June 2007 Archives

Tulips Baby Cardigan

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Tulips Baby Cardigan

What is it about small things that makes them so magickal? All the while I was working on this little sweater I kept stopping to look at it and to imagine wrapping a small person into it. My small person. As I worked on it, it seemed as if the baby would get more active. Telling me she approved, maybe? Or just that my knitting position wasn't as comfortable for her as she would have liked it to be? Either way, watching this sweet little project work up on my needles was a very happy thing. It will be much too large for a newborn, but should do nicely for her when the Chicago winter rolls around.

This project is from Dream in Color Designs -- the people who make Dream in Color Yarn. As far as I can tell, it pretty much uses all the mostly solid colorways that they have available in their "Classy" yarn. Classy is approximately worsted weight. I was surprised though, that to get gauge (4.5 stitches/inch) I had to go up to a size 9 (5.5 mm) needle. No matter, even on needles that seemed too huge to be used for a baby garment, everything came out to the sizes described in the pattern.

This project has several nice features beyond stimulating one's color sense. It's knit all in one piece with no seams. It has no buttons or button holes to fuss with. And it has very lovely instructions for making the applied I-cord edging work out well. Perhaps the only drawback to this pattern is that the color changing means that there is a good deal of weaving in of ends at the end.

I used to be very skeptical of the whole idea of knitting for babies. Now that I've watched this little sweater come together, it's much easier for me to understand the allure of baby garments. Not only do they come together so quickly they are practically instant gratification, but it is hard to think unhappy thoughts with something so tiny and sweet in your hands.

When I first got pregnant, I didn't think there was any chance that I would be making sweaters for Miss Z. After all, why make something by hand for someone who will not really know about it or appreciate it and who will grow out of it after a couple of wearings? Having finished this little sweater, I now know that while on the surface I am knitting this garment for my baby, when I look underneath the surface, I am clearly knitting this garment for me, and for all the happy memories, now and in the future, that this garment will give me. Every time I pull it out, even long after she has outgrown it, it will help me remember the process of becoming a mother, and what it was like to hold a small person in my arms.

De-Stashing, Round 2

It's time for a little more de-stashing, my friends. This time it's a few goodies out of my fiber stash. As before, click on the image to find out more information. It's first come, first served -- so the first person to email me at the email address below gets the goods. All of the fibers are priced exactly what I paid for them -- they are one of a kind specialty fibers from small vendors at MS&W.


SALE COMPLETE
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Foxhill Farm Cormo and Bombyx Silk Blend

SALE COMPLETE



SALE COMPLETE

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Foxhill Farm 100% Cormo

SALE COMPLETE



SALE COMPLETE

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Stone Mountain Farm Handpainted Mohair Roving

SALE COMPLETE



SALE COMPLETE

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Royal Ball Winder

SALE COMPLETE


And just as a reminder, here are the items I posted last weekend:


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Phildar Yarns for Chanel-Inspired Jacket and Pattern Book with English Translation

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A Whole Whack of Fabulous Novelty Yarn

Note: I will split this yarn up, if you would like just one item out of it... however, all balls of the same yarn must go together!


SALE PENDING
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Jaeger Natural Fleece in Coal

SALE PENDING


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Austermann Candy Color, #4

SALE PENDING
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Anny Blatt Astrakan in Noir

SALE PENDING



SALE PENDING

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Muench Bergamo in Phlox

SALE PENDING



SALE PENDING

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Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride in Loden Leaf

SALE PENDING



The Fine Print:

All my fiber is stored in a non-smoking home. I do have cats, however, and while they don't generally get to the fiber room, sometimes they do come in contact with it. All items up for sale are in good condition and have no known defects unless indicated. All fiber is final sale.

I am a PayPal Verified Premier member. I can take payment in the form of direct PayPal transfers, credit card through PayPal, PayPal eChecks, personal checks drawn on a US bank, and money orders. If you are not in the United States, you must send me money through PayPal and all transations are in US dollars. If you want to send me a personal check it must clear before I will send you the yarn.

When I ship, I ship USPS Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation. Buyer pays for postage in addition to cost of yarn (unless otherwise noted in the item description). If you live outside the US, I will ship USPS Global Priority. I am happy to add delivery confirmation or certification to international shipments but buyer pays for the additional services.

To contact me to purchase any item here (or to ask questions about anything available for sale), please email me at stashsale@keyboardbiologist.net If you are interested in making a purchase, please send your full name and mailing address so that I can calculate shipping for you. It would make my life ever so much easier if you could include the name of what you are interested in in your email subject line when you inquire about it. Thanks!

The Eighth Star Block

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The Eighth Groovy LeMoyne Star

I finished up this star just before I headed to Toronto, but actual knitting content got in the way of me posting it before now. I'm rather happy with how this star turned out. The center looks good and the kaleidoscope effect works well. This is the eighth star in my Groovy Stack n' Whack project. I am now officially 2/3rds of the way through the star creation process.

