Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas stuff

Ok, so in the last two weeks, I've been on a knitting, baking, Christmas binge.  I have cards sent out, I have presents bought, and most things wrapped.

I knitted up this scarf for the aide in girltwina's class:

Mrs. S Scarf
here's a closeup when it was in progress.

 title="basketweave scarf by jodieg99, on Flickr">basketweave scarf

I ended up putting a crochet edging around the whole thing which was mixed.  On one hand it evened it up, on the other, I think my gauge on the crochet was a little off and so was tighter than the knitting.

I didn't take any pictures of the e-reader covers I made for a variety of reasons. First, the pattern I was following made one WAY too small, and so I had to adapt the pattern.  So that made what should have been an easy sewing project into a nightmare--that I saved until the last minute.  Then I decided the end results were ugly!  However, add a gift card and who cares.

The parties were Thursday.  I had been baking for days so that all the "Specials" teachers could have some goodies, and then at the end I only made up goodie bags for the science teacher, math teacher and social studies teacher.  Some of whom already got other presents.

Part of my problem was running out of time.  Christmas snuck up on me in a way that it hasn't in a while.  Part of it was just sadness weighing me down.  It was really hard to do anything on December 14th except cry and craft angry letters to my legislators.  Then I felt because I didn't make a small metric ton, that I didn't have enough to divide up to the art, music, gym and spanish teachers and the principal.

I made: Spiced pecans, peppermint marshmallows (yes I made marshmallows!), hard candy (just cherry), peppermint truffles, and salted caramel.
Sometime in 2013 I should write the recipes down for the spiced pecans and hard candy--I did a quick search because I was sure I'd mentioned them before, but evidently I hadn't.
The salted caramel didn't ever really set to a point where I could wrap it up, so I wrapped up everything else.  Well, I clearly had too much and clearly should have at least made a plate for the principal or the teachers lounge because man do I have a lot of leftovers.

I've been slowly eating the caramel--although other people in the house like it, I seem to be always taking it to new heights (high calorie levels that is). The caramel must be eaten on a spoon or on a trefoil cookie.  Just to kick it up a notch, I add melted dark chocolate:

salted carmel shortbreads

Thursday, December 06, 2012

ruffle scarves

Ok, so the two ruffle scarves, I mentioned in the last entry are finished!
ruffle scarves

As you can see one is considerably bigger than the other. This is because I made them with two different brands of yarn. Both went faster than I thought it would, despite the fact that the process itself was so slow. The blue one is made with red heart Shashay and the black one is Starabella.

Red heart Shashay Had a video on how to knit with the yarn (cheater tip: knit into the top--and sort of backwards loop cast on)and was the cheaper of the two. I also think it looks fuller. However, I could not find it in the black I was looking for. Also, I discovered later--it was on sale, but didn't ring up as such--but I wasn't driving across town for $1 difference. It has 30 yards, and I knit with a US size 9. I still need to sew in the ends.

Starbella, was as I said a touch more expensive. It was $6.99 when I bought it, and I used a 40% off coupon. I've seen it on sale since then for 2 for $6. I thought the color choice I had was better (perhaps because of the price difference!) and they had the black I was looking for, whereas there was no black to be found in shashay (and I again, didn't want to drive all over town looking). It felt a little more sparse when I was knitting it, but it looks full. The longer length may come from the fact that it has 33 yards. I would never have guessed that 3 yards would make nearly a foot difference. This basically knit up the same as the Shashay, and I finished both within 10 days.

Closeup of the blue:

and the black:
Overall verdict: I don't know. On one hand I liked the longer Starbella, but on the other, I thought I liked how much fuller the Shashay was. So for me it was a toss up.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

christmas decisions

First off, I want to say, I got some great suggestions about teacher gifts. And so thank you! One of the most liberating of these was the suggestion of: You know they don't all have to be the same.

Well I took that and ran with it. I have five teacher/aides I wanted to gift this year (plus specials, but they get homemade candy). So here is what I decided:

both main teachers will get a gift card to Barnes and Noble (already purchased on special).
girl twin B's teacher and one of the aides in girl twin A's class will get a ruffle scarf. (already made!)
Girl twin A's teacher and the aide in the other class are getting quilted e-reader covers, that I'll be sewing.
The remaining aide is getting a regular scarf.

All of this feels do-able to me. The two ruffle scarves are done, and went fast. (I'm planning a post on them--hopefully tomorrow) And the other scarf is well under way: basketweave scarf

It is at the stage where it doesn't feel like it is getting any bigger, but it is. I'm just using a cheap (but nice) acrylic, I picked up on sale. I initially bought a variegated thinking I would make a drop stitch scarf, but once I started knitting it I realized two things:
1)it didn't match her coat and
2)it was UG-LEE!!

So I returned it, picked up two skeins of this cream, and decided a basketweave would be pretty. It is going to need a crochet edging or something I think.

I know the two people with e-readers have nooks so that's all good. Now to find a time to stash dive and get a selection for the girls to pick out. More on that, as it happens!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

holiday knitting

This is the time of year when I am usually up to my ears in projects for teachers. But this year, for the first time, I am feeling eh about it.

