Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Major Case of Startitis

With several projects in the works and a craft room full of UFOs, I still have a major case of startitis.  I’m splitting my spare time between my Gallatin Sweater and a pair of socks for Nathan, but all I really want to do is knit socks.  And it doesn’t help that yesterday I shamefully bought this book:
I’m dying to knit up socks as Christmas gifts.  Which means I’ve completely forgotten about my Thanksgiving table runner (which still needs to be embellished and stitched together) and napkin rings (which haven’t even been felted yet).  I swear I’m only finishing projects so I can start new ones—I know I’m not finishing the projects for the projects’ sake.  Here’s hoping I can make it through the weekend without casting on a new pair of socks.

Sigh.

Friday, October 29, 2010

{this moment}

{this moment} is a Friday ritual.  A single photo -- no words -- capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by SouleMama.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Seasonal Decorating: Interchangeable Wreath

I celebrated the Autumnal Equinox by making an inner harvest wreath, and as I made the wreath out of sticks I found around the farm, this idea came to me: Make an interchangeable wreath that I can decorate for the seasons! 
So I got to work on the wreath, which is made from branches of a willow tree that will soon be taken down. (I wouldn’t normally cut so many branches from a living tree.) Wreaths can also be made from fallen sticks and branches—I’ve found that flexible willow branches work well. Or you can simply purchase a grapevine wreath from a craft supply store.

To start the wreath, I used a piece of yarn to secure the first branch to itself and get the oval shape going. After that, I just wound the branches in and out of the oval, around and around, tucking the branches in as I reached the ends.
 

For seasonal decorations, I chose pinecones and fallen leaves. Since this wreath is going to be decorated differently for every season, I had to find a creative way to attach the pinecones so they can be removed. You can try wire or yarn. I chose to string my pinecones together with twine to form a garland, and then wrapped the garland around the wreath. It took some finagling to get the pinecones to sit in a way that’s visually appealing—I fought the serious urge to bust out the glue gun.


Then I marched out to our sweetgum tree and picked up the brightest yellow and red leaves from beneath it. I just stuck the stems into the wreath and wound them around a branch or two in hopes they’ll stay. The whole thing is a little precarious—when I hung the wreath on the wall I had to rearrange some of the leaves and pick a few up off the floor and start again. Using wire in or around the stems could have helped, so I’ll try to remember that next year.
 
 
I love celebrating the seasons by decorating and bringing the outdoors in. For winter, I might decorate my wreath with pine branches trimmed from our Christmas tree and a felted bird from Little Felted Animals with a little bird’s nest made from sticks and dried grass.

As each season begins, I’ll share my seasonal wreath ideas. If anyone out there makes an interchangeable seasonal wreath, blog about it and let me know!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Planning my Thanksgiving Table; a New Family Tradition

With Thanksgiving just a month away, it’s time to start planning my Thanksgiving table. Now that we have a family of our own, gone are the days of traveling to our parents’ houses for dinner and trying to see both of our families in one or two days—a new tradition is born. This year we’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner, a new tradition for our little family and a great way to bring both sets of grandparents together.
I’m making Lion Brand’s felted leaves table runner and fall leaves napkin rings. All I need to do is assemble a bowl of gourds, make another fall leaf garland, dig out the beeswax candles and buy a new tablecloth and my Thanksgiving table will be complete! Now to decide on the menu. I love how I worry about crafts and decorating before the meal itself.

I’m looking forward to gathering with family to celebrate the things I’m thankful for all year long.

Friday, October 22, 2010

{this moment}


{This moment} is a Friday ritual inspired by SouleMama.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I’m Having a Yarn Dilemma. Which option would you choose? WWYHD?

So I cast on Knit Picks’ Gallatin Sweater a week ago, and I’m enjoying it so far. Lured by the pattern’s seamless design (this is the second time in my blog’s short life where I mention that I hate seaming) and ability to increase the length of the sweater to mid-thigh with the amount of yarn included in the kit (it even shows you where to add length and gives two options on how to go about doing it), I am happy with the motif options and surprised that I’m even enjoying the stranded colorwork. I’ve knitted from the bottom of the sweater up to the hip, and everything’s looking good so far.
And then it hit me today – things are looking too good. I had the panicked thought – what if I run out of the fawn-colored yarn (CC1)? Am I adding length the way the pattern expects me to? This is where reading a pattern can get a little tricky, especially if it’s not very well-written. Patterns can be vague and confusing – or flat-out wrong – and I usually find grammatical and spelling errors and typos, and I swear I’m not actually looking for them.

