Saturday, October 22, 2011

Thugs and Carpenters

Burglar Hugh

Burglar Will

This is the gruesome remains of Will's building project in the back yard. I keep trying to clean it up (hence the garbage bags: some primitive sorting) but Will objects because the boys play with the wood scraps and learn valuable skills. I'm a bit huffy about it, but yesterday I came around to seeing the beauty when I came outside to find that my little thugs had helped themselves to nails, hammers, and paint and were building signs in the back yard.

the painters' palette
first stage of construction
 Hugh was pretending not to be cold all afternoon.
Here are some of the lovely signs all finished. "Stop" and a fancy star. The boys have been burglars this week, since reading Burglar Bill—a family favourite— with Grandma.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cranberry Cowl Pattern

The Cranberry Cowl
{the humble cranberry—a great healer, a gourmet food, a Northern comfort—
I named this pattern for the humble berry that brings such health and comfort each Fall. The "cranberry pattern" is a simple horizontal lace pattern that makes a bold statement in chunky wool}

guage: 3 stitches per inch
materials: 16'' circular needle, size 10.5 US (or size you need to produce guage), tapestry needle, place marker (optional)
yarn: chunky (I used Bernat roving for the cranberry cowl in the picture)

CO 70 stitches
join in the round, being careful not to twist stitches, place marker to mark beginning of round (optional)
Knit in garter stitch (alternate knit round/purl round) for 4 rounds
Switch to stockinette (knit each round)
Knit 2 rounds
Knit cranberry pattern as follows:
   round 1: Purl
   round 2: Knit
   round 3: Purl
   round 4: {wrn to m 1, sl 1, k1, psso} repeat to end
   round 5: Purl
   round 6: Knit
   round 7: Purl

Knit 4 rounds
Repeat cranberry pattern
Knit 4 rounds
Repeat cranberry pattern
Knit 4 rounds
Repeat cranberry pattern
Knit 2 rounds
Garter stitch 4 rounds, beginning with a purl row
Bind off loosely
with tapestry needle, weave in ends

Cranberry Cowl

I didn't bounce back as quickly as usual after Raphael's birth due to a couple of post-partum infections (nothing some long baths in herbal tea and seasalt couldn't take care of—thanks, sweet Rachel!—and some pots of cranberry tea). My long-suffering mother has been captive here, taking over my duties while I nap. Kind friends have brought meals.

As frustrating as it is to be off my feet (and during the most beautiful weather of the year!), it hasn't been all bad: I devised my first ever knitting pattern! See the "tutorials" tab above for a free knitting pattern. A little gift, just for you!

I have this uneasy feeling, because it's so simple, that it's not actually original. Surely somebody, somewhere, has already thought of this combination?

The cranberry cowl is a simple horizontal lace pattern knitted in the round in chunky wool. I've worn it all Fall, and it is so cozy and pretty! It is named in honour of the humble cranberry which has brought so much health and healing this past week

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Labour Sweater

(warning: another knitting post)

When I realized I was in labour (for real, this time) I called my sister and told her to get on the next bus. It was 5 am (yes, she's a good sport!)  and the house had been spotless since the wee hours of the night, so I felt I needed something to do with my hands.

Fortunately I have bookmarked on my computer all those wonderful knitting patterns you think you have time for, but never get around to, including this simple, highly adaptable, beautiful one. It's a wrap-around kimono for newborns, knitted back and forth on a circular needle.

I took down my basket of scrap yarn—those tiny little balls leftover from other projects—and started twisting yarns together to make a thick-and-thin chunky yarn of variegated colours to match the guage.

When my sister arrived we chatted, joked, watched british comedy on youtube, laughed so hard it brought on contractions (just on me; she was safe), and drank tea. All the time I twisted wool and knitted back and forth on this tiny little sweater.

It was therapeutic to work with such beautiful rock and ocean colours. And keeping my hands busy kept my mind off things.

