Friday, May 25, 2007

It's All in the Presentation...

I shared this already in the Knitting community on LiveJournal, but I thought I'd post here, and wave my pom-poms about my recent experience with

I came across this vendor while checking out the stockists for my friend Axelle's gorgeous cashmere. I'll pause now, to allow you to pick your jaws up off the ground. :D Anyhow, I was surprised at the selection of hand-dyed yarns, mostly sock, that WoolGirl offered -- many from dyers that I'd never heard of. I was click click clicking along, when...I found it. The *perfect* yarn for my Clapotis. My knitting rite of passage. :P

Now, I'd come across several yarns earlier that had tempted me for this project (Lorna's Laces in Gold Hill and Patons SWS in Natural Earth were contenders), but nothing had fully "clicked". Sock yarns offered the greater variety of colors, but a Clapotis in sock yarn would take me forever to knit. So, imagine my delight when I saw this ENORMOUS, 560 yd. skein of pure worsted loveliness:

This is Miss Babs 100% Superwash Merino in Bronzed Plum. There was only skein left, and so I pounced. The colors are much deeper and muted than they appear in the picture -- just fabulous.

The icing on the cake, however, was all the thoughtful attention that WoolGirl put into the packaging:

Wrapped in tissue, complete with ribbon, shiny sticker, Soak sample, and handwritten note. Not only that, but I ordered the yarn on a Friday, and it arrived on the following MONDAY.

WOW. They've won me over. I'll be back. :)

Monday, May 21, 2007

It's Not You, It's Me...

I'd wanted to make a Saturday Market Bag ever since the pattern was released. I'd even bought the requisite needles and a bunch of Sugar 'n Cream with this intent. But try as I might, I just never felt at ease knitting it. The big needles and dropped stitches made me as jittery as I would be after a 64 oz. Diet Coke. :P So, after about a year of trying, I've finally called it quits. It's still a cute and awesomely functional design, but we're just not meant to be, not quite yet. And that is why, a week before Mother's Day, I used my skein of Mauve Cotton Fleece to cast on a Lacy Yoga Bag instead.

And doesn't the yarn look happier?

NOTE: The lace patterns for the bags are interchangeable, but there is a one stitch difference. So, cast on accordingly, and when you get to the upper hem/eyelet portion, be sure to follow the directions for YOUR stitch pattern, which may not necessarily be the ones for your bag size. I choose to use the Pierced Diamonds pattern, but in the water bottle version.

Of course, the bag and I did have a few of those early-relationship misunderstandings along the way. For starters, it seemed like I would have scads of yarn left, and so I added an inch or two to the body portion. Oops. As I got to the upper hem portion, I realized my folly. But because of time constraints, I didn't want to rip back, and so I made the upper portion with eyelets only and no picot facing. The top rolls a bit, but it's a nice, casual look.

Then, try as I might for the bottom of the bag, I just could NOT manage to start knitting and increasing in the round with only eight stitches. If I'd had the time, I would have jaunted over to the LYS for help, but again, because of time constraints, I improvised. I'm normally not one for the maths, but I managed to knit a sort of octagon/circle piece with a 20 inch circumference, just what I'd need to fit the bottom. When pseudo-mattress stitched, it fit perfectly (not that you can necessarily tell that from the angle, but it did fit):

And finally...the cord. As my yarn shortage was becoming increasingly apparent, I decided to forgo the long strap for a simple drawstring closure. Really in crunch-time now, I cut several long lengths of Cotton Fleece and began braiding. I thought it might look tacky, but really, the final result was a cute "design element" (as I'm calling it). I just didn't realize how much yarn a braid would eat up, so it turned out rather short. Luckily, my mom is also short, so this was the perfect length for her to sling over her shoulder.

So, while we didn't experience clear sailing in the making, I *was* pleased to gift the final result, and I'd like to make a proper, by-the-book one for myself at a later date:

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Retail Therapy

Wow, you really *can* buy happiness! And for only $5.75!

Yarn: JaggerSpun Zephyr laceweight, from Sarah's Yarns
Color: Cinnabar
Destiny: Sarcelle, someday

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Kasia has declared that I am it! So without further ado, the Seven Random Things About Me meme:

1. Antiques and vintage clothing give me the heebie-jeebies. I like retro and vintage styling, just not the actual objects.

2. Also, street clothes on my sheets = heebie-jeebies. Jammies only on the sheets, thank you.

3. I used to write Harry Potter and Firefly fanfiction. My kids now sap too much of my brainpower to write anymore, which I don't mind, as I'd rather be knitting anyway. :P

4. I speak Russian.

5. I don't like to take naps, 95% of the time.

6. I don't consider myself high-maintenance (in the "When Harry Met Sally..." sense of the term), but one thing that I'm really particular about is my soda. I like *just* the right amount of ice, *just* the right spike of lemonade to my Diet Coke, etc.

7. I've yet to make my first pair of socks, and yet I have what you might call a "sock yarn problem". I'm just a sucker for color.

And for good measure,

8. Once in college, a random guy visiting the apartment mocked me for being "domestic" (my sewing machine was out on the kitchen table). I got mad and threw a box of cake mix at him. :P

I really don't know many knitbloggers yet, so if you'd like to take this and run with it, go right ahead! :)

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Second Verse, Same as the First...

I really do like to try out new yarns and learn new knitting techniques, but you know, sometimes you just need "comfort knitting". The kind of knitting that behaves just as it's supposed to, that doesn't throw you any curve balls. Sometimes, you just need *gasp!* predictability.

