30 April 2013

okay, so I did get excited after all

Little girl dress!
Yeah, so my bit earlier today about maybe cutting out a baby dress tomorrow? The above is what happened. Not the book in the corner--I've just been re-reading that a lot lately. The dress.

I got the pattern from Made by Rae, which is a fantastic sewing blog. The dress is her Itty Bitty Baby Dress, which is one of her free patterns. I'm planning on buying her Washi Dress (which is sized for grown-ups) sometime in the next month, to make one for the summer, but this was a nice one to make in the meantime. The pattern just has one piece to print out and tape together, since the front and the back of the bodice are the same, and the skirt is made of two rectangles. It's not hard to put together, and the result makes me very happy. It's sized fairly small, although there is a second size available. Since it's looking like Munchkin will be on the small side, I went with the smaller version. August and September are usually quite warm here, so she should be able to wear it for maybe a month unless she grows really fast or we have a bout of wet weather.

The bodice of this dress is lined, so you get to turn it right-side out and poke the straps through (I used a chopstick). I'd never done piping before, so that was a new thing, and I love the way it looks around the waist. It's not quite as even as I would like, but it's good for a first try. I also decided to do French seams, another new-to-me technique. They're easy, and the finish is very satisfying. The waist isn't French-seamed, but I zig-zag stitched it after I took the gathering threads out to keep unravelling at a minimum.

Now that I've taken a picture, the dress is in the laundry basket. Everything in this dress is machine-washable, so Munchkin can drool all over it without there being too many consequences.

It strikes me that small items of clothing are good to practice new techniques on. Before I make the Washi Dress, I'll probably do a child's dress with shirring so I know what I'm doing. I also need to re-learn how to do buttonholes. I think it's been almost 15 years since I did buttonholes on the machine, and my grandma was supervising at the time. As she is several hundred miles away, and my webcam doesn't have the best focus, I'll have to do it on my own with the sewing machine manual at my side. If a buttonhole's a bit wonky, the baby won't mind like I would if it was my dress.

So, new plans for tomorrow: writing, going to the grocery store, and starting the baby sweater (but in the evening, so I get stuff done during the day).

Getting excited, but not making things yet

 Well, the last week has been semi-productive, but now I have more things I want to make. Sometimes, this is my motto:
It's a magnet, so my fridge reminds me to make stuff.
I made the mistake of finding a bunch of baby things to sew and now I really want to start cutting out fabric. I finished a dress for my SIL last week (no picture, but she's quite happy with it), and am in-between sewing projects. There's a wrap skirt I need to convert into something that actually fits and doesn't trail on the ground, and now there are baby dresses that don't use lots of fabric, so I can use some of the bits floating around in the fabric stash. And we need heavier curtains on our bedroom windows, because the morning light keeps waking me up too early.

I did finish this on Friday. It's been in progress for a while, because I would knit a chunk of it, get bored, set it aside, and then pick it up again. Plus I had to pull out about six inches of the back after I'd cast on because I realized I need to move it up a size.
My Fireside Cardigan: Finished at last!
 The pattern is Fireside, by Amber Allison. It's available on Ravelry for $5 US, and it's a lovely sweater. I did change a couple things, as usual. The closure on the front was done with an applied i-cord, rather than buttonholes, because I didn't want the buttonholes interrupting the cables. I seamed the arms, instead of working them in the round, because I wanted an easier time putting the sleeve caps in. Otherwise, it's knit pretty much as instructed. I used Knitpicks Wool of the Andes, which I have mixed feelings about (it tears rather more easily than expected: I've already had to darn the sweater). I have a whopping 5 1/2 balls of the yarn left, since the pattern's yarn requirements and the amount I knit up didn't match up. So Munchkin will be getting a sweater in the same yarn. And possibly a hat. And maybe mittens.

 The influx of items from my knitting friends has begun! This is the first knitted baby gift:
The first knitted thing for the baby from a friend
My friend Sophie, whom I've recently christened the Sweater Demon, since she's knit something like 4 or 5 sweaters in the last month and a half, made these. They are both adorable and machine-washable. I have that line from The Incredibles stuck in my head now: "And machine washable, dahling. That's a new feature."

