Saturday, 28 December 2013

mittens for small people

Well, life happened and my carefully-laid plans for postings through Advent and Christmas Day were waylaid by illness and my inability to judge just how long it will ACTUALLY take me to knit things (and bake things, and pack things, and... you get the idea.)  But it is still Christmas for another eight days here, and since most people have received their gifts by now I think it's a good time to start posting about all the things I've made in the last month or so.  There may also be some Christmas music, just because.

I've been nannying a pair of 4-year-old twins since the early autumn and after several struggles with their existing cold-weather hand coverings, decided they needed mittens for Christmas.  The pattern is the Spiral Mittens from "Homespun, Handknit", which my mum used to knit for us when we were kids.  It's so, so easy to make, and the mittens are both durable and work for either hand, so they'll wear evenly.  The strings are important so you don't lose a mitten if you take it off.

The day I took them over was entertaining.  I get the kids from noon until their dad gets home; they discovered that there were PRESENTS at about 4:30, and I spent the rest of the afternoon fending off requests to open them NOW!  When I finally let them, they were delighted; L. tore around the kitchen declaring they were the BEST PRESENT EVER and their mother texted me later that evening to say that E.J. loved hers so much that she wore them to bed.  So I think they were a success :)

(The pictures are sub-par because the light was failing and it was my last chance to photograph them.  But you get the idea.)

Sunday, 8 December 2013

a rose e're blooming

I've spent the whole of this second Sunday of Advent tucked up in bed nursing a sore throat and cough which I'm praying don't decide to turn into anything really bad, since I've got a performance of Handel's Messiah this coming Saturday for which I need to be able to sing solos! 

But just because I'm sick(ish) doesn't mean I don't have music for you.  Quite the contrary - being stuck in bed gives a person plenty of time to delve into the depths of YouTube's Advent music collection ;-)  This appears to be the Year of Alternative Versions (of your favourite traditional Advent songs.)  This week, I'm enthralled with Feist's version of "Lo, how a rose e're blooming" - not your traditional choral setting, for sure, but really lovely.  And I'm certainly not saying there's anything wrong with the traditional settings!  In fact usually they're my favourites. But I love exploring the new stuff, too.

(And because the youtube video-finder is being strangely stubborn and won't let me find the exact video I want, you'll just have to have a link instead.  I promise I know how to use technology... I just don't always know how to bend it to my will!)

Sunday, 1 December 2013

o come

Today is the first day of the season of Advent.  Weeks of quiet contemplation and anticipation, before the joy and the merriment of Christmas.  A season that the world and even the church have largely forgotten, but which is so important to me.  How can you fully appreciate the enormity of his birth if it is about nothing but cookies and presents and coloured lights?

In past years I've posted a song or a carol on every Sunday of Advent and I think I'll continue that tradition this year.  This week, a quiet, reflective version of "O come, o come Emmanuel" sung by The Civil Wars.

Friday, 29 November 2013

in everything give thanks


Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays.  It's easy to get caught up in Christmas and sort of skip over it... or get caught up in complaining about people who skip straight to Christmas... but I love it.  Maybe partly just for the food.  Let's face it, the food is spectacular.  But it's also a good time to stop and reflect and think of all the ways God has blessed you... and I think that's a great lead-in to the reflective time of Advent, just around the corner.

This is the first Thanksgiving in six years that I've been at home and it was lovely!  I got to make the pies, and help with all the other cooking, and it was so nice to have our traditional family recipes again.  I spent all the Thanksgivings during college and grad school at friends' houses, with lots of fabulous cooking and good fellowship, but there is just nothing like the familiar dishes you grew up with.  And we had a light snowfall in the morning, adding to the holiday feel of the day.

Today was spent in knitting and tea-drinking and sniffing the delectable smells of the turkey carcass cooking down into broth for tomorrow's soup.  I was glad to spend it at home with the family, grateful for what we already have, instead of rushing around madly trying to save money at sales!  (And really if you want to save money on Black Friday, the easiest way to do it is to stay home and not spend any at all... amiright?)

Yesterday I was too busy anticipating the meal and savoring the food to remember to take photos of the table before we dug in.  A pity, because it was really pretty!  I captured the pies, though, so I have some proof of our feast for the internet ;-)

I hope you all had a joyful and peaceful Thanksgiving.  I'm so glad I was able to spend it with my family, cooking and eating and doing the things I love :)

(The Christmas knitting is going remarkably well so far.  I probably shouldn't have told you that, because now it will probably develop some deeply time-consuming problem...)

Monday, 25 November 2013

I may be delusional

Today I finally solidified my Christmas knitting plans.  Yes, there are five people in the family who need gifts.  Yes, it's exactly (only) a month until Christmas.  Yes, I still have at least three commissions to finish off as well.  And yet somehow I'm convinced this is a good strong plan and everything will definitely be finished and wrapped and under the tree in time for the day itself.

I may be delusional.  But at least I have a plan!

(In the mean time, I finished some socks.  Yarn: 2 skeins of KnitPicks Felici in "mixed berries".  Pattern: my own basic ribbed sock.  In the shop now!)

