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Playful

Don’t keel over from the shock, but it’s another pattern launch day chez WGK: introducing the Lalita pullover! Lalita is a Hindi girls’ name that means “playful,” because everyday play is what this sweater’s made for. This design began as Ada’s beloved Rainbow Sweatshirt… almost half her lifetime ago. Remember this wee muffin?

Rainbow Sweatshirt is still in her sweater drawer, looking rather more ragged after several years’ use and rather shorter in the sleeves, but I deployed all my cunning mom-savvy in this design to make it fit as long as possible.

  • A-line shaping means it can evolve from a swingy tunic to a more standard-length pullover.
  • Exaggerated drop shoulders and a sneaky wee gusset at the underarm give extra ease through the chest. Kids tend to grow longer faster than they grow wider anyway, but this means you can start with 4.5″ ease, as Ada’s wearing it in these photos, and still have plenty of room a couple of years later.
  • Rolled cuffs may seem like an insignificant detail, but I find they transition gracefully to bracelet length without ever shouting “I’m growing out of this sweater!” the way ribbed cuffs might.

Lalita is knit in the round, so the only seams to sew are at the shoulders, where you want the stability of a seam to bear the hanging weight of the sweater. Stitches for the sleeves are picked up around the armscye after the shoulders are joined, and I’ve given directions to work them flat or in the round, just as you like. (I knit the Rainbow Sweatshirt sleeves in the round, but I worked these flat because it stopped my marled yarn from pooling. I was holding together a strand of plain white Cascade 220 with some crazy space-dyed Cascade Alpaca Lace Paints in white-black-grey, and I didn’t like all the black parts hanging together in large splotches. Some folks also hate having to flop the whole body of a sweater over and over while they’re knitting around on a tiny sleeve, and I get that. Other folks would rather visit the town library naked than sew a seam. I get that, too.)

You can also see in this photo that there’s a difference in gauge between the body and the sleeves. That’s intentional. I wanted drape in the garment, but didn’t think the elbows would wear well in a loose fabric. So the sleeves are worked on a smaller needle for a subtle change in fabric structure.

There are phoney seams of slipped stitches at the sides that disguise the shaping decreases and also help the tunic hang straight to show its A-line. The hem is lowered at the back with German short rows (I’ve described how to do them in the pattern, but also pointed to a helpful tutorial online).

For those of you reading here or on Instagram, I’ve provided a coupon code that will get you the pattern at half price during its launch weekend (until midnight Sunday Pacific time): enter PLAYFUL at checkout in my Ravelry shop. I do hope you enjoy this knit — and yes, there are plans for a grown-up version in the works!

Winter Isle

I’ve been busy! The Madrona Retreat is the best kind of busy for knitters: all that learning, connecting, experimenting, making… maybe a little drinking later in the evening… It’s enough stimulation to tide a girl over for quite some time! This year was different for me. My Madrona mate of nearly a decade had her hands full managing the first inaugural Brooklyn Tweed booth in the marketplace, so I stayed on my own in an Airbnb room rather than at the hotel. I signed up for just one class (Amy Herzog’s Advanced Sweater Modifications; can’t tell you how excited I am to draft my own set-in sleeves!) to keep my experience more mellow, and that left me with buckets of free time. Luckily, there are always friends to meet at Madrona. Kathy was down for Thursday night and Friday—I can’t believe it was only last year at Madrona that we met for the first time. I chatted with llama farmers and sheep keepers and dyers and spinners and (obviously) knitters, many of whom attend this event year after year. It’s the first time Abundant Earth Fiber Mill has had a booth, though, and I’d cooked up something special for the occasion.

