I would love to say that I've been knitting up a storm instead of posting here, but that isn't quite the case. I've also been baking pies and cleaning the living room and watching TV. In the midst of a few un-ending UFOs, my passion has been flagging a little.
Which isn't to say of course that I haven't finished anything since July when I last posted. August was actually a productive month, knitting wise. It just didn't definitely feel that way. Though I could question the health of it, what I love is to have a project going that I think about all the time. Something I plan out aspects of during down time at work and can't wait to get home to. How I felt about the sideways socks
and my tiny hermit crab
But I also think I will find that project somewhere in my massive horde of projects waiting to be started. Last weekend I made it though the left and right front of a sweater and part of the way up the back before I lost oomph over concerns about the tightness of the arm holes and running out of yarn. Is it better to know you don't have enough yarn to finish a project, or to always think you might not have enough yarn to finish a project? If you know the answer to this puzzle, please let me know in the comments.
Alright, enough musing and down to brass tacks. What exactly have I been up to since July? Well...
Atomic Fireball Socks for my Father-in-law
Lots of cables for large men's feet. They took me quite a while, but they have a lot of small touches that I like. The heel is the extra long, good for men's socks, Fleegle's short-row heel. It used up more yarn than I think a heel flap heel would have, but I also think a well fitting heel is half the battle in good sock fit. I used the Interlock Bindoff
, which I really like a lot. It is possibly the most ridiculous and complicated sewn bindoff, but the results are fantastic, very stretchy, but also attractive.
Java Socks for my Dad
These were my first two-at-a-time socks. Though of course each row takes twice as long, it is wonderful to cast off and be totally finished with a project. The second sock is always the bane of my existence. Very much like sleeves, my brain just doesn't want to do the same thing it just did, AGAIN. I like the Java pattern because it is so stretchy. The sad truth is that the more ornate a handmade sock is, the more it is like a tiny wool foot blanket, no give, no stretch, very thick. So, though I love them, I think I am finished with Fair Isle socks because they just don't work for 80% of feet.
These photos really don't do it the color or the dimensions justice. I blocked in haste and didn't think to snap a photo then, and these are pre-blocking. The blanket ended up double bed sized, but that may only be because a double bed is the largest surface in my home that I have to block on. The color is more of a natural cream. It took FOREVER, but the result is beautiful and well worth it for a wedding gift.
Baby Wonton Wrapper
I made this for the arrival of my brand new little 1st cousin once removed. She is beautiful and lovely. I knew she was coming, but I didn't know her gender. I figured yellow and teal would be good bright gender neutral colors. The blanket is 100% cotton. The main yellow part is Lion Brand, and then I had to delve into fancy yarn store territory for the teal because it would seem that there are no good true mass-market teals commercially available. This baby's birth was conveniently timed during a trip East, and so I had a chance, the night before going to see her, to whip up some little coral colored star embellishments. I didn't invent this star pattern. Actually I scoured the internet for a free star pattern, only to discover that the best one, and I mean, really, the best crocheted stars in all history and time, would cost me $4.95. I hemmed and hawed for a day, and finally my husband agreed to split the cost with me so that I could stop agonizing. They are totally worth it. The blanket has a little triangle sewn onto the front of one of the corners to act as a baby hood. I love the texture of seed stitch, so I alternated squares of that with squares of straight knitting. The boarder is a broken rib, so it doesn't shrink up but still has the texture of a rib. Also, a baby blanket takes a lot less time than a wedding blanket with cables!
Pre-stars and pre-weaving in the ends. Also, the colors that an overcast sky affords the photographer. Trust me, the teal is awesome.
Baby Duck Booties
Tucked inside the blanket are some booties that I finished within a month of finding out about the pregnancy, but that I haven't posted, just to cover my gifts are supposed to be surprises bases. The pattern
is a field trip into the mind of a master knitter and I loved making them, and actually plan to make another pair very soon for a friend's baby.
Well, thanks for making it through the poorly lit photos and the rambling prose. Though it gets hot here before it gets cool, I think Fall always brings good knitting.
NOTE: There is a lot of technical crochet talk in this post, but there is also a pretty clear description of my creative process of A to Z, so maybe you will find that interesting, you non-crocheters. Also, an N hook is 9mm in diameter, and almost as big as my pinkie finger, whereas the hooks I normally use are 1.4mm in diameter.
