I worked a fair bit on the cushion cover the weekend after I dug it out of storage, but didn’t add much at all this week. Looking back at the previous photo, I have put the last few touches on the leaf to the left of the rose, worked a reasonable amount in the top right-hand quadrant, and most recently started working on the top left of the rose itself. I am finding it quite hard to determine if I’m using the right colour wool a lot of the time, and I find I need to refer to the photo on the cover of the pack to aid me, particularly with some of the pale pink, white and pale apricot shades. I am not sure how precise I am being, but perhaps it doesn’t have to be precise anyway.
This is definitely a good project to work on right now. It has the right balance of being something I can put down and pick up with minimum fuss and the chocolate button temptation of doing just doing one more little bit. It is satisfying my craving for some colour in my life whilst being less taxing than knitting a garment. I think it is a case of cometh the day, cometh the project,
I don’t know how many stitches I have added, but one thing I do know is the steps I walked on Saturday, grocery shopping and flat hunting: 25, 662! 11.73 miles! The Apple Exercise app gave me a medal and my feet thoroughly deserved it.
I am back immersing myself in New York, 1974 by watching episodes of Rhoda which was a spin-off from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. It is about Mary’s friend Rhoda after she moves back to New York from Minneapolis. It is rather sweet and may well be the reason I never felt the urge to watch Sex and the City – surely just the same thing a couple of decades later….
I can’t remember a year when the arrival of September has coincided so exactly with the arrival of autumnal days. Over the course of the weekend, the temperature here has suddenly dropped from highs of 30℃ to 20℃ and the sun that was scorching on the last day of August seems merely warm and pleasant now that September is here.
I am settling bit by bit into my new work role and letting my routines unfurl themselves in their own time to fit around the new schedule.
I unpicked the socks I was knitting and now I have nothing on the needles. Nothing has grabbed my attention and there are no pressing gaps in my wardrobe that need to be filled. The ice-cream pink jumper will still probably be my next garment, although I don’t know when I will start knitting it; when the mood takes me is my best estimate. I have an idea that I should knit a warm hat for my Helsinki trip next February, but I’m not sure.
It is definitely time to be getting back into a writing routine, not only for my blog posts, but also back to working on my novel. I had a very interesting conversation with a gentleman I met today who is also working on a novel, and it was inspiring in a quiet, comfortable way. It started when he brought out not only his 2019 diary, but also his 2020 diary which he was already carrying around with him – a very impressive action. In fact, if I had not been working at the time, I would have been very interested to delve into his “everyday carry” bag to see exactly what he was toting around; rather like a fully interactive, real-life YouTube video.
All in all, though tangible progress is rather hard to see, when I refer back to my Word of the Year (Establish), I think I am moving in the right direction.
In the world of Blakes 7 fandom, there are many hotly debated issues, but the end of the series is particularly divisive. There are many fans who feel let down by the fact that everyone (debatably) died and that the evil Federation ‘won’. Personally, I have always been happy, although obviously also devastated, that it ended in such a strong way; I would have hated for the series to drag on too long and then just fizzle out. I have posed the question before – if it had had a happier ending, would I still be obsessed with it forty years later?
However, this isn’t an essay about Blakes 7; I’ve just used that for illustrative purposes. My real aim is to talk about the nature of failure and to determine whether I should feel more disturbed by my failures (they are many). It seems, even before the rise of social media, that we have been increasingly encouraged to sanitise our failings and the word “fail” itself has been demonised. The mantra nowadays seems to be “praise the successes, gloss over the failings”. I, for one, am beginning to wonder if this is really wise.
This has been on my mind over the weekend because I have been watching YouTube videos by someone who writes, self-publishes, and also has a business advising other writers about planning their work/lives. The channel is Heart Breathings, if you would like to check her out; I’d say she does about 50% good commonsense and advice and 50% hustle, and there are a lot of YouTube channels out there with much more hustle. I will come clean and admit I watch a lot of YouTube videos in search of inspiration about tackling my own lackadaisical approach to planning. You have my permission to question whether watching YouTube videos is a sensible way of dealing with a lack of enthusiasm and determination or whether it is yet more procrastination.
