The Only Way Out Is Through

As the parade of year-end wrap-ups has streamed through my feed this week, I’ve felt a mounting pressure to sit down and compose my own thoughts. This pressure stems not from a desire to emulate or perform for others, but from a very real need to confront my own experiences and realizations from the last 12 months. I have a much different perspective than I’d hoped to have, and I want to acknowledge and explore the gap between expectations and reality.

That I’m able to write at all is due in no small part to my thoughtful husband, who gifted me with a tablet this year for Christmas. My desktop computer suffered a motherboard failure just after Thanksgiving, and in the flurry of end-of-year work deadlines, Christmas hosting preparations, and holiday spending, I had neither the time to research nor the ready funds to purchase a replacement board. All of my recent outfit photos had been transferred from phone to hard drive just before the failure, so they have been held hostage by the broken component.

I’m thankful that a new motherboard is, as of today, on its way to me, but the delay means that there’s no chance at all of posting our Halloween costumes or the dress I made for my work Christmas party before the year is out. I haven’t decided yet whether it’s worthwhile to post them so long after the fact, or if I’d rather move on to new projects and new topics. Only the new year will tell, I suppose.

Those three missing posts mean that there is very little in the way of finished garments to recap. But even if I’d been able to include them, I’m well aware that my output this year has been disappointing. While others can count their successes in the dozens or scores, I have fewer than ten, and the amount of wear that any of them have gotten is extremely limited. In fact, shortly after finishing all of the athletic wear, I stopped going to the gym completely and haven’t been back since. I wish I could say that this is the result of an unfortunate injury that needed recovery or a positive lifestyle change that eliminated the need for scheduled exercise, but the fact is it’s all down to a short period of stress followed by laziness and finally inertia.

Knitting has not escaped this stagnation, either. This has been my least productive year in the short time since I started knitting. The striped sweater I started a year ago remains unfinished, awaiting a time when I have the mental fortitude to rip out and re-knit both sleeve caps, then finally sew the thing up, knit on the neckband, and weave in the ends. A scarf that I allowed myself to start to alleviate the tedium of the sweater and to provide a bit of mindless, portable knitting needs no more than a bind off and a few ends woven in, and yet it languishes in a bag. I even permitted myself to buy two skeins of yarn for easy hats in a desperate bid to kickstart my knitting enthusiasm, but I never made it further than winding them into cakes.

Needless to say, I did not sew or knit more this year. While I did read through all of The Modern Natural Dyer, the only dyeing I actually did involved a bottle of RIT. We made a tiny bit of headway on fixing up our guest room, but nothing worth writing about or photographing. As for a dedicated sewing space, I consolidated all of my fabrics, tools, and notions in a corner of the living room, which was hardly the plan, but is an acceptable temporary arrangement while I continue to use the dining room table to cut and sew on.

In short, I did not reach any of my goals for 2016. Not even close.

I’m hardly the only one, of course. But I seem unable to brush it off, like Kat, who doesn’t believe in failure as a concept; or even take pride in how I’ve flouted my goals, like Tassadit, who clearly knows how to prioritize joy over success. It’s not in my nature to pretend that I believe that it’s all been “a learning experience,” because in truth my first reaction to defeat is not optimism, it’s disappointment and sadness. So instead of putting on a falsely brave front, I’m going to take a cue from a recent post by Klara from A Robot Heart—who feels like a kindred spirit, half a world away—and delve into why it’s been so difficult to reflect on my year and shine a light in places that often remain dark.

It’s about more than completed and incomplete tasks.

On the surface of it, I love making lists, and I find satisfaction in checking things off. An unfinished to-do list would obviously be a source of dissatisfaction. But if it were truly that simple, if all that mattered was getting things done eventually, then all I’d need to do is deem all of those 2016 goals ongoing, and carry on into 2017 striving toward the same things. No reason to set an arbitrary deadline—or even an arbitrary check-in point—if all it does is cause unhappiness, right?

The trouble is, I crave organization because I need it to think clearly, act confidently, and feel at peace. Because despite being the kind of person who loathes idleness, when I’m presented with a variety of activities to choose from, I don’t tend to feel excitement at the many possibilities, I tend to feel anxiety. I’m liable to become overwhelmed and shut down completely, because I a) want to do everything at once, b) know that that’s impossible, and c) no longer have a reliable sense of what will make me happy in the moment.