When I've knit baby things for other people, the easily washable yarns have definitely been my first choice. Despite this, the baby cardigan out of the leftovers from Fireside will not be machine-washable. The yarn's there in my stash, and it suits the pattern I have in mind. Hand-washing isn't hard, but I don't plan to do too many hand-wash only pieces for the baby. Munchkin, if she's like most babies, will probably spit up on them immediately.

I'm casting on the next baby sweater tomorrow sometime, and we'll see how it goes. I might cut out pieces for a baby dress, too.

22 April 2013

The Merchant of Venice

 The Merchant of Venice is one of the plays which does not fit into the three primary categories of Shakespearean drama. Those categories are comedy, tragedy, and history. The Merchant of Venice is absolutely not a comedy, and it is certainly not a history. However, it doesn't quite fit into the mold of "tragedy" because the main characters do not die. Everyone lives...but not everyone lives happily. Today, it is likely that it would fall into the category of "drama," a serious play which may or may not have an uplifting denouement.

Like Othello, The Merchant of Venice deals with race, one of the few of Shakespeare's plays to do so. At its heart is the long-standing conflict between the Christians and the Jews of medieval and Renaissance Europe. The contrast between the two peoples becomes very stark when one examines the character of Shylock, a money-lender. He is wealthy, yet, like the rest of his people, he is forced to live in the ghettos of Venice. Because of his profession, he is necessary to the Christian businessmen, who were not permitted to lend money with interest. They despise him, not just because he is Jewish, but also because they are forced to depend on him. Finally, Shylock sees an opportunity to get his own back on the men who oppress him. He takes what sounds like an extreme measure, demanding that a default on a client's loans will be paid, not with higher interest rates on the loan, but with a pound of his own flesh. The man laughs at the demand and agrees to it, since he's never had a problem repaying money, and the ships carrying his investments are due in a full month prior to the end of the loan period. This stipulation sets in motion the rest of the plot.

The story goes thusly: Bassanio wishes to court Portia, an heiress whose father devised a test for her suitors, to ensure their worthiness. He needs money to do so. His friend Antonio offers to supply the money, despite his funds being invested in ships that are currently at sea. He goes to Shylock to borrow the money, and strikes the aforementioned bargain with him. Shylock hates Antonio in part because Antonio hates the Jews, but also because he lends money without interest.

Bassanio wins Portia's hand, but Antonio's ships do not come in when expected and are rumoured to be wrecked, so he is faced with paying Shylock a pound of his own flesh. Naturally, he takes the man to court. Shylock, in the aftermath of his daughter eloping with a Christian and taking much of the treasures of their house with her, insists upon his rights. The agreement was notarized and is legal. Although Antonio now has the money, the period for the loan has elapsed and Shylock doesn't want his money. The witty Portia, disguised as a man, steps in to argue on Antonio's behalf. When her plea for mercy goes unheeded, she takes another view: Shylock has, in demanding a pound of Antonio's flesh, threatened him with death, and as a non-citizen, now owes Antonio half his possessions. The tables turn. Antonio demands that, in addition, Shylock must leave the rest of what he owns to his daughter and her husband, and that he must also convert. All this he must concede, or he faces death himself. So he gives in.

A more traditional reading of the play would see Shylock as the villain, a monster so consumed with rage that he neglects mercy and true justice. His punishment, the loss of his money and daughter, and his forced conversion, is only just. The more modern reading of the story sees a different man entirely, one who is driven to the edge by the society in which he lives. He takes a wild, desperate chance to seize some sort of justice for himself, and ends up bereft of family, money, his community, and his livelihood (as a convert, he is estranged from his people and no longer permitted to be a money-lender). Henceforth, he will be an outcast among both the Jews and the Christians.

I suppose it's obvious that I prefer the latter reading. It makes the entire story more complex. Shylock is not entirely a villain, and Antonio is not entirely blameless. Antonio practically revels in stripping Shylock of what little he has left to him. Portia, for all her talk of mercy, shows Shylock little of it. True, she is rescuing her husband's best friend from a probable death, but she doesn't stop to think of Shylock's perspective. I suppose it's odd that I think more about the so-called villain of the piece, when one of Shakespeare's prime female roles is also in this play, but the truth is that I find Shylock a more interesting character to explore. Portia is interesting enough, but she's not the complex mix of good and bad that Shylock seems to be.

