Monday, March 23, 2009

Don't I Know You?

It's been a week since my last blog post - I seldom let this much time go by without an update.

The truth is, I've been frustrated. BY THE SKIRT.

Stupid skirt.

The good news is that the Mango Moon Silk Ribbon rips out and reknits VERY nicely. The bad news is that I'm just not able to get my mind wrapped around the best way to get this skirt done.

I'm at the point of just leaving it and moving on to something else.

I know that's the wise thing to do - obviously this skirt is just not that into me, and the more I pursue it, the more of an idiot I appear. Didn't I go through this in college? Several times?

I need to be cagier, less eager, act like I don't really care.

"Oh, I remember you!
You're that - skirt - I used to hang around with, right?

I was SO young and inexperienced then, what a fool I must have seemed.

So how are you? Been getting around much, finding other folks to knit you up?

No?

Quel suprise!"


So I'm putting it aside and moving on. At my low points it makes me sad, makes me weep, and makes me feel as though I've wasted a week of my life.

But it's not a failure, just a deferred success, right? The time spent on the skirt isn't wasted, it's hard earned knit design training and when I DO return to the skirt I'll be more refreshed. I hope.

So I'll put this lovely yarn away, to return to another day, and continue on with the EGYPTIAN SET! I'll be swatching this morning so I can figure out the pattern, then I'll dive into it.

Shoulder
Yes, it still hurts. Dang. Perhaps if I hadn't been fool enough to RAKE THE ENTIRE BACK YARD the other day, I'd be more whole. And for added emphasis I dug out all of the leaves in the front yard under the hedge.

I am a fool - but my yard is tidier!


To be honest I couldn't help myself - it was a lovely, warm day, I was reading about gardeners, and I felt the need for seed. Unfortunately there's still no planting going on in our tiny yard - the ground is solid (it's frozen just a few inches down wherever I dig, and we still have a couple of icebergs in our yard) but the trees are budding.

Visits
On Saturday afternoon my good friend Karen came by, along with Gail and Annie A., and we sat on our back deck and knitted, ate, drank some fine wine and had a lovely time. I love my friends, love meeting new ones and love that I've reached a point where I'm developing some deeper friendships here.

Earlier on Saturday I biked over to Amore Coffee with Maxie and met a neighbor who's also a knitting guild member. What a joy to have neighbors who knit - nice, kind, smart, funny neighbors who get my jokes and KNIT!

So sore shoulder and non-functioning skirt design be damned, it's Spring and every day that it's sunny I'm out on my bike. Life is good, my taxes are almost done and I never have to get on skiis again if I don't want to.

Speaking of skiing, Gerry and I have both been pretty shaken by Natasha Richardson's tragic accident.

As you may recall, he did great with the skiing, even making it down the smallest non-bunny hill a few times (sitting down on the way twice.) I gave up after lesson #2, falling on my shoulder during the second lesson seemed to have clipped my wings.

So when we heard about Ms. Richardson's fall on a beginner slope, and how quickly it became fatal, it made us both swallow hard. I wear my helmet when I bike, and from now on I'll make sure that if any of us are doing something with the possibility of a violent fall we'll have appropriate headgear. I hadn't realized just how many fatalities are caused by head injury.

If nothing else comes of this senseless accident, I hope that more folks begin to realize how fragile our skulls are, how sensitive our brains, and how easily we can leave those we love behind.

So, yes, I guess I'll take the sore shoulder with gratitude. Now on to some new swatching...

...and have I mentioned how in love our cats are with each other?

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mulligan Skirt

The Minoan set is going very nicely - loving the surplice and shrug - so I started on the skirt on Thursday.
Good Stuff
The yarn is lovely, I'm loving the combination of colors and it's fun to knit.

Bad Stuff
The gauge was too loose, the skirt seemed too long, I wasn't happy with the hem circumference compared to the waist.
So, long story short, I ripped it out today and I'm reknitting it on needles 2 sizes smaller.

