Spring Fever

10-seed starting

Spring time is always insane busy for me. See, I’m a gardener. A pretty ravenous one. And I actually run a seed bank, and this time of year, whew boy, does that take up a lot of my time. Not only are there the seeds and all that entails to go through and plant, there’s the yardwork.

Oh, the yardwork.

At the end of the summer I’m getting pretty tired of mowing the lawn and weed whacking and trimming, but after the snow melts and the ground thaws in the spring, you can’t keep me indoors. Every weekend I’m sore and exhausted after building up those muscles that have atrophied over our pretty harsh winters (wherein I stay indoors and hide, attempting to avoid the snow and -20C temperatures at any cost).

The picture above is of my seed starting endeavours – every late winter/early spring I start planting, usually around 40 types of tomatoes, which I then mix in with squash, corn, and a few other things that strike my fancy that year. Within the next few weeks I’ll be planting out the spinach, lettuce, beets, and some other leafy greens.

Then there’s the keeping track of it all. I keep pretty meticulous records, especially of the tomatoes, for my seed bank records. How long everything took to germinate, various stages of growth, when the plant flowers, when it sets fruit, when it’s harvested… then I keep photographic records of everything as well. I’m not going to lie, it’s a pretty good amount of work. And I love it.


But what about the knitting?

The knitting is surely chugging along. It’s still too chilly to be outside with the plants all the time, so that still leaves plenty of time to knitting. I’m still working on the two patterns mentioned in this post, with one of them almost ready for testing, and the other still in the swatching phase. I have a really good foundation for the second one, but I need a little something extra for it, and I just haven’t found that special thing I want yet.

On top of that I have a few more ideas that are sketched out, and a few more that are still but seeds in my brain. If only my fingers could knit faster and then I’d be able to make the ideas tangible objects so much faster!

But I’m going to sit down, refocus, and get the vague notions sketched out, then finish up the two I’m working on. This seems to be a running theme with me and coming up with designs – too many ideas, I scatter my efforts on too many at a time, then they all take much longer than they should.

Inspirations

Pillars of Creation (Swatch) Swatch

I’ve been knitting like my life depended on it this week, working on two separate designs. One I’ve just started an alternate size of (above and to the left), and the other I’ve started swatching and am pretty pleased with where it’s going.

A third has popped into my head recently after discovering a yarn that really inspired me, so I sketched a few ideas down so I can tackle it in the future. I have to bang out at least one of these patterns first before I can start in on a third, otherwise nothing will get done.

I’ve been drawing on a lot of inspiration pretty specifically from astronomical images. I’m not an astronomer nor engineer nor astrobiologist nor physicist nor anything even nearing any of those things, but I would describe myself as having a healthy interest in all of the above (non-knitting side note: I’m currently in the planning process of building a full-scale arduino controlled model of Sojourner).

I spend not a small amount of time looking at images taken from various telescopes and cameras that are currently out roving and viewing the galaxy in our stead, since for the most part, we’re all stuck here on Earth.

Not only do I find all the things out there inspirational and awesome. I’m also heavily inspired by the fact that we (as a species) are working our way towards getting out there, clawing our way through the science, trying to figure out for ourselves what is going on.

Imagine what we could accomplish if each national space agency received even half the money put into so-called national defense by their governments?

But I’m getting off on a bit of a tangent. What exactly has been inspiring me these past few weeks, you say?

Pillars of Creation

The Pillars of Creation has been the inspiration behind a pair of socks I’m currently making (the left hand image at the top of this post).

This image is probably one of the best known from the Hubble Space Telescope. It’s a star forming region in the Eagle Nebula, about 6500 light years away. It was first photographed in 1995, then again in 2014 (which is the image above). This region itself is huge – the longest pillar spans approximately 4 light years and, what appear to be, the small protrusions at the top of the pillars, are all larger than our solar system themselves. All that hot gas and dust is in the process of forming stars, which is where the pillars derived their name. Since the location of the nebula is 6500 light years away, the image above actually shows what was happening 6500 years ago.

Curiosity - Sol 1174

This is an image of Mars, taken on Sol 1174 (on Earth that’s November 25, 2015) by the Curiosity rover. To say I’ve spent hours looking at images sent back by Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity is a bit of an understatement. I love these black and white images – so much so that I tweet regularly from @marsinbandw. The shapes and forms on Mars – the juxtaposition of hard and soft, and its dry, cracked features, I find extremely beautiful, and very inspirational. I found a yarn (the one mentioned at the top of this post) that will fit perfectly as a basis for a Red Planet-inspired piece, and with hundreds (seriously) of images saved to my computer of the varying forms and textures of Mars, I’m at no loss for ideas to draw from.

I feel like I have a whole series of astronomical-themed pieces bubbling around in my brain – nebulae and planets, galaxies and moons (Io is particularly amazing) – there’s quite literally, a whole universe out there to draw from. How can one see all these things and not feel wonder and beauty at the sight of them?

