Dec 31, 2010

Safe journeys into the new year

New Year's Eve is always a time of reflection for me.

There are those who say this is a forced time to do this, and there are those who refuse to participate in the symbolism of the changing of the calendar year. To them, I say: Do what you will for yourselves. But pooh-poohing the efforts that others make to inspire themselves is pointlessly negative. It makes no difference what day of the year, or what specific moment, people choose to be inspired and begin anew. I commend people for doing it at any time, and if people choose to do it in the company of others on a date that has cultural significance, then so be it! Power to them, and more power to them for trying to draw inspiration from the world and the people around them. I like to take my inspiration where I can get it, and if others do that, too, then cheers to that. The effort is the important part, not the date, and that's true whether people are on a bandwagon or not.

This year has been pretty tough for me, but — of course! — I did accomplish some things worth appreciating, too. I'm probably going to do my yearly review tomorrow, after this year is officially over ... After all, there are still a few more hours of 2010, and who knows what they'll bring? ;)

One thing this year has taught me is that there's no shame in taking baby steps — they aren't merely small steps, they're also new steps, steps of exploration, of growth, each one a beginning, an experience. I don't have to run to progress (even if I want to run, faster than the speed of light), and I don't have to leap to grow (even if I want to leap — no, to fly!). To move at all is still to move. To do what I can is better than to do nothing.

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. — Lao Tzu

I wish you all a safe journey into your new year, or just into tomorrow, whether you celebrate the changing of the calendar year or not. Peace!

Sun falling to the horizon on Christmas daySunset on December 25, 2010 from Madeira Beach, Florida.

Dec 26, 2010

Craft or Bust Week 51 Check-In and Roundup (Dec 19-25)

Hope all the applicable crafty Christmases out there were lovely. ;D

Roundup of Week 50: What We Crafted From Dec 19-25

Last time, on Craft or Bust:

  • Linda made some jewelry, added another store to her "jewelry conquest" (sounds scary ;)), and made spices and bath salts and such at (I assume) Sweetwater Farm.
  • Jessica knit three out of four sock monkey limbs ;), made dinner on Wednesday, made two batches of bake sale cookies and a batch of party cheesy bread (at least it wasn't a cheesy party ... or maybe it was, and that's a good thing!) — except that it got eaten by the dog (dude!).

Check-in for Week 50: What Have You Done Lately? (December 12-18)

My week went like this:

Socks!Sunday, I knit some of the unending size 12 socks and made miso soup with CSA vegetables. Monday, more sock. Tuesday — guess! — more sock. Finished the first one of the pair. Wednesday, I knit an obscene amount of the second sock. Thursday, I baked some beer bread (which I don't think I got any photos of, at all ... ack) using a bottle of pumpkin beer left over from Octoberish, finished the second sock!, and knit on an old abandoned capelet UFO just to do something other than knit socks. Friday, I knit an entire cloche, to cleanse more of the sockiness from my system. ;) I also made an embroidered soap sack for the first mate, and did the first part of making sparkly pomegranate cranberries. Sunday was Christmas, on which I managed not to do any crafting, although I almost knit some of my Wisp. Oh, well. It was a good day anyway.

Sunday, my computer also stopped turning on. Oops. I took it to the shop and they had to send it away for repairs ... but I managed to get it back on Christmas Eve. Yayyy! ;)

So what did you do? Share your own crafty accomplishments from the past week in the comments here. Don't forget to use the standard check-in format on the rules page, and you can also add your photos to the Craft or Bust Flickr pool!

And as always, if you're new to Craft or Bust, check out the CoB rules page and sign up if you like — it's easy!

Dec 19, 2010

Craft or Bust Week 50 Check-In and Roundup (Dec 12-18)

Can you believe there are only two weeks left in the year? The end of CoB 2010 is in sight. Scaaaary. ;)

Roundup of Week 49: What We Crafted From Dec 5-11

Last time, on Craft or Bust:

  • Jessica, my stalwart companion in CoBing, finished the first mitten of a pair except for the thumb, wrapped all the presents she currently had to wrap, and applied to three graduate schools. (Oh, that makes me feel kind of like a slacker. Maybe next year I should start "Get into Grad School or Bust"...)

