Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mad for tweed

Nancy J. Thomas, creative director of Tahki Stacy Charles yarns, has written a new book devoted to history of this flecked woolen fiber.
The patterns in “Tweed: More than 20 Contemporary Designs to Knit” ($27.50, Potter Craft) are arranged by difficulty, for beginner (“Walking on the Moors”) to advanced (“Sailing the North Sea”) knitters. The first three chapters explore the Origins of Tweed Yarns in Fabric, the process of making tweed yarn and stitch patterns that best highlight this distinctive yarn.
Each design calls for Tahki wool and not a single one is ordinary.
I am coveting the Galway Tie-Front Cardigan with ribbed sleeves, generous front pockets and three fat pairs of I-cord ties. The arms are knit in a rose multi, which is more on the purple end of the color scheme; while the body of the sweater is a red mix, which leans toward rust. It is an advanced beginner (“Hiking the Scottish Uplands”) — exactly my skill level.
And the Northern Ireland Peplum Sweater is quite simply a work of art. Made in pink, with flecks of ecru that lend it a stonewashed effect, a crisscrossed tie V-neck and frilly lace-detailed border knit after the sweater is complete, this garment most certainly is the Mona Lisa — mysterious and enthralling. It’s one of those patterns that invades the mind, spurring you on to better and finer skills, awaiting you like the proverbial mirage in the desert.
If sweltering New England summers are no deterrent to your choice of fiber, this book is most certainly for you, the most devoted of wool-gatherers.

Stylish knits

In “One Ball Knits Accessories: 20 Stylish Designs Made With a Single Ball, Skein, Hank, or Spool,” (Watson-Guptill Publications, $16.95) authors, designers and sisters Fatema, Khadija and Hajera Habibur-Rahman have really distinguished themselves in the one-skein project field.
Patterns reminiscent of Turkey, China, Victorian England, the Old West, India lend a worldly flair to the book, while dusty rose, rich royal red, robin’s egg blue, blood red, deep crimson, emerald green and cornflower evoke the colors of an Indian bazaar.
The first 27 pages are devoted to “one-ball basics,” which even a fairly experienced knitter will find invaluable — all the information you need, all in one place. There’s a metric and U.S. size chart, how to read schematics, templates and charts, finishing information and large, visual illustrations on how to knit cables, string beads, whipstitch, do the kitchener and whip stitches and so much more. After knitting for many years, I finally was able to understand the concept of cables and the kitchener stitch in logical terms.
Particularly stunning are the Moebius Shawl in watercolor tones of sand, eggplant and seafoam and the Scarlet Handbag in a twisted stitch that looks like a half-cable or almost a paisley design. I have never seen such a high-quality handmade purse. It looks like a Coach bag.
There are patterns for a Panja (hand jewelry) and Crystal Bead Necklace and Earrings and Flower Pin felted brooch, which incorporates felting and beading techniques.
This is a divine book for a beginning knitter with an eye for fashion to dip her toes into the craft. And she isn’t relegated to learning by making a scarf or potholder, but rather exquisite little works of art.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Where does the time go?

Exactly one year ago we were on baby watch -- that time in the pregnancy where the doctors start making comments about induction if you don't go into labor soon. It's hard to believe, but next Tuesday James will celebrate his first birthday.

The first year of a child's life is wonderous -- it is amazing how they grow from itty bitty things that can do nearly nothing to little beings in 12 months time.

James is at the "little being" stage. He's walking, talking, signing, fighting with his sister (OK so usually she's snatching toys out of his hands) and chasing her around the living room. He's often a serious little bugger -- my aunt calls him the little professor, but when he smiles he lights up and there is nothing quite like the sound of his giggle when you blow a raspberry in just the right spot on his belly.

He gets excited when the Elmo's World theme song begins to play on Sesame Street. When he wants to nurse, he'll go find his Boppy pillow (often hidden somewhere by Nikki) and carry it over to me -- and everytime I settle him in my lap there's the sweetest little contented sigh.

He's a bit of a momma's boy, but lately when my husband gets home from work, James has decided he's had enough of me and is all too happy to perch in Daddy's lap and have books read to him or play "ball" with Nikki. So he's growing and stretching beyond me.

And that growing and stretching will continue for years. Old boundries will be tested and new ones made. There will be fights over rules and curfews, but for now I'm going to enjoy feeling that comes when two little arms wrap around my neck as his small head snuggles into the spot on my shoulder made just for that purpose.

Bliss is being the mother of a child who's one.

