The Steek

My heart was pounding in my chest. My palms were sweating. I could barely breathe.

Carefully, I double checked the blue lines of thread that ran up the front of my colorful knitting.

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Taking the scissors in my hand and inhaling a deep, steadying breath, I put the steel to the wool.

And then I cut it.

I think I might have started to black out a little, so I paused and waited for my sight to return.

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Seeing the shiny silver scissors eating up my knitting made me a little nauseous, but I carried on and cut up the entire length of my sweater.

My hand was shaking as I set the scissors down next to my carefully constructed knitting. I stepped back and leaned against the china cabinet for a moment.

Then I looked at my work and I was happy.

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My first steek was a success!

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The Year of This and That

Every year I designate a theme of some sort. Just a little goal to spur my creativity on and keep my knitting or spinning fresh and new. I have been very satisfied with the results.

The Year of the Sweater (2010) yielded me a nice stack of handknit sweaters.

The Year of the Stash (2011) saved me tons of money, taught me to use some ingenuity when matching patterns to the yarn I had on hand, and still left me with a cabinet full of stash!

The Year of Spinning (2012) was when I added spinning to my fiber obsession, adding a new dimension to my passion for knitting.

Last year could be called The Year of Survival. While I didn’t make any declarations last New Years, I did get some fun things done.

I did some knitting –

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I did some spinning –

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And I did some knitting with my handspun –

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And that’s not even all of it! Pretty good for vomiting the first half of the year and nursing a baby the second, huh?

So, now it comes to 2014. What to do? I have a few ideas flitting around.

Knit only from my handspun for the year?

Only have one WIP at a time?

Set some kind of goal for each month. Say, every month I have to knit a sweater, a shawl, a pair of socks, or what have you?

Another stash down? Lord knows I need it!

A Christmas focused year?

Or maybe a mixture of the above.

Okay. I got it. Are you ready?

This year. Twenty-fourteen is The Year of This and That. And it goes a little something like this:

Each month I will –

1. knit something from my handspun

2. knit a christmas gift or christmas decoration (The Blessing still needs a stocking, I want to make each kid an ornament, and the nativity scene needs some sheep, for example)

3. spin one braid (at least)

4. keep my yarn/fiber purchases to the bare minimum (an unofficial stash down of sorts)

and 5. keep my WIPs to a minimum, say….. four. Yeah. Four is good.

That sounds do able but also challenging. And productive.

Ready. Set. Begin.

 

A Thank You Note to Our Mystery “Santa”

You left gifts on our doorstep,

And filled our pantry with good things to eat,

You put grocery money in my wallet,

And socks on the kids feet,

Thank you

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I don’t know who it was that did it,

And I can’t hug you tight,

You chose to remain a secret,

Playing Santa on Christmas Eve night

Thank you

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We were so surprised to find it all,

Piled up outside our door,

I stood with tears filling my eyes,

My kids opened gifts on the floor,

Thank you

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The clothes all fit perfectly,

The food is exactly what I’d get,

You made our Christmas magical,

One that we will never forget,

Thank you

The Strawberry Sweater

Introducing the “Strawberry Sweater”, so named by The Munchkin.

IMGP0746I can hear you saying, “Strawberry sweater? That doesn’t make any sense.”

I did say that the four year old named it that, right? And when do four year olds ever make sense?

She does have a rhyme to her reason this time, however. When I showed her the photo of the example sweater that I was knitting for her (it’s Pepper, by the way), she focused in on the pretty strawberry buttons and that was all she could think about from that moment on.

Gorgeously dyed purples, greens, and browns – a colorway named “Rapunzel”, her favorite princess, no less! – and all she talked about was the strawberry buttons!

IMGP0753Soft, soft yarn, soft enough to wrap a snuggly baby in, and she told everyone about how “Mama is making me a strawberry sweater”.

IMGP0763I even special ordered Rapunzel buttons to match perfectly, and she chose instead to have strawberry buttons.

IMGP0741So I had them special ordered, too. Purple strawberries to match a Rapunzel sweater.

IMGP0740And today, she is wearing a hand-me-down red turtleneck sweater with plain buttons because she doesn’t like strawberries any more.

sigh

At least I made it big enough that when she does like it again, it might still fit.

IMGP0749Pepper by Elena Nodel in Mosaic Moon Rapunzel on Gaia worsted with purple strawberry buttons from Tessa Ann

Oh, while I am here – this pattern, like every other pattern that I have bought from this designer, is well written, thorough, and easy to use. It is worth every penny.

 

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter the the Bloggiverse

My Dearest Bloggiverse,

I hope that you haven’t interpreted my silence as a slight to you. I have neither rejected nor forgotten you. On the contrary, I think of you nearly everyday. I imagine all of the things that I would say to you if only I could. I would tell you how slow the knitting is going now that I have become a human dairy, and how spinning is even slower. I would brag to you about my newest woolie acquisitions (and not only wool -there is silk, too!) and show you the fun knitting ring that my mother-in-law bought for me. Maybe I could show you some pictures from when said mother-in-law visited and of the baby shower that my mom and sister-in-law threw for me just last weekend.