Part of the issue is that this is the first year my twin girls have been separated, so now I'm dealing with twice the teachers as usual. Also because my time has been split between the two classes, I don't know either teacher very well. And they are in 4th grade, which means that I am not helping in the classroom nearly as much as I did when they were in first grade.

Let's also add to the fact that there are three aides between the two classes.
Usually I wouldn't worry about aides, as they are really there not to help the whole class but to help one child within the class, but girltwin b has an aide who has been with both girls every year since kindergarten (excepting first grade) and she does actually help the whole class too. Add to this that I've made her two scarves and a necklace over the years, I feel like this year I need to give her something. But then if I give HER something, do I need to give the two aides in girltwin a's class?

Other complications have also arisen. Girltwin A's teacher told me she is allergic to wool and alpaca (we were on a field trip to a farm, so it isn't as weird as it sounds), and girltwin b's teacher doesn't seem like the scarf type.

Initially I had thought I'd go over to the dark side and make ruffle scarves. (red heart sashay!)I KNOW! but they are really in right now. The thing is, with those scarves, you kind of need to be a scarf person. Or shall we say a fashionable person who might think a nice accessory is a scarf. And of the 5 people in question--ONE of them is (and she's the aide I know the least).

This is starting to feel like one of those terrible logic problems.

The other complication is that last weekend barnes and noble was running a special--buy $75 in gift cards, get a $10 bonus card. And we bought 5, $15 gift cards, thinking that they would come in handy for things like teacher gifts, emergency gifts, and donation gifts. But now it feels super tempting to just give the teachers the gift cards and either bake something for the aides or I guess I COULD knit them scarves. Do those ruffle scarves take long? I mean I could make 2 one each for the two younger aides (and the one I know gets her fashionable stuff appropriated by her daughter) and a nice sturdy scarf (like the Irish hiking scarf ) for the third aide. But do I want to?

So many decisions, so little time.

Monday, November 05, 2012

halloween post-mortem

Before I go on and start in on my next knitting conundrum (what to knit for the holidays), I thought I may need to do a Halloween wrap up.

In the end, everything fit. Everyone was pleased and many compliments were had. The only problem was poodle skirt girl lost the handkerchief on her ponytail and doesn't know where it is (and it was one of mine!).

Closeup of her wig:

poodle skirt

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Project runway Halloween

Halloween, for me, has started to take on a Project Runway type feel.

In Project Runway, each week the remaining designers are given a challenge, a budget and soem time to work on a design. About halfway through, the mentor Tim Gunn, comes in and critiques the designs. Then the models come in for a fitting. Usually the next day the models get styled (hair and make-up) and a runway show is presented with one or more designers being eliminated. It is a fun show to watch because of all the drama. I've seen all except for season 9 (don't ask) and feel like I've seen nearly everything bad that could happen, happen. Models lie about their measurements and garments don't fit, designers run out of money for fabric, designers run out of time, and of course garments that didn't turn out the way they had expected.

Of course, I am not a designer. I need a pattern (patterns are forbidden on PR and in fact one designer was kicked off because it was discovered he had pattern books among his belongings) for one thing. For another, I really do not work well under pressure. And finally, I have no Tim Gunn. So yes, I had patterns. And yes, I had time. and yes, I even came well within budget spending $70 all together. But for some reason, I also had problems, lots of problems. In fact I've decided to list my top five here.

Top five problems I encountered this Halloween

5) Kind of anti-climatic but the number 5 was how LONG it took me to make the petticoat for the poodle skirt. I know I already wrote about it, but Oh my.
4) The "poodle" fabric. It was supposed to be "sherpa remnant" but no fabric store nearby had that, so I ended up going with something similar I found at Michael's. It frayed like nobodies business and shed EVERYWHERE. I have leftover and I'm considering a doll "pimp jacket" that's how weird it was. I ended up having to use FrayCheck on the smaller pieces, and I surged the edges of the larger pieces.
3) Sizing! I measured the poodle skirt girl and made the size her measurements suggested and the petticoat was TOO SMALL. It was easily fixed by adding ribbon waistband, but then the skirt, based on the same pattern is snug. The panic that set in when I thought I might have to add some felt to the poodle skirt was crazy. However, everything has been tried on and fits. At least for now.
2) Up until now all the problems have been with the poodle skirt. I did have one grrr issue with the medusa costume and that was, again I sized it according to measurements and the neckline is HUGE. Also, and I think this may be user error, but the sleeves are set kind of funny, so when i tried to take in the neck it made the sleeves look bunchy. Medusa is all set to wear an all black outfit under her costume anyway, so she's not too distressed.
1) Buttonholes. I know this 50s poodle skirt has just been the worst. The blouse has buttons. My machine does buttonholes pretty nicely, but you have to program the first one, and for the first 15 I tried, I was hitting the wrong reverse button--my machine has 2 and one works for buttonholes and one has a buttonhole symbol by it. Then I switched to my old machine which has a buttonhole foot. You put the button in it and supposedly it will do the rest. Well.... I couldn't get fabric to feed through it. And I tried perhaps 5 or 6 times before I gave up. Then I got the buttonhole figured out and it took at least 5 more tries to get the right size. So away I started sewing only to run out of thread on the 3rd buttonhole (of 5) and have to reprogram the buttonhole.
All told, I made at least 30 buttonholes and 5 of them now are on the blouse.

