Kismet Cowl

My knitting mojo seems to have come back just in time for a warm and dry Southern California winter. My sweaters have been largely sitting unloved and my new umbrella hasn’t been used a single time. Woe! Since October we’ve only had 22 day with a high under 70F and not a single day with a high below 60F. But the biggest challenge has been the lack of rain, only 2 rain days so far and none appearing in the forecast. I like living in a warm and dry climate, but this is a little extreme even for me!

However I’m really enjoying knitting again and I hate to waste motivation. So this year I’ve been mostly making smaller projects like shawls and cowls. I’ve never been an accessory knitter, but only a few weeks into 2018 I’v already finished one shawl, one cowl, and have cast on second shawl. These little bits of warmth have been perfect for those slightly cool mornings when I just want a little something to keep my neck and chest covered while I escort my kids to school.

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I’ve named this project the Kismet Cowl mostly because the combination of yarn and pattern seemed meant to be. I bought a mini skein set from Wonderland Dyeworks at Stitches West in 2015 and then I didn’t know what to do with it.

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As you can see the set was made of 3 solid colors and one variegated skein. Each mini skein is about 195 yards. There was quite a bit of yardage, but in odd amounts for a lot of shawl patterns. Plus I didn’t know how to incorporate the variegated skein. I suppose I could have used it to stripe a sweater, but the yarn kept saying it wanted to be a shawl. Hopefully it is feeling okay about its fate as a cowl.

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When Mary from Lyrical Knits mentioned she was hosting a MKAL (Mystery Knit-a-Long) for a cowl with 4 colors my ears perked up. Then she showed her color choices and she had picked 3 solids and one variegated skein. I was sold. At last I’d found something for my much loved but neglected mini skein set!!!

 

The construction was interesting. The pattern was written with 3 parts, two were essentially triangle shawls and the middle piece was a sort of a parallelogram shape where you don’t increase or decrease yet maintain the slanted shaping of the first triangle. The clues started coming out right before my trip visiting a friend in Portland making this cowl a perfect travel knitting project. It’s also been a perfect purse project to keep on hand for church, lunch breaks, and general downtime in my days. I’m actually sad to have finished it!

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This cowl also maybe gained me some cool points with my coworkers. I was as a going away party and someone asked me what I knit. I was able to pull out this nearly completed cowl and boom! The combination of fingering weight yarn, even stitches, and color combination was a serious win. I’m thrilled to add it to my collection of accessories to help me along through this drought winter.

I finally got around to photographing several sewing projects so next week is back to sewing. Probably with my newest project, The Colette Myrna.

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Silverleaf Shawl

Finally all caught up on 2017 projects with this one last thing, a shawl.

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This shawl is so full of love for me.

Every year a huge percentage of my knitting friends make the pilgrimage to the New York Sheep and Wool Festival aka Rhinebeck. Rhinebeck is the biggest fiber event in the US, but since it is in New York I’ve never been able to attend. I can’t lie, I am super jealous of those that live close enough to attend annually. The topic of Rhinebeck is brought up in forums all year round, so great is its impact on attendees.

Last fall when the festival came around again I kept myself busy with the event I host each year…Whinebeck. Sob. Sad is the life of those who cannot attend Rhinebeck as we scroll though our Instagram feeds watching our friend spend time together frolicking in the crisp autumn air.

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And then in late October I received a surprise in the mail. It contained a single skein of Duck Duck Wool Merino Silk yarn in the color Cover Up. Oh my stars, I thought it might burst from happiness. My friend Stacey conspired with my local friend Erica to purchase a little something from Rhinebeck. I understand many opinions were given in making sure just the right shade was selected and they picked the perfect color.

I immediately started looking for pattern that would be a good fit to both the fiber content and yardage. I settled on Silverleaf by Lisa Hannes. It is a simple pattern that alternates garter stitch with eyelet ridges, then towards the end a lovely section of leaves. After the lace I continued the garter/eyelet combination until I didn’t have enough yarn to complete another repeat.

