Category Archives: Knitting

Leftover Yarn to the Rescue

I often say my dog, Sadie, has never seen a throw pillow she didn’t want to eviscerate. That’s not quite accurate. There are a couple she’s left alone, one being this Impromptu Pillow I made several years ago.

When I realized I had a couple of 10″ pillow forms and the two skeins of yarn Guest Dog Stanley got into a few months back, I decided to make a tiny version of the Impromptu Pillow. The 10″ pillows are small enough they could be dog toys (especially for my giant furry nephew, Duke—a Redbone Coonhound and Great Pyrenees mix), but since the Impromptu Pillows have  crocheted edges, I knew I could make it look larger but adding a couple more rounds of edging.

I designed the original pillows to be made with super bulky yarn, so I had to adjust the gauge, using the gauge information from the yarn label that Stanley didn’t shred to determine how many stitches I needed to make to make a square to fit the 10″ pillow form.

Since this particular yarn says 20 rows of 14 stitches knitted on US 10 needles averages a 10cm square, I used a ruler that has inches and centimeters to figure out how many centimeters I wanted the square to be. Gauge can vary a lot by knitter, so I first tried 28 stitches, but that ran a bit small. Then I tried 30. That was still a bit small, and I also remembered that seed stitch works easiest with an odd number of stitches—because each row starts with and ends with a knit stitch there’s really no pattern to remember other than Knit 1, Purl 1.

Thirty-five was the magic number for me. After a couple of false starts, It was finally time to start knitting.

 

The color is off in this, since it was taken at night under artificial light.

I didn’t count rows, I just eyeballed the size of the first square, and used it as my guide for the second square.

You’d think knitting panels for a smaller pillow would take less time, but I was using smaller needles and a thinner yarn. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it got a bit monotonous. There’s a reason I love thick yarn and big needles: The work goes a lot faster.

I made sure to finish each square with an odd row, so the cast-on tail would be at the lower right and the cast-off tail on the upper left.

Then the assembly began:

I positioned the pieces around the pillow form and used the tails to secure the corners.

After securing all four corners, I used stitch markers to mark the approximate center of each side.

Starting at a corner, I joined matching yarn—you could use a contrasting color if you like—and used a simple single crochet to join the first two edges. If you don’t crochet, or want a more modern, streamlined look, you can always skip the edging and sew the edges together with matching yarn and a blunt, large-eyed needle. But remember, my goal here was to make a 10″ pillow look larger.

I used 24 stitches to close each side of the pillow, and for the corners I did 1 single crochet, 1 double crochet, 1 single crochet all in one stitch to form a square corner.

I improvised the edging, but sketched out a few options, with each dash representing a single crochet stitch. (I am not fluent in crochet charting symbols, so I did what made sense to me.) The first row was basically a repeat of 1 single crochet, skip one space, chain 1, 1 single crochet (starting each round with a chain 1  in place of the first single crochet, and ending each round with a slip stitch joining to it for the final stitch).

 

The final round I did—starting and ending like the previous round—was essentially a repeat of chain four, 1 single crochet in the chain 1 space, and the corners were chain 2, 1 triple crochet (into the double crochet stitch of the previous round), chain 2 which ended with a single crochet which leads right back to repeated stitch pattern.

I think the final result looks pretty nice. A little bit of a lacy flourish, but not too ostentatious. Here it is sitting next to the 16″ Impromptu Pillow shown above. That pillow only has one row of edging because I was nearly out of yarn. That super bulky yarn also doesn’t really allow the lacy details of the crocheted edging to show through. So I guess there are advantages to using smaller needles and thinner yarn. Sometimes.

Anyone want to guess how long it will take Sadie to attack this new pillow?

 

 

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Knitting With Pets (aka Making the Cropped Thumbhole Sweater)

For some reason, a lot of people in my family (including me) like sleeves with thumbholes. When Sadie was a puppy, her razor-sharp puppy teeth ripped holes into the sleeves of a couple of my tops, but instead of turning them into dust rags or quilt fodder I stretched the tiny holes into thumbholes.

But no one loves thumbhole sleeves as much as my sister does. When she found this pattern for Camexia Design’s Cropped Thumbhole Sweater, she asked if I could make it for her. The pattern looked fairly simple, and I love working dropped stitches, so she ordered the same King Cole Big Value Chunky yarn mentioned in the pattern and had it sent to me. She chose the color “Caramel”—ostensibly to match her dog, Stanley.

My furry nephew (and frequent guest dog), Stanley.

