Knitting for Dummies, by Pam Allen, Tracy Barr, and Shannon Okey, is my lifeline! It breaks down knitting to its simplest - keeping me out of trouble when that project has presented a new challenge. It is also the perfect accompaniment and teacher in learning new skills and tricks of the trade. What would I do without it? While not every problem in life or in parenting is as easily solved as the challenges we face in knitting, through this craft, I have managed to learn a lot about myself as a human being and as a parent. I hope I can share these experiences with you, and in turn, we can spend some time together learning from each other...

There was an error in this gadget

Friday, December 17, 2010

Happy Holidays!!!

I love the Holiday Season regardless of what we are celebrating.

On my way home from a business trip recently, I was sitting by the airplane window, and as we were landing, I chose to stop my usual traveling activity, knitting, to look outside at the lights of Northern Kentucky where the Greater Cincinnati International Airport (CVG) is located.  As I looked down, I noticed that the lights were twinkling.  "Were they really twinkling or was I suffering from a headache/migraine?!"  Upon further inspection, I noticed they were really twinkling!  "Awww, it's like a Christmas tree!" I thought.  And right away, my mind moved quickly to my "to do" list before the Holidays... The cards!  OMG, I have had the cards for over a month, and they are not ready!  Decorations!  We are in a new house and I have to come up with a new schematic and design if I am to have the 12 Christmas trees I want before we leave!  Food!  Are we going to have a Holiday dinner before going home?  Presents!  OMG, we need to come up with our "Dear Santa" lists and we have to start shopping and shipping! What are we going to do to "give back" to our community this Holiday?  The parties, the RSVPs, the luminaria walks...  OMG.  OMG.  OMG.


Why was I in a panic?  "It is only NOVEMBER!"  I quickly realized that I had time!  More importantly, however, was the realization - if I have learned anything this year - that I have to enjoy all of my available moments with my son, my partner, my family, and friends without getting overwhelmed by the "to do" lists with which most of us tend to end up.  Those moments with my loved ones are so fleating and so precious!  I already spent too much time in my 20's and my 30's focusing on the wrong things to spend my 40's doing more of the same.  Ok, I needed to refocus, breathe, and relax. 

Breathe in. 
Breathe out. 
Breathe in... and... look at the lights...

Once I relaxed, I saw the twinkling lights through a completely different lens, and I started thinking about the Holidays and their beauty.  Breathe out...  The first "clean" thought that came to mind after my moment of panic was how interesting it was that all the Holiday celebrations that kept coming up for me involved and/or celebrate the beauty of light. 

At the end of October, I had the pleasure of visiting with work colleagues in Bangalore, India, where they were getting ready to celebrate Diwali - the Hindu festival of lights - which started this year on November 5th.  I was treated to the explanation of the festival, the excitement of getting ready and receiving family, and yes, even the commercials of all of the special deals this Diwali.  Through this new experience, I was beautifully prepped and pumped for the many Holiday celebrations in which we partake here in the States:  Christmas, Hannukah, Winter Solstice, Kwanza, Epiphany, among others.  In just a few minutes, I was amazed to think of the role that light plays in all of them.  From stars to manoras, from tree and house lights to luminarias. 

Every Holiday season, our local zoo puts on the Festival of Lights.  I love the zoo, and during the Holidays, it takes an even more magical quality.  It dresses up, it inspires, and it rejoices the spirit.  It, too, celebrates with light.  It is so much fun to visit and see the kids and the adults behaving like kids all in awe at the beauty of the lights.  What does light represent for us?  So, I pondered...

In light, we seem to see hope, life, newness, expectation, ourselves, each other.

While sharing lessons learned about parenting, someone special shared once that our kids are balls of light or energy that we - adults - through rules and regulations (musts and must-nots) start shaping until they become the adults we envision.  In that child-rearing effort, we seem to slowly-but-surely diminish the light we are given at birth.  Hmmmmm... It is no surprise, then, that we as adults always strive to behave more "child-like".  It is as if we want that light back.  Logically, it makes sense.  Emotionally, if you are like me, it breaks your heart.  But if "awareness" is Step #1 of any 12-step program, "believe" is Step #2, and I do believe that we can respark our imaginations, our spirit, our emotions, and our lives by learning from our kids whether they are biological, adopted, by relation (nephews, and grandchildren, for example), or by friendship.

In light, we seem to see hope, life, newness, expectation, ourselves, each other.

On looking...
As I talk to friends and family, I have been wondering how many of us are going to try - as we often wish - to make this Holiday Season special.  Can we step away from the chaos of decorating, cooking, shopping, and stressing over the Christmas tree lights to find our own light?  Could we look hard enough this Season to see if the spark is still within us, or better yet, if we can see it within our child, our partner/spouse, or our friend's eyes.  How could we spend this time renewing our spirit to find our inner light?

So, I'm not one to start quoting songs, but something funny happened with Katy Perry's song, Fireworks.  When I first heard it, I didn't like the song.  I felt like she screamed the whole chorus.  Then, I saw the video and gave the song a "second look".  (I often find that video images force me to listen better.)  And in the song, Katy Perry says,

"...Cause there’s a spark in you
You just gotta ignite the light
And let it shine
Just own the night
Like the Fourth of July
Cause baby you’re a firework..."

