fair-isle-knitting

My First Try at Fair Isle Knitting

Fair Isle knitting is a technique that involves knitting with two different-colored strands of yarn.

Called Fair Isle because it originated in Scotland on (you guessed it!) Fair Isle, it is also known as stranded knitting, stranded colorwork, or simply colorwork.

Wikipedia tells me that it first became popular when that irrepressible fashion plate the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII of England, famous for abdicating so he could marry his American divorcée girlfriend) started wearing Fair Isle sweaters on a regular basis. What a fashion rogue.

Anyway, I thought it was HIGH time I gave this famous (and fun!) technique a try. So I picked out an adorable pattern: Anders, by Sorren Kerr (link to pattern page on Ravelry.com).

Learning to hold two strands at once

The first trick to Fair Isle knitting is to learn to hold two strands of yarn at once. I knit English style, which means that I hold my yarn and tension in my right hand, and throw my yarn around my needle to build my stitches.

Continental-style knitting is when you hold your yarn and tension in your left hand, and “pick” your yarn with your needle to build your stitches.

So to knit Fair Isle, it’s useful to know how to do both, and at the same time! Here’s a helpful YouTube video for doing just that:

Once you’ve got the technique down, you’re ready to go!

Knitting up the Anders jumper

I have loved this pattern since a lady at the Montreal Stitch n’ Bitch discovered it. But I had a few problems for getting started.

First, since I was using stash yarn, I only had my main color in Drops Baby Merino, and my contrasting color in cotton Kapok DK by Sublime yarns (now discontinued).

Knitting with two different fibers can be a problem. Cotton is not as elastic as wool, and will eventually stretch out. Whereas wool retains its shape thanks to its elasticity. For this reason, I decided to do the bottom edge ribbing in my main color, to make sure that the bottom wouldn’t stretch out.

My second problem was that I did not have quite enough of my main color. So I decided to make it a short-sleeved, mid-season jumper.

Finally, though I *love* my Addi Clicks Turbo circular needles, my shortest cable was not quite short enough for the 6-12 month size I was knitting. My stitches were stretched over my cable, which changed my tension somewhat.

fair-isle-knitting-anders-jumper
Please pardon the terrible lighting!

Despite these little setbacks, I soldiered on, and I am quite pleased with the result. I apologize for the terrible photo, but I have a tendency to finish things at night.

Not especially visible in the photo is the vickle stitch braid that lines the ribbing edges on the collar, sleeves and hemline. It’s a sweet little detail that I really enjoyed.

The buttons were pilfered from a spare button box my mother inherited from her mother. Due to lack of time, I did not do a full wet-block, but gave it a good go with the steam iron. We’ll see how it holds up in washing…

Final thoughts on Fair Isle knitting

I love it. It’s a little slow, and you have to be careful about carrying your yarn when you have large stretches of one color. But despite that, it’s a lot of fun to see an image emerge as you work.

I will definitely be doing more Fair Isle knitting, including at least one more Anders for one lucky kid!

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Why I stopped reading parenting blogs

Why I Stopped Reading Parenting Blogs

Before the Bug was born in January 2015, I did a lot of reading.

Chico and I both got the Baby Center weekly emails, telling us just how pregnant I was and comparing the foetus to different fruit and vegetables (for size, I mean). It was exciting to follow his development week by week, and know how he was growing.

It wasn’t until after the Bug was born, though, that I really delved into the online world of parenting blogs and forums.

And it wasn’t long before I realized I simply had to stop.

Parenting bloggers are not always experts.

I’m someone who likes to seek advice from perceived experts. Most bloggers describe themselves as normal parents and share tips that have helped them (I’ve done it myself!). But when it comes to a specific concern, they are rarely qualified experts.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, of course. But when you’re in the totally normal state of near-panic when you first get home with your child, you’re often looking desperately for immediate answers. Answers which most bloggers and forum posters are not qualified to give.

Parenting blogs don’t describe your situation.

You’ll never find a forum post or blog article that perfectly describes your situation, or your child’s.

You’ll be thinking, “That *sounds* like what’s happening, except for this, that and the other thing.” So the solutions or suggestions they make never seem quite right, because you’re not sure their situation is the same as yours in the first place.

Then there are the blogs and books (I’m thinking of the “What to Expect” series in particular here) that make things sound so categorical. Reading these can make you feel even MORE insecure, especially when what they’re saying goes against what’s happening at home.

You can’t get immediate, accurate answers.

Online advice never comes fast enough. When you’re a panicked new parent, wondering if what your child is doing is normal, you want answers NOW.

Most people can’t call up their paediatrician and ask every single question whenever they want. If you go searching for info online, you have to wade through your search results first, then see if they apply to your situation. If you post on a forum, you never know how quickly someone with any experience is going to answer you.

You’re craving advice, information, or perhaps just comfort immediately, but you cannot get it.

When advice comes in, there can be too much.

Sometimes, when a question I had was responded to, it brought on even more confusion.

There are so many rights and wrongs, so many ways of doing things that are dictated by our family practices, our cultures and our backgrounds. Sometimes it can just be overwhelming thinking of all the possible solutions to a problem.

Often, by the time I got around to trying any of the suggestions I had received, whatever it was was no longer a problem.

Getting into a vicious cycle.

