Friday, November 02, 2007

The Orange Sweater of Doom

Nearly six years ago I stopped knitting. I don't know why. The knitting muse just left me. I had the hem and collar left to do on a Norwegian ski sweater; it has sat, unfinished, in the closet all this time.

In late 2005 a knitter friend was with me in a yarn shop, and she encouraged me to buy yarn and knit something new. Dave was along too, and he chose some Peace Fleece in Glasnost Gold (a nice heathered orange) for Chad's Pullover (it's there, scroll down). A nice simple knit in worsted weight yarn. Nothing taxing, just something to get me back into the knitting groove.

I used the recommended yarn on the recommended needles, and was done with the back and more than three quarters of the way up the front before I finally had to admit that it was so small that there was no way it would ever going to fit him. So I ripped the whole thing out and started again, on far, far bigger needles, this time making the biggest size. I got the back and most of the front done again, and then, sick of moss stitch, put the thing aside for more than a year.

We live in a condo with limited storage space for my yarn stash. The knitting muse came back in earnest when I was pregnant with Clara last year, and as we were making room for her I decided I needed to finish some long-dormant projects if I was going to have anywhere to put the yarn that had started coming into the house again. So: the front of the orange sweater got finished, and soon there were shoulder seams, and a collar, and about a third of one sleeve, knitted downward from the edge of the body. Then the whole thing went back into the closet again, because holy fez the moss stitch was going far too slowly and small, instant-gratification baby things needed to be made! Twitch!

When the weather started turning a bit cooler this fall, I decided to dig the thing out again and work on it in the car as we went on our autumn roadtrip. You know what? Working on a sweater means that progress gets made. I finished the first sleeve; Dave tried it on and deemed it too short; I pulled out the cuff and made the thing longer. Yay. First sleeve done.

Picked up stitches along the other side for the second sleeve; knat along for a while; realized I'd screwed up a decrease somewhere. Hunted and hunted. Found it about 4" back. Ripped. Put the 4" back. Spent the better part of a day hunting for a missing ball of yarn, having horrible visions of having left it at an Econo Lodge somewhere outside Rochester, NY. Found it under the bed. Continued to knit. Finished the cuff. Looked at it and realized I'd forgotten the decrease row before the cuff. Ripped out and reknit the cuff. Sewed the side seams. THANK CROYST IT'S DONE I CAN KNIT SOMETHING ELSE. Presented it to Dave, who tried it on, and sheepishly (heh) complained that it was too short.


Adding length from the top would involve ripping out both sleeves. No. And I'd put in too damn much work on this thing for him not to be able to wear it. I decided that, for the first time ever, I would cut a garment to fix it. I thought: I'll just snip a stitch, pick out a row, add length on top of the ribbing, and then graft the f*cker back together again.

[Apologies are due to the non-knitters reading. It gets even more technical from here. Reader's Digest version is that I AM THE SERENEST.]

Have you ever tried to graft 2x2 moss stitch? I didn't think so; there seems to exist almost nothing online about how to do it. And all the stuff I could find in knitting books was about 2x2 rib, which didn't help much. Laura says she has tried it and found it so fierce that she recommends just grafting it in stocking stitch and then duplicate-stitching on the purl bumps later. But by this point I am far too obsessive about this fershluginer sweater to use a kludge.

It took me the better part of three days to figure out how to do it. I made a small swatch out of different yarn, and knitted (and purled) a white row in the middle as a guide for the grafted row. I tried six or seven times on the actual sweater. And suddenly, yesterday, the clouds parted, and light shone down, and a choir of angels sang, and I was using a darning needle to connect two pieces of knitting with something that looked very much like moss stitch.

The back is now done, and I'm picking out a row on the front. I'll work in the dreaded moss stitch for 3" or so, praying that I don't run out of yarn, and then graft some more. And then I will resew the bottoms of the side seams, and I will present the sweater to Dave, and he will put it on, and he will exclaim happily about the fit, and then he will wear it every day for a month if he knows what's good for him.

And then I'll sew the hem on that goddamn ski sweater.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The unbearable cuteness of Clara

High cuteness
Originally uploaded by Spamily.
Clara was a pumpkin for Hallowe'en. We went to Lettuce Knit and she flung candy around. So. Much. Cuteness.

