Tripping at the Finish Line

As I’ve had less time in general over the past several years to make and do, a surprising theme has slowly emerged: being more careful and intentionally slow about how I do things. It seems ironic to me that when I had more time, I would move faster, cranking through projects and ideas without stopping very long to consider how well they were done or what I could learn from them. It’s not that I wouldn’t reflect on my projects, but the point seemed to be getting through them and on to the next one, rather than considering whether I had made something useful, or whether I had made it well.

This is demonstrated in the fact that I would never reknit things. It was almost a point of pride. Once I was done a thing, it was done. I’d rather throw a thing I’d spent hours making in the back of a closet and never use it than take the time to alter it. Kinda silly when it’s put like that, don’t you think?

My return to spinning over the last year and a half has been a means of developing more focused intentionality, and the spin I just completed is an example of that. Back when I started the project last May, I documented how I chose a knitting project, prepped half my fiber, and sampled very carefully. That in itself was a change of pace for me.

Part of that initial prep. I changed my mind on color arrangement after this, but you can see some of what I mean by gradient-by-value.

Starting a big spin two weeks before vacation was a silly idea, but I didn’t care. It was also a big break from the goals I set for last year; spinning such a large quantity of light fingering weight yarn was guaranteed to become a slog. That’s why this took so long to complete; I was right about my goals! Still, I got through almost a quarter of the spin before vacation. Then that bobbin sat on a shelf for many months afterwards, accusing me while I got on with faster, more thrilling spins.

I can see it glaring at me. Maybe it’s the influence of those lexicons behind them.

I came back to it after my first big sweater spin. That big project was a huge accomplishment, and the spin 15 a day habit had convinced me it was possible to finish this hibernating project. At that point, my careful sampling came through for me. I was able to replicate my singles pretty exactly by following the movements I had recorded. The sample hung from my wheel for motivation, and I checked that plyback sample faithfully every time I sat down to work.

My trusty sample card and sample, which followed me through this project.

I did make one big change to my plan. I had laid out a very subtle gradient-by-value. Meaning, I tore up the braid into all its constituent colors, then arranged them to have more of the darker colors at one end of the single, and more of the lighter colors at the other end. But the colors were still scrambled within each single, so the effect would be very vague.

I decided I wanted my gradient to be clearer. So one of the plies – the one I’d already prepped – would be the scrambled gradient, while the other I separated into all its colors and spun them from darkest value to lightest.

One of about a million bobbin shots I inflicted on Instagram.

I only had three bobbins available, and for some reason I’ve gotten really sick of winding singles into cakes on my ball winder. So to avoid really stuffing the singles on those bobbins, I did the spin in halves. I spun up half of each single and plied it, making careful note of my plying statistics, and finished it before starting the second half of the spin.

I thought it would be disheartening to work this way, and was worried about contracting some kind of “second skein syndrome”, a spinners equivalent of what sometimes happens with knitters and socks. But in fact it was highly motivating, seeing that beautiful yarn I had made. It helped, too, that I started spinning the rest of the singles right away.

I finished the third bobbin and started the fourth before baby was born. Thanks to Jared spending many cozy evenings with his daughter, the second bobbin was done and the yarn plied while it was yet May.

Plying done! … but not looking quite right.

While I was plying, though, something didn’t look quite right. The yarn was looking underplied on the bobbin, even though I was plying exactly the same as I had the other (12″ per draft, remeasured with a ruler each time I sat down, 6 treadles per draft, on the 11.5:1 whorl). I also noticed that the screw to tilt-tension my drive-band was getting awfully low.

I measured after spinning, and sure enough, the twist was less: averaging 5 or 6 tpi instead of 7 or 8. My hemp twine drive band, which was getting old and I had meant to replace, was slipping. Not enough that I noticed – I can usually hear serious slippage – but enough to affect the yarn.

You can tell they’re not quite the same.

Is there anything worse when you think you’re almost done a huge project, to find out you’re not quite done? It’s a lot worse with a sweater somehow, when you have to alter or undo seams. At least with spinning you don’t really have to disassemble anything. Still, it’s hard to swallow.

