Looking Forward; Looking Back

I think I’m officially the last person in the entire blogging world to do this, but it’s been percolating so long that I can’t quite bring myself to not do it. Besides, I feel like I need to, if only for myself, so here goes – my New Year’s Day post!

I never was real keen on making New Year’s resolutions, as it just seems like the perfect way to start off the year with a resounding dose of failure. Sometime around the end of January you eat that piece of turtle cheesecake, miss 3 consecutive days of exercising, or realize you are already a week behind in your read the Bible in a year program, and you promptly brand yourself a loser, throw hopeless hands up into the air, and say, “Maybe next year…” I just don’t need that sort of thing in my life. I’ve fought hard to get where I am emotionally, so I have no intent to shoot myself in the foot by setting myself up to 334 days of each year thinking uncharitably about myself. However, like most of the people I know, I do feel that fresh start excitement that comes with the scent of a January calendar page, and a couple years back, I came up with an idea that is working much better for me – New Year’s Goals.

New Year’s Goals have very few rules, though last year they did need a few more than they had. They have to actually be possible. I’m not allowed to beat myself up if I don’t accomplish them. They have to be well defined. Two of those three rules were added this year. Having goals instead of resolutions gives me an entire year to succeed, and they help focus my ecclectic brain on a little bit narrower range of possibilities. Another benefit is that it sets some things before me that I have heard myself say, “I always wanted to” so many times I’m sick of hearing it, but without a steady reminder, I find drifting out of my mind when I have the time.

Last year’s goals were not too many:

  • Knit a Pair of Socks – This one was accomplished with my Coriolis Socks, which I absolutely adore!
  • Master Lace Knitting – This goal would show you just how little I knew about lace knitting December a year ago. It’s also totally undefinable in reality. Just how does one know they’ve “mastered” lace knitting? Should have been “Become Very Comfortable Knitting Lace.” That I definitely accomplished.
  • Go Somewhere New – I didn’t think I was going to get this, but when I ended up with a nearly last minute trip to Honduras, which included a side trip through Guatemala into Belize, I found I’d accomplished it well beyond my original dream.
  • Read 100 Books – Somewhere around June, I added this, which has now been classed as an illegal move on New Year’s Goals. I didn’t succeed, but I might well have made it had I not read th e entire Outlander series. Books with 48 CD’s take a good bit longer to read than your run of the mill 6-10 CD offering.
  • Make a Gail Wilson Kit – Considering the collection I have of the kits, I thought it was time to put my money where my mouth is – or my hands where my money is, or some such thing. Thinking is as far as I got with this one. Oops!
  • Finish the Laundry Room Remodeling – Well… Perhaps this would have happened if my dear daughter hadn’t offered to help get the sewing room started, then hubby hadn’t suddenly revived his nook project and added allowing me a studio door. I was spread too thin with those four projects to complete even one of them, though I don’t regret the progress that was made on all.
  • Be out of Debt by the End of the Year – Total flop. ‘Nough said?

My list for 2009 is much longer and definitely more ambitious, but I’m doing some things differently, and I’m feeling quite positive about a lot of them. The biggest change is that this year, I’m not settling back in January and thinking that I have a whole year to do this stuff after all, so why rush? There have been a fair number of serendipitous occurrences to help me move in the right direction, too, so I’m off to a great start! I don’t really think I’ll be able to get them all done, but I’d sure like to surprise myself, and I’m not going to aim low!

