Monday, April 14, 2014

The Amoeba and I

I recently found out that a lovely couple from my yoga class are expecting their first baby.  This made me very happy for a few reasons.  One is that these people are very, very nice and I think they will make fantastic parents, even though I don't really know them all that well.  And loving couples having a wanted baby is always the happiest of news, at least in my book.

The other reason is that now I have a little person to knit for.  I'm at that awkward age between being young enough to have kids of my own but too young to have grandchildren.  Most of my friends are about my age, so they aren't having any more babies who I can knit for, either.  I don't have a big extended family, and I don't have any siblings.  There are no cousins or other family members having babies; the family well is dry in that regard.  So I have to find babies to knit for, and when I do I get really excited about it.  It's like I've been given a really nice gift and I get to share it.

Cute little things in bright colors and tiny sizes.  Just the thought of it makes me want to start making pompoms to attach to the tops of little hats.  Bootees and sweaters and hats, Oh My!  A person could OD on exposure to this level of cuteness.  Well-not really of course.  It's baby stuff.  There's never enough of that kind of cute and all the sweetness and love it represents.  Never enough of that.

So this little person is getting a BSJ* striped in maroon Zara & a multicolor stripe whose ball band is long gone.  The colors are not very baby-ish, but the parents are Asian and these colors will look great with the baby's complexion.  The little person is a boy and I wanted the jacket to look like a boy's jacket.  Something that will look cute with tiny little jeans and other boy stuff.

Well, I got the thing almost done--almost done I say--down to the last dozen rows or so, and noticed a mistake waaaay back.  Back far enough that I had to rip 2/3 of the darn thing out because there was no way I could fix the mistake any other way.  Apparently I had lost track of which stitch was the center stitch for the double increases.  Instead of having a nice straight line of increases, it was wavy and looked terrible.  That was not a good day to be around me, I'm telling you. (Note to self: make appointment for a check-up with the eye doctor.) Out it came, mistakes fixed, and now it's back on track.  I hope.  At lease the lines look straighter now, and the amoeba I'm knitting is definitely more angular than it was.

I love the look on people's faces when they ask what I'm making and I have a BSJ on the needles.  Just love it.  When you tell them that the blob you're producing is a jacket they just don't believe you, not even after you explain it.  They think that you're just messing with them, or that you're a really bad knitter who is unable to come to terms with the fact that you have messed up your project beyond all hope of rescue, or that you're just a crazy lady who has too many cats at home and knits blobs because it's all you know how to make and you're not violent so your family lets you keep the pointy sticks.

Because, really, shouldn't the name of this sweater be the "Surprise! It's Really Not an Amoeba Jacket"?  Or "See? I'm Not Crazy and It Is a Jacket".  But I guess that only really works if the recipients see the work in progress because you don't give it to them in its ambiguous, amorphous, amoeba-like state.




On the other hand, wrapping up an unfinished BSJ & giving it to the lucky recipient could be pretty funny.  Imagine the puzzled look when the expectant Mom opens the box & holds up something that is utterly unlike a jacket for all at the baby shower to see as you call out, "Don't you just love it?  It's the cutest thing EVER!"  Then they'll really think you're the crazy lady with too many cats who can only knit blobs.  But you won't care because you'll be laughing too hard to notice.








*Chances are, if you're reading this blog, you know what BSJ stands for.  For those of you who don't, (that would be the other person reading this blog) it stands for Baby Surprise Jacket, one of many patterns made famous by the great Elizabeth Zimmerman.  The pattern is available here: http://www.schoolhousepress.com/patterns.htm




Wednesday, January 29, 2014

MacGyver Would be Proud...If He Knit

Not too long ago, I made a hat.  This one, the Lillehammer hat from YarnZombie.  I used essentially the same colors, but reversed the light and dark and used red instead of the chartreuse-y green.  My version looked like this:


I used three colors of Cascade Superwash DK.  I don't have the color numbers, but it's black, a light gray and red.  My version also started with a provisional cast-on and a 3" hem that is turned to the inside to add another layer of wooly warmth over the ears.  I took out the provisional cast on and did a K2TOG to attach the hem to the hat so I wouldn't have to sew it down later.  (You'll be able to see more of that in a minute.)

So, being the polite gentleman that the recipient is, he put it on and declared it "Perfect!"  And then the cold weather, the dreaded "Arctic Vortex" hit this part of the country.  Now, I love the cold.  My definition of truly cold weather is going outside and taking a deep inhale through the nose only to have your nostrils freeze together.  That's when I start thinking about a hat and zipping up my coat.  It was that cold.  

But the hat did not make an appearance.  I was a bit crushed curious about this, so I asked.  He told me it was just a little too short and didn't quite cover all of his ears, and he didn't like to have cold ears.  

Back to the drawing board.  I didn't want to re-knit the whole thing.  I'm a bit lazy, and I'm trying to cross stuff off of my to-do list, not add finished things back on to it.  So, I channeled MacGyver.

