Monday, December 20, 2010


I'm feeling decidedly un-Christmassy today. Not that I am anti-Christmas, no no, that's not what I mean. I just mean I'm not feeling it, that's all.

I took AJ to see his surgeon this morning because the site where his G-tube used to be is not healing on its own. I took the tube out at the end of October (shhhh...we told them it fell out) and it has closed down to a pindot, but still leaks just enough to irritate the skin and require pretty heavy bandaging. AJ has sensitive skin like his daddy, and the bandages do almost as much damage as the leaking stomach acid. He has a 3" square area of totally wrecked skin on his abdomen and while he is not very verbal, he can clearly say "itchy, ma! itchy!"

The surgeon says he'll have to operate on my son to remove the scar tissue tunnel formed by the original tube placement, stitch the stomach, the muscles, and the skin, which will leave my sweet boy with just a little 1 cm scar on his belly. But it means another torturous day in the hospital for us.

When the surgeon told me this, I smiled and joked with him and nodded a lot; very agreeable I was. We scheduled the surgery, smiling smiling, and said happy holidays, smiling smiling. We bundled up in hats and coats and mittens, smiling all the while. And when we got to the car my body just collapsed into itself. I sat in the driver's seat as all my muscles assumed their "stressed" position, which my body now knows so well. Within moments I ached all over and my head buzzed.

It's not even that big a deal - none of his surgeries since the first have been big deals. But this will be, I think, the 6th time in the OR for my boy. The 6th time a nurse will take him away down a long hallway, away from us, put a mask on his face, and hook him to a machine that will breathe for him. It will be the 6th time we've sat waiting, fidgeting, drinking coffee, watching the clock, wondering what's happening to our boy. The 6th time I will be brought back to recovery to see him as he wakes up, the 6th time the tears will flow as I see his tiny body in the big bed, tethered to monitors and IVs.

One at a time these are no big deal, these operations. Ear tubes, a small hernia, more ear tubes, this next minor repair...

But collectively, over 2 years time, they are really hard to bear. And I know, we are SO LUCKY because so many people have it so much worse. SO, SO MUCH WORSE. But I've decided that just because other people are suffering more, that does not reduce my own pain. I am allowed to hate this, and I really, really do. Even while I am thankful for the wonderful doctors we have helping our son, even while I am so happy with the wonderful progress my son has made...all the while I still seethe inside when we have to take him back and hand him over for yet another procedure.

It feels quite unfair. Quite unfair, indeed.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

quick gift update

I took a little break from making Christmas gifts to make the Christmas clothing for my little humans, so not a whole lot of progress has been made...but I'm getting there. Hey, I still have 9 days, right?!? Yikes!

Sorry for the dark photos. I took them quite literally in the middle of the night after a long, bleary-eyed sewing session.

So far Barbie is getting 3 pairs of pants (one corduroy...ooh lala), one circle skirt, one lovely spring dress, and a shirt. I'm hoping to bang out a few more pieces but they are tedious. We'll see.

It turns out clothing for dollies is pretty tedious too...but at least a bit easier because of scale. This is a simple jumper for a medium baby doll (about 15") made of the same corduroy as Daughter's Christmas dress, with 3 tiny snaps to hold the back closed. I trimmed this with vintage silver ric-rac from my grandmother's sewing supplies.

This is a little dolly sunsuit, also for a medium size doll. The fabric is several years old from Joann's "tutti-frutti" line they have each summer. I still have a huge piece of this and I don't really like it, but I guess I'll suck it up and make something matching for Daughter next year.

Some doll clothes are really ingenious in their design and construction. This wee dolly nightgown, made for a smaller doll, is just such a piece. The entire thing is cut in one piece and cleverly seamed and finished. I had to make a small one because I only had a scrap of purple flannel left from a pair of pajamas I made for Daughter, and I wanted this to match.

My knitting basket was nearby when I took these photos so I thought I'd quickly snap the kneesocks I've been working on for Daughter. With 1" of leg and one foot to go, I think these will make it under the tree.

I have a huge Etsy order to finish up, for which I am very grateful, and then it's back to late-night marathons of sewing and knitting to finish up for Christmas.

What are you working on?

Monday, November 29, 2010

holiday makin': drive-by update

Daughter's first pair of mittens: done. She approved and wore them all weekend. Did I do some sort of weird different decrease on one of them? I don't think so...and yet one looks pointy.

Sweater for baby nephew: 85% complete (I made that percentage up). Just needs front and neck bands, underarm weaving, and buttons. Once it's done and washed it will be on its way.

Daughter's Christmas dress: done!

I am so, so happy with this dress. I want to make ten more.

Matchy Gymboree tights were acquired over the weekend. She is going to look so sweet.

(Yes, I need to press that underarm seam better. It was sewn straight and true, I promise.)


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

lost my mojo, got it back with gusto, am now freaking out

A few weeks ago I posted that I'd temporarily lost my knitting/sewing/crafting mojo, but felt it slowly returning. Well, shortly thereafter it came back with a BANG and now I'm swamped with projects I'd really, really love to get done in the next 30 days.

It's insanity. I will have to pare down. Here are a few things that are going pretty well so far:

AJ's holiday 2010 pants. Basic, pull-on pants in dark brown corduroy. Just a simple, size 2 pair of pants, made from a pajama pattern that I know will fit. Both of my kids are so tall and narrow - that's why the waist is so tiny, but he needs the room in the butt for his cloth diaper.

Daughter's Christmas 2010 dress. I wasn't going to bother because we're not really going anywhere significant for the holiday this year, but I like the kids to have something nice to wear, I like looking back at the holiday outfits I've made, and this will be a nice, warm, comfortable corduroy dress that she can wear for other occasions too.