Alas, I have no time. Even writing this quick letter is stealing precious time from my newly expanded family. Though I am sleeping through the night (because that sweet, seven week old Blessing is a great sleeper!), I am constantly tired. Nursing does that to me. I think that milk production is the most difficult physical exercise I have ever done. And with The Blessing having trouble with breastfeeding, I also spend lots of quality time with the breast pump (we have a love/hate relationship, that pump and I. Oh, the greatness of being able to make enough milk for my baby! Yet, oh, the inconvenience of being strapped to a pump every few hours!

And so, I leave you with the promise of my eventual return and this, a photo of my world (such a beautiful world I live in, isn’t it?).

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Yours Affecionately,

woolandchocolate

PS – I couldn’t resist just one more picture!

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Cute, isn’t she?

The Very Worst Week of My Life

Yesterday I shared my birth story. Such a sweet, peaceful, and quick birth it was that brought The Blessing into our lives. For almost two whole days we basked in the afterglow of that birth, adoring our new little baby, beginning to understand what an extra chromosome meant to us. And then it happened. My world threatened to collapse in top of me.

I have been considering exactly what to write concerning this nightmare that we had entered into. Words fail me as I try to remember how it all happened. Do I just list the events in chronological order, separating out the emotion from fact in an attempt to accurately tell a story? Or do I try to convey the despair, terror, and desperation that haunted me every second of that week? Is any of that even possible? And so I beg your indulgence as I muddle my way through my tale, knowing that words can never really express accurately the things I am trying to tell you.

The diaper was filled with blood. Not a little streak, not a tinge, but filled with blood. As I wiped the blood from her bottom, she grunted and more blood came pouring out where poo should have been. And to the emergency room we sped.

I laid her pale, limp body on the warming bed as the doctor came in the door. “And what brings you here, tonight?” he asked us pleasantly. I pulled the diaper away from her leg, exposing the gobs of dark red blood filling it yet again. “This” I said.

And the room exploded with activity. We were rushed to a larger room where the shouting and bustle began. Blood transfusions! Oxygen! Antibiotics! The Man and I stood against the wall, clinging to each other and silently crying while we helplessly watched this crowd of people try to save our daughter’s life. A social worker appeared and through a fog I heard her explain that she was there to answer any of our questions. She explained what was going on at any given time – “now they are drilling into her bone to administer the iv because they can’t find her veins”.

After what seemed like an eternity, she was stable and ready to be transferred to the ICU.

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Then the testing began. Brain scans, ultrasounds, x-rays, blood tests. We spoke to a slew of specialists as tests results came back and needed explaining. All the while, my Blessing laid on that warming bed with so many tubes and wires coming off and out of her body that I could barley touch her. I stood by her bed, crying so constantly and endlessly that it took days for the swelling around my eyes to subside. I wondered if we would be taking her home or if I would never hold her again. I prayed in the wordless way one does when sobs and sighs will just have to do. My post partum body ached from the many long walks to the pumping room where I would try to express milk in hopes that she would one day need it. My feet became more swollen than ever they were during the pregnancy and my head ached constantly, whether from the crying, the exhaustion, or my rising blood pressure we will never know. But wild horses could not have pulled me from that bedside. My whole heart was laying there, struggling to survive.

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And survive, she did. The glimmer of hope was already shining as every test came back with good news, and everyday she improved just a little bit more. And then the tubes started coming off, the ivs were removed one by one and finally we were transferred out of the ICU and to a regular room. And then we were discharged and able to come home. We had been there for six days.

The Blessing has been home for a week, now, and seems to be doing well. She is breastfeeding with only a little supplementing needed. We will be seeing the pediatrician later this week for a follow up visit, but for now we are back to enjoying our new baby, learning about her and her specialness, and recovering from the most awful week of our lives.

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We are overwhelmingly grateful to all of our friends and family who supported us during this trial – bringing to us food, hugs, and pleasant company while we lived at the hospital, keeping our kids happy, fed, and carefree during our absence, and upholding us in prayer through every heartbreaking minute of our ordeal.

Above all, I am beyond thankful to God, who in His mercy has allowed us to keep our Blessing a little longer. Every moment she is with me is a moment to treasure.

IMGP9432I realize that this account leaves room for lots of questions. This really is all that I can bear to say at this time. I am ready to get back to blogging about happy things like yarn and fiber and itty-bitty baby knits.

 

Birth of The Blessing

I was awakened by a very painful contraction late one night two weeks ago. I pressed the Indiglo button on my watch. 12:30. “Was that a real contraction?” I wondered, “or did it seem so painful because I am so tired?” I had been having contractions for days and days that never quite turned into labor so I wasn’t about to get excited about this one.

