Thursday, February 26, 2009

On Lenten Discipline and Food

I sent this to one of the clergy at my church, for what it's worth. Sparked by his musings about giving up dessert for Lent.

You may not know, given as I have not been around church much lately, that I have been wrestling The Food Beast since just before Thanksgiving. I joined Weight Watchers online (I don't do too well in "group" situations) and am doing well, but have a long way to go. The weight would come off faster if I could supplement the diet with exercise, but I injured a muscle in my hip trying to go from 0 to 60 on a new exercise program. It has been an interesting winter, trying to get around in all the ice and snow, and trying not to fall down in the process. I got an ice grip for my cane that could double as a weapon if someone tried to mug me, and all has been well. I do feel like I'm on the mend, but have to be careful about what exercise I take up. Looks like it will be yoga for a bit, as my dear friend Larry, who is nearly 61 and still leaping all over the stage with his Stratocaster, says that's his secret. I, too, would like to move like a 16-year-old when I am Larry's age, so I'm going to try it. Hopefully I will like it, and if I am never as lithe as Larry, that's OK. Just so I can move easily and be healthy. Anyhoo...

I have not given up chocolate. Dark chocolate is one of the things I can eat, that does not have too many "points," and dark chocolate is supposed to be good for you. So, a little bit here and there. what's harder for me is giving up bread and cheese. Bread is such a quick fix when you are tired and feeling run down and don't want to cook on any given day. So is pizza. I have eaten pizza exactly twice since I started this program. Oddly enough, I don't feel a craving for it. (Thank you, Great Spirit!) Weight Watchers has terrific recipes on line, and I have learned a great deal about portion control. I didn't realize how often I was reaching for the "wrong" foods, and that the portions I was eating were not likely to create a state of svelteness.

In November, I found, much to my dismay, that I was 100 lbs overweight and heading into gastric bypass territory. My doctor had said he didn't want to hear from me until I had lost weight and started an exercise program. His exact words, in an e-mail, no less! "You're not going to want to hear this from me, but you need to lose weight and start an exercise program, and then we'll talk about why you don't feel well." A snail mail letter from him a few days later confirmed that, and suggested I book a physical sometime in February. Well, I'm going in early March, and I cannot wait to show that smug little so-and-so that, even though the exercise had to fall by the wayside temporarily, I have stuck to a very good diet, got educated about food, and lost (as of today, anyway) 34 lbs.

In musing on how I ever let myself get as big as I did, I have to keep coming back to self esteem. Almost everywhere I went, it seemed nothing I did was good enough. I did not feel like a temple fit for the Spirit. I felt like a black hole. I felt like it didn't matter if I maintained the temple or not. Despite taking a good anti-depressant which is indeed helpful to some degree, I was getting into that mindset where I did not care much if I lived or died. What gave me a good swift kick in the arse? Dunno, but one afternoon I sat in front of the computer, read about the dismal future of gastric bypass patients, and the failure rate, and if I cried out to God in that moment, I wasn't aware of it, really. It was more like, suddenly I realized I didn't want that radical a life change. I wanted to be able to eat AND live healthily. I have books to write, yarn to knit, fiber to dye, and family to nurture. Too much to do and finish to go belly-up just yet. (And what a belly up that would have been! Yuck!)

Somewhere inside this body lives some sort of God-given gift, and I need to keep this body well, so I live long enough to find it and act on it. Food-wise, every day for the rest of my life, it will be a sort of Lent. I'm OK with that. Happy, even.

But scared, too. This is every day for the rest of my life. One cannot give up food as an alcoholic, theoretically, can walk away from booze and never touch it again. I have gotten thinner in the past, and gained it all back and then some. It has been an endless rollercoaster ride, in a bad way.

Every day for the rest of my life, shoring up this crumbling temple, so the Spirit will not be homeless.

Every day, considering options like: "Well, if I have a quarter of a piece of Keith's carrot cake, that's five points, and it will mean I can't eat much for supper today. I should have an apple or some raw carrots, but..."

Some days I will inevitably fall for the cake. The trick is, to not fall for the cake too often. My treats, when I do feel inclined to cheat, are a few squares of dark chocolate, or a shot of whiskey. Not both. I will never touch beer again. Too many points in a pint!

But if this endless Lent teaches me discipline, and I can stick with it, it will be better for everyone.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

New Batt!

I'm liking this new way of drumcarding my fibers a real lot. Meet "FIRE!" It's a nice, soft wool blend of oranges, yellows, and a bit of bronze angelina for sparkle. 2-1/2 ounces for sale in one bundle. Click here if interested. Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I Lied...

I did not go back to knitting Inishmaan after all. Instead, I processed some more batts. Meet "Midnight Sparkle." Three 2-ounce bundles up for grabs in my Etsy Store right now.

It's soft. It's pretty. It's sparkly. It's calling to you: "Spin me....spin me...spin me..."

I hope to have more in the store by the weekend.

