May 2008 Archives

Fairy Wing Flies Off the Needles

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The first fairy wing is done.  They aren't so bad when you don't have to repeat too many rows more than once.  I kept getting distracted and found myself having to tink back more than I would like to admit, so, at the end, I found that I was most successful sitting in the silence focusing on nothing but the knitting. 

It's very meditative... Knit one knit two yarn over knit two together knit one knit two knit three slip slip knit yarn over knit one knit two.  When I focused on the knitting and blocked everything else out, I got into this wonderful groove, relaxed and forgot about some of the things that I didn't really want to think about but couldn't keep my mind away from.  Product knitter than I am, its rare that I am able to put aside my desire to reach the goal and just focus on the simplicity of looping loops through other loops. 

A Little Zebra a Lot of Yellow

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Well, that's it.  At this point I have pretty much done most of the interesting knitting on the Zebra Striper jumper project (except for a bit of duplicate stitch and some detailing around the arms and neck.  Now that the colorwork is done I have an ocean of yellow stockinette to knit through, punctuated by the occasional decrease row as the dress slims from bottom to top.  Believe it or not, I am happy about this.  I enjoyed the color work a great deal, but I wanted to have at least one project that required no thinking in my current batch.  This one has now become perfect for apres-nursing TV watching and for any other time I need something to just relax with.  Lace knitting may provide me with a mantra to meditate on, but simple stockinette lets my hands stay busy while my is free to wander.

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But I couldn't let this post go by with just a small picture of the overall project.  After all, this is the project that helped me get my two handed two color knitting mojo going.  With simple motifs and a long long way around, it was perfect for that task.  My stitches are hardly perfect, but I suspect with a little blocking most of the most egregious problems will be eased away.  Though the fabric puckers now, it's easily pulled into a better shape. 

The zebra stripes are an excellent demonstration of the importance of choosing carefully which hand you carry your yarn in.  Since I am still only moderately proficient carrying the yarn in my right hand, I always carried the yarn that was going to get used the most in my left hand.  In the case of the zebra stripes, this was the black yarn.  However, I think it would have been better if I had been more patient and carried the black in my right hand since the white seems to get lost under some of the black stitches and the black is a little more dominant than I think it should be in the design.  A good lesson for the future, I think.

I'm enjoying knitting with the Baby Ull.  Even though the gauge is tiny, it moves easily through my fingers and isn't as splitty as I might have expected a superwash yarn to be -- something that makes knitting in the dark more do-able since I don't have to stop all the time and be worried about whether I missed a ply or whether I'll have little slubby areas in the fabric that I don't want to have there. 

It's a long haul project -- but when Ms. Z comes up to touch it and then gives me one of her megawatt smiles I know it's going to be more than worth the effort.

Happy Mother's Day

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This year will be my first "real" Mother's Day.  Last year, I was about 7 months pregnant and waiting for the arrival of the baby that I had worried would never be a part of my life.  Although I was already dealing with the limitations that pregnancy puts on you (limited coffee, no alcohol, an increasingly tent-like wardrobe, too many doctor visits and all the usual mobility issues) I had no idea, really, of the changes that were coming.  I knew changes were coming, but I had no way of really understanding what they would mean -- that one day I was going to go into the hospital and a few days later I was going to go home a completely different person.  It's one thing to be pregnant.  To have made the full transition into motherhood is something else entirely.

And, while I have loved most of it, I could hardly say it was all roses.  The first two months taught me that I could function on two three hour naps at night with most of my good nature intact.  I struggled with all sorts of worry about breastfeeding and introducing pacifiers (Z refused them) and bottles (something I should have been more open to so that I could have given myself the occasional break from nursing).  I learned to deal, albeit somewhat badly, with a baby, who, at roughly 5 PM every evening went through a fussy period that could only be soothed by constant motion at a time when I just wanted to be still.  I also discovered that "working from home" without supporting baby care doesn't work, even with a relatively immobile infant -- at least not when there are phone calls to be on and an endless stream of email to be answered.

After two months, the initial shock wore off and while I loved interacting more with Z, I started to really realize what had changed in life.  John and I could no longer go out for dinner at the drop of a hat, and if we did sneak out with the baby, restaurants had to be chosen for child-friendliness.  Doing "regularly scheduled" things such as getting a facial, going out on our weekly date or out to knit with friends, shopping for myself  and just going to work, required a lot of extra planning to make sure that someone could watch Z.  The more mobile she got, the harder it became to indulge in my hobbies.  It's hard to knit and keep a baby from falling off a couch or play computer games while your child is trying to go headfirst down the stairs. 

I'd be lying if I told you that I wasn't mourning my old life just a little. 

