Sunday, December 26, 2010

season's greetings

walking downtown

We're snowed in at HWWLLB's parents' house in the mountains. It's wonderful.

It was such a busy, hectic fall. Being snowed in over Christmas means that basically everything has stopped. We didn't travel to see more relatives, I'm not trying to cram in any work, we're not even making trips to the grocery store. We're here with yarn and books and toys, finding little ways to have fun, and taking lots of naps. I really needed this break. It took a foot of snow to get me to slow down and relax!

I have two knitting projects going here: one secret and one decoy. The secret project was supposed to be a Christmas gift, but it wasn't done in time, so it will be a birthday gift in January instead. It's Elizabeth Zimmerman's Norwegian mittens, and they are the most beautiful things I've ever knitted by far. I keep stroking and gazing at them (which may be why they weren't finished in time for Christmas!).

The decoy is because we're hanging out with the mitten recipient, so I can't very well gaze upon the mittens (or knit them) in front of her. So I'm working on a bulky jacket for the Pea with big fat giant colorful Lang Mille Colori Big yarn. It's beautiful and soft and quick and fun.

It's hard to fit all this knitting in between naps and baking, but somehow I'm managing. I hope you're having a wonderful holiday. This is just what I wanted for Christmas!

Monday, December 06, 2010

recipe::warm & spicy winter soup

I am a firm believer in the healing powers of home-made soup. As a vegetarian, I'm always looking for the non-meat version of the incredibly comforting chicken-noodle soup. This isn't that exactly, but it is a warm, aromatic bowl packed full of vitamin C, protein, and immune-system-boosting ingredients for a cold winter's night.

If this soup is for family dinner, serve it with salad and a crusty bread to make it snazzy - but if you're feeling under the weather, a bowl by itself is nutritionally complete and sure to warm your bones. Bonus: this recipe is also vegan and gluten-free!

warm & spicy winter soup

prep time: 20 minutes
cooking time: 1 hour
serves 4-6

ingredients

1 onion, minced
10 cloves garlic, minced
1 2-inch stick of fresh ginger, peeled & minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 cup dry mung beans, split peas, lentils or other quick-cooking dry bean
1/2 cup millet or quinoa
1 sweet potato, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
1 bunch of fresh greens (spinach, kale or chard work well), chopped
1 quart of vegetable stock
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt & pepper to taste

Mince the onions, garlic and ginger in the food processor or by hand. In a large soup pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onions, garlic and ginger until the onion becomes tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the curry powder and saute another minute. Pour the vegetable stock into the pot.

Rinse the beans and grains well and add them to the pot. (If you are using quinoa, soak it first and rinse it thoroughly to remove the bitter husk). Bring the pot to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer and cover the pot. Let it simmer for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel the carrots and sweet potatoes and dice them. Add them to the pot, and continue to simmer, covered, until the vegetables and beans are tender (another 20-30 minutes).

Once the veggies and beans are tender, add the greens, stir them in and let the whole pot simmer until the greens are tender, another 5-6 minutes or so. Salt and pepper to taste. Before serving, add the lemon juice.

tips & variations
- Chopped frozen spinach is a fine substitute for fresh, especially when you're in a hurry.

- If you have some leftover cooked brown rice, you can add that instead of the millet or quinoa. Cooked grains should be added about the same time you add the greens.

- If you like thicker, creamier soup, try this: Just before the point when you'd add the greens, scoop about 1/3 to 1/2 of the pot of soup into the food processor and puree. Return the puree to the pot and stir it in well. Then continue with the rest of the recipe.

- If a little extra heat makes your runny nose feel better, consider adding 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or hot chili paste to the onion saute along with your curry powder. Serve with a bottle of hot sauce on the table, too.

- I like to make a big batch of soup and then freeze containers of one to two servings for another day. If you do that with this recipe, I'd suggest leaving out the greens and lemon juice. Add them instead when you defrost and re-heat the soup to get a fresher taste, brighter colors and more nutrients out of your leftovers.

I hope this helps you through your winter colds!

Friday, November 26, 2010

free pattern friday::soxxy dress

soxxy dress

Here's a dress for the Scrappy Doll, made with some sock yarn leftovers. The pattern is knit from the bottom up, and quite simple, so you can adapt it for dolls of all sizes. Make one in each of your favorite sock yarn leftover colors!

size: one size (to fit a 10.5 inch doll)

gauge: 7.5 stitches/inch

materials:
small amount of leftover sock yarn (shown in Curious Creek Wasonga)
US Size 1 DPN's
stitch marker
tapestry needle

Cast on 124 stitches. Join to knit in the round, being careful not to twist. Place a stitch marker to mark the start of the round.

Knit 4 rounds in stockinette stitch.
R5: *K1, P1. Repeat from * to end. This ridge will stop the edge from rolling further.
Continue in stockinette stitch until the piece measures one inch.

Next round: K2tog every stitch to end. 62 stitches remain.
Continue in stockinette stitch until the piece measures 3.5 inches.

Next round: Knit 31, placing all stitches on one needle. Knit the next 31 stitches onto another needle - now your work is divided into 2 pieces.

You will knit flat from here up, working back & forth on one needle only, knitting every row (garter stitch). As you go, be sure to slip the first stitch of each row, with the yarn held in the front (wyif), in order to keep a tidy edge. You can hold your stitches for the front of the dress on a needle, scrap yarn or a stitch holder as you work the back.

soxxy dress 2

back of dress
Row 1: BO 3, K to end.
Row 2: BO 3, K to end.
Knit 4 rows.

Next row: Slip 1 wyif, K2tog, K to 3 stitches before end. SSK, K1.
Next row: Knit.
Repeat these last 2 rows until 21 stitches remain on the needle.

create the straps
Next row: Slip 1 wyif, K2tog, K1, BO 13, K1, SSK, K1.
Now you have 2 straps begun, each with 3 stitches. Hold one on your needle or a piece of scrap yarn while you knit the other. Work 21 rows on each strap, continuing to slip the first stitch of each row wyif. Once you have 21 rows, bind off all stitches, trim the end, rejoin the yarn and work the other strap the same way.

front of dress
Rejoin the yarn.
Row 1: BO 3, K to end.
Row 2: BO 3, K to end.
Knit 4 rows.
BO all stitches.

finishing
Weave in ends and trim. Fold the straps over from back to front and sew them down very firmly on the front of the dress (see photo).

Sunday, November 07, 2010

recently

smooshee3

I knitted a smooshee man as a gift for one of the Pea's friends. She enjoyed taking him for a test run in the backyard.

mid stream

Instead of trick-or-treating, we spent Halloween playing at the state park just outside city limits.

broccoli girl

If you guessed that all those pom-poms I made were for a broccoli costume, you were right (and also, you are amazingly psychic!). She liked the costume for about the first 15 minutes, but spent the rest of the afternoon pulling on the pom-poms saying "OFF! OFF!" The broccoli looks a bit steamed in all of the pictures. HA HA! Steamed! Broccoli! Ah, just made myself laugh. Whew.

leaves in stream

I can't believe it's November already. November 7th, to be exact. Holy moly. I hope you're having a great fall.

