A comment in the previous post asked “I just don’t understand how the sizes work and how much yarn to get.
I want to knit a sweater for a 2-year-old. What pattern do I follow? If you can help, that would great.”

I admit that it took some mental gymnastics for me to figure out how in the world the pattern worked for all those various sizes. I’m not sure I could have tackled knitting the Child’s Surprise Jacket for my 5-year-old grandson without having first knit the baby version for my 6 month old granddaughter.
Violet's BSJ
In knitting the BSJ I followed the written out instructions on page 2 of the pattern. It took an entire skein of 100g of sock yarn, 405 yards and I almost ran out. For a toddler I’d want twice that amount, which should be more than enough. If you’re planning to have stripes then 400 yards of the main color and three or four skeins of other colors should do the trick, depending on how big the stripes are. (Using variegated yarn for the first BSJ was a blessing since it eliminated the need to weave in all the ends and making sure the color sequence looked balanced and good.)

My advice for someone making their very first BSJ, but for a toddler, would be to use a worsted yarn and the size of needle that would get you 5 stitches per inch so that you can follow the row by row instructions on page 2.

But, if you’re up for a challenge and you want to make one using a specific yarn then read on:

Before starting a CSJ for my five-year old grandson I carefully read the Option instructions on pg 4 as well as all the CSJ instructions on pg 8. Next I swatched to determine what my [K] was using the sportweight yarn I’d bought. The last time we’d been together I’d measured Wesley’s chest, arm length and from the back of his neck to just below his waist. With 24″ (chest circumference) for my starting figure I knit three swatches to determine stitches per inch using US 4 needles,  US5 and US6. The look and feel of the swatch from the US5 needles. (40″L circs) at 6 stitches per inch gave the best result.

Circumference: 24″ divided by 2 for the width = 12″
12 x 6 (spi) = 72  divided by 3 = 24  (It’s a happy coincident that 24″ circumference ends up back at 24 as K.)
24 was the K for this sweater.

(I use a notebook to keep records on my knitting projects. Good notes and swatching are crucial  for a successful outcome with Elizabeth Zimmerman’s SJ, along with a calculator if you don’t like doing math on paper.)

To make a sweater for a two-year old I’d go with the chest size of 21″ since that’s a typical chest size of a 2 yo.

21 divided by 2 = 10.5 x whatever stitches per inch you get when swatching with your yarn and needles (For this example I’ll use 6.5 spi using #3 needles but I’d definitely swatch first for exact gauge/stitch count.)
10.5 x 6.5 = 68.25 divided by 3 = 22.75 = K
Cast On 9[K](22.75) = 205 stitches (rounded up)

Follow the directions as written on page 8. It really helps to write out the sequence of the process, not only to help you wrap your mind around it but to clearly see at a glance in your notebook where you’re at with increases and decreases. The sweater looks like an alien amoeba until the latter half when you’re able to bring the sleeves into position.

In other news. Spring is in the air here in Oregon! I reveled in warm sunshine while mowing the yard today. Having clear sunny skies is balm to the soul. Last Friday we went to a farm that has plants for sale and bought a kumquat tree, along with some other plants. In the afternoon we planted peas and spinach seeds in the garden. We’re looking forward to spending more time outside working in the garden and the small greenhouse that we put up over the past few weeks.
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In November I put out pleas here and in Ravalry for a certain color and dye lot of a green Cascade 220 sport yarn that I’d run out of a ball short of finishing the Child Surprise Jacket I was knitting for my grandson. After searching a few weeks I ended up buying all new skeins of the new lots of green, now dyed in China instead of Peru where Cascade yarns had been sourced and dyed for years.

The disaster took a positive turn: once I’d removed the needles from the original and I was able to lay it out flat I realized that I should go down a needle size but cast on more stitches to allow for the growth spurt my grandson was going through during the intervening months. Instead of #6 / 4mm needles I used #5 / 3.75mm 40″ circulars with the knit count of 24(k). That is one of the wonderful things about Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Surprise Jackets: you get to figure out the right numbers of stitches for the correct size.