Last night we had our final fitting, and all clients were happy. Tomorrow we go to the runway, with styling to be done in the morning (heaven help me). It is supposed to rain on Halloween though, so School may be our big debut and final showing.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

state of halloween

I am a planner. I know I can't start thinking about Halloween costumes in October. I know Joann's usually has a big labor day pattern sale. So we start early.

I also start sewing early. In fact I usually take the patterns home, read through them and make lists of what I need to buy so that I only make one trip to the store. and then I plan out my sewing.

Last year on Oct 6 I started a new job and my remembrance is that I was mostly done with costumes at that point. I probably out to go back and check for sure, but my general feeling is that last year was not rushed at all.

This year, well things went very different.

First off I bought the supplies and patterns the same day due to a 30% off your entire order including sale (but not clearance) items. So while I didn't end up with stuff I didn't need, like I have in the past. I neglected to buy snaps and buttons. And trim for one costume, because the child had not given me a clear vision yet.

I had some knitting to do for one of the costumes and so I started that early and then made the plan that I had 4 pieces to sew that I would tackle one a week, which under this plan would have meant that this week I'd be dealing with problems. I always try to give myself a week in case of problems. Then if I run into an issue and I don't want to tackle it, I can save it and mull it over.

Well the petticoat week happened. Did you know that under every successful poodle skirt there is a petticoat or crinoline that makes it poofy? Did you know what a monumental pain in the rear end it is to make a crinoline or petticoat? Yeah me, neither.

First there was tons of tulle to be cut, sewed together and gathered.

And THEN you sewed it on. AND THEN you did that three times!


What you see up there represents 9 hours of nothing but tulle work.

Usually I do not keep track of "how long that took for me to make it" unless I am trying to either charge for my time or trying to do a cost benefit analysis (like for brownie vests). But in this case, it was unavoidable, because I thought hi ho I have a morning free I should be able to finish this petticoat today! Sadly, by lunchtime I was swearing and screaming and cursing bobby soxers everywhere.

And I only had one row of tulle on.

My husband said, "Oh but you know it won't take you three hours to do the rest, remember the first brownie vest? It took you tons of time longer than the second."

He was not only wrong, he was quite spectacularly wrong.

Ok maybe it didn't take me three hours to do the second, but it was close. And the third I know took at least 2.5. So yes, petticoat week was actually two weeks.

So here I am one week before Halloween (WHAT?! ) and I still have one more piece to start. Needless to say, I am glad I saved the easiest for last. I cut and sewed in all my free time on Monday and today, and am now at the try it on point for 3 of the 4 pieces, and only have buttonholes for the fourth.

Somebody save me.

or send junior mints

Saturday, October 13, 2012

knee socks

This summer, my girls told me that this year they'd really like some new socks. Knitted socks. And I realized that though I have made them a pair nearly every year since I first learned to knit socks, I had not made them any last year. They sort of seemed at that age where they wouldn't really wear anything but white athletic socks.

Also, their feet are getting so long that it takes more yarn to make their socks. I used to be able to get two socks from one Lorna's laces hank, and now I would need two. Those are expensive socks when you are talking about kids who will outgrow them before they wear out. We'll get back to Lorna's laces when their feet stop growing.

For now that means shopping around for some cheaper sock yarn. So I was thrilled to find some sensations bamboo and ewe patterned sock yarn at Joann's in colors I knew my girls would love.

I'm glad I bought two balls even though I probably could have gotten away with one, for a normal sized sock, because well ... the first girl up requested knee socks.

Knee socks

In fact I used so much of the skein and the repeat is so long (3 inches of sock!) that I didn't bother attempting to get these to match exactly. She doesn't care, she loves them.

The pattern is the basic toe up sock I always make from an old Interweave knits article by the wondrous Ann Budd. I changed needle sizes to go bigger, and then ended up adding stitches. I kind of did it on the fly as for some reason I didn't or couldn't I don't remember which look in the magazine because I KNOW there is a pattern for knee socks in it. However, improvising is always fun.


She had fun modeling, and insisted on wearing them tucked in her pants to school.

PA100015 copy

Now to make her sister a pair, although she claims to want "normal" socks.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

first world problems

One of my biggest problems with getting entries done is pictures. I want to show you all pictures of my work! But I seem to be in this technology limbo, similar to what I felt ages ago when the internet was a new frontier.

I have a camera, a pro flickr account, an ipad, and a desktop computer, so everything should be easy? yes?

Well actually no.

You see if I take pictures with my camera, I have to download them onto the desktop, and then move them over to Flickr. The quality is good even if the photographer is bad. I just need to remember to take the pictures, and then download them. And then if I just dumped everything to flickr right then, well half the work would be done.
Problem is, I often forget to take pictures. Then when I do remember, it takes me a long time to get the camera downloaded. Then usually someone needs me before I can do anything with my downloads. Or getting the downloading to the computer and then edits (usually rotating or cropping) and uploading again take up all my allotted blog time (and I must get back to my life outside the computer).

