Mairi Rose’s 8th Birthday Sweater

Details:

I bought the pattern from Scandinavian Knitting Design.  They stock many patterns that are difficult to find in the US.  The yarns all came from Knitpicks: Stroll Tweed Sock Yarn in “Oyster Heather”, “Thirst Heather”, and “Rabbit Heather”,  Stroll Sock Yarn in “Wonderland”, and Comfy Fingering Yarn in “Flamingo”.  The pink shows up better in person than it does in these pictures.  I really like the stroll yarns.  Everything that I’ve made from them has held up well; it doesn’t shrink, it doesn’t pill, it’s soft, light but warm, reasonably priced.  It just really works well for me.  I’m also finding that it holds up so well that hand-me-downs are almost guaranteed, which can’t be said about a lot of yarns and only adds to the over-all value.  Elijah wears his vest daily and not just for quiet, gentle indoor activities either!  It still looks brand new, which is really satisfying after all of that work!

I altered the pattern for Mairi’s sweater a bit by doing contrast cuffs and button bands as well as adding little flecks of a second color between the yoke and hem.

I’m extremely happy to see this sweater finished and in use!

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Modeling Mondays

My darling Mairi Rose is many things, but easy to shop for is not one of them!  I confess to being entirely stumped as to a gift for her this Christmas.  No one else could think of anything either.  Believe me, I asked!  I finally settled on creating a kind of hand pottery set.  Perhaps not the flashiest of gifts, but it’s frankly been a beautiful experience that has added much to our homeschooling week.

To put together the kit I started with ordering 25 lbs of white air dry clay.  I can’t find the clay I bought, but I’ve heard good things about this one.  Lots and lots and lots for sharing and long-term use.  I re-purposed a caddy that we already owned.  I keep most of the clay in a closet in the original packaging and bring out five pounds at a time.  Even with at least three young people playing, this lasts a long time.  We’ve found that the best way to store it is in a ziplock bag with a damp paper towel and with as much air as possible removed.  We’ve had no problems with dry out when stored this way.  In addition to the clay I purchased a set of wooden sculpting tools.  These are great and just right for kid sized hands.  As well as some acrylic paint for finishing the dried clay pieces.  To these I started adding bits and pieces from around the house: doilies to roll prints onto the clay, a giant silicon baking mat that didn’t fit any of my pans to use as a work surface, toothpicks for poking holes and supporting larger and more detailed sculptures, a piece of sponge for smoothing the clay.  I found a flower mold ice cube tray at a library sale for 25 cents to use as a paint pallet.  Mairi discovered that empty thread spools make a pretty little flower print.  Rubber stamps, both with and without ink, are fun to play with and the kids really enjoyed embedding beads into their projects for Valentine’s Day.  We’ve also made a lot of prints of flowers and leaves (taken from our house plants at this time of year!), with beautiful results.

Every Monday afternoon we take everything out and create.  Right now just the clay is entirely satisfying, but now that this family rhythm is established I’ll be mixing it up at times to keep things fresh, swapping out clay one day for say modeling beeswax, home-made play dough, or kinetic sand working with different themes and projects in mind.

Since people are likely to ask, the candle above was made using this candle making kit which Mairi received for her birthday.  As you can probably tell, art supplies are our major expenditure when it comes to gifts for the children.  We spend very little on toys, preferring to make most of what they own, but we do try to ensure that they have quality supplies to work with.

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The Handcrafted Wardrobe: Decluttering Craft Areas

A little update on the 2017 decluttering challenge: I’ve been at it for just about four weeks now and so far I’ve rid our home of 741 items.  I am serious about this.  Conversely in that same time I did come home with a couple of new things.  Circumstances considered, I was very well behaved.  The first series of temptations came during an outing to a rare and used bookstore where everything was being sold for next to nothing.  The second was a craft swap where everything was available for literally nothing.  Books and craft supplies.   My kryptonite.

A hundred and six year old first edition copy of a book that I thought might make a pleasant family read aloud, two children’s magazines from 1937 and 1944 respectively, that have the sweetest illustrations and which I intend to tuck into Mairi’s Easter basket and two old knitting magazines.  Including the six or so books that Mairi, Galen, and Seraphina picked out, we spent $12.

I came home with a few things from the sewing and knitting exchange as well.  There was an entire room full of free sewing and knitting supplies people!  I’m only human.  Still, I dropped off three boxes worth of donations and everything I came home with fit in my handbag.  Not such a bad exchange.

The two designs above are from Bear Brand Campus Knits Vol. 335, cira 1947.  The patterns have rather humorous names such as “Beau Catcher” (Steve checked it out and found the bait inferior).  These two above are “Art Appreciation” and “Collegiate” and I can’t decide which I’d rather grace my needles.

