Thursday, April 27, 2006

Son is 7!

Birthdays are to celebrate the coming of another year of life for an individual--but they are also a time for mothers to remember birth and the first days of their children's lives. I spent the day looking at old photographs and rereading my birth story. Here it is for anyone who is interested:

At 6 a.m. on April 24, 1999, my thirty-second birthday, I woke up feeling slight cramping, like I was starting my menstrual period. For nine months I had actually been missing the cyclical bleeding. But I knew that this morning was not the return of ordered time. I heaved my enormous belly out of bed and waddled to the bathroom. Could labor be starting? I had hated all thirty-eight weeks of my pregnancy and was eager to have it end. Nevertheless, since I was a first-timer, I was prepared for a few more weeks. I sat on the toilet, urinated, and lost my plug on the toilet paper. I sat staring at the glob of blood-tinged mucus with disbelief, then grinned. I called my partner out of bed to come look: "David? Can you come here for a second? I have something to show you."

He came in, sleep still on his face, and yawned. "Are you OK?"

"Have you ever seen one of these?" I asked my physician husband.

David put on his glasses and looked at the glob. "Oh my goodness," he said gently. "Wow." He looked like he was about to cry. "Happy birthday!" He yawned again. "Hm. Maybe you should get a bit more sleep just in case things start to pick up later today. Do you think you can?"

I was suddenly filled with more energy than I had felt in months, but I told David that sure, I could sleep. He brought me a glass of juice from the kitchen and crawled in beside me. I stared at my clock for about twenty minutes until I heard David breathing the deep breaths of sleep.

Then I remembered the stack of exams waiting for my red pen. They had to be finished before the birth process started! In the den I sat down with my feet up and tried to finish marking the blue books. I paused every seven minutes and marveled at my hardening belly. The contractions were completely painless and utterly fascinating to me.

After a couple of hours, David came downstairs and asked me what I wanted to do with the day. I quickly suggested going to a bookstore—my favorite way to spend a day.
David frowned. "Do you think you should be out that much?" he asked. I had been on bedrest for weeks because of rising blood pressure, increasing protein in my urine, and some fairly significant edema. Although many women in my situation would have been hospitalized for pre-elampsia, my midwives and consulting obstetrician agreed that I could stay home as long as I quit going in to teach. I agreed to have David, a family physician, take my blood pressure every morning and evening. He also brought home some urinalysis sticks and asked me to dip them in my urine every other day. My blood pressure skyrocketed whenever I sat up, but as long as the pressure was taken while I was lying down, it stayed under 140/90. Usually I was very good at following the bedrest order, but today I was feeling healthier and friskier than I had felt in months. David saw my face, and said, "Fine. For a little while."

We headed to Borders. I was constantly distracted by the regular tightening and loosening of my uterus. When one of the tightenings came on, I would smile with wide eyes and occasionally grab David's hand and place it on my belly. After the bookstore, we went to a celebration lunch. Although I was eating meat during my pregnancy, poultry--and even the word 'chicken'--had made me unbelievably queasy for months. But today it looked wonderful. I knew something was changing.

When we returned home, David suggested I call my midwife to let her know that I might be needing her before very long. I told her I was having very regular Braxton-Hicks contractions and had lost my mucus plug but nothing official yet. She told me that it was her guess that the contractions would get stronger, then either become real or simply fade away. "Keep me posted," she said.

David, his parents, and I spent the evening preparing labor aides. We filled two tube socks with rice to serve as heating pads. We stuffed two tennis balls in another sock to use as a massage tool. I picked out a couple of quiet CDs to listen to during labor. David's parents hit the grocery store for frozen fruit bars, some soft foods, and lots of drinks. David and I rehearsed some of the labor positions, including the slow dance. And we reviewed the list of supplies we needed to have on hand for the home birth.

We went to bed. Since we knew orgasms and semen could help initiate labor, we did what we could to get encourage things to get underway. Contractions began to pick up. I stared at the clock on the nightstand, timing the still-painless hardenings until 2:30 a.m. and getting more and more excited. And then they stopped. Well. So much for that.

