Happy Birthday, Eric

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Today is Eric’s birthday.

On July 12, I gave birth to Olivia.  It was an emergency induction, four weeks before her due date; the amniotic fluid was very low, and the only reason it was caught at all was because, after Eric, an ultrasound and fetal heartbeat monitoring for the last for weeks was routine procedure.  Meaning that, in a very real way, Eric’s death saved Olivia’s life.

Eight weeks later, on his birthday, I still can’t come to terms with that.

I’ve had no trouble bonding with Olivia, but I miss Eric far more with Olivia to hold.  I find myself seeing a thousand ways a day that I should have three children, not two; all the time knowing that I would not have had three, no matter what had happened.  Without the monitoring, Olivia would very likely have been the one stillborn.  So I am grateful, and every moment of gratitude breaks my heart.   I didn’t choose, and I am still, and probably will always be, angry at whatever power did the choosing for me.

And still… I realized while I was in the hospital cuddling my new baby and watching all of our family visit Olivia for the first time, that in some tiny ways, I have found some kind of peace.  I have felt for so long – for a year – that I can’t stop talking and thinking about Eric, that I alone seem obsessed, unable to let it go.  Sitting there in that hospital room, though… It was a haunting feeling, one I will never forget.  Eric was a ghost there, but he wasn’t haunting me.  I saw so many people holding Olivia, and their eyes held the shadow of Eric.  All they could really see was him, all those people who seemed to forget and “move on” and couldn’t bear to hear me even speak his name, who turned away from me: I saw Eric’s ghost hovering near.  And to my complete astonishment, he was a presence to me no more and no less than Claire was.  I thought of him, of course, just like I thought of Claire, but I was holding and cuddling Olivia, and never for one moment was she anything but herself.  She’s still just herself.  To so many people, she’s… the coda, in a way, the end of a story that started with Eric.  But she’s not simply the “happy ending”.  There was certainly a journey for ME, but it didn’t start with Eric, it started with Claire and the shock of Life with Children.  (You parents know what I mean!)  And I don’t know yet if it ends with Olivia.  I do know that, while I struggle over and over to find a way to integrate Eric into the story alongside Claire and Olivia, he is simply one of my children.  I suppose, in very many ways, that means I’ve come far from where I was when I started this.

But today, of course, is a different story.  Today was about him.  It was such an empty day; no family, no celebration, no stack of presents to wrap last night, and I am writing this rather than cleaning up after a party earlier today.  But I smiled today.  I laughed.  I burned a candle for him, and I made a cake.  I haven’t cried; I feel a little like I simply don’t have any tears left.  Or perhaps it just hurts too much for tears, and they will come later, but today was a day of confusion; I didn’t expect not to know how to feel today.

125 hats.  The big count.  With the help of a lot of very generous, very special, very loving people, people I will be forever grateful to, we’ve made 125 hats – and a few extras – in a year.  (Or rather, about nine months, but we’ll round up.)  I spent a lot of time today thinking about what happens next.  When I started this project, it was for a year, to help me grieve, to give me a way to shake my fist at the universe and force something good out of a situation that will never, ever be good.  Now, though… I slowly began slipping other projects in, so I wasn’t ONLY knitting hats, but every time I do, I remember him and keep him close.  I remind myself and him that I’ve never forgotten him, not for an instant, anymore than I could forget Claire or Olivia for an instant.  I believe in this work, and it is the truest faith I have right now; I may never know if it does any real good, never talk to anyone who gets a hat, but I am certain that this needs to be done.  So, I’ve decided that I will continue the Colored Halos project.  In fact, I want to expand it.  I want to look at making it an official, IRS recognized charity, so I can start to solicit yarns from yarn companies to use to make these hats, and to give to other people making hats.  I am looking at whether it is possible to solicit hats, rather than money, on Kickstarter, to encourage people with beautiful, slightly-used, handmade baby hats they no longer need to donate them. (I know for a fact that sooner or later, I’ll end up with a box of handmade hats – not all of them made by myself – that I can’t bear to get rid of and will never have a use for again.  I can’t be the only one, and donating them to a family or a baby who needs them most is the best use I can think of for them.) There’s a story behind that, by the way, but that’s for another post.  I will continue to keep this blog up and running, as best I can with a toddler and an infant; it will be updated much less now, I am sure, but I will keep on posting patterns as I develop them, updates to the Colored Halo project in general, thanks for donations as I get them, and of course other events and news that are important or significant for raising awareness of stillbirth and SIDS.  My own journey through grief is far from finished, but the worst part is over.  Now, it’s time to focus more on Colored Halos itself, at least here.

125 hats.  At the very least, I’d like to double that number by next year.  It’s the only birthday gift I’ll ever be able to give him.

I love you, Eric.  Happy Birthday.

