Pomander

Published on Wednesday January 16th, 2013

My dear friend Mia produced a lovely baby at the end of December. This was a second baby, and it’s my personal feeling that little siblings born into a life of hand-me-downs deserve something special on the knitterly front—something created just for them. And I was feeling creative, so I thought I’d cook up a spanking new cardigan for this wee person. I wanted to nod to the season without going Full Reindeer Jumper, so I began to think about festive garlands of greenery, spiced cider, and the fragrant pomanders we used to make by spiking oranges with cloves. I swatched a sort of coin motif filled with seed stitch, imagined it swagged around the yoke, and a Pomander cardigan was quickly and pleasurably born. The chart is giving me fits and rendering me totally daft—making charts with changing stitch counts always does that to me—but as soon as I’ve wrestled it into submission the pattern will be ready for testing.

I used Oceanwind Knits BFL Fingering, remnants from my Pas de Valse. I love this yarn. It is much more softly spun than almost kinky BFL fingering weight you’ve probably seen indie dyers offering as sock yarn. (I love that stuff, too, as it happens, but think Oceanwind’s base makes a nicer sweater if you don’t need it to wear like iron.) Blue Moon Fiber Arts’ BFL Sport would be a good alternative, although it’s a bit heavier and you might need to knit a size down on a larger needle. I think Pomander would be glorious in The Fibre Company’s Canopy, too… I might take the chance to finally try knitting that stuff after years of fondling it in yarn shops. A more tightly spun sock yarn would yield a different look—less halo, more pop to the yoke motif—that could be very pleasing, too.

Mia didn’t know what flavor of baby she’d be having, so I tried for Generally Cute rather than Gendered Cute. As it happens, wee Margaret is a girl, but I think her sweater looks pretty great on my own strapping lad, too. (You’ll notice I went with girl-wise buttons, but honestly I think gendered button placement is silly for anyone these days, especially babies. I’m told the left vs. right conventions originate with gentlemen buttoning themselves vs. ladies being buttoned by maids. But no six-month-old gentleman is going to be buttoning himself, and it’s only easier to fasten someone else’s buttons when they’re placed on the right side of the cardigan if the buttoner is right handed, anyway. I say put the buttons wherever you like.)

Jolyon can’t sit reliably without a spotter yet, so I tried to get his sister to prop him up for some clear shots of the front. Here’s the best photograph that approach yielded:

To be fair, she only has ten pounds’ advantage. And he’s kind of a flailing handful when he’s excited. The cardigan is a bit snug on my big boy, you’ll notice. But this is the 3-6-month size he’s wearing, his 6-month birthday was on the winter solstice, and he’s a large specimen, so don’t judge the fit by these pictures. I was kind of amazed it fit as well as it did… three cheers for stretchy knitting!

We four say welcome, Baby Margaret! You landed a fine family and a knitting mama (I happen to know there’s a super cute pair of owl mittens waiting for you in a couple of years)… and that’s a fair start in this world.

Temperate

Published on Wednesday January 9th, 2013

The new year opened with a sparkling clear day, which I like to think is a good omen. I have some dreams for this year, although I’m still raking them out of the clouds and seeing what kind of a pile I might be jumping into. More on that to come. 2012 was a year of hard swimming for our family—with a favorable current, happily, but it’s been breathless effort at times, especially for my husband as he steers his start-up through a rapid expansion. I’ll be the first to say it’s a good problem to have, and I’m terribly proud of the way he has handled the incredible demands of his work without giving up family time, but I truly hope 2013 will be a year to settle and breathe just a little bit more.

January 2 brought us a rare snow flurry, and this time I was quick enough to bundle the bairns out of doors before the tiny flakes had vanished entirely. We tried to catch them on our tongues. (You’ll have to take my word for it that there actually were snowflakes, as the photographic evidence would suggest otherwise.)

One of my hopes for this winter is to get up to the mountain at least once so Ada can taste the joys of snowballs and -men and -angels. (Also I suspect I’d be missing out on a rite of parenting passage if I didn’t have to whip a toddler back out of her cold-weather gear in time for a dash to the potty.) It’s one of my only regrets about our temperate, sea-level home, that there isn’t a real winter. My New England blood makes me pine for ice skating and skiing and snow shoeing. (I’ve never even been snow shoeing, but I’m convinced I’d love it.) On this day, it was excitement enough to scamper about our bare yard with tongues—two human, one canine—lolling. Baby Jolly, hastily swaddled in several layers of wool, took it all in and didn’t judge.

