Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Yarn Along

Monday was a day of sickness in the house.  Fortunately only 3 kids actually got sick, and even then, they were fine after a few hours of misery.  It didn't even last a whole 24 hours.

I've been doing a lot of Advent preparation this last week, but unfortunately, not working on the Christmas animals for the kids.  I'm realizing I have just a few weeks left and sort of hit a panic last night.  So this might be the last you see of this sweater in progress until after the New Year.  Whew!  I have a lot to do!

The front of this pullover is everything I hoped.  I loosely based it off of one of the antique baptismal gowns my girls wore that has been in my husband's family for more than 120 years.  It is just so lovely, that I started sketching, and wondering how the design would translate into a sweater.  I originally thought of putting garter stitch down the front for the horizontal lines, to mimic the pin tucks in the the gown, but I didn't like the idea of the different row gauge that would involve and the general pulling and adjusting while wearing.

Not that long ago, I thought of using a Latvian braid technique for the center horizontal panel.  It was just perfect, and made the row gauge pretty consistent throughout.  I'm currently playing around with some neck shaping, so it's not totally done.  The sleeves, once I get to them after Christmas, will be more lacy, which is also in line with the heirloom gown.  The swatch for the lace in this yarn still needs to be done, so I'm a bit away from getting that completed.

As for reading, I went to a conference with a friend of mine last Saturday.  It was just a morning and early afternoon thing, but the speaker was Susie Larson.  It was so good!  I was writing feverishly the whole time, and had pages of notes brought home with me.  Since I can't resist a book table, I got 2 of her books afterwards.  I've been reading through (be it ever so slowly) Your Beautiful Purpose.  So far it's been really inspiring, and yet grounded and practical.

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Yarn Along

So, this yarn has me hypnotized.  I had heard on Ravelry about this "Plucky" yarn.  Friends on Instagram etc. were raving about it.  So I went on the website and thought I'd check it out.  The sheer number of color ways available were overwhelming, but I thought I'd order a bit, and see how it was. It turns out that's easier said than done, because it only goes up for sale twice or month or something online, and sells out in a matter of minutes.  But I knew so many people using this yarn, so I figured it couldn't be that hard to get some.

So the first month I tried to get it, I went online at the specified times, tried to remember which color way and base yarn I wanted ordered.  I got it all picked out, went to put it in my cart, and got a "sold out" notice.  I had missed it.  Shoot.

So the next month, I had everything all picked out.  I got online at the right moment.  I got it in my cart.  But the Plucky Knitter lady just added a new base yarn, and I thought I would drop just one skein of it into my cart to make a little accessory, since it looked so great.  It was a bad move because once I pressed the "purchase" button in my cart, everything was sold out.

On the third month, I went online at the specified time, I had everything picked out, I was moving it to my online cart and Knut walked in the back door.  "Hey honey, can you help me with something quick outside?"

"No!  Just...!  Hang on!" as I ran from my husband and kids with my laptop in my hands into the bathroom, locked the door, and as the little ones were pounding and screaming on the other side, I finally completed an order.


So...I got a sweater's worth of the base: primo sport, which is a merino wool, cashmere, nylon blend.  This is my first time working with a cashmere blend, and I'm hooked.  People, I was made for cashmere.  I got the color way "Papier" which is sort of a grey-blue with bits of lavender in it.

It is the most perfect yarn ever.  I will so stand on top of my toilet with an army of toddlers pounding on the other side of the door and my husband asking "Gretchen, is everything okay?" all over again for it.

I'm knitting a pieced and seamed sweater, which is a first for me as a designer.  Trust me, it just makes this sweater more simple, not less.  I started with the back, since that is just simple stockinette, as I got the details of the rest of the sweater worked out on the spreadsheet.  The back flew off the needles over the weekend without much effort.  The softness of the cashmere, and the addition of the little bit of nylon for stretch makes it one of the most comfortable yarns to knit with, and I can go for hours without feeling any stress on my hands.

This week I'm onto the front of this sweater.  It has 2 panels of cables, which was all swatched out, but I did not swatch the distance between the panels.  So about an inch into this front, I've decided that I want the panels about an inch closer together, so I'm going to rip back this little bit today and start again.

