Well, hello there

Well, hello there…. it’s been awhile!  I was on a solid kick with the every Monday postings, but then spring concert season hit and I basically got shoved off the wagon.  We have a week left of the school year. A week to get my Kindergarteners and 5th graders to perform one last time.  Six days to completely pack up my classroom so everything can be moved to our new building as soon as the kids walk out the door. Thirty-two more classes yet to hit my room with the expectation that they are going to learn something.  Then, we (and by “we” I mean “I”) will get to sleep past 6:30 a.m., take more than 15 minutes to eat lunch while only worrying about – you know – eating lunch, and go to the bathroom whenever I need to.

Ah, summer.

Since I last checked in, a few projects have been checked off the list, and a few have been started an abandoned in less time than it took to cast on.  But hey, this sweater for sweet baby Hazel is done. (Ignore the super bizarro lighting situation.)

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Lilianna is a sweet little pattern. The lace keeps it interesting and the short sleeves keep it awesome (read: quick).  It took every inch of one skein of Madelinetosh DK to make the 6 month size. The button band is worked as you go, and thanks to my keen powers of observation I was able to notice (after binding off) that I had missed a row of garter stitch about 20 rows down from the top.  The sweater sat in timeout for a week while I tried to figure out how to fix/hide my mistake.  Now, I’d like to tell you that I fixed it, but as I told my kindergartners today, “lying is stinky and gross.” So, in the interest of not being stinky and gross, I’ll admit that my darning needle and a piece of scrap yarn came to the rescue – a bit of stitching to mimic the garter ridge loops and cover up the knit Vs and we were good (enough) to go.

My group of besties from college all started their families at a time when either I didn’t yet know how to knit, or was just learning and my skills weren’t up to snuff. This meant that adorable knits were not possible for the  babes born in that window. Now that I (sometimes) know what I’m doing, I considered trying to knit for the backlog of big kids… for all of about 30 seconds. I came to my senses when I reminded myself that, A. there are 15 of them now, B. I can’t even keep up with knitting for the babies that are still being born, and C. there are FIFTEEN of them.  So, the goal is to gift a knitted thing to (at least) one kid per family. My dear friend Molly and her husband had baby Jack last year, so I sent this scraptastic sweater his way.

It’s the Flax sweater from Tin Can Knits, and boy is this pattern a gem.  When I started this sweater (knit in Quince & Co. Owl – which I adore). I was confident there would be enough for the arms to be entirely blue…. but there wasn’t. So I decided to make the arms all in orange…. but there wasn’t enough orange to do that either.  Now, I do rather wish that I had made both sleeves like the striped sleeve, but part of me is also a fan of the mismatch – either way, Jack is so cute nobody is going to care about the sleeves!

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The above photo was snapped by his mother Molly, who owns Paper Lemon Photography – if you live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul neck of the woods – she is amazing!  Let her photograph all of your special people!

Finally – and this is big – I finished my two years in the making Featherweight cardigan.

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My lovely in-laws gifted me four skeins of gorgeous baby alpaca fingering weight yarn from their trip to Peru – I did a lot of swatching and scheming to find the right pattern, and finally settled on the ever popular Featherweight by Hannah Fettig.  I was concerned I’d run out of yardage before I finished – I need not have worried, there is a TON left. I’m saving the fourth color, a lovely purple, for something special.  I knit this bad boy exactly as the pattern said, and made the stripes 20 rows each.  This is the first sweater I’ve knit for myself that actually fits! I’m pretty super pumped about it.

It’s nice to get back to the blog after such a long hiatus.  I was just feeling super motivated tonight, and it felt really important to get back to it, and I had so many things I wanted to share, and….

Okay, I’m avoiding report cards.

Why I Sew

Why I sew:

#1 – I enjoy it… the same way I enjoy that first cup of coffee in the morning, french fries, and getting lost in a good book. It never gets old.

