Monday, March 31, 2008

Lessons Learning

Amazingly, when things are worked on, things get done.

You would think that a lesson like this might have sunk in, oh, at least 30-some years ago, but I continue to be delightfully surprised by its application. So even though I have at least 90 more rows to go before I can start seaming this puppy together, some progress is showing up on the Pearl Buck back. I did, however, discourage myself today when I thought, "Well, I'm able to finish about three or four rows a day, so that means. . . oh, shoot."

An acquaintance the other day said something about how teeny the needles were for this sweater. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it. I love the fabric that smaller needles make, and while I'll wear (happily!) a sweater I knit on 8s, there's something just right about the drape of a 4 or 5 needle and yummy yarn. So what if I only finish one every birthday or so. Eventually I'll have the sweaters I love.

Until then, I could wear these items:

Bonus points if you recognize the quote on the tank top. Fortunately, my sister and I share the same sense of humor, apparently. She suggested that I could wear it while working out. And, along with that slow-on-the-uptake lesson at the start of this post? I've been making time downstairs to do my new workouts once I realized that regular sustained workouts might actually help me feel my best, not only now, but in the future.

A future which I devoutly hope will contain grandchildren. Grandchildren to dandle, to dance with, and to tell many, many, many outrageous stories to about their parent and their parent's siblings.

I can tell about the way they couldn't keep a toy made of small parts from rolling All Over The Floor Even When Warned To Keep Them In The Box:

Or how well they perfected the "My mother is a dork" smirk:

Or just how freaking cute they were at one point:

At that, I will encourage Thing 4 (in my fantasy, this is taking place at a large family gathering), to do the hula dance that she did for me tonight post-bath, clad in a wrapped-around, tucked-in towel.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Busy Days Present and Past

We're in Birthday Month, here at Chez Things. My original plan was to have four girls, all born in the month of March, so we could just have one big family blowout. The plan worked well for Thing 1, as you've already seen, but subsequently fell apart a bit more. But Spouseman and I still have our March birthdays, and now I'm all of 44. Yay. Or not, depending on my mood. I received a fantastic gift from my husband, a Dunder-Mifflin bathrobe. His birthday is tomorrow, so I have to make the best carrot cake. This birthday of mine, cresting middle age as it were, has made me rethink some things and like most Americans, I plan to exercise more.

I also plan to knit more, and spin more, and I have actual evidence of that. As I noted before, spinning the bamboo more finely seemed to solve many of the problems I was having with it.

I think I'm going to go ahead and ply it with that chocolate merino I've been making into the three-ply sock yarn, and then it will a) make more yarn and b) make bouncier yarn, with memory. It sure is pretty, and it makes me want to start spinning the green alpaca/bamboo mix rightthisminute. Patience is not my strong suit, hence my affinity for knitting. Got to learn what doesn't come naturally!

I love the yarn I'm using for the Pearl Buck Swing Jacket, I love the pattern, and I want the sweater. It's perfect for spring and summer here, it's soft, and it was just sitting in pieces -- missing a back -- in the yarn room/closet. So I literally said to myself, "It's not brain surgery, and if other people can knit it, so can you." (Duh.) So I brought the equipment and the pattern and am just going through it, noting those places where the ominous phrase "at the same time" appears before actually needing to. Progress.

Thing 4 has been working on drawing circles.

Now when I'm done with that, all I have to do is locate the missing yoke piece.

And I have at least two sweaters I'm desperate to get to -- the Cobblestone for my sister (can I do it by her birthday?) and my Kauni cardigan. Motivation is a beautiful thing.

The Barfghan which is supposed to be an album of my handspun also keeps growing. My family and friends are referring to it as "the intestine." Lovely.

It's the easy project -- but I don't always have yarn for it, of course. I'm playing catch up. My hope is that over time "funky" will overcome "barfy" as the appropriate adjective for this project. I think the circles may actually be Easter eggs.

Yesterday was the annual homeschooler's Trip Through Time history fair. It's such a kick -- projects about a completely eclectic range of "history" -- money, beekeeping, "mistakes that worked," fashion for women, pancakes, Paul Revere -- just the best about homeschooling. The participants are encouraged to have something interactive for their audience to do or try, and very few projects looked like the parents had actually done it. It was just the shot in the arm I needed. My kids did good work without much complaining. Thing 2 talked and presented about bread through the ages. Later, at home, she ground wheat into flour using rocks. . .

Thing 3, of course, did a section on knights with a model of a quintain for learning to joust. Here he is with Thing 4's best friend:

And Thing 1 did a sort of toss-off about waffles, but she got to hand them out with whipped cream and discovered that there were parties called "waffle frolics" in the late 1700s which simply cracked me up.

