One More Sweater

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There’s something about knitting for babies.  The small scale, the sweet details, the softest of the soft yarn.  And the hope.  The dreams and happy thoughts that you knit into each stitch for the baby as you work.  It’s a very special thing.

With that in mind, I hoped to knit one more sweater for our babe before the holidays, birthdays, and dues dates swept us away in a sea of “where did the time go?”.

I chose this yarn because of the colors, pure and simple.  It is also incredibly, unbelievably soft, perfect for baby.  Each stripe was a pleasure to knit as the soft tealy blues eased from light to dark.  In some light, two adjacent colors looked identical.  Then I’d work on the sweater somewhere else, and the line would be so crisp I’d wonder how I ever thought they were the same.  Hmmm.

This wee sweater knit up pretty fast, and now it waits, in the freshly painted and arranged baby room, for its owner to arrive.  A few weeks to go yet, which means there will most likely be more baby knitting.  Oh yes, I think there just might be more baby knitting.

Yarn: Frabjuous Fibers Cheshire Cat gradient set in Down the Rabbit Hole

Pattern: Sock Yarn Sweater (Child’s Version) by Hannah Fettig (my Ravelry notes here)

Cousin Skirts

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I went to the craft store seeking out fabric for a completely different project.  But there was an unavoidably cheerful end cap of all Hello Kitty fabric and accessories and I was immediately sucked in.  My 3-year-old niece loves Hello Kitty, and my daughter is a pretty big fan, too.  It wasn’t long before a yard of this fabric was being cut, and I needed to figure out what I was going to make with it.

Sewing is still new to me, and I’ve been having a lot of fun.  I had sewn up a couple of simple skirts for G over the summer, and decided that this fabric would be perfect to make my niece one too. I quickly figured out that I had enough fabric to make both of them skirts, and a Christmas plan was hatched!

I used a combination of this tutorial and this tutorial (thank you, Pinterest) to create the Cousin Skirts.  I added a bit of the pink print in (from my small but growing stash) to add some interest.

These skirts both went really quickly, and I couldn’t be more delighted with the result!  As with knitting, I find it meaningful to think about the recipient while I’m making something.  I imagined both girls twirling around in these skirts this summer, dripping with red watermelon juice.  We live in different states, so any time they’re together is precious.  I pictured my niece’s energetic smile and goofy little walk.  I imagined G helping me make a skirt for one of her dolls out of the leftovers.

The reality is, they’ll probably both open the skirts on Christmas morning and quickly toss them aside in favor of new toys.  But my secret hope is that when dress up time comes, or the warm weather starts to creep in, they will turn to these skirts and think of one another.  In the meantime, I had fun making them, learned a couple new tricks, and enjoyed the journey.  That’s a win in my book!

Holiday Sewing : Simple Cocktail Napkin Recipe

Holiday Cocktail Napkin recipe from Peaceful Knitter

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In years past I have been bitten by the holiday knitting bug.  I felt inspired and excited to knit gifts for family, teachers, child care providers, and friends.  This year, that feeling isn’t there.  I’m pretty focused on knitting for baby and will soon be starting on G’s birthday sweater.

What I have been inspired to do is sew.  Oh, those cheerful holiday fabrics grabbed me this year!  After spending some time on Pinterest looking for simple sewing ideas, I had a list of projects and hit the fabric store.  I had this retro ornament fabric from a similar spree last year, and needed to find a coordinating fabric.  I couldn’t help it if I left with 2 more holiday prints and fabric to make a skirt!

I’m discovering that my favorite part about sewing is choosing a project and picking out fabrics.  I’m not great at cutting out pieces of fabric.  Sometimes my seams are a little wonky.  And I don’t care!  Those technical skills are slowly building with each project, and I am being very gentle with myself as I learn.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be fun.

Here’s my take on a simple cocktail napkin that you can keep or give as gifts.  Play with fun fabric combinations.  Get crazy with that top-stitching design.  Have fun!

Holiday Cocktail Napkin Recipe

Materials:

1/2 yard festive holiday print cotton fabric ( 41 inches wide x 18 inches tall)

1/2 yard coordinating solid or smaller print cotton fabric

Matching thread

The usual sewing basics: sharp fabric scissors, ruler, measuring tape

Nice if you have them: rotary cutter, cutting mat, a template for your napkin (see below)

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Start with washing and pressing your fabric.  Ironing makes such a big difference in the quality of the finished piece.  I find it kind of relaxing and enjoy transforming the fabric or seam into a crisp-looking piece. (I rarely iron my clothes, though!)

Cut out 8 rectangles from each of your two fabrics that are 10 inches wide and 9 inches tall.  It would be handy to make a template for yourself out of cardboard to speed this up. (I like to use cereal boxes)

With right sides facing, sew your main print and coordinating fabric together with a 1/4-inch seam allowance.  Leave a 2 inch opening along the center of one side.