Linen Stitch Hat

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Picture 981

Five weeks left until the new baby is set to arrive; needless to say, I don’t have quite as much time to knit as I used to, and very little brain left to develop new patterns.  It’s a strange time.  In a lot of ways, I am doing so much better than I thought I would be at this point.  In others, it’s about as rough as it was in the first three weeks or so after I lost Eric.  Very hard these days not to remember in vivid detail what happened with his labor, and with what little time I had with him, but I have enough distance now to think more clearly about it.  Unfortunately, it means I’m very often angry at some details I hadn’t really thought too much about before.  By now, though, I have with Olivia had the chance to “redo”, in a way, some of the things that happened with Eric.  Call the doctor the instant she had a slow day, for instance, while with Eric, I waited until he’d stopped moving before I gave in to panic.  With Olivia, of course, everything has been fine, but I learned two incredibly valuable things.

1. Absolutely the best thing you can do as a mother who is having another child after losing one before is to rush in to the doctor freaking out about something that turns out to be fine.

I know, that sounds weird.  I only did it once, back around the 28th week; the baby was having a quiet day, I couldn’t feel anything I could identify as movement, and even though I KNEW everything was fine, I had to rush in.  The thing is, until that moment, every time Olivia took a nap or slept in late or just stopped moving for a moment, all I could think about was what happened with Eric.  I would run over and over the memory of how we had gone in to the hospital, about that first ultrasound, of Ray and I telling each other over and over that it would prove to be nothing, and then the indescribable feeling, knowing it wasn’t, and having it confirmed.  Rushing in only to hear the heartbeat and see her happily kicking at my spine gave me another memory to walk through in my head, and I never had to rush in again.  It’s worth it, even if the doctors aren’t as understanding as mine were.  Otherwise, I don’t know how you ever get out of that memory.

2. You are not going to believe it wasn’t your fault until you have done everything (or not done anything, as the case may be), with another baby that you thought you should or should not have done with the one you lost.  Only then will you finally accept, at least to some degree, that you didn’t do anything wrong.  And it turns out, that doesn’t help as much as it should.

There were a few things that I felt I should have done with Eric, and through the course of my pregnancy with Olivia, I’ve had the chance by now to do every one of them.  The big one was calling the doctor the day when her movement went way down and got very slow.  Eric did that the day he died, but even though I knew something wasn’t quite right, I didn’t make the call until all movement stopped.  With Olivia, when she suddenly slowed down, I called after just a few hours.  And while my doctors were more than happy to see me this time, of course, when I asked, the doctor said that normally, they wouldn’t see it as a problem and wouldn’t generally have me come in.  It was enough that I was able to take a deep breath and say that I didn’t need the appointment if they didn’t think it was necessary, and of course this baby was fine, but as I thought it over later, I realized it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d made the call with Eric; they wouldn’t have had me come in anyway.  There was truly nothing I could do.

Of course, guilt is funny.  No sooner had I been able to let go of that guilt, than a whole new set of things hit me.  You deal, I suppose, and you accept that it’s just part of being a parent; as sharp as that guilt and grief are now, the guilt itself is more in line with the same guilt I feel over things I screwed up with Claire, and I’ve long ago come to peace with the fact that it’s a drop in the bucket compared to all the things I’ll feel bad for having screwed up before all my kids are grown.  Oddly, though, knowing there was nothing I could have done didn’t help as much as I thought it might.  Knowing you were truly and honestly helpless isn’t much of a comfort, and doesn’t make you feel particularly secure in the future of those children who have at least made it out into the world in one piece.  One psychologist – who had obviously NOT lost a child – shrugged when I mentioned I was struggling with that and told me “Well, in a perfect world…”  But while everyone may have to deal with that reality, I would suggest that it’s perfectly all right to struggle with that for awhile.  It’s perfectly fine to check on your other children 15 times a night, and to give yourself room to be very, very angry with a world like that, or with a God who sets the rules like that, if that’s your thing.  And it really, really helps to find a little way to do something.  Anything at all.  I make hats and blankets and baby cocoons, and sometimes, I share in here, and on bad days, I snarl at myself that a hat won’t bring a baby back.  And it won’t.  But it’s shaking your fist at a world, or – for me – at God.  And that is one heck of a better place to be than paralyzed by fear or lost to despair.

Anyway.  As I said, certain things have been much worse these last few weeks; mostly the nightmares and the vividness and strength of the memories of Eric’s labor.  That means, a lot of late night knitting with reasonably simple patterns, even though Claire, who is well aware that a baby is coming, isn’t much inclined to share my daytime hours with my knitting anymore.  I love the linen stitch, so I wanted to try a hat with it; I’m not completely satisfied with the decrease I used, although it keeps the pattern of slipping knit stitches and knitting the slipped ones from the row before.  I think there must be a neater way to do it, but I’ll have to experiment a lot more before I figure it out.  I do love the linen stitch as a border for a hat, particularly for a stockinette stitch.

