Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Randomly on Wednesday

1. The mittens were knit on the correct needles after all, so no reknits! Such a relief. Although they're still running slim, so I'm still a smidge anxious.

2. "Smidge" is apparently not a real word according to spellcheck, which I think is ridiculous because I hear it said all the time.

3. Apparently spellcheck isn't either, although spellchecker is. This sees illogical.

4. Munchkin can say "yes!" and also (this is important) he deigns to do so. For the longest time everything was "no," and then he would either say "no" or in order to say yes, he would repeat the option that he wanted. And now, finally, "yes." Definitively and with no room for negotiation, as is this dear child's wont. Music to this mommy's ears, I'm telling you.

5. We made a movie last weekend. We needed a little three minute movie to help fundraise for our adoption and a friend of ours is wise in the ways of iPads and movie editing, and so last Saturday she came over and we filmed it. It should be ready in another day or two, and I'll show it to you.

6. Oh, right. We're adopting.

7. We're in the process of adopting a special needs child from Hong Kong. There is (a smidge) more information on our fundraising page, youcaring,com/fennfamilyadoption, and I'll also be saying more on this blog as things develop. (If you'd like to donate, it's very easy and we'd be very grateful!)

8. There are three cats on my bed right now, all looking very casual, exactly as if they laid down by accident instead of making a beeline for the warmest spot in the house.

9. I have perused my Christmas spreadsheet (by which I of course mean examined, reexamined, and cross-checked) and it would appear that I have bought my last present! Huzzah. Even the boys' stockings (provided 'Stache doesn't consume all the candy canes). It's done. If 'Stache does eat the candy canes, then he will be responsible for replacing them. Which means I can:

10. Exhale ...

11. Exhaling is a truly beautiful thing. Try it. It's awesome.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

14 Days

14 days 'til Christmas.



The Christmas Knitting Season (so called because the Christmas Knitting Sewing Quilting And Crafting Season doesn't exactly roll trippingly off the tongue) officially begins after Thanksgiving, when I make knitting (/sewing/quilting/crafting) plans exactly as if the universe, my husband and my children are going to let me do nothing for the month of December except put meals on the table and knit (/sew/quilt/craft).

The beginning of the month is generally a light-hearted, carefree romp in the land of wool (/etc.). Of course I'm not knitting (/etc.) as much as I planned, but that's ok, because I have so much time left before Christmas. 

Right up until today, when reality steps in and settles down for a cup of tea and a chat.

The list is ... impressive. Maybe not as many items left as there have been in previous years, but the scope, the audacity of some of the items leave one a wee smidge breathless. In no particular order ...

1. The Sweater

Status: about 12" of the body is knit. An elaborate yoke involving 3 colors of yarn and snowflakes and stars is planned. Gulp.
Prospects: Middling. I am (*strong, bracing tone*) confident that I can get quite a bit more done on it, and this sweater is for a family member who will (hopefully) be understanding and happy to get a lovely, custom-designed sweater for, um, next Christmas.

2. The Quilt 

Shown here mid-quilting
Status: machine quilting is done. All it lacks is hand sewing on the binding and making and sewing on a label.
Prospects: Good. The hand sewing is simple and lends itself well to multi-tasking. On the other hand, it is 360 inches of hand sewing.

3. The Mittens

Status: unsure. I had a major size problem and I am not sure if these mittens just run small or if I knit the entire first mitten on the wrong size needles. So I could be 5/8s done or 1/8 done, I'm not sure which.
Prospects: Worrisome. The 5/8 vs 1/8 difference really is quite significant, and this present is due before Christmas. Stay tuned, I'm sensing more drama from these mittens on the horizon.

4. The Cross Stitch Ornament
(not pictured)
Status: 1/4 done. Gulp.
Prospects: Shaky but positive. This present is due after Christmas, so maybe it will be ok.

5. The Crafty Ornament 
(not pictured)
Status: This ornament has not been photographed because it has not been started yet.
Prospects: Flexible. This ornament has to meet certain parameters for an ornament exchange, and I really want to do something awesome. However, I could change the plan to something easier if the deadline looms unexpectedly.

6. The Other Quilt

Status: This is an on-going present, where each year I do a certain amount of work on it (This is what happens when you give your sister a quilt top and promise her you'll hand quilt it and then go and have 2 kids back-to-back.) I've done about 1/20 of the work I planned. You'll notice that the picture is of a wooden box, instead of a quilt. That's because it is difficult to cram back into the box for storage, so I didn't want to take it out to photograph it. This also might lend some insight on how I got so far behind on this gift.
Prospects: Grim. Very grim.

7. The Pajamas 

Status: Obviously still at the fabric stage. The brown flannel is supposed to be a pajama top for Twinkle and the blue print is for pajama pants for 'Stache.
Prospects: Waffling. I really want to finish Twinkle's top in particular, so he and Munchkin could have coordinating pajamas for Christmas morning. However, the world will continue to revolve if he doesn't. Red footies are always holiday-appropriate. The saving grace for both of these pajama projects might be that this year we'll be having 3 different Christmas mornings (his parents, my parents and our own), so I might shoot for finishing them in time for the last one (ours). On the other hand, with 3 different Christmas mornings, we're clearly going to be having a bustling Christmas season.