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Some things finished

I spent last Saturday being wretchedly ill and the beginning of this week regaining energy (and unsuccessfully auditioning for a play.  Oh well - more knitting time?)  So I haven't been as productive as I needed to be.  But I did get some projects finished last week, and managed to get photos of them before I shipped them off, so I thought I'd show them to you.  I was going to do individual posts on most of them but at this point I'm feeling too lazy, so you get a batch post instead ;)

Sweater and booties for the new son of a friend - he came early and with serious health problems so I figured he could use some handknit loving :)

Elephant for an Alabama fan.  (I have no interest in football at all, so don't get upset with me if your favourite team hates Alabama, guys!)

Dobby socks - based on the ones given to Harry Potter by Dobby the House Elf for Christmas in his fourth year.  A rush order for an Etsy customer and my favourite pair of these to date!

An Amy Pond scarf, off to Australia.

Well, that's all for now, but I have a couple pair of socks, a scarf, and a whole menagerie of stuffed animals in the works, so I'm sure there will be more to look at soon!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Vibrant Stillness

I brought the bright leaves in on Saturday and photographed them on a still, peaceful Sunday.  There is nothing prettier than these vibrant branches!

Monday, 4 November 2013

Autumn Orchard cardigan

A few weeks ago I finished this cadigan for myself, and got my sister to take photos while she was home on break.  I thought the local orchard would be a good setting, and we needed eating apples anyway, so there we went.

The pattern is Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark's "Girl Friday" (free on!) which I've had on my to-make list for over a year now.  Finally I seized the chance when I had a lull in commission knitting and made it up.  It was a quick knit and fairly easy.  As usual I added considerable length to both the body and the sleeves, but changed nothing else.

See? Non-optimal button placement.
The collar did take some finagling to make it work. I knit it up according to the directions and wore the cardigan once, but I felt that the front bands pulled oddly and didn't have enough stitches in them.  So I ripped it back, picked up a lot more stitches this time, and tried again.  What you see here is Take Two, which I think sits better, but now I'm pretty sure I've spaced the buttonholes weirdly - the top one is a couple inches higher than it ought to be - so I'll probably go back eventually, rip back to the buttonholes, and place them differently.

It's very cosy and practical - this day was chilly, with a biting wind and the occasional spatter of sleet, but I stayed quite warm.

It's the first cardigan I've ever knitted for myself, but I hope it won't be the last!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Modern Medieval

This one has been a long time in the works!  Back in the winter of 2012 designer Becky Herrick (here are her blog and her Ravelry page) asked me to be a test-knitter for her new pattern, which would appear in the pattern book "What (Else) Would Madame Defarge Knit?"  The patterns are all inspired by literature or characters from legend.  Becky's design was the "Iseult Dress", about which she says "My Iseult sweater dress is designed to call to mind the strength, grace, and beauty of its medieval namesake. Drawing on historical and modern design elements it can be paired with leggings and a steaming cappuccino or with a chemise and a stone tower."

I went with a mixture of the two for my photoshoot - a more modern styling with tights, tall boots, and a leather jacket, but a woodland setting (and a pottery mug of tea.)  We were so fortunate to find exactly the setting and lighting I'd had in my mental picture of the shoot - during the half-hour window between Sunday dinner and driving my sister back to college after her fall break!

The dress itself is surprisingly simple and quick to knit.  It's worked up in a worsted/aran weight wool and since it's worked in the round, the stockinette stitch body is pretty mindless!  The cables are charted and easy to follow, and I found it simple to adapt slightly to suit my height.  I added several inches of length to the skirt to bring it just above my knees and an inch or so between the bust and waist shaping, but made no other modifications that I remember.  The pattern includes subtle but effective shaping, and ropes of cables follow "princess seam" lines down the front and back.

Easy cables on the dress, a slightly daft expression on me.
I knit almost all of this in January and February of 2012 - enough to try it on and tell Becky that it fit properly and the pattern was clear and error-free.  I left it for about 8 months with just the skirt border left to knit.  Then I finished that up in November and for some unaccountable reason never actually wove in the 6 loose ends and blocked it.  Well, I wasn't allowed to post anything about it until the book's publication the following April, so I figured there was no rush.  And then April in Tennessee is not the best time to be wearing wool sweater-dresses.

But October in Michigan is!  So finally, my Iseult dress is finished and photographed, and I look forward to getting a lot of wear out of it this autumn and winter.  I can picture it layered over a long-sleeved shirt (still with tights and the boots) for a warmer outfit in the dead of winter, or styled with patterned tights and heels for a more sophisticated look.  But it will definitely get plenty of wear - and I'll feel like a princess wearing it!

(Photos by my sister.  Dress explained above. Boots from Payless. Tights - who knows?)

Tuesday, 29 October 2013


If it's been a bit quiet on the blogging front lately, it's because I've been up to my eyebrows in painting.  (No, really, I had paint in my eyebrow last Thursday.) 

