Monday, January 31, 2011

Some projects for keeping warm

Peaks Island Hood

Today, I finished the Peaks Island Hood, designed by Ysolda Teague. All it needed was buttons and the ends woven in, and I was determined to get it done before the end of January, even though I have been pending all of my knitting time with the Peacock shawl.

Peaks Island Hood

I am very pleased with the final result, though perhaps I blocked the hood too much as it wrinkles on top. Otherwise, I am quite glad that I stretched it out within an inch of its life because doing so allowed me to achieve the pattern's gauge and it now has a lovely drape.

Nordic Heart Mittens

I also wanted to share the secret project I mentioned earlier, which I made as a gift for my step-dad. This mitten pattern is from the book Selbuvotter, which is full of fabulous nordic designs. These nordic mittens were my first stranded colorwork project, and they are a bit of a nod to his scandinavian heritage.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Reality and Perception

Peacock Shawl

Scott and I are finally pulling out of a round of one or the other of us being sick for the last few weeks. I could barely knit for a couple of days, though you wouldn't know it from the progress I have made on my shawl. I don't have much else to share with you. I have been planning my vegetable garden for the next year and selecting seeds to purchase. I have enjoyed watching some documentaries of people doing living history experiments, where they see what it is like, for example, to live on a Victorian farm. Watching that sort of thing certainly makes me grateful for my washing machine, for one. It is very interesting to see what people romanticize and how that compares to the realities of daily life.

This latter concept seems to be related to a couple of other things I have come across recently that have stuck in my mind. The following graph comes from an article that a friend shared a while ago about wealth distribution in the U.S., and how it is perceived by Americans. This reflected something I had heard on an earlier radio report.

What is most striking to me about this graph (besides, of course, what it points out about my own misperception) is how similar the views of people across the political spectrum and across the income spectrum really are. That is to say: the first section of the graph displays what the actual distribution of wealth in America is, and what percentage of American money is truly in the hands of the wealthiest individuals; the second section shows what different people estimate the distribution to be; and the third section shows what different people think that the ideal distribution should be. What strikes me is how closely grouped the individual lines are in the latter two categories. Political spin is constantly trying to portray everyone's views as wildly different, but these studies have shown that they really aren't. The difference between how much money the conservative person thinks people should have and what the liberal person thinks people should have is minuscule compared to the difference between what people actually have and what either thinks should be the case. Even the difference between what people who make less money or more money think is less than the difference between the reality and the perception. It's really a shame that political opposition is so strong, and that politics is so much about making the other guy look bad. If it weren't, perhaps we could be making progress on moving our reality towards our ideals.

Certainly, when it comes to making our ideals a reality, most of us feel hemmed in by our financial situation. I just read a very interesting paper titled, If Money Doesn't Make You Happy Then You Probably Aren't Spending It Right. This is a psychological publication from researchers at three universities, not just an op-ed piece. This piece addresses the strange relationship between money and happiness, and what the real and perceived links are.

"Wealthy people don’t just have better toys; they have better nutrition and better medical care, more free time and more meaningful labor—more of just about every ingredient in the recipe for a happy life. And yet, they aren’t that much happier than those who have less. If money can buy happiness, then why doesn’t it? "

It boils down to, "Money is an opportunity for happiness, but it is an opportunity that people routinely squander because the things they think will make them happy often don’t." Then, the paper goes on to describe what things are actually causing people to feel happier, and suggest how one can get the most happiness out of available resources.

"Drawing on empirical research, we propose eight principles designed to help consumers get more happiness for their money. Specifically, we suggest that consumers should
(1) buy more experiences and fewer material goods;
(2) use their money to benefit others rather than themselves;
(3) buy many small pleasures rather than fewer large ones;
(4) eschew extended warranties and other forms of overpriced insurance;
(5) delay consumption;
(6) consider how peripheral features of their purchases may affect their day-to-day lives;
(7) beware of comparison shopping;
and (8) pay close attention to the happiness of others."

Take a look at the article. I highly recommend it, and not just for what it says about money, but also what it says about things such as: what delaying gratification does to our perception and our choices, how we perceive negative events, or how focusing on the task at hand changes how we feel.

Now, when New Year's resolutions are still maintaining a full head of steam, or perhaps starting to become burdensome, it is an opportune moment to learn from this paper about how to shape our choices toward more positive outcomes.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Knitting Projects

Peacock Shawl

Above is my current project, the Peacock Shawl. I started this just after finishing up the edging on a project from August, the Lotus Blossom Tank:

Lotus Blossom Tank

I also blocked the Peaks Island Hood. I will be looking for buttons today:

Peaks Island Hood, Blocking

Additionally, I finished a belated Christmas gift, but as I have not put it in the mail yet, it is still a secret.

Off to Knit Night.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Goals for 2011

I have been thinking of what I want the coming year to be like, and what I want to accomplish.  I like to use the term goals because "resolutions" seems like the sort of thing you try in January, break, and give up on.  Striving toward a goal seems more flexible, more long term, and it has worked for me in the past.

