Summer Knitting

Long time, no post! Spring semester at school was CRAZY and I feel like I’ve finally come up for air! The first half of the year I was teaching only virtual learners. Things were going pretty well. Not that there weren’t some hiccups, but for the most part I felt like I had a handle on things. Then, in December I was informed that admin would be moving several face-to-face students from my colleagues’ classrooms into mine to help alleviate some of the behavior issues in their classrooms. As you can imagine, that upended my peaceful little classroom. I tried to roll with it. My co-workers essentially refused to teach virtually, and they were allowed to teach only face-to-face students, while I had to teach both virtually and F2F. Saying that it was stressful is a huge understatement. The silver lining in all of this is that my school district decided to open a K-8 virtual academy for next school year. This will be a choice for parents who, for whatever reason, want their child to continue virtually next year. As soon as it was announced, I applied and was offered a job teaching second grade math and science. I am thrilled! I learned a lot about teaching virtually this year, and I am excited about the prospect of pioneering this new frontier in education.

So, with everything going on this spring, I didn’t get in much knitting, I did manage to finish Like a Cloud, although I finished it late enough in the spring that I didn’t get a chance to wear it before the weather got too warm for a 100% wool sweater.

But, now that summer is here I have jumped right in to the deep end with my first project. I have started my Fox Paws wrap. It is undoubtedly the most challenging project I’ve ever attempted. The increases and decreases used to create the “paws” require my FULL attention and can be brutal on the hands.

The pattern is very unforgiving. It is important to catch mistakes early (or better yet— avoid them) because trying to rip back, or even tink back can be next to impossible. I am adding a life-line after every pattern repeat just to have the peace of mind. I can’t say that I am enjoying knitting this. For me, it is not fun to work extreme increases and decreases, staring at my knitting with such intensity my neck begins to cramp. However, I am very excited about the finished object. I think it will look quite stunning, and the pain I’ve endured knitting it will make the joy I feel when I finish all that much sweeter. Interestingly, possibly because the knitting itself is so unenjoyable, I’m pushing myself to finish this quickly. I am trying to complete at least one pattern repeat a day with the goal of finishing in about 15 days. This is definitely a different experience for me. Usually, I gravitate toward more relaxing knitting.

As of this afternoon, I’m about a third of the way finished. It sure does look purty!

So — would you ever, or have you ever, knit a project that you hated knitting in order to have the finished object?

Slow, but steady…

I’m making progress on Like a Cloud. I’m currently working on the main body ribbing — I probably have about 1.5 or 2 inches completed so far. Since I’ve been back to work, progress has been slow. Some days — many days — I don’t knit at all, and other days I might only get in a few rows. When I do have the chance to knit, I’m enjoying it though. The pattern is simple — perfect, relaxing, mindless knitting, and I think it will be an extremely wearable knit when I’m finished. This is the first time I’ve knit with fingering weight Cascade 220 — but it is every bit as wonderful as I expected it to be. This will likely become my new “go-to” fingering weight yarn.

Like a Cloud in Cascade 220 Fingering

This school year has been exhausting, and we’re only half-way through. I think most of us (teachers that is) are counting down the days to summer. Already. We’re all stretched pretty thin. The task — teaching in-person and virtual learners simultaneously, closing (pretty significant) academic gaps, dealing with unrealistic expectations and so much uncertainly — all with not nearly enough support, is wearing us down. Here in Texas, where schools have remained open for the most part, we are also dealing with staff shortages due to illness and quarantine and not nearly enough subs. I’m trying to enjoy my break — but there is an uncomfortable feeling — is it dread? — hanging over everything.

On a more positive note, I do have some new yarn and new projects on the horizon. I got a skein of Baby Alpaca Grande, which I am planning to use to knit Fenced In. This will be a replacement for my previous Fenced In that had an unfortunate run-in with the dryer! I also got 5 more skeins of Cascade 220 in fingering weight that I plan to use to make a Fox Paws scarf. From what I’ve read on Ravelry, this will be a fairly challenging pattern, so I probably won’t start this one until the summer. I’m super excited though!

