Monday, 24 October 2011

Going large

I've finished one sleeve of my lovely lacy Niobe sweater...then I put it aside for a bit to try to finish a pair of lace socks I'm working on on itty bitty needles. After a few rounds of things really not adding up, I realised I'd mis-remembered the pattern and was basically screwing it up. Ripping out an inch of fiddly lace on tiny needles is somehow more heartbreaking than on a big sweater...maybe it's just me.

Anyhow I decided to take a detour inspired by some brightly coloured and not-so-expensive yarn I came across at Michael's. I'd forgotten how fast knitting can be on giant needles with yarn as thick as a pencil! I'm loving the results.

I threw together this chunky scarf, which will be a gift:

I also quickly ran up a blue one for my son who said he liked it.

Now on a chunky roll, I grabbed some violet wool I'd had my eye on for a while which was very inexpensive and on special offer:
And cast on to create one of these for myself:

Wrenna, from French Girl Knits
My first attempt at knitting in one piece from the top down. Don't worry, I'll get back to those fiddly lace socks and lovely fluffy Niobe sweater. But for now I'm really enjoying the instant gratification of chunky projects I can finish in a few hours!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Sharing wisdom - the right question

I saw a link to this post by the wonderful Queen Dani on Belinda's blog and I really felt compelled to pass it along.

You are probably familiar with the subject matter - why we must consider letting unhealthy relationships go. But I have not read such a simple and compelling take on it as this before. And yes, before we point the finger at the other person in the equation, we need to ask ourselves a few questions.

Being Queen - The right question

By the way if you have the chance to work with Dani, jump at it. She is both wise and wonderful.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Are you a cog in someone else's master plan?

I recently returned from New York. While there, I didn't do that much exploring, or sightseeing, nor did I take in any shows.

I worked, around fourteen hours a day. Then I came home.

A lot of this work involved reporting on what other people were doing, in an industry that I'm not a part of. I supported other people's efforts in health and safety, better career options for women, and building the product I work to produce.

Nothing wrong with any of that - helping out other people, helping worthy causes, making an honest buck. Right?

Actually when I was there, even as I was engaged in much of this, I had the distinct awareness that although all of this was at best worthwhile, and at worst harmless, something was off.

In everything I was doing, be it for someone else or for my own employer, I was helping to further someone else's dream. I identified that this is how, for many years, I have talked myself into continuing to do what I do.

But there's something missing at the heart of it all.
Where is my dream? What is my story?

I've been so busy helping others or telling their stories, that I've lost my own voice. I've been a cog in someone else's dream all along. It's a safe and easy place to be, for the most part. But often, it's hard to truly be myself.

And it's that dream, the one that never belonged to me, that I want to wake up from.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

A winner - & Steve Jobs

I have a winner pulled from the hat for the CD giveaway! (By the way a few people messaged me to join in elesewhere due to problems leaving a comment on blogger.)


...Mollie from New Zealand! Well done Mollie, your CD will be on it's way across the Pacific very soon!

I also wanted to post here briefly that due to the sad death of Steve Jobs, many of his quotes and TED talks about living your dream have been circulating on the internet. His sentiment is so utterly in tune with my Exit Project that I wanted to post one of his quotes here:
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.” ~ Steve Jobs
 I am still looking. Thanks for the reminder Steve, RIP.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Exit Project - and a cd giveaway

My brother and sister in law have a fantastic band called Exit Project. This popped into my head today because I think that's what I need next - an exit project to escape my day job.

Exitproject on the couch
Exit Project

I work as a freelance writer and editor. I am paid well for what I do, and have some expertise in my own niche. The trouble is, I have outgrown my niche. It has started to feel like a pidgeonhole. And I'm ready to spread my wings.

I've had a long freelance career, so I've parted company with clients a number of times before, almost always entirely amicably. Usually a project ends, funding dries up or they decide to hire a full time person rather than outsourcing. Almost immediately, a new project tends to show up.

This time it feels different. I edit a magazine for someone, I feel a fair bit of responsibility. I also, to be honest, need the cash.

So why do I need an Exit Project?

