Not Exactly “a Piece of Cake”…

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This post feels like “old news”…”STILL working on that  “Sophie” scarf?  Isn’t that where you left off in July?”  Fair question.  I have made all the squares.  It was fun until the very end.  I fashioned a “roll” out of an old sheet to work like those designed to move around a jigsaw puzzle “in progress” (just in case I needed my dining room table for an actual meal!).  I can’t really “roll the thing up” as planned:  the blocks shift too much to recover the grid.  But, I can move it intact down the length of the table, which is helpful as I work.  And, with another pair of hands, all could (theoretically) get lifted off the table in a pinch.  Company IS coming  this weekend…so that theory might  actually get tested.

The layout probably looks rather “random”.  But truly, IT IS NOT.  The position of each square is related to the ones around it.  And, that makes a difference…to me, anyway.   (I knew it would, and that is why, unlike any other reasonable person, I did not crochet them together as I went)…And why now, I am “paying the price” for that decision.  There ARE known ways to join together crocheted squares.  I tried all of them.  Rejected them all too, mostly for aesthetic reasons…always wondering “how would ‘Sophie’ do it?”  I never figured that out.  Her crocheters are REALLY good!   They have hidden all evidence.

In the end, I think I invented my own way.  It shows the most of all my other options, but it doesn’t peek through here and there, looking like an afterthought to the thing.  I hope it is also stretchy enough to allow for a truly flat piece after the blocking is done.  It is not a quick process.  I feel like I am crocheting “in air”, upside down and “wrong side” out.   To support the thing, as I poke my hook into each and EVERY stitch along the edge of the motif ( 14 x 4 x 320 ), I have to work twisted in my chair, with the joined part supported on my knee.  Tedious beyond belief.  One row at a time is about the best I can do…(all I can say on the positive side, is lots of other things are getting done as well…)

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Time to Commit

IMG_0342It eventually happens in any project…that moment when you have to stop the playing and decide the end-game.  I have had so much fun combining colors–both in the strand that I am crocheting, and with the “circle” that I am adding it to.  Although some combinations just weren’t practical because of the varying thicknesses of each of the yarns, the wealth of possible choices was still seemingly endless.  (My general approach to this problem was to combine a thicker yarn with a very thin one; or to work two similar yarns together.  The goal was for all of the finished motifs to be about the same size…sort of tricky in lace- weight yarns, apparently…)

I found the process to be very Zen-like.  Similar to the “sheep” activity, when I was counting stitches and repeating that graceful in-and-out of the yarn and hook, there was no mental space left for worry or random harassing thoughts…at least, I couldn’t do both at once.  And, THAT has been a wonderful way to start each day. I have even found myself snatching time for a bit of that peace during the rest of the day as well…just a few minutes for “one more”.  What a wonderfully colored pile of circles I have!  I don’t think there are two alike!

From the beginning, I thought to make two scarves.  Choosing color combinations takes time.  I wanted to spend more time crocheting than fiddling with all the possible color choices.  I felt that working on just one scarf would end up limiting the number of color combinations  I would get to make…When it was finally time to “lay out” my scarf, I was hoping that the final piece would be colorful beyond any expectation.  Two scarves would require many, many circles…hence, many, many colors.  You might even say that making two was a “practical” approach to the problem…hmmm….

For the past week or so, I had begun to work out possible layouts in my mind…to combine the small circles with circles in squares? to combine circles in small squares with circles in larger ones? to combine all of those possible motifs, all together? (never could work out a way to do that last one).  In most cases, I couldn’t figure out an elegant way to join any different motifs together.  (With forethought, there ARE ways to join varied crocheted motifs as you work…but, this was an open-ended, “making-it-up-as-I-went-along” thing from the beginning.)  That was a big part of its appeal…no plan…just to play.

So, in the end, I have chosen the simplest solution (which, not so coincidentally, should also have the smallest number of “ends” to weave in…ALWAYS a consideration, especially after all those ends in all of those circles (692 of them)…  8!!! ends…in EACH one!).  I am going to lay them out in a grid: the classic crochet solution.  Each block is interesting on its own.  Altogether, they should be stunning. I am hoping to keep this “fun” to the finish.   Time will tell.