I watched one particular video in which this writer and her buddy had a writing retreat and I found myself wondering about the fact that she didn’t meet the targets she set herself. Now, she is heavily pregnant which would definitely affect her ability to work, and the word count goals she had set at the beginning of the break seemed incredibly high to me. Although the first day was mainly travel, she was already far behind her target at the end of it and I wondered why she didn’t revise her target based on that fact. It is fine and dandy to forgive yourself for not achieving your targets, but you need to be realistic when you decide whether you can catch up over a set amount of time, and if you can’t, you will need to lower your expectations.
One of the most interesting things my weekend’s viewing has me thinking is that I should care more when I fail. If failure doesn’t upset me, then what I was trying to do wasn’t important in the first place. I’ll be honest: I’m getting on, I don’t have time to be doing things that I don’t care about. Failure is a feeling, as are success, love, and hunger. Why would I waste my remaining days ignoring such feelings or, worse, not feeling them at all? To a certain extent, we judge which things we care deeply about not only by how happy we are when we succeed, but also by how we feel when we fail at them. When something is important to us, the stakes are automatically higher. We can shrug off a disparaging comment from a stranger far more easily than the same comment from someone we know and admire.
From the partial reading I have done of The Bullet Journal Method (see my previous One Book July musings), one strong idea I have taken away is that if you continually fail to do a particular thing on your list, you would be wise to examine whether it is actually important to you. I am guilty of carrying certain tasks forward from day to day, often tiny tasks that take no time at all to do, because I don’t feel any sense of guilt that I didn’t do them. I need to look at each of these things and ask if I actually care about it. If I do, then I should feel guilty that I am pushing it endlessly into the future; if I do not then I shouldn’t be trying to do it at all.
It reads as if I just spent the whole weekend watching videos, but that is not the case. I spent a couple of hours on Saturday sketching out a version of a planning page that would help me to set goals for the next quarter of the year and break them down into a list of tasks for each month and week. Doing this, I discovered that I don’t actually have a problem with the goal-setting side, and I can see the actions I need to achieve the goal, but I struggle with the concept of assigning particular things to set time periods. Perhaps it is because the projects I am currently working on really consist of doing the same thing repeatedly. Take, for example, searching for a job, which involves checking out particular sites for vacancies each day. I can’t control how many suitable jobs will be advertised in a week, so I can’t plan ahead to put in, say, two job applications every week. All I can do is repeat the process and ensure that when I see a vacancy that I think will suit me I send an application in a timely manner. That doesn’t count as ‘planning’; it is, by its very nature, reactive. There is a more proactive method which is to send of a set number of ‘cold-call’ letters every week on the off-chance that someone might be thinking about hiring, but that doesn’t appear to be how the job market works nowadays. There is a similar conundrum with writing my novel: I am trying to write a minimum of 500 words a day and the aim of finishing first draft will be achieved when I’ve finished telling the story. In this instance, the proactive course would be to determine at the outset the number of words I want the novel to come in at and set goals of when I want to be at the 25,000 or 50,000 words mark. That is certainly something I want to consider. Funnily enough, knitting is the one thing where I find it very easy to set goals and break down a project into components – when I want to have the back or the sleeves finished by. In fact, if I could approach different types of projects with the same clarity that knitting has, life might be a little easier.
So, here we are, heading into a new week and it might seem negative to start off with the objective of feeling more disappointed and unhappy if I don’t do things well, but being disappointed by my failures is a key component in moving forward. After all, fail is a four-letter word, but if I own my failures and use them as rocks to form the foundation of the life I’m trying to build, it does not have to be a bad word.
Here’s a snapshot of what is going on around here these days. This is what was piled on my settee when I started to tidy up last night prior to heading off to bed (before I took the photo I did move them into a more pleasing arrangement than the ‘old heap of stuff’ that they had naturally formed!).
The new Avon brochure commences today, so I had been busy setting them up and getting a .pdf version of the brochure up on my beauty blog – feel free to head over there, or visit my webshop where you can browse through the products and, so long as you are in the United Kingdom, order online for delivery direct to you from Avon’s warehouse. I’m trying out the Vitamin C Serum that’s launching this month. I like a nice serum and, truth be told, I’d rather use one cream day and night but add in a serum in the evening than have separate day and night moisturisers.
