Archive for November 2011

For the love which from our birth over and around us lies

November 27, 2011

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Pattern: Reversible Strands by Nancy Smith
Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease (80% acrylic, 20% wool), colorway Avocado
Hook: 4.0mm (G) Tulip Etimo

Once upon a time there was a boy named Jacob. Jacob is a teenager who does not live with his parents. The court decides where Jacob will live. A government agency decides who will take care of him. A lawyer speaks for him in front of a judge. A volunteer makes sure the court hears what he needs. Jacob’s life is often in the hands of strangers.

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Jacob has a story. But I don’t know that story. Not many people do, other than that volunteer. He was taken away from his parents because they neglected him, or maybe they actively mistreated him. Maybe his parents never wanted him and still don’t want him back. Or maybe they are working to change their lives and make amends and reunite with their son.

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Although I don’t know Jacob’s story, I know enough to be concerned about him. Because of where the court has placed him, he can’t have many things of his own. That means that he’s probably in a group home of some kind, and not in foster care. He may be exhibiting some of the problem behaviors for which teens like him, teens without parents who took good care of him, are at risk. As a teenage boy, he’s among the least likely group to be adopted. His life is spiraling, but is he on the way up or on the way down?

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I don’t know Jacob’s story. I know his name, his age, and that what he can receive from me is limited. I made him this hat. It’s reversible; one side has bold spiral ridges, one is deceptively plain. I hope Jacob’s story from here on will include this hat. I hope his life is reversible, and that he will find his footing on a path that leads him out of his unpromising start. I know that my hope, my hat, and my support for the few people who are fighting for his future are all I have to give him. I know that his story deserves to be told. When we hear it — if we do — I hope it has the happy ending we all deserve, no matter what our beginnings might be.

On street after street, in bar after bar

November 26, 2011

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Pattern: Hitchhiker by Martina Behm (Ravelry link)
Yarn: Regia Hand-dye Effect (70% wool, 25% nylon, 5% acrylic), colorway 06552
Needles: U.S. 5 Zephyr acrylic Options 32″ circulars (knit flat)

Two stitches. That’s where it started, on October 20, in a hotel ballroom in Phoenix, Arizona, at a debate about immigration. Knitted throughout the conference, this scarf was measured not as much in terms of length from its starting point, as in the stitches added on every single row.

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By the end of the conference four days later, it was already impressive, and the yarn that remained had lost its skein-shape and become the deflated pile that signals the approaching end. I took the scarf to my next conference, a month later, but had another project ready to start. Sure enough, I bound off as my four-hour board meeting neared its end on the very first day.

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I could write a book about conference knitting. Garter stitch is good. Lace is nice if easily memorized, but the simple repetition of increases and the anticipation of the slightly different seventh and eighth rows, when the sawtooth edge is created. Add the magic of Noro-esque stripes changing gradually before your eyes, and you can’t ask for more while you listen to people talking about voluntary certification of honors programs.

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A scarf is a record of the time and distance over which it was knitted. This one crisscrossed the country twice in its process of coming to be. The yarn came from Montreal, the stitches were formed in Phoenix and San Francisco and 30,000 feet in the air in between. It’s not only beautiful, unique, stylish, and striking — it’s got a story to tell.

Turn around and make it a singalong

November 12, 2011

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Pattern: Gathered Clutch Tutorial by Noodlehead
Fabric: Miscellaneous cotton from Hancock Fabrics

Yes, it has been a long time since I sewed. My excuse has been that my sewing area isn’t completely set up. It’s lacking a swing magnifier lamp, a tabletop ironing board … I looked for those things occasionally, but didn’t find the perfect one.

Then I read a piece in my Craft Wisely class about adhocism — the philosophy of “making do” instead of waiting for the perfect solution. And the urge to sew in my imperfect sewing corner, which was still a heck of a lot more perfect than the dining room table I was using before, came over me. So without a light, with the big ironing board I lugged in from the laundry room, I sat down to sew.

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And not just to sew. To try something new. I made gathers. They aren’t perfect, but I get the concept now — baste across, pull the top thread carefully, distribute the gathers over the fabric, try to keep the piece square (I did poorly on that last part).