Check-in for Week 49: What Have You Done Lately? (December 5-11)

This past week for me:

Wisp swatchSunday, I bought yarn for the uberscarf I'm knitting for a friend in NYC and knit on said scarf for about an hour. I also knit on a secret gift project for the first mate (who doesn't read this blog, but I'm going to be secretive anyway — if I don't, he'll start reading it, because my luck works that way ;)). Monday, I swatched for a Wisp with some commercial cashmere singles and killed it just doing that. Yeah. That's why on Tuesday I plied the singles, washed the skein, and, when the skein was finally dry, I cast on the Wisp and knit for several hours. I also made some jury-rigged coat-hanger sock blockers and blocked the Lighthouse Gansey socks. Oh, and I made another batch of wheat noodles for ramen. Nom. Wednesday, I knit more of the Wisp, and then went to the party that I meant to have it finished for, although not with the unfinished Wisp. ;) Thursday, I knit yet more of the Wisp while waiting on the delivery of some yarn for an Insanely Fast Sock-Knitting Quest. Friday, I received said yarn in a clandestine exchange at the local Lush store, and that evening cast on the socks and knit 2 inches of the cuff of sock one. Saturday, I knit all but one inch of the rest of the sock cuff.

So what did you do? Share your own crafty accomplishments from the past week in the comments here. Don't forget to use the standard check-in format on the rules page, and you can also add your photos to the Craft or Bust Flickr pool!

And as always, if you're new to Craft or Bust, check out the CoB rules page and sign up if you like — it's easy!

Dec 17, 2010

Cashmere, multicolored marshmallows, a pin cushion and bread

(Not that those things are really related, except that I have photos of them all from fairly recently. ;))

It's finally winter here in Florida — it's been cold for the past couple of weeks, enough that we've sometimes covered our soft Florida-loving plants with sheets overnight for fear the freeze will get them. ;) (Bet the condo association lady who hates porch decorations loves that!)

That also means it's time for winter foods! Nom nom nom! Here's some awesome bread I baked a while ago and stuck in the freezer while we ate the more sandwich-bread-shaped loaf first:

Round wheat loaf

Round wheat loaf
Look, you can still seed part of the cute "X" I put in the top of the round loaf...

And lately I've been drinking my exceedingly amusing instant hot chocolate with multicolored marshmallows — not as yummy as the not-so-instant stuff, but luxury cocoa has never made me laugh in the grocery store aisle.

Multicolored marshmallows

At this time of year the sunlight comes in from the side windows a lot more than it seems to during the summer, so when I spotted this pin cushion looking like it wanted to be photographed, I had to be obliging:

Pin cushion
Yes, it has fuzz on it, probably from getting too close to something fiber-related. One of the dangers of living in the craft room.

Finally, I had this holiday season's spastic moment of "I wonder if I can knit an entire [insert knit object here] in [obscenely short amount of time]?" which of course takes on ridiculous proportions when my stash includes yarn and fiber objects that aren't even ready to knit. This time I tried to knit a Wisp in about two days, but I spent one of those days waiting for my freshly-plied cashmere yarn to dry. See, I bought this cone of cashmere singles and my spinning mojo has not been strong enough for me to ply it successfully until apparently right before the latest holiday party. But then my drying mojo was not strong enough — alas, the Fan of Stubbornness refused again to be fixed, and so I was relegated to hanging the skein from a ceiling lamp and waiting for it to dry ... until I got impatient enough to stick it by the fire. (Ha-HA! Because we have a fireplace that contains actual fire sometimes at this time of year!)

So anyway, this is what the yarn looks like:

Cashmere 2-ply
There are as yet no photos of the Wisp that are not blurry due to being taken impatiently in low light without a tripod. Speaking of the Wisp, however, I really should go knit some more of it. Otherwise it will slide into that nefarious category of Stuff I Started For a Specific Event and No Longer Have Motivation to Finish Because the Event is Past.

So the knitting needles call. Ta! ;D

Dec 12, 2010

Craft or Bust Week 49 Check-In and Roundup (Dec 5-11)

How are the holiday preparations going with you guys? I'm ... behind but busy. Which is not only probably reflective of where tons of other people are, but sadly, describes my life as well ... ;) But send positive vibes. I'm stewing over a new way to do Craft or Bust next year, and I hope everyone will like it ... but first I have to, you know. Finish it.

