Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sweater Regeneration

I loved this pattern (Amy Herzog's "Jackaroo" on Knitty First Fall 2013). It is hard for me to find ready-to-wear sweaters that fit well, let alone knitting patterns that result in fitted garments, but this one, with all of the increases and decreases, and the super specific measurements, and multiplicity of size options, resulted in a perfect fit.

There are some things that I would like to fix. The pockets are slightly off-kilter, and the button band needs some kind of support to keep it from getting pulled out of shape. And, in the future, I need to learn a neater cast-on. This one looks rather sloppy.

The yarn came from an old sweater--I've never deconstructed a store bought sweater, and it was definitely an experience--a long, fuzzy experience.  The sweater itself was fine.  I bought it a few years ago, and I love the gray tweed with tiny flecks of pink, blue, and yellow.  The problem is that it is a turtleneck pullover, which means that I am constantly pulling it away from my throat as though it were a noose.  I used to be able to wear turtle necks, but then whatever curse affects most of the women in my family took over and I just can't handle them anymore.
So, a cardigan is a much better option.

Below is the original sweater.

I wound the yarn around my laundry drying rack, after measuring the circumference so that I could basically keep up with how many yards I was getting.  I was afraid it was going to be a close shave, but I ended up with quite a bit leftover

Below are the hanks the sweater yielded.

Overall, knitting the sweater wasn't hard--just lots of increases and decreases to get all that shaping.  Set-in sleeves, which weren't too hard.  The neatest thing I learned was mattress stitch.  It seems excessively geeky to get excited about sewing seams, but mattress stitch seems almost miraculous--just watch the video:

It's almost worth knitting sweaters just to sew up the seams!

Building Blocks Hat

My little guy needed a new hat for this winter, and I improvised the design--the first time I've done so with a knitting project.  It is incredibly basic--just a bit of ribbing, then a checkerboard pattern, with decreases to the top, with a pom-pom--somehow, baby hats always need a pom-pom.  I wrote the pattern out and put it in a PDF to put on Ravelry.  Check it out.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Project Mania

Projects have recently taken over my life.  I think I am trying to do absolutely everything I have ever wanted to do before I have to start teaching again.  So, making things has been the name of the game during Nathan's nap-times.  The list is something like: one skirt, one baby toy, three wreaths, one loaf of Victorian Milk Bread, 10 half-pints of strawberry freezer jam, two dozen peanut butter sandwich cookies with marshmallow cream, and five pounds of potato salad.  I planted some lettuce, a tomato, and a squash plant.  Signed up for VBS (the missions rotation for the elementary kids).  Currently about to go out of town for Mother's Day.  Joined a church.  Yeah, so busy.

Sometimes, when I get craft projects in mind, I can't think about anything else.  I'm not interested in eating, bathing, or generally living, until I get it finished.  Add to that the stress and general discombobulation I feel when my house is out of order, which it inevitably is when I have a project going, particularly a sewing project, and I have a deep desire to fly through the process, just so I can then clean everything up!

Nathan has been busy too.  He has cut two teeth, learned to roll from his back to his stomach, and started sleeping through the nights most nights.  He is funny about rolling over--he can get onto his stomach, but can't roll back onto his back, and doesn't particularly like being on his stomach, so he rolls over and then fusses until we rescue him.  A turtle on its shell, but in reverse!  I love this boy!

The peanut butter cookies are very good (and happen to be gluten- and dairy-free).  I am taking them (along with an obscene amount of potato salad) to a cookout with my family on Mother's Day, and allowed Jordan and myself to sample only one each.  I am hoping the rest survive the trip!  We are planning to stay a few days, spend time with the family, and do some hiking (and Jordan plans for some climbing/bouldering, too).  Should be a nice adventure.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Easter Things

Easter was lovely.  I spent the Thursday before baking Hot Cross Buns, but they didn't turn out quite like I expected--more dense, like a bagel.  I will tweak the recipe a bit for next year.  While I baked I had the film Chocolat on in the background, which was seasonally appropriate.  I also dyed eggs that day, using a plain Paas kit that was on sale at CVS.  I always like to see the "imperfections" in the dying--the whirls and splotches, that I think are more beautiful than most things you would purposely do.  Nathan's little Easter basket didn't have any candy in it this year, but he did get some new pacifiers and plastic link toys, which he has been enjoying very much.  

My skirt came out nicely.  It has box pleats and pockets and a lining, and I will be making more.  We spent Easter weekend back home with our families, passing Nathan from one grandparent to the next.  Sunday morning was church, and then dinner at my grandmother's.

The week has been nice, but not very productive. Jordan and I have been catching up on past seasons of Mad Men, which we had not seen in a very long time.  That show is depressing and funny and provocative.  

