Tuesday, June 28, 2011

summer begins

Oops, did not mean to fall off the face of the planet for 2 weeks. It's been a busy, busy time and I got sick (again) with a sinus infection that traveled downward and settled in my throat, rendering me voiceless over the weekend.

Around here school starts after Labor Day and doesn't finish up until the end of June, so we've only just begun our summer vacation.

It seems like Kindergarten just started and now it's over! My big girl, on to first grade...

It's only been 4 days but school seems so far away already. Daughter is signed up for crafts and stories at the library, and also lego club which I have to admit sounds like fun. I don't mind paying taxes when these free activities are available to my kids. AJ isn't getting signed up for a specific activity this summer because he still has speech therapy several days each week and I have nowhere for Daughter to go if I'm busy with her brother. So we'll wait till fall.

I say that, but I don't know what the coming school year will bring. We're in the throes of transitioning from Early Intervention to our school district for AJ's speech services, and that means evaluations and testing and reports about our baby boy...which I know are all necessary to get him the help he needs, but it's a horrible process to endure from a mother's perspective. I have to sit there and calmly, quietly watch him be tested, all the while wanting to "translate" his speech because often I do know what he is saying, but the tester has no idea. Thankfully he scored right on target for his age cognitively, meaning he does not qualify for special education (which we pretty much knew), but the speech problem...well, it's pretty severe.

No one knows exactly what is wrong with my kid. As our ENT told me yesterday, he is one-of-a-kind, an interesting case. And you don't really want to be "interesting" in the medical world. Doctors like interesting cases. They want to poke your kid and see what happens. All along I've been hoping and praying things would even out and become easier; that he would succeed and prove that he's really just fine. Now we've been referred to cranio-facial specialists to further investigate the apparent weaknesses in AJ's palette, facial muscles, and eyes.

It all leaves me feeling frazzled and knotted up and confused. I want and need to do what is best for my son (and for my daughter, of course), but it is sometimes hard to know what that is when you're dealing with so many medical disciplines.

So if I disappear for a few days or weeks at a time, it's likely because I just can't sort my thoughts out in a coherent fashion. Through it all there's the endless laundry, the cooking and cleaning, the piles of sand tracked into the house that need sweeping, the potty training and cleaning up of accidents, the bills to be paid, the groceries to shop for, and of course the summer family fun to be had.

Back soon.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

F.O.: flower basket shawl

What? I said this should be done by next week? Oh, haha, just kidding. I meant I was going to practically injure myself to get it done immediately. (Seriously, my poor wrists, ouch.)

Flower Basket shawl, from Interweave Knits, fall 2004. I post-it-noted this pattern when I got the magazine all those years ago, but only just now got around to making it. At the time the concept of knitting lace with two strands of yarn held together sounded way intimidating. I just didn't have the knowledge to realize I didn't have to follow the directions exactly, and that I could substitute yarn and needles.

What a lovely pattern to knit. It's actually very easy, and each line of the chart is memorized quickly for fast, smooth knitting. I used almost two entire hanks of Knitpicks Gloss fingering weight, which came in a sock sampler my husband gave me for Christmas in........2007? I would have to search the archives but I think that's right. That means with 440 yards of fingering weight and a US6 needle I got a shawl measuring 60" across and about 30" from the neck to the bottom point (after blocking). I didn't count my repeats but I did several more than the pattern calls for. On the last repeat I was sweating it out, fearing yarn famine, but I made it with a (very) small ball of yarn to spare.

Daughter wants it. We just took these photos and she's now curled up on the sofa, wrapped in the shawl. I'm thinking we'll store it carefully away for when she's a bit older. :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

joys of homeownership...and also more lace

On Saturday morning the phone rang at 6:46. It was the company we'd ordered topsoil from, telling us our dirt was on its way. The dump truck showed up about an hour later, and when it did, I thought, "boy, he must be making a bunch of deliveries with all that dirt!" But then he backed into our driveway and proceeded to empty the entire dump truck.

