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The joy of starting vs. the joy of finishing – Guild President’s Letter

This article originally appeared as a “President’s Message” in the Northcoast Knitting Guild Newsletter, March-April 2019 edition.  My term as NCKG president was June 2018 – May 2019.  If you are in the Cleveland/Northeast Ohio area, our guild has educational and fun meetings every month, and many friendly knit-ins besides.  Check out our website for more information!  Northcoast Knitting Guild

This weekend, I went to the Wild and Wooly Fiber Arts event put on by the Cleveland Metroparks with my Mom, my sister, and my nephew.  I was on the lookout for a particular style of yarn, but ended up bringing home some carded fiber to perhaps spin my own even though I haven’t spun in ages.  I haven’t decided yet if this was a silly idea, as I have a plentiful stash of yarn and spinning fibers at home, so I’m not sure I really needed a new pre-project-project to make the yarn for what should be a simple hat.

I had been on a kick of finishing old knitting projects last year, and it felt good to get some projects out of Work-in-Progress (WIP) bags.  I’m pleased to report that I finished as many old WIPs as I created new unfinished WIPs that will linger into this year. That gives me a great deal of satisfaction, and I hope it is a trend I can continue, as my knitting karma is still not in balance with a variety of more-than-a-year old WIP projects that I either need to decide to frog or finish.

But this time of year I tend to feel an insatiable desire to knit new things, which is entirely out of proportion to the amount of time I will likely give to knitting over other things in my life.  This time of year is when I buy patterns, cast-on many things with great hopes, and join Mystery-Knit-Alongs (MKALs) which I may not even attempt to start until after the rest of the group has long-since completed the pattern.  As an aside – I don’t know if other people follow MKALs without knitting them, or is that just me? I will avidly watch the MKAL progress, purchasing the pattern, picking out skeins, reading all the forum posts, drooling over the “spoiler” pictures, imagining I will cast on that very night, but possibly not even winding the ball of yarn…  I guess I get a vicarious knitting thrill over watching MKALs.

It’s also that lovely time of year where everyone in my family really appreciates things I have knit for them in the past.  This month, my husband and kid are having daily playful arguments about whose hand-knitted hat is whose. So whatever I knit for them now will likely give me a frequent warm feeling, as I know they will wear it for the rest of the winter.  That creates a lot of motivation for me to start new hats, scarves, or other winter-wear for them.

The old WIPs will keep until later.  As the weather gets warmer, I can decide if I’m really ever going to finish that cotton short-sleeve cardigan.  If this will be the year I finish that costumey piece to wear to the gaming convention. Or why it ever seemed like a good idea to start that many-colored blanket given my lousy track-record with blankets.  And maybe I will also get organized, and figure out if there are other WIPs lurking in my craft closet that haven’t even been noted in Ravelry.

Until the Ohio spring warms up, I am going to dwell in the sunny land of the newly cast on projects.  I’ll leave WIP clean-up for later.

 

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January casting-on – Guild President’s Letter

This article originally appeared as a “President’s Message” in the Northcoast Knitting Guild Newsletter, January-February 2019 edition.  My term as NCKG president was June 2018 – May 2019.  If you are in the Cleveland/Northeast Ohio area, our guild has educational and fun meetings every month, and many friendly knit-ins besides.  Check out our website for more information!  Northcoast Knitting Guild

January might be my favorite time of year for knitting.

The intense December fun and stress of making for gift-giving dwindles down as the last few holiday-related visits are wrapped up by the New Year. December is usually extremely hectic for my work as well, leaving me little energy for anything beyond the work punch-list and the gift to-do list. For my very large, Brady-bunch style family, knitting for gifts is not a great option, so I do a lot of non-knitting crafts in December, filling all my free-time. And even nature seems to thwart my knitting in December, as my commute home is in the dark (20 or so minutes where my husband is driving that I can promise myself to knit every day).

In January, all the hard work of December has paid itself forward to a well prepared start of the new semester at work. I have scratched the itch to do all the non-knitting crafts, because I’ve probably done a little of everything in the process of making my gifts. The evenings are starting to get a little bit lighter so my commute home is knittable once more. The air is still deliciously cold, and maybe snowy, with a promise of a few more months to enjoy any fluffy knitwear that I can crank out. This means that the possibilities are limitless. Any wool I cast on in January could plausibly be enjoyed the moment I cast off, unlike a thing I might start in April, which better be a warm-weather garment or it may not get worn once until the fall.