I could and do take pictures with the ipad, which I use more than the desktop computer on some days (my husband is currently working at home, so the ipad has become my "laptop."). I didn't buy the camera connector kit because I figured I didn't really need it, as I can connect to the desktop. But the ipad does have a camera. I just don't always appreciate the quality. Plus it took me longer than it should have to figure out how to get pictures from the camera roll onto flickr. (an iphone app for flickr exists, but not an ipad app--and the uploader from flickr uses flash I think--anyway won't work. But iphone app works!)

An example of the quality is this picture of the poodle skirt in progress:


A little grainy for my taste.

So, what this means is that most of the days that I have time to write something, I'm relegated to the ipad and usually I don't have a photo that I want to share already on flickr--or even on my camera half the time. So then I have to decide, grainy photos taken on the ipad as I'm updating (and WHY are they so grainy?!) or entry first, pictures second (really it takes me two days to get one entry?) or no entry?

I don't have answers. I wish I did.

Oh I do have a sort of answer--I'm thinking of going over to the dark side for Christmas/holiday gifts. Yes, novelty yarn. Specifically Redheart sashay scarves. If they had a lime green colorway, I'd probably already be casting on for a gift, and I may still do some discreet "what color appeals to you" poking around. These just seem like the kind of hip thing that wouldn't take much in the way of technique and yet would still impress.

Monday, September 24, 2012


So September escaped from me. For some reason I always always think: "once school starts I will have SO much time!"

I'm not sure if that means that then I put off stuff until school starts and I spend September playing crazy lady catch-up or if it really is that busy. Maybe both. I know I certainly worked my job like that, I did only what needed to get done (without working ahead). Meaning of course that when school started I was behind.

Also indicative of life right now is the fact that my nine year olds have somehow morphed back to preschoolers. The two paragraphs above took 20 minutes to type because suddenly they need me for everything from mediating arguments, to keeping them from getting into everything. I swear I need to babyproof more now than I did when they were 3.

At any rate, here is a project update:

-Halloween costumes! Yes, they have begun. Every year I think maybe the girls get too old for this, but I hope I have a few more years. Anyway they chose to be a 50's girl (complete with poodle skirt) and medusa.
I was initially worried because medusa started as bride of frankenstein and as we talked, the only sense I could get of what the bride of frankenstein looked like had to do with hair. As I was trying to figure out how to do the hair, she casually mentions: either that or medusa.
Well my brain started ticking and let's just say, this will be one cute medusa.

Progress on these is slow, but I do have medusa's hair underway and have mostly finished the blouse that goes with the poodle skirt (saving the buttonholes for that mythical time when I can concentrate).

-Knee socks. I started the second knee sock and have gotten the foot done, and started up the leg, not quite to the point of the increases yet, but I'll get there. I am a little sad that she won't be able to wear these with shorts, as the weather has turned cold, but eh, she'll figure something out.

-Misc. I have started thinking about Christmas, especially my gift knitting. My daughters are in different classes this year and so that doubles the teacher gifts. Also, the aide in one daughter's class has been the aide for her class every year except first grade. She manages to balance helping her assigned student and helping the class as a whole, and so I have in the past knit her a gift too. Since I've known her a few years, I was thinking socks (plus she always admires mine), but I'm debating how to figure out her size.
Also complicating things, on the farm field trip I learned that one teacher is allergic to wool and alpaca (or at least sensitive to it). So no wool scarf for her. But I'm debating about what replaces that.

It hasn't been all busy busy busy, I had time to enter a contest run by the lovely Annie Modesitt on her blog (which you should be reading if you are not already, because she not only has fabulous insights into knitting, but she's funny to boot). And I WON! A skein of buffalo gold earth lite. (I think I got the name right--I'm too lazy to get up and go look at the label, despite it being draped over the arm of my knitting chair, where it has been since it got here). In the contest you had to say what you'd use it for and I thought a scarf. It is too small for a scarf but would work for a cowl. Although after draping the yarn around my neck (yes, I am weird but BUFFALO people), I'm not sure I could wear a cowl for very long. So maybe fingerless gloves it will be.

I'm open to suggestions, on knitted teacher gifts, sneakily finding a person's shoe size, or what to do with 200 yards of red buffalo yarn.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


In almost a month you'd think I'd have SOMETHING to show you. Something finished and marvelous or at least edible.

But no. I have finished a Christmas present I can't show you, canned some tomatoes (and forgot to take pictures), and finished this sock:
abby sock

Halloween costumes are on the agenda, as well as the second knee sock. My goodness that was a long long sock to knit. I'll try to be better about blogging now that the girls are in school.

4th grade

Wednesday, August 08, 2012


Ok this post isn't about knitting. But it is about what in some ways is behind the idea of summer knitting. Getting ready for winter. Every summer I feel like I gorge myself on fresh fruit and vegetables and mourn that one day winter will come, and all that goodness will be gone!

And really that's what the freezer jam is all about. Saving some of that fresh fruit for when you can't get it any more. A way to save strawberries and peaches and cherries when they are at their best.

