Tuesday, July 24, 2007

summer pleasures


The other night I had to stop at the grocery store for some cat food and wine (life's essentials). I looked into the gleaming rows of fruits and vegetables in the produce section and wondered how long it had been since I was in that section of the store. Between our garden, the CSA and my weekly stop at the farmer's market for fruit, the produce department has become a strange and strangely sterile destination. I don't look forward to the winter days that will bring me back there on a regular basis.

This weekend brought milder, sunny weather and some of the pleasures of summer. I am making a list of these little pleasures and clinging to them, as work has reached a crescendo of stress that is making me lose my grip on things a little bit. And so, the nice, summery things:

+ Making vegetable stock from the peelings and stems and trimmings of our garden vegetables that I've been saving in our freezer all spring. I threw in the tomato skins and seeds from the plum tomatoes I was freezing (in defense against grocery aisles). It all made three wonderful-smelling quarts of stock.

+ Putting up tomatoes. I love squeezing out the globs of seeds.

+ Eating cantaloupe slices over the sink, with juice running down my chin.

+ Gobbling up HWWLLB's home-made salsa.

+ Riding bikes all over town with mys Sis. We rode a section of the greenway that I had been wondering about, but never seen.

We also took a walk at the Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh. A dragonfly was clinging to this stalk of ornamental millet as if for dear life, and hung around long enough to let me get a few shots of him:


When I get to noticing summer and how nice it is, it makes me fantasize about becoming a teacher, or some other profession where you get the summers off.

Two falls ago, HWWLLB and I went on a trip to Maine. In Maine, no matter what your job (except teachers, I guess), you take the winter off, because apparently it's too cold to go to work, and nobody's around, anyhow. It was fall, so everyone was planning their winter free time. I was having this conversation with a Mainer who asked me, what do you do in the winter? "We go to work," I answered. "Oh right, it's really hot where you live in the summer," she mused (boy, howdy). "So what do you do in the summer?" "We go to work," I answered. She looked dumbfounded. "When do you take off?" Um, I told her, you know, we get a couple weeks' vacation... her look of dumbfoundedness turned to pity.

When do we take off? I want to spend more time enjoying the summer!

Friday, July 20, 2007

free pattern fridays: super-natural stripes


Once I started knitting this little baby cardigan, I couldn't stop. The color changes are worked on the wrong side, to accent the interplay of naturally-occurring colors in this great undyed organic cotton yarn. I noticed this technique in a little sweater that the Yarn Harlot was knitting and loved using it for this design.

This is a quick little knit - perfect for a summer baby gift. And of course, organic cotton is a great choice for delicate newborns... though I think you've heard me say that once or twice before. Happy knitting!

[Revised 4.17.08 with largest size added]
[Revised 2.15.09 to correct cast-on error in largest size]
[Revised 12.30.09 to correct an omission from sleeve decreases]

3 (4, 4) skeins (1 each color) Blue Sky Alpacas Organic Cotton
color A: sage, 1 (2, 2, 2) skeins
color B: bone
color C: nut
size 7 (US) needles, circular and DPN
size 5 (US) needles, circular and DPN
size G (4.0 mm) crochet hook
one 1-inch button
sewing needle & thread
tapestry needle
stitch markers

gauge: 16 st and 22 rows / 4 inches

size: 0-6 mos (6-12 mos, 18 mos, 2-3 yrs)
chest measurements: 20, (22, 24, 30) inches

starting at the top
Using color C and larger needles:
CO 1 (1, 1, 2), PM, CO 8 (9, 10, 10), PM, CO 14 (15, 16, 18), PM, CO 8 (9, 10, 10), PM, CO 1 (1, 1, 2). 32 (35, 38, 42) st total.
Row 1: Knit across, Kfb at the st before and after each marker (8 st inc)
Row 2 and all even rows: Purl
Row 3: Kfb of first st, Kfb at the st before and after each marker, Kfb final st. (10 st inc)
Cont inc 10 st every row (P even rows).

At the same time, follow this guide for color changes every 6 rows:
Row 6: Do not P. Change to color A and K across.
Row 12: Do not P. Change to color B and K across.
Row 18: Do not P. Change to color C and K across.
Row 24 (final color change for the three smallest sizes): Do not P. Change to color A and K across.
For the largest size, cont with one more repeat of the color changes.

