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Archive for April 2008

Finally Finished!

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What a rough week this has been. Aside from work and pregnancy-related discomfort and pains, we’ve had a real challenge in our family. (Non-knitting related decompression at the bottom. I don’t want to unnecessarily depress anyone. Enjoy the pictures below if you’d prefer!)

….Just needed to decompress a bit from the stress. Thankfully knitting has been the perfect outlet for the stress. I may have had to add some inches to the nursery floor pillow, but it was very zen finishing such a simple pattern. Voila!

Pattern: Cabled Floor Pillow from Knit Simple Magazine Winter 06/07
Needles: Size 8 Addis Circular
Yarn: James C. Brett Marble Chunky (3.75 skeins)
Knit Time: Roughly a month and a half, but I didn’t work on it every day

Notes: This was a very easy project but since it is very large (24 in x 24 in) it is very time consuming. I changed the pattern so that I could knit in the round without seaming two of the sides and it worked great. It would have taken forever otherwise! The yarn is acrylic since it’s going to sit on the floor where it will probably be drooled on, flopped on, and tossed around. There is a serious error in the cable pattern that is pretty obvious. I must be the only person in the entire country that has actually knitted this project as there are no comparisons on Ravelry, so I’m not surprised that it never hit the KnitSimple website errata. I even managed to finish the seams with a tutorial from here, so it is barely noticable! Seaming it a lot simpler when you know what the hell you are doing have a good technique to use.

I freely admit to being an awful photographer, but I did try. I even got the colors pretty accurate at sunset by braving the freezing cold balmy Minnesota spring evening on our deck.

I finished up the pillow on the weekend, and then turned around and completed another long-standing WIP. So much productivity out of stress! I’ll post the other project tomorrow probably.

The big elephant in the room is to follow.

Just to get it out of the way so it’s not a shock later on down the line, our son Aidan is autistic. He was diagnosed before he entered Kindergarten, which is relatively late for an autistic child. Let me preface this with saying that there is no such thing as “slightly” or “mildly” autistic. Anyone who says so thinking that they are being kind to the family involved is really trivializing a serious disability. Every autistic child has challenges, they just may not be as evident to the rest of the world as they are to close family and friends. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but we run into it quite a bit.

We’re really lucky because Aidan is a very affectionate and sweet-tempered child. He doesn’t have any trouble showing emotions, he speaks and communicated normally, and is very friendly. He does fine academically compared to other children. But his mannerisms and the way he processes the world around him make everything that he learns that much more difficult. The challenge is finding the best ways for him to learn and grow. His recent difficulties are all the harder to cope with since he has had so much success throughout Kindergarten and the first half of the 1st grade. He has been mainstreamed in regular classroom settings, but receiving help from specialists at the school as well. When winter came around this year he just started declining in how he handles stress and direction from his teachers.

We had to have an emergency meeting with his teachers/specialists last Friday, and decided to have the school district’s autism specialist observing him in the next couple of weeks to help us plan out next year. The teachers all really enjoy having Aidan as a student, but his disability is outpacing their services and abilities. They made it quite clear that he will probably have to attend another elementary school in the fall that has a more intensive Special Education program for autism….I’m really not sure how we’re going to break that news to him if it happens. Transitions and change are very difficult for autistic children to deal with, and he has friends that he attended preschool with through the 1st grade. To lose those special friendships and connections would really be tragic. Its all so up in the air, and I worry about how fragile he must feel in the situation. He’s definitely been picking up on the tense atmosphere.

Sometimes I just wish I could protect him from all the things in life that are so much more difficult for him, but that aren’t his fault.


Written by Milwaukee Knit Chick

April 29, 2008 at 10:50 pm

Bitchin’ about Stitchin’

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I feel that I must come clean about a dirty little secret of mine.

I really hate the Stitch N’ Bitch books by Debbie Stoller. There. I said it. I halfway expect the knit gods to strike me down.

I hate the way it portrays very basic patterns as glossy celebrities of kitsch that all the cool kids must knit. I hate the clashing color schemes and Ron Popeil feel to it. I hate the way the author writes as though she is the knitting Messiah who’s raison d’etre is to make knitting trendy and fashionable.

