Archive | April, 2011

Placket-neck pullover

29 Apr

According to Ravelry, I started this project in May 2009, when Abby was–let’s be honest–not even a twinkle in Chris’s eye. I did everything except graft the sleeves, and it sat ungrafted until about this January. She’s wearing short-shorts because it’s been about 90 degrees around here. By the time it gets cool again she’ll be way too big for it, so I thought I should take advantage of a slightly cooler afternoon and get some pictures.

This pattern is great. It’s simple and fast and very customizable: you can add stripes, color patterns, a lace panel, all sorts of things; and who doesn’t love a placket? My loathing of raglan sleeves doesn’t apply to babies, since they don’t have curves to make the sleeves pull in unflattering ways. All they have is adorable little baby bellies.

There’s errata, but, since I naturally I didn’t check for it and wasn’t at the time experienced enough to notice that something was wrong, the neck is a bit off-centered. I call it asymmetrical and European. I didn’t add the seed-buttons because I didn’t have them. If I ever do give it away, I will probably take care of that.

If I made it again, which I almost certainly will, I would make the seed stitch hem longer, as it has a tendency to flip up (or I would just make a turned hem).

Pattern: Placket-neck pullover (Rav link), from Joelle Hoverson’s Last-Minute Knitted Gifts
Yarn: Takhi cotton classic, about two skeins


Gathered bloomers

28 Apr

… only they’re a bit long, so they’re more like gathered harem pants. Room to grow, I say.

Pattern/ Tutorial: I used this tutorial and just sketched an extra-big butt for Abby’s extra-big diaper. They were super easy–took no more than an evening, and keep in mind that I constantly screw things up and have to redo them. Can you see what I screwed up in these pictures?

I didn’t account for the fact that the fabric goes in one direction, so one side of the pants is upside down. That’s what gives them their handmade charm.

Abby has really perfected her squatting skills.

Fabric: I’ve had this fabric FOREVER. The main fabric is Tina Givens Chandelier Medallioin, and the cuffs are Tina Givens Silhouette Polka for Free Spirit. Here’s another example, although it’s sold out; I think I got these cuts from Fresh Squeezed Fabric. I love this fabric. I love it so much that I refused to touch it for years, but I’m working on letting go of my attachments.

These shorts are a bit hard to coordinate with shirts. I’ve got a lot of the cuff fabric left and was considering making a shirt out of that, but, as they say, that’s a lot of look. (Yes, she is currently wearing her shirred shirt.)

Cloth Diaper Review: Kawaii Diapers

27 Apr

Style: One-size pocket diapers with TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane, a supposed improvement on PUL, or polyurethane laminate) shell, minky lining, and microfiber inserts. Range of colors. Snap closure.

Price: Around $7-$10 per diaper, depending on style and where you buy them. I got 10 diapers and 20 inserts for $71, which is a phenomenal price for a good quality pocket diaper.


We’ve been doing cloth with Abby full-time since she was about 2.5 months old. At first we stuck with the time-tested prefolds and covers, but I have to say that those did not work out for us. No matter how often we changed her, or how many fleece liners we used to wick the moisture away, they gave her a dreadful rash. (The one thing we didn’t try was wool soakers: I didn’t want to buy them, and I didn’t have time to make them.) But I was bound and determined to stick with cloth, so I bought a BumGenius second from CottonBabies and LOVED it. It worked like magic (not to mention it was easier on Chris). So I bought six more. But I just couldn’t afford to buy as many as we needed to keep her in them full time, so I searched the Internet and it yielded me … Kawaii Diapers. I LOVE THEM.

Out of the box, they look more similar to FuzziBunz than BumGenius: they have a similar profile, and the snap placement echoes the FB. The snaps are firm and secure, although they are white and so not quite as aesthetically pleasing as the same-colored BumGenius snaps. The TPU is thinner and shinier than PUL. The microfiber is soft, and the inserts are thick and generous. The wide opening makes inserts easy to stuff and remove; they come out with a gentle shake. After six months of heavy use, they look almost as good as new. With a wash routine of rinse, wash (with Charlie’s soap), rinse, and hang to dry, they are not retaining any smells–in fact, the BumGenius are much stinkier!

