Tuesday, November 29, 2011

wool soakers for sale!

I realize there are about 6 people who read here, but I'll throw this out there anyway, just in case (or if you know anyone who could use one)...

I've got 4 newborn wool soakers, available to ship right now, for sale on etsy. There are two in this oatmeal color (a tan/gray mix), one in petal pink, and one in royal blue. The pink and blue are marked WAY down to just $12 because they have been sitting here unsold for quite some time and I'd rather they be used by a newborn baby than sit in my house! 

My soakers are made with the same attention to detail I give to knitted items for my own children. Each is handmade carefully, hand washed in Eucalan lavender wool wash, and air dried. 

First class shipping to the continental US is always included in the price. These soakers are really cute, have very stretchy cuffs, and a tall waist for warmth, absorbency, and extended use as baby grows longer/taller. And they do not have to be used only with cloth diapers! They make a sweet cover for any kind of diaper, and are warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

I've taken down my "custom order" slots for now because I have so much going on for the holidays (and many things I want to make for my own family) but I could definitely squeeze in one or two of these each week from now until Christmas (though for Christmas arrival, the item(s) would have to be shipped by the 19th at the very latest). If there is interest, please leave a comment here or contact me through etsy. I will also be attempting to add a few "scrappy" soakers using my leftover wool between now and the end of the holiday season. 

Real post coming soon! Thanks! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


My husband fixed the dryer. He found the part he needed on ebay for about $30 (1/3 of the price at the local appliance repair places) and in an hour it was back in working order. The hardest part was getting the panels off so he could access the innards. FYI, it was the igniter (gas dryer), and was not difficult to replace. So if you have a decent dryer that just stops heating, keep that in mind!

So I meant to update about my homemade laundry detergent experiment...not much to say, really. It's hard to get a handle on a per-load cost until I actually use up the borax and washing soda, so I can average it all. But so far it looks like, using the Dr. Bronner's soap bars which are hella-expensive, actually, I am coming in at between 7 and 10 cents per load. I've started on my second bar of soap mixture, but I don't think I'm going to buy the more expensive castile soap anymore. I'll try the cheaper kinds of laundry soaps (maybe Fels Naptha) or some Kirk's castile which is something like $1.29 at my supermarket (compared to $3.49 for Dr. Bronner's bars).

I don't know if I love the homemade stuff. It's ok, but I find I miss the "fresh" scent of detergent, however artificial that may be. And the clothes are definitely not as soft, not by a long shot.

Frankly, I'm not feeling very inspired about saving money right now. My husband and I were high-fiving after the dryer repair, and then he said sometimes he feels weird and awkward and almost embarrassed telling people he fixed his own appliance (he's done awesome money-saving tricks like this before...with our oven, with the cars...he is very handy!). This is because, he said, he feels it makes us look like we can't afford to just call someone to come and do it.

When did it become embarrassing to fix your own stuff? I mean, what a strange psychological thing that is. I mend and repair and patch. I'm not extreme about things; my kids get new stuff when they need it, my husband and I do too, but less often (I've recently had to replace some stuff obtained early in our marriage and felt resentful that it finally wore out!). I had a conversation with a family member awhile back during which I mentioned sewing buttons back on my husband's shirts when they pop off, and this person was incredulous, like, "why would you bother?" To him if a shirt loses a button it's broken, useless, done. I can't even imagine thinking that way.

Oh well, inspired or not, it is what it is. The holidays are such a difficult time for keeping the "wanties" at bay. I tried to make one final Target run for the year today but they didn't have what I needed...I might try another location tonight after the kids are in bed. I don't know if I've ever mentioned it, but I pretty much avoid Target and W*Mart between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. I try to do online shopping as much as possible, gather my baking supplies early, etc., both to avoid the awful crowds/parking lots, and to stop myself from wishing for all the shiny, new stuff I see out there. So, one last run for hair dye and stocking stuffers, and then I'm going to try to take deep breaths, relax, and knit/sew/bake/craft my way through the next couple of months.

