Sep 122010
 

As you might remember I made a list of projects I wanted to do during summer break. Well, summer break is over now so it’s time to look at it again, don’t you think?

  1. Actually go on vacation for about a week.
  2. “Spring” clean the whole house.
  3. Prepare knitting classes for fall.
  4. Relax.
  5. Teach my son to swim.
  6. Edit my 2007 NaNoWriMo-first draft.
  7. Paint kitchen.
  8. Learn background vocals for songs to be played at friend’s birthday party in mid-August.
  9. Learn how to bake bread.
  10. Take a picture every day and post it on the internet. For details on this you might want to check out Sue Snaps.
  11. Play the piano every day.
  12. Sing every day.
  13. Play the guitar every day.
  14. Finish spindle spun sock yarn.
  15. Spin yarn for Vine Yoke Cardigan.
  16. Try my hand at doing a knitting podcast.
  17. Renovate my blog so that it looks nice again.
  18. Meditate every day.
  19. Exercise.

Out of these 19 projects I did – eight.

  1. We went on vacation for three days instead of a whole week because those there never were more than three consecutive days without rain. We made the most of what we had. Next year we might want to pitch our tent abroad, we’ve had enough of rainy Augusts for now.
  2. There was quite a bit of cleaning and tidying of the house but there was no “spring” cleaning as such. Still, it looks much better than before.
  3. I did start preparing my knitting classes, then I got distracted, there is still one book I want to read – maybe I should just accept that procrastination and mad-dash improvisation is my style and go for it.
  4. I did relax. Yeah me!
  5. My son knows how to swim! With the bad weather I didn’t know if he’d ever learn it but then I took him to a gorgeous indoor pool twice, and he did paddle several meters without help. He still looks a bit like a poodle while swimming but he’s clearly getting there. Yay!
  6. Editing my first draft? What first draft? Oh, that draft – oops – that must be some where in that pile over there on the desk that’s buried in other piles. I didn’t even take it out once. Don’t know if that’s ever going to happen.
  7. The painting of the kitchen was only a faint hope when I put it on the list. We have to have new wiring in the old part of the house, and we don’t want to paint the rooms before that, but we still don’t have the money (or time) to have the wiring done (or even to ask how much it would cost) so we might live in these unpainted rooms for decades. Who knows.
  8. I did learn the background vocals, and performed them at said birthday party. For most of the songs I did not have a microphone because the percussion player hijacked it while I wasn’t looking, and so I could have sung anything, nobody heard me anyway. It still was fun but brought back memories of all the bad gigs I have played in my life *shudder*.
  9. Bread didn’t happen as well. I wanted to make the famous “No-Knead-Bread” but the thing is you have to make the dough about 24 hours before you want to bake it, and that means planning, and having two days in a row where you have time for baking at the same time of day. That didn’t happen. I still have the flour sitting right there on the counter, and one of these days … I did make cinnamon rolls for the first time, though. They were delicious.
  10. I did indeed take a picture every day, and posted it on the internet (not every day). I only forgot once.
  11. Not much piano playing.
  12. Not much singing either.
  13. No guitar playing at all. Teaching on Monday will be great, Mondays it’s almost nothing else but guitar. My fingers will hurt like hell in the evening.
  14. Spindle spin sock yarn is done. And it might even be fine enough.
  15. I started spinning the yarn for the Vine Yoke Cardigan even though I’m still not that satisfied with it. I spin it to what I think is the right thickness, then I ply it, everything looks great, then I wash it and – bang – it’s twice as plump as before. I think I’m getting it right this time but I’m afraid I will spin it all up and then won’t be able to use it for the cardigan.
  16. Knitting podcast is up and on the way.
  17. Blog layout is still wonky, sorry.
  18. Not much meditation happening but I did write morning pages most days.
  19. I did quite well with the exercising, have been running and walking and riding my bike.

I might have to re-think my lists and goals approach one of these days. I still have the feeling that making lists is a good thing but then looking at them to see that most things didn’t happen – not so nice. I might have to check them off more often. Or something. The summer does feel like a good one. Despite the rain that fell most days.

A thing that wasn’t on my list but that happened is that we as a family did a lot of nice things together. We had barbecues, and bike rides, and we went camping and all. That was great. And we all had quite a bit of time puttering around the house as well. That was great too.