Round Three…

IMG_0335The circle thing continues to be ever-engaging.  Not quite sure why.  (One might think that at 400 and counting, the process might be getting just a bit tedious.)  Not so.  Maybe it is the truly infinite changeability of the colors from my somewhat limited palette of yarn when I crochet two of them together.  Maybe it is that my little pile of circles just keeps growing. Or, it might be the fact that I am simply making progress on something vaguely creative…amidst all the house work.

We are having overnight guests in a few days.  Deadlines always propel progress.  In the past week, I have painted the guest bedroom (a lovely soft blue), the accompanying bathroom (a much brighter blue), and my laundry room.  That last was not in the “deadline” plan.  But the washer and dryer were already disconnected and pulled out to put in the new tile…painting, while it was easy seemed to make sense and the growing pile of laundry created a deadline of its own.   All of that should feel like enough.  But, it is the pile of colorful circles, ever-growing, that gives me the most satisfaction…

I have decided to crochet in that narrow line of color, before turning the circles into squares.  I think it will add a certain complexity to the finished piece (and, it gives me yet another opportunity to play with my colors)…so…Round Three…

My “Art” Chair

John went to an auction last week.  (I stayed home and scratched my itches.)  He brought me home a chair! just for fun!  I am calling it my “Art Chair”.  It is bright and happy and oh, so comfy.  I have put it in the corner of my studio, next to the dormer where the afternoon light shines in.  I think it will be a great place to just sit and think and make plans for new work…a promise of sorts…

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Wondering About Those Travel Projects?

My re-entry home was tough…but, it always is.  My kids go the extra mile to make me feel special whenever I visit…yummy dinners (which I don’t have to plan, shop for, or cook), intriguing side trips (no need for Siri), and, a cozy spot to read or work (on whatever thing my little heart desires)…I definitely need to visit far more often!  Funny how all the problems left behind are still here when I get back home.  Where is that Dust Fairy???

It IS back to “reality”…though things here have been improving.  More and more of the dust tsunami is gone; the tile guy has been making real progress; and, the freezer may soon once again work…  Winter is OVER.  Spring has arrived.  And, the “traveling” projects fared pretty well.  So, this is my theory.  At home, one can get so wrapped up in the “must-do’s”…there is no time for “what if?”   Getting away from the day-to-day, and working on just a few activities can truly help one focus.  There is a lot of unscheduled time…random moments of pick-up work can turn into true progress.  There is time to think, and time to act on the idea without the distraction of duty.   I had such fun just “playing” with my stuff.  So here is how it went:

THE “SOPHIE” SCARF…

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I think I finally made a bit of a plan for my “Sophie” scarf.  Haven’t decided yet if it is simply going to be a grid of “circle in a square” motifs (that could be very colorful, low risk, low stress), or a more complex layout with bands of squares, big and small, separated by stripes of circles.  The latter plan sounds much more interesting, and truly appeals, but it will be a construction nightmare (maybe another trip should be in my plan just to work this out.)   All would have to be assembled “as I go”…winging it, hoping for the best.  Trusting that random serendipity will be beautiful…hmmm.   I figured I didn’t have to decide; I knew to begin, I would need lots and lots of circles…so I happily crocheted them:  many, many circles…playing with both yarn and color combinations.  (By crocheting with two strands at a time, I can increase my color variations almost exponentially…definitely, a “Sophie” strategy.)  The caveat, though, is that “lace weight” is a somewhat loose term as far as yarn goes…resulting in circles of various sizes…combining yarns can be somewhat equalizing…but only if that is the driving factor in pairing choices…a concept I can appreciate…but for me, the choice based on color will always win…I may regret it…but, right now…that is far too much worrying for a “travel” project…

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Dreading dealing with all of the ends, I decided to weave them in as I go…This has turned out to be a rather “zen” kind of activity…good thing, because the “ends” tend to be a bit endless…

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THE SWITCHBACK SCARF with the undecipherable directions…

