Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holiday madness

Db is very small and I am still on paid leave; therefore, it was actually possible to knit her a fine Christmas ensemble in less than one month:

Yes, I should have been editing my manuscript rather than knitting this. And yes, db does have a neck somewhere under those jowls.

The dress is the Ravelry freebie Kaia Babydoll knit in the 6 month size for my 85th height percentile 5 month old daughter. I knit it in Zara (red) and Aurora 8 (gray); the red was held doubled and knit on 9 dpns; the gray was held single and knit on a 7 circular.

Modifications included knitting long sleeves. Basically, I followed the pattern but put the sleeve stitches on a holder; after I knit the dress I picked up and knit the arm stitches, picking up 8 stitches in the armpit and knitting in the round. I also did a k1p1 rib on the collar because it looks neater than a single garter stitch edge. To make it long enough, I also did one or two more skirt increase rounds than the pattern called for.

The necessary soaker is another free soaker pattern on Ravelry, searchable as Wool Diaper Cover by Cynthia Combs. Obviously I didn't pick the pattern because of its pithy name.

Todd's family has a disturbing tradition which involves the family patriarch (or whoever has had enough holiday wine to be suggestible) putting on a Santa suit and scaring all the babies and small children at the party. The small children receive awful plastic gifts to compensate them for their trauma; tiny babies, however, receive nothing more than a crippling blow to their developing subconscious.

Db looks annoyed, which of course makes me proud. The crying baby on the left is db's new cousin - the lucky recipient of the flower hat, pirate hat, and nautaloid toy of blog posts past.

Db's adorable mary janes were also knit by me using the Tiny Shoes pattern by Ysolda Teague. Perhaps my daughter has exceptionally narrow patrician feet or perhaps I didn't quite pay enough attention to the gauge, but the medium size was immense. I knit one on December 23rd and despaired; on the morning of the 24th I did a little emergency surgery, taking a pair of scissors to the bottom of the bootie, frogging the bottom half, and then doing a three needle bind off after the 5 rounds of garter stitch called for in the pattern. I then knit the second bootie in a mere hour and a half (including all finishing) and wove in the ends of the dress while Todd loaded the car. Rock star finish.

Creepy materialism-teaching visit from Santa notwithstanding, it was actually the least painful Christmas Eve party ever because of db:

knitcrit: baby baby baby baby baby. babybaby?

annoying libertarian relative: baby babybabybaby baby!

knitcrit: baby baby.

strung out on Valium relative: babybabybaby babybaby baby. baby?

knitcrit: baby baby baby. babybaby! baby baby baby.

Babies - the new, non-alcoholic way to survive the in-laws' annual Christmas Eve party.

Monday, December 14, 2009

bottoms, tops, and a disturbing bustier

We haven't been so much with the blogging this past month here at knitcrit mission control, though there has been a fair amount of knitting and also a fair amount of criticism, the latter mainly taking the form of yelling at the TV whilst helplessly watching the public option die a slow, painful death. The former, a much more pleasant subject, involved knitting a soaker to go with Topaz out of the leftover light green - baby girls don't sit like ladies (the bulky diaper gets in the way, I suppose), so one way to help them pull off the dress is to provide a coordinated underlayer. In this case, the soaker I knit to go with Topaz also looks very cute with db's monkey onesie.

This was a freebie on Ravelry, searchable under the name "Fancy Pants." I had no idea what a soaker was before about three weeks ago and it turns out there's quite a range of soaker patterns out there, so I can't say that I had any reason for choosing this one - I can't even remember how I found it, actually.

For the past few winters, Todd has worn an embarrassingly ugly black knit hat emblazoned with the ASCAP logo (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers). In some ways, this is the type of hat that one can indeed get away with wearing on the northern fringes of the Upper West Side, but I finally got sick enough of looking at it to make him probably the millionth Koolhaas to be worn on the streets of New York City. No matter - it looks great, of course - it's really a bulletproof pattern.

Db wonders why her dad gets the cool hat.

