Friday, June 30, 2017

Summer Sweater

The phrase summer knitwear seems like an oxymoron, at least when one lives in North Carolina. Here this season's heat is sweltering and brutal, the air thick and moist, so linen cardigans and cotton sweaters, staples of summer attire in other locales, are more commonly worn in March or April.  

I wanted to knit a sweater, though, one made with summer yarn, since I will be traveling to Scotland, and I'm anticipating much cooler days and nights.  Last year I'd purchased ten skeins of Soft Linen by Classic Elite Yarns in a blue-green color, and, after much searching, I found a pattern on Ravelry entitled, Summer Leaves Cardigan that I thought would work well with this yarn.  I love the yoke details, and I am always a big fan of easy-on, easy-off cardigans because another feature of North Carolina weather is that it can vary wildly from day-to-day, or hour-to-hour for that matter.  In the wintertime, school will be cancelled due to icy conditions and snow, but, by the afternoon of the same day, the temperature creeps near seventy and only a few sad patches of white are left slowly melting in shady corners.

Odd to think about snow as I sit here on a hot, albeit overcast, day.  I'm at home, a rare occurrence for an afternoon, as lately my life involves driving to my mother's assisted living, driving to numerous stores--especially the drugstore--to pick up items for my mother, driving to the office, and, thankfully, driving clients to real estate showings. So this post isn't going to be a long one, as I have packing to do for my trip and a letter to write to a pen pal who is going to disown me if she doesn't hear from me soon.  

Since I had a few moments, I was inspired to steal of few of them to share my sweater and a word of caution. When I brought my work-in-progress to the knitting store, a woman working there shuddered when she heard that I was knitting a Drops pattern.  This company's patterns are known for being a bit challenging or, more appropriately, somewhat confusing.  (Drops is a Norwegian company so some lost-in-translation glitches may explain these issues.)  I have knitted a Drops baby sweater and had no difficulty, but Summer Leaves required a bit of improvisation on my part.  However, since the design is knitted from the top down (a method of knitting that enables me to calculate stitches needed to match my measurements without too much difficulty), and the leaf chart is quite easy to read, I was able to work up this project without any tears or frustration.   I'm not sure why I didn't need to knit at least two (maybe three) of the charts, though!  

After much deliberation, I chose heart-shaped buttons.

few weeks ago, after I'd blocked this garment and spent some time deliberating over buttons in the fabric store, I finished this project and was quite satisfied.  But I didn't have too long to dwell on my sense of accomplishment, as I had an entire bag of gorgeous yarn, Luma from the Fiber Company, waiting for me in a shopping bag.  I'd splurged on this to make a hoodie  to wear to the Shetland Isles this summer, but my trip plans changed, and I will now be visiting mainland Scotland and England, but have postponed visiting Shetland until 2019.   I decided that a hoodie was, perhaps, suited more for the coast of Shetland than the various cities I'll be visiting, so I changed gears and found a design that appealed to me--a long cardigan, but one with a hood that buttons off and on, so now I'm knitting frantically, hoping to finish this Salt (ahoi) cardigan in time for my departure.

I just started the first sleeve.  

This sweater has some clever details that add interest to the design.  

I will probably be knitting the hood in the airport or on a plane or two. And I just might wait to buy buttons until I am in Scotland, although there are over twenty of them, so that's lots of stitching time on my vacation. Of course, if I don't finish my long, warm cardigan, I can pack it away and pull it out for the week or two of winter weather here in the sunny South.  

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Remember Me

My mother is in Amsterdam here, circa 1969.  

     It is telling that until lately I managed to post to this blog nearly every month.   Even though I was busy with two sons, housework and cooking, four pets, an absorbing knitting hobby, and a full-time teaching job, I was inspired  to write on a variety of topics and take and edit photographs to accompany my prose.  Now that I am caring for a mother with dementia and promoting myself as a real-estate agent, I am finding neither the time nor the inspiration to post regularly.  When I do contemplate the blog, I am faced with so many ideas and so much time to cover that I lose momentum and abandon thoughts of getting to work.  The question of how to catch up after a hiatus perplexes me and leads to inaction.  Plus the fact that I am spending so many hours attempting to develop an online presence as a real estate agent doesn’t motivate me to sit down at the computer to complete additional work in the social media sphere. 

