For Mom’s Birthday

After learning my estimated due date for this new little one, it kind of hit me that there would be a pretty good chance I would be either too pregnant or too wrapped up with a new baby to give my Mom’s birthday much attention this year. A little planning ahead wouldn’t hurt, I thought to myself. So I resolved to knit her birthday present.

(There was also this side-benefit of letting myself get caught up in a project to keep me from wanting to have everything done and ready for the baby around our house here months before the kiddo would even be here.)

I’ll admit up-front, I’m a sucker for just about any Jane Austen merchandise – and Mom did introduce me to Jane. So when I saw this pattern for a “Sensible Shawl,” and noticed one key feature of the pattern, I knew this was the project that would make her feel warm birthday wishes well into the winter.

Mom, you see, is perpetually cold. There’s maybe a two-week window each year where she feels pretty comfortable, but otherwise she’s never too far away from a throw that she could wrap up in to keep warm. I’d picked up a volume of Jane Austen Knits a little over a year ago, and found lots of lovely little projects that could keep me happily occupied with the knitting needles. But this shawl…

IMG_3663Held the promise of not only keeping a chilly Mom warm, but the element of sensibility would allow her to take that warmth with her around the house or even out and about…

IMG_3665That’s right: the ends of the shawl feature a tab that narrows down to an i-cord so the wearer can essentially “set it and forget it” when donning a shawl. Want a closer look?

IMG_3666Here’s the shawl, untied, so you can see how it comes together:
IMG_3667This is not a Regency-era pattern, per se, but the designer did reference the style books of the day, adding a Van Dyke border that they found. It would be a flourish that “accomplished” ladies would likely add to their own projects back in the day,

IMG_3668 IMG_3664The yarn, a tweedy Rowan that was on closeout at the local yarn shop, offers the same sort of varied palete you’ll see in a good Fall season. As I was knitting this one, it kind of reminded me of a good view of the Northern Lights, catching streaks of green, blue, rose and gold streaking up the night sky.

The shawl was finished, blocked, and wrapped for presenting when we were at the doctor’s office scheduling our baby’s arrival date. As luck and our doctor’s surgery day schedule would have it, our baby would share its birthday with its grandmother.

My mom was thrilled to have a co-celebrant for her birthday, and insisted that no other present could top it. (A phone call from my sister, telling me to never do that again, confirmed that.) But there was no way I would hold onto that shawl for another year. So, while we planned for only one birthday gift, we ultimately had two.

Keeping Warm on St. Patrick’s Day

On this day last year, it was much warmer. Much. Warmer. This year, things are a bit more…shall we say…seasonally appropriate, temperature-wise.

If you’re an adult celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, keeping warm is as easy as a few fingers of a good whiskey. Younger celebrants aren’t as fortunate.

That’s why I’m glad I took the time a couple of months ago to finally pick up a cable needle and tackle my first aran knitting project for our little guy.

The pattern: Aaron's Aran Sweater by Melissa Matthay. Found on Ravelry

The pattern: Aaron’s Aran Sweater by Melissa Matthay. Found on Ravelry

I inherited a cable needle in a pile of crafting supplies my mom had found while cleaning out my grandmother’s many closets of things last year. And for some time I’ve been tempted to try a cable knitting project but let self-doubt talk me out of it every single time. Finding that needle in a sea of crochet hooks jumbled together came across like a message from my departed grandma: just do it.

That’s what drove the decision to try a child’s sweater pattern: it’s smaller, won’t take as much time to do, and if I had to go back and correct any errors, it wouldn’t feel like starting over. If it turned out truly awful, no one would be the wiser. No one would have to know.

I found a pattern that didn’t seem too difficult, and brought the kiddo to the local yarn shop to pick a color of machine washable yarn that he liked. Then I cast on. Let me say right now: I love working on kid-sized projects. By virtue of their little sizes, they just go so quickly, and are so dang cute to watch take shape.

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In what seemed like no time at all, this sweater was ready to wear. Which was a good thing, since it just fits the intended wearer. Unfortunately, the neck opening is a bit snug around our little one’s ginormous head – something I knew beforehand, but forgot to take into account. So he’s not wearing it a lot, but each time he does I get to hear how beautiful and warm it is.

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This pattern’s a keeper, without doubt. Not only did I learn a new knitting skill, I also learned not to be afraid to kick up the size for our little guy just to he has a little more time to enjoy the handiwork. Whether he decides to put it on and wear it today, it’s still a memory of a fun project and overcoming a niggling doubt to keep me knitting.

A Tip of the Hat

In the springtimes of my childhood, there was the odd Easter where my sister and I would get a hat that didn’t do much more than sit there looking pretty.

In the wintertimes of that same childhood – those ones capped with six-foot snowdrifts and walking paths to school that tilted uphill on the way there and by the time we were homeward bound had mysteriously tilted uphill for the return – my parents made it very clear that hats were not optional.

“Half your body heat escapes through the top of your head!”

“You’ll catch cold.”

“Frostbite!”

Perhaps it was their warnings and extra diligence that had me rebelling in my teen years against any sort of chapeau covering my head, giving me that dreaded hat hair, generating static electricity and just generally messing with that fragile self-esteem just about every teenager is blessed with.

I disliked hats. Avoided them. Tried to find a middle ground and use an earband instead.

