Sunday, December 27, 2009

How the french bread cut my finger..

...and other food-related knitting.

It was just one of those unexpected things. I was so hungry by the time I got home with my lunch and the golden-crusted baguette that I didn't take the time to cut off a proper piece. As I rudely ripped into the loaf, leaving a jagged edge, I felt a quick jab at my left index finger. I figured it was my imagination and thought how funny it would be to fashion a knife out of bread then crumble the evidence (too many forensic cop shows).

Later on, as I sat knitting my Super Cupcake cowl, I noticed that the yarn kept catching on my finger. Upon closer inspection, I saw what looked like a splinter and a little dot of blood. It wasn't my imagination. The french bread actually had cut my finger and left a little bit of itself behind as evidence! Laugh if you must, but it took a week for that sucker to properly heal.

Despite the aforementioned grievous bodily harm and a continuously cantankerous shoulder, I managed to finish both the cowl and the slouchy hat, making this pair the second of my Chicago winter warrior gear.

ChicKnits Super Cupcake hat and cowlYarn: Lorna's Laces - (2) 225 yd. / 114g skeins in the Vera colorway
Needles: 16" circular sizes 7 and 8US / 4.5 and 5.0 mm; size 8 dpns to finish
Stitch: Shaker rib

If you're new to Shaker rib (or any of the other brioche-like stitches), it takes some getting used to the whole "knit one below (k1b)" business. It may be counter-intuitive but go ahead and drop that stitch. It'll work out in the end. Promise. The only tricky part you might encounter (or at least I did) comes when you stop paying attention and purl the k1b and knit the purl. Hopefully you find your mistake before you've finished the round. If not, my advice is to frog back to the purl row.

My only other admonition? If you knit loosely as I am doing at present, take the time to check your gauge. Seriously. You see how my cowl looks a bit, um, large? That's because it is. It turned out to be wider than the pattern's 26" circumference and hence not quite as face-hugging as I would have liked. The fault lies not in the pattern, but in myself.

I did a whole lot better on the hat. I tightened up my knitting and plowed through to the finish on that swell chapeau within five days, which is fast for me these days. Love, love, love everything about this hat. It has just the right amount of insouciant slouch. I think it looks adorable and will definitely be baking up more of these in the future.

Now, back to the baby dress.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Now here's a happy snap!

The First Post's Daily Beast feature has just the thing to send you smiling into the weekend. Cape penguins sporting knitted red scarves with green and white pom-poms for the holidays.

Cape Penguins in scarves Cape penguins at Hakkeijima Sea Paradise aquarium in Yokohama. Photo: Yoshikazu Tsuno

By the way, my Super Cupcake cowl is all done and the matching hat is on the needles. More on this terrific looking duo next week, once the fat lady binds off.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

This week in snow, sleet, rain and knitwear

first snow on patio chairsIt was Monday morning. As is his habit, Nik stood on my chest long enough to wake me and make known his desire for his 4 a.m. feeding. He does this every morning, like I'd forget or something. Not bloody likely after 13 years. I'm a creature of habit, too, buddy. I know how it goes.

I glanced upward from my bed out through the slightly open blinds. It seemed so light out that I figured I really had overslept, leaving poor starving kitties to struggle for themselves well past 5 o'clock. I swung my legs over the side of the bed, squinted at the clock on the night table and saw that it was only 1:48 a.m. In my vast experience of such things, the only reason for the softly bright night sky was snow. The first real, stuck-to-the-ground, more-than-a-dusting snowfall of the pre-winter season. And me, caught with my needles down.

Chic Knits Super CupcakeWhile it's true that I already have a beret and cowl under my belt, I want more. It wouldn't hurt to have another cowl or two, with matching chapeaux, mittens or fingerless mitts completed. I won't go so far as a sweater or lacy shawl because these things, while quite lovely, require the kind of patience I do not possess.

Watch out for sticky fingers with this one! She is called Super Cupcake and she will be mine this winter. Bonne Marie has come up with another practical, sensible and versatile knit to battle the wind and the wet. I have just the worsted in mind, too: 3 or 4 skeins of Lorna's Laces in the Vera colorway that's been marinating in stashland for quite some time.

