Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Baby stripes

Shortly before Christmas, a baby boy was born into my extended family.  Which meant, of course, I would be knitting him a sweater.

This was not a hardship, as I love knitting baby sweaters, and things have been calm enough here lately that I thought (but was careful not to jinx myself by saying aloud) that I had a good chance of getting it to him before his six-month birthday.  I considered my options carefully, and decided that the time was right to knit something that had been on my radar for a while:  #16410, Baby Set from Dalegarn #164.

I chose the pattern for two reasons.  One: I like the way the vertical stripes become horizontal when the baby lowers its arms, and two: because I thought it looked easy.

Yes, I told myself, it calls for fingering weight wool (the biggest needle I worked with was a US 1.5), but it's just stripes.  How hard could it be?

I scanned the pattern before starting, and it seemed straightforward enough. The horizontal/vertical contrast is created by knitting the back, increasing for the sleeves, decreasing back down once they're done, then knitting the front sides of the cardigan one at a time.  Pick up stitches for the neck, wrist, and button bands, make a few button loops, and voila!  Stripey baby sweater goodness. 

TV knitting, really.

And for the most part, that's exactly what it was.


I complicated things a bit when I decided to use more colors than the two called for in the pattern.  I originally thought that I'd use four colors, two for the stripe pattern, one for the hem, button and neck bands, and the fourth for the wrists, but finding the color in my mind's eye (a very dark forest green) proved elusive.  Dale of Norway had such a green once upon a time (I used it for these mittens), but I couldn't find any leftovers in my stash.  I was going to order some, but it was discontinued years ago, and no one seemed to have any left.  I finally found an etsy shop that had some in stock, but when it arrived it wasn't the right shade after all (just a little too bright), so in the end I stashed the green yarn and forged ahead with the three colors I had ... blue and grey stripes with contrasting brown bands.

Other than having to rip and reknit the first sleeve when I saw "CO" and cast OFF instead of casting ON, despite the fingering weight wool and itsy bitsy needle, the sweater pretty much flew off my needles.  

And then I started the neckband.

I should have realized I was in trouble when I reviewed the instructions.  "With RS facing," I read, "pick up 28 sts per 4 inches along neck edge, using a crochet hook to pick up an odd number of sts k-wise." Exactly how many stitches was left to the knitter's discretion.  After that was done, the pattern told me to work 9 rows of st st, then C OFF loosely, fold the neckband to the inside and sew it down.

Huh, I thought to myself.  That seems like it would be very narrow.  A faint warning bell sounded in the back of my head, but I ignored it because hey ...  it's Dale of Norway.  They've been around forever.  Their editing must be spot on ... who was I to question them?

I knit on, and when I finished, the neckband was a lot narrower than I had expected it to be.


It looked more like I-cord edging than what I think of as a "band", but, I told myself, the baby in the picture has a deliciously chunky neck (in truth, he has no visible neck at all, and his rolls obscure the neckband completely), so maybe this IS what the designer had in mind.  I decided I could live with it and moved on to the first cuff.

"With smaller cir needle and RS facing," I read, "pick up sts along end of one sleeve in same manner as neckband."  I was to knit back and forth "work(ing) edging same as neckband" while simultaneously increasing or decreasing to 37 stitches.

Well.  I certainly wasn't going to be INCREASING.  Each sleeve was 90+ rows deep.  Once I decreased down to 37 stitches, knit my 9 rows and sewed the cuff down, I had this:


When the sleeve was folded in half, I was left with a bloomer-like sleeve that looked nothing at ALL like it was supposed to.

I finally faced the truth: from here out, the pattern was going to be more of a general guide than a recipe.  I examined the picture more closely, and decided that what was given was, in actuality, only half of the instructions I needed to get the bands to look as I wanted them to.  I ripped everything out (this was very tedious work, but on the flip side, I now know that any neck or wrist band I sew down is likely to stay sewn) and started over. This time, I picked up and knit nine rows of stockinette, purled a turning row, knit 9 more rows, and finished as instructed.

Much better.


