Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sad News

I'm sorry to report that my mother in law Celia (whom I mention in the the previous post) passed away a week ago.

She was suffering from leukemia.
Last spring she experienced a remission and we were able to have 8 additional months together, but the disease was too much for her.

All her 6 children and several grandchildren were with her when she passed away.

I just got back from 2 weeks in NYC where we spent several days in the ICU, and then attending the funeral and observing the 7 day mourning period.

Here are my fave pictures of her, taken when we took her to Australia in January to meet her great granddaughter.

She will be missed.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Adventures of a Prodigal Knitter - Part 2


Although I always had a pair of socks on the needles, I yearned for larger, more substantial projects. When I learned that my son and his wife were about to buy a house, I decided that an afghan would be a great housewarming present. After all it was literally there for warming you up!
I pored over patterns by the dozens. There were so many criteria -- not too simple, not too complicated. Not too old-fashioned, not too boring. No sewing up of endless squares. I wanted it to be interesting for me to knit, and attractive for them to enjoy using. I thought it should be wool, since acrylics are never as warm as wool. It needed to be machine washable, since I couldn’t see washing a great big blanket by hand.
I finally found a pattern I liked. I asked my daughter-in-law to choose the colors, I ordered Cascade 220 Superwash in 2 coordinating colors – a warm terra cotta red and a deep gold - and away I went.

I had a few bumps along the way— I ran out of yarn and had to order more. I found that due to changing tension over time (the work went on for 6 months), I had a trapezoid and not a rectangle, and had to partially re-knit it.
In the end it was about 45” by 72” -- huge!

What I learned: Knitting an afghan that uses 10 balls of Cascade 220 means 2200 yards of knitting, or over 150,000 stitches. That is a ton of work! I don’t think I’ll do that again anytime soon.

After knitting several lacy socks without incident, I thought I’d go for the ultimate – a lace shawl. I chose the Seascape Shawl, from had 5 skeins of a fuzzy mohair yarn which looked as though it should work for this pattern. It’s a really lovely blue-lilac color, like hydrangeas or blue hyacinth. The Seascape pattern was less fussy, and more tailored, than a lot of lace shawls and seemed like a good bet for my first lace shawl. Mohair is really hard to unravel so I had to get this right.Also, inspired by someone’s version on Ravelry, I decided to add beads: some at the edges, and one in the center of each motif. So, it was my first beaded project as well.Might I add, the mohair was really hairy and got all over my clothes and even up my nose when I worked. I had to stop working on it an hour before I went to bed or else I’d sneeze and cough when I was trying to get to sleep.

Anyway, my mother-in-law was staying with us for a while, so I decided I would make it for her. She is always complaining that she’s cold, even here in Los Angeles, so this might help.She used to knit but doesn’t anymore, so at least she would appreciate the work that was going into it. There were some errors near the beginning, but then I decided to obsessively put stitch markers every 10 stitches and keep counting that there were exactly 10 stitches between markers. Once I did that, there were no more errors.

I was a bit anxious if my hard-to-please mother-in-law would like it.
Well ---She did. I wrapped in tissue and put it in a box, so she would have a nice "gift opening" experience. When she saw it, she said "how pretty".
Then she said it must have been a lot of work.
Then she wore it the rest of the evening.
Half-joking, I told her I would keep the temperature of the house low so she would *have* to wear it (because she's totally the type who would put it away and save it for a "special occasion").
My MIL has done a lot for me over the years, not the least of which was looking after my baby boy so that I could go back to work. So I was happy that I could do something nice for her.
What I learned: Knitting can be very rewarding, both for the knitter and her loved ones.

So, where does that leave me?
I absolutely love knitting, and with a new baby granddaughter, I have plenty of new patterns in my Ravelry queue, and lots of new challenges ahead. There’s entrelac, and fair-isle, and lace-weight, and double-knitting ….. I have even started designing, and I have sold several designs. Check out the Crayon Pocket Cardigan on Ravelry.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Adventures of a Prodigal Knitter - Part 1

Why the prodigal knitter? Well, I returned to knitting in 2007 after a 20 year absence. The story of how that happened is discussed in my blog post, The Slowest Knitter in History. To quickly recap, I found a knitting bag with knitting in it that had been lost and abandoned 20 years ago, misplaced during a move, and finally rediscovered. I obtained a copy of the original pattern on eBay, and continued to knit the sweater, completing it one month later, 20 years after it was first cast on.
What I learned: Knitting is timeless, and muscle memory really exists.

So, buoyed by my success, I wondered what to knit next. An online friend had just started knitting for the first time, and she was knitting socks.
Socks were scary – those little pointy needles, that mysterious way they curve at the heel – no way was a beginner like her tackling socks! Well, the long-dormant competitive streak in me emerged. If she could do it, then I certainly could!
She kindly emailed me links to instructions on using 2 circular needles, a free basic sock pattern, and an article called Sock Anxiety. I ordered my 2 circs, and away I went.
I am a totally self-taught knitter, so I was fine to roll up my sleeves and embark on this new challenge. The mystery of turning the heel revealed itself to me, and my first socks turned out OK, although the colors were awfully bright…
What I learned: Knitting socks isn’t that hard, if you can follow instructions.

The bright self striping yarn in green, teal blue, purple, and hot pink was fun to knit with, but kind of bright in the finished product – the kind of socks a circus clown would use to complete his outfit.
What I learned: Just because you can knit something, doesn’t mean you should knit it.
Luckily my sister was happy to take them off my hands.

From there, I was hooked and turned out many more pairs of socks – top-down, toe-up, 2-at-a-time, even some off-the-wall Cat Bordhi designs. There was:
- A nice pair in mauve, pink, and beige, which turned out too big, so I gave them to my son.
- Another pair was also in self patterning yarn, and I chose a lace pattern.
Yes, you guessed it – the lace pattern and the self striping sock yarn were fighting it out. And I don’t know which was the winner.
What I learned: Not every sock yarn goes with every sock pattern. There’s actually an art to matching the right yarn to the right pattern.

Around this time, a friend told me about felting – a whole new adventure !! So I turned out a bunch of large and small felted bags in different styles and with various embellishments. They made great gifts.

What I learned: All that loose fuzz can damage your washing machine. I decided to slow down on the felting projects before the machine broke down in protest.

(to be continued)