Posts Tagged ‘crafts’

New nephew knits

The big news of the past week? I’m finally an aunt.

Ryder Andrew was born on Tuesday afternoon – healthy and adorable and now home. My sister is a proud, sleep-deprived, happy mama, and my parents are reveling in their first grandchild.

I won’t get to meet him for a few more weeks, but I did a little knitting before he arrived, and sent a package down to Texas with a few warm, soft accessories for him to wear.

newborn magic slippers knitted

These are the Magic Slippers for babies, knit mostly in Madelinetosh Sock (with a few yards of leftover Malabrigo Sock to finish up). (Here’s the Ravelry link with more details.)

And the matching hat (an Easy Peasy Newborn Sock Hat, also in Madelinetosh Sock (Ravelled here):

newborn baby hat knitted sock yarn

I can’t wait to meet him, and see him model these knits. And since babies grow awfully fast, I wonder what I should knit for him next?

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There was Christmas knitting this year, folks. Oh my, was there Christmas knitting. (I did start early – for once – so I didn’t get panicky about finishing everything in time. A novel approach – I think I’ll try it again next year.)

First, there was a blue Cloudy Day beret for my blue-eyed sister:

And then a red Rustling Leaves beret for Abi, my friend who believes with me that red is best. (I knitted myself an identical one.)

Then a pair of red mittens for Roxanne, which traveled across the world and (thank heaven) reached her just in time for Christmas. The right one has a wee hole so she can stick her index finger out to take photos. (I used the Evangeline cable pattern and followed a fellow Raveler’s helpful notes to turn them into mittens.)

There was a similar pair of red Evangeline fingerless mitts for my mom (my third time using this pattern):

And finally, there were a pair of wee Ugg-like booties for that nephew I’ll have in May. They are too big for a newborn, but I figure he’ll grow into them by next fall, when it’ll be Ugg-season anyway.

I’ve been working on a commissioned hat for a friend, and that big, cozy red cowl I promised myself. What are you knitting – or making – these days?

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When I started knitting, back in college, I lived in a town with both a Hobby Lobby and a Michaels, but no local yarn shop for several hundred miles. Not knowing what I was missing, I wasn’t greatly bothered by this – until I got bored with knitting only scarves, bought a couple of knitting books, joined Ravelry, and discovered the big wide world of non-acrylic yarn (including wool that actually doesn’t itch! A revelation).

Once I discovered the range of gorgeous yarns available, I became kind of a snob about craft-store yarn – though it has its uses, I admit. And while I kinda miss Hobby Lobby (we don’t have it up here), I miss it for picture frames and other craft supplies, not for yarn. Because I have found a new place to buy yarn. And – this is dangerous – it’s only three blocks from where I work.

The Windsor Button is hidden in plain sight, just another gray storefront on a street of gray storefronts, next to a wig shop (not kidding), and near a taco joint, a convenience store, the entrance to the subway, and a shoe shop. It has linoleum floors and fluorescent lights, and if you were just passing by you’d never know it held such treasure.

But. Walk inside, and behold the rack of yummy Madelinetosh yarns hanging up near the entrance, and feast your eyes on a WHOLE WALL of buttons, of all conceivable shapes, sizes, materials and colors, and you’ll be in crafter heaven.

I don’t only come here for yarn – I’ve bought thread, needles, denim patches and, of course, buttons from this shop. The employees are friendly, the stock large, the prices fair and the location perfect. But I mainly come to pet the pretty skeins of yarn, hold different colors up to my face, or try to find the perfect yarn for whatever new pattern I just downloaded. (My last dozen projects, at least, are made with yarn I bought here.)

I’m so grateful to have a shop just down the street to indulge my yarn cravings – as well as pick up thread or buttons on my lunch break. But I’m even more grateful to have another place to “dwell in possibility.” Because all those skeins and spools and buttons are possibilities just waiting to be knitted and sewn and crafted and transformed into reality. And that makes my head spin. In a good way.