May 132010
 

This weekend is very special because – my husband is visiting friends. He’ll be actually away for 2 1/2 days. This happens about once every two or three years, and so, of course, I have made special plans. Now, a few days before he’s traveling I still hope for a blissfully empty weekend where I’ll do everything exactly as I like. Experience tells me that usually I just sit around and wait for him to come back because I’m not used to this, and I can’t sleep when he’s not in the house. But for now: hope. So I made little list:

  1. Sew a bag to hold my two new spindles.
  2. Weave in ends, sew buttons on, and block every single piece of finished knitting that’s on the “knitting to be finished”-pile.
  3. Darn socks, and other items of clothing.
  4. Clean the house including windows.
  5. Sew a skirt.
  6. Finish knitting clues 4 to 7 of the Alhambra-Shawl.
  7. Get enough sleep.
  8. Go to spinning meeting on Sunday.
  9. Bake a cake to take to spinning meeting.
  10. Exercise.
  11. Do something special with my son.
  12. Take pictures of all the finished knitted items.
  13. Write a story for the next writer’s group meeting.
  14. Finish doing taxes.

That’s pretty do-able, don’t you think?

Apr 062010
 

First of all I have finally managed to finish writing, translating and uploading the two lace patters I had designed for my lace classes.

It all started way back last summer when suddenly I realized that if I wanted to teach a lace knitting class I would have to provide the students with some sort of pattern. I couldn’t take somebody else’s pattern for teaching (well, I would have needed permission), most patterns I like are in English (and I’m teaching these classes in German), plus I had very specific ideas about what to teach.

So I decided to design a pattern. Now, I have designed things before, I did a lot of knitting in the 80s when there weren’t a lot of nice patterns around, and all sweaters were very boxy. Apart from the sweater that had a fancy brioche pattern in three colors there was never anything fancy. (Well, and then the lace sweater, and when I taught myself how to knit entrelac, and gloves.)

I already had a sketch lying around somewhere because back when I made a purple stole for a friend of mine I originally had planned to design a pattern just for her. My problem was, though, that there is no lace yarn to be found at my local yarn store (apart from mohair, and I’m not going to give a beginner mohair which is impossible to unravel). So I had to make something that used sock yarn. And that idea was for a big stole with very thin yarn.

I ordered nice hand dyed semi-solid yarn with bamboo from Drachenwolle, made another sketch and thought, “I’ll do this during summer break.” Summer break came and went and – surprise – I hadn’t worked on my pattern. Fall came around, I found that I was somewhat reluctant to design something without even knowing if there would be enough people interested in a class but then I had to start some time. Finally, I gave in, pulled out a couple of stitch dictionaries and used those instead of doing it all from scratch. I made the prototype in two weeks time, it went really fast and easy. Then came the charting. Not easy and fast at all. I think I changed the charts four times to make them clear and easy to follow.

The lace knitting class provided me with test knitters. I had wanted this class to be the “lace knitting class to end all lace knitting classes”. I set out to teach them everything so that they would be able to knit every lace project they ever wanted to. So this little shawlette is quite complicated. It uses almost every kind of decrease known to knitters, and it has nupps, and stars.

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It’s called Estnisches Tüchlein/Estonian Shawlette because that’s what it is. You can download it for free. There’s a German and an English version of the pattern.

My students liked the pattern, and the class even though after week one they were sure they’d never get it. But all of them came back for more, and at the end of our fourth evening everybody was confident they knew everything necessary to finish the shawl. And then they asked me for a follow-up class.

Silly me, I thought I had taught them everything they needed to know to go off on their own but they wanted to come back. So there’s a second lace knitting class this semester. Sadly I can’t use the same pattern as last time because of the students who already did that. So I had to design a new pattern. This time I wanted to teach them two things they hadn’t learned the class before, namely provisional cast-on and doing lace on both right and wrong side rows. And I wanted the pattern to be a bit easier than the first seeing that the first one kicked everybody’s ass.

Well, the thought of me making simple things is really funny. I wrote the pattern, I thought it’d be easy-peasy, then I got bored (as I’m wont to do), and slapped on a border that’s so hard to knit it made my own head hurt. Also, I – again – designed on a deadline, not only was there the beginning of the class looming, I also decided to do it during the ravelympics.

What are the ravelympics, you’ll ask? Unless you’re one of the thousands of people participating. The ravelympics are something that took place on ravelry during the winter olympics. The goal was to find a challenging but doable project, cast on during the opening ceremony and finish before the closing ceremony. I wouldn’t have thought about joining (much) if not for a friend of mine who was team captain for team Germany. And you know how much I love crazy internet challenges and strange, artificial, and arbitrary deadlines.

I tried to stay sensible though, and only planned two projects during that time. Project A was making this roving into socks:

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All the pictures are dark and dreary because that’s what the weather was like in February.

My socks were done in time and I got some medals:

And project B was to design and knit that lace scarf, write the pattern and publish it on ravelry.

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And I did it! And I have the medals to prove it.

