Amy Artisan

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Month: January 2009

Full Circle

When I was younger, the Artisan family lived in North Dakota. There were many cold winter nights where Mom & Dad would wrap us in Grandma-made afghans & take us outside to see the phenomenom that are Aurora Borealis – northern lights. Those afghans provided warmth from the cold as we took in all the beautiful colors that danced across the winter night sky.

A couple of years ago I came across a skein of yarn that was named Aurora Borealis – while the yarn was very bright, I knew that someday I would knit something from it. As I was deciding on a project for my holiday travels & time at home I decided that it was time to knit up the yarn. I selected a cowl pattern, held my yarn double & began to knit round & round the circle.

Earlier this year, Mom mentioned that she would like to learn how to knit – we just never got around to it when I was home in Sept. or at Thanksgiving. On Christmas Eve, I went up to the hospital to sit with Mom & brought along a skien of Sugar’n Cream yarn and some needles – in no time at all, Mom was working through the “Grandma’s Favorite” dishcloth pattern. As I knit round and round in the linen stitch, Mom was following the classic “knit 2, yarn over, knit to the end” rhythm of the dishcloth pattern. Before long, it was time to show her how to decrease in the dishcloth pattern. And then at home, as she sat in Grandma’s chair in the living room she bound off her first dishcloth. She immediately started on her second dishcloth and kept trucking along.

On Christmas Day, Mom & I knit by Grandma’s bed as she napped. When Grandma was awake, she was suprised to see Mom knitting. As Mom said to her, “Remember, you taught Amy to knit & now she is teaching me…” The day after Christmas, I knit round and round as we waited for the transfer from the hospital to the nursing home & then kept on knitting as Grandma was being settled into her new room. Between all of the bedside knitting and knitting at home as the family watched movies I was quickly done with the cowl.

This cowl project was a perfect example of the right yarn & pattern at the right time. When I mentioned the name of the yarn, Artisan family memories of northern lights were retold. And the bright yarn provided a bit of extra cheer that we all needed.


Northern Lights Cowl details
Chickadee Cowl by Kristen Kapur
Aurora Borealis Sock Yarn by Perchance to Knit held double on size 8 needle

Since I’ve come back, Mom continues to knit on her dishcloths. When it was time to finish cloth #2, she couldn’t remember the bind off so she googled & found a video of it.

For some time, it was evident that Grandma’s knitting needles were slowing down & coming to a stop. One of the last time I saw Grandma with her needles, I had to show her what to do. With Grandma’s move into nursing care, it is obvious that her needles have come to rest. But I’m so thankful that she taught me how to knit & I’m so glad that I was able to get Mom knitting as well.

The last time I asked Mom about her knitting, she said she was still knitting away – I think that my dishcloth cotton stash at home may be in jeopardy. She mentioned how relaxing the knitting is & how glad she is that she can now knit. Ah, the allure of the simple dishcloth knit! Even as I undertake more complex knitting projects, I find that the simple knit of the dishcloth can always calm. In between other knitting on the needles these days, I’m also making another batch of Comfort Cloths for washing Grandma’s face.

Got Gauge?

At some point in your knitting life, you learn the importance of “getting gauge” in a knitting pattern. Too loose, the object will come out too big – too tight, too small.

My first introduction to the importance of gauge was in a knitting class in 2003 or 2004. The LYS offered a pillow class that looked like a real skill builder: using a Jo Sharp Home pattern book we would knit 2 pillow tops (from different patterns) and end up with one complete pillow. The skills to learn: side 1 was a simple intarsia; side 2 was cables and button holes.

When I registered for the class, I was given the pattern book and guided to pick out the yarn and needles. I selected 2 beautiful shades of the Jo Sharp Silk Road & the needles that were listed in the book.

In the first class session, we immediately cast on for side 1 and by the end of the evening I was juggling both colors of yarn. I think it was the 3rd session when we started on side 2. Right away, everyone noticed that their own sets did not match up. The shop owner was less than helpful in explaining what gauge was & that we should have each done a gauge swatch before getting started. In the 4th session, we were supposed to assemble the pillows by seaming the 2 sides.