Harlot Batt Yarn

OK, folks, here it is. Sad to say, I got less than an ounce worth, 'cause I got impatient and try to ply the yarn back on itself from a center-pull ball. Sometimes this works for me, and sometimes I get carried away and end up with a biiiiiiiiig snarl. So I figure I lost about 10 yards of singles and about 1/4 ounce. [sigh] I wonder if I will ever learn?

So, this is about 3/4 of an ounce of 2-ply, approximately 78 yards, spun from a "Harlot Batt" of my own making. I dyed, I carded, I spun, I like! It's soft! It's bouncy! It's...oh, poo! There are only 78 yards. I might have to spin up some more, and THIS time I will put one ounce on each bobbin, and...[sigh]...maybe not get a big fat snarl in the middle of plying again.

If I had enough, don't y'all think it would make nice socks? Or fingerless gloves?

OK, back to knitting more of Inishmaan.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Ye Olde Inis Meáin Sweater

I made this sweater 15 years ago, back when I didn't know much, but was so captivated by the design, I just had to try it. I was so broke back then, there was no way I could afford the Rowan Magpie the pattern called for, and I took my chances with a Bartlett style heavy 2-ply worsted I found at Fabric Place, for somewhere between 4 and 5 bucks per skein. I had used it before, on a couple of less complex sweaters, and thought it would serve me well on this one, too. It did. I still love this sweater.
It took me a good six months to make, as I mentioned in an earlier entry, and the really sad part is that I burned a hole in the front of it two days after it was done. We had a gas stove back then, and I wondered why the rice I as cooking smelled so funky, and then I stepped back and saw what I thought was a streak of dirt on the sweater. So, I brushed it with my fingers and was utterly horror-struck when the stitches, blackened to ash, disintegrated at my touch. Somehow, I managed a duplicate stitch graft, the likes of which I had not accomplished before, nor have I accomplished since, and now even I can't tell where the hole was. Some ultra-compassionate knitting angel must have been smiling down on me that day.

I haven't worked much on the brown version over the last few days, but am in no particular hurry. I want to take my time and enjoy the knitting, as it is working up much faster than its predecessor did.

Both the sweater and my Noro mistake rib hat came in handy in Newport and Jamestown yesterday when Keith and I went walking. It was windy out, so colder than it would have been without the wind. It was nice to be able to walk a little distance again, and to do it outside.

Weight loss report is good today. I dropped another 1.2 lbs, so that makes a total of about 31 lbs so far. Someday soon I will post my "before" picture, from Halloween 2008. Seeing those pictures of myself was the beginning of feeling like something had to change, and change soon, or I'd be on the fast track to gastric bypass surgery. I'd much rather see if I can stay healthy by a change in lifestyle that would still allow me to "cheat" on special occasions, without overindulging. I realize now, it was very true that I was hardly eating a thing because the weight gain was scaring me so badly. What didn't realize was I was perpetually reaching for the wrong thing. The quick thing. Pizza when I felt too lethargic to cook. Toast and cheese when I was too broke to buy pizza. Even if I ordered pizza with lots of veggies on it, that couldn't begin to compensate for the overload of carbs.

Portion control has been a real eye-opener, too. Restaurants do not help with this at all. I do not "need" a lumberjack-sized portion of anything, regardless of how good it might taste. I'm cooking at home more, exploring vegan and vegetarian foods in addition to the usual meat, seafood, and poultry. It's all good. And -- no pun intended -- I haven't found a "turkey" amongst the Weight Watchers recipe files yet. Dieting has come a long way, in that it no longer feels like a punishment. The food is good. Many things one might think of as forbidden are allowed, as long you know your limits.

This is for life, though. I hope my resolve remains firm! batt....

OK, I confess. I've heard too much over the last few days about Harlot Batts. It's actually Judith McKenizie McCuin's technique, but I'm afraid I'll be stuck thinking about it as Harlot Batts, because that's where I read about it first. Unfortunate that, once again, I cannot get my camera to represent this color as it really is, but what can I say? I'm struggling to figure out what degrees of "flash" to use, or not.

My point is, I felt so compelled to try this business of throwing fiber into the drumcarder sideways that I abandoned the chapter I was writing and grabbed some fiber. I lik the way the batts look, but have yet to try spinning them. However, I can't imagine that it would be difficult, or come out weird. Roving from Zeilinger's, after all, does not come back as "top," and it spins like a dream. Why should this not spin like a dream as well?

I'll get back to y'all about it when I know.

What I like about this technique is it seems to turn out a really nice batt in just two passes. What I still don't like about drumcarding is that my Louet carder, which I thought was supposed to accept 4 ounces of fiber, does not produce batts that satisfy me if I card more than 1 ounce at a time. Go figure! However, I can't complain too much, because the processing goes pretty quickly whn I am only doing up an ounce at a time.