Roundup of Week 48: What We Crafted From November 28-Dec 4

Last time, on Craft or Bust:

  • Jessica finished Leah's socks, cast on some mittens, cast on some baby booties and knit one, redid the edge of Markell's hat and received a box of yarn from said Markell (sounds like a good trade-off ;)), finished more than half her headband, and danced to "Dancing Queen," which we'll call creative. ;) Wooo! Have you caught up with your Christas knitting yet? ;D
  • Susie graced us with her divine presence last week, to let us know she made a test design for a skirt made of recycled shirts and is continuing to improve it, made an art quilt, worked on some Christmas cards for a swap, and knit some "possibly the most unattractive slippers in the world," a designation too amusing to not quote verbatim. ;)

Check-in for Week 49: What Have You Done Lately? (December 5-11)

This week was primarily a week of Sock for me. Or maybe a week of S — soap sack, soup and socks? Just ... not all at once.

Impromptu pastrySunday, I made a soap sack, knit some of the second Lighthouse Gansey sock, baked a small strawberry pastry using leftover pie crust dough, and put away some random stuff in the chaotic vortex that is the craft room. ;) Monday, I unsuccessfully hunted for yarn for an uberscarf for a friend in NYC, and knit some more of the sock. Tuesday, I made egg drop soup for the first. Time. Ever!, organized some photos on my hard drive, and knit yet more of the sock. Wednesday, I knit more of the sock (pant pant pant) and made, yes, another bowl of egg drop soup. Different broth this time, though. ;) Thursday was apparently a No Craft Zone. Friday, I made wheat noodles for ramen and dough for two pie crusts. Saturday, I finally finished the Lighthouse Gansey socks. Yayyyyyyy!

So what did you do? Share your own crafty accomplishments from the past week in the comments here. Don't forget to use the standard check-in format on the rules page, and you can also add your photos to the Craft or Bust Flickr pool!

And as always, if you're new to Craft or Bust, check out the CoB rules page and sign up if you like — it's easy!

Dec 5, 2010

Craft or Bust Week 48 Check-In and Roundup (November 28-Dec 4)

Okay, it's December, so I officially declare this the Redemption Round! It doesn't mean much, except that anyone who's done less this year involving CoB goals than they wanted to — as the magical CoB head wizard, I absolve of your CoB laxness! Feel free to come on back and try to keep your goals (or meet new ones) during this, the busiest time of the year. Hey, if you can do it now, you should be able to do it any time, right? ;D


Roundup of Week 47: What We Crafted From November 21-27

Last time, on Craft or Bust...

  • Jessica finished Markell's hat, started knitting a beaded, cabled headband that's her original pattern, got to two inches away from toe decreases in Leah's socks, and helped cook Thanksgiving dinner. Nom nom. ;)

Check-in for Week 48: What Have You Done Lately? (November 28-Dec 4)

What I did this week:

Brian's cup cozySunday, the most actively craft-related thing I did was putting together graphics and the listings for my shawl pin clubs. Monday, I wrote a buttload for NaNoWriMo, though not a big enough buttload to win. Hmph. I also cast on and knit most of Brian's cup cozy. Tuesday was Brian's birthday. I finished the cozy and didn't do much else that was crafty. Wednesday, I apparently did a bunch of admin-type stuff that isn't crafty. ;) Thursday, I edited the templates for the S&C newsletter in MailChimp. That counts, right? Friday, I made a new graphic for the S&C site and made hot and sour soup. Saturday, I published the free cup cozy pattern and added it to Ravelry.

That was an odd week. Looking at my personal list of accomplishments, I did a ton of stuff. But not a lot of it was directly crafty. Hmm.

So what did you do? Share your own crafty accomplishments from the past week in the comments here. Don't forget to use the standard check-in format on the rules page, and you can also add your photos to the Craft or Bust Flickr pool!

And as always, if you're new to Craft or Bust, check out the CoB rules page and sign up if you like — it's easy!

Dec 4, 2010

A quick free knitting pattern: cup cozy, bottom up version

Free knitting pattern, anyone? Here's a quick little one for a cup cozy, knit from the bottom up. It's designed for a tall, handleless (handmade ... nom nom nom) cup because that's what my boyfriend uses all the time, so it won't work for a standard coffee mug — but hey, you could starch it and use it as a pencil cup? ;)

Simple Cup Cozy - Bottom Up Version
Design and pattern by Crystal Calhoun
A Star & Crossbones Knitting Pattern

Brian's cup cozy

This pattern is extremely adaptable to whatever yarn and needles you have, and to whatever cup you need to cover. Use whatever yarn and needle combo makes a fabric that you like; you could even use this project as a stashbuster, or to practice knitting in the round — whatever! It'll come out fine in the end, and if it doesn't, you can rip it out and start over without feeling too bad — it's a tiny project, after all. ;)

As you may have guessed from the name, I intend on knitting a top-down version of this cozy in a commercial yarn, which should help me figure out the real yardage. Stay tuned for that...