Unfortunately, this project (and all my other quilting projects) have been in a holding pattern for a while as John and I re-organize our office space. This re-organization process has definitely been one of those "gets worse before it gets better" sort of things with boxes and books and craft supplies everywhere as we figure out what goes together with what and what should just go. The purging process is certainly therapeutic in a lot of ways, but it also cuts into time that I would normally spend crafting. It's also hard to do too much sewing when your machine is surrounded by things that you need to put away or get rid of. This weekend we made a lot of progress, so I'm hoping that a few more quilt blocks for this project will start to materialize.

I've actually been feeling a bit guilty about my quilting projects -- Serenity remains to be quilted, and there is still a good deal more sewing of strips remaining in my Blooming 9 Patch. I have a good excuse for Serenity -- I need to pin everything out on the floor, and I'm finding it hard to be on my hands and knees much since one of my hips gives me a lot of trouble when I try that. But I have no such excuse for the 9-patch project. Ah well, there is a time for everything, I suppose, and life is too short to spend a lot of it feeling guilty about craft projects that don't progress as fast as one would like.

Baby Shoe Origami

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Pieces of Simple Shoes in Rowan 4 Ply Cotton, Color "Baby"

So the second set of booties has begun. This pair is also from Zoe Mellor's book, and is entitled, descriptively enough, Simple Shoes. They are knit using Rowan 4 Ply Cotton, and the color I picked is titled, very appropriately, "Baby". I selected this pair from the book for three reasons: 1) I wanted to try out the 4 Ply Cotton; 2) I wanted to try out a bootie that had a different construction technique from the first bootie project I completed; and 3) I didn't have the needles I needed in my collection in Toronto to do anything with the Cotton Glace.

The knitting for this pair of shoes is straightforward. I am somewhat concerned that the finishing and seaming will be on the more challenging side if I want these little shoes to look polished, but that is just part of the adventure. What I am more concerned about is attaching a button that will allow closure of the little shoe strap, but that won't be removable, and thus consumable, by Miss Z. Any suggestions? Or should these little shoes just end up being for special dress up and worn only when significant monitoring can be applied?

Ravelry

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I'm considering myself to be a lucky knitter these days. About a week ago I received my invitation to participate in Ravelry. I found out about Ravelry a while ago when Cara first talked about it on her blog. I am always ever so curious about knitting community projects -- especially ones that people have nice things to say about -- that look to involve organizational tools for knitting. So I trundled on over there and put my name on the waiting list to get to try it out and be part of their widening beta test.

Last week I got my invitation to come and join the party (before I go any farther, you should all know that they are letting people in in the order that they put their name on the list, and they are letting people in as fast as they think the system can tolerate new people -- there's no favoritism going on here). I clicked the link, got signed up and have had a real blast playing around in the Ravelry sandbox. As a knitter and a sometimes coder/webmonkey, this is one of those things that I wish I had thought of myself. It's well thought out, easy to use, and fun. Fun to the point of kind of being addictive -- I just can't seem to stop myself from plugging in my projects, stash, needles and books from my knitting library. And when I take a break from that, it's fun to go trolling through looking for friends, seeking out interesting new patterns, and seeing what other yarns people have been making some of my old favorite patterns in. Heck. I even opened up a Flickr account so that I can use the photo importing feature.

Want to see what else is being put together for Ravelry? Just click here -- Jessica and her husband Casey, have put together a screen shot tour that describes it all (what it is and what it isn't) better than I can.

Ravelry is a very cool tool and a blast to play with. I really hope that Jessica and Casey are successful getting this thing going and ramping it up. If you do go on over and put your name in to be invited, please remember that it's still in beta (i.e. still not entirely ready for prime time as far as the developers are concerned) and please BE PATIENT and charitable in your thoughts if you have to wait. This is a two person show, folks -- and I think both of those people have full time jobs that don't involve developing a cool website for the knitting community -- and it's being put together as a free resource. It's clear that Jessica and Casey want to make this something that every knitter can participate in and enjoy, but that they also want to release something that can handle a lot of people and that provides a good use experience. That process takes time.

And cool, well built things like Ravelry are very much worth waiting for!

Lollipop Start

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The Beginning of Lollipop in Rowan Classic Cashcotton 4 Ply, "Seafoam"

Baby sweaters feel like they might becoming a kind of potato chip knitting thing for me -- can't knit just one! My next project for the Z baby is Lollipop from Rowan Classic Mother and Baby. It's a wrap-style top knit with Rowan Classic Cashcotton 4 Ply. It's a sweet and relatively simple pattern, that has a tiny lace floral detail. Unlike Tulip, it's not likely to knit up in a handful of days. This little sweater is knit at 28 stitches/4inches -- not too different from your average sock gauge. So for the first time ever, I am knitting a sweater on US size 2 needles (the pattern suggests that that gauge is possible on US size 3s... I must be becoming a looser knitter... another pregnancy side effect, perhaps?).