I want to feel the firework inside of me this Holiday Season.  I want to find my light this Holiday Season.  I want to do that with my family and friends.  And in that light, I want to renew my commitment to being a better father, a better son, a better brother, a better nephew, a better uncle, a better cousin, a better partner, and a better person.

In the beginning...

As I was finished with this month's knitting projects - Two Turtle Doves - it occurred to me that it would be lovely to see these two modeled together.  I first made this bomber hat for my son after picking out some yarn at a LYS (Local Yarn Shop) during my 40th birthday celebration weekend in NYC. The yarn I got reminded me of a BIG HUG - similar to those my son gives me when he is in need of affection... otherwise, it's like the hugs I try to give him all the time... even when he doesn't want them.  LOL!  I was excited to get this hat done for him, and after a couple of false starts - like most of my projects, I got it done in one afternoon.  The original pattern - displayed here in red - has a whale bone cable.  After finishing it, I decided to try it with a simple twist... my brother has a version in brown, and there is also the green version here.  (Can you tell how much I love this pattern?)

I love the boyish demeanor this hat gives all the men who wear it.  The hat does have a very childlike nature to it.  And that nature is like the light we seem to seek or go after every Holiday Season.  Whether you are 11, like my son, or a little older, like my Adams, there is something fun about wearing bomber hats.  I love the detail of the stitches, the chained cords, and the crowns.  Every time I have knitted this hat, I have gone back to the feeling of the yarn and the hugs exchanged between my son and me.  They are the perfect light in my life.

I hope this holiday season as you spend time searching for your light, you, too, spend some time receiving big warm hugs from those you love.  Hugs are the best present ever...

I wish you love, health, happiness... and light this Holiday Season.  Happy Holidays!!!

A special thanks to three wonderful men and friends who have helped me realize a good portion of this journey this year:  Eric S., Rob D., and Steve B.  Their love and support have fueled my creativity.  Thank you, guys!  :)e-

Friday, November 26, 2010


"I am knee-deep into the situation and I'm not afraid to handle it."

Did I say that correctly?  It does sound like "I have a gun and I'm not afraid to use it."  But I'm a pacifist; guns are not my thing.  In any event, I am not sure if I got the right idiom or if it is even a real one.  After 25 years of living in the States I still find myself confusing idioms between English and Spanish, and worse, arranging the words to really mess them up because once I hear them, I interpret these idioms in my head and share them back as I understood them.  My friends have caught me saying more than once that I dislike running around, "like a chicken with no head" instead of "like a chicken with its head cut off."  Aren't they the same?  Food for fodder.  Please discuss amongst yourselves.  ;)

As of late, I have been finding myself knee-deep in some situations:  (a) parenting - always a challenge and a joy all-in-one, (b) hate mail - you know someone's paying attention to you when they feel strongly enough to say something, (c) work... well, what else is there to say..., and (d) life.  And I am grateful for the village - i.e., my support system - around me who helps me every day to cope with both the expected and the unexpected.  Without them, I would be up to my neck in these situations without the possibility of ever coming out.

On parenting (again)...

Since my last post, I realized that the parenting situations I was facing as of late were not requiring me to roll up my sleeves to handle them, but they were begging me to tuck in my pant legs inside my boots, protect my boots, and get knee-deep into them.  I have grown to know this as "involved parenting".  ;) 

As I think of my life as a child, I remember that I often wanted "to be left alone," but in reality, all I wanted was some attention and time with my parents.  Sadly, I never knew how to express that in a manner that let them know how much I love them and wanted them around me.  I am, by sheer nature, raising a kid who needs time with his two dads, and more interestingly, doesn't always show it - until that dad/papa time is not there.  Then, things go a little... off.  I find that strickingly amazing... how the pattern repeats itself no matter how one tries to affect it.  But you know what?  I adore spending time with my son.  I am in awe of him and what he brings to the world and I miss him when he's not around - even during the day when I'm at work and he's at school.  He has so much to share with this world.  It's amazing!  I often say I can't wait to see him as an adult and see what he shares.  (n.b., I really can wait!  Because like my mother, I will cry, cry, and cry the day he leaves the nest.)

Today, I am knee-deep into this situation (i.e., parenting), getting involved, and letting my son know that I am here for him.  He, too, has a support system that cares about him and his success and we are all rallied to nurture him to be the best person he can be.  And that is all his dads want for him - just like my parents wanted that for me. Things seem to be moving positively for him which only means that I may just need to stay this involved until he can feel my support in an ongoing fashion whether I am present or not.  I want him to feel that way - supported - always.

It is interestlingly bizarre that as I continue writing, proofing, and pondering upon this post, I continue experiencing so many highs and lows in this journey to parenthood.  Let it be learned that there is something important to be noted from "highs and lows" and that I as a parent need to be more aware of that so that I can help my son address it.  The principle of "Steady Eddie" with our children has some merit - especially if we understand how important routines and familiarity are to our kiddos.

On hate mail...

