Posts filed in: Crocheting and Knitting

Here We Are

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I want to redo my office soon, so I took some pictures of some of the pictures on my bulletin boards. Baby Mimi!!! So cute I can't even stand it. Aaaaaagh. And darling Audrey. XOXOXOXOXOX

Spring is heeeeeeere, and with it days in the 90s and nights in the 40s. Broiling and then freezing. Andy had a cold, then Mimi got the cold, now I have the cold, and Andy's poor mother has been visiting this week, right in the thick of the coughing, sneezing, and nose-blowing. And copious amounts of complaining. Boy, is she a good sport. She does not have the cold. Fingers crossed. We are having a lovely visit in spite of the gnarly sinuses and it's flown by. Everything in Portland is blooming right now. Tomorrow is our school's May Day dance and I'm hoping for warmer weather so that the children can dance outside instead of in the church basement due to cold and rain.

I've been sewing a lot, working on a pattern for a knitting project bag. That's it, above. I have to say, it's been really fun trying to make something with a very specific function in mind. I've made three so far and I think I've got it down. There is a pocket on the back side for you to keep a pattern in, and three skinny pockets next to that for DPNs or crochet hooks or pens. Inside there is another pocket with three grommets to thread your yarn through. I'd seen this on several project bags and it really was thrilling to find that it works. Cool! Right now I'm sourcing leather and hardware and zippers so that I can offer little packs of those things, along with a pattern for you to make your own. More info on this to come, as usual. But it's happening, and it feels good. I do love it when a plan I didn't even know I had comes together.

I made kind of a yummy pasta recipe, adapted from the New York Times cooking app. It's a classic you've probably had.

Pasta, Prosciutto, and Peas (adapted by me from the original by David Tanis)

1 cup crème fraîche
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
2 heads of fresh broccoli florets, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1 lb. rigatoni
4 slices prosciutto (about 2 ounces), cut into 1/4-inch ribbons
1 tablespoon finely cut chives
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Put crème fraîche, cream and butter in a wide, deep skillet over medium heat. Turn off heat as soon as mixture is hot, and stir to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper and a little nutmeg.

Plunge broccoli boiling water and let cook for 3 minutes. Remove with a mesh spider or slotted spoon and add to cream mixture.

Drop noodles in boiling water and cook until almost al dente. Add peas to water with pasta.

Drain pasta and peas and add to skillet. Sprinkle with prosciutto and chives, then toss gently to coat with sauce. Divide among warmed bowls and serve immediately. Pass grated Parmesan at table.

Do you remember the sideways sweater I had started for Amelia a few weeks ago? I frogged it. I had dyed the yarn myself and couldn't get the vinegar smell out of it and it was annoying me. I don't use vinegar anymore (I use citric acid). I let her dye some yarn and I dyed some yarn and I started this same sweater again, alternating stripes of each of our yarns (hers is the pink, mine is the green). It's such a great sweater for TV watching. It's hard to find sideways sweater patterns like this that aren't in French. (This one is from DROPS, but a lot of this style are French.) I might write one for sport-weight yarn, maybe without the peplum. In all my spare time. But I think it would be pretty easy. It's kinda funny because the very first sweater I ever "favorited" on Ravelry was this one. And I still love it.

I think I'm going to try to get Andy to do a video of how I dye my yarn now, which even works with kids, to show you how I do it and how you can, too. Our ten-year-old neighbor was over one afternoon last weekend and I helped both girls dye their own yarn. And WOW do they ever have different personalities and learning styles. It was really fascinating and mildly freaked me out. B was careful and a bit anxious, Amelia was like a runaway train. Keeping them both on task at the same time was a serious learning experience for me. They are five years apart but get along really well. Anyway, it was a lot of fun to do and would make a really cool project to do with a small group for sure. I'll put that on my list. We'll see if Andy can make a video without setting it to ear-shattering heavy metal. Or maybe it should be set to metal. It's not that rad, but he can probably find a way to rad it up.

Spring-a-ling

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Halllllooooooo out there! Sorrrrrry it's taking me so long to do anything lately. I feel like I'm slamming around my life like a pinball, actually. This reorganizing thing is no joke. I've barely scratched the surface but . . . it's happening. Bit by bit. Andy and I are each trying to dig in to various parts of the house and come up with better systems. Then Amelia comes in and, tornado-like, wafts kiddo-debris from corner to corner: ponytail holders and Calico Critters and tiny bits of paper and pop beads. Bunny slippers and miniature Legos and a tennis ball and her collection of toothbrushes. Dried-up flowers and pieces of grass and wooden spoons and teaspoons. Puzzle pieces and straight pins and stickers and porcelain bells and brass bells and bathing suits and toy-veterinarian check-up cards and peg dolls and seed packets from Burgerville. Typo-correction tape. A slide whistle. A wind-up ladybug. A rhinestone tiara. A feather. A Saltwater sandal. More beads. It's as if a fire-hose filled with stuff from the bottom of every junk drawer and toy box in the world let fly its torrent of glittered swag upon the house all at once. And then, with a whoosh, she is off, and on to something else.

* * *

I had a friend once who said she didn't like spring. It was too much. Too dramatic, too capricious, too beautiful, too heartbreaking. Too gushing with promise, too inconsistent, too intense. Too beautiful. Too heartbreaking. It made you want to cry for the fragile, fraught, barely there-ness of the world, the newborn leaves, the colors more almost-colors than colors. The buds more pouf than plant. And as far as I know, she'd never been to Portland. Good thing. She probably would've screamed.

