Thursday, October 29, 2009

How do we get it all done? Is it possible?

I've been following a recent discussion thread on Ravelry about how stay at home moms have time to get all their domestic duties done and find time for designing and knitting, not to mention some quiet time to themselves w/o an agenda attached. It got me thinking about my weeks and how I organize my time. I pondered the answer to that eternal question, "How can I do it all?" and found that the answer is a big fat, "I can't." Now before you dismiss me completely and write me off, hear me out. I'm writing this post because right now, I feel like I've piled on so much to each day that I wake up at night worrying over tomorrow's schedule. Are you there too?

In today's world, we've been inundated with the sentiment that if we just work a little bit harder we can do it all and have it all. I absolutely believe this is a lie we've been fed and even though we may say we don't believe it, our actions tend to prove otherwise. We try to pack so much into every hour that we get to a point in our lives where everyday is a rush, then a blur and soon we can't even remember what we did 30 minutes ago. How do we stop? How do we slow down? How do we get done what we need to get done and still have time to do what we most want to? Here's a strategy that, when implemented consistently, has done a lot for me because it helps me be proactive and in control of my week instead of reacting to whatever life throws at me.

I honestly believe God didn't make a day with 25 hours in it, a month with 40 days and a year with 55 weeks for one very big reason: we aren't Him! We can't do everything but we think we can! We can't be everyone to everyone because we are unique. We have limits. We have strengths and weaknesses. We have to learn to prioritize - and that can be really difficult.

Whenever I get into a funk, my husband always reminds me that I don't have to be everything for everyone every week. "Prioritize," I can hear him say to me in my thoughts. He shared with me a plan that he uses to map out his week so he's using his time for the priorities, not for the non-priorities. It's based on the book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People." Wanna hear it? You may say, "Ugh...I hate living by a schedule!" I do too, but that doesn't mean that a general routine doesn't do wonders for my life.

Ok, first things first: Identify the roles you have to play during the upcoming week. Whether it's mom, wife, knitting designer, PTA member, etc, write them down. At the beginning of the list, write Sharpen the Saw - this refers to time for you to take care of you mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Second: Write one or two goals for each role you will play which, if completed, you will have seen the week as being successful.

Third: Plug into your calendar reoccurring events (e.g. Work on knitting patterns, lean house, Bible Study, date w/ hubby, library time, etc). Then, plug in sections of time to do the activities necessary to meet all the goals you've set out. Make sure you have plugged in time for some exercise, a quiet time or a coffee date with a friend - taking care of yourself helps you better take care of others.

Be sure to allow at least 15 minutes between each activity. I always add an extra 15 minutes to each activity because something will always happen to delay me. Blown-out diapers, unanticipated phone calls, a friend stopping by. We want to anticipate that nothing will go exactly to plan and allot extra time to deal w/ special circumstances.

Last: Take a look at all the blank spaces. These are your times where you can sit and close your eyes, knit, read, talk on the phone, putter around on the internet. If every minute of the day is taken up with a chore, it's time to re-evaluate your work ethic. It shouldn't take 12 hours a day to keep up the house and cook the food. Take some time to see how you can shift your work style to help you get things done more efficiently. For example, if it takes 15 minutes to clean the toilet because you're talking on phone, maybe it's time to hang up the phone and just "get 'er done!"

There's one important equation to remember in all this - your schedule is a guideline for your week. If an extraordinary circumstance comes up and something doesn't get done, don't worry! There are very few things that have to happen. Be flexible. Knowing that there's extra time tomorrow in the afternoon or on Wednesday means that if the kids get sick on Monday, there's a time when we can play a little catch up without ruining the rest of the week's plans.

All in all, if at the end of the week your to-do list still has items on it that aren't crossed off, give yourself a break, go take a hot bath (don't forget the soothing salts!) and recharge your batteries. In the morning, take a fresh look at your week, prioritize and then go and live life to the fullest!

What tips do you have for prioritizing and laying out your week? How do you find time to relax and "sharpen your saw"? Share your thought below. Who knows - you may have the answer to someone else's problem!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Knitting Thrills

I go in cycles of what I love most about knitting. Sometimes it's casting on a beginning a new project. There's excitement in embarking on a new adventure. Granted sometimes I feel like I'm on the USS Enterprise and I've no idea where the next journey will take me or what challenges I might face (Good thing I can always look to Cpt. Picard for revolutionary advice!). Most of the time, though, I've got a good idea of what lays ahead and it's a rush to see the project unfold row by row.

