Mother's Day is Sunday, May 11. If you want to make (or order) something handmade for your mom, now is the time!
Some of my favorite gifts have been things I thought would be meaningful to my mom, like this photo of her and my grandmother, embroidered with the George Eliot quote "Life began with waking up and loving my mother's face."
Not ready to take on a project this complicated? Try a silhouette gift!
Or make a keepsake of a favorite family recipe, like these recipe tea towels:
or this customizable platter:
Or give a flowering plant that will be beautiful for years to come. One of my favorite sources is Wayside Gardens.
Still not sure what to do? Check out etsy's mother's day guide for more ideas.
Last summer at the Sheep and Wool festival, I found myself staring longingly at Jamie Harmon's rainbow yarn, wondering what I could make with it. The bright palette is perfectly kid-friendly, but the care instructions are less so (few parents I know are excited about receiving hand-wash only children's garments).
Then it came to me: a stuffed animal! Specifically, a rainbow bunny (especially perfect because the yarn is an angora blend).
The pattern is called "big cuddly bunny" and is intended to be made with bulky yarn, yielding a bunny measuring a plump 38 inches, but my rainbow cuddly bunny is a more portable 14 inches around.
I just love this yarn. I'm not normally a huge fan of variegated or self-striping yarns, but Jamie's are different. She spins hers in patterns using a base color (in this case, a rainbow pattern with a white thread spanning the whole thing), with beautiful results.
This little guy is perfectly squeezable and very sturdy -- I can picture him being dragged around lovingly by his ear.
Plus, he was insanely quick to make -- an easy weekend project. In the process, I learned some good lessons about using this kind of variegated yarn. I really wanted his ears to match, which meant that I had to break into a second ball to find a corresponding blue/green section. That wasn't too big a deal for the purpose of bunny ears, but it's a little wasteful and would be more important if you wanted sleeves to match on a sweater. More generally, the yarn is put to the best use with simple patterns knit in one piece. I'm already brianstorming about my next rainbow yarn project...
Is it spring yet? The crocuses are coming up, and the daffodils are considering doing the same. But more snow is headed our way.
Predictably, my reaction is to hunker down with some knitting and hope to stay put until spring arrives. Here's my latest work in progress:
This is on its way to becoming a big cuddly bunny, but right now it just looks like...well, I'm not sure what it looks like. Nick says it looks like basket in which one would carry ostrich egg for safekeeping...but, I mean, that's not a thing. It's possible he's been watching too much Game of Thrones.
In any case, I am loving the way the rainbow yarn is turning out. And I am loving how much easier this is than my last foray into knit stuffed animals (the amazing but amazingly difficult Flo the Elephant).
It's almost enough to make me want to undertake some of the purl bee's other softies, including this enigmatic sheep
via the purl bee
and this friendly hedgehog.
via the purl bee
In the meantime, let's start thinking of names for the rainbow bunny.
More new baby gifts! I decided to revisit a pattern from Doodle Stitching -- this embroidered owl softie.
I was excited to make this little guy using wool from recycled sweaters. I washed and dried the sweaters until they were about half their original size,transformed into soft, thick felt. His main body is a striped sweater, his wings are the ribbed cuffs from the same sweater, and his belly is from a cashmere cream-colored sweater -- very huggable.
Many people know Lion Brand mainly as a purveyor of inexpensive, accessible yarn. It's sold everywhere (Michael's, Joann's, Target) and it's great for beginning knitters, baby clothes, and craft projects.
But a couple years ago, the company appeared to be going through a renaissance -- they introduced a new line, the LB collection, made up of natural fibers; they opened the Lion Brand Yarn Studio in New York, with elaborate knit window displays and friendly knowledgeable staff; and they churned out a ton of beautiful, well-styled free patterns.
Some of my favorite patterns from this period include the Hanna cowl,
via Lion Brand
this beautiful cabled pullover,
via Lion Brand
and this dressmaker detail cardigan (which my mom is making for me, after a great deal of hinting/begging on my part).
via Lion Brand
It really felt like Lion Brand was investing in the modern knitter, one who wants a choice of beautiful yarns and patterns that yield high end looks (so that it's a surprise when you say, "I made it myself!").
However, Lion Brand must have decided this strategy was not paying off. To be fair, they are still making the LB collection and the Lion Brand Yarn Studio is still open. But the last two catalogs that have arrived at my house have included these gems:
via Lion Brand
via Lion Brand
via Lion Brand
I mean, these are epic, no? Did a miss a major trend in fake fur? To borrow a phrase from Tim Gunn, I think there's a real question of taste here.
I used to look forward to Lion Brand's weekly e-mails and dog-ear the catalog, but instead now my overwhelming reaction is "Hmmmm..."
Maybe they found that they just couldn't compete at the high end of the market? That those shoppers value their local yarn stores? Maybe with all the great online pattern publishing outlets, there wasn't a market for their free patterns? Maybe there's just more profit in their traditional distribution system?
Whatever changed, I miss Lion Brand of 2010...
Regular readers of this blog will know how much I love knit colorwork. It's so much fun -- picking the right color combination, watching the pattern unfold...
There are lots of cool colorwork traditions in knitting, from simple stripes to elaborate fair isle, but my favorite patterns use knitting to draw a picture. There's just something so sweet and strangely literal about these patterns, which tend to feature flora and fauna. So, here's a Ravelry Roundup featuring representations of everything from feathers to flowers.
