Category Archives: Littles

foxcoat

yo, knitters, where did you go?

Here’s a common, everyday sort of example of what is engaging my energy. My toddler went to bed screaming and woke up screaming in the middle, every night, for a string of more than 15 nights. He has an unusually large vocabulary for a 2-year-old, so he is able to tell me that he has bad dreams about elephants.

It’s an obvious place to apply analytical thought, under pressure and in less-than-ideal conditions. So let’s go for it, let’s over-analyze. We are mothers, are we not? That’s how we roll, at least around my house.

Are bad dreams actually the problem, or is waking now an established habit? Is this behavior a developmental stage that solves itself? If the former, how do we demystify elephants for a toddler? If habit is the problem, how do we identify and change the problematic elements? If it’s a location-based habit, we could change where he sleeps. If it’s a habit that feeds on attention or a developmental stage that simply has to be weathered, how do we withdraw our attention in a way that meets our ethical standards?

The major ethical principle in play is: be kind to babies. Sounds simple, right? Something that is easy to agree with? Responding to a toddler’s cry is kind. In this case, though, it might be reinforcing behavior that makes it more difficult for him to sleep self-sufficiently, thus contradicting the greater good of the toddler. So, if we decide that responding immediately is not kind, we still have to reconcile our actions as closely as possible with the basic ethical principle: i.e., we have to decide how long to let the toddler cry and what kind of reassurance to offer when we do respond. Our response must also incorporate our research on what is developmentally appropriate.

Since toddlers are less than rational, it’s also possible that if we let him cry for too long, our lack of response becomes part of the trauma of bedtime and night waking. So, let’s dig deep into our well of empathetic thinking and emotional intelligence, and add the toddler’s perspective, as best we can, to the solution we devise.

Are you already rolling your eyes at the amount of thought going into this one simple problem, a pretty common one? Let me take you deeper, into the reflective questions I am prompted to ask myself. What does my response say about my character, and does it align with the kind of parent I want to be? Does my response help or hinder the long-term trajectory of my relationship with my child and my spouse?

While I am busy rabbit-holing and test-driving earplugs, my husband goes through this thought process:

He’s scared of elephants because of a movie (damn you Winnie the Pooh). What’s his favorite movie? Mary Poppins. Can we incorporate Mary Poppins into bedtime? How about a soundtrack? Does the library have the soundtrack? Yes! I’ll go out tomorrow and rent it. 

And do you know what? The Mary Poppins soundtrack sends him off to sleep, all night, in complete peace. For two nights in a row now (knock, knock, knock on wood).

With abject gratitude, I immediately ordered Mary Poppins the 50th anniversary DVD and the soundtrack (and Looper, for the man of the house). Let’s be honest, I also collapsed into a puddle of exhausted not-knitting. And will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

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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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To Hogwarts and Beyond

I cannot believe that it has taken me so many weeks to show you another cute project I made for the baby shower!

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Why yes, they are onesies printed to look like Gryffindor robes.

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I got a panel of fabric from Spoonflower, and it was basically a cut & sew kind of thing.

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The onesies are adorable now that they’re done, and my extended family is a huge bunch of Harry Potter fans. So we all got a book-worm-y thrill out of them. But can I talk about my frustrations a little bit, too? This is my first time ordering from Spoonflower, and I learned a lot of important lessons.

That’s crafter’s code for: I should have planned more carefully and done more research and not tried to do anything at the last minute.

None of the pieces on this particular yardage were labeled (it looks like if you order newborn size, they are). So it took extra effort to figure out how things went together, and in particular, how to do an envelope neck (I still ended up doing it backwards, but aesthetically it was better that way, and it will function).

When you do a garment from an unlabeled panel, there’s no handy list of required notions to reference! I forgot about snaps until the 11th hour. But, thank goodness, my mother-in-love had a snap pliers and spare snaps on hand. So the very morning of the baby shower, we put the finishing touches on.

I’m also not sure about this fabric, the organic cotton knit. I am anxious to hear how it wears. It doesn’t seem to have the stretch recovery I would want in a baby garment, although I think it will be fine (it’s just not perfect the way you always want gifts to be). I’m left wondering, would the cotton/spandex blend have been better?  So… online buyer beware? I would now heartily recommend ordering a sample book first – it’s only $1, and it’s a whole heck of a lot easier than knitting and washing a swatch (which you should always do! I shout, as I’m in 3″ into an extremely complicated sock without doing a single stitch of swatch).

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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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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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the cutest winter coat

Every now and then* I get a little over-ambitious.

*all the freaking time

Last month my ambition led me to think that I should absolutely, completely, whole-heartedly sew a coat for my son for the winter. I had about a yard of dark gray wool in stash, and I pictured an adorable little double-breasted dress overcoat. Instead, after about half an hour of Googling, I settled on this Little Goodall pattern.

