Thursday, March 24, 2022

Well Dressed, Well Accessorized, and Well Cuddled


On New Year's Eve 2021, when I was making plans for the coming year (and with me, making plans means making to do lists), I was looking over my gift list and realized I needed to plan a Christmas 2022 gift for my expected grandnephew, and despite (or perhaps because of) the effects of a tumbler and a half of homemade Bailey's, that evening seemed like the perfect time to plan a sweater for the little guy. What better pandemic-style solo New Year's Eve could I have?

I browsed patterns on Ravelry, and selected the one you see depicted above, the Everyday Pullover Sweater, designed by Raya Budrevich. I've made it before (for my grandnephew Bug's second birthday), and I remembered it as a quick and easy knit that I'd been satisfied with. Then I checked my stash to see what yarn I might have that would work for this project. I found some chocolate brown worsted (the ball band for which was long gone), and most of a skein of Red Heart Soft in Leaf. I thought the two colours worked together and there would be enough of both to get the job done.   

And here's the finished product, which I knitted in a size 12 months in January 2022. Sawyer will turn ten months old in December 2022, so my hope is he'll be able to wear the sweater as soon as he gets it on Christmas Day and have some growing room so that it will fit all the rest of the winter. 

I like the combination of the dark brown with this green. 

This sweater took 30 grams of brown yarn, and 110 grams of green yarn, with a net stash decrease of -140 grams. 


As for the remainder of Sawyer's Christmas gift, I thought I'd make him a teddy bear using a pattern I've had on hand for many years and have used I don't know how many times. I can make a toy rabbit and a teddy with these patterns in something like two and a half hours using whatever fabric I have on hand. Back when I had an office job, I used to make these stuffed toys as shower gifts for my co-workers' babies and everyone made an undue amount of fuss about them. One of my co-workers, a woman in her early sixties, even asked me if she could commission a bear or bunny from me because she wanted one for herself, and I promised her I would make her one for her retirement party. 

I added "teddy bear" to my 2022 sewing list, but it turned out that I had no need to make a bear for Sawyer, as I had one on hand that I'd made some years ago and forgotten about -- I usually make two at a time, as I find it more time efficient. This brown stretch velvet bear, with his cream satin neck ribbon, will do perfectly well for Sawyer.

It amuses me that the sweater and the bear coordinate so well. Sawyer will spend his very first Christmas well dressed, well accessorized, and well cuddled. 

Friday, March 18, 2022

A "Welcome to the World" Gift

On my birthday in August 2021, when my parents and sister came to my house for a birthday lunch, my favourite gift of any that I received was the news that my nephew Luke and his wife were expecting their first child in February 2022. Of course, my immediate response was to start planning what I was going to make for my impending grandniece or grandnephew. By the end of that day I had decided I would make the baby a baby blanket, a pair of booties, and a framed counted cross stitch motif with the baby's name on it out of a kit I had on hand. I selected suitable patterns for both a baby boy and a baby girl, and messaged Luke with my congratulations and a request that he let me know if he and his wife were having a grandniece or grandnephew in advance, as I'd be making something for the baby and would need some lead time. In due course, he dutifully let me know that they were expecting a boy. 

The pattern you see above is the one I'd selected for a boy, the ABC Baby Blanket, designed by Jenny Williams. It's an attractive, easy, quick knit. It could even be an excellent stash buster if one knitted the squares in different colours, but I wanted a solid colour for my version. 

The yarn I chose was Lion Brand's Wool Ease in the Stillwater shade, which is what I would describe a light sea green. It's 20% wool, 80% acrylic, which gives it both the nice feel of wool and makes it easy care and (I hope!) durable, which is just what one wants in a baby blanket, especially if this particular baby has inherited his father's trick stomach. 