I do have some complaints. The elastic is tight and leaves marks on my baby’s skin when she wears them for a long time. The snap placement around the thighs is narrow for my chunky-thighed girl, so that I actually don’t button the bottom snaps. They are quite bulky for a pocket–although I suspect that means they’ll fit her long after she’s outgrown the trimmer FuzziBunz. They do leak sooner than my BumGenius, so I always make sure to put BumGenius on her at night. Because the crotch is a little wide, the insert has a tendency to twist and leak.

Added up, that seems like a lot of problems. But most of them can be circumvented simply by changing your baby often, which most cloth parents do anyway (I only get leaks if I don’t change her for longer than usual due to naps). Ultimately, do I love BumGenius more? Yes. But for almost a third of the price, Kawaii cannot be beat. Recommended wholeheartedly!

Where to find: On the woman’s website, or, if you have the competitive bug, on ebay.

Most helpful link about cloth diapers:
Karen’s Cloth Diapering Site

Brew Day: Belgian Tripel

26 Apr

Sunday was brew day, and this time Chris chose a Belgian tripel. He had Friday afternoon off, so I picked him up from work and, after paying about a quarter of a month’s salary on property tax for the car and motorcycle, we drove out to our local home brewing store. I love this store! The people who own it are really helpful and friendly. Anyway, Chris started the yeast on Friday night and brewed Sunday morning.

He boiled the grain,

Stirred in the malt,

Poured the wort,

Pitched the yeast,

and took the gravity.

Now the beer is sitting in his office bubbling away–and I am under strict orders not to disturb its peaceful fermentation environment!

I know he refined his technique this time, but I’m hazy on the details. As substitute for helpful information, here’s some new-to-me background on Belgian tripels:

According to the Beeradvocate and Wikipedia, the style’s been around since after World War II and was probably first brewed by the Westmalle Brewery. It’s a strong pale ale with a high volume of malt, which is likely what gives it the name “Tripel” (and Chris did use three jars of malt!) Belgian candy sugar makes the beer light-colored, maybe desirable originally because pale lagers were popular at the time. A good Tripel should be a little darker than a pilsner, with a thick head and complex, spicy, fruity aroma. High bitterness for a light body, but the malts and hops are supposed to balance it out. Tripels have a high alcoholic content–up to 10%.

Examples: Chimay Cinq Cents, Duinen Tripel, Leffe Tripel, Allagash Triple Reserve.

Shirred shirt

25 Apr

How’s that for an ugly phrase? “Shirred shirt.” Blech!

Anyway, Chris recently replaced a handful of old white undershirts with identical new white undershirts and gave me permission to do whatever I wanted with the old ones. So I did this:

It is ridiculously easy. Cut out two bodice-shaped pieces, stitch them together at the shoulders and side, then shirr the leftover edges. Knit doesn’t really fray, and if you use the original hem there’s no need to do any folding, hemming, or ironing. Yay! I didn’t even zigzag the seams, although I did topstitched them down to eliminate any irritating scratchy bits and because I like the way it looks.

I did three rows of shirring on the sleeves and two on the neck. It would have made more sense to do three on the neck and two on the sleeves, but I never do things right the first time. (Also, next time I’ll cut the armholes bigger, because I think they’re a little snug.) Luckily I have a whole pile of undershirts awaiting massacre.

I thought about putting a ruffled fabric flower on the front, but I just did a ruffle shirt. So, instead I cut out a linen flower from some scraps and inexpertley zig-zagged it on.

I’m pretty sure a better alternative would have been to iron the fabric to some interfacing before cutting out the applique. Eh.

So there you go: basically a thirty-minute shirt. I’ll make some adjustments next time, but it’s definitely wearable.

