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Wit’s End

February 14, 2012
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I love Chris.  Let’s be clear about that right up front.  He makes me laugh, he loves the dog, he introduced me to Thai food for goodness sake.  But — and please understand the depth of my frustration here — can’t the guy have normal hands?

Perhaps some explanation is in order.  Several years ago, I knit both my dad and my stepdad pairs of Knitty’s Broad Street Mittens. I followed the pattern (in a slightly larger gauge than called for to size up the pattern’s specified women’s medium), and when I came to the end I had, as you might expect, a pair of man-sized gloves that fit the recipient well.  Twice.

Then Chris requested a pair.  Never one to turn down a requested handknit, especially one at which I was so sure of succeeding, I cast on.

This is where it gets ugly.  Knitters, you may want to stop here if you’d like to sleep peacefully tonight.  Because friends, I made a total of three pairs of gloves in an endless cycle of knit-and-rip, knit-and-rip.  Just as I was certain I’d figured out the problem and was knitting blissfully along, he would try them on and we’d discover that the thumb gusset was an inch too long.  Or that the base of the hand was two inches too wide.  Or too narrow.  Over and over and over I knit those gloves, and over and over and over I ripped. (Which, incidentally, is a great advertisement for Baby Ull. Even after the eighth large-scale frogging, that yarn was nearly fresh as a daisy.) Finally, after many tears, probably too much chocolate, and more swearing than I should probably admit to in public, I ended up with two gloves that fit.   I have photographic evidence:
PA120002
(Those are Chris’s hands, and that is the balcony of my law school apartment.  See?  Proof.)

He loved them.  He wore them.  And then, because the universe seeks to destroy me, he lost them.

And because I apparently seek to destroy myself, I didn’t write down how I made them fit.

All of which brings us to today, and the 586,439th Broad Street Mitten.

Gloves 1Gloves 2

Sweetie?

Don’t lose these.

Beauty in the Using

February 8, 2012

Washcloths 1

I have a thing for knitted washcloths.  As I mentioned last time, I think that part of the beauty of handmade things is how they are used, and in my book, the more used they are, the better.  I love the idea that someone (okay, in this case, me) spent hours to make something beautiful, with the intent that it be absorbed into the everyday activities of home: to cover someone at night, to keep feet warm, to scrub the day’s dishes.  Making the things that comprise the basic necessities of day-to-day life is, for me, an excellent reminder that the most humble dishrag comes from someplace, and provides a small dose of perspective on the endless consumption that is oh-so-tempting in an age of instant gratification.  Plus, handmade stuff is pretty.

The pretty part is the real motivation for this little stack of washcloths.  These were a birthday gift for my sister, who requested “a little purple love” for her bathroom.  Um, a year ago.  So delayed they may be, but they are finally done.  (The top two are linen stitch, and the bottom two are waffle stitch, for those who care about that sort of thing.)

Happy birthday, Kamala.  Use ’em up.  (Because the other beautiful thing about handmade stuff is that I can always make more.)
Washcloths 2

On Quilts

February 6, 2012
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{Thank you, everyone, for your sweet words on my last post!  Thank you also for bearing with me while I took an unexpected blog break.  The last few weeks have been full of celebrating, adjusting, and lots of real life.  Now that my head is screwed on (mostly) straight again, I’m happy to be back!}

I didn’t grow up with quilting.  California in the ’80s and ’90s was full of many things, but handwork in general, and quilting in particular, was not among them.  I did, however, grow up with quilts.  My Iowan great-grandmother and her two closest friends made many quilts together, a few of which came to live at our house.  Each quilt is entirely hand-stitched, and batted with worn-out flannel clothing.  Growing up, I was fascinated by the tiny, slightly imperfect stitches, and by the intricate patterns they drew across the bright colors.  They are, quite simply, beautiful.  The quilt that became mine is a bright, cheery yellow against a soft white background, and has come with me in every move since I left for college.  Since I believe that part of the beauty of handmade works of art like quilts is that they are meant to be used, to become part of the backdrop of everyday life, my great-grandmother’s quilt sees a regular (though admittedly careful) rotation in our house.  My fascination with the skill and patience of quilting has continued to grow, and last year, I joined the ranks of my family’s quilters.

