Carousel Pullover, Knitty Spring + Summer 2014

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After waiting not so patiently for months, I feel like I can finally announce one of my favorite things, Spring is Springing! And Knitty.com agrees! Today their new issue went live and we welcome their Spring + Summer 2014 collection which features my design and pattern: Carousel!

A whirling dervish of a knit that is not only worked in the round, Carousel can be worn differently by turning it around and around with a neckline that pirouettes according to your whim.

Worked outwards from a center cast on, Carousel is comprised of 4 cabled panels for the front and back. Once these four panels have grown to the appropriate size, each panel is placed on a holder, and the front and back are joined by uniting the matching pairs. Each of the four parts are again worked in the round to create sleeves, a hem, and a collar any way you spin it.

Perfectly symmetrical when finished, the charts may look complicated but once in the rhythm, Carousel flies off the needles. Lightweight and breezy, this is a merry-go-round of a knit, perfect for warmer days.

A really fun piece to knit, and the color is right on trend for the Spring 2014 season.

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Sweater: Carousel Pullover, by Julie LeFrancois, available for free in the Spring + Summer 2014 issue of Knitty.com

  • Dress: Condesa Maxi Dress, Anthropologie. No longer available.
  • Cuff: Anthropologie. No longer available.
  • Shoes: Nine West platform sandals, Similar here

50 Shades of Black and White: Coming Undone. A Sweater Cut

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Warning: This is not a tutorial. This is my story of taking a pair of scissors to a barely finished hand knit sweater, on size 3 needles, that I just love.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way I will next say that I have found that it often takes as much work un-knitting something, as it does knitting it. I’m not talking about frogging a sweater, or a sock, a sleeve for a hat. I am talking about taking a finished project, where all of the ends are woven in, it’s already been washed and blocked, even worn. These projects take a huge amount of attention and time to un-do.

With my Van Doesburg Pullover from Knitscene Spring 2014 –which I am naming Sonnets from Cabin 72– when I had more than halfway completed the body up past the armholes and the second color work gradation, I sad realization that I didn’t like the ribbing texture at the hem. Don’t get me wrong, the is absolutely nothing wrong with the texture. It is a 1×1 rib, with a little detail row in the middle. It is lovely, really. It’s just that, it’s not me. For me I find that the details in the color work of this sweater are playful and extraordinary, and I want them to stand alone.

This piece is worked from the bottom up in the round, and has approximately 200 stitches to each round. So to realize that you have a big problem–even if is only with the aesthetics–when you’ve completed the piece after you’ve passed the armholes can leave you with only a sad and sinking feeling of regrets. The good news was that I knew that the neckline and cuffs I wanted to do differently, and I knew how, AND, they weren’t done yet. The bad news? The hem which thousands of stitches ago had been long completed.

So I had two options:

  1. Rip the whole thing out
  2. Unravel just the hem, from the cast on edge, pick up the stitches from the  from the stockinette portion at the bottom and knit downwards.

As zealous of a “frogger” as I am–meaning that I am always eager to rip out a project if it isn’t right–I had really been enjoying this project and I really didn’t want to rip out all of my hard work, because there wasn’t anything wrong with the rest of it in the size, shaping or otherwise. So option 1 was out.

Well option 2 doesn’t seem so bad, does it? It doesn’t, but I had never done it before, and I just didn’t know what would happen. A big, ominous cloud loomed over me. I put it off, and put it off. Finally I had finished the entire sweater, and after sewing one sleeve to the body I realized it was time. Why I didn’t wait until after I sewed on the second sleeve, I really can’t tell you. I guess I just felt like I had to stop and conquer my fear. I guess if I was going to ruin a whole sweater, it’d be best if I could still save a sleeve without the tedious hours of un-seaming the other.

So, I sat down with a larger sewing needle and began slowly unwinding my cast on edge. I had used a continental cast on, so I have no clue if this would happen with the others, but I guess it would. At first I couldn’t really see where to stitch, but then slowly I started to figure it out more, seeing the repetition of yarn, and finding the pattern of un-knitting.

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Once I got the rhythm, in the beginning each stitch took a minimum of two pulls of the needle to unloop and unknit the yarn. This took a few seconds per stitch, much longer than it took to put each stitch on the needle when I cast them on. Much, much longer. Then the tail of yarn got longer and longer, and each stitch took longer. When I was over an hour in and still hadn’t made it to the half-way point I realized that this probably wasn’t going to work out the way that I had hoped. In addition to the massive consumption of time something else strange happened: instead of pulling the yarn tail out to reveal knit stitch which easily unravel and can be picked up with a knitting needle, I had these weird knit “nubbins” that stayed firmly put, indicating that in order to rip out the hem ribbing, I would have to tediously peel the quickly growing yarn tale through each nubbin until finally I’d reached the end of the edging. But then what?

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For sake of experimentation and exploring something new I decided to keep going through the cast-on round, which took a total of two and a half hours. I didn’t know if the same thing would happen in the first real “knit” round, but I had to find out. What if I got there and then pulled out a stitch or two and the whole thing easily unraveled? I’d sure be sorry if  just gave up and never found the answer. Once I got to the end of the cast on round, I pulled out about five stitches of the first round, with 8 yards of yarn now being pulled through every stitch and I had the same problem: more nubbins. I must admit that I felt irritated that the Weezer song of my youth, Undone, had falsely advertised the ease in ripping out a sweater.

