Living up to my crafty self

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It has taken me three children to become ambitious and self assured with crafting for a baby. Yes, I have always preached wool diaper covers and cloth prefolds, but have I ever really loved using them and opted for wool over the poly covers? Not until now.

With my first daughter, I had no idea. I knew I wanted cloth diapers, and as a designer I wanted to knit my own wool covers. I made many different kinds and promptly never finished or used them more than a couple times after she was born. These are coming in handy now…

My second daughter, two years later, followed much the same as my first, except I did not do much knitting or sewing for her at all and the wool covers were left undiscovered. Possibly because I felt too busy with two to consider re-lanolizing the covers (soaking them in a lanolin bath to make them water resistant), or possibly because I was still unsure they were the best way to go. But by now I was also very unhappy with the poly covers and how they did not do a very good job keeping her dry past one pee! We ended up making excuses and using disposables whenever possible.

My wool diaper cover adventure has taken off with my 3 week old son who pees like there’s no tomorrow. He can seriously soak through anything…. Except my wool covers that I made for Stella 5 years ago. Felted wool covers, either hand knit or sewn from recycled wool sweaters have been a saving grace for this little man. He was developing a bad rash and my husband decided that he would put a disposable on every chance he had. This seemed insane since we had so many prefolds and little Olan would wet through a diaper in what seemed like a matter of seconds. How many disposable diapers did I have on this little guy and before I had him dressed he had loaded it up again? A crazy number of diapers. So I decided to give the wool covers another look. The poly covers would soak through every layer of clothing he had on with one pee, so these were quickly not my favorites. I soaked my covers in a sink of hot water and a tiny amount of pure sheep lanolin (the Lansinoh nipple cream works too), then let them dry in a room away from our wood stove heat and direct sunlight. They are amazing. He stays dry and the covers will air out and be oder free before the next diaper change.

I have started sewing wool covers out of a pile of recycled wool sweaters I had, and have been tailoring them to fit well with as little bulk as possible. It has taken me 3 babies to really try and problem solve these crafting dilemmas, but I’m glad I did. Olan’s rash even disappears when we only use the wool covers all day. I must admit though… We have been using a disposable at night since he is happy to sleep all night or only half wake up to nurse (which we can both do half asleep!) A happy well rested mama trumps not using a disposable!

Looking for lanolin? I was so excited to find 100% sheep lanolin that I purchased it in bulk and will have it available at Ewetopia! I have also seen it at the Viroqua Food Co-op in the health and beauty department. The Lansinoh nipple cream also works well, but it is a lanolin man-made product.

Never be afraid to make something work that you believe to be too difficult, you may just find out it’s an easier option!

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12 days of Christmas projects

As far back as I remember I have been overcome with a desire to create gifts during The holiday season. Of course most of my inspirations happen within the last couple weeks…. Even hours before Christmas eve… I do remember one Christmas vividly in my mind, it was 4am Christmas morning and my mom and i were crazily finishing up the last few rows, hurriedly blocking and wrapping while some wonderfully happily drunk family members kept us company. Yes, as an avid knitter this can be an overwhelming time, with sweaters still on needles and dolls laying naked and bald. Tonight I realized that I have exactly 10 days (now 11 nights before Christmas morning) and I have at least that many projects on the needles or awaiting further completion. I plan to lead you through the studio of disaster as I finish, or try to, each project that will be under the tree the morning of the 25th.

Tonight, December 14th, I will work hard on my husbands sweater. He likes sweaters plain. Very plain. All Stockinette stitch with very simple ribbing. Thankfully he is much smaller than me and although boring, a sweater his size does not take too long once I get down to work and speed knit. This year I decided to walk a tight rope and give the yoke of his boring sweater a bit of something to look forward to. I am knitting his sweater out of Berroco Ultra Alpaca, which for a staple solid colored yarn is my favorite by far. 50% wool/ 50% alpaca light worsted weight. Round, full twist, beautiful body and substance without being chunky. And the best part? No pilling. His first sweater has never needed de-pilling in the 3 years he has worn it, and he wears it a lot.

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I started with an Brooklyn Tweed design from Ann Budd called Guston. Well I had decided to use the pattern, but that’s where it ended. Keith wanted ribbing, not garter stitch, and he was against the button down gansey look. I was determined to have some texture to the yoke, but also want to see him wear it. After working the body in ribbing and Stockinette, I finally reached the yoke! I separated for the arms and found the perfect twisted rib basket weave type pattern. It fit perfectly into the amount of stitches I had and voila! I have now only knit a couple inches and knitting is slow because I have to think somewhat. So without further ado. I must. Start. Knitting.