* * *

At home, I make lotion bars and twist wires into stitch markers and dye piles of yarn. I'm not sure what I'm doing but I think I'm planning to sell all of these things eventually. Aren't I? It seems there's nothing else to do lest the house be further taken over with mountains of lotion bars and mini skeins. I apply for wholesale accounts and think through tin sizes and sketch out packaging concepts. I bombard Andy with my every thought and question: Can you try this lotion bar? Do you like Ylang Ylang, or cedar? Cedar? Are you suuuuure? You like the cedar? You like them both. Do you like this color? You do? You don't. You do! Look! I made a stitch marker! I made five! I made fifty-five! I know! I made a hundred and fifty-five! No, maybe just fifty. It feels like a hundred and fifty-five! Yes, I'm still winding yarn. Now I'm dyeing yarn. Now I'm drying yarn. Now I'm winding yarn again. Let's make spaghetti! Will you make some spaghetti? THANK YOU HONEY!

I really want to do all of these things. I'm enjoying the experience of learning new things and developing new ideas so much I can't even believe it. It's been so long since I learned how to do new stuff, it seems. It's really exciting. We cleaned out our office closet and I went to Ikea to get a shelf on which to store my yarn supplies and lotion bar supplies. While at Ikea it started to pour. Andy was home with Mimi — it was early one Saturday morning and I was just planning to run out there quickly, alone, and get the job done. I enlisted a generous passerby to help me lift the giant box (it was more giant than I was expecting, and I was determined not to have to bring it back into the store to have it shipped) and slide it into my car. I pushed down that middle thing in the back seat and the box slid through the hole with not an inch to spare. Determination. Rain whipping. Windshield wipers going wild. I made it home and Andy put the shelves together for me and I think I was grinning the entire time I loaded them with bare yarn, my beeswax, my electric griddle (that's what I cook the yarn on), my tinfoil roasting pans, my food coloring, my dishpans. It was thrilling. I have a closet! My very own closet of stuff for my new hobbies, dream-scented with clary sage, jasmine, cedar wood, Ylang Ylang, bergamot, and beeswax. Opening it is like walking into another world.

Mimi wears her Thousand Tiny Tulips sweater from this post, a bit more than one year ago. I let her dye her own yarn the other day and she wants me to make her something with it. But what? Sport weight, about 430 yards, I think. I need to look for something. The weather is warming. I'd better be quick. . . .

Spring Things

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Oh, lovely spring. I love spring. Cold rain, squelching lawns, worms and robins, daring daffodils. Magnolias are so gorgeous (at first). I'm watching for the grape hyacinths, which I love. At school there's a regular blooming hyacinth in the foyer. Its scent instantly takes me back to the hyacinths that Andy used to buy for me twenty-five years ago, when we were first living together in Missoula. Spring comes late in Missoula. Very late. But we often had a grocery-store hyacinth blooming on our table and that scent is so pleasing to me. I need to get one for the house.

I've been dyeing a lot of yarn and I love it so much. I reeeeeeeeeeally love it. I'm finding my way into it and learning so much. I wish I had more time to do it right now but it really takes a lot of time. I made all of the yarns in these pictures except the ones in that basket of yarn and granny squares (though I did dye the yarn for the one on the very top; and to those who have asked, the pattern for that square is linked to in this post). I've been knitting up and crocheting up some of my yarns to see what they look like in practice. It's SO EXCITING to see them worked up. Concurrently, I'm knitting up all of the garments I've designed in the past for my stuffed animals and getting ready to send them, along with the old patterns and some new patterns I'm working on, to the technical editor. Among other things, she's going to review everything for consistency and style as I plan to reissue all of the old patterns and the new patterns with new pictures for my girl dolls when they come out this fall. To that end, I'm working on some patterns that I'll work up specifically in these yarns I'm dyeing and offer small batches of mini-skeins made just for these dollie clothes. The skeins will be in sport-weight only, about 25g each, which will knit up almost everything in the collection (though a couple of things, like the tiny dress and the tiny hooded coat will need two skeins). Anyway, I don't know. I have plans. My little head is swirling with plans and ideas.

I'm so happy this has come into my life at this time. It's really resonating with me on so many levels and I don't even know why. This month is the 20th anniversary of my accident and I'm so grateful for all of the things that my disability has brought into my life. It's seriously thrilling to be learning something new. I have so much to learn and I am loving every minute.

Our last two cones of floss we need for Time of Flowers are arriving TODAY. THANK GOODNESS. We need to get on it! Once alllllllll of the floss has arrived today, then we can pull it. Once all of the floss is pulled, then we package and send. It should go fast once it's all here. So start watching for your shipping notices next week, and give them a couple of days to register within the USPS system before trying to track them. It's all happening, finally, and I thank you for your patience. I have my design for the next kit (for summer) all finished and my sample fabric has arrived for it so I'm ready to start stitching on that soon. I've finished all of the samples I want to show you for my cross-stitch post, and once we get the kits out I will write that post and make the PDF-only version of the pattern available as well.

Do you remember this little sweater I made a million years ago? I'm making Mimi another one with my yarns, above. This type of sideways sweater has always been my favorite — I think it's such a cool way to make a sweater!

***Oh yes — I forgot to mention again — yes, we will have approximately 60 more kits to sell beyond the original pre-order group that is now sold out, but I want to wait until all of the floss is pulled for the first group so that I make sure we have enough to sell immediately. If we don't have enough floss, I will just have to order more, which is not a big deal but will take a bit longer and I want to make sure I can give you an approximate shipping date before I release them. But as soon as we pull floss, I will know, and I'll make an announcement here. Thank you!

