Greetings, friends! Fall is in full effect over here and we are experiencing the most sublime weather. At the moment the doors to the patio are open, a light breeze is rustling through our wind chime and Takk is watching the birdies - his most favorite fall pastime. (Okay, it's his every season pastime, but in the fall he gets to enjoy the amazing weather at the same time!) Truly the only thing missing from this picture is Dylan (he's working in Atlanta until mid-December), but we'll bottle up this memory to share with him when he's back.
There's little guessing why fall is a favorite time of year 'round these parts - the sky is an impossibly brilliant blue, the plentiful leaves show off their most spectacular colors, and the fresh air has a certain crispness about it, just begging for some hand knits to be worn. This month, I've been inspired not only by the great outdoors, but also by a couple of things that I've been tucking away at.
Tucking hastas under padas
For all you yogis out there, you may already see where I am headed with this one. Padahastasana is a yoga pose whereby you tuck your hands under your feet. (Pada = feet, hasta = hand) I like to tell myself that this is the most approachable version of 'handstand' as it's literally standing on your hands.
I've always been a fan of this pose because of its ability to release tightness in the hands. Have you ever had a hand massage (or given one to yourself) and felt how much tension you actually hold in your hands? (Hello, base of the thumb, I'm talking to you!) This pose is great for anyone who uses their hands a lot, like I dunno, say movers and makers such as yourselves!
So here's where this fav pose has come in particularly handy this month (haha). Last weekend, I had the genius idea to mow the lawn. Now I know it doesn't sound like a big deal, but if you knew that we had a hilly yard, and that I have never mowed any lawn in my entire life (I didn't even know how to turn it on!), you may be able to imagine that I was a little tense about it. About being run over by the mower (didn't happen), about creating huge sand divets in the yard (did happen), about which lever thingy to hold and when. Anyways, the next day not only was I pretty exhausted from all the lawn shenanigans, but my hands were so sore! (Guess I was gripping those lever thingys extra tightly!) Padahastasana, was super helpful to work the soreness and tension out of my hands. Thankfully, the 'ole hastas are back to normal now, and I don't think I'll be mowing the lawn again anytime soon.
Padahastasana is a pretty deep standing forward bend, so if you're new to the pose and you want to try it, I recommend bending your knees a lot in order to reach your hands (with palms facing up) under the feet. Ideally, your toes come right up to your wrist crease so that the entirety of your hand is under your foot. Wiggling the toes a bit produces a nice little massage for the hands in addition to the benefits of compression. The pose takes a little balance too, so if that all seems too much for one go, you can sit in a chair for padahastasna. Or just give your hands a massage, that works too!
I’ve got two words (and a number) for you: Knit Stars 2.0. This is an online stitching conference, I guess you could say, where upon signing up, you get access to 10 master instructor tutorials, free patterns, and special yarn bundle offers. This is the 2nd year of the Knit Stars, but my first time ‘attending.’ I am in love with it!
When I first signed up, months and months ago, I was worried that the tutorials would be way over my head. The names of some of the instructors were familiar, but I had never knit anything from their collections. It was really a leap into the unknown for me, but the fact that I was going to have lifetime access to the tutorials meant that I could always return to them when I had built up my confidence.
Well, let me tell you, I am so excited, I didn’t know where to start! There’s Andrea Mowry’s Find Your Fade shawl, Nancy Marchant’s Tuck Stitch Cowl, and Tin Can Knits’ fair isle - and that’s just the first week. I haven’t watched all of the videos for all of the instructors yet, but what I have watched, I have been super impressed with. Some of my favorite things to watch so far are the lifestyle pieces that introduce each instructor, and I absolutely love seeing how each of them knit! These videos will be inspiring me for a long time to come.
I decided that the first videos that I would focus on - my October inspiration - would be those by Nancy Marchant, otherwise known as the 'Queen of Brioche.' Now, first things first, I know nothing about brioche, except to be very, very afraid of it and its complexities. You know you’re in ‘advanced’ territory when you search YouTube for answers to questions of ‘how to fix brioche mistakes’ and you hear (more than once) people saying something akin to: ‘the key to fixing mistakes in brioche is not to make any in the first place.’
