June 6, 2013 § 1 Comment
I feel as though the time has come at which I may announce that despite my hopes, the day is not getting off to a good start. While the Little Buckaroo’s stomach virus dissipates I find that I am now plagued with the same symptoms that tormented his tummy for the better part of the week. And while he stands proudly atop his rocking chair, holding the back with his right hand and rocking with the same mannerisms and posture of a surfer riding a wave, he first seems happy, giggling but then starts screaming, loudly, in a non-stop brae to inform me that we both, in fact, still feel pretty crummy. Thank you!
The “Little Surfer” when I tried to take his picture while riding the wave. Apparently he is a shy surfer.”
Today is also garbage day on which a number of household chores are completed, but oh why today? I feel terrible. I have no energy, the baby has been screaming at me for two days because I feel to crummy to pick him up. I am tired, and just want some piece and quiet. I would kill for a nap. But no, today I need to empty all of the garbage bins in the house, the diaper pale, and of course the litter box. Part of the weekly ritual is cleaning out the refrigerator which creates yet another load of dishes, but results in the glorious satisfaction of being able to set down new left-overs, produce which we’re raking in from the garden, or maybe even the cat if she’s being bad (I’m joking, of course). Our garbage collector doesn’t make his rounds in our neighborhood until the early afternoon, so I have a while. Why don’t I put it off? I’m feeling like poop, and I deserve it.
Well, Why not now? Oh that damn, new question. Why not now? I am not going to feel any better later than I do now. Well, I may but that is certainly not a promise of the day. Regardless of how I feel I still need to water my garden, do the dishes, and figure out something I can do with the Little Buckaroo that involves us getting OUT of the house, and not getting other little kids sick. I have absolutely NO respect for people who bring a sick child over or out to play with others. I have one of the busiest baby’s in the world who NEEDS a daily play outing, regardless of his level of well-being, as otherwise he is mind-numbingly bored out of his noodle. Just as a tip, if you ever want to piss me off and cause me to desire never to see you again, bring your sick child out to play with mine. A sniffly nose from allergies, that’s okay but a cold, or flu, I don’t care, you’re selfish if you don’t keep them home or away from other small children. I certainly don’t make my child live in a bubble, I strongly believe in promoting a good immune system and say”bring-it-on to eating dirt.” Just going to playtime & parks where all the babies are healthy, they’re all still exposed to an endless parade of germs and bacteria … just saying.
This wasn’t the first false start of the day, there was another. I went to bed at 9:30 last night and slept terribly as my muscles ache from illness almost as much as my stomach. In one of my restless fits I realized that the sleeve I started yesterday, for a new sweater and a new pattern I will publish once shorter days are here to greet us, were not what I going to turn out what I envisioned. I ripped the yarn back and rewound it this morning, back to the beginning, again.
So why not now, and just get it over with? Rewound, fresh off my ball winder, it doesn’t seem so bad. The frustration of having to begin again is gone now that the guilty party no longer exists. It is almost like it never existed, and that feels a whole lot better than having to rip out a bunch of work.
And of course as soon as I finish and am feeling, even if it is only a miniscule amount, better. Then, I look down and the Little Buckaroo is holding up my empty coffee cup, which I distinctly remember leaving on top of the dining room table half full. Why now? I guess the expression on my face indicated the severity of the crime as he turned and started running the opposite way at top baby speed, which is about two times the speed of sound faster than I can go most any day, especially when I’m feeling under the weather. I catch him and he starts waving the tiny spoon above his head in victory as I mourn the loss of the one coffee I was going to allow today, further compromising the sad state of my stomach to avoid the caffeine headache that prominently looms promising a day of defeat if I fail to listen. So now I have coffee to clean, a baby to clean and another chip on my shoulder. So why not now? Why not deal with it all and try to get on with making the best of the rest of the day? Okay, new me, you win.
Part of my Basalt Tank in progress. This is the front hexagon.
Today is going to be a long day. Already I am glad that my chores are almost done and I can start knitting my sleeve again. Yes, I feel like crap, but I don’t feel that bad unless I let it get the better of me. Yesterday, in all of my misery I was able to complete an entire hexagon for my Basalt Tank and get a good chuck of a sleeve done, which yes, I did rip out, but it is still progress. So I will just try to take each moment as it comes, and be grateful if I can get some quite, knitting time in. Until then, looks like I may getting out the earplugs.
June 4, 2013 § Leave a Comment
This weekend was a whirlwind of enjoyable activity and the universe felt the need to balance things out a bit by saddling us with a miserable litany of “bottom activities” on the part of the Little Buckaroo, who caught his first stomach virus. On Friday we headed out to my mom’s for the weekend, which is when the pooping commenced. This is the first time we’ve traveled for a weekend since New Years. It has all seemed too hard and too overwhelming to try, but it is time for change. We just didn’t anticipate him falling ill at the exact same time.
As we approach the one-year mark of his first birthday, I have recently found myself in a great deal of reflection and mostly wondering, “How did we get here so soon?” There is no doubt that my life has changed completely from even the days and months before he was born. Now with twelve calendar months flipped over I often feel that I have lost a profound amount of my original self, and have begun the fighting process of getting it back only to realize that everything really has changed for better—and occasionally for worse—and so begins the new era of me.
