Sunday, December 7, 2014

Little Project, Little Post

Sometimes the effort is totally outmatched by the satisfaction of making something fast with a few bits of material.  Years ago I knit a brown sweater with hem facings of pink yarn.  And I had a decent amount of that pink left.

This fall we welcomed a new beeb into our extended family and I found a cute little bootie pattern in the back of a Debbie Bliss book and voi'la… teeny pink shoes.

So fun, fairly practical, and cute!  The original pattern was a Debbie Bliss moccasin pattern with both color work and beading.  (neither of which I did, obviously).  Find out more on Ravelry here.

For warming the littlest of feet.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Warm Those Dancing Legs

We have a dancer in our midst.  More the four-year-old beginning tap and ballet kind, and less the Elton John kind.  Either one is fantastic in my book.

This was a bit of a gamble, knitting unrequested accessories for this willful and independent four-year-old.  But I think she may just wear these.  The small fry attends a small tap and ballet class once a week and love, love, loves it.  I can tell because she never hesitates to get herself ready, never resists going and pays rapt attention to her teach for the entire duration of class.

It's so fun to see her take off in a space that has nothing to do with either parent or sibling.

No resistance revealed yet...
These leg warmers were knit on the fly on a road trip to and from some friends home in Knoxville, TN.  (Knoxville was amazing… great drinks {Moscow Mule}, great food {Fried Green Tomatoes and Pimento Cheese Sandwich} and epic company {you know who you are}.

I knit these on the drive there and back.  And the ability to knit uninterrupted for that length of time was bliss, in and of itself.  So relaxing.  They were knit on US 1 double pointed needles, 2x2 rib for some rows (a dozen?) and then stockinette stripes.  I think there were seven rows in each stripe.  Then knit another dozen or so 2x2 rib rows and cast off.  I like 'em… and I love that they consist entirely of scraps.
Little leg warmers

The notes below are what I think were the types and colors of yarn.  From the knee down: Quince and Co. Chicadee in Apricot, Jamieson Shetland Spindrift in Purple, Malabrigo Yarn Finito in Natural, Madelinetosh in Mineral, Malabrigo Yarn Finito in Cereza, Malabrigo Yarn Finito in Paloma, Reynolds Sea Wool in Navy, Louet Gems in Goldilocks, Jamieson Shetland Spindrift in Plum, Jamieson Shetland Spindrift in Rose, Louet Gems in Sage and Shibui Knits Sock in blue.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Long Break – and Tomato Soup

It's hard to believe my absence from this space has been so long.  I've thought often about what I should be blogging about, but it has been one of those times when life outside the inter-webs is just too busy.

We have had a great summer and fall.  We moved into what I lovingly call a "less little" house.  It was bittersweet to leave our original home… it being the place where we first lived when we were married and brought our girls home.  But we were slowly running out of room and an opportunity almost literally presented itself to us and so in July we pulled up stakes and moved… a very, very short distance away.

And between all the selling of the first house, packing, transactions for the second house, unpacking, painting, starting school, etc.  This blog got put on the back burner.

And now I hope to be back with regularity.  There has been plenty of making going on… even though it has been undocumented.  Here is one such thing… done in August… oof.

The less little house has much more counter space, and I am loving it.  Last year my grandfather gifted to me my grandmother's canning and preserving tools.  I got a big enameled canning pot and basket.  A really nice food mill was included.  So in August, I decided to take a break from priming and painting and I bought a half a bushel of tomatoes and made my first big mess in the new kitchen.  I made a plan to make a tomato soup base for the impending fall and winter.

I started with half a bushel of Roma tomatoes (23 lbs) and I halved them and sprinkled them generously with olive oil and salt and pepper and baked them in the oven at 400°F for one hour.  I included with one of the batches of tomatoes, a head of garlic, wrapped tightly in foil and roasted it along side.

After the roasting phase came the peeling and milling phase.  I peeled the halves and sent the roasted pulp and all their delicious juices through the food mill, so that the tomatoes were peel and seed free.

Food mill back in use
In a large dutch oven over medium heat, I melted two sticks of butter and sautéed seven shallots (diced small) until they were nearly translucent.  I then added the roasted and cleaned tomatoes, 4 oz of tomato paste and one cup of dry red wine.

