As soon as I knew my cousin Dano’s due date was July 4th, I started looking for baby items I could knit. On Christmas, I overheard Dano’s mom mention something about a soft neutral gray pallet for the nursery instead of typical baby colors.
On Pinterest I spotted a gray baby blanket with a row of white sheep, but that wasn’t a knitting pattern, it was a finished item ready for purchase. So I searched Ravelry for “sheep baby blankets” and found several options. Of course the one I liked the most—”Sheep Dreams”—was out of print.
It was originally published in a book called Knit Baby Blankets! and I was able to track down a copy of that book on Amazon.com.
As soon as the book arrived, I ordered several skeins of Cascade Yarns Sateen Worsted—a soft, light, worsted-weight yarn I thought would be better for summer than wool—in Gunmetal Gray for the body of the blanket. Because I was substituting yarns, I bought extra skeins in case it wasn’t enough. (That turned out to be a wise move because I believe the color was discontinued.) I also bought a skein of the fluffy, chenille-like Brown Sheep Berrocco Plush in Cream, and a skein of Sateen Worsted in Black for the details, but it didn’t show up well enough against the Plush, so I used a slightly heavier weight black yarn from my stash.
I was so excited to finally cast on. The textured border was really interesting to do. It’s called a ribbed stitch, but it’s more than that. You double the number of stitches of one row by knitting in the front and back of each stitch, then reduce it back to the original number of stitches by knitting two together then purling two together and repeating that across the next row. The process results in a thicker border.
Then the real challenge began.
The pattern was challenging enough to be interesting, but it also contained a lot of errors. Luckily the structure is pretty logical and there were several photos to reference, so I could see where the problems were and how to fix them—like when the pattern said to continue the Double Bind Stitch from border to border I could see that would interfere with the Checker Board Stitch in the center field.
Before long it was time to start putting the sheep in their pens.
The sheep are done with a Duplicate Stitch—sort of like embroidering new stitches directly on top of existing stitches. Centering them was a bit fussy. You have to count stitches from the sides, top, and bottom to find the starting points, but the charts—one with a sheep face left, the other right—were very clear.
Yes, I know you’re supposed to work the Duplicate Stitch bottom-to-top, right-to-left, but for me it was easier to start with the right foot and work up, and then to the right before working to the left because the Plush is so fluffy it hid the stitches I needed to work on.
Close-ups of a left-facing sheep and a right-facing sheep.
Hoping the process would get easier with each sheep, I opted to do one corner, then the opposite corner, one side, then the opposite side so you wouldn’t be able to see if my abilities improved with each sheep. (They didn’t. For some reason the final two took the longest to do.)
Initially I was frustrated if I saw gray come through, or if stitches weren’t even or looked misaligned. But once six or eight were completed I realized those little inconsistencies give each sheep its own personality.
Funny how those sheep kept multiplying…
Several of the Sheep Dreams projects on Ravelry didn’t have all 14 sheep. Now I understand why some people stopped short. Each one took me about an hour to complete! Once the final sheep was in its pen and all of the ends were woven in, the only thing left to do was to block the blanket to size. The Plush yarn creates a subtle 3-D effect, which in turn slightly distorts the grid pattern of the blanket, so blocking is a must.
A different perspective of the sheep:
I loved the final result so much I found a pattern for a similar baby hat and made that, too!
I hope the little baby-to-be will have plenty of sweet dreams under this blanket.
Although I haven’t posted in a long time, I assure you I’ve been steadily chiseling away at my yarn stash. But it’s slow going. One of the first things I did was start filling a big bag with yarn earmarked for a garage sale, on the off chance anyone I know decides to have a sale this year.
In February I finished a pair of socks for my brother-in-law, who immediately put them to good use.
Clearly, I need to invest in a set of sock forms to block any future socks I make:
At roughly the same time, a friend said she was about to buy yarn to make baby hats for a local hospital. I told her to stop over before buying yarn, since I had plenty of yarn in baby-friendly fibers and colors she could have. That got rid of another grocery bag or so of yarn.
Not long after that a neighbor, who was clearing out her father’s home so he can sell it, brought over three large trash bags full of yarn that had been her mom’s. I had no intention of keeping any of it, and I’m happy to report I didn’t keep a single skein. I sorted out the good from bad, and thankfully the same baby-hat-making friend was able to take it all. The other day she told me she’d already made 40 hats.