I had a similar problem with my big red sweater quantity spin, which is why I didn’t blog about it. It looked underplied to me at the end, though my peers weren’t sure they agreed. Before putting such a large quantity (1400 yards) back through the wheel, I want to be sure it’s necessary. To determine that, I should really knit up a wearable swatch like a wrister and see how it wears. I realized I wasn’t ready for that step, so I called the yarn finished and put it away, to deal with the wear question when I’m ready to knit with it next.

Hey, a sweater quantity! Kind of a big deal.

With this spin, however, wear was not the issue; the problem was getting two halves of a gradient to match! There was no question about it. Time for a trip back through the wheel.

Somehow it made it easier to use the swift to both hold the yarn as I fed it back through the wheel, and to wind it back into a skein at the end. My shoulder has been giving me trouble as I get used to babywearing again, and using the niddy noddy was like torture.

Here’s where it was helpful that the yarn was a gradient. I measured different areas of the skein and discovered that the parts I had plied first had the most twist, meaning the slippage had gotten worse as I went. I knew I had to add an average of 1.5 tpi in twist. I set my wheel to 6:1 (fixing the drive band first). For the first part of the skein I drafted about 12″ per treadle (adding .5 tpi). As I got into less twisted sections I drafted less, more like 6″ to 3″ (adding 1-2 tpi). I just eyeballed the yarn, adding more or less twist depending on how it looked, working my way toward only drafting 3″ for the last portion.

I’ve arranged the skeins so you can kind of see how the gradient will work out.

After finishing the yarn again, this time it looked perfect. I stumbled at the finish line, but got across. There are parallels for me in cooking, where small efforts of mindful attention – which do not come naturally to me – make a huge difference in the final product.

I just love the final yarn. Overall I got 1130 yards, which at 7.3 oz makes a grist of 2476 ypp. That’s within shooting distance of my sample grist of 2882 ypp, measured as accurately as possible for me. (As in I enlisted the help of my friend the pharmacist and her uber-accurate scale.)

The reason the yardage isn’t what I hoped is that the braid, labeled as 8 oz, was closer to 7.6. I weighed after I started prepping and was quite disappointed, considering what the thing had cost. I’ll be checking weights from now on with commercial fiber. I’m guessing that’s within some kind of industry standard limit, or maybe it’s just a difference in humidity (Blue Moon Fiber Arts is in the PNW and I live in a literal frozen desert). But when planning for a specific project, such a difference could have consequences. Thankfully, my pattern is knit in such a way that it gets bigger until the halfway point, then gets smaller, so I can just make the halfway point of the project when I’m half out of yarn.

There’s always more to learn, and even when the result is this good, the mistakes are usually the most interesting part! Still, I’m thankful to learn a wee bit about finishing well.

Finding Time in Special Seasons

I’m very interested in time and efficiency in crafting, and on other small scales. Overall in life I’m not very efficient, but for example, I’ve come up with a focused way to get the dishes done very quickly, and I can produce a sermon or paper very quickly (it won’t necessarily be good, but it will exist). I wrote a long time ago about different kinds of time and the different kinds of knitting that suit them. (Can’t find this post for the life of me. Argh!) These days I’m less of a multi-project knitter than I am a multi-crafter, and I now find I am thinking in seasons.

It may be a trend (I am never the sort of person who will know about trends), but I’m certainly seeing lots of people on Instagram and ravelry who are identifying less as knitters in an isolated sense, but more as crafters or makers. There are LOTS of knitters, but also lots of people who do more than knit. I’m surprised to find myself one of them. I always thought of myself as a knitter who spins. Now with the addition of sewing and more intense interest in spinning, I find I have one project going in each rather than several knitting projects.

Because different crafts are so – well – different from each other, they demand different kinds of time much more than different kinds of knitting projects do. Sewing goes very quickly compared to knitting, but it fits much better into a few large chunks of time rather than many small ones. Knitting still thrives on its flexibility- the ability to pick it up and work on it immediately, put it down after even a short time and be productive, and its portability. Knitting was made for found time.

Spinning is somewhere in between. It doesn’t take much to get going, but I find I like to have at least fifteen minutes at the wheel to feel like it was worth my time. I like to get into a headspace with spinning, and three minutes is just disappointing.

I’ve seen other crafters talk about how their crafting changes with the seasons. Rachel says she spins on her spindles all summer since she’s outside watching the kids play, and spins on her wheels the rest of the time. A different Rachel said she knits and spins more in the summer and sews in the winter.