Now, this is where I could give you the long, drawn out version of the story about how a knitting friend and I joke around about being the "MacGyver of Knitting".  By that, we mean finding creative ways to get ourselves out of a knitting nightmare we have managed to get ourselves into.  A weird extra triangle on the edge of your huge entrelac shawl, that you noticed just now but is 4 rows back? Fold it into a triangle & stitch it down.  Nobody will ever know.  Changed the gauge of your project and now the neckline is funny?  Run that sucker through a serger.  It will never show from the front.  Like that.  The problem gets solved and nobody gets hurt.  Soooo--

I snipped the black purl row that was the turning ridge for the hem and put the hem and outside hat stitches each on their own circular needles.



Then I attached a ball of the leftover red yarn and made the hem longer.  When it was long enough, I connected the black yarn, did my purl row to turn it, and then knit a longer ribbing in black.  I couldn't find any of the gray, so the two color rib was eliminated.  I knit the rib longer than the pattern said, and then added enough rows to make the outside length of the hat long enough to cover the deeper hem.  One really long row of kitchener stitch in the black yarn later and VOILA!  

A finished hat that was MacGyvered into submission to keep a pair of tender ear lobes roasty toasty in the cold and...





you can't tell the extra work was done on it unless you look really, really close.  And nobody got hurt in the process.  

While it's a nifty trick to pull off, I really don't want to do that much Kitchener stitch ever again.  

Really.  But I think MacGyver would be proud.  










Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Snow Day

It is snowing here where I live in Connecticut, as it is in most of New England.  I love the snow, and living in a coastal town we don't get as much snow as I think is appropriate for a proper New England winter.

The storm is bad enough that school was canceled for the day, and I'm home with my boys.  Even though they devoted a large-ish portion of the day to napping, I'm glad to be home with them.  Charlie did help me make the meatballs for the spaghetti sauce, and Eamon topped the pizzas we made for lunch.  Right now, he and a friend are walking over to the little country store that's about a mile away to get some half & half so I can make some hot cocoa when they get back.

I have been trying to catch up on my Christmas knitting, which is not going as smoothly or as rapidly as I had hoped.  And no, I can't show you any photos because I don't want to spoil any surprises.

But I can show you some photos of how lovely my neighborhood is when it snows.  I just love it here this time of year.  There is a little lake just up the road from my house, although we refer to it as The Duck Pond.  One of the hurricanes took out the tree that used to shade the benches, but it is still a lovely, tranquil spot.  And yes, sometimes I do go there in the nice early summer or warm fall weather and enjoy the view while I knit.











The neighborhood is very quiet right now.  No cars, no landscapers zooming around or running their equipment to spoil the stillness.  Just the occasional bird, or the sudden rustle and tussle of squirrels chasing each other.  It is exactly the kind of winter day I love.  Quiet, peaceful, and beautiful.  

It makes me feel so lucky to have this view from my desk. I just want to sit here and enjoy it until the sun sets and brings a close to the day.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Aftermath

The last two weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind around here.  My Third Degree Black Belt test was this past Saturday and I'm fairly certain that I was not a fun person to be around during that time.  Added to that stress was the fact that both of my boys came down with some sort of coughing plague and missed a full week of school.  I was losing sleep about covering the test fee (it was massive) and trying to keep the household bug at bay.  I spent a small fortune on homeopathic remedies and kept plugging away at my practice schedule.

During the week before the test when the boys were home sick, I dealt with the stress by doing huge amounts of cooking.  Monday was spaghetti and meatballs, a delicious new recipe for beef stew with mushrooms was made on Tuesday, and Wednesday's dinner was pork chops with caramelized onions braised in ale.  There's no "starving a cold" in this house!

Thursday and Friday the cooking toned down a little as I ran around like a crazy person and planned a post-test party.  The only cooking I did for that was 2-Alarm Chili, guacamole, some grape tomatoes stuffed with cheese and that other thing that I can't think of right now.  Oh-truffled mac & cheese.  Yum.  My Mom kept telling me that I was making way too much food- for only about twenty or so guests.  Very little of it was left over.

So here are a few highlights of the test.  The beginning went fairly well, did the warm-up stretching, etc.





Managed to get through the forms, which was a bit of a challenge, but in the end I passed.


After that, I was tested on the self-defense and grabbing techniques.  My friend CJ was a good sport and let me throw him around a lot during practice and the test.  I'm sure he's glad it's over!


And then I had to break a bunch of pine boards with my hands and feet-this for me is the fun part.  I just love breaking stuff!


And, last of all, I had to break three pieces of concrete, stacked one on top of the other.  This is Master Kim getting them ready.  You might be wondering what he's pouring on the top brick...


 It's gasoline.  Yup, the bricks had to be on fire when I broke them.



During the last few weeks I was waking up at night from nightmares that the only thing I would break would be my hand.



As you can see, it didn't.



After the test, we all came back to my house for a party that went on to the wee hours and had a great time.  And Monday morning I woke up feeling like someone had a vise on my chest and that I had inhaled something caustic that burned me from the inside out.  It hurts to breathe deeply and swallowing is painful in a way that I never experienced before this.  I guess I managed to hold off the plague until I needed to so now it's come at me full force.  As long as I'm all recovered in time for Rhinebeck--

Monday, September 30, 2013

Relief

The last few weeks have been rather stressful for me.  I'm still adjusting to being single and a single parent, and my big test is now only four days and a wake-up away.  I have completely fallen down on the Rhinebeck Readiness Campaign, and haven't even produced any knitting to speak of.  And, as is my character, the fact that I have not met some goals while struggling to meet others has given me fits of frustration beyond all measure.