Then, of course, there has been knitting. The photo shows how far I have got with the first sleeve of my cardigan. I have been resting my hand but still doing a few rows each day just to make sure the cardigan continues to grow. I am enjoying working with this yarn and the pattern is really simple but effective.
The book, The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll, was an impulse purchase this week. I have been following the buzz about this method of planning/tracking over the past few years, but ultimately have always felt that a lot of it is not for me. Then again, the basic concept of keeping all your incoming information in one distinct place is very much to my taste. I find having things scattered all over the place makes them easier to ignore. In one of the best jobs I have had, it was common practice to keep a hardback notebook in which you noted whatever needed to be done – in my secretarial role this meant I had lots of notes every day on responses I needed to send to e-mails on behalf of my manager. I found it a very workable system and the Bullet Journal is not dissimilar to that. I am enjoying reading it so far, although I may not adopt the method in its entirety. I decided to buy it after watching a video online that was originally shown at the European Planner Conference; this runs to just over 30 minutes, but I think it’s well worth watching because Mr Carroll comes across as such a genuinely lovely chap. Earlier in the year I read about nine-tenths of Getting Things Done by David Allen, but it didn’t entirely gel with me. It felt to me like it was devised by, and addressing the needs of, business owners and top-level managers, whereas Ryder Carroll seems to be coming from, and addressing, a much broader base of both workers and creative professionals. Have to see if I make it to the end of this one!
I am consistently referring to the diary pages in my Filofax notebook, and also using it for broader list-making and note-taking. I am still very pleased with this set-up and I can foresee it serving me for some time to come. I chose a verse by Dorothy Parker for the creative area this week and I used my fine-nibbed Parker 51 filled with the Lamy Peridot ink. When I am writing in the diary I mainly use the Waterman Hemisphere in the blue finish which you can see in the photo, and that is filled at the moment with Graf von Faber-Castell ink in Midnight Blue. Underlining is done using my Cross Century II filled with the Lamy Ruby ink (speaking of which, I am in love with all the red inks Michael Jecks has been testing recently on his Writerly Witterings YouTube channel – you can check out Ink Comparison: Red and/or Ink Comparison: Red Second stage if you’re interested). I use my other Waterman Hemisphere – the Rose Cuivre finish – to write in my journal every morning. That one is currently filled with J Herbin Poussiere de Lune which is a purple-to-brown ink. In this way I am getting to play with a lot of the pens and the inks in my small collection. I feel a return to a brighter purple ink is imminent when one of the pens runs dry.
The final item I had to clear away was a tube of hand cream because my hands have been very dry recently. This particular hand cream is from one of Avon’s fragranced bath ranges and it is a lovely consistency, but there are more subtle fragrances around. I happen to like this one, but I don’t imagine it would be for everybody – but then, what is?
After a few nice sunny days, we’ve got a fine drizzle this afternoon although it held off until I was back from my regular Friday-morning swim so that was good. Our electricity went off for a few minutes at lunch-time, and all the alarms in the neighbourhood started ringing so it was an exciting few minutes.
Now we are heading towards another weekend which I hope will provide plenty of opportunities to knit, read, and ponder the meaning of life.
There has been steady progress on my Gaudi cardigan and lace-back mitt over the past week, but nothing hugely interesting to photograph, so I thought I would talk a bit today about what I use to take my photographs.
This has been prompted by the fact that over the past few days I have been playing with my decent camera instead of just grabbing my phone to take snaps. My decent camera is an Olympus E-510 10 megapixel digital SLR camera. It is hardly in the first flush of youth, it seems this particular model debuted in 2007 and was superseded by the E-520 in 2008. I bought the camera second-hand and I’ve had it a few years now. I have three lenses for this camera, which include a macro lens for close-up photography – the one I used for these photos. My phone is the iPhone X with a 12 megapixel camera and it is a year old.
