newest sweater-in-progress: octopus yoke!

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My newest project on the needles is another design collaboration with M. After I finished my Skógafjall, with its lovely tree-adorned yoke, she requested a yoked sweater with HER favorite thing on the yoke: Octopuses! Well, mama loves a good design challenge, so it’s happening:

I cast on for M’s Octopus sweater yesterday!

I used Google Sheets to chart out a respectably realistic-looking octopus, and I went stash-diving with M to find the yarn. She was surprisingly cooperative about using only yarn that I already had, but I think it helped that I had a pair of great shades of purple (her second favorite color, after red) Cascade 220 in the right amounts:

Future Octopus sweater for M. So glad she’s on board with the “only knitting from stash” plan, and lucky that I had such a perfect combo of purples in my stash!

I used the lighter color to create a contrast tubular cast-on at the bottom hem as well as the sleeve cuffs – I just love the way this looks!

I used the contrast color for the tubular cast on and I just love the way it looks!

I’ve actually already finished the body and one of the sleeves, so who knows, maybe I’ll be able to start the yoke sometime this week! I suspect there will be a bit of trial and error when it comes to getting everything to fit correctly in the yoke (both fitting it to M’s shoulders AND fitting the octopuses in a way that looks nice) but I think I’ll have this sweater finished before the end of January!

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Goodbye, 2017. Hello, 2018!

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Hi! I realized I never took pictures of the matching sweater and mittens, and, well...problem solved! Merry Christmas, friends!
Goodbye, 2017! Hello, 2018!

2017 was…well, calling it a “rough time on just about every front” might actually be putting it lightly, but nevertheless, we persisted, and now it’s 2018. I typically don’t make much of New Year celebrations, because as an academic, my “New Year” is really the start of Fall Semester, but this year, it actually feels quite apt to celebrate a change. In 2018, we’ll have a new house, M will be going to a new school, and (hopefully!) Andrew will have a new job. So many big transitions!

I don’t really do New Years Resolutions, but I do want to be very mindful about how I approach these big transitions, and aim to “start as I mean to go on” with them. So in our new house, that means being very consistent, from the beginning, about cleaning and tidying, so that things never get so bad that it’s hard to do. That’s something a fresh start will make possible, and I want to take that for all it’s worth!

A fresh start on the school front may also be good, in the end, for M. We love her old school more than I can even say; they’re like family to us! But we don’t know in what ways M might blossom when put in a new environment where people haven’t known her for her entire life. That might be an amazing opening for her, and I want us to be open to it. I’m nervous about finding our way as part of a MUCH bigger school community, and worried about losing touch with our friends from her old school…change is hard, but I think it can also be an opportunity for growth, and that’s what I want to focus on.

Knitting-wise, I’m still committed to not increasing my stash (I dropped the ball on that front a couple of times last year, but not a lot!). I’ll make exceptions for sweaters for M, if there’s something she wants and I don’t have the yarn to make it, but she’s actually been quite cooperative on that front – there’s a new sweater for her on my needles right now, which I’ll post about later, and she happily went “stash-shopping” with me for the yarn to make it. I’ve got the yarn to make quite a few sweaters for myself from other people’s patterns, as well as yarn to make a few designs that I’ve had in my head for awhile. And I may *actually* get moving on publishing some of my backlog of designs – I’ve been wavering on whether to just self-publish them individually or as a collection, or whether to try to submit them somewhere or ask for yarn support from a place like Brooklyn Tweed (so many of my designs would be great in their yarns!)…I’m still so undecided about what to do! This is the part of the design process that I am just utterly useless at. Ideas, I’m good at, but self-promotion/marketing/etc…nope.

Semi-matching rainbow stripey goodness!

I hope 2018 is kinder to all of you, dear readers, and I wish you all the feistiness, courage, and compassion that we need to be each others’ lights in 2018, and to try to make change for the better.

Skógafjall!

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Finished just in time for the end of 2017!

Skógafjall!

Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Skógafjall, by Dianna Walla
Yarn: Lettlopi, in the colors the pattern called for
Needles: Size 6 for ribbing, size 7 for everything else
Time to Knit: I started it ~6 months ago, but I knit like, half of it while home by myself over Christmas!

I’m SO delighted with how my Skógafjall sweater turned out! I deviated only slightly from the pattern – I followed the directions for the 39″ size, but my gauge was just a bit tighter (I prefer knitting Lettlopi on size 6 or 7 needles rather than 8s), so it turned out more like a 36.5″ sweater, which is perfect for me. And I modified the neckline, knitting the ribbing twice as long so that I could fold it over and stitch it down for a doubled collar, and I *LOVE* it!

Doubled ribbed neckline

I am just madly in love with the tree pattern in the yoke…I love trees!

Trees!

It’s pretty unusual for me to so closely follow a pattern, even using the recommended yarn in the recommended colors – I actually can’t think of any other time I’ve done that! And while I’m incredibly happy with the finished result, it does feel slightly less…”mine”…than other sweaters I’ve knit. I was reading Dan Ariely’s “The Upside of Irrational” while home by myself over Christmas, and one of the things he was writing about was what he called the “IKEA-effect”, by which he means the way that we overvalue the things that we make ourselves. And I think for me, what makes a sweater feel “mine” in the sense that I take pride in it, and don’t feel awkward when someone compliments me on it (and maybe “overvalue it” in the way that Ariely talks about), is that I designed it myself, or did something especially unexpected with a design that someone else created. I think I don’t take any special pride in the knitting itself (which is probably silly of me – it is, in fact, a skill!) but in the aspects that (to my mind) are more “creative”: designing, and to a lesser extent, modifying or choosing a color palette. I suppose I do value my own handknit sweaters, even one like this one where I pretty much exactly followed the pattern, over sweaters that aren’t made by me – I wouldn’t want to buy a sweater like Skógafjall, I’d want to knit it myself. But there’s something extra-special about the ones I design myself, and perhaps that’s as it should be.

Skógafjall!

I’m gonna wear the heck out of this one, though! My last finished knit of 2017. Here’s to many more in 2018!

Double-knit earflaps!

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So, nearly 8 years ago, I knit a hat for my dad. He wore it in ski races, and got lots of compliments, and then it went missing one winter, only to be found in a snowbank. Once it had dried, it was clear that the winter in the snowbank had caused it to shrink a bit, and it no longer covered my dad’s ears. But picking up and knitting down from the brim would have been complicated – there’s a cotton-based lining at the bottom hem, and I didn’t have (or at least, couldn’t find) the leftover yarn from the hat kit, anyway.

The solution we came up with? I would learn how to double-knit, and add earflaps to the hat. Maddy helped us find color-matching yarn at Yarnology when we were visiting my parents this summer (she has an amazingly good eye for color!); it’s Spud & Chloe Sweater, so a bit thicker than the sport weight yarn with which the rest of the hat was knit, but extra warm earflaps are definitely not a problem!

Our plan worked!

Yay, finished earflaps! (Also, it was raining ice pellets while I took these pictures, and I can attest that this hat provides great protection from gross weather!)

I’ve never done double-knitting before, and it definitely hurt my brain at first to keep track of both sides at the same time, but I got better and better at it as I went, and I ended up being pretty tickled with the little chart I’d created for those flaps.

I finished the earflaps for my dad’s hat (which shrunk after a winter I’m a snowbank, hence the need for better ear-coverage). My first time double-knitting!

I added braids to the end of each ear flap (to match the braids at the top of the hat) so that it can be tied under the chin. Perfect for keeping cold air out during a ski race! It was raining ice pellets while I took these pictures, and I can attest that the hat, with its new earflaps, is good at keeping out yucky weather.

I’d intended for the improved hat to be a Christmas present for my dad, but, well, life got in the way, and while it IS in fact done before Christmas, it won’t be going into the mail until next week. It can be a New Years present, instead. Happy Holidays, dad!