After I published the Holding Hands blog, I received my first piece of "hate mail".  (I realize that the word "hate" is probably harsh, or like I share with my son, P, a little too strong, but this individual was not happy with the pictures I was publishing.)  She started our interaction by asking me if I was looking for sex or knitting.  I was confused and the question tremendously perplexed me!  She asked me to put clothes on my models.  I shared kindly with her - we'll call her... Roberta... - that they had clothes on.  Don't they?  Well, everything is covered, at least!  After wondering for a bit, I asked her if she knew how to read because this blog was not about sex and the storyline I was exploring with the models was not about that either.  Needless to say, after about five exchanges, I realized that she was not going to change who she was and no matter what I said, she would always equate nudity with sex.  What a concept!  I found myself knee-deep in a conversation with someone where that someone... Roberta... would not seek to understand but simply wanted to be understood.  I couldn't let her issues (about nudity) be my issues.  So, Roberta, I wish you well, and I want to thank you, too, as you just inspired the closing post of this arc I am exploring (i.e., What if Adam and Eve had knitwear?) next summer.  Here are some more pictures just in case...

A short word on work...

I was sharing with someone recently that folks are usually at their best when they are following their hearts and get to pursue their vocation, no matter what that is.  After a few weeks of attempting to handle an ugly situation with a peer of mine who was once a friend, too, I realized that - just like "Roberta" - I couldn't let whatever was affecting my peer become my issue.  I am learning how to handle these situations by continuing to be cordial and getting the work done without it (the crap) affect me, my personal life, or the passion I feel for what I do on a daily basis.  So I immersed myself, knee-deep, into what I love the most in my work - my vocation and calling - and I am loving it.  What a high!  I have found where and how to really enjoy what I do without sacrificing who I am.

And Adam found himself "knee-deep" in the situation...

My son and I LOVE to ski.  We both love the snow and being outside during snow storms, at ski resorts, or even after a big blizzard has gone by.  I personally prefer it than to being outside in the middle of the summer.  It is hard to think after growing up in the tropics I can be so enamored with the winter season.  Again, I think part of it came from those visits to Vermont with my family... I still remember the first and only snowman I built with my dad, the engineer both by vocation and profession.  That snowman was so structurally sound that I think it probably had to melt with the spring in order to disappear because no storm would be able to break him down.  Its shape was... different, and I loved it.  This "different" is for certain one of the many things I loved about my dad and the legacy he left me.  But alas, I digress...

One of the problems P and I often face while playing in the snow is that even when you sneak in your pant legs into your boots, snow crawls right in - especially when you find yourself knee-deep in snow.  And once you have snow inside your shoe, you might as well go in:  cold and wet feet are no fun.

I realize that some people may see these as leg warmers, but since they are not really warming the legs and just really providing extra coverage at the boot opening and the areas where snow may just filter in, I prefer to refer to them as my "boot covers".  Will you entertain me?  ;)

I wanted these boot covers to be thick and masculine, but I also wanted to explore the beauty of cabling stitches (see Twists & Turns) and what you can do with them to tell the story.  As I conceived these, I imagined snow getting caught in some of the nooks and crannies of the covers highlighting the work and the love that had been put into them.  To add to the masculine feel, I designed faux leather straps to allow for the bottom of the cover to open atop the foot.

I knitted these from the bottom up which made cabling really fun to reverse.  What cannot be seen is the flap that holds the buckle which separates for additional space and to allow for the top of the foot.

I love how these covers look on Adam.

A special thanks to my dear friend Rob D. who modeled these chunky boot covers for me.  His spirit and joyousness have him knee-deep into life, and I love that about him.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Twists & Turns

Have you ever seen the details of a beautiful Irish fisherman sweater?

(Here are some links for you...  http://www.murphyofireland.com/aran-sweaters.php and

Growing up in Puerto Rico, I never owned any winter clothes.  My only exposure to winter attire and sweaters was left to my grandparents in NY who kindly borrowed sweaters and coats to lend us for the "every-third-Christmas-or-so" visits.  Today, looking at those pictures in NYC and our grandparents’ home in Vermont brings back interesting memories – both emotional and tactile.  ...the cold of the air, the warmth of the sweaters and coats, the fun things that we just didn't do in Puerto Rico:  ice skating, Rockefeller center, the snow, the slush, the smell of the furnace at my grandparents'.  It wasn’t until I went to college that I had to worry about owning clothes that could keep me warm through the cold New England winters.  

The summer after my college sophomore year, I had the opportunity to visit Ireland for the summer.  And while I was in Dublin, in the middle of that hot summer, I had to figure out a way to buy two (very expensive for me at the time) undyed Irish fisherman sweaters.  These sweaters are beautiful and each of them tell a story about the family who wears them, the men who were often at sea making a living, and today, about the tradition.  These sweaters were very popular in Boston where everybody - and I mean EVERYBODY - is Irish.  So, I had to have one... or two...

I love knitted cables.  They tell a story.  They are complex and intricate. And yet, they are so simple to make.  I love knitting cables.

On parenting…

Parenting is like a two-lane road full of twists and turns, crossing states, planes, mountains, and valleys.  I have often said that being a father is the most difficult, and at the same time, the most rewarding job I have ever had.  Like a two-lane road, we as parents often set the course for what’s to happen; if I work hard, I’ll be able to look ahead for about a mile or so.  However, I seem to forget that just like a road, there are twists that often – in a surprising manner – present themselves.