I started sifting through craft supplies before I was truly ready because of the swap.  It’s really an emotional process, much like sorting through sentimental items.  I’m afraid this is one area where I’m guilty of keeping every last thing, just in case.  It’s comforting to me to feel that in lean times I could make whatever might be needed.  But I want to live with more freedom now, not stockpiling for a future which may or may not come.  I’ve started looking at certain fabrics and telling myself that I’ve made my dress or blouse or whatever from it and now I can let what’s left move on to someone else.  It has already served it’s purpose for me.  I don’t have to use up every last scrap.  I’m trying to think less in terms of what I could use, as just about everything falls into that category, and more what I genuinely think I will use.  And perhaps more importantly, what I want to use.

What about you?  Do you have experience with decluttering craft supplies or trying to keep a more minimalist craft set up?

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My birthday was beautiful and I feel blessed.  As a gift to myself I finally, finally, finally sewed the buttons onto my Calligraphy cardigan and blocked it and I’ve refused to take it off since it dried.  It still needs pockets.  I need more pockets in my life.  I’ll get to it at some point.  Unfortunately the buttons seem a bit too small or the holes have stretched a bit too much, either way I might have to do something about that as well.  But none of that is stopping me from wearing it constantly.  The yarn is Swish Worsted in “Doe” (I believe this color has been retired).

I just finished reading The Winthrop Woman.  It was most enjoyable.  I had trouble putting it down.

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Flight of fancy…

Or perhaps fancy of flight?

Measuring in at just over 6 feet tall, this is a replica of the 1783 hot air balloon built by Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier that was the first to ever carry a human aloft.  We all played some part in its construction and subsequent launch, but really it was Elijah who did the lion’s share.

Each panel took at least a couple hours of constant hand cramping work in order to trace and fill in the design.  And as there are eight gores that was quite the investment of time and energy.  I suggested we just do a few…leave the other ones blank or embellish them with some simple stripes or polka dots or something.  But no, this perfectionist boy of mine had to have everything just so.  Not sure where he could possibly get that from (insert not so discreet throat clearing noise here).

We invited friends and neighbors over for the launch and afterwards toasted the Montgolfier brothers with sparkling cider.  Those of us who worked on it weren’t as impressed with it’s flight as we were hoping, but we’ve been talking through some potential modifications, both to the structure and our inflating methods.

The kit was put out by the Smithsonian Institution in 1998, so I don’t know how readily available it is at this point.  I found that Ben Franklin’s Balloons was the perfect documentary to go along with it.

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snow child, snow sweater

I’ve not yet finished A Charlotte Mason Companion, but a big tempting stack of books came into the library for me and I figured I better start in on them in order to finish up before they are due back.  Also, it’s nice to have a bit of time to think things over and digest before moving on.

I just finished reading The Snow Child, which was enchanting and just the right sort of reading for these grey winter days.  Our current family read-aloud is Happy Times in Noisy Village which is keeping the middle set giggling.

I know I recently posted a picture of Iain’s sweater, but it’s really Mairi’s sweater, a fair isle featuring a snowflake motif, that I’ve been working on.  In sock weight yarn with size 3 needles, it’s been slow going, but I’m finally getting close now.  With no deadline and no pressure to finish from myself or anyone else, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the process.  I’m looking forward to seeing her wearing it.  Just this morning I came to the conclusion that I do not have enough yarn to finish the button bands.  sigh.  I have an abundance of every other color.  Just not that color.  Meh.

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Hinterland Hat

A new winter hat for Elijah.  He selected both yarn and pattern.  Hinterland Hat in Knitpicks Preciosa ‘Stormy’.  I kind of wish I had made the brim longer to fold up for added warmth.

I am trying to post here more often, but I am also now on Instagram if anyone is interested in keeping up with us there.  I do not now, nor have I ever owned a cell phone, but I needed an account for a project a while back and so it was set up in a way that lets me use my laptop.  Sometimes when I’m too busy for a full out post here I can still manage quick pop in there.

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Nature Walks and Birthday Wishes….

One of the rhythms we are trying to get back to is that of a daily nature walk.  Quite apart from all of the benefits for the children, I’m a better person when I go for a walk every day and that is good for us all!

I have a birthday coming up at the end of the month.  A couple of people have asked what I would like.  I always seem to have lists, both mental and literal, of what the kids need or want, but for me?  There are a great many things that I want in this life, but don’t put me on the spot by asking what they actually are!

I’ve given it some thought and this is what I came up with…. I would like subscriptions to Taproot and Making magazines.    A new lens for my camera, you know, one where the auto focus function actually works.  And this book, which our library system persists in not having, no matter how many times I check.  And enough warm and soft wool yarn to knit a hood  and maybe some matching cabled mittens for those long, cold, winter walks.  And perhaps even more yarn for a cabled pullover?  Too may of those to link to…  And a bag with a zipper that reliably closes and stays closed, with pockets inside so that everything doesn’t get tangled up in a big jumbled mess and a pile of 2×4′s to build a bench in the mudroom which seems like it would solve any number of problems and charcoal grey wool fabric to make myself a skirt (perhaps something as simple as this?  Scratch that, I think I want this one) and something that blooms and smells sweetly for the dark days of winter.  I would love a pair of shoes that I actually like the style of, which also fit my orthotics and don’t pinch my toes and make them ache, but I think that’s probably too much to ask of any day, much less a mere birthday.  Mostly I think I’d be content with just a peaceful day, preferably one where I don’t have to make dinner.  And maybe a really good cup of tea.  Yeah, I want the tea too.

