July 2008 Archives

Independence Day

In Chicago, the official Independence Day fireworks always happen the night of July 3rd, and the general populace (and surrounding suburbs) are left to put on their own shows on July 4th.  Even though the sun is still out and it's 4 PM, this incredibly beautiful afternoon is being punctuated by the noise of firecrackers and M80s.  By the time it gets dark, I know that it will sound like a war zone outside my house. The air will be filled with smoke from pyrotechnics.  The cats will flee to the basement and John and I will perch on our upstairs balcony watching the displays of our neighbors, some of which try to rival some of the larger suburban shows.

This is something I had no idea about until I moved to Chicago.  In fact, even when I lived in Hyde  Park, the neighborhood was relatively quiet.  But where I live now, in roughly the center of the residential part of the city, the 4th of July makes you wonder about all those laws banning the sale of fireworks in Illinois.

At one point I would have been irritated by it.  Annoyed with people who seem to think that their desire to celebrate outweighs the public need for safety and quiet.  But after my 7th year in our house, I've come to see it as part of the fabric of the year.  People blowing off steam and trying to create some explosive beauty in their back yards.

I've been spending the day, or rather Z's afternoon nap, doing some things that are good for my soul.  I finished a small spinning project and spun up and plied some lovely silk -- just 30 grams, but since I got about 160 yards, I think it will make a nice small summer scarf.  And I got my blog archives working correctly again.  It had been causing me a lot of mental distress that these weren't functioning correctly.  So now I have achieved some measure of independence from the frustration of having a partially functional blog.  There's still a lot more to do on the blog, but at least now I am making progress in the right direction.

My other little project has been to identify the ongoing craft projects I have going on right now.

They are:

  • My Diagonal Squares quilt, in which all the blocks are complete, but have not been assembled into a quilt top.
  • My Blooming 9 Patch quilt, which I have gotten about halfway through sewing the strips together.
  • A doll-sized version of the Children's Delight quilt that I created for my god-daughter.  I have the top pieced together, but I want to try quilting and binding it myself.
  • And a quilt project I haven't talked about yet, Modern Thinking.  This is a project I started this month as part of a color theory in quilting course that I took at Quiltology with Amy Walsh of Blue Underground Studios.  The color theme is "Fire and Ice".  I don't even have all my fabric cut out for this one yet.
  • The Zebra Striper baby dress for Ms. Z.  I am in the long endless yellow knitting trip that is the skirt of the dress.  The advent of warm weather killed my enthusiasm for this project.
  • A pair of toe-up socks that I haven't blogged about yet that takes nice advantage of striping sock yarn.  I'm about 1/3 of the way up the leg of the second sock, so these socks will make an appearance here soon, I hope.
  • My Kushu Kushu scarf that uses that Habu Textiles stainless steel yarn.  I like this project but the fine yarn and big needles with dullish points don't make for fast knitting so it's been sidelined for a little while.
  • John's Stained Glass Scarf which is not quite to the halfway mark now.  I made a lot of progress on this thing when I was home full time with Zosia (it was my nursing project).  The double knitting is neat but takes so darn long. 
  • And my Three-Ply Targhee Log Cabin Blanket.  I've decided to use some log cabin squares in this project and just some squares of garter stitch on the diagonal.  This project sits in my living room waiting for some love.  Something it's unlikely to get any time soon since it's a thick wool blanket and it's getting warm here in Chicago.
  • My Rogue cardigan.  Now that I am post baby and on my way to getting my post-baby body back into shape, this project may get some air time as it gets closer to the fall.
  • My Moorit CVM spinning project.  There's still a whack of a lot of that big ol' ball of moorit CVM to spin up.  I'm going to try to load up my iPhone with podcasts and get cracking on this.  I did a little test spinning to see if I would have any problems matching my previous singles and it still looks pretty good.  I still have this dream of spinning the wool and designing a sweater to use it with!
The scary thing is that there is probably more lurking around that I am not remembering.  Clearly I have a little quilt startitis right now. I need to get my sewing machine into action.

Happy 4th of July to everyone here in the US and elsewhere that's celebrating the day.  To everyone else, I wish you a great weekend!

Silk Road, Monday

I have renewed my relationship with my spinning wheel this summer.  A short burst of spinning a bit of my moorit CVM was enough to remind me how happy and relaxed spinning makes me feel.  Like Julie, when I got the most recent issue of Spin Off I found the Morning Surf scarf gallery very inspiring.  Color and texture!  I decided to treat myself to a little stash diving to find something that would be satisfying to the fingers and the soul and came out with an ounce of hand dyed tussah silk that was a little extra that was packed into an order of luxury sock fiber from Abby Franquemont's  Ebay store.  Just an ounce, so I decided that I would spin some reasonably fine singles and create a two-ply yarn and make a small summer scarf.

20080705_FranquemontSilk.jpgPretty, no?  It reminded me of summer wildflowers, and it was a joy even to pre-draft. The rest of the week will be a little photo essay of my trip from fiber to finished yarn.  First stop: my first bobbin of singles yarn.