The pattern is an old one: Simplicity 5830, out of production. But you can still find it on ebay and stuff. I highly, highly recommend this one. The pieces come together like a dream, it is not difficult at all, just slightly time-consuming because of the pleats in the front and back. My friend gave it to me years ago and I made two dresses just like this in size 2 for Daughter when she was wee. Some of the size 6 pieces were cut up or even missing (!) and I was able to actually re-draft them with some pattern ease and a little patience. I'm using the 6X sleeve and crossing my fingers it won't make that much difference. And still I am thrilled with how it is coming out. Maybe I can find some of those cute holiday tights with candy-canes or holly leaves? Super sweet!

Not as sweet is this jumper I made for Daughter to wear on Thanksgiving. What a shit-tay pattern this was!! I've decided that bias-tape bound armholes are the ultimate pattern-drafter copout. I much prefer either a facing that encompasses both neckline and armhole, or separate facings for the armholes. The bias tape never, ever looks nice to me. It's a Simplicity "It's So Easy" pattern, and frankly the reason it's so "easy" is because of this type of corner-cutting in the pattern. I really need to remember that and stop buying these sub-par patterns.

The camera accentuates all the problems horribly, and I promise it doesn't look so bad in real life and on her body, but the armholes do look lousy.

Oh well, the corduroy is adorable, it was on sale, and the jumper will look cute enough with a pink shirt and pink tights for the holiday.

And finally for today, some new mittens for Daughter. The last pair I made her turned out a bit small. (Holy moly, I am really misjudging her size lately and making things too little! I am thankful I made the red dress in a 6...I almost made a 5 because those things tend to run big but I believe the 6 will actually be almost perfect.)

Anyhoo, she has been leaving her outerwear on the bus lately (grrrr) but thankfully the busdrivers are really great about doing a sweep of the bus and have returned her hats and mittens. Still, she needs a few more pairs of mittens as backups. I let her choose a couple of yarns and this was her first pick. It's really more of a periwinkle in person. I'm using the basic mitten pattern from Ann Budd's Handy Book of Patterns in the second size, at 5 st to the inch.

I can make one per night while I watch the A-team and Magnum P.I. :)

On top of all that I now want to complete the following:
  • a red sweater for AJ to wear with the dark brown pants (may become a vest due to time constraints!)
  • a sweater for my nephew (6-9 month size) as the one I'd started turned out too small and had to be ripped
  • a 3-6 month size sweater for my cousin's brand new baby girl
  • knee socks for Daughter (one is 75% done)
  • socks for AJ (to put in his stocking)
  • hat for Hubs (per his request)
  • more mittens for Daughter
  • mittens for AJ (2 pair...but I would settle for 1!)
  • fingerless mitts for my sister
  • socks for Hubs (totally hopeless, it will never happen, but hey, I can dream)
  • the rest of the barbie wardrobe I've started
  • baby doll clothes for Daughter's 3 dollies
  • AJ's quilt (top 50% done...this will never happen either)
I broke down and asked people to get pajamas as gifts for my children - there is no way I can get them sewn up and the weather is turning quite cold now. And I harbor no illusions about that list. It is insane, I am aware of it. But at least it gives me a bit of a roadmap to work from.

And I've been trying so hard to balance housework/cooking/feeding children/nurturing others with finding time to do the activities that nurture me. It's been a real challenge lately. My mom has been utterly tied up caring for my dad after his recent knee replacement surgery, so I have no child care (don't know any teens in the neighborhood and can't afford a sitter anyway). My son is a whirlwind of activity and his stomach is a bottomless pit, so it's go-go-go from the time we get up in the morning until I collapse in a heap at night. And Daughter, when she was two, would hang around in the family room with me and I could knit peacefully, but not AJ. He is constantly climbing on me or the furniture or whatever, and there is no sitting down to relax when he is awake.

So, you know, my list is a silly pipe dream. I'll do my best.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

gift update

If you asked anyone who has ever known me to describe me in just a few words, I'd bet most people would put "impatient" in the top 5. It's probably my greatest fault...definitely my greatest hurdle in parenting. Which is why I guess I find it surprising that I have gravitated to hobbies that kind of take quite a bit of patience!

Sewing is usually pretty fast, but I don't like projects that drag on too long. If it can't be completed in a couple sittings, I probably won't finish it. It takes me YEARS to complete a quilt. Knitting is better because I can work on it successfully in short bursts and it's so portable and soothing...I find I don't knit just for the finished garment, but for the peace of the process.

Still, I get through my projects, eventually, and I typically enjoy the work. But now I think I've found the truest test of my patience.


Or rather, her clothes.

This little blouse is the first thing I chose to make from the patterns I showed in my last post. It doesn't look too complicated, but what you can't see very well are the teeny tiny darts in the front, nor the teeny tiny facing at the neckline (which I first sewed on freaking backwards, ripped out, and restitched). WOW. Wow. This is some fiddly sewing!

My work totally sucks on this one, so I may or may not give it to Daughter. I'm not sure I even want to waste the snaps to hold it shut!

I thought maybe pants would be easier, so I moved on to those. Do you see how small these pieces are? I feel like I need a miniature sewing machine to stitch these - I can't seem to figure out how best to fit them under the needle. And I desperately desire a Clover mini iron to press these wee garments.

I think I'm going to get better at this. There is a surprisingly frustrating learning curve at play, but I will get better. Then once I've crafted the garments, I really want to find Daughter a Barbie wardrobe trunk like we used to play with at my Grandma's house.

And hey, after the Barbie stuff, the baby doll clothes should be a piece of cake.

In other gifting news, I started these socks for myself, but now I'm thinking they would make a nice birthday gift for my mom next week. I've been working steadily along on them at night while riveted by the Retro TV channel. I can't stop watching 30 year-old episodes of The A-Team, Magnum P.I., and Rockford Files. Gosh, I need to get a life!

