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Is it only me, or have other knitters been driven to the edge where sanity crosses over into insanity by Seed Stitch? There must be extant clips from diaries, journal entries, knitting notes, documenting the row by row erosion of reason that occurs when working the Seed Stitch Pattern, especially when it is broken up into separate panels one of which is divided 9″ (23 cm) into the pattern ceasing the knitting in the round and changing it to knitting flat in rows.

When prestigious knitting oeuvres describe the Seed Stitch Pattern their tone drips with condescension over its simplicity. Only a complete fool could screw it up. Two stitches: a knit and a purl make up the pattern. Whether I care or not about technical matters the knitting books drive home the point that technically this is a k1, p1 rib broken on every row. The unwritten point here: it’s the simplest of ribbings and if the knitter messes it up, then the knitter best look to finger painting as a hobby. The thing to keep in mind is all knit stitches are purled, all purled stitches are knit. Simple. Do the opposite of what the stitch is that’s on the needle.

When I have to keep straight the 108 to 144 sts on my needles, 40 to 60 of which are separated into Seed Stitch panels of 13 sts or more and the knitting is in the round and there’s a braid whose stitches, rows, and crosses need to also be kept straight and I am not following any directions I am making it up as I go and writing it down, something is going to give.

Accounting for each and every Seed Stitch on each and every row, through divisions and decreases is a little like counting grains of sand on a beach. The mind, and rightfully so, takes a hike. It comprehends the insanity inherent in the task and says, “Let me know when you come to your senses and I’ll be back.” After accounting for every seed stitch on the body of the baby carrier along with the stitches, crosses and rows on the braids, my mind said, “Adios” when I began the first sleeve.

I had 43 stitches on my double pointed needles (the sleeve is worked in the round) and I only had to work 11 rows of seed stitch. Forty-three measly stitches. After finishing the 11 rows I looked at my work, because now came the tricky part, and I realized that whatever it was that I had on my dpns was not the seed st pattern. The feeling was the exact same feeling of horror I experienced the first and last time I ever went fishing as a kid. The excitement over catching a fish quickly transformed when what I pulled up was a rather large eel, not a fish. In my panic, I threw pole and the still hooked eel right into the water and ran back to the car. Of course my father retrieved the pole and set loose the eel. But that was it for me and fishing.

They say good, soothing things about finger painting. I understand that it is used with success by mental health specialists in helping patients. Some paper, non-toxic paint pots…how simple. Only a fool could screw it up.

Say the word gauge to knitters and after a laugh and an eye roll, they will talk about stitches. Listen politely. Ask what about row gauge and after a strange look they will say, that doesn’t matter. This is the crux of the issue with my baby carrier design. If the knitter wants to duplicate my results, row gauge is paramount or the braid design will not finish off nicely at the shoulders and neck line. How does a designer get the knitter to be as cognizant of row gauge as stitch gauge in a pattern?

I could stress the importance of row gauge and provide a brief explanation supporting it in the Pattern Notes section. But really, how many of us actually pay attention to what’s written there? In the rush to start the project this section is brushed aside or skimmed over at best.

I could put a blaze orange box with the words WARNING! Know Your Row Gauge! on it. This would be novel. I haven’t seen anything like it in knit or crochet patterns to date. It would probably stop them for a second, but then they would brush this aside too.

The only way I can figure to get knitters to pay attention to row gauge in this pattern is to give the length measurements in number of rows and make centimeters and inches secondary. The written directions are row centric. Neckline decreases begin after a specific number of rows are knit. The decreases take place on specific rows. They cease on a specific row. Dividing the front opening as well as dividing for each armhole opening begins on a specific row and finishes on a specific row. In short, I am hamstringing the knitters. Saying this takes place now, this stops now.

I’ve never written a pattern in such a manner before. But it is crucial they begin and end shaping on certain rows for the braid to fit nicely at the neck and shoulders.

While the body of the piece is finished, I am knitting up one of the sleeves tonight. I still need to decided whether the sleeve will be all seed stitch–my eyes cross and twitch at the thought–or whether I will center the braid on the sleeve to break up the seed stitch. Right now I can’t quite imagine the sleeve without the braid.