Which, if I'm honest, is exactly the way I like it. Cookies, stockings, parties, knitting (/etc.), family, hashbrown casserole, Christmas lights ... all with just a dollop of stress and anxiety to keep it real.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Finishing High

I really, really (really, really really) love finishing things. The laundry is a never-ending task, the dishes will be dirty again almost as soon as they're washed, meals must be prepared on a continual basis, but once a sweater is knitted, (with a few tragic exceptions) it stays knitted. It's a little thrill that I like to call a "finishing high." 'Stache tends to roll his eyes a bit when I say this, sort of like when I refer to knitting Fair Isle as being "so exciting!"

I finished a little Christmas cardigan twice recently. First I finished all the knitting, and then left it in the presents drawer for about six months.

I've never had a sweater that was put together this way, although it does make sense. You knit each of the pieces separately until you get to the collar, and then you join them together and knit the collar, so that the collar doesn't have any seams. 

Anyway, I finished the knitting and enjoyed finishing it. This, to me, is the perfect size for a fiddly cabled sweater: tiny, so you are still enjoying it by the time you're done. And then, when I got out the pieces and sewed them together and put on buttons, it was like I was finishing it all over again. 

Title: Baby Grandpa Sweater
Design: adapted heavily from Raglan Cables Set: Cardigan and Hat by Patons
Materials: almost all of 440 yards of Cascade 220 Superwash worsted, in 1946 silver gray
Finished: Dec 2014

I fiddled with the number of stitches so that I could use worsted weight yarn instead of the DK called for, and changed the neckline to be a crewneck instead of a V-neck. I also knit the button bands as part of the sweater fronts instead of knitting them separately and sewing them on. By the time I made all these changes, the main thing that was still the same was the stitch pattern, which I rather liked. 

I also finished another sweater recently, but that one has a rather more tragic past. 

I had knit the body, and one sleeve, and was working on the final sleeve when we went on a trip. I was particularly proud of this sweater, because it was made entirely of leftovers from another sweater. (This sweater is for Munchkin, and the original sweater was for my brother, who is over six feet tall.) Most of the time leftover sweaters are a never-ending cycle wherein one has yarn leftover, and so one buys another ball or two to make something with it, but then there's leftovers from that, so you buy more yarn ... But this one was going to work out perfectly, I was sure. 

And it did. Right up to the point where I left one of the sleeves in the hotel room. 

Unfortunately I didn't discover this until several days later, and when I called the hotel, the clerk was unable to find it. Also, a small dark sleeve is a bad thing to lose and a worse thing to ask a non-knitter to try to find. Very difficult to describe, sleeves. 

After a suitable period of mourning, I looked online for more yarn, but was unable to find the color I needed, so I ordered via sister express. My mother bought a skein from the original store, and after a while my sister Molly happened to be home for a visit and got the yarn from my mom and then came up at the tail end of a business trip for her and her husband's business, Youth Digital. (Check them out! They're pretty awesome, in my totally unbiased opinion.) 

And then, finally, the sleeve was knit again, and I sewed the pieces together. There's always a bit of a lag when you're knitting the final sleeve. However much you liked the pattern to start with, it's gotten a bit stale by the time you're knitting the last sleeve, and when the last sleeve is actually the third sleeve, it's gone past stale and right to dusty and unappetizing. 

But it's finished now, and a very cute little sweater it is too. 

Title: Candlestick, size 4 years
Materials: Berroco Vintage. I have lost the labels, so I can't identify the color beyond heather gray and navy.
Finished: November 2014

I followed the directions exactly except that I did 2x2 ribbing instead of knitted hems for the cuffs and neckline. Also I did 2 row stripes for the sleeve instead of the larger stripes in the pattern. I loved this pattern - it's such a great, classic sweater! 

There would be a picture of Munchkin modeling it, but it's for Christmas, so you'll have to wait! 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Brotherly Joy

Yesterday, Munchkin made wrapping paper. The very best kind of wrapping paper, which is made of brown paper bags and kid-friendly markers and toddler joy.

Granted, right here he doesn't look particularly joyful, but just wait. Making wrapping paper not only gives you a chance to indulge your artistic side but also to lord your marker-wielding skills over your younger and less dexterically-gifted brother and even to ... 

... color him red. How does it get better than that? Twinkle, by the way, was thrilled with his new warpaint, and immediately produced the other hand to be colored red as well.

In other news, apparently I am the mom who takes pictures of her kids coloring on each other, rather than the mom who prevents her kids from coloring on each other. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Puzzle Piece Meal Planning

One of the quiet, glowing joys of my life is making meals fit together. I can't tell you how happy it makes me to be filling out the grocery list and know that the peas and carrots will go into the potato soup, and the potatoes can also fill out a chicken pie, and the chicken will also make chicken and rice and the rice, peas and carrots can make a nice vegetarian meal.

I know. I only pretend to be complicated and interesting. Secretly I am thrilled by very simple things.

Tonight we had one of our quick-dinner go-to's. We call it "Hibachi."

