Friday, December 30

Tough decisions... a tough day...

My project plans for the next year have been first and foremost on my mind the last few days. More than anything, it's been to keep my mind occupied for many reasons. Derek and I have been on eggshells for the last week as we await word for when he embarks on his new job. Everything is in a perpetual holding pattern until we know when he's leaving, and all the other details that go along with that. As if that edginess in the house wasn't enough, we've been dealing with a very ill child. Our youngest has been sick since Christmas night/ Boxing Day. She's usually very cheerful, vibrant, and full of energy, so it takes a lot of wind out of your sails to see her so lethargic. I won't get into the details of how sick she has been.

Last, but not least, is the illness, and death today, of our beloved dog, Taz... better known to all that loved him as "Dipshit". Yes... that is what we called him most of the time, and what he answered to better than his given name. We knew when he was given to us nearly 3½ years ago that we wouldn't have him all that long. He was already at least 8 years old, prone to many health problems as a Lhasa Apso (not Shih Tsu like I said in a previous post), and had survived being hit by a car, abuse and a laundry list of other things prior to coming to live with us. His last few months I could tell he was declining. There were days when the 4 steps to the door were just too many for his old body to be able to manage without a big struggle. He also refused to get along with our new kitten that we rescued in October. This may not seem unusual to most people, but Taz was a dog that refused to believe he was anything other than a cat. He even purred when you scratched him behind the ears. Our guests would laugh uproariously when we explained that he wasn't growling at them... he was doing his version of purring! Towards the end, even the few things he still enjoyed, he didn't seem to be as excited about. Our daily walks were about the only time I would see him show any enthusiasm, and he was a very social dog... ask anyone in our village... he would visit them all on his "daily rounds"! All of us in our family have accepted that this is the best for him, and that he's no longer suffering. We are glad that he didn't suffer long. His last day(s) was(were) rough on us all, as about all he could manage to do was get up long enough to stumble, and bark occasionally from pain. He has earned his place over the "Rainbow Bridge"... with all the squeaky toys he can ever hope to break, and all the tires he could ever want to pee on. RIP our beloved Taz...

Thursday, December 29

Decisions need to be made.

I'm sitting here looking at my Ravelry entries -- projects (WIPs and hibernating) as well as my queue. To add to that, a new Mary Maxim catalogue came in the mail yesterday with a ton of new kits for once, and many of them are quite tempting. In my last post, I talked about my resolutions and goals for the upcoming year. Now comes the time where I need to face those goals and decide what I will be focusing my energy on next.

I have way too many things on the go right now to be very productive at any of them, so the first order of business is to address the number of WIPs I have, plus what I have lined up to work on next. My WIP listing on Rav shows (in current order): Raith's Wild Socks; Nearly Instant Gratification Socks; Denise Shawl; Texaco; Neecie's Monster Ghan; and Melissa's Afghan. My hibernating listing on Rav shows 14 projects, but the 2 afghans I found in the yarn bombing last month aren't even there, and Wayne's Afghan is still in my queue! The ones I want to complete the most, plus are relatively easy to locate are: My Prize Cardi; Alex's Scarf; the rose-coloured afghan; Derek's Popcorn MAM; and Wayne's afghan. My queue listing on Rav is now at 41, and that means it's on 2 pages (30 per page in thumbnail view). I prefer that view because I can easily adjust the order of my projects, however the two pages makes it more difficult, and a little overwhelming for me. There is a wide variety of projects listed, some are commissioned, some are kits, some are WIMs with all supplies available, some are WIMs where I still need to purchase or assign yarn, and yet others are patterns that I would really like to make.

Addressing my priorities:

  • Neecie's Monsterghan - This project is actually finished, but still needs to be laundered and have final photography done. That is mostly incidental, and can be done a day or so before delivery with the other commissioned items.
  • Raith's Wild Socks - I am on the foot of the first one, and since these are commissioned, they have to be done in a timely manner. I would have to say that this project is my first priority.
  • 2 pairs of slippers - These are in my queue, and are commissioned projects; this makes them a high priority as well. Luckily I can crochet a pair in about an evening, and the only thing that will really take any time is the  stash diving for acrylic yarn.
My commissioned items have to come before anything else. I have had these orders since September and they need to be filled. They are all going to the same customer, and I have been communicating with them on the progress, so the time it's taking isn't an issue at all. It's simply that I want to be working on other items, so I want to have these out of the way.

Addressing my goals:

Even though my list seems overwhelming, I do have a lot I'd like to accomplish each month. If I take it step-by-step, especially with how many things I already have in progress, I think a great deal of it is doable, for 6 months at least.

  • Pattern release - The Gumdrop Placemat and Coaster Set, and 2 sock patterns are nearly ready for release. I have been procrastinating heavily on the finishing touches, and really need to get these out of the way. This can clear my slate somewhat for other patterns that need more than a spit and polish.
  • Sweater or shawl - As much as I'd love to finish one of each, I can't honestly see that happening until I get some of my "backlog" (particularly 50%+ finished afghans) out of the way. I'm leaning towards the Tweed Cardigan kit for January's potential FO. It's a fairly simple pattern, and I could really use a nice, casual cardigan. I have the Denise shawl to work on if I have a craving for lace during the month, and can finish it in February.

The rest of the goals I listed previously are all on-going things... mainly keeping up with what I'm already addressing, and not really a goal-of-the-month. I want/ need to clear out several of my UFOs, and the first one I want to finish is the Popcorn MAM for Derek. I also have several socks on the go, and more I need to make (especially work socks for Derek). Right now I'm thinking that finishing an afghan and a pair of socks per month is possible, as strange as it sounds. I have so many afghans on the go, that picking one to concentrate on won't be difficult at all.

Nicole =o)

Wednesday, December 28

The end is near...

the end of the year that is!

I'm doing much better now than I was previously this month. I'm even knitting a bit again, although Farmville is sucking a whopping amount of my time. As much as that game is driving me to the brink, I have nearly a year invested in it, and haven't quite built up the courage to let it go. I will end up letting it go eventually, I'm just not quite ready yet.

A new year means new beginnings and such. Thanks to a ton of prayers and support from all our friends and family, Derek and I will be starting this new year completely fresh in a ton of ways. We can't begin to thank everyone that helped us out in some way, shape, or form over the last month. All I can say is to never doubt the power of prayer! Even our agnostic/ athiest friends were putting their hands together and looking skyward in our name.

This is the traditional time of year when people often start thinking of New Year's Resolutions. I am no different, although I don't do them every year, and am more likely to make resolutions when the opportunity presents itself, rather than a specific time of year. I have been very active on a few boards at Ravelry these past few months, in particular, the Knit Picks Lovers group. In November, the topic of 2012 resolutions came up, and got me thinking (realistically) what I'd like to accomplish this coming year. Without further ado, here's my list for the coming year (as posted in KPL):

  1. Release at least one pattern a month.
  2. Continue with listing everything on Rav. Most of what’s “missing” is hidden stash and UFOs! 
  3. Finish a sweater or shawl a month (knit or crochet; for me or others; OPPs or original).
  4. Learn/ practice knit colourwork. (This scares the beejeebers out of me more than cables did!)
  5. Work on promoting myself more. (Rav group, Facebook page, advertising, etc.)
  6. Reorganize my yarn stash, and get my craft room into a usable state.

Some of these I had already been working on, and some I have made a great deal of progress on since I originally posted this list in November. I have a few other additions to make, namely:

  • Tweet (link on sidebar), update Facebook status more for self-promotion. Even if it's not directly related to my designs, even mentioning what I'm working on etc. can build up a following... something that has been missing since the heydays of Nicole's Crochet Bistro in the mid-00's.
  • Improve my state of health. It had improved somewhat overall when I quit working outside the home nearly a year ago, but a wake-up call from my doctor earlier this month has brought many concerns to the forefront. Drastic changes are necessary, and necessary now.

I have a bit of a plan in mind for working towards all of these goals. I don't think any of them are un-realistic, and all of them will make me feel better physically, spiritually, or both.

