The Christmas sweater that almost wasn’t….

Or, “It takes a village to knit a sweater.”

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In keeping with the trend of posting Christmas knitting way after the fact (and what better way to celebrate Christmas goodness than to talk about it a few weeks before Halloween the year after), let me present to you, Little A’s Christmas sweater that almost wasn’t.

(Actually, one of the reasons I didn’t post earlier was because it was a test knit and it was to be on the downlow. But, Jones, the sweet little old man cable sweater by Tin Can Knits finally got released.)

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Let me reconstruct the scenario from way back when I first heard of this test knit and jumped at the chance. I love Tin Can Knits’ designs (and the fact that they are partly based in British Columbia) so Little A and I rushed to Twisted, my favorite LYS, and Little A chose this beautiful cranberry DK yarn “Cherry Fizz” from Hazel Knits.

Even though the pattern called for DK yarn, I struggled with getting gauge and eventually had to go down several needle sizes to get it right. That should have tipped me off that the number of skeins I had originally purchased might be not enough. But, at that moment, I was marveling at my knitting skills and the fact that I was making my first Real! Cabled! Sweater! I was doing it! It was all coming together!

The sweater is a bottom up construction with minimal seaming and shaping. There is a little shaping at the collar, but essentially, the sweater is a series of rectangular panels with the sides folded over and seamed at the shoulder.

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The two side panels fold over to form the front.

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I got so sidetracked by the sweater’s cuteness and my own awesome abilities that I didn’t pay attention to the amount of yarn I had. But by the time I had finished the body and the first sleeve and was starting the second sleeve, I began to sweat.

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This photo says it all. I was so close but close just doesn’t cut it.

I called Twisted, but they had run out of skeins in this color. Since we were heading up to Vancouver, BC for the holidays, I started calling yarn stores along the I-5 corridor to see if they had any in stock. No luck. Finally, someone at Fiber Gallery suggested I contact Wendee of Hazel Knits directly. Hazel Knits is based out of Seattle, and maybe, just maybe, there was a skein or two lying around.

My sad and plaintive letter to Wendee:

Dear Wendee,

I hope this email finds you well. I’m trying to finish a Christmas sweater and I’m 3 inches from finishing up the last sleeve and I’ve run out of yarn. I had purchased my Hazel Knit Lively DK in “Cherry Fizz” at Twisted, but they have sold out of this color.

I’m in Portland, OR and am driving up to Vancouver, BC tomorrow (Dec 22). I called Fiber Gallery in Seattle hoping that I could get some on my drive up through Seattle, but alas they are also out. The woman at Fiber Gallery recommended I contact you directly, and I was wondering if there was ANY way I could purchase one skein of yarn tomorrow. I know it’s a long shot, but I would so appreciate it!!!

Thanks so much, and I look forward to hearing from you.
She must have felt sorry for me because she emailed me back right away. Sadly, she didn’t have any of the Lively DK in Cherry Fizz left. She even called around to see if other stores had some. Talk about awesome customer service! None of the brick and mortar shops had any, but then Wendee recommended that I contact Melissa at Stick Chick Knits, an online store.
Melissa was just as friendly and responsive as Wendee. Within 24 hours, I had a hookup! She had ONE skein left!! Melissa was so sweet and offered to meet me at a cafe in Seattle. She said I could text her as we got closer and she would drive over and meet me there.

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Here is our meeting at Diva Espresso. What a superstar Melissa is! I gave her a big hug and bought her coffee. It was the least I could do. Check out that cute little paper bag with the elusive Lively DK in Cherry Fizz inside.

Without the help of all these wonderful people during the busy Christmas season, this sweater would have remained a one-armed wonder for who knows how long. And of course, a silent hero in all of this is my sweet hubs, V. He had to listen to me wail and whine the whole time and then drive me around Seattle looking for a cafe.

As with all Christmas stories, there is a feel good ending and an accompanying lesson. Usually it’s about the true meaning of the Christmas spirit and the importance of family and friends. In this yarnie Christmas version, I learned that extra skeins are not a waste of money! Buy an extra skein of whatever yarn you’re using, especially 1) during the Christmas holidays when inventory is low and you are under a time crunch and 2) if your yarn is from an Indie dyer. Inventory is already small and the holidays can make it even more difficult to find.

The fiber community is made of up incredibly sweet, generous and helpful people, and this Christmas sweater is further evidence of that. Thanks, Wendee and Melissa!

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Pattern: “Jones” by Tin Can Knits
Yarn: Lively DK in “Cherry Fizz” from Hazel Knits
Good Samaritan:  Melissa Goodale

We are home now

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I’ve been silent for the past few months. We were gearing up to move, again, and the stress and unsettled feeling of living out of boxes and suitcases left me with little time and emotional space to sit down and write.