I have to say the phone suffices as a camera for pretty much all of my needs and I haven’t used my Olympus much at all in the past year. The one time this year that I have taken it out for a walk with me, I struggled to get it to focus; I am still not sure if that was due to the battery needing a charge, an actual issue with the camera, or simply me forgetting how to use it properly. However, this week, having charged the battery, I have grabbed a few photos and had no issue with the focus so I am hopeful that it is still in good working order.
The thing I really like about the Olympus, over and above the iPhone, is that I can use it with a tripod. This makes taking decent close-ups easier because even with image stabilisation my grip is prone to wobbliness. I have a remote control for the camera and that makes it a cinch to take photos of myself wearing my finished knitting projects. I know when I finish Gaudi I am going to want to take some photos.
On the other hand, the thing I really like about the iPhone camera is that it goes pretty much everywhere as a matter of course, and it’s easy to pick up to take a quick snap whenever I want. There is a lot to be said for convenience.
As to the picture quality, I honestly don’t know that there is much in it. In view of that I am just counting myself as lucky that I have a choice of cameras to suit different situations. If the Olympus does give up the ghost, I probably wouldn’t buy a replacement. Then again, if I decided to downgrade my phone next time it’s time to change (quite possible if my mood of frugality continues) then having the Olympus means my choice wouldn’t be narrowed to only phones with good cameras.
Here are some more photos of my knitting taken with the Olympus:
I hope your projects are going well and I’d be interested to hear whether you have a preference between a phone camera or a more standard camera for your photography.
In an effort to straighten up my thoughts and plans a bit, here’s an update on how the knitting is going in this neck of the woods.
First up, fingerless mitts for my Etsy shop. The above are my first pair trying out a lacy pattern and they are as finished as they are going to get. I have to say, they look a lot better in the photo than in real life. To my eye, the busy dye pattern on the yarn, which I think is gorgeous, doesn’t work well with the lace motif. The glove doesn’t seem to sit too well on the hand, with the lace motif looking a little off-centre. Not to mention that I hurried the first mitt and am not happy with the quality of it. I think these are destined to go to charity. I have cast on for a second pair, but I haven’t got far:
For these I am using John Arbon Knit by Numbers 4-ply and everything about it is making me very happy. I am experimenting with positioning the lace panel at the side of the back of the hand to see if I like it.
My golden/mustard/yellow sweater is still patiently awaiting its turn in my affections. I fear that might not happen until the autumn, but we will see.
Over the past week I have been mainly working on the Gaudi cardigan and I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made. As of today, I have the back and both sleeves completed, and am just about to embark on the armhole shaping/colourwork section of the first front.
I am still keen to get this cardigan completed so I can be wearing it. I think I may crochet the button band as I did this with one of my all-time favourite cardigans and it has stood the test of time extremely well. The additional sturdiness of the crochet really helps on button bands, and also the button-holes are so much neater than on knitted bands.
I have been looking at a few of the patterns in the Rowan New Vintage DK pattern book and thinking how splendid they would look in a gradient of one colourway. That could be achieved using John Arbon Knit by Numbers yarns, or wools from the Shetland suppliers. I might do one myself.
Other than these, I have no real plans or thoughts or dreams on the knitting front other than to reach the finish-line on the cardigan and mitts.
How is your knitting shaping up? Have you taken an inventory recently and come to any conclusions about the projects you are working on?
Looking forwards as we start a new week and a new month, my chosen Word of the Week “Accomplish” is an exhortation to set goals and strive to achieve something. To set oneself a challenge, to determine a course. It is wise, in setting goals, to accept that we can still accomplish something even if we do not ultimately reach our target. Sometimes it is enough that we accomplish the understanding that a certain thing is not for us, we do not find it important enough within our life, we do not enjoy it as much as we thought we would, or even that this is simply not the time for us to get the best value from that particular activity.
As well as looking forward, we can apply this word to the month just past, using “accomplish” to celebrate what we have done.
