The Magnolia Beanie; My newest skill

So this year I learned how to knit.
What you should know is that every year for the last 16 years, I get tired of crocheting and pull out a set of knitting needles and try to figure out the magic.

I literally had one set of #8 knitting needles and a pamphlet from Frank’s Nursery and Crafts. It had pictures and everything. For 16 years, I’d try for a week, sweating and swearing only to frog my poorly executed and incredibly ugly results and put those dratted needles way away.
And once again, in my post-Christmas burn out from crochet, I pulled out the knitting needles. Only this time, I traded my age worn pamphlet for You-Tube Videos.

And guess what! I figured it out!
Now I’m on a mission to slowly learn the different patterns, techniques, tools and traditions.

(Disclaimer: links to Amazon are affiliate links, meaning if you buy something, I get a cut at no extra expense to you. Links elsewhere are just for fun and information)

Last month Darn Good Yarn announced their first ever Knit-a-long and I jumped in. They promised video tutorials. The pattern was called the Magnolia Beanie which is primarily a cable stitch variation. I love the look of a cable stitch.
The thing that really enticed me was the tools used; a circular needle (which I already figured out) a cable needle (that weird u-shaped thing) and *cue ominous music* Double Pointed Needles or dpn’s.
Those flippin’ things scared the crap out of me. They look like pretty barbecue skewers, sticking out in all directions like some kind of medieval defense weapon.

I already had yarn, I doubled a monthly box and ended up with 2 skeins of a worsted weight silk yarn.
I picked up the tools from Amazon, downloaded the pattern and waited impatiently for the fun to begin.

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Knitting patterns are another thing I want to learn this year. I taught myself to crochet. I taught myself to read patterns and diagrams from crochet magazines… (way back before the Internet) *shush, I’m not that old*

I’m at the point now where I can read a pattern and do things my way. For example; a pattern says chain this amount and then single crochet in every chain, I’m most likely to just do a foundation chain, I find it easier.
Approaching a knitting pattern and realizing I have no idea what C6B means is disheartening and a little rough on my ego.

I waited, even though I knew I could start if I wanted. I had learned how to do the ribbing pattern earlier this year, but I thought maybe there would be some fun trick I hadn’t learned yet (there was).
The big day comes; the day of the hat brim instructional video. I watch the video once, impressed with the little trick about joining the circle and then started casting on my Midnight Sparkle silk yarn.
Here I am, casting on the required stitches as instructed and when I get to the joining part, I can’t get the yarn to join.
I panic a little. Recount the stitches. Out loud.
Check the pattern.
Panic some more.
Check the required tools.
It calls for #2 circular needles, 16” long. I have #3, but that just means my stitches will be slightly bigger thus making the circle easier to join. That’s obviously not the problem.

Now I didn’t buy the recommended brand. I had already started picking up pieces from Clover’s Takumi Interchangeable needles and opted to add to my collection. Brands are supposed to be standard but you never know.
I measured the length of my circulars, 16 inches point to point. Exactly what it should be. That can’t be the problem then.

Perhaps I just cast on too tight.
So I pull it apart and tried again, this time making a point to keep my tension loose.
Didn’t work. Frogged it again and lost some of my pretty silk yarn to breakage.
Then I decided I try the German long tail cast on, this adds a little twist to the base making it more stretchy. I tried it on a hat earlier this year.
Third time was NOT the charm…It still didn’t work. So I gave up on the yarn.
It’s pretty and labeled worsted weight but my skeins were pretty thin. Maybe too thin. That would make a smaller stitch.
I went searching through my stash for a worsted weight, preferably in silk. I found the herbal dyed dk weight  from a subscription box.  Dk weight is supposed to be thinner than worsted but this seemed thicker. I had paired it with a creamy colored acrylic to make Princess a hat. It was sitting in a bag with the pom-pom kit waiting for the perfect pattern.

And it worked. But just barely.
I was able to finish the ribbing in record time but the whole piece seemed really small. It was never going to fit an adult. I tried it on Ms.SassyPants and it barely fit her. I wasn’t sure if it would fit her through the winter. Toddlers grow quickly.

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This was really disappointing. What’s the point of making a hat if it won’t fit anyone.

So I sat and stared at the ribbed band for a couple days while periodically reading over the parts of the pattern I did understand.
Then I decided that I would have to adjust the pattern to make it bigger. That required math. Lets just say I’m not a big fan of Math. It makes my head hurt.
Fortunately, I found a fellow knitter on the Group page that was having the same problem and, being a more experienced knitter and probably better at Math than me,  had shared her math-based fix!
I love the Crafters in that group. They are always so helpful.
I very gently ripped out the ribbing and started over. (you have to be gentle with the silk yarn because it will fall apart as I learned with the other skein)
Apparently 5 times is the magic number because this one worked.