On Sunday April 25, one of my best friends from college came down to visit us. We took pictures in front of the azaleas and dogwoods, did a lot of catching up, made a great dinner of roasted vegetable burritos, then sat down to watch a rented movie. As the movie progressed, I tried to signal my husband that I was feeling something. The contractions were still painless, but this time I thought something was different. I couldn't put my finger on it. My friend suggested that maybe he shouldn't sleep at our house, that he could stay with other friends in the area instead. I panicked when he talked about leaving. Something told me that if he stayed, the baby would be born. He stayed.

At 3:30 a.m. I woke up with contractions I could feel. Although they did not hurt, they were not just the rehearsal contractions of the last two days. Earlier, David had made me promise to wake him as soon as I felt something. But I waited to see if the contractions continued for a while first. After forty-five minutes, I woke him. He and I were both amazingly calm and peaceful, much to my surprise. We cuddled in bed, trying to sleep for a bit before things really got underway. Neither of us could sleep. At 5:00, David lit a candle, put on a CD of Shaker tunes, and went down to make me some toast.

We decided to call the midwife, but thought we should time a few contractions first so we could inform her of the pattern. They lasted thirty for forty-five seconds and came every five minutes. And they were building. David paged the midwife, and I answered the phone when she called back. I told her where things stood and she was very encouraging—but then seemed to be very sleepy yet trying to make small talk. Finally she said, "Well, I know, um, maybe Dav..."

Right at that moment a strong contraction came on and I lost all patience with her and needed to concentrate on the contraction. I threw the phone at David. "Did she hand the phone to you because she's having a contraction? That is what I was waiting for. I'll drive over there as soon as I shower. I'll call your birth assistant."

David and I called his parents and our closest friends. All four planned to be at our house during the birth. We suggested that my in-laws come after breakfast and told our friends (both of whom were on their way to work) that nothing was likely to happen before at least noon. We wondered if my college friend had been awakened by all the stirring, but there was still no peep from the guest room downstairs.

The birth assistant, since she lived right around the corner from us, arrived at 6:20. She listened to the fetal heart rate and then took my blood pressure, timing things with my Pinnochio watch. This was the moment of truth; I knew that if my pressure was elevated, I would be transferred to the hospital. Much to our relief, my blood pressure was perfect.

At 7:00, the midwife arrived, lugging a huge bag of supplies that she tucked into a corner of the bedroom. She hung what looked like a sewing kit from my dresser. Then she gave me an IV since I was GBS positive. She hung the bag of antibiotics from the curtain rod. Afterwards, she unhooked me.

Contractions were coming fast and strong by now. The way I coped with them was to stand beside the bed leaning onto my hands, with David pressing into my back. This posture was certainly not one I planned, but my body was taking control and doing what it pleased. Between contractions I felt absolutely glorious. At some point someone suggested I try lying on my side. I tried, falling deeply asleep between contractions. David's ability to press into my back during contractions was reduced when I was on my side, however. Waking up after the contraction started also meant I could not prepare for its coming. So soon I was standing again, resting my hands on the bed.

The assistant suggested I try a shower. Although it felt lovely to have the water pulsing on me, I still needed David to push on my back during contractions. I finally got out of the tub and spent the next ninety minutes trying to urinate. When I was standing, I needed to pee. But as soon as I sat down, a contraction would hit. So I would stand up and lean into the bathroom counter during it. I would sit down again and another contraction would hit. When seated, the surges were almost constant. I jumped up and down from toilet to counter so many times in my opposing efforts to urinate and cope with contractions that I was almost crying in frustration. I eventually gave up and headed back into the bedroom.

