art

Organization is key!

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Since I came back from vacation, I have been contemplating the fact that my stash’s storage method and organization system wasn’t living up to my expectations, and I felt like it really needed to be updated. I must admit to you guys that up until a few days ago, my “storage” mostly consisted of a few cardboard boxes, divided and taped together in an eclectic arrangement of size, shape and color. And to make things even worse, the skeins on the bottom were always full of hair because my cats kept rubbing themselves on it. Yea. So after quite some thought, I decided to clean out the basement, and see if I could find something in there that could be used as a compact yarn storage for my living room. Surprisingly enough, I did find something, and something I was not expecting! My epic search in the depths of the basement allowed me to discover two forgotten plastic storage units, with 3 drawers each, that would be able to contain most of my yarn and keep it clean and hair free. Awesome!!!

So that same evening, I cleaned and dried the two storage units, lint rolled my yarn and neatly put each skein away by color in my new yarn storage area. And guess what ? I LOVE IT!!

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On a different note, I observed recently that – maybe because of the weather? – craft projects seem to progress a lot slower for me in the summer. So to give myself a little boost of motivation I decided to take part in another KAL, which is great since I had such a good time on my first KAL earlier this summer with Nice And Knit. The one I just signed up for this time is Very Shannon’s Summer Sweater KAL; the CO was on July 30th and FO will be on September 24th. Basically any kind of sweater or top is accepted for this KAL, so I decided to challenge myself into making something I have never done before : a cardigan. I chose the Hollywell Cardigan, from Megan Goodacre, and I’ll knit it in Cascade Heritage yarn in a mix of grays and pink.

hollywell3It’s really exciting because it’s like a triple challenge for me: it’ll be my first cardigan, my first project with pockets, and my first sweater with a hood – weehee!! Since it’s summer and all I don’t have much progress to show as of now, but I have at least completed the pocket linings, and started the main body. I’ll try to make it longer that the pattern calls for because I like longer tops, so the ribbed bottom edge is going to be 4″ wide instead of the 2″ required in the pattern.

20140805_163203829_iOSI’m really excited about this project even though I have had some doubts about it at the beginning – I couldn’t figure out which color I wanted where, and I was worried 3.75mm neddles might be a little too big, but after examining my swatch and pondering over it for some time, I think it’ll be just fine the way I originally planned it, so I’ll stick with the plan and see how it goes! I settled for a pink bottom, light gray stripes and charcoal shoulders and hood, and I simply cannot wait to see how it’ll turn out! But since the ribbing is taking forever, I  guess it’ll take a while 😉

So since I have so little progress to show and so much more to do, I’m going to go back to my needles now and get cracking on my project so I can have something to show you (for real!) next time.

Enjoy your craft time guys! 🙂

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A Crafter’s Guilt (And the Superwoman Syndrome)

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I am in pain. I have been in pain for the last few days, just a severe, agonizing sharp pain in my neck and shoulders. No idea where it came from, it’s just there. Is it a strain because of the long drive during vacation? Or did I pull a muscle? Maybe I pinched a nerve? Or was it a wrong move I made? Whatever it may be, I just couldn’t work on  anything in the past few days, so no spinning, no knitting, no nothing. Ok, maybe I did (a little). But no real progress here for sure. I couldn’t even finish the Tour de Fleece!

So today, since I don’t have anything craft-related to share with you guys, I will be talking about a very different topic; something I find a little bit more important and certainly a lot more personal : the overpowering, omnipresent, socially-created “Superwoman Syndrome”. We all know that in today’s lifestyle, a lot of women feel pressured to perform and achieve in a lot of different aspects of their lives. To name only a few, they feel like they have to be career-driven and professionally successful, need to workout and take care of themselves, they are expected to keep their house clean, get married, be good home makers as well as a perfect mom, they should have healthy and creative hobbies, they have to volunteer and get involved in their community, etc.

What the “Superwoman” does is to set herself (and the people around her) standards that are unnaturally high, standards that are way beyond reach or reason. And then, they tend to strain themselves compulsively toward these impossible goals. Inevitably, at the end of the road, when they realize they simply can’t achieve all those goals to perfection, they break down, cry and feel guilty, worthless and sorry about themselves.

It is a feeling that is very hard to fight or to ward off; I know it because I am sometimes guilty of it myself. See, “guilty”. That word again. Just like we weren’t allowed to show any weaknesses.Truth is, life is not perfect. And we should not expect ourselves to be either. But in our results-oriented society, we have learned to measure our self-worth entirely in terms of productivity and tangible accomplishments.

