And what is this you spy, the last of the wedding blankets! At least for a bit.
I loved making this blanket. I took just enough liberty with the pattern that I felt like I was making it mine.
Speaking of which, I could write a whole series of possibly not that interesting, emotionally fraught posts on the process I went through to find a pattern I liked for this blanket. I ordered out-of-print books, I scoured the internet for the pattern for a particular cable I found on Pintrest, I designed an entire blanket by selecting cables from Barbara Walker's encyclopedic guides, only to find, upon starting to knit it, that the dimensions would never come out right, that the drape of the fabric was too stiff, and what was I thinking anyway picking these cables, they were way too fussy, and how would I ever know how much yarn I needed? Finally I just took myself aside, said "you are making yourself crazy, just go find a nice pattern you like," and so I turned to Ravelry and found the very nice Burridge Lake Aran Afghan. I wanted to make it slightly wider, I wanted to make it easier to attach the three panels, and ultimately i simplified the finishing on the edges, and I could handle that amount of alteration, whereas I just couldn't start from scratch.
I added two more columns of cables to the blanket to increase the width. I did slip stitch edges on the sides of the three panels so that I could crochet them together easily, and for the edges along the bottom and top I picked up all the stitches, knit several rows of the trinity stitch that appears in the panels, and then finished with an i-cord bind-off that i grafted to the column of knit stitches on the edges.
I had thought I might do something else with the top and bottom edge, or I wondered if I should have done one more row of trinity stitch, but it is fortunate I didn't, because in the end I had this much yarn left over:
This couple is getting married so soon and I'm so excited for them! Because of my own impending big event I sent them their gift early and they are reportedly already enjoying it, though I hope from afar in this heat!
It has been the time to make things for babies, my own as well as other people's.
First off, I've been busy making hats for three new to the world little girls.
Two of the hats are the Poppy pattern that I have used before and find simply adorable. It lends itself to as much or as little embellishment as you like.
The hat on the left has two simple green leaves, and is reminiscent of a cherry to me. This was my first time working the pattern in worsted weight yarn (the pattern is written for nearly any weight of yarn and nearly any head size, a great, great pattern!). This was a commissioned piece for a friend to give to her brother's granddaughter.
The hat on the right was made for a friend who's little girl is due right around the same time my little baby should be coming along. She loves sharks, so I thought it would be fun to try to make a sweet girly shark. I think I succeeded. I spent about a minute trying to design my own shark, but ended up feeling like, why reinvent the wheel? I found the perfect shark pattern on Ravelry, and consulted the book 100 Flowers to Knit & Crochet: A Collection of Beautiful Blooms for Embellishing Garments, Accessories, and More to find a flower that would allow the shark to swim among the stems. I settled on the forget-me-not (which is also available for free on Ravelry!) .
It is time for babies right now! My cousin and her husband recently had a baby and I wanted to send something special to their little one. They also had a girl, but instead of doing another Poppy, I wanted to try something different. I found this pattern on Ravelry and thought that it stood out from other patterns in this style because of the way the decreases fall in the leaves, looking like stems. All three of these hats are made with acrylic yarn because babies are not mindful of how hard it is to wash wool.
Of course I've also made a few things for my own baby!
Hooray for this crocheted hippo! I love it. Puzzling over the colors was a little bit stressful, just trying to keep an even distribution and representation of each color, but the shape is so great, and I stuffed it well (with this weird slightly more "natural" stuffing), so it is very good for squeezing and hugging. I was able to almost finish the whole thing over a long weekend while my husband was camping. The yarn is all super wash wool in sock weight.
I also made a floor blanket for the baby. I've included images of before and after the border was added because the true colors of the yarn fall somewhere in the middle. Somehow I just never got a great photo of this one! I picture taking this blanket with us to parks and on visits to give the baby something soft to lay on. My sweet mom splurged and bought the yarn for me, which is a beautiful hand dyed super wash wool from Tanis Fibre Arts (Tanis also designed the pattern). I'm so glad I was able to work this pattern with a nicer yarn! I think what really makes this pattern is the wonderful subtle differences in the colors. The hand dyed yarns have a depth and variation that commercial yarns just wouldn't have. I often ponder that consistency of color was probably prized over all in yarn dying, even 20 years ago, and now it is the subtle variation of the hand dying process that catches our eye. So it goes, I suppose.
