Friday, April 27, 2007


As I was tidying up the stash closet today, I came across this:

Know what it is? This is what I used to use to wind skeins into balls before I got my beloved ball winder and swift from my beloved husband as a gift last Christmas. I made it out of my kids' TinkerToys. I would sit on the sofa with this thing between my knees and hold it in place by resting my legs on the edges. Then I would put my feet on an ottoman, spread them apart, and drape a skein over my toes. I would unwrap the skein with one hand while turning the crank with the other. Not comfortable, I'll admit, but it was very entertaining for others to watch.

But did it work?--you ask. Judge for yourself:

One beautiful (if somewhat loosely-wound) center-pull ball.

Knitters are nothing if not ingenious. Wanna see my drop spindle?

Thursday, April 26, 2007


It says a lot about my to-do list for today that I found it absolutely necessary to scrub all the toilets in the house before tackling it. In fact, I also brushed the dogs' teeth, groomed them both, did the laundry, and dusted and vacuumed the entire house. And you can rest assured that "knitblog" is nowhere on that list, yet here I am.

So, since procrastination seems to be the magic word for today, I thought I would share with you my newest acquisition from the De-stash site.

This is my second purchase. You can see the first here. This is hand-dyed spun silk, and to be fair, it wasn't actually for sale on the site, but when I contacted the owner to inquire about a different skein, she mentioned that she had this, and voila! I love the internet. I love the postal service. I love UPS. In fact, I love everything that helps to feed my insatiable hunger for all things soft and beautiful (yarn-wise, of course).

There's about 400 yards of heavy worsted here. I'm thinking another camisole. What do you think?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ooooooh, Preeeetty!

This is my new love:

It's green. It's sparkly. It's lace. What's not to love?

Despite the close resemblance, this is not another Spring Fever Cami. This is...a secret. But I think it's going to be beautiful. The yarn is (as usual) far prettier in person, and the design is decidedly sexy. But you'll have to wait to see the finished product.

I know what you're thinking: what about Orange? Is this a clandestine affair? Is Orange quietly waiting at home, holding down the fort, wondering what's keeping me away so long? Don't misunderstand: I love Orange. Orange is good, solid, warm wool. No sparkle or lace there. Orange will keep me comfortable in cool weather and will undoubtedly be a faithful companion for years and years and years. But Orange is a fall sweater. And Sparkly is youthful and spring green. Sparkly makes me feel happy and light. I'll go back to Orange. Soon. I will. But for now, Sparkly is just what I need.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Just Wondering

Forgive me. There is no knitting content in this post. There is nothing fun or entertaining either. I'm not even sure why I'm writing this, or whether I'll actually post it, but it's after midnight and I am sitting here wondering whether my life has been a waste.

My seven-year-old said something today that cut me to the bone. He was getting ready for school, the first day after Spring Break, and he told me that I'm lucky I don't have to go to school or work. I pointed out that I do have to work; my work is at home. And he said, "Yeah, but you don't DO anything." I started to explain that I do lots of stuff, like laundry and cleaning and shopping and cooking and gardening and taking care of people...and then I realized that nothing on my list means anything to anybody. I'm not changing the world; I'm not making any real contribution.

I always thought I'd do important things. I am very ambitious and have an impressive education. I was on a successful, high-profile sort of career path when I decided to have kids. For what I thought were very good reasons, I gave up my career and stayed home when my first child was born. That first baby--oh, my god, it was like a hand grenade landed in the middle of my life. I had no idea how dramatically my life would change. I think I was in shock for most of the first year. It wasn't just my career that disappeared. It was my identity, my freedom, my friends, my whole life. Of course my husband's life changed, too. But it's not the same. He still went to work every day, still had lunch breaks and adult conversation, still got a paycheck every week and occasional kudos for a job well done. But I stayed at home, day after day, with only a demanding potato for company, and nothing to do but change diapers and nurse and clean things, with never a moment entirely to myself. I think it took about five years before I really adjusted to the idea of being a mother, and only a mother.

And I'm happy, as a rule. I have a great husband and two terrific kids. I have friends and live in a neighborhood I like. There are no major crises in my life. But every day of my life, I live with the private question of whether I made the right choice. Is it really worth giving up my whole life to raise kids? Is there anything they can ever do as adults that will justify my retreating from the world to have them? What about my contribution to the world--the one I didn't make? A lot of resources went into producing me; shouldn't something more come of that than just two more people? Yeah, I know my life isn't over. In theory, I could still do something else of value. But we all know that's not really true. I gave up my spot on the career ladder when I jumped on the mommy track. Even if someone wanted to hire me, and I were willing to start over, ten years behind the power curve, what would happen to my family if I just said, "Mom's going to work; see you in ten hours"? (Or "Bye--going back to Russia, see you in a year"?) I don't think you can have it all, at least not all at the same time. I have kids. That's not going to change. And anything else I try to do will always be subordinate to them.