From this point on, it was as if the designer had grown tired of explaining everything and just wanted the knitter to figure it all out for him or herself.  God help you if you need someone to tell you exactly how many stitches to pick up for the button bands. "Work placket in same manner as neckband," the pattern says curtly.  I've made button bands before, so while I would have appreciated at least a hint about how many stitches I should pick up, I was able to plow ahead, reasonably confident that I would end up with something that would work.

The button loops were another matter entirely.  I found the very idea a bit intimidating, but again the pattern clearly expected me to think for myself.  Figure out where the buttons are going to go, it said, then "use the larger crochet hook (and) work button loops along one edge".

The designer clearly had more confidence in me than I had in myself.

I avoided working the loops as long as I could.  I sewed down all the bands, wove in all the ends, then circled around the sweater eyeing it suspiciously for several days before fishing out the smallest crochet hook I could find ...

grain of rice provided for scale

and using it to make five 8-chain loops along the right hand side.  I anchored them with knots woven into the bands, and they seem very secure.

(I am reminded of the time I was learning to swim at the Beloit, WI YMCA, and was terrified of jumping into the deep end.  I spent weeks clinging to the ladder rail and crying while my teacher tried to convince me to just DO IT.  One day I finally decided that since she was clearly never going to give up I might as well stop fighting her and die already.  I held my breath, jumped in and oh, wow!  "Hey," I exclaimed as soon as my head broke the surface.  "That was "EASY!!")


After that, I was in the homestretch.  I sewed on the buttons, washed and blocked the sweater (I love how very, very soft Dale Garn Baby Ull gets after it's been through the wash), and examined the end result from every possible angle.

maks7 - Copy


It looks exactly like I hoped it would (in the end I'm glad I didn't go with the green cuffs .... it would have been too much), the pattern turned out to be a combination of easy peasy stockinette and "put on your thinking cap, Ruth," and best of all, it was finished and in the mail before baby M was even two months old.

That all adds up to a win in my book.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

While I was gone ....

Eldest and B came home from Europe ....


then, in what felt like no time at all, Eldest went back to school.

Less than a week after coming home, B left again for a long business trip.  

Her Ladyship started her first job, and is doing well.

Towards the end of B's business trip I took the younger two bowling.


A good time was had by all.

Winter classes and activities for the younger two are up and running, which is, in turn, keeping me running.

My mother was ill enough to end up in the hospital for a few days earlier this month. She's recovering now, but it is very hard being so far away when she is struggling.

And -- I don't know if you've heard -- in and amid and around all of this, we've been having some Weather.

Snow on snow on snow.

Winter of 2015

Which brings me to Sunday, when I was supposed to fly to Chicago to visit my mother -- now out of the hospital.  The kids are on break this week, so Her Ladyship took off work to hold down the fort at home.

At the beginning of last week, forecasters were warning of yet another weekend storm for the Boston area.  By Saturday my airline had bowed to the inevitable and cancelled my flight.  I rescheduled for Monday night, in the hope that by then streets and runways would be running more smoothly.

Around 1P Monday I was wrapping up a few things when there was a shuddering bang upstairs.  Leo jumped up, barking, and I went to the window, thinking that one of the larger icicles had fallen off the back side of the roof.  I didn't see anything, and was heading back to my chair when I heard water running -- hard -- in the second floor half-bath.

If this sounds familiar to any of you, it's because I have told this story before.

It was the HOT water feeder cap this time, and, thanks to our previous experience, when I heard the water running I knew exactly what had just happened.  I ran upstairs and tried to shut the water off by closing the valves under the sink.  When that had no effect, I scurried as quickly as I could to the basement and shut the water off at the main.  I'm guessing less than five minutes elapsed from my hearing the bang to the water being shut off, which means that far less damage was done over all.

While waiting for help to arrive I went about the business of cancelling my trip altogether (first I'm delayed by a storm, then a barely-averted crisis at home ... I may not be the brightest bulb in the pack, but I can take a hint).  The plumber came quickly, isolated the problem, and restored water to the house.  While he was here I asked him to find and turn off the outside spigot whose source pipe I've never been able to isolate.  He and I went down to the basement, where he pinpointed the pipe in question and showed me how to turn it on and off.  We were walking back to the stairs when I noticed water behind the boiler.

