Cool Spiced Cocoa

I meant to partake in the Three Waters Farm Laura Aylor SAL + KAL by way of a sweater. As April ended up being busier than expected and suddenly turned into May, however, I realized that was probably not going to happen. While yoga-ing one morning in my living room my skein of Three Waters Farm Cool Conundrums caught my eye…

super detAnd I thought, “I bet I can find a pattern to use that skein.”

Sure enough, Laura Aylor‘s Spiced Cocoa fit the bill perfectly. I was delighted to see that my yarn would actually work well with the smallest size, a size that would suit my daughter who has been continually stealing my mitts on early morning hikes. It was a win all around. I printed the pattern and took a little beauty shot…

img_2969And off I went.

The knitting was so fun and so easy that I literally finished them in just a handful of hours and I have only one WIP photo…

img_3057From when they were finished!

As you can see, these mitts have also spawned a hat, but that will be a story for another day. I started casting-on for it and my daughter begged to be able to knit it herself. So we passed the ribbing back and forth (it was a little tedious for her) and then my mom knitted on it a little over the weekend because she forgot her knitting, and my girl has been knitting on it. Three generations all added stitches, but oh, yes, that’s for another day when it’s complete.

The mitts, however, are finished and they now travel with us everywhere.

full frontKnit in my handspun and in the prettiest colorway imaginable for my little lady, I’m not sure who’s more tickled about them — me or my girl!

detail slippedI love the twist detail across the back of the hand, lending just enough texture to be unique.

wrong sideAnd the palms, already slightly worn from use are just a plain stockinette.

mitts prettyI wasn’t able to get an ‘action’ shot this time around, but I will eventually — keep an eye on Instagram for that! Suffice to say, the fit is perfect and I couldn’t be happier with the detour I took in this SAL + KAL. Had it not been for the matching hat, I’d have used the remaining yarn to make myself a matching pair. Sometimes though, a little girl needs a matching handspun hat for her handspun mitts. It’s as simple as that.

Little Miss Charming

As soon as the sweater I knit for my son started to take shape, my daughter began asking when she’d get a new sweater. I knew it wasn’t exactly necessary in the name of fairness since I’ve knit a few sweaters for her already over the last couple years and I haven’t made him one since he was a baby. I suppose that’s just how it goes when you have one kid that is very big and one that is rather small. At the end of the day, though, as a knitter, how do you say no?

In the interest of time as well as staying cozy around our house which we keep on the cool side in winter, I knew I wanted to knit her something worsted or heavier, preferably a bulky weight. I found Veera Valimaki’s Little Miss Charming and thought it fit the bill nicely. It had good reviews regarding fit and comfort, so I got the pattern and used some store credit from Eat. Sleep Knit. to order some Malabrigo Chunky in the Cactus Flower colorway.

A little over a week before my girl’s birthday, I thought I should probably get to work so she could have it for her big day.

IMG_1019-0I had some issues with the pattern early on. For the life of me I could not get the yoke stitch count to come out according to the instructions and I tried at least 6 times. To this day I don’t know if it was me or the pattern, but I finally gave up and just went with it, making a couple minor modifications as needed. You can read about those on my Ravelry project page.

I knit through our trip to Iowa…

IMG_1152And on the way home I was working on the sleeves. It would be take 1 of 2 for the sleeves, but it all worked out in the end.

sleeveThey turned out so well that I’ve never thought twice about re-doing them. I also extended them from elbow-length to full-length sleeves to be more practical for our Wisconsin winters (those mods are listed on my Ravelry page, too).

After washing and blocking, I was a little concerned they were too long.

sleeves onThey aren’t. They’re a perfect fit.

I’m a huge fan of the simple twisted rib detail at the neckline…frontAnd how the hemline is a little lower in the back…

hemAgain, knit in a nice twisted rib. I also found the cables were super easy to memorize and that I didn’t have to use the chart with them for long at all. This was excellent luck considering I did a fair bit of this knitting in the car.

All in all, it’s an excellent fit…

on modeBoth in actual fit, style, and, of course, attitude.

I was pretty generous in the length of the body, too. My girl likes to wear knit pants & yoga pants & leggings and I think this length will wear really nicely with those options as well as her regular khakis.

It took a week start to finish to knit up this Little Miss Charming. And while it did take a few days beyond my girl’s birthday to dry after its wash & block and the construction itself wasn’t without its moments of drama, I think the birthday girl is pretty happy with the results. Warm and soft and cozy and pink — it may have been late for her birthday, but I think it was just in time.