Do I love doing this? No. But I don't really mind. It's a fun knit. And this is the beauty of not having an editorial deadline for this whole adventure. Am I the only person in the world who actually works faster WITHOUT a deadline?

I'd rather have it as something that I am proud of, than something I swallow hard and turn the page when I see (yes, every designer has those projects...)

I actually kind of like the skirt I came up with, but it's not right for this project. It's something to remember, though, when I want to do a version of a pencil skirt, and I think it would be very flattering. But then, I'm one of those insane folks who think that a good sized booty isn't a bad thing, and a curve is just part of our makeup.

With or without curves, we all have the potential to be gorgeous.

That potential rests inside of us, what our mothers said was true. So much of beauty is a confident and happy feeling, which is really hard to achieve when we judge ourselves too harshly.

But this started as the story of a skirt...

As an homage to the long Mediterranean tradition of weaving, I'm hoping this skirt - this entire Minoan set - will bring to mind different weaves and woven patterns as the knitter works them up.

So today while Gerry had his last skiing lesson (I chickened out - my arm is STILL sore from last week and I just can't afford to do any more damage to my mortgage-earning limbs) and Max tore up the slopes on the half price, used skis and boots we got him at Play It Again, I ripped and reknit. I got one of the 8 sections done for the skirt, and I am much happier with this version.

Yes - you read right - Gerry has finished skiing lesson #3 and took 4 trips down a 'real' hill. Twice he thought better of it at the top and sat down for a bit, but each time he made it down. I am so proud of him I could cry. Me, not so proud of myself - but at least I gave the skiing a good try...

My plan is to include panels that are worked with the triple twist drop stitch (I used this in a shawl for Vogue last year) and when the whole skirt is complete these stitches will become a sort of "warp" into which I will weave a contrasting ribbon yarn for 8 woven panels.

The garments of Greece at this time were woven, not knit. I was so pleased when Ruth mentioned in the comments that she felt the tops had a woven feeling - that's exactly what I'm going for. I love the book Woman's Work by Elizabeth Wayland Barber, it gave this non-weaver a greater appreciation of the traditional way of creating fabric.

Chiton
My knitter in Holland, Miriam Tegels, is doing amazing stuff with the yarn I sent to her. She's projecting that I didn't send enough, so more will be on the way as soon as it arrives from the manufacturer.
She sent a photo of the piece en route, she's such a dear!

She's enjoying the Buffalo Gold Lux as much as I did - it's a lot of fun to knit up - and the beads I sent seem to be working out well, too.

I'm so psyched to see this piece finished!

Update: In case anyone had any question as to Miriam's amazing speed, look what she sent me today. A testament to her speed AND to the knitability of this beautiful yarn. This is going to be a wonderful piece!!

Ravelry as Design Tool
I'm Raveling about each of these projects as they're in process to raise interest in the HoTN project in general. It also gives me a good place to keep track of how long each garment is taking me, needle size, etc.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

On to Greece!

I'm sorry I've been posting less often, my shoulder's been pretty painful and I've been devoting my active time to knitting rather than blogging.

I've been working up the 3 pieces I'm calling the Minoan Set, so named because the design is based on garments worn by the Minoan Snake Goddess statuette discovered on Crete. I thought this would be a wonderful chance to use simple shapes and rustic fibers to create an interesting historical silhouette.

The fiber for the two tops (Shrug & Surplice) is Dharma, a recycled silk by Mango Moon, giving the piece an almost 'raw silk-like' appearance. It looks rough, but feels SO lovely and has a deep shine that isn't apparent at first glance.

These aren't showy pieces, but they're warm and very alive. They're also an odd combination of body skimming, yet barely shaped.

I'm particularly happy with the shaping on the surplice, which is so simple that it feels like an Eileen Fisher piece to me.

There is a bit of shaping lower down on the fronts, and I do a tricky manuver where I join the shoulders except for a few sts at the front necks and use these stitches to create a neck hugging back collar.

