August 2007 Archives

My Own Little Fantasy

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A Few Intervals of the Diamond Fantasy Scarf

On my last couple of days of bed rest (when I was thinking that they were just in the middle of my bed rest period) I decided that I wanted to start something special just for myself. When I was in Toronto, I purchased on skein of Handmaiden Silk/Cashmere 2 ply lace weight yarn in a lovely purply magenta colorway. It made me happy just to take it out and touch it since it contained my two favorite fibers and some of my all time favorite colors. And it seemed like it might be the perfect thing to help me chase away some boredom.

But what to do with it? One skein, 300-400 yards... not enough for a shawl. Not enough brain power to design something myself. I needed a good pattern to follow. So, since I could wander around on Ravelry I started looking for lace projects, and I started looking at the yarn section looking for things people had already done with the yarn, or lace projects that looked like they might complement the yarn.

Which is where I found Sivia Harding's Diamond Fantasy Scarf/Shawl pattern. This is one of those patterns that I've seen all over the place, but never had a good reason to get started on myself. But since I was anticipating nursing (and nursing tops and bras and so forth and dealing with easy access) I thought that a scarf that could be worn over the top of something else made a lot of sense.

So I spent an evening before dinner hand winding the ball (it was something I could do easily while listening to a podcast and it was a nice tactile experience) and the morning I headed off to my final OB appointment I cast on the first couple of stitches, thinking I'd be home in the early afternoon to work on it a little more. Wishful thinking, that, I guess. But since I've been back with the baby, her naps have given me time to make some progress. I have to admit that I am in "blind pattern following mode" and am just reading through the line by line instructions (easier for me at this point than trying to keep track of a chart). The instructions are excellent and I'm making good progress -- although I've had to learn not to start a complicated lace row without checking to see how Zosia is doing...

May in August

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Cashsoft DK in Ballad Blue and a Swatch

I'm probably crazy to be knitting a little sweater in a wool based yarn in August. I ordered this yarn before I went on bed rest for May in the RYC Mother and Baby book. May is a little cropped cardigan that is just perfect for wearing over the "easy access" top. The cable detail is simple enough to make it easy to knit, but complicated enough to make the garment and the knitting interesting. Right now August has come on like gangbusters here in Chicago providing us with a lot of 90 degree weather, but fall is just around the corner and since my knitting time is unpredictable, starting now means that I might have it to wear when it starts to get a little cooler.

Ever since I knit Liberty, I've been in love with Cashsoft and Cashcotton. I know, Cashsoft is not exactly the most durable yarn, but it's a yarn I can actually wear against my skin, and those are pretty few and far between for me. I considered substituting the Cashcotton (which I think wears better) but in the end just liked the color options in the Cashsoft better. The Ballad Blue will go well with my wardrobe (especially with jeans) and the piece should be wearable beyond my nursing days.

Now if I could only get gauge!

Separated at Birth?

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I now know who my baby looks like. I've started on a project to take a picture of her every day during her first year.

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Zosia at 2 Weeks

This one is from late last week. Recently, my dad sent me some photos from his archive. He was very active in black and white photography at the time and took some beautiful pictures.

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Theresa, Early 1969

Clearly, these babies are related... My poor husband definitely got cheated on this one!

Swatching for May

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It sort of figures that as I get started on May, that the weather would rocket into the 90 degree territory. Nonetheless, I decided to get started on my swatching for May. Since the gauge requirements are set over the pattern stitch, after making a small swatch and determining that the recommended 4 mm needles were too small, I cast on for a sleeve using 4.5 mm needles and measured every so often to make sure things were close to what they were supposed to be.

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May, Left Sleeve

This is the first cabled project I've done with Cashsoft DK. It's also only the second cable project that I've done using a lighter color.

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Texture in May

The Cashsoft is a nice yarn to cable with. It has that nice, elastic quality that, when combined with the fact that it is a 4 ply yarn, shows off texture well.