Lots more pictures on my Flickr stream.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hoops of wood

I took this while sitting in the armchair next to my thesis carrel in Clapp Library at Wellesley while I was nursing Clara. The sun was setting and everything felt exactly right.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Home is where I want to be, but I guess I'm already there

There's been a lot going on in the past month and a half. At the end of September we spent a week out west with my mother's extended family, attending my cousin's wedding. (I was the flowergirl at her parents' wedding many years ago.) I gained some new perspectives and was glad to have some time to spend with my sister and her girlfriend, who is good people. My parents are working on selling their house so that they can move to a town just outside Buffalo in order to be closer to Clara, so things are awfully chaotic for them.

The wedding was beautiful, and it was nice and a little sobering to see people I hadn't seen in a couple of decades. Oddly enough, we're all older.

We were back for two weeks (including Clara's birthday, celebrated at Lettuce Knit) before we left again, this time on our first long roadtrip since Miz Thang was born. We went to my twenty-year high school reunion, visited the old neighbours for the first time in fifteen years, had an all-too-brief visit with friends in western MA, spent five days with one of my best friends and her husband and three kids, had dinner on the Wellesley campus, and then went to the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival. If it all sounds like a bit much, that's because it was. I couldn't have asked for a sweeter, more satisfying homecoming, but the ten days were starting to make me think that some guy was about to step out from behind a tree, film crew behind him shining lights in my face, and bellow, "Emily Krapsnart, THIS IS YOUR LIFE!" It was 1974 to 1992 packed into just over a week, except that this time my husband and baby daughter were along for the ride. And wow, what a ride.

The reunion was fun, I guess; I got a very welcome chance to see two of my closest high school friends, but wished that more were there (Italophile, I'm talking to you). My old neighbourhood has changed a lot; my childhood home is unrecognizable. The wonderful people next door had us over for dinner, a marvellous spread that fed my soul. (Margaret takes care of her daughter's kids, so there's kid paraphernalia all over. I had not been at all prepared to see my tricycle in front of their house; the sight of it made me burst into tears.) Two of my high school teachers who were major figures in my adolescence are now divorced; I talked to him and saw her. Life goes on.

Five days in a house with four kids six and under: exhausting. But it's always great to see AM. I sent Dave out geocaching a lot so he could get some Dave Time in before the yarnulence of the weekend. We also managed to see some more old neighbours who have moved to eastern Massachusetts, and they suggested that Pina drop in for dinner while we were visiting them, so we got a bit of time with her. Somewhere in the five days there was dinner with Steve and Peter and David B.; it was really good to see them, too.

Wellesley is more beautiful than ever; every time I'm on campus I shake my head in disbelief that I spent four years there. We walked around the misty, luminous campus and took pictures, and then ate in the new student centre, surrounded by students who, when I was in school, were not much older than Clara is now. The intellect and potential and youth of all those women in that magical place made me hopeful and happy.

And then, Rhinebeck. My God, Rhinebeck. I'd spent fifteen years convinced that I wasn't homesick for Dutchess County, but oh, I am. I am. It is unspeakably beautiful in the fall, and the nostalgia that the fairgrounds evoked after everything that had come in the few days before -- well, it was more than a little overwhelming to be back there.

I bought yarn, a lot of yarn. As I knit it, it will continue to remind me of home.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

One year

Dear Clara,

Today is your first birthday. You're pretty cranky today because you haven't had enough sleep: you're still a little jetlagged from our trip west to your cousin Amanda's wedding, and your Grandma and Grandpa wanted to see you first thing this morning before they left to go camping. Grandma baked you an angel-food cake, and was so happy to watch you dig into it with your little hands while the "1" candle dripped wax all over the frosting.

I've been writing this letter in my head for at least a month now. Every time I think about your being a whole year old, I want to touch your cheek and nibble your toes and hug you close to me as I feel my heart expanding yet more in my chest. You are already such a remarkable little person, with an irresistibly cheerful disposition and an infectious giggle that we hear so very often.

