Saturday, September 22, 2012

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I used to love September.

As a kid, I loved going back to school. I counted down the last days of summer with the same anticipation most kids count down to Christmas. I loved the sound of leaves crunching under my feet as I walked to school; I loved how, in the right alcove, the wind would form a little baby tornado, swirling the leaves around and then dissipating, as if it had never been there. I loved back to school shopping. I loved putting on jeans and pulling out the sweaters; the return of pumpkin flavored lattés, caramel-coated apple suckers; fresh notebooks and unsharpened pencils. Depending on the year, my birthday falls either on the last day of summer or the first day of fall (and, occasionally, the penultimate day of summer). I loved that it straddled the seasons.

It's different now.

I'm an adult, I've graduated college. There is no more school to count down to, at least not at this point. Without school, I don't really need fresh notebooks or pencils. I still enjoy pulling out jeans and sweaters, but it's not the same when you work in an air conditioned building and have been wearing those same jeans and sweaters all summer. I still enjoy a pumpkin latté, but less frequently because as an adult I have actual bills that need to be paid. I experience a certain amount of dread with birthdays now, because the anniversary of my father's death precedes it by two days.

Two years ago, at about this time, I was managing a quick service restaurant, living in my own tiny apartment, and had just started dating my now-husband. My restaurant was struggling; I was working a ridiculous amount of hours, struggling to find and hire and train and keep strong team members. My recently-retired Dad had volunteered to drive delivery for me, on an as-needed basis. I was lucky to get one day off per week. My parents would invite me over for dinner that same night every week, and I would always decline. I was tired. I had just enough energy to catch up on laundry and keep my apartment in a vaguely tolerable condition, but not enough energy to socialize and be decent company.

Monday, September 20th was a perfectly normal day. I was working a double shift, but Mondays were typically slow. A good day for getting things done, and I had been fairly productive. I was prepped and ready, waiting for Monday's dinner "rush"--which is only a relative rush, the phones were beginning to ring. I answered the phone. It was my mom. I knew that tenor of her voice, I had heard it a month or so before when she had broken her wrist and called to ask me to give her a ride to the hospital. When she got home from work, Dad was sitting in his La-Z-Boy as usual, asleep with the newspaper open on his chest. Except this time, the sound of the door opening didn't wake him up.

I called my boss; she arrived in record time and took control of the restaurant. Time seemed to crawl as I drove to the hospital, just four blocks from work. I missed the first turn. There was literally one turn, and I missed it. As I circled the block, I reached Mom on my cell; from her voice, I knew he was gone.

I met my Mom at the hospital, my grandmother had gotten there just minutes before me. Mom confirmed what I already knew in my heart: Dad was gone. Gramps arrived just before we went in to see him with the priest; as he hugged my mom, his daughter, he was already crying, "it should have been me." I hadn't wanted to see his body, I wanted to remember him alive; but I also didn't want to be left alone.

My recollection of the rest of that week is spotty. I remember pulling a hard lemonade from the fridge at my mom's house that same day, and the look on my teetotaling aunt's face. I remember gamely trying to celebrate my birthday with my mom and brothers. I remember deciding who I would or wouldn't trade to have my dad back. I remember the outpour of love and support, but mostly I remember the emptiness, the feeling like an invaluable but unappreciated appendage had been amputated.

Most of the year I'm fine, but every September that feeling comes back.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Maddox's Lancelot

My cousins* had a baby just weeks before my wedding, so of course I didn't get the baby's sweater done before he was born. I didn't even get to start it before the wedding! I did finish it, and gave it to the proud parents earlier tonight at the baby's baptism. 

The pattern is "Lancelot," by Solenn Couix-Loarer. As written, the pattern has you twist the stitches without using a cable needle. I tried doing it that way in my swatch, but I couldn't get it tight enough and so it looked all wonky. I "cheated" and used a cable needle on the actual sweater. I put "cheated" in quotes because while some may disagree, I don't think there's anything wrong with choosing an easier method of doing something if the end result is the same. 

There's a button detail on the placket that I had trouble photographing. This is the best one, but it still doesn't quite capture it. 

Mom was delighted. 

*that sounds weird. They're not "kissing cousins," they are my cousins by marriage, and are not actually blood relatives to each other. My husband's cousin Zack is the dad, whose wife is also named Amanda.  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

With nary a wrinkle

I started a sewing project today, the Hot Pad Apron by Destri Bufmack, from "Fabric-by-Fabric One Yard Wonders." I am not an accomplished sewer. I am not even a competent sewer. I am a "...but I tried so hard!" sewer, however, I felt good about this project. I LOVE the fabric (and it was on sale!), and the apron is awesome. Hot pads for pockets! Genius!

I washed and dried it, I squared the grain, I measured and measured again and cut, piece by piece, with nary a wrinkle. I get to the last piece to cut, the very last one. I need to end up with four 9 inch squares. I measure once, I measure twice, I measure three times but it's just not going to happen, the laws of geometry are against me: my fabric is one inch short.

I really wanted to do this tonight, but I absolutely do not want to go back to the store tonight. And my husband doesn't want to, either. I cut two 9 inch squares out of the fabric I have; I'm planning to get some coordinating solid fabric for the other 2 squares and put those on the inside. Disappointing, but it is what it is.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

More Squoval

Introducing: Squoval!