That being said, at least her books have given people the foot in the door to learn about knitting in their own comfort zone. Because her books are so trendy, beginning knitters have a starting point and common ground that probably didn’t exist 10 years ago.

I just think there are so many other great options available for beginners out there that I don’t understand the appeal of the series. Its easy to be overwhelmed by the massive amounts of knit magazines and books out there right now, but 95% of them are much more appealing to me. Or just going to a LYS and meeting the local knitting group is a great way to to knit and make friends in the process.

Which brings up an interesting question. Do you think that it is the creative process or the social appeal of knitting that creates more new knitters these days? Personally, I was more drawn to the creative process, to see the finished project and have the satisfaction of making something with my own two hands. I like to challenge myself, and after crocheting for many years, I forced myself to try the scary and intimidating ninja-art of knitting.

The process went something like this:

1. Oooh, two needles?! And they’re pointy! (Proceeds to poke one’s self a couple dozen times on accident on the way home from the store.)

2. I’m a crochet pro, this is going to be easy….fuck, this is starting to look like some form of destructured modern art. (Has only cast on yarn at this point.)

3. Must find simple pattern. Everyone says that a garter stitch scarf is the easiest thing in the world to try….(15 rows later) God, this is the most mind-numbing boring thing I have ever done in my life. There has to be something more to it that this, or knitters would stab each other with their needles out of boredom.

4. Has now switched to stockinette, in the round, HP scarf for friend. Rationalizes that promising a gift to a friend will force myself to finish said item. Search for pattern online, and compatible yarn online. First foray into a “LYS” is intimidating but exhilirating.

5. Rationale was accurate as far as drive to finish item goes. Knits and reknits same first 10 rows of scarf at least 20 times in one week. Learns the definition and lack of real-life humor in the term “frogging”. Swears constantly out of frustration, inventing new words that my husband believes would make most knitting grannies blush. Refuse to put down needles until I get it right

6. Constant knit-stitch in repetition forces consistent tension of yarn and I start to get the hang of this whole “gauge” thing. After 200 rows of stockinette stitch, have mastered the knit stitch and hit that meditative zen-knitting “zone”. Simple scarf completed and shipped off to friend.

7. Ha! I thought this knitting stuff was supposed to be hard? Delusional knit-whore created.

So as you can see, the socialization aspect of knitting wasn’t what appealed to me at first. But it’s really hard not to be drawn to other people who share your passions. Plus, there is frequently cake and gossip involved. Is there anything better?

I think that the cake and gossip probably draws in more people these days as knitting has become socially acceptable and trendy. And then they get the bug and more knit-whore’s are born, Ravelry addictions are created, and the whole knit world opens up.

Written by Milwaukee Knit Chick

April 24, 2008 at 12:40 am

Posted in Humor, Knit Philosophy

Nesting Syndrome

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In breaking knitting news, my friend Shannon <3’s her birthday purse. She even made a point to dress in  plummy purples today so that everything color-coordinated with her purse…Gotta love someone who appreciates a handmade gift!

I also was this close to sewing up the floor pillow o’ doom last week and then when I pulled it over the pillow form I had bought, I couldn’t help but notice this:

Umm, yeah….that puppy obviously needs another four inches in length. It was depressing to undo the bind-off and cast it on again, but really, it’s only a little bit more. I worked on it a bit at work today, and if I keep at it, it should be done tomorrow night.

Sooooo, it’s been 8 years since I had my son, and I had totally forgotten about nesting syndrome. It’s like this primal urge to have everything tidy and organized right fucking now. Its not unlike how many of us have our little routines and quirk when it comes to knitting. The yarn has to be positioned just so, measuring and remeasuring each schematic of the item at regular intervals, grafting/felting the ends together to a certain criteria, washing the finished project in a certain scent before blocking. Whatever floats your boat. I’m really just trying to convince my pregnant mind that I am not crazy, and knit philosophy somehow validates that.

Granted, I’m not exactly what you would call the Donna Reed of housekeeping, but even I have my standards. I do hate clutter, so I frequently toss crap we don’t need/use and I don’t allow random junk to be brought home. I really got the spring cleaning bug a couple weeks ago, and decided I couldn’t stand the overflowing craft stuff all over the place. We had to get some new furniture for the boys’ room, so I gave up my trusty sewing cabinet as a storage option. I bought it for $15 when I was in college and just added some baskets to organize my material and sewing odds and ends. When I became obsessed with crochet and then knitting, I just tossed my yarn into an old basket I had….boy that didn’t last for long. Pretty soon I had yarn and needles and patterns and books coming out the wazoo. You couldn’t walk 10 steps in our apartment without tripping over something.

