When knitting a gansey, patience is a virtue

I don’t have much to report on the knitting front. I’m knitting the first sleeve — the left one actually — of the Arguyle gansey. It’s pretty slow going, mostly because I have to work a lot which leaves me little time for knitting. Hope of finishing it soon is not all lost, however: it’s Holy Week, which means in Spain there are days this coming week when I won’t have to work at all. I plan to start my knit-a-thon in about an hour from now. With some luck, I’ll have that left sleeve of the pullover done by the end of the day and tomorrow I can start working on the right sleeve.

The sad part of not getting my gansey done is that the weather has gotten warm. I know, who ever curses the warmer spring weather? Maybe only knitters like me who are working on a sweater and want to wear it ASAP. Also perhaps knitters like me who want to finish the sweater and return to a wool mosaic blanket that is waiting to be knitted on in a plastic box. Valladolid weather in the Spring is pretty unpredictable, though, so I think I have a handful of cold days left after this warm spell.

Whenever I’ve had a few spare minutes I’ve been perusing through my collection of vintage patterns because this summer I’m going to do quite a bit of crochet and sewing. There are several filet crochet patterns I want to make.

I also think that I’ll be knitting plenty of socks this summer, actually. For warm weather knitting socks is ideal. You can tote them around and they’re not large pieces that eventually begin to cover a large part of your body when they grow.

During the week I’m sure to run across a procession. If I do, I’ll be sure to snap some photos and post them. I’m pretty sure I haven’t blogged about Holy Week in Valladolid before. It’s quite inconvenient, actually, if you need to get somewhere and the streets are backed up because of a procession. On the other hand, it’s also a tradition that has lots of art on the move in the parades: traditional dress, sculptures, music, and movement.


Spring is springing

The weather here in Valladolid, Spain isn’t exactly balmy, but the temperature this week has gone up some and the sun has been making some appearances. Last year and the year before I decided to knit with yarns other than wool to get through the warm weather and keep my hands happily busy. I also indulged in some crochet, too. This year I’ve decided to expand my crafting horizons and try sewing and embroidery.

I got my idea to try learning how to sew when I wanted to make some rag bags. Knitted and crochet bags intended for toting stuff need to be lined. Consequently, I had to accept defeat: I was no longer going to be the knitter who avoided sewing at all costs unless I needed to whip out the darning needle and do some mattress stitch for seaming sweaters. Lining the rag bags made me realize that sewing wasn’t so unpleasant just as long as it was a project I could really get behind. After looking at some cool knitting patterns with steeks and others with beautiful embroidery I decided my goal would be to sew more. After researching a little bit I even discovered that people frequently embroider with beads. How could I not be sold on embroidery if it’s yet another craft that can be combined with beading?

I’ve spent a good amount of time researching my options. Today I took the plunge and bought my supplies. Here’s what I’m going to do:

1) Sew by hand using the English paper piecing technique.

2) Use an encyclopedia on embroidery to try different types of embroidery stitches.

3) Buy my first sewing machine ever.

The supplies I’ve bought so far: thread, card stock, embroidery needles, an embroidery hoop, quilting needles, fabric, a rotary fabric cutter, and a mat to use with the fabric cutter.

Supplies I still need: batting, washable pencils to draw embroidery doodles on fabric and a sewing machine.

Not a priority right now: batting, sewing machine.

I’ve decided to approach my goals in this way because I really want to learn all the details about sewing. I think doing some stitchery by hand (and learning embroidery on the way) is going to be a really good way to understand the ins and outs of making seams and piecing together fabrics. This is why I chose English paper piecing. It’s a manual type of quilting.

My first project? A quilt, of course! I’m looking at a quilt as a huge canvas on which I can practice lots of different sewing and embroidery techniques. I originally thought that I’d perhaps make a knitting bag as a first project. I’ve changed my mind. Although, you never know, I could very well have two sewing projects going at the same time: the big project (a quilt) and the little project (a bag). I usually have a sock (small) and either an afghan or sweater in progress at the same time anyway, so why not do the same thing with sewing and embroidery?

At this stage in the game I have not actually sewn or embroidered anything. During the week I’m going to plug away at my gansey. I think I’ll make my first attempt at English paper piecing this weekend.

Yes, I do realize that this is a knitting blog. Do not worry! I will not bore you too much with my lessons in sewing and embroidery. I’ll have plenty of knitting and crochet things to blog about in the Spring and Summer. I think it will be amusing, though, to see what kinds of trouble I can get into with learning how to sew and embroider. I’m really clueless.

Knitting Weekend Retreat for One

I wanted to write a blog post yesterday, but I was too busy knitting.

Here’s why: On about Thursday of last week, as I was dragging myself through the end of my work week, I had two persistent thoughts on my mind: 1) “I wish I was knitting right now” and 2) “I wish I could afford one of those knitting cruises and go on a knitting vacation.”

On Friday night when I got home from work I reflected on the weekends I’ve had since January: not lots of time, really, to just sit on the sofa knitting. I’ve had family obligations, work obligations, travel, and other kinds of events that have not permitted me to really just relax and do my favorite past time. I most certainly love my family, my partner, and my wonderful friends. My job is awesome. I just got mentally exhausted.

I’m pretty sure many human beings have these brief moments of burnout. It’s inevitable if we’re constantly on the go with work and social activities.

On Friday night I planned my budget “knitting holiday weekend cruise.” Saturday morning: I got up early, did the shopping, cleaned the house. Saturday afternoon and evening: knitting, music, podcasts I like, knitting, snacks, music, podcasts I like, knitting. Sunday all morning, afternoon, and evening was the same as Saturday afternoon and evening.

Wow do I feel refreshed this Monday morning.

I recommend to any knitter that feels slightly burned out: find a day or two to give yourself a knitting retreat. It’s certainly the best idea I’ve had in quite a long time. You will make a lot of crafting progress — I’m up to the yoke on my gansey — and you will have the best Monday you’ve had in a long time. I’ve been so productive today. I got my afternoon lessons done, tomorrow’s lessons done, and I’m pretty sure when I go to work I’m going to be the most serene and happy person anyone has encountered in a long time.