Friday, November 15, 2013

Warm Hearts and Heads

I have been doing lots and lots of knitting.  Having a daughter seems to have awoken the K2 chromosome.  Even the boys have benefited.  But, lets start with Dahlia and her sweet knitted wardrobe.  The first thing that was finished was "Muti", pattern by Taiga Hilliard.  I ran out of the cashmere wool yarn and had to end it with an improvised border.  I also added a few rounds of seed stitch to the cap sleeves.  The skirt on this dress is huge, like circus tent big.  I probably could have made the skirt longer little by making it less full.  I don't think Dahlia's going to do any twirling in it.  One of the nice things about babies is that they are rarely critical.  Dahlia's rear end hangs out a bit, but she's a baby.  It's allowed.  I may end up knitting an underskirt for when the days get too cold for a mini dress.

The second dress is called "Little Liza Jane".  It had a finicky start and then everything was smooth sailing.  I loved the yarn, Tahki Yarns "New Tweed".  It's sort of a crazy kitchen sink kind of blend, but it seems to wear beautifully and it drapes well.  I think she looks very fetching in yellow.  The buttons are old polished wood.  I could only find two of them and they are clearly hand made.  The shine is remarkable.

Then, of course, the weather started to change and little girl needed another cardigan.  The pattern I chose is called "Mini Chic" and it's written by Katie White.  I added the pockets and lengthened the sleeves. The color of the yarn perfectly matches her eyes were on the day she was born.  This isn't an every day sort of cardigan, but I'm hoping that it will get some good wear.  I would like to post a picture of her in her "Muti" dress with this cardigan.  It's a magical combination.  I did try to get some pictures, but the instant that I put those two precious knitted items on her little body she puked milky cheese all over them.  The white lumps spurted from her rosebud lips as the final syllables of a complement exited my own mouth.  Do not jinx the baby knits by saying things like "Doesn't she look like a perfect little angel."  That is an invitation for disaster.

The boys were clearly starting to notice the extra knitted attention.  Every time I sat down to knit Miles would sidle up and ask if I was knitting something for him.  A three-year-old can be refreshingly direct.  I thought I probably ought to remedy the situation quickly.  Both boys needed new hats for school, so I went to my queue and found a hat pattern I've been ogling for some time.  The pattern is called "Wolfie and Foxy" and it's written by Ekaterina Blanchard.  It took a lot of rummaging in the stash, but I finally came up with two balls of tweed leftovers and some very lovely Cormo wool in a natural white.  The pattern is pretty technical for a very simple looking result.  Thankfully, it was fast knitting.  I think I got them both knit in just three days.  The glass eyes are a little creepy, but I felt that buttons would have been a cop out.  Miles managed to break off an eye by pulling out the wire shaft.  I'm not sure how many times I'll have to sew a new eye on.  I'm guessing about 400 times.  I should probably just learn how to blow glass or maybe become the principle shareholder in a company that manufactures glass eyes for toy animals.  Right now it's being called "The One Eyed Wolf Hat".   The nose buttons are from an old tin of buttons that I bought at a village sale.  The boys were thrilled with their new hats.  I think it shows in the photos.  They're both growing up so quickly.  I've got to put ears on them while I still have the chance.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Girly girls

 I gave birth to our daughter Dahlia about three weeks ago.  She is perfect.  I mean that.  We're all completely smitten with her sweetness.  I feel like the luckiest woman in the world.  Life has taken on a Disney princess in the woods glow.  When we wake up it feels like the birds are singing songs just for her. 

In addition to being wonderful she's been doing a lot of sleeping, which has left me with plenty of knitting time.  I've been cruising Ravelry looking at knitting patters for little girls.  It was there that I discovered the world of tiny knitted dresses.  It is a wonderful world.  It is a world full of all sorts of things that I like: lace, cables, yokes, knitting in the round, small projects.  I wouldn't dream of knitting myself a dress.  Knitted dresses are beautiful, but I just can't justify the work involved.  Knitting a dress for a little girl is a whole other story.  It involves less finishing work than sweater.  She can wear a knitted dress over other clothing, which means that the dress can be worn for a longer season.  Dresses make diaper changing a snap.  I could go on and on.  Suffice it to say, I'm a fan of the little knitted dress.

