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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.

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The heat of the moment! (and TDF?)

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Fotor0703132658These past few weeks, I have been stashing up on fiber for the Tour de Fleece, and it’s making me feel very, very good. For those who might not know what it is, the Tour de Fleece is the fiber spinner’s version of the Tour de France, the cycling competition – we spin as they spin, and we try to match the hardest parts of our challenges to  the hardest parts of the Tour. The big idea is to set yourself goals to achieve in the duration of challenge, which started this year on July 5th and will go on until July 27th. The goals you set yourself can be anything you want them to be – from learning how to spin to spinning 10 minutes every day to spinning 30 ounces of fiber. There’s a ton of groups you can join, a lot you can learn and definitely a lot of fun to have. So since I’m still relatively new to spinning, I set myself 3 very realistic goals that I think I can achieve before July 27th :

1) Spin finer and more consistent singles (ideally reaching the equivalent of a sock yarn)

2) Learn Navajo plying

3) Learn how to spin cotton

This challenge has made me very, very excited and although it started only a few days ago, I already completed 2 spinning projects; one using a 100% merino fiber and the other one using a 70/30 Merino/Silk fiber. I can definitely tell that the singles in these two projects are a lot finer and a lot more consistent than what I’ve been doing so far (the green one is about DK size), but there’s still room for improvement.

Fotor0704215622 Fotor0706155918I will be away on vacation for a good part of the TDF (we are going to Ohio July 12th through July 21st to visit my Honeybee’s family), but I will definitely keep spinning, since I decided to take my spinning wheel with me to work on my challenges on our spare time. A change in scenery is going to be very much welcomed, and my future mom-in-law is a veteran spinner, so I’m sure she’ll have a few tips and tricks to give me to help me progress on my TDF challenges. The 12 hour drive there – without air conditioning – in the summer heat is going to be dreadful, but hopefully, while we’re there we’ll be able to fill up on family time and do lots of fun things like going to the zoo, having campfires and eat marshmallows.

In the meantime, I have been trying to focus on the Nice & Knit Summer Sweater Knit Along, that I really want to finish ASAP. I originally wanted to finish it before the TDF starts, but I guess it just didn’t happen. I finished the body yesterday, so now only the sleeves are left. I think part of the reason why I haven’t finished this project sooner is because of the crazy heat wave we’ve experienced the past few days. Isn’t it hard to focus on knitting a sweater when the heat makes you feel your body’s melting on the couch? Thermometer has been marking 88°F, but with humidity it’s jumping to 99°F. Urgh! Fortunately though, we’ve had rain yesterday and today that brought around cooler temperatures – so I picked up my needles again 🙂

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On a lighter note, Saturday, I went to Artfil with a few friends for a social stitches afternoon, where we had a chance to chat and happily work on our projects or learn new crafts together. I had a lot of fun, and definitely appreciated the much needed girl-time.

So that’s all folks, enjoy your craft time 🙂

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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SSSS : Summer Sea Stripes & Stuff

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So I made a sweater. Again. Hahahaha 🙂

I was so excited to have learned so much making my first sweater, the Feather & Fan Lace Sweater, that I wanted to apply all that newly acquired knowledge to another project right away! And I did. I present you today my second sweater, the Summer Sea Stripes! It’s not completely finished yet (I still have to make the sleeves) but I’m pretty happy about how it turned out so far!!!

Summer sea stripes

There are still a few mistakes here and there (which project is perfect, really?) but I’m much happier about the fit of this one compared to the first one I made. My first sweater was made to measurements, but realized after wearing it a few times that I did not like the fit so much as it felt kind of baggy and stretchy. To fix that problem, I decided to make my second sweater with 2 inches of negative allowance to give it a snugger fit. And it worked perfectly! It is just SOOOO comfortable and so nice! I couldn’t be happier about how it turned out!

And the colors! Oh My God, The Colors! I designed this pattern to maximize the yardage I had in both colors, but I must say it turned out way nicer than I expected! Both are 75/25 Superwash Merino & Silk sock yarns, very soft and very smooth, with a lovely drape and an exquisite sheen. The black yarn is Cascade Heritage Silk that can be purchased both on Little Knits or on Webs (you can check out the Craft Ressources page of my blog for links to both these online yarn stores. You’re welcome!), I used 1 skein of it for my sweater. The blue yarn has got to be my best discovery of the month. It’s the Squishy Sock yarn, an exclusive product made by Chroma Fiber for the Artfil Yarn Shop & Craft Café, a little yarn boutique my friend Yana recently opened in Laval, Quebec. It is 356 yards of scrumptious deliciousness, hand painted by a local artisan in Montreal. It is simply gorgeous. If you’re interested, you can find it in store at the Artfil Yarn Shop & Craft Café, or you can buy it online on their website at http://www.artfil.ca/products/chroma-squishy-sock.

