Thursday, March 26, 2015

Laylow! Emily and Richard are on the Warpath

Do you know how long I have waited to make Shannon Cook's Laylow shawl?  I think I ordered yarn for it before my pattern booklet came in.  Then I just took the yarn out every once in a while to look at it until the day I cast on.  

I'm sure you're like that too, if not about making things, then about something else.  We daydream about what we'll make, then before it's completed, we start daydreaming about the next thing we'll make, or room we'll re-model, or vacation we'll take, or game we'll level up on, or album we'll purchase...

This project name is in reference to Gilmore Girls, hence all of the Gilmore Girl linkage at the bottom of the post.  The pattern is from Seasonless by Shannon Cook and Jane Richmond.  The whole collection has a real relaxed, weekend feel to it.  It was released in a beautiful ebook, with photos taken by Jane's brother Nicholas Kupiak (who also photographed Island and Journey) and as a limited edition print booklet.   I believe Nicholas' work is what forced me to break my ebooks-only rule for knitting patterns.  I was attempting to cut down on the clutter in my home by stopping the influx of books.  But, how could I not get print copies of these lovely collections?  I figure my daughter will be moving out soon, so her room can be my library.

Back to the pattern.   You may remember that I'm fairly new to shawl knitting.  I live where it's warm, or hellish, and I only wore knits when it was really cold.  Because when it gets cold here, I'm really cold.  I was also focused on garment knitting.  Last summer, I knit Antipodes, though, and re-thought my stance on shawls.  They're basically light scarves or shrugs, which makes sense in a warmer winter.  The main plus is that they allow me to use really nice yarn without having to break the bank to buy enough.  A $20 skein for a versatile accessory is easier on the budget than 5 or 6 $20 skeins for a sweater!  Surprisingly, Laylow was the design I wanted to knit first from the collection.  It's very casual in style, but the knitting has an architectural look to it.  I love the juxtaposition of the two stitch textures when it's wrapped around your shoulders.

Anyway, the designer, Shannon was hosting a surprise Knitalong this Spring and I was waiting to cast on, hoping the theme would fit this shawl.  Since it turned out to be a Gilmore Girls KAL, I went ahead and cast on.  I can see Rory wearing these subtle colors, right?  Basically, GG covers just about any style of knit.

There's feminine- Lorelai with the necklines and flutter sleeves,
colorful- Lorelai, Sookie's kitchen uniform tops and Lane with the stripes and the hair,
vintage- Rory with the Chanel-esque DAR outfits and Lane with the quirky sweaters at the diner, classic knitwear- Rory and Paris with all of the argyle , tweed, and vests,
blankets- with homey afghans and quilts,
and backwards baseball cap- Luke.
See, all covered.

I have to confess that I made this twice.  The first one was waaay to big.  My Ravelry friends tried to encourage me that a nice, drapey shawl was great to have.  Thanks, guys.  That's the good thing about knitting in groups- lots of encouragement and feedback.  But unless I was going to rename the shawl "Saglow" I knew I would have to re-knit it.  Though I washed my swatch, I must've gotten into the knitting zombie zone and relaxed my tension.  This thing was so big that I eliminated one whole pattern repeat of the main body of the shawl and it was still so loose that, after blocking, the garter didn't look all that different from the wrapped and dropped stitches.  Did I say that I ruled in my last post?  Let me modify that to: I try hard to be sufficient.

So, I frogged it and started over.

 The details:   The second time around, I used size 2 needles with the same two skeins of Gynx yarn.  When choosing my yarn, I knew I wanted to use Gynx Yarns, but I wanted it right away in two colors that would coordinate.  That's always a little scary when ordering online.  I suppose if I were investing in a sweater's worth, I could email the dyer and ask their opinion before ordering.  But this was just two skeins for a shawl, so I went with the Single Merino, in Caramel and Berries, and Glitz Sock, in Goth Girl, for the border.  Even though they were two different bases and the Glitz has stellina, they so went together.

 I followed everything as directed, but I noticed my gauge was now tighter than the pattern, so I added one repeat in the body and one in the border.  I still used almost the same amount of yarn for it, with two extra repeats, as in my first shawl that had one less repeat than directed.  Crazy.  Obviously, I was determined to have a very defined garter and dropped stitch "stripes."  And I did.  Blocking didn't alter the shawl as much since the yarn had already been wet- blocked before.  I love, love, love it.  I think I'll blast my AC all summer so I can wear it around the house.

