Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Saga of Katie's Sweater

So, about three years ago, my youngest child, Katie, was headed off to college. Now, this was (and still is) not an easy thing for me. I don't think I'm a helicopter parent, but I still have a hard time having my kids living away. It isn't that I want to have a hand in their lives, or have a problem of control; it is just that I miss them terribly.

When Katie was preparing to go to college, I told her to pick out a sweater pattern for me to make for her. It seemed that picking up the old knitting needles again would be a good thing to do with my time now that my responsibilities of caring for kids was going away. As a knitting Mom, I knit for my kids to give them a warm hug, wrap them in comfort when I can't be there. These seemed good reasons to knit a sweater for Katie as she ventured away from home into the big, bad world. Katie picked this pattern.Okay, I thought. My first foray into lace. I looked over the pattern, not too bad. It is very easy lace. Just count 1-2-3 as you knit or purl three times into each stitch. Katie looked at yarn samples and picked out wool and mohair. Fabulous! The mohair will give the lace strength, durability, and a fuzzy halo. We ordered the yarn.

I must have tried to make gauge on the sweater, as I had adjusted my needle size. The pattern says to cast on "very loosely." I doubled my needles and cast on. No problem. We're off. I knit, 1-2-3; and I purled 1-2-3 like crazy. As I was about six inches up the back, I started wondering about my cast on. It looked like it needed to be a LOT looser, as this lace is super stretchy. But I continued on, 1-2-3, 1-2-3. Katie asked frequently, "How's my sweater coming, Mom?"

By the time I got to the sleeves, I was still wondering about my gauge and my cast on. I also noticed a spot where I had been hypnotized by the 1-2-3 and accidentally put in a 1-2-3-4 on one stitch. No worries, I told myself, I can just take a little piece of thread and tie that extra stitch in the back. Nobody will ever know. I knew. And it bugged me. It was the first place my eye went every time I picked up the sweater. Still, I plowed on 1-2-3, 1-2-3.... I hate counting to three! Katie says, "You know all the stuff you make is nice, Mom, but WHERE'S MY SWEATER?"

I made the hole for the neck and split the two front halves, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3... three years gone by. Katie has finished her junior year and has now stopped asking about the sweater. The sweater has been languishing in a bag hibernating. Katie says, "You know, Mom, you aren't going to have that sweater done until it is out-of-style." She's right. It is two thirds done, and I hate it. I know I've learned a lot since I started knitting this sweater. I need to rip it out and start over. The wool is very nice, the same stuff of the super expensive Dale of Norway ski sweaters.

Won't Katie be surprised if I actually finish the bloody sweater? She's given up all hope.

Yesterday, I pulled it out. Mohair is NOT fun to rip out. It makes super strength Velcro look slippery. It has this fuzz that tangles and is evidently made out of plutonium. At 8:30 a.m., after my toast and tea, the sweater came off the needles and I began ripping. I ripped, and I pulled, and I broke apart virtually every stitch. I untangled, and I wound, and I cursed... a lot.

At 1:00 I made myself a couple of turkey hot dogs for lunch. My fingers were red, swollen, and throbbing.

At 3:00, a wise friend called. I told her what I was doing. She gently asked if I would be soaking the wool to get the kinks out. In a quavering voice, I said, "I just want to get this done!" I knew she was right, I should take the kinks out of the wool, IF I ever got the damn thing taken apart. I checked fairly often to make sure my fingers weren't bleeding at this point. I didn't want to stain the wool.

At 6:30 I informed Bob that there would be no dinner, and if he wished to eat, he should go to Subway and get us a couple of subs. He complied. He is learning when not to question, just do.

At 9:00 the Twins game came on TV. I was still ripping. I was still swearing. I had a headache, I was hot, I was covered in barbed-wire mohair fragments, my fingers would no longer open all the way. I kept going. Bob said, "You don't have to do the whole thing today." I gave him "the look" and kept going.

Bob went to bed a little after 10:00, I was ripping.

At 11:30 p.m., I wound the last of the sweater into it's little wool and mohair balls.

This morning, I got up at 8:00, skeined the wool, soaked it for two hours, spun it in the washer and hung it outside to dry. I took a separate skein of wool and a ball of mohair (it is too stubborn and hateful to kink like the cooperative, gentle, submissive wool) and started a new gauge swatch, one needle size smaller.

Still too big, I dropped down another needle size and swatched again. Still too big. I dropped down another size and swatched again. Three needle sizes? What WAS I thinking the first time I did this????? The third needle drop seemed to do the trick.... gauge, or at least very close to it.

I cast on LOOSELY with a different method and started knitting. 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3... I'm back at it. I am much happier with the three inches of new sweater on my needles. I am determined to finish this sweater 1-2-3, 1-2-3, although I still hate the repetition of this pattern. I'm going to do it... for Katie.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I'm Baaaaack!

Rumor has it that there are a few folks who actually read this blog. (You know who you are...) I've heard the complaints, and now that school is out of the way, I am available to blog away. So, it's summer, and for that I am very grateful. The end of the school year was difficult (aren't they all?) and the class at Scholastica took more time than I was anticipating. I thought I could just reteach the course again, but no, I had to go and redesign some classes because I was inspired by the interests of the students. Silly me.

Somebody asked me yesterday what I would be doing with my summer. I started listing things off like: teaching a spinning class, knitting, painting exterior door frames, putting in a retaining wall, you get the idea. She wrote back to me that I really should just do "the things that make my heart happy." Ahhhh.... if I did only that, a number of county and state health officials would soon be descending upon my humble abode in hazmat suits.

I have received a letter from the Junior League who sponsors the craft show I did last December. It is time to make a decision whether or not I will be participating in their show in 2008. As I see it, the real decision for me is whether or not I will be crafting or teaching at CSS this fall. With the Grade 2 job, I fail to see how I could possibly do both. IF I do the craft thing, I should concentrate my efforts on lower priced merchandise and bring the remaining higher priced bags left from last year. The college gig most certainly pays more, and is a sure paycheck, AND has the remote possibility of leading to something full time. The crafting is something I truly enjoy, is relaxing and rejuvenating for me, the booth is ready to go, and I loved doing the show last year. Decisions, decisions...

Speaking of knitting, the Brea bag from Berocco is knit, and I am going to block it today so I can begin to finish it. The Bramble bag from Berocco is about half knit. I shall try to take some photos today. A blog is much more interesting with photos, is it not?

The weather is actually NICE today. It has been such a cold, wet spring that the blue sky, birds singing, and windows open are such a relief. I need to put the gifts for my swap partner into a box and get them mailed today. I am going to try to set up a spinning class at Fabric Works in Superior. There is a woman coming in from Georgia on Thursday who wants me to teach her how to spin, and she's only here for a couple of weeks. There is a new yarn shop in Ashland which I have never visited, and is calling my name. Time to get moving on my day!