The Word of the Day is Namaste

Back a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far away I wrote a review of the Namaste Train Case and Buddy Case. Overall, they are holding up well and were good purchases but with some and travel a small update is warranted.

The Train Case is a great idea in theory and does work well for car travel, and knitting sessions outside of the home, but after flying with it twice there’s a downside, unless you fly first class and have enough leg room to move that case in and out from under the seat in front of you it may not be the best choice as your small carry on.  I would still call it a great purchase but limited on air travel.  The designers certainly put a lot of thought into making it flight friendly but in actual use it misses the mark.  That Buddy Case though…worth every single penny, and maybe a bit more.  That little box is within reach every time I knit, I just have to toss my scary looking scissors out of there before I get to the security checkpoint at the airport.  They look more like a hand wrought tool of torture than a snips.

87900Large_34b9After the train case missed the mark on its airplane suitability I went back to looking for something a little easier to work with.  I fly several times a year and have the attention span of a gnat unless I’m making something with my hands or working, so this is one of those oddly important things to me. I saw the Namaste Maker’s Foldover Bag and thought, hey this could work.  Not going to lie, the numbers on that price tag burned a little bit, but I’ve been looking for not only airplane friendly but everyday carry bags that could accommodate my daily stuff and a project on the go.

I’m not a tiny purse type. I either have a good amount of stuff I like to have access to when I need it, or I just put my wallet and keys in my pocket. It’s always one extreme or the other.

The requirements are:

  • Can it comfortably fit a tablet and my beast of a planner – yep, I’m still running on an old school paper one.
  • Organization pockets – Bags that are just giant open caverns on the inside make my skin crawl.
  • Heavy material – My stuff needs to take a beating. Things that easily rip, or scuff do not stand a chance.
  • Can it squish under a seat if I need it to. 

So the Maker’s Foldover Bag met all of those requirements on paper.  I’ve had it for a two months now, and it’s survived a few flights and regular abuse at home, it’s withstanding the beating.  It holds all the daily stuff – keys, wallet, planner, small notebook, sunscreen (don’t leave home without it) and all the other stuff you would likely find in a woman’s handbag.  On a trip to California I had two projects crammed in, a not so tiny shawl, and socks. A third project probably could have been comfortably stuffed in but project overkill does exist.  It will also hold my beast of a tablet.

I’ve finally found a single knitting/daily gear bag that travels well and looks professional if I happen to have a situation where I’m going to be meeting with someone related to my job. Considering the abuse it’s taken as a travel bag I expected a scuff or two by now and I have two small marks on the sewn corners of the strap at the high points.  No one would notice unless it was pointed out so I declare it has passed the heavy material requirement. I could see after a few years of service the high points in other places being scuffed and the backing material underneath the “vegan leather” showing through, unfortunately that’s white in color, but I would be surprised if I saw wear or scuffing though the body of the bag itself. Your mileage will probably be better, I’m hard on bags. (Let’s not discuss what my luggage looks like these days or the fact I just had to replace my carry on roller-board because it was cracking in bad, bad, places.) The interior of the bag has a built in project bag dead center in the main compartment, making three large areas in the bottom of the bag and then there are multiple smaller pockets throughout the center, leaving enough space for the top to fold over if it’s not packed to the brim.

There are few negatives to this bag and anything I would call out as a negative would be pure knit-picking, but there are things worth noting.  It’s a physically heavy bag.  When I pulled it out of the shipping box I was surprised by the weight.  It’s also a beast as far as size!  The measurements are accurate in the description at Jimmy Beans, but until you see it in person it doesn’t sink in.  For me these aren’t issues, but for others that have handled the bag those two things are almost always mentioned as potential downsides.

Is it worth the investment, yes, if you’re an oddball like me that really wants both access to crafting and daily gear all in one place.  If you’re just a casual knitter that doesn’t have the compulsive need to keep an active project with you at all times, I would lean towards no, and that opinion is centered from the idea that unless you plan on using it often, that amount of money is better spent on yarn or other crafting tools.

Got any questions about things I may not have mentioned, just toss them into the comments and I’ll answer as quickly as I can.

Disclaimer: The products referenced in this review have been purchased with my own funds and have not been biased in anyway by the maker or seller. However, if you are interested in a product review, I’ll happily try your product if you’ll send it my way, and review it fairly.

