Monday, February 18, 2019

A Decade of Discovery

Today is my 70th birthday. This is mind blowing to me...I still feel 35-40 inside. Well, they say 70 is the new 50, and I think they're right.

The last decade has been one of immense personal growth for me, the one in which I found myself.  I'm in such a different place than I was ten years ago, and I'm profoundly happy about it.

This April will be ten years that I've lived in Rose Cottage/Fortuna. That's longer than I ever lived anyplace else in my life. I've been in Humboldt County for nearly 24 years, a few years longer now than I was in Los Angeles before I left in 1971. So Humboldt is my real home (altho LA will always be my hometown).

I'm close to finished with another pair of socks for myself. And this week I'll start another sweater.

I completed my big stamp-collection project over the weekend, that I've been working on since November. I have a pretty awesome collection now, having pulled all the stamps out of the stock books and small albums I got in the fall, and putting them in the larger albums. Plus a ton of stamps left over to use in collages, etc.

And today is beautiful (albeit cold) on the North Coast, a break between rainstorms.

Hope you're all having a lovely February! xx

Friday, February 8, 2019

What to Name a Sweater

I decided to name my handknit sweaters after the color name of the here is my Chalk sweater, completed as of yesterday.

Lot of firsts with this sweater: first one knit top to bottom; first one knit in the round completely; first one knit with my recently-purchased and much-loved ChiaoGoo circular knitting needles.

Chalk fits fine too...altho as with every sweater I use a commercial pattern for, there are things I'd do differently, were I to knit it again.

Instead, I think I'll go back to designing sweaters for myself, which I've done with success in the past. I know knitted garments look and seem complicated, but knitting is really just about basic math. Number of stitches and rows per inch multiplied by the proper measurements and shaping.

I still have three of my handknit sweaters from previous knitting times (all the others sold or given to friends or charity), two of which were self designed. One in particular, which still fits me, remarkably (altho of handspun yarn, therefore very itchy), has features I'll knit again in a future sweater I'm planning for later this year. That is, after I knit a couple of intervening sweaters and a couple more pair of socks.

Last fall I bought a lot of yarn, specifically to use this year. I bought enough of each yarn that I'd have a range of garments I could knit up with each one. So my knitting plans this year are to work with what I now have in my personal stash. Instead of continuing to buy more and more yarn throughout the year. Another way of looking at it is that I invested in a stash of yarns I'd want to use, without always looking to see what's out there yarn-wise. I know what's out there. I'll get to it when I get to it. I think maybe they call this maturity, or self-discipline.


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Falling Together/Coming Apart

I've been easing into the new year. Historically I used to dislike January, because 1) the holidays were over (when there was anything for me to celebrate) and 2) I'd likely put myself on a diet of one sort or another on January 1 to atone for my sins of the previous month.

It's actually been many years since any of that was the case, nevertheless I still find I enter January each year with a bit of trepidation.

The reality, though, is that January is just like any other month to me at this point in my life. The only thing that's any different from one month to the next is the weather.

This is the sweater I'm currently working on, my first top-down knitted piece. It's a couple inches longer than shown here. I'm attempting to put at least an inch on every day...because the length from the armhole down will be about 20 inches...and even at that rate it'll take me most of the month just to get to the bottom. But who's counting the time invested...
...certainly not me, as this is the new state of the kimono I knit several months ago! After wearing it a few times, I realized I didn't like the way it fit, there were things I didn't like about the pattern design, and although I love the yarn, garter stitch did not show it off in its best light like stockinette stitch will. I'm looking forward to knitting it again, to my specifications this time. But the effort spent on it was not for naught, because it got me back into knitting again.

As the veils begin to part and more and more is revealed...this should be a very interesting year.


Sunday, December 30, 2018

Happy New Year

Just checking in to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Hope we all experience positive changes in our lives in 2019.

Finally, I'm working on a knitted sweater.  And also a pair of socks that will be donated, among other handmade items, to Sequoia Humane's fundraiser in February.

The socks in the photo below, the most recent pair I finished for myself, has an interesting story...

This is a 2-ply hand dyed, hand spun silk yarn, from 10 or 12 years ago. I had to dye the black like three times to get the silk noil really, really black. And I hand carded in the bits of color.

