J’s Cardi F.O.- Yarn Along

J's pumpkin Cardi

J.’s Pumpkin Cardi was FAST- for me at least. One week!  I have never in my life knitted any item of clothing in a week.  J’s Cardi was based on Katrina Ballerina and is knit in one piece which I lengthened into another LCOEP and I changed the bottom pattern a little because I didn’t like the chunky looking bottom edging.  I used Berroco Vintage which for me was a bit of a gamble: acrylic yarn &possible squeakiness.  **Shudder**  Fortunately it was fine and as I said really really fast.

However I had a full two months before I could give it to J for her birthday, and I had grand plans for the dress I  wanted to make her to go with it so I procrastinated on finding buttons for it and I just hung it in the closet to wait for the right time.  It did finally get it’s moment in the light: she loves it and it looks sooo cute with her classy little Autumn Jersey Dress.

J's pumpkin Cardi and Autumn dress.

J’s pumpkin Cardi and Autumn dress.

I have been re-reading Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.  Previously when I read this book it was as a mother of young children living in a village community with easily accessible and kindly woodlands and moors that my children were able to have some measure of freedom to explore.  Meanwhile they had friends who were never allowed to play outside a yard and then were never allowed to get dirty even in the yard: so they played video games and watched TV of course.  Now my kids are older our surroundings have changed as have their needs… I was hoping the second reading would be as inspirational to my as the first time but sadly it has just felt rambly and a desperately narrow-minded.  Part of the problem is mine: I have been learning more about food insecurity in America for a future home-school subject and when you know more about hunger in food deserts it makes “nature deficiency” sound like a first world problem.

I’m joining up with Ginny for a Yarn Along.

xx

Jo

Happy Birthday to Me… Almost: Yarn Along

My MeritanceStill… Going… On… And…. On… And…. On…  I had intended to have it done by my birthday this weekend but… uhhhh, no.  Not happening.

It is partly my fault, or rather: it is all my fault.  I decided to lengthen my Meritance from the sensible hip length cardi it is patterned as into a Long-Cardigan-of-Epic-Proportions (LCOEP).  This thing reaches almost my knees. At 5’9″ that is no mean feat.  Naturally I got bored half way through and finished two other knitted projects I have yet to share.  Then on top of all that 99% of my day is spent multi tasking.  That makes making real daily progress on a LCOEP difficult.  But now I am about 10 cast off stitches and some finishing away from it still being too hot to wear till winter!

I am currently reading Al Capone Does my Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko.  It is a fabulous book intended for younger children perhaps 3-5th grade but J. and I are using this semester as a platform for creative writing and critical thinking in her 7th grade home-school lessons.  As reading material it is far too young for J. but the quality of the writing makes it great for a learning spring board.  So after a trip to Alcatraz (which we frequently call Azkaban my mistake) we have started our school year with a bang!

Linking up with Ginny today for a Yarn Along.

xx Jo

Meritence- Yarn Along

IMG_7507I did decide to cast on Meritence for myself, but I am probably going to have to start the other project before I get too far done with My Meritence.  Oh my Giddy Aunt is this pattern a headache!  Its all correct and it works just fine but the way it’s written requires so much mental gymnastics I dread picking it up and figuring out where I’m at!  I’m sure it will all get easier once I’m past the armpits and onto the looong stockinette section.

I have just finished reading  The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet’s Pride and Prejudice.  For years I have been avoiding Jane Austen spin offs after an unfortunate run in with Pride, Prejudice and Zombies (followed by a sad encounter with Death Comes to Pemberly) but I actually really enjoyed The Forgotten Sister!  It is a first person narrative but set against the back drop of Pride and Prejudice it feels much broader because you already know what was happening the room next door!  I actually didn’t believe the love story but the rest of it was magnificent!

