Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Chevron Bib Recipe (and Tips)

I knit this chevron bib during the recent Ravellenics Games. I didn't have time then to write up a pattern (or in this case, more of a recipe), but have taken the time to do so now.

I still enjoy seeing chevrons, zig zags and jagged stripes on all articles of clothing and it occurred to me that babies should not be left out.

On top of that, the shape lent itself very well to the function of the bib. The concave part of the chevron nicely fits around the neck and the angle means there is no additional shaping needed for the straps to conveniently meet at the back.

Recently I knit up a new version, which turned out very nicely:
Although I picked these colours just
because I liked them, some friends and I
had some fun thinking of who would like
the combination: Griffyndor fans, of course.
And my alma mater, Calvin College.
But don't you dare say USC!!
For both bibs, I used cotton I had raveled from second hand sweaters, but of course you can use any cotton you like. I think the popular dishcloth cotton would work particularly well. 50 grams total should complete your project. (Obviously your stripe pattern and colour placement will determine how much of each colour you will need.)

I worked with 4mm needles (US 6), but use what you need to get a firm fabric.

Pattern Recipe
Cast on 61 sts.
S1, knit remaining stitches
S1, Kfb, K26, K2tog, (place marker if desired,) K1, SSK, K26, Kfb, K1

Repeat last two rows, changing colours as desired for stripes. (See notes below.)

When piece is 7” point to point, begin straps: Knit 11, cast off to last 11 sts, K11. (See tutorial below.)
Work garter stitch strap on one side until it is 4” long. (Continue to slip the first stitch to maintain the selvage edge.) Cast off.
Rejoin yarn and make second strap to match. When you have 2 or 3 rows to go, make a buttonhole on a row that starts on the neck edge by S1, K1, YO, K2tog, K7.
Work 2 or 3 more rows as needed.
Cast off.

Slip stitches: All slip stitches are done purlwise. This is the default unless a pattern states otherwise.

When changing colours, I find the colour transition looks better if you knit to the last stitch of the row with the old colour and then knit the last stitch with the new colour. (Details: With one stitch left on the row, move the working strand to the front (between the needles). Carry the new colour to the back of the work and knit the last stitch. You are now ready to knit the next row in the new colour. (Slip first stitch, etc.))

As you work wider stripes, be sure to carry the colour you are not using up the back of the work so there will not be long loops. I found it easiest to twist the working yarn around the non-working yarn between the first and second stitches at the beginning of the row. (And in this case you are only wrapping the non-working yarn on every other row.)

I like to make my straps two-at-a-time by using both ends of the ball, but you can do them one at a time too, if you prefer.

If you don’t want to use a button, then skip the buttonhole and crochet a chain from the last stitch left at the end of the cast off row to make ties. In this case, make sure to start the cast off row on the outside edge (not the neck edge) of the strap.

Tip for avoiding that dreadful gap between the strap and neckline.
I don't know about you, but when I cast off stitches in the middle of a row for a neckline, I always end up with an ugly gap where I start the cast off. Sometimes I can sew it shut while working in the ends, but it never looks good. While working on these bibs, I discovered ("unvented" more likely) a way to solve the problem. It only takes one extra step and then you're done!

Follow the directions under each picture:
Here I have knit the 11 stitches for the right strap and
am ready to start casting off the middle stitches.
Insert the left needle between the last two stitches on the
right needle. You are going to "knit" a stitch between
those two stitches, by wrapping the yarn around the
left needle (as shown above)...
...and then pulling the yarn between the stitches with your
left needle to form a new stitch on your left needle.
Pull on this new stitch until it is large enough to put over
the tip of the right needle. Remove the left needle and pull
on the yarn so the stitch is snug (but not tight).
Here you have the new stitch (pink arrow) next to the last
stitch of the strap (orange arrow). You are now ready to
start casting off.
Knit the next stitch on the left needle like normal. This will
be the first stitch to be cast off. (The pink and orange arrows
are repeated to give context.)
Now pass the stitch marked by the pink arrow over the
stitch you just knit. This will anchor the cast off stitches to
the strap. Now continue to cast off normally--knit 1, pass
last stitch over, etc.
After you have cast off the rest of the stitches, you can
see that they are nicely anchored to the strap stitches.
The small gap between the last stitch of the strap and the
rest will disappear once you begin knitting the strap.
Hope that helps!

