Saturday, December 17, 2011

On the festive home stretch

First of all here are some shots of my daughter's playgroup at her house where I did an impromptu how to turn the heel on a Christmas stocking lesson. 


They may have me back to do "how to hem pants rather than take them to the tailor's." I can't believe young mothers are taking pants to someone to do this. My daughter knows to bring that stuff over to my place:





My daughter has a nice house they are slowly fixing up. They bought it from a man who was recently a widower. He was determined to have his house go to a young family much against his realtor's horror so he practically gave it away, and I mean gave it away.


It is an interesting place. The former owner was a bag man for a political party and there is a full bank-sized safe in the basement. His wife was a great entertainer and the kitchen has two ovens and even a built-in indoor BBQ with a chimney up through the kitchen ceiling.


The house also has come with a ghost. As far as we can figure the lady who spent her life hosting there was not quite ready to leave. As a result the toys are moved around in the night and the cushions on the chairs rearranged and straightened up at military angles. It's not a bad vibe and we figure that when she has it all out of her system she will move on. It must be hard to let a place go you spent your whole life maintaining.


Back in this world my Christmas production is on the home stretch. Four pairs of socks, one housecoat, one knitted cardigan, three pairs of pajamas, and two baby sleep sacs by tonight if I get moving.


Then I am just going to do some back-up knitting. My husband comes in at noon today from Tennessee and this place will move from Santa's workshop into Santa's test kitchen.


All of this virtuous sewing for others, which I do because the homemade gifts go over better than the store bought with adult children (or they are too diplomatic to say otherwise when I tell them I nearly killed myself getting this all done on Christmas morning), has  my own desire to sew for myself  boiling along inside.


To satiate this need I have been happily ordering patterns, specifically the independents for a change, and have some Pamela's patterns, more Style Arc, Brensan and Jalie's on standby on the runway.


I have also signed up for the French Jacket online class on PatternReview. 


Yes, I know I have the books and a fair idea what is involved but after finding out what a difference a good teacher made to my bra-fitting I decided it would be a treat for myself to be taught. So far in the warm-stage the commentary and notes have already been very helpful.


I had some difficulty finding fabric though until I contacted Fabricmart and will wait till I go to NYC in January to source the trim.


I am looking forward to all of this.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Thank you and details

First of all I want to thank my commenters on the last couple of posts. 


The knitting advice has been so useful, helpful, and interesting. (Rebecca I am intrigued by your cardigan recipe, what do you mean join at the sides? Do you mean you knit the whole thing as one piece?) And thank you too Karen for the lead on that sock yarn, I have some on its way.


It means a lot to me when folks go to the trouble to comment on something I have written and to help me out. 


Since last we spoke I have that sweater done and it's downstairs drying from blocking. I have decided it was a smarty pants pattern - just because you know a technique doesn't mean you have to put it in everywhere - all those dozens and dozens of short rows were unnecessary I decided - reminded me a bit of those wearable art jackets that used to be around that had every known decorative technique on them.


All I have left now is a couple of days of sewing to do, more knitting, and my spouse will be home Saturday for two weeks.


Like many women of my generation who got married young and then had children I do not have much experience living alone. Even in my single mother years I was still a mother.


So for me to be on my own while my husband is sent off for work for long periods is an interesting and educational experience for me. A life stage I kind of skipped and am learning how to do now.


I come from a big and interactive family. 


I think I was about 35 before I was ever in a room by myself. 


In my house "being alone" was regarded as a sickness. I remember having a visitor stay with us once and my mother frantically calling us into the kitchen "Somebody get into that living room - he's in there reading the paper and He's Alone, someone go in an talk to him." Silence, in the house I grew up in, was evidence that someone wasn't doing their job.


And working, having a bunch of kids of my own, pretty much has filled up my own silences.


So it's a novelty to learn to be by myself.


I miss my husband and living with an advanced level eccentric and excellent cook. He's fun. But being on my own has been good for me.


I was reminded of this over the weekend as my two sisters-in-law and I took my mother-in-law to show her the apartment we have picked out right near me. This is chapter two of our campaign to move her in from the country where she has still being living since my father-in-law died into the city where we can help her out more. I think she will be really happy to be near family but the process of making a decision about what she herself likes is almost too much for her. She says she still hears his voice in her head telling her what to do, what she likes.


Now women of my generation can hardly imagine that but my own unfinished business is learning how to live when there isn't anyone in the living room I need to go and talk to.


Being so busy with my projects is taking care of this, and of course having two dogs around who are permanent children is good too.


Still, it's interesting and important to be doing this.


Now off to my daughter's mother-baby group.


Someone over there is in tears because she can't figure out how to turn the heel on the Christmas stocking she is knitting for her little baby. I just got the 911. 


Since I am now an expert ripper-outer this sounds like just the job for me.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Late night elf work: Family ban alert

I have spent the last week coming down from term, helping my daughter with the kids, and getting some Christmas stuff worked through.


I just can't stand the stores during the holidays so it's either handmade or shopped online.


I laughed and laughed though when I saw this label on Meg's blog:


I am working on exactly that kind of project now, a sweater for one of my sons.  I am about 10% of the knitter I am as a sewer and I made the mistake of thinking I could actually make this:


I have knit sweaters for the other kids and it was my NYC son's turn.I got it in my head that since the designer was in Brooklyn and young it would be something he would wear. Yes, I know.


Like a lot of young knitter designer patterns it has more emphasis on structural knitting - short row shaping and I cord and fashionable techniques than traditional patterns. What I call mathematical knitting, based on my personal observation that a lot of good knitters are good at math, which I am not.


Getting this thing wrestled to the ground has involved as much ripping out as knitting and hours on Raverly and iTunes watching fast videos made by people who actually know what they are doing.


The sleeves have just about done me in.


Since the whole thing is knit in the round (good thing I hate sewing up knitting - those yarn seams just don't look sturdy enough to the sewer in me) you have to pick up the stitches for the sleeves and knit those on double pointed needles.


In my case this has involved knitting on 5 needles and every time I come to turn a short row (took me the first sleeve to figure that out) I sort of haul the whole unit around and slide half the stitches off one of the needles, put those back on the needle and try again.


Every once in a while I stop and check on things and if you were here next to my Lazy-Boy you would be hearing a lot of  "What the hell?"


I admit those sleeves are going to involve some hole darning to get them to look like sleeves, and the underarms look sort of like Rascal knit them. 


By the way here are some pictures of my assistant elves obviously exhausted by all they have been doing to decorate the house and get things ready:



Matching dog beds I hope you notice.


I should have sleeve two done today and then I will spend some rescue time with a needle and wool and put in the zipper.


The thing is I actually have learned a lot of new techniques making this and if I made another one now it would be fine. 


Maybe I need another label that says- "The next one will be better."


Once this is done I have only some sewing to finish and this morning that looks like a piece of cake then I think I am due to be a Lazy-Boy myself.