Recent Knits

Just a short post today to share some of the knitting projects I’ve finished (sort of) recently. It’s the last week of classes for me, and I feel totally drained but I am determined to keep posting!

The first project is this Constellate Hat, which I started when my friend Abby asked if I’d be interested in doing a knit-along with her. I actually don’t knit a ton of hats, mostly because I find them kind of boring, but the stitch pattern on this pattern was really intriguing to me. And I’m glad she suggested making this pattern because:

  1. It was, indeed, an interesting stitch pattern to learn
  2. The pattern itself was written in an unusual style that was sort of frustrating at times but also kind of fascinating.
  3. I got to use a yarn that I love but has been sitting in my stash neglected for a very long time.
  4. I had been feeling very bored with knitting and so it was refreshing to take up a kind of impulsive project that was outside of the range of what I had been working on.
  5. It was fun and motivating to work on something with someone else.
  6. I ended up with a great hat.

I have not actually worn this hat because it is spring, and I am stubbornly refusing to wear anything other than a light jacket even though it is literally snowing outside as I write this. But I am excited to pull it back out in the fall.

The second project was an easy baby sweater for our new niece, Genevieve. I’ve made this pattern, The Playdate cardigan, a couple of times before—once for Jude and once for my nephew, Forrest. It’s a nice, easy way to showcase a great skein of fingering weight yarn, which was precisely what I wanted to do with this particular project. I’d had this skein of MadTosh Twist Light in my stash for years but couldn’t figure out exactly what I wanted to do with it. I think I originally bought it for socks, but it didn’t feel like the way I wanted to showcase the color. I think this baby sweater is a much better way to show off the fun little speckles of color. When it was finished, I went a little bananas and bought three different colors of buttons so I could really belabor the choice, but I think it was worth it in the end. The purple buttons really bring it together.

Right now, I’m working on the second sleeve of a Glenmore Aran for myself that isn’t worth photographing at the moment because I’m using black yarn and so it just looks like a mass of black. But I imagine that I’ll finish that up just in time to pack it away until October. Unless it keeps snowing.

Project Details:

Hat

Pattern – Constellate Hat by Hunter Hammerson

Yarn – Manos del Uruguay Fino in Peacock Plume

Size – This is a flexible pattern written for a range of sizes and gauges. My gauge was 7 sts/inch and I cast on 136 stitches.

Baby Sweater

Pattern – Playdate Cardigan by Tin Can Knits

Yarn – MadTosh Twist Light in Cosmic Silver

Size – 6-12 months

Flying Baby Quilt

Just a quick post today to talk about the third and final quilt I finished over Spring Break this year—a baby quilt for our new niece, Genevieve. I am really pleased with the final quilt and glad it’s off to its new home where it will hopefully be loved and used.

But the process of making the quilt, from the very beginning stages, was a frustrating object lesson in trusting my intuition. I started with a rough plan—picked a pattern and then decided I’d buy a fat quarter bundle of Ruby Star Society Heirloom and pick out a range of pinks and peaches and purples to use for the quilt blocks. I made those decisions early, in October of last year. And as soon as I tried pulling the colors and prints I wanted to use, I knew it was all wrong. It wasn’t going to come together to be what I wanted. Something about—something I couldn’t really name and still can’t name—was just off.

But I persisted, and kept trying to convince myself that it would be fine. I drew up quilt mock-ups and colored in the approximate fabric colors and layout and make Aidan look at it and tell me what he thought. I hung it up in my sewing room and convinced myself that it would look good. I kept pulling out the fabric over and over again and arranging it and rearranging it to tell myself the palette was right and a good match for the pattern. I went out and bought 3 yards of background fabric to complete what I needed for the top. I shopped and made plans for what I’d buy for the backing and what I’d use for the binding. And then when it finally came time to get started with the quilt, I got honest with myself, kicked all the plans to the curb, and went back to searching for a new pattern.

The good thing is that once I just accepted that what I had been planning wasn’t going to work, finding a new pattern and pulling a new set of fabrics that would work together was fairly easy. It didn’t even take me long to find the perfect backing fabric—a minky rainbow print in basically the same color palette I’d used for the quilt top. I’ve never used minky to back a quilt before, and this is where I should have again trusted my intuition. The primary concern that people have with minky as a quilt backing is that it’s actually a knit and it stretches. I am not intimidated by stretch fabrics. I have worked with all kinds of knits. I know how they behave. I know how to handle them.