Perhaps I need to put the baby dress aside and gear up for more suitable woolens. My original plan called for the dress to be finished in time for baby's first Christmas. Well, like the man says, plans change. I hear there's a bonafide winter storm headed our way by week's end.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Things That Make Me Feel Good

Shiny silver buttons

New coat. New buttons.
This cute cadet-style coat from Old Navy came with dull brass buttons that did nothing for it. See for yourself. I consulted a friend and M&J Trimming (love them!) to find the perfect antique silver flower buttons. Color me happy because these little things turn the coat from blah to beautiful.

Expressing myself with color

Drip Painting Detail
And oh, what color! As mentioned previously, I'm taking an abstract art class with the goal of finding parts of myself I thought had left the building. The most recent assignment was to use the drip and splatter techniques of Jackson Pollock. The rest was up to us; how we used color, movement and layering to create with purpose. I know it's not to everyone's taste but I rather like it.

Finishing another hand knit

Vogue Knitting Seed Stitch Cowl

Pattern: Seed Stitch Cowl from VK Holiday 2009
Yarn: 75 yards of marigold dyed alpaca; 2 skeins of vintage Malabrigo; color unknown
Needles: Size 11US / 8 mm

The main difference between mine and the eye-popping green one in the magazine was the weight of the yarn. I doubled worsted weight to approximate the chunky yarn called for in the pattern. This resulted in a smaller cowl which I actually like better. It fits inside my coat and it's equally useful as a layering piece over a sweater.

I also added the pale marigold alpaca as a carry yarn at the start and finish of the piece. If I hadn't been so lazy, I'd have set up the tripod so you could see how perfectly this goes with the Leaf Beret. This is the second item I've finished in the space of a little over three weeks and, at the the risk of being immodest, I'm pretty proud of myself. To go from nothing to something and enjoying the trip? Happy-making!

Friends like you

Thanks for reminding me that words such as those some anonymous person used were just that: words and nothing more. Thanks for reminding me that I have people in my life who will tell me to move on, let go and forget the small stuff and small minds. Reminding me to remember who I am and am not.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

What Kind of Boob Am I?

Mustard Leaf BeretI'm the kind of boob who forgets to tell you that I finished the Leaf Beret over a week ago. It is lovely, wearable and an easy knit - especially for those like me re-entering the crafty atmosphere.

Pattern: Melissa LaBarre's Leaf Beret
Yarn: One skein Louet Gems sportweight in Mustard colorway; 100 grams and 225 yards.
Modifications: None. The pattern is very clear, as written. Even the chart-averse will have no problem understanding the leaf motif.

It wasn't my beloved marigold alpaca, but I did try to hold true to the pale color of the original yarn. I did end up using the alpaca as part of a cowl that can easily be paired with the beret. It's in the seed stitch collar stage and should be ready by week's end.

I am also the kind of boob who cares way too much about what some anonymous person had to say recently in a new comment to an old post from 2005:
"JC has left a new comment on your post "Ciao 2005, Bon Giorno 2006!":

how about sticking to one language, you pretentious boob, preferably the native lanugage (sic) of the readersip (sic) you hope not to put off..." says:
pre⋅ten⋅tious –adjective
1. full of pretense or pretension.
2. characterized by assumption of dignity or importance.
3. making an exaggerated outward show; ostentatious.

Karen's got the hookup
Studying the brain of the boob
Please don't confuse knowledge of more than one language as pretentiousness. This is simply a result of my environment and upbringing. I may be many things but feelings of self-importance are not part of my make-up. On the contrary, I'd rather ham it up and use self-directed humor to divert attention away from the "real me." I will retreat to a corner before making an ostentatious show.

Like many people, I can be complex, intense, perceptive, impulsive and worried over the smallest things (like why I've lost a few readers or how to stop the cat from chewing my patterns). That may make me both perspicacious and paradoxical but never, ever a pretentious boob.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Threads of a Creative Mojo

Sleek. Sexy. Chunky. Fun. Fabulous! These words are all appropriate when describing Vogue Knitting's Holiday 2009 edition. Honestly, they had me at, "Cowl."

