This pattern was inspired by a little baby I met in San Francisco who was wearing a similar sweater.  A Ravelry search came up with nothing except a years-old out-of-print publication, so I decided to recreate it myself and offer the pattern to my readers for free.
I made my sweaters from scraps of Rowan Pure Wool Superwash Worsted left over from the Martin Storey Afghan KAL and the Kaffe Fassett KAL.  In the model sweater above, I used a fourth color for the back, but the pattern is written for three colors.  This is meant to be a real scrappy sweater and as long as you make gauge and use a soft, machine-washable yarn (it’s for baby after all), you can be thrifty and raid your stash using 3, 4, 5 or more colors. The color possibilities are endless and I can't wait to see what you come up with!  If you would like a summer sweater, I suggest Rowan Handknit Cotton or Rowan Softknit Cotton.  Both will give you gauge and both are machine washable. 

I've sized Gingersnap for one year, which is my favorite size to knit for baby.  Hear me out:  At one year old, babies are sitting up, walking about, smiling and laughing, clapping their hands, and generally causing a lot of commotion and attention to themselves, and thereby, giving a lot of attention to your nice sweater!  I'm also going to size this for an 18" doll because I love to knit for dolls and know a lot of my readers do too.  Give me a few weeks for that, so stay tuned.  Gingersnap is available as a free download on Ravelry.  If you don't belong to Ravelry, it's free, so sign up right away!  This pattern is suitable for a beginner.

Even a baby sweater deserves a bit of fine finishing attention.  The direction of your increases and decreases make a difference in appearance, see the neck decreases above.  The pattern explains which way the decreases should go so they will be neat and tidy.  Professional looking seams, below, take a bit of practice, but they are easily achieved.  This sweater is a perfect project to practice your finishing techniques.  YouTube has some excellent video tutorials. 

Close up of the sleeve seam.

in colors, Granite, Gold, Soft Cream and Moonstone on the back.

The colors used in the sweaters below are Candy, Charcoal Gray and Soft Cream
and Gold, Bottle and Soft Cream.



Today I received the OK from Rowan to start previewing the 2015/16 Fall/Winter yarns and books.  As a Rowan Ambassador, I receive a preview pack each season containing sample skeins of the Rowan new yarns and the supporting pattern books.  It's HEAVEN! I was swooning and you'll be swooning too, so stay tuned because in the next two weeks I'll share them all. 

Alpaca Merino DK has a chain construction of 83% baby alpaca and superfine alpaca, 7% extra fine Merino wool and 10% nylon added for strength.  Whenever you see the words baby, superfine or extra fine, it means it will be super soft, and this yarn is indeed super soft.  Alpaca is warm, and because of the chain construction, it is very lofty and lightweight.  I imagine it will be very comfortable and lightweight to wear.  There are 10 colors in the shade range; two whites, several warm autumn colors and several jewel tones.  Winterscapes by Sarah Hatton has 12 designs supporting the new Alpaca Merino DK.  I'm adding 3 to my queue!

Rhodeswood above is perhaps my favorite.  I love full dolmen sleeves when they neatly finish at the forearm with deep ribbing.  Because the Alpaca Merino DK is so lightweight, this big blousey sweater will feel like a cloud to wear.   I will be making it in either these two colors shown; the body is a deep purple and the ribbing is in navy, or I was thinking of making it in the two whites!  Hmmm, must give this some thought!

Langsett below has side insets of a ridge pattern that I think will make a very flattering silhouette.  In my stash I have some Rowan Fine Art and Rowan Kidsilk Haze, that when knit together get perfect gauge for this pattern.  It's almost the same lovely shade of blue.  I like the wide neck opening too.  I've already cast on.

The textured vest above is Longdendale, knit is a gorgeous shade of gold.  I love gold and should have more of in my wardrobe.

Toost below is knit in one piece from the bottom up.  At the armholes, the sleeves are attached and the yoke decreases begin with short row shaping added for a better fit.  The look of fairisle is achieved by slipping yarn, a method I've seen Sarah use before, and much simpler than fairisle.

Swooning over Ewden above, the 3rd one I'll be making from this book.  I can't help it, I adore the tiny cables surrounded by eyelets and that ribbed inset:  very flattering.  Has to be this color too.

Mickelden below, even with all the cables, would still feel lightweight in this yarn.

