May 26, 2014

Rainy Days+Camping+Birthdays=Knitting

Amy Rose and Olivia: ready for anything, but definitely
bike riders extraordinaire.
Every year on Memorial Day Weekend, my husband and I take our kids (as they get older and busier, that means whomever is available at the time) camping at Fort Stevens. We join my husband's brother and his family for some hiking, bike riding, Oregon and WWII history and some serious eating (for some reason, camping makes us really hungry). Since the campground also happens to be on the Oregon coast, we also heavily prepare for some potential serious cozy time.

It rains in Oregon. A lot. The average rainfall in Portland, Oregon is around 39 inches per year, but head west to Astoria and that number bumps up to 67.26 inches of annual rainfall. Therefore campers must be ready for anything. You might get to do more bike riding than book reading while camping, but you might also find yourself relegated to your tent or trailer for the entire trip.
Amy is always desperate to be outside,
no matter what the weather.

My husband and I, both traditionally tent campers at Fort Stevens for nearly 40 years, have caved
in during middle age (and after an incident in which our tent was nearly floated away with rainwater and everyone camping that weekend was offered their money back at the ranger's station as they all left early) and purchased a camping trailer. This lovely trailer has truly made us ready for anything. This particular weekend was an ordinary local combo of hard rain, mist, fog and sun, but there was another thing to be prepared for this time: extra knitting.

Yes, I always knit--constantly and probably much to the annoyance of friends and family. But on this trip my niece announced that she was just dying to do some more knitting.

We had done some in the past, but I guess I hadn't realized how much she had enjoyed it. My brother-in-law confirmed her earnestness, saying she had been asking at home frequently to knit more.

Well, lucky for us the weather cooperated and gave us plenty of indoor time. And even luckier for us, there is now a newer fabric store near Fort Stevens, which also happens to carry knitting supplies. Luckiest of all, it was my niece's birthday. I had a trifecta of lovely excuses to go yarn shopping and spend the weekend knitting away.

"Aunt Janelle, her name is 'Annie' and she's
a purple girl. I want that one."
Amy Rose, my niece Olivia and I headed happily to the store on Saturday morning after only one night of camping. Olivia picked out a cute kid friendly "how-to-knit" style book and some yarn. I picked out the needles for her and we were armed and ready for the coziest possible weekend.

We knitted away, reviewing things we had done nearly a year before and learning new things in fits and starts. For her weekend project, Olivia picked out a very simple fingerless mitt pattern from her new book. They were knitted up in garter stitch as a rectangle and sewn up the side at the end, leaving a small thumb hole. (You know the one.)

The mitts progressed very slowly. Aunt Janelle (that's me) had to help a lot. Every once in a while, I'd even sneak the project away and do a couple of quick rows, just to give the impression of acceleration. I didn't want to her to feel like her project would never be finished.

So, between sun breaks and rain, bike rides and short visits to the campground's historical sites and the nearby playground, we finished a single mitt. And it was HUGE. I was hoping to not have to give a lesson on gauge, but gauge is no discriminator of age or skill level. (...and I am painfully aware that I recently claimed to be a total convert--I know, another duh me.grrrr....) I may have learned my lesson once and for all.

For this case I simplified the gauge lesson. I measured the first gigantic mitt, stitch count and all, using a piece of yarn--no inches/cm included. This showed her the concrete idea. Then we cut a  length of yarn to match the circumference of her hand. We compared it to the big mitt to decide how many stitches we really needed. Then, we tied a knot in the yarn as another guide, this one showing us how long we wanted the mitt to be. We knitted up the foundation rows in 24 stitches instead of the pattern's 32 and we worked it to the length of the knot in our "gauge yarn."
Get to it! It's so exciting to start a new project!

The second mitt went faster than the first one and Olivia had a good attitude all around: "Aunt Janelle, even though this one is huge," she held up the original offending mitt, "it's still special 'cause it's the first thing I ever knitted. I'm keeping it."

I have sneaked away the materials and am finishing up the second one for her. It is her birthday after all. And Olivia, figuring out what had gone missing as of this morning says, "Yes! Can you send it to me in the mail? I can shake it and listen to it like on cartoons!" She pretended to shake something in the air, "...except on cartoons there is always this sound of glass breaking and some cat sound or something. That won't happen. Anyway, I want to make more stuff! Ponchos and sweaters...I could make an Oregon Ducks flag for my brother and I can make slippers! Can I make clothes for my American Girl Doll? Do you think?" She smiled.

I smiled too, another knitter is born.

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