Think Big from VK Holiday 2009 preview. Saved to my server.One of these beguiling beauties is just the thing for both gift-giving and stash-busting. Chunky yarns? I has it by the suitcase. Some might say I over-bought. Three hyphenates in four sentences. Too much?

Now, for a brief update on another knitting project: my little friend, the Leaf Beret. I feel like I'm in that commercial for the online genealogical search engine - I finished my first leaf! If you recall, my first attempt did not go well. I went with a Louet sportweight wool this time and the quickie fit checks prove satisfactory. I won't go getting all excited, though. At least, not until that final decrease row. Then I'll be all *happy* dancing, which, for that vision alone, is worth the price of admission.

There is mounting evidence that, while impersonating a certain moribundity, my creative bits ain't dead yet. I started an abstract art class this week. There was an actual live, nude model. Even more, the artist teaching the class actually liked my interpretation of California Expressionism. Go figure.

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Orange Eye Candy

Painted pumpkin
For Samhain, Dia de los Muertos and Halloween

Nikita at 13
For familiars everywhere, whether orange or otherwise.

+ + + + +

See you on the "other side"
scary karen b.
...of the weekend.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Starting Over with Marigold Leaves

It's times like these when I feel like a rank amateur.

Indeed, I think it ironic that I'm starting to blossom just when the leaves are falling from the trees. Maybe my circadian rhythm or my satellite reset button. Is. Just. Off.

The Leaf Beret (Ravelry) from knit.1 is the first new thing I've started to knit or crochet since February 2009. Eight months is a long time to take a break from something that once caused a fever of "I've-gotta-make-this-this-and-this-itis."

Truth is, anyone following my ramblings for some time knows the physical stuff has gotten in the way for the past three years off and on. There are more rumblings from the right arm of doom which I'll share should it become necessary. Meanwhile, my personal journey has me knitting again, albeit making one or two rookie mistakes.

1) I love love love Vera's marigold-dyed alpaca. I stick my beak in the center of that ball and take a whiff of the slightly soapy clean wooliness (you yarn sniffers know what I mean). My errors are not the fault of the yarn. I adore alpaca, though I know it's not for everyone. For some reason, I forgot that this is not the most elastic of yarns.

2) I couldn't find my size 3 needles, so I opted for the 2.5's instead. To make up for the smaller needle, I cast on a few more stitches. You can see the next oops coming, can't you?

3) Inelastic yarn + too many stitches = a hat band big enough for a monstrous melon. Frog and rethink.

Not only did I err in yarn choice, it seems my fingers have a little rust in their sense memory. I mean, I was once an old hand with two-circ knitting. I cast on half the stitches on one needle and the other half on the second needle. Knit knit knit. Get to the end of the round and all the flippin' stitches are on one needle. I hate that!


It's on, knitting! I will make that cute beret in time for the coming nasty weather. I will not go quietly. Well, mebbe a bit. It took so long to get here. My marigold leaf beret deserves to come to life.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Must be the season of the...

Ceiling Cat.* First I see evidence of the long-secret plan unfolding over at Chris' place. Now, Rocky has apparently received his marching orders.

Felidae, Ceiling God
"Yes, overlord. She's here but cannot comprehend."
What's a caretaker to do?

*apologies to anyone who may be offended. it's humor. really. don't tell the cats I said so.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Rockin' Chicago With One Steady Roll

Lollapalooza 2009"The blues had a baby, and they named it rock n' roll," sang the legendary Muddy Waters, and boy, is that child still wailing!

Just ask the cargo shorts boys, the gray-beards and babies and tattooed ladies who came out en masse for Lollapalooza 2009 in Chicago's Grant Park.

I had reservations as the date approached. For one, the hellish humid 90's descended just in time for the 3-day festival. For another, I have this thing about really large crowds.
Lollapalooza 2009 - Crowds
Thankfully, I went to Lolla with friend B who knows my propensity for panic and was willing to stop and patiently remind me to just b-r-e-a-t-h-e. With that most excellent advice, I was able to watch and listen and really get into the rhythm of the crowd. What did I spy with my camera eye?

People with singular style like Star Child, Tats in Plaid and Cow Man

Lollapalooza 2009
Veteran punks and rockers reminded me that somewhere within still lurks a thrashing headbanger.

