MaryGenser

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If there’s a silver lining in having a very, very late spring this year it’s that I get to wear my new sweater! I began this sweater after Peter was born thinking it would be a quick, mindless knit, which it almost was. The pattern is Mary’s Sweater designed by Marianne J. Bjerkman, and is a design I’ve been wanting to make for quite a while. I still love the design, but I have to say that I found the pattern to be a bit lacking.

I never like it when patterns say things like “decrease evenly 112 stitches,” because of course the numbers never quite work out and I really feel like I paid them to do the math for me when I bought the pattern. Unfortunately, this pattern is full of that, and it also tells you to decrease huge numbers on single rows in the yoke, resulting in a ruffly look. I ended up taking the yoke out and then spacing out the decreases over the entire yoke. It’s better now, but the decreases are still a bit obvious in the white band. Ah well. Were I to make this pattern again, I would also add short rows to the back so that the front and back aren’t the exact same height.

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I used Drops Big Merino in off white and “forget-me-not.” I’m not usually into superwash merino yarn because it pills and feels a bit too squishy, but I wanted a sweater that would be very baby-friendly. I remembered that when Alice was a baby she used to eat bits of my lopi yoke sweater and that it would irritate her cheek if she fell asleep while I was carrying her, so I chose something really cozy this time. When I blocked the sweater it grew by several inches, but I was prepared for that, having read on ravelry that this yarn really needs to be machine dried as well. After a tumble in the dryer it came out the perfect size.

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I think it turned out to be just the right sort of thing to knit in the sleepy months after having a baby, and I know I’ll enjoy wearing it because I’ve already worn it two days in a row.

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I’ve already blocked my swatch for my next project, which I think will be even easier than this one. I expect I’m going to want to make something that requires a bit more concentration someday soon, but not quite yet!

 

 

Peter’s Pebble Vest

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This is my third time knitting this vest pattern and it’s such a simple project it doesn’t really merit its own post, but it seemed like the right time for a photo shoot with Peter. The pattern, Pebble, is one of my all time favorite baby knits, and can be found (for free!) here. It’s so much fun to knit up, is cleverly constructed, and is terribly practical due to side and shoulder buttons.

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I used a hand-dyed worsted merino that I bought at a yarn festival last fall from a local woman who runs Spencer Hill Yarn. I would include a link but apparently her website isn’t up and running anymore…hopefully I’ll see her again next fall, because I really loved her colors and enjoyed speaking with her about her dyes and about running a small business. I bought some of her indigo dyed fingering weight too and am just now starting a project with it.

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Peter is a fan of Alice’s old Pebble vest and I decided to make a version that was a little larger, hoping that he’ll be able to wear it through the spring (whenever it decides to finally arrive) and colder summer moments. I added six stitches to the body and used a heavier yarn with size 6 needles, but made no other changes to the pattern. In retrospect, a few more extra stitches probably wouldn’t have been a mistake…I may have to knit another version in the summer.

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And a few little photoshoot outtakes, in case anyone was wondering what Alice was up to…

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Always keeping the baby boy entertained!

 

 

Cottage Garden Smock

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Last week was Philip’s “Spring” break, and as is tradition, we had a giant snowstorm and freezing temperatures all week. Someone should really suggest renaming the break “March Break,” which would make us all feel a little better about the decided lack of spring weather. Still, we enjoyed the longer days and Alice and I got started on a few little seedlings for our mini vegetable and herb garden we have planned.

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I was very excited to use some free hours this week to finally try out the Wiksten Smock pattern, which I knew would be a perfect addition to Alice’s wardrobe. For this version I made the tunic length and went with the size 2-3 year even though Alice was more in line with the 1-2 year size. I’m glad I did, as the sleeves would definitely been too short otherwise.

The top is gathered at the front and back and includes deep pockets on both side panels. I went ahead and topstitched all the seams to give the smock a little more structure and because I just love topstitching.

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Alice is expressing definite opinions about clothes these days, and I really wanted to make something she would love. I definitely got this right- she watched eagerly as I worked on it in the afternoons and wanted to put it on as soon as I finished. The fabric is a cotton poplin from Monaluna’s Cottage Garden collection. It is very crisp and, I thought, worked very well for this pattern. It’s definitely not cozy, but Alice exclaimed, “It’s so pretty! It’s so cozy!” anyway.

