Monday, July 25, 2011

thoughts on summer

How do you see summer? Do you still think of it in terms of a big vacation, like when you were a kid and summer meant...doing absolutely nothing, or doing whatever you wanted, and it stretched out before you like an endless path?

As a stay-home mom I think of it like that. I've almost always lived by the school calendar, going from high school to college, then two years after that to graduate school, then on to teaching, and now I have a school-age child. My life is ruled by the school schedule, and I have come to really love and rely on the structure it brings.

Sadly, as a mom, summer is not a vacation, right? Gosh, I do still think of it that way, and long for warm, lazy afternoons sitting in a lawn chair with a good book and a glass of iced tea, or breezy mornings sitting on the patio working some cross stitch or knitting with my coffee. I make all these mental plans for what I'm going to accomplish, like finishing sweaters and starting on Christmas ornaments, creating involved cross-stitches to frame for my home, sewing quilts and garments, and getting a head start on next fall and winter's sewing and knitting.


My fantasy of my children happily playing in the sandbox or splashing around in the wading pool while I crafted serenely were quickly dashed this year. The children hop around from place to place, declaring the sandbox too hot, the wading pool too cold, and everything else, you guessed it, booooring. AJ mostly wants to follow his big sister like a shadow, so when she hops out of the pool and heads for the back door, he wants to go in too. This inevitably happens moments after I've gathered all the required towels, sunscreen, snacks, etc., and settled into my lawn chair for a few moments of knitting or stitching.

So to sum up, I'm getting absolutely nothing done. I spend my days refereeing the bickering of the children, chauffeuring Daughter to and from her library activities, serving up endless snacks, sweeping up sand and crumbs, and hiding in our air conditioned bedroom (yep, we are caught in the northeast heat wave, though thankfully on the low end with temps in the 90s). If not that, we're sitting in whatever pools we can find, or visiting grandma in her air conditioned house. It's too hot to hold knitting needles, too sticky for stitching, and I can't even turn on my bedside lamp to read at night because it throws too much heat. Yuck!

This too shall pass, I know, I know. In a few short years my children will be far better able to self-entertain. And I'm not complaining, really, about summer and heat. I vastly prefer being able to just run out the door with the kids when we want to go out, rather than bundling into winter gear...I guess I'm just making excuse that I don't have much to write about because this time is not really mine. It's all mommy all the time just now.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

an easter sweater in july

There's a new online quilt show aimed at the young, new quilter. It's called "Quilty" and it's hosted by Mary Fons, daughter of super-famous quilt personality Marianne Fons (of Fons & Porter). If you haven't seen it, check it out, it's very cute and focuses on beginner quilting skills.

There's a 2-part episode dealing with hand and machine quilting, featuring Marianne Fons as Mary's guest. When discussing the sample they are using to demonstrate different styles of quilting, Marianne says she had trouble coming up with something to bring along...she doesn't have a bunch of quilt tops laying around because, in her words: "I finish my projects."

I finish my projects. What novel idea! I often wonder why so many of us have craft ADD, where we flit from one project to another, leaving baskets of abandoned socks, sweaters, embroidery, quilts, etc. in our wake.

It's fair to say I always have at least two knitting projects on the go at once, generally one on larger needles and one on very small needles (a sweater and a sock, for example). But sometimes, as in right now, I get way more than that piling up. I currently have a sock, a sweater for Daughter, a sweater for AJ, a long-ago abandoned baby sweater that was supposed to be for my son but will now become a gift, a shawl, and a granny square afghan (crochet, but let's lump it in there). Actually, I just surprised myself in coming up with that seemed I had more semi-abandoned projects than that.

I'm not saying it's right or wrong to have a lot of projects going. It's certainly common. I have so many things I want to make it keeps me up at night, my mind racing with possibilities. And I also feel the need to knit and sew for my kids as much as possible while they are still little and will wear what I present to them...Daughter, at age 6, is already expressing strong opinions about her wardrobe and I've started consulting her before beginning anything new lest she dislike it and stuff it in the back of a drawer.

But none of that does any good if I don't finish up. So with that quote from Marianne Fons in mind, I sucked it up and finished the sweater I'd intended as an Easter sweater for Daughter.

Knitting Pure & Simple neck-down cardigan, size 6-8. I used close to 3 skeins of Lion Cotton Ease in white, knitted up on US 9 needles (US 8 for the seed stitch ribbings). I fell in love with these buttons and I think they are perfect to jazz up an otherwise plain sweater. Click on the photo to see them bigger - they look like gingham! So cute! They are "Dress It Up" buttons, purchased at Michael's.

This sweater was so boring, the size 9 needles felt so clunky, and the cotton yarn made my hands hurt. I guess that's why it took forever and a day to finish. Plus Easter was freezing cold (we wore wool) and it was such a cold spring season, this sweater wouldn't have gotten much use anyway. I'm hoping it will get lots of wear at the beginning of the school year.

So, that's done! I guess that means I can cast on for something new...right?

Friday, July 01, 2011

no, really, it's relaxing!

I'm sure that some people find the idea of knitting lace to be absolutely abhorrent...I think I used to be one of those people. So fiddly! Such fine yarn! Pretty, but useless! I want warm sweaters, dammit, not doilies!

Mmmmm. My words taste goooooooood.

It turns out I love to knit lace. In particular, I love to knit triangular shawls on a stockinette background, preferably with the edging incorporated into the body of the shawl, but this time around I'm going for it with a knitted-on edging.

I've begun the Shaped Triangle from A Gathering of Lace. The book photo does not do it justice in the least - if you want to see what it can really look like, check out the gorgeous blue one on ravelry.

I wish I had a pretty, soft color to make this shawl with, but I'm bustin' stash these days, and what I have is some well-marinated Knitpicks Shadow laceweight.

This yarn knits up beautifully, with no splitting or knots thus far. But the color is kind of uninspiring (I think it is called "sunset").

I've nearly completed the first chart, which is all these little asterisk-type things. I'm enjoying the heck out of knitting this so far! It does get more complicated after this chart, but so far it's been dreamy. I find knitting lace to be quite relaxing and distracting - the stress of dealing with my son's transitioning of therapy services has been so all-consuming it actually makes me feel physically ill. This pattern requires just enough concentration that I lose myself in the pattern and my brain stops chewing on other issues.

And it's a good thing, too, because I knit lace without a safety net. That's right, no "lifelines" here. Instead I make sure I knit this when the children are in bed or zombied-out in front of a video (only used when I am desperate for peace, I promise), with no media bombarding me. I sit in good light, and softly chant the stitch pattern to myself as I go along: "knit two, yarn over, knit three, yarn over, slip-knit-pass, yarn over, knit one..."

A holiday weekend is upon us (July already???) and the weather looks good. I'm going to get the house reasonably clean (ok, tidy, clean is a reach), and enjoy the sunshine with my family. Happy 4th!