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Can I tell you the saga of this coat? Let me tell you the saga, please please, please.  There are a few useful tips at the end, but if you want the full feeling of living through punchline after punchline of sewing mishap, read happily onward.

First of all, I impulse-bought the pattern.* I called Joann’s, and yes, they had it in stock, and they set it aside for me. I swung by on the way home from work, and also picked up the contrasting colors for the fox’s face, and a flannel lining fabric (not pictured above for reasons that will become obvious), and buttons and thread based around the gray wool. I also picked up some wool batting, because I thought it would be smart** to quilt some extra layers in there for extra warmth.

*I know, I know. Never impulse buy!
**trying to be smart results in more crafting-related deaths*** than any other single reason
***project deaths, that is

Then I got home, put the new fabric in the wash, laid out the pattern, and realized that I didn’t have enough gray wool.  Like, not nearly enough gray wool. I also realized that the smallest size of the pattern is 3T, and, as you may or may not know, my kiddo isn’t even 2 yet.

OK, well, we’ll roll up the sleeves and he can wear it for more than one winter, I thought. That’s smart, it’s going to take a lot of effort to sew a coat. And he can layer sweaters underneath. It’ll be fine. Right? It’ll be fine?

Lack of outer fabric was a problem, though, a true-blue serious roadblock. I know our Joann’s doesn’t carry any 100% wool that I could use for the outer layer (and my knitter’s snobbery was kicking in. Wool is the warmest. I wanted all wool, not 10% wool felt). I hopped online. And realized that it would cost another $40 to buy and ship the kind of fabric I wanted. I love my son, but an $80 coat? Even spread over a couple years’ use and counting in the fun I would have making it? It seemed like a little much.

So I put the project in timeout (this happens a lot in my studio). And then I had a brainwave – I got the gray wool from Lancaster Creative Reuse a few years ago. Maybe I could get some more wool there!

Lo and behold, LCR came through for me. They had several options, in fact, all under $5. I settled on the thicker, camel-colored, herringbone weave you see in these photos.

Now I had gray thread, gray buttons, and lining fabric that didn’t match my camel-colored wool.

Back to Joann’s. Return the buttons. Return the thread. Buy the right buttons. Buy new thread. Buy three times as much thread as you will need, because you think the quilting will use a lot (spoiler alert, it doesn’t). Excavate a new lining from stash (super cute doggies, no?).

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Then let’s line up all the layers (outer wool, thick felt interfacing, batting, and lining fabric) and realize oh cuss, just quilting these layers together will max out the height of the foot. What am I going to do when it’s seam-time?

Well, I’ll figure it out, I thought. And started to quilt. This turned out to be a secret stroke of genius for keeping my edges roughly even. There’s actual useful piece of information #1: quilt your layers! It’s good!

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Let’s skip ahead a few days to the actual seaming: yes, the many layers are a bit of a problem. I get the body constructed, though. I even get the hood put together, the eyes and nose appliqued on, and the hood attached to the body. Tip #2: go ahead and use the longest stitch length your machine has. There’s no other way to go when you’re dealing with this much stuff. 

Setting in tiny sleeves, though? Not gonna happen on the machine. I sewed them in by hand. This took days. But it is sturdier than you might think. I doubled my thread and used a back-stitch, put on pretty music and took my time.

The lining is added separately, at the very end, and I decided there was simply no way I could manage that on the machine, either. Plus, I always meant to learn how to do more than whip-stitch things. Here before me, I had the perfect opportunity to improve my slip stitch.

Are you sure you can't speed this story up, Mom?
Are you sure you can’t speed this story up, Mom?

OK, OK. Let’s get to the very last punchline. I did finish the coat, over the course of a month. It is super cute. It is also super big. And last year’s down winter coat, the one I was sure would be too small? The one I was in such a rush to replace? I decided to put it on S, you know, to make myself feel better about all that work.

It still. freaking. fits. 

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slow fashion October: WORN

I just wrote the words waist-boob problem? in my sketchbook, which is newly full of sweater ideas, some of which may be suffering from bad proportions at the moment. So, yes, my friends, my experience designing a pullover for Knittin’ Little has energized me.

Also, my beautiful, wonderful, amazing toddler has decided to start sleeping through the night again (knock on wood). So, while I’m feeling like an energetic mother, let’s talk #slowfashionOctober for kids. Karen‘s prompt this week is basically my manifesto for my son’s wardrobe:

second-hand / mending / caring for things / laundering for longevity / design for longevity (bucking trends, quality materials …) / heirlooms

As much as I hate a top 10 list, I really, really love handmade things in a little kids’ handmade wardrobe, and I have made a lot of terrible mistakes in taking care of those things. I hope a list saves you a little time and trouble. Here are the things that are dead simple, make my life easier, and enable my habit of #slowfashionbabies:

1. In the summertime, let your baby eat while wearing just a diaper. Or, at the very least, take off the handknit sweater before feeding.

