Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Unrealistic deadline socks; the Fool ages

Over the weekend, the Fool celebrated another birthday. We got together with friends who have similarly timed birthdays and spent the evening talking and eating. Good times.

Two of the birthday boys.

The Fool spent his birthday listening to some new CDs I've been hiding from him for several weeks (Blowzabella, Hanneke Cassel and Cliar) and painting Taterbug's room.
I also managed to finish a pair of socks to go with his new sandals. He wears these shoes year-round, with wool socks when the weather calls for it, and as he walks to and from his office from the train each day, he wore out the first pair in a little over a year, which is not bad, considering the miles he put on the shoes.
But when you're a size 13, beggars can't be too choosy about color, so rather than blue or brown or something sedate ... he ended up with green shoes.
"How green?" he asked, when I called to make sure he was OK with this. "Forest green?"
"Uh," I said, "No. More like ... frog green. Or tree green. They're kinda bright."
"Good," he said. "Then I won't forget to change my shoes when I get to the office."
About a week out from his birthday, I decided he needed socks, so while I was in Madison visiting Thorny and the Sow's Ear in Verona (super-cool yarn shop), I found a ball of self-striping OnLine and cast on. I think their stripes are the best ones out there.
I wasn't sure I could do it, but the night before his birthday, I kitchenered the last toe and stuffed the socks in the shoebox.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Progress and Thoughts

So I finished up a project that's been hanging over my head for awhile now.

It started off more or less like this:

Then an eye appeared.

Then another!

And, finally, the armpit vents closed.

And now it's a frog sweater, waiting to be blocked. Otherwise, it's all ready to go for when Taterbug turns 1-ish. I already have a sweater in mind for 18 months.

I've been working on two-color socks for awhile now, yet I haven't made much progress. The first started out intriguing, but I did something extremely creative with the gusset, and I think I'm dreading the replication in the second sock. So that deflated my momentum going into the second one.

Now, what I really need to do is to get another project on the needles so that I have some hospital knitting, in case I find some time for it. I may not, but it's always best to be prepared. Meg has already determined that, if she's going to work on something between contractions, it will be more cat blankets.

We are definitely ready to meet our kid mentally, though it seems that there is always something to do that would optimally be finished before the wee one arrives. I'm frantically trying to paint the kid's bedroom, for instance. We're also repeatedly washing the pre-folded diapers in the hopes that they get absorbent (it's been five washes thus far to no avail). Meg is definitely ready for Taterbug to make an appearance, as I think the kid is getting very heavy and she says it's cumbersome getting up and down. Plus, I think she really wants to eat things like baked potatoes without conditions attached.

We're taking a baby wearing class in a few days, so we hope to learn a lot about what works and what doesn't. In hauling my laptop back and forth on my daily commute, I've realized that I've been inadvertently training to wear Taterbug on my back. I'm sure the actual experience of baby wearing will be different, but it's at least a start.

Life is about to significantly change for us. We will now have a family member that needs us for every little basic need. It's a little scary, but it's definitely exciting at the same time. I've been looking forward to singing and playing tunes to our child.

The cats will probably have to adjust, too. We're afraid Angus might get jealous from what I'm sure he'll consider a lack of attention. Mab (our tux cat you don't hear much about) may just wither up and die from a lack of petting. It's hard to say what Spoot will think. She's the cat that's the most difficult to read.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Clearly, we have a busy weekend ahead of us

According to the comments, I have to have sex, clean the garage, finish all the baby knitting and eat a frozen pizza. Whoo. Better get on it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Stuck between beginnings and ends

For the last few days, ever since the midwife told me that Taterbug was free to make an appearance any time, I've been stuck in a weird place knitting-wise.

See, several weeks ago, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and one of the things they worry about in mothers with gestational diabetes is Very Large Babies. A Very Large Baby is not on my list of Things I'd Like to Try To Squeeze Out My .... anyway. I've been balancing what I've read - that first-time moms are likely to deliver a little late - with what I know would be ideal, which is an early arrival. (Selfishly, once the kid is out, I can go back to a less restrictive diet, which I would like, because I'm tired of counting carbohydrates, eating so much darn meat and checking my blood sugar. I would have been an Atkins Diet dropout in days.)

