I’m a big fan of the Knitmore Girls. One of the things I like the most is the host, Jasmin, picks a “theme” for her knitting each year. I decided that this year, I was going to follow suit!

So, 2011 for me is going to be the year of being mindful. By that, I mean I will use material I love, patterns I love…and to purchase yarn carefully (using stash when I can). So far, I’ve done a great job of keeping to my resolution. I’ve been surprised at how much I’m enjoying knitting when I’m really paying attention to the pattern and material.

Right now, I’m working on a sweater out of Elsebeth Lavold silky wool; I also have some socks on the needles as my to-go project. I also want to finish some of the projects I have unfinished from last year. I’m pleased with how this year has started and hope to keep going with both knitting and blogging!

Life has changed a lot this summer. We bought a house, I found a new (awesome) job, adopted a new kitten…I haven’t been able to catch my breath! I also went through a strange phase where I didn’t really feel like knitting. I stopped reading blogs, listening to podcasts…heck, I stopped going to Ravelry! Once everything else in my life calmed down, the desire and the drive slooooooowly came back to me.

So now I have been crafting like a maniac! That’s right, “crafting.” Somehow, once the knitting came back, I got this huge desire to do ALL KINDS of other crafts, too. Like sewing, and weaving. It’s been a creative overload! I’m so happy to be back into the swing of things. Though I wonder – had I not gone through a time of knitting-crisis, would I be as happy and open as I am about crafting now?

So the whole moving-house thing is much less fun than previously indicated. Just packing my apartment has taken over a week (and, um, trying to hide the extent of my stash has been part of it…), and getting the new house prepared for us to move into has been a challenge.

PSA brought to you today by the number 2 and the letter F…there is a lot of work one can do on a house if you’re reasonably intelligent and coordinated. HOWEVER, there is a lot of stuff that should not be attempted by anyone but a skilled professional. If you’re at all questioning your abilities (or the task involves electricity, gas, or other potentially deadly substance; or involves knocking out walls) PLEASE speak with a pro about whether or not it’s a good idea to DIY.

In knitting news…I’ve finally gotten Mom and Sister #2 to start knitting! Mom is relearning on a first sweater, sister is happily making knit-stitch neckwarmers. …soon we will be discussing the pros/cons of different increases…and swooning over quiviut and vicuna…and Ravelry…at least now they’ve stopped discussing how “weird” I am, and instead want me to teach them new techniques!

My husband and I are moving into a new house (hooray, more space for knitting!). Since we’re passing papers at the end of the month, our free time has been spent packing, organizing, and attending to the thousands of tasks that are necessary when shipping a houseload of stuff from one place to another.

I’ve been working on packing up our office/craft room/library (yes, all one very cramped room), and there have been some surprises. For instance, I was completely unaware of how many US7 needles I have. How many pairs did I think I needed? Why only 7s? I don’t have extras of many other sizes…it’s very odd.

I also found a single sock, with everything but the toe knit. This also confused me. Why did I put it down? Why is just the toe missing? Even weirder, the second sock was completed! I almost have a full pair! There were no huge mistakes (too small/too big, too long, dropped stitches) that I could see…so why was it in time out? Was it even in time out, or did I just *blushes a little here* lose the sock entirely? Properly chagrined, that night after cleaning up the room, I finished knitting up the toe of the sock, cut the ends to graft it…

…and realized that in the process, I’d lost all of my darning needles.

I took a little time off of blogging – had a rough time recently as work, and then had a pretty serious car accident (thankfully nothing but bumps and bruises as a result, but dealing with the aftermath has been pretty hellacious). Since my last update, I’ve been up to quite a few things!

I participated in Ravelympics, and went 1-for-2 in my projects. I finished and dyed a Bitterroot Shawlette, and it really came out amazing. The color was SO hard to photograph, though! My other project, a Katrina Ballerina cardigan, had to be partially frogged and is still in process. I decided to change up the sleeves, and now I need to block them to see how I feel about it.

My newest thing is finishing up some UFOs. It makes me twitchy to have too many half-done things, so even though I have some new, very tempting, things I could work on…I’m going to buckle down and work on UFOs.

So the next, long-awaited step was to organize (which took me some time, as I started traveling for work, and was never home!). It was suggested that I go through everything, donate/give away everything that didn’t go under the “step 1″ guidelines, and start from fresh. In an ideal world, I would have.

However. I don’t have the cash to replenish all of the stuff I would be letting go of…for example, I have a pair of black pants – not perfect, but they exist. I *should* have gotten rid of them, but I can’t afford to replace them right now. Instead, I got rid of anything that was ripped/stained/otherwise not-useable, and donated anything that didn’t fit or I had never worn. That got me started. As I can afford to, I will replace what I have.

I did, however, get ruthless with my Ravelry queue. There were so many patterns that I liked, but wouldn’t suit me…or that needed a LOT of moderations. And to be completely honest with myself, there are so many patterns out there that it would have to be an exceptional pattern for me to make a significant amount of moderations (I will shorten/lengthen, add simple shaping, that sort of thing. After that, no.) So I cut a lot of patterns down – to the ones I have a chance of making, or that are truly inspiring. It was very freeing!