A cowl, and a whole lot of life-crazy

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This morning, I finally finished the second Willow Cowl that I cast on months and months ago…I think back in March, if my Flickr photos are to be trusted? It got set aside for sweater-knitting this summer, but was picked back up these past couple of months as a life-stress coping device (for me, the Willow Cowl pattern is GREAT for a mindless, soothing project!)

Finished Willow Cowl #2!

I’ll say more about the life craziness in a second, but first, how about more pictures and project details?

Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Willow Cowl
Yarn: Madelinetosh Twist Light in “Flashdance”
Needles: Size 5 rosewood circulars
Time to knit: technically months and months, but not really very much time overall!

Finished Willow Cowl #2!

 

I really love the Willow Cowl pattern – the way the plain stockinette stripes and the eyelet-based stripes create that stacking effect is just so clever and pretty!

Finished Willow Cowl #2!

 

So, about the life crazy. Well, things have been crazy enough just being a social justice-oriented, caring person here in the United States, but since September, there’s been a whole lot more added in. We’ll start with this article, which hit the press while I was away at a conference. The lecherous professor in question? That’s my husband’s boss. That’s the department in which I was a Ph.D student from 2006-2014. And I’m one of the now-16 women who’ve contributed testimony describing the ways in which we reshaped our research and careers to avoid working with him because of the kind of behavior described there. So…that’s been interesting, and infuriating, and just a huge confusing mix of emotions – embarrassment that my former department and my university have handled these things so poorly, pride in my brave friends and colleagues who are speaking up, stress about making sure my husband gets into a better job, and just a whole lot of grief over the whole situation. And it’s been wild having these issues hit the mainstream with the Weinstein stuff and the #MeToo movement – it’s both wonderful and awful to have these things out in the open while also dealing with it up close and personal at my workplace.

That seemed like enough to be dealing with, but when it rains, it pours. In mid-November, we had an IEP meeting for our dear M, and the take-home message was that her Montessori school, where she’s been since she was 8 months old, and where the teachers and the whole community there are like family to us…well, things weren’t working well for M there. I think I’ve mentioned here that she’s been formally diagnosed with ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Anxiety (which manifests itself in OCD ways). She was getting services at her school, but they really just didn’t have the resources to support her needs. She was getting her services through the suburban school district in which her Montessori school is located, which is one of the top school districts in the country, and is renowned for how it handles 2E kids like M, but we currently live in the city, which is…not. So this set off a frantic few days of researching schooling options, and starting the house hunting process in case we decided that moving was the only way to get M into a school environment where she could be supported and thrive. Well, by the end of November, we’d found a house in a very walkable part of the suburb (only a couple of miles from our current house, and within walking distance of many of the same places, just from the other direction)…it’s beautiful and perfect for us and has a lovely deck and backyard that M can run around in…and we’ll be moving at the end of January, and M will start at her new public school on January 3rd. What a whirlwind! Oh, yeah, and the end of the semester was in the middle of that, too. And M’s 6th birthday, which we celebrated at an art studio with lots of glitter and pinecone-painting (M’s favorite activity):

Madrigal’s chosen birthday party activity: painting pinecones and adding glitter!

 

She even got to bring home a painting that her friends all helped make!

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It’ll look great on the wall of her new bedroom once we move!

In the past few days, I’ve finished grading my students’ final portfolios, we’ve said goodbye to friends at M’s old school, and we’ve met with M’s new school. She’s getting set up to do half days of special education, and half days of kindergarten, and I still need to figure out after school care for the 3 days a week where I’m teaching until 3:15pm next semester (that schedule was set before any of this stuff happened!). This has been a really stressful and emotional change for all of us – M has known the people at her school for literally her entire life, and while everyone at the new school seems very nice and supportive, it’s not the same. I think this change will be a positive one in the end, but the transition is hard and there have been a lot of tears.

I’m writing this while at home, all by myself, because my husband took M to Ohio to spend Christmas with her cousin, and I just couldn’t cope with adding the stress of travel to everything else. I’ll miss them, but we celebrated the Solstice yesterday, so I got to have my holiday with my beloved little family, and now M can have a second one with her extended family and I can have a much needed break, with a few days of quiet. I’m still an emotional, anxious mess, but at least I don’t have to be one while traveling!

