Thursday, May 26, 2011

If I Knew Then What I Know Now

After making a fall sweater recently, I've been making more of a concerted effort to get my crafting mind to focus on the season at hand for once.  There were a couple applique shirt ideas for Little C. floating around up there (you saw the octopus tee last week) and also an idea for an orange crochet shrug for me.

I like to wear tank tops sometimes in the summer, but I usually want to throw something on over them if I'm heading out in case I'm cold or want to cover up. Orange is on trend (this is completely unimportant to the Little Man, and probably also to the pediatrician, and the average person at my local supermarket. And since these are the people with whom I spend the most time it seems kind of pointless to care about it but I do),  and crochet is also big for spring/ summer. Why not marry the two into a little shrug, I thought?

I found a pattern that seemed easy and got started on it using Lion Brand Cotton Ease in terracotta.

It was smooth going at first; I was whizzing through the pattern. You start out by making granny squares. I had to make 10 for my size. It probably took a week of on and off crocheting. Wow, this pattern is so fast! I thought as I finished the last large granny.

I looked back at the pattern. Let's see, what was next? Oh, you just make some smaller ones, and a couple half grannies. No big deal. Oh yeah, and then, like, you just sew 'em up, and slap on a collar. SO EASY.  I wish I had taken more pictures of "in the making" but I was on a roll and couldn't stop for it. I was going to be finished the shrug in no time. Woo hoo!

After finishing the first 10 granny squares in, like, no time flat, I started on the smaller ones. Then I started on the halves. I started to feel like the project should be close to completion, but all I had were a stack of grannies in different sizes.

Now it was joining time. Ok, now I was nearly finished, right? Maybe I'll be able to wear the shrug tomorrow, I thought, as I searched for the diagram in the pattern that was going to help me put the whole thing together.

No, I wasn't going to be able to wear it tomorrow. Or the next day, or the next...I was in for even more "starts and stops" (as a fellow Ravelry member put it regarding this pattern) as I searched online for the diagram. The link was broken on the original site and it took some detective work on my part to find it on a different website (eventually found it on

Anyway, back to joining the pieces. I knew this part wouldn't be fun. And it wasn't. I don't even have the energy to elaborate on why. When this was finally all finished there was still work to do: I had to tidy up the borders and make it even so I could begin the cuffs/ collar. And after trying it on I had to sew the neck up a little too, so that it fit. It seemed oddly big/ wide to me.

Finally, the end was in sight! Hallelujah! I started the first cuff. I worked on it for about a half hour before I realized that I was doing it completely wrong (I had picked up stitches and started crocheting. FYI: no picking up stitches required). I had to pull it out and begin again.

After the cuffs were mercifully completed, I began my truly final step: the collar. It was slow going (took a couple days) but I kept at it and persevered.

I stepped back to wearily admire my handiwork. Upon closer inspection,  I realized I added 3-4 stitches to the width as I got about 1/2 way around. I stared at the imperfection with bleary, bloodshot eyes and considered ripping it out and fixing it.

I considered doing this for approximately 1 second.

Do you think I did ?

My issues with this pattern mostly have to do with "my issues." I can see some other crocheter enjoying the process and not being impatient with it. I think I expected it to be a pretty fast project, so I kept wanting it to be done already. Also, I'm not the most intuitive knitter/ crocheter and there were some parts of the pattern that weren't spelled out enough for me. That being said, it was also very detailed in some parts. I'm calling it "The Contradiction Shrug".

I definitely think I will be wearing it this summer, so my struggles were not in vain. If I were to make it again (shudder) I would probably make the ribbed collar smaller in width--and not just the part I messed up! I think it will look pretty cute with a white tank top under it (and not the navy shirt I just worked out in).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Attack of the Giant Squid

When I was making this shirt I kept thinking back to an early assignment I had during my first year of teaching when I was completing my education classes at night.

The science lab teacher at my school was also taking this Integrative Curriculum class with me and we teamed up together for the final assignment. It was a weekly 8 o'clock class. It was across the street from my workplace which was close to an hour away from where I lived. This forced me to stay at work until 8 after teaching all day, attend class until 10, and get home close to 11. Then wake up the next morning at 5:15 for work. Needless to say it WAS NOT FUN!!! Looking back I don't even know how I managed to do it (I had to do the same thing with other classes, and committees as well over the years and I always hated it). The thought of having to do something like that now makes me feel kind of nauseous. Let me repeat: IT WAS SO NOT FUN.

Anyway, despite this hellishness, I loved working on our final assignment. We decided to integrate three subjects into a lesson plan the Science Lab teacher already used about squid dissection. Since I taught English, it was my job to plan how to incorporate it. I knew immediately that the students would become instantly engaged with a multi media introduction to the Giant Squid. We planned to show historical illustrations, and sailor accounts of these enormous sea creatures attacking boats, etc. on the SMART board. Then the students would read the squid description from Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I think the third member of our group was a math teacher, which is probably why I do not remember her contribution at all. You know I tend to block out anything math-related.