The yarn happened to arrive on the first day of Stanley’s latest doggie vacation here with Sadie. I wanted to read through the pattern before casting on, so I put the yarn into a project bag and set it beside my knitting chair. The next morning I found this spread across the living room floor:

Someone had a party with two skeins of yarn. Luckily my sister bought five skeins, just in case I needed to make a different size.

While I didn’t witness the mayhem, Sadie is used to yarn and knitting projects—finished and in progress—so she’s pretty blasé about it all. When I get new yarn, Sadie takes one look and is like, “More yarn? Boring!” Stanley, on the other hand, happily sniffed the yarn after it arrived, and an hour or so later I caught him on the chair curled up with an intact skein of yarn. In the middle of the night he ran into the living room to bark at things several times. Given the evidence and Sadie’s total disinterest in yarn, I think it’s clear who the culprit was.

The good news is I only needed three skeins to make my sister’s cropped thumbhole sweater, so I didn’t have to detangle the massive pile of yarn to finish the project. (That said, when I finally did untangle it, it took a couple hours.)

This sweater is designed to have the bumpier purl side of the stockinette stitches showing, but my sister preferred  it with the smoother knit side showing. Either way, it was a fun knit and looks really cute on her. In fact, she loved it so much she asked me to make a second one in a heathery charcoal grey.

The first finished sweater

I only came across two stumbling blocks when making the first sweater. One I didn’t notice until I’d finished it:

  • I think there should be yarn overs BEFORE purling the first stitch of the yarn over rounds or you won’t have loops to drop on the first stitch of what I call the “purl drop” rounds; knitted as written, there’s a vertical column of tighter-looking stitches running down the middle of the back (or front, since it works either way; see photo above) of the sweater. My sister has long hair, so if her hair is down she can put that side in the back, but if she wears her hair up she can throw on a couple of longer necklaces to divert attention.
  • Try as I might I couldn’t figure out the special cast-off method described in the pattern. I contacted the creator via Instagram and Ravelry, and she gave me a link to a video that shows a similar technique. She said it was included with the pattern, but I didn’t see a URL for it on the printout I was using. Once I saw a few seconds of the video it made perfect sense. You’ve got to love a responsive designer who answers your questions!

Now that the second sweater is on the needles (isn’t the heather gray gorgeous?), here are a couple photos of those super fun double purl drop rows.

With a double yarn over before each stitch, you effectively triple the number of stitches on your working needle

Ignore the needle in back—I was holding it up to show that the yarn overs are slightly slanted; purling into the front of the first stitch and letting the two yarn overs drop is what forms the open dropped stitches

Like magic, those dropped yarn overs become long, airy stitches

If you have a big gap under the arms when you finish, just thread a little leftover yarn through a wide-eye darning needle and close it with a few quick stitches. Simple.

I hope my sister likes the charcoal version as much as the caramel one!

Entering The Machine Age

Ruk is a good friend of my sister. Ruk is a long-time knitter (I got my go-to sock pattern from her several years ago). She’s also very generous. A couple months ago, Ruk asked if I might like her old knitting machine.

Yes, please—and thank you!

I had no idea what kind it was, but I thought it would be fun to try.

My sister brought it over yesterday. This morning I looked it over—it appears to be in great condition (even the original Styrofoam pieces that secure a couple of parts were intact!)—and noted the brand and model number: Studio 155.

Looking from one end of the knitting machine to the other.

A peek into the accessories box.

The heart of the knitting machine.

As soon as I posted that information on Ravelry’s Machine Knitting group fellow knitters replied saying it’s a wonderful workhorse of a machine and offering links to information about machine knitting and tips about what to do before trying to use it. The most important thing being I need to check, and possibly replace, the sponge bar. I didn’t know what that was, but again, they provided me with links and information.

My sister said Ruk found another thing that goes with the machine, so I’ll get that later on. In the meantime I’ll read the owner’s manual (which I was able to download thanks to another link from my new friends in the Ravelry group) and a two-volume set of books Ruk also gave me, Bible for Machine Knitting.

Thank you for this wonderful gift, Ruk. I hope I can learn how to use it well enough to make some exciting new handmade projects. (To me, hand knit still means something it made one stitch at a time on handheld knitting needles.)

 

 

My Year-Long Yarn De-stash Challenge: How Did I Do?

Precisely one year ago I announced my pledge not to buy any new yarn (unless it was for a special project for someone else) until my yarn stash was gone or the calendar said 2018.

The funny thing? I didn’t miss buying yarn that much. Or at least not as much as I thought I would.

