life

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?

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2018 Wrap-up

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Oh, 2018… What a year! You’ve been full of new challenges and experiences, full of hopes and dreams, and so very, very fulfilling! Although it doesn’t show so much here on the blog (or on my Ravelry page… Yikes!) 2018 has been a very good year to me, both personally and professionally, and it felt good to reflect on it while cozily drinking some hot cocoa by the fire at my in-laws. I lost a lot of weight, made some lifestyle changes, advanced my career and I’ve been working a lot on myself to become a more positive and grounded person. My husband and I have taken a big plunge this year as he finally became a permanent resident here in Canada, and also got his first (french-speaking) job. We’ve had a chance to spend more time together as he settles in his new life, and it allowed us to deepen our relationship in many ways. I was also blessed with the chance to go on two amazing (life changing!) trips to Asia and was fortunate enough to meet many kind and generous people I’m lucky to call friends.

On the blogging & crafting front, I did very little knitting in the first half of 2018 but worked on many sewing projects whereas I’ve been knitting more and sewing less in second half of the year.

2018 projects

All in all, Ravelry told me that I’ve completed 9 projects in 2018, totaling 4715 yards of yarn. That’s 2 more projects than what I did in 2017, although it represents 766 yards less. To that though, I think we can also add the second Solace sock I had to reknit from the previous year to complete the pair, as well as a couple WIPs I’ve been making serious progress on, but simply couldn’t finish before the year end. There’s first a bulky weight chevron lap blanket that’s about 75% done, and a beautiful lace shawl that I’ve been working as a test-knit for the lovely Beatriz Rubio (Sambaknits).

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Doesn’t it look just lovely? I’m about 70% done now, so this project may be the very first you’ll get to see completed on the blog this year – please look forward to it!

For 2019, I wish to simply continue working on the same goals, namely here get fit and eat healthy, be positive and grounded and be kinder to myself and others. There might be some big changes coming my way in 2019, so there might be a lot to share in the upcoming months.

Until then folks, I wish you all the best for 2019. 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!!

Japan yarn & fabric haul

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Sweet Lord summer is hot this year! Not that I’m complaining because the weather has been absolutely gorgeous (and I would much rather be hot than cold), but in this recent heat wave it’s been a bit hard to find the energy or motivation to work on… pretty much anything. These past couple weeks. in my apartment without A/C, I’ve been holing myself up in the basement living on berry-mint smoothies, nuts and salads. I can’t seem to muster enough energy or brain power to cook, sew, knit, blog or do any of the things that I like to do, but I have taken up another kind of activity – as soon as the sun sets and the temperature drops a little (like below 30° Celsius) I open all the windows, start the fans, put my shoes on and go for a long slow walk to cool myself down.

Please know that I’ve been meaning to write to post forever, and I am so sorry it took so long to get it out! First of all, here’s a shot of all the gifts and souvenirs that I brought back from Japan for friends and family.

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Considering that I was travelling with only a backpack, I think it’s a feat in and out of itself to have been able to bring back this much stuff! But as much as possible, I tried to focus on small, light and portable objects that I wouldn’t bulk up my backpack too much. There’s a lot in there, but I brought back some snacks and sweets, letter sets, chopstick rests, stickers, notepads, bookmarks, postcards and things.

In addition to things shown in the picture, I also had an entire box shipped home from Kyoto which contained more sweets and snacks, yarn and some fabric, that I am about to show you in detail.

While I was in Japan, I visited 3 different craft stores. My shopping haul started in Kyoto when my sweet penpal Eriko took me to Nomura Tailor on Shijō Street. When I set foot in the store I was instantly AMAZED by the wide variety of fabrics and other products offered. Since I didn’t have much space in my luggage nor did I want to spend hundreds of dollars to ship giant boxes home, I had to limit myself to the three little pieces of fabric shown below, two adorable little precuts and 1 three meter long piece of cotton fabric that I may or may not use for a skirt in the near future.

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The shopping haul continued when I got to Tokyo a few days later. There, I visited two adorable little yarn stores. The first one I went to was called Keito, and was located in Asakusabashi. It’s a very cute yarn store full of small little treasures. Among those, I brought back a beautiful fox shawl pin, a scissors shaped needle sizer, 1 ball of Noro fingering weight yarn and 2 skeins of insanely soft GENTLY 80/20 cotton/cashmere yarn from the Japanese company FGS Corporation. The Noro yarn and scissors yarn sizer were a gift for mom in law and have already been shipped and received, but they can be seen in the picture above. The rest, you can see below. Gorgeous, right?

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The last stop of my shopping haul was at Walnut Tokyo, a little yarn store located in the Omotesandō area between Shibuya and Minato. That store, although tiny, was absolutely adorable. The staff was nice and friendly, the atmosphere was very calm and quiet and the yarn, books and articles offered were all top quality. I browsed through many books and accessories, but ended up setting my sights on Arimisu’s Wanderlust Linen, a gorgeous 100% linen fingering weight yarn. I ended up buying 6 skeins of it, I just couldn’t resist!

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What about you guys, any vacation planned this year? Are you planning to hit any craft stores or fiber festivals while you’re there?

New venture (blog!)

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Yes! I started a new blog, yay!!!!! I decided to combine my love of fiber things with my passion for travel and started a new blog called A Knitter Around The World. On this blog, I will share my insight on travelling as a crafter, help you find yarn or fabric stores at your destination, offer a review of the places I went to and share useful tips and tricks for the crafty traveler. There’s not much content so far, but I hope you’ll check it out and be as excited to see the content grow as I am to built it. Thank you all for your continued support, and I hope to see you soon at aknitteraroundtheworld.com.

Cheers!