But usually about the time I really start to feel the loss of my old ways, I have a moment that makes me push the loss aside.  It can be the feel of little hands pulling on a pant leg to ask to be held and to share a gummy smile.  Sometimes it's coming home from work and having Z practically "run" over to me to welcome me home.  Or watching her hit some new milestone and getting to share in the triumph of that new experience. Often it's walking her to sleep in the basement, and getting to watch a baby angel fall asleep in my arms.  What could be more special than knowing that I can give her the comfort and love she needs to drift off into a peaceful nap? 

Z has taught me to value my time and to use it more wisely.  I pick projects more carefully, waste less time aimlessly cruising the internet, and just generally try to keep things more organized so I don't waste time cleaning up or looking for things that I need so that I can work on something I want to do.  I'm more focused at work and plan out routine shopping trips to get them done more efficiently.  On the other hand, I don't worry now if I don't get to all the house chores or I don't have time to blog or if I fall behind on my correspondence if I am trading those things for time spent with John and the baby, not doing anything but being together as a family. 

Welcoming a baby into my world has helped me to reflect on myself and who I want to be a great deal.  I want to be someone that my daughter will always be able to look up to, love, and respect.  I want to be a good role model for her, someone that she will want to be friends with when she grows up.   This desire is helping me control my temper, be more patient, be better to the people I care about and to make sure I am focusing my life and my career in ways that make me happy.  There is still a long way to go, but every day when I see my baby girl, I have more motivation to keep going in the right direction. 

Having Z has helped me open my heart a  lot more to children and people with children.  Before Z, I didn't dislike children, but I didn't really want to be with them much, either.  Now that I have a child of my own, I can understand the magic they bring and why that magic is worth being tolerant of the unhappy screaming child in a restaurant or the seemingly endless potty training stories. I get truly happy for people when they make baby announcements.  I enjoy random encounters with people in stores, restaurants and parks who have children or who stop and let Z flirt with them.  I've always felt rather distant from most of the people around me, but Ms. Z is an incurable flirt.  Having Z has helped me feel closer to the world I live in -- her desire to interact with the world is encouraging me to get better at it, too.

While I have no doubt that my husband will come up with some lovely gift to commemorate the day, my baby girl has already given me the most incredible gifts that I could ever ask for:  her beautiful smile, a desire to be a better person, and a change in perspective that has altered my life, in the best way possible, forever.  On Sunday, I'll certainly enjoy being a mother, but I will really be celebrating the sweet little person who makes every day I have with her brighter because she is in it.

Mama loves you, baby girl. 

Fairy Wings and Golden Strings

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With persistence comes results.  The second wing came along much faster than the first, mostly in part to the use of stitch markers to mark the lace units.  Why this didn't occur to me for the first wing, I don't know.  It certainly improved my experience working on the second one. 

20080512_FairyWingsDetail.jpgIt's very simple lace and the variegated yarn helps to give it depth and texture.  I think if I were to do this project again, I would save myself the trouble of carrying an extra yarn up the side and just pick a multi-colored yarn that I liked or a solid that had some sparkle to it.  It wouldn't change the yarn requirements (I used most of both balls that I purchased), but it would make things a little less fiddly.  Normally working with two different colors wouldn't be all that bad, but this "kid merino" yarn is very attracted to itself and other yarns like it and towards the end I got a little tired of fighting that tendency.

All that remains now is the crochet ties.  These are made out of a perforated gold metallic ribbon yarn -- a perfect accent to the wings.  All the crochet is simple, so you don't have to be a crochet goddess to make them happen.  I've finished the first very long tie that is used to secure the wings to the child, and now I have the wrist loops and back piece to finish up.

Since these are birthday present for an early June birthday, I'm being very monogamous with this project.  Adults can cope with a special handmade project being a little late, but 5 year olds seem very sensitive to not having things show up on special birthday date. 

Yarn with an English Accent

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One of the best things that being a knit blogger has brought me is making connections with people around the world.  In particular, with Emma, who, very early on, encouraged a very newbie knitter to keep going and to try new things.  She was really the one who lit my fire for knitting socks.  Quite a few years now (though it hardly seems that long) she started what would become a very fun yarn/fiber trade back and forth across the Atlantic by gifting me with my very first Opal sock yarn.  Since then, we've traded back and forth without any real schedule or time line, which means that every now and again a wonderful surprise ends up on my doorstep completely unannounced.

The last couple of trades we have done have focused on yarns that are special or local to where we live since there are so many wonderful independent dyers and spinners out there in both the US and the UK.  So when I opened up my most recent special delivery from across the pond, I wasn't surprised to find it stuffed full of indie dyer loveliness from Emma's part of the world.