I also freeze cherries, blueberries, and peaches. The cherries I use in chocolate cherry crisp, which is as good as it sounds. The peaches get used in cobblers or crisps and smoothies. The blueberries get eaten frozen (and used in stuff but I prefer to eat them frozen). I'm weird and frozen is the ONLY way I tolerate blueberries.

I also freeze sweet corn. At any time in the winter there will be a piece of summery goodness I can drag out and dream of the days of butter dripping down your chin. (I prefer the cook for 10 min, ice bath, cut off the cob, but I do understand you can freeze them on the cob raw). And I've tried freezing green beans, but they didn't taste all that great to me. I've frozen tomato sauce as well, but found it to be eh.

What I have never tried, until this year, was canning. So this year I did a bunch of research and discovered that for most of what I want to do, waterbath canning would work. Green beans sadly need a pressure canner. So I bought one of those "discovery kits" that ball sells.
It comes with 3 pint jars, and a basket that you can list out of a stockpot. And I THOUGHT my big pan was big enough. Alas, it was not. So I purchased:
It was on clearance, even though the red ones were full price. Go figure.

Peaches are up first. Now this spring was very wonky here in Michigan. We got 80 degree days in March. A bunch in fact. Enough in fact to cause the fruit trees to think it was spring and start to leaf out. And then it got cold again. In fact we had a frost in May (which isn't unusual--our last frost date is May 25). The cherry crops were decimated, as were apple and peach. My regular vendor for cherries had NONE this year. Sour cherries, already on a short season were here for exactly one week. During which I washed, pitted and cut 5 quarts of cherries. Ok, but back to peaches. The same vendor that I buy cherries from has the best peaches I have ever tasted. And this year they lost 70% of their crop. They started showing up at Farmer's market with peaches about 3 weeks ago.

Of course I bought some to eat. We can finish off 1/4 peck easily between market days (twice a week). Then a week after that we bought more. I've made one batch of peach jam (probably all I'll make). I have enough peaches frozen for a cobbler or crisp (my step father loves cobblers, I prefer crisps and I usually make one or the other during their annual visit).

I also went a little overboard and bought um a whole peck at a time.


But this year, canning was the thing. So I surfed around the ball recipe site (which has a terrible search function) and found the only recipe for peaches was honey spiced peaches. So I made those.

spiced peaches

They look brown with all the spices and the honey. I had leftover everything so I made popsicles out of that. (sorry no pictures, we ate them before I could think of it.)

But of course, I have this whole community of people who pester give me helpful advice and so I searched around some more and realized you can just make a plain simple syrup (of varying sweetnesses) and cold pack peaches and pour hot syrup over them and process. So I did that.


They look prettier.

Tomatoes are just starting to come in and we're hoping to get a bunch from our CSA (yes, I am hardcore--I do 2 farmer's markets and a CSA every week--and we eat most of it--we do lose some to spoilage because even I cannot eat 20 cucumbers in one week--and we aren't big into pickles), and so next up several variations on tomato sauces/crushed tomatoes.

Anyone have any good recipes they like for tomatoes?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


For a long time I have thought about trying Entrelac.  At least ever since I saw Danica.  I think I even decided to make it and bought some light blue yarn for the accent squares.  I never quite believed it was as easy as they said it was. But then I started seeing what people were doing with noro yarns and entrelac and Stubled across the most beautiful scarfs.  I don't have that much silk garden in my stash, but learning the technique would be a good first step.  So I dug through my stash for leftovers.

At the same time, I had decided that it might be time to conquer my fear of the dollar and a half cardigan (it isn't) and dug out the Interweave knits with that pattern in it.  Coincidently that issue (Spring 2007) has an entrelac tutorial in it. Then came a rainy day when the girls wanted to watch a  tv show we'd taped (and I wanted to see it too or ahem, I needed to ff through the commercials for them) It seemed like the fates were saying--do this.

And so I did:


It was pretty easy too.  Now to figure out how to justify the pruchase of 4 skeins of noro silk garden.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Gray sweater

The girls are at daycamp this week and I've never felt so productive or so worn out as I have this week. Today for example, I pitted 4 quarts of sour cherries and made jam (1 batch) and froze the rest. Sour cherries make excellent cherry crisp, and there is nothing better in my mind than having warm cherry crisp in the middle of a cold winter.

There must be something in the preparations for a cold winter, because today is the second installment of "kid sweaters I've finished when it got really hot."

This one is again made from Knit Picks Brava Worsted and again on US size 6 and 7 needles. The pattern is central park hoodie. This is the third I have made. Because sizing runs small (you didn't want to button it did you?) I made her a small women's.


I love how it turned out.

I only missed one cable, but it is hidden by the hood.

She does love it. When they get cold in the mornings (because after a week of upper 90s, 72 feels chilly) they both run for their sweaters. I also have tons of pictures of her posing it it, mostly in her nightgown, so I'll spare you all that.

And because we love a good button photo:


Thursday, July 05, 2012

purple panda sweater

In looking over the pictures I took of the sweaters, I realized that I don't have a lot of suitable pictures of the gray central park hoodie. So instead I guess I'll separate the sweater entries.

