Saturday, October 13, 2007

Free Pattern: It's All You Baby Doll



Materials:
approx. 2 oz sportweight yarn in your choice of color for doll's clothing
approx. 1 oz sportweight yarn in your choice of color for doll's face
embroidery floss in your choice of colors for doll's hair, eyes, nose and mouth
ribbon
lace trim (female doll only)
polyfill (for stuffing)

Gauge:
Unimportant. Pick a needle size that gives you a fabric you like. It should be tight enough that you can stuff the doll without the stuffing leaking through.

Determine the number of stitches per inch your gauge is giving you in stockinette and cast on in clothing color (using dpns, two circular needles or one long circular needle) enough stitches to make a tube approximately 3-4 inches in circumference, unstretched. Join, being careful not to twist, and knit until tube measures approx. 6 inches in length. Change to face color and knit for an additional 3 inches. Do not bind off. Break yarn leaving a 12-inch tail. Using a tapestry needle, run yarn through all live stitches and draw tightly closed. Tack tightly down (any small bump will eventually be covered with doll hair).

Stuff tube with polyfill and sew bottom of doll closed with matching yarn as for top. Stitch on doll's hair and features with embroidery floss as shown in photo. Using a small amount of matching yarn, run a vertical line of stitches approx. 1 inch long about 1/4 inch from either side of the doll's body near where the body joins the head to indicate arms (see photo). Thread ribbon around doll's neck and tie in a bow. For a girl doll, sew lace edging over top of head for a bonnet.
Un-Raveled

Well, I'm finally picking my head up after my total immersion into the knitterly crack equivalent that is Ravelry. I have to say, if nothing else, participation in Ravelry has inspired FOs galore, if only to have completed projects to add to my project page.



























































This is Baby Z's Coming Home Outfit: a Mason-Dixon Heartbreakingly Cute Baby Kimono, a pair of Elizabeth Zimmermann Baby Longhies, and a Heart Hat, also by Elizabeth Zimmermann. All are done in Knit Pick's Swish, a lovely, soft, but splitty superwash merino.

I've also started an Elizabeth Zimmermann Wishbone Sweater (Knitter's Almanac, December) for DH; no photo as of yet.

And I've collected a whole bunch of patterns for later knitting -- my Ravelry queue.

AND...only 12 more days and counting till Baby Z makes her appearance....

Friday, September 21, 2007

Holy. Crap.

Well, my Ravelry invite arrived the day after I last posted, so at last I know what all the buzz is about. For any of the umpteen-thousand folks still waiting for an invite, know that it's fun but not knitterly-life-changing (thank goodness...enough changes going on here already). It's kind of like squirl on steroids. You can use Ravelry to record your entire stash, all your knitting needles and crochet hooks, your knitting/crochet books...basically, all the minutae of your knitting and/or crocheting world. You can also record your knits themselves: the ones you've finished, the WIPs and your to-dos, complete with photos, links to patterns and/or sources, notes on modifications, errata, yarn and needles used...the list goes on. And then there are the forums, blog links, LYS listings and other features to keep you connected to your sisters-and-brothers-in-wool. It's very impressive, actually, and this is only its beta form.

But....

This is why I really love Ravelry. Somewhere in its labyrinthine depths, I came across the following link, and photo (there are even more at the link itself), titled "The World's Biggest Stash."
















Could you just pass out? Seriously, I'm still catching my breath. When I first saw this, I thought, that can't possibly be someone's stash. It's a yarn store that's been mislabeled.

Then I caught a glimpse of the upturned ride-on kiddy car in the lower-right corner and the giant blue plastic teddy-bear-looking-thing on a table beyond it thought, hmmm...unusual decor for a yarn shop.

Then I meditated on the general disarray in the photo, and after much denial and mind-boggling finally forced myself to tear my eyes off the photos and read the accompanying text which explains that yes, this is an actual private yarn stash.

Holy. Crap. Who wouldn't love a website that can link you over to yarn pron like that?

I think I'm going to be spending a lot more time at Ravelry.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ravelry

Well, I'm number 162 on the list, so it looks like I won't have to wait much longer to find out what the fuss is all about.... :)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Hello, Work? I'd like my life back thankyouverymuch.

Well, the semester has finally gotten up and running, which means I can now begin once again to devote actual time to things like "family" and "eating" instead of working like a crazy woman and sleeping in fits and starts in between.

Fortunately (and this only falls into the "fortunately" category because I'm a knitter), I have a lengthy commute, which means pretty much one thing (when I'm not nodding off on the 1 train, that is): knitting continues even when the rest of life does not.

First finished: a Mason-Dixon Knitting baby kimono in Knitpicks Swish superwash. I picked the colors -- indigo and lemongrass heathers -- thinking I would use them separately to make two separate kimonos, but I liked the quirky combo so much I wound up with this:















Entranced by the unexpected cuteness of the kimono, and quite likely high on the superwash fumes, I cast on for a project I never in a gazillion years believed I'd actually attempt: a pair of Elizabeth Zimmerman Baby Longhies.

For those of you without a copy of Knitter's Almanac, run right out and buy one. It's small and costs under ten bucks but will probably be one of the best knitting buys you ever make. Go on. I'll wait.

.
.
.

There, now that you have your copy, open it to February, the month of knitted baby items. Pause for a moment to ogle the vintage-style baby jacket and take a glance at the instructions for the double-knitted baby blanket, the very same that I used when making Zoe's burgundy blankie. Now, check out the longhies.

They're basically knitted long underwear for kids. Later on in the Almanac, there's even a pattern for a full-sized adult version. For years, I remember thinking to myself, "Knit long underwear?? Who would ever do such a thing?"

Well, folks, here's who. And here's how they look:




















Is that not the cutest thing? And not the ginormous pain in the ass I expected it to be. In fact, it's been knitting up quite quickly and easily, right down to the funky little color pattern of my own design at the knees. At first, I'd hoped to make the kimono and longhies a coming-home set for little Zoe, but oops....




















While the kimono is probably sized just right for 0-3 months with a little bit of room to grow, the longhies look more like they're sized for a one-year-old. Baby M was big, but Zoe would have to be the size of a baby giraffe to need legs that long at birth. I'm sure I could just stuff her into them anyway -- who looks at how the coming-home outfits anyway when the adorable baby inside is the focus of all attention? -- but I think I may just knit up another set in 3/4 or even 1/2 size to bring her home in. Yes, she'll outgrow them practically overnight, but that's what I'll have the larger ones waiting around for. Let it never be said that I don't have a plan, even if it's only the result of an earlier plan going hopelessly awry.

When I realized I'd be just a few yards short of what I needed to complete my color pattern (which was intended to thriftily use up the leftover indigo from the kimono), I ran right out and bought another nearly-20 skeins of Swish in a variety of gorgeous heathered hues (no sense in paying shipping on one stinkin' skein when Knitpicks will pick up the postage on a $45 order). So in addition to another pair of longhies, I'm also planning on knitting a Fair Isle sweater for Baby M, matching Heart Hats for both sisters (see EZ's Knitting Workshop for that one) and maybe even a Baby Surprise Jacket depending upon how many leftovers I have.

Now all I need is an even longer commute to get it all finished.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Fun Fiber Stuff

It's funny how sometimes things just seem to work out. Like, I've been thinking a lot lately about how much crap I've managed to accumulate over the past near-decade in this house, and how I should really, really purge a whole lot of it, especially as we're looking to turn the under-used rooms in the house into actual living space and not just glorified junk closets.