 

Lace, Bacon & Apples

It’s another purge and scrub day at the house, and I’m playing the procrastination game a bit while coffee brews, the bacon sizzles away in the cast iron on the stove top, and an episode of Orange is the New Black is on the tube.  I’ve never been great at taking the time to actually cook breakfast, call it a side effect of not being a morning person, but when I do cook something up it’s usually on Sunday mornings.  If I get moving fast enough I should be able to do what I need to do to the kitchen and go to an open mic night later today.  The kitchen is probably going to be the easiest of the rooms to go through this purge process on, it stays pretty clean for obvious reasons, but I am guilty of accumulating too many free pint glasses and coffee mugs, have gadgets I haven’t used in ages, and need to dump a few doubles.

philosopher.jpg
Knit-wise, I’m still exclusively working on The Philosopher’s Stone shawl.  It’s been a while since I jumped into an intricate pattern.  This one is beads (a real pain in the ass), lace and cables.  It’s been noticed by at least two other knitting friends that this has been the case and another pattern was discovered. The only times I really dive into complex lace projects is when there is stress kicked off by a significant life change.  It’s not often I talk about work here, but this time it’s a work thing. My boss has the opportunity to cut back to an as needed status and spend more time with her young child.  As a friend, I’m thrilled for her, as a co-worker, I want to bang my head into the wall until I pass out. As far as management types go, she’s a huge loss. Big changes in the working life pushes my anxiety levels through the roof.  I only have my income and a very meager savings account, so I’ll admit, I panic, and always default to “is the end nigh” thinking. That thinking really isn’t justified at this point, but it still happens. Anyway, the shawl is about two-thirds of the way complete, and after that I’ll dive back into the sweaters I need to finish.  Fall is going to run up on me fast if I don’t pay attention.

Despite all the fussing, I did have a cool beans situation come up that allowed for me to upgrade my old iPad, and just in time too, it’ll be falling off the iOS update list this year.  I now have my hands a nice shiny iPad.  So what does that have to do with knitting…a lot actually.  Big screen means I can actually see Knit Companion.  I’m looking into what it would take to become a certified teacher for the program.  I had kinda halfway looked into it a few years ago, but wasn’t really at the point I would have been comfortable teaching it despite knowing the ins and out of the program.  Even if I don’t become a teacher for it, it’s still nice to have something that I can use it comfortably on again.  The mini iPad I used had its benefits, but there was the squint factor on charts.  I’ve also made a bold move for me, I’m going further in limiting my social media time.  Facebook is still a consistent time suck for me despite turning off notifications, and alerts months ago.  The facebook app, messenger, and the page manager for the Coffee and Wool facebook site have all been deleted from every one of my mobile devices.  Unfortunately, I’m still loosing the battle with disconnecting from it entirely, but I’m more than comfortable saying I’m not only going to check it a couple of times a day when I’m doing something on the actual computer.  Now the folks that keep insisting on sending messages through that infernal messenger app may finally understand it’s just easier to text me if they actually need to talk to me.

In the time I’ve taken to blab away, the bacon has been consumed, the coffee is nearly finished, and this episode of Orange is nearly over.  So time to suck it up and get to work on the house so I can escape this afternoon.

Fictional Characters – Fictional Knitting

As you delve deeper and deeper into the yarn life, you begin to notice other devotes to knitting and crochet, especially when you’re participating in one of the greatest of crafting rituals; crafting and binge watching.

A couple of weeks ago I dived beck into The Golden Girls. I remember a few episodes from my childhood when it was still in production, and more so once I hit the college years and syndicated episodes always seemed to be playing on one of the 10ish cable channels available in the dorms. Despite the passage of time, the series is still topically relevant.

Through this trip through the late 80’s I notice Sophia was a crocheter and has never finished what looks like a scarf with a bright orange border. I’ve giggled a few times, that someone thought enough to actually put together a decent prop but never had it progress, but then there are continuity errors left and right through the series. The idea of someone streaming an entire TV series from first episode until last and someone catching those errors had to be fairly foreign. I don’t remember the first box sets of TV series popping up until DVDs became easily accessible in the mid-90s.

Besides Sophia Patrillo, who else has busted out yarn on screen?

Molly Weasley – Harry Potter
Her monogrammed sweaters were pretty infamous. One day I need to get around to making on of them for myself.