If you want to destroy my sweater
Hold this thread as I walk away
(As I walk away)

Watch me unravel, I’ll soon be naked
(Lying on the floor)
Lying on the floor, I’ve come undone

Left with only one other option … I got out the scissors

But you’d have to be fucking crazy to take scissors to a brand new sweater, that you love, right? Needless to say my anxiety was running high. I had to sit down at the table and look at it for a long time. I had no idea how to do this, but I didn’t have any other option. I didn’t like the edging, and now the edging was ruined because of the two and a half hours I spent ripping out the cast on row. Unfinished and ugly. Those shiny silver scissors all of a sudden seemed a little–only a little–less scary. I marked the spots I wanted to work in, and with my heart beating loudly I took my first snip, then two, then a few more. Soon I had cut a 2 inch long gash into my edging. Ugh.

I paused to observe, and upon looking closer I could see knitted stitches, those familiar loops, with pieces of cut yarn going through them. Quickly I grabbed my circular needle and started to pick them up. Then after I’d picked up all of those, it became obvious that I didn’t need the scissors anymore, and that I’d in fact only needed the scissors to cut one stitch. Weezer had been right all along! Carefully I went through and picked up every stitch from the row I had cut. In less than three minutes after this, the entire edging piece had been frogged and the sweater was ready for knitting again, this time from the top down. About an hour later the new ribbing was finished, and all of the fear, frustration and anxiety was gone. A perfect end to a scary problem.

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Next time I won’t hesitate to take the scissors to the piece. This was a really good lesson to learn, and I’m glad I didn’t let my fear get the better of me. I really do prefer the edging this way for my sweater. The other way was pretty, but it just wasn’t my style. And at least I know this now, too. Admitting what is and isn’t my style as opposed to what I do or don’t like really isn’t easy. You’d think they would be one in the same. I have a necklace that has a charm of a pair of sewing sheers. Perhaps I should wear this charm proudly whenever I wear my Sonnets of Cabin 72 Pullover.

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Where I’m at now. The hem changed.

Hothouse Flower. A Collection of Knitwear, Inspired

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I find it is so hard to find knitwear patterns that appeal to my personal style. I don’t think I am in the same camp as most knitters as I really like things that are more bold and fashion-forward. I am certainly not trying to say that knitters aren’t bold, and can’t be fashion forward, but I feel like it is very hard to find patterns where the samples are done in bright, graphic colors. Where is the bright pink? And when I finally find it, why is it so frumpy? Where is the edge? Where is the appeal for a fashionista?

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While I am not so interested in reading about Dakota Johnson, while flipping through the pages of my March 2014 Elle magazine, these amazing textural pastels did catch my eye. So much so that I decided to put together a little collection of 12 knitting patterns that I feel are right on-trend with this photo-spread for spring. I think that Elle really nailed this trend. Their marketing copy states

Go strong in spring’s saturated pastel palette-texturally rich pilings of lace, feathers, and fur are in the pink.

Oh my. The colors, THOSE TEXTURES. They leave me wanting more, more, more.

Then, just this morning I got an email from a personal fav, Alice + Oliva, with another spot on look at this spring trend. Less pink, more navy but carried by saturated pastels and rich textures.

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In both the Hothouse Flower spread in Elle Magazine, and the email from Alice and Olivia, I think that there is an obscene amount of beauty in the details, specifically the textures. The thoughtful combinations of saturated pastels–who ever knew there was such a thing–feel so right for spring, when we’re all looking for a fresh start. But fewer layers for spring don’t have to leave you flat.

Below is my collection of knitwear patters as a response to this trend I hope will never end. Some of the pieces are more fashion forward–i wish there were more, but they are so hard to din– some more comfortable. But they are all spring minded, playful, textural, but most importantly, they are all things that I want to make.

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  1. Rasta Neckwarmer by Breean Elyse Miller
  2. Doe Hare Sweater by Anna Bell
  3. Grenadine Tunic by Michaela Moores
  4. Bobble and Stripe Jumper by Emma Wright
  5. Mrs. Jekyll & Little Hyde by La Maison Rililie
  6. Stonecutter Sweater by Amy Miller
  7. Spring Green Cloche by ME! Julie LeFrancois
  8. Hydra by Martin Storey
  9. Gradient Pullover by Amy Miller
  10. Regatta Tee by Olga Casey
  11. Santorini by Marie Wallin
  12. Cowboy Cowl from Art Fiber Design

Images from Hothouse Flower from Elle Magazine. Image of email from Alice and Olivia.

Practice takes patience.

A few weeks ago I came across this video that uses visuals of typography to accompany Ira Glass’ iconic quote about the creative process.

Every single word that he speaks when talking about the “gap” that happens within the creative process resonates with me on a profound level. It’s true. It is so, so true.

My background is in Graphic Design and it took 15 years, it took until now, working in this industry to finally realize that I am making good things. For years I tried and knew that the things I created weren’t on par with my taste, but I tried, and tried, and tried. 15 years! I don’t think that everything that I created along the way was crap. Actually, in creating my new portfolio website, I realize that a lot of it, surprisingly, isn’t crap but I either didn’t see the beauty in it at the time, or I had forgotten about it over the years. What I was making in college … I think that up until my last semester it was all crap. I feel like in my last semester things clicked and I started moving through the creative process in a different way. I saw things that my teachers had been going on about for years and years, and they finally made sense. They made sense on a very profound level and I really started to appreciate the art of the thinking and the art of creating in very new ways.