Took my balls of Noro sock yarn…ready to go.  Kate sat down with me the very first night (good daughter that she is), and showed me how to get started…(tried and tried to understand just what those written instructions were telling me to do)…and, GOT IT…off I went…fun.  But, I hated all that orange and brown…what a way to start…after about a foot of crocheting, with orange and orange, turning into to brown and gray, I decided to rip it all out.   It is a sad tale…but, one with a happy ending.  I decided I could be “the boss” of my yarn.  I cut out the orange and the brown.  I started again.  The colors played out as I worked…(even a bit of the orange)

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Not quite done with it…and, there is trouble lurking in the last bit of both balls…IMG_0283

more orange…and after that lovely bit of lavender, I know what is coming…gray and then, that brown.  Still the boss of my yarn balls, I think I am going to quit while I am ahead, and finish it off…if I could find my instructions…

(Have to admit, it has been so much fun working with the colors as they come off the balls…I bought another skein in a different color way!!!…no brown or orange though… another travel project???

THE NEVER-ENOUGH TIME FOR WATERCOLOR JOURNAL…

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The paints were especially engaging.  That three-hour time difference…getting up at 4 in the morning?…never minded it…that just meant more time to mix pretty colors.  Each session, I would pick a color to be “the star”…and I would mix and muddle the others in however I wanted.  So engaging…until disaster struck.  I had packed up my box and put it in my suitcase to move from one lucky kid to the other…the paints were still wet…ALL slid into a muddy mess…SO GLAD I had it wrapped in a plastic bag, but, I got a real understanding of what Alizarin Crimson can do…

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The idea of washing it all down the drain seemed far too extravagant…plus, not very ecologically sound (been to California, lately?  just getting rid of “garbage” can be a full-time activity).  So, instead, I started fiddling with my “custom” mixes…

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And, still had fun…even more fun, really…

That is it.  That is “what I did on my Spring vacation”…

A Thought for the Day

IMG_0182No deep words…just the result of a bit of “found” time in the studio on a recently unearthed flat surface.  It felt good…both the “doing” of the work and the feeling that some old activities that I used to love are once again possible.  Happy Valentine’s Day.

Deviating from the Printed Path

IMG_0142The week has been gray, gray, gray, and rainy.  Thankfully, no snow.  Work on the house continues.  In the last few days, I have painted a very large closet, soon to be a pantry (and, hopefully, NOT the catch-all for everything else that still needs a spot).  I have painted the trim; the shelves are in place.  Done.  Cross that one off the list.  I have also painted three ceilings, and put the first coat on the walls of two of those spaces…There has been no progress in the studio…

Except for the knitting.  It is the current “pick-up work” when I just have to take a break…and that might be why, about four rows into the “modest ruffle” as described by the instructions, I discovered I had flipped the “right-side/wrong-side” row sequence, totally veering off the intended stockinette finish.  UGH.  Ripping back, or “tinking”, as I have heard it called (sounds more charming than the actual process) was not happening.  There were nearly 300 stitches in each row!  I took a leap of “whatever”, and LEFT THE DIRECTIONS behind!  Risky business, believe me.

The large band of bumpy stitches in the photo is my sorry mistake.  Whatever is beyond that is my attempt to recover from it…so far, so good.   The pattern calls for 10 rows of stockinette…don’t know if my extra row of yarn overs will make my ruffle “immodest”…but, it just doesn’t look done yet…I AM keeping track of that ws/rs business, though.  And, oddly, the project has all of a sudden gotten much more engaging.  Go figure.

Using the “Shotgun” Approach…

I freely admit it.  I am, “oh, so tired” of this “making art on the run” bit  (and that doesn’t even address the excavating of the “good” stuff  still in the pile in the first place, and then, the securing of a flat surface to play/work with it).  And, inspiration for serious, thoughtful work???  At this point, totally, just not there: I am SO done with the distraction of it all…

But unfortunately, I still live in a project “under construction”, with boxes (in an ever-dwindling pile, thank goodness)  still waiting, taunting…

One might propose that if I have lived without the stuff in those boxes for this long, maybe I don’t need it???  Not so.  EVERY box at this point yields treasure and inspiration…after all, the pots and pans were unpacked months ago.  What is left is the good stuff…

My response has been to be inspired by what is at hand.  Therefore, I am

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knitting an infinity scarf using three gorgeous yarns found when I unpacked my “stash”.

