Sunday, October 14, 2018

Scattershot Approach: Wherein I Knit All the Things

I spent yesterday watching the first four Harry Potter movies and knitting and crocheting all the things.  I think I laid hands on everything I've got on the needles or hooks yesterday. 

The upside of this approach is that I didn't get bored, and I could swap out what I was working based on whether or not I needed my eyes for any given scene. In fact, I may or may not have just listened to most of Chamber of Secrets... I can't crochet without looking, the way I can with knitting stockinette.

The downside, of course, is that I didn't make nearly as much progress on any one thing as I would have if I'd focused. 

On the other hand, while some of the things I've been working on do have deadlines, they are all arbitrary, game-based deadlines.   The shawl pictured above, for example, is my Order Mission in the House Cup.  It needs to be done by November 18th, or I don't get my internet points. 

I'm also working on a Boxy sweater for my OWL.  Deadline on this one is the end of November.  (I'm farther along than this picture shows.  Imagine it just like this, only more so.)   So far, even with my scattershot approach, I'm in no particular danger of missing either deadline.

I seriously considered watching more Harry Potter today, but I ended up deciding that my body wasn't ready for the emotional roller coaster of movies 5, 6, 7, and 7.5.   Maybe next weekend.

Who knows, maybe by next weekend I will have actually finished something.  Though that might require me to hold onto it for more than ten minutes at any given time.

So maybe don't hold hold your breath.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

More on Planning: What Do You Plan?

Last week my besties and I tackled the question "why do you plan" (in the "using planners" sense).  This week the question is "what do you plan?"

What are the actual things you want planners/planning and journals for and to keep up with?

It seems like such an obvious thing - what do you plan?  Uh, my life?  But of course that's way too broad.  "My life" doesn't tell me if I just need a weekly calendar and I'm good, or if a bullet journal system would make more sense, or if I want or need to track habits, or if I'm keeping up with my knitting differently than I am my work projects, or...

Anyway, "my life," while technically accurate, is a completely useless answer to the question of what I want to plan.

So let's dig into more detail.  In no particular order, I either do plan, or want to plan:

Work projects.  I work in Organizational Development for a 4.5K employee company.  I'm the project owner for things like succession planning and annual performance reviews.  I'm working with a team of 3-5 people, and we're all across the country.   This means that we need a way to easily keep aligned with our progress, and to not lose sight of the details.   We're using Trello for project tracking, and it's working very nicely.

Actual Project Plan

Weekly and Daily Focus.   In my ideal world, I'd spend about 30 minutes every Monday morning, and then at least 15 minutes every other day getting my shit together for the coming week or the day ahead.   What are my major priorities this week?  What do I need to focus on today?  When am I meant to be on that conference call?  When does the current Quidditch Match in the House Cup end?  I have a digital calendar (well, two, actually.  I have a Google calendar that I rarely look at or bother with, and then my Outlook calendar that runs my work-life).  Anyway, every morning I'll look over my calendar and write my appointments into my planner.  It's completely redundant, and probably unnecessary, but that whole "writing it down makes it real" thing?  I think it genuinely improves the odds of me showing up where I'm supposed to be.  Once my appointments are recorded, I'll take a stab at generating my to-do list.  (At least that's the ideal.  The reality is, I'll start and then get interrupted five times, and then I'll finish filling the list in with at 2:30 in the afternoon with what I've done.  It's an imperfect system.)

Rough Outline of a Weekly Plan

My Knitting.   Come on, you knew that was coming.  I do a little of my knitting planning in Ravelry itself (Ravelry is amazing and has changed my knitting life.)  I do use the "Queue" feature to map out projects that I'd like to start in the nearish future.  I generally don't add something to the queue unless I already have the yarn and I really mean it about casting it on.   And then I end up moving things back out of the queue when mood or whimsy moves me.

But let's break this down a little farther, because there are lots of different aspects of my crafting life that I plan around.