Before I can start working on any projects to wheedle down my yarn stash I needed to cast on a special top-secret project that required soft new yarn. All I can reveal right now is what the project looked like after the first few rows.
It’s been a fun knit, but the project has been made slightly more challenging due to a poorly-written pattern. Luckily, it was easy to spot most of the pattern errors as I went along. This is a gift, and I’m not quite done yet, so it will be a few weeks before I can reveal the finished product. Because I substituted a different type of yarn, I bought a few extra skeins to ensure I had enough—and I already have plans for some of that spare yarn.
Then last weekend my sister bought a nice classic Granny Square afghan for six dollars. I pointed out an obvious hole and she said, “You can fix that right?”
We brought it home and promptly found several more holes starting to form. (Instead of weaving in the ends with each color change, it seems the original crocheter knotted the yarns and snipped the ends as close to the knots as possible, and the knots are starting to come loose.) I hauled out a couple bags of scrap yarn, knowing I had a bit of lavender yarn that would closely match to one spot, then realized it was with the yarn I’d given to my friend.
At one point, I sent my sister into the yarn room to get some gold yarn, and told her exactly where it was. I hadn’t even dragged all of the yarn out, but when my sister saw what was out she said, “You have a LOT of yarn.”
Good thing, too, or the mends on her new afghan would be really obvious.
Hey, you never know when you might have a crafting emergency!
Remember when I said my goal for the year was to burn through my yarn stash?
The only loophole (pardon the knitting pun) is that I can only buy more yarn if it’s needed to make a gift or for a special project someone asks me to make—like the socks I’m making for my brother-in-law who received a “coupon” from me for a pair of handmade socks.
Well, here’s how I’m doing:
The first and biggest hurdle was trying to inventory my yarn.
The good news: I only had about 60 skeins (or nearly full skeins) of labeled yarn of various colors, fibers, weights, and brands. The bad news? The pile of unidentified partial skeins was even larger.
While I was thinking of projects that would use up some of the yarn, my sister asked me to make one of the now iconic “p-hats” (to be polite) for her to wear at the Women’s March on Washington. Thanks to the inventory I knew I had enough dusty rose mohair blend to make a couple of hats.
Because the mohair blend is so fluffy it’s technically a “bulky” weight yarn, so I adapted the pattern, using 30 stitches on size 10 needles instead of 50 stitches on size 8.
A few days later a friend asked if I could make a hat for her friend’s 87-year old mother-in-law (below) who was planning to participate in a local march. I was able to use up even more yarn.
Since last weekend’s marches two more people have requested hats. One being a man who wanted blue, brown, or gray, but I don’t think I have enough in any of those colors for a hat so a little new yarn may need to be acquired.
Once I’m caught up with the socks and hats, I plan to use more of my yarn stash to make projects from the Knit Knack Kit my sister and I found for $2 at a resale shop last month.
The kit—which was open but intact—includes 25 patterns, a set of circular needles, a stitch marker, and a blunt tapestry needle for seaming projects.
Some of the patterns are silly—like a cell phone cozy for a flip phone—but others are nice or practical, like the pillows on the card shown above.
Come back in a few months and I’ll let you know how much yarn is left in my stash.
Fellow knitters and crocheters: What kinds of projects have you made with stash yarn?
Knowing how much my cousin and her husband love Americana, when a Lion Brand newsletter arrived last summer featuring several red, white, and blue knitting and crochet kits, I sent her the link and said if something struck her fancy I’d be happy to make it for her.
As it turns out, we both liked the same one. The U.S. Flag Afghan.
I hate to admit how long it took me to finish what’s a fairly straightforward pattern.
Under normal circumstances I probably could have finished crocheting this in a couple of weeks. But pretty much the day after buying the kit I injured the tendon running along my right wrist from my thumb almost to the crook of my elbow.
I’m right handed. And as fellow crocheters know, you move your wrist a lot when crocheting.
Than meant I could only do at most a row or two at a time.
Once my wrist and thumb began to heal I was able to increase how much I could do at once. I finished crocheting it in time for Thanksgiving, and over the extended holiday my cousin helped me place the stars. I only got a few firmly attached, so she said she’d ask her mother-in-law (a fellow yarny!) to help attach the rest.
