Friday, January 25, 2008

2007: Knitwise and Otherwise

January is almost over, and I still haven't posted a 2007 retrospective. I take solace in the fact that I am not the only one. I keep putting this off, because it seems a bit daunting. But I already have 2008 FOs stacking up to be posted, and my categorical mind just won't allow me to post them until 2007 is properly done with. So here we go.

2007, knitwise, looked like this:

2007 Knitting Mosaic

A pretty good year, I'd say. The stats:
accessories: 2 (wrist warmers, Calorimetry)
hats: 2
dishcloths: 2
clogs: 2
vests: 2
socks: 6
sweaters: 4
shawls: 1
total: 21

What surprised me was to see how many things I had actually knit for people other than myself. I think of myself as a selfish knitter, but when I counted it up, 11 out of 21 of the things I made were for other people (a respectable 52%), and 5 of those were for non-family other people (a respectable 24%). Can I quit feeling guilty now? We'll see.

The big news of my knitting year was probably my Gothic Leaf Stole. Actually, I had a bit of a knitting trifecta with back-to-back knits that made me particularly happy: the Gothic Leaf Stole, the Lace Leaf Pullover, and the Gathered Pullover. Very gratifying accomplishments, all of them. Surprising how fast both sweaters went, and how long the shawl took.

The big disappointments of the year were my Tempting pullover (which didn't fit me), and my Easter vests for the boys (one of which didn't fit either boy and the other of which just looked plain ridiculous with its purple stripes and unintentional ruffled edges). I feel like I am getting a better and better grasp, though, on fit and other issues, so at least I'm learning.

Not pictured are several items in hibernation: My Old Man's Zippered Raglan (started in October 2006!), Tomtens for both boys, Cathy's purple socks (soon to be brought out of hibernation), Syrian Shoulder Shawl, and my Chevron scarf (which will possibly be ripped and restarted with different colors). In addition to the socks, I hope to move the Tomtens back into circulation soon, as I would love to have them done for spring.

I suppose this isn't a very inspiring assessment of 2007, all these lists and stats and notes to self. So be it. Overall, I'd say I'm pretty pleased with how 2007 went, knitwise. I am feeling pretty solid with my abilities as well as my capacity for picking what would be worth spending time on. In the future I see more of the following for me:
- cables - love me some cables!
- lace - crazy for the lace! (5 of 21 things this year had lace elements)
- shawls - I'm a little surprised at how much I love knitting shawls
- sweaters - I find myself thinking about sweaters ALL the time. I want to make a lot of them.
- child knits - so satisfying to produce a whole sweater or a pair of socks in a very short period of time
- socks always on the needles
- maybe my first colorwork (what's the hold-up with this? what's my fear? I'm going to get over that this year)

2007, sewing-wise, looked like this:

2007 Sewing Mosaic

Frankly, I'm a little astonished.

The breakdown:
skirts: 5
tops: 7
pants: 1
pj pants: 5
hats: 2
totes: 4
softies: 3
costumes: 2
stockings: 6
quilt: 1
puppet theater: 1
total: 37

I think this was the year that sewing really clicked for me. The Wardrobe Refashion challenge kept me committed to making my own clothes, even though I haven't posted there in about six months. (And even though I've made no clothes for myself since October, I am still on a no-buying-clothes spree.) My confidence in handling the machine has grown by leaps and bounds, and I can definitely see a difference from the year's first project, a black corduroy A-line skirt, to the year's final project, a puppet theater and matching case.

I mostly love the things I made this year, and I would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite. I really lovelovelove several of the tops I made, and am unreasonably attached to the garden pants and the lace-trimmed pj pants, and will always maintain a special place in my heart for the simple A-line skirts (with especially big love for my fall version). But the big news for me this year, sewing-wise, was my first quilt. It represented the accomplishment of a long-held dream for me, and I am truly mad for it, flaws and all. I have it on my lap every night, as I knit. I have lots more quilts dancing in my head but haven't had the time to actually make them. But I definitely have the bug.

My sewing seems to come in cycles, in proportion to how strong my knitting addiction is at any given time. I do have lots of sewing plans for this year, and the stash to go with it. We'll see if I can pry my fingers off the knitting needles long enough to accomplish them anytime soon....

So that's 2007, knitwise and sewing-wise. Otherwise, I will always remember 2007 as the year I almost lost my son. In other words, the year that radically changed me, in ways I still can't fully name. In a way, all the crafting has been a coping for me, so I'm glad I have it. I'm glad I have you, too, blog-friends, as you have made this journey so much more fun, and inspiring, and meaningful. You were a terrific support in the aftermath of Little Buddha's accident, and you remain a terrific support as I continue my handmade adventures. Thank you, friends!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Again with the Old News!

[Part III and final installment: Puppet Theater Recap]

I keep waiting to post this, thinking I'll get better shots, but it hasn't happened so far so I'm just forging ahead. It's hard to get a good shot of a puppet theater!