The shrug is shaped by creating a rectangle which is split halfway up the length to create the Fronts edges. When the rectangle is finished, it's folded lengthwise and the underarm seams are joined. The remaining stitches are picked up and worked in ribbing to create the very short body.

Simple, but effective.

I think I'm especially pleased with these pieces because I had an idea for them, but I wasn't 100% sure it would work. It was one of those things where I held the details at arms length and just picked a yarn which spoke to me and jumped in with both feet.

These were Garments of Trust, which I've learned can only be created when many, many hours of pondering precede the jumping.

Add to that my discovery that this fiber does NOT like to be ripped out, and once I'd started I knew I had to be disciplined in my leaping, no matter how free-form it may seem to someone watching from the outside.

Next up is the skirt, which I'll be starting tonight. It's going to be out of a lovely, earthy, colorful ribbon and my challenge is to make the fabric light enough to be comfortable, but not too - ahem - ventilated. Stay tuned!

Ski Bum
Max is officially a ski kid. I cannot believe how much he's taken to this sport - it's in his blood. So we headed off to Play It Again sports armed with our 20% off coupon (thank you, local paper!) and got him some incredibly well priced skis and boots. LOVE the end of the winter sales. Bottom line - for the cost of 2 rentals he's outfitted for next year.

Until he outgrows the boots. But we've discovered a wonderful event called the Ski Swap which reportedly takes place in October, and we may be swapping up a size in Max's boots.

We'd love to find some skis & boots for Hannah, too, as that will allow her to join the ski club at her school and go off every few weeks to Afton Alps for less than I'd every expected. It really is a wonderland here - there is SO much for kids to do.

Myself? I will not be downhill skiing. But I have taken the suggestions on snowshoeing very seriously, and that - and/or cross country skiing - may be my winter sport of choice. Or knitting.

Cruise
I just received my tickets / info for the Craft Cruise I'll be participating in with Drew Emborsky in early April. I am MORE excited than I'd imagined I'd be, Drew is such a doll and I'm very excited to have so much casual time with a group of students. The only fly in the ointment is that the cruise - or at least my portion - isn't as full as I would have wished. Oh, well.

I've been told that Caribbean Cruises are especially difficult to fill these days, and I would give quite a bit to be able to afford to take Gerry, but I can either choose to fret over these two things or I can choose to prepare.

So I'll prepare - and hopefully it will be the start of a series of terrifyingly well-attended cruises. ("Everybody - let's play Titanic! Run to the bow!!) and the next one will be a greater success in the signups department.

Drama Queen
Hannah's discovered theater (I wondered when it would happen!) and just came home GLOWING from her first performance at her Jr. High play. I missed opening night (driving Max to his own activities) but tomorrow night is my night to see her shine.

Sometimes Gerry and I just sit back in amazement at how our kids are growing in so many different, wonderful directions here in Minnesota. This is a good place to be for an 11 & 12 year old, that's for sure.

Tweedle-lee-deedle-lee-dee
I am LOVING Twitter, and I don't care who knows it.

There's been a lot of trash talk about it lately from folks who a) Aren't tweeting, b) Are threatened by the tweet, and c) Just like to say nasty things about new technology.

But I adore it.

I get updates from my congressman (okay, I wish he were, but he's in the adjacent district. Love me some Keith Ellison...) and from one of my favorite senators, Claire M. And my favorite Top Chef contestant.

I get coupons from my favorite local pizza place, got back in touch with an old friend from my Martha Stewart days, and receive Ravelry updates on open ad space. I can find out what my favorite NPR pundit, code monkey, fiber mover & shaker, dark lord, yarn company, political TV wonk (and this one, too) or independent soul are doing.

When one works at home - works alone - it's, well, lonely. I'm very self motivated, I can get a lot of stuff done AND do a Wii workout before noon, but I miss having other designer-y, knitter-y, crochet-y folks to bounce ideas off of.