I did some online pattern shopping and then cast on for "Muti", which is a pattern by Taiga Hillard.  I was drawn to the full skirt and delicate lace yoke.  I have about two years before she starts letting me know what she does and does not want to wear.  I'm going to make the most of those two years.

My stash is full of small amounts of luxury yarns. Years ago my family bought me three balls of an oatmeal colored cashmere wool blend, for Christmas.  I remember it well because it was the first cashmere yarn I'd ever owned.  I've been saving this yarn for something special and Dahlia certainly qualifies as special.

The knitting is going fairly well.  I made it through the yoke without a major mishap.  Then the pattern got a little wonky.  I had to rip back the last few rows of the lace yoke because the charted directions don't include the direction to join in the round.  Then I had to rip back a second, and then a third time because I can't read numbers.  Not everything can be blamed on errata in the pattern.  Despite several set backs I'm making quick work of the knitting and I believe that the dress will be done before the end of the week. 

I've also been working on the "Winnowing" shawl by Bristol Ivy.  And by "working" I mean almost finishing the body of the shawl, finding a mistake that I made months ago and ripping out an entire pattern repeat.

Right before I discovered the mistake, each right side row was taking me about fifteen minutes to complete, so ripping it out was like watching someone erase hours of my life.  I haven't been able to pick it up since, but I know I need to face that demon sooner rather than later.

If you look closely at the photo below you can see that the second petal of the last repeat begins with a purl stitch instead of a knit stitch.  I could have ignored this problem and just fudged the final stitch count by adding in an extra stitch.  I could have done that, but that would have made me feel like cheat and a fraud.  Sometimes I wonder why my knitting demands this level of perfection.  Maybe it's because I know that if I leave the mistake, years from now, I'll still notice it every time I see the garment.  I don't believe in ghosts, but I do believe that a job poorly done will haunt me.

The one thing I have managed to knit without a major frogging incident was "Clementina" by Lisa Chemery. 

This was a quick knit with some interesting shaping around the collar.  The yarn, Manos del Uruguay Cotton Stria,  has been in my stash for years.  It's weird.  I've tried to use it many many times.  The knitted texture is odd and works best in garter or stockinette stitches.  This pattern worked perfectly.  The giant mother of pearl button is vintage.  I think it goes very well with the soft green color of the yarn.

Before I go, I'll leave you with a photo of the ruffle butt.  I love the ruffle butt.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Just a Little Bit Longer

Everything in our lives feels like it's on the verge of being finished.  I'm in the last trimester of my pregnancy.  Spring is fading into summer.  The last coats of paint are drying on our new bedroom walls and our three year old is rapidly losing his baby face and baby ways. 

Yesterday, I managed to finish something.  I sat and chatted with a friend while sewing on buttons, which is probably the most civilized thing I've done all week.  The buttons in question were being sewn onto my own version of "Ella Funt" by Pamela Wynne

I began this project on a whim and did not pay any attention to the yardage required.  This is a very bad way to begin a sweater unless you're the kind of person who doesn't mind making it up as she goes.  Thankfully, I am exactly that kind of person. 
I had two balls of "Shepherds Wool Worsted". One ball was a soft petal pink and the other was a bright leaf green.  I thought I'd have enough of the green to knit the body of the sweater and plenty of pink for the elephants on the yoke.  It only took me a couple of inches to realize that there was no way that I could knit the whole body with the green yarn, so I improvised.  I had to do a bit of ripping and re-knitting, but it turned out just the way I had hoped it would.

The finished sweater is far too big for a new baby.  I'm guessing that our little girl won't be able to wear it until she's at least two.  I don't feel badly about that because, if I've learned anything about knitting for children, it's that knitting something that is too big is never a problem for long.

The yarn is heavenly.  It's incredibly soft, but with a good firm twist.  I don't get the impression that it will pill much.  There's enough yarn left over for a hat, but I'm afraid a matching hat might be over the line.  I want her to look loved, not like a victim of her mother's knitting obsession.