Morticia Addams – The Addams Family
From TV series to movies, both Carolyn Jones and Angelica Houston can be seen with knitting needles in hand.

Izzie Stevens – Grey’s Anatomy
Izzie may have been the most noticeable character playing with yarn in the series, but there have been a lot of background characters through the seasons that have been working on projects.

Hawkeye Pierce – M*A*S*H
Yep, probably one of the few male characters that I can think of.

Old Nan – Game of Thrones
She gets the award for giant sized double points for what I think may be giant sized socks for Hodor.

I’m certain there are dozens more that just haven’t popped into my mind.

Slowly but surely, yarn crafting my be getting a little more screen time as it’s popularity continues to grow….but there’s a catch….as you see character’s working, are they doing it correctly? See how often you can catch an actor, well, acting how to knit or crochet.

Who else can ya’ll think of?

The Balancing Act Continues

I spent 5 hours today purging crap out of my home office, cleaning it from top to bottom, and rearranging it.  That should give you an idea about how keeping the weekends free to do with as I please plan I talked about last week is going. After nearly a week to think about and revise my plan of action on trying to get my home life and my work life on more even footing, I think I’ve formulated a plan that will still work it’ll just take a few weeks to finish Phase 1.

I decided it was easier to work from a cleaner slate before really keeping weekends to myself.  Each weekend, I’m taking one of the days to reset a room, and catch up on the chores that didn’t get handled during the week.  I may have moved here a little less than a year ago, but have found there was stuff I should have purged before I moved, accumulated stuff I don’t need, and have really figured out what should go where.  After a few weeks, I realistically should be able to begin the keeping up with most tasks on the weekdays.

My house isn’t a complete mess by any means, but I really struggle with things feeling like they are cluttered and disorganized, and it’s something that seems to bother me more and more as I get older.  To be blunt, there are hoarding tendencies that run in the family, and I saw how my Grandmother lived.  She wasn’t one of those people you would have seen on the show Hoarders with the rotting garbage and a blessing that smell-o-vision doesn’t exist, it was a clean hoard, well if you could call a hoard clean.  It was mostly boxes on top of boxes of paperwork associated with her running her own tax services for decades, magazines, and just odd ball stuff she couldn’t part with.  It grew until she had only little pathways to walk through.  If you’ve not had to deal directly with trying to clean up a hoard, you have no idea how not only physical it is, but how emotionally charged it can be.  The emotional charge behind all of that is probably a big part of the reason I’ve grown to really hate clutter and struggle with feeling closed in.

The office really needed to be first on deck.  I have a hard time focusing in a space that feels disorganized, and over the past few months, my office had begun to look more than a little disheveled.  Workload is at a place right now where I can’t afford to be unfocused.  It’s been reclaimed, and I even moved my reading chair into one of the corners.  The office is actually one of the quietest rooms in the house, the fur kids only drop in here periodically, and my small collection of house plants are there, so it made sense to move the reading chair in there, instead of continuing to let it live next to the front door and be a catch-all for dog leashes, bags, and an ambush point for the Severus to to taunt Sandor.

That’s the boring part of my weekend.  I did keep yesterday to my own shenanigans.  It’s been hotter than Hell’s front porch lately, opting to stay inside streaming The Golden Girls and throwing row after row into a richly textured shawl project was just what I needed.  My mind is still recovering from my mini-meltdown last week, and that happens sometimes, so I didn’t feel like working on an easier project leaving my mind with time to over-think all the other things going on around me.

192F318D-1CA9-4CE0-B8F9-9A227D49D68BI’m working on a pattern called The Philosopher’s Stone, and I’ve been really impressed with how well it’s been written and charted.  Even though it’s on the complicated side, it’s a good project for an intermediate knitter.  There are cables, beadwork, lace, and textures galore so there’s not much opportunity to start predicting how the next row is going to work.

This is being worked up on a yarn I was introduced  to in a LYS I found just outside of Orlando after a short work trip a couple of weeks ago.  There’s more coming on that shop in a later post.  The yarn is Illimani Sabri, and is a cotton and alpaca blend.  It’s lending itself to this type of project with the cotton capable of holding amazing stitch definition and the alpaca softening up the feel of fabric.  The Sabri was also amazingly priced at approximately $15 a skein at 400+ yards.  I’m heading back to that project in a little bit, after I fold a couple of baskets of laundry and take care of the kitchen.

