Autumn Love

Hydrangeas fade and freckle so beautifully when they age and dry. Above is what one hydrangea bush looked like this summer. Below is the same bush taken from the same angle of the same flowers. Can you believe it? The summer bush has identical bright pink blooms, but as fall emerges they go off on their own unique color adventure and you never know what you will get--freckles or not, lime green, dusty rose, maybe lavender; they are all pretty.

Hydrangeas are simple to dry and preserve. Wait until the end of summer or beginning of autumn when the petals have faded and the texture has turned from moist and delicate to a pliant, lightly leather-like feel. Cut stem to desired length, it doesn't seem to matter if the stem is long or short; strip the leaves from the stem and place in a vase with a few inches of water. Don't crowd them; give each blossom their own air space. In a few weeks when the water has evaporated, the hydrangeas will be dry and papery and are ready for arranging. They will continue to fade to ivory over time, and you can even spray paint them. Below are beautiful ways to display dried hydrangeas. 
My hallway table a few years ago.
Source: Martha Stewart

Source: Appley Hoare Antiques
Source: Botanical Bleu
Spray painted gold.

Source: unknown
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A Free Pattern That Almost Passed Me By

With all my years of knitting behind me I had never tried a pattern generator. This may be new to you too, so let me introduce you to the free Top Down Raglan Generator by Knitting Fool. With this site you can create a pattern using any yarn from fingering to super bulky and any size from premie to XXXL. First make a test swatch, then simply type in your needle size, gauge, chest measurement, and whether you want snug, comfortable, or loose fit. Next, click on the submit button and your pattern appears. Really, it's that simple. Both of these sweaters were made using this method. 

Note from Knitting Fool: And before you go any further, obssessed in the quest of a free pattern, be aware that this pattern is a percentage approximation. If you are accustomed to having a pattern that spells everything out to the letter or if you are a beginner, this pattern may not meet all your needs. The pattern you will get from this process will be a guideline to making a sweater, but you need to know something about what you are doing. Or be a bit adventurous.

With that said, I don't think you'll have any problem following the directions. Top down raglans are a cinch to make and if you measure as you go, you won't have a problem making it fit. As for yarn for these two sweaters, you know I have a drawer full of DK weight yarns leftover from other projects. I'm happy to say that all these years of making scrappy, stripey baby sweaters is slowly whittling away at my collection. These are two of Carter's starting-preschool sweaters. I'll get modeled shots when I can get a two year old to agree to a modeling session; in other words, I can't hold my breath.

The colorfully striped one I call Chroma.
The one in the autumn colors I call Making Friends.

Two lovely DK weight yarns that are perfect for babies and young children:

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Here is my granddaughter Annie, now 18 and a freshman in college and at that simply gorgeous time in a young woman's life. But her beauty is not the only thing that makes her sparkle, and that "other thing" is the reason why I'm so proud of her. She has had to go though many challenges in her young life but faces these challenges with optimism, poise and determination. Her hereditary spastic paraplegia means that among other things, she tires easily and often her legs don't feel strong, sometimes not strong enough to walk. Still, she rarely says no to anything. She is very involved with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in her home town of Simi Valley, California, and is often asked to take on herculean tasks which have included being the youth hostess to visiting dignitaries (a 12 hour day!), master of ceremonies at a convention of state politicians where she had to think on her feet with a microphone in her hand (she was magnificent!), and recently a debate judge. We are all so terribly proud of her and I'm so happy to be able to brag about her to you! She loves my hand knits and looks gorgeous in everything. We have picked out a new coat pattern and yarn for her, something from We Are Knitters that I'm loving knitting.

Annie is wearing Whitehorse by Caitlin Hunter, a great transition piece that hovers between summer and autumn and graces both so beautifully. This was a super fun knit with an easy-to-follow lace repeat. It might look complicated but don't let that fool you--I think a confident beginner/intermediate lace knitter will be able to nail this. It goes pretty fast too because the gauge is 18 stitches per 4 inches. I love the new heavier lace knits that are so popular right now. The trend toward deep lace bodices with worsted weight yarn is fun. I knit the smallest size and made it smaller by having a smaller gauge (20 sts. per 4 in.) and did not add stitches at the sleeve separation. Caitlin does a great job with pattern writing so it was easy to follow and a pleasant knit all around.

The yarn is Rowan's Cotton Cashmere, a light worsted weight yarn made mostly with cotton and a dash of cashmere. It's lovely to knit with a great hand and scrumptious fabric, and for me, goes in the washer and dryer. The ball band does not recommend it but I have had no problem doing this: turn inside out, put in a mesh bag, wash in cool water and gentle cycle, remove sweater from bag and dry in a low temperature dryer. This yarn is a winner.

My Whitehorse details on Ravelry
Purchase the pattern
Rowan Cotton Cashmere

Read about Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia here.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library 

is a must-see destination when visiting Southern California. One of the highlights is the retired Air Force One. It has been returned to the Reagan era and is housed in a beautiful rotunda along with one of his presidential limousines and a secret service Suburban. The library itself sits in the beautiful coastal range of the Santa Susanna Mountains and is definitely worth a visit. To get an idea of where it is, Simi Valley is less than an hour from Santa Barbara to the north and also less than an hour to Los Angeles to the south.

