Friday, July 24, 2009

What's next...

... is something we all face, in life, and of course, in knitting!

For me, small projects keep me from feeling overwhelmed by the challenges posed with the sweaters requiring a major time commitment. This summer, smaller projects have been my entire knitting output. Fortunately, there are things to be learned from small projects as well as the major ones!
I'm not a real romantic about babies, and am not often moved to create a handmade gift for a baby shower. I'm more likely to wait until the little one will be able to wear a garment more than once before they grow out of it. One of our bunco gals, Sarah, is pregnant for the first time. The members of our bunco group are an over-the-top sort, so when I received the invitation to the shower, I decided to go ahead and knit a baby-something. I chose the Knitting Pure & Simple Easy Baby Cardigan / Hoodie in the 6 month size. Instead of the usual baby pastels in the gauge called for, I found an Encore in Northwesty tones (Color #7118), and reduced the # of stitches by 20% due to the difference in stitch gauge. I didn't have to worry about row gauge since the instructions only called for measurement. My biggest challenge was knowing so little about baby sizing that the hood seemed like a balloon and the sleeves seemed shockingly long, but my BYS class assured me it was right on. I sent it to the shower with a friend and was later told it was a hit. I was also assured that even the knitter-sister-in-law closely examined the construction and was impressed. Little Daniel is not scheduled to arrive until August, so I won't have a photo of him in the hoodie for some time to come. This is a project that is easy, quick, adorable, and I am already knitting another one in a larger size for cousin Roxie's, grandson and the cold, Kansas winter.The hoodie was cast on while I was in Missouri with my cousins. My cousin, Debbie, had made quilts for each of us with our Doggette name right on it. I was amazed at her generosity, with her time and her skill. I wrote to her to tell her that and she said that her mom did quilts in the same way, and that Debbie and her sister were allowed to tie the pieces of yarn to help with the quilts, so sewing these for us gave her a way to be with and remember her mom. Well, my mom is not a knitter, but I was moved to do something handmade for each cousin too. Back to my bath mitts!
I wanted to use the black&red colors (the green is for Aunt Louise and her love of frog designs), but found it limiting so didn't mind the variagation in the Peaches & Cream cotton yarns. I've added a ribbed cuff to the pattern from the paper label, and I increase the sizes according to the size of the hand. The result is 9 bath mitts, bath salts or handmade soap for each Doggette, and a
Scottie dog luggage tag from local Linnea Designs for each cousin's future travels.
At the same time, I've picked up my long-neglected Forest Canopy shawl. I started it in summer of 2007, and took it out so many times, I finally just put it down for awhile... which stretched into nearly two years. When I stretched it out to see it after so long, a funny thing happened: I actually could see the stitches and read them. To be sure, I took it to class and asked Rebecca to refresh me, and I was correct. I plan to make it larger than a shoulder shawl, but we'll see how it goes!

So what's next for me is another pair of basic Pure & Simple socks from an old On-Line sock yarn in a beautiful colorway (I have the heel flap technique down, thank you!), completing the 2nd baby hoodie and Forest Canopy shawl, and swatching some fabulous variegated Kid Seta for the Veronique shrug from French Girl Knits. I'm also following Rebecca's suggestion to actually write a list of the patterns I have on my wish list, and the yarns I already have for them. Going through them mentally leaves me in a quandary, so looking at the patterns matched with the yarns I have brings things clear more quickly. I fully expect to be shocked with myself for buying so much yarn in a sort of "what was I thinking?" moment... then I'll go to my BYS class to hear that we ALL have stashes, and that stash shopping is a good thing!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Lazy days of summer?

I've been feeling a little unproductive - worrying that I'm taking on small, easy projects instead of facing up to some of the challenges bouncing around in my mind. I'm actually talking about my knitting, although it may be true for other facets of my life as well. My recent family history excavations are affecting some of how I think about things, and I don't know exactly where my thoughts will lead - perhaps being preoccupied has affected my knitting output so far this year. To get back in stride with my personal expectations, how about joining me in a look at the completed projects besides George's sweater?My pink "Knit for the Cure" socks were challenging due to the very small gauge of the yarn. That the socks are built like iron is due to using Addi size 0, and that they are warm as can be is due to the lovely Twin Rib stitch from Sensational Knitted Socks. I love them - and will wear them as soon as the weather is cool enough that my feet won't sweat in them.

I also love my Gryffindor socks from Sunshine Yarn's Harry Potter collection. This yarn is also quite a fine gauge, so I increased the number of stitches and decided on a 4x2 rib. Ellen showed me a short row heel and it turned out so well, I'm thrilled! Or I was, right up until I tried to do the same heel on the second sock and forgot how. My learning style seems to be "show me," as reading instructions doesn't seem to be enough, and Ellen hasn't been available to lead me through it again. Well, Ellen will be back from Denmark before too long, and I'll be requesting her time to refresh my memory! There are other ways to do a short row heel, I know, but I thought the heels on this pair should match... I felt like a real beginner when I started the pink socks over several times, it affected my attitude and I was afraid I was not going to want to finish them. And the Gryffindor socks are like a beacon of failure at the moment - I'll be unhappy until they are finished, then I'll love them.