I’m linking up with Ginny for a Yarn Along.

xx Joanna

The Knitter’s Dilemma- Yarn Along

I am nearly done with my Margaret Dashwood Shawl.  It is going to be delicious.  But now I am planning my next project and I am stuck between two:

Knit Picks, Gloss Fingering in Hawk @ Sweet Little Wood1: I was firmly determined to make Meritance for me from Knit Picks Gloss Fingering in Hawk.  Its just my cardigan.  I wear this style ALL THE TIME but I have never tried to knit an every-day-wear for myself.  All my knits are special wear or specific outfit knits.  For the every day stuff I always go buy cheap cardigans from Target wear them out and throw/donate them when they get too far gone for me.  But…

Berroco Vintage in Curry @ Sweet Little Wood2: I went to Chico and there I found the perfect yarn for a Heliopath Vest which I want to make for a gift. The yarn store (Heartstrings) was delicious! One of the best stocked that I’ve seen since moving to CA and it was really really hard to decide not to buy random stash yarn!  There was Sweet Georgia which I’ve never come across before but was so temptingly yummy.  Sadly it was faaaaaarrrrrrrrr outside my price range! Instead I got Borrocco Vintage in Caramel: it is mostly acrylic which I usually avoid… squeaky yarn… SHUDDER.  It feels very nice though- not squeaky- and it is for a younger girl and summer wear so washing frequently will be an issue.

So now I’m stuck in that delicious dilemma.  I have patterns, needles and yarn for both… which to cast on… hmmm.

I am reading very little at the moment that isn’t quick and done in less than 5 minutes. I’ve been busy and traveling but I have still got Sylvia’s Farm on the back burner and a library copy of Folks This Ain’t Normal in my waiting list.  I’m linking up with Ginny today.

Have a wonderful downward slide to the weekend!

xx Joanna

Castle Pockets and Other Wonders- Yarn Along

I’ve had a very productive knitting run since I last joined in with Ginny’s Yarn Along.  There is nothing quite so wonderful as pulling a finished piece of craft off its final pins and letting it get on with its purpose for existing!Kitty's Green Dream- Christmas Morning SweaterK.’s Green Dream is done and being worn nearly daily!

Esther's Pollen Collectors- Honey's Pollen Collectors Leg WarmersE’s Pollen Collectors were finished in the nick of time for this flash of colder (for California) weather we are having.

Margaret Dashwood Shawl

And I am back to Margaret Dashwood’s Shawl which is a dream to knit and soooooooo easy to modify for size etc. I’m reading Sylvia’s Farm (recommended by Ginny a few weeks ago on the Yarn Along).  Its very inspirationally written but also a little frustrating.  She uses descriptions that defy common use.  I have to wheedle out from her words her meaning and I don’t feel at all like I’m certain I’ve gotten it right!

J. has continued with her shawl and it is coming on beautifully but on top of that she also finished and gifted a project of her own design: J’s Castle pockets!Grimm SatchelJ. made K. a laptop bag for her 16th birthday and had the ingenious idea of a fairy tale theme.  She wanted it to look very simple and mature from the outside but open up to the enchanting world of Grimm’s Fairy Tales (a long time fascination for K. who could easily write a dissertation on the repetitive female characters in the Grimm’s tales).  The bag was sized off a little shopper bag M. was given by the local water district which is the most perfect size for almost any thing you can imagine… I am definitely making myself one of these soon!

Grimm Satchel So she chose a fabric from Heather Ross’s Far Far Away range, an old moth eaten felt army blanket which had a delicious mossy color but needed some selective cutting, leather, hardware, and her own sewing and knitting prowess (with a little help from Mommy)!

J. sewsThese castle pockets were knitted specifically to fit pencils and K’s cell phone after felting.  J. followed some excellent advice I gleaned from the forums and wonderfully friendly knitters over at the Tiny Owl Knits Ravelry group  as she winged the pre-felted knitting.Grimm Satchel

J. knitted the castle pockets in garter stitch from Knit Pick’s Pallete in Gosling which felted into a sturdily dense fabric.  I gave her a hand with the rambling rose embroidery as her time was running very short!  I think I might have to add castle pockets to some of my dresses because I want to look at them all the time.Grimm SatchelHave a wonderful Wednesday and a happy Yarn Along snoop through everyone’s WIP!

xx Jo

Hurry Up and Wait- Yarn Along

Honey's Pollen Colectors

E’sther’s Honey’s.

Last week was one of those weeks where we (meaning my daughters) had a lot on.  I spent my whole week driving hither and yon.  Where I would have to sit and wait (for my daughters) before driving hither and yon again.  On the bright side… I’m a knitter so much was accomplished!

