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.

The Magical Cabinet or How do I know if this is still good?

Shakespeare

Oh! Isn’t that a fun rhyme? Doesn’t it just make your little heart beat with Joy? No? okay maybe it’s just me….

Harvest time is just about over. I’ve been drying, chopping, seeding and storing summer’s bounty for a few weeks. My Magical Cabinet is getting pretty full.

When I first started dabbling in spell work and charms, I just loved the idea of dusty little jars filled with herbs and roots and labeled with creepy old English names. I imagined myself working spells by candlelight; grinding seeds with a mortar and pestle while chanting Latin words. I saw myself stirring a cauldron while adding these ingredients, spouting rhymes, feeling the tingle of magic in my bones, divining the outcome through the wafting steam.

Yeah, It doesn’t happen that way and rarely does it happen with such drama.

Just the same, I still love my jars of herbs. I still get a kick out grinding things with the mortar and pestle, sorting seed from petals and filling up my jars for a raining day…These days my jars are bigger and I still can’t rhyme.

After learning what different herbs are good for and testing out a spell or two, I started my collection just to have the collection. I didn’t use half of what I collected and discovered that some of my herbs lost their potency over the years. (I’ll get to that in a second)

So now, part of my spring cleaning routine is to sort through my magical cabinet. I dust the jars, organize them, take inventory and sort through viable plants and roots. Make plans on what to grow for the upcoming summer.

Witches have always worked with plants. They were the healers. In contrast to what Hollywood and bedtime tales have portrayed, Witches were the old wise women living on the edge of the village; keepers of the knowledge of the plants. They were the ones that knew which would heal and which would poison. Which plants would ease pain and which would facilitate labor. Long before men and science took over the medical field, it was witches who people turned to even if they weren’t always called witches.

What did I mean by ‘potency’?

Plants have energetic properties. Edible plants have vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. Non-edibles have their own energy that aids our intentions during spell work. It’s the energy of these plants that determine their potency. The more energy they retain the stronger their potency.

We have been gifted with this knowledge; It has been passed down from our ancestors, confirmed by herbalist and in some cases scientists. Often times Witches come by their knowledge from their Spirit Guides or memories of past lives or just intuitively by spending time with a plant. There are plenty of books and websites that give a general description of what ailments or uses each plant is good for. Read, learn and trust your gut.

In my experience, living plants have the strongest energy – whether it’s breathing in the negative ions produced by the trees in a forest or eating a salad out of the garden. If it’s possible to use a live or freshly harvested plant, then that’s my first choice. However, it’s not always possible. And that’s where my happy little jars of dried goods come in!

For example, you can’t really stuff a charm bag or poppet with fresh leaves and flowers. It’ll mold. (Of course if that’s your intention then go for it)

Then there’s the fact that I can’t seem to keep basil alive on my kitchen window sill and daffodils only grow for about a month in the early spring.

Fortunately dried leaves and flowers retain a lot of energy allowing us to do happiness rituals in October and money spells in January. Drying is easy and doesn’t take a whole lot of special equipment.

As far as potency goes; Roots and seeds would come in second to live plants on the energy scale of my mind. They have concentrated amounts of all the good stuff that make the plants grow. (Like my technical terms?)

Dried leaves and flowers are just as good and in some cases more appropriate. The down side is they’re more fragile and can break down quicker and easier.

So, how do I tell if my goods are still good?

I’ll give you some guidelines but you’ll have to hone your intuition to make the final decision.

Color – If dried adequately most flowers will retain some of their original color although they all darken somewhat. If your daffodils turn pale white and your roses turn brown, they may be time to add them to the compost.

Some leaves darken right away, some retain their green color. Over time the color changes slightly but for the most part, leaves tend to last longer than the flowers.

Smell – aromatic herbs will retain their smell. It’ll change slightly from the original scent of a live plant but they still have their smell. If it disappears, it’s time to toss them.

Herbs – kitchen herbs, tubers and seeds retain their smell the longest. They can be dried and stored for quite a while. Seed like allspice, anise and coriander, hold onto their smell for a couple years and are best stored in seed form. Roots like ginger and garlic can be dried and powdered for extended use.

What was that about storing?

It’s best to keep your dried apothecary in glass, air tight containers, in a cool environment and away from sunlight. Heat and light will ruin your herbs. I do keep small quantities in plastic zipper bags if I’ve only acquired a small amount and intend to use it in a month. However, plastic is more permeable than glass and will shorten the life of your dried goods.

(I ship all my dried goods in plastic baggies to keep costs down, they are packaged to order and ships with in hours….When they get to you, put them someplace safe or use them within a few weeks )

This is the time of year that I do my second round of cleaning. I’ve been harvesting and drying summer’s bounty for a few weeks now. All I have left in the garden is a few fennel plants that have gone to seed.

My Magical Cabinet is over flowing and all my jars and nice and full so keep an eye on The Mystic’s Haven, I’ll be updating inventory and adding a few new herbs to the shop!

I’ll also be writing up a few posts on specific herbs and how they’re used.

 

 

Back to Basics : Grounding

Getting back to basics here. Grounding yourself. I’m starting to realize that not everyone understands the concept or knows how to do it.

I’m not talking about the those times your folks grounded you and you couldn’t hang out with your friends…. more like grounding the way electricity does. Only your electricity is made from your emotions

Think of emotion as Energy in Motion. Your emotions are just that, electrical impulses that trigger different body functions, Our thoughts give shape to those impulses and we label them; happy, sad angry, etc.

