Wednesday, September 28, 2011

a simple pleasures hat

Last fall I found myself in Purl Soho lost in the yarn for about an hour (maybe more, I'm not saying if it was any more than that). I'm pretty sure that one of the staff members was mocking my indecision but let me tell you - it was hard to choose yarn for the Simple Pleasures hat (and the spiral seat cushions and the endless loop scarves that I was making up in my head for Christmas presents with my imaginary endless time to knit).

I settled on two absolutely wonderful colors, Mulberry, which is made by Jade Sapphire and is a 2 ply Silk/Cashmere blend and First Crush (the secondary yarn, thinner) by Alchemy Haiku. I find the color variation absolutely stunning. You can see how much blue is present in the Mulberry yarn...

Anyway, the hat is a free pattern on Purl's site, and it charmed me with it's simplicity. But don't let that charm fool you - it takes forever to knit even though it's easy ribbing followed by plain old stitching (*note the hat only took 6 days, once I started it last week). The simple pleasures hat is at least 13 inches long, probably closer to 14. It's a slouchy hat. Mine came out slouchier than I intended and I confess that I have wet it and stuck it in the dryer twice on low. It's still a little loose and I think I'll do it once more increasing the heat. I wish I had used #7 needles on the ribbing instead of 8's, I think my inexperience with cashmere led to me not knitting as tightly as I probably should have. Perhaps I thought the silk would lessen the elasticity? It didn't. Well it's still lovely and I think it's going to be wonderful to wear this fall with my cranberry colored coat.

You can view my project file on Ravelry.

Monday, September 12, 2011

in threes cardigan

I harbored a disdain for knitting until I had babies. It seemed too time-consuming, too fussy. It is still both of those things to me but I've become more appreciative of the slow movement and the fussy movement. The fussy movement is the one that causes you to be more of a perfectionist than you would be, normally.  That's sewing, that's knitting - striving for perfectionism but allowing those imperfections to become part of your work. Now that I have the babies, everything can be made smaller which makes projects feel that much more attainable.

My very first knitting project was a Habu textiles scarf made of stainless steel yarn (abandoned). I moved along to the purl soho wedding washcloths (perfect beginner project), I made a hat, I made another hat, and another and another two. I didn't finish a hat, I didn't finish a washcloth, I made three cowl neck wrappy scarves that I invented the pattern for (k200 four rows, p200 four rows - repeat till you run out of yarn ending on the fourth k200 row; chunkier yarn adjust to k180 x 4, p180 x 4), and I didn't start two blankets that I bought a lot of expensive lusty yarn for.
And then last Tuesday I decided it was time to knit a sweater. This is a big step. Big difference between hats and sweaters with buttonholes. But I had some lovely yarn left over from the 8 cowl scarves I planned to make for Christmas last year and all I needed was some #5 24 inch circular needles. So I bought them and some more yarn for another sweater. And while I was at it, I ordered some more yarn for another sweater. It's Ravelry's fault. There are too many pretty things to look at once you determine what you're looking for.
I started the sweater. I made the mistake of not training myself to KFB. Then I found this video and I learned it on my third reconstruction.

Lesson learned. I learned how to cast on backwards loop method with this video.

I knitted 50 rows and saw that I made cap sleeves.
I love my baby sweater. I love my Manos del Uraguay silk blend yarn in Pewter #3064. I love that I'm knitting something a size too big because I worried I'd never ever finish it and didn't want to be heartbroken if the correct size was too far off.
The sweater has been a lovely diversion since it's been raining buckets. Every day since last Saturday. Things have been weird here. Earthquakes, hurricanes and fallen trees, rain rain rain and leaky ceilings. We are getting by and I am keeping my eyes on the knitting.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

just three of us

On Thursday, our eldest daughter went with Auntie and Cousin to visit her grandparents in Pennsylvania. There was a lot of anticipation leading up to her departure. I was particularly worried about how Genevieve would handle Mira's disappearance. I was also sad about how quiet it would be without her cheerful and constant chatter. I was terribly sad when we loaded her into the car, she barely had time to acknowledge the goodbye due to her excitement. Just before she was strapped to her seat I asked, "what about my hug?" My hilarious daughter opened her arms wide (while seated) and said in a deeper voice, "come here Mom." She patted my back, I died.

We took Genevieve out to dinner. Just pizza but it's good pizza. We came home, got her to bed and I read the book Red Bird of Mary Oliver's poetry until I finished it. The house didn't seem depressing, but it did seem different.

Missing Mira is a peculiar thing. She's a busy girl, she likes to do hair, visit the park, play with her dolls and the girls across the street. She watches our iPad and gets books out reading to her toys. She has a wonderful imagination and she lights up when I make something for her or we talk about projects and working on things together. She's a fabulous collaborator and a fierce protector.

