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Need to Manage Your Time?

Monday, May 11th, 2015

Is this True?

I think I might be like you…

It’s so easy to feel I need to “manage my time” so I can do everything on my plate. Do you have that idea, too?

Stopped in my Tracks

Then last week I went to the Doctor for a routine appointment… And was pronounced sick with a contagious virus and told to stay home for 5-7 days. Ack! I didn’t feel too bad, mostly tired and spaced out. (Usually sick for me means sleeping all day feeling miserable.) Yet the fog made me slow down. 

There were a few things I could do with my feet up, so I did those while feeling guilty and ineffective. Most of them involved knitting. 

Since knitting frees up thoughts and ears, I listened to audiobooks. When I was done with those I switched to podcasts. (Podcasts are like radio shows I can download to my iPod and listen when it’s convenient.)

Explore Your Enthusiasm 

As a creative professional, I enjoy Tara Swiger’s “Explore Your Enthusiasm.” I often even listen to the episodes multiple times.”

So I listened to Tara’s podcast 46 from a few months ago… About “Time Management Fallacy.” It was the perfect message.  

Excellent Effectiveness Advice

She makes great points: 

  • Don’t plan forever, just dive in & do the work. 
  • Don’t give yourself 2 hours for a 20-minute job. 
  • Stop doing things you don’t need/want to do (and are doing because others want you to).
  • Choose to enjoy time, not cram it full of more tasks. 

Excuse me, I’m off to work on the porch with my laptop. Seize the day!!!

 Working on the Porch 

Use that Good China!

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

I clipped this quote somewhere on the internet, and now I’ve done a Google search and a search of Facebook and can’t find it. May the writer forgive me for sharing these wise comments (which clearly were intended to be shared) without attribution.

” When I was studying nursing, I worked in a nursing home. There were so many residents that had sentimental and special things that were given away, in pristine condition and never used. It just seems like such a waste!

Tomorrow may never come, so don’t leave your beautiful, sparkly things sitting in boxes and in the cupboard. Use and enjoy them!”

I also found a column by Regina Brett, Columnist Regina Brett45 life lessons. It’s being circulated on Facebook as written by a 90-year old. They have her name right, but her age is 53 (I found this information on the urban-legend-busting website Snopes.com). I particularly want to share this goodie that relates to the one above:

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

–Regina Brett

For the record, I’m showing Ms. Brett’s photo here… and then showing the photo that has been accompanying the post on Facebook. Iris Apfel, Fashion DesignerI happened to recognize the incorrect photo. It’s Iris Apfel, a New York fashion icon and designer. I love her style!!! Click here for more photos and information on Iris.

My Own Challenge

I’m in a group on Facebook full of entrepreneurs working solo. One week there was a challenge to find things in our homes that we had not used, that we were essentially “saving for good.” I did well in the kitchen area, there was one jar of golden syrup that I deem so yummy I was saving it for a special occasion. I’d used my long-saved saffron and a vanilla bean, before the challenge.

Hawaiian dressBut in my closet? Oh, the beautiful clothing I wasn’t wearing. I have a 1960’s Hawaiian dress, in like-new condition. I sort of think of it as a museum piece and so I leave it for later, which never comes. I have a hand-woven/hand-embroidered dress from 1970’s Egypt which I’ve never worn and now doesn’t fit me anymore.

I do have some textiles I deem collectible which I never intended to wear (hand-embroidered with hand-dyed threads, from Uzbekistan and Turkey… and hand-knitted Turkish socks and Andean hats). I also have an amazing wool double-knit top from the 70’s (back when polyester double-knit was king… with op art patterns).

But really? Why not wear a dress until it doesn’t fit my 50-something body… when it did fit when I got it as a gift from a woman who bought it in Egypt?

And I have some amazing yarn I’ve collected as souvenirs on my travels. The problem with this is that I typically buy yarns I can’t get at my local shop. And I make a living helping shops help their customers, by pairing their yarns with my designs. So it’s hard to justify knitting with a specialty one-off yarn.

Isn’t life funny? I think I don’t hoard. I don’t hoard food or household supplies. I don’t hoard money, goodness knows. But I hoard textiles, which are my most precious things.

I am now eager for a hot day. It’s time to wear that dress.

How about you?

Color Combining for Novices

Friday, April 27th, 2012

This week, a  member of the ColorJoy discussion group on Ravelry (Ravelry requires a free membership… no spam involved) talked about her previous avoidance of multicolored knitting. Her belief was that she had “no talent.”