Now for the review:
If you can double crochet and follow simple instructions for basic increases and decreases (which form the peaks and valleys of the ripples), you can make the body of the afghan.
The stars are a little more challenging since they’re worked in the round. I found using stitch markers helped me “see” the chain 1 space where the base of each new point joined the round. The stars are a combination of single crochets, slip stitches, chains, half-double crochets, and double crochets. But the design is so logical that after making two of three I didn’t need to check the pattern.
The only criticism I really have of the pattern is the vague instructions for changing colors where the blue field meets the stripes in the body of the flag. All it says is, “When changing color, drop, but do not fasten off the old color,” and later, “Change to color C” —or A or B, depending on the row you’re on.
It was only after a few rows that I realized sometimes I twisted the yarns, sometimes I didn’t, so the joint was more obvious on some rows than others. I finally discovered I could help hide that little bit of transition yarn by working it into the first stitch after the color change. (Sorry that’s so vague. It’s probably also why the pattern didn’t suggest it. It’s difficult to explain.)
As for the kit itself… I don’t often use kits, but the sale price was far less than buying the yarn alone would be, so it made sense.
I love the softness and thickness of Lion Brand’s Heartland yarn, and the almost time-worn look of the colors included in the kit were perfect: “Redwood,” “Acadia,” and “Olympic.” Being acrylic, it’s also easier to care for than wool.
Before beginning the afghan I did three gauge tests: one for the stars and two for the body. The stars were pretty close to gauge, but my first swatch for the body was a little large so I switched to a smaller hook and my second swatch matched the gauge.
My biggest complaint? By the time I reached the final two rows I was worried I wouldn’t have enough blue to finish the afghan. I started crocheting a little tighter—hoping to stretch out what little yarn remained—but only had maybe 10 inches of yarn remaining after the final stitch. And I even used the yarn from my blue gauge swatch. That’s a little too close to comfort for me.
There wasn’t much white yarn left after I finished the flag, either, so I opted to use an even smaller hook to make the stars. Because I was so short on yarn, I tried to keep the tails to about two inches when starting and finishing each star, barely long enough to secure the stars to the afghan. I only had about half an inch of white yarn left to tie off the 12th and final star.
Thankfully there was more than enough red yarn, especially since one skein was wound in a double strand. I’ve never seen that with any yarn before, so I’m sure it was just some manufacturing fluke. It looked fine from the outside, but when I tried working from one strand the other one kept knotting up. (I’ll just save that skein to use on a double-stranded project.)
If I were to rate Lion Brand’s U.S. Flag Afghan Kit using a scale of 1-5 stars, I’d give it a solid four stars.
Offering more details in the instructions for switching yarns where the stripes meet the blue field would boost the rating by half a point.
No one likes nearing the end of a project only to realize they might not have enough yarn to complete it. I’d suggest Lion Brand alerts crocheters that nearly every inch of blue and white yarn will be used so they won’t get too anxious when it starts running low. Knowing that before buying the kit would also give crocheters the option to buy more yarn (from the same dye lot, of course) or use a smaller hook.
Overall, those are minimal quibbles.
The recipients love the finished project, and that’s the only thing that really matters.
Don’t even bother denying it. Every knitter, weaver, and crocheter has a yarn stash. Some are big, some are small. Mine is somewhere in between. I’d guess about 80% of my stash is leftover from completed projects and the rest is either for projects I plan (or planned) to make or yarn that I bought because it called my name.
Over a year ago, a couple of my cousins volunteered to have a garage sale to help their older friend—once prolific knitter—unload a lot of yarn, needles, and patterns. They sold a ton of yarn. I’m not kidding: They sent me a photo of their grown daughter sitting on top of a massive pile of garbage bags all filled with yarn.
Their sale was a success, but I never want to have to divest myself of that much yarn at once. I’d rather use it.
Last summer I burned through most of my cotton yarn by making myself a new bathmat (and another for a friend who requested one).
But to use up a lot of mismatched yarns, I decided to make a large, double-stranded scrappy blanket.
The blanket is made from three panels: two using white, off white, cream, tan, and light gray yarns as a grounding color to be double stranded with random lengths of various colors of yarn scraps, and the middle panel uses black, charcoal, and dark gray as the grounding color.