Friday, October 29, 2010

free pattern friday::scrappy doll

scrappy doll

My grandmother liked to make dolls for us from hollyhock flowers: one bud for the head, one bloom for the skirt. Dolls are easy to make from whatever you have on hand, and fortunately children are easy to please when it comes to a new toy. This sweet felted doll is no different - she is made from leftovers and stashed bits. Find a handful of worsted-weight wool leftovers and you're ready to make a snuggly felted doll for your little one. Doll’s dress & sweater patterns from scrap sock yarn coming soon.

The doll is knitted all in one piece, from the top down, with minimal sewing up, and then felted. Her head and hands are made from less than half a skein of one skin-toned color, and her top and leggings from similar amounts in two different colors of your choice (you could also make a bodysuit in one solid color if you like). After felting, stuffing and sewing up, you'll make her hair and embroider her face. I made her hair from a small amount of heavy worsted merino, but almost any yarn can work for the hair, from Fun Fur to silk. Once you've embroidered her face, she's finished. Then you can make endless outfits from her with more of your leftover yarn - dolls just love new outfits.

and here's a dress for your doll.

size: one size

measurements
head-to-toe length: approximately 10 1/2 inches
head circumference: 10 inches
chest circumference: 8 inches

gauge
about 4.5 stitches = 1 inch. Gauge is not terribly important for this project.

materials
less than 1/2 skein of worsted-weight 100% wool in each of three colors:
color A (skin tone)
color B (top)
color C (leggings)
I used Cascade 220 – whatever you use, be sure that it will felt!
size 8 (US) double-pointed needles
stitch markers in at least 2 colors
less than 1/2 skein of yarn for hair
embroidery floss for eyes and mouth
embroidery needle
tapestry needle
sewing needle & thread in color to match hair
small amount of polyester fiberfill (or stuffing of your choice)
sewing machine (optional)

knit the doll’s head (starting from the crown)
Using Color A, CO 6, distribute evenly across 3 DPN’s. Place marker and join to K in the round, being careful not to twist.
Round 1: K1fb into every stitch. 6 st increased.
Round 2 (and all even rounds): Knit.
Round 3: *K1, Kfb. Repeat from * to end. 6 st increased.
Round 5: *K2, Kfb. Repeat from * to end.
Round 7: *K3, Kfb. Repeat from * to end.

Continue in this manner, increasing 6 stitches on every odd-numbered round, until you have 60 stitches on your needles.
Knit 9 rows even (without increasing).

Decrease round 1: [K8, SSK] 3 times. [K8, K2tog] 3 times. 6 st decreased.
Round 2 (and all even rounds): Knit.
Decrease round 3: [K7, SSK] 3 times. [K7, K2tog] 3 times.
Decrease round 5: [K6, SSK] 3 times. [K6, K2tog] 3 times.

Continue in this manner, decreasing 6 stitches on every odd-numbered round, until you have 24 stitches remaining on your needles.
Knit 8 rows even for the neck

body
If you have ever knitted a sweater from the top down, this section is going to feel very familiar (and if you haven’t – perhaps you should try it!)

Round 1: K8, place marker, change to Color B, K4, place marker, K8, place marker, K4 to end.
Round 2: * Kfb, K to 1 st before next marker, Kfb, slip marker. Repeat from * to end. 8 stitches increased.
Round 3 (and all odd-numbered rounds): Knit.
Round 4: Repeat round 2. 8 stitches increased.

Continue in this manner, increasing 8 stitches on every even-numbered round, until you have 16 stitches between the back two markers (that is, in the largest section).

divide for arms
Without increasing any more, knit across to the first marker, remove the marker, and place the next 12 stitches on a piece of scrap yarn – this will become the doll’s left arm.
Remove the next marker. Using the backwards loop method, cast on 2 stitches to your needle and join to knit across the back 16 stitches. Remove the next marker, and place the next 12 stitches on a piece of scrap yarn to create the dolls’ right arm. Remove the next marker. CO 2 stitches again, join to the remaining stitches and knit to the final marker (leave this marker in place to mark the start of your rounds).

Now you will simply knit the torso in the round, continuing in st st until the torso measures about 3 inches.

leggings
Next round: Change to Color C. Knit 1 round in the new color.

Now we’re going to use some short rows to give the doll some booty:
K 20. Place a marker. K 14. Place a marker. Wrap the next stitch and turn your work. Purl back to the first marker. Wrap & turn.
K to 1 st before marker. Wrap & turn.
P to 1 st before marker. Wrap & turn.
K to 2 st before marker. Wrap & turn.
P to 2 st before marker. Wrap & turn.

Knit across this row, knitting the wraps together with their stitches as you go and removing all the markers. Continue knitting to the end of this round. Now your doll has a cute little heiney.

divide for legs
Next round: *K 4, K2tog. Repeat from * to end. 6 st decreased. 30 stitches remain on your needles.
Next round: K 5, bind off 3. Using a new needle, K 12. Bind off 3. Place a new marker and join to knit the next 12 stitches in the round as one leg, leaving the remaining 18 stitches behind on a stitch holder or a piece of scrap yarn.
Continue in st st until leg measures 3 inches.
Next round: Decrease 3 st evenly. 9 st remain.
Knit 4 rounds even.

make a foot
This will feel very familiar if you’ve ever made a sock.

Knit across 7 stitches. Turn your work.
Slip one, P2, turn.
Slip one, K2, turn.
Slip one, P2, turn.
Slip one, K2.
Pick up and knit 2 stitches down the selvedge of the heel flap you’ve just made. Place a marker. Knit 6. Place a marker. (Be sure to remove the original marker that marked the start of the round – it’s just in the way now).
Pick up and knit 2 stitches up the other selvedge of the heel flap.
K 3, K2tog. Slip marker, SSK. K2, K2tog. Slip marker, SSK. 9 stitches remain.
Knit 5 rounds even.

Next round: K2tog 4 times. K1. 5 st remain.
Cut the yarn, leaving about a 6-inch tail. Pull the end through the remaining 5 stitches, securing the yarn end inside the foot and weaving in a bit before you trim it.

second leg
Rejoin your yarn to the held stitches, and knit the 12 held stitches. Place a marker and join to knit in the round. Make this leg just as you did the first one, all the way to where the heel starts.

second foot
To begin this heel, Knit across 4 stitches, turn your work. Now continue exactly as you did for the first foot. Complete as before.

arms
Go back to the shoulder and place the held stitches from one of the arms onto your needles, removing the scrap yarn. Join your yarn (Color B) and knit the 12 held stitches. Pick up and knit the 2 armpit stitches from the torso, and place a marker to mark the start of the round.
Knit 3 rounds even.

Next round: Decrease 2 st evenly. 12 st remain.
Knit 1 round.
Next round: Decrease 2 st evenly. 10 st remain.
Knit 2 more rounds in Color B.

Change to Color A. Knit 4 rounds.

hand
Increase round 1: * K1, Kfb. Repeat from * to end. 5 st increased.
Knit 5 rounds even.

Next round: K2, K2tog. K to 2 st before marker, K2tog. Slip marker. Leave the next 2 stitches on a holder to make the thumb. Join your needle to the third stitch, and continue knitting these 11 stitches in the round.
Knit 3 more rounds.

Next round: [K1, K2tog] 5 times. 6 st remain.
Next round: K1, K2tog, K2tog, K1. 4 st remain.
Cut the yarn, leaving about a 6-inch tail. Pull the end through the remaining 4 stitches, securing the yarn end inside the hand and weaving in a bit before you trim it.