I’m not much for New Year’s “resolutions”, because a lot can change in a year,
but I do like planning, goal-making, thinking of the previous year’s accomplishments, and list-making. So here in the limitless crafting possibilities of the New Year, I’ll likely consider a few personal goals. I finished a lot of old projects last year, which was very satisfying. I hope this year to finish a few more old projects, as well as some newer ones. I’ll try to not buy new projects but I’m not making any resolutions about the occasional pretty skein!

Do you make yarn or knitting-related resolutions or goals?

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Definition of artist

I was talking about card-making recently and someone asked me if I was an artist because they knew someone who made beautiful watercolor cards.  I quickly said “no, I’m not an artist” and then paused, and said “well, maybe”, and then finished lamely, just to explain the cards, “I make cute cards with paper cutouts and stamps from kits and such”.

When did I stop thinking of myself as an artist?

My best definition of artist is “a person who makes art”.  So maybe I stopped being an artist when I stopped making art.  I make time for crafts, and sometimes artistic crafts.  I am creative, I create things.  I don’t make most things from a kit, though I do like kits for notching quick handmade projects.  Do I make time for “art”?  I really don’t.  I still have ideas, but I don’t take the time to practice creating.

Art is that it’s a skill that gets rusty.  Not just the fine motor control, but the mental muscle that allows you to feel natural playing with your chosen media to get visual ideas out there.  Just knowing what makes good composition isn’t enough, practicing creating compositions is necessary to create good compositions.  Getting your hand to do what your mind’s eye envisions takes practice, practice, practice.

I’ve had lots of big ideas in the past few years, but I can’t execute because I’ve let the skills grow rusty.  My kiddo is big enough now that I can squeeze in 10 or 15 min of practice in a day while he plays, after work, before I’m completely wiped out and just want to sit on the couch.

I hereby challenge myself to an any-art-a-day.  I’m a mixed media person, so anything can count as practice, as long as I’m creating/sketching/doodling/photographing something that does not lead to a gift, memory-keeping, or other practical “craft” item.  We’ll see how this goes!  I’ve also challenged myself to a 10 min yoga per day routine.  Time to get that back on track too.

What is your definition of art?  What is your definition of craft?  Have you tried both?  Has life or an internal pendulum swung you one way or another?

To check out some of my related unravellings on the definition of art, I posted some thoughts in March of 2014.

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Is this thing still on? And updated thoughts on double pointed needles

When I started this blog I promised myself I wouldn’t make posts that made excuses for being back from a long hiatus. So I won’t. It has been about two years since my last post though, so it seems silly not to acknowledge that.

Here are some random things I have finished in that absence:

Border Socks pattern by Mary Jane Mucklestone, finished 2/18/18

My first “spinner” card

Some Stampin’ Up dies and my quirky sense of humor

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My first attempt in a really long time to do fancy decorations on a cake, February 2018

Liege Waffles from Smitten Kitchen recipe… I’m drooling just looking at the photo

Star bread from King Arthur Flour recipe… no more difficult than regular cinnamon bread, but so fancy-looking!

Holiday decorations

An experiment with my kiddo comparing leavening in pancakes:  baking soda vs yeast

Edith’s Secret, pattern by Kristen Ashbaugh-Helmreich, I added beads, finished 7/10/17

Black raspberry pie, made from black raspberries that we picked

I might even make time to talk about some of these projects along the way.  If you’re on Ravelry, you can at least see details about the knitting projects by visiting my Projects page.

Double Pointed Needles – Unravellings updated:

Waaaaaay back in May of 2009, I wrote a love note to DPNs for socks.  I lambasted the endless scooching of 2-at-a-time-magic-loop methods…  See the photo at the top of this post?  The lovely grey socks with the fair isle details?  The final iteration took over 4 years to complete – in part because of 1-at-a-time sock methods… So maybe I was wrong.  Maybe there is a place for 2-at-a-time-magic-loop methods for people like me who have too much going on in life to dedicate real time to one knitting project.

Why am I condemning the method and not just my questionable crafting-time-management?  Because with all the stops and starts of this project I would forget important details of what I did in the first sock, and my gauge would change, and, possibly worst of all, because they discontinued two of the colors of yarn in that long time (and I lost one ball for a while), I was perilously close to having to complete one sock in a totally different color.  The result of some of these hangups was that I had to rip back the second sock from half-way down the sole allllllll the way back to the cuff twice in those four years.  If I would have been doing two at a time, I would not have had some of those problems and color match issues could have been mitigated by design changes.