To make Hibachi, all you need is:

chicken thighs
oil or butter
Yum-Yum Sauce

Set your rice going. Take a few chicken thighs and cook them in a skillet over medium heat. (Fun fact! Chicken thighs are thinner than breasts, and so you can take them right from the freezer, run them under warm water to take the edge off, then cook them right away, and they'll cook all the way through without overcooking on the outside.) Saute the carrots and onions. Cut chicken into small pieces and mix with the vegetables. Rice in bowl, chicken and veggies on top, Pour Yum-Yum Sauce over all.

Just like the sauce says, it's yummy and super easy and quick. When we have broccoli in the house, I like to toss in a cup of that as well. You could probably add any number of vegetables if you happened to have them on hand.

And the great thing about having Hibachi for dinner, is ... (drum roll) ... rice pudding for breakfast. The meals fit together perfectly and takes care of your leftovers.

This picture pretty much sums up Munchkin, Twinkle's and my opinion of rice pudding:

Aaand 'Stache is a stoic sort of guy and eats it without comment. Ahem.

This is my current favorite rice pudding recipe, adapted from various recipes on

Current Favorite Rice Pudding

1 cup leftover rice (I use brown rice)
4 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp (or more!) cinnamon
1/2 tsp (or more!) nutmeg

Mix everything together. Be especially careful to fully incorporate the eggs. Whisks are helpful but elbow grease will suffice if necessary. Do not try to make the cinnamon and nutmeg dissolve into the milk. It will not. Pour everything into a large saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat for 40-50 minutes, stirring every so often. When it is the consistency of oatmeal, it's done. (If you used white rice, it should be done much faster. Maybe 20-30 minutes?)

This is delicious with raisins or nuts or just plain. It reheats beautifully, so I like to make it right after dinner (thus doing dishes only once!) and refrigerate it for tomorrow's breakfast. If you want, this recipe works perfectly well with 4 cups of milk made from dry milk and water.

Delicious, cheap and makes for great puzzle piece meal planning!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Randomly On Wednesday

1. Apparently allergy season isn't over. I spent Monday sneezing 5 or 6 times every 5 or 6 minutes. I went through an entire roll of toilet tissue. Munchkin likes to watch my nose drip and say "Eeeeeeewwwwww!" Anyone who can direct me to local honey or allergy meds that actually work will receive a pound cake.

2. When I counted the number of books (707) in my house the other week I completely forgot about the 468 on my Kindle.

3. If I think about it too much it makes me nervous to take my Kindle out of the house. If you figure an average price of $4.99 per book, my Kindle is worth more than our car.

4. I am 5 smidges away from finishing a sweater (and having something fun to blog about, yay!) but I keep doing things like checking facebook and erm, blogging about having something good to blog about in the future. Ahem.

5. A friend informed me today that not all cinnamon is actual cinnamon. Some is fake and doesn't have the same health benefits. For one kind, the sticks are like a pair of binoculars, or a scroll, and the other kind the sticks are all single rolls. She couldn't remember which is which but this distinction is effectively irrelevant because all my cinnamon is powdered. Would it say somewhere on the label, "Sorry this only pretends to be cinnamon but we hope you like the taste anyway?"


6. My cinnamon (or is it "cinnamon?") does not list ingredients but merely wishes to inform me that "Ground cinnamon comes from the bark of selected cassia trees. It is a traditional spice for baking and desserts." This seems evasive. I am suspicious.

7. Twinkle likes to drift between various British accents for certain words. "Daddy" is being pronounced "dotty," "dirty" is "doidy" and "no" is a broad, Cockney "nyaow."

8. Twinkle is also completely convinced that he and Munchkin have the same name. (His.) All arguments to dissuade him have been met with an unshakable confidence that he is in the right.

9. A random picture from this summer for visual interest and for those (you know who you are!) who only read my blog for the cute pics of their grandchildren.

Photo courtesy of Rachael Kulick Photography
10. Ohhhhh Twinkle was such a round-faced baby when this picture was taken. Must. Take. More. Photos.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Randomly on Wednesday

1. The time, the dreaded time has come, when the only things still undone on my children's Halloween costumes are the buttonholes and buttons. I have 2 children, each child's costume requires 6 buttons, that is TWELVE buttons total and (much much worse) TWELVE buttonholes. Yes, I can hear you from here, "Couldn't you do a zipper?" "It's just a costume, what's wrong with velcro?" and to that I say: "No. I can't. My boys would break a zipper in under 0.25 seconds, and I am deeply suspcious of velcro. I just can't do it."

2. The overlarge slices of cake at City Cafe are the perfect size when split between 2 adults and 2 toddlers.

3. Men's and unmarried women's fingerprints run faster because they don't have to run a maiden name.

4. 'Stache, Munchkin, Twinkle and I collectively own 707 books.

5. As of this moment 'Stache's favorite is something hilariously funny he's reading on his cell phone. Munchkin's favorite book is If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, Twinkle's favorite is The Elusive Moose, and I (being constitutionally incapable of committing to a favorite) am currently enjoying The Fifth Elephant. 

6. Munchkin has renamed our invisible cat. Demi's new name is Mouse. As she is gray, big eared and shy, this is an oddly perfect name.

7. I am doing an experiment. Honey and cinnamon are supposed to be good for your general health and particularly good at treating (or is it preventing?) colds. Munchkin, Twinkle and I are eating one large spoon of cinnamon honey each night (Don't worry, Grandpa, we brush teeth right after!) and I am tracking how long we go without catching colds or coughs. Twinkle had a cold before we started this little regimen, so not counting that one, we have been cold-free for 10 days. I'll keep you posted.