I tell my friends that I love driving my car.  It handles like a dream.  It grabs the road no matter the conditions – rain, shine, or even snow.  I am so in awe of it that I tend to take the corners a little sharply so that I can feel the car gripping the asphalt.  Who would have ever thought that I would have been such the “driver” person?!

Unfortunately, in this parenting road, I have no car to help me feel “in control” of the situation.  The twists and turns come suddenly and without notice; they can make me feel “less than adequate” as a father, and even as a person.  And I often wish I could find a little rest area or a passing landing where I can just park to either plan, think, or even wait before responding.  The phrase "growing pains" has to refer to more than just the physical pains of growing...

Parenting is like knitted cable work: complex, intricate, full of twists and turns.

On life…

Communication is like a two-lane road full of twists and turns, connecting people. Positively or negatively, communication connects us all.  Like knitted cables with traveling stitches, our messages veer right and veer left.  Sometimes – and hopefully often -  they seek and meet in the center.  But it seems like more often than not, we face issues which are their core are the product of miscommunications.

For me, parenting seems to be becoming a lesson in simple communication – since those “terrible twos” which in hind sight were not that terrible, really.  

Relationships are all about communication, both spoken and not.  Work (the one that pays you and pays your bills) is all about communications.  Can you think of anything that does not involve or is at its core all about communicating?

Communication is like knitted cable work.

On Adam’s cables…

Adam’s knitted cables tell a story.  The scarf he wears is my partner’s (Jon’s) pattern:  The Jonny Jump Rope.  It was my first cable work project.  I had been wanting to knit it since the night I met Jon… he was wearing his version of it (in Navy) when we met and I was fascinated with it.  (Well, I was also fascinated with Jon too, but don’t tell him that.)  The intricate cables which expand from a tight rope to a diamond as if the jump rope were in mid-swing reminded me of the Irish fisherman sweaters I once bought so energetically.  So, when it was my turn to learn how to cable and start my Jonny Jump Rope, I chose a color of yarn that reminded me of one of my beautiful Irish sweaters.  Jon did such a nice job with the pattern that it has become a favorite of mine.

Once I had that scarf completed, I wanted a corresponding hat to go with it.  I found this easy-to-make hat knitted flat and using short rows.  This makes the cable on the band easier to make.  Unlike Joss, though, this hat is made all at once and sewn on the back.  Originally, the pattern required ear flaps, but those never really looked right, not with this yarn, and not in this color…

Adam’s cables tell the story of parents around the world driving on two-lane roads and facing the unexpected twists and turns our children present.  Adam’s cables tell the story of the communications' trials and tribulations we face with our family members, our friends, our co-workers, and even with strangers.  These are all two-lane roads.  But there is one thing we must all remember... For the lane in which I drive, there is a corresponding lane perhaps going in the opposite direction, but potentially also moving in the same.  For every argument, disagreement, or misunderstanding we have in one lane, there is another side.  And… these twists and turns have taught me that…

  • On the other side of controversy, there is peace.
  • On the other side of confusion, there is understanding.
  • On the other side of a tear, there is a belly laugh so hard, you can't help but cry.
  • And on the other side of frustration, there is tolerance, there is compassion, and there is love.
I love knitted cables.  e-

A special thanks to my friend Steve B. for modeling these Twists and Turns.  I am so thankful that after almost 15 years of knowing Steve, I finally got a chance to reacquaint and connect with him and his partner Rob.  Those are the beautiful twists and turns of life.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Holding Hands

I am a tactile person. I thought you should know that about me before we begin today. 

I am a tactile person.  I always thought it was because I am Hispanic... when you look at us as a culture, we're all about the hello hugs and the touching on the shoulder, but more beautifully, men and women and family members always greet each other with kisses on the cheek.  It is such the perfect opening punctuation mark (yes, in Spanish, we do have opening punctuation marks:  ¿ or ¡ for the typical ? or !) to any conversation/meeting!  However, the more I have studied my upbringing, the more I have realized that yes, perhaps it is because I'm Hispanic that I'm a tactile person, but it is also the wonderful matriarchal community in which I was raised - and to which I am highly grateful - that explains why touching is so important to me.  Between my abuelita and her sisters, and their next generation: my mom and her sister, I was always surrounded by hugs, kisses, invitations to sit on their laps, and touch!  Believe it or not, my abuelita held me in her lap even through my teenage years.  It always made me feel so loved and special!  Even today, my mom's hugs are the longest, and my tía Carlota's multiple-kisses, the most repetitively loving you'll ever find.  (I miss my abuelita - R.I.P. - and her sisters, some of them who have passed and others whom I have not seen in decades.)

There is something to be said for spending time with your children and expressing through touch how much they mean to you. 

In raising my son...