This photo does not do justice to the true quantity of topsoil we moved. This is 4 cubic yards, which is code for "a backbreaking amount" and we moved all but about 1/2 yard of it by lunchtime. The driveway, front walk, side-of-the-house walk, and back patio were all repoured before we bought the house, but were never backfilled properly, so the jagged lower edge of the concrete was exposed all over the place. We needed to shore it up and seed it, both to make it look nice and to ensure that the concrete doesn't heave from moisture in the coming years.

It sucked, but it's mostly done now. This picture cracks me up because the kids were so determined to help with their tiny sandbox shovels. Also funny: this is what I get when I tell my daughter to wear "old clothes." Quite a fashion statement!

The moral of the story is that I really hurt my wimpy body by doing such a massive physical job. I am sadly out of shape and come Sunday morning I could barely get out of bed, my back hurt so bad. The pain and stiffness continued for a couple of days, so I've been fairly useless when it comes to the more physical housework.

What a bummer, I've had to park it in my recliner with more lace!

I wasn't kidding in my last post...I'm fairly obsessed at this point. More lace! Must knit more lace!

I think I'm hitting a period of pretty, delicate work after several years of hearty, practical knitting and sewing. I also have the wild urge to do handwork, like embroidery and cross stitch.

Gosh this is fun. And it really flies off the needles, what with all those yarn-overs. I'm eyeballing my yarn to see how many more repeats I can squeeze in before I knit the edging. This should be an F.O. by next week. More details to come when I finish!

Monday, June 13, 2011

FO: summer mystery shawlette

I finished my mystery shawlette! Woot!

Actually I finished the knitting a week ago but I was lazy and smushed it into its ziplock bag to avoid weaving ends and blocking. I didn't know where to block it because we have hardwood throughout our house - no carpeting other than area rugs - so I wasn't sure where to pin it down. It turned out our dining room area rug has enough rubber backing that I could gently shove my t-pins into it.

I wish I had better photos but it's just me and the toddler here today. I tried to get a photo in the mirror but...no. Total fail.

What a nice project this was to work on! I used frog tree fingering weight alpaca, way less than two skeins. I'll probably make a special bonnet or booties with the remainder for someone I really care about...because hello, expensive, can't-throw-it-in-the-washing-machine alpaca. You know.

It comes just around my shoulders, so if I made it again I would add repeats to make it much bigger. But I love the pattern. Thanks, Wendy, for a fun knitalong!

I did not block this "severely" because I don't care for lace that is blocked so hard the stitches become distorted. In this photo I can even see a few areas where the stitches are pulled out more than I like to see. I love lace but I like it to have a little substance to it. Not a big fan of the cobweb weight, filmy lace.

But I've been bitten by the lace bug, now. It's going to be tough to work through my wips now that all I want to do it knit lace! I dug out my lace books and found a surprising amount of appropriate yarn to make lacy shawls and scarves. I might make that my summer knitting!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

over the top?

Still clearing out the WIPs this week...Hubs went to a concert last night so I took the opportunity to finish up another project.

Daughter and I were in Joann's about a month ago when this fabric caught her eye, and we simply had to buy it for AJ. We had to, HAD TO I SAY!

Ok, it's a bit.....loud. But come on, he's 2. It's fine to be this loud when you're little, right? He desperately needed some summer pajamas, too. Serendipity, methinks.

This has become a favorite in my pattern collection. I've made 4 sets for Daughter and now 2 sets for AJ. I'm not so into the fussy collar on a set of pajamas, so I always make the collar-less version. Also, pockets? On pajamas? No thank you. We go simple around here.

Anyway, they're size 2, and use about 1.25 yards of 44" woven fabric, so they are fairly economical. I used 4 bright yellow plastic buttons from my stash o' buttons to save some money and a trip to the store. Also, that shade of green does not exist in any thread collection (trust me, I looked!) so I used up a spool of limey green, which blended in surprisingly well. Ah, it feels good to use something up. Actually, I've used up several spools of old thread lately that kind of matched, rather than buying new spools for new projects as I used to do. Sometimes good enough is good enough!

