Wednesday, May 25, 2011

summer mystery shawlette knitalong

I've never been one to join stuff. Don't know why, exactly, but if everyone else is doin' it, I probably won't. Weird! But this time I'm a-joinin' in the fun.

For years I've had two beautiful skeins of fingering weight alpaca following me around. It was purchased when I was a relative newbie to serious knitting and I think I thought I would make socks from it (?) which would be unwise, as it doesn't have any nylon and would probably not wear too well! It's gorgeous, neutral, and soft as a cloud. When I saw Wendy's post about a summer mystery shawlette knitalong, it all came together in my mind - finally, a use for my pretty alpaca.

I don't really have much use for shawls, though I might use a shawlette as a scarf in cool weather. Truly I'm a practical knitter at heart and prefer hearty, workhorse yarns for warm sweaters, socks, and accessories.

But it's also fun and challenging to stretch my skills and make something beautiful, just because:

The first two "clues" of the mystery have been released and I've completed them. I'm pretty sure there are a few errors in there, but what mom with two young kids can knit perfect lace? I'm not worrying about it, just enjoying the pattern. I'm not going so far as to put my work on Ravelry like many others (see, not much of a true joiner) but I've browsed around on the site, and it is fun to see this made up in all the different yarns people choose. In fact, my own mother is also knitting this! I'm so psyched that we're both making this and I can't wait to see hers.

The next clue is released on Thursday in time for Memorial Day weekend. Maybe I can talk Hubs into taking the kids to the park for a couple hours so I can, you know, "get some housework done" (knitknitknitknitknit).

Monday, May 23, 2011

birthday gift sewing

On Friday we got home from the hospital around lunchtime. We all ate a bit, then Hubs (who is suffering from a sinus thing) crashed on the couch, and AJ crashed in his crib for a monster nap, so I decided to start the birthday outfit I intended to give as a gift on Saturday.

Nothing like waiting until the last possible minute.

I used Butterick 4176 in a size 2.

{As an aside, let me just say that I have no concept of appropriate sizes to sew for other people's children. When I asked my friend to measure her daughter's chest so I could make the right size, I almost fell over when she gave me the exact same measurement as Daughter...who is SIX YEARS OLD. Folks, believe me when I say I have some skinny kids.}

I must recommend this pattern if you have little girls in your life. It's easy and it's adorable. However, I must also recommend you trace the pattern pieces carefully, which I did NOT do. I therefore ended up with a dress back, and more of a "tunic" front. Somehow my pieces were off by about 2" which really cannot be fixed (I had pinned and cut them). There was nothing to do but chop off the bottom of the dress front and make the whole thing into more of a tunic-length top.

But I didn't feel I could just give that piece with a lame story about how I screwed up at the very last minute. So after bedtime on Friday I made a late-night dash back to Joann's and thankfully they had a bolt of coordinating fabric so I could rescue myself with some wee matchy pants.

I washed and dried the fabric Friday night while I finished stitching the top, and then whipped up the pants on Saturday between our zoo outing and the birthday party. I used french seams throughout both pieces so there are absolutely no raw edges except for the crotch seam, which I zig-zagged for strength and to prevent lots of fraying.

I love this pattern. It just comes out so cute every time.

Here's the back, with the sweet coordinating blue button I found in my button stash. I did purchase the fabric for this because it was a gift, and because I don't have many cuts of fabric in my stash that are appropriate for toddler garments.

The rest of the weekend was devoted to house-and-yard-work while I dreamed of the eleventy-billion projects I want to do. I went shopping in my yarn stash and came up with two lovely skeins of alpaca yarn, and for the first time I am joining a knitalong! I've pretty much been a lifelong anti-joiner so this is a big deal for me. I'm off to watch Doctor Who with Hubs and knit a few rows...I'll be back with more on that soon...

Friday, May 20, 2011

late night ramblings

My son had his 7th surgical procedure this morning. He received his 3rd set of ear tubes to relieve the pressure from the sticky mucus that has been building up behind his eardrum. Not only is that gunk at risk of becoming infected, it also affects his hearing, his speech, and how comfortable he feels on a daily basis, so it had to be done.