And I have one more wedding blanket to post about, but I'll save that for another day :)
Sometimes I find I have to search for inspiration for a project, and sometimes inspiration walks by at the fair.
This summer (almost a year ago!) my husband and I went to the Scottish Highland Gathering and Games at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, CA. We saw sheep dog competitions, birds of prey, and endless halls of Celtic goods for sale. We even ate some not at all event appropriate food, I think I had a burrito. What really caught my eye, however, was this tote bag:
I would tell you to squint your eyes, but that doesn't really help. The picture is blurry because I was not brave enough to stop this grandmother and child to ask if I could please take a picture of her cheap nylon tote bag. Instead I ran behind this woman, as surreptitiously as I could, casually trying to capture this crazy rainbow in the wild.
I chased this woman to take this picture because I knew I was seeing something important! There is something about the color combination and progression that I find unexpected and irresistible. I didn't know what I was going to do with it at the time, I just knew I needed to have a way to remember it.
Thank goodness an opportunity to use this progression presented itself, or I might have exploded! As I started looking for patterns for a baby blanket for a good friend (the same one who got this sweet little pink set seen here recently), I was so excited to be able to put this discovered rainbow to use.
I found a lovely baby blanket pattern that would highlight the rainbow and I ordered yarn. I ordered my yarn based on softness, washability, and color selection. Right before starting the blanket I realized that the slippery, cotton/beech wood, very soft and smooth yarn I had selected was going to be at major odds with a pattern that demanded a color change every 4 rows. My heart sank as I thought about how many ends I would have to weave in, and how they would all work themselves loose because the fiber would have nothing to hold on to.
Thankfully, I realized I had recently seen a pattern for a stunning adult afghan that was graphic, modern looking, and most importantly, would highlight my color choices, (and was free!). Worked on smaller needles and smaller yarn, I figured I would have to end up with something baby sized. And it worked!
Using sport weight yarn, and US size 4 needles, the blanket came out 34 x 44 inches (instead of the pattern's 52 x 74 inches in worsted weight). I am so pleased with the way this came out. While I was working on it I got to revel in and gain a whole new appreciation for my found rainbow. As I added each new stripe, the new color would informed and improved the others. I was so impatient to get to the blue at the bottom, because I knew it was going to pull everything together and really finish the whole look and feel of the blanket. As I worked on it, people would say, "that's nice," and I would say, "yes, but it really is going to look different when it's finished," which only makes people say "well, it looks nice now." At which point I just try to take a compliment. :)
I had intended this blanket to be a light spring time blanket for this baby born in January, not knowing that the northeastern United States is apparently never going to thaw. So I guess it is an "inside blanket?"
This blanket is for a lovely couple, Dan and Jess, who live in the Boston area. I knew it needed to be warm and classic and casual and big because this was another "tall groom" situation.
I took my inspiration for this blanket from the wedding site. The couple got married on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, at the same site where my husband and I got married five years ago. It is a beautiful verdant location with ferns and pines and birch trees. I really felt like I wanted to make a blanket evocative of the place.
I started out with a pattern from an amazing 1968 Bernat pattern book of my mother's. I may have fallen prey to the wonderfully kitschy styling in the photo shoot. It should have been a dream, worked on large needles, yarn held doubled. But goodness, I just didn't like the pattern. It seemed to take ages to get one row finished, and I couldn't keep the tension even between the two strands of yarn.
So I said phooey! I put the blanket aside, made the several blankets you have seen recently on this blog, and a few pairs of socks beside. But I always knew I would need to come back to this blanket and this yarn and make something beautiful.
