My Favorite Things About Summer

As a teacher I love summer. After 9 months of pressure and stress (this year I got lockjaw, hives, and muscle spasms from the pressures of teaching at my two schools) we finally have a chance to sleep in and do all the things we dream about. So far I have read 5 novels, visited Yosemite and Lake Tahoe and have finally finished a gorgeous piece of knitting named Clara (ravelry link, login required).

Clara

Besides being an absolutely adorable little dress the pattern in interesting. First, it is very difficult to find. You can only order it through Isager with the purchase of yarn. Secondly, the pattern has been used by three generations of knitters. I think it is wonderful that we can still appreciate a pattern that is 60-90 years old and view it as fresh and still in style.

Being out of work without the promise of a job to return to is stressful. When I thought that they would bring back the Art program and rehire the art teachers I felt very secure in my lack of a job and wasn’t worried. When I finally got the message that the school district had decided to bring us back I was relieved. Then I learned that the district did not intend to bring back ALL the art teachers, only 1/3 of them. This secured my position in the unemployment line and I totally freaked out. I had been talking about how great and stress free my life would be and how I could use unemployment until I found another position but I was totally full of false bravado. In reality, losing my job is terrifying. I look at every penny I spend and question when I will have a paycheck again.

Here is a picture of Fallen Leaf Lake, in Tahoe, to get our mind off of my woes.

Another gorgeous evening at Fallen leaf Lake

I feel better, how about you? I have gone for the past two years to Tahoe with my friend Jen. This year we were joined by 5 2 week old kittens. Jen found them right after school got out for the year, left in a ceramic pot in the garage of an abandoned house across the street from her school. She found an adorable little black kitten the day before that had one of it’s ears cut off by some mean-spirited (just plain evil) person. So 4x a day Jen and I (mostly Jen) helped the kittens potty and fed them.

Jen feeding one of the kittens.

While in Tahoe I cast on my newest project, a cardigan I hope to have done before I leave for the United Kingdom next week (cough, not going to happen). It is the Windsor Cardi from Knitscene Summer 2011. I like the grey but am still using up my stash yarn and have some very nice heathered blue with putple to use up.

Tomorrow I have a job interview, which is a miracle because with so many art teachers out of work I did not think I would be able to even get interviews. Wish me luck! Hopefully my new favorite part of summer (besides Europe) will be finding a fabulous new art job for the Fall!

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An Interlude

While sitting in the layoff hearings for my district I was able to work on my knitting. The first two days I worked on a baby dress called Clara and the third day i made the Interlude Hat.

An interlude is really what the layoff hearings were. A break between my classes, I took off the week to sit in on this farce, while my job (along with almost 300 others) were kept or lost in the arguments between the district lawyer and the union lawyer. Jubilation would spout up any time someone’s layoff notice was rescinded, meaning their job would be kept for the next school year. My job, along with the majority of the art educator jobs, were lost.

Interlude Hat

The hat was nice and tight when I made it but when I blocked it it bloomed a little and is not as small as I would like. There seemed to be minor errors in the pattern, where it would had an extra stitch at then end of a couple rows but I just kept those in and it came out just fine. You can find the pattern through Ravelry here or on her website here.

I also worked on my Clara dress. I love the dress and looked for years for the pattern for free and finally broke down and purchased it along with the yarn to make the dress. The theme in my knitting seems to be purple. I knit a lot of purple things.

Clara is a pattern that is being used by a third generation of knitters, according to the Isager wool guy. You can find information on Ravelry here and on the Isager site here. From what I have read, unless you bind off the top very, very loosely the neck is too tight to allow it to actually be put on a child, so people are knitting back and forth on the top and adding buttons or cutting it to add a button band. Adding a super-stretchy bind off has also been suggested. This pattern is knit from the bottom up with a blousey skirt, then a waistband and decreases at the yoke.

Tonight was the opening of an exhibit of fairy tale art at the Haggin Museum, our local fine arts museum. I went with another art teacher and enjoyed it very much. Hooray. I should illustrate children’s books, perhaps. Either way, I need to make more art. I am looking forward to this summer and intent to use it to explore and create. If I have a job for the fall, that would be awesome. If I do not have a job, honestly, I am okay with that too. i am so fortunate to be able to be happy either way, so many people would be bankrupt or have families to support and I just have to make sure I can feed myself and my puppy.

Shalom Cardigan

Over a year ago my sister gave me a bag full of yarn. Awesome stuff, too. And it continued to sit in it’s bag, next to the gorgeous yarn I picked up at Stitches West in 2010. Some of that yarn was finally used to make my beautiful Favorite Sweater. After finishing my Favorite Sweater and still being on a knitting binge, I searched through Ravelry‘s free patterns until I finally found something I liked that used the bulky alpaca my sister gave me. That’s how I came to make the Shalom Cardigan.