But I still got in my head about basting the quilt together, and decided to follow advice I’d seen online from people who insisted that spray basting was the ONLY way to keep the minky from shifting all over the place while quilting. Some people love spray basting, which is great. I don’t. I much prefer the process of pin basting and I like the flexibility that comes with being able to adjust and repin if necessary. I kept trying to figure out why that wouldn’t work with minky backing—kept trying to understand why I couldn’t get by with pin basting and a little extra attention towards making sure I wasn’t getting any puckers on the back. I couldn’t see what it would be necessary and dreaded the whole spray basting process the whole time but did it anyway.

And it ended up being a big mistake. The minky did not shift, but the quilt top did. I had to fight through the entire quilting process to avoid puckers in the top, which is a problem I’ve never had with pin basting. I had to rip out so many areas of quilting and redo them. I had to pry the basted quilt top off the batting in two places so that I could adjust it. None of this is to say that spray basting is categorically terrible, obviously. I’m sure I’d have had a much easier time if I was more skilled and familiar with spray basting. But it sure as shit wasn’t any easier than pin basting, and I should have just gone with what I knew and what I felt good about.

Oh well. It’s done now. And finishing touches plus a good wash have mitigated most of the rough parts of the quilting. Will I learn my lesson and not second guess myself so much in the future? (Probably not.)

Project Details:

Pattern: Flying by Quilty Love

Size: Approximately 41” x 48”

Quilt top fabrics: Kona Cotton in Snow and six fat quarters from a Ruby Star Society Heirloom bundle

Batting: 80/20 Cotton blend batting from the Fat Quarter Shop

Backing: Dear Stella Minky in rainbow print

Quilting: 1.5” straight grid in all-purpose thread

Crocheted Friends

I’ve been feeling very drawn to crochet lately. It started when Jude’s only winter hat got left behind in his cubby at daycare during one of the interminable school shutdowns in January. I needed a new one fast and had no desire to go shopping for one, so I pulled out some leftover yarn and looked up a free pattern and had a new hat for him in two days.

It was fun and satisfying and suddenly I was searching Instagram for crochet accounts and discovering all kinds of new designers and coming up with all kinds of ideas for things I could try making. I taught myself the basics of crochet right around the same time I started knitting, but I didn’t do anything with it because I found it really difficult. Then several years later, I stumbled on just the right series of video tutorials (I cannot remember for the life of me who made them) and it clicked and I’ve made the occasional project since then. But it’s never something I’ve done enough to feel like I can get into a good rhythm or to feel like I was ever advancing my skills. So I decided it might be fun to try a new crochet project each month and just see where it takes me.

So far, I’ve made the hat for Jude in January, started a fingering-weight cowl in February that’s going to take me awhile to finish, and then made two different toys in March. The first was this little blue bunny for Silas to take to school with him for naptime. The bunny’s head and tail are stuffed but his body is unstuffed and crocheted at a more relaxed gauge so it is kind of a stuffy/blanket hybrid, which I thought was really cute. I found that designer for that pattern on Instagram, and her account led me to the second pattern I made—this little stuffed hippo.

Both projects are made with Bernat Blanket, which is a plush, fuzzy super-bulky yarn sold at most big box stores (I got mine from JoAnn’s). I have a pretty limited range of yarns that I tend to order online for knitting projects, so looking at crochet patterns has me exploring a whole new range of yarn offerings and it’s just kind of fun to see what is available and play around with stuff I wouldn’t otherwise have used. Crochet also has me seeing a whole new range of possibilities in my yarn stash, which is primarily made up of leftover yarns from past projects. The cowl I’m making is actually a color-blocked cowl from a selection of single-ply fingering weight yarns I have laying around but haven’t been sure what to do with.

I’ve been knitting for a long time (almost 20 years now), and I feel a bit bored with it at the moment. I was listening to a couple of Seamwork Radio episodes recently where Sarai and Haley were talking about ways to fall back in love with sewing when you’ve been doing it for a long time. It’s got me thinking through some ideas for ways I can rekindle the joy in knitting. But I think the appeal of crochet is related to that desire to rediscover the joy in fiber arts—it’s giving me the joy of learning new things and experimenting, and it’s helping me see and experience yarn in new ways.

