Hooligan Zoo

Two Zookeepers… many Hooligans… It's always feeding time at this zoo!

The Grinch? Scrooge? A Christmas Round up, if you will.

I’m usually pretty Grinchy around Christmastime. It’s the timeless story of old, the mama figures out what presents are needed, what presents are going to be made, when the family goes where, when other family comes to us… etc, etc…

I generally start to feel the pressure when the carols hit the radio station in mid November.

It really sucks, frankly, and in past years I’ve had a hard time myself getting away from the whole DO DO DO of the season, and getting back to WHY we celebrate…

Last year we started a Jesse Tree.  Granted, we started it late last year, but we did okay this year.  The hooligans absolutely adore this tradition.  Every night of the days of advent, we sit down together on the couch, light some candles, read a devotional, and they each take a turn hanging the ornament on the tree.  Then we pray and blow out the candles, and off the wee little rascals go to bed.

I really love this tradition, it’s so cozy and nice.  Every night it re-focuses us on the true reason after the hustle and bustle of the day.

Yesterday we had a little get together with Ja’s family at our house.  Ian and Anna came with Beatrice (or byootitrice as Talya calls her), and Ja’s mom and dad came as well.  It was weird to not have Kenny or Jessie with us.  The first Christmas that it’s been just us and Ian and Anna.

But, Ja’s dad always teases me about wanting Christmas to be over.  Rather mercilessly, some days.  So, I started leaving up our tree and decorations until AFTER we get together with them.  Which means that today, they came down!  YAY!

It’s weird, as much as I like the pretty lights, the garlands, the Jesse tree… it’s almost like sensory overload after a while.  I just NEED it to be gone, need to get back to routine, need to go to bed earlier… all of those things.

The house is relatively tidy at the moment, the year is almost over, and we will start anew.  Always hoping to improve this year on the last.

On that note, a couple of things I’ve made recently for people for Christmas!  (I think I managed about 80% handmade this year… not too shabby!)

These are pyjamas that I made for my niece, Beatrice.  I used one of my ever favourite patterns, the Emmy.  Bonnie of Fishsticks Designs has some of my most favourite patterns EVER (more on that in a future post!)

Christmas Presents 2010

Beatrice also got a Violet Bit of Whimsy Doll.  To match her jammies.

Christmas Presents 2010

For little Samuel I made a Jamie Jumper (also from Fishsticks Designs).

Christmas Presents 2010

I haven’t made this pattern before, but I really really loved it. It was very fun to sew, something new, and while I did screw up the bottom a little bit, I don’t think anyone will notice if you people keep your mouths shut.

Sam also got a little hand knit teething gnome…

Christmas Presents 2010

These take about 2 hours start to finish… including finding your needles, and rooting through the stash to find the yarn you want to use. Much fun!

And now, as I realize this post is probably one of my most poorly written ones, and that I don’t really have an end, and can’t post too many more things I made because I either a) don’t have pictures of them, or b) haven’t seen all of the family members who are to receive those gifts… I really don’t have a way to end it. HA!

So, how bout with this…. happy children opening a family gift together… hmm?

Christmas 2010 046

Now move along. There’s nothing more to see here!

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An old art… not yet lost.

My Gramma was an amazing woman.  She was a crafter extraordinaire, she could make anything you could possibly dream of (including the most delicious crepes you can possibly imagine!)  She was a knitter, she crocheted, she was a seamstress, a potter.  She knew how to cross stitch, embroider, weave.  You name it, she could do it, and if she wanted to do it, but didn’t know how?  She would get a book and learn how to do it.

Now that she’s been gone for a few years, I find myself wishing that I had have asked her more questions.  In fact, just a few weeks ago, I was trying to figure out how to sew pleats on a costume for a friend of mine… knowing that there must be some simpler way to do it than the way I was doing it.  I had the fleeting thought, “Oh, I’ll just give Gramma a call… she’ll know!”

While my Gramma taught me a lot of things, and I mean a lot, she did not teach me embroidery.  My mom used to cross stitch, and I know how to do that (my mom taught me), it was never really and truly an interest at the time.  Which means that I never asked her about it.  Which means that now that she’s gone, I’m in the place of figuring it out myself.

The internet is truly a wonderful thing.  You can google pretty much anything.  The internet, however, does not watch you as you make those first few stitches… it does not put it’s hand on yours to guide you through the faltering routine until you pick up the rhythm on your own.

Learning to embroider

Last weekend the kids and I set out to learn how to embroider.  I did have a very basic knowledge, years of watching my mom cross stitch was still stuck in the back of my brain…

Learning to embroider

It’s interesting, I thought that the hooligans, mine and Rachel’s, aged from 3 to (almost) 8, would fiddle around and play with it a bit, lose interest, and go do what hooligans do… in our house that means doing their level best to drive me insane.

Learning to embroider

They amazed me.  Not only were they patient waiting for their turn to have needles threaded, they stuck with the project for hours.  Literally, hours.