In her absence I've been able to spend a lot of wonderful time with the tireless Genevieve. She's about 21 months and about as active as I imagine little boys to be. She can deconstruct a room with fierce determination in the moment it takes you to load a washing machine. She wants to sing "rock-a-baby" at nigh-nigh time. Her vocabulary is growing immensely. So quickly, she always asks "what's this?" and she repeats the words, goes back to the items. She is constantly learning it seems. It makes me wonder if Mira learned in spite of our ignorance. I call Genevieve and she answers, "coming Mommy." She holds my hand as we walk through the house, she is quick to hug and love and mimic everything we do. Maybe I didn't notice as much when we had Mira first, because everything was so new and I knew what amounted to nothing. But now, with Genevieve I particularly notice how similar the girls are and how purely sweet and mostly considerate of each other they are, for now.

And it is for these girls, these people that make me worry about the future of the world that I sew constantly lately. I have doubts and reservations about the time I spend preoccupied thinking of what pattern to make next, which fabrics to pull together, or which projects to invent from scratch. But I am immensely fulfilled by the creativity as it comes in like the tide. It is indeed, sweet satisfaction through sewing and I am grateful for the path my life has taken.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Explorer Vest from Little Things to Sew

For my nephew's second birthday last month I decided to stitch up the explorer vest from the new Oliver + S book, Little Things to Sew. I opted to use an Echino dark green solid from my shop and then pulled some stash prints, Alexander Henry's owls on green and a Joel Dewberry woodgrain print for the bias trim. Easy enough to lay out and trace all of the pattern pieces - everything came together pretty quickly. At first I thought I would make the optional pocket bellows with the owls as a contrast print but then started on the back pocket and found it looked really sloppy. I just couldn't handle the fabric flopping outside the bottom of the pocket. So I had to rip it all out. This was as fun as it sounds!

I used the lining fabric to cut out two owls and create a stuffy which I anchored to a ribbon and sewed in a pocket. It can be snipped out if my nephew decides it should be destroyed.

I used an orange contrast thread to secure the pockets.

Looking at the photos now, I am not crazy about the choppy curving on the pocket details - it's hard work! Obviously this reflects my own ironing and patience deficiencies. My four year old daughter loved it and pranced around in the backyard. I hope that her cousin finds it just as amusing but am fine with the fact that it was ultimately thrown to the bottom of the gift pile and soon to be outgrown. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

a few things that I'd like for my birthday

So... 35 this year.
I've decided that there are a few things I'd like to have. Some people (perhaps my husband?) would like to know.
I spotted this bag today on the elements of style blog:
It's from a shop called Harabu House, it's amazing. Particularly because it's only $66!

I'd like a few books and this one ranks among them.
Vera: The Art and Life of an Icon
Of course, I just turned on cable and a movie called Attack on Darfur is on and now I feel like an a*hole for even thinking about shopping or presents. And while this is a dramatization, my heart breaks for Africa but I've got to turn it off because I'm just about to lose it. Have you seen the PBS special Pushing the Elephant? It's set in the Congo, Rose Mapendo is an amazing lady. The things she has done for love and dignity. 

So perhaps instead of birthday presents we can just send something to her foundation.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

4th Birthday

Mira's birthday has come and gone, we planned a Puppet/Bunny themed party for her in 8 days. It was planned in my head for longer, I assure you, but the final coming together and invitation debacle took place in 8 short days.

Initially I wanted to have a pony party (with a pony) because I heard she and a couple of other girls were devoted to the ponies in her classroom. I hoped these were replica ponies and NOT my little... In the meantime, I was fixing my sights on several Oliver + S projects in the new book and was hit with a spot of brilliance, the Puppet Theater was the perfect thing to make because I could easily plan a puppet-craft party. It would give the kids a job, it would be a loose theme and if I could determine an inspiration point it would be a done deal. Some googling found rather wonderful puppet crafts, I have to say Made by Joel and the Crafty Crow are the two best resources I can think of for paper crafting with children. I think it was when I saw a "Where the Wild Things Are" themed puppet collection that I hit it, it was going to be a rabbit theme. Either Peter Rabbit or Moon Rabbit. I decided that Moon Rabbit's simplistic drawings and bold style would be the easiest to plan, and it's a book I'm rather fond of after finding it at the library.

In several hours I made the Puppet Theater, in an evening Mira and I cut, glued and hole punched the garland, in an hour I drew the bunnies (as well as flowers, guitars and purses) on card stock for mounting on wooden sticks. In a night I prepped punch and whatever else I could and still I was completely exhausted by the time the party started on Saturday morning. But I think it came together nicely.

