Tuesday, April 26, 2016

WIP: February (Little) Lady Sweater

WIP: February little lady sweater 
I’m generally not one to reknit patterns, reread books or rewatch movies. That said, once in awhile I come across one of the aforementioned that warrants repeating. And repeating. And repeating. I can’t get enough. It’s the reason I’ve watched National Lampoons Christmas Vacation 400 times, memorized most episodes of Sex and the City and Seinfeld and it’s the reason there is always at least one Elizabeth Zimmermann’s baby sweater on the needles. Mostly the Baby Surprise Jacket (the surprise gets me every time. Seriously, how does that strange stretch of fabric become a sweater?!), but also the February Baby (or Lady!) Sweater

There’s just something about that gull stitch pattern that makes this sweater fly off the needles. There’s enough to it to keep my interest, but it’s not so taxing I can’t multitask or memorize the pattern. And the garter stitch yoke / lace body combination makes the sweater appropriate for any season, isn’t too girly, and has that little extra something. Add to that the potential to make beautiful yarn sing even louder (it’s science) and you’ve got a pattern worth repeating (and repeating). 

I think this might be my third version? 

I started this sweater for G back in January 2015 with some yarn I picked up at a going out of business sale at a LYS. 

Some notes (and apparently a timeline of sorts): 

  • The sizing is mostly improvised and very much haphazard. I started with the Lady Sweater Pattern instead of the Baby Sweater and just sized down a bit more than the pattern specified, both in terms of stitch count and needle/yarn size. 
  • That I was running out of yarn dictated much of the execution. Picture me knitting a few round of each sleeve, eyeballing how much I’d want to save for the sleeves, rinse, repeat, etc. No food scales or calculators or math were used. Just a knitter jumping in with both feet and a deep sense of hope.  
  • For a few seconds, I either thought I had enough yarn or was in denial that I would surely run out. Regardless, I forged ahead hoping that teeny ball of yarn would last forever. (It didn’t.) 
  • Somewhere in between denial and hope, I cast off the sleeves telling myself three-quarter sleeves were “good enough.” I also started the ribbing along the bottom of the sweater body and was several rounds through before I did finally run out of yarn.
  • I sucked it up and looked around for more yarn. I had lost the ball bands, so it was one part determining which yarn to buy, one part finding the yarn to buy.
  • I found the yarn, but shipping cost more than the yarn itself so I let the WIP languish for awhile hoping my problem would go away (I do this a lot. In general. Not just with yarn. PS. It doesn’t work). 
  • I eventually sucked it up and purchased the yarn and let it sit for a few months. - Motivating myself to unknit the several rows of garter stitch on the sweater body was too much and the ball of yarn languished until last night. 
  • Meanwhile, Greta keeps growing yet the sweater remains the original size I started over a year ago.  

Now that I picked this back up, I’m kicking myself for taking so long to do so. Why does that happen every time? Will I ever learn? 

Still unknown is a) whether or not this will actually fit Greta when it’s finished (good thing I have three nieces who will give it the wear it deserves!) and b) if I’ll find the motivation to unpick the bound off sleeves and make them a proper length, or c) if I’ll find the buttons I bought way back when I started this sweater. 

With that, I’ll leave you in suspense. Stay tuned! 

PS – Two blog posts in as many days? Who am I? 2006 Kelly?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Whole 30 Recap. What I learned.

(disclaimer: this will most likely 99% for sure be the last post about whole30)

So, I’m beyond day 30 of my whole30, but I hesitate to say my Whole30 is complete. I’m not 100% compliant these days, though I find I’m generally keeping up with the good habits I picked up (dare I say, earned?) during a month of clean eating. A quick run down of what I learned about myself and about the diet.


1. Does that girl have a home? 
I eat both breakfast and lunch at my desk five days a week. I don’t know why this was a shock to me as I’m me and I know what events take place during my day. It doesn’t take a whole lot of self-awareness to pick up on where I eat meals. Yet, it took me taking pics of all my meals to realize that they’re always against a backdrop of my fake wood desk. Sad.

eggs in a thermos. breakfast of champions. 

surprise! eating at my desk again. 

2. Become one with your body. 
You’ll get so in tune with your body, you’ll know how to fuel it. By week two or three, my body would tell me if I was missing a food group. Healthy fats kept me full. Carbs gave me energy. And protein kept me feeling even. Carbs (my faves were sweet potatoes and plantain chips) were especially and surprisingly critical. Especially on hard workout days. I would just work to hit all three groups in every meal. It became a mental checklist for me.