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The finished shawl is a slip of a thing, long and thin in shape, but it is perfect to cover my chest on cool mornings. Plus it makes me feel loved by my knitting friends. It was the perfect project to finish out the year.

I have a couple sewing projects to share soon, but I’ve also finished a lot of knitting recently, so consider yourself warned. More knitting ahead!

How my Knitting Mojo Came back

One last post before Christmas. I had planned to use this time to do some last minute sewing (altering a skirt, making pajamas, and sewing an apron), but frankly I just don’t want to. We had planned to host Christmas Eve, but plans have fallen through, so instead we’ve been baking and doing a ton of laundry, and re-doing our kids room. Bunk beds arrived earlier this week and it turns out building them and organizing a kids room is a huge time suck and also exhausting. So here I am watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation while sitting on the couch and hoping my children are going to sleep. Ahhhhhh, it feels nice.

Until a couple years ago I was solidly a sweater knitter. I used to make several a year, but then I hit that point where I had too many. Yes, too many hand knit sweaters. They felt overwhelming in a bad way. I knit a few for my girls too, but they spend so much time outside and running that 2-3 each winter are more than enough. Charlie runs so hot that she barely needs anything long sleeved. I’ve knit a few pair of socks too, but I’m not sure how much people are actually wearing the pairs I gave as gifts. My knitting hit a rut. I’ve managed to finish 10 things in 2017 when I usually make 30+.

But recently my desire to knit has kicked back on and I’ve been knitting shawl after shawl! It all started with an email from Black Trillium Fibres. I opened one of their promotional emails and a purple speckled gradient set was right there calling to me. I bought it pretty much immediately even though it was named for a Star Wars character (not a fan and don’t usually fall for the gimmick).

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When it arrived I knew I had to start knitting with it right away. I scoured Ravelry for a pattern and my stash yielded a mini skein gradient from Knitted Wit. Things rarely fall together so well in one project.

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The pattern is Passaggio from Lyrical Knits. Mary and I have been Revelry friends for years so I know her patterns are well written and sure to turn out well. Part of my knitting slump was because I was designing my own sweaters. They are gorgeous and original, but something you just want to sit back and let someone else do the math. Passaggio didn’t disappoint. It is thoughtfully laid out and just as the rows are getting really long they start to shorten again. The shape is a trapezoid that provides a nice amount of coverage to keep the chill off my shoulders without slipping off when I move. We’ve had such a warm fall that a shawl of this size can replace a sweater.

The hardest part of knitting this shawl was balancing the amount of yarn I was using. It didn’t quite work out like I’d hoped. On the right is a picture of one of the outer triangle sections. My Black Trillium gradient had 5 shades of purple while my Knitted Wit set had 6 shades of teal. It took some thinking to decide on a layout. So each side triangle has the lightest purple shade for 2 sections then each darker shade for 1 section. That allowed me to use 1 shade of teal for each eyelet row. However from the picture on the left you can see that each section is a bit of a mishmash. I started to run out of yarn. For the center section I had to use multiple shades in each section to make it work. It isn’t what I’d hoped, but it is symmetrical so it doesn’t bother me in the finished shawl.

Gosh, this is beautiful. It took me 2 months to weave in all those ends, but the finished project is so worth all the effort! Since I finished this back in October I’ve finished another shawl and have yet another on my needles. So I’m counting Passaggio as the pattern that got my knitting back on track.

And for all of you who celebrate, I hope you have a lovely Christmas! Santa is on track to visit us in about 25 hours and make two silly little girls very happy. I’m looking forward to a night away with my husband and lots of time hanging out with my sister. Maybe I’ll sew, maybe I won’t. Either is totally fine, but knitting is sure to happen!