My side 1 was very loose and it was easy to see that my side 2 was very tight – there was no way that they would match up to form a pillow. Once I came to the realization that I would not end up with one pillow I came up with a new plan: 2 pillows. Side 1 would form a large floor pillow. For Side 2, I decided to only knit half the pattern and make a sofa pillow. Artisan Mom found some fun upholstery fabric for the backings.

Since then, many of my projects didn’t rely on guage – I think part of that might be because I had such a bad first experience with gauge. Before I embarked on my first sweater, I did knit a gauge swatch & at the end of all the knitting the sweater pretty much blocked to the measurements.

With the start of a new year, it was time for a new gauge swatch…yep, it’s time to cast on for another sweater! What’s on the needles this time? I’m following the crowd to the February Lady Sweater. This past weekend of winter hibernation was a great time to get going on this project. So far, it’s going well and I’m enjoying the project. As I’m working the yoke section, it’s a great chance to use several of the fun stitch markers that I’ve acquired. While I’m not setting a deadline for completion, it would indeed be fun to have this off the needles at some point in February.

The bitter cold winter weather continues – in fact, the reflection of all the snow outside made for a “natural” lightbox this afternoon as I was taking pictures. With all of the cold and snow, I envision lots of knitting time for this project in the coming weeks.


All last week the forecast was showing that new snow would be here for the weekend. On Thursday, the forecasted snowfall totals for Friday/Saturday were stepped up a bit. It quickly became evident that this weekend might be a good one to hibernate at home. Friday morning’s commute was a bit longer than normal because the first round of snow was coming in. Thankfully, the rest of the snow held off until I was back home before dinnertime.

(click the picture for details)

I woke up on Saturday morning to quite a bit of snow on the ground and it kept falling all day. The neighborhood soundtrack throughout the day was filled with shovels scraping the pavement, wheels spinning in the snow/slush and the whir of snow blowers. Before long, lawn chairs were out in the street as parking spot placeholders.

My “goals” for the weekend were simple.

  • Never ending pot of coffee: The french press was in constant use all weekend – the It’s a Grind Winter Blend is my current favorite. A bit of Italian Sweet Cream creamer & my sheep mug made it perfect.
  • Finish holiday cards: Umm, I had good intentions of getting cards out at Christmas and then life got in the way. So I’m going with a “New Year’s” approach instead. Signed, sealed & ready to go in the mail tomorrow.
  • New knitting project: I cast on a for a new “big” knitting project & have been making great progress on it. As the inches of snow increased, so did the inches of blue garter stitch. More details later this week.
  • Order 2008 pictures for scrapbook: It’s January – time for a scrapbooking retreat in 2 weeks, so I had fun going through the past year & figuring out what pictures to be ordered.
  • Catch up on Netflix: Ladies in Lavender and The Ballet Shoes were perfect knitting flicks.
  • Make a pot of soup: At the grocery store on Thursday evening I decided that I was in the mood for a pot of cauliflower soup. I found a couple of good recipes on a few food blogs & ended with my own hybrid that hit the spot (roast the cauliflower, onions & garlic before going into the pot, add some walnuts in with the ‘normal’ ingredients – blend it all together- yum!). Since I had the big pot out from the back of the cabinets, today I decided to make a big pot of chili for this week & the freezer.
  • Read: Between Christmas gifts and library books I had no shortage of reading material. This weekend it was The Reverend Guppy’s Aquarium and The Lace Reader.

I had hoped to head over to Jen’s for a bit of knitting this afternoon; however, I feel like I’m fighting off the start of a cold so I’ll continue to hibernate. (And be very grateful for a building mate who shoveled my side of the garage!) The snow is definitely getting old this winter – there have been too many long commutes in the snow, slush & slick. It was nice to enjoy this snow storm from inside my cozy home.

An Artisan Family Christmas

The Artisan family has always said that our holidays aren’t about tradition – they are about being together. Over the years, we have developed some traditions; however, we also know that the holiday will “go on” if we don’t do the traditions. Christmas 2008 was a real test of our holiday approach…looking back now, I think we all would agree that we succeeded.

