Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Quid pro Quo (Part II)

The thought of trading a sweater for art filled me with joy. It meant my knitting was not only a hobby I enjoyed, it was something other people found value in, too. (I will spare the whole side reflection on whether a hobby should be more than enjoyed, whether my need for others to find value in it means it's not a hobby, but another performance arena, etc. That thought is there, though.).

I poked around on-line, sent images of different styles (cardigan, pullover, bulky, slim silhouette, cabled, gansey, etc.). He settled on Snorri, from Reynolds. I'd never knit cables before, but why not start with this? Actually, it gave me a welcome excuse to jump in.

Six months after I finally "got gauge," I finished the behemoth. The friend is six feet tall with even longer arms. Thank heaven the yarn was bulky.

Without further babbling, I give you my "will knit for art" sweater, modeled by the recipient:

Pattern: Snorri from Best of Lopi.

Yarn: 12 skeins Cascade 128 in colorway 7633 (brown tweed). This is GREAT yarn. All the Peruvian softness of Cascade 220, but in a beefed up size. I will use this again.

Needles: Clover bamboo circulars, size 9 and 10.

Notes/Thoughts: I couldn't be happier with how it turned out. The knitting went quickly, cabling was a snap, and the pattern read well. I was a bit intimidated by sewing the thing together and let it sit in pieces for about two months. When I got down to it, even the assembly went well. I added 4 inches to each arm to make sure it would fit the ape-armed recipient. It ended up with just a little extra length in the arm. Whew!

This barter equation:



Friday, July 18, 2008

Quid pro Quo (Part I)

I realized the other day that I have been a runner for more than 25 years now, starting with middle school track. I was never a standout, but ran, even then, for other reasons: wellness, the feeling of air moving past my body, beginning to know my physical limits. Also all my friends ran track.

Never a sprinter, I moved from track to cross country in high school. I didn't fare any better in the races, but the workouts were better. We practiced in the park and ran our long distances on the various unpaved or skim-shouldered roads around my small hometown.

To this day, a pleasant and deep memory is of running in the country when the corn was at its full height on both sides of a narrow road. It crowded in and provided physical relief in a midwest landscape otherwise unbroken except for remnant forests.

One particular stretch of road had a tree that I loved for its loneliness among the corn. Some years ago I started wanting to capture its image and something of my sentiments about it. I took photographs with my small digital camera, but only when I happened to remember it on a trip to or from my parents' house. In short, the photos weren't great:

New England Road Trip

New England Road Trip

New England Road Trip

Last summer we were at the home of some friends. He is an amateur painter (in addition to a very useful furniture mover, as he proved this past weekend). I had a brainstorm. He could PAINT my tree. Then I would not only have it memorialized, but also have some original artwork for our house.

He was very open to the idea. Within a few weeks of my sending him the photo above, he produced this canvas, much to my delight:

New England Road Trip

We're not in the position to buy art, which meant the issue of payment had to be negotiated. I thought about barter. They are done having kids, so volunteering doula services was out of the question...what else? What else? Knitting of course!

Up next: the knitting commissioned by the artist.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What did I tell you?

The mantra, the mantra, the mantra. You gotta say it, you gotta believe it.

For this doula, the mantra is, "This will all work out."

Say it with me, 'cause you KNOW I was saying it Saturday morning when, as I did my final walk through of our new house, my client called to say she was in early labor. We'd already picked up the moving truck. Our friends were showing up in 1/2 hour to start helping with the move. But did I freak? Nah. I just said the mantra and finished the walk through.

And wouldn't you know, her partner called me just as we were finishing unloading the last items from the last truckload to say they'd like me to come over. My spouse was about to order pizza for the moving crew. All I'd miss was dinner. And bedtime. And unpacking.

Still, I had faith. "This will all work out," I said, as I changed clothes, put on fresh deodorant, brushed my teeth and jumped in the car.

When I got to my client's house, she was just deciding it was time to go to the hospital. I was only at her house 15-20 minutes before we left. She was at the hospital less than an hour when she pushed out her precious little one.

It was a great birth and she's written a great account of it that I'll see if I can share. In the meantime, I couldn't be happier that my fastest birth to date kindly happened on a day when I most appreciated it. It really all worked out.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

I'd Rather Give Birth...

...than move. But as with labor, the time comes eventually. Inevitably. For me, that time is now.

Tomorrow will find doulicia loading that moving van and hauling her possessions to a new house. Don't get me wrong. I'm excited to be in the new space. I just hate moving.

Plus, my births were pretty darn easy. So it's not saying much to prefer birth to moving. If it weren't for having to keep the baby and raise it, I'd "do birth" over again in a heartbeat.

Which leads me to another insight I've developed the past few months. Realty should have its own doulas. House selling doulas. Wouldn't it be nice to have a reassuring presence by your side as you meet with your agent and learn what your house (that you paid X for) is likely to sell for in this down market (X-Y)? A house selling doula would tell you what to expect and give tips for making things go smoothly. For example, "Don't wipe down the bathroom for an open house until after the boys have peed and been banished to the yard for the remainder of the morning."

When an offer finally comes in on your house, you'd first call your doula to share the flood of emotions -- excitement, disappointment, anxiety -- before meeting with your realtor. And your house selling doula would suggest ways to stay distracted (go to a movie! take a walk!) while the inspector is going through the house and itemizing all the things you have to fix before closing.

I know I could've used someone reminding me to take deep, slow breaths, to keep focused on the end goal, to remember that thousands of people do this every day and have been for years.

Then the doula would come when we're finally in our new house and coo over it, make sure we're taking time from unpacking for self-care, and bring a meal.


p.s. Have I mentioned I have a client due Tuesday?!! Cosmic vibes, please encourage her baby to hang in there just a bit longer!

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Spreading the Good Word

This past year our family has been host "Aunt and Uncle" to an AFS exchange student from Japan. I never knew that if you were not able to make the commitment to be a host family, you could still connect with and exchange student in the Aunt/Uncle/Cousin role. The involvement is minimal -- one interaction a month.

Our "niece" taught us how to make rice balls (onigiri). They remain a favorite with the kids. In return, I taught her to knit! Actually, she initiated it. She went to one of my son's indoor soccer games and asked what all the women were doing. We have lots of knitters among the soccer moms. I told her it was knitting and she said, "You show me knit?" BINGO!

She was a very quick student. One lesson and she was off on a garter stitch scarft. The next lesson and she was purling. Our third meeting, I escorted her to the hallowed halls of a yarn store and bought her her own needles, tapestry needle, and yarn. Showing excellent taste, she chose a divinely colored ball of Misty Alpaca.

Being talented and ambitious, she asked to make mittens. Great. Except that she couldn't read patterns, and I only saw her every month. I quickly had her knit a gauge swatch, then calculated a cast-on for her to knit a flat square. My thought was that at our next meeting we'd seam the squares up the side, leaving holes for thumbs, and pull a string through the top to tighten like a hat closure. Not perfect, but the best I could do.

We met for the last time in June. She brought her squares and I showed her how to sew a mattress stitch. She seamed the sides and I picked up stitches to start the thumbs. She took over (her first time on DPNs) one thumb, while I started the other.

She finished the mittens, I snapped a photo, and returned her to her host family an hour later than I'd planned. But she took a finished pair of mitts back to Japan with her, and a few balls of yarn to keep busy with on the plane.

New England Road Trip

Each one, teach one!