Last Christmas, for the second year in a row, I drew my grandma’s name in my family’s annual handmade holiday gift exchange.  Since her mother is the source of my quilting inspiration, I threw caution to the wind and decided to learn to quilt.  Several books, tutorials, and a calloused middle finger later, I had this:

Quilt 4

Quilt 1

Quilt 3

Quilt 2

It is, certainly, a beginner’s quilt.  It’s a crib-sized lap quilt, simple in design, machine-pieced, backed with flannel, and turned instead of bound.  But it is hand-quilted (I traced dinner and dessert plates!), and there is now another confirmed quilter in my family.  I hope it will keep lots of laps just a little bit cozier in years to come.

Big News

January 17, 2012
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C+A

Ring

Sam's

Bonfire
Big news, folks:

After six years, three graduations, three cities, two first jobs, one puppy, and more Thai food than is reasonable for two people, Chris and I are getting married.

Married.  Like real grownups.

Eeek!

On Community

January 13, 2012
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Game Night

Candle

Game Night 2
Last year, I overcame my life-long aversion to New Year’s resolutions –kind of– and set my focus for the year on the concept of less. Though it’s an ongoing process, a year later I feel less cluttered, less stretched, and less frantic. As I’d hoped, having less of the things I don’t want in my life has left room for more of the things I do want, and as a result 2011 was a wonderfully full year.
This year, I want to focus on what I want more of. I’m a natural introvert with awkward, hermit-like tendencies, but I crave people. (What can I say? I’m a tortured soul.) The times in my life in which I’ve been happiest have been full of people, especially friends nearby who come over on a whim and vice versa. As a commuter, my stash of friends near home is pretty limited (um, nonexistent?), and I rarely see the friends scattered across the Bay Area. (The Bay Area is big, y’all. Most of my friends aren’t at all remote, generally speaking, and yet it’s a 45-minute drive to see them.) So this year, I’m building myself a community.
I’m not certain exactly what that means, but I think it will be a bit of investing in the community I do have, making an effort to leave the quiet of home for some socializing every once in a while (after all, I’m not after a total personality transplant), and filling my home with people on a regular basis. I’d like to make more connections with like-minded people in blogland; see my real, live, in-the-flesh friends more often, write more letters to my aunt in Iowa. I’d like to be brave enough to invite the cool people from knit night to hang out outside the yarn shop. I’d like to find out of any of my neighbors are as wonderful as the ones who moved away last summer.
I’m on my way already – last week, instead of planning to “someday” have people over for a game night, I seized an opportunity and invited folks over for Sunday evening. It wasn’t a late night or a big group, but my house was full of chatter and laughter and music on Pandora, and it was just right. I could get used to that.

Holiday Handmades

January 4, 2012

When I was little, I loved Christmas. Really, really, sing-Christmas-carols-in-July loved it. And I still do. Back then, though, I didn’t understand why adults were so stressed out about the holidays, or the vaguely bitter things I overheard about the “commercialization of Christmas.” Now, as an adult myself, I get it. Somehow we’ve turned a season of celebrating kindness and returning light into an absolute frenzy, but I think I’ve found my antidote.

Making.

This year, I had big handmade plans. Most of our decorations were homemade, which I found so cozy and welcoming to come home to. I’d planned a handmade gift for everyone on my list, and while that didn’t quite happen, I spent a total of about 30 minutes actively shopping for gifts this year. Literally.

Making stuff can be time-consuming, and maybe isn’t feasible for everyone. For me, thinking a little bit about what I wanted to spend my time on most, and trying to be okay with falling short sometimes really helped.  I was lucky to have a significant amount of vacation at both Thanksgiving and Christmas, but most of my knitting and decorating happened on the train to work, in the evenings, and on the weekends through November and December. For the most part, I tried to keep things reasonable (no knitted sweaters or lace shawls under the tree, no massive cookie-baking sessions), and for the folks whose gifts weren’t handmade this time — well, there’s always another holiday. Because you can bet that next year’s Christmas will be handmade too — I can’t think of a more peaceful way to spend the darkest days of the year than making simple things by the light of the Christmas tree.

So without further ado, a wee parade of the simple things I made this year:

Jitari's Hat 2
Jitari's Hat 1

This hat, modeled by the recipient’s baby brother, is by far the simplest thing I made. I hadn’t intended to make it, in fact, until I realized that my 6-year-old nephew would be the only one in his family with no handmades. (Don’t feel too terrible for him: he got this last June.) And then my sister told me that he really loves handmade things, and I was sold. I threw it together in an afternoon and evening with the leftovers from the next gift below, guessed at an approximate number of stitches based on this sizing chart, and knit until of was kind of too small for me and vaguely head-shaped. (Thank you to Marica of Wasabi Honeybee for the green contrast yarn – during craft night at her house, I realized I’d never have enough yarn, and she came to my rescue. A lifesaver!) It is, as you can see, too big for his baby brother, so here’s hoping it fits him!
Dashing 1

Here’s the origin of the yarn I used for the hat above: a pair of Dashing for my brother-in-law. He rides his bike to and from work, so I thought he could use a little something to keep the chill off. This photo really is a disservice to these mitts – they’re MUCH nicer-looking when worn, but I had about 45 seconds to take a picture before the recipient walked in. I’d never used this yarn before (Stonehenge Fiber Mill’s Shepherd’s Wool) , but really, really loved it. It’s very soft and squooshy, and the color is nicer than it appears here – it’s very lightly heathered.