A week before Christmas, Grandma was admitted to the hospital for unknown reasons – it was obvious that she was in general decline. After a couple of days she stabilized and we learned that she would be discharged to nursing home care – once a bed became available. Needless to say, it was tough being up here in Chicago away from everyone as this was all unfolding – I was counting the days until I would be flying home for the holidays. I made a last minute decision to fly out on 12/23 instead of on 12/24 as originally planned. On the 23rd I awoke to a snow storm here in Chicago – before I even left for the airport my flight was already delayed an hour. I didn’t care what the delay was – as long as I was able to get home! One hour turned to 2…3…4…but finally the flight was in the air.

Christmas Eve was filled with last minute shopping (groceries), visiting with Grandma and the final preparations for Christmas. Mid afternoon, while sitting with Mom for a bit at the hospital, I taught her how to knit (more on that in another post!). For dinner, I pulled together “a taste of Ikea” comfort meal – with a packet of the Ikea gravy mix, a bag of frozen meatballs and a pan of roasted potatoes & onions we quickly had a delicious dinner. Our Christmas Eve evening tradition is to watch It’s a Wonderful Life – this year, we were in the mood for Christmas in Connecticut instead.

When we awoke on Christmas morning, Mom made her delicious orange rolls for breakfast & as we enjoyed peppermint coffee we opened about half of our presents in the morning. Mom & Rebecca then went to the hospital to see Grandma. One of Rebecca’s friends brought us a delicious spread for our Christmas dinner in the early afternoon. Afterwards, we finished opening our gifts. After our traditional Christmas afternoon of napping & diving into the new books, Mom & I went up to the hospital for a bit – we took a plate of Christmas dinner for Grandma.

The day after Christmas, we received notice that a bed was available for Grandma at the nursing home – by dinner time she had been transferred. We were all relieved to have Grandma out of the hospital. On Monday afternoon she was transferred to the memory care unit – something that we all agreed was needed. The rest of the holiday time was spent visiting with Grandma, watching movies, reading new books, simple meals and just being together.

Rebecca got a new kitten, Maylene Noel, the weekend before Christmas who was more than happy to provide us with extra love & cuteness whenever we needed it. Because she was recovering from her “fix” surgery, she was just a lap kitty – although she was ready to get on the floor & explore.

Underneath the Christmas tree, there were many handknits. After months of keeping quiet about some of my knitting it was fun to finally share the projects with them!

For Rebecca, a Sunday Market Shawl in Dream in Color Butter Peeps. For Dad, a Hurricane Hat in Creatively Dyed Yarns Woodbrook. For Mom, a Christmas Lace Scarf in Brooks Farm Yarn  Four Play. I actually gave Mom her scarf when she was here in October – it was a cold weekend & it provided her with just the extra warmth she needed.On Christmas morning I placed a Mitered Hanging Towel on the oven door handle for Mom – I was thrilled with the JOY button that I found for it.

One of these days, I will knit socks for everyone in the Artisan Family – this was not the year for it. However, I was still able give everyone hand knit socks. This fall I discovered Fernwood Woolworks – Lynette uses her antique knitting machine to knit socks to your size specifications using the yarn that you send. So, I dove into my stash & found yarns for each of us. These socks are great – they fit us all perfectly!

Not all of the yarn under the Christmas tree had been knit by me. The Peruvian yarn feast continued with 2 more presents from Rebecca. I’m amazed that she was able to bring anything else home in her bag. In my stocking – a small skein of alpaca in 2 natural alpaca colors. Under the tree – a cone of beautiful forest green alpaca. Hmm…maybe a colorwork project?

All too soon, it was time for me to repack my suitcase & fly back to Chicago. While none of us could have predicted that this was how our Christmas would be this year, we all agreed that it still was a memorable one because of the the time we had together just “being a family.”

As this new year starts, so too starts my 4th year of blogging here at Amy Artisan – I’ll save my “year in review/looking ahead musings” for another post.

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