A Little Knitting Progress, a Little Hope

Stay Safe Cowl by EasyKnitter.co.uk

I have been knitting away on this little cowl for weeks now. It’s been a learning experience, both in double-knitting (those vertical grey stripes on the bottom half) and in fair-isle stranded knitting (the colorwork on top). This is actually a double-sided cowl, so when I’m done with the pattern the striped bit will flip up and be the inside of the cowl. It’s merino stranded with mohair and I am v. v. excited about wearing it, so while I am a very slow stranded knitter, I’m hoping to get this finished while it’s still cool enough to wear it.

And there’s that word, hope.

Really, this cowl represents so much of my current feelings. A wish for myself and others to stay safe. Looking for bright in the darkness. And, so much hope.

Wednesday was… a lot. I was working from home that day so I was able to listen to (not so much watch) the Inaugural proceedings, and while I don’t feel like we’re out of the woods yet (obviously there is still so much work to do! – I mean I work in healthcare, I. Know. This.) I have so much hope that we can kick hatred back into the smallest of shadows and bring on a brighter and better tomorrow. I know I am not the only one to say this, but Amanda Gorman’s reading said this better than I ever could.

Amanda Gorman delivering “The Hill We Climb”

This young lady. When I was 22 I was invited by a professor and former Santa Barbara city Poet Laureate to read at a poetry night at a museum and I thought THAT was big (it was for me, and Barry Spacks believing in me was huge). (I promise I’ll keep writing poems, Barry.) But Amanda Gorman is on another plane altogether, and honestly it thrills me to see such a vibrant, talented young woman be called the nation’s first Youth Poet Laureate.

Someone on MSNBC said that it felt as if it’s been a battle between Old America and New America and that Amanda’s reading was like a declaration that a new, more inclusive America had won. I hope so. I am hoping that Biden’s long experience, bipartisan respect, and reliance on experts (experts, everywhere!) can bring us forward to where the U.S. really ought to be in terms of innovation, equalilty, and infrastructure. Not to mention finally dealing with the pandemic (epidemic, as it should rightly be called now) in a responsible way.

I have hope. I have hope.

Knitting Through the Mess

Slipstravaganza by Stephen West

One of the things that has been keeping me sane through the pandemic has been keeping my hands busy, and a lot of that has been knitting.

This particular piece is part of a mystery knit-along that has been over for more than a month now, but I’m slow so I keep moving along. It’s helpful for me to have a tangible thing I’m working on while I’m writing, something to keep me focused and keep my brain quiet so I can untangle story plots.

Have you been working on anything creative during the pandemic?

Indulge Your Various Creativities

Right now, I’m editing a manuscript that took me about five years to write. I don’t think another book will ever, ever take me that long. This was a book that, if I hadn’t believed in it as much as I do, and loved the characters as much as I do, I would have probably given up on it long ago. I know it’s a possibility. I’ve given up on other stories, left them to dwindle in files on my computer, some of which I forget exist 95% of the time.

But this story would not let me go. Even when I finished it and I knew, and I mean KNEW that it wasn’t ready. That it was NOT in a place that I could send it out to the world and give it the chance it needed. But I also didn’t know, at the time, what it needed. So I wrote some other stuff and tore my hair out a bit and worked and relaxed and didn’t look at it much. Finally with gentle nudging from my CP and not-so-gentle nudging from my husband (let’s face it, I needed it at that point!) I started working in earnest on the rewrite. I sort of knew what needed to happen, but it started slow.

So I did the thing I like to do to keep my creativity fresh… I made things. Other things. Things that have very little to do with words and writing (though not nothing, all the time).

Here are a few examples of some things I’ve been making/indulging in the last few weeks:

craftiness

This is, clockwise:

1) yarn for a new yarnie project—I’m going to be making this Abalone vest, all goes well… I usually knit shawls and hats, so….,

2) I wrapped a new pair of headphones with embroidery floss on account of I thought it would be pretty and I often break my headphones at work and am sort of hoping this will provide extra protection, though I don’t really know that it will. Mostly, I thought it would be pretty.