Fetching 1Fetching 2

On the theme of fingerless mitts, this set of Fetching, modeled here by my badass coworker Mary, went to my older sister. She loves purple (the color in the left photo is pretty accurate), and this super soft wool/silk blend (Berroco Inca Gold in color 6420, which looks like it may be discontinued) is really delicious to work with. I hope they’ll keep her hands toasty during early morning (pre-crowd) trips to the local skate park with her 6-year-old.

Kanaan's Sweater 2Kanaan's Sweater 1

The newest member of my sister’s family will hopefully fit into his gift (the Ribbed Baby Jacket by Debbie Bliss)… eventually. I am notorious for making badly-sized baby items (perhaps because I don’t actually have a baby nearby for sizing comparison?) and my sister’s warnings of how huge this little guy was getting were ringing in my ears. At 4 months, he fit into 12-month clothes, so I knit the 12-24 month size. Many reviews said that this pattern knits up on the short side, so I added a couple of inches to the length. Whoops. I think he likes it anyway, though – would you look at that face?! On a more successful note, I love this yarn. It’s Quince and Co. Lark in Storm. This is my first experience with Quince and Co., but it absolutely won’t be the last. The yarn is wonderful, the prices reasonable, and the delivery very quick.

Thuja 2
Thuja 1

Last up in the knitting department, a pair of Thuja socks in Malabrigo Sock for my dad. My dad is an excellent person to have for a relative for many reasons, but most relevant at the moment is that he loves handknits. The man can’t get enough wool, put handknit socks on his list of Christmas wishes, and says (to my face, anyway) that handknit socks are the most comfortable. This is an excellent way to acquire more handmade woolly things, so for his sake, I hope he’s not exaggerating his enthusiasm. This pattern was entertaining but easy and well-written, both desirable qualities in an intended holiday gift.

I have one more handmade gift to show you, but since I finished it late on Christmas Eve I have no pictures. This was a landmark project of sorts, so I’d like to show it off properly photographed. Soon, I promise. Until then, I hope you had a wonderful holiday season. (Is anyone else counting the days until the MLK Day three-day weekend?)

Good Tidings

January 2, 2012

NYE 1

NYE 2

NYE 3

NYE 4

NYE 5

NYE 6

NYE 7

NYE 8

I usually have a tough time with New Year’s.  It marks the end of my favorite time of year, the return to the day-to-day, the end of eggnog.  Especially when the year just past was so full of goodness, I find it hard to bid it goodbye.  Leaving my tree up until January 6 takes the edge off a little bit, but New Year’s Eve usually finds me short on festive spirit.  This year, Chris and I spent New Year’s Eve at home, with just the two of us, a couple of funny dogs, a bottle of champagne, a handful of beers, a stack of games, and a fabulous Pandora station.  It was simple, happy, and just right.  In that spirit, I thought I’d share some things I’m looking forward to in this bright and shiny, brand new year.

:: Daylight is on its way back, but there are still lots of cozy dark evenings for burning candles before spring.

:: Tangerine season is only a few weeks away!

:: My little sister is moving much closer to where we live, to the town where Chris and I met and went to college.  I can’t wait to visit .

:: There’s a whole new year of seasonal changes and celebrations ahead.

:: I have a wonderful new toy (a Canon EOS Rebel T2i – a surprise Christmas gift from Chris!) with which to document the loveliness around me.

:: The end of this month brings a pie-themed potluck – and who doesn’t look forward to more pie?

:: Some of my favorite flowers are beginning to appear at the farmer’s market.  They’re so fragrant they make it easy to forget spring is still technically months away.

:: When the winter rains finally begin, the hills around us will magically turn the most beautiful shade of green.

:: In September, my cousin will marry his wonderful girlfriend (and they’re giving homemade jam as wedding favors!).

2012 is gong to be an excellent year.  I can feel it.

From our house to yours — Happy New Year.