Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Difficult decisions

Sunday I had to make some choices. Not quite life or death, but close to it for a die-hard knitter (no pun intended). What knitting projects should I bring with me on my knitting mini-vacation?

Overcome with work stress, I had booked 3 days off work and made reservations at one of my favorite lodges up North. My plan was to spend some solitary hours doing nothing but knit, relax, and let others cook for me. My hubby was all for it, especially since he'd been away at a work conference back in February. He knew I had some me-time coming to me.

So what knitting to bring? Like some, I have several WIPs, hopping from one to the next depending on mood and opportunity. Do I knit for my daughter? She's been asking for a doll, a gingerbread man and a ladybug. I'd also started a poncho for her, after discovering the perfect cotton for a pattern I bought a year ago.

No, I decided that this was my retreat. My chance to knit the things I didn't get around to at home for various reasons. The lace scarf that's been hibernating for months? No, too fiddly. I wanted to relax...

I knew I would pack too many projects, but I wanted to have options depending on my mood. After much debate, I decided to pack:
  • Suzy's poncho. Mother's guilt at leaving her made me promise that it would be done when I returned. And it was stockinette, a nice simple, relaxing knit.
  • the sock I'd started using Knitpick's Felici. This stuff is so soft and scrumptious. And the putty color I'd picked was knitting up beautifully in the Primavera pattern. Primavera is a 6 row repeat that's super easy to memorize. The Felici strips up perfectly, with each color taking up exactly 1 repeat of the pattern.
  • Some Knitpick's Essential sock yarn for a pattern I've been percolating in my mind.
  • My mitred square blanket which has been languishing in the back of my knitting queue. Again, a simple pattern but rich with color.
  • A pattern that I'm experimenting with. Shhhhh! It's a secret.
  • A few other bits and bobs.

So what would you bring with you for a knitting retreat?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Embossed Leaves for Caroline

I have one of the most precious gifts a person could have: a knit-worthy friend.

Caroline is truly one of the most giving, caring, kind and generous people I have ever met. She has literally given me the shirt off her back, simply because I admired it. (Granted, I've given her clothes too. But heck, one day I complimented her shirt, the next day it was wrapped up and sitting on my desk at work.)

Caroline is a person that others flock to instinctively. A typical weekend at her house will see a stream of visitors dropping by and an army of tweens and teens trooping in and out (she has a 10 yr old girl and 16 yr old boy). Everyone is greeted with a smile or hug in welcome. She doles out food and drink while keeping up a constant stream of happy conversation.

If anything could make me believe in a higher power, karma or what-not, it would be Caroline. The more she gives, the more she receives. She is one of the luckiest people I know. While she is perfectly content with what she has, she seems to always be the recipient of some beneficence.

To be around her is to be enveloped in a warm circle of friendship and happiness. She is wise with her counsel. Caroline has that rare gift of knowing when to offer advice and just how to phrase it in a positive and encouraging way. She has helped me through one of the roughest patches in my life. And I am eternally grateful to her for that.

So I struggled with the question of what to give Caroline for her birthday. She had recently gifted me with what I consider to be one of the best and most generous and thoughtful of birthday presents, on a day that I had desperately been in need of cheering up. What kind of present could demonstrate the gratitude I feel for having her in my life and show how important she is to me?

Socks, of course! But as any knitter knows, these aren't just socks. I could've just bought socks at Costco if I wanted to give her socks. These are hours and hours of my time spent making something. These are approximately 18,000 stitches and therefore 18,000 times I thought of her. These are 2 cozy pieces of wool, alpaca and nylon (for strength!) to keep her feet warm.

Happy Birthday Caroline, my most knit-worthy friend.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

No half measures

I took to knitting the same way I tackled running when I decided to get into shape the year before my daughter was born. Full steam ahead.

That February I had decided to start running again. To motivate myself, I signed up for a 5K (3 miles) run in April. That way I'd be forced to get up early and hit the road for my training runs, if only to ensure I didn't embarass myself by taking 2 hours to complete the 5K.

I finished the 5K in 31 minutes - a personal record.

The endorphin high obviously flipped the crazy switch in my brain. Before I knew it, I'd signed up for a half-marathon in September. That gave me 6 months to go from running 5K to running 21K (3 miles to 13.1 miles). Never mind the special project I'd been assigned at work, that would occupy me for 2 months (June/July). Never mind the vacation to Scotland we planned at the last minute. Never mind the new job at work, which required tons of overtime.

In the end, I managed to complete only half my training runs - although I never missed one of my long runs (except the week I was in Scotland). Yet somehow, I ran that half-marathon. I not only ran it - I finished the sucker in a better than expected time! 2hrs 22min and some-odd seconds. And afterward no hobbling, no sore muscles. I felt great. Accomplished. Proud.

Same thing with knitting. After finishing the baby cap, which was our knitting class project, I tackled a garter stitch baby hat and scarf. Unsatisfied and unchallenged, I set my sites on something that would test my skills.

A 2'x6' shawl made up of 3 distinct patterns.

That shawl was my half-marathon of knitting. I started out a little uncertain, gained confidence in the middle stretch after getting warmed up, and in the final stretch felt it would never end. But I did finish, the same way I finished the race: one stitch (step) at a time.

After I wove in the final piece of yarn, I felt great.

It all began so innocently

In October 2006, I took a 6 week course at my local library. It was geared at teaching tweens and teens the basics of knitting, but anyone was welcome to join. My daughter was 15 months old. I'd recently gone back to work. And I desperately needed a few hours a week out of the house.

I honestly didn't think it was something I'd enjoy. But the price was right - free. The library was a short 2 minute drive from home. So I signed up. As with all beginners, I was all thumbs for the first few classes. But then I caught on.

And I fell in love.