First up is what we are referring to as the purple panda sweater. In fact I should probably update the ravelry page to call it that. At any rate, I made this for my daughter who loves purple and pandas. The yarn is Brava worsted by knitpicks. I used size US 7 needles and basically created the pattern by using the top down raglan calculator. I added a hood using other patterns as guidelines for length and shape. Instead of ribbing, I used seed stitch for the edges, and used a buttonhole I found in The Knitters book of finishing techniques.

And we were very happy with the finished product:

purple sweaterbuttoningreading

Given that it was over 80 outside and 77 inside and she sat there wearing it until we said--really aren't you hot? I'd say she likes it. It wasn't even as big as I thought it would be.

And just in case you missed it we're calling it the panda sweater because two of the five buttons are pandas. Purchased 1/2 price at Joann's!

closeup of panda button

Friday, June 29, 2012

travel socks

I just got back from vacation. We left our house in Michigan, drove to Indianapolis, then on to the Champaign, Il area for a family reunion, then up to Chicago (and Skokie) to hang and see the sights and then back home to Michigan.

I finished the sweaters before I left, but they deserve their own post. When I left I decided I'd start a pair of toe up socks and try to photodocument my road trip with them.

I had very limited success.


Here we are at the Indiana State line. When I realize that this probably isn't going to work.

The beef house is right along the IN/IL border and was always a fancy place to go when I was growing up outside Champaign, Il. We stopped for lunch there and couldn't resist the photo op.

Socks go to the beef house

After trying on the socks, I decided to start the first heel at the IL state line:

Nearly in IL

People were mocking me at this point about the sock, and so when my mom insisted I take her picture with the sock, I did and then put it away


Well until we were in our hotel and then I had to have the girls stuffed animals pose with the socks:

StillwaterStillwater the panda

OtterHarry Otter

I finished the first sock as we headed back to Michigan. Then I started the second sock and immediately got second sock syndrome. I did work on it some, but we've been home a couple of days now and I'm not to the heel yet. There is something to be said about taking more than one project along even if you know that the one project will be enough travel knitting. Plus people really do mock you when you whip out a half completed sock and try to take pictures.

I need something new so the second sock can be my travel take along project.

Thursday, June 07, 2012


I am the biggest procrastinator.

I usually put off things though for specific reasons. Well one reason really: I don't want to do it.

So it probably comes as no surprise that the one thing holding me back on the purple sweater was the button holes. It wasn't that I didn't understand how to do them. I watched this video:

It was just that I was going to have to swatch to be sure that the size I made fit the buttons. And you know what? I didn't want to do that.

I mean I really did not want to do that.

I'm not sure why--after I finally decided that if it was going to be done in a quiet house while I was awake and alert, it needed to be done today --it went easy.

Seriously easy. Like less than 1/2 hour easy. The panda buttons will work with a 3 stitch version, the smaller buttons probably would work with a yarnover, but to keep consistent, we'll do a two stitch buttonhole.

Now to actually do it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

button button who has the button

On Saturday, I hauled both girls off to Joann Fabrics because our local store was having a Memorial Day sale and buttons were 50% off. I love it when sales correspond with my needs and I get a good bargain.

We ended up spending $11 and getting buttons for the purple sweater, the grey sweater AND my poor black calorimetry. So yep, three projects and the buttons would have been $22. Now everyone knows why I was so excited by this sale.

What does $11 (or $22) buy you?

These are for the purple sweater. I'm going to have to do some swatching to be sure I get the buttonholes right--since we have two different sizes. I kind of wish she'd have picked just one kind.
purple sweater buttons
She's my panda queen so this was not unexpected.

The grey sweater is getting these
grey sweater buttons
Which I was surprised at, but they look nice with the grey. with the sleeve

And my poor neglected Calorimetry gets a sparkly button, that hated the camera.
closeup button

Now I guess I don't have any excuses for not finishing and better get knitting. (and sewing).

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sweater update

As we head into summer (last weekend marked Canada's unofficial start to summer, and Monday marks the US start to summer), I head into the final stretches of sweater construction.

I picked up my daughter's sweater again, after a nice weekend where there was actually no mouthing off about anything. I adjusted the sleeves and picked up all the stitches for the button bands and decided on which buttonhole stitch I was going to use. I marked where I wanted them and knit up to the row where I would need to put in buttonholes and then realized that whoa, I need to know what buttons we're using.

And coincidently Joann Fabrics has buttons 1/2 price starting Friday.

So, I picked back up on the gray Central park hoodie and am almost to the armhole shaping.

I feel like I'll finally have both sweaters done, and then no one will want to wear them until September. I know it isn't true though--I use a lot of cardigans in the summer. In fact, in the summer, you can usually find the following in my trunk: 2 camp chairs, 2 pool noodles, 3 sweaters. I find that this is all you need to be prepared in the summer. And I can't tell you how many times, I've ended up fishing out those sweaters for cold stores/restaurants/movie theaters. (My husband is never cold, which is why there aren't 4 BTW) So while these sweaters probably won't be shoved in the trunk, they'll be what gets grabbed when we KNOW we're headed someplace cold. Or when nights turn chilly. Plus, they'll still fit in September.