I'm struggling to pick out the next baby knit.  I already have so many baby cardigans, bonnets, blankets, booties and hats that it feels a bit silly to be adding to the pile.  Maybe I ought to knit some sweaters for the boys.  Our three year old will be starting school in September.  I'd like to knit him something special, but it's always a little dangerous knitting for someone who is capable of expressing their personal preferences.  I think I'd be better off knitting the boys a few new hats instead.  I guess I may try my hand at a little woolen dress.  I think that's probably just the right way to pass my knitting time while waiting to meet our new baby girl.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

February in April

We finally managed to get this little sweater in the mail.

 I finished the knitting weeks before my cousin's baby was born, but somehow we couldn't seem to get to an open post office. Baby Beatrix (I love that name) was born more than a month ago, but the sweater languished in the cabinet.  Finally, today, my husband was making a special run to mail out some tax papers and the sweater was liberated.

The pattern is by Elizabeth Zimmerman and it's called the "February Baby Sweater".  The pattern can be found in "The Knitter's Alamnac".  I love that book for so many reasons.  The directions are a little sketchy, but I've knit this before and the lack of instructions didn't slow me down.  The yarn is hand dyed, French merino.  I dyed the yarn with scotch broom flowers and I think the color can best be described as "butter".  I even managed to knit a matching cap.  I had to do a tiny bit of ripping back and calculating, but it came out just as I'd hoped it would.  I will venture to say that it's the best looking "February Baby Bonnet" pattern that anyone on Ravelry has come up with.

This is my hundredth post.  To celebrate, I'll include my "pithy" instructions for the bonnet...... along with some very good news.  It seems that I've got a good reason to knit another cardigan and bonnet.  We're expecting our own little girl in July!  I've always wanted a little girl. Our whole family is thrilled.  Within two weeks of hearing the good news, I'd already finished three sweaters for her.  She is going to be a beloved and extremely warm little girl.

February Baby Bonnet

CO 70 sts. knit 8 rows
beg. gull pattern and knit for 4.5 inches ending with a WS row
RS knit one row
cont. in garter st. knitting all WS rows and dec. on the RS rows.
1st dec. row (K5, K2tog) to end of row
2nd dec. row (K4, K2tog) to end of row
3rd dec. row (K3, K2tog) to end of row
4th dec. row (K2, K2tog) to end of row
5th dec. row (K1, K2tog) to end of row
6th dec. row (K2tog) to end of row, 10 sts remaining
7th dec. row, K2tog to end of row
thread a tapestry needle through the remaining 5 sts and cut the yarn leaving a 12 inch tail.
Using the tail, sew up the garter st. crown of the bonnet, I used the mattress st.
RS, Pick up 60 sts. evenly across the bottom of the bonnet, I skipped every 3rd st or so.
Knit 3 rows in garter st.
RS eyelet row, K2 (yo K2tog, K4) repeat to last 2 sts. ,K2
Knit 3 rows in garter st.
BO all stitches
Knit a 3 st. i-cord or find a ribbon to use as a tie.
I didn’t do the extended collar because the gull st body of the bonnet doesn’t seem warm enough to warrant a big warm collar.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Baby Surprise

     I've finished my first "Baby Surprise Jacket", pattern by Elizabeth Zimmerman.  This pattern has been calling to me for a long time.  I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to get around to it.  Maybe it's because the whole thing is a real act of faith.  It's such a bizarre shape.  It doesn't look like it could possibly fold into a tiny sweater, but of course it does.  The ladies at my knit night were very curious about the whole thing.  They looked at me like I was some sort of knitting witch.  I think I'll have to show them how to knit one.  It's such a fun little trick.

    The yarn is Noro "Silk Garden" in two different colorways.  This yarn was bought for a scarf but I'm glad that it ended up as a baby sweater.   Let's face it, scarves are a drag to knit.  It took about 3.25 balls.  The garter stitch really eats up the yardage.  I have enough for the matching bonnet, but I started knitting the bonnet and ended up with the beginnings of a bonnet big enough for a four year old.  I'll have to rip back and re-size.  The buttons are wooden and pretty boring as buttons go but I suppose, with yarn this loud, boring is probably better.

