Tuesday, July 27, 2010

In search of my own garden.

Over the past months I've been emerging from a fog. A fog of depression, and health problems, and the knowledge that I had lost something of myself in motherhood. Children are only very small for such a short time, and the sacrifices we make in that time are worth every unwashed, exhausting day. But a part of me was lost.

I have never had any illusions about my talents. I am usually good at things, but not great. I hang out with the artists, musicians, and writers, but I am not one of them. I can appreciate and understand their craft but I don't have the discipline or drive to join them with anything but dabbles...I can play the piano, draw, write, knit, sew, and paint, but not well enough or with enough originality that anyone would notice or seek out my work.

Something hit me the other day, though. It's fear of failure that keeps me from working at any of these talents. I have been content with the knowledge that I could be good at these things, if I really wanted to--but if I didn't try I couldn't fail. Knitting has been my gateway drug, in a way. I have given so many hours to it, and I have begun to read the blogs of other women who have drawn me in through their knitting but have begun to inspire me to pick up my forgotten creativity (Daisy, I am talking to you, among others!).

Through laziness, through motherhood, through exhaustion, I had given up on myself. I have always privately described myself as a frustrated artist, and blamed the frustration on any number of circumstances or decisions. But then I decided to stop blaming and start doing something about it. I bought some charcoal and graphite and a sketchbook. I picked up the books that had once inspired me, and found myself reading In Search of Our Mother's Gardens by Alice Walker with tears streaming down my face one late night. A few passages especially stood out:

"What is always needed in the appreciation of art, or life, is the larger perspective. Connections made, or at least attempted, where none existed before, the straining to encompass in one's glance at the varied world the common thread, the unifying theme through immense diversity, a fearlessness of growth, of search, of looking, that enlarges the private and the public world. And yet, in our particular society, it is the narrowed and narrowing view of life that often wins." (from "Saving the Life That is Your Own" by Alice Walker in 1976).

A poem she included at the end of a college convocation address was deeply moving to me as a young college student; it drove me to find out who the Rilke she referenced was...and I found Rainer Maria Rilke, whose poems and letters have inspired me greatly over the years. But the original Alice Walker poem spoke to me again as I rediscovered it a few weeks ago:


I must love the questions
as Rilke said
like locked rooms
full of treasure
to which my blind
and groping key
does not yet fit.

and await the answers
as unsealed
mailed with dubious intent
and written in a very foreign

and in the hourly making
of myself
no thought of Time
to force, to squeeze
the space
I grow into.

I still have no illusions about where this will end fame or fortune to be had for me. But I do have a daughter. And I want her to see her mother, not as a frustrated artist, but as a woman of creativity, passion, and drive. I want her to find my books, my drawings, my photographs, my knitted sweaters. I want her to hear my music. I want her to find her own creativity and possibly, somehow, not be frustrated--but be inspired by me to that fearlessness of growth that Walker described. I must lead by example, and "hourly make myself" into the person I want to be.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Long Lost WIP's

I was tinkering around with my Ravelry notebook tonight and was astounded to discover that several of the WIP's I keep in Ziploc bags in various places around the house have been in their current condition for OVER A YEAR. This must be remedied. So, I am resurrecting the following projects...and I hope to finish them before my seasonal editing job cranks up in September. Think I can do it? (I am not so sure, but if I can it will clear my brain circuits a little--WIP's clog my thoughts. Really.) Here are the contenders.

Featherweight Cardigan (designed by Hannah Fettig), cast on July 3, 2009. Plain stockinette got boring, but now I like having a simple knitting project on the go for the TV watching nights. This is Purewool Merino Lace in a semisolid colorway called Grass. I worked on this tonight, and I've already doubled what you see in the picture!

Zick Zack Tunic (designed by Melissa Wehrle), cast on June 5, 2009. See my hot pink lifeline? I am not sure why I became disillusioned with this one. It's really a nice design. Oh...I remember. I think I chose a size that was going to end up being too small for me. Good thing I am done nursing now, and it will fit (better)! I am knitting this in Knit Picks Gloss Lace, a silk/merino blend, in a beautiful purple called Pinot.

Looks like my hands will be busy, because I am also doing a knit-along with the Anthropologie Knits group on Ravelry. I have been looking for an excuse to knit Que Sera (designed by Kirsten Kapur) since I saw the pattern, and the KAL theme is Short Sleeved Summer Cardigans. I'm using Knit Picks Main Line (Pima cotton/wool blend) in Ivory, and I've modified the sleeve length to just past the elbows rather than full length--both to make it a lighter sweater, and avoid running out of yarn (the yarn is discontinued and it would be difficult to get more). I've got both sleeves and about 3 inches of the body done on this one.

Three very different summery wardrobe will thank me for this burst of knitting responsibility!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Finished and Christened: The Country Club Cardigan!

