Monday, January 31, 2011

Taking Care of Mama Monday

In the spirit of Twig and Toadstool’s Taking Care of Mama Monday, I’m sharing the Must-have cardigan I finished last night and family portraits I recently hung up.

I learned a lot of lessons on the cardigan, which I stayed up late to finish in hopes of wearing it today. The biggest lesson I learned is not to take six years to finish knitting clothing because styles change. It’s a classic sweater, but even though it blocked to the right measurements, its length is way too short by today's standards. It looks ridiculous on me, which is why you don’t see a picture of me wearing it. It’s modeled by the same yarn-loving cat in last week’s Yarn Along photo.

My husband and a friend both suggested adding length to it, which I don’t expect to work too well given the traditional pattern type. Maybe I’ll try it. My friend also suggested pairing it with a really long shirt beneath so the short length looks purposeful – definitely worth a try. But I may just douse it in water and block the crap out of it, stretching it until it reaches a decent length. We’ll see.

The family portraits were taken eight months ago, and even though I only got the prints in November, I regret waiting this long to hang them. They do a lot for my living room, which I has been a work in progress since we moved in. I’ve been working on the decorations [read: thinking about the decorations and trying different things here and there] steadily for a few months now, and it’s getting closer.

I’m planning a wall art project to hang between the photos. Stay tuned for the finished project and free pattern!

Happy Monday, mamas.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Enjoying Home for What It Is

With all the snow we’ve been getting in southeast Pennsylvania, I’ve been staying home a lot and just realized that I quite like it.  Since I work from home, I don’t leave the house very often as it is and sometimes it gets to me. But I’m so glad that now—when there’s a foot and a half of snow on the ground, it’s dreary as hell out, and I have, to be honest, no where to go—I’m content with spending almost all of my time in my home. Lately, “getting out of the house” has meant going for walks on the property with Nathan and sometimes my husband.  (I know, it’s thrilling, right?)  We’ve been enjoying nature and snowy views outside, and playing, learning and knitting inside.

So for now, I’m enjoying my home for what it is. And that’s more than just shelter from the elements and a space to spend time together and share meals. Home is a place of refuge, safety and security. It’s a place that should make us feel surrounded by love, help us feel our love for each other (and ourselves) and bring back fond memories.

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time making our home more comfortable, visually appealing and organized.  And lately, since I’m cooped up indoors, I’ve been enjoying doing the simple things for my family and things that make our house a family home more than ever. I’ll share what I’ve been up to as I complete each project.

In the meantime, I’m trying not to get sick of all the snow (we’re in for more of it this week) and will ride out this positivity for as long as I possibly can. For I know I’ll have cabin fever soon enough… I’m already starting to dream about spring! 

The hat makes an appearrance during an early evening walk in snowy weather.
I love how the hat's stem is visible even at a distance. It's my favorite part of the hat.

Friday, January 28, 2011

{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.


In gratitude this week for:
  • trucks no longer stuck in the snow
  • a little boy who is just learning to walk
  • enough work to keep me busy, but not too much work
  • inspiration everywhere I look
  • my readers, whose comments I love reading!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Free Pattern: Toddler Earflap Hat

I created this pattern when I couldn’t find a hat pattern I liked for my one-year-old son. I didn’t have the time to keep searching the internet for the perfect pattern, so instead I created my own. I apologize for the dodgy photos—my model wasn’t quite cooperating and the lighting wasn't good. I’ll post better ones soon.

It’s fun and easy for the seasoned knitter, yet not too challenging for beginners looking to try new things like picking up stitches.  The skills needed to make this hat are listed in the pattern.  Standard abbreviations can be found here, compliments of

If you have any questions or trouble with the pattern, let me know!

