Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Life's too short to have to seam

I frogged my Athos last night. All of the parts were done, waiting to be seamed...I pieced together the front and back shoulders and THEY DIDN'T MATCH. I couldn't figure out what the heck I did...I thought, "I should just rip out and reknit the shoulder portion..."

Well, didn't do this, and instead wanted to see what it would look like if I just tried to seam the mismatched parts together. Frankensteining, if you will...heh heh. Well, it didn't work and it just looked ucky...

So I decided to rip the shoulder back...and I just kept on ripping...and ripping. I guess my hands wanted to spend more time knitting something seamless rather than figuring out the best way to knit shoulders, and them seam them.

I guess Athos is going to have to wait...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Aack! Scary Shaping!

I finished knitting the main body of my Athos top yesterday. The armhole and neck shaping for the back was pretty easy. The only time I had to tink back was when I misread the directions - The line says to decrease one stitch every row for (in my case) 4 rows. Prior to this, I had to bind off 4 stitches for two rows. I mistakenly bound off the stitches (instead of decreasing with SSK and K2tog). I guess binding off is a way to decrease, but I don't think that is what the designer meant. Besides, the line looks nicer when I decrease instead of binding off. I decreased 2 stitches in from the edge, so I have an easier time with seaming (Gawd, did I actually type that??).

The front (which I placed on waste yarn and separated from the back) was more challenging. I got through the neckline with much concentration. Scary scary scary. I wish I could offer some tips, but I have none. You just have to keep track of what you are doing and how many times. Come to think of it, removable stitchmarkers may help you keep track of your rows; however, you have to remember that on each row, you may be doing multiple shaping details. Aack, is right...

I should be done with the front tomorrow. Then on to the sleeves, which I will be knitting separately and setting in. Fun, I can't wait - my very first seamed project...I hope I like it. If I don't, I guess I can turn it into a tank top...

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Sunset through my children's eyes

We just got back from Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. On the way home, we had the privilege of seeing the sun go down and watching the colors of the horizon change from light blue to pastel pinks, purples, and orange, to the dark sky that my children associate with bedtime. My daughter in the back gave me a narrative of what she and her brother normally do at home during this time:

"Momma, at home when me and my brother are in bed, I go on my knees and he gets out of his bed and sits next to me on the bed and we look at the sky through my blinds and we watch the colors of the sky and it's so pretty and we say all the colors together and sometimes we see clouds and Alex says that they are broken but somedays they are fixed and when the sky looks like that, the clouds are orange and we call them Orange Clouds because the sky is orange and pink and other colors so that is why the clouds look orange and we like to look at them."

Her brother wanted to add to her story, so he adds, "Yeah, and we see orange clouds and they are broken but there are lots of colors - red and blue and orange - and I like it. There's no clouds out in the sky (meaning this afternoon) but there are colors."

I love my kids.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Dishes multiply
I wish they could wash themselves
My hands get so dry

To not have to soak
Scrub, rinse, put away, repeat
What I wouldn't give

If only one day
the dishes would wash themselves
Oh, that would be bliss!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Lemonade from Lemons, San Francisco-style

My husband and I planned a daytrip with the kids in San Francisco. The California Academy of Natural Sciences had a free day today, so that was where we headed. The traffic was as expected - bumper to bumper for a few miles, which lost us a good hour. We finally got to the Music Concourse around 11:00. Of course, the parking garage was full, so we had to drive around a bit to find a spot. We did, a few feet from where the line ended. If you think this is a good thing, think again. The line stretched...and stretched. We learned soon after we fell into the line that the wait to get into the museum was "at least" 2 hours. Yes, 2 hours, "possibly 3". Plus, we were dressed for the heat. Luckily, the kids and I brought hoodies; my husband did not, so he was freezing. Go figure. My husband and I looked at each other and gave each other that look...if you are a parent of young children, you probably know what I am talking about. It's that look that asks, "are we going to do this to ourselves and the kids??"

