Thursday, January 29, 2015

Skeleton Key

Sometime in December I noticed that the lanyard my boss was using for his keys was worn so bad that the band was in two pieces. And I thought to myself, "Wouldn't a new band be a nice Christmas present?" Yes, it would.

Or "would have" since I didn't get it done for Christmas. (Or even started, if you have to know the whole truth.)

But his birthday is in January and I thought that was a nice second chance. (It was a "big" birthday after all. One of the ones that end in zero.) I still wasn't very motivated, however. Until his other secretary arranged a surprise party the Friday after his birthday to which she invited all his previous secretaries. It was to be a roast. (It didn't really turn out that way, but it was fun to look forward to.)

When I had just one weekend before the event, my motivation reached the tipping point that I could actually start the project. It's not that I wasn't looking forward to it, but my brain has to work harder at these things and I'm not always up for it.

I had, however, planned ahead enough that I purchased some black and pale silver cotton that I thought would make a nice effect. I also had previously printed a skull design from the internet. So I wasn't completely unprepared.

I knew a skull that looked right on a square grid would be stretched out when I wove it, so I shortened the design before I even started. Then I wove it for the first time. Two things to fix: 1. I got the black and white reversed. 2. The skull was still far too stretched out. So I spent a little time weaving in the afternoon and all evening "unweaving" it. (One of those things that is much slower going backwards. Especially if maybe you got some of the turns mixed up while you were doing it.)

But I persevered and then altered the pattern again until it looked super squat
and tried again. Not too bad this time:
and the reverse:
I did one skull and then put in the words.
I didn't know how long the letters were going to take, so I wanted to make sure that I would fit them in. Happily for me, we are starting to transition from calling ourselves the Niles Haunted House Scream Park to just Niles Scream Park. A lot fewer letters!

Once the letters were done, I filled in the rest of the space with more skulls:
Of course, I turned the pattern upside down so that they would all be right-side up when hanging around the neck.

That is how I gave it to my boss at his very surprising party. (I had to pull him out of a meeting to show him "something he had to look at before I went home." By then it was 5:30 on a Friday--very believable that I wanted to be leaving. When I got him to walk into his office and he saw half a dozen of his former employees plus a few other friends/family members, it is the only time I've ever seen him really at a loss for words. Very satisfying.)

Today I managed to get him to give me his keys. They're his haunted house keys, not his every day keys so I could take them home and sew the band onto the metal hook thing-y.

It went from this:

to this:

Much better, no?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Go, Lions! Go!

Yes, I realize the Lions are out of the playoffs. But I have this coworker. And he loves the Lions. It's been a trip watching him this season really believe that this could be the year. But it wasn't. But maybe next year will be...

Anyway, this coworker is expecting a baby this spring and I was invited to a shower. I can't make it to the shower but I can certainly send a gift--personalized and hand-made because that's how I roll.

Bibs are pretty much my go-to shower gift. I'm sorry if you didn't register for them; you're going to need them. When I first read the invitation, I thought I had only one week to finish the gift and got kind of uptight about it. But a more careful reading revealed that I had a week to RSVP and more like three weeks to finish. Ohhh, much better. (Sort of.)

So while I was still in panic mode, I found a chart on Ravelry for the Detroit Lions logo. The chart was made for a reverse stocking stitch lion on a stocking stitch background. I thought it would do, but when I found out the pattern was only written out row by row and not charted, I knew I had to make a chart in Excel. Once I had entered all that info, I figured it wasn't much more work to tweak it for my use.

I added the eye and the lines to separate the front legs and the mane details. And I redid most of the tail and the lower feet. You know, just a little tweaking. I didn't go so far as to add the open (roaring) mouth of the real logo. Sometimes close enough is close enough.

Like any bib with two-colour work, I did this with the double-knit technique. Makes it reversible and eliminates and floats. I used blue and cream cottons that I had raveled from sweaters. (The same I used for the elephant bib.) I went down a needle size, however, because I needed more stitches and didn't want it to get too big. I think the result was better than on the larger needles. The blue and white aren't quite the right shades, but I'm not making this to sell in the pro shop.