Please post comments or send pictures if you make any bibs using this recipe. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Skirting my Baggage (Part the Last)

It didn't take much once I sat down to do it, but I recently finished my "skirt purse"!

I made the band a while ago and purchased some hardware, but it took me a while to decide to sit down and put it together. (The need wasn't quite so pressing since I had a strap that was working.)

When I took a look at the strap again and was thinking of how to attach it to the purse and put the sliding buckle on, I just couldn't bear to cut the nice twisty tassels on the ends.

So I kept it simple and just sewed the strap directly onto the purse--no sliding buckle, no adjustability.
I could have gotten the sewing machine out, but, honestly, I didn't feel like taking the care to work around the zipper on the one side. So I hand stitched it in place. And look at those twisty dreads!
If one day they get too messy or I tire of them as they are, I can always twist them more formally and knot the ends.

I don't think I showed you the magnetic closure I inserted to keep the purse closed:
I put one part on the tag because the facing was sewn down and I couldn't access the reverse side to attach the magnet. (I didn't want to bother to undo any stitches!)

The strap came out shorter than what I was hoping for, but it ended up being just right length when attached this way.
And here's another before and after for you: :)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Little Sister's Dress

I finished another project!
Isn't this the cutest little dress ever!!
It's knit top-down and starts with some alternating bands of stocking stitch and reverse stocking stitch.
The simple stocking stitch skirt was just begging for a little embellishing.
I free-handed a flower and stem on there.
I tried to do a chain stitch with a crochet hook, but it was nearly impossible. Especially since I was using raveled yarn and it was very splitty. After a few tries, it finally occurred to me that I didn't have to do it with a crochet hook. I found my blunt needle and did an embroidered chain stitch. This was definitely one case where a twisted yarn would have been much better. Not just for ease of working with it, but it would have looked better too. Now I know.

When I crocheted around the top opening, I added a little loop for a button and the last thing I did was sew on a little button:
When I sewed it on, I anchored it with a button on the back. I chose a nice smooth one so it wouldn't be scratchy or pokey. It serves as a cushion for the shaft from the top button so it won't poke either.
I followed the directions for the 6 month size but with this yarn and gauge, it came out closer to the 18 month size. But the versatility of this design means it can be worn as a dress as soon as it fits, then worn as a tunic and then a shirt as baby grows taller. As long as the neck fits, it should be good.

One more look? Sure...
Project Stats
: 15 Feb '14
Finished: 3 Mar '14
Pattern: Little sister's dress (Kjole til lillesøster) by Tora Frøseth Design
Materials: 73 grams cotton (~DK weight) from a Jeanne Pierre sweater ($5.00) and a little bit of mustard-coloured raveled cotton

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Silk Stripes Pullover

I have to admit I finished my silk stripes sweater many months ago and have worn it a number of times. (I was really enjoying it but when the cold weather came, I was forced to put it away as I reached for more bulky and less open-necked, short sleeved sweaters.)

But it has been on my mind. This past weekend I decided the cold wasn't going to boss me around and wore it and managed to take some pictures!

I think last time I talked about this sweater I was finishing up the sleeves. One thing I wanted to make sure to do was treat the stripes so they wouldn't "jog" at the seam. If you're not sure what I mean, check out this great tutorial from the TECHknitting blog on how to avoid the jog.

I think I did pretty well. Here is one of the sleeves:
I had a little problem with the last two blue stripes. Here, I'll circle the worst spot:
The green line follows the "seam" or join where one
round ends and the next begins.
I think I just plain forgot to slip the stitch I was supposed to slip there in the red circle. I have no idea what's going on in the strip to the left, but the other ones all look pretty good. Since this is the sleeve seam and not under scrutiny too often, I'm not going to let those little things bother me. But it's always good to practise good technique where you can.

After finishing the sleeves, I moved on to the bottom edge. I was excited to get to one of the final stages. The pattern calls for a garter band (same as the sleeve hems and neckband), but I decided to keep the profile flat and smooth and went with a folded hem instead:
I am happy with how it turned out. I did a three-needle bind off to hem it up instead of my usual Kitchener stitch so the seam is a little more obvious. But I don't think you notice it when I'm wearing it. Or if you do, it just looks like a hem...which is what it is so no harm there.

