December 2007 Archives

The Diamond Fantasy Shawl Debut

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Finally, at long last, I have a significant finished object to post about.  An eon ago (it seems like almost another lifetime), in May, when I was in Toronto, I purchased a lovely skein of Hanmaiden Silk Cashmere 2-ply yarn.  I had no goal in mind for it, but when I put my hand on it, I just knew it had to be mine.  Like many of the more exotic yarns in my stash, I thought it was likely that it would "marinade" in the stash for a while, talking to the other yarns and getting comfortable.  One never likes to be too hasty when determining the fate of something as precious and lovely as hand-dyed silk and cashmere -- two of my absolute favorite fibers.

However, life changes.  You get put on bed rest.  You start to get ornery.  And it becomes apparent that you need to give yourself a treat, especially if you are going to be on limited activity for an indefinite period of time.  I'd been thinking about buying Sivia Harding's Diamond Fantasy pattern for some time and after determining that one skein of the silk cashmere 2 ply was sufficient for the smaller of the pattern's two incarnations, I decided it was time to take the plunge. 

The Sunday night before the doctor's appointment where I found out I was going to be induced I decided that I needed to turn the lovely hank of silk and cashmere into a lovely ball.  I actually cast it on in the next morning, thinking I would come home and get started on it in earnest.

And I did, of course.  I just didn't realize that I would have a newborn baby when I came home.

Admittedly, even I thought it was somewhat crazy on my part to start a lace project with a brand new baby in the house.  I learned rather quickly that a crying baby is not really conducive to lace knitting.  Almost every time I knit a row, I'd go and check on the baby to see what her status was.  Any restlessness meant it was time to stop.  I got about 2/3 of the way through before the point where she started shifting her sleep schedules and eliminating any semblance of a long afternoon nap.  Sometime in October I got back to it, with the modest goal of getting 1 or 2 rows done a day.

And thus, slow and steady has lead me to an actual completed item of some complexity.  Something that I am pleased with and quite proud of.

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This is the finished product draped over the only green item remaining outside our house.  A small evergreen bush.  I did 6.5 repeats of the main pattern (for the scarf size you are instructed to do 6, but I had enough yarn to do the extra half repeat and I hated the idea of not using as much of the yarn as I could in this project) which resulted in a scarf about 50" wide at the widest point and 22" deep -- almost exactly the dimensions suggested by the author for the 6 repeat size, so my gauge must have been a tiny bit tight.

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I am in love with the simple and beautiful edging, and with the fact that I did not have to sew it or knit it on after the fact.  I am also very taken with the lace pattern that is not lost in the variegated color in the yarn.

20071201_DiamondFantasyPoin.jpgThe cast off row is an i-cord cast off.  So very lovely for an edge, and, even better, a relatively loose edge.  My previous lace efforts, even when cast off on larger needles, have often ended up too tight relative to how I wanted to block the garment.  This cast off is perfect and decorative as well.

20071201_DiamondFantasyWing.jpgI think the sizing on this project is rather generous for a "scarf" -- I love how it pairs with the white cashmere sweater I am wearing -- perfect for showing of the lace details as well as the color.

20071201_DiamondFantasyBack.jpgI am quite smitten with those points that actually hold their pointiness.  One of the many nice things about silk... much good drape, precious little elasticity, almost no memory.  Once you block it into place, it stays there. 

20071201_DiamondFantasyFron.jpgI almost didn't bother with a front shot -- after all, there's not much to be seen here.  But I do love how this scarf hangs and how it is shaped nicely to stay put.  It doesn't need to be tied to stay in place.  The wings can drape down over my shoulders and hang long enough to stay put. 

