inspiration

Knitting, painting and other summer things

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Except for a couple rainy days here and there, the weather here this summer has been just wonderful; warm and sunny during the day and usually pretty cool at night. I have been taking advantage of the great weather to go for walks and enjoy the outdoors, but it hasn’t prevented me from making quite a bit of progress on other more “indoorsy” projects that I have been working on recently.

First off, I want to show you guys the Lissome cowl I just finished using a handspun I made just about 5 years ago during the tour de fleece. It’s a 100% merino salmon pink-ish barber pole yarn in a sports-ish weight. At first I really wasn’t sure how this was going to knit up, but I think it turned out beautiful on this gorgeously well structured cowl.

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Susan Pandorf is a genius for having designed such a wonderful pattern! It is simple, yet impressively well thought and well written. The first 4 rows were a bit counter-intuitive for me so I had to pay more attention working those, but once I got used to it, this cowl just knits up like a breeze! The texture is absolutely amazing and the finished cowl is delicate enough yet not too lacy – a great balance!

I used all but two yards of the two skeins I had, and was able to work up 14 repeats of the main body. The finished cowl was blocked at about 10” high and 25” long folded, so 50” circumference in total. As usual, all the details can be found on my project page so you can go check it out there.

While this cowl was under construction, I was also lucky enough to have a little photo session with the lovely Emily from Cyclopes photographie. See, I needed a professional portrait done and she does stock photography, so we agreed on an exchange – she would do my portrait for free if I agreed to be used as a model for some stock images. Now I have a lot of hobbies so I had a fun time trying to decide which one I wanted to feature for the stock pictures, but I opted for spinning, knitting and yoga.

As you can see, the pictures turned out simply amazing, I just have no words.

And in other news, I also spent some time last weekend painting an accent wall in my dining room. It took a little bit longer than I expected, but as you can see it was well worth every minute!

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That’s all for now folks, wish you all a great week  🙂

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Tour de fleece-ing (ish)

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As many spinners do every year in July, last month I bust out my spinning wheel to spin along the cyclists of the Tour de France, which was held July 6-28th. I gotta say that with the move and everything that’s going on in my life right now, I didn’t set any expectations to put out a good production, I was really just looking forward to spending a bit of time on a different activity for a little while, no pressure. And I’m happy to report that I did just that!

I set out the spinning wheel in the living room and putted at it every few days while watching the new season of Queer eye. Bliss!

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All in all, I was able to spin about 5-ish oz. I spun (and plied) a Manos del Uruguay pink and purple 100g merino roving into a cute chain plied sport weight yarn, very soft and springy.

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I also started spinning a green 4 oz merino-silk roving from Ashland Bay, But since I’m only about a quarter of the way through I decided to keep the spinning wheel out and I’ll keep on working on it here and there throughout the summer, and hopefully have another handspun to show you this fall.

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To stay in the spinning spirit, I also started working on a cowl using my Flamboyant Flamingo handspun yarn, made during the tour de fleece a good 5 years ago. I wasn’t sure at first how it was going to turn out since the yarn is a 2-ply barber pole and quite think and thin since I still was pretty new to spinning, but it’s actually turning out pretty well with the structure of this wonderful cowl pattern. I will give a more through review of the Lissome pattern once I’m done, but let’s just say that I am really (REALLY) loving this design from Susan Pandorf.

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New craft!

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Hey guys! Last fall, I decided I needed something new in my live and decided to try my hand at a different craft. I didn’t really think about it too much, an opportunity just sort of opened up and I took it, and MANNN am I happy I did?

What’s this craft, you say? Well… I decided to take up pottery, and I’m in love!

I’ve done all kinds of stuff back when I was in college studying visual arts, I tried painting, sculpting, digital art, etc. but I never had a chance to try pottery. So when I heard there was a spot open at a nearby pottery studio, I jumped on the occasion and have been going there every Tuesday night since.

Now, I’m definitely very new to this and I’m not very good at it yet so there is most certainly room for improvement, but I very much enjoy it! I still struggle to make pieces that are straight and even, and sometimes even struggle trying to get them centered on the wheel, but I’m learning and having fun­ every time.

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All but one of the pieces you can see on this picture were made with the help and coaching of Annik, from the studio Terramiel. She has been nothing but patient with me, she is very nice and welcoming and the other girls in class are all super fun and chatty.

Given my limited abilities, most of what I’ve been making so far is bowls of various shapes and sizes, a couple plates, few little tea cups and small yarn bowl. Although pretty small, the yarn bowl is actually the perfect size for small 50g balls of yarn so it’s quite perfect for socks or delicate lace projects 🙂

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There’s one piece though that differs from the rest, and that would be this white bowl :

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This bowl was shaped with the coiling technique rather than on a pottery wheel like the others, and the reason for that is that this one was actually made in Japan, at a little pottery studio called Ginza Craft Yeeyo, where I followed an introduction class to pottery with the lovely Maiko. I made this piece while I was in Japan around Halloween. I found the class on AirBnb “experiences”, and I found it very fun and interesting!

