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December 2004 Archives

December 3, 2004

No knitting

It's true. There really isn't any knitting progress to report. I did cast on the red baby hat for Spencer the other night in the, um, middle of the night. We were up because of the super congestion making sleep for the little one near impossible. I thought his problems were just teething related (and I'm sure some of it is), until, as the fate of motherhood would have it, he passed whatever he's got to me. I was sitting there in the middle of the night feeling utterly miserable and it hit me like a ton of blocks that he'd been feeling the same way and we didn't really know. Needless to say, my normal maternal sympathy skyrocketed to new levels as we sat in shared misery.

Once he finally dozed off in the rocker, I cast on for his hat. I'd swatched (something I don't do that often) earlier in the evening. It was a small swatch, but it was enough to get the gist of the stitches per inch. I then turned to the Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns to get my cast on number. This is, after all, just going to be a cute but generic hat out of great yarn and that will be perfect under his new Santa red Land's End fleece jacket.

After a brief debate with myself, I decided to make it bigger rather than smaller. After all, his head had taken a huge jump in size at our recent doctor's visit, but I found it hard to be worried since Matthew's head was always off the charts. At 3 he already wears an adult sized hat, as proven true yet again when he picked out a Tommy Hilfiger ball cap the other night at Macy's while shopping for Uncle Adam - and it fit!

So, the 18mo-4yr size it is. (Yeah, that's quite a range.)

My gauge was in the middle - 3.5 stitches to the inch in stockinette on straights. My choices were 3 or 4.

Figuring that my knitting is always more even in the round, and thus often a bit tighter, I decided it was best to assume I'd be closer to 4 stitches to the inch in the round.

And I was off, casting on the requisite 80 stitches.

It was the middle of the night. I was feeling less than normal. My head was pounding and thickening by the second as swallowing and breathing both began to be processes I really had to think about.

But none of that explains why the hat is simply gigantic. Just huge. Just probably too big for even us moms in the house.

So, I recast on last night for the 3 per inch pattern. We'll see how it goes.

A cooking digression

That same night, before we moved to the rocker, we paced the floor in the kitchen, and I flipped through some new book catalog that had arrived. I can't think of what it was now (not Bas Bleu). I folded down several pages, but this book is worth a mention: Small-Batch Baking by Debby Maugans Nakos. If you've ever wanted to make just a plate of cookies rather than enough for the neighborhood, this book is supposedly for you. It sounds amazing. I'm one of those people that prefers chips to chocolate, in general. But sometimes my sweet tooth kicks in. The problem is that if I make 4 dozen, it's far too likely that I'll eat 3 dozen (albeit over the course of a few days). I know. It's a problem. But wouldn't it be nice to make just enough for a few servings and then be able to make something else. So, you're not committed to having the same thing day in and day out until it's either gone or molded. And, you don't have to feel guilty throwing out tons of food. I'm gushing, I know. If it's half as good as it sounds, this is sure to be a winner.

Congratulations to

... the Yarn Harlot, who announced today that her book is scheduled for release in March. Her blog has become a 'must-read' for me, and I'm sure the book will be wonderful.

Despite Christy's reasonable, logical, and rationale argument that the beaded socks (#4 in the Six Sox knitalong) are good simply because they'll enable those of us that haven't knit with beads before to learn the technique on a small scale, I'm still disappointed. I know Christy is right, and I wish I could be excited. I'm disappointed in myself that I'm so unexcited, quite honestly. But, I am. There. It's out. I've said it. I was just hoping for something great. Something I could get started and take with me home for the holidays. Something else.

I can't help it. I'm feeling very bah humbug about the socks. Which is sad because I'm also feeling really strange not having a pair of socks started. I think somehow in the process of the knitalong I've transformed from a knitter that knows how to make socks to a sock knitter. They've seeped into my consciousness, become a part of my daily knitting, become something I do as a habit, like reading in bed. Who would have thought socks would become something akin to comfort food!

So, I was much looking forward to the release of the new pattern on December 1. Now, disappointed, I'm sock-in-progress-less. I've still got the hat to do and the gauntlets, but I'd like to have a sock started. I've got tons of patterns of course. But every time I think about picking one, I tell myself that the hat and gauntlets should take precedence. Starting the next sock for the knitalong would have been acceptable, however, and wouldn't have raised precedence issues. After all, that's the knitalong.

Ah well.