I'm really proud of Hubs for fixing the dryer.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

2011 Christmas sweater - F.O.

Hubs has ordered a part for the dryer. Fingers crossed!

This year's Christmas garb for the children is underway. I always try for coordinating, but not matchy-matchy. This year I think I'm going with red, black and white. AJ will wear red:

This is the Knitting Pure and Simple neckdown children's cardigan...again. I wasn't sure about the hood but this Cashsoft Aran yarn is so, so soft and squishy and nice I didn't want to waste any or leave any behind as an oddball in my stash. It's 10% cashmere, people! What a lucky 3 year old.

The colorway is "poppy" which isn't too important to share as the yarn is discontinued (probably why I got it for around $2/ball). I used nearly all 8 balls, which is weird. That's A LOT more yardage than the pattern calls for in the 2-4 year size. I used size 8 and 9 needles. The buttons are a new style I've been loving from Joann's - I used them on my most recent cardi for myself as well. They look just like leather but they are plastic! And therefore much cheaper. And also washable.

The remaining yarn is there in the photo, and I'd say those balls are about the size of clementines. Mission accomplished...8 balls from the stash are knit up and gone. My guilt-o-meter can go down a tad.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I was ready to do a post last night about my homemade laundry soap experiment, and then when I went downstairs to finish the day's loads, I found a lump of wet stuff in the dryer. Huh, I must have forgotten to start it. So I started it, and came upstairs to knit awhile. Soon I noticed I could no longer hear the dryer running...odd. It usually takes longer than that.

You can guess what's coming, right?

Nothing, no drying action whatsoever. The stupid drum turns but there is no heat. I let loose with a few choice swears, then had to tell my husband that the dryer is out of commission. Here's hoping we can fix it ourselves if all it needs is a heating unit of some sort.

I have the detergent info plus a couple of projects to share, but right now I have to go check the drying rack and various hangers scattered throughout the house to see if my clothes and towels have dried even a little bit. Aaargh!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I can't believe it's November 10th. What a week we've had over here.

It was a record-breaking 70 degrees for a couple of days (but back to freezing cold now with snow in the forecast).

The kids are sick, and AJ's ear was draining this morning. Thanks, ear tubes, for that up-close and personal look at infection. Blech!

On the bright side, we have a new niece! My bro and sis-in-law had their first baby in the wee hours of this morning. She is beautiful and all are well.

Unfortunately, overshadowing most everything, my little sister called off her wedding that was supposed to take place in a warm, tropical place three weeks from Saturday. It's such a sad, sad thing. They do love each other, but she just did not feel it was 100% right. My heart breaks for her (and for him) but I am fiercely proud of her for doing the right thing. I won't lie...it does free us up a bit financially, and eases some stress about the holidays and paying for the two windows we have to replace. But still, I feel awful for her.

So I've been puttering along, working on some stuff.

I appreciate the kind suggestions and offers about the red sweater yarn famine disaster, but it got rrrrrripped and restarted immediately, before the comments came in. There was really no saving it, and this way AJ gets a nice warm new sweater to wear for Christmas pictures. I think I have enough to make the hood, too.

Oy. What a week.

Friday, November 04, 2011


While going through my pile of forgotten knits, I found this sweater I started for AJ a year ago:

The pattern is this one, and I love it so much. The biggest size is age 3-4 so if I want it for AJ I have to make it, like, right now. When I started it a year ago I figured it would last for 2 winters. I had 8 balls of this beautiful Rowan yarn, a rare special treat that I got on mega clearance.

I started it, I liked working on it, but I tossed it aside. Last night I resurrected it and worked a couple more inches of the back. As I worked along, I thought, wow, this is a great knit! I like these cables! I'm really enjoying this! Why did I quit working on it?

Oh. Whoa. Stop the presses. I glanced at the remaining yarn and realized that there was no way I would make it with only 6 more balls left. Thaaaaaaaaat's why I quit last year. Now I remember that I realized this yarn shortage problem and was so frustrated that I just folded it up and figured I'd deal with it later.

