Thursday, December 31, 2009

Review of a Crafty 2009

The end of the year is as good as time as any to look back and see what you've accomplished. I've got a lot of pictures and not much text for you today. (Because let's just say it out loud, I was verbose enough about these projects while I was making them!)

First up: a series of necklaces made with beads from a necklace my father wore:

Next, I've made a lot of sweaters/shirts for myself...

The Sahara by Wendy Bernard:

The Pencil Sketch Camisole by Iris G:

The Deep V Argyle Vest by Eunny Jang:
The Pioneer by kBomb (a Red Purl summer knit-along):

The February Fitted Pullover by Amy Herzog:

Next are a couple projects I started years ago and finally finished this year. (Yeah!)

A baby cardigan by Michele Rose Orne from Vogue Knitting Spring/Summer 2007:

and the Mariah by Jodi Green:

I crocheted a couple of plarn bags, but it was new to add embellishments and purchased handles:

I made a lot of slippers for family Christmas presents this year:
The project also turned into a popular class at Red Purl.

I also started to get into socks this year and made a few:

Finished my Hawaiian Star quilt top:
I got to take it to my first quilt show (the AQS show in Des Moines) and get some advice from Helen Squire on how to quilt it.

And the last big project finished would be the Red Purl knit-along afghan:
Phew!! That's a lot of knitting in a year!

See you next year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Vinterblomster Mittens

Just in time, I have finished the Vinterblomster mittens! (Spoiler alert is off--if you haven't received them yet, then sorry but you're not getting them.)

I had a stage I went through when I made a lot of gloves, but I don't think I've ever really done mittens. I've found this flat style with a peasant thumb very appealing. And Heidi's bloom pattern is very pretty--hard to resist!

I had the pleasure of giving them to my sister on Saturday. We happened to pick each other's names in the family so it was fun to exchange gifts with each other. (We're both stuck in the same part of the country while the rest of the family is back home in Canada.)

The knitting was done on Thursday (the 24th), so I pushed myself to block them that night.
Setting them up by the heater again, they were dry by morning.
And now that you've seen the "good" sides (top and bottom), I'll show you the inside:
The first thing any self-respecting knitter does to something they admire is to turn it inside out! (It's really funny to see, but it's true.) All the yarn carried across the back helps to make the glove thicker and warmer. There were six stitches in between the vertical stripes which is too far to carry the yarn over. Especially inside a glove where fingers and rings may get caught on long loops. So I had to catch the non-working yarn in between the stripes. I just alternated between doing it after 2, 3, and 4 stitches. (You don't want to do it at the same point on every row or it will show through to the front.)

The pattern was good and charts clear, but I did have one issue with it. There was a leaf left hanging when you pick up the thumb according to the charts.
Project Stats
Started
: 28 Nov 09
Finished: 24 Dec 09
Pattern: Vinterblomster Mittens by Heidi Mork (free)
Materials: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock, 1 skein each 36nsChocolate ($11) and 630Bittersweet ($11.50)
You can see the half leaf in the yellow circle. On the same thumb, you'll notice the pattern of the leaves (alternating from side to side) is interrupted as well. On the other thumb (pictured on right), I fixed both issues. Removed the half leaf and reversed the chart so that the leaf pattern continues smoothly from the back of the thumb onto the body of the mitten. (It wasn't quite worth it to me to go back and fix the first thumb after I noticed the problem.)

I also wanted to show off the outline stitching:
The contrast yarn makes a pretty edge, almost like piping. I'm showing it off because it took some work and care to make it come out right. It flows from the body right onto the thumb, just like it should. Clever designer, that Heidi Mork.

One last look...
Now wave bye-bye because they're off to their new owner and you may never see them again.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

One More Remembrance Necklace

I've added one more to the set of remembrance necklaces I made with beads from my dad's hematite necklace. (Details of the others and the story behind the beads here.)

You see, Dad had a niece named after him: Henriette. And although all his nieces were special to him, he indulged himself to spoil her a little more than the others. (He figured that was his job as her namesake!) It didn't hurt that her birthday (today) was only 6 days after his own. He always made sure to visit or at least send a gift if he couldn't see her.

