Monday, November 30, 2009

Knitted Advent Garland

Several years ago, there were several knit bloggers creating knitted advents for their families. It was such a cute idea, and each year I've imagined that maybe I'd be able to squeeze the time in to knit one of my own...and then before I know it, December has started, and there is no time. This year, I finally realized that I will never "find" the time; instead, time has to be made. I started this advent garland in the beginning of November, and it took me about two weeks. 17 socks, 4 pairs of mittens, 4 hats.

The children helped me clip them up to our "clothesline" wire over the dinner table, and it was so gratifying to see them all lined up at last.

I secured a fabric yo-yo to the tacks at each end with a few stitches; I like the effect.

With something like this, it's kind of all about the little touches; the details.

The mittens:

The hats (Noro Kureyon Sock -- I used two colorways, and you can see the progression from bottom to top, as the yarn changes through each of the two hats):

I love the touch of whimsy that it gives to the dining corner of the kitchen.

One of the most fun things about the project was getting to knit through so many different kinds of yarn in short succession. I could finish up to 4 socks in a day, but even if I just completed one, I still got that small thrill of a finished project each time I closed up a toe. I was able to compare different kinds of sock yarn side-by-side; it was so interesting to me to note the differences. It was fun, as I worked up each tiny item, to remember what the sock yarn had been for -- all of the socks I've knit for my mom, for myself, one pair for a friend who was moving away, some fingerless gloves for a cousin. It pulled up so many memories of the moments I've knit into socks (or other things) through the years.

If you've been wanting to do an advent calendar or garland too, but just don't have to the time to knit 25 items before tomorrow (!!!), you can check out these (non-knitted) ideas on Whip-Up: 30 of the best advent calendars. I love this one: Matchbox Countdown. Also inspiring: 30 of the best holiday buntings and garlands. I want to make a few of these for our celebration of the New Year!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Curtains, curtains, everywhere!

In all of the places we've lived, Greg has always been our interior decorator, which always involved a multitude of band posters, tons of colored mood lighting, lava lamps, and tie-dyed wall-hangings. In our first apartment it made sense: he lived there for several months before we married and I moved in, so it was already all set up by the time I arrived.

In each of the places we've moved to since, I always knew we wouldn't be there for too long, so I felt that it wouldn't be worth really digging in, indulging in my nesting instincts, and creating space inside of my house to make it a home that reflected me.

During Greg's last deployment, I started to feel a change. As I looked around the house and considered the style of decorating, I realized that there wasn't much that said "me" outside of my wool room. When we were getting ready to move here to Texas, I knew that this time it would be different. It was time for a change, and this time, I wanted to be in charge. Armed with the incredible (and doable!) inspiring book, Handmade Home by Amanda Blake Soule, I began to gather my supplies as my head filled with all sorts of ways to beautify, personalize, and soften the interior of my home.

The first major change is: no posters, except for Large Important Framed Ones. So far, he hasn't framed any, but there are at least two huge ones that will look pretty awesome in the hall (we're going to create an "art gallery" of sorts along the walls). The second, and most important to our discussion today, is: There Will Be Curtains. Proper curtains. White, breezy ones.

I've been just a tiny bit curtain obsessed lately. Obsessed, as in: this is pretty much all I've wanted to do, think about, and discuss this week.

So here they are.


Thrifted bedsheet, vintage doilies. The lace panel at the edge of the top valence is from the edge of the sheet.

I love the way the light filters through. The vintage doilies remind me of snowflakes.

I sewed the curtain-rod-casing so that there would be a little frill over the top, but now I'm thinking I might sew loops into it instead to hang it that way. We'll see.

Here's my wool/sewing studio:

My favorite part of the handkerchief curtain is that, like the doily one, it showcases someone else's handwork (in the case of the crochet-edged or embroidered ones), putting their talent on display, rather than allowing it to be forgotten in the corner of a drawer, or worse still, thrown away.

I am also terribly charmed by the ribbon loops and the box pleats.

I've got another that I sewed for the children's toy room, with a playful polka-dot ribbon border, but the curtain rod that I bought for it is too small to fit the window. Once I find the right size, I'll be able to show it to you.

Tomorrow, I'm going to show you our little knitted advent garland!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

All week I've been wanting to say "I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving!", but I suppose that now I can just say "I hope that you enjoy what remains of your Thanksgiving weekend." We certainly are!

The boys have had a short week at school -- I took signed them out of their classes early on Tuesday after Sparky's class performed an adorable (but very politically incorrect) Thanksgiving play. Here's a shot of his class:

We left school and drove into Austin to do our last bit of food shopping for Thanksgiving dinner. We weren't the only ones with the same idea; the parking lot at Central Market actually had parking attendants. Thankfully, it wasn't too crazy inside the store, and the children (with the promise of Gelato at the end) were complete angels. It was miraculous.

