The Urban Aran Cardigan warms yet another body

IT IS FINISHED!

After swearing up and down and back and forth that last night was the night that I was going to go to bed early (ie, on time), I sat down for an hour to sew some more on the zipper of Matt’s Urban Aran Cardigan.

Wait, back up.

On Thanksgiving, Matt drove us to my parents’ house and I started sewing down the zipper.  My hand sewing is not the best but I am capable.  I decided back stitch was the way to go.  Strong, uses twice as much thread, and even I can’t screw it up.  Or can I?

The thing I was doing didn’t look like back stitch but I could not fathom what I was doing wrong.  So I stuffed the sweater back into its tote and talked to my husband for the rest of the car ride.  Maybe, just maybe, I saw a tear in his eye?  He’s been waiting a long time.

That evening, back at home and kids abed, I did some research online.  Looks like I had the right method but was, um, going backwards.  Sigh.  I was sewing back stitch left to right rather than right to left.  I don’t know how it could make that much difference but, oh, it did.

Sunday was another trip, this time to Matt’s dad’s house.  In half an hour (before the edges of car sickness snuck up on me; a legacy of my pregnancies that sometimes haunts me) I managed to sew down about half of one side of the zipper.  Yey!  Measurable progress!

So last night, with an hour to go until my 10pm bedtime, I figured I would get the other side sewn down.  That plan went so peachy and my back stitch was going much faster so I started in on the other side and willfully ignored the clock.  I was also listening to Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Master Classes on the Knitting Workshop DVDs.  In the end, I stayed up until midnight with Matt who, when he realized sweater was about to be finished, decided to stay up and keep my company.

At about 11:30pm last night we pranced around singing “Happy Birthday” and snapping pictures.  The strange glow in the photo above is my Ott light, which was necessary to see the dark brown thread against the dark brown zipper and dark brown wool.

So that’s the good news.  Ten months later, the birthday cardigan is done and I am free to start my own new sweater: Ribby Cardi.  Of course my mom mentioned to me on the phone last night that she needs a wool sweater for her office.  Was she fishing?  If so, I didn’t bite; not yet.  She knows how to knit and I need a cardigan!

The bad news is that our dog, about an hour ago, jumped up on a window and broke it.  After cleaning up the glass, I was able to wrangle the storm into place (our windows are old) so that I am no longer heating my front yard.  I am awash with ugly emotions.  Luckily both children are asleep and I can hunch over some knitting and distract myself for a bit.  This post is part of that distraction so let’s just move on.

Ribby Cardi calls me like a siren but I am going to put her off for a few days or weeks.  I’d like to wrap some of my other projects.  Nevertheless, I did cast on something entirely new this afternoon.  Zander’s winter gear was next most important on my list because he is playing on the playground at preschool three days a week, at the very least.  I started a Toasty Topper today with Cascade 220 Heathers in a blue color.  Hopefully there will be enough leftover that I can also make him some mittens.  If not, I know where to get more.

There is more to tell you my pretties, but I’ll save it for another day.  I need to go do some knitting.

Sacrilege

Around the World crochet afghan

What is this?

Around the World crochet afghan

Crochet?!  Not just crochet but a giant granny square.

Not just a giant crocheted granny square but I am watching Elizabeth Zimmermann‘s PBS series Knitting Workshop while I work on this!  The granddame of knitting – ha!

Oh and I am breaking my no-TV resolution to boot!  Ha HA!

And what happened to the Lace Ribbon?  Oh yeah, there it is, next to the oft-neglected Jaywalker

Lacey Ribbon Scarf and Jaywalker Socks

Enough with the sins, now for the graces: I am putting a dent into my basket of Wool-Ease!  In addition to this new project, I have also given away a couple of skeins to a friend.  Abbey is not just any friend but a crocheter whom I have recently brought over to the knit-side.  That was a few weeks ago.  Fast forward to today: Charlotte and I were knitting and chatting and I showed her this pattern (scroll down to see a few examples), deciding on the spot that I would make this blanket per pattern, but I would challenge myself to only get yarn for it by trading or buying inexpensively via Ravelry.  No going to the store, not even for a sale.