So I'm in a pretty good place right now for a middle-aged lady. I hope you are having a day full of spring, no matter what the weather.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

On to the next one

Finally, finally, finally, the very soft sweater is done. See how happy he looks?
Depending on his mood, he either hates it or won't let his sister wear it even though she likes it more. Says it's too big; says it's perfect.


I'm pleased with it. But right now I'm wondering if I'm more pleased just because I'm done than because of anything inherent in the sweater. Doing the sleeves at the beginning of the process, right after dividing the armholes, seems to have been a good choice. Making the hood (3 times!) was actually just as bad as sleeves, and then I had to go 'round and 'round about the edging before I was satisfied.

All in all, I like the seat of the pants approach to most things, and I like it in knitting. Frustratingly, I wish I were a more talented knitter so that things were both faster and more interesting in the execution. Someday, and for now my kid has a warm sweater and hey, it's spring and too hot to wear it!

Fortunately I have a big wool sweater to begin for my sister. Maybe by the time I'm done with that it will be above 90 degrees. I can only hope.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

From bees to cars to yarn

While the town I live in is in the middle of an enormous urban area, it feels very small sometimes. Town boosters like to insist that it feels small in ways that no other town feels, and while I don't buy that, there are fun connections made as paths cross. I get to see my mechanic even when things are great with the (extremely expensive, as my spouse pointed out) car because he also is a beekeeper.

Last Friday, a woman from the beekeeping group (also the beekeeping partner of the mechanic, by the way), stopped by my house to drop off something she'd had for a few months for me.

I thought it was her neighbor's husky's hair.

Instead, it was the yarn her neighbor had spun from said husky's hair. Five or so pounds of two-ply, sort of silvery tweed dog hair yarn. Enough to make -- well, something or somethings big.

I haven't swatched it or anything because it was stored with some of the most horrifying-smelling soap in the bag that I've ever smelled. No moths (or presumably fleas) here.

So fun, but slightly odd, and who knows what it will end up as?

I'm weaving ends in on the finished stripy hooded raglan, although it's already been worn by a boy. It's perfect for him. And I'm glad it's almost done.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Yeah, well, it's MY subconscious

I found out that thin-spun bamboo is nicer than thick, at least in my hands. No pictures yet, though.

Instead, I want to tell you what was cavorting around in my head the other morning. In my dream, I got a package. What was it? Well, it was a missing piece from my spinning wheel, sent to me very thoughtfully by Stephanie Pearl-McFee, also known as the Yarn Harlot. [I have been forgetting key pieces of my wheel in real life when I've tried to go out to spin in public.]

Also in the package was a bunch of paperwork about a spinning retreat and Stephanie was asking me to go. It was a week long, and in the dream my husband said, "Oh, go! The kids and I will be fine!'

Anyone who knows my spouse realizes what a wish-fulfillment dream this is. This would never, ever be his response.

So I flipped through the paperwork and said, "Well, it's $4700."

"You can't go," was his reply.


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Practice, practice, practice

The bamboo is making me wonder if I can spin at all, really. Such beauty and such a slippery fiber. I'm struggling with any kind of consistency in size. Guess I'll have to. . . practice some more. It's "Chocolate Liquor" from Loop. And I feel as though I'm murdering it.

As you can see, though, it's not just slippery fibers like bamboo and silk that are giving me trouble. Here's another 125 or so yards of the three-ply that's meant to be sock yarn. Better, especially in the plying, but not the kind of thing I'd enter in a fair or anything. Still I hope String Bean enjoys knitting with it some day.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

What really matters

So I have something to say about how spinning bamboo is actually just as hard as spinning silk, and how I actually plan to finish the stripy sweater, and how I'm going out to knit night tonight if I have to bribe the children with movies and candy, but that's not very important right now.

Well, okay, it is important right now, as is the fact that I am seriously considering military boarding school for my middle two. It's a long story, and maybe I'll tell it in the future, but right now I'm sort of beside myself.

But what's more important right now is how much personal growth (military boarding school fantasies excepted) I've achieved in the last thirteen years. I could have gone on a pilgrimage to India, sat in contemplation at a Buddhist temple in Thailand, joined the Peace Corps, or walked the Appalachian trail.

Instead, I had children. And one special one started the entire journey:

Happy birthday, sweetheart. It's been a great ride so far. How do you feel about boarding school?

Oh, and just 'cause I can't resist -- here's how the walls turned out behind the candlelight. Since the light color didn't really cover the dark, I got an "I totally planned this" kind of two-tone look. We still have finishing work to do, of course.