To make the thumb, rejoin your yarn to the 2 held stitches and knit a two-stitch I-cord for 4 rows. Break your yarn and pull the tail through these two stitches to secure them.

Repeat this whole process for the second arm.

doll, unfelted

finishing & felting
Once you’ve finished knitting your doll, go back to weave in ends and trim them up. You’ll have a big gap in the doll’s crotch for stuffing.

Carefully felt the doll to size. Need help felting? Here's a great tutorial.

Once she’s ready, stuff her very firmly with plastic bags. Push, pull and tug her into shape – don’t be too shy. Felted fiber is tough stuff, and the shape she dries in will be the final shape you get, so make her look just the way you want her to.

Allow the doll to dry for a couple of days. Once dry, remove the plastic bags and stuff more gently with polyester fiberfill (or your stuffing of choice). I like to stuff the head, hands and feet rather firmly, and the arms, legs and torso more softly. I am careful to stuff the joints (shoulder and hip) only lightly, to allow her to bend and sit. Stuff to the firmness that you prefer. Once you’re done, use your Color C yarn to sew up the stuffing hole.

hair
There are as many ways to make hair for a doll as there are home-made dolls. You can make yours however you like.

after winding

I made my doll’s hair by sewing the yarn down to a piece of paper, removing the paper and then tacking the hair into place on the doll (I thought it was kind of ingenious until I discovered that plenty of other people already did it this way). Here’s a great step-by-step tutorial from the Crafty Sheep.


Instead of using yarn to sew the hair into place, I sewed my doll’s hair along the scalp line with matching sewing thread. Then I neatly gathered the doll’s hair into a ponytail on each side, and secured those in place with sewing thread as well. Finally, I braided the hair, tied a piece of yarn to finish the braid, and trimmed to my desired length. Style your doll’s hair however you like! To make wavy or kinky hair, use yarn that has been unraveled from another knitted item.

doll with hair

here are a few other ways you can make hair:
Make a fringe
Sewn-on loops
Crocheted hair

embroidering the face
Here I’ll just say, I am horrible at embroidery. After unsuccessfully begging my sister to embroider the face for me, I finally sat down with the embroidery floss (two strands) and needle, and dove in. I think it came out OK. I marked the eye and mouth locations with a pencil first, and I think I held my breath the whole time. Good luck.

So, now hopefully your doll has a sweet face and is ready to play! Have fun, and don’t forget to make her some clothes! But she looks just as cute in her long johns.

playing outside

Monday, October 25, 2010

pom-pom-a-rama

I got a new pom-pom maker over the weekend.

pom a rama

With it, I made 53 large green acrylic pom-poms.

This would never have been possible if I were still trying to use the flimsy bits of plastic that used to pass themselves off as a pom-pom maker around here. The nice ladies at Great Yarns sold me one of these schmancy new Clover doohickeys. For $8, I am a very happy pom-maker.

The pom-poms are for the Little Pea's Halloween costume. Can you guess what it will be?

This was so much fun that you may see more poms popping up around here (seriously: I wound 453 yards of yarn into poms and lived to call it "fun").

Hat needs some spark? Poms! Hoodie needs a little pouf on the drawstring? Poms! Fuzzy monster in need of headgear? You get the idea...

p.s. Keep an eye out this Friday for a new free pattern... The little felted doll I made for the Pea a few weeks ago has made it to Patternland. I hope you like it!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

camping with babies

wayah bald 2

Well, I can't say that our camping trip was entirely successful.

It was not entirely unsuccessful either; in fact it was hardly unsuccessful at all.

The main unsuccessful part was the sleeping part. Or should I say, the not-sleeping part. The Little Pea wanted no parts of sleeping in a sleeping bag, but it was so cold. Thirty degrees overnight! There was ice in everyone's water bottles in the morning. She had to be in the sleeping bag. Was it the feeling of constraint, the slippery nylon fabric, the cold air hitting her face...? Who knows what exactly the problem was, but it was problem enough to have her wake up and howl with all her 16-month-old might, about every hour or so, all night long.

In the end, HWWLLB had to wrap her in a fleece blanket and then build a human/sleeping bag cave around her (not touching her in any way!) to keep her warm and get her to sleep more than 30 minutes at a stretch. I think she actually went for over an hour at one point.

You'd think that all this baby howling would scare away wildlife, but in fact, around 3 a.m. an owl answered her calls. Seriously. At the height of our misery came the most awesome moment of the whole camping trip.

Other than the all-night-howling, the trip was great. Beautiful crisp sunny fall weather, peak fall foliage, and good company with family and friends. The Pea had a great time getting to know lots of uncles and aunties and cousins. This was HWWLLB's annual family camping trip - four generations go camping together every October. Every family should do this! (But few dare...)

So anyhow, my advice to any would-be-family-campers, is this: test out the sleeping bag and the tent first. I cannot overstate the importance of the dry run. Oh, how I wish we had known.

On the bright side, the long car trip to and from camping was enough time to knit a pair of warm toddler socks. And soon, the pattern for the Little Pea's new doll will be making an appearance here. So stay tuned. Now to go make sure my supply of beer and salty snacks is in order for tomorrow night's Phillies game.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

october afternoons

playing outside

We are playing outside quite a bit lately.

I'm so grateful that the heat of summer has finally dissipated, and we can go outdoors again and enjoy fresh air and sunshine. This summer really over-stayed its welcome. Don't get me wrong; I like summer, I do. But I don't like hot sticky temperatures, and by the end of September if I had to sit through another 90+ degree day, I was going to lose my mind. So October has been quite welcome.

On my days off, the Little Pea and I are enjoying long walks, romps on the playground, fooling around in our backyard, and hanging out with friends. Yesterday afternoon we walked around the corner to a friend's house and whiled away a couple of hours just playing and laughing with them in the yard. Bliss!

Courduroy, jeans, sweaters, blazers, warm socks, scarves, boots and closed shoes... I've missed them all so much. Welcome back, fresh air!

The crisp weather has also sent me back to the kitchen and the knitting bag, two places I've longed for all summer. Somehow I was only able to make cursory visits to both. Today I made pancakes for breakfast, grilled cheese for lunch, I'm simmering up a big pot of vegetable stock for soups, and I'm baking cookies.

I've also got a big list of knitting projects competing for my attention: a sweater for the Little Pea's new doll (seen above), a sweater for the Pea herself, mittens for the Pea before our family camping trip next weekend, because it's going to be chilly, Norwegian mittens for the Pea's grandma for Christmas, and an owlet for a friend who will be turning five soon.

Maybe I'll get some of them done on the car trip to the mountains. I can't wait to see the fall color in the Blue Ridge, and to sit by a campfire eating hot apple turnovers in the chilly air. Apple turnovers are one of the staples of the family camping trip. A group of us has to spend half an afternoon peeling apples at the campsite, but it's well worth it.

What are you savoring on these crisp fall days?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

sick, sick, sick

copper scarf

Everyone is sick at my house. It is quite tiresome.

I'm knitting this scarf, slowly but surely, and the warm fall color and silky yarn are cheering me, a little. But it's a drag being sick, having a sick partner, and a sick baby is worst of all.