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…trying once again to be a “knitter”…that being “one who can follow directions and end up with something useful”…as well as beautiful???

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Struggling with directions (written by a man…just saying…) to make a fun and lovely scarf, spotted in a yarn store during the holidays…a yarn store, that,  I have to admit, I had no business wandering into…stay tuned…I haven’t given up yet.

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…and, just messing around with a chunk of rubber (and, my daughter) having fun egging each other on to cut ever more silly stamps…which turned into pieces and parts of a village…having way too much fun to quit now…  So far,  I have houses, a store, some roofs, a flag, a street light, a fence with a gate with a heart carved into it…a topiary in a pot(!!!)…more to come…all, just plain fun.

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…which led to the challenge of what to carve into the leftover, cut-away shapes…

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Not to mention, the acquisition of some lovely wool roving  (note to self…”stay OUT OF THAT YARN SHOP!”)…I was planning to order felt balls online…(Have you seen the lovely things by FacileCecile on Pinterest?)  I think some time with hot water, soap and the wool above is in my future…but, isn’t that the truly wonderful thing about a fresh new year though?  new ideas… unlimited possibilities?

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And then there is that pesky new year’s resolution to try to get some of those ideas that are like the bumper cars in a penny arcade, careening around in my head, onto a piece of paper in some serious kind of way in which they might actually be available to inspire when all else seems to be “just done” and dull…a run-on sentence if there ever was one…but, thank goodness for the “run-on” of ideas at the moment, one good one, leading to the next great one…no creative block here, at the moment…truly, inspiration “run amok”…

That’s it…the shotgun approach to just getting something done…it all counts, right?  a Happy New Year…it can be exhausting, don’t you think?

Raiding the Stash…

IMG_5354There is no way around the fact that this has been a tough year.   Last November, we had just closed on the house.  Over the next few weeks, we were moving back and forth between New York and here, packing up, loading trucks, unloading trucks and building ever taller piles of boxes…Christmas came and went (did get my cards done AND my ornaments made!)  But then, in early January, my mom got very sick, and in March,  my son-in-law was killed by a drunk driver.  Progress on the house took a back seat to the more important stuff…

And now, it is again November. We have been here a year.  The house painting is progressing once again; but for the most part, my studios are not…still full of boxes to be unpacked and piles to be dealt with…

I know most everyone has certain traditions, the “must-do’s”, for this time of year.  For me, there are those two: I make cards and I make ornaments.  For some (any totally reasonable person), it might not be such a big deal to “let them go, just this once”…for me, though,  it is a point of “honor”??? (or proof of sheer stubbornness) to not let the chaos win…I AM making those cards; and, I WILL turn that pile of stuff in the photo above into a few lovely keepsake ornaments to share with some very special people in my life…stay tuned…

 

Planning Ahead

IMG_5343With the topsy-turvy aspect to my life these days  (and the seemingly unending miles of trim still to paint), I am planning ahead…thinking about my holiday cards.  Making them is one of my favorite Christmas activities.  I’m not sure why.  You might think that making forty or more of something would get pretty tedious.  For some reason, it is actually sort of meditative.   It might be the “traditional” aspect of the whole process that appeals (I have made them for many, many years).  I hope friends and family look forward to receiving them…it has to be better mail than a bill, right?

Over the years,  as my cards have gotten more complicated (and my time more precious), I have been designing a card that can hang on a tree, or in a window, or mark a place in a book…a keepsake that will hopefully never see the inside of the recycling  bin.  I do try to come up with a design that seems complex, but is actually simple to construct.   I like the challenge.  I am gathering together possibilities…and have decided that it is now time to start using “the good stuff”…no way do I want to pack it up and move it again…