December 24, 2007

BLESS MY BRASS BUTTONS

New Year's is my favorite holiday, and, with 2008 on the horizon, I've started looking around at what needs to be wrapped up before 2007 ends (besides the Christmas presents, I mean).

From time to time I've alluded to a Secret Project I've been knitting. Maybe not so secret; all of my friends have seen me knitting on this thing over the past year. Well, bless my brass buttons, I got it done -- and here it is, in its completed glory:

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This was one of those things that I just was not going to take with me into 2008. Or, as my DF Lizabeth would say, "Haven't you finished that yet? That kid's going to be in college!" I'd intended it to be a gift to welcome a new baby, but it's turned out to be a gift for his first birthday. I'm just happy to have sent it off before Christmas.

The knitting of the vest wasn't hard and didn't take any appreciable amount of time. But the finishing -- ach! After I'd cut the steeks, I'd sit down to knit on it, and think, "Just give me an hour, and I'll have this buttonband done." And of course the buttonband took days. And then I'd think, "Just one hour, and I'll have the armbands done." In fact, picking up the stitches of one armband took about an hour, never mind the actual knitting of it. And so it went, for months, with me thinking, "I'm just an hour away from finishing this," and that hour, once spent, bringing me only slightly, incrementally, closer to the end. Seriously, I believe the finishing work took as long as the knitting of the body.

I cross-stitched down the steeks on the inside of the vest, but my next Fair Isle project is going to have crocheted steeks, a technique that I learned from Janine's class last May. I don't think crocheted steeks take any less time, but you do them earlier in the project, before you cut the steeks and move on to the next step (whether that's picking up stitches for sleeves or bands or what-have-you), and so I'm thinking that, psychologically, crocheted steeks make the project seem to be going faster. You don't have the tedium of cross-stitching at the very end, at a point when you are impatient to be done with it.

The pattern is, of course, the Elephants Vest from The Children's Collection. This is one AS project for which all of the original (albeit discontinued) Campion colors are currently available in the Jamieson's Spindrift line. The brass buttons coordinate really well with the yellow ochre and burnt umber yarn colors, and give a complementary East Indian sort of flavor to the vest.

Postscript: I received a very nice thank-you note from Wendi, letting me know that the vest does fit little Felix now, and she expects he'll be able to wear it for some time.


Posted by Karen at 09:54 AM | Comments (11)

December 14, 2007

IT'S BEGINNING TO SOUND A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS

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I'm so proud of my handiwork, decorating these socks with these bells, that I just have to blog about it. Allegra's dance school puts on holiday open house performances where the students get to dance for their parents, and for younger children at the school. For the most part, costuming involves embellishing or re-configuring dancewear the students already own, and purchasing a few items; the teachers say, "Buy this hat and put a red or green ribbon on it," and so forth. Allegra's jazz class will be dancing to JIngle Bells and the dancers will have a retro-50's look: Black, knee-length pants ("Clam diggers," Allegra says), a white shirt, a small silk scarf tied around the neck, a red ribbon on her ponytail -- and white anklets with bells.

So Allegra and I went to the fabric store to buy bells. I expected to find a couple of different sizes, and was thinking that they'd be silver or perhaps brass color. When I saw red bells, we both got very excited. I whooped as I pulled these off their hook, there on the aisle in the fabric store, and a little boy in the same aisle who was helping his mommy shop looked at me just a little alarmed.

Once we had the bells, the question became, How to attach them to the socks? (The teacher gave us no direction on this point.) I recall Janine saying, with respect to knitwear patterns that someone likes this or that element of, but cannot understand why a certain part of the garment was done a certain way, "The designer made a choice -- and there's no saying that the designer made the right choice, and there's no saying the designer made the best choice for you."

My initial idea was to crochet an edging around the sock's top, and incorporate the bells into that crocheted edging. With this in mind, I bought some #20 red crochet thread.

But that began to seem like a lot of work . . . for socks she will wear for three performances and a couple of dress rehearsals . . . and I couldn't find either of my two steel crochets hooks.

The simplest choice would have been to sew a single bell on the center of the cuff right above the ankle. I would have "anchored" the bell -- that is, made it look like it belonged there -- by sewing on a red bow with the bell hanging from it. But that seemed too simple, and Allegra was sure that she wanted a lot of bells on each sock.

I could use that same red crochet thread to embroider a simple blanket stitch and sew on the bells that way. I had her count the number of ribs in the sock cuff: 84. We had about 14 bells, so that gave us 6 bells per sock, attached every 14th rib, with a couple of bells left over to add to her hair ribbon. It took me about an hour -- and she was so pleased, she wore the socks around the house the rest of the evening, and, I swear, slept with them on that night.

