Frogs in My Armhole

The Inside Stories: Day 60
Monday, May 11, 2020

We started our stay-at-home adventures on Friday, March 13, which makes today Day 60. It’s also May 11, and this is what we woke up to:

January in May (2020 version)

Simply unbelievable. That’s about 3″ of cold-press frosting right there, folks. Winter just has to have the last laugh…


I want you to know that I really do read all of your comments, usually at least twice. I’ll go back and re-read a comment that did my heart good the first time around; I’ll double-check to make sure I am quoting someone correctly; or I re-read them simply because you are walking this journey with me, and it is deeply healing to hear from all of you again. I have missed you.

I love the variety of your responses. Sometimes you show links to what you are working on (YES, PLEASE); sometimes you say, “And I thought I was the only one!”; and sometimes you let me know that I am not the only one! You ask a question, or you make a request (A query such as “Could you write about X?” is a song to my heart), or else, you have rather gutted me with your wonderfully compassionate and wise insights. And many of you purr over kitty photos…

Kimberly assures me that there is no such thing as a gratuitous cat photo (made me laugh, 25 points to your School House, Kimberly), and from the comments, it appears that she is not the only one. Thus: Kimberly, today’s Fuzzy Images are in your honour (with thanks for some deeply sweet and very moving comments).

Dusty approves of Cook’s rendition of “Royal Canin, Flavour in A Major, Chicken”

(I’ll get the REST of you, my pretties, at some later date.)


A Minor Detail

Before we get into anything else, I’d like to point out a Minor Detail. For two blog posts in a row now, I have offered you this pretty picture to gaze upon:

Undercurrent Underarm

The caption, both times, was this:

Notice the beautiful curved seam? Notice the beautifully seamed armhole?

Let’s take a wander through that caption. (Hang with me here. Y’all know I am doing this for a reason.)

The first question: Notice the beautiful curved seam? might have been a BIG giveaway as to the point of that photo. However, since that didn’t seem to work, let’s take your comments regarding said seam at face value, thus: Thank you. I must say I agree, it is a really beautiful example of a curved seam. Part of why I included this photo was, I admit, to show off a particularly pretty piece of construction work. (If I do say so myself. Well. I only said that AFTER you said it, of course.)

The second part of the caption reads: Notice the beautifully seamed armhole?

{ blink }

Read. That. Again:

Notice the beautifully seamed armhole?

I’ll wait.

~~dumdumTEEdumdadadadaDUMDEEdaDUM~~



Anyone?

OK, then, here’s a HINT:

Since when do we ever seam an armhole, people?

SINCE NEVER.

LOL 😂 LOL🤣 LOL😜

The second point of posting that photo was to show you a mistake that is all too easy to make: I stitched together the front and back of the arm-HOLE; i.e., I seamed shut the part of the sweater that needs to be open to let your arms through.


I thought for sure I would get a pithy comment or six about that one, but perhaps, well. Perhaps you were all just blinded by the sheer architectural grace and beauty of the seaming. {bows} Thank you, you are all really too kind. {busts up in laughter}

Ben expresses his opinion

Either that, or you really were just too kind in holding your tongue. (You’re the best.)


One Stitch At A Time

Often in life, things are right in front of our faces, and yet we do not see them. Mistakes, particularly mistakes of the above magnitude of brilliance, often result from an inattention to Here and Now. This is neither good nor bad; our minds wander where they need to wander to heal and bring joy, especially these days.

A curvy hip…

We can let ourselves get swept along the flow of creativity; my seamed armhole was no doubt the result of enjoying the seaming process so much that I just hummed along merrily merrily with the mattress stitch until there wasn’t anything left to seam.

Another factor in the Hole That Wasn’t: I’m at the point now in my knitting life where I rarely pin more than shoulder seam to mid-sleeve-cap before just winging it all the way around the sleeve cap and down the length of the arm. This may seem like some sort of expert high-flying act, with experience tempering the risk of ending up with four inches of one side left hanging past the cuff of the other side; perhaps. But think: If I had taken those extra few minutes to pin, or at least to pin at more than just one or two places, then I might have been slowed down the fun long enough during Speedy Seaming to notice that I was going where no seam had gone before.

A waistly curve…

Oh, and yes: I do enjoy mattress stitch enough to get lost in the flow of it. I realize that I love the part that most knitters hate: I love the stitching-up part of knitting something. It’s like solving a puzzle: Find the paths for my needle to follow that will make the smoothest, most invisible seam possible. Sometimes a stitching path is obvious, so the work goes quickly; other times, I have to pick my way through the stitch-path carefully, one stitch at a time. Sometimes I have to back out a few stitches (or more than a few) to create a neater seam, or to close an unintended hole. And sometimes, I look at my work of the past fifteen or twenty minutes only to notice that I have once again created a monster of ugliness.

Or that I have sewn a crucial opening shut. (Neckline next time, anyone?)

The long and short of it, with the fabled sewn-shut armhole on the right of the photo above


The Frog Pond Report

First, a refresher photo:

The above is my heavily modified version of Mirabor. This perpetually on-the-needles project never turned into a burning priority of mine. While I loved the little sweater itself, it suffered from the effects of being selected as a “work project”, one I had started on Knitting Daily to use as an example for teaching pattern modifications. I’m not certain if I ever meant to actually wear the thing; nonetheless, I kept modifying it every time I changed shape, faithfully writing about every mod, either on one of my blogs (this one, Knitting Daily, or What’s On Sandi’s Needles, the interim blog I wrote for Interweave after leaving KD) or in my private scribbling—and in those years, I changed shaped quite a bit, in and out, up and down, this way and that way…

Zoë, my oh-so-patient model, who made everything she wore look shabby in comparison to her gorgeous fur

I think, in the end, the sweater’s lines became distorted by all those mods and re-mods, so that it just didn’t look right on me at any size! Thus it was that this past weekend, I bid this little red work companion of mine a fond farewell. I took some last shots of it, including the pretty lace edging: The lace edging that first caught my eye; the lace edging that was a big reason I chose the pattern in the first place; the lace edging that I loved so much from stitch to stitch in the knitting of it.