Charlotte then left and I was alone with these threads of ideas swimming around in my head.  In a flash, the basket was out and yarn was lining up on the table.  It all happened so fast, almost of its own accord.  I quickly perceived that I had a veritable rainbow of partial skeins.  I made one or two adjustments and then, simply, began.  I won’t lie; it may only be a granny square, which I have made before, but it was slow-going for a few rounds because I had to relearn how to double crochet and how to create a granny square.

Granny square: NOT like a bicycle.  But still not so hard at all.  Just as happened gradually with knitting, I find I am able to “read” my crochet better now that I have been playing with it for a few years (two, I think).  That’s exciting.  It’s progress.  It gives me hope that I may someday have a decent grasp of this.  But I can never be brilliant at crochet because that is my sister’s domain, you understand.

My other grace?  After much hawing and heming, the zipper has been ordered for the Urban Aran Cardi.

And to close with wise words from EZ herself: “This just goes to show you…people will wear anything on their heads!”

"This just goes to show you...people will wear anything on their heads!"

(Matthew in his ubiquitous Greek fisherman’s cap and Elinor in a cotton cap knit by grandma with yarn she dyed herself.  This is a much cuter picture than the one I considered of Zander wearing his underwear on his head.)

Resolutions

Urban Aran Cardigan

Urban Aran Cardigan

Urban Aran Cardi is DONE.  Okay, it needs a zipper and I need to bite the bullet and buy one online because it turns out that repeated visits to the big box craft store do not generate enough kismet to make the zipper style/color/length I need magically appear.  Fooey.  But when I sit down to knit, there’s no sweater to work on anymore which makes it done for all intents and purposes.  Besides, if Matt was into nice shawl pins, he COULD be wearing it now.  Mwah.

Lace Ribbon Scarf

Jaywalkers are on hold while I knit up this pretty thing as a birthday gift for a person who is otherwise impossible to buy something for.  Despite the fact that I am once again NOT making myself the hat and mittens and scarf I so desperately need, I am having a wildly good time.  The Lace Ribbon Scarf is simple but not too simple (I love the double yarn overs!).  It’s also only a few inches wide so I can finish a row lickety split.  This picture was taken after one evening of knitting.  It’s now about a foot long.  What you might not realize about this pattern (I didn’t) if you have looked at it before (I have) is that there are two mods–one uses 100g of fingering weight yarn and the other uses 200g.  I don’t know about you but I rarely have 200g of fingering weight yarn in the same color/dye lot because 100g is what one needs to make socks, generally speaking.  So yey for flexibility!

In other, but not entirely unrelated, news, last week in my fevered delirium as I read books to escape my unpleasant reality when not even unconsciousness would have me, I decided to give up television for the rest of the year.  It was a simple choice once I realized two things: 1) I could not do it halfway.  I could not pick certain shows or certain days when TV watching was okay; and 2) I could not get the boys to join me but I could probably still make an impression on them with my own actions.

The last show I watched (although I didn’t realize it would be my last at the time): The Office.  The show I will miss the most: The Office.  I can’t quite put my finger on what it is I like so much about that show but there it is.  Luckily I don’t have to worry about missing LOST because that could be grounds for marital estrangement since LOST always leads to long discussions, debates, and theorizing, and no one would thank me for having to avoid spoilers.

I haven’t missed it a bit.  I’ve been reading novels, knitting, writing, listening to podcasts, and reading blogs and everything thing else under the ether online.  I am enjoying my evening adult time even more!  I have noticed that Zander watches almost no TV during the day now and Matt watches less in the evening.  Twice in the past week Matt and Zander have opted to play games instead.  Tonight we decided to have a movie night.  This was a special event and not the kind of thing I am trying to disentangle from so I didn’t count it.  Unfortunately, we ended up choosing Hoodwinked.  Eh.  I was knitting on the Lace Ribbon Scarf.  At the end, Zander told me his favorite part was when Granny showed off her extreme sports.  Of course!  This is the same kid who tried to make a case for me to rent him The Watchmen.  Um, no.  Too scary, I told him.  He told me he liked scary movies.  I’m sure you do.

