Fun things are afoot
When you buy a ball of yarn that has this picture on the label:
Don’t you sort of expect that the actual sock will look something like the one in the image?
Um… wow, it didn’t look anything even remotely like that zigzag pattern!
But that’s OK. I use the same sock recipe as before (this pattern, this cast on, this bind off), and I love the finished socks no matter what.
In other news, we are thisclose to making settlement on a house. We’re still about 2 weeks away from the big day, but I guess I’m not worried about jinxing the deal by talking about it here. We’ve been eyeing the Rochester real estate market ever since Matt accepted his job at Mayo 2.5 years ago, and house hunting began in earnest around May or June of last year, when we had finalized a purchase agreement to sell our Northfield home. We’d made a few offers and had come pretty close to buying late last summer, but they never went through for one reason or another (other wealthier bidders, inspection-identified issues, etc). Finally, it’s our turn.
I am thrilled about this place, and I don’t say that lightly (uh, as fussy as I am, it takes a lot to thrill me). Our house-to-be is big enough for all the girls to have some privacy as they get older, enough bathrooms and a water heater sufficient for a family with 4 girl-women (poor Matt!), a sweet kitchen with a ton of storage and prep space (really designed for someone who COOKS, as opposed to someone who mostly heats up food), a finished walkout basement. It’s in a great school district and is <10 minutes' drive from the Mayo campus. Not a ton of yard to mow, but it's enough to maybe put up a small garden and compost bin. Judging from the number of snowmen I'm seeing in the neighboring yards, there are younger children in the area.
Pinch me, I must be dreaming.
We don’t have a lot of furniture (I mean, why buy a bedroom set when you can buy an artisan spinning wheel instead, ha), and I’ve never really tried to decorate a home before, so there’s a lot to think about and learn. Maybe I will blog about some of that. But we’re in no hurry. I can’t wait to move, though!
Tuesday January 08th 2013, 8:49 pm
Filed under: Family
I made blankets! When this project idea was born, I thought I’d just serge 2 pieces of cotton jersey together and be done. (We have receiving blankets that are just like this, and the girls love ‘em.)
But we all know I can’t leave a simple project alone. This turned into an interesting undertaking (x3) because I learned a lot of stuff. But before we go into that, here’s the fabric, a cotton-lycra blend (purchased at GirlCharlee; NAYY).
I washed and dried the yardage several times and cut 3 blankets that were 38″x58-ish” (smidge over 1 yard x full width), following recommendations that I’d seen online that toddler quilts be about 36×50 inches.
Ruffles – I learned how to make a rolled edge on my serger following this tutorial. I decided to make it a lettuce edge and set my serger’s differential feed to maximal stretch and also yanked the heck out of the edge to make it super-duper wavy.
I tried the gathering foot on my sewing machine but couldn’t get it to perform consistently well. You can see that on the same strip, sometimes it would make terrific ruffles (bottom part) and then have a “dead zone” of mostly flat fabric (top part).
So I used a ruffler foot and followed this tutorial to determine my desired ruffle settings. (Excellent tutorial, btw. I intend to go back and make all the samples suggested so that I have a standard chart to refer to the next time I need to make a gazillion miles of ruffles.)
One thing that I don’t think was addressed in the tutorial was that stitching speed can affect the degree of ruffling. I tend to sew very slowly at first and then speed up as I gain confidence, except – oops.
Not a camera trick
If I’m remembering right, stitching faster made the ruffles deeper and the strip shorter.
Attaching the ruffle was simple – just draw a border on the main fabric and attach the ruffle with straight stitches. I decided to curve the corners (slap a dinner plate down and draw around the curve) because I didn’t want to deal with trying to fit the ruffle around a sharp corner. When 1 ruffle strip ended and the other began, I just curved one piece down and overlapped it with another piece curving up.
Applique – I had little pieces of quilting cotton with the girls’ drawings on them that I thought to use as appliques. (I got them via a school fundraiser, the kids draw stuff, it’s digitized and printed onto mugs, t-shirts, pillowcases, etc, and I chose to get quilt squares.)
