12 May 2013

This year's grad sweaters

I know that I have been neglecting the blog terribly, but I have been knitting a LOT and work is LONG hours and I wanted to have some social time (see other post), so blogging fell by the wayside.  Now that the knitting is done, I thought I would post about it as I did last year.

Once again, the main and hard deadline knitting for this spring was for Mittens for Akkol.  I became involved with them after I had a very bad experience with another charity and needed a new outlet for woollies.  A friend who had heard about them through church suggested I look into them.  They are a good group which is very hands-on - no shipping overseas and hoping for the best, they have people who actually go to the orphanages and other locations and hand-deliver all items.  Here is the farewell message from Nanci, the person who goes or leads a group twice a year:

I am happy to announce our visas arrived today (Friday). That was a little too close for comfort! Today I went to the bank and picked up new money. In Kaz, they won't accept money that is marked in any way or creased, so new money is pretty much the only thing they will take. The bank had to order it ahead of time for me. We have enough money now for the grad gifts and parties. Thanks to everyone who helped make that possible!

Dave and I packed 2 boxes, 1 duffle bag and a suitcase on Thursday. Friday it rained all day, so we didn't do any packing. Please pray for a dry day on Saturday!! We figured out it would be better to pack in boxes rather than suitcases because boxes weigh less (3 lbs. vs. 15 lbs. for a suitcase or 6 lbs for a duffle bag), so I can take more hand knits. BONUS: boxes can be left behind. YEA!! Also, it is much easier to get the big vacuum bags inside a box than a duffle bag!

While packing, I came across several checks. THANK YOU!! I have emailed everyone who sent a check to let them know I found their check. If you sent a check, but didn't get an email by now, please let me know.

I picked up 793 photos from Walgreen' s yesterday and have sorted them by orphanage. When I get to Kaz I will sort them by group/family. Then I will visit each group and pass out the photos. That is one of my favorite things to do. The kids are always so excited to see their photos. :o)

One of the little girls who was in Akkol was moved to Urupinka three years ago. A few months ago, she was moved to a home for invalids. She is unable to speak and has learning difficulties. I am going to try to visit the invalids' home to see how she is doing and also see if they need any help. I am sure they do. I think it is going to be very difficult to visit, but no doubt it is harder to live there, so I will see what I/we can do for them. If you pray, please pray for all of the people in that home as well as the kids in the orphanages.

I have been able to score some cheap (less than $1) or free eye make-up and nail polish for the older girls by shopping with coupons at CVS and Walgreen' s. I will put these items in their grad gift bags. They all asked for mascara and nail polish at Christmas, so I think they will like these. The make-up is small and light, so it is easy to squeeze into the bags. (There are lots of great videos on youtube.com and tips on websites if anyone else is interested in learning how to get free stuff to send to the orphanage or just for your personal use.)

We are supposed to have a sunny day Sunday after a week of rain, so Dave won't have to wrap everything in plastic to drive it to the airport in the truck. Our flight leaves at 12:15 pm eastern time on Sunday and we land in Astana at 2:45 am on Tuesday which is 3:45 pm on Monday at home.

In May, she takes sets of sweater, hat, mittens, scarf, and two pairs of socks (one thin, one thick) to each teen graduating from the orphanage.  She also collects money to buy them basic sets of toiletries and household items such as a blanket and towel, as all the items they have been using need to remain in the orphanage for the next children.

Mostly, I knit sweaters.  There are a lot of people who like to do the accessories, and thankfully who like to make socks, so I can do sweaters.  This year, I did get to sign up for a couple of full sets, this one for a girl:

They always need a few extra sets for kids who were not around at measuring, or who have gotten ready for graduation since measuring was done the previous November.  So I had a bunch of yarn and decided to use last year's measurements to estimate the size, and just made it when I wanted something to do.  Because the multi is long out of production, I decided to make a full set to use it up as much as possible.  The buttons are roses, the colour doesn't quite match but I thought they are very pretty.  Together it makes me think a bit of spring.

