inspiration

Orange Crush

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Guys, I’m so excited to show you the shawl I’ve been working on for almost 5 months now, it’s finally complete! Although it’s been a bit of a challenge, I’m so happy with the result!

Orange crush

Let me share a bit of a story to go along with this knit, because I think it deserves it. I’ve always been a huge fan of Melanie Berg, I love all of her designs and I’ve been eyeing Rheinlust since it first came out more than 2 years ago. To showcase the beautiful texture going on there, I wanted to use a solid or kettle dyed yarn to avoid any unnecessary visual distractions, so I opted for a couple skeins of the soft and beautiful (single-ply) Airy yarn from The Woolen Rabbit that I got at the Squam Art Fair in New Hampshire some 4 years back. It is a beautiful deep orange color, and mixed with the wavyness of the Rheinlust pattern, this shawl (to me!) looks like yummy gorgeous waves in a sea of orange crush pop! Don’t you guys feel the same?

Anyways, I started this shawl back in May as an airplane knit for my trip to Japan, but I quickly realized it wasn’t the smartest choice, as the pattern turned out to be a bit more challenging than I expected. I love lace patterns, but the way the waves kind of move along the knit got me really confused at first, and it took me a lot longer than usual to memorize the 22 row pattern repeat. Don’t get me wrong, the pattern is very clear and beautifully written,  but my drowsy Dramamine brain had a lot of trouble juggling the yarn, the needle and the chart on the tiny plane tray intermittently taken over by food & drinks and a lot of other junk. Bottom line here, I frogged and started over this shawl 2 or 3 times before I got it somewhat right, and I made quite a few mistakes in the the first third of the shawl, but fortunately they seem to blend in quite well in the wavy pattern. The delicate single-ply yarn, however, didn’t appreciate all the frogging, confusion and messiness and broke in quite a few places in the first half.

Together, these two challenges made me realize that I probably should’ve thought things through a bit more, and chosen a more appropriate knit for the plane ride. An easier design with a simpler pattern repeat and a sturdier two or three ply yarn would certainly have been a wiser choice, but regardless of the knitting challenges faced during the trip, I am so happy that I made this shawl!! It is beautiful, soft and drapey, and every bit as amazing as I imagined it would be. I followed the pattern exactly, but repeated the main body 8 times instead of 9 to accommodate the smaller amount yarn I had available, all the details can be found on my project page as usual. And it worked out perfectly! I mean… Would you look at that beauty?

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Either way, I shall learn from my mistakes and choose a more appropriate travel project the next time I go on a trip, which may come sooner rather than later.

See you again soon folks!

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Health & Fitness summer update

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Yes, yes, I know. Long time no blog. It’s true that I haven’t spent as much time on my blog as I should have in the last few months, and the same can be said about my knitting needles that have been collecting dust for a little while. While I did sew a few bags in a variety of models and did work on my living room curtains, I must say that crafting (and blogging!) has been on the back burner for a little while, and there is a very good reason for that.

Since January, I have started a weight loss journey that has been keeping me very, very busy every day. I have always been on the bigger side, but last winter I hit a point where my weight and my fitness level (or the lack thereof) were becoming a problem in my every day life, and I wanted to do something about it. So today’s blog is not going to be about pretty yarn, fabric or anything remotely crafty, but about me and my relationship with my body.

Let’s start with true hard facts: not only was I overweight with a BMI of over 30, but I was also dangerously unfit. I’d get out of breath after climbing one small flight of stairs, and I was so sedentary that I started to develop sleep problems as well as various pains in my back, hips & knees. I would start panting after only 30 seconds of running.

Now that that’s done and out of the way, let’s talk about what I’ve been doing since then.

As there is no magic solution to weight loss, I focused my efforts on the two basic fronts : food and exercise.

On the “food” front:

  • I started calculating my calorie intake using an app on my phone to set a target and keep track of my progress. For those interested, I’m using MyFitnessPal. What I like about this app is that most foods you can find at the grocery are already in the database and can simply be scanned and added for convenience, but what I also like is the option to enter all my homemade recipes & easily calculate the calories and macros per serving. I also like that you can customize your macro proportions, and set other personalized goals.
  • As for macros, while most people get 40% to 60% of their energy from carbs, the sweet spot for me seems to be more around 30% to 35%, consequently I upped my protein & fat intake to about 20% & 50% respectively. Those proportions don’t follow any specific diet like Atkins, keto or whatever but after much trial and error, it seems to be the perfect balance where I FEEL great (no sugar craving, more constant level of energy, etc.) with minimal effort/changes to my regular diet or daily life. Since I’m vegetarian, going full out keto would be a more drastic challenge (although I’m sure it can be done!) but it was just too much work for me, so I simply cut out breads, rice, pasta and processed sugar and started opting for naturally low in sugar fruits & veggies.
  • I also cook more, and pre-portion my food. I eat out less, and make lunches for myself every day. I also make it a point to eat as much veggies as I possibly can, and try to sneak them into anything I make. Food has suddenly become more colorful and more fun!

