October 2008 Archives

14 Months

Babies sure do seem to get big fast!  We've made it past the 14 month mark and we're having a blast.  The honest truth for me is that I think this is my favorite age so far.  Yes, she's completely mobile, but she's also just bursting with words and beginning to really tell us who she is.  While she makes me crazy (and how could she not, reflecting back some of my own personality issues...) I just love the fact that she is beginning to tell us what she wants, what she likes, what she doesn't like.  And mobility brings more options for fun outings. 

20081002_ZontheBeach.jpgWe've done so many things this month!  If there is one thing Ms. Baby likes to do, it's explore new places.  So these pictures are a testimony to her explorations and her new-found toddler-ness.

20081002_ZbytheWater.jpgWhat could be better than a day by the beach?  This is probably the last time we'll get use of of this swimsuit and it's the first time we have gotten her to play in water that is not a pool.  Lake Michigan wasn't really warm enough for her to splash around in, but she had a great time moving water around with the sand toys my mom bought for her.  And these pictures made me realize what a leggy baby she is.  She's a decent height for her age, but I think it is all in her legs!
20081002_ZattheZoo.jpgThere's not much better than going to the zoo and getting a birds' eye view of the surroundings from your daddy's shoulders.    Z was particularly interested in the monkeys and the birds (she loves birds) but running around in a big open space and getting treated to ice cream ranked pretty high with her too. 

20081002_ZintheDiamond.jpgOne of our local parks is Smith Park.  It's just south of a very nice coffee house (Star Cafe) and so Z and I start our Thursday mornings with a latte and a trip to the park.  In spite of my best efforts to keep her clean, her favorite place in the park, bar none, is the baseball diamond.  What is it about babies and dirt?  But she has such a good time, it's hard to take her away from it, even if she does end up practically needing a bath before naptime.

20081002_ZwithaBag.jpgAnother view from Smith Park, this time with one of her favorite toys: a shopping bag.  There is almost nothing she likes to do more right now than take things out of other things and then put them back in.  She also just loves bags (and handbags) of almost any kind and will walk all over the place carrying them (if anything will make you cringe and smile at the same time it's your baby walking around with the Coach purse that your husband bought you for Christmas).  This bag got a grand tour of the park before she decided to take a rest.

I think it's an understatement to say that she goes at things with gusto and is not the sort of kid who wants to sit quietly and watch the world go by.  She doesn't mind reading the occasional book, and her vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds, but it's clear that what really motivates her is finding new things (and people and dogs -- especially dogs) to interact with.  She's also proving to be quite the strong willed little creature who does *not* like to hear the word "no".  Grandma says that she's not so unlike her mother.  Apparently those genes will get you every time.

 More knitting in a bit... all my projects are in progress, but few have made enough progress to be interesting (and I still haven't found a shirt for Z to wear under the jumper so that we      can have a little photo shoot for that... soon!)  I'm plotting some new projects as well, since it has become painfully apparent that Ms. Z is now almost completely without warm snuggly handknits for the fall!

Of Candy Corn and Calico Cats

This weekend was a serious reminder that fall is not only coming, it's here and planning to stay for a while.  Saturday was a lovely sunny day, but it was also definitely sweater weather as I made my way over to Yarn Con.  Chicago may not be close to Maryland or Rhinebeck, but for those of us who haven't been able to make it to the eastern side of the country for a full on fiber festival, Yarn Con was a pleasant surprise. There were a remarkable number of indie dyers and spinners to go along with all of those who also made wooly goods and knitting notions. 

It seems to me like the best part of these festivals, big and small, is the opportunity to meet the people who make the lovely goods that make the crafting experience so much more pleasurable.  I have made several purchases from Emily Parson's Sophie's Toes and have had a couple email conversations with her as well, and try to keep up with her blog, but had never met her in person before the weekend. 

20081006_YarnConPurchases.jpgEmily was truly delightful to meet and talk to, and I hope I'll get the chance to see her at more local Chicago craft events.  My only regret was that I didn't get to talk to her at all about her quilting!  I was ever so pleasantly surprised that, in spite of my late arrival time (everything co-ordinates around a certain someone's nap these days) she still had both some Magic Balls and some "Candy Corn" colored sock yarn.  I've been stalking the Magic Balls on her Etsy shop, but I have had a hard time getting to that party on time too, so I never was able to get one in my hot little hands.  But I had better luck at Yarn Con and got this lovely "Calico Cat" Magic Ball.