You meet new situations with curiosity and aplomb. Yesterday was your first Kindersports class, and your first swimming lesson, and in between them a very persistent five-year-old named Grace made sure that we went to the drop-in centre nearby. The Kindersports class was far, far above your age level -- you were the only one there not walking yet, and you didn't seem that interested in passing balls around or rolling down an incline -- but you still giggled and waved all your arms in happiness. At the drop-in centre you worked for a very long time on the new toys, turning them over in your hands and inspecting them and trying them in your little mouth. Su, who runs the place, introduced herself to you, and you laughed, and charmed her. You charm just about everyone.

You love water. You like to crawl into the hall bathroom and dip your hands into the cats' water bowls, and you sit on the bathmat and gesture at the tub and urgently move your fists up and down in front of your chest to make the sign for "bath". At your swimming lesson I dunked you a few times and you barely flinched. You splashed and giggled and thoroughly enjoyed yourself, and when I brought you home you passed out within the hour. Sweet baby.

You and I walk around the city a lot, you tied close to me in your beautiful mei tai. You point at things and flirt with strangers and sometimes tweak my nipples, hard, and laugh. People smile broadly at us and ask how old you are and gush about your cuteness. When you've been carried for too long you get restless, and you want to get down and crawl. You love being outside; one of your favourite places is on the grass, grabbing sticks and leaves and waving them around while you sing happily.

Your dad is completely smitten with you. He sits on the floor with you and plays little games like "where's the block?" and sings little songs that he makes up on the spot. He takes you out geocaching at least once a week, taking you places where you can get plenty of Grass Baby Time. Every night he straps you onto his belly in the blue carrier, and walks you up and down the hallway outside our door until you fall asleep. I watch him with you and love him more than ever.

Your favourite food is probably ice cream; smoked salmon and garlicky garlicky hummus are pretty high on the list too. Your favourite song is Ladytron's "Destroy Everything You Touch" (seriously) and you get a huge kick out of stroking the soft soft bunting that Kerry and Mary and Toby sent last year when you were born.

Tonight we're taking you out to see the knitters, who are fans of yours. Megan at the yarn shop said we could celebrate your birthday there, so we're about to head out.

I love you very, very much, and I feel so honoured and privileged to be one of the people responsible for helping you find your way in this world. I'm proud of the job we've done so far and I know there will be many challenges in the years ahead. I hope we can continue to do right by you.

Happy birthday, my beloved little daughter.

Friday, July 13, 2007


Clara is talking a lot now, but we don't know what she means. Favourite syllables include "bup," "epf," "upf," and "huh-bapf." The other morning she and I awoke at the same time; she yaaaaawned and streeeeetched and rubbed her eyes and then very solemnly intoned, "Bup." I nearly fell off the bed.

We're just getting through to the other side of a particularly difficult phase, the dreaded Nine Month Freakout. This is when object permanence develops -- she's working hard on the concept that things still exist even when she can't see them. She'll hold a cloth in front of her face and then lower it to see us, and then laugh and laugh as she does it again. (I knew babies liked peek-a-boo, but hadn't realized it was so important developmentally.) She's also working on the idea that a picture of a cat represents an actual cat, like the ones she lives with, and that a black or orange cat is the same kind of animal as her beloved Martha. Plus, she's getting more mobile (but not crawling yet; she can scoot along backwards and get stuck under things), and the separation anxiety has kicked in. (Separation anxiety is evolution's way of keeping us from getting killed as we become more able to move away from those looking after us.) Clara's has been mercifully mild, I think because the babywearing and co-sleeping and unified approach from both parents have made her feel very secure with either of us, and so the other one can get a break now and then without Clara wigging.

And then there's the teething. Oh man, the teething. Poor baby has six of the little choppers now. She got the middle lower ones first, and then the lateral incisors on top, more than a month before the central ones, which have just come in in the past week. She's been looking a bit like a little baby vampire.

So there's been a lot happening in babyland, and baby has not been very happy about most of it. Sweet little thing.

Here she is, as of yesterday:

Love. Her.

