A Guston for My Boy

I think it’s safe to say there is no person in this world that appreciates my knitting more than my son. I’m not sure how much of it is because he loves me and how much of it is because he loves what I make, but whatever the case I just love to knit for him. I can see that the things I knit for him make him feel special and I’m a mom — I just want to wrap him in love and warmth every single day.

I’ve knit a number of things for my daughter — she’s smaller and like many little girls like to layer on her fashion. My son, however, I’ve had to be more choosy about what I pick to knit for him just because he is like his dad — he likes his wardrobe simple and doesn’t go for a lot of excess or anything flashy. I do, however, always have to keep in mind that he loves red so what I do knit for him must have at least some red in it or he looks at me like I’ve clearly made a serious error. He just loves red.

The main reason, though, that I haven’t knit a sweater for my son recently is that he’s 10-years-old and growing like a weed. His feet are bigger than mine and I’m guessing he’ll be taller than me within the year (and I’m 5’5″ or 5’6″, so that’s pretty tall!). Because of this, it’s really hard — even for me — to justify spending the money on yarn for a sweater for him. I stumbled upon Webs‘ in-house brand of yarns, Valley Yarns, though and realized I could knit him a sweater for about $30. I browsed some patterns and found Ann Budd’s Guston from Wool People Volume 2 — and not only was one of the few patterns that looked plausible for my boy to wear, but it also included sizes that would actually fit him without my having to make modifications. And I love not having to make modifications. I thought it was worth a shot so I ordered a sweater quantity of Valley Yarns Northhampton in the Burgundy colorway for him.

And then it sat in my stash for a year (or two).

Toward the end of this summer, I knew I was in the crucial time when I needed to either knit this sweater for him or my sweater quantity would not longer be sufficient for him. I cast on and got rolling in early September…

IMG_0603I have to admit I had some help…

IMG_0878As I neared the cable details of the chest portion, I readied my cable needle. I hadn’t yet red through the directions carefully (something I always advise knitters to do) and it wasn’t until I got there that I realized no cable needle was necessary.

IMG_0879Whoops. That said, I loved the combination of cable-design and alternating knit-purl sections. It made keeping my spot in the pattern super simple.

IMG_0944A couple weekends ago I wrapped up the sleeves…

IMG_0960And started sewing.

IMG_0979-2And then all that was left was to attach the buttons, the perfect buttons I got from Balwen Woodworks at the WI Sheep & Wool Festival. Made from a vintage tool handle, I debated for a long time about which was to orient the buttons. I finally settled on the long way.

button panelI think it was the right choice.

back detThe details of this sweater — each little piece just turned out so nicely.

cuffandhemEven the basic garter hem & cuff that I worried would flip back on itself is pretty much perfect.

Now I will admit that I had a few days of panic associated with this sweater. When I’d finished sewing, I had my son try it on pre-blocking and it was tight. He is a rather lanky kid, but he has big shoulders just like his dad. When I measured him for this sweater I went by the chest measurement only and didn’t account for those big shoulders. I aggressively blocked out the shoulders on it and I crossed my fingers. I also may have tried it on in a moment of desperation to see if it would fit me just in case it didn’t fit him, so I could rest assured someone could use it. It did.

In the end, though, it didn’t matter.

aldo modelIt fits my boy perfectly and he flashed the biggest smile when he put it on and my heart swelled up about a million times its normal size. He did mention that he thought it was a little scratchy, so I may have to spring for the superwash next time. I should have thought of that, knowing full well my boy’s skin is a little sensitive. Thanks to long sleeves, he can still get use out of this one. The best new though is that I think there definitely will be a next time thanks to the fact that there are some nice, slightly more economical yarns available out there like Valley Yarns making it reasonably practical to knit for growing kids.

This sweater was really quite the journey, but I could not be any happier with the results. As I edited this last photo, I found it really hard to believe that my little boy is such a young man. I spend every day with him, I’ve watched him grow, but it still seems a little unbelievable to this mama that my boy is so grown-up. Thankfully, even though he’s growing older I can once again knit him handknits, wrapping him in love and warmth every day no matter how big he gets.

Just a Spot of Knitting

In these parts, it’s a beautiful time of year. The leaves are at their peak of changing color and the temperatures are cool, but very comfortable. While I  really should be tidying up our yard in preparation for the winter and knitting those mittens I keep swearing I’m going to knit, instead I’ve been hitting the trail a lot with the kids.IMG_0908-0Knowing the bare white winter is headed this way, we just have to take time to soak up the color — and vitamin D — while it lasts. It never stops amazing me that when the leaves start changing color and dropping, everything is more vivid — the greens are greener, the blue sky is bluer — everything is more, quite possibly because we know full well  in our bones that in the blink of an eye the trees will be bare and the arctic wind will be howling.