Above is Millstone.  
At first I thought it was a vest, but nope, it's a sweater.  Ingenious use of fairisle colorwork.

Below is the Wheatland Hat and Cowl.

Above is Crowden with a classic cable pattern.  Etherow below is quite gorgeous.  First, love the color (Hoby) but also love the vintage ski-party look.  It is worked bottom-up in the round up to the armholes where you'll join the sleeves.  The yoke decreases are next with some shaping, then fairisle technique for the white snowflakes. 

Above is Padfield, a peplum jacket
and below is the cover project, Wedenshaw Hat and Scarf.
Wearing this yarn around the neck would be heavenly.

And speaking of covers, too bad this model is not simply GORGEOUS!
I love her haircut!  Her hair color is very retro.  Reminds me of Kim Novak.

I couldn't find a shade card, but above is a beauty shot of a few of the shades.  If you are familiar with Rowan's Lima or Lima Color, this is exactly like it in content and construction.  It will knit to a sport of DK weight instead of Lima's worsted weight.  I like to call it Lima Jr. or Son of Lima, ha.
Hope you enjoyed my first tour of the new patterns and yarns.  Expect to see the new Rowan yarns and supporting books, including their beautiful fall/winter magazine, in mid July.  Next preview on the blog is Hemp Tweed.

Today is HOT and I'll be staying in all day finishing my color block baby sweater pattern.  I was going to just offer it in one size, 1 year, my favorite size for baby knits, but then decided to see if I could size it to fit a 2 year old. That has been quite an adventure and has taken longer than I expected.  But I'm really super duper happy with it and hopefully I'll be back tomorrow with the pattern to share.  In the meantime, stay cool and happy knittin'! 


How I learned to say no and like it.

This morning I lounged outside in the sun and read the entire newspaper, a luxury I hadn't enjoyed in quite a while. As I sipped a second cup of coffee I thought, "This is the day. Today I will write that post about saying no." It's a subject I'd been pondering for the last month. Like many--maybe most--women who grew up in the 50s, I always had an aversion to saying no. Why was it so difficult? Perhaps it was wanting to be perceived as well-behaved and nice or just wanting to be liked. Whatever the cause, my reluctance to say no eventually became a problem. And I suspect it's still a problem for many women today, whatever their age. 

Recently I spent a long girl’s only weekend with my 40ish stepdaughter.  We talked and talked the days and nights away, and the subject that got the most attention was setting boundaries and saying no.  She is struggling with this very issue and I was happy that I had some encouragement and insight to share.

Last month, as I was rushing around trying to plow through a long list of tasks, my husband and son walked in from a game of golf.  My 31 year old son, who we see once every week or two, said, “Mom, why are you always so busy these days?”  It took only a second for my husband to pipe up with his daily mantra:  “You have taken on too much.  You don’t know how to say no.  You are going to get sick.”  He was partly right because I did get sick.  I found out the hard way that pneumonia is nothing to ignore and has an ugly way of sticking around if you don’t take care of it.  But on the other two issues he was dead wrong.  I won’t admit to having taken on too much.  Normally, the simple things I’d signed on to do would have been done easily, quickly, and joyfully, but some last-minute out-of-town trips and a series of unexpected out-of-town guests threw my timing off.   When I finally did have the time to get back to these commitments, time was running out and I had to bust in and give it my all.  But my husband was most wrong about the not-knowing-how-to-say-no part.  I do know how to say no, but I didn’t always.  I learned this about 10 years ago, out of necessity, and learned it from the one person whom I didn’t expect would ever teach me a life lesson: my son, who at the time was in his early twenties and struggling with his own personal issues.

But, first, a little background: I'm pretty good with time management. I can allot a reasonable amount of time to a project and then move on without getting OCD over perfection. I have high energy, frequently multi-task and can re-focus quickly when necessary -- all skills  I've worked on over the years. I have to credit my parents for nurturing these skills in my brother and me since childhood. It's simply the way they ran our family. Having a lot of interests and being good at most of them were the family standards. What made it work, I think, was that we were given freedom to do things our own way. Criticisms were rare; helpful suggestions were there if we needed them. I remember praise, but not a lot; being competent was just expected. I loved growing up this way as it gave me self-confidence.  As a girl, I had always loved to sew.  When I was in 6th grade, my parents bought me a sewing machine, signed me up for sewing classes and expected me to start making my own clothes.  I did, and my entire junior high and high school wardrobe was proudly made by me.  My parents weren't being stingy, they were being kind. I was small for my age and this was the era before the petite section.  They knew I dreaded entering junior high with my childish wardrobe.  Now even a toddler can dress like a Kardashian, but not so in 1964!