I bought it all to a low boil and let it cook for another 30 minutes.  

In the meantime I had boiled all of my pint jars, lids and rings sterilized as well.  The canning process went really smoothly.  I boiled them all, seven at a time, in Noni's canning pot and every last one of them sealed.  I ended up with 17 pints of tomato soup base.

Canned and just waiting for a winter day!
We've already enjoyed a few since the weather has gotten cooler, we just heat the soup on the stove with some half and half or chicken stock and it is really delicious.  

It was one of the first projects that I undertook in the new house that made it feel like home.  

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Purple Owlet

Late winter this year I planned sweaters for my girls.  The small fry asked for a purple owl sweater, after she and I surfed around Ravelry.  And so, I happily obliged… glad for an excuse to navigate over to Quince and company for some fresh wool.

Sweater from mom; table and chairs from her great
grandfather; stenciling done by her "nanoo"
 This was a really fast and fun sweater to knit.  I chose the smallest size kid version for our girl.  I think the pattern calls it 3/4.  It fits her like a dream right now.  Hopefully we can still squeeze her into it in the fall after the weather cools and the humidity gives up it's annual midwestern campaign.  I'm really, really tempted to make another one of these for the little nugget, but for her I have planned the cabled yoke cardigan in red.  (Her sister nearly wore out the orange one that I made).  I'm also feeling a little bit of motherly guilt about the hand-me-downs of all variety.  It's good to have a few things that are yours and yours alone…
One dozen owls on the yoke

I knit this out of Quince and Company's Lark wool.  The color way is called Lupin.  It really is this gorgeous purple color, the current favorite of the small fry. It washed and blocked beautifully and will be stowed away for a cooler day.  More details on Ravelry here.


Friday, June 13, 2014

The Woods of New Hampshire

This last weekend I was fortunate to return to Squam Art Workshops.  It is one of the best places and gatherings I have ever visited.
Just imagine yards and yards of
this type of shoreline peppered
with cabins and docks – perfection.

The lake is beautiful - calm, clear and offers a cold and fantastic swim.  The camp, Rockywold Deephaven Camp is the perfect balance of amenity and simplicity - fireplaces, screened porches, lots of hot running water and down comforters on the beds.  And all of this is the backdrop for the Squam Art Workshops. Elizabeth, inventor and organizer of the event was so right in her choosing of locale and content.  My second visit in three years was just as perfect as the first. 

I made some wonderful friends two years ago, when I attended Squam the first time.  And this year four of us returned.  We learned some new things from some wonderful teachers, kayaked on the lake, drank wine and sat in front of the fireplace.  It was the perfect break from my otherwise-lovely normally scheduled routine and I have returned home feeling like it was time well spent.

So fun!

This year I took an amazing class on the history of Estonian knitting from the fabulous Nancy Bush.  She was charming and patient, well organized and well versed in Estonian tradition.  I came home with one half of a pair of Estonian fingerless mitts.  Isn't it lovely?

The fabulous Nancy Bush...

If you ever have the opportunity to take one of her classes I would highly recommend it.

Oh, the details… the best!

The other class I took was Amy Herzog's fit to flatter class.  And she and her amazing math brain has done all the heavy-lifting for sweater knitters.  With accurate body measurements, a knit swatch and an internet connection, you can essentially choose a sweater profile and have generated a custom pattern that is literally designed for your body.  I cannot wait to try it.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

For Jack

For a darling little man.

There are fewer things more satisfying to knit that small sweaters… everything looks better in miniature.  Raglan stripes that line up beautifully. And cotton yarn that is fluffy and dense at the same time, in a color palette that is wonderful.

Striped warmth

So I knit this little piece for a new family member of some good friends.  Welcome Jack.  May this fit in time for cooler weather, and be worn in diapered comfort with your big butt baby pants.

XO - Faye

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Big Butt Baby Pants

Spring is so near.  Each day, the morning is a little more light, the bulbs push though those first few leaves and evening is a little bit longer.  We are all so ready. Today it rained.  That fact, in and of itself, is pretty insignificant, but for the last three months… the only kind of precipitation we have had has been some frozen variety.  What a welcome change.