I find that now I am going through this same struggle with sewing and knitting, with understanding the fashion industry as a whole, with trying to understand and define my personal style. I know that I have good taste, it just isn’t always so simple to make it happen. So often I get confused with ideas for developing knitting patterns. I think that because I see something interesting that I can make it. I can. But just because I can appreciate it and make it doesn’t make it good. I’ve been knitting for four years now, the same amount of time that it took me to earn my BFA. I’ve knit oodles of sweaters, really, boxes full. I’m in a place now where I feel so creatively exhausted from the collection [of 10 sweaters] I’ve been working on that I can hardly bare to pick up my needles, and actually, I think that this is good work. In realizing this I feel a little bit better about finishing off that sleeve that I’ve had on the needles for a week.

I’ve learned to draw the line between what I can make, and what the right thing is to make. I’m making more than baby steps with my knitwear to where I am with my Graphic Design.

But still, I feel doubt.

With my sewing I know why I feel doubt, because even while I am better than many I am still not good at sewing, but my “taste is still killer,” and “what [I] am making is a disappointment to [me].” I am not good at pattern making. It takes me a long time to make decisions, and I have to make many samples to finally work on my final piece. By the time I get to the final piece I am so tired from the process that at the end I cut all the wrong corners–with my inexperience I can’t afford to cut any–and the finishing and details come out like fallen, rotten lemons all over the lawn: messy, dirty, and killing environment with these blobs of imperfection. It doesn’t matter how hard I work on the patterns and on the rest of the garment if the devil in the details lures you away.

Even with this blog, my expectations are high. I have good taste and I want my expectations to meet that taste. At the end of the day I feel that I am so far from where my expectations lie that I, and feel badly about my slow progress, that these feeling hinder my ability to get updates done, to get work done, to get pictures posted. In the beginning I updated a lot. I had a goal but my expectations were low. Over time my expectations have grown and grown, and now I am hardly able to post at all.

This just isn’t how I want it to be. I have very little time with the Little Buckaroo on my hands, contract work, class work from the couple of night classes I am taking, but my desires are still high. I can’t pick up a fashion magazine without feeling a little zing of excitement. I think of multiple topics a day that I would enjoy sitting down and writing about. While I am in doubt of my skills, with my sewing, writing and posting, with my knitting, and even cooking and learning how to be a Mommy, I know that my taste is good, and I must keep working, keep trying, and keep updating. Even when I feel things aren’t up to snuff.

Practice takes patience.

The sun setting over a preview of one of the 10 knitwear pieces of my upcoming collection.

The sun setting over a preview of one of the 10 knitwear pieces of my upcoming collection.

Dress (Knit) for Success

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My love for Alice + Olivia grows. I seem to find A+O lust and inspiration everywhere. The other morning an two emails to be noted popped in and four looks graced my screen. The first from Knitscene, officially announcing the Spring 2014 issue, and the second, a few hours later, from A+O hoping to encourage further stimulation of the economy.

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Immediately, the first look with the Annie Oversized Collor blocked Jacket–on the left–felt vaguely similar to the Van Doesburg Pullover, from Knitscene Spring 2014, a sweater that I noticed right away when I received my copy of Knitscene, also featuring my Lazulum Shell.

Maybe it is just the idea, the graphic color blocking that is the same, but I think it is more. Yes, the sleeves, silhouette, length, and even the colors are different … With the sweater, if you were to extend the body further, and add a little more positive ease, I think that you would essentially have the same thing. Okay, yes, one is a blazer, the other is a pullover but the beauty is in the details of both pieces, and the feeling, the movement and play of the colors and shapes strictly relegated to their space in the blazer, and playfully intermixed in the pullover. Or perhaps is is because I received two emails in the same morning.

I love over-sized. Chunky, bulky, voluminous. Yet, I have to admit that I am not a big fan of this trending cropped, yet over-sized look. I can also see that our eighties revival is here to stay for a while, and there are a few silhouettes in between that I feel that I can appreciate. But ballooned and cropped isn’t one of them. I am a sucker for A+O though, yet clearly this Annie coat is right dead center in this idea that I’m unable to get into bed with. I think that a LOT time and research–making patterns, testing, refitting, over and over again–goes into making their garments. And then in this their garments they are extremely fitting and flattering, even when they should not be.

I have come to realize something important over the past year as I have either made or bought new things. Some of the things I like just aren’t my style. After I have spent 40 hours, give or take, knitting a sweater I wind up with a beautiful garment that I will just never wear. Why? Why do I do this? Why cannot not see from the beginning that the relationship is sour. Why am I blinded by things that I don’t actually want?

I don’t want the everyday, I don’t want the mundane. It all comes back to style, and really finding and defining my own style.

I have really started thinking about what I want to make. So many hours, so much thought goes into making something. Okay, well that is not totally true. If you care about something, so much goes into it, into the details, into the craft. I don’t want to spend hours upon hours hand knitting something if I am not going to not only love it, but love wearing when I am finished making it.