20081006_STMagicBallCalicoC.jpgFor those of you who, like myself, didn't know what a Magic Ball was until recently, it's a skein of Yarn that Emily creates by joining lengths of yarn from a variety of different colorways.  It's a bit like a hand dyed version of Noro in a lovely soft sock weight merino.   Emily has a fun scarf pattern that she uses as a model, but she also showed me a Baby Surprise Jacket that was absolutely adorable.    I think mine has a scarfy destiny...

20081006_SophiesToesCandyCo.jpgI love to take closeups of hand-dyed yarn because you can really see the details and appreciate what makes a yarn special this way.  In this case, the lovely speckles of orange and yellow that take this yarn from being just another Halloween themed colorway to something that is quite artful as well as being fun. 

Emily also has something else that sets her apart where her dyeing is concerned: she makes a remarkable number of really delicious and still man-friendly colorways. My husband has recently corrected me to say that it's not that he doesn't like color in his life, it's just that he doesn't really like too many colors and he doesn't really want his socks to be bright.  I could have brought home a whole basket full of colorways that I think he would have been okay with  (and that doesn't mean that there wasn't plenty of brilliant color at Emily's booth!)  

The other fun find from Yarn Con was the set of Pattern Tamers I purchased.   It seems like I am always knitting and looking for a ruler -- these Pattern Tamers come complete with ribbonized ruler and not only help me keep track of my spot on a pattern but help me check my gauge, too!  Hard to go wrong with that.  They've already gone into service helping me keep track of the hood cables on my Rogue. 

Many good things have come into my house in the last couple of days -- I'm particularly excited about a particular new toy that arrived yesterday but that will need a few days to test out and introduce myself to.  It's going to be a busy fall!

I've been busy with my swift and ball winder lately.  In the past two weeks I've gotten prepped for 4 new projects.

20081009_NewProjectYarn.jpgThis rather motley collection of yarns starts on the left with the Dream in Color Smooshy that I am using for my Francie socks, Blue Sky Alpacas Dyed Cotton that will become a Hemlock Ring Blanket, Blue Moon Socks that Rock Heavyweight (color: Thraven) destined for man-sockliness, and Dale of Norway Baby Ull that is kicking off the beginning of the Zebra Striper sweater and will be joined by a whole host of other Baby Ull colors.

All the yarns but the STR have moved past the contemplative phase of the project into the active phase.  This afternoon's nap was dedicated to starting the Hemlock Ring Blanket.

20081009_HemlockBlanketStar.jpgThe bright sunlight that I took this picture in washed out the color quite a bit.  The actual colorway is called "Periwinkle".  It's a bit more blue and lacks the purple tones that I normally associate with periwinkle (based on growing up with that 64 box of Crayola Crayons), but it's still a fine color for a baby blanket for a new baby boy.  This very special baby will be making his entrance in the southern US, so a wool blanket, while more up my alley given the array of lovely superwash merinos that there are to work with now, didn't seem very practical.  I opted for this Aran weight cotton because it's held up fairly well in the little jacket that I made for Z, and because, as cotton yarns go, this is really several cuts above anything else I've knit with and reminds me much more of silk than of cotton. 

What helps to creat that lovely hand is relatively low twist, making this a somewhat impractical fiber for a baby.  But since this baby will be the child of a very important person in my life, I have decided that I am allowed a touch of impracticality and indulgent luxury. 

I haven't gotten very far yet, but at this point this blanket lives up to its positive reviews.  It's definitely the sort of project that makes you want to do row after row, just so you can see how the pattern is going to evolve into a blanket.  And if it continues to speed a long as it did this afternoon, I could definitely imagine putting this into my "go to" pattern collection for blankets for new small people.

Enter: Another Camera

If you've been following my photographic trajectory for any length of time, you probably suspected that eventually there would be another quantum leap from the point and shoots I've been using up to this point.  It seems only fitting that right around my 6th Blogiversary the leap would happen.  My Canon D-450 Elph now has a much larger companion: a Canon Rebel XSi (450D).

