Thursday, June 19, 2014

What WAS I thinking??

Yet another unfinished project from the past.

When looking backwards in time I have often wondered, "What on earth was I thinking?" when trying to figure out why I did what I did--or didn't--do.  My vow to complete all of my unfinished knitting projects has prompted me to wonder this many times.

Recently I've been trying to finish a lovely lavender lace cardigan, made out of a cotton/viscose/silk yarn.  I found this poor abandoned item at the bottom of a knitting bag for another project.  Turns out that I began this project in 2011. I love the lace cardigan pattern, the color of the yarn, everything.  Why on earth did I stop working on it?  What WAS I thinking??
I had completed the body of the sweater, one complete sleeve and one half of the other sleeve.  I was almost finished.  And I left it, abandoned, in the bottom of a knitting project buried under a larger project, never to see the light of day again until recently.

Maybe I just didn't want to sew the darn thing together.  Maybe the season changed and I didn't want to wear a cotton cardigan in the fall, and started a warm wool project. Maybe Christmas present knitting took over.  Maybe I got all the entertainment value out of the project and was seduced by a new, more interesting project.  I can't possibly get into my state of mind back in 2011. 

But, it turns out that my failure to complete on time was serendipitous. 

Look closely at the top third of the photo on the left.  The top third of the front of the cardigan.  It's subtle.  I didn't see it at first either.
And, look closely at the top third of the photo on the right.  Can you see anything that looks odd??    I didn't until I took the project to my favorite yarn shop cum coffee shop, The Sow's Ear.  There, under better lighting, I noticed that the yarn had changed color!!!  No, this wasn't magic.  The color changed when I started a new skein of yarn, having run out of the previous skein.

I diligently checked the ball band for the yarn.  All the ball bands indicated the same dye lot. 

Conclusion, one skein of yarn obviously was a different color, even though the company sold it as the same color. 

So, the question is, was this the reason for abandoning the project?  Did I throw it into the bottom of the project bag in disgust?  Sometimes having to rip out hard work is annoying, to say the least.  Luckily I have other skeins of the yarn that match the color of the rest of the cardigan. So, why didn't I just rip and re-knit the sections back in 2011??  I'll never know. 

So, the past week I've been ripping out the aberrant color and re-knitting--in between working on the cute, fun red and white baby sweater.  Today I finished the second sleeve and after careful study determined where I was in the complicated cable in the front of the sweater when the color changed.  I'm now on the path to completion.

New vow--no more work on the cute, darling, fun-to-knit baby sweater until I fully complete this troublesome summer lace cardigan.  Tomorrow I hope to finish re-knitting the front, sew the thing together and shop for the pretty little buttons.  Then the neck band, the button band and FREEDOM!!! 

p.s.  In case you want to know, the pattern is Jamaica, from Dale of Norway.  The yarn is Svale, now discontinued.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Hat Ladies in June

Hat Ladies in June is just about like Christmas in July!  I belong to a group of women and two men who sew polar fleece hats for kids and adults in need.  The sewing project started more than 12 years ago by sewing polar fleece hats for kids at all of our county's Head Start (and related) programs.  We wanted to use our sewing skills to make sure that all kids had warm heads during Wisconsin's cold and windy winters.

Some of the solid color triangles.
We purchased polar fleece and cut hundreds of pieces, using solid colors only, and brought the pieces and our sewing machines to the Head Start locations.  Kids and their care givers selected the colors for each hat and we sewed them onsite, with the kids sitting next to us, while we talked with them.  It was great fun and all the kids (and parents!) loved the hats.

This is only a small portion of the array of patterned rectangles for the brim.

We expanded to include elementary schools one year when I did a lot of volunteer work at a low income school.  I tried to think of a way to make hats for all the low income kids at the school.  But, I didn't want to stigmatize the low income kids.  So I proposed making hats for ALL the kids in the school.  And we expanded the color choices to include printed fabric!  The entire school had a great time selecting the colors and patterns to make about 400 unique hats. 

Well, this was truly the start of something big.  In the years to come we expanded the number of hat "seamsters" to more than 30, including two men.  We now have people who dedicate themselves to cut the fleece.  We still purchase the fleece and donate it and our time.  Sometimes the PTO at a school donates fleece.   This past year we sewed more than 6,000 hats.  At about six hats per yard of fleece, this comes out to 1,000 yards of fleece!!!
Hat Ladies ready for action.

Back to my story.  This year I have been volunteering in a Spanish immersion classroom.  The teacher wanted to have the kids write a book about how to make something.  She asked if I would make hats with the kids.  Due to curricular schedules, we made the hats on June 3!!!  Not quite the season for polar fleece hats, but this did not dampen the kids' enthusiasm.

I was able to recruit two "Hat Ladies" who were suffering "hat making withdrawal" and they helped me make hats for two first grade classrooms.  We took pains to explain the process carefully to each child while we were sewing his/her unique hat.
Me, in Librarian mode.

First, I read a book to the kids about making hats at another school.   Then, the kids selected their six triangles and one rectangle in their colors of choice.  If desired, they also selected three little pieces for a tassel on the top.
 When each child came to sit with one of the Hat Ladies, the child explained how he/she wanted the pieces arrayed.  Regardless of age or gender, all the kids had firm ideas of the color order.  Then we began to sew.

Talking with the students while we are sewing is great fun and enlightening.  We talk about why they selected the colors, what subject they like best in school, what they want to be when they grow up, how many siblings they have, whether they have a pet, whether they have ever seen a sewing machine before.  Most kids have not seen a sewing machine.  Some kids say that their grandmothers have a machine.  One girl commented that her 15 year old sister has a machine!  Often kids want to run the machine themselves, but we explain how dangerous the needle is, and so forth.  We make sure the kids keep their hands on the table.

 The crown of the hat has six triangles.  This is when the hat begins to look like a hat.  Kids are typically thrilled with this step, and put the crown on top of their heads.  Of course it doesn't stay on.  So we explain the importance of the band--to hold the hat on the head and to keep the ears warm.  I sometimes talk about the use of the word "crown" for the top of the hat. 
Here we are at "full strength" for this classroom.  When we sew hats for an entire school we set up shop in the library or the gym, with 15 or more machines and "sewers", five or more helpers, plus teachers, the principal and curious other staff.  The teachers use the event for literacy lessons (writing), art (drawing) math and more.  Kids are uniformly polite, grateful and awed.

I would love to show photos of kids in their hats--their smiles are so genuine.  But, I hesitate to post photos that would identify any child.  Here are some of the hats.  All different, each unique, each reflecting some aspect of the child who designed it.  The excitement and gratitude of the kids does not vary according to income, grade level or gender.

My mother made all of our clothing when I was young, and hers as well.  For me it was normal to select fabric, color and design to have a unique garment.  But I longed to have what all the other kids were wearing.  Thanks, mom, for all of the talent, time and love that you put into my clothing.  And for teaching me how to sew. I think of you every time I sew hats for people.