  • What do I want to knit (or crochet, or weave, or sew) next, soon, coming up, etc.?
  • The Harry Potter Knit and Crochet House Cup -- how will I fit what I want to knit into the Cup's prompts?  How am I going to actually bust out 1000 or more points in a Term?  (I feel good about it this Term, people.  I'm focused.)   
  • Yarn.  Yarn, you guys.  What do I want to make with the yarn I already have?  What do I want to make that I don't have yarn for?  (Shockingly, with as big as my stash is, occasionally I don't have the right thing in stock.)   I did a whole post on shopping for fiber festivals and how to plan for that back in 2015. 
  • Gifts.  I like to knit.  I have friends and family who either love to receive hand-knits or who were foolish enough to pretend to love it in order to spare my feelings, and now we're trapped in this charade for eternity.

I wasn't kidding about liking stickers.

So those are (some) of the things I plan.  You'll no doubt have noticed an utter lack of mention of things like grocery shopping or housekeeping.   That should probably tell you where my priorities lie.  Carl and I do sit down and menu plan every week, but other than that we have just have some routines that bump along.  The whole thing needs more attention but, whatever, I'm busy knitting socks.

I do not have a perfect system.  I have an imperfect hodge-podge of systems, and I'm constantly looking to reinvent or tweak what I'm doing.   Part of the reason for these blog posts is to verbally process what I'm doing now (or what I want to be doing now) with an eye towards making decisions about how to proceed in 2019. 

Now, if you were to asking me about tracking (as opposed to planning)... well that would be a whole different blog post.

Friday, October 05, 2018

I Take A Lot of Pictures of Socks Next to Salsa

Somehow I managed to spend over three days without a pair of socks on the needles.   Mind you, there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for this (if by "reasonable" you mean "I was making decisions on what to knit based on how many invisible internet points I could get" ... and I do) but even so... it felt weird.

Don't worry though, I'm back in the game with some very festive holiday socks.

Not that holiday.  The other one.

I seem to take a lot of pictures of socks next to salsa.  One might draw some (likely accurate) conclusions from this.   Anyway, this is Must Stash Yarn's "Jack is Back," in their Merino/Nylon base.  I don't think they have any in stock right now, but there are some other great colorways available.

This was one of those very rare instances where I saw the yarn, I bought the yarn, I cast on the yarn.  Sort of a vidi, emi, kniti* situation.  Usually there's a year(s) long gap between steps 2 and 3.  Not this time, baby, it's October and I need me some spoopy socks.

I've named the project "I smell children," and I love how it is knitting up.

In other news, I've added a whack of new squares to my Hogwarts Studies Blanket (this is what I was doing instead of knitting a sock earlier this week).   For the second Quidditch Match of the term, our prompt was to knit or crochet something to protect from the cold.  I did ten tiny new squares and made the bold statement that they were one engorgio charm away from being big enough to cuddle up under.   (If none of that made any sense to you, the important takeaway is that I added squares to the sock yarn blanket.)

I'm closing in on 35% complete, if I keep to my original 12x18 plan.  I might do 12x24 instead, but I don't have to decide until I get there.   I'm getting tired of explaining every February how this both does and does not count as a WIP, so I'm going to try to accelerate my pace somewhat.   It might still be on the list for February 2019, but if so, there will be a lot more of it there.

*Made up Latin for "I saw, I bought, I knit."

Saturday, September 29, 2018

FO: and all at once summer collapsed into fall

I finished up a pair of socks yesterday.  I knit these pretty much everywhere I went for about two weeks - during lunch breaks, on conference calls, on the couch after work, in the car (when I wasn't driving - don't freak out).  If I was sitting down and near these socks, odds are I was working on them.

I've been experimenting with my basic sock recipe lately.  Something (stress) has tightened my gauge back up.  This summer I frogged the better part of a sock knit on my standard US 1.5/2.5 mm needles and a 64 stitch CO.  I felt sorry for myself and my fat ankles for about ten minutes until it occurred to me to check my gauge.  I was clocking 9 sts/inch, and no dang wonder 64 stitches was too small.