Helpful links:
shirring tutorials (go to the sidebar on that last one; it’s a pdf)
drafting a bodice pattern

Parenting Through the Debates: Secrets of the Baby Whisperer

24 Apr

Title: Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with your Baby
Author(s): Tracy Hogg with Melinda Blau
Credentials: Tracy Hogg is a nurse and child-care specialist; Melinda Blau is a writer
Genre: Parenting handbook, moderate [between parent-centered and baby-centered]
Audience: Very new parents, primarily mothers

Happy meal version:

Tracy Hogg offers a structured routine for adjusting to a newborn. In a colloquial style, she advices parents to relax and listen to their babies, to slow down and give both themselves and the newborns time to adjust to their new lives. Her major offering to the world of parenting handbooks is the EASY routine: she advises following a routine of Eat, Activity, Sleep, and then grabbling some You time while the baby sleeps. Within the chapters, she offers practical advice and anecdotes (some of these anecdotes are composites).


Introduction. Here, Hogg describes her experience and her development of the EASY system.

I. Loving the Baby You Gave Birth To. According to Hogg, babies come in five temperament. She offers you a test to determine which temperament your baby is. Throughout the book she offers advice targeted at each temperament: Angel, Textbook, Touch, Spirited, and Grumpy.

2. EASY does it. According to Hogg, the EASY routine offers a middle ground between scheduled and on-demand baby care, and between “parent-centered” and “baby-centered” parenting by focusing on the family. “Mindful parenting” is the alternative to “accidental parenting,” and you should “start as you mean to go on.” This chapter includes a very practical and helpful step-by-step guide to what to do when you come home with your baby.

3. SLOW Down (and Appreciate your Baby’s Language). Parents often make the mistake of responding to crying in a panic. Instead, Stop, Listen, Observe, and ask What’s up. It’s important to treat your baby like and individual and realize that he has needs and desires of his own. Head-to-toe, babies give of lots of signals to tell you what’s wrong. Hogg includes a chart to help you learn to read your baby.

4. Eat. Hogg argues that breastfeeding and bottlefeeding are both good choices and you should make the one that’s right for your family. After the first few days, babies should be on a feeding schedule and not eat on demand. This chapter also includes a timetable and chart on weaning. [Note: I found this chapter problematic. Although she claims to talk about the pros and cons of breastfeeding versus formula feeding, she really only looks at the cons of breastfeeding, and she purveys some information that is inaccurate, such as the myth that babies will self-wean at 9 or 10 months. If you are nursing and want to continue past the first few weeks, ignore this chapter. It will reduce your confidence and possibly your milk supply.]

5. Activity. Babies should be given toys that are within their “learning triangle.” It’s important not to give your baby toys that she can’t handle and not to force her to do things, like roll over, before she’s ready. Here, she discusses childproofing, bathing, dressing the baby, and massaging the baby. This is an extremely helpful, practical chapter.

6. Sleep. This chapter discusses sleep patterns and habits. She presents herself as occupying the middle ground between Sears’ bed sharing and Ferber’s controlled crying. Hogg’s solution is to put the baby down sleepy and pat his back while he cries. She advises dream feeds and cluster feeding to help the baby sleep through the night. Her chart of average sleep seems optimistic. She advises parents that they can expect their baby to sleep up to 12 hours in a row by six months. [For alternate opinions on that, see Weissbluth and Sears; for similar opinions, see The Sleepeasy Solution.]

7. You. This chapter offers helpful, practical solutions for the new mom, including information on moodiness, PPD, relationships, sex, and work and childcare. She discusses different “types” of dads and offers information and tips. A very helpful tip is the suggestion to assign reluctant or nervous dads specific tasks, like bathing or reading. She is dismissive of a cult of motherhood and urges moms to get help and not think that only they can care for the baby. She is supportive of moms who choose to go back to work. This chapter is balanced and moderate.

8. Special Circumstances. In this chapter, Hogg talks about the peculiar challenges facing adoption, surrogacy, multiples, preemies, and those who may have had trouble getting pregnant. It seemed a little light on content.

