Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Last Three Weeks- Crafting

In the last three weeks I have made more things than I ever thought possible. Well, that's not true, I know it is possible to make a lot more than I made, but it was record output for me. I didn't manage a handmade gift for everyone, but the dream still lives on. It is possible if I can manage these three things: start earlier (as in next month), get people to stop having birthdays between Christmases (don't know how that one's going to go over), and by not working on any other side projects (yeah right, already blew that one).

This year I just didn't start on time or give myself enough time. And in one example of spectacularly poor planning I signed up for a quilt class on December 7th. I don't really regret it though: Here's the picture from the pattern front; mine will look very different.

The class went from noon until 6 pm and that was right before the last two weeks of school (which consists of not a little bit of grading, planning, and copying). In addition to lasting pretty much all day this class required a good bit of "homework." Now, teachers are notoriously bad students, but in this way I completely break that mold. I listen when the instructor is talking, don't skip class, and always do all of my homework. So, the Friday before class I bought my fabric. I wanted something that sort of resembled the Alaska wildflower mix that we saw this summer.
I ended up with a mix of more browns than greens, but still really like it and that weekend proceeded to cut out 224 6"x8" rectangles and 224 3.5" squares. Then my loving husband devotedly drew not one, but two lines on the backs of the squares.
The lines were where I sewed, and the second line is because I have this crazy idea that one day I'll use the leftover half-square triangles for something very cool.

I went to class and and worked almost the entire time, but because I had two lines to sew on every block it took twice as long. So when I left, of the 56 blocks I need to complete my quilt, I had a grand total of seven completed. But I think they are lovely!
I love the way the blue stands out and I think the rest will do the same.

Now if only I can think of something to do with all of these...

But, I put aside my Twinkle quilt (sadly) in order to get back on the holiday crafting train. I had quite a bit planned and not all of it ended up finished. Some not at all and others partially. In the partially finished group was a pair of socks for Bob. He ended up with 1 and I finished the other today. I tried to tell myself it was because I wanted to make sure it would fit right, but really I just ran out of secret knitting time.

My mom also received an unfinished gift: a stocking. The stocking part is finished, but the ruffle that attaches to the top is not quite done (about 4 more rows I think) and then you knit a cuff up from there.

Here's a little back story on this stocking: My mom has wanted this stocking since she saw the pattern in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine from 1990. You do the math on that. And after she knit Bob and stockings and was buying yarn to knit Bobby's, I volunteered to knit hers. Bad, bad idea. How fast she agreed should have told me something.

She brought me the pattern and the yarn and flipped open the magazine to show me the picture:
It said to turn to page 113 for the index of directions, and then that sent me to the actual pattern on page 79. This circuitous route to the pattern should have been my first sign that this was not going to be a simple deal. Or the mention of the word "heirloom" in the description (think: "Ah, yes, this si the stocking that cost poor aunt Leah her sanity."). And, if that didn't give it away the page of directions should have. It's three columns and the first two are devoted to lace patterns. At the top of one it had a little note that said the following:
Skill Level
For the expert knitter.
(The italics were theirs.)

I took it home and got nauseous just reading the patterned sections. I told Bob I had three options:

Option 1. Work on my lace knitting skills. Build them up through a series of other progressively more challenging projects.
Pros: A trail of other achievements leading up to this one. An experienced if not "expert" would be attempting it when the time came, instead of knit-a-sweater-with-a-duck-tail-me.
Cons: It would be another 18 years before my mom got her stocking. I might develop a mental block about this project and that alone could keep me from ever knitting the stocking.

Option 2. Knit the thing starting now. Just go at it and hate my life for the next 3-5 years.
Pro: It would get done eventually and I would feel great when it was finished.
Con: The whole hating life for 3-5 years thing. (I'm pretty sure divorce may have been in the cards with this one.)

Option 3: Outsource my knitting.
Pros: My mom would get her stocking. The stocking would be done right. My mom would still have a sane (and married) daughter.
Con: I wouldn't have actually knit the stocking I would have paid someone to knit it and I got into the whole handmade thing because I wanted my hands to be the ones doing the making.

Bob was a big fan of option 3, I kind of wanted to go for option 2: it seemed dangerous and edgy.

I ended up giving it a try. I didn't get passed the 3rd row of the 1st pattern and I only got past the 1st row because my sister (who I had literally taught to knit the week before) pointed out one little phrase in the pattern I was overlooking. Yeah, ironic, huh?