Well, lo and behold, what should I spot on a fiber swap list but someone looking for a fabric cutter for rug hooking. Now, several years back I bought the gear to hook my own rugs -- not the ticky-tacky latch hook rugs that everyone was doing back in the 70s when disco ruled and shag was everywhere, but traditional hooked rugs made from strips of wool pulled through a backing like monk's cloth. I love hooked rugs, think they're just gorgeous, and had a blast playing with hooks and wool at our county fair every year at the booth set up by the local rug hookers' guild. BUT...when it came right down to it, it just wasn't for me. Don't know why, really, but I found my other fiber passions just took right over and bitch-slapped poor rug hooking into a corner. So, not only did I have a fabric cutter sitting right on my workbench (which worried me since Baby M had the occasional tendency to toddle over to it and twirl the pretty handle, which spun the cutting wheel and which, theoretically in my mind at least, could slice her finger should she decide to stick one in the moving parts -- not entirely likely, perhaps, but you're talking to the woman who, as a young child, managed to reel her finger into the moving gears of a stationary exercise bicycle), but I also had a nice rug hooking frame, assorted hooks, a book or two and several boxes of nicely prepared wool fabric all ready to be cut up and made into rugs.

Not too hopefully (because I've never been much of the salesperson -- more of the "donate it to a secondhand store" type) I emailed telling this person what I had and offering it for sale at a decent bit off the new prices. I also said if she bought both the frame and the cutter, I'd throw in the other bits and bobs for free.

Wonder of wonders, I sold the lot! And for more than enough money to finish paying off my Journey Wheel, which I'll collect in Rhinebeck next month. Woo-hoo! So instead of having lots of items that I'll never use spread all around the house, instead I'll have one really cool item that I'll definitely use. A good deal all around.

Also...remember the dragon spindle I had custom-designed by the Goldings a couple of months back? Well, they asked if it would be okay for them to post the design on their website and offer it for sale to others. Of course, I said yes...and I just received a letter from they saying that since it went up on the site, they've had orders for it, so they refunded me the $30 design fee that I paid plus they sent me a $10 gift cert good on any Golding fiber tool. Neat, huh? The coolest part, though, is that other people liked the design I helped create. I must say, I'm pretty proud.

I'm also pretty proud of Baby Zoe's little kimono, which I just finished up tonight. No photos yet, but it looks gorgeous -- will take pictures and post soon. Next up: a pair of EZ baby leggings to go along with it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

And the Awesomest Mom Ever award goes to....

ME! For keeping my sanity when a) Baby M has gotten up every freakin' night for nearly a week now -- and gotten me up in the process -- for everything from needing to go to the bathroom to wanting to hold hands after a bad dream to simply begging/pleading/crying/wildly gesticulating to come into the "big bed" with Daddy and me, and b) Baby Z-to-be has decided to shift position and dig some sort of sharp, pointy body part into my... kidney?? gall bladder?? causing me shooting pains that left me doubled over on the subway and so scary-sick looking that I was actually sent home from work yesterday by my worried colleagues. Remind me again why I have children....

Remind me, too, why I knit for them. This has got to be the slowest-going baby kimono I've ever knitted. I like the yarn, the pattern is a breeze, but why isn't it finished already??

There's also no good way to photograph this thing in progress.















Unfolded it looks completely unrecognizable as an article of clothing, at least one that would fit a human being.















Folded but on the circular needle it still looks...let's just say weird and leave it at that.

I also think that in widening the sleeves so the cuffs will accommodate a wrist larger than Barbie's I inadvertently caused the v-neck to come up so far that poor Baby Z might as well be wearing a turtleneck instead of a wraparound kimono. But I'm feeling just a little sick at the thought of ripping all that work back, so I think I'll just call it a design element and leave it at that. Plus babies need warm necks, right? Yeah, that's it...I'm only looking out for the welfare of my little girl.

It's the least that the official Awesomest Mom Ever can do.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Finishing Stuff....

Well, my vacation is nearly over. It's amazing how fast three weeks just speeds by. Monday I go back to work -- to intake testing, actually -- and then it's just two more weeks before the new semester starts, another week more before I begin teaching, and then...well, then it's just five or six weeks till Baby Zoe makes her appearance. Yikes! That's fast!

I haven't yet gotten things ready for Little Z's arrival. Baby M's outgrown clothing still sits in ziplock baggies and disorganized piles in her closet, which itself needs a good cleaning out an reorganizing. Not to mention that I have to figure out how to make space in her dresser for her little sister's stuff even as her own stuff is getting more and more voluminous. At least we have a couple of contractors coming over in the next two weeks to give us estimates on dividing the large, little-used upstairs space into two bedrooms and a bath for the kids.

And at least I've been knitting! I finished Zoe's blanket a few days ago, right down to the duplicate stitching of her name (and thanks to those who provided me with the name of the technique -- it was driving me crazy trying to think of it).





























At first I thought I'd duplicate stitch a giant "Z" right in the center of the blanket but on further thought decided that might look a little too Zorro-ish for my taste. I like how her name turned out, but I was incredibly disappointed to find that a) the lovely soft alpaca that I was knitting with had some splits and joins in the skein -- I know I was working with Knitpicks yarn, which is decidedly budget-priced, but c'mon, folks, let's try to keep the skeins in one piece, shall we? and b) the joins sucked, to the point that as I was duplicate stitching Zoe's name, one join completely disintegrated and I lost several stitches of my basic knit fabric before catching the break and halting the damage. Aargh! Now, this wasn't like dropping a stitch and picking it back up -- the yarn itself had broken right in the middle of a stitch, right where I had been working with my tapestry needle, so of course both yarn ends took off in different directions, pulling out of their stitches and running (downward farther than upward) without leaving a clear indication of where they came from and how they should go back together. Not to mention that I had to join the freakin' ends somehow, so even if I could have figured out how to pick up the stitches seamlessly, I wouldn't have had enough yarn left after tying the ends together to do so.

I solved the problem by cursing loudly (didn't solve much, but sure made me feel better) then tying the errant ends together tightly and duplicate stitching over them. It's not a perfect fix, but no one but me will ever notice.

I've also started an MDK baby kimono in Swish Superwash, a deep heathered purple colorway. It's knitting up really nicely -- far nicer than the dishcloth cotton I've used with this pattern in the past. Once I have two or three of the kimonos in a couple of colors all knitted up, I think I'll be done with knitting for baby for the time being and may move on to doing something fancy, like a pretty lace shawl for myself. Just the thing to beat the postpartum blues.... :)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Here at Chez No A/C, Baby M and I have been valiantly trying to beat the sweltering heat all week. Monday we hit the local swimming pool; Tuesday it was a trip to the mall (a place I loathe but at least it was cool) followed by a $1 movie (gotta love second-run theaters); yesterday we camped out at DH's parents' house. But today? Today I had to get the freezer fixed.

Remember this? The Iceberg that Ate the Freezer? Well, thawing it didn't help. Oh, it got rid of the immediate problem of melted ice-water flooding the kitchen (and maybe, just maybe, if it had made the house even one degree cooler, I would have sucked up the water damage just to help beat the heat), but no sooner was the freezer nicely ice-free than it started icing itself up all over again, first a thin trickle down the back wall of the freezer, then an suspiciously iceberg-shaped layer coating the bottom shelf. Action needed to be taken.

And so. Baby M and I have been chained to the sweltering house all day waiting for the freezer repair person. While I was at it, I figured I might as well get that load of mulch that I'd been waiting on all summer finally delivered. Of course, the freezer has long been fixed, but the mulch is yet to show. I've already bribed Baby M with a trip to the air-conditioned library (taken before our 5 freakin' hour wait-time window for deliveries and repairs began), a candy bar and half a sippy box of organic chocolate milk. I did manage to get her down for a nap nearly an hour ago, amid much wailing and many cries of, "Mommy, HELP! Gigi CRYING!" (Just in case I hadn't figured that out myself, you see.) So, what have I been doing with a blessedly quiet if heat-hazed hour to myself and no sign of mulch in sight?