And finally today, the humble beginnings of a shawl-collared cardigan for my baby nephew:

This will go along with the knitted jingle balls I made early in the summer, and a few toys and books. My sis and her family won't be here for Christmas this year (boo, sad!) so I have to get done and get the baby's gifts in the mail by mid-December.

When Daughter gets off the bus I think we'll head out for tiny snaps and 1/8" elastic. She has two days off school, making a 4-day weekend, so I won't be able to sew the doll stuff during the day. I want to get my supplies in order so I can work at night...if I can rip myself away from Tom Selleck.

Monday, November 08, 2010

i must be nuts

lu·na·tic (ln-tk)
1. Suffering from lunacy; insane.
2. Of or for the insane.
3. Wildly or giddily foolish: a lunatic decision.
4. Characterized by lunacy or eccentricity.

Seriously. I must be a lunatic, thinking I will create a stunning doll wardrobe for Daughter sometime over the next...what, 7 weeks? Yeah, that's how long until Christmas, friends. 7 measly weeks.

(The patterns are all Simplicity; 7073, 5785, 3879, 2454, and 4707.)

Friday, October 29, 2010

longies for sale

This is something I have been meaning to do for several years. I finally, finally got around to making some longies to sell over on etsy. I'm always so uncomfortable putting a price on my work, but I do feel that these are very well made, and they do take a really, really long time to knit up due to the tight gauge of the waistband and upper hip (US 3 and 5 needles = slow).

So there they are, one newborn pair. I can take a limited number of custom orders for these (in a range of sizes), so if you know anyone looking for longies made with love and care...check 'em out!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

thoughts on education

I wonder if it is possible to mourn the loss of something you never actually had. Oh gosh, that sounds crazy.

I have long experienced a weird nostalgic feeling when I look at old (meaning from my early childhood) books and educational materials - I am sucked in by those awesome hand-drawn illustrations and the fonts that look like handwriting (or is that actual handwriting?). You know, the whole Free To Be You and Me thing, with the hippy-dippy style and the recipes for things like coffee-can raisin bread. Which you can't even make properly anymore because coffee doesn't come in 1 lb. cans these days.

I have vague memories of the Methodist preschool I attended in 1980, just as that era was ending. I can remember the smell of the room and of the poster paints, the look and feel of the sand table, the smooth oak of the furniture and cubbies where we put our coats. In my memory it is a serene place, warm and safe and fun.

Early elementary school holds some similar memories. Sitting around the table in Kindergarten, writing with those fat red pencils that clanged just so in the metal cup when you put them back. The metal scissor rack with those crappy scissors...and there were never enough lefties for the left-handed kids. And the milk - oh, the milk! - being wheeled into the classroom in a metal crate on a 4-wheel dolly. The cartons were red, I think. That was for snacktime, back when the school provided the milk and Kindergarten was only 1/2 day, because 5 year-olds were still kind of babies back then.

A week or so ago, the 4 of us went to Daughter's school for the annual PTA ice cream social. We're new at this, so we figured we'd better go. Don't want to look like deadbeat parents who don't participate, etc. The school holds 600+ students, and I think most of them were there with their parents, siblings, and in some cases grandparents. It's a big fundraiser, I guess. We paid our $2 each, got our ice-cream cups, and waited in line outside the cafeteria. Once we got in it was bedlam. There was hardly room to move, and as we made our way through the line with a squirming toddler, my sweater dragged through someone's ice cream. We got our melty scoops, sat at the nearest empty table, and Daughter burst into angry tears. We could barely hear her telling us she wanted to sit over there, where her classmate was sitting. So we hauled our gloppy ice cream and the children to where she was pointing. Of course right then her friend's family got up to leave, so Daughter pouted in her chair while AJ cried because he did not have his own ice cream. Hubs took AJ for a walk while I cajoled Daughter into just eating the stinking ice cream. It was so, so crazy in there. I asked Daughter if this is what it's like when they eat lunch each day and she said yes...except it's way louder.

And in that moment I was flooded with guilt and anger that each day is like that for her. She wasn't really eating her lunch the first couple weeks of school, bringing home a half-eaten sandwich and both her dessert and fruit. I was so worried, but in that moment I totally got it. Who would want to eat in that environment?

Then she told me about how a kid has been hitting her in the head with his lunchbox. And that same kid, it turns out, punched her in the stomach during lunch, on more than one occasion. Now, before your inner mama bear roars, you should know that we pried the truth out of her and she had been snatching his glasses off his face. That doesn't excuse the punching, but it does save us from potentially embarrassing ourselves.

And then there is the fundraising, which we have been hit with 3 times in the first 7 weeks of school. Nowadays they just send the items home with the kid and tell you to either buy it or send it back. Awkward. Hate it. I find that highly inappropriate in a public school, for which I pay exorbitant taxes.

What am I rambling about? Well, I guess I just feel like my kid is getting a raw deal sometimes. She is actually quite happy, so this does not stem from her, it is coming entirely from me. It's just not, to my mind, the ideal environment to shape a small human. And that makes me sad. Because a kid hitting her in the head with his lunchbox is just the beginning, you know? Hubs, while concerned about her, tends to brush it off as part of the "learning to navigate the world" process. But how come a 5 year-old has to learn to navigate noise and bedlam?

I would dearly love for her to be in a calmer, quieter place. I guess that's what draws me to the homeschooling blogs and the Waldorf blogs. We live eighty gajillion miles from the nearest Waldorf school, so that's out, but I think she would really thrive in that environment. I wanted to take her there for their preschool program, but we moved away. I read the literature and I was so into the idea that morning snack was a group affair, and all the kids had the same thing (oatmeal and apple slices) which they were to help prepare. They would also observe the mothers doing the useful work of ironing the napkins and assisting with prep and cleanup. When my mom heard about that she thought I was NUTS. But I think it speaks to educating the whole child, I really do. And I think that incorporating all aspects of daily life into education might make it a nicer environment for all the kids...reducing the urge to, say, hit someone in the head with your lunchbox.