I can't believe I'm making size 2 pajamas for my son. Looking back at those old posts with projects for my wee Daughter blows my mind. Today was her end-of-kindergarten concert and party! What?!? How can it be?

I'm outta here before I get verklempt.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

clearing out some wips

The weather is finally so indescribably gorgeous, I can't believe I'm inside typing this right now. It rained hard in the wee hours of the morning and my patio chairs are still wet, otherwise I'd be out there enjoying the warm sunlight and soft breeze. Especially since tomorrow it's supposed to be 90, which in my humble opinion is too hot to enjoy.

Luckily we have ways of dealing with it:

Look at my big guy! Almost 3 years old! Where does the time go? He loves to "make rainbows" with the hose and cool off at the same time.

I've got a few F.O.s to share. Late winter saw a flurry of WIPs started and cast aside as I struggled to entertain myself on cold, wet days. Of late I've been picking them back up and working my way through the basket of unfinished stuff.

Plain top-down socks to add to my collection. This is Regia "Galaxy" yarn and is supposed to look all outer-spacey. Pretty cool. Plus, I got it on clearance for $2/skein. VERY cool!

I know I showed this partly knit, but I don't think I shared the finished sweater. It's a February baby sweater, of course, made with exactly 3 skeins of Knitpicks telemark in the carnation colorway. I like this yarn enough, it's hearty and warm, but they say it is sportweight and calls for size 3-4 US needles. I knit it on size 5, I think (or was it 6? no, I think 5) and the thing could practically stand up by itself. Maybe it will soften after washing? We shall see.

This looks to be about a 6-9 month size. After I wash it and attach some vintage-y buttons, it will go in the cedar chest awaiting the birth of a baby girl to someone we love.

This week I was planning to keep chugging along on my hippy dippy granny square blanket but I got my first international order (!) and I'm knitting away on two oatmeal-colored soakers for a UK baby.

Patons classic merino in "natural mix" which is exactly the color of a bowl of oatmeal. Mmmmm...oatmeal.

After these are done and shipped off, it's back to the WIPs, both yarny and sewn (oh yeah, there's a pile of stuff cut out next to the sewing machine, too).

What are you working on this week?

Friday, June 03, 2011

more skirts

I blew off all my normal household duties yesterday (except for feeding children and changing diapers) in favor of a sewing mini-marathon. With only a few stops and starts I was able to complete two more skirts for my summer wardrobe.

This first one I've been referring to as my "Pier 1 bedspread" skirt because it reminds me of stuff we used to buy there back in the 90s. Not sure if this is a hit or miss fabric-wise, but I think it works with either an ivory or brown shirt.

(Waistband is straight in real life...the hanger distorts it!)

I chose the fabric for this next one because it has several shades of pink and red on a black background, which gives me lots of shirt options. I should have fixed this photo, as it's a bit washed out.

These are Simplicity 2226, my new favorite go-to skirt pattern. It's awesome. Both skirts took two yards (with about 5" leftover if you cut the pieces close, as I do). I used quilting cottons from Joann's. Each also takes one 7" zipper. The only other notions required are thread and a bit of interfacing for the waistband.

For the 3 skirts I made, I only had to purchase one zipper as I had some on hand. For the butterfly skirt I used a vintage zipper in the wine-red color of the darkest butterflies. It was purchased by my grandmother probably at least 40 years ago, based on the packaging. The zipper tape is a lovely soft fabric instead of the stiff poly used now, and flexes beautifully. I wish they were still made that way.

So, yay, I have new clothes! It's always so fun when a pattern actually works out.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


Did everyone have a nice long holiday weekend (in the US)? It's been almost non-stop rain here for weeks...there is water seeping into my basement because my poor yard cannot absorb any more. It stopped raining just long enough for me to plant 8 pepper plants, 2 basil plants, some lavender and the 6-pack of marigolds Daughter chose, all in the awful muddy garden. Then we got a rip-roaring thunderstorm that bashed the heck out of them. Oh well, fingers crossed, maybe we will get a small pepper crop. I also did a ton of housework trying to whip the house into shape, so I didn't have a lot of crafting time.