And then, it was just…huff ‘er a kiss, and let ‘er rip.


That pretty edging was the last to go


The Math of Frogs

This section is for super nerds. NO, wait. Actually…I highly recommend doing the following calculations (or similar) for at least one project in your knitting life, whether it be sock or sweater. It tends to give one a huge sense of accomplishment!

How Many Stitches? Hem to Waist

My gauge for Mirabor was (consistently) 5.5 sts per inch, which for my then-47″ finished size hip meant 260 stitches in each row thereabouts. My row gauge was 7 rows per inch, which works out to about 1820 stitches per vertical inch. Hem to waist was about 6 inches, or 1820 x 6 = somewhere around 11,340 stitches to ravel, just for the lower third of the garment!

How Many Stitches? All the Way Up

As for the rest: Back then, my waist was only about 1″ smaller in circumference than my hips, and waist to underbust was about 3″ vertically. So call that another, hm, muttermumble, 760 stitches. Bust, 44″ circumference then; high bust 41″; shoulders 15.75″; brain, 9 pounds; pasta, 8 minutes on setting 3…so say another 800 or so stitches there. Yoke and sleeves, 88 stitches per sleeve, plus say 180 for yoke, means, wild stab in the dark: 2100 stitches.

Le Grande Total: Somewhere in the neighbourhood of 15,000 stitches for the whole red burrito.

(I’m actually checking my project notes rather than stabbing in the dark, just so you know.)

RipIt!

Silly me. I hadn’t done the math before I starting ripping, so I thought it might take, oh, about 45 minutes or an hour to rip the entire cardigan back from yoke to hem.

To my surprise, it took me nearly 3 hours over 3 days to get ‘er done.

In the end, I wound up (heehee) with about 1100 yards of lovely red-fuchsia DK merino yarn. I’ll skein it and give it a quick soak to get the grime of the centuries out of it; then I will hang the skeins to dry just under their own weight. (I never use weights when drying skeins. I actually wrote up a section on To Weight or Not To Weight, but I cut it for length. If you are interested, I can include that in a future post. Just let me know.)

Here’s a final kitty pic for you, Kimberly:

The Snugglers: Tessa and Dusty show how it’s done

Really In Conclusion

I think that’s (more than) enough for today. I will show you my Finished! Hoodie! next time. I could have left out a section or so here, but sometimes a post tells the stories it wants to tell, and then sits back and says: That’s all for now.

You folks are a joy to write for, thank you.

~ 💖🦄🦙 Sandi

Posted in Knitting | 8 Comments

Don’t lose your sense of humour

The Inside Stories: Day 47

I’m just going to pop in here to point out a couple of things.

First, WordPress is making mashed potatoes WITH gravy out of my nice, clean, well-thought-out email HTML template. (My apologies.) It looks as though the software is doing something to the image captions, something that unformats them, or reformats them, or whatevers them, into what seems like weird editorial snippets randomly tossed about, instead of nice tight little commentaries, or informative tidbits, written about each carefully chosen, lovingly edited, photo.

(ahem) The hashbrowns that WordPress is making out of my photo captions appear to be obscuring their delicate humour and witty asides.

Or, at least, I think that is what is going on.

How else to explain, well…this, from yesterday’s blog post?


Caption: Notice the beautiful curved seam? Notice the beautifully seamed armhole?


Oh, well. Second time’s a charm. I’ll just leave the photo right there above…again…for your enjoyment…again…


You can play, too!

As I imitated a person falling asleep last night, I realized that I had been very rude yesterday in not inviting you nice folks to play along with me:

Frog Something, Finish Something

Probably what made me think about this is Cat of YesterPost’s Comments, where she mentioned that she, too, had just Frogged Something and Finished Something. Seems to have done her some good, too, so why not open up this party a bit?

Frog something, finish something…

Think about it: Is there an unfinished project in your pile that deserves a second chance at life…but as something else? Maybe it’s time to rip that puppy out. (I mean. Not actual puppies. Stitch puppies. I…oh, never mind.) Or, perhaps you might have a long-suffering work-in-progress that deserves to be finished?

Don’t be shy. Dig it out, if you like; and whether it is to be Frogged, or to be Finished, please share it with us in the comments! (I think you can post images there…) The goal, of course, is whatever you want the goal to be. It could be as simple (and as difficult) as clearing some energy and space for that shiny new project we all seem to have in the backs of our minds.

Or else…know what? Scratch all that.

If what you really want to do is start a shiny new project, let me be the first one to encourage you to put the entire WIP pile into a closet somewhere, and to go cast on with that luscious new yarn. (And post pictures, of course!)

~ Sandi 🦄❤️


Gratuituous Cat Photo

Ben, helping to install our new TV.


Posted in Knitting | 7 Comments

The Inside Stories: Day 46 ~ Crafting Some Sanity

I will do anything for a bit of sanity these days. Let me tell you, it is not pretty to go through a midlife existential crisis during virus lockdown. 

I’m folding cranes. I’m supposed to make one per day for one hundred days…

Actually, I think a lot of us are feeling the crazy more than usual these days. I heard a psychologist being interviewed on the CBC, and wow, was she comforting. She said that the crisis is making everything harder, as we are not just dealing with parental stress or whatever, we are dealing with parental stress as magnified through the lens of the coronavirus situation.  She pointed out that there is a part of our brains that is constantly trying to process all that is going on, and that this “background processing” (my term, not hers) continues behind all the other tasks of daily life. 


Submitted without comment….Oh, wait, I cannot resist: My mom used to make

“Mr. Turkey Lurkey” dance in the kitchen sink as he was being rinsed down.


“No wonder we are all more fatigued than usual!”, she said. No wonder we feel we are having trouble accomplishing things: We ARE, because everything has the extra added burden of the background processes going on. She said to go easy on ourselves, because it isn’t some moral failing of our own that makes it difficult to do all the things peer pressure says we ought to be doing: Cleaning out the garage! Making clothes! Re-doing the kitchen floor! Sorting through all the photos, making six individual-but-identical albums for family members! Building two more stories over the garage by next week!) She was surprisingly compassionate, and quite frankly, had me in tears by the end. (I can provide a link to the specific interview should you want it.)