We have moved three times in the last three years, and two of them were interstate moves. I use to move all the time when I was in my 20s and 30s. Moving around seem romantic, and the inability to stay in one place I took as a mark of my adventurousness and resistance to nostalgia. Now, all I want is to stay put and live in predictable familiar orbits. And, I think, for the next few years, we have found that. We have finally moved into a place we can all see ourselves living in happily for a few years. There is a large, private yard with large pine trees, and it is the perfect retreat from a long day at work. The house is spacious but cozy at the same time. It is just perfect for the three of us.

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My spinning and knitting have also been disrupted by all the moving. I’ve been knitting in spurts, but the spinning has really declined in the past few months. Part of it is just the time it takes to look for housing, pack, unpack. And the other part of it is the tug and pull of work, and the urgency of the project that I need to write into being.

I hope that once we completely settle in, I’ll be able to direct my creative energies more evenly.

Six

IMG_3280 Little A, how did this happen? How did you grow up so quickly before my very eyes? Did I not pay attention carefully enough? How did I let the busy routine of life distract me from seeing what a big girl you’ve become? IMG_3287 IMG_3282 This past weekend, we celebrated Little A’s sixth birthday with some good friends whose son, Little J, was born just one day earlier. They have known each other all their lives, and with the exception of last August when we were in San Antonio, they have also celebrated every birthday together. We stayed in a cabin in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, about an hour and half from Portland in Washington. The cabin, nestled in a lush old growth forest, was once a guard station. There was no electricity and no running water, but no one seemed to notice. IMG_3231 IMG_3234 IMG_3353 IMG_3309 IMG_3262 IMG_3260 On the morning of Little A’s birthday, we went for a walk to a nearby waterfall. Little J’s sister, Little N, worked hard to keep up with the big kids. IMG_3330 IMG_3320 IMG_3321 IMG_3323 It took us about two hours to get to the waterfall, a 1.7 mile hike. There were some whining and grumbling along the way, but also shouts of awe and glee as we came upon gigantic slugs and beetles. IMG_3345 IMG_3372 This trip was not just a reunion but also a homecoming, a return to the landscape and a rhythm of life I missed. I know that this was not the kind of birthday celebration she had become accustomed to attending, as the parties in San Antonio had a lot of bells and whistles and often involved glitter, make overs and party favors. I hope that when Little A thinks back to her sixth birthday, she will remember it as the day she walked through tall and ancient trees to a waterfall, sat on a rock, and enjoyed snacks with her best friends as they took in the marvel around them. IMG_3381     Postscript, written by Little A:    she carried little n  and  when little n  was crying  little a  would   comfort  her   little j and  little a   would  play  with                                           little n   when   she was   sad    

Goodbye to San Antonio

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On the last day we were in San Antonio, after the movers had taken our furniture and boxes, after we scrubbed the apartment clean and loaded up our car, we went out to the little square that anchors the Pearl Brewery, where we spent the last 13 months, and took one last photo of ourselves outside our favorite cafe, Local Coffee.

So much distance and time to cover between this photo and the present. I may or may not try.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The family that paints together…

Recently, our apartment complex organized one of those drinking and painting parties that have become so popular.

V thought it would be fun to do it and signed us up. However, being totally clueless about what it entailed, we only signed up for one easel between the three of us. It worked out in the end as we realized it was best if we divided up the fun.

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Little A was the designated painter.

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Dad did the drinking.

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Mom volunteered to do the eating. Little A is not sure about this division of labor.

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The result of our collective effort.

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Little A and her fellow Pinot’s Palette painters.

 

Homemade glue

Maybe it’s because of attachment parenting. Maybe it’s because she’s five. Maybe it’s because she’s an only child. Maybe it’s because that’s just who she is. Whatever the reasons, rarely a minute goes by without Little A calling, “Mamamamamama” and needing some attention.

Yesterday she was sick at home, and for a brief spell, she was in the living room, entertaining herself by drawing little rabbits on newspaper and cutting them out. I was in the bedroom, absorbed in the delicate unraveling of a cowl knitted with SweetGeorgia’s Silk Mist.  “Mama,” she called out from the other room. “We’re out of glue.” The “little” error I was trying to fix was threatening to become a catastrophe, my fingers untrained for the surgical precision and skill needed to untangle cobwebs. I tried to brush her off.  “We’ll get some next time we go out.”

I had knitted many rows of this Welted Cowl, but somehow I miscounted the rows, alternating four rows of reverse stockinette instead of five. Even though this is a gift and I won’t have to see the mistake, the perfectionist in me would wince every time I thought of it.