My goal, after December 31st, is to watch television more carefully and not use it like a pacifier, for me and for my kids.

Resolution #2, also decided upon as I wrapped up my bout with the flu a week ago, is to knit all the socks in this book, Knitting Vintage Socks:

Knitting Vintage Socks by Nancy Bush

No time limit although I expect it to take me about a year, maybe longer.  I have already knit two of the patterns, one of which I probably will not repeat and the other I will make again, happily.  My one rule is that I must use yarn I have already, although I may make an exception for the silk stockings with clocks (last pattern) because I have no silk and why would I make them in any other fiber?  This long term project is inspired by my love of Nancy Bush as a designer and textile historian.  You rock, N.B.

Back from the dead

Beautiful Michigan sunset

I had the flu this week.  Hamthrax.  Porcine pox.  THE flu.  H1N1.  AKA swine flu.  (Why does the official name sound like a score to me?  Humans: 1…)

I was struck down less than 24 hours after my last post — I hope I didn’t get any of you sick.  I am not totally healthy today but what a difference it makes to not have a fever constantly.  Scary as it is to say, I think my case was mild, but it still took me out for three days.  The prevailing thought I had while sick was of how uncomfortable I was in my own skin.  I knew I was better this morning when I woke up, put my feet on the floor, and realized I felt like me again instead of some meat puppet with a box-a-day tissue habit.

Anyway.  My advice to you: don’t get the flu.

I did some knitting although mostly on the leg of the second Jaywalker.  I did do some sewing on the Urban Aran Cardi but I didn’t make it very far.  Not enough to comment here.  Mostly I read.  Reading was a better escape for me than TV.  I finished a short story collection, Mothers and Other Monsters by Maureen McHugh.  It was good overall.  Now I am reading Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore.  Very funny.  One of my girlfriends is a Moore fan so this may only be the beginning.

Since I continue to have a lack of finished objects to parade by and that is, of course, one of the big thrills for a knitting blog, I thought I might entertain you in the meantime with some goodies from the vault.

My first handknit socks:

my first handknit socks

Not only are these my first socks but they are also my first ever finished project.  I was taught to knit in second grade — the teacher allowed us to stay inside and knit with her during recess in winter; my project was a burgundy acrylic scarf which is yet unfinished and I still hope will surface in my parents’ house someday — but I didn’t stick with it.  I tried to pick up crochet a few times in college but my gauge was so tight it made my hands hurt (this is not an issue any longer).  Then comes the corporate job post-college and I expressed to my friend Liz who was totally gone for knitting that I might like to learn.  So one day we skipped lunch and drove to a yarn shop.  She decided I was a smart cookie like herself and that I should knit socks — like herself.

I used Fortissima Colori and Nancy Bush’s Classic Sock pattern from Folk Socks.  Liz helped me cast on, we reviewed knitting and purling, and then she sent me on my way to knit a 2×2 ribbed leg.  It was really really slow going for me for a while, trying to keep track of knits and purls when I could barely tell if I had done a stitch correctly on top of learning a knitter’s dexterity of handling two needles and the working yarn with only two hands.  She made a point of not teaching me either English or Continental style to see what I would do naturally (she had recently discovered Zilboorg’s Knitting for Anarchists).  The answer: Continental . . . and no, I am not left handed.  For the record, Liz knits English style.

After my first weekend alone with the sock leg, we met up so she could check my progress.  I showed her my few inches of leg, very proud.  She stared and stared, her look growing increasingly troubled.  Turns out I had been knitting on the inside of the leg!  She didn’t know how to fix it and was worried I had to rip it all out.  “No biggie,” I said and flipped the leg inside out.  Now the action was on the outside.  At the time I didn’t think much of it but I think this was a significant moment for me as a knitter because I was not taken hostage by my project and its problems.  Also the deceptively simple solution may have only been visible to me at that time because of beginner’s mind.  I love beginner’s mind.

