Sunday, September 30, 2018

Retail Therapy is a Thing

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I had a bad day yesterday. It was bad on a number of fronts: my BELOVED sewing machine's stitch length lever broke (I thought we were supposed to buy the vintage mechanical machines cuz this doesn't happen!?).

Then Scott, who wasn't in the mood to fix it, expressed his ambivalence by breaking off one of the knobs that doesn't come off (this is very unusual for him - he's excellent at fixing everything).

Then, the utter shock and horror brought on my period, which has suddenly decided to happen whenever it feels like it (though sometimes not for 2 months). It came with hideous cramps, something I don't have routinely, which still have me close to throwing up at any moment, 24 hours later.

Then the kid came home for 1 night, on a furlough between Calgary and QC (don't ask how on earth it makes any sense to stop in Toronto on the way) and proceeded to lose her wallet, on the train, which contained her health card and 300 dollars, among other things - just as she goes out of province for another 3 months (and one's health card is necessary to obtain medical treatment). You know, I'm on a 6-month vacation from parenting which is every bit as pleasant as you might imagine (actually, way more pleasant) and the anger and anxiety I feel towards her right now (and on her behalf) is intense enough to make me want to throw up independent of cramps. It finally dawned on me that the only difference between an 18-year old and a 6-year old is that the 18-year old can cause infinitely more chaos with the same degree of selfish nonchalance.

All of this is to say that I was extremely grateful for a) Cava b) cookies and c) knitting and continue to be so - but not the cookies since I'm pretty sure they've amped up the cramps big-time.

One of the things I love about my current crafting space is that I get to keep my knitting swift and winder up all the time, attached to my makeshift shelving unit (from IKEA, 20 years ago). Man, that furniture is practical. Sure, I could have kept them up in my last craft space but things would have been so visually cramped. There's so much to be said for ceilings that extend indefinitely. Also, note, I sense a really gorgeous wooden ball-winder may be in my near future (though not if I have to spend hundreds of dollars replacing my sewing machine. UGH. Seriously, it's the destruction that overwhelms me - that it was broken again on top of being broken...)

Anyway, I started by winding a bunch of yarn...

Let me take a moment to praise the virtues of a lovely little workhorse yarn: Cascade Heritage Sock. I've been making socks with this superwash/nylon combo for years and I have to say, it's pretty well the only yarn of its sort: thinner than most other sock yarn (it's a fine fingering), in no way superwashy in feel or wear. I HATE superwash yarn. I will not use it other than on socks which I will NOT hand wash under any circumstances. You want to be a pair of socks I wear? You're going in the freakin' dryer.

This stuff fits the bill and it lasts and it's freakin' budget priced and it comes in hanks of 425 yards (that's great yardage) in every colour in the land. I have nothing bad to say about it except that I wish it could do all of this and not be superwash (given that I'm really opposed to the chemical process involved).

I've not used it on shawls or sweaters but it's just a matter of time. This yarn retracts, unlike most superwash yarn (maybe it's the nylon?) so I feel it would work just fine on either of those project types.

But this post is not to praise the merits of the yarn I've already bought. This is to tell you about how my love of that Classic Elite Adelaide is so fast and furious that I am basically traumatized by the closure of the brand. Look, I've used CE yarns on occasion and I loved them, but this is in its own category of perfect.

It's squishy in a worsted-spun way, beautifully plied (two strands), the colours are stunning. It's springy. It glides through the hand in a gorgeous way. Knitters, you know what I'm talking about. This craft is kinesthetic first. For those who struggle with tension (admittedly, not one of my challenges), this yarn will be your spirit guide. It's also totally affordable if you buy it on close out at WEBS.

I haven't been able to stop thinking about it and about how its departure leaves the world just a little bit bereft. (Yes, I'm dramatic.) And this yarn ain't even my gauge jam. It's light worsted and I tend to look away once I get to the robustness of DK.

So here's the thing. In lieu of killing Scott - which would have been short-sighted - I decided to buy some closeout yarn. But not till I bought pretty well all of the rest of this yarn at EweKnit (my LYS, where I purchased the original batch on Thursday - the batch that started this all...). Alas, while EweKnit told me online that it had 7 balls in the oatmeal colourway, the SA could only find 5 of those. What can I accomplish with 5 balls / 625ish yards?! (Don't answer that.) The other colourways, still in stock, are in limited numbers or shades I'm not into.

So natch, I decided to check out WEBS, an awesome resource for getting large volumes of yarn at very good prices (unless customs gets ahold of your yarn, in which case all bets are off). I managed to score 5 skeins in the camel colourway for 50 bucks CDN all in (inc shipping). That's a FUCKING steal. Note: I spent 65 bucks on this yarn at EweKnit and it was on sale and I had to walk up the block to get it. Effectively, the shipping cost was the exact same as the tax and the balls of yarn at WEBS are $5.70 (no tax) vs $11.15 (then add 13% tax) at EweKnit. (In full disclosure, I could have had this shipped for free because EweKnit ships orders over 75 bucks without charge. But that would be so wasteful of human energy that I couldn't allow it even if I don't want to leave the house. And I don't.)

