I’m back. I’ve been not writing, because I’ve been in such a funk.

There are times in my life when I exist in a very bleak place. I get very hard on myself. I struggle. And I become convinced that I have nothing of value to give anyone. I make myself get up and go to work, convinced that I will be fired at any minute because I can’t possibly have anything of value to give as an employee. I find myself wanting to skip social engagements because I’m convinced no one wants me there anyway.

And I don’t write, because I’m certain that I have nothing of value to say to anyone. On top of that, getting up to do the bare minimum (that is, work and the minimum of grownup stuff necessary to keep oneself fed, clothed, and moderately clean) is so very much energy that at the end of the day, I don’t have any left to say anything. Even if anyone wanted to hear it, which (in that mood at any rate), I’m convinced that no one does.

I’m grateful every day for the supportive partner I have, who helps me get by in these hard times.

It hasn’t all been lounging around being sad. I have knit. I performed in two concerts. I took an acting class. I started a podcast. I just only did a lot of that stuff at the time because I had committed to other people to do it. I had committed to the singing gigs. I had committed to the class with Ron. I have a podcast partner I didn’t want to let down.

And none of that is a bad thing, because I ultimately want to do these things. It’s just that knowing that someone else is counting on me is what helps me find the energy to keep going. And I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful that there are people in my life who help me remember what I want and hang in there until I feel like I can do things again.

To be honest, I’m not sure if I’m there yet. I’ve been working on so much and I have so much I want to share with you all. I’ll do my best.

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There is a significant portion of my work that I get to do pretty independently. By which I mean in a tiny lab, all alone, where I don’t have to talk to anyone. Depending on my day and my workload, this is anywhere from 50%-90% of the time I spend at work. Being an introvert, I don’t really mind that. I’m much less exhausted after work on days where I spend more time in my lab alone than on the days where I have to go to a lot of meetings and do a lot of collaborative work.

But sometimes it does get a little lonely, which is why I listen to a lot of podcasts while I’m working. I have a lot of favorite podcasts. Many, but not all of them, are knitting related. The one I’m highlighting today is Heather Ordover’s podcast Craftlit.

I love this podcast. It’s structured so that the first bit of the podcast she talks about her personal crafting and shares news from the crafting community, and also a little bit about her personal life. But the second bit is what I really, really love. It feeds that part of me that really misses being in a literature class and discussing books from a literary perspective.

The point of Craftlit is that you can listen to books when your hands are occupied, so each episode of the podcast gives you a chapter or two from a book. So, slowly but surely, you make your way through some great classic literature. Heather, who was an English teacher and is a writer, also provides a lot of literary context and analysis of the book. She has a lot of knowledge to share and she does it well. (Honestly, I think I would have loved to have had her as an English teacher in high school). She also will share and discuss comments she gets from listeners, who have some really insightful things to say.

Since everything has to be public domain, all of the books and stories are older ones, such as Frankenstein, Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, and A Tale of Two Cities, but I really like that, because it has been a while since I’ve read many of these books. She has put out somewhere around 250 episodes, and I’m playing catchup by listening to all the back episodes. I’m currently in the middle of Little Women, a book I have always loved and have read many times.

If you’re a literature geek like me, I really encourage you to check out Craftlit and listen to some great books while you’re crafting or working or driving. As Heather says, “If you’re too busy to pick up a book, at least you can turn one on.”

You know when you go on vacation and you come back to work and you have so much work to do that you almost regret going on vacation? That’s kind of been my week, which is why I’m only just getting to this update now. Except that, no matter how hard it was to play catch up at work, I don’t regret going to Stitches West one bit. It was amazing.

Buckle up, it’s going to be a long entry.

I woke up at early o’clock on Wednesday morning and drove up to my parents’ house. They live about roughly two hours away from Santa Clara, so I thought it would be nice to see them (and my adorable little nephew) for a day. The drive up got a little scary, as I encountered snow. It was dark and windy and I drove over a mountain in a snowstorm, in a car that does not have snow tires. They actually closed the pass about a half hour after I got on it, so I was lucky to make it over. It was a long, slow crawl up the mountain, and we were frequently stopped completely. (That’s how I got this picture).

This is not a common sight where I live.

After that, it was smooth driving, and I had a lovely, quiet day at home with my parents and some of my brothers and sisters and my adorable little nephew.