I set myself the challenge for March 2019 to do some creative writing every single day and I am proud with myself for meeting this challenge. It took a slightly different direction from the one I originally envisaged, and in the final analysis I wrote for 25 days on the first draft of my novel, adding 16,730 words to it which averages out to 669 per day. That is amazing progress. Now, not all of those words were freshly-minted during the month because I took some pieces that I had written previously and imported them into my novel. That was part of the evolution of the novel which has become more solid and cohesive in my mind as I have been working on it daily. That being said, it is still a successful contribution given the original context of my challenge: “to work on the creative writing”, not to write a set number of new words in the time period.
I also worked on other pieces over 8 days, adding 16,870 words. Now this was definitely more a case of importing and typing up pieces written previously. However, it means that I now have most of my creative writing within the Scrivener software on my computer, making it much more accessible and seamless to work with.
The big thing to come out of this month for me is that I am loving writing, really engrossed with the story I am crafting, and I am going to make the effort to carry on writing every day even though March is now over.
Do you set yourself goals/challenges/targets? How do you feel if you achieve, or fail to achieve them?
We live in a universe in which stars are being born in clouds of gas whilst others cool and diminish; entire galaxies are spinning, colliding, grouping and re-forming. So it is with our everyday lives – there are things we have just started, others that we are making some kind of progress on or completed, and a few which we have abandoned.
I have made progress in my crafty life. The lace-pattern front of the sleeveless pullover is complete and I have made a start on the plain back. In tandem with this, in the past few days I have been playing with my French Knitting kit. I bought it years ago and I used a bit of the very basic nylon yarn included to construct a sample ‘tail’ of knitting then promptly put it in my knitting cabinet and ignored it. Now I am experimenting with a ball of Rowan SoftYak DK yarn which is 76% cotton, 15% Yak and 9% nylon. I’d love to know if anyone has used this for a garment and what they thought so I must check it out on Ravelry. My plan is to make something for myself and also as a prototype item I could put in my Etsy shop. I can’t explain what it is, because it’s not really something you can explain – you have to see it. It is inspired by a necklace I saw at the Norfolk Makers’ event cross-bred with an item that I have recently seen in pictures from a designer’s Autumn/Winter 2019 catwalk show.
I have also been working on some Mother’s Day cards to put in my Etsy shop and I’m pleased to say the two designs I’m doing this year are now for sale (clicking the picture captions will take you to my Etsy shop).
The cards feature simple, graphic designs infilled with images of swatches that I have knitted myself. I’m planning to expand what I offer in the way of printed knit-related products to include packs of inspiration cards on a knitting theme and I already have some birthday card designs in the pipeline. At present I’m offering two colourways, but I will increase this with more colours and some textures as time goes on. For my actual knitwear, I am looking at the relative merits of Etsy and Folksy. The latter being UK-based has appeal as I am keen to encourage more ‘local’ buying by not offering to send my hand-knits overseas. That’s not to say in any way that I want to exclude the non-UK residents, but to encourage them to support the skilled craftspeople in their own countries. This is the reason I buy yarns from indie-dyers who, like me, are based in the UK although I love to look at offerings by dyers working all over the world.
I am going great guns with my self-imposed month of creative writing challenge, although the format of the challenge has changed somewhat in the first week. I’ll do an update about this on Wednesday.
Well, that’s what I’ve been doing for the past few days. I hope the weekend has been enjoyable and productive for all of you who so kindly read my blog. Feel free to let me know in the comments what crafty (or not-so-crafty) projects you are working on.
Now I see the photo and compare it with the one I took last week, I can see that there has been a little progress on the knitting front, but all of that progress was achieved yesterday. Prior to that I had hit a bit of a dead-end. Having started two garment projects, and then set them aside to knit socks, I felt gung-ho at the start of the week about returning to my works in progress, working on them turn and turn about, and getting both of the finished in the coming few weeks. I didn’t knit a stitch on either of them. If there was a Eurovision Knitting Contest (which surely couldn’t be any less entertaining than the Eurovision Song Contest), I would score a well-deserved “Nul points”.
On Saturday, when I could have been knitting, I was sitting in a cafe eating Carrot Cake (contributing to my less than stellar week on the diet front too!) and reading some notes I took a while back on an article entitled Stop Shuffling and Start Creating, over on Charley Gilkey’s blog, Creative Flourishing. What I had taken from it were that your ongoing projects can only be in a limited number of ‘states’:-
Active – you are actively pursuing it at the present moment; if it’s not complete yet, it is down to you to do it.