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May Cable and Bobble Pattern

And the solid Ballad Blue color makes for easy photography -- not required for a cable project, but definitely a nice bonus. So far May is a nice alternative to the Diamond Fantasy scarf. Unlike lacework, I can set this down to deal with an unhappy small person and not have any problems figuring out where I left off!

Due Date

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Today is Z's "official" due date. Somehow, I never thought we would actually reach this date with her. John arrived 4 weeks ahead of schedule and apparently I put in my appearance a few weeks early as well. Of course, I never thought I would have a 3 and a half week old baby by the time I reached my due date, either. It's one of those days that gets a new mom thinking... about what is, and what might have been and what is coming.

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For instance, my technically (by a few days) "pre-mature" baby is just over 8 lbs today. When I hold her, I try to imagine what it would be like if I were still pregnant and awaiting her arrival. I thought I was large at 36 weeks. How big would I have gotten if we had made it to today? It's hard to imagine that she could weigh that much and fit inside me! What would it have been like to push out such a big baby? What would it feel like to still be pregnant and waiting for her to arrive.

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I now live my life in 3-4 hr chunks during naps between feedings. All events occur relative to feeding and naps. The concept of scheduling has become a relatively nebulous one. Unless you count charting her sleep patterns, nursing habits and evacuatory behavior. I spend time thinking about things like nipple confusion and nursing-compatible clothing and trying to figure out just how much milk a baby her age needs at each feeding. And, I spend a lot of time wondering when John and I will get to go out on our usual Wednesday date without our tiny third wheel.

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I have now entered a phase where I think 6 hours of sleep constitutes a full night, but will settle for a block of 4 hours. I wonder how it is that she can be so active at night and then want to do nothing but sleep during the day. I am surprised by how consistent this pattern is with how she was when she was in utero. I marvel at how she can go from peaceful sleeping angel to screaming demon baby in less time than it takes me to go downstairs for a glass of water. And I am less than thrilled with my own low level of patience for when she enters melt-down mode. And very glad that her father is here to help bolster my reserves.

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I never get tired of seeing her snuggling up to her Dad. I am constantly surprised by how much she changes and how each new day seems to bring something new. Simple actions are simply remarkable. Watching her hold her head up and try to look me in the eye, seeing how hard she works to rotate her head from side to side when she gets some tummy time. Seeing her look up at me and smile or try to look around and figure out where the music is coming from. One day it's not possible and then the next day it's old hat.

I've become fascinated by human development. The evolution and transformation of both the parents and the baby. And I'm surprised at my heart. It's as if having a baby opened up a door there that I never knew existed. In spite of all the lifestyle changes and lack of sleep, I can't help but look at her and feel an outpouring of love and happy emotion that I never knew I was keeping in reserve. She has made my world a brighter place, simply by coming into being.

Happy Due Date, Z!

Circular Treats

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Whenever I go through something stressful or something frustrating I buy myself treats to help distract myself from whatever it is that is causing me stress or frustration. Strictly speaking, motherhood, so far, isn't really stressful or frustrating, but the bed rest beforehand and the challenges of dealing with the life changes that a newborn baby brings to the party fall into that category. So besides the occasional facial, body potion or book (sadly, it seems the cute new clothes are out of the question until I dump some of the baby weight and my, er, upper body, decides what final shape it wants to take on) , I've also been treating myself to some knitting tool treats as well.

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Lantern Moon Rosewood Destiny Circulars

I bought my first set of Lantern Moon Destiny Circulars in Rosewood about 6 months ago, when I was looking for circular needles with a smooth finish, nice join and a flexible cable that weren't too slick. These fit the bill. They don't have the needle sharp tips that most people like for lace knitting, but they are good for most of the uncomplicated knitting that I do. I really like the finish on these needles. Smooth enough so that most everything passes easily over them, enough drag to make slippery yarns easy to work with. The joins are nice and smooth and the cable, while not quite as flexible as that of a good Addi Turbo, does move easily and doesn't require the more aggressive heating process that I usually have to apply to other circular needle cords to get them to behave. The only drawback to these needles is the price -- at $24/set they're not something that you buy a whole lot of quickly.

