Poppy Fade

The picture above was taken at the Children's Discovery Museum in San Jose where they have a retired fire truck the children can play in. Carter was in heaven! While walking around the museum, several mothers asked me where I got his sweater. When I told them I made it they asked if I did commissions! I do not! Well, it is a very handsome sweater and really does stand out, so I can see why they would want one. Lucky for you and me, we knit, so you can make one too. Here's how:

The pattern is the free Flax Light from Tin Can Knits. It comes in sizes from newborn to XLL adult. I made this with oddments of sock yarns and Madeline Tosh Unicorn Tails left over from an abandoned scarf project. 

Here's how I did the fade: Start by gathering colors and placing them in an order that is pleasing, allowing that you may have to abandon and/or add colors as the knitting progresses. Originally I had quite a few pale and medium pinks in the mix but I had to leave them out because the bolder colors were looking best. With your first color, knit until you are approximately two-thirds finished with it, or until you want to change colors. Then at the BOR, add color #2 alternating every other row with color #1 until color #1 is done. Knit with color #2 until it is two-thirds finished and then introduce color #3. Continue adding colors in this way. I did the sleeves last: take the remaining yarns and weigh each and divide them in half. In this way you'll be able to have matching sleeves. The two pictures below show the colors best. There are hot pinks, purples, reds, wines, burgundys, browns and grays. When I ran out of those I added gold at the sleeve cuffs. I think I used at least 18 colors with some having only a few yards. Lots of ends to weave in but I don't mind that.

Fades and stripes are a good way to use up wee bits of yarn and combined with the free Flax pattern, you'll end up with a free sweater! Even though this sweater thoroughly busted my Unicorn Tail collection I've still got some blacks and grays and gold fingering weights I'm playing with for my next toddler fade. Dramatic!

I made the size four for my two year old grandson and I feel this sweater runs a bit small. The neck is too wide for my taste and can look sloppy on a little one. I knew this from previous Flax experience and while I thought I made a correction this time by casting on for the next smaller size, it was not enough of a correction and could be smaller. I may crochet and edging at the neck to get it tighter. 

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Almond Shortbread

Baking weather is here! My favorite never-fail go-to cookie recipe is the classic shortbread. Today's variation has the addition of almonds: almond flour, almond extract, and sliced almonds. I served it for guests this weekend and everyone raved and asked for the recipe. It's also a good one for baking with children. My two year old grandson had a lot of fun helping me with this batch. He helped me scoop, level off, count and mix.  He was also in charge of patting the shortbread into the pan, pricking it with a fork, and sprinkling the sugar. He also helped me eat them!

These are perfectly crumbly, buttery, and not-too-sweet with a lovely almond flavor. Add this one to your Christmas cookie repertoire, you'll be so glad you did, especially if you are pressed for time because this one is a quickie! It is easily doubled.

Almond Shortbread

10 tablespoons butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar (plus 2 tablespoons)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond meal or almond flour
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Prepare an 8-9 inch square or round pan by spraying with cooking spray. If the pan does not have a removable bottom, cut a piece of parchment paper to fit pan and spray with cooking spray.

In a mixer bowl beat butter, 1/3 cup sugar, salt, vanilla and almond extracts until fluffy.  Mix in flours, then sliced almonds.  Press into a buttered and floured 8" round cake tin or 8" sq. pan and sprinkle with additional 2 tablespoons sugar.  Pierce all over with fork tines. Bake at 325 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until lightly browned.  Let cool on rack for 20 minutes. Remove from pan and while it is still warm,  cut into wedges or squares.  Yields 16 2" squares.

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The Hazelbrook Vest

The last picture is precious to me. Carter calls this walkway, "the scary place." I see what he means; it's very dark because of the dense ivy walls and the wisteria that grows over the pergola, and it does seem far away from the house, especially if you are two years old. We usually hold hands when we walk under the long pergola, but on this morning, with no warning, he let go of my hand and burst into a run to show me how courageous he was by running through by himself. He waited for me at the end and called for me to follow; "Grammy, it is ok. I will watch you." This little boy...💕.