9. Three-Day Magic: The ABC Cure for Accidental Parenting. This chapter offers a plan for parents who want to change some aspect of their baby’s behavior, like not wanting to be put down or resisting her crib. She advises figuring out the Antecedent–what caused the behavior?; the Behavior–what exactly is your baby doing?; and the Consequence–what pattern has been established? It contains a troubleshooting guide with common behaviors that cause parents anxiety. The “ABC” guidelines are catchy but forced. I can’t visualize how I might put them into action myself.


This is a comforting, reassuring book that offers lots of practical advice and tips. I particularly liked the sidebar explaining how to get a shirt on a baby (which is a lot harder than it sounds). Her EASY plan is sound advice and has entered collective knowledge. Her advice is dispensed in catchy phrases that are easy for new parents to remember. In fact, I wish I had read it before having my baby, especially the first three chapters.

However, chapters 4-6 and chapter 9 contain many, many opinions that are disguised as facts, particularly around eating and sleep. For example, she claims that no baby needs to eat every hour and a half. In fact, many breastfed newborns do need to eat every hour and a half, and on-demand nursing is extremely important not just for the first day, as she suggests, but for the first weeks in order to establish a good milk supply. Other experts will also point out that sleep patterns are quite variable throughout the first year. Her chapter on temperament doesn’t acknowledge that babies can change radically. At two weeks old, my baby would have been either grumpy or touchy; at nine months, she’s absolutely textbook. More troubling to some of her critics, she believes that babies should learn to be independent and self-soothing from the day they come home from the hospital–an opinion that many infant development experts will challenge.

Recommended for middle-of-the-road parents, but do read other books as well for a more rounded perspective.

Related books:

The Sleepeasy Solution
Heading Home with Your Newborn
Baby 411
The No-Cry Sleep Solution

Pioneer Days

22 Apr

Growing up, I could never figure out the geography of my hometown. I could get everywhere I needed to go, but I had no idea how the parts of the city fit together to the point that, if you showed me a map, I’m not sure I could have found my house. When I moved to New York, I made an effort to navigate the city and build map in my head, so I could tell you how the parts of the city related to each other–where SoHo was in relation to the Upper East Side, for example, or where Midtown turned into Hell’s Kitchen. I did the same in LA. As I got to know the city, it started to feel like a coherent whole rather than a bunch of discrete neighborhoods.

All that is a long-winded introduction to the surprising thing I read the other night in By the Shores of Silver Lake, the book I was reading to Abby before Chris started White Noise. I’ve read the Little House books so many times that when I read them to myself I don’t so much read as glance at a page in order to remind myself what happens. So, it’s been a real pleasure to read them aloud and force myself to get through every single word on the page. And I was struck the other night to read Pa say something about the folks in Yankton.


In my slight obsession with all things pioneer, I’ve also watched HBO’s Deadwood about three times, and Yankton, as the county seat (I think?) comes up a lot. According to Wikipedia, Deadwood is set in 1876-1977 in Deadwood (naturally), SD. In 1879, the Ingalls family moved from Minnesota to De Smet, SD. So what that means is that this:

Was going on at almost the identical time and location as this:

I know a lot can change in two years, and Deadwood is partly about how different the town was at the end of 1877 than at the beginning of 1876: law and order come, and their good friend corruption. And the show is set just before the Dakotas become a territory, while the Little House Dakota years are set right after that. But still! Moments like this–realizing how near Laura Ingalls might have lived to Al Swearingen–make history seem like a coherent whole. Can you imagine if history were taught as a set of narratives rather than a list of discrete dates and names? To me, that makes history real–and MEMORABLE–in a way that no AP textbook can.

[On looking at this now, I realize that the Garth Williams illustration is from Little House on the Prairie, which I believe is set in the late 1860s. But the point is the same.]

Pink ruffle upcycle

21 Apr

I had a majorly crappy day yesterday. A missed appointment, $200 on brakepads, and 5 loads of laundry do not make for a happy camper. Added to that, I’ve had two major sewing catastrophes–the ill-fated peasant blouse, which I was unable to salvage, and a pair of baby shoes that started out cute until I tried to improve the pattern. Mistake!

