Friday, September 19, 2014

another blanket

The news came like a punch in the gut a few weeks ago. I had emailed a few former professors/mentors/teachers of mine asking if it would be okay to list them as references for a job I was applying for, and one wrote back to say "Of course you can always list me as a reference. By the way, did you hear about J's breast cancer diagnosis?"

Unsurprisingly, I never got a reply from J, who was recovering from a mastectomy and had just completed one round of chemo. She's got another four months of treatment to go, and from what I hear it's rough already. With a demanding job (from which I hope she is taking medical leave) and a family, I can't imagine the stress and exhaustion she is going through.

I'm not always so good at expressing myself verbally, but I can show that I care in other ways, so I knit a blanket for her. It's the Hodgkins blanket pattern (which I intend to write up into a free PDF for download pretty soon) I made for my SIL five years ago and my neighbor two years ago, both of whom are healthy and thriving now, so I hope that's a good sign.

I wish these pictures were better. The color is probably most accurate in the picture above, a nice pumpkin orange.

What do you do when someone you care about is having a crisis? This is a person who means a lot to me. I learned a tremendous amount from her about teaching and being a musician, and I will always be grateful to her for that.

Our paths haven't crossed so much lately, but I can't ignore what J is going through. I'm not sure how best to give her the blanket, but I'm leaning towards mailing it. For one thing, I know that chemotherapy is a big hit on the immune system, and I have kids of my own who are snot factories at the moment, so I don't want to bring it over in person and risk introducing new germs to her home. But also, it's been a while since we've had a close relationship and I don't know how to bring this over in person without feeling awkward. I don't even know how she feels about visitors right now. I'm afraid I'm admitting to my own cowardice and discomfort here, but there you are.

Knitting a blanket was the least I could do. Maybe in a week or two I'll gather the courage to make her and her family some soup.

Pattern: my own design, the Hodgkins Blanket, a better pattern write up coming soon!
Yarn: Lion Brand wool-east thick and quick, just under 8 skeins
Sticks: size 11 circular needles

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

one bourbon

Waaaaay back in March I spent a few days knitting this hat:

Thea needed test knitters, Stuart needed a hat, I had the yarn, it was a perfect match. It took me five days to make the thing. This includes the times (and there were more than one) I realized I'd miscrossed a cable and, cursing, had to rip back.

Then it was time to wait for the release. Wait and wait. But now the wait is over, because Thea's new ebook, One Bourbon, one Scotch, and One Beer, was released yesterday!

Stuart was very happy with his new hat, and since last winter seemed to last forever, he got a lot of use out of it, even though I didn't finish it until late March.

The hat is fun to knit. Those cables keep you on your toes, and then before you know it, you're doing the crown decreases and you're done! I highly recommend this one. I almost kept it for myself, in fact, but since he liked the hat so much and actually wore it (a rarity when it comes to my husband and hand knit items), I thought it only fair that he keep it.

And now it's almost fall. He'll need the hat again soon, maybe even this week. After a sweltering first week of school, now the lows are dipping into the 40s and I'm thinking of cooking hearty soups and knitting cozy sweaters in between work and soccer practice and all that pesky laundry.

Pattern: One Bourbon by Thea Coleman
Yarn: Alisha Goes Around DK, a little less than one skein from my stash. I honestly do not know why I had this yarn to begin with, but it worked perfectly for this hat.
Sticks: Are you kidding? I don't remember. That was six months ago, yo, and I didn't note it on Ravelry, either. Probably size 7 or so.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

kids in restaurants

Stuart and I thought it would be nice to go out for dinner as a family. We rarely do this, and this evening was a reminder of the many reasons why. First, Daniel sulked that we didn't go to the diner of his choosing; instead, we went to a new place with rave reviews that we really wanted to try (Sujeo). Then we had to wait for a table and everyone got squirmy. Then we had to wait for our food and the kids kept jostling the table and making faces and whining that it was taking too long and Daniel dropped his silverware by accident and they both kept lying down in the booth and were just generally not well-behaved at all.