At some point between giving up on the Bernat pattern, and actually starting to re-knit, I found a pattern I really liked. The Serenity pattern looked fun to knit, and warm, and lovely. It was written for worsted weight yarn, which is what I had. The only catch was that it was written as a baby blanket size. I mentally prepared to have to figure out how to expand the size. Behold my surprise when I finally went to (re)start the blanket, and found that an intrepid Raveler before me had already worked out the graphs to expand the blanket, and the designer had linked to those graphs from the project homepage. It was like a Christmas present in July.
I worked an applied border, mostly because I really wanted to have a cable go all the way around, and i didn't want to knit it separately and sew it on, because that way lies madness. Because the cable isn't as stretchy as a garter stitch border, it did result in a slight ripple to the edge, but who knows, maybe it's charming? I think the ripple does add to the overall lusciousness of the blanket.
And, a bonus project:
A birthday gift for my supervisor. I think the bluebird of happiness is a potent symbol and this pattern was a fun knit, one piece with short rows for shaping. An improvised party hat is the cherry on top.
I've got quite a few finished projects to talk about!
And the weddings are all wed, so I can get to talking.
The first finished, and almost the last given, is this lovely square throw. Photo maybe not the best, but listen people, you run out of ways to photograph a blanket and you want to mix it up a little, and sometimes you don't hit it out of the park, but I think you can get the idea!
I chose traditional wedding ivory and used a wool/acrylic blend so the happy couple won't need to worry about washing instructions, or finding a place to dry a blanket in their Brooklyn apartment with curious cats. This blanket was a breeze from start to finish, so enjoyable to knit that I made a second one, which has already appeared in an earlier post here. I went in a totally different direction with the second iteration, making it in grey and giving it a striped border. I love that one, but I also love the simplicity of this one. Both have the central motif that suggests a compass rose to me, which seems an auspicious symbol for a newly married couple. Also I love the bobbles, and the simplicity of the eyelet rows for the border that give the blanket a vintage feel. Yay for Steve and Fran and I wish we could have been at what was, from all accounts, a most lovely wedding full of thoughtful touches.
And since I'm attempting to feature these wedding blankets, but also play catch up, thrown in at the bottom is this little guy:
He's from the Anna Hrachovec's book Teeny-Tiny Mochimochi. Her patterns are great go-tos for quick cute knits, and he was a birthday present for a friend of mine who just turned 4! Congrats Graham! There really isn't anything to indicated scale in this photo, but lets just say he's as big as a large grape. Like, one of the big dark purple dusty grapes that are full of seeds.
I'm so excited to share this project with you because it has been finished since March!
The more I knit, the more comfortable I am altering patterns. I mostly find my patterns on Ravelery, and when I find a pattern I like, I scroll through other people's projects to get a feel for common improvements. I hardly ever do a test run (a swatch). I usually just cast-on for the project and if it is coming out terribly I take it apart, and then again, and then again. I love to jump into a project and then I like to look at the item as it develops and respond to inspiration as it strikes.
At any rate, the net result of plowing ahead is sometimes ending up with a shopping bag full of kinky yarn when you pull the whole thing out. I think it is important to emphasize how many times I take things apart. I know a lot of people view un-knitting as the end, but to me it is just a step towards a project that I will find really satisfying. When I ask someone what they think of a questionable project in progress and they say "yeah, that's fine, you won't notice when you're finished," that drives me nuts, because I will notice, and I don't want to spend hours on a project that is fine! On the other hand, I love the line "no one will notice that from a galloping horse." and I hypocritically give this advice to people all the time. You know if you'll care later, and if you will, rip it out!
This blanket is mostly from a free Lion Brand pattern. For this project, the main divergence from the pattern was doing a wide moss stitch border instead of the more fussy leaf shaped border in the pattern. Deciding about the thickness of the border was one of the reasons I had to take this blanket apart so many times. I also framed out each section of design with stocking stitch and moss stitch sections. These changes made the blanket slightly larger than written, a plus in this case as the groom of this couple (as all the grooms this summer seem to be) is quite tall, and I think the framing of each section made the whole blanket design more modern without losing the heirloom quality.