All the yarns are incredibly fabulous.  And they are, from left to right:

I love putting these posts together because I get to surf through a wonderful festival of links.  It's like taking a short tour of UK hand-dyers booths at a festival. 

The yarns from OxfordKitchenYarns and the Natural Dye Studio were hand dyed using all natural dyes.  The OxfordKitchen Yarns call out for some lovely textured socks, I think, while the Cobweb from the Natural Dye Studio clearly calls out to be lace of some kind.  The yarn from MiddleEarthKnitter is not only delightful in both hand and color, but comes with a little stitch marker attached to the label.  While the Blush yarn from Skein Queen could clearly become socks, I think I would enjoy the cashmere much more being soft and warm around my neck.  It's going to make for a beautiful project with the right stitch pattern.  The Scarlet Macaw was Ms. Z's favorite -- she grabbed it as soon as it came out of the package.  Her mommy likes it a lot, too.  So fun and happy it might become my next project.  And the Lavender Field yarn from the Knitting Goddess is delightful and soft.  I'm also thinking that it may be a striping yarn given the way the stretches of color look in the skein.   It will definitely be a fun surprise to find out when I knit with it.

Getting this package is like getting a bag of inspiration handed to me.  I just want to run off with my stitch pattern guides and start knitting socks! Thanks again, Emma, for a lovely trade!

Winging It

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All the knitting, all the crocheting, it is now complete.  The last bit of work on the wings involves using a crochet edge to "gather" in the wings and create a ruffled look. 

At this point, it's all assembly.  The wings have to be seamed together and the pieces that are used to hold the wings on a child need to be affixed.  This is one of those projects that turn out to be a lot more effort than you expect when it comes to getting all the finishing done.   Hopefully the nice long weekend ahead of us here in the U.S. will give me time to get this one wrapped up.  I'm excited about giving it as a gift, but I am really looking forward to working on something for myself.  I have this incredible desire to knit socks.  And there is much quilting to be done.  And there is so little time in my life for anything extra right now since when Ms. Z is awake she is in "danger baby" mode and crafting of any kind is almost impossible.



Quilt Variations

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This project was a color study based on 5 fabrics that featured yellows and purples in varying depths of shades and  degrees of domination of one particular color.  I'm very pleased with the way it turned out.  It was even a little bit more fun, because all 5 fat quarters came out of the Quiltology bargain bin.   Clearly I lucked out when I found enough fabrics containing two colors that are opposites on the color wheel. The whole project has only cost me 10 bucks!  Definitely a nice way to experiment with both colors and paper piecing. 

By limiting myself to 5 fat quarters, I also forced myself to figure out what size I needed to make my squares so that I would have enough fabric.  I also had to work out how to cut out my fabric strips to get the pieces I needed.  Since I hadn't played with much "quilty" math before, it was a great exercise.  And after that, sewing the paper-pieced blocks together was a piece of cake. 

Once you have the basic squares made it's no end of fun to move them around to see what a group of them can become.  The very top image is the one I had in mind when I made the squares, but these simple squares can be rotated so many ways to create many possible quilt tops.  The first one is still leading the pack now that I can start thinking about sewing them up.  The center of it is intentionally a little disjointed.  I wanted to make the viewer's eyes jump around a bit and and find multiple interesting patterns; maybe fool the viewer into believing that they weren't looking at 16 identical squares.

Opinions?

First Trip Away from Ms. Z

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Well, the time has come.  Next week I'm going to be spending most of the week in Boston, like a lot of other people associated with the microbiology world, taking in the big ASM meeting.  (Well, I won't be taking much of it in, I will be hanging out in a booth on the trade show floor, but you get the idea).  And for the first time ever I'll be apart from the baby -- she came with me to Toronto for last years meeting.  On one hand, I'm excited.  On the other hand, I know I'm going to miss her terribly, especially at the end of the day when I don't get greeted by that big fabulous happy smile when I come home from work. 

Since I'll likely travel a fair number of times for my job during her childhood, I want to start a tradition of bringing a little something special back for her.  This will give me a Z-related mission that makes me feel like I am doing a little something sweet for her and I hope that it will give her a reason, especially as she gets older, to not feel bad about my going away. Not something large, just something small, easy to collect and transport, tough enough to withstand the love/appreciation of a child.  I'm also going to try to work on a pair of socks for her.  I have Cat Bordhi's most recent sock book and some lettered stitch markers from JLYarnworks all ready to go -- and I love her idea of making baby sized test socks in order to try out her general sock forms from the book.   Z hardly needs socks with warm weather approaching, but making things for her makes me happy and makes me feel close to her even if she is too young to understand of know. 

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Any of  you travelling moms have suggestions for how to make the time away from the baby easier? 

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