On Babies

Dear Emma,

For all the talk of bare essentials in the kitchen, I have to admit a pastry cutter is always on my list now.  It isn’t worth making a pie without one, and a pie is essential.

There is too much to say!  First of all, there is this:

23 weeks pregnant - taken, yikes, a month ago.

23 weeks pregnant - taken, yikes, a month ago.

The fact that I’m five six months pregnant makes my head spin (man I started this blog post a long time ago).  The weeks fly by and I’ve already lost one week of the third trimester without even realizing it was here.  I am excited (and I admit, nervous) to see this little one’s face in less than 12 weeks.  When you’re first pregnant, there is a feeling you’ll be pregnant forever, because who really thinks about labor?  Now, it is rapidly approaching, and life as we know it will soon be over.  We can’t wait.

The pressure of baby knitting FOR MY OWN BABY is mounting and I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t started it yet.  I have other babies to knit for, so many babies.  Breeding season has been in full force this past year and I think I counted twenty some people that I know who have given birth or are pregnant in the last six months.  Babies born months ago haven’t received their handknits so enthusiastically promised but then still mysteriously MIA.  But I have done a bit of baby knitting, for some very special babies.

First of all, there is this cutie.

choosy babies choose chocolate brown

choosy babies choose chocolate brown

Miriam is wearing the baby beanie from Last Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson.  Chocolate brown is a highly acceptable baby color for boys and girls, especially new hip moms who don’t like pink (as my sister is).  She gets lots of grief for that.  But everyone loves this hat.  I don’t think I’ve made a handknit gift that has been so appreciated, so often used, and so commented on.  Miriam wears it wore it nearly every day (until she outgrew it).  It’s that i-cord bow that kills me.  She deserves some new handknits for fall, but her cousin is occupying Aunt Martha’s mind and body right now.

In other gender neutral knits, Adalyn joined the niece brigade in July.  I’m collecting nieces already!  Two in less than two months.  Her nursery was sage green but I think variegated purple, yellow, and green Koigu adds a nice punch, don’t you?  The phrase variegated usually sends shivers up and down my spine – you can tell from my Ravelry project page (Ravelers only) that I’m a pretty solid color kinda gal.  It was a reaction to that awful variegated yarn from my childhood that we inherited from my Gramma G. in bulk and has lived in our attic for years.  They should invent a new word for whatever Koigu is, because variegated doesn’t do it justice.

exhibit A: why redheads should wear green

exhibit A: why redheads should wear green

baby skin likes soft Koigu, methinks

baby skin likes soft Koigu, methinks

This Big Bad Baby blanket from Stitch and Bitch Knitting is, in one word, amazing.  Koigu’s superwash properties (although I don’t think they advertise their yarn as superwash) make it easy care for non-knitters and new moms and the merino is so soft people don’t believe it is wool.  It has a beautiful lightness and spring to it.  When I picked it up off the blocking board (or in this case, the guest bedroom’s queen bed) I wanted to throw it up in the air and catch it again.  The double stranded Koigu makes it look like a watercolor painting as the colors merge and pool and play together.

Adalyn

I haven’t asked her yet, but I hear Adalyn loves it have seen the blanket in action and Adalyn’s parents are big fans.  She’s still a little young to really absorb its beauty.  If she really hates it, her Uncle BD wants to steal it back.  He kept suggesting we keep it.

BD and I figured that babies aren’t hard enough and bought a puppy last weekend a month ago!  We’re crazy, we know, but the puppy was planned (the baby wasn’t).  We feel like parents already.  It is fun to have a puppy to spoil and cuddle and treat like our baby for a few months before the human baby comes.  He’s made me more like a parent already – waking up for midnight potty breaks and early morning walks, plus we eat out less and plan our day’s activities around our dog now.  BD says walking around with him is the biggest chick magnet you can imagine.  It’s like taking a supermodel to Home Depot – he is gushed over and admired everywhere we go.  In his short life he’s been through nine US states and five Canadian provinces, road tripping with his free-as-a-bird-I-just-finished-my-master’s Dad.

puppy, meet baby.

puppy, meet baby.

He doesn’t get any handknits, though.  Bradley has firmly stated that handknit sweaters for dogs are tacky.  For now, he’s content in his role as the cutest thing in the house.

So, what’s new with you? I’m going to try and do better than three months from now for another update.