 P.S. :  Do you see the little gray hairs on my head?  I've been noticing them the last few projects I edited photos for.  It's very subtle now, but eventually it may be my excuse to full-on color my hair.  Or not.

P.S.S. :  Have you ever googled your favorite show's fan art.  It's very informative.  I found sketches of Lorelai , taken straight out of her cameo in Dune.  Scientific pie charts,  floor plans, memes aplenty, wishful thinking, and Luke's real daughter.  There's even a rendition of Lorelai's love that could have been and the most loyal or her many loves.

My other post on this shawl is here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cafe au Lait

Guys!  I knit a super long lace and cable cardigan out of fingering weight yarn.  If you don't know knit speak, let me translate this for you:  I rule.
That is, me and the rest of the knitters making their own Cafe au Lait sweaters, by Kirsten Singer of Klever Knits, in the Holla Knits Knitalong 2015.

The truth is that it wasn't near as time consuming as it appears.  Fingering weight lace moves fast and the pattern is enjoyable, so you tend to want to reach one more cable... one more repeat.. etc.  I also made mine a few repeats longer (4, I think) because I knew I would probably be stretching it width-wise when blocking.  It appears to be about as long as one of the samples, but I have a feeling I may be taller than the model, so I wanted to be sure.

This is pretty much the perfect kind of sweater for my climate.  I could use it year round in a cold movie theatre and most of the winter outside.  I like the batwing, too.  It makes wearing layers easy.

It also makes me think of my mom.  I wore her little watch pendant yesterday because she was on my mind.

The details, in case you care:  I used size US 5 needles with Knit Picks Palette yarn in the Comfrey color.  This is my first time to work with Palette yarn, though I always admire the color options in the Knit Picks catalog.  I enjoyed working with it.  It has a bit of a halo to begin with, but I feel like it will withstand wear really well.

Though I blocked my swatch and chose my size accordingly (I got 3 less stitches per 4" which meant I would want to knit down one size for a better fit.), I still felt insecure about how tiny the thing looked on the needles, so I spot blocked the lower half of the back. It stretched out nicely.  I let it dry overnight, then continued knitting, a little more confident.  I wanted at least 7 inches of positive ease.

Even though the size seemed fine for me,  I followed Allyson's suggestion to knit the front pieces one size larger, in width, so that my sweater would button comfortably in front without any pulling.  I doubt I'll wear it buttoned, but I liked the option.  In the photo above, it doesn't look super flattering buttoned, but some of that is the angle it was taken at, and some is the fact that I'm wearing baggy cords that were almost falling off of me and I had to keep hitching up all day.  Just being honest.  So ignore it if you're worried that you too will, suddenly, become pear shaped if you make this sweater.  :)

So I made the fronts a size medium, making sure to lengthen them the way I did the back.   Remember, I was already knitting the smallest size, expecting it to come out closer to the medium size.  So I knit my fronts using the medium directions, knowing they would probably be wider than the size medium.

Buttoned, and laying flat it measures about 38" at bust.  Slightly open, like most of us will wear it, it is 40-42".  That's a good 6-8" of positive ease.  It's also a really flexible knit, that's why it's hard for me to pinpoint the exact measurements.  It can so easily stretch any which-a-way.  I think I could have blocked it more aggressively for length or width if I'd wanted to.

The finishing wasn't bad at all.  It is so much easier to sew seams when there is an obvious stitch pattern to help me line the pieces up straight.  Sewing on the buttons, however, took me about as long as the knitting.  It's always this way.  I will say that I'm getting pretty good at the button sewing thing.  There was no blood or weird knots to be found.  I did it all in one episode of Rectify.   Basically, I was relieved to be finished and disturbed by the show i was watching, all at the same time.

These aren't the best photos, but I'm using a different camera, trying to figure out all of the settings in bright, afternoon sun.  I'm pleased to say that it wasn't even uncomfortable to wear this sweater out.