Kinder Cardigan

There was a big transition for our family this week as our oldest daughter started kindergarten! Lu was just thrilled to go to elementary school and start learning big girl things. I really wanted to make her a first day of school outfit, but she is required to wear a uniform. Sure, I could have made her a blouse and skirt, but I have to admit uniform sewing is super boring. While I try to make a good chunk of the kids clothing, for uniforms I was happy to put in an order from Gap and use my limited summer sewing time for other projects.

This seems ridiculous since we live in Southern California, but I opted to knit Lu a first day of school sweater!

Gosh, she is so cute. Sure it was a high of 85F on Monday, but it was grey and cool-ish in the morning. She happily donned her new cardigan which looks quite nice with her new school shoes.

I’ve been trying to knit up some of the patterns in my library and yarn in my stash, so I shopped both to achieve a nice traditional sweater. This is the Wee Wildflower pattern from Alana Dakos. There is actually an adult version too, but I don’t think I’d ever knit it for myself. A little too twee. The yarn is Madelinetosh’s Twist Light in the color Care. Twist light is 75% wool and 25% nylon which is a good combination for a kids garment. Technically it is machine washable, but I’ll try to remember to wash it by hand. Care is a wonderful color that includes nearly every shade in the rainbow. It was a limited release color sold to benefit Doctors Without Borders. I took the time to alternate two skeins so there is very little pooling of the colors. Yay!

Choosing a size to knit was a bit tough. Lu has a 19 inch chest, but is average height for a 5 year old, so I ended up knitting the size 2 sweater with a size 6 for the length. It worked out pretty well everywhere except the sleeve caps. The sleeve caps as written have almost no height, just a lot of width. I added some extra height and it was still tough to fit the sleeves into the armcye. Lu also have very thin arms and the sleeves are tight. I cannot imagine shoving a 2 year old’s arms into such a small circumference. Could be my gauge was off, but still I found the sizing odd. The pattern also has no shaping for the shoulders in the back, so I added that too.

This finished sweater is pretty great and fits Lu well right now, but I don’t think this one is going to last long. I have a feeling Lu is going to shoot straight up this year with all the running and learning she’ll do. Just one day into the school year she’d figured out how to swing by herself and by Friday Lu was all atwitter over recycling, the solar eclipse, and science! “Mommy, I want to be a teacher when I grow up.”

Easing into Motherhood

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Today I’m writing about something a little different, motherhood and sewing. I regularly read Seamstress Erin‘s blog. She has a fun and eclectic style that I admire even though it isn’t my style. This month Erin (along with Jodi from Sew Fearless and Monserratt from Mexican Pink) are hosting a celebration on motherhood, our bodies, and sewing called Easing into Motherhood. So I thought I’d write up my own story. I’m sure to many women parts of it will be so familiar as it seems like many mothers experience similar stories even if we many only hear about them through the magic of the internet.


Sewing came into my life a long time ago. I have few memories from the days before I picked up a needle and thread and started creating. I felt like as oddball child with my interest in girls lives from previous time periods both historical and fictional. My early sewing days were filled with making costumes such as a Victorian dress made with table clothes and something resembling a Southern belle.

As a young adult sewing continued to be a for fun activity. Even though my hips were a different size from my bust I could still shop for clothing in regular stores as long as I was careful to select dresses with gathered skirts or separates. I was also very scared that if I didn’t dress trendy enough I’d never find a boyfriend. Silly, but true.

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My pre-marriage sewing consisted of 1950s and 1960s dresses made with quilting cotton. I didn’t make a lot of dresses as I was super super broke. I also didn’t know anything about buying fabric aside from wandering the aisles of JoAnn’s and picking up things I liked. Some times my dresses turned out awesome, sometimes they did not. As long as I picked styles with full skirts I could cut a straight size and sometimes I would design my own styles. Everything was still purely for fun or for a specific purpose (like Halloween).

Then I had baby #1.