This is the Hazelbrook Vest by Vera of OGE Knitwear, from Sydney, Australia. Vera makes the most adorable and affordable children's knitting patterns and I am one of her biggest fans. Her patterns are well written and easy to follow. This simple vest uses just a few easy knit stitch variations to create pretty textured stripes. I love the roomy fit, the big buttons, and the fold down collar.

I bought this yarn last year on a trip to Bar Harbor, Maine. At Bee's Knitting Bar I purchased 2 skeins of Mousam Falls, an aran weight 100% superwash wool by JaggerSpun, a Maine based company. I think yarn souvenirs are the best souvenirs, especially if the yarn is made right where I bought it. While this is a superwash, it is not stretchy when wet (like so many superwashes) and is easily patted into shape to dry flat. I know the sweater is white and needs to go in the wash tub after one wearing and I don't care! I never mind washing a sweater--and I offer a free sweater-washing service for my grandchildren anyway. 😇 This yarn is lovely to knit and I cannot wait to use it again. It would make beautiful cables.

59 Cottage St., Bar Harbor, Maine

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Whooo stole my heart?

This is my favorite baby sweater to knit. The Owl Cardigan pattern is by Penny Straker and has been around since the 60s. From Penny: “No one knows who originally conceived of making owls with cabling but when I opened my first yarn shop in 1962 a dear and elderly customer came in to wish me well and gave me her hand written copy of the owls. From this worn and dog-eared direction I designed this cardigan. Now in its eighth printing, Owl has continued to be a cherished and popular design through the decades. Grown women have asked for an adult version – I’m working on it!

Now owls are everywhere, and they should be, they are such an adorable design element for littles and adults. This is the child's cardigan, size 2, 4, 6 and 8 years. There is also a baby sized cardigan pattern as well.

I made the size 4 for my two year old grandson. He is a big boy for his age and it fits well, but remember, this pattern is an old one designed when children's sweaters were meant to be worn with little or no ease. I do feel it is sized small so just want to warn you of that. The yarn is a new one from Rowan, Baby Cashsoft Merino and almost an exact copy of Debbie Bliss' Baby Cashmerino. Same easy care, same weight, same fiber content and delightful softness but I like this Rowan version more. This yarn feels more substantial and for me had a better hand. It could do with some more color choices and hopefully that will happen if this yarn becomes popular. I hope it does. It is a sport weight yarn and I knit is as a sport weight for this sweater, but it will work equally well as a DK weight with a needle size switch.

Since the pattern is an older one, it is knit in pieces and seamed, although it does have you attach the shoulder seams with a three-needle bind off so that is good. Also the button bands are knitted as you go saving another step. The one thing I did change was the sleeve construction. I always choose the set-in, short-row technique. Do plan to spend a few hours sewing on 16 button owl eyes!

So does Carter like it? He does! He loved the owls and before he would even put on the sweater he had to give each one a kiss. It's a super soft and light, not overly warm sweater. I love lightweight wool sweaters for active children. Wool has a way of "breathing" and regulating body temperature to keep a child warm when he is playing quietly indoors or actively outdoors. Scroll down for the shopping links.

This color is more accurate in the modeled pictures but I show you this to see the sleeve technique.

Carter wrote a letter to me and I asked him to read it. He stood up straight and held the paper in his hands and said, "You are nice." This made me very happy because I know children this age mimic what the adults around them are saying. Deep sigh.
Penny Straker's Owl Cardigan for children
Penny Straker's Owl Cardigan for babies
My Ravelry project page
Rowan Baby Cashsoft Merino

How to knit a top-down set-in sleeve.

If you are having a difficult time finding the tiny eye buttons,
Penny Straker sells them on her site here.

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