First, we were served delicious tea and traditional Japanese sweets, all the teacher passed around sheets of instructions that were written down in English with pictures. There was an interpreter present there to translate the teachers’s explanations regarding the process so that we could understand. We had to choose between 3 different types of clay, a light beige one, a red one (traditional in Japan) and a black one (that is a bit drier and harder to work with. I decided to go for traditional red clay with a white glaze on top.

Now if you’ve ever done pottery at all, you could probably guess that we did not apply the glaze ourselves during class, as the pieces were obviously not dry. After the class, the teacher fired the pieces and got them glazed following our wishes (we had to draw a little picture of what we wanted and indicate the color), then got them shipped to each student. I got mine in January, and I’ve been using it ever since 🙂

What about you guys, what have you been up to?

Longing for spring

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While the weather lately here has been oscillating on wide cycles ranging from rain and freezing rain to heavy snow and extreme cold, I’ve just been busy trying to get back into an exercise routine, chipping ice off the patio steps and finishing up some projects, all the while wishing spring was here already.

And the project I’m going to show you today is just that: the sincere, deep and heartfelt expression of me looking forward to end of winter.

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I started this project late in November as a test knit for the lovely Beatriz from SambaKnits and it’s bright, it’s light, it’s airy, it’s leafy; all things spring that I so wish to see. The pattern is yet to be published, but once it is, it will be linked to my Ravelry Project Page. The pattern, that offers both written & charted instructions, is well designed, clear and easy to understand. The design is very elegant with asymmetrical lace sections sprouting from opposite corners of the wrap, and although some things I would have done differently, the pattern is built in a way that is easy to alter if you wish to change the width, the length, or alter the lace increases or decreases.

The yarn I used is Malabrigo’s Silkpaca in the “pollen” colorway. It’s a lace weight yarn, and I must say that I don’t particularly like working with lace weight yarns since they are so thin and so flimsy, but this one is especially soft and absolutely stunning so it made it all worth it!

With this shawl done, I still have a couple more projects on the needles that I would like to complete this month, namely here a little chevron lap throw and a second Dessine-Moi Un Mouton so please look forward to it in the next few weeks as I’ll be sharing my progress on both these projects soon.

Cheers! 🙂

The travel bug

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As promised in my last post, I wanted to take a moment today to update you guys on my most recent adventures. As some of you might know, I just recently came back from an amazing trip out to Asia (again). I spent a whole week in Taiwan then a short 5 days in Tokyo and I had so much fun guys, this whole trip was insane!  Although I most certainly hate flying, the 20 hour trip there and back was absolutely worth it, as everywhere I went I  was fortunate enough to meet a mixture of old and new and friends who were kind enough to make me discover their area.

I cannot be thankful enough to all the kind people I met, and I can’t express just how grateful I am that they went out of their way to spend time with me, even if just for a little bit.

The first thanks goes to Fion-san, with whom I explored Taipei’s night markets, visited Ruifang, Jiufen and the cat village and tried my hand at painting kanjis on a giant paper lantern. You are such a kind soul! Thank you for helping me with the trains!

I also want to thank Mina, whom I met in Tokyo last spring, who drove me around Taichung on her scooter. Going around museums and markets with you was much fun!

A big thank you is also in order to my good friend Vincent,  with whom I rode a bike in the chaotic Taiwan traffic to the Chisingtan beach, had meaningful conversations on the world and society and explored Hualien’s night market (I feel I’m still soaked from all that rain!!! 😂)

The warmest thanks goes to Joana, who was kind enough to invite me out to eat with a bunch of her friends from around the world (Hi everyone!) and  with whom I experienced the craziness of Halloween in Shibuya. INSANITY!!!!

And finally thank you to Amano-san and Kuma-chan, who allowed me to taste delicious food and drinks and with whom I was blessed to see Tokyo Station and the breathtaking view of the city at night from above (42th floor, no less!). I appreciate all the laughs and the conversations, and I am thankful for your time and warm welcome.

Exploring Taiwan and Tokyo on my own was a lot of fun, I shopped around, rode trains, got my nails done, went for couple hikes, got a tattoo done (!), ate SO MUCH FOOD, and enjoyed a sunny day out in Asakusa before coming back home to Quebec.

Of course, I went fabric shopping but I’ll leave that up for another post.

Until next time, everyone XXX

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!

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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!

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!!