I decided to knit this one in the 6-12 month size. It's not a heavyweight sweater, and it should be a nice sort of thing for spring. Having now swatched and started on a sleeve, I find that I like this yarn as much as I like the DK weight Cashcotton. It has a nice hand and drape and is definitely soft enough to be worn by a baby.

The Mother and Baby book is also a very nice book in Rowan's Classic collection. There are likely a couple of projects that will end up in the Z's dresser drawers as she grows, and I have yarn on the way for a little project for myself as well. Lest you assume that this one is all about maternity sweaters, it's really not. There are a number of garments that are clearly meant for after the bambino arrives. So if you get a chance, this book is worth taking a look at. Assuming I have time to knit after Z shows up, there will be some more ordering of yarn for a second project for me out of this book as well.

Rocking Sheep

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Don't you think every nursery needs a Rocking Sheep?

Link via Aparatment Therapy: the nursery
one of my favorite baby design blogs.

Simple Blue Baby Shoes

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Simple Shoes in Rowan 4-Ply Cotton "Baby"

Yesterday's distinct lack of posting was brought to you by Comcast. I don't know how many of you are bombarded by the rather inane Comcast commercials about their "Comcastic" service, but last night we lost that service at about 8 and didn't have it back until about 8 this morning. Comcastic, indeed. I think that the marketing people at Comcast and I have a very different definition of what it means to be Comcastic.

But that aside, I did actually finish something this weekend. While my lovely husband celebrated his birthday by brewing beer with a friend, I put the finishing touches on the second bootie project that I started in Toronto: Simple Shoes from Zoe Mellor's 50 Baby Booties to Knit in the 3-6 month size. Now, when Ms. Z arrives she will have a little shoe wardrobe to look forward to. And I will admit to having a third, somewhat more whimsical, pair on the way.

A few comments about this pattern and yarn. I liked working with the 4-Ply Cotton. It's nice stuff and makes a softer fabric than you might think just upon feeling it in the ball. It knit up evenly and created an even fabric in my hands. That said, while I know cotton is not elastic, one thing I forgot about a bit when working on the finishing for this project, is that cotton fabric does a lot of giving and very little returning to shape. So I think the little shoes may have "grown" a bit across the sole as I was putting them together. The pattern itself is pretty easy to understand and I did find the finishing process to be mostly easy, but I didn't really like how the toe went together. The "easing" process left a little bit to be desired and I had some little wings off the edges of the toe that I didn't like very much. You don't see these, of course, with the shaping I've added courtesy of a couple of pieces of paper towel, and I'm hoping that baby feet will have the same effect in the future.

Square Nine -- And A Search Request

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The Ninth Block

After all the reorganizing I managed to get my office desktop cleaned off and to find some time to work on another stack and whack quilt block. This one is relatively sedate. The center is, well, rather off-center, but the rest of it doesn't look so bad, amazingly enough. I am not sure to blame this on my sewing or my cutting of the original diamond shaped pieces. But I've decided not to sweat it too much.

I am finding, as I do a few more of these "sedate" squares that are mostly greenery, that I like them more than I thought I would. Hopefully these less busy squares will provide calmer places for the eye to rest when the quilt is completed and in use.

Before I sign off, I wanted to make a little broadcast request. One of the folks responding to my de-stashing was Mercedes Tompkins. She was interested in the Jaeger Chamonix that I had for sale, but someone else got to it before she did. She asked if I might know anyone else who had some of this yarn and I told her that I would be happy to ask about it on the blog. She's looking for a few more balls of this yarn in colorway 900. If you have any of this yarn and would be willing to sell or trade, would you please email Mercedes? Her email address is: m.tompkins@comcast.net -- I know she'd be very appreciative.

Lollipop Sleeve

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The First Lollipop Sleeve

I decided to approach the next sweater for my upcoming arrival from the same perspective I would if I were making a sweater for myself: get the sleeves out of the way first, so as to avoid second sleeve syndrome later on. You see, I figured that even though the sleeves in question would be much smaller, the yarn and needles would also be scaled down. And the pattern had a small bobble.

Even though this little sleeve took me longer than almost he whole Tulips sweater seemed to, it was a pleasant little knit and once again helped me appreciate the allure of knitting for small people. Smaller person = smaller sleeve (the book is in the picture for perspective) = less time spent on the dreaded Sleeve Island. And while I haven't yet cast on for the second sleeve, I don't feel any particular boredom issues arising as a result of that thought, so I think there will be more sleevage for this little sweater soon.

So far I also like working with the RYC Cashcotton 4 Ply. It has that same somewhat dry but not unpleasant feeling of RYC Cashcotton DK and it creates a nice fabric without too much stitch distortion in places where decreases and bobbles were present. It does seem a bit fuzzier than the DK weight yarn, and it is shedding some little short fibers, but since it's been a while since I worked with the DK weight Cashcotton, my memory may be failing me here.