I pray it was lucky number seven - as in, the last one. I don't know how many more times I can take it, truly. And I'm starting to worry about the effect of all this anesthesia on my little boy and his developing body and brain. When we walked in I was able to greet the recovery nurse by name, because our son has woken up with him twice before. He didn't remember us, which I completely understand. For me a day like today is terrifying. For him it's, you know, Friday.

So I've been up since 5 a.m. (we had to be at the hospital at 7, which is when we usually get up), I spent 4 hours at the hospital, I feel like I've barely eaten because since AJ couldn't eat, we didn't either, and I'm just totally out of whack. In fact I just looked at the calendar and was startled to discover it's still Friday.

I'm having a late-night snack of cinnamon toast and tea with lots of sugar and cream. Turns out I was starving. I just finished the top half of a little outfit I'm sewing for a special birthday girl whose party is tomorrow. We're going to the zoo in the morning with my best friend from middle school and her family, then to the birthday in the afternoon. I'll finish up the outfit in between and try to remember to take a photo.

I'm so thankful my kids are ok, and that all our problems have been pretty small problems in the grand scheme of things.

That was pretty random, I guess. Just wanted to get those thoughts out.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

curating vs. creating

I read a blog post recently that made me stop and think about how I approach my hobbies. I can't recall where it was, so I apologize to the originator of the topic, but it was about "curating" vs. "creating."

I have stashes of both yarn and fabric. Some of it is very, very old. I can point to some stuff that I've had since before I met my husband (10 years ago). What's up with that? Why haven't I used it? And will I ever?

I really got to thinking about what that means. How many of us just buy stuff because it appeals to us at the moment, but it never gets made into anything useful or beautiful? Has this always been a problem for crafters? I mean, who hasn't come across or heard about someone's Grandmother's attic stash of vintage fabrics or trunks of yarn that have been sitting in the corner of a basement or closet for umpteen years?

Is it the norm to do that? I wish I could say I just buy yarn or fabric for a specific project and use everything I spend money on. My mom has always been like that and we've had discussions about why people "build a stash." Mom thinks that having a shoebox-size plastic bin of sock yarn is excessive...and then I showed her my underbed storage box. I have enough sock yarn in there to make at least 15 pairs of adult socks, I bet. And that might be a small stash to some people! I've also been to the fabric store with my mom and picked up a few cuts of calico just because I think they are pretty, and she's always asking "why? What will you use it for?"

I always answer that it's pretty, it's a basic, I could use it for a quilt or a sundress for Daughter or something...some day.

But what it boils down to is I'm a collector. And, sadly, I'm pretty good at it! I can shop a clearance sale like nobody's business. I recently picked through my yarn stash to see what I had for baby sweaters (there's going to be another friends & family baby boom soon), and I came up with a heck of a lot. A shocking amount, really, and some of it has been hanging around far too long. Because while I "stock up" on these "stashbuilders" using sales and coupons, I find I rarely turn to stash when I need to make a gift. Because stash is boring to me. Shopping for new stuff is fun! When someone announces a pregnancy my first thought is toward going out to buy supplies to make a gift.

So while I do knit and sew quite a bit, I am more of a curator than a creator. I curate a collection of yarns, fabrics, embroidery supplies, books...and I get so bored with it, as you would if you looked at the same collection day after day.

I think it also speaks to our rampant consumerism. How many blog entries or ravelry pages have you seen with someone's yarn purchases for the week or fabric stash additions? I've been guilty of it myself...nothing much to write about, nothing created, so instead I show off what I bought. Big deal. Why are we writing about that? And why are we buying so much stuff, anyway? Not that it's wrong to purchase supplies, that isn't what I am saying at all...if you pull fabrics for a quilt or garment and something is missing, by all means buy a yard of something snappy to make the project sing. And if you're fresh out of pink baby yarn but your cousin is having twin girls, of course it is sensible to get what you need.

But to just keep buying stuff...for "some day?" I'm starting to feel a little ridiculous about it, myself. So I'm putting my money where my mouth is. That's probably not the right expression. But you get the idea.

