28 November 2013

Today's Sweater: Sotherton

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from me and mine :)

I am grateful for my family and friends. For wool and inspiration. For Boreas not being as bad as predicted for me and my traveling brood. For you sharing in my adventures. 

Gobble gobble, and thanks for stopping by!
xoxo, Kathleen 

26 November 2013

Today's Sweater: Mermaid's Cardigan

Some of you may think in just coming to selfies late, but really I want to share how much knits are a part of my life. I now have a decent-sized sweater wardrobe (and constantly have plans for more) and put it to use in my private life. 

Today's sweater is my Mermaid's Cardigan, which started out as a vague notion of putting lace sleeves together with a stockinette body. The raglan yoke style seemed the perfect way to meld the two, and the subtle I-cord edging tidied things up nicely (and gave a great starting point to the slight puffs on the sleeve cuffs). 

Tomorrow is a travel day, so we shall see if I am feeling handknit or like I should wear something that can just be thrown in the wash when we arrive (something about air travel these days makes me want a two-liter bottle of water and a long shower when I reach my destination - I think it's taking off my shoes to go through security and, of course, the Petri dish of an airplane). I've got a simple stole to knit en route (very little thinking required) and a cardigan sample to work on while there. Looking forward to some Wooly Wonka yarn knitting time. 

Thanks for stopping by, and happy knitting!
xoxo, Kathleen 

25 November 2013

Today's Sweater: Bloc

It's still cold here in New York, so today I chose my original Bloc pullover, which I designed and knit last year during Hurricane Sandy. There is a lot of sympathy knitted into this sweater, as I worked around and around on those stitches while watching television coverage of the hurricane and it's aftermath (and being so grateful to live on high ground). This one is in Harrisville Shetland (colorway: Midnight, which has a subtle variation of blues that you only truly appreciate close up) and Madeline Tosh tosh sock (colorway: Tomato, a vibrant maple tree orange with flickers of gold). The two yarns, both their colors and textures, play off of each other perfectly. And I had such fun figuring out the short-row garter stitch stuff for the cuffs. What I particularly love about the Shetland is that it's woolen-spun and so provides warmth without being bulky. 

I don't have a Maker Monday today because I didn't make pizza this weekend and was in too much of a hurry when making my granola to take pictures (I also had to make a cake, cupcakes, cookies, and a batch of caramels for a birthday girl who got her braces off). So, now you have homemade pizza and granola to look forward to next month. Aren't you lucky!

In addition to my usual stuff, I'm winding up yarn for two new designs. The yarn is from the wonderful Wooly Wonka, and I'm really looking forward to knitting it up. Sorry that you'll have to wait a bit for the designs, but I think they'll be worth it ;)

Thanks for stopping by, and happy knitting!
xoxo, Kathleen 

24 November 2013

Today's Sweater: An Aran for Frederick

Is there anything better on a cold November day than wrapping up in a cozy Aran sweater? XOXO, twin waves, and a Celtic flourish tell the story of love on the Cobb in Lyme. 
And Brooklyn Tweed Shelter is surprisingly soft next to the skin (short sleeve t underneath, since I do live in an overheated NYC apartment). 

What are you wearing this Sunday?

(I plan to post more of these, since I really do live in my handknits.)

Happy knitting, and thanks for stopping by!
xoxo, Kathleen 

16 November 2013

Maker Monday: laundry supplies

In addition to being a knitter and designer, I like to make other stuff, too. I bet I'm not the only one! So, I thought I would share some of the other things I make with you. I'd love to hear about what you make, too :)

Some time back in my crazy homemaker phase (it's probably not a phase, if I'm still doing it, huh, maybe more of a "thing"?), I decided to try making my own laundry detergent. The dirt in NYC is particularly dirty (all the car exhaust, methinks, perhaps adds a greasiness to the dirt and makes it really stick), and I had been dissatisfied with all the commercial detergents I had tried. Add to that Isobel's full-body rash after wearing some clothes washed at a relative's house, and it became clear that I needed to find a better solution. 

