Recent Knitting (and yarn) Projects

I haven’t talked much about my knitting lately. This is partially because after we moved, I went through a period of feeling like I didn’t really know how to adapt to my new circumstance (we don’t currently have our own home – we’re living with my husband’s dad and stepmom). There were even a few weeks when I felt like I was losing part of my personality. I took a few steps, though, and I’m feeling (mostly) great right now. I’ve redeveloped my hobbies, and even finished up 2 fairly large knitting projects. Here’s what I’ve been working on recently.

First, I have this sweater for Seahawk. I love the way it looks, but I really don’t like the act of making it, so it tends to fall to the bottom of my “to do” pile. It will eventually get done – I just hope he doesn’t outgrow it before I finish making it.

jones sweater

I’ve done 2 or 3 washcloths since we moved; those are one of my favorite projects to do. They’re small, easy, and useful. When I was in the yarn store on my birthday (they give a 25% discount if you shop on your birthday), I picked up some “scrubby” yarn. I’d been wanting to try it for a while, so I used the opportunity to get some. My first project with the scrubby yarn was a washcloth that’s part scrubby, part cotton. Seahawk and Munchkin (the official dishwashers) were so impressed with it that they asked me to do one that was just scrubby, so I did (I don’t have a picture of that one, though). That has taken the place of all sponges since then. They don’t even like sponges anymore!

washcloth

Next up is this blue sweater. I entered a giveaway on another blog and won 5 skeins. It’s from Lion Brand, and it’s called Jeans. The name refers strictly to the color; it’s not made of denim or cotton. It’s a 100% acrylic yarn, which I don’t normally like because acrylic is an artificial fiber, but I’ll never turn down free yarn! 5 skeins is enough to make two sweaters – one for Dragonfly and one for Small Fry – so that’s just what I’m doing. (I may even have some left over at the end!) I love the idea of them having matching sweaters this fall. The one in the pictures is Dragonfly’s; I always start with the smaller sizes because they work up so much quicker. I chose the buttons for this one; I thought the idea of forest animals was just perfect with the tree motif on the sweater. It turns out I was right ;). For Small Fry’s, I let him pick his own buttons. He chose watermelons. It won’t complement the sweater quite as well as the “forest babies,” but it will definitely be something unique for him.

old growth 1

old growth 2

Back in February, I went to a “Knit Along” at my local yarn store. In case you’re not familiar with the concept, a Knit Along (or KAL as they’re commonly called) is where a group of people, either in real life or in an online forum, get together and all knit the same pattern. For this one, the pattern was called “Illegal Triangles.” It was named this because the designer said “this pattern is so much fun to knit that it should be illegal!” I chose a pink, purple, and brown yarn for that project, and I knit it as a gift to have on hand. In March, we were invited to a party for my dear friend’s daughter who was turning 12. I packed up that scarf and gave it to her, and have been told several times since then that she loves it. That just warms my heart 🙂 After we moved, when I was feeling pretty down about myself (and my knitting), I remembered how much fun I’d had knitting that scarf, so I decided to knit another one. It was just as pleasurable as I’d remembered, and I’m really glad I made the decision to knit it again. Here is my second “Illegal Triangles” scarf.

illegal triangles

Besides knitting, I’ve also dabbled in dying my own yarn over the past few weeks. I wanted to do a teal yarn with pink, purple, and blue speckles. Here is my first attempt:

dyed yarn 1

It’s not exactly what I was aiming for, but it’s still quite beautiful, and I’m looking forward to knitting something with it. I envision it turning into a cowl and hat for someone for Christmas.

My second attempt was more what I had in mind. The thing I didn’t fully realize until I’d dyed this yarn, though, was that that color scheme is what Sully from Monsters, Inc. looks like. When I pulled the yarn out of the steamer after adding the speckles, it became quite obvious to me that I’d just created “Sully yarn.” Because Small Fry has been asking for a “Sully hat and mittens” since last winter, this yarn will end up being turned into those for him. I even have some Monsters, Inc. buttons to accessorize them with when they’re done. I’m looking forward to that project a lot!

monster yarn

Blessings,

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Easy Knitted Teething Ring

When you have a baby, teething is just a fact of life. There are loads of commercial teething toys you can buy in all different sizes, shapes, and colors. You can get the kind that are filled with water and kept in the fridge, or just some that are textured for babies to chew on. When Dragonfly was teething as a young baby, I was in the middle of making cotton washcloths. The skeins of cotton yarn didn’t work out to all get used up evenly for the washcloths, so I decided to use some of the extra to make teething rings. It was really easy; here’s how I did it.