By the time I was pregnant with my first daughter I had discovered sewing blogs, local sewing stores, and started buying fabrics other than quilting cotton. I distinctly remember getting pregnant and searching the internet for vintage maternity dresses. I was SO SURE I was going to make all my maternity clothes. I’m sure you can see how this turned out…I made 2 elastic waisted skirts for work and that was it. Morning sickness was unrelenting for the first trimester, I lost a lot of weight, and then I spent the rest of my pregnancy sick from undiagnosed gallbladder issues.

I also spent my pregnancy dreaming of the perfect breastfeeding wardrobe I was going to create. I even commented on the (now discontinued) blog 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World. Here’s a screen shot of my comment. I’m laughing at how naive I was back then. Also, the comments section on that blog are absolutely filled with people I recognize today. Hilarious blast from the past.

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After having Lu I was hit with so many issues. I mostly got my waist back, but my breasts were huge so none of my pre-baby clothing fit right. I also continued to have gallbladder issues that lead to surgery at 3 months postpartum, issues with creating enough breast milk, a full time job, a baby who never slept more than 2 hours, and a husband who was working on the road when Lu was 6-12 months old. Somewhere in that first year I managed to fit in a sewing class on making your own custom sloper. I squeezed myself into my me-made pre-pregnancy clothes for sewing classes, but I can’t remember really sewing myself any everyday clothing to fit my new body. My husband bought me a fabulous new Janome and I retired the Brother my parents bought me as a teenager.

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I did manage to make multiple historical dresses. How crazy is that? I was too out of it to make myself a work dress, but I made a 1930s dress, a full bustle gown, and a few other things for when I volunteer at a local museum.

And while I wasn’t doing much sewing when Lu was a baby, I was doing a hell of a lot of knitting. In 2013 I knit 35 projects (14 accessories, 8 baby items, and 13 sweaters for myself). I knit while I breastfed, while I was pumping milk at work, while I was between tours at the museum, in line at the post office, when I was a passenger in the car, and basically anywhere and everywhere I could hold the needles. Sewing meant setting up my machine and finding my place in the project. Knitting could be picked up and put down at nearly any point in the process.

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I knit this while I was in labor!

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During pregnancy #2 I didn’t even bother trying to sew maternity clothing. I bought a few things and wore them on repeat. Instead of sewing clothing I took up quilting starting with a quilt for the new baby.

After Charlie was born sewing came back into my life full force. Only this time I wasn’t sewing for fun, I was sewing for a purpose. Two children had left me with a body that no longer fit well into any clothes I could buy. I stumbled through 10 months of breastfeeding with a combination of Cake’s Tiramisu pattern, and Sewaholic’s Yaletown dress. Wrap dresses were my jam. So practical for nursing and those endless pumping sessions.

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When Charlie weaned it was like my body was handed back to me. Knowing she was my last baby I could move forward making clothes I’d love to wear. Things with zippers and made from woven fabrics with no elastic. Magical. IMG_4311

Being a second time mom was also so very different. I was so much less anxious all the time. Charlie slept better than her older sister and my husband did less traveling. I started sewing most nights from 7-8:30pm and with 90 minutes per night plus nap times on the weekends I could actually dedicate my mind to figuring out fit issues. I started making muslins instead of diving straight into a project and it was so worth slowing down to have better fitting clothing.

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I actually use apparel fabrics and the results are far superior to quilting cotton (even if the prints aren’t as cute). At this point I only own one commercially made dress, a leftover from when I was still breastfeeding that still garners lots of compliments. But I think the biggest compliment is that people don’t even suspect my clothing is homemade. These years of blogging and working on my skills have lead to a wardrobe of custom fit clothing that makes me feel confident both as a woman and as a mother.

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Cinderella Cardigan

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      “Shiver and quiver, my little tree, Silver and gold throw down over me.”
    -Cinderella by the Grimm Brothers

At last a sweater has escaped my knitting needles. This was 10 months in the making and took far too long, but the results are pretty nice I think.

Cinderella is my favorite fairytale, so when one of my favorite yarn dyers, Astral Bath offered up a lavender dusted with grey called Cinderella, I knew I had to own it and put in a custom order. Silk blend bases only for this color and well worth it.