This project knitted up quickly and without issue. As I worked, I thought back to the baby blanket I had made for Luke when he was born in September 1987, just a month after my fourteenth birthday. In those days I didn't have much access to patterns or yarn. I never even knew Vogue Knitting magazine existed at that point -- that revelation would come when I saw it on the newsstand in a convenience store when my mother and I stopped to get milk one evening the following spring. The baby blanket that I made for Luke wasn't made according to a pattern at all. I knitted a number of garter stitch squares in pastel blue and white baby yarn, and sewed them together. I'd never make something so basic now. I don't think I even wove in the ends, and I know the squares weren't properly seamed together. I was, after all, only thirteen. But that hackwork baby blanket became Luke's blankie and he was very, very attached to it. Over the next several years Blankie became very much the worse for the wear. It was no longer the fresh blue and white it had been when new, but rather grayish, with a number of "you don't even want to know what made that" stains and discolourations, and was fraying and raveling in a number of places. It got to the point that it was such a repulsive object that I could never see it without wanting to scream, "KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!!" and stuff it in the wood stove at my brother's farmhouse. 

Then one mid-winter day when Lukie was four, he took his blanket outdoors with him when he went out to play, left it outside, and didn't realize it was missing until bedtime. Luke became agitated and wanted a search to be made, but trying to find a grayish blanket after nightfall on a farm in mid-winter in Southwestern Ontario is an exercise in futility if I ever heard of one. The blanket could have been anywhere in quite a large, unlit area, there were piles of snow everywhere, and it had snowed that afternoon. My brother tried to take the tough love approach, saying to him firmly at eight o'clock, "No Luke, you took your blanket outside when you shouldn't have and you lost it, and you're just going to have to go to bed without it and we'll have a look for it tomorrow." This stern parental reasoning was apparently lost on Luke, as when ten o'clock arrived he was still screaming. Sympathy, substitutes, bribes, and threats were also of no avail. My brother and his wife were, as my sister-in-law has put it, "out there like a pair of fools with flashlights and shovels until well past eleven" in a desperate effort to find the blanket, while Luke stood at the storm door, alternately and repeatedly screaming, "FIND IT!!!!! FIND IT!!!!!" and sobbing loudly. They couldn't find it. Luke ultimately passed out from sheer exhaustion at about midnight, after he'd been carrying on non-stop for four hours straight.  

I have thought of that first baby blanket I ever made and of that incident every time I have knitted a baby blanket since, and hoped I wasn't kickstarting a similar chain of events for the new baby's poor parents. And now I've come full circle, and have knit a baby blanket for Luke's son. I wouldn't wish an evening like that on any parent, but I suppose if it should happen my brother and his wife's reaction will be something along the lines of, "PAYBACK SOMETHING SOMETHING, LUKIE."   

The finished blanket. It's much nicer than the one I made for Luke, with a better design, better yarn, and better workmanship, and I am pleased with it, but I can't help feeling that perhaps it should have been scarlet or some other eye-catching colour, lest it get left outside at night. 

I purchased all new yarn for this blanket, and had 55 grams leftover, so that's a stash increase of 55 grams. 

When I first began searching Ravelry for patterns for a baby blanket and booties for my nephew's child, I thought something hockey-related would be a fun idea. Luke loves hockey as much as most Canadian men do, which is to say to an extent that is beyond all reason. During a hockey game in late 2007, when Luke was 20 years old, he got hit in the face with a puck, and it smashed four of his teeth. Luke proceeded to remain on the ice, playing and spitting out fragments of teeth, until the game was over. Surely my needlework skills could produce a softer, gentler tribute to his love of hockey than his dental work. I initially even toyed with the idea of making a Maple Leafs baby blanket in tribute to Luke's favourite team, but I would have had to design one myself, which I wasn't particularly interested in doing, and besides, this baby is an Albertan. I don't want him to be a social outcast or a laughingstock among all his baby friends. 