So the pattern says I can add langth (yes, langth) to the sweater by knitting more rows of bare (undyed, MC1) Wool of the Andes Bulky within the patterned bands.  But for the cool arrowhead-looking motif I selected, I think it would ruin its coolness to add more rows of white within the two dark brown (CC2) rows, leaving the arrowhead things floating in white, disconnected from the dark brown stripes.
The second option is to add more patterned bands within the fawn-colored background. So that’s what I chose to do, and got busy doing to the math to avoid having to knit that same patterned band four times in a row – three would look better and be easier to work.

However, all that math made me use more fawn-colored yarn than I think I should have…the pattern says “the yardage requirements in this pattern are sufficient to lengthen the piece to mid-thigh, or add a total of 40 additional rows of knitting to the piece as written.” Since the pattern spells out only the first option (explained in the paragraph above), does that mean I’m screwed? Will I run out of fawn-colored yarn?

I’d hate to get to the shoulders of this thing and find out I should have gone back and changed my approach from the beginning. But I’ve been knitting it on and off for the past week, and the stranded colorwork is coming out so nicely. I’d hate to rip it back now. The hopeful little voice in the back of my head tells me I could always buy another skein of the fawn-colored yarn, but the knitting stickler in me says I know it will be from a different dye lot. Sigh.

Here are my options:

A)      Ignore the knitting stickler in me and keep knitting, hoping that because I’m knitting the third size (medium) and the kit includes yarn for a sweater three sizes bigger I’ll be in the clear.
 
B)      Listen to the knitting stickler in me and rip back and knit four patterned bands with less fawn-colored background in between.
 
C)      Tune into the hopeful little voice and pretend dye lots don’t exist. Maybe the way the pattern stripes work out the slight color change won’t be so noticeable if I need to buy another skein.
 
D)      Stifle all the voices and shove the sweater, needles and all, into my bin of UFOs.

Note: I’ll never really choose D, as this yarn was an early Christmas gift from my husband, so don’t pick D.

Which option would you choose?

And better yet, what would the Yarn Harlot do?  (WWYHD)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Adopt a Family this Holiday Season


It’s not only during the holidays that I’m thankful for my family and what we have.  I’m thankful for our beautiful son (who, happily, was born on Thanksgiving 2009), our health and our general happiness with life.  And I’m thankful for our outlook and way of life—never spending more than we earn and being content with the [inexpensive] things we have.  This outlook (and our jobs, which I’m also thankful for) has enabled us to live comfortably while being economical and sock away a little nest egg.  While our nest egg was no mistake—my husband and I work hard for what we have and go without the latest cell phones and gadgets, drive older cars and watch TV on cathode ray tube television sets—we are grateful for our jobs, skills and contacts that helped us get here.

But it is during the holidays when I start to think about others who are less fortunate than us.  (I now wish that I thought about the less fortunate all year long.)  I don’t know what it’s like to not have my basic needs met, or to not be able to meet the basic (or not-so-basic) needs of our son.  It makes me sad to think that there are people out there who are struggling to get by, even when they’re making all the right choices and working hard to better their financial positions.  And it makes me even sadder to think that their children could be going without their needs or desires fulfilled.

And that’s why we adopt a family every year through the Bucks County Opportunity Council. This is my favorite charity because their goal is to get people back on their feet by helping them achieve and maintain self-sufficiency.  The people who are accepted into the program are not looking for handouts.  They are hard-working families who are dedicated to overcoming poverty.  The Bucks County Opportunity Council operates on the principle that empowering people with education, training, resources and skills to permanently leave poverty is better than helping them cope in poverty.  Program participants graduate with family-sustaining wage employment and the education and resources to remain permanently out of poverty.

The Bucks County Opportunity Council’s Adopt-a-Family program gives me the chance to help a hard-working but less-fortunate family have a better Christmas.  Many of these families can’t afford the luxury of Christmas gifts for their children.  From a parent’s perspective, I can feel the sadness of not being able to give your child a gift for Christmas, knowing that his or her friends will probably have lots of gifts under the tree.  And how sad for the kids, who know Mom and Dad don’t have the cash to buy even a small gift, and feeling guilty for wanting something they can’t—or shouldn’t—have.

This is our fourth year in the Adopt-a-Family program, and it makes me giddy to make another mom—and her children—happy during a time of year that might not have been so joyous in the past.  I hope this year they assign me a family with younger children so I can pick out some of the gifts myself.  Families with older children request gift cards so they can shop for their own gifts.  It’s nice to give the parents gift cards so they can select the gifts for their own children and feel the joy, ownership, fulfillment and responsibility it brings.

