Ten… Eleven… Twelve….

My year of making has survived its first month, so I thought I should say a few things… I doubt they will be meaningful, but I guess I won’t know for sure until after I’ve written them. For Mike’s sake, I will do my best not to overuse the backspace key as I type this… as he loves to remind me, I have a particularly bad habit of writing – and then deleting – about three times as much text as I actually keep in my final versions.

So what did I make in January?  Several loaves of bread (only 2 different kinds – I have developed a liking for rye flour); various parts of a few knit sweaters; a crocheted baby blanket; yarn lanterns; the final 1.5 characters in a two-year old cross stitch project; a dragon; a husky dog; and some soup.  In some ways, that doesn’t feel like much, but I suppose I’d think differently if I piled it all up in one place and tried to find it a home.

Overall, I think the hardest part of this year of making is just remembering to post a photo each day – there have already been 3 or 4 days that I’ve forgotten to do it. My other problem is choosing which ‘make’ to post about – its not uncommon for me to knit a bit in the morning before work, work on another thing at work, and then come home in the evening and do something else altogether. In one day, I might knit, bake, and do some sewing up – so then how do I choose which one to feature? In this respect, my need to vary my instagram feed seems to affect the projects I choose work on. Granted, I’ve never been one to knit only one thing at a time, but I now find myself deliberately starting new projects so that don’t keep posting same project all week. Occasionally I will even ask myself if maybe I should bake something, not because we need cookies or another loaf of bread, but because it would be better if my pictures show a wider variety of projects (“better than what?” would be the question!).

On the other hand, my desire to try new things in this year of making is leading me to read and explore about other crafting possibilities. This is good, because its very inspiring, but its also bad, because it puts me into a horrible spiral that starts with the feeling that I really want to make something, moves quickly to stressing about when/how/where I am going to find the space/time off/money to do it, and then being irritated because I know I’d only end up having to figure out what to do with the thing when it’s all finished.  I end up feeling all horrible, thinking that if I can’t even get to the point of taking my pencils out of their box, then how will I ever actually manage to draw something, let alone anything I’ll be happy with (drawing is, of course, just one example. It applies to thread, yarn, paint, everything).  This spiral is utterly frustrating, and for the moment I am having trouble finding a way out of it… I’m hoping its just a matter of time until I somehow get really excited about one thing in particular, happily go off to pursue it, and completely forget that the spiral ever existed in the first place. (I am very one-track minded when it comes to fun ideas. This is not always to my benefit).

Back in undergrad, I would experience a similar spiral whenever I had to do a paper for class.  For even the most straightforward of paper topics, I could beat myself up for weeks – better to torture myself quietly than show weakness by asking the prof for help. In the end, only the approaching deadline would get me writing, and by then I’d be pulling all-nighters to get the thing finished on time.  In my mind, not turning in a paper was far worse than writing a mediocre one, so it didn’t matter if I finished only hours before it was due.  In some ways, this also seemed a better option, because it meant that I wouldn’t have days to second guess all my arguments before handing the paper in.  Finish it, hand it in, then forget all about it… it was a pretty good system while it lasted. (Fortunately, I had usually thought and read so much about my topic before writing that my papers were usually pretty good.  Of course this also made the whole circle worse, because I had no motivation to do things differently the next time).

In grade 12, I wrote an essay for English class that was all about procrastination. I can’t remember exactly how it went, but it started with the chiming of a clock at midnight (while I stayed up “late” trying to finish my assignment last-minute) and ended with a comment about how I really hoped I wouldn’t end up in a similar position when I was trying to finish a PhD at some point in the future.  About 11 years later – around the time I was madly writing my dissertation – my mother found that essay in a box, and sent it to me as a reminder (or motivator, maybe? I’m not sure).  Another six years gone, and I think I would still be in the same position, except that I no longer work under the same kind of deadlines – but whether that’s for better or for worse, I really cannot say.

PS: additions to my “Fifty things” list, from home this time:

  • 10 knitting books I no longer want
  • about 6 old scarves (mostly store-bought) that I don’t wear
  • 2 pillows that are so thick they hurt our necks to sleep on
  • old binders and loose-leaf paper (goodwill needs it more than we do)
  • Mike’s old drill (does this count for my list?)

The “Fifty Things” book says that if you can’t decide whether to throw out or hold on to an item, you should just get rid of it and all of its associated angst. Is this really the best option? What if you just end up with Donator’s Remorse?

50 Things…

After venting my frustrations on Friday (not quite successfully, I might add), I made a second trip to the library – this time to the local branch that’s just down the street.  I popped in to pick up a few hold items that were waiting for me, but of course took a quick wander through the stacks while I was there.