I took it in to ask a woman who can knit with the best. She suggested I chart it out. I had knit from charts before so I did.
I was pretty impressed with myself that I could even write out the chart (it wasn't really that hard, though) and after I had a visual of what I was doing I was unstoppable. I knit a sample to make sure I could knit the pattern I had charted.

It worked and I started on the real thing. One hour before my family was due to come over I closed up the heel and wove in the ends. I stuffed the stocking, fabric to line it, and the almost finished ruffle into a project bag I made my mom(she had to have at least one finished gift) and put it in a box for Bob to wrap.

It looks much better in real light. It's knit out of natural white wool in a light sport weight. And it's not blocked so it's hard to appreciate some of the finer details (such as the over 300 bobbles). I was pretty happy. I may be getting ahead of myself, after all it's not completely done yet, but I didn't even realize that actually knitting the stocking and maintaining my sanity and marriage was an option!

Other than that project I also sewed 5 bags, knit 2 hats, sewed 1 apron, and helped my sister sew a needle case for the sister that figured out an "expert" pattern after knitting for one week. I'm kind of jealous of the needle case actually... ...

I still have a few gifts I want to make, and since I haven't seen those people yet, the gifts aren't known to be late yet... So really, they're not, right?

All of that brings me through until today when I started cutting out the pieces for my New Year's Mystery Quilt (doing my homework, but also breaking one of my rules for finishing all my gifts for Christmas). I don't know what the final quilt will look like; all I have are fabric requirements and my friend Sally helping me pick out fabric. I still have some strips to sew together and cut, but I'm almost done.
I'm very excited to see how the final quilt turns out!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Last Three Weeks- Bobby

I haven't blogged in 3 weeks. I meant to plenty of times. I even started a few posts, but they never were finished and then their moment had passed. So, here it is three weeks since my last post, and quite a bit has happened. This post will cover Bobby and his exploits. I'll post again later about my crafting pursuits.

The last time I posted Bobby was ridiculously close to crawling. He would even sort of meditate on his hands and knees, but then revert to his tummy crawl. Well, he saw another little boy crawling around and decided crawling was definitely the cool thing to do. He is unstoppable now.
His speed made it impossible for us to always be right next to him and so we baby proofed with all of the safety paraphernalia. That leaves him pretty much just his toy basket to get into, and for the longest time one of his favorite games was pulling it out and tipping everything out of it.

He wants to get into everything (and often does), and I knew it was time for the second level of baby-proofing when I was in the kitchen and leaned over to check on him and he was munching on the wrapper of some of my secret chocolate stash:

It's incredible how fast he learns and I'm almost scared to think he'll be walking soon. It's amazing, but in an awe, fear, and wonder sort of way at times!

Of course, Bobby just celebrated his first Christmas. He received his first Christmas card and was very excited!
Receiving something in the mail reminded us that we needed to actually mail things for them to arrive before Christmas and Bobby helped us wrap presents for his cousins. His reward was this wonderful piece of ribbon that he dragged around for a few days:


In the run up to Christmas he helped by being very self-entertaining and patient while I tried to finish a bunch of presents. He also went Christmas shopping with me and his Nochi and once on a short trip with his daddy. I'm not sure what he thought of all the shake up to his schedule, but I think he enjoyed himself overall.

On Christmas Eve we bundled him up and took him to a candle light service. He was pretty happy to be back in the Bjorn with his daddy. He gets very excited when Bob puts it on.

Bob and I went sans the fire near him during the service, but this was what greeted us as we approached the church. It certainly helped my spirit given that I was still frantically working away at gifts.

On Christmas, Bobby had breakfast with one set of grandparents. The waffles turned out much better, but Bobby still didn't get one. He did, however, hang out with some of his biggest fans, play with a new stuffed dog, and play a little bit of peek-a-boo.


In the early afternoon two more sets of grandparents came by for dinner. We had a pretty good meal, and then he had his first go at opening presents. Here he is getting a tutorial on unwrapping on the present he gave my parents (sorry it's blurry):It took a few more demonstrations before he was ready to tear into paper, but once he understood what he needed to do he was disturbingly good at it.


He even made a go at my presents at one point, but luckily he still had some in his own pile we could distract him with.

He had a great time I would say. He saw almost all of his family, was able to take a nap with his mom for about an hour (we both needed it by then), and received plenty of new books and toys to entertain him when the boxes and paper lose their luster!

He managed to stay in his pajamas all day because it was the only Christmas clothing we had. I didn't get his sweater done in time; my new goal on that is for the new year.

