October 27, 2009

Thing 1 and Thing 2

What an exciting week! My friend Beth, whose wedding I attended in Karlstad, Sweden, had her babies on Wednesday. She and Niclas are now parents to Rasmus and Felix, adorable babies overall, but with particularly cute noses. It's kind of hard to believe that what was once two is now four (they're multiplying like Gremlins!). Just a few days before the babies arrived, I went to visit Beth and Niclas so that I could give them the crazy baby viking hats I made and together with a couple of sweaters.

A little before Beth told me she was pregnant, I had instituted a moratorium on the making of baby things. It's really fun and quickly satisfying, but man was I feeling the burn, as in burnt out! So many of my friends and relatives have had babies in the past two years, that between knitting for kinder and for holidays, I hadn't really made anything for myself. So the weeks leading up to my birthday I dedicated to knitting only for me. Then I got the news about Beth's twins, and I became impossibly excited, so excited that I practically ran to The Point's going out of business sale to pick up the yarn for these:

Pattern: Little Coffee Bean, v.2, by The Brown Stitch
Yarn: Knit One Crochet Too 2nd Time Cotton
Needles: 4.5mm and 5.0mm
Started: May 31
Finished: June 3

This was a great pattern, clearly written and easy to follow and I'll probably make it again. I decided to use cotton yarn because I wanted a natural fiber that would be comfy and easy to care for. The cotton was about as sticky as cotton can be, but it probably didn't help that I worked this up on bamboo needles. Metal needles would have allowed the yarn to glide a bit more fluidly, yet I was pleased with the yarn, and continue to be happy with the resulting sweater.

I really liked the neutrality of these colors, but was left with a button quandary (as in "You put me in a quandary, Jack Donaghy. A quandary!").* Clear was out of the questions (often looks cheap and seems lazy) and matching the orange would have been really difficult. And ugly. Wood was an option, but the colors I'd selected for this sweater were already rather subdued, so I thought something a little more funsy was in order. I walked myself up to P&S Fabrics one day during lunch and found these little smiling frogs, which I thought were pretty great.

During the same visit, I found these sweet things:

These were an easier selection, since I had already decided that I wanted red buttons for teh blue and green sweater. I didn't consider another color really, it seemed so right to me.

Pattern: Baby Surprise Jacket, by Elizabeth Zimmerman
Yarn: Austermann Algarve Grande
Needles: 4.0mm
Started: July 21
Finished: July 23

This is the third Baby Surprise Jacket that I've made and likely will not be the last. They're fun and simple to knit, easy to finish and look super cute on babies.

Beth and Niclas seemed so touched and excited when they saw the sweaters and crazy hats that I immediately knew I had made good choices. Perhaps the best moment was when Niclas said that the orange and grey sweater is exactly something he would buy for himself. I'll admit it: my feathers were fluffed. But more important than any boost to my pride, their reactions were an immediate reminder of why we knit for those we love: because we care.

*I could't find that clip, but I did find this.

October 17, 2009

The importance of having people

Last winter my Grandma Ditsch passed away. It wasn't tragic or particularly unexpected, but it was sad. She was 85, almost 86, and for the two years prior to her passing, I was convinced that every time my phone rang it was someone from my family calling to tell me that Grandma had died. It wasn't a hysterical fear; it was a practical one. With each visit that I made to Minnesota, I could see that Grandma was getting slower, having a few more health problems. That's how life is, or at least how it is if we're lucky. What I mean is we should all be so lucky to live long enough to have adult grandchildren and baby great-grandchildren who know and love us, to have been retired for over 15 years and to have travelled to Alaska to see Moose, Hawaii to visit a niece, to Branson, MO (multiple times) and Pennsylvania (where she saw some "Amish" who, she proclaimed, "weren't wearing black or nothin'", so I suspect they were actually Mennonites) with the local Senior Citizens group, and to New York City to see your granddaughter (me!)graduate from law school at Carnegie Hall. And especially we should all be so lucky to have these, and other people, surrounding us in our last moments, to know that there is no place they would rather be than with us for those last few days.
Yes, my Grandma Ditsch had people. And, I realized after that trip, so do I.