Here’s one that didn’t make it onto the blankets
Having never appliqued anything before, let alone a stiff woven onto a stretchy knit, I wanted a tutorial. I followed this one and also the instructions on the package of Steam-A-Seam Lite (SASL; like a fusible double-sided sticky sheet).
Basically, peel off 1 cover of the SASL and stick it on the back of the applique, cut the applique and SASL together, then peel off the other cover, position, fuse onto the blanket fabric, and zig-zag stitch around the edge. Before fusing the first one, I stabilized the knit on the wrong side with iron-on/tear-away paper, but it turned out that the applique fabric was so freaking stiff from the digitized image printing, further stabilization wasn’t necessary.
Quilting – When I finally put the 2 layers together, I thought the blanket felt wimpy-thin and belatedly remembered that the receiving blankets that I’d first modeled this project on always seem kind of off-grain and rumpled… so I decided to add a quilt batting. The Warm and Natural cotton batting (available at Joann’s, wait for a sale or coupon) had good reviews. I used June Tailor washable spray adhesive (OMG, stinky) to stick 1 side of the blanket to the batting. I then sewed the 2 halves right sides together, left a hole for turning, turned and closed the hole, and topstitched around the edge
I couldn’t imagine machine quilting (I have no idea how to do it, especially on unstable cotton-lycra jersey), nor could I imaging fudging my way through machine quilting 3 blankets, so I decided to sew these really crooked eyelets to pseudo-tie the quilt together.
I had to fake-hoop the fabric in my hands to make the eyelets. Essentially, I squooshed extra fabric in the general vicinity of the feed dogs so that nothing was under tension from the rest of the blanket pulling downward off the table. This theoretically allowed the feed dogs to move the heavy blanket around in the circle, but as you can see, it didn’t always work. Mmm, crookedness is part of the charm, OK?
They were washed and dried and presented to the children. They were a hit! My heart sings when I see how much they love their blankets.
Jordan, Casey, Meredith
Play dress and leggings
Meredith’s favorite clothes are still the play dress and leggings. I made an outfit for her last year and thought I’d try my hand at a different pattern this winter. These are both “wearable muslins” made with fabric that I’d originally bought with the intention of sewing cloth diapers. Now that I know the patterns work (and how I’d like to tweak the top a little), I’m ready to use up some of the more expensive fabrics that I’ve been purchasing for the girls.
Striking her pose (click here for a back view)
The dress is the Hopscotch top by oliver+s. The pattern also includes a skirt, which I did not make this time. It is very similar to a t-shirt but with an extra style boost via the crossover neckline. There’s a little bit of gathering at the front center, too. To make the dress from the top, the pattern is simply extended (A-line) to dress length, with no changes to the bodice.
Sorry about the picture quality, I have no daylight hours for photography, and the wall color is a pretty awful background for a mostly-white dress. You might be able to see the crossover detail a little better in the photo below.
The pattern directions were nicely written and well illustrated, so the construction was pretty straightforward. The pattern was drafted well, all the pieces came together and seams matched up. I used Lastin (clear swimsuit elastic) instead of the recommended interfacing or twill tape to stabilize the shoulders and front seam. I added elastic to the sleeve cuffs at the last minute, but it was probably unnecessary. I deepened the hem to 1 inch because I dislike how narrow jersey hems curl and flip upward after a few washes, and I am not about to pull out an iron every time I wash a kid’s play dress. I constructed it using a sewing machine, serger, and coverstitch machine. (Hey, if I have the machines, I want to use them!)
Meredith prefers her tops and dresses to be very loose fitting, with the sleeves extra long (covering her wrists). Even though her measurements indicated she should be a size 5, I cut a size 7 to give her the extra ease. What’s a bit weird is that the neck opening is still somewhat tight and we have to force a little to pop her head through it every time (crowning, ha ha). I did double-check to make sure I had traced the right size. She may have her mama’s giant noggin. Next time I sew this, I will lengthen the upper bodice piece to give her more head room.