So every morning, when I get up, I tell Taterbug that today is a beautiful warm summer day, and a good day to be born, and if the urge strikes, to go right ahead and come on out; there are all kinds of great things to see and do on the outside. I hoped maybe the friendly nudge from the alpaca would help, but I guess fiber-bearing animals don't induce labor. (Neither does spicy food, btw. I've eaten wasabi and Indian food in the past week, and, nada. If this persists, it's time for Ethiopian dinner. Who am I kidding? It's always time for Ethiopian.)

(Rock 'n Weave socks, STR in some colorway with the word "violet" in the name. Love it.)

Needless to say, Taterbug has not listened to me, which I think doesn't really bode well for the rest of our lives together, but so it goes. The Fool has started to have dreams about labor and delivery, ranging from the possible (slacker wife fails to pack bag for hospital, goes into labor, causes panic in household) to the bizarre (wife decides must use bathroom during labor, takes her uterus, puts it on a table, uterus pulses a couple times and squeezes out a baby while she's in the loo.) To help calm his anxieties, I packed a bag this week and promised I would not leave my uterus with him while in labor (or at any other time ever.)

In the meantime, I've been knitting. I wrote down a list of all my UFOs. There are 12. No, 13. (Actually, 12. I finished a hat this afternoon.)

(The Fool and I got it in our heads to knit fruit caps for all the couples in our childbirth class in time for the September reunion, where we all get to meet each others' babies and compare notes. Thank dog it was a small class.)

That includes a pair of socks that got stalled between sock 1 and sock 2, so that counts. There are four pairs of socks on this list, two scarves, a sweater, no, two sweaters, a pair of mittens and a shawl. And a lace curtain from Mason Dixon Knitting (worth another blog post on its own) that I started for a long skinny window next to the front door.

(Linen yarn. Fun to knit with.)

That's plenty of knitting to keep me occupied while I wait for a baby to show up. Especially because I've got other things to do as well.

But I'm having a hard time quelling the urge to start something new. I frogged a sweater the other day that had no relation to my real size. Let me put it this way: I tried it on and it was baggy on me now. I balled the yarn up and put it in a bag, ransacked my patterns and cast something else on, just a swatch, just to see if I could get gauge with this yarn. When I emerged from my yarn fog, I stuffed the whole thing back in the bag and I haven't looked at it since.

I. Have. Enough. To. Knit.

(Lucy Neatby's Sea Lettuce scarf with optional beads. I learned how to knit backwards at the fiber festival, and I want to see if that makes these short rows go faster.)

Realistically, with a new baby around, I know knitting time is going to be seriously compromised and I don't need new projects hanging over my head, especially ones that aren't garter stitch scarves. I'll be ahead of the game if I can finish the 12 projects on my list right now. That doesn't save me from wanting to cast on, oh, everything in Lisa Lloyd's new book. And I've been devouring the knitting magazine fall previews.

(Cabled scarf from Lisa Lloyd's "A Fine Fleece." Doesn't it need these mittens to go along with it? Wouldn't that be a great Christmas present for someone?)

(Amusing aside: I mentioned in knit group a couple weeks back that at Stitches Midwest, I'd like to buy some yarn, maybe Blackwater Abbey, and knit the Fool another Aran sweater for Christmas. Joy laughed out loud and said, 'You're not going to have time to knit a sweater for anyone for Christmas.'
'Yes, but I said I'd like to knit one,' I said. 'I understand there's a difference.')

(Socks with an unreasonable deadline; more on that later.)

I've stopped reading books on pregnancy and moved on to reading books on breastfeeding and child care, so I understand the deadline is coming up. I wonder if that's what's happening to my knitting, too. I'd like to shed all these projects already begun and move on to something new and unknown, just like how I'd like it if Taterbug would come out so we can all meet each other.

But Taterbug shows no sign of budging today, and so I've finished a hat. And then I'll knit a sock, and then I think I'll keep going down this list of projects.

(Cage blankets out of garter stitch acrylic for my friend Janice, a dedicated volunteer at the Evanston animal shelter, where Mab and Spoot were living before they met the Fool. Got one more on the needles; great way to use up yarn I bought at the beginning of my knitting career before I became a yarn snob.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Saxony socks

So these are the finished Saxony socks from Lisa Lloyd's "A Fine Fleece." They're knit for the Fool in Dream in Color seconds. I made one change -- decided to turn the cables into ribbing down the instep. The pattern had it in plain knitting, and it looked a little abrupt to me.