Where do you go to feed your creative passions – or to glean inspiration?

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‘Tis the season to knit accessories – well, for some people it’s always that season. But for me, knitting tends to ebb and flow with the temperatures, and after my summer binge of hats for Sanctuary Home (total: 10), I took a break. And then I started my Christmas knitting in October. (I know. But since I usually get all kinds of great ideas at the last minute and have no time to knit them, this was a step in the right direction.)

Anyway. I’ve knit three Christmas gifts and a baby gift, which I can’t show you yet, but I did finally do some knitting for me – a Rustling Leaves Beret (Ravelry link), from the gorgeous new book Coastal Knits:

It came in handy when our Veterans’ Day excursion to Amherst proved a bit windy:

Handknits and apple cider. Mmmm.

Jane Richmond came out with a cute new cowl pattern, chunky and cozy and quite satisfying. It’s not meant for frigid weather, as it lets the breezes in, but it’s a fun fall accessory and I love these big braided cables:

Then my hubs asked for a long black scarf – not too exciting, but I’m always thrilled when he asks me to knit for him. So I’ve been working on that as we watch Castle (and on the T, when I can get a seat). I love the squooshy Mistake Rib pattern, and it’ll keep him warm this winter. (I also knit him a pair of ribbed charcoal mitts, since he lost one of the black ones I knit him last year.)

And – since my sister announced her pregnancy about a month ago – I am drooling over baby knits and wondering: what shall I knit the little one first? (She’s not due until spring, but of COURSE I need to start knitting!)

What are you making these days?

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I am a semi-seasonal knitter. Contradiction in terms, I know – but I don’t stop knitting altogether in the summertime. I like to have a project on the needles, so I can pick it up if I find myself with a seat on the T (a rare boon), or restless while I’m watching Mary Tyler Moore, or simply with twitchy hands in need of distraction. But, I admit, my knitting slows waaaay down in the summer.

That being said, when my friend Amanda sent out a call for knitting help this spring, I knew I’d be knitting up a storm this summer.

Amanda is the founder and stateside director of Sanctuary Home for Children in Tenali, India, an orphanage that now houses about 100 kids. (They started in 2006 with 30 children.) When Amanda and some other SH board members and sponsors visited Tenali last December, they noticed people wrapping up in hats and scarves – though the weather (in the 60s and 70s) felt balmy to them. The orphanage’s operating funds cover basic clothing for the children, but extras can be hard to come by, especially multiplied by 100. So when Isaac, the on-site director, asked if we (the sponsors and board members of SH) could knit some hats for the children and staff members, we all dove into our stashes and pattern books.

Some of the hats I've knitted for SH

I love knitting for SH for all the same reasons I love knitting for Nest Maine and the Innocent Big Knit – it feels good to help people in a  tangible way, and it’s fun to get creative with my stash at the same time. With SH, there’s an added bonus: I feel a personal connection to these kids, especially the two I sponsor, and to Amanda. (I wrote a piece about SH for Halogen TV a while back.)

I’m up to seven hats so far, with an eighth on the needles and a couple more in the queue. My stash bin is lighter, my needles are busy, and I love imagining the SH kiddos wearing our handknits this winter. (P.S.: if you’d like to help support the work of SH, donations are always welcome.)

What craftiness are you engaging in these days?

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a bit of mending

Recently, my life feels like a mad swing between two poles on a pendulum. The house is either sparkling clean in preparation for guests, or dusty and untidy, dishes piled in the sink, after they’ve gone. Our weekends are either crammed with social engagements, or they stretch out ahead of us, long and lazy (how grateful I was, this past weekend, for the latter). Our meals are either elaborate and delicious (chicken curry with jalapenos and sweet peaches) or quick renditions of the tried-and-true standbys (homemade pizza, pasta tossed with tomatoes and basil, burrito night). (Tasty, but boring after a while.)