Things are better since my last post, but feeling out of your element all the time for months on end really wears on you, all it took was one particularly shitty day and hell finally broke loose.  I appreciate the people that were kind enough to reach out and offer to help me handle a few project, offer to kidnap me and ransom me back to get me out of work for a while, and those that just responded that they understood and have been there too.  The things that have been bothering me lately are all things we struggle with at one point or another.

Fiber Menagerie – Part I

SophiaImagine it: Gainesville, Monday night, June, 2019, sitting on the Square, a knitter is asked what’s in her yarn by a non-knitting friend. Three natural fibers rolled out of the knitter’s mouth. Now that Sophia Petrillo has set the scene it’s time to get down to business.

There is actually a lot of fiber that can be spun into yarn and there are times the choices can be a little overwhelming.  I’ve not written an educational post for a while so it’s time to put together the mini primer for fiber basics.

Fiber can really be split into two main categories, natural and synthetic. This will be split into several posts over time because we are finding new ways to create fibers not only from natural sources but creating new synthetics ones, but we’ll start with some of the animal sourced fibers first.  I think we can comfortably say, most of the animals that produce a usable fiber that can be used sustainably in yarn production have been discovered.

All of these fibers come from animals that have either all or part of their wool/coat/fur harvested through shearing, combing, or collecting natural sheds during the spring and summer.  If done responsibly it does not injure the animal.  Although many of these animals are now found all over the world, many of these fibers are still harvested closest to the areas where the animal was natively found and domesticated.

The Natural Critter Sourced Fibers

Funny-Sheep-Facts-1200x800
Baaaaaahhhhhh!

Wool! More specifically sheep’s wool is the most common animal sourced fiber spun into yarn.  It’s nature’s first dri-fit material.  Yep, wool will wick moisture away to be evaporated and despite the belief that wool can only be worn during the cold months it can be worn year round because of its wicking and thermogenic properties.  It also has UV resistant properties.  There are a few types of sheep wool fibers to watch out for, other than the generic wool term, you’ll find a couple of specialty sheep provided goodies.  Merino is a specific wool fiber that is less likely to cause allergic reactions and is touted as softer than most wools.  Shetland wool is specific to the Shetland Islands.  Icelandic wool – well you can guess where it comes from.  Regional wool varieties and types can cause this post to go on and on, but overall most sheep wool has similar properties. Sheep wool is harvested all around the world, but most notably the UK, New Zealand, and Australia.

 

 

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Cashmere Goat

Cashmere! Also called Cash Here in some circles is supplied by the Cashmere goat.  It has a silky feel and is great for anything worn close to the skin during the cold months and is more or less the fiber gold standard – for now – cashmere’s supremacy is beginning to be challenged by other animal fibers that are more sustainably produced.  It’s very warm and very soft and incredibly insulating.  It’s pricy because of the time and effort it takes to comb and sort the useable fiber from the undercoat instead of the more coarse protective topcoat. The Cashmere goat is native to Tibet, China, Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal, Ladakh and Baltistan (Kashmir region).

 

 

 

 

Quebec_angora_goat
Angora Goat

Mohair! This is a fiber produced by Angora goats.  These goats have a curly locks and the yarn spun from this fiber will have a natural “halo” or fine fuzz to it.  It’s another very warm, insulating fiber, where a little goes a long way.  A garment made from lace weight mohair will be just as warm if not more so than an item made from a bulky sheep’s wool.    The Angora goat originated in the district of Angora in Asia Minor, but are now more common in Turkey, Argentina, and the United States. 

 

 

 

alpaca
Emo Alpaca

Alpaca! It’s soft, it’s squishy, it’s warm (okay most animal fibers are) and it’s possibly hypoallergenic.  It has the best silky soft features of cashmere without the price tag.  Alpaca seems to have grown in popularity over the past decade or so.  I can understand why, I could cuddle up and sleep in a mountain of Alpaca yarn.  This is another fiber that is know for its moisture wicking properties making it great for garments and gloves. Alpacas like the higher elevations of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Northern Chile.