In January we got the news that our son and family was to be transferred to the warm part of the Southwest. I devoted more evenings to knitting, racing against the time they’d leave cold snow country. Then Gus called asking us to fly to Boise to stay a few days with the kids while he and MJ looked for a house in the new city.

The night before we were to fly it was finished, except for the i-cord seaming of the sleeves to bring it all together. By bedtime there were still several inches  left to do and I knew that I didn’t want to wrestle with the technique while flying so I tucked it, yarn and needles into the suitcase that would be checked in, which also contained beads and beading tools – items Ed didn’t want to risk having confiscated if we took it as carry-on. I grabbed a ball of yarn from the bag that Ed had given me for Christmas, copied the first page of the pattern from the book he’d bought that has the sweater pattern he liked, found the right needles and put them in a project bag that fit into my purse.

Between several good people praying for my nerves and brain to be calm, taking the drowsy form of Demeral and knitting rows of K1, P1 for the beginning of the back, it was a good flight on a turbo-prop plane. When we saw it taxi up to the terminal Ed casually made a remark about its size to the older gentleman waiting next to us. He launched into glowing details about what great, sturdy planes these were; he’d rather fly through storms in them than a larger plane. What comfort hearing those words gave my trembling nerves! I know that God brought him to sit beside us just so I could have wonderful reassurance from a guy who had been a navy pilot towards the end of the Vietnam war.

That evening Wes tried on the sweater, trying not to mind the bristling needles and hanging ball of yarn. DSC_0012
Sunday afternoon Ed got out the beads for them to make make necklaces for mom.

DSC_0052By the time they’d finished making necklaces the sweater was dry.

Wes posing in his superhero stance. The black band slightly above his elbows was the original cast on edge. The first sweater that I’d almost finished had upper arms that seemed like they’d be too tight for this sturdy fellow so I cast on 10 additional stitches before marking the increase points. The additional on the arm part set the shoulder slightly behind the center shoulder line but doing so made for ample room in the upper sleeves. I wish I’d thought to do the two rows of blue around the perimeter of the sweater as I did at the last minute on the sleeve cuff. But the body was already cast off (and all the ends woven in) before I picked up the stitches along the cast on edge of the black sleeve band to lengthen the arms.
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Monday Feathers had gymnastic class, an event that enthralled both Ed and I in that gym bustling with activity everywhere we looked. Groups of boys and girls ranging from kindergarten through high school in moving through stations of various apparatus and mats.
DSC_0089Feathers likes the balance beam best but she was sandwiched between two girls blocking her from our view.

More shots of the sweater and kids in action.
DSC_0146Here’s a back view of it.DSC_0150Wesley wanted to wear it all the time. Seeing his joy and enthusiasm for it makes me want to cast on another one.
Oh wait, first a sweater for Ed.

String rows of foggy days between foggy nights and you get a seemingly unending monochromatic rope of undulating grays and murky black threatening to subdue even the most optimistic person.

There was a brief moment early this morning when the sun broke through and the fog and clouds looked to be thinning, scattering. Spirits rose at the enticement of even a partially sunny day only to be dashed minutes later as the fog rolled thickly back down the ridges.

For the majority of this month the firs and oaks beyond our back yard have stood as silent ghostly sentinels.
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If the weather forecast hadn’t been for a week of sunshine and temps in the high 50′s we could be handling it better. With all the fog we’ve had this month the tantalizing promise or warmth and sun made our spirits soar, only to be doused. Compared to what people are enduring in the mid-west and back east, weeks of unending fog really aren’t a hardship. Just depressing. Cold damp. Gloomy.

Gray days steeped in deep bone-chilling moisture aren’t exactly cheery.

Yesterday Ed saw an ad on Craigs List for some sawn maple for a decent price. Calling the number we discovered that he lived east of Portland  high in the Cascade foothills, a scant mile from the summer camp where Ed and I had met almost 37 years ago when he was the maintenance crew leader and I the assistant wrangler. The good price for the wood, the prospect of a beautiful drive along roads we used to traverse,  and the very real possibility that the drive would take us above the fog, soon had us headed to the land of blue sky and sunshine.