Then it was time to seam it together. I know. I should have seamed it and then done the bottom hem. But I was so excited to get there, I did it in the wrong order. So I seamed the hem too. No biggie.

Here is the seam that I got rid of by knitting the front and back as one piece (although not in the round):
If you look carefully, you should see that the blocks of colour are not exactly off-set. One row of blue goes all the way across from one side of the pattern to the other. And one row of wheat colour, the same thing. This is a result of the clever way the designer handled the colour changes.

So my decision was: Do I seam up the other side the same way, or do I make the blocks quote-unquote perfect and off-set them? I decided to make them match the other seam. I liked that the colours "bled" across the vertical line. Let me tell you, though: it was hard. I had to undo several sections I had sewn because my fingers kept wanting to match the stripes!

Although I think the seam came out pretty well, I'm glad I was able to get rid of the second one. Naturally, I made sure this was on the back.

Then I had to seam the partial seam on the front. Because I started the pattern as written--working the back and front separately--and didn't work them as one until the underarms, I had a seam to sew on the front from the underarm up to the neck.
Can you spot it?

How about if I point it out?
It definitely would have been smoother and prettier if I knit it together instead of stitching it, but it's not too bad. (I was more worried because I forgot to decrease the two seam stitches when I started knitting across and thought it might pucker or pleat where I started the seam. But it came out alright.)

Once all the seams were done, I could do the narrow garter stitch neckband.
It's a very wide neck opening but not so wide it falls off my shoulders. I don't know if I mentioned it before, but I made sure to use the elastic strand that was with the teal yarn when I did the hems and neckband to make sure they had extra support.

The front and back are identical in the pattern.
The only change I made was to move the waist and hip shaping. On the back I left it at the princess seams (where the colours change) so the garment could make room for my butt. On the front I don't like the shaping to be there so I moved some of them to the side seams. (I think I alternated each set of increases between the princess seam and the side seam.)
Over all I'm very pleased with how it came out. I love the way the two yarns work together. They both were lovely but needed help. The teal was too overwhelming on its own and the wheat was too washed out.

Project Stats
: 14 Sep '13
Finished: 24 Nov '13
Pattern: Albers Pullover by Julia Farwell-Clay
Materials: 175 grams silk (~DK weight) from an Ann Taylor cardigan ($2.50) and 194 grams silk/rayon (~DK weight) from a Liz Claiborne monstrousity ($2.50)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Anniversary Socks (For Reals This Time)

It has been a long time coming, but Troy finally has his "anniversary socks." (Now that we are approaching one year from when I started the first ones, it is about time!!)

I started these socks for something to do when we went to a Notre Dame football game last fall. When they came out a little big for me and Troy's original anniversary socks came out a little small for him, these became Troy's socks.

I mentioned they did quite a bit of traveling with me. After the football games, they went to a taping of Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me in Elkhart and a day trip to Chicago. They also went to Missouri and then to Ontario over Christmas. And finally they were complete in mid-January.

And then they sat around waiting for me to take pictures so Troy could start wearing them. Which we finally did this past weekend.

They started with short-row toes:
Troy astutely noticed that they are not quite the same. After doing the first one, I acted on the nagging feeling that I was doing my short rows wrong. I tracked down the tutorial I followed when I first started this method and sure enough I was! So the second sock looks a little better. The turn on the short row is just a little bit smoother.

He also noticed there is a sharp colour break on the left sock, about half way up the foot. Yup, that was a knot. Very annoying in a self-striping yarn, but what can you do? Troy said it reminds him of the aurora borealis so I don't think he minds. :)

Next up to the gusset and short-row heel. I think this is also before I reexamined the short row tutorial.
I did the heel over a massive number of stitches to really make sure it would not be too tight!! To make sure it didn't get too long, I started turning the short rows with two and three stitches left unknit. It seemed to work pretty well.

The "faux argyle" pattern then was continued all around the leg.
And the sock ends with a good stretch of 1x1 rib and my favourite Kitchener bind off.
You can see I used a different yarn. For one thing, there wasn't enough of the main yarn to make the socks long enough. For another I think this wool left over from the original anniversary socks is sturdier and will hold the shape of the ribbing better. The colour matches pretty well so I went with it.

