Thursday, May 29, 2008

this is what happens...

...when you knit a cowl for your self-portrait-crazy husband and then tell him to take his own FO shot while you are at work. I actually made this for Jamie back in April as a quick one night knit, and I've been putting off blogging it or adding to Ravelry thinking I was going to take another picture. But it's been a month now and that photo is never going to get taken. So here we go.

This is just a basic stockinette tube with a couple rows of garter at each edge. I used Schaefer Lola held doubled and still have about a quarter to a third of the skein left over, possibly enough for toddler mittens. I don't remember how many stitches I cast on. Actually, I don't even remember what needles I used. I usually remember that, at least. This was just such a fast knit that it's kind of a blur. It's quite nice to wear, though, and made me a cowl convert. I started another one last night of my own design with a lace stitch pattern that I modified. I'll share the details in a few days when it's all finished.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

weekend projects

Knitting is still slow around here. Sweater bodies are normally the fastest-knitting project for me, but I'm only about halfway up the torso of my lace cami.

I guess smaller projects have been more my speed lately. That, and a wider variety of movements helps keep my wrist from cracking and aching. Last week I picked up a copy of the new-ish book Uncommon Crochet as an antidote to my disappointing day, and found quite a few quick, appealing projects. I chose the Geometric Pincushion pattern for my first project. I've been needing a new pincushion for a really, really long time. The one I was using...well, look.

This was my very first sewing project as an 8-year-old 4-H kid. It is, in case you couldn't tell, the classic tomato-shaped pincushion, made from acrylic felt, endearingly wonky stitches, and missing its green acrylic yarn leaves. Poor thing. It would still work fine as a pincushion if it didn't roll around and if needles and small-headed pins didn't disappear inside it only to prick your finger when they work their way out the other side. It was definitely time for an upgrade.

This one used just a tiny bit of dishcloth cotton, a small circle cut from a fat quarter, and a bit of twill tape I had lying around. I made the round version; there are also oval, square, and triangle patterns. The book recommends putting a piece of plastic canvas in the base to help hold the shape. I didn't have any plastic canvas and didn't want to use cardboard in case it somehow gets wet (you never know), but the lid from a baby food jar was the perfect size so that's what's in there. (We're way beyond baby food of course, but I saved all the jars! Need any? I have a ton.) I gave my new pincushion a test run yesterday when I made another quick little skirt for Mina. I'll get them both photographed soon.

The rest of the weekend was spent cleaning up the big back porch, attending a barbeque, and planting tomatoes, peppers, and a few ornamental plants. As soon as I had a pleasant outdoor space, it got chilly and rainy again, of course, but that's to be expected at this time of year where I live. I also made more pancakes (pancakes are a constant in this house) and came up with a vegan taco filling which came out way better than I expected for my first time cooking with TVP. Also, I finally rented The Golden Compass last night. I was a little skeptical before watching it since it's one of my favorite books, but I think they did a pretty good job. And now I want to knit a Golden Compass Hat.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

follow your heart

I've been thinking a lot lately (again) about what it is I really want to be doing in my life - right now, next year, in five years. I've never, ever had a good answer to the question "what do you want to be when you grow up?" There are so many could I possibly pick just one? Since graduating from college (ten years ago already, yikes!) I've always had "just a job," something to pay the bills and let me live my real life. But lately, especially now that I have Mina, I find myself resenting the job as something that keeps me too long away from the things I love.

I've changed jobs every couple of years. Once everything is learned and there are no challenges left, I am too easily bored and it is time to move on. I thought my next opportunity had presented itself, and I was looking forward to the change, even if it meant I was starting again at "just a job." It wasn't a huge change, just a different office down the hall, a different area of student services at my university. But different was the point. When I found out yesterday that it wasn't going to work out, I felt pretty down about it. I've been telling myself that it's ok, because it wasn't my true desire anyway. What that true desire actually is, I'm not certain. I know my little "about me" blurb over there says I want to be a librarian. And that's true. I also want to be an English teacher, a poetry and journal therapist, a writer, a knitwear designer (come on, what knitter doesn't?), an artist, a shop owner, an editor, and a stay at home, homeschooling mom. Really. I would love to do each of those things, and how can I possibly choose? Why should I have to?

