Spinning: A Rediscovered Hobby

Bobbin and Fibre

When it comes to crafty endeavours, I identify as a knitter. Sure, I sew. And I enjoy cross stitching. The occasional embroidery project catches my eye. And, very rarely, there’s a quilting pattern that calls my name. But when all is said and done, knitting is my favourite hobby.

So I totally blame my friend Rochelle for luring me away from my beloved yarn so that I could make, well, yarn. Despite owning two spinning wheels, both have sat untouched for ages, mostly because I couldn’t figure out how to keep curious little fingers away from the moving parts. By the time I no longer needed to worry about Leah losing a finger, my interest had faded.

Now, however, my interest has been piqued again, and — thanks to a few spinning dates with friends — I’ve discovered that while it’s not exactly like riding a bicycle, I’d remembered more about spinning than I’d forgotten. Also, it helped that I have wonderfully patient friends who reminded me about all the little details that make spinning a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Spinning on the Ladybug

The spun single on the first bobbin is pretty uneven (the second isn’t much better!) and I’m seriously doubting that the final plied yarn will be balanced — but I’m ridiculously happy with it. After all, if I wanted perfectly spun yarn, that’s what commercial options are for. Instead, I’ve rediscovered a previously enjoyed pastime that results in an increased yarn stash.

And, really, I can’t imagine anything better than more yarn. I am, after all, a knitter.

FLOTUS: A Finished Shawl

FLOTUS Shawl

It feels like forever since I’ve finished something, and since I have multiple shawls on my needles right now, I really wasn’t looking for a new project, given that I have oh-so-many in progress. Shannon Squire, however, sucked me in with her League of Busy Bs year of knitting patterns and the first release: FLOTUS.

Despite a less-than-stellar first attempt and a second misreading of the pattern that involved reknitting half the border*, I still managed to finish in less than a month. Not too shabby. And it really was a simple, straightforward sort of pattern — it takes a special kind of knitter to screw up twice. I blame the fact that multitasking is absolutely not my strong suit.

FLOTUS Shawl

Now that it’s off the needles and blocked vigorously, it’s gorgeous, if I do say so myself. I’d been hanging on to two gradient sets of Gumballs from Knitted Wit for ages, waiting for just the right project — and this was it. I love the way the grey stripes separate the individual skeins, making the transitions between the shades of teal look seamless.

Right now I’m kind of wishing I worked in a crazy cold air conditioned office that would necessitate throwing my shawl over my shoulders in a jaunty sort of fashion. The reality is that my house is currently sitting at a balmy 26 degrees, rendering this a shawl-free environment. I’ll just have to wait until autumn for this one.

* This is where I admit that my friends were impressed to learn that I actually ripped back and reknit the border, rather than chucking the entire project, needles and all, into the nearest trash can. The idea did cross my mind. Actually, who am I kidding? I was totally going to throw it out — the only thing that stopped me is that I’m trying to set a better example for Adam, who also would have pitched the whole thing without a second thought. I’m making progress, albeit slowly.

Transition to Summer

Love

Even after seven years, making the transition from the crazy pace of school and flurry of end-of-the-year activities to the comparatively lazy days of summer is a bit of a shock to the system. So for the third year now, I’ve registered Adam and Leah for a week of VBS half-day camp at the church just up the street. We’ve found it to be the perfect segue into full-blown summer vacation.

This year was no exception. Both kids love getting to hang out with neighbourhood friends for a few hours each morning — and they come home each day filled with songs and stories. And crafts. Oh, the crafts!

Leah vowed on Monday that she was never going to remove that crab headband… but eventually she realized that it was impossible to wear that and her bicycle helmet at the same time — and she really wanted to ride her bike. Thank goodness. It was going to be difficult to wash her hair otherwise.

While Leah is extremely possessive of her crafts (pretty much everything is going in her room so she can admire her work whenever she wants — she’s also abandoned her human-sized pillow for this fabric-painted fleece version), Adam is all about spreading around his artwork. The shark pillow will live on the sofa in the basement, the nail art cross will hang in the living room, and Adam told me I may use the painted tile coaster for my coffee mug. Love!