#2 – Wardrobe management – I can only make clothes so fast, and that means that when I do have time to sew, I need to think critically about what I need and want in my closet. It prevents me from buying that unfortunate just-had-to-have-but-will-never-wear-top because it was %10 off.  Oh, and it’s pretty amazing to make exactly the clothes you want, and have them actually fit your body.  What’s not to love?

#3 – Making things for the humans I love. Like this dopp kit for my brother.

Or this Driftless Cardigan for my sister-in-law.

This is one of the best reasons.  If I could pour love into a tangible form, it would look like a handmade gift… (or a donut from the bakery in Park River, because seriously – they’re so good).  All of the planning, time, and curse words (I promise I only use the nice curse words, Grandma) that go into that thing – imagining and hoping it will be right for them – man, that’s its own special joy.  *The killer photos above were taken by my brother, Andrew – he’s pretty rad.

#3 – I can make something new instead of doing laundry.  I despise laundry.

#4 – Fabric Shopping.

#5 – So I know who made my clothes, dopp kit, curtains, recorder bags….  

That’s right. Recorder bags.

A few weeks ago, I was handing out new recorders to my 3rd graders. For $3 they each get their own to keep and take home.  Teaching in a lower income school, I’ve always been mighty grateful for a price that my students (or my classroom budget) could afford.  Each recorder comes in its own little blue cloth bag, wrapped in tissue paper, and includes a plastic “cleaning rod” that is used more for sword fights then actual cleaning.

In the midst of handing out recorders to one of my classes, I heard a chorus of shocked yelps from one corner of the circle.  “Ummm… A tooth just fell out of my recorder bag.”  Obviously confused, I walked over to find a dry tooth lying on the rug.

A human tooth.

How? How was there a tooth in the recorder bag? Were they used, returned, and resold?  An immediate e-mail was sent to the company, who assured me that all recorders came directly from the factory.  Things weren’t adding up.  I looked again, but more carefully, and felt pretty confident that the recorder was indeed new. There were no teeth marks or signs of use, and it clearly had the same factory wrapping as the rest of them.

Oh…the factory.

To confirm my suspicions I sent the above photos to a dear friend who is a dentist (FYI: That’s my pinky finger. Also, I have small hands).  Could this tiny thing be an adult tooth? Lost due to horrid dental hygiene (also awful to think about) in the midst of work?  Her response – definitely a front baby tooth that fell out the normal way. That particular tooth is typically lost at age 5 1/2 – 6 years old.  Uff da.

Now, please, if you have an alternative explanation let me know, (and deep down I hope it was some 4th grader from Tulsa or something – who happened to still have a baby tooth (at age 8/9) – storing their lost tooth in the bag of their brand new recorder (that they never used) for safe keeping before forgetting the tooth was there when their teacher decided to pay shipping to return that perfecly fine $3 recorder to the giant music company, which carefully refolded the tissue paper and resold it…far fetched as it may be.) This felt like pretty solid evidence that a child – a child young enough to still be losing teeth – had either been spending their day in a dangerous factory while their parents worked, or heaven forbid they had been the ones actually sewing the seams.

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Humans make our clothes, our backpacks, our curtains, our dishcloths. You can’t run a piece of fabric through an automated series of big machines and have it spit out a shirt like a candy bar.  Where our clothes come from matters.  Now, we won’t all make our own clothes or suddenly change all of our purchasing practices, but noticing where our products are made is a step in the right direction.  If I can (and it isn’t always the case) I try to buy things made in America – I know I’m supporting American companies/workers who are working in (hopefully) decent conditions and receiving a (again, hopefully) fair living wage. Not only does buying American made help to cut down on the environmental impact of having my socks shipped from half way around the world, but I also know that our country has laws against children working in a factory instead of being in school.

Small changes make a difference.  So, post-tooth I’m going to try to shop locally made more often, take some time to research ethically made/environmentally sustainable brands, and hit the thrift/consignment shops (I’m horrible about this one – I own to being super freaked out by bedbugs) before buying new. When I do buy clothes I’ll try to shoot for things that will still be fashionable in three years, and of course – I’ll make my own.