Kids, too, are a season. The entire portion of life with small children in one’s house is a season, and within that, there are seasons as each child goes in and out of transitions, needing more attention or independence.

Wonderbaby!

The “fourth trimester”, the first three months of a baby’s life, is a very special and challenging season. I am at present halfway through it. It’s going well; baby is growing and thriving and has no unusual problems. I have nothing to complain about and so much to be thankful for. But it’s also very hard, and I have to be careful to take care of myself, so that this season can be as enjoyable as possible for all involved. So I ask myself questions about how I spend my time this season, and how I can fit in a little bit of the crafting and reading that feeds my soul in a way that fits a special season.

I’ve been spinning differently since baby was born. I waxed lyrical about how great #spin15aday was working for me before baby. But after baby, that is not so much the case.

See, here’s how my fifteen minutes of spinning actually worked: I didn’t really have just 15 minutes; most days I had up to two hours of kid-free time. Most of that time was spent doing chores or cooking, but since I had such a good chunk, I felt fine about taking fifteen minutes of that time to spin, and usually another 15 to read the Bible.

Latest big spin, finally finished on Friday, primarily finished via fifteen minutes a day, until the last quarter which was finished thanks to Daddy and the Moby D. More on this spin anon.

Now I don’t have the two hours. All I have is found time, and that is how I’m doing the necessary things: squeezing cooking and dishes and cleaning into the fifteen minutes here and there that I can put the baby down and she’s not screaming. I can get longer chunks of time by wrapping the baby, but there’s only so much my body can take of that.

What has been working is knitting. I can pick up my knitting and do a few rows (do a few lines? Oh dear) without worrying that the baby will wake up; she can wake up if she wants to. I can knit with the baby wrapped for a short time. I’ve started a sock, which is easier on my arms than a sweater.

(Sewing, I don’t have to tell you, is Right Out for a while. I’m hoping to get back to my kamiik in the fall.)

Being so slowed down, I’ve been enjoying the process more than ever. I see the individual stitches. I appreciate the feel of the yarn. I’m not knitting for deadlines or speed; I’m just knitting for a deep breath, for a prayer, for a reminder that I don’t have to always be worrying about the next thing.

Spinning has been made possible in larger chunks by my husband. I do all the night parenting and he does a larger chunk of taking care of the older girls, so he doesn’t get a lot of baby time. So after the bigs are in bed, on nights that he’s home, he wraps the baby. He bounces her to sleep on our big exercise ball, we put on some Star Trek, and I get a solid hour or two to spin. It’s much more satisfying that way, and if I get even two of those nights in a week, I’m making just as much progress as I would be with fifteen minutes a day.

What I’m still working on is Bible reading. Journaling is next to impossible (aside from this which I do on my phone when I’m pinned for a nap), but getting Gods word into me needs to be a higher priority. I let go of reading a large commentary, thinking I’d read one on my kindle and have it for vacation. But I don’t always have my kindle on me, and I’m just not disciplined enough on my phone to use it for devotions. This might be one of those times when it doesn’t matter if it’s consistent, or if I’m working through a study: I’ve just got to do it, even if it’s different every day. Or maybe even do morning prayer in a short form way I can memorize. Hm. I’m going to keep thinking about this; let me know if this is interesting to you, and if it is I’ll let you know how it goes.

How do you make sure you feed your soul during intense/busy/blessed/complicated seasons? Have you found your crafting changing with the year? What are you struggling to make time for?

WnS Color and Breed Study Winter 2017-18:

I am on a roll with the blogging at the moment. I’ve discovered that while it takes two hands to knit, and a whole body to spin, thanks to mobile technology, it only takes one hand to blog. It’s nice to have a creative outlet – I find post-baby is a time with lots of swirling thoughts, and it’s lovely to catch up on expressing them.

Speaking of catching up, today I finally want to record my results from the Wool n’ Spinning color and breed study from Oct. 2017-March 2018. I took these pictures nearly two months ago, but finally made a few minutes to get them off my DSLR so I could share them with you.

The color subject was combination drafting/spinning, and the fibre was Finn wool. I’ve not blogged about it at all, but I discussed my spinning process in the ravelry group here. In this post I’ll focus on the finished products, both yarn and knitting.

