Obsession Thursdays

Obsession Thursday: The knitting ecosystem

It’s like this:

Knitters consume yarn (hallelujah for yarn!).

Yarn is created by mills (both big and small), and dyed commercially or by independent artisans, for knitters to consume. At the same time, other fabulous things that knitters love, like stitch markers, needles, bags, inventive accessories and other things we don’t even know about yet are created by other entrepreneurs and established businesses.

Designers, whether professional or amateur, established or brand new, create patterns that allow knitters to use yarn and the goods that go with it, in order to create exciting handknitted items that would not otherwise exist.

Magazines (like Knitty) and books offer patterns and instruction to help knitters find the next thing they want to knit, and to knit it with less stress and frustration. When a project is bound off (and often before!), the cycle starts over and over again.

It’s the knitting ecosystem, and Knitty is very proud to be a part of it.

Thanks to our Patrons, Knitty continues to be a financially viable company who can pay its staff and contributors properly. And because we now are able to, we’re reaching out to help another branch of the knitting ecosystem by cutting ad prices for the first time in our history. This means more companies and creators have access to our readership for less money. Our ad prices now start at $60/issue.

Since sharing fiber-related products and services with our readership is a big part of why we exist, we’re thrilled to be able to do this. Would you help us spread the word? Just tell someone (or even someoneS) you know who might be interested in advertising with Knitty about our low rates. Send them to this page for all the details.

Thank you for being part of the knitting ecosystem. We send our gratitude and love.

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Obsession Thursday: Reorganizing for the new year

Not Knitty…reorganizing my apartment! It is rather small as 2-bdr apts go, but I do love it so, and it’s what I can afford, so I’ve gotta make it work.

Over the holidays, I started another wave of tidying and purging. My office started out like this:

mid-purge/tidy: notice the large quantity of Ikea bags, now empty after putting their contents in their proper places (sometimes that was the garbage). big black monolith is my desk chair. 

…and then I made it better. Took a few days and cleared away tons of crap, and properly put away tons of NOTcrap. There was more clear floor space in here than there has been since I moved in in Sept 2014 once I was done.

Of course, that meant that I had to fill it up again.

Tully has been living in the living room. He’s young (not even a year old yet) and he can’t be fully free range until he chills a bit. So he needed more space than he had in just his cage when he’s tucked in for the night.

Squeeze, having vacated the office for her new home on Toronto Island with her daddy (my ex), left more than enough room for Tully to move in. Today, he moved in.

The exercise pen around his cage came from a Facebook trading site called Bunz.

The exercise pen around his cage came from a Facebook trading site called Bunz (only in Canada, I believe). I traded two bags of dog treats for this baby.

The cage is his security, so I kept it. On the top right, that huge black thing is a Sterilite plastic bin which holds — get this — a half bale of hay. And it’s full. That’s how much hay this guy eats. It cost almost nothing to buy it from a hay farmer, which is much better than the $14/wee bag I was paying before. (Each bag lasted a week.)

Anyway, He’s been exploring this new room and finding out how it connects to the rest of the world he knows already. He seems quite happy. Has eaten, groomed himself and is now drinking from his water bottle. This indicates a relaxed bunny.

Job well done, I say! Woot me!

Intrepid explorer Tully susses out his new digs. Yes, there’s a lot of crap on my desk. That’s the next task.

 

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Obsession Thursday: Getting back to cooking

This is an Instant Pot.

This is an Instant Pot.

You’ve probably seen these things everywhere on social media. I sure had. It’s an Instant Pot, aka an electronic pressure cooker. Everyone I know has one (or one like it) or wants one. There was (unsurprisingly) a sale on Black Friday where it was about half the regular price. So I jumped.

Why do you want one of these? Here’s why I did:

  1. Unlike a slow cooker, it keeps smells in the pot, not all over your house/apartment
  2. You can cook delicious dishes from frozen ingredients in just a short time…some as fast as 3 minutes, once the machine reaches pressure (remember, it’s a pressure cooker)
  3. It also does the functions of a rice cooker, slow cooker and even a saute pan

It was number 2 that did it for me. I keep forgetting to cook actual FOOD until it’s too close to dinner to do anything but defrost something I’ve precooked (I do batches of stuff from time to time, but not always) or order pizza. That is not healthy. And doesn’t feel very adult.