I'm not married, nor do I have any children, but I have family. Since my mother passed away 12 years ago, I've become very close to my aunts, uncles and cousins, which is nice because I grew up half a country away from them, in the Pacific Northwest. When I was young they were people I knew mainly from stories told by my mother, and who I saw every two years or so when she and I would travel east for a family gatherings. Our lives out in Oregon were very different than theirs in Minnesota, in part because we lived in a city and they all lived in farming or rural communities, but also because my mom had moved west in order to forge a different life for herself. Yet we were the same in so many ways, especially my cousin Paula and me. Six months apart in age, we fancied ourselves like the mice in that story The City Mouse and the Country Mouse, and during my visits, she and I were thick as thieves.

When I went to college, I picked a school in Minnesota and soon found myself spending long weekends and school breaks with my Grandma. She would drive down to Northfield, often with an aunt or uncle in tow, and pick me up from my dorm. It was kind of ridiculously sweet. Back at her place on the farm, she would make my favorite spareribs and sauerkraut for dinner (the noon meal) and we would spend the weekend visiting and watching Walker, Texas Ranger. It was during these years that I really got to know my family, and developed my own relationships with them which were not mediated through my mother and these relationships have only grown stronger in the years since she died. We're close enough that I make a trip out there once or twice a year to visit, and many of them have been out to see me in New York. Paula and are are still quite close, and it was our relationship that was the reason for my most recent visit.

More specifically, this guy was the reason for the visit:

His name is Broderick (Brody) and I went out there to renounce Satan in all of his forms and to promise to look after Brody's spiritual life, a.k.a. be his godmother. I'm not a terribly religious person, but being a godmother does make me feel that we have a special relationship. And it's touching that Paula has charged me with this task, twice now; I'm also godmother to her first child, Ethan (seen below reading some books I brought him).

It was a super fun trip filled with love and food and laughs, yarn shopping, delicious breakfasts and roller disco in St. Louis Park. Oh, and this:

Snow in early October? B.S., sure, but no matter. I'll always go back to Minnesota, because I have people there.

October 15, 2009

Did someone say birthday?

They keep me busy, those birthdays. The thing is that I much prefer to make a gift instead of simply buying one. I like the mental effort it takes to think up an appropriate project, and then selecting the yarn, well, that's super fun. Like this here:

I found this yarn at Yll o Tyll in Uppsala, Sweden. The color is very Adrienne, and it's a rustic, slightly nubby silk, which is perfect for someone who is sensitive to itchy fabrics (Adrienne) and lives in a temperate, yet dampish climate like Seattle (also Adrienne). And I just really loved it. So purchase it I did, and then toted it around with me back to Stockholm, up to Karlstad, back to Stockholm and then home to Brooklyn. So, it's seen a bit of the world.

Adrienne's birthday is the first week of October, but I was so cranked up that I started this the week that I came home from Sweden.

Pattern: Ishbel, by Ysolda Teague
Yarn: Yll o Tyll Soft Silk
Needles: US7/4.5mm
Started: July 16
Finished: July 31

I am SO MUCH happier with this Ishbel than I was with my first Ishbel. The pattern is great, pretty yet straightforward. It just goes to show how important it is to select the right yarn for a given project. The one mistake I made in working this up was using bamboo circulars; as bamboo and silk are both a bit sticky, I had to work kind of hard for each stitch. The next time that I work with this yarn (I bought two more skeins in different colors) I'll use metal or plastic needles. The project will sing off the needles!

Now that I'm looking at this, I realize that the lace portion is a variation of the one used in the project below:

It's pretty obvious, so it's a little doofy that I'm only now making the connection. I know that I have a distinct sensibility, but I'm surprised that it's so evident in the projects I make for others.