3. Meal prep makes you love your past self (when you actually do it). 
When I would put the time in on the weekends to grocery shop, roast veggies, make a big meal with leftovers, and do general prep, the Kelly of Tuesday or Wednesday would be loving weekend Kelly. Thanks for everything, weekend Kelly!

4. Scale Schmail. 
Every whole30 guide warns you that it’s not a diet, but a way to cleanse your body of all those bad toxins you’ve come to rely on. Still, it’s hard not to get sucked in to the idea of weight loss when the internet is flooded with before and after pictures and your friends who completed the program lost chins (if that's not a weight loss measure, it should be). I did end up losing about 10 pounds and about two inches on each of the important body parts, but I certainly wasn’t out wardrobe shopping or trying on my old pants only to let go and proudly watch them fall down a now thinner physique.

5. There is a world without cheese.

And I’m okay living in it. In my world, cheese has always taken center stage with veggies and meats being lowly sidekicks and bread being the vehicle for which to eat said cheese. Salad was a bed of lettuce for which my cheese could sit. As such, I expected some painful feelings and potential outbursts cutting it out completely. Surprisingly, I barely missed it. Admittedly, omitting cheese from a taco salad or omelets made me sad, but I didn’t crave cheese and crackers or cheese and cheese or any of my other cheese-heavy snack choices.


6. Coffee with milk > coffee without milk.

Or is it? Black coffee hurts going down when coffee with milk is a key component of your diet. It’s missing that velvety creaminess of delicious coffee with milk. I used coconut cream at first, but it had some strange flavor (not coconut) that started to haunt me and it would unmix and turn chunky if the coffee sat long enough, which was gross. And it was basically solid when you put it in your coffee. So, after less than a week I forced myself to just drink it black. Oddly enough, I got used to it. Well, it’s still kind of annoying having to wait for it to cool down but in the whole scheme of things that’s a pretty minor inconvenience. I expected to start dumping milk back in my coffee post-Whole 30, but surprisingly it wasn’t high on the list of foods to reintroduce. I eventually tried adding it back in and it’s way more delicious that black coffee, but I found it left me feeling like I had a weird film in my mouth and the creaminess was almost stifling by the end of a cup. I’m not sure what’s happened to me.

i've perfected cooking salmon.
i have not yet perfected cooking salmon without setting off the smoke alarm. 

7. I love my kitchen. I love my kitchen… 

Just keep repeating that mantra to yourself and eventually you’ll believe it. Expect to spend A LOT of time in the kitchen. Finding compliant meals in the wild is not easy and not really worth it. We did hit up Chipotle once and a local burger place for salads, but we’re pretty averse to giving a litany of instructions to our restaurant server, so we’re more comfortable eating at home. I’m used ot getting home from work, staring in the fridge and finding something that I can whip together for dinner. That doesn’t work so easily on whole30, especially at the beginning when the rules are all new. I found myself feeling good and having energy that I didn’t mind so much. Even post-program, I still find myself spending a good chunk of time on Sunday cooking and finding it relaxing! And now that our kitchen is mid-renovation and unusable I miss cooking more than ever. I suppose absence truly does make the heart grow fonder.

cooking. dishes. repeat. 

8. Ups and ups. 
I expected to feel like garbage until at least midway through the program (and I did for the first few days), but by day 5 or so I was starting to get more even energy, lost that mid-afternoon slump, and was generally a more agreeable person. Ask my kids! The newfound energy also gave me the extra boost I needed to get out of bed early enough to start hitting up the gym before work. 

9. The egg really is incredible. 
There really are a million ways to cook them. I started buying those restaurant flats of them by the end of the program. I used to bring scrambled eggs and omelets and over easy concoctions of them in a thermos to work. I thought I would get sick of them. Somehow I didn’t. In fact, with our kitchen out of commission I actually miss them. 

I love you, eggs.

10. A little help from my friends. 
The stars aligned and somehow I embarked on my Whole30 journey alongside a bunch of peeps – Krug, my sister, and a bunch of my sister’s friends. We had a Facebook group page to share motivation, recipes, food pics, and just have a hand to hold so you didn’t feel alone. Also, my sister and mom are awesome cooks so it was nice anytime we visited them, not only were there compliant options, but there were well-planned and delicious compliant options.

Bottom line, Whole30 delivered on its promise. I freed my body of toxins, I feel better, and have a healthier relationship with food. I’m sure there are more Whole30s in our future, but not until after mojito season.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

WIP: Playful Stripes Cardigan for Penelope

Remember WIP shares? Maybe they’re still happening somewhere, but for years my blog feed has been taken over by FOs – beautiful, carefully photographed ones—but still, no works in progress.