Lydia spun a light fingering-weight yarn from the natural colors of Shetland fleece grown on three local farms. It’s a worsted three-ply and very strong despite its dainty appearance. That yarn said MITTS to me, so I made a pattern and Lydia made adorable wee kits. I used part of a Scandinavian pine bough motif, which you’ll often see radiating out from a large floral center to fill the corners in Selbu mitten designs, and paired it with some wild waves from Shetland. Behold the Winter Isle mitts:

Martha was a sport and modeled them so you can see how they look on human hands. The pattern goes all the way around, which means there’s no designated right and left mitt, although the charts are mirrored. You can see that the length is a little longer than many fingerless mitts; I like enough coverage that I can curl my fingers down inside if I’m out for a walk, so that’s how I design ’em. They’ve got a thumb gusset for mobility and comfort (the only way I roll) and a cuff in half-twisted rib. The corrugated rib at the finger edge uses both contrast colors, and the detail of the two-color bind-off never ceases to charm me.

Want a pair of your own? The kits were a one-time special for the Madrona market (unless Lydia decides to make more), but you can substitute any fingering-weight wool and grab the pattern from my Ravelry store (link in the sidebar). You’ll need 110 yards of the main color and just a few yards of each of the contrasts. I hope you like them! I may have to make another pair to keep for myself now, because I’m hearing that winter isn’t done with the PNW quite yet. Snow again this week? Truly? Okay!

To the lighthouse

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As I’m writing today, we’re in Portland watching the clouds lower and waiting for the cold sizzle of freezing rain. My daughter has seen the inside of a school building exactly once this year and has logged a total of nine days of education since December 1. Our world has been snow and ice and sledding and baking and free play and Swallow and Amazons for so long I can hardly remember the shape of our standard routines. This wintry dreamtime has been such a complete holiday from real life that I dread the return of early rising, school lunches, and long commutes in dreary weather. If our thaw works quickly and we aren’t glazed in a fresh layer of ice, that day might be tomorrow, so I’m looking backward instead.

At the turn of the year, natured graced us with a golden day. I swept the children out of the farmhouse and into the car for a quick walk before the sun set. The wind had calmed; Mr. G stayed behind to enjoy the respite from its teeth as he set new fence in our most exposed corner, where the breeze comes in boorish from its romp across the Pacific. At the southeast tip of the island is the little Cattle Point lighthouse, built in 1935. The surrounding land is part of a conservation area crisscrossed with pleasant walking trails—as long as you’re not nervous about the rather abrupt plunge down to South Beach.

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A fellow walker watched my children and dog pelting ahead up the path and kindly asked if I was familiar with the lay of the land. Indeed, there’s been enough erosion here that the trails we walk today are not the trails of my childhood, and in some places they wind very near the edge of the cliff. As tempting as it might be to climb atop that stone the boy is passing above, the sandy soil is scooped out beneath it and I wouldn’t care to test whether an extra forty or fifty pounds might be enough to send it on its inevitable tumble to the sea. The kids stay clear. But I believe the only way to grow agile and surefooted and canny in risk assessment is to test yourself on trails such as this one from an early age, so I let them run.

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A gentler slope here

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Darn, I wish this hat were something I needed to photograph for a pattern release!

The lighthouse isn’t grand or terribly iconic, but its stout little octagonal tower and drum lens go on keeping the shipping off the rocks of Cattle Pass. The Coast Guard allegedly intends to do some restoration work here to shore up the building before it slithers seaward.

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Two bald eagles reign over this territory and we crept near their tree to watch them awhile, because that was the sort of magic on offer this day. The sea was full of splashy ducks and cormorants. The homeward trail got a wee bit tiring…

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…but the beauty and the docile weather made a rather dribbling pace no hardship. All the mountains were out—Mount Rainier, about 120 miles away, is just visible on the horizon at the right edge of the frame in the photo above—and the road home provided a close look at this handsome fellow in the twilight:

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My parents chose this home, crossing the continent years before I was born and setting down new roots. I had the freedom to leave; I’ve visited many beautiful places and I hope to see a great many more, and I could have stayed for good in a few of them, but this island has always called me back. On days like this, I think the greatest gift I can give my little ones is to infuse their growing and becoming with this same landscape. Who knows where they’ll fly? But if they carry this place in their hearts, they’ll know what they’re looking for when they find it.