But this is the closest thing I have to co-workers - to a water cooler - here in my house.

It's also a great place to troll for unsuspecting scrabble partners (I recently got five bingos in one game and have my opponent convinced I have sacrificed a small animal to the Scrabble gods)

And that's why my Tweeter avatar is the image to the left.

If you're interested in Twitter, a great place to start is one of the desktop applications that allow you to receive tweets, follow folks, without tying up a browser window. I use Twhirl, suggested by Guido (it's a purl man podcast) and I've been loving it.

So - here's one vote FOR Twitter. And Daniel Schorr agrees.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Short Post, Sore Arm

As we left for skiing yesterday I told Gerry, "I'm scared, but not nervous - I know I'll be okay, but I'm also aware of what might go wrong..."

Downhill Farewell
Skiing may not be for me
(at least I didn't hit a tree...)

Controlling speed is hard to master,
I speak from personal disaster.

The longer skiis made the challenge easier,
but with each run I got much queasier.

And yet my shoulder aches and creaks,
But not as much as it did last week!

In the end I chose to walk away
so I could knit another day.

So I have one more day of skiing lessons next Sunday. I'm not loving it. I'm not hating, it, either - and I feel as if I'd REALLY be into it without the dual worries of Gerry falling and me hurting myself so badly I can't do my work.

This past week was a slow work week, I got less than half as much done as I wanted because of the pain in my shoulder. So yesterday when I did a few runs down the bunny hill (stopping each time - bravo me!) but then lost control and fell, I knew in my heart that the most prudent route would be to walk away from the lesson 20 minutes early and live to knit on Monday.

The instructor was great about it, "You've worked VERY hard today..." so with that sanction I returned to the picnic tables and enjoyed the sun while Gerry and Max skiied.

Gerry's still on the bunny hill, but he's got a lot more control than I do. He said that he never really felt the frightening 'out of control' feeling he's felt in the past when he stood on a skateboard.

I think his reduced height (6" in 2 years) and his lighter weight both helped his mass not outperform his muscle. And I also think the Wii's been helping his strength and balance.

But my problem seems to be that my height + weight together give me so much mass that I just don't have the muscle to control my trajectory.

So although I'm not saying "Goodbye, forever!" to skiing (next year I am DEFINITELY going to attempt cross country at Como), I think I've come to terms with the fact that I'm more of a snow-tuber than a downhill-skiier.

Or, as I like to think of it, I'm a "Snow Potato"

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Minoan Snakes & Living Yarn

This may be the item that got the whole idea going.

A few years ago I ran across this image and thought about recreating her skirt using a ribbon yarn. The sketch to the right is about 4 years old (I save my sketches, scan them, keep them in a database. Have I mentioned I'm a Virgo...?)

In keeping with the garment structure of the period, the Minoan Shrug, Surplice and Skirt will be based on rectangular shapes with interesting stitch/texture detail.

The shrug is finished, and now onto the sleeveless surplice. Hannah says that the finished shrug looks, "like moss!" and it does.

This is recycled silk, Dharma, from Mango Moon, and it's a complex, rewarding fiber.

At times this yarn can be infuriating - but only when I let my pre-concieved notions of what silk SHOULD do interfere with what this raw silk wants to do.

When I allow the yarn to have it's own way we're both happier. This is a fiber with a strong personality - a living fiber - and like my independently minded friends, it requires a decent amount of respect, space and freedom to live up to it's potential.

I used a very open lace pattern in the shrug (above) - a fun, geometric and easy to remember repeat. I hope it will be a nice contrast to a more tightly knit fabric for the surplice (swatch shown at right).

This rustic, fuzzy, shining yarn is a contradiction in every inch.

Enhancing the experience in ways that are so visually and tactilely (is that a word?) exciting are the Signature Needles I love. These needles make anything I knit seem more exciting. When the light streams in behind me and illuminates the work in my hands it's pure delight. I'm afraid I'm getting carried away...