I have a degree in education, but only now am I truly seeing what all those articles and books were about. The segmented school day, the disconnected subjects and the noise level...oh my word, the noise level! My baby girl grows further away from me every day, I can feel it - it's in the clothes she wants/doesn't want to wear, the snippy tone she adopts, the eye-rolling when she is asked to help out with basic chores.

It's uncomfortable for me (us?), but it is what it is. Hubs says I worry too much...but I often think we're not worried enough. I guess I just don't know. I know others feel it too, which explains the rise in homeschooling and the popularity of alternative schools like Waldorf. I think folks are seeking a kinder, gentler educational experience for their precious children - a softer beginning, a more comfortable introduction to the world beyond the home.

I wish I could express this jumble of thoughts a little better, a little more clearly. It's really quite emotional for me so it's difficult to articulate well. I guess it's just something I'll continue to ponder as my kids (and I) move forward.

Monday, October 25, 2010


My knitting has been utter crap lately.

I hate it when the mojo leaves me, whether it be knitting, sewing, cooking, or whatever else I do. It's awful to hold raw materials in your hand and have them feel cold and unyielding. When a skein of yarn becomes just that, rather than an inspiration, I get bummed.

I think it was just the result of the changes afoot around here - Daughter staring Kindergarten and learning to navigate new waters, both children being sick twice already since school started, AJ having surgery, going to endless MD appointments, experiencing the change of season...I watched a documentary about stress a few weeks ago and it said stress can actually make you "stupid" by messing with the chemistry of your brain. It also ages you by breaking down the protective portion of your DNA. I'm paraphrasing, and badly, but the show made me feel a lot better about how I feel, and how I have felt for several years now.

So anyway, I've been doing a lot of ripping. I start stuff, knit a little, hate it, rip it. All around my house I'm finding balls of discarded yarn, all wiggly looking on the outside from being unraveled and rewound.

Luckily, over the last week or so, the knitting mojo has returned. Phew! (I always panic a little bit when it's gone, because wow, what would I do with all this yarn if I quit knitting? Crisis!)

I started this several weeks ago for myself...and wow, do adult sweaters take forever to knit or what? I am spoiled by all the wee small things I've been knitting for the past 5 years. It's obviously just a basic neck-down cardigan, and I will blog more fully about it when it is complete. 1 and 3/4 sleeves to go and I'll have a cozy new winter garment.

It's kind of been a frenzy of starting - here are some socks, also for me, just begun from some Joann "sensations" (say it with jazz hands!) sock yarn. Very soft, nice colors, mindless and enjoyable. Nice.

Last week, two mornings in a row of low 40s temps had Daughter digging through her outerwear bin searching for mittens. All she came up with were two ratty looking mitts my mom knit for her two years ago. They're stained and getting too small. I quickly cast on for some new ones over the weekend.

And finally, a finished piece of knitwear! Man, it felt good to knit something start-to-finish. These are LTK picky pants, on their way out the door as a gift.

The startitis continues, with a pile of yarns and patterns collecting on my dining room table. When the mojo returns, it comes roaring back!

May you knit more than you rip. Happy makin'!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Every once in awhile something really fries me and I feel the need to get it off my chest. Since no one really reads here anymore, and the risk of offending anyone is low, I guess I'll use this space.

A couple of days ago a really popular blogger posted about a decision her family has made regarding raising some livestock...which will then become their food. I think the real beef (no pun intended) her commenters had was with the naming of these animals by her children, but I got so tangled up in the comments I can't be sure.

Anyway, I applaud her decision to do this. I personally feel we are all quite far removed from the source of our foodstuffs, whether animal or vegetable, and families that teach their children at a young age that these animals are the source of that stuff on styrofoam trays at the supermarket are to be praised - in my opinion. Now, I am choosing to voice that opinion here, in this space that belongs to me. Anyone can do that, this is America, whee!

But many commenters went rather far. I noted several instances of people "questioning her parenting decisions" and saying they "would not be coming back" to her blog.

And that got my ire up!!! Wow! What a ballsy, rude, inappropriate response to a woman humbly sharing her family's new lifestyle. She did not say they are allowing their children to play in the middle of a 4-lane highway. She did not say they are allowing their children to handle toxic chemicals. She did not say anything, to my mind, REMOTELY OFFENSIVE or inappropriate. She just gently explained and introduced the animals that are joining their farm to assist with work (turning soil, making compost, etc) and eventually be butchered for food.

In the "old days" (a personal fascination of mine) you hunted meat to live. I'm sure many of those commenters west of the Mississippi wouldn't be making such comments if they really thought about how they came to be living where they are. Do you think pioneers in a wagon train 200 years ago had the luxury of feeling bad for the animals? Hell no. It was shoot Bambi or starve to death. The Ingalls family named their work horses (remember Sam and David, and Pet and Patty?) as well as their milk cow (it was Ellen), and there is a passage in The Long Winter where Ma tells the girls that they will butcher Ellen and the heifer calf if they avoid starving to death. Did they want to? Of course not, but they would do it if they must.

To me it speaks of a pretty sissy attitude if you are upset with a family because they get a couple of pigs, name 'em, and then intend to eat them. Could I do it? I'm not sure. I'm kind of squeamish and I don't have a real good alternative right now to buying my meat on those styrofoam trays. But would I ever, ever, ever tell another person (or all that person's readership) that I disapprove of her parenting because of her choice? Please.