Despite the impossibility of that statement being true for a knitter, I think she felt that color combining was something born inside us or not. She presented the subject as innate, not learnable.

She was interested in my Crystal Sock from Knitty.com. She joined in a conversation with others who are doing a knitalong with this design. I encouraged her with a shorter version of this post, and it helped her. Maybe it could help you, as well.

It’s Never too Late to Learn

Luckily for us, color combining is something that can indeed be learned. I’ve been practicing it since I was a child… this was my focus from a very early age. However, you can join me in the fun! Start easy and work outward.

Three Parts to Any Color

Colors have three different attributes. We learn two of them as we grow up (light green/ dark blue), but the third is not discussed much. That one often is the problem when something seems not quite right with a grouping of colors/yarns.

  1. Hue: blue, green, orange…
  2. Value: dark, medium, light
  3. Saturation (also called intensity or chroma): hot, intense, soft, dusky
    (essentially, does it have any gray/black added or is it pure)

Debbie Bliss and Martha Stewart favor colors with a little softness… with gray in them, in medium to light values. Kaffe Fassett seems to use  warmer tones, rich and often toned down a bit. Lucy Neatby? Kristin Nicholas? Intense color, and lots of it. We seem to be color sisters. (Note that what we wear is not always what we design.)

My Personal Biases… with Reasons Behind Them

Me? Saturated most of the time, the brighter the better. My purples may go dark… yellow-green or silver may be light, but usually I stay to medium values. Turquoise? I love it from warm/light aqua to dark teal. Gray or no gray, dark or light… this color seems to make me look good no matter what “flavor” it is.

My personal preference is for cool colors that are totally intense, no gray or brown added… mediums, not too dark or light. That’s MY thing. I look best in this sort of color. If you look best in soft color or warm tones, you’ll have a different take.

Since nearly everything in my closet is magenta/hot pink, purple, turquoise, hot yellow-green… all my colors look great together though I never buy “outfits.” I’ve got intense blue-toned colors and they all work.

Scheme 1: Monochromatic Combinations
– Variations on One Color

I have so much of turquoise/blue-green in my closet and jewelry box that sometimes I end up wearing many versions of it all at once. I’ve found that once you get to the 3rd version of a color all together, they no longer look like they “don’t match.” They then morph into what artists call a “monochromatic” (one color) color scheme. At left, you see me in one version of turquoise monochrome.

We all know someone who wears all beige (a warm neutral, as opposed to gray which is a cool neutral). Top to toe, neutral. They look pulled together, right?

Think of it, though. Those beige sweaters are not the same color as the beige purse, beige belt, jacket, shoes. Often they are in the ballpark but not “matching.” (Don’t let me go on the “matching clothing is a marketing tool” road right now… I’m talking practical color combining today.)

This simple method of combining “colors” is a monochromatic color scheme. It’s simple, and effective.

You can do this with your own best color. Look great in loden green? Indigo blue? Charcoal? Red? Purple? Go for it.

Likely your most-chosen color makes you look and feel great. If you can free yourself from worrying about “matching” exactly, you can combine 3 or more versions of that color on the same day (and look Marvelous, Darling).

If you are doing knitting colorwork, however… be cautious. You will want to go dark/ medium/ light versions of the same color to pull off enough contrast.

The above neckwarmer shows a light icy robin’s-egg blue with a darkish teal. Both colors are in my favorite blue-green range but with enough value contrast to really show off the stripes. These colors would work for finer patterning in stranded (“fairisle”) colorwork as well.

Scheme 2: Analogous Colors
-Color Neighbors

An easy way to start combining colors if you’re new to the idea, is to group colors touching one another on the color wheel. Try a Sedona desert look with red/orange/salmon, or spring pond with purple/blue/turquoise/green (as seen on right).

Grouping things like this is called “analogous” color. Humans tend to like this sort of assortment (think batiks in indigo plus purple and green).

Here’s a lap blanket knit by my Sis-in-Love Diana (as a gift for me) from my Kristi Comfort Shawl /lap blanket pattern. The colors are analogous pink/purple/blue (what we call pink is a light purple-red/magenta on the color wheel)… all saturated, light to dark and all in between:

Next is an analogous combination of periwinkle (medium-light, muted blue-purple) and a lighter, also-muted blue-green. In this case, the contrast worked for stripes but might not work for more subtle colorwork.