  • Worsted weight yarn - or whatever yarn you like
  • Size 5 dpns - or whatever size gives you a fabric you like
  • Yardage — This will vary depending on the weight of yarn, but I used probably less than 30 yds of approximately worsted weight, 2-ply, handspun alpaca/wool blend.


I didn't bother with a gauge swatch, since I was measuring my knitting as I went. In fact, you could use this project as a gauge swatch that actually does something functional at the end.


Measure the diameter of the bottom of your cup. Also measure how far up the cup you want your cozy to go (that is, take a height measurement). Follow the below instructions only as far as they apply to your desired measurements.

You might want to knit to a bottom cozy diameter that's slightly less than the diameter of the bottom of the cup, since the knitting will stretch, and it's better to have it be a bit too small than to have it be too big and fall off your cup, right?

Go forth and knit!

Cast on 4 sts. Divide over 3 or 4 dpns. Join in round without twisting cast-on.

Place a stitch marker to mark the beginning of the round, if you like. (I always cheat and use the yarn tail hanging out of the cast-on as my "marker." When the knitting gets longer and kind of "swallows" the yarn tail, you can pull the tail up between the last stitch of the round and the first stitch of the round, so that it sticks out of the knitting and you can check where the round starts.)

Increase in every stitch (kfb) for three rounds. (If you have trouble controlling the needles at this point — I know I did — you can lay the needles on a table and knit using the table for support until the needles stop flopping around so much.)

Knit 3 rnds plain (all knit stitches).

Inc rnd: Inc in every st.

Knit 2 rnds plain. (Designer's note: I stopped after these two rounds for a bottom diameter of 2.75 inches. Stop wherever you reach the desired diameter, as directed below.)

Knit inc rnd again. Knit 3 rnds plain.

Continue repeating the inc rnd and knitting plain in between each inc rnd, increasing the number of knit rnds after each inc rnd by 1, until you reach the desired size for the bottom of the cozy.

Then, count the number of stitches you have on your needles, and choose a rib pattern that will fit into the number of sts you have.

I ended up with 64 sts, so I could have chosen any rib pattern based on a multiple of 2 or a multiple of 4 sts, like 1x1 rib, 2x2 rib, 4x4 rib or 3x1 rib. I chose 3x1 (k3, p1, and repeat to end).

You can just start knitting away in your rib pattern, or you can work a "turning ridge" of purl stitches before starting the ribbing. I just went straight into the ribbing.

Knit in your ribbing pattern until you reach your desired cozy height. I knit for 3 inches, then knit another half-inch of 1x1 ribbing to create a tighter top edge, since the cup I was knitting for gets bigger as it gets taller. (You may want to try the cozy on your cup while knitting and adjust your target height as seems reasonable.)

Bind off using a stretchy cast-off. I bound off in pattern (k1, p1).

Weave in the yarn tails and enjoy your cup cozy. ;D You can embroider it, sew on it, and otherwise make it awesome, of course. And if you do, I'd love to see pics!

Brian's cup cozy

License/copyright: This pattern and items created from it are intended for personal, noncommercial use only. You're welcome to redistribute the pattern for noncommercial purposes as long as you leave the credits intact. :D If you're interested in using this pattern or the products of this pattern for commercial purposes, please contact the designer at

Dec 1, 2010

The Unguilted Crafter: fighting the urge to feel bad about old projects

Let's talk about abandoned project guilt, shall we? ;D

CJ asked me on a blog post in October if my UFOs (a.k.a. unfinished knitted objects) make me feel guilty. I answered, "They used to make me feel a bit guilty, though I tried to ignore it, because that wasn't really a useful kind of guilt." Then I explained: Now that I craft (including knitting) way more often, I've stopped feeling guilty about my UFOs, because I have reason to believe I'll get to them eventually.

But that doesn't mean unfinished stuff doesn't make me feel bad. What does weigh on me: The abandoned parts of my to-do list. That shadow part of the list that I keep ignoring (but that I refuse to take off the list) even though I rotate the active part. The things that have been sitting on the list so long that if they were knitting projects, they would be UFOs.