Lollapalooza 2009 - Just Buds
And did I mention beer?

Sadly, time and last-minute festival entrance changes squashed our plans to see Neko Case. A half-mile distance between stages meant we also missed The Killers. Jane's Addiction more than made up for it with their punk-laced hard charging drums (thank you, Mr. Perkins) and sweet guitar licks. The biggest surprise of the night was indie rock group Band of Horses (Flash warning!). They were new to me but they make some mighty fine music.

By nightfall, a steady, cool breeze began to flow across the park. What a perfect note on which to end a rockin' day.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

FO: Make Room For Baby

KT baby blanketIt took me months to complete and I had to battle back against the boredom slog through every stitch in the middle, but I am pretty pleased with how things turned out.

All the mother-to-be asked for was a kelly green hat. I thought to myself, "A hat's not nearly enough," and that's how a quick little knit morphed into a 28" x 34" blanket.

I was a little overwhelmed as I tried to narrow down my blanket options with Ravely's pattern search: must be knit using chunky yarn and freely available. One pattern really stood out for its flexibility and adaptive nature: Thrifty Knitter's Hooded Baby Blanket.

KT baby blanket detailI decided that 400+ people couldn't be wrong. You should see the variations in the Ravelry project listing! One that really caught my eye substituted a 4 x 1 flat ribbing instead of an endless sea of stockinette.

The other thing I really liked was the use of seed stitch for each color change stripe, much like the pattern used in the Dream in Color Tulip Sweater. This lends a subtle, elegant texture element to what could be an otherwise bland swath of knitted fabric.

KT baby hatKT baby bibDespite all the time and effort put into the blanket, I still thought something was lacking. I almost always make a hat and this time was no different - except for the fact that I actually followed a pattern for construction. Yep. Jennifer Braico's Fixation Newborn Hat (Ravelry). Substitute leftover Berroco Comfort Chunky for Cascade Fixation and we have a striped hat with an inch of 4-stitch I-cord on top.

Determined not to make socks this time, I listened to the handful of voices who, in the past, have urged me to take the path of least resistance when it comes to easy-peasy baby gifts: the bib. I have finally seen the light! The bib is your friend - especially if you crochet - because you can knock one of these out in under two hours. Seriously.

The Coats and Clark pattern is called the So-Simple Baby Bib which requires size 3 crochet thread. So not the equivalent of chunky yarn, which is why I reworked gauge to create a bib roughly the same size as the one in the original pattern. If I hadn't, I might have cooked up something suitable for a sloppy adult (like me) who's always wearing tiny bits of food on their shirt. If you're interested in the details for the pattern modifications, just email or PM me.

With the help of needles, hooks and patterns, I turned 7 skeins of chunky yarn into something the mom says she'd be proud to put on her baby. Funny how it took four months to make someones day. I'd do it again, too.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Doggerel du Jour

From north to south and back again
We paint our toes and sip champagne.

Mid walking, talking, laughter, tears
I count my joys and still my fears.

Round table filled with loving friends
My day - complete - by birthday's end.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Born On This Day

Nikita  and birthday cookiesAccording to If Today Is Your Birthday, "Your mind is especially restless this year, and you are hungry for new experiences and for answers. Trying out new ways of expressing your creativity figures strongly, and an enterprising spirit serves you very well."

A patriot and a President are among the famous folk made their entrance on May 29th:

Patrick Henry, American patriot, statesman, and orator
G. K. Chesterton, English novelist
Bob Hope, British-born comedian and actor
John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States
Danny Elfman, American musician
Annette Bening, American actress
Adrian Paul, English actor. There can be only one...
Melanie Brown, English musician and actress. Scary and spicy.

And me, Karen B; crafty chica, bon vivant and woman about town.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009


Nikita licks the yogurt spoonFriends - true friends - weave a
Tight web that keeps you afloat
Though you feel done in.

More precious than gold,
This bond's strength depends solely
On how you tend it.


What else do friends do? They let you lick the spoon.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

So, What's New?

Blue Garter KerchiefFO: Blue Garter Kerchief

My handspun sock yarn version of Laura Chau's kerchief turned out even better than I expected. Since I knit in the slow lane, it took an entire week for me to finish and pin to the blocking board (thank Jeebus for blocking wires!).