LEGO update

Today was number 13, and it was a great red Santa with thread to make it into an ornament. Very cool.
I've got to get on the stick laminating 4 sheets (of 16) of LEGO people I've created from the cool LEGO application first pointed out to me by Mommio. Matthew loves that app, and I've created 64 people that I've printed out and am going to magnetize/laminate (using my Xyron) as a plane gift. He'll love playing with them on the upcoming trip. That, two cool sticker books, a new Christmas I spy book. He'll be a happy camper for the 4ish hours.

December 6, 2004

Little Boy with Warm Head

No one was around today to snap a photo for me, so I did the old hold-the-camera-in-front-of-myself-and-take-a-picture (or several) while holding Spencer outside on the porch after we got back from the preschool drop-off and the 45 minute wait in the post office line to buy holiday stamps.

red hat red hat

As a result of the way I took the photo, you can't see much detail about the hat other than the general color of the variegated yarn. But, you can see that's it's finished! That it's adorable. And that the 18-4 yr size wasn't too bad for my almost 10-month old baby. Granted, the roll on this roll-brim is much smaller than what you see here. But that's the beauty of making things a bit bigger. You just roll it up some more, and then he's gone some room to grow, and a hat that next year we'll ooh and aah over because we remember it from this year, too.

I do have to say I loved, loved, loved this yarn. The funny thing is that I have two skeins of it, and both of them have been without labels since I pulled the yarn out to make the hat. I did, at last, stumble over one last night when sorting out a bag of knitting stuff as I'm trying to gather a stock of needles to take home with me next week.

The yarn is Prisme from Bergere de France. It's 80% acrylic, 20% polyamide, and it's a wonderful braided (chained?) yarn. I don't know if I've ever used a yarn like it before. It's also very, very soft, and has a fuzzy hand to it, that makes you think of angora. It was great to work with, and it's just perfect for the baby - not too bulky but warm and oh-so-soft.

I picked the yarn up last spring. We were shopping a sale at a local yarn store, and I'd bought a number of things for myself and was feeling guilty that I hadn't bought more yarn to make things for the boys. I spied the red yarn, was pulled in by the feel of it, and the two skeins came home. Now I'm so glad they did!

So, the countdown has begun. We leave in 10 days, and we've got list after list of "before-we-go-TO-DO" to prove it. We shipped out 7 gigantic boxes last week, and over the weekend we broke down and did holiday cards. I don't know if it was just a result of reading Skipping Christmas or something else, but I was really in an anti-card most this year. I just didn't really want to do/write/send them. But, I gave in to the pressure of the season and cranked out my stack over the weekend, hence the run to the post office today.

Of course, the man in front of me had to be a chatty man. Not to me. But to Spencer (bjorned in front of me), which, of course, means I had to fill in and answer all the questions he was asking my 10-month-old who, naturally, can't talk. Sigh. I'm one of those people that people always talk to in those circumstances - you know, circumstances where you don't want to be bothered. M., the more social of the two of us by far, can go somewhere and no one will say a word to her. Me, someone's always got to talk to me. If we're in a grocery store or a store like Wal-Mart, invariably someone stops me and asks me where something is or how much something is - like I work there. I'm not sure what it is about me, but it's strange. I'm shy initially. I'm reticent. I'm not talkative unless you know me well. I don't make friends easily. But the man in the tweed blazer with the ripped elbow and two cheap stick ink pens in his inside pocket decided to talk to us.

Ahh, well, at least he realized Spencer is a little boy. (Good since he very much looks like a little boy, and still people refer to him as a she. The same was true with Matthew. But with him, he had no hair until he was much older, so I could see why someone might not be sure. But Spencer definitely looks like a boy. Having done more than my share of feminist theory, you would think I wouldn't care!) And he guessed him to be 10 months. And, he seemed generally interested in my cute baby. I do love it when men stop to talk to my babies. I'm used to women doing it, but I always say you know you have a cute child when men do it. Of course, that's probably totally untrue. It's more likely that it's just a man that likes children. Either way, it's a nice thing to see.

So, the man in front of us talked on and off to us. Then the group of women behind me got all worked up about the automated postal machine. They all appeared to be strangers, too, but in a communal attempt to beat the lines, they loudly helped each other use the machine to post their packages. Once two of them had successfully used it, the man in front of me decided he'd try it, too. It was pretty funny all in all.

I am glad the cards are mostly done. The packages are all wrapped and in route to KY. Only a few last items remain to be ordered.

In my head, I've moved on to thinking about New Year's lists and goals and projects. It's endless. I wish sometimes I could just shut my brain down for a little while and take in what's happening "in the moment." But, right now, there's just too many things on the to-do list.

Matthew was up before me yesterday (which almost never happens), and I asked him, "How long have you been up?"

"Hmmm. I think about 30 hours," he says very seriously.

I had to laugh.