At first, I vowed that I’d only do 2-at-a-time socks from now on… but then my Mom got me a pair of Addi Flexi Flips, sooooooo, maybe there are more singleton socks in my future after all.  I’ll just have to solemnly swear to work on them with more dedication!  Or maybe a series of one-off socks would be appropriate, fraternal twins and such…

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Birthday Philosophy

It’s that time of year again, which make me feel reflective.  I thought I would share the following navel-gazing thoughts about birthdays, my “birthday philosophy” if you will.

When I was younger, I felt awkward about my birthday because I didn’t see what was worth celebrating. Not that life was bad, just that “birthdays” seems like a really weird concept when you are shy and don’t want extra attention. After all, it was just the day I was born, I didn’t do anything special.

As an adult, many people find that the birthday is a bad reminder, but I have never been one to dread aging. I don’t spend enough time in front of mirrors to worry about looks, and other elements of senescence and mortality can come to the unlucky young, as well as the old.

But sometime in my late twenties I realized what it is about birthdays that I could really find worth celebrating. As an adult, birthdays become a milestone that mark an achievement: Each birthday represents another year in which I have kept my **** together. That’s super important as an adult. And sadly, not something everyone can say every year. Maybe it’s a low benchmark, but seriously, it is really worth celebrating every year. I am doing a passable job at being an adult.

And so here we are, another year as an adult, and I feel I am doing a passable job keeping it together. Go me! I have made my minimum benchmark and that is worth celebrating!

On top of that, my particular role and circumstance at this time means I am helping keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies, keeping a small child out of trouble, maintaining a good relationship with my spouse, my friends and my family. And on top of that, I can make pretty things and delicious thing with my hands, which adds a lot to my life. I have so much to be grateful for throughout the years of my life so far, and this year feels like it has been an especially good one.

I have plenty of blessings that I cannot take credit for, and so much help along the way from friends and family also. So really, the one thing I can say I have truly achieved is keeping it together another year. Good job, me!

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I think I’ve finally settled on a new look for my blog.  I had kept the same style and header for about 4 years, but I was feeling like the look didn’t reflect my thematic change in the last couple of years to cover all of my crafty endeavors, and not just my knitterly ones.  I wrestled with the current WordPress setup and tried different themes until I got one that resonated.  Then I used my graphic design skills to make a background and header that pulled it all in.

I’m still Unravelling the metaphorical Argyle.  I’m still untangling techniques and improving my crafting.  But my artistic life has never been just about knitting, and I think my craft blog finally reflects that complexity.

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Sharing the journey

I went to a fiber fair today with my Mom, and on the hour long car ride our conversation covered many topics. We talked about sensitive family relationship issues. We talked about shared history. We talked about parts of our histories before our paths crossed. And of course we talked crafts, crafts, and more crafts.

This woman who has done the Mom job for me for over half my life is so like me in so many ways. As we traveled to the fiber fair together I could not help but reflect on ways she has influenced my personality for the better. I also had to reflect on the fact that we have both been a big influence on the other’s crafting personality.

In the years after we first met, the only craft that I ever saw her do was needlepoint on those plastic canvases. At the time, I’ll admit I thought it was a little lame, although I would never judge another’s craft so harshly now. I was a young teen and had dabbled with some kits, sewing, a little jewelry-making and polymer clay. As a little older teen, I got more serious about sewing.

Halfway through college, I started petitioning for a spinning wheel and she helped my Dad find me both a wheel kit and lessons. Not long after, she taught me to knit, which until that point I didn’t even realize she knew how to do.

From then on, it became a craft journey shared, although I didn’t recognize it at the time. It has helped us bond tremendously over the years. We encourage each other, share tips and processes, share equipment and stash, share laughs over the pitfalls of overcrowded craft storage. And we also seem to share a passion for dabbling, a desire to learn all the techniques, a propensity to be inspired broadly and be undaunted by the prospect of learning a new skill. Who learned that from whom?

The credit for my creative life goes to both nature and nurture. My Dad, the Mom who had the first part of my raising, and the Mom who has had the rest of my raising have all been very creative and very encouraging of my craft explorations. As an adult though, what I value most is getting to share the creative journey with the people that I love.

Until next time, keep those needle clicking…