Category Archives: patterns

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.

 

 

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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?

 

 

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.

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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.

 

Tarn it all!

Funny how things happen. My last post centered on my Want-To-Do List, and just a few days later I crossed one item off the list: Make t-shirt yarn.

There are numerous online tutorials for making t-shirt yarn, here’s a link to just one of many blogs that gives clear step-by-step instructions.

I set up a card table, got out some old t-shirts, a rotary cutter, scissors, and a cutting mat and within a couple hours — while binge watching a show I wanted to catch up on — I’d turned ten ratty old t-shirts into 10 balls of t-shirt yarn, also called “tarn.”

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The best part is it doesn’t matter if the shirts are stained, since the fabric curls up on itself. The blue-green tarn above was from a shirt I’d worn while painting, but you can’t even see the paint specks in the final product.

Before starting to make a rug or something larger, I decided to try knitting a dishcloth from some tarn. Having no idea how far one ball of tarn would go, I used two colors and worked a slip stitch here and there to add a little flare.

I totally guessed on the gauge but did pretty well for a first try. Using size 15 needles, I cast on 15 stitches (easy to remember, huh?). And because I was alternating colors I knitted 21 rows, plus the cast-off row. The dishcloths are about 7″x7″.  I used a stockinette stitch so one side of the dishcloth is smooth and the other has more texture for scrubbing.

With plenty of the both colors left, I decided to make a second dishcloth using a simple garter stitch, alternating colors every two rows. That created bold stripes on the “front” side. I’m still working on that dishcloth, but here’s a what I have as of now:

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Next up I’ll try crocheting a dishcloth to see how that goes!

The best part of making tarn? You still have the sleeves and shoulders of the old shirts for dust rags.

 

I’m No Blockhead

Blocking is what knitters and crocheters do to ensure their projects have a finished look. Depending on the yarn and the project, garments (or pieces) might dampened by soaking, steaming or spritzing, pinned into shape and left to air dry. One yarn said to pin the piece into shape and cover it with a damp towel – that didn’t work too well so I gave it a good spritz and covered it back up.

No matter the method, blocking can correct a lot of problems. With my sweater vest below, I knew the shawl collar would be an issue. I’ve struggled with them before.

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My sister-in-law made the great blocking board!

See the horizontal lines in the middle section? See all the pin heads along the bottom edge? Before I pinned it into shape, the bottom edges of both sides were about three inches higher.

Why, you ask?

Because the shawl collar/placket is done in a ribbed stitch. Ribbing always contracts. That’s why it’s often used where you want a little stretch – like a mitten cuff.  Since I want the bottom inside edges to align with the rest of the bottom of the vest, I stretched it out and pinned it into place.

As excited as I was to make a garment with no piecing — the armholes were created by placing some stitches on a holder and knitting the top half in three sections, the last step was picking up and knitting a few rows of garter stitch for each “sleeve” — I didn’t realize it would be harder to block as an entire unit.

When blocking individual pieces the pattern will usually tell you the exact size and shape each piece should be. Most pieces are flat. But blocking an entire garment (especially one with a overlap like this) makes it hard to shape. It’s flat. When you’re not sure how far pieces will overlap when the piece is worn, you have to guess how far to stretch things.

When blocking this vest, my first goal was to stretch the ribbed collar/placket to the right length. My second goal was to use enough tension to make the textured pattern stand out.

Some knitters use rods to evenly stretch fabric. I’ve never done that, but wonder if that might be a good way to block no-assembly-required type projects.

Suggestions, anyone?

Summer Knitting (and Crocheting)

Just because the weather heats up doesn’t mean the knitting has to stop. I usually switch to making smaller things with lighter weight yarns.

Over the years I’ve crocheted a lot of different dishcloths. But my hands temp to cramp up if I crochet too much, so I looked around for interesting knitted patterns and found The Hive Knitted Dishcloth at BeingSpiffy.com, a site that has a different dishcloth pattern for every week of the year. It was a quick project, but turned out a little smaller than I’d expected:

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I love the honeycomb texture. I’ll try it again on slightly larger needles, but worst case scenario I’ll just add one pattern repeat to the width and length.