Ever since we started at a child care center at the beginning of August, it seems there is a new funk every week. First the little one gets it, then HWWLLB, then me. Repeat ad nauseum. Nobody feels like making dinner. Nobody feels like cleaning up the house. We are all very tired of it.

I hear that this is the standard for the first year of child care. And that if you don't use child care, it will be the first year of kindergarten. The family gets every little bug that's going around. After six weeks of it, I can't imagine making it through the rest of the year. Blegh.

Sniffle.

Whine.

Cough.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

knit happens

isle of trucks 2

All sorts of things happening lately on the knitting front.

One super fun thing: there's a knit-a-long happening with one of my patterns, the Wildflower Socks. Check it out on Ravelry. I am amazed that two dozen people all want to knit one of my patterns, and all at the same time! Very humbling.

And in really crazy news: I designed a kids' fair isle sweater (seen above) of which I am unaccountably proud. And the pattern is for sale - it went up today on Knit Picks through their Independent Designers Program.

It's the first time I've ever had a pattern for sale, and I was pretty nervous about it. I am very committed to keeping knitting and designing fun by not turning it into "work." It's my escape from work! At the same time, I've heard from some designers (whom I admire greatly) that free patterns might undercut their ability to earn anything from their work, and I don't want that. So what to do? Putting fun free knitting stuff out into the world has been a wonderful experience for me that has let me hone my design skills by getting tons of great feedback from lots and lots of wonderful (and patient) knitters.

So the happy (I hope) medium I've come to is this: once in a while, if I have the urge to design something a bit more involved, I might sell the pattern rather than just give it away.

I did really enjoy having a more formal process of proof-reading and test-knitting and working with an editor and all of that, and I learned a lot about how professional designs take shape. I do feel that in this case, the final product is well worth the $1.99! For other designers out there interested in the Independent Designers Program, my experience so far has been really good - the staff at Knit Picks is great to work with.

P.S. That cutie in the photo modeling the sweater is the daughter of our wonderful former nanny, and the Little Pea's greatest role model. The Pea loves her so much that one of her very first words was this sweet girl's name. How about that for devotion?

Thursday, August 05, 2010

meet my new assistant

What she lacks in experience, she makes up for in enthusiasm.

winding

unwinder

truck model 1

The Little Pea has discovered yarn, and she is hooked. Winding, unwinding, sweater modeling, great conversation... what more could you ask for in a Junior Knitting Assistant?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

knitting through it

IMG_1828

There's nothing in particular that I can pinpoint really, that has made the last month so stressful, but I'm glad that tomorrow starts a new month and perhaps a less hectic one. Lots of commitments to keep, lots of major deadlines at work and not enough time to get the work done, not enough down time to keep me from frazzling out around the edges. We've also been having a nasty heat wave, which has been wearing on everyone's nerves.

pphhbthlthhhhhhhhhhhh

(that was a big, big exhale...)

When I get very stressed, it tends to make me depressed. When I get depressed, it tends to make me hole up in a corner and not enjoy the world much. The more I do that, the more down I feel... I'm sure that many of you are familiar with this unhealthy inward and downward spiral.

If it weren't for knitting and weekly yoga classes, I think that things could get kind of serious. Fortunately, I just get sad and grumpy for a while, until I finally realize what's going on and slap myself upside the head a couple of times.

smack, smack!

I really needed that.

Today, a pair of old friends came over for lunch, and we spent a leisurely, blessedly-cool afternoon visiting with each other and the little one, taking a long walk, comparing garden notes and just enjoying good company. I also cooked some, blocked a sweater that really needed it, and tidied up the house a bit as well. All things that made me feel human and more connected to the rest of the world -- maybe even connected enough to write a tiny bit.

Hello. How are you today?

Friday, July 16, 2010

free pattern friday::bear isle

bearisle

Poor bear. He was a bit chilly in July, stuck inside with the air conditioning on all the time. Some scrap yarn from the stash fixed him right up with a toasty new sweater.

If you've been wanting to try your hand at fair isle, or learn to knit a sweater in the round from the bottom up, here's a quickie to get you started! The sweater is knit in the round on circular needles, starting at the bottom edge and working up to the underarms. Then the sweater goes on hold while you knit each sleeve, bottom up. All three are joined together and worked as one piece in the round, with the fair isle design in the yoke. Once you've cast off the neck, the only finishing left to do is to graft the underarm stitches together. A one-day sweater -- and a happy kid with a freshly-outfitted bear.

materials
About 75 yards of worsted weight wool in the main color(I used Classic Elite Montera)
About 25 yards of worsted weight wool for the contrast color (I used Wisdom Yarns Poems)
16 inch circular needles, US size 8
double-pointed needles in US sizes 8 and 6
tapestry needle
stitch markers

gauge
4 inches = 18 stitches / 20 rows

size
One size. Feel free to lengthen or shorten as needed. The bear for which this sweater was knit is 15 inches tall (including legs) and has a 13 inch chest circumference.

measurements
circumference = 16 inches
length = 4.5 inches
sleeve length (from underarm): 2.75 inches

color chart
bearisle_grid

body
Using the circular needles, cast on 72 stitches. Place a marker and join to knit in the round.
Knit three rounds.
Round 4: *K1, P1. Repeat from * to end.
Round 5: Knit.
Continue knitting in stockinette stitch until sweater measures 2.5 inches from the bottom edge.
Next row, decrease 2 stitches evenly.
Next row, work row 1 of the color chart. Then leave your work on the needles and knit the sleeves.

sleeves
Using the larger double-pointed needles, cast on 24 stitches. Place marker, distribute the stitches evenly over three needles, and join to knit in the round.
Knit three rounds.
R4: *K1, P1. Repeat from * to end.
R5: Knit.
Continue knitting in stockinette stitch until sleeve measures 2.5 inches from the bottom edge.
Next row, work row 1 of the color chart. Then place your stitches on a piece of scrap yarn.
Work the second sleeve.

join the body to the sleeves
Return to the body of the sweater. You will be working the color chart, completing a decrease round, and joining the sleeves to the body, ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Ready?

Begin row 2 of the color chart. *(K4, K2tog) 5 times across the front of the sweater. You will have 25 stitches in this section.
Using the tapestry needle, place the next 5 body stitches of the sweater on a piece of scrap yarn.

Now join your working yarn to the sleeve, and knit around the sleeve while decreasing: *(K4, K2tog) 3 times around the sleeve. Put the remaining 5 sleeve stitches on a piece of scrap yarn.

Join the working yarn to the back section of the sweater (the next live stitches in line after the ones you first put on scrap yarn). Continue by working *(K4, K2tog) 5 times across the back of the sweater. You will have 25 stitches in this section. Put the last 5 body stitches onto a piece of scrap yarn.

Now join the working yarn to the second sleeve, just as you did before. *(K4, K2tog) 3 times around the sleeve. Put the remaining 5 sleeve stitches on a piece of scrap yarn. You should have 100 stitches on your needles.

Now you're back at the stitch marker and ready to begin round 3 of your color chart.
Work the next 6 rounds of the color chart. On the next round (the one that's all made up of the main color), decrease again.

Decrease round: K4, *(K8, K2tog) 10 times. K4. 90 stitches remain on your needles.
Work the final row of the color chart.
Knit one more round in the main color, decreasing again as you go: *(K7, K2tog). 80 stitches remain.