But what a wonderful stage - when time has no real meaning. When you measure days by whether it's light or dark or by whether something gets done or is coming before or after breakfast. When you ask every day, "Is it Spring yet, Mama?"

What's missing

You know those commercials about the thing being missing with digital cameras are the pictures... well, I was just sitting here doing some blog reading. Spencer is snoozing in my lap. The light bulbs both blew out in the office light above me this morning, so it's dark in here, and the heat is on, both of which, together, are making me sleepy. But I can't sleep because too soon we'll need to leave to run get Matthew. So, I was blog surfing. And, for like the zillionth time, I was struck by the fact that even though I read some of your blogs every day, in many cases, I don't know your names. And a few of you crossed my mind when I was putting together my holiday cards list, but I don't know your addresses. For most of you, I don't know what you "do" beyond knitting (and maybe mothering). You might mention a press release or a product launch or a deadline of one sort or another, but I still don't know what you do. It's a strange sort of disorientation that comes with the blog world. On the one hand, some of our blogs leave us strangely exposed. We sometimes read more than we might feel we should know, and we love that. We get to be knit and life voyeurs. We make friends though our entries. And let what is missing somehow is "knowing" each other.

December 8, 2004

They're Guinevere-esque

All I can say is wow. The Koigu I'm using for my gauntlets is awesome. I had high hopes for it when I picked it up a few years ago. I don't think it was last year. No, last year at the annual after-Christmas sale at a local yarn store near my mom's, we had caught a felting bug and all three of us bought wool, fuzzy yarns for trim, and needles to make Fiber Trends felted totes. So maybe it was the year before when I picked up two skeins of this unbelievable Koigu colorway.

This year, it has been simmering. I have brought it out several times, trying to decide how to use it. Socks? A hat? Gauntlets?

Unrolled, it was so pretty I knew it had to be something special. Something I would wear frequently. Something people would see.

Gauntlets won out, probably largely because I don't have a pair yet.

I'm using the same modified pattern I used to make M's, but I started things off with baby cables instead of a standard rib.

Here are some in-progress shots - top of hand, underside, and a close-up. I'm still working on gauntlet #1.

guantlets guantlets guantlets

(The photos are disappointing. The first two I took in the kitchen this morning with the lights on. So, the color doesn't seem true. Too warm. The third one I took the other day in another room. You can see how different they look. When they're done, I'll get a good outside photo that captures the true color range.)

Watching the colors unfold has been amazing. The palette is so rich and deep. It almost glows. There is a good bit more green in it than I expected, but the green is balanced by purple and red and even some oranges and yellows. The result is so lush and intensely colored that it has royal overtones.

I have a strong fascination with Arthurian legend, and years ago, I would always be tempted by something if M. deemed it 'very Guinevere-esque.'

We don't do that so much anymore. But I did recently buy a Holly Yashi necklace in greens and purples and blues that struck me as very Guinevere-esque, so maybe the concept has cycled back into my life. (Come to think of it, I had a very strong celtic/Scottish period about a year after Matthew was born, too.)

These are perfect.

Mittens in 05?
I'm toying with the idea of an extended 'mitten along' in 2005, a la the 6 Sox. Anyone interested? It could be a lot of fun. The idea is still brewing...

Hat sighting
We were in Borders the other night, and the young woman working in the children's section ran into us as she rounded an aisle.

"What great hats you all have!" she said.

Spencer was wearing his new red hat. Matthew had on his rainbow hat. I had on my favorite Kim Hargreaves Rowan Big Wool hat.

Pausing to give each of our toppers the once over, she again said how neat they were and asked if someone had made them. I said I had, and she said how much she liked them, especially Matthew's rainbow hat which she termed cute and then quickly amended to 'cool' obviously fearing he might react to the 'cute' word. (He didn't/doesn't.)

It was nice to be noticed. Made my night. That's the great thing about hats though - they're hard to miss!

December 9, 2004

Speaking of 'Violet'

Matthew loves color and colors - even though he still pronounces them 'tuckers.' Child development charts often list color recognition in the three-year range, or later, and colors appear in preschool curriculum lists and sometimes kindergarten. That makes no sense to me as Matthew has known his colors since before he could say them. After a brief spell where he would call yellow red and red yellow, he's become very color savvy, in fact.

Shapes, colors, numbers... he loves all three.

One of his cool firsts this year (for all of us), was his first big box of Crayola crayons.

From my childhood, I remember fascination with burnt sienna, magenta, salmon, and cornflower blue. I loved the names, the words. I loved fuchsia, too, though to this day I have trouble spelling it right. Then there was midnight blue and the wonderful world of blue-green and green-blue.

