Feb 25, 2011

Cold Feet

In lieu of doing actual work whilst at work the other day -because that isn't going to happen- I was perusing Ravelry.com. My friends have been stubbornly refusing to keep me entertained with new project pictures or blog entries recently, so I resorted to reviewing my own projects. I have my projects sorted by category (Sweaters, Accessories, Babies, etc.). I was looking through the entries in my "Sock" category, when I rather depressingly noticed that the mortality rate for this particular type of knitted item is disturbingly high. I have completed eleven pairs of socks (I thought it was more), and a scant six pairs are still with us. One of the surviving pairs are the Earl Greys that I made for my husband. He wore them the day of the wedding, and has kept them in a ziplock bag ever since. I would like to think this protective measure was an act of sentimentality, but he informed me that they make his feet too hot, and that is why he doesn't wear them. Another surviving pair are the Universal Toe-Ups, which were the first pair of socks I ever made. The fact that they were made from the virtually indestructible 25% Nylon Magic Stripe yarn renders their survival somewhat less than triumphant. Also, as they hail from my earlier days of knowing how to measure gauge, they are a little on the baggy side and rarely worn as a result.

Alas, my favourite socks were invariably the ones that fell victim to early demises, which, while sad, stands to reason. All is not lost, though. While I have loved and lost, I have also learned. After the nascent phase of using man-made fibre heavy chain store yarns (e.g. Magic Stripes), I became consumed with hand-dyed, entirely natural fibres. While an important part of the learning curve, I have since developed a more balanced world view, where small amounts of nylon serve the greater reinforcement good, and superwash wool can protect from the heartbreak of surprise-feltings. Nonetheless, I wanted to bid adieu to my erstwhile footwarmers.

In Memoriam

2010-2010, felting accident

2009-2011, hole

2010-2010, lost

2010-2010, felting accident

2008-2009, felting accident




Feb 21, 2011

Knit-Knacks

I've decided to get back to the original point of this blog and talk about the random goings-on in my knitting. After all, as I am three weeks or so away from my due date, there may not be much knitting to discuss for a while once the baby gets here!

1. Ribbit
A friend of mine is a huge fan of raglan sweaters, citing the lack of seaming as a major factor in how fast they can be done. Having slaved through several seamed sweaters, I decided I wanted something that would go faster and cast on my first raglan sweater using Addi Turbos, and my newfound competency with continental knitting and purling, to expedite the project even more. That was a year ago.

The yarn for this project was purchased in a co-op, from which I purchased ten navy and five undyed skeins of Malabrigo worsted. I dyed three skeins with Kool-Aid to make an argyle using the navy as the main colour. After completing a long and difficult argyle pattern around the torso, I tried on my nearly knitted creation only to discover that my tension control in colourwork is terrible. It was so tight around my waist that I couldn't breathe and needed help getting back out of the sweater. Through tears of frustration*, I pulled out the argyle. I decided to knit to the bottom, and work 6-10" of a fancy cable pattern in place of ribbing. After a few repeats of that pattern (which involved 48 cables per round every 4 rows), I decided it wasn't what I wanted, and pulled that out. A few inches of K1P1 ribbing (which had to be done twice as I forgot which size needle had been used for the neck ribbing) later, and a very plain stockinette body was complete. I had really wanted to make something interesting with this yarn, so it seemed an awful shame to make the whole sweater in boring stockinette. To try and get some patterning onto it, I am doing XOXO cabling down the arms. So far, I am happy with it and hopefully it makes the sweater a little interesting.

I estimate that I will have four skeins of navy and a few skeins of Kool-Aid dyed Malabrigo left, so I will make a sweater with that, only this time I will plan ahead. I have come to the conclusion that while raglan sweaters are infinitely faster than their seamed counterparts, knowledge of their speed can lead the more impulsive among us into COing without thinking. More haste, less sweater.



2. The Kindness of Strangers
I received this blanket in the mail. It's a beautiful embossed leaves pattern in white baby yarn. It was given to me by a friend of my mother, whom I have never met. It matches a beautiful white cardigan that the same lady sent to me. It really makes me happy to know that there are people out there who are so considerate, they would take the time to make a baby blanket for someone they have never met.