Finally Spring is here. How do I know this? My allergies are in full bloom even though the land is not. My allergies and I will not part again until the first snowfall. All life is give and take.

Yesterday marked one year since we got Yarn Rascal. We celebrated by watching the video of picking him up and bringing him home. He was a true Rascal from the start. What a difference he has made in my life. I was at the point of giving up and stopping my cancer treatment when he came into my life. Today I am totally grateful for being alive. Yarn Rascal has brought joy and laughter back into my life. My radiation / cancer doctors say he saved my life. He did. I am so grateful for him. I am his rescue.

In case I didn’t think my allergies were bad enough, I spent the day hunting through my parent’s basement and in the attic for the guitar I had when I was 16. I knew it was an insane mission before I embarked on it. Once I get something in my mind, I’m a little like Yarn Rascal when he has something he shouldn’t have in his mouth: hard to deter. Even the allergy medication couldn’t save me from the itchy watery eyes, sneezing, scratchy throat, etc. The sneezing increased but I didn’t find the guitar. The fact is, I could get lost in the basement and attic. They are pretty big spaces. I hardly covered any space during the 7 hours of searching. So I will be heading back for more. But oh the things I did find! Lots of memories, lots of stories. Remembering and retelling takes time.

It’s weird like that for me. With The Skipper, he has photos galore and he goes through them to remember and retell. Photos don’t work like that for me. Objects bring it all back. I can’t get beyond the pain looking at photos. I remember my grandparents and great-grandparents through things of theirs I have and cherish. All the dogs I ever had, I’ve always saved their favorite toy. When I touch the toy and hold it, I remember and it is good. Even my late husband, his softballs and bat bring me comfort.

Today, I may search again for the guitar or I may get out my art gear and draw. I want to sketch the hellebore that survived the winter and is now in bloom. I find the structure of the flowers and plant interesting. It lends itself wonderfully to being sketched. It may be one of only a handful of perennials that will come back from winter’s onslaught. A number appear not to have survived. Others, just barely holding on.

This post has been a bit of a ramble. But then that is where I am, at the moment. A little here and a little there.

One use of baby carriers was to swaddle a baby so it couldn’t move. Literally. Keeping baby where it was placed was an important use of baby carriers in the Middle Ages and with Indigenous People. The carrier performed the duties of a baby sitter. Some were rigid enough to stand up right, others, especially in the Middle Ages were used to hang up the baby on a nearby wall or fence, while the mother attended her work duties.

edward s. curtis. the nez perce

edward s. curtis. the nez perce

The picture above is of an actual baby carrier used by the Nez Perce. At the left side, one of the two straps that would go over the mother’s shoulder is showing. When I look at this picture, the tightness of the swaddling literally takes my breath away.

While rigid swaddling was used to ensure straight, strong limbs, often it did just the opposite, causing bones to become malformed. But mostly, the baby carrier was used by the mother to keep the baby with her at all times. With a baby strapped to her back, she could travel about and perform her daily work inside and outside the home. Life, it seems, has never been easy on women.

Initially, the baby carrier I was asked to design was supposed to be tight. The baby was to fit through the hood opening. I couldn’t do it. Each time I tried, my own claustrophobia undid me and I’d walk away from the project feeling like I couldn’t breathe. After much discussion between all involved, I was relieved to get the okay to throw out the restrictive tight fit. I could think about proportion and form without feeling restricted and needing air myself. I decided to divide the front to create a center opening, add sleeves, and enlarge the width of the carrier to account for both baby, baby clothes and diapers.

My walk alongside the Hudson River was my inspiration for the stitch pattern combinations. The Hudson is a working river. Tugs, barges, battleships, schooners, tankers, sailboats, the occasional sloop, and recreational boats move up and down it at different times of the year. Ice cutters regularly traversed it this winter to keep a shipping lane open.

The play of light and dark on the water along with a large barge going up river helped me settle on what I wanted to achieve. When I thought of the ship I thought of the heavy ropes on board. I chose to interpret the ship with a braid whose movement reminded me of ropes laid along a deck. I also wanted the braid to resemble the feel of a deck that rocked up and down. To compliment the braid I chose the humble seed stitch pattern. The texture of the pattern and the way it absorbs and reflects light reminds my of the way the Hudson looked that day.