 

 

 

Bunneh
Fluffy Bunneeeeee

Angora! Not all fiber comes from goats and sheep.  This one comes from bunnies.  Angora like cashmere can be a little on the pricy side.  It has the feel of cashmere with the halo of mohair.  The fiber is collected by pulling the loose shedding fibers from the rabbit.  If you happen to wander of to a fiber fair you may see hand spinners with a rabbit sitting quietly in their lap while they pull the fiber and spin it seconds later.  Properly done this does not hurt the rabbit at all as it’s the loose fiber that has to be brushed from it’s fur on a regular if not daily basis.  Angora rabbits originated in Turkey and quickly spread throughout Europe in the 1700s.

 

 

yak_05
Yakkity Yak

Yak!  This may be one of the largest animals fiber is harvested from.  Handlers brush the undercoat out of their longer guard hair.  Yak is gaining in popularity since it has many of the features of cashmere with the soft silky feel, but is considered a more sustainable alternative since yaks are more adaptable than the cashmere goat and produce a greater amount of fiber.  They are native to Tibet, Mongolia and Russia.

 

Ox
Musk Ox

Musk Ox!  I had to toss an odd one in there. If you think cashmere is pricy, let me introduce you to qiviut. Qiviut much like the most of the other fibers is good ole undercoat that will naturally shed from Musk Ox when things start warming up.  Musk Ok are native to Alaska and parts of Canada and the fiber is generally collected from the natural sheds from the ground and whatever the Ox is rubbing up against.  There are some farms that are able to comb their Ox but I’ve been told from a pretty reliable source that Musk Ox can be a little testy and it’s just easier to pick up the fiber. This fiber is warmer than wool and proven to be softer than cashmere.  Qiviut production has deep ties into regional First Nation’s yarn production and knitting culture (sounds like a topic for future blog posts).  Qiviut has become a little more mainstream with blends becoming available.

I’ll touch on this subject again, there are so many usable fibers out there that trying to cram them all into a single post would be exhausting, and quite possibly a novella in length.  Stand by, more fiber education to come.

 

Plants, Purls & Puppies

125D89B9-15C6-4A3D-B3D0-9AB7ACE40725Well folks, once again, it’s been far too long since my last update.  I’m trying to get better about this.  Really.  I promise.   Spring is already beginning to give way into summer and my list of projects at the house seems to continue to grow. A lot of my free time is spent out in the yard these days attempting to shape it into something presentable to the public and more importantly a place I’ll enjoy over the years to come.  It wasn’t horrible to begin with, it was just bare, and I’m not the type of person to have only grass.  The focus has been on planting perennials and shrubs and building out the beds to put them in.  The work I did earlier this spring is starting to show with blooms here and there.  If someone told me this time last year that I would leave the world of rented apartments and duplexes and have my own little house, I would have laughed at them.

Pints_and_PurlsThe crafting projects are still being worked on but not at the pace that I’ve burned through them in the past.  I have a hunch this will pick back up in the fall and winter.  I’m still getting at lest an hour in a day.  It’s important to me to work that little bit of knitting time in for sanity’s sake.  It’s my meditation time.  I’ve still got a sweater for a friend to finish, my own sweater, and a handful of other projects in various states.  There’s also some good news locally, a few of us are trying to get a Friday evening craft meet up rolling again.  It’s called Pints and Purls and we meet up at Downtown Drafts on the Gainesville, GA square.  Now, I know, there are a few other craft groups out there named Pints and Purls, but hey, it’s a perfect name for a group that meets for an adult beverage with yarn in hand.  I guess if there’s an official organization somewhere, consider the Gainesville, GA chapter established. If you are in the area feel free to drop on in around 6pm on Fridays.  We won’t be hard to find, there will be a table with fidgeting fingers and balls of yarn.

fullsizeoutput_150And lastly, in this brief update.
SANDOR!
Now this is my favorite long term project.  Sandor, the lab/mystery dog mix, is about 8 months old now and has accomplished making me laugh every single day.  We’re still working on puppy exuberance issues, but overall he’s a damn good dog…well as long as you don’t ask my cat Severus.  Severus is still pissed that a dog has invaded his sanctuary.  Lucious, the more forgiving cat, on the other hand, will play with him like he was another dog.  Sandor and Lu also have an odd afternoon ritual, where they will snuggle up near each other on the couch and before the urge to nap takes over, Lu will wash Sandor’s face.  Sandor used to fight his daily face washing as a tiny puppy but he seems to have grown to enjoy it.