I'd hoped it would get a little wear before the temperature rises.  I miss having my daughter around to take quick photos for me.  I can tell her what I want and she just "gets it."  Whereas my son, bless his heart, was more interested in telling me about a video game.   He did contribute the photo of the sky through our tree, though.

So, what would I like to make next of Kirsten's patterns?  Axial was on my wish list, but I want to make it really oversized (like the blue sample) with City Tweed, so I'll wait on that til next winter.  I'm thinking either Summer Vanilla or Tungsten Tank needs to happen soon, maybe for the Tops, Tanks, and Tees KAL?  I could wear those like crazy.

English Roses has an easy fit that I like and I'm thinking Staggered Cardigan, would look cute, maybe even a little cropped.

I also have this idea that I want to use Elemental Lines, and some other Holla Knits At Home collection patterns, plus a few I've pinned on Pinterest to spruce up our camper.  I want all seventies colors like my kitchen, when I was growing up- avocado, yellow, orange, brown...

No, I am not done with purple yet.  There will be shawls, there will be mitts, there will be a scarf, and there will be another sweater.  Then I will move on to another color.

My other posts on Cafe Au Lait:  Thinking of my mom,  half of a front, and seaming seems to take forever.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Gilmore Girls Knit-a-Long

I put it off as long as I could.  I mean I watched all of my old favorites, like Firefly, Lost, anything with David Tennant, and The Closer, multiple times.  Then I did junk food tv, like Felicity, Friday Night Lights, Dead Like Me, and The IT Crowd.  I watched newish favorites, like Longmire and Orphan Black all the way through...again.  I tried new things like Blechley Circle and The Big Bang Theory.  (Wow, this list is making me sound like a sad, little couch hermit.)  I felt like the only thing left to try was Dexter and Gilmore Girls.

Why did I wait so long?  I know why.  It was all those commercials, back in the day, with Lauren Graham talking a mile a minute.  So, I gave it a try and once I got used to the speed of the script delivery, I started to love the show.  She's a talky mom with a talky daughter.  Hey, I'm a talky mom with a talky daughter.  Her daughter ends up in college.  Hold on to your seat, but my daughter has ended up in college too.  They both have lots of inside jokes and thrive on entertaining each other with odd or inappropriate comments. Again, that's us.  Okay, that's where the similarities end, but it is a good show for knitting along with.   Yes, it's an estrogen fest, but my husband stays awake during it.  Actually, I'm pretty sure he likes it.  Maybe it's his version of junk food tv.

So, it was like fate when Shannon picked it as a theme for her Very Shannon spring KAL.  I wanted to knit Laylow, which looks right for this KAL, the yarn was burning a hole in the stash, and I was marathoning Gilmore Girls.  See, fate.  I was already screen shotting sweaters and scarves I liked while watching, so now I have an excuse to reproduce at least one of them.

So, the photo above is my first knit for the KAL, Shannon's Laylow shawl from Seasonless.  Will I ever catch up with all of her and Jane Richmond's lovely patterns?  At least I'm finally getting to make this and can use some Gynx Yarn Single Merino in Caramel and Berries, with Gynx's Glitz sock in Goth Girl as the border color.  Tell me these are not the most beautiful skeins ever.

Being sick at my stomach was a bummer today, but as a silver lining, I did accomplish a lot on this shawl.  So much so, that I've already started planning my next Gilmore Girls knit:

a Rory Needs a Break Scarf

Again, all the planets seemed to align, for this project.  I had the obsessive screenshot on my phone, I had just faved this scarf on Ravelry, and I had all of those unicorn tails from my trip to Madtosh Crafts.  Clearly, it was my destiny.

(more on ravelry, kollabora, flickr, and instagram)

I'm sure I'll have to add leftovers to these Unicorn Tails, to get a good scarf length, which is great because most of my interesting, indie- dyed leftovers are fingering weight.

Come, join the Gilmore Girls KAL.  Shannon released a new shawl pattern inspired by Lorelai,  aptly named Lorelai, and Nice and Knit has custom color kits just for this pattern.  You know you want to.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Lots of Little Pieces

Just a visual update on Cafe Au Lait and my Cedar Glen Mitts.   I think both will be done in a couple of days.

I can't believe I'm this close to finishing Cafe.  My concentration was shot.  I screwed up on the cables four different times, having to rip back sections each time.  Prepare for an image of sheer evil.