When I got out into the world I was surprised that not everyone approached tasks the way my family did.  At my first job I saw someone say no to a task because she was afraid of failure. Being afraid to fail had never occurred to me; I'd been taught that failure was just part of learning to do something right in the long run. What was the big deal?  I watched another co-worker continually miss deadlines because she was seeking an impossible perfection.  I'd learned that there are times to pronounce something "perfect enough" and move on.  I quickly fell into the role of the go-to person, taking on more and more responsibility. My boss loved me and I loved sitting in my own office, only 21 years old but certain I could do my job well.

So then, 30 years later, how did this fabulous can-do spirit with all this reliability and competence start to feel wrong?  It took a while I know, decades I guess, but I started to feel a bit put-upon.  Was I being taken for granted?  Were friends and family dumping things on me that they didn’t want to do?  Was I hearing, “Kristen, you do this, you can do it so well!” and, “Here, you can do this so quickly, it would take me ages!”  a little too often? Once at a party, a man whom I admired was in charge of a Christmas bash to raise funds for an organization I admired.  He put his arm around me and beamed down and said, "Kristen, I can only trust you with this, as you are just so creative and competent."  The next thing I knew, I had agreed to made 200 individual desserts and deliver them on the same day I was having my own Christmas party.  Things had clearly gotten out of control.   I felt like a victim.  I was tired.  My husband was nagging me: 
“Why did you agree to that?  Why didn’t you just say no?” and, “Why are you doing that again?  Why can’t anyone else do it?”  I didn’t know why I didn’t say no. I had no answer for him.

My son had heard these arguments before, then one day he said something so simple, but it changed my life:  “Mom, when someone asks you a question, any question, you don’t have to answer.  A question is not a command for an answer. Your answer is voluntary.  And if the question involves a yes or no answer, don’t commit right away.  Say, ‘Let me think about it.’  Then take a day or two to think about it.  If nothing else, this will buy you some time.  Half the time the person won't come back to you and ask again.  If they do ask you again, you’ve had some time to think about your answer.  And it’s ok to say no.  And it’s ok not to have a reason.”  Period.  My 20 year old son told me that.  Why hadn’t I thought about that before?

I realized I desperately needed to start responding differently to requests for my time, not just once in a while, but habitually. I'd like to say it was easy to change my habits, but that would be a lie.  Little by little I turned myself around.  I got into reading about setting boundaries, set a few and stuck to them.  I have two wise girlfriends who would hear me out when I needed to talk.  It was cheaper than therapy and they gave me courage.  After a time, new, good habits replaced old, bad habits.  My family supported me, even though they were hearing “no” more than they’d ever bargained for!  As for saying no, I will admit that I like to give a reason, I think it’s nicer that way, but it’s a simple, non-committal reason such as, I don’t have the time or I’m feeling too tired.

Ten years later, and how do I feel now?  I feel free.  Competent.  Happy.  Helpful.  I like to help, I like to say yes, but I know I don’t always have to. 

How about you, dear reader?  Have you had to deal with this?  How have you coped?  Do you have victories you can share?  Words we can learn from?  I know there's many wonderful stories out there. 
Please don’t be shy, I’d love to hear from you.  (If you are reading this in an email, please click here and scroll to the bottom to the comments section.)


dad friendly

Well, hello!  Knitionary has been a bit quiet this spring and I have missed you all so much!  It's been hectic for me these last few months, with what seemed like a year's worth of activities and deadlines smooshed into two months.  All that is mostly behind me now, and I'm looking forward to a slow paced July and August.  This morning I'm heading off to my knitting group for two lovely hours of knitting and chatting with some very lovely ladies I've know forever.  We started this group years ago when we had school children.  We'd send the kids off to school, play a few sets of tennis, then head to the coffee shop for coffee and knitting.  Now we are all grandmothers, most have given up tennis (I have) and the group has grown to a dozen old friends.  We send out an email Sunday night to see who is coming and today it looks like we have a good group.  So nice, can't wait!  Next, my husband and I are going to see a movie.  He's going to pick it...either Entourage or the new earthquake movie.  We go early afternoon most Mondays and have popcorn and candy for lunch.  I love it!  After that I think we are heading to Costco to stock up.  Now doesn't that sound like the best day ever?