8. Twinkle can now ask for "Hun-ee." It's probably my favorite word he says.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Where's Buttercup?

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... 

My sister-in-law, my sister and myself were in the same carpool. We spent HOURS in the car together every week, shuttling between ballet lessons, art lessons, swimming lessons. When you have that much time hanging on your hands, you tend to turn to odd things for amusement. In between singing endless rounds of "His Cheeseburger," my sister and sister-in-law had a little performance piece they liked to tease me with. If it had a name (which it probably didn't), it would have been called "Where's Buttercup?"

At this time, one of my favorite movies was The Princess Bride. I adored it. Everything about it, and when I read the book I was crushed to find that it was written as a satire, and not the sweeping romance I believed it to be. My sister and sister-in-law, being less romantic or possessing better senses of humor (both equally possible, in that period of teenagerhood), immediately seized on the more satirical aspects. From the the (I thought) thrilling scene where Wesley wakes from being mostly dead and immediately his thoughts go to his lady love, they developed a little comedy routine wherein one of them would pretend to snore odiously and then suddenly pop awake with an Igor-like tilt of the head and demand to know "Where's Buttercup???" The other would laugh uproariously, and I (depending on the mood of the moment) would either roll my eyes or seethe inwardly at the outrage of such a desecration.

Fifteen years later, when I was knitting a very yellow little sleeper for my sister-in-law's first baby, I realized that there could be no other name for the pattern I was designing other than ....

Where's Buttercup? 

Note: When I designed this, I originally meant for it to be long enough to completely cover the feet and pull the drawstring closed. Unfortunately, not having a newborn handy at the time for reference purposes, I made it too short. I have corrected this in the pattern, but the pictures shown are of my own too-short version. Expect yours to be considerably longer.

Note #2: Due to fire hazards, I do not recommend using acrylic yarn for this project.

Size: 0-3 months

440 yards worsted weight yarn
Size 8 circular needles
Size 8 DPNs
Waste yarn or stitch markers 
Darning needle for weaving in ends
5 5/8" buttons 
Needle and thread

Cast on 52
Row 1: K5, (P2, K2) 10x, P2, K5, turn.
Row 2: Slipping this and all first stitches K5, (K2, P2) 10x, K2, K5, turn.
Row 3: Repeat row 1
Row 4: Repeat row 2
Row 5: K5, (P2, K2) 10x, P2, K1, K2tog, YO, K2, turn
Row 6: Repeat row 2
Row 7: Repeat row 1

Raglan Shaping
Row 8: K5, P6, pm, P1, pm, P5, pm, P1, pm, P17, pm, P1, pm, P5, pm, P1, pm P5, K5
Row 9: (K to marker, M1, pass marker, K1, pass marker, M1) 4x, k to end of the row, turn.
Row 10 passing markers as you go, K5, P to 5 st before end, K5, turn.
Rows 11-24: repeat rows 9 and 10
Row 25: (K to marker, M1, pass marker, K1, pass marker, M1) 4x, k to 4 st before end of row, K2tog, YO, K2.
Row 26: passing markers as you go, K5, P to 5 st before end, K5, turn.
Rows 27-32: repeat rows 9 and 10

Row 33: (K to marker, transfer next 30 st onto scrap yarn, flip work over and using knitted on cast on, cast on 3 st. Flip work back over, remove marker) 2x, K to end. Total st on needles: 92.
Row 34: K to end, turn.
Row 35: K5, P to 5 st before end of row, K5.
Rows 37-44: repeat rows 34 and 35.
Row 45: K to 4 st before end of row, K2tog, YO, K2.
Row 46: K5, P to 5 st before end of row, K5.
Rows 47-64: repeat rows 34 and 35.
Row 65: K to 4 st before end of row, K2tog, YO, K2.
Row 66: K5, P to 5 st before end of row, K5.
Rows 67-84: repeat rows 34 and 35
Row 85: K to 4 st before end of row, K2tog, YO, K2.
Row 86: K5, P to 5 st before end of row, K5.
Row 87-94: repeat rows 34 and 35.
Row 95: K to 5 st before end, slip onto DPN. Knit together 1st st from DPN and last st from beginning of the row. Knit together 2nd st from DPN and next-to-last st from beginning of the row. Knit together 3rd st from DPN and 3rd from the last st from beginning of row. Knit together 4th st from DPN and 4th from the last st from beginning of row. Knit together 5th st from DPN and 5th from last st from beginning of row. From now on knitting will be in the round.
Rounds 96-142: K to end of round.
Round 143: K2tog, K1, (P3, K2) 8x, P3, K2tog, K1, (P3, K2) 8x, P3.
Rounds 144-145: (K2, P3) to end of round.
Round 146: K1, (SSK, YO, P1, YO, K2tog) to end of round.
Rounds 147-149: (K2, P3) to end of round.
Cast off in pattern. Finish off.

