The last time I posted (on New Year’s Day), I was hopeful that the upcoming semester would be smoother than the previous, and had set some crafty goals that I had hoped to accomplish during this year. It’s now mid-May, and I haven’t accomplished a single one of them. But I’m not beating myself up about it. That’s not what this post is about.
Where have I been? Well, this semester turned out not to be any easier than the previous one. If anything, much harder. There were so many things that made it hard, and I’m not going to go into all of them here. But one of those things is that I was sinking deeper and deeper into depression. I’m not new to depression and anxiety, though depression and anxiety post-motherhood is something I have a much harder time managing (especially since it is exacerbated by sleep deprivation, which has been a huge problem for us – my daughter only very recently started sleeping more than 2 hours at a time, and at the beginning of the semester, I was being awoken every 45 minutes for weeks straight – this breaks you). I also have a much harder time talking about these things post-motherhood, because of the guilt I feel about it, given everything I wrote about here, and given the expectations people impose on parents. But post-partum depression and childbirth-related PTSD are things that should be talked about, not shoved aside because they challenge our idealized picture of motherhood (I’d say the exact same thing about babyloss, too). No mother should ever be made to feel as though she is ungrateful or unworthy or less-than simply because she is honest about the challenges she has faced…and yet, this is exactly what happens, much of the time. I wish for acknowledgement, understanding, kindness, and compassion this Mother’s Day, for everyone who struggles.
Anyway, this past semester, I sank. I’m really good at pretending to be fine when I’m in the classroom, or meeting with someone at work, or whatever – I held it together in public, I think, but behind the scenes, I was crumbling. And that meant, among other things, not blogging here. There’s been no crafting to blog, and I haven’t felt up to sharing this stuff in a more public place (I’ve talked a bit about it in less public places, so some of you reading this know about it already). I’m going to open up a little bit about it here now, though. I’m still in it, honestly, but now that I’m not hanging on by the tiniest of threads while trying to keep myself together for teaching, and am getting to sleep in longer than 2-hour increments most of the time, it’s easier to reflect a little.
I don’t do the best job of describing what depression feels like. Or at least, I must not, since when I try to explain what’s going on, what I get back is mostly “you’re so negative! you should just be positive, your life is better than most people’s!”, and while all of those things are true, it’s not helpful stuff to be told. It’s sort of…missing the point, as far as depression is concerned. Anyway, thankfully, other people on the Internet do a better job than I do of explaining these things. One I’d like to particularly highlight is Allie Brosh. She is one of my favorite bloggers. Her cartoons are just perfect, and I end up quoting them a lot (clean all the things?). She’s been very open about her struggles with depression in recent years (I’m so sorry, Allie – you don’t know me, but I’m always rooting for you). She’s done a better job than just about ANYBODY EVER at describing what depression is like, in her Adventures in Depression and Depression Part Two comics, the latter of which was just posted this week and deserves to be spread far and wide. If you haven’t seen them, go. Right now. Then maybe go read this post at Dooce. Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) is another amazing person who speaks honestly about anxiety and depression (and is freaking hilarious, too).
And if you do struggle like I do, then maybe the DIY Couturier’s 21 tips would be a helpful thing to read (I related a lot to her post, as someone who has chronic physical health problems – particularly pain-related ones – that exacerbate my ever-present melancholic tendencies). Maybe read that post even if you don’t struggle – it might help to understand that we are trying. And for anyone who is worried about me: I know I worry about stupid crap all the time (hello, anxiety!) and being told not to worry isn’t helpful, so I’m not going to tell you not to. But please know that I am doing all of the right things “behind the scenes” to try to dig out. Some stuff that makes this hard isn’t in my control, but I’m doing what I can with the things that ARE in my control. I have a great therapist. It’d be easier if I had more of a support network (and, um, a bigger paycheck), but the realities of academic life are that I live far from family, and the people I was closest to in my program, all those “honorary aunties” M had when she was first born, have all moved on to faraway jobs post-graduation, while I’m still trying to finish. It’s just the nature of things.
So, let’s go back to crafting, which is what this blog is ostensibly about. Knitting has almost always been part of my arsenal for maintaining sanity. I love knitting, it calms my mind and keeps my hands busy and gives me a vital creative outlet. But this time, in the last month or so – I just didn’t love it anymore. I didn’t feel anything about it. I realized last week that over the course of the semester, I’d basically forgotten how to knit. Well, not exactly – I mean, I still remember how knitting works (making knit and purl stitches and all that – I’ve even been able to help others with their knitting during this time), but I’d forgotten how to, you know, grab some yarn and some needles and actually sit down and knit something. That probably sounds completely dumb, but I literally didn’t remember how to do that; even when I did have a moment of time when I could’ve knit, after M was in bed for the night (which wasn’t often – teaching and tutoring and dissertating with only part-time daycare and no sleep is not for the weak, I’ll tell you that much), I’d sit on the couch and stare into space because I just…couldn’t remember. I basically forgot anything that I used to enjoy. I forgot how to read, in the same way I forgot how to knit (that is, how to actually sit and read something, not how to understand orthographically represented language – boy, that’d be bad, for a writing teacher!). I forgot how to play my violin (hopefully I still remember the mechanics, there – I’ve only played about 3 times since M was born, though). I forgot how to sew – and there, I think I did forget the mechanics, too, because it’s not something I was very good/practiced at. I even forgot how to design things, and that’s just crazy – designing stuff is what my brain usually does when it’s overwhelmed (I could probably put together a whole book out of patterns I designed while I was reading and writing for my qualifying exams a few years back, if I could ever find the time to knit them up), but even that non-stop creative impulse pretty much stopped – there is such a thing as too overwhelmed, I guess?