This will be the last post of the week. I'm off to Ann Arbor to spend father's day with my favorite Dad and a very special Dad-to-be. There will be some brewing of beer, a good deal of food from Zingermans, some planting of trees and probably a bit of mom and daughter shopping time. I'm only packing two knitting projects: Lollipop and my Sprung Sock. With luck, maybe I'll actually get that darned sock finished so that I can write up that pattern for everyone!

See you all on Monday. Happy Father's Day to everyone celebrating it this weekend!

Grounded on Father's Day

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Timing is everything.

I've thought about writing this post three or four times. When I first started to think about putting it together, I was a distinctly unhappy camper. Today, my attitude is significantly changed. Whether that change is due to the passage of time or one of those magical growing up moments that still seem to sneak up on me and metaphorically whack me in the side of the head with a 2 by 4, I'm still not sure. But the net outcome is the right one, so I'll accept it either way.

It all started bright and early Thursday morning at around 10:30 AM (well, this is bright and early relative to me, anyway... I still have a bit more time before the Z baby changes all of that) at my OB appointment. I have to say, I wasn't really looking forward to this appointment all that much, because the OB I was seeing isn't one of my particular favorites (my primary OB is part of a relatively large practice that includes a number of OBs and the idea is to try to meet with them all a couple of times before delivery). She's not bad person or anything, she just doesn't have quite the right manner for me -- she seems to be one of those folks who wants to make sure you understand all the ramifications of everything, and gets a little too focused on the things that could go wrong. Just not quite the right mindset for me. Anyway.

Well, after the weight and blood pressure measurements (just fine), the first thing that happens at this appointment is the usual urinalysis and it appears that they are detecting some sugar that they don't like. So that leads to a blood glucose test (fortunately just one with one of those little meters diabetics use instead of a full on blood draw). It's still a little high (125 mg/dl), but probably inline with the fact that I had breakfast not too long ago, and between the cereal, yogurt, milk and dried cherries, I've probably eaten 25-30% of my daily carb requirement and I really haven't had anything to drink (I forgot my water bottle in my hurry to get to the bus to get to my appointment) or got very much exercise.

I don't think too much about this. After all, I've passed my glucose tolerance test with flying colors, and I figure since I have another OB appointment in 2 weeks, things can be rechecked then and probably everything will be fine. But the OB feels that I need to come back ASAP and have my fasting blood glucose levels measured again. She starts to pressure me about this. Could I come in next week? Do I have a glucose meter at home. And I can feel that little bit of panic rise. Well, I'd prefer not to, I just don't have that much time I can take off of work, I say. She frowns and sort of makes it clear that she doesn't think that that is the right answer.

So next we move on to the fun stuff -- measuring my belly, hearing the heartbeat, feeling the baby's position. The heartbeat is fine, but as she feels around, she frowns again and says This baby is in breech position. Now, this should not bother me. She moves constantly and she was head down when I had my last appointment. And I know that 32 weeks is too early to worry too much about baby orientation yet. But the way she says it has that sound of a warning message. And that raises the fear state just a little bit higher. She also takes this opportunity to make me feel a bit guilty for not fully registering at the hospital and having a pediatrician all picked out. But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. There's only one more thing to do, and then I get to part company from Dr. Serious -- my travel check.

Now I almost didn't have them do one. I had one about 10 days ago (because I forgot about this appointment) and everything was fine -- for those of you who might not be familiar with what this is, it's basically the OB checking out your cervix to be sure you're not dilated -- and I hadn't felt anything that made me think this might have changed. No contractions of any kind I could detect. So I wasn't worried she was going to find anything and I was focused on the happy thoughts of getting out the office and on my way to Ann Arbor.

She does the check. She gets a strange look on her face. She checks a bit more. Looks back to me. This isn't your lucky day. I think you're about a centimeter dilated. I'm not going to put you on bed rest, *yet*, but I don't think you should travel.

But I was really hoping to go to Ann Arbor this weekend for Father's Day. And I haven't felt anything that feels like regular contractions. Is it really going to be a problem for me?

You're an adult, I can't tell you what to do. But I want you to come in first thin on Monday morning and be re-checked. And you can have your blood glucose checked at the same time.

And what happens then?

Well, possibly bed rest. Possibly hospitalization and steroid treatments.

By now I am beside myself. My mind is racing. I don't know very much about this stage of things, but I do know that I want Baby Z to stay put for a bit longer. Supposedly to get dilated I had to have contractions, but I haven't felt any contractions and a lot of the baby's motions are those big pushing on the uterus motions now. Could I be having contractions and not know about it? Bed rest? I'm not prepared for that. Hospitalization? Are there no "take it easy and we'll monitor the situation options"? Suddenly the issues with the blood sugar and the breech positioning combine with this to freak me out completely. And I start feeling like I haven't even had the baby yet and already I'm being a bad mother. My sugar is too high, she's not in the right position and I'm too inexperienced to know what a contraction is. The doctor leaves to take care of my paperwork and make sure I can get an appointment at short notice. I get dressed and continue to alternate between panic, frustration and being depressed.