Love,
Martha

September 4, 2009. Uncategorized. 3 comments.

Julie vs. Julia: A Well-Outfitted Bachelor Pad

Dear Martha,

Julia Child once said that the vast majority of “kitchen equipment is bought indiscriminately by people who just go in for men’s underwear.”

My uncle is this kind of minimalist chef who can create small miracles with just a bowl, knife and wooden spoon. I, on the other hand, would consider my OXO lemon zester one of my most prized possessions. My love for my granite mortar and pestle set is exceeded only by its ridiculous weight. As a home economics teacher, I consider it a matter of professional obligation to be aware of what is useful and neccessary among the seemingly endless procession of kitchen gadgets. That, and as I run my fingers over the latest and greatest at my local cook shop, it’s all I can do to repress the inner Julie Andrews who wants to sing out, “…these are a few of my favourite things!”

Paradoxically,  I love making bread because it requires so little. A bowl, a wooden spoon and a little muscle for the kneading. I like to measure all the ingredients, wet and dry alike, with a single, banged up  tin measuring cup my mother has, calling to mind how recipes used to be, the ones learned by spending an afternoon sitting on the counter making cookies with your aunt, that can’t be pinned down in a recipe book. How hot should the oven be? Hot. How much flour? Enough. How much water? Until it comes together.

Coarse salt, olive oil, rosemary and freshly ground pepper. And love.

Coarse salt, olive oil, rosemary and freshly ground pepper. And love.

Which brings me to the first time I tried to make my boyfriend dinner at his place.  I was incredibly frustrated at his complete lack of what I considered ‘the basics.’ I so whole-heartedly assumed these ‘basics’ would be found in even the most well, basic of kitchens that I usually ended up starting a recipe, only to discover at a crucial point that I would have to improvise. Cooking in his kitchen was kind of like the cooking you do when you’re camping.

He had no chef’s knife. He did have a set of serrated steak knives given to him by his mother when he moved out, that he used for everything from chopping vegetables to slicing meat to cutting bread. His frying pan was so old, it was rusty and nearly scratched through. He had a small plastic cutting board, about the size of a paperback novel. I subsequently discovered he had no cheese grater, spatula, sifter, muffin tin, ladle, mixing bowls, measuring cups, whisk, or any of the things I couldn’t believe he had ever done without. If this was the state of his kitchen, I wondered, what had he been eating?

Here’s the thing (and it took me a long time to come to this very humbling conclusion): He was doing fine before I got there.

He had what he needed to make sandwiches to bring for lunch, spaghetti and stir-fry for dinner, and there were plenty of steak knives and beer in the fridge if he wanted to have the guys come over for a bbq. Sub-standard kitchen fare in my snobby home ec trained eyes was a well-outfitted bachelor pad in his. He was content.

After experiencing my boyfriend’s kitchen, I have revised my definition of the ‘basics.’ Gone are the task-specific knives, the double boiler, jelly roll pan and custard cups.  While I do use them to prep ingredients in the classroom, I only use custard cups at home when I’m pretending to be on a cooking show – slightly pretentious and definitely unnecessary preparation.

My new *amended* version of the basics:

a large bowl

a cutting board

a knife (maybe it’s a steak knife, maybe it’s a butter knife)

a spoon (could be cutlery, could be wooden)

a frying pan

a sheet of metal (I could specify a cookie sheet or a broiler pan, but I know him better than this now)

a pot

a corkscrew (very important when dating)

Think I’m missing something? You’ll make do. Pretend you’re camping.

emma

August 17, 2009. Uncategorized. 2 comments.

The Art of Losing Isn’t Hard to Master.

Dear Martha,

I am old.

At some point, I lost my twenties. I have pinpointed that it took place some time during this year, but it’s difficult to be more specific. This inability to keep track of time, I understand, is part of getting old.

Instead of spending my weekends going to bars, dancing, flirting and brunching on Saturday mornings –  empty yes, but entertaining and age-appropriate –  I became one of those people who spends their weekends going to my peers’ weddings, bridal showers, and of course the baby showers that quickly follow for the very efficient ones.

Now, I realize I sound a bit silly when I say this (sheepish even – this is a knitting blog after all), but I think I can see it, too. This loss of my twenties is not so much in the form of wrinkles, polygrip for my teeth or even laugh lines, but Martha, as my mother lamented to the rearview mirror while she carpooled to UBC in ’69,  “I have lost my 18-year-old glow.”

