How I maintain my mental sanity while knitting HUGE projects.

Hello everyone,
I decided it was time for a little update about one of my WIPs.

I am knitting a double size blanket, it will be made of 16 squares in a black frame. In each of these squares I will embroider the name of a member of the family in Duplicate Stitch.

Sounds easy enough, but I seriously underestimated the amount of work (and time) this project was going to take.
I am 2 and a half weeks in (or maybe 3 weeks) and I managed to knit half of the blanket.

You can see how beautiful it turned out (I hope I am not the only one to like it).

Half Blanket

Now I am tackling the second half.

If you consider that each squares is made of 62 sts on 76 rows, you can easily understand how long it takes me to knit each row (139 sts included the borders).

I meticulously write down all the rows I knit just because I find counting the knitted rows extremly boring, and it usually leads me to have a different result each time.

I also admit I use the numbers to entertain myself while I knit.

As you can see from the picture I don’t have to pay to much attention to what I am doing. It is a simple stockinette and garter stitch pattern, and really the only precaution I need to take is remembering to twist the yarn in the back when I join two different colours.

In order to prevent myself from falling asleep while knitting (it wouldn’t been the first time) I try to find anything to keep my brain occupied.
I started to write the number of rows using different fonts, in neat coloumns, trying to fit a specific amount of pairs on each line of the paper… and so on.
I felt a strange sense of accomplishment everytime I reached out for my notepad to write the figures down.

The excitement, however, was short lived everytime I stopped and thought about the TOTAL amount of rows I still had to knit.

So I decided to trick myself into thinking about how many rows I needed to knit for each colour block, divide it by two and set that row as a goal to reach. You see, when you get to the half of what you need to do (38 rows in my case), it magically seems less daunting. After I pass row 38 I can see the “light” again, I can now count the rows I have LEFT till I am done with each block.

Working with different colours on each couple of squares helps me a lot too. I try to get excited everytime I start knitting a new colour combination, I anticipate what they will look like and this drags me through the following 14 rows of the black border.

And so on, I repeated almost the same identical process for all those 374 rows which combined gave me my first half of the blanket.

Of course I now feel accomplishment of having completed my first half… and I need to convey this sense of elation into willpower to put myself to work on the remaining half.

I can start counting again, I have only 338 rows to go now…

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Sun, Spring, Self-discipline !

Rise and shine!
In the last week we were blessed with really sunny days. It is quite a rare event here in England and I learned to appreciate it (coming from Italy, I have suffered quite a lot about the dark and cold of winter months).

I realised that Spring is around the corner and I allowed myself to wonder and dream about all the exciting projects I will soon cast/hook on.

My first thought was to find a new colourful palette to draw inspiration from. During this time of the year, thanks to the first warm weather, I feel like I just want to work with cotton yarn.
Thanks to my local yarn shop in Lichfield (The Sewing Shop) I always have a wide choice of yarn to choose from.
My own personal Spring 2014 colour palette features my favourite cotton yarn: Stylecraft Classique!

My selection for this Spring projects!

I have way so many ideas and pattern in mind and I really cannot wait to start creating something new.

I personally didn’t consider working with bright colours before, but since I saw some of the projects on Let’s Get Crafting! Knitting & Crochet magazine I totally changed my mind. I now feel daring!
From their issue #52 I already realised a couple of patterns. You can see one of them on my Ravelry page, it is called Geometric Cushion a design of Lucinda Ganderton.

On my list there are projects like this wonderful Placemat and Coaster designed by Tamara Kelly

I also fell in love with Oscar the Owl by Amanda Berry that is also featured in #52 of Let’s Get Crafting! Knitting & Crochet. Isn’t it simply adorable?

Yes this Spring crafting will be dedicated to decorative home items…but all this will have to wait a little bit longer.
I committed myself to a big project that has to be delivered before the end of the month (if you are curious you can find it in my WIP section), and until that one is finished I cannot really begin a new one.

