Unraveling as a Meditation

I have made many, many, knitting mistakes over the years. Purled where I should have knit. Sewed something in or on crooked. Made things too long, too short, too small and too big. I’ve learned that is almost always better to fix mistakes, no matter how frustrating. I am, right now, sitting here writing this blog post while wearing a sweater I knit several years ago. I made it too short and I sewed the sleeves in slightly crooked. I have always regretted not fixing these defects– and it’s way too late to do it now. So I have a sweater, made of really beautiful yarn, that I hardly ever wear. If you want to see it you can go to Ravelry and look at the Greek pullover in my projects page (tiltedwhirled is my ravelry id.) 


Most recently I realized that when I sewed on the spikes for Owen’s mittens I gave him two left handed mittens. Sewing the spikes on correctly wasn’t hard and it only took me about 15 minutes but it still required some menta effort to start. To unsew. To pick out my stitches and start over again.

Making mistakes also means that I have figured out many ways to fix them, without tinking back or frogging. If I knit the wrong color in stranded colorwork I can usually ladder down to the stitch that was knit in the wrong color and pull up a stitch in the right color using yarn that was stranded behind on that row, then ladder back up. This works best when I am only a row ahead of where I made the mistake. For mistakes in lace work, laddering down and reknitting works too. You can also easily add a missed yarn over on the row above. 

But sometimes you just have to take a deep breath, dig deep, and frog. I did this three times when I was making my Ivy League Vest. First, I screwed up the corrugated rubbing and had to start over. Then I knit most of it, put it down for about a year, and when I came back to it, I had shrunk a couple of sizes so frogged back down to yarn and started over again. The third time I chose the right size and I really had the corrugated ribbing technique figured out by that point. I reknit the sweater and I am so glad that I did. I wear that vest several times a month through the winter. All of that work paid off in the form of a garment that I love wearing. I remember that whenever I am tempted to not fix a mistake. I remember that I would much rather put in the work to make the knitting right then regret not doing it for years afterward. 

Knitting reminds me regularly that I am imperfect. I make mistakes. Usually when I am not paying attention to what I’m doing. Not being mindful. That is how the spikes on Owen’s mittens were sewn on the wrong side. When I am mindful of what I am doing– giving each task it’s proper allotment of concentration– mistakes are certainly less. And when they still appear sometimes you just have to be strong enough to start over again. 

Nonstop

That is what my life is. I have a full time job, I’m a single mom and I run 25-35 miles per week on average, and I craft and cook too. I get up by 5:30 during the week, and at 6 on the weekends. write in the morning before my son gets up, and do chores, and make lunches. And breakfast. After he gets up, I eat, do my morning workout, and get myself ready. When the sun comes up I take pictures of my crafts. Then he and I leave the house and walk/run/bike to his school. Most mornings, after I drop him off, I run. 
In the evenings, I pick up my son, go to the grocery store if needed, then come home and make dinner. After dinner is usually the time for more chores, baking, homework and then bedtime. After my son is in bed I spend the rest of my evening crafting– and right now that means knitting and jewelry making. I’m almost finished with all of the handmade gifts that I intend to give this year for Christmas (but then there are several January birthdays.) Once Christmas is done I will be able to return to knitting on my Glasgow Sweater.

People ask me where I find the time to do all of these things. I don’t. I don’t find the time. I just never stop moving and doing. My hands and my brain are never still, unless I’m sleeping. And sometimes not even then. And some days, like today, I feel it down to my bones. 

