As I recently spoke about… COVID is making me do some odd things, like Westknits Webinars….and more. While listening to the Grocery Girls podcast a few months ago, Tracie mentioned that Stephanie Pearl-McPhee was sharing her sock knitting wisdom on Patreon. I’d never really paid attention to Patreon but now decided to look into it. Background Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is a Canadian writer who is affectionately known as The Yarn Harlot, after writing a book about knitting by the same name. I read it awhile ago and really enjoyed it. But Stephanie also has a blog that I’ve kept up with for years. It’s very inspiring! Since all knitting events – and all events in the world – are cancelled (thank you, COVID), I won’t be seeing Stephanie in person anytime soon. But to have the opportunity to learn from her – virtually – was too good to pass up. Tracie had only great things to say about her Patreon content so I decided to give it a try. Details Patreon costs different amounts depending on who you are subscribing to. Stephanie charges $6 a month for her content. She usually puts out one or two hour-long videos a month. I don’t plan on subscribing long-term but for a few months, I think it’s well worth the price. Stephanie walks you through every step of the sock-knitting process through a series of videos and, if you enjoy socks, they are indispensable. I learned a lot and I knit a lot of socks. I thought I knew most of the tricks – but I learned quite a few new ones. There are also great tutorials on yarn and how it behaves, what to knit with it, and how to store it. Seriously, there is some exceptional content here. I took a lot of notes! Conclusion Pearl-McPhee is so calming to listen to. I’d never heard her speak in public but she is so charming and so intelligent about all things knitting. Her sock tutorials, for newbie sock knitters, make you feel truly comfortable with the idea of knitting socks. One of her videos, on how to repair damaged socks, is one of the best tutorials I’ve ever seen. I haven’t worn any of my socks long enough to wear them out in any way, but when I do, I’ll know how to repair them. For those socks that have holes in them, just from being in a drawer…. Stephanie will tell you what bug ate through your sock! Amazing! If you’re looking to improve your knitting, especially with socks, these videos are priceless. I’d pay $25 just to watch that one sock repair video!
Thanks to COVID, I’m trying all kinds of new things, especially with crafts. As more and more events go virtual, there are a lot of learning opportunities that you can take advantage from while at home. One such opportunity was some webinars that Stephen West – aka Westknits – put on a month or so ago. If you haven’t seen Stephen West in person, you must know from social media that he is very entertaining. And he was very fun to listen to on Zoom. I’m so glad I was able to do these webinars! Let me tell you more… Shawl Shapes I love knitting shawls so when I saw that Westknits was doing a webinar on shawl shapes, I had to tune in. Stephen comes up with some of the most innovatively shaped shawls in the knitting world so it was fascinating to listen to his design process. But the best part was how much information he shared – and design tips. Stephen basically gave you all the information you need to design your own shawls at home, including diagrams and increases/decreases information. He also gives you permission to just play and invent something new. I know that sounds weird but I’m a very OCD by-the-rules person, even in knitting, so the idea of creating a new technique is not something that I’d let myself easily do. If it’s not a standard thing, it must be “wrong.” Stephen loves inventing new shapes and techniques and we all benefit from his design process! Colorplay The second Westknits webinar I watched had to do with color. Stephen loves color. And he loves colors and color combinations that I usually balk at – fluorescents and brights. Seeing how he puts together color in a shawl or a sweater was fascinating. Stephen also talked about different ways to play with color in your knitting – marling, fading, stripes, brioche… There are so many ways to play with color and Stephen gives you the information to do it yourself – more comfortably. That’s particularly nice if you have a more conservative color palette, like myself!! Conclusion If you get a chance to take a class from Stephen – or watch a webinar – definitely do it! You will learn a lot and be instantly inspired by this designer’s energy, positivity, and innovativeness. These webinars were not free but they only cost about $20, which is well worth it. Stephen donates part of the fee to a good charity, which is very nice. The annual Westknits MKAL began yesterday and I cannot wait to see what shape Stephen has in store for us this year!