When there are 22 (23, 24, 26) st between the back markers, next odd row: Do not inc first and last st. Kfb at the st before and after each marker (8 st inc).
Continue inc 8 st every odd row and purling every even row.

When there are 40 (45, 48, 58) st between the back markers, next right side row: K to first M, remove M, place all shoulder st on scrap yarn to hold for sleeve, CO 2 st, remove second M, join to back st, K to next M, remove M, place all shoulder st on scrap yarn to hold for sleeve, CO 2 st, remove M, join to front st and K to end. You will not inc any further. 80 (88, 96, 118) st total on needles.

Knit sweater in color A until body measures 8.5 (10, 11.5, 14) in long from back neck.
Next even row: Change to smaller needles. Do not P. Change to color B and K across.
Next row: Change back to color A and K across.
Knit 5 more rows in garter st. BO loosely.

back view & close-up of the color changes

Using larger DPNs, place all held st on 3 DPNs, PM and join to K in rnd. 36 (41, 44, 48) st total).
Follow the color guide above to resolve sleeve color changes as for the sweater body.

Knit 4 rows even.
Next rnd: K1, K2tog, K to last 3 st, SSK, K1 (2 st dec).
K 2 rows and dec 2 st on the 3rd round.
Dec 6 (8, 10, 10) total st in this manner. 30 (33, 34, 38) st rem.
K even in color A until sleeve measures 5 (5.5, 6, 7.5) in long from armpit.
Next row: Change to smaller needles and color B, purl 1 row.
Next row: Change back to color A, K 1 row. Knit 4 more rows in garter st, BO loosely.
Make both sleeves in this manner.

button bands & collar
Using smaller circular needle and yarn color B, begin picking up stitches for the button band on the lower left side (RS). Pick up and knit 3 out of 4 st to collar (around 45, 52, 60, 70 st). Pick up and knit all the shoulder and back neck st (30, 33, 36, 40 st). Pick up and knit 3 out of 4 st down the right side of the cardi. You will have about 120 (137, 156, 180) st on your needle.

R1 (WS): Change to yarn color A. Knit 4 rows in garter st.
R5 (WS): BO loosely.

Sew down button just below the collar line (about 3.25-3.75 in. from shoulder) on the left side of the button band.
On the right side of the button band, make a crochet loop by attaching an 8 ch SC to the button band.

Weave in and trim all loose ends.

button closure close-up

P.S. Looking for a matching hat? Danielle has designed a great one... check it out here.

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!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

plumber wisdom

Things I've learned this week:

+ Just because a tree was chopped down, that doesn't mean its roots will stop growing and invading various pipes under your house.

+ You haven't really cleaned until you've cleaned splattered raw sewage off the walls in your bathroom.

+ Plumbers are worth every penny you pay them. The plumber is your friend. Love the plumber. Even when he gets sewage on your bathroom walls.

That's all I have to say about that little episode. Walls scrubbed, beer consumed, case closed. I'm so glad it's over.

So among other things... I didn't actually run into a star-nosed mole in person, and I got that great photo from nature.com. By "encounter" with the mole, I meant more of an abstract, public policy-related encounter. Nonetheless, I am in love, and it may be that the next felted creature you see showing up around these parts is the star-nosed mole. Wouldn't it be fun to knit the nose tentacles?? Or maybe it should be a sock monster. The possibilities... I am itching to go play with craft supplies.

But as for this Friday... I've got a pattern for an organic cotton baby cardi coming your way (I posted a progress shot recently along with a gripe about sewing seams - this one is top-down). It came out so well and was so much fun to knit that I decided to write it up and share it with all of you. I know how y'all love the cuteness.

Also, Saturday morning Heather Why and I stopped in at the Crafter's Flea Market. What a cool venue! Heather is a veteran of the CFM, but this was my first time. Imagine a flea market, in the parking lot of the local bead store, filled with local crafter/designers, all clearing out their inventory and their no-longer-needed craft supplies, at rock-bottom prices. It was great! I got lots of supplies (and some prizes). We are thinking about getting a co-op booth together for next time (we love to go co-op, you know). Wouldn't it be great to earn a bit of cash from your craft supply over-stock, and then use it to buy more craft supply stocks! Um... right? It seemed genius at the time, but now that I'm writing it down it sounds kind of silly. Well, stay tuned, it may yet happen.