But Sunday was a very welcome break from all of that.  A friend and I packed a little picnic lunch and headed up to Litchfield, CT to the White Memorial Conservation Center to do a little hiking.  Well, more like a leisurely stroll through the beautiful outside.  I had never visited this area before, but I am sure to go back.  It is gorgeous.

After we ate, we walked past a little pond that was just perfect for little kids to skip rocks across





and enjoyed the very beginning of the fall foliage season.




We passed a stretch of lazy river where some local students were planting trees.



Even though you can't see them working here, they were.

We followed the path through the deep pine forest, where the pine needles were so soft and deep underfoot that our steps were silenced.



Some parts of the trail are frequently wet and muddy, so the caretakers kindly put in boardwalks so hikers can enjoy the area even if the ground is soggy.




Eventually, we arrived at the boardwalk that surrounds Little Pond.  The area around the pond is quite marshy, so having the solid footing is nice.  The views are gorgeous at every turn; I can only imagine how much more spectacular they will be during peak foliage season in a few weeks.









On our way back to the car, we walked through the greenest of glades. I don't know what the plants are that cover the ground, but the way the leaves caught the light and how the trees above created shadows on them produced more shades of green than I have ever seen in one place.  It was magical, and my pictures

do not do it justice.




It was the perfect breath of fresh air for both of us, short though it was.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Practice *1-8*. Repeat pattern between *'s until finished. Cast off.

In about three weeks' time, I will be testing for my Third Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo*.  For the last few months now, I have been focusing on what I need to know to pass that test and practicing those things.  Endlessly.  Repeatedly. Over and over again.  And then I do it some more.

I have decided that this is very much like casting on several hundred stitches of fingering weight yarn so you can knit a queen size blanket in garter stitch.  There is nothing new to learn, just the repetition of the same series of motions to make one stitch and then another, and another and so on.  There is no relief to be had at the end of a long knit row when you turn the work and begin the refreshing difference of the purl row ahead.  There will only ever be more of the same until it is time to cast off, but until then there is only the endless, relentless monotony of the knit stitch.

Since my Second Degree test, I have learned two new forms (Keumgang Poomsae and another that is unique to our school), eight self-defense techniques, eight grab techniques, the school's form for the bamboo staff (we call it "stick form"), learned advanced kicking and board breaking techniques and, at least in theory, improved my sparring.  I say "in theory" because 1) I really do not like sparring at all and 2) I'm terrified of getting seriously injured.  Not because I'm going to get hit, but because I'm afraid of landing badly or off balance and ending up in the emergency room.  Again.

I say that training for the test is like the blanket because of the sameness of it.  Six days every week I go to class, do the warm-up, and then SaBumNim sends me into a corner of the dojang with one of the assistant instructors where I'm told to practice 1-8 of self-defense and grab techniques until the end of class. And before class is dismissed, I know I will be tested on them with the rest of the class watching.  I have already been tested on them, and earned the tip proving that I performed them well enough to pass the test.  I have been tested on them at least twice each week for the last four weeks and this will continue up until October 4. The big test, the real one that I have been preparing for, is on October 5.

So until then, I will be doing the daily exercise in patience and humility that is the martial artist's garter stitch blanket.  I will go to class, I will do 1-8.  And then I will do it again and again and again.  Then I'll do it some more, but with people watching.  This sequence will be repeated today in class, and the next day and the next and the next after that until I wake up on October 6 and realize that the previous day I finished my blanket.  I have cast off; the project that once seemed endless is finished at last, and that now will be the time to start something new.



*It sounds far more impressive than it really is.  By all rights, my black belt should have a little blue handicapped wheelchair sticker on it, like they put on the parking spaces and license plates.  I have accrued so many injuries during my martial arts career that most of the curriculum has been heavily modified to accommodate my physical limitations.  My instructor has invented new sparring techniques for me to minimize stress on my knees, and I don't do any jumping kicks.  I have said for years that anyone who can run away has absolutely nothing to fear from me, because there's no way I could catch them. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Only One

Do you know how much one can be?  I am rapidly learning that one ounce of fiber to spin each is day is rather a lot.  Especially if my children expect to wear clean clothes and eat home-cooked meals.

I just finished spinning the singles from the mini-batts from Ever Improving Me, so only plying is left.  This leaves me exactly one ounce behind in meeting my goal.  I have come to the realization that I may have to reassess the feasibility of said goal.  Anyway, here are my two bobbins of wintery icy singles:














The photo doesn't really show how the silk glistens against the main color, but trust me, it does.  And it's lovely.

I think I'm going to now aim for about 5 ounces each week, including plying.  That was the big omission in version 1 of the RRC: no allowance for plying time.  Or a day off.  So we'll see how the RRC.2 goes for the next week.

But for now, I gotta go.  I need to make dinner and the laundry still doesn't wash itself.