The border is done in garter stitch with just the blue.
After the lower border, I knit the first row of the pattern holding both colours. On the next row I knit the one colour and purl the other, starting the double knit portion.
It's very clean on the "right" side. (I consider the side with a contrast border to be the "right" side. It's purely subjective and mostly irrelevant since it's really double sided.) On the "wrong" side, you can see a little of the contrast colour:
When I get to the top I just knit the paired stitches together to decrease down to the original number of stitches. The contrast yarn is even less noticeable there.

I know many people don't use buttons on baby things, but I dare. I just hate the thought of ties and Velcro. (Both applying it and using it on a baby.) I found one in my button jar that I thought would work. And it fit the button hole I made so that's a bonus.
The buttonhole was an easy affair. I just cast off two stitches in the middle of the row. On the next row I knit into the front and back of the stitch before the hole and after the hole. It came out neater than casting on two stitches.
I hope they like it. If not, well, it will be covered in baby spit soon anyway.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

More Socks: Grey and Stripes, Big and Small

I never did show you the grey socks that prompted me to dye the yarn for my next pair.
A nice basic pair.

I added sock yarn for the toes:
and heel:
It was too tight a gauge to work the sock yarn with the main yarn for the whole sock. (I may have to invest in a larger pair of nice cable needles, but I probably won't...)

I started the 1x1 rib a little early so it ended up a nice good length. I like the 1x1 rib as a good cuff to hold up the sock.
If you look closely you can see that I did little 1x1 cables when I changed from the 2x2 rib to 1x1 to keep the knit stitches knit and purl stitches purl. I don't like the abrupt change that happens if you just knit the stitches as they present themselves. It's a very small thing that I don't always worry about, but it's nice when I can change it to my liking. As I was doing the second sock, I realized I could even mirror image the cables so they lean left on one sock and right on the other! Will anyone else notice? No. But I enjoyed doing it that way.

I finished the striped socks more recently. They came out a little bigger than I intended. I don't worry about that too much because I figure a lot of people stick to the smaller (easier) sizes. When giving to Wool-Aid, I figure there's a person in need in every size.
Troy tried them on and he said they were the best fitting socks I've made him. I told him he could keep them if he gave a cash donation to Wool-Aid! (He declined.)

Of course I started at the toes:
I liked the stripes on the shorter rows of the toe. As I got to the longer rounds of the foot, the stripes thinned out and weren't as effective.
I tried a new type of heel; really, a hybrid. I started increasing for a gusset a little sooner than normal, but increased every third row instead of every other row. This way the gusset could be longer but wouldn't get any taller. Then I did a short row heel on the original number of sole stitches.

When the short row heel was done, I continued knitting up the back of the heel, decreasing the gusset stitches as I went. (One stitch at the end of each row.) This created a heel flap and makes that part of the sock taller. If you have a flat foot, this probably wouldn't interest you, but I think it would make my socks fit better. Once again, I like the stripes on the shorter rows of the heel and heel flap.

Once I started knitting the leg, the stripes became mushy again:
I did a 2x2 ribbing on the leg. You have probably realized it's my go-to ribbing for generic socks. Since I had decreased all the gusset stitches (unlike the grey sock above) the leg was a little narrower than most of my socks. When I got to the 1x1 cuff at the top, I increased the number of stitches to make sure it wouldn't bind. (Nothing worse than the top of the sock digging into your leg. Doesn't help the sock stay up either.)
I increased after every fourth stitch, but I'm thinking it could have been half that many.

Although the self-striping dye job didn't come out quite how I wanted, it was still fun (and educational) to try. And a heck of a lot more fun knitting than plain grey!