I did very little on my Margaret Dashwood Shawl but J. is catching up with me knitting hers so that is no bad thing. I started over on the cowl neck for the-sweater-which-must-not-be-named THREE TIMES before frogging each one… and now I’m procrastinating with Esther’s pair of Honey’s Pollen Collectors.  I got 90% of one leg-warmer done while sitting around at the County Science Fair on Saturday!  They knit up fast.

I have actually plowed through three books this week too and they were all delicious.  Currently I’m reading A Curse Dark As Gold by Elizabeth Bunce.  It is a YA book and I am not kidding you that it is one of the best YA Fantasy reads I have ever picked up.  It is a re-telling of Rumpelstiltskin set in the mid 19th century at the cusp of the industrial revolution.  Bunce melds historical mill work wonderfully with a fairy-tale that the magic in it feels utterly real!  It’s one of those books borrowed from the library that I will certainly be buying for our home library.

I am linking up with Ginny for a Yarn Along on this cold spring morning!

xx

Joanna

The Monday Project: Honey’s Pollen Collectors

Honey bees collect pollen on their little leg warmers to take back to the hive to make food for little baby bees. Now you can too in a one size, no gauge Free-Bee legwarmer!

A  few months ago K. asked for leg warmers.  I foolishly decided to make up my own pattern.  They were finished pretty quickly and I was immediately coerced into buying yarn for another two pair for E. and J.  so I could keep trial running the pattern in different yarns.  I put the second run aside for awhile but not before I decided I really wanted to share the pattern.  I finally picked up the knitting again and dug out the scraps of paper I had scratched out notes on to write it up.

There were some peeks at K.’s pair when we went mushrooming in December:

Honey Bees Knees Legwarmers.  A free knitting pattern @Sweet Little Wood

Well my sweet friends… this is actually the first pattern I have written down.  (YIKE!!)   And I am more than a little nervous to be offering it to the knitting world… What if it has a million mistakes?? Or WORSE… what if no one even likes it enough to have a go at the pattern….  so I am hoping some of you darlings out there might fancy some Honey’s Pollen Collector Leg Warmers and might also be willing to give me some feed back on my pattern and how they turn out in different yarns and tensions.  GULP…  Its one size and they stretch.  I used a cheaper 20% wool yarn photographed on K. but the pair I’m currently knitting is in a much nicer cashmere and has a much more pleasant spring to it so your yarn can really make a difference! Its also up on my Ravelry. xx

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Honey’s Pollen Collector Leg Warmers by Sweet Little Wood

Yarn: Aran/Bulky yarn makes a large pair of Legwarmers (will stretch up to about 17 inches at the calf- great on bigger legs over leggings or smaller legs over jeans) or Worsted/DK which will make a smaller pair of legwarmers (will stretch up to about 12 inches at the calf).

Needles: set of 4 &4.5 DPN for Aran/Bulky or 3.75 DPN and 4 DPN for Worsted/DK weight yarn; a cable needle

No gauge. The width of the stretched rib pattern is the same at the ankle as the calf so if your initial 2×2 rib stretches to the diameter you want you’re good to go.

Beehive Pattern Notes:
S2BK2 slip 2 stitches to cable needle and hold at back knit 2 off left hand needle
K2C knit 2 off cable needle
S2FK2 slip 2 stitches to cable needle and hold at front knit 2 off left hand needle

Beehive Row A: {S2BK2, K2C, S2FK2, K2C} repeat around
Beehive Row B: {S2FK2, K2C, S2BK2, K2C} repeat around

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Cast on 48 stitches on smaller DPN and divide stitches between 4 needles and place marker at beginning of round

{K2, P2} in the round for approximately 4 inches (shoten or lengthen as desired).

Increase round: {K2, M1K, P2, M1P} repeat around (72 stitches)

Knit 1 round on larger DPN

Begin Bee-hive pattern

Row 1: Beehive Row A

Row 2-5: knit round

Row 6: Beehive Row B

Row 7- 12: Knit round

Row 13: Beehive Row A

Row 14- 20: knit around

Row 21: Beehive Row B

Row 22 -28: knit round

Repeat rows 13 -28 twice more (Repeat more to add more length)

Repeat rows 13 -1 (in reverse order)

Decrease round: {K1, K2T} repeat around (48 stitches)

Change to smaller needles if snug upper cuff is desired

{K2, P2} around till cuff measures approx. 4 inches.