Teething Ring ~ Easy Knit Pattern

Make an “I-cord” (instructions to follow) in whatever width and length you like, then sew the two ends together to make a ring shape.

In case you’re not familiar with an “I-cord,” this is a technique developed by knitting master Elizabeth Zimmermann, and it creates a wonderful cord that you can use for a plethora of things – as a belt for a cardigan, as a drawstring inside any garment that requires one, or as I’m demonstrating today, as a teething ring for baby, among many other things.

The phrase I-cord is short for Idiot Cord because Mrs. Zimmermann thought that any “idiot” who knows how to knit would be able to make one. All you need is some yarn and two double pointed needles (DPNs). The technique is very easy: cast on your desired number of stitches, slide the stitches to the other end of the DPN, knit across, slide down, knit across, and repeat the sliding and knitting until your cord is the desired length. The sliding (rather than turning the work) requires you to pull the yarn across the back of the work, and as you continue to add to your cord, this pulls it closed into the cord shape. What you end up with is a round piece of knitting that is stockinette on all sides. It’s very attractive, and very easy to work.

For my teething rings, I used 100% cotton yarn. This is what I use for washcloths, and it works really well for the teething rings for a few reasons. First, cotton yarn has very little stretch. There’s virtually none, actually. This means that the ring maintains its shape. Second, it freezes and thaws well, which is really important for a teething ring. Finally, because it’s an all-natural fiber, you don’t have to worry about your baby putting it in his mouth. And if you use organic cotton yarn, even better.

So, what you do is create an I-cord using your desired number of stitches on whichever size needles you like. I used four stitches on a size 8 needle, but there’s really no right answer here. Find a size needle you’re comfortable with (remembering that bigger needles will make bigger stitches and vice versa) and make your I-cord any thickness you like by adjusting the number of stitches you cast on. Make your I-cord at least 8-10 inches long. Longer will give you a bigger circle; shorter, a smaller one. When it’s a length you like, bind off, knot your yarn leaving a long tail, and then use that tail to sew the two ends together. Wash your new teething ring, then get it nice and wet and stick it in the freezer. If you make several of these, you’ll always be ready to offer one to your baby when his poor gums need it. They thaw quickly, but even the texture seems to help babies, so that’s okay.

Blessings,

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Picture of the Week: Sweaters for Elephants

I came across this article earlier in the week, and it was something I definitely wanted to share because elephants are my absolute favorite animals. So for Picture of the Week this week, I’m sharing something that’s not about our family…

India is going through quite the cold snap, and one of the elephant refuges is concerned about their charges. To combat the cold, they’ve enlisted the help of some local ladies to knit giant sweaters for the elephants. What a cool thing to do!!

 

There are even more pictures, as well as good information, in the article I linked above. I encourage you to check it out.

Blessings,

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Knitted Christmas Sweaters

It’s a little deceiving to call them “Christmas sweaters,” because they’re not designed in a Christmas motif. But they are sweaters that I knitted for Christmas gifts, so I’ll stick with Christmas sweaters.

A lot of these pictures are straight from my Instagram account, so if you follow me there, you may have seen these already. But I want to share them here as well.

For almost all of them, I used the same basic pattern (Flax by Tin Can Knits). I made some changes to several of them, though, for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to add some interest for myself as the knitter. I didn’t want to knit the same exact pattern a billion times in just a few short weeks. Second, I wanted the siblings receiving the sweaters to not have them be identical (except for the color), so I made minor modifications so each one would be unique.

Here are my projects:

flax-for-dad

This brown one was made for my dad. It was the first one I made, so I followed the pattern exactly as written. It’s an adult size S/M, and I used 5 hanks of yarn, each one of which was 100 grams. I had a little bit left over, so it didn’t use up the full 500 grams. Because Seahawk is about the same size as my dad, I had him be my model and “tryer-onner.”

flax-green-fair-isle

This green sweater was my first foray into fair isle knitting. I’d knitted three of the sweaters “plain” by this point, so I was ready for something a bit more challenging. The size for this sweater (a 6/8, for my 6-year-old nephew) had the exact same stitch multiple as the Color My Cowl pattern from Very Pink Knits, so I decided to put that pattern into the middle of the sweater. I think this was a really good introduction to fair isle knitting, and I’m really pleased with the results. The colors in the actual sweater are better than the picture conveys – it’s a nice forest green for the main color and lime green for the embellishments.