Linen Stitch Hat:

CO an odd number of stitches, as required by the gauge of your yarn and needles and desired hat size.  I used 16″ circular needles.

Round 1: *K1, slip 1 purlwise WYIF.  Repeat from *

That’s it.  Keep repeating round 1 until you are ready to decrease.  To decrease:

Transfer stitches to 4 double pointed needles that are the same size as your circular needles.  I don’t generally use stitch markers, but if you usually do, you probably want to add one to mark the beginning of your round.

Round 1: *K2tog, slip 1 purlwise WYIF.  Repeat until end of round.

Round 2: *K1, slip 1 purlwise WYIF, K2tog.  Repeat until end of round.

Round 3: Repeat round 1.

Round 4: *K2tog, slip 1 purlwise WYIF, K1.  Repeat until end of round.

Keep going until you have around 8 stitches left on your needles, or until the stitches remaining will make a nice, tight circle when you pull them tight, or until you just have too few to work on the needles anymore, depending on the size of your yarn and your skill as a knitter.  To bind off, cut a long working tail while the stitches are still on the needles; using a tapestry or a darning needle, pull the working thread through the remaining stitches and drop them off the needles.  Pull the tight, tie them tight, and weave in the ends.

Please note that I am not 100% sure that the decrease will work with any number of stitches.  I used 61 stitches, and that decrease allowed me to continue to knit slipped stitches and slip knit stitches, while still knitting two together to decrease.  You might have to start with the slip stitch and move the K1 or K2tog to the end.  (For example: Round 2: Slip 1 purlwise WYIF, K2tog, K1, repeat.)  As long as you are knitting the slipped stitches and slipping (or knitting together) the knit stitches, you won’t end up with stitches that have been slipped too many times and gotten too tight to knit.  As I said, I’m working on a better decrease.

Linen stitch border hat:

Pretty straightforward.   CO an odd number of stitches.  Work in the linen stitch (Round 1: *K1, slip 1 purlwise WYIF) for as many rounds as you want until the border is the desired size.  Switch to stockinette, (knit every stitch), until you either are ready to decrease, in which case, decrease as you choose, or until hat is the desired length, in which case, add the eyelet row (*Yo, k2tog), knit another 2 rows, and bind off.  As always, weave in the ends and finish with a pretty ribbon.  Note that my hat above looks more gathered because I used a 100% cotton yarn which doesn’t have quite as much drape as I thought it might.  I couldn’t get a picture of it being modeled by one of Claire’s baby dolls, but it did look just like any other hat with a gathered top when it was actually being worn.

I’m working at the moment on a linen stitch baby cocoon, which will be the next project I post here.  Linen stitch is a particularly good stitch for multicolored yarns, I’ve found, because if there’s any pooling, it isn’t nearly as obvious as it is with most other stitch patterns.  It is dense, as well, so it’s good for autumn and winter hats, and great for cocoons when you want the baby to be warm (or don’t want to feel how cold a stillborn baby is too fast.)  Hopefully, it won’t take me a month this time to finish the pattern to my satisfaction.

 

A huge thank you!

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Just wanted to say a huge thank you to all the wonderful knitters at St. Michael’s, who sent another bag and box of gorgeous baby hats for Colored Halos.  I received them yesterday, and they are just beautiful!  They will also go to St. Peter’s, the hospital where I delivered.  I will probably drop them off in a few weeks when I have my next appointment up there, if only to give me a chance to finish up a few of my own hats that need some finishing touches.  I am told a special thanks is owed to Norma, who has really driven this project forward in the church, and who created an entire box of absolutely adorable hats in all sizes all by herself!  I’m just in awe of how skilled you knitters are!  I know every parent who gets one will really treasure it, and that it will be a gorgeous touch for the babies when they really need to look their best.

Claire’s birthday is this week!  Life has been a lot easier these last few weeks, and her birthday is such a welcome burst and celebration of life.  I can not ever feel guilty for celebrating her, regardless of the rest of life.  That’s the hope I wish most for every parent who has gone through this; that they finally find that one moment when they can really, deeply, to the bottom of their heart celebrate something of life, without guilt.  Claire’s birthday can’t ever take away from Eric, and it’s a huge, deep breath of spring air after an autumn and winter in a musty old house, at least spiritually.