     But rather than abandon this blog, which has been a source of both solace and amusement to me over the last several years, I will eschew trying to cover what has transpired during the recent posting gap and focus on one topic—my Purls of Light knitting luncheon, an event I am sponsoring to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association.  I began my involvement with this charity when I signed on with Giving Tree Realty, a real estate agency that is unique as it is rooted (excuse the pun) in community involvement.  Each of the company’s agents chooses a charity to support, to which Giving Tree Realty gives a portion of proceeds from each transaction.  In turn, agents are encouraged to get actively involved in our respective charities.  I began working with Giving Tree Realty at the beginning of 2017, when I had emerged from a two-month whirlwind of activity after learning that my mother had been diagnosed with dementia, so it is natural that I chose the Alzheimer’s Association, an organization with the goal of ending Alzheimer’s and dementia and enhancing care for those living with the disease.  
This is my mother, taken last month.  She is slowly gaining weight she lost when she was living alone and undiagnosed with dementia. 
     I have been busy creating fliers, invitations, letters to potential sponsors (yarn companies), reserving my neighborhood community center, and advertising through social media and in person at knitting groups to promote my event, one which will be held on June 24, a Saturday in close proximity to June 21, the summer solstice, or what the Alzheimer’s Association calls “The Longest Day.”  On or around “The Longest Day,” the Alzheimer’s Association encourages individuals to do something they love to raise money, so I thought that it would be fitting for me to organize a knitting event.  In addition, knitting has been shown to be an activity that is beneficial to staving off Alzheimer’s and dementia, along with helping to alleviate other conditions related to aging, such as Parkinson’s disease.


     As I have planned this event, attempted to begin a career in real estate, completed hours and hours of paperwork related to my mother’s move from her own home in Arizona to an assisted living facility in North Carolina, met with attorneys, social workers, nurses, doctors and assisted living staff, organized a summer trip to Scotland (something I would never have pursued at this time had I not purchased tickets  before my mother’s diagnosis), pursued my knitting hobby, dealt with a nineteen-year-old son with some personal issues, and tried to figure out what my daily life is going to look like for the next few years, I have struggled a bit.  Coping with a lack of energy, confidence, and optimism while dealing with the rejection that is naturally a part of a novice's sales career has been disheartening, but the Alzheimer’s Association is supporting me through this process and their educational materials are helping me to see that the waves of emotion that have shaken me since my mother’s diagnosis last November are the natural result of the grieving process. Anger, denial, acceptance, depression, guilt at not recognizing the disease sooner—all of these feelings are experienced by those who care for or love someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia. 

     So, it’s time to give myself a break and take care of myself a bit, which means not letting my beloved knitting blog lapse or knitting design attempts cease.  To commemorate “The Longest Day,” I have designed a simple knitted pansy, to be worn as a corsage or affixed to accessories. The pansy flower gets its name from the French noun pensèe, which can be translated at “thought.” In Victorian times, pansies were believed to symbolize remembrance or were used as a way to say, “I’m thinking of you.” It seems fitting to me  that pansies should be a part of raising awareness of Alzheimer’s disease. You can find the pattern here on Ravelry. Knit this simple pansy and wear it on June 21, The Longest Day.  I used scrap yarn to make my pin. Any DK yarn will work, or go up in yarn weight and use worsted with a size 7 or 8 needle. You can knit the flower all in one color of yarn, if you prefer.

If you would like to make a donation to my Longest Day fundraiser through the Alzheimer’s Association, go to The Longest Day.

Finally, even though I said I wasn't going to recap the last few months, I couldn't resist sharing a few photos of the knitting projects I've been working on or have completed.  

This is the Meadowsweet Shawl, using one skein of Meadow yarn.  

I finally finished the Renaissance Crescent Shawl using Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift.  

I didn't follow the pattern exactly and worked this project in the round, cutting a steek when I was done knitting.  

This is Otter Cove.  I love this sweater's classic styling.  I used Dale Garn Falk DK yarn.   

I used an Estonian cast-on to begin this sock.  The pattern is Toka Socks from the book First Frost:  Cozy Folk Knitting.  

