Saturday, July 28, 2007

How I Love Harry Potter

Let me count the ways.
First, the HP books are just good reads. Of all the books I read, I never, ever read fantasy. (OK, there was that brief attempt at The Highlander; Pam even bookmarked the saucy bits for me in an attempt to make me read and love it like she and Susan do, but to no avail.) But in HP, I love the time travel, the fantastic creatures, the spells -- the prospect of any of these in a novel never interested me in the least bit before HP.

All this fantasy wraps around a great story of friendship, love and loyalty.

And exciting! The mysteries, the clues, the chases, the narrow escapes! Sometimes after an especially thrilling chapter, I would have to set the book down and walk away for a bit to decompress.

But the thing I like best about the Harry Potter books is sharing them with Will. Maggie was 10 when I bought the first book, hoping that she would find it interesting. She didn't, and it sat on the bookshelf for awhile until Will asked me to read it to him; he was probably about 7 or 8. I can't even guess how many hours we spent sitting on the couch reading. I tried to use a different voice for each character, but I had a little consistency problem; Will would often say, "Mom, that's not how Mr. Weasley (or Hermione or Dumbledore) sounded like last night." (I think I did a pretty great Molly Weasley; I feel a kinship with her!) And he couldn't understand why I would get weepy in the middle of a sentence, as when Harry saw his parents in the Mirror of Erised. Will never wanted to stop for the evening, and begged me to keep reading, even though he had to close his eyes "just for a little bit."

We continued this way through three books, but a few chapters into book 4, Will turned to me and said, "Mom, would it be OK if I just read by myself now?" Well, that was terrific, because the boy who didn't much like to read was tackling a huge book, just what I had hoped for. But it was so sad for me to give up that time together. So, through 4,5 and 6, we took turns with the books and talked about each chapter, being careful not to give anything away if one of us had read ahead.

Last Saturday afternoon, we parked ourselves in the family room with two copies of Book 7, Will on the love seat and me on the couch. A moan or a chuckle from one of us would prompt the other one to ask, "What page are you on?" After Mass and a bite of supper, we were back at it; we didn't even hear Clay come in the front door (he had just gotten back from a week in China -- sorry, dad.)
Since it was county fair week, we had to interrupt our reading to work at our church stand. (One of the midway workers came for lunch every day, carrying his copy of the book to read while he ate; he didn't want to talk to anyone about the book for fear something from the plot would slip out. On Thursday he came without his book, and since he had finished it the night before, we had a nice talk -- I just had to warn him not to give anything away!) Will got a ride home early on Thursday with some friends, and I knew he would finish before Clay and I got home; I wanted to be there for him in case the ending upset him (how Molly Weasley is that?!)
I got up early Friday morning and finished the last few chapters. I loved the book and am happy with the ending, but I want more. More about Harry, more about the 19 years, but mostly, more of that special time with Will. Now that he's 14 and doesn't need me to read out loud anymore, he talks more with Clay, about football, biking and cars. But we'll always have lousy Scottish accents, "just one more chapter," and Quidditch play-by-play. That's why I love Harry Potter.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Happy Ending

I delivered the Pen Pal sweater to ME today; she said she would meet me in town, but it is a pleasure to drive out to her historic farm. (Will rode out with me; his only comment as we drove up her lane was "Wow." It is beautiful, like something out of Country Living. What am I saying? It is the epitome of country living!)

She was pleased with the result:

I took a few pictures of the final steps:

I used some green yarn to mark the area to cut away. I ran a machine basting stitch along this line, and then zig-zagged (my serger isn't working too well, and I didn't want to risk messing up!)

Here is the shoulder area cut away, and after the seaming.
I feel more peaceful now that it is complete. Wishing you that same peace.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Challenge of the Re-do

Back when I read parenting books, I remember how one author encouraged parents to let their children participate in activities around the house -- cooking, dusting, washing the car. But she stressed that a parent should never "re-do" the child's work (at least that the child could see); this could make the child feel as if his work wasn't good enough. I really took that advice to heart, at least until the girls got to high school, and asked me to re-do for them: ripping out a seam on a 4-H dress, revising an English paper, going back to dad with one of their plans he had vetoed originally.

So maybe that's why it was so difficult for me to take apart the Pen Pal sweater, this beautiful garment that a sister knitter had put so much time, effort and love into.