To anyone thinking about the yarn or the project, I am enthusiastic about both.  The yarn was a treat to work with and the pattern was very well written and easy to follow.  The lace is both written out and charted.  Although I started with the written instructions, as I got farther along, I found the chart to work better for me -- it was much easier for me to memorize, so I could go a bit faster.  The combination of the yarn and the project was a big winner for me. I think this scarf will blend well with my wardrobe and will likely become a staple item with some of my lighter weight, lighter colored turtlenecks in the winter -- I suspect it will transition nicely into spring as well over short sleeved tops.

Amazing that I have made it through a whole post without one picture of Z, eh?  That is because I did not think hand dyed silk and cashmere would mix well with baby drool (of which she is getting quite proficient at making) when paired with a white sweater.  Nor did I think little, grasping, exploring fingers that like to pull hard on whatever they attach to would be so good for the lace.  She did find the color entrancing, however.

All White, Baby

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Today marks the end of my first full work week since I went on bed rest at the beginning of July. Part of me had been dreaming of the day where I could be back with adults and wouldn't have to hear a baby cry every time I needed to take a phone call or send out an important email. Another part of me was terribly sad at the thought of not being able to spend the day with her. Worried that maybe she'd get more attached to her grandmother (who is watching her three days a week -- we're still working out how to deal with that last day) that to me once I wasn't around quite as much, and hating the idea of having to use my pump so much. Breastfeeding is a mixed bag, emotionally, for me, nursing her directly always beats pumping, especially now that she's getting faster and her nursing style rarely causes me any pain.

After working three days, I had Thursday to think about everything. I decided to ignore my work email, turn off my cell phone and just have a nice day with my baby. I will say one thing about being back in the office. I like being a mom much better when I can separate the work part of my life from the mothering part. I do a better job of work when I don't have to worry about whether Z is unhappy and I do a better job of being with Z when I don't have to worry about work. I'm definitely not at home with her as much, but she gets to spend the day with someone who wants to and can devote all of their attention to her, and when I am home, I can focus on her.

This was also a big week since she started solid foods (just a bit of rice cereal) and has really begun to interact with her environment. She actively grabs toys when she's on her gym, she's begun to chew a bit on teether toys, and she's constantly in motion, rolling to one side or the other from her back to get a different perspective on the world or get her hands on something that interests her. And she has an incredible vocabulary of noises now, including this funny puttering sound she now makes with her lips. She's generally much less fussy and spends a lot of time with big smiles. Her favorite parent-assisted activities involve sitting up and trying to stand. She loves to be upright, even though she can't do all the muscle work herself.

She's also gotten to enjoy some new hand made, very special items recently. The Sunday after Thanksgiving was her christening. My mom made her a beautiful gown (note: my inability to get it to sit right on the hanger and the fact that this is long after the dress was worn should in no way reflect mom's sewing skills; the dress is beautiful and sweet and the collar sat perfectly for the ceremony):

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And my Aunt Mary crocheted her a sweet little white sweater to wear with the gown -- November in Michigan is chilly after all!

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What could be sweeter than the little heart details and the ribbons at the collar and cuffs? Well, maybe one thing:

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My own baby angel after her christening. She was so sweet for the whole day (except for when she had the water dumped on her head). My Aunt Mary took the picture and I just love how it looks like her eyes are sparkling. I thought the picture captured her so well and it was probably the best one taken the whole day.

Circles Stroller Jacket Start

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In an effort to keep the number of projects I have going under control, I'm trying not to start anything new until after I've finished something on my active list of current projects.  Since I just finished the Diamond Fantasy Shawl, I get to get started on another project: the Circles Stroller Jacket from Itty Bitty Nursery by Susan B. Anderson.



Itty Bitty Nursery is one of those books that takes simple concepts and makes them inspirational -- at least for me.  There are several projects that I wish I could just dive right into.  I decided to start with this one because it seemed like the sort of thing that Ms. Z might get a lot of wear out of.  I'm making it in the 12-18 month size, but it measures to be not that different from the 6 month size embroidered denim jacket that I bought for her from Baby Gap -- the main difference is the length in the body.  Z's actually quite a long baby for her age.  At her 4 month check up the pediatrician told us she is currently in the 85th percentile for height.  So it's my hope that this jacket will work for us this spring and into the fall -- assuming I can get it finished in the next couple of months.

