Category Archives: Knitting

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The babies are coming….the babies are coming….

It seems like so many acquaintances are looking forward to the birth of a baby in the near future. Mackenzie just knit up 3 baby sweaters and I knit 2 recently. I absolutely couldn’t wait to knit the first one because it was designed by Mackenzie. I mean, how many times do you get to knit a pattern your own daughter designed? A real, published, actual pattern?

image1I knit it out of Malabrigo Sock Yarn in the Aguas Colorway. I found some awesome unicorn tails by Madelintosh for the contrasting colors. The unicorn tails are crazy amazing because they are small skeins of yarn so you don’t pay an arm and a leg for a large skein, using only a fraction of it for the contrasting colors.

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While I was knitting the pattern I kept telling my husband “Mackenzie is so smart.” Creating a pattern is no easy task: coming up with the design, figuring out the pattern repeat while keeping in mind the gauge of your yarn and having it come out the right size is just the first thing to think about. How big does the neck need to be to go over a head? How do you compensate for colorwork size versus your normal gauge on the body? How do you write it all down so someone else can follow and understand the pattern?  I got the right gauge and ended up with the correct measurements. I am pleased as punch with the end result! At the baby shower the sweater was passed from person to person for closer inspection accompanied by many oohs and aahs. It is a lovely top down raglan  pattern that would be great for beginning color work knitters. I think the best part about this sweater is that it lends itself to either gender and changes appearances greatly depending on the colors chosen.

My second sweater was a bit complicated. It’s called Dragon-skin Wrap by Angela Hahn. I tried to knit this one other time and felt is was too complicated, so put it away. Then 2 weeks ago my sister-in-law contacted me and asked if I would knit a sweater for a girl baby shower. I had some coral colored cotton blend yarn in my stash that I had orignally bought for socks. I saw it and remembered this pattern and decided to give it another try. This time my mind grasped the design and I got it done – along with a hat. The flowers were the funnest part of the whole project.

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So, two babies done and several more to go. The world is exploding with children and joy. I am thankful every day for my children and the people they have turned into. Blessings to all those little ones coming into the world.

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hi, perfectionism. thanks for coming, but i’ve got knitting to do. can we talk later?

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I had the opportunity to teach last week (in a creative journaling series), and although I didn’t feel excited to teach, the students and the creative process gave me a huge gift (I don’t know why I’m still surprised by that; teaching is always a gift): a reminder that perfectionism is the enemy of good work, of learning, risk-taking, exploration, and quite frankly the enemy of happiness & fun.

I taught papercutting! This is my fancy M.
I taught papercutting! This is my fancy M.

It’s good to have high standards and good taste, but putting your inner critic into place – not powerful enough to derail you, but not so weak that you produce crappy work – is such a huge challenge. It’s a challenge that I’m starting to understand might be a thing for the rest of my life, something I might never outgrow.

And it’s funny, as a parent, to see how early the struggle can start. For example: my son knows how a particular puzzle is supposed to go together. But getting all the pieces in is difficult. Some days he’ll work at it patiently until he figures it out. Some days, he’ll turn a piece around just twice before crying and running away.

Knitting is (one of) my puzzle(s) right now, and I’m trying hard not to lose my temper with it. My current recipe for success? Er, recipe for not crying and running away? Start again on something easy, and focus for a while on how satisfying it is to have inch after inch of knitting drop away from my needles.

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To infinity and beyond

I made several infinity scarves for Holiday gifts this year. I had NO IDEA there were so many ways to knit a circular piece of cloth.

1) Knitting in the round from the start.
2) Knitting the scarf starting with a provisional cast on, picking up the stitches upon completion, then joining using kitchener stitch.
3) Use a permanent cast on then join by using mattress stitch.

I discovered I really like the reversible look. There seem to be many ways to accomplish this as well:

1) Double knitting – I tried this and totally failed because I couldn’t figure out a way to keep the tension equal on both sides. That was a project that was totally frogged and is currently awaiting a rebirth.
2) Knitting a piece twice as wide as you’d like in the end, making a purl stitch column/row in the middle so you can fold it in half when wearing.
3) Knit the scarf twice – but the inside version was 2 inches shorter than the outside version. Join the two to create a reversible look.

I can’t say as I totally won with my projects. Once they were knit I ran into another challenge – how do you wash and block an infinity scarf? Here’s what I did:

1) If knitting then joining by mattress or kitchener stitch, just wash and block, then join as the last step.
2) If knitting in the round, use your yarn swift.

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Do you have any insights into infinity scarf knitting? I could definitely use all the help I can get!