Transfer sleeve st from scrap yarn onto 3 DPNs. Using 3rd DPN (the one to the right of the  underarm), join yarn and pick up and knit 2 st (1 to the right of the underarm CO st, then 1 of the underarm CO st) pm, pick up and knit 2 st (the other underarm CO st and then 1 st to the left of the underarm CO st). Total st: 34
Using 4th DPN, join for working in the round and work in stockinette for 30 rounds.
Knit another round, decreasing 2 st. Total st: 32.
(K2, P2) for 8 rounds.
Cast off in pattern. Finish off.

Cast on 3 st. K 20” of i-cord. Finish off.
Weave in ends.
Block gently, if desired. 
Weave i-cord through holes in bottom ribbing, going under K st and over P st.
Sew on buttons. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Layette

Hooray! I have a new niece!

This is fantastic news. She is an adorable bundle of cute, she has initiated my sister- and brother-in-law into the wonderful world of parenthood, she has given Munchkin and Twinkle the thrill of having a cousin younger than them, and with her arrival, and that of a certain pink package on her doorstep, I can finally (finally!) blog about her layette.

'Stache did not know what a layette was until I told him, so just in case, here's the definition, courtesy of

1. a complete set of articles, including clothing, bedclothes, and other accessories for a newborn baby.

While not "complete" and not including "bedclothes," I do think it is a rather nice little collection.

I had the best time knitting this little basket of woolies. My sister-in-law wanted them to be able to passed down to any future younger siblings, regardless of sex, so I got a few neutrals and one pop of color and basically just went to town. Cute little hats and booties, sweaters that don't take an eon to finish - it's pretty much the knitter's dream. One "finishing high" after another. Best of all, this particular little niece lives where it is very very cold in the winter time, so there's really no such thing as too much wool.

Let's have the grand run-down, shall we? Clockwise from the top left:

Title: Zenith by Parna Mehrbani
Design: Stockinette elf hat
Materials: less than a skein of Cascade 220 Superwash worsted in 862 walnut heather, with a touch of 821 daffodil
Finished: erm no idea. Sometime between after I recovered from Christmas and before I recovered from the last play. I think I'll just put September 2014 on all of them. 

I followed the pattern except for substituting 1x1 rib for the first 6 rows and changing the color at the tip. I love elf hats on babies. The yarn, Cascade 220 Superwash, is now my official Bestest Favorite. Superwash means that it can be machine washed, which is a huge plus for knitwear intended for small, messy humans, and Cascade 220 is just an all-round awesome basic sweater yarn. 

If you're reading this, 'Stache? Easy Christmas gift. Cascade 220 Superwash worsted, some nice gender-neutral color, gobs of it. Gobs. No pressure. 

Title: Baby Buffet Snowsuit (with bear ears! squee!)
Design: Baby Sweater Buffet with the Snowsuit Suppliment by Allyson Dykhuizen. Her website is called The Sweatshop of Love, which is a blog title I adore and deeply wish I'd thought of.
Materials: Cascade 220 Superwash worsted in 816 gray, 9 buttons
Finished: September 2014

As you can see, I had some help photographing the snowsuit.

And when I say help ... 

I don't really mean that he was helpful. 

Title: Bumblebee Hat
Design: adapted from Simple Baby Hat 2 from Itty-Bitty Hats
Materials: Cascade 220 Superwash worsted, 816 gray and 821 daffodil
Finished: September 2014

Itty-Bitty Hats is my go-to book for baby hats. It has some really adorable designs, but my favorite thing is that it also gives simple hat patterns for a variety of yarn weights, in several different sizes. It's invaluable for when you want to knit your own design but you don't have the baby in question's head to measure.

I used Simple Baby Hat 2, which is the worsted weight pattern, with 1x1 ribbing at the edge, and jogless 3-row stripes. Normally when you're knitting stripes in the round, there's a jog at the beginning of the round. But if you use this method with the diagonal seam, you get perfect stripes. I ended the hat with about 1 1/2" of i-cord, which I then tied in a knot.

Title: Um?
Design: I can't find the pattern I used. I'm pretty sure I at least started with a pattern, but it's a fairly basic top-down raglan garter stitch vest. I might have faked it as I went.
Materials: Cascade 220 Superwash worsted in 862 walnut heather, 2 buttons
Finished: September 2014

Title: Baby Chick Hat
Design: Mine!
Materials: Cascade 220 Superwash worsted, 821 daffodil
Finished: September 2014

Here's the pattern for my wee Baby Chick Hat. It's meant for 0-3 months.

Cast on 81 stitches join to knit in the round. Seed stitch (knit 1, purl 1) for 9 rounds. Knit 4" in stockinette. (Knit 7, k2tog), repeat to the end of the round. (Knit 6, k2tog), repeat to the end of the round. (Knit 5, k2tog), repeat to the end of the round. (Knit 4, k2tog), repeat to the end of the round. (Knit 3, k2tog), repeat to the end of the round. (Knit 2, k2tog), repeat to the end of the round. (Knit 1, k2tog), repeat to the end of the round. K2tog 9 times. Pull the end of the yarn through the loops, fasten off and weave in the ends. Block gently if desired. 

Title: Cabled Tam
Design: Mine!
Materials: Cascade 220 Superwash worsted in 816 gray and (maybe) 1946 silver gray
Finished: September 2014

Here is my pattern, but this is reverse-engineered and thus more than a little shaky. It is newborn-ish size.