Turns out, the flue was so rusted out it was leaking water -- and likely carbon monoxide.  He stabilized the problem, and came back the next day to fix it all permanently.  Tomorrow his boss will be by to discuss the best way to prevent the pipes from bursting again, because clearly the solution we thought we'd found eight years ago is not up to the task.

With that, any doubt I felt about cancelling my trip was erased.  Two days later, I still shudder thinking about how differently things would have gone if Her Ladyship had been the sole adult in the house when the pipe blew, or if I hadn't happened to ask the plumber to show me the shut off valve on that pipe.

A lot of stuff went wrong this week.

And I am counting my blessings.

edited 9:23 p.m. -- one of the kids just threw up.  Yep, I was meant to stay home this week.

edited AGAIN 8:00 a.m. Thursday -- woke up to the sound of a crew chipping at the pavement outside the house.  There has been a water main break under the street.  Our house is dry, but we are without water for at least the rest of today.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

2014: Year in Review

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday.  We did, even though we missed Eldest terribly (he spent the fall studying in the Czech Republic, and stayed in Europe after his semester ended to do a little traveling).  I didn't get everything done that I'd hoped to ... our Christmas cards, ordered right after Thanksgiving, printed with "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy New Year" for the first time in several years, since I was sure I'd be able to send them before the 25th, are still sitting on my kitchen table. (A hard drive failure earlier in 2014 erased my contact list.  I thought I'd send them out as they came in, but it seems lots of people didn't mail cards this year.  Maybe social media has made holiday cards obsolete, but I will admit to missing them.  I like seeing my friends' kids -- and now grandchildren! -- and hearing about what's been going on in their lives.)

B left on the 26th to join Eldest in Europe ... they spent several days in Florence, are currently in Munich, and will see Vienna, Brno and Prague before they come home ... so the other three kids and I have been holding down the fort.  Her Ladyship started a new job this week, after one of the most drawn-out hiring processes I have ever seen.  She's come home from her shifts exhausted, but happy to be doing something after a year of illness.  Young'un and I had an evening out on Saturday; he had some Christmas cash burning a hole in his pocket, so he and I went to the mall for a little shopping and dinner, then went to see Into the Woods.  It was wonderful ... both the movie, and the time with my boy.

So, as is my habit, I have put together a review of the year just past.  It's been a busy one for our family.

Created with flickr slideshow.

The first line of the first post for each month in 2014 (no posts in April):

JanuaryI am typing on my laptop, eating my lunch, which consists of cottage cheese with a little freshly ground black pepper on top, and a handful of Wheat Thins on the side.
FebruaryCarole gave us an intriguing prompt for this week's 10 on Tuesday.  Just two words:
MarchDespite multiple requests to pick up her toys, WB's "laboratory" (the area behind the sofa where she plays/her toys are stored) has become a horrible mess.
MayA few weeks ago my mother and I were visiting at the kitchen table when yet another squabble erupted between my two youngest children.
JuneIt is fair to say that Her Ladyship has not enjoyed her senior year one little bit. 
JulyIt began when I decided that since Her Ladyship's illness meant that she spent a large part of every day in bed, we should upgrade her to a new, bigger, mattress, and give her twin bed to WB.
AugustSummer is winding down.
SeptemberAt 8:00 this morning WB twirled into the room to show off her birthday ensemble. 
OctoberI am ashamed to admit that I fell behind on my baby knitting a few years back.
NovemberIt has been a cold and rainy Saturday, after a very successful Halloween. 
DecemberYou may consider yourself warned.

From a knitting perspective, it wasn't a great year.  Frankly, I lost my mojo for months there ... despite realizing that I needed a sock or two on the needles to help me through some of the worst of it ... it wasn't until this fall that I felt the desire to create something more than a hat and some socks return.