Here’s hoping the new year brings health and happiness to us all!

The Dog Days of Summer

Handsome Ace

I’m just coming off of a little unintentional knitting hiatus. To begin with, my Lomond went head-to-head with the cat, and unsurprisingly, ended up on the losing end of the battle. Fortunately, I wasn’t very far along in the pattern, but what I had knitted was a total loss. I salvaged what I could of the yarn and put it away. My mojo was gone.

I did finish my boot toppers, and started on some yoga socks from stash yarn but wasn’t feeling terribly inspired. Then, between kid stuff (a broken hand, dentist appointments, wisdom teeth removal), work stuff (meetings and training sessions), and a short trip to Broken Bow, OK for vacation, I seemed to have very little free time.

Boot Toppers in Cascade 220 Worsted Weight

After we returned from our trip I decided I’d better make the most of my last couple weeks of summer vacation. I learned that Cascade now makes their lovely 220 wool yarn in a fingering weight. Cascade 220 is one of my very favorite yarns. It is durable, has lovely stitch definition, and is surprisingly soft. However, worsted weight wool (even sport weight, really) is too heavy most of the time for sweaters in Texas. Fingering weight wool on the other hand — that has the potential to be something I’d actually wear. I purchased 6 skeins in charcoal gray. I looked for a pattern and settled upon Like a Cloud, which is a lovely, open-front cardigan. It is totally my type of pattern — simple, but clever construction, with a stitch pattern that is easy to memorize, but that keeps the knitting interesting. I don’t know if I’ll be able to finish before I start back to school in two weeks, but this may be simple enough that I’m able and willing to keep working on it once I start back to work full-time.

There is so much uncertainty surrounding the return to school in the fall. Teachers in my district return to work August 4, but they’ve pushed the start date back for students to August 26th. This is meant to give teachers some extra time to prepare for what teaching will look like this year. As of right now, the school where I teach is planning to offer both in-person and virtual learning for students. If students choose virtual learning, they have to commit to a 9 week term. We don’t know yet how many students will be choosing virtual, or how many teachers will be needed to teach those students, but I’ve applied for a virtual teaching position within my district. To be honest, I think everyone will be teaching virtually at some point, maybe multiple times over the course of the year, and I’d rather just embrace that from the start and work to make virtual learning as engaging and effective as possible. Plus, I have some misgivings about the safety of in-person learning. I know the district will do what it can to keep teachers and students safe, but the reality is that unless a large number of families choose virtual learning, class sizes will remain about the same, and I just don’t see how packing 20 kids into a classroom is a good idea.

Of course, a lot could change between now and August 26th!

Off the needles…

My Flow top is finished. I think it turned out pretty well. I am glad I added to the length or it would definitely have been too short for my tastes. I made the straps two stitches wider than the pattern called for as well, and I think that was a good choice.

I’ve started working on some boot toppers knit in Cascade 220. I’m following the Simple Cable Knit Boot Cuffs pattern. I’ve finished one cuff so far. I’m a little worried they are going to be too loose even when worn over jeans, but we’ll see.

I haven’t decided yet what to knit with my skein of Vivax. The colorway is a mix of cream and a gray/green color. I was thinking about knitting the Flora Cardi, but I’ve had second thoughts. I’m worried a lace-weight cardigan won’t be very practical. So, I’m off to Ravelry to hunt for another pattern.

Speaking of Ravelry, how is everyone feeling about the recent color/style changes? It seems like a lot of people are pretty upset about it. Personally, I found it a little jarring at first (and missed the old logo!), but now I’m getting used to it, and I think I actually find the pattern and yarn search pages easier to navigate. I guess some people find the new design harder to use, and some people have said that it even gives them headaches or makes them feel ill. Ravelry is now allowing people to switch to the old look, and toggle back and forth at will, so I should think that would solve the problem for people who feel they can’t use site with the new design. I’m planning to stick with the new look.

