Saturday, May 26, 2012

Around five years ago, when searching online for some ways to reduce spending on food, I stumbled on Mommy blogs.  At the time I was unequivocally grossed out to find out that one inspired blogger had shared pictures of a giant hair ball she’d extracted from her tub’s drain and another had given play-by-play commentary on her daughter’s potty training progress.  I understand that women at home with small children can lose perspective a bit, and I know that as a working mother I tormented my co-workers with a constant litany of information regarding every developmental stage of my two boys, but, thankfully, the whole blogging sphere was in its infancy and unknown to me at the time.  However, I’d like to think that despite my focus at the time, I would have been somewhat discriminating in choosing subject matter to share with the public.  For that reason (not wanting to share nasty details of my end-of-school-year chores), and a general end-of-school-year laziness, I’ve avoided my blog for a couple of weeks. 

But now, I’ve been out of school for two days, and after grueling hours spent packing books, a microwave, a fridge, and all sorts of craft odds and ends from my “mobile learning cottage” into boxes, so that the school custodian can actually see the floor, I have been busy shoveling out at home.  I have done a bit of knitting each day, but, ultimately, my brain is filled with plans of attack for clutter and my muscles are fatigued from disassembling a bunk bed and bagging mountains of worn-out or outgrown clothes.  (Right now, I have over nine garbage bags of stuff in the garage, and I'm not done with clearing out.)  I have a vision of me (after the junk is sent off or maybe sold at a yard sale) with a tidy, fresh-smelling house having some creative inspiration and designing some clever new knitting patterns or writing about some interesting fiber fair I’ve attended, but for right now my mind and energy are elsewhere.
I bought this kit at Vogue Knitting Live--it's
a super-easy pattern for a circular scarf, just right for my mindset
right now. 

Rather than ignore my blog entirely, however, I will share some projects on my needles.  Then, it’s time to take a break from housework and go to the knitting store.  I just checked Facebook and saw that my local shop, Cottage Yarn, has the new Noro magazine in stock.  I’ve been waiting for this. 
This is another easy, quick pattern.  It took one skein
of the Cascade yarn shown below to make a long scarf.
The pattern is a free design by Christine Vogel, available
on Ravelry

I've been working on a project that's a bit more complicated, but have only been knitting a few rows a day.  Here's a picture taken last week (it's almost done now but I have to take an updated picture): 

 This is project #15 in the spring issue of
Vogue Knitting.

 I started making this scarf for one of my younger son's after-school program teachers. The letters are the school initials. Through this process I've learned that navy blue worsted wool is impossible to find. I don't think the teacher will need this item this summer, though, so I can take my time looking for it

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cables, Conflicts, and a Free Knitting Pattern

These wooly mitts knit up very quickly.  See below for link to PDF with free pattern. 

It's difficult to have a knitting blog when one doesn't seem to have the time to knit more than a few rows each day, or when mental capabilities taxed to their limits prohibit an individual from actually counting properly.  Last week, I found a pattern for fingerless gloves  in my ever-expanding collection of knitting books and bought some yarn to use to complete it.  I was able to knit one cabled fingerless glove, and then, after seeing one strangely elongated cable that stood out like some freakish giant from the other neat cables, I ripped out all of my work.  On Saturday, I knit and tore out and knit and tore out a lacy scarf, because every row of lace ended up with the wrong number of stitches. 

It is the end of the school year, and last week I was busy grading papers and finalizing exam preparation.  I also had to attend two nighttime graduations (mandatory for teachers) on Thursday and Friday and an athletic banquet to go to for my younger son.  To add to the mayhem, my school decided to throw an outdoor party last Friday afternoon.  I’m also in the midst of taking an online course and trying to arrange, or at least contemplate, some kind of family trip this summer.  Last week I reached a nadir (or maybe an apex fits better here) of exhaustion and was unable to focus properly enough to knit anything that required any manipulation of numbers whatsoever. 

Amazingly, this week, with final exams starting today, I'm a bit refreshed, although perhaps I'm having a false burst of energy before I collapse when summer vacation starts--much like those last-minute lucid moments experienced by people languishing on their deathbeds minutes before they succumb to what ails them.  (Readers who enjoy Victorian novels will recognize this phenomenon).  Anyway, while tired, I am strangely reinvigorated this week, so much so that I have started knitting some items for my younger son’s teachers.  Last week was teacher appreciation week, but my flagging energy took its toll on my ability to purchase presents and write notes to teachers.  Hence, I am now doing the sensible thing and am starting to knit several projects to give as end-of-the-year gifts.  (Why not?  I have three weeks.)  Adding to my end-of-year projects, I spent the last few evenings designing a pair of fuzzy fingerless gloves, since I had to abandon the confusing pattern I'd attempted last week.  These mitts turned out nicely, I think.  Here is a link to my pattern:  Cottager's Mitts (PDF)

My sister-in-law was given a bunch of vintage knitting tools
that once belonged to a friend's mother who passed away at 87.
Many of the needles were housed in these vintage girdle tubes.
I had to share this clever way of repurposing.  Of course,
girdles, if they are even still sold in stores, don't come
 in tubes anymore. . . .