We had doctor's appointments on Wednesday, where we found out that Nathan is indeed a big boy, in the 98th percentile for height.  Afterwards, I stopped in at JoAnne's Fabrics where Nathan very sweetly napped and let me wander around for a very long time.  I ended up getting a fat quarter of fabric, some jingle bells, and jump rings to make a mobile for him.  I also bought pinking shears, a purchase I had to agonize over a bit, since they were shockingly expensive, but, like my mom said, I'll have them for the rest of my life.

Today, I attempted to jump back on the productivity wagon.  I stopped at a local store to get some fresh strawberries.  Oh my goodness.  Nothing like the kind from California that you get in the grocery store.  These will mostly become freezer jam, and the rest will probably be eaten out right.  I also got in some work time, editing the course I am teaching online this summer.

All in all, a good week, but I can't believe how fast the days are going.

Monday, April 14, 2014


Spring is here for real, now.  The flip flops have appeared and I have gone bare-legged in public--I usually try to wait until Easter, but with temperatures in the 80s, there was no way.  Of course, as I am writing this, dark clouds are filling the sky and a threatened cold front is bearing down bringing rain.  But, it will pass through and wash away the pollen, so I am ok with that.

I finished my skirt, and it was so much easier than I had anticipated making it with no pattern.  I followed this tutorial, changing it only to add a lining to the skirt and interfacing to the waist band.  I am happy with how it turned out, although the zipper was a bit of a debacle.  I had learned a long time ago to put in zippers using a regular presser foot, but it isn't ideal--usually lumpy and puckered and messy.  So, I decided I would buy a zipper foot and do it properly.  I've had my sewing machine since I was 10, and if it ever had a zipper foot, it is long gone now.  After trying to determine what on earth I needed, I finally ordered one off Amazon.  Only to discover when it arrived that it was definitely not what I needed.  Apparently, my machine was one of the last made with screw on feet, and what you mostly find now are snap on feet.  Of course, what I had ordered was a snap on.  So, I ended up putting in the zipper with the regular presser foot anyway.  I think I can get an adapter though, so hopefully future projects will be a bit more smooth.  Otherwise the skirt is pretty nice--it is fitted in the waist, has pockets, and a side zipper.  More zipper craziness--the tutorial calls for cutting down the side of your skirt so that you can add the zipper in behind the pocket--I don't think I'll be doing that again.  I would rather have a seam up the back and put the zipper in there.

Of course, I had to make Nathan something for Easter, as well--it's probably a good thing he isn't a girl, or all my time would be devoted to tiny dresses.  As it is, boy clothes are bit too challenging, so I settled for making a tiny bowtie, which was so easy, using this tutorial.  There will probably be a lot more bowties in his future.

Besides the sewing, we've been spending lots of time outside, taking walks at the park.  The dogwoods and redbuds are blooming, and clouds of pollen waft through the air.  My allergies are the worst they have every been, and I am chalking it up to postpartum-ness--I am wondering how long I get to blame everything on having had a baby.  Still reading Sarum--just finished up the chapter on the feud between Stephen and Matilda, which is also the time frame for Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth.  Planning on making Hot Cross Buns for Easter, using the Pioneer Woman's recipe.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Staying Home and Making Bread

When I was in graduate school, I told someone once that if the whole academic career thing didn't work out, I would like to just stay home and make bread.  And while I am not saying the academic career hasn't worked out--it has just taken a different route--I am currently staying home and making bread (Strawberry Banana Bread, to be specific).  And I am sewing.  And planting a garden.  And watching a sweet baby grow each day.  My house is filled with trays of seedlings, fabric scraps, and stacks of burp cloths.  While this new life has its challenges, I am reveling in the activities that I love, but haven't previously been able to tackle as passionately as I would like.  

And, lucky, blessed girl that I am, I still get to pursue that academic life as well.  I know that the role of adjunct is absolutely fraught in the academic community, but I am thankful for the flexibility that it provides.  I I am lucky to have a husband with whom I have planned our budget and expenses to allow me to work like this.  I am lucky to have a department chair willing to work my schedule around Jordan's.  I'll be teaching online this summer, and then going back for a main campus class in August.

In the meantime, I am happy to have grading disappear from my to-do list.  I have a new planner/notebook that I am loving and have spent way too much time making customized planner pages and meal-planning/grocery shopping lists.

Friends coming for dinner tonight.  Homemade pizza and apple crisp on the menu.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Waiting for Spring

The weather lately is enough to drive anyone crazy.  Saturday was gorgeous--low 70s and sunny.  We worked in the yard (more on that in a bit) and generally enjoyed ourselves.  Yesterday, it was snowing (again)!  It didn't lay, but the rain, sleet, snow mess was rather depressing and made the doctor's appointment/ grocery store run fairly miserable--I don't like being wet and cold and I certainly don't like for the little fellow to be wet and cold!

