who insisted, one hot July, on working...
Also, very prepared for the coming winter.
Sylvi, from Twist Collective Winter 2008. Briggs and Little Atlantic (suggested yarn) in Fern colourway. Ready for the colder weather? Check.
It's been a scorcher of a summer here, and I'm not complaining even a little bit.
My response to this is, of course, not to stop knitting. Instead, I like to keep the projects tiny and portable. That can only mean one thing - socks!
Below is only a small sampling of my summertime socks. Several pairs ended up being snatched up by grateful friends before they could be photographed. Still more are secret pairs, samples for a book. It kills me not to share the details, but I will share a few details about that:
So, back to some pairs I can share:
Vanilla socks in Regia from a quick stash-enhancing run to Romni while at meetings in Toronto in July:
Also from Romni, Mellenweit self-striping, toe-up vanilla socks. They've since been finished, gifted and traveled with their recipient to their new home on Baffin Island. Brrrrrrrrrr!
Little pair for little daughter in STR lightweight, Purple Rain colourway.
Slightly larger pair for slightly larger daughter, in a STR mill-end from Sock Summit. That stash is almost gone, so it must be time for a new Summit!
And cute black leather Mary Janes can only mean one thing: it's back to school time!
What handknits will you be dressing your kids in for the first day?
It's a well-known fact that I love me a good pair of handknitted socks. The process, the product, the yarns, needles and teeny tiny stitches make my heart sing. A sock is the best portable, take-anywhere project there is. I tend to bang off socks quickly, between other projects, usually keeping one or more pairs on the needles at any given time. You never know when you may need to pull out a little project.
Like on a trip to Mexico, especially when one has to be at the airport three hours early to catch a charter.
Or on the bus for a day of sightseeing.
Or maybe while in the waiting area at dance class.
Or while meandering through Maine on a shopping trip.
At girls' night in, between glasses of wine.
Or just when the mood strikes me.
When do you knit socks?
In my world, there appears to be a baby boom. Where I sit, in my late thirties, kids growing up and no intentions to make more, that is a very good thing. For where there are babies, there are grateful parents for whom to knit. While no baby has expressed gratitude for their new handknits (save for the whole puking and pooping thing), there is nothing like a mother whose eyes light up at the sight of a perfect, tiny handknit.
Like a Baby Surprise Jacket, worked in sock scraps.
Or a pair of tiny, puff-sleeved dresses, for which Tess Designer Yarns Socks and Baby was the perfect yarn:
Trellis in Cascase 220 Superwash, with the divine faux-leather buttons:
It's almost enough to offset the fact that I can knit an adult-sized hat for daughter the elder, and not only will she wear it, she'll WORK it! Fierce!
I recently attended Cat Bordhi’s Visionary Retreat on beautiful San Juan Island, Washington. For anyone serious about writing and self-publishing a book, I highly recommend it. Spots are highly sought-after with good reason. While the focus of this post is not to extol the many, many, many virtues of Cat, her Visionary group and the siblinghood created from the ultimate marrying of creativity and trust, the inspiration to finally pen this post did ultimately come from my attendance at the Visionary Retreat.
“Dirty the Page”
Sounds like a bizarre notion, right? It’s not. When you wish to write something and you feel it is important enough to truly get it right, those first words can seem like an awesome leap to take. Well, there is a delete button for a reason, so here I sit, dirtying a page.
I happen to be under the influence of the beautiful Mexican sunshine, fumes from SPF 50 and a strong cup of coffee. My two closest University friends are torturing themselves with a ritual to which I’ve long since ceased aspiring, the morning run. I’m here without my family, having left my darling kids at home by choice and my always-reliable husband by necessity. While he busies himself with the daily grind of running a business, school pick up, kids’ activities and countless other things, I’m enjoying the best kind of class reunion: the three of us, some other friends and spouses, sunshine, unlimited cocktails, copious amounts of guacamole, and distance from our daily lives.
I’ve been a bit vague over the years about my family life, believing this to be a knitting blog and not an endless dumping of the contents of my head. However, my knitting has always been and will always be inspired, informed and motivated by its first influence: my dear mother, Mary.
