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Probably Not the Safest Toy

25 Aug

Bolt gave me a really dirty look. But the baby was fussy and he needed something to distract him. He’s just learning how to grab things and fling them around, much to his amusement. So I gave him the closest thing I had. It just happened to be a knitting needle.

Now, before I get voted worst mother ever, I’d like to say in my defense that it was a circular needle and the part attached to the cord was pointing toward his face, not the pointy side. So, I was reasonably certain that he wasn’t going to poke his eye out. Which, he did not, for the record.

Bug's hands

I have been spending the last almost three months of Bug’s life relearning how to knit with a baby on my lap. It is slowing me down something fierce, especially as he is getting better at grabbing.  We’re making do with a slower pace on everything  around here. I have to choose recipes that can be executed in 20 minute chunks, because that is the longest amount of time that Bug will sit happily in his bouncy chair.

I both love this forced slow-down and deeply hate it. It is the essential duality of my motherhood experience so far. For instance, right now, Bug is fast asleep on my chest. I am so completely in love with him and love feeling his little hands wrapped around my chest. But, we’re having guests over for dinner in an hour. I should really be cooking dinner or showering or something.  I’m stressed, when I think about it, but calmed when I feel him.  I am learning, slowly, to deal with the stress I feel to get things done.  He is the pressure I need to prioritize. And I only resent him for that occasionally.  It is kinda like if my vitamins were dipped in chocolate half the time and bitter the other half.

So, Bolt’s new sweater might take a lot longer than it would have if I had started it BB – before Bug. But, it will get done. And, presumably, I’ll find some more suitable toys for my baby in the meantime.

Last of the Baby Crafts

10 Aug

For other people’s babies. At least for the time being.

This sweater is a baby-sized play on a Aran sweater. I have never really done a full on cabled sweater before, so baby-sized seemed like a good place to start. If I hated it, it just wasn’t big enough to give me real grief. Luckily though, I didn’t hate it. I rather liked it, in fact. It doesn’t make for good TV knitting , but that’s largely because I seem totally incapable of memorizing patterns. I mean really, what is wrong with my brain that I can’t get this pretty simple repeat down? Oh well, that’s what the chart is for, I guess.

Speaking of the chart, the pattern is from the ultimate source of free patterns, Knitty. It is, as to be expected, well written and easy to follow. It took me way longer than it should have because my knitting was rudely interrupted by the arrival of one adorable baby of our own. He isn’t conductive to knitting just now, because he demands to be held all of the time. I’m not complaining, mind you, just noting. As it turns out, holding him is a pretty awesome past time. However, with a steady stream of guests that were interested in partaking of that particular past time (and could care less about what I was doing or if I was paying attention to them at all), I was able to finish off the last of the knitting for this sweater.

Said adorable baby

Said adorable baby

I used an all cotton yarn that I received as left-overs from a sweater that my mom knitted for our baby. It is a really fun rusty salmon color that we choose to be appropriately gender neutral and not too stodgy for a tiny baby. It knits up a little stiff, I’m sure in part because of the density of the stitches here. I’m hoping that it loosens up a bit when I wash it.

All that’s left is the closure. I’m thinking little wooden or leather buttons in keeping with the old-man sweater nature of this little cardigan.

While I’m hopeful that I can get this project entirely done soon so that I can give it to it’s intended recipient, I’m not too rushed. It seems crazy to give someone a sweater when it is this hot out. All self-respecting babies should be as naked as possible right now.

08_09 Trelis for Finn2

Sheldon Gets a New Shell

16 May

I started Sheldon with a purple shell, but thought the yellow would be a better fit in the end.  I like how well he goes with his blanket. Sheldon now is ready to be packed up and sent out into the world with his super comfy blanket! Just in time too, I don’t imagine I’m going to be working on any knitting projects in the days to come…

Buying Supplies

12 Apr

Blanket YarnI was one of those kids that got super excited for the start of every new school year. I mean, I liked school well enough, but the real reason was the school supplies.  I still love buying new pens, pencils and notebooks.  Oh, and those wonderful, bygone days when we used to buy the 64 packs of Crayola crayons with the sharpener built in the box.

I feel that way now when I’m about to start a new project.  It makes me a little giddy to come home with a bunch of supplies. Like yesterday, when I received the yarn that I had ordered from Knit Picks.  I ordered yarn for two projects – a baby blanket (no surprise there) and yarn for a Christmas sweater for Bolt. I’ve had my problems with Knit Picks yarn before.  It is alluringly cheap and feels nice to knit with, but I’ve had the Wool of the Andes line pill up on me so badly that I don’t think I’ll ever order that one again.  I ordered a cotton/modal blend for baby and an acrylic for the sweater. I’m sure the cotton/modal will be fine (and washable), but I’m curious to see how the acrylic works out. Bolt wears his sweaters very hard.  I mean very hard.  Like, constantly.  Every day when the weather is below 50 degrees. So, if the yarn pills, like my last Knit Picks’ purchase does, and you are a little OCD, like I am, you annoy your husband mightily by picking yarn balls off of him constantly when he is wearing the sweater.

