the solace of finishing things

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I’m one of those people who tends to have a lot of projects up in the air at the same time, and I’m not sure I’ve ever been much of a juggler, to be honest. I’m very good at saying yes to too many things, or at starting things before I’ve finished other things. I know many of you reading this can relate to that, if only with your own knitting projects. Sometimes, I don’t mind at all. Sometimes, it’s interesting and exciting to have a lot of different things going on in my life. But sometimes, when life gets harder for one reason or another, trying to juggle too many things at once can start to feel like a burden. Instead of feeling free to choose which book (among the five I’m in the middle of) I’m going to read before bed on any given night, I can feel weighed down by all the unread pages, paralyzed by option anxiety. Sometimes, instead of enjoying that I have different types of knitting projects to pick up and put down, I feel like I haven’t finished a project in ages, which makes me feel hopelessly unproductive even when I have been making plenty of progress on things – they just aren’t finished yet. I’ve been feeling that way lately, as winter drags on, struggling to feel productive, and consequently struggling to feel good about myself (uncoupling my sense of self-worth from my productivity is a much longer process, one I expect to be working on for a long time).

I’m grateful that at this point in my life, I can recognize when this is happening, and I can find the motivation to dig myself out of that kind of a hole. Books and knitting projects seem the most susceptible to this sort of behavior, so I’ve been working on finishing books and finishing projects. I do sometimes get bored sticking to one book at a time, but seeing how much more quickly I get through a book when I decide to commit to just one at a time is always motivating, and I’ve just about finished the second book in as many weeks, which will mean I’m down to three books. With a few flights coming up later this week, I’m pretty confident I can get that number down to two by the end of this coming weekend.

And so it goes with knitting projects, too! Last week, I finished three things over the course of three days. One was a pattern sample (more about that at a later date, after I’ve taken pattern photos), but the other two I thought I’d share with you. I love both of these so much, and it’s good to remind myself of just how great it feels sometimes to slow down, focus on just one project, and see it through to its completion.

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First up is a pair of socks that’s been on the needles since December: my Selbu Socks. This pattern is by Eli of Skeindeer Knits, and it’s one that I was looking forward to immensely last fall, when Eli shared the design-in-progress with us before the pattern was published. I cast on the day it was released with stash yarn (Eli very generously gave me a copy of the pattern as a gift – thank you Eli!) and loved watching the pattern emerge, but over the next few months, progress happened in fits and starts as I put these down to work on other things, occasionally picking them up to work a few rounds here and there, but definitely never giving them my undivided attention. I’m so glad that last week I decided they needed it, since they were actually getting pretty close to finished. I’ve knit (and designed) socks with stranded colorwork before, but these are my first allover-colorwork socks, which feels like an achievement of sorts. They are slightly thicker than my typical hand knit socks, given that the stranded fabric is twice as thick, but I can still wear them with my boots, so I love that while these have the feeling of traditional Norwegian stockings, they’re truly everyday socks that I can wear whenever I like (temperature permitting). Given that it’s still very much winter in Montreal (currently 23ºF / -5ºC), these will actually see a little bit of wear before they get put away until next winter.

The last thing I want to mention is the yarns: I used superwash merino/nylon blends for these socks. The light grey yarn is no longer available, but the red yarn is Explorer Sock by Phileas Yarns in the St Expedit colorway, which is dyed by my friend Sylvie in York (in the UK) and I have described this color more than once as my favorite red (I first wrote about this colorway on a different base, here). It is always a pleasure to work with Sylvie’s yarns and I’m so happy to have used it for such a special project.

More technical details as well as more photos can be found over on my Ravelry project page.

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The other personal project I finished was my Mount Pleasant tee, a pattern by Megan Nodecker of Pip & Pin (and the Pip & Pin podcast). I fell in love with this design when Megan shared it in a Ravelry forum post last spring, asking advice about pattern photos from fellow designers (I think many of us fell in love with this design after that post, to be honest!). I bought it when she released it last May, and the same week I ordered yarn to make it. I’d decided I wanted to make it with yarn from Garnsurr, a yarn-dyeing company in Norway that’s also a refugee integration project, and one of my favorite companies to support. I actually posted about my plans for this project last August, and I wound the yarn into cakes before we left Norway at the end of that month. Nonetheless, with too many other things on my plate, I hadn’t cast on for it until a few weeks ago, when I decided it would be my only travel project for a two-week trip to Singapore and India that my husband went on. If you follow me on Instagram, you probably spotted some progress shots of this tee (including this photo which led to a really fantastic discussion of everyone’s experiences with flying with knitting in hand luggage – thanks to everyone who joined in on that conversation!). The finished tee is exactly what I’ve been dreaming of since last spring, and I can’t wait to get some wear out of it as the weather warms up here in Canada and this spring finally arrives. I didn’t really make any modifications to this pattern, but you can still find the details (including links to the pattern page and the yarn page) over on my Ravelry project page. Megan has definitely become one of my favorite designers over the past year and if you’ve never checked her out, I’d highly recommend a quick (or long and leisurely) browse through her designs on Ravelry. On top of the beautiful but wearable pieces she creates, her photography is always gorgeous.

