Sunday, December 27, 2009

tape recorder

End of the year, end of the decade. As a fast-forward-moving, future-oriented sort of person, I'm caught off-guard by all the backwards-looking at the end of the year. It's always a wonderful surprise for me to find that other people have actually been reflecting on this for a while, and have ideas to share (Top 100 songs of the year?! Wow, who knew?!?).

And this year, not only do we get to hear everyone's top 100 ___ of the year, but of the whole crazy decade. So many sappy-memory moments to enjoy.

I would like to start a tape recorder right now to catch it all, like in middle school when I had a boom box that had a radio and a tape player in it, and you could record your favorite DJ on the radio all evening while you waited for him to play the song you requested, and maybe, just maybe he would even play your whiny middle-school voice trying to sound cool and older while asking him to play it.

Or maybe I'll write down all the lists of Top 100 books and movies and everything else, and glue them into my journal and decorate the page with little colored-pencil doodles (That just sounds middle school - in actuality I do that sort of thing with some frequency as an adult).

So what are the "Top __" lists you're loving right now? These are my favorites:

The 2009 Pulitzer prizes for fiction (my reading list for the next month or two)
The WXPN Year in Review - Top 100 Songs and Top 10 Albums from my favorite radio station
Your Worst Shot 2009 Flickr group (so many of these are better than my best shots - *sigh*).
Grist's Top Green Stories of the '00s

Now I'm off to scarf down some more of my Dad's amazing Christmas cookies while I try to resurrect one of my Top Abandoned Knitting Projects of the Decade, a lovely half-finished Minimalist Cardigan. I hope you're having a great end-of-the-decade, too!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

early morning

It's early. Sunrise is still a little ways off, and I am sipping a cup of tea at the kitchen table, enjoying some quiet.

I have lost a lot of free time: time for yoga, time for knitting, time for reading long beautiful novels. But this is one kind of time that I have gained: very quiet time, alone, with a warm cup of tea and a cat beside me. There is a little warm spot on my neck where a baby was recently curled, and I am looking forward to sunrise, when she really wakes up, and I will pick her up and bring her to look again at the Christmas tree, and she will be delighted, all over again.

It is very peaceful.

If I had worries, they would fill this space.

Instead, I look at my list of to-do's, and notice that one of them says, "relax." I decide to do that one.

I sip my tea, poke about in my knitting basket a bit, and hear a little voice waking up down the hallway. Another morning, just beginning.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

holiday fantasies



This is me every year at the holidays: longing for more.

(Acutally, right after this photo was taken, I gorged myself on pie... but let's don't disrupt the theme I've got going here).

Every year I bemoan the too-few hours in the day, as I wish I had more time to decorate the house, bake treats, make gifts, send greetings... and every year I get to do some of it, and at least savor the fantasy of all the other fun things I meant to do.

This year, I'm starting to realize that my holiday crafting and nesting will consist of little more than the savored fantasy. My first Christmas as a full-time working mama with a little baby at home...

Don't get me wrong, I am very excited about the first Christmas with the Little Pea. I can't wait to sing carols with her and snuggle together by the fire on Christmas morning, give her her very first Christmas present, and watch her be spoiled to death by our family. In fact, as I write this I'm getting even more excited about it!

But this will be the first Christmas in a long time - maybe since I was the Little Pea's age - that my family members won't be getting gifts made by me. I am trying like heck to finish a pair of socks that I started last April, and I have every intention of making a gift for the Little Pea, but I think that's going to be the sum of it. *sigh* So sad!

But all the same, I want you to know that even though I probably won't send you a hand-made card this year, I am thinking of you. Imagine that we got together and baked cookies on a cold, blustery December afternoon and drank spiced cider and danced around to goofy Christmas music. I am savoring the memories of many blustery December afternoons making little gifts with friends, and the evenings squirreled away in a coffee shop somewhere on December 23rd trying like heck to finish a way-too-ambitious gift in time.

I hope you get to make some of those memories this year! I'll try not to drool (better go eat some of that pie).

Thursday, November 26, 2009

thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

In honor of my favorite holiday, I wanted to share this poem with you.

Wild Geese
by Wendell Berry
Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer's end. In time's maze
over the fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed's marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

I hope that you enjoy a feast of gratitude today.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

starting fresh

new perch
Time to cultivate this feeling again.

It always feels so good to put a tough time behind me and start anew.

October is usually my favorite month, because of the wonderful weather, the colors, the crisp air and the chance to wear sweaters and scarves again. Our anniversary is in October, and the annual family camping trip.

But I've been anticipating October all year with some trepidation, because this year it was the month that I went back to work.

And it went pretty well, it really did. The Little Pea seems to be adjusting well, and HWWLLB is doing great as a stay-at-home-dad. Everything was in great shape at work when I got back there, and I seem to be getting back into the swing of things fairly well. But oh my goodness, the time.

I'll always think of this October as the month that I ran to get everywhere. Once I started back at work I didn't cook a meal, do a load of laundry that wasn't baby clothes, write a blog post (as you may have noticed) or go anywhere other than work and our house (and the family camping trip - I've almost recovered from that). I did eat three meals a day, sleep decently, enjoy time with the Little Pea and meet the deadlines I had to hit at work (just barely). HWWLLB and I even spent a little quality time together on our anniversary. But I have never tried so hard to keep it together - and I did keep it together - at such an incredibly bare-bones level. Holy moly. Is this the rest of my life?

I hope not.

Keeping it together is better than not, for sure, and I know that there are going to be times when I just can't keep it together anymore and just fall apart. But I need some free time back. This weekend I decided to help that along by clearing away some mental clutter and finishing a few projects that have been lying around.

Saturday I pulled out a stack of almost-finished knitted things that had been languishing for months. I sewed on buttons, sewed in tags, blocked and finished and put them away in the drawers (or gift bags) where they belong. Now Little Pea has a couple of spanky new sweaters to wear - just in time for some cool damp weather - and believe it or not, the sloth is almost done! I've finally finished all the knitting, and this weekend I pieced it together and felted it. I still have some finishing work to do, including some fancy needle-felting, but it's almost there! I can't wait to show it to you.

That was Saturday. Sunday is going to be the day for tidying. Our house is definitely showing the battle scars of the past month, and in particular my little areas are just atrocious. There isn't one more bare surface available for piling things on, and it's gnawing at my sanity. So today is the day to deconstruct piles, pay bills, recycle junk, do laundry, take things to the dry cleaner, and tie up all the other itty-bitty loose ends that have turned into such a snarl in my space. The perfect activity for a gray, rainy November Sunday (particularly if some knitting works its way into all that).

Nothing like a fresh start to another month - let this one be just a little less hectic than the last. Just a little?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

twilight

Twilight is so beautiful. The light and fading golden color make it my favorite time of day.

evening flowers 2

Last night I was trying to capture the way these flowers were glowing, reflecting the last of the waning light in our front yard as the day turned to evening.

This is also the twilight of my maternity leave - the last few days at home with Little Pea, with nothing to do but play and take care of her. As with the end of the day, this seems to be the sweetest time I have ever known. Everything seems golden, more beautiful and poignant than I have ever seen it.

Of course, nothing is changing. I will still be her mama, and we'll still take walks together and play with toys and nurse quietly (and sometimes noisily) in the rocking chair. I'll still squeeze in a row or two of knitting here and there whenever I can. But of course, I'll be shoe-horning all this wonder and beauty into the fragmented bits of time before and after work. And I have a feeling that these too-fast golden hours are going to fly by all the more quickly now.

