Ten Things I Learned in NaNoWriMo 2018

In honour of the letteredness of the event, I have resorted to letters in lieu of numbers. Here, therefore, are J things I learned during [Inter]National Novel Writing Month.

A. I can actually do it – even when I’m tired. Even when I’d rather curl up in bed with a book and/or fall asleep. It helps to set a smaller goal – say, 500 words – and promise myself I can stop after that. It gets the momentum going.

B. If I find myself extremely reluctant – practically unable to get to work, it’s a sign there’s something unresolved that needs fixing in the next scene. Much better to stop trying to write and instead focus on finding a fix.

Femme mecanicienne8
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Necessity is the Mother of Design

Some people speak the language of gifts with flair and elegance. I am not one of those people. (I could go into a discussion of love languages, but that’s probably a post all of its own.) While I am always delighted when I can think of exactly the right gift for someone – and find it in order to give it to them – it doesn’t often happen, and giving a ‘meh’ gift is irksome. (So is receiving it, probably, but all my friends and family have decent enough manners not to say so.)

Facepalm (4254919655)So I have been known, on more than one occasion, to fall back on the scheme of offering to knit someone something. That way they get to choose something they like – assuming it’s within my capabilities – and I get to give them something they will enjoy without having to go into the mall. Win-win.

And then a friend of mine said she’d really like a hooded scarf for her present – and helpfully sent me some pictures so I knew the kind of thing she was thinking of. I went hunting for patterns and – nothing. OK, not nothing. There were cutesy patterns with little animal ears – or paws (not all of them for kids); there were complexly cabled ones (no can do, although I’m hoping to learn this winter); there were fancy lacy ones and ones where the scarf element appeared more like chin ties. There were some in the finest of yarns (my friend wanted something warm, verging on chunky) and some which used so much yarn it would wipe out my entire craft budget for the year.

Ramona and my small stash of yarn :) (81/365)I did find one pattern, however, which looked like what my friend wanted. In fact, it was one of the pictures she’d sent me. It was also, alas, a crochet pattern. And while I can, technically, crochet, the results are not the sort of thing I would inflict on a friend. Certainly not a friend I wanted to keep.

So I decided to branch out, to stretch myself, and to do something I’d never done before. I designed a pattern for a hooded scarf: simple enough for my skills, thick enough to be warm, using little enough wool not to bankrupt me, and creating the look my friend was looking for. With pockets, because there are not enough pockets in this world. Plus it gives you somewhere to keep your hands warm.

And it really is a simple pattern: all you need to know how to do is knit, purl, cast on and cast off. Plus very basic sewing skills (attach A to B, using needle and yarn) and, yes, it helps if you can count. (Embarrassing personal side note: I once applied for a job where the few requirements included being able to read and count. I didn’t get it. I didn’t even get an interview. I’d like to say this was when I was a child, but I was 24 and had a brand-new Master’s degree at the time.) You don’t even need to worry about gauge for this pattern, which means there’s no need to swatch.

19 Jan
In the spirit of sharing which makes this world what it is, I am making the pattern freely available here on the blog (assuming I can figure out the technicalities) and also on Ravelry and OpenRavel. As with everything else on the blog, it’s under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license. This means that you are free to copy the pattern, reuse it, adapt it, sell what you knit from it – anything you like, really, as long as you credit me as the designer and share your derivative works just as freely.

So here it is: the Simple Hooded Scarf with Pockets! Not the catchiest name, I know, but at least you know what you’re getting. Truth in advertising, et cetera.

If you use this pattern, I’d love to see what you do with it! Feel free to leave a link in the comments, and if you’re on Ravelry or a similar craft site, link your project to the pattern for others to see. Have fun!

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Note: the pattern calls for 12-ply yarn, but the yarn I used – while saying 12-ply on the label – knits up more like a 10-ply. For the level of drape shown, go for something around 8wpi; or go thicker for a chunkier scarf.

How to Avoid Taxes

Not that I am suggesting anyone fail to pay their lawful taxes – look where it got Al Capone, for a start. Instead, I turn to the time-honoured practice of the cash-free economy, as a convenient way of reducing or minimizing tax incurred.

A wise and talented friend of mine suggested some time ago that we could swap skills to mutual benefit. I knit, she doesn’t; she is a professional artist and I can’t even conjure the artistic verisimilitude of a stick-man.

So, I am going to knit her a warm wooly winter hat and scarf (patterns selected from Ravelry, the only online social network to which I belong) and she is going to draw a portrait of me (which I plan in due course shall grace the About page).
Let us hope, for the sake of the sighted public, that her kindness as a friend outweighs her accuracy as an artist…

This is not me. This is Oliver Cromwell.

There are a lot of benefits to entering the cash-free economy.
For example, the lack of tax. Yes, tax is still payable on the materials, but the labour is untaxed, as is the final product.

Consider: How many hours at the DDJ would it take to earn the money to pay for a portrait? More than I care to think of, particularly considering that the government would insist on taking a nice fat slice of tax off the top. Shudder.

So much more pleasant to knit instead, which is a) something I enjoy, b) something I find relaxing and c) something I can do while either watching a DVD or listening to my husband read – it doesn’t get much better than that!

Lady Knitting

There’s also the social aspect – particularly important for those of us who work at home. I spent a very enjoyable morning with my friend going through patterns and then selecting yarns and needles. As Marianne asks, “is there a felicity in the world superior to this?”

What skills do you have that others might have need of? Conversely, what skills are you in need of? Cash can be a convenient arrangement when there isn’t a directly reciprocal need, but why go via cash (and be taxed) when you don’t have to? It’s worth asking around – most people are happy to be offered a chance of legal tax avoidance.

Barter, cashless economy, payment in kind, quid pro quo – call it what you will, it’s a great old idea. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to put my feet up, have a cup of tea and knit.