Hugs

But more than the awesomeness of the crafts, each year I find that the week of VBS brings out the absolute best in the kids. Between the songs and Bible stories and interaction with their leaders, something seems to stick with them that makes this one of the easiest weeks of the summer. They both seem just a little kinder, a little quicker to forgive, and a lot more tolerant of one another, which in turn makes for a happier home. And while some of it fades after VBS ends, each year a little more of it seems to stay with them. I couldn’t ask for a better start to our summer.

School’s Out!

School's Out

Most years we set a good pace for getting through the school year. While enthusiasm ebbs and flows, we are able to maintain a reasonable level of engagement and can push through the less-than-stellar moments.

This year, though, has been different. While Leah was mostly keen to keep up with our school schedule, Adam seemed to have used up all his energy reserves by April. Forget keeping a steady pace. It’s been more like limping — and now crawling — towards the finish line.

School's Done and So Is Adam

But today the finish line has been crossed. Thank goodness — because Adam is just done.* Completely over school. And so, there aren’t any big cheers for finishing another year — rather just a quiet sense of satisfaction (and even relief!) that there are no worksheets or group projects in the foreseeable future.

Summer Vacation, we are ready for you. We’re ready for camping and birthdays and lazy days. We’re ready for sleeping in and staying up late and spontaneous adventures.

But most of all, we’re just ready to enjoy time together as a family, checking a few things off the kids’ bucket lists (and ours, too!) and making the most of our less hectic schedules.

Here’s to a great summer!

* It probably didn’t help that Leah finished with school a few weeks ago — I’m pretty sure that made things even more unbearable. Next year I’ll plan to sync up schedules a bit better.

Knitalong, Take Two

Flotus Shawl in Progress

I don’t think I’ve ever met a craft-along that I didn’t like, at least initially. The thought of knitting or cross-stitching or sewing a particular pattern with a group of other people, all at the same time, is fun. You can compare project notes as you go, help each other pick out the perfect yarn or fabric, and generally offer support when things don’t quite go as planned.

Right now, things are definitely not going as planned. I’m taking part in Shannon Squire’s League of Busy Bs, a year-long knitting extravaganza that includes easy-to-follow patterns that are perfect for picking up and putting down a dozen times a day. Basically, these are the ideal patterns for me right now to work on during daily trips to the playground or sneaking in a few rows between whatever adventures Leah has planned.

The first pattern is FLOTUS, which my West Wing-loving self immediately wanted to start knitting. (And, truly, this shawl is about as close to American politics as I want to get right now!) Lucky for me, I had two gradient sets of yarn in my stash (Gumballs from Knitted Wit), both of which were perfect for this project. I settled on the Hyacinth set and paired the six minis with a skein of Sterling. Beautiful.

Hyacinth Gradient Set

And then I started to wind my yarn. The fifth mini was cut in multiple places, giving me six small pieces of yarn, none of which was more than 10 metres. Ugh. (I can’t figure out what happened — my best guess is that I was overzealous when opening the package and snipped the skein.) The thought of all those joins made me cringe but I decided to power on.

Except it turns out that this super-easy pattern was too much for my brain yesterday. I’ve somehow managed to mess up the first grey stripe — and I don’t know what came over me but I decided to be a good knitter and weave in my ends as I knit, so trying to rip back the individual sections and reknit them is a bit more than I can manage at the moment. After all, this is supposed to a low-key, low-stress kind of project.

So I’m opting for Plan B and starting over with the second gradient set. Enter Buckle My Shoes — in all its teal loveliness. One could actually argue this is more my colour anyway.

Buckle My Shoes Gradient Set

Thankfully there’s no real end date for this knitalong, which means I feel no pressure to get caught up particularly quickly. This time around I’m going to read the pattern a little more carefully and enjoy the colour changes as they happen, no matter how many playground visits it takes to knit.

Must Knit Socks

Vinings Socks in Progress

Two weeks. Apparently that’s how long I could last before I needed to cast on for a pair of socks. Who knew? I really thought that I was over socks for the moment and that the myriad other in-progress projects (including — but not limited to — a hat, a scarf, two shawls, a blanket, and a sweater) would be enough to keep me occupied. Alas, it seems that my knitting bag feels empty without a pair of socks on my needles.

