Summer of Basics

A long, long time ago.

(Okay, it was last summer, but it’s October, so it counts.)

As I was saying… A long, long time ago I participated in a little Instagram inspired event called the “Summer of Basics.”  The general idea was to choose to make three garments before August 31 that would fall  into the wardrobe “basics” category.  Typical Diana, I started the summer with a serious list of epic projects (like jeans, coats and colorwork sweaters) that involved purchasing all new patterns, all new materials, a year off from my job, and the sale of one of my kidneys to afford it all.  Clearly, I needed to rein myself in.

I decided to use the self-imposed stipulation that I needed to already own either the pattern or fabric/fiber, as my guideline.  It felt good to move things from the stash to the hanger, and I’m finding that second kidney really handy.

After a summer of making lots of things for other people (which was great fun), it was nice to make a few things for myself.

Basic #1: Chambray shirt dress

All summer, I found myself reaching for a simple throw on dress that did not exist in my closet.  Something that would look nice, but also be casual…  Wiksten tank dress to the rescue.

Already owned pattern: Wiksten tank dress/top pattern

Already owned: Chambray from JA Fabs I believe.

Modifications: No pocket, serged seams

My take: I’ve made several tank tops from this pattern already, so the dress was an easy sell.  I opted to leave off the pocket so it would be a tad bit “dressier,” and took my time to match the stripes – using the bottom edge of the armpit as my guide.   Success!

Ginger makes an excellent pattern weight…

Basic #2:  Crop Pants

Already owned pattern: Emerson Crop Pants by True Bias

Newly Purchased: Robert Kaufmann Cotton/Linen blend Essex from Fancy Tiger



I grabbed this pattern last spring and finally their magic was realized. (Also, when sewing on a deadline, changing serger thread is optional… nobody has time for that nonsense.)

Mods: I did add back pockets, because I feel strongly that any additional layers between my cheeks and the world are a benefit for society… they do buckle a little at the top because of the elastic waistband, but since I won’t be tucking a shirt into these, that part is hidden.

My take: I will certainly be adding another pair (or three) of these to my wardrobe.  The pockets and pleat detail at the front elevate the simplicity of the elastic waist pants.  I’d definitely recommend this as a good first pants pattern, as the construction was easy and straightforward.  I cut a straight size six  with no adjustments. I’ll be honest – I have mixed feelings about elastic waistbands in general – on the Emerson, the flat front is a nice touch, but I find that where the elastic gathering begins at my hips isn’t super flattering with tops that shows off the waistband. Untucked shirts will be my go-to with these.

Basic #3: Knit Hat

Newly purchased Pattern: Proof by Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed

Stashed yarn: Junegrass batch #1 from Fancy Tiger Crafts


Mods: I couldn’t figure out (read: didn’t have the patience to practice) the tubular cast on that the pattern called for, so I watched this video from Purl Soho and used their long tale tubular cast on method.  It worked fine, though perhaps doesn’t look as clean as Brooklyn Tweed’s method would have.

This hat was straight up fun to knit.  The cables look far more complex than they are to execute, and I adore the yarn.  Junegrass is a Colorado yarn project – sourced and spun right here in the beautiful state I call home.  It’s a DK weight in natural gray, and worked as a solid substitute for the recommended Arbor.  I used their recommended needle sizes, and found the hat came out as specified – it even covers my ears!! I’ll admit that day one of wearing it was a little itchy, but I think I’ll get used to it.  The hat is the tiniest bit on the loose side, so I may try to re-block at some point… maybe I stretched it too much the first time.

Summer of Basics – I think you’re pretty rad.

Until next time,

Di and Her Kidneys


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.)


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!


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.


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.

A Poem


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.

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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


It’s the Little Things

I woke up with a Bulldog on my head.

Literally.  It is one of the few things that actually work to wake me in the morning. An alarm clock? Not so much.

Now, is this jarring and unexpected wake-up call an apt analogy for what the last few weeks have felt like? Certainly…. but, I’m not here to get into that.  We’ve just come off Thanksgiving break – and the stress of getting through the next three weeks is sitting as heavily as that little bulldog.  I spent vacation thinking about anything BUT what I need to accomplish (i.e. Putting on the 5th grade musical), and instead have been working on the want to accomplish list.

Turns out a few tiny people  – you know, our country’s future generation who will be responsible for dealing with/caring for whatever we leave for them – were on my mind.

Tiny human #1


One of my favorite tiny people needed a new beanie before the snow flew. This hat is the Wildflowers Cap by Mary Jane Mucklestone, published in Making magazine, Issue No. 1: Flora. The pattern is written to fit an adult head and use aran weight yarn.  I needed it to fit Mae’s adorable 16 inch baby sized noggin, so I did a bit of digging in the stash and came up with some Brown Sheep Company  Nature Sport, grabbed some size 5 circulars and knit the pattern as written.  I’d love to tell you what my gauge was, but I didn’t actually check it. As long as the hat wasn’t too small, I figured she would grow into it – babies have a tendency to do that.  Miracle of miracles, it fit beautifully – and I only had to add a handful of gray rows after the chart in order to make sure it was tall enough (6.5 inches from top of head to bottom of ear).

