All posts by Joanna

A year of knitting, a year of learning

Note: I started this post in April 2013. Yes, more than a year ago. What happened to posting every time I finished a knitting project? Oops.

So here’s what I knit last year (12 months of knitting is all I can manage in one post.)

First up, in January 2013 I finished this Child’s Library Cardigan for Berry who was still sweet and little with long hair and sparkly gold boots. How old was she then? She turned 7 in 2014, so she must have still been 5.

It’s knit in Cascade 220, which I loved working with. It’s so soft and felt great to knit with. She still wears it, even though it’s missing a button and has become 3/4-length in the sleeves.

Duncan’s turn

Isn’t this how you dress every day?

Then came a basket weave scarf for Duncan made with some leftover yarn from other projects. Why is he modeling it in his footie pajamas while wearing kitty ears that we made at the Asian Celebration? I don’t know. It was taken in February 2013. So he was 7-years-old or something (he turns 9 on Sunday and he’s still trying to fit into those PJs).

From what I remember, I made up the pattern, quickly deciding that changing the colors for every block of four knit/purl basketweave thingies (I’m feeling very technical today) was too much trouble and progressing into stripes of red and blue.

Unfortunately, the result of this scarf was that I barely had enough yarn to later lengthen my nephew’s sweater that I originally bought it for.

A scarf for Berry

Beautiful, but itchy (the scarf, not Berry).

Berry, then, needed a scarf as well. So we went to the yarn store and she picked out some yarn to go along with a pattern from my stash. This took a while to knit as she chose a fingering/sock weight yarn that she later decided was too itchy. Fortunately, I had to sit through a lot of meetings at work, so it kept me occupied and awake and gave me lots of time to knit.

Sadly, I can no longer find this scarf in the hat/glove/scarf closet, so it may have been lost at school. Perhaps a less itchy child somewhere is enjoying it.

And then?

And then I discovered wool roving and the drop spindle. I won them at a silent auction and, thanks to YouTube, learned to spin my own yarn. This is my first effort, some sweet little handspun wool.

Once the obsession had me in its clutches, there was no turning back. With time, the drop spindle stopped dropping on the floor and I became relatively good at it.

A “baby” dress

Knit top on the London subway
A very tired Berry, insisting we only have one more stop on the London Tube before we get to our hotel, models her new top.

Our long-time babysitter, Jessica, had her first baby, so I decided to knit her a little sometime (for the baby). Duncan picked out the yarn and I dug out one of my mum’s patterns that she knit for me when I was little.

At some point, I realized my gauge was way off. I swear I checked it. But, you knit, you learn.

So, as I knit away on our holiday to England and France last summer, we decided that the baby dress would become a top for Berry.

The Moshi Monster sweater

Duncan decided it was his turn for another knitted project and somehow convinced me to make him a Moshi Monster sweater. (He probably just said, “Moshi Monsters” in response to my question of “What would you like me to make you next, Duncan?” and I ran away with it from there.)

The one thing he really wanted was all six Moshi Monsters on the sweater together.

So I found a website to turn digital images into intarsia knitting charts (can’t remember what it was now, though) and plotted the pattern.

One of the things I enjoy about knitting is that I learn new things all the time. Like reading the pattern properly. In this case, I completely misread the pattern and didn’t realize I was making the front and back in one piece. This threw off my measurements just a little.

And the placement of the Moshi Monsters. I’d originally planned to do three on the front and three on the back, then realized belatedly (when I started reducing for the sleeves) that I’d knit both the front AND the back.

And yet, I wasn’t about to let this minor issue stop me! I managed to fit all six monsters on the sweater and finished this miracle of intarsia knitting. By the time Duncan was able to put it on (this one took a while) it was a bit snug, even on his skinny frame. *sigh* Still, this sweater is so awesome that it deserves three photos.

A sweater for the baby

Lesson learned with gauge and following patterns, I chose new yarn and a new pattern and knit this little number for baby Avery. I realize it probably fit her for about 5 minutes (even though I made it in a bigger size than she was), but it was fun to knit and good practice actually following a pattern, unpicking when needed.

Then I bought another drop spindle and hand spun some more yarn. And added a spinning wheel to my Christmas list.

Handspun shawl

My pound of roving finally spun and skeined, I decided to knit something for myself.

I loosely followed Stephen West’s Daybreak Shawl pattern — although with a completely different yarn and needle size (I did say, “loosely followed.”)