Anyway, rather than go up a needle size, since I like a sock to have a firm fabric (I mean, not kevlar-firm, just regular sock firm) I decided to add a few stitches to see what would happen.   And then I thought, let's get really crazy and get a new heel up in here.  Yeah, I know when you experiment you should only change one variable at a time, but I do what I want.

Image result for i do what I want meme

So, 68 stitches cast on and a Fish Lips Kiss Heel later, and I have a perfect fitting sock.  Four perfect fitting socks, actually, since this is the second time I've tried this recipe.

I know, I know, how have I knit so many pairs of socks but I'm just now getting around to the FLK heel?  I have two reasons, neither of which, in retrospect, were really worth the delay.

1) The pattern is a million pages long and has you trace your foot onto cardboard.  That sounded like a lot of commitment.  (I solved for this by knitting top down and skipping to the good parts.  The foot model is actually probably really helpful for a toe-up sock--I'm not casting aspersions, I just never got around to it.)

2) My previous short-row heel experiences had all been disappointing.  The didn't fit and they looked like butt.   This one fits, and it looks fine, so go figure.   Now, I will grant you my previous short-row heels were knit back in, what, 2011?  I'm a better knitter now, so that's probably a factor.  But this pattern is also pretty darned cool, so props to the designer.

Anyway, I'm a convert.  It won't be the last new heel I ever try, and it probably won't be my forever-default heel, but for right now, I'm digging it.

Seriously, these things are so comfortable.  I'm still wearing them.

The name of the project, "and all at once summer collapsed into fall" is a quote from Oscar Wilde.  I'm working on making my project names more interesting.  More interesting than "Autumn colored socks, #16" would have been anyway.

Project Notes

Pattern:  Regular old socks + Fish Lips Kiss Heel
Yarn: ONline Supersocke 4-fach City Color, colorway "1486" (it was an excellent vintage)
Total Yardage: 354 yards
Needles: US 1.5/2.5 mm 32" Knitters Pride circulars, magic loop
Started: September 14, 2018
Completed: September 28, 2018
Ravelry Project Page: here

Friday, September 28, 2018

Ruminations on Planning

My dear friend recently started a blog post series on planning.   This is not an unboxing/which-system-is-best/here's-my-weekly-spread kind of series, though I wouldn't be surprised if she got to that later.

No, this first blog post of hers is an introspective piece that asks the question:
Why is it that some of us spend lots of money, time, and energy on the act of planning, on planning for planning, and on planners themselves?  
 And then she said "tag, you're it!" so here I am to take a stab at answering the same question.

Currently using a Panda Planner, though I'm apt to shift at a moment's notice.  I'm ever changing, like the moon.

I have a number of answers, and here they are in no particular order.

  • I love office supplies.  I love papers, and journals, and pens, and stickers, and washi tape, and post-its.  They fill me with glee.  The way to my heart is through stationary, pure and simple.  Well, stationary or yarn, but that's a different blog post.
  • I am incredibly privileged in that I have disposable income that I can spend on planning supplies.  But I'd use a 70 cent spiral bound notebook and a number 2 pencil if I had to.
  • When I was a kid I had a full-on sticker collection.  When I discovered that adults could have stickers too (stickers that are nominally functional even) I about plotzed.
  • I am a really visual person.  Seeing something makes it real for me.  I get some mileage out of virtual tools like Trello's kanban board (especially since I am working with a virtual team), but I vastly prefer old-school paper planning.
  • As visual as I am, I am even more kinesthetic.  The physical act of writing something down does something in my brain.  I enjoy the sensation of pencil or pen on paper (and let me tell you how much I do not enjoy it when the pen or the paper isn't right.  Makes me picky like whoa.)   Not only that, but writing things down triggers them into my memory.    When I was in school, I could recall a piece of information by remembering where in my notes I wrote it.  Bottom quarter of the left-hand it!
  • I thrive on to-do lists.  Sometimes they are more like "to-done" lists, because I am not ashamed to write something down and cross it off after I've already done it, but in principle, I work better off of lists.
  • It alleviates my stress, and helps me to think more clearly to see the plan written down.  To know what the steps are, and to have it off-loaded out of my brain and onto paper makes a huge difference in how productive I am.  Brains are processors, not writing things down frees up my RAM.
So basically, the TL;DR answer is:  I like it and it helps.  Digital planners are much less useful for me (though as noted above, digital project management tools have their time and place).  

