Saturday, September 17, 2011

Memory Lane Part 2: Girl Sweaters

In my last post, I indulged in a little reminiscing about sweaters I've knit for my boys that they've now outgrown. Now it's time for Part 2, where I give a last look at the sweaters (and other items) I made for my girls in years past.

I had so much fun passing these on to a friend with a brand new daughter. It felt like Santa Claus in September! The "oohs" and "aahs" she and her mother gave over each one were extremely gratifying, of course, but the greatest pleasure was knowing that these products of my love-filled labor will not spend years gathering dust in a closet. I hope she will do as I suggested and pass them on to another new little one when they have been outgrown once again. The thought of these sweaters being loved many times truly warms my heart!

Every once in a while I find myself in a knitting "slump", when I don't have a desire to pick up the needles much at all. Going through these knitted memories, however, was enough to keep my creative batteries charged up for a very long time!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Memory Lane Part 1: Boy Sweaters

I, like many knitters I know, slow down a bit on productivity during the summer months. We've been having lots of fun around here, enjoying beautiful weather, and sharing lots of summer adventures. That does translate into a little less knitting than usual. One thing I have been doing, though, is going through the sweaters that my children have outgrown, reminiscing about the days when they used to be so small, taking photos, then sending them on to new homes where I feel confident they will be loved and used as intended. 

I must admit I was surprised at just how many I have managed to knit for my own children over the years! Lots and lots of lovingly crafted sweaters and other small items have been gifted to others since I picked up the needles again about 11 years ago, but I had forgotten how many stayed here to warm my own flesh and blood. I don't often wax sentimental, but this trip down memory lane was definitely an occasion for nostalgia!

These are photos of most of the boy sweaters (plus a sleeper and a couple of hats) my guys wore when they were infants and toddlers. (I don't know how well you can tell, but the photo above on the right shows B's pumpkin costume his first Halloween!)

As you can tell, I lean heavily towards blues and greens for my boys, as well as having a strong preference for vests. It has been so much fun to pause for a moment just to remember some of the cute little knits from my past! (Stay tuned for "Memory Lane Part 2: Girl Sweaters".)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Less is More: The Power of Constraints


If you have been following this blog from the very beginning, you know that it was born from my self-issued challenge not to buy new yarn this year. This has been a fantastic choice for me, because it has forced me to face my stash and realize just how much wonderful yarn I already have to work with. Aside from one justifiable yarn emergency, I have kept to my resolve not to bring new yarn in, and I'm making steady progress as far as sending it out in the form of finished items. It feels great!

One side-effect of this decision, however, is the fact that I'm now working with a finite amount of yarn in a finite number of fibers, weights, and colors. No longer am I allowing myself the luxury of browsing for a new project among the endless fiber possibilities both local and online. Sounds like a drag, right? Like a limit on my creativity? In reality, though, I have found these self-imposed constraints to be a fantastic fuel for the creative process.

Really?, you ask. Am I just trying to put a good face on it? Well, let me show you a project where a limited amount of yarn led to unexpected, yet (IMO) great results.

One such example is shown in the photo above. It's a spring top for my toddler which I call "Daisy Belt" (her name for the old song "Daisy, Daisy", where the girl being sung to is named Daisy Bell). I started out with a pattern called the "Shades of Summer Dress" {Ravelry link} by fantastic up-and-coming designer Elena Nodel (aka Anadiomena).

I knew I wanted to use this light blue yarn from my stash, but I didn't have a whole lot of it. I knew right from the start that this would not actually be a dress, but a top. Luckily, the pattern is worked from the top down, so I knew I could just knit until it was gone. As I went along, however, I realized that I would definitely NOT have enough blue to knit the ruffle unless I made it way too short. What to do?


Well, I knew I was going to put white daisies at the waist (it had to be called "Daisy Belt", after all!), so I wondered if a white ruffle would look good on the bottom. Might as well try, right? I had a few different white yarns in my stash, though not the same yarn as the blue. I've never really experimented with "mixing" yarns in a project, but because of my Yarn Out Challenge, I was now compelled to try it. I experimented with a couple of different options until I settled on the final choice.