My second completed lace project (the first was the February Lady cardi) turned out beautifully - I used the gorgeous Merino-Qiviut from Naomi to knit a smoke-ring pattern recommended by Melinda. It was fun to knit the bottom band then pick up stitches for the neck/hood. I took it slow and loved knitting with this yarn. I'll welcome the cold weather just so I can feel the warmth of such a luxurious embrace. And it feels like quite an accomplishment to complete these details, including the blocking process.My third completed lace project was the Lace Shaped Tee (also known as Krista) from Knitting Lingerie Style by Joan McGowan-Michael. Since I chose Cascade's Pima-Tencel yarn, which gave a decidedly different gauge and drape from what the pattern indicated, I was uncertain whether I would like the finished product on me. I knitted in fits and starts instead of straight through. I even ran into a serious problem with gauge when I picked it up again and was knitting tighter than previously. I thought I had somehow switched needle sizes. I extended the length of the sleeves from the cap sleeves, and now like it very much. I'm starting to get how people have this fascination with knitted lace!This is a good way to gain perspective: already, I've been more productive than I thought, so maybe I don't actually have knitter's block. I'll catch up to now next time!

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Have you ever not known something was missing in your life until it wasn't missing any more? That's what has been impacting my life - with questions, confusion, the desire to know more, and joy. What a wonderful gift to add new relatives to my life! Well, they have always been out there, I just didn't know them and have access to them in the same way many families do.
Mom is the eighth of nine siblings from a small town in Kansas. There is no photograph with all of them together. When they left home, they scattered across the country, and as I grew up, I knew my Dad's parents and of his sister and her children. I remember meeting my mom's mother and a cousin named Roxie when I was 5 or 6, but little about the meeting. At 16, I went with Mom to visit her older brother in Kansas, and became close friends with my cousin, Cindy for the few days we were there... we wrote for a while, but didn't see each other again. I remember the phone call Mom got when her mom died, and I remember asking Mom if she was an orphan now. I met her younger brother, and her oldest sister, but didn't really know any of her siblings as they began to pass away. I thought that contact among them was inconsistent as they pursued careers and raised families. Mom is now the only sister (of four), and there is one brother (of five) still living.
In the last decade, Mom has connected two of my cousins who were interested in family history, and they each shared with their sisters. Together with Mom, they located a fifth (the very same Roxie) and a drew in a sixth cousin, and I learned about all of this with a jolt when Roxie came to Seattle for a visit last fall. She told of the cousins' work on the family tree and their annual research trip to accomplish the various searches. My brother and I were stunned to realize that we have 28 or so first cousins across the country, that there have been some family reunions, and that they have been getting to know each other.
Meeting Roxie again was the open door for me - an e-mail to Cindy and to Debbie (a cousin I didn't remember since we met as toddlers) to indicate my interest in family roots was all it took. I began receiving e-mail pieces of their extensive research, Cindy and I renewed our friendship, and I learned that Mom, two of her sisters, and one of her brothers had baby girls the same year: Debbie, Roxie, Cindy... and me. These three, with Cindy's sister, Jeanne, and Debbie's sister, Judi, along with a younger cousin, Lisa, make up (to varying degrees, as their lives allow) the search party looking for family roots. They have fun at it, having organized a sort of girl gang and referring to themselves as the Black Doggettes after the "Black Dog" gang that Cindy's dad was in when he was a teen. They wear red and black, named a Scottie dog as their mascot, and it turns out all of us are more dog people than cat people. In June, I met all but Lisa at Cindy & Jeanne's mother's house in Oklahoma. We drove from there to the town in Missouri where our maternal Grandmother was born and raised. We bonded with laughter and shared memories of our parents' stories - I'm the only one with a living parent from their family. I knew the least of all, so my trip was filled with revelations, new understanding, new old friends, questions, and surprises. By sharing what our parents had told about family events and memories, we were filling in gaps and giving more perspective, so the search is more than academic. We feel like we are building a glimpse of personalities, and the best part is doing it together. The trip culminated in an unplanned visit on my way to the airport to the town where our parents grew up. It is on Route 66, and has diminished over the years as the freeways changed the travel patterns. Our interest was less about the town and more about meeting our sole living uncle, who purchased a house and moved back to this town earlier this year. At 83, Uncle Harold is spry, determined in the restoration of his house, and has a million stories to tell. For me, meeting another of my Mom's older brothers for the first time, and having three of my cousins to introduce me, was a thrill, like living our history. Lucky me!