Meet the Toast Blanket. This blanket has been a long time in progress labor of love. Here is its story.
Once upon a time, I made the daffodil blanket. It is crochet, out of acrylic Red Heart. Each flower was made, trumpet first and then petals, and then sewn onto the hexagon. I had the pleasure of making it for a friend with vision whom, when I showed her the pattern in a book and lamented that I would never get to make it because no one I knew would ever be cool enough to want it, rose to the occasion.
This blanket, crocheted in 2006, is related to the toast blanket in a round-about way, and demonstrates my dedication to structural crochet on a massive scale.
My friend Crystal and I were discussing the as yet unrealized "Under the Sea" blanket that I’m plotting at the behest Katie, the recipient of the Daffodil Blanket. Crystal proposed a breakfast blanket, with the same basic form as the Daffodil Blanket, in which each hexagon was a plate of breakfast. I thought the idea sounded interesting but too time consuming. I did not, however, veto it completely because I do happen to have a pattern book of crocheted food. When I mentioned this to Katie (a visionary), she suggested that instead of a bunch of little meals, the concept should be one giant piece of toast with a giant fried egg, and two giant strips of bacon. She said she would harness my grandma skills and suggested that I make this as a surprise for Crystal. Basically tell me to make someone a surprise and I’m hooked. All I had to go on was this proposal drawing.
There is Katie in the background of her lovely sketch.
I didn’t even really consider it at the time, but this project turned out to be a big challenge in terms of scale. I started with the egg white. I found a pattern on the lion brand yarn website for the Kew Gardens Afghan and whipped up a circle in no time flat. I knew I wanted to make the toast a ripple blanket. A quick on-line search turned up many different versions of the ripple pattern and I selected one that was a little softer in the ripple, not quite so pointed. Unfortunately, this was long enough ago that I’ve lost that link, but there really are lots. I did free form increases at the top of the afghan to try to mimic the rounded top of a piece of toast. Then I went around the thing for about six rows with dark brown, doing front post crochet stitches every 6 or so stitches to give it a little bit of stiffness. The scale became a problem because every reference piece of crocheted toast that I looked at (and there are more than you would think) was designed to be actual toast size or smaller. After I had finished the toast, I layed out the nearly completed white... and I was sooo disappointed! In the upper left part of the white you can see where I was trying to make the shape of the white more amorphous. It was just failing on so many levels. Add to that the fact that even though I had bought two skeins of white Red Heart, just the same at the same time, of course they were different! You can see in the photo, it looks like they are differing thicknesses or something. So annoying! (And this is not the first time this has happened Red Heart, I mean dye lots are one thing, but thickness lots?) I started work on the yolk, just trying to push on with the project. At this point, it was early November, and I knew I wanted to deliver the gift during my Thanksgiving sojourn home. I had slated a whole weekend to spend with the blanket. I knew, at that point, that I just had to go with my heart. I took the whole white apart and remade it as a doily. This had always been an idea floating around in the back of my mind, but in the interests of verisimilitude, I had packed it to the back. Perhaps it was all the delicious posts that have been turning up recently of beautiful knit doilies on big needles with worsted yarn. (Here is one of my favorite patterns from Brooklyn Tweed.) Anyway, I stuck with what I know, my great love being thread crochet, and dug out The Ultimate Doily Book (because I am the kind of person who sees titles like that in the store and says “oh, well, if it is ultimate, is my library really complete without it?”) I worked up a large copy of “Summer Nights” with my trust N hook and worsted white, and then I sewed that puppy to the blanket at every point I could. I did this all, by the way, while watching hilarious melodramas with titles like A Rage to Live and By Loved Possessed. I’ll tell you there is nothing like trying to see through the tears you are shedding for the tragedy of a life poorly lived by Suzanne Pleshette so you can make sure you are not sewing your blanket to the carpet.
Anyway, I digress and this post is getting way too long. I will just say that the bacon was worked length wise, with the trusty N and three colors of worsted. I did one row of straight single crochets and then started doing little increase patterns, 2 single crochets, 2 half double crochets, 2 double crochets, 2 half triple crochets, 3 triples, and then back down again. That way the work would bubble a little bit like bacon. And then the last row of fat was just an old fashioned ruffle. They were pretty quick and I could do one in the time it takes for Robert Redford to get cornered in the town dump in The Chase. I sewed them down just like I did the doily. A lot of thought went into their placement and curvature, and I owe a debt to my patient husband, who understands that the curve of a giant piece of bacon matters, it matters a lot.