I have resisted the lure of the felted project but I swear I feel the pull of the wool that the local fabric store carries (they carry about 4 or 5 lines of yarn, not a HUGE selection, but some basics). Plus I know there would be great fabric to line it with. But I am strong! Not strong enough that I can go through patterns for ideas though.

Monday, May 14, 2012

I am not sure why, but it seems that I am always making sweaters in May. Or finishing sweaters in May.  At any rate, I know I always think about making sweaters in fall and winter, but it seems that by the time the temperatures start rising, I'm sitting there dreaming of how people in this house will look in their new sweaters.

Last May I finished my all wool Central park hoodie in time to wear it maybe twice before putting it away for the fall.  And this year I'm on track to finish two sweaters in time for memorial day!

I am feeling better about the purple sweater.  We've had a good weekend with little eyerolling and huffing and sighing, so perhaps we've turned a corner.  In the mean time I started in on a sweater for her sister.  She requested "something with twists like this" while pointing to my blue central park hoodie.  I looked around to see if anyone had done any smaller measurements to that pattern, and on ravelry, most of the kid sized sweaters had the helpful information of "I just scaled it down." Gee thanks.

I measured the girl in question and realized she's only a few inches away from the smallest size in the pattern.  I also know from the two I knit that it runs a bit small.  So I decided that I'd make her the smallest size and my "scaling" down would mean that I'd make 3 instead of 4 inches of ribbing, and I'd watch to make sure the length was appropriate.  I may have to shorten the sleeves a bit too.  

I have the back done, and about 3/4 of the left front, so it is zipping along pretty fast.  After I finish the left front, I'm going to finish up the purple sweater sleeves and then I'll need to find a day or two when I can sit and think WHILE I knit and figure out the button band*. 

*I want to do all the edging in seed stitch as one long piece (pick up 2 gazillion stitches) and put in the button holes as I go, so I need to a) decide which side to put the button holes, b) figure out which method to use, and c) mark where the button holes should go.  Given that most of my knitting is done after a full day of stuff, this gets to be a bit much to ask of my regular knitting time. 

I'm having a bad case of starter-itis though that I am having to fight. It seems that all I really want to do is knit something I can felt.  The sweaters are winning based solely on not having enough feltable yarn to make anything.  So I've been promising myself that after the sweaters are done, I'll be making a felted bag (maybe) that is lined (maybe) in some funky fabric.

Friday, May 04, 2012

project on hold

I'm nearly done with the first of the kid sweaters. I had an entire skein of yarn left and so offered to add a hood. The hood offer was accepted, and so I started knitting a hood.

Yesterday, I was knitting what I felt must be about the last few rows on the hood and then tried the sweater on my daughter. She complained that the sleeves were too short (which means they actually came to the perfect sleeve length--a first for me!), us agreeing that perhaps an additional 1.5 inches couldn't hurt, and then I put the hood on her.

"Almost there!" I chirped.
"not if you expect me to *wear* it" she snarls back.

Oh my.

We've dealt with increasing sassiness, increasing rudeness before, but never have I been so shocked and quite frankly devastated. How long have I been planning this sweater, so everything is just right? Months. I've been actually knitting less than a month, but I agonized over style and swatches and patterns before I started actually knitting. What came next was me slipping it from her shoulders and as calmly as I could saying, "I don't really feel like knitting more on this tonight. I think I'm done working on this for now."
Of course there was more, she's had this attitude for a while and this wasn't the first incidence of her rudeness even last evening. But man that hurt.

So here's what is left to do: lengthen the sleeves, finish the hood, add the button bands/edging. However, I think I'll be setting this aside for a while and maybe working on her sister's sweater. I don't like knitting something when I feel angry or resentful. Plus, even though she apologized (and honestly not the snooty one that came when I called her on this), I think I still need some time.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

mango jam

I think over the years I have made so many batches of freezer jam that I could probably do it in my sleep.  But yesterday was a first for me.  You see every batch of freezer jam I have ever made has been with fruit grown locally. Well sort of locally.  Strawberries and blueberries both within 10 miles of my house and peaches and cherries purchased at farmers market from a farm that is a few hours away. 

 Yesterday though, I decided to make mango jam. Mangos are not local to Michigan.  But I love mangos, particularly Ataulfo mangos (and actually didn't realize that all winter I've been looking for the champagne mangos I had last year and had been seeing them all along under a different name!).  They are for me, easier to tell when ripe, easier to peel, and easier to cut.

I've been buying them every time I go to the store, usually to use in lassis. Although at times they've been getting too ripe too fast and then I've been freezing them.  (cut and peeled) And they've been getting cheaper as the season wears on.  They are delicious in smoothies and lassis. 

If you've been reading a while, you know that I love Certo brand Pectin. And I happened to have some leftover from last fall's peach jam fest. The certo recipe book says mango jam should take 4 medium mangos, 6 cups sugar, 1/4 cup lemon juice and two pouches of certo.  So when I saw mangos at the store on sale for 2 for $1, I bought 6, hoping that would be enough and knowing if it was too much I could freeze the leftovers.  Well, Ataulfo mangos are smaller than the "normal" (Tommy adkins?) mangos and so, this jam really needed eight to get to the 3 cups mashed. Thankfully, I had enough in my freezer stash.