And out of the process you get a free pattern for a lace scarf. The scarf is called Erster Frühling/First Spring for download here. (And I get a very cozy pair of yummy socks. Even though I’m not really taken with the colors. I will have to learn chain plying for my next pair. I already ordered the roving. Because while my sock drawer is so full that I can’t quite close it anymore, I really need some more hand-spun, hand-knit socks that are really, really warm. Just in time for spring.)

Feb 042010
 

Well, most of last week was devoted to prepare my husband’s birthday party on Saturday. We started buying groceries on Wednesday, and just before we went out of the house I decided to check my e-mail, and – my computer froze on me and went dead. I tried to remain calm, did not frantically try to get it working again but instead went out with my husband to get vegetables, meat, and wine.

After we came back I switched my dead Macbook for my eight year old eMac, and hoped that I could use that for teaching. What a good thing that I had made a backup just days ago. The only thing that would have been gone forever where 1,000 words of the story I’m currently writing.

Wednesday was also the day my new notebook arrived. I absolutely love it. I have been tip-toeing around it for about a year now, thinking that I’d make one myself but it never happened. I even bought a poor substitute that I never was happy with, and that destroyed the lining in my favorite handbag with its sharp edges. I always carry a notebook, and I love that this can hold regular sized notebooks as well as loose sheets of paper.

Thursday morning I spent making lists of ingredients, and timelines for party preparations (in my new notebook), and copies of all the recipes we needed. Thursday afternoon I went to buy even more groceries. (In between I kept turning my dead computer on, and off again, and then I found that sometimes it booted from the installation disk, and that the diagnostic software claimed that the hard disk was still perfectly functional.)

Friday we did a little cleaning, then there was a great amount of teaching (as most days but that Friday was near insane). I was totally flustered because of both the looming party, and the fact that every single lesson brought up something that I needed on my computer. Also the eMac doesn’t work with my iPods. Or with any of my student’s. I started spending my free moments looking longingly at new computers. And I found that the new Macbook doesn’t come with a Firewire connection. Which I desperately need for my audio stuff.

In the afternoon one of my students suggested something for my computer that didn’t work but it brought me to a point where I googled “Macbook grey screen beeping” and found out that my problem was not a dead computer but faulty RAM. Bingo! I still had some RAM in a drawer because when I bought the computer I had immediately upgraded. And once I switched that for the old one the computer was working again. Phew! I immediately did a backup of everything.

My husband and I spent the rest of the evening preparing onions, ginger, and seasonings for next days party. And we rehearsed the Bach piece he had wanted to play for our guests. Through rehearsing we found out that the piano had de-tuned itself over the past two weeks. My poor husband had to try and match his violin to a piano that produced several pitches at once.

Our son spent the night at his grandmother’s place, very helpful. Saturday was spent cutting, and stirring, and seasoning, and cooking, and baking. In the end I barely made it into my “party clothes” and make-up, and I was really, really happy that I had insisted on setting the tables first. Which meant carrying the tables, and chairs, and plates, and glasses, and silverware down from my mother-in-laws apartment, before setting everything up. My mother would have been proud, I even had matching paper napkins.

We made Samosas, Pakoras, Naan bread, Lamb stew, fish curry, Dal, Almond Chicken, and mango creme. Doesn’t sound that much work, doesn’t it? Only we made everything from scratch, and somehow it took about nine hours to prepare everything. With the added bonus that all the dishes had to be ready at the same time, of course. I’m so not going into catering.

The party itself was very nice, only I didn’t enjoy it that much, I was just too tired. Our son managed to sprain his ankle for the second time that day, claiming that he had broken it. Well, it wasn’t broken but it wasn’t fully functional either. The party went on until three in the morning when my husband’s brother left. That conversation with him between one and three was the highlight of the day for me.

The next morning after about five hours of sleep we started cleaning and putting everything away. That went on for the whole day as well. In between we had an argument with our son who wanted to attend a birthday party despite his sprained ankle. In the end we caved in, and I took my mother-in-laws car to drive him over to that indoor playground about fifteen minutes from here. (And still I don’t know why it’s reasonable to have a birthday party where every single child gets carted around by his parents. I would have had to spend one hour in the car to get him there and back.) When we arrived at the playground thing and I got out of the car it smelled somewhat funny but I didn’t think about it. I got my son to the party, and left to go home. After some time the car started to behave in a weird way. Well, I barely got home and when I did the car stank and a woman passing on the sidewalk said, “Is your hand brake on? Haha.” Haha, very funny. At first I felt very dumb for not realizing that I had forgotten the hand brake but then I thought again, how I always check it at every single light I pass. Well, it seems that years and years of putting the car in a closed garage that’s not really ventilated might cause your hand brake to rust so that it can’t be disengaged anymore. Fun.