Scheme 3: Contrast

I learned contrast first using polymer clay. The details in some clay work are so tiny, that colors near one another in the wheel (or sometimes in value) can blend together. This lack of contrast makes a failed project, and you can’t unravel a mistake in polymer clay. (Photo below, Polymer Gifts class projects by Brenda, Lori, Gwen and me.)

I took a few classes from Nanette Roche, author of The New Clay. This was the first book available on Polymer clay, and it still stands tall as an overall reference rather than a how-to-make-a-project book.

Nanette talked a lot about contrast in class. She was the first person I knew who talked about warm/cool as a type of contrast. Before her, I thought of it only as dark/light.

Since then, I’ve found that I can play with colors which are closer together in value (both medium) if one is warm and one is cool. For example, medium blue contrasts very well with medium red. This gave me a lot more flexibility, many more options. I continue to be grateful for this lesson.

Here are two examples of warm/cool contrast in knitting colorwork. Note that on the right hat, the “warm” is actually a yellow-green which might look cool next to a different set of colors. That hat benefits from value difference (a light versus a medium-to-dark multicolored yarn).

Below is a muted dark blue-green with a saturated light yellow-green (analogous colors with value and saturation contrast):

Here I show a Dark and Medium-light muted greenish-blue and a light cool neutral (silver-gray). Also I show a dark purple (barely muted and looking cool next to the other colors), with Medium bright saturated red, and light saturated warm yellow:

What if it Looks Wrong?

Of course, theory won’t do it all for you. I tend to go to the yarn shop or into my stash, grab a bunch of yarns I think might work together, and plunk them all down on a table. Then I add and remove yarns from the pile until I get what I think will work. See?

These are all a little grayed, and I used them all blended in the one project shown below. I feel it worked well.

Usually if I have a grouping of yarns and one looks way off, it’s an intensity/saturation problem. All saturated except for one soft/muted color? The muted one will look dirty or gray.  All subtle and muted except for one crayon-like color? Even if they are all the same value, the non-muted color will feel wrong and possibly garish.

I also look to see if my colors are warm versus cool. If I’m choosing six colors and one of them is warm but the rest are not (or vice-versa), that one may look wrong.

Generally, it’s a saturation issue about 90% of the time when something goes wrong. We tend to think blue goes with blue or pink goes with pink, but not always!

I taught this lesson in person a few years back at a library branch. One knitter who attended also is a quilter. She recently thanked me, and said she’s not having problems choosing fabrics as she did before my class. I’m thrilled.

In Summary (?)

Remember, colors look different depending on which other colors they are near. It really requires a look, not just a theory, to find what works well.

Did this information help you? I sure hope so.

I’d love a conversation about this. If you have any questions, input, further ponderings… I’d love to hear from you in the comments. You can post as a guest if you don’t want to sign up for a Disqus username/password.

I appreciate you deeply. May this information benefit you in some way. Hugs for now…

Fun with Soggy Wool

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Wool is my friend. I love knitting it, spinning with it, making handmade felt with it, wearing it, touching it, thinking about it. I talk to my knitting students about wool as though it were a person at times. It does have a personality, of sorts.

Wool loves water. It’s a miracle fiber without petroleum content – a natural miracle. If you get caught in the rain wearing a wool jacket or sweater, the fiber can absorb about 30% of its weight in water before it feels wet.

Not only that, wool is warm even when it is wet. This is why hunters have historically worn heavy wool socks. Even if the occasional puddle splashes or floods the socks,  warmth is still assured.

The Dreaded B Word

Many new knitters hear about “blocking” knitting by looking at photos of elegant and fancy lace shawls blocked out with a lot of pins, to a beautiful shape. This is in fact one excellent example of how much wool will benefit from water.

When one knits lace, it looks like a horrible crumpled mess when it comes off the needles. However, a nice soak in water with a little bit of detergent or wool wash in it, and a gentle roll in a towel prepares it for magic.

Amazing lace comes out of this damp experience… after being pinned carefully (with rust-free pins) and dried fully. Once the pins come out, the fabric is nothing like the crumple it started out as, and quite magical instead.

Just look at these first two photos. Heather knit this version of my Colorama Crescent Shawl in a single yarn… Spectre by my friend Rita of Yarn Hollow. In these photos the shawl drapes beautifully at the edge, in a way that knitting straight off the needles can’t do. It had to be blocked to become its fully-beautiful self.

Simple, Make-You-Look-Good Blocking

There is a lot of knitting, though, which is not lace. It does not need any pins at all. It just wants to even out its stitches a bit, to look more finished. Water can make that happen.

