Marsha Knits

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Name: Marsha Brofka-Berends
Location: US

Marsha knits . . . and reads and cooks and edits and gardens and hikes and thinks and eats and photographs and sings and writes and travels and plans and hopes and . . .

06 May 2007

Birthday baby

It's been a busy week here, with preparations for Sylvia's second birthday underway. Her Opa (Jan's father) arrived from the Netherlands a little over a week ago, and my parents arrived from Illinois two days ago, so we have a full house. The festivities began two days ago, on Friday, when Sylvia's playgroup gathered here. We meet weekly, rotation among our homes and local parks, and this week's meeting took place two days before her birthday. To celebrate the occasion--and provide some massively geeky entertainment for five toddlers--Jan and I built a castle in our backyard, using giant cardboard boxes and plastic rivets designed for this purpose. With two parents as geeky as Jan and me, Sylvia doesn't stand a chance: geekdom is definitely in her future. Her cardboard bridge even had a drawbridge, for crying out loud. Her actual birthday party was yesterday, since that worked out best for my brother, whose crazy work schedule gives him limited time off. We started the day by attending the annual spring festival at a local county park that's a 300-acre historic working farm. Here's the tenuous connection to knitting: the festival is called Sheep and Wool Day, and on this day the farm's eight sheep lose their winter coats. Pieces of freshly shorn wool are handed out to the kids. It's interesting to think about how this dirty, gray, ball of rough hair can be transformed into fine yarn. Back at home, we did the presents-and-cake thing, with three grandparents, one uncle, and two close (adult) friends in attendance. Sylvia was thrilled by all of the attention, and loved the "cheetah" cake that Jan made for her. (She is really into cheetahs and sleeps with a stuffed cheetah every night.) It was a chocolate butter cake with raspberry buttercream, covered with orange-tinted marzipan and black icing "cheetah spots." Delicious! Today, Sylvia's actual birthday, was fairly low-key, since we just had two days of celebration. But we did do something special today nonetheless: a trip to a local dairy farm and ice creamery, for some yummy scoops of freshly made ice cream. Ahhh!

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31 March 2007

More knitting for babies

Since finishing the boatneck sweater for Liza's (May) baby, I've been working on a vest sweater for Megan's (June) baby. The pattern is from Natural Knits for Babies and Moms: Beautiful Designs Using Organic Yarns, by Louisa Harding. (I'm substituting a decidedly nonorganic yarn: KnitPicks Shine Worsted in Terra Cotta. I do love working with this stuff!) It's a fairly simple pattern--nearly all stockinette, with garter-stitch "stripes" at regular intervals. I completed the back last Thursday evening while knitting with two friends at bookstore/cafe, and since then I've already finished one-third of the front.

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21 March 2007

A better boatneck

Three of my friends are pregnant. Babies are due to arrive in May, June, and August. Needless to say, the knitting projects that are occupying my time these days are of the baby-sized variety. Since I ordered the yarn for these projects, one of the three has learned (and announced) that she's having a boy, but the other two babies will remain mysteries until they are born. I chose the same yarn for all three items: KnitPicks Shine Worsted (a machine-washable mostly cotton blend that handles and drapes beautifully) in the Terra Cotta color, which I think would look nice on any baby. For my friend Liza (May), I decided to knit an old favorite that I've made several times before (including twice for my own daughter): the simple boatneck sweater from Baby Knits for Beginners, by Debbie Bliss. For the 6-9 month size (plus the gauge swatch), I ended up using well over three balls of yarn. I made a couple of modifications to the original pattern, including the use of the three-needle bindoff on the shoulders. (I am a huge, huge fan of this technique and use it all the time now. What a great way to get bombproof, neat, tidy, perfectly-lined-up shoulder seams!) Here's what the sweater looked like about a month ago, right before the tendonitis really kicked in and I had to put it away for a while. My wrist is feeling much much better, though, and the problem seems to have gone away (though I still wear the wrist splint during most of the day and all night, just to be cautious). For the past few days, I've felt mended enough to knit and even do some seaming. So I've finished putting together this sweater, and I am mighty pleased with the result. The other modification I made to the pattern was in how I attached the sleeves. Rather than knit the sleeves separately from the bottom up, then sew them into place, I picked up the stitches at the shoulders and knit the sleeves from the top down. This meant I had to reverse engineer the sleeve a bit, figuring out how do the decreases that are usually increases when coming from the other direction. Again, I ended up with a very sturdy, tidy seam. One thing I really like about this pattern is the little bit of garter stitch at the hem and cuffs. This detail isn't busy enough to distract from the sweater as whole (and probably doesn't even get noticed most of the time), but it's a nice little variation from the sea of stockinette stitch around it. I did knit a gauge swatch, but the sweater seems a little big (this always happens to me, even when I dutifully check for gauge...). I'm not worried about it, though. It's intended to fit a child who will be around five or six months old when the cool weather returns, and since Liza and her husband are both very tall people (and their first baby wasn't tiny!), I suspect this baby will need all the extra sweater he or she can get!

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