I think it is the crafter curse… you start a project that you love and while you are still doing it, your mind comes up with many other creative ideas for a thousand more projects.

So SELF-DISCIPLINE is required… no new projects until the blanket is done! I will try really hard to stick with it as the blanket really means a lot to me and to the commissioner.

In the meanwhile I finally found a good use for the Cable Bag I knitted last September while I was on holiday.

The pattern is from Vogueknitting and you can find it in here, you just need to register to their website.

If any of you wants to share their Spring/Summer projects I will be happy to read about it, I love to see what my fellow crafters come up with.

My first attempt at Flash Writing

This Saturday I was browsing Reddit and a post in the writers’ forum caught my eye.

It was a call for writers, asking to submit a short story in less than 24 hours, with a given prompt.
I had never done anything like this, but at the same time I though it would have been fun to try (the prize would have been an Amazon gift card of unknown value).

As a translator, I consider myself to be a good writer in Italian (afterall it is my native language), but to be honest I am not offered many occasions to write in English – outside my Academic work. This was my opportunity to test my fictional writing in English so I jumped on it.

The prompt for the short story was quite specific:
“Write from the perspective of a bird cage whose last occupant has passed away and is being replaced”

And this is the story I came up with:

I know what it is going on. I can read their emotions like If they were written in capital letters. They are excited. Too excited.

Look at them, the kids are bouncing all over the place and Lea has that expression… how can she. It has just been a few weeks and she already feels like giving her heart away again. I thought Charlie was special? At least for her.

Charlie had been with her for the last eighteen years. He told me everything about her. When there was nobody around, Charlie liked talking with me. I was the only one he could talk to. Really, in the end a bird and its cage…is there any stronger bond?

He told me about the first time he met Lea. She was 10. He knew this because it was her birthday. Her parents had gone to the pet shop and had brought him back for that special occasion. The moment she saw him, her eyes widened with surprise and pure joy. In that moment he knew he was special.

She named him Charlie, and he knew that he was born to be her best friend. He spent hours observing her, trying to understand what that little girl was all about. She kept him in her room; she couldn’t bear to be away from him, not even a second when she was in the house.

She talked with him for hours, what she had done in school, which friends she had met outside, what her dreams were. She was telling him all those secrets that a little girl would only confide to her diary. And she would sing to him. She had the most beautiful voice Charlie had ever heard. He loved to listen her singing, He also learned how to tune her favourite song “What’s Up”. He would whistle the first notes of the song and she would pick up the tune and they would end singing the chorus together. That was their secret code, how they told each other how much they loved one another.

I only heard her sing twice. She surely has a good voice, but nothing exceptional. I guess Charlie’s affection had blurred his hearing.

Charlie and I met after Lea married Michael, seven years ago. Michael bought me as a present for Lea, and I was a good one: a gorgeous Victorian bird cage. My intricate design works its charm, every single time. I remember Lea’s excitement when she placed Charlie within my bars.

We didn’t get along straight away. I was extremely annoyed by his continuous chewing on my sides. When nobody was watching I was rattling as hard as I could, just to frighten him a bit. It didn’t work, but eventually, between a curse and shake I understood that all his destructive behaviour was just his way to show his pain. He missed Lea’s attention, terribly.

There was nothing I could do. I tried to explain to him that Lea had grown into a woman, a wife and a mom, but that she still loved Charlie. He looked broken hearted, because he realised he wasn’t the only love her life, not anymore.

I really felt for Charlie, I could tell how deeply his little parrot heart was trying to make her look at him in the same way she used to do when it was just Lea and Charlie. I could do nothing. Or could I?

I started asking Charlie to talk about Lea. Every day I asked him to tell me a new story about her. Was she a good student? Did she read a lot, what about her favourite books?

Day after day I saw Charlie’s heart grow bright again, as his mind was going back to those happy memories. His Lea, the image of the girl who loved him so much, was once more with him.