To say that this is way more camera than I know what to do with at this point is an understatement!  However, it's also very inspirational.  One of the things I have discovered about myself as a result of blogging is that I really enjoy the photographic component of it.  I love to write, too, but there are somethings that can really only be captured with a picture.  I like to think that my photography skills have improved since this blog's inception, and the new camera is about taking those skills to the next level.

When I was growing up, I always remember my dad as "the guy with the big camera" -- he took classes, had a dark room, and a Canon SLR with a big ol' telephoto lens.  He also enjoyed getting on the ground and getting up close and personal with nature.  I think some of my appreciate for macro mode shots must be genetic as my dad's portfolio also includes many lovely close up shots of flowers from all angles.

Coinincident with the arrival of my new camera was the arrival of some lovely new yarn.  I signed up for the last half of the Sundara yarn "Seasons" subscription and selected the "Summer" color theme.  On Saturday, my first installment arrived -- Sock Yarn in Cerulean Seas.  It is most certainly evocative of summer and also a lovely photographic subject (I'm not quite up to fast moving toddlers yet!).


20081012_CeruleanSeas5.jpgCara and Bonne Marie I am not, but I think being able to alter the plane of focus is absolutely fascinating, and I love the monochrome setting that mimics old black and white film, but, even better helps the knitter/spinner in me get a good perspective on depth of shade.

I feel like this camera opens up all sorts of interesting new doors and avenues for me to experiment with. Hopefully it will help to take my blog photography up a notch as well and encourage me to think about my crafts from some new perspectives.

A Blanket and A Trip to the Past

All those comments on Ravelry suggesting that the Hemlock Ring Blanket is a quick knit appear to be true for me as well. I'm now almost finished with my second skein of yarn (I purchased 5 skeins, and I plan to knit until I run out), so the flower motif in the center is complete and I'm beginning to see how the Feather and Fan pattern is going to play out.

20081014_HemlockBlanket.jpgTo take these pictures tucked the needles under the body of the project and smoothed it into a circle.  When I saw the result, it reminded me ever so much of some old round pillows that my Grandmother has.  Hers, of course, are in those 70's oranges, browns and yellows and come garnished with big pom poms in the center (I think they may be crochet as well) but the idea is the same.  The lacy quality of the center of this piece makes it not quite right for pillows, but it does give me food for thought.  What if you expanded this pillow out by so many rows, then reversed the process and had the same motif on the other side? Or made two and seamed them together in a way that left room for a zipper? Clearly you would have to think about how to get a pillow form in and out, and how to block out the design, but I think the result could make for some very attractive couch accompaniments.

20081014_HemlockBlanketDeta.jpgYes, I am probably enjoying combining the macro mode and plane of focus selection with my new camera far too much.  I hope you'll humor me.  I've always loved to look at my yarns and my knits close up and the fun of doing it has more than doubled now that I have a new toy to bring to the party.

15 Months

Today is 15 months exactly for Ms. Z.  As I was looking back over some of her photos, as I see other children at the park, it's ever more clear that my baby is so not a baby any more. 

20081016_ZAtCommercialPark.jpg Here she is wearing her current favorite dress.  Sometimes I forget what clothes are in her closet, and when I remember and pull them out for her, she gets so excited.  Lately she's been very interested in dresses, flowers and butterflies.  This little dress got a chance at glory for the last warm weekend I think we are going to have and Z was so happy to get the chance to wear it (she had been grabbing it's hanger from the closet door handle every morning for a week to convince us we needed to put it on her).  Her opinions are getting so strong and so well defined and it's really delightful to see her figure out what she likes and doesn't like.

20081016_ZAtHome.jpgThis has got to be one of my favorite pictures of her, ever and I am more than a little jealous that it was taken by John.  He just found a new lens for the Canon XSI (it's a "prime" lens with a large aperture) and was playing around with it Thursday after we got back from the park.  The full size image is gorgeous, just too large to upload to my website.  This picture captures her thoughtful focusedness of late.  When she gets interested in something, she will spend a lot of time trying to figure out how it works.  And she is now really beginning to get some hair.  She looks like she has her father's hairline. 