Don’t get me wrong, brioche is beautiful, and I had intended to tackle it full on someday. So when it became one of the master classes, I thought, what the heck, why not now? Nancy’s Knit Stars videos are really clear, and she does an excellent job of making the tuck stitch approachable. The tuck stitch, I am learning, is one of the allstars of brioche. It’s basically comprised of a slipped stitch with several yarn overs that are knit altogether after a couple of rounds. But don’t take my word for it, I highly recommend learning straight from Nancy!
I had my share of challenges in beginning the Tuck Stitch Cowl that Nancy describes how to make. My first challenge came after several rounds when my circular needle cable decided to unscrew itself from one needle. I had to rip all the way back and start over, as I only noticed the detached cable after I noticed the mess of unwound rows. When that happened it was 8:30 at night, and I had been knitting for at least 2 hours already (did I ever mention that I’m a slow knitter?). My bedtime is usually between 9 and 9:30, but I was so eager to get back to the pattern that I started it right back up again after ripping it back. By 10pm, I discovered a mistake in my knitting. I was determined to fix it before I went to sleep, so I worked on it a bit, messing it up even more. At that point I had to put it away.
The next morning, I realized what I thought may have been my mistake, but my 10p attempt to fix the work had rendered it unfixable (by me). It was only at this point that I realized that one of the Knit Stars videos by Nancy was called ‘fixing a tuck stitch mistake.’ I watched it in the hopes that I could save my progress instead of ripping once again. Nancy’s second rule for fixing a mistake (after the first rule of not making mistakes!) is: ‘do not try to fix a mistake late at night.’ Gosh, I really showed my noviceness there! I'm ripped back again and started over.
Once I got in the tuck stitch groove, it became quite simple. I finished the cowl pretty quickly and basically, I’m just slacking (as usual) in the weaving in the ends part of it. (Why is that such a nemesis!!) One of the coolest things about brioche knitting is that it is double-sided. The WS reminds me of spider webs, which coincidentally is perfect for this time of year, tuck yeah!
Tuck those plans away
I have had a big ‘ole secret tucked away since June surrounding this last weekend in October. Bit by bit, I have been stowing away little pieces of an itinerary for a surprise weekend for Dylan’s birthday. Probably the biggest surprise is that we’re celebrating it a month and a half early, but you know.
So, this year is the big 4-0 for Dylan, and I knew I wanted to do something special. Several months ago, I looked up all of his favorite composers and their touring schedule. Unfortunately, most of them weren’t actively touring, or were only touring abroad. And then I found one - sure, the date was not exactly around his birthday, and we’d have to travel a little ways away, but it seemed really feasible to make it happen, and make it a big surprise.
I’m not going to lie and say that this has been an easy surprise. After Dylan got his job in Atlanta, I had to ask him to take a day off for this coming weekend. And then, Delta (oh, Delta) ended up emailing him an itinerary of our upcoming flights. So ya, not a full-on surprise. I even un-tucked the whole weekend a little early, and told Dylan about all the plans I made because I’m a firm believer that the anticipation of an event is a really enjoyable part of the whole experience! That, and I really needed him to pack a nice outfit.
So, having tucked everything away for so many months, it actually feels nice to have our weekend plans out in the open (I’m not really good with keeping secrets, especially for that long!) I don’t exactly have anything planned for his actual birthday (yet), but I’m pretty sure he’s just going to want to relax at home with Takk and me. (His job finishes on December 15th, he’ll drive home on the 16th, and his birthday is the 17th, so ya, relaxation sounds quite right to me!)
Just realized I didn’t tell you what the surprise! (Maybe I'm getting better at keeping surprises?) We’re going to see the composer and pianist, Ludovico Einaudi, in Washington D.C. (and don’t think I haven’t looked for yarn and yoga options in the area in case we have some spare time!) If you'd like to hear some of his music, check out the video below, which I am linking from YouTube. He composed a piece entitled 'Elegy for the Arctic,' and played it on a floating barge made to look like an iceberg in support of the campaign for a marine sanctuary in the North Pole’s international waters.
What has got you inspired this month? Is fall your favorite season too? Have you been trying any new poses or stitches lately? Listening to some great tunes? I'd love to hear and become equally inspired by what you've got going on!