And finally, as I begin to contemplate my return to work at the end of January, I find myself looking at this this lovely image and wondering what exactly I find to be profoundly wrong with it. Besides everything.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tropical Woodins

About two weeks ago, the final knitted gift for the final May baby was finally finished, boxed, and shipped to Singapore where it arrived just in time to help its recipient hone her hand-eye coordination skills.

Woodins was Knitty freebie from a few years back and while I absolutely love the finished product, knitting the log got a bit tedious after the novelty of being able to tell curious subway commuters that I was knitting a log wore off. The woodins themselves also got a little tiresome after the 3rd one, but since I knit them after the log I was motivated to finish mainly because the thought of all that log knitting going to waste was unbearable.

I lightly felted the log and the Woodins - it was a little awkward doing it in our building washing machines because you can't control the wash cycle, so I had to run two complete loads and just fish the Woodins and log out of the machine just before the spin cycle started. I was of course using hot water which meant that I needed a variety of tools - chief among them a pair of kitchen tongs and a long metal pole from an ikea shelving unit - to fish the pillowcase containing the log and woodins out of their scalding hot bath. The process of fishing the items out of the machine got me several aghast (and therefore rude) stares from someone who turned out to be the mother of one of the building residents; feeling awkward, I tried to explain myself and ended up in one of those totally annoying situations where I realize that my conversational attempts to be pleasant and diffuse an awkward situation have in fact made me look like an idiot.

The Woodins were supposed to have very cute little leaf tails, but I knit them up and then looked at them and realized they were very cute little choking hazards and decided not to sew them on.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Baby Pope of the Fuzzy Purple People, Pray for Us

We're just back from the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Montreal. Having db at the conference was a lot easier and more fun than I thought. People sure do love babies - I had the distinct impression that, if given a choice between attending a paper session or kissing db's tiny soft adorable baby feet, probably about 99% of the conference attendees would select the latter, without hesitation.

Somehow, we had made it to November without a handknit winter hat for db; I briefly considered buying one for Montreal, but quickly realized that were I to put something store bought on her head, I would regret it forever and secretly regard it as indicative of my failure as both a knitter and a mother. Plus of course I love knitting dorky hats for babies too helpless to resist having them put on their tiny bald heads. So I bought a ball of the fine 50% merino/50% angora Cloud Nine (Cascade Yarns) and by the time we pulled up to our friend's house in Montreal, I had produced a hat that kind of makes db look like the child-pope of the fuzzy purple people.

I couldn't stop laughing at for the whole first day it was on her head, and had Montreal not gotten unseasonably warm and therefore not good fuzzy hat weather, I probably would have continued laughing over the next few days, too.

Speaking of weather, the friend we stayed with is a climate scientist who so completely embodies the absentminded scientist archetype that he had seven, count'em, SEVEN expired jars of aspirin and ibuprofen in his medicine cabinet.

The collection ranges in vintage from 2002 (an excellent year for ibuprofen) to 2008 and had been moved from at least one apartment in New York City to two different apartments in Montreal.

The internet (so reliable...) says that the US military (again, so reliable...) has done tests on ibuprofen that indicate that the medicine retains full potency for at least a year after the expiration date and that older medication loses potency but does not turn into deadly poison (which was our concern). Todd went for the 2008 ibuprofen; he's still alive and well as of this writing.

I had a job interview at the conference, about which I am deeply, deeply ambivalent. My current job has a crap sabbatical policy and a high teaching load, but other than that, I am very happy at it. The potential new job is at one of the richest and most selective liberal arts colleges in the country, located in rural Vermont in between the Green Mountains and the Adirondack Mountains. The nearest real city is Montreal, actually - three hours by car. In terms of cost of living and school for db, the job would be a real improvement, and the teaching load is much lighter and the sabbatical policy much better. The school is so rich that it OWNS ITS OWN SKI SLOPE. Anyway, I think I interviewed very, very well and now I am afraid I am going to have to go give a job talk in January. It's too early to be having this crisis since they won't announce their short list until mid-December, but I can't help but wonder if I would adjust to the rural life and vastly improve my skiing skills or go absolutely out of my mind because the nearest good sushi would be a 3 hour drive away.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Topaz complete!

Not too much to say about this uneventful, cute little knit.