The second part required larger needles and to increase the stitches.
Moving from a size 3 to a size 10 was a lot harder than Julie made it appear on the videos. She had two separate circular needles, but I had interchangeable. At first I tried changing out both needles but I was having a really hard time with my left side. Those stitches are supposed to line up on the needle to be worked but none of them wanted to stretch for me. I ended up putting the #3 back on the left side of the circle and worked all the new stitches with the #10 on the right side. Once I got all the way around, I switched the left side needle.

I have no idea if this is proper but it worked for me so that’s how I worked it.
And worked beautifully. And the rest was easy.

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I learned what C6B means. The C stands for Cable; The number refers to the total number of stitches which will be divided in 2, and the last letter is either F or B, referring to front or back.
So, C6B means I’ll put three stitchs on the cable needle and move it to the back of the work, knit the next three on my left needle and then knit the three on my cable needle. A little awkward at first but by the end I had a good rhythm going. It was so cool to watch the braids and twists appear.

I ended up having an extra twist and braid in my hat because I had to increase the pattern. I love the look of cables in that creamy white color. It tugs on my little heart strings and probably has to do with my Irish heritage and ancient memories of Fisherman sweaters.
My magnolia beanie is not with out flaws. I totally missed a twist and didn’t notice for three rows.
I left it. It can be flawed.

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The down side to knitting is  you can’t really just pull out a row or two like in crochet. You literally have to un-knit each flippin stitch or rip the whole thing out.
Lets all have a moment of awe for those seasoned knitters out there who can make things without flaws.

Week 5 brought us to the dreaded Double Pointed Needles.
And let me tell you, It was not as hard as I thought it would be!!!
No injuries occured. No eyeballs were poked out and no stitches were lost.
Working the DPN’s on my hat actually seemed a bit easier that Julies on the video because I had increased the stitches I was able to just work each needle with out borrowing from the next. It was actually kind of fun and a little satisfying to work each needle in succession, slowly decreasing to the end. So much so that I’ve entertained little daydreams of knitting socks.

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The last step, which was totally optional, was to add the pom pom. The pom pom Kit from DGY was a whole lot of fun and the reason I wanted to make the Princess a beanie in the first place. She’d been looking at hats with furry pom-poms and debating whether or not to get one. I told her she wasn’t allowed to buy herself hats. Ever. For the rest of my life.
Hats are perfect in between projects. When your working on a big long tedious project and you need to just finish something. Hats are the answer.
The kit include two circles of faux fur, two craft pom-poms, needles, thread, snaps and instructions. I think the snaps are absolutely brilliant. You sew one end to the pom=pom and the other end to the hat and when you need to wash your hat you just pop the pom-pom off!

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So I finished the hat and still had extra yarn so I opted to make a cowl to match. Cowls are another quick and easy in between project. I adjusted the cable pattern and went to town. Now that its finished I just have to hand wash and lie flat to dry. Silk yarn should be hand washed and dried. Machines are too rough on them.

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I’m hoping once I give it to the Princess she’ll take pictures in it. She’s a Instagram junkie. In the mean time, I’m back to the big project; a throw blanket I’m gifting for the holidays. I’ll tell you more about that another time.

Self-Discipline and Personal Power

I want to talk about personal power and self discipline….It’s not a popular topic. Everybody wants a magic answer. They want to wave a wand or wiggle their nose and have the job done.

Me too, folks. Me too.

This is at the forefront of my mind for a couple reasons. The first has to do with my oldest daughter, the Princess. The second is hitting home because of my own situation.

The Princess is a hairdresser. She just passed her 4th anniversary at the salon she works; a high-end salon where she apprenticed. I know that she’s my daughter and I see her through rose colored lenses but let me tell you a bit about her.

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The Princess Empowering Women.

She’s annoyingly positive, incredibly emotional and was doled out an extra helping of guilt at birth.

She moves through her life trying to avoid making decisions that will make her feel the twisted pangs of guilt. Its her internal compass and she calls me when she has to make the hard decisions. She calls often.

This affliction has manifested in a number of traits such as a ridiculously strong work ethic and a desire to be helpful, supportive and kind.

I can tell ya, she is NOT the poster girl for the beauty industry.
She doesn’t fit in with the typical hairdresser and has, on occasion, been the target for the collective petty bullshit that happens whenever you get a bunch of insecure women in one place.

(I feel that ‘target’ is an ancestral wound gifted from her dad’s side and it’s her responsibility to heal it for herself and every woman that came before her. She agrees and is not happy about it.)