“Things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered.” – Adrienne Maree Brown

What happened to George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor is nothing new. As horrific as that is to contemplate, I think that everyone either already knows that, or is for some reason, living in denial.

For my part, I am trying to listen more, learn more and do better. Confronting systemic racism head on is the only hope we have of defeating it.

If you haven’t already seen this video of Kimberly Jones, I’d encourage you to watch it in its entirety. Her words are incredibly powerful. (Profanity alert: she does say a few “bad” words).

As for knitting, I am making progress on Flow. I’ve finished the back and am working on the front. The only modifications I’ve made to the pattern are to leave the shoulder strap stitches live so that I can join them with a 3-needle bind off, and I’m adding about 2 inches to the length.

Flow, knit in Vivara

I’m enjoying knitting with the Vivara. I love the color, and it is soft with a wonderful drape.

Interestingly, my “startitis” seems to be under control lately, and I’ve been completing one project before starting a new one. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying searching through patterns on Ravelry as I plan my next project.

The current fodder for my daydreams is a single skein of Vivax. It’s 1,050 yards of lace weight bamboo.

I’m leaning towards the Flora Cardi which is a lace-edged, open front cardigan. My only reservation is that I’m not sure how this colorway looks knitted up. If I end up deciding it won’t work for a sweater, I’ll probably knit a rectangular shawl.

Besides knitting, I’ve been reading, listening to podcasts, and working on a few small projects around the house. I’m running almost every day and doing yoga at least 3 or 4 times per week. One exciting thing that happened is that I saw my first Painted Bunting! I was out for a run early one morning and saw it sitting on a fence at the edge of a pasture. I tried to take a photograph, but it flew away before I could get my phone out. They migrate to northern Mexico during the winter months, but are here in Texas during the spring and summer. Apparently, they spend most of their time hidden in brush and foliage, but during breeding season males will sometimes perch out in the open. I’ve been keeping an eye out, but so far have had no luck spotting another one.

Going with the Flow


After some consideration, I decided to stick with my original plan and knit Flow. It’s a Berroco pattern by Norah Gaughan. It is a swingy, A-line, summer top that will be perfect for this yarn. The pattern is simple — all stockinette. I seem to be drawn to simple patterns right now. Amid all the chaos in the world, I am craving calming, mindless, Zen knitting.

The top is knit in two identical pieces which are seamed together. I thought about changing the pattern to knit the top the round, but decided against it for two reasons. One, I think seams will add needed stability given the relatively loose gauge. And two, I appreciate seams as a great place to hide woven in ends.

What else have I been up to? Well, I’m happy to report that I’ve been keeping up with my yoga practice. I’m trying to practice yoga every other day, at least. So, in the morning I either go for a run or workout on the stair-stepper and then on alternating days, I do a class from DoYogaWithMe. Man do I lack upper body strength, (chaturanga dandasana is a killer!) but I am improving. The real challenge will be seeing if I can keep it up once school starts again. I’ve done this the past two summers, but once I’m back to work the yoga practice falls by the wayside. There is never enough time in the day, and am so tired after work! The same thing tends to happen with my knitting — all my hobbies really. It’s hard to maintain work-life balance. I need to be intentional about making that more of a priority.

S is making (homemade!) chicken noodle soup for dinner. Yummy comfort food is much appreciated. He likes to cook, which is great, because I don’t. If it was up to me, we’d probably eat way to much bagged salad, tuna fish and PB&J. When it comes to food prep…I am L A Z Y. Fortunately, S is here to save us all from my culinary atrocities.

After dinner, S and I will probably take the dogs on a long walk and then sit out on the patio with a glass of wine. Sounds like a perfect Friday night to me!

Mitts and Musings

I finished my fourth mitt last night. I love how these turned out. I love the extra long cuff. I love that the stripe patterns don’t match perfectly. I love the riot of color. Knitting these mitts was the perfect antidote to dreary quarantine life.