All in all, I’m not sure that I really like this as a dress – the crossover is very near the top, and the rest of the dress just hangs from that seam (sort of boring and reminds me of a nightgown). I guess that’s why the pattern is pictured as a shirt and separate skirt with an interesting pocket detail and a row of buttons!
The leggings are made using Jalie 2920. This is a very simple pattern – 1 piece. No side seams, just the inseam and center seam, and a foldover waistband. I had a sizing problem with this pattern, too. By her measurements, Meredith should be a size I, and that’s the size I dutifully traced out. It seemed short, but that was consistent with this review, so I just lengthened the legs substantially. I sewed the 2 seams and had her try it on. Uh oh, it was skin-tight (no pictures, it was positively indecent).
Attempt #2, I measured some of her favorite Hanna Andersson leggings at the high thigh (just under the crotch seam) and the inseam, and I picked a corresponding pattern size (now size M). I made the new pair with no changes, and these leggings were comfortable and the proper length. Go figure.
I do like this simple pattern, and given that it has a range that that goes from toddler to plus-size adults, I can see myself in a pair of these leggings someday, too. Just have to remember to measure the pattern and compare it against something that fits (not just blindly follow the size chart).
The fabric for the dress is a medium-weight cotton jersey without much stretch (which might explain why the neck seems small). The leggings are a thinner cotton-lycra jersey. Both are from Fresh Produce (but purchased via Girl Charlee). If you’re interested in technical details, the review of the dress is here and the review of the leggings is here.
Tuesday December 18th 2012, 1:07 pm
Filed under: Family
My family moved to Illinois in the mid 70s. Illinois is tornado country, as is much of the Midwest. I remember practicing tornado drills in my elementary school. The intercom would buzz, we’d hear the announcement from the principal, and class would be suspended for a few minutes. We’d file out in single lines, follow the teachers to an inner corridor without windows, face our lockers, and drop to the floor. We were instructed to “curl up like turtles,” crouch on the floor with our heads touching our knees, hands protecting our heads from imaginary flying debris. We’d stay in this position for 10 or so minutes, occasionally stealing glances upward at our teachers, who solemnly paced the hallways and reminded us to stay silent.
We did have a few severe storms that I can remember, but they always were predicted days in advance and never seemed as bad as the dire forecasts. (But boy, once you see the “pea soup” sky, you never forget it!) In any case, I think my grade-school friends and I felt pretty confident that as long as we were indoors, in a basement, and away from windows when a bad storm hit, we’d be OK. Maybe the roof would be ripped up or something, but we’d be fine, our families would be fine.
The new reality is that children these days practice lockdowns. Last year, a West Coast mommyblogger that I follow talked about her 6-year-old’s drill, during which the teacher turned off lights and locked the door, covered the door window with black paper, and had the children hide silently by their cubbies while the principal walked through the hallways, rattling the doorknobs. I was naively shocked to read about it – and sorry as hell that as a society, we have stooped to the point where these drills must be practiced.
What kind of life are we living, that young children nationwide routinely are being prepared to face a surprise attack by a lunatic with an assault rifle and hundreds of bullets? Is teaching my children how to play dead going to be part of my Mommy-skillz arsenal? And how am I supposed to tell them that there may be no warning for these attacks and no reassurance that if you do what you practiced during the drill, you’ll be OK?
I’ve cried with the news. I’ve hugged my children. I’ve written to my local government representatives (you can, too). I don’t know what else to do in the meantime, so it’s just back to working, making dinner, doing laundry, wiping runny noses. And being sadly grateful for the mundaneness of it all.
