The Recliner

Today would have been my Grandpa’s 103rd birthday.  A few years ago my mom uttered this infamous – in our family – statement, “It makes me feel better knowing that if grandpa was alive he’d be dead by now.”  She’s right.  If my grandparents weren’t dead already they’d probably be dead by now, but the week bracketed by their birthdays is still one that pulls at my heartstrings.

Adding to the angst this year is that we finally got rid of their recliner.  When my grandma died, I inherited this gem.  I was poor, just out of college, and furnishing my first apartments and home.  Somewhere in there Grandpa’s recliner became mine.  I didn’t care what it looked like because I just wanted a comfy place to sit.

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Now the recliner has lived with me 16 years, which is longer than it ever lived with my grandparents. The chair has seen me and my boyfriend turned husband through innumerable head colds and bouts of bronchitis: nothing is better than a recliner when you are stuffed up and coughing.  My daughter has spit up, peed, pooped spilled, and snotted on this chair.  Throughout her infancy breast-milk was leaked all over it because I loved nursing in this chair.

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When our basement construction started, heralding the end of the recliner’s life in the house, the baby chickens pooped on it while my daughter sang lullabies to them in the garage.  I hand medicated little baby Rosie chick in that chair.  There may or may not be mice in the chair because there are mice out there.

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The time for the chair to leave our home had come.  No more would my daughter recline the back, extend the footrest and launch herself off her indoor playset.  Finally I could stop worrying which kid-friend would end up with stitches from emulating my daughter’s antics.  We will never figure out where that missing thumb screw goes: the one that fell out of the bottom one recline. I’m sure there is a whole set of knitting needles and stitch markers hidden in there, never to be found.

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Before putting the chair out to the curb I went out to the garage, curled up, and read in it one last time.  The book was A Man Called Ove, a perfect choice because my grandpa could have been named Ove he was so much like that character.  I read, I cried, I remembered, and I watched my cats stalk spiders and mice.  Finally, I turned off the lights and, like a dope, said “Goodbye chair.”  By the time I got home from work the next day it was gone.  My mom said, “It was an awfully big memento,” and it was.

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The first post-chair evening I was down in my study digging around in my sewing machine cabinet and for a moment I smelled cigarette smoke.  Throughout my childhood my grandparents were both smokers and that scent still calls up memories of them.  At that moment I realized that one of them was reminding me that my sewing machine belonged to my grandma.  I remember sewing Halloween and theater costumes side by side.  I still use her manual, filled with her hand written notes, every  time I need to sew on rickrack.  I still have a big memento and one that isn’t going anywhere.  All I need to do to reconnect to them is sew something and, you know, my husband did just mention that the chicken coop needs curtains.  (Well he actually said “The chicken coop needs window blankets,” but either way it means sewing project.)


Correction 10/28/2016

I misquoted my mother in the original version.  She did not say, “It makes me feel better knowing that if grandpa wasn’t already dead he’d be dead by now.”  The corrected, and even sillier, quote is above.  Thanks mom for pointing out my mistake.  Love you!

Mommy, Make Me a Blankie?

When my baby girl was still in my tummy I nested with crafting projects.  I made her a huge Amy Butler flower pillow that she could do tummy time on, as a baby, and sleep on, as a kid.  I made curtains to match.  After she was born my mom and I made her a crib skirt that matched them both.  I also bought machine washable Encore yarn to crochet her a huge granny square blanket and then soft organic cotton Sprout to knit her a blankie.  I have books of Baby Cashmerio patterns and the yarn needed to make a tiny striped cardigan and beret.

It was a surprise to me that new motherhood did not leave much time for knitting.  Even when the baby was asleep, she was often in my arms, or my hands were busy with laundry, dishes, or pumps.  Once I went back to work my hands were on my computer when they weren’t with my baby.  The infant years were not for knitting.

Fast forward eight years.  During the crap-moving part of our basement remodel my daughter found the two bins of yarn I’d purchased before her birth. When I told her what my plans had been she said, “Mommy, will you make me a blankie now?”  Without a second thought I put aside my knitting in progress and started planning her blankie.  When your eight-year-old asks for a handknit you knit.

We dove into the bins. I had hoped she’d pick the Sprout, but the anti-itchy girl decided the Encore was better.  At one point I had a whole rainbow of colors, but somehow only a three-quarter rainbow was in the bin.  No matter, she loved it.