Cast on 20 stitches. P1, K2, P2, knit a cable pattern, ending the row with a single purl stitch. Continue for approximately 10". Cast off using a 3-needle bind off, seaming the cast on edge at the same time. On the edge that began P1, K2, P2, knit an attached i-cord to the P1. Do this around the edge of the hat and sew end of i-cord to beginning of i-cord. Fasten off. On the other side, pick up 1 stitch for each row. Using new color, knit stockinette for 17 rounds. Decrease at 4 places, evenly spaced. Decrease every round. Switch color back to first for the final 2 rounds. Break off yarn and pull through 8 stitches. Fasten off and weave in ends. 

Design: Stockinette cardigan with round yoke and garter stitch accents
Materials: Cascade 220 Superwash worsted, 862 walnut heather
Finished: September 2014

This is only labeled a baby boy sweater because the baby girl version has eyelets around the yoke. Speaking of boy vs. girl, I always put the buttons and buttonholes on the "girl" sides of the sweater. This is because buttons on the "boy" side are positioned for the ease of the person wearing the sweater, because we all know that a gentlemen dresses himself and then has his valet do up his cuff links. Buttons on the "girl" side are positioned for the ease of the person putting the clothes on the person wearing the sweater, because we all know that a lady has a maid to dress her. 

Also ,even I, who believes herself to be a pretty snappy knitter, could not knit this sweater in 5 hours. However, it was still a very quick knit. I think I finished it in about a day of knitting. Presumably I was still eating, sleeping and taking care of the boys during that 24 hours, so maybe ... 8 hours of knitting? 9?  

Design: Baby booties knit back-and-forth in garter and stockinette
Materials: Cascade 220 Superwash worsted in 821 daffodil
Finished: September 2014

This pattern appears to be the gold standard of baby booty knitting. They're really easy and quick to make, because the clever construction lets you knit back and forth instead of in very tiny rounds. 

As you can see, Twinkle was not particularly enthused about me pinning these booties to the line. He very much wanted to wear them himself, which he might have been able to, since they are on the big side, and knitting is stretchy. I was cold-hearted, however, and refused. (Also, I took these pictures in September. It was plenty warm then for him to be in a sleeveless shirt and barefoot.)

Title: Just Right
Design: Mine! 
Materials: Cascade 220 Superwash worsted in 862 walnut heather
Finished: September 2014

This is my all-time favorite baby hat, and the pattern deserves its own post. I'm sure I'll get to that one of these days. 

Title: I am not entirely sure but they might be these with 1x1 ribbing cuffs
Design: baby booties knit back-and-forth with garter stitch, stockinette, and 1x1 ribbing
Materials: Cascade 220 Superwash worsted, in 816 gray
Finished: September 2014

Title: Where's Buttercup?
Design: Mine! 
Materials: approx 440 yards of Cascade 220 Superwash worsted in 816 daffodil
Finished: September

I'm going to share this pattern on the blog sometime but it's WAY too long to add to this already very lengthy post, so you'll just have to wait. It'll be good for your sanctification.

I was going to do one of these artsy photography things where you fold one sleeve over to make it a more interesting shape and show more detail, but every time I did that, Munchkin would "help" me by folding over the other sleeve to match.  

Every. Single. Time.

So eventually I let him. He looked up at me with his big brown eyes, so confident that he was being a huge help, making my sweater all symmetrical. What can I say? I melted.

Happy (late) birthday, little niece. I hope you enjoy your layette.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Patience is Rewarded

Last Friday I played with fire and made a skirt.

At the same time.

You see I had this fabric that (purely metaphorically speaking) has been burning a hole in my fabric drawer for a while. A long, long while, since I bought this fabric on my honeymoon six years ago. Apparently that (metaphorical) fire wasn't burning too hot. This wasn't because I didn't like it, because it is purple and flowy and has just enough sequins to add a fairy-tale, pretty-girl touch without crossing over the border into “Bling,” which is a country that I just don't visit. I have many friends who rave about it, a cousin who pretty much lives there, but it is just not for me. Tempt me not with sequined sandals and pass me my trusty Merrells.

It wasn't languishing for want of a destiny, because I knew when I bought it that it was meant to be a skirt.

It had only two strikes against it, but those proved almost deadly.

  1. It is crepe (no idea exactly what kind, since all receipts for this are long gone) which can be tricky to deal with.
  2. I have a very wide range of textile-craft interests. I usually have several projects in process and more that I am planning. My main interests are knitting, quilting and sewing children's clothes, but I am quite good at crochet, home-decorating sewing, sewing adult clothes, cross-stitch, French Hand Sewing and scrapbooking. If you take the average day of 24 hours, subtract A for sleep, subtract B for being married, subtract C times D for two boys under the age of three, subtract E for cooking and F (not coincidentally) for housework and then divide that wee little number by the number of interests at the moment, the end result is a very, very small number that you have to peer at with a magnifying glass. I usually look at that poor little pathetic number, trying bravely to stand up by its weak little self, and take pity on it and steal a bit of time from the last thing mentioned. (What's that? Housework was the last thing mentioned? How … um … coincidental.) I can't help it. I'm tenderhearted after all, and just can't bear to see the darling thing struggle so.

So the Lovely Purple Crepe lived in the drawer for a long time, until last Friday when I opened it looking for blue flannel and was suddenly struck with a memory.