  • Be Debt Free by the End of the Year – I hate having to have this goal. This also includes non-financial IOU’s. I’m going to have to have a miracle to pull this one off. I need to sell an awful lot of books if this is going to happen – and my knitting pattern needs to be a smashing success! I also have several projects, including a quilt to finish for this.
  • Get My Email Under Control – This is another one in the miracle category, but who knows?
  • Make a Gail Wilson Kit – Sound familiar? Serendipity is that Gail is currently running a Hitty class, I have the kit, and the fee wasn’t very high. I’m far behind the front runners, but I HAVE actually started my girl.
  • Finish Reba – The most attainable of the miracle class of goals. There is little to do for her to be complete, but it involves a kiln, learning to fire bisque, renewing my acquaintance with bisque painting, and getting up the nerve to put my beautiful, nearly done head in for a last firing.
  • Complete Sewing Room – Mid-range in terms of difficulty. I’ve done an awful lot in there, but I still have oodles of sorting and organizing, along with quite a bit of trim painting to do – like the bookcase and two casement windows. This isn’t a gimme!
  • Complete Laundry Room – Another mid-range sort of project. As much as is done in there, the floor tile is a bothersome, time consuming project, and I have some trim painting to do. Really challenging would be that I have to stop knitting long enough to crochet the curtains!
  • Lose 25 Pounds – This is going to be easier than I thought. I’m already half the way there!
  • Learn to Do Entrelac and Knit Backwards – I’m really looking forward to this one. I have the pattern and yarn to do Autumn, and a week or so back, I finally found a tutorial that made knitting backwards suddenly easy. I’m still slightly awkward at it, but a little bit of practice and it’s going to be second nature. Biggest challenge here is just to actually break away from the temptation of so many interesting KAL’s and do this piece.
  • Go Somewhere New – Looking very challenging at this point in time. I had two cruises planned for this year, both to new places,  both depending on other people, and both fell through already. So much for this goal being a gimme. All the states within decent driving distance I already have, and I don’t currently have any good set up for a low cost visit in a new state or country – and there ‘s that “out of debt” business… Stay tuned!
  • Become Comfortable Spinning – Easy? Well… First I have to finish building my wheel. Then all that remains is finding time!
  • Read 100 Books – I’m really cooking on this one already! I think I just listed book 15 – or was it 16?
  • Knit Another Pair of Socks – This is more desperation than goal. I adore my socks and I hate it when I have to take them off to wash them! I need more hand knit socks!!! This is a “just do it!” sort of project, and I’m sort of hoping that the SHP KAL is enough to jumpstart the process.
  • Stash All My Downstairs Yarn on Ravelry – This would be much easier if the stash would quit multiplying! That said, I’ve already been working hard on this. I’m currently at 244 in my regular stash, so ignoring minor fluctuations due to usage, it will be interesting to see where I am on Dec. 31.
  • Do a “Difficult” Lace Pattern – Challenge here is just focusing on doing it – ignoring some of the other rabbits dashing across my path constantly. It’s tough to do that with something like 7 shawls on my  needles and two KAL’s imminent…
  • Do Something/Anything with my CSM – I’m not even aiming so high as a pair of socks at this point. I just want to sit down with someone and find out for sure my machine actually works! Socks would be a nice side benefit to the process, though. ;o) A circular sock machine is too valuable to just hold down the floor, in my opinion, and that’s all my lazy contraption has done for about 3 years now.

Now that I type this all out, I’m thinking it’s a very good thing I have a solid start on so much of it. This is quite a list!!! I think I’m going to make a separate page listing the goals in the sidebar here on the blog, then update as things happen…

The Loot!

At last! As of midnight it was finally time to open the Stash Swap packages! (Click here if you didn’t see the original post a few days ago.) The boys had been guarding the pile all week, armed with pea shooters. They were just sure the girls wouldn’t be able to stay out of trouble – or so they said. I think they just wanted the opportunity to be obnoxious… Anyway, when the clock struck twelve, the party was on!

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There were many excited exclamations, more than a few shouts of “MINE!” and lots of planning and page turning in the pattern books, to be sure. Our loot included:

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  • Fat quarter of plaid silk
  • Fat quarter of crimped organdy type fabric in white
  • Two pieces of lace – one antique netting and the other a narrow white cotton
  • Vintage ecru rickrack
  • Tiny gold and red buttons
  • Faux rabbit trim and daisy chain trim with beaded centers
  • Blue seedbead assortment, blue ombre ribbon bows, Eiffel Tower and letter “B” appliques
  • Handspun wool yarn (What more could an avid knitter wish to get?!), which was wrapped in a piece of white on white cotton fabric
  • Pattern for stuffed bunny
  • Two special thank you gifts from participants – a completed stuffed bunny and a delicate embroidered hankie with crocheted trim

The next part of the Stash Swap is the BIG BONUS ROUND, in which participants receive a prize if they use three of their items to make something for Bleuette or her immediate family by the first day of spring. I don’t exactly end up with a prize, as I run the show, but I still like to try to get at least one thing made from my new treasures. Some years I’ve been able to use three items on one project, but this year looks like that won’t happen. Although we have some really lovely things here, none of it really seems to go together well – at least at first blush. I think we should sleep on it, though – or perhaps look at it somewhere that the girls aren’t. It’s tough to hear myself think with them all chattering away about what each of them thinks I should make for her.

And this is what we sent out in our packages:

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I loved how it all went together and couldn’t resist taking a photo before I sent it umpteen different directions, from the east coast to the west. The fabrics are vintage, as is the pink-edged lace, along with most of the buttons. The mystery items are hat straw and very soft and supple leather, both items from my doll store. I can’t wait to see if the recipients like what I sent as much as I do – and to see if someone uses it in their challenge project. Digging around in my own stash made me want to drop everything and make some things for the girls from the items I settled on sharing, each of which still resides here in usable quantities. With everything going on over the next 6 weeks, though, I’m going to have to settle for vicarious pleasures. Oh for more hours in each day!