So I make lists, because it allows me to prepare, to plan in advance, when emotions aren’t high and I can be more certain of knowing my own mind. Then I not only get the satisfaction of the thing itself, but also the reassurance that I’m doing something I know is important to me in some way.

Looking back, each unaccomplished goal represents hours spent agonizing over what to do in the evening or on a weekend. Too often, instead of working toward the things I had determined were important to me, I retreated into reading forum discussions, or distracted myself with some insignificant task, or sat paralyzed until Justin proposed some other thing to do. How many Friday nights did I fret about spending my weekend wisely? How many Sunday nights did I despair about going back to work, feeling like I’d squandered my time and would have to slog through five more days to try again? Far too many, I’m afraid.

The experience of correcting mistakes is a poor teacher for coping with failures.

Like many makers, I turn to the creative community when I need guidance—not just for sewing or knitting techniques, but for conscious consumerism, for body positivity and self-love, and for any number of other topics. Makers are no strangers to adversity, and it’s cheering to read about others’ struggles and how they’ve overcome them.

But as I’ve been thinking about my failed goals, I can think of many bloggers who have shared their mistakes, but I’m struggling to bring to mind bloggers who have shared their failures. What I mean is, I can think of countless posts describing a project that disappointed due to a mismatch of pattern to material, or an outfit that was never worn because of unacceptable fit, and even garments that were thrown away—all things I would consider mistakes, things where you think “That was a shame; I’ll try to do better next time.” But failures, like investing a lot of time, money, and effort into a hobby that you ultimately abandon? Or committing to a project for someone else, as a gift or perhaps as a commission, and then being unable to see it through to the end? Or chasing a creative dream that doesn’t pan out and having to give it up? Basically, anything where there may not be a “next time”? Not so much.

Now, I understand that no one likes to dwell on these embarrassing and costly experiences, let alone broadcast them to others, so I’m not really faulting anyone for not posting about them excruciating detail. And I certainly don’t want to equate my own shortcomings with more serious troubles.

But I fear what gets lost is an honest look at the invisible costs of these failures. It’s more than just a wadder, a project that you looked forward to that you don’t get to enjoy. There’s lost money, sure, and there’s lost time. Deeper still, there’s a loss of confidence, a reluctance to try again, a fear of failure. Why set a new goal? You failed at the last one—what makes you think you’ll succeed at this new one? You start to wonder if maybe you’re not cut out for these goals, if they’re really worth it, if working toward them even makes you happy. That’s a lot of baggage to carry forward. It doesn’t necessarily vanish with the next success. I’d dearly love to know how others manage it.

There is an even greater enemy than envy.

What’s thrown all of these feelings into sharp relief is seeing other bloggers reach for and achieve success this year. Reading about Helen’s journey as she blogged one make a week, designed two patterns, and grew her following to the hundreds in just one year, following along as Madalynne has teamed up with Urban Outfitters, Simplicity, and Pfaff to live her lingerie dreams, and watching as Allie has written tutorials, filmed a class, and garnered sponsorships, have been hard. I don’t resent their successes—far from it! I think that they’re amazing women who have worked hard and earned every good thing that has come their way. We’re so fortunate to have them in our community, and I admire each of them for their discipline, tenacity, and generosity of spirit.

When I look at these women, what I feel isn’t envy. It’s regret. They set goals for themselves; they worked hard; they succeeded. They achieved goals that I had for myself (whether I’d publicly stated them or not), and goals that I’d hoped to work toward in subsequent years, building on the foundation of this one. They didn’t fall into these successes by hazard or happenstance; they are not possessed of fabulous wealth, unlimited free time, or preternatural abilities.They earned these successes. And I could have earned them too, had I really tried.

The hardest thing to face is the realization that I did not become a better version of myself.

I have not achieved the goals that I identified as important to me. I have not been making choices to shape my life according to my own self-professed values. These were not mere mistakes, things that I can easily learn from and apply to future situations. These were failures. This is time that I cannot get back, and I regret that I used it so poorly.