Recall that I used two 200 yard skeins of Crown Mountain Farms Sock Hop yarn (held double) to create a kerchief that ended up measuring 40"x 28" x28".

My version includes "k2tog, YO" pairs on every 7th wrong side ridge row. By adding an additional yarn over to either side of the last 7 ridge rows, I was able to create elongated ends suitable for draping or tying. Blocking really opened up the yarn overs, both within the fabric and along the edges.

Add Laura's Kerchief to your Ravelry queue.

Easy Glamour NeckwarmerEasy Glamour Neckwarmer pattern

Just as the seasons are changing, what do I come out with finally? An actual pattern for the neckwarmer portion of the Easy Glamour duo that debuted in February '08.

The Easy Glamour Crochet Neck Warmer (PDF) is crocheted lengthwise using a variant of a shell or fan stitch. While you'll need a couple of buttons to fasten the neckwarmer, you do not need to make buttonholes, thanks to the open chain stitch.

By the way, the pattern includes "how to" stitch information and a construction schematic to assist in finishing your creation. Once the piece is complete, you simply sew those buttons on the left side and there you have it: Easy Glamour in less than two days.

Want to add Easy Glamour to your Ravelry queue? Clique ici.

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Rainy Day Knitting

Thunder and lightening and sheets of rain put me in the mood for some simple knitting with old mystery movies as the backdrop. At present, I'm working on three different projects - a scarf, a baby blanket and this blue garter stitch kerchief:

WIP: Blue kerchief
Sock Hop yarn with matching OPI enamel in "Yoga-ta Get This Blue!"

The yarn is from Crown Mountain Farms Sock Hop, the color "In The Skies." The kerchief pattern is a wonderfully adaptive and easy one from Laura Chau. The fingering weight yarn is held double and I'm knitting the kerchief on size 6 US / 4.0 mm circular needles. The only change I'm making is the addition of a k2tog, YO row every 7 garter ridges on the wrong side (even) row. It adds a bit of visual light to the garter fabric.

I really like the fact that, even though it's kind of bleak outdoors, I don't need much light indoors to work up something this pretty.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

FO: Simply 17

When I was in my early teens, my friends and I would go downtown to the movies. Any remaining money we had would be pooled to buy munchies and drinks at the corner snack shop. I always remembered this place because it was a remnant of a bygone era, with its huge neon sign above the door in cotton candy colors, surrounded by blinking marquee lights proclaiming "17."

Today's project put me in the mind of that place because it was also made possible by leftovers. Say hello to "Simply 17," a striped garter stitch scarf:

FO: Simply 17 modeled by Rocky T. Cat
"Am I a super-model yet?" - Rocky*


Yarn: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Bulky (approx. 1/2 skein) in South Shore (MC) and Lilac (CC)
Needles: (2) 9 US / 5,5 mm bamboo dpns

1. Using MC, cast on 17 stitches
2. Knit MC back to RS edge
3. Pick up CC and knit up and back, creating one ridge
4. Repeat 2 and 3 until piece measures 36" / 92 cm, ending with CC row at RS edge.
5. Pick up MC and continue for another 14" / 36 cm. Bind off and weave in ends.

You'll end up with a petite scarf that is two-thirds subtle stripe and one-third softly variegated (or solid, depending on the yarn you choose).

FO: Simply 17 garter stitch scarf
By the way, Rocky's first turn on the granite catwalk lasted an entire 3 seconds. Harrumph! No cat pants for you!

FO: Simply 17 no longer modeled by Rocky T. Cat
"Whaddya mean I won't get paid in tuna???" - Rocky

*Thanks to Monica for the suggestion that Rocky needed a scarf and to domesticat's crew for showing him how it's done.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Blogging? No. Busy? Yes!

I may have had a major case of timorous writers block, but I certainly did not get bottled up on the crafting front. Hats, neckwarmers, a scarf - even a New Year's trip to Toronto - they all kept me busy. There are a couple of other items in the works but this will do for now.