Needless to say, we turned right around and walked the few feet to our car (which, I am proud to say, I parallel parked so nicely). We packed the kids back in and thought a moment of what to do. I was determined not to go straight home. I just drove 3+ hours for some fun. I was going to have some fun family time, darn it!

We started towards the wharf. My husband gave me directions and told me to turn left onto Divisadero...If you have never driven in San Francisco, here is a quick tip: don't expect to ever turn left...ever. Okay, just kidding. But seriously, I had to drive a few miles before I could make a left turn. This little snafu in our plans worked in our favor though. We had forgotten about Japantown, which we passed on the way to find a legal left turn. I thought, how cool, let's go to the mall there instead - it's indoors, it has clean restrooms, restaurants, and the kids have never been there. Psst, (and don't tell my husband) I also wanted to go into the Japanese bookstore and see if I could score any Japanese knitting stitchbooks. Yeah, like I need more stitchbooks...

So the day wasn't a bust after all. We ate some really good Japanese food, enjoyed some taiyaki (fish shaped snacks that my kids think taste like pancakes with nummy stuff inside), and checked out some fun stores. The kids even got a couple of souvenirs: my daughter chose erasers that were shaped like food - soda, burgers, etc., and my son chose erasers that were shaped like baseball equipment. These weren't cheapo erasers either - my daughter's erasers actually opened and one of the food containers contained another eraser that looked like Japanese Ramen noodles. My son was ecstatic about his baseballs, and I purchased magnetic bookmarks made from origami. Good times.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Confessions of a Spur of the Moment SAHM

I am having a crazy summer. My son is now three, my daughter 8. They need lots and lots of daily stimulation. This past May (right before my daughter got out of school for summer break), I made a list of things that I wanted to do with them. This list included the water park, the zoo, SunSplash, South Lake Tahoe, the beach, the bookstore, my favorite yarn store, Apple Hill, parks and playgrounds. I didn't plan our weeks out (I never do). I am starting to wonder if I should next summer...

My days usually go like this: I wake up, think of activities that I think my children and I could do that day and then consider if I want to take the dogs with us. If I want to take the dogs with us, I don't worry about taking the dogs for their morning walks. If I want to go somewhere where it would be difficult to take the dogs (like the beach, where dogs are usually not allowed), then I make plans to take them out before my husband went to work, to beat the morning heat. Once I made this critical decision, I would get up, drink my coffee or tea (depending on how much caffeine I needed for the activity - ha!), get everyone groomed and dressed, make lunch for the husband (leftovers, usually, because he doesn't like sandwiches), eat breakfast, make the kids' breakfast - all this in no particular order.

Sometime we would meet some friends that day - at the mall for Kids' Day, or Free Movie days, or the Explorit museum. Most days, though, it's at the park with the dogs, my yarn store for Mommy-knit time, the Discovery Museum (we are members), or one of the malls that offer play areas for children. Never the same place twice in a row, or even the same day every week. Heck, some days, I plan an activitiy then something happens that steers us into a totally different direction (literally). As long as my children are fed and hydrated and comfortable (that is to say, not too tired or hot to continue on our "adventure") then we go with the flow, so to speak. This crazy "keeping 'em busy" pace ensures that my daughter never says that "we never do anything and that they both are tired in the evening so my husband and I have some quiet time.

The way I see it, children's school days are structured enough. My children are thriving just fine. I structure what is important. I don't think that the details of the days should be ordered, as long as the days themselves are. My children know that there are three parts to our days: 1) Getting ready for the day 2) Have the day's activities 3) Getting ready for the end of the day. The events for the first and last parts of the day stay the same. The middle part of the day is the part that is flexible, like my unknit yarn.