I glanced at the clock. It was almost 10:00. I was shocked that time had flown by. But I also began to wonder how I was going to make it for what I assumed would be at least another eight hours. Although I was still fine with the contractions as long as David was pushing on my back, I knew they would pick up a great deal in intensity before I reached the pushing stage. Could I do it? I began to doubt myself. Would I wind up in the hospital just because I needed pain medication? I knew I couldn't cope with hours more of labor.

David asked me if I wanted something to drink. I didn't know. He said he would get something anyway--what did I want? I didn't know. "ORANGE JUICE or GRAPE JUICE?" he asked. I whined, "I DON'T KNOW! Whatever you think!" He started laughing. "Sounds like transition to me!"

I brightened. Transition? Could that be possible? I might only have another hour, you mean? Surely not. Labor had to hurt more than this. On the very next contraction, my low moan had a bit of growl in it. The sound made me a little self-conscious. Was that me growling? Could I stop it?

The midwife heard me growl on the next contraction. She smiled. "Sounds a little pushy to me. With your permission, may I check your cervix?" I was fully dilated and fully effaced, but the baby was still really high.

My mother-in-law, who had been coming upstairs occasionally since she and my father-in-law arrived at 7:00, came in to watch the pushing stage. She told me that my college friend had to leave to catch his train. I had totally forgotten about him being downstairs. He shouted his best wishes to me but was unnerved about the prospect of coming up. I sent down my love.

Another contraction came. I had lost all ability to speak coherently. "Push!" I called to David, wanting his hands on my back as he had done for almost every contraction.

"Yes, yes," he was crying, "push!" He was caught up with the impending birth of our child.


"Yes!" he repeated.

Cyndia realized what I needed and said, "I think she means you need to press on her back...."

I pushed as my body told me to. Contractions slowed to a more manageable pace, but pushing was nevertheless quite painful. I realized I had a choice: I could push hard or I could try not to push. If I pushed hard, the baby would be born soon. If I didn't, I could avoid the burning for another minute. I hesitated. "I don't know if I can do it," I said.

"You are doing it! You are so strong!" my midwife said. Strong? Yes. I had never thought of myself as strong before, but now I knew I was an athlete in disguise.
The birth assistant told me that my friend would be up in a minute, "just in time." My friend cancelled classes to get here earlier than she planned. When I heard that she would be with me soon, I got a new burst of energy. When she came in the room, I was standing up pushing. With her gentle and encouraging style, she said, "This is so wonderful. This is so beautiful. You're amazing. Thank you for waiting!" I laughed.

"Who is going to catch this baby?" the midwife asked. David answered, "The new mother, with my help, and with you helping me." She helped me to lie back down on the bed so I could help catch.

The baby was starting to descend, but my water had still not broken. The caul bulged out as I pushed. "What did you eat during your pregnancy? Steel?" joked Cyndia. David looked at the bulging membranes and, amazed, said "Oh, it looks like a crystal ball! It is glowing from the floating vernix. Touch it!" I reached down and felt the smooth membranes. Incredible. For my entire pregnancy I had dreamed of giving birth to a baby in the caul.

The midwife wanted to hurry things along at this point because blood was coming from inside the canal and and because the baby's heartrate had dropped more than she felt comfortable with. She told me to push hard with the next contraction, to push past the pain and get the baby out fast so she wouldn't need to cut an episiotomy. When I the word episiotomy, I pushed with all my might, and the baby's head and right hand slipped out. The midwife tore the membranes open and clear water gushed out.

The umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around the baby's neck. David tried to reduce it but couldn't. He asked if they needed to cut it immediately. The midwife said no--and told David to hold the head at the perineum while the body somersaulted out. He thought the move was amazing. I was entranced by the smooth, fast feeling of the body coming out of my body. I reached down to bring the baby to my belly. So warm, so tiny, so precious! It was 11:15 a.m. on April 26, 1999.

It was now obvious that the blood from before was from an internal tear. The midwifes would repair it after the baby was checked out. He was squirming and slippery. The birth assistant and David dried the baby off a bit, then covered the baby and my belly with the comforter and a heating pad since he was having a hard time holding his heat. David and I were both crying as we stared at the beautiful baby and he stared back at us.