That’s rather a grim place to end, I know, but there’s nothing to be gained by dishonesty, and nothing to say at all if I can only talk about what’s happy, easy, neat. Maybe I can open up the conversation about failure and disappointment. Or maybe mine is just another sad closing chapter for the year, and that like so many others I’ll be glad to put 2016 behind me and never look back.

In any case, may we all find the strength, wisdom, and grace to grow in 2017.

Lately

With the month of October completely taken up by Halloween preparations—I finally got decently lit photos of our costumes, which I’ll share in the next few days—I endeavored to spend November on more practical sewing. But, as is often the case, the moment I decided that I’d spend my free time making was precisely the moment that work ramped up and my free time evaporated. I had three deadlines last week alone, and a new employee to train on top of it, which has meant many late evenings and little to no energy to do basic maintenance tasks like cooking and laundry, to say nothing of crafting.

But I did manage to set aside a little time last weekend to celebrate my birthday, and I thought I’d share a glimpse of that, because while I’d like every post to have a new garment or a new project—I very much wanted to have completed a new skirt to wear on my birthday—I don’t want my lack of tangible accomplishments to weigh me down. I want to cherish the small moments. I hope you’ll indulge me.

Justin took me to visit the historic Oak View County Park, a former cotton plantation in Raleigh that’s free to visit (but donations are welcome, of course). We’ve visited before to explore the farm history building, main house, detached kitchen, and cotton gin barn, and to view the livestock barn, carriage house, and tenant house. The main house remains unfurnished and the tenant house is undergoing renovation, so on this visit we decided to enjoy the grounds instead. November is pecan season, and Wake County Parks & Rec lets visitors gather pecans for free; they only ask that you limit yourself to one brown paper lunch bag, so that others get a chance to collect them, too.

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The property is about 3 acres, and the pecan grove is spread over at least half of it. We were advised to pick from the ground rather than directly from the trees, since the unfallen nuts are usually underripe. The areas nearest the main house and paths were picked over already, so we had to go further afield.

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We quickly discovered that we weren’t the only ones with a taste for pecans: we found many that had a tiny, circular hole bored into the shell, which is a sign that a worm has gotten inside and, often, eaten the meat already. We had the most success picking ones that still had the husk on. Removing the husks caused a few bent and dirty fingernails, but the reward was this:

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The weather was brisk, but pleasant—perfectly autumnal. We spent somewhere between an hour and two hours foraging, and came away with about two cups of nuts. After we brought them home, boiled them to make cracking the shells easier, and discarded the rotten ones, we were left with maybe a handful of edible nuts. I see now why they’re so expensive at the store!

We supplemented our little trove with purchased pecans and made a pecan pie, my first time making AND eating one. The verdict? I think a plain pecan pie is a little too sweet and one-note for me, but I’m keen to try a recipe that incorporates other flavors or textures. (Wouldn’t a cheesecake with a pecan-pie-filling-like crust be amazing?)

But I don’t think I’ll be foraging the ingredients for each and every attempt, otherwise I might never find enough good nuts to try again! Unless this find brings me a little extra luck next time:

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A Day Late and a Dollar Short

On July 16, Justin and I made tacos for dinner and then hunkered down to watch the last episode of Downton Abbey. Our roommate had moved out the day before after leasing our third room for three months (and occupying it as a guest for about two weeks before that), and it was our first full day without having to jockey schedules, keep the noise down, or worry about whether we grabbed bathrobes on the way into the shower.

“We’re finally getting our life back,” I said as I spooned sour cream on to a taco and glanced out the window at the rain pooling in the front yard. A thunderstorm had rolled in while we were cooking, and the low spots in the lawn were collecting water like they usually did. I thought about how we’d have to grade the yard eventually, and wondered how much dirt it would take. I sighed, knowing that it would probably be twice as much as thought it would be, then turned back to the TV to watch the opening credits roll for the last time.

The storm also settled in, and our viewing was punctuated with repeated house-shaking booms and lightning so bright we were sure it must have struck a neighbor’s house. We didn’t lose power though, which came as a surprise considering how easily it’s gone out in the past.