Friday, July 13, 2007

hot critter: star-nosed mole

I may be about to launch a new feature here on the blog: hot critter. This is because I am now officially in love with the star-nosed mole after having a minor encounter with it this week at work.

hello, my name is condylura cristata

The star-nosed mole is amazing. It has a sense of touch beyond what we humans can even imagine. The “star” around its nose is actually a group of 22 super-sensitive tentacles. The tentacles are incredibly efficient at detecting food. A recent study found that it takes a star-nosed mole less than 1/4 second to detect, identify, and eat a piece of food – that’s half the time it takes a human driver to hit the brake after recognizing danger. The tentacles can touch something like 12 objects per second as the mole navigates its environment. The star-nosed mole detects 14 times as many edible organisms as its closest cousin, the eastern mole, in the same amount of time.

This means that the mole is incredibly efficient at gathering small food. It beats out all its competitors, like eastern moles, hairy-tail moles, shrews and voles, at gobbling up the tiny edible delicacies (like larvae – yum) that are so abundant in their marshy habitat. And they can even find food underwater!

The star-nosed mole is also the only semi-aquatic mole species in North America. They live in swamps and marshes and are great swimmers, but since they paddle with both right legs, then both left legs, they swim with a zig-zag motion. They can also follow a scent trail underwater to find food. Check out this slow-motion video of a star-nosed mole sniffing through underwater air bubbles.

Here in North Carolina, the star-nosed mole is listed as a “Species of Special Concern” due to its dwindling numbers, especially in the east (thank you, habitat destruction). Next time you’re out in a swampy marsh, be sure to say hello.

And if you see Madonna cruising London with a pet star-nosed mole sticking out of her handbag, you'll know you heard it here first: hot critter.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


It's so beastly hot outside, and I have PMS, and there is so much work to be done... Instead of whining (which is hard not to do), I thought I'd share some of the little things that are keeping me smiling despite the oppressive North Carolina heat:

> katsi cook speaking at live earth about women's health and the environment. (you will enjoy the irony of the fact that live earth is sponsored by a company that makes gas-guzzling trucks, i think).

tomato windowsill

> red tomatoes. the heirloom paste tomatoes in our garden are just starting to ripen. i can't wait to start making tomato sauce!

> shari's home-made popsicles (or ice-lollies, if you prefer)

> nichola's new zine, mixtape. it's on paper! real live old-fashioned paper! i can't wait til it comes out in august.

> denise's never-ending parade of beautiful, lovingly-crafted orphan socks. will they ever find their soul mates? oh wait - she finished a pair!

> amisha's travel photos. the doors in particular are my favorites - i love the allure of possibility and new discoveries in a doorway.

SWTC tofutsies, zitron trekking, and zitron lifestyle

> sock yarn. i'm not usually so yarn-spendy, but i can't get enough sock yarn lately. socks are about the only thing i can fathom carrying around with me to knit these days. and despite the fact that it's really not rocket science, i continue to be amazed by the wizardry of self-striping.

...So what's got you smiling?

Friday, July 06, 2007

little knitting

It's like there is a river, and the river is little babies, and the river flows on and on and never stops. More babies coming. Must knit more little sweaters.

First, a cute reminder of how much I hate sewing up sweaters. This teeny-tiny little newborn-sized pullover took me all morning to sew up. After the knitting, a whole morning of sewing up was not what I signed up for.


I like the sweater though. It's just a neat little stitch pattern (sorry I can't remember the name) from a Barbara Walker treasury tossed onto a basic V-neck pullover from this great book, Style your own kids' knits by Kate Buller. (I use this book all the time to get measurements and sizing right for basic-shaped sweaters for kids of all different ages -- it goes from newborn to about 8 years -- it's fabulous). But no more knitting them flat and sewing them up - what a drag. It's top-down for the babies from now on. Babies look great in raglan sleeves anyway. This sweater is for the forthcoming baby of HWWLLB's cousin, who by the way has big, beautiful, athletic babies.