In any case, let’s pretend it’s 2006 again! So, grab your flip phone and let's go...

There’s no dirty mirror selfie with the ubiquitous giant flash, but it’s a crappy WIP shot nonetheless

For my niece’s 2nd birthday, my sister requested a knit sweater to replace the couple of baby sweaters she’s outgrown. I warned her I was a little backlogged, which she totally understood. Not sure she realized it would be ohh… six plus months before a sweater would appear, but better late than never, right?  Did I mention this was back in July?

In our house, there’s a lot of love for the somehow unblogged Ella Funt I made for Greta back when I was pregnant and was in constant wardrobe rotation until she was at least three.  Maybe four. I wasn’t messing around when I said there was a lot of love!  To try and recapture some of that magic, I selected a cardigan pattern with a nice, colorful yoke and a smallish gauge.

Ella Funt in Action

I found Playful Stripes in my usual fashion – the Ravelry pattern browser. I add a couple filters for age, sweater type, gauge (I knew I wanted either sport or dk), and added colorwork OR stranded and then sort by most popular because I have a high level of trust in my fellow raveler.  This is probably basic, but I’m always interested in other knitters’ processes, so now you have mine.

I ordered some Cascade 220 Superwash Sport because a) it was the right gauge, b) it’s superwash, c) I liked their color palette, d) it’s affordable, and e) Cascade is always a sure bet for me.  Separately – I had ordered right before our 10th anniversary trip to Costa Rica so I’d have some moderately-sized travel knitting and it arrived just in the knick of time. STRESS.

I’ve been making a few mods along the way – mostly instead of doing a picot edge I’m opting for a traditional 2x2 rib and I was one color short for the yolk, so I improvised the color scheme a bit.

I’m in the home stretch now with just one button band and blocking to complete. Gotta make sure Penelope gets in some wear before winter is over, right?

Separately on a happy note – I haven’t been knitting nearly as much as I used to and the girls’ interest is definitely piqued. Both are asking when they can expect their sweaters. Win!

Friday, February 05, 2016

Whole 30

So, I know this is a blog about crafting and knitting and such, but since I never really ever post anymore I’m not really sure anyone will notice if I shift gears for a moment to talk dietary things. 

On Monday, Krug and I will be embarking into the new territory known as Whole30.  I know we’re all behind the times on this whole paleo thing, but our friends are coming off an epic experience with it, Krug’s not been feeling great, and I’m up for a challenge so we thought swearing off all our favorite foods (and booze!  You can’t see, but tears are rolling down my cheeks) would be a character building experience.  And would make us feel super human and unstoppable.  And maybe I’ll lose like twenty pounds even.  And look younger.

So, you can tell my expectations are at an appropriate level.

Now that we’ve covered all the positives, let’s talk about my fears.

Coffee with milk.
So, you should know about me that motivation for coffee is the primary driver that gets me out of bed in the am.  Krug even makes it and brings it upstairs for me.  That said, black coffee makes is not even a distant cousin of coffee with milk and fills me with dismay even thinking about it (I’m making a face as a type just thinking about it). I hear I can try coconut milk. I like coconuts and I like milk , so I’m hopeful this will be delicious.  Still, I’m scared.

No booze for thirty days? There are no words.

I like cheese and feel it completes many a taco or pasta meal, but I feel like I can manage this one.

Breads and Pasta.
Pasta I’m not so worried about, but losing bread in my diet is sort of like losing an arm.  I can’t imagine not having it. I won’t feel like myself without it. I’ll miss it a whole lot.

I’m sure as I dive in, I’ll find other things I’ll have to cut out and that will make me sad.  But, I’m committed I’m fired up for this challenge. I even cleaned my fridge (not sure how that’s related but it’s related to food and was cleansing). But, first, I plan to do the opposite of what Whole30 suggests and spend the weekend eating bread, eating super bowl snacks, and drinking bourbon cocktails. And maybe I'll even come back and post updates.  Or share something craft-related! :) 

(clean fridge!)

PS – Dammit! I forgot about sugar! Add that to the fears.

Friday, March 28, 2014

I made a shower curtain.

shower curtain2

Do you ever find that when you look in your closet, it’s just rows of the same stuff?  In my closet, I probably have twenty dresses, fifteen skirts, but only four pairs of pants. Only two of which actually get worn, but that’s beside the point.  Despite this obvious pants deficit, every time I go shopping I find myself with an armful of dresses when I head to the dressing room.  

