Yet another “thing to do with string”

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I’m learning to embroider!

I'm learning to embroider!

I’ve been wanting to seriously learn about embroidery for over a decade, and when I saw the Dropcloth Samplers and the class that Rebecca Ringquist is doing on Creativebug, I decided that this would be the summer.

Blue perle cotton

I’m using perle cotton, which I learned about from the Creativebug class – I found a set of rainbow colors on Amazon and decided to start with my favorite, the blues.

Stitching away!

I’m pretty unreasonably delighted with my little stitches – of course running stitch is basically the easiest thing ever, but hey, I did it!

In progress, in the round window. I’m doing Rebecca Ringquist’s class on Creativebug with one of her samplers and it’s fun!
I just liked how it looked in our round window!

So far, on my first day, I’ve learned the running stitch and the backstitch. I’m looking forwarding to learning about couching and plain chain stitch tomorrow!

Day 1 progress - running stitch and back stitch

My real goal, in the end, is to learn enough about embroidery that I can start making my own designs. Ever since I was a baby cognitive scientist, I’ve wanted to embroider synapse diagrams, and neurons, and cells in general…I just find them so beautiful, and to me the diagrams that were in my textbooks already kind of look like embroidery charts. I want rainbow-colored synapses to hang on my wall! But first…more learning!

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something else you can make with string(s)

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I don’t just make sweaters and hats and cowls out of string(s)…I also make MUSIC! I’ve been playing violin for 25 years now (I started age 10, in 4th grade, in my public school), but as of 9 days ago, I’ve also been learning to play UKULELE!

So excited about learning to play uke!

It’s so much fun to be so utterly new at something. I mean, my violin training obviously gives me a little bit of a leg up, but not as much as you’d think. Despite all of the Bach I play, which is FULL of chords, I’m utterly unused to thinking about them AS chords – as I put it, I’ve got a melody + harmony brain, not a chord-brain! But I’m learning…I’ve got 4 whole chords now (C, F, G, and Am) so can already play the chords for quite a few songs (but only if they’re in C!).

Playing a G chord
it’s a G chord!

I’m taking an intro to ukulele class that’s taught by the music director of my UU church (and I’m borrowing my uke from church, too), and I’m trying to be a good little student, listening to his advice to always practice singing along while I play so that I learn how to coordinate everything from the very beginning. (I think this is great advice – despite having played violin quite well for 25 years, if you ask me to sing along, even on something as simple as “Twinkle Twinkle”, I kind of fall apart!)

Strumming is definitely not coming to me naturally the way bowing does on violin, and when I’m trying to strum AND sing AND play the right chords, it’s usually the strum pattern that goes out the window, if it’s anything besides a simple “down up down up”. But I’m a stubborn person, so I was determined to get my brain to manage a slightly more complicated strum pattern while singing. And look, I did it!

Twinkle Twinkle!
(You’ll have to click the image to see the video on Flickr; excuse my childish singing voice, it’s the best I can do!

It’s such a fun brain challenge! I swear I can *feel* new connections forming. Yay, learning! Yay, music!

I’ve not forgotten about my violin, though – I’m still practicing that, too! (And yesterday it was cool enough to have the windows open all day, so my neighbors got to hear BOTH instruments! You’re welcome, and/or sorry, neighbors!)

Playing my violin

I’m currently working on maintaining/developing my skills with the Bach solo Sonatas & Partitas that I already know, and also working to learn some new ones. My current focus is the Fuga from Sonata No. 1 – I already play the opening Adagio from that Sonata really well (and I *love* playing it!) so I figured I’d work towards mastering the rest of the Sonata. It’s a little slow going, since these days I’m my own teacher, and also the at-home Suzuki parent for my daughter, but I’m definitely making some progress. Maybe I’ll share a video sometime, now that I’m learning how to use my Olympus PEN camera for those and not just my iPhone!

I’m going to get more of a chance to play my violin in a few weeks, when I’ll be taking part in a grown-up “orchestra camp” at my daughter’s music school. I’ve missed playing with other people SO much; my last orchestra concert was when I was 8 months pregnant with M, so it’s been a good long time. Trying to fit it into my schedule, and coordinate the logistics given that we’re a 1-car household, is kind of a mess, but I think it’s going to be fun!

Happy music-making me.

Hooray for strings of all kinds!

Perfin progress

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Now that I’m not traveling, I can get back to my sweater knitting, and I’ve got a finished right front of Perfin to show for it!