To-do list book.
Photo © Koalazymonkey

You know ... things like Like reorganizing the craft room, or cleaning the papers from the Debacle, or sending e-mails I promised to send but that have been languishing in the back of my head instead. Those things, I feel bad about. I wouldn't call it guilt, but they do make me feel antsy, pressured, and unhappy about my slackerdom. (Maybe that is what you would call guilt, but I usually think of guilt as a more distinct feeling, full of actively negative reproach. ;))

Anyway, the other day, when I wasn't looking for it, I stumbled across a way to stop feeling as bad about the Shadow To-Do List. I was doing an exercise to rebuild my belief in myself, and the instructions were basically:

Make a list of everything you've been putting off doing. Everything. Don't leave anything off. Now choose seven of those things — things you CAN realistically do within the span of one day, and they don't have to be difficult things, or even important things — and assign them, one a day, to the next week of your life. On those days, DO THEM. Don't let anything stop you. Don't go to sleep that night not having done your daily task. It doesn't matter what you have to do to accomplish them — do them. Not because you "should," because this isn't a traditional to-do list. Do them because you are rebuilding your ability to DO.

As I made my list, I started to feel oddly better about the entire thing. My list was five typed pages long, but that was okay. Because I saw things on the list that I knew I could do. I could do some of them in five minutes. I could have chosen seven super-easy things — e-mail so-and-so back, put the books by the bed back on the shelf, dust off the tea cabinet — and done them, and it still would have gotten seven things off my back, seven weights off my conscience. Seven. Whole. Things! In a single week. This from a list full of things that have languished without progress for an indeterminate amount of time.

Looking at the list actually made me want to get started right away. But I didn't — because part of the point of the exercise was to do what I said I would do, and if I said I would do something on a specific day, I would do it that day, not a day early or a day late.

And I did it. :D I did one thing a day for seven days, on the days I said I would do them. At the end of it, I felt so encouraged about my ability to do things that I wanted to do it again. I mean — imagine if I did one item from that five-page list every day. I could burn through the entire list (which has been accumulating for years, even!) done in just about eight months. And every one of those days would be a relief.

But in reality, the exercise worked better than I'd hoped. :D Because I did more than seven things. I did the seven things I said I would do on the days I said I'd do them ... and I also snuck in some extra things that I hadn't said I would do. So I actually got eleven things done from the list in a week. If I kept doing that I could finish the entire list in less than six months.

Less than six months to catching up with my life! :D

Of course, the extra things every week would be optional, because adding too much pressure to myself is just transferring the Shadow To-Do List over to the daily to-do list, and that won't work. I've tried it. Doing it the way that works and waiting eight months until five pages of monkeys are off my back is perfectly fine with me.

And okay — I admit that's not exactly realistic, either. Some of the things on the Shadow To-Do List are multi-day tasks. Like reorganizing the craft room — that's not something I can do in one day. So I have to break it down into things I know I can do in one day. (Holy crappity, it's that old "break up larger projects into smaller chunks" thing I never had to consciously do before my productivity got all gunked up. ;))

But isn't it odd? Making a list that's basically a litany of my failures somehow freed me to be productive. I guess it's kind of like when they say the first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have a problem. And being able to see my put-off stuff in list form makes it look tackle-able. Then I can see that the list has an end. It is finite.

And because, while listing, I knew the next step was choosing easily-doable items to definitely do, I had no psychological urge to pressure myself into working on the list.

So, all around, making a list that highlights my slackerdom actually worked out to be a positive thing in the end, because I followed it up with definite and doable action.

It also not only gets stuff done so I can stop feeling bad about it, but it also helps me trust myself more. Because, like I mentioned at the beginning of the post, when I know that I can trust myself to eventually finish a project, I don't have to feel overly bad about putting that project on pause.

Craft or Bust has worked for me on that principle, and making this Shadow To-Do List has worked (so far) for the non-crafty stuff.

So, fellow crafters, maybe the list will work for you, too. Even if all you list is crafty stuff, and you promise to work just a little bit on one crafty project a day — or a week? Like in Craft or Bust? ;) — as long as you make absolutely sure you follow through, I bet it will help get those guilt-monkeys off your back, too. :D

Or maybe not! Everyone is different. And maybe you've tried something like this already? Maybe you've found your own way to refuse to feel bad about your unfinished projects and Shadow To-Do List?
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