Alice’s Chunky Lace

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Last week we visited with family in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, where August evenings were chilly enough for Alice to sport her new sweater. I finished this sweater right before we left for our trip, but I had been working on it in fits and spurts for a couple of months. I knew it was going to be huge, so I felt no rush to finish it. Alice currently wears it with sleeves rolled, so I think it will last her at least a year.

The pattern, Olive’s Chunky Lace , was one I have been waiting to knit since Alice was a newborn, as the smallest size is 2 years. I’m not generally one for bulky yarns and chunky knits, but loved this pattern instantly…which is why I copied it right down to the light pink color. I chose to knit it up in Drops Eskimo, a single ply roving-type wool yarn, and I used the Light Powder Pink. The yarn broke on me a few times, but I ended up being quite happy with it, particularly at only $2.60 per ball!

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I thought the pattern was generally well-written and easy enough to follow. Alice is small for her age so while it’s clearly large on her, I think the sizing was pretty good. If I were to knit this again I think I’d knit the sleeves down from the top instead of knitting them separately and setting them in. For whatever reason I had trouble making them fit in neatly.

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I’m very happy with the finished product- it seems to me to be a comfortable yet pretty play sweater, which is exactly what I was going for. I saw that the designer recently wrote the pattern in adult sizes in lighter weight yarn…perhaps I’ll have to add it to my ever-growing list of sweaters to knit.

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Garden Notes- July

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I’m a bit disappointed with my flowers this year, which I am blaming on our ridiculously long, cold, and rainy spring and early summer. Everything is pretty far behind, so I’m still hopeful that in a few more weeks I’ll have some more color. My dahlias have yet to bloom but the plants look gorgeous, so maybe August and September will be beautiful…dahlias are my absolute favorite.

#1. I had a terrible germination rate on my cosmos (I’m talking like three plants out of 30 seeded), which did so well last year. Perhaps the seed all washed away? I bought a “pop socks” variety, and based on the few itsy blooms I’ve had so far, it looks like they aren’t going to live up to the description of a scabiosa-flowered blossom. Speaking of which….

#2. I bought “Zinderella Lilac” zinnia seed, which is also supposed to be a scabiosa-type flower. Well, so far they are miniature single-blossom zinnias in a super pale pink. Sigh. But! My Benary giants haven’t started blooming- they might be gorgeous!- and my little Liliput zinnias are bright and cheerful.

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#3. My gladiolas are just now blooming, but they were a very happy and surprising success story. Here in upstate NY we are supposed to lift gladiolas in the fall, which I dutifully did….for the most part. Well! It turns out that those I left behind survived the winter, multiplied, and came roaring back. I particularly love this ruffly pale yellow/green with pink variety. I barely remember it from last year, I think I maybe got one spear, but it’s going great guns this summer. Maybe the location along the house foundation kept them toasty enough all winter? Either way, I’m going to leave them be this fall. Or perhaps I should divide them? I guess a bit of research is in order.

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Here’s hoping that I’ll be back later this summer with gorgeous dahlias!

 

 

A Wee Summer Sweater & A Summer Adventure

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Hello! After a little blogging hiatus I’m back with yet another version of my favorite small cardigan, the Wee Liesl. I find this pattern unparalleled for its adorableness and ease of knitting, although I’ve decided that next summer I should probably branch out and make Alice a different short-sleeved sweater.

This is the first thing I’ve knitted for Alice where she’s been aware of the fact that I’m making something for her. When I was working on it around her there was lots of chatter on her part about “yarn ball” and “knitting” and “Mama sweater Alice.” She wanted to try it on as soon as the buttons were on, which was very sweet.  I really enjoy that, especially as I know the time may come when she won’t want to wear sweaters I make her (although I still wear sweaters my mother makes me with great pleasure, so maybe not!)

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I used my very favorite fingering weight yarn, Finch by Quince and Co. in the colorway Chanterelle. Now, I understand most people think it’s just beige, but I love the slight purple/pink cast and find it quite enchanting. At any rate, it goes with everything and is less prone to showing stains than lighter shades.

This time around I had three pearl buttons from Philip’s great-aunt’s button box I specifically wanted to use, so I cut down on the number of buttonholes. I rarely button Alice’s sweaters all the way so am happy with my decision. I also made it shorter than the 18-24 month size called for, mostly because I wanted to hurry up and be done and also because I thought it seemed fine at this length.