About the only thing that rescued some of this morning was running into my primary OB as I was on my way out. She still told me she probably wouldn't travel, but also made comments to the effect that "a lot of women hold out okay" and "once you get a couple of weeks farther, we get a little less concerned". Not overwhelmingly re-assuring but better than "hospitalization and steroids".

So I head back home, get on the bus, hardly remember the ride and get home before breaking down completely while talking to John on the phone. I'm conjuring up all sorts of terrible things in my head. John, sweetheart that he is, offers to come home and work from home, and we both decide that maybe it's best to stay in Chicago.

Enter a close friend and the Internet. As I start to google my situation, I start to realize that a lot of women dilate and don't immediately go into labor. A good friend who just had a baby and also is a physician tells me that the first time they did this check at 36 weeks, she was 3 to 4 cm dilated and she delivered just past her due date and she had never felt any contractions up to that point either. She and my mom supply me with a few more examples of people who walked around dealing with the same thing and delivered when they were supposed to. I spend most of the rest of the afternoon with my feet up on the couch, feeling the Z Baby move and trying to determine if there are some motions that aren't really fetal motions but contractions. Nothing. But I do feel closer to my baby, get in a good nap and discover hat my feet aren't their usual level of swollen. So that all seems to be good. And I don't feel so panicked. But I still feel a little depressed about being in Chicago. I almost put this post together, but decide against it. I just feel too whiny.

The depression starts to subside by Friday morning, and I go to work, but the anger starts to set in. Now I'm completely torqued at this doctor. Torqued that she created such fear in me. Torqued at the insinuations that I'm not doing this gestating thing correctly. Torqued that I'm at work instead of enjoying a vacation day with my parents. And, of course, I'm still not feeling anything that even remotely smacks of what I've read of pre-term labor -- not that I want to, mind you, it's just that clearly the sky is not falling and it probably wouldn't have been a problem to travel. After a nice dinner out with John at our favorite brew pub I'm feeling a bit mellower, and think about putting a post together again. But I just can't get the bitter feelings to completely go away. My baby has been happy and active all day long. I hug my belly, decide I just don't have the energy to be bitter in electronic print, and enjoy some more time with my feet up.

With the start of the weekend and a good night's sleep (and a lot of helpful email dialog from my friend) I start to get some perspective and start to think about things. John and I have a couple of very nice days to do whatever we feel like because we didn't really have anything planned. I do some quilting and some knitting and some reading and even watch some TV. John gets set up for his first all grain mash brew. We pick up the Z Baby's crib. And through it all I'm taking it pretty easy, feeling for any sign of the Z Baby's possible early departure (and finding none) and being amazed by the fact that in spite of the heat I can see my ankle bones and the sciatica that has been bothering me is almost non-existent.

I even start to give Dr. Serious the benefit of the doubt.... I don't have to like her, or how she delivers information, but given all the problems OB's face these days with malpractice, I can sort of understand where she might be coming from. If something was really wrong, I wouldn't have been allowed to leave the doctor's office without any real restrictions besides staying away from travel and heavy labor. She's probably forced to do a lot of CYA maneuvers. Luckily, I don't have any more appointments scheduled with her. And I'm praying she won't be the one in the hospital when it comes time for me to deliver.

And after a weekend of close personal uterine monitoring, I've come to the conclusion that no matter how good the doctor, no one spends more time in my body with my baby than me. All my instincts right now tell me that everything is good. My baby is active and while I get a little fatigued, I feel incredibly good. I've been through one round where everything is clearly not good. I know what "not good" feels like. While I have no intention of ignoring a doctor's well considered and experienced advice, I also need to trust myself as well. No two pregnancy experiences and no two women are the same.

I have to admit, me being me, I still feel that I'm being a bit screwed by the system... if I hadn't had a travel check no one would have done this until 36 weeks and then if I was dilated, it wouldn't bother anyone unless I actually started to feel my uterus getting ready to hunker down and get serious. Better safe than sorry is probably a good mantra for me at this point, and clearly there is a more important goal here than simply being right, since a small, growing person is depending on me to take good care of her and give her the best possible start I can. I'll have my check early Monday morning, talk through some more things with a different doctor (one whom I like better) and try not worry too much unless there's something to really worry about. I'll be a good pregnant woman and stay close to home, try to put my feet up and take it easy while I look forward to meeting my daughter. Surely if there are no signs of impending labor, no one is going to tie me down to my couch. And, in the end, it is my choice. The doctor is right. I am an adult. I do get some voice in the decision making.