The day after Christmas he received yet another present and was pretty excited:

Then later we all went to a couple's house for Boxing Day. Bobby was able to wear his new Christmas outfit announcing this as his first Christmas and he was able to open another present there and brought one home! He was too tired last night to open it so he opened it this morning and was enthusiastic about all the noises it makes. Bob and I aren't quite sure about it, yet.

But, with so many family and friends that love him (and three day's worth of present opening) I would say he is a very lucky little boy! I hope you had as happy a holiday as he did.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

All Good


Bobby was declared "fixed" at today's appointment. His left kidney is still bigger than his right and will always be, he's at higher risk for high blood pressure later in life, and urinary tract infections could be a problem, but other than that he is set for a "normal" life!

I asked if contact sports were okay; the doctor said, "yes."

Dang it!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside


So, when I get home from work I am greeted by the happiest little man I know! Today when I came to the door my sister opened it and he was there grinning, but then he was very puzzled by the thing on my head. After I got inside and had my shoes off I figured he could try on my hat and then I couldn't resist the scarf. He's quite the little fashion... something.

So, I've been away from blogging for two weeks now. It didn't feel like that long, though, the time was filled with lots of other things. Unfortunately one of those things was not my NaNoWriMo novel. I did break the halfway point before the end of November (25,006 words on November 30th) which was my original goal. I was hoping to do the whole thing, but my new deadline is now then end of this calendar year. Really November is kind of bad planning for that sort of thing. November is when my knitting craving really kicks in to the neglect of all else.

I have been knitting, but I can't talk too much about it. My top-down sweater is put aside for the time being because of all the holiday gift knitting I need to do (that's why I can't say too much about it). I have several projects planned and on the needles. The one I can talk about is Bobby's. Because while he is amazing, he's not reading quite yet, and I have to knit in front of him. That's something I'm hoping to figure out in the future: knitting gifts for people you live with. Suggestions and advice on this front are very welcome.

I am knitting him a sweater:

It's based on a sweater a friend of mine did and I just changed the pattern around the yoke. I'm hoping to get it done soon enough to take pictures and put them in Christmas cards. Now, why I think I'll actually get Christmas cards out this year with a baby when I haven't gotten them out in the past 3 years without one, I don't know, but it's a hope I have. Anyway, this sweater is knit from the top down, so I'm getting closer to the place where I divide for the arms. I'm really hoping it fits him!

That's all I can safely say about knitting so on to Bobby. I can type or talk all day about him. He had his first Thanksgiving.

That morning we tried out our brand new waffle maker. I had been wanting one for quite a while. I think waffles are kind of like magic. You pour in the batter and then with hardly any effort get a beautiful and tasty waffle. Much easier than pancakes in my opinion. So having family over for breakfast provided the perfect reason to get this magical waffle maker! So I had my waffle maker and waffle mix and made my disclaimer about it being the first time I had ever made waffles (the magic may take a little bit, you never know) and gave it a whirl.

The first batch turned out pretty good. A few of the squares had holes and they weren't even, but overall, not too bad. Bob read me part of the directions and said maybe we should be putting in more batter. So I mixed up 1/2 again as much batter as the first time. I happily poured it onto the iron and spread it a little. As I was closing it I thought, "hmmm, the back is a little drippy. Oh well, there's a little ridge around the edge and I can wipe up any little bit that goes over that."

Bob came around the corner as I closed it and he commented on it as well. But, he pointed out, lots of waffle makers have batter on the edges, so maybe it's supposed to do that.

Then it erupted volcano style. It poured out of the waffle maker, down the sides, onto the counter, onto the stove top, under the dish rack. It was gross and just kept coming. You can see where we had wiped it up, but wow. I'm pretty sure that more poured onto the counters than I had actually made.

As we were cleaning it up it beeped; our waffles were done. So we opened it up and the top half was neatly cooked to the top iron and the bottom half to the bottom iron.

Beautiful.

I thought maybe we needed to let them cook together. Maybe some waffle magic would happen if we gave it another chance. I closed the iron turned it up and let it go a little bit longer. Yeah it didn't work, and notice the little trace of smoke? I ended up peeling the top half of four waffles off the top iron and onto my plate. Bob, got the bottom half.

Some waffle magic did happen though: those waffles were still delicious!

Bobby didn't get waffles (or bacon or eggs or coffee or sausage or juice. Just ask him. He protested the whole time.) that morning, but that afternoon he had a chance to try mashed potatoes. But, he decided they aren't really his thing. His reaction to potatoes made me worry that maybe he's not going to like any vegetables at all. He hasn't liked peas (I'm not giving up though, I think they were just too thick), sweet potatoes, or rice cereal. And then not even plain old white potato? He still loves bananas and pears, but I'm pretty sure you can't survive a lifetime on those two things alone.

