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It’s been established that I like to knit.  And in all the quiet spaces that leave me thinking of ways to put words one after another, I often think about sharing my knitting with the little blog.  And then, I don’t, for the simple reason that when night comes, and the Geeklet is abed, if I am awake, I want to knit.  Preferably, I knit while sitting next to my dear Chris and watch Endeavour, or maybe some Doctor Who.  I try not to do anything on my own computer after 10 pm.  It’s difficult to catch up with email sometimes, and I’m months behind on cool-beans articles and posts and XKCD, but it does seem to be the only method that keeps me from staying up until 2 in the morning.

 

And then?  I have a sweater done, and I haven’t shared it with you.  It becomes a little soft puddle of potential postedness.  It lays folded in my arms, a project completed, and it is a thing which I can use to put here!  If I post it… then it has been posted.  And there is no more potential posting.  The potential is spent, gone.  So sad.

 

However, letting go of things is important.  It’s called non-attachment.  I used to frown at the idea.  “I like my teapot,” I might muse.  “I like my son.  I like that quilt I just made.  And I feel unapologetic about liking those things.  So might I be bad at Buddhism?”  I’m not a Buddhist, as such, but like many I find the teachings to be good and useful things.  I like to think of Buddha as a big brother, the one who finished college while you were in high school, who disappeared into his room with a girlfriend and closed the door and you hated her, because when she wasn’t around he would show you his new CDs and photos of his hiking trip and you’d think he was so sophisticated, and you’d be so proud to be his sister.  So that’s kind of how I think of Buddha.  Wise and experienced, and well out of the whirlwind, and proud of you when you made grown-up choices, like being okay with giving up your teapot.

 

Then I saw, in a roundabout way, that it’s not about having to give up the teapot.  It’s about being okay with being separate from the teapot–in a different room, in a different house, in a different state of energy–because you and the teapot, you’re not really two separate things anyway.  If I close my eyes and envision the teapot filled with a gently steeped Darjeeling, the pot just too hot to touch, steam issuing from its wee spout, if I envision placing my hands around the pot so that a little pocket of air between my hands and the pot–remember, I’m not touching it, it’s too hot–becomes warm and a little damp, and I can taste the potential tea on my tongue and feel how relaxing and soothing that would be:  this experience can be as relaxing and soothing as the real thing.  And the teapot is not actually in my presence.  The teapot, and the entire experience, is not actually there with me, and yet I benefited from it.  Wild, no?

 

What does this have to do with Ravelry?

 

When I pick out a sweater I want to knit, these days, I go check it out on Ravelry.  I usually have the information on hand (sizing and whatnot), but what I want is to see it on bodies that are not models.  (I have a great deal of admiration for models.  They tend to be on the lovelier side of human, but even they must know deep down that they will forever be faced with the challenge of comparing themselves to their most beautiful, as well all do, really, except that the public will help them, like small children will help you paint the bathroom, only snarkier.)  I try to look for bodies that kind of look like mine, so I can see that the sweater I really liked, drapey and luscious in the photos, might actually look semi-luscious on someone whose shape resembles my own.

 

They never do.  Never.  Almost always, the lovely woman (men on Ravelry rarely have my curves) wearing my sweater is wearing a sweater that is not all that flattering to me.  She looks nice, she’s trying to take good and useful photos, but I’m momentarily despondent because the sweater won’t make me look like the model in the knitting magazine.  Not any more than it did for the Ravelry knitter who posted.  It will only make me look like me, in a new sweater.

 

And here’s where the detachment comes in:  I knit it anyway.

 

Wait!  I’m not stupid!  There are reasons to knit the sweater.  It’s a beautiful garment.  It’s a style that will go well with other things I wear, with my lifestyle and activities.  I have the skills, and maybe it will stretch me to learn new ones, sometimes.  I will finish it, and write about it (erm, sometimes), not because the sweater will change me physically but because it will change me inside.  I did this thing, and it was an awesome thing to do.  Even more awesome, if I use some of my newly-practiced skills at fitting and shaping garments to help it fit me well.  If I feel good wearing it.  Even with my eyes closed.  Even with no one there to tell me I look pretty.  I can give the sweater away and I will still have knit something that makes me feel good.  Like my virtual cup of tea, the experience of knitting the sweater is mine and not separate from me.  And my wander over to Ravelry will remind me of that, every time.