It arrived yesterday. Like others before me, I’m a bit intimidated by this large pot with a fancy lid and lots of buttons. I read the manual. I joined this Facebook group (it’s VERY helpful and encouraging). I started saving appealing recipes to my Pocket (I prefer Pocket to Pinterest, but that’s just me. There are TONS of recipes on Pinterest). And tonight, after I do my first water test, I’m going to cook some frozen chicken thighs into something delicious. I’ve been told that, once I get the hang of it, I’ll want to use it for almost every meal. You can even make cheesecake in this thing.

Do you have one of these? Share your tips and favorite recipes with me in the comments, will you?

*The link above takes you to Amazon, where Knitty will get a small fee if you purchase one of these things. Keep an eye out for sales…they pop up all the time.

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The Wool Cycle

I moved house in the summer, and got myself a brand-new fancy-modern super-duper Samsung washing machine. It’s got all sorts of wonderful features and functions, including this rather interesting cycle, labelled simply “Wool”.

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Intriguing…

Now, I’m a huge proponent of washing woolies – yes, even those that aren’t superwash! – and having had front-loaders for years, I’ve never been afraid of using the washer’s spin cycle, but I must confess I was a bit nervous about a full machine wash for my more important handknits. And having consulted the manual, I got a bit worried: the manual states that the cycle is only for woolies that are labelled as machine washable.

(The spin cycle on a front loading washing machine and on many of the newer top-loaders, the ones that don’t have a central agitator, is actually very gentle on your garments. The spin cycle relies on centrifugal forces to fling your items against the side of the drum and leave it there, while the water spins away. After a soak, my handwash loads get thrown in the machine for a spin. Yes, even the most delicate of my knits and other handwash pieces – lingerie, and the like. When I was shopping for a new machine, the presence of a spin-only cycle was critical to me, I won’t buy a washing machine that doesn’t let me do that.)

I’ve been promising to try it the wool cycle for months, but had been avoiding it. I’m working on a big writing task right now, and in my keenness to find a distraction, I decided that today was the day. Rather than start with a precious hand-knit sweater, I decided to do a trial load: I threw in some wooly tights (store bought, low wool-content, marked machine washable), a store-bought wool and alpaca blend sweater, clearly labelled hand wash only, a pair of alpaca-blend handknit socks in a yarn that is marked superwash, but I know doesn’t do well in the machine, and a handknit swatch in a yarn I know that felts.

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My ‘volunteers’.

My resolve only wavered once, when I looked at the settings of the cycle: a warm wash, spin set to ‘low’, for a full hour.

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Okaaaaaay….

I threw everything in, with a cold-wash detergent. (Honestly, if these were my best hand-knits, I would use a wool wash. I’m a big fan of Soak.)

I loaded up the machine, turned the dial, crossed my fingers, and pressed go. I got no work done over that hour, as I kept wandering to my laundry room to have a look. The door is opaque, so I wasn’t able to actually see what was going on, but I looked at how the machine was moving, and I listened. According to the Samsung website, what distinguishes the wool cycle is that the drum only moves “horizontally”. Remember, it’s not actually the presence of water that causes felting – it is agitation or friction. (Although a temperature shock can also cause a bit of felting, it’s really not the key factor.) It seemed clear from the noises the machine was – or more to the point, wasn’t – making that there is essentially no rotation, and therefore no opportunity for the garment to experience any  friction.

An hour later, the washer sang its little end-of-cycle notification song – a musician friend tells me that it’s Schubert – and I rushed downstairs. I must confess I hesitated a little before I opened the door.

But I really needn’t have been worried: everything came out clean and wonderful, unfelted and undisturbed. Everything was fluffy and soft and nice.

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Fab!

I will definitely be doing that again! I will note that when I talked a bit about this on Twitter, a couple of people reported less happy experiences. It seems like there’s a load size limit – the larger the load, the larger the pieces, the higher the risk of felting. That does make sense, since a tub full of wool will have more opportunity to experience friction. And some machines are probably more gentle than others. If you’ve not used it before, I’d recommend experimenting with swatches and perhaps a store-bought sweater or two before you put your favourite handknits in.

Does your machine have a wool or hand-wash cycle? Have you tried it?