As I explained earlier, I have been totally floored by very intense neck pains in the past few days.  I knew I just had to rest and wait it off, but I felt so guilty not to be working on anything! – My apartment is getting messier and messier by the minute, and I’m not making progress on any of my WIPs! And if I don’t work on anything, I would be a worthless crafter, right? And I wouldn’t have anything to share on my blog, what an excuse of a blogger would I be? And that is when it struck me… I’m in pain because I’m stressed out. Why am I stressed out, I wonder? Maybe I’m stressed out about work, or maybe it’s my messy apartment. But I can’t be stressed out about fiber arts… right? That’s my hobby, that’s what I do to relax. Crafting, blogging, I do all those things as a hobby, so why would I care if I’m productive or not? But you know what? Even without noticing it, in today’s society, we are pressured to “have fun”. We are expected to use our free time “efficiently” and to “have a good time”. In other words, I’m putting pressure on myself to be productive in everything I tackle – be it work, housekeeping, hobbies, or anything else. And in my eyes, everything has to be done perfectly, and in a timely manner How ridiculous is that?

So today, to fight off all this unhealthy pressure that’s been piling up on me and to share something more meaningful with all of you, I decided to not blog about crafts. I’m blogging about myself, and I’m going to say what I want to say.

I am me. I’m not perfect. I am enthusiastic in everything I do, but everything certainly isn’t perfect, or productive. Sometimes I fail, and sometimes I’m tired, and sometimes I just need time for myself to relax and unwind. And it’s OK.

Because everything is nicer on vacation.

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So here I am, at my future in-law’s house, taking it easy for a week on vacation. Sweet! Since it took us a good 13 hours to get here on Saturday, I’ve had a chance on the way to pick up my needles, and finish my sweater for the Nice&Knit summer sweater knit along (#NKKAL). I’m definitely very happy about how it turned out!!

http://ravel.me/saphirsteph/sb
http://ravel.me/saphirsteph/sb

The TDF has been going pretty good so far, I have been able to spin a brand new skein of yarn last week, full of colors. I used a combination of yellow and blue corriedale fiber, and although it didn’t turn out as soft as I would have expected, I’m definitely happy about the color scheme. And the best of it all is that with this skein, I was able to achieve one of my TDF goals, which was to spin a finer yarn! This one is about fingering size and is mostly constant, it’ll definitely be a charm to knit!

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http://ravel.me/saphirsteph/nins

The only down side about this yarn is that I think I put too much spin in it when I plied, and the finished skein turned out much more twisted than I would’ve wanted it to be when I got it off the wheel -_-‘ Even the cat was making fun of me!! I had to let it soak for a long time to let the twist set, and stretched it out real good as it was drying. Oh well.

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I still have 2 ounces of blue and 2 ounces of yellow that I’ll spin as solid colors, and I’ll combine the 3 skeins to knit the  Comptown Races Cowl with it. Isn’t going to look amazing?? I cannot wait to start it! So since my fiber stash has been shinking considerably, last Thursday I decided to stash up again on fiber, and I went for the first time to a little shop located in Nicolet, Québec called the Julie Factrie. I really liked the place, and thought it was cute and quaint (and full of my favorites!). The shop owner, Julie, is a real fiber artist, and it was a pleasure to chat with her for a little while. I left with mostly solid colors this time, and I’m really looking forward to spinning those into wonderful and colorful skeins.

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What’s cookin’

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Yesterday was a holiday for me (June 24th is Québec’s national day), so I took advantage of the day off to make some progress on my sweater for the Nice and Knit summer sweater knit along (NKKAL). I created the pattern from scratch and named it the Sea Breeze sweater, the idea sprung up from the really beautiful Kit Camisole Cassy posted on her blog (knit the hell out), you should definitely check it out. I thought the linen stitch that was used in this pattern was so pretty that I just had to use it somehow in my summer sweater project, so I came up with a plan.  And to complement the nice stitch, I decided to use very soft summer colors; including a pale blue, baby blue, lavender and aqua. This yarn is really nice to knit with, it’s a 100% mercerized cotton from Austermann, you can buy it on Artfil’s website (you’re welcome). At this point, I have almost reached the waistline, so it’s really starting to look like something. I really can’t wait to finish it!

http://www.ravelry.com/projects/saphirsteph/sea-breeze
http://www.ravelry.com/projects/saphirsteph/sea-breeze

On a different topic, I also spun last week the last bit of fiber I had 😦 So no more spinning for me this week. Do not worry though, I have a (considerably large) fiber order on its way, and this one should last me for a little while. Since I have been mostly working with wool recently (BFL, Merino, Merino/Tencel, etc.), I decided to widen my horizons and (on top of the few ounces of wool I ordered) I also order different types of fiber I have never spun before. I ordered bamboo, 1lb of natural bleached cotton (so I’ll also be trying my hand at dyeing – W00t!) and an 8oz of merino/silk fiber. I simply cannot wait to get them! Weehee!