I was fortunate to learn to knit at the hip of not one but two parents. Matching ensembles for young daughters are a breeze when you share the load, so Pete and Mary did just that. My car coat with matching purse was my favourite collaboration, with sweaters from my mother`s needles and tasselled, cabled bags lovingly crafted by my dad.
I took up knitting the way most kids do, eagerly at first, then tempered with the crushing lesson that hours of work would create a scarf insufficient in size for even a Barbie doll. I engaged in small projects, putting the needles away for months or years at a time. In high school, I revisited my mother’s tattered Patons leaflet (tagged at 25 cents) on mittens so I could have funky mismatched mittens. All the while, I relished the annual Christmas tradition of a new sweater, handknitted by Mary in total secrecy and stolen moments.
Then came University. I found myself at home for a two week rotation one summer halfway through my Pharmacy studies. My high school friends were away in far-flung places, I was on the heels of a disastrous breakup and an even more heinous rebound, and I was bored. Broke. Broken. Had I been actively knitting at the time, it would have been a complete no-brainer. Knit through it.
Whether by strategy or coincidence, I landed at a yarn store with my mother very early in that stay. It took very few words to transform me into the stashing, designing, knit-all-night human I am today.
“Maybe I could knit a sweater.”
My mother’s reply was that she has already purchased my Christmas yarn and that she’d be happy for me to knit my own holiday creation that year. The yarn was leafy green Patons Canadiana, which, incidentally, I LOVED knitting with for many years and of which I will never speak ill. The pattern came from a Patons booklet and featured a small amount of checkerboard colourwork at the hem. It was all of the things I’ve since abandoned: worked in pieces (on My Susan Bates Quicksilver straight needles), seamed, drop-shouldered and shapeless. And the best sweater, bar none, that had ever been created. In my two weeks at home, I re-learned the basics, learned to seam and to pick up stitches and a knitter was born. By the end of the summer, I’d worked a sweater for a girlfriend and had begun to stash for the future. Within 6 months, I’d met the man who would become my husband and defeated the sweater curse.
My mother taught me the finer details by trusting I was smart enough to integrate them into my knitting. When I asked her how to work a cable, she handed me a pattern and a cable needle. Her words?
“Use this. Follow the directions. All you’re doing is knitting the stitches out of order.”
2001 marked the beginning of sock knitting for us, when she “discovered” Regia self-striping on a trip. Then came the 2 circulars method, which she learned and then taught me from her well-loved copy of Cat Bordhi’s book. Yarn treks, retreats, classes, and the flourishing presence of knitting on the Internet meant an evolving pastime and a strengthening bond. We were capital-k Knitters.
In late 2006, Mary was diagnosed with Stage 4 leiomyosarcoma. Stage 4 means metastatic, and her tumour was discovered after an abnormal lung biopsy that would prove to be the metastases from her illness. Gray’s Anatomy miracles aside, leiomyosarcoma, or Leona, as we named her, is inoperable and notoriously resistant to chemotherapy and radiation. That said, chemo and radiation were still all we had for her, so she committed to each. Twice.
Without getting into too much detail of our medical journey, I became quite bonded to my knitting through my extensive involvement with Mary’s treatment. The first day of chemo was, predictably, not a bad one, and we would each knit on our respective socks in progress, she from her bed and me nearby. I slept in chairs, recliners, lounge couches and the occasional vacant hospital bed. I knitted all day and every waking moment at night. We chatted about knitting, I printed her posts from my favourite blogs to read to her, and we relished the end of the cycle, when she could return home, rest a few days and regain the strength to resume knitting.
Many of my designs were conceived, written and published during her treatments. Coupling was scratched on a notepad in the wee hours at Mary’s bedside when a drug-induced delirium prompted her doctor to order bedside company at all times. The prototype socks were worked in stolen moments at the nurses’ station when the light wasn’t sufficient to see my stitches. Back to Basics was tapped out on the computer at Mary’s home the night she returned from her final (or so we thought) chemo cycle that spring. My finish in the inaugural 52 pair plunge was certainly expedited by the fact that I had so much downtime that year.
My own serious illness of late 2007 came, mercifully, at a lull in treatment for Mary. She was well enough to help my dear, overworked husband with our very small children, but upon returning home found that she needed to go through it all again. While Leona had never left, it seemed she was back with enough severity to warrant further treatment. While things were never great again, we stole the moments we could, for impromptu 2-person knitalongs , pattern sharing and the like.