It's surprisingly wearable - normally I think dresses look stupid on very young babies, but db pulls it off, I think.

The rather pricey Hanna Anderson tights, however, are immense - I will definitely have to knit a pair of matching green mary-janes to conceal how big the feet are.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fast, easy and cute. Should it be babywear?

The back side of Topaz is complete - it took longer to find a moment to photograph/blog it than it did to knit it. It's a shock to knit with a worsted again - in this case, the Malabrigo called for in the pattern - rather than a DK or sport weight. I can't remember the last time I knit with a worsted, actually. I understand why knitters with less of a protestant work ethic than myself love Malabrigo - it's fast, easy, a single (ply), and has just enough variegation to entertain without challenging. But whatever - the finished product is going to be awfully cute.

This is a very hasty photo - in person, the shoulder straps are actually the same width and the hem is straight. My major modification was to knit the straps in seed stitch - the original pattern calls for stockinette, which rolls and looks like crap.

Db is finally asleep. I say finally because we all woke up late and I was feeling cranky about having not accomplished anything and so after breakfast even though db was clearly sleepy I decided to give db some face time/play and tummy time (I resent that I have to use that stupid phrase, but I can't think of another that would both convey the concept and be wise and ironic) so I could feel like I had accomplished something before noon, and of course db reacted like a normal baby, which meant she got overstimulated and therefore uncharacteristically cranky and unable to fall asleep on her own, forcing me to bouncy walk her around the apartment until she calmed down enough to fall asleep on her own.

I am not sure if blogging about my failure to accomplish anything before noon counts as an accomplishment.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Third's a charmer

The third and final hip knit item for my incoming niece is complete:

Nautie, short for Nautiloid, a 2006 Knitty pattern.

Maybe taking all the pictures of db has made me overinclined to slavishly photograph anything that strikes me as cute.

And Nautie is a very cute prehistoric beast, and so much cooler than a run-o-the-mill dinosaur.

Knit on #3 dpns from scraps of Zara - or it was supposed to be knit from scraps until I decided that it needed a yellow face and therefore a quick run to the local yarn store was in order.

It took longer than I thought it would to knit this guy - having a baby really cuts into one's leisure time. The only modifications I made were picking up stitches to knit the head rather than knitting it separately and sewing it on (duh) and embroidering the pupils on the eyes rather than using black felt. This should make the eyes completely child safe and also prevent unsightly black felt shedding all over the white of the eye. Because no child should have to live with black lint in the whites of a stuffed toy's eyes.

And now, finally, on to something for my daughter - about which more when she lets me near my laptop again.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


I knit a tiny newborn size hat for my incoming niece:

Between this and the pirate hat, she'll easily be the coolest baby in Portland, which given the hipster population of Portland is really a meaningful title.

The hat was made on #5 dpns with scraps of Zara from baby projects past - the beautiful green is, alas, discontinued. I used the proportions of the hospital hat that db wore right after she was born - basically, I cast on 70 stitches and knit random stripes in the round in a 1x1 rib for 3.5 inches; I then switched to stockinette and reduced as follows: k8, k2tog for one round; knit one round; k7, k2tog for one round; knit one round; continue in pattern until you reach k4, k2tog round, at which point eliminate the knit rounds. When only 5 stitches remain (you'll have to improvise at the very end since the pattern of reductions only gets you to about 8 stitches at the end - for the final round, I think I k1, k2tog to get the final stitch count down to 5), change colors and knit about 1.5 inches of i-cord.

The flower itself comes from this Knitty pattern:

Having a baby has given me great insight into the uselessness of most baby knits - I can't imagine a newborn hat staying on unless it's knit in 1x1 rib and for slightly older babies, unless the hat ties under the chin, I don't see it staying on, either. Or maybe my hat-despising daughter is exceptional (well, of course she's exceptional in every way...) and she's given me a warped perspective on babywear.

Together with the pirate hat, I think this is a great gift, which is to say a gift I'd like to receive. It's amazing to look at the tiny flower hat and the pirate hat together - babies' heads really do expand at a disturbing rate during the first three months. The only thing that immediately strikes me as more disturbing (crossing my legs as I type) is the thought of pushing out a three-month-old size head rather than a newborn-sized head.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


The baby pirate hat is finished - icord around the edges and a good blocking on a cereal bowl worked wonders for both the evenness of the colorwork and the curling of the earflaps.