"You are so beautiful! So incredible! I can't believe this could happen!" I cried.

After about fifteen minutes, David's mother asked if it was a boy or a girl. I laughed. How could we have forgotten to check? David lifted up the baby and saw a big purple scrotum and a little penis. He looked into my eyes and told me quietly that it was a boy. (I had always assumed I would have a little girl. After all, that is what I decided when I was about seven years old.)

We named him after David's grandfather. He crawled to the breast and took a few licks. We looked at every part of our son, from his brown hair and the birthmark on the top of his head to his tiny triangular toenails.

After the birth David's father came upstairs along with my friend's partner. While the midwife and birth assistant repaired my internal tear, we all admired Son and cuddled his body to keep it warm. After about twenty minutes, the birth assistant helped me take a shower and urinate. By the time I was back from the bathroom, the others had cleaned up the bedroom. My parents-in-law brought me a peanut butter sandwich because I didn't have patience to wait for the vegetable lasagna heating in the oven. Son, David, and I snuggled in bed as the crew closed the door and went downstairs to give us a chance to be alone together as a family for the first time.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Knitting Around

We went to the Takoma Park knitting group last night. It was packed! Amy's students were bearing beautiful feather-and-fan scarves-in-progress (and one gorgeous finished one). Another woman cast on lovely cabled socks, while another knitted a triangular shawl out of yarn she spun herself. Others were knitting assorted sweaters, hats, etc.

Son took the multicolored shawl he is knitting for Piglet. It is so many stitches wide now that he gets intimidated every time he contemplates getting all the way across. David almost finished a seed-stitch scarf for son. I worked on the first sleeve of the cabled cardigan. What a great pattern it is!

During the afternoon, Son had a very long playdate with a friend. As they ran around playing hide-and-seek all around me, I started the fingerless rib-and-cable mitts shown in the spring Interweave Knits. Lots of fun. AND THEY ARE NOT GREEN (except the trim...)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


I had a wonderful birthday celebration last night. David brought home flowers to decorate the table. After eating pizza and drinking French 75s, we put candles on the leftover Passover cake (a chocolate walnut torte) and sang. A lovely evening.

Hiding in his room all afternoon with paper from the recycling bin, bulky yarn, and tape, Son made me a terrific paper purse. He also wrote a birthday card for me: "I love you. I hope you injoy your presint." And I am injoying it!
A few other presents arrived as well. My brother-in-law and his partner gave me a gift card for Barnes and Noble. (I think I'll get Shawls and Scarves and Folk Shawls.)

David brought me some Addi needles. I also got a set of bamboo wind chimes from friends. The coolest thing about that present was the reusable bag. There is a registry online where you chart where the bag has gone. Sounds like fun!
A lovely birthday.

Monday, April 24, 2006

A Birthday Present

I opened my birthday present from my brother: a basket from Senegal that is just the right size for my knitting. Right now, it is stuffed with the finished parts of the green cabled cardigan. How lovely! Thanks!

This morning, Son and I went to the park with some friends. Another mother and I sat on a bench and knit. The mother has been a crocheter for a long time--but I just won her over the dark side and now she's knitting. (If you convert enough people, does Headquarters send you the badge and the complimentary luggage? Or did they stop that in the 1980s?)

Belated Passover

Last night we had a mock Passover seder for some of Son's non-Jewish friends. A lovely evening with a lot of terrific children and fascinating parents. Son liked sharing his traditions with everyone. He certianly learned a lot writing the hagaddah for the evening, too.

As I was cooking, I kept making mistake after stupid mistake. Usually I'm a pretty instinctive cook who has a feel for what is cooking. But Passover cooking often does NOT seem instinctual to me (perhaps especially when it is no longer even Passover?). Finally I had to pull out my knitting and do a couple of rows just to restore my equilibrium. (I sound like a junkie....)