This revelation has unbound me from previous constraints and I am feeling at liberty to go wherever I want to, within reason, of course with personal growth, even if it is, at times, only attempted. About two years ago on one of our cross-country road trips we stopped in Idaho to see one of my former best-friends whom I hadn’t seen since the middle of eighth grade, when after we all returned from our Christmas break, she did not. She had a somewhat troubled—only for drama, and not for danger—family situation, and as Chris Kringle mounted his sleigh, one parent decided it was their day in the sun—or snow—and off she was whisked from one house, in one state, to another. In the long-long ago of yester-year we didn’t have email, and long-distance phone calls were a sad and expensive substitute for the barrage of pre-teen drama that filled our daily lives, and we fell out of touch. Fifteen years passed, then enter Facebook.
Reconnected, we sat there enjoying a glass of wine in Sun Valley, on the 7th of July in 2010. While recounting old adventures I commented about the dubious nature of changing junior high and high schools so many times. The formidable task of making new friends, fitting in, & defining yourself. How overbearing it all seemed. Her response caught me off-guard, “Actually, I thought it was fun. I could be whoever I wanted to be. If I didn’t like something about myself I could change it, and all these people never knew.”
What a concept! You can actually BE the person you WANT to be? You have the power to change? You do it willingly? You don’t stew in your own self-pity and fall pray to your own woes!
Okay, perhaps I am being a little dramatic, but change is hard. Especially self provoked change. Well, going back further, the self-reflection can be troublesome, too. No one wants to admit that they have faults. So, to admit them and then change them is no small undertaking.
But now is a good time for self-reflection. A birthday can do that to you, especially the first birthday of your first child. So, last week when I received a welcome email from one of my favorite sites, Houzz, that promised: Three Magic Words for a Clean Home and a Better Life, I held my breath as I clicked.
I have never been a clean, or organized person, but I am trying. The older I get the more disciplined I am but still it takes practice and patience. I don’t quite know how it happened, but last week KnitFest occurred all over my house. Yarn everywhere, stitch markers coming out of the ceiling, pens for sketching covering dining room table, trimmed yarn tales trailing from the baby’s mouth, quickly removed. It was a frantic dash towards finishing some projects and designs that in-fact met their end of week deadlines. In an effort to get it all done—which I am proud to say that I did—every clean surface, floors included, suffered the consequences, which I am significantly less proud of. Before leaving for my Mother’s on Friday I did my best to get the situation under control, but when I returned home on Monday afternoon I was horrified. I’d had enough.
I began sweeping and washing while Ramon took the baby out for a few hours. With the dishes done, floor mopped and all yarn not in use put back in the stash I could finally sit down somewhere (anywhere) and relax. Since reading the above mentioned article from Houzz I’ve been thinking a lot about those three key words, promised from the title. What are these three words? How can they really get us there? Will they in-fact change my life for the better as promised? Yes! I can tell you they will:
How about now?
So simple, no? The idea is that we can always put something off until later, but then the little things pile up to be really, really big things that require hours of work to wade through, and tremendous misery, cursing, and disappointment that you cannot be knitting, reading, or really doing anything fun instead. But I feel that this idea may be applied to so much more than just picking up clutter around the house, or doing a few dishes.
In the spirit of figuring out this new me, instead of “How about Now,” I’ve started asking “Why not now?” about just about everything. Asking “Why” is a great stepping stone, and “why” is better for me than “how.” Why lets in all of the things that are real
excuses reasons, like: I cannot knit or do dishes right now, because there is poop running down the baby’s leg because he has a stomach virus. How doesn’t allow for these “must-dos” to come into play without some sort of feeling of sadness or guilt at a perceived loss of opportunity. But with Why, there still feels like wiggle room for later, or as if I have more control over my situation. I am choosing to clean up the baby, and I can choose to knit later, too, or to pick up those dishes. It will only take a few minutes and I certainly have a few minutes to do some things that I need to do, and then I can do something I want to do. So, why not now?
During nap-times and after play-times, in between tummy hurting cries, and in the evening after bedtime, and all while watching the French Open and enjoying the company of my awesome Mom I was able to knit 11 inches in the round, in stockinette stitch to finish the bottom of my Still Light Tunic. That sea of tiny, black stitches took the better part of 450 yards, 21,120 stitches—give or take—on size 2 US needles. I also completed 2 complete pentagons on my Basalt tank, with lace yarn. I also feel more empowered, invigorated by this new me. I am feeling inspired, and that I really can make this change. I can be cleaner, I can be more organized and I can have some fun for myself, too!
After four days of misery, the Little Buckaroo is finally starting to feel a little better. I feel like a good Mommy for being there for him, snuggling him in his discomfort when he really wanted to sit close and just feel better, and for cleaning dozens of messy bottoms, many of which had to be followed by fun bath-time. This weekend I got to be everything that I wanted to be, and do more than I thought or in some cases really desired. I even managed to shampoo an entire carpet, mere minutes before my husband took a crow-bar and ripped the entire carpet out, and hauled it to his truck. I guess he’s started asking, “Why not now,” too.
What could you do if you started asking yourself, “Why not now?”
