Monday, February 02, 2009

2009 Goals List - 1st Quarter Check-in 02

My ability to focus is cyclical (hello, bipolar disorder). Sometimes I can work on the same project for weeks, without any tendancy to get distracted. Other times I can't commit to one thing for more than a few hours (or even minutes!) without wanting to start something different.

Rather than suffer, attempting to force myself to focus when my brain simply does not have that capacity, I'm working on embracing the disjointed times. And thus my short attention span of late has effected my choice of projects, as you'll well see. Since my last Check-in I've finished five more things! Granted, they're all small, but still, that's pretty good. They're finished, and that's what counts. And they work toward my project goals for the month.

Tom wanted a pair of thick squooshy slippers to replace his felted ones (they wore through) for around the house. This time I went with a superwash wool so that I could throw them in the washer and dryer with his socks. He's happy, and that's what counts.

This photo was taken after the slippers had been through the washer and dryer, and they came out soft yet plump and squooshy. I carried a thread of woolly nylon on the sole and heel to add to their life span, and have most of a skein of yarn left (these took 4.2 balls) to do patching when they begin to wear out. They are a doubled worsted weight yarn, 100% wool, ONline Linie 157 Tessa.

Also in the list of little things are a pair of crocheted fingerless mitts (my own design), a lacy Ice Queen Cowl (shown blocking, two layers thick), and two Chickadee Cowls (all pattern links are through Ravelry). Yes, that's one more cowl than I'd put on the list, but I got excited by the linen stitch after the first Chickadee Cowl (made in the gorgeous Misti Alpaca Hand Paint Chunky) and tried another one, this time in a wool / acrylic blend (Lang West).

These fingerless gloves were crocheted in Lorna's Laces sport weight superwash wool in the colourway Aslan, and took about two thirds of a single 70g skein. The buttons were in my stash. They're handy for driving (steering wheels can get cold in the winter).

I don't have a photo of me wearing the Ice Queen cowl, and probably won't (not in the mood to model these days). But trust me, it's lovely! The yarn is a fingering weight wool, mohair, cotton, nylon blend with metallic gold bits, so I didn't add any beading (not necessary - the gold bits add all the glitz of beads, without the effort). While it blocked to 18" long, it shrunk back to shorter off the pins. When I make this pattern again (and I will - I want at least one more, beaded) I'll make sure I have more yardage and add extra pattern repeats for length. This one drapes like a cowl neckline, all flowy and pretty, but isn't great for wearing up over the head. But oh, the pretty!

The cowl above is the alpaca one, and is just a little too long (8" as I wanted to use all of that expensive yarn) and itchy to use. Plus it isn't really my colour. I think this will go in a bag to be given away to someone who loves the colours and can handle the itch. Those pesky guard hairs! The skein felt amazingly soft, but I still cannot handle this yarn. Oy - a $22 lesson in my low tolerance for alpaca. Oh well, it could have been a sweater!

The colouring of the blue/brown cowl above is gorgeous, and perfect with a denim jacket. It will become a staple of my wardrobe, I think, for days when I need a little extra warmth with the denim, but don't want to change coats. The scalloped edging was a little extra I added to the bound off edge, and ate up most of the remaining yarn from the skein (less than 5 grams left after adding the scalloped edging). For a one ball project, it has high wearability and practicality, and I really like it. Not bad for $7!

All of these smaller projects kept me interested and busy through the latter part of January, and now in early February I'm working on a pair of slippers for me, from the same yarn in a different colour. Tom's are so warm and nice that I decided I needed a pair too, especially seeing as I've been wearing through all of my hand knitted socks like crazy lately. I think I should wear slippers indoors and save the handknit socks for when I leave the house, and that will extend their lives. So after I finish the first pair of my slippers, I'll put another pair on a future project goals list. And no, my slippers aren't beaded (the yarn is too thick to use with my beads), so they will be the exceptions to the beaded footware plan. Socks = beads. Slippers = nope!

I've been having great difficulty deciding on what sweater or cardigan to make. With such a large stash, I have lots of different options. And with Ravelry in my life, my list of favorite patterns is long. Hopefully I'll make my choice within the next week or two and get started while I still have time to finish in this quarter!