I think that, in the end, he wasn’t aware of the adult Lea anymore. He was old and in his head past and present were getting mixed and confused. It was a blessing. In his last days he told me he was happy. I believed him, and I take some comfort knowing that the night he passed away his last whisper were the first notes of “What’s Up”.

I know.. it is nothing special, but I really enjoyed writing it.

In case you were still wondering I didn’t win.

Out of respect I won’t give my own opinion on the winner’s interpretation of the assignment, I will let each one of you enjoy his, and some of the other stories that were submitted. Mine was not on the blog as I had sent it via email (I was over the 500 words).
Here you can read the winning story and the other submissions.

I hope you will enjoy some unusual reading.

When knitting meets charity – Penguins!

Yarn lovers unite!
Today I am happy to share a beautiful initiative that I am sure will make my fellow knitters go “awwwwww”.

Today on my Facebook feed I read about a new charity project that really warmed my heart, so I decided to share it, in the hope to reach many other knitters and animal lovers.

It is sponsored by the Penguin Foundation an Australian association that is trying to preserve, study and reabilitate penguins.

They are collecting knitted little jumpers for the penguins that are undergoing recovery after being contaminated from oil spill.
Beside looking extremely cute and fashionable, on their website they explain how the knitted jumpers help the penguins:

resizedimage350261-Knitted-jumper-lores_2

“When oiled penguins are admitted to the Wildlife Clinic at Phillip Island Nature Parks, a knitted jumper is placed on the penguins to prevent them from preening and swallowing the toxic oil before they are washed and the oil removed by staff.”

They also provide the pattern as a free download on their webite (If you are lazy you can just click here).

I invite all of you to visit their website, and if you don’t know how to knit, you can always donate what you can.

If someone is interested to contrinute, but is put off by the idea to send a parcel to the other side of the world, I am more than willing to organize a collection point and send them all in one single parcel (email me at simply.yarn@gmail.com and we will come up with some ideas).

Now go, and cast one on!

Presents are always welcome, not only at Christmas.

One of the reasons why I enjoy my crochet-knitting so much is that it allows me to create something unique for my family and friends.
Handmade presents speak directly from the heart, and when they are unexpected, the look of surprise and joy on people’s faces is the biggest rewards of all.
This last Christmas it has been a yarn celebration. I had planned all the projects and I started to craft in October, but on December 23rd I was still putting the finish touches to the last project.
I know many other knitters will relate.

Anyway, as the holiday season passed I collected my yarn and set off for new wolly adventures.

I recently found out that one of my friends back in Italy was expecting (a baby girl!) and, since I love knitting baby garments I decided it was time for a new project.
I was at The Sewing Shop for the monthly Knit-ad-natter meeting (they host all sorts of workshops and work groups) and I fell in love with this yarn.

Smooth - King Cole

It is called King Cole – Smooth and it was a bliss working with it.
I opted to make a simple plain cardigan in order to compensate the multi color texture deriving from the yarn itself. I created a topdown pattern that would fit a baby 3-6 months old. This is the result.
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I am planning to put the pattern on Ravelry once I will have the time to write it down properly… at the moment it appears to be just a multitude of weird looking scribbles and drawings.
It was a fun project and the reaction of my friend, when she got it in the mail, was priceless. Surprise and happiness at pure state, it really warmed my heart.

As many other crafters, I never work only one project at the time. I always have a knitting project and a crochet one casted on at the same time.
This time, however, I had two knitting projects going along.

This second one was a long overdue promise I made. My friend (and PhD collegue) Fabiana had asked me back in September to make her a replica of her favourite fingerless gloves, since her pair was falling to pieces.
I felt terrible for being so late on delivery… so I really urged myself to work hard and fast for this one.
It was a simple pattern to create, but even if so, it was my first pair of gloves, so I was a bit nervous.
Two weeks later I managed to finish them. Here they are in all their glory (click here for the Ravelry link).

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They are on their way towards Manchester, so I cannot tell you if they were exactly like she wanted them…
Luckly (?) here in England the weather is still keeping us in the cold cold weather, so she will be able to test them soon enough.