A Special Little Surprise

It’s no secret that I’m more than a little over-the-moon that my son has taken to knitting. It’s been a wonder to watch him go from all thumbs to a knitter who routinely plops down in front of the TV & knit away through his favourite show. The novelty has worn off a smidge, but he still picks up his knitted snake daily. In fact, he’s at least a half to two-thirds of the way through his first skein of the main color. Like I said, I’m sitting here in awe.

One detail I’ve been struggling with a bit has been finding a knitting bag appropriate for my almost 9-year-old son. I personally have a ton of them, but when I went to look through them for one my boy could use I realized that for the most part what I have is pretty girly.  The only possibilities were too small for the 3 skeins of worsted weight yarn he has for this project. Then, a  couple weeks ago while I was setting up the May Challenge for Socks with Sarah I noticed that one of the sponsors, Stitched by Jessalu, had a couple notions bags in superhero fabric. Batman for the DC fans & a montage of old school comics for those who prefer Marvel. When I saw these superhero fabrics, I just knew this would be perfect for him as he is currently on a total superhero kick. Since there were no large bags in the comic fabric, I contacted Jess about a special order for my son.  Despite being super busy with shows right now, she could not have been more kind and got a special order set up and sewed up in a flash. Yesterday, it arrived.

First of all, it came wrapped (awesome!) with a little hand-written note (awesomer!).

20140520-135704-50224566.jpgMy son was totally not expecting a special little surprise. My kids rarely get gifts outside of their birthdays or Christmas — at least not ones that are wrapped. It’s even more rare for my son to get something like this when his little sister doesn’t. This was a special treat all around.

20140520-135705-50225607.jpgNot knowing what to expect he was a little wary, but as you can see from how fast his hands were moving the excitement started to seep in…

20140520-135706-50226635.jpgHe couldn’t take in all the awesome superheroes fast enough.

We grabbed his yarn and were delighted to see it fit his little project perfectly.

20140520-135709-50229863.jpgThis is a total win-win. All yarn nice & tidy (which mom loves) in a super rad bag (which my boy loves).

20140520-135711-50231354.jpgI also got him a matching notions bag — when I get around to it, I will get him a tape measure, tapestry needle, scissors, and a handy tool. You know, the standard must-haves.

20140520-135708-50228762.jpgI just could not imagine a more perfect knitting bag for my son. And that — you have to admit — is a rather tall order, to find the perfect knitting bag for an almost 9-year-old boy.

20140520-135707-50227675.jpgWith all his materials in order, my little knitter got right to work. Yep, I think we nailed it. Thanks, Stitched by Jessalu!

Another Knitter in the Family

When I taught knitting I would often get asked if my kids knit.  I think a lot of people thought I would have little knitting savants at my house — my then four-year-old clicking away on socks, turning heels as naturally as the sun shines. The truth is my kids’ interest in learning to knit has ebbed and flowed. As a parent I understand that it’s my job to guide and teach them — it’s a responsibility I take very seriously & feel honored to have. But unlike things like homework & following directions & chores for which I hold a very firm line & push to maintain the standard, knitting is and always will be different. With knitting, they are in the driver’s seat. When they want to work on it, I work with them. We stop when they get tired or bored.  Knitting is for fun. Period. We take it at their pace and in their time and it is always their choice to be knitting. Knitting is an outlet for me. A hobby. A beloved past time. In this way I cannot imagine forcing someone — anyone — let alone my own children to knit. I firmly believe that to learn to knit, to love to knit, you just have to find your own path to it.

When they asked a couple years ago for the first time, I took both kids to pick their own yarn & ever since they’ve had their own little knitting project bags. They contained a set of straight bamboo needles with about 25stitches that I cast-on for them with a basic cotton yarn in a color of their choosing — pink for my daughter & red for my son. My daughter was originally very determined, but was quickly discouraged when her then four-year-old fingers struggled to make the motions. My son tried once and a while, but he didn’t stay interested enough for long enough to get anything to gel. There was a brief revitalized interest around Christmas when I gave my daughter the Annie and the Swiss Cheese Scarf gift set. My girl tried using the book to augment my directions, but — being a very bright girl who is generally a very quick study of just about everything — she just got so frustrated that it didn’t come to her instantaneously. In the end, she stuck her knitting under her bed (just like Annie does in the book — like a time-out for knitting) and it has only made one or two appearances since.