How did it take me so long to try dyeing yarn???

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Well, helloooooo. How are you? I've been here, there, everywhere, and nowhere. I had a fit in my office and tried to clean it, and it feels better. Andy took the week off and is going to clean out the basement, which is long overdue. I finished gathering my tax data to send to my accountant. I checked in on our last two back-ordered cones of embroidery floss for Time of Flowers kits and found that although they'd been ordered by me four weeks ago, the sales rep hadn't actually put the order through. This, or something like it, literally happens every time. Every. Time. Luckily, the cones had already come in on their own, or something, and they are shipping them out to me today. :/ The printed patterns are due to arrive here on Friday. So if those look good and the cones arrive next week, we'll still be on schedule to ship out of here at the end of the month. The fabric is all cut and waiting. I'm planning to write my cross-stitch post next week now that I'm kind of caught up with my other stuff. And, yeah. The usual. Life.

I made Amelia some pretty legwarmers from the Rambler legwarmers pattern by Derya Davenport, and the yarn is Eden Cottage Yarns Tempo 4-ply in Antique Rose.

In the kitchen, I bubble wool on the stove and make pretty colors. This has cracked open a whole new world for me. Andy backs up and watches the whoosh of my enthusiasm take over the house. I read probably twenty online tutorials about how to dye yarn with food coloring. Here's how I wound up doing it: I soaked a few mini-skeins (about 25g each) of sport-weight natural wool (and some was white angora yarn I'd had hanging around for years) yarn in water with a a few glugs of vinegar thrown in. (Disclaimer: I'm not precise about any stuff like this — I just go for it and see how it goes, FYI.) I whisked some Wilton's gel food coloring into a little pot of water on the stove, with some more vinegar. I moved the yarn into the dye pot and heated it up until it was almost simmering. Then I let it stay that hot for a while, until the dye was "exhausted." Do you know what that means? It means that all of the color has moved into the yarn and the water has turned clear again. Completely clear. It's really cool. Then I took the yarn out of the pot with tongs and let it cool down. They say you're supposed to leave it in the pot to let the water cool down, but I didn't do that. I couldn't figure out why you would have to do that, but maybe I'm missing something. Then I washed the wool with a bit of Dr. Bronner's soap and rinsed it (gently) and hung it to dry. I felted some of it in my impatience. Basically you want to not shock the yarn with drastic temperature changes or a lot of agitation. It also kind of depends on what kind of wool you have. The wool I got at the Pendleton outlet store, which they use to bind the edges of their blankets, did not want to felt much (though they insisted that it wasn't superwash). The Brown Sheep Nature Spun sport wanted to felt like crazy and did, when I wasn't careful.

I also made some speckled yarn by flinging cake sprinkles and dry Kool-Aid and other drinks powder at the damp yarn and then microwaving it. You can lay down some Saran Wrap and then dot the yarn with dye on a toothpick, or shake on some cake sprinkles, or drop on some food-colored powder, and then wrap it all up and microwave it for 30 seconds at a time until it is steaming. A few minutes. People say that sometimes the yarn burns, but mine didn't. Take it out, let it cool, then wash the candy off. Some of the dye colors struck and some didn't. I think I might not have had enough vinegar for some of the sprinkles to strike, though when they did it was great (and the Kool-Aid has citric acid in it, so that acts as an acid to help bind the color to the yarn). It was a fun experiment. I have so many plans to do some more. The fun thing about it is that all of these dyes are food safe, so you can just play around with them in your kitchen. I have no interest in doing other kinds of more complicated dyeing in the house, but just this is so much fun. I have an entire box of cake decorating supplies, so it was really simple to just start trying things out.

The dollie ballet sweater, above, is the Pendleton wool and I love it. It's a bit sticky to knit with but I think it's making brilliant doll sweaters. They're quite sturdy. I was going to do it in angora, but for several reasons I think I'm going to stick with wool. At night I'm in the process of re-editing all of the Little Animal Family knitwear patterns and designing new items for the new dolls that I want to launch this fall. I will be carrying a new line of sport-weight wool (Maine Line from Jagger) in a gorgeous palate for these patterns, and I'm also going to offer up some of my own hand-dyed yarn in mini skeins wound just for these patterns I've got planned for the dolls. Anyway, stay ye tuned for more on this in the coming months.

This soup was literally the best soup I've ever had in my life. You wouldn't think so, but it really was. I served it with the Anadama bread from Little T bakery and, wow.

Roasted Carrot, Parsnip, and Potato Soup
Adapted slightly from original recipe by Martha Rose Shulman for The New York Times

1 ½ pounds carrots, peeled and cut in 3/4 inch pieces
½ pound (2 large) parsnips, peeled, quartered, cored and cut in 3/4 inch pieces
1 medium or large red onion, cut in large dice 1 medium (about 6 ounces) Yukon gold potato, quartered
6 garlic cloves, in the skin
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
6 cups chicken stock or broth, enhanced with a couple of extra teaspoons of Better than Bouillon chicken stock concentrate
Chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme, tarragon or chives, for garnish
Crème fraîche for garnish (DO NOT LEAVE THIS OUT — it is amazing with this soup)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a sheet pan or a baking dish with parchment or foil. Toss vegetables, including garlic cloves, with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Spread in baking dish or on sheet pan in an even layer and place in oven. Set timer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, stir vegetables and turn heat down to 400 degrees. Roast for another 20 to 30 minutes or until very tender and caramelized on the edges, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. You should have about 4 cups roasted vegetables. Put them all in your big soup pot.