Works in progress

This weekend was still a little cool.  We did venture out on a few walks, had lunch in the neighborhood, played a little in the yard.  I did get some time to get a few lingering projects finished as well.  I had cut out three different sizes of my favorite baby pants, and they have been waiting patiently for me to set the sewing machine up.  The pattern is called "Big Butt Baby Pants" and was designed and published by Rae Hoekstra.  You can find her online here.

An original pair… part three amigos,
part mariachi pant.  

The pattern is really, really simple.  Three pieces.  Easy to download.  Directions are written clearly and there are lots of photos accompanying each step.  And the finished product is pretty cute and - more importantly - really, really functional.  My favorite part about these little pants is the panel in the back that is reminiscent of a classic men's boxer short.  It is ideal for a diapered bottom.  I think I must have sewn no fewer than a dozen pairs of these pants in the last three years.

Three easy pieces.

Here is what we worked on this weekend.  The small fry was really pretty interested in the sewing, and the straight pins.  She lost interest as soon as Scooby Doo came on television, but that worked out too.  I was able to finish three of these little pants in a couple hours.


I made one pair for out littlest little.  They are probably going to fit for another week, she is growing so fast.  And two other pairs are going to be gifted and accompany a hand knit sweater each.  Now all I have to do is finish up that blue striped cardigan…  off to knit.

Almost there… just the sleeves
left to knit.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Warm Hands of Little People

The mittens I knit earlier this year inspired me to write a pattern for something similar. I started out with some stranded color work and a cuff and corded wrist which I loved and changed the thumb construction for an improved finished product.

In the works
The pattern is in work, it's a straightforward one, with a little customization option included for knitters who enjoy stranded color work.  I'm also planning to chart a little alphabet and provide that for people who want to customize things.

It's not too difficult and perfectly sized for toddler hands.  I hope to get the writing done and a tech editor to review and hopefully I will have a new pattern ready for the fall…  It seems like ages away, but I'm not the speediest writer of patterns.

Prototype Mittens front and back
Until then, here is a little sneak peak of what the finished product will look like.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, March 8, 2014


Today marks the anniversary of the loss of one of my favorite people ever.  My grandmother or Noni, as we called her.  I was fortunate to have my grandparents as neighbors throughout my childhood, and although it's been seven years, she remains with me in the best possible way.

Since this blog is about making things, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that she was a maker of a great many things.  She was a quilter, a cook and a gardener.  And she was famous for turning anything I was working on to see the back side.  She reviewed my embroidery and the floats between stitches and my seams and the bottoms of the pie crust.  She took pride in doing things well.

Raising these two little girls, I find that I want them to learn things that I learned from her.  To take pride in what you have, regardless of how much it cost, to keep your feet off of the table, use egg yolks in your pasta dough and to be hardworking and strong.

So I'm going to scrub the ears of my girls to make sure no "cabbages" are growing back there, vigorously brush their hair into tight pig tails.  I'll teach them to grow flowers, make ravioli and feed family meals that reflect how much we love them.  We'll pick jelly bean rocks from the "beach," play UNO with conviction and do headstands in the middle of the living room.

And they will know that I love them because I demonstrate it.  Like Noni.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Finishing up...

A few weeks ago, I finally finished the knitting for my Ripple sweater (a mere three years after I cast on). I started weaving in ends and seaming the final garment together.  I blocked it and tried it on only to discover that I would really like an additional 3-4 inches of length in the body to be comfortable wearing it.  (sigh)  So, it turns out that it isn't quite over yet.  Stay tuned for more of this fascinating tale...

Ripple blocking

And I've also just picked out some other findings for nearly finished knits… buttons, clasps, etc. It feels good to make the final lap for these projects… I love these matte buttons on this green sweater.

February baby sweater – version 4

And the Brooklyn Tweed Shelter Loki cardigan is also coming together.  I decided to create a hem around the steeked edges of the right and left fronts. It will match the hemmed body of the garment as well.  And I'm going to sew on some hooks and eyes to see how I feel about that type of closure.  The bulk of the steeked edges and the front and back of the hems is not insignificant (about three times the bulk of the sweater fabric in the stockinette areas naturally). I think would be too much to double them up with snaps or buttons.

Cross your fingers that this works out.  I'm hopeful.