Most of the time, I just ignore the running commentary in my head, and I've never talked about it out loud to anyone. I don't know what it says about me that I have to turn to the anonymity of the blogosphere to examine this most private and fundamental question. But my son's innocent comment is keeping me awake tonight, and I don't know where else to go. I know he didn't say it to be mean and he wasn't trying to hurt my feelings; he said it because it's what he really believes. That's why it hurts so much. I can ignore any number of nasty, angry comments directed my way because a child isn't getting his way. I don't care if he screams "I hate you!" because I won't let him do something I know isn't good for him. I don't react at all to being told I'm mean when I force a kid to eat vegetables or clean his room. But this comment is much more disturbing, because it means that all those parts of myself I gave up to raise kids have made me seem lacking to them. What an irony. I can't very well tell them, "Hey, you should have seen me before I had you. I was a really cool person. But then you came along and sucked the life out of me, and, well, this is what you get."

Even at the worst moments of parenting, I always figured it was at least worthwhile. You know, you don't get paid, you don't get commendations, you aren't valued in the eyes of society, but at least you know it's important. For the first time tonight, though, I'm wondering if maybe the reason no one seems to value the work of raising kids is because it's really not all that valuable. Childhood is only a short period of a person's life. Maybe it really doesn't matter if it's spent in day care. Maybe being home with Mom is overrated. Maybe the net benefit is greater if Mom turns the kids over to a competent caregiver who can watch twenty kids at a time and just goes on with her life and career.

Not that it matters for me. I made my choice. I'm okay with it, and I'll go on living with it. I'm just wondering.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Family Jewels

I sometimes joke that the only thing I ever inherited from my family is my big butt. That's not entirely accurate: I also got the red hair, and a set of great salt and pepper shakers. But my family has never been wealthy, and most things got used until they just plain wore out. A couple of weeks ago, though, my mother was cleaning out her garage, and I got this.

This was my great-grandmother's sewing machine, purchased from Montgomery Ward in the early 1930s. She used it to make clothing and household items for herself and several kids for years and years. Then her daughter (my great-aunt) used it for more years and years. They were frugal people, these women, and they valued what they had. They saved the warranty card and the instruction manual. They kept all the accessories neatly in their original cardboard box. Every single thing that came with this machine is still there.

I guess they didn't have the money for a sewing machine case, so my great-aunt made this cover to protect the machine from dust when it wasn't in use, which apparently wasn't very often.

My mother, who spent a fair amount of her childhood in the little house where my great-grandmother, and then her unmarried son and unmarried daughter, spent their entire lives, remembers this sewing machine in almost constant use on its little table in the bedroom my great-grandmother and great-aunt shared until my great-grandmother died. My mother also learned to sew, and made many of her own clothes, and later clothes and toys for her five children as well.

After my great-grandmother's death, my great-aunt and her brother remained in the house, where they raised chickens and grew their own fruits and vegetables, and my great-aunt sewed. My great-uncle died in the 1980s, and my great-aunt lived on in the house for another 15 years, alone. When she died, in her 80s, my mother was left to clean out and sell the little house. There wasn't much of value. My great-aunt lived a spartan life. But my mother kept some things that had sentimental value to her, including this sewing machine.

Now it's mine. I have never owned a sewing machine, because of my well-documented adversarial relationship with them. They frighten me. They are noisy and they move too fast. I get spooked by the noise and speed and end up stepping down too hard on the pedal, which causes them to attack, grab the fabric, and viciously chew it up and spit it out. If I am lucky, I manage to get my fingers out of the way in time. I'm usually not lucky.

But I think this time might be different. When I touch this machine, it's like stepping back in time. I feel connected to these women before me: my great-grandmother, my great-aunt, my mother. Three generations of women who used this machine. I am the fourth. Surely something of them must remain in the screws and gears of this machine. Surely their spirits will watch over me and guide my hands when I use it.

So I'm taking the plunge. I have it set up. I've read the manual. I have some scrap fabric. Wish me luck.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Split Personality

As promised, here is a picture of the completed Split-Personality Cardigan, with zipper.

I tried--really tried--to get a good picture to show off the colors. But I just can't get good pictures of dark colored yarn. I've tried indoor flash, indoor overhead light, natural outdoor light, outdoor shade with flash, standing on my head, and nothing seems to work. You'll just have to take my word for it that this is prettier in person than in the photo.