You guys. There was a tooth in that recorder bag.

 

P.S.  If you have Netflix, I’d recommend watching The True Cost, which is currently available for streaming.  This blog post by Elizabeth Suzann gives some insight into the cost of making clothing here in the U.S. – I found it to be pretty eye opening.

 

Details

“Uh, Mrs. S…… You probably should move that red mug by your water fountain.”

Third graders were everywhere, and the line at the water fountain was particularly long.  We had just been folk dancing, so they were hot, and tired, and in an elementary school – a drink from the water fountain is a cure for all that ails you.

Bumped head?   Get a drink.
Tired?   Get a drink.
Hurt feelings?    Get a drink.
Wiggly tooth?   Get a drink.

It works every time (except for the pukers…. it doesn’t help them.)  So, when the girls started talking about a mug by my sink? I didn’t have time to give it much thought. After all I had instruments to move, and technology to wrestle while keeping an eye on my class, because that one minute of “transition” time can go south fast if a teacher isn’t on it.  Red mug, red mug…. I don’t even have a red mug.  Oh wait, I borrowed one out of the teachers’ lounge yesterday during my mad sprint through the school while on my fifteen minute lunch break.

I often leave my coffee mug sitting by my classroom sink after I pour out the inevitable half cup of cold coffee that one doesn’t have time to drink when they are teaching children.  I really should have ended the practice of leaving my cups in the vicinity of the sink after seeing a kindergartener take a big old gulp out of my dirty coffee stained mug one day.  I’d like you tell you I was worried about the health of the child after they borrowed my germs, but I had to tell a student not to lick the sand paper on the sand blocks (it’s an instrument) the other day too, so all things considered, drinking out of my dirty mug shouldn’t have been a concern, or much of a surprise.  The mug I found sitting next to my sink, however, did surprise me.

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That’s right.  Somebody left an animal print “sexy” mug in the elementary school teachers’ lounge.  Now, is “sexy” a bad word? No. But do I want to have that conversation with third graders? Absolutely not.  Where this beauty came from, one can only guess.  It’s possible that once upon a time, some sweet child brought it as a teacher gift without realizing/understanding what it actually said. Of course their teacher kept it, and it eventually made it’s way to the lounge dishwasher… where, I grabbed it and put it to good use holding my delicious and nutritious lunch, which consisted of a handful of bottom of the bag tortilla chips and several big spoonfulls of 505 green chile.

The girls were right on my heels as I picked up the mug – waiting anxiously to see my reaction. I said something like, “Huh, that’s a weird mug in school, thanks for letting me know girls – I guess I should pay attention to little details like, you know, reading my coffee cups before I borrow them,” and promptly stashed it in the closet.

As it turns out, details matter.

Details matter so much, in fact, that I have zero made things to show you.  I’m working diligently on the details (i.e. zip fly, waistband, belt loops, etc…) of my Chi-Town Chinos and I have a Grainline Studio Farrow all cut out and waiting patiently for me to buy interfacing so I don’t stretch the living daylights out of the modal rayon I’m using.

I’m also plugging away at that little In Threes I showed you last week.  Almost done. I’m so close I can taste it.  I’ll share when it’s been sent/given to the sweet babe’s parents.  Until then, remember to pay attention to the little details.

Thanks for stopping by to see my sexy mug.

-D

A Poem

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Roses are red
Sheep have wool
All these new babes
Keep my knitting queue full

I put down my sweater
I set aside a hat
All those works in progress?
No one has time for that

Over pattern, color, and yarn
I hemmed and I hawed
For an itchy black pullover
Her parents might find odd

So lovely lark by Quince & Co
In the color Petal
On “In Threes” by  Kelly Herdrich
I finally did settle

I try to be so thoughtful
I think of my gifts as well planned
Yet I’m making a light colored knit for a newborn
That, “Sorry! You must wash by hand.”

