Monday, February 25, 2013

Never Saw it Coming

It's been awhile since either Christy or I have posted.  Two weekends ago, on February 9th, 2013, our beloved father, David Wilson, died suddenly at the age of 67.  He collapsed at home, after spending a lovely day with our Mum at their home in the country.  It was a beautiful, bright and crisp winter day.  He'd gone to work that morning, at the farm supply store where he managed the office.  It had been a quiet day---he loved when he had time to chat with all the farmers and the other customers who came in.  Then he came home and had a nice lunch with my mother.  The night before we'd had quite a storm, so he went out after lunch and worked on the tractor---another of his favourite pastimes, no matter the chore---and he moved the snow, creating enough room cars to park and get in and out of their long driveway.  He even plowed a walking path for my mother from the house to the smaller barn further back on the property, so that she could take the dogs for a walk each day.  When he was done, he and my mother had a cup of tea by the fireplace in the living room.  They read for awhile, and then my dad dozed on the sofa with one of the dogs (my little boston terrier, who was visiting them).  

  After his rest, as he did everyday, my father got into some exercise clothes and went on the treadmill.  He was very conscientious about his physical fitness---daily he recorded how far he walked, how many minutes he walked, and how many calories the treadmill said he'd burned.  He even used a heart rate monitor to be extra cautious that he was not over-exerting himself, despite that he had never in his life had a reason to worry about his heart.  His blood pressure and cholesterol levels had been well controlled for years, and he'd never had so much as a twinge of discomfort.  He was on the treadmill for 37 minutes and 5 seconds, walked 1.82 miles, and burned 165 calories that February 9th, all of which he recorded, as he did each day.  These would be the last words he'd ever write.  He came off the treadmill, walked out toward the hallway, carefully put down his pen and pad of paper on the bench next to him and then he died.  For my father, mercifully death was quick, and we imagine painless.  It came swiftly and quietly, and when my mother found him, his arms were outstretched, accepting, and peaceful.  

Since that day my mother and my 4 siblings and I have been reeling with shock and bereft with grief.  We miss him, and the emotion seems to rise and fall in waves, like a tide coming in and out. Because his death was so sudden, at times I have felt overwhelmed with memories and sadness that I will never see my father again, yet at other times I've had a powerful denial, that my dad is actually just out at work, or in his den, or out cutting wood in the forest (which he loved to do).  At other moments, there is just numbness and a persistent blue feeling, and I've had little motivation to do much of anything, including knitting.  

The first night, I found myself trying to remember what I'd ever knit for my father.  Then in his bedroom, I found the sweater I'd made him about 10 years ago.  It was 100% merino wool, worsted weight in a sandy beige -- a classic raglan sleeve pullover with a rollneck collar, and rolled edge sleeves and hem.  It was a J.Crew copycat, of their classic rollneck sweater, which at the time was a staple in their winter catalog.  Dad wore it very well, and it looked like he'd worn it recently, since it was laid out close to the top of a pile of worn clothing on his dresser.  I examined it closely.  Moths had eaten a couple of small holes in it, so I took it home to repair.  My mother told me to keep it, and to wrap myself up in it when I need to.  It was such a comfort to find it.

There was another knit I found in his room that gave me enormous comfort for the few days right afterward.  Though not handmade, it was a sturdy dark teal-green cardigan with a shawl collar, front pockets and leather buttons.  I remember him wearing it countless times while he read in his den -- the kind of thing he would advise us to put on if we complained of feeling cold around the house in the winter.  I wore it constantly for a good 4 days, and it felt good. 

My family and I all gathered together.  We helped each other get through the first difficult days, the wake and the funeral.  We laughed and cried and ate and drank.  We each struggled to begin to accept this new normal, and we each expressed how incredibly lucky we are to have been given the gift of this big loving family -- thank you Dad. 

So since then some things have been difficult.  Making sense of anything has been difficult, though we've been sifting through every aspect of these events, searching for meaning.  Writing has been difficult, though I think I'm getting past that, having had the privilege, along with my brother Michael and my sister Emma, of eulogizing my father when we celebrated his life at his funeral.  And surprisingly to me, the idea of knitting was difficult during the first week or so.  Usually such a familiar and comforting thing, I couldn't seem to focus.  The entire exercise seemed oddly pointless.  Fortunately, it gently came back to me, and in a matter of a day or two, I'd finished Bronwyn's mittens, and made a hat for Emma.  I was seeking out new projects, and on the weekend I visited my lovely friends at Espace Tricot, and indulged in yarn and warm chats. 
My Dad and me, Summer 1975.
In the tremendous gap created when we lost my dad, it has been the little things that have begun to fill in the space.  The love we all felt for and from him, the closeness we've gained from going through this together, and the small comforts -- my dad's favourite books, photos, music, and clothing, his humour, his idiosyncracies -- have all helped us start this process of moving forward, as a family, and of honouring his memory by living fully: doing what we love with the people we love, every day.  For my sister Christy and me, this includes knitting, and I'm so very grateful for it.  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

It's National Sweater Day!

Now, when you're a knitter, it seems like every day is sweater day, or hat day, or sock day, or whatever you happen to be making that particular day, but in Canada today it's been declared National Sweater Day, so how could we not write about it? 

National Sweater Day is a campaign jointly sponsored by WWF and the Loblaws group, and the idea is to remind people that we can all help to reduce energy consumption and fight climate change by lowering our thermostats and putting on a sweater.  They point out that if every Canadian lowered their thermostat by just 2C this winter, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 4 megatons.