Now how to get my child back from the birthday party? My child that could barely walk? Before researching public transportation I remembered that there was one other mother that I recognized, and I had her phone number. I was lucky because she was home, and she agreed to take my son with her. Phew.

Monday was a quiet day, and we started to relax. Only the annex seemed to get a little cold. We didn’t think much of it and went our merry ways. On Tuesday it was clear that something with the heating was not right. But it was only the annex, not the main house. (This always sounds like we’re living in a mansion but we have a very small, very old house to which we built a three-room-annex for teaching.) So we decided to call the furnace guy the next day.

Just after teaching that day my son and mother-in-law came down the stairs and my MIL said she couldn’t bring him to do his homework. When my husband and I told him to do it right this minute he said, “Not yet…” It was six in the evening! So I threatened him into completing his homework (which took all of ten minutes, whining and crying included), and then he handed me a letter from his teacher. I’m to come in on Friday, it seem that we’re not the only ones having slight problems with him at the moment. (As an aside, we already have an appointment to get help, no worries.)

Well, we didn’t take that all that well. That evening I declared that from now on he was to sleep in his bed all night long, no exceptions. (As I explained in my last post we have a contract now, and this has resulted in him falling asleep in his bed but still every night he came over to sleep in the sleeping bag on the floor.) I had told him this but still he was very surprised when at 5 in the morning there was no sleeping bag in my bedroom for him. I told him to go back to his room and stay there. He cried, he started to bargain, but I had none of it, he had to stay. (By the way, he didn’t even mentioned being afraid that night. Seems like his fear was a convenient tool.) The rest of the night was somewhat unrestful, I had to put him back to his bed every 30 minutes or so but his protests became softer and softer.

The next day I realized that a) I had to find a way to get to the health food store without a car, and b) if I didn’t get to the big city that day the next time I could would be a week from now. So I left in a hurry while my husband phoned the furnace repair people. I went to the big city and ordered my new piano, something that would merit its own post if my life weren’t so full at the moment. We had realized that it would take us ages to save enough money for the piano, and that our regular expenses had gone down (no more daycare fee and one mortgage paid off). So I went in and ordered my new, shiny, black piano, and it’ll get here in two weeks or so.

Before leaving I received my very first shipment of the Rockin Sock Club, something really exciting but I didn’t have time to open the package yet. When I came back from my adventures in the city, laden with groceries and very hungry the furnace guy arrived and I spent the next thirty minutes helping him decipher the manual for the part of the furnace that controls the annex. Then my husband came to tell me that I had exactly ten minutes left to eat lunch before my first student arrived. (Then he spent the next hour or so helping the furnace guy who then phoned his boss who came also in.) For now we have heat in the annex again, and there will be a new part to be put in in a couple of days.

Then I taught for the rest of the day, spent the evening knitting for the first time in days, and fell asleep like a stone. I was waken by my son at 2 a.m. clutching his pillow, a blanket, and a big bag of stuffed animals but I sent him back to his room, and he didn’t even cry!

Today my husband decided to try the car again, and came back saying it went fine, nothing wrong with it. So I took it to buy groceries and get the beer cases from the party back to the store. The car acted a bit weird when I left the garage, and once I went down the street there was this “wup wup”-noise coming from the tire back right as if I had a flat. I turned around immediately and drove home again. Of course my husband thought I’d gone all female on him but when he checked the car again he barely got back into the garage after moving it for about three meters back and forth. So the car is clearly broken. Fortunately this is mostly my mother-in-laws problem since it’s her car but since we all use it we’ll pay half of the repair. Unless it’s very expensive which will mean it won’t be worth it. We already decided that we won’t buy a new car again. We’ll see.

So now I hope that the next week will be a little quieter. Tomorrow I’ll see my son’s teacher, some time the next week we’ll get our heating in order again, and then I’ll get my new piano, and then we’ll have “winter break” for a week.

How are your lives going? Exciting as well?

Oh, and by the way I have a piano to sell. It’s walnut, about thirty years old, and just had a complete overhaul.

Dec 032009
 

I just taped my NaNoWriMo winner certificate underneath my other NaNoWriMo winner certificates. I don’t know what it is about these competitions, I can’t stand to not win. The rest of the year I’m sitting on my lazy butt and don’t do anything much. But yeah, I did it – again – I wrote 50,000 words in November. The story is about one third done, and while I like the plot and the characters the language is blah, and since this story wanted to be fantasy I need fancy words, and names, and a fake history for their country and there are a few things that have to be made logical.

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Of course my plan was to continue on, and make this mad November-dash into a nice little daily habit but so far it’s been the same thing as the years before, I haven’t written one word after crossing over the finish line.