I console myself by knitting shawls and scarves in garter stitch stripes. Old people like me don’t like a draft around the neck, you know.

witty caption...

I can't bear to face the lens...

I didn't actually think i was sulking when my mother took this photo.

I might look pleased with my scarf, but I'm secretly pouting on the inside at the thought of being nearly 30.

I originally knit this baktus shawl  in gray and black after I saw mistybliss’ version on ravelry. But the resulting stripes were too harsh against my scandinavian colouring. I am much happier with the very subtle contrast provided by the pink and natural.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Before I knit these consolation shawls and after reading your last post, Martha (and quickly ripping back my penguin sweaters – a foolish endeavour, I now know), I began knitting for Someone Else. Again.

Mette, my cousin Michael’s fiance, had a bridal shower coming. After trolling ravelry for a gift that would satisfy both knitter and recipient, I settled on Purl Bee’s Wedding Washcloths, Lace-Edged Pillowcases from Weekend Knitting and Ripple and Lace Leaf Linen Basket Liners from The Knitter’s Book of Yarn.

I had forgotten the deep affection I harbour for Mandarin Petit.

I had forgotten the deep affection I harbour for Mandarin Petit.

I covet these...oh wait, i already made myself some, too.

I covet these...oh wait, I already made myself some, too.

Bread never had it so good.

Bread never had it so good.

Martha calls this picture the perfect knitting still life.

Martha calls this picture "the perfect knitting still life."

Ever the shameless selfish knitter, I have enough leftover to make myself one of everything I gave away.

The brown satin ribbon only partly soothed the injustice of having to give these away to Someone Else.

The brown satin ribbon only partly soothed the injustice of having to give these away to Someone Else.

By ‘enough leftover,’ I might mean that I purchased a skein of french blue linen for my own basket liners.

My love of this french blue Euroflax developed after seeing it edge your crisp linen Vintage Dresser Cloth from the latest Mason-Dixon book, a pattern I didn’t look twice at until you began knitting it. Your ability to see the beauty in something before everyone else continually amazes me.

Your old friend (har har),

emma

blsdefnjsn
Every Wednesday night before knitting, Martha comes over to my house for dinner, Garden Party tea and to catch up on the week that passed. I look forward to it all week long.  This is what I will miss most when she moves away.

June 3, 2009. Uncategorized. 2 comments.

The Dull Knitter

Dear Emma,

Your post shook up the space-time continuum.  Next thing I know you’ll be knitting for charity.   (Charity, of course, in this circumstance being a dirty word).   If I come over Wednesday night to find you knitting outfits for penguins affected by oil spills, I’m going to check your forehead for a fever.

The irony of starting a knitting blog when one has been uninspired to knit for the past two months does not escape me.  I’ve been in a funk with my projects – the Flicca sleeve is stalled due to a potentially fatal ribbing error (I’m sure you didn’t think those existed) and I cried when Stephanie frogged hers (that was made with the same yarn, those delicious photographs are what inspired me to make mine), my blue Merlin dress from a recent issue of Vogue Knitting sits 80% done but I have no inspiration to finish it, and the only thing I’ve knit in the past two weeks is a dishcloth.  My yarn is boxed up in a Rubbermaid tote in what was supposed to be my beautiful studio in our new house – but presently sits as a messy room stuffed with my sewing machine, yarn, and fabrics in a big heaping mess.  I mostly keep the door closed.
Maybe I’m suffering from Knitting Depression.  I’ve been seeking the sewing machine out more these days – looking for instant gratification of piecing a quilt top, or even starting my very first dress.  That one probably deserves a post of its own.  The zipper remains my nemesis, however.

These days, the knitted item I’m wearing the most is a ubiquitous Swallowtail, knit in the most beautiful shade of brown I’ve ever seen – 100% baby alpaca from this vendor with the richness and depth of chestnut.  I was attracted to a seemingly dull color for such a beautiful pattern.  It is tiny – hardly a shawl – more like a neck kerchief.  Because it is alpaca, it didn’t hold the block well and has softened with only a few wearings to a scrunchable shape.  I wear it as I’ve shown below, tied around my neck, something I learned from a beautiful blonde knitter friend of mine who also happens to be a co-blogger.  She’s one of the most stylish people I know.

