Ba-baaai, summer! Bwah!

Published on Tuesday September 27th, 2011

Time to say goodbye, Ada style, with a vigorous kiss blown at the end, to the briefest summer in my memory. All night, dozing lightly with one ear cocked upstairs for baby sounds — the only way I seem to know how to sleep anymore — I heard rain on the pavement. This morning I put on a wool sweater (Pas de Valse), a wool hat (“Mama HA’!” exclaims my small one, reaching to pull it off my head and flop it over her face for peekaboo), and wool socks. (Darned if those aren’t still the best-looking socks in the drawer, despite having been knit in 2005. My admiration for Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock grows annually.) Ada is in her reversible brioche cardigan (blue side out today) and her new boots. The boot leather squeaks and she steps tentatively in them, unaccustomed to the stiff soles.

We replenished the bird feeders this morning and discovered a mouse had moved into the seed bin on the back porch. I spotted the evidence right away, but didn’t expect to see Mouse herself peeping up at me from a hole in the bag, all sleek fur, bright eyes, and quivery whiskers. Ada, having been recently enchanted by a pet rat at the tea shop, thought we should pick her up and get to know her properly, but we didn’t. I am tenderhearted about mice, although I sincerely hope this one’s family isn’t expecting to move in with us for the winter. (The cat should be an effective deterrent. For all his faults, he’s a competent hunter and also pulls his weight when it comes to chores like dispatching house centipedes with alarming legs. (Don’t google them. If you don’t know what they look like from personal experience, thank the appropriate deity and go on your blissfully ignorant way.) And while the dog is useless against the creepy crawlies, she’d be thrilled to go all buddy-cop with Mingus on a mouse if he wouldn’t end her for cramping his style. So I’m not too worried about a rodent invasion.) But I’ll be devising a way to lock down the bin lid more securely. In the mean time, the finches seem untroubled to have shared some of their sunflower seeds. I’ve never seen a handful of birds tuck in with more vigor. They must realize summer is fading, too.

While the featheries are plumping up for winter, I’m feeling ready to turn my attention back to the thickest and warmest projects in my knitting basket. If you’re a knitter, there’s an excellent chance you already know what this is…

MiteredCross (1 of 1)

… but don’t tell, okay? Here be secret knitting. And speaking of miters, I’ve nearly finished my Mitered Cardigan: a seam to graft, buttons to attach, ends to weave, and then I cross my fingers and block this sweater like the dickens and, if all else fails, maybe take up running in case there’s a spare inch or so that could come off my middle.

Summer swing

Published on Thursday June 2nd, 2011

Just before Ada was born — and only just: checking my notes, I see that our labor began four days later — I finished what I think is going to be the signature piece in her wardrobe for the next two seasons. My friend Jen had dreamed up an adorable new baby sweater (she knit a lovely lavender-and-yellow sample that Ada has been wearing all winter) called Baby Brioche; in a fit of third-trimester ambition, fired up by the brioche possibilities explored by Nancy Marchant, I adapted the pattern to use two colors. This month, it fits my girl.

Ada, 10 months (7 of 9)

Ada, 10 months (8 of 9)

(Mr. G saw this photo and said, “Is that our lawn?” He mowed it promptly thereafter. Thanks, love!)

Ada, 10 months (2 of 9)

10 months old and still no teeth!

A word about the hair before we get back to the cardigan: yes, it actually grows that way. But I like to tell people we get up at 5:30 in order to spend an hour fixing it just so with the curlers and blow dryer. I suspect we’ll be making appeals to all our curly friends for hair management advice, because Mama sure hasn’t had to deal with anything like this on her own head! I mean, do you even try to brush it? My friend Maria recommends a spray bottle of diluted leave-in conditioner, which sounds pretty reasonable for a squiggly toddler… But for now, back to the sweater.

Ada, 10 months (3 of 9)

Yarn: Socks That Rock Lightweight (NB: Jen’s single-color version is written for Heavyweight) in Blue Brick Wall (furrows) and a Rare Gem (ribs) that’s similar to Bumbleberry and Flower Power. It’s completely reversible; I sewed buttons on both sides. So far, I’m thinking this was worth the extra effort. I love the color combination no matter which side is out, and it’s so practical to be able to turn it around if one side gets foody or spitty when we’re on the go.

Needles: 2.75mm, US #2. Brioche is so loose and fluffy that you need to use a smaller needle than you’d think.