Finished Willow Cowl #2!

 

So anyway, my cowl is the first of possibly a few knits-in-progress that have been finished while I spend my days watching movies and listening to podcasts and trying to recuperate from a seriously challenging last few months.

Halloween, 2017

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So, remember how I posted about our Halloween plans back in the beginning of September? It took a lot of work, but I made them real!

Maddy as “Peg(+Cat)” and me as “Peg’s Mom”
M as Peg(+Cat) and me as “Peg’s Mom”

M’s green “Peg” cardigan turned out perfectly! It’s technically still not quite a finished object, because I haven’t sewn in flannel pocket linings, so the “side pockets” are really just slits:

It fits! (Still gotta make pocket linings, of course!)

Both the pocket openings and the front openings were created with steeks, which I’m getting more confident about doing!

Ready for steeking!
All ready for steeking!

I’m finding I have a strong preference for knitting the button bands before cutting the steek opening (I did this for my Fiddlehead Yoke cardigan, too) – I’m just less nervous about somehow making things unravel while picking up stitches when I do it before cutting.

Snip snip.
Snip Snip!

I used 1×1 rib for this buttonband, and bound off with a 2-stitch i-cord, which created a beautiful, firm, same-on-both-sides finish. I edged the pocket openings in i-cord, too, before I cut them open:

The pockets open up now! Still gotta sew in fabric pockets though.

Cat was more of a challenge – I’ve never actually created a stuffed animal like this before, but somehow it all worked out! I started out by looking at a picture of Cat and drawing it much larger on some of M’s easel paper:

Working on a pattern for Cat.

I totally surprised myself with how well I was able to capture Cat’s shape and features! Then, it was time to actually use my drawing as a pattern, and cut out shapes from blue and grey fleece – two identical body pieces (for front and back) and two identical tail pieces (to make a 3D tail). I stitched on the grey parts (eyes, mouth, and tail spots) by hand before sewing any of the body or tail pieces together:

Stitching the spot onto Cat’s tail at LEGO club storytime.
Stitching at the library

But my plans for sewing everything together with my sewing machine were thwarted by the fact that my machine just sucks (and I also don’t really know much about how to use it, but I do know how to read a manual and I just could NOT make it work without jamming constantly and breaking the thread!). So…handsewing to the rescue! I sewed the entire body together by hand over a couple of evenings:

Making progress on Cat (by hand). I need better progressive lenses (my close-vision is fading hard, so I end up looking over the tops of my glasses and holding things 3” from my face which ain’t good for my neck!!)
I really need better progressive lenses!

When I had it all stuffed and finished up, I almost cried – I couldn’t believe how well it had turned out! I made a Cat! And it really looks like Cat!

Cat!!!

Maddy was SO delighted with her Cat!

Happy Peg+Cat

She’s been carrying him everywhere with her, just like Peg would:

Peg+Cat on a walk around the neighborhood

Seriously, I still can’t believe I made a Cat that looks so much like Cat!

Peg+Cat!!

And a kid who looks so much like Peg! (Isn’t she adorable?? I’m really happy with how my pompom turned out for her hat, too!)

Oh, kiddo, your sweater, pompom, and Cat were a lot of work but you’re so stinking cute as Peg that it was totally worth it!

And if you want even more unbelievable cuteness, here’s a video (you’ll have to click the image to go through to Flickr) of M singing the “Peg+Cat” theme song in costume:

Singing the Peg+Cat theme song. I can’t get over the cuteness!

Peg+Cat were SO excited to go trick-or-treating with friends this evening!

Peg+Cat were SO excited about trick-or-treating!

I’d call Halloween 2017 a huge success! But I’m definitely a crazy person for committing to a costume that involved a handknit sweater, a pompom, and a hand-stitched, self-designed Cat…though the awesome thing is that every single piece of her costume is something she can wear or play with again and again! M and I agreed that next year, she will take the lead on costume-making; I’ll still help her, but I won’t be a 1-woman sweatshop again!