Once upon a very long time ago, I was a ballet girl in my church's fledgling ballet school and wore black leotards and pink tights and our mothers made us skirts for the performance.

They did this with fire. Literal, non-metaphorical fire.

Fun fact: polyester is basically made of plastic bottles. Funner fact: just like plastic bottles melt, so too does polyester.

Instead of hemming our ballet skirts (which would have been an enormous task) the moms set up a station with a candle and after cutting out the skirts, they very carefully passed the edge of the fabric along the edge of the candle, making a small melted edge that does not fray.

If you would like to try it you might watch this video.The key thing is to keep your hands steadily moving. If you pause and wait for the section by the flame to be melted “enough” you will melt a lot more than you actually want. Trust that it is happening, move your fabric steadily along and then pull your fabric away from the flame to run your finger along the edge (it should be cool enough) to check that you didn't miss any spots

However, I should warn you, this is a Very Unprofessional way to finish an edge for a regular skirt. (Unless you're deliberately going for a funky, burned, post-Apocolyptic high fashion look.) The reasons I thought I could get away with it were:

  1.  I was making a handkerchief skirt, which meant that the hemline isn't supposed to be parallel to the floor, it's supposed to be all drapey and flowy. This meant that the inevitable imperfections would be camouflaged in angles and drapeyness. If this hem had been parallel to the floor, the difference between the natural straightness of the floor and the meandering attempt at straightness that would be my hemline would, I know, make me twitch.
  2. I was using 2 squares of crepe, set 90 degrees from each other, like an 8-pointed circle. This meant that there would be 8 different points hanging down and there is safety in numbers. If I had done an asymetrical skirt with one high point and one low point, it would be easy to look at that simple shape and say “Hey look. That edge isn't even. What was she thinking?" With 8 points you don't stop to count and examine each one, your brain just says “That skirt has a lot of points hanging down.” And moves on.
  3. I knew that this was not going to be a high-impact, hard-wearing, hard-scrubbing skirt. This is a pretty-girl skirt, meant to be worn to church or on a date perhaps once a month. Its ok that it has a delicate edge because it's not going to get thrown in the washer and dryer all the time. I might even treat it to dry cleaning, if it behaves itself.
  4. I lack the equipment/skills to hem crepe like it should be hemmed. In a perfect world I would have a serger and be well-versed in delicate fabrics such as crepe and chiffon but this is real life and I have a (mostly) trusty Brother sewing machine and I usually sew with cotton or flannel.
  5. My standards are low. I mostly live in jeans and t-shirts. I knew that this skirt would not have to pass the exacting standards of a professional workplace. Most of the people I know are not going to examine my hem and find me, my sewing skills and my moral worth lacking.
  6. If it was hard, I knew I was not going to do it, and having a new skirt made of lovely material was more important to me than doing things As They Should Be.

So I plunged in, cut two big squares, melted the edges, measured my waist, looked up the radius of a circle that had the circumference of my waist measurement (I love online calculators) and cut a waist-sized hole. I made a simple casing from a doubled piece of fabric, and sewed it on, trusting to the seam allowances (that were making the waist-hole now slightly bigger than my waist) to allow me enough wiggle room to get the skirt on. I then made a tie cord using this very clever method.

Normally to make fabric ties I would have had to cut a 1” wide strip, measure and fold the edges over 1/4”, iron firmly, and then fold the strip in half and iron firmly, and then sew down the edge of the strip to make a nice little fabric cord with no raw edges. The ironing probably wouldn't “take” as much as I wanted and a great number of pins would be used. The end result would be serviceable, wobbly, and would have taken an hour and a half to make.

Instead, I cut my 1” strip and fed it into my 1/2” bias tape maker. This is a wonderful little gadget that does the first set of folding for you. If you are making bias tape then you pull your strip through the gadget and iron the creases as they come out of the end. If, however, you intend to immediately fold this tape in half and sew it, you can just feed it directly from the gadget to the sewing machine. I took a few terrible pictures to try to explain:

It works best if you hold the last fold with your finger: 

You only do this about 2 inches at a time, but it is lightning fast compared to measuring and ironing and pinning!

After I made my cord, I fed it through the casing and voila! A skirt! 

If I had been making it in real, uninterrupted time instead of Mommy time, it would have taken about 1 hour from first idea to final product. 

Thanks for reading such a long post! Gratuitous cute picture of Munchkin in safety goggles:  
Yes. He wears pink crocs. They were on sale and he loves them and (most importantly in both our estimations) he can put them on himself.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

What I Did Do

Way back when before HONK, I had something to show you. It got delayed many times - first because I didn't have good weather to take pictures, then because it was a present and I thought I should present it before blogging about it and then because a certain delightful musical took over nearly every facet of my life.

So here we are. It started out with a wee, yet-unborn baby who was due around Christmas time. Her mother and I discussed her quilt for a long time, trying to come up with a design that referenced the fact that she was going to be a Christmas baby but wasn't too on the nose. No holly and ivy for us. We wanted it to have flowers because her older sisters' quilts had flowers, but it shouldn't look too spring-y. Finally her mom chose the Star of Bethlehem flower, which we both thought was perfect. I designed a quilt that would have a circle of white flowers on a dark blue background.