I made this pattern because I fell in love with the intertwined trees. They are such a perfect wedding symbol, especially for this couple who has grown, both individually and together, through the years. The flower panels were another story, and there was much ripping back, much searching of Ravelry, much testing of different techniques, and much uncertainty. Ultimately I do like the way the floral sections balance the arboreal sections, though I'm curious to hear in a year if there is a problem with snagging .
This blanket is knit with 100% wool, Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool which is an amazing bargain, and so blocking was a must. For the blocking process I took a cue from my recent experience blocking shawls, and wove crochet thread along each edge. That gave me a firm, sturdy string to pull tight to make the edges straight. I did this instead of trying to pin out all the edges strait. So instead of using a gazillion pins I used about 20. I also recently read that the first time blocking is the most important, because it teaches the wool its new shape, and that treatment after subsequent washing doesn't need to be as labored. That makes me feel slightly less guilty about giving 100% wool items. (I can't find that link now though, so don't quote me!)
I love the final result and I hope the happy couple can love it for years to come.
It has become clear to me, (and possibly to you), that I would rather knit than write about it, but then at the same time, I love talking about fiber craft because it is something I love to do, and it is also something I feel like I really understand. I have a friend who is an architect and she can explain how a building is built based on looking at the outside. I find that amazing, and it makes me proud to think that I can do the same thing with a knitted object. I've been reading a lot of Elizabeth Zimmerman (knitting sage) and she has a blanket pattern where she intentionally goes out of her way to make it a puzzle for other knitters to understand how it was assembled. I find this idea delightful for the same reason I like cast-offs that look like cast-ons and seamless construction.
Speaking of Elizabeth Zimmerman, I finally got a chance to try out one of her most iconic designs, the Baby Surprise Jacket. The surprise is all for the knitter because the whole jacket it knit in one flat, misshapen piece and then with two seams at the tops of the arms, it becomes a jacket. My cousin and his wife had a beautiful baby girl at the beginning of the year and I was so pleased to make this for her.
I wanted to do a whole outfit, and so I found this free cute little hat pattern on Ravelry.
And since her name is Iris, I found a free Lion Brand pattern for an Iris and sized it down using smaller yarn and a smaller crochet hook.
For my mom's birthday, I knew I wanted to make a pair of socks, and I wanted to make some that would fit. She wanted some more subdued socks she could wear to work, which isn't usually the direction I go in for her. She loves the Skew pattern from Knitty, and after an abortive attempt with another pattern that came out looking like a Viking boot, I adapted the Skew pattern with eyelets so that the skew is still visible, but without using self striping yarn.
It is great to make things that people have asked for. My brother in law requested a knit necktie, which sounded like a fun challenge. I lined the skinny part by the neck with a piece of grosgrain ribbon. Knitting a long skinny strip of moss stitch takes a lot longer than you would think. This is a modified free Lion Brand pattern.
I love Kate Davies' designs. Her photography is beautiful and her designs are historic and modern at the same time. I bought her book, and the design that captivated me immediately was the Puffin Sweater. Did you know Puffins live in Scotland? I didn't, and I love this fact.
This was a quick anniversary gift for my husband. He loves the TV show Adventure Time and this is a character, Jake the Dog, from that show. I had to do it all at work and sneak the car at one point to go buy the yarn, so all of that is more exciting than the actual project, which was fairly simple. The eyes are regular craft eyes you can buy at the store and then I used whiteout to color in Jake's distinctive pupils. The pattern is on Ravelry.
This summer for the most part I've been working on Wedding Blankets. We have so many dear friends that are getting married and we don't have the wherewithal to get to most of the weddings. Only one of the weddings has happened so far, so I'll only post one of the blankets. The pattern is one I bought from Bernat and is worked from the center and I used a slightly obscure Elizabeth Zimmerman cast-off from The Knitters Almanac around the edge with a variegated yarn.