You may recall my picture of Christmas morning at our house:

Possibly my favoritest reaction to a present, ever. (behind the puppet theater are My Old Man and his brothers, putting on a show). It made the time I spent on this TOTALLY worth it.

As far as crafted presents go, though, this one really didn't take that much time. It's from Amy Karol's book Bend-the-Rules Sewing, and she indicates that it's not hard, just tedious because of all the straight-line sewing. She suggests spreading it out over a few days to avoid burnout. But you know me better than that by now, right? Spreading it out over a few days requires not waiting until the last possible minute to get the thing done. I did do my cutting four days before Christmas, and I think I may have sewn one line or two on the 23rd. But everything else was left for Christmas Eve. Complicated, no. Tedious, yes. Straight lines are not my friend, y'all.

Still I managed. And even in the tedium of all the long straight lines, there was excitement over making my boys something that will stoke their creativity and cooperation. The woman who cut my fabric at Joann's was very complimentary of my choice of crafted gift. [Did you know that the people who cut your fabric at Joann's are required to ask you what you're working on?!? I did not know that till recently. I was always pleased with how interested and encouraging they seemed to be. Yes, I am a marketer's dream. Just show a little bit of interest in me, and I will buy whatever you are selling.]

pattern: Puppet Theater with Matching Case
from Bend-the-Rules Sewing, by Amy Karol
(wish I had a pic of the matching case to show you, because it is SO cute, especially with the big ol' button holding it closed)
fabric: basic cotton from Joann's (where they really want to know what I'm working on! really!)
notions: pompom trim (LOVE!), twill tape, bias trim, ribbon, dowels (shown in picture above before the dowels were cut to the right size), tension rod
made: mostly on December 24th
modifications: none intentionally. I did have to use bias trim as my curtain tie-backs because I forgot to buy ribbon. And the store didn't carry 2-inch wide twill tape, so I used 1 1/2-inch wide plain ribbon (it's to hold the dowels in place and is not visible)
note: If you make this, do not skip the dowels. They are pretty crucial to holding things in place the right way when it is hung in a doorway. Otherwise, the theater will be a lumpy, depressing mess. The pattern is very straightforward, with one very small quibble. I don't like it when a pattern gives you directions by telling you which fabric to use - as in "cut the green floral fabric" and "hem the pink paisley fabric." If you chose different fabrics, as I did, you have to keep going back and reminding yourself what's what, as in: "green floral fabric, oh, that's the valance, and I am using plain red fabric for the valance." Why not just indicate "valance fabric," "background fabric," "curtain fabric" instead? I think it would be pretty unusual for someone to follow a pattern like this and use the same fabrics, so I really don't understand why designers do this.
verdict: Totally love it. This is a great gift, and not hard to make. It is inexpensive and easy enough to make that I could easily see making this for my boys to take to birthday parties in the future. Knit or sew a few puppets and you have a whole little gift set (fortunately, on this count, I listened to My Old Man and chose to buy puppets for our boys instead. Ah, sanity, it is so lovely when you win!). I've seen lots of puppet theaters for sale in toys catalogs lately, and they are unbelievably pricey. This is a great alternative - and much more charming since it's handmade.

puppet theater, detail

background fabric - love this!

Mr. Wizard prepares for a show

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

More Old News!

[Part II: Christmas knitting]

I had decided that I was going to do no Christmas knitting this year. I get tired of associating so many deadlines (and, therefore, stress) with a hobby that I meant to be strictly for my own enjoyment and relaxation. But in the end, I couldn't quite keep my promise to myself. I only broke it in the tiniest way possible, though. Two pairs of child's socks. Not much work, and no stress at all.

In a way, it's a little sad that I don't knit more things for my boys. Part of the problem is that I can never knit just one of anything for them. Whatever I make for one of my sons, I had better be prepared to make for the other. Also, it turns out that little boys grow kind of fast. So I have to accept the fact that anything I knit will be outgrown rather quickly - and sometimes I'm just not willing to put the time into something that will only get a few months of wear. And finally, if you don't have three year-olds in your life you might not realize what fickle creatures they can be. My boys can be very excited about something I'm in the process of knitting, and then thoroughly uninterested in it when I present it to them. Knitting for them is definitely a gamble. It's not always a gamble I'm willing to take, when there is another person I know (namely, me) who is always pleased to receive a handknit item.

This summer, when I took Little Buddha to Knit Nouveau in Birmingham, I let him pick out a skein of TOFUtsies, promising him a pair of socks for him and his brother. He picked hot pink. I talked him into a blue/grey instead. *sigh* Clearly, I am more bound by the societal norms of gender construction than I once thought: I am simply not ready to spend hours knitting hot pink socks for my sons.

Making these socks brought up all kinds of tender feelings in me. Those feet! Those feet were so tiny once. The length of my thumb. I would slide my hand along the soft, fat bottoms of their feet while they nursed. I would gaze at those impossibly tiny, impossibly hot pink toes, and marvel at their beauty and perfection. Those feet!

Those feet are so big now. Almost as long as my hand. Those feet wear big boy shoes now, and snow boots. They jump, and skip, and run, and kick a ball. They are not baby feet. They are not toddler feet. They are boy feet. And they are still so sweet.

