Shawl for September

This summer, there has been a fair amount of knitting progress! It is definitely a strange thing to proclaim, that during the hottest, sweatiest months of summer I managed to find some time to devote to wool. Yet that is the truth of it, and I am happy for it regardless of timing. I am certain that my days at Squam in June have had a lasting effect on my ability to continue on with the making, and now even with hectic days of school starting I’ve still managed to sustain some dedicated time for it.

Rondelay

This is Rondelay, a shawl pattern by Jennifer Dassau the writer and designer of The Knitting Vortex blog. It was a lovely little knit. Although it was designed for sock yarn, I knit it up in worsted using two skeins of Souk by Cascade. I ran out of yarn with only the eyelet border to go, which is a scrap ball of what I believe is another bit of Cascade, if memory serves.

Ruffley

 

I actually started this one several times over while at Squam; we had a bit of a rough start, Rondelay and I. We had a disagreement about wording that led to a few days of frustration, and quite a high incident rate of ripping out and casting back on.That being said, it really isn’t a difficult pattern once you get the hang of it, but I did up having to write to Ms. Dassau to ask for clarification. She was incredibly gracious and helped clear up my confusion at one particular problematic spot, which happened early on (possibly row 8?) with my stitch counts once you begin picking up wrapped stitches. So should you find yourself in similar dire straights, I would say that you should knit up to and including the last wrapped stitch, then wrap and turn the next stitch.

At Rest

This is my very first shawl, which might surprise you, and definitely surprises me! What, exactly, I’ve asked myself a few times in the past number of weeks, have I been waiting for? Knitting shawls is lovely. This was a smaller project that seems to fly off the needles; I didn’t have to knit it twice as one would with socks; it’s easy to transport; it doesn’t take a huge time commitment. Of course, mileage varies with different patterns, and I’m not quite up to the ninja master levels of concentration needed for a wedding ring shawl for instance—my children need to be a bit more older before I’ll be ready for that—but right after I finished this up, I threw a few more shawl patterns in my Ravelry queue! As a matter of fact, I’m finishing up a second shawl that traveled with me across the pond that I’ll write about later.

Circle Detail

Rondelay is made up of three circles that are cleverly knit together using an interesting short row technique, and if you’re knitting with sock weight, it only requires one skein. The little circles are fascinating to watch as they grow, especially with the gradual color shift of the yarn. Ms. Dassau has made Rondelay available for purchase through Ravelry individually, or if you’re as fascinated by short row work as I am, she has created a little e-booklet of five short row shawls as well.

Twirly

Due to the interesting construction it gets a little ruffle-y… or maybe twirly is a better word. It’s just sweet really.

Its A Wrap

Looking forward to those cool, crisp Autumn mornings to give it a go and see how she’ll feel all snugged up. It can’t be that much longer, right?

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The Baby’s Room :: The Dresser

A few weeks ago, the baby turned two. I took this as a sign that I really should get moving on finishing her room, you know, before my husband takes it over as his office sometime in the next few months. A few weeks before her birthday, the dresser we bought from IKEA met an untimely and unfortunate death (well, at least the bottom drawer did) which has had a rather devastating waterfall effect on the state of her room. If there’s no place to put the clothes, they stay in baskets, until she decides it’s time to empty said baskets of course. It was time to get things cleaned up.

Enter this lovely.

Naked

A friend of mine has been moving her house around and decided to get rid of a few pieces, this one included.

Dresser Before

The dresser was a tad dusty, the top had a bit of water damage, and needed just a tiny bit of TLC, but otherwise, it was a beautiful piece. So I got out my sander, some paint and wax, and this is what I came up with.

The Dresser

It fits in the corner perfectly, and since the side panel is the view I see from my perch on the rocking chair I decided it need just a little touch of something extra…

Side View

a touch of hand-painted pattern, wiped away and slightly distressed.

Top Corner

I was hoping it would look a bit like old and faded wallpaper. I have to say I’m pretty happy with the result.

Pattern Detail

It was a bit gut-wrenching to go at the pattern with a wet cloth and sand paper, but I went slowly as I built up my courage, and I think the end result was worth the distress.

