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 Hag of Winter

I’m the only practicing witch here at the Haven.

I have hopes for the younger minions; Peter Pan, Dark&Twisty and maybe even Dennis the Menace. The rest are doing their own thing.

Just because I’m the only witch doesn’t mean I’m the only one affected by the energy.

Both The Renaissance Man and The Princess are complaining about being tired and not wanting to do the Things. My reply is always, “Then don’t”. Unfortunately their work ethic compels them to defy my suggestion.

The weather finally turned cold here. The Hag of Winter flew through and dropped a few inches of snow, she’ll be back around this week, bringing bitter arctic, record-breaking cold. The local weather stations are dubbing this cold snap “Chi-beria” .  *We live just outside Chicago*

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There’s a reason Cailliech Bheur is depicted as blind, seeing only from her third eye; winter doesn’t discriminate. It drops its load anywhere it feel like with no regard to our schedules, plans, and to-do lists. It knows what the land needs, She knows what we need.

We need to stop, we need to reflect, we need to turn inward and review our life choices. We need to dream and hope and plan for warmer days. We need to bundle up in warm cozy blankets and fleece-lined wool socks. We need to daydream and find solace in doing nothing.

The land benefits from the winter freeze as well. A deep frost depth, or how deep the ground freezes, helps to keep nutrients in place, loosens the soil and kills off certain insects know to cause havoc on crops.

Yes, it puts a damper on our to-do list but maybe our to-do list shouldn’t be so long in the winter. Maybe this is the Goddess’ way of telling us to STOP!

The sky is gray
The sand is gray
And the ocean is gray

And I feel right at home
In this stunning monochrome
Alone in my way

I smoke and I drink
And every time I blink
I have a tiny dream

But as bad as I am
I’m proud of the fact
That I’m worse than I seem

What kind of paradise am I looking for?
I’ve got everything I want and still I want more
Maybe some tiny shiny key
Will wash up on the shore

 

This song has been playing in my head the past week. In my mind its the embodiment of January. It begs us to reflect, to open our eyes and take a good look at ourselves and our life choices thus far.

January is the month of resolutions. The month of starting new habits; the month of hope and possibility. *Capricorn influence*

By the end of January most people have lost their gusto, and that’s okay because we enter Aquarius which, in my observation, tends to be much more cerebral and altruistic.

An excellent time to think through these early year goals and evaluate if they’re the best choice we can make for ourselves and our world.

The Hag of Winter is here again, to remind us – to force us to rest our bodies and enter the realm of our mind.

So seriously, turn off Netflix for a little while, grab a cup of something warm, a notebook and pen and start writing – don’t think, just write.

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This is my second depiction of Caillech Bheur. I decided last month that I really miss making dolls and I wanted to spend this year exploring different forms.

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Caillech Bheur – The Hag of Winter

This is the first attempt at creating a polymer clay and wire sculpture. I blended blue clay with doll clay to get the deathly gray color fitting for the Goddess of Winter. She’s  been painted with a dry brush technique to give her a ‘frosted’ look.

I attached her to a wood block, which I decorated with modeling paste to give that rugged winter landscape look.

Her hair is made with Speckled Tweed recycled silk yarn from Darn Good Yarn. *my newest obsession*

Her cloak and pussy hat were crocheted with scrap yarn I had on hand.

Why a pussy hat? Because she’s an ancient and incredibly powerful Goddess. And she totally supports our movement away from the patriarchy. The path forward is always about finding and honoring the balance between the Feminine and Masculine aspects of our society.

Her staff, said to be covered with human flesh, is carved with ancient Celtic writing and Ogham characters.

Caillech Bheur is known as the Storm Bringer who, through bitter winds and blizzards, changed the landscape.

She is also said to be the  Goddess of Sovereignty offering us the right to govern our own lives. This offering is accompanied by cold, hard honesty that may be brutal and painful but is always necessary to our personal development.

Her themes relate to balance, cycles, overcoming struggle and rebirth.  She is said to have fostered many children and is the protector of wild animals.

I hope The Cailleach visits you as you take some time this winter to reflect. I hope she offers you guidance and sovereignty to become Ruler of your World.

 

It’s 2019 B!tches!

Yeah for the new year! Are you feeling feisty and ready to conquer? I am.

It’s been awhile since I’ve made a Spirit Doll. It’s been awhile since I’ve connected with any specific Goddess.

The last two years have been rough. I feel like I’ve been in constant contact with my personal guides and ancestors, begging them to help me process the anger and the outrage. Frustrated by my inability to make the big changes that the world needs right now.

Some artist excel in that kind of energy.

I don’t.

So no art and very little writing; most of that was scrapped because I couldn’t stop the venom from leaching into it. If I couldn’t contribute to the greater good, then I shouldn’t be adding to the collective misery. Those writings will stay private.

2017 is long gone and 2018 is over.

Welcome 2019 and this little swirly ball of hope and light; This warm tingly desire to create art.