    The sweater has ended up looking like it belongs to a very small pottery professor.  I'm hoping that the parents to be like it.  They are both professors, so I think it's appropriate.  It's always tough knitting gender neutral baby items.  I usually error on the side of knitting something slightly more masculine.  It's mostly because I know that if it's the least bit feminine the new parents won't put it on their boy.  I made of my boys wear blue lace and I can attest to the fact that they will both use a Barbie as a hammer.  I'm of the opinion that we should go back to making all new babies wear extra long dresses.  I hate dealing with pants over diapers.  All of this gender specific stuff is foolishness.  If babies were influenced by what they wore half of our children would grow up and decide to hibernate for the winter.
    I've got another baby sweater and bonnet finished, but I'll have to wait to post about them.  I don't want to spoil the surprise for the parents.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Babies etc.

My only excuse for not blogging more in 2012 was that, after 2011's lainius festivus maximus, I was not in the mood to look at knitting or spinning or dyeing.  All I wanted to do was garden and spend time with my family.  2012 was a perfectly lovely year, but it did not involve much fiber craft.  Well, it's 2013 now and I'm ready to get back on the sheep.

I'll start by tying up some loose ends.  This lovely, but far too big, sweater is called "Levenwick".  The pattern was written by Gundrun Johnston, who is a fantastic designer.  I can't fault the pattern for my gauge issues.  She wrote a perfect and very detailed pattern.  For whatever reason, I seem to think that I'm two sizes larger than I actually am......and also, that I'm shaped like a Viking.....a male Viking.

The wool is "Shelter" by Brooklyn Tweed.  It's easily one of my favorite yarns.  It's a little rough and rugged, but I'd rather that then something that pilled and stretched after two wearings.  It's a true woolen spun yarn.  Which means, that it is both light and warm.  The tweedy colors are fantastically complex.  This colorway is called "button jar", which is exactly what it reminds me of.
 Speaking of buttons, these are some way back when buttons from my very own button jar.  I'm not sure how old they are, but I'm guessing that they are from some time during the 20's or 30's.  I love them.

I have another good reason to turn up the knitting dial.  We are experiencing a sudden baby boom amongst family and friends.  There's nothing more exciting than tiny sweaters for the pudgy legged stroller set.  Baby cardigans have all the fun of an adult sweater without the fit issues or endless sleeves.
I've already finished a February Baby set and am starting another little sophisticated, but gender neutral, cardigan.  I'll show post about them as soon as I get them blocked and photographed.  I'm particularly pleased with the February baby bonnet as it is a pattern of my own invention.  It's always nice to feel clever.
There is an adult sweater on my needles.  I don't want to jinx it by saying too much, but it's flying off the needles and the yarn/pattern combo seems inspired.  Hopefully, I'll have it done before I find a way to muck it up.  I don't have a very good track record with sweaters for myself.  I really hope this one fits.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


    This week has been full.  There have been five parties, minimal house keeping, out of town friends, tourists on the roads and lots of swimming lessons.  We're in the middle of a searing heat wave.  The pool is a shining rectangle of turquoise in a field of bone colored grass and curling leaves.  Every evening we suit up and crunch across the wasteland towards our own personal oasis.  

A good part of my childhood was spent in a public pool.  I have only fragments of memories from a time before I knew how to swim.  Water is my second skin. 

Sitting on the bottom of the pool and watching the pale legs of my family, I forget that I can't breath water, that for many people this is a hostile environment.  It makes me feel like a kid again, like I never want to get out of the pool.   

The heat is not inspiring me to knit.  Also, the new fall collections are out and I'm finding it hard to love the miles of purling and 1x1 ribbing that are dominating my knitting bag.  The only thing that's keeping me honest are two seasons worth of "Downton Abbey".   While the children are napping, my husband and I spread out on the sofa in front of the fan.  I drag out a sock or a sleeve and we melt into TV land.

I love the dog days of summer.