As for this blog, I like to post twice a week.  That seems to be a manageable pace where I can keep my content blog-worthy, at least, that's what I think!  I have some great posts planned, full of knitting, parties and giveaways.  I felt this Father's Day table was a good way to ease myself back into blogging.   I was really happy with the animal theme.  The place mat set is from Belle Banquet.  I have a few sets of these for different seasons and they are sturdy, shiny and gorgeous.  The saffron buffet plates are from Pottery Barn.  I have them in several colors, just fantastic for entertaining: cheap, big and sturdy!  It looks like the saffron is no longer available but they come in many other beautiful colors.  The bee glasses were found at World Market.  We have all three sizes and use them for every day.  The botanist's vases and holder is something I found a while ago in a cute store in my little town.  I hemmed and hawed over buying it, but did, and now it's something I use almost every time I pick flowers.  It fits perfectly on my small table, and a few blossoms make a big show!  Check out this site (sorry, you may have to give them your email address, but they swear they don't share it) for some very fun, similar vases.   I like this one and this round one and this teensy one.  As for food, we had a very dad-friendly menu: salsa and chips, steak and taties, veg and salad, and an ollalieberry crumble for dessert.  The best thing about the table is  not pictured, and that was the lovely people sitting around it, five of my most favorite people in the world.  Yep!

xo Kristen

For the flower lovers, from left, orange nasturtiums, lavendar, magnolia blossoms and a wild yellow lily.


be my baby

Long time readers might say, uh-oh, Kristen knit another owl sweater!  But I never tire of this pattern! When I ask a new grandma what sweater she would like for her newest grand-baby, she almost always says, "The owl, please!"  This little sweater shows up at a lot of baby showers and always gets oodles of ohs and ahs.  I especially like it in gray, because it's a nice color for any time of year and it's sweet for either boy or girl, so it can get passed on down easily.

Even though making owls from cables has been around for decades, the first person to write it into a pattern was Janice Straker, Penny Straker's mother.  I knit my first one 30 years ago for my son, and I knew even then it had been around for ages.  A classic like this never goes out of style.  The pattern uses simple cables to make the adorable owls.  The pattern I used is written for babies, and there is also one sized for children.  I have both patterns and have knit them many times and I highly recommend them.  Both are shaped so perfectly, with a round tummy for the baby size, and a more trim, longer shape for the child's sizes. This one is the 12 month size.  It's my favorite size to knit for a baby gift because by the time babies fit into a 12 month sweater, they are sitting up and smiling and showing off their hand knits nicely!  This yarn is the popular workhorse yarn, Rowan Wool/Cotton 4-ply.  When I give a sweater as a gift, I give care instructions.  I cannot imagine asking a busy young mother to hand wash a sweater, so when I knit for baby, I only knit with machine washable yarn.  The right buttons are super important.  Next time you go button shopping, if you find tiny, two-holed buttons, buy quite a bit and keep them in your button box for the next time you make an owl sweater.  Because I know you will make one or two.  It's too adorable, right?  I personally don't think a baby's wardrobe is complete without an Owl Cardigan!  Shopping links are at the end.

No matter how precise you try to sew on the eyes, they alway have such individual personalities.  Their expressions crack me up.

My Ravelry project page


Recap of TNNA

While it's still fresh in my mind, I wanted to write a little recap of my visit to the 2015 Spring/Summer National Needleart Association convention held last weekend in Columbus, Ohio where yarn manufacturers and designers gather to show their new fall and winter products.  I'll try not to gush too much, but I do have stars in my eyes because my weekend, and this week too, has been this knitter's dream.  First, my roomie was the adorable Jen Geigley of the popular Hey Jen Renee blog and the designer of the crazy-famous GAP-tastic Cowl. We had so much fun getting to know each other and got on like gangbusters.  That we are both such knitting freaks made the show a slice of heaven.  We got to see and feel, and just b r e a t h e in all the new and beautiful products we'll be seeing in the retail stores this fall.