I can go through just about any knitting magazine and find at least a couple of things I am dying to make, but do I really want them? Do they just look like fun to make? Is there something new in there that I want to learn?

The Van Doesburg Pullover and the Annie Oversized Collor blocked Jacket are both lovely pieces in their similarities and differences. I’m drawn to the contrast and a playful air in seriousness, the originality, personality, and femininity. I think that the Van Doesburg Pullover will need some modifications to pull it to the edgy level of the Annie Jacket, but I see in this sweater the personality of, well, me.

This is a piece that I want to make because I want to wear it, and yes, I will admit that I also see it as a bit of a challenge but nothing to push me over the edge. The technique I struggle with the most in knitting is colorwork. Keeping my tension even while changing colors and stitches fly off of my needles. I think that in addition to adding some length to the sweater and modifying the silhouette some, that when styled as I like it will showstopping. Carefully and cautiously I have thought about this, and I feel that I am ready to order my yarn.

As I click the “Complete Order” button, let me say that if I get done with this sweater on size 3 needles and I am never going to wear it,

I am going to be pissed …

and then I am going to need to reflect on just why that is.

Tarnished Copper in a World of Shining Gold

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Necklace: Rabbit Locket, Victorias Jewelry Box
Sweater: Handmade, My Original Post Here
Skirt: Copper Pleated Skirt by Sparkle and Fade, Urban Outfitters (no longer available)
Shoes: Sensual Pump in Blush by Stuart Weitzman (no longer available)

I feel that it is safe to say that when I am not found to be updating my blog that things are not going well. Alas it has been almost 6 months since my last update–not including posting about my Lazulum Shell last week–and writing, creating, these are things that I love doing.

I feel like the world of fashion is so commonly portrayed as glossy endeavors seeking a lacquered perfection. Fashion bloggers seem to have sunlight and starbursts radiating from their very beings, glitter exploding from their perfectly crafted stilettos. Smokey eyes, and smouldering grey wools in magazine pages seem to be as dark as dark gets. Yet, any woman who has attempted walking a mile, or even 20 feet in these amazing shoes knows that this world is a whole lot darker and more painful than batting eyelashes would suggest. Like the beautiful copper tea kettle after first use, what was once a glorious, warm metal is tarnished throughout and beyond repair in an instant: it cannot, and never will be, new again. 

So how do these bloggers and magazines do it? Or maybe the question isn’t how, but why?

I have come to believe that I am going through an identity crisis.
I don’t know what I want to be doing, but whatever it is, it isn’t this. I am not this. I lost my blonde hair when I was pregnant and I think that has been one of my biggest current downfalls as it was the first step in loosing myself in this new journey called motherhood and I certainly am no where close to finding myself. I feel that I am still in free-fall down the rabbit hole in a dark and desperate attempted at grabbing roots, trying to make sense of myself in a world I don’t understand.

Depression is a hard and dehabilitating thing. Indescribable in its reaches throughout the soul, I am lost down here, and I can’t seem to get out. I miss creating new things, but every moment that I can work on these things I am overcome by guilt that I *should* be doing something else, something for the family, playing with my child. I am constantly overcome by this sense of complete and absolute failure.

I love my child. I love my family. In the throws of depression all I can see is how I let them down, how I make mistakes.

The tarnish on the teakettle worsens. You boil the damn thing in vinegar for hours until the piercing smell overtakes you and the condensation on your windows gathers and falls in streaks like rain. None the more beautiful you give up, but since it cost you such a pretty penny—even this coppery irony isn’t uplifting—you keep on using it. Day after day, cup after cup. Then one day, you notice that the teakettle has somehow become beautiful again. Of course it will never again resemble anything close to the one you pulled out of the shiny wrapped box on Christmas day, but it is unlike any other teakettle out there. It couldn’t be the way it is without fulfilling its destiny, which, ultimately, is to warm and delight the user.

It takes me a long, long time to come up with names for things that I really like. I have to feel, throughout my entire being, that the name is the only name that could be used for this idea, this thing. I’ve always like the name for my blog, Project Hallway, though I knew it wasn’t exactly perfect. It served a purpose and did it well, but upon pondering this post, and thinking forward about what I want to do with my blog, I think that Tarnished Copper is a much more meaningful name and metaphor for what I am doing, where I am, and where I am going.

We aren’t perfect, but I want to be the best version of myself that I can be on any given day. On some days that will mean sweatpants and shabby, frizzy hair, and on others it will mean stilettos and perfectly lined lips. Every morning I get up, take a shower, and ask myself, “Who do I want to be today?” I think it isn’t possible for anyone to achieve style and grace to the level what we gaze upon glossy magazine pages each day, and being comfortable is who we are, too. So, moving forward Tarnished Copper, my blog, with it’s shiny new name, will continue to be a way for me to catalog my knitting and sewing, provide a place for philosophising, an outlet for my creativity within the fashion world, and ideas that I have on beauty and style.

Today is the beginning, a fresh start and with a road travelled behind me. No one is perfect, and I don’t believe that fashion should be perfection. To me fashion is ever changing, maliable, inspired, and inspiring. Once perfect, idealistic, now to be interpreted, an interpretation, fashion is both glossy pages and stillettos, scuffed toes, jeans, and running out of mascara. Fashion is who we are; who we are today, yesterday, and tomorrow. Fashion carries our perspectives, our scars, and our ideas.

