Ann's Attempt at a Blog

sharing stories of fiber and fun and more…



Another year over, a new one just begun

Looking back at all this year has held for me, I’ve had a pretty good run. There have been some troubles, but far more highlights. My Facebook feed this morning reminded me of a post I had four years ago, looking back at my knitting productivity. I’ve continued to make strides in that arena. In 2016, I finished 83 projects including 21 shawls, 11 cowls, 19 pairs of socks, three sweaters and three afghans – only one of which was baby-sized. I’m quite proud of what I accomplished here – 36,725 yards used up in knitting projects!

But that’s not the only craft I put my time and talents behind. I was cast in three different musical productions and managed to land my first lead role. Performing as a Narrator in the King Avenue Players’ production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was certainly a highlight of my acting career thus far. And 2017 promises to have some similar opportunities. I’ve been cast in the ensemble for the Lancaster Playhouse production of Godspell, running over two weekends toward the end of winter, and I’m also appearing in another Columbus Entertainment Productions show in early Spring.

My travel adventures were few and far between, but I managed to visit both coasts of the U.S. In July, I flew out to Seattle to set sail to Alaska – visiting my 40th state in the country. Physical limitations made things challenging on that trip, as did weather. Still, it was an adventure with a few unique experiences. I’d say the highlight was witnessing several humpback whale breeches as well as a group of humpbacks bubble-net feeding.

In September, the company flew me to Boston to attend a training seminar on project management. My schedule didn’t allow for much sightseeing, but I was blessed to get to spend an evening with my niece. She cooked a delicious dinner, and we had a pleasant time catching up.

My last photographic adventure came on Christmas Day when I headed to the Ohio State fairgrounds to check out the Chinese Lantern Festival there. This was quite an extraordinary event with beautiful exhibits throughout the venue. They also had some very entertaining performers – jugglers, acrobats and more. The most impressive was the face mask changing act. Hopefully that festival becomes a regular event – it’s never been held in Columbus before.

I would say there were two lowest point for the year. First, I spent many hours at the hospital with my mother. Spending time with her wasn’t the low point, mind you. Rather, I took her to the emergency room after she hurt her neck. The eventual diagnosis was that she had fractured two of her vertebra. Talk about a scary situation! But, she was treated with great care both at Mount Carmel – St. Ann’s Hospital and the Ohio State University Medical Center. After she was transported to OSU, I was able to meet up with my son who works at the medical center and had concluded his shift just as we arrived. He was able to give me some insight into the nature of the injury. Thankfully, Mom made a full recovery, following a brief stay in a facility for physical rehab. That brought tremendous relief.

The other low point, though, did not have a happy ending. My aunt passed away in May following a couple years of declining health. The world lost a beautiful soul with her death. I had visited my aunt and uncle in their beautiful home in southern Oregon, and she was always so warm and hospitable. I’ll remember her quite fondly.

I don’t want to close out this post on a down note – though my Ohio State Buckeyes are not bringing a celebratory mood to this New Year’s Eve! I have plenty of plans to achieve goals, enjoy adventures and improve on things in the coming year. I’ll be celebrating my 50th birthday on Easter Sunday, and I would really like to be in better physical shape than I was on my 40th birthday. Given the challenges that a back injury has caused over the years, it’s been a rough road. But I need to reverse that trend.

So here’s to a better year in 2017. May you enjoy the adventure along with me!


It’s Good to Have Goals

While my title may seem facetious and mocking the idea of goals, I really do recognize their value. I’ve been investing time and energy in the arena of goal-setting and striving to meet those goals. The one facet of my routine that has consistently been goal-driven, of course, is my knitting. Under the auspices of the Harry Potter Knit/Crochet House Cup on Ravelry, I have been particularly productive in my knitting activities. I’m involved in a number of other groups in the Ravelry community, and all of them provide me with motivation to continue my crafting efforts, learning new techniques (and crafts) and perfecting those I’ve already learned.

This year my crafting efforts have produced some additional rewards, both for me and for others. Over the summer, I was honored to receive a couple ribbons in recognition of my knitting skills in my first year submitting work to the Ohio State Fair. When I found out I won a blue ribbon for my cable-heavy pullover sweater, I was truly ecstatic. But my knitting isn’t all about me. I also began knitting for charity, contributing a collection of hats for a couple different programs. Hats for Kiddos has received a number of hats from me this year, and more will come this fall. This program benefits the children in Tennessee’s Early Intervention Program. I’ve also started knitting for the Hats for Grammy collection, which donates hats for the homeless administered by Grace United Methodist Church. I’m still identifying other charity organizations to contribute to, as these I’ve already mentioned were promoted through a retreat group based in Tennessee, and I’d also like to help folks closer to home.

Hats for Kiddos
Hats for Kiddos

I have other goals, too, that drive my knitting efforts. Gifts are always a fun way to put my talents to use. I’ve knit several baby sweaters for co-workers’ newborns, and one colleague even got a super-fun colorful baby blanket that should come in handy as the cool weather approaches. For my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary last year, I put a lot of time into an afghan that was inspired by one of the rose windows in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. I’ve also recently finished an afghan of cable-accented squares that will be gifted to a bride & groom later this month. These milestones all have the benefit of being planned well in advance, giving me time to plan the gift, choosing the pattern and yarn, and then executing the knitting efforts.