This week Little Pea and I took our last trip together to the Wednesday afternoon farmer's market. We bought veggies and bread, and visited with our downtown friends and farmers. I found myself really strolling, walking slower than normal to just soak up as much of it as I could. I pushed the idea of time from my mind altogether and just enjoyed the moments as we had them. It felt so good to take things in more completely - the smiles of the people there, the thoughts and ideas shared in conversations with friends, the simple colors and shapes of the vegetables.

Being in the moment, letting go of a hurry to a goal or destination, is a lesson that the Little Pea teaches me over and over. I am so grateful for the chance to practice, every day, that this time at home with her has given me. I hope I can cultivate it in my hurry-hurry work life as well - even when I want to hurry home to her.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

a long weekend

Over the weekend my dad turned sixty.

jockeysridge

We celebrated with a long weekend in the Outer Banks. It was the Little Pea's first trip (except for a night at her grandparents' house when she was very small), and her first time visiting the ocean. We were happy to discover that she is a very good traveler.

Traveling with a little baby turned out to be fairly relaxing. We took things slowly, and spent a good amount of time relaxing while she napped or nursed. And goodness, did we eat. My goal was to totally overdo it on seafood -- I definitely succeeded. But I wouldn't mind another plate of flounder for lunch today.

We saw lots of birds, and a pond full of turtles at Pea Island Wildlife Refuge. We counted 18 painted turtles and two big snappers. Among birds, we saw cormorants, osprey, ibis, lots of egrets, and a Roseate Spoonbill! They really don't belong this far north, so it was quite a treat.

kdhbeach

It felt so good to be washed by the ocean. Salt water is so rejeuvenating.

Friday, September 18, 2009

fleeting naptime

seahorse 1
my accomplishment for the week: a Hansigurumi seahorse, with a tube of beads inside to make a rattle

Thursday morning I found myself sitting in the bathroom with the door cracked open, trying to simultaneously listen for baby sounds and muffle my own sounds because She Who Will Not Nap was taking a nap, and while I love the open floor plan of our tiny house, every sound in the house can be heard from every other part of the house. I was on hold in customer-service hell, waiting to talk to someone at the IRS about the hideous letter they sent me.

As the cat came in to join me and, what they hey, stop into his litterbox while he's in the neighborhood, I realized that crouching in the bathroom with the phone was no way to spend the precious few moments of naptime that I have been granted. After hearing the polite-yet-threatening recorded message one more time, I hung up. Take that, IRS! (I will call you later).

Instead I got up, fixed myself lunch, listened to the news, visited a couple of friends' blogs, and started to write this blog pos-- uh-oh. She's up again.

[many hours later]

Naptime is sanity time, time to eat, perform personal hygeine related tasks and maybe, just maybe, get something done. As my to-do list stretches into the horizon, the naptimes seem to be dwindling to ever-tinier proportions. Why won't this baby take her nap?? Lately daytime naps are just a fantasy, and the ones that do happen don't last much longer than it takes me to fix my lunch (but not eat it).

[uh... two days later]

Ugh! I'm not getting anything done, productive or otherwise. Two rows of knitting. Five minutes of listening to the news. A few more minutes on hold with the IRS. Nothing is getting completed anymore. Help!! I've tried every trick in the book. How do you bribe a 3-month-old baby into taking a nap?

seahorse 2
seahorse rattles do not work as bribes

Friday, September 11, 2009

better all the time

yummy rattle
i promised i'd post a picture that wasn't of her feet for a change

I've had that Beatles song stuck in my head all week since I heard it on the radio the other day. It does describe our crazy new lives pretty well.

Some days are hectic and insane and by the time she goes to bed I don't know whether to laugh, cry or get drunk (fortunately breastfeeding generally rules out #3). Other days are peaceful, hilarious and beautiful and I feel on top of the world. The truly wonderful thing is that the ratio of good to bad days has always been tilted to the positive side, and it is getting better all the time. I can't quite say I'm well rested, but sleep is one of the things helping move the needle more often to the happy side, slowly but surely.

But you know, even on the worst days, when all she can manage is a 20-minute nap and I can't seem to find enough time to make a cup of tea and actually drink it before it gets cold, knitting always gets me through. When I need to collapse on the couch and veg out, and I'm jittery with nervous energy from being cooped up in the house all day with a very demanding companion, knitting is always there for me. Sometimes you don't know whether that quiet moment will last five minutes or fifty, and I'm finding that these unpredictable moments are bringing me back the knitterly world of the productive again. It feels very good.

grandmother owl booties

Here are the booties I just finished with the Grandmother Owl pattern. Somehow I managed to knit them inside-out, but they came out well all the same. Bev scared me out of making pom-poms due to their apparent mortal hazards, but the little ties finish with tassles, which I sewed on so tightly that they could probably be relied upon as a lifeline if I fell over a cliff, so I think they will be safe for the baby. This is a great little bootie pattern, and I like the flexible 'one size,' which unlike most of her other clothes will probably actually fit for a while. What a great way to use up some sock yarn leftovers!

Little Pea is very interested in knitting as well. Sometimes while she plays on her play mat, I sit next to her and do some knitting, and she is fascinated with the color and movement. I wonder how old a kid has to be before it's safe to hand them some nice blunt knitting needles?

Friday, September 04, 2009

free pattern friday::bumpy jacket & hat

bumpyset1

Time for some fall knitting! This baby jacket and hat set uses an old-fashioned looking stitch pattern for an elegant look in a relatively simple pattern. Suitable for a boy or girl, the Bumpy Jacket uses organic cotton and is knit all in one piece for quick finishing. Use some vintage buttons for the perfect touch.

I called it "Bumpy" both because the stitch pattern has a bumpy surface, but also because it got off to a bumpy start. One of the mistakes I made was making the sleeve increases on the wrong side, but it actually looked pretty good with the stitch pattern and became a design feature. Once it got going, the jacket came together very quickly and was a pleasure to knit. Have fun making this sweet set as a special shower gift, or for your little one.

bumpy jacket

size
0-6 mos (6-12 mos, 18 mos, 2 yrs, 4 yrs)

materials
Blue Sky Alpacas Skinny Dyed Cotton, 150 yd / 137 m / 50 g per skein
Color A: 1 skein [shown in #301, Glacier]
Color B: 2 (2, 3, 3, 4) skeins [shown in #308, Mallard]
US size 5 needles, DPN and circular (or size to get gauge)
US size 3 needles, DPN and circular (or size to get gauge)
five 1/2-inch buttons
stitch markers
tapestry needle
sewing needle & thread

gauge
22 stitches / 28 rows / 4 inches in stockinette stitch on larger needles

measurements
chest circumference: 20 (21, 22, 25, 27) inches
back length: 10.5 (11.5, 13.5, 14.5, 16) inches
sleeve length: 6 (6.5, 7.5, 8.5, 10.5) inches

waffle check stitch pattern (even # of stitches) – 2 ways
knit flat:
Row 1 (WS): Color A: Knit
Row 2 (RS): Color B: *Slip 1 wyib, K1. Repeat from * to end.
Row 3: Color B: *K1, Slip 1 wyif. Repeat from * to end.
Row 4: Color A: Knit.
Row 5: Color A: Knit.
Row 6: Color B: *K1, Slip 1 wyib. Repeat from * to end.
Row 7: Color B: *Slip 1 wyif, K1. Repeat from * to end.
Row 8: Color A: Knit

knit in the round:
Row 1: Color A: Purl.
Row 2: Color B: *Slip 1 wyib, K1. Repeat from * to end.
Row 3: Color B: *Slip 1 wyib, P1. Repeat from * to end.
Row 4: Color A: Knit.
Row 5: Color A: Purl.
Row 6: Color B: *K1, Slip 1 wyib. Repeat from * to end.
Row 7: Color B: *P1, Slip 1 wyib. Repeat from * to end.
Row 8: Color A: Knit

wafflecheck

note
I strongly recommend knitting a swatch of the waffle check stitch pattern before you start, just to get the hang of it. It is quite simple, and once you’ve knit a couple of rounds of this pattern, it will become quite natural. You’ll be able to knit the sweater without having to read charts or refer to the instructions over and over. But since you have to knit it both flat and in the round, it pays to understand the stitch pattern before you begin working it in the sweater.