From the day Pablo was born, I have purposefully channeled all of those women who influenced whom I have become.  Since P has two dads, I guess I wanted to make sure he never missed that (often believed to be) feminine touch.  (No hate mail, please; it's just a musing...)  I tend to hug P a lot.  I tend to touch his head or his shoulder.  I love to hold his feet which are getting big and not so boyish any more (!).  I love when he reaches out in the morning for that first hug which says "good morning" and "I love you!"  I love cuddling with him to watch TV or a movie, or sit next to him while he plays a game.  And I love to hold his hand, but I melt when he reaches for my hand and chooses to hold mine, at home while at the dinner table, or more surprisingly when we are in public walking somewhere. 

To this day, I often remember a special moment when P was only a few days old.  Some of our friends - all men, P, his dad, and I (P's papa) had gone out to a restaurant for dinner.  P was in his pumpkin seat sleeping as he SELDOM did.  Next to us were a man and a woman having dinner.  From a quick conversation, we gathered that he had three boys from a previous marriage.  And even though many new parents shy away from "getting advice" from others, I welcome the piece of advice he provided.  He said, "You may want to hug him and kiss him a lot while he's this small..." I smiled.  "...because later on, he won't be so open to it..." And I nodded in understanding.  "...and he won't smell as good!"  And I busted in laughter.  (Thank you for that one, kind man.  I am still thinking about it 11 years later!)

A parenthetical thought about dating and singleitis...

Life is funny.  After an 11-year-old relationship with P's dad, a few years back, I was single again.  This time, I had a son, and life had moved alongside me.  Things weren't the same, so I had to do a little work to rediscover the evolved me.  I wanted to grow to become a better person, a better partner, and a better parent.  In my singleitis (I'll explain the word further down), I found as I dated that touch is not for everyone.  I'm not sure if it is the culture in which I live or the different meanings that touching has on people.  Often, from those I was dating, I got the idea that touch was "a little too close, a little too much, and a little too soon - regardless of time".  But rather than changing who I was (and I am, today) for these men, I sat still with the love of my friends and my family, and then found someone whose hand I love to hold and who, in turn, holds my heart...

And so, in the beginning...

I heard once that hands are the most injured part of the body.  It makes sense... both kids and adults get our hands into everything!  For many of us, they often are the first thing to get cold.  And if you like to be outdoors in the winter - like my son and I like to do - covering them is important.

Many knitters suffer from a common disease known as singleitis - the inability to finish the pair (or second one) of a two-item garment such as socks, gloves/mittens/wristlets, ear-warmers... you get the idea.  I have heard many explanations as to why this happens:

  • Once you have worked so hard on the first piece, the second one seems like an unsurmountable amount of work...
  • Once you have made so many modifications to the first piece, you can't remember how to complete the second one...
  • The work for hands and feet are often too detail-oriented...
  • It gets boring...
During my first year as a knitter, I started a thrummed mittens project just to abandon it after the first one was completed.  :(  Since then, I have refused to knit socks, and I attempted a pair of fingerless gloves for my son which turned out disasterously.  Oy!  It goes without saying that since I wanted to explore Adam & Eve in knitwear, I would have to go where I had not gone before... or in a long time...  the hands.  If the hands are the most injured part of the body, I wanted to do something for them that was simple, warm, and just me.

These mittens were knitted in the round with a ribbed cuff and a simple, knitted front and back.  What I think makes it special is the quiet cable band that runs on the outside of each mitten and through the front of the fingers.  It was interesting to conceive and play out, and thanks to the many techniques explored, I am really eager to try on variations on this theme:  e.g., try the cable band on the thumb and run it all the way through in a seamless manner, texture the palm of the mitten for added grip.

I love mittens because: (a) they use your own body heat to keep your fingers warm, (b) they bring me back to childhood when we didn't have full isolating mobility of our hands, and (c) they are great for holding hands!

So, I'm cured from my singleitis in more than one way.  I found a partner in Jon who is as tactile as I am and for that (and many other reasons) I love him.  I can knit two of the same things so I can now go back to re-try my son's fingerless gloves in the funkiest colors of green (I love his adventurous side!), and I can start knitting mittens for myself in an effort to keep my hands warm this winter while skiing, or simply walking with Jon and P holding hands!  ;)e-

Thank you to my dear friend Dave G. (a.k.a., Don Dave) for modeling these for me.  Blue is his color, so it was a wonderful experience to further explore the color with these mittens.  More ironically is the fact that Dave is a hand therapist and this irony almost went dead on all of us after we had pinpointed the yarn color, and the article he'd be modeling.  Thank you, DD!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ribbit, Ribbit

First and foremost... This post is especially dedicated to any parent who has ever wished s/he could erase a "sour moment" (and you know exactly what I'm talking about) with their kids, but also to any human being who has ever wished for a do-over.

On life and parenting...

Raising a child - heck, living... presents its challenges, doesn't it? There isn't a day that goes by when I don't think or wish for at least one do-over. It goes without saying that only in movies or some of those Nick cartoons does anyone ever get a life or a moment do-over... Oh, well.

I feel lucky enough to have an amazing support system.  Together with me, they often celebrate the child I am raising and the bond that the two of us are creating.  "Luckily," they are not shy about telling me when I was a bit too tough, came across as not-understanding, or when... I could have handled that parenting moment... better.  Those are my "I wish for a do-over" moments.  In them, I have often heard a little bit of my dad, and a little bit of all of the noise out there in the world crashing into my interactions with my son.  Each of those moments is often significant - if not for me, then, for my son.  Why does it feel so difficult at times?  Certainly, the rewards far outweigh these sour moments, and still... why does it often feel like you are walking uphill both ways with weights on your backpack?  (Did anyone say "back-to-school" yet?  LOL!)