Yes, the internet is a worldwide, public forum. Yes, if you post something for all the world to see you are opening yourself up to potential criticism (I recall a shocking [to my mind] flap right here when I once said I thought people coming to church on Sunday unbathed and dressed as slobs was inappropriate...hoowee!). But that doesn't excuse people. How dare anyone question another person's parenting choices in a public forum...especially when it is about something like raising meat? I run across stuff all the time on the internet that makes me think, "wow, geez, that's not what I would do." But I keep it to myself, for pete's sake.

I must say, the blogger in question handled the issue with maturity and grace. But wow, did it make me mad.

Friday, October 15, 2010


The day dawned so, so beautifully...frost on the grass sparkled in the sunrise. It was cold, but so pretty.

Then I noticed the green stuff coming from my son's nose, and the disgusting viscous ooze coming from one of his ears. We spent the morning at the pediatrician's office and Target (where I spent $28 - that's $4 for the antibiotic and $24 for the other stuff I found while waiting for the medicine). When we got home I dumped the little guy in the bathtub to get rid of that yucky sick smell, then we cuddled on the sofa and nibbled some lunch.

Now the sun is gone, it is windy and cold, and the clouds are threatening. The breakfast and lunch dishes are waiting. I need to clean up the kitchen, fold the laundry, plan dinner. But I'm just sort of sitting here at the kitchen table amid the mess, watching the leaves blow off the enormous maple trees in the backyard...resting.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

straight up retail therapy

Well, the past few weeks have chewed me up and spit me out the other side...guess I am intact!

My sister gifted me with an early birthday gift - a superfancy Cuisinart coffee maker to replace my old ghetto sunbeam model (with the smashed carafe). Oh, people. It is so good.

And late last week I was feeling low, so I browsed around online, clicking here and there, until I found a particularly good sale at I had a bit of money kicking around in my paypal account, so I decided to treat myself to some yarn that I certainly do not need! But ooooohhh, it is so pretty:

That's 11 skeins of Regia "Galaxy" sock yarn, and 8 balls of Rowan Cashsoft Aran. I've never worked with a Rowan yarn before, but at around $2.50/ball I jumped at the chance. This will become a beautiful, soft red cardigan for AJ. I have a lot, so I think I will make a bigger size to fit for several years. The Regia yarns were $2/skein. And by spending over $35, I got free shipping to boot.

It was retail therapy, plain and simple, and I am not ashamed. All that pretty showing up on my doorstep did, in fact, make me feel better!

Friday, October 01, 2010

just keep swimming...

Last night I smashed the coffee pot while I was washing it.

Couldn't have happened at a worse time, really, as we are in the throes of two insane weeks filled with medical appointments, surgery, days off of school, out-of-town visitors, and therapies. I am running as fast as I can and still totally not keeping up! Despite the fact that I feel I constantly do laundry, it is piling up faster than I can knock it down (it reproduces, right?), and I swear I just clean up the same pile of toys from the family room floor three times a day. Still it always looks like a bomb has gone off in here. Oy.

So we are french-pressing today and it's not really working for me. :(

Chin up, chin up...just have to get through one therapy session, one eye doctor appointment, and one early dismissal today, and I can crawl into my knitting basket for a few minutes of relaxation.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

more EZ knitting

I thought I had blogged this sweater, but a quick browse through the minimal posts I've put up in the past few months shows me that I did not.

High on the success of my first two Zimmerman sweaters, I was anxious to whip up another one, this time in cotton. I got a great price on some Lion Cotton Ease from (they have a small but nice yarn selection), due to an order snafu + a coupon they sent me, so I got two skeins of hazelnut for AJ, and 3 skeins of blossom for Daughter. In the end, with shipping, I think both sweaters cost maybe $20? Pretty sweet (though that doesn't include the buttons for Daughter's, nor the extra yarn I had to buy for AJ''s coming).

I knit up the cotton version with exactly the same numbers as the green wool version I'd previously knit. Rather than ribbing, I knit seed stitch for this version. But I guess it didn't occur to me that this cotton yarn would knit up to a different gauge than the wool. Wool has some give, and allows for a tighter gauge than this rather unforgiving cotton. So the sweater was coming out really boxy. But I didn't mind, because it was intended to go over other layers.

The problem became...yarn famine. Every knitter's nightmare! As I knit faster and faster toward the neckline (because somehow knitters believe if we just knit faster there will be enough yarn), it became sadly apparent that I would be quite literally just a few yards short for casting off.

Several 4-letter words later, I dug up a Joann's coupon and headed off to find more yarn. Of course the store does not carry the hazelnut colorway (at this point I would have accepted differing dye lots), so I had to go with the charcoal colorway as a complimentary color. That meant ripping the hazelnut neckline that I'd already knit, and reknitting it in the charcoal.

In the end, I like it a lot! I'd like to make another in cotton, as it's a great layer for autumn and spring. I would chop about an inch off the sleeves and add it to the body, but otherwise it's a winner.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"a charming chest warmer" for my little guy

Oh man, vests on little boys are SO adorable, aren't they? I was perusing the gazillions of free patterns available here, and came across this one. It's always fun to find worsted weight patterns for babies and young children and they are plentiful on the garnstudio website.

This wee vest took just over 1 skein of Patons Wool in moss heather. It's the 24 month size, which is the largest they offer, and the width is fine, but it could use a bit more length in both the body and the armholes.

Though it was fiddly to construct, I like the shoulder detail. The buttons open and make it really easy to get the vest on and off.

My little guy gets compliments galore when he wears this with a plaid shirt, khaki pants, and his brown Chuck Taylors. Cuteness!

Monday, September 20, 2010

wool saves the day (errr...night)

Here is a confession: though I have been knitting wool soakers for sale for about 2 years now, I never really used them myself. I made knitted pants for AJ and he wore them, but I used them over other diaper covers, never as a waterproof layer. I don't know why, isn't that weird?