I laid there in the dark waiting for the next contraction before I would decide whether I should get up or go back to sleep. I didn’t have to wait long. The next contraction came on strong and hard and I knew that this was probably the real deal. But I waited for one more, just to be sure. The third one did not disappoint.

Rolling out of bed I said to The Man, “I am having some good contractions. I’ll call you when it gets serious.” He grunted and rolled over knowing that he didn’t have much longer to sleep.

I decided to text my midwife and let her know we would be needing her in a few hours.  “Sorry to wake you, ” I wrote, “but I am pretty sure I am in the beginning of labor. Was 4cm this afternoon. Contrax are about 8 min apart and nice painful ones. Will call you when it gets interesting.” Then I sat on the couch and decided to knit. I figured that when I could no longer knit through the contractions, I’d wake up The Man and get serious.

I knit through four contractions.  The fifth one found me closing my eyes and moaning softly as I tried to relax. I set my knitting aside. Two more contractions like that and The Man was out of bed.

After checking on me, The Man went into the bathroom and started cleaning the bathtub. I heard the water running as he filled it and I started making my way to the bathroom, stopping twice to breathe through contractions. Then the shivers started. By the time I got to the bathroom (and, folks, my house is very small, it wasn’t a long walk), the contractions were right on top of each other. By the time I crawled into the blissfully hot water, there was no break between them.

As if in a dream, I heard The Man say something about calling the midwife and my mom. I gasped that he needed to wake the big kids, too. I was thinking that I couldn’t keep this up much longer, and assumed I still had hours to go – I had only just begun, after all! I heard The Man whispering a prayer, “Oh, God. Please slow it down.” And then out loud, “This is going really fast!”

“Don’t say that to me,” I panted, “It’s not helpful!”

And then the contractions stopped. I knew this meant I was complete. Pushing was next. I looked up and there were my four big kids, all crowded in the doorway, sleepy eyed and pajama clad. The Man sat on the toilet looking intense and confident.

“It’s almost time to push,” I said, as I relaxed in the water, waiting for the next phase to begin.

And then it began. I panted through the first pushing contraction, thinking somewhere in the back of my mind that I needed to wait for the midwife and for my mom. After the contraction subsided, sanity returned and I realized how silly this was. I have had two planned unassisted births! I can do this! So, with the next contraction I pushed.

Three pushes later and out she came! A teeny, tiny baby emerged from my body and I lifted her out of the water onto my chest. It was 3:01. She blinked in the light and serenely took it all in. She was beautiful in an unexpected way. I knew instantly that she had Down syndrome. I looked at The Man as he looked at her. He didn’t see it, yet. I looked back at her. This was not what I had pictured, not what I had expected. But I was okay with it. I knew it would be alright.

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After a short time, I felt it was time for the placenta to be birthed. The Dancing Queen cut the umbilical cord and The Bookworm wrapped the baby in a towel and took her in the living room. The Man helped me finish the process and got me out of the tub and into bed. There I had my new baby handed back to me and I looked at her again. She was so very tiny! My first six babies averaged 9 pounds, but this little squish was only 7lbs, 6oz!

My mom and the midwife both arrived about this time. Baby was checked out and given a clean bill of health. My mom put a movie on for the kids (who, at 4 am were very awake and excited) and I just stared at this tiny little girl in my arms.

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The first two days with her were lovely, I stayed in bed and we had skin-to-skin time round the clock. She had some trouble nursing, but as we worked on it, she improved with each feeding. The kids all adored her and lined up for their turn to hold her. The Man and I slowly adjusted to the idea of parenting a child with Down syndrome, focusing on the great blessing that she is and will be.

And so, my Encore Baby, The Blessing, entered this world, changing our lives far more than we ever expected. She is an amazing blessing and quite an exciting addition to our family.

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But the story continues. I’ll write about what happened next tomorrow.

Loved and Lost – Knitting Teeny Tiny Charity Items

When she lost her baby boy at seventeen weeks gestation, she wrapped his tiny body in a blanket that she had knit for him. It was so comforting to have that handmade baby blanket in the midst of such grief and turmoil. That one little blanket served to comfort her in the weeks to come as she mourned her lost son in a way that no mother ever should.
Emerson was due on July 13, 2013 and on that day the family will be scattering his ashes and saying goodbye. On that day she will be making her first donation.