Similarly, my mind is either frantically cluttered, chasing a to-do list longer than my arm, tearing through books to review, trying to keep up with friendships and freelance projects and the demands of the day job, or blissfully serene, affording plenty of time to curl up with a Madeleine L’Engle novel on a Saturday afternoon. There hasn’t been much balance, or indeed much in-between time.

Mending, I’ve discovered, can be an antidote to this crazed back-and-forth – a chance to stop, in the middle of commitments and commutes, present stresses and future worries, and focus on one little thing. I’m no professional seamstress (I knit better than I sew), but I can sew on a button, mend a torn seam, insert a clear snap on a shirt placket in the place where it tends to gap open. And there’s satisfaction in threading my needle with just the right color of thread, and making tiny, precise stitches to close a hole or adjust a fold or hold a seam together. I’m always amazed by the strength of those tiny stitches, and the sense of accomplishment I get afterward.

Again and again, when I get frantic and tired and spread thin, I have to remind myself: the small steps are often the most effective ones. Washing a sink full of dishes. Making my bed in the morning. Sipping tea or savoring fruit sorbet in the evening, over an episode of Friends or The Mary Tyler Moore Show or a chapter of a good book. Sorting the books and magazines into neat stacks on the coffee table. And mending a hole in a skirt or anchoring a stray button back where it belongs.

Does anyone else derive this kind of pleasure from mending, or from another small, tactile (but enormously satisfying) task? And how do you “mend” your life when it all starts to unravel?

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Since the weather turned chilly in, oh, November or so, I’ve been obsessed with knitwear. Mostly hats and snuggly cardigans and big, cozy cowls and scarves. I find myself staring at people on the T because of what they’re wearing on their heads or wrapped around their necks. If it’s an unusual stitch pattern or a lovely cabled beret, I try to figure out how it’s constructed. I’ve even recognized a couple of Ravelry patterns, knitting nerd that I am, and my wish list for accessories has grown and grown.

As much as I’ve complained about winter, it is a knitter’s dream – the perfect season to knit and wear tons of cozy accessories. (As Abi points out, we actually have time to wear all our cold-weather clothes up here.) And since I now commute on the T (along with half of Boston), my favorite knitted hats are getting even more play.

Slouchy (though not too slouchy) berets are my style of choice, and I have several favorites. So I thought I’d model them for you today.

First up is the Snapdragon Tam – complicated, but oh-so-lovely in Madelinetosh DK (colorway Cedar):

I fell in love last year with a Malabrigo colorway called Paris Night – smoky and velvety and rich. Here’s my Star Crossed Slouchy Beret (Rav link), which works just as well for Boston nights:

And finally, my third-time’s-a-charm attempt to knit myself a black beret. This pattern is called Double Crossed (Rav link), designed by another Katie (an English Katie). A triumph, and so warm.

It’s still chilly/wet/nasty here (Mother Nature is playing an April Fool’s joke on us poor Northeasterners today). I may end up with another hat or two before the winter’s truly out. Any favorite patterns to share?

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The inimitable Julie asked the other day, “What are the moments that mean something to you, however ordinary?” So here, in no particular order, are a few of mine from this week:

~Twisting tissue paper, pipe cleaners and crepe paper into flowers on Tuesday night. Jana brought the supplies and we turned the back corner of Mezamiz into a colourful paper melee. The flowers are for her 40th birthday party next weekend, and my oh my, they are wonderful. (As are all the ladies who made them.) There was much laughter, much reminiscing about doing this in elementary school, and much hilarity at the instructional video featuring a cute little old English lady.

~Watching the light in my neighbours’ yard around sunset. Both the trees and the light are golden at that time of day, and  sitting on the porch with a cup of tea, watching the colours change, is one of the most beautiful moments in my day.

~Last night, Abi and Laura and I went over to Camille’s for a haircut party. We took turns sitting in the chair in her charming, green-cabineted kitchen, and chatted and laughed and told stories. And we all left with seriously snazzy hair.