What a fantastic result! I am thrilled with the way it turned out, and I have received some great feedback from the Ravelry community. Honestly, if I had not been constrained by my stash, I don't think I would have come out with a project half so wonderful. My creativity and problem-solving skills were forced into action in a way they would not have been if I had purchased the right amount of yarn to knit the original dress. Who knew limits could be so liberating?

I have more to say on this topic with at least one more example to share, but I'll save that for another post. Meanwhile, if you're interested in different points of view on it, read this, this, and this.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Another Boy Sweater


Here's another baby sweater I completed a little while ago. It's a great basic pattern for a toddler pocket pullover that I've made many times in different colors and with different modifications (including upsizing it by using thicker yarn). It's called "Wee Willie Whistle" {Ravelry link}, from a book by designer Louisa Harding entitled Miss Bea's Band. (This is one of 6 books in her "Miss Bea" series, which I adore.)

Here's a close-up of the fun star buttons I used at the shoulders. (Is it just me, or are cute "boy" buttons much harder to find than cute "girl" buttons?)


This one has already been gifted and was well-received. I am definitely having a lot of fun with my baby sweater challenge this year!

The Reincarnation of Blankie


So, I guess it's been a while since I posted. That doesn't mean, however, that my needles have been still. In fact, I have quite a backlog of projects to show off here! The first is "Take 2" of B's special "Blankie". (If you don't know the backstory on this, you'll want to read this post.)

I finished Blankie II on our trip to Utah at the beginning of April. (I even had just enough yarn left over to knit a miniature blanket for his stuffed animals.) B was very complimentary--"That looks awesome, Mom!" and even, "It's so soft and snuggly, Mom!" However, he was not ready to give up Blankie-the-First quite yet. We managed to convince him to sleep with both the old and the new, and discussed the sad truth of having to say goodbye to the original when we returned home.

All during the drive back home, he held tight to his old blanket. I was very concerned that the transition was going to be too painful. However, the moment we arrived home, B surprised us all by walking into the house and immediately throwing "Old Blankie" in the trash! Since then, he has wholeheartedly embraced "New Blankie". Whew! Crisis averted!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Baby Sweater #7

I managed to finish N's sweater all except for the zipper. I will hopefully be installing that sometime this week, then I'll take some photos and dedicate a post to that project.

In the meantime, I've completed another baby gift--a cute girl sweater:


This is from a (free!) pattern called "Provence Baby Cardigan" (available here). I made several modifications, though (of course!): knitting the body as one piece, mirroring the leaf pattern on the fronts, knitting the sleeves down from the armholes, and doing a seed-stitch collar instead of the rolled version in the original pattern. {Ravelry link} Here's a close-up on one of the buttons:


And here's a detail of the leaf pattern:


I love how it turned out! I tried to enjoy the "girliness" of this project as much as possible, because the next several babies I will be knitting for are all boys! (This seems to be a year for having boys among my friends and acquaintances.) I hope the recipients parents will love it, too!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Yarn Emergency

You may notice that my yarn-purchase counter (see sidebar) has been recently reset. This was the result of a true yarn emergency. You didn't know such a thing existed? You must not be a knitter. Or at least not a knitter with a three-year-old who is extremely attached to his "Blankie".