The kids and I are moving onto Detectives in Togas for our morning tea time reading.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along, when a bunch of us blog about what we are currently knitting and reading.  You can click on over to Ginny's blog and find out what others are doing, and get inspired!

Monday, November 17, 2014

I'm Blessed

I had this beautiful post written in my head last night for this morning.  It involved such an encouraging day at church, a night with dear friends, and finally some really good progress in school.  It involved the Silje and David doing chores together last night happily, and staying up and having tea together just because they wanted to continue on their conversation.  They were getting along, people!  I was going to tell you all about Elias' wonderful birthday, and think of all the ways I'm thankful he is here.

I thought this dreamy, all-is-well feeling would last me until I got to writing this morning.  One little thing happened: 2 year molars.  Ingrid was up pretty much between 11pm and 3am, and every 2 hours following that.  She slept somewhere in there, though very lightly.  I'm tired.  Right now all I can think about is: I'm tired.

I am sometimes disgusted how I let one thing dominate my attitude when I have a list of things I'm thankful for.  I hate how easily a spirit of gratitude can topple, and I realize more and more that it is a battle.  Gratitude is not a passive thing, it's something you have to hold onto with white knuckles and refuse to have it taken.  Because we are so easily distracted, so easily fooled, it's crazy.  We say gratitude will come when everything is perfect...when we have something to be grateful for.  We have this ideal in our heads that when...if...we ever get there, we will be happy.  We will be content.

Do not be deceived.

Our adult Sunday School is doing this video series about life in the desert.  It's quite incredible.  It laid a foundation of people who went into the desert for their training, either willingly, or unwillingly.  The study brings a camera into the desert that the Israelites wandered after they escaped Egypt.  We're learning about the trees and plants that the Bible speaks about in context to the desert in which they grow.  It's fascinating.

I'm reminded through this study that God is enough for today.  We have our daily bread...grace for today.  Yet, we are never happy with just today.  We demand grace for the next while.  We want a promise that our lives will be perfect.  We demand God serve us in a way that would require no faith.

I did experience that last night.  I saw a direct application to that "grace for just this moment" right around 2am.  I had been holding Ingrid, and getting her a drink.  She was nearly asleep in my arms, and I gently laid her down.  She protested, as she often does, but instead of rolling over and falling asleep as she usually did, the quiet protest worked into a full out scream.  I left the room in frustration and fatigue.  I went and laid down in bed, and told Knut I ran out of things to do for her.  I had nothing left.  Nothing I did helped, so what's the point?

After a few sleepy moments, Knut sat up.  I didn't see the point in him going in, and told him so.  We are in post-harvest season still.  During post-harvest, the youngest kids push him away.  They act shy around him.  Of course they remember him, but they check everything he tells them to do with me to make sure that I'm okay with it.  They certainly don't like him showing up to comfort them at night.  That's mom's job, and I'm not sure if you've ever met a toddler, but they don't like when things change.

Knut picked up Ingrid, and she didn't fight him.  He brought her back to our bed, and gently turned her head away from seeing me.  He laid her down on his chest, and with her ear to his heartbeat, her body relaxed and she fell asleep.  It was a moment of grace.  It was a moment of provision.

I lay there in the silence, listening to them breathe, and thanked God for that moment.  That's when we find joy.  Every moment has it's provision.  It doesn't mean every moment is painless and pleasant.  It means every moment has provision.  And when we see it, and we give thanks, there is joy.  Faith grows.

I'm also thankful for coffee this morning.  God's provision comes in many forms.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Season

It's still Fall, but we are a few inches deep in snow already.  I'm fighting the kids to keep the autumnal decorations up at least through Thanksgiving, because according to them, Christmas is just a few days away.  At any rate, we have started the season I lovingly refer to as "Hibernation Season."  Of course, we never hibernate as much as I wish.  Lately it seems like we are constantly in town for some reason or another.

This is Solveig stuffing her mouth like the rest of us with some store-bought lefse.  Buying lefse at the store is sacrilege in this family, but I couldn't help myself.  I'm too busy to make some now, and there's something about snow on the ground that makes me crave it like nothing else.  (For those of non-Norwegian descent, lefse is much like a potato crepe that you butter and sugar and hoard from all other family members.  Most of the stories of stealing and hiding in my family all have the common theme of lefse.)  Lefse is essential to hibernating.