Anyway, now that I’m done teaching for the semester (and therefore have a tiny bit more time – it might be possible to semi-regularly do something other than work during the hours when Madrigal is sleeping and I’m not), I’m trying to un-forget these things. I’ve felt some sparks in the last couple days, like the creative me might be stirring (I can probably attribute a lot of this to the sun finally making an appearance here in Rochester – SAD being another thing that made “Spring” semester so very challenging). I hope to build off that. I’ll be sure to post, if I’m successful in these efforts. I might even have something to write about this week, if I can find time.
Well, as usual, I’ve been away from the blog for awhile. The whole balancing act that was my first semester back to teaching (and dissertating, and job-searching, and and and) after having Madrigal didn’t really leave me time for much of anything else. But I learned a lot, these past few months, and I’ve got some ideas about what doesn’t work and what might, so I’m hopeful that next semester will be a little bit better.
I’ve actually got quite a backlog of things to write about here – I’ve taken pictures of the two designs I have that weren’t self-published and intend to write up posts about the design process, etc, plus I finished one sweater for Maddy and started another one, and I’ve basically designed over a book’s worth of baby/kid knitting patterns in my head (we’ll see what ever becomes of them). But I’ll save that for another time.
For now: My friend Steph has posted about an idea for 2013 that I really like – 8 in 2013. You should go read her post (and, while you’re at it, follow her blog – she’s awesome and I’m dying to read more of her books as she writes them!), but in case you don’t feel like following a link at the moment, the idea is to choose 8 projects you want to complete in 2013 towards becoming a better you.
I like the number 8. I’ve always liked the number 8, since before I can even remember. I don’t even really know why, but I do. And I especially like 8 as a number of projects to do in a year. So many yearly themes for projects involve doing 12 of something (12 shawls, 12 sweaters, 12 whatevers) and I just…can’t. But 8? 8 seems more doable. A little more than a month per project.
So what are my projects going to be? Well, what I’d really like to do to be a better me is to improve my sewing and embroidery skills. I’m sure the knitting will continue, at its current rather glacial pace, because knitting is just so ingrained in my life that way. But sewing? Sewing is something I have always wanted to be better at, but it’s going to take a push to actually get me going on it. I’ve had a few projects that I’ve planned out in my head and keep saying I’ll make “someday”, and I’d like that someday, finally, to be a day in 2013. Here are the projects I’m thinking about:
1. Celebration bags: I’ve had this grand plan for years now of making little lined bags with a buttonhole on the front, so that I could button on whatever I wanted to “decorate” them. The idea arose because I was trying to think of a way to do “stockings” for our seasonal celebrations at the Solstices and Equinoxes. I wanted to have something special for each Solstice and Equinox, but didn’t want to make a whole bunch of unique bags. Anyway, my idea is to make these 3 bags (one for each of us – or maybe I’ll make an extra just in case), and then embroider little 3×3″ squares, backed in felt, that I could button onto the bag. I’m planning to embroider a little tree on each square, with the colors/etc representing each season. So I’d need to embroider a whole lot of things (4 seasons x 3 of us), instead of sewing a whole lot of things, but whatever. But then I could also make special occasion squares if we wanted to use the bags to wrap gifts for some other celebration, like birthdays. We like not using wrapping paper.
2. A skinny “quilt” to hang in my office: My office has a very long skinny window in the door, and since I pump in there, I’ve currently got paper taped over it for privacy. But you know what would be way prettier than paper? A quilt! What I’d love to do is to take some of the charm squares from my Kona “brights” pack, and sash around them (I think that’s the right term?) with some sort of natural color cloth, maybe linen. So it’d be a column of rainbow squares, edged in natural. I’d do the same thing on both sides, so that way, if I quilted concentric squares inside the rainbow squares, they’d show up that way on both sides. I swear, this makes sense in my head, but I don’t know how to talk about quilting so it probably doesn’t make sense here. I’m totally open to advice/suggestions, too, since I don’t actually know that much about quilting. Anyway, I like the idea of it being reversible and I also think it would look neat, eventually, just hanging on a wall or something in Maddy’s room or wherever.
3. A quilt for Madrigal: I’ve also been wanting to make a quilt for Maddy. I have a jelly roll of those same Kona “brights”, and what I’m thinking would work is to sew a bunch of them together length-wise, and then cut across the other way so that I have a column of squares (does that make sense?). What I want to do is to make concentric rectangular “rings” in these rainbow squares, on a background of linen. I don’t know what I’d back the quilt in, maybe flannel or maybe just linen. I’d make this one crib-sized, since she sleeps on a crib-sized mattress for now (and probably will continue to do so for awhile); also, crib-sized seems more manageable for a “first quilt” for me.