So the first objective I have is to determine what looks good on me – what plays up strengths and minimizes weaknesses. To do that, I have to look at myself critically and find strengths and weaknesses! Let’s get one thing clear though – by critically, I don’t mean ‘Pick apart every flaw that you have and make yourself cry.’ I mean, analyze yourself as if you are an inanimate object – you wouldn’t tear apart a streetlight for being too tall or a fire hydrant for being too red…just note its characteristics and move on.

I will start with the…less positive aspects of my figure:
I am not what you’d consider slender. I wear (on average) a US size 12.
I have wide hips.
I have short legs and a long torso.
All in all, it’s not horrible. But let’s see what I have to play up…
I have a nice shape – despite large hips, have a bustline that balances it out, and a narrow-ish waist
My butt is pretty cute (if I do say so myself)
I have very nice calves/lower legs that look good in heels

So what does that mean for me? When I look for clothes, I need to play up strengths…things that accentuate my curves, work well with my coloring, and fit well. I also need things that will make the weaknesses less so. One of the hardest things to come to terms with was to pick things that FIT, and fit well (not too big or small), despite what the written size is. With this information, I can jump into step 2.

Apparently, my knitting resolutions are spilling over into the rest of my life. The quality-finishing thing has sort of organically morphed into clothing and fashion in general. For the last few months, I’ve been trying to come to terms with my age…it sounds stupid, but I think I’m having a quarter-life crisis! I still dress and look like I am a young teenager (no joke, people regularly ask if I am 5-10 years younger than I am). It’s really not a good look, especially since it has the unflattering effect of having people treat me as if I am much younger. My wardrobe needs a definite tune-up…so I started watching “What Not to Wear” and LOVING all of the clothes. Of course, who WOULDN’T look good in $200 jeans and a $500 leather blazer…However, I live in the real world, with things like budgets and bills and the champagne taste/beer budget issue. I don’t have unlimited funds or time to shop for an entire new wardrobe.

Also, even if I did have all the time and money I needed, I wouldn’t know where to begin! What IS my personal style, and how do I mesh that with the body I’m currently in? I wish I looked like a supermodel, but I don’t. So a lot of “fashionable” stuff looks awful on me. I think this is a problem with a lot of people: we see what the fashion magazines say is a good look, and either slavishly follow it, or completely dismiss it and go back to jeans-and-hoodies. Neither is really right…so how do you figure out what you really are?

I did a lot of research, studying, and for the next week I’ll be posting some fashion stuff that I’ve been working on. I will be super-critical of myself and my choices, and I’m going to lay it all out there for you, along with the knitting. And hey, knowing myself via fashion can only help my knitting – if I know what looks good, I will be able to make or modify patterns to suit myself.

Now that I’m on a quality-finishing kick, I was thinking a lot about the most basic part of finishing…the bind-off. Now, I’ve only been knitting for about a year, so for the first few months all I knew was the standard bind-off (k2,* slip 1st stitch over 2nd and off the needle, k1*). That served me well…it’s a basic, effective bind-off for most things. There are times, though, when you want or need a different effect. When I was binding-off my Clothilde, I needed something different that would allow the lace to bloom. It had to be stretchy, yet still look neat. Since the bind-off was around the lace edging of the shawl, it would be seen a lot, so it had to match the shawl.

I researched and was amazed at how many different bind-offs there are! Part of the reason I didn’t like toe-up socks was that I thought the bind-off looked messy. I wish I had known what I do now- there are many, many ways to make a lovely yet stretchy edging on socks and other objects that need it. There is pretty much a different bind-off for every project!

In the end, I ended up doing a Russian bind-off for my lace, and I am very happy with the way it came out. Part of the reason that the lace bloomed so well was because of the bind-off’s stretch. I liked the aesthetic of the edge, and the fact that it was pretty easy was also a plus :). Not that I will completely abandon the original bind-off…I just have more options, and can select the one that will give me the right look for whatever I’m working on. Maybe some toe-up socks?

This year I’ve decided I want to work on my finishing techniques (I didn’t make it a resolution this year, because it’s something that I want to work on leisurely). It seems as though of all the knitted FOs that I’ve seen, the ones that REALLY make me go “Wow! What an incredible piece!” are the ones that have been well finished. If you take a peek at expensive store-bought sweaters, they all have that one thing in common – it’s really all in the details! And really, if I’m going to take the time, money, and effort to make a hand-knitted sweater to my specifications…why not spend a little on something that will not only make it look fabulous, but that will allow it to wear better, as well?

I’ve decided to make a “test sweater” in order to try my hand at some of these techniques. For this first sweater, I’m going to concentrate on two specific areas – making a proper buttonband (reinforced with grosgrain ribbon, and having public and private buttons), and reinforcing the neck with silk ribbon or twill tape. Hopefully, when those have been mastered, I’ll make another sweater that does those plus one or two other techniques (seaming? lining? haven’t decided yet) until I’ve mastered it!

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