I originally thought I'd have enough yarn for a pair of socks, but because the gauge was so small, meaning I was using more yarn than anticipated, I realized I'd need more. Then remembered I had a woven piece from back then, 40x16 inches, with this same yarn as the weft. So I UNwove the piece, because it wasn't even in my top 10 faves anyway. Unweaving meant meticulously picking the fabric apart, about 5/8 inch at a time. Took me several hours over a couple days.

Now, of course, I've got enough yarn to knit another pair for myself out of this yarn. Which I just might do because it was so much fun to knit these.

Happy New Year, everyone! xx

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Quiet Time

Been enjoying a multitude of quiet days at home, and never been happier. Currently watching rain move in and the trees shudder in the strong breeze.

Still knitting socks, likely a couple more pair this year before I start on a sweater, the first of several. But this sock-knitting thing is addictive.

I've been making collages more slowly than previously...but every time I think maybe I'll take a break (it's been 2 years since I started collaging in its current form), I begin again. So, no break, just pace myself.

I spent the entire 5-day Thanksgiving weekend, including the Wednesday before, at home, alone, doing my own thing, and never left the house in all that time. And since then, I've also had blocks of time where I've done likewise. In fact, that's kind of how I'm organizing my life from here on out. Be away from home as little as possible. Spend every day only doing things that I enjoy (plus some housework now and then).

I guess it's nearly Christmas, but I'm so far removed from all of that, that I'm not really impacted in any way. I treated myself to a bunch of stuff earlier this fall, yarn mostly, so I'm going frugal this month. As much as I enjoy buying things on the few occasions in the year when I do, I also enjoy NOT spending money. I really have more than enough stuff already.

Hope you're all having a blessed month and that you have lovely holidays. xx

Friday, November 16, 2018

Places That Don't Exist Anymore

For the past 5 to 6 years, since I began with mail art/snailmailing, I've become increasingly interested in old postage stamps. When I was a very young kid in the late 50s, I started collecting stamps...but family changes, moves, etc. put the kibosh on that hobby.

So I've been ad hoc collecting for a few years now, deciding on which stamps are most appealing to me and swapping, selling or giving away anything else. I've kept my stamps in a 3-ring binder, in those plastic sleeves that hold ATCs or trading cards, 9 slots on a page.

Only recently did I decide I wanted to "formalize" my stamps into a real collection, in albums. I found an old Minkus 1954 International Album at the flea a couple months ago, for $5. And that just whet my appetite.

On Tuesday, I acquired, from my vendor pal, a huge 3-part Scott International Album through the late 1950s, a Scott Minuteman U.S. Album through the late 1980s, 5 or 6 other smaller albums, and 5 or 6 stamp stock books...everything with collections started who knows where or when...for a song. And I'm over the moon.

Slowly, I will work my own collection into the bigger albums, and remove stamps from the smaller albums to do the same. For U.S. stamps, I'm good with the Minuteman Album only going up to the late 1980s. Because I do not like 99% of the "newer issues," meaning stamps that are microlithographed as opposed to engraved (the Bureau of Printing & Engraving stopped issuing engraved stamps in the early 1990s, although many stamps prior to then were not engraved. The Bureau stopped printing stamps altogether in 2005.), and I have no intention of collecting them. Except the very few that I like, which I'll probably keep in a stock book instead of an album.

Not sure what I'll do yet with international stamps beyond the late 1950s. It's unlikely I'll find an album for them, short of buying Scott's now-50 volume World Stamp Album, which wholly sells for close to $14,000! I definitely will not go there, so I 'll probably keep those stamps in the same binder I'm currently housing my collection.

There was a time when I wouldn't have been happy with old albums. But I'm completely satisfied with them now. In fact, it feels like an honor to have acquired collections that were started in the past by I don't know how many people, work on and with them, and pass them on at the end of my life.

I've now got more old stamps than I could ever imagine before, many from countries and regions that no longer exist, and I would bet quite a few of them are very valuable, monetarily. The history in these album education for sure. Especially in view of how much the world has changed in the past 100 years -- or even 20 years -- I'd much rather have my head in old, vintage stamp albums, continually amazed at the tiny works of art before me, than watch movies or television.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Next Pair

Sock knitting continues. The pair below was finished early last week. The pair from the last post, that I didn't especially like because of how the colors worked up, has a new home, with a friend who loves them. Win-win for everybody.

I'm resting my hands this weekend, focusing on reading the latest Tana French novel, The Witch Elm. I only have it for a week.