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I think the design of this pattern is just adorable and I can’t wait to make Alice a little sleeveless version this summer. I’m so glad it goes up to size 5-6 years, because I want to make lots and lots of them in the years to come. I’m delighted with the fit and love the details. The only changes I made were to do additional topstitching and to make a thread loop instead of using elastic. Elastic just seemed too casual for such a sweet detail. I will add that I also clipped curves, trimmed the bottom of the armcycles, and used a gathering thread to help me set in the sleeves…I was sort of surprised that none of those things were called for despite the detailed instruction booklet. Do other folks manage to set in sleeves without a gathering thread to help deal with ease?

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Whenever the snow has shown signs of melting Alice has asked “Is it sing?” and when I ask her what she wants to do in the spring she lists off swimming pool, sandbox, sidewalk chalk, and then gives me a goofy grin and says “We’re going to grow FLOWERS!!” I wonder where she came up with that last answer….

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A Tova Blouse & Other Goodies

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I have been having so much fun in the evenings recently. A few weeks ago I opened my box of clothes I had stashed away while pregnant, and with the exception of very few pieces, I was kind of horrified by how worn out my wardrobe was. So! I decided that 2018 will be the year I make myself a new set of everyday clothes. In the past three weeks I’ve made two tank tops from leftover fabric in my stash (using this very lovely pattern), one long-sleeved t-shirt (using this pattern again), a skirt re-cut from a chambray skirt I never much liked, and the above-pictured Tova blouse.

I had seen this pattern for years on other sewing blogs and always liked the results, but until recently I’ve been hesitant about all the printing and taping of PDF patterns. As it turns out, I rather like the cutting and taping, and I definitely like this pattern.

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For this version I used a really nice double gauze cotton from Birch Organics. It is less rumply than other double gauze I’ve used before and actually feels a little hefty. The pattern sewed up over the course of several evenings, although I had trouble getting the inset placket to have nice square corners and I ended up ripping it out and doing it over again. I love topstitching and making things looks just so, and so I had a lot of fun with this. It’s hard to see the details in the photos, but it’s really a nice blouse and I’m happy with the results. It’s a bit tight through the shoulders, but it won’t be in a month or so provided I avoid weekly dessert-baking sessions with Alice.

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Just for funsies- a little glimpse of some other recent projects and a sneak-peek at an upcoming Easter-basket surprise for Miss Alice:

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Peter usually has his longest daytime snooze in the after-lunch hours, so Alice has her quiet time upstairs and then comes down and has “project time” with me. Sometimes I manage to sew during project time, when she is thoroughly engaged in her project:

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Other times she sits on my lap and we stitch up a little something together, like this 5-minute purse that she styled with the antique petticoat she calls her “pitty pincess dress” and giant hairbow:

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Either way, project time is a good time. Project time then shifts to baby play time, which is a very merry time indeed, thanks to Peter and his sweet and cheerful disposition.

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There’s a whole lot of cuteness around here these days!

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Update- February 12

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I’m starting to feel a little sorry for the second kid. I spent most of Alice’s infant-hood staring at and cooing into her funny little face, whereas I basically just carry Peter about in the baby wrap while Alice does her two-year old stuff. Part of this is that Peter is a much easier baby and he sleeps far more than Alice ever did, so he’s less demanding of me than Alice was (and is)! On the other hand, I’m glad that we’re still making sure that Alice is doing all her fun activities, and being out and about and in a busier home environment probably isn’t too bad for Peter either. He hears thousands of books read and songs sung everyday and is learning to sleep through all manner of crazy things.

We’ve gotten into a pretty good rhythm and honestly, having two little folks around is easier than I thought it was going to be…but I will say that I had expectations of absolute craziness and that if you had asked me how it was going on Saturday I would have given a far different opinion.

Here are a few things going on around here…

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Playing in the snow whenever it’s at least 25 degrees, which hasn’t been as often as we’d like…
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Watching things dangle in front of us, and sometimes trying to swipe at them with modest success…
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Learning how to knead bread (Alice)
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And trying to make it look pretty (Me).
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I think Alice is going to take after me and like doing things that require little fiddly movements and attention to detail…
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Like stringing beads…
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and hosting miniature tea parties.
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I got a lot of work done on my next knitting project and started thinking about my next-next knitting project…
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And I started drawing up plans for a quilting project too…
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While enjoying the company of this little fellow, who’s a complete sweetie. 

Last Monday we gave up our 1/2 to 1 hour of screen-watching per day (or I should say, Alice did) and maybe it was just luck or maybe screens really do make little kids go nuts, but she was less crazy and more pleasant to be around than she had been in several weeks. As a bonus, I don’t have to hear constant chatter about what Prince Wednesday is up to. A week in, Alice rarely asks to watch a show and doesn’t put up any fuss when I say it’s not an option. All in all, a good change.