With my bed rest followed up relatively quickly by delivery of Zosia, I decided that I had "earned" a few more of these needles. And I discovered that I "needed" a US size 5 needle for the Diamond Fantasy scarf (it seems like every time I start a project lately, I am lacking needles of the appropriate size and surface texture). True, I do have my Denise needle set, but I really hate using the size 5 needle because the needle diameter and the cord are the same size and it's never really worked for me. Since I was going to be using the Handmaiden 2 Ply Cashmere and Silk, I also needed a needle with a little bit of grip to help keep those slippery stitches in place. So I took one of my first after delivery trips out to Nina's and added a size 5 and a size 7 (my first needle was a 6) to the collection. The 7 was the size I needed for May... and I figured as long as I was giving myself a treat...

I love the feel of knitting with these needles. Little by little I think I am going to phase out all my Crystal Palace and Clover circulars and replace them with these. I love knitting with wooden needles -- and unlike my other favorites, my Addi Turbos, I don't take the finish off of them with use (there is something in my skin that does not entirely agree with the finish on the Turbos). These needles are hand crafted in Vietnam and have a special story that explains where the name came from. And they are now in the category of "my favorite things".

May Gets A Second Sleeve

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May Sleeves

In the spirit of getting the second sleeve syndrome out of the way right at the beginning, I've now got both of May's sleeves complete. I thought I'd have the second one done before now, but Miss Z has decided that she's not all that interested in sleeping in the afternoon so a good chunk of knitting time has simply disappeared. Not that I'm complaining all that much. Better that she be active in the afternoon than at 2 in the morning -- which is what she was doing. Right now, at night, she's giving us two solid 4 hour blocks of snoozing -- which is enough for me to feel almost normal on most days.

Even with baby-related delays, this project seems to be coming together quickly for me. I like simple cable projects like this, because after you get the first interval set, you really don't need to haul around a pattern to keep going. So while the cabling slows me down a little bit, I don't have to constantly refer to a chart. Also making this an ideal project for working on when I think I might have a baby-related interruption, since it's not hard to figure out where I was when I pick it back up again.

The Sweetest Thing

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Flowered Yellow Baby Kimono Sweater

I can't believe that I forgot to do show and tell with this little sweater. This lovely little baby kimono sweater was knit by my dad and my mom put the embroidered daisies on it after dad put it all together. The little sweater is entirely too sweet. It is also a bit too big for her right now, but it is good for her to have some nice things to grow into. Unfortunately, I can't remember which book my dad told me this pattern came from. It was an excellent first sweater project for Dad, since the basic pieces were simple stockinette and garter stitch. However, it also had some good learning elements -- like picking up stitches along the neck line and seaming in the sleeves. It's so tiny and sweet, a little treasure for her hope chest someday after she can't wear it any more.

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Flower Hat Topper

No outfit is complete without a few accessories, and since the Z baby is not yet into shoe shopping, Mom and Dad decided she needed a couple of hats. I think (once again, the brain is fuzzy... mommyhood is not so good for the memory cells, it seems) my mom is the creator of these little items. She's going to be precious with a little flowered sweater and a hat with a flower on top, I think.

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Ducky Baby Topper

And how could you not like this sweet little hat with a ducky embroidered on it? Too cute, I say!

And the best part? Aside from having sweet things made by your grandparents? Having washable sweet things made by your grandparents.

Tomorrow we are going to take Z on her first big adventure. We're driving to Michigan Fiber Fest (near Allegan, MI) to meet my folks and enjoy some sheepy goodness. Mom and Dad have already claimed the Z baby for their own so I'll get some time to explore the barns and hopefully take some good pictures. I'm not planning on buying much, but I'm hoping the trip will help me get my spinning mojo back in order. I'm also hoping that Z and John and I do well as a family -- I'd really love to be able to take her out on more day and overnight trips.