I mean, I know it seems everyone is telling us to go easy on ourselves. She’s just the one who got through to me, the one who made me feel understood and comforted.


Grammatically questionable; but there’s truth there


OH. The Crafty Part. I Almost Forgot…

Now: Here’s a heads up. When I talk about crafting under lockdown, I am not talking about finishing all the quilts, or knitting a sock a day, or anything heroic. I am not even making face masks (gasp!), with the exception to be noted next-post. All you’ll get from me are just your average let’s-give-it-a-go, hopefully reasonable, crafty goals.

One of the demons I fight on a daily basis is Feeling Useless. This was true pre-virus; the feelings are just intensified, I think, partly because there are REAL heroes out there. And I am not them. (I grew up thinking I was going to be one of the Helpers; I haven’t yet given up on that dream, although the awfulness of the past several years, plus the shock of “Am I Really THAT Old?”, has beaten down my resolve considerably.)

To jab back at this particularly insidious demon, I poked around my project bins to see if anything captured my imagination. As I poked, I realized that I have become slightly disenchanted with respect to crafting. And as I continued to poke around, I began to understand why it is that I am disenchanted: I have not finished anything, not really, in years. Every project seems to have been stopped in its tracks at some point in its genesis.

And I am wearing sweaters knitted by others, instead of even a sock knitted by myself.


I decided two things. One, I was going to Finish Something. And two, I was going to Frog Something. Both Things had to be me-projects: Ideally, at the end, I would have one finished cardigan to wear, and one cardigan’s worth of nice yarn freed up to let it have a second go at life as knitwear.

It was really clear which project was going to Get Frogged. 

Yes, yes. This is the long-suffering, many-storied Little Red Cardigan that I have worked on, and have written about, sporadically throughout the years—yes, years. I remember I first wrote about wanting to make this cardi in one of the Knitting Daily posts. So, yes. This cardi has spent years as an unfinished object.

It’s time. I know I am not far from the end, but I am, in fact, done with it. I changed sizes too many times, I’ve modified the modifications, and it all is just too much work and not enough satisfaction to be had any longer.

Tim reviews my row-by-row modifications for the Little Red Cardi

Besides: I still want a Red Cardigan. There’s an entire sweater’s worth of lovely red yarn there.

So that’s the Thing To Be Frogged.


The Thing to Be Finished is the colourful hoodie I started in Nov 2108 as I flew off to Vancouver. All the knitting is done, I just have the seaming, the weaving-in-of-ends, and buttons/buttonband.

Notice the beautiful curved seam? Notice the beautifully seamed armhole?

I have about 75% of the ends woven in. I have grafted the top of the hood, a job I am considering doing over because Reasons. One sleeve is partly sewn in. (Clearly, this was the sleeve meant for the other armhole.)

Sandi’s Undercurrent Hoodie: Pre-sleeve version

Stay tuned on this one, as well.


Your nap instructors for today are Tim and Dusty.

As usual, your comments were the best part of the last post. Thank you, my friends.

Take care!
~ Sandi


Posted in Knitting | 8 Comments

The Inside Stories: Day 23

Saturday, April 4, 2020.

Hello, my friends.

How things have changed.

My last post, the one about my beloved Zoë’s passing, was written nearly nine months ago. It’s hard to believe she’s been gone that long. It’s even harder to believe how drastically life has changed since then, and how much death and loss have now become part of our daily lives.

Paper hearts for our windows and doors


It is Saturday, April 4, 2020, and we are on Day 23 of our shelter-in-place adventures here in Orangeville, Ontario. We began our adventure, ominously enough, on Friday the 13th of March. Since then, I have left the house only once (besides neighbourhood walks)—to go to the bank with Melody to do bank business. Melody has left the house only three times: The bank meeting, to go pick up prescriptions, and to do a grocery run.

Today, however, I talked to a neighbour over the fence for nearly half an hour. After I came inside, I did a little happy dance, a little jig of victory: “I talked to a person! A real, live person! An in-person person!”, I sang in a little insta-ditty as I moved my feet around in a parody of an actual dancer.

The songlet went on. “A person who isn’t my marriage person, a person who isn’t my wife! I talked to a human in real life! I scored! 30 points to Wiseheart House! Score! Hooray!”

You can deduce from the above what you will—I’m a lunatic (well, yes); I need to get out more (don’t we all, at this point); I’ve been listening to too many Harry Potter audiobooks (This time, I think I finally understand how to play Quiddich!); or perhaps I’m just a wee bit weird. (Full Disclosure: I’m more than just a wee bit weird. Bet that’s a big surprise for y’all.) All are true to varying degrees.

The Big Outside


That conversation with my neighbour Mr. D was the first time I have had a face-to-face conversation with anyone since the bank appointment on March 17. March 17 was 19 days ago.

19 days without speaking to a single soul face-to-face (other than Melody, of course).

In less dire times, anyone who heard that I had not spoken to someone in 19 days might rightly be concerned for my health. But in these days, the days of face masks and two metres apart and countless pleas to stay at home; in these days, it is not at all unusual to go for days without speaking to a living, breathing person. We come up with ways to connect via Skype, or Zoom, or FaceTime; we email and Instagram and FaceBook and YouTube in order to stay together, to stay connected; we stand in driveways to shout “I love you”, when all we really want to do is run up that driveway and give and get the best hug ever. The last hug I actually had was…wait. Do I even remember when it was?

Can you remember the last hug you shared with someone outside your housemates? I think mine was the night of Wednesday, March 11, at the regular (and soon to be last) weekly rehearsal for our Achill Choir. I think it was one of the second sopranos, one of the women in my section…but I can’t be sure. It might have been anyone. Mark. Cathy. Eileen. Lynn. Tina. There’s 80+ people in that choir. Could have been anyone.

I wish I remembered it more clearly.

Realistically, we cannot expect to hug each other again—not a real hug, not one with warm arms nor the rhythm of an actual heartbeat—we cannot expect to share hugs again for weeks; possibly months.