Our next stop will be As You Like It. We move from the darkness of Merchant of Venice to the bizarre and light-hearted Forest of Arden.

Favourite Quotes

"How every fool can play upon the word! I think the best grace of wit will shortly turn into silence, and discourse grow commendable in none only but parrots." Lorenzo, The Merchant of Venice III.5.48-51

"The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction." Shylock,  The Merchant of Venice, III.1.76-78

"The brain may devise laws for the blood, but a hot temper leaps o'er a cold decree." Portia, The Merchant of Venice, I.2.19-20

17 April 2013

a knitting goof (and more pregnancy rambling)

Cute, right? It's a great hat, right? Well, this is what happens when you don't swatch, use yarn and needles rather different than the pattern's recommendation, and change a few things to "fix" what you think of as problems with the pattern without thinking them through. 
This hat was supposed to be me-sized. Instead, Munchkin now has a lovely winter beret for this year. And the yarn's discontinued, so I can't make a matching grown-up version. Yes, well, I suppose pride must go before a fall. I'd been so convinced that my mods to this pattern would render it much better than the original, but several of my changes just didn't work out as planned. This happens to me once in a while. It happens less often with knitting than it used to, but it certainly happens more often than I'd prefer. It happens with cooking, too, when I hare off on my own without thinking too hard about what I'm doing.

To clarify: changing a pattern or a recipe is not a bad idea. Changing a pattern or recipe without thinking about what the changes might do can be a very bad idea. This hat also exemplifies one of the laws of knitting physics: A work-in-progress may look either larger or smaller on the needles than it is in reality.

I can't even blame this hat on baby-brain, because I started it almost a whole year before I got pregnant, and it wandered in and out of the WIP box during that year. I finally finished it last week. Either I really goofed, or I'm psychic and knew I'd need baby-sized items. (Although by that logic, I'd have the sweater I'm working on turning out tiny, too, which it's not).

Last week, I got to have an ultrasound, which led to my doctor scheduling yet another ultrasound for the end of May. The baby is a tad smaller than expected, so now they have to check up on it again. The baby being small doesn't phase me quite as much as it might. I am a short person, from a short family, and I and a couple of my brothers were below the 10th percentile when we were born, and we were all perfectly healthy. I did marry into a family that produces larger babies (J. was somewhere around 9 pounds to my 5.4 pounds at birth), but so far, my genes seem to be winning as far as size goes. As far as temperament goes, well, the baby's activity level is more reminiscent of J.'s energy levels, which are much higher than mine. Being a little small may be absolutely normal for this baby, or it could be related to the way I couldn't keep much food down for the first half of my pregnancy. At least at my most recent check-up, I'd gained weight (less than I should have, but better than losing weight again). Eating food that stays down is becoming normal again, which is a wonderful feeling.

The baby should catch up a bit in size now that I'm actually keeping food down on a regular basis (or I hope that's what'll happen, so the doctor will stop worrying). The morning sickness isn't completely gone, but I'm off the medication and I'm keeping food down and only being sick occasionally. The nausea isn't gone, but that's easier to handle than constant vomiting. The interesting pregnancy symptoms haven't abandoned me yet, though. I get pretty achy and the baby likes to settle on top of my bladder, so I'm waking up many times at night to drag myself to the bathroom (practice for when Munchkin's here and needing to be fed in the middle of the night--I'll get used to the sleep interruption now).

At any rate, pregnancy is still uncomfortable, but I'm not as stressed about the discomfort levels as I was when I was constantly sick. I hear this is supposed to be the best time of the pregnancy, but that doesn't seem to be saying a lot. I'm definitely not going to be one of those women who want kids because they enjoy being pregnant. There's absolutely nothing to compare with feeling the baby move inside me, yes, but that's really the only bit I truly enjoy, and it gets less enjoyable when Munchkin bashes into my bladder again. I hear it gets even better when the baby's bigger and can punch me in the lungs. Should be interesting. 

In the meantime...I have to drag myself off to the bathroom again.