Scaling Mountains

To me, family is a fluid concept. There is the family that I was born into– my mom, dad and sister. There is the family that I married into– my ex-husband’s parents, his sister, brothers, niece, nephews and sisters and brother in law. When I got divorced I didn’t know who would remain in my life and who wouldn’t. I am incredibly lucky that two of the people that remained in my life are my ex-husband’s parents. They made it clear that they would be there for Owen and I and they have more than fulfilled that promise. They are caring, generous people that have chosen to be stable, loving grandparents to Owen and loving to me as well. They are unwavering in their support of Owen and I. When I need help I can always call them.
And then there is the family of friends that stood by me during the roughest time in my life. The people who showed up, trucks ready, to move my stuff out of the house I shared with my ex into the second story apartment with a narrow, rotting, staircase and no elevator. And the same people that showed up to move my stuff back down that staircase five months later and into my new house. The people that have bolstered me up when I was brought low. That answered my sobbing phone calls. That listened to the same recitation of pain over and over again. Yesterday I didn’t make the drive to my parents’ house for thanksgiving. Instead I spent it with Owen’s grandparents. Like I have almost every year since my divorce. And I will spend Christmas Day with them as well. 
The first Christmas after my divorce I remember waiting until almost the last minute to buy a fake tree on sale at Fred Meyer. I had been vascillating between going to a tree lot and buying a tree or not having one at all. Finally, I saw a tree on sale and bought it. And put it up. Even those simple things seems monumentally difficult at that time. It was like I had forgotten how to brush my teeth. Or replace the batteries in the clock. The small but necessary practicalities of life seemed like mountains that needed to be scaled. But slowly, over time, I have figured out that none of them are insurmountable. I am capable. I can do these things. And I think, maybe, that is the most valuable lesson I’ve learned in the last 3 years. I can do this.

Why My Shoulders are Screaming

On Friday I finally followed through with an intention I had formed more than a year ago. I made a date with my friend Jazmyn to go to the gym so she could show me how to use some of the weight lifting equipment. I have wanted, ever since I added a regular core exercise into my routine, to learn how to do some lifting. But. I was also completely intimidated. It seemed like the kind of thing where the probabability of 1. Injury and 2. Humiliation were high. I needed a buddy who could walk up to those weights with confidence, state down the dudes all trying to look like Superman, and then show me what to do with them. 
The first thing I noticed on the weights side of the gym was all the dudes. Lifting weights. Using the machines. Were they going to watch me? My anxiety, already amped up, ticked up another notch. The second thing I noticed was the wall of mirrors. And the third was the one other woman using the weights. I still felt like a fish out of water but I started to relax when Jazmyn showed me the first repeat. Ince I got into the rhythm of the movements my anxiety dampened and then the pain began. I’m only using 5 pound weights. 5 pounds. Doesn’t seem like much. But it is. After 40 repeats of the same move. 
Jazmyn showed me several exercises that I can do with the weights and explained her routine to me. Then she showed me how to use some of the machines– another thing I wouldn’t attempt in my own for fear of doing it wrong. By the end of our 30 minutes in the gym my arms and shoulders were more sore than they have been in a good long time. But it felt good. And I felt strong. So I did it again yesterday.

Black Bean Chili with Roasted Vegetables

Fall is slipping away into winter here just south of the 49th parallel. On cold days I think of warm, satisfying soup. Emphasis on the WARM. And nothing says warm to me like a hearty stew if roasted vegetables, browned onions and homemade black beans. This recipe calls for the kind of beans that are firm but moist and impregnated with cumin, coriander and smoked paprika. 
First, the Black Beans: 
1 lb dried black beans

1 c onion, chopped

I 4 oz can jalapeños or 1 chipotle chile

6 cloves garlic

1 tbl cumin

1 tbl (or 3) smoked paprika

Salt

Enough stock or broth to cover
Put all of the ingredients into a crock pot and cover with the stock. Use the chipotle chile if you enjoy a good chemical burn. If not, the jalapeños are the way to go. Turn on high for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to low and allow to cook for 6-8 hours. All day while you are at work should be fine, just make sure there is enough stock that it won’t all burn off while you are gone. 
By the time the beans are done your house should smell like a big bowl of smoked beany deliciousness. And that is perfect. 
Chili

1 Pasilla chile, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 cups grape tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Salt 

Pepper

1 cup onion, chopped

1 head garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon coriander

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

4 cups vegetable stock

Next turn your oven to 425 Fahrenheit. While the oven heats up chop the pasilla and the red bell pepper. Place these and the grape tomatoes in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Mix. Then place on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the tomatoes are a little black and bursting onto the tray. 