Yep, I've been revisiting a few tried-and-true patterns lately, and I make no apologies. So without further ado:

I'm sure this one needs no introduction! I deviated from my usual Silky Wool for this scarf, though, and used some KnitPicks Elegance instead. I didn't think when I was knitting that it showed off the pattern very well, but as usual, BLOCKING made all the difference. Once blocked, the scarf took on an amazing and, well, extremely elegant drape. I want one for myself, now!

Two variations on the Sophie Bag, made with a single strap because I can be lazy of yarn shortage. The first is in Lamb's Pride Worsted, the second in Patons SWS Natural Geranium. The SWS is gorgeous stuff, but please note -- it felt with LIGHTNING SPEED. Seriously, check it after three or four minutes. That's all it takes.

Lastly, a variation on the Booga Bag, made with three skeins of Patons SWS in Natural Earth. Such a pretty colorway! Seriously, I love any sort of earthy, muted colors. I didn't have the pattern for this handy, so I just sort of winged it...which is why this only looks like a third cousin to the Booga Bag. Still, I think my friend will like it.

That's it for now!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Miss B's Purple Scarf

My four year-old son has big, blue eyes and a smile that will win you over in 0.25 seconds. He also has a few autistic tendencies and quirks that can make him, on occasion, a bit of a handful.

To be honest, I think he’s progressed far enough to no longer technically qualify for his earlier diagnosis of Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified. Still, his little mind doesn't process the world in the same way as most kids around him, and he requires a very different sort of parenting than his older sister.

It’s frightening to watch a sweet, happy child “slip away” from you. I’d always noticed that he wasn’t very interested in toys, but I chalked it up to his individual personality. But then odd sensory-seeking behaviors began to emerge at 18 months – walking on his toes all day, incessant spinning, putting tight elastic bands on his upper arms. His burgeoning communication skills turned into what felt like all-day grunting, screaming, flailing, and thrashing. He stopped responding to his name, too intent on repetitively flicking a light switch or hooking a latch to look at you.

As he got older, I would hear the usual comments from family and our pediatrician: “Boys take longer to develop.” “He’ll talk when he wants to.” “Oh, he’ll catch up.” But when I'd try to interact with him, I wouldn't sense any latent language skills lurking under the surface. No, it felt like speaking to a brick wall. No back-and-forth, no comprehension, nothing even closely resembling a conversation. Fortunately, he was always very emotionally attached to me and the rest of the immediate family, but that was about it.

At two and a half, my son entered an early invention program. It was a godsend. Bit by bit, he learned to point and (occasionally) make eye contact when asking for something. He would use (sometimes) join in during Singing Time, and even sit in one place for more than a few minutes. I’ll never forget the day when he held up a puzzle piece of a sheep, pretended to feed it, and said, “Sheep eat corn”. Most of his language up until that time had consisted of one-word requests for immediate wants, such as “bread” or “water”. Shortly before his third birthday, I heard him say his own name for the first time.

He continued in early intervention for a few more months, later transitioning to our school district’s “special needs” preschool program. Last fall, he gained a new teacher – a loving and committed woman named Miss B. He began to thrive in her classroom.

You’re probably wondering how knitting ties into this, if it does at all. Well, I began knitting after my son turned three, tempted for months by the beautiful things that my LiveJournal friends were making and displaying. I had learned to crochet as a kid – knitting couldn’t be much different, right? Just one more thing to hold? ;) And it was certainly more transportable than my sewing hobby. I started out with the requisite cheapie needles and Sugar ‘n Cream, and eventually discovered the fun of wool, alpaca, and silk. I’d been knitting for almost a year when, one November day, my son made a surprise request:

“Mama,” he said, “you want make Miss B purple scarf?”

I did a double-take. This was the child who used to stare through his grandparents when they’d try, again and again, to get his attention. The child who would circle and observe other playing children, but never show any interest in joining in. The child who used to have absolutely no concept of social gatherings. (When guests arrived for his second birthday party, he screamed at them, ran away, and hid in the basement for two hours. Getting him to join us and stay at the table for a family dinner had been a nightmare.)

But now he’d made a connection with Miss B, and he wanted her to have a purple scarf.

After checking in with Miss B to make sure that she actually liked the color purple, and didn’t have a drastic wool allergy, I got to work. It wasn’t a terribly special gift – a skein of plum Cascade 220, the Roman Stripe stitch, and a bit of fringe – but the end result was pretty. More fun than the knitting itself was watching my son monitor the scarf’s progress and enact, with dramatic “ooohs” and “aaahs”, how “boootiful” his teacher would say it was. Miss B later told me that on that last day before Christmas break, he wasn’t even off the school bus before he yelled out, “Miss B, I got purple scarf for you!!!”

Thinking over this, I wonder if it’s the “spectrum” part of his nature that makes knitting so fascinating to him. I once saw a video that illustrated the subtle differences in play between autistic and “neurotypical” young children. The normal child listened and took in the story while a book was read to her, looking and pointing at the pictures. The autistic child ripped the book away and turned it around and around intently, as if to say, “What is this thing, how is it put together, and how can I take it apart?” I used to even call my son “my little engineer”, given his fixation on motion, construction, and mechanics.

But really, all I know is that with that one request, my son moved beyond “handful” to “hand-knit appreciator”. And those are always great to have around. :)