How are you holding up with all the messes going on right now? 2020 continues to surprise and we’re not done yet. We’ve stayed mainly hunkered down, though a quarantine is not specifically mandated. I am continually grateful that both Matt and I can work from home. We’re committed to taking care of our elderly parents who are very strict with their quarantines. Alas, they’re the only people we see. Thankfully, I have my crafts to keep me busy at home, as I’m sure you do, too, dear knitter. Knitting There is a great solace to be found with the knitting needles these days. I have an easy project going now, which helps to keep my hands busy as we binge watch our favorite shows and movies on weekends. And I’m loving what knitting designers are publishing these days. I’ve become a bit obsessed with watching Joji Locatelli’s journals on YouTube….and I’m even listening to some classes on how to perfect the knitted sock. Because I have more time in the day, I might as well learn some new techniques. Crafting As I spoke of recently, I’m doing more of my other crafts since we’re home. I’m scrapbooking, doing my Project Life very diligently, but I’m also making cards. I’m even about to start Christmas cards! Talk about planning ahead! For several years, I’ve done Ali Edwards’ December Daily album project, which is a lovely way to catalog the holiday season. Those kits recently went on sale and I was able to find a few things to add to my stash of embellishments. What I’m Reading Though I don’t read as much as I used to, thanks to knitting, I still enjoy a good book. And I have two going right now… Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts, about a family in Berlin during the onset of World War II. This is the story of America’s ambassador to Germany during the 1930s, when Hitler comes to power. It is fascinating and, as a history major, I love how Larson interweaves descriptions and information from primary documents into his writing. Frances Mayes’ Women in Sunlight. Mayes wrote Under the Tuscan Sun and her new novel takes place, again, in Italy. And I love Italy. This story is about three women who become friends while touring a retirement community. Instead of settling down there, they decide to rent a villa in Italy. Yes, please! My book group chose Mayes’ novel so I had to jump into it in order to get it done on time. Larson’s book will have to wait a few weeks. I’ve been very negligent of my book group since COVID started but I’ve decided I need to make an effort to join in on those Zoom calls. Though I get tired of my computer and Zoom, any contact with humans is welcome these days. Life ….goes on. We will get through this time. And we’ll be better knitters and crafters as a result. Stay safe and well!
It occurs to me that I haven’t spoken much about my other crafts. Knitting is, obviously, number one in my heart these days, but that wasn’t always the case. My first craft was scrapbooking followed closely by card-making. I didn’t have much motivation to do either of those the past few years but, with the extra time at home due to COVID-19, I’m back to doing both. And being motivated to do them! So let me tell you more about all this crafting fun….. Scrapbooking I started out making scrapbooks of my trips. I’ve always loved to travel but when I met Matt, our vacations went into hyper-mode. We’ve had three major vacations every year for the past 10 years. My scrapbooking couldn’t keep up! As a sort of compromise, I started doing Project Life a year after we got married. I really wish I had started that during our courtship, but oh, well. Project Life is a way to scrapbook the everyday. In the beginning, I challenged myself to take a picture a day. After a few years of that, and two albums per year, I switched to a picture every other day so I could fit a year into one album. I love these albums and they’re great to look back at. Card-Making My introduction to card-making was through Stampin Up! After working at a Hallmark store during college, I had a profound love of cards and snail mail. So it was only natural that card-making should appeal to me. I bought a lot of supplies in the early days: stamp sets, ink pads, cropping tools…. And I still use them. I’m hard pressed to actually buy a card; I try very hard to make them all. It’s a labor of love because sometimes I’m just not that motivated. And sometimes I am and yet the end result doesn’t live up to my expectations. I’ve definitely ramped up my card-making during COVID. I’m also trying to send out more cards – for random things but also to coworkers for birthdays since we’re no longer in the office. Soon I’m going to start Christmas card production. I’ve made our Christmas cards every year that we’ve been married – except one especially busy year. Home Life I love our home and I love how crafting enhances it and chronicles the stories inside of it. COVID has taught me many lessons and one of them is to not take our home – and family – for granted. Look for more different crafting stories in the future. I hope you are safe and well! And knitting!