It took only about an hour, while watching one episode of Project Runway. This was a blessed relief. I still vividly recall the six hours -- essentially, a whole day! -- I spent sewing sequins on her jazz pants last year. Now, I hope the teacher is as pleased with my design choice as we are. And I want to see the design choices the other kids (and their moms) made.

* * *

Scary numbers: Last month, I turned 48 years old. Today, Scott and I are celebrating our 24th wedding anniversary. I have been married to the same man for half my life! And I wouldn't have had it any other way.

My dear husband said to me a few days ago, spontaneously and of his own accord: "I am no longer surprised when I open a drawer and find either candy or yarn." I guess we've gotten used to each other.

Posted by Karen at 08:09 AM | Comments (5)

December 11, 2007

There's been a whole lotta knittin' goin' on

There's been a whole lotta knittin' going on -- two sleeves and a sweater back's worth, to be exact:

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Alas, if only I had more time aside from my Nihon Vogue class homework to knit on fun projects like this. My responsibility for all of this knitting is limited to commissioning my dear friend Anne to knit the Duxbury Point sweater for me.

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Anne squeezes in a few minutes of knitting while in her kitchen after breakfast, before leaving for work. She's wearing a Wicked Kidsilk Haze wrap called "Glad," that she made her own by incorporating a lace pattern into it. The pattern for "Glad" can be found in Rowan 39; the original version in the magazine is stockinette.

We think the sleeves will fit me -- although now that I think about it, I didn't try them on, myself. D'oh!

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A note about Duxbury's color: I like the color shown for Duxbury in the Silk & Lambswool yarn, a color called Glenbuchat (Glen-book-at). It's a sort of a teal green that's got black tweedy flecks in it If you look at Simply Shetland Book 4, you would be misled into thinking that the color is more of a pale blue-gray. (I know there can be problems with color separations when going into print production, and I think the Rowan books are notorious for this.)

Allegra and I had a quick overnight trip to Portland, Oregon, to visit Anne, as part of a fun side trip during a homework assignment Allegra was working on. You see, Allegra came home from school a few weeks ago with a huuuge homework packet. Her social studies teacher had assigned his students to get out and do college visits. How many college visits? Six hours' worth. I knew the assignment was coming because he had talked about it when I met him at the open house at the beginning of the school year. But even though I knew it was coming, that still didn't prevent me from getting pissed off when I saw the size of the packet and the detail of the questions that she would have to answer (questions that ranged from "What kinds of clubs are there at this college?" and "How are dorm roommates chosen?" to questions that related more to the acadmics of the college). She's only a freshman in high school, for pity's sake.

To be fair to the teacher, though, I do think it is a good thing that he sees his job as mentoring his students toward a college education. Part of his point in giving the assignment, as he explained it at the open house, was that the college of your dreams might have an admission requirement of three years of a foreign language, but if you wait until you're a junior and taking the SAT to find that out, it's too late. And although he did not explain this at the open house, I am fully aware that there is a hidden curriculum: The state and the school district put pressure on teachers to give assignments that will involve the parents. I know this because it was not that long ago that I was teaching high school. So I think her social studies teacher had found a very clever way of creating an assignment that would involve the parents.

So I thought of a way to make this assignment fun: We would go to Portland and tour Reed and Lewis & Clark Colleges, and take advantage of Anne and her husband's hospitality while we were in their area.

Part of our tour of Reed included a stop in the thesis tower. Graduating seniors are required to write a thesis, one reason I was very impressed with this college. All of the theses, going back to Reed's beginnings, are filed in this tower in the library.

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Another reason I was impressed with Reed:

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This flyer on the bulletin board reads: "Sit 'n Knit with Librarians." Hey, I like knitting and I like books and libraries -- it sounds like a grand time, to me!

I didn't take photos at Lewis & Clark, but while in a neighborhood coffee shop there, I saw the headlines in the Oregonian predicting a storm of hurricane-like proportions slated to hit the Portland area over that weekend. Glancing at the article, I thought, "Oh, slow news day . . . they always try to make the weather storms sound so bad."

We made it home before the storm hit. At home, we had a dusting of snow on both Saturday and Sunday, and were deluged with rain in the early part of that week. What we had here in Kent was nothing like the devastation seen in Lewis or Grays counties here in Washington.

Our tours at Reed and Lewis & Clark were two hours each, for a subtotal of four hours. We rounded out the assignment with a tour of my alma mater, the University of Washington, last Friday.

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"We" completed "our" six hours on this assignment. In the end, I was glad that we toured the colleges and university; in some ways, it was eye-opening, to find out about admission requirements and tuition fees.


Posted by Karen at 01:14 PM | Comments (1)