So I figured I’d do a quick sewing project that would be sure (or, almost sure) to turn out: an upcycled tank for Abby made from an old T-shirt. I bought the original T-shirt from the Gap two years ago for $5, and I was very excited to get my money’s worth out of it … except I cut the damn thing out wrong. I used the side seam as the fold, so the bodice had a big, fat, ugly seam running right now the middle. But I forged ahead and made a casing for the neck and shirred the sleeves. Ick. It still looked very homemade. What to do?


Much better, even if the third row of ruffles is a little wonked. I will probably fix that at some point.

And a third picture, because I love her expression and because it’s not over-exposed:

The pants are actually another pair of Big Butt Baby Pants (my other versions here and here), so her entire outfit is mama-made. Yay!

Grad school parenting

20 Apr

Are you in grad school? Are you thinking about having a baby? Before I had a baby, here was a typical day on fellowship:

9.00: Wake up. Have a leisurely breakfast, coffee, internet-checking hour or hour and a half. Maybe go for a run or to the gym.
10.30: Start working. Work in a desultory fashion for a few hours. Maybe throw in a load of laundry once a week.
1.00: Lunchtime! Watch some TV.
2.00: Back to work … or not. Maybe shower, maybe take a nap, maybe do a little crafting, maybe take the dog to the dog park.
3.30: Leave for tutoring. Tutor.
6.00: Hang out, watch some TV, knit.
7.30: Make dinner. Eat dinner. Watch TV or play guitar hero.
11.00: Bed

Sure, my schedule wasn’t always like this. When I was taking classes AND working AND tutoring AND teaching, I worked like a demon from 6AM to 9PM most days. But fellowship years were pretty sweet, and even with only working a few hours a day I was ahead of a lot of my cohort in terms of progress to the degree. But then I got married and had a baby, and then my husband (thank god!) got a full-time job. And now my days look like this:

4.30: Eyes open. Why am I awake? [Baby cries]. Oh. Maybe she’ll go back to sleep. More insistent crying. Nope.. Get out of bed, stumble to nursery, nurse baby. Pee. Get back in bed and lie awake for half an hour.

7.10: Eyes open. Why am I awake? [Baby cries]. Five minutes later, husband’s alarm goes off. Drag self out of bed, get baby, come back to bed with baby. Baby latches while I desperately try to fall back asleep for a few minutes. Husband is asleep again.

7.24: Alarm. Baby coos and sticks her hand in my mouth, trying to separate my jaw from the rest of my skull. Husband gets up and feeds the dog, starts the water for coffee, and gets in the shower. Change baby’s diaper. Prepare breakfast for baby. Grind and pour coffee. Start folding laundry while keeping an eye on baby to make sure she doesn’t choke. Smell milk: milk is bad. Black coffee today.

7.45: Husband can’t find pants or undershirt. Undershirts have mysteriously gotten mixed in with baby’s laundry, which I have not put away in days. Pants are also located. No time to iron a shirt today.

8.00: Wipe down strawberry-covered baby. Dress her. Husband leaves. Feed dog and cat. Set diapers to soak. Notice that I am still not dressed and I have not brushed my teeth. Put baby in baby jail to prevent her from ingesting anything and everything left on floor. Dress and brush teeth.

8.30: Shove a few bags of milk and a change of clothing in baby’s go-bag. Collect baby and bag; get to door and realize tactical error: baby is now outside and dog is inside. Go back inside and put baby in baby jail. She screams. In order to stop screaming, take baby back to car and buckle in carseat. Rush back inside to collect dog. Cat gets out. Collect cat while hanging on to dog’s collar with pinky finger. Shove cat inside, lock door, get leash fastened on dog. Put dog in car.

8.35: Drop baby off with my mom. My dad follows me to the car place to drop the car off to get its brake pads replaced and then drives me home.