Project Details:

HatUnlimited Hat Pattern from Kristin Holloway Designs in Cascade 220 Superwash in Aporto

BunnyHoney Bunny Pattern from Mama Made Minis in Bernat Blanket in Dusty Blue and Antique White. (I made the smaller of the two sizes.)

HippoHallie the Hippo Pattern from My Dear Knot in Bernat Blanket in Blush Pink

Stowe Bags for My Sisters

After I taught my youngest sisters to knit and crochet, I decided I wanted to give them each a crafty Christmas gift full of notions, needles, yarns, and patterns that would keep them making things. And as part of the gift, I wanted to make them each a Stowe bag to hold their projects as they worked on them.

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Unfortunately, with a non-napping baby on my hands, I wasn’t able to get enough time in the sewing room to finish the bags up as Christmas gifts. But I did finish them and gave them their bags this summer. My sister Sarah started using hers immediately.

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I used some quilting cotton from Joann’s—these prints are part of some of their newer, more modern quilt fabric lines. The bias binding is just the packaged stuff, which I find much easier to work with than any bias tape I’ve ever made myself.

I’ve made the Stowe Bag before and it’s a very satisfying pattern to sew up. Both of these bags are the smaller size, which actually holds an impressive amount of stuff. I’d say I can easily fit up to 3 or 4 skeins of yarn into the bag, which makes it a really versatile project bag size.

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I’ve made two Stowe bags for myself previously—one small and one large. My small bag is easily my favorite and most-used project bag. I’ve been using the large bag pretty consistently to hold whatever sweater project I have in progress, but I don’t find it nearly as useful as the small size. It might be because I used a fabric that doesn’t have a lot of body, but I find that my projects are more likely to spill out of the large bag, the pockets don’t seem as useful to me, and for a sweater-sized bag, I’d rather have a closure than handles. I know there are a ton of project bag makers on Etsy and I should just save my time and buy something. But I am stubborn and I’ve already bought some fabric so that I can improvise a zip-top, sweater-size project bag. Now I just have to find the time (and the desire) to actually sew it up.

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Make and Move On

It is teacher appreciation week, and they’re doing a bunch of different things for the teachers at Jude’s school but I also decided that it would be nice to make some Petal Pouches for the three teachers that work in his classroom on a daily basis. I’ve made this pattern before—it’s from Noodlehead and comes with really clear instructions, which makes it a breeze to put together.

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I wanted to go with something neutral, so I used a gray linen-rayon blend fabric I had in my stash and then picked up some more colorful quilting cotton prints from Joann’s to use as the lining. I liked the metal zip and leather cord combo on the pattern photos, so I aimed to replicate the look. The only metal zippers I could find were shorter than I needed, so these are all made with the pattern piece for the large size printed at 90%.

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I’m not particularly thrilled with these pouches. I had a very specific vision for them when I set out to make them and the final product just doesn’t live up to it. I mean, there’s nothing really wrong with them. I wish I had thought to order different zippers online when I still had the time to wait for shipping so that I didn’t have to use a jeans zipper. My sewing could be a bit neater. But there’s nothing here that could reasonably be classified as a problem or as a reason to toss the project in the trash.

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The project just didn’t cohere in the clean, perfect way that I had hoped. And that was enough for me to come very close to trashing the whole thing yesterday and coming up with a plan B. It’s irrational, I know. But it is also real. Perfectionism, as all of us who deal with it already know damn well, is not a cutesy way to talk about having high standards—it’s constantly staving off, and sometimes giving into, a need for things to be *just right* that is so intense it stops you from wanting to try at all.

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It is only rarely that I completely trash a project because it’s just not working out and I can’t find a way to either salvage it or live with the problems. Most of the time, my intense need to get things right manifests as a drive to learn as much as I can and to be careful with making. Even then, I get lots of projects like this where I just feel lukewarm about the end result. But I know if I cling to that feeling of dissatisfaction, everything falls apart. If I let myself dwell or act on the feeling that not quite right is not good enough, then I will never make anything and my creative drive—which is a huge part of who I am—will go unfed and I will just have a gnawing emptiness. I know that because it has happened before. And the only way out is to start making things again, giving myself permission to make them as imperfectly as they want to be.

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The permission to make things imperfectly isn’t comfortable or fun—it’s not like I suddenly find myself taking joy in a project that isn’t turning out the way I had hoped. It just means that I try to stay in the practice of walking away and disengaging when I start to hear the critical voice wondering why I bother at all.