So we spent all weekend in intense decluttering and cleaning. It can be a constant battle getting my husband and son to admit they don’t like/use an item. Hopefully this little twerp will be more like mommy. I’ll save you the boredom of looking at the dust bunnies we scraped off of the ceiling fan in the dining room and skip right to the good stuff.

We finished the nursery!

This may not seem like a big deal to most folks, but we were so broke when we had Aidan that we couldn’t afford to spend money on anything, much less decorative touches. It felt nice to make the room comfy and cheerful. Plus, I was able to reuse and buy used for many of the items! The bouncer was $12 at Once Upon a Child, and it looks like brand new.

The bedding is new, but I got this solid wood crib for $100. I’m guessing it was $300 new. Also, all the wall hangings we bought at Target from the bargain bin for $2-3 a piece. The large pieces are actually tiny area rugs that we stuck sticky velcro to so they would hang on the wall. Voila, instant nursery artwork!

I gave up my beloved sewing cabinet, but I have to admit it looks rather nice in there with the baskets and Andy’s teddy bear bank from when he was a child.

Aidan and Rawry insisted on being in this photo. More wall art from Target, and a string of monkey lantern lights from Home Goods. Its a jungle theme in case you hadn’t figured it out.

And lastly, a little reading nook near the closet for him to cozy up in. I’m thinking about getting a bean bag chair to put over there. Something that matches the floor pillow I’m finishing up. It feels good to be prepared in some fashion for when the baby comes home.

Written by Milwaukee Knit Chick

April 22, 2008 at 3:35 am

The Knitting “Type”

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I sometimes get the most jaw-dropping looks from people when they learn that I knit. Anyone else run into this?

I guess I just don’t fit the knitting “type” that the general public has in mind. Even my own family is astonished that I enjoy it and other sewing, etc. I’ve always been a pretty driven person, and I shocked the hell out of my parents with feminist tendencies at a young age. I never have had any intention of being a homemaker, ie. stay-at-home mother, which astounds my mother to no end. I’m the oldest of 6 children and she didn’t work until my youngest brother was 8, despite being brilliant in school. Even now she has a degree in business management that she doesn’t really use.

Don’t get me wrong, my parents pushed us all to do well in school. I just was really motivated about it and did pretty well. When I got married and had our son, my mother would get agitated because Andy doesn’t make enough to “provide for you so that you can stay home”. When I explained that I had no desire or intention to stay at home, she was speechless, but I really don’t understand why it was such a shocker. Why push myself and work so hard at school and my career if that was the destination in mind? If that is something a person wants to do, they should absolutely go for it! Dads included! But if its not your cup of tea, why judge?

Even so, you don’t have to be a domestic god/goddess to enjoy making something with your hands. It’s an art just like anything else, and the satisfaction of saying “I made that” is a simple enough joy for a toddler to understand as they paste macaroni to paper.

I work in the corporate world, where bringing your knitting on breaks gets you some really strange looks. Don’t even get me started on how alpaca clings to a business suit. Even so…I get a steady stream of people who come up to me and compliment the item I’m working on, usually out of curiousity. A few of my fellow closet-knitters in the building and I have taken field trips to the LYS on lunch, and there’s talk of creating a twice-a-month knitting group. It’s like knitting in public is some sort of forbidden fruit that they get giddy about.

So it may be a little unexpected that I am the knitter in the family, and my stay-at-home mother has never picked up needles, but that’s what makes life interesting.

In other knitting news, my stash-buster purse is completed. I should try new things more often, it was fun!

Cabled Handbag

Yarn: Berroco Ultra Alpaca 1 skein heather pink, 1 skein plum
Needles: Size 8 Addis
Time: 1 week! New record!
Notes: There isn’t a real pattern listed for this purse, per se. Just a generalization of what you can try. I went ahead and did the cables in 2s and 4s since the double-strand was so bulky. If I make this again, I won’t try and felt the Alpaca. It doesn’t really lose it’s stitch definition very well, and it smells like wet dog when its washed. I’m totally Febreezing this before I gift it to my friend.