About 40 miles from home the road climbed out of the fog and we had a stunning glimpse of Mt Hood shining in majestic whiteness. (But no place to pull over before trees or hills obscured it.)

Past the town of Sandy the narrow county road stitched back and forth, down, down plunging back into the fog. Across the Sandy River foaming icy green from the mountain snow run-off, then hairpining up the other side onto a higher ridge, over the bench in glorious sun then plunging down into another river canyon also steeped in fog, white frost lining the road at high noon. Across an old bridge spanning smaller Bull Run river and the ancient power plant huddling in the gloom of the narrow fir crusted canyon, again winding, winding higher and higher, back into the sunshine..

One never knows quite what to expect on these types of jaunts to buy wood. Sometimes it’s a total bust, except for perhaps a pleasant drive. We spied the boards propped up against a car and our hearts soared at the sight, even if they weren’t quite as thick as mentioned in the listing. Ed had hopes the maple might be suitable for another Walking Wheel.

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The warmth, bright colors and sun were balm to our souls. We wanted to just stand, chatting to the amiable fellows and soak in the sun. Breathing deeply the rich scents of the soil, trees and moisture. To listen beyond the chatter and hear the vast silence that this area can produce. To the west the fog clouds hovered.

The fellow and his son have some very impressive bigleaf maple logs that they’ve been milling with an Alaskan chain saw.037

Ferns take root almost anywhere in this damp place, even on the sides of trees.
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Looking down a ravine beyond their pasture.

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We spied the log cabin tree house which they’d built that summer. There are two beds that fold down from the wall, a table and benches, a propane burner, lamp and shelves – quite cozy!

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Getting a good workout loading all the boards into our rig we were finally winding back down the hills to Sandy where I spied this sign. Of course we stopped and did a bit of shopping. :) I wish I’d been thinking and had gotten a picture of the proprietress, a very pleasant woman who’s run this yarn store for 10 years. If you’re ever driving through Sandy stop by and say hi to her and support her little business. It’s just off the main street heading West.

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The warmth and sunshine almost made us forget the conditions back home. Until we dipped further down the Cascades and back into the fog.

The shrouded museum at the end of our block.
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On a cheery note! The second take of the sweater for my grandson is nearing completion. I have high hopes of finishing it this week.

Whee! Another project came off the loom yesterday. This material is destined to be a summery shirt.

1.5 Correction on the yarns used.  (I should never write thread content from memory late at night!)
Warp, 4 types, sleyed at 16 epi using 12 dent reed:
10/2 linen, plum
8/2 tencel, deep burgandy
8/2 linen/cotton, red
5/2 cotton garnet
Weft -  2 of the yarns used in the warp: 8/2 linen/cotton red; 10/2 linen plum
Alternating shuttles in straight twill drawn (1,2,3,4…)

Extra warp had been measured on for testing color combos and treadling pattern for the weaving. With a limited supply of three of the colors there wasn’t much leeway for extensive sampling, but enough for both Ed and I to like the pattern of this sequence. I love the very slight slubbiness that both of the weft threads had which adds a bit of character.
Weaving 003(The colors are closer to the real fabric in this top picture.)

Tossed in the washing machine then the dryer with a large fluffy towel it came met all my expectations. Except for throw that left an undetected loop underneath.  I completely missed it, even during inspection before tossing it in the washer. I blame the small child who was here yesterday. She helped me finish weaving the piece then apparently I was too excited about tossing it in the washer. I’ll have to get a needle thread a length of that yarn  along side this errant loop (as seen below) so that it can be cut.
Weaving 002

December has been filled with music, good memories, people and even two finished items!

The weekend of Dec 13 – 15 had three nights in a row of Christmas music: Friday was going to a local performance of John Doan’s Christmas Unplugged. (You may have seen his PBS “Victorian Christmas”.) He entertained us with historical details of old American instruments and facts of Christmas music a century ago. He played an assortments of the instruments including the harp guitar, which I wasn’t to keen to hear. Until he played.
Saturday evening was the Scotts Mills Friends’ annual Christmas sing-a-long. It was another fun evening of fiddling until my fingers were numb and people’s voices were worn out
Friday the four Sister-friends got together to celebrate MC’s birthday at another evening of Christmas music followed by cake.