Anyway, I am still trying to finish that double linen stitch blanket I laid out in a previous post, but I have three forthcoming hat patterns (as soon as I get the detail work figured out), and my next project – possibly before this one was finished, the double linen pattern in fingering yarn takes FOREVER! – is a baby sack.  If you don’t have or usually knit for babies, don’t call Child Protective Services on me just yet, they aren’t as grim as they sound.  They are also called baby cocoons and… huh, can’t remember the other names off the top of my head, (pregnancy brain) but there’s quite a few, each name referring to whether they have openings at the bottom, hoods, etc.  If they have hoods, they are baby buntings, I believe.  A lot of patterns for them come with matching hats, so I thought they would be another perfect thing to branch into.  As always, if anyone finds a great pattern and wants to pass it on, feel free to contact me!  I am always looking for more patterns to share, especially as I am rapidly coming to the end of new patterns I can make up quickly for hats.  I have a very simple baby sack pattern (closed bottom and no hood).  I just need to test out before I post it, but for the adventuresome, they are basically just hats turned upside down and knit very long, so you can slip the entire baby in there feet first.  A living baby supposedly finds it comforting to be all bundled up like that; I wouldn’t know, since Claire HATED to be swaddled and would not tolerate anything that forced her to keep her feet covered or restricted her arm movement.  For a baby who has passed on, they are particularly wonderful things for the parents, because they hide a lot of damage, they are very easy to get on, and you can cuddle the baby without being quite so aware of some of the physical changes that happen after a stillbirth.  They are less bulky than a blanket, but they still look just as good for pictures, or for the funeral as well.  I know it sounds like a weird thing to care about, but as I learned, there is nothing worse than being a parent reeling from a traumatic birth and the subsequent grief, and then having people expecting you to deal with details like that.  A matching hat and baby cocoon can be a lifesaver.  I plan to crochet mine in pastel stripes, to start with, so again, if someone beats me to it, feel free to let me know how it came out!  Otherwise, I’ll post pictures and patterns as soon as I can.

Another huge thanks to St. Michael’s, and to everyone else knitting, crocheting, or otherwise making hats.  Bless all of you for the help you are giving to people when they really need it most.

Rose Trellis Lace Blanket

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It’s been a rough couple of weeks.  All the literature I’ve seen warns you of how difficult your baby’s birthday is likely to be, especially when you lost your baby at birth, but it was my own birthday that got me very badly this year.  Even after it’s all over, I still can’t figure out how there is ever going to be any way I can face my own birthday without rage and guilt.  I can’t even imagine trying to celebrate it.  How do you be happy or grateful for another year when your baby will never, ever even have one?  I can celebrate Claire’s and Ray’s, but my own was one of the most difficult times since I lost Eric, far worse than the holidays were.  And it’s hard to express those feelings to other people; Ray wanted very much to make it a special day, because for him, his deepest fear (and not unrealistic, given the labor) was that he was going to lose me as well as his child.  How do I tell him that I’ve never hated myself more than on the day that marks how I lived when Eric didn’t?  Some smart person who knows about grief needs to write about how you cope with those days.  I mostly cried and then came down with gastroenteritis (along with the rest of the household).  It certainly got me past the grief – nursing a sick toddler all night will pretty much get you past anything, and I’ve never been so grateful to be that tired and that sick – but probably isn’t the best coping mechanism in the long run.

I did, however, also manage to get a little bit of knitting done.  I apparently have this subconscious need to make baby blankets; I’d actually intended to make a wrap, but after I’d gotten a good 15 or so rows in, I realized two things: I was not going to have enough yarn for a wrap, but by complete coincidence, it was going to be the perfect size for a baby blanket.  Claire has a beautiful white christening blanket that my mother made her, and while it didn’t become her favorite security blanket as a toddler, from about 6 weeks until about 9 months, it was her favorite blanket in the whole world, mostly because she loved the bumpy feel of the crochet pattern and the lace border.  This blanket won’t be the warmest a baby could have, but for a living baby, the slightly bumpy lace pattern is great for little fingers to explore and feel (and it’s easier for them to move the blanket around where they want it).  For a family grieving, it makes a particularly elegant and pretty blanket for pictures and the funeral, much like a christening blanket.  It’s also a very easy pattern, easily adaptable to lots of different kinds of yarn or sizes (and in a much larger size, would also make a great throw.)  Despite being a lace-style pattern, changing the colors is really all you need to make it clearly a “boy” or a “girl” blanket, if you are into that sort of thing.

Rose Trellis Blanket3 Rose Trellis Blanket1 Rose Trellis Blanket2

Materials: any kind of yarn, enough for the size desired; 27″ circular needles appropriate to the gauge of the yarn.  I used 5 balls of  Premier Yarns Ever Soft Multi in Rose Garden and size 9 needles.  (There are so many colors of the Premier Yarns, both multi and solid, that it’s quickly become one of my go-to yarns for hats and baby blankets, especially because it is so soft and pleasant to work with.)

Gauge: doesn’t matter.  My blanket was  40″ wide and 23″ long and I got 1″=4 sts in pattern.  It was more rectangular than square; I figured we could use it lengthwise to cover our new baby when she’s sleeping, and horizontally to swaddle her, but the next time I give this blanket a shot, I’ll probably try to make it a little more square.