After exhaustive research on the interwebs (as we all know you can lose days of your lives thanks to google and, now, Pinterest), I found a powdered detergent recipe with potential. (I discounted liquid recipes pretty quickly, as they seemed messy, some required "curing" time, and it seemed counterintuitive to spend extra time dissolving the stuff in the cooking phase only to disperse it in water later.). Powdered bar soap, washing soda, and borax were the ingredients in most recipes, and I ended up with a 1-1-1 ratio. There are recipes out there with different proportions, but this works for me (and is pleasantly easy to remember). 

At first I could get all the ingredients at my corner deli and used Octagon soap. It worked pretty well, but the soap had a high moisture content, so I would have to microwave it (it would puff up like mille feulle pastry, which was fun) before pulverization in the food processor. Then good, old Appletree stopped carrying the soap, and it looks like Palmolive may have discontinued it completely. Time for another soap option. 

While on the soap search, I went back to an organic liquid detergent. After homemade detergent, this stuff was awful! Our clothes were stinky. Never again. (I had tried Charlie's Soap at one point, too, back in the cloth diapering days, but I didn't really like mail ordering detergent.)

Enter Fels-Naptha, which is available at Amazon (as an add-on) and drugstore.com, as well as many grocery stores (with the other laundry supplies). I had trouble finding it in NYC but discovered I could stock up at the local market up in Maine, so every time I make more detergent, I think of being up there, which is an added bonus for me. It's a drier soap, so no microwave time, which I like, but it is hard, so it didn't work too well in the cuisinart. Now we are getting really old-fashioned: I grate the soap by hand with a micro plane zester! Turns out the zester makes the perfect teeny soap flakes. 

So, I grate one cup of soap, then add a cup each of washing soda and borax. Stir and store in a cleaned-out yogurt tub with a 1Tbsp measure from Ikea (an old coffee scoop would work, too, if you are low on measuring spoons). 

To wash clothes, I put 1-2Tbsp in the empty washer, start the water and swish the dasher back and forth a few times to dissolve, then add in the clothes as the tub fills the rest of the way. If you generally wash in cold, you may want to start with a little hot water to make sure the detergent dissolves, then switch to cold to fill up the tub. Due to the aforementioned dirt (and three school-age kiddos), I wash most of our clothes in warm to help lift out the dirt. If things are really dirty, you can follow the instrux on the borax or washing soda and add a bit more of either to your wash. For stubborn stains, I wet the bar of soap and rub it on the stain like a stain stick. Some people put vinegar in one of those Downy balls for the final rinse, but I haven't found that necessary (vinegar cuts through the soap scum that can result when soap meets hard/soft water - I can never remember which is which, but NYC water isn't a problem).

The Fels Naptha smells nice and clean and gets out any odors but does not leave a scent, which I prefer. The other soap recommended on the web is Zote, which has the added charm of being bright pink. 

The other tool in my laundry arsenal is the humble dryer ball. Throw them in the dryer with your wet clothes, and they fluff things up, eliminate static, and reduce drying time. Plus, they're made out of wool. What's not to love?! I wound eight balls of yarn from a skein of Lion Brand's Fisherman Wool, then ran them through a hot wash/cold rinse cycle a few times in some wash bags (many people use nylons, making a knot between each ball, but I didn't have any handy, so made do). One ball came apart and felted into blobs, so I cut them off and let the cats play with them. The others felted nicely and would make great toys for the cats and the kids, if I didn't keep them safe on top of the machine. 

Some folks like to scent their laundry, and I've read that you can put a drop of essential oil on the balls, but I don't bother with that. Just throw them in the dryer and let them bounce around. Generally, I just toss them back in the dryer after taking out the laundry, but I do keep that little blue basket handy to corral them as necessary. 

So, there you have it. Turns out to be natural-ish, and hopefully has less of an impact on the environment. Bonus of clean, fluffy clothes and no rashes. 