My creation
As the FO mosaic shows, 2014 ended with a flurry of sweaters, the most recent being a yellow Welcome to the Flock, knit as a gift for the new sister of the little girl for whom I made this sweater several years back. 


It was a most satisfying project ... I made only one little change to the pattern, by reversing the direction of the sheep in the second row.  Some knitters have used garter stitch for the "wool", which is brilliant, I will likely do the same if I knit the pattern again.  I may also try leaving a straight row or two above the first stranded section, instead of decreasing immediately, to see if it reduces the slight puckering I saw -- it resolved with blocking, but I worry it will come back when the sweater is washed.  I like to make things as easy-care as possible for the families of the babies I knit for -- only machine washable yarn (DROPS Baby Merino, in this case, YUM), and ideally they shouldn't have to steam the sweater to keep it looking nice.


I am taking the advice I was given by the (slightly terrifying) German woman who managed the restaurant I where I worked during the summer of 1982 and beginning as I hope to go on.  I have spent the last few days happily knitting away at another baby sweater ... for a baby who isn't even a month old, what a refreshing change THAT is!


I had to rip out an entire day's knitting after misreading the instructions (CO means "cast on", not "cast off"), but after a little bit of pouting, I am back in the chase.  The stripe changes are keeping me going, and while the pattern is written for two colors I am planning to use one or two more, which I am finding pretty exciting.  I tried to convey this to my children and all I got back was some side eye, a few polite smiles, and a "that'll be nice, Mom", said in a tone I recognize from all the times I feigned enthusiasm for Pokemon and too many dinosaur facts, MY how the worm has turned.

And with that, 2014 is done.  Happy New Year, everyone!  Thank you for reading and sharing the ride.

Sending you all my best wishes for 2015 ....

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

This is going to be TMI for some people

You may consider yourself warned.

Late last summer, one of Her Ladyship's doctors decided that she needed to start seeing a specialist at one of the Boston hospitals.  Of course, being "medically complicated" (but not dying) doesn't make appointments with specialists any easier to come by, so we had to wait a few months before she could be seen.

I had never been to the hospital where this doctor's practice is based, so when the day finally arrived I made sure to leave plenty of time to get there.  Which was a very good thing, because -- despite my inputting the zip code as part of the address -- my GPS took us to the same street address in Brighton instead of Boston.  Her Ladyship was the first to raise the alarm ("Where are we going? This looks awfully residential."), but I have not lived in Boston since 2003, I have lived in the SUBURBS, so I reassured her that we could trust the good people at Google Maps, which is what we did ... right up to the moment we found ourselves staring up at a sad little office building while the nice lady on my phone announced that we had arrived.


By the time I figured out how to trick the GPS into taking us to the correct address, we were running quite late.  No time to look for street parking ... we were going to have to use the garage attached to the hospital and, I decided, it would be fastest to go straight to the top floor and take the elevator down.

Once there, I realized that we had another choice to make.  The elevator (could take a while to get to the top floor, and might have to stop on every floor on the way back down) exited on the side of the parking garage farthest from the doctor's office.  The stairs were closer, but they were STAIRS.  Oh, for heaven's sake, I told myself, we're (relatively) young and (relatively) healthy.

"Come on, we have to hurry," I said to Her Ladyship, as I led the way to the stairwell.  We were now officially 5 minutes late, and we weren't even in the office building yet.

I threw the door open, ready to sprint, and ... it hit something soft and stopped half way.  Confused, I tried again, giving it a good shove this time.

"Wha?" the man said, looking back at me over his right shoulder.

"Ahhh!" the woman squealed.  They both started hurriedly pulling their clothes back into place.  I froze for a few seconds, then started backing out as quickly as I could.

"What is it?" asked her Ladyship, who by this time had run into my back,  She craned her neck around and over my head as I grabbed her arms and tried to redirect her back into the garage.  "Why can't we use the stairs?"

"GO, honey!  "Gogogogogogogogogogogogogo!""  I hustled her back toward the elevator,  looking over my shoulder as we went.

