Category Archives: Pattern Reviews

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!

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Review: Lion Brand’s US Flag Afghan Kit

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.

danoflag

The finished flag afghan in its new home.

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.

 

Mika Doyle

Freelance Writer & Poet

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