Wednesday, February 29, 2012

wednesday's ode

To beautiful surroundings.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

fairy rings again

What wedding gift do you give to someone who has everything? (Or two someones, that is.) Why symbolism, of course! And some original art. This was my second painting of a ring of giant redwoods (aka fairy ring).

An excerpt from my blog post about my first Fairy Ring painting:

Also referred to as a Family Circle, these tree formations occur when a redwood starts sprouting new trees, a method of asexual reproduction. When the central "parent" tree dies and eventually rots away, the only indication that it ever existed is a ring of giant redwoods, empty in the center.

I could easily get carried away in the symbolism of such a phenomenon - parents leaving behind a strong circle of children, interconnected by the source of their existence (perhaps in some families the only thing they have in common, but a strong binding nevertheless), providing support and shelter to each other.

When writing in the card to the bride and groom, we left out the part about asexual reproduction.

Monday, February 27, 2012

a year ago

Last year as February was rolling out and March barreling in, I was bracing for some serious cold. We had a mild winter last year, even by Colorado standards, and after seven years in northern Indiana (land of the 6-month-freeze) I was assuming the cold would hit in earnest any day. And that it would last through June to compensate for the late start. But the cold never came. March rolled in like a lamb, and left with a blissfully extended baaaaaa.

Last year as february rolled out I was still figuring out how to parent across a spectrum that included teens and an infant. While I'm still figuring that out (and anticipate working on it for, well, forever), we seem to have found at least some semblance of rhythm. And oh, looking at the photos from last year, those baby toes are irresistible.

This week that tiny baby is playing "face plant." I missed the first twenty-five drops, but still. The boy is an absolute clown. And yes, we do usually try to keep the marbles off the floor. Oh well.

Last year seems like a very long time ago, but the sunny warmth of the day today got me thinking backwards. Maybe we're in for another early, mild spring.

I wouldn't mind.

Friday, February 24, 2012

darned patches

I wouldn't generally classify myself as a follower of trends. I've chuckled lately at the contrived patches I've seen cropping up. These ones are painted on.
image source

And these ones are felted on. A pretty cool idea, actually - adding things to an old sweater via felting? I'm filing that idea away for future use.
image source
They are striking, yes, but also a bit amusing to someone who patches clothing out of necessity.

But when my daughter's favorite tights proved to be in need of major reconstructive surgery, it was too easy to choose a fun yarn and tweak the shape of the darned holes slightly.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

wednesday's ode

To beautiful surroundings, and thoughts of spring. And to hopes of a camera returning home. Eventually.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

patches of topography

I decided to try another approach to patching jeans. This time, inspired by this beautiful topographical art.

Friday, February 17, 2012


I arrived at Pier 1, a gift card in hand (thanks to my mother-in-law) and a 20% off coupon for recently moving into the area, yet not really in need of anything.

I came home with a giant spoon in the back of my car.
We've lived on a student budget for so long: every purchase so agonizing; each line of logic for why we should buy something so easily dismantled. The absurdity of walking into a store juggling my three young children and walking out juggling a giant spoon as well? Irresistible.

My baby pulled it off the wall twice before I wised up and moved his high chair. It's pretty much the most impractical thing ever, yet a secret part of me thrills whenever someone walks into our kitchen and is struck by the incongruity of it all.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


With the holidays long over and the rooms stripped of all their festivity, I've been thinking a lot about lights lately. The past few weeks have been the darkest of the winter -- long and cloudy and low. Or maybe they have just seemed darkest, without that extra umph of bright lights scattered over the walls and trees around the house.

I have been skimming through my archives and thinking about how small wads of lights completely transform pictures.

I have been thinking about light while my camera is in the shop and the babies crawl around on the wood floor in the early morning sunshine. The light hits the floor just so, and they chase the stripes and try to grab the shapes.

And since I can't chase them through a lens, I just watch. Or I climb down on the floor with them and put my hand in the light too.

There is something about stepping out from behind the lens, from behind the book and cthe omputer and the phone and the window pane. Life is so much different three steps removed. There is something about getting into the light and air and sounds and smells, about experiencing it all first hand.

I'll be grateful to have my camera back eventually (please, please, please) but in the meantime, there is something to be said for being without.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

wednesday's ode

To beautiful surroundings.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

valentine juvenility

My daughter and I butted heads over valentines this year. The absurdity of this admission is quite apparent now that she is in bed, safely tucked away from the stack of valentines that she will hand out to her fellow kindergarteners tomorrow. She is five years old. I am thirty-three.