Other times, I get so excited over finishing a project that I'll stay up until 1am just get my piece bound off. I always try to wait to seam when my eyes and head are clear...otherwise the results may not be so great. When I'm just a few inches away from finishing an object, my heart begins to race, I bounce around in my seat, and my palms get sweaty. I just can't handle the anticipation. Go, fingers, go! Make those needles fly! If a stranger just walked in, they may think I'm about to go on my first date. Thank goodness that awkward stage is long past and I'm happily married now with kids in tow. Whew! My latest finished project, Reve by Stephanie Rothshild, was completed on my recent family vacation. This was great because I had lots of time to relax and knit. Plus, I didn't have to worry about waking up at the crack of dawn with the kids (hooray for hubby!) so I could stay up as late as I wanted!

Currently, my most favorite part of knitting is dreaming up the design. I use the Stitch 'n' Bitch Knitter's Design Journal to plan my projects - sorry for the language but it's the name. I'm not the greatest artist in the world. I've no formal schooling, my attempts at people are eye-gouging and my inability to draw anything multi-dimensional is truly embarrassing. All that aside, I don't think you need to be an artist to dream up a gorgeous knit. Granted, it helps, but it's not necessary. I dream in real life - not life-like sketches and so often write the pattern based on a very basic outline with descriptions for the different sections. Right now, I'm working on a throw based off the fantastically simple Textured Simplicity Knit Scarf. Working with simpler stitch patterns, throwing in intarsia and picking up so the sections are multi-directional will give the Textured Simplicity Knit Throw a gorgeous feel, intricate appearance and easy-on-the-needles appeal! I'm so excited to nail down my pattern and knit my sample...a gift for my cousin Jen's newly adopted little boy!

What part of knitting thrills you? Is is beginning a new project? Finishing one? Showing it off? Dreaming up a new design? Writing out the pattern? What makes your palms sweat?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Vacation knitting...it's becoming an obsession


Ok. I've been gone a while. I know. You're probably sitting there thinking, "Geez, I thought this girl had no life! I mean, she's been blogging all the time, which means she's on the computer all the time, which means she has no where to go. Well...contrary to popular opinion, I do have a life outside of kids and knitting. This week, Mr. Monday and I took the kids on a week long trip to Coronado (an island off San Diego).

I'm sitting here on our last day pondering over the past 6 days worth of activity. We've done the zoo, the USS Midway, the ferry, the beach, dinners and lunches out, ice cream, playing by the bay, ordering in, movies, people watching from the balcony, walks to the park, and through it all is one consistent thread, or should I say strand...of yarn...from my knitting. I've completed my Reve tank top, taken new pictures, designed a new pattern (which will come soon!), and gotten half way through a project to be on display at my LYS with my Textured Simplicity Knit Scarf pattern.

All in all, it's been a great week. Sure, there have been the mishaps. My sweet relatives just got the carpet cleaned in their condo so we've been trying to be extra careful. But does that really work with two toddlers? Little Man knocked his super saucy pizza on the floor. Sweet Pea literally peed on the floor. I dropped my new camera in the ocean and so now take pictures with my mind through my fingers as they're forming the outline of a camera. Needless to say, I had a minor breakdown about half way through thinking that something really big was going to come and completely ruin a wonderful week.

Then, Mr. Monday Morning sat me down and gave me a good talking too. He got my mind wrapped back around the good things and off the bad things. He reminded me of all the fun things we've done and how stupid things happen all the time. I'm not cursed, just normal. "Forget about the camera. Forget about all the spills and stupid mistakes," he tells me. Then he goes and cooks me dinner while I knit. Afterward, he and the kids sing Happy Birthday, Mom while I blow out Tigger and Pooh candles.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Teaching Myself to Knit Continental

So I decided last week that instead of spending lots of money to learn to knit Continental (w/ yarn in the left hand), I'd teach myself. I was sitting at Knitting Club watching a friend knit continentally and I thought, "Gosh. I taught myself to knit English (w/ yarn in the right hand), I bet I could teach myself to knit Continental." Ok. I admit. it's harder to retrain my hands than I thought.