Times have changed. Crayola has done some name adding and overhauling. I'd say they've messed with a perfectly good box of 'tuckers,' but that Crayola has a 'macaroni-and-cheese' orange thrills Matthew. (At least there is no chicken nugget brown.)


Last night he was working at his easel where he was drawing trucks on a fourplex of blank greeting cards. (The school does art framing as a fundraiser and then displays the kids' art at an artshow so the kids see their work hanging.

M. and I decided to try cards last night hoping we can have a diptych or triptych framed. Matthew doesn't care about the framing (doesn't really understand), but liked the idea of drawing on the cards for other people. He later announced that none of them are for us. They are for Alex, Adam, Stacie, and Grandma.

("Okay, honey. So what truck are you going to draw next?")

I was sitting on my office chool watching, suggesting, asking questions, handing out requested colors, encouraging, and holding Spencer, who has this week decided the easel looks cool, out of the way.

Before I adopted the roll of color finder and dispenser, however, I had to make a pit stop in the kitchen to clean out the paint brushes and put the paints away - now that Spencer has discovered them and wants desperately to grab them.

While I was rinsing brushes, Matthew ran in holding a crayon. 'This is violet,' he said excitedly. "That's right," I said, glancing at the label but knowing M. had just read him the name, and he'd ran to relay it to me.

"Violet is a kind of purple," I told him.

"It's a kind of person, too," he said enthusiastically. "At school."

I had to laugh. He's right. There is a little girl named Violet!

December 13, 2004

Too much rib

No pictures (yet). Sorry. I'd fully planned to have finished gauntlet pictures to show you. And, yes, they are done. Well, 99 1/2 % done. I just have to tuck in all the ends and then snap the photos. So, stay tuned.

They should, would, could have been done earlier, had I not messed up. Yep. That's right. I messed up. I think half of my blogging is dedicated to telling stories about my messing up this or that in my current project. But, this morning, as I was dealing with my "mess up," I was thinking how ironic it is that on some level you can tell a knitter's expertise and experience by how s/he deals with messing up.

The irony, of course, is that a non-knitter might think that a really good knitter simply would not mess up so much! Instead, it seems we all mess up, some maybe more than others, and not because we're bad or new knitters. Sometimes things go awry either because the knitting didn't have our full attention. Or we misread something. Or we just plain miscounted. For whatever reason, knowing how - and not being afraid - to fix the mistake seems to me to be a really telling thing about a knitter.

I think, for example, of the photo of the Yarn Harlot last week trying to rectify a Latvian mitten mistake. Her angst is clear. But did she just ignore the error? Of course not. She tackled the rogue Fair Isle - with a crochet hook and a laddering down strategy that most new knitters wouldn't even begin to attempt.

Being comfortable coping with problems and road blocks in our knitting is something we acquire along the way.

My problem this morning wasn't nearly as complicated as some. Yesterday, in a pre-birthday party lull, Spencer was sleeping in my lap, and I started whizzing around the palm of the second gauntlet. I was whizzing away, and I realized I was at the ribbing. I had about 30 minutes before we'd have to be up and shuffling into coats to go wish the soon-to-be-three friend happy birthday. So, I was on a mission. If I could finish the palm, all I'd have left were two thumbs, and the gauntlets would be finished.

I started baby cabling the ribbing rows. There are 4 rows in the baby cable variation I'm using, and I didn't want to stir Spencer (since that might mean I couldn't finish), so I wasn't making my normal hash marks to signal row completion. Instead, I was just chanting in my head, row 1, row 1, row 1, and so on, lest I forget where I was since these days I seem to lose track too easily.

At the beginning of each gauntlet, there are 8 rows of ribbing. I got busy doing 8 rows to finish up the gauntlet. I got through the first 4. Time still good. Spencer still asleep. So I started on the next 4. I didn't bother to check my pattern. That there are 8 rows at the beginning of the gauntlet is ingrained in my memory.

I finished all 8 rows. Cast off. Started getting ready for the party.

While getting ready, however, I was puzzled by the fact that I was short on yarn. The beauty of my modified gauntlet pattern is that it can be made with 1 skein of Koigu. The small wad of yarn left after casting off gauntlet #2 didn't seem big enough to handle both thumbs. I wasn't seriously worried. I have a second skein of this colorway. But I was confused since I made Megan's with no trouble using one skein.

I had hoped to finish the gauntlets post-party, but I crashed early along with the boys. So, during a morning nap, I did the first thumb. It was when I was looking at the thumb directions that I realized I'd goofed. There should have been just 4 rows of ribbing to end things on the palm - not 8. I looked over at gauntlet #1 and could see that, yes, the palm ribbing was shorter on it.