Here are a few details from the party:
Carrot Garland
Puppet Theater and Puppet Craft
Fairy Berries

S'more Kabobs

Crayon Roll-Up Favors

A very happy birthday girl at the end of the day

The Stacks

In honor of Mira's birthday I popped into a wonderful children's bookstore in Roland Park and bought a huge stack. Usually Mira prefers princess themes (or she says she prefers princess themes but I give her more credit than that) but it has turned out that the book she loves the most is the one she first shunned. This morning Genevieve and I set out to photograph and review them.

This Christmas I decided to begin each of my daughter's Beatrix Potter collections, Mira is up to #3. We haven't read this one yet, but I have found that she becomes remarkably tired when we read books 1 & 2. I love the early 20th century English language style, "Presently..." is used on frequent occasions. And of course, Potter's drawings are beyond charming.

The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter

The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter
The next book that has become an absolute favorite is by Mo Willems. The ladies at the bookstore said kids just love these books because they're terribly funny in the best way. They were quite right.
Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! by Mo Willems
Mira's favorite part is here, right after the pigeon yawns. Have I mentioned that we have a difficult time with bedtimes at our house?
Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! by Mo Willems   
T is for Terrible by Peter McCarty
When the bookstore lady brought me this one I was skeptical. Dinosaurs for my girls? What is hilarious is that I instantly thought of Genevieve. She breaks things, she is not exactly delicate. So when I read this next page, "I cannot help that I step on little flowers when I walk" I felt a little heart string tug.
T is for Terrible by Peter McCarty
 "I cannot help that I grew so enormous and so enormously hungry." That is so Genevieve!
T is for Terrible by Peter McCarty

Hondo & Fabian by Peter McCarty
 Hondo & Fabian is cute for siblings because there's always one that feels left behind.
Hondo & Fabian by Peter McCarty
 So affirmative! Poor Fabian IS going to the living room to play with the baby. As IF a cat that rotund ever had a choice.
Hondo & Fabian by Peter McCarty

Library Lion by Michelle Knudson
This is the book that was shunned. It's the best one in the lot. One day, a Lion just shows up for story time at the library. And since the lion was not breaking any rules, he was allowed to stay. Each subsequent day the lion shows up a little earlier and so he is put to work dusting and helping children reach books up high. And he stays contented for story time each day.
Library Lion by Michelle Knudson
One day the lion is forced to break the rules, and he {SPOILER} leaves, dejected. It takes a while but he does come back, and the way it happens is quite touching. But I have a strong sentimental streak and it really doesn't take much to make me a little tear-y.
Library Lion by Michelle Knudson

Adele & Simon by Barbara McClintock
I actually went in because I saw this in the window. It looked so darn turn of the century and French it could not be resisted.
Adele & Simon by Barbara McClintock
 The story follows Adele & Simon through Paris after school as Simon loses just about everything he was supposed to take or wear home. How tiring for his big sister!
Adele & Simon by Barbara McClintock

The Very Fairy Princess by Julie Andrews & Emma Watson Hamilton

 I had to get her a princess book and then I saw this one by Julie Andrews and her daughter. It's about finding your inner sparkle. And that's nice.
The Very Fairy Princess by Julie Andrews & Emma Watson Hamilton

Thursday, February 17, 2011


About two weeks ago I found myself at the beginning of a reading frenzy. I started here, with this Swedish book that my father gave me for Christmas. This was a great crime book set in remote areas of Swedish forests. Of course I googled the village names and found myself further in to my need to get to vacation in a remote area of Sweden (and while that sounds like a lovely idea everything I've read indicates that locals are not exactly fond of tourists). While I'm not particularly outdoorsy there's something alluring about the forests, lakes, light, islands, green summers and snow.

I brought the book to my Aunt's house, on the day that our house lost power for nearly 24 hours. And while that sounds mild, it seemed like the end of the world which always gets me thinking about the end of the world. I suspect that if the power systems shut down in winter our houses would fall apart in only a couple of months because our house seemed downright abandoned after 16 hours without electricity.

Perhaps you're curious about what I thought was important as I packed for the end of the world (or what the power company estimated as 3-4 days without power)... I packed clothes for each of us, our dog (forgot her food), everything edible from our refrigerator, two books, my laptop, some knitting, enough toys for a birthday party and six or seven guests, an entire bag full of fabric and patterns to trace because I was going to have SO MUCH TIME. Oh yeah, and my work stuff too. Here's what I did during the 8 hours at my aunt's:
took a shower, fed the kids lunch, read a little, and watched Ponyo with the kids. Have you seen that on Netflix/on demand? It's weird but the kids love it and it is narrated by an all star cast.

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