Archive | September, 2010

Sunshine and Knitting

30 Sep

We are trying our best to soak up every bit of warm autumn sun around here.

What that means for me is long afternoons spent at the park.  Not that I mind, I have something to bring with me these days.

Like so many things, I believe knitting is even better when done outdoors.  Maybe it’s because I know that there isn’t much time left before I have to don gloves and plein air knitting won’t be such a good idea.  Andrea’s shawl is a perfect pick up and go knit.  I’ve reached the pleasantly monotonous stripey section, but even the lace pattern was easy to memorise once you got your head around it.  It’s just enough lace to keep me interested, but not so much to have to constantly check the chart.

I love how the colours are working out, and the yarn is so soft and slippery to knit, but I don’t think I’d choose this again for a lace project.  The angora halo, while charming and a bit angelic, doesn’t make the lace stand out.  Something silky would bring out those YOs, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

And my thought is to keep knitting outside until there’s chance of frostbite.

Shalom – The Mama Cardi

29 Sep

If I could live in a climate that was a perpetual autumn I would, particularly for days like this.  Sunny, warm with a cool breeze, with the sunlight hitting at just the right angle to make for interesting shadows.  Perfect picnic and park weather.

Days like this are made for a short sleeved Shalom.  I am dubbing it the Mama Cardi, which is what my boy affectionally calls it.  Light but warm to throw on for a cooler day, no sleeves to dirty, and of course a breeze to knit, I deem mothers everywhere should have one or two.

Shalom was perfect as a back-to-the-needles knit because it was so speedy, bulky yarn and seamless knitting always helps.  The pattern is well written, though I did follow some other mods.  I shortened the twisted rib repeats and did some extra back rows, but kept the waist shaping.  It was really touch an go at the finish.  I did three rows of twisted rib for the sleeves and two rows garter.  I had about one yard of yarn leftover, yikes!  If I knit it again I would definitely go with another ball.

If I could I would knit a whole fleet of these in all different colours.  Some with long sleeves, some with short, it is a fabulous little garment.  I am so proud to have it as my first handknit sweater as a mama.

Buttonhole Steeks

28 Sep

I feel like a fearless knitter today, I have steeked and conquered.  Remember my plans for the Tilted Duster?  I actually followed through and am thrilled with the results.

Ta-da!  Shawl collar Tilted Duster.  The collar of this cardigan was always too big and floppy for my taste, so I was pretty happy to have an excuse to update it.  I love how the collar now rolls daintily into a tidy shawl and I think the buttons look a treat against the Rowan Magpie.

Originally I had planned to make an “afterthought” buttonhole ala Elizabeth Zimmerman, until I realised that it only works horizontally on stocking stitch.  The hole I wanted to make would have to be made vertically, and I nearly gave up on the whole idea until I considered making a steeked buttonhole.  Now, for the uninitiated, a steek is typically used when you’re doing colorwork for a sweater.  You knit in the round a giant tube for the body, reinforce seams where the armholes will be, and cut your knitting. From there you’d pick up stitches around the armhole to make sleeves.

I had never done this before, but after a lot of research, I just went for it.

I did a crocheted steek on the reverse side of the collar, conveniently on the knit stitches.  Since these buttons are huge it’s about 7 stitches across.  Using the brown Cascade 220 I bought for Drive Thru you can barely make out the different yarn.  It was surprisingly simple and painless to do (after I stopped reading written instructions and just followed the diagrams).  I think for a traditional steek you wouldn’t use such a thick yarn, but it certainly feels very secure.  What I like most is how the steek rolls towards the reverse side, leaving the front very clean looking.

I’m not sure if this method is orthodox, and couldn’t vouch whether it would work for smaller buttons, but I was on a knitting high for hours afterwards.  I am not a very adventurous person so taking a pair of scissors to something handmade is a pretty big thrill.  I would definitely try a proper steeked garment now.

Just a note on the Tilted Duster, it’s been over two years since I knit this, and it’s definitely one of my most worn pieces.  The yarn is the (sadly) discontinued Rowan Magpie, which besides bobbling, has held up like a champ to a lot of wear and tear.  It was originally knit as a Rogue pullover, which I worn for a few years, before frogging and knitting up into this (yeah, I know I was a bit mad).  Changing the collar has altered the way this cardigan hangs, but it was never really all that elegant.  More of what I consider a “dressing gown” knit, something I throw on to keep warm, not for a night on the town.

I am so glad to have given her a new lease of life.

Ambitious Plans

27 Sep

This city living has made me soft, I am full of aches from yesterday’s hike and feel twice my age.  A sweet parcel in the mailbox did manage to put a spring in my step.

A little something I ordered from Etsy.  I thought it was almost too cute to unwrap.  Just take a look at what was inside.