The skirt is still in the thinking-through phase. All I know at this point is that it will involve ruffles (although probably not as many as my 4-year old sketch), will be knit of ribbon, and will be fun to wear.

In graduate school (Rutgers, 1989-1992) I studied Costume & Set Design and spent MANY hours researching period clothing.

As I've mentioned before, one of the assignments we were given, a lesson in inspiration, was to use figures from "old master" paintings to recreate garments as modern-day runway fashion.

I've since learned that this great concept is a pretty common assignment in fashion design programs. The lesson has always stayed with me.

I firmly believe that fashion is not everyone's friend. Fashion dictates a certain sleeve or skirt length, a bodice shape, a waist height, is what everyone SHOULD be wearing in a specific period.

But not all of us have figures that do well with an 1870's long-waisted basque bodice, a wide shouldered 1940's jacket or a 1960's mini dress. Pity the poor short waisted woman in the 1930's, or the flat-chested femme in the 1890's.

Presently, we live in an exceptional time. No matter what your shape, your figure, your height or taste, you CAN find some garment that is flattering and in fashion. You can find a skirt length that suits your leg shape, a pair of pants that suit your hips and bum, a jacket length that emphasizes your good points.

We've never been in a situation like this, fashion wise, in all of history. Glory in it, folks!

Previously skirt lengths weren't just set by designers, but by societal and even government-imposed rules. Wealthy folks & the nobility were permitted to show off. They could wear longer garments of richer fabrics created of more expensive dyes and precious jewels.

Poorer folks were prohibited by various sumptuary laws from dressing above their station. Laws like these were in place to keep social climbers from the merchant classes from outshining the governing noble class, the effect was to stratify society in a very personal way.

But now? Now anyone from any class can wear anything. The main criteria is, "Does this make me look good?" and "Does this make me feel happy?"

What a beautiful place to be!

My hope with History on Two Needles is that folks will see the patterns as a rethinking of accepted garment shapes. Perhaps the modern, western cut of a jacket isn't terribly flattering for some folks, they may find that a kimono cut is more suited for their shape. So there will be a kimono shaped garment in the book. I hope that folks will continue to move outside of the book and look for shapes that flatter their bodies - shapes they may never have considered before!

The Minoan Snake Goddess pieces are going to be very simple shapes, rectangular pieces that are attached in ways that will allow them to drape over the body, not fitted, looser. By contrast, the Tudor inspired garments in the book will be fitted - tighter - and gauge will be a greater concern.

It's a fascinating way to think about designing, I'm hoping it creates a very wide range of styles that set some minds flying with possibilities!

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

What IS This Thing Called Perfection?

When I was a kid I read Jonathan Livingston Seagull, like just about every other 7th grader in 1972, and it affected me very strongly.

Specifically, it changed my idea about what perfect means.

Up to that point perfect had been a goal, something I wanted to acheive, something I knew I'd never reach (just look at how I spell achieve!) and - ultimately - something that dragged me down. An impossible standard, SO high I didn't even aim for it.

My mother used to talk about her own wonderful mother, using the phrase, "She was loved by EVERYBODY..." and I would squirm with frustration.

I would never be loved by everyone. Heck, I wasn't even liked by a decent percentage of my classmates.

But JLS made me think of perfection as a state of mind, a place we arrive at when other points in our being are in alignment. Perfection, to quote JLS, was "being there"

I began to realize that my grandmother was NOT loved by every human soul she passed in the street, but her daughter's perception was that she was. My mother's vision could sometimes be clouded by her overwhelming love [see: How My Mother Worshipped My Abusive Father] and in Mom's version of reality it felt safe and good to see her mother as being - literally - loved by EVERYBODY who knew her.

But I knew differently.

I knew that my other grandmother [the bad grandmother] didn't love my mom's mother [the good grandmother]. So there was one.

And one was all it took to burst the damn which held back the flood waters of imperfection. And we knew from floods in our family, my grandfather's sister having been somehow involved in the Johnsontown Flood. A family story which is still unclear to me.