I recently made a review for this yarn, if you’re interested in reading it you can find it here.

So happy stitches guys, I’ll see you next time with another project (not a sweater again, I promise!)

Cheers!

To machine wash or not to machine wash, that is the question

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Hey folks!

I hope you all had a good time over the Easter weekend, I had a MARVELOUS time in Cape Cod with my Honeybee. Since it’s only April, we could barely take our coats off, let alone swim in the ocean; but even if we couldn’t swim, we saw beautiful landscapes, cute and quaint little villages and we could walk barefoot in the sand. Isn’t bliss? If you’re interested to see the pictures, just click on the the one just below, and you’ll be redirected to the album.

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On our way back, we got stuck in traffic in Boston for 2 hours because of a accident that left a semi-truck in flames on the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge. I can tell you we didn’t expect that. Although it was very unfortunate, it also allowed me to put the last stitches on the sweater I couldn’t finish before we left for Cape Cod, so it made the whole process a lot more bearable 🙂

After washing it, the sweater is a perfect fit and it is SO VERY COMFORTABLE. I’m so proud!!! There are a few oopsies here and there and I’m not super satisfied with the neckline, but for a first try (and without a pattern!) I think I really came up with something good. I must say, I’m also very happy that the sweater made it fine through the washer and dryer cycle. Oh I can hear you scream from here… YES, I did put my hand knit sweater in the washer and dryer. “Why”, you say? Because… well… I’m lazy. All my clothes (and I’m weighing my words here) ALL my clothes go washer and dryer. And I know that if I make an exception and buy (or knit, or sew) a sweater that needs to be hand washed, I simply won’t wear it.

So because I know that, and because I really want to wear the things I make, I simply choose my yarn and test swatch knowing it’ll go in the washer and dryer. And it works! Look at that!

http://www.ravelry.com/projects/saphirsteph/my-first-sweater-ever
http://www.ravelry.com/projects/saphirsteph/my-first-sweater-ever

Sweater-y weather

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Hey-ho Fellow Crafties!

Today, I want to talk to you about my latest adventure : the Oh-my-god-I-want-to-knit-myself-a-sweater adventure! It started a few weeks ago; the weather has been warming up a lot here recently, and the snow is slowly melting away. It smells more and more like spring every day, and the warmer days inspired me to retire my winter coat for the season and use lighter and more colorful clothes to match the nice weather.

That said, I have been CRAVING a hand knit sweater so bad that I just couldn’t resist when I saw the most scrumptious blue balls of Bamboo Pop yarn I found as I was out shopping, so I bought 4 balls, and set off on a new adventure! Now, I must mention that I have never in my life knitted a sweater. I sew a sweater once or twice, but never have I actually knitted a piece of clothing other than a shawl, a scarf, socks or hats. I have never knitted a swatch either, because size has never really been an issue. Who cares if a scarf is 9 or 10 inches wide, really? And to top it all off, I had so many unanswered questions, like how exactly am I going to shape the shoulders? Or the neckline?

To give myself a better idea of what I was getting myself into, I first started by looking at sweater patterns, but I quickly realized it probably wouldn’t be a very good idea because I (very honestly) couldn’t visualize how it would come together. I really felt that if I just blindly followed the instructions given on a pattern, the sweater I would make wouldn’t fit as good as it should because it wouldn’t be adapted to my own body and measurements.

After coming to that conclusion, I instead decided to look for videos or tutorials on how to make your own sweater from scratch, and I found this very helpful series of videos from Knitpicks on YouTube that showed me exactly what I needed. You can find the first video of the series here.

I learned in that series of videos how to swatch, calculate my stitch counts and how to shape the sweater according to my body measurements and my knitting gauge. Strong from all this new information, I grabbed a pair of needles and my yarn and I started the project. Instead of making the sweater bottom up like they suggest in the video, I decided to adapt it to make it top down. I have never made a sweater before, so I have no idea if I have enough yarn to make a long sleeves sweater or not. By doing it top down, I can simply adjust the length of the sleeves the match the amount of yarn I have left at the end, so I figured that would be the most appropriate way to do it in my case.

Knitting a sweater is obviously a very slow process, even more so because it’s my first one and I’m not entirely sure of what I’m doing (Who am I kidding, really… I have ABSOLUTELY no idea what I’m doing!). I know I made a lot of mistakes and some spots look kind of weird in my opinion, but I have learned a lot in the process, and I know for sure that my next sweater is going to be a lot better. So far it seems the general shape and the measurements are right, so whatever I did was surely not entirely wrong 😉

Wade and I are going to Cape Cod for the weekend to let off some steam and relax so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to finish it before we leave or not, but if I can’t, I’ll make sure to update this post later to show you guys some pictures of the finished product.

On that note, that’s all for today folks, I hope you’ll all enjoy your Easter weekend and spend some quality time with your loved ones 🙂

Cheers!