Among the hockey-related patterns to be found on Ravelry were a few designs for hockey skate booties. There were both knitted and crocheted examples of that design concept, but though I don't enjoy crocheting, there was no denying that the crocheted version was much cuter. Generally speaking, crocheting is stiffer than knitting, but while knitting tends to be the better choice for clothing because it drapes better, crocheting often takes the lead when it comes to shaped objects like toys, and one wants the object to hold its shape. The sample knitted hockey skate booties looked so limp and floppy compared to the crocheted ones. I set my teeth, resigned myself to crocheting my grandnephew's booties, and went with the Newborn Hockey Skate Booties, designed by Jamie Louise. When I checked my yarn stash, I was pleased to discover that I had black, gray, and white worsted yarns on hand that were suitable for this project. I no longer have the ball bands for any of the three yarns I used, but they were run-of-the-mill acrylic worsteds. I did have to buy a 3.75mm crochet hook, but now I'll have that size hook in my crochet hook collection for the next time I need one. You can see the resulting booties above, and I think they turned out well, and that Luke will get a kick out of them. 

These booties, which were made entirely out of stash yarn, weighed in at 50 grams when finished, so that's a stash decrease of -50 grams. 



Several years back, I happened to come across some counted cross stitch kits in Dollarama for $3.50 each, which is a very good deal for that sort of kit -- one could easily pay ten times as much for a comparable kit from a regular retail outlet. With money so tight, I try very hard not to buy things for the indefinite future, as I need to focus on fulfilling my many immediate needs, and I didn't even know of any impending babies at the time. However, these kits (which were all the same pattern) were so very cute and the price was such a great bargain that I made an exception and bought three kits. After all, I was very likely to use them all eventually. Then, when I got to cash register, the kits rang in at $3 a kit, which put the total expense after tax at $10.17. 

On the day I heard that there was a new baby on the way, I thought almost immediately of those three gifts, and went to the attic to get one of them out of the chest of drawers where they were stored, pleased that my investment had been justified, or at least 33.33333% justified. I started the kit that very night. I think it took me about two months' of needlework time to finish it, although I worked at it in fits and starts between August and January. By the end of January, I'd finished all of the cross stitch but the little section that was to contain the baby's name, and I'd also bought a thrift shop frame for it, and researched how to frame needlework. 

Sawyer was born in mid-February, and I got right to work on the name section, finishing it in a matter of days. Then it was time to frame it. I'd never done any framing to speak of before. Professional framing used to be one of my few extravagances, but I can no longer afford such a thing, and it was time to learn to do it myself. I paged through a book on framing that I'd bought at a thrift shop some years back, and looked at online tutorials and videos until I felt I had some idea of what I was doing. 

The simple wooden frame I bought at Value Village for this cross-stitch piece was the right width but something like 2.75" too wide, so I removed the bottom edge, cut down the sides using my handsaw and mitre box, and glued and nailed the frame back together. I then cut a piece of foam core board to fit the frame, and mounted the cross stitch on that using sequin pins. Then it was pop the foam core board into the frame, turn down the little metal tabs at the back, stick on a backing of brown craft paper, and add a hanging wire to the back. It turned out pretty well for a first attempt at framing. The needlework isn't perfectly straight, but it's straighter than either of the two professionally framed pieces of needlework I have in my house. And I like the way the tone of the wood accords with the colours in the cross stitch. It should make a nice addition to Sawyer's room for the first three or four years of his life.

There was originally glass in this frame, but I elected not to cut that glass down for the new frame size. This present had to be shipped to Alberta, and I was concerned that the glass might break on the way, and worse, damage the needlework. Not including the glass would also help keep the shipping cost of this gift down. 

I haven't gotten to meet Sawyer in person yet, and don't know when I will. My nephew and his wife and their son live in Alberta, and I can't afford to travel there. They will be visiting Ontario every few years, pandemic conditions allowing, but they'll mainly be visiting Luke's immediate family, who live two hours from me in a region where public transit doesn't go (I don't own a car), and they will have so many people to see during their time in Ontario that they won't be coming to Toronto just to see me. It isn't likely I'll ever see Sawyer more often than once every two or three years. But if I can make things for Sawyer's birthday or Christmas gifts that he routinely uses and enjoys, I can hope to have a little place in his life, and perhaps even help instill the kind of lifelong appreciation for handmade things in him that people who grow up having things made especially for them by loving family members tend to have.   

Anyway, this gift has been wrapped and packaged and posted and is currently on its way to Alberta, where I hope it will prove a suitable welcome to the world gift for what, judging from his pictures, looks to be a cuddly, happy little guy.