Hold garlic cloves with a towel so that you don’t burn your fingers. Squeeze out the pulp into the pot. Add the chicken stock and blend all with a stick blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper and heat through. Serve each bowl with a sprinkle of chopped fresh herbs and if you wish, a swirl of crème fraîche or yogurt.

 

***Time of Flowers is sold out right now, though  we will have 60 more kits to put on sale as soon as I count up all floss we have left and let you know if we can ship at the same times as the other kits, or if these will be shipping a bit later than the original 400. Thank you to everyone who has ordered!

***Oh — and the PDF Only option for the Time of Flowers pattern will also be available in a couple of weeks, as well. I'll let you know. Thank you!

Couch Lounge

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Amelia went to bed coughing and with a stuffy nose on Sunday night, so I kept her home for the first three days of this week. Aside from her feeling a bit poorly, we had such a lovely time together, mostly watching TV and movies, and snuggling on the couch, and reading and playing with Legos, and eating the soup that I told her I always used to ask for when I was sick as a little girl (that Lipton's chicken soup in box with the desiccated chicken and powdery bouillon and grass noodles). I brought her breakfast in bed, which she had recently mentioned she wanted me to do next time she was sick, so I did that. She was cuddly and quiet and sweet and sniffly, and as I knit she put her feet up on my legs and sang along to her baby shows, Blues Clues and Little Baby Bum (nursery rhymes and songs), stuff she doesn't watch anymore, generally, but which I think made her feel comforted and content. On Tuesday she baked cupcakes, doing almost everything herself except for the things she just couldn't do, and she was proud and I was proud of her. She missed Valentine's Day at school but late in the afternoon her friend's mom delivered a bag filled with classmate Valentines and a lollipop (not sugar free) so she was delighted.

Thank you so much for your kind words about the new cross-stitch design! I didn't get a chance to get a lot of Posie work done the way I normally would when she is in school in the mornings, but I did manage to take my cover photo and finish up the pattern. I'll start a pre-sale for the kits on Tuesday morning next week (the 20th). Three of the floss colors are on back-order so we'll pull the floss the minute it all arrives, and plan to ship at the end of March. This week I wore my new blouse (vintage Peter Pan calico made from Burda pattern 6592) and mostly worked on my granny-square blanket, which I'm calling Firefly Jar because it reminds me of little flickers of light against a dimming evening sky. By the way, I get my grannies perfectly square before whip-stitching them together by wet-blocking them all individually. The speckled yarn continues to charm me. Thank you for all the recommendations for other indie dyers. I have about ten skeins of speckled yarn now! I'll have to do a whole post about them. They are just so, so pretty. I started a spring sweater for Amelia with a few of the colors (Hedgehog Fibres Skinny Singles in Pistachio, Pinky Swear, and Opalite) using the Flax Light pattern from Tin Can Knits and it's working up quickly, being mostly stockinette. It's light as a feather. I picked the green and she picked the pink so it's a collaboration. Thanks also to those of you who suggested that I try to do some dyeing myself with Wilton food dyes. I have tons of those so I am totally going to try it. I'm excited about that. That looks like a lot of fun.

My heart and Andy's are heavy with so much sorrow over the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. We talked and talked about it yesterday. My head is swirling, feverish with bitterness and fury over how this keeps happening again and again and again. I don't even know how to talk about it. I'm so disappointed and frustrated I really cannot find the words I want to say.

Outside, spring continues to peek it's little fuzzy head out from under piles of brown oak leaves and the muck of winter. Around town, daffodils are starting to bloom in earnest now and crocuses cover tiny plots in a haze of lavender. The sky is bright gray, like a gray lightbox, with flat, dull light that leaves no shadows. I'll make tea and work and take care of little things. I wish you peace today. I hope your day has peace.

Dream of Spring

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Time of Flowers blog

Oh, hello! I've been here, peeking in on my shady little glade. Frogs are croaking here. Mud is squelching. Winter's muck is being parted by new growth. In our yard, tiny choirs of tiny daffodils (my favorites are called 'Minnow') are starting to pierce the ground and prepare their songs. Our yard is still filled with brown — dead leaves, colorless stems of dead grass, old blooms, withered things — but everywhere below the surface the season is changing.

I come to the change a bit sullenly. Our winter here has been very mild, with almost no rain, and only one (beloved, wonderful) snowstorm. I guess it could always still happen, of course, but it doesn't feel like it will. As you walk around town you smell it — winter daphne. The fragrant harbinger of future blossoms. I do love it. And so it begins. Our plum tree is already dropping its first freckled fairy petals. The spirea begins to swell with its little buds. I have the bedroom window open behind the curtain every night now, and now we listen to the cold night sounds, and the early morning crows. Spring is coming.

I'm happy because I heard back from the distributor (Wichelt) about the discontinued fabric (I unknowingly chose) for this new cross stitch kit and they still have fifty yards in stock, out of which we can make four-hundred kits. I'm seriously thrilled by that number. I thought it would be, like, four. Or three. So I bought the fifty, and it's on its way. Yesterday I also ordered all the floss from DMC, and so it will be on its way soon, too. This will be another design, like First Snow, that will fit into an 8" x 10" ready-made frame. (I'm going to do one for each season, and just this morning I got my idea [pop! right into my head!] for my summer design.) I'll give you more details on this one for spring and will start taking pre-orders probably next week. If there is more interest beyond the four hundred, the manufacturer has agreed to dye more fabric (at, naturally, a higher cost, and with a six-to-eight-week lead time), but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. We've sold 492 First Snow kits of the 600 we originally made, so I'm a bit worried we could go over the 400, if everyone does want to do a series of seasons, and I do want everyone who wants one to be able to get one. With my luck I'll probably sell four kits, total. Well, weeeeeeeeee'll see. Now I'm just rambling. We'll figure it out when we get there, no worries.

