About Last Summer

Last summer a friend helped me through a hard time. Among other kindnesses, she invited me to spend some time with her in Paris. While we were there, I tried to find a gift to thank her but nothing seemed quite right. Knowing how much she appreciates handmade, when I arrived home, I decided to knit her something. But what? What would be good enough? Right for her? Meaningful? I spent a long time seeking out a very particular mohair yarn in a very particular golden color for a scarf that, after several starts and restarts, I realized wasn't going to be right. In the meantime, I had posted a series of photos from my time in Paris on a wall in my office. What struck me most about Paris last summer and what I continue to be struck by everyday on my wall are the beautiful colors nearly everywhere. 

In the apartment where we were staying: 



Looking out my bedroom window:


On doors:

 In shop windows:


In gardens: 


On the street:

That cool lady wearing a pink shirt, with a man carrying a pink cooler behind her (and someone else in pink even further behind). That's my friend.  


And this is the scarf I made for her to say thank you and to remember our trip.  

Merci, mon amie.

Knitting Booties for Baby


A lot of my friends are pregnant and, recently, I got the first of the baby shower invitations. Immediately, I went online to look at the baby gift registry, debating between the most practical choices like bibs and wipes and less practical but sweeter ones like stuffed animals and artwork for baby's room. And then I remembered--I'm a knitter; I co-authored a book about knitting for babies; I should knit booties. I know it seems crazy that I could have forgotten those things. But, really, I sort of did. I have been so busy working and managing family life that the idea of creating something special with my own hands was far from the front of my mind. When I received the baby shower invitation, I was much more focused on going online, clicking on a few buttons, and checking this baby gift off my To Do list, than I was on slowing down and spending some quiet, thoughtful time knitting good wishes into something to keep the baby warm and cozy. Fortunately, the knitter in the back of my mind crept forward and reminded me she was there.

The booties I made this weekend are called Beginner Booties. They were designed by Cathy Payson. The pattern comes from Knitting for Baby, the book I co-authored with Kristin Nicholas. They're knit back and forth mostly in garter stitch in one piece from the top down, then sewn together in the center. At the ankle are eyelet holes for the I-cord tie that so effectively keeps the booties on little feet. I chose pink cashmere since I know this baby is a girl and I think cashmere garter sttich is perfect for babies--so soft, squishy, and pure, just like them. 

The time I spent working on these booties felt like a gift to myself. And I hope the baby and her parents can feel the loving thoughts I knit into them. I know this sounds corny but if you're a knitter, I'm sure you understand.

If you would like to see images of more projects from Knitting for Baby, click here.

Happy Holidays Subway Hat

I recently made this  Subway Hat from Modern Top Down Knitting (out of one of my all-time favorite yarns, Worsted Hand Dyes from Blue Sky Alpacas). It's such a fun, quick project--and really warm with its fleece lining. Of course, as usual, I don't have a photo of me wearing it. But I do have this Christmas-y still-life shot. To me, in this photo, it looks like a red Christmas igloo with big flowery snowflakes.

Here's what the hat looks like on (in the photo from the book). So very chic (nothing like an igloo on your head).


Meet STC Cooks

Did you know that STC Craft has a new "sister" blog called STC Cooks? It's a great site where you can read about all of the cookbooks that STC publishes and lots of other foodie culture, plus get free recipes.

One of my favorite STC cookbooks, published this fall, is Baked Explorations: Classic American Dessserts Reinvented by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliatito. This weekend I tried out their recipe for Soft Candy Caramels. These pretty nuggets taste like a high-quality version of the little square supermarket caramels I remember loving as a child. Mine turned out a little harder than they were supposed to because I let the caramel mixture get a tad too hot, so I couldn't cut them into neat squares (as you can see in my photo above), but they're still delicious. I hope you'll check out STC Cooks. And if you're in New York this week, be sure to attend the Baked Brownie Bake-Off at the Brooklyn Kitchen. It's a fundraiser for the Greenpoint Reformed Church Soup Kitchen and the judges are none other than Baked Explorations authors' Lewis and Poliafito.

Alabama Chanin Dress--Completed (with a little help from my mom)

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you may recall that last February I posted a photo of the kit I got from Alabama Chanin in order to hand-sew the Spiral Applique & Beaded Camisole Dress from Alabama Studio Style.

The dress is finished. Back in February and March I sewed together the front and back pieces, cut out all of the spirals and pinned them on, stitched one spiral to the back, and then . . . nothing. Everything sat neatly arranged on my ironing board--for a long time. I  just wasn't making time to work on the dress, though I desperately wanted to wear it. And that's when inspiration struck.

In the age-old tradition of daughters everywhere, in July I packed the materials in a bag and gave them to my mother, who is the most industrious person I know. True to form, she worked diligently and a couple of weeks ago, she brought the completed dress to me.

I've worn the dress twice already and love it. Thanks, Mom!

I love the way the beaded parallel whipstich looks at the neckline! I'm thinking about making a dress in this style without any other embellishment except this neckline treatment.


Mom improvised a bit on the placement of the circle appliques. They're a little further apart than the ones shown on the dress in Alabama Studio Style. She also added extra beads around some of the sprials; I may add a few more.

Just so you know: I wasn't a total sloth while my mother worked on this dress. I completed an Inked and Quilted Camisole Top from Alabama Studio Style as well as a Subway Hat from Modern Top-Down Knitting (photos to come soon), and the sweater for my son that I posted about below. And in the best news yet: My mom said she liked making the dress and would be willing to make another one with different embellishment.


(My photos are in black and white since my color photos made the dress look purple for some reason--the colors on the real dress actually look pretty close to what you see here.)

