Back home resolutions. Or something.

Note: I’d like to start by excusing the tardiness of this post. I know, I know, most people tend to have their new year posts out of the way in January but I am a trendsetter didn’t have an internet connection for the entirety of that month. So no real way around it!

I used to claim that I never made New Year’s resolutions, possibly because I thought that this made me cool. Or something. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I don’t tend to articulate them in those terms. It’s not like I resolve to do certain things from 01 January onward. It’s more that the end of the year almost always finds me away from home, and away from home (wherever that may be) always seems an appropriate distance from which to think about ways to improve being at home. You know, Regular Life and all. So perhaps I don’t make New Year’s resolutions so much as I have a good old think about the things that I would like to do better once I get home. But that’s a much less catchy title. For all that you’d never know it from reading my writing, I am actually a fan of being concise, so perhaps we should just call them New Year’s resolutions. Or Back Home Resolutions, perhaps?

That established, I am also never sure if I should make my New Year’s resolutions public. It gives me an excuse for another blog post at the end of the year; the “did I actually live up to my good intentions” post in which I congratulate and gently eviscerate myself by turns. My posting is erratic at best, so what’s not to like about a guaranteed post? There’s also the public shaming element, too, I suppose. But I can beat myself up with great efficiency free of assistance, so it’s hardly necessary.

Plus, you never know what life has in store that’ll throw your resolutions right out the window. A bleedingly obvious example is your health; I’ll probably write more about this later, but I’ve had my share of health related surprises over the last year or so; surprises that have definitely shaped my day-to-day life in a very major way.

But, considering one of the things that I decided I would like to do is actually post on your &$*#ing blog from time to time, Anna, I thought that I’d at least post my knitting, crafting, and baking related goals. The internet at large really doesn’t need to know about my intentions re: the tidiness of my desk, after all.

In terms of knitting, I would like to work on more original designs. The embarrassing truth is that I have a sketchbook partly full of ideas, but for the most part, I haven’t gotten around to ushering any of them into reality. This is partly because I’ve spent so much of the last year or so being sick and/or low on energy. When you’re groggy and lethargic and in pain, the last thing you want to do is swatch or crunch numbers; you just want comfort knitting where you don’t need to think (like massive garter stitch blankets). At all. But the fact of the matter is that the fatigue may not be going anywhere any time soon, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my knitting career making plain raglan pullovers and garter stitch scarves. So I’m going to try harder to make the best of the times when I am able to concentrate on designing.

I’d also like to learn some new techniques; specifically, I’d like to get more comfortable with steeking, as well as maybe dip a toe into some intarsia. I’d also like to try zipper insertion, and attempt adding a fabric lining to a knitting project. Generally speaking, I’m also interested in refining my techniques a little. I’d certainly class myself as an intermediate knitter nowadays – I’m perfectly comfortable with stranded colourwork, elaborate cabling, lace, chart reading, grafting – but I’d like to work on the small things that enhance fit, finishing, etc and just generally improve the craftsmanship of a knitted piece.

I also want to have a go at more elaborate cabling, because cabling is super fun! Full disclosure: I didn’t like cables at all before I tried knitting them. Now I can’t stop. Ever.

(pictured below is my cabled version of the pick, pick, pick it up! cardigan that I promise I will finish as soon as I decide how I’m going to make it work)

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I’d also like to continue focusing on items that I will actually wear, that work well with my existing wardrobe. Like many knitters, I’m often guilty of the “oooh, I want to knit that” response to a pattern that realistically I know I will never wear, or not often enough to justify the expense of the yarn or the space the unused item will occupy in my wardrobe. I’m not saying I want to completely quash that feeling, because that would be a joyless existence! But I am thinking that I’m instead going to channel it into knitting things for friends/family who might wear the item in the cases where I know I certainly won’t.

I’m trying to get to the point where my main focus is wearability (ideally with a side helping of aesthetic interest), where my approach is to figure out gaps in my wardrobe and knit to fill them, or at the very least to identify design elements that work for me and go from there. A recent project that I really enjoyed was an improvised project where I decided that I wanted a colourwork pullover (the stranding keeps my neck/chest nice and warm, and lets me use up scraps!) that also had pockets to keep my hands warm. I used the yoke design from one cardigan pattern (the Istex Icelandic Zip Cardigan) and the pocket style from another (Astor by Norah Gaughan) and sort of sandwiched them together in pullover form. I’m really happy with the result and more to the point, the project ticked all of the boxes (warm chest, warm hands) that I’d had in mind when I started. I’d like more of my projects do that; to knit with purpose as well as creativity.

