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.

Friday, October 3, 2008

I've Got That Mommy Feeling

There are many joys in parenting: seeing your child smile when he wakes up in the morning, watching him discover the toes at the end of his feet, feeling the strength of his grasp as he explores your hair. There are moments of triumph as he finally figures out how to use his arms to push his face up towards the toy dangled above his head. There are frustrations when he hasn’t eaten in 5 hours, has been acting hungry, is mouthing everything in sight and yet firmly rejects your attempts to feed him unless you are standing, swaying from side to side, and singing his favorite song of the day. But there was one day several weeks ago when I knew I must be a mom.

It must have been at least six weeks ago when Bob and I were home all day with my little boy. It all started well. (It also ended well, but I wasn’t sure it would all the time.) He woke up, ate and we had a little bit of playtime downstairs. Bobby was full of smiles and handed them out generously. It was the start of one of those calm, easy-going days. Then, as is inevitable when food goes in the system, he pooped. It wasn’t extraordinary, but it did help to kick start our day. We went upstairs, Bob changed him and I got him dressed and we started the natural parent shuffle of baby duty.

I showered and dressed while Bob watched Bobby. Then while Bob was in the shower, I sat down with Bobby to read my e-mail and my favorite blogs. Bobby was on my lap and stared at the computer screen then reached for the keyboard. I read out loud to him and shifted him back and forth between my legs, trying to keep him a little distracted. Then, as I heard my husband turn off the shower water, my son decided to poop again.

This, however, was extraordinary. I didn’t smell it or hear it; I felt it. There was a rumble and then a sudden warmth on my left leg where my sweet little boy was perched. I looked down and didn’t see anything, so I hopefully lifted him up. Then saw the trail of processed food and antibiotic flowing along my leg. He was quite content and less fussy than he had been, but I was a bit perturbed that my clean jeans, not to mention the feeling of clean skin, were gone for the day. I ran upstairs as gently as I could, not wanting to jar anymore fecal matter out of Bobby’s diaper, onesie, or pants (yes, it really managed to get through all that), or to shake any of it loose from my own jeans. I laid him on the changing pad and used a wipe to get as much of the goop off of his clothes and mine as I could.

I finished putting on the new diaper right as Bob walked in, smelling of soap and water. He took one look at the wreckage and went back downstairs to start laundry. I got the newly clothed and baby-wipe fragranced Bobby dressed in all new clothes and headed downstairs to change myself. When I got downstairs I discovered more poo had been transferred to my shirt at some point and took this as a sign that I really shouldn’t be going out too much today. My most comfortable pajamas were going to be just fine for this day at home.

Bob and I laughed about the ridiculousness of it all as we considered the relative sizes of our son’s body and its ability to make noises and gooey messes. We puttered around with the various things that make up life until the time came again to change Bobby. I volunteered, hoping for a better experience. So, I settled him on his back pulled out a new diaper, opened the wipes, undid his old diaper and those of you with little boys (and apparently some little girls as well) can probably guess what happened next. Despite my careful practice of keeping Bobby well covered as I change him, he managed to pee all over the lower leg of my pajamas. After all, you can’t always have him covered, and Bobby is quite masterful at taking advantage of his opportunities.

After getting him fully diapered and dressed, I handed him off to Bob and changed yet again. (It suddenly becomes very clear to me why our laundry loads have shot up with the addition of just one very small person.) We settled down for the remainder of this seemingly relaxing day. I think we had lunch about 2:00 and took naps whenever Bobby finally was exhausted from all of his bubble blowing and baby crunches.

Later that evening we were heading out to have dinner. I don’t remember where, but we were dressing up just a bit for it. As a result, I was wearing one of my favorite dry-clean only cashmere sweaters. (One of the two I own, but it’s still exciting that I have more than one!) And, literally as we headed out the door, as my foot crossed the threshold and Bobby’s head peeked out into the cooling air, he puked on my shoulder. He had eaten at least an hour earlier, so this wasn’t the thin runny stuff; it had substance and solidity. There was certainly an element of chunkiness.

It was hilarious. Inconvenient, but hilarious. That was the day I knew I had to be, at least in some small part, a “real” mom. I had been pooped, peed, and puked on; surely this was some sort of anointing. And, lest you think Bob got off easy, later that night Bob sat down to check e-mail and was greeted by a little squish of poop that had spent its day on the chair.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Same Box

I am working on a longer post to be coming soon, but for now I had two things I wanted to share. First, we ran buy a local grocery store today on the way home from work. The little boy, Bob, and I were running in and out to just grab a few things and I had forgotten to grab my fabric grocery bag, but still had my "purse." We ended up with a few more things than we had planned, but I could still fit half of it into my bag, so I asked for just one bag. We are trying to do a little bit to reduce the number of plastic bags out there (and in our house!). And, much to our surprise we were given a little (very little, but hey, I'll take it) discount on our total! It was nice that some place is doing something to recognize and perhaps encourage their customers to not use the store's plastic bags. And, it reduces their costs, so it makes sense. Anyway, I thought that was interesting!

Then, when we got home I checked the mail and there was a survey about my new baby's eating habits. I'm not the best for this kind of information, but I looked through it and figured it couldn't hurt to answer their questions. Then I reached the demographic information and happily filled in the box saying I had at least a college degree, before reaching the boxes for the age groups. I felt a mix of excitement and trepidation (and a tinge of annoyance when I realized I had to actually think before I could remember how old I am) when I realized I wasn't in the "under 20" group or even the newly arrived "20-24" group. No, I had graduated to that third box. I exclaimed over my new box status to my husband who smiled then asked if he and I were in the same box.

I practically doubled over in laughter. I'm not quite to that box, yet!

And, a happy shout out to the newest little box filler: Noah! Congratulations and welcome to the outside world!