Change to contrast color and smaller double-pointed needles.
Knit one round in the contrast color, decreasing as you go: *(K6, K2tog). 70 stitches remain on your needles.
Next two rounds: *(K1, P1). Repeat from * to end.
Cast off loosely, maintaining the K1, P1 ribbing.

finishing
Use kitchener stitch to weave underarms together.
Weave in loose ends.

non-commercial bit: These are free patterns and you are welcome to use them for all the non-commercial purposes you like. However, you may not reproduce the patterns to sell, and you may not sell what you make with them. You may donate what you make with them to charity, and you may use them 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!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

::shrug::

no flat knitting

There is now a post-it note stuck to my knitting bag with these words which shall serve as a reminder into all eternity: DO NOT KNIT FLAT.

I can't knit flat. I have no feel for it. I can follow a pattern okay, sort of, a bit, but I cannot just whip something up unless it's knitted in the round.

Case in point: a couple of weekends back, Bugheart and Grub were visiting. It was divine. Bugheart and I were sitting under a shady tree in the backyard, knitting happily. Well, she was knitting happily. I was fussing over my project because I was bored with the yarn, and longing to start a new project with some amazing rainbow-colored Misti Alpaca Handpaint sock yarn that's been flirting and winking every time I open the yarn cabinet. But I didn't want to make socks. What to do with just one big skein of silky alpaca sock yarn? Bugheart wisely suggested a shrug, because in the summer it's very hot and you don't want to carry around a sweater, but when you go into a building wearing a tank top, it's air-conditioned to Arctic temperatures and you could get frostbite on your shoulders. A shrug! Perfect.

I didn't see any patterns I liked. I became fixated on a specific stitch pattern that I wanted to use, and because all the patterns we perused were knit flat, somehow I became convinced that it had to be that way (silly, silly girl). So, despite the fact that I could not visualize the construction (bad, bad sign), I went ahead and cast on and started knitting the sleeves. Flat. Two of them. They are beautiful.

Then I connected them. Since I can only knit in the round (have I mentioned that before?), I connected them as if they had been knit in the round, and foolishly went about my business. Knitting, knitting, knitting, row after row of lovely, soothing, silken rainbow stockinette stitch. When it seemed about right, I sewed up the sleeves and tried it on.

That's when the beautiful silky rainbows came crashing down around me. Suddenly, my hours of denial became crystal-clear. It was too small, too short, too crooked, too crazy... just wrong, all wrong, and what's more the construction (had it only been knit in the round) was completely clear to me. And it had been all along - I'd just been knitting it flat with a circular construction on the brain. Oh, woe.

So I ripped it all apart and shoved it into a project bag and down to the bottom of my knitting basket, not to be heard from again until my jangled nerves have been soothed.

misti

I'm soothing myself with a six-pack of New Belgium Mothership Wit and some adorable Anything Animals! I am in love. They are quick and easy, and though the pattern says to knit them flat I am knitting them in the round and they are wonderful. Adorable. Perfect. I may make a dozen of them before I even think about that shrug again.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

jalapeño-cheddar muffins

cheesy_muffins

Yum. I made these for a bake sale, figuring there wouldn't be as many savory options. They were intended to be an accompaniment for beer, but I think they'd be great with a cold summer soup like gazpacho or chilled avocado soup.

jalapeño-cheddar muffins
makes about 20 muffins

ingredients
3 1/2 cups sifted flour*
2 tsp double-acting baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups lowfat yogurt
2 eggs, beaten
3 Tbsp milk or water
8 oz X-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 small yellow squash, grated
5 jalapeño peppers, seeded
1/4 yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

First, grate the squash. Then put the onion, garlic and peppers into the food processor and chop them very finely. Saute the onion mixture in a skillet until the onions are starting to become translucent, then add the squash. Salt and pepper lightly, and saute for about 5 minutes until the veggies are tender. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and prepare your muffin tins (you will need two).

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda together in a large bowl.
In another bowl, beat together the yogurt, eggs and milk. Mix about half of the cheese into this bowl. Make a well in the flour and pour in the liquid. Mix with a few swift strokes until the wet and dry ingredients are just barely blended. Scatter the veggie mixture into the flour, and finish blending using as few strokes as possible.

Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full. Scatter the remaining cheese over the tops of the muffins and then bake for about 20-25 minutes. The cheese will get wonderfully bubbly and just barely start to brown around the edges.


* Note on flour: I used a blend that was about 1/3 white flour and 2/3 whole wheat pastry flour, but you should use your favorite flour for savory muffins - I think wheat flour works nicely with these flavors.

cheesier_muffin
a satisfied customer

Sunday, June 20, 2010

cowgirl update


becky et al's C.B.A. vest

Hi knitters!

This is part update and part apology. I have finally corrected numerous errata in the Cowgirl Butterfly Astronaut Vest. Size 2 and size 4 had a few problems that involved my personal brain-block around simple arithmetic, and they have at last been remedied.

Many thanks to all of you lovely knitters who emailed or Ravelried me with your questions and workarounds (and your gentle "WTF??"s). You are much appreciated. If I were charging for these patterns, I could hire a technical editor. Alas, you are my technical editors, and your patience is a boon to all the other knitters out there who benefit from your trailblazing.

This little mash note really applies to all of my freebies. Knitters are really a kind and patient bunch. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your feedback on my designs, and I especially love when one of you not only finds an error, but tells me how you fixed it in your version. Open source knitting! If I can't sit around at the coffee shop (or the pub) and knit with you all, this is the next best thing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

oh, hello

Yes, it's me. It's been kind of quiet around here.

I seem to have misplaced my camera, so no pretty pictures to liven up this apologetic post.

I like making lists, so here's a list of what I've been doing since the last time I wrote:
  • Spent a fabulous weekend with Bugheart and Grub and took the Little Pea for her first swim at the city pool
  • Started knitting a shrug (at Bugheart's urging) with some scrumptious Misti Alpaca sock yarn
  • Was interviewed by the wonderful Shari for a tour of our garden on Cafe Mom
  • Was interviewed by the teevee news at work (no link to that one!)
  • Picked several zuchinnis the size of my arm
  • Went to a fabulous 1950's-themed wedding and got to hang out with lots of old gradschool friends and meet their children.
  • Started looking for a new child care situation for the Little Pea (*sigh*). Our wonderful, loving nanny is going back to school. We are so happy for her, and so sad for us.
  • Was overwhelmed by the generosity of my friends while raising about $1,000 for Student Action with Farmworkers
  • Danced my hiney off at the Bee Ball
  • Hemmed a few pairs of pants (pants are all suddenly longer - I blame the high-heel craze)
  • Work work work work work

I'm also reading Grendel by John Gardener, and making lists of unfinished projects that I swear I will finish this summer.

But not blogging, checking Ravelry, or otherwise spending much time on the internets. Hm. Well. What have you been up to?

Monday, May 17, 2010

on the merits of toy knitting

snuggle buddy 2
batty cuddles

This charming face belongs to a little bat. He is a bat snuggle buddy who has been washed and blocked and is waiting patiently to go and meet his new best friend. In the mean time, the Little Pea took him for a test flight:

flying snuggle buddy

Last week's toy was a bear made from organic cotton, using a Jess Hutch pattern. I'm still planning to combine the organic cotton and the basic snuggle buddy pattern to make some more floppy little snugglers for one or two of the other babies in my life.