Db was obliging enough to model the hat - and I do mean obliging, since she absolutely hates having anything on her head. It's a bit large for her eight week old head - I figure it's about the right size for a three month old, which is about what I was going for, amazingly enough.

Basically, I knit this free earflap hat pattern

on 100 stitches (the jolly roger is a 20 stitch pattern from this pattern: and made these few modifications which make sense if read alongside the original pattern:

I used Zara (salmon) and Aurora 8 (gray); it was exactly enough Aurora 8 - hardly any leftovers. Knitting the hat with two colors of Zara would be safer since Zara has more yardage. I knit the non-fairisle parts of the hat on threes and the fairisle on fives. Gauge for the threes was 6 stitches per inch and gauge for the fives was 7 stitches per inch.

Increase to 19 stitches for the earflaps; after knitting both earflaps, cast on 15, knit the first earflap, cast on 36, knit the second earflap, cast on 15, join to work in round. 104 stitches (which becomes 100 stitches after one round if you follow pattern's advice of k2tog four times on the first round after the join). Begin working the jolly roger motif after knitting two or so rounds in the base color.

After the jolly roger motif is finished, knit one or two rounds in base color and then decrease every other round as indicated in the pattern (knitting a round in between every decrease round) until there are 68 stitches on the needle; then decrease every round until 5 (?) stitches remain.

Finish with 3-stitch applied i-cord; tassels are 4-stitch i-cord.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Rage, rage against the pale pink blight

Despite a recent trip to the local second hand store with several bags of the most egregiously pink baby gifts, I still feel as though there's way too much pink in db's wardrobe. Not that pink seems to bother her.

She's just started smiling.

On the one hand, it's very gratifying to finally have an interactive baby after six weeks of newborn aloofness. Adorable aloofness, of course, but still. On the other hand, I feel strangely sad about db's passage from newborn to baby - she's totally different now. Probably this won't be the last time I marvel at how much she's changed.

I've also been forced to take it really easy for the past few weeks because of the abnormally long hard labor, and one can only watch so many episodes of the Sopranos before cabin fever sets in. The solution to both problems was, obviously, stenciling. The internet is full of free stencil images, and a few trips to the local art store and several swipes of the exacto knife later, we've begun to build a onesie wardrobe befitting a thinking, hip baby girl (as opposed to a wardrobe befitting a Barbie dream mansion-esque baby girl):

I'm quite pleased with the results so far.

Probably db is, too.

The stencil patterns are all from this website:

Instructions on stenciling here:

In other thinking-hip-girl-baby wardrobe news, I'm knitting an earflap hat for Todd's brother's incoming baby girl. This is the swatch of the jolly roger motif:

The pattern is a highly improvised combination of this free adult-size hat design:

With this free baby hat pattern

I'm knitting it in Zara (salmon) and Aurora 8 (gray) merino. So far, so good, except of course the earflaps curl. I'm hoping blocking and applied i-cord will solve the problem but thinking maybe I should have done the earflaps in garter stitch. Oh, well. It's amazing what acute sleep deprivation will do to one's perfectionistic tendencies.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

This just in from the baby bunker

Today the daughter, or, as we call her here on Knitcrit, db, is one month old. I have learned a lot about babies in the past four weeks; I have also learned that there is no end to the number of ugly-ass pink baby outfits that China can churn out. Is it rude to beg relatives - and particularly in-laws - to lay off the pink? Or at least lay off the pink velour?

I can almost imagine doing non-baby care related things again - I am planning a new small project for Todd's incoming niece (description forthcoming) and I am making some progress on db's blanket (recall: October deadline). The gift for the last of the May babies needs to be felted and then it's done. I've never felted before and fear a disaster, either with the project or with the washing machine. Knitty has a good discussion of how to felt but I'm open to other sources of information if there's anything good out there.

For db's fall wardrobe, I am thinking of Topaz from Knitty:

It looks like a quick, fun, wearable knit. I don't harbor any illusions of db appreciating it, though, if her reaction to her first knits is any indication:

Sunday, August 9, 2009

It's a Girl!