  • I feel out of alignment with the audience I write for. We have nothing in common (beyond being human).
  • I don't enjoy the topics I write about.
  • I feel constrained and limited in what I can do.
  • My creative ideas to improve things have met with strong resistance, even though that was part of my job description.
  • I have frequent issues with a disrespectful co-worker.

Most importantly?

I get a feeling of deep dread in my gut every time I turn my attention to this work. It feels all wrong.

How have I come to this place of feeling wrong?
Well, to be honest there were some early disappointments. But I have also been doing a great deal of inner work on myself, including what I want to do with my time and talents. Some of the people or courses that have helped along the way are:

A visit to Portland to see Havi Brooks from The Fluent Self at her Rally course

Online work with Andrea at The Creative Magic Academy where I recently took part in the Creative Dream Incubator

And finally a beautiful piece of magical transformation at Jane's Reframing Your Story, which I felt was the icing on the cake after the deep in-person and online group work from each of the other two courses.

After all of this work I am very clear on what I need more of in my life, and what feels good. I'm starting to work more intensively on some creative projects. These may or may not lead to some kind of income - but whether or not that comes to pass, I still have to acknowledge the deep discomfort I'm feeling in my current role. I'm just not a good fit.

So how do I plan to exit?

I have some creative changes to turn the business around that I want to attempt to implement. I want to create clear documentation - a few lists and processes - to leave the role easy for the next person to take on. And then in the New Year, I plan to leave.

I think it's time for a new chapter to begin, and shedding this part of my career is the final step towards being really authentic.

I have a copy of Exit Project's very aptly named CD Single, Healing Slow to give away. Leave a comment below and I'll put names in a hat Thursday!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Following your own pattern

I’ve always formed my knit stitches the ‘wrong’ way – I knit each stitch through the back loop (ktbl in knitting shorthand). Under some circumstances it makes no difference – the stitches either ‘untwist’ depending on what I’m doing as I knit back along the next row, or they form a particularly tight kind of stitch that actually works quite well for the majority of simple patterns.

But if I start to knit lace, where you make holes deliberately, my work starts to ‘fail’. Here’s what I mean – the stitches are often dropped and then loops made to bridge the gap. If you knit through these the wrong way, what was intended as a shape in the design can end up leaving very little hole in the fabric at all. Or it can create holes where the pattern did not intend them.

The lacy motifs can end up not resembling the pretty pattern image at all. Where did I go wrong?
I have my own way of doing things, and I’m trying to be true to my own vision and values. I am very lucky to have grown up in an environment and been part of a community where, by in large, everyone was making their fabric in their own way, the way that felt best.

And some of them weren’t even aware there were patterns to follow.

I soon learned that a lot of the so-called ‘real’ world was not like this. There were certain boxes you would need to fit into, that others could recognize. If you wouldn’t fit, they were puzzled, and often frustrated. It was easy to end up thinking that I needed to change – I thought I had to work with the system to succeed.
Despite being intelligent and good at a number of things, no-one was really too clear on what I could do with my life; least of all me.

Sometimes, the light would dawn, that I was never going to fit into any of those boxes, or be able to follow any of those popular patterns, and I would have to leave my job or move and change to shake things up.
But culture and expectation are powerful, most of all in our own minds – even if we don’t always see that. The wonderful storyteller and Jungian Clarissa Pinkola Estes goes into this in beautiful depth in her audio sessions on this, which I am really enjoying listening to right now.

Currently I’m working on a sweater, which has lacy, bell-like sleeves. I started to make it my own way. But I soon realized that this wasn’t going to work. I decided to change my thinking.

I invented an exotic new stitch, one that was special and for use just on this project. It’s called knit through front loop. Most of you would just call it “knit”.

I have decided that my way is not wrong: it’s just different. By dipping into and re-labeling this bit of knitting culture, in a curious and playful way, I can borrow the mainstream pattern without the need to judge anything.
It’s easy to blame ourselves for not fitting in, to lose confidence, and maybe to continue to do things in ways that feel wrong to us to satisfy the prevailing culture: the inner and the outer cultures both.

I’m waiting to see if the end result looks anything like the pattern.

Even if it does not, I thing I like the results so far.

Thursday, 22 September 2011


My balcony is a great summer habitat.
But in cool, rainy Vancouver, it's useless in the winter.
I tend to retreat to spend long days in my office, for most of the year.

