But Sometimes a Sweater Happens Like This (Autumn Reis)

Sometimes, you plan a sweater for a long time. You figure out what you need, you buy the yarn, you make the plan, you finish up other projects, and then, at the right time, you cast on.

But sometimes, a sweater happens like this: you see a picture, you get obsessed, you drop everything, and you just start making it.

20141210-090050.jpg

Sometimes, you spend a lot of time and money acquiring the yarn you need for a particular project. You stalk updates for your favorite indie dyer, you make your PayPal cry, you try to be home to intercept yarn deliveries.

But sometimes a sweater happens like this: all the yarn you want is already in your stash, and you are just now realizing it wants needs to be this sweater.

reis 1

Sometimes, you swatch and block, swatch and block, until you get the gauge exactly right. Because you know that with a sweater, this is really important. And you know that, with colorwork, your tension is going to be different than it is with plain knitting. And you know that, when you’re using your precious Plucky Knitter yarn, you really need the project to come out right.

But sometimes a sweater happens like this: you pseudo-swatch and skip the blocking. Your gauge never once matches the gauge of the pattern. You do some calculations and make your own numbers. You knit by intuition.

20141209-230414.jpg

Sometimes, you knit with confidence, knowing that you’ve chosen the right colors, the right style, and the fit is going to be perfect. You have no worries about how things will turn out, because you’ve laid all the groundwork with your swatting and blocking. You have no concerns about whether the style of the sweater is suitable for you.

But sometimes a sweater happens like this: you second-guess yourself the whole time, you worry that the sweater will grow to an unwearable size in blocking, you aren’t certain that, even if it fits, it will be flattering on you. And then you try it on and you cannot believe how much you love it.

reis 2

 

Sometimes a sweater is well within your skill set – a mindless knit, something not unlike the dozens of other projects you’ve made. You enjoy the knit because it’s an escape from everything else on your mind, and it doesn’t challenge you to think too much.

But sometimes a sweater happens like this: you push beyond your comfort zone, you play with color, you learn new things about your tension and your technique. You don’t even know what color you are going to put where until you do it. You surprise yourself. You learn from yourself. You learn from your craft.
Sweater yoke in progress, blogged. #knitting #reis #westknits

 

Sometimes (but not usually) you get the sweater done exactly when you meant to, or close to it.

But sometimes, a sweater happens like this: other things get in the way, everything takes longer than you think it will, you question why you chose to knit a fingering-weight colorwork sweater, you despair of ever finishing. And then one day, four months after you began and two months after you meant to be done, you finish.

20141209-230405.jpg

 

And it is everything you’d hoped it would be.

If I had it to do over, there are things I might do slightly differently – mostly, I might arrange some of the colors in the yoke in a slightly different order. I would also try to find a brown from The Plucky Knitter instead of the Lorna’s Laces “Chocolate” I used. All the other yarns except the variegated in the body are TPK, and I can tell a difference between the rich, saturated, semisolids of TPK and the less-nuanced chocolate brown.

But really, who cares? Because I am thrilled with this sweater. I loved making it and I love wearing it. The fit is fantastic. The feel is perfect (my first fingering-weight sweater). The colors are so rich and luscious.  This was my first Westknits design, and it was such a fun and inventive knit. It was also a very freeing experience to just follow my muse when it came to color. Given how long it took me to make this sweater, would you believe I could actually see myself knitting the same pattern again? I love it that much.

Autumn Reis

Autumn Reis

But you can’t blame me, right?

raveled – Reis, by the inimitable Stephen West

 

Oh, wait, it’s Advent again?

So Advent has snuck up on me, y’all. Which is kind of hilarious and kind of ridiculous, given my line of work. At work, I’ve been seeing Advent coming for awhile, but at home, I’ve been focused on Thanksgiving preparations (it was such a good holiday this year! I hope yours was, too!) and somehow overlooked the fact that I needed to get our Advent calendar up. Like, tonight.

I started a tradition when my kids were in kindergarten, of an Advent Activity Calendar – each day of the calendar held a slip of paper with a family activity for that day. It was a sweet idea, and the kids loved it. But let me tell you, the expectations have ramped up each year – the boys expect new activities. They like to be surprised. In other words, I can’t keep rehashing the same old ideas. But I am tired, y’all, and I don’t have any new ideas. I barely even have the energy to do the old ideas. Also, older elementary school kids have a lot more going on than kindergarteners do, and it’s a lot harder to fit special family activities in. But Tiny Dancer got out of bed tonight to ask me why the Advent calendar wasn’t up yet, and I realized that yeah, I need to get to work.