In knitting news: the Diamond Fantasy shawl is done and waiting patiently to be blocked. I did seven pattern repeats instead of six. The applied I-cord castoff looks fabulous. The Sea Silk looks like spun gold. Pictures forthcoming.

Shawls on the needles: Kate's modified Lace Wings, in purple Sea Silk, and a Shetland Triangle in Mini Maiden, which I like even better than the Sea Silk. As Homer Simpson would say, glaaaaagh.

Knit night this week was all kinds of fun; Glenna and Maryann have posts up about it (and Glenna's even has video, and more pictures of Clara!). Fun conversation, good beer, people losing their minds over the SEVENTY-FIVE POUNDS of newly arrived Socks That Rock yarn (nine ounces of it came home with me), a delicious yam burrito (mmmm, Big Fat Burrito), happy Clara being held by at least a dozen people, and knitting, at least after Clara's dad took her away to go geocaching. And singing! We were serenaded! Perfect.

Even better: tonight's Drunken Knitting is at Betty's, my favourite pub ever (and my local).

Life is good.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Denny's seven-shawl challenge

Drat you, Denny.

I am too chicken to commit to seven shawls at once, but I think the knitting muse is saying "DO SHAWLS NOW." Last time I tried to ignore her I ended up not knitting at all for several years, so She Must Be Obeyed. Here are possibilities:

1. Lace Wings. Done in a gorgeous cream-coloured Sea Silk with subtle hints of a rosy bronze through it, and blocking on the spare bed next to me. Okay, I'll commit to that one. Soon it will be off to a friend who has no idea it's coming.

2. Clapotis. Already got the five hanks of Koigu Kersti for it. I am one of the three knitters in the world who haven't made one yet.

3. Shetland Triangle. Got a hank of Hand Maiden's Mini Maiden for it. Looking forward to this one.

4. Diamond Fantasy. There's a hank of gold Sea Silk (seriously, it looks like spun gold -- Rumplestiltskin yarn) in the closet with this shawl's name on it. This one or the Shetland Triangle will go over my long strappy black velvet dress when I go to my HS reunion in the fall.

5. Another Lace Wings, in a purple Sea Silk, but with a slightly different lace pattern. This one is for a friend.

6. Maybe a Flower Basket (PDF) in a yarn I haven't picked yet.

7. Perhaps something rectangular, in the pearl grey Euroflax linen I've had in my stash for more than a decade. Suggestions welcome. I've got two hanks.

I finished the first Monkey sock last night in the Farmhouse colourway of Socks That Rock yarn. It looks great. I'm working on Square #12 (13, if I use the very muted one) of the Lizard Ridge afghan, and I have yarn picked out for a Rogue cardigan. I have a Chad's Pullover in orange Peace Fleece about 65% done for Mr. K, and I think I'm starting to make headway in the boxes of UFOs in the linen closet. The Morning Glory vest has been sitting there for years, just needing some seams and a decision about what to do with the cut steeks (answer, sanctioned by the Yarn Harlot at the S&B the other night: cut them down two stitches and leave them), and I've made so much headway on it in the past few days that I might actually finish it today. ! These days I don't go anywhere without at least three projects along. Motherhood inspires multitasking, I guess.

Then there's the Dalegarn ski sweater, which just needs a hem and a collar, and a yoked cotton pullover that needs a collar and a lot of ends darned in, and a burgundy Cotton Fleece cardigan whose edging is much too tight and that I don't actually like very much. I might rip that whole thing out and use the yarn for something for Clara. All these projects are finally turning from albatrosses to things I can actually imagine having finished. Hooray.

Clara is marvellous as always. She is in the middle of another very fussy period -- this is the dreaded runup to nine months that tends to kick babies' and parents' asses -- but her underlying nature is so sunny and cheerful, and the developmental leaps she's making are so exciting to her and to us, that we can put up with a lot. She waves hello and bye-bye now, and last night she was giggling at pictures of herself. Her hands have a great deal of fine motor control, and she's happy to use them to grab unfamiliar foods and pop them in her mouth. Yesterday she discovered she really likes roasted garlic hummus on whole wheat pita. She makes friends everywhere she goes. Her smile lights up the room and brings tears to my eyes. Our sweet, sweet baby.