Archive | November 2017

It’s a Flute Party!

Have you ever been to a flute party? No? What, you don’t know what a flute party IS?

Don’t feel bad; I had no idea before yesterday either! But now I know, and it was pretty fun. We decided that we wanted to upgrade the girl’s flute for her graduation present, since we felt like she had outgrown her current flute. She’s going into music education in college, with the possibility of music performance as well, and we want to send her off as well-prepared as possible. And given all the things happening this year that might impact her college admissions and scholarship opportunities (State Band, honor bands, music school auditions) we chose to do it now, rather than at the end of the year.

Now, with other things, it might be simple. You go to a store, pick one out, and buy it. But instruments are different, because each musician is different. The musician has to find the instrument that’s right for her. So her flute teacher arranged for us to attend a flute party hosted by a woodwind dealer/repair specialist. There would be a variety of brands to play, plus we’d have other expert ears to help us decide. We also borrowed a flute from a local music store (so generous of Palen Music. We love them.) and ordered one on trial from Flutistry of Boston.

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We showed up to the hotel and found our way to the room, which was just a hotel suite with two bedrooms. There were two sales reps there, one from Altus and one from Miyazawa, and there were two tables full of beautiful shiny flutes. There were lower end flutes all the way up to an $11,000 gold flute!

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We quickly found ourselves in one of the rooms with several flutes, and it didn’t take long to narrow it down to four. But that’s when the work began. There were six of us listening, and while of course the girl’s opinion was the most important, her flute teacher was also very vocal. The sales reps were great, really only offering opinions when we directly asked them. And they each declined to comment on their own flute, which I thought was very classy.

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And she played the flute. Over and over. Rotating between all four brands, trying to hear differences and preferences. I can’t imagine how it must have felt, to be presented with four beautiful, high-end instruments that all play well, and say, “Here, pick one!” But that was the goal, so we kept playing. Finally we did brackets, and compared two at a time, picking one from each bracket. Then when it was the top two, which happened to be the ones from the reps, they left the room and we brought in the party host to be an objective ear.  Finally, after two pieces played on each flute, we had a unanimous winner, and my daughter finally relaxed enough to be excited about her choice. I think she’s going to do amazing things with this flute, and I feel really grateful that we’re able to do something like this for her.

Sock Fixation

It’s so weird how my knitting changes. Like, what I want to knit changes based on what’s happening in my life. Right now, things feel hectic and overwhelming and stressful, and all I’ve been knitting is socks. I have two socks on my needles, and they’re making me so happy. I even have fancy yarn picked out for fancy shawls, and it’s beautiful yarn and I can’t wait to knit with it…but I’m not ready yet. I just need socks right now. My current obsession is this Basket Weave Rib Sock.

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The yarn is Schaefer Yarn Nichole, which is labeled fingering, but it feels like a heavy fingering. So when I knit it up with my size 1 needles, it’s all thick and squishy and I can tell these socks are going to be heaven to wear. I love the look of the pattern too; it’s a great design for a variegated yarn, letting both the stitches and the colors play nicely together. This is also the first time I’ve made socks for someone else, so I’m really hoping I estimate well on the foot length.

My other sock is another pair of Petty Harbor socks. These are for me, in Knit Picks Stroll Glimmer in “foxglove and kestrel”, AKA purple and gray.

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Obviously it’s been taking a backseat to the blue sock. This is like my backup sock. But that’s okay, it’s perfectly happy waiting patiently for its turn.

It’s a gray, rainy Sunday here, and my errands are few and short, so I see plenty of knitting in the forecast. Hope your Sunday is equally pleasant!

Sick Day Knitting

I made two hats today. Yep, two in one day. Thanks to my son, who doesn’t know to stay away from his friends when they’re sick, I’ve been fighting a lovely cold, and today I woke up with a heck of a cough and decided to stay home rather than risk infecting everyone else in my office (especially the ones who have young babies at home). After a long, restful day, I feel almost human again, and two of my daughter’s friends have new hats. The Devil Wears Prada and The Vow got me through the first one.

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Pattern is Squarshy Hat, one of my faves, and yarn is Cascade 128 Superwash. I knit the body until about 5.75″ before starting decreases.