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This morning we went to a Valentine’s Day party, and we’re currently awaiting the arrival of Nana and Grampa with great anticipation. Alice was so excited she decided to wake up for the day at 5 am to see if they were here yet, so I’m off to brew another cup of coffee and enjoy the last few moment of “naptime.”

Cotswold Henley

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It’s a little over one month late, but Philip’s Christmas sweater is complete! This was a pattern in the Fall 2015 issue of Interweave Knits, designed by Meghan Babin. It required some tweaking for me to get the sweater the way I wanted it, but on the whole I’m fairly pleased with the result. I made the size 40- it fits well, though it’s a bit more slim fitting than I was hoping. I would recommend checking the schematic carefully if anyone is thinking of knitting this design…the sleeves as written are narrower than nearly every woman’s sweater in the magazine and the sizing seems off to me.

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I made several changes to the pattern. I omitted the panels on the sides that are a different stitch pattern, though I left them on the backs of the sleeves for an elbow patch-ish effect. I also changed the ribbing to a 1X1 rib, and used the tubular cast-on and cast-off methods that I am familiar with instead of the ones specified.

The pattern is seamless- the body is knit from the bottom up and then the sleeves are picked up and knit down, shaping the sleeve cap with short rows. This sounds lovely, but my handsome sweater model has long arms, and dragging about the entire sweater as I knit around and around for the sleeves was kind of a pain- I would rather just knit them separately. I probably found this aggravating because I also knit the sleeves twice- despite my gauge being correct the sleeves came out ridiculously narrow the first time. I ended up omitting ALL shaping from the sleeves and they are still slimmer than I would like through the upper arms.

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While I’m a bit on the fence about the pattern, I love the yarn I used. For the price, I think this Knit Picks Wool of the Andes worsted is an incredibly good deal. Philip chose Rooibos Heather, which is a gorgeous heather. It’s plenty soft, but retains a lovely stitch definition. I used it recently on my new mittens and I’m really convinced it’s one of the best choices if you don’t have an unlimited knitting budget.

Speaking of thrifty, the handsome woven leather buttons were poached from an old Harris Tweed jacket that wasn’t being worn. I’m quite excited that that there are still 5 more buttons for me to use on future projects!

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I’m quite pleased to have finished this project and am already click-clacking along on a new sweater…for myself this time!

 

 

 

Update- January 27

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We had a really, really good week. I definitely felt like I had just gotten a huge promotion at my dream job and went into my first week on my own with two kiddos with some excitement and a whole lot of trepidation, but I was surprised by how well it went. We got out of the house almost every day at 10 a.m. for all of Alice’s activities (which are mostly excuses for me to chat with my friends) and did our usual around-the-house chores, which Alice thinks are the best activities ever. Peter mostly slept and yelled and was bounced and carried about and admired.

Some photos of our week:

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So, so thankful for pacifiers and babies who will accept them…
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And for sweet baby quilts and sweet big sisters who get up in baby faces to remind them “you’re so cute baby!”
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I enjoyed my forced hyacinths and looked forward to spring…
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and was charmed when Alice requested a flower for her kitchen.
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Peter passed his one-month inspection with flying colors. 
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I managed to stay on top of chores, thanks to my helper who loves herself a good spray bottle…
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sorts lights and darks like a champ….
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and loves to help with all food preparation.

I have some unrealistically ambitious goals for the weekend in regards to knitting and also have some exciting plans for sprucing up Alice’s bedroom, but I might just hold Peter the whole time and drink lots of coffee. We shall see!

 

 

The First Four Weeks

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Philip goes back to work on Monday, and I’d be lying if I said that thought didn’t terrify me a bit. I’m so grateful for his time off though, and know that somehow Peter, Alice, and I will all get into a rhythm and routine and do just fine. The past four weeks have been by turns sweet and crazy. Here are a few things we did:

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Alice and I made Peter a two-week birthday cake and we threw him a party. Peter loved it.
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I became increasingly comfortable with a very disheveled house.
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We began Peter’s education.
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Alice continued to try my patience by refusing my attempts to groom her. 
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Alice serenaded Peter with soothing harmonica tunes and calming renditions of “Frere Jacques.”
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Peter looked cute and wore the clothes that fit his sister at 3 months…
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Alice continued perfecting her watercolor technique.
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I made slow progress on Philip’s “Christmas” sweater.

Not pictured: lots of bouncing and shushing and getting to know our little fellow, and lots of singing and reading and drawing of paper dolls with our little girl. I think we’ve finally figured out that Peter can’t sleep flat on his back and have borrowed a little rocker that seems to be working better, and I’ve figured out that any time during the day when someone doesn’t need me is the time to make dinner. I’m sure that in the coming weeks we’ll figure lots of other things too, and soon we’ll be humming along like we’ve always been a family of four.