Then over this past summer AJ started having a problem with an awful "diaper rash" which is not really the right was more like his skin was blistering after sitting in a hot, wet cloth diaper all night. We were having to get up and change him during the night again, like a newborn, because he would wake up in pain and demand to be changed. I don't know if it was the hot weather, his diet, the detergent I use, or what, but something was going wrong with our use of cloth diapers for nighttime. I researched the problem and discovered this type of thing can happen because of poor air circulation with PUL diaper covers.

Enter: wool. I wanted something soaker-like for summer (it was so, so hot this year), but not heavy or long. So I used the Little Turtle Knits pickypants pattern and made the shorts version. I lanolized them as best I knew how, and gave them a go:

Voila! No more awful blistery rash! And though the diaper smelled like ammonia in the morning, by the evening there was no smell at all from the wool. Truly amazing! These were knit in the largest size offered by the pattern (but it would not be difficult to make them even larger), using one skein of Patons Wool in light gray, and a tiny ball of leftover Patons Wool in denim. They worked so well I am thinking of making up a few pairs of pants for winter sleeping.

Fab! And the fit is so nice with this pattern...I'm thinking I should apply for a cottage license to sell this version. They are really excellent!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Daughter's jacket

Wow, I have been at this for almost 5 years now, and I just can't believe how much harder it is to blog regularly with two kids. I don't know how some of these amazing bloggers do it...cranking out projects and posts day after day! Here we are after a week, sheesh. At least I have a project to share.

Daughter needed a between-seasons jacket - something a bit heavier than a windbreaker, but not as heavy as a fleece or winter coat.

I bought Simplicity 5284, and 1.5 yards of pretty raspberry colored wide-wale corduroy at Joann's. The corduroy wasn't really heavy enough to be as warm as I wanted it, but conversely was heavy enough that I did not want to make facings from it. Because the jacket is so, so simple to construct (no collar!) I got the crazy idea to line the entire thing. I didn't see anything I liked for a lining at Joann's, and I was trying to keep this a low-budget project anyway, so I dove into my dwindling stash and came up with a hunk of old Tutti-Frutti fabric. I got it at Joann's long ago and never made anything from it. It coordinated perfectly.

I know this is not the best photo because of the backpack straps, but the bus was on its way and we had to hurry.

I left out the facings altogether, opting instead for a full lining. Because there is no collar, the entire outside edge of the jacket is continuous - perfect for binding! I squeaked out enough 2" bias strips to go all the way around and bound the two jackets together like a quilt. The sleeve openings are not bound, though. It was getting very late and I was very tired, so I just turned both layers under 1/2", pinned them together, and topstitched around. The raw edges are hidden, and it looks really cute when the cuffs are turned back. I had no buttons that matched either fabric, so I went with these shiny black plastic buttons for now. I may replace them over the weekend if we get a chance to go to Joann's.

Total cost of this jacket: $9 including pattern purchase (because lining, buttons, and thread were from stash). And I have to recommend this pattern if you are wanting to sew a little jacket. It went together so, so easily. I will likely make more in the future (and it is unisex). Plus the pattern includes a jumper for a girl, pants for a boy, and a knit mock-turtleneck.

I have 3 soaker orders to complete over the weekend (you can certainly tell the seasons are changing when people start buying woolies again) but I hope to be back on Monday to share a couple more knitting projects from the summer.

Friday, September 10, 2010

summer knittin', had me a blaaaaast

Yes, it was an unusually hot summer for us here in the northeast, but of course I got my knit on anyway. Back in the spring I ordered some stuff from, and they sent me a coupon so I then ordered some yarn. I thought the kids could use cotton sweaters for Spring and Autumn.

I couldn't take photos of AJ's because he is napping and I'd surely wake him if I went in his room to dig up a sweater. But here is Daughter's:

Knitting Pure & Simple neck-down cardigan, size 6-8, on US 8 needles. Lion Brand Cotton Ease yarn in the "blossom" colorway, a mauvey-pink that suits my fair girl perfectly, about 2.75 skeins. The buttons we found at Joann's, and kudos to them for finally stocking some new buttons!

There is already food smeared all over this sweater, which is why the sleeve is folded funny. Yes, I tossed it in the wash right after taking this photo.

And of course summer is good for small projects, too:

Socks for me in one of the Kaffe Fassett colorways for Regia. It was nice enough yarn to work with, because it's Regia, but the Kaffe Fassett aspect didn't blow me away. I kind of don't like him, anyway. I can't figure out why people worship him when it seems all he does is smush obnoxious colors and prints together and call it "design." But hey, that's just me, and I tend to prefer plain things.

Socks for AJ, using Deborah Norville's sock yarn from Joann's. First Vanna, now Deborah...which blonde television beauty will be next to promote a yarn line? Anyhoo, this yarn is just ok in my book. It's extremely soft, but somewhat splitty to knit, and I don't know how it will hold up with repeated wash and wear. We shall see.

Gosh, I think that's about it. I'll have to dig around and see if I actually made anything else.

Today I got some red flannel PJ's about 80% assembled for AJ, and picked up a pretty piece of corduroy for a new jacket for I was putting her on the bus this morning I noticed her wrists were sticking out about 3 inches from her coat sleeves! I thought it was a size 5, purchased last year, but it turns out I lost a year somewhere in is actually only a 4T and we got it the year AJ was born. Yikes! The poor kid needs a new jacket! And it's National Sewing Month, after all.

What are YOU making?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

national sewing month

Hello! And happy autumn!

I've just sent my baby girl off to kindergarten, the weather has turned sharply cooler (from near 90F to low 60s), I've purchased my fall-scented candles, and I'm feeling all nest-y. It was nice to take the summer off from blogging, though there wasn't much to blog about due to the Africa-hot temperatures. All my entries would have gone something like this: "tried to knit/sew. Too hot and sweaty. Went swimming instead."

