Published on Monday June 4th, 2012

Little baby things have been flying off the needles around here, as I’ve wanted to be sure this second child would have some special garments created just for him/her. It’s also the only way I know to get ready: make stuff. And a soon-to-be-big sister mustn’t be forgotten in the flurry of preparations, so on a whim I cast on a little top a few weeks ago. It’s a sweet pattern called Neighborly; I snapped a hasty photo before Ada wore it to school in case it came home covered in glittery fingerpaint:

Pardon the bouffant that happens when Daddy gets fired up about brushing those curls. Not my favorite look for her. And yes, apparently we like to pose for photos with spinach — her idea. My little schoolgirl is not often so formally attired, though. When the vest survived its first foray to Montessori nursery (it was a water table day, so Ada’s clothes needed some drying but were otherwise unusually clean) I took some new photographs that show Neighborly as she is more likely to be worn:

(Hair is back to normal, too.)

Now you can see the chief detail, the ’60s-style button at the neck. Since I scaled down in yarn weight but still followed the pattern (it’s a single size intended for a child of 3-5 years, so I just crossed my fingers a DK version would fit a toddler), the button band is less prominent in my version and the neckline is tighter. This was intentional; I wanted a summer-weight vest we could throw on over cotton shirts on cool days, and for someone who’s less than two a big open boatneck would just be slipping off a shoulder or trapping stray food more often than not. I used Manos del Uruguay Serena, an alpaca-cotton blend, in a color called “sea urchin” that I couldn’t resist. It reads as grey, but there are pleasing undertones of purple — just the thing to bring my girl’s burgeoning wardrobe of pink hand-me-downs back into a realm Mama can tolerate. When it came off the needles it looked tiny and I thought we might have to gift it to our wee new friend Ingrid to wear as a dress when she gets to be six months old or so, but it blocked out to the perfect size for Ada.

I’m going to see how it wears before passing judgment on the yarn. It’s sheddy up front, releasing a lot of short alpaca fibers in the bath before blocking and still having enough left over to adhere to a small damp chin at first wearing. But when she wore it today I didn’t notice any problems, so maybe it’s let go of all the fibers it needed to. The drape and hand are undeniably pleasant. And the color range is strong. If the shedding problem doesn’t persist and it doesn’t show a strong tendency to pill at this loose gauge (I used a #5 needle, I think), I’d be tempted to use it to knit myself one of those drapey, open cardigans that seem to be so fashionable.

Oh, my not-so-big big girl. How is it you can count and read letters and load the dishwasher and tell yourself the stories in your favorite books and cross the suspension bridge on the play structure at the park and sing me little tuneless songs about slippery fish while still being so small? Will you suddenly seem like a giant in a few days or a week when you become my eldest child?

I’ve loved your babyhood, dear one. I’ll love your girlhood, too.

Skirt for a big girl

Published on Sunday May 20th, 2012

Smoke is just about rising from Signy, my trusty little Husqvarna. I finally bought a new packet of needles for her this afternoon; the one I’ve been using since we rekindled our relationship this spring is as dull as an old dog’s tooth. And she’s started to sound a tiny bit clattery. I hope a fresh, sharp needle will help, but I suspect I’ve finally run her over enough yards of fabric that she’s due for a tune-up. Hang in there, girl, because we still have a big push to bind a couple of quilts and finish a baby jacket before Little Dipper turns up. I made friends with her walking foot and successfully stitched a quatrefoil pattern all over the baby quilt. Then I got a bee in my bonnet about making a quilt as a birthday present for a dear friend. I pieced the whole top in one furious go this afternoon. But before either of those projects, Signy and I pulled together a little gift for dear Denise’s beautiful Kira, who has somehow turned three already:

Three-year-olds are still foreign territory for me, so I guessed about the size based on the Craft Council standard measurements. Also, this pattern is a little ticklish in its wording. It’s the Little Bo Peep skirt by Anna Maria Horner; the directions require that you customize the size according to the circumference of the child’s waist (sounds good, right?) but then begins rather airily to refer to the “width” of the skirt when you cut the front and back panels. One possible interpretation is that “width” = the circumference measurement you’ve just written down. But this would result in the skirt hem being roughly three times the child’s waist measurement, and that sounded awfully floofy and didn’t seem to match the illustrations. Searching the internet to see what others had done was inconclusive. So I went with the theory that “width” = half the circumference. But I fear this skirt isn’t quite ample enough for a three-year-old to really run and play in. If I make another, I’m going to cut front and back panels three-quarters the waist circumference.

