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Littlewing live!

Winter Solstice seems like an auspicious day to publish a new pattern—for the shortest of humans on this shortest of days—and to reemerge from blog hibernation, no?


After much tinkering with the geometry, test knitting in all sizes, and a little more tinkering and a whole lot of life getting in the way, the Littlewing vest is now available for purchase! Sized for babies newborn to two years old, this vest uses 150-250 yards of DK-weight wool. I’ve used two yarns from Green Mountain Spinnery—the blue shown above is Mewesic and I did a newborn size for a friend’s baby in New Mexico Organic—and loved the results. But I also did a prototype in YOTH Big Sister


And Martha, mama to this little peach, knit one for her nephew in Brooklyn Tweed Arbor, so really, the options are wide open. If you’ve got worsted weight in your stash that you’d like to substitute, you could probably just knit the next smaller size and come out fine.

My favorite feature of Littlewing is that it’s reversible. For wee ones who can’t sit up or move around much, the front fastening is the easiest way to put it on: just lay the vest out flat, place baby on the back portion, flip the front over her head, and wrap the wings in to button or tie closed. But for inquisitive and coordinated specimens who can’t see a button without wanting to taste it, just flip the vest around and you’ll stymie them completely.


One change I made after the test knitting phase was to add an optional second set of buttons to secure the lower hem. I recommend this modification for the larger sizes. The four-button vest comes out like this:


Littlewing is available for purchase in my Ravelry store. I hope you’ll love this little wardrobe staple for the small folks in your life; I can’t wait to see some out in the wild. (And now, off to cast on two more, because the tiny cousins are landing thick and fast! The good news is that these will be my sixth and seventh iterations, and I’m not sick of knitting this pattern yet. They’re like eating potato chips.)


I’ve got a new favorite dress pattern for wee lassies! It’s not quite on the level of my affection for Geranium, because Geranium has that nice lined bodice and — if you flat fell the side seams the way I like to — no scruffy seam allowances left over inside, and I do love a tidy finish. Merchant & Mills’ Skipper dress doesn’t have that feature, but makes up for it with an adorable sailor bib and little cuffed sleeves. I keep hemming and hawing about this company’s adult patterns, unsure whether I could pull off their oversize sack dresses without looking like a frump in her nightie (and not a nightie my husband would fancy) and yet strangely drawn to them, especially when I see examples like this. I might be tall enough to carry off this look, but I don’t have quite enough spare time for sewing to test the waters. Sigh… maybe next year? Hahaha.

Anyhow, little girl dresses come together more quickly, and if they’re oversize now that just means they’ll fit longer! (It didn’t actually occur to me to check whether kids’ sizing is the same across the pond. I don’t know why I assumed size 6 would mean for a six-year-old girl when my own size basically doubles in translation.) Anyhow, the size 6 is going to fit my daughter until she’s at least eight. I made one for her birthday in a wonderful blue ikat, and since I already had the pieces traced and cut, I went ahead and made another to send off to New York for my niece’s birthday last week.


(I love that Ada wanted her brother’s slingshot as a prop. This looks like a dress you could make some mischief in.) The fabric is from Anna Maria Horner’s Loominous line. (It’s Big Love/Candy, sold out in Anna Maria’s shop but still available in a few other places if you act fast.) It’s got a lovely soft hand, lighter than quilting cotton but not see-through or finicky to sew in the least. It needed a bit of coaxing to lie flat with the selvedges matching so I could cut it precisely. You can see by the seam in the picture above that I didn’t quite manage it perfectly, but oh well.  I am in deep smit with those not-quite-predictable stripes. It’s like madras and ikat had a beautiful baby. I was choosy about laying out the pattern pieces to make the most of my favorite bits.


Apart from my quibble about the unlined bodice and lack of pockets (see below), I really like the details of this dress. Merchant & Mills deserve an award for their pattern layout — extraordinarily clear diagrams often cleared up any confusion I was having about the directions, but those were quite easy to follow as well. I understand about layering seam allowances now! I did manage to sew the collar on my first Skipper upside down, but that was my own fault for sloppy reading. This time I ended up reversing the little triangular flap that snaps the fronts together, but no matter.


One thing this dress has going for it that Geranium doesn’t: my kid can put it on and take it off all by herself. There’s one little snap hidden beneath the collar that opens the front enough to slip over her head; no back buttons squelching her independence! But I had to borrow the Geranium pattern’s side-seam pockets and add them to Skipper. Six-year-olds need pockets, full stop. This 43-44″ fabric just barely had the extra space left over to add the pockets in one piece, but of course I could have patched on an extra scrap.



Golly, that’s cute. Next up: a Tendril dress for me! I am somehow going to find time to sew on the darned bias facings, stitch up the front of it for the resist, and dip the thing in an indigo vat before the week is out. We’ve been learning to build fence and it’s taken up all our time and energy!


They say a watched pot never boils, and I’m here to testify that neither does it simmer, at least not when it’s a giant stock pot nearly brimful of clothing and fabric yardage in a soda ash stew that I’m trying to scour for indigo dyeing. The Modern Natural Dyer says to slowly bring it up to 180 degrees over half an hour… I tried for 45 minutes to nudge it even up to 130 degrees before dinner. It wouldn’t be rushed, so I’m having another go now that the kids are abed. And to pass the time I’m flipping through the results of a little photoshoot with the kiddos from this afternoon. I’m holding back the real goods for a few more days, but after I’d clicked away for awhile, my girl requested to have a try on the other side of the camera.

“I want Mama in the middle of the bed, and Jolly jumping all around her,” she dictated. And this is what she got.








We’ll work on focal length next time. But she did capture the flavor of our summer days, up to nothing and everything of consequence. Just a four-year-old and a six-year-old putting down roots in a new home, happy to spend all morning climbing trees in the orchard or prattling away over a herd of plastic horses in their shared bedroom or practicing for the Olympics (in gymnastics and three-day-eventing) on the living room rug. Not that they don’t have big plans; Jolly is earnestly hauling in plums and apples by the shirtload “to can for the wintah.” Today we got a kitchen scale and a lot of jars and a library card and checked out three books on preserving fruit. I’ve never done much canning and I’m feeling just a wee bit skittish about it, but if a girl can teach herself to knit she can probably teach herself to make jam, right?

Ada is keen to work on a gardener doll we started making out of a worn out sock stuffed with raw wool from the spring clip. It’s rather a fragrant doll and she still has no arms or face. I’m helping too much and should just let my six-year-old have at her with a needle and thread and see what happens.

Temperature check: nearly 170! Getting somewhere. If I don’t break an ankle clambering up the patio furniture to hang the scoured goods on the clothesline I haphazardly strung between the wisteria and the dogwood back when it was light out, it will be a miracle. But the days are warm and sunny and with any luck I’ll be firing up an indigo vat on Friday. Plum jam and blue smocks for all! Don’t ever end, summer.