Sunday, May 6, 2012

esCAPING Perfection

A friend's pretty daughter models the almost perfect capelet.
I still have to sew on five buttons.
Several days ago I finished a capelet I’ve been working on for several weeks.  After picking up stitches along one side of the opening in the front and knitting a couple of rows of garter stitch, I noticed an inconsistency—no, a glaring flaw—in my beautiful piece crafted with luxurious Louisa Harding yarn.  There were about six stitches in one of the vertical cabled bands of stockinet stitch that were not smooth.  They had the visible bumps of purl stitches. 

I had worked on this cape in the midst of planning a birthday party, working full-time, and running back and forth to my sons’ athletic practices and extra-curricular events.  I had also produced this item while taking part in a week-long blogging event, with required daily posts, and while dealing with a sick child and other family obligations.  So now, I faced a dilemma.    
This garment has a picot editing along the top, which miraculously, came out well and used exactly the correct number of stitches given in the pattern instructions.  I couldn’t bear to tear this edging out along with my picked up stitches along the front to correct an error that no one, without closely examining the capelet, would see.  Only I would know about this mistake.  Attesting to my perfectionistic nature, the flaw troubled me for several days, until I finally said, “Let it go,” as I have had to say about nearly everything since I’ve had children. 

This error, however, like so many times I have missed information in emails and posted on calendars or left my closets a mess or neglected to style my hair or groom the dog, is the product of a life pulled in different directions.  While some thrive on busyness and overbooked schedules, I find that I cannot produce any work of quality or substance, let alone anything “perfect” (if such things exist) without expanses of time to focus, free from distraction.  Hence the fact that my students’ essays and tests pile up, as I await that ideal, long stretch of time where I can sit quietly and work uninterrupted, that time which never comes, so I inevitably end up going to a Starbucks on a Saturday morning several days before the end of the marking period and frantically grading an obscenely large stack of papers, hoping I won’t get distracted by running into anyone I know.
My friend's younger daughter looks adorable in this lavender color.

The constant pull of committments and responsibiities and the constant need to prioritize and sacrifice duties to more pressing ones drives me nuts.  Yesterday, a huge mountain of laundry sat in the front of the washer and I was unhappily aware of the fact that my family hadn’t eaten a home-cooked meal in a week.  With obligations to be out every evening and starting an online course in website “accessibility” (which entailed hours of emailing the online instructor and questioning coworkers about how to actually find the magic link to access the course in which I was enrolled) and trying to plan a British tea party for my 12th graders (which led to dragging china cups, tea pots, tablecloths, etc. to school), I was exhausted and knew that I should stay home and attempt to salvage some type of domestic life for my family. 

But I had decided several weeks ago that I needed to return to the horseback riding I had given up over a decade ago due to the fact that this activity takes away so much of my limited time with my family and for housework.  I’d done quite a bit of thinking and realized that if I continued to find reasons not to get back on a horse, I might never ride again.  Also, this hobby, I rationalized yesterday morning, should help me relax and aid in decreasing the stress in my life.  So after knitting a few rows on a cabled shawl (a Mother’s Day present which will certainly arrive late to my mother in Arizona, and which I’m also making as part of a  Ravelry knitalong,) and completing some household chores, I headed off for a thirty-minute drive to the country, where my husband’s sister and her husband have a horse farm.  I didn’t relax on the way there, however, as I was plagued by the fact that I hadn’t posted to my blog in nearly a week. 
Lace Shawl designed by Iris Schreier from Vogue Knitting Spring 2012 issue.   For information about joining the knitalong, go to Ravelry.  This shawl looks almost lavender here, but it's silver, made with Sublime yarn and beads I'm adding. 

I did ride, however, and enjoyed sunshine and country scenery.  My sister-in-law also gave me some yarn she’d obtained from a friend, whose mother, an avid knitter, had died recently.   The yarn is a mohair-acrylic blend and should go get along swimmingly with the other skeins and balls just waiting for me to have some time to work with them. 
Sina is a good-tempered Icelandic horse.  Go to Windgait, if you'd like
more information about Icelandics. 

After some errands, I was home for a few hours.  That evening, however, I drove out to the country again, to a horse farm owned by a former co-worker of mine.  A mutual friend is in town for a couple of weeks, and we were going to have a reunion, where we could sit by a bonfire and watch the “supermoon” this weekend (go to The Detroit Free Press) for information. In a weary haze, under a sky too cloudy to see the moon, I managed to last a few hours, before groggily heading home on some dark country roads and literally passing out from exhaustion

So today is a cloudy Sunday, perfect for knitting, blogging, and getting my 12-year-old son to work on his European country PowerPoint project for school. I’ll also continue to knit, attempting to find harmony and balance in perfectly crafted stitches.  I can’t let bumpy mistakes get me down.  I’ll carry these lapses along with me, and hope that I can be like the knitter in Knitting:  A Novel who totes all of her unfinished, flawed knitting pieces around with her in suitcases, until she learns a lesson in accepting human fallibility and is able to walk freely and unburdened by the baggage of her past mistakes. 

Had to add one more picture.