All of this reminds me to make sure you know that I have documented (somewhat) my previous attempts at this activity, so if you are tired and out of ideas, you can see what I’ve done in the past. And hey, if you have any great ideas of things I haven’t done, shoot them to me, okay? Because I have to fill 24 little mittens with ideas, and right now I have approximately two.

Smitten Advent Garland

Smitten Advent Garland

Craft Friday

I love Thanksgiving and always have. I love the simple focus on family and food. I love that there are no gift-giving expectations. I love the reminder that I actually already have everything I need – and a whole lot of what I want.

Given that I actually need nothing more than what I have, I am very happy to decline the frenzy of shopping on Black Friday. I choose instead for this to be a gentle, quiet day at home, with my family. As I pick up my needles and yarn, as I put my feet on my spinning wheel, as I practice ancient arts passed down through generations, as I use tools provided by the earth and the animals, I will do so with ongoing gratitude. I am mindful of what a great freedom it is to opt out of consumerist compulsion, and what a great privilege it is to create.

So I’m joining the Craft Friday Party!

A few things I’ll be working on:

handspun colorwork mittens

handspun colorwork mittens


A test-knit for Kirsten, which I had to set aside for a quick gift knit that I finished up in the wee hours last night (pictures and story of that soon).

handspun pi shawl

handspun pi shawl


Of course!

Hello Yarn Romney, "Tideline"

Hello Yarn Romney, “Tideline”


After a few weeks of no spinning, my stash finally told me what needed to go on the wheel next.

cross-stitch!

cross-stitch!


Yep! I started this on Craft Friday four years ago – ’bout time I picked it back up!

So those are a few things I’ll be working on today. How about you?

Happy Thanksgiving! (and a trifle) (and a sweater)

Just a quick note to say Happy Thanksgiving to you, dear readers. I’m grateful for you!

I’m also grateful to report that, after blocking, my sweater fits perfectly! Full modeled shots soon, but here’s a peek:

Reis + Trifle

Reis + Trifle

I’m beyond thrilled with it!

And I’m super-excited to be digging into this trifle later today. This is the second year I’ve made it. It’s the Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle from the Browneyed Baker. Trust me: it is very, very worth it to make everything from scratch. The gingerbread is so dark and rich and molasses-y. And of course real whipped cream is the only thing that should ever go into a trifle, in my ever-so-humble opinion. (This isn’t Paleo, obviously!)

To my American friends, I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving! To my friends elsewhere, I hope you have a great Thursday!

Casting on for all the things

20141123-224100.jpg

Yes, I have one more new thing on the needles. The shawl is still happening, and so are the handspun colorwork mittens, but this project is important too, and had to jump the queue.

Also, the sweater is officially blocking (a full blocking, not the steam blocking I considered doing), and I’m nervous about it ruining the perfect fit but hopeful that all will be well.

Saturday Morning Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins, Two Ways (vegan and paleo)

I inadvertently started a tradition in my household some years ago. I made chocolate chip pumpkin muffins one fall Saturday morning, and suddenly my kids declared it a thing to be done every Saturday of fall. When my kids love something I’ve done for them, it’s very hard for me to say “no” to doing it again. Maybe I’m a pushover, but I do it because I realize that a day will come when they are not asking me to make pumpkin muffins for them anymore, and I’m sure I’ll miss it. So for now, pumpkin muffins they shall have.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

Vegan Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

I think I’ve probably posted about these before. It’s a recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance : Over 150 Delicious, Cheap, Animal-Free Recipes That Rock*. I’ve always loved this book. It no longer jibes with my paleo ways, but it’s my kids’ favorite pumpkin muffin recipe, so I oblige. I adapted it to exclude soy milk (which we do not drink), to lower the amount of sugar, and to include chocolate chips.

