Friday, April 27, 2007

Ready for Something New

Isn't it nice to complete a project? This little Log Cabin for a boy baby is ready to be wrapped. This pattern was not planned; I simply let it evolve. The border is deep blue, and nearly surounds the blanket, but at opposite corners, leaves a bit of the other colors as the edge.
I tried, for the first time, going around a corner when I was picking up stitches for the border. I believe I was successful. Here is what I did: first, I simply picked up all the stitches. Then on the next pass around the corner, I did a three stitch short row - that is, I passed the corner, turned the work, knitted three in the other direction, turned the work again, and knitted on to the end of the row. Then, on the next two passes, I increased a stitch when I came to the corner, choosing one stitch to knit into the front and back of, before going on to the end of the row. In this way, I made more stitches at that particular point in the border, so as the border grew, the number of stitches also grew, and getting around the corner did not pull the border, but allowed it to lie flat. I may be able to do without the short row, and simply add more stitches. I bound off on the narrower side a couple of rows before binding off on the other side. As this was a first try, it is imperfect; but it gives me some ideas to work with next time.

You can see in this close-up of the back, below, that the seams are pretty much flat. It works for baby things, I think; however, in my woolen blankets (for adults), I rather like the more well-defined seaming that the ridges create. It is akin, in my mind, to the back of entrelac which is truly marvelous to see. Obviously, it can be the creator's choice.

So, now I find myself at another of those deliciously familiar junctures in which I am free to indulge my creative self in images of the projects ahead. Time for daydreaming; time for fantasies, time for relaxing and smiling and believing I can make anything I want from yarn.
I need to learn to allow this particular time to last a bit longer than usual. To keep myself from starting the first project that pops into my head, or using the first yarn that grabs my fancy; I am beginning to believe in the power of daydreaming and its ability to heal, and soothe. The next project may then flow into me, rather than leap on me from somewhere unseen above (you've heard the stories of cat owners who have walked into a room and had their pet leap onto their head from the top of the door - this is how new projects have seemed to find me).

Where do your new projects come from? What inspires and motivates you? Can we learn from one another, thereby increasing our creative potential? I sure hope so!


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pictures of Simple Perfection

Knitting for newborns is such fun!

I haven't tried booties yet, but I think they must be next.

Have you seen this book: Simple Knits for Cherished Babies ? Two bootees' patterns for me to try are inside (among many other delightful offerings), but the best part of this book, for me, is the absolutely amazing photography. The pictures capture the element of exquisite perfection, perfectly paired with our feelings about the newborns we contemplate. Erika Knight has created a volume for knitters that is truly a work of art.

Angora Baby Booties are photographed in breathtaking simplicity in a favorite book of mine, Joelle Hoverson's Last-Minute Knitted Gifts. I recall my amazed delight when I first saw the light shining on, around and through these delicious little confections.

Debbie Bliss has given new knitters a beautiful little book, Baby Knits for Beginners. Once again, thanks to photographer Sandra Lousada, the marvelous pictures in this good little book impart the notions of simplicity and perfection we see in the newborn. Yes, there are booties in here, as well.

I see opportunities in new beginnings, and the tiny projects in these books are good examples of opportunities for beginning knitters. I hope you will open one or more of these and find something that delights you.

P.S. The pictures on this page are mine and nothing like the fabulous ones in the books mentioned above. They will take your breath away!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Doing Something For Our Friends

With warm spring weather approach-ing, it's time once again to think about having a party! Last year we enjoyed hosting a birthday party for a friend; I snapped a few pictures of the preparations. (I find these festivities are just the thing to motivate me to bring my house into tiptop shape; it is really nice to display the pretty things.)

You can see I had lots of help getting things ready! Dubs and Blue are here in the guest bath.

One of the gals in my walking group is just fantastic with flowers, and can make arrange-ments more lovely than many professionals. For this one, she used a large white Capodimonte swan that normally occupies the center of my bare diningroom table.