The kids are really into board games right now.  Sorry, Monopoly, Ticket to Ride, Sequence are constantly out.  They're finally at the age where they don't lose the pieces all the least not as often.

I didn't bring in my geraniums for the winter hibernation, but I did bring in the begonias before they froze.  I have a tendency to kill house plants by the dozen.  I did this quiz once a few years ago to find out how many plants we needed in our house for proper air purification during the closed in winter months.  Our magic number for our square footage was 18 plants.  At the time we had 0 because I had killed them all, so I went out and bought 2, which I killed after a few months as well.  I love my begonias next to the bird feeder outside our kitchen window every summer, and I wanted to hold onto them this winter.

I think Knut discovered my house plant problem.  He noticed I was watering them with water from the sink, which is soft (yet still extraordinarily rusty...we'll say "mineral rich") well water.  He told me to start using our filtered water that we use from the fridge.   So far, the 2 plants that we have inside haven't died using this water.  In fact, they're looking pretty healthy.  He may be onto something...  I may even buy one or two more this month.

The fire in the fireplace in our living room is now running around the clock again, as Knut has been in to get the chimneys swept and wood brought in.  The gas furnace was turned off, and we're back to just burning wood in the fireplace and corn in the basement corn stove on the other side of the house.

So the living room is now the place to be, and the kids wander out of the t.v. space in the den and climb in a chair to read a book, or gather up for a board game often.  There's something about the fireplace that just draws us all away from technology and into reflection and study mode.  This is the time of year we get the most schoolwork done.  Wool socks are hanging out to dry all over the house pretty much all the time, after the kids cross country ski and snowboard or sled in the ditches during their frequent recess times outside.  This is the time of year when we consume an extraordinary amount of hot chocolate.   It has started early this year, but to be honest?  That's just fine by me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Yarn Along

"Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading..." -Ginny Sheller

I finished this shrug yesterday, blocked it out, seamed up the arms, and then decided that I want it about 3 inches shorter.  So I have a bit of ripping back to do this next week, but it really won't take too long.  I'm certain with the growth that happened with the blocking that this small ripping back will make it exactly perfect.  I just cannot wait to share this pattern with you.

Once again I find myself quite backed up with some knitting pattern writing to complete.  I got behind schedule this last week...two weeks in fact, as my "work time" has been sucked into "real-work time."  I've had such a hard time as a mom these last 2 weeks.  I don't want to go into details mostly because I don't want to share too much on the internet, and also because I don't want to remember these last 2 weeks in the long term.  It's not exactly scrapbook worthy stuff.  Let's just say it's been hard.  Very hard.  The last time I showed up at the library for my scheduled alone time to finish up writing a pattern, my mind was so tired I just sat there, and knit here and there, and stared into space.  I have spent a lot of time on my knees these last few weeks.

It's hard work, this parenting business, isn't it?  We have reached outside our home for help these last few weeks, and I'm certain that we have identified the problem now are over the worst of it.  All the experts we reached out to kept saying, "Keep doing what you're doing."  My husband found it encouraging, but I found it discouraging, as though this was going to be our new normal.  I did come around as I saw improvement bit by bit.  

After all of that, I feel like we're finally starting to get back to normal after harvest.  My husband will be soon, though I can tell he's still not back to normal since the intense harvest season.  Tomorrow is my knitting-business afternoon, and I feel like I'm finally back in a spot where my brain will be able to be all in it.  Through all the stress, my house hasn't been this clean in ages.  As a family, we're learning how to work hard, and there has been ample work around us to help us practice.  Through it all, I feel like my relationship with my kids has grown deeper, and stronger these last few weeks, as the trust between us and the unconditional love was put to the test.  These hard things are sometimes good things.  We have had lots of long talks on the couch by the fireplace, and huge portions of our hearts have been poured out to each other, as we have been taking some intentional time with each one of the kids.  These things have demanded my attention, as they should.  Sometimes you have to put aside the writing, the activities, the hustle and bustle and just work it out until it's done.