The same phenomenon applies to my crafting.  I have a pile of scarves, yet my hands are perpetually freezing because I only have one pair of gloves.  Still, I keep knitting scarves. 

I have yet to determine if it’s certain types of patterns I’m drawn to or if it’s the end product itself.

Fabric: Lotta Jandsotter, Bella Poppy 

I suspect the real common denominator is the flash-factor.  Even if patterned or neon, pants just seem infinitely more utilitarian than a flouncy dress.  Am I right or am I right?

Despite my love of the fun and fancy, sometimes I try to be a responsible grown up and sew more practical things.  And a few weeks back, I sewed the most utilitarian thing of all: a shower curtain.

Now that you know about my little (lack of) pants secret, you shouldn’t be surprised that my shower curtain has been in use for over a decade now.  Twelve years to be exact.  We bought the $26 beauty (a splurge we hemmed and hawed about, but eventually pulled the trigger on because it had EMBROIDERED DRAGONFLIES, which to 2002 Kelly was a little slice of heaven that needed to be plucked from the Fenway Bed Bath and Beyond).  Fast forward to current times and that same shower curtain has been through three apartments, two states, and one house.  But shower curtains aren’t handbags or box bags or quilts or dresses or one of the things I like to sew, so it continued its slow death into a graying water-stained oblivion (gross).

So, I made a shower curtain.  And it took me no time at all and now I’m wondering why it’s taken so long.  Literally, it took me longer to think about making it than to actually sit down and sew four edges.  I’ve since sewed pillow cases for our bed and am starting to eye all sorts of seemingly mundane things in our house desperately in need of a sew-y makeover.  I’m thinking reusable paper towels are next.

It’s not complicated, but I’ll share my instructions for anyone interested…

I ordered a couple yards (Note: we have a standing stall shower, for a full sized, you’ll need double the fabric and will need to seam together first) of a pretty awesome fabric that would add a nice pop of color to our black and white tiled bathroom with pale blue walls.  I’m drawn to the complementary colors, you see.

Step 1:
Fold and press one long side down one half inch, then another half inch.  Seam.  Repeat on the other long side.

Step 2:
Fold and press one short side down one half inch, then another four or five inches.  Seam.  Seam a second line right next to the first for added fancy.

Step 3:
Hold against old shower curtain to determine length.  Add an additional three inches and cut.

Step 4:
Fold and press last raw edge down one half inch, then another inch.  Seam.

Step 5:
Along your top seam (the short side with a 4/5 inch hem), mark twelve 1” vertical notches evenly spaced across the top.  Sew button holes over the lines.  Use a seam ripper to carefully cut through button holes. (These will be the holes so you can hang your shower curtain.)

shower curtain button holes

Step 6:
Hang on button holes.  Enjoy!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Quilt for a Big Girl

According to Flickr, I bought fabric for this quilt back in July 2010.  The intention was always for a quilt for Alice’s big girl bed…. Which she moved into in (again, according to Flickr) in October 2010.  

Let me break this down.  

I thought I could sew a queen sized quilt in 3 months.  During my final weeks of pregnancy through G’s first month.  

Reality: >3 years.  I really might be delusional.  This delusion coming from the same place that told me I could knit the sweater from this post in AN AFTERNOON.  I guess there are worse things than raising the bar too high for yourself, but still!

With this project complete and now warming my favorite 5-year-old’s bed and not shoved half-finished and in pieces in a closet, I’ve realized some things.  One such discovery is that even though overwhelming to have a large-scale (for me) project in progress, I feel a little lost without a giant anchor project to give me something to go back to between smaller projects.  And there’s something to be said to that final moment when you do, in fact, complete significant after many years.  

As if I didn’t just bore you with all that background, let’s go back to July 2010...  

I bought a full fat quarter pack of Heather Ross’s new Far Far Away II collection.  I mixed and matched the fabrics.  I looked at them.  I drooled on them.  I picked favorites.  I thought about colors I wanted to focus on from the broad palette.  I was on a minimalism kick and forcing myself away from my usual standard of ALL THE COLORS AND ALL THE PATTERNS ordered some Kona Cottons I thought would complement the palette with a base of Kona Snow.  I was appalled at just how far off my monitor reflected the konas when they arrived in my mailbox way more cantaloupe than gold, way more sky blue than lake blue and cursed myself for being lazy.  I got lazy and decided I could make them work. 