Another dishcloth design I couldn’t resist making is this fun (and sometimes frustrating) new crochet pattern I found called Sailor’s Knot Dishcloth (free registration required to download the pattern):

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Some patterns are available in both knit and crochet versions, but I couldn’t find knitting instructions for this one. The blue, green and variegated one above was my first attempt. I used different colors to better see how the pieces are woven together. Now I’ll show you how a Sailor’s Knot Dishcloth is assembled:

Start with the square loop...

Start with a square loop…

Then make two oblong loops...

Then make two oblong pieces.

Weave one oblong piece over and under the square loop as illustrated in the pattern.

Weave one oblong piece over and under the square loop as illustrated in the pattern.

Follow the same steps with the second oblong piece, and….

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…you have a large, thick dishcloth that looks more complicated than it really is. The great thing is the designer planned it out so the ends of the oblong pieces join right where they meet the cross pieces, so the seams are nearly invisible.

The dishcloth is reversible.

Here’s the flip side. The dishcloth is reversible.

Since the guys do dishes in my family (at least for family gatherings), I couldn’t resist making this for my Canadian brother-in-law:

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From the front or back, this clever pattern looks like a red and white striped square. But viewed at an angle, like above, you see the maple leaf. The colors are reversed on the flip side. The illusion is created with strategically placed knit and purl stitches.

Dishcloths are great projects to test new stitches and learn knitting and crochet skills, but they also make doing dishes a little more fun.

Here come the (felted) bangles!

A couple weeks ago my sister-in-law told me “heavy wrists” are in style this season – the more bangles the better – so I decided to make some.

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My marble rolling pin made an excellent form for drying and shaping the bracelets. (I only set them on the wooden tray after they were thoroughly dry, and then only long enough to take a photo.)

Late last year I made a few felted bracelets following a pattern someone else developed.

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These were my first attempts, using the other pattern. I decorated a few with needle felting, but broke several felting needles because the bangles are so dense. Needle felt at your own risk.

Some turned out really cute, but some wound up with a groove down the back where the edges curved in during felting. I knew there had to be a way to make smoother edges, so I created my own “pattern” by knitting and felting i-cord.

What’s i-cord, you ask? It’s a small tube of knitted fabric that looks kind of like knitted rope, and is often used as drawstrings or handles on bags.

Knitting i-cord is faster than knitting the same number of stitches in a flat piece since you never turn it. It’s sort of like a micro version of knitting in the round – using only two double-pointed needles.

This is a 5-stich i-cord.

This is a 5-stich i-cord.

My “pattern” is simple: knit about 12″ of i-cord from feltable wool yarn, then whip stitch the ends to form a circle. Some are made using 3-stitch i-cord, some with 5-stitch i-cord, a couple with 7-stitch i-cord.

Once you’ve knitted a few, pop them into a zipped laundry bag or into a pillow case tightly closed with rubber bands (I usually knot it, too). Set your washing machine for a small load and hot water. I like to add a tablespoon or so of baking soda to alleviate the “wet wool” smell. They might felt perfectly the first time, but sometimes it takes two or three cycles to achieve the look you want.

This is my trial batch, before felting:

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Looks like a bunch of hair scrunchies, huh?

The same bunch, after two feltings:

A bunch of little bangles, all in a row.

Like magic, the stitches seem to melt away during felting.

I put them on a marble rolling pin to dry because it seemed about the right circumference for bangles. It was perfect. My first batch was made with single stranded wool using size US 10.5 double-pointed needles. Next, I decided to try double stranding on size US 13 DPNs. That let me mix colors as desired. The result: slightly bulkier bracelets.

These also took two feltings.

These also took two feltings.

I kind of like mixing and matching the thicker and thinner bracelets. Pardon the odd angle, but it’s a bit tricky to take a photo of your own arm…

My favorite warm tone bangles...

Some of my favorite bangles all in a row!

Heavy wrists might be in vogue, but I think I may have overdone it a bit. In  my defense, they all went well with what I happened to be wearing that day.

If you’re a crocheter who’d like to try making felted bangles, let me know. Crocheted stitches don’t dissolve as nicely as knitted stitches, but I’m up for trying to test some ideas for crocheting some felted bangles, too.

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