On an impulse I hopped over to the “how to organize your house/relationship/family/life” section, and pulled out a book called Throw Out Fifty Things – Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life.  I’m only a few chapters in, but the overall theory is that the process of getting rid of unwanted and unnecessary items in your house will help you clear out and let go of all those negative ideas and feelings that are holding you back in life. Like that pair of slightly-too-tight jeans you bought last spring, convinced that in no time you’d be able to lose a few extra pounds so you could fit into them (I know its not just me who does this…).  I know this is one of those ‘quick fix’ books, the sales of which – despite its good underlying message – probably benefit its author more than any of the people who read it.  But at the same time, I’m going to try it – I’m a sucker for a good quick-fix solution, and at least I can say I didn’t waste any money on it if it doesn’t work!

So here we go, the first of the Fifty Things I’m clearing out (don’t you think the capitals make it sound more impressive?). This ongoing list will include things from both home and work, since parts of my office at work have clearly just become storage for things that should be at home, but don’t have a place to go (yet!).  Multiples of the same thing only count as one item, so this may be harder than I think…😉20150118_160918

  1. Vintage knitting patterns that have been collecting at the store, but which I know I’m not ever going to use. (The leftovers are available at the store if you happen to be interested… I will donate/recycle them at the end of January).
  2. Extra mugs and cups from the store. Inevitably, everyone eventually brings in their own personal favourite mug to use, so the ‘communal use’ ones become redundant.
  3. Old paper napkins that have long since fallen out of their wrappers. I know these are still technically useable, but somehow I find them a little… ew. Recycle bin it is, then.
  4. Old Christmas cards. As a crafty person, I have a bad habit of holding on to things with the idea that they could be re-purposed into a new craft at some later date. I think this is the kind of thinking that eventually turns a person into a hoarder.

That’s it for today, I think. I am technically at work, after all.🙂

eta: a photo!

But what do you do with it after?

IMG_20150116_130056Today I indulged myself in a trip to the Central Branch of the library – the big one downtown, with 6 amazing floors of books.  I hadn’t been to that library in ages, and I had recently been missing the ability to wander through the aisles and browse through all the books. (I have three degrees, remember – most of my teens and 20’s was spent in libraries, pouring over books).  These days, my usual approach is to search my books out in the online catalogue, place a ton of holds, and then pick them up at my local branch – yes, you get the books you think you want, but you don’t get the same library experience. Plus, if you are trying to research something specific, it generally works out that most of the books you order don’t end up containing the info you’re looking for, so the whole exercise becomes a bit pointless.

Anyway, today’s mission was the craft section – first embroidery, then a quick glance (as always) through knitting and crochet. You never know what you’re going to find there, after all.  It turned out to be an odd experience. On the one hand, it was fantastic pouring over books on so many different kinds of arts and crafts: if you can think of it, there is probably a book there on how to do it. (and they’re all free!) I started in Needlecraft, and then worked back through tapestry, sewing, paper quilling, drawing… you name it, it was there. In the beginning, I was pulling books off the shelves and exclaiming over the fun things I could do.  So many stitches I could learn, and such beautiful designs to make them into. Pretty quickly, however, it all went a little sour:

?Wow! Look at all the fancy stitches in these books! I could (learn to) do that, and then I could make this amazing pillow! (oh, but my sofa is already full with the two pillows I knit last year). Well, what about a sampler? (but where would I hang it?). So I could learn all these stitches, and use them for…. well, what, exactly?”

The more I looked at the books, I kept coming back to the same (unpleasant and very mind demon driven) sensation of how all of these decorative arts are just that – decorative. I live in a small place.  We don’t have much room for more practical items than we already have, and the walls are already filled with art and photos that we’ve carefully selected over the years.  And even if I had room to hang framed embroidery samplers, I’d first have to convince Mike that that’s something he wants to hang in the flat in the first place. I like making crafty things, and I value the skill and talent that goes into it when others make them, but I can’t help the sensation that the finished object just becomes another thing you have to find a home for in an already too-full house. And giving it away just makes it someone else’s piece of stuff with no home.  At least with knitting you can wear the finished objects.  What do you with 25 hand embroidered pillows?! Is this the real reason why Etsy has become so popular – because all us crafty people need to find something to do with all the crap creative things we want to spend our time making?!

Clearly, I have an issue with the concept of stuff. Days like today, I come home from being out & about, and suddenly all my crafty supplies (not to mention half my other possessions) just look like so much wasted money and… I don’t know, ambition? Plans, maybe? I don’t know quite how to describe it.  I can go through my yarn stash and tell you where I got each skein of yarn, or what fantastic project it was intended to become.  But that project didn’t happen, and now it just sits there in its box.  And at least with knitting I do it every day, so I can (kind of) justify holding on to all that yarn.  My other craft supplies – cross stitch, embroidery, card making, scrapbooking – I haven’t had made time to do these things in ages, and now the supplies just sit there taking up space. Some days I think I need to move into a giant house where my everyday living space is kept completely minimalist and free of clutter, but in which there are several ‘back rooms’ where I house all my crafty stuff.  That way my stuff is all there for when I need it, but I don’t have to look at it all the time and feel so guilty for not being able to put it to good use.

