Friday, October 29, 2010

One Year Ago on Rhinebeck Weekend

I haven't done a Rhinebeck recap because this has been a very busy and exciting time around here. I am writing a book, working a lot, my mother has been unwell in fits and spurts, we lost a dog, my son joined the Army - it's been a sort of endless year of up and down and craziness. But this is a very special weekend here, and so I want to share.

One year and two weeks ago, give or take a day, as I sat at the Wild Fibers dinner surrounded by friends, I got a text from my daughter conveying some very exciting news. Her oldest step-brother had asked the girl of his dreams - and ours - to marry him. And she said yes. Even though she knows him. Even though she has met all of us - and I do mean all - in this insane blended family we have built.
This is Brendon.
He's the oldest of four, or the oldest of two, depending on the day and which house he is in. He's the leader of the pack. The first to shave, the first to get a license, the first to graduate from anything, and the first drive me right up a freaking wall.

When I say we're an unusual family I do not exaggerate. First his parents were married and rearing he and his brother and then they were not married any more. I was married to someone else and had two kids of my own, and then I was no longer married.
(Brendon, Eric, Gene aka Mr. Wonderful)
In the end we found each other and we blended this crew into some sort of family.

When his father and I got together he was about 12. I was about 24, and Gene was about 30. Brendon's biological brother, Eric, was 7. My kids, Dan and Meg, were 5 and 3. I don't know what we were thinking when we decided to make this all work. Well, I do know what we were thinking. I think we were in love, we knew this was huge for both of us, and we decided that hell or high water we would make it work. The kids were no where near as accommodating as we might have liked. They all came into this new family with their own varied baggage.
(Brendon, Eric, Dan and Meg)
But blend they did, and in the end they formed a pretty reasonable if motley group with Brendon at the head. And I love them all, and they are all mine. And I mean that.

Because he was the oldest and the first to do all of the fun stuff, he was also the first to leave home. He was the first to leave pieces of himself behind in our lives and head off into the world to make a new life all on his own. We watched and sometimes worried and waited a lot for reassurance, and in the end it came. This bird fledged and made it look easy. The rest would have a tough act to follow. College, a good job, and in the end the right partner to share his life. And we are so very proud.

This is Selina.
(Selina at her Bridal Shower)
Brendon brought Selina into our lives a while back. His last girlfriend had been a very nice girl and we all liked her. What, we wondered, would this new girl be like? Girlie? Tomboy? Rugged? Dainty?

Selina is, and I do not lie, perfect for him. She is game and energetic, joyful and sweet, and a pleasure to be around. She's smart, witty, charming and unbelievably adorable. She can be a girlie girl when the situation warrants, but will cheerfully ditch the heels for a pair of jeans and a romp through the woods after a bear.

From a small family and with one sibling - and parents married only to each other since before she was born - what on earth would she make of the chaos and craziness that is our family? We worried. Would she run? Make for the door? Really, who wouldn't?
(Rachel, Eric, Aidan, Brendon, Selina, Megan, Jeroth - Christmas 2008)
But she stayed. In spite of the insanity that is this family, and in spite of the handful that is Brendon, she stayed. And then the text came, at the Wild Fibers dinner, the text that said that she wasn't just staying for now. She was staying for real. The girl said yes. 
Tomorrow Brendon and Selina will join their lives in marriage. We're proud, we're thrilled, we're beside ourselves. We're adding a daughter to our crew, and we could not be happier. We could not have chosen a better partner for him if we'd searched the world over. And the best news? Check this out people....

Sunday, October 24, 2010

More Books That Aren't Mine. But I Love Them Anyway.

Disclaimer: Reviews posted on this blog reflect the opinion of me. I am not compensated by the publishers in any manner other than the acquisition of a free book (never a bad thing!). If I don't like it, I won't talk about it. If I do like it, you'll have to put up with my blather for a few paragraphs.

Most of you know by now that I am a grandmother. I am also a big fan of handmade gifts. And I am a big old sucker for "cute". When I was asked to take a look at two Watson-Gupthill books, Knitted Wild Animals by Sarah Keen and Knitting Mochimochi by Anna Hrachovec, there was no choice but to say yes. I may have said it a little louder though. And there may have been a very very tiny bit of a squeal.

When I was a child, one of my things was watching my G.W. (aka Gramma Winnie, aka Winnifred Harvey Irish Morgan) crocheting and knitting a variety of animals and toys. Bears, mice, elves, you name it, she would make it. I even once had a purse that was made from the bottom of a used laundry soap bottle. When opened, it converted into a doll bed. I thought it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. I watched her fashion many of the same for siblings and cousins, and many, many more for selling at the local Christmas craft fair held annually in Northfield, MA at a variety of churches and other locales. Small knit and crochet friends, therefore, have a special place in my heart.

I have also been very busy of late with this new book, and once again my plan to knit sweaters for my grandchildren for the holidays is falling away from me. It makes me very sad that once again I am thwarted. But then I got to thinking. What about a smaller item? Not a sweater. What about...a toy? And then the email came - would I like to review books on knit toys? It's like they read my mind.Yes, of course I would love to!