For a couple months after the Bug was born, I had some books I looked to frequently (“What to Expect the First Year,” and others), and I was frequently on Baby Center forums. I started listening to a parenting podcast called “The Longest Shortest Time.” I became a member of a couple of Facebook parenting groups. I downloaded an app for timing nursing sessions, measuring the baby’s weight, and knowing how long he slept.

While each of these resources was helpful in its way, and none of them was negative or toxic, I became overwhelmed.

Seeking answers or advice, I would turn to one or any of these resources, and would inevitably come back with more questions than answers. That brought on anxiety, as I then tried to find answers to the new questions that had sprung up.

I even wrote a couple of articles myself, hoping that by putting things down in words, I would clear up my own confusion, and thus make things easier.

Finally, I decided that spending my time with all these things was breaking down my confidence, rather than building it up.

So I threw it all out the window.

Not literally. I didn’t throw a book out the window.

I cut myself off. I deleted the app, shelved the books, stopped listening to the podcasts and removed myself from the forums and Facebook groups. I also cut off contact with a couple of people in my life who had proven to be toxic.

I decided to trust my instincts–to trust my husband’s instincts. I decided that the only “experts'” opinions I wanted or needed were our family and our doctor’s. I did hold on to the Quebec “From Tiny Tots to Toddlers” book, which healthcare providers in Quebec often refer to as “the Bible.” But that was the one resource I retained.

And do you know what?

I found myself so much more relaxed, more confident, more delighted with our baby, and happier.

Suddenly, motherhood became joyful rather than fearful.

Rather than over-thinking things, and worrying about how I was going to be a parent, I found the confidence to enjoy every single day.

I realized that it’s not about how *I* am going to parent, but how *our son* needs to be raised. Taking the focus off of me and putting it back onto our son actually helped me make more time for myself.

It may sound contradictory, but there you go. Deciding to be confident and to trust my instincts, allowed me to use the time I had spent worrying to do other things. I made new friends. I got back into my crafting.

Life got good again.

No, life got better. Because now it includes a wonderful little person I am lucky enough to call our son.

 

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4_great_reasons_to_take_kids_outside

4 Great Reasons to Take Your Kids Outside

Summertime, and the living is easy. With the good, warm weather, it’s also easy to remember to take your kids outside. But when the cold north wind starts to blow, we forget how important it is to get outdoors. Here are 4 great reasons to keep taking your kids outside, come rain or shine.

1. Get the kids some vitamin D

Exposure to direct sunlight is the best way for the body to produce this happy-making vitamin. However, if your kids have very pale skin, you’ve got to balance the benefits and the dangers of exposure to direct sunlight.

The Vitamin D council recommends short periods (15 minutes) of exposure in the mid-morning during high summer for pastier kids, and longer periods for kids with darker skin. After that, cover up with clothing, stay in the shade, and/or apply sunscreen.

In winter time, when it’s harder for everyone to absorb vitamin D, it’s even more important that kids spend time outdoors (as well as taking a vitamin D supplement). Why do you think people in Iceland stick their bundled up babies outside to nap? So their little faces can absorb some all-important rays.

2. Burn off energy with some exercise

Having an 18-month-old can feel like sharing a house with the Energizer bunny. They just keep going, and going, and going…

If you ever find yourself stuck in a spiral of hyperactive kids bouncing off the walls preventing you from getting things done, then it’s time to throw them outside.

For younger kids, just being outside and taking it all in will help expend excess energy, even if they don’t do much running around. My little guy loves to lie in the big basket swing in our local playground, but he’s always heavy-lidded and ready to sleep at night, even after spending all afternoon lying back gazing at the sky.

3. Watch them discover EVERYTHING

It takes about 15 minutes to walk from my town’s train station to our house. The other day, it took us an hour and a half.

That’s because the Bug was saying, “Down? Down? Down?” as we got off the train from Munich, and when we approached a safe walking area, I complied.

He stopped at every. Single. Puddle. Every single twig, leaf, or slug. It was pouring rain, but we were both well-equipped with rain coats and pants, and crocs. Since I was in no particular hurry to get anywhere, I just let him be.

Gently encouraging him to move forward from time to time, we spent the next 1.5 hours throwing pebbles down drains, splashing in puddles, poking at snails and slugs, and generally absorbing all there was to discover.

It was amazing to see him wonder at it all, and though I was desperate for a cup of tea by the time we got home, I wouldn’t have hurried him for the world.

4. Take a little time for yourself

As your kids get older and are better able to play on their own, you’ll find that outdoor time becomes you time. Yes, you have to be observant and constantly aware of where your kids are, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow them around the playground.

We are lucky to have playgrounds every few feet here in Germany, and many of them are fenced in, and very toddler-friendly. We have found one where no matter where I sit, I can see the Bug. He’s now big enough to run from game to game on his own, and I can sit and knit, while keeping watch out of the corner of my eye.

Being outside with other people takes the pressure off me. While at home I am constantly in demand for entertainment, the great outdoors provides enough to keep him engaged.

It’s also a nice opportunity to meet other parents. I have found this to be especially true when coming to a new place. When kids play together, parents get talking. It’s been a wonderful way to make new friends.

Get the right gear and get going

Germans say that there is no bad weather, just bad clothing. While a hailstorm is definitely best avoided, rainy, snowy and gloomy days need not be spent indoors.

For your kids’ sake, and for your sanity, get the right outdoor gear you need, and try and get outside every single day. You’ll all feel better for it.

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