Just a Little Stash Enhancement

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We had a good adventure into Michigan for the Michigan Fiber Festival on Saturday. Zosia slept all the way there (and most of the way back), Mom got to do a little shopping, Dad got to catch a short nap, and Grandma and Grandpa got some high quality baby time. In fact, I didn't have the baby much at all except to nurse her. Zosia spent a lot of time in her Baby Bjorn with one of her grandparents while we strolled through the festival.

Which gave me the chance to take a look at the goods to be had. I was pretty reserved this festival. Really, I don't need any more yarn right now (at least not until I finish something I'm already working on) and I really don't need much fiber at the moment either. But I always get drawn into Tracy Bunkers booth. I guess last time I saw her, I must not have been spinning, because I didn't remember the spinning fiber. So I made up for that with a few spinning stash additions.

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The Michigan Fiber Festival Haul

Both of the bits of fiber I got are dyed in her Limeola colorway. The bundle on the left is a Silk/Merino/Alpaca blend and the roving on the right is superwash merino. I think both are destined to be two ply yarns. The Silk/Merino/Alpaca I'm going to attempt to get into the lace/sport weight range, the superwash merino is going to be, you guessed it, sock yarn. The whole green thing is out of my usual range of color selections -- perhaps my eye is being influenced by someone I know who has a passion for greens in this range?

Speaking of Alpaca, alpaca seems to be the new black these days. Almost every booth I went into seemed to have a good deal of alpaca or alpaca blend fibers and yarns. Alpaca is not generally my thing, as fiber goes, (not enough elasticity for me, and I find it to be a little hairy) so while I admired a lot of things, not very much ended up in my shopping basket.

Two other things that I was happy to find were Addi Turbo lace needles and Cat Bordi's new sock book. I always like to see creative new approaches to sock knitting and New Pathways for Sock Knitters looks like the kind of book that helps get the creative juices flowing. I've only been able to go through it at a cursory level, but her illustrations are lovely, and there are a number of sock projects I can see myself tackling. And I love how she demonstrates most of the sock designs and techniques on small sized socks -- given the new addition to my world, I think it would be kind of fun to try out a new technique and add to Ms. Z's wardrobe at the same time.

And speaking of Ms. Z... I didn't get too many pictures of her because she was busy entertaining her grandparents (and doing a lot of sleeping). But I did get one picture that I really loved.

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Z and Grandpa

Of course, you can't tell in this picture, but my Dad and Z are sitting on top of my parents' Gold Wing Trike (a Gold Wing where the rear axle has two wheels instead of just one) -- so Z has now officially been on her first motorcycle!

9 Years

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TLW & JPB, Simpsonized*

Today marks my 9th wedding anniversary. What a year it's been! This time last year, we were dealing with the end of our year of bad medical karma: we had just had our second miscarriage, John was mostly recovered from a detached retina and I had just found out I was going to need surgery to remove a fibroid. Our anniversary felt like a turning point. We toasted to each other with the hope that our 9th anniversary would bring happier things -- or at least less time dealing with unpleasant physical realities.

All things considered, it looks like the wishes from that toast came true. My surgery went well, John's eye is completely healed and not too long after a nice vacation in Hawaii we got pregnant with Z -- and stayed pregnant. In July we welcomed Z into our world, perfect and healthy. Our lives today are completely changed from 365 days ago. We've gone from just being a couple, to being parents. As I write this, Z is treating us to an incredible meltdown -- a reminder that while parenthood is an incredible thing, it's also going to be an incredible challenge. One that we'll be facing together.