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My non-knitting crafting goals are a little less focused, but I guess that’s to be expected given that my skill level is lower. I’d really love to do more sewing to consolidate my (meagre) abilities; specifically, I’d like to focus more on wearable garments, and small projects on which I can get much needed practice. I’d also like to try my hand at sewing more stuffed toys, as many of my friends have small children on whom I love to dote, but knitting at the tight gauge required for toys with stuffing is murder on my hands and just not enjoyable.

I’d also like to do more drawing; I’ve been dipping a toe back into this lately, and really loving it, or at least loving it on the occasions that I can let go of my expectations and insecurities and just draw without worrying about whether the result looks any good.

I’m also hoping to expand my sourdough repertoire. I’m very happy with the crusty white loaves I’ve been baking the last year, but I’d love to broaden my range into ryes, multi-grains, and more creative ingredients generally.

So there you have it. I made resolutions. Now there’s only one more incoming start-of-a-new-year post through which you all have to sit before I finally reconcile myself to the fact that it’s 2017. At least I’m posting, right?

On the home front / a blanket

This blog probably gives the impression that I travel a lot more than I do. And it’s probably going to continue giving that impression since I’m, oh, three or four separate holidays behind. *hangs head in shame* Apparently I need to update more. I’ll try, okay?

At any rate, I do actually spend a lot of time at home, in Melbourne. I am, in fact, a total homebody. When I’m not travelling near and far, anyway. What can I say? I’m chronically inconsistent. Perhaps this is why the Sorting Hat quiz can never decide on my Hogwarts house…

I’ve been working hard the last year at turning my home into a place in which I am happy and comfortable, that I feel reflects my personality. Admittedly given my home is shared with other people – people whose aesthetics and lifestyles don’t always coincide with mine – it’s never going to be completely my own brand of artsy-craftsy domestic serenity. But that’s okay. Compromise is a thing, and there are still a couple of small spaces that are completely my own. And some of the shared spaces are lovely too. Two thirds of the household (present company included) are disgusting hipsters who love their indoor plants, so we’ve been working away busily on this. Of course, the room that gets the best sun doubles as a dumping ground for tools, but the plants are happy, so I am too!

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Poor babies need me to get off of my behind and find them new pots!

I also knitted a blanket, in a (wholly triumphant) attempt to use up some of my yarn scraps. Given how admirably Devin (what, you don’t name your car?) performed during the road trip detailed over the last few posts, I thought a reward was in order, and I’ve always liked having a blanket in the back seat in case of unseasonable cold, impromptu picnics, etc.

There is something else, though. If we’re being completely honest, the blanket was originally relegated to the car because… I was fairly convinced that it was going to be horrifically ugly. 50% of the yarn used was a violently purple wool/angora blend that I picked up for $1 per ball some years ago, because I’m only flesh and blood and can’t resist on-sale natural fibres. The yarn, of course, languished unused, but I couldn’t bring myself to de-stash the it; even though it was certainly not a colour I’d voluntarily wear, it was deliciously warm and snuggly. A blanket that would be banished to the car (where I didn’t have to look at it very often) seemed an elegant solution, if indeed you could ever use the word “elegant” in a sentence relating to such a virulent shade of purple (debatable). The thing is, the monstrosity actually grew on me as I knitted away. It’s not what you’d call tasteful or subdued, but it’s somehow glorious in its own way. This blanket clearly doesn’t care what anyone thinks. It’s now finished, and you know what? I love it, albeit a little sheepishly.

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The pattern is Stephen West’s Garter Squish; it’s a seriously wonderful design for using up scraps, and I really love the i-cord edging. As per the pattern, I used two worsted(ish) yarns held together to get a roughly bulky weight fabric. In practice, this meant holding one strand of Cleckheaton Angora Supreme together with random scraps from my stash, and knitting until the thing was enormous. In an attempt to break up the purple a little, I also dyed some of the Cleckheaton yarn a royal blue colour using food dye.

While I didn’t record exact (or inexact) quantities, in terms of metreage, this blanket is certainly the biggest thing I’ve ever knitted, and probably heavier than anything bar my Sylvi coat INSERT LINK). I was expecting such an enormous project to be tedious, but this actually went surprisingly fast and at no point did I want to light it on fire. It took a long time, yes, but that’s mostly due to the fact that I was only picking it up as brain-free knitting in between other projects. It also made for a superb gaming project; kept my hands busy (and my lap and legs toasty) through many a merry hour of Mass Effect.

And, of course, it’s incredibly warm; the wool/angora blend is super snuggly and the finished product is very cosy without being particularly heavy. The only problem now is that I need to wait until autumn to snuggle under it again. I still find myself eyeing it after trying days, but given it’s summer and all, I’d probably expire if I sought shelter within its lurid depths.

Thankfully, it makes me happy just by existing on my study chair. Just look at this magnificent bastard! ❤

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