another note
For those who are familiar with sweaters knit top-down, this pattern is a bit quirky in that you will do the increases along the seams on the wrong side (rather than the right side, which is more common). I know it seems weird. I messed up while first designing this sweater, but I liked how it looked and decided to keep it.

bumpi model

cast on at the neckline
Using color A and larger circular needles, cast on as follows:
CO 2, PM, CO 6 (8, 8, 10, 10), PM, CO 20 (24, 24, 26, 28), PM, CO 6 (8, 8, 10, 10), PM, CO 2. You will have 34 (44, 44, 50, 52) st on your needle.

With row 1, you will also begin row 1 of the stitch pattern (following the instructions for knitting flat). You will start the stitch pattern over again in each section between the markers, in order to maintain the pattern across the increases at the shoulder seams (see this tutorial for a detailed explanation of this technique). You will never work the pattern on the stitch before or after each marker – these are the seam stitches. On right sides, simply knit the seam stitches and then start your pattern over. On wrong sides, work the increases as directed on the seam stitches, and then start your pattern over.

Row 1: *Kfb, K to 1 st before M, Kfb, slip M. Repeat from * to end. Kfb of last stitch. (10 st inc).
Row 2: Patt to end. [Here’s how to do this: Color B: *Slip 1 wyib, K1. Repeat from * to 1 st before next M. K1, slip M, K1. *Slip 1 wyib, K1. Repeat from * to 1 st before next M. Get it? Just start the stitch pattern over again in each section.
Row 3: *Kfb, Patt to 1 st before M, Kfb, slip M. Repeat from * to end. Kfb of last stitch. (10 st inc).
Row 4: Patt to end.

Continue in this manner, increasing 10 st on every WS row, and continuing the waffle check pattern, until you have 32 (40, 40, 44, 48) st between the back markers.

Next WS row, do not increase on the first and last stitches – you will increase only 8 stitches on this row. Continue increasing 8 st on every WS row until you have 50 (58, 60, 68, 76) st between the back markers.

divide for sleeves
Next RS row: Patt across the first section until you get to the first marker.
Place the stitches from the left shoulder section (between the first and second markers) onto a stitch holder or piece of scrap yarn.

CO 4 st across the gap and join to the back section.
Patt across to the third marker.
Place the stitches from the right shoulder section (between the third and fourth markers) onto a stitch holder or piece of scrap yarn.

CO 4 st across the gap and join to the last section. Patt to end.

You will have 104 (120, 124, 140, 156) st on your needle.

waffle_close

complete body
You will no longer be increasing on the WS rows. Simply carry the stitch pattern uninterrupted all the way around the garment as follows: K1, patt to 1 st before end, K1.
Work one full patt repeat for as many rows as that requires, ending with Row 1 of the stitch pattern.

Change to Color B and stockinette stitch (K all RS rows, P all WS rows).
Continue until the garment measures 10 (11, 13, 14, 15.5) inches from the back neck, ending on a RS row.

Change to smaller needles, and work 4 rows of garter stitch (K every row).
BO loosely.

sleeves
Place the held stitches from the first sleeve onto the larger DPNs. Using the appropriate color yarn for this point in the stitch pattern, pick up the four cast-on stitches from the underarm and place a marker. This marks the start of the round.

Work as many pattern rows as you did in the sweater body after dividing for the sleeves (be sure that you are following the instructions to knit the stitch pattern in the round – it is different from how you worked the body stitches!).

Change to Color B and stockinette stitch (in the round, knit every row).

Decrease row: K1, SSK, K to 3 st before marker, K2tog, K1. 2 st decreased.
Knit 4 rows even.

Continue in this manner, decreasing 2 st on every 5th round, until 30 (32, 32, 38, 40) st rem.
Knit even until the sleeve measures 5.5 (6, 7, 8.75, 9.25) inches from underarm.

Change to smaller DPNs. Work 4 rows in garter st (P 1 row, K 1 row).

BO loosely. Work the second sleeve.

button band / collar
Before you begin, use safety pins or stitch markers to mark the placement of your buttonholes along the right front selvedge of the sweater. Place the top button 1/2 inch below the start of the neckline. Place the bottom button 1 inch up from the bottom edge of the garment, and then space the remaining buttons evenly between them.

bumpy markers

Using the smaller circular needle and Color B, begin at the bottom right corner of the sweater front. Pick up and knit 3 out of every 4 stitches up the right front until you get to the point where the neckline angles in. Place a marker. Continue picking up 3 out of 4 selvedge st until you get to the cast on row. Pick up the 2 right front st, the 6 (8, 8, 10, 10) right shoulder st, the 20 (24, 24, 26, 28) back st, the 6 (8, 8, 10, 10) left shoulder st, and the 2 left front st. Then continue down the left neck picking up 3 out of 4 selvedge st. When you get to the point where the neckline ends, place a marker and continue down the left front, picking up 3 out of 4 selvedge st to the bottom left corner.

Row 1: Knit.
Row 2: K to 1 st before the first marker, Kfb, slip marker, Kfb. K to 1 st before the second marker, Kfb, slip marker, Kfb. K to end. You are using these double increases to create a neat mitred corner at the neckline.
Row 3: (make buttonholes): Knit until you reach the point where you would like each buttonhole to be placed. For each buttonhole, YO, K2tog. K to end.
Row 4: Knit.
Row 5: BO loosely.

finishing
Sew buttons on very firmly.
Weave in ends.

variation
Use Color A for the body instead of Color B (you would need less than one skein of Color B to complete the garment in any size).

bumpi_A1
variation in color A - see how the hat looks here


bumpy hat

bumpyhat1

size
0-6 mos (6-12 mos, 18 mos, 2 yrs, 4 yrs)

materials
Blue Sky Alpacas Skinny Dyed Cotton
Color A: 1 skein (for the 2 smallest sizes, sweater leftovers are enough)
Color B: 1 skein
size 5 needles, DPN and 16” circular (or size to get gauge)
stitch markers
tapestry needle

measurements
head circumference: 14 (15.5, 16, 16.5, 18) inches

a note on sizing
The waffle check pattern is based on garter stitch, which is not very stretchy. If your baby has a big noggin like mine does, you may want to go up a size (see measurements, above).

inner casing
In Color A, cast on loosely 78 (86, 88, 92, 100) stitches. Place marker and knit in the round in st st until section measures 1.75 (1.75, 1.75, 2.25, 2.25) inches from cast on edge.