Snip the corners and turn the piece inside out.  Use a pencil, knitting needle, chopstick, or other not-too-pointy gadget to make the corners pop out.

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Knitting needles: a multipurpose tool!

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Press the seams to flatten. Tuck the edges of your opening under to line up with the seams and press.

With a coordinating thread, topstitch as close to the edge of the napkin as possible. This will close up the gap you left before.

Move one inch in from the first top-stitched seam and sew another decorative border.

Snip threads and repeat on your other napkins!

I folded my napkins in half lengthwise and pressed them to make a pretty stack. Wrap with a ribbon or some yarn, and these are ready to go as a gift!

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This is a super simple project, one that even a newbie like me could do easily and well.  I plan on keeping this set for our family and making more to give as hostess gifts at holiday parties this season.

Are you making any holiday gifts this season?

Yarn Along

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book + chocolate + a bubble bath = my idea of a good time!
book + chocolate + a bubble bath = my idea of a good time!

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I was craving a page turner and an addictive knit, and I sure got what I asked for!

Last week I could not put down these rainbow leg warmers.  Each stripe knit up so quickly, that it was easy to say “oh, I’ll just keep knitting till I finish the next stripe.”  And on and on until I’d knit a pair of leg warmers in a week.  I may have been motivated to finish them while G was also captivated by them; she kept wanting to try them on and asking me when they would be done.  Such a rare, sweet response to my knitting!  My hands have been feeling a little sore since these came off the needles, so I probably overdid it with my enthusiasm.  Looks like I’ll need to cast on a new project in some thicker wool. You know, to rest my hands.

I heard about this book on a podcast, and was lucky enough to find it right away at our used book store.  Such a deal!  Part mystery, part ghost story, this suspenseful novel spans decades and characters, and had me instantly captivated. I can’t wait to see how all their tales weave together and what the ending brings.  I’ve been taking it into the bath with me, and going to bed even earlier to read it.  Last night I definitely stayed up past my bedtime, I was so hooked!

Warning: a child dies and the mother grieves intensely, which isn’t for everyone.  I’m not sure if it’s the writing or my pregnancy hormones (likely both), but it can be a bit of a tear-jerker.

Reading: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Knitting: Rainbow Legwarmies, my own pattern. Ravelry notes here.

Creating our holiday traditions

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I don’t know about you, but every holiday season seems to whiz by in a tornado of full calendar days, overplayed Christmas music, too much sugar, and good intentions.  As my daughter gets older, we are trying to be more intentional about our holiday traditions.  It takes thought and planning to create your family’s unique traditions.  Each partner brings their own experiences and expectations to the table. One key to having a satisfying and meaningful holiday is to share what’s important to you both and decide what to carry on in your own family.

Last year it all went by so fast, and I felt like something was missing. So this year we’re trying to be more intentional and plan a few key things into the month.  A couple of weeks ago, the wife and I sat down and brainstormed up a list of holiday must-dos.  Things that help us feel the gratitude, splendor, and sugar rushes of this time of year.

There’s more on this list than we’ll ever get to in a month.  But it feels so good knowing all these ideas are in one place!  I know I’m probably not going to be facilitating making homemade play-doh after a busy day at work.  It’s okay!  Being realistic and keeping expectations flexible is key.

I thought I’d share some of our family activities in case you’re looking for inspiration:

Go pick out a tree together.  Decorate tree.  Write our letters to Santa.  Make cookies.  Go to zoo lights (or other local festivity).  Go to dinosaur show (or local choir, theatre, or other performance).  Go Xmas shopping with Mommy.  Go Xmas shopping with Mama.  Watch a holiday movie.  Wrap presents.  Make candies for neighbors.  Practice Christmas songs (Silent night, jingle bells).  Make hot cocoa with marshmallows.  Drive around to see Christmas lights.  Make festive play doh (glitter, scented).  Read seasonal books daily.  Shop for and prepare food bank donation together.  Call grandparents and sing a Christmas song. Make gingerbread house.  Put up Christmas decor/lights.  Eat dinner under the Christmas tree.  Go for a walk around the neighborhood to see lights.  Family game night!  Make/decorate ornaments.  Make or decorate our Christmas cards.  Play Christmas bingo.  Do holiday mad libs.  Put out treats for Santa and the reindeer.

Here’s a link to my holiday inspiration board on Pinterest for more ideas!

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So far the calendar has helped us structure our weekends to make sure we’re making time for the things we really want (and need) to do.  The weekdays have been filled in with simple pleasures that can mostly be accomplished any time that day.  Or the next day.  I even left some days blank so we can plan to be spontaneous!  Flexibility is key here, otherwise you may end up feeling like you’re failing and that’s not good!

That’s great, you say.  But how’s it really working out?

We invested in a beautiful handmade advent calendar from this shop.  There’s a pocket for each day with room for a small treat: chocolate, a sticker or toy, and a slip of paper with an activity.  I also made a master calendar of the month’s events, just to keep me feeling on top of things.