I haven’t decided yet whether I will keep these for myself or gift them. I don’t have a lot of knit-appreciative people in my life, but I can picture one of my nieces wearing these.

I have mixed feelings about gifting hand-knits (or really, anything handmade). On one hand, I love giving and receiving handmade items because they are unique and special. On the other hand, not everyone shares that feeling, and I hate to saddle someone with the burden of “what am I going to do with this!?” It’s not like they can return it to the store or exchange it for something else. It’s awkward. I used to gift more freely, but I know some of my hand-knits have ended up on the donation pile. Now, I am a bit more judicious about gifting something I’ve made.

This is the yarn for my next project. It’s a rayon, linen blend in a lovely grayish blue color, and I think I have around 6 balls — just enough for a cute summer top for me. I bought it last year during the yarn crawl and originally planned to make a Berroco pattern called “Flow,” but I am going to look around on Ravelry a bit before I commit.

I enjoy pattern shopping. It’s always fun to explore the possibilities. There are so many gorgeous patterns, it never ceases to amaze me. I knit Hitofude earlier this year, and seriously, how does one even come up with a design like that?!!

One of the things I love about Ravelry is that it provides a platform for even fledgeling designers to share their talent with the world. And I am very appreciative for that talent. I’m quite adept at modifying patterns, but designing from scratch — not so much. I’ve tried, but it pretty much always ends in disaster. Maybe someday I’ll have the opportunity to take a class on design. I think that would be fun. Until then, I’ll humbly head over to Ravelry and bask in the creativity of others.

Two down, two to go

Marvelous Multicolored Mitts

I’ve finished two of my mitts and am working on a third. This one will have a stripe pattern that closely resembles the mitt on the left. I’ll try to replicate the purple/pink pattern for the last mitt. That way, I can wear them matchy-matchy or crazy-colors. Or, maybe I’ll keep one pair and gift the other.

My knitting has slowed down quite a bit lately. I’ve been busy with end-of-year stuff at school. Things are winding down though and next week is our last week before summer break.

The most exciting thing around here is probably the fact that A graduates from high school on Monday. It’s almost impossible to believe. The years have truly flown by. He’s sort of ambivalent about the whole thing, and it is a strange time to be graduating from high school for sure. I think he’s angry and disappointed that it isn’t going to be the experience he planned on. Everyone is doing what they can to make graduation special for the seniors though. All high schools in Denton County will be holding their graduation ceremonies at the Texas Motor Speedway. The students will have the chance to walk across the stage and get their diplomas. It will be projected on the huge screen and live-streamed on the Internet. They really are making the best of a bad situation, and honestly, I think the class of 2020 will have a memorable and special graduation.

Colorful Spring

I had a great run this morning. The temperature was perfect, around 65 degrees, and I found this wonderful gravel road off of my normal running route. It was so quiet and serene, and the road was dotted with a lovely variety of wildflowers. I think Ace (my four-legged running partner) was confused by my repeated stopping to take photos, but I couldn’t help it. I was in awe of all the beauty. I didn’t see another soul, or car then entire time and it was such a great start to the day!

I’m making progress on my mitts. I changed my mind and decided to go with a published pattern. I’m knitting Customizable Fingerless Gloves. I’ve finished the first glove and am about half-way through the second one. According to my scale, it only took 17g of yarn for one glove, so that means I should have enough to knit 4 mitts from the one skein. I decided not to worry about trying to match the stripes from one glove to the next. I love watching the stripe patterns emerge. Although the yarn isn’t quite as soft as I’d hoped (It’s soft, but not super, squishy soft), I think these will be so much fun to wear.