Next row: K2, YO, K to 2 st before marker, YO, K2.
Next row: Knit across, increasing 0 (0, 2, 2, 2) st evenly as you go. You will have 80 (88, 92, 96, 104) stitches on your needle.

brim
Next row: Change to waffle check stitch pattern (be sure to follow the directions for knitting in the round). Knit 2.5 (2.5, 2.5, 4, 4) full repeats of the stitch pattern.

crown
Next row: Change to color B and st st. Work 1 round even.
Next row: Decrease 2 (2, 4, 4, 4) st evenly across this round.
Continue knitting in st st until hat measures 5 (5, 6, 6.5, 7.25) inches from the beginning of the waffle check pattern.
For the two smallest sizes, knit 1 round, decreasing 2 stitches this round, evenly spaced.

decreasing for the crown
Dec rnd 1: *K2, K2 tog. Repeat from * to end.
Knit 1 round even.
Dec rnd 2: *K1, K2 tog. Repeat from * to end.
Knit 1 round even.
Dec rnd 3: *K2 tog. Repeat from * to end.
Repeat this last dec round until 5 stitches remain. Cut the yarn, pull the tail through the remaining stitches and fasten securely on the inside of the hat.

finishing
Turn hat inside-out. Fold up the inner casing so that the first row of the waffle check pattern serves as the turning ridge. Sew into place, taking care that your sewing yarn does not show through on the right side.

Weave in loose ends.

important notice: This is a free pattern and you are welcome to use it for all the non-commercial purposes you like. However, you may not reproduce this pattern to sell, and you may not sell what you make with it. You may donate what you make with it to charity, and you may use it for charity fundraisers only if 100% of the proceeds are donated to the charity (and by charity I don't mean your kid's college fund). Thanks for understanding!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

coming soon to a friday near you...

pretty button

The baby cardigan I've been working on is done, and it looks marvelous if I do say so myself. I love how the simple colorwork makes it look so fancy, and most of all I love that these pretty little vintage buttons I've been saving have finally found a home. Hooray! They added just the right touch. I can't wait to see the Little Pea wearing it this fall.

I've already made up a matching hat and written up the pattern, and as soon as I get a chance to do a photo shoot, I'll be posting it for a Free Pattern Friday very soon - in time for some fun fall knitting.

I'm really looking forward to sharing this pattern with you, especially since it's been ages since I posted a free pattern here. It's made with one of my favorite yarns, Blue Sky Alpacas Skinny Dyed, which has got to have the best colorways of any organic cotton out there.

Now I'm looking for some other fall knitting projects, despite the fact that I've got a lovely orphaned Komet and a half-knitted toy sloth looking mournfully at me out of the knitting basket. I need to go trawl the internets and see what's new for this season. What are y'all working on? Next on my list is a little Hansigurumi seahorse, which is going to get a rattle inside for you-know-who.

Friday, August 21, 2009

bootie love

pombooties

I just discovered that I love goofy Gramma booties!

Check these out! They came in a box of hand-me-downs, so I have no idea who made them, but they are awesome. I hadn't realized that I loved funky pom-pom booties until on a whim I put them on my kid. Dear God! Why had no one warned me of the cuteness??? And how lucky were we to score them in a hand-me-down box??

The overwhelming wave of cute-induced excitement got me wondering about where to find some good Gramma-bootie patterns on the internets. A year or two ago I knitted a bunch of sophisticated, classy, non-pom-pommed booties and posted my reviews of the free patterns here. Alas, those were the days before I had nummy little baby feet in the house in need of such garments. I believed that the simple, clean lines of a Mary-Jane style bootie were what one would want to see on one's well-dressed child. Ha! Bring on the pom-poms!

Actually, the main qualification for a good bootie is that they actually stay on. This automatically disqualifies Mary-Jane style booties, ballet slipper booties, and many other classy booties from consideration, and renders whatever I said in that previous review post basically worthless. It also explains why so many bootie patterns have names like "Stay-On Baby Booties," "Won't Slip Baby Booties," and "Guaranteed to Never Fall Off Or Your Money Back Baby Booties." Now I understand.

I think the booties above were made with Grandmother Owl's Really Good Booties pattern, (which is free on the webs), with pom-poms added. Friends with new babies, be forewarned: I will hereby be adding pom-poms or other such nonsense to every bootie I knit from now on! And to anyone who I ever knitted a classy Mary-Jane bootie for, my apologies. I didn't know.

Also, will I ever post a picture of any part of my child other than her feet? What's up with that? OK, next time - hands!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

a quick hello

Peeping out to say hello!

bumpy start

I am pleased to report that there is a little knitting underway here, however slowly. I'm designing a sweet little baby cardigan (what else?) with Blue Sky Alpacas Skinny Dyed. After my fun with color knitting earlier this spring, I really wanted to put one of these stitch patterns to use in a little sweater. I like how it's coming out, and this will definitely be appearing as a Free Pattern Friday some time in the near future.

There hasn't been much time for gardening, let alone cooking, but I am really happy that I was able to make a batch of jam this week from the delicious figs on our fig tree. The tree is having a banner year this year, and it was really disturbing me to watch out the window as squirrels and mockingbirds gobbled up all the ripe figs. I can see the tree from the rocking chair where I nurse the baby - it was driving me nuts! Now that I've had a chance to gobble some of them up myself, I don't begrudge the varmints their share anymore.

Last random bit in this hello post: I have a post up today on Sew Green about my struggles with green babyhood. I'd love to hear about some of your strategies!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

diaper ado

wrapper

One of the few things I managed to finish knitting before the Little Pea came along was a set of 6 wrap-style knitted diaper covers (the purpley-pink one above is one of my favorites).

Unfortunately, put into practice I discovered that this particular design is not particularly, uh, reliable in the poop containment arena. Oh well. The things you learn when the fantasy baby actually becomes reality...

However, I do plan to knit some pull-up style soakers and give those a try, and if (when!) her daytime naps ever stretch out sufficiently I might also try sewing some from felted sweaters รก la the Artful Parent (I am so in love with all Jean's fun projects).

Anyhow, this post was really just to say that over on Sew Green I have a post up today as part of a continuing discussion on cloth v. disposable diapers. Here is Lisa's earlier post on the subject.

Once I've had a chance to test-drive a few different hand-made soakers, I hope to post a review here. In the mean time though, it's factory-made diaper covers for us. *sigh* Can't make everything yourself, I guess.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

fast and slow

Some of the things I used to do so well, I do them now very slowly. But I also have a whole set of new doing things quickly skills.

I can knit about 3 rows at a time. Or I can wind a skein of yarn. But only one.

Once I've read an email, it seems to take me at least a week to answer it. Ditto phone messages.

I can read one chapter in a book, if it's a very very short chapter. Lately I've been reading a lot of Willa Cather, because her books are gorgeous and I am really enjoying them, but they're also quite convenient since the chapters are only a few pages each.

Blog posts take me at least a week to write (though most of that time is spent thinking through ideas and then forgetting them).

However, I can eat any meal in under three minutes. I can change a diaper faster than I thought possible, and I can dress a squirmy baby in a minute flat. With HWWLLB at home, I can do a trip to the grocery store, Target or the library in less than 45 minutes (but only one of those places - goodbye to multiple errands at once).

Nothing can be scheduled. Appointments are irrelevant.

Then there are the beautiful, long stretches of time that I spend nursing the Little Pea, rocking her, playing with her when she's awake or peeking at her while she sleeps. In actuality, these times take up most of my day, but when I think about them it seems that they are flying by and I'll never be able to remember all the amazing things that happen during each one. Time moves so painfully quickly now (especially when I'm asleep). I am beginning to understand that it will never slow down again.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

finished!