Purple Sweater Flax Hack

The purple one was made for one of my nieces. I was nearly done with sweaters by the time I’d made this one, and I was very interested to see what the Flax design would look like with a garter stitch panel down the sides of the sweater as well as on the sleeves. While I won’t come right out and say I was disappointed with the result, it wasn’t exactly what I’d had in mind. Also, in my naivete, I had no idea that garter stitch doesn’t line up properly when knit in the round, so I had to do some research and fiddling to get the side that was the “beginning of the round” to not look awful. I only moderately succeeded.

20161223_155455The orange one was the last sweater I did, and I was ready for something really challenging by this point. I find a knitted seed stitch to be rather beautiful, but it’s one of those things that always eludes me. I’ve done it before, but I always mess it up. There’s absolutely never been a time when I’m knitting seed stitch and I look back at my work and realize that several rows back, I’ve got some ribbing instead. I thought that perhaps my difficulty lay in the fact that I was knitting seed stitch flat (back and forth), and maybe it would be easier to work the pattern in the round. I was right. It wasn’t foolproof – I spent over an hour one day reconfiguring several rows of stitches to correct my mistake – but it was a lot better. And I learned that properly done seed stitch is very beautiful.

Apparently I don’t have pictures of the others, which is unfortunate. Here’s the lowdown on what I made that’s not pictured:

  • A Flax sweater as written made in lilac colored yarn (purple with a hint of blue) for my 8 year old niece
  • A Flax sweater in yellow without the sleeve texture and with a blue design around the bottom of the waist and sleeves for my 7 year old niece
  • A Simple Baby Pullover in dark blue (not quite navy) with “transportation” buttons and extended sleeves for length for my 2 year old nephew
  • A Flax sweater as written in Tide Pool colored yarn (blue with a hint of teal woven throughout) for my 4 year old nephew
  • A Flax sweater as written in white and brown variegated yarn for Small Fry
  • A Flax sweater as written in “bird’s egg” blue yarn with the edges (neck, waist, and wrists) made in leftover brown from my dad’s sweater for Dragonfly

And a few more that I found pictures for on my Ravelry page:

A Simple Baby Pullover as written in the same bird’s egg blue as his other sweater (also with transportation buttons) for Dragonfly – this one is his favorite! The picture was taken before I added the buttons.

A Dexter vest (sleeveless, v-neck) in orange for Small Fry. This was my very first sweater ever, and I chose it because I was terrified of the prospect of knitting in the round or adding sleeves to a sweater. I had no idea how that would work, so for my first time out, I just avoided it!

A Kangaroo Pocket sweater in charcoal for Munchkin. This is the one and only sweater of “mine” that’s been knit in pieces and sewn together. While I know that some patterns benefit from this technique, I do prefer the single piece, in the round style better.

Not all of those were made for (or around) Christmas, but that’s the complete list of all the sweaters I’ve made to date. I’m taking a bit of a break from sweaters for the time being, but I’m excited to get back into them soon. Next up, something with long sleeves and a v-neck for Seahawk. 🙂

Blessings,

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Knitting Projects: October-November 2016

kimg0520As we enter the cooler months, I’m beginning to think about creating Christmas gifts. Last time I did a knitting projects update, I hadn’t quite started the sweater I was making for my dad, and I was still working on one for Munchkin. Well, I’ve since finished both of those projects – and done a few others to boot. Here’s what I’m currently working on and what I have planned but not started/purchased for yet. But first, a picture of the completed sweaters.

kimg0010The large brown one is the one I made for my dad, the dark blue one is for my 4-year-old nephew, and the light blue one with brown edges is for Dragonfly.

Now, on to upcoming projects. Currently on my needles is a sweater for my 6-year-old nephew. I followed the same basic pattern, but after making three of these sweaters already, I was ready to make it a bit more interesting for myself so I bought two different shades of green yarn and found a basic fair isle pattern. I used this one from Very Pink Knits (she has my absolute favorite knitting tutorials!), which was actually designed as a cowl (a short, circular scarf). I wasn’t making a cowl, though; I was making a sweater. Luckily, the pattern repeat matched up with the number of stitches in the sweater size I was making, so it worked out beautifully. This sweater is done except for sleeves, which go pretty quickly.

Small Fry has a special relationship with my dad, so he wanted a sweater to match “Papa.” But again, I want things to be a bit interesting for me as the knitter – especially since I’m still knitting the same pattern. So I found a yarn that has a similar brown color, but it’s variegated with white. I’m excited to see how it turns out; I think it’s going to be really pretty handsome.