Attempt 1: I tried just wrapping my yarn around my left forefinger. Failure. I couldn't keep my tension right nor could I even keep the yarn on my finger. It kept sliding off and I think it took me 20 minutes to knit one row. Ugh. Attempt 2: I wrapped the yarn around my ring finger like I do when I knit English. Similar problems. The yarn doesn't want to stay on my fingers! I'm much better at maintaining gauge but it's still not flowing quite right. Estimated time to knit one row was reduced by 1/2. Whew! "Maybe," I thought, "just maybe, I'm on the right track." People say this way is supposed to reduce pain in the wrist and be faster. I was finding it to be a pain in the neck. (BTW, the picture is not me knitting...these are just examples of the correct way...obviously I found this after my many failed attempts).

Eventually, after 3 inches of knitting Continental, it finally started to move along at a clip that I was happy with. I truly felt like I was making progress. "Now, I'm ready for purling!" Wrong!
Repeat Attempts 1 and 2 above plus add about 50 more and you can guess the state of my sanity! I felt like I'd just been through the ringer and I certainly didn't come out the victor! Twisted stitches. Dropped stitches. Tight stitches. Loose stitches. You name it, I did it. It was grueling. It was frustrating. It was mind-boggling. How can this yarn make me go so crazy?!?! It's just yarn!

Every mistake I made I could hear failure knocking at my door. But I refused to give up and after 3 days of intense self-torment, I think I've finally got it down. Well, at least I can purl a whole row! Maybe I'll just fork out the money and save what's left of my brain!

Comment below and share your frustrating knitting experiences...who knows, someone may read yours and know the solution!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Learning to Knit? Here's some video support!

I've begun my guest blogging series called "Learn to Knit and Start Relaxing" on a mom-oriented site called modmomsclub.com! I have to say that each time I sit down to write my next post I actually get giddy!

The site has such a great audience with the potential for big impact. I just know that there are women out there who need something to help them take a break and give themselves a little "me time" each day. As moms, we give all our time and energy to our children and often forget to save some for ourselves. There have been times where, at the end of the day, I have looked in the mirror and wondered who that shell of a woman staring back at me is. I began to knit and have not seen that shell in a long time. I want the same for all those other women out there who just haven't found that activity that truly helps to calm them down, relaxes their body and rejuvinates their mind.

I encourage you to check out the blog, let me know what you think of the series and tell your friends about it...who knows, they may need a break and want to learn to knit! Below, you'll find videos on Making a Slip Knot, Casting On and The Knit Stitch. These videos support the written instructions and video found at modmomsclub.com. Next week I'll be adding The Purl Stitch and Slipping Stitches. My goal is to provide a video library easily accessible on the sidebar to assist new knitters and advanced knitters alike in learning new skills and honing old ones! Stay tuned!

One quick note, Blogger only allows 100mb videos to be uploaded so the color is not the best. I'm working on a new video format to allow for better color and clarity. It's soon to come!

Making a Slip Knot - This video shows two methods to make a slip knot. One method uses the needle as a base for our yarn and the other method, which I like to call the pretzel method, uses a flat surface. Be sure to measure out enough yarn for your tail end. The general rule is that it takes 3x the length of your piece in yarn to make one row. So, look at your schematics, if your cast on edge is to measure 10 inches, you'll need 30 inches of yarn to make one row (10 inches x 3= 30 inches).

video


Casting On (CO) - The gun or slingshot method is also known as a two-fingered or German method of casting on. Be sure to keep the yarn as taut as you can and as close to the needle as possible. Loose yarn makes for difficult casting on!

video


The Knit Stitch (K) - The knit stitch is the foundational stitch in knitting. All other stitches are variations of the knit stitch. Commonly called the garter stitch, we use a simple rhyme to remember the 4 steps: Through the loop, around the back; Pull it through, off pops Jack! When putting your right needle through the loop, check to see that the front of the loop rests just to the right of the back of the loop. Then, slide your needle through the front of the loop and follow the rest of the rhyme! Be sure to keep your yarn behind your knitting as you work each row!


video

The Purl Stitch
Super simple. To make the purl stitch, commonly abbreviated "P" or "p," first you bring the yarn to the front of the work by slipping the yarn thread between your needles. Next, you'll slip the point of your right needle through the first loop on the left needle by going through the back. Now, wrap that yarn around the back of the right needle, push it through the loop and "off pops Jack," as the rhyme goes!
Here's a video link to my families site where I was fortunate to have uploaded some video a few months back. It'll have to suffice till I get back home and can get some better video up on MMK.