In the mean time though, we’ll take these glorious days…

IMG_0955and everything they have to give us, even if it’s lots of wind & random rain showers.

Moose, of course, agrees.

IMG_0937I’ve been remembering to let him carry our water on our hikes, too. He clearly feels important when he has a job and it slows him down a little bit on the trails where I need to keep him on a leash. It’s a win-win, really.

We even attended an event put on by the Rock River Archaeological Society in which the kiddos got a chance to try their hands at throwing an atlatl.

IMG_0969I was impressed to see both my kiddos hit the cardboard mammoth at which they were aiming — my daughter with a ferocity far bigger than her frame and my son with thoughtful, measured repetition, both so true to their natures.

My daughter also had a monumental first this weekend…

IMG_0953She learned to purl. She’s easily frustrated, so I’ve been slow to introduce her to purling. She took to it like a fish to water, though.

On my own needles, I was pretty hell-bent on finishing up my son’s Guston sweater…

IMG_0957I started up the second sleeve and really used all my free time to wrap it up and I did just that and I was seaming by Saturday night…

IMG_0960Finishing up the last sewing Sunday morning while my girl read FoxTrot comics to me…

IMG_0967Luckily, yesterday was sunny & warm so I laid it outside to dry and it’s almost totally dry. Only the buttons remain on this — all the ends are woven in and everything. I did have my son try it on and I’ll admit, it was a smidge tight in the shoulders. He’s pretty lanky, but has big shoulders and I made the mistake of using the chest measurement and didn’t account for the shoulders. Long story short, I probably should have gone up a size. I blocked it aggressively and I know wear will stretch it out a little, so here’s hoping those things combined will make it comfy for him. If not, the downside is I’ll be knitting him a new one in the near future, but the upside is that I’m way ahead of the game with a sweater for my daughter to grow into. There’s always a silver lining, right?

I’ll be casting-on the Miya Shawl for the Bijou Basin Ranch Miya Shawl KAL shortly, but I have a little hiccough getting my pattern so I’m taking advantage of this little window in time to play with another fabulous new-to-me yarn, Ancient Arts DK.

 IMG_0888I took this photo the day I received the yarn in the mail — it just so happened that my daughter had drawn in a very cave painting style drawing in coordinating colors just before it arrived, so I snapped a photo with it. It seemed appropriate considering the company’s name. In any case, I showed it off on Periscope and asked viewers if I should make neckwear or a hat with it and it was unanimous that I should go with a cowl — even Mr Knitting Sarah agreed — so after a quick Ravelry search, I pulled out a favorite classic collection, Island by Jane Richmond, and printed off the pretty, unique, drapey cowl, Arbutus.

IMG_0974It’s proving to be a really fast, fun knit for me and I think the necklace-y-ish appearance will make it a really nice addition to my wardrobe. Did I mention the yarn is 70/20/10 Superwash Merino/Cashmere /Nylon?  Yes, I said 20% Cashmere. Yeah, it is pretty much to die for and the beautiful new Great Scott! colorway is a simply scrumptious shade of light blue with just a hint of tealy undertones. If you can’t tell, I can’t wait to add it to my daily rotation of woollies.

I think I’m on track to finish Arbutus today or tomorrow, just in time to cast-on my Miya Shawl. One of these days I’ll get the yard work done, but for now I’m going to enjoy the sun and changing colors and, of course, just a spot of knitting, too.

Now That’s A Good Yarn

One of the beautiful things about this day & age is that if you don’t have ready access to a brick & mortar local yarn shop, you can still support many of these fantastic small businesses online. In fact, if you are like me you kind of feel like every little online shop is your neighborhood. It is awesome and dangerous, especially since ‘visiting’ these shops does not require me to change out of my slippers.

When it comes to online shops, I look for the same things that I seek in brick & mortar ones — personality, warmth, and a distinct impression that the people running the business are unabashedly passionate for their craft, the materials they sell, and for sharing that enthusiasm with others. When I was offered the opportunity to try out a skein of custom dyed yarn from A Good Yarn in Sarasota, Florida, of course the first thing I did was check out their (newly redesigned and beautiful) website. The photo that pops up on their homepage is an image of a group of ladies knitting together who are clearly having fun. That first impression they give you isn’t one of their awesome custom yarns or colorways which would be an easy, no-brainer because those yarns are gorgeous. Instead the shop takes that first image to show people enjoying the craft. To me, that sets an important tone and it makes me want to support this shop!