Now, multiply it by four.  See?  At least the lace and use of larger needles made this project grow more quickly than fingering weight projects usually grow.  Fingering weight yarn and me have a love/hate relationship.  It's more readily found by hand dyers and can sometimes knit a project with only one skein, which I love.  I think that's why so many knitters make socks and shawls.  But it also takes foooorever to knit a sweater up in fingering, which I hate.  Another reason knitters love those socks and shawls.  BUT, it makes it up to me by drying overnight.  So, I can love it again.   While my pieces of Cafe au Lait were blocked and drying (I have got to get real blocking pins!), I the lace panels for Cedar Glen Mitts.

My gauge is way off, so I'm reducing the amount of seed stitch stitches that I pick up from the side of the lace portion.  I deserve a quickie accessory after back to back lace sweaters, right?

Edit:  I've now begun seaming Cafe, after putting it off for two days.  What a wimp.  It's not that bad, really.  I mean you have obvious cables and lace sections to match up as you seam.  Seaming is usually more mysterious than this.

It turned cold again here and I realized I have all of these great tights and no skirts suitable for cold weather.  So, I'll probably start New Girl after these are done.

How are your late Winter/early Spring projects coming along?  Do, tell.

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Beautiful Woman

Beautiful never mattered to me.  It just wasn't on my radar.  Useful, kind, strong, faithful, disciplined, imaginative, bold, funny- these things were.  They were the things I wanted to be.  Of course, true beauty is comprised of these things, but when I was a child, "beauty" was a term that described pageant queens, girls who couldn't run, and a mole on Ginger's face.  It wasn't a word I felt comfortable with until adulthood.

When Libby, of TrulyMyrtle, tagged me in 20 beautiful women on instagram, I began to consider where my ideas of true feminine beauty came from.  Then, I had the craziest week ever, so I'm just now getting back to it.  It reminded me how blessed I am to have a mother who looked further into people and who taught me I was "made" by Someone.

I thought everyone thought the way we did.  I was in my twenties when I began to realize that the women fixated on beauty as appearance, a number on a scale, or a hair color were not an anomaly.   They were my peers- the norm.  As I worked with children in my church and spent time with my daughter's friends,  I cannot say how many little girls I've heard talk about beauty as only a surface feature.  Almost every single time, they spoke in quiet reverence of a form of beauty, in some other girl, that they didn't feel they had, personally.  As a girl, it never occurred to me to classify women as pretty, not pretty, thin, fat, smart, dumb, etc.  I tended to see genuine personalities and vibrance as attractive.  I rolled my eyes at the thought of someone wanting to be beautiful.

I remember the first time I heard a grown woman call another woman ugly.  I was in shock.  I remember the first time I saw a grown woman consumed with jealousy over another woman's weight.  Then there was the first times I heard a Christian woman call another woman bland and another say something like, "She's really beautiful ... for a black woman."

In the Christian church we hear that "beauty is vain, but a woman that fears the Lord- she shall be praised."   We read that true charm is an inward beauty, where a woman wears the "ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which in the sight of the Lord is of great price."  It is supposed to be enough to save a family.  Seriously. ( 1 Peter 3:3-5).  As Christians we are told that God looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7), then we go home fretting about this stuff?

We teach our little kids that Jesus loves us just as we are in Sunday School,  but then they see us walk out the doors of the church and still strive for something more.  We may seem irritable because we aren't what we want to be, we may whisper about women who are, we carry a cloud of inadequacy over our heads, that is surely felt by our children.  Some of us punish our bodies into submission, fretting over every change, or the lack of it.  There's often some bitterness there.  Are we confused?  Are we listening to what we say that we believe?  I think the question is, do we really, truly believe it?

I just wasn't aware of what anyone thought of my appearance as a girl.  I mean, I was clean, what else was there to think about?  Maybe I lived in a little, idyllic bubble.  My mother may have curled my hair and tried to get me to sit up straight, but she didn't seem hung up on appearance.  She said things like, " Pretty is as pretty does."  And I never heard her berate herself.  Just as she shielded me from ugly thoughts about skin color, as I grew up in the deep south, she also protected me from the self-destructive comparisons women make about bodies.   I looked around me and just saw people, like she did.