I am a short woman, being completely honest here. So I scoured the reviews of the Shalom Cardigan patterns to add sleeves and to shorten the body. I learned that if each of the three sections of twisted ribbing before the split for the sleeves was shortened by two rounds the body would be short enough for me. Adding sleeves was easy enough and I also included some waist shaping as well as button holes the whole way down so I can close the sweater all the way.

I like the sweaters that close only at the top but honestly, unless one is a waif or really dresses well, it makes us look dumpy. Also, I lost a bunch of weight and want to show off, so my sweater buttons all the way down. Once I sew on the buttons, that is.

Using a self timer to pose for pictures, not that brilliant.

The great thing about alpaca is that it’s super warm. Also, while I was told that it would stretch, it has not. However, I think it is a wool blend, so it actually felted a little bit and shrunk up when I washed it. I did add some more to the sleeves after I washed it because they became too short. I have found that the yarn sheds a lot.  I look a bit like a line backer in it and the yarn under the arm makes little fuzzballs. I pull off a lot of fuzzballs, mostly at work no less.

I actually have enough yarn left to make this sweater again, because I required less yarn than required when shortening the body. If I made it again without sleeves I would be able to make a tunic!

I have also made a shawl, so I’ll be posting on that.

In other news, my school district is cutting its art program, so I will soon be without a job. I am not sure where my life is going, I really thought I was going to be married this December but that has also changed. My life is about to really go into a flux and while I don’t enjoy that and spent the weekend freaking out over it, at this point I am feeling rather ambivalent. That may be because I still have a month and a half of work and I know I can go on unemployment if necessary but more than that I’ve been so stressed out about all of this for long enough and then I lost my grandfather, which was okay because he had been waiting for a while to go and wasn’t happy about being here, but the stress of organizing a funeral and family and then the job and the relationship status change and then oral surgery, wow, it’s been a lot. If you have read this whole thing, thank you. What I have started to do is to try to focus on putting my faith on God and recognizing that I am obviously not in control of the all the tings that happen in my life. I have control over what I eat and things of that nature but there is so, so much that I really have no control over. I’m trying to learn to live with that, it goes against my nature.

A Finished Sweater for Valentines

I wore my lovely new Fitted Sweater on Valentines Day, thinking it would be a very romantic and very red sweater.  Also, we were going out and I was hoping to get some nice pictures of it in nice places. That and a romantic picnic (which, sadly, didn’t happen as I had hoped).

At the Petrified Forest in Sonoma County

 

It is a little gappy in the bust, I wish I had done ribbon reinforcement behind both plackets instead of just the button side. It is a beautiful sweater, however, the buttons are really heave and flop about when the sweater is unbuttoned. Switching to lighter buttons would help.

I also made my boyfriend several different valentines cards at a girls night. He got two of them. The third I kept.

A map of the paths our lives took before we met, illustrated on actual maps from AAA.

I was surprised to learn later on that some friends of our actually got engaged on Valentines Day. Wow.

Almost Finished, or Why Buttons are the Hardest Part

Below the pictures is my writing about suicide and grief, above the second picture is all about knitting, just so you know which part you are looking for.

Buttons add so much character to your sweater. If I choose moose buttons my sweater looks like it came from Montana (or somewhere else with moose in my much geographically challenged mind). If I choose plain buttons then they need to match the beautiful red-burgundy of the sweater, the color of rich red roses rather than cheap boxes of Valentines candy. Going to the craft store involved combing through a whole aisle of buttons, glass, plastic, polymer, metal, and many, many more plastic buttons. I looked at green ones, brass ones, pewter ones, wood ones. After much consideration and back and forth I chose these claddagh buttons, likely because I was feeling romantic and thinking about our summer plans to go to the United Kingdom.

Claddagh Buttons

I also am sewing ribbon onto the placket so that there is more stability in the button band. I haven’t done this before and now know that I should have bought the ribbon first so that it would be the same size as the button band. It is slightly thinner and as such may show a bit on top but now that I am basting it on much more loosely it looks much better. This will also help ensure that my buttons are secure. I read a tip on the Berroco site saying that the best thread for sewing on buttons is embroidery floss but I keep all mine at work (art teacher) and will just use red thread for now.