The yarn that the project calls for is Blue Sky Alpacas Organic Cotton.  I am currently ignoring the impracticality of using almost white yarn for a baby jacket because I love the look of the cream colored jacket with the soft taupe crocheted circles.  And because I love the yarn.  I don't think I've really ever knit with 100% cotton yarn before, and this yarn is really a treat.  It's soft and quite lofty and I think it will be just lovely against Z's skin.  Clearly we'll just have to avoid bright colored food when she's wearing it.  But at least it will be washable.

I'm beginning to understand why a lot of knitters who become moms knit baby items -- right now anything larger seems like an impossible goal, and surrounding my daughter in soft handmade things has become irresistable.

AbFab for John

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When the weather gets cold, I start to think about blankets and afghans.  I'd much rather snuggle under a nice blanket than turn up the heat.  I like the feeling of having a warm layer of wool or down warding off the chill.



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I started this project, an AbFab Afghan kit from the folks at Colinette, not too long after I got pregnant with Zosia.  It was cold then, too, and my urge to create warmth for me and John and the baby was even stronger than normal. It was always meant as a gift for John -- even big boys need their own special blankies.  So I picked the colorway out with his help (he did surprise me a little bit when he didn't mind the pinkish tones in the blanket) and the kit got comfortable in my stash for quite some time before I pulled it out last winter.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to complete it before the temperatures outside made the thought of snuggling under a mohair blanket somewhat less than inviting.    The worst of it was, almost all I had left to do at that point in time was weave in the ends and attach the fringe.   I am not as weak as that sounds... with this project, it's an awful lot of ends.  And an awful lot of fringe.

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Now that I have started back to work, put a moratorium on starting new projects until I have finished old ones, and it's gotten cold again, I pulled this project back out.  The finish line seemed easily within reach and the current weather in Chicago makes a mohair blanket seem a perfect complement to a snoozing baby and a movie on our home theater.  I buckled down one evening while John was entertaining Ms. Z and got those ends woven in.  One more evening and I had fringe attached, too.


20071216_AbFabFringe.jpg

Don't tell anyone, but there are actually more fringe tassels on one side than on the other.  I showed it to John and he could see no difference.  I think all that fuzzy mohair and the fact that the fringe tassels are spaced about every inch makes it difficult to discern unless you are the sort of person who likes to sit on someone's couch counting the fringe tassels on hand knit blanket.

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After the finishing was all finished, John deemed it to be acceptable in the Den of Great Manliness which is our home theater room.  He was surprised how long it was (and so was I, to be truthful), and he remains skeptical of how warm it might be.  He does not yet trust in the mystical winter powers of mohair. 

Now I can cross another project off the "unfinished" list and start to think about what to do next.  I'm just dying to knit an actual sweater for myself.  It seems like it has been such a long time since I indulged in that kind of luxury.


First Day of the Month Meme

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I've enjoyed reading the posts of people who have been doing this meme that involves posting the first sentence the first post on their blog from each month.   I was surprised at how many of them did really sum up a lot of what was going on in the life of the blogger posting the meme.  So I thought I would try it out myself. 

January:
Sometimes Christmas brings with it more surprises than I expect.
This is in reference to the beautiful rocking chair that my dad made for me.

February:
Okay.  It is now officially cold here in Chicago.  Really cold.
Cold weather in Chicago and heavy weight socks for John.  What would winter knitting be without socks?

March:
I find myself at a place where my energy is low and I don't have a lot to say.
Spring ennui, anyone?

April:
As I started to think about my path to pregnancy, I realized that the story actually starts quite some time ago.
The back story to the baby and a retelling of my miscarriage stories.

May:
Believe it or not, this picture took me about 4 hours to create.
The stack n' whack quilt for Ms. Z begins.