One of my cousins (first cousin, twice removed – ha, figure that one out!) and his wife had their first child. They live in the middle of frigid Alberta, CA so I dug out some yarn I’d spun years ago from Sunset Fibers. I’d loved the fiber but until little Zelena was born had never figured out what it wanted to be. The moment I saw it when stash diving after getting word of her birth I knew exactly what it was to be. A Baby Peace Fleece Hat.

Only a couple of weeks earlier I’d ordered the Folk Art Hat Peace Fleece kit. (Go ahead, order one for the New Year!) The kit arrived with a complimentary Baby Peace Fleece Hat pattern. (It doesn’t seem to be available on their website.)

Rather than knitting flat, as the pattern instructed, I knit it in the round. Another change was crocheting two ties rather than making the chin strap as in the pattern.  The entire hat was completed in two evening; the second evening was for making the little crocheted flower decoration. (Not in the pattern) I was stunned to realize that in almost of life time of on and off crocheting I’d never made a flower. It’s not the pretty layered rose I’d envisioned due to the yarn being too thick to make a decent one.

I hope the parents will be as charmed with it as I am.
Baby Peace Fleece Hat           Peace Hat ear flap
What a fun knit, I’m looking forward to making more of these hats.

It was so  much fun that the next night I cast on for some booties for our young granddaughter. Violet’s not keen on wearing shoes and often our floors are quite cold.

I looked through scads of patterns then cast on for general ideas, didn’t see any that completely took my fancy but gathered enough ideas to begin chaining, and with only a few rip-backs sallied forth with a G crochet hook and some of the yarn I spun from fiber that Violet’s mom, Aurora, had dyed.

crochet boot project
Violet seemed to take a fancy to them Christmas morning. She was quite entranced with the buttons.066060

The past two Saturday brought spindle visitors! Adele and her husband drove over from a small town only about 35 miles to the west of us. They brought some lovely wood that he had used for carving but has since moved on to another hobby. We had a lovely afternoon visiting with them and hope to get together again one of these days. I was chagrined to realize I hadn’t thought to bring out my camera when they were here.

I would have forgotten to take pictures again this past Saturday when Susan and Michael stopped by on their way back to San Diego after visiting their son in Seattle. Fortunately Susan wanted to get a picture of her playing with the great wheel! I took a couple of pictures of her before Michael reached for the camera and took some pictures of the three of us.  Susan had been practicing her long draw with her Russian spindle and it showed in the ease with which she took to the Great Wheel.Susan spinning_2

Michael 1With miles yet to cover before stopping for the night their visit was short but sweet. We parted with wishes for a longer visit if they’re in the area again.

Ed woke up during the early hours Sunday morning sweating and chilled. We both felt pretty miserable on Sunday but whatever that was seemed to be a quickly passing bug. It probably helped that we both slept most of the morning and then lazed around reading, watching Dr Who and napping the rest of the day. Ed’s been plagued with coughing and sinus pressure off and on, we kept thinking it might be allergies since certain woods have triggered similar reactions in the past. Yesterday he decided it was time to see a doctor and get to the bottom of why he’s has so many cycles of feeling crummy. She found he has a bad case of sinus infection that she suspects has been there for months so now he’s on a course of antibiotics. His first in ages, well over a decade. The man used to never get sick. At all. This past year seems to have been making up for all those years. We’re both hoping for a much healthier year ahead. As such, we’ve continued to take it easy and not worry about work. I’ve enjoyed reading more than I may have read in the past six months, weaving, spinning on the Great Wheel and knitting on a sweater for our grandson. A friend from the days before we even had children came to visit for a couple of hours today. We hadn’t seen him in quite some time so it was great to catch up. We’d love to take a couple of days in the near future to visit he and his wife (she was unable to come with him) at their place on the coast.

Let sanity and common sense have the upper hand in this coming New Year!
We wish everyone a New Year filled with peace, joy, fulfillment and contentment.

