Thursday, April 26, 2007

Light at the End of the Proverbial Tunnel

The semester and academic year officially end this weekend with a round of commencement festivities. For those of us who work with students, this means we are about to have a breather from the breakneck pace of the rest of the year. I am looking forward to using lunch hours to spend more time on posts for this blog and commenting on others'.

Until then, I have one more finished project. This is a sweater I finished last September except for sewing on buttons. I got frustrated with my inability to make the garter stitch ribs line up on either side of the button band. When I got that to happen, there were gaps and puckers between my buttons. It sat, unworn, with 4 buttons sewn on it for the entire winter.

Finally a friend said, "don't worry about lining up the ribs, just sew the dang buttons on." I realized this was the only way I was ever going to have a wearable sweater, so I did. Actually I first went and bought some smaller buttons (I hate buttons. Always have. Nothing is less exciting to me than having to select buttons for a sweater.).

Anyway, when the buttons were on, the ribs actually matched up pretty well. I wore it to work the next day.

Pattern: Garter Rib Cardi from spring (or summer?) 2006 Creative Knitting (photo left).

Yarn: Cascade Sierra, color 55

Needles: I've forgotten completely

Notes: This was the project I was working on when I discovered I was purling incorrectly. It actually is a pretty stitch and makes a type of twisted stockinette. Other than that, I followed the pattern exactly and have a tailor-fitted (-knitted) sweater! The color immediately above is probably closer to the actual then the more orange ones from my photo shoot the other night.

Here are a few closeups of the details. First, the twisted stitch and rib pattern.

I'm especially fond of the eyelets at the bottom of the sleeves and body.

The button, for those of you who froth over these things (Honestly. Have some self respect).

And a shot highlighting the ribs. They're really prominent in the finished sweater, even in regular light conditions.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Radical Doulas

I found this editorial piece today and thought it was very interesting. The author explores the similarities and contrasts between birth and abortion. In particular, these paragraphs caught my attention:

Birth activism provided me with a new outlet for my feminist politics and a way to support women during an important time in their lives. After a harrowing experience in a public maternity ward in Ecuador, where I briefly lived, I became a doula, accompanying women during labor. Unfortunately, working as a doula—while an incredible opportunity—was not the empowering experience that I had hoped it would be. I found that I had little ability to influence births and I could be in the birthing room only as long as I kept my mouth shut and stayed out of the way. I accompanied four women during their labors and deliveries in this hospital, but by then I was at my breaking point.

Activists working in the abortion-rights field have similar experiences. It is almost impossible for a woman to have an abortion in a totally safe and supportive environment, free from social and familial stigma. No matter how much we pro-choice advocates fight, there will always be a loud and ever-present group on the other side (often just outside the clinic doors) telling women they should feel guilty about their choices and that they are based on selfishness and sin. Women are rarely allowed the freedom to make these choices in the idealistic environment that we abortion-rights advocates dream about, free from the influence of divisive politics. This is where the connection between abortion-rights advocates and birth activists seems exceedingly clear to me: Both are attempts to fight back against rhetoric that prioritizes the unborn fetus instead of the adult woman.

The author writes -- and I agree -- that pro-choice birth advocates are often reluctant to talk about this aspect of their beliefs for fear of alienating the many pro-life supporters who are allies in the birth arena. I suspect the same is true in reverse. We don't want to be divided, so we don't talk about abortion.

I know that is true for me. I am sensitive to the fact that many readers (or at least commenters) on this blog are religious. From that, I extrapolate a concurrent, though perhaps falsely assigned, disapproval of abortion.

What I like about the editorial's message is its focusing on the denominator of women's empowerment in both birth and abortion. With the recent Supreme Court decision, it is time for us women to take stock of our liberties and advocate for their preservation.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Baby Surprise Jacket and notes

Last night my spouse saw me looking at the camera screen and asked, "Are you admiring your knitting or your photos of your knitting?" Good question. I must admit, I enjoy both: the finished knits and attempts to capture what I like about them in photographs.

This captures what I like about the Baby Surprise Jacket I finished last week:

Pattern: Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jacket (from Knitter's Workshop and Dawn Adcock's cheat sheet)

Yarn: Regia Bamboo Color 1066 (approx. 1.1 skeins) and some cream wool that my MIL says she used to make my younger son's baby sweater

Needles: Brittany circular size 5

Cost: $18 in yarn, but most of skein 2 remains; with better use of the cream, I'd have gotten away with one $9 skein.

Notes: I spent a lot of time on-line trying to figure out how the thing went together. EZ has a diagram of the finished flat piece in her book. Most people show their "before and after" photos. But I had a hard time finding in-progress pictures to help me imagine how the thing comes together and where I was in relation to the finished object. If that describes you (and also for my own future reference), here are photos and descriptions of the where/when:

1. This is in the first section. All you're doing is knitting mitered corners by double decreases. Note that you're knitting the jacket from the top down.