The next thing I knew, Little A was in the doorway. “Mama, I just found a video that teaches us how to make glue.” I followed her out of the bedroom, and lo and behold, she had gone to the computer and Googled “how to make glue.”

Parenting can be mind-numbingly boring, but it can also lead you out of the habituated boredom of your own thoughts. As someone who tries to live simply and to make instead of buy, it never dawned on me to make my own glue. But this little girl of mine, who is always tugging and pulling on me, understood better than me, the sychronized rhythms of our beating hearts.

When I was little, there was always a cooked pot of rice ready to be served. Whenever she needed to glue paper, my mother would scoop out a little bit of rice, mash it between her thumb and middle finger, then spread it on the spots she wanted to bond.  I had forgotten about that until now.

I put my tangled project down, and we went to the kitchen to cook up some glue.

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Missing from the recipe: Cook on stove for two minutes while stirring.

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Homemade glue. A grain of rice. Smiling rabbits holding hands.

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I am a Spinner

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(Nest Fiber Studio, “Sera” in BFL, 2-ply)

I am paid for my writing, but I would not call myself a writer.  I am an academic, but I don’t identify as one. I am a mom, wife, daughter, sister, and friend, but I am not only these things. My reluctance to take on titles, however, does not extend to spinning. Even though I have only been spinning for a little over a year, and my spinning range is stuck between fine and a little less fine, I am a spinner.

It’s strange to think that spinning has only been a part of my life for such a short time. Even V was surprised that it was only last November that I got my first spinning wheel. I spin virtually every day, and I can feel my fingers becoming restless if I don’t spin.

I can’t fully explain the joy of the filaments between my fingers but I love how the slightest pressure can change the thickness of the yarn.  Judith Mackenzie McCuin has described spinning as letting water flow through your fingers, and there is something about letting go and giving in that her description captures. You can’t work the fiber too hard and control does not come from force.

There is still so much to learn, but I am at home in being a spinner. There is magic in treadling, attenuation and setting twist.

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(Nest Fiber Studio, “Freedom Child” in Superwash Merino, 2-ply)

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(Lone Star Arts, “Cheshire Cat” in BFL, 2-ply)

Parallel Lines

IMG_3808   What I need to read.

IMG_3813   What I would rather read.

Lately I’ve been torn between my work and my hobby. When I am trying to read theory, all I can think about is how much I would rather be knitting or reading about knitting. Then, I spiral into wondering what I’m doing with my life. Maybe it’s all a part of a mid-life crisis intensified by this move to San Antonio.

When I confided to my friend S about my mid-life crisis, she mentioned that she recently had a similar conversation with her friends about how–when they were struggling with their writing–they found themselves training for a marathon or learning to swim. But rather than describe this as a conflict, she described it as a parallel activity, one that is not in competition with the writing, but somehow aligned.

I’m taking comfort in these words. I’m not sure where my writing is going to take me, but for now, I’m going to embrace this ambivalence. After all, parallel lines travel in the same direction even if they never meet.

Running: From different angles

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This weekend was the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, with the children’s races on Saturday and the adults’ on Sunday. V had signed Little A up for it a while back and as the date approached, she alternated between excitement and fear. Little A had been at home sick with asthma and allergies for three days, and we weren’t sure if she was going to be up for the challenge of running 1/2 mile.

V ran with her, just to make sure she would be OK. It was wonderful that parents were able to join in on the fun too. And the moment the race began, she took off like a shot.

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I’ve never seen her so determined, and she completed the whole course without stopping. Her favorite part of the race, besides getting a medal for participation? Beating Dad.

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Here they are crossing the finish line. Where did she learn about the lean in?

Early the next day, we could hear the preparations outside. We live right on the marathon route and Little A decided that she was going to go down early and get a good seat.

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Little A made sure to wear her sparkles and, of course, her medal, and she also brought down her art supplies. The first thing she wanted to do when she woke up that morning was to draw the event. We’ve been talking a lot about how drawing is not just about being able to control the pencil but also about learning to see. I think that really resonated with her as she is such a curious and observant little person, and drawing has become a way for her to take it all in.

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Sitting in our chairs, with me sipping my morning coffee, we watched over 26,000 people bike, run and walk by. (The man in blue is V’s friend.) It was inspiring to see so many people run, and it looks like Little A and V have caught the running bug. V is now going to run a 1/2 marathon in March and Little A also wants to run too.  As for me, yarn crawls are more my speed.

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Here’s her picture. It is actually a time line of the event–the police officers setting up the barricades and the orange cones, the cyclists who set off first and the runners who came after. The lady with the dog is the neighbor below us that we finally met.