I’ve never constructed a bag where yarn is involved, so it was quite interesting, and learn-as-you-go. First, I ironed out the cotton liner I picked up for a couple bucks at store and creased it with steam. Next, I pinned it to the inside of the purse.

Then I sewed the raw edges around the liner with my sewing machine, and made some reinforced creases at the center for shaping. I had planned to just machine sew the lining on, but it looked awful. I ended up ripping out the stitches and hand sewing the lining to the yarn so the thread wouldn’t show. It was time consuming, but invisible from the outside.

Then I took the last bit of yarn I had and seamed the sides and shaped the corners of the bag so it was more rounded. I stuffed it was some plastic grocery bags, and it holds a nice amount for its size.

Still working on my socks, but I also bought a pillow for the cover that I knitted for the nursery last month. It’s supposed to be a floor pillow, so it’s pretty big. I think I’ll try and seam it up tomorrow. Pictures to follow!

Written by Milwaukee Knit Chick

April 17, 2008 at 4:12 am

Now is the winter of our discontent…

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So I may have mentioned that I live in Minnesota. I wasn’t born here, and I didn’t grow up here, but it’s a nice state. Friendly people, beautiful landscapes, lots of history. That being said…

I am so freaking jealous of every other region of the country right now. It was supposed to be 70 degrees today, so I thought I would haul my pregnant ass outside for that bright yellow ball of gas that is rumored to exist in the sky. I work in downtown St. Paul at a bank-that-shall-not-be-named, right next to the Mississippi River. It’s a gorgeous view, and there are walkways and parks all along the shore. I figure, a little walk, a little sun, a little knitting, what could be better?

I stepped outside and was blasted by nearly 50 mph winds that just about knocked me over. It’s a miracle I got any pictures without hair in the lens. We had 8 inches of snow last week, and even though it has melted now, the grass is that ugly, yellow-brown color that makes you think of death, not rebirth.

Sometimes it feels like Minnesota has something against spring, as it frequently jumps right from winter to summer. Even so, I am lucky to have such a great view of the city from work. The architecture is interesting, and we’re only a block away from Harriet Island, a little park area that has tons of festivals such as the Taste of Minnesota and the Winter Carnival

I always look at this lonely little shack atop the water locks and wonder if it is actually functional. In all the years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen the locks activated.

Oh well, at least I got some knitting done today. I’ve been trying to find creative ways to use the yarn I have so that I can start a new project in good conscience. I had about a ball each of Berroco Ultra Alpaca in a heathery pink and a dark plum that needed a home. Neither color really is very interesting on their own, but stranded together they are lovely, indeed!

My friend Shannon’s birthday is this weekend, so I knitted up a cabled purse from a free pattern on Ravelry. I thought it would be fun to try felting, so I knitted it until I ran out of yarn, and then attached it to the bamboo handles that I bought at Joann. The handles are too delicate to go into a washing mashine, so I went ahead and handwashed/felted it in a little washtub in the bathroom and then hung it up to shape/dry.

I have no idea what will happen next, but it didn’t seem to shrink very much. I’ll be lining and sewing up the sides tomorrow, so stay tuned for a more detailed picture in the daylight to see the results!

I’ve also been working on my very first pair of socks. I must have restarted these damn things about 40 times in the last year. The yarn is Tofutsies and beautiful, but it’s so tiny! It probably would have been more practical and less frustrating to knit a pair in wool for the winters around here. And although it is tempting to just do a simple stocking, I want something to show for the time and effort put into my first pair. So I went ahead and used the Widdershins pattern from Knitty Summer 06.

It’s really frustrating trying to cable on such thin thread, but I have to admit I like the way it looks. And the twists are only every 8 rows. I think tomorrow I’ll be able to start on the heel. Admittedly, the most exciting thing about this project is that I’m knitting both socks on the same circular at once. Am I the only one who thinks that TOTALLY rocks?! I am so looking forward to trying this method for mittens. I always end up altering the shaping or length of mittens, and inevitably forget what I did on the first one by the time I get to the second. This makes it so much simpler!