The thing is, I still can't figure out how much yarn I would really need to make this sweater. I have 400 grams of my yarn which is 8 balls X 95 yards each. That's 760 yards. The yarn called for is 400 grams at 115 yards per ball, which is 920 yards. That's a 160 yard difference, whoops. What was I thinking? I don't know. Still, I can't understand it because even if I left off the hood, I can tell I'd never make it with my yardage. The cables just eat up the yarn too quickly.

Oh well, whatever, now I'm going to rip what I've done, wash the yarn and hopefully unkink it...it's been knit up like this for a year so it will be a mess. Instead I'm going to use this beautiful yarn for a top-down raglan cardigan with a hood, and hopefully use dark wooden toggle buttons purchased here. That place has the best price on lots of a dozen buttons that I've ever seen, and they are beautiful. I want to use this yarn up now because it is so, so lovely and once AJ gets just a little bigger I will no longer have enough to make a big enough sweater.

So this will be AJ's handknit under-the-tree gift, and Daughter will get her purpley sweater. I still want to make that pretty cabled cardigan, though...maybe if I get some yarny gift cards for Christmas.....

Thursday, November 03, 2011

it's beginning to look a lot (or at least a little) like Christmas

I started making my Christmas knits list this morning. As usual it has too many things on it and I will never finish them all, but it's at least a place to start. 

I am dying - dying - to buy new yarn. I browse around the interwebs and see other knitters' beautiful yarns and projects and aaaarrrgh, I want to place a humongous Knitpicks order and get a big box of loveliness in the mail.

But I did two things this morning to dissuade myself. First I went through the pile o' knitting that lives in the corner of my bedroom. This no man's land is a dusty pile of projects that seems to keep growing as I start things and abandon them in favor of new, shinier ideas. They're all viable projects, but I get bored and toss them aside. Naughty! So today I sorted out all the in-process items, as well as the yarns that I've pulled from my stash as I browse knitting books. That mostly adjusted my attitude.

Then AJ and I went out for some groceries at Target and BJ's (our club store, for those of you in other parts of the country). We needed a few big things like a case of toilet paper and a case of juice boxes for Daughter's lunch box, and I am starting to pick up holiday baking items like butter and brown sugar when I see them for a good price. When we got home I went to the white board and filled in my purchases, coming in right at $0 for groceries, and taking a solid hit in the "discretionary" column (t.p. and pullups went there this week to preserve more money for edibles). Wow, is everything getting more and more expensive, or what? 32 juice boxes are $10.99 (Juicy Juice brand, the second-least expensive ones next to Minute Maid which my kids don't like). I think for Christmas I will get Daughter a small Kleen Kanteen ($9.95 at Amazon) and she can take water sometimes. She always asks for it, but I don't have a good, leak-proof, BPA-free water bottle to send in her lunch box. The Kleen Kanteen is expensive, yes, but I think it is a good investment as she will use it for years.

So anyway, a shopping trip where I reach the end of my budgeted allowance for the week is always sobering. 

It will be a stash-based Christmas this year. Much as I would love to buy new materials, the fact is I have enough already to come up with gift knits. It may not be my first choice, but it will certainly do.

I do, however, think inexpensive patterns are fair game. After all, it is much less spendy to buy a $4 pattern to go with the yarn I already have than to buy $30-$50 worth of yarn to match a pattern. In that spirit I purchased the Kina pattern (Ravelry link). It calls for sport weight yarn and I happen to have some that has been marinating in the stash for years.

It's Wool Ease sport in the boysenberry colorway...and I had 6 of them at one time. I've used maybe one skein? I got them at a Tuesday Morning store, probably about 6 years ago now. Yep, I bet Daughter was a baby when I got these because I thought I could use this color for a little girl. There were 6 of these and 3 off-white and they were a steal. I have to say, this yarn knits up really nicely for being only 20% wool. I used to use it quite a bit for baby sweaters but they discontinued it a long time ago. Wish they would bring it back!