I finished a project!

tofutsiestop

It's embarrassing how little I've been able to accomplish in the knitting department the last few months. I started this little baby top in May thinking it would be a quick knit, and just finished it today. There are some other unfinished projects sitting around as well, but they take more focus than I have available at the moment between feedings - like the challenging socks that were a much-needed distraction when I was trying not to be impatient at the end of pregnancy, and now seem like a complicated joke. Ah, well.

As for this top, I just sort of made it up after seeing Pixie Purls' Country Kiddie pattern on Ravelry. It was too simple to really use a pattern for; just a basic top-down top. It's made with about half a skein of Tofutsies sock yarn, which has a really nice drape for a garment like this, and I think it will be nice and cool as a summer top, or a cute layer over a long-sleeved shirt in the fall. I added a little button at the neckline, and I'm glad, because we'll need it to accommodate our daughter's rather sizeable noggin.

I can't decide what to knit next - though every time I open the yarn stash and get as far as sifting through a couple of ideas, it's time to nurse the baby again, so maybe fantasizing or the occasional row on the Komet socks are as much knitting as I'll be able to do for a while.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

happy independence day!

happy4th

Happy 4th of July, everyone! I hope you're enjoying a fun summer day with your beloveds.

In honor of Independence Day, here are 5 ways to celebrate your independence today:

1. Spend the day without spending. Try not to buy anything all day today. Leaving the car in the driveway all day would make this a lot easier!

2. Make a special treat with stuff you already have in your cupboards. Some suggestions: popcorn balls, fancy brownies (decorated with those jimmies you've had in the back of the cabinet for eons), or some smashing toppings for your tofu dogs (more here and here!).

3. Spend the day on a "use what you have" craft project. The one on my waiting list is a refashioned shirt, but the list is endless... here are some fun 4th of July suggestions from whipup.

4. Design a knitting project for yourself. Is there something you've been wanting to make, even have the yarn for, but just can't find the right pattern? Now's the time! Check out some design resources to get you started, like Jenna Wilson's great column, "Thinking Beyond the Pattern," on Knitty.

5. Make yourself happy. Make a list of five people that you're grateful to have in your life, and why. You can spread the happiness around by sending one (or all) of them a sweet little note telling them how great they are.

I hope you all have a great day!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

little pea

toes

The little one has finally arrived! Today is her one-week birthday.

Forgive the brevity of this post; I am snatching a moment between feeding and napping to eat some lunch and say hello.

The baby, mom and dad are all healthy and doing great. It feels like the three of us are surrounded in a protective cocoon of love and support. As we get to know each other and learn to be a family, it seems we don't have to worry about a thing. Our dinners show up every evening just when it's time to eat; there are stacks and stacks of clean baby clothes and blankets and burp cloths thanks to hand-me-downs from friends; there are so many sweet voices and hearts wishing us well; and there are wise, wise grandmothers by our side helping us find our way into parenthood.

Little Pea is also a wise teacher. I wasn't expecting that. She is patient, loving, persistent, and gives the most incredible positive feedback, even when you're doing something only half-right. She is humbling, and to our dazzled eyes, exquisitely beautiful.

Thanks to all of you for your kind and supportive words, especially at the end of what was a rather long pregnancy! She is more than worth waiting for. Hopefully soon I'll be knitting for her (and others) again, and there will be plenty to say about that.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

sew green is back!

Hi all,

This is a very quick post to say hooray! Sew Green is back.

I think that some of you who read my blog came over here from Sew Green in the first place - it's a great group of artists, crafters and designers who write about greening their craft (I am one of the contributors). We really slacked off and had been AWOL for a while, but as of this week, Sew Green is back in action! yay!

I'll be writing there again, and most of the past contributors are back, with some new voices too. Please do visit and check out our weekly posts!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

distracting socks

happyfeet

One of the downsides of stockinette stitch is that it doesn't do much to occupy one's mind.

The baby is getting to be rather overdue (almost 2 weeks now), and I am doing my best (which isn't always very effective) to find things to keep my mind occupied. Work threw some interesting things my way last week, but they don't fill every minute. I have a good book, but it's going to end eventually. Both the sloth and the little baby top I'm making are basically nothing but endless rounds of stockinette stitch at this point - no help at all.

The color patterns I was working on last week were a lot of fun, and very distracting, but then I finished what I was doing with them and that was the end of that (I made a bunch of beer cozies and coasters as a birthday prize for a friend - and I will say that they came out quite cute).

So I looked through my queue on Ravelry to find something do-able (because I have no creative brain cells available at the moment), but complicated enough to keep my mind occupied. Then it hit me - fancy socks! Komet is the answer. And a handy opportunity to de-stash a little sock yarn.

This is a great pattern - it's an absolutely wonderful design with alternating panels of cables and lace that you do actually have to pay attention to to keep from screwing up, but straightforward enough that I also don't have to think too hard to do it. Just right!

I dug out a couple of balls of Plymouth Happy Feet in a wonderful variegated plum color that provides nice eye candy while working, and I have been happily knitting away on these since last night. Thank you, fancy socks! Maybe vigorous sock knitting will help induce labor...

Friday, June 05, 2009

messing around with color

color trio

Color has always been challenging for me in knitting. I do fine with large blocks of color, or with stripes, but when it comes to the fancy colorwork department, I stay away.

It mystifies me. I've always wanted to be able to knit amazing colorwork like this or this, but I never really felt like I had the knitting chops (or the patience) to manage multiple balls of yarn and all those floats and color changes and whatnot.

Instead, I have always stuck with texture and structure to make my knitting interesting. But my most favorite vintage styles manage to combine both color and texture, like this.

Lately I've been really feeling the need to get over this hangup and just learn how to knit what I want to. So I got a good book (it was on sale!) and spent some time reading it, and realized that this is not rocket science. (Duh - of course it's not! It's knitting! Nothing in knitting is as hard as you think it will be before you try it - when will I learn this??).

I grabbed some inexpensive-yet-colorful craft store yarn (see above) for some small projects that will let me try out some colorwork techniques. Preliminary indications are that this is going to be fun.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

trying not to wait

the first cucumber
waiting for cucumbers

What I'm doing right now instead of waiting around...

writing grant proposals

cooking, a little, with tasty things from the garden

clearing out the freezer

enjoying the garden with HWWLLB (he works, I watch)

knitting diaper covers

reading a lot:
  • Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
  • Michael Cunningham, The Hours
  • Willa Cather, One of Ours
  • Pam England & Rob Horowitz, Birthing from Within
  • George Downing, The Massage Book
  • Monica Ali, Brick Lane
sleeping a lot

practicing yoga

practicing meditation

finding little chances to enjoy friends (between grant proposals and naps)

writing in my journal

fantasizing about craft projects (but mostly not doing them)

So far so good. I feel very patient. Now if only the well-meaning phone calls would stop interrupting my non-waiting ("Hi, are you in labor yet?"), maybe I could get some of these craft projects underway...

Monday, May 18, 2009

tie-dye, chickens, and nothing to report.

Love Party coop 8

Hi all. Sorry I've been such a slack blogger lately. Down to the last few weeks of pregnancy, and we are getting a lot of phone calls to which our standard response is, "No, nothing to report."

Lately I am back to my old routine of collapsing into bed by 9 PM or so, which doesn't leave much spare time for other pursuits. Even knitting has become kind of tiring. Instead I'm gobbling up books (I just finished Monica Ali's Brick Lane, if you're looking for a good read - it was great).

