Monday, March 23, 2015

Clearing the decks

Well, here we are, and here is my very full room, and here...can't wait! a pile of very solid garbage bags!

I've been spending a lot of time in my room over the past couple of months, and while it is substantial enough to be my own little extension to the house, it's full.

I've decluttered.
I've chucked.
I've sorted, tidied, dusted, given away, donated, skimmed over the surface, resolved, relocated and generally lessened the load.
I've done 'one in, two out'.
I have empty bookshelves, less clothes and overflowing yarn tubs.
I'm historian, writer, crafter, family member, job seeker and much more....
I've been reading about minimalism, crafting, frugality, decluttering and much more...
And I'm all of those.
But - at this time:

I'm aiming to spend four days to cut through the surface, set the standard and clear the excess.  So - what's the platform?

- I know I have a huge-ish yarn stash.  I know I don't want to dispense with it, and I consider it to be a resource.  So, I'm giving it a good tidy up (like with like, project bags, donate anything totally out of the equation, create a realistic timetable), and then I have a year from my birthday - 7 April - to use as much as possible.  Then the rest - if it isn't allocated to a project - will be donated.
- I am aiming to cut my book collection by one third, my magazine stash by half, and the general stuff in my possession by around one third as well.
To explain, however - I don't mind having actual physical items.  I won't be scanning my photographs right now (I have many of the family photos).  They are fine.  I am fine with allocating space to those.  As for magazines, those I keep will be those that are enough for me.  I see them as a cheap alternative to books.  I like having them - but enough.
- I will also revisit my very small budget, and confirm that it is on track to get through to the end of June without any dramas.  I have always been an enthusiastic gift purchaser, and my present lean circumstances have been fantastic for the happy clash of materials and opportunity.  I have yarn!  Therefore, most of my gifts are indeed 'Mostly Crocheted'!
- I will also be revisiting my need to over plan!  This is why I've only gone for broad strokes above.  Anything more would lead to inertia, I fear, and retreating to the far corners, convinced that any failure to meet quantity/quality/timing deadlines was cause for despair.  I've tried '60 items in however many days', 'use all the morning to clean and then write 1000 words', 'get way more boxes for storage', and specificity is my enemy.  So it's a wider platform for both these four days and life in general, with a few accountability timelines, but nothing too drastic.

Will it work?  Who knows.  But it is worth a try.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Coming up roses

Today, I've been putting in job applications.  It's been all about selection criteria, updated CV, cover letters and uncertainty.  Such is the lot of the unemployed historian/crocheter/writer/teacher.

It seems a bit bleak at times, but there are always positives.  Foremost, of course, is my crochet and the lovely world around me.  These roses are long gone, but the colours reflect the way I'm looking at the world right now.  Hmm....I wonder how a blanket in that mix of shades would turn out?  As it is, I crochet from 5.30 to 7 in the morning, and then again each evening until nearly midnight.  I am a shocking mix of night owl/early riser!  And, if I'm not crocheting, I'm at the computer....I'd love to be able to combine the two.

The roses also point to my most recent projects.  If I wasn't testing my eyes enough with constant typing, I've now taken to making very fine thread flowers, which are then being stitched into necklaces for birthday presents.  The thing that strikes me when working on this is how hard it often is to translate what we see in our mind's eye to actuality.  I can definitely visualise a multi-layered froth of petals, but my favourite result so far has been a flat circle with shell edge, then detailed with a bead.  I'm still finalising the cord and fastening, but it's a pretty happy result so far.  Like me, the result is chugging through obstacles, and finally, ultimately, coming up roses!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Hitting the dust

While these are photos from last year, they certainly represent the world around me at present.  It’s all red, green and slightly dusty looking, with no hint of the frosty mornings and clear air still some weeks away.  So, at present we have gum blossom and kangaroo paw, both lovely natives in our rambling garden.

It’s been a quiet, albeit frenetic time on occasion, including an unexpected visit to Emergency at our local hospital – I provided the transport, and sat next to the patient with a magazine and some crochet.  It was a frightening episode, but fortunately the patient has recovered and there were a couple of very peaceful days to help with recuperation.

I have been working on an Alpine Frost (pattern on Ravelry) scarf, utilising some lovely pink-purple 4 ply alpaca brought back from Tasmania last year by my parents.  They have just revisited Tasmania – and now I have four more skeins to deploy into something (hopefully!) beautiful.  I am so delighted and thankful for such a thoughtful gift.  I have a couple of other projects in progress as well, as I like to vary the pressure on my wrists and fingers, but using these fibres is true luxury.