She loves what she does and she loves the people she works for, so she stays. Fortunately, she’s been working from their satellite salon and doesn’t interact with most of the women who target her.

On her 4th anniversary, she sat down with management to look at her numbers and discovered that she has hit the goal to receive her next raise in prices.

This is completely numerical. It has nothing to do with who she is, her work ethic, the quality of her work or how well the owner likes her. This formula is well known and applies to all hairdressers. The percentage of service sales + product sales = a bump in haircut prices.

My daughter busted her ass to earn that bump. She did her job, she scouted new clients, she took extra classes, learned new skills, perfected her techniques, built up her clientele, and promoted the products.

This success was not appreciated by the heard of cackling hens who posited that she only got the raise because she’s favored by the boss.

For a week we heard bits and pieces from a few ally’s and learned that a number of the girls confronted the boss demanding that her prices be reverted back, because it wasn’t fair. Some of the women had been there longer, some had more clients, some weren’t even hairdresser and had nothing to gain by protesting….but hey, herd mentality….

Their demands fell on deaf ears. The boss explained, once again, the process of obtaining a raise and how each of them had the power to do the same.

The Princess isn’t a witch, she doesn’t want the responsibility. She has never asked me for spells, only blessings and positive vibes. I’ve never cast a spell for her, success or otherwise. (I offered to hex the bitches but she turned me down.)

She is focused and disciplined and passionate. She wins.

And she inspires me. She reminds me everyday that Focus, Passion and Discipline are the keys to success; the keys to a happy life.

Going back to personal power and self-discipline. As kids we ‘do’ thing because we’re told to. We do it because if we don’t we’ll get in trouble. I don’t know about you, but most of what I did as a kid, was because it would stop my mom from yelling.

As an adult I didn’t. It was a rebellious thing. All those things I should have been doing for myself, like eating healthy, exercising, tidying up my home, studying my college course work…. I didn’t do that because it’s what the adults told me I had to do and now they weren’t around to make me.

I had to learn the hard way that doing those things would benefit me, they’d make me stronger, they’d make me feel better. They would give me room to focus on the things I’m passionate about. They would take me to the life I dreamed about.

It took me a good 15 years of rebellion before it started to click…

…Don’t laugh at me, everyone gets it in their own time.

So much of the craft is about what we do or don’t do. Intentions, spell work and magic will only get us so far. The rest is the boring mundane everyday things that we don’t really want to do.

Its not about motivation, its about discipline.

The princess recites that like a mantra. You do what needs to be done because it needs to be done. The results will be worth it.

In the Craft, most of the magic performed is done to boost the mundane work (at least in my practice). We set the intention, we focus the energy, light the candle, chant the rhyme, mix the herbs, charge the stones and then we do the work. The boring mundane busy work of reaching your goals.

Day in day out, we do the work that needs to be done. That’s where our personal power lies.

Sometimes the work is directly tied to the goal (The princess recommending products to her clients) and sometimes its not (Her choice to go to the gym everyday). But even if the task isn’t directly linked, It still matters. It’s all connected.

She goes to the gym because it makes her feel good. It helps her anxiety, manages her weight and makes her feel stronger. If she chose not to go to the gym everyday, her anxiety would be through the roof making her edgy and irritable and less able to deal with the stress. She’d be carrying extra weight which might have a negative effect on her self-confidence. She wouldn’t have the strength or stamina to take on the extra client with the 6 hour service.

I’m recognizing all this as we embark on this new journey and lifestyle change.

My sewing machine broke last year. It was 12 years old. It wasn’t a really expensive model and I didn’t sew as often as I wanted to because it couldn’t handle what I wanted it to do. I looked into having it fixed, (I couldn’t find the part I needed online) and it dawned on me that it would be better to save up for a heavy duty sewing machine.

I was half way to my goal when I casually mentioned it on Facebook. My cousin offered me her mothers old sewing machine. My crazy Aunt Joyce was an amazing and creative seamstress, I was humbled by the offer.

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My Crazy Aunt Joyce! R.I.P Beautiful Soul.

So now I’m sitting on extra money with some serious craft store fantasies, knowing that I need to take that money and be responsible with it.

We still have debts to be paid and savings to increase. We’re not going to buy the farm if I waste the money on fabric. (especially when I have two 18 gallon totes full of fabric.)

My passion for a homesteading life has to outweigh my passion for being creative. I have to stay focused and be disciplined. Today it really sucks.

Today, I’m exercising my power, staying focused on my dream, and being disciplined with my resources.

Tonight, I will wave my wand and wiggle my nose and Tomorrow I’ll go to the bank.