Beautiful handmade branch buttons from ARemarkYouMade.  I had such a hard time choosing which ones to go for and fell in love with these with Shalom in mind.  My sense of scale is way off as these are just too big for her.  I just have to put them to good use, so I have some rather ambitious plans.  Remember the Tilted Duster?  It’s one of my all-time favourite knits but I’ve always had qualms with the neckline being a bit too out of control.  I may just have a solution.

I want to take off the original buttons I used and put them on Shalom, and convert the neckline to a shawl collar.  I’m a little bit nervous about this change because it is a rather major conversion of a classic cardigan, and it might change the way it hangs.  I think the buttons look much better against the brown and don’t look too out of proportion.  If it works I’ll be the first one to be impressed.

Coming up soon: Modeled Shalom photos and an Andrea’s Shawl update.

A Trip to Devil’s Lake

26 Sep

We’re very lucky in Wisconsin to be so close to so many great state parks.  Today was our first trip to Devil’s Lake near Baraboo.  It’s so refreshing that in less than an hour we can be somewhere so different.

This is the view of east bluff from the lakeside, on a gorgeous autumn day.  Cool enough to wear a sweater, but once you got moving it was great to be in a t-shirt, feeling the sun on your back.  And boy, did we get moving.

Plenty of great trails to explore, with lots of mushrooms, acorns and black walnuts to find.  This little boy is in his element, I hope his love of nature grows with him.

While we were there we couldn’t resist climbing to the top of one of the bluffs for the view.  The climb wasn’t the most difficult we’ve ever done, but it certainly seemed a lot more exciting with a little one!

It was definitely worth it.  Far reaching views over a seemingly endless forest and a crystal clear lake.  You could have been a million miles away from the city.  After a tiring trip  back down the rocks we treated ourselves to ice cream and a paddle in the lake.

Shallow and warm and full of minnows, there was never a better end to a perfect day.  We can’t wait to go back.

Gift Knitting Stash

25 Sep

I am making an amendment to Commandment 5: “Thou shalt not build stash”, no buying yarn without a project in mind.  This gives me a little leeway because I have a rare disorder that leaves me incapable of leaving a delicious yarn store empty handed.  I was literally paralysed by colour choice yesterday, so I roped in my husband to help me choose a palette for a Drive Thru pullover for Dougie.

I wanted it to have a throw back 70’s feel and just love the colours he chose: dark chocolate brown for the main body, with cream, pumpkin orange (we just had to get pumpkin in there somewhere) and a sunny yellow for yoke stripes.  What’s nice about knitting for a toddler, v.s. a baby, is that he might be able to wear something more than once or twice before growing out of it.  Both the Pebble vest and the Baby Surprise sweater had only brief appearances.  Finally, a chance for his knits to see the light of day.

The brown and cream are legendary Cascade 220, but the yellow and orange are Louet Riverstone.  There was a staggering array of colours to choose from of each and I can’t wait to start knitting with them.  I just can’t stop squeezing that beautiful Louet yarn.

I also bought some yarn to make a special present for my mother-in-law.  This will be the first Christmas season that we’ve not been with D’s parents, and their first without seeing Dougie so I hope a little handmade luxury will bring a bit of joy.  She is a woman of impeccable taste and an eye for colour (must be where my husband gets his).

Classic Elite Fresco in steely water blues, reminiscent of the sea she dearly loves, to make Andrea’s Shawl.  I like the mix of lace and colourwork, it makes a pattern that’s elegant but unfussy.  Just a little something to throw over the shoulders on a chilly evening or wrap around your neck on mild winter day by the seaside.  And the yarn?  Wool, alpaca and angora.  If only I could knit a duvet in this and hibernate.

Both these future projects are apart of my new aim to knit more for others.  While I love knitting for myself there is a lot of satisfaction in choosing and making something for a loved one.  It gives me a chance to use a yarn I wouldn’t buy for myself because it’s “too nice”, and a pattern that I wouldn’t normally knit.  I would love to knit all my holiday gifts this year, but I’m not going to push myself too hard, remember Commandment #4 (Thou shalt not have unrealistic expectations).

The All New Lakeside Fibers

24 Sep

I felt cursed today.  My good intentions to make pumpkin pie from scratch failed miserably.  Both pastry and filling turned out wrong (though the filling still tastes nice, I tell myself).  What better way to make a girl feel better than a trip to the local yarn shop.

This is the newly reopened Lakeside Fibers, located on the south side of Monona Bay.  When we first moved here in July it was closed but has opened up under new management last week.  I don’t have any frame of reference of what it was like before, but, wow, this is a nice shop.  The space is huge, light and airy, with seats near the back.  Everywhere you look there are gorgeous yarns, nestled in bins, shelves, and boats.