Saturday I did not manage to go on the Henside the Beltline Tour d' Coop, but I did hang out over at Mr & Mrs Love Party's house to keep them company during the tour for a little while. They had about 150 people come through their backyard to check out their chickens and ask the same dozen or so questions over and over again. A friend of ours on the tour in a very popular part of town had over 600 people come through! Backyard chickens have become a big thing in Raleigh, and every spring the fever spreads a little more via the Tour d'Coop. If you're a chicken fan, check out this local news video full of great chicken coop pictures and a short interview with tour founder Bob Davis.

Love Party coop 7

I grew up with chickens and fresh eggs, and I would love to have them again - especially for the poop. I think they would do our garden right. But HWWLLB is seriously not into this idea, and it seems that fresh eggs are becoming pretty abundant in our neighborhood without any contributions from us. I sure wouldn't mind going co-op with someone who wants the chickens-as-pets-and-for-eggs part, who would let me have the poop.

On a totally different topic, I did want to share a morsel of the previous weekend, which was a wonderful two days of family, friends, food, surprises, gifts, crafts... you get the idea. I should have written about it then. Anyway, my wonderful sister threw us a surprise (and very green) baby shower. There were out-of-town friends and family, and it turned into a whole weekend of fun. Bugheart and Grub came down from D.C., and after breakfast on Sunday morning we went out into the backyard and tie-dyed a big stack of onesies.

freedom rock onesies 1

HWWLLB has been plotting this project for a while. It was very messy and fun, and now our baby will feel right at home when he cranks up the Dead on a Saturday afternoon. More pics here. I love how bright they all are. And it really got me itching to dye the bundle of sock yarn I've had in the closet for so long...

Sunday, May 03, 2009

micro is the new green

baby greens 2

This has been an exciting early-spring garden for me because of a new (to us) innovation: micro greens!

A few months ago during the seed swap that we had with friends, I was thinking about ways to use up old seed packets, and looking at all the expensive blends of seeds they put into the seed catalogs, and realized that I had plenty of potential custom blends of my own sitting there in the bin of old seeds.

I made a blend for micro greens with:
beets
pac choi
corn salad
zen
spinach

We also had a big packet of unopened mesclun mix from two years before. In March I got two long planters (the kind you use for window boxes), and planted each with one of the blends. These seeds are all somewhat aged, so I didn't really worry about germination rates, I just dumped them in there. They have done great!

The first time I had to thin them, we made a salad with just a few leaves of over-wintered Bibb lettuce, and a whole bunch of tasty little micro greens. They are delicious! HWWLLB, who is really not a salad-eater even on his most virtuous days, proclaimed them "much better than lettuce" and said he would happily eat them whenver I served them.

Each time we harvest them, it seems to just make more room for the left-behind greens to get a bit fluffier, but I did finally do some re-seeding last week. I plan to keep harvesting and re-seeding them til I run out of seeds. I don't know what I'll do then - though if I dig through our old-seed bin again, I bet I'll find a bunch more aging seeds that would like to become fancy salad mix.

Here's a recipe for the dressing that has become our new favorite on micro greens:

Put into a small jar:
4 Tbsp EV olive oil
2-3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1/8 tsp honey
pinch of sea salt
one clove of garlic, peeled (but not chopped)

Shake well to blend contents thoroughly. Let the garlic steep in the dressing for a little while before serving. If you leave the garlic in the jar, it will just keep infusing the dressing with a stronger garlic flavor until the dressing is used up. Keep refrigerated.

And thanks to all of you for the tips on getting things finished (or not). I think I just need to accept that this is my M.O. right now. Too many things on my mind to worry about unfinished knitting. In fact, knitting is usually so therapeutic for me... I think if I forget about it for a little while, I'm going to come running back to the yarn in my hour of need anyway (and maybe get some of those wayward projects done).

Friday, April 24, 2009

unfinished everything

unfinished soaker

unfinished arm

Do you ever get into a funk where you can't seem to finish any projects?

This is really bothering me. I don't like unfinished projects. They really aggravate me. But everywhere I look, they seem to surround me.

The sloth softie that was supposed to be done for HWWLLB's birthday on March 27... still armless and lying around in pieces. The big pile of soakers I thought I would have finished by now... still a measly pile of 2.5 completed soakers. Those aren't going to last long. And all my secret plans for cute little booties, caps and blankies - ha! Barely more than a twinkle in my eye.

I don't even want to talk about all the unfinished non-knitting projects. I can't even seem to finish an email lately! What is going on? It really is very unlike me.

Does anyone have any hot tips for breaking out of the Unfinished Projects Funk?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

quiet evening with vegetable stock

Things have been pretty hectic at work lately. It means I have been treasuring the quiet time at home all the more.

Tonight HWWLLB was out for a meeting, and I had the house to myself. Simon and I hung out in the garden for a while, just puttering a bit, knocking butterfly eggs off the baby kale leaves and that sort of thing. I harvested a nice bunch of curly Russian kale for dinner and ate it with a plate of noodles with white bean sauce. It was so simple, and very satisfying.

Once it got dark, I decided to do a little sewing, since I've had a small pile of mending waiting for me for some time. While I did that, I also put on a big pot of vegetable stock. I really like making my own vegetable stock - the kind that comes in a box is so salty and flavorless, and so expensive. I know some people think it's a pain, but I find home made vegetable stock to be really easy, particularly just letting it simmer on the stove while you do other things (like sew or read a book). The way I make it - full of colorful veggies - is much richer than clear veggie broth, and extremely nutritious. It's a great substitute for chicken or even beef broth.

Here's how I make it:

rich vegetable stock

1 big freezer bag full of vegetable trimmings
1 big stock pot full of water
salt and pepper

Whenever you're cooking and have to cut up vegetables, peel carrots, roast squash, etc, keep the trimmings. Just keep putting them into a one-gallon freezer bag until the bag is full. Some of the kinds of things you should definitely save for your veggie stock are:

onion ends and bits
carrot peels
sweet potato peels
squash skins - particularly after roasting
broccoli stems
kale and collard stems
garlic
etc.

The only things I don't like to add are potato peels and bits, because they make the stock too starchy for my taste. Traditional veggie broth recipes usually call for little more than carrots, celery and onions. Making stock this way you get an extremely nutritious, colorful broth that makes your soups much richer. You can easily water it down if you want a lighter taste.

Anyhow, once the freezer bag fills up with scraps, it's time to make stock. Dump the contents of the bag into your biggest stock pot and cover with water, leaving a couple inches of space at the top of the pot. You can throw in whatever spices you like - I always put in plenty of salt and black peppercorns, and sometimes bay leaves, juniper berries, or whatever else looks good. Cover and bring to a boil.

Once the pot is boiling, give it a good stir and turn it down to low heat to simmer, covered, for at least 1.5 hours. I usually go to 2 hours. Once that's done, scoop out all your floppy veggies and toss them into the compost. If you want a more concentrated broth to thin with water when you use it, keep simmering and cooking it down til it reaches half its volume (this will also save some space in your freezer).

When you're done simmering, let the broth cool, then strain it and place it into freezer-safe containers (I love to recycle big yogurt containers for this - one container holds 4 cups of broth, which is just right for lots of soup recipes). Label with the date and put them in the freezer til you're ready to use them.

Of course, vegetable stock is great for making soup, but I also find that rice tastes incredible cooked in it instead of water. The same is true for quinoa, cous-cous and other grains, and I'm sure they are more nutritious cooked this way, too.

Friday, April 10, 2009

hot critter::two-toed sloth

It's time for the next installment in the Hot Critter series, which has brought you such wonders as the Neuse River Water Dog and the Star-Nosed mole. Today's hot critter is the Two-Toed Sloth.