Enter my 8year-old son. Now keep in mind that his fine motor skills have been slow to develop. This is partly because his paws have always been much bigger than seem natural for a kid his size.  My mom dubbed them ‘plumber’s hands’ the day he was born — a running joke in our family since no one understood what on earth that meant. According to my mom, it meant his hands were huge. Don’t understand the connection? Don’t worry, we don’t either (sorry Mom, we love you, but we still don’t get it). In any case, he also using both hands almost equally which hasn’t seemed to help a whole lot either. Fast forward to the present day and — still with giant hands — when he saw his sister reading Annie and the Swiss Cheese Scarf he took a gander and then asked where his knitting bag was. Like his sister,  he grabbed me and the book and started to make some stitches. Then the craziest thing happened.

It all clicked.

He would sit down every few days and click away on his washcloth. He’d walk away for a week or two and when he came back to it, he hadn’t forgotten everything he’d learned the time before. As his basic garter washcloth grew at a pace equal to his confidence, he started to ask when he could be done with it and start a new project. What could the next project be? And most importantly, could that next project be a knitted toy?  Being a boy who loves snakes, who owns a pet snake, I proposed a toy snake. A little stockinette in the round seemed like a good next step. His eyes lit up and suddenly he was on a mission to not only perfect his knit stitch, but to finish that washcloth asap. Within a week he had done just that– his knit stitches looking nice & even and he was clearly ready to move onward & upward.

Because it was a big deal for him, I promised to let him pick his own yarn for his snake, so the first free afternoon after school we went to our closest yarn shop, Firefly Fibers, and he picked out three skeins of Rowan Pure Wool Worsted, a nice worsted superwash wool — perfect for both toys and beginner knitters.

20140425-091343.jpgI don’t think it’s a coincidence that these are the same colors as his pet snake, Jack.

I wanted to keep it pretty simple for him, so we made a deal that I would make the head and he would knit the body. I got right to work.

20140428-162500.jpg I opted to use the Slithery Snake pattern by Zoe Mellor just because a friend lent me the book and it was nice & easy to follow a pattern to expedite the process. The only  pattern modification I’ve made is to knit it in the round so my son wouldn’t have to purl just yet. Also, since we are using a worsted weight yarn instead of the DK weight the pattern calls for, I am using a US 7 needle. I could probably, should probably go down to a US 6 just because it will eventually be stuffed and denser fabric would be nice, but my boy is knitting rather tight right now and since the US 7s seem very comfortable for him, I think we are going to not try to fix what isn’t broken. In any case, I started the head via magic loop and then switched over to a 12″ circular for the body. Another reason I went with worsted weight yarn was so that I could put him on a 12″ circular — small enough for the toy, but not a 9″ circular that I think would feel awkwardly small for him. The results…

20140428-162509.jpgHe is doing a-maz-ing. A-maz-ing as in I can barely tell the difference between our stitches. I help out from time to time if he splits or drops a stitch, but generally speaking more often than not his ‘mistakes’ are actually non-existent — just his attention to detail double-checking that he is still on track.

Bear with this proud mama, I even took a quick video with my phone…

In all honesty, I have taught a lot of people to knit, but to watch my own son …  it is just the most mesmerizing, unreal thing to watch his hands deftly move those stitches from needle to needle.

It was a trip last night when he picked up his knitting and knit a few rounds before bed as we watched some TV. This afternoon after he finished his homework, he picked it up and we talked about his day over our knitting. I think part of me never thought my kids would really take the craft up in earnest. Since it was always out of my control, I just never really considered what it would be like to have another knitter in the family. Now I know what it’s like…

It’s pretty spectacular.

I realize his interest will still most likely ebb and flow. My daughter may take it up or she may not. Whatever the future holds, I’m going to stay the course of letting my kids chart their own knitting futures because I think that’s the way it should be.

20140428-162534.jpgI’m just glad I get to be along the for the ride.

Yarn for a Snake

I had hoped to complete a more substantial post today, but life happened and the day just got away from me. Instead, I have a single photo for you.

image

After a rough day at school, my son asked if today could be the day he picks yarn for his new knitting project. I, of course, obliged – he’s been waiting patiently since Monday evening for us to have time. Once I get the head done for him (he’s not quite ready for increasing & decreasing), he will be knitting a toy snake. I find it pretty sweet that he picked the same colors of his actual pet snake.

So tomorrow, I’m going to finish the post I meant to complete today. I’ll knit a bit on my sock. And hopefully, I will knit a toy snake head.

Life may be busy, but it is never dull.