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Then we searched patterns.  One look in my Ravelry library and she picked the Chevron Baby Blanket, not even caring that it said “baby”.  It looked easy and fun, so away I knit.  Between the zigzags, the yarn overs, and the color switches the blanket flew on my needles.  I was smart and wove in ends as I went.  Little Afthead is learning how to knit and even took a few stitches in the last green stripe and helped with the bind off.  A few snips of loose yarn bits and it was ready to block.  I showed it to my kiddo and she hugged it and drug it off to bed.  Who can argue with this kind of instant love?

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Today while she was at camp I snuck it out of her bed so I could take a few pictures of the still unblocked and unwashed finished product.

Here are the knitting details for the knitters.  

  • Yarn – Worsted Encore in 5 colors (I used half a skein for the two colors with 4 rows and about a third for the other three)
  • Pattern – Chevron Baby Blanket
  • Pattern modifications – used a different color repeat than listed and didn’t purl the yarn overs through the back loop.  (Do any of my knitting readers know how to do that?)
  • Needles – Addi Turbo Click Lace, size 9
  • Ravelry Link – http://ravel.me/afthead/cbb 

Now, I’m back to my previous project.  Remember that gorgeous cowl I had color elections for awhile back?  Well, I’ve just started knitting it again.  I’m still in the boring neutral section (because of a request from my daughter, see above blog words) but soon though I’ll be able for the big reveal on what colorway won!  Just pretend you still care even though it is months later…

More Travel Knitting

So much knitting gets accomplished on vacation.  I found a darning needle in my “emergency knitting kit” in my carry on – yeah that’s a real thing in my life – so was able to remove the double pointed needles out of hat #1 for the younger cousin.    I then knit a bigger hat for the second older cousin.  Somehow I lost the picture of the second hat, but it was the same colors, slightly bigger with a different stripe pattern.  Can you picture it? With the baby hats out of the way, I moved onto my finger cramping knitting.  I love making tiny Mochimochi Land toys when traveling.  Nothing says “road trip” to me more than this image:  Tiny needles and yarn?  Sign me up.  Since Christmas is coming I brought along my kit to make tiny Santas.   I messed up the leg to body interface the first time but turned out a respectable tiny Santa the second try.  His name is Verona Tinypants.      Thankfully my aunt-in-law had a needle in her sewing kit smaller than my giant emergency darning needle so I could finish weaving in his octopus arms.  In case you are wondering about the gorgeous fluffy base in the featured image, Verona is on the cat-in-law, Mr. Belding.  Such a sweet guy!  One more day of vacation left and I’ve knit all the projects I brought, except the other tiny Santa – the kit makes two.  We’ll see if my hands are recovered enough to make one more tomorrow.  His name would be Kaukauna Tinypants.    

Travel knitting hacks

I always take knitting when I travel, especially if there is going to be lots of car or train time.  This trip we are driving all over Wisconsin to visit new baby cousins, so the obvious project to bring is more baby hats!  This time the babies are boys though, so no fun poof and bow toppers.  

 
The downside of travel knitting is that I always forget something.  I’ve solved the “pattern forgetting” issue by taking a picture of the pattern.  If I have my phone I have the pattern.  Fingernail clippers work wonders for snipping yarn when you don’t have scissors.  There are apps on my Kindle and iPhone for measuring.  I haven’t figured out the darning needle replacement yet, but this may be the trip I have to get creative there. (I’m afraid it is in my backpack with my laptop, kindle, snacks, and “just in case I get puked on” spare clothes, which is sitting in my living room.  That story is my next blog post.)

My daughter’s favored travel craft solved my most frequent issue: no stitch markers.  It never fails that I cast on, start knitting in the round and ugh!  No way to mark the beginning of the round.  I can tie little yarn markers, but unless I have scissors or nail clippers I cannot cut my yarn.  I usually don’t have those on the plane.  Cue the tiny rubber band craft!  My daughter loves traveling with a huge bag of them.  She uses her fingers or a 4 prong loom to make huge ropes of rubber band weavings.  Now the bands are not ideal markers.  They are too sticky and can get trapped under stitches, but they are way better than nothing.  The best thing about knitting baby hats is that they are done in no time.  Off to start hat #2, once I find a darning needle hack.  I don’t think 10 month olds should wear hats attached to pointy sticks.   Anyone have an idea to help? 

(I’m really digging the stitch detail in these pictures.  I may do all my knitting photography in the plane from now on.  The lighting is fantastic!)