Background: Katrina dyed three quite different colorways, and I ordered the package with two ounces each.

As I watched others spin their fiber, I was most interested in the samples which compared combination plying and combination drafting. [For the uninitiated: in a combo spin, the different plies (strands) are each a different colorway. In a combo draft, each of the plies is made from all three colorways held together.] I wanted a closer look. To learn a little more, I added another variable: whether the top was stripped very thin or not.

This looks like a hot mess, but it is in fact a Plan. I planned four samples, and spun them in ascending order of difficulty:

1. Combo ply, stripped thin (1/16 top)

2. Combo ply, stripped thick (1/4)

3. Combo draft, stripped thin (1/16)

4. Combo draft, stripped thick (1/4)

In all cases, each strip was the entire length of the top.

I’ll use these numbers to refer to the samples throughout; hopefully that’s clear enough.

Here are the finished samples in that order:

I knit them up into the Escarpment Cowl. It’s a similar sillouette to a plain triangle shawl, which starts small at the top, and grows with decreases at the centre and sides/back. I interspersed my bands of handspun with some sock yarn in garter stitch, so I could have clear borders between the different samples.

Samples were knit top down: #2, #3, #4, and #1.

#1: Combo Ply w/ Thin Strips

For #1, I spun thin strips, three colors to three bobbins, and plied them together. I should say this was all worsted draft at 11.5:1; I put all the really nitty details on the project page. It made a fabulously bouncy three ply. No two sections of the yarn are the same. It’s so fun to see all the colors play together differently.

This was the bottom band of the triangle shape, so even though it had the most yardage, it was the thinnest band. I’ve here put two parts of it together so you can see a bigger area of fabric.

A frequent comment about combo plied yarns, and an issue for combo spinning in general, is that they stripe. In this case, having three plies and three colors involved made some difference, and stripping the top quite thin made the stripes as thin as possible. Of course they are even thinner here because I put them at the bottom of my triangle shape. If you want to combo ply and want to minimize striping, I think this is the way to manage it. And striping is an issue with any wildly multicoloured handpainted top, I should think, even when only one colorway is involved. It’s not at all necessarily a bad thing, just something to consider when you’re designing your yarn.

#2: Combo Ply w/ Thick Strips

#2 used thicker strips of fiber the same way. You can see that this resulted in longer runs of color in each ply, meaning very noticeable striping in the finished knit.

This sample was a bit of an oops technically: because of my own user error, the singles ended up rather thicker but I put in the same amount of twist, which meant they were overtwisted. The yarn didn’t spring back and bounce when plied, but stayed very ropey. Still, that was a good mistake to make in a way, to see how a fiber acts with too much twist.

Also, the overtwist made plying very unmanageable, resulting in a lower twist angle than I had intended. It made for a good illustration of how twist angle can change color: lower ply angle = bigger dots of color.

I decided to exaggerate the striping of sample #2 by putting it at the top of the triangle. It’s really very complex and beautiful with the colors shifting through each other at different rates (the color runs in the different colorways were all different lengths).

At the same time, the overtwist made the stitches very jagged. As a fabric, it’s thick, pebbly, and almost stiff. I knit it down on smaller needles than it wanted, because I wanted it go cohere with the rest of the samples, which were a fair bit thinner. Really what I should have done is put this sample at the bottom and knit it on larger needles, letting it flare a bit. But then it also would have been a very thin stripe. Oh well!

In this picture you can see how different the two combo ply fabrics are:

#3: Combo Draft w/ Thin Strips

#3 changed things up dramatically: I held three thin strips together for each single. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought, since the strips were thin. The singles were so beautiful and interesting to spin. There was striping in the singles themselves, and I think the next step in this exploration would have been to chain ply singles like these.

Interesting that there are stripes in this finished section. Or is it pooling? I did spin all three plies exactly the same – three strips going together on three bobbins – so it could be an accident of alignment? That would be odd. It’s hard to tell what’s going on.

Still, I think it’s gorgeous. The dots of color are so much smaller than in the combo spins that it’s close to optical blending. Even the stripes look like clouds of separate, deeply complex shades moving past each other.