Curtain Fabric

Curtain Fabric

Anyhow, I haven’t actually started either project in any real way. Just as I haven’t started staining the buffet (the stain that I excitedly purchased is sitting on top of said buffet and has been there for weeks) or making the curtains (I bought that fabric weeks ago as well) or stripping the furniture for the baby’s room (purchased months ago now).  I just love assembling all the supplies, preparing and thinking about the project (ask Bolt about all my notebooks and lists). Perhaps this will be the public shaming I need to get going.

Gifting

5 Apr
Sheldon Shell in progress

Baby gift in progress…http://ravel.me/fasterpanda/hjorw

As I mentioned before, it seems like everyone I know is having a baby. A couple years ago, everybody was getting married.  These waves of life events has kept my crafting projects list buzzing.  I, not infrequently, wonder why I do it. It takes more money and more time to make something than it would to go to the store. And it is an emotional gamble too. It is impossible to detach from what I give, especially if you end up spending hours and hours putting it together. If the recipient doesn’t like it, there is no gift receipt.

Ever since my very dear friend from high school got married back in 2008, and I was looking for a gift to give her. I’ve never been really good at telling my people how important they are to me, but I wanted that opportunity to show her. So, despite the obvious utility of buying her something she had actually asked for and just writing up a nice card, I decided to knit them a blanket. Of course, because of all my hemming and hawing about what to do, I didn’t actually start knitting the blanket until about a month before the wedding. Between the full time job and, you know, feeding and bathing myself, I did not actually finish the blanket in time for the wedding.  I believe, if memory serves me, that I wrapped it up and gifted it, only to take it back and finish it a few months later (this is an unfortunate trend in my craft-gift giving).

A very blurry blanket

A very blurry wedding blanket

So was born a tradition of sorts. I can’t just buy a gift for someone that I feel strongly about, specifically when it comes to a big life change (I don’t have the same compunction about Christmas and birthday gifts). I just don’t feel like it says enough. I want to say that ‘I love you’ or ‘I miss you’ or ‘Your friendship means so much to me,’ but I’m no good at that. I am good at knitting. I’m not sure that it really does anything for the receiver, but as the giver I get to spend hours and hours thinking about the person that I’m giving the gift to. I get to settle on just how I feel about them and our relationship and really revel in it for awhile. I can’t say it is the most practical thing. And, like I said before, I have no idea if the receiver cares or understands the way that I feel. There is an old curse in the knitting world about knitting a sweater for your significant other (I’m actually more than a little shocked by the full Wikipedia write up on that one), that embodies the possible dissonance between giver and receiver. But, nonetheless, I have to. I hope that those I give to understand what I am trying to say and feel as loved as I hope they do.

Knitting for a Big Belly

31 Mar
My Belly from 23 weeks to 32 weeks

My Belly from 23 weeks to 32 weeks

There is something of a pregnancy boom in our lives.  We’re at that age, I guess, where our friends are decided en masse to get themselves knocked up. Of course, we were not immune from this desire. As you can see, my belly is growing at a remarkable rate. Our little Bug-to-be is making me alternately tired, excited, terrified and somewhat manically happy.

Kibo and sweater

Kibo loves the camera

Bug and his soon-to-be playmates have filled my list of to-dos for the foreseeable future. So many tiny sweaters, blankets and quilts to make. However, I wanted to make one last thing for me before I got started with the all the crafts in miniature.

For Christmas this year I got a bunch of beautiful teal yarn and a copy of the knit.wear magazine.  I was immediately drawn towards the Lark Cardigan, by Pam Allen, because it looked both cozy and like something I could wear over my future protruding belly without problem. The stitch pattern is really beautiful and it is a fun pattern to knit up.  The collar took forever, but I love the drapiness of it in the finished product.  Incredibly frustratingly though, I discovered, after I tried it on for the first time, that the cast on edge was just too loose.  Instead of hanging down nicely, the edge looks ruffly. I have learned my lesson for the future – mostly that I actually need to learn other cast on methods (something I have so far steadfastly refused to do). I am going to try to wash the sweater and block it a bit, despite the fact that the yarn is acrylic, to see if that helps at all.

In the meantime, no point in crying over spilled milk.  I’m moving on to a baby knitting project, one of my old favorites Sheldon the turtle, for a friend and a baby quilting project for us.