Contrary to the freely volunteered (which is to say, largely unsolicited) opinions of friends, family members, and random New Yorkers on the street, it was in fact a very active, carried- high-and-all-in-the-front girl. She arrived at 7:27 pm on Saturday 25th July and weighed in at 7 pounds, 11 ounces. About the 77 hour labor that preceded her birth I will not say much at this moment since said daughter is maybe finally asleep and I want to get this post done before she wakes up.

Isn't she adorable? I can't believe how bonded to her I feel already, and that is saying something given how hellish it has been establishing breast feeding. Two choice bits of information on that front: (1) She came out of the womb sucking so hard that she'd sucked her upper lip into her mouth, causing the doula to exclaim "I've never seen such a powerful suck before! Wow!" and (2) Mastitis.

But yeah - 77 hours. For real. By which I mean real labor - strong, extremely painful, regular contractions that progressed quickly to 5 minutes apart and then continued for three days and three nights. And the best guess the doula and midwives have is that she had too much room in my pelvis and so my contractions wouldn't force her head down onto the cervix properly, and this made me EXTREMELY - we might even say INSANELY - slow to dilate. As in, my daughter had so much room in the pelvis that when the midwives would attempt to check her position vaginally, they would feel the top of her head shaking back and forth (in a "no" gesture - as in "no, I will NOT leave the womb"), which meant she had tons of room up there - a crazy, abnormal amount. Which means that, combined with a genetically-bestowed large pelvis, maybe all that yoga opened things up a little too much. Oh, the irony. With a regular doctor I would certainly, absolutely have been c-sectioned, but my midwife team was just brilliant and in the end, I was able to deliver vaginally, so there's a happy ending to the labor story. Plus, I don't have stretch marks at all and I can fit into my old clothes already, so those are some nice consolation prizes.

But mainly, I love my little girl! I really do. It's amazing. I'd post a picture of her in her hat and booties, but the hat was too big and the booties were too small. Already, she rebels.

And she also has great comic timing:

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hahahaha ha hahahaha

From a July 16th, 2009 New York Times Business section article on the many, many Indian businesses whose logos and products transparently imitate American brands, pg. B4:

As Gary Locke, the commerce secretary, told a group of Indian executives visiting Washington this month, "U. S. businesses need assurances that when they come to India, they'll be operating in a secure and reliable environment for intellectual property."

Well, Gary, U. S. businesses can rest assured that the environment in India will change when hell freezes over. There's some security in such certainty, no?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Booties, booty

I knit a pair of the ever-popular Saartje's Booties to go with that cute green and white baby leaf hat I designed a few months ago.

They're quick and easy (may they be a harbinger for my labor), though I would have preferred stockinette booties to garter ones. Ysolda Teague's Tiny Shoes is a great stockinette bootie pattern, but I knit about half a bootie using Tiny Shoes before I concluded that the pattern definitely doesn't work in cotton - there needs to be more elasticity and around the top than cotton allows.

Knitting for the incoming baby is now officially finished, and probably this is a good thing since I am just starting my 39th week and the baby has obviously dropped.

Midwife: (poking at knitcrit's cervix) Hmmm...whoa - that head is REALLY low. Don' t you feel like you're sitting on a bowling ball?

Knitcrit: Not really. (Feeling profoundly un-earth-motherly) Maybe I'm not very in touch with my body...

Midwife: Or it could just mean you have a good, wide, open pelvis.

Knitcrit: That would be nice.

Midwife: And (poke, poke) you are really effaced. No dilation yet, but the cervix feels really thin. The baby's head is right there.

Knitcrit. Huh. Okay. But I'm not going to go early, am I?

Midwife: Well, I wouldn't expect a call from you this weekend, but if you start to dilate at all over the next day or so...(tapers off in meaningful way)

Noooooo. I do NOT want to have the baby early. I really, really don't. I feel absolutely fine and there's still lots of summer fun to be had before the official due date arrives on the 23rd. Yesterday, after the visit to the midwives, Todd and I went into full panic mode and made a beeline to Island Beach just to be sure we saw the ocean at least once this summer.