Now the skein I received to test drive is pretty special. The story goes that the shop’s owner’s husband is an avid diver who also photographs the underwater flora & fauna on his dives. Gill’s Night Out…

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Is a custom colorway dyed by Three Irish Girls based on this photo…

header-gills-night-out
Photo used with permission of A Good Yarn Sarasota.

These are Dusky Nembrotha Nudibranchs photographed in the Solomon Islands — you can read the story behind the picture here. And each of the exclusive colorways has a story — how cool, right?!

My skein is an absolutely scrumptious merino/cashmere/nylon blend. It’s worsted weight and is just a soft & bouncy dream. No, ‘soft’ doesn’t quite cut it. I don’t have the word — it’s just everything you imagine when you see the “MCN” abbreviation and then some. So what to make with this beautiful yarn? I’m generally not a worsted weight sock kind of girl. Actually, I’ve actually never knit a worsted weight sock for anyone older than an infant before. For whatever reason though, this yarn wanted to be ridiculously warm, insanely soft, crazy-squishy socks.

With only about 200yards of yarn I knew I needed to use every last inch, so there was no question that I needed to find a toe-up pattern and that I would be working them two-at-a-time to really maximize what I could use. I also didn’t want anything fancy or complicated. That’s when I remembered purchasing a copy of Ann’s 5-Gauge Socks by Ann Budd a few months earlier. Driven by gauge & measurements, this pattern was a perfect match.

https://i2.wp.com/photos-e.ak.instagram.com/hphotos-ak-xaf1/10731577_1498342757116444_2038363999_n.jpg

It didn’t take long to know I’d made a fantastic choice.

Knit in a simple 3×1 rib and considering the worsted weight, these socks flew off the needles. They literally took less than 3days start to finish for the pair and that is during the school week when I only really get to knit for a few minutes in the morning, over lunch break, and then in the evening. I documented progress pretty religiously over on my Instagram account and at this point…

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I asked if I should bind-off or try to eek another round out. Advice was mixed — everything from ‘you don’t have enough’ to ‘go for it!’.

And in the waning autumn light…https://i1.wp.com/photos-g.ak.instagram.com/hphotos-ak-xaf1/10632501_341456196026430_1699297360_n.jpgI went for it!

Ultimately I got not one, but two more rounds + a Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off out of that little bit that was left.

https://i0.wp.com/photos-f.ak.instagram.com/hphotos-ak-xfa1/10729379_1555143748053613_439282647_n.jpg

The strands above the socks are what I had leftover (pardon the awful lighting). Now that is making the most of a luxury skein!

The final product… well, you tell me what you think…

GNO toeoooooh…

GNO heelahhhh….

GNO legwhoa……

GNO fullAnd can I just say, wow! These warm, bright socks were the perfect match for waking up to our first dusting of snow yesterday.

Now if after all this you’ve fallen in love with this yarn and simply must have it, the Gill’s Night Out colorway is currently available in Glenhaven Fingering — a fingering weight MCN, as well as Adorn Sock — a merino/nylon blend. If you are dying for a skein of this in the worsted weight version you see here, I’ve been reassured by Susan at A Good Yarn that although it’s temporarily out of stock, it’ll be back soon. It’s also worth mentioning that these folks have recently added an exclusive blend of fingering weight yarn to their label.  A special mix of merino, cashmere, and seacell (of course!), A Good Yarn Fingering is dyed by Katie Frachesci of Yarn Love.  I don’t know about you, but based on my beautiful socks, I’m kind of excited to see this new treat knit up ,too!

After this little test drive, I think I know why the ladies at A Good Yarn – Sarasota are smiling… not only do they have access to a wonderful shop with a newly retooled beautiful & easy to use online shop, they must be knitting with these gorgeous, luxurious yarns!

For more details on these socks, please check my Ravelry project page here.

In Review: The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns

The first chills of autumn found their way to our neighborhood over the last week. With them have come cries of distress from my girl whose hands were freezing each morning as we walked to school. No, that’s not right. They weren’t freezing, they were FREEZING — spoken as only a true knitter’s child who has never known the discomfort of cold hands or head. Partly to get her stop complaining and partly because it’s what I do, I promised to knit up some mittens for her. She could pick the yarn & help me design them and I would ensure that her hands would not be cold on the way to school again. She accepted the plan of action & muddled through the chilly morning yesterday.