There wasn't any school on Wednesday, although Greg still had to work, so the children and I had an unusual, long day all together.

On Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, Jillian and Aaron (friends that were stationed in Germany with us) drove up from San Antonio (where they live) to spend the holiday with us. It was so nice to have them, and fun to collaborate our dinner menu. And quite a menu it was:

To see details, click through to the Flickr set.

What a crew. Thank you Jillian and Aaron for helping to make our Thanksgiving special! We love you guys!

So now I can say it: I dearly hope that this weekend -- whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not -- you have been able to carve out time to spend moments with those you hold most dear. I am thankful for all of you, my darling readers, for your creative input, your patience with my sporadic posts, for the way you each inspire me through your comments and through your blogs and/or your projects on Ravelry and elsewhere. I value each one of you so much -- I don't know what I'd do without all of you, my very wonderful, loving, crafting community.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

When the tiny bug bites you...

I would be blogging...

But I've got socks in my eyes.

Lots of socks.

I mean seriously, I'm not kidding, AHELLOFALOTOFSOCKS.

And mittens.

I got this idea for a knitted advent clothesline a few years ago and have always wanted to do it, but suddenly about a week ago, I felt like I COULD NOT GO ON if I did not knit it RIGHT NOW.

I've just finished up two more pairs of mittens, so I've got 21 items down. Excuse me now while I go knit 4 tiny hats... (and maybe a few little sweaters just for good measure...)

(Psssst: this is a great way to dig into those bags of extra sock yarn leftovers!!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Child's play

The creativity of a child is a precious thing.

Built into a child is the natural ability to play in a way that is free from the worries of messes they might make, or the end result of their actions. This ability can be infuriating and seen as destructive by the Grown Up among us, but it is amazing how freeing it can be to just let go from time to time and create with a toddler.

In the mornings while the boys are in school and Billy is napping, Daisy and I are able to spend time together, just the two of us, and I've had the opportunity to look at the world through her eyes, enjoying things from her perspective.

There is a quietness and a joy to chalk stained knees; the sensation of fingers, slick with fingerpaint, slipping over giant sheets of paper; the warmth of freshly made playdough, and the taste of the salt and the flour; coloring with crayons without a design in mind, just to see the colors next to each other on a page; going on a treasure hunt through the neighborhood for twigs and leaves and pebbles to build fairy houses for the bugs.

If you can allow yourself to let go, the world can be a magical place through the eyes of a child.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Greg is safe

Some (all?) of you have probably seen reports of the shooting at Ft Hood today. Greg was there at work, although, thank God, was safely in lockdown, and not near the action.

My heart breaks and goes out to the families of those who lost loved ones today.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Aspen Revontuli

Thank you so much to all who wrote encouraging and supportive comments and emails after the homeschool/public school post. The boys have been doing very well in their classes, with their teachers and the other students, and seem to be enjoying their days there. When they come home each day, I feel like I can truly be there for them; I have more patience, worry less about messes, and don't feel so overwhelmed. Overall, this has proved itself to be the best thing for our family right now, and, while we will continue to re-assess as time goes on, taking it year-by-year, we are very peaceful with our choices for this school year.

In other news...

In September 2007, the Spunky Club installment was 4 oz of Merino Tencel in a gorgeous colorway, Aspen.

When I was first pregnant with Billy, I started spinning it, and stretched it out into over 1000 yards of laceweight singles.

This past summer, on a road trip to a vacation resort in the Black Forest region of Germany, I started knitting it into the shawl, Revontuli. This shawl also traveled with me to Barcelona, Spain, on our flight from Germany to America in September, and during our first few weeks here in our new home in Texas.

All told, between the Bavarian Alps, Barcelona seascapes, cottony clouds out of an airplane window, and the cacti and heat of Texas, this shawl has a whole lot of life experience and memories knit into it.

The unblocked shawl looks like a beautiful tangle of seaweed to me.

I decided to knit one extra lace repeat so that the shawl would be a decent size for dramatic swishes, because everyone needs to feel like a superhero sometimes.

I used a 2-stitch Picot bind-off so that I wouldn't have any trouble stretching the shawl out to it's max while blocking.

Shawls tend to take a while in the making, but the beauty of it is that they carry so many moments of the knitter's life in their stitches. So many memories, emotions; it is so much more than just the sum of it's parts.

Shawls are often a splendid display of knitterly (and/or spinnerly) skill, but the grace of the piece, I think, lies in the unseen; the story between the twisted strands.


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