And it is those feet that are tapping the beat of time for me, too. Because those feet are not going to stop growing, not for a long time. They will one day be longer than mine, and those boys will be men. Their feet keep telling me so.

And it is for this reason that I want to start knitting socks for those growing feet. I want to mark the years with my socks. I want to cover their still-sweet toes and their still-soft soles with my love, my hours, my stitches. They can outgrow them, it's okay. I will make more. And then I will make still more. I will make socks for those sweet feet until I cannot knit another stitch.

pattern: basic toe-up socks, recipe from Sensational Knitted Socks
yarn: TOFUtsies, color 789
needles: size 0 dpns
for: Tiny Dancer
cast on: December 14
bound off: December 19
notes: I ended up making these a little short in the foot, unfortunately, and they also look like slightly different sizes, though I thought I knit them the same. And the colors ended up coming out differently from one sock to the next.
verdict: I'm not wild about knitting with this yarn (splitty, a bit slippery), but I love the final fabric, and it is taking a LOT of hard wear very well. After two pairs of children's socks, I still have at least 1/3 of the skein left (at least enough for another pair of children's socks, or maybe enough for a pair of yoga socks for me). I really liked using the basic recipe from this book to determine the pattern. This is my second toe-up attempt and this one did come out better than the last. My next toe-up attempt will be following Cat Bordhi's New Pathways book - a book I'm very excited about.

pattern: basic cuff-down socks recipe from Sensational Knitted Socks
yarn: TOFUtsies, color 789
needles: size 0 dpns
for: Little Buddha
cast on: December 8
bound off: December 13
notes: somehow I made one sock slightly shorter and fatter than the other. What can I say - I was in a hurry. Still, you can't tell that either pair has size discrepancies once they are on the foot.

These are certainly not the prettiest or most interesting things I have ever made. But they hold an unusual amount of emotional content for me. I have a strange strong love for them - and the feet that are in them!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Old News!

[Part I: Christmas Stockings]

Today is my two-year blogiversary. I thought I'd mark the day by actually blogging for a change.*

And rather than offering any real thoughtful remarks about my blogging journey, and/or the online craft community, and/or how the advent of Ravelry might be changing both my personal journey and the online craft community as a whole, I'm just going to jump right in with a little FO-report. Because honestly, every time I try to write anything more substantial than this, I get completely bogged down and overwhelmed. So here we go.

Christmas stockings! Happy January 15 to you.

I realize it doesn't look like much. But these 8 stockings (there are two little ones down at the bottom that didn't photograph well) represent a moment of real insanity on my part.

My Old Man practically begged me not to do any crafting for Christmas. He didn't want me to have the stress of that (during what is already a pretty stressful time of year for us, work-wise), which would mean added stress for the whole household. Because when earthchick is stressed-out, everyone has to deal with it. I like to suck people into my vortex whenever possible.

At any rate, I did greatly cut back on my Christmas crafting list. But in retrospect, I still tried to do too much, given our work situation, and given the fact that we were hosting out-of-town family (and when I host, I go a bit overboard with the cooking and the baking [but not the cleaning!]), and then leaving for 9 days on a 2000-mile road trip. December 22nd found me holed away in my study, cutting and sewing stockings a few hours before serving our big Christmas dinner (yes, I said the 22nd - we did our big dinner early this year). At approximately 4:00 that afternoon, with the stockings done and a puppet theater still to go, I concluded that I probably wasn't going to sew and hand-embroider a Christmas tablecloth and matching napkins in time for dinner. At approximately 4:05 I began to wonder if something was actually wrong with me, mentally speaking, that I had still been holding out hope of getting such a project done. But I digress.

Last year, I knit my MIL a stocking and sewed stockings for the boys. My Old Man and I had stockings I bought from our first Christmas together. But this year, my BIL was coming too, and even though my MIL volunteered to bring a stocking for him, I used his visit as an excuse to make another stocking. And then I used that as an excuse to make everyone a new stocking (except for the boys). Because the stockings all need to coordinate, right? RIGHT?!?

mine, My Old Man's, Little Buddha's, Tiny Dancer's, MIL's, BIL's

pattern: just a basic free pattern from
fabric: basic cotton from Joann's, cuff from leftover fleece
made: in a couple of hours
verdict: unexceptional, but not ugly
[some complained that they were too small (those people shall remain nameless, but I will say that it wasn't our guests - how rude would that be? - and it wasn't our sons because they don't know the difference)]

I said I made 8, and I've only shown you 6. There were only 6 people here for Christmas. So why would I make 8?

Because of course I had to make a couple for the cats.

Yeah, there may be something wrong with me, mentally speaking.

*I am also marking the day by failing to meet a writing deadline that I am under contract for. Does the fact that I am blogging instead of working on that writing indicate that perhaps I have problems with time management and priority-setting? [Or maybe you already had that impression from the whole "let's make stockings for the cats instead of acting like a proper host to my guests" episode.]