I called my dad Sunday night to wish him a happy Father's Day. I was sitting in the rocking chair he made me, which is now sitting in the nursery. It seemed like the right place to be. He told me a couple of times how much he's looking forward to the baby and how good he feels about me becoming a mom. That he thinks I'm going to be a good mom and the fact that I decided to stay in Chicago this weekend is just more evidence of how much I care about my baby. Mom's just aren't like regular people he tells me they're special. They know they have to focus on something else. You're being a good mom.

I love you, Dad. Only you could help me put it all together so simply and help me feel better at ease at the same time. I call you on Father's Day and you give me a special gift.

It was at this point that I felt good. And I decided to sit down in front of my computer, and tell another story.

Square Ten and a Post Script

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The Tenth Star

I am coming into the home stretch with my stack n' whack stars. This is the 10th out of 12 blocks. It's my hope to get them all finished up this week so that I can get the quilt assembled before the Z Baby arrives. The quilt is destined for her nursery, and, in the interests of time, if I can get the top finished, I'm going to have it machine quilted by someone else. Just a few too many other things on my plate between now and her arrival. I'm happy with this completed block and think it embodies the "groovy" qualities of the fabric I started with.

As a follow up to yesterday's post, I just wanted to say that my trip to the OB's office Monday morning had a much better outcome for me than Thursday's trip. The fasting blood sugar levels were absolutely fine, the doctor expressed no concern over the fact that at this point the Z baby seems to prefer a head-up position and I don't have any signs of pre-term labor that would suggest that my bit of dilation is anything to be concerned about. In fact, exercise is fine as long as I don't over do it and it doesn't irritate my sciatica too much. I'm still not supposed to get too far from home, but that's a do-able restriction, since I wasn't planning on any real travel after June anyways.

Probably the biggest surprise for me with this visit was having the OB I saw today (amazing for the fact that her own baby is due in two weeks and she barely looks like she's started her second trimester) tell me that Dr. Serious had reservations about my condition due, in part, to what she felt was worsened sciatica (I assume because it suggests increased downward pressure on the nerves that might indicate the baby getting into position or my uterus getting active). She never mentioned this to me -- if she had, I would have happily told her that the sciatica was no different than it had been for the past couple of months that I've been dealing with it. I guess this falls into the "hazards of a large practice" place where my previous mentions of it to other doctors didn't get entered into my (what is becoming a very large) file, thus it appeared to be a warning signal and really wasn't It would have been nice to have this explained to me by Dr. Serious. Certainly it would have made for a better experience. Probably for both of us.

Square Eleven: The Home Stretch

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The Eleventh Square: More Light at the End of the Tunnel

More squares today. For the first time in a long time I managed to get in a work from home day where I was pretty much able to be focused on the geeky side of my work life. So fun to get completely absorbed in interacting with code (although, I know, clearly that beauty is the eye of only particular beholders).

It seems that the more of these squares I put together, the better the centers seem to come together. Must be something to that whole practicing thing after all. I had a hard time deciding whether to have more of the greenery in the center or to put the reds and flowery bits there. In the end, I liked how the ring of flowers created the illusion of the star being the center of a flower.

Only one more star left until the finish line! Well, at least until I have to start putting the squares into a larger whole.

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The Twelfth Star and the Last Square

Well, this is all she wrote for the Groovy stack n' whack star blocks. Right here is the very last block. I think it turned out well from both a technical and visual perspective. The center looks reasonably well pieced and the colors that border the star are very complementary to the star itself, while still providing adequate contrast. A nice way to finish up the blocks.

And really not a moment too soon. I was getting to the point where I was getting a little bored with sewing up these blocks and looking forward to seeing them all together and figuring out what border I wanted to put on them. Originally, I was thinking about using the original Groovy fabric I used to cut the stars out from as the border. But now I am beginning to wonder if that will make the quilt feel too busy. Clearly a little time with the blocks and the Groovy fabric and a few pictures are in order.

I've been meaning to mention this for a while, and I imagine most of you are already aware of Clauida's efforts to raise money for the MS Society through a seriously long bike ride. She's done an incredible job so far -- she's well over her $30,000 milestone, which goes a lot towards showing the power of a friendly community and the Internet. She's also got some great prizes for people contributing to her fund raising -- though I know none of us needs prizes as an incentive to do good things. If you haven't had a chance to participate and have the funds to consider putting towards a good cause, I'd like to encourage you to think about it and pledge towards her ride.

MS is definitely a tough disease to live with -- and believe it or not, you can do a lot with $30,000 . It covers the significant portion of a salary for a young researcher for an entire year (I made $27,000 when I was a post-doc). Or an awful lot of research supplies. Or it could buy a piece of equipment to help a research group work on finding a cure or a better understanding of the disease. Or to help with therapy for someone suffering from the disease. According to the MS Society, over 400,000 people in the US, the majority of them women, suffer from this disease. So your donation really does help to give a lot of people more hope for the future.