Learning to embroider

Learning to embroider

It’s amazing how you can give a child a challenge, offer no expectations and just leave them to it, what they will accomplish! They each decided on their own designs, and we simply drew it on the muslin (for the older girls) mesh fabric (for the younger kids). They chose their own colours, I gave a brief tutorial on back stitching, promised that I would thread all needles, and they were off!

Learning to embroider

A brief interlude to watch a movie (embroidering all the time), a small break to eat dinner, and they persevered until it was time for bed.

Learning to embroider

I simply can’t believe how much fun they had doing such a simple thing! An art that has been around for thousands of years. The simple act of taking needle and thread to draw on fabric.

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And while those first halting stitches are secured on the fabric, while we listen, while we calm to make them smaller and neater, they are learning an art. They are learning to persevere. They are learning the joy that comes with making something from your own two hands. They are learning patience. They are learning that while they are small, they are very very capable. They are learning a craft that they can pass down to their own children one day.

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Last weekend was not just about learning to embroider. It was so very much more than that.

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Finished

There’s something about a finished project. There’s something about the satisfaction of seeing something that you’ve started with yarn and a few sticks, and it becomes completely functional and beautiful.

I’ve been working on the Pinwheel Sweater for a while now… and by working on, I mean that I started it, was completely enchanted by the pattern, and especially by the yarn (it’s absolutely mesmerizing to watch the colour change in Uberknits gradient yarn!), got to the outer edge, cast off, and put it in the knitting basket for months.

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Why would I do that if it was so enchanting? So beguiling? (gee, can I think up any more descriptive words??) It’s because I got to the sleeves, I knew that I would have to count, pick up stitches, keep track of rows. Be bored be the tedious K1 P1 ribbing for 8 solid inches on EACH arm.

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But, I finally did it. I picked it up, carefully undid the alternate arm hole, used my sweet knitpicks needles to count off the rows until the decreases. Knit 16 solid inches of K1 P1 ribbing. Counted rows to make sure the sleeves and trim were both the same length.

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It was so worth it. My very first sweater. I’ve knit probably 100 pairs of pants, but never done a sweater. It was glorious to finally put it on her, see that it fit, feel the joy of the blocking.

Oh yah. I’ll totally be doing this again.

February 042

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Finished

There's something about a finished project.  There's something about the satisfaction of seeing something that you've started with yarn and a few sticks, and it becomes completely functional and beautiful.

I've been working on the Pinwheel Sweater for a while now…  and by working on, I mean that I started it, was completely enchanted by the pattern, and especially by the yarn (it's absolutely mesmerizing to watch the colour change in Uberknits gradient yarn!), got to the outer edge, cast off, and put it in the knitting basket for months.

 

February 040

Why would I do that if it was so enchanting?  So beguiling?  (gee, can I think up any more descriptive words??)  It's because I got to the sleeves, I knew that I would have to count, pick up stitches, keep track of rows.  Be bored be the tedious K1 P1 ribbing for 8 solid inches on EACH arm. 

 

<February 043

But, I finally did it.  I picked it up, carefully undid the alternate arm hole, used my sweet knitpicks needles to count off the rows until the decreases.  Knit 16 solid inches of K1 P1 ribbing.  Counted rows to make sure the sleeves and trim were both the same length.

 

<February 041

It was so worth it.  My very first sweater.  I've knit probably 100 pairs of pants, but never done a sweater.  It was glorious to finally put it on her, see that it fit, feel the joy of the blocking.

Oh yah.  I'll totally be doing this again.

 

February 042

 

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Knitters Ho!

Oh my my my.  I did something amazing this weekend.  I jumped out of my comfort box, scootched up to Toronto and listened to everone's favourite knitter, the Yarn Harlot

Allyson and I drove up Friday afternoon, picked up Amanda, and scootched on the lovely TTC for the Canadian Launch of Stephanie Pearl-Macphee's new book.

The talk was great.  Stephanie is so funny, and very tiny in person.  Much prettier than in pictures too.

I have so much that I want to say about the weekend, but I'm not yet quite sure how to put it into words.  Let's try some pictures, shall we?

Here we are, first in line to get our book signed…  Stephanie graciously insisted that people with babies either inside their bodies or outside their bodies got to go first.  Of course there was more interest in Talya than in me!

With the famous needles and socks in hand, Talya is DESTINED to be a great knitter.  She grabbed right onto those things, and didn't try to put them in her mouth…  at least not right away!  I don't think I was too terribly dorky (Stephanie will probably disagree….) although I was very nervous.

She is really the most lovely person.  So real and down to earth.  I can completely understand why her blog gets thousands of hits a day, and why her books are on the best seller list.  It isn't just that she's a good writer, but she is a fabulous friendly person as well.  Stephanie made sure to talk to everyone as they went through the line.  It wasn't just a sign the book and move on kind of thing.

There were large amounts of knitters all gathered in Indigo books.  Knitting, chatting, having a great time.  It's amazing this community of Knitters.  One thing that we have in common and we all get along.  I think that there would be peace in the world if everyone knew how to knit.

Yesterday, Saturday, 20 of us met for a good old fashioned Yarn Crawl.  The Yarn Shoppes in Toronto??  Oh my goodness.  I would consider moving there just for the shops.