 

Here’s a sweater I knit this spring.  It’s the Jackaroo cardigan by Amy Herzog, from Knitty‘s First Fall 2013 issue.  (Sorry for the blurriness!)

 

Wensleyroo

Wensleyroo

 

I love this sweater.  I knit it with yarn a beautiful friend gifted me from a sheep she knows, a mostly-Wensleydale in shiny black-brown wool.  (I made a lot of Wallace and Gromit jokes while knitting it.)   It was spun fine, so I doubled it to get gauge, fully intending it to be heavier than the original garment.  Living in San Diego, I could see it becoming my coldest-weather outerwear, and its slight scratchiness didn’t bother me at all because of that.  Being an Amy Herzog sweater, the shaping was excellent, and I have come to understand how to make the necessary changes so that the torso fits well and the shoulders and arms, even though the shoulders and arms are generally two sizes smaller on a given pattern, for me, than the torso.   I’m very happy with it.  And it has pockets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The challenge of eggs.

Every year it goes like this: I prep eggs. I go to the trouble of buying white eggs (this is more difficult around here than you would think) and I make a point of blowing out their insides instead of cracking them open into two glowy saw-edged hemispheres. This results in spattery yellow-on-clear half-scrambled eggs instead of the round golden blobs I usually get to admire, but I’m okay with the sacrifice this one time of the year: spring.

 

Spring arrives in March and we celebrate by decorating with eggs decorated from years past, with a small bunny egg holder that looks at me with a soft despairing glower as his little attached egg-cups sit empty.  I pile empty eggs near the sink to dry as morning after morning we add a few more.

 

A few break.  But that’s okay.  I have more from last year and when I get to a dozen, we’re going to dye them.

 

Geeklet says, “Not now.  Can’t we do it later?”  And I guess I always have other things to do too.

 

I have a pile of onion skins that I’ve been saving since last year because I want to dye with them.  I have a purple cabbage and a can of organic grape-juice concentrate in the freezer.  I have a full jar of turmeric and jars of beet juice from a failed fermenting project (don’t feel bad–I have so much sauerkraut in the fridge that we put stuff on top of the jars that we won’t get to for months).    I’m ready to dye.

 

So what keeps me from doing it?  Even if G isn’t so into it, why don’t I?

 

But what if they’re ugly?

 

So here’s what we did last year:  We painted the eggshells with acrylic paints.  And they were awesome.  They’re the ones we decorate with.   And this year, I’ve sat down and drawn all over one of those beautiful white empty eggshells with sharpie marker.  It’s not so bad, either.  And maybe I’ll be the only one who decorates our eggs this year.  Ah, well.  If that’s the case, then I’ll be the one to say whether they are ugly or not.  And I’ll be the one to smash them with a satisfying ker-runch, and add them to the compost, where the worms won’t say, “Not now.  Can’t we do it later?”  The worms more often than not will say, “Yum.”

Muslin, for a start.

I made my first muslin.

This was a big deal for me. I made it in a fabric that I would never wear (more of that navy cotton pillowcase material), just so I would not be tempted to try to wear it, and sewed it with thread that did not blend in at all, just so I would not be tempted to try to wear it! I’m dealing with the feeling that if I make it, it must be worn, otherwise it’s a waste. It’s not, and I know this, logically. But the emotions of the situation are what they are, so I have to find ways to get around them. And, yes, immediately I see the benefits to making a muslin. I can see where things would gap and where they would be too tight if I didn’t change the way the garment was sewn, and how sad I would be, if that were the case with a fabric I actually liked. That would be like… like buying an off-the-rack garment and then being sad and angry because it didn’t fit me. Why should it? I never met the person who sewed it. But I’ve met me. And I have to wear clothing to interact with people in the society in which I currently live, so why not like the clothing I wear?