While the vegetables roast in the oven, heat up a Dutch oven on your stove top over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. When that is hot add the onion. Sprinkle with salt and fresh cracked black pepper and cook until the onion is brown. Next, add the garlic, cumin, coriander and paprika and give it a good stir. Let that cook about 30 seconds before adding the can of diced tomatoes. Once that is in the pot stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to release any bits of spice and other goodness that has stuck to the bottom. Next add the stock, beans with their liquid and the roasted vegetables. Allow to simmer with the lid off for 20-30 minutes. 


The result will be a chunky stew with plenty of flavor.

Paper and Thread

Every so often I am enticed by the siren song of a new hobby. A new project. A new method of expression. That’s what happened with bookmaking.

It was several years ago. I was browsing the craft section at Auntie’s, the local indie book shop here in Spokane and I came across this Book. I picked it up and put it down again, but I kept coming back to it. I couldn’t resist. 

I still have my very first attempt. I used Japanese fabric with a cherry blossom motif. I cut it to size and beaded it. Then I backed it with contrasting fabric and quilted it with gold colored thread. I didn’t do a good job in the binding and the closure came loose, but I really loved the concept. I love making the bindings. They are small, so I can make them fairly ornate or simple depending on my mood. I often bead and embroider and hand quilt them. Making these small projects into books is an added bonus. 

To Make the Book:

First you will need to measure the binding


You need to measure the length and the width of the binding. Once you have done that you can cut the cover page. 


Once the cover is cut, I mark out the center, then mark off 1/4″ to each side of that mark and fold the cover along those two lines. I then have a 1/2″ to sew in the pages for the book. Next I mark off 4 lines, in 1/8″ intervals between the cover binding:


Then I draw lines at the places where I will sew the pages in. The first is a 1/4″ from the top. Then I find the halfway point between the top and the bottom and draw lines 1/4″ above and a 1/4″ below that point. I then draw 2 lines between the top  and the first halfway line. I try to place those lines so that they are about 1/3 and 2/3 of the way between the top and the first halfway mark. I then place lines about 1/4″ from the bottom and 1/3 and 2/3 from the bottom halfway point. You will have a total of 8 horizontal lines and 4 vertical lines on the spine of the inside cover. On a piece of scrap paper I write down where I placed the line (1/4″, 1″, etc.)

Next I use my awl to punch a hole in each place where the vertical and horizontal lines intersect. Then I set the cover aside. 

Next I cut the pages. But first I measure again. This time I measure the width of the inside cover from the edge of the cover to the back inside edge and the height. The length of each page will be: the width of the inside cover, minus 1/8″, x 2, and the height is the height of the inside cover, minus about 1/8″. I then cut 16 pages.


Once the pages are cut I fold them in half and make 4 booklets of 4 pages each. I then put a dot along the spine for each hole that will be punched so that they can be seen into the cover. 


After all of the holes are punched I see the booklets into the cover and binding using a large embroidery needle and waxed Irish thread. I often use beads as well.


Starting at the top and going from the inside out, I first stitch the top of the inside cover into the cloth binding. I sew through the first hole at the top on the left and all the way through the cloth binding, then in through the second hole, out through the third, and in through the fourth. My thread is at the back of the cover. Next, I sew in a booklet, starting at the top and working down to the bottom, pulling my thread through the booklet, inside cover and cloth binding with each stitch. Along the way I often add beads at the top, bottom and halfway points. To do that, I take the needle off my thread, thread the bead, rethread my needle and pull through the next stitch, adjusting the bead if necessary.


Once the booklets are sewn in I tie the small tail I left at the beginning of sewing together with the end of my thread and tuck it under the booklets.