My creative mania, as it reduced itself from a rolling boil to a gentle simmer, seemed to also direct its interest (I'm speaking about "it" in the third person because I've lost control and am now disassociating, apparently) toward hand-dyed speckled sock yarn. Exclusively. Only hand-dyed speckled sock yarn. I mean??? This from the woman who has only ever, in twenty years, knit one sock. But, seriously, how pretty are these yarns? And these? Why am I so late in understanding about these? I saw some of them recently at Close Knit and Starlight Knitting Society and Twisted and I walked by them without a backward glance, fixated on All The Solid Colors. Now, just weeks later, I have gone back and bought them, and for fun I literally open my iPad and staaaaaaare at them on-line, all of these freckly wonders, and try to choose between them. I have a pattern picked out for a new Easter-ish sweater for Mimi, and have ordered several other skeins to work into the granny-square blanket, etc. I've bought yarn with sparkles in it. I really never thought I would do that.

via GIPHY

Six More Weeks

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Well, it finally happened. The knitting mania I was experiencing burnt itself out, and I'm not really sad. I had been eyeing the Teru sweater for a while and really wanted to make it but after only one evening it had already bested me. You can see it above, that piddly little amount of neckline knitting in the cream-colored donegal with the beginnings of blackberry-colored fair-isle starting. I didn't make any mistakes or anything like that, and the pattern is, seriously, a work of art, but it is fingering-weight, and complicated, and, after knitting for many hours, I was literally only maybe an inch into it. I looked at it and I was like, "Yeah, I'm done." And it was kind of a good feeling, actually. Knitting-wise, I had been pretty wild-eyed in general for the past two months. My purple heather honeybee sweater is still happening but I've made lots of mistakes in the lace and it's feeling kind of sloppy. I have some yarn on order to cast on for a South Bay sweater, which is mostly just gobs and gobs of stockinette with only small areas of interest, so that will be nice and easy, and like something that a normal person with a five-year-old instead of, like, a lady who's getting paid by the stitch, or something, would knit. So yeah, in general, now that it is February, I'm mostly relieved that I'm breathing regularly instead of hyperventilating. That was intense. And thanks to Punxatawney Phil, we still have lots of winter left.

The house is a disaster. Small piles of I-don't-know-what are hanging around like beached detritus leftover from storm season. Thirty books, a fish mobile, a party hat, fourteen Calico Critters, pieces of yarn, peeled off stickers, apple peels that someone threw on the floor and tried to pretend she didn't throw on the floor, zillions of Legos, stray baby socks, broken crayons, snapped-off pieces of a bowling-alley-arcade crown, naked dolls, entire handmade XL sweaters, stitch markers, random pieces of paper, lip balm, a wooden spoon. Amelia, lately, has been trying out operatic responses to the smallest of tragedies — gales of tears when she scrapes a knee, shrieks of despair when something goes missing (as if it could not; see above). The other day in the schoolyard: wails of frustration when she saw that something had fallen into this deep window-well that houses a bunch of pipes and machinery stuff alongside the church in which the preschool is housed. The window-well is bordered by a metal railing which is covered in some kind of cage thing so the kids can't fall into it. Amelia stood and sobbed, pointing. She called me over and I went, expecting from her intensity to see, I don't know, a hurt kitten? a abandoned baby bird? a million dollars that couldn't be reached? Instead it was . . . a barrette. And not even one of her pretty felt-flower barrettes, but just one of those ubiquitous little metal clippies. I literally could hardly see it. Dramatic crying and continued pointing by Amelia into well. "Hmmmm," said I, "I think that one's been sacrificed, darling." I went back to the wall where I had been sitting and talking with mom friends. Within minutes, however, three dads and a handful of kids were all peering into the window-well through the fencing. Something was happening. A rescue operation had ensued. The guys were so into it I didn't have the heart to tell them we had at least two hundred barrettes per room, back at the house. Quiet peering into the depths of the well continued. We could see consultations and apparent breath-holding. Then, suddenly, a great cheer went up from kid and man alike: Aaron (dad) had found a magnet and Frank (dad) had produced one of those metal handyman tape measures from his pocket and they had literally fished the metal barrette from the depths of the well. Amelia, now smiling, was also mildly nonplussed; these dramas are rather short-lived and also half-hearted, for all their volume, and, anyway, she is already quite sure dads can do anything. I love our school friends. I'm already starting to have a lot of nostalgia over our time at the preschool, as none of the families with whom we currently go to preschool will be going to the school Amelia is going to next year.

So, the house is a mess and Amelia's room is completely nuts with tiny things covering every surface, rugs bunched up under bed legs, and clothes stuffed into corners, and instead of knitting, I'm now crocheting. My (lovely, I must say) Shetland Adventure shawl came off the blocking board on Tuesday and promptly went right 'round my neck, where it stayed for hours and hours, cuddling me. Hap shawls really are lovely in every way, and that one (I only made the top layer, as the bottom one felt a bit too fussy for the way I dress, which is, most days, still like an eighth-grade volleyball coach, with all due respect to mine) certainly was. It only barely bit into the third skein of fingering weight, so there went another almost-full skein of yarn into the stash. Hrumpf. Curious, I pulled out my old between-projects project, my Beatrix Blanket (which has, for months, been going nowhere). And suddenly I decided that I wanted to make something other than that for Amelia's bed — instead, I am going to do a little checkerboard granny square inspired by this one but with this pattern for the square. All fingering and sport and almost entirely stash. Random colors with a very creamy pale lavender (this yarn, gloriously called Oyster Mushroom, which I have four or five skeins of already) contrast. In the shower this morning I also had the idea to maybe add a few little fabric patches in there, too, but we'll see how that goes. Anyway, stay tuned for that. Amelia is getting a new full-sized Calicozy, too, out of fabric that I have been collecting just for her for quite a while, so I'm excited about it, though I still haven't done a bit of actual work on it. Nevertheless, I'm hoping it — both — will inspire me to start cleaning.