Next up was Moulin Rouge. It served me well, and I got the second hat almost done by the time the credits were done rolling. This one is Swirling Beanie, and I changed things up a bit. I did a twisted rib brim on smaller needles, and used a bigger needle for the body. Also, I only knit to about 5.5″, and I wish I’d gone another quarter of an inch. But it should still fit fine. It’s also Cascade 128 Superwash.

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The purple one looks a lot smaller but it’s got a lot of stretch in that swirling pattern. Both were done with just one skein, including the pompom. I think I satisfied my hat-knitting urge for now!

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Gift Knitting

I had SO much knitting time this weekend! We spent the entire day Saturday (I’m talking about nine hours) at a local high school for District Band auditions (the girl made it into the band for the 4th year, and earned 2nd chair flute!). Thankfully, I knew what I was getting into and planned accordingly by taking three knitting projects with me. The first got done quickly: the second half of a bobble hat. The bobbles had already been done so it was just knitting in the round and then decreasing. Piece of cake, Bobble Hat done!

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I took a short break to rest my hands and stretch before moving on to Bobble Hat 2. These will be Christmas gifts, so there wasn’t a rush, but it’s always better to get things done early, right? By early afternoon, I was finishing Bobble Hat 2.

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These aren’t my favorite hats. I hate making the bobbles. I don’t think they’re that cute. And yet they grew on me, and I confess I kind of like them. At least once they’re done. If you want more details, you can see the Ravelry page here.

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My hats were done but the waiting wasn’t, so I turned to my last knitting option, and cast on for a fingerless glove in blue. These will be another gift for a friend, and I’ve done this pattern so often that it’s almost second nature. This glove practically flew off the needles.

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The pattern is 75 Yard Malabrigo Fingerless Mitts and I used Mochi Plus in a beautiful sapphire blue. My only modification to the pattern was to go down a needle size, to make them for women’s hands instead of men’s. I should be able to knock out the second glove quickly…if I can resist casting on one of the other four projects I’ve got waiting for me!

Oh, my girl

I am so in awe of my daughter. She is so strong, stronger than I ever was at her age. She has this passion for music, this talent for flute, and it has become an intricate part of her life. I can’t think of flute without thinking of her, and I often can’t think of her without thinking of flute. They are intertwined. She has worked hard over the last seven years and grown into a gifted musician, and she’s seen a lot of rewards from that work. She’s earned spots in district bands, state band, honor bands. She’s earned top ratings at competitions and played solos without a hitch.

But with every bright spot, there is a bit of darkness hiding. There is so much competition in this world. She hasn’t succeeded at everything she’s tried; she hasn’t gotten every first chair or solo she’s wanted. And to try so hard, to practice and work so diligently, and not get the results you want, must be incredibly disheartening at times. I can’t say for sure, never having been in anything so competitive. But I imagine, and my heart aches when it happens.

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It happened yesterday. We went to District Band auditions. After an early bout of nerves a couple of weeks ago, she was feeling confident. She was practicing, working new tricks from her flute teacher, and getting good results. She felt good at the first audition, felt good after the callback audition, and we settled in to wait without too much anxiety. But the callbacks ended, and the wait stretched to 45 minutes, an hour, 90 minutes, and the stress built. What could be taking so long? 27 flutes for 13 spots (including the two honorable mention spots), surely it couldn’t be that hard to sort it out?

Each musician is scored during their audition, and the scores are tallied at the end. The drama comes if there are ties, and the judges have to come to an agreement on who gets which chair. Many flute players also play piccolo, and if they earn a chair on both instruments, they’re given the choice. If they turn down piccolo, the judges move to the next piccolo, and so on, until the piccolo spot is filled. So if you’re sitting waiting, and you see other flute/piccolo players getting called back to talk to their director, you know the results are coming soon. We did our best to stay patient and positive.

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It took almost two hours after callbacks ended for her to get her result: second chair in the district band. That’s an awesome result. It really is, to get second chair out of all the flutists in the area who auditioned. And given how long it took to get results, it must have been an extremely tight competition, coming down to the smallest of details.

But. Last year, she had first chair. And when you’ve had that, and you think you’ve earned that again, second chair is bittersweet. I understand it, even as I know how wonderful second chair is. Like I said, it’s a competitive world. She’s been competing against the same musicians for the last couple of years, so it feels a little personal. You don’t just miss out on the spot, you see your competition in that spot. I can imagine how sharp and sour that must feel in your chest.