When I need a break from sweater knitting, I’ve been making square cloths out of cotton yarn. At home, we’ve been using them for washcloths (for baby faces and wiping down tables and counters, mostly). They also make wonderful cloth napkins, which I love. They’ll last a lot longer than flannel squares and be a lot more cherished as well. So far, I’ve made 5 or 6 of them. My goal is to get up to about 12.

I mentioned in last week’s Random 5 post that I didn’t think I’d be able to get more sweaters made for our nieces and the remaining nephew, but I think I want to try. Kid sweaters go so quickly that it should be doable. I definitely won’t have time to do those and more adult sweaters, though, so I’m going to keep my focus on the kid sweaters. (Adult sweaters take me about 4-6 weeks; a kid sweater can be done in as little as a week or two.) I like the idea of gifting handmade items, though, so perhaps I’ll continue adding cloths to my arsenal and give each person a stack of those along with a “regular” gift.

I think all of these projects should keep me plenty busy for the foreseeable future!

Blessings,

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May-June Knitting Projects

KIMG0406

KIMG0336When I learned to knit in February, I knew right away that I liked doing it. I wasn’t sure whether I liked it better than crochet because it was a new craft I’d just learned (read: novelty) or if I honestly did like it better. I made a couple of crochet projects in March and April, and after doing that it became very clear to me: I actually like knitting better on its own merits. When I’m holding yarn and knitting needles in my hands, I’m a very  happy camper!

KIMG0391So far, I’ve completed two pairs of baby booties and two sweaters (one for Small Fry and one for Dragonfly). My current projects are more sweaters – I simply adore making them! The first one is a charcoal gray, long-sleeve sweater for Munchkin. It will have a pocket in the front, like a traditional “hoodie.” Because we’re entering the warmer time of year, he obviously won’t be wearing it much in the short term. Therefore, I’m making it a size 10 so it will (hopefully) still fit him this fall. (He’s 9 years old and hovering between an 8 and 10 size-wise.)

The second one is a light brown one called “Larry,” which will be a Christmas gift for my dad. He’s a sentimental kind of guy, so I just know he’s going to be so in love with a handmade sweater. I can’t wait to give it to him!

The big photo shows the back of Munchkin’s sweater, which I just recently finished (this sweater is knit in four pieces – back, front, and two sleeves – then sewn together with yarn). It also shows what I’ve got on my dad’s so far, which is still in the gauge swatch stage, so not very exciting 😉 The color is much nicer than what I was able to capture in the photograph.

So that’s what I’m up to in my free time this month.

Blessings,

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My Experience as a New Knitter (Part 2)

I’m going to pick up pretty much exactly where the first half of my story left off. Find that first part here.

When I couldn’t move any further on the baby cardigan, I bought some 100% wool yarn and knitted a cloth diaper cover for the baby. I’d read a lot about how wool is waterproof like the artificial fabrics, but because it’s natural it allows baby’s skin to breathe better. Since Dragonfly has shown himself to be prone to diaper rash during the past couple of weeks, that seemed like a good thing to me. The diaper cover was a fairly easy knit, although I did find myself on Google a couple of times because I didn’t know what some of the abbreviations – and stitches associated with those abbreviations – were. Once I learned what they meant, they weren’t that difficult to implement. The diaper cover turned out quite well, and even though it looks kind of loose around his legs, it holds leaks in just fine over the top of his flat diapers. I still have some of that wool yarn left, so I plan to make another cover sometime soon.

knittingAfter the diaper cover, my next project was a sweater for Small Fry. Remember, though, that I’d gotten stuck on the sleeves for the baby sweater… So I opted for a sweater-vest style this time, so I could have success without worrying about sleeves. That method worked like a charm. I was able to follow the pattern easily, but like the diaper cover there were a few methods I had to learn from YouTube videos. That’s not a problem, though. I’m glad to live during a time period when that’s an option!

KIMG0336After following the pattern exactly, including the needle size called for, I realized that my sweater was turning out much too small; there was no way it was going to fit him. (It should have been 13 inches across, for a total of 26 inches around. Mine was only 9 inches across.) Fortunately, I noticed this when I was only about a quarter of the way done. It was at that point that I understood that “gauge” (knitting talk for “stitches per inch”) really matters a lot when you’re creating a garment. I never bothered with gauge swatches in crochet, but I usually just made hats and blankets so it didn’t matter that much. (Technically, it did matter with hats; I was just fortunate enough to have a similar gauge to the designer whose hats I crocheted.) What I’ve learned with knitting is that I tend to have a tighter gauge than most patterns call for. This just means that I need to use larger knitting needles than what’s usually recommended.