In early 2009, it became clear that things were not good and wouldn’t be going on much longer. Triggered by the presence of her limp, useless right hand, her physician investigated and determined that the cancer had spread to Mary’s brain. There would be no cures, no heroic efforts, just one more kick at the radiation can and supportive care from there.
In what I consider an incredibly cruel twist of fate, Mary found herself unable to knit for about the last 3 months of her life. When I asked her if she would be insulted if I worked on my knitting at her bedside, her reply was classic Mary.
“Are you kidding me? SOMEONE has to knit around here!”
I began pulling yarns from her stash so they could be knitted up in her presence. I showed her everything in detail and we chatted about knitting and yarns. She was terribly upset when I delayed my attendance at the Visionary Retreat to spend her final weeks with her, and my attendance in 2010 was quite literally a death bed promise to her. She knew that I would be teaching at Sock Summit 2009 and was incredibly proud of that fact.
On March 16th, 2009, I was knitting on a Lady of the Lake jacket at Mary’s bedside. The Fleece Artist kit from Baadeck Yarns had been dyed in one of their custom colourways with lots of blues, her favourite colour. Around lunchtime, as I worked the second sleeve, Mary’s breathing changed, slowed, then stopped. My beloved mother was gone. She was 67.
I realize that my lack of posting has been at the expense of my already limited readership, but I felt tremendously blog-blocked knowing that I should share the story and didn’t know how.
So I leave you with that, dear readers, whomever you may be. And with the story told, I feel I can return to sharing the light and fleecy knit world in which I reside. For now, it’s back to the revelry, then back to the family I adore.
I am one lucky knitter.
I just can't stop visiting Twist Collective. Which means I just can't stop downloading their beautiful patterns. I have a few queued up (namely Sylvi, which I would file under the Big Hairy Audacious Goal category), and have quite a few finished pieces a few under my belt from the past couple of years.
Piper is a cute, quick and stylish knit. This is the first of many, I'm sure.
Yarn: St. Denis Nordique, most of one skein and barely any of the other.
Rowan Calmer, that is. I acquired a bit of this at half price at a sale, not enough for a sweater for me, but more than enough for the younger daughter. I love that at this age, fit and proportion aren't as critical as they are for an adult. I used an adult pattern, finer yarn and smaller needle and ended up with a perfect fit for the lanky beast!
Pattern: Diminishing Rib Cardi, by Andrea Pomerantz (Interweave Knits Spring 2009)
Rowan Calmer, 4 skeins on 4 mm needles
Skipped one of the transitional rib sections, otherwise to pattern, tweaked to fit the little one.
For the past couple of years, I have greatly enjoyed ringing in the beginner bell choir at my church. As a little girl, I remember the great excitement I felt when the "old ladies" came to Sunday service to ring their bells. I suppose now I'm one of them!
One of the things I don't enjoy is dressing for performance days. The traditional black-on-bottom-white-on-top wardrobe doesn't exactly ring my bell.
So as to not feel like a nameless, faceless, dressed-like-a-server bell ringer, I have found a compromise.
Black skirt. White top. Black Mary Janes.
Rhiannon, by Cookie A.
Trekking XXL, one skein for each sock, worked toe up, Magic Loop with gusset and flap. Omitted folded top and used all but inches of yarn. Grafted bindoff. Shapings reversed to mimic original pattern.
With thanks to the adorable knitter at Sock Summit, who wore her Rhiannons to the Sock Hop and totally inspired me.
Happy Hump Day!
Do I really need to keep numbering these? It's a little shameful, watching the unblogged projects unfold before me.
Pattern of the Day is Little Miss Greenjeans, by Amy Swenson. This is a little girl's version of the Knitty design from awhile back. While written to be a cardigan, I made mine a v-neck pulli. Yarn is O-Wool Balance (50% merino / 50% cotton, all delicious).
In a sign of my rapidly escalating habit, daughter the elder failed to even notice that I was knitting something in roughly her size, in exactly her favourite colour.
I now present to you the yellow sweater.
Happy Monday to all!