In an attempt to find something else he likes we tried out carrots yesterday. Another hit. He took a few tentative bites, had to be encouraged to try again, but then couldn't get enough of them! Here is an interview about his experience:


He's become quite a bit more talkative and has some new tricks, but I'll save some of that for tomorrow.

On Monday of last week we took him in for another renal scan and ultrasound. Tomorrow afternoon we head back to the hospital for the results of those follow-up tests. Hopefully we'll be told that all is well!

Until then bundle up!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Good News, Bad News

Just to ease any possible fears, the bad news isn't really that bad, but I couldn't think of anything to call "ugly" in my life right now (well okay a few things could have worked, but they're more funny than ugly), so I decided "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" wouldn't work as a title; that's what I was left with.

Good news: Bobby is expanding his diet of solid foods. He will now down bananas, apples, and pears.

Bad news: After eating that jar of pears he didn't poop until 3 days later, when we unzipped his one-piece fleece sleeper to discover a poop-and-Bobby pita. Tasty.

Good news: I managed to find a great solid colored cotton/wool blend for my sweater.

Bad news: Apparently cotton is really hard to weave in ends on and make them not show up. Variegation or a lower cotton count would help.

Good news: Cotton is lighter and so I'll have a sweater that won't make me sweat.

Bad news: Cotton is heavier than wool. I won't sweat because of the heat retention of the sweater but because I'm building up great core muscles supporting its bulk.

Good news: My sweater is coming along great! I have 32 more rows and I'll be on to the sleeves!

Bad news: The back kind of makes me look like I have a duck tail (I'm hoping blocking and washing will help.) This also means it's hanging past my rear; add this to the notes above and cringe.

Good news: After falling tragically behind, I'm getting caught up on my NaNoWriMo novel and am pretty confident I can finish this year!

Bad news: I feel like I should make the disclaimer that I'm not writing fiction. It's one of the rules, but I decided that I could put the writing time to whatever use I saw fit as long as I wrote it all about one thing and did all the writing in November. After all writing is not just about telling fictional stories! I still kind of think that, but also feel a pricking of my conscience that I'm not writing fiction.

Good news: I have a very sensitive conscience, and it keeps me from making mistakes I may regret for the rest of my life.

Bad news: When my conscience forced me to confess my NaNoWriMo sin, I was laughed at by a few people.

Good news: Bobby devours books!
Bad news: Literally (pun left there after it was noticed! HA!).

Good news: Bobby is close to crawling!

Bad news: His new found awareness and control over his body makes getting him in and out of clothing and diapers about as easy as wrestling a greased pig with your feet.

Good news: Bobby is really close to crawling!

Bad news: Bob and I get nothing done because we keep yelling, "Come here!" so neither of us miss those first ... ... crawls. What do you call those anyway?

Good news: Bobby is really, really close to crawling!

(As a side note I didn't notice the soundtrack until I was watching it, but he had a great sense of timing, don't you think?!)
Bad news: The outlets aren't all covered yet, I need to learn to vacuum more often (read: at all) and his books are on a low shelf intended for easy access to literature.

See? Not so bad!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Whew!

So, this last week and weekend has been a bit of a flurry. I've been getting a good bit of knitting done, and as you can see from the latest few posts Bobby's been doing wonderful things with amazing frequency. He ate pears today and loved them. I'm actually a little worried about what his diaper is going to reveal tomorrow; he ate almost a whole jar. I've been trying to work on my NaNoWriMo novel, but haven't been able to get too much uninterrupted time. However, I am still working on it! I've been getting some knitting done as well. (It's easier to pick up your knitting and work for a bit, whereas the writing requires a little more focused time.) Of course, being sick hasn't helped. Bobby, in a marvelous show of generosity, shared his germs with me. We are recovering together though!

Hopefully over the next few days and this weekend we'll be able to get back into the more productive swing of things; November started with such promise. Ideally we can get back some of that momentum and carry it through to December! I'll need it if I'm going to get all of those Christmas presents made. I mean, Thanksgiving is soon and this holiday season seems to be creeping up on us at a pretty quick pace. Does it feel that way to anyone else?

And speaking of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I love the holidays. Love 'em, love 'em, love 'em! So, I'm wondering: is it too early to break out the holiday music? Not the straight Christmas stuff necessarily, but maybe the choral holiday music in other languages? What about Handel's Messiah?

