The first day of summer

Published on Saturday June 23rd, 2012

In short (which he isn’t), he is here!


Jolyon Gregory, two days old

Our little man finally decided to join us in the beautiful summer sunshine on 21 June. He was nine days late and we had planned to induce labor at 6:30 that morning, only to receive a call from the hospital that they didn’t have any room for us. The solstice had apparently inspired a great number of babies to head south. But by breakfast time I knew ours was coming of his own accord, so the nursing staff promised to set up a bed in a spare operating room or a broom closet for us if necessary. In fact, they were able to make ready an actual birthing room just as we arrived, and although we were disappointed in our hope of a second water birth, our fine healthy son made his entrance without complications at 2:42 in the afternoon.

At 8 pounds and nearly 14 ounces, he is not exactly enormous, but we calculated that he is 43% more baby than his sister was at birth. His head is 14.5 inches around and he managed to wedge one of his man fists between it and his surprisingly muscular shoulders, so he did a bit of damage on the way out and Mama lost some blood, but the healing is going very well and we’re lucky to have two sets of grandparents aboard for extra help. Jo proved himself a champion feeder right away and Ada is taking the whole thing quite gracefully, eager to help Baby Bruddah find milk when he cries and supplying wipes for his diaper changes. She has given him gentle pats and hugs and has counted all his toes.

And so we are four! Mama needs to cast on some much, much larger hats…

To paraphrase Douglas Adams

Published on Thursday June 14th, 2012

I love due dates. I like the casual whistling they make as they saunter by.

I thought maybe you were the punctual sort, baby. But you didn’t come on Tuesday. Then I thought maybe you wanted to share a birthday with Granny (happy birthday, Mom!). But unless we both bust a move in the next two hours and forty-five minutes, that’s not happening. So just in case you actually are waiting for this:

Seriously, kiddo. The weather’s fine out here. But you are going to live in the Pacific Northwest, so you might want to think hard about letting too many more days like today pass you by.

I’ll say this in your favor: you appear to be the considerate sort, having waited for Mama to get (mostly) over a cold and Daddy’s back to feel better before putting us all through labor. Maybe you know exactly what you’re doing in there. I trust you.

Spring Woodland Quilt

Published on Wednesday June 6th, 2012

This poor blog is going to keel over, gasping from all the unaccustomed exercise! What’s a girl to do while waiting for a baby but tie up loose ends? I’ve taken that phrase literally, producing my first tied quilt for a most beloved neighbor’s birthday present.

It was all monkey see, monkey do with this quilt. The moment I glimpsed this fabric by Holly Ward Bimba in a similar project over at Soulemama, I knew it had to be mine — or, rather, Barb’s. I hotfooted it over to Spoonflower (fair warning if you haven’t visited before: that place is a slippery rimmed abyss of delights from which you and your pocketbook may never emerge!) to see the whole gollybard Woodland collection and was finally able to limit myself six favorite prints. I chose the cotton poplin, a new fabric for me, in the interest of keeping the quilt light in weight and because Holly’s watercolors look so darn beautiful on that crisp surface.

I sketched the world’s simplest design, alternating panels half the width of the quilt with groups of three blocks, and pieced it in no time. I chose a pale blue striped cotton (rather loosely woven but beautifully silky to the touch) for the back and found the perfect grey-brown binding fabric with white flecks (by Cori Dantini) to coordinate with the Woodland palette. I was imagining my friend spreading this quilt on the grass for a picnic, and I knew I wanted to tie it to give it that casual, not-too-fancy-for-real-use air, so I wanted a lofty batting. Bolt had a lovely woolen one, practically weightless but sturdy. (You just can’t beat real wool!) And I went to the yarn stash for more wool to tie it with — I had some Cascade 220 superwash in white.

Here’s where I fell off the turnip truck. I had blithely imagined tying a 6′ by 6′ quilt like this one would be the work of an evening. I’d just thread my yarn along every six inches at the seams and in the middles of the blocks, snippy-snap with the scissors, tie the ends and trim them. How tough could that be? I found a sturdy needle that’s too sharp for weaving ends in knitting but has a large enough eye to take a worsted-weight yarn if you cajole it properly.