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I finished up this sweater right before we went on a trip to the big city last week, and I’m happy to say that while Alice’s stroller costs an average of $700 less than the strollers of those Brooklyn tots, her handmade getup was unrivaled (in my humble opinion…)

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We had a great time in the city. Alice loved riding all the “choo-choo trains,” enjoyed our “new house” (an airbnb in Brooklyn), and appreciated all the parks and playgrounds and friendly city dogs. On our way back we stayed with friends of ours in Connecticut, and she is still talking about “friend Miranda and Mister Cam.” I do like to travel, but I particularly like coming home. Despite living just hours away for the past two years, I had never been to NYC, and while I did like it, I’m so glad I don’t  have to live there! Living in a small town suits us well.

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I hope to be back soon with some further updates…but no promises! Summer has us pretty busy with weeding and kiddie pools and sandboxes and bike rides and guests and general summertime fun.

p.s. Should you be curious to see previous versions of this sweater, or if you’d like to see heartbreaking pictures of Alice being a baby, see here and here.

Easter 2017 & an Easter Dress

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We were lucky to have an absolutely gorgeous Easter weekend. We invited over several families on Saturday morning for an Easter brunch and it was so warm we were able to eat on the deck. Brunch is really the perfect meal to invite people with kids over for, too. I’ll have to remember that. I filled the house with flowers and we had baked oatmeal, little cakes in the shape of chicks, deviled eggs, and all kinds of lovely offerings from our friends. I filled plastic eggs with yogurt covered raisins and hid them (in plain sight) around the house for all the kiddos, and Alice was waaaay more into it than any of the other toddlers. Once she realized there were treats inside the eggs she began systematically searching out the eggs, emptying them of the raisins, and collecting the raisins in a plastic cup.

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On Sunday, after leftovers for breakfast (Alice decided she’s wild about deviled eggs) and the ceremonial opening of the Easter Basket, we dressed in our Easter finest, went off to church, and then spent the afternoon outside enjoying the weather. Alice is endlessly enthusiastic about the park these days, so even though we take her almost every day she still treated it like a special occasion. I can hardly believe what a big girl Alice is this Easter when compared to last years’ pictures.

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I made Alice’s Easter dress several weeks ago from the loveliest little pattern: Apple-Picking Dress by Oliver+S. I chose to make the 3/4 length sleeve version and made the double-flounced skirt. The fabric is a piece of Liberty of London that I bought on sale before Alice was born.

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The pattern went together beautifully and hopefully it will last her a while, since I made the 18-24 month size. My pictures of it aren’t fantastic- it’s much harder to photograph a toddler than a baby!- but you’ll have to take my word for it that’s it’s really adorable on her and fits well.

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I hope everyone else had a good holiday weekend. We’re having a busy and fun Spring here at Bellrose Cottage…more updates hopefully coming soon.

Spring Break 2017!

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Well, I do know one thing…this “spring” break is going to really make us appreciate spring when it finally arrives around these parts. Philip had last week off from school, most of which we spent thoroughly snowed in with two feet of snow. Our initial plans (zoo! the dog park! etc!) were put on hold and we instead enjoyed a week of cozy inside things, like baking and reading and knitting and board games. All in all, it was a good time…but I’m not going to lie, I’m really itching for some warm weather.

Alice has developed a very strong (and reasonable) association between being outside in snow and coming inside and having “co-co.” She’ll even look at a picture of a sled in a book, point, and request some cocoa. We had lots of cocoa last week. Alice is also increasingly into specific songs and books, so we listened to “Puff!” (the Magic Dragon) and “Baa-Baa” (as in Black Sheep) on repeat. She’s still very into books with baby faces and loves the little baby magazine, Babybug (“Bay-Buh”). We’ve started giving her a book to take to bed with her, and as we leave the room she starts reading it to Mr.Bear and Baby. She seems to refer to the past by  referring to a person or object we saw and then saying “bye-bye,” which I think is pretty clever. Somewhere along the line I was warned that 18 months was a really tricky time, but I think that observing her begin to really acquire language skills more than makes up for some crankiness. Besides, she’s always been a cranky little miss!

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Fingers crossed that March is going to go out like a lamb!

Such A Winter’s Day Pullover

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I finally managed to make myself a sweater that isn’t way too big! I couldn’t be happier with the way this pullover turned out- I love both the pattern and the yarn.

I purchased the pattern, Such A Winter’s Day designed by Heidi Kirrmaier, several years ago. Probably because it was my first attempt at top-down construction I couldn’t visualize what was going on, found the pattern confusing, and used the yarn for something else instead. I’m pleased to report that this time around I didn’t have any trouble at all with the pattern. It is written in a different way, with instructions for the various sizes in table form instead of within parentheses, but it didn’t really bother me. My one gripe is that I came up short a ball of yarn and had to reorder, but I wasn’t using the exact yarn called for so that’s nobody’s fault but mine.