Thursday November 01st 2012, 7:00 am
Filed under: Family
In case you ever wondered what is taking up all my time, why I rarely post anymore…
Meredith’s “Wedding” Dress
Tuesday September 11th 2012, 8:58 pm
Filed under: Family
I managed to complete only 1 major project this summer, what with the house selling and not-buying, moving, etc. It was a dress for Meredith, actually finished toward the end of July, just in time for the wedding of a dear friend. Speaking of wedding, here’s the happy couple – I’ve known the groom since my first year of college.
Ben and Sudipta
Meredith and I traveled to Seattle together for the wedding. We took a long weekend, leaving Matt at home with the youngers. My core group of college “besties” were all there for the wedding – one had just started a new job and had moved his family to Seattle only weeks before, the others are related by blood or by marriage to the groom (so convenient when your friends marry each other, LOL), and so we all crammed together into a single house with all our kids and had a crazy awesome time. (Adult conversation!) There is nothing quite like chillaxin’ with friends you’ve known for 20 years, who know how weird and antisocial you are and don’t judge, still think you’re OK.
Anyway, here’s the dress in all its glory. Pattern is Little Vicki, by a company called Izzy and Ivy. The pattern and fabric were purchased at a quilting shop in a neighboring town. They had a sample made up, which was totally adorable and sold me on the dress.
Forgive the odd picture, but this is the only one in which the pleated front shows well.
Altogether, the project probably cost me about $40 in supplies, which was actually a lot to spend on a single dress for a kid, but I like supporting independent shops and designers, and this came out really special. (OK, run-on sentence much?)
I am super-pleased with it, and so is Meredith. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever sew for her again after an incident last winter. In the midst of a tantrum-fit (oh c’mon, your kid never does this?), she’d hurled another dress that I’d sewn, hurled it at my face while screeching, MAMA, I HATE THIS DRESS!!! I mean, I know, 3 years old at the time, but ouch. It took a few months, but I got over myself, sewed her this one, and she totally, totally loves it. Does my hurt heart a lot of good, I confess.
It’s roomy and has plenty of ease for running, jumping, and dancing. She does wear bike shorts underneath for modesty. She calls it her “wedding dress” and tells everyone (day care teachers, random strangers at Sam’s Club, etc) that her mommy made the dress and if they like it, they should ask their mommies to make them one, too.
What else can I say? It’s the only creative thing I got done this summer, but it’s a winner!
If you’re technically inclined, details about the construction are on PatternReview (here).
Friday August 10th 2012, 11:04 am
Filed under: Family
Today, the movers deliver all of our household goods to a rental townhouse in Rochester.
Our house is sold, although the actual closing hasn’t happened yet (next week!). We had planned to buy a new house in the months between agreeing to sell in May and the closing date, but… long story short, it didn’t happen. We are bummed about that.
I’ve moved several times in my adult life (to college, grad school, postdoc, job), and each time, even though I was saying goodbye to friends, I was happy to move because I believed I was heading for something better. This is the first time I’ve been truly sad about going. I am getting weepy about every damn thing.
My strategy to cope with the melancholy is to throw myself into housecleaning. I’ve got 1.5 days left to whip this place into shape. Wish me luck!
Sheep and wool
It’s not too late to go to the Shepherd’s Harvest sheep and wool show! We went on Saturday and enjoyed the unbelievably nice weather – sunny and high 60s.
Several animals smiled at me:
We walked through all the vendor barns, had Meredith do some of the kid-friendly demos, and ate hot dogs and fudge.
We met animals, watched a sheep shearing, fingered lots of pretty fibers and yarn, and bought… nothing. Isn’t that so strange, to walk through barn after barn and come away empty-handed? I guess it’s a testament to the size of my stash, or maybe I’m just getting older and less impulsive in my shopping.
I did manage to try a Hansen electric mini-spinner for 2 minutes before the kids got all antsy (“Are you DONE yet, Mama?”). Here’s what I came away with after a short test: it is beautiful to look at, lightweight, fast, and pretty darn quiet. The orifice was wide for the relatively fine-grist spinning I do, but I believe they sell inserts to narrow that down. The demo model that I tried had some weird caulk-covered component on the power cord that I didn’t really understand, but I would bet that would not be on a wheel that they would sell to someone.