Turns out forcing a large needle through two layers of cotton poplin every time you hit a seam allowance is mighty unpleasant on the fingers. And hovering over the quilt sandwich (you haven’t bothered to baste or pin it together because there seems to be just enough friction between the wool and the cotton that they aren’t really going anywhere and you can smooth out wrinkles as necessary) on the floor when you’re nearly nine months pregnant is not such happy camping, either. I found I could make one garland of ties across the width of the quilt before my fingers were throbbing and my back was demanding we do something else. Once I had a couple of central rows in place I felt confident that I could move the whole operation to the bed and sit cross-legged with the work in my lap, which improved my performance to two rows of ties in a sitting. And here I discovered, during a string of unusually warm evenings, that wool batting makes a quilt very cozy indeed. Our neighbors heat their house with a wood stove, so this really means the quilt will have an even more useful life than I’d imagined, but now I was a sore-fingered and sweaty pregnant woman stripping down to her underthings in order to labor away at a process that was supposed to be so much faster than machine quilting and the whole endeavor was starting to seem a little mad. I persevered, though, having the bit between my teeth as only the enormously gravid can.

And then it was done, and my fingers had grown tougher so that the binding went smoothly and more and more rapidly as I settled into the dipping motion of the needle. And this afternoon I gave the ties a haircut and then shot some quick pictures while Ada pointed happily at the different fabrics and squealed, “Buhds?! Bees?! Fwowuhs?!” And we delivered the gift.

Only a week late.

Now where’s the binding fabric for that baby quilt? I’m on a tear. And I have gorgeous leftovers of all these prints to make Ada her own smaller version, or perhaps a collection of little summer tunics…


Published on Monday June 4th, 2012

Little baby things have been flying off the needles around here, as I’ve wanted to be sure this second child would have some special garments created just for him/her. It’s also the only way I know to get ready: make stuff. And a soon-to-be-big sister mustn’t be forgotten in the flurry of preparations, so on a whim I cast on a little top a few weeks ago. It’s a sweet pattern called Neighborly; I snapped a hasty photo before Ada wore it to school in case it came home covered in glittery fingerpaint:

Pardon the bouffant that happens when Daddy gets fired up about brushing those curls. Not my favorite look for her. And yes, apparently we like to pose for photos with spinach — her idea. My little schoolgirl is not often so formally attired, though. When the vest survived its first foray to Montessori nursery (it was a water table day, so Ada’s clothes needed some drying but were otherwise unusually clean) I took some new photographs that show Neighborly as she is more likely to be worn:

(Hair is back to normal, too.)

Now you can see the chief detail, the ’60s-style button at the neck. Since I scaled down in yarn weight but still followed the pattern (it’s a single size intended for a child of 3-5 years, so I just crossed my fingers a DK version would fit a toddler), the button band is less prominent in my version and the neckline is tighter. This was intentional; I wanted a summer-weight vest we could throw on over cotton shirts on cool days, and for someone who’s less than two a big open boatneck would just be slipping off a shoulder or trapping stray food more often than not. I used Manos del Uruguay Serena, an alpaca-cotton blend, in a color called “sea urchin” that I couldn’t resist. It reads as grey, but there are pleasing undertones of purple — just the thing to bring my girl’s burgeoning wardrobe of pink hand-me-downs back into a realm Mama can tolerate. When it came off the needles it looked tiny and I thought we might have to gift it to our wee new friend Ingrid to wear as a dress when she gets to be six months old or so, but it blocked out to the perfect size for Ada.

I’m going to see how it wears before passing judgment on the yarn. It’s sheddy up front, releasing a lot of short alpaca fibers in the bath before blocking and still having enough left over to adhere to a small damp chin at first wearing. But when she wore it today I didn’t notice any problems, so maybe it’s let go of all the fibers it needed to. The drape and hand are undeniably pleasant. And the color range is strong. If the shedding problem doesn’t persist and it doesn’t show a strong tendency to pill at this loose gauge (I used a #5 needle, I think), I’d be tempted to use it to knit myself one of those drapey, open cardigans that seem to be so fashionable.

Oh, my not-so-big big girl. How is it you can count and read letters and load the dishwasher and tell yourself the stories in your favorite books and cross the suspension bridge on the play structure at the park and sing me little tuneless songs about slippery fish while still being so small? Will you suddenly seem like a giant in a few days or a week when you become my eldest child?

I’ve loved your babyhood, dear one. I’ll love your girlhood, too.