This year I managed to do this as low stress as possible, I was very good and wrote mostly in the mornings, even if that meant turning on the computer at 6.15 and writing 500 words at breakneck speed until it was time to wake up my son. I never wrote late in the evening, these days I’m just too tired for that.

Life conspired against me, and so I ended up falling behind starting the second week. And I fell behind and behind until at the beginning of the last week I was on the brink of giving up. Then I remembered that that’s always what happens, I start out all smug, ahead of the game and then I feel like I can never do it. And then I decided to finish early even, and I had two days where I wrote like crazy. The second of these days was Saturday and that was the only day in this year’s NaNo that I asked my husband to do everything else so I could write. I wrote 6,000 words that day, and I even went grocery shopping, and took a shower. (Not necessarily in that order.)

I also finished knitting my NaKniSweMo-sweater the day after. Now it is sitting there looking at me because I still need to weave in the ends, wash it, get buttons and sew them on. The sweater is very pretty, I’m only afraid it might not fit because the yarn is rumored to grow bigger with washing. Sadly I can’t show you a picture because I keep forgetting to take one while there is still light outside. My motivation for really finishing it is also quite low because I won’t be wearing it for the next months. While it is wool it doesn’t have a turtleneck, and I know from experience that only turtlenecks make me warm enough in winter not to catch a cold. So, this lovely low neckline will be something for early spring.

I found that knitting a sweater in a month isn’t all that hard for me. Even when I start five days late, and I’m knitting something in a fine gauge, that is to say with sock yarn. The knitting was very pleasant and quite mindless. I find that that’s the way to go at the moment, my head is quite full, mostly with mundane and trivial things, and so I enjoy knitting stockinette around, and around, and around. Quite unusual for me.

As every year I find December quite overwhelming. There’s the present buying, and the present choosing for Christmas as well as my son’s, my mother-in-laws, and my husband’s birthday. There’s the school things to do like helping with the Christmas crafting, making and wrapping a nice little present for my son (that’s not supposed to cost anything, nice touch), and about half a million things I just can’t remember right now. We have already reached the point where we don’t go anywhere anymore, and if you’d happen to invite us anytime until February the answer would be an automatic “no”.

I’m still blessed to be teaching quite a lot, and I mean really a lot. For the first time in years I had to turn down a potential student last week. My timetable is full. On the upside that might mean I might get my new piano a little bit earlier. Last week I suddenly had a revelation about the piano. I thought that if I wait until I have all the money to buy it I will never get it. But I could pay it in installments. That’s totally do-able. And reasonable. Yes, it is. So I’m looking at a bright new shiny piano in my future. Sometime next year, I hope.

And my husband will be giving me this for Christmas. It’s a flyer for my spinning wheel. It’s called a “freedom flyer”; that does sound lovely, doesn’t it? A friend already told me about it, and when the new “spin-off” magazine arrived there was an ad in there, and I made my husband drop everything so I could show it to him. I would have bought it right away myself with part of the money I got for teaching those two knitting workshops but then my glasses broke on Saturday, and so that money will go elsewhere. And he (my husband) said, “Does that mean you want this for Christmas?” And I said, “I don’t know, it is too expensive, and I don’t really need it.” “Do you want it?” “Um, yes.” “Then I’ll give it to you for Christmas. Go on and order it.” And I did.

Oh, and about the glasses? Turns out that I’m getting old. Well, I knew that but not only do I need glasses to help me with my nearsightedness, I need reading glasses as well! For now I’m trying to do without but this will get interesting (and quite expensive) in the future.

On the plus side I’m getting new glasses! And they look pretty! And it will be safe to wear them for driving! And I will be able to watch TV again! Because right now I’m wearing glasses that are way old, and the whole world is fuzzy and looks a bit depressing. I spend most of my time spinning while listening to podcasts…

Nov 062009
 
  1. Just so you know what I’m doing:

  2. Yes, I decided to do NaNoWriMo again this year. First I was all sensible and only wanted to use it to get back into a regular writing habit, and write about 500 words a day. And finish a story I had started in June. Then I thought that not starting something new was like cheating. And then I thought, “Well, I can try how many words I can write comfortably without stress during fall break, and then I can decide later.” And – I think I’m hooked again. For now it’s really enjoyable if a bit crazy, I have managed to write mostly in the mornings so I could do other things later in the day without having to live with the dread of unwritten words all day long. In the past I have often procrastinated until bedtime and then written in a very bad mood and very tired.