Then, about halfway through the 90-minute episode, there was a crash followed by the sound of rushing water. Justin and I stood up from the couch and immediately headed toward the basement door. A couple of months ago we’d had an issue with the washing machine drainage hose disconnecting from the house’s wastewater pipe, causing it to dump an entire drum of water on the floor. We’d fixed the problem ourselves, and we both assumed that our fix hadn’t held and it had happened again.

Thing is, the washing machine wasn’t running. I hadn’t started a single load all day.

Instead, when we opened the basement door, we were confronted by knee-deep murky water at the bottom of the stairs. It was swirling counterclockwise at a steady clip, cardboard boxes and plastic tubs bobbing in the current. The water was also rising—visibly.

We turned to each other and asked in the same stupefied tone, “Who do you call when your house is flooding?”

We went with 911.

While we waited for a firetruck to arrive, we started gathering supplies to evacuate. As we paced back and forth through the house gathering clothes, food and water, and important documents, we had time to assess the situation in more detail, which revealed that our driveway, sitting largely below street-level, was completely filled with water; my car, which I typically parked at the bottom of the driveway, was almost fully submerged. Luckily, Justin’s car was parked was parked on higher ground, but was still surrounded by a calf-deep stream of swiftly flowing water.

When the fire department appeared on the scene, there was nothing they could do for us (and, truthfully, very little they could have done even if the circumstances had been more favorable). Because the circuit breaker is in the basement, they were not able to throw the master on the breaker and the power remained on. They asked about the locations of the electrical meter and the master shut-off for the gas, because they have the tools to access both, but in the moment neither Justin nor I could remember where exactly they were located, and with the rain blowing sideways at this point the firefighters couldn’t see them. In the end, we had to trust to emergency auto-off features and just leave while we still had one salvageable vehicle.

We ended up spending the night in a hotel, and then returned the next morning to survey the damage and try to determine what had happened. The water had completely receded in the seven hours since the storm had stopped, leaving almost no sign of its passing beyond a high water mark around four feet high and a layer of sludge coating the floor (and, by extension, anything touching the floor).

The vortex that we had witnessed the night before had torn the hot water heater partially free of its connections and laid it out on its side—which is really something else, when you consider that it weighs 500 pounds when full. It had also submerged the furnace and part of the AC unit, and knocked the washer and dryer off their plywood plinth.

You’ve no doubt deduced that this was no ordinary thunderstorm. Depending on which stormwater engineer you ask—and we spoke to several—it was a 100-, 200-, or even 1,000-year flood. I’m told at its peak it rained 6 inches in 45 minutes. Fortunately, the car was completely covered under our vehicle insurance; unfortunately, none of the damage to the basement was covered, not even the garage door, because our homeowner’s insurance policy specifically excludes flooding. Fortunately again, our basement is unfinished, and beyond the appliances, the only things we were storing there were tools and DIY supplies, Christmas decorations, and a pile of miscellaneous items bound for donation, and of these things, nearly all of the Christmas decorations and about half of the tools/supplies survived. We didn’t lose anything of exceptional monetary or sentimental value, which was a huge relief.

Most fortunately of all, we have incredibly supportive family and friends, who descended upon us from points across North Carolina and Virginia the following weekend to help us shovel out and dispose of the debris, power wash and sanitize the basement, and reorganize those items that could be saved. With their help, we also got a new hot water heater installed, replaced/relocated two electrical outlets that had been submerged, rehabilitated the washer and dryer, unbent the garage door as much as possible, and set up a window AC unit to tide us over until the furnace and AC could be fixed a few days later. Their generous donations of time, expertise, labor, and materials saved us at least $6,500 in repair and cleanup costs. They also sustained unshakably positive attitudes in the face of triple-digit heat indexes with just a few box fans for respite, which was tremendously helpful whenever the situation threatened to overwhelm us.

Six weeks later, I finally feel as though we’ve gotten back to normal life. I’ve been itching to blog, and it was important to me share this significant event before trying to get into a regular groove. While I know it would have been my prerogative to leave things at “life happens,” that just didn’t feel sufficient, you know?

With that—with the last several weeks and months behind me—I’m finally ready to move forward. I just hope I remember how to use my sewing machine…

Progress? Progress!

Remember this promising sliver of knitting?

