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...

Monday, January 13, 2014

Hand Knit Good-ness

The perfect fit
The littlest babe received some extra special hand knit pressies this winter.  My lovely friend, accomplished knitter, seamstress and librarian (doesn't she sound wonderful? she is…) made our girl this gorgeous sweater, booties and baby bonnet combo.


It is knit in wool, in the loveliest shade of coral, or orange-y pink, or salmon maybe.  Regardless, the color is beautiful, and the garments are perfect.

Looks great on this vintage table cloth too, eh?

And it is so special to be thought of as recipients worthy of such time and effort as hand knit sweaters and the like.  We love.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"Purple with zig zags, Mom"

New Year Mittens

What knitter can turn down a request for new mittens? Not this one.  It was an especially compelling request when paired with the annual "I don't want to count this" inventory sale at my local yarn shop.  So off I went to find some appropriate purple yarn for the small fry.

What I ended up bringing home was one skein each of Nature Spun Sport Weight yarn in Purple Splendor, Alpine Violet and Plum Line.  They are respectively lavender-ish, magenta-ish and dark purple.  This was my first experience with Nature Spun and I'm a big, big fan.  The colors choices were  very good, and the swatch and mittens knit up really nicely, and blocked beautifully. (And $4.40 per skein - score!)

Last sunlight of the day

I did knit these on really small needles – US 1 and 2.  But my swatch with the recommended US 5s was more loose than I wanted it to be.  The goal was a finished pair of mittens that was super dense to keep the small fry's little hands as warm as possible.  

I made the pattern up as I went along, and learned a new technique for making a knitted cord in the fabric, which turned out just as well as I was hoping that it would.  The thumbs are a little less shapely than I would have liked, but carrying three colors of stranded yarn around a circumference of only 25 stitches is a little of a challenge.

I-corded together

At the end of the day, they turned out really well.  The girl loves them. And I took a little extra time to knit an i-cord to each cuff, so that they will not get separated from her, or her coat or each other.  And I'm hoping that the thickness of three color stranding and smaller needle size do a much better job of keeping her warm than her old store bought mittens did.  More technical details are on ravelry here.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Fossil Pullover in the Wild

The fossil pullover fits and is lovely! The littlest little wore this over the holidays and it fits like a dream.  I had knit the 6-9 month size and she is in 3-6 month clothing, so it's a little on the smaller end of the sizing spectrum – either that or my gauge is on the small side. Not entirely unlikely.

Warm and cozy

It is an easy on and off pullover with the generous button raglan.  The Brooklyn Tweed Loft is warm and wooly, but light.  That is essential as it turns out because this girl is a miniature human space heater.  She doesn't not enjoy being sweaty either, so we try to avoid that at all costs.

The other thing that I love about this little sweater is the hemmed neckline.  No one wants to squeeze their head through a too-tight neck, or squeeze some poor baby's head through one.  And even worse is a neck that is a little too tight once it's on.  The hemmed neck has just the right amount of give, and the folded ribbing helps to keep the form of the neck, so it's not floppy or messy looking.

If you know a worthy little recipient, I'd recommend this pattern.  It's a keeper! Previous post and photos can be found here on the blog, and more pattern details are here on ravelry.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Holiday Recap

Snow dusting our window garlands
The holiday season this year was full, just the right balance of activity and plans and down time at home.  And I imagined myself perfectly prepared for it all this year.  The preceding fall maternity leave would surely have allowed me all the time needed to make this the most relaxed, well planned and perfectly executed holiday break.  And then it arrived and I was reminded that a maternity leave isn't really a vacation.  I was busy doing other fun and rewarding things – like admiring our new girl, and spending quality time with the small fry, lest she feel forgotten, and other essentials like dreft-scented laundry, washing bottles, and the other daily responsibilities that come with keeping a home and family.

The family star

The thing is, that it will never be perfect; not in the Martha Stewart-TV-set-style that exists in my mind.  But it was perfect in its imperfection.  There was last minute rushing around to keep the number of stocking stuffers per person balanced, remembering that groceries must be purchased in order to make the Christmas day meal, and the obligatory last minute wrapping and assembly.

World's best peppermint bark

We had a great time and made the most of the time off together. And probably only I noticed that there was still some cat hair on the couch or that we never got around to making those pecan sticky buns I'd planned.  It's just normal life with a little bit of a work break and a lots of special details crammed into the week.  We hope you had as nice a time as we did.

Spritz cookies
Very fun new toys
Christmas Cookies!!!

And now we've welcomed 2014 with a crisp snow, a house that is almost free of pine needles, and an extra pound or two from those butter-laden cookies.

Cheers to a happy close to 2013.