4. Embroidered synapses and other cool cell stuff: Ever since I started learning to do embroidery I have wanted to embroider the little synapse diagrams from my neuroscience textbook. I think I’ve probably mentioned this here before. They just LOOK like embroidery patterns to me, and I think they’d look especially cool in my little girl’s bedroom. I just love the idea of making something that’s both really geeky but also really aesthetically pleasing like that.
5. Lined pants for Madrigal: I really want to try out Anna Maria Horner’s “Quick Change Pants” pattern, and I love the idea of making Maddy some flannel-lined corduroys. If I can get the hang of the pattern, maybe I could also make her some double-thick jersey pants like the ones she has that I love so much.
6. A t-shirt or dress for me in knit: Speaking of sewing with knits, as a Solstice present to myself, I bought Meg McElwee’s “Sewing with Knits” class on Craftsy. I really love wearing knit fabric, and I’m most comfortable wearing knits, so why not learn how to sew with them on my machine? I’m really excited about this, and if I can manage one sewn knit project for me this year, I’ll be delighted.
7. A Geranium Dress or Tunic for Madrigal: I love Rae’s Washi dress (and maybe I’ll make one for me someday) and I was so giddy when I saw she was making a pattern for wee ones! I have some really neat streaky blue fabric (I’m sure there is a better way of describing it, but anyway, it’s pretty!) that I think would look amazing in a tunic or dress for Maddy. I’m kinda scared of trying to sew this but I did manage to make her Big Butt Baby Pants pattern (with a lot of hand-holding from my friend Kris), so maybe I can do it.
8. A tunic for Madrigal from the Oliver+S “Ice Cream Dress” pattern: So, those Big Butt Baby Pants I made for Maddy? I have leftovers of that adorable robot fabric. JUST enough to make a pocketed tunic in the 18-24mo size – I’d use the robots for the yoke and for the pocket trim, and linen for the rest. I can’t get over how adorable this would be, but I’m really intimidated by the pattern because it’s a “real” pattern and I don’t have a clue what I’m doing with it. If anyone wants to virtually hold my hand through this one, I’d love that!
So there’s my 8 for 2013! Happy New Year, everybody!
Well, the “Sundays are for blogging” thing hasn’t been going so well, has it? My excuse this week: I was horribly sick. I’m actually STILL horribly sick (sick as in, there just might be a bucket next to me as I type this. It is AWFUL.) I’m sick enough that I have already canceled my class for tomorrow, which is something I basically never do, but when you’ve been unable to keep anything in you for over 24 hours, teaching isn’t really in the cards. But I’m getting stir crazy from spending all this time on the couch with a bucket, so I figured I’d take advantage of having a laptop and actually post about Rhinebeck. Sorry, Rhinebeck, for sullying the post about your awesomeness with this barf-tastic introduction.
So yes, Rhinebeck. I’m so glad we were able to make it our family “vacation” again this year. Though things went right back to being rough when we got home, it was the perfect little break from it all – Madrigal slept wonderfully in the hotel room (during a break between rounds of teething, thank goodness!), the weather was lovely (if a bit too warm for actually wearing knitwear!), we got to hang out with friends on Saturday, and the scenery, as always, was gorgeous.
I didn’t actually take that many pictures, and I especially didn’t take many pictures with my “real” camera, but I’ll try to recap our Rhinebeck in a mix of Instagram shots and “real” photos. We took off Friday afternoon after picking M up from her school. I’d packed some yarn to knit a new hat for Maddy, because the one I was knitting her before, in Cork? It didn’t fit. It was a bit like a yarmulke (with a chinstrap). I started her new hat (in Malabrigo Worsted) in the car:
The drive down to Rhinebeck is so incredibly gorgeous. We go through the Catskills, and the scenery there reminds me so much of “home”, up in the Mississippi Valley in Minnesota – but the bluffs and trees are a bit different. It was a little rainy on our trip down, but that meant rainbows:
Back to the hat. I finished it in the car (turns out I can still knit very fast when I have uninterrupted knitting time!). It was just a simple top-down hat, from a made-up-in-my-head pattern to fit her head circumference, with a short-rowed garter brim that made it cover her ears without getting too close to her eyes (which she HATES), finished off with an i-cord bindoff:
Once we got to our hotel in Poughkeepsie, I tried it on her, and the fit was PERFECT:
The short rows made the back brim longer than the front, and a crocheted chain from either side lets us tie it on her head (a necessity):
I was happy to know my girl’s head would be kept warm at the festival the next day. Turns out I needn’t have worried – it was in the 70s that Saturday! We were knitwear-free most of the day because of the warmth, but Maddy and I donned our matching sweaters to have our pictures taken by Gale Zucker and kept them on for the Ravelry meetup, where Madrigal got to meet a few of her Internet Baby Friends, including little miss Celia:
Maddy was kind of obsessed with Celia – she wanted her to come out of that stroller and PLAY! We also got to meet up with Danielle and Thom and their adorable little boy Henry (I think someone took pictures of Maddy and Henry together, but I don’t remember for sure), and spent some lovely time with Melissa and her awesome little girl Stella.