Does anyone else out there struggle with giving their children free reign on projects that are, well, theirs? For some reason, if I am in any way involved in the project, I can't seem to relinquish control of it. Oh, the shame of the other five-year-olds receiving a generic valentine from my daughter. Unbearable enough to warrant my increasingly desperate attempts to align my daughter's valentine vision with my own.

Not desperate at all: presenting in a detached way the brilliant idea I've come up with.
A bit concerned: talking excitedly about my idea... really trying to sell it to her.
Bordering on desperate: pointing out why my idea would turn out better than what she has in mind.
Full-on desperate: "Fine! Nevermind! We'll just go buy boring valentines from the store!"

Oh boy. Did I mention that she is five years old and I am thirty-three?

She insisted on pretending to hold a sucker. I talked her into at least pretending to hold a Hershey's kiss.
Am I planning to grow up a little by next Valentine's Day? As I type this, I am thinking of how soon I can go ahead and finish up my original plan. If it's already done, there's no room for negotiation next year, right?

Did I mention that next year I'll be thirty-four?

Monday, February 13, 2012

a little space

Somehow on friday the entire day came down to the baby and me. That doesn't happen often, and oh my, it was heavenly. We read and played and ate treats for breakfast. Normally when that boy naps, there is another baby or a five year-old to chase around, but friday when he went down I crept into my room and closed. the. door.

Do you remember the sad state of my sewing desk last fall?

Well it's been getting sadder by the day (which would make 106 days of increasing sadness).

I started off stacking things by machine and hand sewing (seriously, where have all these buttons gone?), and then split the machine stack into colors, because who wants to change the thread out more than absolutely necessary?: blue (flower patches, mended jeans, closing up millions of holes in tights); white (ripped shirts, skirt hems, more tights -- see previous); orange/pink (tablecloths for a friend, backpack seam, still more tights. sigh); and a couple of tan suit pants.

My boys, it seems, are growing -- daily, hourly perhaps. They check their muscles in the mirror and test out new vocal ranges and have been running around in, well, floods. I stole their suit pants a couple of weeks ago, and finally found the time to open the waistbands an inch and drop the hems by two. Or three. Or five. My oldest boy, whose pants drooped over his shoes just last spring, needed them let down so far he only has a half inch hem left. Half an inch to barely scrape the top of his shoes. He's going to tower over me by summer, I'm afraid. Absolutely crazy to have one boy on my hip barely mouthing "mama" and another with a driver's permit (be still my panicked heart).

But they certainly looked spiff in their newly fitted suits.

And how.

Now my sewing desk looks like this,

Inspiring, isn't it? What a little clear space and a stack of good fabric and a well-oiled machine can do for me is always surprising. Maybe if I could pare the rest of the house down this well, toilet cleaning and dinnertime would seem a little more magical. Worth a try, anyway.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Olive You

My daughter's name lends itself quite nicely to valentines, as it turns out.
This pillow? Cute idea. And when your name is actually Olive? VoilĂ  - the best valentines ever. Plus, I get to watch her write the E at the end of her name over and over again. She's been known to put as many as 10 lines on it when inspiration strikes. Ah, the thrill of watching her thoughtfully add line after perpendicular line and then pronounce, "There." when it looks just right.
How many years running do you think I'll be able to keep her excited about this one?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

wednesday's ode

To beautiful surroundings.

Monday, February 6, 2012

ruffle sweater dress (a pattern... sort of)

I am not a very experienced knitter. Sure, I've undertaken some pretty advanced projects, but I had no idea what I was doing or why - I simply followed the pattern. (Granted it's quite possible I am alone in my knitting theory ignorance.) But the insight I've gained via many projects has been ever so helpful in modifying knitting patterns, or even creating my own pattern. In case there are others out there who look at a pattern like a recipe to be followed exactly, perhaps my explanations of what I did and why will be helpful.

I made up this pattern as I went along. There were a few things I would change about it were I to knit it over again. This pattern is for the dress as I knit it, but I've included some suggestions for potential ways to improve it, as well as resize it.