Welcome Peter Rex…and a Merry Christmas!

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Five days after his projected arrival, Peter Rex made a swift and uncomplicated entry into the world on December 20th. He weighed in at 9lb 5oz (!!), is 21 1/2 inches tall, has a delightfully thick head of hair, blue eyes which have rarely opened since birth, and is as sweet and adorable as a baby should be.

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Other than a tongue tie and a little initial trouble with eating that was taken care of early on, Peter has been thriving and seems to be adjusting well to his fresh life. He still needs to figure out that daytime is for playing and eating and nighttime is for snoozing and eating, but luckily for him, his parents were well trained by his older sister to be patient with baby folk.

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All of us are completely smitten- including Alice. A week in, I think she is adjusting very well. Of course, she is a two-year-old, with all the standard two year-old woes, but she hasn’t pinned any of her problems on baby brother. She likes to help pick out his outfits and gives him little smooches and has a very hard time not waking him up by touching his “tiny little nose! tiny little ears!” etc. She was looking at a picture of a baby the other day and told me that “I don’t need that baby. I have a baby- baby brother.” She also told me that he is a “good baby,” and I was pleased that he met with her approval. Her one stipulation is that she not be called a big sister, because as she firmly points out, “I’m Alice.”

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Our Christmas was quiet and snowy and lovely. My mother was in town before Christmas, and Philip’s parents are visiting now, but Christmas itself was spent with just the four of us. We actually made it out the door to church on Christmas Eve- our first and so far only excursion involving the entire family- and then Alice woke us appropriately early Christmas morning to open presents and eat oatmeal.

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I’m proud to say that we ate pancakes for lunch and macaroni from a box for dinner and that we truly took it easy all day. The day was spent playing with presents, singing Christmas carols with Alice, reading new Christmas books and donning new Christmas duds. The big hits for Alice were the toy farm from Grandma and Grandpa, the Daniel Tiger toothbrush, and the tiny cheese grater for her kitchen from Nana. But of course, the best Christmas gift in our family was this sweet little fellow.

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Wishing you all a Merry Twelve Days of Christmas, and the very happiest of New Years.

Baby Antlers & Advent Adventures

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A season of waiting indeed…this advent we’re waiting for Christmas and for a new baby. I wasn’t really planning on knitting anything else for the baby until we meet him, but I was getting tired of the seemingly endless sleeves on Philip’s sweater, so I whipped up a little tiny-sized Antler Cardigan for a change of pace.

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I used City Tweed DK and size 4 needles and knit the smallest size with a smaller gauge- I’d say it’s roughly a 0-3 month size, but of course that all depends on the baby. The City Tweed was in the “enchanted” colorway, which is deep and lovely. I’ve used this type of yarn once before on a cardigan for myself that was a huge flop- it was too soft to have much structure- but it is the perfect tweedy yarn for a baby sweater. It is a merino and alpaca blend and is incredibly soft.

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I didn’t space the buttonholes perfectly, but eh, it’s fine. It came out super cute and I’m excited that Alice and her baby sibling will match. Any day now would be a perfectly good time to try it on, baby!

Aside from the knitting, we’ve been having a lovely advent season. My mother is in town to play (and watch Alice while we’re off at the hospital) and Alice is thoroughly enjoying the extra attention along with all the festive holiday preparations. I don’t know why so many people are downers about December birthdays…aside from the struggles of putting on winter boots when 9 months pregnant (ugh) and the struggle of helping a squirmy toddlers into snowsuits and boots while 9 months pregnant (uuggghhhh), the most wonderful time of the year seems like a wonderful time to have a baby to me. There are so many pleasant distractions and jolly tasks to be done, and I think it’s nice for the older sibling to have fun things to think about and do other than just focusing on new-baby preparations. Here’s some photographic evidence of a few of the things we’ve been up to:

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It’s been snowing a little bit every day for the past few days and there’s snow in the forecast for 8 of the next 10 days. I just love this time of year! The cards are  in the mail, the few gifts we’re sending out are getting their finishing touches, the tree is bedecked with gingerbread cookies and my bottom dresser drawer is full of little secret gifts for Alice and Philip and the new baby. I’m hoping to finish a new plaid flannel dress for Alice and a sweater for Philip before Christmas too, but if it doesn’t happen it doesn’t happen. January is a nice time for flannel and sweaters too.

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Hope you’re all having a peaceful, cozy advent.