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Obsession Thursday: A new rabbit in the Knitty household

Some of you may remember that one of the two mini-rex sisters who lived with me, Boeing, died in October 2015. Since then, it’s been just me and her sister, Squeezle.

Squeezle is 11 and then some, and that’s pretty senior for a bunny. She’s been happy as a solo bunny. I guess she always had secret desires of being top bun than now can be realized. Me, though…I wanted a puppy. Someone furry to hang out with me on the couch, go on road trips with.

Baby Tully won my heart with this picture. Look at those ears!

Baby Tully won my heart with this picture. Look at those ears!

Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a dog person, however. I’m a rabbit person. So when I found a listing for a Flemish Giant mix rabbit (mixed with what? Beagle?) whose foster mom said was “like a dog”, I decided I was ready.

Meet Tully —>. 10 weeks old in this picture, after being rescued from an open field in a large plastic tub with his two brothers. They’ve been adopted to other loving homes.

Tully was neutered just before I brought him home. He has some mellowing to do as the hormones leave his system, but basically he is the biggest, love-loving bunny I’ve ever met. Maybe even more than little grey mini rex Newton (1993-2005), and that’s saying something.

See, mini rexes are notoriously high strung, but I love them anyway. However, there are a few breeds of rabbit that are mellower. Flemish Giants are one of them. Tully ain’t scared of much except sudden noises. Driving in the car? No biggie. And now that he’s explored the living room/kitchen area where he roams, he’ll sit at my feet forever for pets. One day, he might even make it up on the couch next to me.

Tully would like me to pet him. All the time.

Tully would like me to pet him. All the time.

Purebred FGs can grow to 22 lbs. He’s about 7 lbs right now, which is as big as Boeing was at her largest.  The vet thinks he won’t get much bigger. Those may be famous last words, but I don’t care. I love having a big bunny again.

I have a harness waiting for Tully, when I feel he’s calm enough to handle it.  It’ll probably take a while to get him used to it. I can’t wait. I’m looking forward to taking him on road trips with me, or on overnights to friends’ houses.

As for Squeezle, she and Tully will never meet. Bonding bunnies is stressful for both of them (and for the human, honestly) and even if it was successful, then Tully would lose his mate sooner than is fair. So they live in different zones of the apartment for now.

Tully came home with me the day before my birthday. Best birthday present ever.

 

Here he is. Home at last.

A side view of my big bunnydude.

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Obsession Thursday: New habits

I am a fat girl, and have been so for much of my life. I’ve also been thin a few times. It never sticks. I accept my size.

But last weekend at Rhinebeck, something changed. I saw myself in pictures and video and I wasn’t even me any more. I scared myself. The past two years’ worth of divorce-based-new-life stress eating has caught up with me. I also have IBS*, and my GI tract that weekend made me feel a drastic change in my food consumption was in order.

I’ve done everything from Weight Watchers (smart but exhausting) to Optifast (doctor-monitored and crazypants). I know what works, but what works for ME isn’t the same thing. So I did some research and invented my own program.

Keep in mind that this is what is working for me now, and you should do what works for you.

This is the stuff I'm eating for 2/3 meals every weekday.

This is the stuff I’m eating for 2/3 meals every weekday.

Breakfast and lunch every weekday is a glass of this stuff: Orgain Chocolate Protein Powder. I am experimenting with different recipes, but so far have enjoyed it mixed with unsweetened coconut milk and frozen fruit. (I tried it today with 1% Lactaid and strawberries, and it’s the best so far.)

For lunch, I tried it as a chia pudding but it was much too much food and not so great. Kind of grossed me out. So it’s 2 shakes right now. I also have an iced latte every morning with 1% Lactaid milk and sweetener. It makes me feel normal and keeps me full till past noon.

Orgain also comes as a premixed shake, but it’s a totally different formula. It tastes strongly of fermented legumes (or something else gross) and is just ICK. Powder stuff is vegan (!) and tastes much better. 

For dinner, I eat dinner.  That means it includes bread, rice or pasta if I want it to. It means I don’t weigh or measure, but I also don’t go nuts. The first week, my dinners were larger than I think they should be (probably by about 30%), and I’m not surprised by that. I’ve got to adjust from eating much too much, all day long. So I’m cutting myself some slack.