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Determined not to make another giant sweater, I chose a size with minimal ease at the bust and actually worked my gauge in the round and blocked my gauge. It was definitely worth the extra effort. I opted not to include the waist shaping but made no other changes to the pattern. If I were to make it again I would use an i-cord cast off, but I like it fine as is.

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The yarn I used was Drops Lima, which is a wool/alpaca blend that is startlingly inexpensive. It was my first time using it and it’s definitely going to be one of my standbys. It’s very soft but sturdy and just fuzzy enough. I chose powder pink because I wanted both a neutral and a color. I liked it so much that now I’m making a sweater for Alice out of the same color.

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Delighted as I am with the end result, I’m also happy to be able to cast on to a more interesting knit next. Got to keep my brain sharp!

 

 

Alice’s First Geranium Dress

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For the first year and a half of Alice’s life I haven’t had any trouble finding sweet clothes to buy for her, but most toddler styles are far less appealing to me. I tend to like muted colors and I don’t generally like characters or glitter or tulle, which seem to be the prevailing characteristics of affordable toddler girl clothes.  Also, since Alice is no longer outgrowing things almost immediately, I feel more inspired to invest time in sewing more of her wardrobe. I’ve decided to try to sew the majority of her summer wardrobe this year, so this week I went about getting a head start on that goal.

I decided to try everyone’s favorite pattern, the Geranium dress. I’ve seen so many versions of this dress online and I’ve liked every single one, so while I held out a while thinking it looked so simple, I went ahead and bought it. I’m glad I did! I made the 18-24 month size which is generous for Alice, as I’m hoping to get lots of use out of it this summer and, if I’m lucky, as a tunic next summer.

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I used Kaufman Double Gauze in “chambray dobby indigo” (found here) which turned out to be just wonderful stuff. It’s so soft and fluffy, and I love the rumpled look it has, especially since our Alice often has a rather rumpled look herself. I had never worked with double gauze before, but I found that it shifts about like linen and that unpicking seams is tricky (and I always end up needing to unpick a seam or two!). Because of this there are a few imperfect aspects to this dress, but I’m very happy with it anyway.

I chose the round neckline and flutter sleeves. At first I was skeptical of instructions to simply zig-zag over the sleeve edge…usually I don’t like raw looking edges. In the end, though, I really think it looks fun, given the casual look and feel of this fabric. I also love how the reverse pattern shows on the underside of the sleeves.

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I found the Geranium pattern to be as great as the sewing blogosphere says it is. It’s the perfect little girl dress, and I already have another version of it waiting to be cut out this weekend. I like that the top is fully lined, particularly with fabric as prone to raveling as double gauze. I actually went ahead and did the skirt seams with french seams as well since the fabric was raveling as I was sewing with it and I didn’t trust my pinking shears to be sufficient. I used my favorite buttons from JoAnn’s, and then went and did the buttonholes on the wrong side…oh well.

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On the whole, I love this dress, and Alice was happy to wear it, which bodes well. Mostly she was excited to be able to play with my doll, whom she adores. She’s pretty into trains and trucks these days too, but I can’t help but be glad that she seems to have inherited my love for dolls.

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Happy Weekend, everybody! This is the start of Philip’s spring break, so I have several more little things to make for Alice in the coming days. Oh boy!!

 

Plantain T-Shirt & February Update

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It has been so long since I’ve updated this space that I was a little worried that I might have forgotten my password. What a month it’s been! Between three sets of house guests,  buying a new car, getting sick, and all our usual playing and working and enjoying both snowstorms and unseasonably warm weather February absolutely flew by. I only have one completed project to show for myself: the Plantain T-Shirt, a free pattern from Deer & Doe, a French pattern company. I haven’t bought any of their patterns, but this came together so nicely that I may in the future…perhaps this sweet dress?

I don’t love PDF patterns- all the printing and taping- but since so many great independent designers only offer PDFs I need to get over that. Anyway, I have a sweet helper, and I get to tape the pieces together with pretty washi tape.