I added some yarn overs for a bit of lacyness and ignored some directions here and there that seemed like a good idea at the time.

I was very pleased with how it turned out but, being allergic to wool and no longer working in an over-airconditioned office, I really haven’t used it. It adorns my office chair downstairs, though, and Berry sometimes plays with it.

Another baby sweater

Wrapping up the year were a few more knitting projects, including a sweater for my newest nephew, Finn who we visited over the summer (along with his my brother – his Dad, sister-in-law and nephew).

Finn’s sweater came from the same book of patterns as Avery’s sweater. It took forever to knit with such fine yarn. And I modified the pattern to remove all the complex cabling in the middle. It seemed too much combined with the striping yarn.

Berry made the stuffed bear and we shipped them off to France for Christmas.

A Christmas cap

Also on the Christmas knitted gift list was this cap for Adam.

The yarn had come home with me from the silent auction along with roving and drop spindle. And the man needed a hat.

I think I found the pattern online…I no longer recall where. The thing I remember most about this project is that I had to knit it in secret.

It’s easy to knit surprises for the kids as I do most of my knitting at night in front of the TV or at church on Sunday mornings. But Adam sits next to me at night (often rubbing my feet, lucky woman that I am). So that was out.

So this secret project was knit in furtive spurts at home and at church on Sundays. Fortunately, I managed to finish it in time, with him none the wiser. It’s a good feeling when you can pull off a pleasant surprise.

Berry’s winter scrap yarn sweater

As my yarn stash grew — what better souvenir from your travels than local yarn? — I felt compelled to use up leftover yarn from other projects. I had this thick, chunky yarn left over from a crocheted blanket (which disappeared at some point in one of our moves) and it looked like the perfect amount for a child’s sweater.

I’d recently found an amazing book in the library, The knitters handy book of sweater patterns, which bestowed on me the knowledge to make any sweater from any yarn. No more hunting for patterns that fit the idea and the yarn I had in mind!

Instead: decide on the basic style (crew neck, v-neck, turtleneck) and sleeve type (raglan sleeves, drop sleeves, etc.) knit a gauge swatch, decide on the finished size, look it up on the chart and off you go! Amazeballs, people. Amazeballs. (I know, I’m over 30 and not supposed to use that word, but whatevs.)

I used up most of three leftover balls of yarn for this and Berry got a soft, comfy sweater that she loved.

Christmas wonder

And what did I get at the end of the year? I must have been a good knitty girl because Father Christmas (aka my lovely husband) got me an Ashford spinning wheel.

The little kids were at their Dad’s for two weeks, leaving me the option of pining over them during the holiday season, or losing myself in the hypnotic medication of spinning yarn. I pined a little. But mostly I spun yarn — the rest of the roving won at that silent auction back in June and more that I purchased at our local textile and fiber arts store.

My journey into spinning is another post in and of itself — as are the 2014 project completed to date. So I’ll end here with a year of knittyness. Out of 11 projects, only one was for me — and I can’t even wear it due to its wooliness. That’s usually how my knitting goes, but that’s OK.

I do it because I enjoy creating. And it keeps me from fidgeting when I’m supposed to be sitting still and paying attention. Plus people get presents, made with love. And I get to keep learning new stuff. A win for everyone.

Clinging to clarity

An article on Slate’s The Good Word poses the question: how long should we cling to a word’s original meaning?

The “Nonplussed” Problem suggests that, sometimes, sticking to a word’s original meaning can be a good thing — especially if there is no other synonym to replace it. Language is often about nuance and subtlety; something you don’t when you use “awesome” to describe everything that is good, superb, fabulous or wonderful.

As native of England who moved to the U.S. as a teenager, I still run into language differences among family and colleagues. There are many words I no longer use because doing so causes confusion or misunderstanding. Take the word “chuffed,” for instance. I used that in a meeting this week and, while coworkers got the gist of it through context, it was a word they were unfamiliar with. That unfamiliarity reduces the clarity of your communication.

As a professional communicator, while I love to use multitudes of words that spark your imagination and bring lightness to prose, if you end up not communicating your message clearly, then you’re not succeeding at your primary goal.

Note: Chuffed = very pleased

What the Dalai Lama said about motherhood

On Friday, I joined 11,000 of my brothers and sisters to enjoy being in the presence and wisdom of his holiness the Dalai Lama. Since he declared me his sister and repeatedly reminded us that we are all of the same essence, I will dispense with the “his holiness” part, with no disrespect.