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Baby Sweaters x3

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Malabrigo in color Impressionist Sky (pretty sure)

Let me tell you which baby sweater pattern has been getting a lot of use at my house lately: Tiny Rocky Coast by Hannah Fettig.

Now that the baby shower is over, I can show you the finished products! I knit one for each of my sisters-in-law, and one for a good friend. I knit one each month, in fact, in October, November, and December, from Malabrigo I had in stash (pretty proud that this is in line with my Make More with Less theme for the year).

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Malabrigo color Stonechat

The buttons, it turns out, are what makes a tiny sweater unbearably cute for me. They can make it look pretty or professorial. Tiny Rocky Coast doesn’t call for buttons, but for a 3-month-old, I really feel that it is more practical to have them.  ErikSweater1

Let me also say that I am sick, exhausted, and can’t think of anything else relevant to say about these projects. So here are some more pretty photos, and I will see you on the flip side (of whenever I feel better). CharleneSweater6 CharleneSweater2 CharleneSweater1

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Malabrigo in color Eggplant

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color dreaming

I’ve been dreaming of alternate colors for the Mountaintop Pullover – and have huge amounts of fun. Sueno comes in a boatload of colors, but here are a few of my top picks.

IF YOU NEED TO IMPRESS STEPHEN WEST:
Chartreuse, Shamrock, Charcoal

Sueno1190chartreuseSueno1143shamrockSueno1133charcoal

 

WARM TOWARDS NEUTRALS:
Mud Puddle, Buttercream, Natural

Sueno1103mudpuddleSueno1193buttercreamSueno-Worsted1300natural

 

BASICALLY GREYSCALE:
Ice Ice Baby, Silver Sage, Grey, Grey Heather

Sueno1141iceicebaby Sueno1196silversage Sueno1101greyheather

 

MY SECRET FAVORITE FALL COLORS:

Rust, Buttercream, Natural

Sueno1120rust       Sueno1193buttercream Sueno-Worsted1300natural

 

Have some other great yarns that are close in gauge to Sueno? Leave them in the comments!

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forward motion

Some folks are happy with a goal-driven all-out sprint towards the holidays with their crafting (I just read my daily dose of Yarnharlot and almost cried, but Stephanie seems to love her process). Some people break into hives at the mere mention of a crafting deadline. I fall somewhere in the middle – I wouldn’t be happy if I wasn’t making anything. But I see no reason to let my irrational ambition take over the holidays – because, unfortunately, I do take deadlines seriously.

I limited myself to sewing superhero capes for my son and his BFF, and creating a cardboard stepstool so that he can learn to wash his own hands. Plus I’m making steady progress on a few baby shower gifts that need to be done by mid-January.

As I truck along on those few handmade things, I’m mostly thinking about my theme for next year. In 2014, my theme was “say no” (I had just had a baby, and wanted to create realistic expectations of what I was going to get done). In 2015, my theme was “say yes” (try new things, meet new people, accept a challenge again).

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I’ve done well with both of those things. I set ruthless priorities in 2014, and it’s actually become kind of a habit to think, “Is this necessary to my creative life, does it contribute to the family, does it strengthen my relationships?” and if not, I just say no, with ever-decreasing levels of guilt.

And of course, in 2015 I published my first sweater design. Challenge accepted and enjoyed. I also tried yoga, started guest blogging for Lancaster Transplant, and I made an effort to meet new people and invest more love and energy into my existing network of fabulous folks.

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Both of those were necessary resolutions to my creative life – when I stopped and looked at it carefully, the only ones that made sense. So what’s necessary this year?

I think it might be “more with less.” Or maybe it could be rephrased as “do the best with what you already have.”

In the micro: I have a yarn and fabric stash to work from. I have the incredible Creative Reuse Center nearby. I want to take creative aim at spending less money with less intensive use of new materials in my work.

In the macro: I have been given enough resources, skill, and support to make a life I’m really happy with. I often lose sight of that, feeling like there isn’t enough time or money to go around, or mismatching my ideas with my reality. But really, truly, I can and should focus on using what I have in the best way possible.

Please tell me I’m not the only one examining and re-examining my life as I stitch. What are your themes and thoughts for the holidays and the new year?

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The Mountaintop Pullover

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It’s here! My first published knitting pattern. Part of the incredibly cute Winter 2015 Knittin’ Little collection, the Mountaintop Pullover is alongside some beautifully wearable and beautifully quirky selections for your Littles (I especially dig the skunk scarf).

Can you believe I started thinking about this design, oh, I don’t know, 18 months ago?  In toddler world, that is literally a lifetime. Indulge me while I take you on a tour of all the little details.