Still on the needles, this is how it looks at the moment. Excuse the lighting, I am still learning my camera.

baby carrier 2

Before I even set pencil to paper to sketch out stitch patterns I had many concerns about my latest design project. The item goes by many names, baby sleep sack, baby cocoon, baby bunting and the designs are as boundless as the names. It’s not a piece I would choose to design, nonetheless the work of designing it fell into my lap and I need to complete it.

While the item goes by many names my research revealed it easily fell into three categories.

First up: Uncomfortable. But then I’m not a newborn. And, where’s the diaper? Frankly, I wouldn’t leave a baby without a diaper any longer than it took me to change it.

Next up: How did you stuff the baby in there? And, where is the diaper?

Etsy Accents and Art

Etsy Accents and Art

The final category: Why would you do this to anyone?

At that point in my research I would have walked away from the project if it had been only my idea. But I didn’t have that choice. I am designing it for a company. I think it speaks to my resilience in the face of 21st century madness that although the research took me almost a week of looking at pictures like those above, my migraine didn’t start until the fourth day.

After 24 hours in a dark, quiet room with a cool cloth on my forehead I went back to researching. I had gotten beyond the questions that had battered my cranium up to then: Why and who are using these items? How are they using them? How do they get the baby inside them? Are they stuffing the child through the hood opening? Babies don’t like things going over their heads. Does anyone use diapers? Are there any out there designed to be used with diapers? What is art and what is child abuse?

So my inspiration for the sleep sack I am designing started out with written pages of what I would not include, examples of what I didn’t want it to look like, and examples of how I did not want it to fit. I had a ton of don’t bees and no do bees, which for me was a strange way of beginning a design. Usually the sky is the limit, everything is possible and I scale it down to the elements I really like.

When a project is in a negative explanation loop whereby I speak about the project in terms of what it is not or will not be like I am in trouble. I have to intentionally move my talk to what it is to be and what it will be like and how it’s use neatly fits the design like an egg and an egg shell. To do that I research the history of the item through the ages. How past items were constructed, what fibers, hides, cloth, etc were used. I document main use and other uses especially when it crosses cultures. If the item changes with time I track down how and why it changed.

Often I find initial design inspiration in the historical background of an item. That’s what happened here with the baby sack. More on it’s history and how I’ve grown to enjoy the making of my own baby sleep sack in my next post.

Every so often I have this delusion that I could have done well living in an earlier age. Medieval times, Victorian era, the early 1920s are my favorite fantasy dates. However, when I start to yearn for being somewhere other than where my feet are, the universe instantly senses it and whips up a loathsome ordeal to snap me out of it. Such was the reality this weekend.

I am certain I want to create a small line of bed jackets and bed socks that are romantic, lacy, beautiful, and would just make a woman feel good to put them on. A pick-me-upper for the blues or a bad day. Little somethings to slip into to signal the day is done, I can relax and rejuvenate. To this end, if I get a moment when I am not chasing down Yarn Rascal to remove something he shouldn’t have from his mouth–the dog has had more x-rays of his intestinal track in his first year of life than I have had in my entire 58 years of life, or saving The Skipper from throwing his computer out the window or chucking his smart phone across the room, or calming down my 82-year-old parents by reminding them that not everything that goes wrong is a red alert disaster, when there is food in the fridge and I don’t need to run to the store and worry what to cook, when the dog is not throwing up because he ate something he shouldn’t have, in those moments of quiet, I relax and imagine life in the Victorian era and 1920s and what women might have thought beautiful to wear. Yes, at some point in the imagining I may experience a slight wistful yearning for the imagined simpler, less chaotic time I am conjuring in my mind. It is at that moment the universe steps in and says, “Really? You think it was that easy? Let me show you how it was.”

And so this weekend’s lesson from the universe was on heating and what it was like in those “simpler times” not to have it. Yes, we had no heat and waited until evening for the burner guy to show. The universe was very busy showing others too what it was like without heat.