Lazulum, Knitscene 2014, and a Bias to change …

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It is official.

My first pattern– my Lazulum Shell–has been published in Knitscene Spring 2014, on shelves now. My first print magazine, and I could not be more proud!

I received my copy of Knitscene Spring 2014 in the mail on Saturday and I started jumping up and down, squealing with glee. I showed it to my husband and he is happy for me, but I feel like he maybe didn’t quite get it. This is a big deal. Well, to me it is, and really that is all that matters.

This piece was a beast to develop. But the things that are simple are never easy. The Center panel is knit straight with shaping. The side panels are knit on the bias, also with shaping. Here’s the kicker: Your gauge changes when knitting straight versus on the bias.

Just pause for a moment and think about that … This means that there is no physical way to knit this in two pieces (front and back) without extreme and crazy detailed directions for each specific size.

The yarn was also new for me, Filatura Di Crosa Brilla, in radiant Royal Blue. Swatch after swatch, panel after panel I knit, finding trouble. At first I thought it was the yarn that was doing funny things, playing tricks like the clever fox. So I tried with other materials, and the gauge still changed, but not in consistent ways. I knit this tank top 5 different times to work out all of the details of the shaping, the gauges, and the pattern. I worked with Interweave’s wonderful pattern editors, to make sure that it would be a good experience for the knitter.

Diligently, patiently at first, less patient in the middle, fairly frantic, heartbroken, then more patient at the end, I worked. Finally I found the solution. The details flowed like water, instead of trying to battle fire in a drought ridden meadow of summer grass. Long, but simple. The pattern was finished.

Originally this piece was named the Slantwise Shell, which I think is an appropriate name given the development process and as a symbol of how my life has been for the past long while: Nothing easy, nothing is straightforward, and it is going to take a lot of work to create an effortless solution. But like with Lazulum, I got there. I’m getting there.

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I’ve been long absent from my blog and things need to change, I need change. So it is time think about things on the bias. Things change on the bias. I have been diligently working–just as hard as I did to create an easy to follow pattern for Lazulum–on making changes to my blog.

I really miss this, the writing, philosophizing, and fashion. I’ve missed posting my creativity, thoughts, knitting, and I’ve missed sewing. I haven’t sewn in almost a year.

Changes are coming, they’re already on their way flying in on a western wind, I feel bias to change. I must, I need to.

This is a big, big moment for me, and I want to embrace it. My first pattern published in print. Wow. I feel honored to have my work included in my favorite knitting magazine. I don’t think that words can articulate just how proud I feel, how lucky. At long last it is here and in beautiful blue, my favorite color!

Studio images © Knitscene/Harper Point Photography

Why Not Now? I’ll tell you why not … because you don’t need to cry over spilled coffee

I feel as though the time has come at which I may announce that despite my hopes, the day is not getting off to a good start. While the Little Buckaroo’s stomach virus dissipates I find that I am now plagued with the same symptoms that tormented his tummy for the better part of the week. And while he stands proudly atop his rocking chair, holding the back with his right hand and rocking with the same mannerisms and posture of a surfer riding a wave, he first seems happy, giggling but then starts screaming, loudly, in a non-stop brae to inform me that we both, in fact, still feel pretty crummy. Thank you!

The “Little Surfer” when I tried to take his picture while riding the wave. Apparently he is a shy surfer.”

Today is also garbage day on which a number of household chores are completed, but oh why today? I feel terrible. I have no energy, the baby has been screaming at me for two days because I feel to crummy to pick him up. I am tired, and just want some piece and quiet. I would kill for a nap. But no, today I need to empty all of the garbage bins in the house, the diaper pale, and of course the litter box. Part of the weekly ritual is cleaning out the refrigerator which creates yet another load of dishes, but results in the glorious satisfaction of being able to set down new left-overs, produce which we’re raking in from the garden, or maybe even the cat if she’s being bad (I’m joking, of course). Our garbage collector doesn’t make his rounds in our neighborhood until the early afternoon, so I have a while. Why don’t I put it off? I’m feeling like poop, and I deserve it.

Well, Why not now? Oh that damn, new question. Why not now? I am not going to feel any better later than I do now. Well, I may but that is certainly not a promise of the day. Regardless of how I feel I still need to water my garden, do the dishes, and figure out something I can do with the Little Buckaroo that involves us getting OUT of the house, and not getting other little kids sick. I have absolutely NO respect for people who bring a sick child over or out to play with others. I have one of the busiest baby’s in the world who NEEDS a daily play outing, regardless of his level of well-being, as otherwise he is mind-numbingly bored out of his noodle. Just as a tip, if you ever want to piss me off and cause me to desire never to see you again, bring your sick child out to play with mine. A sniffly nose from allergies, that’s okay but a cold, or flu, I don’t care, you’re selfish if you don’t keep them home or away from other small children. I certainly don’t make my child live in a bubble, I strongly believe in promoting a good immune system and say”bring-it-on to eating dirt.” Just going to playtime & parks where all the babies are healthy, they’re all still exposed to an endless parade of germs and bacteria … just saying.

This wasn’t the first false start of the day, there was another. I went to bed at 9:30 last night and slept terribly as my muscles ache from illness almost as much as my stomach. In one of my restless fits I realized that the sleeve I started yesterday, for a new sweater and a new pattern I will publish once shorter days are here to greet us, were not what I going to turn out what I envisioned. I ripped the yarn back and rewound it this morning, back to the beginning, again.