Here's the thing-
I'm not sure I'm all that 'productive' or even creative in my office.
My dream board was two years out of date for a start.
And it's set up to encourage being stuck in front of a screen all day.
Yet I know from past experience I have a lot of my creative ideas away from my desk.

I decided to give myself more options.
First I revamped my dream board and office space - to let in some current ideas:

Then I bought a few new items and rearranged some of my balcony items to make a new habitat:

This is just a small, sunny area at the back of our sitting room, which was unused.

I love the polystyrene head! I have really got into making hats. It's a great way to display them, and photograph them.

I've got some big fabric boxes from Ikea, for throwing knitting and collage supplies into so that I have these on hand. And pink moleskine journals for working things out and jotting down revelations.

Suddenly I feel as though I have way more choice about how and where I work or create around my home. Creativity is sneaking into every room, and it feels good! Plus there is a fluffy rug. If I Add a hot drink and light a scented candle and I think I've just doubled my enthusiasm to get things done.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Things we carry around

Hmmm processing a couple of things that happened today.

First off in a conversation with someone I work for - I was told one of my co-workers (who has financial control and a lot of say over what I get to do) thinks my writing and editing is great but my creative or commercial ideas are "hare brained".

So what does this mean?
I turned it over a bit, processing my resistance and frustration with this individual. And I realise what that person represents to me: a big Stop sign, a creative roadblock, a parent who denies you a treat, a big, fat, creative, NO.

And rather than just being annoyed at that person (been there) I thought about why I was inviting this into my life. Why am I continuing to work with someone who blocks all my ideas? I remember how I got into this situation in the first place - the person I work for, the one I was having the actual discussion with, HIRED ME to change his business, try new things, and, well, have creative ideas.

It's not just me being blocked, it is change and growth in that whole business. Maybe some of my ideas are hare-brained (I don't mind being compared to a hare). Maybe they are just right-brained. But that doesn't make them wrong or less useful.

Another thing that happened - one child I know and one I don't were spitting in each other's faces aggressively in the playground. I didn't hesitate to step in, demand they both apologise, and tell them I was disgusted and I hoped not to see that kind of thing again. (I can be pretty scary, I've been told). So afterwards another parent I know quite well said - "wow, I wouldn't have thought you'd be all strict like that, I thought you were one of those hippy parents."

Interesting food for thought. I probably look like a hippy parent - 99 percent of those there to gather children are well versed in the art of conformity as opposed to self expression. But does being a hippy (if that means non-conformist) mean being OK with violence or abusive behaviour or turning a blind eye? No, I don't think it does. In fact it takes courage both to have a non-standard appearance and to speak up for yourself or others.

So two messages today about how I might be viewed by others. But after checking in with myself, I have a choice about whether to take those comments on board, or even to let them into my space at all. The messages from outside can be pretty strong. I'm remembering to stay true to the messages from inside, guided by my own inner compass.

And the more I think about it, the more it seems I'm right on track.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Yarn harvest...

I had a lovely visit to this North East Alberta yarn shop in Portland, Oregon and came away with some sparkly grey worsted for a sweater project.

This was the first day of a visit that involved a fair bit of Shiva Nata, a practice where you wave your arms around your head in increasingly complicated patterns until your brain becomes truly scrambled. It looks something like this:

Unravelling patterns and making up my own new ones (or maybe just making it up as I go along) was the theme of my visit to the Rally.

Calling this a surreal experience would be an understatement. Strange things happened, seemingly irrelevant activities provoked major insights and any attempt to do what you thought you were there for proved futile - although everyone came away having achieved way more than they thought possible. The magic of elastic time, shmurfling, weird costumes and interviewing monsters all played a part, but the Shiva Nata had the most powerful effect on me. After one session I lost the ability to write. I'm not kidding.

General Portland wackiness just added to the feeling that coming home again was a bit like landing after a trip to another planet. I'm full of fresh ideas and still making some adjustments. I'll find out soon if brain scrambling has any effect on my knitting...

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Finding your way

This is the finished Noro entrelac creation, which has found it's way across the sea to New Zealand where it has apparently received a lot of compliments! Yay! I'm hoping to post a pic of the new owner soon.

