This will be his Easter sweater...

This was knit over tea and cookies and lots of chatter.

About a month ago I discovered that my neighbor upstairs, whose children go to the same school my son does, K-N-I-T-S. I discovered it quite by accident, too. One day she came over unexpectedly, and I welcomed her in. The closet in the main room was [gasp!] open, and its entire upper three shelves were showing off a rather vulgar display of yarn stored in individual ziplocs. On a lower shelf was an equally vulgar display of pattern books thrown about haphazardly, and sitting next to them was a plastic bin overflowing with bamboo circs, metal circs and all sorts of straight needles. It looked like an altar to the yarn gods sans lit candles. Yikes! I rushed over to close the closet door, but not before she got an eyeful. I confessed to her that yes, here dwells a Yarn-Addicted Knitter. And yes! I am the one who knits all the sweaters my son wears, and I knit the Elfin cardigan she complimented me on the other day. She couldn't believe it.

Before she found out that I Am One Who Knits, she hadn't knit in ages. Well, I felt it was high time she got back into it. So I invited her to come with me to the Big Yarn Sales, and I cheered her on while she filled her bags with three projects worth of yarn. Muwaahaaaaa! We looked like a couple of yarn junkies as we gleefully rode the bus back home, kindred souls high on fiber.

During the last few weeks my new friend and I have been meeting regularly to knit, chat, and browse through books and magazines. During these mini meetups, she knits a child's jacket in cotton. I knit a cute little raglan sweater with a zippered collar (Pitchoun Spring 2004) using Aviso. For my kid, of course. Every year I knit him a sweater to wear for Easter egg hunting, and this is the sweater he will wear this year.

Here I am knitting with two circs of different sizes.
I feel like I am knitting with whips.
[Cracks whips.] Just like Lash LaRue*!

I am knitting this raglan a bit differently. Whenever I knit straight stockinette stitch using Aviso (it's a worsted cotton whose similarities to Rowan's All Season's Cotton I have mentioned before) I notice that I tend to work my knit rows too tightly. Before, in order to remedy this, I'd just try to remember to work my knit rows a little more loosely so that my knitting would remain even. But because I am knitting this particular sweater while blabbing away with a fellow knitter, I would forget to do this. So I tried combined knitting to even out my fabric, which has worked for me in the past when knitting with slippery or inelastic yarn. No go this time, though. It resulted in purl rows that were tighter than knit rows. (This cotton is nice but damn, I wish it had more elasticity.)

So, I am doing the old "knit the knit rows with a bigger needle, and purl the purl rows with a smaller needle" trick. No wonder everyone suggests doing that to even out one's knitting. It works! I now recommend that you try it if you're knitting straight stockinette using yarn that is being stubborn and insists on giving you too-tight knit rows. [Hellooooooooooooo, Aviso!]


And, as it turns out, my two needle deal worked out so well I went off and completed the back and front pieces without further ado. [Cracks whips.]

*Gratuitous bit of info: Lash LaRue was one of my dad's favorite heros when he was a kid. He would watch Lash LaRue with his eyes stuck to the television, and then he'd go outside and pretend to be Lash LaRue by using a piece of rubber hose as his whip. [Awwwwwwwwwww.]

Seaming party!

6:00 p.m., France time. Why, it's a seaming party!
[Pops open a bottle of champagne.]

No procrastinating over seaming my son's raglan sweater for Easter! And I started just in time for an evening apéro, which takes place at 6:30 p.m. if my husband doesn't have a graduate class to attend. No class tonight, so that means I get to enjoy a kir while seaming. Cocktails + seaming + chatting husband's ears off = seaming party.

To double the fun, this sweater has raglan sleeves, which were entertaining to knit (in spite of all that 2x2 ribbing) because the raglan shaping - done via double decreases worked over several rows - was fun to do. I love how the decreases look in the ribbed pattern:

Texture, texture, texture!

After seaming: Knit the collar and sew in a zipper. I think I'll need another kir for that one.

Speaking of texture, I'm still puttering around in the kitchen in search of a chocolate chip cookie that tastes like the ones I grew up eating. In my latest endeavor, I followed my visitors' tips and added more flour, used sweet butter and chilled the dough. The cookies have the texture of a moon rock, but mmmmmm boy. They tasted damn good and were pretty much what I was looking for. We definitely got a winner!

Of anniversary presents and chocolat...

Happy Easter weekend! My husband has been on vacation since Thursday, and we've taken in an old-fashioned puppet show (the "Moisson d'Avril" puppet festival in April...if you're in Lyon, check it out at the plaza in La Croix Rousse and the Guignol Theater. Make reservations!), visited family in Vienne (we're going back for Easter Sunday), and decided to give ourselves an early anniversary present by buying a new DVD player. Hello home movies in English! And speaking of anniversary presents, I cast on for the front piece of my husband's ribbed sweater:

All that ribbing has the effects of a valium.
Watch Chocolat.