The Birdie Fair Isle Cardigan by Hannah Fettig:
via Quince & Co
The Pinion cardigan by Christa Giles:
via twist collective
Bird in Hand mittens by Kate Gilbert:
Of course, these kinds of things can easily veer into too cutesy. Luckily, there's no such thing as too cutesy when it comes to kids clothes, as this ridiculously cute Lion Pullover by Lion Brand Yarn shows:
via Lion Brand
A snowy day in January is a good time to contemplate knitting plans, don't you agree? There's something incredibly satisfying about taking on a challenging new project on a cold winter day (particularly if said project is accompanied by a hot toddy in front of the fire).
Here are a few of my favorite recent pattern discoveries -- warning: I am apparently super into cables right now.
The Channel Cardigan by Jared Flood
via Brooklyn Tweed
Cabletta Junior cardigan by Hanna Maciejewska
Snowbound hat by Justyna Lorkowska
via Lete's Knits
A while back, my friend Lindy mentioned how much she liked the Hanna cowl from Lion Brand:
via Lion Brand
After much debate, I settled on a color palette that seemed right for Lindy, using white, gray, purple, and a bright citron. I think they worked well together in this intricate fair isle.
I had so much fun making this -- I just love this kind of colorwork. I also love sending homemade gifts this unique: imagining the recipient's excitement when the package comes in the mail, the feeling of being loved that comes from something made just for you.
It's the least I can do for the originator of the Halloween advent calendar.
I've written previously about Nick's extraordinary giftgiving. Every Christmas, he comes up with an elaborate, themed collection of presents (themes have been as varied as warmth, barnyard animals, and the color white).
I am lucky to receive such fun, thoughtful gifts, but it produces a certain pressure to reciprocate, and every year I am at a loss as to how to come up with something equally awesome.
Every year, that is, until this year. I stumbled upon a bottle of Goose Island's Juliet beer, and an idea was born: Nick loves trying new beers AND has a fondness for the NATO phonetic alphabet (in which J=Juliett).* Put these two together and an amazing Christmas present would be born: 26 beers, featuring the words that make up the phonetic alphabet (alpha, bravo, charlie, delta, etc.).
And so began an interstate quest ending in a very fun Christmas morning, featuring two dozen boxes wrapped in brown paper.
Here's what I found. Note that Nick loves Belgians and doesn't love super hoppy beers, so you'll see that reflected in my choices:
Alpha: Alpha Klause Porter from Three Floyds Brewing Co in Munster, IN
Bravo: Perfect Crime Blonde Ale from Scheldebrouwerij in Meer, Belgium (this is a stretch for Bravo, but I learned at my local beer store that it contains Bravo hops. The majority of Bravos I found were super hoppy, which I was trying to avoid, and the Blonde ale seemed like a good compromise).
Charlie: Golden Carolus Keizer Blue from Het Anker Brewery, Belgium, named after Emporer Charles.
Echo: Kcco black lager from Resignation Brewery in Austin, TX.
Foxtrot: I did my darndest to track down a bottle of Lagunitas' Wilco Tango Foxtrot, but it is seasonal, so I had to settle for an envelope with the label.
Golf: Okay, so this just doesn't exist. You would think that even if there wasn't a beer with "golf" in the title, there would be one called "tee time" or something, no? In the absence of this kind of direct link, I just used a selection of summer brews -- Bayou Teche's LA 31 Passione, Tin Roof Watermelon Wheat, and Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat.
Hotel:Christmas Eve at a New York City Hotel Room, a Stout from Eviltwin Brewing in Denmark
India:Sort Gul, a Black India Pale Ale by Mikkeller
Juliett:The American Wild Ale that started it all...from Goose Island in Chicago.
Kilo:Conveniently, a pint size bottle weighs about 1 kilogram. My pick was Saison Rue from The Bruery in Placentia, CA.
Lima: Cusquena from Peru
Mike: San Miguel from the Philippines
November: Movember from Foster's of Australia
Oscar:Old Chub Scotch Ale from Oskar Blues in Longmont, CO.
Papa:A selection featuring Father Christmas -- Papa Noel's Olde Ale from Alameda Brewing in Portland, OR and Pere Noel from De Ranke in Belgium.
Quebec:La Fin du Monde from Unibroue in Quebec.
Romeo:Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout from Rogue Brewery in Newport, OR.
Sierra:Kellerweis Hefeweizen from Sierra Nevada
Tango:Two selections from Argentina, home of the Tango -- Quilmes and Cristal
Uniform: This one required a little creativity. Hence, Goose Island Sixth Day Ale from Chicago, wearing uniforms.
Victor:Victor Ale from Allagash Brewing in Portland, ME.
Whiskey: It turns out that liquor laws prohibit the use of "whiskey" in the name of a beer, so we were on the hunt for a beer aged in whiskey casks. Enter Ola Dubh from Harviestoun Brewery in Scotland.
X-ray: 2xRye from Southern Tier Brewing in Lakewood, NY.
Yankee:Old Yankee Ale from Cottrell Brewing in Pawcatuck, CT.
Zulu:Final Departure from Airways Brewing in Kent, WA. (Okay, so there is nary a Zulu to be seen, but this seemed like a fitting end.)
2014 has already been a delicious year!