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It just seems so easy to build up pressure around the process of making things. I want to make the perfect gift. I want to make clothes that are unique and practical and durable and beautifully finished. I need to define my personal style. I don’t want things to go to waste. I want to make things that I will get worn or used all the time. I want to make things that look professional. It is all trying to grasp at and hold onto something firm, and it’s all building in more ways to fail, more unrealistic expectations. I’m trying to hold things more lightly—to make a thing, let it be what it is, and move on.

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So I pushed past the strong urge to trash the project and I finished sewing the pouches. I shrugged at the feeling that they were a disappointment and took some quick pictures. I put them in a Target bag and dropped them off at Jude’s school without letting myself think too much about it. I’m still not happy with them, but I don’t feel mortified by the failure to manifest my original vision. It’s just a thing I made. And the more I keep pushing through and just making the next thing, the easier it is to avoid getting bogged down when things just refuse to cohere.

It doesn’t matter that much anyway. When we got to school, Jude immediately leaned out of my arms towards his teacher and gave her a big snuggle. She had been off for a few days and he had missed her. Apparently, he already had his teacher appreciation gift locked down. So sweet!

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Handmade Christmas Gifts 2016

I ended up making way more gifts this year than I have in a long time. It’s not because I have any desire to foist handmade stuff on everyone on my list or that I think a handmade gift is the best kind of gift. It’s really more that I hate Christmas shopping and I’m not particularly good at gift giving. Frankly, making gifts is kind of nice way to give someone something kind of generic like a hat or a scarf but in a way that feels highly personal. Yes, it’s just a hat, but it’s a hat I knit in my pajamas while I rewatched Battlestar Galactica and drank a beer. Also, that mark right there might be melted chocolate from the fistful of Reese’s Cups I was eating at the same time. How much more personal can we get? Anyway, here’s this year’s gift roundup:

Star Bellied Wallabies

Wonderful Wallaby with star pocket

Pattern: Wonderful Wallaby

Yarn: Plymouth Encore Worsted in Light Gray, Neon Orange, and Neon Blue

Recipients: Our twin toddler nephews

Notes: This is one of my favorite patterns–so cute and wearable. I made the size 2 but added an inch to the length of the body, sleeves, and hood. I also charted out a star to add to the kangaroo pouches, which I knit using intarsia. I love how they turned out!

Modern Classics Christmas Stockings #8 and #9

Modern Classics Stockings

Pattern: Modern Classics Christmas Stockings

Yarn: Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in Cloud and Aurora Heather

Recipients: My in-laws

Notes: This is now the eighth and ninth time I’ve knit up this pattern. I mixed the charts from the “Modern” and “Classic” stockings like I’ve done every other time. This is, frankly, not one of my favorite patterns to make but they are at least quick to make. And that’s good, because I’m more or less locked into making these for all future family members on my husband’s side.

Ballydesmond Mitts

Ballydesmond Mitts

Pattern: Ballydesmond

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Sport in Summer Sky Heather (for the blue pair) and Malabrigo Rios in Sandbank for the brown pair

Recipients: The blue pair went to one of Aidan’s co-workers and the Malabrigo mitts were for my sister, Kayla

Notes: This is a great pattern. It comes with instructions for making these in either a sport or a worsted weight yarn. I kind of prefer the way the sport version looks, but the worsted version knits up super fast. Either way–they’re easy and they look great.

Honey Cowl

Honey Cowl

Pattern: Honey Cowl

Yarn: Malabrigo Rios in Aguas

Recipient: My sister, Jenna

Notes: I’ve made this pattern once before for myself, and it’s a very soothing and meditative knit. Sadly, I got about 60% through the cowl before realizing that my skeins were noticeably different from one another so I ended up ripping back and alternating skeins. The final product is definitely worth the extra work, but it put me under a bit more time pressure than I would have liked.

Petal Pouches

petal-pouches

Pattern: Petal Pouch Pattern from Noodlehead

Fabric: various quilting cottons

Recipients: Three of my sisters–Sarah, Grace, and Kayla–and my dad’s girlfriend, Jess

Notes: I was inspired to make these after my youngest sisters visited us this summer. They are both big into sketching and drawing and carried all of their art supplies around in ziploc bags. Maybe that’s just their preference, but I thought these pouches were cute and practical. There are a thousand free zippered pouch patterns available online, but I’m glad I went ahead and bought this one. It’s not just the unique shape that makes it worth the purchase–as a novice bag maker, I feel like I learned some really useful techniques that will make any future pouch-making much easier and give me a nicer result. I really love how these pouches turned out. I even used some of the leftover skull print to make a small version of the pouch for myself.