A Field of Stars

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An Array of Stars

Here's the moment I've been waiting for with my star blocks: seeing them all together and putting them into the final order I want them to be in for the Z Baby's second quilt. While I was laying them out yesterday morning, I grew extremely happy with my decision to put each star on a background of the same fabric. They all just popped out so well. Not to mention the fact that I think the choice of background fabrics turned out even better than I could have anticipated. They work well with the fabric in the stars and they play nice together in the quilt as a whole.

When I was laying out the blocks, geek girl that I am, I had to follow some rules. I didn't want any two blocks with the same background fabric on either the vertical or horizontal axis touching each other. In order to make this easier, I started with EQ5 to work out the generalities. Can you see the symmetry in the blocks (don't look at the stars themselves, but the background fabrics. The pink and purple background fabric blocks mirror each other, as do the aqua and green print fabrics. This morning, in my office, I worked out the details. I ended up swapping the locations of the aqua and green print fabrics so that I could make sure that the stars were distributed the way I wanted them to be -- I didn't want whole rows or columns that contained too much of one type of star pattern, though it wasn't possible to avoid completely, given how much of that light blue/dark blue striping was in the pattern that I started with.

One of the little pleasures I got from laying the blocks out was discovering how well the seams in my blocks line up and how, overall, I did a pretty good job of getting these blocks to within almost the same size of each other (the very first block, the pink one in the top left corner being something of an exception) . I feel very confident that when I sew these blocks together, that everything is going to line up nicely if I sew carefully. This is a distinct improvement over Serenity, my first quilt top. I was also amazed to find that when these blocks are all together as a whole, all my concerns about some of the wonky centers went away. It's almost impossible to demonstrate in a blog-sized photo, but even when you're up close, you don't notice those wonky centers very much. All the other activity going on in the quilt makes some of the problem minutia go away.

The last thing that remains is the border. Initially I was going to use some more "Feelin' Groovy" fabric (the fabric the stars are made of ) to border it, but after talking with Julie and Colette we all decided that that would be too busy and would probably detract from the blocks. Another option was to introduce a completely new fabric to go around the edge, but that didn't really feel right to any of us, either. Then Colette suggested that I consider a simple pieced border, where I use the background fabrics in the border, changing the color with the edge of each block and always using a different fabric than the block itself (sorry if that isn't clear, it will become more obvious when I put it together). I purchased a bit more of each background fabric to do the job with and I hope to get the top seamed up this weekend. Just like the finishing work on a sweater, I find it a lot easier to crank through the finishing work on a quilt top when I feel like I'm getting close to the endgame.

Stars on Top

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The Groovy Star Top All in One Piece

In a surprising burst of effort, I turned all my star blocks into an actual quilt top on Saturday. Amazing what a cloudy, grey, cool weather day can do for my crafty motivation. Which is to say that when it's cooler outside, it's much more pleasant to be in my third floor office/craft space.

I'm very happy that I went with the pieced, multi-color border. It was more work in the end to do it this way, but I think it's the perfect border for the multi-colored stars. I give credit for the little corner pieces to Colette -- I just wish I could remember what she called them, since they have an actual quilting name for borders done with those little corner pieces.

Amazing how a picture can make things look more perfect than they are. I assure you there are plenty of small alignment mistakes when you get up close to it. But this turned out much better than Serenity did from that perspective. Every time I sit down at my machine, I learn a little more about making seams come together better, and this project taught me a good deal about careful block construction -- and why sewing triangles on the bias can be a little tricky. Next time I tackle a similar project, I'm sure the construction will improve again. I think that's one of the fun parts about learning a new craft -- in the beginning, you see so much progress in your technique and skill with every project.

This quilt is going to be off to the machine quilter sometime in the next week or so -- just as soon as I can get it to Quiltology for the hand off. I'm going to have it backed with a lovely plush, washable fabric, in a soft lilac color, that I think will be very baby friendly and give it a little extra thickness. Hopefully it will be back in my hands before the Z baby decides to put in an appearance. I think it would be awfully nice to bring her home from the hospital and greet her with her very own quilt.

One Sleeve, Two Sleeves..

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Two Sleeves for Lollipop

Thank you to everyone for the encouraging comments about my starry quilt top. I think that my sewing machine is going to be a little quiet for a while as I work on some fiber projects that need my attention, such as Lollipop. I'm finding knitting to be a very pleasant pursuit right now, as I can put my feet up, be still and let my fingers travel over my needles while the baby does her little dances. I thought that as she got bigger, she'd settle down some, but she's still as active as ever. And as she gets bigger, those motions get somewhat more distracting. Knitting also has another benefit -- my belly doesn't get in the way. Funny how sometimes I just forget that it's there and bump it into things!

This little sweater now has two sleeves. Even on tiny needles, when I sit down to work on them, the baby sweater pieces just seem to fly. A whole sleeve in a few hours in an evening? Certainly a first for me, if you don't count any of my sweaters worked in bulky yarn. The Cashcotton is a nice yarn to knit with in the summer, as well. It stays fairly cool to the touch and doesn't get that slightly sticky feeling wool sometimes gets for me when I knit with it when my hands are warm -- and right now my hands (an the rest of my body) are almost always guaranteed to be warm.