As you may already know, a creature appearing here in Hot Critter means that said creature is about to get knitted up into a cuddly home version, which is as true as ever in this case. HWWLLB just had a big birthday, and one of his gifts was a knitted, stuffed and felted sloth - his very favorite animal (I'm almost done with knitting it).

So why would someone have a sloth as their favorite animal? Where to begin??

There aren't very many sloths in the world - in quantity or in variety. There are only two species of the two-toed sloth, Choloepus Didactylus, and Choloepus hoffmanni, and just four species of her cousin the three-toed sloth. Sloths are reclusive and prefer remote areas far from humans - which is easy to understand. Because sloths move so incredibly slowly, the can't run away from logging trucks or wildlife poachers, so with habitat destruction eating away at their homes in South America, the sloths are slowly disappearing (they do everything slowly).

Sloths spend their lives hanging in trees, thanks to their powerful claws. They are also pretty good swimmers, but if for some reason they hit the ground, they are extremely vulnerable. Those awesome hanging legs are near useless on land, where they are easy prey for large cats like jaguars and ocelots.

The sloth is solitary, and takes life very slowly. She spends all her days hanging in trees, sleeping as much as 15 to 20 hours per day, and eating mostly juicy plants. She sleeps, eats, mates, births and rears her young all while hanging upside-down from trees, and baby sloths hang onto their mothers for several months after birth.



Believe it or not, there isn't much more than this that the world knows about sloths, two-toed or three-toed. Because of their solitary nature and preference for remote areas, sloths have been severely under-studied. There are a few institutions who rehabilitate injured sloths and study their behavior and biology - the Avia Rios Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica, and the UNAU Foundation in Columbia are two examples, and they deserve our support.

It seems like it's time to revoke the sloth's "deadly sin" status - living a life of quiet solitude, practicing vegetarianism (mostly) and staying away from troublesome people - sloths are a lot more like Buddhist monks than degenerate sinners. If you admire the sloth too, watch this space for the forthcoming sloth softie and knitting pattern, which I am currently working on - slooowly.

Monday, April 06, 2009

hello again

dandelion hill
dandelions in downtown raleigh

Sorry it's been so quiet here. My internet was down for a while. I finally have it fixed tonight and decided to just share some photos from the days and weeks since I last posted.

tangy
spring onions from the garden

greenhouse
happy little seedlings staying warm in the greenhouse

fig buds
buds on the fig tree

wisteria1
wisteria buds on the railing behind our building at work


I hope everyone is enjoying some taste of spring. More soon.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

first harvest

lettuce2

Today was a beautiful mild, sunny spring Sunday. While I was out puttering in the garden, I cut some lettuce because the patch was getting very crowded, and realized that this bunch represents the first harvest of the 2009 season! Hooray!

I am really looking forward to a season full of fresh veggies from the garden and the CSA, especially now that it really, really feels like spring. It's been pouring rain for the last week, so dark and dreary. But you know what they say about spring showers... everything is so lush and bright outside now.

This was HWWLLB's birthday weekend (he is 40!), and I think he got Spring for his birthday. The sun peeked out for part of the day on Saturday, but today was just gorgeous and sunny, and we both spent a lot of time wandering through the yard marveling at how everything seemed to have exploded overnight.

The birthday weekend was great. Lots of good food and friends, lots of decadent treats, some board games, a walk at the botanical garden, and a wonderful afternoon half-working, half-lounging in the garden.

I got some weeding done, but the weeding was really just an excuse to poke around and see what was coming up. I just love the feeling when you pull away a big pile of chickweed, and underneath you find something great coming up, like the Spotted Joe Pye Weed that was hiding under mounds of chickweed today. The promise of warm summer days to come.

HWWLLB got another half-finished knitting project for his birthday, but he seemed happy with it despite my slowness (or maybe he's so used to getting unfinished knitted gifts that it doesn't faze him anymore).

His most favorite animal of all time is the sloth, and so I'm making him a life-sized, felted two-toed sloth. The body is just about done, and then I'll start on the legs (including giant claws!). It's been a lot of fun to knit so far, so I hope it will finish up relatively quickly. It's also been fun for me to learn about sloths in the process - and of course I'll be sharing some of what I learned with y'all in an upcoming post, because I do love to share when I learn about some adorable Endangered Ugly Thing. Nature is just so cool.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

winter turns into spring

irises

Since the last time I wrote, which was a snow day, winter has careened headlong into spring and back again a couple of times. But I'm finally starting to believe that spring is really here. The birds are making nests all over, and our greenhouse is loaded with little plants almost ready to go into the garden.

I've mostly been doing indoor things, like knitting and re-arranging & re-organizing the house. We moved my work/craft space from one side of the house to the other. I used to have a room all to myself, which I loved very very much. My new workspace is in the back room of the house, which is large, open and sunny, with lots of windows.

It's great, except that the big back room also contains our dining area, and my workspace is visible from lots of other places, so I feel compelled to organize it well and keep it neat, which does not come very naturally to me.

My dad helped by building some shelves, and cleaning out a ton of craft supplies and old papers helped a lot too. A paper and craft purge feels really good once in a while. And we found the funniest things. I had a decrepit cardboard box stuffed with paper and photos from high school. There were hundreds of little notes that other kids and I had passed back and forth to each other in class (why did I keep these things??). At first my sister and I found them uproariously funny, but after the third or fourth note, high school drama gets a bit monotonous.

I am going to DIE DIE DIE! Some one can't keep their mouth shut and now everyone knows who I like including Dave M, Tracey, Tom S and C.S.!!!!! And HE knows! All I did was tell one person who I thought I could trust and now everyone including my crush knows everything! My life is ending!!!!!!

...etc.

We wound up throwing out the whole box, just rescuing a few photos first. I also found all my journals since college or so (hopefully I burned all the high school journals in a previous purge), and I put them in storage boxes in the attic, along with photo albums going back to elementary school.

I think this is what they call spring cleaning. So far it hasn't involved much soap and water, but egad, so much dust! Getting rid of dusty piles of things has got to be one of the most therapeutic activities there is.

By the way, thanks to all of you who suggested knitting up some soakers with my yarn leftovers - what a great idea! I do have a lot of Cascade 220 around, so I've made a couple of wrap-style soakers and one of the Butt Knits variety, which is coming along splendidly. They are a fun quick project to work in between other knits, and they do use up the Cascade leftovers quite brilliantly. But I am on to a rather ambitious knitted toy today... it's a birthday present which I can't imagine I'll get done in time, but I'll post updates once the recipient gets his prize (finished or not). It fits into the Endangered Ugly Things category, so this toy is either going to be really cute or really weird.

Monday, March 02, 2009

another snow day! toys!

another snow day 2

I can't believe it. A snow day in March!

Most winters we are lucky to get even one little dusting of snow - this is our third snowstorm of the year! And in March, no less!

Truthfully, I am itching to get the garden going and to spend breezy warm spring days outside, but I can't complain about snow. It's so magical and wonderful.

Yesterday it rained all day, and we spent the day tearing our house apart, de-cluttering, re-arranging, and trying to make room for another human being in our stuffed-full little house. My workspace is moving across the house, and I had occasion to look through my yarn stash with fresh eyes.

I tend to keep my yarn stash to a minimum - I am pretty good about using what I buy and not buying stuff I don't plan to use anytime soon (except for the sock yarn - let's not talk about that. It's an illness). So I was pretty pleased to see that my most recent de-stashing effort had been pretty well maintained.