Button band

Today is a mental health day for me. I thought it was a vacation day and scheduled some appointments to meet with different mental health professionals today. Since it wasn’t actually a vacation day and I had appointments at the doctor and dental offices I chose to take a sick day rather than reschedule all three appointments. I’m telling you, dear reader, all this because I lost a brother to suicide 4 years ago and have finally decided to start dealing with all the grief and anxiety that comes with that. It is not easy to talk to people about this. Nor is it easy to find people who support people like myself. I don’t like to burden other people with my problems and so I tuck it away. The person i spoke with this morning says I need to talk to people about it and wanted to know if I have grieved properly.

What exactly is grieving properly? Can anyone do it? I have always felt like (and have even had people tell me) that I should be better by now and that it’s time to move on. No one can tell when it is time for anyone to be “finished” grieving and I think that when you lose someone to suicide that the grieving never really stops.  Attached to my grief is the loss of my stepmom and the guy I was engaged to leaving me, and all of it in 9 months. It makes me afraid that all that can happen again, at any time.

Now, I have a really great life. Or, to rephrase, I have a really great life now. But letting go of what’s happened in my past to my family has become a huge way of how I identify myself. It is beyond time I let that go. I’ve found a local group for people who have lost family to suicide and I even called and left a message and may go to a meeting because going to a regular grief or loss group they may not understand the tangled web that is loss to suicide.

It feels good to finally put my foot down and take steps to heal. I don’t know if anyone who ready my blog has ever been in this position but if so, I hope that you have already taken steps to heal or in reading this maybe I can encourage you to do what has taken me so long to begin to do.

Year-End knitting

The end of 2010 was so busy that knitting time was limited. Bill’s sister-in-law’s sister-in law (I know, a convoluted explanation of someone not related to me) had a baby just after Thanksgiving and upon realizing I would be seeing them over Christmas I knew I had, absolutely had, to knit their new baby girl something.

With less than 48 hours and absolutely no trips to the yarn store or time for poring over patterns, I pulled out something I love. I made little ladybug booties.

These booties are designed by Lucie Sinkler and can be found here or on Ravelry as Mary Jane Booties.

After finishing these and discovering I didn’t have any ladybug buttons for them (I had super-cute ones last time) I went back to the same craft store to get more only to discover that, gasp, they didn’t carry them any more. Now, for any knitter trying to finish a project 2 days before Christmas, this is a tragedy. However, a helpful lady came along. She was scouring the button racks for fish and while looking for my ladybugs I started looking for fish buttons for her as well. Neither of us being successful in our hunt we went our separate ways when I heard her call “Miss?” She had found different ladybug buttons over in the tie-dye and puff paint section!

Now, Christmas wasn’t the magical sparkly time I expected it to be, but I did enjoy it. I got to see family I had not seen in a couple years, drove a couple hundred miles, learned more of my family history and even got a real live tree. I did not get to meet the new little baby who so needed lady bug booties but I am hoping to see her some time this year.

My first project of the new year is the same project I have been working on since fall break in early October. Originally designed by Wendy Bernard in her book “Fitted Knits”, my version is really a heavily modified Wicked made into a cardigan.  I love the MIssion Falls 1824 wool and am disappointed to learn it has been discontinued.

My concern at the moment is that the ball you see in the picture is the second to last one. I don’t ‘know if I will have enough for sleeves, also, without the placket the sweater is very tight. I know it is supposed to be very snug, but I’m slightly concerned. I suspect that my 4 month investment may take a turn into the frog pond and then be reknit into something on slightly larger needles so it’s a little more drapey. Actually purchasing Ms. Bernard’s book may be in order, she has really beautiful stuff. Also, then I won’t run out of wool before sleeves are made any more.

In order for the new year, I have a personal goal that I don’t want to share but really want to share. Anyway, I’ve been dating the same sweet fella for 2 years and after a year a girl my age starts thinking seriously about things. After a year and a half a girl my age starts looking in windows at white dresses. At two years I started looking seriously at the calendar. At two and half years maybe it’s time to start looking at shotguns. If that isn’t a hint I don’t know what is.  My other goal is to use up the fabulous bulky alpaca yarn my sister sent me. I have 880 yards of it and high hope that will be enough to make a sweater before all the cold weather leaves for the year. Another goal for the year (since I’m sharing) is to lose 10 more lbs. Last summer I (with dr. support) lost 25 lbs or so and am thrilled at my fab new physique. But I also have hips that pop and a teensy bit of arthritis creeping into my 31 year old bones, so my goal is to take more weight off my hips so I can keep them for as long as possible. I don’t yet know why my hips like to pop out of socket, they have done it for 10 years but I am doing exercises to help hold them in place and am looking in to why they do it.

Hopefully next time there will be more knitting content. I hope you all enjoy the link to the Mary Jane Booties, as they are a free pattern!