Yes, it is a boat, filled with Dream in Color Smooshy!  Pretty much every yarn, besides Rowan, was new to me: Madelinetosh, Shibuiknits, Spud & Chloe, Blue Sky Alpacas, and many more I can’t even remember.  The shop assistants were sweet and helpful and there were modern knitting books and patterns conveniently placed on tables and counters.  I am just blown away by the quality of the stores in this country, you really feel that it’s a place that takes knitting seriously.

As if all the yarn loveliness isn’t enough there is a cafe connected through the back that does nice coffee and has views over the bay.  And if you have little ones, you can have Daddy take them over to the playground just behind the shop near the beach (thanks D!)

I didn’t come home empty handed, but I’ll just give you a taste of the dilemma I had when choosing yarn for a future colourwork project.

I fear for my wallet because this place is only a short walk away.

Mad About Pumpkins

23 Sep

Today ended up being one of those days where everywhere we wanted to go was closed.  What a shame, because I was so looking forward to sharing my favourite Mad City yarn shops.  Nevermind.  Remember this little guy?

Somewhere along the way he got decidedly un-little.  Two months away from his second birthday and I am still reeling from this whole mother business.  Things change so quickly that I can barely remember a time when running was not his primary form of movement.  He is such a character and I often shake my head wondering “are other toddlers like this?”  In a totally good way of course.  For instance, all boys have a pumpkin fetish right?

I have no idea where this started, but while we were in Door County we could not walk fifty paces without cries of “Pompom! Pompom!”  He has a terrible desire, no, NEED, to touch, caress, count and compare pumpkins.  His favourite are when there are big and small ones next to each other.

You should see his eyes light up as we go to the co op or Trader Joes as there are just so many pumpkins.  He doesn’t discriminate, any shape or size will do.  I am trying to prepare him for Halloween because I’m afraid he might just short circuit from the whole experience.  It’s virtually a whole holiday devoted to them.

He now has his own collection to admire, which occupies him for most of the day.  He notices that I have a particularly large one on my counter and loves giving it tea and cuddles.

I’m not sure how I’m going to break it to him that it’s destined for pie.

Indian Summer

22 Sep

After a couple of weeks of comfortably cool weather it has suddenly become summer again.  Yesterday we had 80 degree highs with 80% humidity.  Today is in the 70s and perfect for a walk around our favourite toddler-friendly parts of Madison.  Despite the warmth you can see autumn is truly on its way.

I’ve also been making satisfying progress on Shalom.  I’ve finished the yoke and started the body with ishi’s mods.  I tried it on briefly and everything seems to be fitting the way it should, which is a miracle since I jumped haphazardly into this without swatching.  My alternative blog names were “The Impatient Knitter” or “The Foolhardy Knitter”.

A lot of my favourite versions of the cardigan omit the waist shaping but I know from experience that I benefit from whatever shaping can be made to a garment.  Boxy just doesn’t look good on me.  I am enjoying doing something where progress is so visible.  Even just doing a few rows here and there throughout the day adds up.  The Wool of the Andes is a joy to knit with, easy on the hands, with just enough grip on the needles to flow nicely.  I am going to have to resist buying a stockload of it since there are just so many yarns I need to try before the year is out.

Mama’s Got Some New Shoes

21 Sep

When we made the move from the UK to the US I made the ridiculous decision to bring only one pair of shoes with me.  Good excuse to buy some new shoes.  After an almost embarrassing amount of research (I’m a research addict) I decided on these.

They are Sanuk Donnas in black, which is really a sweet tweedy sort of weave.  Everyone raves about their comfort and I have to say I understand why.  I’ve been wearing Terra Plana’s Vivo Barefoot Odettes for over six months now.  They are a “barefoot” shoe, meaning there’s only a 3 mm puncture proof sole between your foot and pavement.  The feeling is unlike anything else, and it takes getting used to.  I love them, but I’ve worn them down to the nub and they kill my feet after walking around town all day.  The Sanuks offer just a bit more comfort, but with a super cushy flat sole (think flip flop), and the upper really hugs your foot. Can you tell I’m in love?

I have to sing my praises for Zappos, too.  You have no idea how novel it is to go to a site that offers good customer service.  Because I’ve been endowed with feet the shape of a duck’s (thanks Mom) I have trouble with shoe sizes.  I usually run around the 7 1/2 mark, but these only come in full sizes.  I bought the 8s, but they do run a bit big.  Thank goodness for free returns.  I got the 7s with my store credit (and amazing next day shipping) and they fit beautifully.  I never pay full price for shoes, but because of the risk I’m happy I didn’t pay shipping either way.

They are so 70’s hobo style, which isn’t a bad thing.  They’re the type of shoes I’d travel around the world with.  And maybe one day I just might.