Slipping Stitches
Even easier than the knit a purl stitch. To slip a stitch knitwise (aka sl 1 kwise), simply insert the tip of the right needle into the first loop on the left needle as if you are going to knit it. Stop! Don't wrap the yarn. Slide the loop off the left needle and onto the right. Done! To slip a stitch purlwise (aka sl 1 pwise), simply slide that right needle into the first loop on the left needle as if to purl. Stop! Don't wrap the yarn! Slide the stitch off the left needle and onto the right. Done!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I love Stitches!

I will repeat that again...I love Stitches. I just signed up for Stitches West 2010 and I'm already trying to plan my route in my head of how I'll go through the vendors. I'm making up my list in my head of yarns I've got to see and touch. I always love the Socks That Rock booth. It's got to be the smallest on the floor and the most popular. People are grabbing for this, reaching for that, oohing and aahing over lush yarns in incredible colorways.


Next, I always hit Webs. Their selection is incredible and their prices are fantastic for budget knitters like myself. I love to shop here especially when I'm knitting for my kids because I don't want to buy super expensive yarn that takes all my mental capacities to figure out how to wash it without ruining it. My kids are just not ready to care for a handknitted garment the way I want them to. Granted they are 3 and 1 so maybe in a few years they'll be able to handle a nice scarf. For right now, I'm sticking with easy care, economical, long-lasting yarns that my kids can't ruin unless they try really hard.

There are so many booths and vendors that offer incredible hand-dyed yarns that I just don't have access to here in Modesto that Stitches is like a carnival. I want to do and see everything right now! My eyes are wide with anticipation, my palms start to sweat and I think, "Quick, Melissa! Race because someone just might get the last skein of the perfect yarn and you'll miss out!"

Good thing my dear sister-in-law is there to keep me in check. This is what I love most about Stitches. I get to spend time with one of my best friends in a place where we are surrounded by our shared passion. We can't wait to see Rick Mondragon and the Fashion Show...it's always a highlight. During dinner afterward we sit and watch all the people around us and are always amazed at the fact that we are in the midst of hundreds and thousands of people who are at a knitting convention. For some reason, that phrase always doubles my friends over in laughter. I chuckle outloud but in my head I'm thinking, "You may think it's funny now, but when you need that knitted blanket for your neices birth, I know who you're not getting one out of!" Ok, so (Here we are with my daughter at Stitches
I wouldn't really withhold knitted items but still, West 2009 in line for the Fashion Show)
it's nice to imagine I've got that kind of control.

Back to Stitches and my sister-in-law. She makes me go slowly through the marketplace and enjoy each vendor for the opportunities they offer. We always come with one specific goal: she keeps me from buying yet more green yarn (I'm obsessed) and I help her add any color but black (she's obsessed) to her wardrobe. We know each others style of knitting and spot yarns that would be great for the other's next project. We critique, we compare, ponder, we crunch numbers, we dream. We laugh, we enjoy the fashion show, we share room service. We spend time together strengthening our relationship and relaxing in each other's company.

Some say that home is where the heart is. Then I say that for me, there is a time every year where my home is at the Hyatt Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. I'll see you there!

Friday, October 2, 2009

New Pattern! Sweet Lil Thing Toddler Knit Dress

Hooray! It's finally done!

I'm so excited to finally present the Sweet Lil Thing Toddler Knit Dress. Knitted in a worsted weight yarn and only needing about 400 yards for the main color and 100 yards of the accent color, it's the perfect project for your daughter, niece, granddaughter or for a friend's little girl. Knitted on US 6, the project is a quick knit with great options for customization. Paired with sandals, it's a wonderful spring and summer dress. Worn over tights and a sweet, ruffled top it's also a perfect addition to the winter wardrobe! I used Valley Yarns Springfield in Pale Lilac and Pale Olive for my daughter's dress but imagine the wonderful color combinations to make it fit any season you desire! The pattern is written for 12months, 24 months and 36 months so get those needles ready and have fun knitting!


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