That’s it for the moment.  I’m alive, well, and happy.  How are you guys doing? Fill me in.

 

 

Fledgling Fair – Georgia Mountain Needle Arts Festival

Things are finally settling back into some sort of routine that actually involves time for me to work needles and fiber through my fingers, and that makes me really happy camper.

rf0r2Through a bit of magic and a bit of telling my boss I was taking the morning off on Friday, I drove the hour over to the Georgia Mountain Needle Arts Festival in Ellijay. Ellijay is worth a drive on its own, especially during the fall when all the apple orchards are open and in full swing.

2019 was the sophomore year for the Needle Arts Festival, which is an important point to mention.  This is still a fledgling fiber fair, with the potential to grow into something pretty amazing.  This year featured around 18 vendors, a mixed bag of local yarn shops, independent dyers/spinners, and a smidge of other fiber related businesses.  For a fair of this size it was a pretty good selection, however, I feel as years go by there will be more independent makers.  This may come across as overly critical, but it’s not my intent, if I wanted to purchase main stream yarns like Berroco, Malibrigo, and Plymouth I would drive to the nearest yarn shop.  It is my opinion, for the fair to be successful and continue to grow the LYS presence will eventually have to drop off since they represented around a quarter of the vendors in attendance.  I would have been less critical of the LYS presence if they bought in more of the unique vendors and products that they carry in their stores. LYS owners will now probably beat me over the head, I know they struggle too.

Will I be back next year, of course, the balance will eventually improve and my hunch is this will be an excellent festival to support local dyers and spinners from the southeast.

What did I come home with? Well, I went on a mission for gadgets and unique products since I have more yarn than I can shake a stick at, so of course I purchase more yarn. Of the independent vendors, two really caught my eye.  Cameo Yarns and Stony Hill Fiber Arts.

ZB+JqyziSvCEk5X%XaDdcgCameo Yarns is a northwest Georgia dyer that had a booth full of absolutely gorgeous colorways that claims their inspiration is found in both the complex beauty of nature and the bright and tarnished aspects of the big city.  There was certainly some natural inspiration in the colorway Rainbow Trout.  If you ever catch a rainbow trout in the sunlight they are a surprisingly colorful fish in the often muddy waterways they around found in.  I came home with two skeins of their Oh So Charming Sock – so all the beautiful fishy color without all the icky fishy smell.  I don’t have a project in mind for it yet, but eventually the right pattern will call its name.

Stony Hill Fiber Arts also had some eye catching goodies for sale. They produce Pacolet img_3500Valley Cotton Yarns.  I’ve not been a huge fan of many cottons over the years, too many feel too rigid for garments and accessories unless they are heavily blended with another fiber, or I’m just too impatient to wait for the cotton to soften over time and use.  The Pacolet Valley yarns are cotton and cottina – which is a cotton processed in a way to accept color more efficiently – and it feels incredibly soft on the skeins and so smooth in the samples they had on hand.  Stony Hill also had patterns on featuring their yarns.  These fiber beauties are already assigned to projects.  The natural colored cotton in the back is going to be knitted into a wide brimmed summer hat – probably sooner than later, my pale self needs to be more conscious of sun exposure, and the lovely colored yarns in the front of the photo will be turned into fair isle fingerless mitts.

I walked in the door with a definitive budget and stayed within it.  I definitely could have spent so much more at the other independents featured at the festival but hopefully they’ll return for another year.

All in all….if you’re within driving distance of Ellijay, Georgia and want to support a growing entity, check this festival out next spring.

Stitching for Sanity

Knitting is good for you. No, really, it is I swear! There’s science proving it.

And there we go, end of this post….

Okay, maybe not, I should probably elaborate a bit more. This is one of the more serious posts I’ve been meaning to write for a while, and it felt like time to get it done.

If you belong to any online knitting group you’ve seen the shared posts with a few bullet points with the benefits to knitting complied from a few recent studies. Even though these posts seem to be limited specifically to knitting, my gut hunch that the benefits spread across multiple crafting genres that require fine movement and concentration, like crochet, cross stitch, embroidery, on and on and on. These benefits have been listed as …

  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Reduced depression and anxiety
  • Slowed onset of dementia
  • Distraction from chronic pain
  • Increased sense of wellbeing
  • Reduced loneliness and isolation

Great, right?!?