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2. If your baby is prone to spit up, just keep a bib on him when he’s wearing a handknit sweater. A friend made some like these adorable ones for her kiddo, and they are, well, freaking adorable. And can be easily made from thrifted t-shirts or scraps or whatever fits your slow-fashion mandate.

3. If you suspect your baby has a blowout poopy diaper… take the handknit sweater off and place in a safe place before changing. Do not ask how I know this.

4. I don’t worry about superwash v. non-superwash when knitting for my Little. I look for yarns that don’t pill and will be long-lasting, regardless of fiber content. We just have a house rule: all sweaters for all ages are washed by me, because my superpower is remembering which things need to be hand washed. I have also started to make the effort to use these labels in every finished piece to prevent disasters. Or, you could order your own custom labels. I keep intending to do that, but, you know… toddlers/work/etc.

5. When do I handwash things? It sounds onerous, right? Actually, no. I have one designated day when I bake bread and do laundry and sweep, etc. I keep a pile of sweaters to be washed (usually quite small, because if you take care, you don’t have to wash wool very often), and each week plop one into a sink of Soak right before I mix up the bread. By the time the bread is ready to rise, I can pop back to the bathroom and spread the garment out to block/dry.

6. Lengthen things. When I’m knitting a baby sweater, I add 1″+ to the length of the sweater body and sleeves. I can always turn up the cuffs until he gets older. So far, that’s meant he can still wear most of the 6-month sweaters at 21 months – he’s growing taller a lot faster than he’s growing wider. And knitting stretches beautifully to accommodate all kinds of widths. (Full disclosure: my tiny one is at the very bottom of the growth charts, so I’m not sure how much the success of this strategy is dependent on having a slow-growing babe.)

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On second thought, let’s call this my top 6 list, OK? If slow fashion can be about bucking trends, surely my post structure can follow suit.

Any other good ideas you want to send my way? I welcome them all! Especially as I’m mapping out my Christmas/winter wardrobe making!

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older and wiser?

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You have to guess how old I am this year, but I’ll admit that this month, I turned a year older.

And to kick off that new year, I got to start on a new project! I submitted a pattern proposal to online magazine Knittin’ Little, and it was accepted. Last week the yarn for the sample arrived in the mail, and I am busy knittin’ away (that’s not it, above, actually, but stay tuned and I’ll update you when my new camera battery charger arrives).

In the meantime, until more sneak peeks come your way, head on over to Knittin’ Little and check out not only their fall collection (which is adorable), but their Book Club.  As a veteran book nerd, with a child who wants to read every book a million times in a row (I’m hanging on through Thomas the Tank Engine by the skin of my teeth in hopes of better Hobbit days), I’m super into the idea of extending the  fun into other realms with activities and crafts.

Variety is the spice of life, after all.

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when i lost the buttons, then found the buttons, then my power went out, and then…

It’s done!

Actually, to be completely truthful (always advisable, right?) I finished it months ago.

And then I lost the buttons. And then I found the buttons, and I lost the backing buttons and grosgrain ribbon.

And then I found them all, but was busy with other things. Still am, in fact. The buttons are collected on my dresser and the sweater sits near the couch, and last night, my power went out for 4 hours, and I didn’t feel up to attaching buttons by the light of a flashlight.

Stuff like that keeps happening.

Also, it’s huge on Sylvan, so what’s the rush?

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Finished with the knitting but not the details

Check out this adorable ABC grosgrain ribbon.

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Icord bindoff (is it just me, or does it seem like it should be iCord? THANKS, APPLE!) is a nice detail for a heavier garter sweater like this. I’m happy with how that came out.

So much activity in my life that I can’t summon the will to buckle down and attach a few buttons.  I don’t even have a kid old enough to go back to school. You parents of older kids have my respect (and best wishes for your sanity right now).

Also, if you’re handling the seasonal transition well, what’s your secret?

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Finishing Fever

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Sorry, friends – as the summer winds to a close, I find myself with writer’s block and a bad case of Finishing Fever. There are about a million projects laying around my house 70-90% done, and I just need to put in the effort to bring them all to a close. A little gruntwork, clear the board, and then I can tackle fall and winter knitting projects with a clear conscience.

Speaking of which, leave me a recommendation for your favorite baby sweater. A few are scheduled to make their debut into my circles in the next 3-6 months, and I kind of hate repeating myself. I’d rather branch out and try some new designs!