I did get to sign up for a set for a boy grad:
When Nanci is there measuring the grads-to-be, she asks them to choose two or three colours they like.  Many of the boys want Germany or Spain colours because they follow the soccer teams, I usually look for kids who want something else.  This boy chose light brown, grey, and deep red.  My idea for this set was inspired by the Tychus hat pattern, which I made several stitches shorter because I wanted to give it a red edging, not the turn-up.  I knit the mittens by doing the wrist in striped garter stitch to echo the hat, then the red on an edge, and one strand each of the brown and grey for the hand.  I borrowed the yoke pattern from a baby sweater for the yoke pattern on this sweater.  The scarf is crocheted, and I had thought to do a red border on it but ran out of time.

For the other grads I just did sweaters.  You sign up for the items you "Commit to Knit" and the smaller items fill up very fast!  All of the other grads for whom I knit are boys, the girl sweaters filled up very fast this year.  Mostly I use one of two basic patterns:  the Steppe Sweater (straight up the body, split at the underarms to do the yoke, then sleeves from underarms to wrist) and an Icelandic model (body and sleeves up to the underarms, join for yoke).  I love these because sewing-together is minimal.

The grey-and-turquoise is based slightly on an old Lion Brand pattern, the black-blue-yellow one has just a touch of texture at the top to keep it from being completely boring.

This sweater I knit in about two-and-a-half weeks.  It was a model for a class I taught at DFW Fiber Fest this year on adding cables or swapping out cables.  So to the plain sweater pattern, how to add cables without pulling in - I think I did pretty well:
I'd forgotten to take the pattern I wanted to use, so winged it.  I thought it would be too plain with just the front cable, so added the cables at the underarms and knitted the sleeves down.  It took a bit of re-doing, especially when I realized that I had too many stitches on the first sleeve when it was almost finished, and had to reknit almost the whole thing.  His other colours are red and yellow and some people were knitting very intricately patterned hat and mittens using all three, so I didn't feel badly about doing the sweater in a single colour, especially with the cable pattern adding texture.

Another sweater design was based upon the gloves someone knit for the grad.  We post pictures so people can see what we're doing and coordinate as much as possible.  So you can see that I adopted her Greek Key design, even though I had only two of the three shades in my stash (and the colours are closer than you might think from the photographs):

I had offered to do one last sweater for an Extra Boy set, and hoped I could skip it because I was already down to the wire and people had mentioned sending extra sweaters.  But Nanci said they really needed it because all the extras she had received were for girls not boys, so I decided my only hope - since this was just over a week before her flight and I had maybe a couple inches on the needles, with no hope of taking a week off to just knit! - was to unearth my knitting machine.

In theory, I could do a sweater in two days.  It took four, because the weather last weekend was so spectacular that I didn't want to be inside more than I had to, and as my other post will tell you, I had a lot of other things to do!  So it took me parts of four days to knit this:
I'd planned a gansey so had only plain brown yarn.  I thought that would be too boring, even with striped mittens, hat, and so on - the other knitter was using "cinnamon" and cream yarns.  So I pulled out a skein of multi handdyed yarn to work the trim, and also some saddles for the shoulders.  I did have to sew seams, but could pick up the sleeves on the sides so it was just adding the saddles, and then afterwards doing the side and underarm sleeves.  All of the trim is knit in the round on live stitches (and isn't really as uneven at the bottom as it appears in this picture, I was in a hurry when I laid the sweater down to photograph it) so no seams and much faster to knit.  And the sweater arrived in time - WHEW!

It does seem appropriate to write about this group today, which is Mother's Day.  First, because they work to be surrogate mothers, in a way, to the kids in the orphanages of Akkol and Urupinka, and their knitting book is called "Dear All The Mothers" from a thank-you one boy wrote a few years ago.  Second, because it was my mother and grandmothers who taught me to knit, and so I am carrying on a family tradition in knitting for others.  Both my mother and grandmother have mostly given up knitting due to arthritis in the hands, so I guess I am knitting on behalf of all three of us now.  I spent most of the weekend with them and feel so blessed that they are in my life and that they taught me a skill that I can use for the benefit of others, as well as passing it along to others.

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