This is where things get a little more personal. I’ve had my own battle with general anxiety disorder and moderate depression issues since my late high school – early college years, and being a mere 20 years ago, in southern West Virginia, we still didn’t really talk about mental health issues that much. The family doc would occasionally prescribe something to help me sleep or I would be on and off a low dose anti-depressant now and then but little was done beyond that. Almost nothing beyond a script was mentioned, no therapy, no mention of ways to manage stress, just pop a pill, get some sleep, and all will be fine. I even had a doctor tell me once that I would grow out of it, that these issues were normal for most people my age. Instead, it has intensified over the years, but I still manage at a level that leaves me able to do my job, and interact with friends and family on a regular basis with little notice that I may or may not be struggling at times. Is there a day every once in a while where I need to get away from work and people and just breathe? Absolutely. Do I still take medication? Yep. Have I learned to recognize I’m struggling and act accordingly? Yes, with time and maturity. And let’s be honest, there are a lot of us paddling in this same boat. I truly believe that our constant connection to others and the world through technology, social networking and the media we are more anxious and stressed than ever. We’ve made it hard to “unplug” and have the quiet time we need to manage ourselves and our own wellbeing.

Since my own issues began, the world has gotten a little better about addressing mental health issues, but we are still coming up dramatically short on effectively helping those that have them. I’ve seen the medical community fail close friends and even family, time and time again by insisting on medicating them into oblivion with little to no therapy, or education on tools that could help one manage more efficiently with the help of medication, others have coped well with the help of medical intervention. Then there is a fair share of people that thought they could self-medicate through legal or illegal means and do a better job than modern medicine. It’s a multi-faceted debate on mental health treatment and this could be a very long conversation on its own but let’s move on.

I’ve been a crocheter since I was a little kid, and started knitting in my 20s, and would just work on a project here and there to battle boredom or simply because I enjoyed it. I didn’t realize these hobbies could be a therapeutic tool for myself until after the sudden death of my brother in 2014. It was then that I began knitting on an almost daily basis because it helped me clear my mind, and work through the grieving process. Time has helped heal that wound to the extent that it can be, but even with the recent loss of others or at times of high stress, my now casual (because I truly enjoy it) knitting will evolve back into a form of therapy, usually done in the evening to help process the day and how I feel about it. I find myself more stressed at times when I’m too busy to sit down with yarn and needles. For me, yarn work has been as effective if not more so than medication for coping with anxiety, stress, and depression, it’s just a part of how I stay “sane”. It’s an outlet that has the benefit of a finished product at the end. However, it is not the only means of managing my own issues, I still see my doctor on a regular basis to determine medication needs.

Now that all said…this is my experience with knitting as a form of self therapy. Even if all you can do is knit garter stitch or crochet granny squares one after another these acts have value. Am I saying jump off your prescribed treatment by your medical professional, ABSOLUTELY NOT. Crafting is a compliment to your treatment plan whatever that may be.

If you feel like you’ve been struggling with anxiety, depression, or any issue that could be impacting your own wellbeing, I can not more strongly recommend trying a fiber craft as a form of self-therapy, but first, see a medical professional, and then find your local yarn store.

Knitting Goodies – Namaste Train Case

I’m a huge fan of buying a gift for myself sometime during my birthday month.  It may seem a wee bit selfish, but I chalk it up to a self-care.

Being the knitting junky that I am, I saw the Namaste Knitter’s Train Case and my reaction was an instant ooooooooohhhhhhhh pretty, it may have been the dark teal that caught my eye.  I’ve seen Namaste’s products throughout the years and considered them a little too girly for my taste.  I’m more utilitarian than I am “fancy”.  This particular case came out last October, so it has been on the market for a little while and in general has had good reviews.  My case arrived this afternoon, and I’m glad I gifted this to myself. My initial impressions are it’s well designed, beautiful,  well made, and a good choice for a knitting tool.