I don't remember if one of my sisters suggested it, or if I thought of it on my own but I thought giving her a necklace along the lines of the ones I made for my sisters would be very nice. She's having a "big" birthday this year too, turning 20.

I'm not quite as familiar with what colours Henriette wears so I went with some pretty neutral beads. Strung some nice chunky ones up front using black tube beads to form the pendant hanger. And then lots of soft tumbled rocks for the back half:
I finished it off with a nice easy toggle clasp.

I hope she likes it!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas Wreath

How can this wreath be anything but merry? Just a little project I put together this year.

If you want your own, take a wire coat hanger and bend it into a circle shape. Take a few packages of Christmas balls (I used five*) and attach them to the hanger. I took the top off the ball, looped the wire around the hanger and then put the ball back together. A little fiddly but very simple.
Project Stats
Total time: about 1 hour
Materials: about 50 Christmas balls (under $10) and a wire coat hanger

Gravity pulls the balls to the bottom so it's not exactly symmetric, but if you want yours to be perfect you may be able to fiddle with it. I let my balls fall where they may, so to speak. Or you could do what my mother-in-law suggests and just add a bow to the top. Voila!

And if you every grow tired of your super-shiny Christmas wreath, you can just remove the balls and reuse them for some other project.

Hope you're enjoying your day...I have a few hours of knitting in front of me!

________________________
*I started with two packages of a dozen balls I had got on clearance last year. When that wasn't enough I went out and bought three new packages. (Yes, I paid full price--$2.50--on Christmas eve because I couldn't wait!) The new packages cleverly put the balls in diagonal rows (instead of a 4x3 grid) so you wouldn't notice that the packages now hold 10 balls instead of 12!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Afterthoughts in Knitting

Again, the spoiler alert is just for my sisters. (I think at least one of them is still honouring them!)

I wanted to give you an update on the mittens I'm working on. I have finished the first one, and am well on my way for the second. It's been a bit of a slog, I must say. I haven't had "second sock syndrome" hit me before, but I think "second mitten syndrome" is trying to take root. I am fighting hard.

I'm getting concerned about finishing on time, but I did buy myself a little more time by arranging the gift exchange for Boxing Day (December 26). I'm not working the 24th or 25th so they are my emergency knitting days if I really need them. But meanwhile, I try to keep working on them to minimize the last minute panic. (And I do have to give time to block them.)

I have two things to share about the mittens today: the first is finishing the top point and the second is preparing for afterthought thumbs (and heels, in socks).

The directions call for you to decrease to eight stitches and then just pull the working yarn through the stitches. This would be how you'd normally finish a round piece like the top of a hat or fingertips on a glove. But these mittens aren't round. They come to a flat point.

So what I did instead was to work to four stitches. That left a coloured edge stitch from each side and a brown stitch from the center of both the back and the front.

After cutting the working yarn (leaving about 5 inches), I pulled the brown yarn through first one brown stitch and then the other, and pulled snug.

And then did the same thing with the coloured yarn:
Now the mittens come to a definite point and the coloured edging travels continuously around the edge of the mitten. Much better, no?

The second topic concerns afterthoughts. I first read about them in Elizabeth Zimmermann's book, The Opinionated Knitter. She suggested it as a method to add pockets to a sweater. (Remember when sweaters had pockets?) It's kind of handy to not have to decide exactly where the pocket is going to go until the garment is done. She suggests snipping one thread in the knitting and pulling out stitches in both directions. As you pull the stitches out, you catch live stitches both above and below. This will yield live stitches to work the pocket on. It's really quite ingenious.

With these mittens, the method is adapted for the thumb. It's not exactly "afterthought," however, because you prepare for it by knitting certain stitches at the base of what will be the thumb with a piece of waste yarn:
15 stitches knit in pink waste yarn

Then you slide those stitches from the right needle back to the left needle:
And then knit them again (in pattern) with the working yarn. You end up with the body of the mitten knit according to the pattern, with one extra row knit in the waste yarn:
This waste yarn will be pulled out later and once again live stitches are picked up both above and below. Putting these stitches onto a needle while you unravel the waste yarn gives you the stitches to knit up the thumb (picking up a few in the "corners" to avoid gaps and to give you enough stitches).