As the hour approached for guests' arrival, a last check to see that everything was ready and gleaming. This glass pitcher was Mom's; I imagine it was a wedding gift as it has a bit of silver striping around the middle.

Although this picture appears to be a black and white, it is not. Just the lighting, I suppose, on the linen. I used a simple soft silver ribbon to tie the napkins. Cocktails on the patio were perfect, and guests came inside just as the first drops of a late-afternoon shower began to fall.

The grill was heated, and six racks of lamb were grilled to pink perfection over the coals. Actually, my sweet husband finished the grilling beneath an umbrella in near-dark. My hero! Thanks to Julia Child, too, the candlelight meal was delicious, and our five couples enjoyed the evening.

Now it's time to think about this year's party, and a little change of pace; maybe a bone-suckin' finger-licking BBQ on the patio. Or maybe Italian night, with fresh pasta, gorgonzola, garlic and an herb-rich tomato sauce, crusty bread and wine, tiramisu for dessert. Or what about French...?

Well, I am inspired! What about you?


Thursday, April 19, 2007

In Search of Inspiration!

This knitting has been relaxed and enjoyable. Still have more, in order to get it into the shape of a rectangle. But for a boy, these colors should be just fine.

Yesterday, knowing I would soon complete this blanket, I began poking my nose into yarn drawers, looking for something to really grab me. I found a beautiful big cotton in the most glorious shades of pinky orange - in fact, it is called "Tequila Sunrise." I have exactly four hanks (440 yards) of it and the label suggests a size 11 needle. It is very soft, Egyptian cotton, and I think working with it will be wonderful; but so far I have no ideas about what to do.

I am still a beginner knitter in my mind; teaching myself different techniques has been a joy, and often a new project draws me because it has something for me to learn. I put down the little entrelac scarf I began a couple of months ago, and now must refresh my memory about how to continue with it. Maybe picking up this UFO will allow time for the Tequila Sunrise to establish itself in my brain, and for images to develop.

In times of stress, I find I fall back on the easy, the familiar, to soothe me and bring me through the storm. I knit, knit, knit. But when I am feeling stronger, I seek the novel; my heart is open to something new. Spring nearly always enlivens me, and I gather strength with each warm day, with the unfurling of another fern, with the sweet birdsong from the tiny patch that is our yard. I read recently in someone's blog that she found this entrelac addictive; in this I agree. I wish I had not put this down in February; but with spring,...a challenge, revisited!

If knitting is a part of your heart, you will understand many of the ways it fits into your life, and the ways your life wraps around your knitting. Maria Fire has written beautifully about this in her little treasure, Knit One, Haiku Too. I found it, with her signature in neon salmon inside the front cover, at the Folk Art Center when I stopped by with out-of-town guests last week. If you have an opportunity, take a peek at this little book; it is marvelous inspiration for the springtime!


Friday, April 13, 2007

First Things First

When I began to knit, I used a large plastic ring with pegs; the yarn was wrapped around the pegs and a little flat tool lifted yarn over the pegs. It created tubes; with tubes and then with fringe, I created scarves. And more scarves. And yet more scarves. When I had 32 scarves, weeks later, for women and 10 scarves for children (7 girls, 3 boys), I wrapped each in tissue and a ribbon, set them carefully into shopping bags, and drove to the women and children's shelter. It was nearly Christmas. I was so very happy to have completed the scarves, happy to be able to give them away. Actually, by then I was really tired of scarves, of the large, unwieldy plastic circle, and of acrylic yarn. But I had worked hard, had learned much, felt rewarded, and could do a good deed in the bargain. And knitting was growing on me.