Dresser Front

The front panels of the dresser seemed to be in pretty good shape, but was feeling a bit rough. I can not believe what a difference 320 grit paper and some dark wax made. I tried the Howard Restore-A-Finish, but I have to say it was the dark wax that made the biggest difference.

Bottom Corner

I painted an undercoat of Annie Sloan’s Duck Egg Blue, touched it up in a few places in with a bit of petroleum wax, then painted a top coat of Annie Sloan’s Provence Blue. A bit of sanding, the pattern painted on top, then a coat of clear wax and a few touches of dark wax to age it ever so slightly.

Dresser Top

The top was sanded down to bare wood, then stained with two different colors of minwax Sedona and Mahogany Red (straight up stain without the poly) with two or three light and buffed coats of dark wax. It’s hard to describe just how much the new top glows.

Booties

And last but not least, the pair of teeny tiny booties I knit for her, which evidently, I have forgotten to write about. You’ll see the sweater in a later post about her room, once I finish up another wall.

Boy I hope I get this room finished up soon!

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Have you visited these awesome sites where I’ve shared this project?  ::  Miss Mustard Seed  ::  The Shabby Creek Cottage  ::  The Handmade Home  ::  Funky Junk Interiors  ::  Finding Silver Pennies  ::  Under the Table and Dreaming  ::  Today’s Creative Blog

The Pantry Project :: The Payoff

This morning I sat editing the photos for today’s post, and my five year old son asked what I was doing. “Working,” I said while he cuddled up next to me. “Doesn’t look like work to me,” he replied. And I thought about it, this strange place in the world that allows me to take pictures of my pantry—my pantry—and have other people look at it; a place where organizing a pantry is newsworthy. I wonder what my Gram would have thought about this, whether she would shake her head and chuckle about the crazy world we live in, or whether she would find any value in the activity at all. I suspect, as the master of the practical that she was, the idea would be so foreign to her that she might even be slightly appalled at how much time I was spending writing posts and editing photos about such a task when there were more important chores waiting to be done such as the never-ending and thankless laundry. I know she would be absolutely stunned that I would sit here and write in the virtual world while actual dust bunnies gathered on the real world stairs.

The Right Side

Yes, it is a strange thing, this blog-land we participate in, yet I find it comforting even as I wonder if it’s too large a time sink in my life.  It’s not that pantry organizing is such an interesting topic, really, at all. I think posting about it and reading about other organization projects on the web is more about recognizing a connection with others, experiencing a piece of our everyday, mostly boring lives, through the lens of another’s perspective. It’s a highlight reel of the mundane, an instant capture of the the unremarkable and normal, the things we all struggle with and that aren’t a normal topic of conversation when we still down with loved ones but that does fill up the most space in our day. I can’t imagine an article about a mother of four’s struggle with her pantry on the front page of the New York Times—well, not without a more interesting existential byline—but really, when I look back ten years from now, I’m sure I’ll wonder how I managed to find the time and con my dear friends into organizing a space that is immensely practical and useful and finding some way to make it pleasing.

The Left Side

Yes, there was the purchase of the organizing racks, the lazy susans, the can stackers, and the chalkboard labels, and yes, we cut up little circles and tied them with ribbon on the front of brightly colored paper baskets I bought on clearance two years ago at Lowes.

Behind The Door

And we finally found a place for the step ladder that’s been hiding in the garage while I used the wobbly chair to reach the top shelves. It’s probably not in the best place though, because I still use the chair.

My Precious Platters

And there are pictures that show things that are precious to me and hold interesting bits of family history; the platters made when I had three, then four kids, my gram’s recipe box, a few pieces from my depression glass collection that is still packed up in the basement waiting for the time when it can once again see the light of day.

One Small Stand

Visible Stacks

Really… why is it interesting? Why do I feel compelled to write about it?

Airtight Jars

And although I thank you for following along—I really really do—is it really interesting enough to hold your attention? Rows of “airtight” jars that need to be replaced because they’re not actually airtight? Cans aligned, side-by-side. Ziploc bags, scales, bakeware?