I'm in Portland, OR, where I've found a fab yarn shop on NE Alberta St and there's no sales tax in Oregon! So I immediately bought some lovely soft yarn to make the French Girl Knits Niobe sweater. (Amazon link to the book at the bottom of the page).

In Portland I'm doing a course with Havi Brooks which is all about destuckification. In other words, changing old habits, making breakthroughs to move forward with projects, and flailing like a broken windmill. I'm finding knitting is a useful theme and metaphor for me during the course - my word for what we appear to be doing is 'unravelling'. I'll post about the outcome in a couple of days!

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Portland, Or

Friday, 9 September 2011

A mermaid hat

Today's creation...

There are water droplets running down from the top and all around the brim.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Take the weather with you...

We've had close, humid air and a summer storm here, followed by that freshness of revived plants and the scent of Autumn around the corner.

So although it's heading to the other side of the world where lambs are frolicking and spring plants are breaking out, it seemed the right time to finish of the hat fit for a weather witch (or one of her nine mothers for that matter).

It will wend it's way in the mail tomorrow, hopefully with fair winds behind it and no stroppy cyclones in sight...

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Sunday bliss

I's so lucky to have a balcony with to-die-for views across downtown Vancouver and the North Shore mountains.

In the summer I have a white armchair and fluffy rug out there. Lunch today was pumpkin seed bread with brie from the Comox valley, and light, wafer thin rosemary crackers with goat's cheese. And maybe a sip of Pinot Grigio.

Yes that's a copy of French Girl Knits in the foreground - when I'm done with hats I'm plotting a chic little sweater. This lovely book by Kirsteen Griffin-Grimes is written from the perspective of a North American yearning for French culture and aesthetics (and designing some gorgeous knitwear as a result).

I'm fortunate to have spent a fair bit of time in several regions of France, both on family holidays and as a teen visiting independently to improve my French, make friends and have adventures. The author's vignettes did evoke some of my own memories - and reminded me that having a little cheese to grignoter on the balcony with un gout de vin was an excellent way to pass a few lazy Sunday hours... Salut!

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Vancouver, BC

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The harvest hat

Another photo so you can see the texture...

I'm onto the third tier of rectangles with the Noro hat...I might have been further along except that I took my two boys to the beach. The tide was far out and people were wading in only up to their knees seemingly for miles. The children played games crawling commando style on their elbows or floating like starfish on their backs.

It's only mid-August but there's a cool breeze blowing in. My garden is looking past its best but I captured a few flowers having their final flourish while my cat sunned herself.

I'm enjoying every moment of warm sun; I know it won't last long. The flowers have the right idea.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

See me knit

This is a kind of peaceful video of my lap and my sitting room :-)

YouTube Video

Here's the piece in progress:

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, 15 August 2011

A thing about hats

I started knitting hats in the spring after I'd had surgery and was well enough to sit around but not with it enough to work. I thought it would be tricky but was amazed once I'd got a few circular needles how quickly a little heathery pink beany appeared.

I quickly ralised that compared with the time and investment of making a whole sweater, hats used just one or two skeins of yarn and were done in a day or two. This gave me more opportunities to visit one of the gorgeous yarn shops near here and get lost in all the amazing colours and textures, and to imagine what I might make next...

Lately I've discovered entrelac, a technique where you knit little squares back and forth. By cunningly picking up stitches along the edges of the last row, the end result is like squishy patchwork. By making each square smaller than the last these rows can vanish Alice in Wonderland style towards the middle of a circular hat design.

After making a lovely autumnal one in two fine variegated yarns I then made a simple charcoal grey one, which is more of a standard beret. Now I'm making a hat inspired by the colours of the seashore fit for a weather witch (for Elizabeth Cunningham fans) out of incredible springy, bouncy wool/silk from Japan (Iro from Noro).

I can't get over the improbable but perfect colour changes popping out or the blackberry-like bulges of the patches standing out thanks to the thick, defined stitches. The way this is growing feels more like wooly baking than knitwear construction.

When it's done it will go beyond the waves to a friend far away. I hope she sees dawn breaking over rocky tidal pools every time she puts it on - and that it keeps her head warm.

Location:Vancouver, BC