Today at the pool, as the kids and I sat on a bench and had our post-swimming lesson snack, I spotted a pair of boys on a lounge chair nearby. They looked like typical boys you see at the pool - probably about nine or ten years old, skinny, tanned from swimming, barefoot, short hair, dressed in swimming shorts - except for one thing: they were both working diligently on something in embroidery hoops. Each had his own hoop and package of needles, plus a small, rather tangled, mound of thread in different colors atop a crumpled beach towel. Presumably they were passing the time waiting for their own swimming lessons to start. From where we were sitting I couldn't tell what kind of stitches they were doing (cross stitch? embroidery?), and I didn't want to interrupt their concentration. I can't help but wonder what sort of motif a young boy would bring along to stitch at the poolside, though I suppose it could be anything from superheroes to butterflies. They ran off before we left (to swim, I'm guessing) and I would have sneaked a peek if I hadn't gotten distracted looking for Daniel's goggles in the lost and found.
What a busy weekend: lots of biking, a bit of gardening, a dinner guest, some work on my part including staining cabinets in the basement and a little professional accompanying work. I've had little time in between for knitting, but this afternoon I finally got Stuart to take some pictures of me wearing the hats I finished a few weeks ago.
The first is from the new Elizabeth Zimmerman book Knit One Knit All. This isn't a hat so much as a bonnet, the Diamond-Back Bonnet, to be precise.
At this time, I'm the only person on Ravelry with one as a finished project, and I hope I'm not the last. It's a fun knit with intriguing construction - no surprise coming from Elizabeth Zimmerman! The diamond pattern is made with traveling slipped stitches, and the shape at the top is a clever series of decreases. And of course we have i-cord all around for a neat edge. Quite honestly, this isn't the most flattering hat I've ever come across, at least on me, but I love it anyway. EZ can do no wrong.
I'm especially happy with the yarn I chose, some Jacob wool I nabbed at the farmers' market earlier this spring from a vendor who primarily sells goat cheese (delicious goat cheese at that!). I couldn't resist the skeins of wool neatly stacked in a basket next to the table full of cheese samples. I actually bought two skeins, and this bonnet took less than one, so I've got plenty left for something else. I just have to decide what. I'm thinking mittens, maybe a pair of EZ's garter stitch ambidextrous mittens from the same book.
Next up: Wurm!
I love this hat. I love it way, way more than I thought I would. For one thing, it kind of looks good on me, which I wasn't anticipating. I thought the design was fun and a good match for the yarn (Farmhouse Yarns silk blend, bought on impulse not long ago from Woodland Studios), so I cast on, figuring if it didn't work for me, I'd chuck it on the gift pile and find someone who'd like it. But it's mine, all mine!
I've only got one thing on the needles at the moment (the Liesl tunic), but lots of sewing projects on my to-do list, including some gifts with deadlines, so crafting-wise it ought to be an interesting summer. I'll leave you with my silly pose for the day:
The other day I was at a bookstore with Anya, and she blurted out, "But I don't have a purse!" This was relevant to absolutely nothing in the preceding conversation. I asked her what kind of purse she wants and she replied "Umm...Purple!" and then I said okay, we'll think about that, maybe sew one to her liking or drop some strong hints with one of her grandmothers. In any case, I explained, this particular store doesn't sell purses, so we're not getting one today. She was fine with that, probably because we were already getting her a book, and I let the subject drop.
Then yesterday I made the mistake of taking the kids to a fabric shop (a fabulous one that deserves a post of its own) after a full day of swimming lessons AND a trip to the children's museum (I know, I know, what was I thinking?). It's not that I like taking tired, overstimulated kids to retail establishments in the middle of the afternoon, but I wanted to go there, it was all the way across town, and we were halfway there already from being downtown and - oh hell, I'll admit it was mostly poor judgement on my part. And all things considered, they did okay, but we didn't last too long. We were there, in fact, to look for some more fabric to make Daniel PJ shorts (he has two pairs and needs more), and he was on board with this plan at first, but was quickly distracted by Anya's increasingly insistent requests that I make her a purse. Then Daniel starting asking for me to make him a purse, too. He ignored my questions of "What about this for pajama shorts? Do you like this?" and found some black quilting cotton with different color polka dots that he liked.
(Aside: I love that my kids like me to make them stuff. This won't last much longer, so I'm trying to enjoy it for now, even if it makes me kind of a sucker for punishment.)
I have to admit something here that I am not proud of. I hesitated for a moment on the purse thing, and I'm not sure why. I certainly would never say "No, you can't have a purse. Boys don't have purses," because I am troubled by these sorts of statements from other people. I believe all people, including kids, should wear what they want and carry around whatever kind of bag they want and call it whatever they want - purse, bag, tote, whatever. Maybe it's because he's starting public school this fall, and I'm afraid of what the mean kids would say if he said he had a purse of his own. I might be a grown-up, but I remember quite clearly how mean kids can be and I'm not sure I could stand the heartbreak of his hurt feelings.