But school has started so I'm down to one kid at home, and the cool break in the weather is inspiring me to get out the sewing and knitting once more. We need many things as winter approaches, like new quilts, pajamas, sweaters, socks, hats and mittens to replace those that are worn and outgrown.

Just a quickie today as I've got english muffin loaves about ready to come out of the oven...

I was reminded by my good friend Karen that September is National Sewing Month! I typically don't notice things like that but this year I'm jumping in. I just finished up some pajamas for AJ:

McCall's M4643, size 2. I used the flannel I got at WMart in the spring when they were closing their fabric department, so these are a very economical "wearable muslin" of this pattern. It is incredibly easy to assemble these pajamas, as the front and back necklines are finished first, then they overlap (kind of like a baby onesie). The pattern calls for velcro at the shoulders but that sounded like a laundry nightmare to me, so I am using snaps instead.

Now that I know this is a great pattern, I am planning to make him several more sets in nicer flannels (though there is nothing wrong with this's just kind of boring and plain).

I began cutting out a red set today at naptime, and will hopefully work on those through the weekend. Then I want to tackle the Oliver + S pajama pattern for Daughter. Woohoo! Yay for fall sewing!

And on the needles...not that he technically needs more sweaters at the moment (he has 4, plus a vest, plus one on my mom's needles), I have begun an interesting sweater for AJ. I've seen this one around the blog circuit a few times, and it is certainly unique:

Looks like an amorphous blob, kinda. That's a sleeve snaking off to the left. So far it's a pretty fun and easy knit. More to come on this one!

I've also cast on for a hat to match AJ's new winter coat (Paton's wool on sale for $4 this week at Michaels, people...stock up, it's great yarn!), and some funky kneesocks for Daughter out of yarn we dyed together last year.

Mmmmkay, there's the oven timer! Time for some super-yummy english muffin bread! Welcome, autumn!

Friday, June 11, 2010

random stuff

Whoa, new templates and stuff on blogger! I can't decide if I like it or not. I'm kind of a simple girl, and the blog looks kind of busy to me now. We'll give it a try and see what happens.

So, what's up? Not much I guess. We started speech therapy for AJ. So far I mostly find it aggravating, what with a new person coming into my house at 9:00 two days a week, meaning a mad scramble to clean and prepare. Plus I'm just not sure about the therapist herself...she's highly disorganized and actually forgot to come one day last week, which irritated the hell out of me. Anyone out there have thoughts about speech therapy? What it should look and sound like? I mean, I have no idea if she is "helping" at all here. I have a feeling my son will talk when he talks and that's it...not sure if this weird woman coming here and playing with him two days a week will actually have an impact.

Other than that nothing seems to be going on. Life feels boring and I'm not sure what to do about it. I need to do something other than serve meals, do dishes and laundry, and let the kids veg out in front of the television. Today at least we hit the beach...

Unfortunately beaches on the Niagara River aren't too great. I had to keep reminding the kids to please not step on the dead fish parts. Yuck.

Anyway. I've been really into the farm blogs lately. Do you read farm blogs? Holy moly, I just lose myself in them! I know farm life is incredibly difficult and my wussy self would probably fall over and die on a farm, but there's something about it that I envy so much. It looks like such a pure, practical, good life. A day's work is grueling and if you don't get the work done it totally impacts your livelihood, but it looks like such a worthwhile way to spend your time. At the end of the day you've done something. I like doing something. I like work that matters. What bums me out is feeling like I trudge along day after day doing stupid busywork. Seems to me it sounds much more productive to say "I planted 200 lbs of potatoes today" than to say "I emptied the dishwasher for the thousandth time, did 3 loads of laundry, and went to Target."

Over at farmama, Sara just told about ripping out their lawn to plant grain. And I got really excited when I read that! Sometimes I feel a bit constrained by my cushy suburban life...I feel resentful that I'm supposed to make sure my lawn looks as manicured as possible (even if it means spraying toxic chemicals where my kids play). I would get a much bigger kick out of ripping out half the backyard to plant fruit bushes and trees, and a real garden (not just the 5x8 space I have now that holds a few tomatoes and some zucchini). Sara at farmama also often talks about just wandering the farm each afternoon to select their family's dinner. Envy!

I don't know what it is. I just feel itchyscratchy like I'm supposed to be doing something with myself and I'm just not. The kids are bored too, I can feel it. It's getting harder and harder to get Daughter off the couch, and that just shouldn't be. None of us are as perky and bright as we should be...and if we're not living right, and living well, it's on me as the person driving this train. I have to do better. Just not sure what that means.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

keepin it real

This is what my frustration looks like right now:

My dining room. Not so good for dining these days. Or for anything else. You know it's bad when I just give up and cover the sewing machine! Clockwise from the left we have a pile o' ironing that just keeps growing; dotted swiss pajamas for Daughter that are so close to completion...yet so far; notions and machine, gathering dust; shoebox with china tea set that AJ keeps breaking so it is hidden away; jeans hanging on chair that need patches sewn down; knitting projects in various stages of completion; paperwork from kitchen table, thrust aside so we can actually eat; markers and glitter glue, put here so my darling son will stop writing all over the house with them.

You can perhaps understand why I am not getting much done in this mess.

But I would really like to finish these:

And I'd like to do it ASAP because we're looking at temps in the high 80s this week, with nights in the high 60s/low 70s. Our house is situated north/south, and the wind usually blows east/west, so air circulation is a problem, especially at night. In the summer we've found the only solution is lots of fans and the lightest pjs we can find. This dotted swiss is like air, so light and lovely. If only I could find an hour to get the armhole and ruffles done.

