Friday, December 28, 2012

Goodbye, Mo

Two days ago, we said goodbye to our first dog.  He's not my first pet to lose but he is the first one I ever felt like I could talk about right after his death; it took some time with our old cat.

I feel like I've been staring mortality in the face for a couple of years now.  It's superimposed over the faces of my family, some friends, my dog, myself; with an ever changing expression:  frailty, self-doubt, aging, dementia, disorder, spiritual decay, fear...  but it's been ever- present.  I think I'm used to seeing it now, and so I am able to talk about him, my symbol for "hanging on."  He was truly a good dog from the very beginning.  He was meant to be in a family and loved nothing more than just lying near us wherever we were.  Well, nothing more except dragging us down the street on his leash.

He was patient, protective, fun- loving... every adjective you'd expect from a lab.  But he was also low- key, adored my husband, and gave me confidence to stay at home alone in the bad part of town.  In fact, when men hanging out in neighborhood yards, over the years, saw him, I felt a little comforted that people knew we had a monster living with us.  They didn't have to know that he was afraid of that old cat I mentioned

 He was not ready to settle down and sleep at night until my husband was home and everyone accounted for.  Even today, the only response we could draw from him was a lifted head when my husband came home from work to help me carry him into the car.

He has been having trouble walking for some time.  Ramps didn't work (that was horrible looking) and eventually the modified step my husband made for him was too much for his hind legs.  We started lifting his back end with a towel to get him outside and back in, but by Christmas day, he could use neither front nor back legs and didn't want to move or eat or anything.   I know I did the right thing.  But, he was posing for our Christmas card just days ago, so it seemed sudden. 

I think I will talk about my grief for a pet, here, where I want to grieve for more.  I will talk about his faithfulness,  how certain I am that he was meant to be in my life, how irreplaceable he is (and this is true), where I want to cry and ache for people I am losing, slowly.  But I won't actually feel it yet, not really, it's still the holidays.  It will be later when everyone is back to school or work and the usual business of life resumes for me, for my sweet ones who struggle with life as they near the end of it.  I'm not afraid, though I feel the weight of things.  I can feel my God with me.  And it is both incredibly powerful and humbling at once.  His presence is more constant and calming than I ever let it be before.  I can go through this and come out on the other side.  We all will.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Blessed Sweater

Forget sweater curses; this sweater is blessed.  It's made with love for the man I love who has tolerated knitting needles left in dangerous places, has payed for yarn I have yet to use, has moved his Dune collection over on the bookshelf to accommodate more knitting books (To be fair, the Dune series is obnoxiously never-ending.), has almost fallen asleep in yarn stores, has dealt with my moodiness when something I made was too big or too small, has willingly held up his hands for me to lay a skein over while I wind a ball, and has eaten supper on the couch because sweaters were blocking on the table.  Yes, finally, after eleven years, he's getting a sweater out of the deal.

I would have sooner if I'd had confidence that he'd want one or even wear one.  We live in the South; it was in the seventies on Christmas Eve when these photos were taken.

The deets-  It's called The Classic Sweater for Guys from Knit Cafe.  To make it, I used seven or eight balls of Patons classic wool in Jade Heather, held double with size 9 needles.  I cast on the correct number of stitches for a size small (remember, things I knit in Patons have always grown wider with washing) though he usually wears a large at, say, the Gap.

After cast on, I joined to knit it in the round all the way to the armhole shaping.  First, I knit 1.5 inch of 2x2 ribbing because I knew the sweater would roll up the back.  I'm so glad I did that.  Once I was 15 inches from the cast on edge, I began working each side separately.

 I knit the sleeves two at a time, flat, on my circular.  Since I had two balls of yarn per sleeve, I used loosely tied plastic grocery sacks to separate the balls like ghetto yarn bowls.

I followed the shaping for a size small but made them a little longer.  If they were still too short, I could always add a 2x2 rib to the cuff.  I wasn't sure how the rolled cuff would look, but it turned out fine.

I rarely get photos of him, so bear with me as the knitwear brings out the model in him.

Such a manly, rugged sweater!  (Above- before I cut his hair, below- sans pompadour) 

A note: When binding off stitches for all of these sweater pieces, save a long enough bind off tail to use for seaming shoulders together and sewing sleeves up.  This will reduce the amount of ends you have to weave in after it's finished.  I always forget to do that!

After sleeves were finished and shoulders seamed, I picked up stitches for a seamless neckline.  Picking up stitches is one of my least favorite things to do.  Really.  The pattern photo shows an obvious line where these stitches are picked up but it's symmetric and kind of design-y looking.  I spent way too much time trying to reproduce this look on a 3 day knit.  Finally, I just did whatever looked semi- balanced.  I only knit 9 rows of neckline because I didn't want it to roll down all weird like we used to roll our tube socks when we were kids.  Remember, when you'd start at the top rolling tight and keep going to the ankle then walk around like that for fun?  Okay, maybe not, anyway, it's not a good look for a sweater.   Now, that it's finished, I doubt that would have made a difference, though.

All that was left was setting in the sleeves (Did I say picking up stitches was my least favorite thing?  I lied.  Setting sweater sleeves is.)  Then I washed and blocked it with a couple more sweaters, hijacking the dinner table again.

The results:  It isn't too big, he likes it, it does match his eyes (guys don't really care about stuff like that, though), and after wearing it for these photos he deemed it "a really warm sweater."   Plus, I think he looks really handsome in it.