To ensure the scraps don’t become untied, I held two strands parallel (as opposed to end-to-end) and knotted them with a loop so the harder you tug on the yarn, the tighter the knot becomes. Unless, of course, you pull so hard that the yarn breaks.
Because there are so many colors, I used a medium gray to stitch the dark and light panels together.
Each panel was 32 stitches wide and worked on size 19 needles, but I could have gone with 17s or even 15s and had a slightly denser fabric. Instead of counting rows I just tried to knit all three panels to approximately the same length.
I intentionally left the scrappy ends sticking out. First, there are so many that weaving them in would take forever. Second, if you do that in time they’ll work loose eventually anyway. Third, it adds more texture.
On a whim, I stranded the random scrap yarn with some red that was leftover from the flag afghan and crocheted an edging along all four sides of the blanket. That was so last-minute that I didn’t get a photo.
The beauty of a project like this? If the blanket snags or frays you can quite literally use any color/size/fiber of yarn to knot it back up.
Oddly enough, I made this for the same cousins who held that yarn sale! It was a thank-you for hosting the extended family at their cabin. But it’s really a memory blanket since it includes scraps from pretty much every item I’ve made for family members over the years. My sister-in-law donated some of her own yarn scraps to the project, too!
Making this blanket led to my New Year Resolution:
No buying new yarn until either my stash is gone or the calendar says 2018—unless it’s needed to make a gift or special project for someone else. (Every good resolution needs a loophole!)
What are your crafty resolutions for 2017?
As some of you know, my family really likes making our own Christmas wreaths. This year was no exception. I think six or seven wreaths were made during our annual Thanksgiving Family Retreat and Wreath-making Extravaganza.
In prior years, we’ve roamed our cousins’ property cutting boughs from a wide variety of pine and fir trees. This year we used the scraggly lower branches of a couple freshly cut balsam fir Christmas trees and some showier white pine for accents.
For some reason, I got it in my head that I wanted to go with a white and gold color scheme for my wreath:
My bow is a little small, but that’s what you get for buying a new, unmarked roll of wired ribbon at Goodwill. I still like it, but I’ll probably keep adjusting the bow all season.
Once I get my gold Christmas lights up outside, it should look even better. This may be my favorite wreath so far.
Making wreaths is one of my favorite family traditions. What are your favorite creative holiday traditions?
My curved, two-piece sofa needs to be recovered, but because it’s eight-and-a-half feet long it would cost a small fortune to have it reupholstered. It’s also about nine inches longer than conventional sofas, so finding a slip cover that will fit is easier said than done.
For the past few years my sofa has been covered either with an ill-fitting, second-hand slip cover or a pair of thick, white, twin-size bedspreads. Years of abuse from dogs has left stains and small holes in both of those covers, so I’ve spent a lot of time the past few months looking for another option.
One day I realized I had about 8 yards of a nice decorator fabric stashed in a closet. I bought it several years ago to make a duvet cover for an old comforter, but wound up buying a new comforter instead. The golden-tan color works well enough in the living room, so a few weeks ago I pulled out the fabric and realized I had just enough to cover the couch.
I started by folding the long piece of fabric in half to make sure there was enough fabric. There was. I cut it in half, into two long sections—about 12 feet each—and seamed them together lengthwise.
As luck would have it, I’d seamed about two feet before I realized the fabric—which should be right sides together—was wrong-sides together. In my defense the front and back look a lot alike. Can you tell which is which from the side-by-side photo below?
I know, right?
The hardest part of this project was keeping control of such a massive piece of fabric. That meant flipping it over and realigning the edges wasn’t much fun, but I did it. Here it is, properly layered and pinned.
I sewed a straight line from one end to the other, leaving a generous seam allowance. (When the cover is on the sofa, this long seam will be tucked and hidden under the sofa cushions.)
The next step was to trim the ends of the newly-formed piece into straight lines. With both sides together, I folded one cut end to the other, using several large binder clips to keep it properly aligned.
Oops! The ends were a more than a little off, so on each end, I set a right-angle straight-edge over the shorter piece and carefully trimmed the ends so they would be as straight as possible.
After that, all I needed to do was hem all four sides of the massive piece of fabric. Because I wanted a neat and durable finish, I folded the edge over itself so the raw edges wouldn’t show, then pinned it into place.
If the fabric weren’t so cumbersome, I would have pressed the seams flat before sewing, but it worked out fine anyway.
