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. :)

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Baby Gift #6: A Boy Vest


Here is another baby gift completed, which brings my 2011 total up to 6 so far. I am currently working on a pullover for my oldest son ("Finally, Mom!"), but then I have two more baby sweaters (one for a boy and one for a girl) that need to be completed this month. I feel great about staying on top of this goal!

The above vest is one I come back to over and over again--I've made it several times in different yarns and sizes. (My younger son has grown through two of them--time for another!) The original pattern has a smaller neck opening and buttons on one shoulder, but I prefer the ease of a larger opening with no buttons to fiddle with. It's called the Oz Vest by Louisa Harding {Ravelry link}, from her book Natural Knits for Babies and Moms. Hope the recipient's parents will like it!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The "Cream Puff" Sweater and The Finishing Process


As promised, my next project after The Big Gray Sweater was a "girlie" one--a spring top for my daughter. (If I knit spring clothing, spring will come sooner, right?) It's from a Sublime pattern called Frangipani {Ravelry link}, but I call my version "Cream Puff" because of the yarn color I chose and the modified sleeves, which are slightly puffed. (See this blog post for details on the sleeve construction.)

Over the years, I've received lots of comments on the quality of my finished knitted items. As I have mentioned here before, I am constantly striving to perfect my finishing techniques. I think there is a difference between something looking "homemade" and something looking "handmade" or "hand crafted", and I do my best to achieve the latter.

Sometimes, though, people get the wrong idea. Once, a friend who hadn't been knitting for very long told me that seeing my finished items made her feel like a complete failure. After talking to her about it, I discovered that she assumed my projects looked like that as I was knitting them! (Oh, if only that could be true!) In actual fact, nothing comes off my knitting needles looking perfect. Finishing takes work, and is really a craft in and of itself.

Just to give you a basic idea of the process, I've decided to swallow my pride and show some photos of this Cream Puff Sweater before it was finished. The image below shows the two front pieces before they were joined to the back:


Notice the curling edges, the bumpy, uneven stitches, and the yarn ends hanging out. It's always tempting at this point to despair. I mean, who would want to wear a sweater that looks like that? And, honestly, even though I have experienced this stage over and over again and know it is not how the finished item will look, I still feel a little niggling doubt when I see this. Here's a photo further on in the process, when the sleeves were completed, the back and fronts sewn together, and the collar knitted on:


Better, yes, but still curling, still bumpy, still sporting stray yarn ends. Even after weaving those in, the sweater will look awful. Do I throw up my hands in despair? No! I take a deep breath and move forward with faith! Time to wash and block:


Here is the sweater in the sink, swimming in a bath of mild soap and cool water.


And here it is all pinned out on my blocking tiles to dry into a more presentable state! Getting it wet causes the yarn to relax, and stretching it out to pin it smooths out the uneven stitches. When it's dry (this cotton blend took forever to dry, by the way), I just needed to sew on some buttons:


Then it was ready for K to wear! I am very happy with how it turned out, but--more importantly--she loves it! Definitely a successful project.