I'm all the time downloading cute toy patterns and then finding myself dissatisfied with the finished product because the stuffing shows through no matter how tightly I try to knit it (last week's bear being a case in point). The instructions always say "knit tightly!" and tell you to use needles smaller than the ball band recommends, but pull and strain as I might, my stitches are never tight enough to hide the stuffing. And you know, getting carpal tunnel is not the reason that I took up toy-knitting. It's really not that fun to strain your finger tendons - and toys are supposed to be fun, not to make you mutter and curse under your breath.

This bat was actually an exception, since the yarn I used (Berrocco Plush) is super-nubbly and the stuffing couldn't make itself seen if it tried. Despite the no-felting, I am happy with it.

But generally speaking, I really prefer a felted toy. I like knitting things that will be felted because you can knit easy-breezy big old sloppy loose stitches, and in the end not one smidgen of stuffing will show. I like felting because it's approximate - like cooking, which I enjoy, as opposed to crafts like book-making or carpentry which require precise measurements and straight lines and other skills that I will never master. Felting is an even more laid-back iteration of knitting, which is already a pretty approximate, don't-overthink-it kind of craft to begin with. And really, I think that's the sort of attitude you need when making a toy.

Lately I've been thinking about making some more birds' nests, a great felting toy. I hope to share some more birds in their nests in a few weeks (trying to be realistic about my pace at completing projects these days). It will be done, some time. I'm not going to strain my finger tendons over it.

snuggle buddy 1
naptime!

Friday, May 14, 2010

free pattern friday::sundrop

sundrop hat 2
one day i'll take some better photos!

This sweet sun hat will take your baby or toddler from the playground to the beach and back again. The brim is worked in a tight gauge to give it some firmness, while the body is knit in a looser gauge with a simple but pretty eyelet lace design that adds a little ventilation. Add the optional ties if your little one likes to yank off hats (and who doesn’t?). This is a fun, quick summer knit. Find a bright summer color that you like, and use a firm, washable cotton or cotton/linen blend yarn.

materials
1 ball Lion Cotton or similar worsted-weight cotton yarn
US size 3 double-pointed needles (3.25 mm)
US size 7 double-pointed needles (4.5 mm)
US size 7 crochet hook (4.5 mm) – or whatever you have on hand that’s close
tapestry needle
stitch markers in 2 colors
Use whichever needle sizes you need to get the correct gauge!

gauge
larger needles: 15 stitches / 24 rows / 4 inches
smaller needles: 20 stitches / 29 rows / 4 inches

sizes
0-6 mos (6-18 mos, 18 mos – 3 years, 4-6 years)

measurements
0-6 mos: 14 inches
6-18 mos: 16 inches
18 mos – 3 years: 18 inches
4-6 years: 21 inches

sundrop1

brim
Using smaller needles, *cast on 19 (20, 21, 23) stitches, place a marker, repeat from * until you have 114 (120, 138, 150) stitches.
Place a marker in a different color to mark the end of the round, and join to knit in the round. Knit 4 rounds in stockinette stitch (K every round).
R5: K1, P1 to end (this ridge will stop the brim from rolling any further).
R6: Knit

Decrease round: *K2tog, K to 2 stitches before the next marker, SSK, slip marker. Repeat from * to end. 12 stitches decreased.
Next round: Knit
Repeat these last two rows until 54 (60, 66, 78) stitches remain.

hat body
Change to larger needles.
Knit one round, removing the markers as you go (leaving in place the marker that marks the start of each round).

Next round: Knit, adding the eyelets for ties as you go (optional!).

How to add eyelets: K 14 (15, 16, 19), YO, K2tog. K 24 (28, 30, 38), YO, K2tog. K to end.
Even if you’re not sure whether you will want to use the ties, I think it makes sense to go ahead and make the eyelets, so that they’re there if you need them. They won’t look funny if you don’t end up using them.

Knit 2 more rounds.

Next round:

For the 18 mos-3 yrs size: Knit this round, decreasing by 2 stitches, spacing the decreases evenly throughout the round.

For the 0-6 mos (6-18 mos, 4-6 yrs) sizes: Knit this round, increasing by 2 (4, 2) stitches, spacing the increases evenly throughout the round.

For all sizes: 56 (64, 64, 80) stitches remain.

Next round, begin Quatrefoil pattern.

quatrefoil pattern
Round 1 and all odd rounds: Knit
R2 and 3: Knit
R4: K3, *YO, SSK, K6. Repeat from * until 3 stitches remain in the round. K3.
R6: K1, * K2tog, YO, K1, YO, SSK, K3. Repeat from * until 2 stitches remain in the round. K2.
R8: Repeat round 4.
R10: Knit.
R12: K7, *YO, SSK, K6. Repeat from * until 1 stitch remains in the round. K1.
R14: K5, * K2tog, YO, K1, YO, SSK, K3. Repeat from * until 3 stitches remain in the round. K3.
R16: Repeat round 12.

For the 0-6 mos size, you will only knit the quatrefoil pattern once.

For the 6-18 mos and 18 mos-3 yrs sizes, repeat rows 1-8 of the quatrefoil pattern one time.

For the 4-6 yrs size, repeat the whole quatrefoil pattern one time.

Continue knitting in stockinette stitch until hat measures 4.25 (4.75, 5.5, 7.75) inches from the point where you changed to larger needles.

decrease for crown
R1: *K2, K2tog. Repeat from * to end.
R2: *K1, K2tog. Repeat from * to end.
R3: *K2tog. Repeat from * to end.
Repeat row 3 until there are 10 stitches remaining on your needles. Trim your yarn tail to about 6 inches and pull through the stitches, leaving a small eyelet open to top off the crown. Fasten securely inside and weave in the end.

sundrop hat 1

ties (optional)
Using the crochet hook and 2 strands of yarn held together, crochet a single-chain chain that measures about 28 (32, 36, 42) inches long. Tie off tightly, weave in and trim ends. The chain will run around the outside of the hat across the back, down through one eyelet and back up through the other, passing under the baby’s chin (it does not run around the front side of the hat). Tie it in a bow on the outside of the hat where baby can’t easily reach it – for a crafty baby, this may mean that you may need to tie the bow all the way on the back side of the hat rather than just above the eyelet on one side. Babies can be awfully crafty, can’t they?

finishing
Weave in any loose yarn ends. Wash and block your hat.

I have found through painful experience that many bright cotton yarns are not particularly color-fast, so do wash this separately the first few times to make sure the color doesn’t run and ruin the rest of your laundry. You might consider adding a small amount of white vinegar to the water when you block the hat, to help set the color (unless the yarn ball band gives you different instructions).

non-commercial bit: These are free patterns and you are welcome to use them for all the non-commercial purposes you like. However, you may not reproduce the patterns to sell, and you may not sell what you make with them. You may donate what you make with them to charity, and you may use them 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!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

oops

bear with sundrops
may i distract you with this cute bear in the garden?

I said there would be a pattern on Friday. And here it is Saturday.... and here we are patternless.

Sorry about that.

The pattern is ready but lacks a suitable picture. This is often my big hold-up with a new pattern. This is one of those dumb cases where I knitted the thing (two of them, actually), and then gifted it without getting any suitable photos. So, I will either have to knit another in a size to fit the Little Pea and then enlist her in a photo shoot (dicey! could take ages! photo shoot may go badly!), or I will have to bite the bullet and use the thoroughly unsuitable photo that I already have. *sigh*

Anyhow, my dithering has cost us a patternless Friday, and for that I apologize.