No, I am not organized and my house will never get awards for orderliness; at times, I feel compelled to stay home just so I can clean the kitchen and bathrooms, make the beds, and feel like a "good housewife". However, I try this once in a while and I only get so far to get the dishes clean. After that, the kids start arguing about the toys, or TV shows that they are watching (or want to watch). Then I start to ask myself, "Do I want a clean house or a sane mind?" What do you think?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Athos, Ribbed

I cast on for Norah Gaughan's Athos/Porthos/Aramis from her second booklet. I love the medallion detail. When I first bought this booklet a year ago, I didn't imagine that I would ever knit it because it looked so complicated. I am happy that I have grown as a knitter and feel comfortable tackling this piece; indeed, I've already planned to knit it in the round!

I am using Berocco's Cotton Twist in the chocolate brown colorway. I like the sheen that the rayon gives the fabric. Typical of my knitting pieces, I've already frogged it 3 times, each time because I was unhappy with the way the edge was curling. I've tried garter stitch (too much texture), seed stitch (same reason as garter), and considered double knitting it like Knitting Harpy did with her Jade Wrap but decided that it may ruffle. Then a lightbulb hit me yesterday while I was driving home from a yarn store - k1, p1 rib! A rib that looks like stockinette - why didn't I think of this before?? Probably because I am not a big fan of knitting rib. However, in this case, I will definitely make an exception. The look of stockinette without the texture is what I am looking for.

The yarn held up to my frogging surprisingly well. I say "surprisingly" because it is quite splitty, even with my pointy KnitPicks harmony needles. There are several places where the strands are permanently separated. In my 4th knitting attempt with this yarn, it does not look as smooth as it did when I first started this project. I hope this fact does not affect the quality of my finished project. I guess I will just have to knit and find out :/

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Blueberry picking is nummy Mom

I took my kids to blueberry picking last week. I was surprised at how many berries there still were, given that the farm had been open for at least a week. I am used to going much earlier in the season, but have not had the chance until then. My kids really enjoyed it, especially my son, who ate more than he put in his basket. He knew how to pick the good ones though. He kept saying, "The dark blueberries are nummy mom!" Yup, they sure are son, they sure are...

Mimi Top Part 2

Yesterday I frogged my first attempt at the Mimi Vintage Top. The bottom curls up; I am not a fan of blocking and worrying about steaming it flat every time I want to wear it. Bleh.

I casted on again and decided to knit garter panels instead of stockinette panels for the first 24 rows (6 pattern rows times 4 - easier to remember). I forgot to knit the center lace panels (oops) but incorporated the pattern as much as I could. So far so good.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

And we didn't even miss it...

I took my kids and my brother to Historic Sutter Street, in nearby Folsom today. I parked in the garage, took out the stroller, popped my son in it and off we went. Yay for free parking!

Our first stop was the Quilt Museum. I know that doesn't sound too exciting, but I was eager to experience some pioneer fun, knowing the history of the place. The quilts are beautiful; some were more than 150 years old. We spent a good amount of time in the gift shop where I was amused by toys I haven't seen since I was a little kid - paper dolls, tops that spun when you pumped them, marbles that you actually play with and not use for decor. My children had a grand time seeing all of the "new" things that they have never seen before. They each chose a pinwheel as their souvenirs - purple for the little guy and red for my daughter. I remember these sparkly wind toys when I was a little girl and I loved playing with them whenever my mother bought one for me.

Our next stop was the Snook's Ice Cream and Candy Shoppe. The sweet smell of homemade candy hit your nostrils as soon as you walked in the door. I was tempted to buy one of every candy stick, chocolate morsel, and taffy that they had for sale. Prudence overcame the temptation though, and we each had ice cream instead: Cotton Candy for my daughter, Cookie Dough for my brother, Chocolate for my son, and Chocolate Brownie for me.

Next we visited all of the Antique shops there. It was really cool to see all the vintage knick knacks, LPs, books, jewelry, dolls, plates, and even old irons (the kind that you placed on hot coals, instead of plugging in, to use). While I browsed, my children enjoyed watching their pinwheels spin in front of the modern fans used by the storeowners to cool down their shops.