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January 5th, Our Official Day of Familial Excitement….

Really it all started when one of them decided to be born on the other one’s birthday.  Ever since that year, statistically speaking, 1/5 has been a mostly crazy sort of day for us.

While birthday sweaters were wrapped up with needles still in them and many warnings to be careful in the opening of them so as not to inadvertently drop stitches, I did manage a last minute dress for her.  The pattern is Simplicity 5997 from 1973.  It’s actually meant to be a nightgown (their meaning, not mine), but whatever. The rose covered fabric was thrifted by my mother-in-law.  It’s much paler in person.  I’ve been itching for an excuse to buy some of the prints in Rifle’s new fabric collection, and thought this might just be my chance, but $11 per yard plus shipping versus free and already here?  Guess which fabric won out…  She was quite pleased.  I should have gotten a close up of the vintage floral buttons and hand sewn button holes- sewn with real silk button and button hole twist from a tiny wooden spool- also from my mother-in-law.  Yes, the button hole function on my machine is still not working.

This is the second year in a row where we’ve had to call 911 on their birthday.  Lest you think we just go about calling emergency services for every little thing, these have been the only two times we have ever called.  Ok, well Galen once dialed them by accident when he was 2, but I don’t think that counts (they don’t really care for that kind of thing, by the way).

This year’s calamity involved a chimney fire with flames shooting several feet into the air.  Bless our metal roof and single digit temperatures with frosty snow all around.  And the chimney being run almost entirely outside the house instead of in the walls.  These things and these things alone meant a night of excitement instead of full out disaster.

Seraphina thought that the firefighters were coming to fight us and that we were basically under siege and bravely told Mairi that she would save her.

Iain spent the entire day pretty much too sick to move, poor kid. He did open gifts, but that was about it.  You know your kids are feeling pretty miserable when the whole house is illuminated by flashing lights and surrounded by emergency vehicles with people coming in and out and around every which way and me piling snow boots and sweaters around them in case we are forced to evacuate and two out of the five of them barely bothered to lift their heads or open their eyes or even seem to register what is happening at all.

Also, it would be the case that what felt like half the town would turn out and need entrance to the house immediately after I tore apart the pantry, scattering it’s contents all over ever flat surface in the house.  Along the lines of this…

Only everywhere else as well.  Seriously, that wasn’t embarrassing at all.

Iain is much better now and we did have a belated celebration for him a few days later.

On their birthday, as the fire fighters, first responders, et al left, I resisted the temptation to say that we’d see them next year.  Here’s hoping we don’t!

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Evolving

“It is something to know what to do with ourselves when we are beset, and the knowledge of this way of the will is so far the secret of a happy life, that it is well worth imparting to the children.  Are you cross?  Change your thought.  Are you tired of trying?  Change your thoughts.  Are you craving for things you are not to have? Change your thoughts; there is a power within you, your own Will, which will enable you to turn your attention from thoughts that make you unhappy and wrong, to thoughts that make you happy and right.  And this is the exceedingly simple way in which the Will acts.” ~Charlotte Mason

I think (hope) that we are finally past this recent bout of illness.  Never ending sickness seems to be everywhere this winter, doesn’t it?  I’m wiping all of the doorknobs, handles and drawer pulls with germ killing essential oils, and I added a bit to our hand washing soap as well.  We are quite ready to be done with all of this!

We are slowly getting back into a rhythm, adding in one thing at a time, including trying to be back in this space more often.  I’ve missed sharing here.   I’m reading A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflextions on The Gentle Art of Learning, which I started before, but was unable to finish before it had to be returned to the library.  I’ve taken it up again, this time with my own copy, which is rapidly becoming dogeared- even though I’m usually quite against that sort of thing.  But I  kind of bought it for just that purpose.

I’ve sign on for the 2017 in 2017 decluttering challenge and it feels fully soul satisfying and just very right at this moment to be distilling what is most important to us.

And on the subject of taking what feels good and right and letting the rest go, I’ve decided that our birthday sweater tradition needs tweaking.  It’s a tradition that we love in many ways, but the last couple of years it hasn’t flowed smoothly as it has in the past.  This year I told Iain and Mairi Rose well in advance that I wasn’t even going to try to finish their sweaters on time.  I’m not sure what this tradition is going to look like going forward.  I’m still thinking it over.  It did occur to me that when I started making a sweater for each child on every birthday, I had 3 small boys; one with a birthday in January, a tiny one in February and one in May.  Now I have two in January, one in February, one in March and one in May, with this year’s sweaters ranging in sizes from 4 to men’s large, and yet I’m still acting like things are just the same!  Including aspects like keeping them a complete surprise, even though with two teens in the house there are now multiple “children” who don’t go to bed until I should be!  I say should.  That doesn’t mean I do, but I’d like to see a shift there as well.

There are many changes happening in our lives right now.  This feels like a period of intense growth.  It feels strong.

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