Why, I've been knitting, of course. Knitting, and photographing knitting.

First up: Baby Zoe's in-progress baby blanket.















Luscious 100% alpaca, Knitpicks Decadence. I bought six skeins awhile back for a project I had in mind. Can I remember what the project was? Of course not. And so I did the smart, not to mention frugal, thing: when I decided to make Zoe a blanket, I shopped my stash and decided to use the Decadence. Yes, it would be a pain in the butt to handwash a baby blanket. But, honestly, how many times have I washed Baby M's baby blankets? 'Nuff said. Plus I lovelovelove alpaca, and I knew that the pattern -- EZ's double-knitted baby blanket from Knitter's Almanac -- would be even softer, squooshier and more deliciously huggable in alpaca than in plain ol' wool.

Of course, the blanket was looking a little plain, what with the simple stitch pattern and no colorwork. So, I decided to add some color by stitching a great, big "Z" on the front side of the blanket. There's a name for this technique, I know, where you stitch embroidery-style directly over each knit stitch so it looks like you did fancy intarsia or Fair Isle work when you really didn't, but damn if I can't remember it now. Nor can I be bothered to look it up. Suffice it to say, I of course went straight to the Knitpicks site and picked out a lovely rose color skein of Decadence to make the Z with. And since it wouldn't do to pay for shipping for one lousy skein of yarn, and since Knitpicks is kind enough to provide free shipping with a $45 purchase, I just had to pick up a few more things.

Like some Swish Superwash in Indigo Heather and Lemongrass Heather, both to make MDK baby kimonos for Baby Zoe. Poor thing will be born in November, after all. We'd better have some cold-weather knits on hand to keep her warm.

And two skeins of Knitpicks Shimmer (alpaca/silk blend...yum!) in turquoise to knit this, from my latest fave knitting book, Victorian Lace Today:















Isn't it gorgeous? A lacey, spiderweb-type shawl, something open and interesting enough to work well with the muted tones of the subtly variegated turquoise yarn.

And four more skeins of Shimmer in Stained Glass to make this:















This shawl is done in something called a Trinity Stitch, which I think will look amazing with the vibrant purples and pinks of the Stained Glass colorway.

And just 'cause I can't pass up an "oops" sale, a couple of skeins of Essential Special in Peacock. Now that I may actually have a sock nearly finished on my sock machine (we'll overlook the fact that it's sat there in its nearly-finished state for over a month while I work up the nerve to take it off and find out if it is indeed a sock or yet another giant, tube-shaped tangle of wooly misery), I might as well start picking up some pretty-pretty sock yarn as well.

But the first thing for me to do is finish that baby blanket. That, and figure out what else to do to get away from this blasted heat.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Just yesterday I was reading Crazy Aunt Purl's blog post about the zen of deep cleaning and thinking, "Wow...why don't I do that?"

Well. Be careful what you wish for is all I can say.

This morning I woke up to DH saying plaintively from the kitchen, "Oh, no." DH, as it turns out, had discovered a big honkin' puddle of water in front of the fridge, the very same fridge that busted a water line not once but twice and flooded the out-of-sight area behind the cabinets so badly that it collapsed the ceiling in the garage. A puddle in front of the fridge is very bad news in our house.

DH soon realized that a busted water line wasn't to blame this time. It was this:















And this:
















The Iceberg that Ate the Freezer (not to mention the frozen corn...clearly, it's been way too long since I've checked up on the frozen corn).

How did we get to this sorry state of affairs, you might ask? How could our freezer possibly get so choked with ice that it finally began to melt around the edges in the furnace-like heat we've been having lately and ooze out all over the floor?

I must admit, I think it was my fault. If I were to be totally honest, I'd admit that it's definitely my fault.

I have a thing about stockpiling food. It's in my family's blood. Even as a little kid I remember Mom and Dad keeping one corner of the credenza in our teeny tiny apartment reserved for the "emergency food." This mainly consisted of a bag of uncooked rice and several cans of potted meat, the kind with the devil holding a pitchfork on the paper wrapper. I think my mom used to rotate the food every once in awhile, swapping out the old bag of rice for a new one and using up the former "emergency bag" over the course of several dinners. Dad was the only one who ate the potted meat. I don't know what kind of emergency they thought they were planning for, but apparently boiled rice and meat spread were going to see us through it.

In light of that, it makes perfect sense that I keep lots of food on hand. (OK, maybe it doesn't exactly make sense, unless by "makes sense" you mean "still sounds crazy"). When DH and I moved into our house and bought the Icy the Fridge, I originally picked it out because it looked like the biggest one they had. Before we signed on the dotted line, though, I asked the salesman if they had an even bigger one.

"Ma'am," he said, clearly trying to be polite to the crazy woman, "this fridge holds enough food for nine people. Exactly how many people are living in your house?"

"Just the two of us," I replied calmly. We then bought the fridge...and the largest chest freezer the store had in stock. Never let it be said that I would run out of food in my lifetime...or anyone else's.

Eight years later, Icy and the chest freezer have been joined by a second fridge in the garage (given to us by DH's brother when he bought a new one) and a pantry full of food. Not to mention the kitchen cabinets, also full of food. None of which would be bad, except....

Well, let's just say I'm not nearly as good as Mom at rotating the food around. Our freezers in particular tend to resemble archaeological digs, with the oldest stuff at the bottom or the back and the newer stuff piled on top or in front. If I were a good rotator, I would probably have paid more attention last year when I noticed that I could no longer pull out the bottom freezer drawer in the kitchen fridge. I might have said to myself, "Self, it's time to pull the bags of corn up front and use them. But, what's this? They're frozen solid to the back of the fridge? Hmmm...maybe, Self, you should look into this."

Instead, when I noticed that I could no longer pull the bottom drawer out of the freezer, I simply let it alone and placed the newer food in front of whatever was in the back (see "frozen corn," above). Maybe I heard a few crickets chirping quietly in the back of my mind. All I know is when I mentioned to DH as he sopped up the mess in front of the fridge that maybe, just maybe I'd noticed the bottom drawer had been a tad encased in ice for, oh, the past year or so, he simply stopped and stared at me incredulously. I think it was all he could do not to ask how I could have been so incredibly stupid. I sort of wonder myself. How have I not managed to seriously hurt myself these past four decades?

So, that was our day: chipping great hunks of ice out of the freezer, melting ice sheets with the hair dryer, using up copious amounts of towels (at least they were cloth -- no trees were killed as a result of my stupidity) and occasionally resorting to the wet/dry vac to get rid of the watery evidence of my extreme lack of good judgment and sense. I did at least manage to give the freezer a good deep-cleaning, washing all the shelves to within an inch of their lives, scrubbing the inside of the door handle, throwing out the frozen squash puree from three or four summers ago when the garden produced way more pattypans than one family should have to deal with.

The freezer has now been deep-cleaned. Funny, though, I just don't feel the zen of it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I can't believe it's been so long since I've written. I knew it was a long time, but nearly a month? Loooong.

It's been an up-and-down month, with doctors giving sometimes conflicting information, my hopes going up one day, crashing down the next, DH doing his best to be the stable rock I hang onto when it all gets to be too much. Nothing else to do but wait and see how Zoe is once she's born.

Did I mention we picked a name? Zoe Francis. Zoe because we like it and because we like the meaning: Life. Francis for my dad, even though he never went by that name and always used Frank instead. We had an ultrasound a few days ago and saw Zoe kicking her legs, flexing her feet...DH even thinks he saw her curling her toes, though I have no idea how he could have possibly seen that on the grainy black-and-white sono screen. Still, it's good news. And I feel her kicking now, annoyed by the pressure of the edge of the laptop on my abdomen, right above her legs. Kick-kick means nerves that work, nerves that are getting messages from the brain to the body, all the way down the legs and to the feet. I have to stop myself from deliberately poking Zoe, hoping she'll kick back. Just three more months to go.