If I’m hungry during the day or at night, as much fruit and veg as I want. Popcorn, of course. No crap, period. I have always found it easier to say no to an entire group of stuff rather than picking which to say yes to. Remember, I have decades of Weight Watchers-based experience.

This allows me to go out with friends for dinners. It allows me to not think about what to eat for breakfast or lunch every day, which always was a bit of a pain and ended up with me making bad choices.

I’m writing this on Sunday at lunchtime, just after deciding that I get to have a normal lunch on the weekend as well to maintain sanity. I don’t want to get sick of the shakes. So today, lunch will be steamed rice and edamame and some sort of sauce and sesame seeds on it.

In this first week, the first two days, I went mental with cravings for candy and chocolate. Later in the week, I realized they had passed. The Orgain powder is about as decent tasting as any sort of drink like this could be (read the Amazon reviews to see what others say). And it helps quell the chocolate cravings.

After just under a week doing this, inches are starting to drop off. I hate the scale but will be going to my GP’s office to let him weigh me and just announce if I’ve lost or gained. Hearing my actual weight will likely derail me and it’s not the point anyway. The point is to get back to where I feel good again, can move again, fit into my clothes again.

Regarding how this stuff reacts with IBS, so far, so good! Having less bread is probably a huge part of that, in my case. Of course, YMMV. But I’m encouraged. And already am feeling pleased with myself as I ignore the crap in the stores that I was living off of for the last year or 2. I just walk the perimeter of the grocery store instead.

PS It’s my birthday today, Thursday. Yay me!

(the links to the product are affiliate links, which support Knitty.)


*ETA: It’s now November 1, and my IBS symptoms are almost completely gone. I’m thrilled. I realized that the corn maze I walked through on the weekend is something I wouldn’t have done 2 weeks ago…how the hell would I get to the bathroom in time if I needed to? This is a huge relief. Life changing, actually.

 

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Obsession Thursday: #rhinebeckpiechart

I haven’t been at Rhinebeck since 2008. Eight years! Until recently, I was in the UK most Octobers, so it just didn’t work out.

rhinebeckpieThis year, my friends got themselves super-organized and rented a house nearby. Which means staying for reasonably cheap with people I love. How could I not go?

So I’m driving 7+ hours to Rhinebeck tomorrow while the housesitter watches the Squeezle again (bless her). I have planned a stop at Sonic for some diet limeade to fuel my drive (i may buy two so I have enough for the whole trip). Have you never had Sonic’s diet limeade? It’s very good.

Twitter user @oharethey started a thing I rather like: the #rhinebeckpiechart. Here’s mine —>

It’s probably more complex than this, but it feels like friends first and everything else is a bonus. That’s worth driving 7+ hours for, right? Hell, yes.

If you’re going to be there, our first-ever Rhinebeck Knitty meetup is on the hill at 2pm on Saturday. I’ll have knittybuttons to give away until I run out. Come give me a hug!

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Obsession Thursday: The smell of woodsmoke.

Long beach on Vancouver Island. Photo directly out of my phone, really. No filters or adjustments of any kind. I can't make this stuff up.

Long beach on Vancouver Island. Photo directly out of my phone, really. No filters or adjustments of any kind. I can’t make this stuff up.

I am in Tofino. I got here by getting on a train in Toronto and riding in my little sleeper bunk all the way to Vancouver, then grabbing a rental car and taking the ferry over to Vancouver Island.

Tofino is a tiny little surfing town that sticks out of the west coast of Vancouver Island all by itself. It’s a 3-hour drive from reasonably urban Nanaimo (home of the bars), going up and down and through wiggly bits, over mountainy terrain, through rainforesty bits that occasionally open up to give you vistas I only wish I had photos of. Diamond-clear lakes that tend more to green than blue, and mountains covered with so very many trees (thankfully, still covered, not clearcut), and fog and little boats and omg I am so much in love with this part of the world. If you want to see what my trip has been like so far, you can find my photos here.