May 28, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Giddy. That is how I felt as I drove the 40 miles to my sister’s yesterday morning. Memorial Day. A single day of vacation. I happily recognize that the holiday is to commemorate the fallen. That being said, as a child I thought that Memorial Day was a shopping day. Everywhere you look there are signs saying “Sale.” Relentless ads on the radio, the tv. We even dropped our cable and only watch via our Roku. Alas, with even Hulu we were not impervious to this years onslaught of Memorial Day marketing. Regarding this day that marks our grand and long anticipated entrance into summer, I don’t think much has changed since my childhood.
Recently I have been trying to escape the daily barrage of advertising. It’s driving me bonkers. I’ve been away from the computer more, playing with my son, knitting up a storm and doing lots of reading. I’ve actually had a number of successes recently regarding my knitting and I have been working on lots and lots of new designs of which only a few will see the light of day. I’ve been working for weeks on a little sweater, a sample, which my sister will be the proud owner of once the project is completed. With beautiful alpaca and silk yarn, a fine gauge and and truly special details I feel like my weeks of hard work paid off when I finished the sweater yesterday morning. I didn’t take any short cuts, and paid attention to every row, every turn, every increase. I carefully, and thoughtfully completed the minimal amount of seaming that was required. I worked on the pattern diligently, for days, before beginning. Now I feel like every stitch adds up to elation. This is quite possibly the most beautiful sweater I have ever designed and made.
Afters spending weeks on gauge swatches, suffering many failures and few successes I made many detailed notes. Often I feel that no matter how many swatches I do, no matter how much planning what I make never results in exactly what I had in mind. But, the more preparation the better the end product. When working on my sketches and my swatches I had to start over a number of times, completely ripping out all of my work, which, granted, is something I do fairly frequently, in order to have this pattern progress in the direction that I imagined. I felt as prepared as I could be when it was time to begin, but a small grey cloud of doubt always looms overhead.
I am actually in awe of how quickly I was able to complete the knitting portion. A top down raglan, the “yoke” took forever, but it is because I dawdled, and the details are as time consuming as lace-work. The sleeves knit up in less than a day each, and I completed the entire body in 2 days. Okay, this final 2 days was more due to my looming deadline, but still it is quite an accomplishment to knit the entire body portion—from bust to hip—with size 3 needles, sport weight yarn and 8 inches of 1×1 fancy textural ribbing included. By Sunday morning, by some miracle, I had it soaking in the sweater tub, then soaking up the sun. By early afternoon the sweater was already washed, blocked, and dried.
The final piece to complete was the collar, quite complicated and intricate, I needed to really take my time to read my pattern carefully, count stitches, rows, cables, short-rows and decreases all to make sure that I had made my instructions clear. I also needed to get buttons. At 4:30 I raced out to get my buttons. Gas-tank running on fumes I made it to the store 15 minutes before closing. Often when watching Project Runway I admire how the contestants run through Mood and find their materials in 30 minutes or less. I think that sometimes severe time constrains lead to swift, concise decision making; there is no time for mistakes. With my own quarter hour to pick buttons—a process that usually requires days—I narrowed in on two finalists and quickly made the winning call. I was back in my car desperately seeking a gas station in 7 minutes flat. Once home I didn’t actually get to sit down and knit my collar until 10 pm, once Ramon returned from delivering our old couch to its new home. By 12:30 I was exhausted, but still had some finishing touches—sewing on my precious buttons—before meeting with my sister at our prearranged time of 10 am for a quick photo-shoot.
The two remaining skeins I have left-over from the sweater
I woke up at 7 yesterday morning. Seven am on a holiday, a precious day off, is not something that most people want to see. Especially when then open their sleepy eyes to a vast gloomy gray sky looming overhead. I hit the snooze button once, but got up 2 minutes later. I was too anxious about finishing my sweater. After working so hard I didn’t want to make my final finishing touches with haste, in a desperate rush to get out the door. One cup of coffee later I was buzzing, and everything seemed to go wrong. My iron, leaking rusty water, needed to be cleaned before I could begin. The eye of all of my knitting size sewing needles was about 80 times too large to squeeze through the hole of the buttons. Once cleaned my iron leaked water all over my board. My scissors, which were right beside me last night, were now MIA. My memory card on the camera full, and battery empty. While all great annoyances none of these roadblocks stopped me. I powered through and was out the front door right on time as a few drizzly rain drops landed on my head.
After a cheerful visit I drove back home feeling the sun shining down on me as more rain drops fell on my windshield. Along the way I watched a squirrel avoid certain death from freeway traffic, a good omen for sure. I stopped by my LYS (Local Yarn Store) in hopes of finding the exact yarn I had in my head, and with a stroke of luck not only found that it existed, but it was on the second shelf in from the front door. Back at home we decided to take the Little Buckaroo to the park, went to Target to buy him some sneakers, as we thought they might be better than his little sandals for some of the activities that we’re up to these days, bought a new charcoal grill and headed out to the park. The Little Buckaroo walked all over. We blew bubbles went on the swings and played in the mud. All around us were dozens of others enjoying this fine gloomy day. A game of football was going on next to the two little league fields that were alive with little pee-wees slugging and running to their heart’s content. Proud parents leaning up against the chain-link fence, and sitting in the bleachers eating hot-dogs and ice cream. Not a one of these fine families seemed to noticed that the sun hadn’t made an official appearance all day, and were all gleefully ringing in the summer.