I was wondering about that in the shower this morning.

We have had the same CDs in our stereo for a while now.

It's probably time for a change.

I'm not sure what Bob's going to think of that.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Bobby Eating!

So, we've been struggling with getting Bobby to eat solid food, but today he actually ate bananas by choice! We were pretty much at wit's end, and so we decided that if he was resisting that much, then he probably wasn't ready.

So we gave him a couple weeks and tried again today. He didn't go for the cereal, and I thought this try was going to be horrible and frustrating all over again. But then I broke out the bananas and this was the messy, but oh so wonderful, result.

So, while it may seem very strange for any child of Bob's and mine to be a picky eater, he is. I suppose he'll take after his parents and order things custom made off of menus, want his sandwiches cut just a certain way, and get upset of the cheese is on the bottom of the burger instead of the top. I bet we'll even have to stock both crunchy and creamy peanut butter.

Oh wait, we already do.

Bobby's First Cold

It struck us this past Tuesday. It was bound to happen. He was 5 days out from being 7 months old, and hadn't shown even the slightest hint of being vulnerable to all the vicious little germies out there. But then Tuesday night he got fussy, feverish, and his nose got runny. He didn't sleep. He just cried.

On Wednesday I took him to the hospital, to have the pediatrician make sure it wasn't an ear infection or the black plague. It wasn't either (yet), but she gave us a souped up version of the snot sucking bulb syringe. He probably won't be sending that syringe a Christmas card. In fact, he may write to Santa to explain just how bad that syringe has been this year. Bob helped him dub it "Nose Bane" this morning.

I took a day off work, Bob took a day off work, we both worried for a day at work, and now it's the weekend. Now we're just waiting for him to get better. He has been getting better, but still has occasional bouts of very thick, nasty sounding snot in his nose. He doesn't have a fever anymore. He sleeps for longer stretches at a time. I'm hoping for a full recovery by Wednesday. Well, I'm hoping for it sooner, but not really expecting it until then.

He still has been amazing:

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Power of a Good Toy

In case you were wondering, I think my son is amazing. Pretty much everything he does is wonderful. Notice I said pretty much, there have been moments that weren't quite up to par. (I don't think I blogged about the time he was splashing his feet in, ... uhm, waste.) But, one of the most amazing things about him (and I'm reasonably sure about all babies) is his ability to learn. It leaves me speechless sometimes to watch him grasp new ideas and to see visible progress in how he learns to interact with the world. He loves people, loves to talk and play, and is forever curious about new noises and people, but he also loves to manipulate things.

Now, I don't believe babies should spend the majority of their time interacting with just toys. I think that toys are fine, but they shouldn't be used as babysitters and they certainly shouldn't take over your house. For example, if, with a child Bobby's age, you can't pick up all the toys in under 2 minutes maybe there's a problem. Just a personal opinion.

That said, I'll be the first to admit that it is really hard to not get Bobby something each time we go by Classic Toys (which is quite frequent given its proximity to the quilt store). And, it is great when you find a toy that they just totally dig. That special toy can also be very hard to predict. I think his monkey is pretty cool, he thinks it's okay as long as there's nothing else more interesting around. I keep hoping he'll grow to like the monkey, but for now it's relegated to the bottom of the toy basket.

One week ago we discovered Bobby's new favorite toy. Bob was changing the height on the crib, and the mobile was down on the floor and near enough to Bobby, who was sitting in his Bumbo seat (another wonderful purschase), that he had grabed it and was shaking the living daylights out of it. He was frantic about the cards that hang from it, so I pulled them off and apart and it has been true love ever since.

Here he is showing off his cat card.

He will sit for at least 30 minutes and play with them. Picking them up, chewing on them, hitting them against each other, sliding them around, hitting them against the chair legs (which are in pretty close running with the cards, but a lot less portable). He even sat and shared his cards with me a little while ago. We passed one back and forth to each other. How cool is that!?

These cards are so motivating that we are even able to use them to encourage his locomotion.

I'm still not sure it's entirely ethical to take it out of his hands and put it further away, but he's not quite confident enough to go for them if they seem too far away, but he can also be quick as lightning when he decides to go for it.

Now, that is a good toy: it lets him manipulate things, gets him moving, and lets us play with him!

Here's a good night thought from Bobby: Don't forget to check for toe jam!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sunday Night

So, this weekend was certainly full of excitement! But among the most exciting for me was my sweater progress: I've worked a good bit on the body so I put it on scrap yarn to try it on again. The last time I tried it on it was so short it was kind of hard to tell if it would fit. But, I think it'll work!