Tween Boys 101

I had lofty plans for my vacation recently.
Nothing too ambitious, for I gave up scheduling the days about a decade ago.
I am a mother. I know my lot.
The idea was to take my freed-from-elementary-school 10-year-old to the beach as many days as possible.
My personal goal? Read as many magazines as possible and knit up a storm.
B. was cooperative on the Hammonasset front — if he could bring a friend.
Forgot for a second there I was intolerable company for a little boy.
Sure, I said.
Five minutes on the road and, despite just eating breakfast, B. is hungry. So is friend.
Breakfast sandwiches all around.
Thirty-five minute drive is too long, proclaim the boys, madly fingering their PSPs and Nintendos. Yelling things to each other in hand-held game parlance. B. tells me to stop talking when I try to make conversation.
Reduced to thinking while driving and blocking out inane tween back and forth.
I park and start to unload the car. The two guys actually begin walking toward the beach, with no intention of carrying a darn thing.
Situation swiftly corrected.
First thing the boys do is walk the stone breakwater at Meigs Point. Have to remind them about sunscreen. Have to apply said sunscreen if want them screened from sun — times two. Seems not only can they not reach their backs, but the backs (and fronts) of their legs, faces, necks, arms and torsos.
Next up on their agenda? Finding crabs. I offer to show them where they are likely found, under half-wet rocks during low tide, past the observation deck.
Seems my role is crab hunter, theirs is crab-hunter watcher.
Oh, and crab picker-upper. These snakes-and-snails-and-puppy-dog-tails are squeamish.
I’m discovering so many things about my son this week.
Other observations: B. loves to swim in the ocean — but only if Mom goes in too.
He won’t drink slightly warm ice tea, eat grapes, cherries, mint jelly, any drink that says “100-percent juice,” thinks a hamburger with mustard and ketchup is a complete meal, believes you can never eat enough ice cream for one day, thinks there’s nothing wrong with playing Runescape on the computer for eight hours straight, will wear his sneakers to bed if he’s too tired to take them off, doesn’t know how to put the shower on in the house we’ve lived in for four years, would stay seated at the kitchen computer until dying of starvation rather than making a sandwich for himself, and thinks sandles for boys, plaid shorts, leaf-green and mango-colored shirts are “for girls.”
I may not have gotten in my “beach reads” or finished the Frock Camisole I’ve been knitting for two months, but I’ve learned much about the psychology of the American boy pre-teen.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Gone fishin'

I am on vacation until June 23. The inspiration was my son's fifth-grade graduation ceremony on Monday and the lure of a subsequent week at the beach. Barring rain, I'll be that lady in the red one-piece on the beach catching up on her reading.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

And so I'm a slacker

You know it has to be bad when one friends calls and asks if you are OK because you haven't updated your part of the blog in recent memory. Or when your husband tells you that you really need to update your blog.

Forgive me, I fell down on the job here for a bit.

Truth is James started walking about 6 weeks ago (these days it's more like running) and I've been exhausted ever since. Thankfully we never took down the gates in the living room so they are sort of penned in (I say sort of because Nikki can pull one of the gates open).

But I find myself doing more refereeing than I thought would be neccesary with children four years apart in age. At least three times a day I hear myself say "Nicola, that is James' toy and he's allowed to play with it. Please give it back." I'm not sure why I bother as she never seems to give it back until either my husband or I make her.

Although Nikki might want to start being a bit more careful about "roughing up" her brother. He weighs a wee bit more than half of what she does so it's not out of the realm of possibility that he might be equal in size in another couple of years and well you know what they say about payback.

Help! I'm suffering from obsolescence

When I was a kid, I had to walk 400 miles to school.
OK, it was 2 miles each way — snowstorm, torrential rain, heat of summer — my sister and I walked. The only way to cut a few minutes off was to cut across the golf course nearby, and risk being reported to the school and/or targeted by peeved golfers.
These days, I’m often met with opposition when I expect my son to walk to school — .34 miles. “Can’t you drive me?” he’ll ask. “My feet hurt.”
I remember when I was a senior in high school, walking to school in the morning in sandals — in April. A freak storm hit so my sister and I walked home mid-day in an inch of snow and slush. I couldn’t feel my feet for quite some time afterward.
During winter in junior high, I’d typically arrive to homeroom with the front of my thighs numb and my pant legs frozen solid. Sure it was miserable, but I didn’t complain. There wasn’t anyone to ask for a ride.
Yipes, I feel like my mom.
Can you imagine my 10-year-old faced with the telephone I grew up with — with the rotary dial? How about watching television without a remote control? We had a tiny TV with rabbit ears covered in tin foil that you moved around to get the best reception.
The other day, both boys were watching TV and T went up to it with a magnet, swirling it around the screen. Portions turned purple and fuschia. I fiddled with the brightness, color and contrast a little too fervently, then thought of something. I turned the color completely off.
“That’s how the TV was like when I was growing up,” I told them. They couldn’t believe it. “Leave it like that!” they yelled. “It’s cool!”
That lasted about 3 minutes, before the 4-year-old yelled, “Mommy! Put it back!”
How about computers? Both my boys could use one before they turned 3. Pretty pathetic when you think about it, but how about this fact: they don’t teach typing in schools. Hunting and pecking, once frowned upon, is now the norm for many people.
I feel old.
I can pinpoint when it happened. When the oldies station started playing music from the 1980s. “Hey!” I wanted to call in. “I’m not dead yet!”
Remember those spiral-bound typing books that taught you how to hold your fingers, which fingers to use on which keys, and those silly, repetitive sentences? Update: It’s called “keyboarding” now. I learned on a manual typewriter, and boy did your fingers ache afterward. When I got my first office job at 19, I had an electric typewriter, so I didn’t need to use that manual return anymore.
These were replaced by the short-lived word processor and then swiftly by the computer. With green letters.
Ah, I’m dating myself.
And I sound grumpy.
I can’t imagine what’s coming down the pike.
My kids probably already know.