Did I mention I really dig stickers?

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

VH1's "Where Are They Now?" 2018 February is for Finishing Edition

Last year I started a new tradition (you can tell it's a tradition, cuz now I'm doing it for the second time - that's totally how tradition works) of checking in to share where I am with the projects that were on my "February is for Finishing" list. 

So let's do that!   This past February I had seven projects on my list.  Six "real" projects, and one "doesn't count" project that I keep counting.

1.  Let's start with Schrodinger's Blanket (until you open the box it is in a constant state of either being a WIP or not being a WIP... geddit?).  It's official name is my Hogwarts Studies Blanket, and I'm really not much farther than I was in February.  We're in it for the long haul with this guy.

I think I might have added one or maybe two more squares since this was taken, but this is pretty much where we're at.

2. Frisson.  June 23, 2017 - February 10, 2018.   This was one of my February is for Finishing victories.   I love this thing - I knit it out of Miss Babs Keira, which is a heavy fingering (almost sport weight) yarn.  I wore the heck out of it last winter, but apparently didn't ever take any modeled shots.

3. Caramel.  August 2, 2017 - August 7, 2018.  This baby only saw action during "break months" in the Harry Potter Knit and Crochet House Cup.    Turns out if you only work on a sweater one month out of every four, it takes a minute to get done.  It was August in Tennessee when I finished this beauty, so most of my attempts at a modeled shot were sweaty and disappointing (rather like some of my early attempts at dating, actually).

4. ROYGBV.  August 5, 2017 - March 28, 2017.   I successfully made toe-up knee-high socks, using a the Double Gusset on Bottom Toe Up Sock by Carrie Ramirez as a start, and then just winging it on the calf increases.  I love them, and I used up all but a tiny smidge of the yarn.


5. Charms OWL: Torquata.  January 1, 2018 - March 25, 2018.  This is another shawl (wrap? stole?) that I wear all the time.  I have a cute tank top that goes with it perfectly, and it makes for the perfect summer outfit when you want a cover-up for over air-conditioned buildings.

6. Big Magic.  January 1, 2018 - February 18, 2018.   Hey! Another February Finishing victory!  These socks were a test knit of the Non-Euclidean heel for a designer friend of mine (I met her at SSK, and I think she's swell).  The heel is clever and comfortable.  A++ would knit again. In fact, I did.

7. Dappled Sunlight.  January 21, 2018 - March 7, 2018.   Another really wearable piece.  This was a lot of fun to knit, and I really like the Cloudborn Fibers Highland Fingering.  It's toothy without being unbearably scratchy.   It's a wool's wool, ya know?

So there you have it.   The scrap yarn blanket is the same as it ever was (more or less) but everything else from last February's list is done like dinner.

Which begs the question... does February is for Finishing still make sense for me?   I currently have two blankets in progress, a sweater, a shawl, and a pair of socks.  The socks and the shawl are both on track to be done within a week or two, and the sweater is this Term's OWL.   I don't really have UFOs anymore.

Am I cured?

(Immediately looks around for lightening to strike).

Thursday, February 01, 2018

February is for Finishing Project List 2018

It's February, and here at chez woolly February means Finishing.   We've been trotting out our works in progress, cataloging them, and either frogging, flinging, or finishing them during this fine alliterative month since 2006.   You'll pleased to know that nothing on this year's project list first made an appearance on that initial offering

Point of fact, much like last year, this year's list is comprised of almost entirely new projects.  The only exception (the repeat offender, if you will) is my UFO sock blanket, and I'm only listing that out of a sense of completeness.  It doesn't properly count, but it's not done, so there you go.