So why this long trip down memory lane to visit the land of imperfection? Because perfection is a standard we set for ourselves, and it is unrealistic.

Accepting our imperfections can take us to a place where what we do - although not technically perfect - will be perfect when viewed in concert with all of our other actions. We will be there. And being there is 99% of reaching perfection.

I stress to my students that I don't want them to rip out their work during classes, that I want them to override that perfection gene some folks seem to have, and just SEE THE MISTAKES. If you don't see it, you can't own it. If you don't own it, you can't change it.

Seeing - owning - a mistake is the only way to improve. You will not move toward perfection until you acknowledge your imperfection.

I ask my classes, "Is anyone here a diety? Any minor gods or goddesses in the room I should know about...?" When the answer is no (usually) I go on to say that - being human - I expect that everyone will make at least one mistake. And I further say that if they DON'T make a mistake, I'll think they're not trying.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

A few days ago a good friend and sister designer, Stephanie Japel, received a note from a knitter who was having a hard time with one of Steph's patterns. Stephanie, like me, tends to push the envelope when she designs something - going out on a limb to create unique interpretations of standard garments.

When you push the envelope, not everyone is going to be able to lick the flap.

And that's when the blaming begins.

Blame is a fools' game.

When things in life Go South (or, if you live in the south, when things Go North) It's good to know what went wrong, why it happened, and to indict someone who willfully has damaged someone else. This is called learning from past history (it can also be called justice).

But looking around for someone to blame whenever anything goes wrong is just another way of propping up our tattered and weary self-perception that we - of course - are perfect.

If we screw up, it must be because someone else is to blame.

And once the finger of blame is pointed all hell breaks loose. As someone who has owned 10 fingers of blame at various times in my life, I know this story well. The more you blame, the more invested you are in proving that the blame-ee is, well, a fool. And mean. And useless. And lots of other things.

Which is kind of what happened to my friend, Stephanie.

A knitter was having a hard time understanding the collar shaping from the Tweed Coat in Glam Knits. It was a bit of a mind game, really, a unique way of working some short rows to achieve a really beautiful final product - but ultimately worthwhile.

We all have different minds - I stress this in my classes. We view things in many different ways, and this is magnificent because it can create a symbiosis whereby several folks come up with ideas that one person alone couldn't.

For instance, I prefer to chart things because I've found that when I return to written notations of how I've done something unusual, I become lost. It's just how my mind works.

Charts help me find my way, but I also understand they don't work well for everyone. That's why I try to chart and write out my stitch patterns in my patterns. (Please not the word TRY)

Steph had written out the collar for her Tweed Coat in a way that took a bit of thinking, but that's how it had to be because it was a difficult concept. Not impossible, but worth the trouble.

Some folks had a hard time with the concept, so Steph created a pictoral tutorial on her blog whereby she showed, step by step, how to comprehend and create the hard part of the collar of her lovely piece.

I was struck by her generosity in taking the time to do this, and by her humility in writing that some folks had thought the pattern was "screwed up" so she wanted to show what she meant in the writing.

And, my friends, sometimes a little humility is all it takes for the bully of perfection to skulk into the neighborhood.

Humility - using the phrase, "I'm sorry" or "I was wrong..." - has become blood in the water, a signal of weakness and the green flag for the lawyers and aHA!-ers to gather.

I can't be the only one who's noticed that in our litigious society simply hearing the words, "I'm sorry..." is as rare as hen's teeth?

Yet "I'm sorry" is exactly the admission of our imperfection - the owning of a mistake - that is necessary for us to move to a more perfect place.

No pattern you buy will be perfect. You may think it's perfect because you can read it, understand it, and it works for you. But there will be SOMEONE out there who will not be able to understand certain points of the pattern (either because it's not clear to them, or the approach it with preconcieved notions which the designer doesn't share).

