Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Warm hands, warm hearts

This holiday I made a(nother) batch of mittens. 

My paternal Grandmother passed away about 5 years ago, and after her passing I was able to have a few pieces of her wardrobe.  I wasn't sure what I would do with any of the clothing items.  I had taken bits and pieces to incorporate into my youngest daughters' baby quilts, but other than than I wasn't sure.  I did know, however, that in time I would figure it out.

About six weeks ago when Hurricane Sandy hit I started to go through my fleece collection.  My intent was to send materials out east to a friend that was working furiously to help with hand sewn items to keep folks warm after losing their homes.  I realized that I didn't have much of a fleece collection to speak of - and thus ordered her some fleece for her efforts - but I did find a fleece jacket that belonged to my Grandmother tucked inside the pile.  And I started on a project to keep some hands warm closer to home.

The jacket was enough to make mitten backs and I put together my other left overs and upcycled fleeces to make the palm pieces and linings.  

In the end I made 7 pairs of mittens - a pair for each of my Aunts, and one pair for my Mom.  She took the leftover scraps and made holiday ornaments for each of my Uncles' families.

I wrapped up each pair of mittens with a note about the origin of the fleece, and a hope that the mittens would warm both their hearts and hands on a winters' night.

May your own holiday season be filled with love and warmth, memory and hope.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Saturday, December 15, 2012

FO: Red Fiona

I finished this sweet tunic the day before Thanksgiving - and actually sewed on the back button while in the car, on the way to the hike we took on Thanksgiving day.

This top could not be nicer: the fit, patterning and style are just about perfect for a little girl.  But the pattern is all written (no charts), and there's no schematic either.  So the pattern is a bear to follow, but once you settle into the groove it begins to make sense.

Also the sizing is off in my opinion.  The size I knit is labeled in the pattern as 3-6 mos.  Granted I was likely a bit off with my gauge, but not by much.  And while my youngest daughter is on the small side for a 20 mos. old, she isn't THAT small.  So if you endeavor to knit up this pattern go by measurements, not age range.

The yarn, which I've mentioned before, is a fantastic locally sourced alpaca/nylon blend.  It took just about 600 yards to knit this up, which seems like quite a bit of yarn, but the great thing about tunics is that they can be worn for a long time.  These photos are also pre-blocking, and given that it's an alpaca hand knit, it will grow quite a bit once we give it a washing.
The beauty and ease of construction for this top is something that I admire and I'm thinking I may just have to knit another, in a larger size - maybe size it up to an adult?
ps.  Don't mind the crazy wardrobe on my youngest - she gets the leftovers from the other three with regards to clothes/sizing and any hopes for matching outfits have sadly been lost.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

History in my hands

In mid-November I was contacted by a neighbor about making repairs to a few sweaters that she had.  She mentioned that they were a mix of ones she acquired and ones that her Grandmother had knit for her Grandfather before leaving Ireland for the United States.  An old sweater knit in Ireland?!  Could it really be a real fisherman's sweater?  I jumped at the chance.
She dropped them off and I spent the next few weeks getting to know them.  The construction was amazing, and so different on each one.  Two raglan sweaters, one saddle-shoulder, and one yoke cardigan from Iceland to round out the set. 
But that one on the top of the pile?  It stole my heart the moment I set my eyes on it.

I must sound a bit strange, going on and on about a sweater (and one that I just met no less!).  But this sweater!  It was made with patience, focus, talent, love and care.  I didn't find a single mistake in the patterning.  The cables and stitch definition are gorgeous.  It is unbelievable.  And it is old.  You can feel the years gone by when you hold this sweater.  It is substantial, measuring a mens XL/T, and probably weights 4 lbs.  That is a lot of wool folks.


And like all really good love affairs, I came away from my time with this sweater knowing more about myself (this time myself as a knitter).  I realized that I know my way around sweater construction and repair.  I know my way around bind-offs, cast-ons and sizing.  I know a thing or two about wool and I know that I have the confidence to dive into a project - even one that is not my own - and work with it.

Sadly the wool on the older sweaters is starting to deteriorate.  As with all organic materials they begin to break down over time, and I'm not too sure what can be done to slow or halt that process.  I suppose that you could seal the sweater in a display case and not expose it anymore to the elements.  But I don't think that is the life this sweater was made for.  It was made to be worn.  And worn, and worn, and worn.  This sweater was made to go out into the world and soak it up.

I've fixed up the sweaters, given them all a good (gentle, hand) washing and let them dry.  I wound up a few yards of the repair yarns for the owner to take with her.  I am sad to see them go, but it's time that they head home. 

I've grown as a knitter in the past few weeks and I think I have two old souls to thank: one of an Irish gentleman and the other his wife.

Friday, December 7, 2012


It's beginning to feel a lot like the holidays around here.  The weather isn't cooperating - no snow and very mild temperatures - but the kids won't let me forget that Santa's visit is right around the corner.  The tree is trimmed, the decorations are out, cookies are baked (or exchanged) from time-to-time and the gifting has begun.

I had a burst of knitting over the past few months which means that I have a few handmade gifts to give on hand.  I am also making a few ornaments to give as hostess/neighbor gifts, relying heavily on the patterns in A Rainbow of Stitches.  The images are so whimsical and easy, with enough character to make really unique gifts.  I also picked up a copy of Little Stitches from the library this afternoon.  Maybe I'll give embroidery a try?

I haven't hit on a really great idea for handmade gifts for the girls yet.  DH is making four house-shaped shadow boxes for their rooms, which are fantastic (and sorely needed!) - maybe I'll jump in and paint them?  I also think I might take a short-cut this year and have some of their school artwork framed for display in their rooms.

There will be more to share on the gifting front in a few weeks I'm sure.  For now I'll enjoy the sweets and coffee that are in never-ending supply around here.