[sad face]

Anyway, I did have time to ponder my sewing plans whilst mopping the crusty kitchen floor. I've been hemming-and-hawing about the new Lisette pattern line that's made a splash in the online sewing community this spring. I was immediately drawn to these patterns because they are the kind of clothing I want to wear. Simple, clean lines, sweet fabrics that are available at a reasonable price point from Joann's...so many good things. But I kept on not buying the patterns, even when they went on sale for a buck. I finally figured out why. It's because the dresses I like best (Portfolio and Market) are the style that looks worst on my body type. [more sad face]

I am 5' 7" and relatively slender, with a pretty average bust measurement. I am also very short-waisted. My natural waist falls just below my bustline, honestly, it's ridiculous. My height is all from my legs. Because of my high waist, I am somewhat rectangular, by which I mean my waist measurement is not a whole lot smaller than my hips. So what? Well, that means a simple pullover dress with bust darts will inevitably look like a sack on my body. I need waist shaping in my garments to give the illusion of having more of a natural waistline. I searched the flickr groups for Lisette and saw a lot of cuuuuuuuute dresses, but I could tell that the bodies wearing them were shaped differently than mine. What a bummer!

But all is not lost! This story has a happy ending. The pattern companies are always coming out with new styles, and this year I got lucky indeed. I have a skirt that I simply ADORE, purchased last year at a thrift store. It's a full skirt with a yoke and side zipper, made of lawn with a matching lining. I would show a photo but it's in the wash because I wore it yesterday.

I wore that skirt at least once a week last summer because it's cool, comfortable, and extremely flattering. The flat, fitted yoke front elongates my waistline and the full skirt balances my upper body perfectly. Looooooooove. I thought, "I MUST HAVE MORE!"

I even thought of trying to draft my own pattern using the skirt as a guide. So many talented sewists do that, but I'm not that visual. I like patterns and directions ready-made. Thankfully I came across Simplicity 2226. Oh. Em. Gee. It's my skirt! Almost exactly!

I whipped this up in an evening over the weekend. It is very easy! It's also a "learn to sew" pattern, which might be really helpful for a beginner, though you have to install a zipper which is hairy until you get good at it (in my opinion).

I struggled mightily with the size I should make, as I always do. The sizing is based on...your natural waist. As we now know, my natural waist is up under my chin, so I can't go by that measurement. I want my skirts to hang lower, just over my hipbones. So I ended up cutting a humongous size and then bringing it in until it fit. I've re-measured the pattern pieces and I'm hoping I know the right size to go with now.

This is one of the front pockets. The pocket construction is flippin' incredible, I just love it. It's difficult to describe how it goes together, but it's so easy and so awesome. (And the waistband is sewn on straight - the hanger is pulling it out of shape in the photo.) I highly recommend this pattern if you like a comfortable full skirt. I have cotton to make two more and I intend to make fall versions too, using denim and corduroy.

Oh, and I have to mention the fabric! I like loud, large-scale prints for summer with solid color tops. This fabric was on the red-tag clearance shelf at Joann's. It's a "premium" quilter's cotton, but was marked down to $5/yard. Over the weekend all red-tag fabrics were an additional 50% off. So I took the last 2 yards, which is exactly what I needed, making this skirt a whopping $6 including the zipper, purchased with a coupon. I got a couple more cottons off the same rack, and by using vintage zippers from my grandma's stash, I am psyched to be getting two more skirts for about $10 total. People, I am all about saving money by sewing. I really, really love to save bucks by making stuff myself. And I'm extra excited to get these high-quality fabrics because they are a heavier weight, so they are not see-through, and they have a lovely soft hand. The designs are printed straight and they are woven well so there's no distortion when you cut, gather, or stitch.

Those two skirts are on my to-do list for this week, so hopefully I'll have a "finished" post soon.

In other news...

My mystery shawlette continues apace. I'm caught up and excitedly awaiting the final instructions this Thursday. What a fun knit! I'm mentally shopping my stash for yarn to make another.