BTW, Kat Knits announced the winners of her contest (and I got an honorable mention!). There were some really hysterical posts submitted. Check them out!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Spots for Knots

Answers for Kat Knits:

5 places other than your house or a knitting store where you have knit...

1. In a boat, on a plane, in the subway, on a train
2. On the beach, around the pool, at the gym, and during school
3. In a cafe while playing chess, and while my DH pumped gas at Hess
4. In the Library of Congress while waiting for books,
and in the kitchen while my Granny cooks
5. I would knit both here and there, I would knit most anywhere!

And here I go with this title, even after I said knitting was not knotting...

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Spinning ideas

The Woolery just sent out a flyer announcing their 25th anniversary sale, starting on Monday and continuing through early May. What perfect timing!

Right now I'm thinking about purchasing a Kromski Symphony. Does anyone here spin on one? I asked on a couple of forums and have gotten a bunch of useful feedback, overwhelmingly positive with a few caveats.

I'm hoping to try one out next Saturday at the spinning class and then again at Maryland Sheep and Wool the next weekend.

Woohoo! Very exciting.

Knitting and Mending

Yesterday Son invited Friend for a playdate. They had a lovely time playing in the amazingly warm sunshine while I sat in the front yard knitting the new sock I started at a board meeting Sunday night. When the mother came at the end, she brought Friend's adorable 2yo brother. All the kids played while we chatted, surrounded by the huge vivid-pink azaleas planted in the front yard.

Last week the 2yo had what might have been a seizure. His parents are quite worried and we were talking in the yard about upcoming doctor's appointments, etc. The older kids picked up a piece of bamboo with a hard, dried rootball on one end. They started playing with it, getting more and more rambunctious. At some point they started swinging it around, first my son and then his friend. They were jubilant at the way the momentum of the stick carried them with it. When Friend tried, her little brother toddled into the path. Horribly and seemingly slowly, the mace struck the little boy on the head and knocked him down.

He screamed and cried and his mother took the boy in her arms. She was screaming and crying much more intensely than he was, and kept screaming in panic. Can you imagine how scary it must be given what had just happened a week before? She was so incredibly frightened.

We cleaned off the scrape and put ice on the bump as he latched on to nurse. Thank goodness he is still nursing! It gave him a way to comfort himself and us a way to know he was OK. (When a child is hurt too much to latch on, things get scary.)

I called David at the office to ask what we should do. While I was talking to him, 6yo Son said very calmly that in the case of a serious injury, the patient should be kept warm and calm in case of shock. He went to get the first-aid book that he had recently checked out of the library. I was proud that he had such a cool head during a time like this. Later, it made me laugh, too.

David suggested that if the boy remained conscious with clear eyes and could walk and talk, he was probably fine--but that if it would make the mother feel more comfortable, a visit to their doctor might make sense. We called her doctor's office and they said the same thing. So she planned to go in.

When the 2yo was ready to nurse, he stood up, pointed into the kitchen and said his word for coffee maker. (He is obsessed with household machines right now--especially vacuum cleaners!) We both laughed. The mother, hearing her child be his normal self, was greatly relieved. They did go in to the doctor and everything was fine. A happy ending to a scary afternoon.

I was very calm during the event, but in the evening I was so tense and negative that I asked to go to my favorite local cafe just to be in new scenery. I ordered a glass of wine, sat down with my knitting and finished the other side of the green cardigan (although there is a small problem with it...), and zoned out as David and Son played Set and did a little of their own knitting. By the time we left at 9pm, I was much more myself. Wine and knitting heal all wounds....

As we left, we waved to a small group of other knitters in the cafe. One hopped up to ask us if we had come looking for the knitting meet-up. We had not even known about any groups other than the Tuesday evening groups in Silver Spring and Takoma Park. Cool! Now we need to find a Sunday afternoon group....

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I finished the socks!