Internal view of the Loki and steek hems

Hooks and Eyes coming soon.
In the meantime, stay warm.  It sounds like the snow is going to fly again soon.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Follow Your Arrow – Part 2

Follow "my" arrow and Fred, the tan tabby
This weekend I wrapped up the final rows of Ysolda Teague's Follow Your Arrow KAL.  It was a really fun project, and it was especially interesting to knit en masse because each week she released two clues.  It was a choose your own adventure-type of KAL.    Some of the other finished products are really different from this one… if you have the time, jump over to the Ravelry group and check them out.

I ended up using some stash yarn that I had purchased several years ago and I think it worked out really nicely.  I had two skeins each of four colors and there was plenty of total yardage.  (The guidance for the projects provides yardage for either a single color shawl, or a two color variant.)

From the center of the shawl

Here are a few photos of the finished product. I knit the pattern as written and chose clues 1B, 2A, 3B, 4A and 5A.  And the finished piece measures approximately 40-inches across.  It isn't a perfect semi-circle, but close… at the midpoint, it is ~24-inches wide (or tall).

I did make some changes to the pattern.  The yarn I used was Ella Rae Silkience which is an 8-ply silk blend, DK weight yarn.  I used a US 4 needle to knit the project which helped keep the size in check, since I was using a heavier weight yarn.  I alternated the colors in a four color repeat and did run out of the last color half way through clue 5A.  So I switched to the next color in the order and I don't think that anyone will be able to tell that it wasn't part of the directions.

The edge view

Anywho, another success and pleasure to knit one of Ysolda's designs.  (I think my next Ysolda project will be an Elijah… isn't he darling?)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Half Way There...

Bright and hopeful
I'm fifty-percent done with this pair of socks.  My family is probably half way through this nasty bout of flu… I cannot wait for clear sinuses.  And I'm hoping that we are more than halfway to spring.  I'm a long-time lover of the winter weather, but this year, I'm over it.  I'm ready for sunshine with above freezing temperatures, non-treacherous walks through the neighborhood, uneventful commutes to and from work and the occasion to take down our outdoor Christmas decor.  Yes, we are those people… this year anyway.

Cheers to the coming spring.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Follow Your Arrow - Part 1

The lovely girls who convinced me to join the Stephen West Color Craving Knit Along, have more recently convinced me to sign up for the Ysolda Teague Follow Your Arrow Knit Along…  and I dive in again.
Following my arrow 1-3 of 5

This one is not only a surprise knit along, but it is one in which each week participants are provided with two options, so that in total there are 32 possible outcomes.  And if that wasn't enough, you can knit it as a single color or as a two color piece, and instructions are included for that as well.  Oh, the possibilities.

I'm proceeding with the multiple color version – I'm using four colors because I'm doing a little stash busting.  And I am hoping that I have chosen wisely the yarn type.  I have had on hand for some time this Ella Rae Silkience.  The nice twist and little bit of shine of the silk in this yarn will hopefully help to showcase the texture and stitch definition nicely, even though I'm not entirely sure what texture and stitch definition I'm creating.  These projects are such a leap for me.

I cannot wait to see what I end up with, and I will keep you posted.

Until it's complete… I leave you with progress shots of Clues 1b, 2a and 3b. More details are here on Ravelry.

Looking forward to seeing what
comes next

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Favorite Little Sweaters

There are some patterns that I keep going back to time and again.

Elizabeth Zimmerman's February baby sweater is my most favorite little girl cardigan.  I knit the first one for a niece, then one for the small fry, one for my cousin's baby and have just cast one on.  This latest version is the most wonderful green, and it reminds me of the patina that copper gets after some good weathering, and I think it is going to be a good gift for a brand new Irish girlie… can't wait!

Latest version in "mineral" green. Ravelry here.

Fingering weight red. Ravelry here.

Minty baby cash merino. Ravelry here.

Louet and covered buttons. Ravelry here.
Previous post here.

And when it comes to a non-lace cardigan for babes, Debbie Bliss's Classic Raglan Cardigan is one I continue to return to.  It's darling in solid color and also really easy to stripe.  Here is some Worsted Cotton that is earmarked for a to-be-here shortly little fellow.  And below are my previously knit versions.  Happy knitting friends.

Awaiting the knitting… Ravelry here.
Marled stripes. Ravelry here. Previous post here.

Fuchsia and Grey stripes. Ravelry here.