But once you’re past that hurdle, there are some nifty skills a person can learn in making this skirt, I’ll tell you. Oh, la la, French seams! Ruffles!

These weren’t my first ruffles, but I couldn’t have picked a French seam out of a line-up until now. I followed Anna Maria’s instructions with no idea what I was actually doing… hey! Lookee, Ma! The edges are tucked away forever in a neat little casing! I love a chance to conceal a raw edge, although the result (at least as executed in quilting cotton) is a bit bulkier than seems ideal in a garment this size.

All in all, a good learning project, and a quick handmade something for a special girl. Next up, Signy gets a well-earned rest while I hand-tie a quilt for the first time (It looks pretty easy. Famous last words, right?) and sew snaps on a very wee baby cardigan. I think this may be how I nest. Violent cleaning of the house would probably be more virtuous than tearing around in a whirlwind of needles and wool and poplin. But not nearly as much fun.

January gray

Published on Friday January 6th, 2012

tease (1 of 1)

I’m a few shots short of a wrap for this project. A mother can only allow her small child so many minutes underdressed outdoors when it’s forty degrees and drizzling before guilt sets in, no matter how eager that child may be to canter up and down the sidewalk and show off her climbing on the front steps. And indoor photography is out of the question unless I can figure out a way to corral my subject within three feet of the south window. But I’m impatient to see some new content here, so you’re getting an advance peek at a post I hope to finish this weekend. There won’t be any parade of 2011 knits or summative assessment of resolutions; I simply haven’t the energy just now. I do want to show off this little jumper I made for Ada’s cousin, though. (Yes, it was meant for a Christmas present. Yes, I took it to New York and failed to finish sewing on the last two buttons and weaving in ends before we had to come home again. And yes, I’m still learning to adjust my expectations of myself now that I’m Mama to 1.4 little people.) I’m hoping you’ll like it.

Minnow en Minni

Published on Wednesday November 9th, 2011

I’ve been waiting for the perfect setting and conditions (a non-work day during which there is no rain for a nice window between mealtimes so Ada’s clothes and hair won’t be covered in food, but not so far from a mealtime that she is hungry or tired, and shortly after a wash day so she won’t be wearing the haphazardly clashing dregs of her wardrobe) to photograph Minni, because it’s just about the cutest thing I’ve knit. Needless to say, between illnesses, November gloom, and the whims of She Who Toddles, those perfect conditions haven’t presented themselves. We made do.

Minni_Minnow (4 of 4)

Looking back at my notes, I see that I cast on for this jacket a scant twelve days before Ada was born. I did most of the knitting in the early months of her life, and if you’ve experienced the early months of someone else’s life first hand and full time, you’ll know that means I made a lot of mistakes. I can see some of them right on the front. This isn’t a simple pattern, despite being entirely garter or stockinet stitch, and it isn’t constructed like any sweater you’ve ever made. The instructions run to ten pages, and you’d better be willing to try your hand at short rows and provisional cast-ons and small needles if you want to attempt it. But if you’re a patient, thinking knitter, it’s rewarding. I mean, the cuteness!

Minni_Minnow (1 of 4)

It’s got clever shaping, too… look how the back of the coat is extra roomy to swing freely over that big cloth-diapered bum.

Minni_Minnow (3 of 4)

The back details alone were enough to suck me in. I love the way the design shows off yarns with long color changes (I chose Noro Kureyon Sock for Minni I and have already started Minni II with Crystal Palace’s Mini Mochi), although there are some darling solid versions out there, too. A word on the sizing: Ada is fifteen months old and is a medium-size baby — currently right at the 50th percentile for height. She’s wearing the 6-9-month size jacket, and as you can see she’s got plenty of room to grow into it some more. The designer, Lene Alve, does live in the Arctic Circle, and I suppose by the time I got a six-month-old into enough layers to stay cozy in that climate, she might just about fill up this jacket! But for the rest of us, I’d say multiply the suggested ages in the pattern by 2. It’s a good thing this jacket runs so large, though, even if you wind up having to tuck it away for a year. A pre-mobile baby couldn’t really do it justice, and a crawler would always be running aground on the fronts. (Ada still catches the fronts with her knees sometimes when she’s going up stairs.) You need a toddler to set that sweet hemline swaying, trust me.

Minni_Minnow (2 of 4)