We also took some pictures of Maddy with her “included for scale” monster from her weekly photos on the benches on the hill. I had to join in the shots because Madrigal was determined to chase leaves even if it meant diving headfirst off the bench. But that’s ok, because it meant we got more pictures of us in our matching sweaters:
After the meetup, we put Maddy in the stroller and rolled her around for a nap, while I knit a couple of swatches that are actually pockets for a Garter Rib sweater for Maddy:
I’m knitting hers in Cascade 220 rather than Eco+, but in the same “Summer Sky Heather” color I used for my second one. We’ll be twinsies! I’m trying err on the side of “too big” for her cardigan, since she actually outgrew her mini maple leaf cardigan before Rhinebeck (you might be able to tell what a tight fit it was in some of those photos).
We drove home on Sunday (because we needed to be back to work Monday morning), but before we got on the way, we stopped at the Walkway Over The Hudson, and took a (very long!) walk.
The weather was still warm, but it was very windy:
The scenery there was SO gorgeous. I ended up having to take Maddy out of the carrier a couple of times, because she discovered that she can pull my hair when she rides on my back. My dear girl is MIGHTY heavy to carry in arms (or on your back, for that matter, at least for the nearly 4 miles we walked that morning)
But at least she’s cute!!
I started knitting Maddy’s Garter Rib cardigan on the way home in the car, and have already finished the lower body and half of one sleeve (maybe one of these days I’ll manage to get in-progress pictures):
Once we were home, it was back to the grind – poor sleep because of some new teeth, and a newfound ability to not just walk, but RUN. Maddy’s such an amazing kiddo. It is hard to believe that it has been nearly a year since I first got to meet my baby girl. We had so much fun bringing her with us to Rhinebeck and I’m excited about the trips our little family of three will take together as time goes on.
Thank you, everyone, for your kind and compassionate comments on my previous post. I’m still having a rough time, but Rhinebeck was a wonderful (if far too brief) break from it all, and I’ll put together a little post about it at some point soon. For now, Miss Madrigal would like to wish you all a Happy Halloween in the guise of her superhero alter-ego, maddySMASH!:
We’ve jokingly called her maddySMASH! for a long time – our girl definitely loves to hit, bang, and otherwise impose her will upon anything she finds (and she’s got the size and determination to impose it HARD). But it turns out that maddySMASH!, while fond of smashing, is not so fond of masks:
I made the mask for her out of a square of black wool felt I’ve had sitting around forever, along with scraps of the bright colored rainbow felt that I made her nursery pennants out of, some bright green wool to stitch it all together, and a bit of neon puff paint for added superhero style:
We were big on the handmade, slightly unusual costumes growing up, and hope to be able to continue the tradition with Madrigal. So far, we’re off to an ok start! I should’ve guessed a mask wouldn’t be the best thing to try to get her to wear, though, but it was worth a try.
Wishing you all a Happy Halloween, and to those of you who were hit hard by Sandy, I send all my good thoughts to you.
I started a hat:
It’s a larger version of the Aviatrix hat that I knit for M last winter, in some leftover Rowan Cork I had laying around in my stash. Gosh, that was a really nice yarn. Too bad it was discontinued (although the clearance sales associated with said discontinuation were the only reason I was able to HAVE any of that yarn, so there’s that).
It’s very nearly finished now, as you can see from the photo, and much like M’s Vahtralehekesed cardigan, it’s turning out none-too-big, but it should be big enough to fit her at Rhinebeck, and that’s what counts for now.
I’m really excited about going to Rhinebeck this year. We didn’t go last year, because it seemed like too much travel a month out from having a baby, and I missed getting to see my knitterly friends there. I’m really excited to get to introduce Madrigal to a lot of folks who’ve been following along online as she’s grown into the nearly 11-month old kiddo she is now.
I hope I’m able to show my excitement while I’m there. If you know me in real life (or on Twitter, which is a weird sort of extension of “real life” for me), you know I’ve been having a hard time lately. The stress of not knowing anything about what next year is going to look like has just been too much for me. I’m on the job market, and my husband is too, and while we know what we WANT (to move up to MN to be close to my family), given the nature of the academic job market, the odds of my being the one who’s able to move us there are pretty slim. My husband might have better odds (he’s looking for a programming job), but we just don’t know, and coordinating an academic and a non-academic job search is the stuff of nightmares. And it’s not like that’s the only stress in my life, but that’s the element I feel like has sent me a bit over the edge lately. My ability to be hopeful and optimistic is rooted in my ability to imagine a better future, and I just can’t really imagine the future at ALL right now. Me and (that kind of) uncertainty, we don’t get along very well.
There’s also coping with very little sleep (Maddy’s the sort of baby who wakes up every hour screaming for 1-2 weeks for each tooth she gets…I’m not even exaggerating, though I wish I were – I wish we could do more for our poor little bug!), trying to teach a very interaction-intensive class and make progress on my dissertation research while in that state of sleep-deprivation and with only part-time daycare, and then for the past month, having some sort of unkickable respiratory bug, which has put me even further behind on my class (I still owe them feedback on a paper they submitted almost 2 weeks ago, but I’m too exhausted to read more than a couple of papers at a time). It’s been difficult for me to reconcile the differences in my teaching that have been necessitated by the realities of motherhood (I’m so distracted, disorganized, and unfocused in class, now!), and I feel terrible about shortchanging my students (even though, based on my mid-semester evals, they don’t feel terribly shortchanged). Maybe it will get easier, someday?