20081016_ZOnAStroll.jpgHere's the smile that shows up now.  It's a little more guarded than it used to be, but still very toothy (we are now up to 7 teeth with an 8th on the way) and sweet.  She won't wear hats, but she doesn't mind having the hood on her sweatshirts pulled up.  Note the butterflies!  She will say something very close to butterfly (sounds like buh-fly) and she will select clothes with butterflies on them over almost anything else.  I wish I could remember all the words that she knows.  There are so many!  Some Polish, most English.  And she repeats sounds all the time -- reminding us that we have to be a bit more careful with what we say around her. 

She loves animals and at this point knows no fear of them.  Dogs, cats and pigeons are all interesting and she is getting better and better at petting our cats in a gentle way -- her fine motor skills are definitely getting better.  She spots birds and airplanes that it takes John and I a while to find (I swear, she has the "DC10"* gene that all the men in my family seem to be homozygous for) and a perfect afternoon for Z is racing around the park climbing up anything that doesn't knock her down first.  We refer to her as "Danger Baby" since she just doesn't let anything (even things that should) put her off going where she wants to go.

Happy 15 Month Birthday, Baby Girl. You just keep getting more wonderful as you get bigger!

* Some time ago, back when I was in graduate school, Science magazine created a humorous mock up of the Y chromosome.  One of the genes they identified was the DC10 gene, which conferred the ability, nay forced the recipient, to look into the air any time an airplane passed overhead and identify the make and model. Almost all the men in my family seem to suffer from carry this gene

It Had to Happen Sometime...


I may not be at Rhinebeck, but I did get something accomplished this weekend!

Not only did I update to Movable Type 4.21 (which was not painful at all given that I started from MT 4.12 -- typical of MT updates, major updates are painful, minor updates are so trivially accomplished you wondered why you even backed things up before doing them) but I got my templates in order as well, so that my archive pages all are stylistically similar to my main pages.  And I learned a bit more about MT4 -- not as much as I would like to know, but enough to feel a little more competent manipulating my own website.

Even more fun, I now have real, live comment threading set up -- it's now possible to reply to comments.  Since this makes it much easier for me to share my responses and to have a better dialog with everyone, I hope that if you leave a comment that was looking for an answer or that was meant to start some discussion, you'll come back and check later to see what's going on.

I'm so happy about this I'm going to treat myself to some brownies and some actual knitting tonight!

The First Francie

My knitting basket is filled with socks these days. 

20081019_Francie#1.jpg This is the first of a pair of Francie socks (pattern by Bowerbird Knits) that I am knitting in Dream in Color Smooshy in the colorway "Some Summer Sky".  The entire sock is worked in a pattern that riffs and rolls off of K2 P2 ribbing, normally my least favorite way to knit socks (I am lazy and K2 P2 takes more attention than most pattern stitches for me).  The pattern is not hard, and the final result, at least for the leg of the sock, reminds me of tree bark.  I haven't really had the chance to dive in to Cat Bordhi's current sock innovation book, but I think the instep looks similar to some of the design structures that she talks about.

What made this sock remarkable for me is that it is probably he first top down, flap heel sock I've worked since before I had the baby.  I've gotten so comfortable with my toe-up, short row heel socks that it seemed a little bizarre to start a sock top down.  Completing this pair (I still need to cast on for the second sock -- it's not a second sock syndrome victim, I just have a few other things that take priority at the moment) isn't likely to get me to change my ways, but I did enjoy testing out a new sock construction.

So far, the Smooshy is absolutely delightful to knit with and I can see why it's hand, the lovely subtle coloration and the generous yardage in the skein help give it such a large fan base.  I suspect this will not be my last sock project with Smooshy.  

Sock Hop for a Baby


I was going through Ms. Z's sock drawer a few days ago, removing the too small socks, figuring out how many of her socks had mates (it is not unusual for socks to go missing these days) and was reminded that she no longer has any warm wooly socks.  While she has a lovely assortment of colors (courtesy of Baby Gap), none of them are snuggly the way I think baby socks should be.  Clearly this was a job that Mommy the Knitter needed to tackle.