And do you know what else is feeling kind of empty these days? The house. Without Leah here, it’s strangely quiet and I really miss her. Thankfully, she was kind enough to leave these hand tracings for me so that I could give her daily high fives.

Leah's Hands

So sweet, right? I was touched and thought I would return the gesture, painstakingly tracing my own hands for her to take on vacation. No. Leah was absolutely horrified with the idea, shoving the cardstock in between some books and vowing never to look at it again. She basically thought this was the worst thing I’d done in recent history. Okay, then. On the positive side, I’m pretty certain that Leah isn’t homesick. She’s an out of sight, out of mind kind of girl.

While Leah’s away, I am getting a little vacation as well while Adam’s at school. One that’s mostly filled with knitting, reading, and the occasional chore that I’ve been putting off until I had a quiet house to myself.

Daybreak in Progress

Chores aren’t terribly exciting, though, so I’ve mostly been knitting. Ever since I knit Adam his Man Shawl last year, I’ve had plans to knit a Daybreak for myself — I was just waiting for the perfect yarn. These two skeins of Victory Fine from Knitted Wit arrived a couple weeks ago and I immediately knew that while they were beautiful individually, they’d be even more incredible together. So far, I seem to be right. I’ve had to drop down a couple needle sizes to get a slightly less drapey fabric — which means I’m going to have to knit several more pairs of stripes to get the size I want.

Fingers are crossed that I’ll have enough yarn to make it all work as I envision. If not, there’s always a backup plan.

School’s Out!

School's Out

We did it — Leah’s last day of school has finally arrived and I’m honestly not certain who is more proud. Ten novels, 150 math lessons, countless picture books, nearly 400 spelling words, twenty-odd science experiments, and several hundred years of history later, we are done.

And just in time, too. Tomorrow Leah heads off to Disney World with her grandparents for a week of fun and excitement, so we pushed through the last few lessons this week in order that she could leave knowing she had finished everything school-related.

School's Out

While I never really expected us to be a homeschooling family, I’m so happy that we made that (enormous) leap last year. I may frequently bemoan the lack of adult interaction in my days but I wouldn’t trade anything for the time I have been able to spend with Leah as we tackled school together.

One of my favourite things about this past year is the realization that school happens everywhere — it hardly needs to be relegated to a desk. Some our best learning experiences took place in the kitchen or on the front porch or at the playground. Truly, the world is our classroom and I hope to more fully embrace this idea next year. We started off tightly tethered to workbooks and checklists but once I let go a little bit and let our learning opportunities develop more organically, Leah really flourished.

School's Out

I’m not entirely sure what our summer holds for us — Leah has a couple weeks of VBS scheduled and maybe another week of camp happening but that’s about it. Adam will be camping with Cubs and Scouts for a few weeks and will possibly need the rest of the summer to recover. This year I wasn’t in a huge rush to register the kids for things — they want time to play with their friends and take advantage of opportunities for day trips and spontaneous adventures. Sounds like my kind of summer.

Moving Up from Cubs

Moving Up from Cubs

Those lucky endlessly patient Scouters at 2nd Highland Creek are trading in one Roy for another this year as Leah joins as a Tenderpad and Adam moves up to Scouts.

Three years ago, Adam was pretty much terrified by the prospect of joining Cubs — it was all so different from Beavers. In fact, Baloo (one of the Scouters) had taken all the parents aside to let us know just how much more independent Cubs were expected to be. No more hand-holding. Sink or swim. Take complete responsibility for your uniform — it’s your uniform, not your parents’. Pack your own gear and carry it yourself.

I’ll admit, I was a little worried, myself. Cubs sounded kind of like boot camp and I wasn’t sure that Adam was going to enjoy it.

It turns out Baloo may have been trying to scare us over-protective parents. (It totally worked, by the way. I spent that summer really pushing Adam in all manner of things, determined that he wasn’t going to get left behind when he started with Cubs in the fall.) While there may not have been hand-holding, the Scouters invested a huge amount of time guiding the Cubs to develop the necessary skills to function more independently. By the end of Adam’s first year, I no longer even checked his bag to make sure he’d packed everything he needed for camp. He was eight years old and could do it himself. And if he’d forgotten something… well, chances were that he wouldn’t forget again.