Cast on
Knit stitch
Purl stitch
Ribbing (k2p2)
Decreases (k2tog and p2tog)
Picking up stitches
Mattress stitch

Size: 9-18 months (2-3 years) to fit head circumference up to 19 ½ (21) inches

Paton’s Classic Merino Wool or other worsted weight yarn
U.S. size 7 needles or size to get gauge
2 U.S. size 7 DPNs
10 (11) stitch markers

Gauge: 4 ½ stitches per inch

Toddler Earflap Hat Instructions:


Cast on 82 (90) stitches.
Work in k2p2 rib for two inches (*k2, p2 repeat from * to last 2 sts, k2. turn, k the k sts and p the p sts.)
Knit two rows to create a garter stitch ridge.

Body of Hat

Next row (RS): knit
Next row (WR): purl
Repeat these two rows, continueing in st st for 4 (5) inches


Knit decrease row (RS): k1 * k6, k2tog, PM, repeat from * to last stitch, k1—72 (79) sts
Work three rows st st

Row 1 (decrease row, RS): k1 * knit to 2 sts before marker, k2tog, repeat from * to last st, k1—62 (68) sts
Row 2: purl

Repeat rows 1 and 2 two times—42 (46) sts

Row 1: Work decrease row as set
Row 2: Purl decrease row as follows: purl 1 * sl m, p2tog, purl to marker, repeat from * 9 (10) times, purl to end—22 (24) sts

Repeat row 1 once more, removing markers as you come to them—12 (13) sts


Slide remaining 12 (13) sts onto DPM and work 7 rounds of I-cord. Cut yarn with an 18-inch tail, draw through remaining stitches tightly and secure.

Feed tail through the I-cord stem and use it to seam up the back of hat with mattress stitch. Weave in ends. Remember to fold the brim up when you come to it and reverse the direction of your seam so it can’t be seen on the brim’s RS (the hat’s WS) when the hat is worn.


Left earflap: With brim folded up and RS facing, count 24 sts to the left of seam. 
* With RS facing, pick up 11 sts. 
Turn and knit 7 rows garter stitch. 

Start earflap decreases as follows:

Row 1 (RS): ssk, k to last 2 sts, k2tog
Row 2 (WS): knit

Repeat these two rows until 3 sts remain.

Slide remaining sts onto DPN.  Knit 14 inches in I-cord.  Cut yarn with a 6-inch tail and draw through remaining stitches tightly. Secure and feed tail through the I-cord stem and cut yarn.

Right ear flap: With brim folded up and RS facing, count 13 sts to the right of seam.
Follow directions as for left ear flap starting at *

Now slap it on your favorite toddler’s head and tie the ties.  Blocking the hat will make the brim fold more crisply, but I’m not worried about it.

Disclaimer: Although the ties help (and are cute), your tot will probably be able to take the hat off if he's determined. So, distract him!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Yarn Along Wednesday

Inspired by Ginny of small things.

You know how when your computer crashes and you lose your entire college English paper, and you write the whole thing all over again but it’s never as good as the first one was?  Well, knitting can be that way.

The sleeves of my fourth little sweater ornament are that way.

And so are the front panels of this cardigan, the Must Have Cardigan from Paton’s Street Smart designer series.

I cast it on six years ago.  Six.  And after knitting the cardigan’s second front panel three times (that I can remember) because I couldn’t get the gauge of the second panel to match the first one, I gave up.  I picked it up again a year or two ago and knit the second panel as closely to the first as I could, then put it back down.  Then earlier this fall, I knitted the collar and button/buttonhole band. 

And now, with inspiration from Twig and Toadstool’s Taking Care of Mama Monday (it’s okay for me to knit something for myself!), I’m seaming it together.  With any luck, I’ll be able to wear this baby sometime before spring!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Noticing Joy

I was inspired today by Ginny’s post on small things about taking the time to notice and absorb the joy in our households.  Good for her, I thought.  And then, in a rather Scrooge-like fashion, I don’t have time for joy.   Here I was—at my computer, supposed to be working, knowing that as soon as I finish work I’ll be back at work in my home—always feeling busy super every moment my son is awake. 

