What seems simple and obvious at first glance . . . is often deeper and more complicated.  If you consider.  And really look.  And open yourself just a little bit.

Maybe . . . there's more to this card than the obvious connection to spring and my garden and its coming to life again.


So I'm going to live with this word for a bit.  To see where it might lead me (besides the garden).  What can I explore?  How can I grow?  Where will I go?


Let's see. . . 


*(Click here if you don't know what I'm talking about with these cards.)

In Quiet Celebration

"I decided if you're lucky enough to be alive, you should use each birthday to celebrate what your life is about."
                                                                              ---Mary Steenbergen

Today is my birthday.

I'm 59.

And I'm damn happy about it!


Ten years ago, when I was turning 49, I was in a much different place.  I had a kid in college and a kid in high school.  I had a puppy.  My husband was really busy with his job and traveling a lot.  I was looking for a new job.  I spent a lot of time and money hiding the grey in my hair.  I was dreading my next birthday.  And . . .  I was beginning to seriously worry that there was something wrong with me.

By the time my 50th birthday rolled around, though, I was so happy to see it.

Although I never think having cancer was a "good" experience, I  know that it brought a perspective about life and living that changed everything for me.  As I celebrated my 50th birthday, I was just a few weeks out of chemo.  My hair hadn't grown back yet.  I was just beginning to feel strong enough to take a walk around my neighborhood every day.  I was fragile, but ready to begin living again.  Trust me -- I had no regrets or concerns about turning 50!  

I'm pretty sure that this entire decade of my 50s has been different because of my cancer experience.  Although I likely would have gotten to the same place (physically, emotionally, spiritually) eventually, I'm pretty sure my new perspective got me there faster!  Before cancer, I can't imagine I'd have let my hair just be its natural white.  I think it would have taken me longer to go out without worrying about putting on makeup.  I know I would never have started a blog.  I doubt I would have had the confidence to take art classes.  I would have thought meditation was too "out there."  And I'm certain I'd still be just dreaming and waiting-for-someday to travel.

Being diagnosed with cancer . . . and then coming through treatment . . . just brought a sense of clarity and immediacy to just LIVING.  Really . . . this decade of my 50s has been so much richer because I suddenly understood (in a very real way) that I actually wasn't going to live forever!  That I needed to take responsibility for embracing every day that I have.  That if I wanted to do something, I better do it now.

I am so lucky . . . 
to have been diagnosed early
to have a new treatment protocol available
to have had the support of Tom and my kids, my sister and my parents
to have LIVED.

So, my birthday is a big deal to me.  It's a marker that I've reached another year.  I'm still here.


And damn happy about it!

Unraveling . . . Life

So, I'm still knitting away on my little mitered squares project . . . 


It's fun.  It's easy.  It's slow.  I like playing with the colors.  It's a great way to (finally) use all the Koigu I've had rolling around in my stash for oh-so-long.  And it's rhythmic.

Which gives me time to think as I knit.

And as I stitch, I've come to see that this project is actually a pretty good metaphor . . . for life!


  • Life plays out on a neutral background.  There are plenty of colorful bits, and every now and again a bright pop of color.  But's it's the ordinary, everydayness of neutral that holds it all together.

  • Balance is essential.  Too many pops of color in one place throw the balance off . . . making you crave more of the neutral, that more ordinary rhythm of things.


  • Building a strong foundation makes for structural integrity.  Yes, it takes a long time to build that foundation, but once it's there, you know you can make anything happen.

  • Focus is the key.  When you want to get something done, chip away at it a little bit every day.  One stitch at a time . . . adds up.


  • A colorful life is a messy life.  Regular maintenance - and cleaning up your messes as you go - can keep things humming right along though.

  • Risk is good.  Don't be afraid to make a mess.  It's fun.  And besides, once it starts coming all together, no one will see the mistakes, the missteps, the crookedness . . . except you.  Perfection is over-rated.

  • Life is about resilience.  Sometimes you have to re-think and adapt.  Problem-solving is a good thing.  It makes us stronger and it keeps our brains supple.  (And that's a story for another Unraveled Wednesday.)   (Just sayin.)

What are you unraveling today?  (In knitting or in life. . . )


To read other Unraveled Wednesday posts, check out the links in the comments over at Kat's.