Is It Done Yet?

I remember the long car rides of my youth riding unseatbelted in the back of my dad’s Lincoln Continental. He always thought seat belts were “dangerous” that they’d cut you in half in a car accident (we are talking about waist belts). He’d had the car lovingly restored, painted a darkish silver, high-polish chrome handles on the suicide doors and reupholstered in white leather.

Though my father knew little about fixing cars, it was his love for them that instilled a similar passion in me. I could name any car on the road—especially the sports cars. And I got fairly adept at looking after them myself before they got so complicated.

Later, when I started racing, driving to the track, I’d get that same feeling, the impatient “Are we there yet?” I’d anxiously grip and ungrip the wheel anticipating the fear and fun to come.

run channel

A few years back I sold my racecar to a collector and doubled down on knitting and kayaking. Both are safer and considerably cheaper habits!

I’m ¾ of the way through another project and sadly I’m gripped with the desire to put it down or get it over with. And that feels like the wrong way to look at the situation. I know I’ll feel a huge sense of accomplishment when it’s done, but right now, I’m in the doldrums of a 1×1 rib to the finish line.

I wish I were a faster knitter!!

Sunsets–its THE thing about West Beach

Everyone agrees—islanders and visitors alike—that the best sunsets on Orcas Island are seen from West Beach. People drive, walk, bicycle, jog, kayak, even hitchhike just to take in the view.

On a clear day, with no clouds, the sunsets are rather banal, but when there is weather—and in particular a forest fire on the mainland—the sky lights up with some of the most amazing colors.

I thought I’d just post a few of the memorable ones from summer until now.


Mitts and Hat for the Strong Silent Type

My kayak instructor, a sage and serious young man, is a man of few words. When he speaks you want to listen, especially when you are on open sea. And since Nick and I have become weekenders on Orcas Island, he and his partner are folks we think of as friends.

One mitt done. The other a WIP. The small mitt (left) is the swatch.
One mitt done. The other a WIP. The small mitt (left) is the swatch.

The sage came to the island from the Northeast after his lovely partner decided she wanted to live here. And who wouldn’t! If I could figure out a way to afford to stay full time I would too. They make a go of it and I admit their tenacity. And with their joint help and that of the island shepherdesses, this might happen for me someday.

Finished Mitts
Finished Mitts

Along with partnership, comes shared laundry responsibilities. And like my Nick, his partner is sometimes less cautious with things that might need more care. Nick remembers to cold wash “technical” clothing, but doesn’t think about separating light from dark. So I’ve a load of once ivory, now gray, Lululemon tops. The sage now has smaller and denser woolens, like a Patagucci hat which now resembles a skull cap.

A perfect travel project!
A perfect travel project!

Upon hearing about the troubles (and seeing him try to force it on) I decided I should make him a set of mitts, to keep his hands warm while leaving his fingers free with a matching hat which would be wash and wear. In grandma’s stash was a worsted weight acrylic, called Softee. While the hand is not terribly nice, these yarns have their place. One is for a person in and out of saltwater all day.

I made with very few modifications—mainly making changes only when things were unclear in the patterns (like keeping the ribs vertical on the hat instead of a swirl pattern—see my Notes for details). They are Robbin Abernathy’s Simple Ribbed Fingerless Mitts and Tammy Burke’s Ribbed Hat.

Finished hat with mitts!
Finished hat!

What I’d do differently:

The thumb gusset on the mitts was a bit tighter than expected. This was acerbated by me adding more length to provide more thumb protection from the elements. I’d make the thumbhole bigger. I’d also figure out a way to have more of a K2P2 pattern. The one lone rib looks like it doesn’t quite fit with the rest and adding a second knit stitch might actually kill two birds with one stone.

The hat perfectly matches the mitts. The ribs worked okay, but not great—they are a bit wonky on the edges. Maybe that was my errata, but I suspect not. Could be a result of the yarn too. I’m tempted to start over as I have enough yarn to do so and treat this as a “sample”.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Sunset from the nearby beach
Sunset from the nearby beach

Ah the dream of a having a different lifestyle. I’m part way there since I purchased a second home on Orcas Island, though this creates some new challenges (like commuting and costs of second home ownership). It’s definitely quieter spending half weeks here and I suspect it will get even better when I trade the city house for a pied-à-terre.

November will mark my fifth anniversary with my lovely, brilliant husband. And for the first time in my life, it has been a joint endeavor putting clothes on back, food on table and a roof overhead. I have a great paying job—and have had for many years, but the older I get in high-tech the younger everyone else seems, the faster the pace moves, and the more I feel like I’m slipping behind. A book that has helped is French Women Don’t Get Facelifts by Mireille Guiliano. She found a second career in writing—something I love to do too—after being the CEO of Verve Clicquot USA.