Now, the funny thing is, I wear jeans and t-shirts as a uniform. I like my uniform.  It works for my days, and when I look at clothes that I like and would like to wear on other people, I end up choosing pretty much what I have as it is:  jeans, t-shirts, handknit socks and sweaters.  (If I am suddenly transported to Ireland I want to be ready.)  I just want to expand it a bit. Jeans and t-shirts…. and a few skirts? A few non-t-shirty tops? Nothing too radical. But still, I go to choose fabric and I feel a little woozy at the options!  So a muslin is going to help me decide, too, if I like the way a garment feels on me before cutting into fabric that it took real effort to buy.  Well, let’s not put it that way–I love having fabric around!  It’s just that as soon as I decide that it’s going on my body instead of my bed or a cushion, it’s a whole new ballgame.  So, having chosen and purchased fabric (and having done a happy dance that I got it off the bargain shelf!), I want to know the garment for which it is intended is going to fit before I try to make it.  And since, honestly, it’s harder to create a garment the more topography there is (I can cut straight edges if it’s going onto my bed, but straight edges on me… well, it makes me look like I’m wearing a blanket, too), a muslin makes a lot of sense.

I hate my muslin.  And that’s good news, because I am not in any way tempted to wear it out into daylight.  But it’s awfully handy.  Having made it, I’ve since cut into fabric for two other shirts and have been daydreaming ways to modify the pattern more.  And there’s a good chance that the garments might actually fit me.  This makes me happy.  I’m easy to please like that.

The Linen Closet.

As I said, I have been feeding the linen closet this year. And then, a sheet died, an organic cotton flannel. (A great sheet, just the oldest of the bunch.) And I am not about to just toss six yards of organic cotton flannel because there’s a hole in there. So I cut it up, into pillowcase pieces, and began sewing pillowcases.

I had finished a quilt per spec for my mom, which left me with a couple of yards of navy cotton, so I made pillowcase pieces out of them too.

And then the linen closet spoke to me, and said that it wanted lace. Embroidery. Pillowcases were no longer enough, they needed to be embellished.

Don’t laugh. Just because historically I have not been an “embellished” type of person does not mean my linens can’t be. I don’t have to be a neo-Victorian to enjoy a lacy pillowcase. So I started making up some crocheted lace. It was fun, and because I was making up the pattern (and didn’t have to memorize it!) it was my go-to easy project for the trip to Seattle. Now it awaits a navy pillowcase.

Crochet lace and handspun

But I couldn’t stop there. This one wanted to be embroidered. I have long loved the look of blackwork, so I picked an online sampler and divided my pillowcase border into six blocks. Then, using waste canvas, I embroidered a different pattern into each block. It has been my evening go-to project, and while it took several weeks to complete, I love it. (Of course my “blackwork” was in navy. Because.)

Blackwork pillowcase

Now I have some oak-leaf lace on the blocking mattress for the next pillowcase. The trims have been lovely in-the-bag projects once I memorized the pattern. I have several more pillowcases to go, but there’s no hurry; no pillows have gone naked in service of this project!

IMG_1528

IMG_1529

Just call me Granny.

I crochet, a bit. I’m mostly a knitter who makes quilts and weaves, some. But I had the urge a while back to make a crocheted afghan. I don’t know why. I don’t even like crocheted afghans. If they don’t have holes then the fabric is too heavy and solid. If they have holes (granny squares? medallions of any kind?) then my toes stick out through the holes and this, to me, is the very antithesis of comfort on a night cool enough to warrant a blanket.

However, in this, the Year of Blankets, I was bitten by the bug to have a granny square afghan in the linen closet.

Now, the linen closet ought to be in capitals. The LINEN CLOSET. For me, it is almost mythic. It stands for comfort, for security, for warm food on a cold night, for hugs when you need them and old movies and Priorities. And somewhere in conjunction with my Year of Blankets, the linen closet has become a quest. If I have a well-stocked linen closet, I will keep my people warm. I will have sheets for guests (yes, okay, this presumes having a place for said guests to sleep but one foot in front of the other, shall we?). I will be well-fed and -read and happy.