Look - I get it. I buy at my LYS because I want it to be there (literally up the block). I mean, my yarn store moved to me. Take a moment to consider this ridiculous luck. Also, it's a beautifully curated space that anyone would love (really, go visit!). But even with the exchange rate (and prob even with customs), buying from the US costs less buying locally. I feel that's wrong.

But, let's not devolve into a convo about domestic manufacturing and international trade...

You know I have the yarn box. That's my stash box into which every last bit of my yarn must fit so that I don't become a crazy yarn hoarder*. Recently, I upgraded to a larger box. (It's really adorable and fabric and it fits the IKEA furniture in the sewga room perfectly.) It also allows for some lee-way but, really, there's only so much lee-way before it too is full to the rafters.

I actually have to cast on 3 projects now so that I will have enough space to house my new yarn when I pick it up / it gets delivered. I'm okay with that. Because the Adelaide is going to be nowhere to be found in about 10 minutes and I will savour every minute knitting with it and/or wearing. Sometimes one has to take the long view.

Now off to wind some yarn. After all, it's not like I'm going to be sewing anytime soon.

* Please note that I take this seriously. In all of my years of knitting, I have adhered to this rule and it's made me a more focused knitter who has learned the necessary skills to utilize every last yard, theoretically. Sure, the fact that I keep needing to buy more yarn to use up stash yarn is both questionable and entirely the way it goes. Trust me. It's a kind of "spend to save" paradox. It makes no sense but it's true!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Great Divide

So this post will be about knitting - which may intrigue you or bore you to tears. Here's my level best to up the excitement-factor for those of you who understand the lure of shopping more naturally than the lure of shopping for yarn.

For those of us who knit... There's a special kind of joy in using up one's stash to make something new. Like knitting for free! And if you add to this equation, some masochistic inclination to unwind a sweater that already exists (see below), then you are very rich indeed!

Note to reader: Had I known that this sweater's unwinding process / rewinding process was going to take 5 hours (I weave in ends with satanic precision), I might have just put this thing on the lawn. Especially since this colourway is so challenging. It's not grey and it's not blue and it's not clear and it's not warm. Such are the outcomes, on occasion, of buying yarn online. But it's Quince and I have 1040 yards of it and that yarn costs money, and takes energy to create and I'm not ready to chuck it because Chickadee is a lovely yarn to work with, and super-affordable, even if this colour doesn't really thrill*. And I want to find its worthy project. Also, stash-busting.

But the unwinding didn't leave me with quite enough yarn to make this sweater. And now I really want to make it - having already made an Emily Greene design that was SO enjoyable to knit. And, natch, I have to bust the stash. You can see where this is going.

No worries, I thought to my (naive) self: I'm sure I have enough of another stash yarn to do the hem bands in a contrast colour. Um, no. Quince in the Storm colourway apparently goes with nothing else I've ever bought in the history of my lifetime.

Add to the conundrum - the sweater is knit bottom up so I have got to commit to a contrast colour from the get-go. Sure, I could reverse the pattern instructions but, ahem, see the para below.

Sidebar: OMG, people. This pattern is 39 pages long. It's a 5/5 on the skill scale, something I rarely consider when I'm buying patterns (until after all is said and done). But my impulsive self rarely goes above a 4/5, just on instinct. I don't know what it says about me that it didn't even occur to me that this pattern - designed by an architect who works with the Brooklyn Tweed group - wouldn't perhaps be on the sassy side. Perhaps it says of me: I just built a fucking house and that's a 100/5 on the skill scale. And I didn't even have any fucking skills. So I think the stakes are relatively low. But here's the thing, between two yarns of two different gauges (I'm getting there, read on pls) and the most challenging pattern in the land (theoretically), I'm not freakin' reversing the order of operations. (Nor, for what it's worth, do I intend to modify the sizing. That would be insanity. The proportions of this sweater in the second size seem more or less aligned with mine. If it doesn't work out, oh well.)

Did I mention that of those 39 pages, 10 of them are charted cables (even though this sweater looks deceptively like rib). You don't like charts, you don't knit this thing. Oh, and also, there's a whole technique section that tells one how to cable without using a cable needle (something I've tried on occasion without a lot of success). I think I'm about to nail it because, apparently, the alternative is untenably slow. I've said it before and I'll say it again - don't bother to spend your money on Brooklyn Tweed yarn but never resist their patterns. BT patterns are amongst the best you will ever find, in just about every way - particularly in terms of clarity of instruction.