Luckily, my new spring cross-stitch design is finished. Unluckily, the fabric I chose (a piece of which I happened to already have in my stash and so did not call ahead to the distributor to see how much they had on hand or could get before planning to design an entire kit around it) has NATURALLY been discontinued. Thus I continue my winning record of picking out things that are mere moments from being discontinued. It appears to be my truest talent, honestly. Waiting to hear how many yards Wichelt has on hand before I decide what to do. But am still planning on releasing this new design this spring. It's also an 8" x 10", like First Snow, and my plan is to do one for each season.

A cautionary tale (or two):

My best friend, Martha, lives near Boston. We were college roommates and we now talk (text) every day, and have done for many years. She is a single mom and also has a little girl, so there's not a lot of time for either of us during the day. She is three hours ahead of me, so every night after I put Mimi to bed, I get back downstairs around 7 p.m. my time, 10 p.m. Martha's time, and we chat about everything and nothing.

On Wednesday after school, Mimi and I had gone to Fabric Depot to get some interfacing and ribbon for a blouse I'd made for myself. After that, I took her out to an early dinner, where she didn't eat anything and instead, as soon as her ravioli arrived, laid down on the booth bench and asked if she could take her socks off. This was quite strange, as she is a great restaurant kid with a hearty appetite who also generally never stops talking. But instead she was quiet, and on the way home she fell asleep in the car (unheard of). I started to worry that she might not be feeling well again, though she had no temperature and said her throat felt fine. But as soon as we got home we went straight upstairs and started her bedtime routine, even though it was still light out. By 6:00 she was in bed and I was back downstairs, telling Martha that I had just put Amelia to bed and was a bit worried that she wasn't feeling well. No sooner had I sent the text than I heard a warbling, "Mommy? I need to go pottttttttty. . . ." Cue me, sprinting upstairs. "Mama, I have a tummy ache. . . ." And this time the tears were utterly real. Her discomfort was heartbreaking. I suddenly remembered that there had been sugar-free gummy bears granted in line at Fabric Depot. Mimi is actually pretty good about not asking for that crap at check-out (there must be thirty different mini-packs of jelly bellies right there, where you get it line), and sometimes I say yes, and sometimes I say no. This time I'd said, regrettably, yes. "I can never have candy again!!!" she said, face covered in tears. "Next Halloween I'm going to put on my costume but I'm just going to walk around the blooo-ooo-oooock." Oh, my dear sweet honey! My heart was breaking. I assured her that one day there would again be some candy in her future. We sat there in the bathroom together for forty-five minutes until she was . . . finished . . . and I had her laughing again, and literally the second it was all over it was like it had never happened. She bounced off to bed, I tucked her in, she rolled over and grabbed Foxie, and we said our good nights and I love yous and sweet dreamses. I breathed a cautious sigh of relief and went back downstairs and texted Andy (who was at work) to tell him what had happened, and said I was mildly worried that she had the flu but I was much more sure that the episode was caused by the gummy bears I'd approved earlier that afternoon [guilty grimace]. Then I texted and told Martha, who had also been sick earlier this week. Before she could answer, Andy replied to me with this:

Sugarless Haribo Gummy Bear Reviews On Amazon Are The Most Insane Thing You'll Read Today

So, I'm reading that article and practically falling of the couch horrified-laughing (people are hilarious), and then sending it over to Martha and saying, "Uh, yeah, it was the gummy bears," when she answers back:

"I just threw up ten times."

Me [stunned]: "Oh no honey! You have the flu! Are you okay???"

And then she goes:

"I think I drank old daffodil water after I took the NyQuil."

Me: "SAY WHAT?"

I'm paraphrasing.

It turns out, she'd bought three small bunches of daffodils from Trader Joe's earlier that day, then put them in a glass of water on the counter, planning to bring them to her boyfriend's house for his birthday later that night. They were in the water for about four hours. She said that in retrospect she thought the water tasted funny but she had gulped it because of the NyQuil. Then this, from Jonathan (boyfriend):

"All parts of the daffodil contain a toxic chemical, lycorine. The part of the plant that contains the highest concentration of lycorine is the bulb. However, eating any part of the plant can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. These symptoms usually last about 3 hours. More severe problems such as low blood pressure, drowsiness, and damage to the liver have been reported in animals that ate very large amounts of the plant but have never been reported in humans.

"The bulb also contains chemicals called oxalates, which are microscopic and needle-like. When swallowed, oxalates cause severe burning and irritation of the lips, tongue, and throat. They can also cause skin irritation.

"Usually, the only treatment required is rinsing the mouth well and drinking water or milk. If vomiting and diarrhea persist, watch for dehydration. If a person is having severe throat pain, difficulty swallowing, or drooling, medical evaluation and treatment is needed."

Source

Martha: "Apparently there are several posts about this. I'm not the first person to drink daffodil water."

Me: "I shouldn't be laughing at that last one."