I've been working on a blanket for Zoe. It's alpaca, Knitpicks Decadence in a deep wine-red color, made from the February baby blanket pattern in EZ's Knitter's Almanac -- double knitting, which takes twice as long but results in a blanket twice as thick and soft, bordered all around in garter stitch. Simple and beautiful. I'll have to take a photo to post.

And one more thing, a special treat for myself, something I started working on before I found out all this about Zoe, something that just arrived in the mail the day before yesterday and that stunned me with its beauty and craftsmanship.



















It's a Golding custom spindle, and the slightly out of focus photo doesn't even begin to do it justice. It's a Chinese dragon, a design I worked on with Tom Golding over several weeks, tweaking it until it was just right, picking out the perfect vintage carved silver ring for the outer edge, choosing the wood -- dark walnut -- and the paint colors, everything, and still it came out so much more beautiful than I imagined. You can't really see in the photo, but the dragon is covered in tiny painted scales, he has little flaming golden eyebrows and a shot of fire coming out of his mouth. Even the claws have been individually carved out of the wood, one by one.

Chinese dragons bring good luck. My spindle couldn't have come at a better time.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Checking In, Checking Out

It is so hot...too hot to move, too hot to think. These are the days -- and nights -- when I want to throw my eco-friendly, too-cheap-to-have-AC reservations to the wind and freeze the hell outta this house until we're all nice and comfy and completely unaware that it's an absolute blast furnace outside. Right now, it's a blast furnace inside, and it's nearly nine at night.

Baby M is too hot to sleep. She's whiny and fussy and calling for me endlessly. Trouble is, when I sit with her, she really never gets to sleep -- just stays up, holding my hand, looking around, basically waiting to see what's going to happen next...which is never anything except my eventually leaving the room so she can get to sleep, whereupon she wails as though her little heart were breaking. Hearing her cry like this on top of the heat is just about making me crazy.

DH is outside, and believe it or not, he's working at his smithy, which means he's heating metal rods to red-hot and banging them into different shapes.

The man has truly lost his mind.

Friday, July 06, 2007

No Guarantees

There's only so much that medical science can tell us. Today we met for the first time with the pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr A, who read the MRI. He was the most hopeful-sounding of the doctors yet. He said this doesn't look like a typical case of spina bifida at all to him, not the kind with brain damage and all the other horrific possibilities we were first confronted with last week. He thinks instead this may be a case of a tethered spinal cord, which basically means that during formation some part of the spinal cord didn't fully detach from the surrounding skin. This condition can cause problems as the child grows, but it can be corrected surgically after birth. There's a range of potentialities: in the best case, the child could wind up with no lasting aftereffects at all; in the not-so-best-case, the child could wind up with some degree of paralysis and/or loss of bowel/bladder control. The doctor said they won't know more until our baby is actually born, but he thinks the main worries are the physical problems -- he feels that her chances of having brain damage are very slim.

And so, we wait and hope. I totally broke down in the doctor's office today, not out of sadness but because he'd confirmed the hopes I'd been holding onto these past few days. Poor guy; I don't think he could quite understand why I was crying like a baby but telling him I wasn't sad, I was happy.

I was also pretty stunned to hear him say, as we were discussing going forward with the pregnancy, that some couples wanted him to guarantee that their child would be 100% fine and healthy, and if he couldn't do that (which of course he can't in any case), they would terminate the pregnancy. DH had actually suggested that maybe the reason our first doctor had been so callous and matter-of-fact about wanting to do that with us without even getting a second opinion was because most of his patients opted to do that as soon as they heard there was a problem. I thought DH was just being cynical, but after hearing Dr A today, maybe he was right after all. I'm certainly the last person to judge someone else -- I know how agonized I was when I thought our baby would be so profoundly damaged that she would have no quality of life at all -- but it just seems sad that people would need a guarantee of a perfect baby in order to want one at all. I mean, nothing in life is guaranteed, right? Everything can look perfect but not be, just like everything can look hopeless at first glance but not be.

In any event, we've made our decision, and as DH says there's no looking back. We'll have our daughter at Columbia-Presbyterian where she can have an MRI within a day or two after she's born to find out the extent of her injury and the best way to treat it. The facilities aren't as nice as the ones near us -- shared rooms instead of private, more patients therefore (I'm sure) less personalized attention from the staff -- but the doctors are so much more knowledgeable and competent in dealing with high-risk pregnancies than our local doctors are that it will be worth it.

Now all we can do is wait and see what the tests show after our little girl is born.

And of course, we can now jump headfirst into all the fun stuff we should have been doing since last week, like picking out a beautiful name for Baby M's little sister.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Waiting

Had the MRI yesterday. I am consistently impressed with how good the staff at Columbia-Presbyterian is. The procedure itself -- my first MRI -- wasn't bad at all. After getting a foot-long needle in the abdomen for the amnio, I suppose no other test will be quite as bad, ever.

And now, we wait. I'm strangely calm. What worries me now is that I've gotten too hopeful, hung on too tightly to the positive comments the doctors have made. No chromosomal abnormalities, no indication of anything wrong in the brain, no unusual chemical markers in my prior blood tests that would indicate an open lesion...how can I help but picture a best-case scenario, one where my little girl has no lasting effects from whatever this thing on her back is?

We'll know more on Friday.

Monday, July 02, 2007

One Small Step

I can't say thank you enough to everyone who was kind enough to comment on my last post. Thank you for your words, your wishes, your thoughts and prayers.

DH and I are hanging in. Today we got the preliminary results back from the amnio, and they show no chromosomal abnormalities -- so that's one bright spot at least.

Tomorrow I go for a fetal MRI; Friday it's a meeting with the pediatric neurosurgeon and hopefully the complete results of the amnio plus the MRI. All we can do is hope for more good news.

It's strange; I can feel my little girl kicking away inside me as though nothing in the world were wrong. It's so hard to believe that she really, really might not be all right.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

An Appeal

It's been a rollercoaster of a week. Wednesday we went in for our 20-week ultrasound all ready to find out whether it's a boy or a girl. What the doctors told us instead was that our baby -- a girl, incidentally -- has spina bifida.

Spina bifida is a neural tube defect. It occurs when the spine doesn't close properly over the spinal cord. This results in all sorts of damage, anything from major paralysis and brain damage to, well, maybe no damage at all. It all depends upon just about a million factors, such as how low on the spine the problem is, whether the spinal cord itself is involved, whether it's exposed to the amniotic fluid.... You get the drift.

So, Wednesday sucked hard. It didn't help that the doctor who did the diagnosis suffered, in DH's words, from a serious case of hubris. This doctor, who shall remain nameless, basically said, "You can go for a second opinion if you want, but any other doctor will agree with me." He then told us we had a week to arrange to terminate the pregnancy.

Needless to say, we went for a second opinion. We were supremely lucky to get referred to Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital. The staff there is top-notch, everyone from the doctors to the "customer care coordinator" to the person who does all the fiddly insurance stuff. Kind, caring and totally, one-hundred-and-ten-percent professional all the way.

They squeezed us in for an ultrasound on Friday morning, and that doctor -- who suffered from no hubris at all -- said it could be one of two things: spina bifida (which he tended to think was probably the case) or something called a sacral-coccygeal teratoma -- basically, a benign tumor that carries its own potential problems, such as the potential to grow large enough to suck too many nutrients from the fetus and cause damage in utero. At least this doctor, Dr. R, gave us specifics: the mass is 1.9cm and located in the sacral area of the spine, vertebra S1 or below. This is far more than Dr Hubris even bothered to write up in his report, which was so vague that a friend of ours who (luckily!) just happens to be a well-respected pediatric neurologist, and who we showed that first report to as soon as we heard the news, basically said she couldn't tell us anything at all from it.