The v-neck still looks like a v-neck and it fits pretty nice around the shoulders, though I'll not make an absolute statement on that until I've put sleeves on it. They're still rolled up right now, and with all the scrap yarn it feels a bit like a cast-off old garment when I'm trying it on. But, it's worth it to know that all of those stitches that looked bunch up on the needles actually are turning into something resembling a real sweater.
The knitting has been going well, but I'm really relieved to be done with the second skein. It was very frustrating; it had three of these in it:
Yeah, that's right, three. So the result is even more ends to weave in on this pretty unforgiving cotton blend. I can understand one, but three? Really?

Oh well. It's in the past. I'm on the third skein and it should hopefully be better than that.

And, to end on a really positive note, here's a parting shot of Bobby!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Saturday Morning

I don't know why, but I really don't mind getting up on Saturdays. Well, to be honest I don't mind it on every Saturday. This Saturday morning I got up earlier than usual because I had a lot to get done and I had managed a relatively reasonable amount of sleep. It is 9:20 right now and I have already made cinnamon rolls (don't be too impressed, they were from a tube), had a cup of hot chocolate, eaten a cinnamon roll, and typed the first 1762 words of my NaNoWriMo novel! For my next feat of amazing-ness, I plan to write this blog post, shower and knit a few rounds on my sweater before my husband and baby wake up. That may put it before 10 AM!

I was honestly a little worried about today. We have a meeting at 11, some tentative lunch plans, and dinner/later evening plans. And tomorrow we have church, lunch plans, and dinner plans. I was thinking the universe was conspiring to keep me from my attempt at my first 30-day novel. But, here I am awake, fed, and enthusiastic. Right now I'm even hoping to blog again later today with the pattern for my sister's hat, Bobby's mittens, and an update on my sweater progress!

Wow!

Saturdays are days for doing things!

Maybe I'll even get tomorrow's word count done today!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Unpredictable and Sneaky Things

My husband either has the inside track on yarn trading or he has a deal with the universe to be right in very unpredictable sorts of ways. If you think back to my previous post about the sweater I'm knitting you'll remember that I bought my yarn in a beautiful reddish color but there wasn't enough. So I freaked out and bought new yarn. Well, before I bought the new yarn my husband suggested that I try one of the other yarn stores in town. I really like the yarn store in question. It's one of my favorite places, but it's a bit of a drive for me, and I was already holding the 7 skeins of my new yarn as we were having the conversation. I pointed out that they may not carry the same yarn, that if they did they may not have the same color, and that even if they beat the odds on both those points, it probably would not be the same dye lot. I have a small point to make on dye lots as well, but it will have to wait. He, bowing out to my clearly superior knowledge about yarn, said, "okay."

Then last Thursday I went with a friend out to that yarn store. I found some beautiful yarn for a hat for a new little girl and looked through their sweater patterns. Then as left the patterns I saw some familiar labels. Wonder of wonders, they carried this yarn! And, though there was a much smaller quantity than at the store where I made my original purchase they even had a suspiciously beautiful reddish colored yarn. I expressed my disbelief to my friend and related the story as I walked over to prove that it was still the wrong dye lot. Realistically, I probably couldn't remember a dye lot number from four weeks earlier, but that didn't matter right now. I pulled out a skein and showed it to my friend, turned the label and was confronted with a very, very familiar looking number.

I had bought this yarn four weeks earlier, then gone back and fished through at least four different colorways searching for seven skeins of matching dye lots. I looked through a brown, two different blues, and finally the green I settled on. I had seen a lot of different dye lot numbers, all on the same label. But, I was pretty convinced this was the right dye lot number. I disbelievingly bought two skeins. I got home and checked almost before taking off Bobby's hat and jacket. My husband had been right. On the upside, I now have the yarn for a second sweater. Bob was very gracious about being right. In fact, he had forgotten he had suggested it in the first place. And really, how likely is that?

Onto sweaters: I'm in love with the idea of them, totally in love. I had a great time at my second sweater class. I put the sleeves on scrap yarn, knit happily along, joined a new skein, and hoped that it would be the right size. Then, this morning I put all of it on scrap yarn, then this afternoon I tried it on. It's still a bit short (armpit level) but it fits so far! I'm pretty excited about it, but am a little intimidated by the fact that I now need to knit about 20 inches of a stockinette tube for the body. That's an awful lot of knitting. Just straight going around in a circle knitting. I'm sure I'll get it done, and I'm very excited to be moving forward on it, but a bit overwhelmed by how much knitting it's going to be. I went and bought two more patterns for sweaters so that when this one is finished I can use my original yarn to knit a cardigan, then find yarn (I have an idea of which yarn and it kind of makes me drool) and knit a wrap-around sweater. But, first I have to knit this one. And, that's an awful lot of knitting. I'm just going to have to depend on my new found sweater love to guide me through it all!

