Monday, October 26, 2009

Wedding Dice

A few years ago, when my Hubby was planning his proposal, he had learned from my best friend that I am very difficult to surprise, but I can be distracted. I already knew he'd been looking for a ring, and I knew it had arrived, but didn't know when he was planning to pop the question, nor under what circumstances. A couple of good chances had come and gone without the question being asked, so I was beginning to wonder. Meanwhile, he ordered a set of these dice for me in a slightly darker green than shown from Q-Workshop in Poland:

So the day we were moving in together, I didn't know the dice had come in. It was late, and we'd brought basically the last load over, and he mentioned something about rocks (we both have rocks - long story), and then said "speaking of rocks..." and went to get something. I was a bit disappointed that it wasn't the ring, but instead was the package containing the green Celtic dice, which I do very much like. I proceeded to show them around to the folks that had come to help us move (best friend, her hubby and her sister), and about the time I got back to the table, now properly distracted, my now-hubby gets down on one knee and hands me the ring and proposes in a very romantic fashion. Naturally, I said yes. After all, if a man can propose when he's just moved an apartment full of stuff and everyone is all dirty and sweaty, he must really mean it, right? Not that I had any doubt.

Naturally, these very special dice required a very special dice bag, though I am not certain I'd ever knitted a dice bag before at the time. Nevertheless, I found some lovely ribbon yarn and made this to keep them in:

I don't actually use these dice for playing: they're rather hard to read and I worry about damaging them. I keep them in this little bag with my other dice as a kind of visual scrapbook, so every time I go looking for a set of dice, I remember how sweet he was (and still is) :-)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cabled Sweater

This is a scanned image of the cabled sweater I hand-knit for my Hubby from a pattern found in "Knitting the New Classics," by Kristin Nicholas, specifically Aran Family, p. 33, et seq.

This image is also now the background of my blog, since I figured out how to do that.

Making this sweater took a really long time, but I am always glad that I've made one more thing for my hubby, as well as anyone else in my family.  I'm also always glad I've tried something I haven't done before.  One of the reasons it took so long is that I was quite dismayed at the use of 3 needles (2 knitting needles plus a cable needle).  After I'd put it down for awhile and made quite a lot of socks (using 5 needles), cabling on 3 needles didn't seem so complicated.  Naturally, there's a glaring error in the cabling, but at least I won't get turned into a spider.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Creative Reminiscing Part 1: Knitting

I find it interesting that regardless of the number or variety of thoughts that pass through my mind while I’m knitting, painting or baking, I generally end up reminiscing about how I learned to do whatever I’m doing, and about those who taught, influenced or encouraged me as I was learning to do it. Certain things have come to be a part of who I am – for instance, people know I knit. They know that if someone at work or my Hubby’s work announces a pregnancy, I’m going to make baby stuff. They also know that if they don’t tell me color preferences or at least gender, I’m going to pick something myself, but either way there’s no getting out of the knitting thing. My obsession with making stuff out of yarn, however, is not what this blog entry is about. I suppose, now that it’s the harvest season, I’m of a mind to give thanks to those who have, at least in some way, helped me get where I am.

First, there’s my mother, rest her soul. When I was very young and she was a housewife, she made bread by hand (there were no home bread machines), sewed some of the clothes we wore to school, embroidered, used a small plastic loom to make Barbie clothes, etc. We always had bead crafting kits and other generally creative stuff available. Later when she had to work outside the home, we still always had paints, colored pencils and craft kits at the very least. I learned to crochet while I was in early elementary school, though no one actually sat down and taught me. I picked up the basics by watching my grandmother, rest her soul, who taught my older sister, and my aunt, who can crochet doilies without patterns, much the way I can churn out a sock. I consider doilies to be far more complicated than socks. My grandmother could crochet a huge bedspread with thin crochet cotton, probably without a pattern, but even with a pattern, I consider that impressive. I recall crocheting small bags to give as gifts as far back as 6th grade, which, as my children frequently remind me, was a very long time ago. When I was a senior in high school, my mother and I found a pattern we both wanted to make, and which I am now unable to locate, at least on the web. Fortunately, I have it memorized: it’s just a basic circle-in-square pattern using a puffy stitch, and I had to make hundreds of them to make the first blanket, which was a full-size comforter. I ended up having to give it away a few months after I made it. Naturally, I decided to make another shortly thereafter, but was tired of making blue circles with eggshell squares around them, so I made this instead:

These days, my biggest inspiration (enabler, really) is my hubby. Despite all the creative or crafty things I’ve learned to do over my lifetime, it wasn’t until he came along that I saw it as something other than a greedy little hobby. Before him, I thought of it all as impractical, selfish and expensive. Even knitting was just something I did in semi-secret: I didn’t have a lot of money, so making a sweater that cost more than simply purchasing one seemed, well, impractical, selfish and expensive. I did it anyway, and for the longest time, all I really worked on was a series of wavy blankets in RedHeart worsted weight. I could rationalize buying RedHeart: it’s not expensive at all. I could rationalize Susan Bates circular needles: also not expensive. I would never have been able to rationalize Skacel or Brittany needles, nor the more expensive yarns, and certainly not Vera, a wool winder or a swift. A blog about my secret passion would have been right out. What I did not realize at the time is that knitting provides a great deal more than an object. It’s not just a pair of socks or a blanket or sweater. For the recipient, it’s something that says someone cares enough to spend both time and money to make something special and personal. For me, knitting provides time to sort out my thoughts without sitting in my easy chair just drooling and staring at the walls. I’ve never been good at just sitting and doing nothing.

In being grateful for my hubby, I have to give kudos to his mom as well. I know that she encouraged him in many ways and that she is in part responsible for how wonderful he is. With that in mind, when my hubby asks me to make a blankie (or anything) for his mom, it’s an honor; the knowledge that he considers the product of my selfish little hobby to be something he wants to give his mother is incredibly gratifying. In fact, I just recently finished this one for her birthday:

It’s a bit simple, but it’s big and I wanted to get it to her sometime this century. The main body was knitted on Vera, and the border is made of cording that was hand-knitted directly onto the main body using DPN’s. Naturally, you can’t see the border in the photo because I didn’t have time to wash and block it before the birthday party. After all, I had two cakes to make:


I believe in past blogs I’ve mentioned my knitting machine Vera, but I’ve not discussed her story:

The first time I ever saw a home knitting machine was about 7 years ago when a roommate’s mother gave her one such machine, sans instruction books. We had a heck of a time figuring it out and it’s a wonder we didn’t break the thing. Ultimately, we did find some instructions and managed to make a couple of small items. Once I moved out, I forgot all about it until years later, when I saw one in a craft store. Given the price, I couldn’t buy one at the time, and would probably never have been able to rationalize getting one were it not for my Hubby, who all but insisted a couple of years ago. Since then, I’ve used Vera to make lots of things, mostly blankets and a few sweaters, though I also made a Christmas stocking with a bear and snowflake pattern. Vera’s great for making large and simple things quickly, though nothing beats hand-knitting for smaller or more complex items (Barbie clothes, socks, etc.). She makes it easy to deal with multiple colors, and cabling becomes rather simpler, too. One thing I like in particular is the ability to make a strip of, say, a blanket, and then make the next strip without having to sew them together later, because I hate sewing. (Okay, I don’t hate sewing, per se; I hate sewing knitting.)

In any case, Vera got her name because I keep her in a foam-lined rifle case when not in use:

Why a rifle case? The box she came in, while durable, was too short to store her in without complete disassembly (Johnny 5 says Nooooo!) and also had no padding, and the only case we could find anywhere that was suitable was the rifle case, into which she fits perfectly, minus the carriage. On my own, I’d have never thought to use a rifle case - it was my hubby who suggested it: he transports his Reaper miniatures (D&D) in a rifle case because it’s big enough to hold lots of them, even the largest ones.  

Note that the piece by my feline assistant's right shoulder is an extension, which does have to be removed to get Vera in the case:

There’s a scene in one episode of the TV series “Firefly” where Jayne Cobb mentions that he calls his “most favorite gun” Vera, and she is also referred to by name in a couple of later episodes and maybe even the movie, “Serenity,” if memory serves. Once we bought the rifle case to store my knitting machine in, the connection seemed obvious and she’s been Vera ever since. Her ‘nails’ are even painted - I used a shiny silver nail polish on the counter bumps that appear every 5 needles, which makes them easier to see from under the carriage when I need to make a color change. “…See, Vera? Get yourself all dolled up and you get taken places….”