ThorpeThorpe by Kirsten Kapur

Lorna's Laces Shepherd Bulky in South Shore and Lilac (trim)

Once you get past the clumsiness of the 4 stitch cast on, the pattern really flies off your needles.

Instead of braiding the ties, I went with I-cord and mini poms to finish. There's a matching striped garter stitch scarf in progress.

Leftovers Hat and CowlLeftovers Hat by Karen Boykin (Ravelry link)

Yarn is Lorna's Laces Shepherd Bulky in Natural and Malabrigo Chunky is Dusty Rose

Why “Leftovers”? Because this hat was created from the yarn that remained after I knit the November baby jumper and socks.

This hat is paired with the Dolores Park Cowl by Parikha Mehta in the same colors.

Anne in BSA PoppyAnne by MK Carroll

Scarf is crocheted in Blue Sky Alpaca's yummy cotton in the Poppy color.

Admittedly, I simplified the pattern a bit by repeating rows 2-3 instead of proceeding to row 4. Get the pattern. You’ll see.

Columbia BeretColumbia Beret by Sarah Pope

I made a few small modifications to this well-written pattern. Since I used a slightly heavier weight yarn and size 9 (5.5mm) needle, I cast on 72 instead of 84 stitches. I also did 7 increase rows instead of 8 and grafted the remaining 12 stitches at the top.

I opted against the large bow in the pattern in favor of a small crochet chain twist bow. I also used purple ribbon to decorate the garter stitch brim.

Almost Ruffled by Laura ChauJust Enough Ruffles by Laura Chau

My friend Lisa Mendez gave this beautiful fade-dye turquoise to grey yarn. I've been waiting for the right project for at least 2 years when along came Ruffles.

Although you'll be working 3600 stitches by the time you finish, you'll be so pleased with the result, you won't care. Mostly.

KB at Lettuce KnitSpeaking of Laura Chau, I actually met her during the Boxing Day sale at Toronto's Lettuce Knit. Only problem is that I didn't realize the person ringing up my two skeins of Fleece Artist was, in actuality Ms. Chau. I even had her call a taxi for us. It was not until we drove off that my friend bellamoden told me what was what.

Yikes! did I feel like a goof. I thought about calling to apologize - not for being mean or anything because I was not. Just like, "Hey, I love your patterns. Sorry I didn't recognize you."

Hmm. Thank Jeebus for second thoughts. Pathetic fangirl decided it was best to leave well enough alone.

Now, for this feline interlude.
"For me, every day is boxing day!" - Rocky

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Friday, February 13, 2009

The Little Things

If you've ever been away from something for a long time, you'll understand when I tell you how difficult it becomes to return to it.

When it came to relating crafting stories, I felt dried up; choking on the sameness and wanting something else. I kept waiting for the spark of inspiration or the kind of project deserving of your attention because I figured that's what was needed for me to legitimately re-engage. That is, until I observed the pure joy displayed by a 2 year old girl when I gifted her with a colorful pair of mitts the other night. She rolled around and modeled and mugged for the camera, all the while flashing her infectious smile.

FO: Luxy's Mitts
A girl and her new "sleevies"
They're little things - perhaps 4 inches in length - but they (and she) reminded me that I didn't need a grand gesture or an intricate something requiring serious examination. Yes, she put them on backwards but she no matter. Luxy was having fun. In that moment, I found clarity. This isn't life and death. It's just the occasional missive that I put out into the world; my "Hello. I've missed talking with you." Could it be any simpler than that?

Lorna's Laces Bulky (South Shore and Lilac) - leftovers from Thorpe (Ravelry link)
Four size 10 US / 6 mm dpns

Toddler Mitts in LL bulkyCast on 20 stitches, placing 10 on one needle and 5 each on the remaining 2 needles. Join in a circle and knit 12 rows of k1,p1 ribbing.

If you've ever made mittens in the round, you know the rest: increase for the palm, make room for the thumb then knit rounds until you reach the appropriate length. I topped out these mitts with 3 garter ridges and a little single crochet, but you can do ribbing or ribbon or roll edge - whatever your heart desires.

For those not comfortable with these loosey-goosey instructions, I heartily suggest you add Ann Budd's "Knitters Handy Book of Patterns" to your library. It can be a lifesaver!

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