All morning and afternoon when the midwives arrived I kept twisting and knitting and thinking about the little body that was going to fill it, and longing to see him.

Eventually I had to abandon the sweater to focus on birth (it was a beautiful birth, as I mentioned before), but I finished it in the next few days post-partum while I nursed and snuggled with Raphael.

It isn't exactly a cuddly baby piece but see how strong it is! A free standing sweater!

The super fat yarn ended up producing a sherpa-like sweater suitable for horseback riding in Mongolia. Also when we take Raphael up Kanchenjunga he'll remain warm and dry.

Well, alright, at least he'll be safe from the Fall winds when we walk to the libarary.

After scouring Ravelry for the perfect baby kimono: seamless, raglan sleeves (the best construction, in my beginner's opinion), oh, and free, I found the beautiful pattern on sockpixie's blog. It is so simple and versatile, I've already thought of half a dozen variations for future sweaters!

But right now Rafe and I are happy with one, warm little wrap-around sweater.

Let the wind and the rain and the hail blow high
and the snow come tumbling from the sky...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Early Days

What a welcome this Baby has had! Into the arms of family and friends, into the chaos of a house overflowing with kids (are there really only four?) into the bliss of newborn-worship, his first week of life has been so full: of love, milk (milk everywhere), eager anticipation from three little boys who are watching his first fluttering little open eyes, his yawns, smiles, hiccups, and facial expressions (variously interpreted). Yes, this boy is well loved.

I haven't quite emerged from the post-partum fog where there's no night or day and pumpkin pie is an excellent breakfast choice.

My beautiful mother is staying with us and indulging this kind of post-partum ennui by doing all my dishes and laundry and taking the boys to the zoo. (Matthias has transfered all his affection to her, and who could blame him?)

The birth itself was beautiful—a little slower than the others, more peaceful and prayerful having just finished reading Writings from the Philokalia and learning about "prayer of the heart." Most of labour was spent alone with Will, my labour superstar, either resting in his arms or walking around the hallway. I had a little vigil light burning in front of the San Damiano crucifix which was a wonderful focus in all that birthing.

Raphael was born in the bathtub—which, for all you people interested in home birth, is a quick, easy cleanup! He came fast and safely. My youngest sister was also present at the birth. She is an expert administrator of lemon water and I highly recommend her as a doula.

Maybe sometime I'll post the uncut, extended birth story.

Right now I'm too busy staring at Raphael, eating his toes and rubbing that amazingly silky little head.

—By the way, we're pronouncing it "RAY-fi-el", the British way, to go with our last name. This has caused a lot of confusion amongst good Catholics who wonder why we'd go with a heathen name like Rayfield? But there it is. At least it's not Romuald.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

He's Here!

Raphael Joseph Romuald Augustine
born at home
Oct. 5
9 lb 6 oz

safe and healthy
Deo gratias!

Monday, October 3, 2011


As baby's due date has come and gone, I've found myself having to let go of items on my "before-baby list." The house will not be painted. The plastering will not be done. The freezer and the oven are both on the fritz.

But I'm ever so grateful for the little pockets of peace and organization:
—a basket of baby clothes fresh from the line
—a peaceful little nook for the new baby (Thank you, dear Ulmer family, for the beautiful hammock!)
—some orange flannel to wrap the baby bunting in...

Now we are just waiting. Waiting, baby dear!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

a quick gift

A friend of ours was turning five and needed a present on the very afternoon that Matthias decided to peel the semi-dry black oil paint off the stairs and smear it on himself and the walls. He did it swiftly and quietly, the clever boy, in about 15 seconds. When he was finally  scrubbed—within an inch of his life—and put to bed, he took off his diaper and pooped on everything.  Everything. I can't say I handled it very graciously. 

So instead of the grand crafting afternoon I'd planned, we made some quick dragon mittens for little Willie. 

They're my new favourite winter kid gift—four buttons and some scraps of wool felt, and a snakey looking nose embroidered on the front. Easy peasy. Credit to Martha Stewart blog.