A few readers have told me they don't go on Ravelry and would like to see the details on my blog post. I will try to remember to do that going forward. 

Needles & yarn

20 stitches and 28 rows = 4 inches
in reverse stockinette (worked inside out)

7 skeins = 959.0 yards (876.9 meters), 350 grams

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I've been dying to share this with you but have been waiting for the pattern to be released. This was one of those sweaters that was sincerely fun to knit. Everything was just right. The pattern was a test knit for Libby Jonson of Truly Myrtle and there were no glitches. The designer was helpful and kind, the testing team folks were jolly and supportive, the pattern was a breeze to follow, and the yarn was heaven. I love the fit too! So of course I want to knit another one. Right away.

I know I sound like a broken record when I talk about mosaic stitch, but I love it so much I want you to try it. I think you'll love it too! It is a type of colorwork, but unlike traditional stranded colorwork, you use only one color per row and slip stitches to create the pattern. That makes it EASY (and pretty). The pattern is knit top down in the round, uses short rows to raise the back neck, and has a row of tiny bobbles in the middle of the colorwork section. 

Wavecrest pattern by Libby Jonson of Truly Mrytle
Purchase Wavecrest here

Wavecrest is part a collection of patterns from a collaboration by Libby Jonson and Marie Greene. You can see the entire collection called Pacifico Knits here.

As this was a test I kept good notes. I put them on my Ravelry page but will add them here too:

Blocked measurements: 

Neck circumference: 18” 

Bust: 35.5” 
Sleeve length from underarm: 17” 
Body length from underarm: 16”
My gauge was off (somewhere between 24 and 25 per 4” instead of 26) which accounts for my making the smallest size AND adding less stitches at the sleeve separation then arriving at a 35.5” bust which has a good amount of positive ease--just the right amount for me for this sweater.
I made the neck opening wider by casting on for next size up then compensating for that after the ribbing on the first increase round: increased only 68 to arrive at 180 sts. I also blocked it wide.
I was “creative” with the last increase round 4 (increasing less) and because of this my stitch count was off and I could not follow the pattern directions for splitting the body and sleeves sooo…I found my center front and counted from there and found where my sleeves, back and front should be.
I casted on less stitches at the sleeve and body when separating the body and sleeves. My sleeve stitch count was 70. After two inches I started my decreases until 15” and 48 stitches. Then 2” of 1x1 ribbing on smaller needles. I omitted the colorwork pattern at the sleeve.
I made no waist or body shaping and added length to body.
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how to fold and store sweaters

Sweaters. You can knit them, now learn how to fold them and store them. You'll save space and they'll stay nice and neat! Taking good care of our precious hand knits not only honors our hard work and their beauty, but also honors the entire hand knitting industry from the sheep on up. From the very beginning--purchasing the yarn, deciding on a pattern, the knitting of course, the wearing and the caring of the garment--all of it connects us to a lively little industry that gives so much pleasure. 

I am a huge fan of Marie Kondo and have used her folding and storage method for every single thing in my home. The kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms, and every item in every closet, cupboard and drawer is neatly folded and easy to find. Before you can even begin, you must first clear out unused and unloved items; that's huge, but in her book she gives you pointers and courage on how to be practical and even ruthless if necessary. I took my time, two years actually, but now that I've decluttered and my organizing system is set up, it's been very easy to keep on top of it. This system does not allow you to overbuy or hold onto things you don't use: when I add a new pair of jeans to my jeans drawer, I first have to let go of an old pair of jeans. Plus, there is no more searching around because when folded and stored properly, you can view everything in your drawer at one glance.

For Kondo's storage method you'll need plenty of boxes. I have used mostly shoe boxes, but Target, Dollar Tree, and the .99 Store have inexpensive storage boxes. The boxes below are from Dollar Tree and they slip nicely into a drawer or shelf.  I highly recommend Kondo's book and her method of organizing and storing everything. I can't argue about the title, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It really is just that, life changing. The book is now in every public library and book store and of course, Amazon. I re-read it when I'm about to tackle a big project.

For us knitters, storing sweaters has always been a challenge. I have so many sweaters that I forget what I have or can't find what I'm looking for. Kondo's method allows you to find them easily, plus eliminates the deep creases down the center front and back; only faint fold lines on the sides remain which are easily smoothed out. Below I demonstrate her method with a child's sweater, but the method is the same for an adult sweater, thin or bulky, it works for all. If it has a hoodie attached, fold the hoodie down first, then proceed as below. Begin by placing the sweater front side down.

Start with front side down. Imagine a line down the center. Fold the sweater into thirds, sides meeting at that imaginary center line.

Fold into thirds again.

Coming soon--my method of organizing my sweater collection.
Now that we know how to fold them, we've got to organize them too!

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