Then, I had the unique experience of seeing my mother's ideals tested.  I watched her lose her hair, more than once, during chemo.  I watched her seem to lose height and her back develop  Cushing's hump, due to prednisone, when she was just 40.  I never once felt a tinge of bitterness coming from her.  She went to one of my volleyball games so swollen with fluid that she was barely recognizable.  Some of the other girls were staring and wondering.  She came home after a mastectomy surgery with her head held high.  She was so very much a beautiful woman.  Never once did we see her confidence in that waver.  Never once did ours.

One time, a girl in school tried to shame me by telling the other children my mom was bald.  I was a very stoic child, friends, but that... that hurt.  She was being mean to my mother.  When I got home, off the bus, my mom asked how my day had been.  No matter how sick she was, even when dragging an IV tower around behind her, she was as involved as possible with my life.  I tried to act fine, but melted into tears.  Eventually, my desire to be comforted by her outweighed my desire to protect her from the hurtful comments, so I told her what that girl had said.  Her reaction surprised me.  She laughed.  Then, she said I should try to sell tickets.  That the kids could get off the bus and line up at the door.  For a dollar, she could pull of her wig for a moment.  We ended up laughing and I felt so much better to know that she was unmoved by someone's opinion of her.  The differences between her appearance and other moms' just didn't matter to her.

Her attitudes just seeped into me during those years.  I am the Queen of Awkwardness.  You may have noticed this, but this is mostly due to things I can control.  If ever I feel less pretty than another woman, it is usually from something like their gentle character convicting me of my own brashness.

So now my own test has come.  My body began changing in my thirties- no, not the usual changes- but a weakening.  My shape changed some, but mostly my hair began to thin and my face began breaking out with bad, cystic acne.  Add to that exhaustion, lots of migraines, and fuzzy thinking and you have a picture of me for ten years.  Though my doctor has a treatment for me now, it was ten years of feeling yuck.  Even when you're not "into appearance," scars, sores, thinning hair, and general malaise can work on your confidence.  Remember, I was the girl who wanted vibrance over beauty, and I felt like it was slipping away.

Should I have stayed at home until I was better?  Should I be ashamed that I looked different from the other moms?  Should I wait to try things until I had more energy?  That would've been a long wait.  I had to really think about the way I looked at other people and apply it to myself.  For me and for my children.

So when I told my teenagers, worried about their own blemishes, "It's just skin."  Did I mean it?  Was I living it?  I put my beliefs to the test every time I went to a soccer game or met my daughter for lunch with 30 cysts on my face that makeup would not cover, feeling exhausted though I had done every, single thing I knew to do to care for my body that day.  I have to admit it was hard sometimes.  Some days the best I could do was just joke about it.  When I felt self-condemnation start up in my head, I'd fight it with what I really believe: we are beautiful for how we behave.  Pretty is as pretty does, right?  I never came home from one of those outings wishing I'd stayed home.  I never regretted living as without shame about my appearance.  I thought I was confident before, but I've seen my self-esteem rise like crazy in the last few years.   And it wasn't from getting to any point of perfection.  It was from living without it.

(on instagram and flickr)

Here is the crux - When He says we were "beautifully and wonderfully made," did He mean it?  When He said His "grace is sufficient for you, His strength is made perfect in weakness." did He mean it?  Do I really believe this stuff?  Would doing everything "right" but not getting the healthy feeling, "the look", the approval change what I believed?

Nah.  I'm 41.  I'm covered in scars that I sometimes edit out of photos and I am in no way ashamed of that.  I may be healing now.  But if I never healed and die tired and weak, like my mother, I would never be ashamed for believing in a God who loves me just as I am and allows me to be frustrated for reasons I'll never understand.  Now, I know.  I won't be embarrassed of the life I lived in this body, or the body, itself.  I really do believe all that feel-good stuff about inner beauty.  I am beautiful because He made me so, particularly when I act like the person He made me to be.

Okay, group hug, everybody.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

One Thing at a Time

Usually seeing a project progress gives me a lift.  Something tangible is getting accomplished!  But this year I've found I'm getting bogged down in projects.  I haven't shifted my expectations to match my decreased knitting time.  The result is little bags of half-finished stuff, stuffed in little places around my half-cleaned house.  I miss monogamous knitting.