After I finished my first bobbin, I wished I had about 4 times as much of the stuff.  But sometimes I think rarity adds to the special joy of working with a unique fiber.

Silk Road, Tuesday

And then there were two.  Pretty bobbins of silk on my father's lazy kate.

20080705_4_PliedBobbin.jpgAfter plying.  Strangely enough, the plied yarn looks similar to the singles... spinning always surprises me.

Silk Road, Wednesday

Gentle stripes.  Just what I wanted.

20080705_6_PliedMacro.jpgShades of wildflowers in macro.  Yarn is not quite as blue in real life.

Silk Road, Thursday

After plying, the yarn had almost no extra twist.  Ah, balance!

20080705_8_Soaking.jpgFinished yarn in a cool bath with a little gentle baby shampoo  Not an iota of dye came out of this fiber. 

After much fiddling I think I have rooted out the problems with my comments.  I know that yarn getting a bath is not the most inspiring subject material, but if a few people would be so kind as to leave a comment just to help me confirm that they do actually work, I'd be much obliged!

Silk Road, Friday

~160 yards of two-ply 100% silk yarn from 1 ounce of hand dyed tussah silk. 

20080710.BallOfSilkjpg.jpgIt always hurts a little bit to go from the pretty twisted skein to the center pull ball.   But I love to see the color progressions.

20080710_SilkAndWPITool.jpg23 wraps per inch with the help of the WPI tool my dad created.  Certainly in the lace/fingering weight category.  And all ready to become a little something special for my summer wardrobe.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to leave a comment on my post yesterday.  I appreciate all the compliments on the yarn as well as your help making sure that my comments worked again.  It is such a relief to have that part of my blog functioning again.  I always love the new features I find in updated blogging software, but I just don't have the common sense sometimes to leave well enough alone now that my blog software maintenance time is more limited.

Finished Fairy Wings, Revisited

Not only was my "finished object" post for the Fairy Wings missing functional comments, but I did receive messages from people that they thought it was missing a child as well.  I couldn't agree more with that last statement, but when I finished them, I didn't have a child who could model them for me (Ms. Z would not have sat still for it and they would have been hopelessly large for her anyway), but I didn't want to put them on any child until the special recipient had a chance to take them for their first flight.

The weekend of th 4th brought the long awaited birthday party and the wings got to meet the little girl who would wear them.  My very sweet little niece is definitely a girly girl.  Princesses, pink and dress up form a very central part of her play time right now.   I wanted her to have a handmade gift that fit in with the things that matter to her, which is why I decided to make the wings and why I selected the colors I did. 

The funny thing about this project is that I was actually quite nervous about how she would like them.  She's got a definite sense of style and taste all her own and she's not afraid to let people know when things don't quite fit in with that (which I think is perfectly delightful -- children should always be encouraged to have their own opinions!) and when we wrapped up the box with the wings in it, I was hoping, but not absolutely sure that she would like them.

From what I could tell when she opened them, they went over well.  But there's nothing quite as heartwarming as seeing a child play with something you created for them.

20080712_OInWings.jpgNow that I have a child of my own, I am discovering how children bring a special excitement to simple things.  They can believe in magic.  A knitted gift can give them flight.

20080712_OTakingOff.jpgOne of my favorite movies ever is Toy Story.  A toy is given a special life when a child loves it.

20080712_OInFlight.jpgI think my niece has given these wings some of that life,  and they have most certainly taken flight.

Thank you to my sister- and brother-in-law for not only taking these pictures, but letting me share them here on my blog. And thank you to the most lovely Miss O for being such a beautiful model.  May these wings help you fly wherever your dreams take you.

Today is a very special baby's birthday.  I can hardly believe that my tiny baby girl is well on her way to becoming a vibrant and active toddler.  I've spent the better portion of the day wondering what I was going to say about what it meant to me to have a one year old baby.  All I can say is that I still feel incredibly blessed to have been able to bring her into this world.  I feel so lucky to have been able to go through all the experiences, good and bad, that are part of the first year of motherhood.  I thought today, rather than rehash the year in words, I would share a collection of photos from my photo a day project that have not already made it onto my blog, and let you watch Ms. Z grow from month to month.

July Baby on a Quilt

August Baby on a Boppy

September Baby in A Swing

October Baby with Grandma

November Baby with a Handknit Hat

December Baby on a Play Mat

January Baby Creeps Around on the Floor

February Baby with Mommy

March Baby Sits Up With a Toy

April Baby Climbs Up to A Slide

May Baby with Daddy in Ann Arbor

June Baby at Grandma and Grandpa's House

Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!   I can't wait to see all the things that you discover and do in the next year!

Actual Socks


First of all, Z and John and I would like to say thank you so much for all the birthday wishes.  They are much appreciated and made us all smile.  Ms. Z had a lovely first birthday, filled with family and friends and some good chocolate cake.  Her favorite gifts so far are the "Bee Bop Band" -- a collection of music making toys in a drum -- and a card from her grandparents that plays the Chicken Dance.  The Chicken Dance is low down on my list of favorite tunes (John and I informed our wedding band a long time ago that they would not get paid if we heard the song at our reception), but it's totally worth it to watch her bounce to it.  She spent her whole party walking around like a pro.  Crawling is definitely out, now.  Walking is definitely where it's at.  John and I are both losing weight chasing her around.