I also had the urge to make something for Taterbug the other week, so I cast on and knit a quick pair of baby socks out of some leftover Sockina cotton kicking around. I'm stopping at just one pair for now. I've heard different reports on how babies take to wearing socks/ booties, and if the kid is not going to wear socks, I'm not going to knit them. They're sitting on top of the Saxony socks for scale.

The Fool pretty much summed up the fiber festival we were at - it's only the second year for this event, and I like it quite a bit. Last year, it was outdoors under big tents, and although I understand there were issues with weather, I think I like that better. This year, it was at a community college, and it felt a little more spread out. Ah well. I found some handmade soap and a funny sheep mug, and two skeins of sock yarn from Miss Babs. The Fool has already adopted one of the skeins and hinted rather strongly that he would like it if it turned into a pair of socks that fit him.
(He was totally right about the alpaca, too. I was visiting two of them outside when the bigger of the pair stuck its head through the bars of the pen and poked Taterbug with its sweet furry alpaca snout. I'm in love. I just passed 37 weeks, and apparently, this is pregnant enough that people start looking at you in alarm like you might just lie down and have a baby right there. I kept wanting to ask people, when they inquired as to my due date, and then stepped back a little bit, "Do you think I'd be out shopping for yarn if I were in labor?"
OK. I might. How close is the yarn store to my house, how badly do I need this yarn, and is it on sale. A good sale. Not, like, 20 percent off. But I really think I wouldn't.)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Midwest Fiber and Folk Festival Report

We went to see the fleece, yarn, and alpacas up in Crystal Lake this weekend. I spent most of the day in a class taught by spinning and knitting guru Nancy Shroyer. Chances are good that you own one of her handy tools. She taught us how to spin for a purpose, which essentially means designing the type of yarn you're going to make for the project you want to knit.

Meg took a picture of one of the alpacas they had there. This guy apparently nudged her gently on the stomach through the fence! That made her day.

The class was fantastic. Not only did I learn about how to plan for projects, but I also finally got over this sort of spinning hump I've been suffering from. It turns out that my spinning had been suffering from unconscious fluctuations between worsted and woolen techniques, leading to two-plied yarns that just looked incredibly strange. Nancy straightened me out and showed me how to control which I do. Yippee! I am thrilled.

Here's some of the fiber I spun in class.

Angus approves. Especially the alpaca blend at the end.

This was my best yarn of the day, and possibly to date! The blurry bit in the corner is, of course, our friend Angus, just before he pounced.

One of the big projects that I had bought the supplies for but never started was yarn for Meg to knit a sweater. I finally got about 10 grams spun up, and Meg knit the swatch this morning.

The yarn is slightly too thick for her project, but if I can back off on the thickness just a bit, we'll have the right yarn for the job. Otherwise, it looks fantastic.

Driving home from the festival, we saw this.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Oh, what now, cats?

I embarked on some tie dyeing the other week -- did shirts and onesies with Thorny, and because I can't help myself, a couple skeins of cotton yarn that are heading elsewhere as a present.

Here's how they came out - I hope the dye set well, or else it's going to be one of those presents with teeth.

I've also been fooling around knitting a sock from a pattern in the Japanese stitch dictionary I got. It's in Lorna's Laces, "Pioneer," and of all the Lorna's Laces I've knit, it's one of my favorite colorways. (When my photo skills forced me to pick between a picture in which the cover of the book is washed out, or a picture in which the stitch pattern is obscured ... I went for the washed out book cover.) I've miscrossed my most recent cable, though, and have to make a decision about whether to continue along despite the mistake or take out two rows of tiny stitches to cross the cable correctly. The whole project's gauge is a little too small for me to do the usual kind of cable-uncrossing voodoo with any confidence.