20081021_BabySock.jpgLike most of y'all, every time I finish a sock project for myself, I have some yarn left over.  Not enough to do much with in terms of an adult sock, but enough to become a significant component in a pair of baby socks.  For this sock, the foot is Sock Hop "Say a Little Prayer" and the top is Shelridge Farm Soft Touch Ultra -- both leftovers from recent and not so recent sock projects.  To make the socks a little more interesting, and a little more girly, I added the two color motif at the top of the sock and the picot edging.  The edging needs to be folded over and sewn down, but for little socks, these finishing details don't take too long.  The seam will also help to make the top a little stiffer and help keep the sock up as well.

The other small change I made to these socks (relative to what I do to adult socks) was to add in a decrease row above the ankle and then to increase back up to the initial amount of stitches a few rows later (I worked these socks toe up, but the same would apply top down).  This creates another area that helps keep the sock on securely.  If one thing is true about toddlers (maybe it is just Z, but I have heard other mothers comment on this as well), they have an amazing ability to find their way out of loose socks.  Since the toe has some room to grow (it's approximately the same dimensions as a Baby Gap 12-24 month sock) I wanted to add some extra re-inforcement to keep them in place.

The first fitting went well, so I shall start knitting the second sock pronto!  Time and baby feet wait for no knitter.

Friday Miscellany

When there are baby pictures, it can only mean one thing: no knitting pictures of any import.  So I am having a random Wednesday on an Eye Candy Friday (assuming that one's children are allowed to be Eye Candy).  And just for reference, the picture above was taken last Sunday at Commercial Park with the new DSLR.  I'm not exactly sure why I like this picture, but I do. 

Random Friday Comments

  1. I bought the pink sweater that you see Z wearing in the picture above because it reminds me of one of my favorite sweaters -- a cabled pink cotton hoodie sweater that I bought from the Gap after my first miscarriage. The sweater was a present to myself to help me feel better and think about better things.  It has since turned into my go-to sweater (in no small part because it is washable, but also because it has many features that I think are flattering). When I saw this sweater in a 24 month size, I bought it for Z.  She is certainly the ultimate "better thing" and while I am certainly not outfitting us in a large collection of "Mommy and Baby" matchy-matchy wear, it made me happy that we both got to wear our pink sweaters on Sunday.
  2. If you have an iPhone, you should go to the App Store and download "StitchMinder" (you can find it in the "Lifestyle" section or just search for it). It's a nice little program that helps you keep track of row counts, pattern repeats and increase/decrease rows.  It's nothing fancy, and you can only have one counter going at a time, but if you've got a travelling project, or just a project that is with you most of the time that you have your phone, it's handy to have around.  
  3. My Hemlock Ring Blanket is complete except for the blocking.  However, as I've been playing with it in preparation for blocking, I am now having doubts about it's suitability as a baby gift.  It is not, by nature, a flat blanket, which means that it will have to be blocked every time it is washed, and that is completely not helpful when you are a new mom.  I have to think about this one some more.  I am thinking there still might be time to make some toys... Doddy and Celestine currently top my list. 
  4. Z's two favorite websites are Kneebouncers and this odd but fun Flash site.  In fact, she's gotten so that if she sees me at the computer and does not get to play she gets very upset.  And, apparently, she likes Mommy's 24" widescreen flat panel better than Daddy's 21" CRT.  Did I mention that both this child's parents have computer geek tendencies?
  5. I am currently engrossed in Richard Dawkins "The Ancestor's Tale"  which follows evolutionary history backwards from humans, introducing genetic, population biology and evolutionary concepts as it goes.  Dawkins is a little over the top at times with a few of his digressions, but, so far it is an excellent read, and definitely a book meant to be approachable by the non-scientist. 
  6. After last night, I am done with a long series of trips to the dentist to pay for my poor dental visit and maintenance habits.  I have a disturbing amount (for me) of dental amalgam in my mouth.  And I floss every night now.  

Baby Socks that Hop


20081026_SockHopBabySocks.jpgIf there is any project that works up faster than baby socks, I have yet to find it.  Even with the little smattering of two-color knitting and the picot cuff and a little extra finishing it's not too hard to knock out one of these little socks in a distracted evening of television watching.  These socks are made of Sock Hop (handspun sock yarn from Crown Mountain Farm) and Shelridge Farm Ultra Touch -- leftovers from other sock projects.  The socks were knit toe-up starting with a magic cast-on.  They have a short row heel and a picot edging at the top. Aside from the fact that they are rather smaller than the socks I normally knit, they are otherwise pretty much the same general pattern as I use for my "standard sock". 