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I’m not surprised if you don’t—it made its first and only appearance all the way back in January. January. That was six months ago, friends. Egads. (So much for this being a year of knitting productivity…)

I stalled out sometime in April after I completed the back and started the front. Fingering-weight stockinette doesn’t make for particularly speedy knitting, but it’s mindless enough that I can work on it while watching TV and riding in the car. No, what strangled my enthusiasm for the project was not the pace, but the prospect of weaving in all. those. ends.

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I hate weaving in ends. Every time I sat down and knit another stripe, I created two more ends to loom on the horizon. Just look at them, promising hours of tedium—and no doubt frustration—as I try to figure out where to put all of them without any stray colors cropping up where they don’t belong.

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But, fueled by my Me-Made-May pledge (which came about in part because of this very project), I finally made a concerted effort to drag this project toward the finish line. Over the course of four weeks, I knocked out the front and started in on the first sleeve. (Interestingly, it doesn’t bother me to be on Sleeve Island, and I’ve yet to experience Second Sleeve Syndrome on a project.)

To help combat the tyranny of ends, I used one of TECHKnitter’s strategies for weaving in as I go on the front and the sleeve. It slows down the process of turning a row and joining a new color, but I’d like to think it’s preferable to the interminable and uncertain job of dealing with all the ends at, well, the end. But I’m withholding full judgment until I can seam everything and put it on—I don’t want to actually recommend this approach until I know that it won’t come apart or create unsightly lumps or bumps on the face of the fabric.

Meanwhile, I’m itching to move on to other projects. With consecutive days of 80-degree temperatures and 90-degree days on the horizon, I won’t be sporting this sweater any time soon—except for blog photos, of course. 😉

Old Year, New Year

Yikes, where did the first day of the new year go? Justin and I were having so much fun visiting with family that we lost track of time. No matter—it’s never too late for a recap and a look forward!

I launched this blog almost a year ago, after a feverish four-day weekend spent customizing my site. In my time online, I’ve made 64 posts and garnered 8 comments. While I’d hoped to connect with more people, I’m proud that I’ve averaged just over a post a week. I know that these posts have been concentrated in the beginning and end of the year, so I’d like to work on increasing both my frequency and regularity of posting. I really do enjoy the writing, even if I’m excruciatingly slow at it.

A long car ride on New Year’s Eve gave me plenty of time to mull over my goals for 2016, and I feel confident that these are the things I want to focus on, and that they’re all achievable. In no particular order:

  • Set up a permanent sewing space. In our last apartment, I had plenty of space to create a dedicated sewing area, but I never bought or built the furniture I needed to make the space work, so it mostly served as a dumping ground. In the new house, we have an office and a guest room, both of which provide a place to put a sewing table and possibly a cutting table. Having my machines, tools, and supplies ready to go at all times will enable me to spend less of my time preparing to sew and more of my time actually sewing.
  • Stop feeling constrained by my fabric stash and sew the garments I need and want. As I’ve mentioned previously, I have a small bin of fabric that consists mostly of quilting project leftovers and de-stash pieces from my mom. Not wanting any of this material to go to waste, I’ve often looked for projects to use it up. The problem is that these projects are not themselves necessarily things that I need or want, which means even when they’re successful they’re not particularly useful. If I want to make T-shirts, I need to buy fabric suitable for T-shirts. I don’t have to use up the scraps first; they won’t go bad. If I need them for a project down the road, they’ll be right where I left them; if I don’t think I’ll ever use them, I don’t need to contrive a purpose for them—I can just give to someone who will use them.
  • Be a more productive knitter. I completed only 6 knitting projects in 2015, including one I started in 2014. This is roughly on par with previous years’ output, but I know that I’m capable of more. I’m a largely monogamous knitter, and I don’t suffer from startitis. Quite the opposite—I usually struggle to decide what to cast on, which means I can go days or weeks between finishing one project and starting the next. I don’t enjoy these long breaks, and become anxious and dissatisfied until I get a new project on the needles. To combat this, I’m going to be more mindful of queuing projects so that I have time to purchase patterns or choose yarn before I finish my current knit. That way, I’m not trying to decide on a new project while feeling agitated that I haven’t started something yet. I may even try out casting on before my current project is complete so I never have a time when there isn’t something on the needles.
  • Learn how to dye fiber with natural ingredients. Dyeing, particularly natural dyeing, is an art I’ve wanted to research since I visited Old Salem for my birthday in 2014. Justin gifted me The Modern Natural Dyer for Christmas, and I’m eager to start learning and experimenting.
  • Transform one area of our new house. It doesn’t matter to me what room, or part of a room, we change. It doesn’t matter if we accomplish the transformation with paint, furniture, art, textiles, or a little bit of everything. I just know that after living in our last apartment for two years, you could count on one hand the number of differences between the way it looked on the day we moved in and the day we moved out. I don’t want that to be true of our house. I don’t expect to “finish” the house in a year, but I want to be able to look back at the before photos and say, “Wow, can you believe how far we’ve come?”