  3. I’m also doing NaKniSweMo. But a little less seriously. Either it works or it doesn’t, and since I’m knitting a sweater with fingering weight yarn on 2.5 mm needles and couldn’t start before yesterday there’s a fair chance I won’t finish it in November. But I’ll try.
  4. nakniswemo-icon

  5. Since my last post I followed the advice of the beautiful Jo and got myself some new, low heel, pricey, and gorgeous boots from this place. So far I love them, I can even stuff my pant legs into them and still close them. They also work with hand-knit socks since I bought them one size bigger than I usually need. And I have walked in them for about twenty minutes already without chafing or anything. Great.
  6. Now I have to run and meet with my family, and get ready for lunch. See ya.
Mar 202009
 

Lo and behold, here are the pictures of the doll’s clothes (is this a doll or a stuffed animal?) I made between 1976 and 1981. (I wrote about the first of these clothes that I made when I told you how I learned to knit and crochet.) In chronological order:

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Nice summer combination of sleeveless top and short skirt. Think of a day spent sailing on a lake.

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Cozy and practical sleeping bag. Removable pack of tissues as a pillow. Notice the border in contrasting color. (The designer probably ran out of yarn.)

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There’s a few year’s gap between the above models and this one. Here there’s actual seamless construction in a floor length sturdy gown with puffy long sleeves. The dress is buttoned at the back and features single rows of single crochet in a brighter color to add interest.

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This model is meant to be worn at elegant tea or garden parties. A black skirt sets off the brightly pink top, again with long sleeves. The bow at the neck adds a little extra touch, and for those chilly evening breezes there is a nice black shawl to complete the outfit.

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City wear in bright colors. This is an 80s model after all. A simple straight and sleeveless dress that can be worn with or without the matching short sleeved jacket. The simplicity of the piece draws the attention to it’s cheerful color, and the interesting texture achieved by irregularly placed rows of single and double crochet.

The next dress is actually my very first piece of sewing. My mother made herself a dress at that time, and since I was so interested she decided to teach me machine-sewing. The fabric is leftovers from her dress. She helped me measure the doll, and cutting the pieces, then I sew the front and back of the dress, and the hem. My mother helped me gather the skirt and then she sew it to the top of the dress. She also made the hat. (So this time my mother’s the designer, not me.) There was a matching shawl made from thin red cotton but I don’t have it anymore.

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A light summer dress made of brightly printed cotton. Notice the matching sun bonnet with it’s pretty rick-rack at the brim.

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Again a summer dress, lacy and flowing, fit for a party in a nice dusty pink. Unlike the earlier works this one is knit instead of crochet which gives the fabric a nice flowing drape.

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This one is for colder weather, a wooly coat and matching hat. The moss stitch fabric is gathered at the cuffs. The double-breasted front is once again closed with bows. The crocheted hat has a ruffled brim that frames the face and a bow in contrasting yarn to add more visual interest.

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Another evening gown, a straight top and skirt with embroidered detail at the neck and shoulders made from a sleek, silk-like material. This model also features a matching bag with embroidered detail, and matching shoes (not pictured because they didn’t fit the model).

It’s really interesting to me to see all these in one place. I find that I still avoid seaming as much as I can. I even used pinky shears to cut out the pieces for the green, hand-sewn dress so that I didn’t have to sew more than absolutely necessary. The preference for bows and yarn as closures is due tot he fact that I didn’t have any buttons. Later I took inexpensive snap-fasteners that my mother didn’t mind giving me.

The other reason for why I tend to knit as seamless as possible came to me just a few days ago when I used my little sewing kit that I got from my grand-aunt when I was 14. I needed a tapestry needle and when I took it out that I had another one tucked away in there which I hadn’t known about for twenty years or so. In my youth there was the tapestry needle. One. It lives (to this day) in my mother’s knitting basket. We were not allowed to take it without asking, and we had to put it back immediately afterwards. Of course I avoided asking for it as much as possible.

I thought tapestry needles were expensive and rare. I don’t know when I decided to buy my own, certainly some time before I moved out of my parent’s house, and imagine my surprise when I found that tapestry needles are actually quite cheap, and that you can’t buy one only, you have to take a packet of two. At the moment I’m the proud owner of about four or five of them, the two I bought myself, and two or three that came with the sewing basket I inherited from my husband’s grandmother who was a seamstress.

Of course the doll clothes you see above aren’t the only ones I made when I was young. But these are the only ones I still have. I kept them because I liked them so much. I remember making clothes for a stuffed ape in bright yellow, blue, and pink cotton, crochet dresses for Barbie dolls, purses, and hats, and such. All made from leftover yarn and fabrics. I’m not sure but the yarn in the first picture on the top might actually be leftover yarn from my third big knitting project, a Norwegian sweater with colored yoke. When I was a child, I didn’t know you could have a home without a sack of leftover yarn and fabric in the attic.