Bakeware I Use

Maybe another reason we read about these things—trust me, I read and love them too—is not just about the connection we feel, but also the payoff. Who doesn’t love a great reveal, the feeling that something somewhere was accomplished by someone, maybe even someone ordinary enough to have piles of dust in her pictures and coffee splatters on her machine (erHEM).

Small Appliances

Maybe that payoff gives us some hope that really, it can be done. We can take that step to make something useful to us better in some fashion. There is evidence in the world that not only do we all share some of the same struggles, but we can each of us appreciate a good resolution; good even if it’s not perfect, or perfectly staged, or exactly finished.

Chalkboard Labels

And I know that a few months from now I might look back at these pictures and be thankful that I took them because I know that if it looked like this once, it can look like this again.

Baking Ingredients

And maybe some other day, many years in the future, I’ll look back at these and not necessarily wonder about the curiosity that is the subjects we chose to write about, but marvel at the ephemera I captured—dog dishes, maple syrup, paper plates, lentils, beans—a visual representation of a moment in time that was so ordinary that it was never given another thought, yet ends up invoking a network of emotions about a life and time that was anything but ordinary or unremarkable, because none of our lives are.

Doggie Bowl

All of this because of a pantry.

Gram might have thought blogging is a silly venture, but surely I would have loved to see these tiny snippets of her life, from her perspective… a different type of payoff, a treasure of small, nondescript moments from a life that is gone, moments in time that end up being more meaningful than the perfect posed Christmas snapshots and portraits in a studio. An important portrait of a life rich, and full, and anything but insignificant to those who loved the life they represent.

Sibling Gifts :: Fleecy Winter Wear

To round out the parade of handmade sibling gifts of the Christmas 2012 season, I have this one last post with a project I worked on with our oldest :: Fleecy Winter Wear.

Swaddled In Fleece

Have you seen the insanity that is Joann’s Fabrics when it’s time to roll out the winter fleece? I didn’t know it was possible for one store to offer such a huge variety of different fleece styles. They had it in three separate aisles, along the tops of displays, and all along the top shelves on the outer walls in the store. Crazy.

I wanted to take the eldest with me to pick out fabrics, but due to an outbreak of flu and other illnesses in our home, I had to run out last minute to grab something quick so we could at least get something made and under the tree. This was almost as last minute as you could get; we finished the last bit right before dinner and bed-time Christmas Eve.

Sock Monkey Fleece

There aren’t an enormous number of images showing how we made these. Since I significant portion of this involved the sewing machine, and I’m not very proficient and my daughter was quite out of her comfort zone, I didn’t feel like I should be snapping photos while we’re both sweating bullets.

Fleecy Supplies

But overall, The scarves were an easy project, even for us sewing machine neophytes! Pick some fleece, cut it, pin it, sew it together except for a few inches at either end, flip it inside out, top stitch on either side, then cut a fringe on the ends, and tie it in knots.

Fun Fringe

The hat was a bit more tricky, and it didn’t work quite the way I had envisioned (didn’t mean for the ugly seam to be exposed, but alas, perfection wasn’t the goal, done was!), so I’m going to spare you any attempt to explain what I did, although I will say I took a measurement of the baby’s head to use when cutting out the rectangles, and that worked well.

Fleecy Hat With Fringe

And even though it is rough around the edges and not at all finessed, the baby loves it so very dearly. Dearly enough that once I put it on her head, I can’t take it off. And since she doesn’t stand still for photos, I needed to throw it on the four year old’s head in order to get a few snaps.

So there you have it… a round-up of all the sibling created handmades under the tree this year. But wait… there’s more!

Even though the littlest one isn’t quite old enough to partake of the making, she does manage to find someone to help her purchase a few small tokens to give out, namely fun band-aids!

Fun Bandages

So there you have her contribution, and now, I swear, we’re all done!

Sibling Gifts :: Pencil Cups

To continue on our theme, I present the third-born daughter’s contribution to this year’s sibling gifts :: Up-cycled Pencil Cups.

Another easy, low investment craft that was completely age appropriate and quite useful, as each kid got their own set of personalized pencils in their stockings this year. Thank you Oriental Trading Company for your customizable pencils for my kids that don’t have names often (read :: ever) found on store shelves!