I'm undecided about whether this means we should go out more often to give them practice or even less often because it's so aggravating to spend the whole time telling them to be patient and stop entertaining themselves by trying to drink out of a water glass without actually picking it up.

While we were waiting for our table, we had the freedom to roam around a little bit, so I asked Stuart to take some pictures of my new sweater with his phone. Kids kept sneaking into the shots.

Daniel likes to cuddle if he can be in the picture. Also, check out the giant neck on my sweater. Ick.

This is the sweater my mom and I knit together. It was her suggestion after we both received Vogue Knitting in the mail last spring and both liked the first pattern in it. We even ordered yarn together and started around the same time. Then the frustration started. She kept screwing up the lace portions. I kept screwing up the lace portions. The instructions were, to put it kindly, sparse. Some things we had to figure out completely ourselves.  Some things stumped us, and given that we are both experienced knitters, and we were both having trouble, that should tell you something.

Now we're both done and guess what? Hers is too big. And mine is too big. You can see in the photos from the way I'm holding my arms up that the neck is huge, even after I picked up stitches, which did pull it in a bit; in fact, it almost puckers weirdly from how much the neckline was pulled in from the finishing work. You can see that a little bit in the picture below.

I'm tired today.
 I'm disappointed, to be honest. The yarn is wonderfully light and soft (Cozette by Knit One Crochet Too) and even though the sweater doesn't fit, it is still comfortable because the finished fabric is so nice next to the skin. But even though I made the smallest size and my gauge was perfect (it really was! I'm not lying!), the whole thing hangs too loose and the neck really bugs me because it's so wide. To go out, I wore a brown A-line skirt and tan boots, which should have been cute, but ended up kind of frumpy and dumb.
See Anya's elbow in the corner there?

I'm glad the sweater is done, but I don't know if I'll keep it. I won't frog it to reuse the yarn, because it's so delicate, it would break if I tried to pull out all that work. Plus, this would look really nice on someone a little bigger than I am, or at least someone with more of a chest than I've got. I could keep it and wear it anyway, maybe find a necklace to help cover that huge collar area that's exposed and isn't flattering on me. If I'd made the whole thing 6-8" longer, it would be a nice beach coverup. You know, for all those tropical vacations we take.

Pattern: Scoop-Neck Pullover from VK Spring/Summer 2014
Yarn: Knit One Crochet Too Cozette
Sticks: size 7 circulars
Mods:  none aside from yarn substitution. I should have found a way to make this smaller, at least the neckline

Sunday, August 24, 2014

he'e nalu

I seem to be on a jag for simple knits lately. I finished another shawl (He'e Nalu) designed by cabinfour while we were on vacation last week (see more pictures from that trip on my regular blog here and here), blocked it yesterday, and took it to the sauna back yard for a few minutes this evening to get some pictures. (Seriously, after the mildest summer we've had in years, now suddenly it's hot and unbearably humid AND THE A/C JUST UP AND QUIT WORKING.)

I wish I had better photos but the rest of my family was cleaning up after dinner (I spent the afternoon cleaning the basement and making dinner, so I deserved the break) and I didn't have a photographer. Just me. I have yet to master the art of a decent selfie...there's one picture of just my knees you don't get to see...

I love this shawl, especially now that it's finished and blocked. It's not too big, it's light and drapes like a dream. I lost the yarn label long ago, but I know that I bought it in Blacksburg, VA when my brother lived there and  it's 100% merino sock yarn, and I think it was hand-dyed by someone local to the area.

Vacation last week was so lovely, but it's back to the real world again. Kids start school next week and I am about to sign a contract for a new part-time job (!!!). Now for the bad news:  I learned last week that a friend and mentor of mine was just diagnosed with breast cancer and has several months of chemo ahead of her. The long-term prognosis is quite optimistic, but this semester is going to be hell. She has a demanding job and a daughter starting middle school. I'm going to make her a blanket, and I'm going to knit it as fast as I can.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

vacation knitting

The giant-necked sweater isn't quite done. I had just the last little bits to do, but then we left for vacation. I packed an easy shawl to work on (this one). Then I thought it wouldn't be quite enough, so I threw in a skein of worsted yarn and a hat pattern to go with it. Then I threw in another skein of worsted and another hat pattern in case that wouldn't be enough. For a week away, that amount of knitting was rather restrained, but then the car was packed to the gills, especially after we turned around because we forgot the kids' sleeping bags.