So many ideas and projects to work on...


For now I will take my knitting outside and try to work a few stitches in the sticky heat, while the children do some of this:

I think I'll get out the kiddie pool, too. I can sit with my toes in the cool water and let the kiddos splash around. Last week we were wearing sweaters, today it will be almost 90. Weird!

But first, the ever-obtrusive therapy appointment to get through. Bleh.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

another EZ sweater

I took down my woe-is-me post. I couldn't stand to read it, so how could you? Bleh.

Let's talk about knitting instead. That's what keeps me relatively grounded and happy and gives me a feeling of accomplishment.

Here's the latest F.O. - another Elizabeth Zimmermann "percentage system" sweater, this one for my son:

I was going for about a 26" chest measurement here, so I started with 120 stitches for the ribbing, then increased to 130 (26 inches X 5 stitches per inch).

The rest is just about exactly the same as the other EZ sweater I made for Daughter, the only real changes being the stitch counts, and 2X2 ribbing instead of seed stitch. The sleeves are long and the sweater is boxy...just what I am hoping AJ will need come fall and winter.

Needles used: US 6 and 7
Yarn used: almost exactly 4 skeins Knitpicks Wool of the Andes in the jalapeno colorway. I love this yarn. It doesn't feel really heavy when you're knitting with it, but it has a springiness that really comes through in the squishy finished garment. All the sweaters I've made with it end up feeling a lot more substantial than sweaters knit with other worsted weight wools. This will be a really warm sweater for my little guy.

Two sweaters in two weeks! That's a new record for me! I think I'll try the percentage system for a cardigan next...just give me about a week.

Friday, May 14, 2010

a little knitting

We haven't had any knitting content around here for awhile, hmmm?

Let's see, what do I have? Oh yes. First of all, the extremely boring socks I've been working on for Hubs...seemingly forever. These were obviously a labor of love!

Really, really boring and gigantic socks. I should have thrown something into that photo for scale. These babies are ginormous. I bought the yarn (Patons Kroy...I believe the color is called Linen, but I always call it "putty" because that is what it reminds me of) way back in, I don't know, maybe January or February of 2009. I intended these for Hubs' birthday in July of last year, but just wasn't able to get them done with all that was going on.

Well, now they are finished, and will be wrapped up for this coming birthday, even though he knows about them (and tried on the first one for me so I knew the size would be right).

Next up, something I started last weekend and could not put down...this was like knitting crack, people!

An Elizabeth Zimmermann "EPS" sweater for Daughter. Knitters, if you haven't made one of these, you really should. It is so satisfying! You just start out with whatever needles/yarn/gauge you want and magically come up with a sweater that fits!

For this sweater I used some pretty purple heather-y Wool Ease that I got for my birthday. I like to knit most worsted weight yarns on a US size 7 needle at 5 stitches/inch. The problem is, most patterns I've come across want you to knit worsted weight at a gauge of more like 4.25 or even 4 stitches to the inch on US 8 or 9 needles. Sorry, but I disagree with that! First, I can never actually get that gauge anyway, and second, it makes a loosely knit fabric that will tend to pill with wear.

I primarily used Knitting Without Tears as my reference for this sweater, though there wasn't much to look up. The basic idea is this: you come up with a "main number" based on measurement and gauge (for me this was 150: I wanted a 30" circumference at 5 st/in), then you base all other numbers on that. I wanted the bottom to be slightly narrower than the body, so I cast on 10% fewer stitches to start (135), knit the seed stitch on a smaller needle (US 6), then increased to 150 on the first knit round using my size 7 needle.

She recommends starting the sleeves of a child's sweater at 1/3 of the body number (1/5 for adults), but I didn't want a boxy sleeve for Daughter. She is very slim and has long slender limbs, so I went with about 1/4 (38 st) to start the sleeve, then increased to 50 (1/3 of the total body stitches) at a rate of 2 stitches increased every 6 rows. You can see the increases pretty clearly on the sleeve in the photo above.

Is this making any sense?

Once I got to the 50 stitches, I knit plain for several inches...I think the sleeve underarm ended up at 14", which is a bit long for Daughter right now, but summer is beginning and I intended this sweater to be for next fall and winter. It is oversize right now but should fit nicely for at least one and perhaps two winters.

I knit up the body in the round to the armholes (11"), then joined the whole mess, leaving 12 stitches free of both sleeve and underarm, to be woven together at the end. I got that number by using 8% of my "main number" of 150. How cool is that? It all works out so neatly.

Anyway, once I got it all joined and knit a few rounds plain just to make things look nice and tidy, I began raglan decreases, and as EZ says, you find yourself going along like a house on fire...the rounds just keep getting smaller till suddenly you're shaping the neck, knitting the collar, and voila! You're just about done! A quick kitchener stitch of the underarm and that's it. AWESOME.

I'm not thrilled with the collar, as I forgot to switch to a size 6 needle like I used for the seed stitch ribbing and cuffs. It's a bit loose, so for the next time I'll certainly remember to do it right. But Daughter loves it and I'm too lazy to rip it out, so I'm satisfied enough to leave it alone.

So addictive, I started another immediately, for number one son:

Sleeve halfway done while listening to the rain pour down last night with the window was so nice! I love opening the windows! (I do find it odd that I'm still comfortable curled up under blankets, knitting, in the middle of should really be in the 70s by now...)

This method, at its most basic, does not produce a particularly elegant garment. But modified with a little shaping or some pretty stitch patterns, it could! I'm envisioning stripes using up leftovers right now...and some stitch patterns in the fun! Anyway, it works out fantastically right now for simple, hard-wearing sweaters for my kids to use and abuse as they run around both inside and out. I want them to be warm and comfortable and wrapped in handmade goodness. These EZ sweaters fit the bill.