Brrr. I hope you all are staying warm these freezing days that feel more like the deep of mid-winter than late autumn. It’s rare that this part of Western Oregon sees temperatures into the low twenties though occasionally there might be as much as a week of such temps in January or February but it’s been getting down into the low teens without warming much above freezing – only where the sun is directly shining for a sufficient length of time. This morning the thermometer read 10 degrees. At 7:30. On our back porch. Inside the house we’ve been putting a hefty oak log in the woodstove, partially banked with the damper slightly open, before heading for bed. Then Ed or I put another log on around 3am otherwise this place would be unbearably cold. The inside thermometer registered 48 in the kitchen/living room. Our bedroom was colder. I’m so thankful for the three Pendleton blankets and a comforter! Even so, tonight we’ll add another wool blanket, the temperature is predicted to be even colder. (No, we have no other source of heat in the house. The furnace died the second time we turned it on a month or two ago.)

Over the course of the year I’ve been asked by several different people for information about how I write on our crochet hooks and spindles. Spindle underneathAt first I wasn’t keen to share my “trade secrets” since they were something that I’ve had to learn through trial and error. Many trials, especially with finding the best writing implements and ink/paints/acrylics… If a pen looked like it might work I’d buy it only to return to one of my original choices when first embarking along the lines of writing on wood.

I began the quest when Ed first started making large maple crochet hooks to sell, somewhere around 2002. Ink on maple usually bleeds and feathers easily. Not good. Hooks and needles need the sizes written on them.

I write on the bare wood before the item gets its coats of finish. The ink will penetrate into the wood and the two coats of finish will seal it in place. This is especially helpful when writing on dense hardwoods where the ink is more likely to sit on top of the wood. Acrylic is thicker and will be slightly above the surface, the finish will help to keep it from slowly being worn away with time and use. Ed uses a very old recipe to make the finish for the first coat which takes 24 hours to dry. Once it’s dry I buff the finish and add a second coat. Spindles and hairpin looms get a coat of Wood Beams (a natural product made by Aubrey of Goodies Unlimited), crochet hooks and knitting needles receive a paste wax finish.Spindle side

- Pen:  Pilot P-500 extra-fine pen is by far the best for writing on wood: wonderfully fine point; blue and black inks; quick drying ink. They’re not easy to find but worth the hunt.
- Metal yarn gauge. It’s perfect for resting your hand on while writing on a narrow, curving surface as well as providing a guide to keep letters and lines even.
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When Ed began making spindles in 2005 I had no clue how to go about writing on the darker woods so for the first year I didn’t write anything. Then we realized we really needed to at least put Jenkins on them since we’d periodically see a spindle similar to Ed’s design that he hadn’t made. While I could write on the light colored woods with my trusty P-500, the hunt was on for a solution of something light that would show up clearly. Ed even joined in the hunt, often bringing home a new marker that he’d see while shopping.

While in a large office / stationery store (Cooks) in downtown Salem I saw an organizer filled with different sized nibs next to jars of styluses, all located across the aisle from a colorful array of Calligrapher acrylic inks. I bought a few nibs with different points, a jar of white acrylic and black along with a small bottle of pen cleaner. Violé! Success!acrylicsThe starkness of the white acrylic on some of the dark woods seemed too jarring after a couple of years so I began mixing my own colors using the white as a base and adding bits of other colors until I found the combination that looked good on wood. Granted, there are a few very odd spindles spinning around out there that have mint green or pinkish inks in my pursuit to figure out what worked. Once ink has dried it takes some serious sanding to remove it which would make the spindle unbalanced.