  • Releasing a pattern every month will make me strive to actually finish up the designs and patterns I have in progress already. I have several that simply need tech editing, formatting, and/ or photography. These are details that *must* be done, but I put off indefinitely. I have at least a half-dozen I can think of off the top of my head that fit into this category. While new designs are so much more interesting to me to work on, there isn't a point to calling myself a designer if I don't publish as well.
  • Listing everything on Ravelry has several benefits to me. First and foremost, I am forced to face what I actually have on hand, and not focus so much on what I want to have. I have more acrylic in varying amounts than I could ever use in hats, mitts, scarves, slippers, and the like. This is what I tend to use it for mostly. I have to find projects that will quickly consume large amounts of this, without requiring large amounts of any particular colour. I often will reference many of my personal databases while out shopping, and this saves me time and money. While I have been diligent this past year about listing purchases of yarn, magazines, etc., it's my older stuff that needs to be listed. I got a huge chunk of it done in November, and was even sorting it into labelled bins, with those labels included on the listing for the yarn on Rav. The only listing that still needs major work is my needle database, and I want/ need to get that set up for mainly my Knit Picks needles. I also purchased bins today for lace-weight yarns and Derek's sock wool. Even though those yarns are all already listed in my stash, I will need to do the updates to indicate their locations.
  • I have joined several KAL/ CAL groups with the goal of "12 in 2012". While I may not actually participate in them, and in fact with all the kits and such I have on hand, there is no way I could, I'm hoping for the inspiration to actually complete projects from start to finish in a more timely manner. I want to spend a little bit of time going through my shawls and my sweaters, and make a kind of "to-do" list for each month. This list would also have which design pattern I will focus on completing for release.
  • Learning and practicing colourwork is something I've wanted to do for some time. I have recently purchased a few books on it, and have plans for acquiring a few more. I have one small kit purchased to try this out on a small scale. There are a couple more that are in my wish list at the Knit Picks web site.
  • Self-promotion is something I have never been good at. I simply don't have the salesman gene. I started the ball rolling recently by creating a Facebook page for my designs. A very small sampling of my patterns are currently listed, and I need to force myself to add more... not "time permitting", but actually "making the time" to do it. I want to start a Ravelry group as well, but for now I can allow myself to procrastinate a bit on that while I work on the Facebook side of it. I have many friends on Facebook all over the world, and I have my fingers crossed that they can be a springboard to opening up new markets for myself.
  • Reorganizing is a constant battle for me. For the first time ever in December, I can still access anything in my craft room with a relative minimum of fuss. Labelling my stash bins has already proven very valuable, as it cuts down the "diving" time drastically. I want to start sewing again, and doing some quilting this year, so that room has to be put into a state of usability rather than just storage. The biggest task was getting the yarns bins into better order, and while my living room had several days of looking like a yarn factory had thrown up all over it, it was all worth it. 
  • Tweeting (link on sidebar) and Facebook-ing are two ways I can "get my name out there" with a relative minimum of effort. I don't have many followers, but the more I "contact the universe", the more "the universe can contact me". I don't expect, and I don't think I'd even want, to be as well known as Yarn Harlot, however it would be nice to know that more people I don't know "read" me, than ones I do know!
  • Improving my state of health is gonna be a toughie. I finally have the life overall that I want, so the last thing I want now is for that life to be cut short. A discussion I had with my doctor recently has made me face all that head-on. Serious and drastic changes have to be made to my lifestyle and habits, and much sooner rather than later.
Stay tuned for my January task list... 
Nicole =o)

Tuesday, December 13

You were doing so well...

and then December hit.

My closest friends know and understand how and why I hate December. The Reader's Digest version of it is that nearly everything bad that has happened to me, or to our family in the last 10-15 years has happened in December.

This year we were hoping to change that pattern. The signs were all there that this year *would* be different. The month started off fine, but less than a week into it, "The December Curse" struck again.

I'm dealing with much more crap right now than any person should have to... at any time of year. It takes every bit of energy I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Even knitting and crocheting have been put aside until I can *deal* again.

Nicole =o(

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Sunday, December 4

Peace and quiet.

Last night was just as I had expected -- the "baby" was "up" every hour pretty much. I think I was nearly as happy as my daughter when the "baby" finally turned off after supper tonight.

Today hasn't been an easy one for me, so I haven't been able to concentrate on anything. I was able to get a couple rows of my shawl design done this morning before we left for town, but afterwards even my Felici sock was taxing. My games on Facebook aren't even appealing as a diversion.

I think I'm going to take advantage of the peace and quiet and call it a night early for once.

Saturday, December 3

A baby in the house?

Yes, we have a "baby" in the house this weekend. I howled with laughter when my middle daughter arrived home from school on Friday lugging a car seat, diaper bag, and her school work! Seeing her struggle through the door was good for more than a few chuckles. Before you ask, the "baby" is a robo-baby provided from the school to teach teenagers just how hard it is to take care of a baby. Now, all of my older kids understand how much work a baby can be. They all helped with taking care of the youngest two. Especially the youngest, as she was very fussy, and my stress levels kept me from producing enough milk, which made her more fussy, which made me more stressed... ad nauseum. You get the idea. Let the fun begin...

She arrived home around 4:45, and the baby was scheduled to "turn on" at 5. It wasn't long before this strange little doll began making noises. This is all for school, and the information from the baby is downloaded by her teacher, so she is graded on how good of a "mom" she is. There are all kinds of sensors, and a "time limit" on soothing the baby. Of course we all had a blast teasing her about everything, especially since she has been saying for a while now that she does not want kids of her own. It sure didn't take much for her to start feeling frustrated when trying to figure out what the baby wanted. At least she was lucky that night... the baby "slept" from about 11 pm to 5 am.

We shall see how well this continues!!!

Nicole =o)

Friday, December 2


That's about all I seemed to be doing today, making considerations about my future. Nothing life-changing or profound, but still deciding what to do. This is something we all do, every day, without even realizing it.

Some of it was simple, like what project to grab as I was running out the door this morning -- Felici socks.
Some of it was harder, like what to order for lunch at a new-to-me restaurant that hubby took me to -- Denver with oven-roasted potatoes and side Caesar salad.
Some of it I was out practice with, like making meal and grocery shopping decisions for the next two weeks -- not Ramen noodles.
Some of it felt really unusual but something I'd like to get more comfortable with, choosing $50 worth of wool for a sweater KAL in January -- Swish worsted in either Lemongrass Heather or Indigo Heather for the February Lady Sweater.

The next few weeks shall prove to be interesting to say the least... if nothing else, Christmas and the whole holiday season will be different from previous years!

Nicole =o)

Thursday, December 1

A new beginning... well sorta!

Even though December is the end of the year, this time around it is filled with a bunch of new beginnings for me and my family. This is the first time since 2002 that I haven't worked through the holiday season. My last 7 Christmases were tainted by having to go in to work for 10:30pm on Christmas night for Boxing Day sale set-up. I am so fortunate that Derek is so thoughtful, understanding, and an excellent cook!

I have finished the Monsterghan, which means that I can finally start something new... although my "Nearly Instant Gratification Socks" in Knit Picks Felici qualifies since I'm only a few inches into the first sock. It's not a pattern stitch of any kind, so it will be a welcome break from "thinking", plus the yarn feels wonderful in my hands. I have several ancient UFOs that are nearly finished, and since I haven't touched 2 of them in over a decade, it will be like a whole new project to me! The pattern has been found for the newer one, and a similar pattern has been found for the older one (although I will be reverse engineering it more than anything else). The shawl design would also qualify since I'm only a few inches into that one as well, and like the Felici, it also feels wonderful in my hands. Hmmm... maybe the something new is me actually getting projects completely finished! LOL

We are also beginning the other family life adjustments... Derek travelling for work for long periods, and my no longer depending on my mobile for home internet. At least for my routines, it seems that my crafting is the one that's suffering, and not my housework... which is good in some ways, but not so good in others. More than anything, I'm looking forward to having better contact with people than I did with just my phone. Better contact seems to translate into better inspiration and motivation for me... which is good no matter what!

Nicole =o)

P.S.: The final measurement on the Monsterghan? 65 inches by 73 inches... it's a monster all right!

Wednesday, November 30

Finishing... and a lesson learned!

Well, today is the last day of NaBloPoMo, and I DID IT!!! A few of the days I was pretty close to not making it, but I did, and I'm very proud of myself.

There's also other things that I did, and did not get done. In the "I did" category, I got a ton of stuff done on Ravelry (so much more to do however), and I also got my blog template updated. My sidebars are now current with extra links and such. In the "I did not" category, I didn't get much of a new routine established, and as of this writing, I didn't finish off the Monsterghan... I do plan on working at it as soon as I sign off though.

One other thing I did today is learn a new life lesson! Do not take the extra-long way to the post office without planning ahead!
This may seem strange to most of you, so I will explain! My post office is nearly next door to me. My daily trip to check our mail is often the only real exercise I get in a day, especially if I'm not doing any laundry which requires me using the stairs! Before we got snow a few weeks ago, I would slip on my crocs and dash through our back yard to get there. That would take a minute at the very most. Now I take what I call "the long way", which is walking on the street. This about triples the distance I walk, and makes it a bit more than a 5 minute return trip, including stopping at the trash bins with whatever I've grabbed on the way out the door. Our dog, who is outside for 99% of the summer, is now 99% inside so he usually joins me for the walk. I desperately need more exercise, but can only do it in tiny amounts due to back troubles. It has been my plan to walk around the entire block on days where there is no mail, or I have no trash to dispose of, but that hasn't occurred... before today that is!
This is where the lesson comes in: First of all, my usual slip-on shoes had been knocked down the stairs so I decided to wear my ballet flats which were right there. That was my first mistake! I'm obviously retaining fluid because I had to jam my feet into them, and they were really tight. Now the ballet flats offer absolutely no protection to the bottoms of my feet, so I could feel every tiny pebble in the road, plus I had no traction whatsoever on the icy patches. I get as far as the trash bins, and realize I had forgotten the empty orange box I was going to throw out. For once I didn't stop to gossip at the post office (probably my only smart move in this entire adventure), just checked my mail and left. There was only a single envelope, so I decided that since the wind wasn't bad today, or so I thought, that I would take the "extra-long way home" around the block. As soon as I rounded the first corner I realized that the reason I didn't notice the wind before was because it was either to my back, or blocked by buildings on my way. I didn't have a hat or mittens on, so it was chilly! Next came the dog... I am trying to be careful in my footing since I'm wearing shoes that have no place being outdoors in Manitoba in November! Well, the dog loves to go for walks, but he's always afraid that you're going to take off on him. He walks exactly 18 inches directly in front of you, and stops suddenly every 3.8 seconds (approximately) to make sure you're still right behind him. He's a Shih Tsu (sp?), so it's very easy to stumble and trip over him, and it's not like he's big enough that you could fall on him without doing serious damage. So here I am... walking in simply horrific shoes... feet aching with every step... trying not to step on or fall on the dog... cursing the north wind... and wishing I hadn't chosen to do this today. By the time I was halfway home, it was clearly evident that any further excursions like this required much more sensible shoes... not only were my feet screaming from being jammed into these too-tight crazy-carpet-like nothings, but my back was screaming too from the lack of arch support.
At long last... well it sure seemed long... it was probably less than 10 minutes start to finish... I arrived home, put away my coat, quickly fixed myself a hot coffee, texted my best friend about my lesson learned, and sat down to rest.