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Yes, it's been way too long since I've updated with a play. Let's blame pregnancy brain on it. The baby may be tiny, but apparently it has the ability to take my ability to concentrate and toss it around like a football. I think I owe my readers about 6 plays right now, which should get us through the rest of the comedies in short order. I'm planning for the next update to the Shakespeare Attempt to be on the 22nd of April. 

I've been very familiar with A Midsummer Night's Dream since I was twelve, when I played one of the fairies in it. I was Peaseblossom, which came with the distinction of getting to say, "An' I!" first. I had other bits of the show memorized, of course, and knew it backwards and forwards. It's a good show to use if you want to introduce teenagers to Shakespeare. The plot is absurd: It involves lots of running around in the woods, and a guy who gets his head turned into a donkey's head. There are also a play-within-a-play, love spells, and several couples to contend with.

The basic story is this: Hermia wants to marry Lysander. Her father wants her to marry Demetrius. Demetrius wants to marry Hermia and doesn't want to marry Helena, whom he's been flirting with. She wants to marry him. Hermia's father takes the debacle to their ruler, Theseus, due to marry Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, in a few days. Theseus tells Hermia she can do what her father says, join a convent, or die, and she has until his wedding to make up her mind.

Hermia, naturally, finds this intolerable. She and Lysander plan to run off together. Helena overhears them, and to get at least some minor attention from Demetrius, she tattles. Hermia and Lysander flee into the woods one night, pursued by Helena, who is in turn pursued by Lysander. There they encounter the fairies who inhabit the wood, there to bless Theseus and Hippolyta's marriage. Oberon, king of the fairies, takes pity on Helena, and orders his servant Puck to charm Demetrius into being in love with her. Puck mixes up the couples, and Lysander falls in love with Helena, followed by Demetrius, when Oberon charms him to be in love. Now no one loves Hermia. After the requisite shouting at each other, they're all charmed to sleep again by Oberon and Puck, who then correct Puck's mistake. When they wake in the morning, discovered by Theseus and Hippolyta's hunting party, Demetrius is in love with Helena and is no longer interested in Hermia. Theseus, pleased to have the problem resolved, tells Hermia's father that she's marrying Lysander, like she wants to, and in fact, they'll have a triple wedding to get all the couples safely married off before anything else happens.

The side-plot tells the story of a group of tradesmen, eager to perform a play at the Duke's wedding celebration. They high-tail it into the woods one night to practice, so no one else will steal their ideas. Puck, wandering by, notices just how much of an idiot one of the men is, and decides it's time for a prank. Bottom, the man, stumbles into the brush and then stumbles back out with a donkey's head instead of his own. His friends flee in terror, leaving him alone. Puck then fulfills his duty to Oberon, who is upset with his wife. He's been ordered to get Titania, queen of the fairies, to fall in love with some hideous monster. Bottom fits that part quite nicely. (Oberon and Titania are in town to bless the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta since, in the past, Oberon's been Hippolyta's lover and Titania's been Theseus'. They're upset with each other, not because of the constant cheating on each other, but because Titania's taken in a child that belonged to one of her worshippers, and Oberon wants the little boy in his retinue). Eventually, Oberon gets what he wants, releases Titania from the love-spell, and then Bottom is released from the spell of having an ass' head, although he does not cease to be one in personality. The team of tradesmen perform the tragic tale of Pyramus and Thisbe (a Romeo and Juliet-like story) at the wedding celebrations, although their interpretation is more comic than tragic. The story ends with the fairies coming to bless the newly established households after the festivities are over.

Midsummer is one of the more well-known comedies. It's goofy, it's fun to perform, and the fairy component means that costuming can be highly imaginative. I have fond memories of just being one of the fairies who barely gets a line. The moral implications of the story aren't terribly great, however. If you and your spouse are having a fight, just drug them until they agree with you (Oberon and Titania). Forcing your daughter into a marriage she doesn't want, and getting the ruler of the city to agree with you is a great idea! (Egeus, Hermia's father). Everything can be solved by running off into the woods (most of the cast). Yes, it's a fun show, but I wouldn't want to take life or relationship advice from it.

Next up: The Merchant of Venice, which is not a comedy, but for some reason, my Complete Works has it filed in that section.

