Monday, July 18, 2011

The Dress

This has been quite a year for our family.  Our little Charlotte had her birthday just a few weeks ago, and I'm still amazed to be raising another little girl.  I was quite certain that Naomi was to be our only girl, and that I was destined to be the mother of many boys.  During this last pregnancy I found myself patting and singing to 'him' and using male pronouns to refer to the baby.  As per Riendeau tradition though, we did NOT find out the sex of the baby on ultrasound and waited until the big day. 

One thing I love about midwives is that they usually do not announce 'It's a girl, or It's a boy.'  So after delivering Charlotte in the quiet of night at our home, I reached out for her, I looked at her and I exclaimed 'Eric, I think IT'S A GIRL!!  Really!'  I was completely shocked and would be for several weeks.

Now had I known this would be the case, my knitting needles would have been clicking away many months on the gown beforehand.  To be fair, I did knit several inches of the dress during my pregnancy (just in case) before abandoning the project as a waste of time - I was 'sure' I was having a boy!  So very soon after sweet Charlotte came into our lives I began to panic about a blessing gown for her.

You see, it had been a dream of mine to complete such a gown for many many years.  I have a vast collection of vintage lace-knitting patterns, christening gown patterns, and the like, and only needed the motivation to get it done.  Of course, lace knitting is no easy task, so I picked the one stich for the dress that I knew I was comfortable with and could conquer.

And so it began, from the bottom up, to grow on the needles.  Of course, when I decided to start the gown months before, I couldn't decide which pattern to use, so I just guessed at how many stitches to cast on and went for it.  Then it grew and grew and I poured over patterns, 'Would this one work?, would that one?'  I was headed for trouble, since I had spent EVERY waking hour of my postpartum recovery period and summer at home knitting, and I had no idea how to shape this mass of thread into a gown!!  None of my patterns seemed to make sense unless followed right from the start. 

Thank goodness for my absolute favorite knitting website in the world.  I found a gown and a pattern that I 'hoped' would work.  And one very LONG car trip later (that would be when an accident prevented us from getting to Alder Lake) I was shaping the top of the gown.  Yeah!  I couldn't believe I was actually there! 

Lace knitting is a fascinating process.  What you end up after all your hard work is a droopy mass of threads with no shape whatsover, so crumpled that you cannot see any network of holes.  A process called 'blocking' is required in order for knitted lace to take it's final form - before that anyone would think you were off your rocker for spending time and effort on that mass of stuff.  

Naomi helped me block the gown, which required hand washing the gown very vigorously, mashing it over and over.  We pressed the water out, mashed it into a towel, and STOMPED on it.  Yes - this is the heirloom in the making.  After that we used a corner of her bedroom carpet, laid a sheet out, and SEVERELY stretched the gown out.  At this point you are sort of molding it into the shape you would like to take, while it is wet and working with the give and take of the knitted fabric.  It metamorphs from a lump into something really marvelous and surprising.  The stitch irregularities even out, the lace flattens and the holes line up beautifully.  It is the best part of the project and never ceases to amaze me.

Naomi helped me to sew a little slip for the gown and she embroidered white little stars onto it which were lovely.  It was a miracle that we finished the gown!  It was a miracle to have another little girl in our lives - and a lovely blessing day with our family around us to celebrate. 

As we blocked the gown, I couldn't help but draw an analogy, probably one I needed to learn from at the time.  Sometimes after all our hard work in life, it is still required for us to be mashed around and stretched before we take a beautiful shape.  But it's so worth it.  Here's that 'Life is my teacher' part.

Blog Update:

One thing I was curious about, was how many different sizes this dress would fit.  I was thinking 'heirloom' while I was selecting patterns, and trying to make the neck somewhat adjustable for the future.  I tried the gown on Charlotte again, many months later, to see if it would still fit. 

My model would not hold still on the chair this time!
But that does mean that at 10-12 months it still fits!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A list of things NOT to do

I guess it is a quest of almost every person to become organized.  I suppose for many of you, like myself, it is a CRAVING.  Don't you just love neat little piles of folded laundry, brand new boxes of crayons with perfect tips, the smell of all things brand new, and neat little rows in just-vacuumed carpet?

Those are somewhat distant memories for me- but hold on here, because THIS IS NOT A RANT!

I once truly LOST my best organizing book, 'Confessions of an Organized Homemaker'.  My sister can verify this, as I had to humble myself enough to actually ASK her, 'Did I lend you my organizing book, because I can't find it anywhere?'  Yes I had it.  But I digress.  IN said book there is much advice which I dutifully tried, such as organizing puzzles by labeling every single peice but there was a rather interesting pearl of wisdom there that has saved me many times over.

A LIST of things NOT to do today.

Sounds crazy maybe, but maybe NOT.  There is a massive temptation to live in an all-or-nothing state.  We feel bad about things we can't or won't do, so then when all the sudden we are motivated we make the dreaded list.  It may start out innocent enough, a peice of paper listing things we are terrified we will forget, then growing, Growing, GROWING, into:  IF you are ME a massive list (picture Santa with a roll several yards long of Christmas requests) that would intimidate nearly anyone. 

So I've stolen this great idea, but I must officially own I'm totally taking it out of context.  The author assumes you have properly planned your tasks in advance.  I'm not even going there.  But here's my tidbit or two cents, if you will:  Sometimes it's ok to let go of everything and make room for something more important. 

Writing a list of things NOT to do is a freeing experience that allows you to declare, in writing, that you are going to let go and pay attention to something else of YOUR choice.

Here's an example:


I'm not going to do laundry - just today
I'm not going to try to organize my basement even though it bothers me every time I go down there
I'm NOT going to scrub my bathrooms, today
I'm not going to make my bed
I'm not going to worry about that pile of papers that is breeding like a virus next to my desk

Today, JUST today.  I'm NOT going to do those things.  I am going to watch birds fly and snuggle my kids.  I am going to hold still so butterflies will float by me.  I am going to enjoy my baby's smiles.  I am going to choose (Just today) that these things are the most important to me.  If I work for awhile, I will not get carried away or forget.

That is my list of things NOT to do today.  What's on yours?  I'm grateful for those birds and butterflies and smiles - Today - Life is my teacher.