And then I snapped out of it.  I don’t have time for joy?  Wow, that sounded—and felt—really stupid and negative.  Of course I have time to notice the things already going on around me.  I just needed to grab my camera and actually focus on them (and document them for posterity). 

That sort of goes along with the other point of Ginny’s post, noticing the joy and turning unhappy moments into joyful ones. And for me, that means not focusing on the negative.  I’ve been trying to do that all along, but I never thought about taking time to notice joy. A-ha!  She’s really onto something.

So here’s the joy I noticed today, starting at around 4 p.m.

A little boy who’s very happy to feed himself, thank you.

A stack of neatly folded laundry I didn’t have to fold myself.

A boy who’s sometimes good at being gentle with our very patient cat…

…and sometimes not.

Nathan playing guitar with Daddy.

A delicious quiche for dinner that I did not make—I thank my husband for his supreme cooking skills.

Dancing with Daddy in jammies to ragtime music on the radio.

Resting after all that exertion.

Baby sneakers.

May I always notice the joy going on around me and in my family home.

Friday, January 21, 2011

{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.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tutorial: The perfect sock-gifting container

If you’re like me and you like to knit and gift socks, then this project is for you. 

When my resourcefulness kick began, I started saving interesting-looking containers, even when I wasn’t sure how I’d use them.

I was about to wrap socks I’d knitted for a friend’s belated Christmas gift in a plain old clothing box with wrapping paper until I remembered my collection of cool containers. (Duh! What had I been saving them for, anyway?)

So I blew the cheese dust out of this container of baby puffs and turned it into the perfect, coordinating sock-gifting container. Here’s how.

1. Gather your materials:

A short, cylindrical container (taller oatmeal containers also work well)
Scrapbooking or other patterned paper that coordinates with the color of the gift socks
Coordinating tissue paper
Craft glue (or Modpodge for decoupaging)
A ruler
Scissors or paper cutter
And of course, hand-knitted gift socks

2. Measure the height of the cylindrical container and carefully cut the paper to fit.

3. Start gluing your paper to the container with tiny dabs of craft glue. Place three dabs along the length of the cylinder and hold the paper tightly to the container for a few seconds to make sure it holds before moving onto the next section.

I kept my dabs very small so they wouldn’t make the paper wet and show through to the other side. While the glue is still wet you can slide the paper around to get the best placement.  I only used glue in about 4 or 5 locations around the container. Less is more!

4. Once the glue is dry (it shouldn’t take long, since you used such tiny dabs of glue, right?), line the container with coordinating tissue paper. Stack the socks one on top of another and, starting at the toe, roll the socks up into a compact cylinder.

5. Close the tissue paper over the socks….

6. …cap ‘em… and gift ‘em.

Now your precious gift comes in its own unique, coordinating container for your giftee to admire, reuse around the house or regift to someone else. And the best part – you used materials you already had, didn’t have to spend any money and didn’t have to wrap the gift!

Disclaimer: My 12-inch scrapbooking paper wasn't long enough to go around the whole circumference of the container, so I had to cheat and make up the difference.  I still think it looks nice and neat, even if the pattern wouldn't line up.

Have fun keeping your handmade gifts truly handmade!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Yarn Along & Original Patterns

The past week has been a confusing time.  I have so many projects on the needles and so many original ideas swirling around in my head that it’s almost impossible to think straight.  In fact, I had so many new ideas that I had to stop casting them on and start writing them down. 

I scribbled down descriptions, including gauge, type and colors of yarn and styling, and drew rudimentary sketches in to-do list notebook.  How I wish I had a sketchpad and some colored pencils!

I recently dreamed up patterns for several hats, two pairs of mittens and socks—and I can’t wait to knit them and share them here on Creating a Family Home.  My first pattern, published here back in November, is now on Ravelry for free downloading.