Rose Trellis Pattern:

Row 1: Knit

Row 2: Purl

Row 3: Knit

Row 4: K1, *yo, K2tog; repeat from * to end.

Directions:

Co any odd number of stitches

Knit 1 row

Work Row 4 of pattern

Begin pattern; work rows 1-4 of the pattern until blanket is the desired length, ending on Row 4.

Knit 1 row

BO

Beyond Hats

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I received a lovely email from my sister not long ago, and in it, she mentioned that hats are hard.  I completely agree with her.  It’s not so much that the techniques are hard, although they can be when you are a beginner, but sizing is hard.  It’s very hard if haven’t had babies around to measure, and it’s still hard even if you have.  My house is littered with small knit hats that were too big or small, even being pretty generous to myself, and, even more often, with hats where I’ve managed to mess up the proportion between width and length.  Luckily for me, I have a toddler who hates to wear hats herself, but loves to play with them and aspires to have a hat for every doll and stuffed animal she owns… and who is equally happy when I re-purpose them into little pouch purses (but who will not be any less interested in MY purse, no matter how many of her own she has!)  That said, I stumbled across a book Claire stole from my mother when we were out visiting in November: Topsy-Turvy Inside Out Knit Toys, by Susan B. Anderson.  Most of the toys in the book use the same basic techniques as hats; you just add embroidered faces, or animal heads, or stuff them, depending on what you like, and you have a simple toy.  I wasn’t even thinking of actually making them “inside out”, or the toys in one; I was thinking of just adding one of the animal heads and other details (like tails, ears, feet, arms, etc), and making them puppet-style, like Claire’s very favorite “floppy bunny”, a hand puppet she’s had and loved since she was born.

Likewise, if you like making baby blankets but are bored of making baby blankets, I found a couple of patterns for little “huggy blankets” (there are some here, just for an example) that are basically tiny blankets with little animal heads.  I’ve seen a lot of non-knitted or crocheted versions at Toys R’ Us, as well, and actually have one I bought for Eric just before he was due to be born.  I can’t repeat any of the patterns here, of course, since the patterns aren’t mine, but they should give you some idea of what you could do with various leftovers that otherwise might not have a purpose; failed hats, if you are like me, or larger swatches, or little bits of leftover yarn.  I know, it sounds strange to make toys to give to stillborn babies, but it’s not for the babies; it’s for the parents.

When I went into the hospital, it was the day Eric was due, and I expected a living child.  Therefore, I had everything you need for a living baby; clothes, diapers, blankets.  (Well, except a hat, but that’s another story.)  What I didn’t think to grab was the little doggy huggy blanket I’d bought for him.  One of my most vivid memories was of desperately begging Ray to pick that little toy up when he went back to the house; partly, it was because I knew I’d want it for any pictures, but mostly it was because I had it deep in my head that perhaps, if his toy was there when he was born, a little bit of his spirit would stick with the toy and stay with us.  But it WAS in all the pictures, and that was one of the best things we could have done, because it went a long way to making Eric look also like a little living baby, not just like a baby that died.  Likewise, we needed to find things to put in his bassinet for the funeral, and that doggy, along with his first teddy bear, were really the only two things I had on hand that didn’t come from the hospital, that were reminders of the baby we’d expected to have.  After the funeral, someone who had also lost a child said something to me about having my own footlocker of Eric’s things; but I’m not really a footlocker person.  Like just about every other parent alive, we don’t really have the money to set aside all of the clothes and blankets we’d bought or were given for Eric and never use them for another baby, anymore that I could Claire’s.  Everything else, though, just seemed better passed on to babies – or adults – that needed them.  Claire adopted his first teddy bear, named it, and cherishes it.  One or two other little things too young for Claire were given away to another expectant mother.  But that little dog blanket will stay with me forever, and when I die, it will be in MY casket, before they cremate me.  So, yes, it does matter.  And the thing is, while a hat is perfect for taking out and touching and looking at, and the perfect size to slip into a memory box or baby book, it’s hard to cuddle when you really need to cry.  And you really do need something to hold onto and cuddle, afterwards, because you have NOTHING, and that toy therefore often becomes the only thing you do have left, even when, like me, having things isn’t really a comfort.  But if you are the kind who does need a footlocker, the one thing a parent is most likely not to have yet is a toy, even though it’s the toys that we remember most about children as they grow up.  (I can still name that special stuffed animal that each of my siblings had, as well as myself.)  So being able to take a little huggy blanket or a little knit puppet home and hold on to it might very well mean even more than a hat.  It’s just a thought, but I really hope that, strange as it may sound, people consider it when they are thinking about things to make to donate.

Basic Basketweave Baby Blanket (Sunset Blanket)

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Sunset Blanket 3 Sunset Blanket 2

I love when a blanket this easy looks this good.  I think of it as the Sunset Blanket, because of the colors, but of course, a different selection of self-striping yarn will have a different effect.