Pattern: Haven, by Kim Hargreaves
Yarn: Valley Yarns Berkshire Bulky
Needles: US11s/8.0mm
Started: October 6
Finished: October 13

I have been wanting to make this for over a year, ever since Amy gave me Kim Hargreaves book, Heartfelt, The Dark House Collection. There are so many lovely patterns in the book, but thus far I've only managed two make two of them, and both for the same friend, affectionately known as ABD. She's rather glam and ladylike and stylish, and since chunky, bulky scarves and cowls are all the rage this season, as are all shades of purple, I thought this would be a good birthday prez for her.

I need to find a better solution to the bathroom self-portraits.
The project didn't travel overseas, but it did come to Minnesota with me. For $$ reasons, I subbed in the Berkshire Bulky for the Rowan Cocoon called for by the pattern. I ordered 5 skeins, thinking it would be plenty, then panicked when it arrived and was convinced that I wouldn't have enough. As a fix, I modified the pattern so that I worked only one lace repeat each row, rather than the two directed. This worked out just fine, but I have 1.3 skeins of yarn left. I loved the scarf, and now want one for myself. Well, perhaps after Christmas crafting is done.

October 1, 2009

Do over!

This week is a week of do overs, of sorts. A week ago here in New York City were the primaries, which were not entirely conclusive. So . . . on Tuesday registered Democrats are being asked to do it again; vote, that is, in two run offs. As a fan of both the 15th and the 19th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, I exercised my rights and voted. Our machines here are among the oldest in the country, and not in compliance with federal voting laws, but there's something really fun and satisfying about moving that big lever from left to right, selecting your candidates and then feeling the unmistakable THUNK as you move the lever from right to left.

Crazy old fashioned, right?

So, Tuesday morning, in addition to voting in the run offs, I completed another do-over. Remember the disaster that was Sedum? Well, I finally got around to fixing it. I was really bummed about how it had turned, out and that the mess had taken two weeks of my life and a lot of moss stitch to complete that it was hard to get the energy up to fox it. And, truth be told, I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to fix it, and that I'd have to rip it out in its entirety and spend two more weeks re-knitting it. I wasn't even sure how the ripping would go, as I'd used a felted join to join all of my ends as I went along, and couldn't imagine how I would manage the mass that would result from 6 balls of frogged Noro Kochoron.

Staring at the fiasco of a sweater, a sweater that I'd hoped to love and wear with pride this fall, eventually became more depressing than imagining the work that I'd have to put into fixing it, so over the weekend, I started the do-over. The pattern calls for one to knit (1) the body, (2) the sleeves, (3) the button bands and (4) the collar in that order. I decided to rip and reknit the collar and the button bands and see if that would fix things. This time I used smaller needles (US10 1/2s) and picked up fewer stitches on the buttonbands, hoping that this would remedy the excessive drape that I'd obtained the first time around. While I think I could have picked up a few more stitches, my fixes were largely successful. As you can see, the button bands no longer pull the sweater into a crazy long V at the bottom.

Now, in the original iteration of my sweater, I knit the neck way too big. This was the one thing that had me really worried: would I be able to work a fix without starting the sweater from scratch? My idea was to pick up stitches around the neckline and work up towards the head in moss stitch using smaller needles than on the first version, and also reducing the number of stitches, closing the gap, so to speak and elevating the yoke a bit. I did this for something like six rows, and also worked four short rows at the back to add some height to the sweater's neck. Finally, I worked the collar in 3x3 rib ans called for in the pattern. Et voila:

It's a bit too big, but if it's to be worn as a sweater/coat, that's not s terribly huge deal; it's just not super slimming. C'est la vie. And it's not as lovely as some other Sedums (including the designer's original), but I attribute this in part to my choice of yarn. Kochoron is great, but not very bouncy, doesn't have a lot of body, so my ribs are more flat and broad than puffy. That's OK though; I don't have a very puffy personality.

Or do I?

The next time I knit this sweater (and I do believe there will be a next time) I think I'll used the yarn called for in the pattern, just for shits and giggles.