To give you an idea of how it’s working so far: it’s working beautifully, even when we forget about it completely.  G never forgets about the treat, and when there’s an activity she’s excited about, she won’t let us forget about it.  It’s good to see what activities float to the top as being important or exciting for each of us.  My idea of a great holiday isn’t the same as my wife’s or daughter’s.  I’m accepting that and letting go of what I thought might be fun but is not really important to me.

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{photos by miss G}

Last year I bought a gingerbread house kit and we never got around to using it.  I tossed it, along with a heavy dose of self-induced guilt, sometime in the summer.  Still regretting that, I had “scheduled” in Decorate a Gingerbread House for Sunday of this past weekend.  Had I not put it down on the calendar, we probably would have skipped it.  We were tired, and lazing around in pajamas sounded like a better use of time.  But once we got started and I saw the excitement and joy in my daughter’s eyes, I remembered why I wanted to do this in the first place.  Encouraging her to decorate the house however she liked (and eat all the candy she wanted) delighted all of us.

I want the whole holiday season to be a time we connect in extra ways.  A time of magic and joy, playfulness and togetherness.  We’re all busy; this season of life and this month will go by so quickly.  Taking some time to feel organized and thoughtful seems to be helping us find more meaningful moments together.

What activities are special to your family this time of year?

Gratitude.

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The past 4 days have been full of delicious food, time with family and friends, time spent with my knitting and sewing, time selling yarn to excited knitters, and time getting into that holiday spirit.  Before these days came around, I was worried that it would all be too much, but somehow it all felt just right.

I’m extremely grateful for everything in our lives right now.  For the family and friends we celebrated with, for a healthy vivacious almost-5-year-old, for a supportive and generous partner, for our baby on the way, and for the amazing team of women I work with.  I could go on, but I’ll just keep the rest to myself.  ; )

I hope you had a lovely weekend and holiday (if you celebrate)!

And now that it’s December, I’m curious: How do you get ready for the holidays at your house?

The Hard Parts

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Mondays are one of the best days of the week for me. I typically have it off from work, and have the morning to myself while G is at preschool. These are a precious three hours!  Sometimes I use this time to catch up on work for the shop. Other times I go to appointments, do the grocery shopping, or tend to other regular life tasks. My favorite days are the ones where I get to hang out at home. By myself. Fellow moms, you know what a treat this is!  If I’m being completely honest with you, I’ll go even further to say that my favorite mornings are the ones where I stay in my pajamas and catch up on The Walking Dead or How to Get Away with Murder and knit until just before pickup.

Regardless of how I spend the mornings, the afternoons are reserved for mama-daughter time. As a working parent, this one-on-one time during the day is precious to us both. There’s something about our own dynamic that really comes out on these days. She just lights up when she sees me at pick-up and gets so excited to hear what we get to do for the rest of the day.

Most Mondays we like to do a little making together. This is something that really helps me feel like a Good Mom (you know, after all those other moments over the past week, ahem) and like we’re really connecting. We often spend the afternoon baking, making play-dough, sewing, or doing other crafts.  This week we started painting some wooden Christmas ornaments that I picked up at the craft store.

It was sweet. We painted together in near-silence. I told her I loved spending the afternoon with her. “Me too, Mama,” she whispered as she focused on getting the paint just where she wanted it. I was impressed with her focus and enjoyed seeing what colors she was choosing.  I was feeling pretty pleased and a bit self-satisfied with the success level of this activity when things took a turn.

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You see, we’re at that age where G is noticing what other people do and is occasionally comparing it to what she is able to do. In this case, she got very upset because she couldn’t keep the orange paint from getting on the blue paint.  I tried helping her wipe it off and reassured her that she could go back over the blue after it had dried.

‘But yours looks better than mine!” was the final cry before she devolved into tears.

It broke my heart, this look on her face. I could imagine her ten years from now, upset from something that happened at school or with a friend, a situation I wasn’t there to help her through at the time. I want her to be confident in herself, not care what other people are doing, and just enjoy what she’s doing.

That is one of the gifts of early childhood; these blissful years when anything is possible and you are so much yourself that you radiate it. It only lasts for so long before we become self-conscious and our confidence is no longer whole.  These moments when I see her self-confidence beginning to fracture are so very hard.

We made popcorn and talked about how things are challenging when you first start out. About how my work looked different from hers because I’ve had a lot more practice. I’m so old, after all (trying desperately to ease the tension with humor)! I even threw in a good ol’ “Who says you have to stay in the lines, anyway?”

I think she’ll be ready to try again another time. We’ll both keep practicing, her painting and my parenting, and hopefully someday we’ll both be accepting of where we are and how well we’re doing it.

The good news?  After a break and a good night’s sleep, she’s ready to try again.  She’s even excited to finish her work today.  Whew.  I guess the popcorn and self-deprecation worked.