That’s nearly impossible to comprehend: Weeks or months without a hug from anyone outside our front door.

Think of that. We who live with someone are fortunate. My heart breaks for those who live alone, and now must face long weeks of isolation and huglessness. (Is too a word.)

The coronavirus, and the disease it causes called COVID-19, have changed all our lives for the present; and, I fear, for all time.


About this post:

I haven’t published anything these past nine months, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I can’t help myself; I write at least a thousand words a day, in one manner or another. I wasn’t posting what I wrote because I had completely lost faith in myself and in my writing. What brought me back, so to speak? YOU. You did.

You see, I noticed that I was starting to see more email from my readers than usual. Those who wrote wanted to check and see if I was OK; and they wanted to ask if (or when) I was going to start blogging again. There was one letter in particular that really touched me, a letter from Elaine (you know which Elaine you are). I hope you will forgive me for not writing you back; I can’t say why I didn’t reply; that’s so odd, considering that your words stayed with me every day for weeks. You were so positive and encouraging; I held your letter close so I could re-read it as needed. Your voice joined in with the other folks who wrote in to say: Please, write more.

Now. People do not ask for more of something they think is crap.

So I double-dared myself. I dared myself to go re-read some of my writings, and then to pick parts of them to share with you, whether I had written them weeks ago or today. I’ll probably concentrate on posts written since VirusTime began back in January 2020.

I promise most of them are a bit less heavy than this one.

💖 So much love from my home to yours…
~ Sandi

Oh—and hugs. I will put a pile of virtual hugs right out here next to the kitchen door, and you can come grab one any time you need one.

This staying-at-home gig is not for the faint of heart.


Mandatory Cat Photo

Tessa demonstrates proper social distancing.


Posted in Animals, Ponderings, Tessa, The Inside Stories, ZoëCat | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Zoë: A season of love

Crickets.

That’s what we say when we don’t hear whatever it is we were waiting to hear: “Crickets.” As in, gosh, it’s so quiet that even a one-inch bug thinks it’s time to fill the silence with a bit of leg-sawing.

You’ve likely heard a whole rock band of crickets if you’ve been tuning in to the Wiseheart blog channel lately. 

my pretty girl Zoe

My girl, in better times 

It’s been a hard season here at Wiseheart Cottage. We lost our beloved Zoë the evening of July 17 after a months-long journey through illness, fragility, and depths of love and grief and joy that I had not expected to experience, despite a lifetime of dearly cherished pets.

I loved those other cats, too. Certainly, I adored my dog, Buddy, gone three years now. Lucikate, a sweet grey tabby, was so close to me that I called her “Daughter” when no one else could hear. I bawled like a baby when Merrirose died three days after Lucikate passed away, unable to face life without her sister. When my kitten Sassafrass died at 9 months of one of those awful kitten diseases, I thought I would never stop crying. And Cougar. Oh my heart, my tiny babycat Cougar, whose death still has the power to wake me from sleep, my face wet with tears.

And Sparrow. You don’t hear me talk about my Sparrow much. Yeah. There’s Reasons.

(That’s Sparrow up in the right-most corner of my main banner, rolling around on top of a cabinet. Sparrow was littermate to both Zoë and Dusty; lost at age five from an incredibly fast-moving horrible cancer. And to this day, that’s it. That’s all you get, about Sparrow, anyway. Can’t tell you Sparrow stories…yet.)

But this one, man-oh-man, as we used to say in the coastal California of my childhood. This one. This Zoë. Losing this one tore up something inside me. A corner of my spirit, probably. A whole suite of rooms in my heart, certainly, rooms once inhabited by a lively ball of opinionated calico attitude, rooms now just walls and floors where her toys rattle endlessly around the edges, as though looking for their lost playmate.

That’s how this loss feels to me. Empty rooms, where once there was a whole party of a cat. And I’m the first to admit, despite my lifetime of animal companions, how shocked I am at the depths of my grief.

After all, Zoë was, as some might think, and a few have actually said to my face, “just a cat”.

Just a cat.

She is so “just” a cat that living with her, and having the privilege of knowing her and caring for her over the past ten months or so has changed me—no, wait. Not changed. Made me more me. Made Sandi more the person I have been becoming all along. Made me more the person I wish to continue becoming.

And yet: Just a cat.

We do not hesitate to nod our heads in understanding when someone describes the impact that a cherished grandparent has had on us. And once one knows one is safe amongst like-minded animal people, it is a relief and a solace to be able to admit out loud and at length to the crater in our hearts and souls left by the death of an animal who has shared our lives.

For some audiences, however, mention that you are still grieving a small 8-pound critter with a tail and without a voice and you might be met with…crickets. And not the friendly sort of crickets, either. The kind that say, well, now, isn’t that being just a bit overly dramatic? It’s not as though she was a person, after all…

Just a cat.

All summer long, because of those three words, I’ve been stuck, unable to write much of ANYTHING, let alone some sort of blog post, update, or description of whatever yarn is tangling up my needles at that particular moment in time.

Because: Just a cat.

All right, yes. Someone did say those words to me, someone who meant well, someone who does not know me well enough to know how sharply those particular words cut. She didn’t know that in trying to make me feel better by “putting things in perspective”, that she had actually made me and my grief-riven heart feel ashamed and foolish.

Weeks of nights spent sobbing my eyes into swollen onions over my lost furry girl have taught me that if this is foolishness, then let me be foolish about more things in my life. Let me set aside my shame and, in my foolish heart, honour all that is joy in the world, all that is life in the world, all that is love in the world.

If Just A Cat, then: Just Joy.  Then: Just Life.  Then: Just Love.

At the same time as I’ve felt unable to write about Zoë, I’ve also been feeling stuck because I can’t go forward without writing about Zoë. How can I just start chatting on about the fourth sleeve I’ve knit this summer (all for the same hoodie, you understand), or the seemingly endless self-frogging socks, or my sewing machines, or any of that stuff—because, dammit, it is all just STUFF and I lost my CAT. I lost my GIRL. I lost my Zoë, my heart, my sweet kitty-girl, so how am I supposed to jot down a paragraph or two about how cute she was, show you a couple of photos, and then skip two lines, make a new heading, and then let’s talk about what you all are going to knit for fall?