In the mean time, here's a cute bear! I made him with Jess Hutch's Henry pattern, just as a way to try out some Lion Organic Cotton that was on clearance at the fabric store. The Little Pea has so far shown no interest in him whatsoever.

Now I'm working on a snuggle monster for my friend's little one. I was in the yarn shop yesterday and they had one of these Fuzzy Bunnies made with a free Lion Brand crochet pattern. I don't crochet, but the Little Pea has a store-bought toy just like this - it's basically a washcloth with a bunny head on it (except hers is a duck).

The yarn I grabbed for this reminds me so much of Oscar the Grouch - so instead of a bunny, this little thing will be a friendly monster. I started it yesterday afternoon and I'm just about to make the head. Quick and fun! I may try an earthy one next in organic cotton, since I still have plenty of that clearance yarn left.

Coming soon though will some more birds and birds' nests. The Little Pea loves her nest of birds so much, I think that nests may become the new Official Baby Gift around here. I'm thinking of hummingbirds next - adorably tiny!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

happy happy may may!

It's May!

Flowers are blooming like crazy and the garden is giving up salad like nobody's business. Things are nutty-busy at work and the Little Pea is growing so fast and eating so much that I can't seem to prepare meals fast enough or frequently enough. But this beautiful breeze and the general spirit of "hooray spring!" makes it all so much fun.

So... in the spirit of spring growth and rebirth, I have some exciting news to share:

First, there's a free pattern coming your way this Friday. Wahoo! It's about time! This will be a quick, fun summer baby knit. Stay tuned!

Also... maybe I've mentioned once or twice three hundred times on this blog how much I love Blue Sky Alpacas line of organic cotton yarns (and all their scrumptious alpaca yarns too). I've designed quite a few little items with their yarn, and this month they are featuring my Bumpy Jacket & Hat as their free pattern of the month! Whee!

Suri Merino
packed in a Pretty Cheep project bag

Thanks so much to the Blue Sky Alpacas staff for the shout-out, and especially for the luscious little bundle I received from them in the mail as my thank you: two skeins of Suri Merino in the most amazing earthy orange color you've ever seen. It is as soft as... well, as a suri or something. What should I do with it??? I'm thinking of an elegant fall scarf or cowl for me. Any suggestions?

I also have a long-overdue thanks to Géraldine from Filature du Valgaudemar, one of the oldest family-owned spinning mills in France. They have been spinning since 1830, and today Géraldine is producing wonderful yarns and hoping to infuse France's traditional knitters with more of the energy and fun that we're all sharing through things like Ravelry, Knitty and our neighborhood Stitch & Bitch groups (apparently the French knitters might have a little catching up to do... allons!).

Muande
Merci beaucoups!

Anyhow, Géraldine translated one of my patterns, the Mossy Jacket, into French, and in the spirit of trans-national knitterly love, she sent me some wonderful Muande yarn from her mill! She chose two colors for me: Flamme and Souris. What a lovely gift!

So, folks... any thoughts? How should I use these two sweet little packages of yarney love???

Sunday, April 18, 2010

mango-ginger coffee cake

mango ginger coffee cake

This morning the Little Pea and I attended a lovely brunch for new mamas organized by our dear friend Nicole (a.k.a. Mrs. Love Party). We realized that there were a few of us with relatively new babies who could use a support group (ourselves most of all), so Nicole thoughtfully got a brunch together at her house.

I made this coffee cake, improvised because I had some over-ripe mangoes in the kitchen that needed to find their purpose in life. They served well - the coffee cake was scrumptious, and I just had to share the recipe (with a nod to Joy of Cooking for the basics)!

mango-ginger coffee cake

Bring your ingredients to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x9 inch pan.

Sift together:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp double-acting baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Combine and beat well:
1 cup plain yogurt (I used whole)
2 eggs
1/4 tsp almond extract

Fruit topping:
1/3 cup candied ginger, chopped well
1 1/2 cups mango, cut into small chunks (about 2 ripe mangoes)

Streusel:
2 Tbsp whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp butter
5 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground cloves
Blend these ingredients until they crumble. Mix in:
1/3 cup almonds, chopped (optional)

Add the sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture. Mix gently until just smooth. Pour into the pan and distribute the fruit mixture gently over the dough. Sprinkle the streusel over the top. Bake about 20-30 minutes.

Don't try to make this the day before (though you could certainly chop up your ingredients ahead of time if you want to) - this coffee cake is best served fresh. This was great served with a brunch frittata, fruit and hot tea (with entertainment provided by half a dozen squirmy babies). If there is any coffee cake left over, you can warm it up later for dessert with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

Friday, April 09, 2010

happily unproductive

april showers 1

Hello! Happy spring! I have missed this space.

The last few weeks, it seems like every time I sit down in front of the computer at home, I have work to do. I'm loving this part-time work arrangement, but at the same time when I can't cram everything in at the office (which seems to be happening a lot lately), I wind up working in all my spare moments at home.

Hence, not much knitting or blogging going on around here, and not one little bit of designing new things. I do have lots of ideas - lots of fleeting ideas. None of them seem to make it to paper or needles lately. I've got fun exciting things peeping at me out of the yarn stash, singing their wooly siren songs, but I keep putting them off - later, later, just as soon as I get this last thing done...

It's also garden time, and there are also one thousand little green shoots singing their come-hither songs.

But most importantly, walks to be taken and snuggles in the grass with my Little Pea, who is almost ten months old already and quite the excellent little companion for all kinds of wonderfully unproductive activities.

I'm starting to realize that snuggling, going for walks, tickling, laughing, playing aimlessly with things that catch your eye - activities I once thought of as "unproductive" and pure leisure - are in fact quite productive if you're small with new hands and brain cells to test out. How nice for me! I can believe that I'm doing Something Important while doing something that feels relaxing and undirected. Joy!

But truth be told, I sure do miss production. We have a car ride to the mountains and back this weekend, and I'm hoping to put some yarn and needles together and see what happens.

Enjoy your spring weekend!

Friday, March 19, 2010

what's done is done

surprisejacket2

As you can see, the Baby Surprise Jacket is done. Yay! This is going to be a great little item for spring.

I did venture to the yarn store, and though I was sorely tempted by all the new spring colors (new colors!!), I stayed focused and bought only one skein of yarn to complete the project at hand.

It's always the sock yarn that tempts me. I think I justify it to myself by saying, "but this is an entire knitting project for just $20! What a bargain! I'd be crazy not to buy it!" Lately whenever I do that, I come home and put the sock yarn away in the sock yarn department only to discover that I actually had a different skein of $20 sock yarn in almost precisely the same colorway. After doing that twice in a row, I finally realized that I really could not reasonably buy even one more skein of sock yarn, which has helped tremendously with my focus in the yarn shop.