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On the “exercise” front:

  • As a naturally muscular person, I don’t really need too much weight training but I DO do some basic exercises like squats, push ups, crunches and things like that whenever I feel like it. More than anything though, cardio is what I need to work on, so…
  • From January to May I used the treadmill almost every day, trying to build my cardio back from square one.
  • From June to now, I’ve been walking and/or running at least 5k every day. Although at first I couldn’t run much more that 1-2k without stopping, I still signed up to a series of six 5k races downtown and showed up at every single one, now matter how hot & muggy it got. Although I still need to stop & walk sometimes, I was able to cut down my time from 37 to 33.5 minutes since June, and I am so excited about it!

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(big shoutout to Hélène Bassaraba for the awesome pictures)

  • I also recently got a fitbit, and try to be on my feet more throughout the day, too, not just going for a walk or run. I also try to incorporate other activities in my routine, and sometimes do yoga or play tennis with my cousin.

And that brings us to NOW, and the results I’ve seen. I am now 36 pounds lighter than I was on January 1st, and I now have a BMI below 25. I have gained muscle, lost fat and improved my cardio to the level of an average woman my age.

There’s obviously still a long way to go, but I am so proud of myself you guys!!

Crushing hard!

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I’ve been back from Japan for about 10 days now, and I gotta tell you, I miss it so bad 

Everything from the sights and the sounds, the food, the feel of the air, the atmosphere, the people; I think I really crushed hard on Japan during those two short weeks and now that I’m back it’s really hitting me in the feels! Nevertheless though, I’ve been pretty busy here, at work and at home, as I slowly readjust to my everyday life.

What I want to share with you all today is a little project that I couldn’t share with you before leaving for Japan, and that would be this little cute Camilla baby Blanket.

Camilla Blanket

You see, one of my Japanese penpals, Eriko, is currently pregnant and since she was kind enough to spend two days showing me around Kyoto and Osaka, I wanted to bring her a little something special for her little-one-to-be. So a couple weeks before my trip, I started this cutie little blanket for her using the three skeins of Brown Sheep’s Cotton Fleece that I had on hand. Since I don’t know whether the baby is a boy or a girl, I figured a neutral blueish gray would be fine.

Since I’ve already bought the Camilla Pullover pattern in the past, I did not buy the actual Camilla Blanket pattern but instead used the instructions for the fan pattern from the pullover that I first converted to RS/WS instructions, repeated 4 times and added a garter stitch border on the top, bottom and edges.

The finished blanket is about stroller size, measuring about 30″X32″. Since I was using a Worsted weight yarn instead of Aran, I worked the blanket on 5 mm needles instead of the recommended 6.5 mm. I don’t work very often with needles over 4 mm, so I took advantage of this opportunity to try the Kollage square needle that I had received as a sample a couple years back but never got a chance to use. Although I was a bit skeptical at first, I must admit that I was actually quite pleased by the grip and the feel of those square needles, and it felt very natural to use. Actually, I enjoyed working with it so much I think I might seriously consider getting them in other sizes, or maybe even by the interchangeable set.

All the details, save for the actual fan motif, can be found on my project page so feel free to check it over if you’re interested.

Never been so happy to be jet lagged!

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Guys, I’m excited to tell you that I just came back from a wonderful, exciting and very fulfilling two week trip to Japan! I still can’t believe it! I had been dreaming of this trip for YEARS, and it finally happened!

Although the plane trip there and back was dreadful and plagued with multiple problems and delays, this trip was worth each and every second of it, and more.

First, I briefly visited Fukuoka then headed to Hiroshima and Miyajima Island, then spent three nights in Kansai where I explored Kyoto and Osaka, followed by quick two days in Hakone taking full advantage of then onsen and mountains and finally headed to Tokyo for a packed week, including the spending some time at the Sanja Matsuri.

I cannot even begin to tell you guys how amazing this trip really was, but what made it even more special is actually all the wonderful people I met along the way. Here’s a quick shout out to my two penpals, Eriko and Misa, who were kind enough to dedicate some of their time to show me around their area and put up with my terribly limited japanese! And also to other fellow travellers I was lucky enough to spend some time with (Bernard, Isabel, Phaedra, Ben, Joana, Steve – I will remember all of you, let’s definitely meet again somewhere!), and lasty to all the kind hearted japanese people that I met on the way, and who decided to reach out to me (ゆこさん, あまのさん, くまちゃんとみんな!本当にありがとうございました!).

I was even lucky enough to run into my very favorite YouTuber, a kind soul and wonderful human being called Norm, who’s the heart and soul behind the Tokyo Lens channel (if you don’t know him, definitely check it out!)