So why not now, and just get it over with? Rewound, fresh off my ball winder, it doesn’t seem so bad. The frustration of having to begin again is gone now that the guilty party no longer exists. It is almost like it never existed, and that feels a whole lot better than having to rip out a bunch of work.

And of course as soon as I finish and am feeling, even if it is only a miniscule amount, better. Then, I look down and the Little Buckaroo is holding up my empty coffee cup, which I distinctly remember leaving on top of the dining room table half full. Why now? I guess the expression on my face indicated the severity of the crime as he turned and started running the opposite way at top baby speed, which is about two times the speed of sound faster than I can go most any day, especially when I’m feeling under the weather. I catch him and he starts waving the tiny spoon above his head in victory as I mourn the loss of the one coffee I was going to allow today, further compromising the sad state of my stomach to avoid the caffeine headache that prominently looms promising a day of defeat if I fail to listen. So now I have coffee to clean, a baby to clean and another chip on my shoulder. So why not now? Why not deal with it all and try to get on with making the best of the rest of the day? Okay, new me, you win.

Part of my Basalt Tank in progress. This is the front hexagon.

Today is going to be a long day. Already I am glad that my chores are almost done and I can start knitting my sleeve again. Yes, I feel like crap, but I don’t feel that bad unless I let it get the better of me. Yesterday, in all of my misery I was able to complete an entire hexagon for my Basalt Tank and get a good chuck of a sleeve done, which yes, I did rip out, but it is still progress. So I will just try to take each moment as it comes, and be grateful if I can get some quite, knitting time in. Until then, looks like I may getting out the earplugs.

Why Not Now?

This weekend was a whirlwind of enjoyable activity and the universe felt the need to balance things out a bit by saddling us with a miserable litany of “bottom activities” on the part of the Little Buckaroo, who caught his first stomach virus. On Friday we headed out to my mom’s for the weekend, which is when the pooping commenced. This is the first time we’ve traveled for a weekend since New Years. It has all seemed too hard and too overwhelming to try, but it is time for change. We just didn’t anticipate him falling ill at the exact same time.

As we approach the one-year mark of his first birthday, I have recently found myself in a great deal of reflection and mostly wondering, “How did we get here so soon?” There is no doubt that my life has changed completely from even the days and months before he was born. Now with twelve calendar months flipped over I often feel that I have lost a profound amount of my original self, and have begun the fighting process of getting it back only to realize that everything really has changed for better—and occasionally for worse—and so begins the new era of me.

This revelation has unbound me from previous constraints and I am feeling at liberty to go wherever I want to, within reason, of course with personal growth, even if it is, at times, only attempted. About two years ago on one of our cross-country road trips we stopped in Idaho to see one of my former best-friends whom I hadn’t seen since the middle of eighth grade, when after we all returned from our Christmas break, she did not. She had a somewhat troubled—only for drama, and not for danger—family situation, and as Chris Kringle mounted his sleigh, one parent decided it was their day in the sun—or snow—and off she was whisked from one house, in one state, to another. In the long-long ago of yester-year we didn’t have email, and long-distance phone calls were a sad and expensive substitute for the barrage of pre-teen drama that filled our daily lives, and we fell out of touch. Fifteen years passed, then enter Facebook.

Reconnected, we sat there enjoying a glass of wine in Sun Valley, on the 7th of July in 2010. While recounting old adventures I commented about the dubious nature of changing junior high and high schools so many times. The formidable task of making new friends, fitting in, & defining yourself. How overbearing it all seemed. Her response caught me off-guard, “Actually, I thought it was fun. I could be whoever I wanted to be. If I didn’t like something about myself I could change it, and all these people never knew.”

What a concept! You can actually BE the person you WANT to be? You have the power to change? You do it willingly? You don’t stew in your own self-pity and fall pray to your own woes!

Okay, perhaps I am being a little dramatic, but change is hard. Especially self provoked change. Well, going back further, the self-reflection can be troublesome, too. No one wants to admit that they have faults. So, to admit them and then change them is no small undertaking.

But now is a good time for self-reflection. A birthday can do that to you, especially the first birthday of your first child.  So, last week when I received a welcome email from one of my favorite sites, Houzz, that promised: Three Magic Words for a Clean Home and a Better Life, I held my breath as I clicked.

I have never been a clean, or organized person, but I am trying. The older I get the more disciplined I am but still it takes practice and patience. I don’t quite know how it happened, but last week KnitFest occurred all over my house. Yarn everywhere, stitch markers coming out of the ceiling, pens for sketching covering dining room table, trimmed yarn tales trailing from the baby’s mouth, quickly removed. It was a frantic dash towards finishing some projects and designs that in-fact met their end of week deadlines. In an effort to get it all done—which I am proud to say that I did—every clean surface, floors included, suffered the consequences, which I am significantly less proud of. Before leaving for my Mother’s on Friday I did my best to get the situation under control, but when I returned home on Monday afternoon I was horrified. I’d had enough.

I began sweeping and washing while Ramon took the baby out for a few hours. With the dishes done, floor mopped and all yarn not in use put back in the stash I could finally sit down somewhere (anywhere) and relax. Since reading the above mentioned article from Houzz I’ve been thinking a lot about those three key words, promised from the title. What are these three words? How can they really get us there? Will they in-fact change my life for the better as promised? Yes! I can tell you they will:

How about now?