As for the zipper, kudos to Zipperstop! They had a wide array of colors to choose from and custom cut my zipper to exactly the length I needed. And I got it three days after placing my order online. How cool is that?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Not Your Daddy's Orange

I've never been a fan of orange. In fact, I've never really thought of it as a color at all; it's more of a punch line. Red's ugly stepsister. The color of that ill-conceived 70s shag carpet, and the wide-lapel polyester leisure suit my husband was wearing in that high school picture I've been holding over his head for years. I own nothing orange. Not clothing, not home decor, not even kids' toys.

So explain this:

I LOVE this. I love that it is smooth, boring stockinette. I love that it is DK weight and taking roughly an hour per centimeter to knit. And I love that it is orange. It is not pumpkin or rust or terra cotta, no matter what the designers call it. Let's just see it for what it is: ORANGE.

There is something about this color that compels me to keep knitting and knitting and knitting it, with periodic pauses to smooth it across my lap and pet the soft stitches with an affection and fascination usually reserved for cashmere or spun silk.

Until I was 30, black was my favorite color. Even as a three-year-old, I only wanted to wear black. After my second son was born, I abruptly fell in love with the color red. It is a love affair that has continued for several years now, and has invaded every aspect of my life, from my clothing to my car to my house to my garden.

And now this. Orange. Is this personal growth, or just another horrible abberrant phase--like tongue piercing?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Four and a Half

That's how many sleeves I knit to make this simple cardigan. I also knit two different body ribbings and five sleeve ribbings in all. And I changed the design twice during the knitting. I call this my split-personality sweater, for obvious reasons. As you can see, it still needs a zipper. I am waiting for a custom one from Zipperstop. (It's a good world when you can order a custom zipper.)

The yarn is Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted in Baltic Sea. These pictures do not show the color accurately. It is a dark green/brown/mauve combination. This took a bit less than eight skeins. The size is 36 (tall). Once I put in the zipper, I will try to get a better picture.

Eight skeins hand-dyed merino: $114

One 19" double pull zipper: $7.95

One completed cardigan from the abandoned projects shelf: priceless.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Yesterday, while working my way through the morning blog posts, I came across the news that this online yarn store was having a huge sale. I immediately abandoned my reading (I know you other bloggers will understand and forgive me) and clicked the link, digging for my credit card with one hand and scrolling with the other. Imagine my delight when I saw many, many, many yarns that I have lusted after, all on sale at half off, or better! I began frantically clicking "Add to Cart" while trying to keep my salivation in check and wondering how I could possibly hide the arrival of a truckload of yarn from my husband. But alas, my dreams of burying myself in a closet full of spun silk and cashmere were not to be: EVERYTHING was sold out!

I'm sure there are those of you out there who are reading this smugly while you finger your new Alpaca Silk in burgundy, but for those, like me, who learned of this great boon too late, you have my condolences.

However, there is no great loss that is not balanced by some small gain. This came in the mail today:

My photographic abilities are severely limited, I admit. But it is a truly lovely blue-green-cream sort of confection, shot through with thin gold threads. I own nothing like it. And just look how pretty it is with my hair!

I got it from this knitter, who has been destashing. I don't know exactly what I'm going to do with it yet, but I have some ideas. I'll keep you posted!

After my frogging marathon the other day, I began to feel a bit sorry (okay, guilty) about those unfinished and now partially dismembered projects awaiting sleeves and yokes, so I picked up an unfinished project that started out as a summer jacket from a long-ago issue of Knitter's magazine. But after I switched the light silk yarn to a dark wool, changed the gauge, and altered the pattern, I decided I didn't like it. Add to that the two sleeves in different sizes, and it's been languishing on the UFO shelf for...a while.

I frogged the sleeves and originally intended to just re-knit them and finish the thing. But then, I decided I didn't like the ribbing on the new (and completed) sleeve. And I didn't like the ribbing on the old (and completed) body. But you know, you can't frog from the cast on end, and the ribbing was at the beginning, and really, I'd had enough frogging for one day. So I thought about it for a while. And a light went on. I'm sure many, many other knitters before me have figured this out, but I've never seen the technique anywhere. If you take a knitting needle, and you thread it through just one side of each stitch all the way across your piece, just above where you want to remove part of the beginning of your work, until you have each stitch secured on the needle, you can CUT OFF THE BEGINNING OF THE WORK, leaving live stitches which you can then work downward. It's like a provisional cast on after the fact!

Look, I'll show you:

First, you weave the needle through the work, picking up only one "leg" of each stitch. This puts the needle in the "loop" of the stitch. I believe, if you are planning to start on the right side and work down, you want to pick of the first leg of each stitch, and if you want to start on the wrong side and work down, you should pick up the second leg of each stitch, but don't quote me on that.

Once you have the needle woven through every stitch (Count them. Count them twice.), you take your scissors and cut ONE ROW BELOW where your needle is, being very, very careful not to cut any of the loops that are on the needle. Pick out any loose bits (there will be lots), and voila:

You have live stitches on the needle, ready to be knitted downward.