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Of course, I have MANY fiber related things to share in regards of this trip but this post is already long enough, so I’ll save that for another time.

And guys, I still have so much more to share with all of you so stay tuned because I have some very exciting projects coming up that I think (and hope!) you’ll be interested in.

Blooming?

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While my backyard is still invisible under a giant snow bank, cherry blossoms are blooming all around the world and making me jealous, so I decided to make flowers bloom in my heart at least by making this lovely Blooming Shawl from Sachiko Uemura.

More precisely, it’s an unbeaded fingering weight version of this shawl, on slightly larger needles and with fewer repeats of the main lace section. I used all but 2.5g of a scrumptious skein of Piccolo sock yarn from Julie Asselin, that I actually hand dyed myself a couple years back when I attended a hand dyeing workshop given by Julie herself at the Twist Festival in St-André-Avelin, in Quebec (check out my blog post here!). What do you guys think? Not too shabby for a first hand dyeing experience, eh?

The Blooming Shawl pattern is very well written, easy and fairly straight forward. It’s got both, written and charted instructions and the main lace section only counts 8 easily memorized rows (I had it memorized by the second pattern repeat). The only thing that I thought was a bit annoying was that only one of the WS row had increases, and I would often forget them and work a normal regular WS row instead – causing me great grief when I would start the next pattern row and notice I had stitches missing! Overall, I really liked this pattern and surely will make it again, although next time I might make it a bit bigger.

As usual, all the information on this shawl can be found of my project page, so feel free to take a look there. Cheers!

Lovely Spring

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While it’s still snowing heavily here, the temperature has steadily been getting warmer, the days are getting longer and longer and every day the air feels more like spring – and let’s face it, it’s just so darn pretty!

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Spring makes me want to clean things up and have a fresh start, and I somehow really wish I could start by clearing my office desk top! But nevermind that, instead I’ve been chugging along WIPs that have been hibernating for a tad bit too long in my craft room. First, I picked up an adorable cardigan called French Kiss from the lovely Anne B. Hansen that I started back in November as a test knit but couldn’t complete in time due to unforeseen circumstances both in my personal and professional life. I finished the body (that I made considerably longer that the pattern called for) and I am now about halfway through the first sleeve. If I can keep things going at this pace, I should have this cardigan completed before the end of the month. Yay! Fortunately for me, I’ve been getting a lot of (feline) help and support along the way.

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Secondly, I tidied things up around my sewing room and worked on a bag I made many, many years ago that needed fixing and put together 3 new additions : 1 reversible tote bag and 2 multi-way asymmetrical fold over clutches, that I find absolutely adorable.

As always, the reversible tote bag was made using my trusted Kwik Sew K3700 pattern, but for the little fold over clutch/tote bag, I didn’t use a pattern. I wanted to make an envelope clutch that could unfold and be used as a tote when needed, so I decided to put pen to tracing paper and figured it out myself. There’s the main bag compartment that has 2 little pockets on the inside (one zippered, one sewed over the lining) and there’s another compartment on the front, where the clutch folds over, inside of which there’s another pocket sewed onto the lining. There’s also 2 sets of D rings to attach the strap for the full size or the half size, and two different straps to use – one wrist lanyard and a full size adjustable strap. All of them feature small hooks to be detached and reattached where needed.

Although I love the final result, I struggled a bit to install all those zippers (there’s 3 per bag, folks!!!) the right way. Ok, I’ll admit it – there’s a zipper I had to rip and reinstall twice because it was installed inside out. Urgh! But you wouldn’t make fun of me for that, now, would you ? 🙂

Entrelac, anyone?

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I’ve had a lot of fun this summer/fall working on my first ever entrelac project, it’s a Tunisian Crochet blanket made with (too many yards!) of Bernat Maker Home Dec & Fashion in 3 different colors, and I simply LOVE (!) the result.

Entrelac Tunisian Crochet blanket

The pattern I used is Bernat’s Tunisian Entrelac Baby Blanket and I think it’s a great pattern for both, first time Tunisian crocheters and first time entrelac knitters, and there’s also a tutorial available to help you visualize what you gotta do, too. I made a slightly larger version of the blanket, reaching about 45″X50″ with 16 pattern repeats instead of 11, but otherwise followed the pattern pretty closely. Although I’m familiar with Tunisian crochet this was the first time I’ve ever done entrelac, and I’m quite glad I chose this pattern because it was a simple, easy and very fun to make.

This blanket is just so cute it’s to die for, and with the yarn I used the blanket is amazingly soft and squishy I could literally snuggle to it all day long. Plus, both cats approve because (as shown in the pictures) it was their favorite blanket before it was even finished.

Well that’s all for now folks, cheers 🙂