Understanding what the designer is trying to say is the kernal to creating a garment. Clarity of language is why we gravitate to different designers - each one speaks to different knitters in their own way.

And, sad to say, there are such things as mistakes in patterns. Humans make mistakes - not every mistake can be found before publication - and sometimes the act of trying to perfect a pattern (fix EVERY mistake) can toss a few additional whoppers in there.

I used to fret about this ceaselessly. I used to toss and turn and not sleep at night - knowing that I was ruining lives by the verbiage in my patterns. Or, at least, that's how it felt at 3:00 am when I'd creep downstairs and re-read hate mail from knitters who didn't get some part of one of my patterns.

Folks can be unkind - I know that from both sides - and unkindness can burn like hot wax.

But I'm slowly moving to a place where I am able to forgive myself for missteps in a pattern, communications that aren't as clear to the other party as they might be. My mind works differently than many others - for better or for worse - and that's just how it is.

Understanding this - accepting it - has made a pretty wonderful change in my outlook. I find that I'm much more open to changing how I communicate my techniques. I am not tied to a dogmatic position (I MUST explain it like THIS and THIS because, well, because that's just how I AM!)

Not locking ourselves into a pre-concieved notion of ourselves, allowing ourselves the freedom to flow and move and change, THAT is moving toward being there.

And there is where I hope to be someday. In the mean time I'm happy to be here.

Baby Love
A good, dear friend recently had an experience I cannot fully comprehend. She lost a child.

The pain of this is so great that I can hardly even allow myself to think about it for more than a few moments, but she lives it 24 hours a day.

Working through her grief brought her to a place where she wants to create flocks of little, knitted birds to pass along to the 270 families of children who undergo heart surgery in the hospital where her son was treated. She writes:
the hospital here in rochester performs apporimately 270 heart surgeries a year and i want every child to get a bird the day of surgery.

these birds will be a symbol of hope and comfort, a symbol of my precious cooper watching over these families and their children, both through the surgery and the recovery process.

i want these families to know that there is someone out there thinking of them, who has been in their shoes, and knows their hopes and fears. the children will be able to hang the birds in their beds while they are in the hospital. it does my heart good to think of hundreds of little cooper birds watching over sick children.
If you'd like to make one, or a few, of these little birdies the pattern is here.

Stay tuned for where to send them - or you can visit my friend's blog where she'll be posting an address to send the flock in the near future. In the mean time, just knitting the birds will be an act of love - concentrated thought. This is about as close to prayer as I get.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Brief Break

I'd been cranking out ideas (well, writing them down here at home - putting them out on my blog bit by bit) pretty furiously for the past few weeks, feeling that at some point I'd have to slow down.

The slowdown was me falling 3 times on my shoulder at the Hyland Ski & Snowboard area. OUCH!

I didn't break anything, nothing permanent, just banged up a bit. Sore. It's been hard to sleep for the past 2 days so I've been resting all day, sleeping when I can, and that means not a lot of designing or writing is going on.

I'm not knitting right now because my shoulder's just painful enough that the repetition is annoying. I'd rather let it get a good rest in. But I did do the Wii today - hula hoop and advanced step - and, I'm ashamed to admit it - the Wii skiing. It's a good way to work up a glow without going to the effort of getting dressed when I feel like poopy.

So I'll be back in a day or so with more updates on History on Two Needles, and also on new info on teaching dates and other fun stuff. In the mean time I'm going to try to sleep a bit, and I'm going to cash in a gift certificate for a massage to further the healing process.

I'm supposed to have skiing lesson #2 on Sunday and I'm hoping to feel both well and BRAVE enough to continue. Gerry did amazingly well at his lesson - we had an instructor who works with handicapped folks and he was very good with us, going very slowly. My big problem is I can't seem to stop (yeah, that's problematic - ) but Gerry did well with all aspects.