This is the "before" - pale pinkish-mauve walls, ugly blue carpet, and a chair that really needs a new slipcover!
We decided that the living room carpet had to go - a combination of old, ugly carpet and the smell of cat - so then it seemed that this was a good time to just give the whole room a makeover.  So three weekends ago we moved all the furniture out, ripped out the carpet and the padding, pulled staples out of the subflooring (my opera workshop set-build and strike training at work there!), and commenced painting everything.

Carpet gone, and I think this is after the application of cat-odor-killer.
Oh and did I mention the mantlepiece had to come off the wall before we could get all the carpet out?  Yeah, there was that too.

So most of the painting is finished now, but we're giving the floor paint ample time to dry before we load up the bookcases and drag sofas and pianos across it.  The living room is empty and light and airy, and the rest of the house resembles a junk shop - but it will be worth it in the end!  (And I only have three window-frames left to paint.  I'll be glad to stop washing paint out of my hair.)  I'll be sure to supply you with prettier pictures when we have everything back in place!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Autumn Leaves Shawl

I finished this shawl a few weeks ago for a friend, who wanted something she could use as a throw for her sofa or a shawl for herself, as the weather grows colder.

The pattern is "Tango"(Ravelry link) by Corinne Ouillon.  I added several repeats of the body pattern and an extra repeat of the border as well, to make the shawl as large as I wanted.  The yarn is from KnitPicks new line of crochet cotton, Curio, in Cornmeal.  There really is little else to say about it, so I'll just let the photos speak for themselves!  I think this rich gold is perfectly offset by the colours and sunlight of early autumn.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Vintage Knits: Surplice sweater and bonnet for baby

A couple years ago I picked up a 1942 book called "Sewing for the Baby" for just a few dollars at an antiques store.  Somewhat ironically, I have never actually used any of the sewing patterns (though I keep planning to), but I've loved all the knitting patterns I've tried.  (My knitted elephants are adapted from a pattern in this book.)

Now, I've made up a sweet little layette set for an infant girl.  Both the bonnet and the sweater are really simple to knit.  I made just a few adjustments - the sweater was supposed to have a more compicated border and also some embroidery along the front edges, but I didn't feel like adding that, and the bonnet was meant to have a crocheted border around the face but I felt it detracted from the simplicity and comfort of the design.  Other than those changes though I worked both these garments as written and I think they came out really nicely! I love that the sweater doesn't involve trying to slide anything over the baby's head.  Much as I love pullovers, they're just not practical for wobbly-necked infants!  This wrap style is so much easier.

The yarn is a superwash wool and is SO SOFT.  The buttons came from my stash (specifically, the quart jar full of buttons I bought for $5 at an antiques mall.)  The whole thing knitted up in just a few days and is now available in my shop in case you have a sweet baby girl in your life who needs something warm to cuddle up in!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Bad blogger

I really have got to be better about keeping up with this poor blog!  The trouble is I've been so busy doing blog-worthy things that I haven't had time to actually write about them.  Between custom orders and the incredible apple harvest and two weeks spent out of state my blogging time has been limited.  But I have several finished projects and a lot of pictures of jam to share with you, so hopefully we'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming very soon!

In the mean time, have some socks.  These are the latest in a long line of travelling socks, and they're for sale in the shop, should you have a need for some man-sized footgear.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

A Sensible Shawl - Jane Austen Knits

I finished this shawl a couple weeks ago and now that it has been recieved by its new owner, I can blog about it!  This was a request from someone I've worked with before (I made these mitts for her last year) and I was thrilled to have an excuse to buy a couple issues of the Jane Austen Knits magazine which I've been eyeing for some time!

The pattern is "A Sensible Shawl" (Ravelry link) by Celeste Young and it was really, really easy.  Once I figured out the first couple stitches of the border pattern, anyway.  This shawl has tabs and ties - it's intended to wrap around the body and tie so that it stays on by itself for hands-free wearing.  You start with one of the i-cord ties, which moves right into the first tab, which flows into the body and border (knitted simultaneously) and then back to the second tab and tie.  And then you're done!  No seaming, and since I used 100% wool I could splice the yarn together as I added in new skeins, so I only had two loose ends to work in when the knitting was finished.

It's nearly all garter stitch, but the border saves it from complete and maddening boredom.  I probably wouldn't knit this one often, but it was a nice restful project and perfect for times when I didn't have a lot of mind-power to spare for my knitting.

(Photos by my sister, who has deserted me and gone off to college!  I guess I need to find a new photographer....)

Friday, 23 August 2013

In progress

I am at a point where nothing is finished but many things are started.  And that's okay, except I have so many other things I want to start!  But for now you can have pictures of some works in progress.

A shawl, and a book.  A couple weeks ago I petitioned Facebook for some reading recommendations and ended up with about fifty titles.  This is the first!

The fall planting of peas is coming up.  (There are tiny lettuces and the beginnings of some carrots, too, but they are not very photogenic yet.)

Three tote bags cut out and ready for sewing.  These are all destined for the shop.

Apple jelly, with fruit from our own tree.  This batch is finished, but the work of harvesting and preserving all the fruit has just begun!