First, I will share the knitting and spinning the goals that I posted at the end of the year on Ravelry:

  1. Finish at least 12 projects.  My number of finished objects decreased dramatically after my move.  I would like to bring it back up to at least resemble what I accomplished in past years.
  2. Finish everything currently in my Ravelry queue. That would get me 2 lace shawls, 2 sweaters, a scarf/shawlette, and a pair of socks.
  3. Use up all of the remaining commercial yarn in my stash. That would give me, in addition to the things in my queue, 3 pairs of socks, something cashmere, and possibly one other item, because I may have mismatched the yarn I intend for a colorwork sweater in my queue.
  4. Spin one colorway per month, until I run out of small batches, then at least 4 oz per month. I should run out of small batches sometime in the 3rd quarter, and then spin at least one large project worth of yarn.
  5. Cold sheep yarn until I run out of commercial yarn. Exceptions only for project completion.
  6. Cold sheep fiber all year. I must start processing my unprocessed fibers and spinning my large batches. Possible limited exception for a local fiber festival.
  7. Knit at least one item using handspun for every four projects. If all I accomplish is the 12 projects above, then this will be 3 projects using handspun. I will knit the one handspun project currently in my queue, and the two remaining projects not accounted for by my commercial yarns will be handspun, which will mean that I could cold sheep fo the entire year. If I knit more than 12 projects, and I use up all of my commercial yarns, I can buy new yarn.
  8. Minimize pattern & book purchases. I will buy some books and magazines to show support for my LYS, but I will keep these to a minimum and use the patterns I already own first.
  9. Knit 1 hour a day. I used to knit more than I do now, and I want to get back to knitting more often.
I also want to recommit to my past goals:
  1. Finish other unfinished projects not related to knitting.  I think I should concentrate on sewing, especially as I am behind in the Crepe Sew-Along.
  2. No new hobbies.
  3. Use my craft supply stash.  No buying just because I might use it in the future.
  4. Make more bread.
  5. Continue to decrease my consumption of processed food.
  6. Continue to buy organic, free range meats and eggs.  This has been trickier since my move.  I need to be clearer on my sources.
  7. Continue to eat local in-season vegetables -- especially difficult in winter.  I am looking forward to the re-opening of the Eastern Market in the spring.  Cooking veggies is a bit harder now, since Scott doesn't like as many things as I do.
  8. Continue to choose local options for cheese, wine, beer, etc.
  9. More canning & freezing.  I hope that rather than giving away much of our garden bounty, we can use it to help see us through the winter.
  10. Make any new clothing or buy from small producers/handmade or second hand.  This goal worked well for mein 2010, and I am hoping to continue it.
  11. Declutter.  Letting go of things I don't use has ben freeing.  I would like to pare down to only the things we use and love.
Of course, the other main goal is:
  1. Get a job or go back to school.  I should start sending applications out presently.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, etc.

Christmas Decorations 2010

Gentle readers, I apologize for my prolonged absence from blogging.  I suppose I have let myself be overcome by the number of things I wanted to talk about, but also failed to get photographic documentation of.  At least I can still show you some of my holiday decorations, featuring some ornaments passed down from my great-grandparents, and placed up high, out of cat reach.

My blog neglect began with my mother's visit immediately after my last post.  She had never been to Michigan before, and we took the opportunity to do some things I thought she would enjoy and which I had been wanting to do myself.  First, we went to the Detroit Institute of Art, where we saw a special exhibit on copies and forgeries, the Diego Rivera murals and some of the American and European art collections. As always, I especially enjoy going to art museums with her, and she was very excited to see some pieces that she recognized from various books. Afterward, we had dinner at a local Arabic restaurant, since she had never eaten Arabic food, and it is especially good here due to the large Arab immigrant population in Dearborn.  The next evening, we had Scott's parents over for dinner, and we all went to the Holiday Nights program at Greenfield Village.  It is an excellent program as well as a really interesting place to visit in general because of the number of significant buildings relocated there, such as the Wright Brothers' shop and Edison's workshop.  The reason I like this program so much is not just the atmosphere with Dickensian carolers and horse-drawn wagon rides, but also how they portray the attitudes toward Christmas and winter celebrations in general through different time periods, including how Christmas was not celebrated by the Puritans and other early settlers.   The next day, Scott had to work, but Mom and I enjoyed exploring Pewabic Pottery and driving through snowy Belle Isle.  Unfortunately, the Conservatory is closed Monday and Tuesday, so we didn't get a chance to go inside.  Now that I know it's open on the other days even during the winter, and free, I may go sometime this week.

After Christmas morning at Scott's parents' house, we spent the afternoon baking dessert, and then headed back for dinner.  The next day, we hosted around 50 people for the annual Christmas party for his dad's side of the family.

New Years Eve was a good time at at bar/restaurant where Scott's dad's band played.

On the second, we hosted a small impromptu birthday party for a friend, because we couldn't let his 30th birthday go by without a celebration of some kind.

Since then, I have mostly spent some time finishing up some of my knitting, and a few days with Scott sick.  I went to the library for the first time and checked out a couple of books I probably don't have enough time to read before they're due.  Getting back to normal now, I suppose.