I thought about quilt patterns. What would best showcase the Far Far Away II prints?  What would not make me want to pull my face off by my 50th block?  Eventually I landed on a Wonky Star pattern (I used this tutorial).  Organic enough where I didn’t have to be exact with every single cut and line sewn, but structured enough with the blocks and snow background for me to incorporate a billion colors as I’m prone to do.  All orbiting around the magic that is the print itself. 

I cut a bazillion triangles.  Then a bazillion more.  The colors that I thought I could make work bored me (I need color!), so I added more colors.  I cut some squares. 

Finally! Everything was ready to start sewing.  I sewed a couple blocks.

After a couple weeks, I had a small little stack of blocks. 

Over months, my little stack would grow, but was so so far (SO FAR!) away from what I needed – 49 blocks. 

James give it his seal of approval (aka cat fur everywhere)

Eventually, I could see the light.  

Then, I ran out of Kona Snow. 

Of course but the time my replenished supply of Kona Snow arrived, my quilting mojo was long gone.

After the mojo would appear and disapper for awhile, I finally got close. Only one more block to go!  And, then….

Wait for it…


I ran out of Kona Snow! AGAIN.  WITH ONE BLOCK TO GO!

How does one miscalculate fabric yardages so poorly they need to reorder not just once, but TWICE?  And with only ONE block to go?  Consider this a glimpse into my world.  

So, I ordered a lifetime supply and quickly finished the block when it arrived. 

All blocks finished, I laid them on the floor in all sorts of variations to find the best.  Then, as anyone who’s in the home stretch would do, I stacked them up neatly and put them in a drawer for EIGHT MONTHS. 

Fast forward to this past Fall.  With Al’s birthday and Christmas approaching I pulled them out of the drawer and stitched them into an actual quilt top. A real live top! The end was near.  Of course, as expected, it took me forever to get around to buying a backing, but a week before Christmas this puppy was finally done!  DONE!

I washed and wrapped it and put that sucker under the tree.  And Al LOVES it.  At first she told me the sleeping beauty blocks "scared her," but I luckily forced convinced her to keep it on her bed and now she loves it! 

 Kona Snow, Kona Woodrose, Kona Wildflower, Kona Coal, Kona Parsley, kona lake…some other Konas that probably don’t even exist anymore I ordered them so long ago 
Loads of other stash fabrics
 Some cloud 9 fabric (backing)
Some Denise Schmidt fabric (binding)

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Colorblocking and, er, Fiberblocking?

(I'm just going to ignore the fact that this is my first post in nearly a year an a half...)

With just under a month past its Christmas due date, I cast off on my niece’s Christmas sweater.  After tearing up the internets for the perfect pattern, my sister send me some links to sweaters she liked, including this one.  Something about the simplicity called out to me and so I checked out my yarn stash to see what would work.  I gravitated to the little hearts, but when I remembered I had this shocking pink just itching to be used, visions of colorblocking danced in my head (sorry, it is a Christmas sweater, though, people! And I am a big, giant dork.) 

Anyway, as is the standard, I went back and forth between shocking pink and winter white and shocking pink and oatmeal...winter white… shocking pink.  I eventually decided on the pink/oatmeal combo, only to soon doubt whether or not I could pull off using two fiber types.  Surely it’s been done.  Not by me, but by more adventurous knitters. Also, the wool was of a slightly thinner gauge.  Details…

I jumped in with both feet and started knitting the 6-month size, but after knitting up several inches of stockinette I quickly realized my niece, Penelope, would be swimming in it.  So, I frogged and tried again with the 0-3 month size.  Penelope has my favorite baby physique and so although she is 7 months, I was trying for a 12 month size sweater.  (Note: this was on the way to Christmas in NJ, somehow I still thought I would finish this in time.  I really will never learn.)

The directions were clear and the sweater knit up quickly.  I changed colors after joining the arms.  To fasten the neck, I added some metal snaps.

wee metal snaps

Despite the slightly larger gauge of the cotton yarn, it was during blocking that the fiber/gauge difference was most notable.  The wool section dried in a matter of hours, but the cotton yoke took nearly two days to fully dry out and soften up. All finished, I think the use of two fibers works fine and will make for somewhat of an internal air conditioning system.  Just like with zebras. I’ll report back when I see how Penel likes it!

every little sweater needs a pop of neon, amiright?

Pattern: Buddy Sweater
Yarn: Cascade 220 in Doeskin
           Blue Sky Dyed Cotton in Lotus & a Neon Yellow/Green 
Needles: Size 8 Addis
Size: My gauge was super off, so I knit the 0-3 month size, but with 12-month length to fit a 20-lb. six month old baby.