It's time to use up some stash, FOR REAL. And I've set up a tasty reward for myself. I received the new and updated version of Aran Knitting for my birthday. If I can wrestle my stash under control by the end of the year, then I plan to buy myself a Christmas gift of lovely yarn to make one of the designs from that book. It's kind of subjective, I guess, because I don't have a particular amount I'm looking to reduce...I'll just kind of know when I feel like I've reached my goal.

Look, I've already started:

We all know this one, yes? A February Baby Sweater, of course. I had 3 balls of Knitpicks Telemark sportweight wool in the carnation colorway. That's 309 yards of yarn. I'm using a US 5 needle and I think it's going to come out just right.

And here are two roughly 0-3 month sweaters, knitted using free patterns from here, each taking one ball of baby sport yarn. The light blue is Bernat Softee Baby (US size 4 needle), the navy is Lion Baby Soft (US size 5 needle). The cream bonnet, which needs blocking quite badly, is from a Leisure Arts layette book and is made from some sort of fingering weight acrylic baby yarn on, I believe, a US size 3 needle.

The only person in my life who is actually pregnant right now is my sister-in-law, who is due at the end of this year. They find out the gender next month and then I'll know what to focus on. But I am pretty sure my sister will have another, my other sister who is getting married this year will surely have one or two, and our good friends are hoping to add to their family soon as well. So having a stash of little sweaters (rather than a stash of baby yarn) will serve me well.

I am even hoping to pull some coordinating fabrics from my bins to make some little pull-on pants or sundresses or little quilts to go with some of this knitted stuff.

I may still purchase some "supplies" this year. If I need something to finish a project or for a very specific gift, I'll head to Joann's. But I'm excited to stop curating and start creating.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

blowin' in the wind

Do you use Pandora? I didn't know what it was for the longest time (one of my husband's favorite ways to tease me is to say "you're so analog") but I finally tried it out. At first I hated it because it never played what I wanted. But then one day I typed in "Peter, Paul and Mary."

I'll also ask you this: is there something that just takes you instantly back to your childhood? A food, a smell, a sight or sound? Well, for me it's 60s-70s folk music that my friends' parents listened to. (Not so much my parents - they were/are pretty straight-laced and were never hippies.) The PP&M Pandora station is so awesomely perfect I can't even describe it. John Denver, James Taylor, CSN (sometimes with Y), Jim Croce, PP&M of course, Cat Stevens...ooh, how I love Cat Stevens. If I'd been a teen in 1976 instead of an infant, I'd have plastered my room with Cat Stevens posters and played his music nonstop on the record player.

It's just such great music...sweet melodies, poetic lyrics, safe for little ears to listen to...and it takes me right back to lying on my stomach on my friend's living room floor in front of their console hi-fi. They had green plush carpet and I thought that was awesome rich-people stuff (we had gold and avocado shag, awwww yeah).

Anyway, I now have a sweet wood-paneled family room with a sectional that needs some sprucing up (we are ripping out that awful paneling as soon as we can afford to, but that will be awhile). So to go along with my awesome hippie music I'm making a little something...a "period piece" if you will.

I love, love, love hippie stuff but I won't go so far as to rock a granny square poncho (or skirt)...though I do have several patterns for them. This will be a blanket for my drab 1966-style family room.

I've made 16 blocks so far, and since I don't have a truly vintage stash of 1960s olefin yarn I'm using the next best thing: Red Heart super saver acrylic. Oh yes. Kinda plastic-y, kinda unpleasant, but the colors are so great. I couldn't help myself and started joining the blocks today (using the join-as-you-go method, which can be easily found by googling).

In order to keep this from sinking into total 70s polyester-ville, I'm joining the blocks with a deep teal color. Back in the day they were always joined with black, right? Gosh, didn't everyone have a granny-square afghan in their house sashed with black? I think they were practically required 4o years ago. I can't wait to see this brightening up my brown, brown family room.

"Country road...take me home..."

Friday, May 13, 2011

to blog or not to blog...

...well, that IS the question.

It's been two months since I put anything new in this space. Why? I'm not sure. I've certainly thought about it a lot in that time. I've completed a few projects and thought maybe I should take some pictures and write about them. We've gone on a few outings that were fun, and I got some good enough photos where you can't see my kids' faces clearly and I could certainly post about that.