I've known John for almost 11 years now. It doesn't seem possible that it could be that long a time. Yet it is. Every time I look at John I am reminded of how lucky I have been in my life to have found such a special and caring person to spend my days with. Now I also get the special joy of watching him tenderly putting a small sock on a tiny foot or cuddling a small body against his to help her get to sleep. We were a couple before. Now, with Z, we have become a family and we are preparing to face a whole new set of challenges together.

Happy anniversary to one of the most remarkable men I have ever met. To a phenomenal husband and a wonderful daddy. May our next year together bring many wonderful things... or at least a full night's sleep.

* Image from Simpsonize Me -- a fun way to kill a minute or sixty.

My Baby is A Death-Defying Rebel

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Since my baby is probably my biggist DIY project ever, and since taking care of her is such a big part of my life now, I've decided that once a week or so I'll probably have a post devoted to her and what is going on, what I'm thinking about or reading or observing. I'll try to make these posts obvious so that anyone who doesn't want to hear about babies doesn't have to stick around to find out there's no knitting or crafting involved.

I always figured I'd have a baby who challenged me. I just didn't think she'd be a pediatric rebel so soon.

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Z Likes to Sleep on Her Tummy

Yesirree Bob, Z's favorite nap time position is on her tummy -- something that the pediatric medical community, the March of Dimes and just about every other organization that has anything to do with babies is rather opposed to given studies of SIDS that indicate babies who aren't on their backs have a higher risk of SIDS. But when you let Z sleep on her tummy, she goes to sleep better on her own, she doesn't need to be all swaddled up and it seems like she sleeps better. Apparently my baby has not been reading all the reports -- or she's been reading them and has already decided she needs to rebel against the confines of societal dictates.

And you know what? I'm not entirely discouraging her.

Before I get labeled as a terrible Mom, let me put a few things out on the table. 1) When we put her down in her crib for her night time snoozes, we do put her on her back. 2) When she's tummy sleeping, there's almost always someone with her and she's on a firm surface. 3) We started letting her do this because we spent some time watching her while she was fussy and having a hard time getting to sleep when we knew she needed to get to sleep -- when we held her against our chests or let her roll onto her tummy (which, amazingly, she can almost do on her own and she is always trying to do) she calmed down and was easier to soothe.

If I'm learning anything about being a mom, it's that it's usually worth paying attention to advice (especially when it comes to the health of the child), but that sometimes I have to take a look at my child individually and see if there are extenuating circumstances. I think this is some of the hardest stuff I have had to do with her so far. Like most folks, when people I respect make recommendations, I want to follow them. In fact, I'm really hard wired into following rules (if we were playing D&D I would definitely be in the "lawful" part of the alignment spectrum) and it's often very difficult for me to think outside the rule-based box (y'all should have seen me agonizing over the "right" time to introduce a bottle so that I wouldn't disturb her breastfeeding instincts). But while babies follow developmental trends, they don't follow rules. They don't know that there are rules. They just know what they like. And my baby likes her tummy time -- whether she is cuddled up on someone's chest or enjoying her Gymini or hanging out with her parents on our futon in the computer room.

Along the way, I have also discovered another rule: Happy, well rested baby = Happy parents.
So I'm breaking one rule in favor of honoring another. I think I'm making the right decision for Z and for my mental health!

P.S. Yes, I also know about the recommendations against loose blankets for infants. Once again, it helps her sleep and I was in the room all the time she was sleeping under it.

Limeola Single

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Two Ounces of Limeola Superwash Merino Single

Buying a little fiber at the Michigan Fiber Festival does seem to have got my spinning pump primed again. One morning, while Z was sleeping, I pulled my spinning wheel into my office and pulled out the Limeola superwash merino that I purchased. As it turns out, spinning is a very nice, relaxing thing to do while keeping an eye on a sleeping baby. It didn't take me too many nap sessions to turn this first 2 ounces from roving into single.