Maybe all these things are not true but having a well-stocked linen closet is nothing to sneeze at, so I have no problem with the occasional itch to fill it. And right now, one of the things that want to live in my linen closet is a granny-square afghan. “Whether or not,” I told Chris, who looked concerned, “I actually sleep under it. I need to have a granny-square afghan to pass on to someone.” Don’t ask who. One foot in front of the other.

So I’ve been working on mine over the last few months. It’s mostly a scrap-yarn project, using odds-and-ends from finished objects and small balls of handspun that would really never be used for anything else, all joined with some balls of Patons in a lovely shade of grey. I’ll admit to having to buy more of the Patons as the project grew, but all the color came from stash, which may say more than I’d like about my stash. I blocked each block to about 10″ as it was finished, as advised by Alicia Paulson, and lost steam around block 45 but was able to continue until block 48, which seemed large enough. And now, I get to sew the blocks together!

Granny square blocks in progress

Granny square blocks in progress

Sewing of blocks

Sewing of blocks

The blocks, blocking

The blocks, blocking

I crocheted an edging last night, my hand cramping as we watched QI, but oo, I do love the conclusion of projects like this. It’s so satisfying. And then I get to feed the linen closet. Which will likely demand something else. But that’s another story. Maybe I should buy a bed to put these on instead.

Wensleydale, Gromit!

I received a call on a Sunday morning. It was early for a Sunday call, about 7:30, and though I was up I was surprised. “No one I know would call at this hour,” I mumbled. I did not make it to the phone–I was up, but not up for a call–and the message was from a lady at the wool mill. “Your wool is finished. Do you want it? Do you want me to use the card number you gave me?”

Do I want it?

A few months ago a dear friend in Northern California gifted me a fleece. It was beautiful, black with brown when the sun glinted on it, shiny. Its locks weren’t very long. It filled a garbage bag. She described the sheep as “mostly Wensleydale.” I loved it. So when she took her own fleeces to be processed, I went with her and gave her my bag of fleece. “Hmm,” said the girl who wrote up my order. “Short fibers.” I know! But we talked about what I wanted–washed, carded, spun up into as close to a light DK weight as she could get. I have a box of fiber that this very same mill processed for me a year ago. I don’t need–gasp! I can’t believe I’m saying this–I don’t need more spinning fiber right now, but yarn? Yarn I could use.

That was back in April. Now the yarn was ready. I called the wool mill lady back and confirmed the order. Then I did a little dance.

Monday morning, I received another call. “Did you say you want that yarn?” asked the message on the machine. “I’m pretty sure you called me back, but did you?” I had visions. The wool mill lady is old, at least 80. Maybe she’s just misremembering my yarn. Maybe she thinks I’m someone else? Maybe my yarn isn’t actually ready. I called her back and left a message. Yes, yes, I want the yarn. Please send it to me.

That afternoon there was another call. I held my breath. But on the phone the wool mill lady laughed and thanked me for verifying. “I just knew you had called!” she crowed. I slowly let out my breath. Mostly.

Waiting, waiting. I dare not even plan for the yarn. I don’t know what it looks like, its weight, its final color after washing and scouring. But I’d been told that my fleece would bring me approximately 25 skeins of DK weight yarn. What does one do with that?

Hmm…

What could it be?

What could it be?

A fibery mystery.

Oo, loveliness!

Oo, loveliness!

Update: It came! It smells sheepy and beautiful and that is its natural color–hard to discern because of our bright afternoon sunlight, but it is black with dark brown highlights. Its texture is soft but slightly rough; I’m imagining outerwear. There could be two sweaters’ worth in there, maybe. Hmm…

Thank you, Wool Mill Lady!

And… sewing.

Thora, my doppelganger.

Thora, my doppelganger.

Meet Thora. Thora is a dress form, and a friend and I made her a few weeks ago.