Anyway, it's sport weight yarn with size 5 needles so it's slow going. But the pattern is so cute, I am committed to getting it done and under the Christmas tree for Daughter. Oh, and the color is really more of a reddish purple, not the grapey shade in this picture. I just couldn't get it to photograph correctly in today's light. I'll try again when there's more to show.

What about you? Will it be a handmade holiday season? What are you working on?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


We didn't really start "observing" Halloween in our little family until about 2 years ago, when Daughter was 4. Prior to that she was too little to know what was going on, and we lived in a somewhat rural area where no one trick-or-treated. When we moved to our current house (almost 2.5 years ago now, what?!), Daughter was 4 1/2 and wanted to dress up and trick-or-treat. That year and last year, also, she just put on some princessy dress-up clothes from her play stuff and went as a princess. Or a fairy. Or a fairy princess, I'm not sure, it depended on when you asked her.

This year, in 1st grade, it was a bigger deal to her. We started discussing ideas a few months ago. I tried to think of what we already have and what I could easily and cheaply make. It occurred to me that both kids had black shirts, and Daughter has several pairs of black leggings...what could we do with that?

A hunk of red fabric with black spots later...we had Ms. Ladybug:

I simply took the piece of fabric and hand-pleated one selvage edge (that sounds fancier than I mean it to...I just pinched it in inch-by-inch and pinned it like crazy), then cut a long strip of black cotton 2.5" wide to make a binding and ties. I just pressed it in half, then pressed the sides in about 3/8" and applied it just like you would apply store-bought bias binding to a neckband or armhole. Then I just continued the topstitching all the way to the ends to create ties. Pretty simple. The hardest part was hemming the other three sides. This slippery fabric is awful to tame. I got a fabric glue stick but it didn't hold at all, so I had to just slowly double-turn the raw edges, pin, and stitch slowly. In the end it looks kind of shoddy, but it's only a costume so I'm not beating myself up. Oh, and to make it seem more like a ladybug "shell" I whip-stitched black ponytail holders to the sides, which go over her wrists to hold the cape out when she moves her arms.

We added a black headband with twisted pipe cleaners for antennae, and red cheeks with black dots. Voila!

And for AJ...well, we continued the bug theme:

Don't ask me what I was thinking, knitting a Halloween costume! I mean, sewing is more reasonable, it goes really fast, comparatively speaking. This little vest actually took a lot of time and energy, and the sacrifice of one of my Denise interchangeable needle cables. I used Lion Brand Hometown USA yarn in "Oakland black" and "Pittsburgh yellow" and - get this - size 13 needles. I am not meant to knit at that gauge! It was like wrestling rope around tree branches. And 2/3 of the way through, my Denise cable snapped right off. Luckily I had reached the armholes and separated the work to knit the front and back, so I was able to switch to a shorter cable. Still, it was a bummer.

Anyway, I designed this myself, if you can call it a design...it's just a bottom-up vest knit in the round, and I bound off about 2 stitches per armhole and knitted it up to the neck, which is kind of a boatneck style, I guess. One shoulder has extra rows and buttonholes, so it can be opened up to get it over AJ's head. 

Add in some inexpensive black sweatpants from Target, and a yellow headband with silver sparkle balls for antennae, and we have a bee!

Side note: last week when I finished this, AJ told me he didn't like it and wasn't going to wear it. It took some serious bribing/threatening to get him to wear it for a Halloween party over the weekend, but once he realized it was his ticket to getting candy, he was ok with it.

Trick-or-treating was a hoot. At the first house, AJ stood stock-still and wouldn't move. At the second, he made it to the door but hid behind my legs and wouldn't let the lady put the m&ms into his pumpkin bucket. By the third house he figured it out, and by the time we were heading home he was pushing his sister aside to ring the doorbells, yelling "twick-o-tweat!" and dragging me along by the hand. "Come on, Mom! We can get MORE candy!"