Size: 2 (my daughter just turned 3 and she can still wear this). Her chest measurement is 20 inches and this dress is about mid-thigh - I designed it to be worn over pants or a skirt. Knit yours longer if you'd like.
Yarn: An unraveled wool sweater from Goodwill. Sorry I can't provide a specific source for the yarn.
Gauge: 15 sts/4 inches
Needle Size: I think I used a size 8, but you should simply use the needles and yarn that will yield the correct gauge.

I knit this in the round. When I finally finish knitting something, it pains me to have to sew the pieces together before it is useable. However, you could definitely knit it in two pieces (front and back) and then join the pieces together. The cast on is brutal, as you'll be casting on four times as many stitches as you'll be knitting with after the first two rows, but it will quickly become a much more manageable number of stitches.

Cast on 496 stitches (You see? Brutal.)

First note: This dress ended up a bit wider than an A line, so the sides ended up hanging down further than the middle. If you like the way it looks, great! If not, you could reduce the number of stitches you cast on. If I were to try for a more traditional A line, I would probably cast on about 384. Your cast on number should be divisible by 8.

bottom ruffle - to create this we will rapidly decrease the number of stitches, like gathering a longer length of material onto a shorter amount.

Row 1: Knit (remember, I knit this in the round, so all the stitches were knits. If you knit a front and a back separately, you'll alternate with knits and purls in order to achieve a stockinette stitch.)
Row 2: k2tog (all stitches). Now you'll have 248 sts.
Row 3: k2tog (all stitches). Now you'll have 124 sts.

A-line body of the dress - to create the A-line, you will use the measurement of the bottom of the dress, the chase measurement, and the length of the dress to determine how often you will decrease.

After my first 3 rows, I had 124 sts. (or 62 sts for the front and 62 sts for the back). My daughter's chest measurement is 20 inches, so according to my gauge (15 sts/4 inches) I would want to end up with 76 sts (20 * 15/4 - I rounded up to a number divisible by 4) at the armpit (or 38 sts for the front and 38 sts for the back). I wanted the length of dress from the armpit to be 13". So, I needed to decrease one stitch on each side of the front and on each side of the back about every inch.

124 - 76 = 48 (number of sts to be decreased)
48 / 2 = 24 (number of sts to be decreased each on the front and the back)
24 / 2 = 12 (number of sts to be decreased on each side of the front and on each side of the back)
12 sts / 13" = about 1 stitch per inch

Row 4: k all stitches
continue knitting for 1 inch.
next row: ssk, k58, k2tog, ssk, k58, k2tog (120 sts)
continue knitting for 1 inch
next row: ssk, k56, k2tog, ssk, k56, k2tog (116 sts)
continue knitting in this pattern until you have 76 sts and about 13" of length.

armholes and keyhole opening at back
next row:  bind off 3, k32, bind off 6, k32, bind off 3
You will have to stop knitting in the round at this point. Place half of the sts on a holder. Continue knitting the other half - these will form the back of the dress.
next row: k all sts. Continue knitting all sts until it measures 3" from the bottom of the armhole.
next row: k14, bind off 4, k14
Place half of these sts on holder.
next row: k all sts. Continue knitting all sts until it measures 2 1/2" from bottom of the keyhole opening.
Repeat with the other 14 sts that you placed on the holder.

front upper bodice
k all sts until it measures 5 1/2 " from the bottom of the armhole.

shoulder seams
Using the kitchener stitch, join the last 7 sts of the back to the first 7 sts of the front bodice.
Do the same to join the first 7 sts of the back to the last 7 sts of the front bodice.

buttonhole and ruffle neck
Starting with the 7 sts on the back to the left of the keyhole opening, k2tog, YO, k5, pick up 1 or 2 sts at the left shoulder seam, k32, pick up 1 or 2 sts at the right shoulder seam, k7
next row: p1, M1p, p1, M1p ... continue for all sts
next row: k1, M1, k1, M1, ... continue for all sts
next row: bind off all sts

Attach a shank button opposite the buttonhole created by the yarn over.

The end.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

giveaway winner

Beyond Unraveling - a repurposed sweater

I can see that next time I will need to resort to randomly choosing a winner. Only three responses to the Wear it Out giveaway, but almost painful to have to choose between them. But choose I did. This will be my new clothing redemption project:

"I have some (ugly) brown velvet overalls that belonged to my aunt who died when I was only 15. I have kept them all these years, not ever really wanting to wear them but not wanting them to be thrown out either."

I'm eager to begin!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

wednesday's ode

To beautiful surroundings.