Martha: "It's okay. It's kind of hysterical. Except not right now. For me."

Me: "Neither you nor Mimi is allowed to eat sugar-free gummy bears nor drink daffodil water ever again!!!"

Martha: "Okay. FINE!!!"

For the record, she felt better throughout the night and then went to bed. When Andy got home he was with our friend Jeff, also a nurse. They'd brought sandwiches and were planning to play Atari in the garage. I told them about Martha and then asked if they'd known that sugar-free gummy bears apparently "power-wash your intestines." Andy said he hadn't know, but he'd mentioned it to another nurse at work and she'd immediately gasped and said, "Oh my gosh, that's, like, a thing." And then they looked it up. So I'm here to warn you. The pains are real. #truestory

Winterland

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I don't want January to end. I don't.

Mimi and I were both fighting low-grade colds this past week. We were lucky, and we never really got that sick. But her nose was running a little bit, and her voice was raspy for a day or two. We had taken her out of school last Thursday to all go out to breakfast together and then take her to her first movie in the theater (Paddington 2 — loved it). Then Andy was off on Friday and he just wanted to hang out with her so we kept her out on Friday. Then on Saturday I had a funny feeling in my eyeballs, which is always my first symptom of sickness — my eyeballs feel hot. By Monday I had called her in yet again and she and I made a poorly bed on the sofa and snuggled in for the day. She played with every toy she had and we ate every meal at home, which trashed the house repeatedly, day after day. She insisted on cleaning up by picking up every mini Lego with a pair of tongs. She got all the pieces in that giant yellow box that makes no sense to me (if you have this thing, you probably know what I'm talking about). I was in the kitchen while she was putting it on her shelf and I just heard this tremendous CRASH and then the cascade of Legos spilling everywhere. And then, you know, HOWLING. Etc. Damn you, Legos. Legos at 5 p.m. So we trashed the house and I (mostly) cleaned it, and then we trashed and then I cleaned and then we trashed, etc. This continued through Wednesday. She went back on Thursday. I missed her terribly but it was nice to finally get to take some deep breaths and relaxxxxxxxxxx.

I love winter so much, even though winter in Portland pretty much sucks. No snow, just gray. The yard is seriously disgusting. Rain. Everything's brown except the sky, which is low and gray. Or kind of white. But I don't care. Be gross, Portland. I don't care. Let it rain. Nothing out there needs me. The garden doesn't need watering, the pool is closed. The evening comes early. The morning starts late. I drink coffee and bake. We stay home. I have things delivered. I knit. Apparently, I don't work. :| Yikes. I should be working, but I don't feel like it. I have so much to do but apparently I don't care about that either [insert freaked-out-looking emoji guy]. I have taxes to do and a doll pattern to design and kits to develop and a spring cross-stitch pattern to work on. I gave myself January. I see daffodil and iris shoots starting to appear and they are making me feel anxious. I'm just not ready to be done with this rest.

January.

I finished my Ranunculus cardigan and I absolutely love it. Love it. It's just perfect for me. I still can't believe it. That's THREE SWEATERS now that I've made and that fit me. This one's big and floppy and airy. It's DK-weight yarn knit on size 10 needles (for you non-knitters, that means this yarn is fairly thin and the needles are fairly big and this results in a fairly porous fabric) and the sweater is meant to be quite wide and oversized to begin with. The sleeves grew quite a bit with blocking, so they are a longer than I would like — full-length on me instead of 3/4-length, which is what I was going for. The yarn is kind of strange. I used Arranmore Light, which is mostly wool with a bit of silk and a bit of cashmere (goat). I loved it in the skein but knit up it almost feels like cotton to me. I guess that's the silk. So it's not, like, the coziest sweater in the world. There's very little halo on this yarn, and that's not exactly what I was going for, either. But I still love the sweater and the whole thing was a great experience.

Thank you ever so much for all of the knitting podcast recommendations. Wow. I'm so excited. I haven't had a chance to watch any because I've been with Mimi almost every minute of the past week, but I can't wait to check them out. Thank you!

I'm thinking more about yarn than I ever have. More and more I realize that I'm partial to a very specific kind of yarn, plain wooly with some halo, fairly soft but with good definition, too. I started yet another sweater yesterday. This one is, once again, based on the Ellen Cardigan. I did some math (I did math!) to figure out how to make it a straight raglan instead of a circular yoke and added the honeybee lace panels to the front. The yarn I'm using for this one is Cascade 220 Heather (and the color is Iridescence). This is a very popular yarn that comes in gobs of colors for nice price and for some reason this is the first time I've ever used it, I think, and I really like it.

Shockingly successful knitting balanced by baking fails. That thing with the swirlies was the Butter Cake from Scandikitchen Fika and Hygge and it blobbed all over the oven and turned into goo in the middle. As I said on Instagram, I should've taken a picture of that but I was in crisis and didn't think to. Womp womp. I need to start making soups. Or, like, any food that isn't dessert would be a good start. That might be a good place to start.

Not Much

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Doing not much. Knitting and knitting and knitting. I have so many chores I should be getting to but . . . it's January. I just want to knit. So I am. And trying not to feel guilty about that. I'll catch up (won't I?) in February. . . .

Cinnamon rolls from Scandikitchen Fika and Hygge cookbook :: Sweet little baby Mimi :: Shawl is My Shetland Adventure pattern in Sunday Knits Angelic fingering in aqua :: Breakfast with my loves at our favorite, Besaw's :: Illustrations from My First Little House Books (which I like as much if not more than the original novels) Going West and Sugar Snow :: Andy and Mimi at the store right now getting ingredients for chicken soup tonight, as we all try to stay healthy :: Ranunculus sweater yoke in Arranmore Fine in progress :: Watched all of the first season of Victoria. Wow. So good!