There’s so much that’s wonderful about being Madrigal’s mother, and I feel kind of bad for writing about the stuff that isn’t so wonderful here, but I think it’s better to acknowledge the hard things than to do what I usually do, which is just put on a happy face and pretend everything’s just wonderful. It isn’t, but parts of it are, and I hope I can enjoy the wonderfulness of Rhinebeck despite my current exhaustion and gloominess. Thanks for listening to me vent, dear blog friends.
A rare mid-week post from me, but I’m so excited I can’t help but share:
Having my in-laws visit this past weekend gave me a lot more time than I’d normally have for knitting, and it paid off! After finishing Maddy’s Vahtralehekesed, I turned my attention to the shawl collar of my second Garter Rib Cardigan, and was able to bind off late Sunday night! I still need to block it, and find appropriate buttons, but I’m already in love with it.
Next up, of course, is finding some time to sit and work through the pattern/tutorial I’m writing for this sweater. I started it AGES ago (along with the first Garter Rib Cardigan), but time’s gotten away from me. I’m hoping to get the pattern/tutorial to test knitters within the next couple weeks, and would love to get the pattern released before Madrigal’s first birthday!
Here’s something I’d love y’all’s help with: “Garter Rib Cardigan”, while quite descriptive, is also VERY VERY BORING. I’d love to have a better name for the pattern, but I’m kind of terrible at coming up with pattern names, so I’d love to hear suggestions!
I finished Maddy’s cardigan, which I will for now call “Vahtralehekesed” (thanks to Katrin for the translation of “baby maple leaves” on one of my previous posts!):
It fits (but without much room for growth), so she’ll almost certainly be wearing this at Rhinebeck! I’m really pleased with how well it worked out, especially since I was doing some serious “flying by the seat of my pants” for that yoke.
I put on my Vahtralehed sweater yesterday so that we could take pictures in our matching sweaters. I am just so tickled by how well her sweater works with mine, and I can’t wait to show them off together in a couple weeks at Rhinebeck!
We tried to get some good photos of the sweater on Madrigal, but she was rather uncooperative, so I’m afraid I can’t really show you much of the yoke. You can see a little bit of the “helicopter” pattern in that picture above, but not really. Maybe someday I’ll get pictures of the fronts and the rest of the yoke!
But for now, we’ll have to settle for pictures of the back with that big maple leaf in the middle. I’m so glad it worked out to start the maple leaf before the yoke – I just love having that motif centered on the back of her sweater just like it is on mine.
Now that I know she’ll have a sweater to wear at Rhinebeck, I’ve returned my attention to the second Garter Rib cardigan (and the pattern/tutorial I’m trying to write for it). I’m almost finished with that shawl collar now, so expect to see finished photos soon! And then, a baby version for my M. Such fun!
Wow, Sunday sure rolled around fast! We’ve had a really rough week – poor Madrigal finally succumbed to the nasty, nasty cold that Andrew and I have been struggling with for two weeks now. Add in teething and being on the verge of walking (seriously, she’s already taken a few independent steps!), and we’re not getting any rest. C’est la vie. All babies are different, and while Maddy is so amazingly awesome in so many ways, she seems to be the sort of baby who reverts to newborn-like behavior when she hits a bump in the road in terms of developmental milestones. Up every hour, wanting to nurse constantly, lots of screaming and crying, super clingy – it is what it is, but it probably warrants lowering my expectations for myself for the forseeable future. I’m not super human (you might recall from posts here in years past that I’m actually a chronically ill human), but I still expect myself to be the same teacher I was before Maddy, to be thinking clearly enough to make good progress on my dissertation every day, to do a great job of staying on top of housework and cooking and whatnot, to keep up with my crafty imagination and all of the knit designs I dream up – and that’s just not gonna happen. It’s just scary to be realizing this as I’m embarking on a job search that I hope will move us halfway across the country to be near my family, because it’s definitely raising my doubts about what’s realistic for me to try to commit to, career-wise. But that’s just life. Kiddos are unpredictable and they change your life (and you!) in ways you can’t predict. We’ll see where life takes us – I’m just grateful to have Maddy as part of it.
But anyway, musings on life and priorities aside, I actually did make some progress on Maddy’s sweater last week, mostly because my students did Peer Review during one of their classes, which gave me a full 75 minutes of knitting time. I’ve also taken to having friends from my department over for a couple hours every Saturday for crafting, because with many eyes on Maddy, at least a few of us can get some knitting/sewing/etc done. So, Maddy’s sweater now has a partial yoke:
I did some short rows right after I joined the sleeves, so as to give me more height in the back than in the front. This both lets the sweater lay more nicely across the shoulders (without short rows on a yoked sweater, you end up with a neckline that’s too high/choking in front, and sags in the back), and also gave me some extra rows for that tall maple leaf in the center back:
You can’t really tell in this photo, but I’m using the maple seed “helicopter” motif I showed y’all in my last post around the shoulders. I’m still slightly terrified that the yoke is going to end up too tall. And that the way I’m doing the decreases (built into the “helicopter” pattern) isn’t going to yield a yoke that lays nicely on her shoulders. I wouldn’t normally fret so much over it (it’s just knitting, you can always rip and reknit!), but I really want Maddy to get to wear this sweater at Rhinebeck, and I won’t have time to reknit it if it doesn’t work out. A Maddy-sized sweater at 6sts/in turns out to be about the same amount of work as a me-sized sweater at 4.5sts/in!