I make a lot of things, I think it is fair to say. I like making things. Once upon a time, I thought I was a single-project-at-a-time person. It is to laugh! No, I have discovered a real love of having multiple fibery relationships going at the same time… and even a couple that don’t involve fiber (but don’t tell!). Currently, I have going one quilt (awaiting tying), bags of cut squares waiting to be (at least) two more; a strip of knitted lace in cotton/linen; a pillowcase waiting to be edged in crocheted cotton lace; several balls of merino/silk singles in mid ply on the spindle; another spindle full of alpaca from Peru; a half-finished sleeveless sweater; a granny-square crochet afghan in mid-piecing; a basket full of socks for mending; another pair of socks… um… And of course, that doesn’t include the bags of pre-organized projects awaiting their turn in the queue, like the alien dolls in that claw-machine in Toy Story. “Goodbye, my friends, I’m off to a better place!” squeals the one as the rest “oooh” in reverence.

Yup. It’s a good thing I’m pretty much a process maker, or I’d go slightly mad with the slow pace of turnover around here. And I say that only slightly defensively.

So Thora. My friend Barrie and I decided to make dress forms and I challenged her to use it and not let it sit in the corner… wearing something but otherwise not seeing much action… Hey! I can hear you mumbling at me! She was blocking a sweater! And it needs buttons!

Okay, so the challenge has been thrown down, which means I need to start sewing.

My aunt tried to teach me to sew when I was in high school. She’s a lovely sewer–er, I can now see why sewing bloggers use the word sewist. You can say the word “sewer” and emphasize it as “sow-er” but in print it really does look like I’m trying to gild a very nasty lily. She’s a lovely sewist. She made her daughter’s wedding dress, and my husband’s vest for our wedding, among other things.* Anyway, she tried to teach me to sew, at my request, as a teenager. I managed a pair of shorts and matching top. I remember the other patterns we’d chosen: a full skirt to be made in white-dotted chambray, a white eyelet blouse to go along. But I was so scared. I hated my body, and while I was as fascinated by fashion and clothing then as I am now, the idea of making things to fit that body meant that that body was not likely to change. It also meant that I would have to admit on some level to trying to look nice. Trying meant you were putting yourself out there for criticism, and that meant you might get hurt.

Well, I pretty much still feel that way. But over the last few years I’ve been trying very hard to come to grips with those feelings. And darn it, I love clothes, I have and probably will for a while, even as I crawl into my dotage. (Does anyone ever make you feel like all your clothes should have elastic waistbands and that you should wear longer skirts and sensible shoes once you hit 41?) (Even though I tend toward sensible shoes. But I have since long before they were expected.) There’s no time like the present to try, I guess. And maybe that’s how I’m different from me at 15.

I picked up the Colette Sewing Handbook by Sarai Mitnick at the library and I love it. It is very simple and straightforward, and its premise seems to be to teach several basic techniques, then apply to them to a pattern. Before that, though, Sarai walks you through the design process, and the process of designing clothing for yourself. I think I’m going to like working with this book. Even if it does assume you want to wear skirts. Oh, there’s another thing about me–I never wear skirts. I’ve wanted to, but they tend to ride up and down on me like a loose ring on a finger, because while my figure is (genteelly speaking) an hourglass, it’s a rather shallow one and my waist indentation is rather high, as opposed to the “waist” where things like jeans sit. So my middle, where waistbands generally sit, is at a place that does not indent, so much, as mark a point on a narrowing parallelogram. Clear as mud? If you are wearing pants, they’re kind of caught by being sewn around your other bits. But a skirt can just go up, up, up. Suddenly I’m wearing a very mini skirt with a waistband just south of my bra. Otherwise known as a tummy panel.

Perhaps it’s a good thing that the first pattern is a skirt?

*There’s a story about sewing. So I asked my aunt to make a vest for Chris for our wedding and I went out and bought some lovely matte brocade fabric. She took a look at it, and gave me a Look. Then she made the vest, and on return handed me back the majority of the fabric. There really was a lot of fabric. “Make a sofa cover out of the rest of it,” she twitted. So I did.

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