3. The Future Tense of Ribbit
I should have frogged this blanket a long, long time ago. It's meant to be a crocheted Care Bear blanket, but I decided to knit it after I figured out that I am not very committed to huge colourwork crochet projects. Once I switched over to knitting, it started to go a lot faster, but as I got into the pattern, I realized that the Care Bear (Wish Bear, if you're interested), looked a tad squished. I decided to soldier on, reasoning that it wouldn't look so bad. The colours I chose for Wish Bear's rainbow that shoots out of the star on his tummy (they don't teach meteorology over at the DIC studios) were terrible and the star is a bit of a mess too. I decided that the embroidery called for in the pattern will fix the star, and some clever duplicate stitching could remedy the rainbow, and persevered. I am now about two thirds done, and it looks worse than ever. I have, however, gotten to a point where I have put so much work into it that I can't bear (hehe) the idea of undoing it all. I wanted to make this for my daughter by the time she was born. I can safely assume that isn't going to happen, and my time would be better spent making a Baby's Texture Blanket or Great American Afghan for her, but being oddly superstitious or ritualistic as I am, I can't quite detach myself from the self-imposed chore I have turned this project into. Clearly, my daughter is far less likely to say "What the heck is that meant to be?" if I present her with a blanket of squished bear who has a malformed stomach tattoo, than "You don't love me because you quit making a blanket of a defunct cartoon, neither of which I knew about because I wasn't born yet!". Reading this, I see how crazy I am. I am going home to frog this stupid project right now!!



* a slight exaggeration, but I was pretty peeved.

Feb 16, 2011

One Month Left.... Maybe.

Dear Vivienne,

According the free pregnancy application I have on my iPod, there is just under more month before I finally get to meet the source of all the kicking and hiccuping that has been going on inside my belly.

Before I get to gushing over how excited I am to meet my little girl, I want to thank you for the wonderful pregnancy you have let me have. We're always told that it's a wonderful and natural time, but the more anecdotes we hear from friends, reality TV and miscellaneous sources, the more terrifying it can seem. My mother had such terrible morning sickness that her obstetrician suspected that my brother (your Uncle Ben) was twins! Since witnessing her terrible bouts of illness, I assumed it was genetic and resigned myself to at least three months of nausea and vomiting. While I did feel a little off for a few weeks, I was delighted to never once get sick.

Now, with under a month to go, I feel safe enough declaring that my pregnancy has been spared the other unpleasant symptoms of swelling, bloating, aching, reasons to worry about foetal health, infections in strange places, vascular issues. In fact, you have made me drink so much water, while I avoided coffee and soda, that my skin has never looked better! I have started to waddle a bit, which I think means you have started to drop down, but this has relieved the minor yet bothersome heartburn I was experiencing, so the extremely mild discomfort is a happy trade-off for me. My tummy, while definitely pregnant, hasn't gotten too big, though in the last few days I have gone from looking pregnant to looking like I have been shoplifting a basketball. I have been lucky in that I only had to purchase one or two pairs of maternity pants and a belly band. Otherwise, my normal clothes (as well as a hoodie I stole from your Dad) have sufficed. I am happy to put the money toward more important things like you!

Speaking of money, we have been so blessed by the generosity of our friends, coworkers and families, that the preparations for your arrival haven't cost that much at all. Three baby showers in all were thrown to celebrate you, and it made us feel so blessed to have people who care about us, and who are that excited for your arrival.

Pregnancy has been, despite what I anticipated, a lot of fun. The highlights have been getting to see you on ultrasounds (even the ones you spent hiding behind your arms), or hearing your beautiful heartbeat during checkups. Probably my favourite thing is feeling you move. During the second trimester, you loved kicking me. It mostly happened at night, which made me worry that you were planning to be entirely nocturnal. Then you spent a couple of weeks piping up during the daytime. However, that didn't last, so I now think you may be a night owl like your mother. Now that you have gotten bigger, you don't kick so much, but you really enjoy crawling around which both looks and feels very strange (almost like something from a Sci-Fi movie), but in a wonderful way. You have also started hiccuping a lot, especially early morning, which amuses me and lets me know that you will have good, healthy lungs when you get here.

I have officially entered the "nesting" phase of pregnancy. My desire to sit on the couch and knit baby clothes during any free time has been replaced with an urge to organize every last detail of your bedroom, pack our hospital bag and generally get the house ready for you. One of our cats, Panthro, is very interested in your room, and loves getting into the Pack'n'Play that our colleagues bought for you. Buttons is less interested in your stuff, but has been quite affectionate to me lately, so he may take a liking to you when you get here.

I am getting more and more excited for the day of your arrival. Your father and I took a hypnobirthing class and that is the approach that we are going to take with your birth. I have been really careful about the things I put in or on my body (no make-up for the past 9 months), to keep us both healthy so that you can have the best start in life. I also kept up a reasonably regular exercise and yoga routine for the same reason. The natural childbirth we have planned is also intended to give you a healthy start to life. I was getting a little annoyed by the fact that peoples' instant reaction to hearing that we are planning a natural birth has been to share stories of disasters, or predict our failure. I had until recently apologetically responded by discussing our plans as what we "hope" to do, quickly following it up with "but we'll have to see how it goes". However, I have found inspiration from one or two friends, and for the remaining month, we have decided to be firmly positive in any discussion of your birth and not allow anyone to undermine our plans. We have a wonderful Doula named Marie, and I know that she is going to help make your birth an amazing experience for us all.