Baby quilt in progress

Baby quilt in progress

Traditional Patterns

20 Sep

I turned 30 last week. And, apparently, my advancing years are trying to kill me in more way than one. I spent most of the last week staring into the toilet bowl ready to give it all up.  However I did manage to drag my sorry butt to my little sister’s bridal shower this weekend.  Now, I hate the idea of bridal showers. Stupid games, crappy finger food and trying to sit demurely just aren’t my bag.  I feel like an enormous part of my brain is wired to reject these kinds of tradition.
But, here’s the thing, I had a really good time. I love seeing my sister so happy and radiant. I love spending time with my family. And despite my inclination to reject it, I feel the pull of tradition very strongly. Maybe this is the promised sentimentality that comes with age, but I am spending more time than ever in the shadow of history, especially in the history of the women of my family, and enjoying it.

My great-grandmother, like my grandma and my mom, was a knitter too. A very talented one. This lineage, and the feeling of connection that I get, is certainly part of what draws me to knitting myself. There is also a pull to the tradition of women’s art and craft that is challenging to articulate, but very real. It is at once a sense of enormity – how many hundreds of thousands of women before me kept their families warm through their knitting? – and intimate – a small and personal way to find a way to share something with the women that raised me.

When my great-grandmother passed away, she had a project still on her needles – a cardigan. She finished the front left panel shown here. It got lost in the shuffle of life for several years, but when my mom found it again she gave it to me. Now, this pattern is something I never would have picked up. Even the yarn isn’t really for me. But, I feel an incredible reverence for this project and am enjoying it very much. I finished the back piece this weekend and have started on the front right panel. I want to have it done in time to give it to my grandma for Christmas.

In addition to gray hairs, perhaps I can count on my old age to bring a sense of connection and perspective to the past. Pretty good present, huh?  Even though this week I’d settle for just a better immune system.

Wool in a heat wave

12 Sep Pattern is Shapely Boyfriend by Stephanie Japel

I have a sickness. In the hottest summer I can remember, I have spent a not insignificant portion of my time covered in wool.  Because I can’t stop.  The crazier things get – and they have been kinda crazy with the move and impromptu remodel of our kitchen (to be discussed) – the more I want to drop everything and knit.  Nervous, anxious energy is cast out as I cast on (I’m sorry, I spend too much time with a certain person who makes exceedingly bad puns).

My first project of the summer/spring was a sweater for me.  Back when Knitty started and I had a tremendously boring day job I used to spend a portion of every

Pattern is Shapely Boyfriend by Stephanie Japel

See all the details here: http://ravel.me/fasterpanda/c5wy7

day looking at the patterns and wishing I had more time and money for yarn.  Now, years later, I’ve actually finished a Knitty sweater designed by the talented Stefanie Japel. Plus, I got to work through a bunch of old stash yarn left over from a blanket that I made for a friend’s wedding two years ago.

This sweater was actually done in April, but it took me until June to find buttons that I liked well enough.  Now I’m going to have to wait until October to wear it.

See all the details here: http://ravel.me/fasterpanda/vrvue

The second project of the summer is just getting wrapped up now.  It is a pattern that I love from Mason Dixon Knitting.  I’m making this blanket for my sister to celebrate her wedding.  This is the second time I’ve made this blanket.  It is super easy, if a bit tedious (especially the part I’m at now – weaving in all those ends). This is a pattern that screams for variations on the theme.  Different colors, different widths, etc. I’m making one for us next.  Just one more way to feed the addiction.

What I do when I’m not at home

22 Jan

Work trips are really a mixed blessing.  Before the holidays I spent nearly three weeks in Gaborone, Botswana.  On the one hand, it is hard being so far away from my home and the people and animals that love me.  On the other, I get to go on safari as a perk of the job.  And I get to knit.  A lot.

You see, given a situation where I am in a country where I know no one and have several unscheduled evenings, I knit.  During this last trip I got lucky and had a hotel room with a movie channel; so I watched old movies, ordered room service and hunkered down. Three weeks later, I emerged with a sweater. Just in time (sort of) for its delivery as Bolt’s birthday present.

I only made one change to the original pattern. I really dislike the way that garter stitch looks, so I changed all of the border work to seed stitch. Otherwise, it was a rather straightforward attempt. I love the way the saddle shoulder construction works and I think it looks sharper and structural than a normal raglan. The pattern directions had me all sorts of tripped up on the shoulders, I just think it was written for someone who had already constructed a shoulder like that before. Those of us who tend to rely on shear force of will over experience get there in the end, even if it does take a little longer.

All he needs now is a bubble pipe and a serious tome to round out the ensemble.