We don't honestly think that either of us will make it off the bunny hill - Gerry's scared and I'm just too slow - but even getting ON the skiis, going up a little mini-lift and coming down a bunny hill is the fulfillment of a dream for both of us. Silly how much a small thing like that means.

Without meaning to we've come up with a new slogan for this segment of our lives: Life; if you're not going to live it, why bother?
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Sunday, March 01, 2009

Pure Physical Fear

I have fear this morning. The kind that wrenches the gut and makes palms sweat. Pure fear.

I am taking a skiing lesson today. My first. I am 47.

Hyland Ski Area, where the kids took their lessons this Christmas, is having a sale (such a deal!) and I cannot turn it down. Lessons are essentially half price, and work out to $15 per lesson. And today is my first of 3.

I've been Wii Skiiing (skwiing?) like a maniac in preparation - it's just about the same, right?

So when the kids are done with Hebrew school we'll pack everyone up and head off to the slopes.

However, here's the crazy portion of our adventure: Gerry is insistent that he wants to try, too.

I have my doubts. But I had my doubts about him on the bike last year. Of course, after a few days of riding he realized that the pain it caused wasn't worth the freedom and he hasn't been back on, but mentally it was a milestone he had to achieve.

I'm thinking if he can just get the skis on and slide out to the bunny hill it will be an immense victory. Neither of us expects to go down a larger hill today. I'm not letting him out of my sight.

I've been fretting over this for days. When I mentioned the 2-for-1 lessons to Gerry we both assumed that I'd ask a local friend to join me.

However, Gerry sat and thought for a while, went outside and shoveled, then came back in and said, "You know, I've always wanted to learn to ski, I never did because I didn't have health insurance. Now I have health insurance and I have cancer. But I want to learn."

So we'll see. I have to trust his sense of what he can do, and I have to trust him. But I'm going to be on him like white on - snow - while we're on the slope.

Add this to the list of things - like traveling outside of North America - that Gerry wants to DO before he can't. And with any luck the day he can't will be far, far in the future.
Skiing UPDATE
We're home, we're great, we did just fine!

We had an older instructor who was good with 'handicapped' and challenged and Gerry did amazingly well. Didn't fall once, and he was able to stop and turn - he was delighted!

I fell three times, wrenched my shoulder (who knew?) and wasn't able to "wedge" and control my speed downhill. Once again, Gerry outshines me in the quietst way. We're supposed to go back next Sunday...

Thanks, everyone, for your moral support!
HoTN
The Sutton Hoo mask has moved to the next phase, the sides! I worked up both sides yesterday, one at a time, so I could revise the chart I'm working off of.

The technique I used to create the horizontal cable across the front is being employed again, this time to create the horizontal join lines. The vertical ones are created by twisting and slipping stitches. The image to the right is from Highfiber.com

The plan is to add embroidery after all is finished to give the impression of the plates on the Sutton Hoo reproductions I've seen.

A very helpful site as I resarch this has been the British Museum, and a really fun site is Highfiber's section on a Sutton Hoo Helmet recreation.

The sides and back of my prototype are being worked in a sock yarn because I don't have enough of the Mohair Splash. Once I get the pattern finalized I'll knit another - or maybe have someone knit one up for me - in the original, inspiring yarn!

In the mean time, I have two more projects I'm getting going on. One is a short sleeved jacket from a painting of Queen Elizabeth (perhaps, maybe it's someone else, opinions differ) and the other is a modern hand-knit version of the garments that adorn the Minoan Snake Goddess statuette.

I'm planning on giving her a surplice top to cover up those girls (memories of giggling at this slide in Art History class...), a shrug and a ruffled skirt. I'm brightening her up a bit more than the sketch would imply - warmer colors, but very earthy. Some beautiful Mango Moon yarn arrived 2 days ago, and I'm chomping to get Sutton Hoo to a stoppable place so I can dive into this!

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Alison's Scarf
Link to pdf file of cable/trellis lace scarf


Hannah's Poncho
Link to pdf file of multi-sized poncho



Chullo-licious


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