So simple, no? The idea is that we can always put something off until later, but then the little things pile up to be really, really big things that require hours of work to wade through, and tremendous misery, cursing, and disappointment that you cannot be knitting, reading, or really doing anything fun instead. But I feel that this idea may be applied to so much more than just picking up clutter around the house, or doing a few dishes.

In the spirit of figuring out this new me, instead of “How about Now,” I’ve started asking “Why not now?” about just about everything. Asking “Why” is a great stepping stone, and “why” is better for me than “how.” Why lets in all of the things that are real excuses reasons, like: I cannot knit or do dishes right now, because there is poop running down the baby’s leg because he has a stomach virus. How doesn’t allow for these “must-dos” to come into play without some sort of feeling of sadness or guilt at a perceived loss of opportunity. But with Why, there still feels like wiggle room for later, or as if I have more control over my situation. I am choosing to clean up the baby, and I can choose to knit later, too, or to pick up those dishes. It will only take a few minutes and I certainly have a few minutes to do some things that I need to do, and then I can do something I want to do. So, why not now?

During nap-times and after play-times, in between tummy hurting cries, and in the evening after bedtime, and all while watching the French Open and enjoying the company of my awesome Mom I was able to knit 11 inches in the round, in stockinette stitch to finish the bottom of my Still Light Tunic. That sea of tiny, black stitches took the better part of 450 yards, 21,120 stitches—give or take—on size 2 US needles. I also completed 2 complete pentagons on my Basalt tank, with lace yarn. I also feel more empowered, invigorated by this new me. I am feeling inspired, and that I really can make this change. I can be cleaner, I can be more organized and I can have some fun for myself, too!

After four days of misery, the Little Buckaroo is finally starting to feel a little better. I feel like a good Mommy for being there for him, snuggling him in his discomfort when he really wanted to sit close and just feel better, and for cleaning dozens of messy bottoms, many of which had to be followed by fun bath-time. This weekend I got to be everything that I wanted to be, and do more than I thought or in some cases really desired. I even managed to shampoo an entire carpet, mere minutes before my husband took a crow-bar and ripped the entire carpet out, and hauled it to his truck. I guess he’s started asking, “Why not now,” too.

What could you do if you started asking yourself, “Why not now?”

Nothing Like a Little Raincloud to Welcome Summer

Giddy. That is how I felt as I drove the 40 miles to my sister’s yesterday morning. Memorial Day. A single day of vacation. I happily recognize that the holiday is to commemorate the fallen. That being said, as a child I thought that Memorial Day was a shopping day. Everywhere you look there are signs saying “Sale.” Relentless ads on the radio, the tv. We even dropped our cable and only watch via our Roku. Alas, with even Hulu we were not impervious to this years onslaught of Memorial Day marketing. Regarding this day that marks our grand and long anticipated entrance into summer, I don’t think much has changed since my childhood.

Recently I have been trying to escape the daily barrage of advertising. It’s driving me bonkers. I’ve been away from the computer more, playing with my son, knitting up a storm and doing lots of reading. I’ve actually had a number of successes recently regarding my knitting and I have been working on lots and lots of new designs of which only a few will see the light of day. I’ve been working for weeks on a little sweater, a sample, which my sister will be the proud owner of once the project is completed. With beautiful alpaca and silk yarn, a fine gauge and and truly special details I feel like my weeks of hard work paid off when I finished the sweater yesterday morning. I didn’t take any short cuts, and paid attention to every row, every turn, every increase. I carefully, and thoughtfully completed the minimal amount of seaming that was required. I worked on the pattern diligently, for days, before beginning. Now I feel like every stitch adds up to elation. This is quite possibly the most beautiful sweater I have ever designed and made.

Afters spending weeks on gauge swatches, suffering many failures and few successes I made many detailed notes. Often I feel that no matter how many swatches I do, no matter how much planning what I make never results in exactly what I had in mind. But, the more preparation the better the end product. When working on my sketches and my swatches I had to start over a number of times, completely ripping out all of my work, which, granted, is something I do fairly frequently, in order to have this pattern progress in the direction that I imagined. I felt as prepared as I could be when it was time to begin, but a small grey cloud of doubt always looms overhead.

I am actually in awe of how quickly I was able to complete the knitting portion. A top down raglan, the “yoke” took forever, but it is because I dawdled, and the details are as time consuming as lace-work. The sleeves knit up in less than a day each, and I completed the entire body in 2 days. Okay, this final 2 days was more due to my looming deadline, but still it is quite an accomplishment to knit the entire body portion—from bust to hip—with size 3 needles, sport weight yarn and 8 inches of 1×1 fancy textural ribbing included. By Sunday morning, by some miracle, I had it soaking in the sweater tub, then soaking up the sun. By early afternoon the sweater was already washed, blocked, and dried.