Just to drive home my point on the top-down baby sweaters, here's a shot of some progress on a little cardigan for my former-coworker's forthcoming baby (she has the prettiest babies you've ever seen). This one is made of a bunch of leftovers of Blue Sky Alpacas organic cotton (hence all the color changes). The design was inspired by this kit over which the Yarn Harlot has been obsessing lately. I haven't actually seen the kit in person, but I liked her pictures of it and immediately understood its addictive powers.


But I'm unlikely to knit multiples of this little guy, since about twelve feet from the finish line I ran totally out of yarn. *sigh* So much for knitting from the stash. Hello, ladies from K*Pixie? Can you send me some more of this nice yarn please? I think you know the credit card number. Thanks.

I am currently writing from a coffee shop in a little town up in the mountains where we have squirreled ourselves away for the weekend. It's so very nice here. Earlier today I stood calf-deep in the middle of a clear mountain stream and it was so relaxing and wonderful watching the water flowing by and none of it was babies. Just water. But I might do some knitting tonight anyhow.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

energy independence day

Happy Independence Day! For those of us here in the U.S., today is the day we celebrate our nation's 200+ years of independence from British rule by grilling meat, drinking beer and setting off fireworks. The fireworks are always my favorite part (with beer-drinking being a close second). I was thrilled today when our local paper printed a guide to types of fireworks.

HWWLLB and I celebrated the 4th by burning a little of our own energy. We spent most of the day biking all over town. The original plan was to bike to a nearby state park where some friends were having a cookout. This seemed like a good idea until about ten minutes into the ride, when we both noticed that it was about 90 degrees in the shade - and there was not much shade to be had. But we put in a good effort, and though we never made it to the cookout, we got to play Urban Adventurers and defy the heat with a nice tour of the city.


This bridge crosses over a big huge highway to connect the inner-city greenway to the suburban part of the greenway and the art museum. It's so much fun to zoom over it and watch the cars whizzing by below.

The ride was great. We spent three or four hours on downtown streets we know like the backs of our hands, and tooling around neighborhoods we'd never seen before. There was a pit stop at the coffee shop halfway through (blackberry smoothie for HWWLLB, iced chai for me), and another pit stop shortly thereafter for a banned substance: diet coke.

addictions can be so embarassing (especially when people insist on photographing you getting your fix).

I think it was too hot for much wildlife, but we did see plenty of dogs (most of them barking at us), as well as a woodchuck and a lizard. I think the lizard might have been a blue-tailed skink. It was just a zip of blue across the bike path.

Now I'm at home with my feet up, about to partake of the grilled non-meat and the obligatory beer. Later I hope we'll go catch some fireworks. I hope all of you are enjoying a great day off! Or, if you're Canadian, a solidarity beer. Hooray for independence!

Sunday, July 01, 2007


Slightly belated, I'm here to rave about my Secret Pal from SP round 10... It's Shannon, from Berrytini!

I received a final package from her the other day. Let's take a peek inside:

ooh, pretty box


Holy cow! Look at all this loot! A new teacup, darning needles with a little case, a great felted Booga Bag pattern with beautiful birch needles and all the yarn to make it... oh, the yarn?

please, no staring

Yes, it's Noro Kureyon. Three scrumptious balls of Noro Kureyon, in an amazing colorway. Oh, that other yarn?


Just a little Nashua Vignette in a colorway that I can only guess is meant to match my blog - perfectly! This may call for a bit of scarf design this fall.

Thank you so much Shannon for being such a wonderful Secret Pal! In case you didn't know, besides being a great knitter and maker of adorable stitch-markers, Shannon is a Rollergirl and a kickass mommy. She and her family just moved all the way across the country - I know you Californians will welcome her with open arms!

I also wanted to introduce you to the prolific Seattle knitter I've been spoiling during this round of Secret Pal 10: It's Emily! There is a lot I could tell you about her (and a lot I already have told about her), but I'd like to let this photo shoot of Emily modeling her recently-completed Jewel Cardigan speak for itself. Can you tell why I love her??

And finally, a big smooch and bon voyage to Saun, who is chasing her life-long dream of fashion design and moving to New York City! I am so excited for her, and so inspired by her determination -- and gutsiness. It's not often someone gives up their comfortable, well-paying job and affordable apartment to chase their life's dreams -- I can't wait to read the chronicles of her adventures at FIT. Go Saun!

nik and saun at the going-away bash - that is the smile of a woman whose dreams are coming true