Speaking of walking and chasing, I'll have a new pair of socks to walk around in once it cools off enough for it to be wool sock season.  These sock are of my own design and are knit from sKNITches Syncopation Sock Yarn in "Brick Layer" that I purchased from the Loopy Ewe some time ago.  The socks were knit toe up with a short-row heel on 2.5 mm Harmony DP needles (US size 1).  I found the yardage to be extremely generous and had plenty left over, even with longer than my usual leg area. 

20080711_VineLaceZZStitch.jpgI chose the "Vine Lace Zig Zag" pattern from Barbara Walker's A Treasury of Knitting Patterns because I wanted something that would create some motion in the stripes but wouldn't be too hard to memorize or work without much effort.  In fact, if you're looking for a nice pattern for striping, or even non-striping sock yarn, I highly recommend this one.  It's easy to memorize and the results are very satisfying.

20080711_VineLaceZZWorn.jpgI was very pleased with the resulting socks.  Not just because they matched, but because they matched so well.  I think this speaks volumes to the care that is put into hand-dying sKNITches yarn.  The color intervals were regular, the areas where the colors met were not muddy and throughout the skein the intervals remained regular enough that I was able to get beautiful results. 

Since there was a good deal of yarn left over, I have been thinking that I might use it for Z's first pair of fall socks.  But I'm going to wait a while to start on that project. She's growing so fast, right now and I want them to last most of the winter.

Tulip Sweater


While Ms. Z received no gift that went unappreciated, some gifts are likely to be around longer than others -- especially those handmade gifts that fall into the "heirloom" category.

20080725_TulipSweater.jpgThis lovely cardigan was made by my good friend Judy.  Out of cotton.  Two color knitting with cotton is one of those things that I definitely put in the "hard" category: hard to get good tension, hard to keep even, hard to manage yarn.  But she did a beautiful job. The sweater is bordered by a sweet crocheted edging and held together at the neckline with a pewter clasp.  Judy wasn't so sure about the clasp, but, given Ms. Z's lack of affinity for the whole button concept so far, I think it's the perfect closure.

This little sweater is definitely large enough, I think, to give Z several years of wear.  And given that it is in cotton, it will do double duty as a fall and spring garment, although the blooming tulips definitely give it a "spring sweater" feel in my book.  It's still a little big for her now, so the photo shoot including the baby is a little while off.  But the garment itself was just to pretty not to make it to my blog before Z actually fits into it.

20080725_TulipSweaterInside.jpgAnd, because, as knitters, I know you can't resist the desire to peek inside, I give you this shot to show how even and lovely Judy's floats are -- even with cotton.  Thank you, Judy, I absolutely love it and I know that Z will like it very much as she gets old enough to understand how it came to her.

Handspun Morning Surf Scarf

Some things never change.  If you were to browse back through my archives, you would find multiple instances where I mentioned that Julie had inspired a project. In fact, I can credit her with most of my non-knitting crafty experiments.  I daresay that if Julie had never purchased her wheel and a small collection of spindles, I never would have been bitten so hard by the spinning bug (Claudia helped enable the entry into spinning as well -- after I started to get very curious about Julie's Ashford Joy wheel).  This time, I like to think that inspiration for a particular project hit us both at the same time (i.e. with the arrival of the Summer, 2008 Spin Off) but it was seeing her project progress with handspun she had created on the spot for the project that got my brain to click in the right direction for me to actually get things going.

20080728_SurfScarfHanging.jpgMy version of the Morning Surf scarf is made out of two-ply tussah silk.  I cast on 26 stitches, knowing that my yarn was fine and that I only had about 160 yards, so a relatively small scarf was the best that I was going to hope for.  After some trial and error I settled on US size 3 needles.  My final scarf (after wet blocking) is about 54" long and 4" wide. 

20080728_SurfScarfDetail1.jpgThe Morning Surf pattern is simple but makes for a lovely scarf, even with only a few repeats across.  The undulations of the pattern really help to show off the intentional striping in this yarn. 

20080728_SurfScarfRailing.jpgThe scarf had a range of different color regions.  Every thing from deep green and purple to pale pinks and blues is represented in the yarn.  It makes me think of African violets or the spring's first crocus.   It is one of those rare patterns that can stand up to a multi-colored handspun yarn and where both yarn and pattern stand out and are remarkable.

20080728_SurfScarfDetail2.jpg It's also easily reversible -- both sides are interesting and either side could be declared the front of the garment, depending on you mood. 

While this project doesn't require blocking, I'm glad I did for this yarn.  gave the yarn a prolonged soak, and it really opened up, loosened up and relaxed.  As a result, the open work areas are more defined and I think the stitch definition is much more clear. 

This project is definitely a nice way to use up handspun yarn -- even if you don't have a lot.  And since it knits up quickly and is easily memorized, it could also be a quick way to get a knitted gift taken care of if you needed one in a hurry!