In the interim between my knitting classes I kept busy with that quilt class and two other projects. I knit my sister a hat. I'm hoping that the quick turn around time will earn me some forgiveness for the tardiness of her last two Christmas presents. It was fun and mostly original. I used some of the stripe patterns from Elizabeth Zimmermann's "Knitting Workshop" book, but other than that it is (as far as I know) an original pattern. I was particularly proud of the fact that I was able to work stripes into the decrease rounds. I'll type it up and post it later.

Then I knit my son one thumb-less mitten (my son does have thumbs and two hands). The mitten is very long, and if his elbows weren't quite so cutely chubby they could hold the mittens up to cover his entire forearm. But I like them and will finish the other one soon. Truth be told, I'll probably knit him two new ones so they don't look as though they are concealing alien fingers.

I also have a pair of mittens for my mom that have been in the works for a while now. I should really get those finished, as well.

And, I need to add flaps to my hand warmers and my husbands fingerless gloves. (Dang this early cold weather!)

And, then I realized that in 4 days I have another very large project coming up. The month of November didn't sneak up on me. I've known for a while now that November, the 4th in particular, is getting closer and closer. But, for those of you that don't know, November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and this had completely slipped my mind.

For the last two years I've tried (unsuccessfully) to participate in NaNoWriMo. By participate I mean I've tried to write the novel, but haven't been involved with the writing groups. I just really like the idea of committing that much time and effort to writing, while still having an end point. And, just like fixed holidays, this comes up every November. I'm not certain why I was sort of surprised by it. When I was signing up for quilting and knitting classes, I even made sure not to take too many during November, conceivably to help free up some time for writing. All I have planned for November is one more sweater class, a Friday night work session, and hopefully a block of the month get together. My goal this year is to at least write every day and get half-way to the page minimum. I know that seems to be setting the bar kind of low, but it will be an improvement over my last two years' performances.

We'll see, maybe I'll surprise myself. But, either way I have a lot of projects to finish before November starts up. So, I'm going to go knit on my sweater now!

Dye lot rant: If I order 11 skeins of one colorway, please, please, please don't send me 10 skeins of one dye lot and one skein of another.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Taking the Sweater Plunge

I have recently started two new projects: a knit sweater and a lap quilt. The lap quilt will be fun, it uses an interesting technique, but what I'm really obsessed with right now (I even took it with me to the quilt class) is the sweater.

I have never knit a sweater before. They are rather time consuming, and I'm more into instant craft gratification. But, with the support of my mom and friend I have taken the plunge. I am taking a class for this sweater. I was always a very good student, and fear of total humiliation in front of a class always kept me up on my work in school, so I figure this is the most likely way for me to ever actually finish this sweater. Have I mentioned that sweaters are long term commitments? When my own fortitude abandons me, the entirely-fictional(probably)-but-feared-nonetheless guilt will theoretically drive me to finish my "homework" on this project.

I signed up for the class and then about two weeks later I went out with my mom and bought the pattern and yarn. We could pick any pattern from a group and I picked the one that I thought I was most likely to wear when it was all finished. I figure that if I am going to put all of this effort into this sweater, I may as well like it enough to wear it. Then I picked out yarn. I found some lovely, light cotton wool blend in a nice reddish brown, and because there wasn't enough of that one color I decided my sweater would need a few stripes to add interest. I decided against buying needles at that point because I needed to knit a gauge swatch first before investing in 4 new pairs of circulars. I went happily home. The next day my mom showed me her beautiful swatch which was incidentally the perfect gauge. The pressure was on to finish my own swatch and make sure it was to gauge before class in two weeks.

The next day I was measuring my own beautiful swatch before I cast-off, just to assure myself it was indeed perfect, when I realized that my 4 inch swatch was actually closer to 5 or 6 inches. Dismayed, I remeasured, counted the inches on the ruler, checked them against another ruler (because I hear these rulers are actually quite prone to errors), reread the gauge information on the yarn label and the pattern, and after all that, I checked my needle size. I was using the completely wrong needle. Completely. I have no idea what I was thinking, but they were the totally wrong needles. So, I ripped out my swatch and began anew with the right size needles. When it was done, my gauge swatch was perfect!