I can’t, that’s how.

JustACat or no, this 16+ year relationship nourished me and challenged me and comforted me and overtook my heart so much so that now I’m also stuck because I can’t write about it, not just yet anyway. Not the way I want to. Not in any hope of doing justice to it.

There are so many things I want to say about this life–this furry life, yes, but this one life, this one small spark of joy and fur that I named after the Greek word for “life” when she was barely two months old. (Turns out that never has a being so lived up to her name in my knowing.) Swap out a vowel or two, and “life” becomes “love”, a short word, a small word, yes, indeed. In size, small; in impact, so beyond quantifying that we use the word itself as the unit of infinity: As long as love shall last. To the height, and depth, and breadth of one’s being: love.

Just a small cat. In size, not so much. In impact, on me at least: As long as love shall last.

Oh, my Zoë. My heart. On this unbelievable gorgeous day nearly six weeks after we parted (for now), your love still makes me see all of life with more reverence, more respect, more wonder, more awe, more joy. And more love. Of course, more love.

But still through rainbows of tears, my sweet little one. Oh Zoë.

How well you loved me, oh my JustACat.

How well you loved all of us lucky enough to be in your tribe.

How much I miss you.

How much I will always miss you.

How grateful I am to have known you.

How grateful beyond words—on beyond all the words I do have and onto those I do not have and thus cannot write, yes, beyond all those and more–how grateful I am for your love, for every whisker and paw, every purr and cuddle, every sweet black ear tuft-tip and every small meep and mew and m(e)ow; for all the songs you sang to me, songs just for me and to me and with me, songs that shaped each day and bid each night goodnight—how grateful I am, for all of that and more, for all the love and life, every day for 16 and a half years.

Thank you, sweet girl. My girl. My beloved Zoë girl.

Oh, the love we did love, my Zoë and me.

(You may point out that I have just done what I have said I could not do: Write about my girl. Perhaps. Or perhaps the above is just a sketch, just an outline, just the barest ghost of a draft of what I might, what I could, what I would write, if I were able to really write, to really tell you about this JustACat, this small life, this Zoë-of-my-heart. My now calico-coloured heart.)

Posted in Knitting | 22 Comments

So many ways to say “Thank you”

There are so many ways to say “Thank you”…and I’ll be darned if I can come up with even one of them that says what I want to say in gratitude to each and every one of you who responded so warmly to my last post. You wrote with kindness; you wrote with compassion and understanding; you wrote with shared experiences and honesty. Mostly, though, you wrote about finding something here that I find has become a precious commodity in today’s world: You told of the many ways, big and small, in which my writing has helped you feel connected to someone, something, outside yourselves.

That alone made my heart smile the most.

alpaca heart nose

This little cutie is wearing her heart on her nose. Much better than wearing it on a sleeve, says she.

It’s so easy to feel isolated these days. People work from home, or stay at home with young children, or take care of their parents, or the youngsters of relatives, or are retired, disabled, or just are in situations where a good friend is hard to find. We are tethered to our phones, to checking in on friends via text and Facebook and Instagram rather than by talking to them, voice to voice over a phone call, or heaven forbid, by knocking on their door to see how they are. For me, as for many of us, some of my friends are those I seldom talk to in person—or perhaps not at all; sometimes it seems as though my best friends are all hundreds or thousands of miles away. And in a couple of cases, it is true: Some I see once every few years; but there are at least a handful of people I care about on the internet whom I have never, ever met in person. At least one woman I’ve never met lives thousands of miles away; despite daily posts on ordinary stuff, I really, really want to just sit in the same room with her, cats draped all over both us, with time to chat about everything and nothing, and knit, and eat pizza, and laugh at bad movies.

For me, connecting with people on the internet every day, it often seems to me that we don’t have enough space to share even the so-called “Little Things” in life–the kind of things where we want to pop on over to a friends’ house and say, “Look what I did!” or call up someone to discuss the best way to pick up a dropped stitch, or to fret over a sick kitty to someone other than the other cats in the household—let alone share the Big Things. Yes, there are tutorials and web classes; there are online forums and Facebook; there are email and Instagram and texting and all the other ways our disconnected society has come up with to help us connect to one another for conversations large and small. Despite all these technical marvels, and even though all those things offer us a chance to interact with dozens of people across the world each day, sometimes it is hard to feel truly, really connected to any of them. It’s hard to know if these connections are fleeting and wouldn’t stand up to Real Life scrutiny, or if these connections are founded on something deeper, and thus are the kind we used to refer to as “kindred spirits”.

What I heard in your comments was the–satisfaction? fulfillment? joy? relief?–of perhaps finding a kindred spirit in all the Big Out There that is the internet, our modern lifeline to each other. That’s certainly how I felt reading your responses–as though I had found kindred spirits, kind and funny and compassionate ones, at that.

What a wonderful gift you people are to me.

Thank you.

Of course, I agonized over how to say “thank you”, and wrote far too many drafts, until I realized that just saying it, any which way I could, was more important than saying it “perfectly”.

 It only took me, what? Two weeks?

 I’m learning.

quilt pic tropical

Part of a quilt top I am quilting on my sewing machine. It’s my first attempt at free-motion quilting, and I think it’s kinda cool. If I do say so myself.

Specifics

I thought I might just share a few of the lovely, amazing things folks wrote in the comments. I picked these more or less at random. Mostly, I wanted to share some of the wisdom and the warmth which you people bring to this blog, in case it might warm someone else’s spirit the way it has warmed mine. This blog is not just me, the same as Knitting Daily was never just me. Somehow, you, the commenters and the silent readers, somehow, you’ve built this years-long bloggy adventure with me, and made it yours, too, in the process.

Kimberly said:

“Thank you for sharing. It’s so hard to be vulnerable, but more and more I think it’s important to show up as our full selves, including the shadow parts, and including those parts is how we can be sure our right people will find us.”