I finished the socks! I'm afraid the grafting is sort of made up, though. I need to find better instructions than I used today. I love the way they look with jeans.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Mice Will Play

As I was straigtening up this morning, these little creatures were staring down at me from the mantle. I made them for Son and gave them to him during Hanukkah. My mother liked them so much she asked for a set for herself next holidays.

I went straight home, made all the clothes for her set and for a set for another young friend--then put them in baggies and stuffed them in my yarn bag. There are also assorted clothing for dancing rabbits.

What I had forgotten was that there are all the pieces for Son's birthday present. They are not yet stuffed. All will be revealed at the end of the month....

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Down to the toes

Last night we all sat out on the deck in the glorious weather and knit for a little while. David continued the seed stitch scarf for Son and I worked on my socks. I'm up to the toe decreases on both pairs.

As we enjoyed the weather and the sounds of the outdoors, I asked David what he would write about if he had a knitting blog. He talked about how knitting is something he can do with his hands while he listens, whether he is listening to a book on tape, attending a lecture, or having a conversation with us. He pointed out that knitting actually makes him a better listener, giving him the patience and focus that a good listener requires.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Happy Pesach!

Thanks for all the thought-provoking comments here and and on Knitty about my previous post. I'm sure after a little more thinking and reading, I'll write another entry about the subject.

Around here we've been enjoying our seder-filled breadless life. Passover is one of my favorite holidays, although knitting really has very little place in the proceedings. I think a Knitter's Hagaddah is definitely in order. Certainly a knitted seder plate is on my agenda.

The second front for the green cabled cardigan is up past the start of the armhole decrease. The green shawl is a few rows longer. And yesterday at my knitting playgroup, I knit most of the foot of one of the new socks. I am seriously thinking of casting on a new big project (maybe a Pi shawl?) that is NOT green....

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Knitting and Feminism

Sometimes I'm immobilized when I try to reconcile my deep commitment to feminism and my intense attachment to things traditionally associated with domesticity. Both parenting and fiber crafts, as well as cooking and baking, have drawn me in despite the fact that I realize that they have all been places of oppression.

Certainly feminism contains divergent opinions about this. Some feminists posit that instead of fighting for equality, we should fight for increased visability and value of women's work. I agree up to a point. Valuing the traditions of my female ancestors is a way of respecting their lives rather than discarding them. It gives me a sense of connection rather than rupture. At the same time, latching on to traditional women's work reinforces the divisions between men and women. Feminists recognize that jobs and skills and hobbies that have been traditionally reserved for men are in no way more important than those belonging to women, even if we have treated them as if they were.

But if we stay within our gender boxes, we aren't actually getting anywhere. It is only through the disruption of traditional gender assumptions that we're going to change the world.

My personal answer to this has been to teach my male son and male partner to do the traditionally feminine, rather than stretching out myself to learn the traditionally masculine. I don't fiddle with electronics or use power tools or fix car engines or even watch sports.

Thinking about what these traditionally-female crafts meant to women in the past always renews my sense of commitment to them. Sitting down with knitting gave women a time for peace, just as it does for us now, even if they were knitting what was required to keep them warm through long winters. It was, as it is now, an outlet for the expression of creativity. "Women's work" was so often about the maintenance of the status quo. Dishes washed were just dirty again after the next meal, and laundry hung on the line would just need to be scrubbed again the next week. Tasks like those cannot easily make us feel fulfilled, partly because they are never done and partly because they require no bit of ourselves. Even the most ordinary handmade items were outward expressions of the intimate, public displays of the personal.

The objects that were made afforded warmth to those who used them, but they also offered comfort and pleasure to those making them. What a shame it would be to detatch all our everyday objects from the process of their creation. When we buy a blanket or shirt or scarf at Walmart, we've done just that. The consequence of this process of detachment seems to be that we care less and less about our world. We don't keep our things because it is cheaper to buy new ones than to care for the old ones. We don't care very much what goes into our things when the process of their production is hidden from us. We don't even care very much about what we do to the planet in the process.

Is the honoring of traditional craft one way to forestall this destruction?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Why knit?

