22 January 2015

Block-A-Month: January knit-along block

This is the beginning of my January block for the knit-long that I joined. Unlike the crochet-long, this project doesn't have filler blocks or anything. It it just one block a month. I knit this much in one evening and then I didn't touch it for a week. It's not that I didn't want to work on it, but my body betrayed me once again. This time it was a headache and neck pain that took me several days to get rid of. The block is a fairly simple basketweave pattern, so I expect to be able to finish it by the end of the month if I don't have more pain to get in the way.

One other thing that may stall my needlework progress is that the spring semester has started. I only have two classes this semester, but they are both project-based. This makes me happy because the hands-on classes are my favorite. However, I don't know how much time I will have to knit and crochet. I may end up playing catch up with my squares at the end of the semester.

13 January 2015

Block-A-Month: Off to a good start, I hope

I completed the main January block for the crochet-along that I mentioned in a previous post. Despite having pain from my fingertips to my shoulder blades, I managed to finish it in a week. It took a lot of stretching and a lot of ibuprofen, but I soldiered on!

For those who play with hooks and string, the pattern is called Pizzazz by Melinda Miller. It is a free pattern, but I think it is only available on Ravelry. If you happen to look up the pattern, you will notice that I left off the last two border rounds. I just didn't like the way they looked with the colors I was using. I used Red Heart Super Saver yarn and a US size I hook. The square is supposed to be 12" but mine ended up being 12.5". Hopefully the other squares will come out the same size since I am sticking with the same yarn and hook.

This pattern wasn't difficult, but it wasn't instinctive for me, either. I had to consult the pattern every few stitches. It didn't help that I haven't crocheted in a while, so I had trouble remembering the difference between a double crochet and a half double crochet stitch, among other things. Perhaps it will get easier as I go along and the basic stitches become part of my memory again.

NEXT UP: This crochet-along has a main block, a filler block, and a 6" block for each month. Since I've finished the main block with time in the month to spare, I will either start on the filler block or do the main block for the knit-along that I joined. You'll have to wait until my next post to see what I decide :-).

01 January 2015

Needlework Goals for 2015 -- Taking Stock and Making Plans

For years I've wanted to make enough afghans that each of my children could have at least one when they moved out but I've never made much progress towards that dream. In 2015 I am going to take another stab at it by participating in at least one afghan project on Ravelry. I signed up for the 2015 Block-A-Month Crochet-Along and the 2015 Block-A-Month Knit-Along. I haven't purchased yarn for the knit-along yet, but I am planning to use scraps I have on hand for the crochet-along so I can start right away.

I started pulling yarn out of the yarn cabinet in my bedroom right after the New Year's Day meal to pick three colors for my first square. Before I knew it, I was out in the backyard storage shed looking for more yarn because I wasn't fully pleased with the colors I originally planned to use. This turned into a 45-minute reorganization project with several trips up and down the stairs, so at least I got a workout!

During the reorganization process, I discovered that I don't have as much yarn as I thought. I've always joked that I'm not a typical stitcher because I don't have a big stash -- I have more of a stashette. Now I don't even have enough yarn to call it that. Since ABM didn't want all the yarn in the house, it had been in the garage for years where I would dash out on a cold evening, pull the yarn I want out of an 18-gallon Rubbermaid container, and dash back into the house. When ABM built the storage shed, I found that I no longer needed four 18-gallon containers; between me and the kids using the yarn and giving some away, I could fit what I had into two containers. Today, I found that my two containers were now half empty so I could fit a lot of what was in my bedroom into them.

I've always felt restricted by the yarn I had. I bought a bunch of it in grab bag sales when I first got back into needlework over 15 years ago. By the time I gained more knowledge of what the different yarns were used for and what kind of projects I enjoyed most, I was stuck with a lot of yarn didn't have much use for. What I didn't realize at the time is that a lot of the grab bag yarn was stuff that the previous owner didn't know what to do with, either, and had been holding onto for years. I still have yarn that I bought during that time that is from the 1960s! Now that most of that yarn is gone, I feel a weight has been lifted and I can buy new yarns that I've really wanted to try.