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Limeola Single Close Up

When I started spinning this yarn, I didn't have a specific vision for it. It's a superwash merino, so I had decided that I would turn it into a 2 ply sock yarn, similar to what I have done before with the same kind of fiber, and then I'd make some socks to commemorate the end of the summer or something like that. As I was spinning, though, I got the distinct feeling that I was not the final destination for whatever would come out of this yarn. I was the one putting the twist into the fiber, the one who would turn a pair of singles into a two-ply yarn, but I wasn't the one who was going to take this yarn to the next level. I have an inkling of this project's final destination, but no idea of it's final incarnation.

Sometimes it's interesting how fiber talks to you when you're working with it.

A Little More Fantasy

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Current Progress on Diamond Fantasy Scarf

The older Z gets, the more of a fantasy the idea of lace knitting is becoming! Just getting a row or two here and there feels like quite an accomplishment. One thing I've learned quite well by this point: crying baby = not good time to knit lace -- even if the baby is being tended to by someone else. Even if I know there's nothing else I can do for her. Clearly mothers are hardwired to pay attention to one thing above all else.

As the project grows, I do like how the yarn is working out. There's definitely some pooling going on, but because the yarn is only composed of two colors and those colors are relatively close together, it doesn't scream "crazy variegated yarn thing".

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Diamond Fantasy Lacework

The more of the lace I knit, however, the more I love the look of it. One nice thing about using a yarn that lacks elasticity: the lace work looks less like a mangled dishrag and more like the final result. And the relatively simple color scheme doesn't overwhelm the lace pattern. Hopefully, I'm on my way to a project that will actually have some long-term wear time in my wardrobe.

Dance Dance Revolution, Baby

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And you thought that you could only play those dancing games with a game console and a dance pad. Au contraire says my Z Baby. Come 5 to 7 pm every day now*, she has come up with an alternate way to play -- Dance, Dance Revolution Baby Style.

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Zosia Postulates

First of all, Mommy, get some comfy dancing clothes. Nothing too warm, since we're going to get sweaty. After that, it's time to strap on the Baby Bjorn** and put me in it. OK! Now I'm ready. Next, load up iTunes and queue up some music. You know how I love that Erasure greatest hits album***. Now it's time to dance, Mommy. Dance, Mommy, Dance! Here's how I'm going to let you know if you're getting the steps right.

If you're failing to hit those beats on the current tune, be prepared to see this:

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If you're getting most of it right, but not quite hitting those beats like you should, I'll let you know by giving you this look:

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If you're doing really well, hitting most of those beats, I'll give you this sign:

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And if you really nail those beats, the game ends and you get the big prize:

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Zosia says that Daddies are ideal for this part, but not absolutely necessary

Ready, Mommy? Let's go! 1...2...3... Dance!

* It's the subject of some debate as to whether Ms. Z is colicky or not. My mother in law thinks she is (based on two babysitting sessions that happen to occur during her regular fussy phase). I think she just has a more active phase of the day (some days she will go with almost no sleep between 5 and midnight -- although this behavior is not consistent... some days she sleeps on a very regular schedule) and that she gets bored and/or over-tired and then starts to fuss, as her crying can be ameliorated by walking around with her. I will admit that she definitely has her moments -- Z is not one of those completely peaceful babies who spends all her waking time cooing happily -- but she doesn't cry for three hours straight for no reason, either. Maybe I just don't want to give her a label that suggests "problem baby" so that I (and others) won't start to think about her that way. I like to think she's just a very interactive baby with a way too active brain that needs constant stimulation, but that can't quite handle all the stimulation that it wants.

** The Baby Bjorn is a gift from the gods right now. It is the Z baby's favorite mode of conveyance and one of the only ways to calm her when she hits her fussy period.

*** You can all laugh, but whenever John and I turn on the 80's dance music, this kid stops what she's doing and pays attention. They say babies' musical tastes are influenced by what they heard while they were in the womb... poor Zosia. All that blast from the past music her mother likes is going to be stuck with her forever. At least I got some Scissor Sisters in there to balance it out.

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