Thanks for stopping by!
xoxo, Kathleen 

12 November 2013

A Vest for Charles KAL

A Vest for Charles by Kathleen Dames, photo by Christa Tippmann
Your invited to join a KAL for A Vest for Charles over in my group on Ravelry! By now it sounds like most (though not all) LYSes have received their copies of Jane Austen Knits, Fall 2013, so once you have your copy, all you need is some yarn!

I have a few things to clear off my desk, and then I'm going to get cracking on my own sample. Shockingly, I'm going to use the suggested yarn, Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, and I think I have just enough in the Nest colorway.

What I really like about this pattern, if I may toot my own horn for a sec', is that it is *all* in one piece with no seaming. You knit the body, split for the fronts and back, and then with some short-row shaping, and a three-needle bindoff you're done! OK, you will have to find some fabulously masculine buttons to sew on, but, come on, that's the fun part. [I took the girls to Mood last weekend, while Nick was away at a conference, and it was crazy! Don't go on a Saturday if you can help it. Even Swatch wasn't there.]

Of course, the other thing I like about this pattern is that I get to post the handsome man picture on my blog again.

I also plan to start a KAL for Benwick, so stay tuned.

Thanks for stopping by, and happy knitting!
xoxo, Kathleen

05 November 2013

Trip report: Los Angeles and Santa Barbara

Nick had a conference in Pasadena right around our fifth anniversary, so we worked it out with the grandparents to leave the children in Chicago and took our first-ever vacation together. Yes, we've known each other for 27 years, but this was our first vacay. 

First up was Santa Barbara. We stayed near the beach and found the most New England-y place in the pier for dinner. It was lovely. And three of my first four meals in California were tacos, thanks to Baja Fresh, the place on the pier, and the world-famous-thanks-to-Julia-Child's-patronage La Super Rica. I've come to the conclusion that the desert and the traffic and the sun aren't really my thing, but I could live on those tacos. 

But before my third taco meal, we found a lovely knitting shop, Loop and Leaf. Full range if Brooklyn Tweed plus a trunk show, Habu, and a wall of Madeline Tosh. On top of that, the owner has a shop rabbit! The whole place had a lovely vibe, and I highly recommend visiting should you be in the area. 

Then is was back to LA proper and on to the Getty. A friend of mine from way back in the days when I answered phones the the Boston Phoenix now works at the Getty, and we managed to meet up with her for a little tour before closing. The Getty is such an interesting place. Such a modern space with amazing gardens, and then there is this art collection. 

The rest of the visit was pretty mellow (for me - Nick had to be on a panel discussion Saturday morning). Our food focus shifted to Pacific rim with Vietnamese spring rolls from one strip mall store front and amazing dumplings from another. In LA it seems the less inspiring the environs, the more inspired the food.

With all the driving and flying, I knit most of a sweater. Yup. The Cephalopod Traveller ombré set from Rhinebeck did not even enter the stash and is now a top-down contiguous pullover graduating from light up top to dark at the hems. No picture yet, since I've decided to redo the hems (turned isn't working for me). Soon, though. Well, once I finish my application for this great job and deal with a big, stinky child support problem and get my submissions together for Enchanted Knits and ... There's probably laundry and vacuuming and dinner to make in there, too. Ah, well, I can still think of being awoken by seals barking in SB :)

Santa Barbara morning
Colorful tiles at our hotel
Visiting Loop and Leaf
La Super Rica - where Julia Child got her taco fix
Hollywood sign way off in the distance. Once Nick pointed it out, I felt like Meg Ryan trying to spot the Eiffel Tower in French Kiss - I couldn't really spot it (at least not from the car such that I could get a decent picture).
In the garden at the Getty. We had a lovely private tour with my friend Melissa (we worked together at the Boston Pheonix many moons ago). Did you know that the Getty bought a marble quarry in Italy so that everything would match?
Happy anniversary! Selfie at the Getty. 
Riding the tram back to the real world in my Wavelette. Perfect sweater for fall in LA, btw. 
RUOK? Freeway sign!

Thanks for stopping by, and happy knitting!
xoxo, Kathleen