Welcome to the Family, Mr. Tinkles

A decade ago this past week when we welcomed our baby girl into the world. I won’t go into all my thoughts on the subject of time passing and how quickly our 5lb 15oz happy little bundle of joy grew into the tough and strong and smart and loyal and loving and goofy young lady who loves all things pink, baking, has a “climbing spirit,” and takes her giant headphones and my old iPod everywhere she can so she can sing at the top of her lungs. Honestly, I’m still processing all those thoughts.

What I will talk about today though is her love of the color pink and cats.

We were never ones to force gender specific colors on our kids. Honestly, with my love of blue, I was constantly seeking blues for my girl. Alas, since the time she could have a preference, she’s always been into pink.

And then there are cats. We can’t actually have a cat because Mr. Knitting Sarah is horribly allergic (we’re talking on the scale of seriously troubled breathing), so we say that we have a “No Cat Policy” in the house. Now we tease and claim it extends to all cat imagery, references, movies, etc, so when we inevitably get her something cat-related Mr KS will dramatically declare, “BUT WE HAVE A NO CAT POLICY.” And she will giggle uncontrollably with glee. It’s our girl’s glorious rebellion, to love cats the way she does. We agree it’s one rebellion we are happy to bear.

Suffice to say when I saw the Parlor Cat on Rachel from Dyeabolical’s Instagram feed, I knew that despite my general distaste for knitting stuffed toys it had to be done and it had to be done in pink for my girl’s birthday. It was in July that Rachel posted it so I knew I had the time. Since I did not have a skein of pink superwash yarn for the job, I popped over to the Dyeabolical site and order a skein of Freedom, Beauty, Truth, and Love on Superwash Merino Worsted — gotta love the dyed-to-order option! A short while later I got the yarn and printed the pattern and set it aside with the deadline set for birthday week last week.

I started in mid-October after I’d finished up with Spinzilla…

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It’s just the purrfect pink, if I do say so myself (sorry, I went there, I couldn’t resist). The yarn is totally fab. It’s soft and easy to work with and dyed to perfection. Why do I not have a sweater quantity for my girl yet? In any case, the pattern was well-written and pretty easy to follow. I had some issues centering the neck and head — I’m not sure if the pattern isn’t quite correct, or it was user error (most likely the latter), but after not being centered correctly twice, I literally drew it out on a piece of scrap paper, did the math, and carried on.

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It all worked out in the end. Thankfully, I was able to work on it in front of her until I got the second ear on. Then it got a little too obvious and I had to save work on it until everyone else was asleep. My husband joked that his contribution to this cat was lying next to me, snoring rhythmically while I knitted furiously in bed at night. It’s a true story.

In any case, the main body is knit in one piece and you stuff it as you go, which is pretty sweet. When you get to the end of the tail, you’re totally done with it save the two legs and face.

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(See how the photo is now on a blanket? Yeah, that’s bedtime!) At this point, time was starting to get a little tight, so I pushed on the next night to make and attach the legs and tack down the tail.

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And then I stalled out a bit because everyone was sick (including me) and I needed to get materials for the face.

I bought buttons for eyes and on a whim I grabbed some thick black thread in the check out. I was really dreading the face. It’s not something that comes naturally to me at all and usually it doesn’t turn out very well. I settled into it 2 nights before B-Day in bed next to my snoring mister. I attached the buttons for eyes. I stitched the nose. I tore it out. I stitched it in again and was concerned about it being too big, but I had a feeling it wouldn’t get much better so I left it. In hour number two of the endeavor, I dug into the whiskers and mouth. I went simple there with the plain black thread. As I finished and held it out to admire my handiwork, I cringed. Those eyes were freaky. I ripped them out and, getting exhausted now, I grabbed the same blue yarn I’d used to sew on the buttons and stitched in some eyes.

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And there is was, perfectly imperfect and as good as it was going to get.

I haven’t yet mentioned that my girl has never really taken to any of the toys I’ve made for her, so this was a huge gamble. I was hopeful, though, that pink + cat would equal a winner.

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It did.

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Mr. Tinkles is loved so much, that he’s scarcely left her arms. Mr. Tinkles, loved so much he’s already got a claw that needs to be trimmed.

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Oh, Mr. Tinkles, the adventures you will have. Welcome to the family, Mr. Tinkles. You are loved.

A Little Bird & A Last Call

A few days ago I saw a post from The Fawn & The Fox on their Instgram feed that was a little handspun Bluebird of Happiness knit in a beautiful handspun. Knit as part of their Creature KAL, I knew straight away that I had the perfect skein for this project.

blue jay manosThe motivation to possibly win one of their gorgeous project bags in by entering the KAL definitely helped expedite the process.

It also helps that they knit up nice & quick.

IMG_9841Color me happy with the results!

Although not as happy as this little lady…

IMG_9845Who, as you can see, has convinced me that one was not enough. As of this moment, I think we’re up to four. Of course, I’m pretty sure I’ll be knitting little birds until the skein runs out. How can I say no to that smile?

In other news, I’m feverishly attempting to settle on a pattern for my July installment of the Feel Good Yarn Company Summer Sock Club. I won’t spoil the surprise for anyone, but I will say that this skein is deliciously summery. For those still wanting to get their hands on some SilverSpun yarn, this is the last call for the FREE SHIPPING offer as it expires today. Remember, all orders from Feel Good Yarn Company over $42 qualify for this offer, so place your orders now and use the discount code SARAHKNITS when you check out to redeem this special offer.