I've been thinking a lot lately about why I knit. I'm afraid the answer is not at all clear to me. Some reasons:

Yes, I like the finished products. And I like giving them to friends and family who appreciate them.

Knitting keeps my mind from wandering during lectures and conferences.

Sitting down with yarn in my hands is peaceful and quiet. Each stitch is a meditation.

Knitting allows me to work through whatever issues I'm facing in my writing. It gives me time to consider how to deal with complexities in my daily life. I'm not sure why something that requires some attention and focus allows my brain to do things it cannot do when left to its own devices, but there it is.

Knitting with my partner and son is a way to express our communal identity while we are doing our own thing. Both needs get fulfilled.

It is a creative process: art when I need to do art and craft when I need to do craft.

Producing knitting makes me proud of my skills, something I don't always feel.

Why do you knit?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Knit, Knot, Not.

I've been reading the original KnitLit: Sweaters and Their Stories...and Other Writing About Knitting and noticing that several of the authors choose to say they are knotting the yarn together with each stitch. I suspect they choose to do that for metaphorical reasons. But it seems to me that the fact that knitting is NOT about making knots can make it a much more powerful metaphor for relationships.

Knitted fabric is one long strand of yarn looped together with no clear boundries or endpoints of the sort that a knot would provide. If you pull at the yarn before you've bound off, all of it unravels, stitch by stitch in order but without end. A knot cuts off one stitch from the next. Knitting binds the yarn together both vertically and horizontally, with what is next to us as well as what came before. To pursue the metaphor, knitting is the connection between us and our loved ones surrounding us but also reminds us that each stitch is an inheritance from previous generations of knitters.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Two of a Kind

I returned home from the conference late last night with two socks on the needles, one knit to the start of the heel and the other to the decreases after the gusset. (I started the first one and knit to the heel, then switched to the other. I knit the heel and picked up the gusset stitches on the plane.) I love the color pattern emerging from the yarn.

Most of the conference felt like a waste of time to me. As I got angry about yet another stupid "leadership training" game with tent poles or popsicle sticks or molding clay, I knit all the faster. By the end I felt like Madam Defarge.

There was another sock knitter in our small group--a woman who works in a knitting store in Pittsburgh and was knitting Tolstoy socks, one inside the other. Very cool! The name comes from a passage in War and Peace: "Anna Makarovna has finished her stocking," said Countess Marya.... They meant two stockings, which, by a secret known only to her, Anna Makarovna used to knit on her needles simultaneously. When the pair was finished, she always made a solemn ceremony of pulling one stocking out of the other in the presence of the children."

Friday, April 07, 2006

Back to green knitting

I finished the second ball of linen for the feather-and-fan shawl. About 60% finished. I really need to hold this and the green cabled cardigan until Project Spectrum has its green month in May....

This evening I'm flying off to a conference for board members of our local food co-op. In the bag? Sock yarn and Stepahie Pearl-McPhee's Knitting Rules!: The Yarn Harlot's Bag of Knitting Tricks. I'm looking forward to some good airplane knitting and reading!

Thursday, April 06, 2006


When I was 8 years old, my parents left me and my younger brother with my two grandmothers for a few days. Grandmother kept us during the day and Granny (who worked during the day) in the evening.

By day I learned to sew and quilt. At Grandmother's house, I made a quilted pillow that still sits in my bedroom in my parents' house. Meanwhile, my grandmother pieced together her quilt top.

After dinner, my other grandmother tried to teach me to knit and crochet. As Granny worked on a purple sweater coat, I made a crocheted belt and hair tie as well as a knitted skirt for a Barbie doll. It was an A-line skirt, growing by one stich each row. (This was not on purpose; every time I started a new row, I pulled the yarn to the front rather than the back to make the first stich into two.)

While Granny was an incredible knitter, she was not a perfect teacher--at least not for a child. She did not understand my slow learning curve. She showed me knit stich, purl, increase, decrease, and yarnover and expected me to knit a lace scarf immediately. It was not until many years later, years filled with lessons from my mother (a satisfactory knitter and a great teacher) and several technique books that I really got the hang of knitting. And there is still so much I have not tried!