We all collapsed on our new couch as evening fell. Ramon grilled a tri-tip on our new charcoal grill, and some fresh Zucchini from the garden. I felt a tinge of guilt as I realized that we had in-fact gone shopping for the holiday, something I was, at least mentally, fiercely trying to avoid. We even wound up getting our new grill on-sale as the previous sale-tag from the previous weekend had been carelessly forgotten, and the store felt obligated to sell it to us for that price—we didn’t ask, we didn’t even push for it. Unfortunately we do live in a society where your money really does stretch further on holidays that were created with the intention of honoring others. Ramon wanted the grill and would have bought it anyway, but getting it on sale didn’t hurt.
Ramon had a hard time with the new grill, finally giving up and getting the meat on the gas-grill to finish, as he was afraid that if he didn’t we wouldn’t be eating before the stroke of mid-night. I tried to tell him that I could sympathize. When I get a new tool, like a new sewing machine I feel as if I am going back to square one. I used to be able to just sew, but with a new machine I feel as if I have to learn how to do it all over again. It takes some getting used to. More unexpected results from an area in which great skill and knowledge has already been developed, but the only gray cloud over me now is the one that I wanted, and I am giddy with glee. With the absence of the harsh sun on this Memorial Day, the giant soft-box in the sky is exactly what I needed for my pictures. The sweater looked as perfect as it could be and passed the final remaining test with flying colors: it fit my sister exactly as I had hoped, minus one, easy to fix detail. My three-quarter length sleeves were about 2 inches too long, an easy fix that I am happy to make. Sometimes the things that don’t work out the way that you thought they would require you to completely rethink everything, and sometimes they are serendipitous, making things significantly better in an unexpected way. I think that just like Whinnie-the-Pooh embracing that dark little rain-cloud will sometimes lead us to that pot of honey, and not always on our bum at the bottom of a tree.
My sister’s new tattoo, a sampling of the beautiful lighting we had yesterday
For Ramon his dark gray cloud will lift, and he will learn how to use his new toy with great proficiency. I cannot think of a more American way to welcome the summer than with a great accomplishment, a new toy, and a barbecued piece of meat along side fresh veggies from our very own garden. At the end of the day I am happy that my childhood memory of Memorial Day Sales has been left by the way-side and replaced by the image of my husband pushing my son on the baby-swing at the park just as happy as can possibly be.
To end for today, I must add one final note. While I have gone on-and-on about this sweater I cannot post its picture. I am submitting it to a publication, from which I anticipate a response of ”no, thank you.” And while I sit here for the next three months expecting the worst but hoping for the best I can’t wait to share this sweater with the world. Hopefully it will be a happy dark little cloud for other little knitters out there, waiting with patience, size 3 needles and some fine alpaca and silk.
May 7, 2013 § 1 Comment
Winter is gone and spring seems fleeting with intense heat already baring down upon us. Our once lush lawn now resembles the not so distant golden foothills that California is famous for. Knitting season, if there even really is one in this golden state of sunshine, is officially over and yet I feel that I have never had my hands so full with knitting projects. Last week while knitting furiously to finish a swatch which I was working on in cotton, my yarn began sticking to my fingers and by the end of the swatch it was completely misshapen, a display of every tension imaginable, ironically causing more tension for me. I am finding that with this hot weather I am feeling incredibly inspired and desire to do so much than I have time for or am capable of, and yet I feel that I am completely unwilling to compromise in my standards when working on something. If only I could let some things be “not so good” I would have time for so much more, but that is just not how I tick. So now the ideas and projects are stacking up, literally and figuratively. Our poor living room is a disaster and I can hardly sleep at night because I am so full of ideas that I just don’t know where to begin and what to weed out.
I spent the majority of last week working on gauge swatches for new designs and ideas. What I thought would be only a few soon multiplied and I couldn’t even escape my creativity in the shower. At the same time, with a bustling garden and an amazing new kitchen I so desire to be cooking up a storm, trying new recipes and my desire to write has also increased dramatically. And none of this is even my “full-time” job. The Little Buckaroo, now 10 1/2 months old, started walking over a month ago, and we are just as busy as ever with play-dates baby gym, baby swimming, and backyard playtime. So where and how do I coax my energy; dedicate my very little spare time?
And then I heard this song. So, I hate to admit it (no, really, I do), I watch SMASH. Oh, the show is terrible. Just recently, in talking to my sister about it, I told her that I thought it was supposed to be satirical, as there is no way with acting, story, and dialog that bad they could really be taking themselves seriously. I assumed that because the show is about the development of a Broadway musical, that the content within the show was intended to closely reflect a real Broadway musical, in which, in my opinion, the acting, dialog and story lines are different from a television or movie drama. She informed me that I was quite wrong, and they do take themselves quite seriously. My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe it.
On this last week’s (terrible) show—oh the bad, and overacting, the super spelled-out, cliché, predictable storyline—one of the characters serenaded the other with a song by Billy Joel, Vienna. This song really resonated with me looking at it in a very literal way, one section in particular:
You got your passion, you got your pride
But don’t you know that only fools are satisfied?
Dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true (Oooh)
When will you realize… Vienna waits for you?