So you can see my Drift's Ridge, on the left, which would've been done had I not flubbed the sizing.  Cafe au Lait, center, is now stealing most of my knitting time, since it's part of the Holla Knits KAL that is underway.
Twenty Ten, up top, is such a fast knit, but it's also been set aside for the KAL.
There's a second Fire Opal Tee, in blackberry in the bottom corner, which will be a great mindless knit when things warm up.
Lastly, I have the very, very beginnings of a Offshore V-Neck sweater that I cast on in the space between something blocking and a yarn order arriving.  Why I'd pretend to do damage on this in a few days, I don't know.  It was abandoned with a box coming in the mail, and sits in a basket by the couch.  The basket is supposed to remind me of things, so I don't forget them and cast on new things. I may need to paint the basket something day-glo.

This really isn't that bad.  I know my blog sidebar says I have a million projects on the needles, but some of those are just projects I've made Ravelry pages for without actually beginning.  See, I'm more organized than I seem.

Oh, I miss the days of powering through something until it was done.  Of kind of knowing when I'd have an hour to myself, with nothing stressful looming in the background to unsteady my concentration.  I miss getting to do more than one thing that's good for me every other day.  I miss seeing the phone as a gateway to relationship instead of something to dread.   I remind myself this is just a season in my life.  Sometimes that makes me feel better, sometimes it sounds trite.

Enough of that.  Obviously, I've had enough time to myself to finish the back and half of a front of this sweater, when I'm sure plenty of reading and television watching occurred.  Now I'm going to go run for a bit before anything else comes up.

(more on ravelry, instagramkollabora, and flickr)

By the way, have I ever told you how much you cheer me up?  You do.  I was feeling beyond blah when I started this post, now I'm about to burst out of my front door at a full trot.  Thank you blogging/ knitting/ crafting/ instagram-ing friends!

Monday, February 16, 2015

The return of mauve and other things my mother would've loved

I was so much more content to wear my brother's old blue jeans than dresses straight off the set of Little House on the Prairie.  My mother won on Sundays, though.  Not only did she curl my hair under, like Joey Lawrence,  but she got the itchy, puffed sleeve dresses over my head.  If she dared to say I looked nice, I would then feel forced to walk with a horribly, exaggerated hunched back, muttering under my breath, with a dazed look on my face.  I cannot say how many times I heard her say, "Oh, be pretty.  Just be pretty."  She was only half serious.

When I ordered the Palette yarn in Comfrey and the Gloss Fingering in Velveteen and Hawk, I thought of her.  I remember a mauve skirt and jacket she wore to church, and her mauve nail polish.   Though I liked that the color made me think of her, I would never have seen myself wearing it.  Mauve was synonymous with my mom... a forty-year-old housewife.  That, and the eighties.  I would have died before wearing mauve nail polish.  I was in my twenties when Urban Decay had just launched nail colors like "Acid Rain" and "Roach."  Mauve wasn't my thing, or anyone's thing then. 

 (image via Pinterest)

 (image via Pinterest)
 (image via Pinterest)

 But here I am, a forty one-year-old housewife and mauve is everywhere, growing on me through osmosis.  So my selections for the Holla Knits KAL 2015 are all for you, Mom.  Cafe au Lait is knit in Knit Picks Palette, in comfrey.

This Gloss Fingering will become a pair of Cedar Glen Mitts.  Not only is it mauve-y, but it's even pretty.  Mom would be proud.

Not mauve, but very feminine is the New Girl skirt I'll be knitting up later.  It may be finished after the KAL, but who cares as long as it gets made?  I'm using Paton's Classic dk in sea green and medium grey.

This last knit will be in Cascade 220 sport's Lake Chelan colorway.   It's not a color my mom would've worn, at least not when I was a girl.  But I know she would've approved of the style and the little stitch pattern of the Julep Jacket.

(more on ravelry, kollabora, and flickr)

Truthfully, my mom liked crafts.  All through my childhood she was dabbling in some kind of craft.  There was macrame, tole painting, sewing, and ceramics around the house at different times.  So I'm pretty sure she would've enjoyed all of my knitting projects.  I like to think she might have even wanted to knit along with me.