Pretty in Pink

We collected a few cans from the recycling bin—two bean cans and one for tuna—made sure they were nice and clean and dry, then I painted each with two coats of primer before setting the four year old loose on them. She got to go through the paint bins and pick out whatever shade she thought they might like. I know she’s at least partly my child because she went for the extra-shiny metallic paints.

It Aint Easy Bein Green

After she painted each can, we picked out different scrapbook papers, one for each can, and then dug out our old alphabet stamps. She helped me find the letters and she stamped—with a teeny bit of guidance—the names of her sisters and brother onto individual white labels. I cut down the scrapbook paper into strips, then used double sided tape to adhere the paper to the can. The finishing touch, of course, were the name labels!

Alphabet Stamps

The awesome thing about this project is that it doesn’t need to be perfect to look great! Little brush strokes here and there and a bit of primer showing through gives it a touch more character, a feature if you will, not a flaw.

Tuna Tin For Ties

The littlest one doesn’t use pencils, but the tuna can was the perfect size to hold her hair bands and, conveniently, a few barrettes.

Pencil Cups

And the older kids cups were put to immediate use after they found their pencils.

It really is amazing how much they all love both making and receiving these gifts. I hope this is something we’ll continue for quite a few more years.

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Sibling Gifts :: Glittery Barrettes

We have finally reached that glorious day, Epiphany, the last of the twelve days of Christmas, when we pull down the tree and most of the Christmas decorations get wrapped back up, placed lovingly in their box, and put away in a corner of the basement for next year’s festivities. It is normally not a task I look forward to, but this year, for the first time I can remember, I was anxious to get the tree down and everything put away and tidied up. Granted, there are still a few things hanging around, but for the most part we’ve moved on. I suspect come the first heavy snowfall that I will miss my twinkle lights and glass balls, but now that we have internet radio, I feel assured that I can sneak in some time on the window seat with a hot cuppa somethin’ and get my fix of carols. Keep your fingers crossed for me; I am desperate for some good snow.

For the past three years I have managed to get the kids together to make a little something for their siblings for Christmas. With so many children and as many birthdays, more shopping trips for toys is not exactly what we need, but I treasure the time I get to spend with each kid planning and making gifts for their siblings to open. And the kids are the perfect age to enjoy this right now, so I am making hay. This year, due to all our right-before-the-holiday-viruses passed around and me down and out with the flu, we got it in right under the wire, but we still finished in time to have something wrapped from each sibling to the others.

The first project I’ll show you is one from our son to his sisters. This was originally his idea, whispered into my ear before a birthday, and remembered by this addle-brained mother just in time. He wanted to get barrettes for the girl’s because they could never find matching ones when they needed them. So one day when we were in the pharmacy filling yet another prescription, we grabbed a few sets for each girl along with a few bottles of glittery nail polish carefully selected by our five year old guy.

BarrettesSupplies

It only took a few minutes to get one coat on each set; four pair of large for the biggest sister, four pair of small for each of the littler ones.

BarrettesConcentration

There was a whole lot of concentration and not much chatter during craft time, and he also started with the color he believed his biggest sister would like the best.

BarrettesLinedUp

I placed the barrettes onto the back of two index cards that I cut, so he could more easily see where the paint was, and I could more easily run my nail around the edge of the wet polish so it would release from the card when it dried. That turned out to be a good idea, the running if the nail around the edge. It took a few coats each for every set and the black barrettes looked better and needed less than the simulated tortoise shell, but overall, it was simple enough that a five year old could do it mostly on his own.

BarrettesFinis

I think the results were simply spectacular!

The girls have certainly enjoyed them, and the baby has even kept hers in her hair without tossing them off in less than ten minutes as she does any type of clothing we put on her.

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A Pretty Kitty

Happy Birthday

A particular three year old had a birthday a few days back. Now, as she patiently explains to anyone willing to listen, we have a 7, 5, 4, and 1 year old in our family, not a 7, 5, 3, and 1 year old that her mother continually makes the mistake of blurting out when asked. I fear it will be far too soon before I’ll have to update my mental model yet again.