It has also been a time of ongoing clutter clearing here in my small corner of the world.  Using the wool is one helpful activity, and I am certainly doing this with much enjoyment and enthusiasm.  The lists and completed project ticks continue to flourish.  Otherwise, my extreme budget and increasing lack of tolerance where overcrowding is concerned has seen books, clothes and magazines heading to donation bins, where I hope someone else can gain interest from them.  I’m not at all up for selling items that aren’t actually vintage or antiques, and I’m finding that I’m not really inclined to collect any longer on the same basis. 

My motto has become ‘if in doubt – chuck it’, and I am very happy to consult with outside parties as to the best garbage bags and means of cleaning everything from timber to lampshade cobwebs!  However, I was probably not the person to talk to on a rather hot day recently, when the strenuous activity of clearing gunk from near inaccessible skirting boards saw me fall asleep on the floor, duster firmly clutched in my fist. 

That was a moment where the mantra of ‘too much’ certainly held true.  

While I’ve been at home studying, now writing and channelling my energies towards whatever occupation comes next, it’s sometimes been hard to get into a pattern of activity that works consistently.  However, I do know that the next couple of months are the ‘birthday months’ of my family’s year.  Seven of us have our birthdays between the start of March and the start of May, and I want to crochet something small for at least five of those (omitting myself, of course!) 

Once again, my budgeting partially dictates this.  But – you know what?  I’m actually enjoying being more considerate with what I spend.  Although it is undoubtedly a very lean time for me, I’ve always valued being able to save and plan – a bit like making lists in general.  I have a notebook with categories in which I record what I’ve spent, I have a budget with a buffer for Sundry expenses, and I feel much more at ease regarding life for the next six months.  

This means that I am also venturing much more into reading about and practicing frugality, along with decluttering and my own brand of ‘enough’ minimalism.  Where the blog world is concerned, they do all start to clash and blend after a while, but it is interesting and encouraging to cruise around and take note of different experiences around the world.  It is also funny to see that those who – for example - craft and display china in pretty shelves are sometimes patently unhappy with having ‘too much’, whereas those who have cut back seem to be much more content. Well, that is just my observation, and I admire both parties, really, while trying to hit the happy medium.

Now, while I know my little effort here has not made the bestseller list (ahem, maybe something to do with irregular posts), I would like to mention a few blogs that I genuinely enjoy and read on an ongoing basis in addition to those on my List.  This may encourage me to get around to adding them properly!

The Singing Gardener (both for his frugality tips and the way in which he has made a house into a lovely home for himself)
Coco Rose Textiles (gorgeous crochet and photography)
Foxs Lane (almost local to me, beautiful surroundings and photography)
Be More With Less (inspiring for the clothes decluttering and quotes to accompany)
Crochet Concupiscence (amazing crochet central site)
Cherry Heart (perfect crochet patterns)
Betsy Makes (once again – crochet, with a friendly writing voice)
The Simple Year (I’ll head back here once they get going again – on hiatus at present)
Slow Your Home (another Australian, who speaks sense and sets matters out logically)
According to Matt (craft, crochet, photography and genuinely entertaining)

These are all perfect reads at different times for different reasons - but right now, while it's hot, humid and dusty outside and I'm prone to falling asleep with a duster in my hand, they all have a special part to play.

Stay cool - or warm - all!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Too much?

I am certain that everyone working with yarn and hook/needle looks around them at some stage most days and goes.... 'too much?'

You know how it is.  You've got that present here, an idea there, a swatch over yonder, new yarn because the stash yarn didn't cut it, an odd pile of jute for rugged rustic stuff, some twine that doesn't count due to actually being 'groceries', and your dressing gown pocket, jeans pocket, bedside table and TV hangout all have a supply of hooks/needles, scissors, sewing needles (nothing more illuminating than sitting on a large yarn needle at 5.30 in the morning), hand lotion, notebooks and patterns.

Is it indeed 'too much'?  In my normal New Year enthusiasm, I didn't write down resolutions.  Those are for wannabes.  No - as I have already enthused - I wrote lists.  And specific patterns.  And appointed stash yarn for said projects.  And printed out patterns (not multiple times for multiple stations, but it was tempting).  Then I started crocheting.

The result - I have one blanket nearly finished, one just being started, one in its toddler stage, and another pleasingly coming along in leaps and bounds into teenager-hood.  Oh, the joy of a large square pattern that looks intricately detailed.  Other than that, I have only made one order to fit with my younger brother's welcome blanket request (funny moment - he says there is 'no rush' for it, and that his birthday will be fine. His birthday is right at the start of May.  He wants a 6 ft by 4 ft blanket, in a plain waffle stitch or similar.   Ha!)