With these projects done, I’m down to 8 WIPs (ha!), including the sweater pattern sample that is my current priority. I don’t think I’ll ever be a one-project-at-a-time kind of knitter again, but it does feel really good to prioritize finishing things for the moment. And now that I think about it, those Nikoline socks pictured at the top of this post are getting pretty close…

phileas yarns

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This is going to be a post about yarn, but first I need to tell you a story. In my early twenties, I did a lot of solo travel on a shoestring budget, and one of the ideal ways to go about that is to couchsurf. Kind people offer up their couches (or their guest beds) to travelers and in return they sometimes host travelers at their own home. Admittedly I did more traveling than hosting, but it’s a great way to meet like-minded or interesting people in new places. (For those of you feeling freaked out by this concept: don’t worry, it was safe and secure, but I’m not going to go into those details here because that’s not really the point of this story.)

Several years ago, when I was living in Hungary, I decided to take a trip to Edinburgh. I didn’t know when I booked my trip, but in Edinburgh I was going to meet the best couchsurfing host I ever had. I lined up a host for my first few nights, and her name was Sylvie. Sylvie went above and beyond when it came to hospitality – she even picked me up at the airport! And when we got into town, we stopped by her flat where she put a thermos and a container of cake in her bag, and then she walked me up to Arthur’s Seat, where we watched the sun set over Edinburgh with tea and cake in hand. Is that not the most perfect thing you’ve ever heard? Part of what makes Sylvie such an incredible host is that she’s a globetrotter herself – and who knows better what a lone traveler needs? And on top of all of that, it turned out that Sylvie was a knitter, too. Needless to say, we wound up friends and have kept in touch.

Sylvie lives in York now, and she recently started up her own hand-dyed yarn business, Phileas Yarns. I was ecstatic when she got in touch and asked me if I wanted to try it out. She dyes five different bases, all with names based on that wanderlust we so keenly feel: Wanderer, Wanderlust, Globetrotter, Escapism, and Explorer. I decided I wanted to try one of her British Blue Faced Leicester bases, either Wanderer aran or Wanderlust DK. Her BFL comes from Yorkshire, so it’s local to Phileas as well, which I found very appealing. So Sylvie popped a skein of Wanderer aran into the post (along with a few extra treats – thank you, Sylvie!) and I was so excited to receive it I got it wound and ready to knit right away.

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I don’t usually go for reds, but this one I couldn’t resist. It positively glows! The colorway is St Expedit, named for Expeditus, the Christian martyr who has a significant folk following on Réunion, an island off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. Altars to St. Expedit on Réunion are always painted bright red. (Browsing the listings for the different Phileas colorways is like a history and geography lesson in one, I swear.)

I wanted to knit something simple that would show off the subtle variegation of the semi-solid rather than compete with it, and since we live in the Arctic and my husband Chris didn’t have a pair of hand knit mittens to his name (the cobbler’s children have no shoes, as they say), I decided to use the yarn for a pair of Arched Gusset Mittens. It’s a beautifully elegant and simple pattern, but the arched gusset makes it a bit more interesting than a traditional plain mitten.

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The end result is a beautiful and practical pair of mittens. I worked the cuff in a 2×1 rib, because I thought the rolled edge might be a bit annoying when it comes to staying tucked into coat sleeves, but otherwise made no modifications. These have been getting regular use every since they were finished! And though we do live in the Arctic, Tromsø actually has a sub-Arctic climate thanks to the gulf stream, so the BFL wool is completely appropriate for our +1/-1ºC temperatures at this time of year. BFL is truly one of my favorite fibers. When I asked Chris to describe it he said it was very comfortable to wear and “soft but not too soft,” and pointed out how overly soft yarns can actually be distracting, particularly when it comes to workhorse knits like mittens.

Photographing reds is notoriously difficult, and made even more challenging by the low light at this time of year. The light tends to be very blue (especially in outdoor photos, as in the one above), but hopefully the photos still give you a sense of the beauty of this yarn.

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If you fancy trying out Phileas for yourself, head on over to the Phileas Yarns Etsy shop. Sylvie’s currently offering free shipping on orders through December 21st; just use the code YARNTRAVELSFORFREE at checkout. You can also find Sylvie on Instagram, where you’ll see a lot of photos of wool, but also travel photos and photos of her cat Miette. Thank you, Sylvie!