Nicole =o)

Tuesday, November 29

How easily we can be distracted!

I have two very good excuses why the Monsterghan isn't done yet... well a third one too, but that's minor!

Excuse #1: My hands have been unbearably cold for most of the day. Even with doing dishes and the like, they never warmed up long enough for me to be able to do anything close to knitting. My hot water bottle does wonders for my cold feet, and my sore back, but nothing at all for my hands. I am still waiting for my crafting gloves to arrive. The company I ordered them from I haven't ordered from before, so I don't know if I'll be getting email confirmation of shipping, etc. It has been over 2 weeks already, but it is the holiday season, and all shipping is slower.
Excuse #2: I have to create a new at-home routine for myself. I no longer have to depend on my phone as my only source of internet at home, and no longer need to seek out high-speed wireless in-town for most tasks. This means that my typical at-home day, and my typical in-town day need to be merged somewhat in a way that is both enjoyable and productive. I expect this to take a few days to a few weeks at best, while I re-train myself! The learning curve on this will be steep. Derek is home on both Thursday and Friday this week, then leaves on the weekend for at least two weeks away. I am hoping to have myself straightened out somewhat by that time... it will be interesting, to say the least... Christmas decorating and cleaning need to be done by then as well!
Semi-excuse #3: I need to spread out the Monsterghan to get a more accurate measurement before I get too far into the border. I do have 2 (or is it 3?) more balls of Homespun left, so it's not like I'm running short of yarn (just short of motivation!}. I've only done 1 or 2 rows of the garter border, so it won't be hard to fix stitches as I go to make another "repeat" of squares. I'll get Derek's help once I'm done this post... Johnny isn't here playing CoD with him tonight.

Nicole =o)

P.S.: Only one more day to the end of NaBloPoMo!! I did it!!

Monday, November 28

Feeling a little sheepish...

Do you collect something? I collect lots of (too many?) things.

My favourite thing to collect is cute sheep. Not just any sheep will do, it has to be absolutely adorable! My dear husband, in all his wisdom, has chosen to indulge these whims of mine with a knowing smile and a sympathetic nod. I have things like a pair of Winnie-the-Pooh pyjamas, where Winnie is wearing a sheep costume. I have a sheep tape measure where you pull the tail to pull out the measuring tape. I purchased a pattern from another IDP designer on Knit Picks that's an adorable little toy (Sheepish pattern), along with 4 different colours of boucle yarn to make a herd with. I have a coffee cup with a sheep that says "Knit Happy" on the side. I swear I'm a sucker for any cute sheep anytime anywhere!

Today, my online adventures brought me to a relatively new-to-me website, Connecting Threads. I've nosed over there a time or three, but hadn't ever really taken a thorough look-see. This company is a sister company to Knit Picks.  Well, what did I find there? A wonderful cutie in the freebie pattern section, a lamb pin cushion!!! WAY too cute for words. I promptly downloaded the pattern, and am looking forward to making a herd of them as well.

Am I obsessed? You better believe it, and I'm proud of it too!

Nicole =o)

P.S.: The Monsterghan is now officially less than a border away from being done!! YAY ME!!

Sunday, November 27

The ends never end!

I've decided to go back to my old routine of "Sundays are for ends". I can't recall exactly when I stopped doing that, but it was probably back when I stopped being "heavy" into my knitting and crocheting about 3-4 years ago. When I picked up my hooks and needles again a year and a half ago, I just never got back into that habit. Since I avoid doing ends as much as possible, as shown by my finding socks that were knit 2 years before that *only* needed 4 ends woven in to become usable, this forces me to work them. Even Derek knew that Sunday was my "end-weaving day"!
It felt really good to get some of the ends done on the Monsterghan. I was helping one of my daughters with untangling and rewinding some yarn from another UFO afghan, which provided me with an opportunity to take a break from the ends. I didn't get them *all* done, but I *did* make a good dent in them. I was even able to get a few rows knitted up. I'll have to measure it again a little later, or tomorrow. I want this to be over already!
Nicole =o)

Saturday, November 26

This is how we slog!

Slog, slog, slog... that's what this afghan is... a huge slog! It's a chore, it's a drudge, it's a royal PITA!!! But it's also nearly done!

I'm forcing myself to continue on with this. I want so much to work on other projects. Not necessarily something freshly cast on... one of the UFO crocheted afghans would suit me fine. Anything, please ANYTHING but this heavy, monster, tarp of Homespun afghan!

All joking aside, this is the *itch* I get when nearing the end of any relatively large project. I'm so close to finishing that I begin chomping at the bit to get going on the next item. Unfortunately that leaves me with a plethora of "almost-done's" and a distinct famine of FOs.

I never have been, and never could be, a monogamous knitter or crocheter. I *have* gone through binges where I've been "good" and finished at least as many if not more than what I've started. History shows that after one of these periods of being "good", I more than make up for it by starting so many projects that my head spins!

So that is why I'm slogging through finishing this project. It *has* to be done, but at the same time, I want a clear conscience to be able to work on what I want... AFTER this is done!

Nicole =o)

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Friday, November 25

Going backwards to go forward.

Sometimes to make progress, you have to go backwards to go forward. That was the theme for today. I spent a great deal of time finishing up the basic reorganizing of my craft room.

Now there is no way I could completely "fix" my room at one shot. That would require at least a week (or three), and a great deal of bins and other organizational items. I have neither the time, nor the money for that. Truth be told, I'd rather not buy a whole bunch of new bins anyway. I'd much rather clean, declutter, and organize what I have better so that I don't need additional bins. So far, I can only see me wanting a large bin for worsted wools... and if I can clear one of my other non-yarn large bins, even that won't be needed. The only other category I need a bin for is lace yarns. I can easily *find* one in my collection, again by clearing and reorganizing.

I was able to get part of the walls washed, and a good portion of the floor. With a lot of shuffling and such, my craft room is now entirely accessible, if not usable yet. Nearly all the bins from this week's cataloguing were returned to the room, including the extra stacks of non-yarn bins that had been in the hallway for some time.

Even with all of these things being returned to the room, my daughter's will still be able to go in there to use my old computer. I can still go in there and get to anything I need to without having to tear half the room apart, or attaching myself to mountain-climbing gear.

At this point, even if every bit of my crafting "stuff" was removed from the living room and dumped in there -- a real possibility as the beginning of December approaches -- I could still get to everything I need to, and so can the girls.

So while some of my work has been "undone", and there's so much more to do, PROGRESS *is* being made!!!

Nicole =o)

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Thursday, November 24

A day in support of SADD, and being thankful

One of my daughters was "dead" at school today. Her school had put on a demonstration about the dangers of teenaged drinking, and drinking and driving. She wasn't allowed to talk to anyone all day, and of course her appearance startled more than one person.

Even though our Thanksgiving was last month, in honour of US thanksgiving, I'd like it if all my readers took a moment to think about this. Drinking and driving is something that affects us all. Let's all be thankful for the gift of life, and remember that it can be taken away at any time.

Nicole (no smiley face today)

Wednesday, November 23

Sucker for punishment?

That's what I feel like when I'm trying to do my Ravelry updates using my phone. BOLT is the recommended viewing browser for Blackberry users, but the way it reloads a page after each form field is filled out drives me completely up a wall. After a lot of trial and error, I've discovered which browser (default or BOLT) is best for which task. Unfortunately, due to the limitations of using mobile internet, there is no way to speed up "data entry" any more than that. Even the simplest tasks become aggravating time sinks.

Today is my last day of "concerted effort" in getting Ravelry updates done. Any more major additions will require huge amounts of digging in my craft room and elsewhere. I've completely trashed nearly the entire main floor of our house with bins and bags and boxes of yarn and projects, all in varying degrees of progression. I am feeling suffocated by it all, so I have to get it more under control before I go any further. I don't want my craft room to turn into a dumping ground for *everything* this Christmas like it has every other year. It takes me months to be able to even move in there again!

I have most of my "found" UFOs listed as projects now; at least three-quarters of my indexable stash entered; and queued my commissioned projects as well as the kits I have on hand. The more I use the databases that Ravelry has available, the more efficient I can become considering the overwhelming amount of "stuff" I have to use and make.

At least today wasn't stitch-less. I was able to do *nearly* my daily quota on the Monsterghan, before the knuckles of my right hand demanded I stop. I *was* hoping to get two more rows done to finish the repeat I was on. I was going to measure where I was at so that I could motivate myself more towards finishing.

Nicole =o)

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Tuesday, November 22

It's a good thing I'm not a politician...

... because I'm *horrible* with names!