Plus her experience as first chair last year wasn’t all she wanted it to be. First chair typically comes with a certain spot in the band; the first chair flute is next to the edge, right beside the piccolo. And the first chair flute is given any flute solos in the band’s music. But last year, the district band director decided to switch things up, and he flipped the seating so that she was in the middle of the band, and had the entire flute section play all the solos. So while she knew she was first chair, she didn’t get to experience the perks that usually come with it.

So this year she was, is, disappointed. Sad, frustrated. She knew she’d done the work. She knew she’d improved. So why didn’t her spot show it? It’s hard to remember that even as you’re growing and improving, you’re not doing it in a bubble. The others are doing the same thing. You have to remember that there is some subjectivity to each audition, and something like first and second chair can come down to very small differences. It reminds me of Michelle Kwan when she won silver at the Olympics when everyone expected her to win gold. They’d ask her, “How does it feel to know you lost the gold?” And her answer was, “I didn’t lose gold. I won silver.”

That’s what my girl did yesterday. She earned that second chair. And she’s learning that you have to take each setback and use it as an opportunity for growth, without getting distracted by what everyone else is doing. She still gets to audition for All-State Band, and I think it’s likely that this will motivate her to work even harder to perform as well as she can.

And that’s why I’m in awe of her. Every time this happens, she finds the strength to rally. She sits back and feels the disappointment, and then she stands up, puts it behind her, and goes on to the next great thing.

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I am immensely proud of her results yesterday, as I am every time she auditions. I can’t wait to see how it goes at State. But the greatest thing for me yesterday was watching her interact with the middle school musicians. She works with the 7th and 8th grade bands at the middle school, and she’s built lovely relationships with these kids who admire her and look up to her, and she found so much joy in encouraging them. She called them her “babies” and kept notes of who got what results, and she hugged them and cheered them on, and it was so sweet. She is going to be a wonderful teacher. I love that not only will she create beautiful music herself, but she will also help create future musicians. To have such a gift and be able to share it with others, that must be the most wonderful feeling of all. And how lucky I am that I get a front row seat.

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P.S. There was a LOT of knitting happening yesterday, what with over eight hours in one building. That post will be coming soon!

Rainbow Warrior

I have another finished shawl! This week I bound off my Rainbow Warrior shawl, all 440+ stitches in a beautiful picot edge. As tedious as a picot bind-off is, I do so love the look, and it was the perfect finish for this shawl.

I’d wanted to make this shawl for months, but I wanted to do it just like the original, which meant waiting until I could justify buying the Miss Babs yarn. And a couple of times I tried, but the Perfectly Wreckless color was sold out, and I had to wait for that yarn. I just couldn’t make it with another color, I loved the pink variegated with the gray so much. Finally, I had two skeins of Yummy 2-ply in my hands: Perfectly Wreckless and Thunderstorm.

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This was so much fun to knit. I loved balancing the garter stitch with the slipped stitch sections, how there was repetition that soothed me but also some variation to keep me interested. I loved seeing the colors pop out through the gray slipped stitches. My skein of Perfectly Wreckless had more black than I would have chosen, but overall I’m still delighted with it. I loved watching it grow each time I got to an increase row, until near the end when it was all squished together on the needles. I knew it was going to be quite large, but I couldn’t quite get a sense of how large, because I couldn’t spread it out enough.

img_4660Another thing I love about this pattern: it looks awesome on both sides. The “right” side shows off the slipped stitches and is more subtle with the colors, but the “wrong” side is just as delightful, with the colors on full display.


 The pattern calls for eight slipped-stitch sections, but as I got near the end of the seventh, I realized my contrasting color was getting alarmingly low. I really didn’t want to play yarn chicken and have to frog back, and I could tell the shawl was already big enough to be wearable, so I ended with the seventh section. Since I still had plenty of gray left, I did the first two rows of the MC in section eight before starting the bind-off, to give a bigger, more defined final edge. I love this shawl. It’s exactly what I wanted it to be. 

This is a pattern I’d love to make again, as soon as I decide on another color combination. The possibilities are endless! Have you made one yet?