Tiny human #2 –

My college roomy and dear friend, Kelli, had baby girl #3 last week!  With the excitement of a tiny new person to knit for – all other projects were put on the shelf for a bit. I had a stern conversation with the voice that whispers (yells) in my ear to buy more yarn, and once again decided to take advantage of all of the remaining bits and pieces of much loved, but mostly used skeins. I used the free Puerep…wxyz pattern and went to town with a pile of beloved odds and ends, and this yoke happened.  The button band was a bit of a conundrum, but in the end I knit the collar and then left two little balls of the mint color hanging from each side while I knit the body.  Before I finished the bottom garter band I knit each button band on a couple of dpns (so I wouldn’t have to take the body stitches off the circular) until they matched the length of the body. Then I seamed the bands on and knit the bottom garter band with the body and button bands connected.



I was ready to knit the entire sweater in colorwork, but after consulting with my knitting advisor, we decided the yoke would be plenty. After dividing the sleeves, I used every last inch of an (almost) full skein of my favorite Quince & Co. Owl for the body. When I was finished knitting and had to start weaving in all of those yoke ends, I heaved a sigh of relief that I didn’t have an entire sweater’s worth to deal with.

A few more tiny people are on the knit list, but some big people are as well, and I’m still delirious enough to believe I’m making a bunch of Christmas presents. I know that these little woolen things might not ensure that we leave the world a better place, but they’ll keep the wee ones warm while we work on it.


Pet Peeves & Soft Pants

I was in the middle of instruction.  Second graders had gathered around the rug, and I was gently trying to steer conversation to a place where the kids would miraculously make the connection I needed them to as we learned about solfege – that’s “do, re, mi” and so on for the general public (note: if you are imagining me singing and dancing around my classroom like Julie Andrew’s while being followed by immaculately groomed children with excellent pitch, this is not QUITE accurate).  I asked a big leading question and got nothing.  Blank stares. Silence.  I reframed the question, and waited for them to have a little think time.  The room was quiet (a phenomenon which only seems to happen when I need them to talk)…. and then finally, a hand.  Her hand was stretching  hard to the ceiling, blonde pony swinging, eyes alight with her eagerness to share –  clearly, there had been a lightbulb moment. Great learning was taking place.  Moments like these – this is why I teach.  I called on her, “Yes C., what did you notice?”

C:  “I’m wearing SUPER soft pants today.”

September was about as productive as that lesson.  My project plans were in place, the materials ready, the eagerness to make was there, and yet somehow things didn’t end up quite like I had planned.  I’d like to tell you this is out of the ordinary… then again, I’d also like to tell you I didn’t lose a cardigan for a month, only to find it stuffed into the top of our entryway coat closet, buried under a pile of mittens.

School is now well and truly underway, and my ability to remain functional, let alone awake, later than about 9:00 p.m. has seriously deteriorated.  Those late night hours are typically my time to chip away at one of my in progress knitting projects, tape pdf patterns together, or sew drapes into play clothes for all of the Von Trapp children.  Instead, I’ve found myself lounging in the big green chair with my laptop, researching new projects or falling fast asleep after only one row of knitting. Fortunately, those single rows did help me to move forward on a few WIPs (which for most makers stands for “Works In Progress.” I find “Waiting In Piles” to also be quite apt).

Exhibit A:

This remarkably poor photo makes my knitting needles look glow in the dark. Unfortunately, they are not.

This is my #fringeandfriends knit along sweater.  The challenge was to knit a top down sweater without a pattern. I decided to make a bulky weight cardigan out of Puffin from Quince & Co. This is meant to be a sweater I toss on over PJs while making coffee, wear with jeans to go out to dinner, or sweat through while jumping around with children at work. My hopes and dreams for this sweater are great – my ability to finish it – not so much.  Sure, I’ve made progress since my last post, but that was a month ago, and this sweater is knit with big yarn on big needles.  I should be wearing it already. I am happy to report that I’m at least 3/4 of one sleeve farther along than this photo shows.  However, there is a chance I’m going to rip that sleeve out and reknit it so it doesn’t look as though I was trying to make it big enough to fit both of my arms at once.

Exhibit B:


This teeny-tiny sweater received some attention during an unexpected trip to the laundromat.  Ginger the bulldog created a situation which required us to give the sheets, duvet, and down comforter a thorough washing. I actually mucked up the first row of the lace pattern after dividing for the sleeves because counting stitches is something I tend to regard as a “suggestion.” In the photo you can see where I had just ripped the lace out and made a panicked dive to save the live stitches for a do-over.  Fortunately, the caffeine saw me through the dicey moments, and victory was mine.

I’ve made some minor headway on a few other things this month, with one notable exception – this blog.  This is where I admit that one of my great pet peeves is following a blog where the blogger rarely blogs (try saying that five times fast).  Ironic, isn’t it?  So, this month’s project list includes some much needed new garments for fall, as well as a few more blog posts… and perhaps, if the mood strikes, I’ll make myself a pair of super soft pants.