In any case, here's this year's list, in order from oldest to newest.  (Links go to my Ravelry project page.)

1.  Hogwarts Studies Blanket, cast on May 16, 2016.  This friend has no specific end date in mind.  I'm knitting each square to turn in to the Hogwarts Knit and Crochet House Cup (hence "Hogwarts Studies blanket").  I'm about 20% done, based on a 12x18 square lap blanket, but I reserve the right to keep going when I get there if that doesn't feel big enough.   In terms of my over all projects-on-the-go numbers, I'm thinking of each square as a mini-project.  If there are no live stitches in this sucker, it doesn't count.  (Yes, that is a rationalization. No, I don't care.  My WIP-pile, my rules.)

2. Frisson, cast on June 23, 2017.   This is an assymetrical shawl, similar to the Hitchhiker.  I started it for the Colors of Fall knitalong (a KAL that is honored more in the breach than in the observance in these parts.  I'm better at casting on for this KAL than I am at finishing it in a timely manner).  I'm most of the way done, and plan to finish it this February.

3.  Caramel, cast on August 2, 2017.   I was inspired to make this sweater by my good friend Cris.  It's a top-down raglan, designed by Isabell Kraemer, knit out of Miss Babs Yowz on US 6 needles.  I'm mostly working on it during break months.  Note to self:  If you are active in the House Cup, any sweater not knit for points is likely to be neglected.  It looks a bit like a great lump right now, as I haven't quite split for the sleeves. I think it's going to be lovely, if I'd just get on with it.

4. ROYGBV, cast on August 5, 2017.  I'm winging the pattern on these toe-up socks.  My intention is to knit a full rainbow for each sock, which means I'm moving into high-calf/knee high territory.  Happily, toe-up means "try it on as you go" so I can add stitches here and there as I need to.  Maybe I should write down what I'm doing so the second sock is something like the first... hmm..  The yarn is Wandering Wool North Country Sock in the aptly named "Rainbow" colorway.

5. Charms OWL: Torquata, cast on January 1, 2018.   I've had Torquata in my queue or a couple of years -- in fact I bought the kit for it at SSK in 2016 (it's Miss Babs Yummy 2-ply).  I'm knitting it as my Charms OWL for the House Cup, so it's due by March 31.  I don't anticipate finishing it in February, but it's going to get a chunk of my attention for sure, so that I'm on track to finish in March.

6. Big Magic, cast on January 1, 2018.   This Desert Vista Dyeworks yarn was inspired by the book cover for Elizabeth Gilbert's "Big Magic."  I'm knitting these socks with the intention of fostering and nurturing my creativity.   They are also a test knit for a friend who's invented a very cool new way to knit a heel.  I'm looking forward to finishing these.  (Also check out that Erin Lane bag -- I love a good project to project bag match, and this one is so good it's almost spooky).

7.  Dappled Sunlight, cast on January 21, 2018.  This will be my Order Mission for the House Cup (Order Missions are 6-8 weeks of anticipated work), so like Torquata, I'll be working on this in February, but won't necessarily finish it.  I'm not fussed one way or the other, so long as it's done by mid-March in time to get my points.   I'm knitting it out of Cloudborn Fibers Highland Fingering.  It's a Craftsy exclusive yarn, and I pretty much love it.  It's very smooshy, and lovely.

So there you have it!  Seven things (six if you don't count the one that doesn't count).  One I've targeted to finish for sure (Frisson), and the rest we'll just see.  I anticipate finishing Big Magic too, and who knows, maybe I'll get Dappled Sunlight done early. 

I mentioned a few posts ago that my knitting has changed enough that February is for Finishing is very different for me now than it used to be.  It's been a while since I've frogged an abandoned project, for example.   That said, I still think it's useful to take stock and see where I am once in a while, and February is just as good a time for that as any.

What are your plans for this February?  Have any big finishing in mind?