I’ve been lucky enough, thanks to being able to teach knitting, to have travelled to a lot of places. I get this ache often, this I HAVE TO LIVE HERE ache. Sometimes it passes as soon as I get to the next place; sometimes it stays with me long after I’ve returned home. Places that stuck really hard with me are Portland (the Oregon one), Hawaii, Brighton AND Yorkshire, in England, and now here. Tofino. This is the first place I’ve gone to purely as vacation. No work, except blogging. It’s been relaxing, refreshing, enlightening, and so enjoyable. I’ve made myself not be miserly and have booked the Whale Watch, instead of just wishing I had once I got home. I get on the boat in a few hours.

I’m reasonably freshly single after being married a long damned time. I could move anywhere I want, thankfully, as long as there’s a decent internet connection and a good rabbit vet. Every time I walk out of my little inn and smell the woodsmoke, and feel the dampness from the ocean against my skin, I realize that this kind of environment is the one that touches me most deeply. Woods and ocean. So maybe I could move somewhere like this.

Maybe I will. Or maybe I’ll book another trip here or somewhere like here. A longer one.

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Obsession Thursday: reclaiming my Ukeness.

One of the many things I had to stop doing, when my Carpal Tunnel Syndrome got really bad, was playing ukulele. It was gradual and then all of a sudden I realized I hadn’t played in months. And then a year.

Waterman glow-in-the-dark ukulele

Waterman glow-in-the-dark ukulele

Thanks to my CTS surgery, I’m back, people. And I am so damned happy about it. Tonight, I got to teach some basic chords to a lovely fellow who wanted to learn. Watching his light bulb turn on as his fingers started to remember where G, F, A and D are located reminded me of how much fun it was for me to learn.

I am planning a big cross-country train trip at the end of next month, and so I treated myself to a new travel uke. It’s plastic (like the popular ukes of the 1950s) and, get this, IT GLOWS IN THE DARK. Because can’t you see me in my little train cabin, playing my glowy uke in the dark as we chug along through the prairies at night?

It’s a delightful instrument that’s waterproof and plays like a dream. I love how it sounds, and I am veritably smitten. You can get one for yourself here. They come in tons of colors, and I am unreasonably tempted to buy the clear one and fill it with cool LED lights. But I think that would mess with the acoustics.

Are you interested in learning the uke? My (I’ve been told) quite-useful post on how to choose your first ukulele can be found here.

 

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Obsession Thursday: continuing to heal

Last time I wrote, I told you about my upcoming surgery of a womanly sort and how that would affect Knitty’s next issue.

Since then:
– surgery went off very well
– took 2 hours longer than expected because my surgeon needed to consult during the procedure to make it as minimally invasive as possible
– I believe I asked the recovery room nurse to marry me after she gave me 4 perfect orange popsicles, one after another…just what i needed after having that tube down my throat (ack)
– some very lovely people visited me in the hospital (I just stayed overnight) and I felt very loved
– home the next day, feeling surprisingly good, but moving slow
– the usual post-general anesthetic symptoms gone in a few days (yay!)
– soon feeling almost zingy!
– and then the real zinger: a pinched nerve in my neck from all the proneness (since sitting up was not very comfortable the first few days)

So that last bit, that was actually probably the worst part of my recovery. I took myself back to the ER when I started to feel severe pain in both my arms, 5 days after surgery. All sorts of tests confirmed I hadn’t had a heart attack or stroke, and they sent me home. With no idea what was wrong. Oh, joy.

Cervical radiculopathy. I'll say...it's radiculous!

Cervical radiculopathy. I’ll say…it’s radiculous!

And then, Dr Mom diagnosed me. Pinched nerve. It was exactly that. Stretching my neck in a specific direction reproduced the pain. So gentle long stretches in the same direction finally relieved the pain. I’m continuing to do the stretches and the pain is gone, but my neck STILL feels like I let a tractor run over it. (I didn’t.)

For those who told me that a hysterectomy (total, laparoscopic, btw) would be an easy recovery, I thank you. You were right. It definitely was even easier than when I had my gall bladder removed. I find that surprising and a huge relief. Yay, modern medicine! Boo, neck nerves.

Anyway, Knitty production has resumed, albeit slower than usual. We will be bringing you a fabulous First Fall issue around the middle of June, as we predicted. Jillian and I are heading to TNNA in Washington, DC, next weekend (already? holy cow).  If you have a yarn shop, please stop us if you see us on the floor. We have a little something to give you.

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