Once I finish this sweater, I’ve got a few ideas for heavier-weight (and thus faster to knit!) sweaters for M, and I’d really like to be able to deck her in handknits (as opposed to storebought sweaters) once the weather is truly cold. Here’s hoping.
I’ve got to come up with some sort of rhythm and routine for writing here, or else I’m just never going to do it now that I’m back to teaching and am just so busy all of the time. So I’m thinking I’ll try to post on Sundays. You might remember that I previously declared Sundays to be a “secular sabbath” with no Internet at all, which would seem to preclude blogging, but here’s the thing: I actually got what I wanted out of that exercise already. I’m not mindlessly online anywhere near as much as I used to be. So I’m ok with having some online time every day, as long as it doesn’t get out of hand (and if it does, I’ll go back to the “no Internet” thing). Just by virtue of how our lives work now that Madrigal’s in morning daycare and both of us are working outside of the home, our weekends end up being focused on making food and spending time together as a family, which is really what I want.
So anyway, knitting. I’m sneaking in time for it as much as I can, but it’s tough. I’m now knitting sleeve number two for Maddy’s Rhinebeck sweater:
I cast on for the sweater without a really clear plan in mind for what to do at the yoke. I knew I wanted to place a maple leaf at the center back, and that this would mean starting the leaf motif before the join (since the motif is taller than the yoke depth), and I decided I’d just figure something out for the rest of the yoke. I played around with a few things until settling on this:
In case it’s not immediately obvious what that motif is supposed to be evoking, those are supposed to be maple seed “helicopters”. I’ve always been charmed by those things, and it seemed like the perfect companion to the maple leaf on a baby version of the sweater. Here it is with some backlighting:
(The one on the right got a little wonky because I messed it up while swatching late at night. I’ll be more careful with the actual sweater!)
You’ll also notice that the motif incorporates decreases that I’m hoping (if my math works) will take care of the yoke shaping on the sweater. It is actually very tricky to figure out how to do shaping with such large motifs on such a small sweater, and my poor sleep-deprived brain is struggling mightily with it! Here’s hoping it all works out, though, and Maddy can have a beautiful little sweater to wear when we go to visit our knitter friends at Rhinebeck in a few weeks!
Madrigal wishes you all a happy autumn! Hooray for cooler temperatures, falling leaves, and an approaching first birthday!
…my progress on Maddy’s mini-Vahtralehed, and my new haircut, too:
I really need to come up with a better name than “mini-Vahtralehed” for this cardigan. I should look up what “sapling” is in Estonian – that’d probably be a cute name for a diminutive version of Vahtralehed, yeah?
Knitting a baby sweater at 6sts/inch turns out to be about like knitting a grown-up (me-sized) sweater at my usual 4.5 or 4sts/inch. Considering how little knitting time I can eke out of a day these days, I’m making good progress, but oy, Rhinebeck is feeling awfully close! And I’d like to make Maddy a new hat and mittens before then, too, in case it’s cold enough to warrant them. Oh, knitting time, I wish I had more of you.
Yesterday was Madrigal’s first day of “school”:
It isn’t really school, of course, but she is spending 3 hours every morning in the Nido community at our local Montessori school. It is SUCH a great environment for her, and she seems to be handling the transition as well as we could possibly have expected. Like many Montessori schools, her school likes to have the natural world be a big part of classroom life, and as such, they requested that each family bring a houseplant for their child to keep at school. I hope I never forget the delightfully wacky, hilarious sight that was a bunch of families, all walking towards the school with their little ones, all carrying various houseplants. For her first day, we snapped a picture of Maddy and her houseplant (acquired at the last minute, since we don’t keep plants in the house thanks to our overly curious/destructive cats).
I’ve now taught my freshman writing class 3 times, and I’m really loving the group of students I’ve got in my class. I really enjoy working with first-semester freshmen – they are just so…fresh! Eager! Excited! And I hope I can help them carry that excitement through the rest of the semester. We had a bit of a rocky start with Blackboard (oh, Blackboard, how I loathe thee!), but I think we’ve got all the bumps smoothed over now and I’m just so grateful to my students for making the transition back to teaching easier for me than it could’ve been. Not that it’s that easy even still.
I’m still getting used to balancing things with this new schedule. It’ll probably be a few weeks before we’re really into a good rhythm, and I imagine I’ll keep feeling exhausted for the forseeable future. It’s a little weird, having my daughter spend her mornings with people who aren’t me or her daddy, but I think it is good for her! (Even though I can’t help but be curious what she’s up to all morning!)