If you go to a textile museum and look at old knitting, it may appear that the knitter of old was able to make every stitch totally even. It appears that all the stitches would be flat and perfect.

In reality, that item has likely been washed dozens of times. Each wash allows the stitches to even themselves out more. Voila! Perfectly even stitches.

Going with What Is

Here is an example. I knit two versions of my Sprite Cowl for KnitCircus and sent them off for a photo shoot followed by a traveling trunk show. However, I wanted one for myself.

I found two similar purple yarns in my stash, one 50gm ball each, and knit for myself. I ran out of those yarns at the very end of the main knitting. I had none of the yarn left for the i-cord (knitted tube) edging.

Fortunately, neither of the yarns was a solid color. When you have flecks or subtle color changes in a yarn, you need not *match,* you need only find something that will *go* with it.

I found a lighter magenta yarn in silk/alpaca, which worked well with flecks in one of the two yarns. I made lengths of i-cord with the yarn alone, and then held along with a light purple mohair laceweight yarn. (See photo at right; the left side has i-cord with one strand, the left shows two strands.)

The two-stranded version looked tweedy like the fabric of the main piece. I made my edgings from that. I’m pleased with how that turned out.

Imperfect = Good Enough

Once I finished the edgings, I took a look at what I had. It was rather amusing. The dense gauge I’d knit (to keep out the wind on a winter walk) had a shape of its own.

Even though the yarns were soft on their own, the knitted structure I’d made was rather firm. Take a look.

It made an amusing hat on me, yes? I had fun with taking this photo. A chuckle is a good thing.

Wool Bath

I’m glad I knew the easy solution. I filled up a basin with warm water, added a little wool wash (a detergent which does not require rinsing out – it helps break the surface tension of the water), and let it soak a while.

Here my purple Sprite is in her inaugural bath:

Once she’d soaked long enough to be fully saturated, I pulled the plug and let the water drain out slowly. I pressed the piece gently (no wringing, to avoid shrinking) and then rolled it in an old, clean towel.

At this point I stretched the piece gently from top to bottom. I then stretched it from side to side. At that point I allowed it to relax mostly into the size of stitches it wanted to have.

It was clear that the points would need a little more encouragement. I tugged and pinched a bit on the i-cord edges top and bottom, to make the wet item look closer to my vision of a zigzag/chevron.

I made a choice to use just a few pins, to make more exaggerated points on the piece. However, hand-worked points would have still shown off the basic shape.

At that point, I let it dry. I used a sweater drying rack near our old heat vent.

The next morning, it was dry and ready to wear. The cool part? That blocking made the stitches settle in to a softer and drapeable fabric. See how the story ends?

I love this piece! I wear it a lot when I go on my evening walks.

Can you see how even those stitches appear? Trust me, I’m not a consistent knitter. Creative, yes. Quick, mostly. Consistent? Nope.

Yes, I meant it. Wool loves water!

Random Hint #2 – Polishing Silver

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Here is another quick tip out of nowhere:
Toothpaste is a good, nontoxic silver polish. I love sterling silver jewelry, and when I want to wear some earrings I’ve ignored for a while, toothpaste is right there and easy to use.
Just wet the silver item, and put a little toothpaste on a finger or a cotton rag. Rub gently, rinse and dry. Easy!
Perhaps finer silver needs a finer grit than this, but it’s great for everyday jewelry. Go to it and shine!!!

Image added May 1: handcrafted earrings I purchased in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in early 2005. First one unpolished, second one shiny from a quick rub with toothpaste.

Random Tip #1: Cutting Hot Brownies/Food Category

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

I keep realizing I know cool hints that other folks might like to know, too. This seems frivolous, but I keep coming back to the idea.

Hints/tips don’t need photos most of the time. Maybe this will help me post more regularly for you. Let me know how you like the idea, OK?

First tip on ColorJoy:

Cutting Brownies while Still Hot

If you need to cut brownies or other sticky baked goods before they have a chance to cool off, use a plastic knife. Brian theorizes that the plastic does not heat through as quickly as metal, and one must admit that plastic knives are more slippery than most metal knives.

It helps to let them cool a little bit, but you do not need to wait as long as usual. This tip has made my life more pleasant on brownie-baking days. Today my 6-year-old friend (Fairy Goddaughter) Isabel and I made brownies together. I used this tip to get our treats sooner than normal. You can imagine that the child was delighted.

Thanks to friend Cynthia for sharing this one. She learned it from someone at a potluck once and shared it with me. This is the best sort of folk art, don’t you think?