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Note: the images from this post are courtesy of NASA/JPL. You can see more Hubble photos here and more Curiosity images here. I highly recommend taking an hour to look at the beauty of what’s out there beyond our planet.

New Pattern: Hilton’s Edge

Hilton's Edge Shawl Hilton's Edge Shawl

Hilton’s Edge is named after hilton lace edging, which this pattern prominently features.

It is knit from side to side, starting with a cast on of 30 stitches, increasing up the left hand side, and then decreasing back down after the insertion of the cable motif featured in the centre of the design.

The pattern is fully charted, and includes a schematic.

Yarn: Aran or heavy worsted yarn (550-575 yards)
Needles: US 7 (4.5mm)
Gauge: approx. 16 sts x 24 rows = 4″ by 4″
Techniques used: Cables, lace, increasing, decreasing
Notions: Cable needle

This pattern is offered for free, and can be downloaded from Ravelry here: Hilton’s Edge

Following Directions

It can’t all just be making up my own patterns all the time, damnit.

One thing I’m acutely aware of is burnout. Quick and epic burnout, like a star going supernova. Because I have a habit of getting really excited about a new creative pursuit, and then quickly getting tunnel vision and I forget about everything else. While focus is great, that focus, in the past, has led to the eventual aforementioned burnout. And I’d really prefer to avoid that with designing, because I really, really like doing it.

Geology Shawl

So, I took this week to knit myself something from somebody else’s pattern, the Geology Shawl from Verybusymonkey, which has been sitting in my queue for far too long. I love Verybusymonkey’s designs, and after a few months now of working exclusively on things I’ve been designing, it was really nice not to have to worry about figuring things out, but instead, just follow directions.

Speaking of following directions, I’ve been working to sort of create my own stitch library (by sort of, I mean have been, and it’s got a ton of stitches in it now).

I’ve been mostly working on translating stitches from other languages to English, because (shocking), that’s what I speak. Some of the stitches from other countries, while largely the same, are (get this), like reading a different language, and hours of scouring the web for obscure translations for languages I don’t speak has been an interesting experience to say the least.

The past few months have been exclusively dedicated to translating, but now I’m really itching to properly knit swatches of them. So, I’ll be posting these – picture of the swatch, plus my charts – of these stitch patterns.

They won’t all be translated from other languages, some of them will just be something that strikes my fancy at the moment. But I’m pretty keyed up to start a long-term semi-fluid project like this, because I think it’ll give me a nice break between actually designing, plus the opportunity to learn a few new things along the way.

Can’t Talk, Must Knit

You know, it’s amazing how something can seem to hard and then all of a sudden it’s like flood gates open.

I wanted to design for years. YEARS.

But whenever I sat down and tried to do something it was like getting blood from a stone – nothing would come out. I had somewhat resigned myself to never designing, which annoyed the hell out of me, because I’m stubborn and don’t like to not accomplish something I set my mind to. But it just seemed like there was nothing that both worked and I liked that could come out.

Then, in March last year my sister wanted a shawl for her birthday, and after what seemed like million years, I finally had designed my first pattern.

Apparently, all I needed was to get over that initial hump, and Heather June was not an easy hump to get over. Since then I’ve learned (from the more experienced designers out there) that there are things to try and avoid designing on your first attempt – almost all of which I did (crazy math, and making stitch counts that don’t want to fit together blend, being the most frustrating). But, maybe that’s exactly what I needed (and also why it took four months to complete), because after Heather June, I feel like I’m up for anything, which is an extremely liberating.

Now the problem is, I don’t have the physical ability to knit as fast as I seem to be designing.

I have three patterns on the go right now – one on the brink of completion (Hilton’s Edge), another in the process of being tested, another one that’s 50% charted, and then I have at least three more ideas that I’m just itching to start charting and knitting.

I’m taking a bit of a scattershot approach because I’m excited, but I think I need to step back and take it more one at a time, otherwise I’ll just get nothing done.

And then I have this:

Hearthside Fibres - Caribbean colourway

Larry and Lael of Hearthside Fibres made this insane (insane = good) colourway, appropriately titled ‘Caribbean’, in their Champagne Lace which is 80% merino and 20% silk. It is wonderful, and I’m designing something special just for it.

So there’s another thing I have goings-on for as well.

The problem that is now arising is of course, there’s only so fast my fingers can work. I love the process of knitting and creating the thing.

It’s not so much that I want to have something completed so that I can wear it (in actuality, I give a lot away), but I am absolutely hooked on the satisfaction of creating that item. The satisfaction of having it begin as only a nebulous idea, working through the construction of it, and then finally having a finished thing that I can say “yes, I really created this”.

That’s really what I’ve discovered about creating patterns, it’s not having finished project for me. It’s the satisfaction of having a tangible idea in my hands, but knowing that it all started with only a vague notion in my head.