After learning about gauge, and practicing knitting a little less tightly (it’s okay to be a tight knitter, but not too tight, which is where I was before), I was still having trouble getting the proper gauge for the pattern, so I went into the yarn store with the intention of purchasing a new set of needles in a size between the two I already own. I showed them my swatch and explained that I thought I needed a new set of needles. The employee took one look at my knitting at diagnosed me with having created “twisted stitches.” Turns out I was making the purl stitches backwards, which was having an ill effect on my gauge. She showed me how to do it correctly and suggested I try a new swatch using proper stitches before I purchased new needles. (I love that she was so honest and didn’t try to sell me something she didn’t think I needed!) I took her advice and came home to create a new sample. My knitting was still tighter than the pattern called for, but not nearly as tight as it had been before. So I swapped up to my larger needles (which were 2 sizes bigger than those the pattern called for) and continued to knit some practice fabric. After a few rows, I measured again, and I got the proper gauge. I was super excited, and immediately freed the swatch from my needles so I could start the real project. About two weeks after that, Small Fry had a sweater vest to wear 🙂

Back to the baby sweater and why it will never get sleeves. Remember when I was talking about having created my stitches backwards, causing them to twist? Well, that entire sweater (the part I’d finished) was made with those twisted stitches. I didn’t think it was a good idea to continue creating that particular sweater since I’d since learned the proper way to purl, so I “frogged” it. (That’s another knitting term that means “to undo.” It gets its name from the sound a frog makes – “ribbit.” What do you do when you’re undoing knitting? “Rip-it, rip-it.” Heehee.) I’ll reuse most of that yarn into another pattern for baby Dragonfly, though, so nothing got wasted but my time. And that wasn’t really a waste since I was learning the whole time.

So that’s where I am now. I’ve learned a lot since that initial knitting class on Valentine’s Day, and I’ve had a lot of success and nearly as much failure. But the failure is all about learning, so I don’t see it as a true failure. And that’s a good thing.

Blessings,

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My Experience as a New Knitter (Part 1)

I recently talked about why I decided to no longer continue sewing recreationally. It was a decision that I didn’t make lightly, and one that I haven’t regretted even once since I made it. Instead, I’ve focused on yarn-based crafts. For a while, I just crocheted (because that’s what I knew). Then in February, Will bought me entrance to a knitting class taught through one of the local yarn stores as a Valentine’s Day gift. The price of admission was the purchase of knitting needles and yarn from the store (if we’d purchased those items elsewhere, there would have been a $20 charge).

knittingDuring the class, I felt quite overwhelmed. I think that’s probably normal when learning a new skill. When I got home, I was determined to continue learning in order to not forget the new skill. It was frustrating, and there were a few tears as I couldn’t figure it out once I was away from my teacher. But again, I was determined. I found some videos online that helped me fill in the gaps that I’d forgotten on the drive home. By the end of the first week, I was doing much better – mostly. I had the feel of the yarn and the needles down, but I was inadvertently adding stitches as I was knitting. I couldn’t figure it out. Some more online research told me that this was a normal problem with new knitters, and it happens because you’ll often pull the yarn over your working needle instead of between the two needles. Once I learned what the problem was, I’ve been very conscientious about it, and have only made that mistake one time since.

Part of why I wanted to learn to knit was to be able to make useful things other than hats and blankets. I’m quite accomplished at crocheting those things, but I wanted to take yarn crafting to another level – especially since I was giving up sewing and quilting. For this reason, once I’d spent a week or so knitting “nothing” (sample swatches to get the feel of the movements down), I moved straight into more complicated things… specifically a baby sweater for Dragonfly. Turns out that was a bit too ambitious, thanks to the sleeves. It’s been about six weeks and I still haven’t gotten sleeves on that particular project (and won’t ever – more on that in a minute). But that’s okay because it did something else, even though it didn’t fulfill its “usefulness”: it gave me confidence. I learned a new style of stitch (in knitting, there are only two stitches, but depending on how you combine them, you get different fabrics), and I created something big.

This post has already gotten a bit longer than I expected it to, so I’m going to wrap it up for now and continue documenting my experience next time.

Blessings,

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Picture of the Week: Freshly Knitted Booties

baby bootiesFor my first knitting project (not counting practice swatches), I decided to make Dragonfly a pair of baby booties. The first pattern I tried worked out really well – the booties were super cute – but ended up being a bit too small for him, despite me having made the 6 month size. So I found another one to try, and they seem to fit better 🙂 I gained enough confidence in having successfully completed two pairs of booties that I’m trying my hand at a baby cardigan now. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Blessings,

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