I’m kind of part of a book group. I say “kind of” because I haven’t actually been to a book discussion in over a year. For shame! But I learn of some very good books through this group that I wouldn’t normally find or choose to read. One of those was A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. This ended up being the first book I read while we were quarantined and I thought I’d share a bit about it today. Summary This book is a fictional story of a Russian aristocrat, Count Alexander Rostov, who was put under house arrest in 1922 by the Bolsheviks. The funny thing was that he was confined not to a house, but to a hotel. The Metropol Hotel is a character in itself throughout this novel. It was the upscale hotel in Moscow at the time and hosted movie stars, traveling bureaucrats, and international journalists. Rostov is the epitome of culture and is generally content reading, dining on good food, and drinking fine wine and liquor. But his life is changed forever by the arrival of a guest who he befriends: a young girl. This relationship leads to more relationships and somehow, Rostov manages to live a very fulfilling life within the confines of a hotel. Reaction While some people may think this story is boring due to the lack of travel or action, I found great pleasure in Rostov’s unique interactions with others and his own perspectives on life. I often asked myself if I would be content with such a life and I think I would be. When I was younger, I know I would have said differently. But growing up, and knowing what it is to be an adult, I yearn more for simplicity than for anything else. This leads to me finding more pleasure in simple things, rather than big events. There was a time when I wanted to make a difference in the world. Now, I want very different things. Quarantine Life This novel was a great story to read during this time of pandemic craziness. There are a lot of similarities – civil unrest, confinement, uncertainty… We are all dealing with these things on a daily basis. We are also seeing only a few people – spouses, children, parents. Our connections to others have diminished. But there is joy to be found at home, with the ones who matter most to us. We can’t forget that. We can’t forget how much worse it could be. So today, I’m grateful for all that I have. And this book made me realize that.
The last month – March being the longest month ever – has taught me a great many lessons. I’m sure you’ve learned a lot, too. These times make you learn things about yourself and others, whether good or bad, and whether you want to or not. This is what I’ve learned… Isolation Isn’t So Bad I’m an introvert so I have it easy – and I know this. I also have plenty of crafts to keep me busy and plenty of books to read. Add in TV and movies and I’m set. Outside of not being able to see my friends and family, life has actually changed for the better for me. Having no commute means my stress level has decreased. My resting heart rate is down. There are definitely benefits to this sheltering in place thing. The Outdoors are Lovely If this isolation was happening in July or August, I would not feel this way. But this time has taught me that being outside, even in the familiarity of my own backyard, is a lovely thing. I’ve come to relish the time, right after I get off of work, that Matt and I sit on the back porch. It’s rejuvenating – and calming. Keep More Food on Hand Always be prepared that stores may run out of food. The supply chain is still working but it’s not going to be this good forever. We need to be prepared. Don’t do anything drastic and don’t hoard food. But buy a few extra nonperishable items to add to the pantry every time you go to the store. After a few trips, you’ll have four items and so on. After a few months of this, you’ll be able to weather a food shortage. One thing is for sure…. After ordering groceries online for a month now, I will never, ever complain again about going to the grocery store. People Really Aren’t That Smart This is something I’ve feared for a long time. But the very tiny optimist in me has always argued when someone would make blank statements that people really are not that smart. If anything, this crisis has taught me that the majority of people do not seek out information – they do not try to understand global situations nor do they apply that understanding to their own lives. This frightens me. Someone that I know, who I thought to be very intelligent, is woefully ignorant in even the symptoms of COVID-19 (not to mention the recovery/contagion timeline)….and she got it. That means that she was walking around the grocery store, without a mask, days after thinking maybe she had the illness – and was highly contagious. This is irresponsible to everyone around you – and to society as a whole. It’s your obligation to know what is going on. Keep a Yarn Stash Seriously. Knitters should not be without yarn because you will need it during the next crisis. We don’t know how bad things will get so always be prepared with plenty of yarn. No joke! I’ve seen some independent yarn dyers close up shop recently and I’m very, very sad about this. I’m trying to support them whenever I can – yarn is nonperishable, after all – but there are so many out there. I don’t want to lose one of them, so if you can support them, do. We must support each other during this time! I hope you are taking care and knitting on!