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This is only the second knit sewing project I’ve attempted, and I noticed with Alice’s little bird dress that it shrunk dramatically, so I prewashed my cotton/poly double knit twice. I also cut a size larger in case of shrinking since I generally like more ease in my shirts. Next time I may go down a size since the pattern flares at the bottom and is quite roomy anyway. I won’t bore you with too many pictures- suffice to say that it looks like a t-shirt! With 3/4 length sleeves and a prettier neckline. I originally planned on the elbow patches but I sewed them on the wrong side twice and decided it was a sign. It came together in an evening and I’m pleased with the result. In the past I’ve poo-pooed the idea of sewing staples like t-shirts, but it was really very satisfying to make something I’ll wear every week.

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And now! What everyone really came for…baby pictures! This was such a big month in terms of language acquisition for Alice. She’s got around 40 words (yes, I counted…she’s my only kid, I have time for these things) including “cocoa,” “cheese,” “cracker,” “fruit,” “snack,” and “MORE!” No doubts about who she’s related to! She loved visiting with friends and all her grandparents this month, and she’s also started wanting to “help” me with all my chores.

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Before I sign off I’ll leave you with a little glimpse of my current sewing project and the most gorgeous fabric I’ve worked with yet…

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Happy Shrove Tuesday! We’ll be enjoying our pancakes tonight- hope you do too.

 

Little Bird Playdress

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The other day was rainy and bleak and I needed a fun project, so Alice and I hopped into the car to buy ourselves some fabric.  I bought 3/4 yd of 100% cotton jersey and decided to learn how to sew on knits. One of the reasons I bought my Bernina several years ago was to have a machine that would work with knits (previously I had a straight stitch Singer from the 1920s) but I’ve just never gotten around to it. I’m pleased to say that while I really didn’t know what I was doing, I managed a very sweet little dress for Alice.

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I made up the pattern- just a simple raglan sleeve and gathered skirt. I cut it a little big, both because I didn’t know how to calculate the way that the stretch would affect sizing, and because I wanted it to last through the Spring. I used my rotary cutter to cut it out because I wasn’t sure if my shears would be as accurate on jersey.

I used a ball point needle and used a zig-zag stitch for construction, but I’m not sure the zig-zag was necessary. Any wisdom on that, anyone? I also bought and used a double needle for the first time ever and I’m in love with the way it works. So clever! Such beautiful parallel lines!

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The neckline was the only part of the project that gave me some trouble. At first I thought I’d bind it the way I would a woven neckline, but I ended up with a stand-up, gaping collar. I cut it off, cut the neckline down a bit, and did a t-shirt style neckband using this tutorial. It worked like a charm and I love the casual, comfy look. I made the neckband 10% smaller than the neckline, but next time I might even decrease it a smidge more. Another change I might make in the future is to use that clear elastic stuff to gather the waist. I should really read up a bit more on sewing knits- no doubt there are lots of ways I could improve.

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I’ve heard people talk about how quick and satisfying knits are to sew, and this project has definitely confirmed that for me. I can imagine all kinds of shirts, dresses, and leggings for Alice and I really don’t think I’d need to buy a pattern for any of them. I might even try something for myself, although I’m generally not into wearing knits unless it’s before 7am or after 7pm. While this dress doesn’t have any sort of heirloom quality to it, it was fun and easy to make and is cozy to wear. Besides, even though jersey is pricey, making a dress is certainly cheaper than buying it from Hanna Andersson, and it gives me the joy of sales-resistance!

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As a side note, I’m mystified by how professional bloggers get so many serene looking pictures of their children. I had to take about 50 pictures of Alice to get the ones used above, and 98% of them looked like this:

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Update- January 10

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Happy 2017! We’re having a cold but busy start to the new year. Philip was off to a conference this first week and my mother came to visit. We were just planning to steam clean the living room carpet, but we ended up also painting the walls a brighter white, re-arranging, setting up a little corner for Alice, painting a bookcase, and putting up some shelving. It’s nice to start the new year off with a successful project, and we’re very happy with the way this one turned out.

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Always having been one for lists and goal-setting, I love January. While I will definitely always still have a knitting project (or two) on my needles, and I have a couple sewing projects in mind, my goal is to spend more time painting. To that end, I’ve done a little bit of prep work this week and have been doing a little sketching. Other than that we’ve been making birthday cards for some little friends who turn one this weekend and have been trying to stay as busy as possible inside on the coldest of days. Alice loves going outside and sledding when it isn’t too cold, and she’s been picking up some new words, including “shoe” and “moon,” which she can point out both in picture books and in real life. Aside from the whiny voice, I’m really enjoying 16 months!

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We have a birthday party to attend and are having house guests this weekend, so we’re excited about the coming week. Hope you’re all staying warm and are having a good start to the new year.