I hope you all had a Happy Halloween this year!

Rhinebeck, 2017

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Long time, no posts! So far, Fall Semester has been pretty brutal on a whole lot of fronts, including a nasty respiratory bug (or series of them?) that started in late September and which I still haven’t fully kicked. But thankfully, I wasn’t TOO sick to go to Rhinebeck!

But before I jump ahead to the festival, I’ll start with the “traditional” photo of me and M on the Walkway over the Hudson:

Our traditional Walkway Over the Hudson mama+M photo. #latergram

We love the Walkway, and the past two years, we’ve driven down early enough in the day on Friday that we’ve been able to walk it in the early evening, and it’s just so beautiful!

Another Walkway photo from the real camera. I love this kid so much! #latergram

This year, we were able to ride the elevator down to the base of the bridge, which M *loved* – my little engineer was so excited to get to see the underside of the bridge!

She was fascinated by the elevator on the Walkway. She loved getting to see the support structure under the bridge. I love my little engineer!

I even got a rare photo of my husband and I!

Us.


Such a beautiful place!

The view from the Walkway over the Hudson

And ain’t my kid beautiful, too?

Beautiful girl in a beautiful place on a beautiful day. #latergram

(I know, I’m super biased!)

Now, for the festival. Here is the SIXTH photo of me and my girl on the benches on the hill (though this year, they had fenced off most of the fences, so we missed out on having the lovely wood background):

Our usual benches were fenced off, so this is as close as we could get to our “traditional” Rhinebeck photo this year! (OMG, M is getting so big!!)

Madrigal wore her red vest and the cowl she’s adopted as her own, and I wore my Fiddlehead Yoke cardigan. It was cool enough in the morning that it wasn’t TOO crazy to be wearing a Lettlopi sweater, but by midday, it was pretty darned warm! The very bright sunlight made it tricky to get good photos, too, which was a bummer because I was just so excited to be able to show off my pretty pretty sweater!

FIddlehead Yoke at Rhinebeck

I got a lot of compliments both on my cardigan and on M’s red vest, and it was pretty fun to be able to say, “I made it up!” when folks asked me what the patterns were. Someday, someday, maybe I’ll actually get my act together and write up those patterns for other people to knit, but for now, I’m happy with our “bespoke” handknits.

Maddy and the llamas

Madrigal was very excited about seeing llamas and alpacas this year, so our first stop was the “Camelids” area, where she said hello to the llamas. Our next stop was the Bartlettyarns booth, where M snuggled yarn…

Snuggling yarn in the Bartlettyarns booth.

…and picked out a llama friend of her very own, which she named “Ellie”:

Maddy + Ellie + pan flute band

(My lone purchase of the day also came at the Bartlettyarns booth – I got a cone of brown sportweight to use with the Swirls packs I’ve picked up in previous years.)

We didn’t actually make it into many of the vendor barns this year (which is fine, because I have so much yarn in my stash that bringing much more into our tiny home would be insane, though I wouldn’t have minded looking!), instead spending most of our time visiting the animal barns. Here are my favorite “sheep”:

My favorite sheep ;)

And here’s my favorite alpaca (or llama? I know they’re different but am not sure which this is!) – ain’t that the best hairdo?

Best hairdo on the one in the back!

Maddy really enjoyed snuggling all the wool she could – she even snuck herself in between sheepskins that were hanging on a rack! Isn’t she just the cutest?

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(That one’s totally gonna end up framed in our house, I think!)

I didn’t do a great job of taking photos of people this year, but I did get to hang out with my “knitternet” friends, and even got to meet a few new people in person for the first time, like Sonya Philip and Jenn Steingass (I, um, may have been an awkward yoke-design fangirl at Jenn, whoops!).

All in all, it was a lovely trip, though I’m back to feeling sicker again now that we’re home, so I’m afraid I may have overdone it. My car project was M’s “Peg” cardigan (for her Peg+Cat costume), which is all done except for the steeking and the insertion of fabric pockets, so expect a post about that soon!