I learned to be a knitter from Granny, even if she did not teach me the stitches in any way that stuck. Every time I wear the sweater coat she knitted all those years ago, I feel the warmth of not only the yarn but also the not-always-expressed love that she knitted into each stitch. Every time I use my own needles to create something for a loved one, I think of her sitting alone on her couch, listening to the radio and imagining surrounding us in warmth.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Down--and Out?

I finished the first sock but I really dislike the heel. Harrumph. I think I'll try out a different pattern for future socks. Any recommendations?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Yesterday, Son and I went to the brand-new local yarn store in Chevy Chase to look around. Although the store is small, it has beautiful yarns and a lovely feel. I was hoping to pick up a pair of 5-inch DPNs for a sock-knitting fiesta at the conference this weekend. Unfortunately, their DPNs are not yet in stock. Hm. This may mean that I get to have to go to another knitting store this week....

It has been a couple of years since I made a sock. Just to make sure I remembered how, I took some ancient sock yarn with me on the bus and started knitting. I'm really not a pink person, but the color of this yarn is such a nice change from the green shawl and the green cardigan that I am in heaven. The only problem is that the yarn is broken in many, many places. I make just a couple of rounds before I come up with another loose end. (Did the moths get to it? Could that explain it?) There is no way I'm going to have two matching socks when I have to be using this stop, trim, and reattach method constantly.

And here's what I wore while I knit the new sock. They are the first socks I ever knitted.

Monday, April 03, 2006

K1, R1 (Knit One, Read One), Pt. 2

I just finished Perri Klass's Two Sweaters for My Father. Klass is a pediatrician, a novelist, a writer of nonfiction, and a columnist for Knitter's Magazine. This book is a collection of some of her favorite essays from Knitter's and other publications.

Several articles discuss how knitting helps Klass pay attention in meetings. The author points out how resistant the medical community has been to the presence of knitters in the audience at lectures, etc. (at least when she was in medical school and residency). Although the author assumes this resistance is rooted in a belief that knitters could not possibly be paying attention to anything else, she also hints that the cultural meanings of knitting (as domestic and unprofessional) has a lot to do with the negative view. I would love to see more open discussion of this idea.

A couple of essays explore how knitting connected her to other people. In one humorous essay, Klass interviews her daughter about her aborted knitting career. Another, the title essay, is a poignant account of how a handknit sweater was a symbol of her love for her father. Similarly, his love of the sweater showed her how much he loved her. Only after his death did she fully understand.

My favorite article in the book is the final one, "Confessions of a Tight Knitter," where Klass explores how her tendency to knit tightly but like loose clothes mirrors her personality of obsessive list-maker who lives comfortably with randomness and clutter around her. Sounds like me!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Now what do I do with it?

I finished the doily, learning kitchener stitch in the process to get the two live edges grafted together. Next time, I think I'll try making the invisible cast-on with cotton yarn so it pulls out without leaving wool fuzz behind.

Should I put the doily in the center of the table? (It is about 15 inches across.) Use it as a challah cover? Play dress-up with it pinned around my neck? It is my first lacy knitting ever and I am hooked! Maybe I should make two and give one to my mother and the other to my partner's mother for Mother's Day....

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Family that Knits Together, Stays Together

Last night as we listened to the last tape of Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter, we each worked on our own projects.

David finished a hat for Son from Melanie Falick's excellent Kids Knitting. This was his first project using purl stitch. He's trying to learn both English and Continental style knitting. (He'll be all set for colorwork eventually!)

I worked on the right front of the cabled cardigan. Two more inches to go.

Son put down his knit-one-row-at-a-time shawl and instead used the Paint program on the computer to draw me knitting in the rocking chair:

But hats and sweaters produced this time of year do not provide immediate gratification. Here's what is outside these days:


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