This is what my yarn stash looked like one year ago:

This is what it looks like today:

And that includes remnants of new yarn I purchased to make one pair of socks, a baby blanket, four chemo hats, and four scarves!

How did I burn through so much yarn that it now fits into two under-the-bed storage cases?

  • Gave a bunch of yarn to a friend who was making hats for the homeless
  • Made two P-hats upon request
  • Knitted wool mittens
  • Knocked out a stack of cotton dishcloths
  • Used scrap yarn to knit a Santa hat for a sock monkey

But hands down, the best stash-buster of all was the Sediment Scrap Blanket.

Not only did the quintuple-stranded blanket rapidly eat through an incalculable yardage of yarn, it resulted in a lovely, thick, and warm blanket which has been getting a lot of use during the recent (and seemingly endless) arctic blast we’re experiencing.

The challenge taught me that it’s important to save yarn labels or find a way to note what types of yarn you have in your stash. Knowing which yarns are wool is important if you want to make something that’s washable, if you want to felt something, or if you’re making an item for someone who’s allergic to wool or other fibers.

Now that I’m free to buy more yarn without any restrictions, I think I’ll keep wheedling down my yarn stash. It’s been a fun challenge, and I’d encourage other yarn addicts to give it a try.

What craft-related resolutions did you make last year—or for the new year?

How Will You Celebrate I Love Yarn Day?

If you ask me, every day is I love Yarn Day, but this year Saturday, October 14 is the official date.

What’s not to love about yarn? It comes in every color – or “colorway” in yarn-y parlance – you can imagine, and in hundreds of fiber combinations, textures, and thicknesses. Best of all, with a few knots and loops, you can turn long strings of yarn into beautiful and useful items.

Heck, you can even tie odd bits of scrap yarns together can make something cool!

You don’t need to know how to use knitting needles or crochet hooks (or Tunisian crochet hooks!) to use yarn. You can:

  • make pom-poms
  • finger knit
  • use a knitting loom
  • use a weaving loom
  • arm knit
  • coil and glue yarn into designs or objects
  • tie bundles or packages
  • hook rugs, like this one….

A mystery piece of yarny goodness made by someone on my mom’s side of the family proves I’m not the first yarn lover in the family.

Do you have any family treasures that were made from yarn? What are some of your favorite ways to work with yarn?

 

Knitting for a Reason

I’m sticking to my resolution to burn off as much yarn from my yarn stash as possible this year, but it’s good that I included a loophole allowing me to buy yarn to make something for someone else.

For once I didn’t want to buy yarn, but I did.

Why?

It’s for making chemo hats.

I searched Ravelry for tips on knitting chemo hats and quickly learned you need a soft, lightweight yarn because the hats are often worn indoors—preferably a cotton blend so it’s both breathable and washable. Another tip was to avoid heavily textured patterns, because the texture might irritate sensitive scalps.

Of the yarns that were highly recommended, I decided to try Knit Picks’ Comfy Sport, a super soft sport-weight yarn that’s 75% Pima Cotton and 25% Acrylic. When I saw it was only $2.99 per 136-yard skein (most hat patterns need a little more yarn than that, but even two skeins is under $6 per hat) I bought several colors, because who wants to wear the same hat day in and day out?

When the yarn arrived, the color that drew my attention was Planetarium, a rich blue. I immediately started the Relax Man! slouchy hat, which can be worn a couple of different ways. I had to learn the German twisted cast-on method; it’s a long-tail cast on, and I hate those. I never seem to have enough “tail” to get it right the first time.

Before I finished the first hat, my sister asked if I could make one for someone she knows who was just starting chemo, too. So I ordered more of the same yarn in a girly color named Zinnia.

I was wondering where to attach one of these cool new labels. For a while I thought about centering it in the ribbing, but quickly realized it might get in the way if the recipient wants to fold the brim up and wear it as a cap instead of a slouchy hat.

As of now, the future recipient of this hat still has his hair, so hopefully he won’t need it for a while. I just hope it can help keep him a little more comfortable while going through chemo.

 

 

Back to Basics

A really long time ago—longer than I can remember—a family friend gave me four hand-knit cotton dishcloths she’d picked up at a craft fair. Pink. Dark blue. Light blue. Yellow. I used some for dishes, others for cleaning. The dark blue one was the first to go. I spilled bleach on it and that weakened the fibers, and after a while it just fell apart.

I’ve knitted and crocheted several dishcloths over the years, using fancy stitches and complex patterns, but there’s something about the simple garter stitch of the old dishcloths that I love.

The last three of the old dishcloths lasted until a couple weeks ago. Tiny holes got progressively larger with each use until they unraveled in the laundry.