Materials: 6 balls of Lion Brand Amazing yarn; 2 balls Glacier Bay (Color A), 2 balls Vineyard (Color B), 2 balls Aurora (Color C); size 10 1/2 needles.  Circular is a little easier to use to handle the length of the blanket, but aren’t necessary for the pattern.

Gauge: 4 sts = 1″ in the pattern.  This makes a blanket that is more toddler- or crib-sized than newborn (about 55″ by 41″); to be honest, on the next one, I’d drop down to 10 needles and let the blanket just be a little smaller.  I also knit very tightly, but, of course, with a blanket, gauge isn’t really important.

Pattern (multiple of 4+8)

R1: K4 *K4, P4; rep from * to last 8 sts, K8

R2: K4 *P4, K4; rep from * to last 8 sts, P4, K4

R3: same as R1

R4: same as R2

R5: same as R2

R6: same as R1

R7: same as R2

R8: same as R1

Blanket:

With Color A, CO 148 stitches

Knit 8 rows

Begin pattern.  Work rows 1-8 3 times.  Change to Color B; work rows 1-8 4 times.  Change to Color C: work rows 1-8 8 times, then rows 1-4.  Change to Color B; work rows 5-8, then rows 1-8 3 times, then 1-4.  Change to Color A.  Work rows 5-8, then rows 1-8 twice, then rows 1-4.

Knit 8 rows

BO loosely.

It sounds more complicated than it is, but once you start knitting, you’ll see immediately what is going on.  Basically, I used all of of the yarn I could from each ball; in the middle, with Color C, I just kept knitting in the pattern until I’d used up as much of both balls as I could, making sure that I ended on either row 4 or row 8 of the pattern, so each “block” in the basketweave was the same color.  This meant I ended up getting only half way through the pattern when I had to change back to Color B, and therefore had to pick up with rows 5-8.  An easier way to do it is to follow the pattern up to changing to Color C; then knit rows 1-8 as many times as you can, then just cut the yarn, switch back to Color B at the end of row 8, even though you’ll have more unused yarn.  Then, you just repeat the first part of the pattern: work rows 1-8 4 times in Color B, switch to Color 1, work rows 1-8 3 times, then finish up as written above.  I would have done that if I’d been able to face the amount of ripping it would have required when I realized I didn’t have enough yarn to finish the last half of the pattern.  Giving you the pattern the way I SHOULD have done it, however, would have changed the length of the blanket I stated above, so now you have it both ways.  If someone wants the simpler version written out as a proper pattern, just comment or send me an email and I’ll write it out properly and post it separately.  As I said, though, the yarn you use will change how many repeats you can get out of the ball of yarn, and once you get started on the pattern, it’s pretty easy to see how to proceed.

Another note; the yarns listed above are self-striping.  I point this out because I love the dramatic and colorful look you can get using a few different colorways of the same self-striping yarn line together in a project like this, and in this blanket, the colors really shone and made it look really impressive for such a simple blanket.  If you use the SAME color for the entire blanket, you can simply repeat rows 1-8 as many times as you want to get the desired length, and the project is as simple as they come.  Changing the order of the colors (ABCABC, instead of ABCCBA, for instance), or doing the blanket in 6 different self-striping colorways (yes, I am that sort of person, and intend to do that with the next blanket) would also produce some neat effects.  Again, if you do that, you can simply repeat rows 1-8 as many times as you want, and switch colors at the end of row 8 for an even simpler pattern.

 

Hats for special people

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I was at Wal Mart the other day, with a couple of hours to kill until a vision appointment, so I picked up a couple of balls of Peaches and Creme, including a ball in Stars and Stripes, and one in Camouflage Rose.  I just finished a pair of hats in the Camouflage Rose, and it immediately hit me that it was the perfect hat for the daughter of a service person.  Losing a baby before the baby is even born is never fair, but how much worse it must be to deal with all the stresses and complications of being a military family, particularly if there was a deployment during the pregnancy, only to lose the baby at the end.  How especially horrible for both parents when the mother had to go through the birth alone, only to have the baby be stillborn.  I got to thinking as well about the far too common stories I’ve heard lately where a firefighter or police officer lost their lives while their wife is pregnant, and again, how unbelievably painful that has to be for the mother if the baby passes as well.  Just wanted to take a moment today to suggest that, along with the seasonal and holiday hats we immediately think about making, it’s worth taking a moment to consider a hat that honors a parent’s sacrifice as well, whether that parent also lost his or her life or not.  Particularly if the father did, the only thing I can imagine would bring any comfort in that situation would be the knowledge that at least my baby and my husband were together… and I would really need something to hold onto to remind me of that.  Consider also adding a note for the hospital that the hat be saved for such a family – because there will be one, sooner or later – and perhaps, if you have contact with the local police or fire station, they might have a specific color or pattern that they use that you can match for a baby hat.  (I don’t have contact with any, so I’m not sure if police blue and fire engine red is as far as it goes.)  Another thought  might be to donate the hats directly to local police or fire stations, or to military hospitals if you have one close, so they can reach out to their own in the case of such a tragedy.  In any case, it never hurts to make a few and stick them in with the others, just to remember those who have already sacrificed so much, only to lose so much more.