But goodness, do I have a lot of single and partial skeins! As we cleaned and organized and re-arranged yesterday, I was mulling over what to do with them all, and I'm thinking that perhaps this spring will become a festival of knitted toys at my house. I have more than enough remnants for a whole ecosystem of little critters, populated by stuffies, woodins and owls, tended by a little rainbow fleet of Korknisser.

Any favorite toy ideas to suggest? I'm definitely hoping to design a few new ones, too. Send your requests!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

cardi revision

Just a quick note to say that if you're knitting the scrappy cardi, I posted a minor revision this morning.

Ever since I posted the pattern on Friday, something about the sizing had been bothering me. I had finished writing and editing the pattern on Wednesday and set it up to publish automatically on Friday morning, while I was away at a conference. The conference kept me distracted enough that I wasn't able to put my finger on what was bothering me until this week. But I realized eventually that it needed just a little more ease.

I hate when I do that. I know that they're free patterns and everything, but after a couple of years of this amateur designing, I am finally coming to realize that I should "finish" the pattern and let it sit for a week or two and marinate in my mind before I hit publish - just to let any kinks unravel themselves in the mean time.

Anyhow, in the shower I realized that the solution to the ease was very simple - all it needed was one extra increase round before dividing for the sleeves, and it would be just fine. Whew! That was a relief. Bad enough to have jumped the gun on publishing something, but at least it didn't need a major overhaul.

At any rate, in case anyone has already cast on for this project, you don't need to do anything differently, until you get to the final increase round before dividing for the sleeves. Just print the revised version of the pattern that went up this morning, and you're all set.

My apologies - and thanks to all of you for coming along on this bumpy ride learning to design cute things that other people can actually knit. I am always amazed that anyone else wants to knit the same things I do. Thanks for letting me experiment in such a supportive test lab!

Friday, February 20, 2009

free pattern friday: scrappy socky stripey cardi

socky

This baby jacket is a great way to use up leftover sock yarn and make a fun little sweater at the same time. This pattern uses three different leftover yarns – one is a solid, one is variegated, and one is self-striping. You can mix yours up however you like. I also varied the width of my stripes as I knitted – make yours as varied or as regular as you like (you don’t have to follow the charts provided below). You can hardly go wrong! Just make sure that your sock yarns are all the same weight and fiber content (more or less). Using superwash yarn is a good idea to keep this little garment easy-care.

[Revised 2.25.09 to add one increase row to body]

materials

leftover sock yarn in 3 colors
color A (solid) – up to 200 yd (shown: Tess Super Sock & Baby)
color B (self-striping) – up to 50 yd (shown: Regia Kaffe Fassett Landscape in color “Caribbean”)
color C (variegated) – up to 50 yd (shown: Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock Multi in color “Gold Hill”)
size 2 /3.0mm needles (circular and DPN)
size 1 /2.5mm needles (circular)
size 1 crochet hook (2.35 mm)
2 buttons (3/4 inch)
sewing needle & thread
tapestry needle

gauge: 7 stitches and 9 rows / inch

size: 0-6 (6-12, 12-18, 24) months

finished measurements:
chest circumference: 18.5 (19, 20.5, 21.5) inches
back waist length: 10 (11, 11.5, 12) inches
sleeve: 6.5 (7.5, 8, 8.5) inches

stripe patterns
(as shown in photos – make yours however you like!)

color key:
colorchart

yoke stripes:
yokestripe

body stripes:
bodystripe

sleeve stripes:
sleevestripe

knitting instructions

Using larger needles and color A, CO 2 (3, 3, 4), PM, CO 16 (17, 17, 18), PM, CO 24 (28, 30, 32), PM, CO 16 (17, 17, 18), PM, CO 2 (3, 3, 4).
You will have cast on a total of 60 (68, 70, 76) st.

Row 1: Kfb of first stitch, * K to 1 st before marker, Kfb, slip marker, Kfb. Repeat from * to final stitch. Kfb of final stitch. (10 st inc.)
Row 2: Knit across.

Repeat these last 2 rows until you have 34 (38, 40, 44) st between the back markers.

Next row: *K to 1 st before marker, Kfb, slip marker, Kfb. Repeat from * to final stitch. CO 1 (2, 3, 1) stitches to tip of needle.
Next row: Knit across. CO 1 (2, 3, 1) stitches to tip of needle. You will have 120 (130, 134, 146) st total.

Next row: Work as for previous increase row, without adding the cast on to the end. (8 stitches inc.)
Next row: Knit across.

Repeat these last 2 rows until you have 60 (62, 66, 70) st between the back markers.

divide for sleeves

K to first marker, remove marker, place shoulder st on a length of scrap yarn.
CO 6 (7, 7, 7) st to tip of needle, remove next marker, join to back stitches.
K to next marker, remove marker, place shoulder st on a length of scrap yarn.
CO 6 (7, 7, 7) st to tip of needle, remove next marker, join to remaining front stitches.
K to end.

Complete your color repeat in garter stitch.

Change to color A and stockinette stitch, knitting the body in varying stripes of colors A and C until the body measures 9.75 (10.75, 11.25, 11.75) inches. Change to color C and knit 4 rows in garter stitch. BO.

sleeves

Place the held stitches onto your DPN’s. Using the correct color to maintain your color repeat from the body stitches, pick up and knit the 6 (7, 7, 7) armpit stitches you cast on when dividing for sleeves. Place marker.

You will complete your color repeat in garter stitch, just as you did for the body. This time, when you change to stockinette stitch, you’ll be knitting in alternating rows of colors A and B, starting with color A.

At the same time:
K 3 rows.
Decrease row: K1, SSK, K to last 3 stitches, K2tog, K1. (2 st dec).
Next three rows: Knit.

Continue in this manner, decreasing 2 stitches on every fourth round until 40 (42, 44, 48) stitches remain. Do not decrease any further.

Knit until sleeve measures 6.25 (7.25, 7.75, 8.25) inches.
Change to color C, K 4 rows in garter stitch. BO loosely.

scrap cardi 2

button bands

Using smaller needles and color C, pick up 3 out of every 4 stitches along the right front selvedge (about 70, 78, 82, 86 stitches).
Knit 3 more rows in garter stitch. BO.
Repeat for left side.

collar

Starting at the right front, using color C and smaller needles, pick up and knit the collar stitches.

Pick up and knit 14 (16, 17, 18) stitches from the right front, 16 (17, 17, 18) stitches from the right shoulder, 24 (28, 30, 32) stitches across the back, 16 (17, 17, 18) stitches from the left shoulder, and 14 (16, 17, 18) stitches from the left front.

Turn work, K 3 more rows in garter stitch.
Final row: K2tog, bind off all stitches until 2 st rem, SSK, BO.

buttons

Sew first button onto right side of button band, 1/2 inch down from neck line. Sew second button 2 inches below first button (measuring from centers of buttons).

button loops

Using crochet hook and color C, attach the yarn to the left button band on the wrong side of the sweater, being sure to place the loop where it will line up with the first button.
Make a chain of 11 ch with your crochet hook (or the proper length to fit your button). Attach chain to back side of button band, secure and weave in ends.
Repeat for the second loop, lining up with the second button.

scrap cardi 3

finishing

Weave in loose ends. Block sweater into shape.


important notice: This is a free pattern and you are welcome to use it for all the non-commercial purposes you like. However, you may not reproduce this pattern to sell, and you may not sell what you make with it. You may donate what you make with it to charity, and you may use it for charity fundraisers only if 100% of the proceeds are donated to the charity (and by charity I don't mean your kid's college fund). Thanks for understanding!