Perfin progress

It’s a bit more curl-prone than I would’ve expected, given that the base of the stitch pattern is a garter rib, but hopefully that’s something that will be resolved with blocking and seaming.

neckband closeup

I’m anxious to see how it all comes together – knitting things in pieces is just not my usual process and I’m a little nervous about my seaming skills, especially for attaching the collar extensions to each other and the back. I don’t want it to look crappy! But I do think I’ve learned quite a bit more about how stitches work, like, the basic geometry of it all, since the last time I seamed a sweater, so I’m hopeful that deeper understanding will help me to seam it together well.

I’m already about 4 inches into the left front, so I’ll probably be done with that by the end of the week…then it’s just the sleeves, the blocking, and the seams! And then it’ll be time to cast on for my next sweater of the summer. I’m thinking it will be a Tensho pullover, except I’m torn between knitting it as a pullover, or steeking it to make a cardigan. I saw that someone had done that on Ravelry, and I do tend to get more wear out of cardigans, though that’s less true now that I don’t have a nursing child in the picture…chest access just isn’t a necessary feature anymore! So I’ve not decided yet. I’ve got enough Cascade 220 in “Aporto” to be the main color, and a skein of “Summer Sky Heather” that I think would be really lovely as a contrast color, so at least I know what yarn I’ll be using! (What I’ve learned recently about Cascade’s politics makes me uncomfortable buying yarn from them in the future, but I’ve got *quite* a stash of 220 and Eco Wool to knit through, and there’s no sense wasting it.)

I’m hoping to knit at least one more sweater after Tensho this summer, before my schedule fills up again with the start of Fall Semester. I’m trying to do a better job of managing my time and not overscheduling myself, and I’m hopeful that this year will be less crazy than this past year. There’s still plenty of work to do to get fully settled into our new house, and the fallout from the situation with my former department still rumbles on (and my husband still needs to find a new job!), and the national and international news shows no sign of getting less insane, either, but at least we won’t be MOVING in the middle of the school year, and that’s something.

Willow Cowl Silliness!

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It turned out to be a very good thing that I brought an extra skein of yarn with me on our epic trip to Wisconsin to visit family, because by partway through the trip, I’d already finished one Willow Cowl, and still had 2 days of being a passenger in my parents’ car ahead of me…what would I ever do without knitting to keep my hands busy in the car? So now, my total Willow Cowl count is FIVE!

So many Willow Cowls!

The first of the new cowls, knit with Madelinetosh Merino Light in “Hosta Blue” was finished while watching my daughter and nieces play outside in the kiddie pool:

I finished it! An 88-degree day isn’t really the best for modeling a wool cowl but whatever!

I also acquired over 50 mosquito bites that afternoon – I have a delayed (usually by about 18 hours) but fairly extreme reaction to them, so while I knew I’d been bit a few times, the full extent only became clear over the course of the following morning. It was decidedly NOT fun! But that’s Wisconsin in the summer for you – so many bugs!

Knitting in the car on our way to Winona.

I cast on for the next cowl, using Madelinetosh Twist Light in “Coquette Deux”, that evening, and M and I even got to do a bit of knitting in the car together when we drove down to my old hometown of Winona, MN, and stopped in at Yarnology, where I got to see one of my dearest high school friends (love you, Ingrid!) for the first time since my wedding in 2005!

I knit most of the rest of the cowl on the 2 day drive back home, and finished it while hanging out on our deck in the evening with my parents (who were seeing our new house for the first time!).

Another finished Willow Cowl! (I cast on for this on Monday, and had two full days of being a passenger in a car on the way to ROC to knit!)

So now I have 5 Willow Cowls. I’ve actually knit six, but my first one got lost somewhere. But 5 is enough to wear a different one each day of the work week! I actually wear one basically every day from October-April or so; they’ve become part of my cold-weather “uniform” and I’m very happy to have so many colors now, all of them such “me” colors:

These are all such “me”colors

This is how I store them when I’m not wearing them. Don’t they look so lovely all stacked up?

This is how I store them when I’m not wearing them

Will I knit more Willows? Perhaps! Though it might seem crazy to have so many, they’re such a useful part of my wardrobe for 6 months of the year, and they’re such a great project for mostly-mindless travel knitting! I could see getting good use out of one in a warm brown color, or perhaps a deep pine green…we’ll see!

Willow Sillies!

Bring on more Willows! But I think I’ve reached the limit on how many I can wear at the same time!

All at once!