I made a pillow insert for the yolk, just some yellow fabric and fiber fill, and then crocheted a circle to go around it, increasing and then decreasing to surround the pillow. The yolk snaps on, because it is a removable pillow. That’s right, get right out of town, a removable pillow!
Check out that yolk, wandering where it pleases.
Well, that is everything about the blanket. Oh, except that Crystal had the best reaction ever!
So much to write about! I know it has been ages since my last post, and actually I've been quite busy. Oldest projects come first I guess.
Here is a photo of a sweater I made for my mom. A very sweet friend chose to de-stash and gave me the proceeds. This fuchsia mohair was just screaming my mom's name, so I dug around a little and found this pattern. I have to say I was surprised how hard it was to find a reasonable mohair pattern. I mean, I know all the arguments against it, it can be scratchy, and too warm, and sheds, but come on. This was the only modern pattern I could find for worsted weight mohair. All other patterns are either from the 80s or the 60s, and in either case most closely resemble ottoman covers. Like I said, I get why mohair isn’t popular any more, but I also don’t get it. This was truly a weekend long project, knit on size 11 needles. It went so quickly, and after blocking, it has a very nice drape. It has been reported to me that it was a success on its maiden outing.
Next are some more little mice. These little mice, commissioned by my mom for a gift, are the country mouse and the city mouse. I used the same pattern I've been using from Fuzzy Mitten and then used guess work to create some little clothes for them. The country mouse wears a little hooded cape. I did try to make an apron for her first, but these little mouse bodies are not really set up for clothes that cover the waist down. The city mouse wears a little fancy hat.
I'm going to crow about the flower on her hat for a second. It was done with sewing thread and a 0.75mm crochet hook. I'm quite proud of it. The city mouse also wears a string of glass beads. These little mice represent my favorite type of project, riffing on an established pattern by making changes in yarn and embellishment.
Next on the agenda for sharing are some repair jobs I did. Both projects were completed for the same friend about five years ago when I was still pretty inexperienced. I recently took them back to fix them after being unable to withstand the guilt of turning out lousy product any longer. As I tell everyone, my projects are guaranteed. If they fall apart, send them back. I’ll fix them or make something else.
First, pictured above are the ill effects of whip stitching a granny square blanket together that was made from soft acrylic yarn. The effects are quite ill. The poor thing was washed once or twice and went all to pieces.
Now here is my repair job. I took the whole blanket apart and single crocheted the squares together using a yellow that was pretty close to the original yellow. I think it looks better than before and I kind of want my own now.
The second "repair" was blocking this poor scarf. This is really my first successful knitted garment. I chose the pattern and the boarder pattern from a book of 500 (or some such number) knitting patterns. I didn't know doodly-squat about blocking when I made this poor scarf though, and as a result, for the last few years it has existed as a kind of thick neck sock, all rolled up upon itself.
The blocking was really pleasant because I got to see the lace pattern open up. Due to the fact that the pattern is knit all the way to the edges though, I'm afraid it will always roll up a little, but it is much improved. The yarn is a cotton silk blend and was lovely to handle again.
Here is a quilt update photo. I’ve gotten a little farther than this, but not by much.
And finally, here is one of my kitties reminding me that if it is crocheted, no matter how small it is, it will be sat upon and kneaded by one cat or another. How could I have forgotten that?
Let’s get things rolling with a bang. I’ve made another Hansi critter. This time it is a very fine Angler Fish. I am lucky enough to have a connection to one of the monster stashes of all time and so, this imposing fellow’s recipient provided me with some lovely ancient tweed teal stash yarn. You can see images of this fearsome mini here. Because I work on gifts most of the time, and with Christmas a scant 5 months away it will be almost all gifts, I’m going to start posting pictures to un-given gifts through links, so that non-recipients can check ‘em out, and recipients are, at least, responsible for spoiling their own surprises if they must look. Also a little aside, Hansi has come out with a book. It seems like the book has all the patterns that she sells on Etsy and some veggies. All the same, I think it is very much worth possessing , personally, so that I can knit critters and watch movies on my computer at the same time. (I’ve got Pdf directions and no printer. C'est la guerre.)