My dear friend, Ray, often reminds me to be kind to myself and give myself a break.  After all, we parents are trying the best we can with what we have.  We may not be able to do-over our interactions, but we can learn, and re-learn to avoid the same pitfalls in the future.  I keep trying...

On knitting, learning, and re-learning...

Thankfully, there are places where do-overs are allowed.  In knitting, even after you have cut the yarn, do-overs are not only permissible, but they have become a lesson on which to grow.

Ever since I started my new life as a knitter, I have often been nervous about blatant mistakes on my work... Yes, I know, most mistakes correct themselves in the long run, and as one of my LYS owners reminds me... "We knitters often forget about the thousands of perfect stitches we make and only focus on the one that did not come out as well..."  (Now, that is a life lesson I want to absorb and pass on to my son!)  However, when a blatant mistake, one with which you cannot live, is made, we have three options: 

(1)  back-track stitch-by-stitch to fix the issue,
(2)  put the work aside and pray to some knitting force that the mistake will go away by itself... LOL! (...and what ends up happening is that the work is never picked up again), or
(3)  rip it and either catch the work in a row below your mistake or start from scratch.

Until recently, I only subscribed to option number one since the mere thought of taking the needles off of my work caused more agita than the announcement that Pushing Daisies AND Eli Stone were BOTH going off the air!  :(  However, early in the summer, I met a group of men who empowered me to cut, rip, and backtrack in a more aggressive and speedy manner.  Ribbit, Ribbit.  (Thank you, Todd and Michael!)  And why not?!  After all, stitches can be redone, and if a mistake in your lovingly knitted article is going to make you unhappy, start it over, or rip it until you feel comfortable that it is what YOU want it to be.

Introducing Joss...

In this "What if Adam and Eve had had knitwear?" series, Joss was the hat that had seven false starts and when it was finished for the first time, the crown was attacked by a pair of scissors so that it could be frogged (ripped) down to the band and reknitted.  YES! 

At first, I couldn't find the right yarn, and even after I found it, I didn't have enough of it to move past the band.  :(  Once I started knitting the band, I couldn't figure out what I didn't like about it, so it kept getting ripped.  I needed to be happy with it.  All along, I kept on testing different yarns, gauges, and even patterns for the cable.  The crown was started three times, and when I finished it, I went to try it on my model and it looked a bit... off... so, with a glass of bubbly in hand and a pair of scissors (scary combination for both hair and yarn), we sat on our front porch, and I ripped it, ripped it... all the way to the band.  Now, that's empowerment.

This hat was knitted following the ultimate pattern:  a vision of what you want and no instructions.  More empowerment... (Wait!  How can it ever be wrong then?!  LOL!)  The cabled band was knitted first to about 22" (approx. 85 rows) with slipped stitches at the end of each row and a buttonhole about 1/2 " before the end.  Once I had the band fitted for length, I picked up 75 stitches from the wrong edge of the band - as I wanted to keep the slipped stitches border visible, and stopping about 1/2" before the buttonhole as it needed to overlap with the other side. 

On my first row, I increased by one stitch every third stitch for a total of 100 stitches, and from there, I followed by easy-breezy pattern for my beanies, purling my whole way through.

I love the color and the detail of the button.  Thanks to the many do-overs and the opportunity to have them while knitting this hat, the end product was a flirty beanie with a lovely button detail perfect for fall and winter - and now perfect for my sister who already claimed ownership of the hat.  Hee, hee!  e-

A special thanks for my wonderful and beautiful and not-at-all-shy, dear friend Susan H. for modeling this hat.  We had a great time working together.  There's more to come!  Please stay tuned... 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Try Something New!

I love the idea of trying new things out.

My sister and I have always had this unspoken agreement that when we go shopping, trying things out is essential to knowing if we like them or not.  The same goes with food.  ("No, mami, todavia no lo he probado.  Asi que no puedo decirle 'fo'. Tienes razón.")  Similarly, I often tell my son that trying things out allows us a taste of the food, the clothes, or whatever the activity, so that we can make better decisions.

This past spring, in the spirit of trying new things, my family and I visited New York City (NYC).  Let me clarify when I say "family"... my son (10), my brother's son (15), my sister (forever young), my partner Jon (we often joke that he's 90-something), and I together on vacation.  While it wasn't any of the adults' first time in NYC, it was the kiddos' (the almost tween and the teenager's) first visit to the Big Apple.

On life through a young one's eyes...

Because the adults had been to NYC so many times, we seem to have forgotten how wonderous a place this is!  My son was perplexed by the big city, the traffic, the people.  I often found myself quoting my aunts, uncles, and grandparents who lived in NYC while we were growing up, when they all had to rein us in every time we went for a walk. "P, keep an eye on us or hold my hand!" I would say often.  But it is difficult to follow or not just stare when you are surrounded by skycrapers, beautiful greenery (as in Central Park) and so much activity.