After school yesterday over her snack, I gave her some yarn options. She emphatically selected a skein of Greenwood Fiber Works Handspun.

image_medium3I selected this braid of fiber last year on my birthday from Susan’s Fiber Shop…

image_medium2And spun it up during the Tour de Fleece this summer into a skein of bulky/super bulky, Navajo-plied loveliness. My daughter has loved it since it was on the wheel, so it’s only fitting that she get it.

Rather than sifting through Ravelry for a pattern that fits my needs, I grabbed my favourite book for this situation: The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns: Basic Designs by Ann Budd. Here’s how it works:

1) Flip to the chapter on what type of item you want to knit (i.e. mittens, gloves, hats, tams, scarves, socks, vests, basic sweaters — yes, they are all in this book!).

2) Select the size you want to knit, preferably using the measurements of the person for whom you are knitting.

3) Knit a swatch with your chosen yarn.

4) Read through the basic design elements included at the end of the chapter & decide which — if any — you’d like to use, or continue on with the basic no-frills pattern.

5) Follow the instructions for your designated gauge & size, incorporating any design elements you desire.

6) Enjoy your simple, custom garments & accessories.

 

Now I know there are probably some of you out there who this scares to death. ‘Work without a pattern? Uh-uh, no way!,’  but I promise that as long as you take a few moments to understand the layout of the book it is really very simple. It’s as basic as understanding how to check gauge & read a chart (not a lace chart, they call it a ‘chart’ but it’s just an excel-like spreadsheet). Oh, wait. You don’t know how to do that?  There is an excellent explanation on how to knit a swatch and read it on page 6  complete with a great illustration. There is also an in-depth explanation of how to interpret the charts within the book — they are pretty straight-forward to begin with, but just in case the author walks you through it. Perfect! Really, this is do-able for all knitters with basic skills.

There are many books from this publisher & author as well as many other series that are specifically written as a kind of blank canvas for design. Frankly, it can be overwhelming for most knitters, especially those who aren’t particularly fond of math. The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns: Basic Designs is a great place to start though. I love that it includes the most basic accessories and presents basic design so simply. As a spinner, I especially love that I don’t necessarily have to have slap a label on my handspun — super bulky, bulky, worsted, etc — it doesn’t matter here. What matters is that I knit a swatch at the density I wanted for these mittens and it was 3 stitches per inch. Voila. With Ann Budd as my guide, I cast-on and was off.

Because I knew I would be tight on yarn & I was free-styling a bit, I knit these mittens 2-at-a-time. This means that they will definitely match and I don’t have to make notes as I go if I don’t want to. No stressful attempts at re-creation on mitten #2 because it is already done — that is my kind of approach for this kind of project! In the interest of full disclosure, the mitten pattern did not go down to the 3stitches per inch for gauge that I needed, but there was enough information there for me to easily make adjustments (and really, trust me when I say I am not a math whiz so this is do-able for most with enough patience). Because I am a new spinner I found that my yarn was actually a bit heavier on one end of the skein — the joys of handspun! — so I ended up adding a couple extra rows to the body of the lighter weight mitten before decreasing so that I would have the hand length I needed. When all was said & done, I finished my girl’s mittens last night and she awoke this morning to her brand new mittens.

Disclaimer on following photos: Now when I asked her to get dressed for school today, I also mentioned that I wanted her to pose for photos with her mittens for me. What she came out wearing was a hot pink tuille skirt, Hello Kitty t-shirt, neon striped knee socks, and completely different color family striped fleece pullover. And fuzzy ugg-type slipper shoes. Not exactly my dream for showing off these mittens, but she was adamant and I was not interested in a fight over the matter. We compromised and rolled up her sleeves a bit for the photos.

on kneeThey are sweet & colorful and soooooo my girl!

close-up on kneeI will say that at 3stitches per inch, getting the thumbs to look normal was a bit of a challenge, but I managed.

off handOverall, I am so very happy with the results of these basic mittens — the ease & speed with which I was able to knit them up, the fit, the colors — they are just perfect for my girl. Most importantly though, she loves them & her hands are warm. She wore them from the moment she woke up until she walked into school. I believe the above photo and a bathroom break or two were the only moments they weren’t on. She even refused to take them off for teeth brushing! I think I am safe to declare mission accomplished here.

If you are looking for this kind of basic no-fuss patterns that you can easily customize or maybe just looking to dip your toes in the waters of design or maybe you are a spinner who is having trouble knitting with your handspun, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Ann Budd’s The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns: Basic Designs. It is guaranteed to fit the bill & be loads of fun to use!