Favourite Quotes

"This man hath bewitch'd the bosom of my child" Egeus, A Midsummer Night's Dream, I.1.27 (a serious accusation, but a little odd--only her bosom? what about the rest of her?)

"Things base and vile, holding no quantity,
Love can transpose to form and dignity.
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind.
Nor hath Love's mind of any judgment taste;
Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste:
And therefore is Love said to be a child,
Because in choice he is so oft beguil'd." Helena, A Midsummer Night's Dream. I.1.232-239

"We will meet; and there we may rehearse more obscenely and courageously" Bottom,  A Midsummer Night's Dream, I.2.111-112

"Merry and tragical! tedious and brief!
That is, hot ice and wonderous strange snow.
How shall we find the concord of this discord?" Theseus, A Midsummer Night's Dream, V.1.58-60

08 April 2013

the blues

Tea and knitting--they still seem normal
Recently, I re-read a story where a character mentions some of the miserable aspects of pregnancy. One of her friends protests, "But I thought the books said it was wonderful and magical!"
"The books lied," she replies.

I feel like that some days. There is something incredibly miraculous and humbling about feeling the baby move around inside me, but that feeling is often overwhelmed when the baby decides to kick my bladder yet again. Or like today, when, a day and a half after running out of my anti-nausea medication, I'm back to throwing up most of what I ingest. I have another doctor's appointment in a few days, so I'll just tough it out until then. It's been a relief to keep food down, for the most part (the medication annoyingly works about 4-5 days out of 7, and it doesn't actually stop the nausea, just the vomiting), but since I don't own a bathroom scale, I have no idea whether or not I've lost or gained weight in the last month, and I know what the doctor's reaction will be if I've lost more weight. I've flippantly remarked to a couple people that if things continue as they are, I'll be at what my goal weight was prior to pregnancy by the time I'm seven months pregnant. I realize this is not a good thing, but in a society that frowns on weight gain, it's a tad confusing to be both shrinking and expanding at the same time.

It's bewildering in some ways--the way my face is thinner and how my tailbone hurts if I sit still too long in a hard chair (not to mention my lower back) combined with the growing waistline. I hadn't exactly romanticized pregnancy, but I hadn't really thought about the achiness that would need to accompany the necessary physical changes. I never realized that my hip joints would be so sore that some days I would have to hobble around, or that by the time I was in the middle of the second trimester, I'd only be able to sleep for about two hours at a time because the baby likes to settle on top of my bladder (I seem to be getting used to it, so I figure it's helpful preparation for when the baby's here and waking up every couple of hours). It didn't occur to me that I might be in the category of women who have prolonged morning sickness. I remember falling apart around ten weeks, when I'd been experiencing morning sickness for about six weeks, and saying that I didn't think I could keep doing it. I fell apart again last Saturday over the same thing, plus sleep deprivation and back aches that required me to curl up in bed with a hot water bottle. Actual sleep and food that stays down make a drastic difference in my mood.

I know that my experience of pregnancy is mine, and not everyone's. For this I am grateful. I doubt our species would have lasted this long if every woman had a miserable pregnancy. I am grateful that my pregnancy is, thus far, merely uncomfortable and fraught with nausea, rather than anything worse. And I do know that it could be much worse. Nothing worse than the constant sickness and the need for a shot to counter my Rh-negative blood type has shown up. But I am tired. We're half-way there and I'm tired of this. Yet I'm not really ready for the baby to arrive (supposing I magically went from 21 weeks to full-term overnight, as I would not wish a premature birth on my child for pretty much anything), because we're not ready yet.

But I'm still tired. Tired of people telling me that this is probably the best time of my pregnancy (great, so much to look forward to), or recommending stuff to counter the nausea that doesn't work, or asking me what the gender is (especially when I've told that person several times over the course of the last month that we aren't finding out until mid-April, and then only if the baby cooperates with the ultrasound). I'm tired of how being pregnant takes over my brain, and how it isolates me a bit from my single and/or childless friends. I'm tired of how the books say, in an obnoxiously chipper manner, that I'll be experiencing extra energy and an improved appetite, and how that hasn't happened.

