March 2008 Archives

Walking on Sunshine


The weather is lovely here in southern Florida.  We're not missing Chicago one bit right now!  35 degrees -- Bah!

20080305_WalkingOnSunshine.jpgWhat could be better than being outside, in the ocean breeze walking barefoot with your daddy?

She started crawling on March 1st and now tries to pull up on things and loves to go for "walks".  Also, she's working on simple syllables.  She makes a very distinct "ba" sound and is trying to make a "P" sound with her lips.  It's like s a switch flipped when she started crawling and now simple language sounds can be made.  And this morning we noticed that she has a tooth getting ready to make an appearance!    So much all at once. 

And me?  I'm enjoying some time by the pool and trying to figure out what method I like best to do two-color knitting with one hand -- on a project just for me.

Fiesta Feet at the Beach


20080309_LastStitchesOnMarc.jpgFor this vacation, I did something remarkable.  I got all the things I needed for the vacation in my single suitcase (which is small enough to be carry on when I am on a business trip) and a tote bag.  I limited myself to one book to read (never touched it), one book of Sudoku puzzles (did a few) and one knitting project (made many stitches).  On the way back, there was still a little room in all of our suitcases.  I consider it an ironic victory that we were able to travel lighter with a baby than when we travel on our own.  Maybe just knowing that we weren't going to be going out any place fancy with a 7 month old in tow was the key.  Who needs fancy shoes or clothes that have to live on hangers when you have to find a restaurant that is tolerant of a small child spreading saltine cracker shards everywhere?

Ms. Z did travel very well and I think we were impressed with both her and ourselves when it came to our airplane trip.   My best advice for traveling with a baby?  1) Pack some juice.  And then take twice as much as you think you need.  Take offs and landings can take longer than you think they will and liquids are the perfect way to make a baby swallow so they can handle the pressure changes.  2) Toys. Lots of them.  Sacrifice your own potential entertainment for that of the kid.  As we learned, you might get lucky and get a short nap, or you might get an active baby. An active baby means that you won't be reading that third book you brought (or knitting) anyway.

By limiting my own entertainment options, I actually made my vacation better.  One sock project is easy to schlep around without feeling over loaded.  My usual regimen finds me with much more day-to-day luggage because I worry that I won't feel like working on any given project.  This time, I just had one project to focus on, and, as a result, I got quite a bit accomplished.  Nap time when you are on vacation is just pure bliss time to do whatever you want, even if you can't leave the condo.

If I was only going to take one project along, I decided it was going to be a good one.  I bought my Fiesta Feet sock pattern and Soft Touch yarn from the folks at Shelridge Farm at my first MS&W.   Looking back, I'm not sure what I was thinking because while I have always been intrigued by color work knitting, I had relatively little interest in doing it.  And when I got the pattern home, I remember looking it over, thinking it looked too complicated (without really reading it over very well) and putting everything into my stash. 

With the start of the color work projects for Z, I got to thinking about what was in my pattern library that might be fun for me, and remembered this pattern.  This time, when I looked over the pattern, I realized that it's no where near as complicated as it looks.  In fact, until you get past turning the heel, all of the knitting is done using either one or the other color.  Once you get past the heel, every other row is a single color, and the two color rows are straightforward, easy to memorize.  In fact, I'd argue that this is a very nice project to "learn" two color knitting on.  And all the different techniques in the cuff and leg of the sock make it impossible for you to get bored. 

I'll talk about those different sections in my next post -- this sock really comes to life under a macro lens!

Sunshine and Shadow Fabrics

What's a newbie quilter to do when a good friend tells her that she's got a new baby girl coming to greet the world in the summer?  Buy fabric, of course!  I looked through the couple of quilt books that I have and decided on a Sunshine and Shadow quilt from Tradition with a Twist

Since I know the sex of the baby, it made it easier to pick colors than it was for my last baby quilt.   As with the Children's Delight quilt, I knew I wanted to create a quilt that could make it beyond that baby phase.  So I decided to play on the pinky purple color range that is traditional for girls, but get a little wild and a little more sophisticated by picking batik fabrics.  Sunshine and Shadow quilts are meant to have a range of depth of shade from very deep dark colors to very light shades, and my progression from dark to light is what you see in the picture, moving from left to right.  I particularly like the fabrics that have the orange punches in them. 

I need to finish up a baby doll sized quilt to go along with the Children's Delight quilt before I can get started on this one, but I'm just itching to get my rotary cutter started with this fabric.