The very last step is sewing a ribbon to the cloth binding to be used as a closure. 


Each one of these books is a labor of love from beginning to end. 

Weather

One of the most frequent questions I get is why do I run outside? Why do I run in the wind and the snow and the heat and the rain? Why run outside when I could be in a climate controlled gym? Where I wouldn’t have to worry about sunburn, windburn or slipping on ice? The answer to these questions are both simple and complicated– I love to run outside. There are many days of the year (winter, and most of spring and fall) when I would only venture outside when absolutely necessary if it weren’t for running. It’s often too cold for me to really enjoy being outside, except when I run. And that’s because my run is also the only time I’m actually, truly warm. 

To be constantly cold wears on me. To feel the ends of my fingers go numb at the tips when I’m sitting at my desk in the middle of the day or when I grip the steering wheel on my drive home at night is both uncomfortable and disconcerting. 

On the days when it’s below freezing outside I visualize my feet crunching in the soft snow and the sting of the snow in my cheeks. My heart pumping in my chest and the hammer pound of the blood in my ears. And then I put on as much clothing as it takes to get me out the front door. Wool hat, mittens, fleece hoodie, long sleeved shirt, fleece lined running pants, and a second set of mittens over the first. I shed clothing as I go. I tuck the hat into the waistband of my pants, hold on to my mittens in one hand. And usually, as long as it’s not wet, by the time I am 2-3 miles in I am warm. My toes burn as the numbness recedes and is replaced with a rush of heat as they pound against the pavement. My hands  are always the last things to get warm. But eventually blood warms the ends of my fingertips. When that happens I am a machine. Well oiled. Smooth. Tireless. At least for a little while. 


And in the summer and warm spring and fall days I sometimes stand outside and feel the heat envelope me. I stand in direct sunlight and feel it burning me. Just a little.  

How to Use Up All Your Leftover Sock Yarn, Part II

Tiny socks followed by tiny mittens. 

Mitten Pattern:

Using size 2 needles cast on 24 stitches.

Knit 1, purl 1 around for a total of 10 rows. 

Next row: switch to stockinette and at the same time increase 3 stitches evenly. 

Next row: knit 13 stitches, pm, k1, pm, knit to end. The stitch in between the markers is the beginning of the thumb gore. 

Round 1: knit to first marker, slip marker, m1, knit to next marker, m1, slip marker, knit to end.

Round 2: knit, slipping markers as you go

Repeat rounds 1 and 2 until you have 9 thumb stitches. 

Next round: knit to market, place thumb stitches in a holder and remove markers, knit to end.

Next round: knit to space where thumb stitches were, m1, knit to end.

Knit 3 rounds even

Next round (decreasing starts): knit 7, k2tog, around. 

Next round: knit to one stitch before the prior k2tog, k2tog, around

Repeat this round until 3 stitches remain. Break yarn and pull through remaining stitches. 

Thumb:

Pick up held stitches and divide equally between dpn’s. 

Knit 2 rounds in stockinette

Decrease round: k1, k2tog around

Next round: k2tog around

Break yarn and pull through remaining 3 stitches


How to Use Up All Those Tiny Balls of Leftover Sock Yarn

I knit a lot of socks. And I have a lot of leftover sock yarn. Dozens of tiny balls. Too little yarn to knit new socks. But enough, I realized recently,  to make sock and mitten ornaments. 

I have wanted to knit ornaments for a few years now but with all the holiday craziness I never got around to it. Then I was digging through my stash looking for yarn for another small project and lamenting all the tiny balls of leftover sock yarn when I had an idea– I could finally make ornaments! First I went to ravelry and looked at patterns. Then I realized this was ridiculous since I can’t remember the last time I needed to use a pattern to knit a sock or a mittens. I could just make them smaller. And bonus! I only need to knit one instead of a pair each time. 

Soon enough I had knit these


And this

Sock Pattern:

Using size 2 needles (or any size you like, really), cast on 30 stitches. Join for working in the round.