Each has a different feeling in the body. Sometimes, we don’t know why we feel what we feel. We wake up feeling sadness and we’re not sure why. We get impatient and lash our in anger for no particular reason. Sometimes we know why but there’s nothing we can do about the situation that’s causing the feelings and we still have to get our shit done.

As a triple water I know all about emotions, I swim through my days. For the most part, my emotions ebb and flow and I don’t even notice anymore. Sometimes, on rougher seas, I harness that energy to get shit done. Think rage cleaning

When its just too much, for too long and the feels are keeping me from getting other things done, I ground. Grounding helps release the extra emotions so we can get back to living our best life.

I personally believe that the whole reason we have physical bodies is to experience life through our emotions; to feel the experience in our body. Emotions give our life richness and depth but they can also get in the way.

Bonus! Grounding is aptly named as well!

Grounding is about giving the energy back to the earth to be recycled. Its like composting but with energy instead of organic material.

You all know how much I love composting!

Compost Pile

My compost pile prior to turning for visual effect.

There’s a natural magic in composting. You take your kitchen scraps, moldy fruits and rotten vegetables, bury in the ground and a few months later, Voila!

Dirt!

Healthy, nutrient rich dirt to feed your garden! Mother Nature turned all that was useless and bad for us into something with a purpose.

Guess what! The Earth does the same for your extra, moldy, rotten emotions that you have no use for.

Understand the concept?

Great, let’s get on to the process. (no? It’s okay, keep reading, I explain more.)

Just like there’s lots of ways to compost, there are also lots of ways to ground.

Lets start with visualizing. I find it to be the most effective. And it can be done almost anywhere with no tools.

(I don’t recommend doing this while operating heavy machinery so wait until you’re out of the drivers seat.)

So stop what your doing, take a deep breath and exhale slowly.

Feel inside your body. Where are the tensions, the aches, the pains, the butterflies, the energetic dark spots…..

Take another breath, recognize those place and relax them.

Now imagine your emotions as a dark river running through your body, traveling up and down your limbs swirling trough your torso, pooling in those achey places, becoming stagnant and green. Imagine this river starts to move and flow. You may feel tingling in your extremities as this river flows. You may not. Its okay either way. Do it anyway.

Let it drain down your legs and into the ground. Imagine your personal energy river draining all the muck and pond scum through the earth into a larger energy river. Imagine it mixing in with Earths natural energy. Imagine the the Earth diluting and neutralizing your toxic energy and transforming it into healing energy. Let your murky emotional river continue to flow however long you need. You may feel a relief, you may feel lighter.

When you feel you have no more to give back to the Earth, Take a deep breath, move your feet to stop the flow and then imagine a richer, lighter and fluffier energy coming up from the ground in through your feet and flowing through your body via the fresh clean energy river. Let it flow, washing over all those dark achey places. Imagine it refreshing you, giving you more energy and focus. When your done. Take a deep breath, drink some water and get on with your day.

This can take anywhere from 5 minutes to a half hour. It’s up to you. It usually takes a little longer in the beginning because its a new skill that has to be learned and you probably have a lot more pent up emotions than you think.

But the good thing is that you don’t have to wait until your an emotional mess to start. I actually found that if you make this part of a routine you bypass the breakdowns.

Other ways of grounding.

Sometimes we get caught up in our heads. Its’s our nature to define and find reasons for our emotions. We feel that pang of sadness and wonder why? Instead of assuming its just blocked energy in our heart space we find a disappointment in our lives and decide that’s why we’re sad. Or angry or afraid. Our mind starts reeling and gets out of control. All kind of imagined slights will fill us with more emotions and we become so worked up we lose focus on the important things.

In these cases a few quick tricks can bring us back down to the place where we can manage again.

Think of your 5 senses.

What can you see? What can you taste; what can you hear; what can you smell; what can you feel?

Think of Earth and nature. Can you see the sky, the clouds, a tree?
Can you taste an apple, coffee, chocolate? (Professor Lupin was right about this one; It really does help.)
Can you hear birds, squirrels, water running, trees rustling?
Can you feel the air, the bark of a tree, bare feet on grass?

Getting back to nature is the most effective to getting you back into your body but other things work – wash your hands or put lotion on them. Drink some water. Turn on music. Move your body; dance, run, lift weights.

Maybe you think you don’t need this because your not emotional.
I hate to break it to you, You are.
We all are.

Its part of being human. Just because you don’t cry at the drop of a hat doesn’t mean those emotions aren’t flowing through you.

(actually crying is an awesome way to release the pent up emotions; I’m a big fan and I highly recommend it)

What happens when you don’t keep that river flowing, grounding out the extra emotions? They get stuck. In your body. And you end up with random aches and pains. Back ache, stomach issues, head aches, joint pain…..Over time you end up with chronic disease.

There’s a reason men have a shorter lifespan than women.

You remember that old paradigm of men are stronger/ women are too emotional….Women cry, men don’t.

It’s poisoned generations of men. Women release those pent up emotions and remove the blocks before they can cause disease that kill men. This has allowed women be stronger, healthier and live longer. Fortunately, shifts are happening and people are dropping that toxic masculine ideology.

The grounding exercises I’ve suggested is a way to possibly bypass the crying and still get the health benefits. Practice it. Make it part of your routine. Once a day, once a week. Whatever works for you. Just do it.