This angsty essay was inspired by a friend's link on Facebook to an article that claims social media makes everyone's lives look shinier and inspires discontent. In general, I think they're right. Every time I use social media, though, I'm pretty sure my life looks less and less glamorous. Or at least it feels that way. Maybe to someone else, my life is pretty damn exciting. There's a lot going on, in some senses, but most of the time, I find it hard to see that, since I'm living through the day-to-day plodding. But there's something to be said for that, I suppose. I'll stop writing this now, and continue with the plodding. There's laundry and dishes and more comments on the thesis to work through, and J. will be home soon. And there's knitting tonight. Knitting makes most things happier.

05 April 2013

no Shakespeare, but there is knitting

 It's been something like a month since I last posted. I owe the blog (and presumably, anyone who reads this) four or five Shakespeare reviews. They are on the way; I just got bogged down in A Midsummer Night's Dream and haven't made my way out of the forest yet. Blame it on Puck.

Today was a mostly uneventful day. The most significant thing that happened involved a conversation with someone that jogged something loose in my brain and allowed me to get past the section in my thesis that has been paralyzing me for the last week and a half. The conversation wasn't related to my topic, but suddenly, I could look at my advisor's comments and what I'd written about someone else's analysis, and I realized that my advisor's comments were helpful. Seriously, what the heck did this author mean, and was there really that much of a difference between these things that appear the same that he had to go and give them two different names and toss out confusing examples that didn't actually jive with what he was trying to argue? That realization fixed a few things, which was very pleasant.

Life's been interesting in some respects. I am, finally, officially, a permanent resident of Canada. I spent most of March panicking about my interview, which turned out to be a couple questions which had already been answered in the paperwork, and then signing a couple things. Oh, and paying them another $500, sitting through a powerpoint presentation on being a PR in Canada (once in English, once in French), and then sitting and waiting for my name to be called. J. and I were one of the last couples called in the waiting room. The other couple had a pregnant woman, too, although she was nine months pregnant and I was only four and a half months along. We ended up chatting with her and her partner and wondering how long it was going to take for them to sort out their computer problems. They still hadn't been called up by the time we were leaving, but I hope everything went well for them and that their baby has either arrived safely or will soon arrive safely. I love how they made the most pregnant woman wait the longest, though. It was probably an alphabetical thing, but still.

We did have a very cheerful immigration agent, which was quite pleasant. The entire staff at that office seemed to be in a good mood, despite computer issues. This was helpful, since I was wound as tightly as a spring. J. was very gracious about putting up with my constant freak-outs about something that was essentially a foregone conclusion, but this has been a long process. And I'm pregnant, so my moods aren't quite what they would be normally. I'm prone to being more than a tad inclined to worrying, but throw a fetus in my womb and that tendency gets much worse. I actually tried to take worrying off for Lent this year, just to help with my sanity. It didn't entirely work, but forcibly reminding myself that worrying doesn't actually fix the problem, and makes me feel worse to boot did make a small difference.

Besides the thesis, and the immigration stuff, I have had the knitting. I finished a hat the other day.

 Isn't it lovely? It's a beret, and is double-knit so it can be worn in the winter. I made it of Mission Falls 1824 yarn, which has been discontinued. I try to use the small amounts of Mission Falls in my stash sparingly, on worthy projects. It is soft and the colours are lovely and slightly muted, and it is machine-washable. So I took this hat off the needles, wove in the ends, and settled it on my head, eager to wear my beautiful hat. That was when I discovered that the hat looked much bigger on the needles than it was in reality. This hat is so small that it is going into the pile of baby hats in the spare room. That's right. I inadvertently knit a hat for Munchkin. I hope it likes the hat. (Munchkin is still an 'it' because the ultrasound where we will ideally find out the baby's gender is next week).

This project turned out the appropriate size, so I'm not too worried about my knitting skills going weird. This is a hot water bottle cozy. I gave one of the jogless stripes method a try on this one, and it mostly worked.

The hot water bottle cozy had been a project in the back of my mind for a while, but I finally knit one because pregnancy makes my back hurt. Last week, there were several nights in a row during which I had to curl up with the hot water bottle because my lower back hurt too much to let me fall asleep. This whole making a person thing is harder than it sounded when we started on it.