After the last store visit (Antiques and Curiosities), we headed towards the garage to head home...and I realized (2 hours after we got there) that we didn't have our stroller. Heck, I don't remember having it while we were eating ice cream or in any of the shops. Of course, we left it at the Quilt museum, our very first stop. We rushed over there, stepped in the gift shop and there it was, where my son stepped out of it to check out all the things that the store had to offer.

And we didn't even miss it...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Coming out Vintage

I've been a closet vintage fan for a while. Although I am not crazy about the 80s hair or baggy clothes, the clothing worn during the mid 1900s are, in my opinion, underrated. The tailored lines, fitted waists, and hemlines are demurely sexy, never trampy or (dare I say) unattractive, as were some of the styles in the 80s and 70s. The clothing accentuated the female curves highly admired during the time, like those of Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Rita Hayworth, and Lana Turner. What I like the most is that even if you do not have a to-die for figure like these stars had, wearing similar (if not the same) clothing may make you feel like you do.

My habitual searches for free patterns on the internet (as well as discount knitting books on E-Bay) have led me to a few really good vintage knitting websites. Some are free, some cost money, but all of them contain almost-forgotten knitting patterns.

I happened upon one this past weekend called the Mimi top. It had almost everything that I look for in a pattern: lace details, waist shaping, v-neck, English instructions, picture, and it was free. I had to convert the needle sizes stated because the designer used UK needle sizes, but this was easily done by using a search engine on the web. I had the perfect weight yarn for it (fingering). I say almost because it was written to be knit in pieces (front, back, sleeves). However, my propensity to pass up projects that require seaming was surpassed by its eye-catching elements. I figured it would be my first seamed project...Wasn't that one of my new year's knitting resolutions?

I started it last night. It is one of the more challenging lace projects that I have ever done, even compared to the Nightsong Shawl that I completed last year. It is more difficult because the stitch number changes every row and every row is different from all the others in the pattern. In other words, you are instructed to add stitches, decreasing them in the following rows, and you are not purling every other row. Ugh, especially for one who is a systematic counter when lace knitting...

I started with the back and knit 12 rows. So far so good. I read the pattern (I know, I know, I should have done this first - I skimmed it at least!) and noted that the front and back are knit the same way until 19 rounds have been completed. I decided then to consider the current finished part as the front and CO for the back. I decided that I would omit the center lace panel. When I knit 12 rounds of this part, I would attach it to the first portion and knit it in the round.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Leaf Yoke Top DONE!

I finished my top today. It took me most of the day to do the hem and i-cord edgings for the neckline and armholes.

The hem was definitely a challenge for me. First, I wanted to make a longer hem. After I figured out where the turning row was in relation to the rest of the hem, I knit 10 rows instead of the 4 rows instructed in the pattern after the hem joining row. I then knit 3 rows even, then purled the following row, then knit 4 rounds, then knit 10 rows after repeating the decrease round. Specific needle and decrease changes are in the Knit.1 Spring/Summer 2009. I don't write anything specific to the pattern because of copyright issues.

The second problem I had with the hem was joining it. After several attempts of just following the correct purl line on the wrong side without a guide (the instructions assume that you can just follow the correct line by using waste yarn for the first few stitches - yeah right...), I used a #2 circular needle to first pick up the stitches on the wrong side and then used both it and the #4 needle on the original stitches to knit the stitches together and bind off the hem. Huh?

Okay, this is what I did:

I am assuming that you are at the point where you have turned the hem at the turning row (purl row).

1) Take a smaller size circular needle. In my case, I used a size 2, 24 inch circular needle. Take your needles, find the hem line on the wrong side (which you should have denoted with waste yarn or a removable stitch marker) and pick up the purl ridges of that row. Sorry I didn't think to take a picture of this when I was doing it. To tell you the truth, I just wanted to get it done!

2) Fold the hem at the purl row so the edge stitches meet the purl row that you just picked up. Match the needle points, with the needle holding the edge stitches (needle #1) in front of the needles holding the purl ridges (needle #2).

3) Take the right needle and put it in needle #1 as if to knit, then continue through into needle #2. Knit these two stitches together.