These ‘intrusive’ knits are great inspiration, but are also getting in the way of a gift I want to be knitting right now.  Below are one of my little sweaters from Knit Picks’ Let it Snow ornament collection, the beginnings of an original earflap hat for Nathan and an original Ribbon Snake Scarf.  When it rains, it pours!

I'm still reading the Yarn Harlot's At Knit's End, and recently added The Creative Family and Handmade Home by Amanda Blake Soule and Making a Family Home by Shannon Honeybloom to the list.

What are you knitting and reading?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Winter Decorating

I was ready to start decorating for winter as soon as I put my Christmas decorations away.  With the imposing Christmas tree gone and the somewhat garish wreaths and decorations packed away, my house felt much bigger and emptier than it had in a long time.  So it’s time to fill it up again, but not nearly as much.

Here’s where I’m going with my winter decorating this year, and I’m warning you: I have a thing for wreaths.  I don’t know how this happened or why.  But when a willow tree came down in a storm this fall, I grabbed as many useful branches as I could and made a bunch of wreaths.  I glued bittersweet branches on this one.

I had my eye on a set of snowman dishes on sale at Kohl’s (ridiculously cheap!), but when I went back for them after Christmas they were no longer available in-store or online.  So I settled for these really cute snowman placemats instead.  The woman at the register asked me how many children I have, as if children necessitate placemats.  “One,” was my answer.  I wasn’t aware that you need children—more than one, to be accurate—in order to enjoy decorating or use placemats.  Touché, crazy checkout lady!

The centerpiece is a candle surrounded by pineboughs and sprigs of holly.

A little pine tree stands on my seasonal table, surrounded by pinecones and holly.

Another wreath hangs over my old-looking wooden bowl filled with balls of yarn.  I don’t think I’m the first to decorate with the stuff, but it’s wintery, and I like it.  In spring, this bowl will be filled with something else.  Probably.  Or maybe I’ll just switch out the yarn for springy colors.

Ahhh, yet another wreath over the well-used, not-very-ornate baker’s rack.  This wreath makes me think of shimmering snow, and had been part of my Christmas decorating for several years before I decided to keep it out this year for the rest of winter.  The little snowmen on the baker’s rack look lonely – I see opportunity here for more.

The Christmas tree stood in the corner of the dining room this year, and now it seems really empty.  (I used to have the cat tower here, an ugly but necessary piece of equipment for a household with three cats.)  But now that this corner stands empty, I see a better use for the space – it’s a brand new decorating opportunity in this house, something I haven’t experienced here in several years.  I don’t know what will go here, but I’m enjoying the empty space and the opportunity it presents.  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I can really envision a wreath here.

How do you decorate your family home for winter?

Friday, January 14, 2011

{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.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Yarn Along

I’m knitting the little sweater ornaments from Knit Picks’ Snow Day kit, which is particularly apt given the 8 inches of snow that fell overnight in Southeastern Pennsylvania.  These little sweaters will become a fun and colorful part of my winter décor.  I’ll share how I plan to use them once I’ve knitted up a few more.

I’ll still have a majority of the yarn leftover after knitting this kit, and it’s the perfect choice for some of spillyjane's mittens. At $1.99 per ball, I won’t feel bad about adding a few extra colors to my collection.

I’m also knitting Nathan a new winter hat, since he’s outgrown the one I knit him last winter.  I didn’t have time to search for the specific pattern I wanted (I lost the printout and it’s a big Internet), so I’m writing my own pattern, which I’ll also post separately once it’s complete.

I didn’t want to stick our books in the snow for the shot, so here they are:  I’m still rereading the Yarn Harlot’s At Knit’s End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much and added The Secret Life of a Knitter to the mix.  Nathan’s really enjoying his My Favorite Animals Book—he loves hearing and watching me make the animal sounds and repeats quite a few of them now.