Their website features yarn and knitting needles all over the place, and even allows you to pick your own personal "granny" to send you a text or call you on February 7th to remind you to put on your sweater.  While I'm not keen on the not-so-subtle suggestion that knitting and grannies go hand in hand (aren't we over that by now?) it's a great concept---a simple way to get people thinking about small changes we can all make to have a big impact on our planet.  

In honour of sweater day, I'm posting a couple of favourites.  First, a sweater I made for my wonderful partner Patrick last year (right).  This pattern is Brownstone by Jared Flood (who I wrote about yesterday).  I used Tanis Fiber Arts Green Label yarn (an all-time favourite for sure), and I loved how it turned out.   

I also find myself fantasizing about what I'd knit if I were able to cast on a sweater for myself today (assuming I'd finished everything currently on my needles...sigh).  I've been a little obsessed lately with a pattern by Ririko called Relax.  It's a boxy pullover-styled sweater with a wide neckline and 3/4 sleeves, knitted up in a sport weight yarn.  I love its clean, modern look and the easy casual style its got.  I think I'd knit it up in something from Northbound Knitting's yarn collection, in a medium heathered charcoal grey.  I'm drooling already. :-)

I'd love to hear back from some of you with your favourites in honour of sweater day? What sweater are you wearing?  What sweater project was your favourite?  And what sweater would you start for yourself if you could?  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Mid-Winter Treat

Brooklyn Tweed has long been a favourite of Christy's and mine.  There's something about their rustic heathered wool that makes it so satisfying to work with, and the outstanding quality of the yarn guarantees that you'll end up with a project you'll wear well for years.  

It was a particular treat then this morning when I read on twitter that BT had released their Winter 13 collection today.  The collection features some absolutely beautiful sweaters and cardigans, and lovely accessories too.  There are pieces like the Hellebore sweater, and the Guernsey Triangle shawl, which feature some beautiful texture for those like me who love that sort of thing, and then there are some gorgeous options if you are a fan of colour work, like the Grettir Icelandic pullover (designed by BT founder Jared Flood), and the wonderfully patterned Kimmswick scarf.  

Take a few minutes, grab yourself a hot chocolate, and check out the look book on the Brooklyn Tweed website.  Even better, order yourself a pattern and some yarn and make yourself one these great pieces---it's a mid-winter treat you deserve to indulge in!


Friday, February 1, 2013

Weekend knitting

Friday. I remember a distant time when this meant my fellow students or co-workers and I could heave a collective sigh of relief at making it through another week.  The glorious prospect of another weekend lay ahead, wide open with unstructured time and generally speaking, it was commitment-free.  (Unless there was a coffee date to go to with a friend, or a party to attend).  These days, now that I'm a mom of 3 preteen-to-teenage girls, Friday is a less reliable commodity.  Some Fridays, the weekend that lies ahead seems even more daunting than the work-week that just passed.  

Here's an example.  My girls each play on a competitive basketball team in our area.  This weekend, one is playing in a city about 5 hours away, from Friday night to Sunday, another is playing about 2 hours away, tonight and tomorrow, and my youngest is playing on Sunday an hour away in the opposite direction.  Not to mention that today the older two have 3 orthodontist appointments between them.  

I'm not complaining; this is typical fare for parents of older kids.  A lot less diaper-changing and spoon-feeding, a lot more driving around and paying for stuff.  Luckily for me, the logistics of the next couple of days have been taken care of by their father, since this is his weekend with the girls.  It's a pretty typical schedule though, and it doesn't leave a lot of time for getting my own stuff done, especially knitting.  (Though I must admit, I get a TON of knitting done while sitting in gyms, watching the actual games.  I recommend a simple pattern, if you're doing this, since I've been known to get distracted, lose track of what I'm doing, and end up having to rip out everything I knit once I've realized my error.  D'oh!)

So when a weekend comes along where I'll actually have time to immerse myself in some quality time with my needles, it's a true indulgence.  Though I don't have the girls with me over the next few days, my partner Patrick's kids are with us, so I'll be a little busier than usual.  I'll definitely do my best to make sure I fit in some knitting time however, and here's what I'll be working on:

I've been working on this Fisherman's Rib Cardigan for my oldest daughter for, um, awhile now.  Bridget picked out the pattern, and it surprised me.  I keep calling it the grandpa cardigan, but Bridget maintains that's this is the knit she wants.  [I can't emphasize this caveat strongly enough: if knitting for an older kid, have them pick out the pattern.  It's a terrible thing to spend a lot of time and money knitting what you believe is a beautiful sweater for someone, and then never seeing that sweater on them, as it languishes at the back of their closet forever.] The cardigan is a larger project and it's been rudely interrupted far too many times by numerous hats and other odds and ends, but now that I'm halfway done the sleeves, I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I'd like Bridget to be able to wear it this winter, so I need to push to the finish. 

After that, I've promised my middle daughter a pair of mittens.  I'd made a pair of Jared Flood's Woodruff mittens (below left) for myself last year.  Bronwyn wants a similar pair (which will save her from wearing mine all the time!).  She's picked out Kirsten Kapur's Wood Hollow mittens (below right) but so far I've only got the cuff of the first mitten made.  


Once those 2 projects are complete, I've got some luscious yarn waiting which I plan to use to make a Colour Affection shawl for me...but I won't let myself get distracted with that project here. Yet. 

What's on your needles this weekend?  Drop us a comment to let us know what you're working on, and how you manage to squeeze in knitting time even when the weekend is non-stop.