This case will be great for long-term projects that require the entire arsenal of tools it would take to complete it…think sweaters, multi-color work, or intricate lace work.  The train case is designed for knitters on the move.  I may be traveling less this year (I hope) but this case is designed with travelers in mind.  The size will easily fit under the airplane seat (honestly, it’ll fit under most seats or floorboards in typical travel situations) in front of you, or on the tray table when you are allowed to have it down. It will also travel well to your local coffee shop, knit shop, or pub for those knitting sessions with friends.  The magnetic closure on the front is solid, and it holds a surprising amount of yarn and goodies. Currently, I’ve loaded up the 2nd sleeve of a sweater I’m working on, tools in the included mesh bag, a Namste Buddy Case (more info below) and 5 caked skeins of yarn, and a ChiaoGoo needle set. I could cram more in, but didn’t feel the urge to stuff it full. As soon as that second sleeve is finished, I’ll be able to roll right into the body of the sweater without having to hunt for anything.  When opened, the lid easily accommodates holding a pattern with a few included magnets for easy access on the go, or you can work with the case lid closed and feed yarn through a U-shaped hole on the side, perfect for those long periods of mindless stockinette or garter stitch knitting. I can see this as a solution to the crazy bag lady problem a lot of us knitters have, just load everything you need for your WIP into this case and go, leave the bag for the tools, the bag for the extra yarn, and the bag for the project itself at home.

As far as pricing, it’s not the cheapest knitting case, but it’s the most reasonably priced online, as far as reputable sellers go, over at Jimmy Beans.  If your local yarn shop has a few of these on hand, please consider buying from them instead of online.  The case is constructed of vegan leather, which looks better than I imaged it would after it arrived, and includes the magnets to hold a pattern to the lid, a darning needle, and a button closed pouch for all the little things that you wouldn’t want running wild.  I ordered the matching  Namaste Buddy Case as well.  I’ve had a little tin case that I put stitch markers, and tools in for a while, but it always seemed small and for lack of a better phrase, a complete clusterfuck on the inside.  Once again, this case includes magnets to hold finishing needles, a small tin for markers, and other goodies.  Both pieces seem to be constructed to handle regular use and abuse.

So what is the first project to be worked out of this Train Case? I just finished the Mitali Shawl referenced in a previous post with the exception of blocking….a blocking day is in the near future….so it was time to kick back into the sweater I promised to make for a friend.  She bought the yarn and I’m doing the work, and yes, she is absolutely knit worthy.  The pattern is called Seachange by Jennifer Steingass and I’m working it up in Berroco Quechua (yak, alpaca, and wool blend).  The pattern called for a DK weight but I dropped down to a sport weight and made a few minor adjustments to the pattern.  I want the recipient to be able to wear this sweater more than the one freakishly cold day we get a year in Georgia, and even though the difference between DK and sport weight yarns are minor there’s just enough difference in weight it can make a considerable difference in how warm this sweater will be.  So far, so good, I’ve finished sleeve one, and well into sleeve two after having to pull out a few times and adjust needle size for not only gauge but color work.  Stranded knitting hasn’t always been my strongest point.

I’ve included a few photos of the Namaste Train Case and Buddy Case with tools and yarn included so there’s an idea about how much these two goodies hold, as well as the organization it can provide.  I hope this Train Case and Buddy Case will be part of my knitting tool arsenal for quite a while.

 

Disclamer: I am not compensated for my brief review of this product or seller. This is an unbiased opinion of a knitting/yarn product. If you have a knit related product that you would like for me to try, please feel free to reach out anytime. 

Last but not least, the coffeeandwool.com domain name will continue to remain active instead of this blog reverting to it’s original WordPress address for another year, an anonymous donor insisted on paying the renewal fees for WordPress as well as the domain name, with the condition that I update more often, so that those that enjoy this blog will continue to have easy access.

Baby It’s Cold Outside

I saw this video yesterday and it hit a nerve, especially when a significant portion of the country is in the grip of a deadly polar vortex with record smashing lows.  Living in Georgia I cannot even begin to fathom how cold stepping outside with a -50 degree windchill is.

I remember some very cold days during my school years in West Virginia, but nothing like the temps we’re seeing this week.  I was fortunate to have the coat, gloves and hat as I needed them.  I’m fortunate to have those items now, and even have the ability to make my own.

I’ve heard of programs where crafters are making items to give to children at their local schools to help keep children warm, but in my initial searches I’m not finding any locally in Northeast Georgia or in my home state.  Just putting the bug out there, do any of you know of such programs, or have participated in them?