Thursday morning, I again woke up early, had breakfast with my parents and drove to Stitches West. I was really excited. I checked in and took my first class, which was about creating bust darts with short rows, with Lily Chin. My mind was completely blown. She gave us really accessible math to figure out when to do darts and how much of a dart to do. It was amazing, and I am so excited to make a sweater that will fit like a dream. Also, Lily Chin is a kick and a half. She’s funny, gives a ton of information, but makes everything so understandable. I definitely recommend taking a class with her.

The other great thing about that class was I got to meet Jasmin and Gigi of the Knitmore Girls Podcast and Miss Kalendar of the Brass Needles Podcast. I am a huge fan of both of these podcasts, and it was really lovely to get to meet all of them. And Jasmin’s little girl is just as adorable in person as in her photos.

After class on Thursday was the Market preview. As this was my first time at Stitches West, I had heard about the Market, but never seen it. Everything everyone said was true–it’s amazing and huge and overwhelming. I had serious sensory overload. But boy did I find some lovely, lovely things. I could have easily spent five times what I spent, but I’m proud that I stayed on budget all weekend. (Of course I wrote down all sorts of other places to check out later, even if I hadn’t bought their stuff. Which just means I’ll spend more money on yarn later.) Then I went home and collapsed, exhausted.

Friday morning I had a class on Techniques for Beautifully Finished Sweaters. It was an all right class, but a lot of it was things I already knew how to do. I think I misunderstood what the class was when I registered. I would definitely recommend it to someone who did not know how to do tubular cast on and cast off or duplicate stitch, but I really didn’t learn much new. I really should have read the catalog more carefully. The teacher was good and the information was solid, it was just not new to me. I hung around the marketplace a bit after that, but then I went back to my hotel room to decompress for the rest of the day. I was getting some serious sensory overload happening and I just needed to settle.

Friday night I headed out for the pajama party. It was a lot of fun, with games and food and prizes. I hung out with Laura of Dizzy Blonde Yarns, and she and I may have cooked up some great mischief. More on that later. I also won two prizes–a skein of some lovely soft Cascade Pacific Yarn and a hat pattern for participating in hangman, and a skein of gorgeous lace yarn from Shaky K Fibers in a stunning bright blue. I won that one for getting up and singing a knitting parody song, which I made up on the fly. (This was a weekend of forcing myself out of my comfort zone–between that and actually talking to people I met, I think I did a good job).

The spoils of the night!

Saturday I had two classes. In the morning I learned how to line knit items with silk lining fabric. The class was not with Jean Frost of lined knit jacket fame, but was instead with someone who had test knit for her book, Gwen Bortner. We learned the lining techniques that Jean Frost uses, and made a lined glasses case. So theoretically, I now know how to line a jacket. But it would take about a million years, because my hand-sewing leaves much be desired. I’m still really excited about the whole thing, and definitely ready to play around with the technique to get better.

The inside of my glasses case. Proof that I need to work on my hand sewing.

In the afternoon, I learned how to play with traveling stitches with Cookie A. I love Cookie A’s patterns so much and I’ve knit several of her socks. It was really great to have her break down the math and charting behind designing ribs and cables that travel (as opposed to just being a vertical column). It also helps because I have a design I’ve been kicking around in my brain and her techniques might just make it work.

That evening, I decided to take myself out to dinner, instead of just eating the fruits and veggies I had in my hotel room. I wore my Celestarium shawl (I’d been wearing my knitwear all week because that’s what you do at Stitches), and went out to a restaurant. As I was leaving, some women ran after me to ask about my shawl. It turned out that one of them was the designer, Audry Nicklin. She took a picture of me and posted it in her blog. We had a really nice chat about designing and photography, and it was so great to meet her.

Sunday morning, I bid Stitches West a bittersweet goodbye. First I had a class on sweater finishing with Leslye Solomon (the link is to her store), which was fantastic. I feel a lot more confident in my seaming, which is part of knitting I’ve never enjoyed or felt particularly good at. Then I hung around the marketplace and waited for them to do the grand prize drawing. I didn’t win, which was too bad, because I really could have had some fun with $750 cash in the marketplace. Oh well. Then it was a long and exhausting drive home. I got home exhausted, overwhelmed, my brain crammed full of knitting knowledge, and ready to do it again next year!

Stay tuned for the obligatory this-is-the-amazing-yarn-I-bought post and my much delayed Liebster Award nominations (finally!).