Kerchief

I promise more knitting related content later,

Martha

April 10, 2009. Uncategorized. 1 comment.

The Selfish Knitter

Dear Martha.

I am not pregnant.

But a glance at my recent projects might have you thinking otherwise. It would seem the only possible explanation given that I am usually the quintessential selfish knitter, to the point that I have often questioned the purpose of the “made for” blank below the title of my projects on ravelry. well of course it’s for me – it’s always for me.

Apparently all it took to cure me was a baby. Not mine, luckily, but my cousin, Katie’s.

It all started when I received a small envelope inviting me to PoCo for my cousin’s baby shower. Of course, I’ll knit her a little something, I thought. I filled my queue with baby things and probably would have knit all of them if the date of the shower hadn’t finally arrived. Martha, do you know the most exciting part of knitting for babies? That basket of leftover yarn scraps is suddenly a basket of projects! No yarn? No time? Knit for a baby – You don’t need either! Baby knitting is now my second favourite activity (knitting for myself is, of course, still number one).

I knew that my cousin’s layette would have to include Saartje’s booties and there was a skein of coral Cascade Fixation giving me the eye from my scraps, so…

If these boots had a name, it would be Coraline.

If these boots had a name, it would be Coraline.

Now I know, I know –  I don’t actually know if it’s a boy or a girl. But once I cast on, the booties whispered in my ear, “it’s a girl and she wants strappy shoes with jade buttons.” Ah, yes, don’t we all.

Rather than send the child out naked apart from some very cute shoes, I decided to knit Carole Barenys’ Seamless Yoked Sweater. As the child is due in June, I knit it in some Cardinal Paton’s Grace cotton, for her (there I go again) to wear to summer picnics.

It turned into a dress all by itself - I swear.

It turned into a dress all by itself - I swear.

I decided to repeat the increases done at the yoke again at the bottom of the sweater for a frilly ruffle that one can only pull off a very few times in life. Add pink pearlescent buttons and poof! It’s a girl – or so I hope.

The child will learn young to love a good yoke.

The child will learn young, Red Is Best.

To keep my baby knitting from getting too cutesy, I turned to Elizabeth. I loved the idea of long repeats of bright colour whipping around those mitered corners, so I grabbed two skeins of Silk Garden Lite and cast on. When the first ball finished, I decided to let the colours go back the way they came, rather than start over with the darker tones mid-jacket. The brown buttons were chosen to highlight the rusticity (if that isn’t a word, I’m coining it) of the Noro, twigs and all.

"Surprise, you're having a baby!"

"Surprise, you're having a baby!"

Even covered in baby spit-up, the colours will warm your heart.

Even covered in baby spit-up, the colours will warm her heart.

Giving these gifts at my cousin’s shower to a room full of non-knitters (and My Breastfriends, DiaperGenies and way too much yellow tissue paper) was hilarious. “You knit that?” they asked, in the same incredulous tone one would use to ask, “you can do magic?”

Back at home and humble again, I had to admit:  this knitting for others is very different. “I feel funny inside,” said the Knitting Grinch. “Maybe knitting isn’t about stashes and queues and sales and stores. Maybe – just maybe – knitting is about a little bit more!” In Poco, they say, that the Knitting Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day.

Emma

March 31, 2009. Uncategorized. 4 comments.

Catching On

Dear Emma,

I think I can figure this out too.

As far as developing knitting photography styles, I think mine is the profile:

that's right, I spelled it like an American

And:

or most knitting I have ever done in my life

most knitting I have ever done in my life

I heard once that Barbara Streisand had Rosie O’Donnell rearrange her entire studio so that her best profile would be viewed by audience.  I kind of know how she feels.

Yours,
Martha

January 23, 2009. Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Drops Jacket in Eco Wool

Emma's Drops Jacket in Eco Wool

Emma's Drops Jacket in Eco Wool

Dear Martha,

Emma is beginning to think she’s got the hang of this.

signed,

Emma

January 23, 2009. Tags: , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

testing…

Emma and Martha appreciate your patience as they learn how to blog.Emma's Hot Cocoa

January 23, 2009. Tags: . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

A love of knitting in epistolary form.

martha and emma have been voted top knitters under thirty by their mothers.

January 20, 2009. Uncategorized. 1 comment.

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