Mar 062009
 

Don’t get that wrong, these aren’t things that I knitted in February, I only finished them last month. I’ll start with the one that had been laying around the longest. It’s also the one I’m extremely proud of, look:

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I started them on a whim more than a year ago. The pattern is Tiffany by Sabine Riefler. I used leftover yarn from a crochet scarf, and in their first incarnation they looked completely different. I had to frog them since they were a) way too big for me, which wasn’t much of a problem since my husband said he’d like them, but then I b) ran out of yarn. I ripped, I started a doll’s sweater with the yarn, I ripped the sweater, I read a bit about doing two-handed stranded knitting, I tried again on tiny, tiny needles, and there they are. In two-handed stranded knitting you’re holding one color of yarn in each hand, and you knit continental with one hand, and English with the other. It was very weird at first, especially since I had to modify the way I knit continental, too, since usually when I’m knitting I’m using both hands. In this case I had to free my right index finger. At first I felt like wearing handcuffs, and my right hand hurt but in the end it got easier and more comfortable. And I really love the way the knitting looks and feels, and most of all that there are no strands on the inside. Someday I will make a whole sweater using this technique, I’m sure.

By the way these are all crappy photos because it’s still grey in grey here.

Then there’s the cardigan that I started last year in June. It still needs washing, blocking, and a button. It looks really crumpled because the yarn used to be an almost finished bobbled and cabled sweater that lay in the attic for something like 14 years. It survived the big de-cluttering of 2004 only because I like the color, and I thought that it might become a new sweater eventually. Last year when I saw the pattern Something Red by Wendy Bernard I wanted to make it immediately, and I thought about the yarn in the attic. So I unraveled the bobbled monstrosity, wound up the yarn and re-knit it. No, I didn’t wash the yarn first. Silly. I’ll have to wash and block the finished thing anyway. I made it a bit too small because I think the cotton will become bigger with wearing. This will either be something that I wear all the time, or something that I don’t love at all. The knitting went really fast, until I got bored with the plain stockinette, and with the cotton (because I really don’t like knitting with cotton). I have this feeling that maybe my knitting basket dooms project because the cotton sweater sat in there, only lacking one sleeve for months, and months, and now I have started a new sweater which lives in the basket, and again I am both enthusiastic, and reserved. We’ll see how that one turns out.

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I also finished my Clapotis. I had bought some Wollmeise Lace Yarn, which I wanted to use for Mystic Earth. Well, it was much too colorful for that. So I made it into this:

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Much better. Also needs blocking, of course. If I go on finishing things at this rate, and not blocking them I will need a special closet for “things to be washed and blocked”. Right now they are blocking both of our dressers. Ahem.

Another one from Wollmeise, this time Wollmeise sock yarn:

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The pattern is Ornette by Cookie A. I love the intricacy of her patterns and also the fact that she named so many of them after Jazz musicians. I will have to knit a Thelonious Sock eventually because Thelonious Monk is one of my favorite musicians of all times.

Then there was the re-knit of Gretel because the first one turned out too big for me:

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You can find a picture of the bigger one here, and there you can actually see the pattern of the hat. I really love Ysolda’s designs, they make me very happy.

The last thing I want to show you for today is yet another shawl out of Wollmeise Lace, Irtfa’a by Anne Hanson. When you click on the link you’ll see that it is supposed to look like a raven’s wing, well, mine rather looks like a bird of paradise, maybe a psychedelic bird of paradise:

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Again with the crumpled look because again, not blocked. Which is why you can’t really see how beautiful it’s going to be. In my defense I have to say that the drum set is sitting on the rug that I use for blocking. But who knows, maybe someday I’ll block everything, and then the sun will shine, and I’ll show you even more pictures of knitting in reds.

For those few of you who’d want to read even more about my projects, you can find me on ravelry. And of course I already started three new projects, or rather four, a pair of plain socks to take with me when riding trains and such, a little doll designed by Ysolda for my son, an olive green turtleneck for me, and a lace stole. Not that much, don’t you think?

Jan 222009
 

Though calling it a “project” is somewhat weird. But of my many big (and much more smaller) projects the first one, the making of a lactose-free Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte was completed successfully and on time for my husband’s birthday. Look:

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I started the whole thing almost a week before by buying all the ingredients. I found a recipe online (only German, sorry), and substituted the whipping cream with lactose-free whipping cream, and the chocolate with yummy dark chocolate that has no milk in it either.

I was completely nervous beforehand because I never made a cake like this in my life. I started on Sunday (after my son had gone to bed) and made this:

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My cookbook was not entirely helpful with this because it said to bake it until it felt like “cotton wool”. When I first pulled it out of the oven it did feel right but further probing with a toothpick revealed that the insides were still liquid, so I put it back, and the next time I looked it was starting to turn too dark.