Then I became a parent. To a child who enjoys the outdoors all year round. And from time to time, as we bundled up to venture forth, he would notice something was missing from my outerwear collection.

“Mommy, where’s your hat?”

Now, metaphorically speaking, I wear many hats. But it’s been a long time since I put thought into actually wearing a hat.

After taking a hat-making-how-to at my local yarn shop this summer, I “practiced” with hats for my son and husband. With their heads sufficiently protected, I turned to my own noggin to figure out what would work.

And while I was at it, why not throw in a scarf too?

Out came the knitting needles, and away we went – for half of October and much of November, knitting, purling, twisting, increasing, decreasing until…

It's a beret! Or at least, it started out that way. Now it's my hat.

It’s a beret! Or at least, it started out that way. Now it’s my hat.

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Snug, peeking out from under my coat, with just a hint of ruffle. Same yarn as my hat, but a different stitch for a very different texture.

Mother Nature, with her usual sense of humor, has made our cold season so far unseasonably warm. There haven’t been as many opportunities to wear the hat yet, but I can say I noticed how much warmer I feel when I do. There’s still some work in the “don’t feel self-conscious about wearing a hat” department that I assume will fade with time and wear.

But I do like them both. And tip my hat to the person who figured out how heat escapes, and how to keep it better contained.

Sunday Stitchin’: Block and Tackle Edition

The last sleeve was finished yesterday morning! But we’re not done yet…

We’re blocking, we’re blocking…

Before this is wearable, I need to block the garment to help set the shape. The fiber is wool, so I prefer to lay it out and pin it down to the dimensions specified in the pattern, then fire up the garment steamer to set up the piece. After a day or two of air-drying, it should be ready to wear.

I kind of empathize with the Liliputs and all they did to restrain Gulliver during one of these projects.

Once the blocking is done, I’ve got one final decision to tackle: do I add a couple toggles to close the front, as the pattern directs, or leave it as an open cardigan? Pre-blocking, I’m definitely leaning towards open cardigan. But as I stretched this out to the blocking dimensions, I’m second-guessing myself. So, we’ll see…

 

Sunday Stitchin’: Arms Race

If I were a one-armed, knitter, I could call this project done:

Of course, if I were a one-armed knitter, this cardigan would be taking a lot longer to finish…

Just to catch you up, I completed the edge of the body of this sweater last Sunday. And kind of got caught up in the happy dance and making dinner that I didn’t take time to post an update. Plus, I was so excited to pick up the armhole stitches and get going, I just dove in and kept on with it.

So, by this Sunday morning, one sleeve was done and the second sleeve’s armhole was picked up. It’s possible that I’ll be done with knitting this in a week! There’s still a few things to do before I can wear it, like blocking the shape. And, a bigger decision: do I add buttons and make this a closeable cardigan, or leave it open? From the casual fittings I’ve done, I like how it hangs when there’s no closures. But we’ll see.

I’m excited to be close to done – and I’m also excited that this project hasn’t eaten my brain. I’m looking forward to the next few projects I’ve lined up for myself after this one!

Sunday Stitchin’: Catch-Up Edition

Ever had one of those weeks that felt like you were scaling the Cliffs of Insanity?

That was the past week for me, which is why last week’s update didn’t happen. But I had thought to snap a picture before the insanity stuff happened, only the subsequent post didn’t materialize. So, here’s how the sweater was looking last Sunday:

At this point, it was too big to spread out on the windowseat, so I just arranged it on the floor and snapped quickly. I’d begun a bit of the shaping around the waistline, where the pattern directs you to decrease a few stitches, then work a couple inches in the decreased amount before increasing a few stitches again. It was a landmark week because it was the first time I could try on the sweater and check the progress that way.

This week? I had a couple of epiphanies about my progress: it’s progress, but I would not be finishing this sweater in the same month I started it. I’m feeling pretty excited about the possibility of wearing this lovely thing on Halloween, but we’re not done yet. That said, I took a step back and forced myself to not work on it every day; take a break; work on my climb up the Cliffs of Insanity and take care of the other bits of life for a while, and come back when I felt like I had a little room in my bursting brain to enjoy it.

Friday night I picked up the needles again; over Saturday and Sunday, I worked on it a little bit here and there, and can see noticeable progress now:

So, so, so close to finishing the body now! The waist shaping is done, and I have about 4.5 inches of the pattern to add before doing a little ribbing on the edge to finish it off; but we’re done with the increases, decreases, shaping the v-neck, and it’s just knitting. The only markers are where the button band ends and the body stitching begins, so we dropped about six markers as the waist shaping ended.

Next up: sleeves.

Sunday Stitchin’ – Rocking my Dory Mantra

“Just keep stitching, just keep stitching…” was where we left off last week (quoth the Dory in “Finding Nemo”). And as we wrap up another week?

Starting to look like a sweater, isn’t it? (Humor me.)

Steadily stitching, I’ve made it to the point in the pattern where we start adding a little silhouette shaping to the piece. About 8 rows away from setting up the sleeves and working on the rest of the body.

We’re more than halfway through the month, and I am definitely not halfway through making this sweater. I could be discouraged, but that would take away from enjoying the progress I’ve made so far. And I want to be happy about doing it, not necessarily doing it within a month’s time. Because, really: if I make this cardigan in less than the four-plus years it took me to make the last sweater I took on, that’s a big improvement in my book.

Until next Sunday!