Your father is getting really excited too. He loves to feel you kick and often says "Hi Soybean" to my belly. You may not recognize his voice when you meet him because he insists upon talking to you in a funny voice (a la Andy from The Office when he was pretending that he and Pam were having a baby). I have been really grateful for the support he has given me, from taking my hormone-induced moods with good humour to attending all the various birthing and prenatal classes. He may jokingly complain to our friends, but he has participated enthusiastically and I am really lucky that he's going to be your Dad. I do want to mention that your father is picking your middle name. He hasn't made a decision yet, but if you don't like it, blame him!

Your first name was agreed upon by both of us, but I initially suggested it. Your great-grandmother, my paternal grandmother, was called Vivienne. I knew her as Granny, but I didn't think you would enjoy that as a name so we went with her given name. She was an amazing woman and I have such fond memories of her. She taught me how to knit because she was annoyed that my teddy bear, Horatio, was losing stuffing through two holes. She knit one patch to show me how, and I knit the other one to practice. I still have Horatio, and his patches are such a treasured memory that I will always keep him safe. Granny Vivienne was a strong, loving and intelligent woman, and while I will never refer to you as being named after her, I hope sharing her name will bless you with some of her qualities (particularly her ability to sing, because you will not be inheriting that from me!).

That's about all I can think to share with you now. I can't believe I am this close to holding you in my arms. We already love you, but I know we are going to love you so much more once you are born. I promise to be the best mother I can be, and to keep my neurotic worrying to a minimum. I have already begun to fret over any number of things that might affect you from prenatal issues all the way to your adulthood. Please learn to see that as my caring for you, and not be driven to crazy by my fussing. I promise that I will love you no matter what. I also promise that I will have never come up with any dreams for how you turn out or what you become, and instead use my efforts to help you fulfill the dreams you have come up with for yourself.

Love,

Your Mum

P.S. Here's how dorky your parents are... There's going to be a lot of parental embarrassment in your future!

Feb 10, 2011

10 Things #9: Bah Bah Baby!


There are many things that are very exciting about preparing to be a mother. Far from the most profound, but arguably the most fun, is the knowledge that you'll have about four solid years of dressing your child up in ridiculous outfits (beyond that point, they get big enough to fight back!). As a knitter, the desire to torture my child with silly outfits is only amplified. Long before I was pregnant, I discovered -and fell in love with -baby clothes that look like cute little animals. My friend, Carly, showed me her copy of New Baby Knits by Debbie Bliss, and as soon as I saw the little Bunny and Sheep costumes I was a woman possessed. I eventually bought my own copy, and as part of this challenge decided to make one. The sheep was picked because of yarn I had available around the house. I love the end product, but the hours and hours of stockinette coupled with the needless amounts of seeming made for a bit of a laborious project. I discovered another Ravelry user who had used Berroco Plush to make her sheep outfit, and I think it worked much better with the project. My favourite part of my FO is the buttons I found at Webs!!




That's Nine!

Feb 1, 2011

Numismatism Part II

1.Delaware
Delaware became the first State of the United State(?) of America on December 7, 1787. The State Quarter features the State moniker, "The First State" and a man riding a horse. The rider was called Caesar Rodney (it says so on the coin), and having read a little about the history of Delaware, I am a little ashamed to say that I had never heard of him before this exercise. Delaware was home to Native Americans such as the Algonquin tribes before being settled by the Dutch in 1631. It changed hands with the Dutch, Swedes and Finns a few times before Sir Robert Carr won the territory in 1664 for Britain (there were actually more power plays by the Dutch and Swedes, but it gets kind of repetitive). The colony was named after Thomas West, 3rd and 12th Baron De La Warr (get it??), because the tactics he learned while fighting against the Irish also proved effective against the Native Americans. Interestingly, these "tactics" were against the natives in Virginia (not Delaware), and earned old Tommy the role of governor for life of Virginia. No reelection bids needing fund-raising, West appointed a deputy governor and toddled off back to England to write a book about Virginia from the comfort of the Empire. In 1618, it turned out his deputy was a bit of a tyrant, so he set sail for Virginia to investigate but died at sea. And then he got an entirely different State named after him. All was well in Delaware Colony under British rule, with the exception of some arbitrary parliamentary rulings until Thomas McKean and Caeser Rodney denounced the Stamp Act, and called for independence from Britain. In order to cast the essential vote needed to declare independence, Caeser Rodney made the first of the nation's historic overnight horseback rides to Philadelphia on July 1, 1776. Google maps doesn't give the option of "Horse" for mode of commute, but estimates the journey to be a seven hour trek by bicycle. Given US-13 wasn't built until 1926, it was a pretty impressive feat. He made it to the vote with no time to change out of his "boots and spurs", and two days later a nation was born. He was thanked by a less than grateful electorate by being ousted from office, but is immortalized on the Delaware quarter. State Capital: Dover.