Prior to this Christmas, my husband and I had four years enjoying the "empty nest" while our last son was in college - what glorious years! His graduation and marriage coincided with our bringing Mom to live with us; she'd barely managed on her own for a year after Dad died and we knew she needed us. Although I love her very much and wanted to care for her, I was unprepared for the emotional shock I experienced. My husband went to work each day, and I stayed home with Mom. We would go to the grocery, or to doctor appointments for her in the mornings. After lunch, I would escape upstairs where I tried to read, or build furniture for my dollhouse. But those projects were inevitably interrupted when I heard Mom downstairs, rising from her nap and ready to do something else.

I would take her some juice and get her settled in the sun room with her knitting, a little footstool for her little feet. I would get a glass of something for myself, and sit across the room from her, and put Patti Page or Perry Como on her player. We'd sing together, "I was dancing, with my darling, to the Tennessee Waltz...." She would pick up her knitting, and Merlin would climb on her lap and purr and she would pet him and put her knitting down. She and I would spend an hour or so, engaged in company-keeping. Perry Como would sing, "Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket..." and Mom and I would sing along. The sun shone in on us, Mother and daughter, cat and yarn and happy tunes from the 1950s.

When I felt I could leave her, I once again sought refuge in my room upstairs, and tried to reconnect with the project I'd left. Rereading a few pages was tiresome. And finding the tiny pieces of carefully sanded wood for miniature chair legs chewed by a passing feline was exasperating. So I thumbed through catalogs to pass the time idly, and often looked at Mom's yarn and knitting catalogs.

There was so much more there than just yarn. One day I placed an order for a gadget that promised that with it, even children could knit; that was for me! Eventually my afternoon reading and miniatures gave way to the knit-a-round from Lion Brand. I could drop it at any point and return to it without skipping a beat. I began to take it downstairs, and often did my own form of knitting in the big chair across from Mom, while she did "the real thing." Well, that's the way I saw it. During the course of our conversations over weeks and months, I began to understand just how sad she was that neither of her daughters cared to learn how to knit; it was her passion.

Mom began to knit in college during WWII. She knitted baby things for gifts and for me and my brother and sister. She knitted woolen "soakers" that were worn over diapers, and knitted sweaters and booties. She knitted argyle socks and mufflers in the evenings after the children were in bed; she and Dad sat in their study and he worked on something he'd brought home from the office, and she would knit, and they listened to the radio. "Tra-la-la, tweedlie dee dee , it gives me a thrill, to wake up in the morning to the Mockingbird's trill...."

She knitted in our new house in the suburbs in the 50s, curled up on the sofa while we watched Father Knows Best and Your Hit Parade in the evenings. She knitted after her children were grown, for her grandchildren; and she knitted for the needy, sending off enormous boxes of caps, mittens scarves and bedsocks each fall, to the state hospital, for decades. She knitted afghans with roses, and throws with mosaic squares and blankets of ripple stripes of all colors and gave them to us, and to Goodwill.

She knitted the tiniest placemats for my first dollhouse when my last child was 18 months old; Dad made her needles out of piano wire so she could do the patterns in miniature. She knitted him an Aran sweater and was upset for years after its disappearance from their summer place. She knitted when she could no longer watch us caring for him as he lay dying upstairs; she'd head for her little hideaway downstairs and say, "I'm going to go knit a potholder."

She knitted when she lived alone for the first time in all her life at age 80, in a strange city, in a strange building with strangers all around her. She knitted in our sunroom when she lived here because she wasn't needed to cook or clean or run errands or babysit. And here I began to understand, after watching her knit for sixty years, that knitting was an outward expression of who Mom really was.

I was upstairs trying to find peace after being down with her for an hour or so. (Peace is not easy to come by when your mother has dementia, when all the things you remember from your childhood have begun to slip away from her. When those things you could coax into memory just a few months ago were gone yesterday. When you understand she can not be left alone because she can no longer make the right choices for health or safety. When you see her slipping away before your eyes, and you know you are losing her, and her history, and her memories....) So, as I saw more and more clearly what her life was becoming, and who she truly was, it dawned on me suddenly, in those brief moments in the afternoon, upstairs as I was so desperately trying to escape the realities of my dawned on me that escaping was not what I needed to dawned on me that I needed to connect with her absolutely in order to not lose dawned on me that I needed to have her teach me to knit. I needed to show my mother that the knitting wouldn't stop with her. It was so very clear to me! Suddenly it was so very, very clear. I needed to knit - I needed to allow her to give this to me now, just as she gave me milk when I was an infant.