They are a little wild, but mostly muted blues and brown. (Just a little purple.)
Troy says they are not too flashy for him, and I think they look nice.

I can't say too much about the pattern itself. I did get the design from the pattern, but I did my own toe, heel, gusset, changed them to toe-up, etc, etc. The faux argyle pattern is made with twisted stitches (or two-stitch cables). The only "hard" part is that they're done on every row so there are no "resting rows" where you can just knit mindlessly. (A key thing to keep in mind if you, say, bring them to a taping of a radio show and you are sitting in the back row of the balcony and it is rather dark. Just for instance.) On the other hand, this means you can't mix up what row you need to cable on--you have to be doing it all the time, every row.

Project Stats
: 2 Nov '13
Finished: 12 Jan '14
Pattern: Business Casual by Tanis Lavallee
Materials: Crystal Palace Yarns Mini Mochi, color 118 Blueberry Pancakes (100 g, $18.40) with a little Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine (colour 1292) for ribbing

Sunday, March 2, 2014

If at First You Don't Succeed, Dye, Dye Again

I interrupt this parade of finished objects to share some yarn I dyed and am really chuffed about. For those of you that don't read my posts, but only skim, I will make it easy for you. I went from this:
to this:

Ok, for those of you who are still reading, here is the long and winding road...I started with an alpaca/wool blend that I bought at a church Christmas bazaar last year. It's from a local alpaca farm and I thought it would be nice. (The yarn was only about $1 cheaper than buying socks made from the same stuff (but thinner), but I like to knit so there you go.)

It's not dyed at all and I like the idea of working with a yarn that is the natural colour of the wool. You may recall I knit a sweater for Troy from the Rowan Purelife British Sheep Breeds in one of their undyed colours. But I may be doing some traveling in the next couple months and I started to think of what projects I could bring along. (Always my first question.) Socks are always a good travel project, but I just couldn't stand the idea of knitting with this "boring" colour. Showing the project to people who ask what I'm making and having them say, "huh" or some other less than enthusiastic remark. I mean, if you're going to be knitting, it's nice if it's something you can talk about. So I decided to dye it.

I wanted multicolours, and ideally something that gradually gradated from one colour to another. So I tried something I had read about. I re-balled the yarn by hand:
The idea would be to drop it in some dye which would dye the outside of the ball and make its way into the ball, but not all the way to the centre. Then roll the yarn up in the opposite direction and drop it into a different colour of dye. Hopefully you would get one colour on one end gradually changing to another colour at the other end.

Also note...when I made the ball of wool, I grabbed both ends of the cake and wrapped it doubled. This means I will have two identical strands of wool and my socks will match.

Ok, first thing to do to the wool to dye it is to soak it so the fibres will be ready to receive dye. I dropped the ball into a pot of water,
and it floated. It would not stay down, but I figured once it was wet and all the air was out of the middle, it would stay under water. So I sat another pot on top of it:
That worked ok, but it was still about an hour before the ball was saturated. [That could have been my first clue of what was to come.] Then I added the dye and heated it up. I let the dye exhaust and then was curious to see what I had. But I had to wait for it to cool down. And wait. And wait. When I couldn't wait any more, I dropped the ball into the sink and started to undo the ball and make a new ball. I didn't get very far when I started to see this:
The dye didn't penetrate past the first few layers. The top layers acted like a resist and prevented the dye from getting in. Boo! I ended up wrapping the yarn on my niddy noddy to make a skein again and hung it to dry.
It was not pretty.
Well, the red/orange colour was pretty, but the skein was not.

That was about two weeks ago. Although I was a little sad the method didn't work, I was not overly upset. It would be easy to overdye the splotchy red parts and dye the rest to salvage the yarn. After a little further reading, I have learned that even when the method works, you don't get the result I was hoping for. You tend to get a solid on one end, then a splotchy mix of the two colours, and then the second colour at the other end. The two colours don't actually blend very much. And of course, it's hard to get the dye in there.

So yesterday I moved on to method two. I gave up on the idea of a gentle gradation and decided I would be happy with several colours. I split the skein into several sections (making sure they were actual serial sections, not just random clumps) and got them soaking in some canning jars.
I made sure the red stayed together even though that was a larger section than the others.