But I'm not sure I want to. My kids are pretty big now (Daughter just turned 6 and AJ is over 2 1/2) so I feel very conscious of their privacy. I don't even tell close friends and family all the quirky things they do. And I have pretty minimal crafting time due to a really messy, rambunctious kid blasting around the house all day. When naptime and bedtime come, it's a mad scramble to clean up the kitchen, straighten the house, run that last load of laundry, and then I crash. I still squeeze in knitting and sewing time, but it's not huge, and when I have that precious free time I want to use it to create things, not write about creating things (I think). Life has done a 180 with this little boy of mine...he is nothing like Daughter, who would happily play nearby while I worked on something creative. He's just not a content-to-self-entertain kid, which is perfectly normal and ok, but it limits my time to do what I want.

However! I am also crazy-addicted to my hobbies. I don't know a single person in real life who is as obsessed as I am with making stuff. I am constantly frustrated and disappointed when trying to make new friends (like at birthday parties or school events) when I cannot find one mom who likes doing crafty stuff. I belong to the local chapter of knitting guild because even though it's me and about 200 grannies, at least the meetings are filled to the brim with women who understand what I do and why I love it so. Perhaps something is wrong with me that I haul a knitting project everywhere I go. Maybe it's completely abnormal that I can't seem to pack my sewing machine away for even a few days without feeling twitchy and getting it back out.

And that's where blogs and the internet come in. I can't find my people here in my real life, so I find them out there, in cyberspace. When I stumble upon a new blog I like the first thing I do is search their "about" page to see if they live geographically nearby. Nope, never happens. So I keep going back and absorbing all I can from these amazingly crafty women I'll never meet.

Now, there are some downsides to this, for me at least. The very best blogs, or I should say the blogs I enjoy the most, are the ones where the writer posts photos of her family, her home, her projects, herself - the really open ones that tell the whole story. I love this! But I'm not willing to do that myself. So sometimes I feel like I can't hang, you know? I feel I cannot truly participate in the world of craft blogging or mom blogging without being more free with my life. I'm sure it is boring to simply look at photos of kid sweaters or mittens or sundresses with no context, really. Right? Or no? I guess I can only say what I prefer, and that's the "whole story."

Also, I don't have the latest and greatest camera, not by a long shot. So many bloggers take such amazing photos with their Nikon XXX12345 camera or their Canon blah-blah-blah with the super special lens and here I am with my 10 year-old Canon Sure Shot A40, a camera so old and outdated you can't even get the drivers without doing an extensive internet search. It's like being in high school again and not having the cool sneakers or a trapper keeper when everyone else does. I also cannot afford to create with the same high-end supplies many crafters use. $10/yard quilting fabric is simply not in my budget, nor is $20/skein yarn, and I do get jealous sometimes when people show their stash.

Aaaaaaaaaand, along those same lines, there's some real nastiness showing up in the entire blog community of late. People are having a real hard time keeping their comments kind, often showering bloggers with judgmental wrath. Sure, I judge people - really, who doesn't at one time or another? But I don't feel the need to blast someone in blog comments (or on my own blog) who chooses to live differently than I do. No one is making me read these blogs, so if I don't care for someone's page, I simply click away and remove it from my bookmarks. Easy as pie and no feelings get hurt.

So, you see, I have a real love/hate thing going on here. My life has done a huge series of flip-flops since I started my little blog as a young newlywed with a 6 month-old baby. There are days when my PTSD from losing a child and going through what I went through with my son takes hold and I have nothing good to say to anyone. There are days when I browse my blog list and just feel angry and sad that my life "doesn't measure up." Then there are days of great inspiration when I love all the projects I see and feel I am part of an awesome group of creative, obsessive, loving, busy, intense moms who I really, really wish could come over to my house for a sewing/knitting/crocheting/embroidering playdate with their adorable kids.

Um, so...yeah. Where does that leave me? I'm not sure. I know that at the very least, I've enjoyed having a place where all my projects are catalogued. I don't want to keep a crappy blog, that's for sure, but I don't know if I have it in me to create an awesome one.

What to do...what to do...