So, I had to rip down the couple of rows, pick things back up, and cast off again. And I had to do it before I could finish thumb #2 because I ran out of yarn with 4 rows to go. Sigh.

As soon as the ends are tucked, a photo will be on its way.

December 15, 2004

Making a list; Checking it twice

The final countdown has begun. The lists have been checked and double-checked. Clothing debates have been waged, chosen clothes rolled, needles packed, and a 'snacks bag' begun. It is probably only natural that being such a packrat, I have an almost compulsive tendency to overpack. Having children has forced me to curb that tendency a bit when it comes to my own things. The sheer logistics of what we really need to carry outweighs, for example, my desire to tote watercolor paints and paper, a spare journal, an unstarted needlepoint project, or extra yarn 'just in case.'

Now I just overpack for the boys. But, better to be overpacked when taking two small boys on a plane ride than underpacked, for sure!

'Going home' at Christmas is a creative time for me. I have less free time now that we have the boys, and that's okay. Christmas is such a wonderful time with them. Matthew, especially, is old enough now to really be into the magic of it all.

Still, any time my mom, Megan, and I are together, we get a lot done. Our creative energies feed upon each other, which makes it a lot of fun. Plus, we always ensure everyone gets at least one "to do" present. Plus, it's a ritual of mine to start something new on New Year's Day.

So, at 4:40ish Thursday morning, the shuttle will arrive and whisk us away to our Christmas in the mountains. Yes, we hope it will be white. (We live in SF after all! We don't see seasons, much less snow.)

Among the accessories going with me will be, yes, my new gauntlets. Love them.

my gauntlets

100 things

I'm thinking I might work on one of those 100 things lists on the plane. Part of me isn't convinced you all need or want to know 100 things about me, but it might be an interesting exercise to see what 100 make it to the list. In my head, when I contemplate the list, I'm often surprised by the random items that start popping up. I think the experience of making the list might be a bit like freewriting - you may not know where the list is going to take you until it's over. I could be wrong, but sometimes reading the lists (and I've read a number of them recently), there is a lyrical quality to them, a flow despite the staccato nature of the list itself that I find compelling.

This list would, of course, be one of many I'll be making over the next few weeks, and probably not the only one that will make it to my blog!

December 20, 2004

Candy cane hats

We made it. Actually, it was a smooth and uneventful day of travel. We're lucky to have really good young travelers. Matthew popped out of bed at 4 a.m. bright-eyed, perky, and ready to go.

He sat in the living room while we got the last things ready.

"When is the rocket ship coming?" he asked us.

It took us a minute, after all it was early, and I'd opted for no coffee. But we're moms of a nearly-four boy. We followed the thought path as if he'd laid railroad tracks (to the moon) right before us.

In the days leading up to the trip, we'd talked over the sequence of events for the day. Shuttle, plane, rental car...

Somehow that morning the association of shuttle to rocket ship was stronger in his head than the image of the big blue van we always take to the airport!

Things got even more confusing when I was explaining that the plane was taxi-ing to the runway for takeoff.

So, after taking a rocket ship to the airport and flying a taxi to KY, we drove the last leg in.

Today we woke to beautiful fluffy snow and bitter cold. No accumulation, but very pretty. Very cold.

Since we arrived, I've been working on finishing up the third and final red and white striped hat mom was making (for the three grandsons). How did I get roped into it? I'm not really sure. I recall wheedling. I recall cajoling.

Since I (gasp) didn't bring an active knitting project, I agreed to finish (well, make really, as she only had about an inch started) the final hat.

In anticipation of new projects to come, I made the tough decision not to bring knitting to start. Instead I brought a needlepoint belt I designed for Matthew. I really just have the background to do. He just recently started expressing an interest in wearing a belt (we have a few, and he's always shunned them, but he was infatuated with one the other day while shopping). I'm not sure he's really ready, but he could be close, so I thought I'd work on it pre-Christmas.

Instead I've been stuck with a 4x4 rib in candy cane self-striping sock yarn.

I finished last night. Just need to draw the needle through the remaining 8, tuck some ends, and do tassels for this one and for my nephew's. When I was here in Oct., mom wanted me to make pom-poms for the tops. I'm not a pom-pom fan, so I just made a length of i-cord, attached it and knotted it for Matthew's. When the nephew saw Matthew's tassel the other day during an impromptu modeling session, he decided he really wanted one, too.

I do want to be able to tell them apart easily, I'm going to try a corkscrew tassel for one them.


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