Rene's Menagerie












My friend Rene gives a terrific party, whether in her vineyard-adjacent home (posted about here, here and here) or her San Francisco apartment surrounded by spectacular views (here and here). But today she's the creative source behind a toy party populated by a menagerie of adorable knit critters. Lots of critters. Why so many? Well, Rene has five grandchildren who know that snuggling up on her lap and sweetly asking their Zaza for an octopus with orange spots, a pink Teddy bear or any other manner of whimsical creature are requests she can't resist.  Who could?

She started knitting as a youngster in her native Scotland, where most girls learned to knit and sew as a matter of necessity. "We needed those warm wool jumpers because it was so cold," she says.  45 years of living in far-warmer California have only increased her love of knitting, quilting and other sewing arts, and her skills levels are impressive.  An avid gardener, she also has developed a bold sense of color. It won't surprise you that she is a major fan of Kaffe Fassett.

Her first knitted toy was a noddy with big ears, a gift for a niece. "She had it until she was an adult, when it finally fell apart!" Nowadays, all the toys are for her grandchildren. "Some of the toys seem to have disappeared into the toy box. Of course my grandchildren have their Lego sets, computer games and building sets, but when I ask them if they actually play with the knitted toys they always say, "Oh, yes, Zaza; we love them!'"

Can you mentally fast-forward 20 years with me and see these grandchildren passing their wooly toys on to their own children? What a legacy!

If you'd like to knit your own menagerie, Rene shares her sources: 

Most of the toys came from this highly recommended book,  Knitted Toys by Zoe Mellor

Nellie the Sheep is from Debbie Bliss Baby Style and the lamb is from Fiber Trends Felt Flock.

The other patterns have been found on Ravelry:  Ribbit Frog is a free pattern by Susan B. Anderson and had to be knitted 3 times for the the 3 children of her youngest daughter, seen below with Rene.  There is a tennis ball in the body which gives them a big, full tummy.  As with all of the knitted toys, Bunty Bunny was fast knitting, but the assembly took time and getting it to look like a rabbit was the challenge.  Golden Bunny by Madmonkeyknits.  Octopus Plushie by Alison Kao is free.

Rene chooses her yarn mostly for the color and also pays attention to the gauge.  Her yarn preferences when knitting toys are Rowan All Seasons Cotton, Encore, Jamiesons Shetland DK,  plus Baby Ull and Rowan Pure Wool 4 ply for the finer knits.

With all this toy knitting experience under her belt, Rene shares a few tips when making up the toys:

1.  I have discovered in assembling a toy that I often want to adjust something after having just sewn it onto the body!   Now I sew it on lightly and leave the end of the yarn hanging so I can go back and change something if needed.  Often when I look at the almost completed toy again I realize that the ears (for example) need to be up higher and more jaunty!  Leaving a long tail allows for a change if needed, and if it's not needed, I just weave it in.

2.  I use a smaller needle size to make the knitting tighter so the stuffing doesn't show or start to come out.

3.  I save all ends of balls of yarn and try to use them when possible.

4.  I tell the kids to bring back the toys if they start to fall apart, and you can see that some have been mended.







 















Thank you Rene for sharing your sweet menagerie.





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Thanksgiving Table Ideas

Turkey is the star of Thanksgiving but the table is its stage set and deserves your time and a big dose of TLC. Whether you go opulent or rustic you'll find inspiration from these fall tablescapes I've scoured from Pinterest. While it might be challenging and expensive to recreate these exactly (especially on my small table) there are a myriad of elements we can steal.

You know how much I love to create pretty table settings. For me it's as creative as the cooking. Even for a not-so-special occasion, I always set the table the day before, beginning with whatever flowers I have in the garden and letting  the centerpiece set my theme. Then I build from there, with the menu also helping to decide the  decor. On Thanksgiving we KNOW what we'll be serving,  so that step is taken care of.

We used to have such enormous celebrations as our family was big and lived close by each other. Plus, we were the family that always invited the strays.  But now we are small in number -- just six this year-- but I'm still looking forward to it as much as though we were hosting 16.  My table is small and fairly narrow and seats six most comfortably.  Besides, I love having six people at the dinner table: you can all join in the same conversation and, at the end of the night, all the dishes fit into the dishwasher.  If I have more guests I can put leaves in the table and  can squeeze in up to 12 people, but it's tight and everyone had better like each other because it will be very chummy.

Wishing all my American readers a big ole chummy Thanksgiving!


Love the burnished gold.  I just want to climb right into this picture and sit down.

The impact of roses at any time of year can't be disputed.  designstimesfour.com

 I think I'm seeing square vases arranged together with roses, lilies and protea maybe? 
 Burlap or possibly linen tablecloth with navy placemats.  Swoon. thingsthatinspire.net


Orange and turquoise blue, a match made in heaven. indeeddecor.com

Clementines aren't shy about being orange.  lefrufurblog.com

Is that a black and white striped tablecloth?  Oh, the drama.  nandlnotes.com

Totally stealing this idea for my next buffet.  reluctantentertainer.com

I love the way this would unite the napkins on a buffet table.

Lucky you if you have blue and white.  To me it's always fresh and crisp and clean.

Mums, roses, succulents, moss...pretty.  burnettsboards.com

Never quite sure what you do with the pear.  Eat now?  Save for later?  Still, I love the way it looks. Wm. Sonoma.

I know, gasp, right?  This must be a wedding, wish I had been invited.  
The table setting says to me, "Sit up straight, make polite table conversation,
 and hey, even try to dazzle!"  enpaperblog.com

I love purply and plummy colors for fall.  ivillage.com

Here is the purple again, and probably another wedding, but still, totally gorge.  kateheadly.net
What an impact.  Left to right, sedum, calla lilies and amaranthus in mercury glass.  cookingchanneltv.com

wowzer


poetry

I've just finished Poetry from the Essentials section of Rowan Magazine 56.  I always love that part of the magazine and in this issue there are so many pretty designs.  I decided my first project would be Poetry because it was knit in Kid Classic and while I've always loved it, I haven't used it in awhile.  I missed Kid Classic!  I get that way sometimes; I'll miss a yarn and decide right then and there I'm going to use it.  I regularly feel that way about Kidsilk Haze so I make sure there is always a KSH project going on around here for when I feel the KSH crave.

Poetry, designed by Marie Wallin is such a simple sweater but I really feel very stylish in it!  I love the back, and think a younger person could totally wear it without a shirt underneath and it would look young and sexy.  In the evening I wore this with a black tank underneath and a black pleather skirt and black booties and it was a fantastic look, but today I wore it with boots and jeans and noticed that my photographer was willing, so here's the look of the day.  

The great Rowan Kid Classic, which I consider one of the backbone yarns for Rowan, knits up to a worsted weight.  It's easy on the hands and a cinch to get an even tension in stockinette, but is also a pushover for cables and lace.  It's a lovely yarn and an excellent value for such a high quality yarn as the yardage is terrific plus it wears like iron and practically pill resistant.  The colors are many and gorgeous.


I love my boots, Uggs I found in Las Vegas.


The top button popped open, and I never unbutton it anyway,  so I sewed the button band up and now it can't come open.


All the details of Poetry on my Ravely project page.

Below is the yarn info from a screen shot from the Rowan website 
 where you can also see the full color range.






time for paperwhites

It's time to plant your paperwhites.  Forcing paperwhites to bloom indoors for Christmas is easy and inexpensive.    I like to figure about 4-5 weeks from planting to blooming, and planting them now will insure blooming, fragrant flowers to enjoy mid December.   I'm hosting a Christmas Tea on the 11th, so I'm hoping I've timed it right.


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