Here is a photo of the blanket I knit for B in the last few weeks before he joined us on this side of the womb:


How can I describe the feelings that went into this project? Creating something soft and warm for a tiny being growing inside of me, who is part of me . . . well, if you've ever created something for your own unborn child, you will understand. Here is a photo of him with the blanket at just a tad over two weeks old:


He seems sort of oblivious to it in that photo, but in the three-and-a-half years since then, B has grown rather fond of "Blankie". It goes with him everywhere, and is a necessary companion at naptime or bedtime. It has been a very real source of comfort to him through the stresses of infant- and toddlerhood. This, for example, is what he wanted to do when we brought him home from the hospital after surgery on his thumb:


Although all of my children have special blankets they've loved since birth, B is unique in choosing a "favorite corner" on his. I have no idea what made that corner special--it never seemed any different to me--but he could always differentiate it from the other three. In fact, in the past couple of years, he would insist on finding that corner before he could settle down with Blankie. He would gently rub it back and forth across his upper lip, visibly calming down almost immediately.

More recently, he began inserting his fingers into the stitches of his favorite corner, pulling and twisting them out of shape. The holes got larger and larger, but to be honest, I was surprised by how long the yarn held up under this kind of "loving". A few days ago, however, we noticed that B's favorite corner now looked like this:


It's hard to tell from the photo, but the hole is large enough to fit over B's head--definitely a safety hazard. We were able to effect a temporary fix by tying a large knot in the corner, but it's only a matter of time before he unties it. I've been trying to prepare him for the necessity of a new blanket ever since I noticed the beginnings of a hole, but I'm not sure he truly understands what that will mean. I had him look through blanket patterns with me and talked about choosing yarn colors, but he just smiled and said, "The kind you already made is the right one, Mom!"

So, I purchased the same yarn in the same color (so glad it's still available!) to attempt a reincarnated version of Blankie. (From Jimmy Beans Wool, if you want to know. Best customer service of any yarn shop I have ever experienced!) I realize that he may completely reject the resulting blanket, but I have to try! I feel very gratified that something I made for him has brought such love and comfort to him for so long, and can only hope that a new blanket will do the same in its own way.

Friday, March 04, 2011

March Progress Report

I once knew a woman who declared March 4th her own personal holiday--as in "March Forth", a day to evaluate her life, decide on necessary changes, and commit to moving forward. This is the same sort of thing many people do on January 1st, I guess, but I love the idea of having additional checkpoints throughout the year. I don't know about you, but I definitely need them!

If you've been following this blog from the beginning, you'll know that I have set myself a challenge (well, a group of related challenges, really) in order to bring focus to my knitting life and hopefully allow my creativity to blossom. This is my monthly progress report on how I am doing with those challenges.

Stash Goals
  • No yarn in. Still staying strong! (See counter in sidebar.) 
  • Catalog patterns in Ravelry. Still at the same place as last month--trying to figure out how to keep track of things that are not in Ravelry's database or not able to be added to my Ravelry library.
  • Keep a project queue on Ravelry. This is one of the best tools for me to stay focused. Part of my problem in the past was losing track of projects I had in mind, even if I already had the yarn for them. The queue is a lifesaver!
  • Use up oddballs and leftovers. No further progress on this during the past month. I may need to specifically schedule an "oddball" project in between other projects in order to make this actually happen.
Gift-giving Goals
  • Create a gift for each baby born in my local church this year. I have completed six baby sweaters/vests (five of which have been delivered to the recipients), and have everything ready to go for gifts seven and eight. I will begin on those as soon as my current project (a sweater for my older son) is completed.
  • Knit at least one sweater for my husband and each of my children. I have finished The Big Gray Sweater for J and The Cream Puff Sweater for my older daughter. As mentioned, I have a pullover for my older son currently on the needles, which I anticipate being able to finish sometime next week. I am still deciding what to knit for my younger two children, but I'd say I'm doing great on this!
  • Knit at least three new items for myself. As I expected, this may just be the most difficult of all my goals. I have decided to focus on knitting something for myself after the next two baby gift sweaters are completed--maybe if I schedule it, it will actually happen!
  • Create at least three random gifts. Still mulling this over.

So, now to move on. Happy "March Forth"!

Note: I realized this morning that the comment function was not enabled on these posts. Oops! (I have been receiving so much feedback on Facebook that I didn't even notice.) I have now enabled comments, however, in case you were dying to leave one here. :)