#4 Combo Draft w/ Thick Strips

This was the most difficult spin, because I was trying to manage three wide strips held together for drafting. I managed it by predrafting them together, but this was not easy either. At this point, I had spun the same singles enough that I was able to achieve a surprising amount of consistency (for me), and I did that by just accepting that when one of the strips took over for a while, that’s what it had to do. So you can pretty much tell that the individual plies have larger chunks of single colors, while other parts are more blended. All in all, it made for an even more complex yarn. Maybe because of those irregularities, it’s the one knitted sample in which I can’t really detect any striping at all.

Still, it’s very very similar to #3. I’m not sure any improvement in #4 is worth the additional hassle of spinning that way.

#3 above, #4 below. You can see that #3 is more blended; #4 has larger dots of color where one colorway frequently took over in one ply.

The Escarpment Cowl itself, into which I knit these samples, is a free pattern that makes a great canvas for handspun. The original is quite a bit smaller, but it’s top down, so you can use up all your yarn, and you can really use any weight of yarn. As you can see from my picture up above, it’s basically a big ol’ triangle. It’s actually an identical shape to those 70’s ponchos that had a comeback maybe 10 years ago. Those were formed by casting on a circle, then had two mitered increase points at the front and back. (By contrast, a top-down raglan sweater yoke has four mitred increase points.) The Escarpment Cowl ends up in that same shape, but because of how it’s constructed, the neck hole is shifted back. So, logically, if you had a lot more yarn and just kept knitting and knitting at this, it would become a front-heavy poncho. This is getting close.

I made the neck hole too big, and putting the thickest yarn/fabric portion at the top creates an odd structured effect. I am accepting it as it is, though. I like the extra color interest near my face. This is an indoor garment for me, so I don’t need it to sit higher in order to be really warm around my neck.

Stretched out to it’s full almost-poncho-ness

I’m finding this a surprisingly wearable garment for me. It provides the extra warmth of a shawl without constantly falling off me. (I just can’t figure out how people who run after kids all day wear shawls. If you have any tips, please lay them on me.) This doesn’t fall off, and it’s actually proved to be a handy sort of modesty-cover when nursing with v-neck or crossover shirts. I pull those shirts down to nurse baby, and while this doesn’t exactly cover, it does let us do what we need to without exposing my entire decoletage. (Not that I’m suggesting you should nurse with a cover if that’s not your bag. I don’t use a cover per se, but I do dress strategically when I go out so that I am covered an amount that I feel comfortable with.)

I learned so much from this study. I made some beautiful yarns with a lot of nuance that I would use differently in different instances. Katrina made three colorways that were very different, but were cohesive enough that it would have been almost impossible to make them look bad together. I learned about speckle-dyed tops and those with white space, and how they make for delicious surprises. I learned so much about twist, and about how different dots of color might make very different looks in a fabric. And I learned that combo drafting is not so scary; I could totally spin a sweater quantity holding two or three thin strips together.

Thank you Rachel and Katrina for a memorable and helpful study!

Weight

My baby is one month old today.

One of my favorite things about newborns is the way you can snuggle with them while they sleep. This phase is always over too soon, so I’m purposely prolonging it with D. She just rests on my chest, head on my sternum.

Fully asleep, the weight of her is astounding. Just over nine pounds of warm, breathing human, perfectly still and completely alive.

This is the weight of glory.* An embodied soul. Completely a person as much as any adult, in a tiny package. All her heartbreaks, all the ways we’ll love her and fail her, all the trials and chances that will make her character amazing, those things are all before her. But she’s still completely herself.

People, I think, do not so much develop as they are revealed. Technically, one would think she hasn’t become anything yet, that her decisions and circumstances will shape her in ways that haven’t yet been decided. That’s true enough. But when I look back at baby pictures of my other kids, and compare them to what they are like now… everything that they are now, seems to already be contained in that baby. It just hasn’t been revealed yet.

I don’t mean that in a deterministic way. I just mean that, based on my limited observation, people seem to have eternity built into them. Whatever she becomes, she already is now; we just don’t know it yet. Already it seems like we were always a family of five, we just hadn’t met everyone yet.

Maybe it’s a paradox. Maybe it’s nonsense. For today I’ll keep my little human on my heart, and let the weight of her personhood pass straight through my sternum and store it up in my heart. I hope that store of glory helps me do my part to be the answer to my biggest prayer for my people, which is that they will know they are loved.

Happy month-birthday, little D!