Two tone purple stripes. Ravelry here.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Satisfaction, stockinette and self-striping yarn

I have recently forgotten how satisfying self-striping yarn is in plain old stockinette socks.  I find myself stealing minutes here and there at home to see if I can just make it to the next stripe.  It's the proverbial Lay's potato chip adage… you can't eat just one. And I've carefully measured this skein in perfectly matched halves and started these socks in toe-up style to make sure I don't waste one yard of this yarn.  It is just that good.

Stockinette love and thrifted aluminum needles

What is this color palette you ask?  It's called Dia de los Muertos from Desert Vista Dyeworks, and it was gifted to me by the most lovely Knoxville-ian.  She's the best, that girl… did I mention that I met her at Squam – where all good things come from.

Adding color to the bleak midwinter

I heart this partial sock. And my friend.
Ravelry link here.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Art of Letter Writing

Late last year, while still on my maternity leave, I took to reading the Soule Mama blog on those late night stretches with the babe.  That reading was so enjoyable and timely, and I continue to work backwards through her blog although at a slightly slower pace, now that I'm getting more sleep. You will find her blog here.

I ended up using a gift certificate from my mother-in-law to buy Amanda Soule's book The Creative Family and another similar volume called Playful Learning by Mariah Bruehl at one of the last remaining independent bookstores here in St. Louis.  (If you are a book lover and ever in St. Louis, check out Left Bank Books, they are lovely people in a lovely shop.  And thanks to my mother-in-law for the gift certificate.)

Anyway, back to the books. I've so enjoyed reading them both.  And I think that they will continue to provide inspiration for our girls as their tastes and interests evolve from year to year.  I am already feeling the need to encourage less digital entertainment for their fresh minds, and these two books are just full of ideas.

I decided to gift the small fry with a letter writing kit, inspired by Playful Learning for Christmas this last year.  It wasn't presented as a "kit" in the book, but we live in a small home with limited space to dedicate for desks and shelves and separate storage.  So a kit it became.

Let the writing begin...
I used up some of my most favorite and treasured Anna Maria Horner prints for the covers of these kits.  (I made two of them, even though our youngest is four months old.  I did this not because I'm a lunatic, but because I know that in three years when she is interested I will have long forgotten the details of this project, if not the project entirely.  This blog post might have helped, but it's faster to make things in duplicate, right?)

So what I ended up "building" was a trifold fabric folder of sorts that will accommodate, cards, envelopes, stamps, stickers and a couple well sharpened pencils.  The rough sketch below helps identify the scale of the folder and the types of pockets that were built.  In retrospect, I wish that I had taken more time to photograph the progress shots. Ah well.

Diagram and dimensions of the folder

It was fairly straightforward construction.  The outer fabric was a flat piece of printed cotton.  The inner piece had the pockets assembled on them first.  Sandwiched in the middle were three pieces of Pellon stabilizer each one the cut to the size of the appropriate panel. (I did use some muslin to hold the Pellon in place, kind of like a lining, so that the panels wouldn't slide around in final assembly.) After the pockets were attached and the Pellon framework assembled, I laid them all together and basted them. I cleaned up the edges of the "sandwich" and machine sewed a binding right sides together to the outer panel.  Then the binding was pressed out and folded to the inside with a hem, and lastly hand stitched to the interior face of the folder - enclosing the raw edges.

Inside the folder...
I stuffed the kit with large and small cards and envelopes (A2 and A7 sizes), forever stamps, fun stickers, pencils and address labels.  The book suggests pre-printing mailing labels with the addresses of grandparents, friends, cousins, etc.  I did intend to do this, but ran out of time.  And what I have found is that our girl enjoys watching us print out the addresses of her recipients onto the envelopes and dictating her return address to us for mailing.

Our girl is nearly four, and has a natural aptitude for fine-motor-type activities. She loves this kit, more so even, than I hoped she would.  Not only does she enjoy the drawing, illustrating and the practice of writing her letters, but she loves the idea of mailing off her notes and artwork to family and friends.  It has also been great reinforcement for the importance of knowing your own address. And stamps are just fancy stickers… what three year old doesn't love stickers?!?

It's been a pleasant surprise to see the enthusiasm she has for corresponding with her favorite people, and I hope that the recipients of her letters enjoy getting mail that isn't a bill or advertisement.  Letter writing is not an art that is lost quite yet in our house...