4.Georgia
The Peach State was the 4th addition to the Union on January 2, 1788. The State Quarter features a Peach, the outline of the State, the words "Wisdom, Justice, Moderation" in a banner, and leaves of the Live Oak from its official State Tree. The last of the original thirteen colonies to be established, Georgia was named after Britain's King George II. Georgia took a leave of absence from the Union starting in 1861 to become the one of the seven original States of the Confederacy. That didn't pan out as a great life choice for Georgia, so it rejoined the Union on July 15, 1870, being the last State to do so. Mailing birthday cards to your relatives in Georgia must have been a nightmare during this period; in addition to all the back and forth as to what actual country Georgia was a part of, the State Capital of Georgia changed twelve times between 1776 and 1868. Today, Georgia's counties have some of the fastest growing populations, second only to Texas. These are presumably the counties with prisons in them. Across the nation, an average of 1 in 31 citizens are under some form of correctional control. But Georgia comes in at number 1 with an impressive(?) 1 in 13 of its denizens in the correctional system. That's probably good news for anyone looking to be gainfully employed by the penal system. However, given men made up 92.3% of the national prison population in 2002, I'd imagine the dating scene might suck in the Peach State, especially for those girls with an eye for the proverbial "bad boy". State Capital: Savannah Augusta Heard's Ford Augusta Savannah Ebeneezer Savannah Augusta Louisville Milledgeville Macon Milledgeville Atlanta

9. New Hampshire
The Granite State was admitted as the 9th of the Union on June 21, 1788. The State Quarter features the Old Man of the Mountain, a granite formation in the White Mountains, with the words "Live Free or Die". Don't go programming Cannon Mountain into your GPS just yet; the old guy sadly succumbed to gravity in 2003. New Hampshire is famed for its somewhat confrontational motto, "Live Free or Die", which it officially adopted in 1945. In 1971 all the vehicle plates were changed from "Scenic" to "Live Free or Die", marking probably the greatest shift in license plate tone in US history. The phrase itself was taken from an in abstentia toast given by General Stark at the 32nd anniversary of the Battle of Bennington. As the revolutionary war was sparked in part by resentment over British taxation, I assume this means that death should be chosen in lieu of taxation. Evidently the New Hampshirites are among the 19% of Americans who fear death more than anything, as New Hampshire has no sale or income tax, and the 49th lowest State tax burden in the nation (I couldn't find out which State is living freer). It's hard to imagine how they fund roads and schools, but paying the nation's highest property tax may go some of the way to balancing the books. New Hampshire can pat itself on the green shoulder for having the lowest energy consumption by state and per capita, especially surprising given its average January high is a single Celsius degree. However, I suspect this environmental record may have been lost upon the arrival of my AC-loving in-laws to the State. State Capital: Concord.

15. Kentucky
Kentucky was the 15th State to join the Union on June 1st, 1792. The State Quarter features the Federal Hill mansion, the home built by Judge James Rowan using slave labour (N.B. read up on things before sticking them on your State quarter); a thoroughbred horse; and the words "My Old Kentucky Home", the title of the official State song. The region comprising the Bluegrass state was known to be inhabited by Native Americans up to 13 millennia ago, but these indigenous people were all but wiped upon by the arrival of sneezing Europeans around the mid 1700s. The region was given top ratings on www.lonelyplanet.com by explorers such as Thomas Walker, John Finley and Daniel Boone, and a permanent settlement was established by James Harrod in 1774. Kentucky is famed for tobacco crops, growing corn used in whiskey and the thorough breeding of racehorses (the only state with its name in a triple crown event). However, before you cancel the bachelor/stag party trip to Vegas, favoring a weekend of debauchery in the first State of the Western Frontier, you should know that of the 130 counties in Kentucky, a whopping 75 are dry, and a further 15 are moist (I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I'd guess that mooning the staff at Taco Bell is probably not a good idea). State Capital: Frankfort.

10 Things in 1000 days

I decided to rationalize my impulse purchasing of knitting books by setting myself a personal challenge.
Here's how long I have left:

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