This is the first time I've done a thumb this way and I have to say it beats what I used to do--putting stitches onto a holder, casting on stitches to continue working on and then later picking up stitches from the cast on edge.

Funny thing--it's the same method used for the heel on the Outside In socks I'm working on:
I've never done a heel that way either! We'll see how I like it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Red Purl Afghan: More Blocking and Assembly

Let's see...when we last left the afghan, half of it had been blocked and I was soon off to Red Purl to sew the thing together.

I blocked the second half of the squares on Saturday. (Nothing like waiting til the last minute.) To speed up the drying time, I set the blocking board in front of the heating stove in our kitchen. Troy was patient enough to walk around it all day.

But it was worth it (to me) because they were dry...and flat...and straight by Sunday. (Have I said it yet? Blocking's amazing!)

Off I went to Red Purl to join the other KAL-ers. Only the group was pretty thin. I think only one other person was actually seaming things together and even she only two of the three strips done. A couple others were knitting on blocks. And a lot of people were missing...holiday parties and other year end busy-ness I will assume.

We had a fun time, however. I had printed out an 8x10 picture of the layout I liked and followed it to make sure all the blocks ended up in the right place, enduring much ridicule as a much-too-organized person!

But following my pattern, I sewed blocks in pairs along the shorter seams and got all the short seams done that afternoon. Then my time was up and I carefully packed it up to take it home. Carefully because I wanted to make sure not to stretch out the threads which bridged the gap like so:
I didn't want to cut the working thread between blocks so I "chain-stitched" [quilting term] from one pair of blocks to the next.

This was especially effective as I was trying out a crochet seam instead of sewing it with a needle. One big advantage is that I can just work from the ball and don't have to cut lengths of wool--ta da! No ends to work in! Genius!! (I can say that because it's not like I thought this up on my own.)

When at home I finally got to joining the long seams. When I got to the intersections, I just seamed right over the previous stitching. It worked like a charm:

Here's a picture of how the crocheted seam looks:
(The crochet stitching is between the yellow lines.)

It looks like a set of chain stitches zig zagging up the seam. Which, I guess, is was it essentially is. I think the stitches would have been a little smaller and less noticeable if I had used a smaller crochet hook. But I started with that one (5.5mm--same as the knitting needles) and was not about to switch half way through.

And the back?
Well, I think the back is even less obvious than the front. Sometime I'll do this seam from the wrong side and I think it will be virtually invisible. It's also a very flat seam so it does not add a lot of bulk or change the size of the original article. All good things.

But before you think this is the last word on seaming, I should warn you that this method has one thing going against it: it's very slow! Or maybe I just am a slow crocheter?

Eventually, though, I slogged my way through it and got everything put together:
And all in the right position--thanks to my pattern! By the way, I so enjoyed the result so far that I left it displayed on the couch for the last few days and wouldn't let Troy sit on it. He's so tolerant!

Ready for a few details? The crochet seam is very easy to do. The short version is that you crochet the two sides together by slip stitching back and forth from one side to the other.

Want more details? Insert crochet hook through one loop of selvage stitch of left side. Wrap yarn around hook.

Pull yarn through all loops.

Insert crochet hook through one loop of selvage stitch of right side. Wrap yarn around hook.

Pull yarn through all loops.
And repeat ad nauseum. But remember...no ends to work in. That part is great. Plus I think it looks pretty good. This method was also made easier because the way I put the border on all the blocks ensured that each edge had the same number of stitches.

Alright, so this is the end of the Red Purl 2009 Afghan Block of the Month Knit-Along. Mine is not quite finished since I plan to do an edging around the outside. (I know, I know--I just don't know when to quit!) But I think I'll keep that under wraps until it's all done.

One last look will have to hold you until then:
It's so soft, snugly, and warmer than you would believe. Mmmm...cozy too.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Overcommitted Much?

To be clear, the spoiler alert is specifically for my sisters and children of my sisters. And again, if you don't mind knowing ahead of time and can carry that knowledge guilt-free then I'm not going to get my panties in a knot over whether you know.

Christmas is almost here, after all!

To start at the beginning, I have to say that my grandmother (whom we all called "Oma"--that's Dutch) knit a lot and one of the patterns she was known for was a particular slipper pattern. It wasn't the only one she did, but she did it often and not many other people did.

