Knitting with restraint

This spring I wrote about how my wrist was hurting, partly due to incorrect keyboard usage, but mostly due to binge knitting.

I completely abstained for over a week (knitting not keyboard) and then came back to it for smaller lengths of time. It’s hard to binge knit the way I did pre-parenthood anyway, but every once in a while I get an opportunity and then I really have to exercise restraint, else I spend the whole next day rubbing my wrists (note: to the commenter who suggested wrist wraps, thank you! Wearing one at night really does help after a day of overdoing it).

I’ve started using Instagram more, and a lot of my feed is made up of semi-professional and serious-hobbyist knitters. I have moments of intense jealousy in seeing how prolific they’re able to be, even though I know knitting through the wrist pain is a bad idea. I try to think of my Dad, who for the past four decades has gone on the same mile jog every morning. Through his 20s and 30s I’m pretty sure he had friends who thought it was silly to run just one mile every morning. They were training for marathons and half marathons, logging ten times the weekly miles. But one by one, most of them had to stop running completely due to bad knees, bad ankles, bad shin splints. And there’s my Dad, still lacing up his shoes at 5:30am every morning for his daily jog.

So, in the interest of similarly being able to keep my hobby going for the next four decades, here’s what six months of slightly scaled back knitting looks like…

Waiting for Rain ShawlI worked hard to learn continental knitting for my Waiting for Rain Shawl, and it really did help me get through big swaths of garter stitch without much soreness. The pattern is so pretty…I knit additional rows so there wouldn’t be any leftovers of the Mirasol Nuna Fina, and then tried picot bind off for the first time.

Then I used some Two If By Hand Targhee Superwash, lovingly spun and gifted to me by Christine, to knit another Purl Soho Garter Ear Flap Hat for L. This one is sized to fit her next winter. This is now officially my go-to baby and kid hat.

Garter stitch hat, purl sohoMy coworker is due with her first baby late this summer, and for the baby shower I made her an Elizabeth Zimmerman February Baby sweater in Madelinetosh DK. The sweater calls for a lace body, but I’d been inspired by this knitter’s version to sub in ribbing. As she noted, it does pull the arms and body inward, which bells out the sleeves and hem. But some of that came out with blocking, and what was leftover just gives it a bit of a swingy shape.

EZ baby sweater on two needles

And finally, there was enough Targhee left over that I thought I could get a cardigan out of it for L. I’m going to tinker a little more with the pattern and then try to write it up.

I bribed L into modeling it for a handful of Craisins.

Toddler Sweater

Toddler Sweater

 

Marathon day

Today is my favorite day in Boston – MARATHON DAY!

I get very emotional watching people run races. Short/long, road/track, elite/average…doesn’t matter. I could stand there and cheer for hours. Races are all about individual performance and yet they feel so collective, especially these past few years in Boston.

The other reason I love Marathon Day is that it’s often a truly spring-filled vacation day. Not the version of spring with gloves and snow-covered forsythia, but the version with green grass, flowering trees, and no jackets.

Because this was just two weeks ago:

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And this was us at mile marker 20 today:
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My efforts to rest my wrists by limiting knitting have been mixed. I did a full one-week break and then tried taking it up again, but for slower and shorter periods of time. Things still hurt, so I should probably cut back more. It’s easier to fill evening hours without knitting though as the nights get warmer and the sunsets later.

 

Knitter’s wrist

Last week I took a pause from knitting and rotated my wrists in concentric circles. It sounded, as it always does, like a Rice Krispies commercial. Snap. Crackle. Pop. Pop. The person next to looked horrified.

Oh…so everyone’s wrists don’t make those noises?

It’s been getting worse. I spend my workdays typing emails and notes, only to have my hobbies – spinning and knitting – put strains on the same muscles and tendons. I’ve also gotten less interested in big-gauge projects, so the tiny needles and sockweight yarn I’m always working with are exacerbating the issue.

I’ve been trying two things for the past month:
1. Using both pinkies to hit shift on the keyboard. For some reason I use only my right pinkie for all capitalization work, and it definitely hurts worse than the left.
2. Knitting with the yarn in my left hand (continental style). I’ve wanted to try this for years and all of the plain garter stitch rows of Waiting for Rain were a nice opportunity.

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Unfortunately the pain’s getting no better. My hands and wrists hurt all the the time. I need to just take a complete break from knitting until things feel better….so says the internet.

I could sit and watch television and night without a pair of knitting needles or a spinning wheel, but I’m not sure I have the willpower. Maybe you have some good book suggestions to help me through this hiatus?

Seven years of quilts

I was quilting during lunch this week and a coworker asked who had taught me.

No one.

That’s not a brag; it’s an apology to recipients of my earliest quilts.

When I visited Cincinnati last summer my friend P told me that his kids love the quilt I gave them in 2009. “They snuggle up with it when they watch movies.” At least if they’re watching movies the lights are off, because that quilt is all out of whack. The pastels with¬† blocks of black, the helter-skelter piecing…it’s weird.

sarah quilt
I make probably two quilts a year and I’m only half interested in truly improving (otherwise, I’d take a class or something, right?). But just in making more I’ve learned a few tricks and developed a better eye.