By the second day - and based on my lesson learned when P and I went to Disney World many years back - I surrendered to the experience of just enjoying it all as if it were all new to me...

On those new things...

It was on one of those days when I was walking around like my ten-year-old that I noticed the most interesting ad.  In its center, there were two chopsticks with knitted noodles. (Did you know you can knit with almost anything?!) I laughed and pointed it to my sister and my partner - both knitters.  I loved it.  (BTW, since then, I have researched this further, and of course, YouTube has videos on "how to" knit with noodles and chopsticks. Go figure!)

This idea got me thinking, though... I love my local yarn shops (LYS), and I wondered... Could I find something to knit somewhere else other than my LYS or my LNJ (that's "local noodle joint")?

Since we were staging our home for sale and buying a new-old (!) home which would need some TLC, we were visiting home improvement stores every weekend. (What happened to my LYS weekly visits?! Sniff!)  It was at our local home improvement store that I ventured into two aisles looking for: (a) rope and cording and (b) snaps and closures.  I have always loved the bright colors in which nylon cording (a.k.a. mason lines) come:  oranges, hot pink, yellow, and even pure white.  Could I knit something for "Adam" which was manly-like and wearable using these? 

And so, these necklace and bracelets were born...

Using the infamous i-cord, I cast on four stitches onto the the clasp (i.e., used the clasp as a secondary needle on which to cast on) and knitted the i-cord long enough not to be a chocker, but short enough so that it wouldn't be a "strand of pearls".  To create a second loop, I flattened the i-cord, and reduced by K2tog until I had one stitch left.  When weaving in my end, I left a little loop which could be grabbed by the clasp. 

I applied the same principle with the hot pink bracelet (three stitches instead of four), except that I reversed the method... I cast on separately sans clasp and knitted the i-cord until it was long enough to go around the wrist.  Instead of casting off, I replaced the needle with the clasp and snuck in the end through the cord.  To secure the bracelet, I just snuck in the cast on end into the clasp.  Voila!  ;)

Lastly, I had to try cabling with one of these... Six stitches this time with a three-stitch cabling (to the back)... Could it look like a braided bracelet... I think so...

Knitting with nylon cording was... interesting.  It was rough, and tough, and manly, and... wait... Knitting with nylon cording was... interesting!  ;)  And I think the experiment was successful: I have two orders for bracelets now! LOL!

So, have you ever tried to knit with something different?  If so, what was it?  I would love to hear some other ideas and see some pictures!  Keep me on the edge; I'd like to try something new soon!  e-

Special thanks to Eric S. (again!) who modeled for these pictures.  He was quite the trooper in modeling these and we ended with more pictures that I could ever post... maybe. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June, June, June

If you have never seen the YouTube video phenomenon of Leslie Uggams butchering (and I say that painfully because I love Miss Uggams back from her days in "Roots" - the ground-breaking mini-series!) "June Is Bustin' Out All Over" from Carousel, you SHOULD.  Here, let me help you as this video is this post's foundation:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mrma76T5Wa4!

Have you ever tried lace?!  Well, I do to lace what Leslie Uggams did to "June Is Bustin' Out All Over" in that performance!  Man!  My hands with any fine yarn and small needles are not friends.  Like Miss Uggams, most of my lace work often comes out a big ol' mess...

On parenting...

Recently, I was chatting with a fellow parent, a mom at my son's violin studio (Hi, J!)  Together, we were commiserating on how difficult summers felt.  Most often, they are crazily unstructured.  We longed for the routines we had lost with the end of the school year... and how good these routines are not only for our kids, but for us, too.  I suppose it's exactly what that Staples commercial celebrates in the fall:  the return to the school year marks... the most wonderful time... 

Summers, in essence, end up feeling a bit messy, like a bad piece of lacework (i.e., my attempts at it to say the least) or a bad rendition of "June is Bustin' Out All Over"!  (Did you watch that video?!)

To avoid this lack of structure and because this year my son whom I often call "P" rebelled against camp, we are trying something new.  At first, it looks like a big ol' pile of activities - again, much like my attempts at lacework.  But upon closer inspection while there appears to be no structure to our summer activities, I am learning from knitting - as I have learned from his Montessori education - that everything has structure, even our impromptu work.  I love it.  P has a series of small camps and a whole bunch of activities at home.  The two of us are attacking every day and every week like a complex pattern:  a stitch at a time.  Similar to lace as well, our summer schedule (or our "pattern") seems to change every day/row, therefore, the two of us are trying to pay close attention to avoid having to unravel the work.  He is doing great, and this "life knitting pattern" of our own seems to be working... I love spending time with him and watching him grow.  Don't get me wrong; I'm still longing for the school year, but until then... What a treat!

As with other things, today, I am taking a page from life to inform my knitting, and I am taking a page from knitting to inform my journey through parenthood...

On Adam, Eve, and their knitwear...

Following the story, one day, Eve needed a hat...

Lace.  Lace.  Lace.  I'm not giving up on you, but I need to better understand how you function first!  We must try and try again.  Here we go...

In the beginning... Wait.  Could I try something other than lace?  My mom's shawl did not go well... Could I try something else?  Hmmm.... 