Sunday, January 22, 2017

I'll Take Manhattan

Last week, accompanied by my friend, Dawn, and her daughter, Tia, I traveled to New York City, on my annual pilgrimage to Vogue Knitting Live (VKL). Other highlights of my trip included getting to be a member of the audience of The Dr. Oz Show, dining out in a variety of ethnic restaurants, seeing the musical Beautiful, about singer Carol King,  and spending a soul-soothing afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

At VKL I took I took a six-hour class entitled Fresh Fair Isle, taught by designer Mary Jane Mucklestone. Her class delved into color theory, with a particular focus on color value. (For those unfamiliar with the term, value refers to the lightness or darkness of a color based upon how close it is to white.)  Paying particular attention to value is essential when choosing dominant and background colors for Fair Isle knitting.

Mary Jane ended our time together by having a class discussion about our creations, where she and the members of the class provided feedback.  

My finished samples, not perfect but good practice.  (I needed to go down a needle size on the ribbing.)

Homework before our class was to cast on 48 stitches and join them in a circle using fingering weight yarn, preferably of the Shetland variety, and to complete eight rows of ribbing.   We were also supposed to bring a variety of different colors to use to create fingerless gloves/wrist cuffs. I loved having an excuse to order some Jamieson's Spindrift from Loveknitting to meet the criteria for this assignment.  I do have a wonderful assortment of this yarn sent to me by a dear friend in England, but I’ve already cast on a multi-colored shawl using that yarn.  (I really need to get back to that WIP!)

This mosaic by Tiffany on display at the Met provides its own lesson in color theory.
Love the blues and greens.  

An afternoon learning about color and Fair Isle design and knitting techniques provided an escape from navigating throngs of people on sightseeing excursions with my friend and her daughter.   While I do love the visual and physical stimulation of trucking miles around the city, the room where I sat, learned, and knit with like-minded people was a pleasant oasis in the middle of teeming Times Square.

On Friday and Saturday, the marketplace at VKL was jammed, but on Sunday morning the space was less densely packed, so I spent a wonderful couple of hours browsing the stalls and chatting with the vendors. I purchased a gorgeous hand-painted skein of Hedgehog Fibers Kidsilk Lace from Steven Be’s booth that morning. The day before, I’d also bought some balls of Rauma Tumi yarn from Wall of Wool and a pattern to make a cowl with geometric colorwork. I tried to be pretty frugal on my trip, so the only other purchases I made were a  canvas VKL tote bag and Wrapped in Color, a book of shawl patterns featuring Koigu yarns. 

 A high point of the trip to the marketplace was the opportunity to meet women representing Shetland Wool Week, including Crofthoose Hat designer, Ella Gordon.  One of the trio told me that they were in “culture shock,” so I reassured her that I would most definitely have the same sense when I visit Shetland this coming July.  I am thankful I found the three at a rare quiet moment on Friday night, as they chatted with me for a while and gave me some information that would come in handy on my visit, such as the necessity of renting a car.  When I expressed a bit of hesitation about driving on the left side (stemming from a harrowing experience in the summer of 2015), they reassured me that traffic was light and that the island where Lerwick is situated isn’t too crowded.  “You’ll probably see us,” one of them stated.  

Designer Ella Gordon is in the middle.  I believe the other two women represent the Shetland Textile Museum. 

Another positive experience was the chance I had to share knitting confessions on camera, an opportunity provided by Lion Brand Yarn.  Not only did I get to practice my public-speaking skills, I walked away with a bag of goodies that included two skeins of cashmere yarn! 

Now that I’m home, I’m looking forward to viewing The Dr. Oz Show I saw taped (when it appears on TV), and I will have to check out Lion Brand's Facebook page, to see if I made the cut in the compilation of video confessions the company is putting together.  It’s definitely time for me to stay put for a while. I went to Costco yesterday and weighed myself down with hundreds of pounds of supplies, so I plan to do a little cooking in the coming days and also to complete real estate broker orientation activities for my new company.  I also hope to finish up a shawl I am making. Like the rest of us, I have so much to cast on (and so many WIPs scattered about) and so little time.

At the airport in Charlotte, we are eager to get on our way.