As the pandemic quarantine continues, I’ve been knitting a lot more recently, actually more than I’ve ever done in the past few years. Which is great, because I feel like I’ve been neglecting my hobbies recently, and by doing so also neglecting myself a little bit.
So far in 2020 (and we’re only 4 months in!), I’ve already knitted 4598 yards in 6 projects, which is more than what I did the entire 2019 year (3473 yards in 6 projects) and already very close to 2018, where I knit 4715 yards in 9 projects. Given that we’re only at the beginning of May and that there’s still no sign of the end of the work from home situation yet, I will more than likely surpass my 2017 stats (which came up to 5481 yards in 7 projects) and may potentially even reach my 2016 numbers by the end of the year, which came up to a wonderfully impressive 10 928 yards in 17 projects. 2015 and 2014 are also very close behind, with 9314 yards in 16 projects and 10 292 yards in 15 projects respectively.
Now numbers don’t tell the whole story though, as I’ve been picking up more hobbies in the past 4 years (namely here spinning, pottery and I’ve also been much more phyisically active and cooking at home more) so it’s totally normal that my knitting numbers now are lower than the ones I had 4 or 5 years ago (and for very good and healthy reasons). But I think it’s also safe to say that I may potentially have not been putting aside as much time for myself as I should have, leading me to experience more stress, anxiety and affecting my overall mental health. I think this time “on pause” as led me to realize this, and hopefully, I will learn from this moving forward. I will try very hard in the future not to neglect myself and my mental health, pinky swear!!!
So without further ado, I would like to show you today a couple of the projects I’ve completed recently, namely here this cute pair of mesh market bags. I used the Ilene Bag pattern from Hannah Mason and knitted them out of 4 skeins of Fibra Natura’s Sea Song cotton yarn in pink and a few grams of plain white unnamed cotton yarn I had in stash.
I worked the bottom of the bag and the mesh section in the pink, then switched a contrasting color for the ribbing and the handle. Each bag used about 1.9 skein of sea song (just about 207 yards) and 100 yards of white for the ribbing and handle, for a grand total of about 307 yards per bag.
I did make a few small changes to the pattern, namely here adding some plain rows before the mesh pattern and some ribbing rows at the end; all the details are on my project page as usual so feel free to check it out there.
So how’s your quarantine going guys? How are you taking care of your mental health? Any tips to share?
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.
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 🙂
There’s one piece though that differs from the rest, and that would be this white bowl :
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?
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!
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?
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
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!
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!
(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!!
Ok, 4 months is a long time. I have to admit, I really (REALLY) have been neglecting my blog… But then again I guess I’ve been neglecting a lot of things, because in those 4 months, I haven’t used my spinning wheel or my loom, only used my sewing machine for minor clothing repairs and barely made any progress on the WIPs I’ve had on the needles for months.
There could many different reasons behind this general disinterest I have been experiencing towards both crafting and the blog, but I think it’s mostly a mix of bad case of winter blues and a much needed break after completing such a big project as this dress. Add to that the fact that I also fell back into an old love of mine and picked up a couple good books to read, and there you have it – almost nothing to show for the last 4 months.
Actually, that’s not entirely true either because I DID finish one project since January, and that is the Star Anise hat that I started in December.
I also have a couple sweaters on the needles, namely here the Dessine-moi un mouton I showed you in July last year and the striped Snowflake I started early in January using some Berroco Folio I had in stash in color “tan” and “raspberry coulis”.
In other news, I also spent 4 days visiting Washington DC last month, and we had a blast! Although we were a bit late for the cherry blossoms, we still had a lot of fun visiting parks, memorials and monuments and visiting the US Capitol and the weather was just GORGEOUS the whole time we were there. For those interested, here’s a little photo recap of our fun-filled vacation in DC.
So that’s it for now folks, and I surely hope next time won’t be in another 4 months! Cheers!
A Crafter’s Guilt (And the Superwoman Syndrome)
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.