Tonight was my first knit night since July. I'm really glad that I went, even though the dark and cold (possible ice) scares me on the highway. I met 3 new people tonight, but I couldn't tell ya what their names were!

Regardless of my social ineptitude when it comes to remembering the names of people I've just met, I still had a blast. I was able to gift one woman with some yarn for her charity work; I wasn't able to help the one girl trying loom knitting for the first time; I was able to see and feel Knit Picks Chroma; I was able to admire the simple elegance of another lady's (sc, dc) afghan; I was able to demonstrate how to hand-wind a centre-pull ball; and let everyone feel the soft squishy-ness of my Knit Picks Felici.

It was a last-minute decision to go, so I only had a few moments to grab what I was taking. That was actually a good thing, only taking what I realistically needed. Even with all the socializing going on, I was still able to get more than a stripe's worth of my sock done. It was the first knitting I've done since Sunday!

My work on my "old stash" continued today. The progress has slowed a bit, but that's mainly because the "easy" stuff has already been dealt with. Today entailed a *lot* of rewinding, as well as entering UFO afghans into my projects page. My goal is to have this 99% done by the weekend. This way I'll know what, if anything, I require to get and keep everything organized.

As overwhelming as this is, I *really* feel this will help me get a handle on what I have, what I want to do, and what I need to get done!

Nicole =o)

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Monday, November 21

The productivity of avoidance...

Another day of great progress... unfortunately it wasn't on my highest priority project, the Monsterghan! I have found that on the days I am avoiding something I *really* need to be doing, I manage to accomplish miracles... in other areas!!!

Today's avoidance project was the start of reorganizing my "old stash". By loose definition, I consider most of what was bought prior to our move to fit this category. With the exception of sock yarn, a huge proportion of this yarn was intended for crocheting. While it *is* interchangeable, I typically have different qualities in mind when looking for yarn for a crocheting project than a knitting project.

My large collection of plastic tubs contain the majority of my vast expanse of stash. Many of these have been sorted through to a certain extent, and some had even been labelled over the last 10+ years. I've gone through binges where I've sorted, frogged, washed, reskeined, rewound yarns but never a concerted effort to catalogue everything like today's.

I separated yarns by brand name, then colour, then dye lot. Each yarn was entered into my Ravelry stash database, including the name of the specific bin it was going to be stored in. It worked out to over 150 separate yarn entries added today, with anywhere from 0.5 skeins to 22 skeins per entry. A few of these needed to be rewound, but not as many as I had to do in previous "stash dives".

It was eye-opening to have to handle each ball of yarn. I *know* I have an obnoxiously huge stash, but there is something to be said for having to touch, look at, and account for each and every skein. On the plus side, I have a better knowledge of what I already have. I know from my Ravelry library listings, that I can shop better and use it to my advantage when searching Rav. Since many of these bins will be stored somewhere other than the easy access of my craft room, the additional step of listing the bin names will allow me to search Ravelry for where my yarn is before I start tearing apart piles of bins all over!

This small start in getting my stash properly catalogued took over 10 hours today with my phone. Many more hours will be spent on this task, especially until I get my craft room in complete order. However, I know from previous experience that this time has been an investment in the future, and that investment will eventually pay off in saved time, as well as money.

Nicole =o)

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Sunday, November 20

The light gets brighter...

The end of the tunnel is continuing to get closer and closer. I spent a good portion of today (off and on) working on the Monsterghan.

I'm now on the last ball of one of the dye lots. It must have been 4 of one lot, and 6 of the other for the initial purchase. It also must have been the "6 ball lot" that I purchased an additional ball of yarn from. I say this because the 3 remaining balls of yarn in the tote are all the same lot. This will make life a bit easier for me for the rest of the project, since ball changes will now be at the end of a ball, rather than at the end of a repeat as well. For most people this isn't a big deal, but with my *extreme* aversion to end-weaving, this is fantabulous news!

I got my "half-a-repeat" quota done for the day, as well as quite a few ends woven in. I took advantage of my hands not being in knitting condition in the mornings while I was motivated to make progress. I'm still looking at having it finished before the end of the week, and if I keep myself motivated, I *will* make that quota!

Besides, I have a monster list of projects I want to make after this is done!!! *snicker*

Nicole =o)

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Saturday, November 19

The light at the end of the tunnel...

at least when referring to the Monsterghan, *is* a light, and not a train coming towards me.

Well after my harrowing day yesterday, I spent a good portion of the day today just resting and watching DVDs. Once I started feel remotely, slightly human again, I could start working on the Monsterghan again.

Well I'm very happy to announce that the end *is* now in sight! I had Derek help me measure it. It is approximately 6 feet wide. I couldn't believe it, as it was *supposed* to be only 4 feet wide! The overall length is about 5 feet now. I'm guesstimating that I'll need to do 2-3 more squares and then I can declare it done.

What I'm wondering now is, how long after this is done, will I have the courage to make another afghan??

Nicole =o)

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Friday, November 18

The balance of the universe...

requires that everything in life is proportional. The days that prove that fact drive me insane!

Yesterday I wrote about everything I needed to do today. Of course, that means that something has to happen to make all those errands as difficult to do as possible. This time around it was Mother Nature. I'm not sure who pissed her off that badly, but I'd sure like to tear them a new one!

The winter storm started yesterday afternoon, and would let up just long enough at times to make sure that every idiot with (and probably some without) licences would go out and try to drive! Our truck, while a *very* dependable vehicle, is relatively light as it's only a 2 wheel drive. It's definitely sturdy, as evidenced by my trip into the ditch last year, but still doesn't have much traction on sheer ice.

My day was spent slipping and sliding from one place to another. Brandon is built straddling a river valley, so there's lots of hills. This translates into *lots* of places to slip, slide, and go sideways! There's a reason why winter driving was a huge factor in my decision to leave my job... I DON'T LIKE DRIVING IN THIS STUFF!!!

I *did* survive... I *didn't* get in any accidents... I *am* going to bed!!!

Nicole =o)

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Thursday, November 17

Another boring post...

Well as of the time of this writing, I haven't knit a single stitch today! I've been busy like crazy it seems though.

Tomorrow is my last planned day in town for this month. Derek, myself, and one of the girls have physicals at the doctor's tomorrow. Derek and I are getting a ton of blood work and such done, so we're both on 12 hour fasting. I normally refuse to do any kind of fasting due to my hypoglycaemia, but this time Derek will be with me to drive me to get something to eat afterwards.

I have to run what seems like a million errands. I have to deposit my first "paycheque" from Knit Picks. I have to pay for my driver's licence renewal. I have to go to the bookstore in the mall to use my 15% off coupon, for some Christmas gifts. I have to go to the office supply store for some copies and file folders. I have to go to the craft store for another Christmas present. I have to take my daughter to get her glasses adjusted and repaired. I also have from 1 to 3 online orders to place, and am not quite decided on what I'm getting.

Part of being busy today was the prep work for all of this. I have to make sure I've got all of my paperwork, coupons, and memberships in order. I had to make all of the various shopping lists (tomorrow is grocery shopping too!), which required an inventory of specific things so I could compile the list. Then there was also a long to-do list of emailing, phone calls and other types of correspondence to deal with. I had list after list of to-do, to-bring, to-buy and other whatnot on the go! Sometimes living so far out of town is a real chore!

I still have to take my bath and get off to bed, morning is extra-early tomorrow... we have to leave 45 minutes earlier than normal to make our appointments... I'm tired already! LOL!

Nicole =o)

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Wednesday, November 16

Being organized can be time consuming!

Well the promised Knit Picks order post is being postponed. I spent the better part of the day simply entering all the yarn into my Ravelry stash listing.

It's at times like these where only having phone internet is a real PITA! To make matters worse, the BlackBerry default browser is the fastest way to enter stash, but it doesn't let me enter books or magazines into my library. I have to use BOLT for that, and it has got to be the slowest possible way on the planet for filling out online forms *ever*. After each little box is filled out, the page reloads. After each check box is selected, the page reloads. After each selection from a drop-down menu, the page reloads. You get the idea! Needless to say I *didn't* get the books done today!

While it did take a lot of time, and would have been faster on the laptop using wi-fi, it will still save me time *and* money in the long run. I reference my stash when yarn shopping at the LYSs in Winnipeg, I reference my magazine library when doing our grocery shopping, and I reference my book library when shopping for books and patterns online or in-store. I do my best to keep up with what my leftover are from projects, using my scale. This helps when planning a new project, so I can tell at a glance if I have enough. The more I use the Ravelry databases, the more I get out of them.

I *did* get a little more than the yarn entries done today however! I knit a stripe's-worth of my Felici socks... they are so nice and soft! My walk to the post office today was assisted by a *very* unwelcome North wind, so I came up with a scarf idea to design up. I finished a few rows on the Monsterghan. Last, but not least, I had fun staring at my first commission cheque from the Knit Picks IDP. Sure felt good getting my first *real* paycheque as a designer!!

Nicole =o)

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Tuesday, November 15

I'm so spoiled, the proof!!

I was so overwhelmed with Liz's generosity, that I forgot to attach the pic! It *is* a craptastic phone picture, but I'm sure you get the idea!

Nicole =o)

I'm soooo spoiled!