Well, there is a little curly-haired girl looking at me with big, hopeful eyes asking when I’ll make her another bird. I’m thinking that’ll happen right… about… now.

11 Random Things on a Tuesday

My daughter’s birthday is this coming Sunday and I’ve literally been knitting on her gift — a complete set of Susan B Anderson’s Mary, Millie, and Morgan dolls — at every non-obvious opportunity. I had forgotten/blocked how slow-going knitted toys can be and totally did not comprehend how late I would have to stay up in the evenings and how early I would be waking up in order to make any sort of headway on them. My husband has been  very understanding — while I think he knows how hard I’m working to make this special for our little girl, I have a sneaking suspicion that he thinks I have finally lost it with this one. He has no patience for handcrafts of any sort and when I get myself into a project that starts to stress me out/exacerbate me, well, he just kind of looks at me with disbelief and thinly veiled tongue-biting. But bite his tongue he does and I thank him for that because even though this project is driving me a little over the edge, I am really excited to give it to our daughter on Sunday.

So, since I really need to be knitting on a doll dress right now, I thought rather than my usual longer, story-type post, today I’d just share a short random list of fun & interesting stuff that’s been happening here lately.

1. Despite my panties being in a bundle about being down to the wire, the aforementioned dolls are coming along right on time. At this moment, I have 2 dresses, 3 shawls, and their mary-jane shoe details left to go. It’s really not too much considering I have until Sunday, but I am not one who likes to flirt with deadlines. So I am pushing through this like no-one’s business. They got their faces and hair a couple nights ago (and when I say ‘night’ I mean I was up about 4hours past by bedtime making this happen).

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I can tell you my official crafting nemesis is the freaking french knot which took me an embarrassingly long time to get the hang of. And yes, each of the dolls is different at the body/leg transition. No, it was not on purpose. Yes, I will explain more later. You’ll love that story.

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But the colorwork skirts were a lot of fun. Occasionally I briefly flirt with the idea of making extra clothes in different colors, but so far have come to my senses before really going head-first down the rabbit hole.

2. The family & I have been taking some really wonderful fall hikes in the area. I am in love with the carpet of leaves we walk on each day and I’m happy to say we saw the first juncos of the season yesterday.

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I’m also a huge fan of what ‘considerable cloudiness’ looks like on The Marsh.

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3. My husband orchestrated a picnic for us yesterday where this was my view.

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We could hear cranes calling in the background and he made the simplest, most delicious picnic ever…

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Garlic butter crackers, summer sausage, cucumber, and white sharp cheddar cheese. I don’t know what it is, but to me this super basic picnic ‘meal’ is a million times better than any fancy meal in a restaurant.  We’ve never tried cracker sandwiches with cucumber before and I have to say it was really delicious!

4. This came in the mail today for a future project.

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It’s going to be fantastic.

5. The dog’s issues are starting to look much better — thanks for all your concern & advice!

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He does continue to radiate awesome, as well, even in his sleep.

6. At one point I was so bored with the doll project, I started pre-watching & taking notes for my new Craftsy class, New Directions in Lace: Hats with Courtney Kelley & Kate Gagnon Osborne. For now, let’s not talk about the fact that I was so bored with my own required knitting that I apparently had to start watching someone else knit something more interesting in order to stay sane. It’s a new level of obsessed that I just don’t want to address.

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In any case, the class is really well done & I’m taking time to really use the Craftsy platform and all its bells and whistles. I’ll be knitting the projects up and doing a full review in the next couple weeks, but I can already say that even though I’m pretty experienced with lace knitting, including hats, I’m picking up some awesome tips & tricks here. If you’re interested, this link with give you $10 off this fab class!

7. My husband had the kids turning over logs on one of our recent hikes and my daughter found this worm.

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She named him Sir Squirmsalot and thoroughly examined how he moves. And yes, she is wearing a cowl made of the second most expensive yarn I’ve ever knit because she loves it so much I couldn’t say no.

8. While on our mini-vacation the other weekend, my sister-in-law spent a ton of time with the kids doing origami (she has a lot of patience).

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So now I’m learning, too, so I can help my son. I made Tootsie here a Samurai helmet. And later youtube taught me how to do a petal fold and it blew my mind.

9. For school this morning my son needed to list some things he cold explain clearly. This is his list:

aldo listTelling time. Cutting cheese (not the slang, believe it or not). Alligator wrestling. Fossil finding. Climbing a climbing wall. If you’re interested in learning how to do these things, my son is apparently your man.

10. I got this new travel mug with a blue jay on it and I kind of love it.

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11. We totally did this to our poor dog.

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I love this dog so much. “Gentle Giant” is the perfect way to describe him. He was not very pleased here, but he also took a nice long time before he bothered to move.

Well, my lunch break is over and I definitely need to get that doll dress I’m knitting out and ready for some down time this afternoon and evening. I hope you enjoyed my little list of randomness. I have a few FOs I need to share with you when I’ve got a bit more time. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even see the completed Mary, Millie, and Morgan set soon!

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.