So that’s Christmas 2016 wrapped and gifted. Now back to making things for me.

Plaza Tiles Stowe Bag

I’ve been interested in the Grainline Stowe Bag pattern since it was released–it’s got a nice minimalist aesthetic paired with great details like the interior pockets and the bound edges. I finally decided to give the pattern a try and make a knitting project bag as a birthday gift for my friend Abby.

Grainline Stowe Bag

The fabric is the Cotton + Steel Clover Canvas in the Plaza Tiles print. It’s a 6 oz canvas, which is a perfect weight for this project. I used some packaged off-white bias binding to finish the edges. I know some people like to make their own bias binding, but I’ve tried it before and found it enough of a pain in the ass that it’s become one of those “life is too short” activities for me.

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This is the small size bag, which is actually pretty roomy. In the first picture where the bag is filled, it’s holding my tailor’s ham and four skeins of yarn. The pockets can also hold a lot of stuff, which is a bonus for people like me who like to keep all kinds of crap like calculators and pens and post-its and extra needles with my projects.

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The bag is unlined, which I don’t mind, except that it leaves you with the question of how to finish your seams. If this bag were for me, I might have just serged the seams and called it good enough. But since it was a gift, I wanted a clean finish on all of the seams. I read a bunch of reviews looking for tips on how other people managed their seams and came across one review from Fancy Tiger Crafts where someone used flat-felled seams to finish the sides and a french seam for the bottom. I decided to try the same. The flat-felled seams on the sides look really nice and the french seam at the bottom is, of course, very bulky. I think there’s probably a better way to clean finish the bottom, and I’ll experiment with something different on my next version. I wasn’t a huge fan of the pattern’s recommendation for forming the gusset on the bag since it seemed to exacerbate the bulk at the bottom, so I just boxed the corners and finished those edges with some bias binding.

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The bag is easy to put together, although I was nervous about all of the bias binding. I’ve applied double-fold bias binding before, but not well. However, this time, I’m really pleased with the way the binding turned out. I think it’s partly a result of my increased sewing skill and partly a result of going slowly, but the pattern instructions were also helpful in getting a nice finish. The pattern suggests steaming the binding into the shape of the curve for the side of the handles before applying it, which really did make it easier to apply. To do this, I just laid the sides of the handles flat on my ironing board, sandwiched the binding around the fabric and pressed it flat before taking it to my sewing machine.

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I used some of the leftover fabric to make Abby a bonus zippered notions pouch, using this tutorial from Flossie Teacakes. All of the pockets on the Stowe bag are great, but sometimes you have those little things like stitch markers and tapestry needles that you don’t want rolling around loose in your bag.

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The zippered pouch isn’t quite as fancy as the Stowe bag but it does feature some cute kitten faces on the inside. I bought this Cotton + Steel quilting cotton print from their Cat Lady collection to make myself a Stowe bag, and I used a bit of it to line the pouch. It’s hard to tell in this picture, but the cats are all piled up with little balls of yarn, so the print is thematically on point.

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This was a really fun project and I’m so pleased with the way that it turned out. It’s a bit more work than the super minimalist, quick and dirty project bags I’ve made for myself before, but the extra work is definitely worth it–especially as a gift. I’ve already got fabric cut out to make one for myself, and I’m thinking this might be useful for my very crafty, artsy sisters who are always toting around sketch books and pencils and markers. I know when this pattern was released, there were people who balked at it’s apparent simplicity and it’s price. If the pattern doesn’t interest you, it doesn’t interest you. But I think it’s a thoughtfully put-together pattern with great details that results in a beautiful and very useful product.

Grainline Stowe Bag

My January Sewing, in a single post

I had a big burst of sewing activity before Christmas and spent my time away for the holiday plotting a huge list of things I wanted to make as soon as I got back. But once I was home, my motivation took a nose dive. All told, I managed to finish a single sewing project in January–another pair of Winter PJs for my godson’s birthday.