After those were done, though, I couldn't resist pulling out my Lorna's Laces leftovers from these slippers.
I knew I didn't want to go too big again (especially as I didn't have unlimited yarn) so I only cast on 16 stitches for the toe (giving me 32 total). Well, they look like they will fit a large toddler. Once again, Wool-Aid can use all sizes so I'm ok on that front, but it feels like a bit of an over-reaction!

Because I just have various leftovers, I went with a contrasting toe and heel with stripes on the foot and leg.
Working with both ends of two balls to do these two-at-a-time is not as easy as it sounds!! The yarn gets hopelessly twisted and a little bit tangled. By the time I got to the heel, I had to cut both yarns. I thought I would get away with just cutting one, but the red was knotted and twisted in such a way that I just had to cut it too. Breaks my heart.

But once the blue heel was done, I attached all four yarn ends again and striped up the leg. I figured if I could put up with it on the foot, I can do the leg. I really want to do them two at a time so that if I were to run out of a colour, it would happen at the same place on both socks.
Now that these are done, I'll try a larger pair and then I may just work with one colour until it's done and then add the next colour. (Two ends instead of four--much more manageable.) But they really want you to watch the colour changes so they look good and not like you threw together all your scraps. (I'm sure they got some sweaters with one different coloured sleeve or something like that before they made that guideline explicit.)

The Lorna's Laces is nice cushy, soft yarn and I'm really enjoying working with it. Next time more stitches though. These tiny projects sort of freak me out.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Definitely not Grey: Wool-Aid Sweater 1

I finished the pink sweater I made to thumb my nose at all the grey I had been using, and it was a nice colour oasis in the winter dreary that's going on right now. Last time I mentioned it, I was just getting cast on. Progress went smoothly and I had it completed in about a month.

I liked the pattern and will probably use it again. I really like the collar and it fits perfectly with the Wool-Aid guidelines: the neck opening is wide enough to allow almost any size head to get through it easily and the collar fits close enough around the neck for warmth.
The only change I made besides working it flat instead of in the round was to keep the centre front stitches live when I divided it to work around the neck opening. Casting off those stitches can leave a tight section that doesn't stretch and causes unsightly puckers.
You can see that I left the stitches on a stitch holder. When the collar was knit, I overlapped the bottom edges of the right and left sides and Kitchenered them to the live stitches. It didn't work out exactly stitch for stitch, but I think you can see in the second picture above that it came out pretty well.

You may recall that I knit the body of the sweater from a provisional cast on in case I didn't have enough yarn. I figured I could always knit the cuffs in a contrasting colour. But I did have enough.
The last thing I knit was the sleeve cuffs, doing them two at a time to make sure I wouldn't run out on the second sleeve. As I was working them, it became obvious that I would have enough and then I started to wonder if I could have made it a little bigger, or a little longer in the body. But I let it go.

After I finished seaming, I was very happy to have as much left over as I did. I had forgotten (or not anticipated) how much yarn it takes to sew a sweater together! At the end I had 6 grams left out of 350. Close enough for me!

Something I tried for the first time was to Kitchener the shoulder seam. Mattress stitch works very well for side seams where the direction of the knitting is parallel to the seam, but not as well for shoulder seams. I didn't Kitchener the live stitches, however, because the shoulder seam needs to be a structural element of the garment. If you don't have a cast off edge, the weight of the sleeves can pull the sweater out of shape and even affect how the neck fits. So I cast off as normal, and then Kitchenered the front and back together using the stitches of the last rows and ignoring the cast off edge.
I think it came out well! (Can you even see the seam there? It's a little bit thicker.)

I have friends with daughters about the right age and the girls were willing to model the sweater for me to get some pictures.

The older sister was very professional:

Her younger sister, not so much:

I had a lot of fun taking the pictures (when I was fast enough)!

It was also fun to see older sister trying to get younger sister to "pose nice":

Not going to happen!! :)

The girls are a few years apart and although the fit of the sweater was very different on each of them, I was glad to see that it will work for a variety of ages. I'll be sending it to Wool-Aid and so I don't know who will be getting it. I think with this sweater and a couple socks I haven't shown yet, I have enough to send in. They're preparing a shipment for Syrian refugees right now and the need is great.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


Similar to the Easter installation our church did in 2011, we were invited to participate in another one for Epiphany this year.