“Dream on” yup, I’m good at that part. It’s just that I like to imagine them all to come true, too. Yet, I know they won’t. Maybe this is why I am not willing to compromise my standards when I am working on something. If I know that I am not going to complete every single last thing that I want to do, then the things that I do do, I want to try to do as well as I can. And while I ping-pong in between my ideas, projects, cooking, gardening and parenting I feel that I am can be proud of the things that I am accomplishing, even if it is only a fraction of what I wish I had time to do. Dream on!
April 24, 2013 § 1 Comment
Another Fashion Friday post missed, but last week was a real doozie, and the week ended with a very special (surprise) dinner.
My husband always tries to downplay his birthday, with singing cake and gifts not in his preferences for the occasion. He desires for nothing more than to pass the day as just another. However, with this year’s passing his number of years ticking to one ending with a “0″ meant I couldn’t feign indifference and planned a surprise dinner party for last Friday evening with just a few folks that Ramon considers family. The theme for our festive event was “A Dinner Party at the Swiss Chalet” and I served all of the makings from a weeks worth of labor for Raclette followed by a desert of chocolate fondue with fruits. Raclette is a traditional Swiss cheese. Dating back hundreds of years to when shepherds tended their herds in the mountains of Switzerland. With limited supplies meals consisted of cheese which was melted by the fire and drizzled over potatoes and pickles. Today raclette can easily be served in the home with raclette grills which can fairly easily be found. Each individual in the dinner party uses their very own grilling tray. It is a little like “advanced” fondue.
I’ve only had raclette once before and it was made from delicious leftovers prepared by the best amateur chefs I know over a weeks time at a cabin up in Tahoe. I used the week leading up to the party, and Ramon’s birthday as an excuse to make tons of food so that once Friday arrived I would have very little to cook. I started planning weeks in advance, and with the Little Buckaroo in tow, I was fully prepared for my week-long culinary adventure, complete with budges and back-up plans just in case crabby pants wasn’t having any of it. I also knew that we would have a vegetarian at the party so I knew that all of my sauces or post-meat-grilling-pared-veggies would need to be handled in a way as to not be “contaminated” by non-vegetarian-friendly tools and ingredients. So, no well-seasoned-with-bacon-fat cast iron skillets, or reducing a sauce with reserved liquid from a cooking pan. Thank goodness I planned ahead and thought about this before beginning a single dish, or I would have had lots and lots of work on Friday to make a whole new set of dishes for our vegetarian guest. All I did all week was cook, and try to hide the evidence. On Friday Ramon had quite a wonderful surprise and we all had an amazing feast.
While the fruits of my labors were expected to result in many dishes for both herbivores and omnivores (and, if I am being honest, at least one carnivore) I didn’t expect to have so many left-overs from my left-overs but found myself happily cooking omelets on Saturday that took mere minutes from start to finish with mustard-seed crusted prime-rib, grilled green onions, seared bell sweet peppers, topped off with a creamy horseradish sauce. Delightful decadence that could never have come about just from getting raw ingredients out of the cabinet that morning. This started off what I am fondly calling: The Best Saturday of the Year (so far).
Later in the day I was able to sit-down and finish my Joan Tank, from the pattern Essential Tank by Wendy Bernhard published in Custom Knits, which I had also been plodding away on while plotting my work carefully. I started out with one huge skein of somewhere around 800 yards of yarn. Not a knot, or an end in the middle other than just the two to start and finish the skein. Feeling lucky that my ball winder was specifically made to handle “Jumbo” yarn masses I happily knit round and round up until the arm-hole. Now this yarn is slippery, mercerized cotton. Anyone who has ever knit cotton knows how difficult it can be not only to weave in the ends, but to do so in a way which makes them invisible on the right side of the garment.
Listed in bullets for other knitters who want clarity on my modifications, they were:
- So, my first modification to the pattern, even before I landed on the lace panel going up the middle, was to add a purl 1 through the back loop to create a faux side seam, giving me a place to hide the first end from the cast-on.
- Then I decided on the 36 stitch lace panel, finding the center 36 stitches and marking them out with stitch markers. I worked my side decreases and increases every 12 rows as it matched up with the transitions of my lace patterns and the length / number of rows and inches I wanted the piece to measure. I started the decreases for the waste after 36 rows. Immediately after finishing the 12th row of the 3rd decrease I began the increases.
- Working my way through the body I started to think about how to handle the armholes, and the neckline. I knew that I’d need an edging of some sort, and the pattern lists out very basic instructions, but they involved breaking the yarn and starting in again, creating two new, and I felt, unnecessary, ends.
- I knit 24 rows up the front which was one full chart of the lace pattern vertically, and worked the armhole decreases just as described in the pattern. I wanted to shorten the armhole and drop the neck.
- I did have to break the yarn for the top neckline to create the two sides, but I chose not to bind-off the stitches at the shoulder, and just left them on holders, each side of the neck was 26 rows. This created 2 more ends, so now we’re up to 3, total.