What's more fun, though, than knitting them, is watching the baby be excited about them.  Z had been watching me work on the first one, and both John and I told her that the socks were for her.  When I finished binding off the first one, I handed it to her and she walked all over the room, playing with her toys, refusing to put the sock down.  Normally it's a fight to get her into socks, but this afternoon, when I showed her the socks we were going to put on, she smiled and made it easy for me. 

20081026_BabySocksFromSide.jpgThis is my first mobile baby sock photo shoot.  It was too cold this afternoon to go outdoors with bare legs, so I let her run around her room and did my best with my new camera. 

20081026_BabySocksFromBack.jpgI think I was mostly just lucky that I got good pictures of the socks from both the back and the side (from the back you can see that I avoided the whole "jogging" issue in the colorwork.  I figured just placing the start at the back of the sock would be sufficient for a pair of little socks.

Z is getting better at listening to me when I ask her to look at me when I am taking pictures.  Actually, she's just exploding with words lately, and it's clear that her comprehension of both Polish and English is just blooming.  Every day brings more new things.  Not to mention the inevitable toddler use of "No!" and "Mine!"*.  It is very clear that she thinks of these socks as "mine".

20081026_HappyAboutSocks.jpgClearly I have another recipient of hand knit socks who really appreciates my efforts. 

*She's applying that "mine" word to a lot of things.  Tonight, I went up to John to give him a hug.  She walked up to us, grabbed his leg, looked at me and said "mine" and then tried to push me away.  Clearly we're going to be having words about who found Daddy first...

Hemlock Blanket, Unblocked


The tail end of a cold is really pulling me down, so this post will be brief and visual.

The knitting for the Hemlock Ring Blanket is complete, and I should be moving on to the blocking except for two things:

1) I'm not sure what space I have right now that is large enough to pin it down to.
2) When I tried to spread it out, it was really difficult to flatten out the middle (you can see that I've poofed up the center for the picture to help get the rest of it to lay flat) so I'm wondering if a good soak is going to be sufficient to loosen it up enough to block correctly.

And, I'm also concerned about whether this is going to be a good gift.  I'd hate to have to have the darn thing be blocked out every time it was washed.  The last thing a new mom needs is a fussy baby blanket.

Anyone else made one of these blankets and have any comments on that? 

A shame I forgot about this pattern. I think it's also very neat for a baby and there's no chance that the garter stitch is going to cause blocking or maintenance problems.


Thanks to everyone for feedback, suggestions and general thoughts about the Hemlock Ring Blanket.  I'm definitely going to go ahead and block it and see how that goes.  If I've learned anything as a knitter, it's that until I've blocked something, it's not truly fair to pass judgement on it -- at least not from an aesthetic perspective. 

I've decided I need a backup plan in the baby gift category, so I came up with the idea of making a selection of knitted and crocheted cotton toys.  Ravelry was a big help in helping me locate some projects that I think could work well.  In the past, I've avoided most toys because so many of them have a lot of little pieces to knit tightly on small needles and then there is a bunch of fiddly sewing that always seems hard for me to get to look right.  But I'm going to give a few different things a try and then go with what I like best.  Here's the beginning of the first project:

20081030_3Pentagons.jpgThree pentagons made up in Blue Sky Alpacas cotton (the remnants from the Hemlock Blanket, the Circles Stroller Jacket that I made for Z, and Z's Bobby Bear).  Any idea what I might be making?

20081030_4Pentagons.jpgWhat if I show you 4 pentagons and let you know that this afternoon I added a 5th?

Happy Hallowe'en to everyone!

P.S. to those of you who like to see baby pictures.  John and Z and I had some family pictures taken by the same photographer who shot our wedding.  If you'd like to see some of them, he's posted a few to his blog.  To anyone in the Chicago area who is looking for a good photographer for family portraits or family candids, I recommend Roger highly.  The pictures on his blog are a small sampling of what he took and don't even include all of the good ones.  He was definitely able to capture some lovely moments with the baby.