In the weeks before the class, I started getting nervous about the amount of yarn I had. What if it wasn't enough? Should I really be trying to put a stripe into a pattern I had never knit before? What if it turned out all wonky and I never wore the sweater after it was finished? So, I decided to go back and buy more of the color I wanted. It wasn't until I got to the store that I remembered why I had decided on a stripe int he first place. So, then I decided my best option was to just buy all new yarn. (I cleared this with my husband via the phone when I was supposed to be picking him up from work. I like to think the fact that I was his only mode of transpotation had no bearing on his decision to let me buy more yarn.) I went through three different colors before deciding on one that had enough of a single dye lot to make the large size sweater. So, now my gauge swatch is a different color, but the same yarn, and I'm hoping that won't make any difference at all. That swatch, my new yarn, my needles, and pattern all went with me to the first night of class.

There I had a pan-emotional experience.

I was very inspired during the beginning of this class (note that this is before I actually started knitting the sweater) as the teacher showed us two sweaters she had done based on these patterns, modeled a third, and showed us a fourth that still had one sleeve yet to go. It made me giddy to think that one day I too could have 3 or 4 hand knit sweaters in my closet. It helps that none of her sweaters look "homemade" in the sense that one arm is a full-length sleeve while the other is a neat three-quarter length. They all fit her well and looked neat, professional, and comfortable!

I was terrified as she picked my swatch to demonstrate how to measure for your gauge.

I was relieved when she asked if I wanted 5 stitches to the inch, which I did.

I was delighted to discover that I could knit a size medium sweater.

I was excited as I cast-on, but disappointed to discover I had made an early mistake.

Then I was frustrated when I realized that 5 stitches to the inch is actually a relatively small gauge for a first sweater. Remember that whole instant-craft gratification issue? Well, if you are knitting say a 40" sweater and your gauge is 5 stitches to the inch that's 200 stitches. If , though, you are smart, think ahead, and know yourself you might instead pick a pattern with a 4 stitch to the inch gauge (or even 3.5), which would mean you'd be working with 160 stitches or potentially as few as 140! As a result, I was complaining in class that "this is taking forever!" My friend leaned over and said, "It is a sweater, you know. It's gonna take a while." She was and is right, of course, but I was more concerned about not finishing the "homework" before the next time the class met in two weeks.

I am already up to the point she wanted us to be at for the next class (in 6 days), and I'm loving the sweater so far. The v-neck actually looks like a v-neck!

Though early in the sweater process, I have already learned at least three things. First, I should lose some more weight. I then could spend less money on yarn and knit a smaller size. That would mean that I would have less expensive and quicker sweaters, which would get me closer to that closet with handmade sweaters. Second, I should really look into chunky and bulky yarns. Third, as in most of life, it helps to have supportive friends and family that can both encourage you to try new things and bring you back to reality when you get a bit ridiculous.

It is a sweater after all. It's gonna take a while. I just hope it's worth the busy wait.

A Little Bit Artsy, A Little Bit Angsty

The other day on the way home I saw some strikingly yellow trees along the side of the road. It was a road we drive often, and I hadn't noticed them before. They were the beautiful golden yellow that I love of fall up here, but there was something else. It took me minute and then I realized why they were so striking: they were spruce trees; evergreens that had suddenly turned yellow.

In one of my English classes we did a project that asked students to use something they found in nature as a jumping off point for a revelation about our lives as humans. So, my mind starting doing just that. Maybe, I thought, they noticed everyone else's leaves turning and wanted to get in on the color changing trend. Perhaps they decided to bleach their tips and went a bit crazy. Probably, they had sucked the yellow from the surrounding trees that were now bare of leaves of any color. I mentioned these trees to my husband and we walked down to them after dinner.

Upon closer inspection it was very clear that they were dying. The snow underneath them was littered with yellow pine needles and their branches looked stark and bare. This sent my mind in a whole new direction, searching for those comparisons to our existence. These trees were three friends, maybe even family. They were triplets born, grown, and dying together. They were three old men going gold instead of grey. They were three men watching stoically as the trees around them seemed to get younger. Needless to say it put me in a somber sort of mood.

Then on the way home my husband and I walked past this. If this doesn't sum up human mortality and our vain attempts to stave it off, I don't know what does.

On a lighter note, maybe this is what Calvin (of Calvin & Hobbes) will do in the snow when he is older.