This is my second mother’s day without my mum. Duncan said to me yesterday, “I’m sorry you won’t have your mom for mother’s day,” which somehow makes the whole thing sadder. He’s promised me my bi-yearly kiss today (birthday and mother’s day) as he no longer gives me kisses. I will relish the moment and keep up with the cuddles as long as he’ll let me.

So, the Dalai Lama. I’m sure different parts of his talk will stick with different people. It all depends on what resonates with us as well as what we want to hear. Adam heard the clip on the radio about how, as a boy, his mother carried him on her shoulders and he’d pull on her ears to steer her. He said that he never saw the face of anger in his mother. (Privately, I wonder if either his mother was a saint or if he was just a good kid.)

Perhaps the kids won’t grow up to become spiritual leaders, or they will in spite my occasional face of anger/frustration/exasperation. 😉 But I did take to heart the notion of showing our children affection and compassion. Our kids are well loved.

I felt well loved as a small child, too. I remember a time when I was delightful to the adults around me, when I was cherished and adored. That ended after my parents divorced and parenting time got screwy–instead I became annoying, whiny and not very wanted. Fortunately, I’m back to being loved now, as well as constantly needed (except when I’m not) and very much cherished.

I didn’t have children so that there would be someone who would always love me. But they do. It’s an amazing blessing.

Which brings me to my mum.

There were times in her mothering when she was far from perfect. I didn’t see just the face of anger–but of neglect, when she wasn’t around at all. She left me on my own too much, at too young an age. But she did love me.

My regret now is that I was never able to fully resolve my feelings about my upbringing and let that continue to affect my relationship with my mum. Letting go of old relationship dynamics and moving into new ways of being with someone is hard. I regret I wasn’t able to truly do that with my mum. Old resentments lingered.

I will always be grateful that her last words to me were, “I love you.” That as I played my CD for her and told her that we loved her and would miss her, but it was OK for her to go whenever she was ready–that she went.

I mourn her still. And the knowledge that I will continue for all my life is a heavy knowing.

Yet I see myself become her–hopefully in the good ways–and I see aspects of her in Berry, and I know she continues on.

And on mother’s day, I will be the best mum I can to my kids. I will cherish and love them, show them affection and continue to debate with them who loves who more, even though it’s completely impossible to determine. I think that’s why they call it a love beyond measure.


A mission

Our talks this year at the Center for Spiritual Living – Eugene have been based off Mary Anne Radmacher’s book, Live Boldly. I bought the book in January and, so far, have only managed to drop it into the bathtub. I can’t seem to read paper books anymore. So I got the kindle version and finally started reading it.

The first chapter implores us to find our mission. If I were a corporate entity (or non-profit organization) what would my mission be?

When I first heard those words a few weeks ago during a service and was asked to figure out why I’m here (i.e. alive, on the planet), the thought that immediately sprung to mind was “to play and be mischievous.” I’m not sure how well that works out as a doable mission statement.

Hi, I’m Joanna and I’m here to be playful in your life!

On further consideration (and after actually reading that part of the book), I come up with a desire to create and express. Mary Anne writes that her mission is “to inspire and be inspired.” My longing and driving force in life is to express myself.

There are a number of ways I managed to weave that mission throughout my days, and not in the obvious: writing navel-gazing stuff like this.

Cooking for my family is an expression — of love, of flavor, of passion for good, tasty, nutritious food.

Knitting in the evenings (OK, and during church and meetings) is creation.

Pruning our unruly garden into shape and growing fruits and vegetables helps the earth express its beauty (and tastiness).

Playing music — my own or others — is an obvious expression of creativity.

But even writing stories for a donor newsletter or editing brochures about different ways you can make a donation creates and expresses as well. I suppose I’m well-suited to my career. Or I’ve chosen a career that allows me to fulfill my personal mission while helping other organizations further theirs.

Sometimes I lament my lack of time to do the things I love. “If I didn’t have to work….I’d finally write my novel and play more music!” But I also need to recognize that I have found ways to weave my mission throughout my days and celebrate that.

Perhaps I can express more of who I am — through music, through writing (you know, right here). OK, I can certainly express more of me, Joanna, personally. But I’m also doing a good job of living my mission in all the aspects of how I spend my days. That’s a good thought to hold onto.