On Hold – you are waiting on something else – a person or a resource – in order to complete this; or it is simply stalled.
Completed – self-explanatory.
Dead – You need to be able to determine the difference between projects On Hold which you will one day complete and the ones that you are never going to complete. The dead ones you need to ditch.
When you move your focus from one project to another, the projects swap between being Active and On Hold, and each time you do this you lose momentum and it takes a while to regain it. In the strictest sense, the movement isn’t just a big “I’m going to stop working on this for a few weeks,” decision – it happens every time you pause or stop one thing and pick up something different.
So, how does this relate to my knitting? Well, as I said last week, I wasn’t entirely sure which way I wanted to go with the Gaudi project and I kept dithering over it all week. Instead of working on Old Gold until I had decided about Gaudi, I just put off working on either project. One of my sisters made a very useful observation, that it would be better to continue with Gaudi as a cardigan rather than adapting it into a jumper, because that would be more versatile, and I agreed with that, but I still had to ponder a while longer before I could sort out my feelings.
As a result of thinking about project status ideas on Saturday, I came to the following conclusions:-
I want to knit Gaudi as a cardigan
I want to knit Old Gold as a jumper
I currently want to finish and wear a jumper
So, now Gaudi is On Hold. I am working on Old Gold. When I finish Old Gold, I will go back to Gaudi. It is that simple. And if it is that simple, why did I have to go such a complicated route to make my decision?
Well. my mum would have told me that the reason it took a while to decide was because the time wasn’t right. As soon as the time was right, the decision was made. This isn’t the same as a fatalistic attitude because in that you believe that events are pre-determined, whereas the timing thing seems to be more about needing all the pieces of the jigsaw to be in place in order to move forward.
Another area in which I am suddenly making decisions, is my wardrobe. I was going to dispose of my old winter coat because it’s a little ‘tired’ and because it hasn’t been worn for a couple of years due to not fitting (and because I bought a replacement). This morning it caught my eye and I realised I still really like it; it fits like a dream again; it just need a serious de-pilling and the buttons replacing. I already have two sets of buttons which would work. So there’s a little project for me to work on.
I feel I am moving forward once again and that is a relief. How are you doing?
Since finishing my socks, I have returned to my two works in progress, and things are moving along, albeit a little slowly,
First up, it’s Gaudi by Martin Storey. This is still the back and progress on the colourwork part is picking up again now. I set it aside completely when I was knitting the socks, so in total I’ve only finished up the first diamond pattern since the previous update. I’ve got another 30 rows to complete the back, but they are diminishing in length with the raglan shoulder shaping. Then I will have to decide whether or not I should make a major modification to the pattern and knit it as a jumper, or continue with the original cardigan design. I am really craving jumpers right now, but I know a cardigan would be very practical. I have a lot of cardigans and only two jumpers, but I know I would wear a cardigan through the warmer weather and I’m not so sure about a jumper. I am taking heart from the fact that whichever way I jump, it’s not going to be wrong!
Although as you know I am not at all a person to have more than one garment project on the go at once, I am breaking my rule and using the old, old-gold yarn to knit a jumper, and this one is definitely going to be a jumper, no chance it will turn into a cardigan. Of course, the yarn was going to be a cardigan, I still have the back and half the front sitting here to prove it, but the yearning for a jumper has conquered me. This is another pattern from the 1,000 Sweaters book I have written about before and I am holding the 4-ply yarn double resulting in a slightly heavy DK-weight. It’s a soothing knit with those simple textured furrows. I didn’t want anything too busy because the colour of the yarn is going to be the main highlight, but I did want something just a little more adventurous than a simple stocking-stitch. This pattern has a turned hem and no waist shaping, set-in sleeves and I’m going to do a crew-neck just because it’s warmer than a v-neck at this time of year.
Whilst knitting, I have been catching up with podcasts or listening to golden oldies – the latest addition to my collection being a Glen Campbell compilation album. By the time he gets to Phoenix I’ll have finished the back of my jumper!