Here we are at Lettuce Knit.  By far my favourite shoppe.  A tiny little place, but so cute, and the people there were amazing.  I got my big purchases of the day here…  my goal was accomplished here…  my drop spindle and fleece.

We had lunch while we were here in Kensington Square (?) and compared stashes while we waited for our Big Fat Burritos.

I think one of the funniest things was the “class photos” we did at every yarn shoppe we stopped at.

Stephanie would have to wait for a red light or for the traffic to clear to be able to take the shot…  See how close she is to the street car tracks there?  Yah.  At every shoppe it was like that!

I have so much more to say about this weekend, but I think I need to let the rest of it sink in for a while.  I really do feel like it was a once in a lifetime thing, and I am so glad that I did.  The baby was fabulous.  Hauled around in the sling for ten hours, and she was content as could be.  It was amazing.

I think the best part was that the weekend was all about me.  It was all about me and something that I love to do with people in who also love to do it.  It was nice to not have to explain what the deal is with this string thing.  It was awesome to have people not look at you funny for touching every single ball of wool in a store.  It was amazing to have people nod in complete understanding when you would exclaim that a skein was good enough to eat.

More later on the weekend, but I will leave you with this egg popping (heh heh heh) picture of Talya in a hat from AlterKnits, our last stop on the crawl.

Knitter out.

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On Knitting and Housework

I was whining about the futility of doing housework to an online
knitting friend of mine, and this is what she wisely responded….

Knitters are most frustrated with housework because, unlike stitches,
things don't stay put. Despite plans and careful situating,  things
spill, move and vanish. No one would dare put toast down on one of our
WIPs (works in progress), but they toss the same carelessly on our just
wiped tables. We love to be able to pick up where we left off, but
housework is a wild animal loose in our home, not compliant wool. *sigh*


I think I may have that printed on a plaque….
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The baby-niece…

A few weeks ago, my baby-niece, Savannah (aka, Savvy) hit that amazing and scary milestone of being one year old.

I made her this little tank top and matching hat, which, (thanks Russell!) fit her perfectly! 

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Isn't she precious?  It's odd that she isn't my child, and yet I feel completely right in taking all the credit for her cuteness.

 Sav's birthday 016

Specs on the tank and hat, plain old Bernat Kitchen cotton, size 5 crochet hook, and I totally can't find the grown up pattern that I based it on.  Anyone recognize it??

Savvy and I have a thing…  I don't really see her too often, or my other niecey-poo, Sierra, but I taught Sav how to rub noses.  Which, while kind of disgusting when her nose is running with snot, is still very cute.  Especially since I tell myself that she only does it with me!

  rubbing noses

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Well. Now I'm Bored.

I picked up my knitting last night, and it was starting to look like something…

I worked and worked…

And a little while later, after weaving in many many ends,

Now, only the rest of the front, two sleeves and a back to go! 

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Ta da!

Oooeee!  A new scarf!

You know, I like knitting scarves.  You can play around with funky
stitches, do all kinds of fun things, and end up with this long warm
fuzzy.  Nice.

Okay, bad bad picture.  If you can get around the rug pattern to see the scarf, there it is!  Blocking in my bedroom!!

This is the multi-directional scarf in Iris Schreier's Modular Knits
Quite an ingenious pattern, actually.  Done on one circular
needle, I used some grey angora like stuff from Gramma's stash, and
double strand of black cotton, also from Gramma's stash.  I'm
really pleased with it thus far.  After blocking, all it will need
is a hefty dose of black fringe, and won't I be styling with my red
winter coat!  Oooee!!

The stripes were so much fun to do.  With this type of knitting,
you never cut the yarn.  It's pretty much continuous, unless, of
course, you run out. 

There are quite a few other patterns in this book that I want to try, but first, methinks me needs a matching hat.  N'est pas?

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My very own socks

Ooooeeee, now those are some warm and toasty feet I have.  Feet
made toasty by the creation of a pair of socks.  Created them with
my own two hands, four pointy sticks and some string, I did, I did.

I wasn't expecting them to be finished today, but, it turns out that
while I was doing respite work with Aimee, I had an hour to sit and
watch her shoot arrows in her archery class.  It's a good thing
that I just happened to have unfinished sock number two in my
bag! 

Aren't they purdy?  Made on 3.75mm dpn's with Regia Cotton
Colour.  Nice stuff.  I've been wearing them for a little
more than an hour now, and even though they have a decent wool count,
they aren't itching me!  It must be the high content of cotton
that offsets it.

If you look carefully, the striping matches up quite niceley… except
that the stripes are all reversed on the second sock.  I didn't
care enough to try and make the stripes match at all.  One ball
must have been wound in the reverse of the other ball.

I think that now I have the hang of it, I quite enjoy making
socks.  They're a nice easy fast project that I can slip into my
purse and haul around with me anywhere.  I did make these a titch
too short for my foot, so the next pair will have to be a bit
longer.  I'm still keeping them for myself!!

Next up, a toe up sock pattern…. stay tuned…

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