When the books arrived I dove right into them. The books are decidedly different from one another, and yet I find myself in raptures over projects in both. Knitting Mochimochi is the work of Anna Hrachovec who's adorable blog and website Mochimochi Land contains a wealth of cute, cuddly and sometimes a little bizarre creatures.
Knitting Mochimochi: 20 Super-Cute Strange Designs for Knitted Amigurumi
 In all there are 20 amigurami designs divided into four categories - Fierce Creatures, Random Objects, Impractical Wearables and Nano Knits. Most are under 8" when completed. The projects range from Bite-free Bedbugs to Feet Eaters (this is the cover image - a slipper that eats your feet) and from Grouchy Couch to a Hamster Herd. Information is provided on everything from childproofing your toys to designing your own. Most importantly, I think, there is a great deal of information on basic toy technique. Unlike a traditional knitted project, toys require a few tricks that some may not have in their arsenal. The information presented here on these topics would alone make it worth the investment for any toy knitter.

Most of these projects are small and quick to knit, making them perfect tote-along projects. I personally require a herd of hamsters for my office, and possibly some Pigs in Wigs as well. I am looking forward to boatloads of fun both to knit and to enjoy when they're complete. Excellent as gift ideas or just adorable objects to have around you, this book is loaded with fun and inspiration.

Next I turned my attention to Knitted Wild Animals by Sarah Keen.
The patterns in this book are more traditional in appearance, but are just filthy all over with cute. The cover image alone is captivating, but then you begin to flip the pages...fifteen adorable creatures peer up at you, page after page of wildlife just begging for you to pick up the needles. Lion and tiger and, well, no bear unless you count the unbelievable cute giant panda. There's warthog and moose and zebra too!

A technique section gives advice on the basics of casting on, increasing and decreasing and binding off. There are helpful hints on working with intarsia, making tassels (tails!) and embroidery for faces as well as stuffing and care of your finished stuffed creature. These creatures are larger in size, about in the 8-18" range. You could knit an entire zoo that would keep any child entertained for hours regardless of their chronological age.

Continuing the trend toward unbearable cuteness, the Webs Holiday 2010 catalog just made it's public appearance.
Seriously cute. Within hours I had knit two penguins using the pattern from Webs which is available as a download (in case you are, as I was, instantly driven to whip some up), and I doubt my obsession will stop there. I love the slightly sarcastic look of the penguins. These are mine (so far):
There will, of course, need to be more. I've been rewarding myself for accomplished work with something like this - a project I can knock out and feel finished with in a matter of an hour. Of note, I did NOT put them here. When I went up to bed last night they were side by side on the mantle contemplating who they wanted me to knit next. I think this display indicates they want more of themselves? I can happily comply!

(edited to add an update on penguins and the resulting stacking behavior seen above from Girl - "Well there was an epic penguin battle going on, but then we all came in to watch movies so they had to freeze where they were. At least that's what I think happened... It's not like I was there.". I don't think I believe her about the not being here bit...)

Next weekend is our oldest sons wedding. There's a  lot of flutter and excitement here. We love Selina (oh and Brendon too) and could not be happier for them or for ourselves, really. Among her other fine qualities, Selina KNITS. Just a little for now, but I think we can work on that, don't you?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

One Block at a Time.

When I am in the middle of a big project (like, say, a book...) I tend to crave small things, just a small project to wipe my palate free of the big one, if only for a moment. When I was offered a copy of Nicky Epstein's Knitting Block by Block, I couldn't resist.
I am a fan, I will admit. I own the functional eye candy that are also known as Nicky Epstein's Knitted Embellishments, Nicky Epstein Knitted Flowers, and of course Knitting On the Edge and Knitting Over the Edge and Knitting Beyond the Edge, among others. I even own the 2001 Knits for Barbie Doll. The concept of this new block-based book is simple - using these simple shapes as a foundation, you can knit a variety of pieces - wearable or huggable or anything in between.
As it turns out, you can. Beginning with some helpful basic information on designing with squares, the book moves into a series of block-based designs for the knitter's perusal. Patterns for the featured designs are included in the back, but really I like to view them more as inspirations. In total there are 13 projects with specific pattern directions ranging from afghans and scarves to full garments and accessories. There's even simple toys, which I must say would make excellent last minute gifts!
Then there are the blocks. 150 of them to be precise. In true Nicky Epstein fashion, they run the gamut from simple to creative and tame to wild with a little of everything in between. Blocks are knit simply, or are embellished, cabled, embossed, colorized and liberally textured. Last but not least, there are four pages of images of the blocks themselves to finish things off. Simply copy them, cut them out, and use the squares to design your own project.
This book made me want to drop everything and play with my knitting. I think we don't do enough of that. isn't knitting, first and foremost, about enjoyment? We don't knit because there are no socks or sweaters. We knit because it's fun. it feels good. This book will inspire you to have some fun with your craft. One block at a time!