Yesterday was our weekly trip to the library, and it wasn't until we got there that I realized that it was closed due to Veteran's Day.  I knew it was Veteran's Day, but I hadn't connected that with the trip to the library.  So the kids were disappointed, but I told them we could go to the used book store instead.    It totally did the trick because my kids love that place.  I'm so glad we went, because I got so many books that were on my home-school wish list that I had never seen there before, and I still had store credit there to be spent.  Plus they sell books by the pound, so I got them for barely anything.  You can turn in used books to this bookstore for store credit, and I take advantage of that as often as I can.  I had forgotten that I still had credit to spend from a few months ago.

I've been reading a bit of Educating the Whole-Hearted Child once again, like having coffee with an old friend.  The Clarksons have mentored me so as a mother through their books, and conferences.  I think this time I picked it up to read it again because I needed the reminding of what my calling and goals as a mother are, and how to take my children's personalities and unique design into consideration.  I needed that down to earth, practical advice.  For anyone considering homeschooling, this is the book to look at first.  Oh the heartache and money I would have saved if I had only started here!

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Little Snow

Yesterday's rain gradually turned into snow, and the excitement in this cross-country-ski-family's house was clearly heard.  I had promised to take Elias out on a little date for supper, so I didn't hole up and begin the hibernation season as I usually do.  I tasted the most horrible chicken pot pie I have ever encountered, and had the privilege of being with Elias who talks your head off when you get him alone.  I heard all the deep thoughts going on in his mind, mostly pertaining to his upcoming birthday.

When the snow started falling, Solveig and I were in the kitchen and I told her to look outside.  She lit up and said, "Can I tell everyone else?" so she was excited to make the big announcement.  Though this morning, the first thing she said when she woke up was, "There wasn't enough snow."

More will come this weekend.  We may not see grass for awhile now.  It's good timing, though.  The roses have been tucked under their winter bed of leaves, although I never got around to planting the garlic in the garden like I wanted to.  We got Missy's doghouse all ready for winter and she's relaxing just fine in there, during the day at least.  At night she still likes to brave the wind and stand guard in the yard.  It's just her way.  As we joke, this livestock guardian is more livestock than dog.  It's her instinct.

I'm beyond words with excitement that hibernation season is here.  I may be in the minority, but I just hope it stays.  It makes me want to bake up a storm and fill the house with the smell of pumpkin bread and chai tea.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Yarn Along

Christmas crafting has begun, late in the evenings as the kids have gone to bed.  Last year I made 3 Miss Maggie rabbits for my girls.  The creator of this pattern has come out with 4 more patterns this year, and I dropped some leading questions to the kids earlier last spring, wondering if they would be interested in them.  I was thinking just the Solveig and Ingrid, but preteen-Silje and even Elias showed a huge amount of interest too.  David was the only one who said he didn't want one, he would rather I make him a car pillow for his bed.  So that's what he'll be getting.  Silje will get the cat, Solveig the deer, Ingrid the mouse, and Elias the fox.

I'm starting with Silje's kitty.  Since I have made 3 products of this designer already, the whole process feels familiar.  It was so overwhelming last year, but this year I see the simplicity of it all, and know how quickly everything will come together.  One night I got the shawl for the kitty done, and all of the felt pieces for the body cut out, as well as the dress pattern pieces.  Last night I did the facial embroidery and stitched the head together.  I've realized that the whole project can be done easily within a week, only using a few hours each evening.

I've also learned that the draw to this type of present is all in the accessories.  Silje showed as much interest for this as she does her American Girl doll, and as I thought about it, she loves having all the pieces that go with it.  So I'm wondering if I should make a little cardigan for each one, or maybe a knit dress as I did last year.  Rosy Little Things has so many cute accessories to add on.  It really is a relaxing, easy project, that finishes so quickly in comparison to the adult sized projects I do most of the year.  Compared to my usual knitting, this is instant gratification.

My reading is Christmas-related as well, as this is the month I need to do my family-advent preparation so that December isn't the most stressful month of the year.  I'm holding off in sharing that with you, as I know some don't like about talking about Christmas this early in the year.  :)

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along.