Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Green and Yellow for a Little Bean

This past weekend, I attended a baby shower for one of my favourite people in the whole world. You may remember back at the beginning of the summer, I shared a turquoise and tangerine baby blanket, carefully crocheted for my best friend's baby. These days, the little one is a mere month away from joining us in the world of light and oxygen.

Of course, I should have saved that crocheted baby blanket to give to J on Saturday at her shower. But... I was impatient and excited. I gave it to her way back in June, right after I finished it. Any excuse to start something new, I don't mind. Shortly after I gave up on my gray sweater, I cast on for a sweater of a more manageable size.

I found a free pattern for a little baby cardigan online and got to work with some super soft baby bamboo yarn by Patons. It's a simple pattern, knit from the bottom back edge, then split for the neckline and fronts. You pick up stitches for the super simple sleeves, then pick up more stitches along the edge for the neckline and button band. I managed to finish the knitting in a mere week. Getting around to sewing up the seams and putting buttons on - that took a little longer. I hate those parts of a project.


I was nearly finished with it. Cute little ladybug buttons. Two more ends to work in. Then, on the Sunday the week before the shower, we came home from church and found it on the floor, the buttons ripped off and chewed to pieces, a few broken strands of yarn poking out around the button holes. I was devastated.

(Oh, dogs. I love you, but.)

But, perhaps it could be saved, I thought. I carefully cut away the remaining bits of the ladybug buttons, picked out the frayed edges of yarn around the one button hole, tied a few knots, and gave the little buttonless cardigan a quick, gentle wash. I worked in all the tiny little ends, found new buttons, and carefully sewed the pretty green circles onto the cardigan's edge on Friday night, the day before the shower.


A critical look over my handiwork. It's not perfect. The seams don't line up perfectly and my increases and decreases for the neckline turned out a little lopsided and uneven. But, as I handed my gift bag to the mom-to-be, I knew she wouldn't care. My critical eye notices everything. Hers, I hope, will notice nothing but how much I already love her little one, the boy or girl I will always consider a niece or nephew, though we have no blood relation. Those imperfections don't matter in the least. Sure, the construction of it might not be as perfect as the sleeper I picked up at Baby Gap to go along with it in the gift bag, but there is so much of me in each stitch of that little cardigan.

And maybe the baby will never wear it. Maybe it will turn out inconvenient to wash, and impractical for a little baby. But that's ok - I bought some other practical things for the baby to use. In many ways, creating that little sweater was a task meant more for me than the one it is meant for. There is nothing quite like creating something for someone else that forces you to think rather deeply about that person.

Dear J: I can't wait to meet him or her. I can't wait to become 'Tante Nettie'. I love you and your little family!


(Photo credit for the last two pictures goes to J's mom and the soon-to-be Grandma for the first time. I realized as we lounged with our feet up after most of the shower guests had left that I hadn't yet taken photos of the final product and I didn't have my camera with me. She was happy to snap a few photos for me.)

(To see more details and project notes, check out the project page for this one on Ravelry.)

Friday, October 18, 2013

On Frogging and Life

Back at the beginning of September, I cast on 66 stitches in a simple grey acrylic yarn - some of the Spinrite Tent Sale yarn I had picked up in mid-August. We were on our way to a cottage to spend a gorgeous long weekend with a troupe of cousins, doing water sports, catching the last of summer's sun on the dock, and talking long into the night around a camp fire. Obviously, I needed a knitting project.

For this particular environment, something simple was a must. Something I could work away with while still participating in everything that was going on around me. I didn't want to squirrel myself away in a corner to work on a complicated lace pattern, or lose my thought in the middle of a conversation because I dropped a stitch while weaving in cables. Straight stitching. Straightforward.


Ease seemed the perfect pattern. I spent the whole weekend knitting, and then two weeks after that. I bound off the bottom edge of the body with just a little trepidation one evening at my knitting group, and, finally free of its circular needles, I slipped it over my head.

And sighed. It was way too big. The waist shaping and the 5 inches of ribbing turned out just fine, but the bust and neckline gaped out from my body, looking lumpy and large. But, with a little futzing, I could shift the tunic sweater into place just enough to somewhat satisfy me. Perhaps I had some hope for it left. I took it off and started on the first sleeve.


Almost as soon as I got home that night, I decided to frog it. I insisted on letting it rest for a few days, just to make sure I was certain. After all, I'd put two weeks of straight knitting into this sweater. Was I really ready to give up on it?

Here's the thing about knitting projects: if they're not quite right, if they come off the needles misshapen, if you don't like the finished product you've created, you're unlikely to use it. All your hard work and dedication? It's nothing but a waste of yarn if you don't like it in the end.

So, frog it.

But all that time! Was that wasted too?


No. Here's the thing about knitting. About sewing. About painting. About drawing. About writing. About playing an instrument. About singing. About building relationships. About developing a career. Here's the thing about life. The process is more important than the final product. Sure, it would have been nice if I could have had a sweater at the end of all that time I spent twisting yarn around a couple of sticks. The fact that I don't have one is disappointing but acceptable because I learned so much about the process of knitting a sweater in that two weeks I spent working on it. I understand how raglan sleeves are created. I get top-down construction. I know a new 'stretchy' method of binding off an edge. I've been reminded how important counting is and keeping track of rows.

Yes, my sweater went from looking sweater like after two weeks to being wound up into balls of grey yarn in a matter of minutes. No, I haven't started the sweater again. Yes, I still have yet to make myself my own sweater. But as I pulled those stitches out, I didn't feel even the slightest twinge of sadness. That sweater gave me what I needed - a little more experience, and two weeks of entertainment.