Knit 1, purl 1 around for a total of 10 rounds. 

Switch to stockinette and knit 20 rounds

Next round: knit first 14 stitches. Then turn work. The rest of the heel will be worked over these fourteen stitches. 

Row 1: (slip one, purl one) across

Row 2: slip one, then knit the remainder of the stitches

Repeat these two rows another 5 times. Repeat row 1. 

Then start short row heel: knit 8 stitches, ssk, knit one. Turn work. 

Next row: slip one, purl 3, p2tog, purl 1, turn work

Row 1: slip one, knit to one stitch before the gap, ssk, knit one, turn work

Row 2: slip one, purl to one stitch before the gap, p2tog, purl one, turn work

Repeat rows 1 and 2 until all of the stitches have been worked

Joining round: knit across heel stitches, pick up 7 stitches along the side of the heel flap, knit across top of foot stitches, pick up seven stitches along other side of heel flap. Now divide the heel stitches evenly and distribute them between the two needles and knit to the top of the heel stitches. You should have the top of foot stitches all on one needle, and the heel stitches and heel flap stitches that you picked up should be evenly divided between the other two needles. I should note here that this is how I like to do things. If you have another method that you prefer or if you customarily use 5 needles instead of 4 when using dpn’s then feel free to disregard. Just make sure you know where the beginning of the round is so that you know where to decrease.

Moving the beginning of the round and decreasing: knit across the top of the heel stitches. You have arrived at the new beginning of the round. 

Decrease round: knit one, ssk, knit to 3 stitches before the top of foot stitches, k2tog, knit 1, knit to end. 

Work this round every other round until there are 14 total bottom of foot stitches, keeping the alternate round in stockinette stitch. Then knit another 9 rounds.

Next round: knit to top of foot stitches, knit one, ssk, knit to 3 stitches before end of top of foot stitches, k2tog, knit 1, knit to end of round. 

Decrease round: k1, ssk, knit to 3 stitches before top of foot stitches, k2tog, knit 2, ssk, knit to 3 stitches before the end of round, k2tog, knit 1.

Repeat decrease round until there are 8 stitches left, 4 for the top of foot, and 4 for the bottom. Arrange remaining stitches so that the 4 top of foot stitches are on one needle and the 4 bottom of foot stitches are in one needle then use Kitchener stitch to graft toe stitches together. 

*********

Each of these knit up quick and easy. I am powering through my stash of mini balls of sock yarn. It’s kind of freeing in a way. And kind of joyful. I can’t wait to put hang mini socks and mittens in my tree in a few weeks. 

Next blog entry will be mittens. 

Today I Turned Lemon and Clementine Peels Into Sugar Delivery Devices

Candied citrus peels. I’ve been wanting to make these for several years– ever since my mom made them and raved about them. I love citrus peels. I nibble on lemon peels and eat kumquats whole. When I was pregnant the hardest thing for me was not being able to eat clementines because I had gestational diabetes. This recipe called to me. 

When I visited my parents last month I wrote down the recipe so that I could actually make them. But first I had to have 3 cups of citrus peels on hand. What to do? I could have peeled 3 cups worth of clementines or sliced up an equal number of lemons but I didn’t know what I would do with the leftover fruit. So I decided that I would save, and freeze, peels until I had enough. And today I actually had the time to make the recipe. 

First, I scraped off any bits of lemon from the lemon peels and sliced up the peels into pieces no bigger than 2″ long by 1/4″ wide. 


Once that was done I placed the peels in a sauce pan and covered them with water. 


I then brought the peels to a boil and drained them, repeating this process a total of 3 times. Then I brought: 1 1/2 cups sugar, 3/4 cup water, and the peels to a boil and boiled them for 20 minutes. I knew they were done when the syrup turned gelatinous. Then I drained them on more time, and let them dry on wax paper. 



After sitting out for a couple of hours, I tossed the peels in sugar, then put them in jars. Yield was 2 medium sized mason jars