So, here's where we stand. Wednesday we pretty much heard a death sentence for our little girl. Thursday after consulting both our friend the pediatric neurologist and a pediatric neurologist recommended by Baby M's pediatrician, we heard some of the potential things that could be wrong with a baby with spina bifida. Awful, awful, awful. Crying, heartsick, awful days. Friday we took the second ultrasound plus an amnio, something I'd avoided because of the risk of miscarriage it poses, but now a necessity to make sure there's no chromosomal abnormality that may be the cause of (or simply another problem to go along with) the visible mass. And we gained back some hope. Maybe it isn't as black as it sounded at first. Tuesday I'm scheduled for a fetal MRI, which is probably the best chance we have of finding out if this is definitely spina bifida, and if so, how serious it may be. In our advantage are the facts that it seems relatively low on the spine, there's no indication of anything wrong in the baby's cerebellum, and so far at least, it looks like whatever's inside that mass isn't in contact with the amniotic fluid (doctors know there's a connection between contact with the amniotic fluid and damage to the nerves in the spinal cord, they just don't know why). Dr R basically said we could have a baby with problems...or we could have a baby who gets operated on at birth and shows no aftereffects at all. And much as all these tests can tell us, what they can't do is guarantee anything at all. It's all a guess, albeit a more informed one.

Spina bifida is a one-in-a-thousand thing and doctors don't even really understand what causes it, although they suspect some combination of genetic predisposition plus environmental factors. It just goes to show you can do everything right -- take the prenatal vitamins, not drink, smoke, do drugs -- and still something completely unexpected and horrible can happen.

So, here's my appeal. Please put in a good word for us, for our little girl, with the higher power of your choice. If you're not a higher-power type, please just send us some good thoughts and wishes. We're hoping to hear good news, or at least the best news possible under the circumstances, in the next few days. Please keep your fingers crossed that we do.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Today's the Day

In just under two hours, DH, Baby M and I should find out if Little Sibling is a boy or a girl. Woo-hoo!

You know, I'm not one to open presents before Christmas or turn to the last page in a book to read the ending ahead of time or anything, but I just cannot wait for this, no matter how many people talk about the fun of "being surprised" and all. With Baby M it was more of an adjustment issue. I was sort of freaked out about becoming a parent anyway, so having the fewest amount of surprises in store seemed like the best way to go at the time. Now, I'm just plain excited. I want to pick a name and picture a little person instead of a featureless "it" inside me.

And, of course, I want to start knitting.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I'm a What, Now?


You Are An INFJ

The Protector

You live your life with integrity, originality, vision, and creativity.
Independent and stubborn, you rarely stray from your vision - no matter what it is.
You are an excellent listener, with almost infinite patience.
You have complex, deep feelings, and you take great care to express them.

In love, you truly see relationships as an opportunity to connect and grow.
You enjoy relationships as long as they are improving and changing. You can't stand stagnation.

At work, you stay motivated and happy... as long as you are working toward a dream you support.
You would make a great photographer, alternative medicine guru, or teacher.

How you see yourself: Hardworking, ethical, and helpful

When other people don't get you, they see you as: Manipulative, weak, and unstable

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Sock Machine Comes Through

So, months and months after getting my antique circular sock machine up and running, I've finally done something more than drop stitches, make "practice" tubes and glance guiltily at the machine as it sits gathering dust in a corner of my bedroom. I've actually made...well, not a sock, it's not that exciting...but a bath puff!















That's right, an actual finished something (even if it isn't an actual sock) from my csm, and I cannot tell you the absolute rush I got watching my little ol' machine crank out two feet of stockinette stitch tube in just a few minutes. I think it took me longer to do the finishing work than it did to knit the whole darn thing. Now all I can think about is figuring out how to make honest-to-goodness socks on the csm. Next project, here I come!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Annie Modesitt Needs Our Help

I feel like someone should be walking around with a wicker basket, a la "It's a Wonderful Life," collecting dollar bills and busting open the jukebox to help out someone in need -- in this case, Annie Modesitt, the uber-talented knitwear designer whose husband was recently diagnosed with cancer.

Annie is selling her Red Carpet Convertible pattern -- a stunning pattern for a super-sexy gown that can be anything from a floor-length formal to a hip-length corset -- as a way of raising money to help cover the expenses associated with her husband's illness. The pattern costs a minimum of $4.50; you can (but aren't obligated to) add any amount on top of that as an additional donation.

And believe it or not, the link to the .pdf is right there on Annie's blog, where anybody could just download it and not even make a donation. Free for the taking. Knitters are absolutely amazing to me -- that Annie would put the pattern up and trust knitters to donate anyway, and that knitters would (and do) donate...it just makes me feel good about people.

So take a minute and head over to Annie's blog and make a donation. Then, make yourself one helluva dress.

Now if only I could buy the body to go along with it.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Butterfly Bog Jacket















The good news is that Baby M's bog jacket is finished! Months after I finished the lion's share of the work, leaving only the piddly little detail stuff to complete, I dug the jacket out of my work bag and just did it. I love how it looks. I love the frilly crocheted "butterfly wings" I added to the ends of the sleeves when I decided I didn't like how they looked plain. I love how the funky buttons add an unexpected splash of bold fuschia to the more earth-toned jacked itself. I love just about every darn thing about this jacket, in fact.

Which brings me to the not-so-good news: I think all those times my mother wished I would have a daughter just like me (and never because I'd done something good, mind you) have finally taken effect.

Baby M absolutely, positively refuses to wear her jacket. She won't even try it on.

DH tried to get me to see reason. "It's summer. It's hot out. Of course she doesn't want to wear a heavy wool jacket." But I know better.

When I was a kid, my mom sewed most of my clothes herself. I had cute little handmade pinafores, which she even took the time to get me to draw on in crayon and then iron the drawings in permanently -- a real mother/daughter project if ever there was one. I had handmade pants, handmade tops, even -- I kid you not -- a hand-crocheted bikini.

Mom made my clothes for many reasons. She was a trained seamstress. She loved playing dress-up with her sole little girl (when she was pregnant with me, she prayed for a girl because the clothes were so much cuter than for boys). Coming from a sewing family, she already had a large supply of fabric in the house. I'm sure it was cheaper to make my clothes (considering she only used fabric she already had) than to buy them new in the stores. But, underneath all of that, I'm sure she also made my clothes as a tangible expression of her love. What more loving thing is there than to clothe your child in a garment of your own making?

It was the zebra pants that did it.

I must have been in the fourth grade. I had worn the cute pinafores and crocheted bikini, but I had also worn the weird, 70's-era bell-bottoms made from gold flowered fabric that must have started its life as some sort of bizarre upholstery. The clothes that fit perfectly and never wore out but always stood out wherever I was and whatever I did. No one else in school wore clothes like I did. No. One. And when one day my mother produced a white pair of pants with great, big zebras printed all over them, I finally blurted out, "Can't I just wear jeans like everybody else?"

And that was how I got my first pair of jeans. And, I'm sure, broke my mother's heart, although I don't remember her showing any upset when I rebelled against the black-and-white bizarro-pants she'd made in all good faith and with all the good intentions in the world.

And now at age two -- two! -- my daughter is making my mother's fondest wish come true. She's refusing to wear the clothing I lovingly made for her with my own two hands.

She didn't even wait for the zebra pants.

Friday, June 15, 2007

You Know You're a Fiber Freak When....















The most use your hand mixer sees in a year is for making twisted cord.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Back on Track

Hooray! I finally did the piddly finishing on my Bubbly curtain -- weaving in the ends, blocking, making the hanging cord -- and now it's finishedfinishedfinished! Not five minutes ago did I hang it in my kitchen window, and boy am I pleased.
