Kayaking with husband in Lover's Cove, Orcas Island
Kayaking in Lover’s Cove, Orcas Island

These days I‘m often asked to speak to young researchers about careers and yet, deep inside, I feel a bit lost. So how can I, in good faith, tell them what they should be doing to be successful when I’m not sure about my own career? Of course we are at different career stages, so my advice works for them. It just doesn’t work for me. Not anymore.

There was one bit of advice that I got early in my career than might still be true though, ‘risk equals happiness.’ If you are willing to risk everything, you are much more likely to find a career that you are enthusiastic about.

Sign on once of my deer proof gardens
Sign on one of my deer proof gardens

So is it time to consider that now?

I look at people like Karen Templer and her small business Fringe Association she moved to Nashville, Tennessee and Ashley Yousling of Woolful who has recently moved to Idaho (a place I worked so hard to get out of) to start a sheep ranch. Both women in tech who followed their dreams. I’ll admit it, I’m green with envy. After all,  I’ve been in tech since before they were out of diapers. The point being that younger people can set an example for older ones. You find sages at all ages, no?

Russian blackberries growing everywhere
Russian blackberries growing everywhere–too many to pick!
Gala Apples from the Garden--Yum!
Fresh Gala Apples from the Garden–Yum!
Baby kiwi's (much bigger now)
Baby kiwi’s (much bigger now)

People, and knitters especially, on the island are lovely. “Borrow my loom, please!” and “Stop by for my knitting circle”. The problem is my split life. I simply cannot be an islander and be a constant traveler, researcher and strategist.

More and more I feel the pull of my creative side and I’ve even been talking to a couple of friends on island on how I might promote this site and potentially start selling things—here and at the local gift shops. Even my husband has gotten into it by telling me I should set up a shop called Fruit and Fiber where we could sell my chutneys and the many fruits of our garden alongside wool from the island wool makers and mitts and bags I make from it.

Green Gages Plums
Green Gages Plums
I've got these prune plums coming out my ears!
I’ve got these prune plums coming out my ears!

The trouble is I’d need the time to *make* these items. I also wonder how it will change my desire to knit when it won’t be for myself or gifts for my friends and family. What happens when it becomes my job. Will I still love it so much? I think so.

I’ve got designs and patterns that my friends say will sell and the San Juans, especially Orcas Island, are a vacation mecca where people come to buy little reminders of their trips (or they get cold and buy it out of necessity). They think that even if I didn’t go “online” I’d still have a market for my goods.

A seed Stitch Bag--partially my own design
A seed Stitch Bag–partially my own design

Well that’s my quandary for today. It makes me want to miss the late ferry back to the mainland Monday night. Perhaps not today, but someday. Hopefully soon.

Mitts with the Hat
Mitts with the Hat

Making the Move

To be candid, I don’t live on Orcas Island—right now. I live near my high-tech, high stress day job which requires quite a bit of travel. My current home, which I spent years gutting and getting just right, is in the shadow of my office; so close I could walk—if I had an hour to kill.

I’ve lived in or near my present home for almost 15 years, before that graduate school in Arizona, before that in Idaho where my family is presently on their 10th generation (or more). So you could say, the Northwest is my ancestral home.

Kayaking on the small bay my new house sits above last September
Kayaking on the small bay my new house sits above last September

I’ve been going to Orcas Island ever since I arrived in the Pacific Northwest and as an avid kayaker, I find Orcas to be the most ideal for the sport, less shipping lane traffic, more places to go and see  by human-powered craft and a range of conditions from exciting to peaceful. Having nearly died of hypothermia when a shipping container ship’s bow wave capsized my kayak off San Juan Island, I have learned the value of better equipment, knowing the tides, dry suits and avoidance of big ships.

We’ve been looking for land to build on Orcas, so that we could potentially build a place to retire to when, presumably we could better afford it, and talking about it for far longer, so finding a house with close water access right on the bay we wanted to live on was unexpected. We were staying at West Beach resort. On our way to look at a lot up the road we passed by the house directly next to the resort and Nick said “This place is perfect. I wonder if we can turf these people out.” On the way back the guy that lives there was hanging up a “for sale” sign. It was fate. What else could we do but make an offer? Now there is just the boring stuff—loan, inspection, moving…

We know we will eventually live there full-time. Because there is a house it is likely to be sooner rather than later. For now the plan is to split the time between both places a three-day/four-day plan since our jobs keep us on the mainland. That is, if the inspect tomorrow works out okay. Fingers crossed!