"What WAS it?!?" she wanted to know.

"When I opened the door, it hit a couple who were ... engaged with each other," I said.

"Ewwwwwwww," she said.  Then, "How do you know that's what they were doing?"

"Positioning," I said.  "And the smell."

She looked at me, surprised.  "There's a smell?" she asked.

(For the record:  all of the conversations I dreamed about having with my children one day?  THIS WAS NOT ONE OF THEM.)

(As soon as we got to the ground floor, I reported what I'd seen to security.)

(We were late to the doctor's appointment, but they saw us anyway, and it was a GREAT appointment.  Well worth the eight week wait.)

(But I do think that the next time we go in, we'll avoid that parking garage stairwell.)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

NaBloPoMo14.30: In conclusion

This Sunday was much like any other.

We didn't go to church for services because I taught the last three Sundays and wanted a morning off.

We hung out, did some chores.  The younger two kids and I went to see Penguins of Madagascar at a local movie theater that had been closed for a few years and just reopened (now with hot water in the bathrooms and food prep area!).  I dozed off about half way through--so it's not just the super-comfy reclining seats at the AMC that are responsible for my failure to stay awake in movies lately--but what I saw was entertaining enough..

Late this afternoon WB and I went to church for an Advent wreath-making event.  We sat with some very nice people, had dinner at the soup buffet, sang some carols (all set in keys that were unreasonably high for group singing, if you ask me ... although I did appreciate their unobtrusive gender neutrality), and made our family's Advent wreath.

I love Advent.

So here we are ... the end of November, the end of NaBloPoMo14.  I am happily surprised that I managed to post every day. When the month started I wasn't sure I'd make it, but I did, and I'm kind of proud of that. I like telling stories here, and hope to do so more regularly in the weeks to come. Even if, on occasion, it's just a picture of Penelope.

Rumor has it she's gotten used to the spotlight.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

NaBloPoMo14.29: Getting his point across

WB wanted to play a board game, so late this afternoon we got Monopoly, Jr. set up.

No sooner had WB rolled the dice than Jasper walked across the game board.

"Jasper, no!" I said, and pushed him on.

He circled around and walked on the board again.

"JASPER, NO!" I said.  This time my push was definitely more of a shove.

The third time he approached the board I made him stop and lie down.  He watched the game mournfully for a few minutes, then ...


and that was the end of that.

Thank you for your input on the previous post.  No knitting today, so no attempt to fix the mistake has been made.  The plan is to try duplicate stitch, with drop down and rip back as plans B and C.

Friday, November 28, 2014

NaBloPoMo14.28: WWOKD?

  • Went to Target with a friend this morning.  Found a few Christmas presents and stocking stuffers.  Had the cashier put the presents into a separate, opaque bag which I left in my friend's car to be collected later, do I have this Christmas thing well in hand or WHAT?
  • Not five minutes after I got home, WB started rifling through the bags I did bring in (Christmas may be coming, but we still need mouthwash and batteries) and found ... the gifts I failed to sort out.
  • I'm not as ahead of the game as I thought I was.
  • Went to the grocery store because we are in danger of running out of milk for the morning. Picked up a few other things while I was there.
  • Unpacked the groceries when I got home.  Put away the cereal, bananas and strawberries. No milk.  I left it in the cart.
  • Rationed milk at dinner so that I did not have to go out again.  Pizza and movie night with the kids!
  • Ate dinner, then knit while watching "The Incredibles".  Made serious headway on mittens for a swap with a drop-dead mail date of 12/15.
  • Put the thumb stitches on a holder and noticed:

  • Kept knitting for a few more rows while I pondered my options.
  • I'm pretty sure I know how I'm going to handle this, but am curious: What Would Other Knitters Do?
  • Poll!

    What method should I use to fix this mistake?
    Drop down. It's only a few rows and you know it's going to bug you.
    Rip back and reknit. It's only a few rows and you know it's going to bug you.
    Duplicate stitch. You're on a deadline here!
    Poll Maker
I wonder if we're thinking along the same lines.