But back to the hem band yarn.

It would appear that even the knitting store, full to the rafters with all the kinds of yarn, had but one yarn that met my hem band colour-scheme needs, Classic Elite Adelaide:

(How adorably meta that the Insta caption references this post!)

I don't know how there was only one option. I looked at everything. Three times. But the kismet of this choice, aside from the fact that the yarn is utterly gorgeous and Quince-complementary in colour, hand and drape, is that the yarn was on sale for 25% off?!?! It cost about 50 bucks, all in, for 4 skeins  (~500 yards) but the skeins were heavy and I scored an additional 25 extra yards, truly for free. Is this yarn straight-up budget? No. Is it very reasonably priced given the quality? In my opinion, definitely. And I'm in it for an enjoyable knitting experience. If I don't love the yarn, what's the point?

Alas, it was on sale because the entirety of the Classic Elite brand is being shuttered. This is not because its yarns aren't incredibly popular, cuz they are. I think the designer is looking for a new challenge. File under: Why didn't I find this yarn years ago?

But all of the problems of the world have yet to be resolved. These 2 yarns - Quince Chickadee and Classic Elite Adelaide - are of differing weights, which is, theoretically, sub-optimal. I still can't predict how much yarn the hem bands will utilize. I can't imagine that it could be more than 300 yards. But if there's one thing I've learned, it's that many of the small-looking things take up the most yarn. In practice, I have faith. And I'm not rushing this. Do I need a new sweater next week? Nuh-huh. Can I let this sit quietly at any moment, in lieu of expressing compulsive behaviour? I believe I can and that I will.

Frankly, I love to knit. I love everything about it - even the bad things (which are barely bad). If I start and don't finish, who freakin' cares? It won't be the first time. And if I do find my way through this well-written maze, then I will have learned so much. And I'll have a super-cool sweater.


* I note with interest that this is my second time in a row knitting with a Quince colour that I don't love - and once again I'm applying it to a complicated sweater pattern designed by Emily Greene. Admittedly, if I could find this yarn in store, I wouldn't have an issue. But, to date, its affordability (and the great adventure of online purchase) have superseded my disappointment. Having said this, in future I'm sticking to the colourways I know unless I can see the skeins in real life and touch them.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Thoughts or Feelings?

I don't know what epitaph they'll inscribe on my headstone (or if I'll be cremated, more to the point), but I really hope it's not: Nothing was ever good enough or If you want something done right, do it yourself. But honestly, I'm either stuck in a strange astrological vortex wherein everyone is seriously phoning in quality or I'm pathologically fussy. And, btw, I've ruminated on this for a couple of years now so I'm going throw my take into the ring: I'm in the vortex.

Now, you might not agree - which is actually why I'm writing this post. Sometimes, when one is so fixed in one's on place, one can be misguided (I suppose). So, in full disclosure, I am compulsive about order. What this means, for my brain, is that everything needs to be positioned in a certain way (no need to explain the specifics, it's boring enough to live through) and smudges, scuffs and schmutz are the very bane of my existence. Sometimes, when I notice disorder as I define it, and other people are around, I cannot stop myself from starting to clean or reorganize, while simultaneously apologizing for the hideousness we've all been forced to look at. I've spent many a dinner party pruning the back yard.

I'm semi-regularly advised that I must relax, that no one else notices these things, that I'm distracting in my distraction. The reason I didn't invite people over for the 5 years before we did the reno is because there was so much imperfection, like everywhere, that I couldn't subject people to it.

I realize that, while my reno has re-established a sort of glory that this house may never have seen previously, that doesn't fix my compulsiveness. One of the hardest elements of my particular psycho-profile is that I am magically drawn to all evidence of disorder and non-negotiably compelled to assuage it. This is not a tendency I have developed. I was born this way. As mentioned, my long-term memory is not my strong-suit, but memories I have all share disorder as a sub-theme.

My post so far is somewhat prejudicial, I realize. Of course, I imagine, you must believe that I'm the issue here. But I truly don't think I am, not that my nature is helping anything.

My (custom, which is to say, not cheap) kitchen was largely remade because it was shoddily put together the first time. The cupboard door edges weren't beveled (?), the clasp openers (I don't like handles) were inferior and constantly disconnecting so they had to be replaced. The drawer rollers were like something out of IKEA circa 1978. In a misguided effort to fix cupboards onsite, an uncareful kitchen guy broke one of my absurdly expensive quartz countertops, which then had to be replaced (and not on my dime).

We spent 2 hours cleaning a wall of windows today because, though we've had professional window cleaners in - and our house cleaners have taken a run at them every time they been - said windows have been so ineptly destreaked, they continued to be a blight to behold. I know, post-renovation, one's windows continue to accumulate dust. But that's not what I'm referring to here. Part of window-cleaning involves recognizing that casings are part of the freakin' windows, no?