I’ll hurry to finish this sweater
Though here I’ll admit where I fail
See I manage to finish the knitting
But can’t seem to get it in the mail

Now I’m off to pretend to do laundry
While instead I watch netflix and knit
I need my own sweater, I’ve decided
In Lark because I think it’s the…

loveliest yarn I’ve used in awhile.

 

The Sweater

It’s been quite the week.  So, I’ll tell you about this sweater.

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Quince & Co. Puffin in Pea Coat

 

Back in September, the Fringe Association’s Karen Templer started an Improvised Top-Down knitalong ( apparently “knitalong” is one word – I don’t understand either).  I jumped on board, excited to take on the challenge of knitting a sweater without a pattern, and learn about sweater construction in a “next level’ sort of way.  As Nancy at my local yarn shop once told me “you are the master of your knitting,” and this seemed like a solid step toward actually believing that sentiment. Now, I’m pretty proud that I was able to plan, knit, and finish a wearable garment that is (almost) my size. It’s a pretty empowering thing for a knitter, and I’m so glad I took part. This sweater, however, had issues from the get-go.

First, I neglected to account for my button band stitches. I realized my error early on,  but instead of ripping and fixing the stitch count when I was only an inch into the sweater (sighs deeply, rolls eyes) I pressed on – deciding to pick-up stitches and add the band at the end.  Certainly, I assured myself, everything would be fine…

I re-knit the sleeves a time or two, trying to determine out how fast to decrease. Clearly, I never figured it out.  I think part of my sleeve issue was perhaps related to my yoke depth, but I could also just be making things up to sound like I know what I’m talking about.  I love the ribbed section that makes up the oversized hem, but when I pretend it’s buttoned, the hem has the added effect of making the top half look like a mushroom with a wonky neckline. Turns out that shape isn’t super flattering.

There were obviously fit issues, but I finished the sweater anyway, crossed my fingers, wove in ends, and blocked it in the hopes that it’s problems would magically be remedied.  After drying for three days it was clear that this sweater would in no way be okay to leave as is. Frumpy town has no place here. Something must be done.

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Did I mention that my initial plan was a for a fitted sweater with limited positive ease? Such a rookie.  This past week I stared at this ill-fitting sweater, sulked in the frustration of efforts gone awry, contemplated what should or should not be done, and came to a few conclusions…

You can’t ignore the facts.  This sweater does not fit. I could tell you it does – insist that what you and I see is in fact the finest sweater in the history of sweaters, but facts are facts.  There are no alternatives.

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I knew what I wanted – what I valued and expected this cardigan to become. What I ended up with does not reflect what I hoped for.  I could pretend that it’s fine, hang it in my closet for the next four years and ignore it’s issues and lack of effectiveness, but it won’t change the fact and I need a cardigan in my wardrobe that works for my every day life.

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A little extra fabric (and a few bulldog puppy hairs) in the front…

There are those who would look at this sweater and tell me it’s just fine.  I need to get over my expectations and wear it.  What do I have to complain about when I have a sweater that will keep me warm? But it isn’t right, and I would know that every time I put it on.  Starting over will have it’s frustrations, but I’m doing it anyway… it will be worth the extra effort in the end.

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Since I don’t require a cardigan that I can fit body armor under, I’ve decided to rip and re-knit.  I am capable of making a positive change – I can rethink, reshape, and recreate this thing that’s gone wrong. If I’m not sure of the next step, or how to go about solving a particular problem, I know there is an incredible community out there, ready to lend a hand.  First, I’ll plan – you see, before I rip apart something that “works,” I think it’s important to have a better option already worked out.

Deep breath. Here we go.

 

While Sitting

We spent yesterday on Mary Jane.

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The ski hill kind, not the smoking kind.  Winter Park Ski Resort is broken up into seven “territories.” The Mary Jane territory is infamous for big moguls, tree skiing, and burning leg muscles.  We skied hard, making the most of an awesome day on the mountain, but today… let’s just say that I’ve been doing a lot of sitting.