And then Marta said something similar:

“::hugs:: and ❤️ We love you, friend. I would only add write for yourself and if you’re having difficulties, chances are there are others who would benefit from your heartfelt honesty. I know I do.”

These two comments give voice to one of my greatest hopes:  That when I find the courage to be most myself, and to write about this experience, others might also find the courage to be the most themselves. I am uneasy around people who seem to be hiding a big part of themselves from the world. I don’t mean those who are private people and would no more write a blog than they would publish their private diaries; those folks are private, they are careful choosers, good gatekeepers, if you will, of what they show to whom. It’s more that vibe you get sometimes when you sense a person is faking it in some way. That gives me the willies. Honesty earns my trust and my respect. You know what? I think of such folks, the Real Folks, as being the Velveteen Rabbits in our lives. The more real we are, the more the love within and around us shines forth.

(Thanks to you both, Marta and Kimberly.)

From Karen, a perfectly reasonable question:

“Thank you for posting, thank you for sharing, thank you for being you! Why do we feel guilty sitting down to knit in the middle of the afternoon?” 

I have no idea. I wish I knew and could kick that particular guilt to the curb. Anyone have any clues about this one? It really bugs me! (And thank you, Karen, for the rest. xo)

Fighting Back: Making Stuff

So, yeah: Depression. And its all-too-clingy sidekick, anxiety. I do the breathing thing. I do the meditation thing. I do the meds and doctors thing. And for me, because a big part of the emotional turmoil is a wicked case of seasonal affective disorder, I have The Lights and keep our drapes open so I don’t sit in the dark very much. We have a huge skylight that really helps. Still: Here is kind of a bad place to live for someone with this particular quirk in their mental makeup. It’s not just the dark, it’s the cabin fever. Growing up on the West Coast, even living a big chunk of my adult life in Colorado (LOTS of sunshine even though it snows a fair bit), I’m used to just popping in and out of the house whenever I think about it, grabbing a few minutes to sit outside and read between chores, going for walks all year round, eating on the patio…here, of course, during the cold months, one does not simply pop in and out of anywhere! There are the layers and the coat, re-checking the weather forecast to see if another layer is called for, then the boots and the mittens…and really, I guess I’m just not enough of a Real Canadian yet to want to sit outside on the patio in subzero temperatures even if the sun is shining and the sky is a brilliant blue.

sled on the sidewalk

I love this photo, which I took outside our front window just a few hours ago (it’s Tuesday night now, as I finish this up!). About half an hour later, I saw this pair come back the other way, this time with Dad pulling the older kid on his sled and Mom pulling younger daughter on her (tinier) sled. To be fair and feminist: I admit I don’t really know which gender the kids are, but I made my best guess given the colours and designs on their clothing. As in, a bright pink coat with Elsa on the sled for the little one…This is a REAL Canadian family, folks.

One of my not-so-secret weapons against the dark, is, of course, working with my hands and my words. Throughout it all, I keep on Making Stuff, both to feed my spirit, and to heal my heart. That’s what I used to call it when I was a kid, Making Stuff, except that when I was a teenager and young adult, I, of course, substituted a somewhat spicier Anglo-Saxon word for “Stuff”! At some point along the way, however, I realized that calling my creative endeavours by that particular cuss word (“steaming pile of…” is one way the word is commonly used these days, if you need another identifier) was actually a spectacular way of putting down and minimizing myself and my creativity. It was as though I was constantly saying that what I was making was worthless, that my time spent being creative was a waste, and the ultimate place for all of my creativity and my  Making was the septic tank.

“Making Stuff” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but I don’t really believe any longer that being creative is a waste of time, and I’m trying to see my Making Stuff more positively, as others have told me they see it. I’m trying to weed out the old phrase from my vocabulary.

Another place where change is hard. But then someone goes and writes something like this, from Sylvia:

“Sandi, I’m with your for the long haul!! I started reading your stuff at Knitting Daily, unsubscribed from that after you left … and have been yearning for your voice ever since.”

…and this, from Lori:

“Sandi, I’ve been following your blogs since Knitting Daily. You can’t make me stop…you just can’t.”

Um. Wow. I’m gobsmacked. See, this is why there are simply not enough ways to say “thank you” properly in our language. (Hugs to both of you.)

Sweater Progress

I clearly need something warm. And brightly coloured! Hence, my version of Lisa Kay’s Undercurrent Hoodie. Here’s how I’m doing so far on that:

I’ve finished the back of the sweater to the neck, cast on for the left front, and am now just a few rows past the last decrease at the waist. It’s “just” stockinette stitch, but I don’t watch much TV, I get antsy sitting down to knit in the middle of the day, and it’s sooooo easy to get distracted by housework, paperwork, the internets, and other shiny crafty projects when all I have is Stockinette Stitch or Garter Stitch to keep me company. These two stitch patterns have been the cause of most of the sloooowwww progress and unfinished projects in my queue. (Self-knowledge is power, I suppose. I am now using the promise of a pretty, soft, warm hoodie as a carrot to get me to do at least a few rows of knitting each day. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to be accountable to you nice folks. You will clamour for photos and updates, right?)

I love the colours. I wasn’t sure how the colour repeat was going to look when knitted up; when I started the left front, I started a new ball of yarn but consciously decided not to start it at exactly the same place in the colour repeat, mostly because I don’t want any sort of regular horizontal stripes across my body! The colour bands are wider on the front than on the back — half as many stitches to work in each row, so the yarn is used up at a slower rate–and when I start the right front, I will make sure that I start in a completely different part of the repeat. I like the more random look of the colour progressions which result, rather than having it looked like I painstakingly planned out the stripes beforehand.

left front or back

Left Front: Now, with wider bands of colour!