Now to the pretty stuff - while my granny stripe blanket (I don't like it that much, but others do, so they can have it at Christmas) is too messy/heavy/awkward right now for nearly final photos, here are two of the WIPs. The first can be found here -

The second, growing rather quickly, can be found here -

Both, of course, can be seen on Ravelry, along with some stunning examples to inspire.  There is really one one round in this one that requires attention, and I've tweaked a couple of the round starts to my liking.  Otherwise, both are huge fun, and I've got into the habit of making a hexagon as soon as I get up every morning (and after I've checked for the presence of yarn needles!)

Is it too much?  No....I think it's all good right now.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

It's the little things

I can definitely say that crochet is the common factor that links everything together in my world - messy, convoluted, wonderfully stitched together and full in almost equal part.

It's been a tough, grind it out and keep going year, but the highlights have been the threads...the crochet, the colour and the connections.  Crochet has been my 'I can do that' moment, my deep breath in times of complete blankness, and the fun retreat (building a stash has been worth it after all!) when it's gloomy.

I've been back studying after losing my job, so it's been a lean time - then there's been crochet.  I've been able to make bits and pieces for my new niece, along with successful competition items, blankets, bags, beanies and everything in between.  Crochet has had the starring role - no doubt of it!

And that looks set to continue in a calmer environment in 2015.  After literally 'seeing stars' in the lead up to Christmas, I've charged into granny stripes and hexagons, sorted out - as much as possible - the stash, and have a diary just for crochet projects?  Is that weird?  Well, it works for me.  I'm jotting down timetables, ideas, pattern choices and row counts for projects, have a roll of who gets what, including competition and donation items, and am taking action. I'm even starting to use Ravelry properly! Every project that gets started also has a photo taken with the ball band and crochet hook, and I'm checking in with my family members for preferred colours and patterns.

I'm very proud to say that my younger brother - who last received a crochet item from me when he was born in 1982 - has actually put his hand up for a blanket in his favourite sporting team colours, and even charted out the colours he wants, as well as the stitch pattern.  I have been waiting for the opportunity to crochet something for him for a long time!  Even my uncle has been the recipient of a few beanies, and my father proudly uses crocheted coasters and has his own granny stripe blanket for those migraine days.

So - here we go, 4 mm hook (I have four of them lined up, 'just in case') in hand, and project bags at the ready.  One granny stripe coming up!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Emerging into the New Year!

Well, that was fun.  Chaos, catch ups and Christmas.  Now, while so many in the blogging world are surrounded by snow and happily creating crocheted and knitted marvels in the cold weather, we are beating off the heat.  Bushfires and cicadas, iced drinks and cricket, shaded rooms and dashes outside to check on the frazzled garden.  This is Australia!

The heat can get ferocious, make no mistake.  Even on Christmas Day,. as we saw the forecast rise from a palatable 22 degrees C to well over 30 in our part of the world, we knew that the deck outside would be a no go zone.  Christmas was indoors for our heat sensitive family, and while it would have been lovely to meander in the garden, there were adequate compensations.

For one, it was my niece's first Christmas:

Here she is, being made into the family Christmas card, complete with a crocheted Santa hat.  I did get to sit with her on the front verandah later on Christmas Day, and it was beautiful - fifteen minutes with a contented little person on my lap, watching her peering around at the world, and having an occasional chatter in her own special language. 

She is lovely.  The New Year is wonderful.  I can't wait to see what it brings, and while a week in (it's my father's birthday today - Happy Birthday, Dad!), I wish everyone out there all the very best for 2015.  My resolutions and plans are somewhat amorphous at the moment (heat affected), but I certainly intend including plenty of crochet, writing and time with this lovely baby.

Stay cool - or warm - depending on your part of the world!


Thursday, November 27, 2014

The way it goes....

Well, this is the good and unexpected.  My little circles of Sirdar colour evolved into a lovely blanket (using the Sunny Spread pattern on Ravelry), which won third place in crochet homewares at the Royal Melbourne Show.  I was delighted. This was my second win this year.

Of course, when all starts spinning out of control, it's good to have woolly comfort to look back on.  At one stage, I was not only finishing a university placement; although I had been preparing beforehand, I had a week full of 10,000 words of assignments.  If you asked me now what some of them were about, I couldn't tell you!

Then came a lovely week's break...but at the end of it, I had a tickle in my throat, and slightly sore eyes.  I couldn't even crochet properly in the evening.

Three doctors' visits later, I've nearly recovered from whatever it was that had me in its grip - something like a pumped up Flu Does Survivor.  Now I am back in the land of crochet hooks and books, a little later than desired, but well in time for Christmas preparations.

And it's a lovely place to be.  Springtime, half a crocheted bag, a cup of tea and a good magazine - may this be the way it continues to go for at least the next few weeks.