Next I present the first of what I’m sure will be many appearances of the Domino Blanket. It is looking lovely and while it may come first in my heart at the moment, it does not rank highly in order of priority, and so I don’t anticipate that it will grow quickly. At present, however, it is very portable and will probably be making a journey on an airplane with me soon.
A non-photographic interlude about the benefits of knitting in public (with other knitters): I recently took this blanket with me to a meeting of Monterey knitters. An brief aside from the interlude: I had the realization while I was there that it was the first time that I’ve really “knit in public” (they have their meetings in a Boarders Bookstore). (Also, I say “knit in public” in quotes because I frequently knit/crochet/cross-stitch on planes/trains/automobiles and in airports/train stations/gas stations, but for some reason I feel that impersonal nature of traveling people provides me with an invisibility cloak.) Back to the interlude: the meeting was quite lovely, and one of the added benefits that I hadn’t really considered aside from being forced to leave the house, was that nice crafty people give great tips. I know there are communities of knitters everywhere, but only having knit around close friends, I guess I just never have experienced being in a large group of relative strangers who all know about knitting before. Folks really liked the pattern and the double knitting. Like mosaic knitting, double knitting looks pretty amazing but isn’t that complicated. I do my best to prove this to anyone that will listen. Now I come to my point. One of the lovely knitting ladies suggested that I learn to knit two handed. She knew the technique worked well for fair-isle knitting and thought it would speed up my process for the double knitting, which is done by knitting with one color while pearling with the opposite color. Well, I found this video YouTube video of some disembodied hands, using the two hand technique to make two colored ribbing (around the 1:00 mark), which is just knitting and pearling with the opposite color. My only concern is that in double knitting you have to keep the non-working color with the working color, bringing it forward and back for pearls and knits, so that might complicated matters. But I’m willing to try anything once, and since every row on the blanket is 350 stitches long, any accelerant is appreciated.
Also, the little monster is finished. I don’t think his future owner ever looks here, so I’ll chance it and post the picture unprotected. I’m not sure he would have worked up in the 3 hours forecasted by the directions, but he still would have been pretty quick if I had been able to just stick to it.
Due to reasons beyond my control I have the whole apartment to myself until December. Certainly not in celebration, but perhaps out of spite, I’ve decided to drag all my craft things out of the closet where I can’t see them or get to them anyway, and arrange them in the living room. I have a sense it will be a little like heaven, especially once I scrape together the cash for a sewing machine, I’ll let you know. I’ve been recently trying to get a handle on my billion year task of making a grandmother’s flower garden quilt, the chronicling of which was one of the motivating factors for staring this blog. I won’t be able to use the sewing machine for that project, but I think having everything in the living room might help it get started.
The beaded scarf is finished, looks lovely, and was received with much joy and surprise by my mother-in-law. I highly recommend this sucker as an introduction to bead knitting. Again, I'll just say, I got it from Heartstrings Fiber Arts. They have lots of other lovely patterns which I will some day investigate once I run out of things to do.. ha ha.
In other project news, I will include a photo of a baby blanket I made for my cousin and his wife who are expecting their first child in about two months. I made this blanket during my period of unemployed-craftacular-movie-watching-time. As anyone who has been through a period like this knows, it isn't all it is cracked up to be, but you sure get a lot of crafting done.
This blanket is filet crocheted in panels. Originally it was supposed to have ribbon woven in between these panels, however, what I learned is that ribbon is not stretchy, and yarn things are. This annoying paradox (of course not guessed at until much careful weaving had been accomplished) resulted in a blanket that would either un-weave its ribbons every time you wrapped it around a baby, or a blanket that would try to cinch the baby with its steel-girder like ribbons. So the ribbons removed, the blanket was sent on its way, off to become a useful member of blanket society.
And finally, a little sneak peak of a hat I'm working on for a Boston friend. It is mosaic, so when I do work on it, it is very quick. I only have really two more vertical squares worth of rows to go and then I'll sew this puppy together and send it off to Boston. I'm sure it will still be snowing there. Even if I don't send it till May. No, really, I hope to finish it soon, if only because it seems like I don't find the impetus to post without having finished a project, a practice I would love to remedy, but really, who are we kidding?