In years past, the teens in my adopted families wanted simple things like gas money, toiletries such as body wash and movie tickets. Last year one teenager asked for a gift card for JoAnn’s—a girl after my own heart!  Their parents asked for gas money and gift cards for the local discount supermarket.  It breaks my heart that these simple things are the “wants” of local impoverished families, and makes me wonder if I take everything good in my life for granted.  Do I?  I don’t think so… But maybe I should work to appreciate it even more.

The bench looks a lot smaller when Nathan’s sitting on it. It’s important to have different perspectives.
If anyone out there wants to make a difference for a less-fortunate family this holiday season, consider the Bucks County Opportunity Council’s Adopt-a-Family program.  I’m starting to feel warm and fuzzy already.

Bucks County Opportunity Council: http://bcoc.org/

Adopt-a-Family contact: Joanne Burgess, 215-345-8175 x209.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Handmade Birthday

Even though I love making things myself, I’m not averse to buying things, and that includes birthday cards. But when 10-month-old Nathan couldn’t take another minute of shopping, I had to bag the birthday card search for my mom (why on Earth were the mom-themed birthday cards so hard to find?!) and head home cardless.

Once Nathan was napping I looked around my craft room for ideas. I had Hello Kitty stickers in one hand…and in the other….yarn. No, roving! I ditched the stickers, rifled through my roving bin and found a piece of cardstock. And then I made this:


I don’t know if it’s sacrilege to glue wool to paper, but I made up my own rules that day, and it paid off. Happy Birthday, Mom.
 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

WIP: A Sweater for Nathan

It’s almost finished!  This cardigan sweater was both a joy and a pain to knit.  I love the cables and how the yoke is constructed so it can be knit in one piece (I hate seaming), but I don’t like how the pattern is written.  The shawl collar came out wonky, and after ripping it back and trying something different (did I mention the how badly it was written?) I’m just going to fold it under and stitch it so it looks the way I want it to. 

The sleeves are really narrow in the forearms, so I might try to undo the cast-on edges and make them a little wider.  Other than that, I just need to kitchener stitch the armpits closed, block it and add some buttons.

I think he knows it's a Mr. Rogers sweater.

On a fall decorating note, my family room mantle is complete!  Rebecca from Bending Birches showed me how to create fall garland from colorful fall leaves.  It adds the finishing touch to my fall home and I love how it came out. Thanks, Rebecca!




Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fall is officially here. [Read: We turned on the heat this morning; I should be knitting.]

In previous years we used to hold out for as long as we could before turning on the heat in the fall.  You know, put on an extra sweater and slippers and stick it out; at least until the end of October.  Oil is expensive, and we were a couple of cheap-asses.  But as temperatures fell last night and our indoor temp reached a chilly 60 degrees, I was longing for warmth.  After all, it’s not just us anymore – we’re in charge of the most important person in our little world.  He’s small and important, and gosh darn it, he likes to be warm.  Plus, a house can’t be a family home if it’s unbearably cold inside.

The sailboat sweater, just after completion.
Nathan was already in bed when I all-too-slowly realized we needed the heat, and getting the furnace started for the first time this season would wake him up.  So we endured the cool temps for one more night, piling on the blankets and layering Nathan up when he woke up to nurse.  The sailboat sweater fit nicely over his jammies and a long-sleeved shirt.

This morning T.J. got the furnace up and running, and now it feels like fall is officially here. The familiar burny smell of the furnace reminds me of late fall, and the rain and darkness outside reinforces that winter is next.  I’d better go knit something warm.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Creating a Family Home Defined

I’ve always wanted to raise a family.  And now that my son Nathan (10 months) is here, I’m focused on creating our family home.  By creating a family home I mean the ongoing process of creating a warm, comfortable space where we can relax and feel safe, enjoy one another’s company and foster our son’s growth and development.

Our home has a rhythm and flow, with changing decorations and activities that celebrate the seasons and seasonal meals that take advantage of homegrown and local, fresh ingredients when possible.  My husband is an excellent cook, and from him I draw inspiration to plan interesting and [usually] healthy meals for our family.

I also love to knit and create warm things for my family to wear, in addition to making seasonal crafts and decorations inspired by nature that warm up our home and prove we actually live here.

Our mantle is my favorite place for seasonal decorations. It needs way more gourds.

On this blog I plan to share what our family has been up to and the ways we’re creating a family home.  I’ll also share the results of my long-standing addiction to wool and the art of knitting it into warm and [usually] useful objects.  I may also gush about the cuteness of my son.  Sorry about that.

Nathan, 10 months

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