- Then I had to start in a across the back—1 more end— and work my way up just at the front for 28 rows, as opposed to 24 for the front. I would still need to break the yarn for the neckline, but had another plan for the shoulder and armhole binding/edging. Upon reaching the shoulder, I took the held stitches from the matching front piece, and with right sides together, working across the wrong side of the work I knit 2 together, and bound-off, leaving the working yarn, unbroken at the armhole side of the tank-top. Then, again without breaking the yarn, I started picking-up and knitting stitches down the armhole, and then back-up the other side, 112 stitches in total. I then worked 4 rows in 2×2 ribbing, and bound off in the stitch pattern
- Before starting work up the second side of the back neck I split the rest of the ball of yarn into two balls, and pulled a loop, and without breaking the yarn, started knitting. I worked all of the way up the last neck piece, and followed just as I had done before to bind-off the stitches together with the front side, and then, again without breaking the yarn picking up and knitting 112 stitches around the armhole in 2×2 ribbing for 4 rows.
- Taking the second attached ball of yarn from the base of the neckline on the back I picked up 140 stitches around the neckline and worked 4 rows in 2×2 rib stitch, then did the bind-off in the same stitch pattern.
In the end I wound up with a total of 8 ends to weave in as opposed to a minimum of 14 if I had broken the yarn before each edging/binding. Then I wove in approximately 10 inches of each end into either the faux seam, or the back-side of the picked up stitches for the armholes and neckline completely hiding the ends from the work. Hooray! Success!! My careful planning worked. Thought I knew that I might have a problem with the abundantly open lace-work on the front side of the tank. I had already decided to lower the neckline of the front, and shorten the armholes on both the front and the back. While I was carefully counting my rows as I started in on the back, I realized that the neck wouldn’t gape with the binding the way I was planning it, so if I lowered it, too, I wouldn’t have problems. The back is 4 rows higher than the front where the neckline begins, but they are still both low and don’t gape.
Nothing ever turns out how you expect that it will with a knitting project. No matter how many gauge swatches, tests, or blocking you do there is always something unexpected. This yarn was supposed to be for a completely different tank-top and it just wasn’t working out. I uncommitted and recommitted to something new, where I anticipated a lot of problems and planned carefully to work around them. I am glad I really thought about it, instead of just following along with the pattern. Serendipity comes in unexpected sizes. Yesterday I made myself a gluten free ham sandwich with brie cheese, ham cubes, dijon sauteed onions and shallots, gently toasted to perfection from unexpected left overs from my raclette and I stood eating it in the kitchen with a glass of home-made lemon-aide while wearing the my Essential Tank with the lace to the back, the unexpected way in which I prefer to wear it.
For those interested in my compelete menu for our surprise raclette dinner (links for those available included, though I do often make changes):
- Ropa Vieja
- Ropa Vieja peppers & tomatoes
- Paprika crusted pork tenderloin
- Paprika mayonnaise
- Braised Short Ribs
- Port Wine Braised Short Ribs Reduction Sauce
- Mustard Seed Crusted Prime Rib Roast
- Dijon Mustard & balsamic sauteed onions and shallots
- Creamy Horseradish Sauce
- Au jus
- Bourbon & Dijon Sauce
- Asparagus Tips
- Bacon Sprouts (Brussels Sprouts cooked in Bacon Fat, and served with Bacon)
- Seared Cauliflower
- Seared Bell Peppers
- Grilled Zucchini
- Sundried Tomatos
- Cubed Ham
- Red wine marinated mushrooms
- Sauteed Green Onions
- Pesto, made fresh from the Basil growing my garden
April 12, 2013 § 1 Comment
Yes, I freely admit that I took the photos for this weeks Fashion Friday over a month ago, but sometimes it is just about getting it done. I took these photos and meant to post them for my Fashion Friday two weeks ago, but that didn’t happen. Then last week it didn’t happen either. I tried, I really, really did, but just had so much going on that it just wasn’t meant to be. We’re starting to get a little more settled into our new home and are still working our butts of to baby-proof the construction areas. We have no boxes left in the house, cluttering up space, but there is still a lot of stuff in the basement and garage that needs to find its proper spot. My “desk” (my computer sitting on top of a bookcase) also still needs to find a “home” and this remains the most daunting of the unpacking tasks that remains. The last few days it has been quite warm out and my happy, flourishing garden has taken notice. Though, anyone in Northern California this past Monday experienced some super crazy winds, and my new dwarf orange tree, waiting for its permanent planting spot just as the cookbooks wait in the garage for a new little bookcase to arrive in our amazing new kitchen, suffered the worst of the damage of all of my fair little plants. The quite large pot was blown over and it lost its second largest limb. Sadly, I collected it after cutting the remaining threads that attached it to the trunk, and Ramon asked, sadly, “There was no way to put a splint on it?” No, no there was not. I stuck in in a mug by the front window hoping that something will happen and for those sweet smelling little leaves to unfurl, but deep down I know that its fate is die. Such in the opposite trend of the season.
Spring is definitely here! I am knitting away as fast as I can, which just isn’t very fast due to lots of work even with long days. I am really enjoying the very few spring knits that I have made, but I am dying for more. My Rokocella tank-top as a new staple. The furled edges of the beautifully draped neckline in this clever top have constantly searching for more of that yarn to make another, but alas the yarn is unobtainium. Though even with my knitting going slowly I am still trying to get some new things made, and even some things fixed. I brought out my sewing machine this morning to fix the dust ruffle on the baby’s crib, and quickly learned that sewing is something he really, REALLY wants to participate in, and then I experienced his first full blown tantrum when I enforced our “no playing with cords” rule. Sad camper. There will be a time and a place but I need to have a better small spot in the house where he can’t pull on cords for the foot and power, and better place to put the machine than on the dinning room table that we’re trying to sell. I have a non-sewing, non-knitting project I’d like to get underway for next week though. Trying to turn my lemons into lemonade here, which, is something I am constantly doing with the lemons from our still-bursting-with-lemons tree in that beautiful new kitchen.