It looks like I've got my knitting mojo back. I've finally finished the sleeves on Baby M's bog jacket and now I just need to sew on the buttons and tack down the collar ends and that will be done, too. I've even been working on my blanket-of-a-thousand-ends. Soon I'm going to pick out some yummy yarn for Little Sibling and start on a MDK baby kimono. I'm all smiles -- so excited to be inspired again!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Back to Work

Well, my wonderful little week off is over -- it was back to work today, and back to aggravation from my immediate supervisor. *sigh* Oh, well. I've been aggravated about it all evening, and I just have to let it go now.

Instead I think I'll post a photo of my sweet little Baby M, looking adorable at "poolside" in her summer sun hat and slightly too-big bathing suit. This is how we spent much of my week off -- me reading "Jane Eyre" by the wading pool, her scooping sand in the sandbox and wandering around the garden barefoot. I can't wait for summer classes to be over so we can do some more of that!

Monday, June 04, 2007

New Toy

My charkha finally arrived! Just in time for Mother's Day, I might add, and I simply love it.

Here's how it looks after a freshly-applied coat of Wood Beams:





























And here you can see the itty-bitty skein of 70% cotton/30% silk singles I spun up as my very first test project:















It's a little tricky to figure out at first. If you don't get it started just right, all the twist runs right up into your main fiber and you wind up with a thick, slubby mess. But when it does work...boy, it's just incredible. Right now I'm doing some more practice with 100% cotton roving my friend L gave me; once I feel like I can reliably make something that's actually worth keeping, I'll get to work on some of the more luxurious short fibers I've been hoarding for the past couple of years. There's a bag of buffalo fluff in my stash just begging to be spun up!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

White Men in Business Suits Are Redeemed (Sort of)

That's right, folks, Baby M is going to be a big sister! At just a month over 2, she doesn't quite get what that means yet. We've tried to explain it to her, but most of the conversations go something like this:

Proud Mom & Dad: Guess what? You're going to be a big sister!
Baby M: *vague look of boredom*
PM&D: Are you excited?
Baby M: Chocolate Easter bunny!
PM&D: I know, honey, you want a chocolate Easter bunny. But what do you think about being a big sister?
Baby M: CHOCOLATEEASTERBUNNYCHOCOLATEEASTERBUNNY!

As you can tell, we still have chocolate Easter bunnies left over from April. And Baby M wants 'em. Bad.

Anyhoo. We figure she'll catch on in time, and since she's shown no tendencies to set fires or torture small animals, we figure she's a safe bet for being at least a halfway decent big sister.

For my part, I'm doing my part this time around towards meeting my previous record 65 pound weight gain with Baby M. Not that that's my goal, mind you, but it is what it is. When my mother was pregnant with me, she gained 20 pounds, and I weighed nearly 8 pounds at birth. Why are her genes not helping me here?

No bump photos yet. But a strange thing is happening. This time around, I'm getting bump-y in summer; with Baby M, that part happened in fall, so I was wearing big sweaters and bulky coats that covered me up till spring, when I was at last so ginormous that it would have been plain even to space aliens who had never seen a human being before that I was either pregnant or had swallowed a Volkswagon. This time around, I had to go out and buy preggie T-shirts and preggie capris and I'm just about past the 4 month mark and it's clear I'm PREGNANT. Clear enough that the other day a white guy in a business suit actually offered me his seat on the subway. Who says New Yorkers aren't nice people?

Now, you may wonder why I specify that this was a white guy in a business suit. Well, it's because during my last pregnancy, white guys in business suits were the one-and-only group of people never to offer me a seat on the subway. Not. Once. Lots of women gave me their seats. Ditto guys in paint-splattered overalls and work boots who looked like they needed to sit down a whole lot worse than even I did. I was given seats by all sorts of folks, but never, ever a white guy in a business suit. Even more than that...when I was what felt like 15 months pregnant and feeling large enough to occupy an entire subway car all by myself, a middle-aged Wall Street type -- pinstripe suit, wingtips, the works -- actually shoved me out of the way just so he could grab the last seat on the subway, the one I was heading directly for when he bogarted it out from under me. I planted myself directly in front of him and shoved my belly as far into his personal space as I could without toppling into his lap, but he resolutely thumb-poked his Blackberry and refused to so much as glance away until I was safely ensconced in another seat.
Which I had to wait for, thankyouverymuch.

But now, with my bump barely bump-y, by my standards at least, some very nice white guy in a business suit actually offered me his seat on the subway. Moreover, he's the very first person to offer me a seat this pregnancy. How sweet is that?

So, thank you, nameless white guy with the maroon shirt unbuttoned at the collar and charcoal-grey jacket. You've redeemed all the other white guys in business suits who were too selfish or snobby or just plain assholic to do the right -- or at least the kind -- thing.

But I'm still watching out for guys in pinstripes and wingtips.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Explanation

Many thanks for all the well-wishes! No, I haven't thrown myself under a bus for lack of inspiration, though Baby M's bog jacket sits languishing *this close* to completion (I've even been carrying around the two stinkin' buttons I need to sew on in my purse of all places for the past month, kicking myself every time I reach for the car keys that I've been such a slug) and I've done nary a stitch of knitting since before my birthday.

But there's a reason.

Check out the ticker and you'll see what it is.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Uninspired

That's exactly how I've felt these past couple of weeks...uninspired. But I did force myself to sit down tonight and weave up the other sleeve and front of Baby M's birthday bog jacket. I even crocheted the border. Now all I have to do is finish the cuffs, get some cool closures for the front and sew in my little "Made With Love By Mommy" tag and it'll be all finished.

Photos to come.

Meanwhile, send a little inspiration my way. I can certainly use it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Operator Error

I'm on vacation this week, so you'd think I would be blissfully enjoying my time with Baby M, knitting, blogging and just generally recharging the ol' mental/emotional/spiritual batteries...right?

So, what have I actually been doing?

Stressing about work. I wrote a big, long post about it which I decided to only save as a draft (call me paranoid, but people have been fired for blogging about their jobs) as a way of getting it all out of my head and then hopefully being able to forget about it for the next seven days.

Except my boss contacted me and wants to talk tomorrow morning. So *pffffft* goes my peace of mind and my playing/knitting/blogging plans. Grrrrrrrrrrrr.

Well...that's not completely true. I did have a blast taking Baby M to her very first movie-theater movie yesterday afternoon. We are lucky enough to have a theater near us that shows second-run films for $2 a person, $1 on Tuesdays. I figured that if Baby M were frightened or bored or just couldn't sit still for that long, it wouldn't break my heart to lose the two dollars and walk out. But she LOVED it! We went to see Happy Feet, the penguin movie, and boy was it cute. Lots of singing, dancing and other onscreen excitement -- plus a kid-sized box of popcorn and cup of iced tea went a long way towards holding her interest. She even made us sit through to the very end of the credits because they showed the various penguins tap-dancing to the music as the credits rolled. I only wish DH had been there instead of at work -- and I'm sure he feels the same way!

So, at least I've been trying to enjoy my time off with Baby M. I haven't gotten much knitting done, and sadly, I haven't been able to get my spiffy new-to-me Auto Knitter circular sock machine to work yet. At least I figured out what the problem is. It looks like during shipping, the yarn carrier (the piece that holds the yarn in the right spot for the needles to grab and knit) got pushed out of alignment, so now the yarn isn't in the right place for it to be knit. And I just can't seem to figure out how to adjust it. At least I finally got my act together and posted a question about it to a sock knitting list, so maybe before I go back to work I'll at least be able to knit, if not an honest-to-goodness sock, then at least a lame little newbie tube.















My spiffy Auto Knitter, ready and waiting for me to stop being such a dumb-ass and figure out how to work it.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Seriously, What's With Twinkle?