Life without central heating is uncomfortable. My first reaction to no heat was 21st century panic. I wrapped myself in the comforter, a quilt, a blanket and my crocheted afghan and went down stairs to call the burner people. Yarn Rascal immediately attached himself to me around my waist where he hung by his teeth from the afghan like a circus dog gone wild. Parting the little darling from it would have meant separating him from his teeth which would mean vet visits and doggie dentures, I sat and called the oil burner company instead. While I held the line and cradled the phone between shoulder and ear I tried to detach Yarn Rascal from the afghan but failed.

When I finally got through and the burner guy said he couldn’t possible get here before 7 pm. I knew my day was going to get more difficult.

As the outside temperatures fell into the low 40s (4.4) Celsius I realized the last thing a woman thought about was a lacy, romantic, little anything. Instead she probably thought of layering on warm clothing like knitted hats, mittens, cowls, and socks. Thus dressed in my knitted finery, I dove under the covers and the crochet afghan and waited for the burner guy in bed. Forget the computer and the smart phone, they don’t provide heat. As for Yarn Rascal, he thrived in the cold continually trying to tear the covers off of me. Somewhere an obedience course has his name on it. The Skipper also ignored the cold. Dressed in turtleneck and hoodie he sat in front of the television watching March Madness. Nothing comes between him and a good game.

At 4 pm I could no long bear the bed nor the cold anymore. My 21st century self always takes a warm shower before stepping out the door and I wanted to get out the door and ride around in my car with the heat on. I toyed with the idea of running buckets of heated water up and down the stairs to fill the tub myself and realized I’d probably have a massive coronary about the 4th time I hauled two 5 gallon buckets up and down 31 steps.

At 5 pm the burner guy arrived. By that time I was hungry, cold, beaten down, and looked and felt like something the cat hocked up. A few plinks of metal tools against metal tools, and the dinosaur roared to life. Seconds later the radiators were making the familiar and soothing clinks and clangs that signaled heat.

Once again, I came face to face with the realization that my 21st century self would not do well in those eras I romanticize. It’s all about being comfortable where my feet are. And right now they are warm.

snow drops

daffs

If someone had told me the Alpine mountains of snow and ice standing along the driveway would be but a memory come early April I would have treated that person gently as I recommended the hospitals in the area with good mental health facilities. But that person would have been spot on. The beginning of April, the snow walls, forts, barricades, and piles are gone. In their place snowdrops have risen from a bed of last Autumn’s leaves. The daffodils too have broken through the soggy ground, their face buds up to the sun. The Robins have been mating. And I have put the primary wren houses out to welcome home my favorite little bird. The bluebird made it through the winter and has his house all in order already.

I like winter. I like snow. I like cold. But make no mistake, this winter took a lot out of me. I lived in all my hand knit things, both inside the house and out. The house was no challenge to the polar winds. They entered at will through the walls making the inside feel almost as frozen as the outside. I have been through challenging winters before, but have never experienced the bitter air from the polar regions for such a prolonged time. Many times I wondered if I would ever feel comfortably warm again.

What saved me were my socks, my stranded wool hat, a bandana cowl and fingerless mitts and that was just what I wore in the house.

my hat

my gloves

bandana cowl

These three items gave me the greatest warmth. The bandana cowl I wore all winter inside and out and it provided tons of warmth. I made a number of them for family members who walk more than 3 city blocks to reach their jobs and they too say the cowl provided warmth in ways scarves just don’t. The pattern is free and located here if your interested. It is fashionable enough to wear all day when the office is sub-zero.

Due to this fiasco of a winter I am rethinking all my winter charity knits. First they need to provide warmth, second they should look good and be easy to care for. Hence, my third project for the winter charity box:

stranded hat

The design is from Hats On by Charlene Schurch called the All Over Two Color Patterned Watch Cap. It’s a wonderful book covering all styles of warm knits hats that look good. I’ve wanted to knit through Charlene’s collection for years now and I think now I’m going to get that chance. The Skipper requested one, so his is the next on my project list along with a long list of designs I need to get cracking on.

Have a Good Weekend!

Mollie & Claire

A blog about knitting, making things & life with a black Labrador called Mollie

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