Thursday, April 29, 2010

Oh, Brother!

There are several organizations that are knitting for our troops and I think it is important to recognize the previous and current knitting efforts for soldiers.

Last December, before my brother deployed to Afghanistan, we spent some time together as a family.

My brother and S inside Canvas Works a fine yarn and fabric store in Olympia, Washington.

One night while we were together, I brought up the delicate subject of knitting for the military to my brother.

Me: So, I heard a story on NPR that soldiers are in need of socks. Can I make some socks to send to you?

My brother: Simultaneously rolls eyes and groans.

For the record, this is my brother’s response to me on most subjects. But, since he made such a stink about knitted socks, it was clear that I would need to be creative with whatever I decided to make for him while he was away. Here is what I did with one skein of espresso (302) Baby Alpaca Grande (Plymouth Yarn).

When his team arrived in Afghanistan, some of them started growing beards (just for fun). My brother started sending monthly photos of his beard growth status. Let's just say the picture he sent on the first month made me worry that he might be getting beat up by his other team members. So, I started casting on stitches and I came up with the following beard pattern:

CO 2 st

Working in seed stitch, Increase one stitch at the beginning and end of each row for a couple inches or desired length.

Insert the mouth by BO 8 center stitches (or as wide as you want the mouth to be), knit seed st to end.

Next row: Knit seed st to BO stitches and cast on 8 st, knit seed st to end.

Knit a few more rows in seed st to cover the lip area and BO.

Once it was finished I picked up 3 st on the vertical end, close to the top of the beard, and made an i-cord ~10 inches long. Repeat on opposite side. The beard can then be tied easily on the back of the head and fits well over the ears.

Do you think he'll wear his beard? Hah, do you think this will prevent his team from beating him up? Unfortunately I hadn't sent his package out by the next beard update which revealed a full grown beard. Another month passed and he had so much hair he decided to shave. Now, his care package is still sitting in our entrance. (Beard included.)

There was just one more thing to add--fingerless mitts. Melanie Falick has a nice fingerless glove pattern in her book Weekend Knitting. Instead of working in the round, these gloves are knitted sideways. S and I have both knit a few pairs for ourselves. We love ours and they are a very quick knit.

Do you think he will wear his mitts? It gets cold at night and in the mountains. Let's hope they come in handy.

Most of my brother's package contains items with peanut butter. I can't speak for all of the troops but I do know that while my brother is deployed he craves peanut butter. If you're wondering what to send your loved ones who are deployed...try peanut butter. My brother is also a voracious reader so I included two Agatha Christie Poirot mysteries (keeping with the quirky facial hair theme). First stop tomorrow morning--post office.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earthly Knitting

Happy Earthy Day! Are you feelin’ earthy?

Here’s an earthy knitting tip. You know those left over strings that you snip off and toss once most of the yarn is weaved into your final knitting project? Well, start hanging onto them, they can be used for stuffing in…I don’t know…a knitted pillow or a knitted earth. Thanks to my sister for making me consider another use for yarn.

My semester is almost over, so I’ve been scrambling these past few days to finish up a few items on the never ending to do list. Don’t worry, I have been sneaking in a little knitting project for my brother which I’ll share next week. Until then, I need to keep this post short and stay on task.

Ultimately, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for your outpouring of kindness this past week. It truly was amazing and wonderful to hear from you all. Last week my mom shared another Grandpa Root phrase with me--I’ve got one foot in the grave and the other foot on a banana peel! Hah!

Finally, I’ve been noticing this commercial on a few of the knitting blogs that I frequent. Natural gas, hm, what are your thoughts? Well, this little nugget of knitting genius should make anyone a believer.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Smile, you're on candid camera!

Chester Eugene Root, Sr (September 14, 1921 - April 12, 2010)

It has been a long week and it began with some sad news about my Grandpa’s death. His death represents many things to me. One of them being that he had the same name as my Dad, and it seems strange to say that the only Chester’s I have known have passed away. They both were very different from each other and yet very influential people in my life. Now my Grandpa is going to be buried next to my Dad which makes me smile.

The two Chester Eugenes.

This blog is a knitting/DIY blog and I don’t want to divert from that agenda. However, I began this blog with the intention to share what is keeping us inspired. So, sticking to the over arching theme of inspiration, I’d like to send out a little tribute of my Grandpa whose outlook on life was inspiring to me.

--When my Grandpa moved from California to Northern Minnesota, he had these business cards made. This is by far the best business card I have ever seen!

So, who was my Grandpa? It is hard to say in words who exactly he was other than terribly quirky, kind and always ready for a good time. He had this way of making life seem so easy and wonderful. The way he was patient to find joy in small pleasures was infectious. It was hard to leave his presence without a smile on your face and a skip in your step. He wasn’t willing to give into the complexities that are part of being human rather he was determined and at times very stubborn about never giving up on the small bit of joy that he had uncovered. He was always trying to win the lottery and was forever searching for the pot full of gold at the end of the rainbow. But, I always thought he lived his life as though he had already won the prize.

Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park.

It wasn’t until much later in my life that I would realize my Grandpa's joy in life had come at a great cost. Sometimes memories can get muddled up and become translated and perfected into how you want someone to have been. I want to be honest and say that my Grandpa’s character was not perfect and, at the same time, I want to recognize that I can only tell my part in this story. From what I know, there are certain events that took place early on in my Grandpa’s life that deeply shaped who he was. He grew up during the depression in Southern California and joined the Navy at the age of 21 in 1942. Before he was even 25, he had said good bye to many close friends, received a purple heart and had acquired a body full of shrapnel—wounds and shell fragments that he would carry with him for the rest of his life. By the time my Grandparents met and were married they both had endured a lot of pain and sorrow. As a result of these events, my Grandpa wasn’t always able to give to his four children the presence that they needed. However, this does not mean his love for them was any less. I know that his children brought him immeasurable joy.

This week I’ve been looking over a copy I have of a newspaper clipping entitled “Park Marine Returns to Duty Pierced with 300 Shell Fragments,” it is unbelievable to me that the man they were reporting on was my Grandpa. His courage and the lives that he saved because of this courage should not go without mention. He was a veteran of Tarawa, the bloodiest battle of World War II, and received a promotion for heroism. To quote the news article, “he performed outstanding work throughout his entire campaign.”

The stories that make up a human life are many, but by the time I was able to know my Grandpa the signature story of his heroism had been replaced by one of joyful resilience. He was fun and a friend to everyone. As a kid, he was the person who was always there at the end of my musical performances asking for my autograph, making me feel like I was a star. Thank you Grandpa for being so much fun and for sharing your joy with all of your grand kids and great grand kids.

Finally, there is one more thing I’d like to say, my Grandpa was a collector of many things and was very proud of his collections. I think it is imperative that I list and show just a few.

My Grandma is holding me, my Grandpa is holding a small bit of his stamp collection.

Rare Coins.
A lucky benny penny he gave to me when I was in 5th grade

A handful of his polished rock collection.

And, on a less physical note, my personal favorite, he collected catch phrases that he would repeat over and over. “Another Day Another Dollar.” “See you in the spring.” “Smile you’re on candid camera.” Well, Grandpa, smile…

(This must have been before he met my Grandma!)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Gray Cascade 220, take 2

This weekend is my sweetheart’s birthday. And, this week I’ve been trying to wrestle with my needles to finish his gift before the big day. Finally, today I finished up and asked him to show off his sweater in the glorious sunshine.

Some of you may recognize the gray cascade yarn 220 from another sweater I made for S… Gasp, yes, this yarn was recycled from the sweater I made him for our wedding.

My unwanted knitting habits came into play when I made S his wedding sweater. A lot of guessing and not enough measuring turned this sweater into a gray swimming pool on S. It makes me smile that he still wore it on our day…

After a year into our marriage, we tried shrinking the sweater (bad idea). Two years in, after a long conversation about what the symbolism behind unraveling his wedding sweater could mean, I took the plunge. Six balls of unraveled gray cascade yarn 220 later, I decided I wanted to make S something that would both fit well and stand the test of time.

Last December we came across this picture of Big Alfred, a design by Britta Wilfert. S is very particular about his sweaters so we were happy to find one we both liked. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the pattern for sale anywhere. So, I attempted to do something I’ve never done before but have always wanted to try—knit a sweater without a pattern.

The stitch pattern on Big Alfred was perfect for our now wobbly washed out wool. And, with the help of my friend Raderle and my sister, I was able to figure out how to create basket weave. (Thank you friends.)

The photo of Big Alfred and a basic raglan sweater pattern acted as my guide in this creation process. Once again, I found myself in a guessing game...arbitrarily casting on stitches then unraveling the ill-fated outcome. However, on this gray cascade 220 take 2, I took the time to stop and measure. Most importantly I learned to be patient with the process--after all, my desired outcome comes with a lot of strings attached.

Hm, I think (almost) 33 looks good on S and so does his (sort of) new sweater.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sew what?

Happy Fools Day.
Did you get fooled today?

Well, I'm going to fool you with a blog post that doesn't involve knitting. Yesterday I pulled out my singer and a blue suede coat. This coat came from my favorite thrift store in Northeastern Minnesota.

Blue over sized coat before it met my sewing machine.

Blue over sized coat afterwords...

Sewing is a mystery to me. I'm sure I broke some of the major rules in terms of pleating. After a number of trials and errors, I just attempted to alter the skirt to fit according to the lines already integrated into the original coat design.

Now I have a skirt to carry me into spring time. And, of all the things that it could be--it's blue suede. Overall, I am happy with the end result.