Maybe this is just my imagination running wild. There is still plenty of gender stereotyping out there, don't get me wrong, but it's not unusual to see boys with painted nails and pink clothes and pierced ears and stuff that used to be almost entirely the domain of girls. A couple months ago, he wanted his toenails painted like the babysitter's toenails and that didn't bother me in the least. I'm sure he wants a purse because I carry one and Anya asked for one and for heaven's sake, why not? It's just a bag you carry stuff in anyway.
Calling it simply a "bag" didn't fly. "No, mom, not a BAG, a PURSE!"
This coming from the child who has decided he'll never learn to knit because he wants to be the kind of daddy who doesn't knit (remember?) He also refused to play with a pink toy watering can at the pool one day because it was "for girls." Go figure.
Not to worry. I got over it, and today we made Daniel his purse. I didn't use a pattern. I just asked him how big it should be and how he wanted to carry it around (handles or shoulder straps, and he chose the latter), and I took some measurements and made a small tote bag with the bottom corners stitched up for depth and lined it with some lightweight cotton from a tea towel. He loves his new purse and spent a little time this afternoon deciding what to put in it before he and Anya and I went for a walk outside.
He packed: my keys, an old iPod he pretends is an iPhone (like daddy has) and my camera (because you know I'm going to take pictures.) This meant that I didn't have to carry a purse or shove things in my pockets. It was really quite convenient!
Here's a better look at the bag:
It's a neat fabric, actually, and there is plenty left to make that pair of PJ shorts for him. Here is a detailed shot of the stitching, though if you look too closely you'll see how inexact I am with stitching lines:
Daniel chose the thread color and specifically requested the zig-zag stitching. He LOVES helping me with the sewing machine. I let him plug it in, turn on the switch, put the bobbin case in the machine, and even hold the pedal down when the bobbin is winding. I suspect this was half the reason he wanted a purse in the first place, was to help with the machine. (Daniel is the sort of child who is obsessed with anything that plugs in, requires batteries, has lots of buttons, and/or lights up. He keeps changing all the digital clocks and setting timers and alarms. It's driving us batty.)
Anya didn't get her purse made today, but we have some fabric for it, a twill cotton in buttery yellow (she changed her mind from purple). Maybe tomorrow we'll get working on that, but in the meantime, here's a picture of her in a sweet yellow hat:
This was meant to be a short post about a quick sewing project, but it turned into something else. I'm curious to know what y'all think. I'm not happy that my gut reaction was in such direct conflict with what I want to be as a parent. I'm glad I didn't say no or insist that we call it simply a bag instead. Didn't I recently just whine about obnoxious gender stereotypes on kids' pajamas, which led to making them myself, which led to the trip to the fabric shop in the first place? Am I a hypocrite?
It's been a while since I've posted an FO, but I have my reasons:
1. It's summer. I'm still knitting, but the thought of modeling anything made out of wool for a photo, even for a few minutes, is extremely unappealing. I've got a couple hats that have been done for a while now, and I just need the motivation to sweet talk my husband into taking a few pictures of me wearing them.
2. I started a new sweater, a summer tunic-tank thing called Liesl. The pattern and yarn were an impulse purchase a couple of months ago, and I finally got around to casting on last week. You start off with a gazillion stitches, so it's been a little slow-going.
3. Our desktop computer has been having strange problems for several weeks, rendering it unusable. A couple of trips to the Apple store and much diagnostic work by my husband finally revealed a problem with the video card. This is easily fixed, fortunately, but I can only use the laptop for now, which has a smaller screen and is kind of uncomfortable to type on. This means I am spending less time on the computer and thus less time online. This is probably not a bad thing, but it means I am blogging somewhat less.
4. I was working on a test knit for a couple of weeks, and had to keep it secret until the pattern release. Well, the pattern was just released today, so now I finally have something to share! This is the Gibson Shell, by the fabulous Thea Colemann of BabyCocktails.
I probably ought to get some better pictures, now that I can post about it, but the sticky summer weather has kind of killed my motivation for it.
The designer's version has little buttons on the back of the split collar. It's very cool and retro. I want to copy her, once I find the right buttons.
Pattern: Gibson shell, by BabyCocktails Yarn: Elsbeth Lavold Silky Wool, just over 3 skeins. I only had to use the 4th because I made the sweater a little longer than the original pattern called for. I love this rich red color; it's my favorite. Needles: size 6, circular and DPNs Mods and comments: I made the sweater slightly longer, just because that's how I like to wear my tops, comfortably over my hips. This meant I added an increase to the body shaping to accommodate. The cable on the front was, I think, meant to be a little lower, but I'm so small-chested that this placement works fine. Those more endowed than I would probably want it a tad lower. The pattern is very well-written; as I mentioned before, I was a test knitter and I had no problems with the instructions. The back neck looks weird before you knit on the collar and sew down the pleats, but it all works out, trust me.
Next up: a couple of hats! As soon as I can stand to wear them, that is.
We are sitting on the bed (not the couch, because the couch cushions are currently in use as a living room fort...), and I am showing Anya the knit stitch. She wants to make her toy puppy a blue sweater for his birthday. Anya is 3 and 1/2, so you can imagine how this is going...puppy will be waiting a little while for that sweater.