I've been collaging frequently, and replying to penpal correspondence. It's so hard to believe this year is nearly over and done with. Went to a Thanksgiving Dinner last night, hosted by the mobile park where I live. I couldn't help but notice that a lot of people here now seem younger than folks did when I moved in...the older ones died or moved away, plus I'm 10 years older, so most of the newer residents ARE younger than me!

Our days recently have been mostly-clear and crisp. Parts of California are on fire again, with more new fires likely. It sure seems that every time new fires happen, they are more devastating than any previous fires. More total acres (1.7M+) have burned in California this year than in any previous year. There've been more fatalities in recent fires and much more destruction of homes, schools, etc. The entire town of Paradise, east of Chico, was wiped out by the Camp Fire last week. The Woolsey Fire in SoCal has burned from Simi Valley to Thousand Oaks to Malibu, right down to the coast highway. It's so sad.

I feel pretty safe in Humboldt County. No major fires here, no extreme weather (the long-standing drought in CA notwithstanding), as far as I know we haven't had any mass shootings here (although we do have a huge number of drug-related homicides and traffic fatalities).

Overall and in general, despite last Tuesday's election results, I feel things will continue to get a lot worse...and it might not begin to turn around in what's left of my lifetime. So I try my best to enjoy my life, here and now, and let go of the rest. Although it's a daily challenge, as I'm sure you all know, to live our lives without being impacted by what's going on around us.

Hope you have a good week.  xx

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

WYSI-not always-WYG

I spent the past four days power-knitting a pair of socks, because I wanted to get it over and done with.

First off, when I saw the skein that produced the socks below, I thought it was the most beautiful yarn I'd seen. It read turquoise, olive, magenta. It did not read brown, as the finished socks do. So to say I'm a little disappointed is an understatement.

But the yarn was pricey and I don't like having UFOs lying around...because they eat at my mind until I finish them. So I just knit up this pair of socks from the getgo, working as fast as I could, so that I could move on.

The yarn was also relatively difficult to work with, because it's a very tightly spun 3-ply that is very round -- which likely makes it good for socks, but cumbersome to work with. Plus, that tightly-spunness rendered all the stitches so uniform, that the finished socks look as though they were made on a sock knitting machine, not by hand.

However...they're warm and comfy, despite that they don't go with anything I own. And they're also 100% superwash wool, which is the only wool I'll use these days.

In my spinning days, just the name superwash would kind of make me recoil. I used to buy raw wool fleece and process and spin it myself. So a wool product messed-with in any way was out of my range of comprehension...

...until about 10 years ago when I realized that I could no longer wear wool, because it itched too much. So I used up what handspun wool I had left on items I donated to local animal rescue groups, and set about knitting up all the handspun silks I had in my collection.

Then I decided to knit again in earnest, and I discovered superwash wool. The primary reason it is called superwash, is that it can be soaped and agitated in a washing machine without turning into felt, as natural wool will do in a heartbeat. Natural wool fibers have microscopic barbs on them, and those barbs stick together when wool is agitated. (Those barbs also help the fibers stick together in the yarn-spinning process.) The process of making a wool superwash removes all those barbs, which is why you can wash it without fear of felting.

But...removing the barbs from the fiber also renders it Non-Itchy! And that's why I'm using superwash wool now. I can use and wear wool without an allergic reaction. Hallelujah!

I've gotten back into stamp collecting, something I did as a kid in the 50s. I think it was all those recently-acquired vintage envelopes with their old stamps that pushed me over the edge of deciding to do something more formal with the stamps I've been collecting for the last five years. I'll say more about it in my next post.

Early indicators predict that this will likely be a warm and dry winter in California. We had a smattering of rain a few days ago, but I don't think we'll see a lot of it this year. I hope I'm wrong.

Happy Hallowe'en! xx

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Perfect Pair of Socks

I only just finished these, my second pair of socks...and they're perfect!  So now I have that template I was after, from which I can knit socks with abandon. Altho coming up next is a pair of wrist/forearm warmers for moi.

I was kind of busy there for a while,  but things freed up again last week.  I'm back to knitting mostly, and reading, and collaging every day when I can.

The weather has been beautiful. This is indeed the Indian Summer that I was hoping for.

Hope you're enjoying October. Happy Hallowe'en! xx