This year, my crafting has expanded a bit into the “multi-craftual” realm. Last year I learned how to spin with my spinning wheel, though this new craft requires time, effort and concentration to master. It will be some time, I am sure, before I can really say I’ve mastered the skills. Still, with every spinning session, I gain experience and understanding of the process. Practice, practice, practice! It was definitely challenging for me to feel like a fool at first, making “crappy” yarn as I learned to work with the fiber. But as with all things, my spinning efforts improved over time, and last month I even managed to knit a shawlette out of yarn I’d spun and plied myself. That was a tremdous achievement for me, one I’m extreely proud of. And a positive experence like this motivates me all the more to continue my efforts – improve my spinning technique, and then knit with the resulting yarn!

Shawl knit from my homespun yarn!
Shawl knit from my homespun yarn!

The latest craft I’ve picked up after a long hiatus is sewing. This crafty revival started when I volunteered to help a local theater group in making some costumes for a show they’re opening this fall. Dusting off my skills with the sewing machine while making a couple kimonos, I remembered how satisfying this craft can be. And its end results are achieved much faster than in knitting. I had signed up to participate in a swap, and one of the agreed-to items was something handmade. More often for me, that would be a knitted object – but then I realized I could sew a unique gift as well. So, I located the perfect fabric for my swap partner, an avid reader, and I put together a handy project bag that showcases her appreciation for books. Now I’m working on a somewhat adventurous project, making a dress to wear for the wedding I mentioned earlier. It’s been years since I made a dress for myself, and more than 25 years since I sewed my first dress with the hep of my aunt. I have about ten days to complete this project, so daily goals are important as I work toward the finish!

And the knits just keep on coming – I recently learned of a knit-along (“KAL”) hosted by a podcaster in the Boston area (Down Cellar Studio) that runs for the duration of the NFL football season. Points are earned by crafting finished objects (knit, crochet, spin, weave), and yardage determines the points along with the use of team colors (NFL or college), use of a logo, an obvious football theme, and more. Another KAL that was begun by a central Ohio designer involves knitting a cowl to document the scoreboard results of a football season for a collegiate or professional football team. This fun project ties nicely to the bigger points-earning event (brilliantly called the Down Cellar Studio Pigskin Party). Not only am I knitting up a bright, cheery cowl to spotlight the season for the Ohio State Buckeyes, I’ll be renewing a love from my youth for the Pittsburgh Steelers, crafting a cowl to document their season. It helps knowing there are a number of Buckeyes in the Steelers roster! I’ve cast on my scarlet & gray cowl, which is far more scarlet than gray after two games so far. Since the scarlet is sparkly, it’s very fun.

Following the Buckeyes' shutout of Hawai'i, here's my Scoreboard Cowl in progress
Following the Buckeyes’ shutout of Hawai’i, here’s my Scoreboard Cowl in progress

As a fairly polygamous knitter, I now have five projects on the needles and plenty more waiting in my queue to be cast on. I have a schedule mapped out to finish each project in a timely manner based on my (often internally imposed) deadlines. Now we’ll see how many points I can rack up as the NFL season progresses…

Knit on.

Editor’s note: After finishing my draft, I was pleased to learn that my Sock Sniper socks reached their target in the UK. The completed socks earned me a “kill” in this fun game, and I’ve made a new online friend in the process!

Living on a High Fiber Diet…but not the way you might think!

This is shaping up to be a knitting-centric post. Of course, that’s likely because I’m spending so much of my “spare” time (aka whenever I’m not working or sleeping) either knitting or spinning. Somehow, it just never seems to get old for me. It does help that I have a number of projects going on at once, and I try to rotate a variety of things so I’m working on different yarn weights and different needle sizes.

A major impetus for me has been challenges and offers of rewards, some tangible and others not. For a number of years I’ve found motivation to start and, more importantly, finish projects thanks to the Harry Potter Knit/Crochet House Cup group on the Ravelry social media site. This group breaks the calendar year into three 3-month terms and provides incentives in the form of points (much like Whose Line Is It Anyway? these points don’t matter in the “real world”) to help one of the four Hogwarts houses to win the House Cup each term. The structure of the group follows that of the beloved Harry Potter book and movie series, and we are given the opportunity to plan projects of varying complexity and size.

Later this year I will be proposing to knit a sweater for myself in order to earn the Muggle Studies OWL which would secure me the title of OWL Mistress, presuming I finish the current term’s OWL (Defense Against the Dark Arts) by the end of this month and then complete the sweater by November 30. This year so far I have completed 12 pairs of socks, seven cowls of various sizes, six shawls, five sweaters (granted, only one wasn’t for a baby), one scarf, two blankets (also baby-sized) and two pairs of mittens. I’m also on track to complete a full afghan (wedding gift), another adult sweater and three shawls by the end of August.

Besides the House Cup group, I’m also motivated to earn goodies (including more yarn) through a couple programs offered by The Loopy Ewe, a yarn store with a brick-and-mortar facility in Fort Collins, Colorado. My first purchase with them was made in the store while I was visiting a friend in Colorado. Since then, all of my orders have been made via their online mail order service. Another group providing incentives is the Into the Wool Retreat group, comprised of the organizers and attendees of this fall’s retreat in Tennessee. Each attendee has been placed on a team, so we’re getting to know others who will be traveling from around the country for this weekend in the hills. Whichever team earns the most points will collect prizes as a result, so here the points matter!

The last vehicle for maintaining my “high fiber” regimen is the Tour de Fleece, a yarn spinning challenge that runs parallel with the cycling raise, the Tour de France. While I’ve only been spinning for a little over a year, the Tour is helping me to hone my spinning skills by getting me “on the wheel.” I’ve completed one skein of yarn so far, and I should complete at least one more before the race concludes on July 26th.

And now that I think about it, I haven’t spent any time at my wheel today, so I need to get back to spinning. As I head off, here’s the first skein I spun between July 4 and 11.

Fractal spun 2-ply, Fractured Fairytale

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