So the last thing I spun was 8oz of Malabrigo Nube 100% merino fiber, in the colorway Baya Electrica. The singles were (as a general rule) a lot finer and a lot more consistent than my previous spinning attempts, and the final result turned out to be about 1040 yards of Worsted/DK weight yarn in 2 skeins 🙂 The result blew me away, the colors just pop right up! Somehow, I noticed though that it’s a color that’s not very photogenic and the pictures really can’t compare to the real thing; but here’s one to at least give you an idea :

http://www.ravelry.com/people/saphirsteph/handspun/cheshire-cat
http://www.ravelry.com/people/saphirsteph/handspun/cheshire-cat

I affectionately name it Cheshire Cat. I think I’ll be making a sweater out of it, maybe something like the the Pull me over ? or maybe the Briar Rose Tunic ? I’m not quite sure yet. Anyways, there’s still plenty of time left to decide since I’m not even half way through my Sea Breeze Sweater, and I still only have about a third done on my Spring Leaves shawl. Plus, I might not be knitting all that much this week since I finally got my future-mom-in-law’s rhubarb pie recipe so I’ll definitely be baking that some time this week. Hmmmmm, scrumptious!

So that’s all for today folks 🙂 Enjoy your craft time!

The Spinning Dilemma

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Fotor061795220So… I bought a spinning wheel. I don’t know why, kind of a spur of the moment thing, it just kind-of-sort-of happened. It all began a few weeks ago, as I was at my friend Yana’s shop, happily chatting with an acquaintance I met there. During the conversation, I brought up the fact that I have never tried spinning, and would probably like to try it out eventually since it’s one of the few fiber crafts I have never tried before. She looked at me, and casually replied that she has tried it before but couldn’t really get into it, so now she has a spinning wheel for sale. Coincidence?

So last week, I dropped by her place to have a look at the spinning wheel and (hopefully) try it out. A friend of hers (who’s an amazing spinner) was there to show me a few of the basics, and explain to me how to work the spinning wheel. It’s an Ashford Kiwi, a very small and compact spinning wheel that looked easy enough for a beginner. Here’s a photo of the beast :

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I got there around 6 in the evening, and went through a very intense 3 hours learning session. Don’t get me wrong – I DID do my homework beforehand and looked up some videos on YouTube to give myself an idea of what it was like to spin; but SEEING a video and actually DOING the motions are two very different things! Boy, I had a good laugh. Obviously, my first try was very thick and thin, over-twisted in some spots, under-twisted in others and (as a general rule) very ugly! I was working with a pale baby blue merino top fiber,  the fibers were very long and just trying to get used to the motions, trying to  find where to place my hands and how to coordinate them with my feet was already such a big challenge that I didn’t/couldn’t really watch (or care about!) what the single I was making actually looked like, as long as I was making something! There are so many different things to focus on at the same time while spinning, I just couldn’t believe it! But all in all, I ended up having a lot of fun, and at the end of the night, I bagged all my stuff, said thanks, paid for the spinning wheel and left with it.

I took the not so fashionable baby blue merino top fiber home with me, and I started buying a few other roving here and there to build myself a little fiber stash. As I was out shopping in Stowe (VT) on Sunday, I fell in love with an amazing variegated purple Malabrigo Nube fiber, so I bought it right away – you can see what it looks like on the photo at the top – isn’t amazing?

Throughout the week, I practiced spinning very consistently for 1 hour or 2 every night with whatever I had left of the not-so-pretty baby blue merino top and a cute variegated blue/green fiber, I noticed that my results were slowly improving every time. It’s a lot for work, but somehow, after a week, i think I’m finally starting to get the hand of it. This is what I came up with, my two very first hand spun yarn skeins (yay!) :

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Majestic Landscapes (and Squam Art Fair!)

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Today I’m really excited to tell you that over the weekend, I went to my FIRST Art (yarn!) Fair; and I loved it!!! My Honeybee and I decided to go to New Hampshire to attend the Squam Art Fair, a very nice fiber fair organized on the shores of the beautiful Squam Lake… And since we knew we were going to drive through the White Mountains, we decided to leave earlier and take full advantage of the majestic views the place has to offer. On our way, we stopped at the Franconia Notch State Park, where there used to be the a rock formation at the top of a mountain that looked exactly like an old man. This distinctive feature has attracted a countless number of tourists in the last 200 years, but finally collapsed in 2003 due to natural erosion. Since then, the park has been remodeled and now presents different monuments and photographs explaining the story of the mountain.