April 10, 2013 § 1 Comment
Things have been slow going around here in the creative department. I’ve missed my last to Fashion Friday posts, and I am feeling very overwhelmed about the amount of work on the house that remains to be done. At the very end of the day when I sit down to enjoy a glass of wine, or sleep I just don’t have the energy for, well, anything. In fact, one night in the last week I just watched 45 minutes of TV, and that was it. No knitting, looking at patterns, yarn ball winding, plotting of my next sewing project. Just 45 minutes of mind-melting television. Ugh! What has become of me?
I am exhausted. It’s that simple. Just completely exhausted. Within 3 days over Easter weekend the Little Buckaroo took his first steps, said his first word, got his second tooth, and barfed carrots in the pool at his swimming lesson. He’s only 9 months old, and he is just so busy, and so social that when he is awake—which is pretty much all day—he requires a full time entertainer. I am sure that anyone else in my shoes would be exhausted, too. I am lucky to have a baby that sleeps solid all night long, but when you’re so busy during the day, come 10 pm your energy is depleted too. With the dark cloud of house projects looming overhead, and this feeling of being utterly overwhelmed it is hard to feel the creativity flowing (in between 10:00 pm and 10:15 pm when I fall asleep). In addition to the baby and the house projects there is all of the day to day: dinner to make dinner to make, new hardwood floors to sweep and mop, a sexy black granite counter-top that deserves nothing but the best, laundry, more laundry, crazy cats that also want attention … OH! There is also my first real garden, planted and growing. I seem to be having a pretty serious problem though. The tomato plants I started from seeds are growing beautifully, so are the squash and the water-mellon plants. My new sunflower, carrot, radish and beet seeds are also sprouting. My strawberry plants are already showing signs of life, and my very first home-grown strawberry is almost ripe. I have my blackberry and raspberry bushes planted with trellises. I even have a garden cart that has folding down metal sides and can hold up to 750 lbs, regardless if there is no way to actually pull that much weight. So, what could be the problem? One grosse, slimy word: Snails.
Zucchini, yellow onions, and my huge, blooming sage bush
Snails! Where to they all come from? They’re slow, sticky and I don’t want anything to do with them. Yet, in the time it takes me to go and fetch an instrument of removal they’ve gone 10 feet across my garden, and multiplied. Slow, they’re supposed to be slow. Snails are specifically known for their slowness. They eat your plants and make a huge mess of things and there seems to be no way to get rid of them. I leave out snail bait. I put my plants in undesirable snail areas. I “remove” them when I find them. I feel like I see so many of them that I they are starting to haunt me.
My precious Green Globe artichoke plant, minus all snails for the moment
My current knitting project even has snails on my mind, too. A couple of weeks ago I started the Shell Tank from Knitting Nature by Norah Gaughan. I slowly creeped through almost the entire back piece of the top and realized that it just wasn’t going well. I must have measured my gauge 87 times, and everything always came out to 23 stitches per inch, instead of the specified 21. So, why the hell was it so big? I looked at the measurements and decided that my real error was in picking this pattern to begin with. I have a nasty habit of starting a project without reading through the entire pattern first. The pattern is written well, that’s not the problem. It is the sizing. The bust measurement on the smallest size is 36 inches, which would mean over 4 inches of ease on me. While I haven;t taken loads of sewing and fashion classes (yet) I still know that 4 inches of ease in the bust for a garment like this one is just too much. Way too much, in fact. The top is knit from the bottom up, and starts out wider, decreasing towards the bust. So, instead of having waist shaping the top has extra ease for style added in. Well, in the picture with the model it doesn’t look like she has 40 inches of fabric around her 24 inch waist does it. I wanted a flattering tank, not a fattening tank. So, after working on it for a week, well the toads were a-croakin and started leaping over to my snail knitting pace and the back piece was completely frogged (ripped-out). My huge yarn-ball awaiting a new spring or summer knitting project.
That morning during a brief Little Buckaroo napping session, before painting some window trim, and after loading the dishwasher I flipped through my freshly liberated knitting books, delighted to see the light of day after spending 3 1/2 months in moving boxes, and came across Wendy Bernard’s Essential Tank from Custom Knits. Wendy lives in Southern California. I met her at Vogue Knitting Live Los Angeles a year and a half ago. She is a delightful woman and writes delightful patterns, many of which are not only not only appropriate for our California climate but also really suit my personal style. Her books was a go-to for this yarn, as I have just over 800 yards and that is all I will ever be able to get. Upon flipping to the page with the Essential Tank pattern I realized that I really, really wanted to make a tank-top as I just had so much fun with my Rokochella and really wanted to continue in the same spirit. No matter how you slice it, I will not run out of yarn (I truly hope I haven’t just jinxed myself), it’s cute, it’s simple, it is super easy to modify and my gauge was dead on. I never even noticed this pattern before. Done in the round, from the bottom up, shown in a sort of cement color it is a beautiful blank canvas that I overlooked. She has so many cute sweaters this one just didn’t have any pop until I had the right yarn for the project.