Since the students would have already studied about the squid in Science class, they would then have to discuss and write down what was correct or incorrect about the physical descriptions. What was myth/ fact...etc, etc. There was a lot more to the lesson but this was the general thread. By then the students would be really fired up about getting their hands on a real squid and dissecting it. It was always a big shock to them to see how tiny the squid was that they were working with (they were usually about 6 inches long). I'm sure they were expecting the Science Lab teacher to roll in some giant sea monster on a trolley from the hallway.

Trust me, they forgot any minor disappointment they may have initially had as soon as they were able dissect the ink sack; they were to use the ink to write their names on paper and hang it up outside the classroom. Looking back I find it gross and barbaric--and exactly what kids would find fun.

Unfortunately, I never got to use this lesson plan with the Science Lab teacher. I had observed her regular squid lesson that year but she left for a different job the next year and we never got to collaborate. I still think that it would be a great lesson all these years later. And I guess the child-like excitement/ wonder of "sea monsters" hasn't left me because I've been wanting to make Little C. this octopus shirt for almost two years.

I'm not the Science teacher so I can't go into detail about the differences among squid, cuttlefish, or octopi. Although, I'm quite certain that an octopus has 8 tentacles, not 4. I'm calling it artistic license.

This long-in-the-making shirt started with an octopus sketch on a discarded piece of Little C's drawing paper. I made a variety of designs to start with.  I initially was going for a mod-vector art-ish look, but my husband liked this illustration better. I really trust his eye on color/ design. I can get way too caught up in those things and complicate matters for the worse, so I almost always go with his opinion on those things.

Then I appliqued the shirt. I have only done this once before, and I definitely need practice. This was also the first time I changed the foot on my sewing machine/ used satin stitch.

 I did practice a lot before hand, but I still had some difficulty with the fabric puckering, etc. I should have put some kind of stabilizing fabric on the other side of the shirt, but I was too impatient. Live and learn.

I knew I wanted to use buttons for the suction cup tentacles. When I saw these in the store I knew they were perfect; what a great find!

I'm glad I finally made this idea concrete, and probably just in the nick of time too, while Little C. is still little and into wearing a mom-made shirt with pink buttons on it.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Not My Knits: Blue Zig Zag Blanket

Here is the other zig zag blanket made by my grandmother. Again, all parents know that you can't make a special gift for one child without making one for the other one, or two, or three. My grandmother also adhered to this Even Steven Rule with my sister and me. This blue zig zag blanket was the pair to my pink one, and it spent its time at the foot of my sister's bed.

Just like the Pink Orchard sweater theory for my nieces, my grandmother used the exact same pattern (even down to the variegated yarn as the third color) for both of us.

I know I will be making a zig zag blanket at some point too. Come to think of it, it's not a bad way to use up stash yarn either. Here's some zig zag Flickr inspiration that I've been looking at lately.

But before I get carried away with starting yet another project, I really need to finish the stuff I'm already working on. I am so close to finishing a few things; I really need to buckle down, focus, and complete them already.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Human beings tend to follow routines. Even when given the freedom to make alternate choices, the familiar routine seems to win out.

Case in point: when I was in college and FINALLY had the chance to sit wherever I wanted in class (no assigned seats for most classes) I always sat in the same exact seat. If someone took "my seat" before I walked in, I was mildly annoyed about it too, maybe even huffing and puffing a little bit as I sat down, like I'm the Queen of England or something and somebody sat on my throne.

Likewise, when driving to work for seven years, I always drove the same exact route. If there was a detour I'd have a near panic attack about it too, although there were numerous ways to reach my workplace. My anxiety was always so magnified you would have thought the detour was taking me to outer space.

Even now on my daily walks with Little C, I always follow the same route around the neighborhood. I'm a stalker's dream. Why the same route all the time? It just seems like the best route. Because it's the most familiar I guess.

So, what I'm trying to say here is that I'm a pretty routinized person. And it's even starting to show up in my knitting. Remember the Spring Fall Sweater I knit two years in a row? Well, here I go again with the Essential Cardigan-- 2011 edition.

When my sister and I were little I remember we both had delicate, white knit ponchos in a pretty eyelet pattern. We wore them to church a lot over our dresses in the spring when it was still chilly outside. The Essential Cardigan is kind of like my version of that for the Little Man. If he's dressed nicely I prefer a sweater over his outfit, rather than a sporty-looking windbreaker or sweatshirt. Last year's sweater was worn multiple times, so I knew I had to revisit the idea again.

I didn't really follow a pattern again, so it's not perfect. Oh well. I'm not in a contest. I added a little patch pocket on one side for a little interest and also to hold the Little Man's car keys.  I can't even imagine those days yet, but much to my dismay, time is already flying by--I'm sure he'll be driving before I can even blink.
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