By now, most of us who can stay at home have probably settled into a routine. I know I have. This week has been easier but time is what’s freaking me out. How can the days go by so slowly yet so quickly? I can’t remember what day it is, but yet March is now, officially, the longest month ever. Thankfully, after a very rainy week last week, it’s now sunny here in Texas. I know many of you are still dealing with snow and very cold temperatures, which is a challenge. The sun has definitely helped our moods. To help myself stay busy at home, while stuck inside, I’ve been making lists…. Lots of lists! I thought I would share them with you, in case you needed some inspiration during this time…. Home Projects Clean: mop, vacuum, dust Transition the closet to spring wardrobe Clean out the planter, make room for spring planting Organize craft desk Go through books – organize and make donation pile Spring cleaning (once-a-year tasks): Clean out/organize closets Clean out under the kitchen and bathroom sinks Go through clothes – make donations pile Craft Projects Block two finished shawls! Get caught up on scrapbooking Make birthday cards – male, female, kids Make Mother’s and Father’s Day cards Organize yarn: FINALLY weigh and organize scrap yarn Tag yarns to donate or destash Make sure Ravelry is up to date on stash Ideas How are you spending your extra time indoors? Are you happy to hunker down at home or are you restless? I must say that I’m happy to have more time to get stuff done in the house, because I was feeling a bit stressed. So I’m trying to stay positive, despite all the uncertainty. And every day, I think about knitting and then get my needles out at every possible opportunity – like during webinars! Hang in there and keep on knitting!
How are you doing? How is your family? We are living through unprecedented and uncertain times that are sure to try even the toughest soul. Things are going to get worse before they get better so we need to support each other and stay positive. Easier said than done, I know. Our Cruise We got home from a cruise on March 8. Our cruise was great and we had no problems. But we were aware that there could have been problems and we took what precautions we could. Once home, I went to work but we stayed away from our parents, who are all elderly with health issues. As news continued to come out about COVID-19, we got more nervous. Could we be carrying it around, incubating this horrible thing? In hindsight, I should have self-quarantined and worked from home. But I didn’t think I had that option… (We still haven’t gotten sick, either, thank goodness!) At Home My employer sent us home on Monday at 9am. I would have prefered to have not gone in at all on Monday, but I’m relieved they sent us home for the foreseeable future. I know many people don’t have the option to work from home, so I’m grateful that I do. But it still takes some getting used to. I’m an introvert and don’t need much social interaction, but I need some. My husband could do without any social time, so at least he’s okay. I guess my only discomfort with the situation is the unknown. How long will this last? Comfort My knitting is a great, familiar comfort to me. That being said, I haven’t gotten nearly as much done this week as I would have expected. There has been much to do, for being stuck at home. Thankfully, I have a huge stash of yarn to draw on so I won’t lose the ability to knit anytime soon! I was, however, sad to see the DFW Fiber Festival canceled, along with so many events. It’s for the best, I know, but I was so looking forward to it! Many vendors are having sales and/or free shipping since they had so much stock dyed up….and I’m trying to support them with orders. I hope you’ll do the same! In the meantime, keep calm and knit on! We’ll get through this together!