Cast off loosely in rib.

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Honey's Pollen Collecters Legwarmers.  A free knitting pattern @Sweet Little Wood

If you try them let me know how they turn out!

xx

Joanna

Mommy And Daughter Knit Along- Yarn Along

Margaret Dashwood Shawl @ Sweet Little WoodBeing a Bear of Very Little Attention Span I am officially bored with the green knitted thing which I am having to tell constant half-truths about to hide its true destination. Uggg… too much subterfuge.  I might just come out with it and tell her soon and put myself out of my misery.

So naturally in my boredom I cast on three different projects. None of them were in my Ravelry queue.  I cannot seem to stop myself from doing this… even as I am looping on a foundation row I’m thinking “STOP IT!  Just get on with something else!”  So I have frogged two of them because I realized they were poorly thought out and likely to end in disaster but I have kept on my needles Margaret Dashwood Shawl from The Best Of Jane Austen Knits.  Partially because I am so in love with knitting it but mostly because of this:

Jessica's Margaret Dashwood Shawl @ Sweet Little Wood

J. has be knitting simple scarf shapes for dolls etc intermittently for awhile but she recently got a taste for designing by making something special for K.’s upcoming 16th birthday.  She really wanted to try a real pattern and I happened to have the Margaret Dashwood Shawl pattern photocopied already.  She has been working so dedicatedly she was nearly caught up with me on her first day.  Sadly for her I knit all day while she goes to school so I have outstripped her by far.  But we are knitting (at different paces) this shawl together.

Jessica's Margaret Dashwood Shawl @ Sweet Little Wood

That’s my girl!

Yesterday morning- like any normal Tuesday- was a school morning with all the alarm clocks and blurry bed heads normally involved with a Tuesday morning.  But we all slept through our alarms!  5 people all fast asleep when the bus left and work started and the home-school tutor was on his computer wondering where his students were!  K. and E. got up and got to work but M. J. and I decided to treat it like a windfall and had a wonderful lay in bed and knit morning.  That is to say: J. and I worked on our Margaret Dashwood Shawl and M. read a Terry Pratchet novel.  Our only excuse was Daylight Saving Time Sleep Defficiency (I made that up but we all know it should be diagnose-able).   It was glorious and so wonderfully relaxing I feel like I can face the rest of my chaotic week now.

Margaret Dashwood Shawl @ Sweet Little Wood

I’m linking up with Jenny over at Small Things for a Yarn Along!

xx

Jo

Story of 2015- Yarn Along

This pretty much sums up my year since January.

Food Budgeting @ Sweet Little Wood

I have been knitting  a second Christmas Morning Sweater by Caddy Melville Ledbetter with Manos De Uruguay “Velvet Pincushion” since early January and trying to make our food budget stretch as far as I possibly can.  I have spent an inordinate amount of time with this cook book : Economy Gastronomy.   It has made feeding my family for less totally doable.  It’s a theme in our house that the food budget is one of the only places where there is room to cut.  In early 2013 I was shopping once a week and our month’s grocery bill was more than our month’s rent… seriously.  M. and I could not believe how expensive food was and that it was full of GMOs, corn syrup and Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable fats which we had been easily avoiding in the UK because of EU and UK food labeling laws.

With some tweaks in what I bought and where I shopped I got our bill down to about $800 whilst avoiding most of the previously mentioned food baddies.  For us that was still too high and felt like extortion when I had been feeding my whole family in England for about $720 a month without having to think or plan at all.   So I sat down to researching what other people do.  Last summer I tried couponing.  No kidding it really is cheaper but only if you are willing to buy the sort of foods advertising wants you to buy.  For a month our entire grocery bill was $50 a week but we were eating all those things I really really hate.  And I was feeding my family out of pre-made, salty, sugar laden crap whilst spending a huge amount of time scouring the web for sales and coupons which would match up.  It was easily a full time job and very very unsatisfactory.