So what was I talking about? Oh yeah, focus. So I stayed focused and I just bought the one $6 skein, although it was kind of a gambit, because it wasn't the same yarn that the rest of the project was made from. It's not even the same fiber content! They didn't have any Cascade Sierra or Sierra Quatro with any of the colors I was using, so in my desperation I bought some Cascade Pima Silk, which they happened to have in precisely the right colorway. Despite the fact that the Sierra is at least two years older and a totally different fiber, I have to say that the Pima Silk was a pretty good match. At least, color-wise and gauge-wise. But it has a totally different handle (of course) and hangs in a totally different way (of course), and I am hoping against all odds that blocking works out the weirdness, and also taking comfort from the fact that most of the time when my child is wearing something, at least a third of it is in her mouth, so nobody will notice the drape. Right?

Pragmatic as this move was, I do fear that I have committed a cardinal sin of knitting: Nonchalantly mixing fibers and acting like they're all basically the same yarn.

I tried to do the right thing, I really did. I trawled Ravelry for over a week, peering into people's stashes and sending polite "Are you done with that? Can I have it?" messages, but to no avail. And I surely was not going to spend $6 on shipping and $8 on yarn to finish a scrap yarn project. But I fear that this time, I have gone too far. I pray to the goddesses of blocking for their intercession.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

where did the time go?

yarn for BSJ

Oh dear, it's March already!

It's been such a cold, gray, wet winter that I must have been fooling myself that it was still January or something. Today it's bright and sunny, and I ventured out into the garden for the first time this year (I can't even believe I'm saying this). There is so much to do! We haven't even set up the greenhouse yet! What will we eat this spring?

Of course, cold wet weather is perfect for both knitting and reading, which I've been doing plenty of. I'm working my way through a stack of Elizabeth Zimmerman's books, and they have me itching to knit big wooly things for me and HWWLLB.

I'm also knitting a Baby Surprise Jacket for the Little Pea (who else?). It's a totally addictive little knit, and I find myself unable to put it down. Unfortunately, I may be unable to finish it...

BSJ_unfinished

With at least 2/3 of the knitting done, I'm running out of yarn. This was supposed to be one of those fabulous projects where I use up a bunch of stash yarn - in this case some Cascade Siera left over from a long-ago project. I keep having to get up and rifle through the stash to find just one more little scrappy ball hiding in a corner... but I fear I am out of scrappy balls, and this sweater is not done. Now I must do the unthinkable, and buy a skein of yarn to finish the last few inches of a scrap yarn project.

HWWLLB does not understand what an utter defeat this is, and keeps saying, "Just go over to the yarn store!" Go to the yarn store??? Now I'll wind up spending $50 and coming home with a big bag of yarn I don't really need, to finish this one little scrap yarn project. Ah, well - there are worse problems to have. Like no lettuce this spring. The garden to-do list is calls!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

veggie painting: fail

veggie painting 1

Over the weekend, the Little Pea tried her hand at arts and crafts. I had this great idea that she could try veggie painting and make valentines for her papa and her grandparents. To me, Valentine's Day is just another excuse for an art project.

At work we do veggie painting with bigger kids (by "bigger" I mean probably 3 and up). You lay a piece of unbleached muslin over top of some colorful veggies (carrots, kale, chard and beets are great choices), and then you use a blunt (safe) tool to smash and smash, and "paint" on the fabric. It's a lesson about veggie color - the more colorful the veggie, the better it is for you to eat. The paintings are very abstract, but kids always like them.

Anyhow, since we have plenty of ice-cube-sized lumps of pureed vegetables in the freezer, I thought we could try a variation on the smashing, and let the Little Pea try out finger-painting instead.

veggie painting 2
carrots and spinach

I can't say that this project was a success. The veggies didn't stain paper the way that they do with fabric. And even though I added some corn starch to try to make the "paints" goopier, they were much too liquidey, and the paper got mushy and tore.

Of course, torn paper was the best part of this project for the Little Pea, who didn't really understand why she was strapped into her high chair with food but nobody feeding her anything. At least she could tear paper and shove it into her mouth! Now that's fun.

She did get to try another art project the next day, when she was sitting on my lap while I colored a Valentine for HWWLLB. She grabbed the colored pencils and bashed them artistically on some paper. I added a heart, and presto! Baby's first valentine.

Monday, February 08, 2010

dyrrwurm

Many days on end of cold, wet, icy weather have led to short bursts of creativity around here with the materials we have on hand.

dyrrwurm

Dyrrwurm is now guarding our back door, keeping out the nasty, cold draft that was coming in under our vintage 1952 door (which really ought to be replaced with a more insulated model). He was made from two pairs of identical socks that HWWLLB gave me recently for the purposes of sock monster making. Before his reincarnation as two pairs of men's socks, Dyrrwurm lived at the back door of the land of the giants, in the far, far north, where his hobbies included writing epic poetry, collecting pictures of his idol, the Earth Serpent, keeping out the cold draft, and doing pedicures for his dragon friends.

You can make your own door dragon - it's quite easy, even for sloppy, inexpert sewers like me. This project was done in two bursts - it took me one naptime, and one visit from the Little Pea's favorite Auntie to complete. You will need:

- 2 pairs of heavy socks in a dragoney color
- matching thread
- sewing machine
- a few pins
- polyester fiberfill or some other stuffing (rags are fine too)
- something heavy for inside - I used sand, but you could use dry beans, rice or pebbles
- four or five repurposed plastic bags to hold the heavy stuff

My door dragon is only three socks long, since my door is narrow. But for a standard-width door, you will need to make the dragon four socks long.

door monster tutorial 2

Cut the toes off all the socks except one - this will be the head. Sew the socks together cuff-to-toe, right sides together. Try to keep them lined up so that all the heels are basically running in one line down the dragon's back. Turn right-side out and admire your long, wiggly new friend.

door monster tutorial 7

Starting at the head end, put a small amount of stuffing inside each heel, flatten and pin down. Then sew the heel shut to make a fin. You can add some decorative stitching as I did to make it more fin-like. Repeat for each heel.

door monster tutorial 1

Use one of your cut-off toes to make front flippers if you like. Lay the toe flat and cut it in half up the middle. Turn inside-out and sew it into a triangle, leaving an open gap for stuffing. Turn the flipper right-side-out and stuff with a small amount of stuffing. Smoosh flat and sew shut. Add some decorative stitching to flatten the flipper and make it fancier.

door monster tutorial 9

Turn the dragon inside-out again. Cut a hole on each side of the foremost sock. Stick the flipper through so that the flipper is now "inside" the dragon and the sewn-shut edge is facing towards you. Sew the flipper into place. Once you have the flippers in place, turn right-side-out again.

door monster tutorial 8

Stuff the head firmly with stuffing, but leave the body un-stuffed. Isn't he cute?

Get out your heavy stuff - sand, dry beans or rice, pebbles, whatever you have on hand - and put a bit inside four plastic bags (repurposed bread bags worked nicely for me). Tie them each tightly. Pull one into your dragon, all the way up to the head, and secure in place (you can sew it or be lazy like me and use a safety pin). Use your stuffing to lightly stuff and shape the dragon around that heavy bit. Repeat with each bag of heavy stuff until your dragon is fully stuffed (and heavy). Leave the heavy stuff out of the very end of the tail if you can. Now your dragon will lay heavily in place on the floor.

door monster tutorial 5

Stuff the tail end very lightly with stuffing. Sew the tail shut across the final sock cuff. Add some fancy stitching to make the tail flatter and more tail-like. Embroider on a face if you like. Enjoy the new absence of a draft under your back door!

door monster tutorial 4
honey, you need a pedicure!