I bought this book yesterday, The Renaissance Soul: Life design for people with too many passions to pick just one. I am always skeptical about self-help books that promise to help you attain the life of your dreams. So far though, this book seems pretty good. It's helping to convince me that I am not crazy or a failure and I don't have ADD. Maybe it will also help me get past the stagnation of "just a job." Jamie and I have been looking at all kinds of alternatives lately. We both want me to be home more. I feel like I have so much I want to do creatively for myself and as a mother, and I need the time to do it. And I feel like Mina needs more of my time than I have available to give when I have to be away from home for nine hours each day. Jamie is looking at a necessary career change as well. This could be the beginning of big transition time for us. We'll see.

The photo above is from the hallway in our house. One of the tiny things I did in all my weekend activity was to take that forlorn ATC that had been sitting in a pile on the kitchen counter since February, attach it to a canvas, and hang it where I walk by and see it a hundred times a day. Just a little daily reminder to follow my heart.

Monday, May 19, 2008

earth ATC's

These little ATC's are winging their way across the country toward my swap partners for the Project Spectrum 3: Earth ATC swap. I was late finishing them, and once they were done I admit that I held onto them for a couple of extra days to wait for enough light to get a good picture, and because I liked them so much.

These are my first fabric ATC's, and they are entirely hand stitched. I wanted a rustic, earthy look to go with the theme. I used some cotton/linen blend fabric for the background, an embroidery transfer from Sublime Stitching (the book at the bottom), cotton embroidery floss, this alphabet set in the "teeny tiny" size, pigment ink, and metallic copper thread. The earth labels are made from the same fabric dyed with tea.

The stitched fabric is sewn onto ATC-sized cardstock with a layer of cotton flannel as a sort of batting to give a small amount of cushion. The result was wonderfully textural and soft, and so nice to hold. Before these were even out the door, I had started two more. They are time consuming but so worth it! This time around I'm taking pictures of the process so I'll have a little tutorial to share soon.

I had a busy weekend of the best sort - time spent with Mina in the sun, cooking good food, gardening, sewing, sketching practice, more embroidery, and general stuff around the house that felt good to finally accomplish. I fit in a little knitting here and there, too. My wrist is much better, but I'm still taking it easy; for instance, gardening is only undertaken with a brace on each wrist and gloves over the top of that, which looks silly and makes me think of giant robot hands. I just made a huge pan of vegan brownies for my work study student's birthday tomorrow, the house smells divine, and my husband just gave me a 10 minute long explanation/mime of how he climbs up and down the ladder to the loft while carrying various objects, which was way funnier than it sounds (though I don't think he realized it). I'm happy the long summer days are near, bringing me better humor and better energy.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

finally, she wears them

I knit this pair of legwarmies for Mina at the beginning of March, and she refused to wear them when they were done. Suddenly, they are cool. She looked so cute running around in her little denim skirt, leggings, and legwarmies on Monday. I had the day off, and we visited all the favorite haunts, including lunch at the Colophon.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

mostly quiet

It's been a mostly quiet day at home today, which is much appreciated. Besides Mother's Day, it is also J's birthday. I went out early for lattes. He gave me a small gift (which is really as much for him as it is for me), the new Portishead album. Mina is still recovering and spent most of the day lying on the sofa, even napping there for several hours in the afternoon. We read lots of books, and I worked on my current little project.

I had forgotten how much I like simple embroidery. I am very much a beginner, and basic split stitch is all I know how to do. It is enough, though, to outline the simple patterns that please me. I love choosing colors and the feel of the fabric in my hands. These little leaves are stitched on a linen and cotton blend and are meant for ATC's. The bright greens I was using reminded me of the maple tree outside our back door.

This is the same tree as the one in my blog header. I don't think it ever has an unobtrusive color - fiery orange-red in the autumn, chartreuse in the spring. Just before the leaves unfurl, the bud casings turn a bright candy pink. I missed getting a photo of that stage a couple of weeks ago.

We decided to have dinner at home for our joint celebration, rather than fight the crowds at the restaurants. Mina and I saw a picture of slices of pie in one of her books this morning, so we decided we should have a berry pie.