Butterfly hat from Katrina at Crafty Jaks Boutique.

*The phrase “Weight of Glory” comes from a sermon by C. S. Lewis. It can be found in this anthology of the same name, and is in every way worth your time.

Birthday by Post

Yesterday I got a special box in the mail. My birthday was April 6th, but the box was not at all late.

Back when I wrote about my stash, I realized that I was getting the most use and creative mileage out of the stash I didn’t choose. I tend to buy for myself projects so big that they loom, and then I don’t get around to starting them for a ghastly long time. But the random yarn – usually the old castoffs of friends with good taste – those get used. When I’m shopping my stash for a project that fits my life now, I don’t pick up an idea I had years ago; I come up with something new with yarn or fiber that’s just kicking around.

After writing about that, I began to see a certain practical appeal about fiber clubs. A small amount of fiber, chosen by someone whose tastes I trust, arriving regularly, unmarried to some grand scheme. A sort of scheduled injection of creative freedom between one’s regularly scheduled major spins.

This came up in discussion with Mum when she asked what I wanted for my birthday. The idea evolved between us that, for a birthday present, she would get me the Mum’s Fiber Club. She went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival and picked me a year’s worth of spinning surprises. It feels as if I got to go to the festival vicariously, and Mum supported a variety of different artists this way. It seems to have turned into a very generous present!

Martha’s purple hat was not part of the package; I guess I was too excited to notice it had jumped into the picture.

I’m unreasonably excited about this. She spaced it out very sensibly considering my current limitations. Basically, what you’re looking at is a year’s worth of inspiration.

Care to see the first installment? Of course you do.

Ooooh dear. It has been on my spinning “bucket list” for a while to try a Loop batt, and this is a really nice one. 50% merino, 25% cashmere, 25% silk. I don’t think I’ve ever spun cashmere before.

I count three distinct shades of blue, and four repeats of color. Lots of interesting options for color management, though I’m pretty sure it’s meant to be spun from the centre.

Thank you Mom. Here’s to play.

I promise, this will be my last post about gifts and acquisitions for a while. Also yesterday, the next Color Studies for Wool n’ Spinning was announced, and I put my order in for that as well – I couldn’t help it; I got the fibre kit and the battlings. That’s probably all my new fibre for the year in one day! I had to breathe into a paper bag a bit; too much excitement for me.

Suddenly I am spinning away on my merino/yak with more motivation than ever. Only 1/8 of that spin left, but more on that another time.

Made by my Village

The phrase “making friends” suddenly strikes me as odd. Are friends a thing you make, like a sock or a pie? If anything, I think I am more made by my friends. They love and challenge and surprise me.

For example, I wrote a couple days ago about how amazed I am when friends reach across long distances to express their care, especially when I have trouble even across town. I’m not exaggerating; most days it’s easier to whip my phone out of my pocket and connect with someone in another hemisphere than to bundle up my family to visit a half mile away. But part of why I moved across the world myself was to get better at that: reaching out across town. And here, I am surrounded by amazing people who are better at that, and they love me anyway, and show me how it’s done.

Two weeks ago, friends gathered to celebrate Baby Ds arrival. It was a great party full of awesome ladies, and D was well and truly showered- especially with DIAPERS! Oh my, cloth diapers. I do love them. I love not having to contribute to our landfill, which is a very big and nasty reality not that far away. And it’s very cool that there’s a cloth diaper store in town called Arctic Cotton, run by a dad who wants to make cloth diapering more accessible and affordable to our town. My friends pulled together to hook us up with a bounty of our favorite kind, the organic cotton prefolds. (With everything I’ve learned about microplastics lately, I love these even more.)

Froggy bum! Such a sweet poo receptacle. D says, “Why yes, mama did make me pose for this picture.”

Anyway I did not begin this post intending to wax rhapsodic about clothing my baby’s bum. Such are the considerations that fill my days, and my fellow war weary mamas understand.

This is nominally a crafting blog, and what I really want to share are all the handmade gifts D was given.*

First off the quilts. Jane made this beautiful piece and free-motion quilted it herself. I can sort of imagine what that means but I don’t really; it sounds difficult. My MIL and I were admiring it and imagining the squares side by side looked like houses.

She made wee matching quilts for the girls to wrap their babies too.