To recap, I:
- cut a long bolt of fabric (approximately 24 feet) into two 12 foot sections
- pinned the right sides together (after noticing I’d done it the wrong way first)
- sewed one long straight line
- folded it end-to-end and trimmed the ends in straight lines
- double-folded the hem and sewed around the entire piece
The only thing left was to try it on the sofa.
Yes, it’s a bit wrinkled, but the fabric had been piled up on the table several days as I pinned and stitched away. The wrinkles will come out in the wash. Between my dog Sadie, who’s napping on the sofa at this very moment, and our frequent guest dog Stanley, this new sofa cover will be washed quite often.
A confluence of events beyond my control led to my inclusion in a couple of my favorite writing blogs today.
I posted about those posts in a new (and similarly sporadic) blog on my website, HendricksonWrites.com, and since I’m all about the blogs today, I thought I might as well cross post it here as well:
Does that make this a triple cross post?
Even if it does, it doesn’t negate the fact that I’m honored to be part of a welcoming, supportive, and inspiring community of writers.
In the spirit of this spooky season, I’m re-posting one of the more popular posts from over the years. It’s from 2012. Have a spooktacular Halloween, everyone!
Pumpkin Obsession: Extreme Edition
My brother gets a little crazy every autumn. Brice is always buying pumpkins in October, and he carves them all, or as many as time allows. Gourds aren’t even safe from him at this time of year.
As of Monday he said the current count was 26. That was nine pumpkin-shopping days before Halloween, so he may have even more by now. (I think he’s regretting not following through on his idea of planting a pumpkin patch this summer.)
It all started way back when little Bricie won a ribbon in a pumpkin carving contest. Not that lots of actual carving was involved – his creativity caught the judges’ attention.
Every Halloween season, Brice & I wind up talking about pumpkins. When I carve jack-o-lanterns, I only do one or two. I carve slowly, but add special touches like freckles (by plunging a metal skewer through the shell) or scars (by scraping skin and a little flesh off the pumpkin). Brice? He uses power tools.
Brice’s carving isn’t completed yet for this Halloween, so let’s take a tour of their yard from a Halloween past. (The great photos are by my sister-in-law, Jeanne.)
Hmm, doesn’t that white jack-o-lantern way back there appear to be eating something? Let’s take a closer look….
This last one looks a bit Seussian, don’t you think?
All right. It’s time to admit my role in my brother’s autumnal obsession. A couple years ago I gave him two Extreme Pumpkin Carving books by Tom Nardone.
Hey, Bri, it seems Nardone has an annual pumpkin carving contest. Enter it, and maybe you’ll repeat your childhood success with another win!
What are some of your favorite Halloween traditions? How many pumpkins do you plan to carve this year?
I kid you
knot not. Today is I Love Yarn Day. Appropriately enough, the official tagline for it is Stitch It Forward.
It’s no secret. I really do love yarn. Bulky yarns, fine yarns, ombre yarns, worsted yarns, roving yarns, even t-shirt yarns.
But this I Love Yarn Day is a little bittersweet. A lingering bout of tendonitis in my right wrist/thumb is making it difficult to knit or crochet for more than a couple rows at a time, even with a not-so-festive splinted wrist brace.
Another obstacle? Since the weather has begun to cool off, a certain puppy likes to climb on my lap every evening when I’d normally be knitting or crocheting:
That’s why it’s taking me longer than normal to finish crocheting an American Flag afghan for my cousin and her husband. The kit, from Lion Brand, includes a pattern that’s essentially a ripple stitch with strategic color changes every so often. I started working on it in July. This is where I was on July 31st:
Normally, it might take me a couple weeks to knock this out, but it wasn’t until September 6 that I reached the field of blue.
I think I’ve got about 15-20 more (long) rows to finish, then I can make the stars, which my cousin and I will apply later so they’re exactly where she wants them.
If Puppy Sadie allows, I hope to work maybe one row per day until my wrist and thumb can handle my usual pace.
This is the first (hopefully only) bout of tendonitis I’ve ever had. As far as pain goes, it’s minimal but annoying. The most frustrating part is not being able to play with yarn as much as I want—especially now as the leaves are turning and the temperatures are dropping.
But have no fear: I’ll work a bit on the afghan at some point today just to celebrate National Yarn Day.
Do you have a favorite yarn? Let us know!