If you're on circular needles, you can lay it down, flip up the end edges and see that you're constructing the sleeves and top back of the jacket at the same time.

3. Eventually you stop double decreasing and start double increasing. It will fill in that semicircle from above and start expanding the fabric.
4. At the point where the instructions have you put stitches on holders, you can again fold in to see that the stitch holders are at the edges of the right and left cardigan fronts and your needles are knitting the length of the sweater downward.

5. This is the classic "before" photo, the finished piece minus the sleeve seams.

6. If I straighten out the lower right edge, you can better see where the front cardigan edge is:

7. By folding that edge in and the sleeve up, the form begins to take a more recognizable shape.

8. Doing the same to the other side, you see a sweater at last.

Two seams and four buttons (I didn't make the last button hole) later, you have a sweater. Front:

And back.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Honorary Birth Support Dream Team Member #5

A wonderful friend and Birth Community member in the Ann Arbor area died yesterday.

Audrey Simon is the woman who taught me how to massage my baby and who imparted humor and wisdom during her careful massaging of my pregnant body. We referred clients to each other. We shared a regard for women, their bodies and the power of touch.

I always cautioned clients about Audrey. She swore liberally and effectively. She was a priestess "of some hippie religion" who could perform weddings. She was the first person who told me about sharing breastfeeding duties between mothers (she nursed a neighbor's baby and vice-versa). She was petite and wiry, funky and intense. She is older than my mother but a world apart in life attitude and experience. She could tell me about my chakras without making me worry I was in the hands of a new age nut. She stopped working as a doula because she couldn't stand "all the unbelievable shit they do to women in the hospital." She stopped running because it was too hard on her uterus.

The last time I saw her was about a year ago. We had lunch at the local vegetarian restaurant. She ordered a custom juice with all kinds of vegetables and grasses in it. As always, I felt so provincial and naive. And inspired and awed.

Part of her spirit will remain with me as I go on in my work with pregnant and birthing women. She is part of my birth support dream team. Oh that I could bring her back to be at my side for inspiration and support.

Audrey, wherever you are, keep giving 'em hell and sharing your magical touch.

I don't know how long it will remain active, but while it's still up, you should visit her beautiful website.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Point, Counter-Point

Have you been following the news in Australia? I haven't had time to do anything, let alone digest it for readability here. But in short, at the same time as its various states are considering prohibitions on elective Cesareans, the very skills that make vaginal birth possible are being lost to similar restrictions. Read here for one Aussie's account of her struggle to birth her breach baby vaginally (political/procedural struggle, that is....not physical struggle).


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Nothin' but Knit

For those of you who check here for the birth piece, bear with me. I'm in the midst of a lot of reflection on birth and doula work and temporarily burned out in the writing about it. I don't plan on stopping, but I find it hard lately to muster the heart to say much of anything. View it as a spacing out of contractions!

I also ask your patience as I indulge in my knitting obsession. Until I started knitting, I'd have skipped quickly away from blogs that posted pictures of and wrote at length about yarn. That was before my epiphany, of course.

Anyway, on a tip from Fidget, I ordered 9 balls of yarn from Knit Happens a couple of weeks ago. It arrived Tuesday (when it was 70 degrees here instead of the 30 degrees it is today). I took advantage of the sunlight and my delight in the colors to photograph some of it:

Seven different colorways of Kureyon! AT HALF PRICE!! My intent when I bought them was to begin a Lizard Ridge Afghan. I still may. But for the past two days I've been playing around with the idea of using the afghan's pattern and modular structure in a jacket form. Wouldn't it be gorgeous? With a large garter stitch collar and sleeves in a solid color and the body in those beautiful noro waves?

I spent half an hour last night trying to find whether someone has already done this. I'd happily pay for a pattern rather than design my own. But I came up with nothing. And I don't think it would be too difficult to construct. So we shall see.

In the meantime I'm 3/4 done with the Baby Surprise Jacket. I'm taking photos along the way to help document for myself (assuming a make another one) where the various parts begin and end, the better to place stripes with.

First was just the mitred corners. It looked like this:

Then the increases on either side of the corners started. I just finished the section where I knit only the middle 90 stitches (leaving 34 on either side on the stitch holders you see below).

Still not looking much like a jacket, right? But look with one fold up how the shape begins to appear. On the right, chaos. On the left, a sleeve and front cardi panel.

I should finish this over the weekend and have completed photos by Monday. And maybe some birthy content, too.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

So Simple I Can't Believe We Haven't Thought of It Yet

In Australia women have organized into a political party whose platform includes birth reform. Read about it here.

Elsewhere, you might enjoy one woman's reflections on the tension between feminism and reproduction (particularly when infertility is at play) from this weekend's NYT magazine.

I know this hardly counts as a post. Work is busy as are things at home. I have posts I want to write and no time to do so. For the moment.

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