I ordered a new board game last night. I need a new game like I need a hole in the head. I have over 160 board games. Although that does include expansions, I do realize that is a lot. It is also the one area of my life that is in direct opposition to my minimalist tendencies, and it bugs me sometimes. Obviously, not enough to prevent me from purchasing a new game however. So, I’ve been wanting a new game and have spent the past few days on Board Game Geek reading and watching reviews trying to narrow my choices. I was looking seriously at Coloma because I am intrigued by the simultaneous action selection (Rahdo compared it to Race for the Galaxy which I love) and I really like the idea of playing cards that give permanent bonuses to those actions. Plus, the theme seems cool (California gold rush). I may still get it at some point, but I ultimately decided upon Awkward Guests. It’s a deduction game, along the lines of Clue, but what makes it special is that each “case” is created by building a unique deck of cards which are then shuffled. Players are dealt a starting hand of cards from this deck and then gain new cards by trading with other players and drawing new cards from the deck. The cards contain clues that will help players piece together the puzzle. The first player to figure out the murder, the motive and the method of death is the winner. The game comes with 30 cases, but there is also an app which provides a ton more. There are over 240 cards in the box, so there are literally thousands of possible combinations.

I had to order the game from Board Game Bliss in Canada since the game hasn’t been released in the US yet, but was able to get it shipped for around $43. I’m excited! I think we’ll have a lot of fun with this one.

A little retail therapy

Urth Yarns Uneek 3024

These endless days of same, same, same are starting to wear on me a bit. I am grateful that I am able to get outside most days for a run and am staying connected with friends, students and colleagues through apps like Zoom and Marco Polo. I have my knitting, and board games, and Netflix to help keep me sane too. But, this Groundhog Day, wash, rinse, repeat reality is definitely taking its toll. I saw a Facebook post from a friend the other day in which he shared that he’s been ordering little things (a silicone spoon, mixing bowls) on Amazon each day just for the fun and novelty of having packages arrive at his doorstep. I can totally relate, and I’ve turned to some retail therapy of my own.

This morning I placed an order with Jimmy Beans Wool. They are offering free shipping on all orders through the end of April, which is a great deal. I got a skein of Cascade 220 in a smoky gray to make a pair of boot toppers and then I ordered a skein of Urth Yarns Uneek in color 3024. I wanted something decadent, and soft and COLORFUL to help banish the monotony. I am planning to make a pair of fingerless gloves (probably Crown Wool Mitts).

Fingerless gloves are one of my go-to knits. I love knitting fingerless gloves for the same reasons I think most people like knitting socks. They are small and portable. They don’t require much yarn, so you can splurge on something special. They are quick to knit — instant gratification! And, they are practical. I have several pairs, and I enjoy wearing them all winter long. I also love fingerless gloves because they give me an opportunity to work with brighter, more vibrant colors than I would choose for a large garment such as a sweater.

I’m continuing to make progress on Derecho. I am almost finished with the waist shaping. Then, it’s on to the bottom short-rows and finally, the sleeve edging. I’m still loving everything about this project.

Work has been stressful lately. Our last team meeting ended with one of my co-workers (I’ll call her S) leaving the meeting in a huff. Tensions are high. It’s a lot of work to create digital content, and most of us are struggling to learn new platforms as well. We’ve been trying to divide up the work of creating lessons for our students, but things have been complicated by the fact that some of us want to use SeeSaw and some want to use Google Classroom. Our district has approved both, so the choice belongs to the individual teacher. Most of us (4 of 5) shared an understanding that the best way to handle this would be to create and share content (video lessons, anchor charts, etc.) and then leave it up to the individual teacher to port that content into the platform of his/her choice. Unfortunately, S seemed to be completely taken by surprise by this. We had discussed it at our previous team meeting and had been talking about it all week via group text, so I’m not sure why she was so blindsided. I guess she was expecting everything to be ready to go. She kept saying, “This doesn’t help me at all!” I’m wondering if she’s got stuff going on at home. I’ve tried reaching out to her since the meeting, but all she’ll say is that everything is “fine.” The governor just announced that schools will remain closed through the remainder of the school year, so this way of teaching has to become the new normal. I hope next week will be better!