Kitty Knits

kittyknitscover outline.jpg
I have to admit, I'm really not the kind of person who knits for her pets.  I love sharing my house with my cats and can't imagine a world without fur people in it, but they can be a little destructive when it comes to their possessions.  My Beezle, for instance, likes to dunk all his toys in his water dish for no reason that I've ever been able to figure out, other than the possibility that he is part raccoon.

However, with the arrival of Ms. Z, I've been feeling a little guilty about my furry boys because they really get a lot less attention when she is around.  Not to mention the fact that they don't get the respect they used to.  They get shooed off of her play mats and they get yelled at when they run off with one of her toys.  There's no room for them on the couch in the home theatre when she is nursing and we get particularly annoyed with them when they decide they want to take a nap on her changing table.  And, to make matters even worse, now she is mobile and she's very interested in introducing herself to the kitties by grabbing large hunks of fur or a tail.  It's tough to be a cat in our house right now.

So when Donna Druchunas gave me the chance to be a part of her blog book tour for Kitty Knits, I thought this would be the perfect way to share a little lovin' with my feline companions. 

First of all, let me say that whether you are a cat or a person, this book is a lot of fun.  There are 20 projects in this book.  Roughly a third of them are meant to be made for your cat, but the remaining projects are divided roughly equally for people and for your home.  The projects for people include a two color chullo (totally on my list for someone for Christmas next year), a Scandinavian style two color sweater and a lovely lace scarf.  One thing that really stood out to me about these projects was that with the possible exception of the furry slippers, all of them managed to avoid the excessively cutesy look that is common with knit gear that is inspired by pets.  The same is true of the "house wares" part of the book.  The felted applique pillow and felted cat doorstop would be fun items in many homes.  And if you wanted to try out a new technique, this book has a little bit of everything.  From felting, to intarsia, to two-color stranded knitting, to embroidery to lace to shadow knitting, this book has it covered.  There's a lot of punch packed into this 80 page book. 

After seeing the book, I desperately wanted to cast on for the chullo (the hat on the right side in the cover picture above), but I figured that neither of my cats would appreciate that as a gift, even if I could find the time, so I opted for something a bit more simple -- felted mice.  It was a hard decision, because while Donna had some traditional cat gifts like cat beds and murine cat toys, she also had some other clever options -- a felted intarsia "placemat" for cat bowls and the like (which I think could easily be adapted for a cute set of human use placemats as well)

20080316_PreFeltedMice.jpgI managed to get both these little guys knit up in less than the two hours it took us to travel from Champaign to Chicago.  Simple knitting but very fun results and probably the best use of a bobble I've encountered.  In fact, if you didn't want to felt these little guys, you could easily knit them on smaller needles and stuff them to get a nice result.  These mice are knit out of some remnants of Cascade220 from some previous felting projects.  Given the amount that I used for one mouse, I thing you could make yourself several families of these little guys from one skein.  If I had had more time, I might have made striped mice or mice with different colored ears for a little extra entertainment value.

20080316_FeltedMice.jpgBecause they are toys it doesn't matter at all what size they felt to.  I just put them in for one full cycle in the wash and let them go through a full normal wash cycle with hot wash and cold rinse.  When I took them out after the spin they were almost completely dry.  All I had to do was stuff them.  Aren't the ears fabulous?  I decided against the embroidery, but the pattern does call for embroidered eyes and any other details.  I think the shaping is good enough that even without the embroidery, it is clear what they are.

20080316_BeezleAndMice.jpgMy Beezle wasn't quite sure what to make of them.  But maybe that was because I liked them so much I woke him up from his nap to take his picture with them.  No doubt I will find one in his water dish sometime soon...

20080316_MercutioAndMice.jpgMercutio had a far more possessive reaction to them.  He snuggled right up to the blue one.   Ms. Z hasn't been able to find them yet, but I suspect these little guys would also make fabulous toys for little people as well as furry friends -- they are soft, squishy and noses, ears and tails can certainly stand up to a little chewing and they are small enough to hold in little hands.

The cats and I give Donna's book two thumbs and four paws up.  It's definitely a fun book with a lot of interesting ideas -- many of which you'll easily be able to take in your own directions.  Which is one of the things I really love about Donna's books in general.  Her patterns are great starting off points for experimenting with your own ideas in texture, color, shaping and new techniques.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was given a copy of the book for free to evaluate so I could participate in the blog tour.