And on a totally different note, after fighting to get decent pix again tonight, I gave up and bought a new camera. I went with fewer bells and whistles than my old one, as I just don’t have the money to put into what I really want, but what I ordered has really good reviews, so hopefully it will do until I’m in a better financial situation. It would have to be a pretty lousy camera to not be better than my poor, hurt Canon A620. I’m still miserable to have had it wounded so soon. Sigh…

Published in: on February 14, 2009 at 11:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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Of Fibers and Brushfires

Just a short post tonight, but an important one, I think. I’m guessing that most everyone who reads this is very aware of the terrible brushfires currently decimating sections of Australia, leaving scores of dead, injured, and homeless in their wake. Perhaps you, like I, feel the urge to do something helpful, but didn’t know what it might be. Perhaps you might consider the option I found last night.

In the tradition of raffles, telethons, bake sales, and such, a caring Melbourne woman is rallying the knitting community to support the Australian Red Cross with a fiber fundraiser. She’s been in contact with  numerous knitters and yarn stores around the world, lining up some wonderful and generous prize donations. Your ticket into the drawing is a donation of $10 or more to the Australian Red Cross. Make your donation directly to the Australian Red Cross online, then email your receipt to her in order to be added to the drawing. Details are HERE on her blog, along with more info about the fires and pix of some of the prizes. As I’m typing this post, there has already been over $1100 donated by the fiber community, and we can undoubtedly make it much more. Let Australia know we care!

Published in: on February 12, 2009 at 7:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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Many Hands Make Light Work

We are in the midst of one of the big events of the year around here, and I thought you might like to have a peek into how things are actually run.

This is the fourth year I’ve hostessed the annual Bleuette Stash Swap, an activity I developed in order to help cope with the post-holiday, cabin fever doldrums. The Swap was born on one of the Yahoo groups to which I belong, but this year I decided to open it up to a wider audience, so I created a new group specifically for the Swap. My plans are to have a few other activities for the members sprinkled throughout the year, in addition to this grand kick off event. The basic premise for the Swap is that all of us end up with leftover “stuff” from our projects for our dolls. Minimum purchase might be one yard on a fabric, but we need only half that amount, or we stumble upon a gorgeous bolt of delicate lace on markdown, a box of vintage rickrack at a yard sale, etc. This stuff is wonderful, but our girls don’t want every outfit they own to have the exact same buttons or whatever. The solution is to swap our stash! To that end, each player sends me the items from the list I provide at the start of the event – two fat quarters, 2 yards of lace, 2 yards of other trim, 6-12 buttons, and optionally 2 mystery items and some yarn or thread for crochet or knitting.  These items are to be of an appropriate scale, style, and fiber for our Bleuettes, and not stuff we ourselves wouldn’t use. Each offering is wrapped and labeled, and arrives here with a $5 entry fee (which helps defray the cost of postage and prizes) and a mailing label (which makes the shipping easier and more accurate). We scramble the individual offerings and send them back out, no one getting more than one item from any other player. On Valentine’s Day, everyone opens their loot, grins… laughs… cries… and then phase two begins – the BIG BONUS ROUND. The goal is to use any three of the new treasures to create something for Bleuette or her immediate family – the thought being that a person hasn’t done any stash busting if they just stick the new stuff back on the shelf. Anyone who succeeds in using three items by the first day of spring wins a special prize – no competition among members, only with one’s self. In past years, prizes have been:

  • Year 1 – Bleuette scaled Eiffel Tower purchased beneath the real McCoy, and vintage French lace obtained in a flea market in Saintes (France).
  • Year 2 – A lovely goodie bag from Farmhouse fabric, jammed with vintage fabric, laces, and buttons
  • Year 3 – Fabrics and embroidery yarn brought home from a trip to Honduras

It’s always loads of fun for everyone – even me, once the shipping phase is over. ;o)  And now that I’ve explained the basics, here’s a peek into how the shipping process actually works around here…

There is never a shortage of volunteer workers, as you will see. This year, the boys took over the job of unpacking. Some of the stuff arrived in boxes, so Remy had to climb in and hand stuff down to the littler boys.