Mangos on the counter all lined up ready to be peeled and chopped.

I did one cup fully blended, as I do sometimes with peach and strawberry.  I like my jam chunky but blending 1/3 of it makes mashing manageable. (you could blend the whole thing, but then your jam won't be chunky)
Mashed up mangos

Six cups of sugar later...
Sugar added

Ok a note on sugar here.  I have friends who have literally gasped out loud and looked like they were going to fall over at the amount of sugar required.  I don't worry about the sugar because first it is jam and the definition of jam is sugar preserved in fruit and second I don't eat huge globs of it raw, I mean what do you put on a PBJ a tablespoon?  two maybe.  Ok, I do love me a huge glob of jam on greek yogurt but even then I think I max out at two tablespoons.  If the sugar thing bothers you, you can buy a different brand of pectin that calls for less sugar.  I know they are out there and a facebook friend posted a recipe that used some insanely tiny amount of sugar.  So go for it!  Personally I like the sugar, but if I ever started eating jam straight out of the container, I'd probably switch too.

I didn't photograph the pectin step, because I was getting my kids ready for bed and got distracted, but I added it and dealt with many many complaints about teeth having already been brushed as I was ladling jam into containers (mango jam and toothpaste not really being compatible tastes) preventing kid tasting.  


We had mango jam for breakfast this morning and the verdict is mixed, but basically everyone who likes mangos to eat plain liked the jam. And I thought it was especially tasty on my strawberries and greek yogurt. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I don't have many pictures to show today because, while it has been sunny enough to catch my purples at their truest, it has also been so windy as to blow every thing away while I compose a shot.

I did though want to say that I blocked my purple scarf and it looks fabulous. I even wore it. I even took a picture of myself wearing it. But then after I wore it I realized that probably after two wearings it is going to need to be re-blocked.
  Photo on 2012-04-17 at 13.58

 I also have been knitting fast and furious on the purple sweater. So much so that on Saturday April 14th I realized I had given myself a blister from poking my finger on the knitting needle pushing the stitches along. I'm on the second sleeve now--the sleeves tend to go faster for me. Also, contrary to my usual sweater MO, I am not feeling the "yarn pinch" as I still have 2 skeins of yarn. It made me realize I could add a hood!

 My other daughter wants a central park hoodie. And while she's too small for the smallest size, it is close enough that I'm thinking I could probably shrink it down. So, I'll be swatching that soon. So many things to knit, and hopefully many more lovely days in which to bring my knitting with me to the park.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Darn it! no! Reknit it!

My local friends of the library has 3 used book sales every year in which they sell donated books and magazines. Well at the sale (or rather the pre-sale because I'm a member!) I scored a whole stack of Interweave knits magazines. I bought 15 of them even though I had a few thinking I'd sort out what I already owned and let my knitting friends choose from the leftovers. One thing I like about the older magazines is that you can really tell which styles are "classic," they are the ones that still look good 12 years later.
Another thing I like is that the articles can be really helpful. So when I saw that the Winter 1998 issue had an article on repairing your knitting by darning and a few other methods I decided to save it. Good thing too because I discovered to my horror a hole in one of my hand knit socks.

So I decided to dig out this magazine and read the article and try, not just darning but maybe something new (because I already darned some socks). Of course it took me a while because somehow even though I have no qualms about knitting in public, or making homemade jam, or baking bread I seem to have in my head that "mending" is old fashioned old lady work.
Which is stupid because I don't think "mending" things around the house is old fashioned or delegated to old ladies. I think of that as practical.

So today I decided to get over this and read the article and figure out what I needed. Lo and Behold, I learned several things. First is that you don't need to darn, you can re-knit. AND if you don't have a hole yet, you can swiss darn. So today, I reknit this hole.

First I gathered my supplies:
equipment The magazine, the sock, the extra yarn, several sets of needles as two sizes are needed, and a tapestry needle.
I forgot to include my egg and my scissors. But I had them.
The first instruction was to make the hole square--which meant making it wider! It also was supposed to be an odd number of rows.

Then you were to pick up stitches using a needle two sizes smaller than you originally used, two before the hole, all the way across to two after. How were you supposed to know what size needle you used before Ravelry? I have no idea. But I looked on ravelry and discovered not only did I use size 2.25mm needles, but I finished these socks last July. So tsk tsk tsk on longevity! I'd have more to say about this yarn if I wasn't a firm believer in the adage: if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all (except to your husband who just hears yarn yarn yarn yarn no matter what I say about yarn)
It looked like this:
pick up
And then you are supposed to knit the same number of rows you are repairing in the pattern of the area you are repairing--in this case stockinette.
So then I had this little flap:
well and then the instructions said to graft it or kitchner it to the top and I got so engrossed in the directions I neglected to take pictures. This is why it is called "disasters with yarn" and not "perfection with yarn"...

I managed it and my patch looks like:

Then I sewed up the sides using the tails. I'm fairly happy with the result.

I think sometime soon I need to do a complete entry on swiss darning because you can use that to shore up the "thin" spots on socks that eventually wear into holes, and I have a few of those.