4) Repeat with the next set of stitches. Pass the first stitch over the second to bind off.

Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the hem is done. It will take you a few hours. Try your best to finish this steps in one sitting. If this is impossible (as it was for me!) I feel for you...Just be careful to not let the stitch on the right needle fall off. Since they are on circular needles, I just pulled all of the needles as far as I could into the stitches (to hold them), and that did the trick.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Remembering your increases and decreases

I finished the lace portion of my Leaf Yoke top. My gauge here is tighter than the pattern instructed, but I know that I can block it out. Also, the gauge in the pattern was stated for the body, and my gauge here is correct. I really like the shaping of the pattern and I think I should be done by the end of the weekend. I love that it is knit in the round. After the shaping, then it should be pretty brainless until I get to the hem. One of my friends repeated the lace pattern for her top's hem, but I think I will knit the hem as instructed in the pattern. It is a new design element that I never had the chance to try. Perfect!

KITR (knit in the round) should be my middle name. I don't think I have ever knit anything that I had to seam, in fact. Even the doll clothes that I made for my niece last year were knit in the round with small needles.

When I started knitting sweaters, I often forgot to knit the last decrease or increase...the one before the EOR marker. I don't know why.

To remedy this, I do the increases and decreases in 2 sets. This is what I mean:

Most patterns written for knitting in the round instruct you to:
1) (at the beginning of the proper round) K* (with * dependent on the designer) and ssk
2) knit to * stitches before the next marker and k2tog, knit to marker
3) slip marker, knit*, ssk
4) knit to * stitches before the EOR marker, k2tog, knit to end of round

Instead, I do the increases/decreases in 2 sets (one per marker):

(instructions are to decrease the number of stitches):
1) * stitches before the appropriate row, k2tog, knit to end, sm, k*, ssk, knit to * before the next marker.
2) k2tog, knit to marker, sm, k*, ssk, knit to EOR.

Repeat as necessary. I perform the increase rows the same way, but substitute M1R and M1L respectively.

Alex's discovery

I took the dogs out for their walk yesterday, with both kids in tow. I am not normally this crazy, but my oldest begged to join me, and when my youngest heard my "Yes", he asked if he could too. He is 3, attached to my hip, and suffers from separation anxiety. I knew that he would spend the hour while I was at the park crying inconsolably. It pained me to know this (and to be honest, he was too cute) so I acquiesced.

We met up with our friends and started to walk our circle around the park. Being children, it is difficult for my son and daughter not to play. I had to be vigilant so that I did not lose track of any of my charges. After a few minutes, I reminded my children that, "Mommy only has two eyes, so you have to stay close!"

My son put his little hands on his eyes and announced, "I have two eyes too, Mom!"

Like I mentioned before, my son is a GENIUS.

You are a SAHM (or SAHD) if...

1) You know all of the parks in a 20 mile radius.
2) You know the words and songs to at least 5 Pixar/Dreamworks/Disney movies.
3) You consider the kids playing quietly for 5 minutes your "state mandated break".
4) You sometimes use the TV as the babysitter.
5) You say a lot of words starting with the letter "B" - bubba, book, booboo, etc. For example: Awwww, did Bubba bonk his head? Do you have a booboo??
6) At lunchtime (and maybe even dinner), you think, "What did mothers do before Mac 'n' Cheese?".
7) You know the free, kids', and discount days of the zoos, malls, and museums within a 100 mile radius, and plan your days accordingly.
8) You time your Costco trips with their sample times (free lunch!).
9) You really look forward to playdates because they mean that you won't be hearing "Mommy, can you..." every minute.
10) On the worst days, your house looks like a tornado hit it; on the better days, you can see the floor.
11) You consider a clean house, washed dishes, folded laundry, and having your sanity all at the same time a luxury.
12) A real vacation would be time AWAY from your kids.
13) Feel both excited and sad thinking of your youngest's first day of school, knowing that you will probably miss him preventing you from doing any housework.
14) You accept all this, and wouldn't give it up for anything.