Jonas PJs

(Adorable PJ photos courtesy of my friend, Nicole)

J is currently very into what he calls “jungle” print, and I got the idea to make these when I saw a camo “jungle” cotton spandex jersey pop up on Girl Charlee. I cut the cuffs and neckband from some leftover black Kaufman Laguna jersey. I made these in a straight size 6. For reference, my friend says J usually wears a size 5 or boys XS.

The only other significant sewing thing that happened in January was that I finally got myself a serger. I’ve been wanting and then talking myself out of getting a serger since I started sewing. I just didn’t feel like I did enough sewing or had enough room to justify a second machine. But the three pairs of Winter PJs I made for our nephews for Christmas (or, more specifically, the tediousness of finishing every seam in triplicate) finally convinced me it was time.

serger

I went with the ever-popular Brother 1034D. I was a little hesitant to get this machine because I’ve had two lower-end mechanical Brother machines that were pretty crappy and difficult to use. But I’m really happy with this serger so far. It was really easy to get the tension adjusted and I was able to thread it right on the very first go. People have complained that this machine is loud. It’s definitely not quiet, but I don’t think it’s much louder than my regular machine is when I’m using my walking foot (which is most of the time).

I used my new serger to make J’s “jungle” PJs. I didn’t feel confident enough to just serge all of the seams, especially since they were a gift, so I sewed the seams on my regular machine first and then finished them on the serger. I’m feeling confident enough at this point to just use the serger for mostly straight seams but I’m going to need some serious practice before I feel good about serging curved seams. Anyway, I’m excited about my new machine. It’s fun to use.

I’ve got a new project in progress, so the sewing landscape for February is already looking brighter. Maybe I’ll actually finish two whole projects this month!

Handmade Christmas Gifts 2015

So here’s the run-down of everything I made for Christmas this year. I didn’t make much, which was the right choice given that this was The Year of Stress. I managed to finish everything up by mid-December without any rushed, late night speed-crafting sessions so I’m pleased.

Winterlong

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Recipient: My dad’s girlfriend, Jess

Pattern: Winterlong by Bristol Ivy

Yarn: Patons Classic Wool in Grey Mix

Notes: I still love this pattern as much as the first time I made it and would make it a third time in a heart beat. I decided to make this for Jess while we sat together in the waiting room during my dad’s bypass surgery in October. She is a wonderful person, and I was very grateful to have her there.

Family Stockings for the Newest Additions

Modern Classics Stockings

Recipients: Our twin nephews, Gus and Oliver

Pattern: Modern Classics Stocking

Yarn: Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in Hollyberry and White

Notes: This is the sixth and seventh time I’ve made this pattern. I made stockings for me and Aidan about six years ago, and then another set for Aidan’s sister, her wife, and their son a couple of years ago. They had twins in August, and so the new boys needed stockings to match the rest of the family. As I’ve done every time before, I mixed the “classic” and “modern” charts from the pattern. It’s a good thing that these are quick to knit (I think I managed the second one in three days?), because I was not feeling this project, which made for rather joyless obligation knitting.

Ninja PJs

Alex and Anna Winter PJs

Recipients: Our trio of nephews–Rowan, Gus, and Oliver

Pattern: Alex and Anna Winter PJsAlex and Anna Winter PJs

Fabric: Blue Riley Blake “Year of the Ninja” cotton-spandex jersey, plus some black cotton-spandex leftovers for the neckbands and cuffs

Notes: This project was driven entirely by the potential cuteness of getting all three boys in some kind of matching clothes. Rowan is almost five, so getting him on board with matching his baby brothers seemed like a window that could slam shut at any moment. I went with the Winter PJs pattern because it has a huge size range (3 months to a size 12), and because they are similar in style to the PJs Rowan usually wears.

Alex and Anna Winter PJs

Figuring out sizing was a bit tricky. Rowan is such a skinny thing that his waist measurement puts him in the 6 months size. I ended up following the 3T for width (but cutting the elastic shorter than recommended for the 3T) and extending to the 4T for length. The twins’ measurements put them squarely in the 3 months size at Thanksgiving. They are growing fast (as babies do) so I was worried that the 6 mos size would fit them for about a minute, but the next size up was the 12 mos. I improvised a sort of 6-9 months size by using the 6 mos size as a base, adding a little bit of extra length, and then sewing them with a slightly smaller seam allowance.