New rules for my year of making (yes, already)

Last post I stated that one of my reasons to take on this year of knitting challenge is to make myself do things other than knitting and crochet.  In my mind, I decided that I would restrict myself to only 2 or 3 knitting or crochet ‘makes’ per week.  Less than a week in, however, and I am already seeing a flaw in this plan.

Case in point: on Monday night, I was packing up after our drop in knitting night at work.  It was getting late, and I was looking forward to getting home.  Suddenly, I had a panicked thought that it was already 9:30 at night, and I hadn’t done anything that I could post as that day’s make.  Yes, I had just spent the better part of the evening (and some of the afternoon) knitting a cardigan, but that was just knitting, and therefore it didn’t count. Two seconds later, I realized the ridiculousness of this statement, and promptly unpacked and photographed my cardigan.

Social media is meant to help us be more social – sharing our ideas and projects, and connecting us to other like-minded people.  In reality, it has simply made us more competitive, by presenting us with an ideal we have to strive for, and making us feel inadequate if our finished project doesn’t look like the one in the photo. I see this all the time – compliment a knitter on their finished project, and they will start pointing out all the little mistakes that they have made.  I do it too, almost compulsively sometimes – its as if we think that pointing out the flaws ourselves will somehow make it easier to bear the criticism we anticipate from someone else. Never mind the fact that most of the flaws we see are invisible to others, and those other people weren’t going to criticize us anyway.  We need to stop doing this, all of us. Next time someone compliments you on something you’ve made, smile, say ‘thank you’, and then bite your tongue hard and look away from that misplaced stitch! Abruptly change the subject if you have to, just don’t start pointing out those flaws!

Expect to see a lot more knitting and crochet in my #yearofmaking feed.  Its what I do, and these days its practically who I am.  I will still try to do non-knitting (and non-food related!) things, but this isn’t going to work if I force myself to make my instagram feed look like a Pintrest board.  I also need to convince myself that it is okay to post the same project more than once – otherwise nothing is going to get finished this year.

Today I made… (Day 1 of 365)

  • space in my overcrowded filing cabinet
  • the first part of a knitted toy – which is supposed to be something other than the deformed penguin it currently resembles (the official 1/365)
  • soup from a can
  • $1.54 in Starbucks Card money (I ‘made’ it by registering a re-discovered card that was stored in a box. That totally counts, I’m sure).

The “Year of  Making”* is intended to be a year-long commitment to try and make something every day.  And just to be clear, that’s “make” as in do something creative, not “make a complete something” every day.  I decided to take on this challenge about a week ago, after reading about it on Kim Werker’s blog .

I am no stranger to the year long daily challenge, nor to the idea of doing something crafty (almost) every day.  But most of that crafting is in the form of knitting or crochet.  In taking on this year of making challenge, I want to try and do things other than knitting or crochet.  Don’t get me wrong – I will always knit.  I have to – its pretty much taken over my life in recent years.  In addition to my (giant, sometimes guilt-inducing) yarn stash, however, I also have a vast collection of supplies for other kinds of crafts – different kinds of paints, paper crafting/card making supplies, cross stitch threads and fabrics, numerous embroidery patterns, and even a really nice, very much under-used sewing machine.  Over the next year I want to haul all of this stuff out and put it to good use – and hopefully use up some of those supplies in the process.  (We moved to a new flat last June, after four years in one place.  Its amazing how much stuff you accumulate in four years).

Taking on this challenge also gives me a great excuse to start blogging again, although this, too, was something I’ve been thinking about for a while.  I miss those pre-Ravelry days when knitters and crocheters used blogs to share their latest projects and talk shop.  I miss writing on a blog, and I miss catching up with my internet (and non-internet) friends by reading their blogs.  You really can’t learn much about a person in 140 character blurbs.pumpernickel bread

To keep up with my 365 makes, you can follow me on instagram.  Ideally, this blog will be about more than just these individual projects – we’ll see how it all plays out.  For now, I need to go find dinner… or at least a few more pieces of the pumpernickel bread I made last week.  :)

*why do I feel compelled to add a hashtag every time I type that phrase?!

New year, new blog, new projects…

Ten years ago (is it really ten? yikes!), I moved to England to get a Ph.D.  Around the same time, I started a blog so that I could keep track of my adventures, and share them with people back home.  Although I continued that blog through seven years, three countries, and so many fantastic adventures, it eventually just kind of petered out.  Seven year itch, maybe?  Who knows…

Two years later, I have decided to start a new blog with a new name on a new site.  I hope you will join me in my next seven years of adventures.