Anyway, the shawl still isn't done and the hat yarn hasn't even made it out of the bag, but I did get some fresh pictures of Low Tide on the beach. It was so windy, the whole thing nearly blew into Lake Superior.

I've also been in two yarn shops and didn't buy anything, tempted though I was. Because man, vacation is expensive enough without wooly souvenirs.

Friday, August 15, 2014

i wasn't built for this

My mom and I did our own knit-along (KAL) this year. I barely mentioned it here because we both had lots of problems with the pattern. There were fits and starts and start-overs, much frogging and exasperation due to ambiguities in the pattern. She finally finished hers a little bit ago and send me a picture. I picked mine up and put it down again many times, finally blocked the front and back pieces last week, and today took my first selfie of the work-in-progress:

The neckline is approximately below the boobage.

This actually looks worse than it is. The sweater, in case you're wondering, is the aptly, though not elegantly, named Scoop-Neck Pullover from the Spring/Summer 2014 edition of Vogue Knitting.

I believe the editors are working pretty hard on conserving space on pattern instructions, because this one was not for the faint of heart. My mom and I are both pretty dang experienced knitters, and we were both perplexed more than once in the process of making this thing together. She'd call me in consternation over the mesh pattern (the part inelegantly draped over my mid-section in the above picture), and I would throw my rat's nest of moss-colored yarn down in frustration every few days to knit something else like ribbed socks.

I mean to document more of our process here, but it was all so frustrating that I didn't bother. Hers is done, though she claims it's too big and she needs to redo it. Mine is in the state you see above - blocked but not assembled, and the neckline is obviously huge.

Seriously. Maybe if my boobs sagged just a little more that would look okay, but it's like the sweater was designed for someone with, well, a much different figure than the one I've got. My mom actually had the same issue, even though she is, ahem, differently endowed than I am, and she tells me the neck improves quite a bit when you pick up the stitches for the finishing work. I sure hope she's right.

Meantime, I spent a little time this afternoon attaching the sleeves and ignoring the excruciating complaints of my children, who had stretched a 10-minute toy pick-up into more than an hour of whining and rolling around on the floor instead of freaking putting the wooden marble set into its box for pete's sake so we could go to the park.

Then we went to the park and they complained they were bored.

School starts September 3. I'll say no more about that.

Anyway, back to the sweater. It looks so nice in the magazine, and the yarn my mom and I are using (yes, we're using the same yarn and in the same color, even!) is just wonderful - Knit One, Crochet Too Cozette in the color "Moss." If I ever get this thing done and looking decent on me, I expect I'll wear it a lot.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

low tide

Well, that was fast. This knit took almost no time at all.

Let me tell you what I think of these FO shots, which were taken in the space of about five minutes before we left to have dinner with some friends:

Is it cool and artsy to clip a knitted object to the rickety clothesline and point the camera up to avoid all of our back yard junk getting in the photo?

I look worried in this picture. I am staring at my camera and hoping I'm actually in the shot because I set it on top of the car, zoomed it way in and turned on the timer. And I desperately need to do something different with my hair. Like maybe get it cut.

I had to crop out my butt in this one because I was wearing teal-colored jeans that completely clash with the blue yarn I used in this shawl.

I actually kind of like this shot! Except for the part where it looks like a sunflower is growing out of my ribs. By the way, those sunflowers are in my back yard and are currently in cahoots with a volunteer squash vine to take over the planet. Three months ago all you could see there was the neighbor's fence and an unsightly pile of mulch.

Pattern: Low Tide by cabinfour
Yarn: Enchanted Meadows Alpaca, a giant skein of sport weight (500yds, I think) in the color "blueberry." I used almost all of it, and the finished size is just right.
Sticks: size 7 circulars