So, I swear I was all set to blog about my ultra-cool antique sock-knitting machine (which I still haven't figured out how to work yet) and share gripes about Kaffe Fasset and his designs from hades, but then...

Then, I discovered Twinkle (aka Wenlan Chia) and her book of Big City Knits. The patterns are gorgeous, stunning, to-die-for...and sized to fit women with bust sizes up to 34".

That's right: up to 34".

The last time I had a size 34 bust, I was in elementary school. As for the small sizes...well, I'm sure some woman out there has a 25" bust, and it's very nice that there's an entire book of patterns designed specifically for her, but c'mon, Twinkle...how about the rest of us?

I'm a Big City Girl. I like funky, chunky knitted designs. I can wear the hell outta a cabled sweater-dress, size great-big-bust and all. Just who exactly are you designing for?

So, there's my rant. Move over, Kaffe...you've met your match in Twinkle.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Good God, It's March

And I now have an honest-to-goodness circular sock knitting machine!

I also have a raging headache, an ongoing -- and stress-inducing -- work negotiation, and a (rather unreasonable, I suspect) dislike for every knitting pattern ever designed by Kaffe Fasset.

More on at least some of those later....

Monday, February 26, 2007

Snow Day

Today, DH and I stayed home from work. What was supposed to be a "light dusting" of snow came down hard enough in the middle of the night to blanket roads and close schools by morning, and we just didn't want to risk the hour's drive down to my in-laws' house to drop off Baby M. And so, DH worked from home and I cancelled my class (which I'll have to make up later in the semester) and we all stayed safely home for the day.

The upside is, I got a fair amount of stuff done. I wrote up a paper that's due this Saturday (and which I couldn't quite figure out when I'd have the time to do) and even emailed it to my professor for feedback. I took care of a bunch of work stuff (most of which came as a result of my not being able to make it in to work today, so I'm not necessarily ahead of the game on that one, but oh well). And...

DH and I got to make a snowman with Baby M.

Not any old snowman, mind you. Baby M's first snowman. Ever.

How cool is that?















It looks like Baby M is helpfully adding an almond into Mr. Snowman's crooked grin. In reality, she's swiping almonds for her own nefarious purposes. She gets that from her father.

I must say, however, I think it was much cooler for DH and me than for her. She absolutely loves snowmen, and whenever she sees me sitting at the computer, she toddles over and demands, "Snowman picture!" Whereby I google for the jillionth time some low-budget government-sponsored website that has a line drawing of a snowman with a small assortment of items that can be dragged and dropped onto his body. The clincher: he can have arms made of candy canes. That gets Baby M's attention every time.

Sadly, we had no giant candy canes for our snowman's arms. But we did have walnuts for eyes, a Brazil nut for a nose, and a small handful of almonds for a mouth. Baby M's plastic sand rake served as an arm (she refused to part with her plastic shovel to give the snowman a matching appendage), and the very first scarf I ever knit still sits wrapped around our snowman's neck.

I don't think I'd built a snowman since college (and I'm not sure if I'd ever built one before that), so I had a great time. And Baby M was so pooped afterwards that after taking a nice, hot bath to warm her up, she fell sound asleep in my arms and I got to make a nice, big pot of homemade soup for dinner. Now I'm just waiting for DH to sign off from work and for Baby M to wake up from her nap so we can all think about having dinner.

God, I love snow days.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

New Project, New Problem

Now that I've finished off three Top-Down Timothy Caps (2 for DH and one for his grandfather) and am stuck on my fitted bog jacket because I've had to order -- and wait for -- more wool, I've decided to start a new project: a Woolly Thoughts "Best of Both Whirls" afghan.

The cool part is that this is what the afghan will look like when it's finished:




















The not-so-cool part is that this is what it looks like now:



















That's right: one square, 44 ends to weave in. Multiply that by the 24 squares needed and that's a soul-sucking one thousand and fifty-six ends to weave in.

Help.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Gong Hay Fat Choi and More

Happy Year of the Golden Fire Pig, everyone!

The Golden Fire Pig in its native land...er, Las Vegas.

What does that mean exactly? Well, for DH, Baby M and me it meant a New Year's Eve stuffing ourselves at the in-laws' house. For the world in general it seems to mean prosperity and fertility, as the family made perfectly clear during dinner by asking, loudly and repeatedly, when we were going to provide Baby M with a sibling. What? Doesn't Elmo count?

But enough about Chinese New Year. I promised some details about Valentine's -- excuse me, Valentime's -- Day presents. (Thank you, AP, for the gentle reminder! *g*)

So...my gift to DH was definitely unromantic, but I must say it was exactly what he wanted:








Behold the belt sander! Now DH can actually sharpen the knives he worked so hard to forge at his last blacksmithing workshop. Nothing says "I love you" like a power tool that can peel flesh from bone like a boiled chicken. DH will be using safety equipment with this one.

But the big "ta-da" is reserved for DH's gift to me:











Behold the book charkha! But not just any book charkha; this, ladies and gents, is a Bosworth book charkha, from the uber-talented Jonathan Bosworth over at Journey Wheel. This is the same charkha that L kindly brought over not once but twice to let me play with. The same charkha that actually allowed me to turn cotton into yarn and not just into frustrating little piles of cotton fluff. It's an absolute marvel of engineering and a delight to spin with. Not only that, but it fits right on my lap so I can use it just about anywhere. Spinning on the couch...? In the car...? On the beach at Waikiki...? (A gal can dream, right??)

Anyway, I was (and still am) delighted. DH's order went in for the March group (Jonathan makes things in batches), so that means I'll have my charkha by May (just in time for Mother's Day). All in all, DH couldn't have been more thoughtful. Who needs the "traditional" gifts of chocolate and jewelry when you can have cool fiber tools?

And last but not least, Elmo made his appearance in Baby M's world. He actually tried to rush things by spontaneously talking while still wrapped up and awating DH's return home from work before being given to Baby M. All of a sudden, that distinct Elmo voice piped up and said, "Hi, Baby M! Let's play!" (Didn't I say earlier that there was something creepily Chucky-ish about this thing?) Baby M's head popped up from her coloring book and, looking slightly perplexed, she asked, "Elmo?" Er...whoops. I scooped up the box and hid it in the bedroom closet until it was time for her to unwrap it.

Let me tell you, it was love at first sight. Elmo sings the alphabet song, tells a story about how he and Baby M go to visit a bear, reminds Baby M of her favorite people (Mommy, Daddy) and foods (edamame, yogurt) and even claims to have the very same favorites. Baby M has been dragging Elmo around the house by one foot for the past four days and shows no signs of lessening in her affections. Honestly, it's some of the best money I've ever spent.

Now all we have to do is write up birthday invitations because...*drumroll, please*...my little girl is about to turn TWO. Egads! Where did the time go? Baby M really, really isn't a baby any more. *sniff*

Maybe DH and I will have to take advantage of this Year of the Golden Fire Pig fertility thing after all....





Friday, February 16, 2007

What a Yarn Wants

The other day, my friend L commented, very insightfully, that wool really wants to be yarn. Introduce the slightest amount of twist, she noted, and it holds itself together like a champ and begs for more. Unlike, say, cotton, which according to L's logic wants to be just about anything but yarn (as I discovered after half an hour's utter frustration at the wheel with some otherwise-lovely cotton roving).

I'm not sure where wool/silk blends stand on the spectrum, but I have a sneaking suspicion it's just a bit more cotton-like in its desires than regular wool. I know this because I spent an ultimately happy couple of hours last night spinning up one of my SP9 pal's earliest gifts to me: a luscious 4 oz braid of Spunky Eclectic merino/silk blend in the "Vineyard" colorway.