Just think of the implications: If you make a sleeve or body too long (or too short), or your kid's arms grow overnight, or you want to change the ribbing on a finished item, or...well, you get the idea. Now, as with the provisional cast on, you probably only want to do this if you are going to work the bottom part in a different stitch pattern, since this part of the work will be "upside down" compared to the rest of the piece. You would see the transition if you were working both sections in plain stockinette, for example. But in a pinch, where you can decide what sort of stitch to use, this could be a really useful technique.

As for the cardigan, it's almost done now, and completely unidentifiable as the summer jacket I originally had in mind.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Before and After

Here's how I spent my knitting time today:



The damage?
--Two cardigan sleeves that I inexplicably knitted on different size needles. And neither of them fit. I will reknit them and try again. Someday.
--A half-completed white and beige cotton sweater. Note to self: white and beige do not go together. It's gone.
--The entire top of my Ariann. I had completed, sewn up, added a collar, woven in the ends, washed, blocked, and reinforced the buttonholes, all in complete denial of the fact that this thing could not possibly fit anyone who walks upright. In adjusting the pattern to accomodate a thicker yarn, I somehow neglected to account for the extra length I would get in the yoke. Since I'm not personally acquainted with any orangutans, I cut off the collar (fuzzy novelty yarn--no change of frogging. I tried.) and frogged to the beginning of the yoke.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I need to go lie down.

Friday, April 6, 2007


My husband is a terrific guy. The best. He's a great husband, a wonderful father, has a unique sense of humor, is incredibly generous, works hard, and cooks (you'd have to understand how much I dislike cooking to really appreciate that). But when it comes to my knitting, he's...less than enthusiastic. His interest level in knitting is about the same as my interest level in tires. So today, when he walked in and saw me knitting this,

you can imagine how astounded I was when he stopped dead in his tracks and exclaimed: "Wow! What are you making? It's beautiful!" I looked at him, carefully scanning for signs of sarcasm. I mean, this man has seen me knit complex arans, intricate lace, and socks (which, for someone with my spatial orientation problems, is nothing short of miraculous) without so much as a grunt of interest. Finding no evidence of lack of sincerity, and tentatively deciding he might be serious, I cautiously pointed out that it was twelve rows of garter stitch in dk weight merino, and not really all that interesting.

"Yeah," he answered with enthusiasm worthy of a cheerleader, "but it's ORANGE!"

Who knew?

Thursday, April 5, 2007

On the Fence

Usually, I'm a love-it-or-hate-it kinda gal. There's not a whole lot of middle ground in my opinions. And usually, this attitude extends to my knitting. Start a project, love it and keep going, hate it and rip it (or bury it in the bottom of the yarn closet and pretend I have no idea how it got there--"That superbulky blood-red acrylic chenille bikini? No idea. Maybe the knitting fairy left it behind.")

But this time, I am truly undecided. After the Spring Fever Cami (and thank you for the kind comments--I've tried to respond to you individually, but generally I can't seem to figure out how to get email out to you), I was really riding high on the euphoria of the three-day project, so I started this:

Yes, I realize some explanation is in order. I needed a new project . I really don't like having multiple projects on the needles at once. I find it stressful, because I'm a little compulsive about finishing things, and knitting is supposed to be relaxing. So usually I just have one bigger project, to work on at home, and one pair of socks, to carry around in my purse for all those waiting times that are so ubiquitous in a mom's life.

Anyway, I really wanted to start this (from the RYC Cafe book):

because the last four projects I've done were my own designs (which take a fair bit of effort) and I wanted a simple pattern of with lots of boring stockinette and soft, smooth yarn to just veg out with. But the yarn hadn't arrived. So, I headed to the stash. Now, there is a lot of good yarn in the stash. But there's also some yarn that's been there so long, you start to feel sorry for it. This plain white cotton has been languishing for years. I don't really like knitting with cotton, because it makes my wrists hurt, and I don't really like white because it's so...white. So I found another reject in this outlandish blue-teal-gold sparkly, fuzzy novelty yarn, and I thought, what the heck.

Summer is almost here in Southern California, and since summer lasts for nine months, I can always use another sleeveless cotton top. I was going for a fitted, ribbed, stand-up collar polo sort of thing. But you know, I'm just not feeling it. The size is good, the shape is good, the funky eyelash with the classic cotton is the sort of quirky knitting joke that makes me chuckle every time I see it...but I'm not in love. Still, it is half done. It would only take a few hours to whip up the back, sew them together, and make up a collar.

But of course, the yarn for the Rowan sweater arrived today. And I hear the siren's song...

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Spring Has Sprung

Presenting: The Spring Fever Cami

Size: 36A

Materials: A little more than three balls of Rowan All-Seasons Cotton in color 159.