Wednesday, December 30, 2009


It's calm around here again. Our family has headed home and I am spending lots of quiet time with my girls again. We had guests for 6 nights and seven days - making it the most special, magical holiday season in our home yet. We had as many as 17 folks sleeping under our roof for on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We even had a meal for 24 people. Lots of food, lots of dishes, lots of sweets and lots of energy. If I could bottle it, I'm sure it would be enough to sustain me all through the year.

There were highs. Like when my girls squealed with excitement at the presents they made for each other. There were lows. Like when the basement (which we gutted and worked overtime finishing for the holiday; new lights, new carpet, new stairs, new drywall, etc.) flooded on Christmas Day. On balance, however, there's nothing like family to see you through the rough spots and celebrate the magic of the season with.

As for handmade gifts there were some successes and some not-so-surprising un-finished gifts. I was able to delve into sewing for a week before Christmas and made quite a few things: superhero capes for my nieces and nephew, new down quilts for my older girls, gifts for each of my girls to give to each other. DH and I even collaborated on the big gift for the girls - a play landscape that can be used for many purposes, but is currently home to a family of horses and unicorns. Unfortunately the vest is still in my knitting basket - the pieces are done, but blocking, assembly and finishing has yet to start.

I'll write a few posts over the next couple of weeks about the various gifts and projects, but today is a dedicated play day with my girls. I'm off to enjoy more of the holiday magic that is still all around us.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Holiday preparations

Wow - it's been busy around here. And it will get busier before it slows down. It's not that I've a long queue of holiday knitting or sewing. In fact, I've pared down my holiday knitting to one item and sewing to three items. But we are preparing for 20 overnight guests (incl. 7 kids under age 6) and a kitchen that will be working overtime. So...I'm making lots of lists and checking them twice.

Knitting-wise, here's what I've been working on: a zip-front vest for my brother-in-law. (Pattern is Rugged Up Vest by Judith Avery - Copyright holder for the two pics below is Yarn Magazine 2006). I was inspired to make this piece after a good friend knit one for her husband. And I'm a sucker for o-ring zippers. I just love 'em. The zipper had to be ordered before I finished the knitting so I'm hoping that it will all go together in the end. [If anyone is looking for a custom zipper, is where I found the one for this vest. I am reserving endorsement for now as I have yet to receive the zipper, but I'm hopeful it will be here this week.] The vest is turning out great - and that cast-on is brilliant. The pattern calls it an Italian cast-on, but I think it is also known as the tubular cast-on. At least that is the one I used. I learned the technique from this book. I got it from the library, but it's now on my amazon wish list.

So, 10 days to go until it needs to be done. I figure I need four days for blocking the pieces, assembly and sewing on the zipper, so that really only leaves 6 days. The back will be done tonight, so if I get each front panel done in three days there's a chance it will be finished on time...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

FO's, WIP's and holiday knitting

I promised her it would be done by Thanksgiving. And by golly it was washed, folded and waiting at her chair on Thanksgiving morning. (Never mind that I put in a few late nights the week leading up to that morning...) I couldn't get her sister to wear her wallaby for the photo, but maybe I will snap one of the two of them wearing their sweaters in the future. At this point I'm just glad they wear them at all.

I'm not sure how, but the purple one turned out about a full size larger than the first one I made. I think that once I followed the directions on the first one, and had a sense of how it all went together, I got liberal (lazy?) with measuring on this one. I know at one point the booklet was open to the adult directions, so I'm certain that's an adult-sized hood, but those sleeves and hem are too long for her this year. Room to grow is my motto for this one.

I also couldn't wait to dig into that new yarn from my mom. I've been itching for a new hat that would match both my winter coats - one is red and is used for outdoor activities: shoveling, ice skating, snow angels, etc. and the other is black and is for going to the coffee shop, meetings on campus and other activities that don't require me getting down on the ground. I've got a few hats that look nice with one or the other coat, but this is the first that I think will look great with either. The pattern is felicity - instant gratification hat with a bit of hip tossed in. [I only know that its hip because: 1) the pattern says so, and 2) when I picked up the twins at the daycare coop last week wearing it our 20-something childcare student swooned over it.]

In other news I broke two of the dpn's that I'm using for my striped socks, so those are on hold until I can wrangle the rest of the sock onto three needles, or I purchase another set. This is frustrating because this set purposefully comes with a spare needle (6 needles total), but after the first one broke, the spare did too. And both needles broke within 24 hours of each other?! They are made of birch, and I'm wondering if it has anything to do with the fluctuations in the humidity in the house now that the heat is kicking in?

When you are knitter a temporary stop in one project means more time to devote to another neglected project and I've really made some progress on a project I started last winter. I'm planning to felt tonight. With any luck it will be done and on the wall before my in-laws arrive for the holiday visit.

I've also decided to pare down my holiday knitting this year. I'm only going to knit one item, a zip-front vest for my brother-in-law. This year it's quality, not quantity, that's dominating my personal handmade holiday quest. I haven't started the project, but in preparation I plan to do the swatch and practice the Italian cast-on today. Here's the yarn I'll be using - a lovely worsted gray, direct from the Blackberry Ridge Woolen Mill.