The weather has still been horribly hot and humid, but it looks like this weekend we may get a very-much-wished-for transition into more Autumn-like weather. Fall has always been my favorite time of year, so I’m getting myself through these miserable sticky days by dreaming of the cool, crisp weather that lies ahead. Here’s hoping that before it gets TOO cool, I find the time to knit and sew some more cool-weather garments for Maddy – she won’t be able to rock the pantsless look for too much longer! I did get a chance to cast on for her mini-Vahtralehed last weekend, so perhaps she’ll at least have a cardigan to keep her warm in the near future:
Seeing the stitch patterns from my sweater at this new tiny gauge is just unbelievably adorable, and I’m afraid I might just die of the cuteness once the whole thing is finished. Hilariously, the difference in gauge meant that the cast-on numbers for her sweater and my sweater only differed by 2 stitches! But babies are proportioned a bit differently than grownups, so I won’t be able to just follow my grown-up pattern for her sweater. But that’s ok – ideally I’ll be able to put together a pattern in multiple sizes for the baby version to publish and sell alongside the grownup version. We’ll see.
One other big upcoming transition: I’ve made an appointment to chop a LOT of my hair off this Saturday morning. I’ve been wearing my hair long for almost my entire life (with one foray into just-above-shoulder-length just after high school), but it’s just getting to be such a pain; it takes so long to dry, and with Maddy being quite the grabby baby, I always have to put it up while it’s still wet, which means it NEVER gets to dry, and the weight of my pinned-up hair ends up giving me headaches, so I figure now’s a perfect time to make a big change on that front. I’m slightly terrified, but I think it’ll be a positive change! Wish me luck?
I’m still working on the Garter Rib cardigan. Shawl-collared sweaters are deceptive little beasts – you finish the body and you think you’re almost done, but no no, you’ve still got a giant button-band/collar to work up! But progress is progress and I’ll finish it soon. At least, I hope I will.
I’ll be teaching again this semester, for the first time since before Maddy was born. My class starts Thursday. Maddy will be going to a Montessori nursery program every morning (though her school doesn’t start until the week after mine!), but I’ll still be trying to balance working at home with her in the afternoons on the days I’m not teaching (my husband will be doing the afternoon balancing act on the days that I do teach!). I’m sure the transition will be a bit bumpy, but I’m hoping that over the next few weeks we can settle into a rhythm that still has room for a little bit of knitting and crafting time.
Because boy, do I want some crafting time! I have SO many ideas of things to make for Maddy. I got a small start on one of them this weekend, after breaking my toe, which forced me to spend quite a bit of time on the couch icing my foot (and is NOT exactly how I was hoping to start out the new semester, especially since my classroom is all the way across campus from my office!):
That’s the maple leaf motif I designed for Vahtralehed. The yarn is Beaverslide’s 2-ply Sport/Sock weight yarn, the same yarn I used for the memorial sweaters, in a color they call “Lake Josephine Heather” – it’s SO similar (but not quite the same) as the color I used for my sweater, and I’m hoping to make a mini version of it for Maddy to wear at Rhinebeck when we go there this fall.
With all of my foot-icing time on the couch, I was able to finish the swatch this weekend:
I used size 3 needles to get a gauge that worked well for the lace motif, and (as expected and intended, given the finer yarn weight and smaller needles) it turned out smaller than the leaves on my own sweater:
But maybe not enough smaller. I’m not sure that leaf will fit in the yoke depth I’ll need for a sweater that fits Maddy well. But I’ve got some ideas for how to work around that. Maybe a centered maple leaf in the back, and some smaller nupp-lace motifs around the main part of the yoke? I’ve seen some in my Estonian Lace book that look (if you squint at them enough, at least!) a bit like the little “helicopters” that carry maple seeds through the air – maybe with some fiddling I could make something out of those! We’ll see.
First: Thank you for all of your kind, compassionate comments on my last post. I know it is a very difficult topic to think and talk about, but I also know that my brother and his wife deeply appreciate knowing that their children are remembered, and that their losses are acknowledged rather than pushed aside. Thank you all so much for helping me to do that.
I’ve once again returned to knitting on my second garter rib cardigan:
As y’all might recall, I’m hoping to finish up the pattern/tutorial, but to do so I needed to reknit the sweater, because I hadn’t quite taken enough notes the first time around to write the kind of instructions I want to be able to write. And then of course, I got sidetracked with that whole “having a baby” thing, and this poor sweater has languished for WAY too long. I’m glad to be back in the saddle with it.
Last weekend I finally found the time to work the joining row, and then in the evenings this past week, finished doing the seamless set-in sleeve shaping. So now, I’ve just got to work the buttonband/shawl collar, and then I’ll be done…and hopefully the pattern/tutorial will follow soon after!
I can’t wait to finish this sweater. Oh, sure, the weather’s not right for it quite yet, but it will be, and I can’t wait to wear this. The yarn (Cascade Eco+ in “Summer Sky Heather”) just glows.
And once I finish it, I just might have plans to make one for Maddy – I do have some Cascade 220 in the exact same color, for a slightly finer gauge version!
This is the story of two tiny sweaters, for two tiny sisters…
…but it really starts with this sweater for their older brother. If you’ve followed my blog for awhile, you might have noticed that I mentioned, in that post I just linked to, knitting for a “niecephew-to-be”, and then never followed up on it. My nephew Ayden Parker was stillborn on April 18th, 2011, about 10 weeks before his due date, after my beloved sister-in-law was diagnosed with a severe case of pre-eclampsia (and later with a clotting disorder). He had my family’s nose (just like Maddy does), and even had different-sized feet like I do.