A further note on this yarn (Noro Kotori, 75% wool, 10% cotton, 8% viscose, 7% silk): If you are thinking of trying it out, be aware that it is a singles yarn—it’s just one strand, not two strands (or three or whatever) wrapped around one another. It is fairly well spun, so it doesn’t come unravelled, however, it can pull apart with enough of a little tug. I’ve had it pull apart mid-row (mid-stitch, actually), which was not exactly happy-making. Once I growled enough to satisfy my inner Grump, I simply undid the last five or so stitches, picked up the newly separated end, and continued on as if I were adding a new ball of yarn. (Your method may vary: I often weave the end of the “old” yarn in and out, exactly as I would with floats on two-handed stranded knitting.)

Don’t know how to do that? Not sure what two-handed stranded knitting is? Of course, you can look it up on the internet, if you want to. I suggest searching for videos by Philosopher’s Wool; Eugene is the one who taught this technique to me and he did it in three minutes at a show and wow, it is dead simple.

That said: My wife Melody’s research (no, I didn’t make the tiara she is wearing there, that is my wedding tiara!) is (partly) on the different ways folks learn things, so if the vids you google don’t help and you’d like me to help out some way—another vid, or step by step photos, or whatever—let me know. You know how I love to teach fun things to y’all!

Another comment…this one from Mary Lou:

“Your way with words is as wonderful as your way with yarn. Hearing your description of depression, anxiety, and self-doubt helps me understand and interact more compassionately with the people in my life who are suffering with similar symptoms. I’ve always enjoyed your voice in writing, and am so happy to have found you in your post Knitting Daily life. You make a difference. Thank you! Looking forward reading future posts. Off to knit…”

To make a difference. To help grow more compassion and more joy. What more could anyone wish for? Thank you, Mary Lou, for zeroing in on the important stuff.

Oh, and another last one, from Jerri:

“Thanks for your bravery and honesty. I started following you for the knitting and have stayed all these years because you are a real person and not afraid to show it. Many of us out here appreciate that you tell it like it is. Keep it up.”

I am so grateful to you, Jerri, and all the rest of you lovely folks, for sharing yourselves with me in the comments. You see, you give me the bravery to do what I do. You’re the reason I keep pounding on these keys–well, that, and I cannot seem to stop myself from writing! This was true for all the best bits of Knitting Daily, as well: I fought for this thing and that thing on KD–because I knew you wanted to read about those things. (The pushback I got over writing those Bust Dart posts? Well, now! Those wouldn’t have happened except for the lot of you shouting BUST DARTS BUST DARTS so joyfully all over the place. And the Gallery Girl posts, wow. Those got me in a wee-ton of warmish water. You folks begging for more, more! was the reason I was able to continue doing the Galleries for so long. Really).

I suppose I really do write for Real People, mostly because I wouldn’t have a clue how to write for the other sort.

Time to get this up and posted, (And yes, it ought to have been two posts. I tried, but just couldn’t figure out how to break it up. Oh well!) I’ve got some more sweater knitting to do!

You all give me love & hope in winter’s dark. Thank you.
–Sandi

fab five at fireplace

Stay warm. The cats seem to have this down to a science. Clockwise from top left: Dusty, Zoë, Ben, Tim, and Tessa

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Depression, Just Life, Knitting, Making Things, Ponderings, Sweater Knitting | 3 Comments

Hello, 2019…here we go!

Well, hello there, friends!

Two things: An Admission, and A New Sweater Project

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Part of the New Sweater Project…I’ll explain this one later!

First the Admission.
If you want to skip down to the Sweater Project, scroll on down!

It’s been a while. I’m going to be honest with you and admit some things that are hard for me to admit. I’m going to admit them anyway because I believe that these things are getting in the way of me moving forward with my writing, my creativity, and my life. In a nutshell: I’m stuck, and I want to get unstuck. And at this point, I might as well admit what’s going on, not in the “poor pitiful me” sense of sharing, but because it’s the truth, and I have a really hard time writing and pretending to be something I am not. And one more reason: I bet I am not the only one who feels this way.

A list, perhaps?

1. I am depressed. Pretty badly so, in fact. So depressed that it is definitely getting in the way of me doing things and making changes. (Yes to therapist, meds, other needed medical care, thank you. I’m doing the best I can to take care of myself; depression is a tough battle to fight.)

2. I’ve got a rather large side order of anxiety.

3. I’m also suffering from a serious case of writer’s block.

4. And on top of all that, I cannot seem to find meaning in any sort of making things. I feel lazy when I knit; I feel as though I am wasting time if I sit and make something.

5. Due to 1-4 above, I am struggling with self-esteem issues, partly because I’m not living up to my own expectations, let alone the expectations of others. Partly because a life without meaning is just a short step away from feeling worthless.

So There. I’ve said it.

I haven’t wanted to write about these things, because, welllll…because I don’t want to come across as a depressing whiny person. So I stopped writing…until one day, a friend of mine, upon hearing about my writing woes, asked me what I was afraid of. “Driving away readers because I’m too boring, or too depressed; showing my weaknesses and troubles to the world; letting people know that my heart is broken and I’m having a hard time finding meaning, let alone self-esteem or pride, in anything I do these days.”

My friend looked at me, and said, “So, what happens if you were to just go ahead and post one of your depressing blog posts? What are you afraid of”?

Me: “People won’t like my blog, or my writing, anymore. They’ll unsubscribe, and folks will avoid me because I’m depressed, and no one will want to hang out or be my friend anymore.” (Yeah, I know. The standard fare of depression, biting me big time.)

And my friend, bless her, looked me straight in the eye, and said: “So what? So what if people leave your blog, and so what if people stop wanting to read your blog? So what if some folks won’t hang out anymore?”

I’m thinking, what? So I answered more honestly than perhaps I had really meant to. Me: “Well, that would be the end of me, the end of the reason I’m here. I write because that’s who I am and what I do. And people liked the old Sandi because she was bubbly and happy and silly. And so I’d be all alone in the world.” (Oh, c’mon. Anyone out there ever felt that way? Even briefly? That’s why I’m ‘fessing up to this: Because I know I am not the only one.)

Friend: “You still are all those things. Maybe not as much, because the depression is blunting your energy and your creativity. But you haven’t lost the core parts that make you YOU. If some people unsubscribe from the blog, well, then they unsubscribe. But not everyone will unsubscribe. Some people will hang around because what people love about you is your honesty, your openness. They love you because of your vulnerability and your willingness to admit to not being perfect. They love you because you can connect to their own vulnerability.”