Another funny bit that happened in the making of these socks: we were knitting during lunch, in the cafeteria, and there was a nearby table of about six women who were also knitting.  I had never paid attention to them before but of course how could I miss them now — fellow knitters!  As the lunch rush died down and the room emptied out, they came to check us out and were very impressed that we were knitting socks and that our needles were so tiny.  I think they were making baby garments.  One of the women became almost belligerent toward Liz when we explained that I was also learning how to knit.  “That’s too hard!  You can’t have her knit socks as her first project!  She’ll hate knitting!”  Au contraire.

I was amazed, truth be told, because it had not occurred to me that any of this should be difficult.  Not because I have a fat head but because I trusted Liz and because I was working hard but enjoying the process.  Yeah it was frustrating at times but I never once thought if the yarn were bigger it would be easier.  What moved me along was watching the pretty colors emerge and seeing the yarn become a sock.  I’m not suggesting everyone should follow the same path but rather, to each her own.

Life distracted me for a time — getting married, quitting my job, going to graduate school, that kind of thing.  I worked on my beautiful rainbow socks steadily but extremely slowly. It was a year later, in the car  with my brother and my husband that I bound off the first sock and cast on the second.  Or attempted to cast on the second.  I had been a year, after all.  I may have cried horrible tears that made both men cringe while I tried to remember how to cast on from two pamphlets in my lap and my poor, poor memory.  This crying may have gone on for an uncomfortable length of time.  But you know what?  I figured it out and had the second sock started before we reached our campsite.

It wasn’t until I was in grad school later that year and needed something relaxing to fill a few hours with that I took to knitting like a thirsty person loves water.  That’s when I finished these socks and, with a little sniff, tucked them away to give to my sister as a holiday present because I had made them too small for my own feet.  The thought of ripping back the toes to make them longer was horrid to me.  I was still new enough to knitting that every stitch was precious.

The best part?  I saw my first socks, now six years old, yesterday when my mom came over to be my nurse/play with her grandkids.  I’m glad they’re still keeping people warm!

I found my “spaceship” yesterday.  We had a spectacular sunset last night but sadly this photo only captures a fraction of it; the colors were much more intense.  Most of the leaves have fallen.  We put 37 bags on the curb last weekend and we’re not done yet.

beautiful Michigan sunset

Where did I park my spaceship?

There would be more (and more recent) pictures in this post but I have had to hide my camera card reader from my son who thinks it is a spaceship — and now it is so well hidden that I cannot find it.

The Urban Aran Cardigan for my husband’s birthday (January 2009) is now being sewn up.  This photo is a few days old since both sleeves are now on and I just have the sides and underarms to go. I had to bust into my last skein for the sewing so I had just enough yarn.  The local craft store did not have a zipper of the right length and color–mostly because it had been raided by people making Halloween costumes, I suspect–so I will order one from Zipperstop.  Almost there!

I also finished the first Jaywalker from my Flat Feet yarn (again this picture is a few days old)–that was started on January 13, the day before Matt’s birthday.  Progress, ten months later!  Such is life with babies and young children.  I cast on the second sock and knit exactly one row before being interrupted last night by the baby who suddenly, thankfully, recovered from her flu and was tearing around the living room, throwing stuff to the floor.

I think the next order of business will be hats and mitts and scarves for the four of us.  None of us is completely without these items but probably the most needy is Zander for mittens.  I spent an entire day last winter knitting and reknitting mittens for him that never quite worked out and his store-bought insulated ones turn his hands into clubs.

I feel occasional pangs of holiday-knitting-itis but nothing has stuck, which is good because the only time it really works out is when I start in August.  I keep telling myself that I need to knit for birthdays instead of winter holidays.  But then I realize that I would probably spend 12 months of the year knitting for others and never for myself instead of 4 months.  I suppose I could try it for one year to find out for sure… but then I am also sure I cannot be that organized for another couple years.

Zander was healthy for Halloween, by the way, and had a blast.  I have no idea what the fever was fighting off on Wednesday–perhaps a very mild flu because at midnight on Saturday night, just as our last guests trickled out the door, Elinor woke up to nurse and was blazing hot.  She ran a high fever with runny nose and was very droopy for nearly 24 hours.  Then it was over as suddenly as it began.

(The marvelous view outside our living room window a week ago.  Then it all fell down.)