NH MontageIt was quite interesting to see, and I must say those mountains really create a jaw dropping landscape! Honeybee and I were really impressed by the view! Although we did not have time to go hiking because we had to get to Squam Lake in time for the fair, we did thoroughly enjoy the view, and we promised ourselves to go back there some time to take advantage of the trails.

We got to Squam Lake a little early, so we stopped somewhere to eat and then drove to the venue. I was really nervous and excited since I’ve never been to an Art Fair before and I really didn’t know what to expect. The place was really nicely decorated, there was knitted pompoms in the trees, benches and rocks covered in yarn, really cool solid ice lanterns with candles in them, I just didn’t know where to look!

Fair MontageSo when I finally set foot in the place, I got really excited! There was a lot of very nice stands, with very pleasing people, presenting amazing local products from fiber, to yarn, to wooden shawl pins, to handmade baby bootsies and pattern books. I had to set myself a budget so I wouldn’t spend an entire paycheck (gotta be reasonable!), so after going around a few times, I settled for my favorite skeins of yarn :

20140609_115340872_iOSThe orange ones are 100% superwash merino fingering yarn from The Woolen Rabbit, a little company based Conway,NH that offers the most vibrant hand dyed yarn I have ever seen! You can check out their website if you’re interested at http://www.thewoolenrabbit.com/. The yellow skein is a merino-silk lace yarn from Toil and Trouble, a Massachusetts hand dyed yarn company. Although I chose a very conventional color scheme, most of their color mixes are very unique, it’s definitely worth a look! You can buy their yarn on Etsy at https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/ToilandTrouble or you can check out their Facebook page.

So that’s all folks, thanks for reading my rants 🙂 I’ll talk to you next time!

Tunisian Crochet Bliss

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Hey-ho Crafters!

A few months ago, I decided to add a new craft to my arsenal, it’s a craft I’ve been wanting to learn for a long time and today, I really want to take a few minutes to share with all of you the love I have for Tunisian Crochet. For those who know what it is, you already know how awesome it is, and for those who have no idea what I’m talking about, let me let you in on a little secret : Tunisian Crochet combines the smoothness of knitted stitches and the quickness of crochet all into one beautiful needle craft.

To put it simply, Tunisian Crochet is a needle craft based on pairs of rows worked back and forth on the same side of project (i.e. you never have to turn you project – unless required for a specific pattern); it creates a beautiful, dense but supple fabric that is perfect for warm shawls, garments, blankets or anything else that strikes your fancy. There’s also a certain number of really nice lace patterns out there that can be used for lighter garments and more delicate projects, but I haven’t tried a lot of them yet (I’m still learning after all!). As I’m still relatively new to it, I learned mostly basic stitches, and I learned most of them watching videos on YouTube. There really is a ton of them out there so you should look it up when you get a chance. To give you an idea of what it looks like, here’s a shot of a Tunisian Crochet triangular shawl I made a few months ago with a few balls of Rowan kid classic yarn. It was my first Tunisian Crochet project, and it took only 3 days to make it. Isn’t it amazing how fast it goes?

http://www.ravelry.com/projects/saphirsteph/tunisian-triangular-shawl
http://www.ravelry.com/projects/saphirsteph/tunisian-triangular-shawl

Since then, I’ve tried countless different stitch patterns, watched an unbelievable amount of videos and even attended a workshop, and I feel like I’m finally starting to get the hang of it. It really is a beautiful craft, full of possibilities, and it works so fast it will simply blow your mind. What is also really interesting about Tunisian Crochet is that it makes it easy to mix yarns and colors as well as different types of patterns like lace, ribs or eyelets. There’s a scarf I work on here and there on my lunch breaks that’s worked on a rib pattern, I call it the bubble gum scarf. The yarn I’m using is FibraNatura Sea Song cotton yarn, it’s a really fun and easy project that can be worked in those little stolen moments when you’re in the bus, in line at the bank or waiting at a doctor appointment.

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As you can probably tell, I’m really excited about my new adventures in Tunisian Crochet, and I really enjoy doing it as much as I though I would, and probably even more. All in all, I’m must say I’m really happy to have discovered a craft I will be in love with for many years to come, and I’m really glad I pushed myself through the slow process of learning something new, because I think it was all worth it in the end. Maybe next time I’ll try spinning? Who knows 😉

What about you?

What’s the last thing you invested time to learn?