Well I knew I had the bestest best friend in the world, but today was one of proof of that. Firstly, she made me cry... She blogged about me and I got all weepy! Of course I texted her to give her what-for for making me cry!! LOL! Next, I came home to both of the parcels I was expecting; my KP order (see tomorrow's post), and a gifty one from her. Now, I *was* expecting it, and I knew a *few* of the things that were going into it, but she out-did even herself!!!! As I got to the bottom of the box, I got all weepy again!

In August, she had gone to the Mary Maxim tent sale. I had asked her to look for some specific items for me. A cute, golfing Santa felt stocking kit was one. I had been kicking myself for months for not ordering it last year when I first saw it, as it had disappeared from the catalogue *and* website. It was the perfect item for Derek, and I had already purchased several similar kits a few years ago (one of which I mentioned back in October that I was working on it). Another was some Starlette yarn in a few colours so I could swatch with it for an afghan design I'm working on. Starlette is the only line of reasonably-priced machine-washable worsted yarn that has all 11 colours I need for this design. There were also 2 Harmony crochet books (the old ones!) which were the main reason she sent this when she did... I had whined about how in my now vast library of reference books, I had nothing to assist me in designing a crochet lace shawl!!! That's what I knew about!

Next there were several items I vaguely remember her mentioning at one point or another. There's some plain and purply-pink roving for thrums. The purply-pink should work perfectly with the rose and lavender Briggs & Little Regal I bought in the spring for thrummed mitts, and of course, natural goes with everything. There was the Creative Knitting special issue, Techniques, Tips & Tricks. CK is one of the (very) few knitting magazines that I consistently enjoy the projects from, so this was a must-have issue for me... and of course locating it here was impossible (until *after* she bought me a copy!). I dug out a ball of Mary Maxim Bamboo sock yarn... I forgot about that one! I have been purchasing samples of the various wool sock yarns from there, and due to the fibre content, hadn't tried this one yet. The colour she chose is like a rose garden of pink, purple, peach, and green... too nice for *just* socks IMO!!! One other item rang a bell... very soft ring mind you, but a ring nonetheless... a hank of a blue sherbet-like semi-solid hand painted sock yarn, packaged in a parfait cup (more like a slurpee, but that's splitting hairs!). It was for a cancer fund raiser a couple years back. Very cute and very smooshy!

Then came the complete surprises... A blue-grey-black ball of Mary Maxim Bounce, another sock yarn I hadn't tried yet, a *huge* stack of mostly colour-work patterns (I'm *really* needing a KP Palette sampler after looking through them!), a 101 stitch book of crochet stitches for afghans, and 2 *nearly* identical balls of deep blue jacquard sock yarn. Those 2 made me step back for a moment. The yardage on them is huge!!! 440m/ 481yds each! One ball should make even Derek a pair of socks *nearly* to the height he prefers! I later found out that it was in a bin for $2 each!!! I remembered seeing the *really* cheap sock yarn emails from Mary Maxim in the late summer, but this was still surprising... $2 for sock yarn that doesn't feel like it by any means! Usually you get what you pay for, but even Walmart charges more than that for a single pair of socks!!!

I've saved the very best for last... the item that made me cry, and truth be told, has me welling up as I write this. I could not believe my eyes when I pulled out a hank of "Cashmara" sock yarn in Petrol out of the mix. I remembered looking over the website that sold it (sorry, no linky) when Liz was ordering parts for her sock machine. She was doing to me what I do to her CONSTANTLY... making **me** look at yummy yarny goodness to help **her** pick out colours! Sock yarn wasn't the purpose of her order, the parts were, but she wanted some sock yarn too. I totally understood, as my KP orders have been mostly tools and reference, with yarn as an afterthought. I remember looking at the various yarn lines and colours, and how this one colourway grabbed me immediately. Even though the pics she sent me of her stash had a lot of these colours already, this combination was just too good to pass up.

All I remember clearly about that day is the two of us emailing back and forth (as always) and discussing the pros and cons of various colours. I also remember being so happy for her for having her machine finally, and looking forward to when she was practised enough with it to trust *good* yarn such as this to it. I've always lived vicariously through many of the things she does and can do that I can't. As jealous as I am of her being able to "crank out a sock" now, I also know that, for me, making nothing but stockinette, short row heel socks, is not what I want to do with my stash. Derek prefers his ribbed worsted weight Tuffy socks, and I like making patterns with nearly any yarn I have. Plus, heel flap socks are what work best for both of us! Regardless, I can't wait to see her socks once she gets off the current quilting marathon she's on! I love ya Liz!!!

Nicole =o)

PS: The Cashmara feels as good as it looks... it's not "too good" for socks, and not "too rough" for a wearable accessory... the perfect combination in any sock weight yarn!!!

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Monday, November 14

Still recovering...

Well I'm still recovering from this weekend's "migraine from hell". At least when I was younger, I had usually had some fun to deserve this kind of recovery pain! Not much got done around the house, but I *did* get some knitting done in between naps. The daily quota on the Monsterghan has been exceeded, and the ribbing is done on the Nearly Instant Gratification socks. I'm really enjoying knitting with Felici as much as I enjoyed squishing it in the ball when it arrived. I'm expecting a *very* comfortable pair of socks!

Nicole =o)

Sunday, November 13

Recovering from a migraine...

Yesterday was *not* a good day for me... I had one of my crippling migraines. I've only been getting them the last few years, but they have been increasing in both frequency and severity. Unfortunately I haven't found out what all my triggers are, but the worst one is barometric pressure changes. Well the weather has been *very* variable lately, with snow off and on for about a week now. I had it when I first woke up, but I popped a few Tylenol, thinking that it was simply one of the headaches I frequently wake up with. This was not the case, but I didn't discover this until we were already in town for the day, and I didn't have any meds with me. Of course, to make matters worse, Derek had to work late, so I was stuck waiting (and suffering) for over an hour. By the time we finally did get home, I wasn't able to function on even the slightest level. Meds and a 4 hour nap later, I could at least move, albeit slowly, without feeling like I was about to die!

When I woke up this morning, the ache was down to a dull roar, so I could start working, at least a little bit. I managed to get a few rows of the monsterghan done, as well as starting a pair of socks out of some of my Felici. Add in some major Rav updates and catching up on the forums, and you have my day!

Nicole =o)

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Saturday, November 12

Have you seen this bag?

I recently was made aware of several thefts of designer's samples at some trade shows. It's shocking how much nerve it takes to do something like this, especially considering how unique and recognizable these items are.

This particular bag ( is an especially intricate work of art. Many of the designers on Ravelry are doing whatever they can to get the word out. This bag was stolen from the yarn company's booth at Rhinebeck. If you have seen this bag, please contact the designer, or contact me and I can put you in touch with her. Thank you!

Nicole =o)

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Friday, November 11

The productivity of avoiding work!

It's amazing how much I get done when I'm avoiding doing something that I know *has* to get done! That was the name of the game today! I did all kinds of things to avoid working on the monsterghan! About 4 complete loads of laundry, my bedroom cleaned, several rounds of "Age of Mythology", plus other assorted tidying-up jobs! I even organized the leftover balls of yarn from Melissa's afghan, and got that project properly set up in its own shopping tote.

I didn't *completely* avoid my knitting, however. From the time yesterday's picture was taken, I've gotten another 20 rows done. That's another square's worth of rows. I had already done more than my daily quota of 10 rows when the picture was taken, so I'm progressing quite nicely.

Tomorrow is an "in town" day, and I'm *really* hoping to get some major updating done on various things. The shortcomings of this phone can really be annoying at times!

Nicole =o)

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Thursday, November 10

You ought to be in pictures... I hope!

Well wish me luck! I'm using this post to test my ability to add pictures to a post via email, and to see what happens to them!

I've been slogging away on the monsterghan all day, finishing almost one complete square's worth of rows. I desperately want to work on some designing, so this *has* to get finished quickly. I'm also waiting for 2 parcels to arrive. Hopefully Monday since tomorrow is a holiday, and I'm in town on Tuesday.

*If* the pictures work, please forgive the poor quality, as they were taken with my phone. One is of me hiding behind it to hold it up and show how big it is so far. The other is meant to show the colour and pattern better, along with a peek at our kitten, Spooky.

Nicole =o)

Wednesday, November 9

The monster rears its ugly head...

Well this monster isn't ugly, but would "The monster rears its soft and squishy head" been as dramatic?

After a couple days' break, I'm back working on the monsterghan again. It's nice seeing the tote bag I'm using for this project being filled more with "afghan blob" than "there's *HOW* many more balls of Homespun left"! I'm still not halfway through the yarn I purchased but I do think that I can say that I *am* more than halfway done.

This afghan is getting heavier and heavier all the time. Each ball of yarn is 170g/ 6 oz. That means that it currently weighs over 850g/ 30 oz. Its gonna feel like a quilt by the time its done! I do have to say that it sure is great for keeping the chill off of me while I'm working on it. We have snow now, and even though the furnace is on, the house still feels cold.

I *really* need to get this afghan finished soon. The design muse is shouting at me and I *really* need to be able to listen better. I've gotten more than my *quota* of 10 rows done today, so I think I'm gonna call it a night.

Nicole =o)

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Tuesday, November 8

Be afraid... be *very* afraid...

Sorry folks, but this is yet *another* video game themed post! If you are completely against war/ violence video games, please read no further. There are no spoilers or graphic descriptions, as this is an editorial comment rather than an actual review.