I could go on for pages but every time I look at something I'm distracted by the need to fix it. To wit: When readjusting the doors and improving the slightly asymmetric structure of my fireplace built-in, the peeps left silicone crap all over the quartz at the hearth. How can I read a book while that's going on?? Also, I'm not going to apologize for expecting perfect symmetry in that built-in. If it was good enough for the medieval Italians, it's good enough for me.

But enough complaining. I know - it's unattractive.

Though I'm conflating issues (work done by others and desire for "things done right" according to me) I'm curious to know how you manage your need for order. For starters, do you have one? If not, please tell me your secret - and I really hope it's not "my brain just works this way"! :-) Do you find it difficult to enjoy your space because you're compelled to improve it, rather than just to be with it? Do you have any "be here now exercises" which you apply so that you can just sit there on occasion and not feel like everything is falling into decay? How do you have people into your home to do things / clean things / fix things and not feel like, in lieu of paying them for their service, you should actually be lecturing them on the inferiority of their work.

Please know, when someone does something well, on the one hand I'm amazed and thrilled - and incredibly complimentary/grateful. On the other hand, it's as it should be. I would never provide you with less than I expect for and of myself. Isn't that the way the world should work?

Thanks so much in advance for any insights you can provide.

Sincerely, That Girl Who'd Prefer Not To Feel This Way All the Time

PS: FWIW, my husband completely shares my ire re: the ineptitude of much work done, but he's less traumatized by disorder than I am. So some things actually bother him as much as, or more than me, while others irritate him in a way he can completely ignore.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Flight Path

No doubt, Toronto's most knowable weekend for good weather is this one. I know this because I await it every summer, partly with ennui, partly with excitement. It's the air show weekend and I LOVE the air show. By and large, this city is wasted on me because I don't much like interacting with strangers for the pleasure of culture and entertainment. Call me excessively lazy (I am). Call me overburdened with lots of stuff that makes me excessively lazy on my off-hours (also true). The air show, however, that one comes to me.

I don't know if I will be able to impart the strange magic of this scenario but I'll give it a go.

Inevitably, the sky is blue (if sometimes hazy). On the Friday before the long weekend, the planes come to town and undertake their rumbling practice runs so that, for 3 hours per day, over each of the three long weekend days, I am treated to a spectacle of incomparable proportions. It's like God put my house in their flight path. All I have to do is go up to my third floor balcony, which is as high or higher than any house around me (though not commercial buildings, of course), and wander from side to side, taking in 180 degree views and an unobstructed sky. I truly cannot put a price on this.

The Blue Angels open the show in stunning formation, twisting in a triangle of 6, their wings glinting in the sun as they swerve by overhead. At first, it's impossible to tell the difference between the dragonflies and the planes because they come into one's frame of cognition at the same size and proportion. The vapor trails sometimes give it away, but not quickly in the haze. The afterburners always get the point across.

Unquestionably, the most amazing moment, the most affecting, is when the F18 flies by. It comes so close, so extremely low (like 500 feet above my balcony), and the impact is unparalleled. I don't know how it is that I'm ok with noise so loud it shakes the windows - with a scary-ass war plane in my own personal theatre. But it puts one in mind of another theatre, one wherein life and death hashed it out, and on any given day there was a winner and a loser.

When I work with food, I never fail to think the same thing (every single time, even if I don't follow my own edict on occasion): I cannot waste any of this. And at the next moment, a subtle, but deeply ingrained sensibility comes to me, the consciousness of people in death camps, in war time, struggling to survive with next to nothing. It is my function to treat my fleeting privilege with unyielding respect.

When I watch the air show, I'm put in mind of that privilege yet again - in the largest, reverberative, most palpable way. To observe the silver elegance of battle planes overwhelms me with the glory of human innovation, and to hear their deafening, rumble brings a momentary, visceral awareness of the chaos of violent, senseless death.

I don't mind telling you that I cry my way through the air show every year - all the more reason that it's perfect I don't have to travel to see it... I cry because I am transported to a time and place where that sound would have been pure joy and relief - or utter terror, the worst awareness imaginable.

The air show is the way we allow fortunate, peaceful first-world urbanites to tremble in fear momentarily, to be reminded of the perfection of good-fortune in the guise of entertainment.

As the F18 stint comes to a close, it is joined by a P-51 Mustang, a single-seat fighter, introduced in the deep days of WW2. They fly in formation, directly in front of my terrace, maybe 20 feet apart, their black underbellies sucking in the light, wispy smoke trails of different consistency behind them. They are beautiful symbols of victory and the prevalence of human intervention. I hope I never hear such planes in action, but I hope I always hear them on the last weekend of summer. Wishing you this kind of experience over the upcoming days... xo