My first sketch of Baby's Bouquet - Star of Bethlehem. For some reason on its side.

The lovely border of flowers that I was experimenting with here was quickly axed when I realized just how many petals that would mean I would have to cut out. (A Star of Bethlehem has six petals. When you start adding extra flowers, they multiply like crazy.) So I limited the design to just the 72 petals that the circle would require, cut them out, appliqued them and their stems and then trimmed the blue fabric away from the back of the flower appliques.

This was absolutely nerve-wracking. To know that a slip of the scissors could ruin months of work ... It was terrible. But you could (sort of) (kind of) see (a glimpse of) the blue background fabric behind the white petals, which bothered me greatly. So I held tight to my slippery courage, selected a good sharp pair of scissors, and snipped.

It all turned out ok.

My favorite method for basting a quilt sandwich  is to lay the fabric and batting out on a bare mattress. I can feel quite clearly whether or not the needle has gone into the mattress or not, and it is (slightly) easier on my back than crawling around on my knees basting a quilt on the floor. It's still no picnic, though.

(Speak not to me of basting sprays. I have used them, I sometimes like them, but this was a Masterpiece I was making here. And Masterpieces are made with the long view in mind and do not take shortcuts that may not hold up to a century or two of use. No matter how much it kills my back to hand baste.)

Many (many many many many ... ) hours of quilting and several holes in my fingers later, it was done. And I love it dearly. Now that it's finished.

Conveniently, it had snowed just in time for my little photo shoot ... 

Title: Baby's Bouquet - Star of Bethlehem
Design: Mine!
Materials: 100% cotton fabric, 100% cotton batting, white quilting thread of unknown origin
Finished: February 2014

What I've Been Doing

Hello hello!

Yes, it's terrible form to start up a sparkling new blog and then immediately vanish for a month. But you see, I have been very very busy. I was the Costume Head for a production of HONK!, which just opened last weekend. *cue sighs of relief all round* We had a wonderful designer who made my job both easier and harder (there is a price for creativity and is TIME!), which was a new experience, as was clothing people who were supposed to be animals (You can listen to one of the actors talk about how challenging it was to be an animal here.), as was working with a Children's Chorus. I was frankly dreading that part, but they turned out to surprisingly easy to work with and absolutely stole the show in their cute little duckling and froglet costumes. (Not tadpoles, apparently. Froglets.) Production pictures to follow.

If you are in the Chattanooga area and are so inclined (and you should be), you can go see it Thursday or Friday night at 7pm, or Saturday afternoon at 2:30.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Miracle Socks

I finished Twinkle's purple socks today.

I had enough yarn.

Are you in awe yet? If not, it is because I have failed to adequately explain. Well, then, in the immortal words of Inigo Montoya, "Let me 'splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up."

A week or two ago, I began knitting 'Stache a pair of socks. I had one Zauberball, which tells me was probably 459 yards. I knit a pair of size 10 men's socks.

'Stache's socks

 There is a substantial amount left, so I began to knit a pair of socks for Munchkin. I knit a pair of size 8ish boys socks.

Munchin's socks

There was still yarn left, just a bit, so I started a pair of size 4.5ish socks for Twinkle. I knit and knit and the ball got smaller and smaller and ... I finished them.

I know these look just like the last picture but these feet are Twinkle's!

With 22 inches to spare.

459 yards and I knit three (three!) pairs of socks, in the specific sizes to fit the specific feet in my house and ... 22 inches.

What makes this even more incredible is that all three pairs were top-down socks. In the world of sock knitting (and let me assure you, it is a beautiful, crazy world indeed, you should come visit) there are basically toe-up or top-down socks, knit in exactly the ways their titles describe. The sticking point here is that when you knit a top down sock, you can't stop a little short because you ran out of yarn. Because then you have a ridiculous sock suited only for nail painting and flip-flop wearing. However long you made the leg, you're stuck with it. If you run out of yarn you have to unravel the whole foot and heel, unravel a few rows of the leg, and then put your sock back on the needles and knit it again with extra yardage this time.

And I didn't do that.

Three pairs of socks, I just knit the amount that seemed right for that wearer and that size and ...

Blurry, but look! Everyone's feet in the same picture.

Three pairs of socks.

Sock Recipe for a Toddler with Size 4.5ish Feet

Light to mediumweight sock yarn and size 3 needles.

Cast on 40 stitches over 3 needles.
Knit in 2x2 ribbing for 10 rounds.
Knit in stockinette for 15 rounds.
On 1/2 the stitches, knit a short row heel, using Cat Bordhi's wrap and turn technique. The "corner" of the heel is when you have 6 live stitches left in the middle of your wrapped ones.
Knit in stockinette for 17 rounds
Decrease 4 stitches every 2 rounds until you have 12 stitches left.
Cut off your yarn, leaving a generous tail, and sew the stitches together with Kitchener stitch.
Weave in and trim your ends.

*Fair Warning* I haven't test knitted this pattern so mistakes may lurk - call out if you spot any.

Also *Fair Warning* I can't guarantee that if you get a Zauberball that you will be able to achieve this 3 pair miracle. I can't even guarantee that I could do it again myself. It all depends on exactly how tightly or loosely you are knitting. But regardless, it is a LOT of yarn, so I'm sure that you could do something great with them!