3) Really  all this is is a rub-on decal that I put on my book journal—where I write notes to myself about whatever I’m reading while I’m reading. It’s not much, but it made me love the simple plain old thing much more. I’ve had the journal for years and finally used it for this because I was never interested in using it for actual journaling purposes. Oh what a difference a little bit of pretty makes! I prettied the title page a bit, too… Oh I just had a lot of fun with it. 🙂

4) A year or two ago I bought a bag of floof scraps (read: roving, AKA fiber AKA what yarn is made up of) and I’ve decided to lay it out in somewhat of a gradient and just spin it all up into one long yarn that may or may not all make sense together. We’ll see.

And as I was doing all of this… along with another top secret project for my mom and one or two other things… I’ve kind of solved my stump over what needs to happen to make my manuscript sale-able. Sellable? WORTHY OF SALES.

Something worth buying, anyhow. Something cinematic and poignant and full of grim justice to go along with the pretty, pretty I had before.

Even The Mr agrees that my new ending idea has a lot of potential. And that’s big.

So excuse me if I’m busy the next couple of months. This baby is finally getting ready to see the world.*

*You know… eventually. Or at least a few dozen (?) agents’ eyes.

Tuesday Talk – When Too Much is Too Much

I spent all day Sunday knitting. No, not the above, mine is a secret for a friend, that’s just a picture gakked from here. Really, when I say I spent all day knitting, I mean I spent about six or seven hours knitting, with a break for dinner. It’s my own fault… I act as if my friends’ birthdays sneak up on me or hide when they are from me, when really every year I have a year to prepare… and I don’t.

I ended up really pleased with the knitting I got done, but I also ended up freaking out when I finally put the knitting down and went to bed.

Why, you ask?

Because both of my ring fingers had gone dead numb. Actually, it was worse than numb. They were simultaneously numb and feeling ultra-bruised. I shook my hands out and rubbed my fingers and stretched my hands and arms, but by the time I fell asleep, my ring fingers were still both numb. I had a pretty good idea what was wrong with me, but that didn’t stop me from being scared to death of it. Everything I do—everything I do—I do with my hands. I actually said to my husband that I can’t lose my hands.

I looked it up the next morning, and as I’d feared, it looks like I’m starting to develop RSS—Repetitive Stress Syndrome. Basically this means that if I don’t slow down and take breaks when I’m doing a lot of knitting—or typing, or doing anything repetitive—I could develop carpel tunnel syndrome like that.

I’m frustrated, because I don’t even knit that much. It’s just that when I do, I like to do it for hours. And now I can’t, really.

So my plan is to a fairly basic one. Firstly, pay more attention to my hands. They do a lot for me, these lovely little things, and I need to treat them better, notice when they start hurting, etc. Secondly, I need to actually plan my crafting out in advance. This knitting project is simple and can be finished in a matter of hours… but if I plan things out, I can make something a lot nicer, and actually have it done on time (this one will still be late!).

I’m also realizing that knitting is by far not my only problem. Typing and handwriting are two big things that I do all the time. All. The. Time.

So I have to figure out my writing time a little better, too. I have to be more economical with my time, for one thing, and with what I do with my hands.

And I’m going to try and do the dishes more. Like, after every meal instead of after a day and a half. Because soaking my hands in warm water is something that all my research has suggested, and I can’t just sit still and do nothing.

What I can do, though, is take more reading and meditation breaks, though. Who knows… maybe this might help me out with getting more out of both my knitting and my writing than I ever have.

H is for Handmade Movement

I’m a little late in the night, but I have to give a shout out to the Handmade Movement. As an Etsy seller, buying handmade is something that’s pretty important to me. Handmade crafts are something that I grew up with. My mother is a quilter, specializing in Hawaiian and Jacobean applique, and creativity has always been encouraged in my family.

