Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Knitting while distracted

This, unfortunately, is my latest knitting project:



Yes, I know, it’s just a ball of wool. In fact, as you can probably tell, it’s wool that’s been knit and then unknit. This is what I get for knitting while watching Lost.

Just two nights ago, this was an almost-completed Basic Rolled-Brim Hat in the child’s size (the same pattern I used for this hat). Note the word basic in the name. I like to have an easy knitting project around for doing while I watch TV, and this pattern is easy. Most of it is just plain knitting, round and round and round. The decreases require a little more attention but I use stitch markers after each one, so they’re usually a piece of cake.

This time, though, when I did the first row of decreases, I realized that I was one stitch short. I hadn’t dropped one, so I must have counted wrong when I cast on. That wasn’t too much of a problem—I just fudged it. No one would notice if one of the decrease ridges started a row late, except perhaps for a rather tall person peering down at the wearer’s head.

Then a few rows later, I found that I was two stitches short. Despite my careful (I thought) use of stitch markers, I’d obviously miscounted again. Figuring that the problem had to be in this row, since the previous decrease row had been fine, I took it out and re-knit it, only to find that those two stitches had not miraculously turned up. Since this is a small project, I decided to just rip it out and start again, rather than risk making it even worse with my sudden lack of math skills.

Now, my husband and I started watching Lost only recently, after my cousin raved about it. We’ve started at the beginning of the first season, borrowing the DVDs from the library. The show—at least the episodes we’ve seen—is very intense and obviously I shouldn’t be knitting under its influence. I’d already noticed that my knitting got tighter during the scary parts and now I’ve discovered that I’m apparently incapable of counting to eight while watching it.

As I tell my friend Hayley so often that I’m sure she’d be happy to stuff this ball of wool into my mouth like a plug, there’s always a bright side. This is the first time I’ve used this wool (Patons Classic Merino), and it’s nice to work with—now I get to spend even more hours with it.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Making envelopes

A year or so ago, I got an envelope full of tea in the mail. I’m always happy to get tea in the mail—tea is one of those things that make life so good—but what really caught my attention was that the sender had made the envelope from a magazine page. A week or so letter I got a letter in an envelope that had started life as a pizza ad. I had to try this.

Since then I’ve made dozens of envelopes from magazine pages and old calendars. It’s very easy to do. I have one template from a card-making kit, but I’ve also carefully opened up store-bought envelopes to get patterns for other sizes. I choose the pattern that best fits the page I’m using, trace around it, and cut. To get crisp folds, I score them first with a paper-scoring-thingy (I have no idea what it’s called. Wait, I’ve just looked it up and it’s called a “scoring tool.” You would think I’d have guessed that). Then I make the folds and rub them with a . . . wait, I’ll find it . . . bone folder (now I sound like I know what I’m talking about). The flat side of a butter knife would probably work just fine. Then I glue the sides with a glue stick. When I’m ready to send it, I glue down the back flap and use either a sticky label or a label made from plain paper for the address.

For some reason that has nothing to do with the word pack-rat, I have a stack of old calendars. I was obviously thinking ahead when I saved them. Now I can make envelopes with themes ranging from nature and wildlife to astronauts, from knitting to beautiful destinations. It’s fun and free, saves a bit of paper, and makes a nice surprise for the receiver.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blog launch and first finish

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore but I do make a list of goals. My theme for this year is the Year of Living Differently and an important aspect of that is changing how I spend my time. One of my goals is to make creative endeavors part of my everyday life again. For about 20 years, from the time I learned embroidery from my next-door neighbor’s babysitter when I was 10 until I had kids, making things was part of my everyday life. Even when I was in grad school, busy with classes and papers and research, I spent an hour sewing or quilting every day and I knitted, crocheted, or did needlework while I watched TV. Creating was like therapy to me—it’s how I relaxed, it gave me time to think, and every time I finished a project or learned a new skill, I felt a sense of accomplishment.

Then I had kids and something had to give. I was smack in the middle of a degree and working as a teaching assistant when Child One was born. We were new homeowners and new parents. The time I had spent crafting was now more likely to be spent working in the yard, marking papers, washing diapers, or at the new moms’ group at the recreation center. Not that I stopped making things altogether—I have a box of handmade clothes packed away and pictures of me knitting with Child Two sound asleep on my lap. But no longer could I leave the sewing machine out and the ironing board up, and any thought of stitching on fine fabrics was tempered by the reality of sticky little fingers. As my kids grew, my creative focus switched from yarn, thread, and fabric to fingerpaints, crayons, and washable markers.

My kids have been past the sticking-a-pin-in-my-eye-to-see-what-happens stage for several years now, but I have let other things—work, chauffeuring duties, volunteering, the hundreds of little tasks that pop up each week—take over most of my time. I still knit when I’m watching TV, but poor Child One has been waiting for new curtains for his room for four years now and too often my boxes of craft supplies remain untouched for weeks. When I think about it, I spend more time shopping for craft stuff than doing the crafts.

My work is creative (don’t believe Blogger’s claim that I’m in accounting; I’m an editor), but the ideas are not mine. In this Year of Living Differently, I want to make time for the creative things I love to do and I want to stretch myself by learning new things. As part of that, I’ve started two blogs, one that’s mainly for writing and this one, which I’ve called “Making Do” because I want to shift my focus from thinking (and shopping) to making and doing, and, as much as possible, I want to make do with the rather large (okay, huge) stash of supplies I already have.

So now that this blog is officially launched, I will post my first finish of the year, a roll-brim hat (pattern from Knitting for Peace) knitted from Lion Brand Wool. As I suspected, even though it’s an adult large size it’s too small for my humungous head, so I will donate it to Afghans for Afghans. Since this pattern is pretty easy, I didn’t learn any new knitting techniques, but I did learn that it’s just about impossible to take a picture of a hat on your own head, especially if you don’t want your face to show (since the too-smallness of this hat makes my hair look even goofier than usual). I also learned that while my cats do want to be involved in the photography process, they do not make willing hat models. They will walk through the picture,
sniff the hat before knocking it down, fight over it ("I don't know what it is, but it's mine!"), and sit prettily next to it,
but they will definitely not wear it.