Things I’ve done while sitting:

  1. Drink coffee
  2. Almost finish Sara’s hat
  3. Complain about how sore I am
  4. Finally put button holes in my Alder Shirt Dress

Last spring, almost a year ago, I crossed my fingers, took a deep breath and tackled the Alder Shirt dress, sans ruffle.  I’m a big fan of the simple silhouette, back yoke, button down placket, and classic collar, but those design elements also made me pretty nervous about the sewing.  I followed the Alder sew-along that Grainline studio has on their blog, and boy was it a life saver! The instructions are clear, well organized, and thorough, so the dress went together much more easily than I anticipated.

When we are skiing, G often reminds me that I can ski anything (this lesson is most often reiterated when I find myself staring down that narrow, tree-lined, mogul filled run) as long as I take my time.   So goes the sewing of a many step garment – I can do anything, I just need to take it one bit at a time.  Now, I won’t pretend it all went perfectly smoothly. My issues had nothing to do with the pattern – it was all operator error.

Operator Error 1 – Something went wonky with the button band length.  I’m guessing I just cut out the wrong length pattern piece, because when I put it together that band was definitely an inch short.  Of course, I didn’t have enough extra fabric to recut it, so I attached the band anyway, did some very precise eyeballing, and trimmed the entire hemline to match.

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Operator Error 2: The collar was a trick.  Jen, of Grainline Studio, does a really excellent job of laying out the order of operations, and explaining (there are even videos) the collar assembly clearly.  Even so,  I was less than precise when it came to the inside stitching on the collar stand, and the curve at the front of the collar stand.  On the front curve, I’m not sure if it was the weight of the Robert Kaufman Yarn Dyed Essex I was using that made it tricky or if I just didn’t sew accurately (highly likely).  Regardless, I decided to call it close enough, and was left with only the buttonholes and buttons to contend with…

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Eleven months later, I finally got around to them.  I do have an excuse – I sewed this dress using my Grandmother’s beloved tank of an Elna sewing machine.  A wonderful machine for me to hammer away on, but buttonholes involved a lot of turning of cranks and complicated finagling, which still left them looking wretched. In the last couple of months I bit the bullet and bought a new machine – a Bernina 350B (I adore it).  When I upgraded, the buttonhole features were a major selling point, but the idea of putting holes into a garment that had taken so much time to finish?  Scary.  Turns out there was no need for the nerves – I practiced on a scrap, did some careful measuring, and my machine did all of the work.  Slick.

Operator Error 3: Well… except for the buttonhole on the collar stand.  My button hole foot quit moving half way through the second long side.  Instead of stopping I just laid on the pedal a bit harder – because going faster and ignoring the problem always works.

Half an hour later I had managed to seam rip that sucker out, and made the executive decision that a buttonhole on the collar was unnecessary this time.

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Next stop, actually cutting the holes and sewing on the buttons.  I can’t wait to add this dress to the wardrobe rotation – boots, tights, and a cardigan for winter weather, and sandals come spring/summer months.  I will definitely be pulling this pattern out again… as soon as I can stand up.

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Mary Jane photos – cred goes to G

Not-A-Resolution

It’s a new year – calendar year, that is.  As a teacher, this “year” is only at its’ mid-way point. This is the time when I pause to evaluate how little I’ve taught, and the giant amount that is left to accomplish in the next five months.  I start the school year full of hope, goals, and curriculum maps – ready to execute my (relatively) well organized plans.

Then the children arrive…

I end up tossing half of it out the window and am reminded that for me, detailed planning is really just a cute idea.  When you teach 360 Kindergarten – 5th graders every week, you learn that while planning is important, flexibility is necessary. So, as I enter a new year of making, I’m trying to balance the big picture dreams with room for that much needed flexibility.  Sure, my fabric stash does not throw the same sort of unexpected wrenches at me that my students do (it’s been awhile since the stash peed on my floor), but when you’re making something, you never know what’s going to happen.