There are two piles of oddballs that I am considering for my squares. I can't mix them together because the fibers don't play nicely in the washing machine. The first pile is Red Heart Super Saver, most of which is being pulled from my Gosh-Awful Gaudy Afghan that I abandoned years ago:

This was the yarn that I originally planned to use, but now I'm not so sure about the colors. I mean, I like the colors but I feel that I need to add some more bright ones.

The other pile of oddballs is Caron Simply Soft, and it is mostly leftovers from projects that my daughters did:

When I think of crocheted afghans, I think of the 1970s afghans and the mishmash of colors in them. That is what I want, so I am leaning toward the second pile. However, I may crochet one square from each pile before I make my final decision.

31 December 2014

Reflection on the eve of a new year

This morning I woke up with the urge to write an end-of-year blog post. Even though nothing cool happened this year, I still felt that I should reflect on past events and see if there is something I want to focus on in the coming year. That's what adults do, right?

Foremost in my thoughts this year has been work and money. In January, I started a new customer service job that I do from home. I knew within two weeks that it wasn't for me, but I couldn't quit because shortly thereafter ABM lost his job. Not only that, but he was denied unemployment insurance so I've been the sole breadwinner for the first time in our marriage. The stress of it all has made me feel physically weighed down. I don't even want to leave the house most days. However, I have gone from fairly depressed to merely sad and resigned to my fate, which is an improvement.

I'm still taking online classes through the local community college, with the hope that I can transition into some sort of back-office computer job that does not involve me talking to customers. Battling that hope is the fear that all this studying will be for naught and I will be stuck in customer service jobs forever. I'm not sure that I will be able to shake that fear.

I shouldn't put the rest of my life on hold just because I don't like my job, yet that is exactly what I've been doing. Until about a month ago, I haven't been doing much more than sleeping and watching TV on my days off. There has been little to no exercising, needlework, blogging, gardening, or cooking. I've been letting the job suck the joy out of anything else I try to do.

To chase away the dark thoughts, I've been reminding myself of my blessings. The kids are all healthy, M and C1 both have jobs, and we still have a roof over our heads with food in the fridge. Everyone is getting good grades. ABM has managed not to fall into the depression that affects many unemployed people. These are all things to be thankful for, and I am. I need to keep these uppermost in my mind in 2015, and try to find the joy in my life again.

27 August 2014

Getting back on the productivity track

Like a lot of Americans, I lead a sedentary lifestyle. My job involves sitting in front a computer for eight hours a day, my hobbies are all done sitting done, and I have three teenagers to handle the bulk of the household chores. Because I sit a lot, it doesn't take much for me to feel productive. Today, I marveled at the tasks I completed that barely qualify as work but that made me feel like I had gotten something done:

  • I cleared all the junk off the three counters and the island in my kitchen.
  • I went out and turned my compost heap.
  • I swept my bedroom.
  • I sent a voicemail comment to one of my favorite podcasts.
  • I updated 18 apps on my iPad (that red number is finally gone!).
Even writing this blog post feels productive because I haven't blogged since January. I get such a positive hit from accomplishing little things that I often wonder if it stops me from doing bigger things. 

Getting in shape is a prime example. Last year it took me three months to lose 15 pounds. That is five pounds a month, which sounds healthy, right? Except that I was eating less than 1000 calories, taking diet pills and exercising every day to do it. Also, I saw no improvement in my body shape, my breathing, or my endurance at the end of that three months. I know all you fitness buffs out there are shouting, "You need to keep going!" Intellectually I know that I shouldn't expect instant gratification from the pursuit of better health. That doesn't stop me from feeling that diet and exercise is nothing but deprivation and sweat with no payoff, especially since many of the diets that other people try (low carb, Weight Watchers, etc.) don't budge the numbers on my scale at all.

A few months ago, I said that I was going to be happy with the the little goals I hit and not dwell so much on whatever I didn't do. I lost my way for a while (I got a new job I hate, while my husband lost his), but I realized I can't do anything about those setbacks so I might as well keep moving forward.