Four is such a magical time for my kids, one of my favorite developmental ages. They start playing together instead of side-by-side; their fine motor skills become more skilled and steady; their whole imaginative life takes off, in particular this little one who has always always been drawn to dramatic play. It has been and intense and joyful period of growth.

Birthdays in our family of six have taken on a slower, gentler pace through the years, as I suppose happens in any growing family. Not only are the daily demands different than when we only had one child, but we’ve discovered what works for our family and what doesn’t, and our needs have also decreased, since we’ve hit this age twice before and the gifts that have fit us best are still around and being loved and played with by all. So gift piles have become smaller and more thoughtful, with time spent on making and experiences over stuff.

For this year’s gift, I found this pattern for a stuffed mama cat on Craftsy that would be just about perfect for my little full-o-loving mini-mama who mothers all her toys with her big heart. Kindly remember that I am still quite a novice when it comes to sewing, so when I found the pattern a week before her birthday, I thought I would have plenty of time. And when I actually started it the day before her birthday, I thought it would only take three, maybe four hours.

Mama Kitty

I was so. very. wrong.

It took me until 4am. But… I got it done. Here she is, sitting pretty with her closed off skirt, which holds…

Mama and Babies

four little kitties; three littles and one baby, just like us. You’ll note that these little kitties are naked in this picture, because I simply ran out of steam and had to get to sleep.

Mama Bodice

She’s made out of linen, which was a little tricky for me to work with. It frayed in a few spots, but I think I figured out how to adjust the stitch size to prevent it. Also, I worked a few of the kitties on the bias, which helped significantly.

Mama Detail

The apron and dress were made with some japanese cotton linen blends; the matroyshka print is discontinued and I can’t find any more bits of it which makes me sad because I really found it so dear. There a bit of funkiness you’ll see going on with the bodice which is completely due to my inexperience and the time of morning when I tried to decipher the instructions. I knew I was doing something wrong, but I couldn’t figure it out so I sewed together what I had and the next day (after three coffees and a few hours of rest) I wrote to Dorie, the creator of the pattern, and the writer of the equally fabulous tumblingblocks blog, hoping that she might be able to decipher what I did wrong. Not only did she respond within two hours, she took the time to walk me through making the bodice, step-by-step with kindness and incredible grace. Then, to top it off, she also updated her blog with an extra little bodice tutorial for us sad and confused newbies. Needless-to-say, after her lovely email I read through the instructions again, and everything was clear as day. It really was my inexperience getting the best of me.

Anyway, the bodice needs a bit of fixing. Luckily I have just enough fabric left to remake it (there was some rather unfortunate cutting which prevents me from reusing the pieces in the one I already sewed… eek!) and that’s on the list to finish up before the week is over.

Baby Kitties Dressed Up

After the older two went to school and the baby went down for her nap, my husband took the newly minted four year old out for a little Daddy-Daughter time, and I had just enough time to attempt to make the kitties some clothes. Being as tired as I was, I decided to forgo extra time in front of the machine, and grabbed some felt I had lying around to cut and tack together a few pieces. Worked like a charm! I wish I had used some decorative stitching or rick-rack, but there’s time for that after the holidays. For now these work perfectly. Plus, I don’t have any rick-rack lying around. I did, however, have 1/4″ bias tape that I believe I purchased in 2002. Let me say that the most difficult and nerve wracking part of sewing for me was attaching that 1/4″ bias tape. It was ripped out many, many times. Next time I’m using 1/2″.

Super Secret Skirt

She played with that cat (Hey look! A secret POCKET!) for a good ten minutes while I took pictures. She was so excited when I told her that I made it. I can’t imagine it will be too much longer before mama-mades no longer elicit such emotion, so I am reveling in it for as long as I can.

Baby Kitty With Pants

Of course, Mama Cat and her Three Little Kittens were forgotten (as well as every other gift provided by her loving grandparents and aunts and uncles) as soon as the playmobile set was unwrapped.

As I said earlier, experience taught us what they love… and gives us the knowledge to have her open that gift last 😉

 

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