My MIL, whose quilts decorate our house in several rooms, made D her first to be her very own. Do you not love these colors?

I’m still having trouble generally speaking with orange and blue together, but I just love this really red orange, and all the other colors are so fresh and light. Besides which I am very sentimental about all things Maryland since moving away from the US, so I find the crabs and anchors very endearing.

Annie of Monday Nights is another quilter, and made this cozy blanket for D. It’s fleecy, well padded, and sturdy to be a floor mat. All the kids like to play on it now. N in particular has commented on enjoying the colors.

From far away Pittsburgh, D received her very own Barb quilt. They’re thinner and just the right size for snuggling. She’s made one for each child, and they’ve held up admirably despite being intensely loved. Here are all three with their quilts.

My mother made the last blanket I’m going to show you today, but the first one we received. It’s made with several colors of her natural-dyed yarn, with a multi in there just to shake things up. Of course I’m already a fan of my mom’s yarns, but something about this piece – the relaxed gauge and the mix of garter, maybe – makes the most of the drape and weight of this yarn. We cozy up with it a lot.

Have you ever seen a knitted bonnet like this before? D received two: a sweet tiny green one by my friend Atsainaq:

And a terra cotta one, a little bigger, by Hannah.

I’ve never seen this style before but it’s popular up here. Atsainaq and Hannah tend to knit them top down and flat and then sew up the bottom. You need a reliable tied on hat when baby is on your back. And the ruffles… I do rather love ruffles.

And then there’s these wonderful sealskin mitts!

My anaananguaq made them. To Elisapi from Elisapee. They won’t fit her for a bit so I will have to hide them from the big girls. This is such a neat design. Check out the gromets she installed. And the elastic that goes between the layers is very cool. I need to learn how to make these.

Finally, just for D, my dear friend Andrea made this bunny. He is colourful and cheerful and soft and floppy just as a bunny should be. It doesn’t hurt that he reminds me very much of a dear departed pair of handknit socks.

Our baby #3 is blessed with a lot of love. There have been further contributions to her wardrobe from parishioners, friends here, and friends far away. She’s our third, but our first Northern baby, which is its own kind of special. The outpouring of love and gifts and time – we know that handmade gifts are made of time as much as anything else! – is precious. I’m so thankful for our community and the friends we have made, are making, and are being made by. (Oh dear, how’s that for a sentence? Mama needs a nap!)

*Does it seem weird to do a post about gifts? It’s actually part of the culture up here to really show off what you’ve been given. This was super weird for me at first. I’m always kind of awkward about gifts because they feel really personal. But eventually I realized it’s not about me at all; it’s about the kindness of this other person, and celebrating that. I want to celebrate this kind and beautiful person and what they did, and I hope as crafters you are inspired by their work too.

Wailing and Gnashing

This child wanted so badly to learn to knit. Randomly. At 4:30.

This is her dance recital dress. Her recital was on Sunday. We make her take it off to sleep.

I managed to get her more needles and yarn (since her last false start is still in the drawer… what was I going to do, tell her that knitters always finish what they start?). She said she wanted to knit a sweater. I said how about something smaller. She said how about a sweater for the baby? I said how about a hat. Her subsequent plan was to knit hat, mitts, and “outdoor socks” for the baby.

I cast on 12 stitches for her.

Then I had baby and toddler and dinner to worry about, so I told her she was on her own. She’s sat on my lap doing “in, around, through, and off” for years now. Understandably, she’s been able to master (well, approximate) all the steps but “through.” I was switching the laundry when she came up to beg for my help.

In a moment of what I’m sure was laid-back parenting genius, I said, “why don’t you figure out 100 ways to do “through” wrong?”

Well, what followed was half an hour of almost continuous sobbing and wailing. This child is not into making mistakes. But she got it.

Okay, so I straightened the mess of stitches for her a few times, and I sat down for two whole minutes to stop her freaking out about something that wasn’t a problem. But these are four whole stitches she made more or less by herself. At least, she did the “through” successfully.

Only 99 wrong ways to go!

It took me until I was nearly thirty to gain a positive attitude about learning the hard way. Hopefully it won’t take her quite that long. In the meantime, I have plenty of tissues and yarn, and if she decides this whole thing is horrible and she totally hates knitting… I’m sure we’ll find a way to support her in whatever esoteric hobby she lands on.