Awards for Adam

Last night he was officially welcomed to Scouts. You know, the group in which you get to split wood with an axe. And use a saw. And carry a knife (assuming you have demonstrated the appropriate level of responsibility). But, unlike three years ago, I’m not worried about Adam’s next level of adventure in Scouting. He’s already learned so much about working with others to achieve a common goal and to push himself further than he ever thought possible.

Six Star Recognition for Adam

I’m so proud of Adam and all that he has accomplished, like that Six Star Recognition plaque he’s holding. In three years he earned all six stars, 28 badges and nine awards. He has collected canned goods for the food bank, delivered gifts for the Santa Claus Fund, participated in fund-raising events, designed and raced Kub Kars, hiked many kilometres, camped under the stars, and helped with community clean-up days. Beyond those things, though, Adam has developed friendships with some of the Cubs that are sure to last even once his Scouting days are behind him.

And now, let the adventure continue — with the Scouts!

Neighbourhood Beautification with Leah

Welcome to our Home

Every so often Leah notes that compared to other houses on the street, ours is quite lacking when it comes to being pretty. This is quickly followed by asking if we can “make our house pretty” — ideally by planting flowers outside. I love this idea and a flower garden sounds great in theory… but my ability to kill plants just by looking at them renders this plan completely unworkable.

So this afternoon Leah settled on Plan B. Plan B requires no soil, no maintenance, no green thumb, and — to be fair — no longevity. Instead of gardening tools, we set out to decorate the front porch and stepping stones with chalk.

Chalk Work in Progress

Oh my goodness, what a fun afternoon! Armed with a box of chalk and a little imagination, Leah and I managed to substantially increase the curb appeal of our home. Well, at least in Leah’s opinion. I’m not sure we’ve added to the house’s market value in any meaningful way.

I Love You Stepping Stone

What the results may lack in professionalism, our efforts more than make up for in creativity. And colour. If nothing else, our work did get a few smiles from some of our neighbours passing by.

Landscape Stepping Stone

And with rain in next week’s forecast, we’re only a few days away from a blank canvas. Time to start planning our next art series!

Finally Finished

Ringwood Socks

Having eleventy million crafty projects on the go means that I always have something to work on no matter what the circumstance. Starbucks with friends? Shawl knitting! A rare, quiet afternoon while Leah naps? Cross stitching and iced coffee. Watching a movie? Socks. Keeping an eye on Leah at the playground? The never-ending linen stitch scarf.

Of course, the downside to having so many projects in various stages of completion is that rarely do I ever actually complete anything. Sigh. Somewhere between being paralyzed by indecision over which project to pick up and getting sidetracked by new, shiny yarn, I end up with bags tucked in various corners of the house, all full of in-progress items.

Yesterday, though, I (finally!) bound off a pair of socks. Of course, it’s now way too hot to even contemplate wearing them, but at least I’ll have this pair squirrelled away for the fall.

Ringwood Socks

The yarn is from Knitted Wit: Victory Sock in Babbling Brook. I love Lorajean’s speckled colourways — and I appreciate the saturation variation between the socks as I knit from both ends of the skein at once. Personally, I think the colour difference between the two just adds to the awesomeness of handknit socks.

As for the pattern, it’s called Ringwood Socks. I’ve knit it once before and I love that it works so well with hand-dyed yarns. Just enough texture to keep things interesting without competing for attention with the yarn. It also features a dead easy pattern repeat so it’s ideal for knitting while trying to concentrate on something else.

Ringwood Socks

Even though I love these socks, I really had to push myself towards the end to get them finished. And for the first time in several years, I no longer have a pair of socks on my needles (I usually have two pairs going at once) and I have no great desire to immediately wind another skein of yarn. Dare I say it? I think I may have hit my saturation point when it comes to socks. There are so many other projects calling my name that socks just aren’t on my must-knit list right now. We’ll see how long this lasts. My best guess? Only until some squishy new sock yarn arrives in my mailbox.