Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mysterious

While I have been a Knitter for many years now (in fact, I feel the Knitter inside of me has been always a part of me, I just didn't recognize her for a few years), I still have many aspects of the craft yet to explore. As an inducement to challenge myself when I was learning to knit for the second time (long story), I signed myself up to work on a mystery knit-along featuring lace and beads. Mystery knit-alongs, for the uninitiated, happen simultaneously as a group affair, via email back in the old days, or Ravelry in the present, and as an individual activity, in the privacy of your own home or wherever you may be when actually knitting. For me in that first mystery knit-along, that just happened to be my local library in Centerville, OH.

For one glorious night each week, I fled the confines of my home and my three beautiful, yet needy small children. While Daddy took over the ship, I drove to the library, knitting bag clutched in an exhausted hand, and found a quiet, secluded spot in which to contemplate the nuances of charted instructions and make my work mimic that of the pattern designer's. Week after week a new clue would be revealed. Over time, I found it was a beautiful lace stole, Swan Lake, by Melanie Gibbons of Pink Lemon Twist. How did I learn this? It certainly wasn't from finishing it. Alas, to this day it is languishing half-knit in one of my knitting bins. Instead I watched as others from this fabulous group of knitters proudly posted their finished objects to our YahooGroup. I just wasn't yet experienced enough to keep up. I will say that my time was definitely not wasted. It taught me valuable skills, namely chart reading, which I prefer to this day over written directions, and the ever valuable SSK (slip, slip, knit). It also taught me to love lace. But I digress...

Years, in fact probably more than a decade, has passed since that mystery shawl. Over that time I have continued refining my knitting skills. I have successfully knit, and even designed, several lace shawls. Lace is my favorite thing to work on, and I truly enjoy the challenges it throws at me. But since that time I have never done another mystery knit-along. Perhaps it was because of my first failure. Perhaps it's because I was worried I wouldn't like the end result. Perhaps (and more likely) it was because of my time constraints of homeschooling three precocious kids. At any rate, while I've signed up for countless mystery knit-along patterns, to this day I have never begun one until this week.

Laura Aylor, who designed one of my favorite yet-to-be-knit-with-my-needles shawl, Cinnamon Toast, came out with a Christmas mystery knit-along called, Just For You. I just so happened to find it offered on Ravelry, and, on a whim, signed up for it. I really didn't think too much of it, but thought that I might actually work on it for once. The planning sheet was posted and I duly went stash diving. When I found four skeins of Knit Picks Cadena sitting in my bin, I was in.
70% Peruvian Highland Wool, 30% Superfine Alpaca, 110 yards/100 grams
Day one came and I woke up early for it. It was just me, the yarn, some hot, savory tea, and a cat cuddled up on my lap. The idea behind this knit-along is different than my first one. Instead of weekly clues, it is daily. It isn't lace, and it isn't complicated. Worked on bulky yarn, progress is quickly made, and by the 24th, all will be complete. While I don't know exactly how it will turn out, by now I am having a pretty good idea.
Here I am in my hideout on day 2.
It will eventually grow to be some sort of poncho/cowl thing. Normally, living in Florida as I do, I wouldn't knit something like this. Perhaps that is part of the novelty and joy of it. I'm knitting for the delight of discovery. I'm knitting for myself. It feels a bit like a guilty pleasure, stealing this hour or so every day to do it, but I can tell I'm happier and more relaxed. I wonder if I would take this time for myself every Christmas if it would become a more peaceful and joyous time versus the inevitable rushing and accompanying stress.

For today's clue (Day 4- we are more than halfway done!) I woke at 6:00. I have a cold, which is never fun, but with a lightness of heart I brewed the morning's cuppa, slipped into my comfy spot, queued my book (Herland, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman as podcast by Heather of Craftlit) and picked up my needles with the newest clue. The house was quiet except for the orange bundle of fluff purring on my lap. As I listened to the fabulous satire of Gilman, my project grew before my eyes.
Today's iteration
Today promises to be a busy day. I have cleaning, laundry, baking, and wrapping waiting for me in abundance. I have, however, seized the day for myself, and know that I can face it with a smile, with anticipation for tomorrow's clue to entertain and entice me. May you also find some small way to find beauty in the flurry of the festivities around you. God bless!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hump

When our family decided to join Summit Homeschool Co-op this past fall, I thought that 31 weeks of academics sounded like an awfully long time. I worried that we wouldn't be able to keep the pace of early mornings, prepared and packed lunches, and (perhaps most importantly) that I wouldn't stay on top of my class duties. The hump, however, has arrived, and I'm pleasantly surprised at how quickly the time has flown!

Originally the plan was for me to teach one class, British Literature. You know the poem, though, "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men/ Gang aft agley." (It's Robert Burns, and yes, we've covered that one this year!). Anyway, about a quarter the way through the year I picked up a middle school math class as well. There are three of the sweetest students in it, and I'm all the richer for it! We are using Math-U-See for our text, and in so many ways I feel like I've come back to a good friend. I have gone through the book with my own kiddos three times already, and I'm having a blast working through it again with these kids.

For our last class before Christmas break, I surprised the kids with a math project. This year the kids are working on fractions, so for our class time I found a recipe that made up cookies in a jar, and I had the kids triple the recipe (3 kiddos in the class) so they could each make a Christmas gift to give their parents, grandparents, or someone special in their life. Instead of working problem after problem on their white boards (I love white boards!), instead the kids worked out their fractions on the recipe and then worked together to mix it up.
Sugar!

And lots of chocolate chips!

Make yummy Christmas gifts!
Needless to say, my poor Brit Lit students didn't have the fun of making up cookie mixes. Instead my gift to my literary students was a story. One of my favorites at Christmas time is Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales. After we covered the exigencies of high school English life (namely how to merge quotes in literary analysis essays) I regaled them with Thomas' vivid descriptions of Christmas as a youth in Wales. Alliteration, imagery, onomatopoeia and more techniques abound in that wonderful work. If you haven't read it, please do. It will put you in the mood for Christmas for sure!
Working together to blend quotations.

Don't they look excited?

All right, he looks a little excited (maybe).

So now we are at the hump of our year. I pray that each of the kids has increased in knowledge. I hope the rest of the year will continue to be one of growth and enjoyment. My lit kids are reading through Frankenstein right now, and we will begin working on it when the new year arrives.

Until then, have a blessed Christmas!