The slipper was different in that it was knit flat as a series of different coloured squares and then "magically" seamed together to make a sort of harlequin or elvish slipper. You could make it from just two colours or use a different colour for each square. (A good way for my thrifty grandmother to use up all those scraps!)

The problem with the pattern is that no one in my immediate family thought to learn how to do it from Oma before she passed on. I heard that a cousin had the directions, but they said they had put it in a time capsule and it wouldn't be opened for at least a decade!

So I searched Ravelry with no results. I let it go for a while. Then searched again. This time I found the exact thing I was looking for...but the pattern was in Finnish! I applied an online translator which helped a little, but it really didn't know how to deal with the knitting terms. But the key was that the pattern had a chart which mapped out the seaming. Perfect, that's all I really needed!

I wrote up my own version of the pattern with some modifications on how it was knit up (especially to get rid of some of the ends which need to be worked in--yuck!) and used it for the class I taught at Red Purl over the fall.

But I also had another project going on which was mentioned in the blog as my "Christmas Surprise." I had the idea to knit a pair of slippers for every member of my family. I started back in May...surely I would have time!

Surely not, actually. I worked on the slippers pretty diligently in between other projects. They were ideal travel projects because they were small and I had the pattern memorized. But knitting up 21 slippers (yes, 21!) still takes a lot of time.

And a lot of wool, I realized. (I kind of dove into the project without considering all the little details like how much wool it would take and what the cost would be.) I had decided to use Lorna's Laces Shepherd because it's washable and feels great. I got the first few skeins cheap at the Lorna's Laces tour I took and some on sale at Red Purl. But when I considered the fact that an adult pair of slippers pretty much used up two full skeins, I realized I was beat. (We pick names in our family with a supposed limit of $20; if you get gifts for anyone else, they're expected to be less than that.)

But by that time, I had quite a number of them done:
So instead of going crazy trying to finish what I started, I changed the plan. I would knit just for the younger children in my family. That would only be six pairs of slippers, and a lot of them were already done.

Or so I thought. When I had a chance to measure my one niece's foot and then finally broke down and asked their moms what size shoe they all wore, I realized all my sizes were running small. I would have to knit a couple more pair, and they would have to be the larger ones. A pair of baby slippers I could do in an evening if I really kept at it, but it would take a lot more time for the older ones. And I've got other things to make!

Then a new lifeline appeared: my one sister's family was not going home to Mom's--her kids wouldn't be there for gift giving. And those were the bigger ones. Guess what...we're back on track. So although I started with grand plans, the end result was much more modest:
I have packaged up and am almost ready to mail four pair of kid's slippers and one adult pair for my mom.

I have found homes for almost all of the slippers I had made, mostly gifting them to the other side of the family and friends. The smallest pair were perfect to send to my great-nephew who was conveniently born just as I was realizing my sizing wasn't going to work out.

I also rewrote the pattern and printed up an "official" version which I will give to all my sisters. Then they can knit their own "Oma slippers" whenever they want.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Red Purl Afghan: Blocking and Assembly

I finished December's block this week and got the border knit on this morning.

I've also been working on blocking the other squares:
Half of them are done; I was waiting on the rest until I knit December's block so they'll all be done soon. The blocking worked its usual wonders and all the wonkiness has been transformed to straight edges and smooth lines. It's nice to see a nice set of actual squares come out.

To make things easy and consistent, I cut out a 12" square of cardboard to use as a template. I just laid it on the wet square and pinned it so the coloured center just showed around the cardboard. (So the center of the blocks are 12", but the whole block is larger because of the border.) Only the centers needed to be stretched or smoothed out because of the various stitches; the borders were already even.

Anyway, it worked pretty slick and I didn't have to worry about measuring and squaring up each block.

This Sunday we'll be putting them all together. I've been playing around with layouts:
I haven't quite decided yet, but it will have to be soon!

If I have time, I'll get started early because I think it's more seaming than I can do in one afternoon at the Purl. Most people knit the afghan in three strips of four blocks, so they only have to sew two seams. I, of course, didn't.

Now that we're at the end, this has given me a lot more flexibility in how to put it together, but certainly has left me with more work!

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