On the whole 2015 was a good year for us, which makes me even more excited for the possibilities of 2016.

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If this is any indication, things are off to a great start. 🙂

Procrastinating

When presented with a deadline, I always start out with the best of intentions, and can even claim to have some pretty solid habits. I’ll come up with inventories of tasks and resources and identify interim milestones that I want to achieve. I’ll make lists, take notes, sketch or outline as needed. But in the middle of this process, when I’m far enough from the beginning that I no longer feel the thrill of starting a new project and yet too far from the end to be able to visualize how things will turn out, I tend to veer off the path and into the woods. You could call it a lack of discipline; you could call it a lack of focus. Maybe it’s denial about how invested I really am in the work.

But if you ask me, the answer is a lot simpler: I get bored. And when I’m bored, I get distracted. It doesn’t matter how much I like the project, or how dire the consequences are for missing the deadline—I have a complete inability to motivate myself to work on this project because I need the novelty of doing something, anything, that is not this project. I’d rather learn about grog, go virtual window-shopping for sheets, or find out if my city will allow me to raise chickens and bees.

Luckily, my survival instinct usually kicks in about 24 hours before a deadline (48 hours if it’s a work deadline, since those inevitably involve FedEx overnight shipping) and I put on a sudden burst mental speed and go briskly walking sprinting to the finish line. I never failed to turn in a college paper on time (although there is a strong correlation between “number of college papers assigned” and “number of nights I didn’t sleep”) and—knock on wood—all of my work proposals have reached their intended clients by the due date.

Unluckily, this power apparently doesn’t apply to self-imposed deadlines.

That’s a long-winded way of saying that I have not finished my Outfit Along 2015 ensemble. The cardigan is done, but the dress is still in pieces. I stalled when I realized that there was no possible way I could get away without underlining it, and despite having heaps of cut-up white bed sheets, I didn’t have enough fabric to do the job. I have the fabric now, and the pattern pieces pinned thereto, but stalled again.

So, in an effort to not be completely unproductive while shooting furtive glances at the cotton sateen engulfing my dining room table, I decided to take this…

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…and turn it into this:

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Pretty, no? I accomplished this in about two hours, if you don’t count the time spent running back and forth to the computer consulting tutorials for fear that I’d somehow turn my yarn to mud or melt it or something—I don’t know.

This isn’t a tutorial, however, just a little photo journey through my own process. If you want a tutorial, there’s a fantastic Ravelry group called What a Kool Way to Dye that has compiled a list of tutorials tagged by heat source, color source, and dye application method. I used one from PieKnits for temperatures, timing, and vinegar amounts. I relied on an old Ravelry post for color amounts, but more on that in a minute.

For the record, there was nothing wrong with this yarn per se, but it was an impulse buy (on sale, pressure from the husband) and as soon as I brought it home I realized I had no idea what to do with yarn that looks like watermelon, sort of. It has long repeats at least, but none of the projects using it convinced me that there was a place for it in my wardrobe, so it sat unloved for about two years. I thought about overdyeing it before, but imagined that it would require special chemicals or something. Hint: it does not. All it took was normal kitchen tools, water, white vinegar, and two pots of Wilton Icing Colors concentrated gel food dye. Yep, food coloring. Yarn made from 100% animal fibers can be dyed with ordinary food coloring and an acid. (Coincidentally, those are the two key ingredients in Kool-Aid, which is a popular way to transform yarn on the cheap.)