When we were having colder weather, and before I got moving on these wedding blankets, I was slaving away on this monster, a dream sweater for my husband from an out of print Dale of Norway book. I love it and I can't wait to start working on it again in the fall.
I spent the weekend attempting to give order to my massive yarn collection (more on this and what I found later.) Of course, the main thing I found was that I have a lot of yarn that I can’t really imagine using. That isn’t to say that I can’t imagine needing this yarn for something, but just looking at it isn’t an inspirational activity. My husband thought it looked warm and fuzzy all laid out on the floor. To me it looked like waist deep mud that I would have to wade through for some kind of craft basic training. It’s back in tubs now, labeled into general categories: “acrylic worsted” and “natural worsted,” for example.
I also found some “science experiment” knitting poking around, little swatches and tests. One that’s been around for a year is the answer to the question “What if I made this bigger?”
I thought I was going to make a thread bedspread at some point, which, still might happen in my lifetime. Of course, the pattern I chose was time consuming and thread consuming, and even popped up as the subject of some justified mockery on a well known knitting blog.
I would need to make a gazillion, and I’ve made around 10. Also, I can only imagine that this bedspread, once completed, would probably weigh so much that people laying beneath it could not move.
At some point, I wanted to see what would happen if this fiddly little square was done in worsted?
Again, the result eats up a lot of yarn, the brown part used almost a whole skein, but I love the effect. Looking at all my acrylic worsted weight yarn, I’ve been thinking, I should finish this project. It seems like a great way to get rid of yarn and end up with a lacy extravagant blanket. I was thinking maybe 9 squares, maybe 12. I’m going to shoot for one a month and see where that gets me. Though I just realized I have no idea what size hook I used for the big one. Hmm.
Whenever anyone tells me "Hey, I like your blog," I feel compelled to say: "I don't post enough! But I just like crafting more than I like writing about it." As a result, a lot of projects never make it onto the blog because they were finished so long ago that by the time I get it together to write a post, I'm onto something totally new. But I've done a lot of projects recently that I like, so I'm just going to overwhelm you with a big smorgasbord of finished projects. Dig in!
Here is the finished Under the Sea blanket. Though I am pleased, and my friend who received it is pleased, it somehow never lived up to my elaborate conception, (which was much more sculpture than blanket). All of the items button on with toggle buttons, and so they can be re-arranged and moved around.
More socks for my mom. They are both from patterns that you've seen here before and that just work particularly well. I liked the Sidewinders pattern so much, that I knew I wanted to make a pair for my mom. I used some Felici self striping yarn and it ended up coming out so perfectly! The last pair of Skew socks got rave reviews for fit, so I thought I would make another pair. This time around I used an acrylic blend so that they won't be quite so warm as wool. A summer sock.
More socks! This time socks for my husband, who, you may have noticed, doesn't get a lot of stuff. The items in the cue for him are long and varied and he is very patient about it, so I got the lead out and actually finished something for him. These were designed by the witty little knitter, and the pattern is here. I was worried about tightness in the ankles, so I did the all of the white accents on the leg in duplicate stitch. I hadn't really ever given a lot of though to the technique of duplicate stitch, but thankfully and serendipitously, smartygirl at the filmcraft blog posted a link to a Watermelish tutorial on duplicate stitch which was awesome! And everything came out much neater than my original attempt.
Tiny seahorse is finished! I put it off for so long because I was worried I wouldn't be able to pick up the stitches for the belly. I hadn't even considered how absurdly small the back fin would be. So tiny! This is, once again, a Hansi Singh pattern. I didn't have to change the pattern at all, just used smaller needles and yarn. People's main reaction has been, "how do you make it so tiny," and my only answer is "tiny needles." The stick supporting the seahorse in this photo is actually one of the needles used to knit it. They are size 0/6 and I got them from BagLady, where I also got 0/4 and 0/5. They don't sell 0/8, thank goodness, or I would probably be blind.
And I know I'm kind of burying the lead here, but ta-da! Tiny chameleon. He was inspired by a little guy you may have seen in the news a little while ago:
One new chameleon was found on Nosy Hara, an islet off the coast of Madagascar. Named Brookesia micra, it is the smallest of the four species. Juveniles are small enough to stand on the head of a match.