Items to have:
- Square of canvas duck cloth for catching the inevitable blobs and drips.
- Nibs: The higher the number on the nib, the finer the point. (Those numbers can be very hard to see!) N° 109 is best though 107 seems easier to find.
- Stylus that is comfortable in your hand and fits with the way you like to hold your pen. If a nib is a bit loose in the stylus wrap it with some masking tape to keep it securely in the stylus. You don’t want it falling out into the jar of ink!
- Calligraphy acrylic ink.  Not all black calligraphy inks are created equal! Speedball is the best for writing on wood. Other brands tend to be thinner causing it to feather on wood. One exception is the sepia that I use to temper the white’s brightness which Speedball doesn’t seem to carry.
- Pen cleaner (Higgins or Speedball) If the acrylic gets thick and you find yourself needing to continually clean the nib and re-dip, add some drops of the pen cleaner  to the acrylic and shake well.
- Lint-free cloth to wipe the nib before dipping it in the cleaner and for wiping it dry. This will keep the pen cleaner from getting muddy and useless.
- Sharp knife (The kind used for fancy paper-cutting art) for those accidents that are bound to happen from time to time. (Twice the other day I wrote 2014 on a couple of spindles. I must be getting eager for the New Year!)090
If this happens, immediately, delicately scrape the acrylic with the edge of the knife blade to remove it without too much of a mess. (It’s a practiced thing!) Hard, dense woods have smooth surfaces which are best for writing on such as Holly, Bolivian Rosewood. Be extra careful with porous woods such as purpleheart, and spalted woods- not only do the pores hinder the nib, the acrylic will immediately settle into the pores making it very hard to remove.
- Small postal scale that can toggle between ounces and one gram increments for weighing the spindles.
- Last put perhaps most important – reading glasses! Seriously. You’ll be writing fine print on a small surface and though you may think it’s not a strain on your eyes, it can be. Especially if you do very much. I use to have excellent close-work eyesight until after a couple of years of writing on hundreds of hooks and needles. By not using reading glasses I unknowingly strained my eyes to the point that I now have to use reading glasses for most of the handwork I do.

Writing on spindles and Ed’s other fiber arts tools is my favorite job!

If you should ever find yourself wanting to write on wood and you have questions about the process please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer them.

My feet and legs are feeling chilled. Time to put the oak piece in the woodstove and call it a night.

Necklace of needles

My dad would have been 101 today. His gentleness and genuine  love for people and animals was as natural to him as breathing. His quiet charisma drew people to him, his calmness could sooth the crankiest baby or frightened, hurting animal.

He had to drop out of school while in his teens in order to work the family farm. But he never stopped reading and continuing to learn as much as possible. One time when I was quite young we were eating a Sunday dinner with friends and the two men were deep in discussion when the other man looked at my dad and said, “Paul, it’s a shame you were not able to finish school and become a doctor. With your personality and brains you would have made an excellent doctor!” Looking at the man’s earnest face, for the first time in my life I realized what not being able to finish school meant to my dad. Words like that, one doesn’t quickly forget.

He enjoyed being with women but never pursued any in a romantic way until he met the love of his life when he was in his thirties. They married when he was 34 and stayed in love until he died 38 years later.  In this picture, taken at Thanksgiving 1950 he is looking at his darling wife, who is expecting their first child – my sister.Dad, laughing
I am thankful that he encouraged each of us children to reach for the stars. He never discouraged me from my dreams and was quick with quiet praise for work well done. As the youngest of four children by the time I was sixteen I was his “right hand man” in helping him with the various maintenance tasks that fell to him as caretaker of the small Navajo mission where we’d moved when I was thirteen. He taught me to change tires, change oil and replace a U-joint. I climbed the ladder and helped put new roofing material on our small house and the building that we used for Sunday school classes and game nights. I dug ditches and pits for the grey water from our house, chopped wood and carried coal for heat. He made me feel loved, confident and competent. I was blessed!

I’m thankful that he welcomed loved ones and strangers alike to our table and was always willing to share what he had with anyone in need. Holiday meals always meant the table leaves put in, card tables placed nearby and chairs clustered close to squeeze in as many people as possible. Often they were people that had no place to go, no relatives nearby. When I was six or seven he invited two Iranian men who were studying animal husbandry at Oregon State U to spend the Thanksgiving break with us. A change encounter through his job that turned into a long friendship of letters exchanged between the two men and my folks long after they’d returned to Iran.

Shonto Canyon where I learned to do so many tasks at his side.
Dad, ShontoTwenty-nine years have passed since his home going to Heaven.  I’ve grieved that my children didn’t have the opportunity of his warm love.

I am so thankful that we will see each other again! Happy Birthday Dad!

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