This was when I was in the middle of my first trimester with Madrigal, so as you might imagine, I had a very difficult time thinking about what had happened. It is so horrendously sad when people you love so dearly suffer such a terrible loss, and even moreso when you know that, should everything go as you hope with your own pregnancy, you will get to have something they didn’t: a living, breathing child. I was so angry at what had happened to them, and felt so guilty about what was happening to me. When my brother asked me if I would finish Ayden’s cardigan, so that they could have it to remember him by, I did – but I didn’t feel up to talking about it here at the time. But I’m glad I was able to use my knitting skills to provide them with something tangible to remember their first child, their son.
And that brings us to the sweaters at the top of this post. This Spring, we got the exciting news that they were pregnant again. Jenny was on blood-thinners, and her care was being overseen by specialists in exactly the sort of problems that had claimed Ayden’s life. I was so optimistic – well, cautiously optimistic. Then came the news that it was twins. Identical twins. Exciting, but also scary, since with twins comes a whole new set of potential complications.
Like TTTS, a rare condition that only affects identical twins, which I’d never heard of until they found out that they had it. The odds, the odds – the odds of what happened with Ayden are higher than you might think, but still low, and then this? So unfair. But it seemed like we could still be optimistic. The twins would almost certainly be born very early, but it seemed like they would make it.
But they didn’t. Their hearts stopped beating. They were supposed to have a surgery that would have hopefully helped them make it just the tiny bit longer they needed to make it before they could safely induce, but passed away just two days before the surgery was scheduled. So unfair.
My nieces Adelynn Lily and Abigail Iris were stillborn on July 1st, 2012.
I hadn’t started any projects for the girls. I’d planned about a million projects for them, but wanted to wait until they were safely here in the world to cast on for any of them. They didn’t make it safely, but my brother asked if I could knit sweaters for them, like I’d done for Ayden. As soon as I heard their beautiful, beautiful names, I had a spark of an idea, and it turned into this:
It’s a slightly modified motif from an Estonian lace book. It uses a traditional “Lily of the Valley” motif, but the way the leaf motif edges up to it reminded me of the way an iris opens up. Both girls, two flowers, one motif. I used Beaverslide’s 2-ply sport/sock weight yarn, which is a beautiful lightweight version of their worsted-weight 2-ply that I used for Vahtralehed.
It was really important to me, as I was knitting these two sweaters, to make them “real” sweaters. Wearable details, for sweaters that would sadly never get to be worn. The sweaters have split hems:
And teeny tiny seamlessly set-in cap sleeves with lap shoulders:
The end result is pair of beautiful finished sweaters:
for a pair of beautiful little girls whose lives should be just starting, not already finished.
I’m not going to pretend it is easy to knit sweaters for babies who have died. It isn’t. Especially if you’re the sort of knitter for whom part of the joy of knitting for others is seeing them wear the things you’ve knit for them. But that isn’t why I knit these two sweaters. I knit them to remember my nieces. And they will not be forgotten.
These have actually been finished for 3 weeks, I’ve just not been able to find the time to take pictures and blog about them until recently. Oh, life. It’s been totally crazy lately. Anyway, the Maddypants, they are finished:
Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: from my head
Yarn: BC Garn Semilla DK (one skein each in two different blues)
Needles: Size 5 and Size 3 Knitpicks Harmony dpns
Time to knit: About two weeks
It’s been tricky, trying to get modeled shots of these, since Maddy’s gotten quite mobile these days…
But they fit her quite nicely:
I love the subtle striping:
If you’re paying extra close attention to the photos, you might notice the short rows that make the rear part of the wool shorts longer than the front part – the colored stripes are the same height (2 garter ridges) on the front, but one of the colors is 4 garter ridges high for each stripe on the back.
As I think I mentioned in a previous post, I created these pants by knitting the front first, then decreasing for the crotch, then increasing again to a wider width for the back. I essentially knit the back flat, too (which makes garter stitch really easy to do, since you’re just knitting every row), but I knit the final stitch of each row together with the edge stitch I’d created (by doing a sl1, p1 edge on the front) from the front, which gave me a faux-seam that looks like this:
I finished the leg openings and the waistband by picking up stitches and knitting 10 rows in 2×2 rib, then a purl turning row, and then reversing the rib for 10 more rows, finally knitting the last row together with the backs of the picked up stitches and binding off at the same time (whew! Did that actually make sense?). For the waistband, I didn’t join to knit in the round until after I’d done the first 10 rows of ribbing, which gave me an opening into which I plan to stitch a button and insert some buttonhole elastic for extra adjustability (but I haven’t done that yet):
I think these pants would make a wonderful soaker (over a prefold), though for now we’re using them more for cuteness (plus some additional leak-proofing) over her GroVia diapers. I’m hoping to put together a more detailed tutorial for knitting a custom-sized pair of these for any baby. So, keep your eye on the blog for more details on making a pair of these for a baby of your acquaintance – given the speed at which I’m able to work these days, it may be awhile, but I promise it’s coming!