On the Sunday before Christmas we were invited to take home a "square" and have it done and turned in two weeks later. Today was the first day we got to enjoy it in our sanctuary.

And what was the "painting" we were putting up? This icon:
which depicts the angels who visited Abraham, but in church tradition also represent the Trinity. (I don't have the details right now...I forgot to pick up the handout! I trust you'll excuse me as this is a crafting blog, not a theology blog.)

In any case, the painting was divided into 30 squares and we could pick up a copy of the square we wanted to do:
I picked a simpler one to make sure I would be able to get it done. You can see the copy has a grid printed on it to help us duplicate the design. We were also given a 24" square of tar paper:
I had decided to do a hooked rug of my square and since I didn't think the tar paper would hold up to all the holes that would take, I copied the shape onto a netting that I've had forever. I have no idea where I got it, but it was obviously a "hand me down" because there was a few inches of rug hooking done on the one end. I ruthlessly cut it off and had just the right size left for this project.
Once I had an outline, I added grid lines:
and then copied the outlines of the design with the help of the grid lines:
Then I started outlining the shapes with yarn. Rug hooking is traditionally done with narrow strips of wool fabric, but since I don't have any and didn't have an easy place to find some I went with yarn. With the picture in hand, Troy and I went to JoAnn's and shopped for appropriate colour approximations in the bulky weights. Some were wool, some acrylic. When I got home I found some stash yarn that would work for the blue colours so I ended up returning the blues I bought.
My first line in dark brown actually followed the wrong line, but I noticed it before going any further. The nice (and scary) thing about rug hooking is that pulling on the end quickly pulls out all your loops. There are worse things to undo.

When I had that fixed, I added more lines in the dark green:
With the outlines done, I started to fill in the rest:
Since this is netting, I just followed the holes and the yarn ends up in a grid pattern. I think rug hooking is usually done on a type of burlap and then you can give the solid areas texture by filling in the area with curved lines. But I was on a deadline, so I didn't mind not having to make those decisions. I just had to fill all the holes.

I was a little worried about something catching a loop or loose end and ripping everything out, so I covered the back with masking tape as I went:
It's not fool-proof, but I thought it would help enough.

I continued to fill in areas:
I was pleased I was able to work on this in the car as we drove to Missouri and back. By the end of the trip, all the hooking was done:
My original thought was to stick it to the tar paper with spray adhesive, but when I couldn't find the spray adhesive I decided that was probably overkill anyway. I put the tar paper on the back of the "rug", folded over the excess netting and taped it down with my fancy duct tape. (We somehow were out of regular duct tape.)
The masking tape was my "basting."

Here it is finished and "bound":
And this morning when I got to church, I got to see it on the wall:
Here is the whole thing:
A little closer:
Closer still:
I was distracted today and didn't get a chance to get a close look at the other squares. I will admit that I spent a lot of time studying them during the service and may have missed parts of the sermon...

The glitter one was very popular. I always like the ones done with ripped paper. The top right square of the right figure's halo was done with some very effective 3D effects. The halo looks like corrugated metal (but maybe it's stiff paper?), I think the hair is string and the top of the staff looked like a stick. And I think one of the squares in the very top row is done with tinted photographs. That idea occurred to me but I didn't know if I could do it. I hope to get a closer look next week.

I just love these projects. I also was reminded how much I enjoy rug hooking. I have had that scrap of netting to do a rug for years and now I wonder why I hadn't done it yet??? And the grid method of copying a picture is just so easy, it makes me think I could take a photograph and make a hooked rug hanging from it. I would love to take an "iconic" family picture (doesn't every family have those pictures we all know and have seen a hundred times?), simplify it, and hook a rug. And you know if I do, I'll tell you all about it!

May I suggest?

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