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Of course, no one was watching Mikkey and Mariette for all of 30 seconds, so we didn’t realize what was going on until Mariette shrieked when she lost her grip on her twin’s foot. Those two…

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Packages were toted over to Mariko and Claire who inventoried everything on the master list. This is an important step because of the optional items. We want to be careful to make sure everyone gets back in kind.

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Not entirely trusting the little boys for some reason, Flora gathered the money and delivered it to Rikki, who was our acting banker this year.

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Once items are checked in, they go to the “mountain,” as the crew was calling it. Memo to self for future years: Don’t leave the room when inventory is nearly finished…

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At least this stuff isn’t breakable!

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And not to be a tattletale or anything, but yes, I caught Mariette trying to figure out what was in this enticingly curious mystery package. Can’t say as I blame her. The mystery packages about drive me crazy! However, my arm doesn’t fit. ;o)

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Next step is to sort all the little packages by type – fat quarters to one stack, lace to another, and so on. The girls were surprised to realize that there was more than 10 yards of fabric in the tower!

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While the kids do the sorting, I’m busy creating a second chart designed to make sure that no one gets two items from the same swapper, none of their own, and everyone gets what they should. This also solves mysteries like “Uh-oh! There’s a package of buttons left over!” I can just check the chart to see where they belong instead of opening every single packed envelope and box. When everything is sorted and the chart is ready, we chase the little ones out of the way and get down to the serious work. Each of the older volunteers has his or her own station, and I must say they make an excellent team! I was very proud of their efforts this year. We only had two small mistakes, and it was the biggest Swap we’ve ever packed!

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The last step is mine – taking the mountain of parcels off to the post office. I’m glad I live in a small town at times like this, and even more glad that we have such a wonderful and friendly postmistress. It took nearly 45 minutes to get everything finished up and paid, and I came home ready for a nap. Even with the help of my crew, the project took me 6 hours longer than I’d set aside, and I was tired! I went to tell the kids I was going to lay down for a while, and was very glad I did. I’d made another error in judgment, it seems…

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In response to my calm and evenly tempered query into what was going on, Mikkey explained, “We is getting us a be-cation! Gonna see Tante Nancy!” Memo two to self: Stop saying, “I need to get myself packed for the trip…” Sigh…

Published in: on February 11, 2009 at 12:11 am  Comments (3)  
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It Doesn’t Seem Quite Fair

I’m still here, believe it or not. The irony of things is that the more I have to post, the less time I have to do so. If I’m quiet here, you can pretty much figure I’m up to my neck, and that’s definitely the case right now. Knitting has been busy, but the Mistake Fairy has been making life pretty miserable, allowing me far less progress than the hours knitting would lead one to expect. I have just received pattern and yarn for a test knit, so some projects will be going on hold, or at least moved down a rung, until I complete that project, which I have to say is very exciting to me. I’ve also been scheduled as the speaker for the Dayton Knitting Guild meetings in March – which both excites and terrifies me! Lots more knitting excitement, too, but I will leave that to another post.

Sewing room is progressing slowly, but steadily. I’m putting things in their homes or the sale pile, with a fairly comprehensive sorting as I go. It feels time consuming to me to be doing the slow part of the project mixed in with the faster things, but I think it’s smart for me and the way my brain works. They say that 80% of  a job takes 20% of the time and the other 20% takes 80% of the time on a project. I’m not good at getting back to an interrupted project, so what happens most often for me is that the 80% gets done, then something comes up to sidetrack me, and I never get back to that 20%. Of course, do that often enough and the balance tips – i.e. there is a house full of 20%ers. I’ve been very diligent since the first of the year to work in there at least 15 minutes per day, often more, and it is paying off nicely. There are places I just don’t have enough room to store all that I own, so I’ve gone through needlework books and patterns yet again, a second cull, and will be trying to decide where and how to list what I have available to sell – when I have time, that is. This has been tough for me, as I really think I have good taste. I didn’t plan on getting rid of what I sorted out the last time, let alone going through yet again. However, the book shelves are wood, not rubber, and there’s a limit as to what fits!

I’m looking forward to a visit from my daughter in Honduras and my own trip to visit a friend in Pennsylvania, both planned to happen in the next 6 weeks. With the continued clean up, an online class, an awful lot more email that normal, the Bleuette Stash Swap, which I host each year, and my knitting, it’s really been busy here!

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Thought you might enjoy a few pix of our ice and snow storm from last week. I was surprised to get good photos. My camera is sick, and it only focuses when it’s in the mood. Happily enough, it apparently decided these were worthy of the effort.The one above is by far  my favorite, but I’m fairly pleased with all three shots.

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Published in: on February 3, 2009 at 11:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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