As a tribute to her son, Morgan has organized Elephant Tears, a group of knitters on Ravelry who make teeny tiny knitted things for other babies born too soon, gone too soon. It is a way to comfort those who mourn and show respect to those who are lost. “Elephant Tears collects small preemie blankets, 18-24” squares/rectangles, to donate to the birth center at the University of Colorado Hospital. These blankets will add a personal touch to the bereavement packages provided by the hospital to families who have lost a baby due to unfortunate circumstances,as well as giving those parents a very tangible item to bring them comfort in the coming days, weeks, or months.”*

Please consider joining me in supporting this sweet mother as she reaches out to those in need and in remembering her sweet boy, Emerson. It takes only a few hours and a small amount of yarn to make such teeny tiny things and bring comfort to a grieving mothers heart.

This is the beginnings of the box that I am putting together to send to Elephant Tears – (detailed notes on my Ravelry project page here)

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If you are local to me, please feel free to contribute. I hope to get my box in the mail by July 5 and would love to add whatever you make, too. Just bring it by anytime.

For more information, please check out the Elephant Tears Ravelry Group or contact HolyCuteness on Ravelry.

*this is directly quoted from the Ravelry Group page

Spinning Rainbows

Draped over my shoulders right now is the most awesome thing that I have made yet. It is a rainbow of lace, spun, designed, and knit by me. I am so excited about this shawl!

It started out like this –

This is Renee’s 12 Color Rainbow on Mystic MCN Roving from Family Pendragon. Beautiful, yes? Yes.

And a very pleasurable spin it was! I separated out the colors and spun all of one color before moving to the next, being careful to blend the transitions evenly, for a gradient rainbow. The yarn is exquisite light fingering singles in a gorgeous riot of color. (Ravelry page here with notes on the spinning)

I agonized over what to knit with it. I really wanted a half-circle shawl that would accentuate the rainbow, but I couldn’t find just the right one. Then I remembered my handy Elizabeth Zimmerman book collection and inspiration just started coming in waves! I looked up the formula for her Pi Shawl and adjusted it to make a half-circle. It was laughably simple once I got going (seriously – so very simple!).

Once I got the shaping figured out, it was just a matter of choosing lace patterns to knit in the arches between the increase rows. Out came all of my lace stitch dictionaries (and quite a bit of Amazon dreaming, I admit! Oh, what I wouldn’t give for some Barbara Walker treasuries!) and I started knitting. The end result? Fabulous! (if I do say so myself) (Ravelry Project Page here)

I didn’t plan too much at once, just letting myself create over the course of the project. Each time I came to an increase row, I sought out the next lace insert, poring over my lace volumes anew.

The only thing that I really knew was that I wanted scalloped edges, so “Feather and Fan” was the obvious choice for the border.

The other goal was to knit a different stitch for each color. This worked out until the rows exceeded 300 stitches and the color repeats shortened to one inch, but by that time I was ready to start the scalloped edge anyway, so it worked out.

Among the many pleasing bits in this project is the lovely fact that the colors cooperated so well, leaving the dark purple for the bind off. I love the dark edge. Perfect.

Another thing that I love is the way that the various lace patterns work together in a pleasing way, even though I didn’t plan them. I was a little concerned that my haphazard method was going to produce something that looked, well, haphazard. On the contrary, I think it looks pretty good, and there are very few things that I would change (one of them being that I wish the orange section was less geometrical and looked more like leaves, as I imagined that it would). The yellow section is inspired by the Kai Mei socks, altered to make an all-over pattern, and the orange section I totally made up myself. For the other patterns I used Vogue Knitting Stitchionary vol 5 for guidance, but tweaking it to my liking along the way.

It is quite a thrill to start with a wad of wool and turn it into something so lovely, and even more thrilling to start with a plan and actually accomplish the goal almost perfectly.

And, though all the girls are vying for ownership, I think this one is for me.

Spun It, Knit It, Gave It

Another handspun hat has flown off my needles and onto a loved one’s head. (Rav page for yarn here. For hat here.)

Fiber from the Cosymakes Falkland Fiber Club, the January 2012 colorway, spun on a drop spindle. 

This knit was a little eye opening for me and I learned something about spinning and about yarn in general. This yarn was my second attempt at spinning and it is horrid. Thick and thin, overspun here, underspun there, under plied all over, horrid. But, look at how beautiful it knitted up! Even badly spun yarn can make a lovely hat!

Three things about this knit –

1. The pattern was totally improv – I knit a cable band approximately the circumference of The Dancing Queen’s head, joined it into a ring, picked up a bunch of stitches, and knit straight for awhile. When it was time to decrease, I worked decreases at three points around on every row until I had only a few stitches left. A pom pom finished off the yarn (until I realized that I still have another skien hiding in the back of the yarn cabinet).

2. The Dancing Queen has been on a yellow kick for a few months now, and when she saw this fiber on my spindle, she claimed it as her own. She was very happy to see it become a hat and she can’t wait for it to get cold enough so that she can wear it.

3. Knitting hats is an excellent way to be creative and use up weird yarn. It is fun to just knit without a plan and then find that a really cute hat is at the end of the journey. Makes me want to spin some more, too!