In the beginning... there was a man, some needles, and some beautiful yarn... some of his favorite.  (Yes, let's start with some of my favorite yarn!)  Using Berroco Ultra Alpaca - my "go to" yarn for beanies - I tackled the workings of lace.  Yes, I know... I have heard it already... worsted weight lace is for chickens, but remember, my method was to better understand the workings of lace and how it can be just like any other project, right?  (YIKES!)   I wanted to create something simple, quick, inspired by the 1920's, and that allowed me to explore something lace-like.  I wanted it to feel pretty, and I wanted it to feel girly.  To that end, I felt like adding a little adornment: a rosette.  After all, Eve was fussy about her looks as we learned later on during Sunday school...  ;)

The hat follows my quick recipe for a beanie incorporating yarnovers (YO) and knit-two-togethers (K2tog).  It was pretty straight-forward until I tried to use my preferred crown shaping which gives my beanies a rounder top and a spiral decrease.  Nothing was complicated; keeping track of the adjustmensts was a challenge - just like our summer schedule!

For the adornment, I experimented with both dyed (pink and green - see left) and natural color yarn (see pictures above) creating a long I-Cord (18"), folding it in half, and wrapping it into a knot.  Before doing so, I "opened" the I-Cord and continued knitting together one or two leaves (all in one piece) for dimension.  I liked it so much that I thought of a million and one different uses for those rosettes: tied to a ribbon around the neck, as a lapelle pin, as a headband, as a hair clip, as button closure (which you'll see later), as a belt...

Perhaps all of my women-friends (and some of my male friends) will be getting one this holiday season... perhaps...  

Thank you for reading and sharing with me.  And don't forget to feed the fishies! (Use your mouse to drop some food - by clicking - for them before you leave...)  e-


PS A special thanks to my beautiful friend, Meg T., for modeling this hat - neither she nor Eve was a prude, and I think Meg is prettier than Eve was.  Stay tuned for more...

Monday, May 31, 2010

In the beginning...

Having been raised as a Catholic boy in Puerto Rico, these three little words ("In the beginning...") tend to evoke a lot of different feelings - most of them of a religious nature. Today, however, I have learned that life is whatever you make it out to be much more so than a prescription of what "anyone else" has for you.  And beginnings can be so very beautiful, can't they?

On getting started...

A little over two years ago, I cast on my first stitch. I remember that day vividly. I was celebrating with two dear friends, and I felt courageous enough to try something new. "Can you teach me how to knit?" I asked Todd.  As loving and helpful as he always is, he answered, "Sure!" And so that journey began with a scarf I knit for my son, Pablo.  This scarf ended up being twice his height in length and wide as wide can be. We called it his "Harry Potter" scarf even though it looked more like a blanket, but hey... it kept him warm on the slopes during our first ski trip together, and he still uses that scarf to ski.

Since that first scarf, I have ventured into a lot of different knitting projects: beanies, shawls, fingerless gloves, suffered a case of the "onesie" with a mitten, neck warmers, baby sweaters, more scarves, a toy lobster (!), and sweaters. Whew! With every project, I have learned something new - a stitch, how to read a pattern, how to design a pattern, how to make a mistake, and how to repair it, how to put positive energy into a garment, and how to stop when the energy is not right. But most importantly, I have learned to be patient as stitches, like our children, do not always respond in the way you expect them to.

I know, I know... there is so much more about child-rearing.  And, I'll give you that.  But, it is in knitting that I have found (and keep finding) my chi. It is in the trance of knitting that I often ponder on the problems I face in my workaday job, in my relationships with my family and friends, and in raising my son.  I say that I knit to keep sane, but it is also in the trance of knitting that I find my inspiration.

On other beginnings...

It was in one of those trances that I recently pondered on an idea... After seeing a beautiful Tanis Gray scarf pattern in Vogue Knitting (Winter, 2008/2009), I decided to alter it for myself and try my hand at another scarf a little too big and a little too long.

As I was knitting the scarf, I started pondering on the idea of beginnings again.  In the beginning... there was a man... (remember, I was raised as a Catholic boy in Puerto Rico...) there was a man... (and in true fashion, my thoughts went on a tangent...) there was a man... his name was Adam... and what if Adam had knitwear?  Huh!  What if Adam had knitwear?!  What would this world be if Adam had knitwear?!  I have always thought of us knitters as really kind-hearted people, so would Eve have been a bit more prudent and not had that apple? Would Cain and Abel have been nicer to each other because they all had knitwear?! Hmmm...

When I finished this 11' (yes, that's eleven feet) scarf - a foot and a half wide - I rejoiced at the idea that this beautiful scarf could do more than be a fashion accessory.   It certainly was intended to keep me warm. And now, it had become a symbol of growth (both personal and professional).  It was a reminder of the kind-hearted nature of us knitters, and how there is so much out there to explore, still! This scarf left me to ponder the idea of what this world would be if we had had knitwear... in the beginning. e-

PS A special thanks to my good friend, Eric S., for modeling this scarf and some other projects to come... if Adam and Eve had had knitwear.  Stay tuned...
There was an error in this gadget