A Fiesta Foot

One Fiesta Foot ready to dance!  We're supposed to get snow tonight, but today it's actually quite lovely for March in Chicago so this first foot got to soak up some sunshine.  Sock number two is underway.  I'm hoping that the Easter weekend will give me a few more moments to get some work done on the second one.  With all the stranded knitting in the foot of the sock, it's going to be quite warm to wear, so I'd like to get it done before Chicago weather does some abrupt shift from cold to full on summer!

Children's Delight Quilt Complete

It feels a little bit like cheating when I post about a completed quilt, since I didn't do the quilting or the binding (and I really need to learn how to do the bindings, because having someone else do that for me is kind of expensive).  But a finished project is a finished project -- and, by the time you see this post, the small recipient of this quilt will be getting starting the process of adjusting to the outside world.

This quilt is for a special family baby.  While I was working on it -- most of it was completed during Zosia's nap times -- I spent a lot of time thinking about Z and her arrival.  Sewing and pressing seams gave me a lot of time to appreciate her babyhood and I tried to make sure that those happy motherly feelings got sewn into this quilt. 

20080323_B3QuiltFolded.jpgI selected a bubble/overlapping circle motif for the quilting -- with all the circular motion in the fabrics it seemed like just the right complement.   When I saw the final result, I knew it was the right choice.  It softened up some of the all over the place motion in the focus fabric and created a wonderful three-dimensionality to the quilt. 

20080323_B3QuiltingDetail.jpgThe quilt is backed in orange Minkee -- I loved the happy oranges in the quilt and couldn't resist giving the quilt a plush orange backing.  Ms. Z loves anything with the Minkee texture, so I figured it might go over well with another baby, too. 

Just to see how the quilt plays with the under 12 month set, I brought Z near it.  She immediately reached out and touched the quilt, running her hand across the top to feel the texture.  She lifted her hand and did it again, almost as if she was petting it.   Hopefully the new baby will enjoy touching it, too.

I have to admit that I am a little nervous about giving this quilt away.  It's only my second fully completed quilt (Z's quilt was my first), and there's definitely a little piece of me in it.  Maybe it sounds odd to say this, but even though I have yet to meet this baby, I feel like the creation of this quilt has also created a special place it my heart for this child.  This quilt is my way of making a commitment to being a positive force in this child's life.

Welcome, baby, welcome!  May your life be full of rainbows and sunshine and awe of all the wonderful things that are a part of growing up in this world.  Your ciocia loves you very much!

What Fairy Wings Are Made Of

The older sister of the quilt recipient turns 5 in June.  She is definitely on the path of being a really girly girl.  She loves playing dress-up, Disney princesses and is a big fan of the color pink.  I didn't know how to quilt when she was born and I was rather adamantly against making baby knits for anyone.  Her arrival into this world was greeted with the standard Polish baby present: money.  I'm so excited about giving the new baby (a girl, by the way) the quilt, but, at the same time, I feel bad that I've never made anything for her older sisters. 

So I've been trying to figure out what would be good gifts for both of them.  Quilts are out since I've already got another baby quilt to make for the summer.  So I've been trying to find knitting projects that might work.  My mom bought a copy of Boho Baby Knits and I liked it so much I went out and bought a copy of my own.  And the project that really grabbed my attention in that book, looks like the perfect gift for my oldest neice: The Woodland Fairy Wings
Since my niece loves pink, I opted for the aptly named "Strawberry Soda" color of Kid Merino as the solid color in the wing and Strawberries and Limes for the variegated color.  Although it doesn't look it in the picture, the variegated color way has touches of the exact same color pink as the Strawberry Soda, so I think they will play well together in the wings.  (The gold ribbon yarn makes up the loops that hold the wings in place on the body).

I'm hoping that the fact that the wings are done on Size 10.5 needles and the ribbon yarn portions are done with crochet will mean that this will knit up quickly.  I had brief reservations about a relatively unwashable yarn in a gift for a child, but when I thought about how lovely and airy the final product would be and how much even I would have loved such a dress up toy when I was a little girl, I decided that sometimes it's better not to be practical about everything.

Now if only I could find the right thing for my second oldest neice -- she's almost three and is a big fan of Thomas the Tank Engine and likes to help her dad out when he fixes things.  Something tells me that fairy wings aren't really going to be up her alley!