I cast on and quickly finished the ribbing, stitches were just flying off my needles. Well, I wanted them to be flying, I even pretended they were, but they were just sort of coming and going. I was excited about the project, the potential! Simple two by two ribbing, so, why did it seem a little slow? Once I got past the ribbing I got to the meat of the project, round after round working my way up to the armholes where then the project would be divided and front and back knit separately. I didn’t feel attached to the beautiful but simple ribbing covering the length of the front of the tank. On Ravelry some other Knitters (with a capital K) replaced this vertical style element with pretty cables or little lace patterns. There has been a pattern in Vogue Knitting Stitctionary 5: Lace Knitting that I have loved forever and have been looking for somewhere to implement this 34 stitch wide, by 24 row high (repeated) beauty: #115 Classic Frost Flowers. In the spirit of spring, and having just completed planting all of my plants and seeds in the garden I thought that embracing frost flowers was a natural progression. I counted my stitches and got my new, wider center panel centered and away I went. The chart was very surprisingly easy to memorize, I changed my decreases and increases for the side shaping to correlate perfectly with the flow of the chart so virtually no thinking was required for completing them yet this super simple tank top, taking oh so little yarn is just dragging on and on and on … After a week and a half I finally reached the level where I divide the front and the back at the armholes.
About 6 weeks ago which was about the time that I bought this yarn at Stitches West, I received an email pertaining to Vogue Knitting Live in Seattle. I noticed quite an increase of Vogue Knitting emails timed around Stitches West. Coincidence? I think not. The particular email that I am recalling made mention of a “Speed Knitting” competition at the Vogue Knitting Live Seattle Event. Oh how this got my heart all aflutter. I think I am a speedy knitting, but I know that I am not speedy compared so some others. I can hold my own with a pair of knitting needles though. Before the baby was born, when I was still knitting English style (2-3 seconds per stitch) I could still complete a sweater in a week. After learning to knit Continental style I only got faster and faster, though I had to work on improving my tension to regain my “machine-knit” look in my work. Currently I can easily knit through 200 yards a day, if I have the time and the energy, and can have knit up to 325 yards in a day, though I must not be disturbed in the process. We’re talking straight stockinette (in the round) or garter (flat).
Hearing about the Speed Knitting competition made my imagination go wild. I told Ramon about it, and interested, he started asking questions, “Does everyone knit the same thing, using the same tools?” I didn’t know, and still don’t, but must assume so. Ramon, almost as wide eyed as myself said it sounded like fun, and maybe I should try to go. I quickly turned down the idea. At the time I didn’t know how, or when the move would go and I have that fabulous Little Buckaroo, in need of a full time entertainer. The trip would be two plane tickets, a hotel, and being gone between 1 and 3 days. It wouldn’t be fair to leave the little guy, or Ramon all alone in charge for who knows how many days, especially after he had worked so hard on our new house, and not knowing what state our living situation would be in or if we would have even moved yet. I told Ramon, “I’d really, really love to. Even if I couldn’t participate, and I doubt I would be competitive, just to see what the other magic needle workers can do. Another time, another year. I am sure that there will be another chance.”
Well, Vogue Knitting Live in Seattle came and went this past weekend. The pictures on their facebook page elude to a lot of fun. I can find no mention of the competition, but I already know that this was not my year to try to participate, especially when the thing that I am knitting on now is going so damn slow! As I knit along at a snails pace, I knew that adding in the lace would add some time, but this seems ridiculous. I thought I was a speedy knitter, but we all need to be humbled sometimes. I just didn’t realize that this was the project to do it.
However, as I am learning, snails aren’t particularly slow. The myth a fallacy, they are speedy little slim-balls, especially when you’re trying to protect your precious artichoke plant. I brought up the snails with my mom the other day, another soul not so interested in theirs. She also commented on their sneaky speed and I told her that I tossed them out left and right, applied the snail bait and there always seem to be more. She replied, “Well, have you seen my fish tank?” It all started with only one snail. No one even knows how it got there, but there was only one and it was removed. Now, there are thousands. No matter how many you pluck out of that tiny fish tank, thousands more pop up in their place.
My tank top may be taking a while but I’m getting their with quantity. The slowness could also have to do with the fact that I am working with sport weight mercerized cotton which requires many my favorite hand lotion—Unicorn Farts—applied liberally at bedtimes. But stitch after stitch it’s getting there. The lace is beautiful, I love it, though I know I will have to wear another tank-top underneath it, and because of the slow going I have noticed that the yarn has a super subtle hit of yellow in it which I could only see after about 10 thousand stitches had been completed. Sleepy, exhausted and overwhelmed by the house projects I approach the tank-top every night. Where originally there was just one ball of weaving yarn, never intended for hand-knitting, I am creating something beautiful from thousands of my stitches. I often think of our house as Humpty Dumpty and we’re putting it back together again, a million little pieces to create one
house home. While it may be overwhelming and a lot of work it will be well worth it, just as it will be well worth the continued battle on the slimy mono-peds in my backyard.
Oh my God, if those snails get my very first strawberry though, I am going to go Rambo on their asses.