I then started mixing some KoolAid:
Blue, Orange, Red and...well the last one was a mistake. In addition to the blue and orange, I was intending to make a jar of red mixed with orange and a jar of red mixed with blue. But when I poured some of the red into the fourth jar with the other powder in it, it turned a horrible brown. What I figured out after the fact is that I must have poured both the orange and the blue powder into that fourth jar and then added the red. I should have added just one of the colours.

Fortunately I had lots of KoolAid, so I just mixed up a fourth jar and got the colours I wanted. But then my brain started working on a new idea...

I recently joined the "What a Kool Way to Dye" group on Ravelry and feel like I have entered a whole new world. These people talk about KoolAid colours like...well, I don't know what like. But they are obsessive about them. What flavours make exactly what shade of red or green or blue. How to get the perfect purple. They trade them and hoard them and celebrate the limited edition flavours. (Did you know there was an "Invisible" flavour of KoolAid? What the hell colour would that be???) And getting back to relevant issues, the board exploded recently because some of them had found "GhoulAid" (a limited edition Scary Blackberry flavour) at Big Lots. It's not a very attractive colour--usually coming out grey or bluish or purplish--but it is coveted for its ability to "tone down" the KoolAid colours so that they're not so vibrant and/or clownish and to add dimension to the colours. Looking at my ugly brown, I realized that I had made my own version of GhoulAid. ||end Flashback||

...and I added from four to ten tablespoons of that ugly brown to the other colours to change their tone:
It worked perfectly!

The next issue was heating the jars. My mind had been working on complicated ways to do this on our oil stove or in the oven or even in the microwave, but when I decided to dye the different sections in canning jars, I realized I already had the perfect way to heat them--my pressure canner:
(I know this seems really, really obvious. But you saw the jars first. I had been thinking of a lot of other ways I could have applied the dye to the yarn.) Anyway, once the wool had soaked for a good 20 minutes and I had the dye colours I wanted, I dumped the water out of the canning jars with wool in them, put them in the pressure canner, poured in the dye and filled the pot up with water.

Then I let it heat up. The red colours take up very quickly. The blue takes a lot longer.
I think you can see in the picture above that the liquid in the blue jar is still very blue while the other jars have pretty clear liquid. When it looked like the yarn was pretty much saturated with the blue dye, I turned off the heat even though the water wasn't clear. I've since read that blue can take a long time, so it's better to just leave it overnight. While the yarn is cooling, it will usually take up more of the dye. But I was (a little) impatient and when the yarn was cool enough to handle, I dumped it into the sink:
Once the water was squeezed out of them, I hung them to dry:
Aren't those some pretty colours!!

Once dry, I put it on my swift,
and wound this puppy up:
Et voila! A lovely ball of yarn just waiting for my big trip.
It's still wound with a double strand and I plan to knit socks two-at-a-time straight from this cake.

Now when people ask about my knitting, I feel like I will have something to talk about. "Aren't those colours pretty?" Yes, yes they are.

Details for those who dye:
1. The red was a 1/2 pack of Black Cherry with a pack of Orange with just a couple tablespoons of the brown mix. (This was added to the section previously dyed red.)
2. The orange was two packs of Orange plus 10 tablespoon of brown.
3. The purple was a pack of Grape and a pack of Black Cherry plus a couple tablespoons of brown.
4. The blue was a pack of Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade with a pack of Mixed Berry and about half a dozen tablespoons of brown.
I believe the brown was a 1/2 pack of Black Cherry, a pack of IBRL and a pack of Orange.
The ball is 100 grams, so that's about one pack per 12.5 grams.

PS: Want something to drink with that?
When I mixed up the KoolAid colours I forgot to take into account how much volume the wool itself takes up in the canning jar. So when I poured in the dye, I had left over KoolAid mix. At first I was figuring I would dump it all out and was thinking "Oh well, it's not that expensive" when it occurred to me if I could do the math, I could just add the right amount of water and sugar and drink it! So that's what I did and now we have a rainbow of canning jars with KoolAid to drink in the fridge!! (I did dump the brown KoolAid. No thanks.)

May I suggest?

I Say! or at least I did once...