I stayed up waaaay past my bedtime on Sunday night to finish the last two rows and the i-cord bind-off, and thus finish the knitting part of my drapy cotton cardigan. Then, yesterday during the kids' nap time, I wove in all the ends, crossed my fingers, and threw it in the washing machine. It doesn't matter how many commercial knits I have washed and dried over the years, I still don't trust it completely with my handknits! Washing this one caused special nailbiting since it was too large to fit in any of my mesh bags. It turned out to be fine, though--and the fabric was even improved.

Before I reveal the final product, however, I want to share a few more things I learned from the project.

1. On the edge of a fabric, M1 increases will cause the edge to roll a lot more than kfab increases will. The rolling doesn't really bother me on this sweater, but I am filing that little tidbit away for future use. Exhibit A, showing the wrong side of the front edge of the cardi (the hem is at the foreground of the photo):

2. On a very long edge, a skinny i-cord edging will not stop the stockinette roll around the bottom of a piece--but a nice hot steamy iron will (provided it's a plant fiber, of course)! Exhibit B, the "after ironing" shot of the hem:

3. Knit Picks Simply Cotton Sport yarn shrinks. A lot. I knew it would--my swatch lost between 10 and 12 percent of the length--but it still surprised me. Why, I don't know...I must have been in denial. Haha. The length from underarm to hem, prewashing/drying, was nearly 20 inches. After? Right about 17 inches. But on the plus side, the yarn also becomes incredibly soft after a trip through the washer and dryer, so overall I think I am in love with this yarn.

4. I don't know why my short rows (which I used to add length to the fronts of the cardigan) look so much worse when I close the holes on the right side than when I do it on the wrong side. Can anyone tell me what my problem is? Exhibit C, short rows with holes closed on the knit side--ugh!:

Exhibit D, short rows with holes closed on the purl side--yay!:

Anyway, this has been quite the learning experience and I feel like I need a drumroll here, or it is! My "Country Club Cardigan," so named because it reminds me of something someone much wealthier than I am might wear as a swimsuit coverup while lounging by the pool and wearing a large-brimmed hat, high wedge sandals, and sunglasses. I'll be wearing it to the grocery store, over my jeans, and with a toddler on my hip!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It's all in the details.

I am still going strong on my reverse engineering of the Allegoro Drape Front Cardigan. The miles of stockinette, instead of being boring as I might have feared, are a great canvas for trying out different increases and thinking about how the placement of shaping will effect the finished garment. Since this is my first go at doing a sweater without a written pattern, I have given in to what a favorite professor called "the paralysis of analysis" more than a few times, but overall I am pleased with how it's progressing!

On the raglan increases for a top-down sweater like this, I learned I prefer slower increases, as they are most invisible. (Those increases are shown at the top of the next photo.) I will have to play with the cast on number next time, though, because if I kept going at that rate I would have had armholes halfway down my biceps. My second favorite kind of raglan increases are [M1b, k2, M1f], done every right side row (shown at the bottom of the next photo). I like the way the center stitches raise neatly and the increases recede. I didn't like the middle section of increases I did, which were [M1f, K2, M1b], at all--I thought it looked very messy.

This project has also given me a new obsession: i-cord, both applied i-cord and as a bind off. It looks so nice and neat at the end of a stockinette swath, and as a bonus, it stops the curling that makes my perfectionistic soul cringe. I was also worried that the wide-ish neckline would stretch and refuse to stay on my shoulders if I didn't do something to stabilize it.

The neckline before picking up and knitting a few rows then doing a 2 stitch i-cord bind off:

Neckline after:

It's subtle, I admit, but less so in real life. I will be doing a matching 2 stitch i-cord bind off on the bottom of the sweater as well. I used a 3 stitch i-cord bind off on the sleeve, which is nice, but a little more obvious and I thought it might look a bit too heavy on the drapy parts.

The last few inches of this project will take a long time, I am afraid. The body length is nearing the bottom of my rear end, and the rows are upwards of 300 stitches at this point! I just broke into my seventh skein, and I am estimating that it will take about 8 1/2 total to finish the project--so that gives a rough idea of how close to finishing I am (the next picture was taken about 2 inches ago)! I can't wait to wear this.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Aloha! (Hello, I mean)

I'm back from vacation, and I got some good knitting done on my copy of the Allegoro Drape Front Cardigan (a sleeve and a half, plus some more of the body)...but here is a little taste of our trip to Maui for now!

The view from my lounge chair:

The view from our lanai:

Just one of the thousands of tropical flowers we saw:

A humuhumunukunuku'apua'a (trigger fish) daughter saw tons of these at Kaanapali Beach through her bodyboard's snorkle window:

Ready to "hike" the Iao Valley:

The Iao Needle (I was SO bummed--I didn't bring my wide angle lens on this hike and all I had was a zoom, so this was the best picture I could get of the needle from the top of the hill):