A front and back textured yoke and then two attached sleeves (knit shoulder to cuff of course, in case they need to be lengthened or repaired!)

Tomorrow… Which project will be next? Maybe the adventure to find and create the perfect small horseback riding doll to bring my daughters imagination to life in the days of kings and queens and, did I mention horses!?

My Wedding Dress

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My wedding dress started before I was even engaged. Although the thought of getting married and starting adult life was an exciting idea at the time (now I look back and realize my freedoms then, and my new freedoms now), although this was a reason to consider pretty dresses, as a knitter and want-to-be seamstress, the idea of creating such a monumental creation was my real goal.

It started in college, with many trips to the local yarn shops to find just about every ivory hank, ball and cone of silky type yarn in every fiber imaginable. I still have a bag of random bits of white swatches. After a long debate, I decided on a fingering weight 2 ply cone of luscious ivory silk that I found at my then favorite yarn shop Kindred Threads in my hometown Viroqua. I set to work designing panels of lace that I figured I would sew into an a-line skirt. After one and a half panels I decided that that was not going to work because of the drape and pull of the heavy silk. I then found a pattern for a short lace skirt, I believe it was called the Flame skirt. I used the simple “wheat” pattern and started from the waist with a drawstring waistband. This part took a long time. In fact I even had time to get engaged during this time of knitting endless lace. Every 12″ or so I increased the stitches by a quarter, so the effect would be slightly gathered at the waist, but flare out from there over a crinoline. As a renaissance costume lover I of course wanted some kind of swish and twirl of my skirt. Of course during the middle of the skirt I became bored and started designing a bodice.

The bodice was altered from a pattern in Interweave’s Lace Style book. I used the pattern for the shaping, but decided on a simpler and cleaner picot edge along the neckline, and a sewn on leaf edging for the bottom to keep with the “wheat” design on the skirt.

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Once the bodice was finished and the skirt was in full swing, I decided we should set a date for the wedding. With a late September date I worried it could get chilly or downright cold! I found a pattern in the book Knit Two Together by Tracy Ullmann and Mel Clark. I loved the look but didn’t want too many lace patterns going on at once. I used the basic look and instead of working the lace pattern they had, I used the pattern for the skirt, and then bound off with a mini pico bind off. I used a lace weight off white alpaca/silk strand along with my silk strand that I had used throughout the project. It gave a little halo of softness and warmth to the shrug.

After taking a siesta from the project, starting a yarn shop, going to school at UW Madison and undergoing horrible morning sickness with my daughter Stella I finally finished the project just in time for the wedding September 27th, 2008. It was a lovely day, one of those amazingly bright and blue last warm days in autumn. The outdoor ceremony and beautiful reception was one of the best days of my life!

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I hope my dress can inspire other knitters to take on that monumental project, be it a fully cabled Aran sweater, that lace shawl on your list you keep putting off, or maybe a wedding dress! Haven’t seen the dress and would like to? Stop by Ewetopia and take a look!

Femininity and the apron

My mother and I just wrapped up our 10 day trip to two fiber festivals. Stitches Midwest in Schaumburg, IL and the Michigan Fiber Festival in Allegan, MI. Although a new experience going to two back to back shows and two new shows to us, setting up our booth and selling yarn is something we have grown to understand. What made this trip different for us is our doppelgänger behind…. The apron. In an effort to “match” and appear to work in the same booth we decided to create matching aprons that would be effective in linking us to our booth and be utilitarian by way of storing extra invoices and pens.

A couple days before we set off, I sat down with my sewing machine and some light lime linen fabric I had from a bridesmaid dress gone awry. I had a flattering little apron I rarely wear but like the look of and set about using it as a template. The conclusion? Well I learned a few things about the fit I was going for and about what fabric would not give me that fit, linen, at least without interfacing, being one of them. They were functional, and without more time they would work, if we got up the nerve to wear them.

We found our aprons to be very handy at the shows in carrying everything from invoices and pens to diapers and knitting (they really are perfect for knitting on the go!). What we also found was that these little pieces of fabric, once over our head and tied behind our waist, helped us get into “character”, from dyers and farmers, to vendors selling our work. After the last day I felt a little funny about taking off my apron, it had become part of my wardrobe and I felt bare without it. They became an essential tool in carrying things and covering up my camping worn clothes.

We were also surprised about the feedback on our aprons! We had many complements and many people requested to purchase aprons! All in all on our way home from Michigan we stopped by a fabric store and found a pattern and some better linen fabric… Interfacing too, that will become the new aprons of the Ewetopia duo. Mustard gold and a bit more substantial fabric will be perfect for the next few fall shows! Three weeks until Wisconsin Sheep and Wool!