It took some playing, I must admit. I had to tweak my Louet's ratio vs uptake for awhile until I reached a happy medium where I could introduce enough twist before the fiber got sucked from my fingers onto the bobbin. But this fiber is a true pleasure to spin. Just look at those colors! I was feeling grey and gloomy and longing for something colorful and vibrant and spring-like to spin, and I don't think I could have asked for a better choice than this. Once I have it all spun up (I've probably spun about an ounce by now), I think I'm going to Navajo-ply it, and then...well, I don't have any plans for the yarn after that, but I'm sure it will make a perfect "pet skein" until it tells me what it wants to be.

And speaking of what wants to be....

As far as I can tell, Crystal Palace cotton chenille yarn wants to be anything but a Mason-Dixon Warshcloth. First, I frogged -- a soul-crushing three times. When I finally got up the gumption to cast on again, I knitted all the way to the second-to-last row when....















That's right, the yarn snapped. Snapped! Of all the nerve. And don't ask me how this could possibly be, but the end disappeared. Completely and totally, as if it never existed to begin with. And so...I can't really finish off the center of the cloth since there's a rogue end somewhere in there just waiting to work its way out. And I absolutely refuse to frog it yet again and reuse the yarn. Clearly, this yarn just Does. Not. Like. Me.

Not that I'm taking it personally or anything. *ahem*

And even though Crystal Palace chenille may not like me, DH and Baby M certainly do. More on their most generous Valentine's Day gift to me -- and all our gifts to one another -- next.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Elmo Knows Baby M's Name

At least, he will once DH gets finished programming him.

Yes, that's right, I caved to the Elmo-fest that is toddler pop-culture. When I was a kid (insert cantankerous voiceover here), Valentine's Day meant chocolates. Every year, I got a box for Mom and Dad, they got a box for me, and Dad got a box for Mom. And a card.
But ever since the way-back-when Valentine's Day when I burst into tears at DH's (then Dear Boyfriend) gift of chocolate truffles in a crystal box -- given just as I was terribly depressed about and obsessing over how I'd gained weight -- he's sort of steered clear of chocolates as a gift. And since he doesn't really eat chocolates much himself...well, any box I bought for him would be a de facto box for me. Baby M, who would love nothing more than a whole box of chocolates for herself, is at 22 months still far too young to be given one.

And so...DH is getting something decidedly not made of chocolate, the details of which I won't post on the off chance that he may read this before I manage to give him is present (more on that in a sec). I'm not getting something made of chocolate, either (though I've long given up crying over gifted chocolate truffles...in fact, if there's anyone reading this who happens to be crying over gifted truffles at the moment and wants someone to take the nasty things off your hands, consider me your woman). And after a short discussion about what non-chocolate delight might please Baby M, DH and I settled on an Elmo doll. (The girl excitedly shrieks, "Elmo PJs!!" at bedtime...you think she'll go crazy over a doll? Yeah. Maybe just a bit.)

So yesterday, before the godawful sleet started to fall, I hightailed myself to midtown and checked out the Elmo offerings at Toys R Us. (If, by the way, you've never seen the midtown Toys R Us, you Really. Must. Go. There's a freakin' ferris wheel inside, fergawdsake.)
Did they have Elmos! They had Chicken Dance Elmo, Hokey-Pokey Elmo, Elmos that hummed and sucked their thumbs and did everything except jump right up and high-five a child. And each and every one of them felt like hugging a sock full of batteries. Yuck!
Then I saw this Elmo:




















Not only does he do super-cool things like say your child's name (and, it seems, about a hundred other things that you can personalize, like your child's birthday, friends' names, and more), he's nice and soft and plush and not at all like a Terminator skeleton under a saggy muppet skin. I tend to object to toys that "do too much" on the theory that they leave less room for the imagination (I'm a huge fan of wooden blocks and giant empty cardboard boxes and the like), but even I have to admit, this looks pretty freakin' sweet. You can even program the little bugger right in the box, so your darling child can unwrap his or her present and have start talking right off the bat. Is that not the coolest thing? (OK, it also smacks disturbingly of Chucky, but I'm willing to let that go.) Now, all DH has to do is program the darn thing. Which means all we have to do is manage to get home tonight.

Because...it's freakin' sleeting here, people! What is this? We've been having the warmest winter on record and global warming be damned, I've really been enjoying it. Now all of a sudden, we're expected to cope with actual winter? Snow? Sleet? Surely, you jest. We didn't even go home last night. For the second time in just about as many weeks, the whole clan stayed with DH's parents, this time so we wouldn't have to drive on the skating rink that has become our highway system.

On a side note, DH and I did make a foray to Macy's last night in search of work clothes to wear today. When we saw the humongous crowds, we asked, in all innocence, "Why are there so many people here on a Tuesday night?" The salesperson looked at us like we had three heads apiece and said, "It's the night before Valentime's Day." (Is this a particularly New York thing, to say Valentime's Day instead of Valentine's Day?) DH and I laughed and I said, "Oh, we're such an old married couple, we didn't even realize." To which the salesclerk replied, smiling, "Well, I guess if you've been doin' it all year 'round, you don't need to be doin' it on Valentime's Day."

And if the weather doesn't let us make it home for the second night in a row, he'll have been not only clever, but absolutely, positively correct.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Top-Down Timothy Cap Pattern

Excitement! Today I caught a post from a woman asking for submissions of short patterns for her knitting guild's newsletter. I sent in my pattern for the Top-Down Timothy Cap and she said they're going to publish it! I know it's not nearly the big deal of other people getting their patterns published in Knitty, etc, but this will be my very first pattern published anywhere, so I'm just tickled.

Here's the pattern itself, just in case anyone would like to try their hand at it. The usual caveats apply: Feel free to print out the pattern for your personal use, but don't make these hats to sell or otherwise profit off the pattern. If anyone does make one of these, please let me know -- I'd love to see it!

Top-Down Timothy Cap

By Linda Ciano











Size: One size fits most adults

Gauge: 6 stitches/inch in K2P3 ribbing, slightly stretched

Note: This cap is worked with yarn held doubled throughout in the “magic loop” method of using one long circular needle to make a circular item with a smaller circumference than that of the needle itself. A useful tutorial for this method is available at http://www.purlwise.com/2003/12/the_handy_magic.html.

Materials:

  • 2 skeins Knitpicks Andean Treasure 100% baby alpaca (50 g/110 yds)
  • 32” size 8 circular needle

Abbreviations:

  • KFB = knit into the front and the back of the same stitch
  • PFB = purl into the front and the back of the same stitch
  • PFKB = purl into the front and knit into the back of the same stitch
  • KFPB = knit into the front and purl into the back of the same stitch

Pattern:

With yarn doubled, cast on 8 stitches using figure-8 cast on. Place marker at beginning of round.

Round 1: [K1, P1] to end of round (8 stitches)

Round 2: [K1, PFB] to end of round (12 stitches)

Round 3: [KFB, P2] to end of round (16 stitches)

Round 4: [K2, P1, PFB] to end of round (20 stitches)

Round 5: [K2, PFB, P2] to end of round (24 stitches)

Round 6: [K2, P1, PFKB, KFPB, P1] to end of round (32 stitches)

Round 7: [K2, P2] to end of round

Round 8: [K2, P1, PFB] to end of round (40 stitches)

Round 9: [K2, P3] to end of round

Round 10: [K2, PFB, P2] to end of round (48 stitches)

Round 11: [K2, P4] to end of round

Round 12: [K2, P1, PFKB, KFPB, P1] to end of round (64 stitches)

Rounds 13-15: Repeat round 7

Round 16: [K2, P1, PFB] to end of round (80 stitches)

Round 17: [K2, P3] to end of round

Repeat round 17 until cap measures 8” from crown to base or desired length. Bind off loosely in pattern. Block gently if desired.