I chose to overdye some of the yarn with yellow and some with blue, since basic color theory (and a memorable childhood moment involving a fuzzy poster—remember those?—and markers) indicated that using either red or green would just turn one-third of the yarn brown.

The first step was unwinding the ball, winding it into a hank, and then dividing the hank into quarters and tying it off to prevent it from tangling when immersed in liquid. I meant to split my 100-gram ball into two 50-gram hanks, but the yarn had other ideas, so I ended up with roughly a 67-gram hank and a 33-gram hank, minus a couple of yards due to snarls (of my own making, blegh.)

I soaked the yarn in water to make it more receptive to dye and more likely to absorb it evenly. I hadn’t intended to soak it overnight—I’m not that patient—but ended up doing it anyway. A long soak certainly doesn’t hurt.

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The next day, I gathered up my supplies, and silently thanked my mom for buying me a candy thermometer one year for Christmas. 2015-08-13_3_Dyeing-Supplies

Not pictured: said candy thermometer, and the quarter-teaspoon I used to measure of the dye. Not needed: the plastic knife, which I thought would be necessary to get the dye out of the canisters. I really need to work on staging actually accurate supply photos.

I was skeptical about the amount of dye called for in the PieKnits tutorial, so I went back to Ravelry and found a post from the very prolific user NekkidKnitter, who recommended using about 1/4 teaspoon per 50 grams of yarn. I figured that 30 grams is close to 50 grams (ha!), and more importantly I wanted a nice saturated color, so I used 1/4 teaspoon of Wilton’s Lemon Yellow for my smaller hank.

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I added about a cup of hot-from-the-tap water to it and stirred it up. For the record, the quantity of water doesn’t matter, just the ratio of dye to yarn. Our water isn’t especially hard or soft, so I wasn’t worried about using filtered or distilled.

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Because I didn’t break up the gel blob first, it didn’t completely dissolve in the water no mater how much I stirred. I was a little worried that it might leave abnormally saturated spots of color on the yarn, so I made sure to stir the blue dye before adding the water as well as after. For the blue, I used 3/8 teaspoon of dye. I figured 67 grams is approximately 50% more than 50 grams, and the recommendation is for 1/4 teaspoon for 50 grams, ergo use 50% more than 1/4 teaspoon, or 3/8 teaspoon. (That right there is some questionable math and/or logic. Hope my dad isn’t reading, he would not approve my slapdash mathery…)

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I added the water and dye mixture to the pot and then filled the pot with cool water from the tap.

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I gently lowered the yarn in the dye bath, being careful to avoid jostling it since it seemed prone to felting without any water involved.

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I immediately lifted a sliver back out to see if it was taking dye. It was, but only barely. That’s why heat and time are important. I clipped my candy thermometer to the pot, and then cooked according to the instructions.

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When time was up, the dye bath was nearly clear, and the yarn had taken on a yellowish cast.

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I was a little concerned when I took the yarn out that the yellow wasn’t pronounced enough, but I think it was just the poor quality of the light in the kitchen giving that impression.

I followed the same steps for the blue overdye, then hung both hanks in the guest bathroom with a towel underneath to catch any drips. Here they are wet…

2015-08-13_12_Wet-Dyed-Yarn…and dry:

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From there, all that remained was to clip the ties and wind them into cakes.

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The orange/yellow/green one makes me think of citrus.

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The green/blue/purple one makes me think of sour candies.

In case you need a refresher, they started out looking like this:

2015-08-13_1_Original-Yarn-Color

Isn’t the difference huge? It’s enough to convince me that no yarn is completely unsalvagable so long as you like the fiber content, and it’s nearly enough to drive me to rescue orphaned clearance skeins from my nearest LYS and give them new life. Somebody hold me back; my it’s-not-a-stash is big enough already.

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Now all that remains is deciding what to make with them. Since there isn’t a ton of either color and it is only laceweight, I pretty much have to use them together in a single project. Should I color block it (knit all one yarn, then the other), or do some kind of alternating bands or stripes? Lace work, or plain fabric? Help me pick!