Written by Milwaukee Knit Chick

April 16, 2008 at 5:50 am

10 Reasons I am not qualified to be a Knit Blogger

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Be afraid. Be very afraid. I’ve become addicted to knit blogs. I’ll find one that I like and then I’ll read all the posts from the very first to the most recent. Its fascinating to hear about different regions and countries, and the various accomplishments of these folks, and it keeps knitting fresh and fun for me.

That being said…

Is it just me, or does it seem like there are certain prerequisites for having your own knit blog? What I mean is, knitting is more popular than ever. I dare say, it’s trendy. I would never have guessed how insanely popular it is until I joined Ravelry and watched the waiting list grow longer and longer each day in amazement.

There is no doubt that the internet has made it easier for folks to communicate about their hobbies and passions, but it’s like a freaking yarncraftsplosion! I could sit and read knitting blogs 24 hours a day without making a dent in the content out there.

Even so, there are a few trends I’ve noticed in knit blogs that make me wonder if I’m even justified in creating my own.

Disclaimer: If you aren’t prepared to laugh at yourself as a self-proclaimed knit blogger, go no further.

Knit Blogger Prerequisites

  1. Must insert knit pun into blog’s title, no matter how cheesy ridiculous it sounds. Nope, no knit pun in sight.
  2. Must be a lacto-vegetarian who only shops at local co-ops and has a lifetime membership to Whole Foods. B-b-but, I like steak! And pork. And chicken. And fish. Did I mention I like steak? We don’t even HAVE a Whole Foods in Minnesota! I like granola bars, does that count?

    These guys know how to make a girl feel welcome!

  3. Must have at least one bizarre fiber allergy. Acrylic, alpaca, bunny wabbits, cotton. Sometimes wool feels itchy on a hot day?
  4. Must be incredibly prolific in their knitscapades. We’re talkin a sweater a week, two pairs of socks, and a blanket, minimum. Every item looks like it just came off the rack, perfectly blocked, and shaped to their proportions. Hell no. It took me three weeks to make a baby sweater. In 95% stockingette stictch.
  5. Must post yarnpOrn with regular frequency and spend more money than God has on yarn, needles, and patterns. If the name of the yarn is unpronounceable, +10 points. Call me cheap frugal, but I can only afford 1-2 projects at a time. I’m making myself use all my yarn before I buy any more. It just helps me avoid divorce court , ummm cuts down on chances of searching for my lost child under a yarn-avalanche, ummm makes my anal-retentive self happy.
  6. Must have stash of prolific proportions. Easily 3 times their weight in wool. Hey, who wouldn’t love to have that much yarn at their fingertips? My only guess is that there is a second mortgage or massive credit card bills involved. Rumors of yarn pimping are unsubstantiated…
  7. Must live in quirky/crafty/retro environment that is always spotless and fashionable. And of course, every square inch of said domicile is covered in self-crafted decor that puts Pier One to shame. Bwuahahahahahahaha. I have at this very moment a half-empty box of Oreos, some quasi-dirty laundry, cough syrup, 3 weeks of my son’s schoolwork, and a baking scale sitting on my dresser. Mmmm, Oreos…

    Exhibit A

  8. Must work/own in craft/yarn store, or have done so at some time in the past. (Secretly, I think this is the only way someone could acquire such massive amounts of yarn!) Or alternately, must have degree or be working on post-grad degree in fiber arts/sculpture/photography/underwater basket-weaving and was incredibly crafty as a child. I didn’t even realize that yarn shops existed until about a year ago. They sure do rock though! The cool factor in working at one would be off the charts. As for the artsy-craftsy stuff, I can barely draw a straight line. My photos always come out fuzzy or the occupants look possessed. I like to draw horns on them if their eyes are really red. It’s amazing I don’t stab myself with my own knitting needles. (Thank god for blunt tips!)
  9. Must know other celebrity knit bloggers on a first-name basis, and regularly correspond with knit designers and editors. Does blog-stalking said celebrity knit bloggers count as “knowing” them?
  10. Must have sparkling chipper personality that allows you to look at the world in a positive light at all times, yet draws readers and somehow manages to never offend anyone. Use of sarcasm is minimal, and PC is the norm. Crap, I am so screwed.

Written by Milwaukee Knit Chick

April 13, 2008 at 9:52 pm

Posted in Humor