I’m a huge fan of stranded colorwork, but I know it looks intimidating to many people. So I chose to put a band of colorwork around the waist, where you won’t have to fuss with increases and decreases at the same time you’re juggling two yarns.

It’s a top-down raglan with a larger neck opening built in for your toddler sizes.

Each repeat of the colorwork motif adds 1″ to the length of the sweater, so it’s super easy to calculate if you want to make the colorwork part longer or shorter.

It’s geometric and unisex (depending on your choice of colors). I initially envisioned it as a pattern I’d be happy to have my son wear, and I have to say it looks super adorable modeled on a little girl for the magazine.

The design started here:

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It hit a little snag here,
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went through a few variations,
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and ended up here!

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You can find the pattern on Knittin’ Little’s website and on Ravelry. Go check out the whole collection, and if you knit my design (well, I’d be thrilled regardless)…  pics or it didn’t happen!

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Little Bit of Good

I was standing in the check out line at the grocery store last night. A cookie pack in my hand was my contribution to the lock-in at my local yarn store (Stitching Memories).

Lock-ins occur one night a month and consists of  knitting, eating, laughing, and sharing – while knitting with fellow knitters, of course. It’s a great time to escape the grind and connect with fellow pickers and throwers.

As I was waiting to pay for my pack of cookies, the gentleman in front of me was getting ready to pay for his groceries. When the total cost of his groceries was tallied, he was short. I looked away, thinking that by looking away I would ease his discomfort at having to go through his groceries and figure out what to leave behind and what to keep. Inside I was thinking “I’ll do this man a favor by acting as if nothing is happening. This will make him feel less uncomfortable.”

The process of picking out one item at a time and re-tallying his total went on for 5 or 6 items when the lady behind me spoke up and said “Excuse me, but how much are you short?” The gentleman said “about twenty – two dollars” at which the lady replied “I’ll pick it up.” The gentleman expressed his thanks and the lady picked up the rest of the tab. I could have said things like “but you were buying chips and lemonade mix and things that aren’t essential, so why should I help?” or “everyone has hard times and you have to learn how to live with whatever is given to you,” but honestly… the lady behind me got it right.

She showed compassion without judgment. Every time I think of compassion lately, I also think of all the news stories of so many refugees fleeing such horrific living situations that they are willing to risk their lives to escape. That’s a fast track to becoming totally overwhelmed with the needs of so many. So the subject of charity has been swimming and swarthing (that’s a made up word, by the way) in my head and heart.

I have come in contact with so many knitters that knit for others, out of pure compassion.  Making hats for preemies, for instance. I recently ran into someone who knits blankets and outfits for stillborn babies in the hospital. Western Michigan University has a special scholarship program for kids who have graduated from foster homes. That may sound great, but these kids are basically too old for foster care and have not been adopted – so a local group knits items to give to these young adults for Christmas each year. There are so many ways for knitting to touch the lives of others.

I have been knitting several items for a nonprofit organization that provides coaching and support to missionaries. This organization (Coaching Mission International) has a fundraising Christmas Bazaar each year. I have a lot of time to knit in the evenings so why not use some of my knitting time to turn yarn into items to donate for this cause? So here are a few of the items that I made this year:

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And as I keep stitching and shopping and moving through my life, I’m going to keep working on this compassion thing and hopefully get it right more often.

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” – Desmond Tutu

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in the weeds

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Malabrigo sock. Sorry, I have forgotten all the colorway names.

I have a lot of knitting to do in the next few months.

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Also Malabrigo sock. I have an enormous stash of this stuff from my days working at the knitting store.
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Malabrigo sock. Sensing a theme? The light green is Lettuce, but I still dont know the name of the dark green.
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This will be another Stripe Study shawl

And furthermore, my life feels like (to borrow a phrase from my southern living days) a hot mess right now.

So, short post this week, happy yarnings my friends, I’ll show you the follow up photos when I can (many of these things are destined to be surprises)!

And happy Thanksgiving!  Despite being deep in the weeds, I’m thankful for all y’all reading this post, and wonderful family to spend the day with.

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love for my tools

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The day, almost the hour, after I received my new birthday tools, I put them to good use: steaming the swatch for my Knittin’ Little submission.

And then remember when I made Greg that new pair of jeans? A huge part of why they look so good are my new birthday tools.  That, my friends, is a new iron to replace the travel iron I’ve been using since 2004. And a sleeve roll to iron on top of (perfect for sticking in jeans legs, too, when you press your seams).

I super love them. Good tools make everything easier. I couldn’t resist sticking them on some lovely hand marbled paper and styling them up like queens and kings.

What’s your favorite tool? Do you also harbor an unhealthy love for your iron?