My sewing room is not progressing at all, and I really need to buckle down on that. But with this flightly brain of mine at present, that's a bit tough. I'll ride it out a bit longer, and push back the quilt goals if I have to. Bummer, though.

Next update in mid February! Hopefully I'll have made a start on some larger projects.

Monday, January 12, 2009

2009 Goals List - 1st Quarter Check-in 01

Not quite half of the first month of the first quarter of the year has already passed by ... and I'm on track. I've finished two pairs of socks, one each for Tom and me. Mine were beaded (yippee!), and Tom's were heavy and very appropriate for wearing in his steel toed boots while working up in Fort McMurray.

Both pairs used the special heel developed by Wendy Johnson of WendyKnits, in her pattern called Southwestern Socks (Ravelry link), which can be downloaded free from The Loopy Ewe. The link to their free pattern downloads is here, courtesy of Sheri at The Loopy Ewe. I'll put my two cents in about the yarn Wendy made her socks in: Fiesta Boomerang is delicious! I made a pair in Boomerang ages ago, and they wear like iron, are super soft, and come in amazing fun colourways. None of which appeal to Tom, thus the use of charcoal (again) for him. Thank goodness he lets me put in some crimson stripes for variety!

More details about my two latest sockish FOs can be found on their respective RavPages: the BecSocks and the TomSocks. Here are some photos, just to alleviate the dull.

Immediately following the completion of Tom's socks, I cast on another pair for him (these ones are intended for use as slippers), as I was not yet quite ready to start a more substantial project. I'm waffling on which cardigan or sweater to make first, don't have a plan for a bag, and haven't gotten my sewing room up and running yet. So more socks it is!

All in all, I'm feeling pretty good about my ability to meet these self-imposed goals. Time will tell, but I'm optimistic. And I have cute beaded socks, so what could possibly go wrong? Right? Right? Hmmm. Crickets are chirping in the background, aren't they?

Friday, January 09, 2009

A New Year, and Some (really freakin' lofty) Goals

Historically I have wasted far too much time waffling about, swatching this that and the other thing, favoriting hundreds of great projects and patterns in Ravelry, downloading and printing binders and binders worth of terrific patterns and ideas, yet not actually committing to or finishing many projects.

I'm an ideas person, and I often create (and complete) things that seem like great ideas in my head, but never actually get used once they're made. These are things that, while lovely and interesting to make, are still totally impractical in my lifestyle. Think numerous lace shawls that rarely come out to play with utterly non-girly non-lacy me, heavy wool sweaters that make me feel like I'm burning alive, huge art quilt pieces that I don't have the wall space to hang, bags that are adorable but just to small or girly for me to ever use, etc.

This year, I will try to be more structured in my approach to crafting (knitting, crocheting, spinning, quilting and sewing). So I've set out a series of guidelines, methods and goals that will help me to complete 2009 with lots of FOs that are actually useful.

The Qualifiers (questions to ask myself BEFORE I start a new project)

- Will I actually use this? Not CAN I use this, as I can talk myself into just about any project with hypotheticals like "I could wear this shawl to the opera" and other unrealistic situations. Nope. Will I actually use this in my day to day life? This needs to be a "Keep it practical" check. If a garment or item won't fit into my regular lifestyle, it shouldn't be considered. For example, heavy wool pullovers are out, yet (surprisingly) delicate doilies are in (I like to center vases, candle holders, framed photos, etc on a doily - yes, I'm weird that way).

- Is this physically possible to construct? This is an important question to remember when I start thinking about bed quilts (we have a king sized bed, and quilts that large can be extremely difficult to quilt on a home machine) and purses (lining can be a pain in the ass, and hold up completion). There's no point wasting my time and materials starting something I'm physically unable to complete for logistical reasons.

- Do I need special tools / materials / skills to finish this project? This year I'm focusing on working from my stash (beads, yarns, fibres, fabrics, notions, etc), so I want to keep the additional purchases to a minimum. If a cardigan needs 15 buttons and I only have 12, then I need to restructure it to use 12. This may require some fussing about, but working from the stash will be my reward. Fine, fine, if I need a specific size and colour of zipper, I can go out and get that. But no running out to by lining fabric, cashmere, or 19 new colours of beads. Use the freakin' stash first!!!!