Today was the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Derek has been looking forward to this ever since August or so when we first found out about it and put the deposit down on our copy. I *have* tried to play previous versions but I suck worse at "first-person shooter" games than I do at golf!!! (Trust me... that's saying a LOT!) However, Derek is really into this series, and is fairly decent at it too.

I was a "good wife" and picked up our copy of the game and the strategy guide while I was in town today. I know we could have picked it up after work as EB Games is just down the hill from his work, but that would have made him lose at least 30 minutes of potential playing time tonight! That's just not acceptable with a brand new game! LOL!

Well I saw something when he was loading the game for the first time that gave me a double-take. Keep in mind that this is a very violent game. The creators take pride in producing life-like graphics, and the 17+ rating is more than deserved. There was a warning for "Inappropriate or possibly offensive content". The game doesn't reveal any details of what type of content, but it does give you the option of skipping over it with no losses in achievements and the like.

If a game of this type offers this kind of warning, and the ability to skip it without penalization... just *how* offensive *is* this content?

I'm afraid... I'm *very* afraid!!!

Nicole =o)

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Monday, November 7

It's a four letter word ya know!

Snow... Four letters and just as nasty as the ones your mother used to wash your mouth out with soap for!

We got our first real snow of the year yesterday, and it's still here today! A bit of it melted on the road but it's still covering our lawn and everything else. Only a couple of centimetres (if that), but that's all it takes!

Unfortunately, these drastic weather changes trigger massive migraines for me. So today has been declared an "on the couch" day with the curtains closed. I'll be the one over there --> whimpering under the blanket... Our DVD player has decided to act up too, so I don't even have any TV to veg out to!

Nicole =o)

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Sunday, November 6

Did you change your clock?

For most people in North America, this morning saw the end of Daylight Savings Time for this year. At our house, that means a *lot* of clocks need to be reset! My phone, and our laptops do it automatically. Derek's and the girls' phones have to be rebooted to recognize the change. The digital clocks on the microwave, coffee maker, and alarm clocks are relatively easy to do. Then there's the two wall clocks in the living room, and the one in the kitchen. I like to clean them whenever I take them down, so that's an additional step in the process.

I *thought* I had slept in until about 9:30 this morning until I checked my phone instead of the wall! The "extra" hour is pretty much taken care of with checking every clock!!! I spent most of the rest of the day playing "Age of Mythology", so I didn't accomplish anything at all on my knitting today!! However, I'm getting better at AOM, so it's time to add more opponents or increase the difficulty, or both! It's a nice diversion from my work, and a nice change from either my novel or DS.

Nicole =o)

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Saturday, November 5

So much to do!

It seems like the more I try to concentrate on one project, the more things that come up that require immediate attention!

If you have been following my writing lately, you know that my shawl design-in-progress (DIP) is what I want to work on the most. I am about 4 repeats into it, and I'm still liking it, although I *am* wondering a bit about it. That's the main reason I have been able to focus on the monsterghan.

When I measured the monsterghan yesterday, it was approximately 40 inches long. The overall width is 60+ inches as my circular needle is that length, and the afghan is wider than that. I declared to my best friend that I was about half done at that point. I've gotten nearly another square done on it today.

Now I also have orders for a pair of men's socks, and two pairs of slippers to be done. I have no choice but to get the monsterghan done before anything else, as this project was commissioned at the end of May. My designs are a big priority for me too, as I'd like to have my knitting and crocheting to be self-supporting at the minimum.

Well tonight I was commissioned to get a tree skirt done as well! I only have one pattern written up for that, and I'm not certain if it will serve the purposes I need. *sigh* So I have yet *another* design to work on!!

When it rains it pours!!!

Nicole =o)

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Friday, November 4

And we're off!!! err... on... Casting on that is!

Now it's time for the next step in this design... choosing the yarn and casting on.

My Ott light is invaluable when it comes time to pick and choose colours. Especially at this time of year, natural light is difficult to come by. I pulled out the two colours of yarn, Doe and Kenai in Knit Picks Gloss fingering, and held them side by side. I called up a close-up of the prayer shawl and decided that the jade colour of the Kenai would be the best fit for my design.

Now that my yarn is chosen, I *still* don't get to cast on yet! The yarn comes in hanks so I have to ball it up. I don't have a ball winder or swift so that process is done by hand. In my limited experience with Knit Picks yarns, this has been an extremely painless experience. The yarn doesn't seem to know how to tangle!

After the yarn has been transformed into a ball, I decided on a needle size, and assembled one. I had a few ideas on the set-up and fiddled around a bit until I found something that worked, and looked how I wanted. I worked it up until one full repeat was completed.

This is where I left it at so that I can "think on it" for a little while and decide if I like how it's turning out.

Nicole =o)

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Thursday, November 3

Still in the planning stages...

The next step for this design is the graphing. Since I already have a stitch pattern picked out, I don't have to make sample swatches of various stitches to help me in the decision making process.

Call it "Old School" if you like, but I like using pencil, eraser, and graph paper for creating my draft charts. My laptop is often one of the final tools I use in the pattern writing process.

I made a rough draft of the stitch repeat. The book this pattern comes from doesn't provide charts, and does decreases different from my preferred method. I make these initial alterations while doing the written to charted conversions.

My research has found a generic guide for shawl shapes and designing. Since my intended finished shape isn't a typical triangle, this gives me a starting point to work from. I charted out the formula for my desired shape, but it wasn't working out like I had hoped. I modified/ combined the formulas and charted them until I got one I like.

The final part of the pre-cast-on stages is to choose a yarn. I've already decided I'm using some of the non-superwash Knit Picks fingering yarn I received in some sock yarn samplers. Checking my stash, I find 2 candidates: Kenai, a rich teal colour; and Doe, a light, warm brown.

Stay tuned for the cast on!!

Nicole =o)

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Wednesday, November 2

The start of a design...

This is going to be the first in a series of posts about the design process for me. Each project starts out differently, and therefore is designed differently, but this is meant to be an example of one.

About a year ago, a very dear friend of mine became quite ill. She had a liver transplant about 20 years ago, and it was beginning to fail. Derek and I attended the fund-raising social for her, but I felt I still needed to do something. I'd heard of the "Comfort Shawl Ministry" and was compelled to make her one. I went through my stitch books and found one that inspired me. Long story short, I gave it to her and she got better. I really enjoyed the pattern, and kept it in the back of my mind.

This spring I started getting into a real "shawl mood". All I seemed to be able to think of was lace, and shawls, and scarves, and creating that magic that occurs when blocking knitted lace.

I wanted to create a different version of the prayer shawl... different shape, different construction, different yarn weight... basically everything different except for the base stitch. I had remembered an article on shawl design out of one of my magazines, plus did some research online on different shawl shapes and methods.

So after several months of "brain bouncing", and some research, a new design idea starts to take shape. I have some Knit Picks sock yarn that I've ear-marked for shawls, so the next step is choosing which one, and playing with graph paper!

Nicole =o)

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Tuesday, November 1

Waiting and slogging; slogging and waiting...

That's what I'm going through right now!

I was able to place a Knit Picks order Saturday before the book sale was over. I have some more references on the way now, along with a shawl kit and lace samplers. Of course there's other goodies too. I'll share (brag) about it all when it arrives later this month.

All this lace weight yarn has got me chomping at the bit to start on some shawl designs. I'm sure I'll be taking a day this week to play around with my stitch books and graph paper! I'm itching to start swatching!

The slogging is on the monsterghan. Now that my pullover is completed, the monsterghan *has* to be my focus. I am committed to having it finished by the end of the month. I measured it on the weekend, and I would guesstimate that I'm around half-done. I would like to do at least 10 rows a day when at home, which is half a "square" in the pattern repeat.

Wish me luck in my goals!!!

Nicole =o)

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Saturday, October 29


That pretty much describes my mind-set of late... and that's a very good thing! I finished my Tom Clancy novels, all three, last week. I'm looking forward to when the next in the "Jack Ryan" series comes out... It's definitely going on my Christmas list, even though it is a collaborative novel.

My pullover had the last of the seaming and ends woven in yesterday, and the craptastic phone pics we took were uploaded to Ravelry this afternoon. The monsterghan was promptly pulled out of the corner of my bedroom and repaired. I lucked out and it was a very easy fix. I've gotten another 24+ rows knit into it. It's about 32" in length, so I'm nearly at the halfway point. At 176 stitches per row, slogging doesn't begin to describe it, but I'm damned and determined to have it done by the end of November.

I desperately want to start a few projects, but I am trying to be a more monogamous knitter/ crocheter. I have a cardigan I want to do for Melissa, freebie pattern from Mary Maxim and yarn purchased at Ram Wools. I have the yarn for the kids' crocheted monsters waiting, along with the base yarn for Rebecca's Dinoghan. Another one that's screaming to me is the shawl design out of sock-weight wool... I... must... resist!!!

Nicole =o)

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Friday, October 14

Diversions and distractions...

Those have been the key words for this week.

One of the greatest gifts Derek gave me with my "permission to quit working", was that I was no longer expected to contribute to the family financially. This took the pressure off of me entirely in the case of my designing. I didn't have to force myself to come up with ideas, didn't have the stress of worrying about submissions, and everything that goes along with that. One of the other things this freedom does is allow me to pursue other interests as well.

This week hasn't been all *that* productive when it comes to my pullover, but it has been in other respects. I've decided that the piece I'm working is the front. I'm now past the neck division. A couple hours at most is all that's left for that section. I've really only devoted one day to working on it this week.