Last year, I told you about some of my favorite podcasts to follow. And I still follow them! The Suburban Stitcher, the Grocery Girls, and Knitting Vicariously are still some of my favorite podcasters to watch. But I’ve added a few more knitting gurus to my viewing routine. (My favorite time to watch podcasts is when I stay in the office at lunch to knit. I’ll listen to a podcast as I get some rows in and it’s the perfect way to tune out of work for just a bit.) Knitty Natty – Love in Stitches Natalie is a knitter and crocheter who lives in Dallas but is from Tennessee. She once worked in a yarn store that I visited in Nashville long ago. And because she’s worked in a yarn store, she has a lot of knowledge about stitches, needles, knitting, and crocheting. In her day job, she’s a teacher. I really enjoy seeing what Natalie is knitting on – and what she’s designing. She’s published several patterns now and they’ve all been so pretty! Natalie is always so cheerful and fun to listen to; her smile always brightens my mood! A Homespun House Yes, Molly’s family is planning a move back to Germany, but it’s been fun watching the Homespun House podcast while they are living in the States. And I’ll keep watching after they move, of course! Molly always has news about her yarn to share – and tons of knitting. I cannot believe how fast she knits! It’s crazy! It’s always fun to see her yarn knitted up into socks – she has so many lovely colorways! Voolenvine Kristin is the dyer and maker behind Voolenvine Yarn. She’s a knitter and sewer and always has a variety of projects in progress. And if you watch regularly, Kristin is great about keeping you up to date with her shop news. Kristin’s style is a bit gothic and her knitting and her patterns are lovely. I like following along vicariously with her on her knitting journeys to places like Vogue Knitting Live and the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. Until I can go to these things – if I can ever go – I must watch someone else enjoy them! Others? What are you watching while you knit? Any podcasts you can recommend?
Today I’m taking a slight departure from knitting to talk about another thing that keeps me sane in life. Sure, #knittingismyyoga but I also try to do actual yoga several times a week. I don’t practice for religion; I practice for flexibility and movement. I want to be able to move when I get older without hurting myself and I think yoga will help with that. And as with all my workouts, I’m all about doing my yoga at home. And Yoga with Adriene allows me to do that. In an awesome way. Yoga I never appreciated yoga until I took a class at our work rec center. The teacher was phenomenal and I learned to move in ways that were not fast or breathless, but were still powerful and dynamic. Yoga quickly taught me that, no matter how much I thought I knew, I didn’t know much of anything. Humility is an awesome, powerful thing. Unfortunately, my favorite yoga teacher stopped her classes at our rec center and I didn’t like her replacement, who we nicknamed, “The Drill Sergeant.” Yoga was not meant to be drilled. Yoga with Adriene About this time, I stumbled upon a YouTube sensation – Adriene Mishler, who leads a weekly yoga practice on her YouTube channel for free (and has over 6 million subscribers). Her motto is “find what feels good.” She has a practice for everything: beginner’s mind, lower back pain, runners, swimmers, service industry workers…. But every practice can be done by a novice or veteran yoga student. Adriene gives you options for every level! The best thing about Adriene, however, is her attitude. She is not a stuffy yoga teacher. She will burst into song at the drop of a hat or make silly pop-culture references when trying to get you into a pose. She encourages you to not take yourself too seriously because yoga is all about feeling good. And I love that. Also – she lives in Austin, Texas! And we must not forget about her faithful furry companion, Benji, who often sleeps through her practices. So cute! 30 Days For the past 6 years, Adriene has led a 30-day yoga journey in the month of January. Every single day, she gives you a new practice. My first 30 day journey was Adriene’s Revolution in 2017 and it was phenomenal. This year’s Home was even better. After being so busy in December, these 30-day practices are a great way to re-center and commit to your own goals of health and mindfulness. If you like yoga but have fallen out of practice, I highly recommend Yoga with Adriene. And if you’re an experienced yogi, Adriene offers a pay site, Find What Feels Good, with more advanced practices. But for me, the free YouTube videos are just what I need. I usually do one after work and after a stressful commute to help calm me down and stretch out my poor, tired muscles after a day of sitting. And it’s always perfect!