9.00: Stick week-old oatmeal in microwave. Start dryer and washing machine. Load dishwasher.

9.05: Sit down at computer with cold coffee and oatmeal. Check internet, then start writing.

12.30: Eat last night’s popcorn and an apple for lunch. Pump.

2.00: Realize that I still have not showered. Debate taking a quick nap versus showering. Pump and then shower.

2.30: Walk over to parents’ to pick up their car, since mine is still in the shop.

3.00: Pick up tutee from school. [This is unusual–a favor for the parents.] Drive to library. Tutor.

4.30: Retrieve baby from parents. Visit for a few minutes. Head home. Put baby in jail, straighten up. Prep dinner. Play with baby.

5.30: Husband is home. Hand baby to husband, finish dinner prep.

6.00: Dinner. Most of it ends up in baby instead of on the floor. Success.

6.30: Give baby a bath. Try to keep her from using the hot water faucet to pull herself up. Diaper baby on floor, because baby now hates changing pad. Husband studies.

7.00: Playtime and reading time for baby. Husband reads her White Noise while I clean up dinner.

7.20: Nurse baby.

7.35: Read Goodnight Moon for the nth time. Put baby down. Baby goes right to sleep, thank goodness.

7.45: Evening! Best time of day! Watch movie and knit. Make popcorn.

10.00: Baby cries. Wait a few minutes. Floss, brush, wash face. Crying escalates. Go in, pick baby up, rock. Put baby down. Leave. Baby cries. Wait a few minutes. Crying escalates. Go in, nurse baby. Baby falls asleep. Put baby down. Leave. Baby cries. Husband goes in and gives baby tylenol–maybe she’s teething. Husband rocks baby and checks diaper. Baby, now wide awake, cries. Go in, take baby from husband, rock baby, put baby down, leave. Baby cries. Give up, get baby, take baby in bed, turn out light. Baby seems to fall asleep. Baby suddenly realizes she’s in bed with her two favorite people and gets REALLY EXCITED. Starts babbling, rolling around, grabbing noses, eyes, faces. Starts kicking excitedly. Get up, restore baby to crib. She stays down.

11.20: Sleep.

4.30: Why am I awake?

The thing is, this actually isn’t so bad. I do have time to write because we moved to be near my parents, who babysit at least a few hours every day. If it weren’t for them, I’d be taking care of Abby all day and working at night. And I love having a family, and I adore my daughter and my husband. But the change from Miss Independent to Adult Lady is pretty dramatic. And involves a lot of laundry.

Stash Acquisitions

19 Apr

Recently, Chris and I listened to a podcast about Freegans and decided to go on an anti-consumerist binge. Why this led within a week to a buying binge, I can’t quite answer. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that we felt we had denied ourselves–although we hadn’t really–and were entitled to buy a bunch of stuff to make up for it.

Anyway, I bought some fabric. Purl Soho has beautiful, expensive fabric. And it goes on sale! And I bought some for $5.40/ yd! (When the shades in my office are open, lots of morning light comes in. Unfortunately, there’s a giant cherry tree in front of our house which is lovely for providing shade and pretty flowers, but produces big fat shadows. I continue to work on a photo solution.)

This is a little mature, but I think it will make a nice dress for Abby. Maybe for the fall? I need to wait until she’s walking.

A shirt? A skirt? I think the print would look better as a skirt. It’s a little plain to make a whole dress/ romper/ sunsuit out of.

This is going to be a tunic and bloomers set or romper. The print is busy but it’s summery and fresh, and the colors are great.

I LOVE this print. Sunsuit, almost definitely.

Now for the real question. I went to Joann’s the other day to pick up a few things, including this country home print that I found in the 50% off remnant bin.

It’s a little less than a yard, total $3.55. Score! But I don’t know what to do with it. I bought it intending to virtuously hem a few napkins or dish towels, but then I pictured a pair of gathered shorts with a little tie on the cuffs. Or maybe paper bag shorts, like these. After all, when can a girl wear roosters on her butt, except when she’s nine months old?