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I put in a zipper. Oh, this frightened me, friends. Putting in a zipper meant (1) figuring out which foot in my ancient box of ancient Singer featherweight feet was the zipper foot; (2) deciphering how to get the presser foot off and put the zipper foot on; (3) learning to use a zipper foot. It’s hard to say which of those I feared most, but most of my nightmares involved the last. You know what? It’s really easy. You just let the foot do the work of following the zipper teeth. Trust the foot.

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I even shortened the zipper (as all the patterns say, following package directions). I put fabric tabs on both ends (again, poorly — keeping the tabs inside the side seams was my biggest challenge, and it’s because I made the zipper a little too long and the external pieces a little too short due to uneven gathering). The part I was most scared of was the part that unfolded most organically, with the most elation.

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I made credit card holders and a divider pocket. I sewed the card holders on the wrong side of the lining fabric. In my defense, in the tutorial the lining fabric looks the same on both sides, and visualizing where wrong-side and right-side are going to end up is still all mumbo-jumbo to me, so I thought putting it on the wrong side might be right. If that makes any sense.

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Card pockets on wrong …

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Divider pocket on right.

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Here’s the back side. For all its flaws, this little clutch purse represents a significant uptick in my skills. My stitching is straighter, my seam allowances more even. I reminded myself how to do the basic things (I hadn’t even threaded my machine since May), and forged forward to some advanced-basic skills.

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The next one is going to be even better.

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got

November 7, 2011

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Pattern: The Perfect Slouch by Tiffany
Yarn: Berroco Cotton Twist Solids (70% cotton, 30% rayon)
Needles: U.S. 7 Zephyr acrylic 32″ circulars (magic loop style)

Cady Gray calls this look “mysterious eyes.” She thinks it’s hilarious when I tell her to turn her head but cut her eyes toward me. Look at her laughing.

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She’s wearing the second Perfect Slouch hat I’ve knit. The first one was made last year for a Conway Cradle Care client — a teenage mother that can stay in school thanks to the day care CCC provides for her child. This one is for a girl named Heather. She has just entered her teenage years, and her favorite colors are red and blue — a girl after my own heart. Like all the CASA clients we’re crafting for, she is in the custody of the court, taken away from her parents because of abuse or neglect. As an older child, her chances of being adopted are slim. Her best outcome is to be reunited with her parents — if they are indeed making efforts in that direction.

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When I think of the CASA clients we’re knitting for, I think of my daughter. She lucked out in the parenting sweepstakes, as did most of us who’ve grown up with only the normal lumps and bumps of childhood. Doesn’t this hat suit her? Wouldn’t it suit — and be even more meaningful for — someone like Heather?

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I love my girl so much. I hope the girl who gets this hat will be loved like that someday.

I would bear it all broken just to fill my cup

November 1, 2011

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Pattern: Honey Cowl by Ann Maria
Yarn: Malabrigo Merino Worsted (100% merino), colorway Amoroso
Needles: U.S. 8 32″ Harmony wood Options circulars

The first Malabrigo of the cold season — there’s nothing like it. I jumped the gun a little bit, starting this at the crack of September long before there was a hint of chill in the air. But after a long summer of lightweight yarns and plant fibers, the fingers itch for wool’s resiliency, give, tug, entangling, stretch, bounce, smoosh, loft.

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And what better way to limber up for a long winter of knitting than an infinity scarf. I’ve admired the way they hang on the models and the Ravelry photos for quite a while. This was class and meeting knitting; it needed to be simple, so I reluctantly put aside the patterns that required frequent changes or attention to detail or counting. My yarn was a pink and red blend (difficult to photograph), so a slip-stitch pattern to keep the colors pixelated was a natural choice.

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I keep thinking this yarn isn’t my color. The pink, you know. But boy, is it tough to let go of something this indulgent, warm and wearable. Whoever buys it at the Craftin’ for CASA sale may have to remove it from me by force.

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The perfect blend of style, function, and glorious hand-dyed natural fibers. This is why we knit.