It was overcast today, but I liked the light coming through my kitchen window as I worked. I also made oven roasted yukon gold potatoes and grilled pizzas. Now I'm full and sleepy, and very happy that I have the day off tomorrow. Quiet days at home are exactly what I need right now.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

the state of things

Sometimes it feels a little bit wrong to continue on with the business of life after someone you know is no longer living. But when I really stop to think about it, I realize that what would be wrong would be to stop living. I can mourn, I can remember, I can regret. All while continuing on.

Thank you for all of your kind words in the comments and emails. My cousin and I were very close as children and young teens, but had not been in contact in recent years, due mainly to distance, both physical and not. She suffered from health problems and constant, debilitating pain. Years of drug therapies, herbs, homeopathy, and expensive trips to internationally-known clinics had not helped her. She was beautiful and brilliantly smart, but she believed she had no way out of the pain and chose the only option she thought was left to her. Everyone must experience the loss of a loved one at some point, but when it happens in that way there is a whole extra layer of anger, sadness, and regret to deal with. What if I had made the effort to reach out? What if, what if, what if?

What if. My life must go on. Mina and I returned from our trip to Salt Lake City for the wake and funeral two days ago. It was difficult and sad, but also good. It had been far too long since I had seen my grandmother, my aunts and uncles. It was good to meet friends of my cousin's, girls whose names I had heard many times during her summer visits years ago. Mina got sick halfway through the trip and spent a rough 36 hours throwing up (first real sickness in her short lifetime). I paid two visits to the doctor's office the afternoon we got home - first for my injured wrist, which was also a literal pain all through the trip, and second to make sure Mina wasn't dangerously dehydrated. We're both on the mend, and life has to go back to mostly normal.

Last Sunday I needed to be outdoors doing something physical, so I decided to weed the flowerbeds. I hadn't properly cleaned them up last year, and my landlord's perennials were choked with solid swaths of grass, buttercups, dandelions and clover. I spent the entire day working on them, only stopping at dinner time when Mina started demanding to "eat! eat!" Apparently, it was far too much weeding for my wimpy wrists to handle in one go. My left wrist became a swollen lump that only worsened throughout the week while we were gone, culminating in a diagnosis of severe tendinitis, a stiff wrist and hand brace, huge doses of naproxen, and a possible cortisone shot if it isn't better by Monday.

This is how much I had gotten done on my lace camisole before the gardening fiasco. I don't move my left hand much at all when I knit, just my index finger to push the stitch off the needle. But with the soreness and brace in the way I knit infuriatingly slowly and even more loosely than my normal loose tension. It isn't even worth it to try. Which really sucks. A lot. So, I either mope about how I can't knit, or I find something else to do.

I finally dug out the green, brown, and metallic art supplies for the Earth phase of Project Spectrum. Some of them, anyway. I am late with my ATC's for the swap (my partners have been notified), so that will be my first order of business. I'm so glad I am right handed. I also stocked up on some magazines and other supplies at the craft store today, but I'll wait to share those later - I have to have something to keep blogging about while I can't knit. I think I have enough dexterity in my left hand for sewing and embroidery, and I can certainly write and draw. And so, more to come. Life keeps moving on.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

four months, five days, eight hours, and twenty-four minutes

A highly specific period of time that meant something to one other person in this world besides myself. The precise time lapse from the moment of her birth until the moment of mine. And now she is gone.

R.I.P. JDH 4.11.1975-4.30(?).2008

It's been a tough couple of weeks, and yesterday, things got tougher. But the only thing I can do is keep moving along, doing the things I must as well as the things I love because...well, what else is there?

There has been much swatching, ripping, reading, false starting and more ripping. A lot of yarn looks like this:

I've suddenly become obsessed with dress-like knitted garments of all sorts. The yarn for this project was in my stash, so it will be the first (though with the amount I have I'll be lucky to get to tunic length):

This wee bit of progress is from the last couple of hours, knitting a few stitches here and there. My attention span is short. Mina has gone to bed early the last two nights, J has been at work as usual, and the house has been very quiet. That's the way I prefer it though. A normal evening, after the girlie has gone to sleep, means slowly sipping wine in my pajamas and knitting while reading, watching, or listening to something, a book, a movie, an audiobook or podcast. So here I am, just as usual, though things don't exactly feel usual. But, as my grandmother always reminds us, "this too shall pass."