In 2012 I made a quilt for my friend’s first baby that was also wonky, but more purposefully so. It had better balance…a nice tension between the movement of the chevrons and the expansive white space.

ardenquilt
Last fall I finished a baby quilt for L using the “double trouble” block. It’s easy to make a whole stack of them assembly-line style, and the block itself is an even split between precise (the 90-degree triangle) and improvisational (the off-kilter white strip and tiny triangle). Double-trouble and I are friends. We get along.

Mini-quilt
My friend announced she’s due for her second baby so I’m turning to the double-trouble block again, this time with oranges and blues.

Improvisational baby quilt

For the first time I’m trying a thicker thread for the hand-quilting (recommendation courtesy of Bonnie, maker of some truly beautiful quilts). This is #8 Perle cotton in a variegated blue.

Improvisational baby quilt
I held up the quilt last night and R deemed it my best one yet. “It’s prettier than yours!” he taunted baby L. True. But that just goes to show that the quilt-improvement train is still moving forward!

 

What else do you make with piles of handspun?

What do you? There is quite a lot of it.

I’m working on a big zig-zag blanket.

Zigzag handspun alpaca blanket

Lamps! Lamps! Lamps! Lamps!

This past summer in Ohio, R and I were nearing what felt like the definitive end to our year abroad. On an early morning walk through my hometown, Mom and I passed some auctioneers setting up in the front lawn of a small ranch. Near the street was a mid-century wood credenza – the kind with a flip-up wood top, turntable, and speakers. I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. “No no no Katie,” Mom said. “The last thing you need right now is a project.”

True. And yet NOT true. Because when is it really a bad time for a project?

I convinced R to drive back to the sale with me. I did this by reminding him that we had no lamps in storage, that lamps are annoyingly expensive, and that this estate auction had a whole bunch of random lamps out front. Also I assured him that auctions are fun.

Over the next hour I firmly established myself as the premier buyer of ugly-ass 80s lamps in all of NW Ohio. In total we successfully bid on eight lamps, a sheet music stand, the giant credenza, and a big weird faux bamboo shelf that got thrown in with the credenza.¬† I called Mom to see if she could help us cart the rest back to the house. “You bought what?!” she sighed.

Yeah, but here’s the thing. We spent $8. EIGHT. That’s the magic of small town auctions. Eight dollars can buy you all this:
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Then we got to work making it less ugly. When it comes to projects I want it all done NOW. Wheeee! Immediate gratification! R has learned to deal with this by jumping in or tuning out, but not by persuading me to wait. This time he jumped in. So did Mom.

We stripped the inside of the credenza, removing approximately 60 lbs. of electronics from 1955 and a whole bunch of insulation from the speaker bays.

//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jscredenza I stripped the top, stained it, and gave it 3 coats of polyurethane, then sanded and painted the sides and legs. The little music stand got the same treatment. credenza2musicstand Mom took some sandpaper to the lamps, and then we coated them in Rustoleum Oil-Rubbed Bronze spraypaint. The cut glass lamps were the most striking makeover I think. milklamp lamps glasslamp And then my amazing parents toted it all to Boston with a little trailer. The credenza fits perfectly under the front windows, and the music stand holds all of baby L’s books. She loves yanking them out one by one and turning all the pages. IMG_2238

Now in our house, if you want to convey enthusiasm for a project or plan, you give a little fist pump and chant “Lamps! Lamps! Lamps! Lamps!”

More furniture makeovers
the curbside dresser with 3 layers of paint
windsor chairs

More DIY baby wardrobe

This fall I was shopping for baby L and found myself rejecting an entire rack of holiday dresses because “frilly things look weird on her.” Something about that is true…I think? When I’ve put her in super girly stuff R and I agree that something seems off. Maybe it’s her lack of hair? I have a picture of myself at around 18 months in tiered ruffled lace, and it looks so odd underneath my glaringly bald head.

It could also be that I’m projecting wardrobe preferences onto the baby, because I’ve looked through her clothes drawer and it’s verrrrry familiar. No browns or tans. Hardly any pink or yellow. Lots of black pants with bright tops, bright pants with black & white tops, etc. Oh and a cat shirt with sparkles, which I would wear if I thought coworkers would take me seriously in it.

She’s built kind of spindly and narrow, so I’ve taken to putting her in leggings. I even sewed a couple pairs this fall so that I could make them extra narrow and extra long.
DIY baby leggings

DIY baby leggings
And what looks better with leggings than tunics? I knit a dark teal version of Like Sleeves for Babies. It’s a little short and wide, so if I knit it again I’d lengthen it so that it could start as a dress and become a tunic as she grows.

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The other thing I’ve been busy making is hats. This kid’s head circumference is >99% on the CDC charts. It’s a seriously impressive noggin and it’s required a set of progressively larger garter earflap hats. I love the pattern though – it’s everything you want in a baby hat but nothing extra, and it’s a great use of handspun or partial skeins. She just doesn’t always want it on her head.

Garter earflap hatOther posts about DIY baby clothes:
Handspun poncho
Two tiny newborn sweaters
Double-thick mittens