Picture 952

Patchwork Linen Blanket

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All right, first off, I have to confess that I haven’t actually finished this blanket myself, for two reasons.

1. When I’m pregnant, my attention span is about as long as a toddler’s.

2. Any project involving multiple pieces and the frequent use of tools is DOOMED around Claire.

And, it was driving me batty.  I would come down in the morning, settle down to get a little bit of knitting of knitting done, and would count the squares I’d done and get something like “six.”  I’d get one 4″-4 1/2″ square done – maybe two, if Ray was home that day – and then, after I’d put Claire to bed, I’d count my squares and have… six.  And that struck me as odd, because as bad as I am with numbers, I do seem to recall that 6 + 1 (or 2) doesn’t equal 6.  But hey, the dictionary definition of “exhausted” is the pregnant mom of a toddler, so I assume I counted wrong.  Three days later, I find that one square hidden in Claire’s box of art supplies, because she wanted to match it to a crayon color, or, more often, tucked in with her tea set because to Claire, that linen blanket square is just right for a little napkin or coaster.  I take it back, but we’ve done the same thing in the two intervening days, and I KNOW now that there are more squares out there (how can a house as tiny as ours hide these things so well??!!) but the more I find, the better Claire gets at hiding them.  And I can’t remember what colors she stole, so I inevitably make too many of the wrong color, and I’ve yet to catch up.  I never completely abandon a project I start, but this baby blanket will probably be completed about a week after my youngest child goes to pre-K.

But, if you lack toddlers, or your toddlers are a little less into knitting than mine, here’s the pattern for you to try.

Gauge: 40 stitches in linen stitch = 4″ using size 8 needles (but I knit very tight).  Obviously, this can be changed depending on how large you want your squares.  I made mine 4 by 4 1/2 inches.

Materials: size 8 straight needles; 2 balls Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable.   I used Winery and Petunia; since this yarn is self-striping, it makes for very cool-looking squares and some nice depth to whatever pattern you assemble your squares in.  That said, this might not be the best yarn for the pattern; it’s fuzzy, and it’s machine-washable (not, if you are making it to donate to stillborn babies, that it’s likely to need to be washed), but linen stitch is quite tight, and it took away somewhat from the softness.  Personal preference, of course; Ray and Claire both loved the way it felt when I knitted it into blocks, so it depends on what you think.

Scissors, a small ruler, and a tapestry or yarn needle

Pattern:

CO 40 stitches (or an even number), leaving a long (6 inch or so) tail to sew the blocks together.

Work in linen stitch until the block is 4 1/2 inches long.

BO, again leaving a long tail.

When you have as many blocks as you need to make the blanket the desired size, lay them out in a pattern of your choosing, and stitch them together using the long tails and mattress stitch.  I’m just doing a simple checkerboard pattern, because the colors I chose tend to blend together anyway, so it makes a simple and dramatic effect, but experiment as you like.  More yarn colors open up a lot more possibilities, and since you make the blanket block by block, you can use quite a few colors, if you want to make it a stash-busting “scrap”-style blanket.

Linen stitch:

Row 1: *K1, sl1 w/ yarn in front; repeat from *; last stitch, K1

Row 2: *P1, sl1 w/ yarn in back; repeat form *; last stitch, P1

The Sixth Month Mark

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As promised, a picture of my first crocheted hats!  Red Hat Purple Hat Red Hat2

The purple and green one won’t be donated; Claire picked out the yarn herself a little before Eric was born, and once I learned to crochet, I realized that was the perfect use for it.  She loves it.  I have to explain every time anyone sees her in it that the color choice was NOT my fault.  Still, it’s the first hat I crocheted with a double crochet stitch, and you can get a good look at how I made it, for people who are smart like that and want to make their own.  As I said, I’m still trying to learn how to read crochet patterns, much less write one myself.  And I didn’t forget about the blankets I mentioned in the previous post, it’s simply that I donated the blankets before I thought to take pictures of them.  (I was at the hospital for some routine blood work and figured I’d drop off what I had, even though it wasn’t much, because some of the hats were good for Valentine’s day.)  As soon as I finish the ones on my needles, (the stockinette one with the garter stitch border), I’ll get that picture up too.