Alex and Anna Winter PJs

When I was looking for reviews of this pattern, it was hard to find much discussion of the sizing, beyond that they are meant to be close fitting. I haven’t seen the babies in their PJs, but I was surprised at just how close-fitting Rowan’s were, especially since his width-wise measurements put him in the 6 mos size and I made him a 3T in width. It might have just been shocking since he is so skinny that all his clothes are baggy–my father-in-law even asked, “How did you get them to fit so close?”

Alex and Anna Winter PJs

Rowan’s PJs fit him really well right now, but it makes me nervous about the fit on the baby PJs and makes me wish I had washed and dried the fabric twice before cutting. I would also say that the length on Rowan’s pair seems just right for his size. So, to sum it up, these are really cute but you definitely need a jersey with at least 50% stretch and you should just automatically cut one size up–it won’t give you baggy PJs; it will just give you some wiggle room.

So that was the gift scene this year. I don’t think I disappointed anyone terribly by giving them something handmade rather than, say, a Target gift card. The real risk was giving the 4-year-old clothes. But we also gave him a truck that shoots out Hot Wheels, so I think we managed to balance the scales.

Baby Gift x3: Snugglers and Maddie Hoodies

I was already in the process of planning a baby gift for a friend when we found out that we’re going to have twin nieces or nephews (or some combination of the two—why is there not a gender-neutral word to express that relationship in English?) coming into our family at the end of the summer. For some reason, the idea of picking a couple of patterns and making them in triplicate seemed like great fun to me. And, indeed, it was a lot of fun to see all three items lined up at the end and feel like I was the master of the pattern, which I think is mostly a reflection of the way the meaning of “fun” shifts when it’s deep winter in central New York and you’re at the height of a job search. Anyway…

Lotta Jansdotter Snuggler

First up, I made some baby swaddlers. The pattern I used is originally from Lotta Jansdotter’s book Simple Sewing for Baby, but it’s also available for free on MAKE. I used quilting cotton for the outside layer and flannel for the lining. These are generally pretty easy to make, except for two little hiccups. First, if you use the free pdf version of the pattern, there aren’t any reference points for assembling the pages and there is a substantial amount of (unmarked) overlap between the pages, making this the least intuitive/most unnecessarily frustrating pdf pattern I’ve encountered. I didn’t come across it until after I had managed to put the pattern together, but there is a picture of the assembled pattern on Zaaberry, which would definitely would have been helpful.

Lotta Jansdotter Snuggler

The other tricky bit is the step where you have to sew the lining to the outer shell. At that point, you have to find a way to sew around both the inner part of the pouch and the swaddle flaps (for lack of a better term), and if you’re not careful as you pivot around that corner, the fabric can easily get twisted up at the seam where the two connect. Rather than trying to sew the seam in one pass, I started at the top of the inner part of the pouch and sewed to the side seam, repeated for the other side, and then sewed from side seam to side seam (leaving an opening to turn the swaddler inside out) around the swaddler flaps. Does that make any sense?

Blood Orange Maddie Hoodie

The hooded cardigans are Carrie Bostick Hodge’s Maddie Hoodie pattern. I knit up the 12 mos size and followed the pattern almost to the letter, except that my row gauge was off just enough to require some minor adjustments to the sleeve increases and to the row counts for the hood. I used Berroco Weekend DK in Blood Orange, Seedling, and Swimming Hole for the main colors and Daisy for the stripes. I really liked this yarn and would definitely use it again for kid stuff.

Maddie Hoodie pocket

This pattern is very easy to follow, but there is a fair bit of finishing work for such a small cardigan—seaming the pockets, seaming the sleeves, extra ends to weave in from the stripes, and a bunch of buttons to sew on. If you aren’t knitting three of these cardigans in a row, I suspect the finishing is less of an ordeal. The little green sweater sat around for two months before I could stomach another round of buttons. Anyway, I like that it’s a basic style with some more distinct details. Like those little pockets! So useless, but so cute. They will be great for storing things like runaway Cheerios and partially smashed blueberries.

Maddie Hoodie in Berroco Weekend DK

My own style tends enough toward “somber” and “boring” that the best part of making things for small people is using color and bright prints. Now that we’re moving closer to our families, I’m going to make a habit of regularly measuring our smaller family members so I can make fun, bright things when the mood strikes. I’m sure it won’t be weird at all when I try to wrangle them with a measuring tape.

Lotta Snugglers and Maddie Hoodies