So what *have* I been doing this week? Mainly reading. I am a huge Tom Clancy fan, and I had 2 new books waiting for me to crack them open. "The Bear and the Dragon" was first on the menu. That one took me just over 2 days to devour. I'm now reading "Dead or Alive", but taking my time with it.

I've also been poking around in my craft room. Jackie and I had the goal of my craft room being "sewing ready" by the time school began, but we failed at that for a variety of reasons. I have a stash of at least 5 felt stocking kits that have been misplaced. No amount of digging and rearranging could locate them. I got a few bins ready for cleaning and reorganizing, and managed to discover one if the kits. That's what I spent the afternoon and evening on today... I forgot how time consuming they can be! It appears I got next to nothing done!

Soooooo... I may have been distracted and diverted this week, but at least I didn't start another knitting or crocheting project!!

Nicole =o)

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Thursday, October 13

Thanks RIM... for nothing!

My friends are used to me calling my phone "the speed bump". Well thanks to a *major* problem with the entire BlackBerry network, I haven't been able to do anything really with my phone for the last day and a half. That means I wasn't able to blog, which tosses me out of the NaBloPoMo contest for the month of October. I'm gonna continue on, as I'm enjoying getting into the blogging habit again.

Stay tuned... I'm working on the armholes and neck of the front of my pullover. I was slightly diverted this week by my books, but this project is still on my high rotation list!

Nicole =o)

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Monday, October 10

Here is another episode in my series of stories about my dear husband, Derek.

The summer we were getting ready to move out to the country, I was put on a yarn diet. Not a strict one, but a diet nonetheless. It wasn't hard to stick to as we only had one *real* yarn store nearby then, and the hours made it difficult for me to get there. I never complained, as I knew our finances didn't allow for it, and I had more than enough stash to keep me going. I did buy needles there whenever I could, and got hooked on Addi Naturas!

In March, Derek was sent to Edmonton for manager meetings for his company. I had a wish list of items that I would like for projects I had in mind. I posted in an Edmonton Ravelry group, asking for suggestions for a LYS that would be able to assist him.

Now I trust Derek's judgement in making choices for me. He doesn't immediately look for the cheapest options, but what appeals to him... He even knows to check dye lots, often reminding me to check when we're shopping together! He will pet and squeeze the yarn to see how it feels even. What he doesn't understand is yarn weight and such, and that's what he would need help with.

My list had the yarn requirements for several shawls, blocking wires, lace needles, a couple books and the like. Now for the shawls, I simply stated the weight and length required, and the inspiration. One was part of a series based on the four elements, called Mystic Light, and I simply told him to find yarn that said "light or fire or illumination" to him.

He set off to the LYS, along with his dad and I can't recall who else, list in hand. Now I considered this list to be suggestions only, and by no means did I expect him to get all, or even most, of the items on it. The clerk at the LYS was everything that the Edmonton Rav group said, being extremely helpful. Derek went through my entire list, and everything they had there he bought! His dad was shocked at the $300+ bill, but understood when Derek said how good I'd been on my "diet" and how "this is what she likes to do and it makes her happy".

He didn't tell me that he'd made it to the LYS until he arrived back home. He handed me my list and asked me to read out each item in turn. He was like a magician with a top hat... endlessly pulling out item after item. The yarn choices he made were wonderful, and none of them were even close to *budget* prices! I recall that for one, it was $25 a hank. The amount I needed was about 700 yards and the hank was 600 (or something similar), so he bought 2!! The "Mystic Light" yarn was fantabulous! He chose a gorgeous semi-solid red that screamed "fire" and was a wonderful wool/ raw silk blend that just begged to be handled! He proudly handed me each item, grinning as he saw how thrilled I was. I felt like a little kid at Christmas!

When he completed everything that was on my list that he was able to get, he told me there was still more! He handed me some sock yarn he'd picked out in a brand I didn't have. He remembered that I always try to buy sock yarn from wherever I travel!

It brought tears to my eyes to think of how thoughtful and generous he was, and is. I had been spoiled rotten on this trip! I posted to the Edmonton group to thank them for their help, and to share how great that LYS was... And of course brag about how great Derek was!!!

Nicole =o)

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Sunday, October 9

The Ugly Doily

Yesterday's post got me thinking about how lucky I consider myself with my hubby, and all the stories I like to share about him to demonstrate that. Today I will share another one of my favourite stories.
The Ugly Doily
My husband, Derek, and I have been together over 11 years now, but right from the beginning I knew I had a "keeper". He loved everything I made, appreciated all the effort that went into it, and encouraged me greatly in anything I wanted to try. When we'd go out shopping and come home with crochet supplies (I only crocheted at that time), he'd even put the items away for me and in their proper places too... labelled bins are invaluable in that respect!
Two of my favourite crochet magazines were (and still are even though they're now out of print) Magic Crochet and Decorative Crochet. I would purchase them faithfully every month and would always have at least a half dozen doilies I wanted to make out of each one. Derek would often glance through my magazines, although I always thought he was being polite, or just *that* bored!
I had one issue that when I looked through it, it had the usual half-dozen or so WIMs, but there was one pattern that was *sooooo* not my taste. It was the last pattern I would ever make out of that magazine... I wouldn't say that I hated it, but the words "strongly dislike" were a mild indication of my feelings towards that particular design. There was no way I would ever waste my time on that doily... life is too short for working on patterns that I don't enjoy!
Derek did his typical glance through that magazine, and to my surprise, he asked me if I'd make him one of the doilies in it. Of course I said yes! How many men ask their wives to make them a doily?!??! Imagine the look on my face, and the dismay in my heart when he showed me the pattern he wanted me to make for him... that gawdawful fugly design that I'd never *ever* make!!!
Well there's absolutely no way I can say no. This man supports and encourages me in every little thing I do. He loves me and appreciates me for who I am. I *have* to do this for him. Even though he knows at this point now that I don't like the pattern (putting it very mildly for his benefit), I tell him to go pick out the thread he wants for it... remember, he's the one that puts it away when we go shopping so he not only knows *what* it is, but *where* it is too. He dives into my thread bin and proudly pulls out the most gaudy (okay, maybe the second-most gaudy) ball of thread I had in there. It was a loud variegated white-to-navy blue that gave me a headache just to look at it!
What am I to do? He's chosen the worst possible pattern, and the worst possible thread, and I have no choice at all but to grin and bear it. I work on the project for him faithfully, bringing it with me wherever I go to work on... if for no other reason than to get it out of the way as fast as I can! Whenever anyone would stop to look at what I was working on, I would get nothing but compliments about how great a pattern it was and how cool the thread was. It took every bit of self-control I had to simply say "thank you", and nothing more!
This wasn't a small project really. This finished size was to be around 45 cm when done in size 20 thread, and I was doing this one in size 10. I had about 5 cm more to go when the worst possbile thing happened... I ran out of thread. Not only was I being forced to work this horrific pattern, in this headache-inducing thread, but I HAD TO GO BUY MORE!!!! I *did* get the doily finished, ends woven, and blocked out in a decent amount of time. It ended up well over 60 cm in diameter, but then again, doilies never really take me a bunch of time (see my 3-day table topper in my Ravelry projects for an example).
Derek proudly cleaned off his dresser, and that doily has been displayed on there ever since. If it's not there, it's because I've taken it to wash and block it. There have been a few times that I've taken it off to show someone that I've shared this story with, and Derek is always terrified that I'm going to give it away (like 99% of my doilies... you admire it, it's yours!). I could never give that doily away. I affectionately referred to it the entire time I was working on it as "The Ugly Doily", and the name has stuck to this day. That doily is a symbol of my love for him, that because he loves me so much, that I will put aside my personal feelings to do what is the most difficult for me, simply because it is for him.
I love you very much honey, and I am thankful for every day that we have together.
FWIW, there never was anything really wrong with that pattern. No errors, and the chart was easy to follow. It was simply something that didn't appeal to me at all in the least. And it seems that I was about the only one that felt that way. I don't ever recall anyone disliking the pattern other than myself!!

Saturday, October 8

The ends never end...

I am notorious for not doing ends on projects. I avoid them like the plague. Everybody that knows me at all knows about this. I have been known to find a pair of socks... where the knitting was completed on them months, or even years before... and all that was required was weaving in *FOUR* yarn ends!

My favourite story to share about my reputation happened about 8 or 9 years ago at Christmas. This is one of the many "my wonderful DH" stories that I love to tell.

First there's the back story. Starting in about late September or October I began work in secret on afghans for 2 of my pre-teen daughters. The finished size of these afghans was about 55-60" by 75-80". There was also a variety of other projects on the go, I was pregnant (or nursing depending on the year, I can't remember), designing when I could, very involved in online communities, and working full-time. At the beginning of November, a new CAL group was created as an off-shoot of Crochet Talk. As one of the admins on CT then, I was heavily involved in the management of this new group as well.

The first project was a 9-patch quiltghan by Bea (something...). I was immediately in love with this pattern, and *had* to start it even though I had *so* much on the go already. My stash had at least one ball of each colour of Red Heart Super Saver that our Walmart carried, so I spread them all out on the kitchen table for my husband Derek to choose. I should insert here for those of you that don't regularly follow my blog, that my DH has wonderful taste, and I've learned to trust his yarn choices in all projects.