- Will this make me look utterly dorky? Okay, a little dorky I'm okay with. Let's face it - I'm in my late thirties, fat and not very well groomed. So a tailored slim fitting tank top is not a good look for me. This year I'll review my garment making choices (whether knitting, crocheting or sewing) a number of times before I commit, to ensure that I wasn't having a brief fit of overly positive thinking that will later bite me on my substantial ass.

The Quantifiers (now that I've set out The Qualifiers, above):

- I will use yarn / fibre / fabric from my stash for a minimum of 75% of my projects (by count, not by weight or volume).

- I will mix it up to avoid boredom. This includes craft, project type, scale, colour, etc.

- I will forgive myself the occasional lapse into swatching, sketching, or researching that goes nowhere. It happens. I can't always be productive, so I should stop beating myself up for spending the occasional day dithering.

- I will make more things for Tom. He will receive a lot of socks this year, and one sweater. And I will continue to work closely with him to ensure that the fit / colour / fabric / style pleases him, even when he greats a completed sock with "this needs an extra quarter inch of length in the foot, and then it will be perfect". If he is the intended recipient, he needs to be happy.

- I will do quality control. On everything. If I'm doubtful about fit / form / function, I'll set the project aside until I can look at it with an unbiased eye, and make proper decisions. Sometimes I need to step away from the needles!

- I will set goals. Lots of goals. Good, realistic, attainable goals. See below!

In order to structure my project output, I'm instituting required minimums for each quarter, plus goals for totals for the year.

The quarterly minimums will help to ensure that I have a variety in project scope and scale in each time period. And they are minimums - I can focus my project output to make more socks in one quarter and more sweaters in another, aiming to complete the annual goals while still maintaining the quarterly minimums overall. The idea is to vary my projects to keep things interesting, while still focusing enough to attain growth and experience in a variety of crafts. Sounds pretty good, eh?

So here are the current quarterly and annual goals (I may add to these later):

Quarterly: 2 pairs of socks (1 for each Tom and me)
Annual: a minimum of 12 pairs (6 for each Tom and me)

Quarterly: 1 sweater (cardigan or pullover)
Annual: 3-5 sweaters for me, 1 for Tom

Quarterly: 2 doilies (1 each knitted & crocheted)
Annual: set of 5 small knitted doilies for framing (art cluster), plus 2 crocheted doilies by each Mary Werst and Patricia Kristoffersen

Quarterly: 1 quilt (lap or bed)
Annual: 4 lap quilts, 2 bed quilts

Quarterly: 4 small knitted or crocheted winter accessory items
Annual: enough hats, cowls, scarves, mittens, etc to keep Tom and I both warm next winter

Quarterly: 1 bag, purse, tote or wallet
Annual: a variety of useful project bags, purses, etc (minimum 4 - they are a great way to showcase knitterly or crochet skills to the world, and darned useful!)

Quarterly: 1 handspun project (from fibre to yarn, then make a knitted or crocheted item)
Annual: 4 small scale and 1 large scale projects from handspun (I'd love a handspun shawl - not very practical, but a great showcase for handspun and a more realistic goal than a handspun sweater)

Quarterly: blog at least twice a month with progress updates
Annual: showcase every single completed project on the blog (in addition to putting all knitted and crocheted items on Ravelry) with an annual minimum of 26 blog postings (24 will be the twice monthly updates, plus this initial outline, plus a final year end wrap-up)

So, to get things kicked off, here are my specific goals for the first quarter of 2009:
- 1 Cardigan (for me)
- 2 pairs of TomSocks
- 2 pairs of BecSocks
- 2 cowls
- 2 lacy scarves
- 2 hats
- 1 pair of fingerless mitts
- 1 knitted doily
- 1 crocheted doily
- 1 bag
- 1 bed quilt
- 1 lap quilt
- 1 other quilted project (bag, pillow cover, or wall hanging)
- 1 project from handspun (can be one of the projects set out above, but I do want at least one thing finished from my own handspun yarn per quarter).

In an aside, I'm planning to add beads to all of my socks this year, focus on thicker socks for both Tom and myself, focus my cardigans/pullovers on easy care warm weather fibers (with one major exception - a cabled wool cardigan), and focus my quilting efforts on the quilting more than the piecing.

And finally, I will be open to change as it is needed, but will not actively seek change just because I'm feeling obstinate.