In the spirit of self-kindness at Twig and Toadstool, I’m thinking about knitting myself Cupcake Mittens and a new winter hat.  I’ve always wanted to knit myself mittens, and my hat is six years old, boring to look at and wear and keeps trying to slip off the top of my head.  I think I deserve a new one.

And on that note, I think I’m going to start a self-imposed yarn diet.  I’m not a big spender when it comes to yarn, or anything else for that matter, and it did take me more than six years to accumulate my stash.  I have some decent yarns in there, and if I get creative, maybe I can knit up a majority of my stash. 

This hearkens back to my post on resourcefulness and using what I have on hand, but also comes at a time when I’m feeling more conscious than ever of where my family’s money is going.  Starting this month I’m paying $300 more per month for health insurance, and it’ll go up $50 more in March.  That’s a tough pill to swallow, so now I’m looking for little places to cut corners and costs.

My change jars are getting full (and they have some one- and five-dollar bills in there!), so I think I’ll turn them into a guilt-free yarn fund.  How can I feel guilty about spending money on myself when it’s literally found money?  I’m sure there’s enough in there to make the cupcake mittens.  There’s gotta be.  So much for the yarn diet.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Winter Weekend, Thoughts on Homesteading

I went into the weekend wanting to focus on my family, even with a work deadline looming near. The weekend came off pretty well, despite Nathan thwarting my two attempts to sit down at the computer before he woke up in the morning.

So I worked for a few hours on Sunday in place of my original plans to bake whole wheat bread. (Then I really thought about it—I don’t have time to make bread from scratch (who does, anyway?), and I still have an uneaten loaf of store-bought whole wheat bread sitting on the counter. Untouched.) So I guess it worked out okay. More on this later.

We had more snow on Friday and Saturday mornings, so in an effort to not duplicate my last post on our sledding adventures, I’ll share my unrelated thoughts between similar, but unique-to-me, photos.

He: "Why are you looking at my like that?"

Me: "I'm waiting for you to turn your head so I can take a picture of your ski mask."  I knit it for his birthday present a few years ago, not really thinking abou the fact that the man wears GLASSES every waking minute.  I'm such a thoughtful gift knitter.

I finally get to be in some photos!  Sometimes it's like I don't exist, since I'm always the one taking the photos.

After sledding and hot chocolate for the grown-ups, we continued our much-needed family time in the fort my husband made out of a crocheted blanket. Nathan looooooves being in the fort with Daddy. It’s the perfect place to stack blocks, be super smiley and get really staticky hair.

Back on the subject of baking bread. Baking [really, really good] bread from scratch is something I’ve always wanted to do. My husband and I attempted Italian bread three separate times from three different recipes with just okay results. But instead of Italian or whole wheat bread, I really want to make really crusty country bread from a homemade starter (which I also don’t have time every day over the course of three weeks to make).

But it’s about more than just baking my own fresh bread—I want to do things the old-fashioned way for my family. Like homesteading. I want to grow most of my own vegetables and store and can them for winter, instead of growing what I have room or time for and not having time to can or a place to store. I want to knit our sweaters and cold-weather gear from the wool of sheep I tend in the back yard, not yarn I buy from a catalog. I want to pick up my eggs from a coop our backyard, instead of from the egg farm down the road. I like the idea of being resourceful and self-sufficient.  But I don’t have time for these “hobbies,” between work, raising a baby and managing a household. So instead, I resorted to darning socks for the first time.

It wasn’t the most fun thing I’ve ever done, but it quelled my urge to pile more [unnecessary] chores and work on myself when all I really want to do is sit down and knit and drink tea. Plus, it was pretty boring. Maybe someday I’ll have more free time to make homesteading my hobby. Like when I retire.

It was much more exciting to start knitting the little sweaters of Knit Picks’ Snow Day ornament collection. They knit up quick and are super cute. The purple doohicky in my photo below really speeds up the stranded colorwork/intarsia/fairisle—with it, I feel ready to take on the craziest mitten and sock designs from spillyjane!

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