This is how his father stands.  
more on my Ravelry and Flickr

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Lights

I love walking in the evening at Christmastime.  All of the lights from within houses like hearths, or little rectangular beacons, glow to draw family home.  I can't pass them without thinking of the home I grew up in.   I can take the cold a little longer, walk a little further than I thought, if I know my steps will end at my door with a little light like this.
But as I run by, slivers passing in a blur, I wonder what effect they have on a lonely heart.  Is it a comfort to have them shining to break up the miles in the night, or do they just intensifying the darkness around them by comparison?  When I have Christmas at my home, I want it to draw in hearts like that.

Friday, December 21, 2012

DIY Ornament Wreath

I'm sure you've seen them online and, like every other woman I know, I'm not immune to Pinterest's siren song.  Aside from a handknit gift, I had to make at least one Christmas craft.  So, here it is: possibly the loudest Christmas wreath in existence.

I only have a few vintage ornaments, so I took advantage of Target's kitschy Christmas section to find ornaments and a garland covered wire wreath.  My son merely raised his eyebrows at the things I was loading in my buggy that day.  Scoring a few boxes of true vintage ornaments at Goodwill or an estate sale would be a lot less expensive, and more unique.

I used hot glue to attach snowflake ornaments to the back, then began gluing the larger balls.  I worked from the outside, in, saving the nicest ornaments to glue on last.  I also used wire from the garland to tie one of the heavier ornaments directly to the wire of the wreath.  

I used little glittery fronds from last year's gift wrap to fill in empty spaces, tucking them here and there. 

I really don't mind the volume, since we always do a low-key Christmas.  Those days may be over now, however, since I feel compelled to buy one of these to go with the wreath. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Perfect Winter Sweater

This ball of yarn is becoming the perfect winter sweater.  I kind of love working on this.  It's really hard to put it down and do things like feed people, bathe, brush my hair...


But I am putting it down and that's why I'm only through one sleeve.

The front and back are made separately, knit from one sleeve, across to the other.  At first, I wanted this sweater to be super oversized with long sleeves; it seemed appropriate for winter.  I gave up on that notion when I realized that changing the places of increase and decreases on the sleeves with all of different stitch patterns would make my brain hurt, especially at Christmastime.  Besides, I doubt I have enough yarn for longer sleeves; and after working with the City Tweed, and feeling how lightweight it is,  I'd rather this be more fitted with three quarter length sleeves.

But it's still so appropriate for winter with tweedy yarn, texture, and cables.   There's so much going on here that you can't be bored.  In fact, I've had to turn off the tv to focus on the ever- changing stitch patterns (textured, cabled, puff stitch, etc) ... and I liked it.  It's like an evening treat to sit down with it.

(more on my Ravelry and my Flickr)

It's all quiet with Elvis' White Christmas on the turntable and lights blinking on the tree.  Is this decadent crafting because it makes me feel a little guilty?  Much of my day was spent this way yesterday because my son was home sick from school.  I sat by him while he slept on the couch, knitting this way.  Later, he asked if all of my days were like this when I'm home alone and if it is really relaxing.  They're not; but it is.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Clutch KAL, Week 3

The knitting portion of my clutch is finished and bottom seam sewn with backstitch.  It may be the second neatest seam I have ever sewn, which is good since I'm putting it down to piece together the behemoth of a sweater I'm making for my husband.

(my Ravelry and my Flickr or the knitalong)

I feel almost smothered by the giant unseamed man arms and half in-the-round body when it's on my lap, plus I keep losing my yarn needle in all of that bulk.   But this is the day for seaming.  (I warned everyone ahead of time that I might be cranky today.)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sweater Curses

Quick, what thoughts enter your mind when you hear the term "sweater curse?"  

Witchcraft?  A sweater with an intarsia "#@!!" worked on the front of it?   Bill Cosby?  Me, on my couch, yelling at a difficult project?  

Or, if you know me, did it bring fearful thoughts of another knitted gift, and how it's only a matter of time before I curse you with a sweater you'll feel obligated to wear in public? 

The old knitting wive's tale says that any finely knit, cabled, colorwork, freak- of-a- sweater you may knit for your boyfriend before marriage will be the beginning of the end of your relationship.  The fact that you spent hours poring over those complex stitches won't knit you together, but, rather, doom you to being dumped. 

(more on my Ravelry and my Flickr)
I really don't have to worry about that because I married my boyfriend a bazillion years ago, I'm knitting with easy bulky yarn, and it's the most straightforward stockinette pattern ever.   If he doesn't like it, it will not phase me.  Besides, though he may be picky in strange ways, I think he's at a point in his life where he'd like a handknit sweater.  This coincides perfectly with me being at a point in my life where I think I can easily make a nice one, which coincides with me having ten extra balls of yarn in my stash.  Whoa, planets are aligning all over the place, here.
So I cast on yesterday and, in one sitting, am almost halfway through.  Granted, it was an 8 hour long hospital waiting room sitting, but still... 

I'm knitting this in a small size to factor in the way this particular yarn blooms with washing.  I've measured and done the math over and over to be sure.

This is from Greeting from Knit Cafe, which was one of my first really nice knitting books to own.  I have made several things from it- a baby sweater, a failed swimsuit (don't even imagine) that became an awesome scarf, and the skirt that I will knit again in the right yarn one day.  But, really, the book would have been worth it just for my favorite sweater pattern.  

Anyway, there's no turning back.  He's getting a birthday/ Christmas sweater wether he likes it or not in a color I think will match his eyes and I remain unafraid of curses.  Ha, just let him try to dump me.... 

Really, you have to see the Cosby Sweater Project link.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Clutch KAL, Week 2

Once I adjusted to this new way of knitting and started over with smaller needles, all has been smooth in the knitalong.   It's one of those hard to put down, "Just one more color section..." kind of projects.  

more on my Ravelry and Flickr