The yarn arrived quite true to the description, as if Cinderella has been hard at work in the ash, but what pattern would work well with the dark patches in the yarn? I dove into my Japanese stitch dictionaries and found a simple stitch pattern that reminded me of little specks or cinders.

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I also knew I wanted to try patterning the sweater around the waist so I set out playing with the spacing of each dot and doing math to figure out how to get the spaces just right at the waist. Thankfully I have CustomFit to make the knitting pattern. I just had to apply the stitch pattern how I wanted.

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Overall I’m happy with the finished product and I’m sure I will wear it a ton. The wool, silk, and cashmere blend is light enough for spring and also to ward off the summer office air conditioning. However it isn’t quite as perfect as I’d hoped and for a couple reasons.

For one my bust has shrunk over the last year by 2.5 inches. So the fit is a little bigger than I’d like up top.

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The sweater is also just too long. The large bust, silk content, and pattern calculation errors joined forces against my desires. CustomFit makes great patterns, but there is also a bit of learning curve to modifying the patterns it creates. I know I like my sweaters to be about 13-14 inches from underarm to hem, but when I request that length in the software I get a cardigan that is 15-16 inches instead. This is not the software’s fault. If I were to button the cardigan the negative ease at bust and hip would bring up the length. However since I wear my cardigans open and now own a smaller bust this sweater isn’t what I hoped.

My next sweater is already on the needles and I’m exited to see if I’ve improved on the fit. Hopefully it takes me fewer than 10 months to complete!

Rainbow Girl

Our super busy spring is in full swing now. I can’t remember the last time my weekends we’re so full! Recently my mom, the girls, and I all headed up to San Jose for Stitches West. A lot of my knitting friends head to Rhinebeck in the fall, but my group on the West Coast heads to Stitches instead. Usually I spend more time at the event itself, but this year I spent more time with my family because my sister is getting married!!!!

Oh how Lu loved those wedding dresses. She loves all thinks sparkly right now and was pretty happy to see Aunt Kat try on pretty dresses. Now Lu is plotting what she will wear for the wedding for her important role as flower girl.

It felt kind of silly going to a knitting event when I’ve barely knit anything recently. I spent so much time cross stitching this year during my evening tv time. However one of my knitting groups started a challenge for the year. Every quarter we set our own goals and for each goal met we get one entry into a lottery for a prize. I don’t qualify because I’m the one buying the prize, but I’m still finding the event useful for focusing my time.

I’ve already posted about my first goal (pussy hats) and now I’m posting my second goal, a new sweater for Lu. She wears a sweater every day to school and all of hers were looking rough. So many pills. So much dirt. So well loved.

I started planning this sweater in the fall of 2015. I knit a baby dress with a rainbow mini skein kit from Neighborhood Fiber Co. and had way more yarn left over than anticipated. Not enough to knit a whole kid sized cardigan, but enough to alternate with a coordinating color.

I headed to my local yarn store and picked up a skein of Knitted Wit in a grey. Turned out to be a perfect coordinate to the rainbow, don’t you think?

For a pattern I dove into my library to find something simple and near the gauge on my swatch. I settled on Cricket which had a slightly tighter gauge.  By knitting one size smaller at a looser gauge the finished sweater is around a size 4. I’ve knit this pattern once before (also as a school sweater) and I think I won’t knit it again. It is very square and very wide in the shoulders. I’ve knit other patterns that suit my tall and thin girl better.

Of course Lu just loves the finished sweater. It’s really so fun and cute and looks good with her navy and red school dress code. I still had leftover rainbow yarn so I sent it on to live with my friend. I made 3 projects with that rainbow set! It was like the yarn in the book Extra Yarn. I’m pretty sure I could have knit a mailbox cozy and a dog sweater, but instead I’m sharing the rainbow love as my rainbow itch has been satisfied for now.