Modifications: I learned everything a person needs to know about basic brioche and two-color brioche from Nancy Marchant’s website and book, both of which should be considered knitterly world treasures. Don’t be intimidated by the new notation you’re going to encounter within; because brioche requires combinations of familiar movements (yarnovers plus knitting or purling and slipped stitches), it makes sense to offer a new shorthand, and that’s what Nancy has done. Jen has used Nancy’s system, and I think you’ll find it’s straightforward and sensible once you spend a little time with it. I will make my notes with the specific numbers necessary to recreate Ada’s jacket available this summer (or, um, as soon as I find them in my shameful mess of a woolery), but if you’re itching to start now, all you really need is Jen’s pattern and Nancy’s website. I cast on about 30% more stitches because I was using the lighter wool, and after stabilizing the cast-on edge I’m happy with the result, but the Channel Islands cast on and the brioche pattern are so stretchy that you could, instead, start with the numbers in the pattern and then add an extra increase round in the yoke before you divide for the sleeves. This would give you a sweater with a snugger neckline than Ada’s jacket has. Also, I added a round of increases halfway down the body to achieve a swingy line. I thought this would be extra cute on a little toddler and would work well with the single closure point I was planning, and I stand by that decision now that I see it on my babe. Especially since she came with lady tackle. I made no pretense of any intuition about her sex while I was pregnant, but apparently my fingers knew something my brain didn’t. Everything unisex I made for my little one kept turning just a little bit girly on me.

Ada, 10 months (4 of 9)

Love the short sleeves for increasingly capable little hands!

Ada, 10 months (5 of 9)

Ada, 10 months (6 of 9)

I expected to prefer the blue side, which is more to my usual taste, but I think this one suits her coloring remarkably well. She’s got a slightly ruddy complexion from her dad’s family and my rosy cheeks. (But she made up this fierce, impish smile all by herself. It goes with a rather scary growl when she’s excited. Not for nothing was my daughter born in the year of the tiger.) I can’t wait to see her staggering tipsily around in this jacket later in the summer. We have a lot of practicing to do, but Ada’s will is strong. Give me your fingers, Mama! Let’s walk! Rooooaar!

Recto & verso

Published on Sunday May 9th, 2010

Knitting at faculty meeting is one of the pleasures of my work week. I am blessed with extraordinary colleagues, men and women of intellect, empathy, and humor; it’s always a treat to converse with them. Perhaps it is not coincidental that a surprisingly large percentage of them are also knitters. When we gather on Wednesday afternoons we’re a group of about 30, and there are regularly four or five laps containing balls of wool and flashing needles. At least as many more more pairs of hands hold the knowledge but prefer other settings.

Anyway, about a month ago, in the midst of a discussion about effective teacher training practices or plans for a colloquium on mentorship and creativity, I noticed Jen was working on a little brioche sweater, infant size. It reminded me of having seen tantalizing bits of Nancy Marchant’s new brioche book on the internet and being quite taken with the two-color brioche examples (this jacket is a particularly natty piece of design, don’t you think?). So when Jen mentioned on Friday that she was casting on a third little brioche sweater to brush up the pattern for publication, I told her of my desire to try it in two yarns. We met up at Twisted that evening, she refreshed my memory of the Channel Islands cast-on, we guessed at some different math for my Socks That Rock Lightweight versus her Heavyweight, and with the help of Nancy’s book I started the experiment.

Now I can’t stop, because it is just so stinking PRETTY!


I’m thinking of this as the boy side — that’s Blue Moon’s “Blue Brick Wall” colorway you’re seeing on the ribs. And when you flip it over, you get the girl side (an STR “Rare Gem”):


Just below the needle you can see where I’ve done the first round of yoke increases… they’re reversible, too. The illustrations in Nancy’s book are so clear it was no problem to learn how to do them waiting for my turn in the shower this morning, and you know how I love acquiring new knitting skills.

Speaking of this morning, let’s have a moment of appreciation for my husband. I woke up thinking it would be an awfully good idea if we stopped by Grand Central Bakery on the way to choir, because rhubarb is finally in season and the Grand Central Rhubarb Handpie is one of my favorite treats on the planet. Mr. G loves the idea of my craving anything due to pregnancy (in truth, I get the rhubarb handpie jones just as strongly when not gravid), so he was in favor of the plan. And when we got to the bakery, there they were — five or six beautiful rhubarb pastries on the tray behind the glass. I drooled in their general direction as we waited in line, and then it was our turn to order. AND THE HANDPIES WERE SOLD OUT. Because the people at the next register had just bought ALL OF THEM. Words cannot express how crestfallen I was. I flailed about in distress and finally agreed to settle for a strawberry-rhubarb tart, which is half the size and really not the same thing at all (although undeniably tasty in its own right). But while I was still looking daggers at the handpie looters across the cafe, my husband already had his phone out and was calculating that we had just enough time before choir to go by the other Grand Central location in Northwest and confirming that they still had a few handpies left and would hold one for me. I told him that I really was just about capable of being a big girl about the disappointment (or would be in another few minutes), but the man would stop at nothing to satisfy my needs. So I got my rhubarb and we even made it to choir on time. It was a good morning.