(Pikku-Pete cap still fits! Mama will be so sad when it doesn’t.)

Elizabeth does it again

Published on Friday December 7th, 2012

Surplice (not Surplus) Baby Jacket!

I cast on this little cache-coeur for Jolyon last summer during the Olympics, without bothering to swatch or guess how large it would be, and it’s a perfect fit now. I set aside the Vogue Knitting from Spring/Summer 2007… well, back in 2007, knowing that I could leave no Elizabeth Zimmermann baby sweater unknit—put it right on the shelf amongst the sock yarn where it wouldn’t get lost in a box. And then at the first Sock Summit in 2009 I picked up this skein of what’s since become mystery wool, having lost its extraordinarily unassuming label—it was no larger than a tea bag’s label and printed on much less sturdy stuff. It was an American yarn maker… name started with a D, I think… an upper midwest or eastern mill… they had a very modest display of nice heathered wool in quiet colors. (If you bought some and kept better track, let me know!) It has a bit of crunch to it, but is soft enough (in my opinion and, I’m sure, in EZ’s) for a baby. I tucked it alongside the magazine, and the yarn and the pattern waited patiently together for the next three years. Turns out they were waiting for this baby, this big blue-eyed boy, whom they suit exactly.

There’s a lot of leeway in the pattern (which is also in Knit One Knit All and available separately from Schoolhouse Press), as in so many of Elizabeth’s designs; I followed the Vogue directions pretty closely, if I remember correctly, but lengthened the sleeves. I chose not to fuss with stripes and just let the pleasant heathered wool do its stuff—this blue is blended with both red and yellow and is hard to pair with other colors anyway. I used some Rowan Felted Tweed remnants for the edging to give it a bit of dash, and although it might look like i-cord at first glance, it isn’t. I just picked up stitches all around, knit a handful of rows of stockinet, and let it curl up. I wanted something more elastic than i-cord so the garter stitch could be allowed to grow with the baby for a while, as it so obligingly tends to.

The shaping may not be what you’re used to in garments for little boys… it’s quite cropped on an infant the size of my strapping five-and-a-half-month-old. But we’re finding it very useful as an outer layer, especially over his woolen footed overalls. The wide neckline is practical on a baby of slobbering age—so often I’m picking little soggy bits of wool lint from between his chins, but that’s not a problem with this sweater. And he’s finding those leather buttons irresistible for teething. (I sewed them on well, Infant Care Police!)

If you’re just here for the baby footage, these were all taken on his five-month birthday. It still surprises me that we haven’t had him for much longer. This boy. This bright and beautiful boy. At the end of the longest, most trying day (and we’ve had a few of them lately), he can give me a grin and a chortle as I bundle him into his pajamas and all’s right with the world.

Wednesday began well

Published on Friday November 23rd, 2012

It was a day of unexpected gifts: namely, the children’s school was open and mine was not. Dear Mr. G booked me a massage. There was time to bake and time to knit and drink lots of tea to fight a sore throat. Later in the day there would be a comedy of errors as Ada locked herself and her brother and my phone and my wallet in the car (“Sweetheart, can you reach this button right here? What about with your toes? Stretch, honey!” “I can’t reach it, Mama. You can’t open this door? You just stuck outside?”), Mr. G misunderstood what time my call for the Thanksgiving Eve choral service was, and farcical juggling of cars and dog and children ensued. Nothing was nearly as bad as it could have been; I borrowed a phone and a AAA card from one of Ada’s teachers and in about seven minutes a nice fellow came and rescued my trapped babies. And I was only fifteen minutes late to choir.

But it was the beginning of a downward spiral for our Thanksgiving. My poor husband fell ill and had to stay in bed rather than celebrate his favorite holiday. It wasn’t the same without him, and there’s not even leftover pie because I had to bundle the littles home to bed before everyone else had eaten dessert. I love a convivial gathering of friends and relations and a good meal; I love that Thanksgiving still feels rooted in the spirit of sharing and being grateful for what we have. But if I’m honest, the probability of leftover pie for breakfast the morning after is right up there among the highlights.

This afternoon Ada went to her grandparents’ house and Mr. G felt well enough to mind the baby for a few hours while I escaped for some restorative knitting with my ladies. He went out and bought me two slices of pie for tomorrow’s breakfast. I’m going to cook him something special in a few days when he is quite recovered. Maybe we’ll take an extra donation to the Food Bank the following week — I’ll bet they need it in the stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas influxes. We’ll just stretch our festivities out a bit. Goodness knows we have plenty to be thankful for.

I wish you all an abundance of blessings this season.


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