I cast on and knit a good part of what you see above while watching Chocolat (dubbed in French) on Thursday. Boy, oh boy was I thankful I had the movie to watch because all that 4/2 ribbing is one great, big valium. Monotonous as can be, but coupled with Johnny Depp, Juliette Binoche and spicy hot chocolate, the back piece became a party. And wasn't Johnny perfect for that role? He probably schleps around the South of France looking like that all the time. I bet he didn't even have to come in early for makeup and costume; he probably got up everyday at 8, dressed, put his hair back in a ponytail, had his tartine and café, kissed Vanessa and the bébés good-bye and headed off to the set ready to shoot his scenes.

But wait, there's more...

I love backstitch collars when it's a worsted cotton.
P.S. The rows in contrast yarn were provisional.

Get ready for it: My son's sweater traditional Easter sweater for this year is finito. Terminado. Fini. All done, bay-bee! The above shot shows how it looked right after I sewed on the collar using free-loop backstitch (hence the contrast yarn), basted in the zipper, and had a kir. Now the sweater is seamed, zippered, blocked, and ready to wear tomorrow. As it turns out, Easter Sunday will be a double Mommy knitwear day: He'll wear his fancy Bouton d'Or sweater for church (so glad I knit it in a large size!) and his red sweater for the afternoon in Vienne with family. The day will include, of course, lots of chocolate Easter eggs brought from Rome by the church bells. (No Easter bunny over here. Hippity Hop!) And yes, there will be pictures.

Happy Easter to all who celebrate it!

Scenes of a sweater.

Somebody got to wear a new hand-knit sweater for an Easter Sunday in the country...

Mommy, can I go pet the burro now?
[Click me for a big view of the sweater.]

Easter Sunday, Chaumont. A small town outside of Vienne (about 40 mins from Lyon) where cousin Mari Jo has a house perched on top of a hill with a KILLER view. So killer, the kid stared outside of the window at it while he waited patiently for lunchtime. "Patient" is not usually a part of my son's character.

I wonder if we're having chocolate eggs for lunch?

We had many an aperitif. After our aperitif, we had gazpacho, chicken and [gasp!] R-A-B-B-I-T for lunch. I had a double helping of the gazpacho and chicken, but passed on the [gasp!] R-A-B-B-I-T. After lunch, we discovered that the kid's hand-knit sweater withstands the rigors of the scooter. Oh, sorry. I meant "trotinette". Whenever I call my kid's scooter a "scooter", he "corrects" me and insists that it's a "trotinette". He also insists on riding it through every single puddle he can find. Bless those big wheels on it.

NOW can I go pet the burro???

After the rigors of riding the trotinette through puddles, my son took his new hand-knit sweater with him to a nearby house where there's a burro. There are no pictures of the burro, as Mommy, a.k.a. Camera Lady, decided to stay behind and eat orange cake* and drink espresso with Tata Fifine.

Best of all, the kid didn't want to take his sweater off at all during the day. He loves that zipper on the side of the neckband. [Awwwwwwwww.] As always, there are a few additional action shots for you:

Project specs: This red raglan sweater was knit using Aviso. Pattern from Phildar Pitchoun Spring 2004. My son is three and a half years old, but I knit it in the six year old size and added a two extra centimeters in length, for good measure. Finishing consisted of knitting a double neckband separately and sewing to the neck using free-loop backstitch on the right side. I then hand-sewed the zipper in, folded the neckband inside and sewed down. I am very glad the neckband is constructed this way because the inside of the collar remains neat, and the kid insisted on opening and closing the zipper so the inside shows a lot. All in all, I give this project a thumbs-up. The husband even wants me to an adult version for him.

*Bonus: Tata Fifine has shared her orange cake recipe with me! Here you go:

Tata Fifine's Orange Cake

[Measurements are in metric.]

250 grams flour
200 grams of white sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
1/2 cup of milk
1 "sachet" of baking powder
1 "sachet" of powdered vanilla
1 whole orange - both the juice and the peel.
Note: 1 sachet of baking powder here contains about 4-5 level teaspoons of baking powder.

Heat oven to 180 degrees (celsius). Grate orange peel. Squeeze juice from orange into a glass. Put flour, sugar and baking powder into a bowl and mix together. Make a well in the center and add oil, eggs, milk, orange juice. Mix well until smooth. Stir in vanilla and orange peel. Pour into cake pan and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

NOTE: I have not used this recipe yet; I've only eaten the cake Tata Fifine makes using this recipe, which she dictated to me from memory. Enjoy!