Only six months left in at least the original scope of this project, and I realized last night that in about two weeks, it’ll be six months since I lost Eric.  There’s a lonely phase of grief, I’ve learned; that point when people finally completely stop talking about the baby I lost, where people – sometimes literally – turn away if I even mention his name in passing.  And yet, I’m still bursting into tears spontaneously at baby commercials or lullabies now and then.  Even with this project, I knew that my father and both of my husband’s parents/ step-parents had never even followed the link I sent them to this blog, but I learned the other day that my own mother doesn’t read it, much less knit anything to donate.  It’s not so much disheartening – I’ll knit no matter what – but in a way, it’s a little unsettling.  There are days when it honestly seems like the only other person who even remembers Eric exists is Claire, who still babbles about him and remembers which things of his she adopted after she understood that he wasn’t ever coming home from the hospital with us.  Well, and my ob/gyn doctors.  It’s a weird kind of a blessing to know that they were almost as traumatized by Eric’s death as I was, and they, at least, can not for a moment forget it when they take care of this baby; I don’t want them to hurt, but I can not imagine trying to go through this pregnancy with them, too, pretending nothing had happened before.  I completely understand that grief is very different in different people, but it is a very strange place to find yourself in; a sense of standing alone in a world whirling on unaware, a reality that somehow is yours alone, and therefore, a little creepy.  A little like the feeling I got the first time I watched those old Twilight Zones as a child, where the last man finds himself in an abandoned world, and can’t quite figure out what happened to everyone else.

Anyway.  Once I finish up the blanket I’m on, I want to start trying some stripy hats, and some lace hats in lighter yarn, in the optimistic hope that the snow might melt sometime before I’m delivering this baby in August.  I found some lovely crocheted and knitted borders on christening blankets I think could be modified into hats, but I’ll have to experiment to find out.  If you have a great lace hat pattern, send me a link, and I’ll re-post it here; lace is a whole lot harder to just invent, and most lace hat patterns I’ve found are on the hard side.

Here’s hoping spring comes soon for all of us!

A Couple of Blankets

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I’ve been knitting and crocheting hats like crazy… enough that my doctor officially diagnosed me with carpal tunnel. I insisted he meant “gestational carpal tunnel.” He gave me a pitying smile, told me it was probably worse because I was pregnant, and we could always “re-evaluate” after the baby was born, but gestational carpal tunnel isn’t really a thing.

That said, I’ve still managed to get off a couple of blankets to go with some crocheted hats. I used a double slip stitch blanket pattern by Sarah E. White on her blog; having searched the archives for a proper link, all I could find was this.  I used Bernat Pipsqueak yarn, CO only a hundred stitches, and as her original pattern suggested, knit four rows at beginning and end, and four at the start and end of each row to make a border.  As it turned out, with this yarn, the pattern minimizes the pooling of the colors (I used one of the variegated colors, which looks like it was since discontinued).  Of course, you also can’t make out the pattern at all… which itself could be a good or bad thing, depending.  I make more mistakes when I can’t really make out the pattern, but then, no one including me can see them anyway.  Ray assures me that anyone who doesn’t knit can’t even tell there’s a border, but it is totally made up for by how impossibly warm and soft this blanket is.

But that got me to thinking, and I have two more patterns I’ve made since that have turned out well.  I also did a basic linen stitch blanket out of the same yarn.

Materials: size 11 needles (or size to obtain gauge; I suggest circular needles, just to accommodate the width of the blanket) and 1 -2 balls Bernat Pipsqueak yarn (depending on how big you want the blanket.)

Gauge: I got 4 stitches to the inch in garter stitch, but it’s not critical.

CO 100 stitches (or an even number); Knit 4 rows.

Row 1: K4, *K1, slip 1 purlwise w/ yarn in front; repeat from * until last 4 stitches; K4

Row 2: K4, *P1, slip 1 purlwise w/ yarn in back; repeat from * until last 4 stitches; K4

Repeat until blanket is desired length.  Knit 4 rows; BO loosely.

Of course, you can’t really see this pattern either with this yarn, but it makes this great, dense, comforting winter blanket; the kind I know I could leave my baby in when I had to leave him at the funeral home overnight, and a great blanket to cuddle yourself later.  I am REALLY learning to appreciate those things you can hold when you miss holding your baby (and your toddler is too squirmy).

But I still had a ball and a half of yarn left when I finished that blanket, and I wanted something even simpler, and easier on my hands, so I tried a basic garter and stockinette stitch blanket.  (The kind that is good for knitting when you are watching the Olympics with a toddler, for instance.)  It is an awesome blanket to start with as a very first project if you are just learning to knit and you don’t want to make the traditional garter stitch scarf.

Materials: same as above

Gauge: unimportant, but same as above

CO any number of stitches for desired width; Knit 4 rows.

Row 1: Knit

Row 2: K4, purl to last four stitches, K4

At desired length, Knit 4 rows; BO loosely.

There you go!  As soon as my internet is a little more reliable – curse this endless snow – I’ll upload pictures.  Hope this keeps your lap warm and your hands busy if you, like Claire and I, are trapped inside with all this cold and snow!

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