Anyone watching or listening to good knitting podcasts? I am familiar with Woolful, The Gentle Knitter, and Kammebornia. Are there any others I should check out?

Happy New Year!

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Well, hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii! Hello. Happy New Year! I hope yours is starting out well. Lazy days turned into lazy weeks, here. It was glorious. It snowed. Things got cancelled. Things got rescheduled. Family came. Family went. The house got trashed. Movies were watched over and over. I knit and knit. Toys were played with. Books were read. Lots of treats were eaten. Lots of snuggling happened. Lots of days involved no driving whatsoever. Lots of mornings started incredibly late. Lots of baths got taken. Antidote to occasional intrusions of holiday stress: hours of mind-tranquilizing tasks. Like knitting row upon row upon row of stockinette stitch. Winding about a hundred skeins of embroidery floss onto tiny plastic bobbins and arranging them by color into boxes (a job that has needed doing for YEARS now). Cross stitching, ripping out, stitching again. Middle age descends: here's me, sitting in my cozy corner under a comforter doing these things while wearing a new flannel nightgown and watching Just in Time for Christmas. My happy place. I think I was purring. Ohhhhh, you know. It was lovely. I needed it. We all did. I hope your holidays were just as wonderful.

I blocked and put buttons on my Ellen Cardigan (still have yet to put it on Ravelry, sorry) and oh, how I love that thing. I'm really proud of it. It's the third or fourth sweater I've knit for myself and the first one that's ever fit me perfectly. As I mentioned before, I followed the colors of the original pattern exactly, and I made no modifications to the knitting (size 48). I loooooove it. I immediately started  another one based on the exact same sweater pattern, but changing the yoke design. For a while now I've been wanting to make the Ryðrauð sweater but I was nervous about doing any sweater from the bottom up, or, honestly, any sweater other than the Ellen (from now on, forever and ever) because I find it almost traumatizing to make sweaters for myself that don't fit. As I said, I've only made a handful for myself but, if I'm honest, there is something about every one of them that I just don't like. The neck on my Ramona cardigan is just way too big and falls off my shoulders. My Strokkur I made too short and I'm constantly pulling it down (well, I would be constantly pulling it down if I actually wore it). My Birkin sweater was tragic (yoke too deep, my colorwork too puckered, the neckline too funneled, body too big, sleeves started way too low on me, etc.). It just doesn’t fit my shape well. And that was size XL in fingering-weight yarn [shrieking]. I’ve seen plenty of people make this pattern now and it looks so gorgeous on them in all of the photos I’ve seen, but I just didn’t succeed with it. I don't have very much experience knitting adult-sized garments and I find it to be very intimidating and weirdly heartbreaking when I do finally take the plunge and it just doesn't work out. I know I should just chalk it up to experience but I don't. Instead, I just stop trying. But for some reason the Ellen Cardigan seemed like it would work out for me and then it did, and I don't know that I've ever been so happy with anything that I've ever made for myself, sewing included, and it gave me a lot of confidence. It was such a good feeling. Has that ever happened to you?

So, back to the Ryðrauð. I first saw Lori's version of that sweater a few years ago and I just thought it was so pretty. But, as mentioned, immediately after finishing Ellen I was nervous about ever making a sweater that doesn't fit like Ellen. So I took the Ellen colorwork chart for my size and figured out (on my cross-stitch software) a modified, simplified version of the Ryðrauð flowers that would fit right into the Ellen yoke and also could be done from the top down. And that kind of looked like this:

MyYokeSweater

I really had no idea how to do the chart the right way re: the repeat, so this is the whole yoke. Pffff! It worked out pretty well, except that as you can see there are huge spaces between the contrast color stitches of the taller motifs on the first few rows. I tried to float the yarn as loosely as I possibly could but it's still puckering a bit so we'll just have to see how it goes. But I think it's okay-enough. Also, I knit the neckband directly onto the yoke in the navy blue version; the Ellen has you pick that up last and I found that it curls a bit (and also makes the buttonholes space out rather poorly at the top, then).

Anyway, this morning I was trying to get caught up with my overflowing and neglected email in-box (yes, I pretty much suck at everything that has to do with answering all but the most urgent emails, even on my best days) and noticed that a blog reader named Kristi (hi, Kristi!) had suggested that I watch a podcast from Nicole at The Gentle Knitter. I follow Nicole on Instagram and love her work so much but I didn't really know about the podcast. I tuned in to the first few episodes and was totally thrilled to find that she was (or, actually, had been a year ago) knitting the Ryðrauð sweater (also inspired by Lori's version)! Snap! Well, Nicole is, like, the most patient, lovely, gentle creature on earth and she explains everything in such a calming way and she has so many interesting things to say about the Ryðrauð that it is well worth watching if you are interested in knitting it. She also talked about how you can catch long floats on the back of the sweater and I didn't even know that, so I will definitely have to look into that for next time. Also, I don't know, but if this navy version works out and I find myself with at least two sweaters in my closet that I love to wear, I might branch out a little more and risk making more things for myself. I purled the colorwork, above, and it's kind of a giant pain. So, all this is to say that 2018 might be my year of steeking more sweaters (I've only done it once before, for Mimi), and that's kind of an exciting feeling.

Ramble, ramble. I haven't gotten out too much lately.

What kind of cake should I make for my birthday?

About Alicia Paulson

About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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Photography

Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.