And now, I get to make it again.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Giving Thanks

I have so much to be thankful for.

Family. Health. Home. Community. From the broadest of categories to the simplest of details. The crunchy pecan crust atop a sweet potato casserole. My mother-in-law's eagerness to help. The contented chewing of the dogs on their Thanksgiving day bones. The texture of yarn as we settled in to relax with evening approaching.

Thanksgiving Monday, we took the dogs to the park. I have little else to say today, but I wanted to share this, the joy on their little puppy faces as they romped in the sunshine and dappled shade.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Diversions in Wood: Fixing the Siding

So, let's recap.

Over the past few months, our Attic of Awesome project was waylaid by the need to waterproofed the basement apartment, which we did over the span of approximately 2 months, choosing to seal everything up from the inside, rather than digging down and doing a proper job of waterproofing around the exterior. While interior waterproofing is a pretty legit way to keep your basement dry for a few years relatively cheaply, parts of our exterior are in bad enough shape, we couldn't just stop there.

In our investigations, the Husband did a little poking around, particularly around the mudroom exterior.


Spongy, soft wood. A little prod with a screw driver, and it sunk through the particle board. Our little mudroom was rotting away. We had no choice. Something had to be done. We needed new siding. Since the little room was never had any siding to begin with, we figured it was about time.


Can you see the lack of siding? I took this photo way back, one of the first few days we had possession of the house. That window? It's been long gone. The mudroom was covered in the cheapest of the cheap particle board. It was certainly never mean to weather years and years of rain, snow and damp.

It took us a couple weeks. The Husband called for a quote or two, visited a lumber yard for pricing, weighed the pros and cons, and, finally, booked a few days off work. This was a task he was fairly certain he could tackle on his own, and even if it was hard, it would be worth it to learn a new skill. We were pleasantly surprised and grateful when his dad, who has helped us so much over the past few months on the house, took a few days off work himself to come to Toronto and help out.

On Friday afternoon, I came home to this:


Construction mess everywhere, but! A finished mudroom! That siding, oh, I love it! It matches the rest of the house, simple wood siding. As we figured out pricing and considered our options, the Husband waffled a little between vinyl and wood. Vinyl would have been far cheaper after all, and this is merely the back of our house. It's not like people see it, and if we went with a simple white vinyl, we probably wouldn't even have noticed the difference much. But, in the end, the experience of working with wood trumped the fake stuff, and I'm so glad the Husband made that decision. It's absolutely beautiful.

Now, of course, we face a decision: painting!


Obviously, we should paint the one back wall section of the house white to match the rest of the house. But, what about the mudroom itself? Should we

a) Paint it white. Keep it simple. Leave the whole house white.
b) Stain it. Keep the beautiful texture of the wood! We can get away with some contrast on the little lean-to construction, so why wouldn't we?

What do you think?

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Attic of Awesome, Taking Shape

It feels like it's been taking a long time. It has been, really. Originally, we had planned a timeline that ensured we'd be moving our furniture into the attic come mid-June. Obviously, a little water prevented that plan from coming to fruition. By the time we finished fixing up the basement for our new tenants, we were exhausted, mentally and physically, from pushing ourselves to meet our deadlines

But now, we're back at it. And guys? This attic. It's going to be gorgeous.

With the help of the Husband's dad, we have now completely finished the framing, put down subfloor, and almost finished wiring all of our outlets. It looks amazing.


Ok, a little messy. But oh. Just look at that dormer!


I love the look of the warm wood, the old contrasting with the brightness of the new. Of course, we can't keep this look. We'll be spray foaming to insulate, and then drywalling everything, so the intricacies of the framing will be gone.


You see our closets framed out, there in the above photo? There are three of those openings all along the back wall. Lots of storage, yes, but low. We'll need to get a little creative, and I may need to learn a few organizational skills.

So, let's do a quick run-down of what we've done here, and what we still have yet to do.

What we've finished

  • Reinforced the ceiling joists to support a floor. 
  • Reinforced the sagging roof joists.
  • Opened the ceiling to create a stairwell and installed temporary stairs.
  • Removed the last of the knob-and-tube in the house and re-ran electrical for the dining room and porch lights.
  • Installed a beam to support the main floor ceiling so we could take out a wall. 
  • Removed a wall on the main floor
  • Built knee-walls and framed in closets.
What we have yet to do
  • Finish installing electrical outlets. 
  • Spray foam to insulate the space.
  • Build a bannister.
  • Install a new window.
  • Drywall.
  • Install pot lights.*
  • Tape and mud. 
  • Paint.
  • Install the floors.
  • Hang curtains and move in.
  • (Figure out something for our irregularly shaped closet doors.) 
  • Build or buy a real set of stairs.
The list still seems long. But, the Husband is nearly finished with the electrical, and we'll be hiring out the spray foaming. There's a good chance we could be more or less finished within a month, and nearly a guarantee that we'll be living in this room before Christmas. Things are looking good! 

* We realized early on that we won't be able to do traditional pot lights, due to the shallow depth we have to work with in the ceiling joists. Pot lights that are installed in attics or close to the roof as ours would be require additional insulation around them. This insulation takes up more space than the 6 inches we have to work with. So, we're going for LED puck lights instead. We tested them out this weekend, bought a single pack and strung them up. We'll have plenty enough light with 8 or so installed!