He chose a wonderful purple/green/white multi (the name escapes me right now since I rarely use RHSS anymore) along with the co-ordinating solids. I was ready to begin, and was looking forward to the granny squares as a great diversion from the more complex and involved projects I had on the go. This quilt-ghan was constructed like a typical 9-patch quilt, but using granny squares. Each 12" block was made up of 9 smaller squares. These squares could be anywhere from 1 to 4 colours each. If you are counting, that means a minimum of 18 and up to 72 ends per 12" block. It was a 3x4 construction, so that means 12 of these 12" blocks. It's okay if your eyes begin to glaze over at the boggling number of ends, prior to joining the blocks with sashing or adding the border (which was 3 colours if I remember correctly)!

Even though I had so many other things to finish, I couldn't put this project down. Derek is very accepting of my "creative mess" so he tends not to pay a great deal of attention to my "stuff" unless there is a drastic change (for the good or bad). By the middle of December I had most of the squares done and I began to realize that I *could* finish this afghan in time for Christmas along with the 2 others (1 *was* done for sure by this point and the other may have been as well).

Keeping in mind that he was used to seeing my stack of 12" blocks on the side of my computer desk, and knowing that there was a lifetime of ends to work on, I devised a plan to accomplish my goal. I began by working all of the ends on the inside of the 12" blocks, leaving the outer ones hanging. Unless you picked it up, you wouldn't realize that the rest of the ends were done. Once I had the inner ends done, I needed a way to shift his attention away from the squares of *his* afghan (he'd already claimed it as his after the 2nd or 3rd block was done). I began moving the blocks to the UFO pile under my desk. That was his hint that he would be lucky to see this afghan before he retired.

Now I could safely finish off the remaining ends, and even start joining a few of the blocks. He had to work until noon on Christmas Eve, and that was when the last of the border rows were completed along with the last of the ends. I carefully folded it up into a clear zippered afghan bag, gift-wrapped it, and hid it under the tree.

The next morning, when he un-wrapped it, you could see he was pleasantly surprised that I had finished it after all, but he didn't remove it from the bag. He promptly tossed it across the room at me, as I was sitting at the opposite end of our large sectional sofa. I tossed it back at him, saying nothing. He threw it again, and I tossed it back again. This game of "hot potato" lasted a few more rounds before I finally said something to him about just throwing his afghan at me. He replied that he was throwing it at me so I could do the ends. I very sternly told him to open the bag.

His face was as red as a Santa suit as he muttered "Thank You"...

Nicole =o)

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Friday, October 7

Small things...

... amuse small minds!

Well that's certainly true for me today! I discovered a way to do a 2 stitch cable without a cable needle, *without* dropping a stitch first! I actually knit the stitches out of order without removing them from the left needle until they're both worked. Since my pullover is out of Mary Maxim's Starlette Ragg, an acrylic yarn, most of the cable needle-less cabling methods won't work well.

I'm 4 repeats (around 50 pattern rows) into the piece, and I'm happy I managed to figure this out. The 2 stitch cables are on every right side row, so this is saving me a bunch of time and hassle. The main 8 stitch cables are on every 12th row, so I do those with the cable needle. I'm using my Brittany birch wood cable needle and I'm finding that it's great for keeping my cable stitches under control. The main pieces are being worked with my Knit Picks nickel-plated interchangeable set. The slippery finish of these is helping me fly through this project.

It's not entirely stockinette now, but I'm still completely addicted!

Nicole =o)

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Thursday, October 6

Can we have a drum roll please?

I am thrilled to announce Knit Picks latest designer in the IDP program... ME!!! (insert loud cheering crowd sound effect here)

Walk in the Garden Socks: $1.99 USD for electronic download

I'm sorry there isn't a cooler text hyperlink, but I don't know how to do that when I'm posting from my phone. (Sorry, the geek in me is coming out) I know it's silly, but I was as giddy as a schoolgirl when I got the email. Of course I immediately changed my facebook status too!

Oh well, back to trying to cable on my pullover... Stay tuned for when I'm ready to submit my next pattern design proposal to KP, a shawlette in lace weight or fingering weight! I've got the stitch pattern already chosen, it's just deciding which shawl shape I will use and then going from there.

Nicole =o)

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Wednesday, October 5

So much to do, so little time!

Even though I've accomplished so much lately (see yesterday's post), I feel I have so much more to do! I have *so* much in progress, but I have been trying to complete more than I start. Now only if I could force myself to do the last bit of finishing... I have more projects than I care to admit that are 90% or more done!

My pullover is going to need at least a week's worth of solid knitting before it gets to the point of seaming and sewing. We'll see if *that* part goes as fast!!!

The girls' teddy bears need their arms sewn on before I can finish up the body seaming and stuffing. My excuse is that I haven't decided how to sew them on without looking stupid! I even managed to get their faces embroidered before I put them aside for the September commissioned projects!

My Prize Cardi needs seaming and then borders. The side seams didn't turn out neat and smooth so it's just sitting there, waiting for me to decide what to do about it! I still need buttons for it too.

Neecie's Monsterghan needs some repairs and then I can continue on that. I have to have it done before my next trip into Winnipeg. I still have about 5 or 6 balls of Homespun to go... I started with 10.

Then of course there's designs and patterns in varying degrees of completion... I'll get to those eventually! I am gonna *have* to create some hard and fast deadlines to get this stuff done. Wish me luck!

Nicole =o)

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Tuesday, October 4

FO report... Oh my Goodness!!!

The past few months have been very productive, even though I don't really have any new designs to show for it. Here's the line-up, best as I can remember. My Rav project names are in parentheses where applicable.

June: Walk in the Garden socks done; Elijah's blanket finished; Neecie's Monsterghan started; a complete 4 pc. Gumdrop Kitchen Set done; 2 pairs of work socks finished; 2 KAL/ CAL cloths done

July: a complete 4 pc. Gumdrop Kitchen Set done; 2 Gumdrop Placemat and Coaster Sets done; 3 items in the Vichelle Bath Set done; 6 standard dishcloths done; a baby bunting bag finished

August: All that Glitters Shawl (The Mohair Blob) finished; the Season's Shawl (Really in the Mood for a Shawl) 3/4ths finished; my 3 monsters (Candy, Mum, & Frankie) done

September: 2 teddy bears (Ted D. Bear & Ted E. Bear) nearly completed; 12 standard dishcloths done; Zoe Cardigan done (Angelina's Cardi); the Season's Shawl completed

Other constant projects have been: Melissa's afghan (several strips completed); Neecie's Monsterghan which was started in June (about 1/3rd done as of this writing); My Prize Cardi (95% done, currently hibernating while I make decisions on it); Texaco socks (a design-in-progress which is currently my "truck sock", so very slow-going)

Even the pullover I'm currently focusing on seems to be going really smoothly... although I've probably just jinxed it by saying that! So I expect my October list to be pretty impressive too!

I'm sure I've missed a few here, but you get the idea!

Nicole =o)

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Monday, October 3

How can stockinette be addicting?

I'm not quite sure of the proper answer, but in my current WIP I certainly *am* addicted!

The project I'm talking about is a kit I ordered from Mary Maxim earlier this year. The kit is called "Cabled Ragg Pullover", and I'm doing it in the Denim Ragg colourway. It's kit# 4069-70N on their website, and I can't find it listed in the Ravelry pattern database.

I officially started it only 5 days ago, and I'm already nearly finished the 2nd sleeve. Not bad at all considering how little time I've had to work on it! It's a simple pullover with shawl collar and a single central cable section in the middle of the front and back pieces. Everything else is stockinette, and for whatever reason, I can't seem to put it down!

The pattern calls for a tension of 18 sts and 24 rows over 10cm in stockinette. I tried the recommended 5.00mm needles first, and while my row gauge was dead on, my stitch gauge was 17.5. With the size I'm making (42-44), that would have added about 7cm more to the finished garment width! I dropped to a 4.5mm needle, and my gauge was about 17.5 sts and 26 rows!! Considering that acrylic yarns tend to grow in my experience, I decided to go ahead with that size.

I fully expect to be finished the second sleeve and begin working on one of the main body pieces later today... Wish me luck with trying to cable for the first (real) time!!!

Nicole =o)

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Sunday, October 2

Can we *please* get some focus here?

Those words have been my mantra lately. In order for me to be able to concentrate on my designs and design-related work, I need at least a couple of hours without interruptions at a time. If I'm "on a roll" and I'm suddenly distracted, you can forget getting back "into the zone"!

It all started at the beginning of June with company that stayed *much* longer than expected (3 weeks instead of 1) and a deadline for a Knit Picks IDP pattern and project. That project was technically only a couple days late, but the postal strike 2 days after I shipped the socks added a couple weeks or a month to that!

My summer didn't improve "thinking-wise". Kids home, frequent day trips into town, flooding, then heat... Needless to say any attempts to focus were fruitless!!!

Here we are already into October and I *still* haven't built up much momentum!! We were fully a week into September before the kids started school. I *did* have several days where I actually felt I had accomplished some work... Then yarn came in for 2 commissioned projects that had to be done within 2 weeks... Then I found out my father passed away... A weekend trip to the big city for shopping and project delivery... And an out-of-town funeral for a dear relative on my mom's side... Well you get the idea!!!

Here's to praying that October is more focussed!!

Nicole =o)

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