Upon looking at the sweater, it didn't take long for me to realize that Ms. Pen Pal is a much better knitter than I am. The fine gauge, the even stitches, the intricate lace work at the placket and neckline. Her work far exceeds "good enough", and her only "error" was in not knowing the measurement across ME's shoulders; as the sweater was a surprise birthday gift, asking ME to send along her shoulder measurement might have been a bit suspicious!

I knew what I needed to do and I had a plan, but actually doing it was almost painful. I had hoped to be able to pick out the seam without using scissors, but she had skillfully used a strong mattress stitch, and had woven the ends in so completely that there was no trace of a yarn end. Rats. Very carefully, I pulled at the seam until I was sure of which strands of yarn were knitted, and which were the seaming yarn. I took one snip, and then worked at the yarn ends until I had the arm of the sweater off and about two inches of the shoulder seam opened. A deep breath, and then the other side. Finally the sweater was in three pieces, ready to be altered and re-seamed.

Ripping apart my own knitting is frustrating. Seeing the look on the face of one of the knit Night knitters when I tell her that she needs to rip out a few rows pulls at my heart a little -- we all know that frustration. But taking apart a masterful knitter's work and cutting away hundreds of her stitches just seemed altogether wrong, even though I knew it was for the right reason.

Is this a serious problem? Not really. Am I taking it too seriously? You bet.

Peace, to the world and to our hearts.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Parts is Parts

Or maybe this should be titled "pieces of pink."

The Pen Pal sweater in pieces -- just 3, but it was intense, picking apart those seams.

Thanks to Debby from the knittyboard, who sent me a great diagram as to how she would put it back together.

And in another shade of pink, pieces of the "Year of the Pig" Noni bag.
How cute is that face?

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Three Purses

I still haven't gathered the nerve to start taking apart the pen pal sweater, but here are three purses I finished last week:

This little bag was knit with Ella Rae Classic using #7 needles. I had never even heard of this yarn before, but the lovely woman at Dee's in Louisville told me it felted "like a dream," and she was right. I didn't use a pattern for this one, but just garter stitched a rectangular strip then picked up stitches on the other 3 sides and knit in the round, just like the Booga Bag. The roses were done with Knit Picks WOA, and the leaves are just green felt. I lined it with some black toile I had leftover from a quilt back.

This is "almost" the Sophie Bag -- I couldn't print out the pattern, so I kept running back to the computer for the next directions! This is also knit and felted with the Ella Rae. I added the loop closure, and was planning on a big button, but used this circle pin of my mother's, instead. It is lined with a turquoise print flannel, again, left over from a quilt. I like the twisted handles, but think I need to take some invisible stitches here and there to keep it twisted uniformly.

Finally, here is a messenger bag, made with Noro Kureyon. This is the second bag I made for Maggie's friend, Cindy; the first one was "destroyed" at a party (I'm pretty sure I don't want the details on that). It was just a big rectangle, with a few rows of garter stitch for detail, then folded and sewn up. I lined both the bag and the handle with some shiny brownish/goldish fabric left from Sarah's wedding.
Here is the back of the bag; I love to see what the Noro does as you knit:

I am working on the Year of the Pig Noni bag -- more on that tomorrow.

Monday, July 2, 2007

A First Post

I have surprised myself by starting this blog. Why am I doing this?

1) I really enjoy reading other knitting blogs; the patterns, tips and laughs I have found in them have been great.
2) Maybe it is time to share my own patterns and tips, and I hope I can make someone happy, in turn.
3) This is an opportunity to post pictures and get some feedback; this pink cardigan is really the inspiration for this blog:
A dear woman I have known for years, ME, came to Knit Night -- not to knit, but to show us this sweater. It was a 60th birthday gift from her pen pal in Norway; they have been pen pals for 45 years! The sweater is beautiful, but too big, and she needed some advice as to how to make it wearable. It is about 2" too big in the shoulders (I used some dowel rods in the picture to try to illustrate better) and the sleeves are too long. The sleeves are set in. The length is good, and it fits well around the bust and waist; her friend also sent a lovely pin for a closure (much nicer than the dpn I used here). Here is a picture of the detail around the neckline and placket:

There were all kinds of suggestions from the Knit Night group, ranging from frogging and re-knitting the bodice (eek!) to sending it back to Norway. (ME would like to wear it on a trip in a few weeks, so I don't have too much time.) I think I know what to do, but I am nervous about taking the sweater apart and putting it back together. I'll post the progress here.