June:
What is it about small things that makes them so magickal?
The Keyboard Biologists discovers the joy of knitting small things.

July:
It was nice to hear so many stories and supportive voices for my post on Friday.
In reference to getting put on bedrest.  Which seemed like an eternity but ended without warning.

August:
On my last couple of days of bed rest (when I was thinking that they were just in the middle of my bed rest period) I decided that I wanted to start something special just for myself.
In which I decide that that lace knitting and a newborn are compatible activities.  NOT.

September:
If I ever had any doubt about what a good thing grandparents are, they were all set aside this weekend.
This needs no subtext for any new parent with supportive new grandparents.

October:
As September begins to wind down (where did another month go?)  I'm also getting close to the finish line with May.
Ah, yes, I do remember how to knit sweaters.

November:
Both Z and I would like to say thank you for all your good wishes for my dad.
My father has his heart surgery.  He does remarkably well.  My mom and I struggle a little bit.

December:
Finally, at long last, I have a significant finished object to post about.
I'm ending the year with a hand knit item that is likely to become a special heirloom in my collection. 

All in all, these things really do seem to sum up my year.  A year that started with a beautiful gift from my father, progressed into a happy pregnancy, learning to quilt, and giving birth to my sweet baby daughter.  My attempts to create a little time for crafting in the midst of an enormous life change.  My father's heart surgery, which took us all by surprise.  And, finally, the realization that I can knit a little and enjoy my hobbies while being a new mom and going back to work.  I can't do it at the same level as I did before the small one, but I can accept that.  In life there is always change. The secret, I think, is never to get too attached to rituals or schedules, but to enjoy the things that matter to you when you can.

I started this project after I purchased a set of Knit Picks Harmony double pointed needles, and finished them just in time for Ms. Z to wear for Christmas Eve.  To be honest, I'm not a big fan of the Knit Picks needle products.  I purchased a set of their metal double points and had one set corrode before I even took them out of the package.  And the other set that didn't corrode, was overly heavy and kept sliding out of the stitches in the sock I tried them on.  I purchased the Harmony needles because a) I am a sucker for multicolored anything (it's the crow in me), b) these were made out of wood and unlikely to corrode, c) they were priced well and d) they came in a nice set ranging from 2.0 mm to 3.25 mm in .25 mm increments which I thought would be very nice, since I am always looking for some odd-sized small needle when I want to knit socks. 

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I'm pleased to report that I like these needles much better than I like the metal ones.  They are light weight, very smooth, beautiful to look at, and easy to keep together since they come in a nice vinyl pouch that holds the entire collection in individual pockets sorted by size.  They also have nice sharp tips, and, as a bonus, they come in sets of 6 instead of sets of 5.  Handy for those of us who have needle chewing cats or are just prone to losing a double pointed needle here and there.  I've enjoyed knitting with them very much.

This baby sock pattern takes advantage of having a range of sizes, and is a salute to my new set of double pointed needles.  You certainly don't need to have this kind of set to make this pattern, but it gives you more flexibility to adjust the fit to the baby you are knitting for.  If I've learned anything about baby socks (both from the commercial socks I've purchased and from knitting them), good fit is key to keeping them on small wiggly feet.  

I recommend working these socks out of a yarn that has some elastic in it, as it will help you achieve a more snug fit, and the stretchiness will also give you longer wear as the baby's feet grow.  I used Knit One Crochet Two, Soxx Appeal in the raspberry sundae colorway.  Which is nice yarn (it's a merino elastic blend which is perfect for providing a baby with a little extra warmth in winter -- baby feet tend to get cold easily!), but tends to be a bit splitty, so you need to watch out a bit when knitting with it.