Anyone else jumped on the Harlot's bandwagon for this adventure? I'm curious abut other people's opinions. Do you like spinning from batts done this way? Why, or why not?

I'm not sure now, if I want to write a little more or go running for the spinning wheel...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hey, my peeps...

Just a heads-up to say I am trying to show bigger and better pics of new Etsy Store additions on my other blog, the strictly business-related Mad Angel Creations.

Sad to say, it looks like another layoff is looming before me. Business is slow, and when the axe falls, it will most likely fall on me. There are other part-timers in the place, but I work the fewest hours of any of them, and I am almost thoroughly "caught up" as regards filling up the stock room with cable sets, soooo...either my hours will be cut, or I will be put on the "on call as needed" roster. This is the second time in the space of a year, so I'd really like to devote my time off this time to getting Mad Angel Creations up and running for real, on a larger scale. If I can do that successfully, then perhaps I can quite my day job, so to speak. I love it, but I hate the quixotic nature of manufacturing in these dismal economic times. I at least have a "fall back" with Mad Angel Creations. Most of my co-workers do not, and other jobs are so scarce now. I would hate to see people who really and truly need their jobs lose them, while I stayed on. Better I should go than any of them, much as I like the work and would be sad to give it up.

Practice makes perfect, and I suspect I will have lots of time to do so, and have been at the drum carder already today. Also, a batch of Brown Sheep Naturespun fingering weight sits soaking, waiting to go into a kettle of black dye. Seems like they do not do black, according to their color card on their website, so I'm trying to see if I can overdye. If I get good results, there is a need for this. Ideal for Grace Ennis patterns, for those of you who like to do her wonderful, vintage socks.

Back to the carder, and do watch and for updates!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Electric Hula Hoop Socks and Better Sweater Pic

So, here they are. The Electric Hula Hoop socks which you saw awhile back, still in dyed sock blank form. I can't quite believe the way they came out identical, but I suppose that stands to reason, given that the blanks are knitted double, so I was dyeing two strands simultaneously. I am very pleased with the way these came out, and will paint more blanks in the not-too-distant future.
Side 1
Side 2

Then we have a better shot and a still bigger piece of the Inishmaan sweater. This shows the stitches well, and is a fairly good representation of the color.
The first time I made this sweater -- fifteen years ago! -- it was THE hardest project I had ever tackled. It took me six months to make it, and that was with pretty constant daily knitting. I started this one about a week ago, and am 3 repeats into the front central cable. What I learned between then and now was how to manage chart reading, to memorize smaller patterns, and to read my knitting better. I can't believe how fast this is going! It really did seem an insurmountable challenge Way Back When. I didn't know half what I know now.

Also, the first sweater was knitted in the largest size. The new one will be in the smallest size. It will still be huge, because this is an oversized, boxy garment. But I am daring to do the smallest one because it shows I have some slight confidence that this weight will not only stay off, but I will continue to lose for awhile yet, and once I have reached goal, by God, I will STAY there!!! (Or die trying...)

Off now to try on my new, smaller size Levi's. True, they are the womens' version at the moment, but one of these days soon, I hope to ge my arse into a pair of 501s again. There is something about the look of guys' Levi's that ladies' Levi's just don't have. But I'll happily settle for the ladies' version for now. It has been at least ten years since I have fit into Levi's of any variety, so I am psyched!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Some New Handspun and Sweater Beginnings

I haven't been good about showing any of my handspun yarns in a long time, so here goes. The two rovings came from Copperpot Woolies on Etsy. Some of my spinning friends fall prey to the temptations of this woman's work more often than I do. For me, Copperpot's stuff is a special splurge sort of treat, kind of like fine chocolate is for some other folks I know and love. (Hi, Alison...)

First up is a gorgeous concotion called "Night Moves." I forgot what fibers it was made up of, but it practically spun itself, and the touch of glitz is delightful.

Next we have another Copperpot delight called "Bar Harbor Blitz." How could I resist that? I, who have spindle-spun at the summit of Cadillac Mountain!
Don't believe me, eh? Here is and my first sure was a beautiful day!
And not that I have a competitive streak or anything like that, but in this case, let me say Carrie Mac has inspired me to tackle Starmore's "Inishmaan" again. I hope I'll be forgiven for substituting and using a yarn I had in Ye Olde Stash, some cone of tweedy stuff I bought at Webs a few years ago. I think it's Brora Softspun, but I honestly don't remember, and the receipt for purchase was lost in the paper trail aeons ago. I always choose the worst colors to photograph, but there it is. I will try again by daylight when I have a larger bit of work to show. It's a much easier knit 15 years later, when I have a better clue of what I am doing when I sit down with a complex pattern.Because it's called "Inishmaan," it's a nice way to connect with my "Doubtful Sound" people when the Muse is not with me. It hasn't been of late, but that's all right. There's been too much confusion and bustle around here in recent weeks. To be visited by the Muse in the midst of that would have been TORTURE. I would not have had the time to pay attention!