Custom Knits Sweater - Completed!

Last November I started a sweater for my son using the "Classic Top-Down Raglan Sweater Formula" in Custom Knits by Wendy Bernard. Sometime in March (with one sleeve to go) I realized that I wasn't going to finish it in time for him to wear it last winter and put it aside--and, literally, forgot about it. About a month ago I found it in a stray bag and set out to complete it so he could wear it this fall and winter. And here it is! Really plain and looking like it could have come from a store--just the way he wanted it. (The yarn is Swan's Island Worsted, a soft organic merino.)


Alabama Stitch Book Swing Skirt Finished, Alabama Studio Style Camisole Dress to Begin


 At the beginning of the new year I posted about my resolution to craft for at least 10 minutes a day and about one of my first projects of the year-- the Beaded-Applique Swing Skirt from Alabama Stitch Book. Well, I managed to work on it for at least 10 minutes a day for most of January and then to finish it, I think I worked on it for about 10 hours on Saturday and Sunday. Unfortunately, I don't have anyone around to take a photo of me wearing it and my attempts at photographing the whole skirt as a still life were disappointing (to put it midly), so to show you that I finished and as a placeholder, here is a detail. I'll post a pretty photo of the whole skirt as soon as I have one.

I put some pressure on myself to finish the skirt because last week the kit for the Spiral Applique & Beaded Camisole Dress from Alabama Studio Style arrived and I really wanted to start it but felt compelled to finish the skirt first. In fact, when the box arrived I opened it and carefully pulled out the fabric, thread, and beads, then put everything back inside. I placed the beautifully stenciled box where I could see it, so it would continue to inspire me to focus on the skirt. Now I just need to get all of my work done today so I can reopen the box and start working on the dress tonight. Photo of the contents of the box to come soon (I hope).

My Winter Strategy

I'm one of those people who tends to get down during the winter, but I have a strategy for dealing with it that really does help. Here's what I've got going on inside my house right now.




These flowers don't make more sunlight, warm up the temperatures outside, or take away bad news, but each time I look at them, I pause for a moment and feel some goodness. Today I decided to take some photos in hopes of spreading some goodness around.

A Custom Knits Sweater for My Son / Finding Time to Knit

I know it doesn't look like much yet but this is the start of a Classic Top-Down Raglan Sweater for my son. Instead of following a pattern, I'm using the formula Wendy Bernard gives in her book Custom Knits. When I bought the yarn I was really motivated to get going but I haven't ended up working very quickly. This would be fine except that my son is growing fast, and I need to get this done while he can still wear it.  The yarn is Swan's Island Worsted, an amazingly soft and beautiful organic merino. I'm posting about this project and planning to post updates as a way of putting some pressure on myself (though, honestly, I don't really need more pressure in my life). This project is part of my resolution to spend at least 10 minutes each day crafting that I posted about here. (The skirt is coming along nicely albeit slowly.) To make some time for myself, I got a dishwasher last week (that will save me at least 10 minutes a day.) But I'm still finding it challenging to find/make free time. I'm a very efficient person but, like so many other people, I have way too much to do. If anyone has any great efficiency techniques they want to share, please leave a comment. Because life is definitely better when there's more time to craft.

My Alabama Chanin Corset

A few months ago I posted about my Alabama Chanin dress here. Once I had finished the dress, I started this corset, spending many hours over the summer stitching it on my front porch. And now I'm working on a gray skirt.

Obviously, I'm totally hooked on both stitching and wearing this beautiful, comfortable cotton-jersey clothing. If you want to learn how to make it too, check out Alabama Stitch Book and/or take one of the Alabama Chanin Fall workshops (see the schedule here).

My Alabama Chanin Dress

Last July I was one of the very lucky participants at an Alabama Chanin workshop in Florence, Alabama, led by company founder and creative director Natalie Chanin (also the author of the STC Craft book Alabama Stitch Book and the upcoming Alabama Studio Style).  When the workshop started, after I had tried on an assortment of beautiful Alabama Chanin dresses and skirts in different sizes, I decided that I would make the Camisole Dress in size medium. Next I chose my fabric colors, my stencil design, and my textile paint color. Then Natalie's staff cut out my 6 pattern pieces, stenciled my design onto the fabric, and handed me their work so I could start mine: working reverse applique around all of the shapes in the stencil design and beading around or inside of some of them. While I was there  (Friday night - Sunday morning), I happily stitched for hours and hours and came close to finishing the reverse applique and some of the beading on 11/2 panels (with a little help from Alabama Chanin stitcher Diane Hall, who very kindly offered to work on one panel while I worked on another when she didn't have other responsibilities to attend to). After I returned home to my "real" world, where I didn't have the luxury of stitching for hours on end, I worked on the dress when I could, on the train, during long car trips, at a couple of my son's soccer tournaments, and sometimes while watching movies on television on Sunday afternoons. After all of the panels were finished, I stitched  the seams and added binding around the neckline and armholes. All in all, it took me about 10 months (and I have no idea how many hundreds of hours) to finish. And I loved every bit of it. The process of making my dress by hand was soul-enriching. Wearing the dress, which is comfortable, feminine, and subtly sparkly--is wonderful. I especially enjoy looking at the seams and feeling how strong they are, knowing that they are that way because of the stitches I made with my hands. I am so grateful to Natalie and Diane and everyone else at the Alabama Chanin studio who helped me that weekend, to the other participants in the workshop, who made the beginning of this experience so much fun, and to Lori Adams, a local photographer who saw me working on the dress last Fall and promised that when I finished it, she would take my picture in it. Below are Lori's photos of me wearing the dress that makes me feel so capable and happy.