There are really a lot of reasons to buy handmade, though. Firstly, buying directly from artists and artisans means that you know that your money is going to the people who put together the product that you’re getting, something that you can’t be sure of in almost any retail situation. Secondly,with websites like Etsy and Artfire, it’s easier than ever to do.

Maybe one of the biggest reason to buy handmade, though, is because in today’s mass-produced world, one-of-a-kind pieces of self-expression can only truly be found in the handmade market. Buying handmade is also a great way to support local artists instead of big chains, and a vote for quality—something that has been sacrificed in the mainstream markets in favor of price cuts.

The coolest thing about the handmade movement, though? Is that it also means that YOU can make things. Today learning how to knit, crochet, sew, make jewelry or whatever it is that interests you is easier than ever, because the internet literally has endless information on all of the above subjects (and lots more) available with just a Google search or two. Want to learn how to make soap? How about how to do embroidery? Or how to spin yarn? If you’re more of a visual learner, I’d suggest looking through Youtube. I personally learned how to spin, crochet, and bind books off of youtube.

Maybe selling online isn’t for you. Maybe selling at all isn’t for you. But there’s nothing like making something useful of your own.

This is also why I write, by the way. I have to be creating something all the time, whether it’s literally putting together a journal or notebook, making something wearable out of yarn, making the yarn itself, or telling a yarn of my own. 😉

C is for Crochet

So, I have a little bit of a yarnie love. No, not love, addiction. In fact, if there’s one hobby I could do for a living that wasn’t writing, it’d probably be spinning yarn (yes, like on a spinning wheel or a spindle—actually I haven’t tried a spinning wheel yet, but ooh would I love to!)

This yarn-yearning has been part of me since I was a very small child. I was fascinated with the stuff, though I didn’t know what in the world to do with it. Knitting didn’t strike my fancy at that age, and try and try again, I just could not learn how to crochet. I was taught, too—twice. I could never get past the single chain, basically the very first stitch.

I toyed with crochet once or twice as I got older, but all meager attempts failed, more or less. Then, my freshman year of college, I learned how to knit, taught by a neighbor of mine. I started slow with knitting, making basic garter-stitch scarves and not even learning how to purl (which is what makes knitting look all nice and smooth) for a couple of years. I loved knitting—it was very in at the time I was going to school (which was really only a few years ago) and was full of instant satisfaction for the creative being in me.

Then finally I decided I needed to learn how to crochet. Knitting and crochet really go hand in hand. You can know the one without knowing the other, but it’s far more beneficial (and freeing, in terms of what you can make) if you know both. After all, I’d learned how to purl on my own, I’d learned how to cast off knitting on my own… (well, thanks to youtube) why couldn’t I learn how to crochet?

I bought the book Stitch n’ Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker, and with that guidance, finally learned how to do something more than a chain of stitches. The exciting thing about crochet is that once you learn the basics (and by basics, I mean just barely beyond where I’d been the majority of my life) you can do just about anything. 

I’ve fiddled with the whole gamut of crochet, from scarves to toys to tiny motifs. I even have a little etsy shop where I sell the tiniest granny squares you’ve ever seen.

I like to use my crochet in other ways, too… like to ornament stuff in my main Etsy shop, CinderLisaDesign. Really, crochet just makes me happy. I knit more, to be honest, but crochet is my comfort craft. Easy to fix if you mess up, easy to shape stuff ways you want it. I’m always extra pleased with crochet stuff I do, to be honest, because there was a time I thought I’d never be able to get the handle of it. I’m glad I kept going. 😉

I’d say this doesn’t have anything to do with writing, except that for me it does, in a way. It proved to me that I could conquer things that I was hesitant about… something I also did in writing. I was sure that I couldn’t write believable fantasy for a long time, when the truth is, that’s almost all I’m writing right now, and makes up the majority of my planned projects, too. Sometimes you just have to keep trying until it works.