Wardrobe Architect Week 12: Adding Accessories

Rather than making a list of requirements for my functional and decorative accessories and deciding how many I need of each, I’m going to focus on the things I think are missing from my current accessory collection. The items below are more inspiration than specific shopping list, especially since accessories are, by definition, not essential and therefore not as high on my to-make-or-get list.

Hat & Sunglasses

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Ultrafino Monte Cristo Straw Fedora Panama Hat // Ray-Ban RB2132 New Wayfarer Sunglasses

I’m fair-skinned and fair-haired with light eyes, so these are a no-brainer. I really like how I look in hats, but I only own one: a lightweight athletic hat I picked up for a trip last summer, more practical than pretty. I think I’d like to get something with a slightly tailored fit (rather than a big floppy-brimmed number), like a straw fedora or a Panama hat.

On the other side of the equation, since I got contacts and can finally wear whatever sunglasses I want, I’ve been paralyzed trying to find a pair I like. Everything I’ve tried either overwhelms my face, or doesn’t feel at all like me. I don’t need trendy or statement-making shades, I just need something that doesn’t make me look and/or feel like an idiot! Suggestions welcome.

Shoes

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Dr. Scholls Friendly Striped Ballet Flat // Audrey Brooke Newport Metallic Flat
Me Too Buckle Reptile Ballet Flat // Franco Sarto Jinelle Flat Sandal
Franco Sarto Jinelle Flat Sandal // Crown Vintage Marley Flat Sandal
Kelly & Katie Brice Wedge Sandal // Kelly & Katie Madeline Wedge Sandal

I’ve been living in a pair of black ballet flats since the weather turned warm. Before they completely fall apart, I’d like to pick out a new pair or two in my new palette. The navy and white stripes are right up my alley, but gold and red are both versatile choices that I’ve been meaning to add to my collection for a while. I wish I could rock a pair of boat shoes, because I think they’re quintessentially summer attire and I hear they’re pretty comfy, but every pair I’ve tried on just didn’t look right. *sigh*

I’d really, really like to get a pair of flat sandals this summer. I have a pair of white slip-ons, but they’re not great for a lot of walking because they’re slip-ons—I need some kind of security otherwise I’m liable to fall off my shoes. I love that sandals come in a rainbow of happy colors these days. What I don’t love is that so many styles are just so dang uncomfortable! I’ve avoided thong styles and their accompanying chafing, but it’s a crapshoot whether the insoles on most sandals offer any cushioning. Here’s hoping this summer’s search is more fruitful than last year’s.

Finally, I’d like to throw in a pair of low wedges for variety. Anything to occasionally lengthen the ol’ leg line is much appreciated by this petite.

Bags

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Striped Weekender Handbag – Gray // Vertical Buckles Backpack Handbag // Tote Handbag with Strap

Strictly speaking, I don’t need any more bags, but I do love them so, and it’s nice to have a bag suited to every purpose and occasion. For example, Justin and I make a weekend trip to visit family every couple of months, and we usually share a rolling suitcase for our stuff. Sometimes it isn’t big enough, but the next size up in the set is way larger than we need for such a short trip. I used to have utilitarian duffel bag, but it was retired when the strap on it broke; it would be nice to replace it with something pretty. A small, backpack-style bag would be nice for outings to the flea market or along one of Raleigh’s many greenways, because I could bring my usual kit while leaving my hands free and avoiding the switch-shoulders-every-15-minutes game. Bonus: both the weekender and the backpack coordinate with a wallet, purse, and tote I already own—matching for the win! The green purse is just for color, since all of my other purses are neutral.

Jewelry

Anything colorful and a little statement-making. Natural materials and textures, like leather, are fun too. I definitely favor graphic over intricate or ornate. Beyond that, I don’t know. There are so many pieces of beautiful handmade jewelry online that I have no idea how to narrow it down, let alone choose.

That about sums it up. Ours is not a climate for scarves, even lightweight ones (too humid), so these are the things I reach for when I head out the door in the morning.

Do you use colorful accessories to mix things up and keep outfits fresh, or do you tend to stick to neutral accessories and wear more interesting outfits? Maybe you go for head-to-toe neutrals for a timeless look that goes with anything, anywhere?