As you may have guessed, that "sneak peak" the other day was of my newest pattern! Names "scquoval" for it's squarish/ovalish shape, it's a fitted beanie that's also a lot of fun. Emphasis on the fun. 

The pattern itself is easy to memorize and is also a great introduction to Fair Isle. The vertical stripes highlight the square-ish aspect, and as a pleasant side effect make it fold very neatly.

Available in 5 sizes-- toddler (18in.), child (20in.), teen/adult small (22in.), adult medium (24in) and adult large (26in)--it's great for gift-knitting.

Available for purchase on Ravelry (no membership required).
Below, I've included some pics of the original prototype. They also happen to be some of our engagement pictures :)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Time Struggles

It's been quiet on the blog lately. I do have several projects in the works, but nothing's ready to show yet. And it doesn't help that the two projects that are making the most progress are the only two that have to be kept secret. One of those is a pattern that I hope to release mid-August, the other is a gift I hope to finish around the same time. That will then free me up for other things, I hope.

I'm at a point where it's hard to plan what to knit, and when and where to knit it. For the first time since college, I have a job that affords me the opportunity to knit at work (we'll call it Baboushka). However, if I knit something of my own design at work, it would legally be Baboushka's intellectual property. I doubt Baboushka would choose to take any action unless it involves lots and lots and lots of money, but I don't want to take that chance. (And if I do somehow make lots and lots and lots of money from knitting patterns, I think I would like to keep it.) So better safe than, sorry, right?

So in my head I have two knitting queues: Baboushka knitting and Creative knitting. Knitting other people's patterns, and knitting what I make up. And there's also the queue of things I'm dying to make, like Array and Color Affection. I've even bought the yarn for these two. But how do I manage my time so that I can get everything done?

Right now, the Baboushka knitting queue consists of two overdue baby sweaters, and a scarf. The scarf was tacked on recently by the request of a coworker, who has been teasing me about knitting him a scarf. I thought he was just messing around, until he facebooked me outside work and was more direct about it. Which is fine, I don't mind. He's offered to cover the cost of the yarn, the project itself shouldn't take too long. But now that I've taken this request, will there be others? Will they keep me from knitting the projects I see on Ravelry and have a burning desire to make? Don't get me wrong, these projects are all things I genuinely want to do. I'm not sure how to do it.

Because I also have non-knitting projects I'd like to do. I want to sew a jacket. I have a pattern, I have the material. But not the time. I also want to make a quilt for our bedroom, to tie all the colors together. Same thing, I have the fabric, the pattern, just not the time. Because I also have to sleep. And eat. And spend time with my husband and my other people. And attempt to keep the home place reasonably tidy, and keep us in clean clothes. And work. Working does come in handy when it comes time to pay for things. Somehow I'll figure it out. Someday.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Harvest Home Farm Artisan & Fiber Festival

On June 16 my mom and I attended the Harvest Home Farm Artisan & Fiber Festival in Whitehall, WI.

There were sheep far away in the pasture.

And blueberry bushes!

These brothers were checking out the llamas.

And there was a sheep shearing demonstration! Shortly before this, I had read something about shearing and was intrigued. When you've shorn a sheep, the fleece is supposed to be in one whole piece; I was trying to figure out how they do it. The answer is complex, but to grossly simplify, you start with the underbelly where the fiber length is too short to use, and throw that part aside. Then, starting with short strokes around the neck and face and other nooks and crannies, then do the bigger areas. That is, again, grossly simplified. They do not do it in one continuous stroke of the shear, like I had thought. The wool more or less stays together as it is shorn, so it easily stays in one piece. And after several sheep, you have a big burlap bag of wool and some freshly shorn sheep.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Rounding out all the wedding posts

One half of our smallest attendants: Logan and Amelia.
Not pictured: Leo and Kinsey
©Marcus Kantz

©Marcus Katnz 
Logan poses while his mom (Nicolle) straightens him out.
©Andi Stempniak

Ben got the guys cuff links. From left to right: Dinosaurs (Alan), a comic book character I don't remember (Michael),  a Tardis (Ben), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Cam), and Legos (Carl, my brother). Not pictured: University of Michigan (Ben's dad), pigs (Carl, my Gramps)
©Andi Stempniak

The Orchestra/My Cousins: (L-R)  Anna, Emily, Sarah and Ben Bachmeier.
©Andi Stempniak

Our moms lit our individual candles.
©Andi Stempniak

Gramps walks me down the aisle
©Andi Stempniak

Ben and his brother Mike have the same expression!
©Andi Stempniak
My accessories
©Andi Stempniak

©Andi Stempniak

©Andi Stempniak

I can't believe my luck.
©Andi Stempniak

©Andi Stempniak

He's a comedian!
©Andi Stempniak

©Andi Stempniak

©Andi Stempniak

©Andi Stempniak

©Andi Stempniak

Maid of Honor Paula, myself, Maid of Honor Kelsey, and Nicolle.
©Andi Stempniak

Best Man Michael, Ben, Groomsmen Alan and Cam.
©Andi Stempniak

Our joined families:
My brother Cam, my brother Carl, my grandpa Carl, my grandma Kathy,
my mom Barb, me, Ben, his mom Anne, his dad Jim, and his brother Michael.
©Andi Stempniak