So since then I had been looking much harder for solutions.  Because I cook almost everything from scratch it was really the staples that were killing us and (amazingly to me) the weekly shopping!

So in January I learned to shop just once a month.  Ironically we had been told by some wise soul before we ever moved back to the US that if you want to find the best prices on natural food you should shop where the Mexicans shop.  That is what I do for half of the groceries: Food Maxx.  The other half I buy in bulk at Costco.  We are a few months in now and I can say genuinely the learning curve was harsh: planning a month of menus and all the different events that may come up and then transform that into a working shopping list from several different stores AND then to buy it all in one swoop is hard. Super hard. But it gets easier and easier again.  I  have traded in 5 grocery trips a month which with making a shopping list travelling to the stores, shopping and getting home again = about 18 hours a month,  for one gargantuan and a little scary shopping day along side about two days of planning(= about 12 hours a month).  Its worth the effort just for my own time sake but it has also cut our shopping down to $550 a month.  That is about $18 a day or $3.66 per person per day or $1.66 per meal per person.  Seriously.  Less than $20 per day on food for a family of 5 and that is without taking into account the food we grow during the summer which will cut the bill down even more sharply.

I initially wondered if it was worth it… the extra thinking and planning and the huge shop that needs two people to complete it in a day.  But then I realized saving only the difference in our $800 shopping bill and my current $550 is like giving M. a 8% pay raise.  So yeah its worth it.

Today I am linking up with Ginny at Small Things for a Yarn Along!

xx Joanna

Organizing My Palette- Yarn Along

Over the last few months my supply felting yarn from the Knit Picks Palette fingering range has grown from a modest 6 balls to a whopping great bag of different shades.  I’m not complaining… its amazingly versatile yarn.  And did I mention it felts… sweet.

A easy idea for a  yarn cataloging system.

But when I last needed a specific shade of fingering yarn (that felts!!!) I placed my order from Knit Picks and when it arrived I realized that:

1: I already had that shade.

2:  I had no idea what other colors I had because I hadn’t saved the paper labels and I had at least three other repeats in my big bag o’ Palette.

So I started my own system for cataloging the yarn I had.  I wish I’d started doing this a year ago because it seriously saves me time.  When I get a ball of yarn I cut off a little 2 inch segment and tape it on the appropriate page of my sketch book.  In this photo is a specific page for Palette yarns because I have enough of that specific yarn to warrant it.  Others just go on a page by yarn weight (lace, fingering, aran, worsted, bulky etc) with a little bit of washi tape.  I write the color and name of the yarn on the tape and if i have more than one ball/skein I can write the number of balls or yardage available.  When I am contemplating a pattern I can flick through my catalog of yarn to see what I have.  And then when I run out of the yarn I can easily pull the washi and snipping of yarn out leaving a space for another ball.  Its not a perfect system but it works for me… and maybe you?

My reading has been a little slap-dash, squeezed into nooks and crannies between more physical tasks.  I have been reading (and being read too when M. feels like it) To Speak Well of God by John Pople.  The Bible reading planner we follow takes us through the old testament once and the new testament twice through the year divided into three daily readings so the end of the year always sees us reading Job, Malachi and Revelation before January starts the planner over afresh in Genesis, Psalms and Matthew.  I’m not sure if it is the reflective nature of the time in which I am reading through Job or just the wonderful mysteries to be picked apart in it but Job has always been my favorite book of the Bible to study and it fills my thoughts often in it’s themes of accepting God’s absolute authority.  M’s favorite book is Revelation and he finds that if he starts looking for uses of a symbol in prophecy he almost always finds something useful in Job.  To Speak Well of God is an amazing book and so insightful.  Some bible expositors can get bogged down in sounding too “educated” which sometimes makes the subject more difficult than it needs to be.  Pople’s writing style is intelligent but totally readable and if you have ever read a few chapters in Job and scratched your head or thought of it as just a long catalog of men speaking half truths before you get to God’s somewhat mysterious speech this book is full to brimming with totally bible based answers.

I’m linking up with the lovely Ginny over at Small Things.

Happy Wednesday to you all and I hope you have a wonderful New Year!

Jo

xx