1 3/4 C all-purpose flour

1 C sugar

1 T baking powder

1/4 t salt

1 t ground cinnamon

1/2 t ground nutmeg

1/2 t ground ginger

1/4 t ground allspice

1 C pureed pumpkin

1/2 C unsweetened almond milk

1/2 C canola oil

2 T blackstrap molasses

1 C ghiradelli semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly grease a 12-muffin tin. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices. In a separate bowl, whisk together pumpkin, almond milk, oil, and molasses. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix. Fold in the chocolate chips. Fill the muffin cups 2/3-full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Do not try to bake bacon in the oven at the same time, or you risk burning the muffins. Trust me on this. Maybe you never try to bake bacon at the same time as anything else, but I do! Let cool for about 5 minutes. Enjoy!

I love pumpkin muffins, too, but my husband and I prefer not to eat all that flour (and sugar and canola oil). So I’ve begun making paleo pumpkin muffins from one of my favorite paleo cookbooks, Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great*. Here’s my adaptation of her recipe:

2 C blanched almond flour

3 T coconut flour

1 t baking soda

2 t cinnamon

3/4 t ground nutmeg

1/4 t ground ginger

1/4 t ground cloves

1/4 t sea salt

3/4 C pumpkin puree

1/3 C pure maple syrup

2 large eggs at room temperature

2 T coconut oil, melted

1 t pure vanilla extract

1/2 C ghiradelli chocolate chips

1/2 C chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a muffin tin with baking cups. Sift together almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, spice, and salt in a small bowl and mix to combine. Place the remaining wet ingredients in a large bowl and beat on high with a hand mixer. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix till smooth. Gently mix in the dark chocolate chips and chopped pecans. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling each cup 2/3-full. Bake for 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let cool 5 minutes. Enjoy!

Danielle Walker doesn’t mention anything about sifting the almond and coconut flour, but I have found it absolutely essential to creating a better muffin. Otherwise they seem to turn out a bit grainy. However, I’m getting ready to order a superfine almond flour (this one:Honeyville Blanched Almond Flour Super Fine Grind Gluten Free Cholesterol Free albs)* and I’ll see if it makes a sifter unnecessary.

Paleo Pumpkin Muffins

Paleo Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

These aren’t as pretty as non-paleo muffins, but they are moist and delicious. I serve them with a pat of grass-fed butter and a cup of hot spiced tea. Perfect for fall.

So, that’s our Saturday breakfast tradition. And it is our Sunday breakfast tradition, too – the recipes make enough that there are plenty of muffins to heat up before church on Sunday (and I put a tray of bacon into the oven to bake while we get ready, because baked bacon – that’s how I roll!). How about you? Do you have any favorite paleo muffin recipes? It will soon be winter, and when that happens, my boys will no longer expect pumpkin muffins every weekend. So I’m looking for some wintry ideas!

*affiliate links

What I Have to Show for Today

Spoiler alert: it’s not very much.

I woke up sick this morning. I didn’t know I was sick when I first got up – I thought I was just having extra trouble waking because I was tired. But two things happened almost immediately that alerted my groggy brain to the fact that I was indeed sick: I couldn’t knit and I couldn’t manage to drink my coffee. Ugh! I always know I’m sick when I don’t have the strength or energy or presence of mind to knit. To find myself unable to drink coffee, too, well that’s just adding insult to injury!

At any rate, I went back to bed and slept half the day away, which is not really the way I prefer to spend a Friday (my day off), but it was all I could do. When I got up midday, my husband made me his specialty, Toads in the Hole (fried eggs in the middle of fried toast), which is what I always want when I’m sick. It really does help. By late afternoon, I was feeling a little less punky, and managed to start doing some of the things that had to be done.

Now the end of the day is here, and I seem to have little to show for it (can you tell I’m a very impatient patient?). But I did do this:

ends! woven in!

ends! woven in!

I had been dragging my feet all week about finishing up my sweater. I just haven’t had a lot of knitting time, and what little I did have, I wanted to spend actually knitting not weaving in ends. I did get most of the weaving done a couple of days ago, but there was still the niggling matter of grafting the underarms. That’s what I did today. And then I wove in the ends for the arms and the underarms, and now, at last, I am really, truly done with the sweater. Well, except for the blocking.

sweater innards

sweater innards

I love the inside of the sweater almost as much as the outside.

So, that’s what I got done, knitwise, today. And I wound the yarn for the rest of my shawl, so there’s that.