The final piece to complete was the collar, quite complicated and intricate, I needed to really take my time to read my pattern carefully, count stitches, rows, cables, short-rows and decreases all to make sure that I had made my instructions clear. I also needed to get buttons. At 4:30 I raced out to get my buttons. Gas-tank running on fumes I made it to the store 15 minutes before closing. Often when watching Project Runway I admire how the contestants run through Mood and find their materials in 30 minutes or less. I think that sometimes severe time constrains lead to swift, concise decision making; there is no time for mistakes. With my own quarter hour to pick buttons—a process that usually requires days—I narrowed in on two finalists and quickly made the winning call. I was back in my car desperately seeking a gas station in 7 minutes flat. Once home I didn’t actually get to sit down and knit my collar until 10 pm, once Ramon returned from delivering our old couch to its new home. By 12:30 I was exhausted, but still had some finishing touches—sewing on my precious buttons—before meeting with my sister at our prearranged time of 10 am for a quick photo-shoot.

The two remaining skeins I have left-over from the sweater

I woke up at 7 yesterday morning. Seven am on a holiday, a precious day off, is not something that most people want to see. Especially when then open their sleepy eyes to a vast gloomy gray sky looming overhead. I hit the snooze button once, but got up 2 minutes later. I was too anxious about finishing my sweater. After working so hard I didn’t want to make my final finishing touches with haste, in a desperate rush to get out the door. One cup of coffee later I was buzzing, and everything seemed to go wrong. My iron, leaking rusty water, needed to be cleaned before I could begin. The eye of all of my knitting size sewing needles was about 80 times too large to squeeze through the hole of the buttons. Once cleaned my iron leaked water all over my board. My scissors, which were right beside me last night, were now MIA. My memory card on the camera full, and battery empty. While all great annoyances none of these roadblocks stopped me. I powered through and was out the front door right on time as a few drizzly rain drops landed on my head.

After a cheerful visit I drove back home feeling the sun shining down on me as more rain drops fell on my windshield. Along the way I watched a squirrel avoid certain death from freeway traffic, a good omen for sure. I stopped by my LYS (Local Yarn Store) in hopes of finding the exact yarn I had in my head, and with a stroke of luck not only found that it existed, but it was on the second shelf in from the front door. Back at home we decided to take the Little Buckaroo to the park, went to Target to buy him some sneakers, as we thought they might be better than his little sandals for some of the activities that we’re up to these days, bought a new charcoal grill and headed out to the park. The Little Buckaroo walked all over. We blew bubbles went on the swings and played in the mud. All around us were dozens of others enjoying this fine gloomy day. A game of football was going on next to the two little league fields that were alive with little pee-wees slugging and running to their heart’s content. Proud parents leaning up against the chain-link fence, and sitting in the bleachers eating hot-dogs and ice cream. Not a one of these fine families seemed to noticed that the sun hadn’t made an official appearance all day, and were all gleefully ringing in the summer.

We all collapsed on our new couch as evening fell. Ramon grilled a tri-tip on our new charcoal grill, and some fresh Zucchini from the garden. I felt a tinge of guilt as I realized that we had in-fact gone shopping for the holiday, something I was, at least mentally, fiercely trying to avoid. We even wound up getting our new grill on-sale as the previous sale-tag from the previous weekend had been carelessly forgotten, and the store felt obligated to sell it to us for that price—we didn’t ask, we didn’t even push for it. Unfortunately we do live in a society where your money really does stretch further on holidays that were created with the intention of honoring others. Ramon wanted the grill and would have bought it anyway, but getting it on sale didn’t hurt.

Ramon had a hard time with the new grill, finally giving up and getting the meat on the gas-grill to finish, as he was afraid that if he didn’t we wouldn’t be eating before the stroke of mid-night. I tried to tell him that I could sympathize. When I get a new tool, like a new sewing machine I feel as if I am going back to square one. I used to be able to just sew, but with a new machine I feel as if I have to learn how to do it all over again. It takes some getting used to. More unexpected results from an area in which great skill and knowledge has already been developed, but the only gray cloud over me now is the one that I wanted, and I am giddy with glee. With the absence of the harsh sun on this Memorial Day, the giant soft-box in the sky is exactly what I needed for my pictures. The sweater looked as perfect as it could be and passed the final remaining test with flying colors: it fit my sister exactly as I had hoped, minus one, easy to fix detail. My three-quarter length sleeves were about 2 inches too long, an easy fix that I am happy to make. Sometimes the things that don’t work out the way that you thought they would require you to completely rethink everything, and sometimes they are serendipitous, making things significantly better in an unexpected way. I think that just like Whinnie-the-Pooh embracing that dark little rain-cloud will sometimes lead us to that pot of honey, and not always on our bum at the bottom of a tree.

My sister’s new tattoo, a sampling of the beautiful lighting we had yesterday

For Ramon his dark gray cloud will lift, and he will learn how to use his new toy with great proficiency. I cannot think of a more American way to welcome the summer than with a great accomplishment, a new toy, and a barbecued piece of meat along side fresh veggies from our very own garden. At the end of the day I am happy that my childhood memory of Memorial Day Sales has been left by the way-side and replaced by the image of my husband pushing my son on the baby-swing at the park just as happy as can possibly be.

To end for today, I must add one final note. While I have gone on-and-on about this sweater I cannot post its picture. I am submitting it to a publication, from which I anticipate a response of  “no, thank you.” And while I sit here for the next three months expecting the worst but hoping for the best I can’t wait to share this sweater with the world. Hopefully it will be a happy dark little cloud for other little knitters out there, waiting with patience, size 3 needles and some fine alpaca and silk.