What will we be seeing?  Luscious fiber, and lots of it.  I saw little of the wild and crazy art yarns of the past, and more yarn that focused on bringing soft, washable, long wearing, knitable yarn with natural fiber composition to the home knitter: yarn that is both opulent and easy care.  We are lucky.  I don't know if I noticed a color trend, but my eyes naturally fell on the beautifully muted soft colors that I love.  There are some gorgeous tweeds and natural blends that will make you melt.  We'll see some swank sparkle, a bit restrained, more Grace Kelly than Las Vegas showgirl. I felt the sweater designs to be focused more on fit and structure with minute details that whisper elegance.  With that said, there was still plenty of the slouchy, weekend wear that we all love; but to be on trend, make that boyfriend sweater in an opulent yarn.  You'll easily find one that is machine washable and hard-wearing.  Amazing, right?

I wasn't surprised to find that Rowan's large booth, smack in the middle of the room, was the most beautiful.  Their new fall yarns were elegantly displayed surrounded by a dozen sweaters on mannequins.  Champagne and strawberries were served while brand manager Kate Buller showed their new wares.  Maybe it sounds silly, but I felt the need to pinch myself, how did I find myself here in this knitter's paradise?  I was having way too much fun!  As for Rowan, their new designs were simply the most beautiful; both Jen and I were ready to cast on for a least a half dozen.  In July I'll be able to share more yarn and pattern details, but be prepared for elegant blends and next-to-skin softness combined with easy care.  There is some twinkly, glimmery sparkle to be sprinkled in a little or a lot, you'll swoon.  Can't wait.

Show highlights include meeting Isolde Teague who is a bit firecracker and a lot genius in the form of a chatty sprite. The sweater she is modeling below will be out soon and has some amazing knitting techniques for fit.  She explained her ingenious raglan shaping, and while it will be easy to execute with the pattern, I just do not know how she managed to think it up.  I asked just that, "How in the world did that technique come to you?"  Her answer was simple, "I don't know, I'm just lucky and that sort of thing just pops into my head!"  She is absolutely adorable and a knitting Einstein we are lucky to have.  We met Olga walking through the show and stopped her to admire her latest wrap that she was modeling.  She explained it's modular construction, and again, she is another knitting genius.  She was with Meri, a very sweet and gentle lady and the owner of the beautiful online knitting magazine, Amirisu.  Nicki Epstein had a charming booth and was a total doll.  A very talented knitwear designer, to me she is best known for her popular knitted flower and embellishment books, and her sweet American Girl Doll fairytale doll clothes book.  She had every one displayed and Jen and I spent a good amount of time ogling!   Oh, and we met the Ravelry gang and they are just as fun and friendly as you would think.  Jen is posing below with the gang, only missing Jess who was outside with her baby! Only five people run the entire Rav empire!  How can that be?

Nicky Epstein

knitted patchwork tee pee

Isolde Teague

Me and the completely lovable Martin Storey.

Wait, there's more!  Martin Storey, one of the head designers at Rowan, and the consummate English gentleman, and possibly the sweetest, kindest man on the planet, came to my town and my local yarn store, Uncommon Threads, right after TNNA.  He taught two workshops over two days, and being the groupie I am, I took both!  That night my husband and I took him out to dinner, then next day after class, my girlfriend Leah of the stylish Yarn Stylist blog, and I squired Martin around San Francisco, ending up at the Cliff House overlooking the Pacific for dinner.  To share time with this special guy, whose creativity never ceases, was a thrill.  He has some awesome books coming out this fall and next year. We had so much fun, but not enough time, but he promised to come back!

Martin sharing tips.

Hard to tell, but Golden Gate Bridge is in the background.

One class was about fair isle and making these little trees.  More on that later.

The other class was about beading and no-cable-needle cables.  Beading is easy peasy.  More on that later!

If you are a reader from Columbus, Ohio, I want you to know that I loved your city.  It's beautiful!

My blog has been a bit neglected these last weeks, perhaps months, and things continue to be busy until July.  Any blogger will tell you that when things get crazy, the poor blog is the first thing to go!  This summer I plan on getting back to regular blogging, I miss it!  I have some fantastic giveaways planned, and new things to show, so stay tuned!