Daniel is watching and chattering away. He says, "Mom, I never want to learn how to knit." "Why not?" I say. "Because, mom, when I grow up I'm going to be a daddy," he replies. "So?" I say, "There are daddies who knit." "I know," he says, then continues, "There are all kinds of daddies out there, but I don't want to be the kind that knits."
I have some serious issues with the sort of clothing available for kids these days. All the gender stereotyping really bugs me - and Anya's still in toddler sizes, so we haven't even hit the disturbingly suggestive stuff out there for girls yet! When it comes to regular play clothes, I can find enough tops and bottoms that are suitable. It helps that Anya likes to dress plain (like me!) and Daniel generally prefers solid colors and stripes, so I've mostly been able to avoid the messages that I find most offensive.
But for some reason, it's impossible find acceptable PJs. Part of the problem is that kids' clothing sections just have fewer pajamas than regular clothes, so you've got less to pick from in the first place. I really hate the flame-retardant synthetic fabrics (because they are made from petroleum, and the extra chemical treatment creeps me out, plus they just don't look comfortable), so that cuts out 50% of the selection right there. What's left, then, are the handful of snug-fitting cotton pajama sets that inevitably have stuff like "TOUGH GUY" in army camouflage print for boys and "DADDY'S LITTLE WILD CHILD" in sparkly pink letters for girls.
I looked around a bit online, but the only pajamas I could stomach were $50 a set. Lovely, but way too expensive.
This happens every change of season, at those times of the year when the kids need a new set of weather-appropriate PJs because they have outgrown the ones from the year before. Every time this happens I look for acceptable PJs at a handful of stores, and leave either empty-handed or with a set or two that barely pass muster.
It's so discouraging to find that retailers and clothing companies reinforce these annoying and, dare I say, damaging stereotypes. It wouldn't be so bad if there were other options. Many little girls love to dress like princesses and wear t-shirts that say "Daddy's little sweetie pie", just like many little boys want to look like rough 'n tough football stars. But not all of them want to dress like that, and not all of us parents are the sort of clueless nitwits that will dress our children that way.
Last fall my mom got the kids matching superhero pajamas that made them look like Batman and Superman without the capes. They love those PJs, but of course they came straight from the boys' section of the store because, you know, why would a little girl ever want to dress like a superhero?
Rather than drive all over town and visit every store in the mall in search of kids' pajamas that didn't make me want to set my bra on fire, I decided to just buy them some plain undershirts and make pajama shorts to wear for the summer.
Great idea, right? Well, yes, for the most part. Except that now I have a new topic for ranting: pattern sizing. Below is my first attempt at pajama "shorts" for Anya:
I think the pattern is Simplicity, but it doesn't really matter. It's just plain-jane cropped pants with an elastic waist that took about a half an hour to put together from cutting out to sewing the final hem. I made a size 4 because her measurements matched with size 4 on the envelope and she wears size 4 in all of her purchased clothing and fits it all perfectly. But these? Are HUGE. Adorably so, but still.
I got smart on the next pair and cut out a size 3, chopped off an inch from the waist and shortened the legs by a good 3 inches. Much better, but as you can see, still plenty roomy.
Daniel needed some shorts, too, so of course I made him a couple pairs. I used a different pattern, but had the same problem. When I cut out what was supposed to be his size, those shorts would have pulled up all the way to his armpits if I hadn't chopped out several inches from the crotch. The length is okay but I would take out some of the fullness in the legs if I could do it again.
What sort of giant kids are they making these patterns for, anyway? The shorts turned out all right, and the kids are happy with them, so in the end it has all worked out.
We're having a hot week up here, with temps well into the 90s and heat advisories everywhere you turn. What happened to spring, anyway? The growing season is late this year because we had such a cool, wet spring and now we've launched straight into summer. The last few, sweltering days I've been ever-so-grateful for the following things: the swimming pool, water balloons, our newly-installed ceiling fans, and fresh-squeezed lemonade. That last item was a fun experiment this afternoon. Daniel, as it turns out, is a champion lemon-squeezer, and Anya takes her role of supervisor very seriously. "Thanks for squeezing my perfect lemons into lemonade!" she exclaims.
Surprisingly, I haven't really lost any knitting mojo during the heat wave. It helps that I finished up a sweater last week (that test knit, and it's lovely, but I can't share it yet) and have moved on to some smaller items that don't weigh so heavily on the lap. Also, I recently got my hands on a copy of the new book from Schoolhouse Press, Knit One Knit All, a posthumous collection of Elizabeth Zimmerman's garter stitch designs. Or rather, I should say more of her garter stitch designs; her Baby Surprise Jacket and Tomten sweater are well-established classics in the knitting repertoire.
Maybe I'll do a full review of the book some other post, but for now I'll just leave you with a photo:
This is called "Diamond-Back Bonnet" and so far, I'm the only one on Ravelry with a project for it! I'm using some yarn I bought at the farmers market last month: natural brown wool from Jacob sheep who safely graze at Dreamfarm. It's a good match of yarn to pattern, I think. Would EZ approve?