~Each morning, I step out on the porch to check on my plants and breathe in the fresh air, and I love watering my geranium best of all. After simply wilting in the end-of-summer heat, it’s perked back up and is a profusion of crimson once again.

~I love driving past the houses of friends, even if I never stop. I drive past Amanda’s and Abi’s houses on my way to work each day, and I always think of them as I pass. It warms my heart to know who lives behind at least a couple of those doors.

~Cuddling with my husband in the mornings, in the dreamy space between the alarms going off and one of us actually getting up. It’s even better now that the mornings are a little chilly.

~I know I’ve said this before – but I love stepping out on the front porch at night to look at the stars. The past few nights have been crisp and clear, and the indigo sky uplit by golden street lights, dotted with stars, makes me catch my breath. I want a long cape in that colour.

Happy Love Thursday. Please visit Karen’s blog, as usual, for links to more images and stories of love.

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Some of you may remember that last fall I knitted 75 smoothie-sized hats, using tiny needles and any stash yarn I could lay my hands on. Innocent Drinks, my favourite smoothie company, called for the hats as a fundraiser for Age Concern, a UK charity that helps keep older people warm in the winter. They sell the hat-wearing smoothies in stores, and for each hatted smoothie bought, Innocent donates 50 pence to Age Concern. They’ve been doing this since 2003, and last year knitters sent in 506,768 hats, which raised £253,384. I bought Innocent smoothies all the time when I lived in the UK, and I love knitting, so I pulled out my needles and went to work. (As the photo shows, I went crazy. There were stripes, colour blocks, berry-shaped hats, and even some simple intarsia patterns. I even got a letter from Innocent saying they liked the variety of my patterns!)

I’m planning to knit little hats again this year – I’ve got my size-2 needles and scrap yarn ready – but I’m putting that off for a couple of weeks in favour of some more craftivism. Nest Maine began last year in response to skyrocketing heating oil prices in Maine – knitters from all over the place banded together and sent in hats, scarves, cowls, blankets and mittens. I read about it on SouleMama’s blog recently, and have cast on a little merino-blend hat for someone in Maine.

I love projects like this. I love using my hands to do some good for other people, when so often my hands and my brain work just for me. I love employing a skill and a hobby to help someone else. And I love seeing what beautiful, fun things I can create out of stash yarn and a little spare time.

I’ll post some project photos when I’m a bit farther along. Meanwhile, if you knit or crochet, check out the Web pages above and see how you can do a little “craftivism” of your own.

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~A birthday card for my lovely Neno, Mom’s mom, who turns 78 years young on Sunday. She is beautiful, gracious, funny, warm, welcoming, hopelessly bad at card games, a great cook, a closet artist, and a generous heart. We spent a night with her and my Pop in Kerrville on our Valentine’s weekend getaway. I adore them both.

~Several inches of a shawl that was supposed to be Neno’s birthday gift, but may now well be her Christmas one. (Nothing like being prepared…right? Don’t tell!)

~A file of knitting patterns I’ve printed out. They were starting to take over the coffee table.

~Stacks of clean laundry on our bed.

~The beginnings of an article about Sanctuary Home – the pet project of the lovely Amanda, which gives a home to 84 needy children in Tenali, India.

~Guacamole and burritos with J on Wed. night. (Yum.)

~Pancakes, in honor of Shrove Tuesday, which is also known as “Pancake Day” in the UK.

~Significant progress on The Count of Monte Cristo – from page 50 to the 350’s.

~Healthy lunches for myself, and breakfast and tea in the mornings.

~Press kits for ACU’s ConnectEd technology summit (my whole day yesterday)

~A couple of press releases for the ACU website.

~As always, lots of morning pages, though said press kits rather interrupted my morning pages yesterday.

It’s nice to look back at the end of a week and see some productivity and creativity. Wishing you all a joyous, relaxing weekend!

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