So I sat down one night after the kids were asleep. I wrapped myself in the warm fuzzy blanket that my (soon to be) daughter-in-law gifted me, lit a candle and called in my ancestors.

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What do I want? I asked them, What is the potential of this tiny seed I feel swirling around in my magic?

(because you can’t manifest if you don’t know what you want.)

I needed clarity, I needed a picture in my head and a feeling in my heart.

I didn’t have to wait long. I felt the warm glow of hope. I visioned a pictures of dolls, fully sculpted and clothed in funky fibers, bright colors and pussy hats. Goddesses, spirits, and physical representation of energy and abstract ideas.

I felt my crazy Aunt Joy, who passed away last summer. She too, was a doll maker and jack of all arts. Her daughter gave me all her doll making supplies. Bright colors and radical ideas were kind of her thing.

Yes, this is what my soul desires. To re-connect with the hopeful parts of myself, to reach out and offer the world a little bit of my enthusiastic optimism.

Then we had a planning session. Because they know me. I was given strict instructions.

  • No more than 6 dolls this year.
  • I must have a clearly defined project design sheet before I can start.
  • I must log my time and materials.
  • No ridiculous deadlines that make me dread the making process

I’m also allowed only one alternate art type to clean my pallet.  They’re pushing for art journal. They tell me Art journals are needed plus I enjoy the process of making them. I have a tendency to let my creative to-do list get excessively long, try to do it all and then burn out in frustration.

Maybe because it’s January, or maybe it’s because it’s a rather mild winter, or maybe it’s just the Old Hag calling to me. I’ve decided to re-visit with Cailleach Bhuer. It’s been 5 years. I think she has something else to tell me.

Pictures will be coming soon, I’m taking my time, enjoying the process.

What are your big plans for 2019? What are your personal conquests for the year?

Drop me a note and let me know so I can cheer you on.

 

 

In the Spirit of Cailleach Bhuer

I’m happy to say that I’ve finished the Cailleach Bhuer Spirit Doll. Every spirit doll is a journey but the Goddess dolls are very interesting journeys.

*edit* I’m even happier to report that Cailleach Bhuer found  a home shortly after being listed.

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Cailleach Bhuer – the Blue-Faced Hag –  is an ancient Celtic Crone Goddess, said to have power over the winter. She was believed to blow in the freezing cold winds and snow. She flies through the air on the back of a wolf  or a boar, zapping the world with her freeze ray and dropping boulders randomly thus changing the landscape, making life on the surface unfamiliar.

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As the blizzard blew in last week, followed by the cold snap, or polar vortex, as the weather channel called it, I could hear the Blue Faced Hag whispering to me….explaining….telling me her message.

Change is inevitable. Life transforms, becomes unfamiliar until it’s familiar again. Have patience and faith that everything will work out better than you imagined. It’s important and necessary to shake things up. It changes the energy, clears out the stagnant air, removes that which no longer serves you. Change makes room for new empowering positive energy to bring you closer to the dreams.

If you’re not willing to make the changes yourself then the Universe, (Cailleach) will do this for you. 

Your personal  growth is that important! 

Not only to yourself but also to everyone you encounter. We are all connected. 

I was reminded of an experience.

A few years ago, The Renaissance Man lost his job. He wasn’t happy with the job. For months he came home from work complaining about everything. I would suggest he look for another but he never did.

Shortly (like 2 months) after the birth of our last child, his boss sat him down with a 30 day action plan that included parameters that were mathematically impossible. It’s not fair but it’s business. Working in his field, he wasn’t entirely surprised.

But he was angry, so angry that he wanted to quit right then and there. I suggested he wait it out. I’m not one for making permanent decisions while I’m emotional.

My logic was if he waited to be fired he could  collect his last paychecks and the vacation pay he was allotted, file for Unemployment Insurance and take time to find a job that he really wanted.

Inside, just behind the anxiety,  I was listening to the quiet voice that kept telling me, “Everything will be fine, just follow the path and see what happens next.” And that’s exactly how it played out.

It went against everything he believed in but we wouldn’t change it for all the gold in the world. During the time off work, while he was looking for another job, he took over as primary caregiver and I worked more at the restaurant and also looked for a better job. He had the opportunity to bond with the baby, experiencing all the firsts that he missed with the other kids, took up baking with our daughter and started an Ebay side business.

I gave up control of the house and kids, allowing him to take over. I pursued a whim, trying my hand at a new profession and worked the full work week for the first time in my life.

The landscape of our life looked totally unfamiliar; everything changed but through the experience of switching roles we both grew personally and as a couple.

This, I believe, is the message of Cailleach Bhuer.

And as I do with all my Spirit Dolls, I pulled a single Tarot card, Temperance, which I interpreted as finding a sense of peace amid the chaos of change. Keeping things in balance and seeing the lesson in the challenge and having faith that it’s all good.

Has the Blue-Faced Hag paid you a visit lately?