One thing that I briefly had trouble with was that I kept forgetting to keep the pedal pressed down – and it doesn’t turn when it’s not pressed. Altogether, it felt quite different from my Butterfly electric wheel, but not in a bad way. If I didn’t already own an excellent electric spinner, and if I were in the market for an electric, this would probably be my top pick. (I believe the Hansen spinner wasn’t around when I bought my electric.) It has a very good reputation and I found it pleasant to use in my quickie trial.
Tiny Tea Leaves
A long, long time ago, Grumperina went to yarn shops, Home Depot, and knit 2 baby sweaters. Now, she’s a busy mom of a newborn, so I predict that her priorities are just a leeetle bit different now…!
The sweaters that she sent for my girls were beautiful. I am usually somewhat opposed to Mommy-n-me Matchy Matchy, but I was seriously tempted to make an adult one for myself because the pattern looks so nice, so appropriate for children but also not juvenile at all.
Jordan in blue, Casey in purple
Although I give birth only to very large children, it still took a while for the girls to grow enough to really fill the sweaters out. But, since March, wear them they have! They were great this past spring and probably will still be big enough to fit into in the fall, if Jordan doesn’t chew the sleeve off first. (Teething, yay…)
The pattern is Tiny Tea Leaves. You can see the specifics of how the sweaters were knit on Grumpy’s page.
She also sent a lovely gift for Meredith, a pair of Octopus mittens. I’m sorry that I don’t have my own photo, but you can see them in their glory here. Meredith didn’t really get a chance to wear them last winter because she is very tall for her age (>99th percentile since birth!) and her hands didn’t fit inside. (I had to giggle at Grumpy’s estimate that it would fit a 4- or 5-year old because Meredith was 2 at the time!) She did love carrying them around, though. We are saving them for the kidlets. And perhaps for future dolls.
Thank you, Kathy! We are touched by your heartfelt generosity. I hope you are enjoying your time with the new baby! (And hey, if you’re seeing this, get off the computer, go get some sleep! Ha ha ha…)
Ever since Jordan and Casey were born, I almost never knit in front of the girls. They need too much of my physical help and direct attention, we’re always playing together (or reading, or eating, or…), plus I don’t want pointy needles and strangulation hazards (and “unravelable” projects) just laying around, willy nilly. Although I sometimes knit or crochet in the car, me knitting is not a part of our current family culture.
Imagine my surprise, then, when Meredith spied a hole in one of her garments and asked me if I was going to “yarn it.” Do what? Say that again? “Mama, will you yarn this for me?”
Well, I’ll be darned. Heh heh.
Now 3 years old!
Here’s a skein of yarn that was 2 years in the making. My e-mail receipt is dated March 2009!
Fiber: Chasing Rainbows; 50/50 silk/merino; colorway African savannah; purchased here (NAYY).
Wheel and spinning style: Drudik wheel, slowest or next-to-slowest speed. Split the top lengthwise into long, thin strips (no wider than a pinky) and translucent. Spun in pure worsted style (draft about 12″ before feeding onto the bobbin). Plied on my Womack Butterfly electric wheel. I set the bobbins up and walked with the singles until I was about 30 feet away from the wheel (it spun all the while), I waited until it had built up a lot of plying twist and then walked slowly back to let it feed back on the bobbin. This is a 1-hand maneuver for aged singles with dormant twist. I used the other hand to do things like brush my teeth!
Finishing: Hanked, tied in a million places with a Figure8+1 tie (that is, looped 3 times around per tie) because it is 50% silk and silk is notorious for mercilessly sticking to itself. (If you’ve ever cried while cutting tangled silk off of a bobbin, you know what I mean!) Handwashed in cool water, spun out, dried flat.
Yarn specs: 3-ply, fingering weight. Length, 387 yards (354 m); weight, 2 oz (57 g).