“In Knitting Daily, what did folks love? They loved it when you talked about making mistakes, about trying new things, about being frustrated with a project and not knowing how to do something but going ahead and doing it anyway. They loved it when you showed them that you were just like they were, just another knitter, not some sort of perfect crafty goodie-two-shoes. There are plenty of perfect knitters to read about; sometimes, though, people just want someone they can relate to, someone who gets it, someone who is just like them. Those sorts of people will stick around.”

“And other folks will come along and find you, and then sign up to read what you write, because people are hungry for connection, they want to know that everyone else’s life is NOT perfect, that someone out there is having just as much a hard time as they are. They’ll come to read your stuff because you tell the truth about what it is to be human, not because you are perfect and every post is a paragon of great literary writing and awesome perfectly photographed creativity. They appreciate your ability to connect to vulnerability, your kindness, and your approachability.”

Me: “Oh.”

(I know: Wise friend. She’s a keeper.)

Depression Session

The infamous “they” say that depression lies, that it tells you lies about yourself, about how others view you, about your self-worth, about everything, really.

I think “they” are right. IT LIES. Just because I am afraid my writing is boring and meaningless, doesn’t mean that it is. Just because I cannot feel my own self-worth anymore, doesn’t mean that I am worthless. Just because I cannot see the meaning in my life, doesn’t mean that my life is meaningless.

It’s as though I am having a case of inner glaucoma: Depression is blunting what I see in myself, and anxiety fans my fears into flame.

That’s what I have to say. I’m not feeling sorry for myself; I am not asking for anything. I just needed to tell the truth about where I am and what is going on, because I think once I stop feeling as though I have to fake it around everyone and pretend nothing is wrong, well, then….maybe I can start to breathe a bit again, and just be who I am and what I am. I want to stop pretending; I want to stop making excuses why I am not writing and why I am not showing up on this social media board or that one. I just want to BE, and maybe if I can admit all this, then I might just be able to be a little more at peace with myself about it.

And who knows…who knows what might happen next? Funny you should ask….

A New Project

After years of not knitting sweaters, I finally decided that I was tired of doubting myself (I am the Paca Princess, the Knit a Sweater for You Not for the Model In the Magazine woman, after all). I’m tired of telling myself that I cannot actually practice what I preach and that I cannot really knit myself a decently fitting sweater. Because: Foo on That.

I just want something pretty, and colourful, and warm. If it doesn’t fit me like a glove, well, then, it won’t be the last sweater I will ever knit, and I can learn from my mistakes and do better on the next one, right?

Years ago, I bought a sample sweater from The Yarn Cupboard, a shop near Syracuse that I love (the owner is a wonderful person, the selection of yarns is great, it’s a lovely shop with lovely customers, so what’s not to love?). It was a hoodie, actually, made out of very colourful stripey yarn. I loved that hoodie! I wore it for days and days and weeks. It was soft, and it fit me perfectly, and I loved putting the hood up when it was chilly (I’d never had a real hoodie before), and I loved the pockets. The yarn was a wool/cotton/silk mix, so lovely and soft, and well. It was a nifty sweater.

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Look! I finally found the one-and-only picture of myself in That Hoodie ever taken! (Thank you, Google Photos Search feature.) This is the beloved hoodie sweater that started this whole thing off.

I went to a show on the East Coast somewhere later that year and ran into a friend (different friend than above) whom I hadn’t seen in a while. Turns out she was having a tough time of some sort. It was cold in the big auditorium where she was minding a booth, so I lent her the hoodie because I had another jacket with me.

Oh my Bob. It looked adorable on her. I mean, completely and utterly adorable. And she loved wearing it. And so I did the obvious and gave it to her. No really. I gave her the hoodie I loved because she is my friend, and it looked so cute on her, and she deserved something nice right about then.

I was OK with that. I still am. But a couple of years ago, I started wanting a hoodie, a hoodie just like the one I had loved. I couldn’t figure out what the pattern had been, so I emailed the shop owner, and thank goodness, she has a great memory. The pattern is Undercurrent Hoodie, by Lisa Kay.

Because I know you’ll ask, here’s the yarn I am using:

Noro Kotori (75% Wool, 10% Cotton, 8% Viscose, 7% Silk). Colour: 5 Lot: A; 100g/280m. Suggested needles: US 6-7 (4-4.5)  (6-8?). Gauge: 16-18 sts = 4”/10 cm and 24-26 rows =4”/10 cm. (To get gauge, I used US Size 7 (3.5mm) for the smaller needles and US Size 8 (4.0mm) for the larger needles.)

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Back of the sweater: Done!

It took me only a few weeks to finish the back of the sweater, and now, I am almost done with the ribbing at the hem of the left front.

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Left front ribbing

Over the next bit of time, I am going to write up how I go about modifying this sweater and knitting it up, so if you’d like to follow along, you are most welcome to do so! Let’s see if I still have my sweater mojo. Who knows, there might even be BUST DARTS!!

If by any chance, you are knitting a sweater as well or would like to knit a sweater, maybe you can knit along with me and share your sweater adventures in the comments. It’s not exactly a true knit-a-long, but I thought it might be fun to revisit How to Make a Sweater That Fits You by seeing if I can do it myself!

Note: I used to have a workbook and online software for sale that taught folks how to do this on their own. I’ve taken down the link for two reasons: the server the software was on went kaput, and I’ve been playing around with updating the booklet with newer methods and better information. Stay Tuned!

OK. Soooo….I’m going to hit Post now. Courage!

See you on the other side!
xo Sandi

Obligatory Cat Photo

Tessa-lapcat-thumbs

Tessa, enjoying some lap time. She’s three now, and yes, she does indeed have thumbs. Three on each front paw, in fact. (They are all covered by fur into one large thumb, but there are three separate pads under there…and three separate, and very sharp, claws.)

Posted in Depression, Just Life, Knitting, Sweater Knitting, Tessa, True Friends | 32 Comments