20071224_TieOnBabySocks.jpgTools required: DP knitting needles, in 2.75 mm, 2.5 mm and 2.25 mm, two small stitch holders
Yarn: any yarn with a bit of elastic in it.  I used Soxx Appeal which is meant to knit up at about 8 stitches/inch on US 2/2.75 mm needles. Something like Koigu would probably work well if you didn't want to deal with an elasticized yarn.  Instructions assume you are working with 5 double points -- but this pattern is easily converted to 2 circs or magic loop -- use whatever makes you happy.

General instructions (to fit 3-6 month old baby -- but it's easy to scale up/down to fit whatever baby you like):

  1. Cast on 16 stitches (or however wide you would like the toe to be) using magic toe up cast on (or a provisional cast on, if you prefer), onto 2.75 mm needles.  Half the stitches will be on each needle.
  2. Knit one row  in the round.
  3. (K1, Inc 1 in the next stitch, knit until two stitches remain, Inc 2 in the next stitch, K1) -- repeat instructions in parentheses one more time.
  4. Repeat instructions 2 and 3 until there are 32 stitches (or however wide you would like the final diameter of the toe to be -- it is handy if this number is divisible by four) on the needles. You can divide the stitches over 4 needles whenever it feels comfortable to you.  When you do this, instruction 3 will be knit over the first 2 needles and the repeat will be knit over the second two needles.
  5. Knit until 1/2" to 3/4" of the length of the baby's foot remains.
  6. Perform short row heel down to 8 stitches between yarn over stitches using method described by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts.  For a visual explanation of this, Alison has a lovely tutorial.  Of course, you can insert what ever other heel you like best.
  7. Knit 3 rounds even.
  8. Switch to needles 2 sizes smaller (2.25 mm) than main needles.
  9. Knit 4 stitches, Inc 1 in the next stitch, Inc 1 in the next stitch, K2 (knit to end of needle); K2, Inc 1 in the next stitch, Inc 1 in the next stitch, K4 (knit to end of the needle); K3, YO, K1, YO, K4 (knit to end of needle); K4, YO, K1, YO, K3 (knit to end of needle).
  10. Knit 4 stitches.  K1, slip stitch to holder, K1, slip stitch to holder, K2; K3, slip stitch to holder, K1, slip stitch to holder, K4; K3, drop YO, slip stitch purlwise, drop YO, K4; K4, drop YO, slip stitch purlwise, drop YO, K3;
  11. Knit across first needle; knit across second needle; K3, slip stitch purlwise, K4; K4, slip stitch purlwise, K3;
  12. Knit 2 rounds.
  13. Knit 5 rounds with 2.5 mm needles.
  14. Switch to 2.75 needles and knit to approximately 1" above the slipped stitches. If the baby has wide calves, you might want to increase a stitch or two to accommodate the baby's shape.
  15. Knit 1/2"  of K2 P2 ribbing. 
  16. Cast off using stretchy cast off.  This is the one I used: Knit the first two stitches, transfer them back to the left hand needle and make sure yarn is at the back of the work.  Knit them together through the back of the loops, (knit or purl  the next stitch (follow the pattern established in the ribbing), move the working yarn to the back of the work, transfer both stitches back to the left hand needle and knit through the back of the loops)*.  Repeat the instructions in the parentheses until all the stitches have been consumed.
  17. Transfer stitches on one of the stitch holders to a 2.25 mm needle.  Attach yarn and knit 2 stitch i-cord until cords are desired length (somewhere between 5" and 6" is a good length for me).  To finish, knit both stitches together at the end, cut yarn and thread tail through remaining stitch.  Repeat these instructions for the stitches on the second holder.
  18. Pull the tie underneath the appropriate slipped stitch.  I found it handy to thread a darning needle with the yarn tail, and to use this to pull the i-cord underneath the slipped stitch.
  19. Sew in all tails securely  Try out on favorite baby!

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Merry Christmas to those of you celebrating the day.  Happy Holidays to everyone else.  John, Z and I all wish you much warmth, health and happiness for the coming New Year!

20071224_ChristmasBaby.jpg


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