Onto the back of this sweater!

Random Eye Candy Thursday?

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The last two days have seen a little knitting, but a lot of general lack of motivation. I'm not sure whether to chalk this up to being 34 weeks pregnant or just to the weather, but clearly it doesn't lead to that much that is bloggable. So instead of rambling too much, I thought I'd just share a picture I took a little while ago that makes me happy and is one of the elements of my baby's nursery -- though not quite in the right color scheme.

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Garden Visitor

One of the only things I regret about being in the city and having a lot of shade in the lot our house sits on is that I can't really grow a butterfly garden. Perhaps Z and I will just have to do that at my parents house. I like the idea of my baby's life being filled with butterflies.

You know, before I got pregnant, I promised myself that I would not become one of those pregnant women.

You know the ones, the ones who can't stop talking about their pregnancies. The ones who seem to think that there is nothing much that extends beyond the radius of their expanding bellies. I was going to remain able to discuss business, life, politics and crafting without having to refer to my "condition". Especially on my knitting blog.

So to those of you who have had enough of the my abdominally focused talk, I'm not going to apologize, but I am going to encourage you to take a pass on the post today. No knitting. All gestational. It's just where my head is at, and writing about what's going on in my life usually proves to be good therapy.

I'm beginning to get a little ambivalent about my pre-natal visits. On one hand, it's good to know that I'm getting good care, and that I'm being watched carefully so that we can all make sure that both Z and I make it to the finish line happy and healthy. On the other hand, being watched carefully often means that more things come to light than you really want to know about. Like glucose levels. Or cervical dilation.

So, this morning I headed off to the doctor figuring I'd more or less gotten past the big stuff to be worried about and I'd dealt with the idea of being confined to Chicago. I got a Bella Band last weekend that seems to be doing good things for me in terms of belly support and relieving some joint pain. It makes a girl feel more or less comfortable with the idea that she's going to have a nice routine visit and then get to head off on her own adventures for the rest of the day.

Queue up the ominous music...

Of course, this morning my blood pressure was high. High when I was sitting up. High when I was laying on my side. Not high enough to be considered high blood pressure if I was not pregnant, but, since pregnant women usually have lower blood pressure than normal, high enough to raise some warning flags. The OB I was seeing did the rest of my checks to make sure everything else seemed good, told me she didn't see any signs of me having pre-eclampsia, but also told me that when it came to things like this, it was better safe than sorry. She walked me down for an immediate ultrasound (the office has it's own) to make sure that the baby looked good and my amniotic fluid levels were right (both were fine -- perhaps the bright spot of the day was seeing the baby on US screen and hearing that she's the perfect weight and size for where she is supposed to be developmentally) and booked me a bed over in the labor and delivery ward of Prentice so that they could run some more tests to see what was going on.

And we all know how much I like hospitals.

But I got settled in there. John came from work to make sure I had company. Testing for pre-eclampsia isn't so bad. Mostly you lay in a bed with a fetal monitor and a contraction monitor and a blood pressure monitor. In my case, you get a very friendly nurse who shares your name and explains everything that is going on, and draws blood more painlessly than anyone who has ever done it before. And you get to have a couple of special urine tests for protein. And your husband feeds you water and juice and takes advantage of the wireless internet at the hospital to get some work done while you work hard at resting.

My OB visit started at 10... I left the hospital around 3:30. Apparently my baby has a beautiful heartbeat and activity level. My blood work is just fine. There's no protein in my urine by either the low or high sensitivity test. My blood pressure has not dropped to where it has been in the past, but its in the "mostly ok" range and it's relatively stable. All signs point to no pre-eclampsia. And that, my friends, is a very good thing. I to talk to my OB (so nice to see her and talk to her) about what could be going on -- and get a realistic discussion of what to worry about with the blood pressure. And I get sent home with instructions to rest and to collect my urine for the next 24 hours so that they can do a more conclusive protein study.

And so here I am at home. Trying to be restful until my return to the OB's office Friday afternoon. I'm not so good at that whole restful thing. And I'm concerned about the fact that my blood pressure is still a bit higher than will likely pass muster (we have one of those little home measuring units), because it implies a good deal of bed rest in my future as part of the management plan. I don't like confinement all that much. So while I'm happy about the lack of eclampsia concerns... I'm feeling a little concerned about what might happen if my blood pressure doesn't fall back into line.

So I'm trying to remember the most important thing... the small person who is growing under my heart. We're so close to the finish line (34 weeks), and in the great scheme of things, this is nothing. Just my own issues with not liking to be out of control of the world around me. So I'm trying to focus on listening to the fetal monitor earlier in the afternoon, hearing her little heart beat, changing ever so slightly when she moves. I've been told that maternal heart sounds are soothing for babies. But right now, it's her heartbeat that's helping me feel better.

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