I hurried back downstairs, came near her and sat on the little love seat by her left hand. "Mom? Will you show me one more time how to knit? She smiled. "Mom, I want you to show me how to cast on, do the knit stitch, and how to bind off. That's all"

"Sure, Honey."

"I don't want to purl yet; I just want to do the basics. When I tried to knit and purl and knit and purl, I messed it all up and gave up. I just want to...."

"OK. Take some needles from the case, and some yarn...."

Mom patiently encouraged me as she had done for so many years. She showed me how, and then told me how well I was doing. My hands perspired, wetting the Kitchen Cotton and making it difficult to work with. I dropped stitches, struggled to push the birch point through the loop and made repeated tries to pull the new yarn-over through. I kept at it, however and soon I knew I had it, and I put away the knit-a-round and began to knit like a big girl - I finally began to knit the real way.

When did you begin to knit? Who taught you? Do you teach others? Now I know all this is far more important than I ever imagined. I am so very glad I asked her that afternoon, when she was 84 and I was a mere 60 years old, to show me once again how to knit; I came so near losing this special gift from her. We spent many, many lovely afternoons in the sun room after that, knitting together, sharing something that was creating a new and growing bond between us.

Mom can no longer knit; I put the needles in her hands for a couple of years after she entered the Assisted Living Facility, where she lives now at 88, and they went right to work - the "memory" was in her hands, and brought back to her what she needed to do. But then one day, it just didn't work anymore. She had lost the skill, lost the desire, and knitting no longer was a part of her life; this one event stunned me far more than the first time she didn't recognize me. I guess I was prepared for that, but was never, ever prepared to see my mother without knitting in her lap.


Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Kitty Knittin'

In my presence, they know what they are not to be doing with my yarn and my UFOs. But too often, I leave a project on the chair to attend to something else, and return to find Blue napping on the softest thing he can find. I have knitted catnip mice for them, sacrificed balls of yarn for their play; it seems, however, that only the forbidden is sweet enough for these guys!

I cannot imagine life without them! What about you?


Monday, April 2, 2007

The First Log Cabin

I am not certain which came first, the website, or the book, but Mason*Dixon Knitting grabbed me, right from the start. Most especially the Log Cabin.

I had a few balls of Noro Silk Garden and thought I would use it. I began with the emerald and the fuscia and stayed as much with the bright colors I love. Then I began to run out of yarn! I used the cut and paste method to extract colors I wanted in the sequence I desired. So after the first few turns here, I have used pieces of yarn gleaned from many different balls of yarn. Some of the color changes are subtle enough, but some are a bit abrupt. It turned out nicely, I thought, despite the numerous splices. The best part was stash busting; I have used up nearly every scrap of Silk Garden, including the more drab colors that I don't like as well. The emerald border was added using a Lamb's Pride worsted, I think; or it may have been a Cascade. The size is good for a stroller or car seat, just a bit small for a crib.

As you can tell from previous posts, this first log cabin blanket lead to three others, and a couple of days ago, I began the fifth. I have a friend whose daughter and husband are expecting a baby and they will not learn the sex until birth; so I have to be ready for either a boy or a girl. This newest log cabin is made with yellow, blues and greens. Good for a boy! The yarn is Cotton Classic 100% Mercerised Tahki. It is machine washable, and will grow softer as it ages. As for the pattern, it will come - I have decided to just see where it takes me!

With spring's arrival, I am ready to take some risks - I hope you are, too! Have fun!