The cats have been busy, too, unfortunately.
Last night, I stuck my head in the bedroom to see how the Fool was getting along with his painting project, and at what point we might start making dinner (BBQ ribs, baked beans and salad, I hope). Spoot darted in before I could get my foot in position to block her ... and stepped right in the pan of paint.
Panic ensued as we chased the cat (leaving green footprints) through the bedroom, over the bedroom rug (!!), down the hallway and under the marimba, where she finally stood still long enough for one of us to grab her.
Then, about an hour later, Angus, who is usually unflappable, decided to stand on the back of a dining room chair and explore, headfirst, the contents of a Trader Joe's bag (sack of small potatoes, bag of mixed salted nuts). When he realized he was going to fall into the bag, he backed out and up, but slipped and caught his foot in the back of the chair and trapped himself, dangling upside down between two vertical slats. He began shrieking bloody murder, loud enough to make the Fool come running out of the bedroom, (which he had declared a No Cats At All And I'm Still Thinking About the Wife zone.) I tipped the chair sideways so Angus could get his other three feet on the floor, and before I could help him get loose, he pulled free and went scooting downstairs with Spoot. When he came upstairs, we could see he wasn't putting his full weight on his back foot, but he let us pick him up and feel his feet and legs without yelling at us, so we figured he couldn't be too bad off.
A night of rest on his favorite cushions seems to have put him back to normal - he bit me this morning.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

More knitting opportunities!

I saw this in the NY Times this morning - winter knitwear in summer could be the Next Big Thing. (Personally, these days, the idea of wearing anything beyond Enough To Not Get Me Arrested makes me break out in a sweat.)

Monday, July 07, 2008

Our Big Weekend

There are certain contra dance bands that always draw a crowd. Nightingale and Wild Asparagus are a few that come to mind. Right up there with them are the Groovemongers. They have played at just about every dance weekend around and are synonymous with quality contra dance music. So you might be able to imagine our surprise when we found out that we would be headlining with the Groovemongers for Delafield, Wisconsin's first contra dance weekend. Ulp!

It went off incredibly well. We knew that this gig would be our last big appearance as the Cosmic Otters before the little one arrived. For eight months pregnant, Meg is a real trooper. We played for three hours on Friday night, led four workshops on Saturday, starting at 9:15 a.m., danced Saturday evening, and danced and played for another two hours on Sunday. Thanks to Pam and all of the wonderful Wisconsin folks for working so hard and hosting us.

We did a combined set Sunday afternoon with the Groovemongers, which was a hoot. The set was going off so well that I got a little too excited towards the end. When I launched into the Mason's Apron at an apparently overgenerous tempo, it prompted the mandolin player to shout, "And we're off!" Whoops, sorry about that!

After the dance, we pulled out of the parking lot to head home, and the unthinkable happened. I gently took a speed hump, and a loud "Sproing!" from under the hood of the car immediately followed. It turns out that I managed to bust one of the coil springs that comprises the car's front suspension, rendering the car completely incapacitated. Fortunately for us, one of our fellow contra dance friends was only 10 minutes down the road and was kind enough to drive us back to Chicago. Unfortunately for us, the car is still in Waukesha being repaired, so we have to trek up there on Wednesday to get it back.

Angus gets half a bath on the Fourth of July

FOOL: Oh, hullo Angus. You're going to sit on the bookcase and watch me paint? Good cat.

ANGUS: Hey, he's waving a big stick around! I think I could reach out and grab that stick with my paws!
FOOL: No! Angus! Bad cat! Leave the paint roller alone!

ANGUS: Fine. I'll just beat my tail against the wall in irritation.
Thwap, thwap, thwap.
Enough of that. Time to leap down and race through the house.
FOOL: Gaaagh! The cat's got paint on his tail! Grab the cat, grab the cat!
ME: Get the camera! We have a blog!
FOOL: The camera?! Get the cat! The cat!

(I won.)

ANGUS: Rotten shampooing bastards. Now I have a ratty wet tail and bottom.

(More holiday adventures to come: contra dance weekend, finished socks, good stuff...)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Nutkin II

You know how you're knitting along on a basically interesting pattern, but then you notice it's lost its shine? That was these socks.
Nutkin II in Mixed Berry Lorna's Laces. The pattern is a variation on Nutkin, which is a lot of fun to knit, but after I knit a pair as written, I decided to make some changes.

Now, the back of the sock is 2x2 ribbing, and the front lace chart has been flipped on its axis to make it symmetrical down the instep.

To take the picture, the Fool asked me to stand in the sunny square cast on the living room floor. Spoot wanted to enjoy the sun too, so here she is waiting for us to go away so she can sit down.