He has been getting so big!  He is holding his head up more and more and reaching during tummy time.  We have begun to let him sleep unswaddled, and when I go in to him in the morning, he smiles (his smile is just like Jordan's--minus the teeth!) and puts his hand on my arm, and I am left a melted puddle in the floor.  When he yawns sometimes he lets it out as a little yodeling coo.  And he sings.  I kid you not.

So, the work in the yard.  We are re-doing the flower bed in the front yard.  It is an oblong island with a lamp post on one end and a bird house on the other.  When we moved in, it contained a crepe myrtle (which we moved a while back), zebra grass, lavender, Mexican heather, blackeyed susans, daisies, Chinese fringe flower, a yellow bell, an azalea, a butterfly bush, a rose, and a camellia.  And it was a mess.  So, we spent Saturday removing most everything--sickly shrubs and weeds were rooted up.  We still have a bit more extracting to do, but in the end, there will only be the Mexican heather (which is thriving--I think it like the sandy soil), the butterfly bush, and the camellia.  Then, we will replant with lavender, peonies, blackeyed susans, cone flower, and irises.  Pretty, pretty.

I am particularly keen to have this bed looking nice because it is what people see when they drive up, but, more importantly, it is what we see when we look out.  I chose flowers in the hopes that our little population of birds will appreciate them.  We have a whole community of cardinals and blue jays (who like hanging out in the Bradford pears), house sparrows (who have taken over the bird house), and house finches (who foolishly try to build nests on our porch each spring--really, we don't mind it, but they knock the nests down themselves when they fly off).  The sparrows are feisty little things--I have seen them defend the bird house against intrusive starlings and squirrels twice their size.  By the way, I found a neat website that helps with bird identification here: What Bird.

Easter is coming, and I am preparing my Easter dress.  Which won't actually be a dress because they are too difficult to nurse in.  I decided to wear a skirt this year, but couldn't find anything I liked when I went shopping--an excellent excuse to break out the sewing machine, and a skirt is so easy.  I am not even really using a pattern--I found so many good tutorials on Pinterest, and some lovely fabric on sale at Joanne's (I couldn't choose one, so it looks like I am making at least three skirts!).

The wrap pictured above is Avocado Egg Salad.  I know that this will disgust most people--Jordan couldn't believe I ate it, but I thought it was delicious.  I found the recipe from Never Homemaker on Pinterest as well.  It is tasty.  And seems right for spring.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Part-Time Nomads

Last week was spring break at the university, so we planned an epic trip--probably not that epic by most standards, but since this was the first vacation with a baby, it seemed pretty epic to us!  We spent the first part of the week in our hometown--we go home at least about once a month, and divide our time between Jordan's parents and mine.  We got to see all of our grandmothers as well as assorted aunts, uncles, and cousins.  

On Thursday, we headed to Hanging Rock State Park.  Jordan and I had visited a couple of times previously, but this time we were going to stay overnight.  The park has several cabins.  In the summer, they are rented by the week only, but during the off-season, you can rent by the night, with a two-night stay minimum.  We had never seen the cabins so we weren't sure what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised.  They are cute, spartan little affairs, all golden pine boards and high ceilings.  No TV.  No cell-phone reception.  Heaven.  We had expected some bad weather in the form of rain and a bit of freezing rain on Thursday night--we checked the weather report just before we left.  However, just after we carried all our stuff into the cabin, flakes began to fall. And fall, and fall.  It was still snowing when we woke up the next morning and continued for most of the day.  Absolutely beautiful.  We watched DVDs on the laptop, played Rook (where Jordan beat me soundly) and Scrabble (where I returned the favor), and read.  Jordan read Mockingjay out loud while I fed Nathan, and then I snuck in some time with my current book, Edward Rutherford's Sarum, which, judging from its size, I will still be reading when Nathan starts kindergarten (it's too big for me to read while nursing!).  

In the afternoon on Friday, the snow stopped, and the skies began to clear.  We bundled Nathan up as soon as he woke from his nap, and went to hike to Tory's Den--apparently the site of a skirmish during the Revolutionary War.  Since we hadn't been expecting snow during the trip, we had only brought sneakers--not boots.  I solved the problem by wrapping my feet in grocery bags and tying them around my ankles before putting on my shoes--not cute, but effective: no wet feet!  We finished our hike and then drove out to see Moore's Wall and then the park lake as the light was dimming and the shadows lengthening.  

The next morning, we got in another hike at the Lower Cascades, before heading north.  My niece was celebrating her first birthday, and we went to her party where everything was pink, polka-dotted, and sweet.  Nathan did wonderfully considering we traveled a few hundred miles total, slept in three different locations, and saw dozens of people in the course of a week.  He has the makings of a champion hiker, and he already has one state park and two waterfalls under his belt.  We are looking forward to new adventures!