The next day I cut the cake into three layers by means of sewing thread, borrowed some equipment from my mother-in-law, and went looking for the rest of my baking equipment in the basement. At about six in the evening I had this:

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After whipping enormous amounts of cream, dumping one layer crosswise onto the other, smearing the whole kitchen with cream, and another hour of work the cake finally was done. The next morning we ate some of it for breakfast. It tasted delicious, and my mother-in-law has declared it to be “better than store-bought”. Ha!

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I’m happy that this went so well, even if it was a bit wonky, but then it’s a cake, not a sculpture. My husband was duly moved and said that it was one of his very favorite birthday presents. I also gave him a knitted hat with the needles still in it ( a very traditional gift), and a set of Monty Python movies to take his mind off the unfinished hat, and he liked those too.

I only fear that I might have started a tradition of handmade birthday cakes around here…

Jan 142009
 

In fact, they are multiplying like bunnies, I seem to be unable to stop them, and it feels like a disease.

It all began last Thursday, when I realized that since my husband, who is lactose-intolerant, seems to be okay with lactose-free butter, cream cheese, and such I would be able to make a lactose-free Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (“Black Forest Cherry Cake”, I assume) for his upcoming birthday. I have never done such an elaborate cake (three layers, lots of whipping cream, chocolate batter, cherries, and decorating) in my life. So I had to make it into a project, complete with research, lists, the purchase of supplies, and a timetable to get it ready on time.

Then, on the same day, my mother-in-law approached me with a newspaper clipping of a fabric sale. Because my son had told her that he wanted to have a dolphin costume for carnival. Um. I really had hoped he had forgotten. I have tried to steer him towards nice pirate costumes, and books, and stories for months now, to no avail. Because the moment somebody told him the motto of this year’s kindergarten carnival party (above and under the sea) he wanted to be a dolphin. Now I’m stuck with the task of constructing, and sewing a dolphin costume. I thought I had found a clever way to make it easy when I found a how-to in a blog, but that costume was immediately rejected by my picky son. He wants one that looks like this. Which is for adults, has fans and ventilation and costs somewhat about 1,000€.

I spent most of Saturday researching dolphin costumes, thinking about construction, picking out fabric, and ordering some. Both my son and my husband told me they’d help with this but then, none of them can sew.

The third project was another upcoming family event. We have been invited to celebrate the birthdays of my husband uncle and aunt with them This shouldn’t be a problem at all, only I found myself worrying about every aspect of the whole thing on and off. What to wear? Will we go by train or car? (They’re living a little more than 100 km away.) When we go by train, how long would that take? Would they have room enough to take all four of us in their car from the station? How will the weather be? They are living in a place where people go to have skiing vacations. Our car isn’t exactly up to that. When we go by train how will we take the car seat with us? And on and on.

For once I decided to accept that I am a person who will worry about these things way too early. That telling myself not to worry doesn’t work. So I sat down, researched timetables, routes, printed out maps, ordered a lighter car seat for our son, discussed everything with both my husband and my mother-in-law, and now I’m set. I asked my mother-in-law to ask her brother-in-law if his car is big enough, and otherwise to please ask her other son if they could pick up one of us at the train station. Now I’m much more at peace with the whole thing, I have done all I can, for now.

I thought these projects were enough but then I got an invitation on ravelry to join a group planning the first ever German raveler meeting. I looked at it, and I could go because it’s the last weekend of summer vacation. Then I took a look at the workshops they offer. I wasn’t interested much. Then I saw that they are still looking for people to lead various workshops. And then I volunteered to hold one on sock construction according to Cat Bordhi. Then I started worrying again. Trains, hotels, workshops, what to wear (it’s in September, mind you). How to do the workshop. I even started mapping out a plan for the workshop, and again I found that I probably will continue doing this over and over again, until I write it down. So, today I might be doing just that. Sit down and plan a workshop I’ll be giving in September.

Seriously, my brain feels like it’s bursting. I’m longing for the promise of “mind like water” but I’m doubtful if I can achieve that in any amount of time. Everywhere I look in this house there is something screaming “do me!”, “clean me!”, “put me away!”. We’re slowly getting there but then there’s still the other things I already started like: the knitting projects currently on the needles, the knitting projects I just ordered the yarn for, the stories I started writing that aren’t finished yet, the finished knitting that still needs taking pictures of it, the 1,047 things I have to remember, people I have to call, e-mails I have to write. Things like “fill out this slip and bring it to kindergarten on Thursday”, “ask so-and-so about this”, “remind so-and-so of that”, buy this, take that away, go there, do this, and don’t forget anything.

It’s not so much about time management, it’s about brain management, and about emotions management. I have written about this in a post titled “How to be creative when you don’t have the time (part 3)“. Time to revisit myself maybe.