The dishcloth on the needles looks smaller because cotton dishcloths stretch out with use.

Luckily, patterns for these basic dishcloths can be found all over the internet. This is the pattern I used. (Be sure to read the introduction to the pattern, too. It’s a lovely story.)

The pattern—which works up quickly—is easy to memorize. You start with four stitches and add a stitch with each row, then decrease one stitch with each row to complete the square. The classic eyelet-like border comes from simple yarn overs.

While the pattern says it takes one ball of cotton yarn per dishcloth, other patterns I’ve made take a little less than a full ball, which makes this a fun way to keep my stash burning resolution.

Some of the partial skeins had enough yarn to make an entire dishcloth, but a few others fell slightly short, so I finished those off with complimentary colors.

The light orange is all from one skein, the lighter bit near the middle results from the varied colors in the yarn itself.

It’s almost ridiculous how addictive this is. Without even trying I’m averaging one dishcloth per day. The funny thing? I like the mismatched dishcloths more than the single-skein ones.

Small projects like these cotton dishcloths make for great, portable, summer knitting projects.

What, if anything, do you like to knit (or crochet) in the summer?

 

Stash-burning Mittens

While my year-long effort to reduce my yarn stash was placed on pause to finish the Sheep Dreams Baby Blanket for my cousin—which was a really fun project!—a brief reprise from the summer heat has me knitting again.

I wanted a quick project, so I turned to the Knit Knack Kit my sister and I picked up at one of her favorite resale stores.

Kris Percival’s simple, old-fashioned “Warmest Mittens”  pattern leapt out at me. First, because they look warm and cozy, but also because I haven’t tried making mittens in several years. It didn’t hurt that there was enough stash yarn to make a matching hat and maybe a scarf or cowl, too.

The yarn I chose was leftover from a felted knitting project I made back when I was one of the rotating bloggers for Patons Yarn’s former blog. The mitten pattern included directions for three-color striped mittens so I chose three of the five Patons Classic Wool colors that I had the most of: Yellow, Pumpkin, and Orchid.

Time to cast on. The pattern suggests size 4 and 5 double-pointed needles, but I don’t have any 4s. (I know. I can’t believe it either.) So I chose size 5 for the cuffs and 6 for the rest of the mittens. Going up or down a needle size or two will alter the size of the mittens slightly.

Wow! Look how bright the Pumpkin yarn looks under artificial light! The stitch marker is there for a bit of perspective.

The pattern works up fairly quickly, and the stripes allow you to see your progress. (If there’s one thing I don’t care for, it’s knitting the same color and stitch over and over and over. It’s monotonous and makes it hard to see how much you’ve knitted.)

I opted to start the second color after the cuffs and work 10 rows of each color.

The thumb gusset is formed by regular increases on one of the three needles. (And check out my low-tech system for keeping track of the pattern!)

Once the gusset increases are done it’s time to slip stitches from that needle onto a stitch holder.

Continue knitting the hand. The thumb stitches will wait for their turn.

When I got to the final few rows, I decided to work the last 12 or so rows in the final color since switching to a new color for just a couple of rows would have looked silly.

Then it was finally time to make the thumb.

The thumbs work up quickly. I could have worked 10 rows and changed colors, but the photo on the pattern had solid color thumbs, which looked nice.

Before you know it, it’s time to weave in the ends. Each color change leaves two “tails” of yarn that need to be worked in so they’re unseen and secure.

Luckily the pattern said to leave tails that are long enough to thread through a tapestry needle, making it a bit easier to weave in the ends.

One done…

I’m glad I didn’t have size 4 DPNs since these beauties fit my hands really well. I will definitely be making this pattern again.

Do you have a go-to mitten pattern? If so, what do you like most about it?

 

 

Top Secret Knitting Project Revealed!

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.

With the bottom border, stockinette band, and Double Bind done it was time to form the “pens.”

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.

A bit dark, but it was late at night and I was so excited to have the first four sheep penned I had to take a photo.

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 facing left, the other right—were very clear.

Duplicate Stitch step one: I determined where the feet would go.

Working the Duplicate Stitch.

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.

After it was pinned to size, I spritzed the blanket well with room-temperature water and covered it with a thick towel. I repeated the process the next day.

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.

 

 

The Stash Burning Has Begun

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.

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Not all of my yarn stash—shown here piled on a king-sized bed—is visible in this photo.

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.

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My sister loves her new hat.

 

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Seems my furry nephew, Stanley, likes his mommy’s new hat, too!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

 

 

Mika Doyle

Professional Writer & Editor

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