So, I give you my 2017 “Big Plans With Room For Flexibility!”  Let’s not call these resolutions; that makes my palms sweat, and then I can’t grip my seam ripper.

Not-A-Resolution #1 – Finish Christmas presents before summer. Progress was made on my favorite sister Sara’s hat this weekend. For those of you who care about the knitting of the things… this pattern is totes adorbs and the chart (actually it’s not a chart – it’s written out) is such that it’s memorizable without making your brain ache and your eyes bleed. Sometime I’ll tell you about the lace blanket pattern that made me cry for mercy.  The brothers’ hats are waiting in the wings.

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Not-A-Resolution #2 – Finish projects already in progress. My knit-a-long sweater is done! It still, however,  needs blocking and buttons… and photos.

This featherweight cardigan has been a two year work in progress, and finally has reached the point where it only needs sleeves and a collar.  I’m so excited to wear this sweater! The yarn makes me all heart-eyes.

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Hiding in my closet you’ll also find another half finished sweater, a big cowl, some mittens, a hat that needs to be ripped and re-knit (a story for another time), and a whole slew of yarn with dream projects attached.

My sewing projects need some serious tending, but I received a magical Colette Sewing Planner for Christmas, and I firmly believe that it will solve all of my organizational woes (rolls eyes while crossing fingers).  I’m super pumped about the planner and hope to jump back into the sewing/music room (you can make yourself new pants between scales – Db Major, iron, Db minor, sew a crotch seam…) now that the Christmas gift sewing slam is done.

See these belt loops? They are well on their way to becoming a pair of legit chinos. The pants might not fit, but at least the belt loops will look pretty fab. img_8447

Not-A-Resolution #3: Continue down the make your wardrobe – don’t buy it, path.  I get overwhelmed thinking about this process.  My “to make” list is crazy pants long, and my free time during the school year feels so minimal, but making and knowing where my clothes come from is something that I enjoy, and believe in.  I won’t jam my philosophies down anyone’s throat; we all have our own realities, but I’ll do my darnedest to grow and think about my own purchases.  Conscious consumerism and awareness – those are my goals, and finishing one garment per month – is my not-a-resolution resolution.

Not-A-Resolution #4: Keep writing.  I’ll admit that sometimes I feel silly writing this blog.  How very “millennial” of me (please note: I’m an early 80’s millennial – I remember the days of land lines, Oregon Trail, word-processing on a black screen with neon green font, and the excitement of hotmail chat) to feel I need to tell the world about the stuff I make.  So, I write a post, and then I stew about it for three  weeks until I get over myself and post again. I’ve thought about this quite a lot, and I have decided that:

A. I enjoy the writing and the sharing, or I wouldn’t have started it.

A’: Nobody is being forced to read this…. Except for my favorite sister, Sara and dear cousin, Liz – because I need proofreaders.

B. The maker community – it’s out there, and I’d love to be a part of it. A person can’t think about sewing patterns as much as I do and not have an outlet or they’ll go bananas.

C. Sometimes – we need bright places to retreat and find inane conversation that doesn’t make our souls ache.

Will some of my people think I’m ridiculous for writing a blog? Probably, but that’s okay – they don’t expect me to make normal/sensible decisions anyway.

Non-Not-A-Resolution related news:  Ginger the Bulldog turned 1 year old yesterday! Happy Birthday Gingy! (Gingi, Gingie, Gingee… something like that.) She is the best pint-sized bulldog in the history of ever anything. We love you, and Gunnar (photo bombing below) does too…. when you don’t steal his toys or try to gnaw on his leg.

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Not-A-Resolution #5: My favorite brother, Andrew, said “Di, why don’t you just have a new blog post every Monday?” So, here I am – stating that I’m going to write something every Monday – or that’s my not-a-resolution, not-a-goal. My thanks in advance to everyone who reads.  Believe it or not, it means a lot.