Well, I didn't quite get it that small, but pretty close! Also, chameleons are incredibly fun to look at! When ever I'm doing a project where I'm trying to match something in nature, I do a lot of image searches first, and that was how I learned the super fun fact that baby chameleons ride around on their mom's faces. So, then, of course, I knew what I had to do.
Both mom and baby are Hansi Singh patterns. The mom was knit with sock weight yarn and using 0/4 needles. The hardest part by far was the tail, but it wasn't impossible. The legs are knit separately, but the head and eyes are knit with picked up stitches. There are wires inside the legs so that they are positionable.
Ah the knitter’s stash and stash-busting. For the uninitiated, the stash is what knitters call their hoard of yarn. Stash busting is using yarn from the stash, thereby making the stash a tiny bit smaller.
The title of this post is really only figurative, because while my stash occupies a large portion of my closet, it has also spread to sections of my book shelf, and, horror of horrors, the terribly yarn-un-friendly location of the garage.
Lori, Lori, quite aquisitory, how does your stash grow?
Well, I am guilty of what I will call “whole project buying”. I see a pattern, I love it, I buy all the yarn needed for it, and then I squirrel it away because I certainly don’t have time to start a new project, I have several projects going already! Sometimes, three years later, I start these projects, sometimes, I don’t.
Sometimes you need a tiny bit of black acrylic for the ends of the eye stalks of some hermit crab, and so you buy a giant ball of red heart, which never, ever, ends, all the while taking up a lot of cubic inches of stash real estate.
A lot of the time, you know that it takes 100g of sock yarn to make a pair of socks, so you buy 1000g of sock yarn, 100g at a time, with the expectation that some day you will make ten pairs of socks. Not an unlikely expectation at all.
The only problem is that then, the new knitting magazines show up on your door step, or you spend a night browsing on Ravelry, or someone you can’t refuse says, I found this pattern, please make it for me, and then you find yourself buying more yarn. And at the end of these projects, there is always a little yarn left over, and so the stash grows a little, even though yarn is leaving the house.
But then, none of this is really complaining, because gazing at your stash is a satisfying sort of activity in it’s own right.
But so is stash busting.
I’m working on two stash busting projects right now. One is a sweet sweater I started about one year ago. I’m re-starting it really. The little dutch sweater dress that will some day be a reality.
I’ve got miles to knit before I sleep on this one, but the pattern keeps it entertaining, imagining what little dutch people would say while they were waiting for their heads to be knit. Instead of just making the original vintage pattern larger, I’m using the general pattern suggestions for the Global Warming sweater, I’m looking forward to doing the sleeves! I had a brief conniption last night because, while I’ve known I will need to order more of the white yarn for a while, I’ve been putting it off. The white is a nice thick sport weight from Knitpicks called Telemark. Well, "they" have discontinued Telemark, and it seems, replaced it with Wool of the Andes, which I don't have a particular gripe with, except that WotA has about 30 yds more per 50g ball, which means it is not as thick and sturdy. I was imagining all kinds of tragic looking outcomes to this situation, but this morning I found 6 balls of the yarn hanging out in the UK, and that should be enough to finish the project. Hurrah!
But even while I have this project that is so sweet and tons of fun, and even has some technical planning aspects to keep me engaged, I’ve been just pining to crochet. So much so that I made this a few nights ago:
I was pouring over my doily books, almost drooling, wondering where I could get size 30 cotton thread. However, I am well aware that clearly I don’t need more thread, and really, more doilies. So, the part of my mind that wasn’t overtaken with feverish doily planning remembered a box of yarn from 2009 that was in the garage that was waiting to become a ripple afghan. Ta-da:
Not that we need blankets either, but I dream of a day when I’ve got a lovely purple ruffle afghan on the back of one chair, and a beautiful mustard Girasole over the back of the couch. I haven’t bought the yarn for the Girasole...yet.