As you can see, the baby has definitely dropped:

Now that I think about it, I guess I can tell the baby is sitting really low when I do yoga - the primary series of Astanga is largely designed to open the pelvis and the hips, and lately, when I do Astanga, I feel that my pelvis is very open and yet also very full of something. Which turns out to be baby head.

I keep meaning to do a post of my observations about being visibly pregnant in NYC, but now that I am apparently ready to drop I am thinking the best use of my remaining time might be getting baby shower thank you notes written.

We're not fully moved in yet, but the apartment is definitely functional. Look at tiny Saarje's booties in mammoth new apartment:

In the old apartment the booties would have filled half the living room.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Karma: Not Always a Bitch

We're still moving into the new place - today I mounted the shelving for spices and I am not sure what made me happier - using power tools at 9 months pregnant or the fact that for possibly the first time in my adult life, getting spices will not involve one or more of the following:

1. Reaching into back of dark, overcrowded cabinet while trying not to disturb living or dead cockroaches and also hoping that this will be the time that I will put my hand on the Turmeric. Which it is not.

2. Looking at tightly packed sea of identical spice jar tops wedged in small ugly white shelving unit and wondering whether or not that's the Cinnamon way in the back and then wondering whether or not I can extract the possibly-Cinnamon without precipitating avalanche of spices onto kitchen floor and then, after the crashing and rolling of jars has subsided, wondering why I always think that I can extract a single jar from the small ugly white shelf without precipitating an avalanche of spices. And it wasn't the Cinnamon.

3. In an effort to avoid the dark, overcrowded cabinet cockroach random grab (tm), removing every single last thing from the dark, overcrowded cabinet only to discover that the Cardamom must be in the small ugly white shelving unit.

Behold the dawn of a new era:

And there's three more just like these on the other side of the stove area. And the spices are alphabetized.

But I digress, if in fact one can lead with a digression. This is supposed to be a post about karma, and the ghosts of knits past. Early on in the revival of my interest in knitting - so I think we're talking about 9-ish years ago - I completed my first ever baby sweater for my Aunt's firstborn (though she's technically my aunt, she's actually only about 6 years older than I am. Whoops! Surprise!). Perhaps two years later I completed a baby blanket for her second. And now, years later, at my baby shower last Saturday, I opened a package from my aunt and was delighted to see that my efforts had been none too shabby, if I do say so myself:

Not the most exciting sweater pattern, but it's a pretty color, unisex, and classic, and the buttons are just adorable. They're ceramic, handmade, and the kitty stripes match the yarn perfectly.

And the blanket:

Again, feather-and-fan is not exactly groundbreaking baby blanket material, but the yarn I chose - it seems to be an extremely soft cotton-something blend with beautiful drape - pushes the blanket into above-average status, I think. So I guess my baby won't have to wait until I finish the alpaca blanket in October to have a hand knit blanket from its mother.

I was going to put the blanket and sweater in the newly repurposed Ikea kitchen unit (old purpose: providing counterspace and holding pots and pans; new purpose: changing table and baby clothing/linen storage), but I randomly smelled them to see if they were musty and as it turns out, because, I guess, until very recently my Aunt and her family lived in my grandparents' house, the blanket and sweater smell like my grandparents' place, and particularly, somehow, my grandparent's place from 30 years ago. Hormones must be making me uncharacteristically sentimental because I decided that I didn't want that smell to go away, and so I put the knits in a plastic bag for the time being.

My aunt also made a card that features a picture of me from about 30 years ago. I don't know if I'm proud or worried that at age 7 I looked this unthrilled with and clueless about being a mother, but in any case I think the picture is hilarious.

Personally, I would have captioned this picture "What am I supposed to do with this thing?" but I guess my aunt wanted to be encouraging.

This picture was clearly taken before La Leche League had firebombed all Chinese factories that dared to accessorize plastic baby dolls with bottles (so my 7-year-old self can't be blamed for not breastfeeding), but shouldn't we perhaps be more concerned that my 7-year-old self seems to think that proper baby care includes depriving the child of clothes and human contact?