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 facing 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.
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?
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?
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!
It’s a miracle! I managed to finish one sock by squeezing in some knitting time during Sadie’s late night naps.
She did wake up one night and express interest in the yarn—or perhaps the double pointed needles—so I’ll need to proceed carefully in getting her used to her human’s knitting obsession.
With any luck I’ll finish my brother-in-law’s second sock by his birthday. It’s in December.
It’s a good thing today is National I Love Yarn Day, because you really have to love yarn when you put several weeks into knitting something only to realize you made a really big mistake.
That happened to me when I was knitting a hooded sweater coat last spring. I thought I was almost done, but when I tried attaching the sleeves it was clear I’d made a mistake in the ribbing. I dreaded the thought of frogging (a knitter’s term for ripping out stitches) 10-1/2 inches worth of knitting—and both sleeves—that I set the project aside all spring and summer. But once cooler weather reignited the urge to knit, I told myself I couldn’t start any new projects until I finish this coat. (Okay, so I made an exception to make something for my sister’s birthday. But that only took a couple days.)
Two weeks ago I got up the courage to frog my work. It wasn’t as painful as I thought, since the yarn is a bulky roving and doesn’t unravel as easily as smoother yarns.
See all those live stitches? The first thing I did was slip a lifeline in. A lifeline is just a piece of yarn in a contrasting color that helps keep the stitches from raveling. I use them a lot when knitting lace or any complex patterns, so when (not if) I catch a mistake I can restart without having to re-knit an entire thing.
Threading the lifeline:
Lifeline firmly in place:
Worst of all, there were three sections I had to unravel and re-knit: the right side, the back (which is the big stretch above) and the left side. Each section is knitted separately, which is why I really needed the lifelines. Finally, I slipped the work back onto my circular needles:
It took nearly a week of evening knitting to re-knit it all. Then I realized I’d decreased on the wrong edge of one side, so I had to re-re-knit a couple inches of that. After that, I realized the larger back section was too short. So my next step will be frogging about three rows, knitting several more, then decreasing. Again.
Did I mention the sleeves use the same unusual ribbing pattern? With most ribbing patterns if you knit a stitch on one side, you purl it on the other. But this is a staggered ribbing—to make it easier to match the pattern when you attach the sleeves—so I’ll have to stay on my toes when increasing and decreasing if I want the pattern to stay in check.
Otherwise you’ll soon be reading another post about why it’s lucky I love yarn enough to rip things out and start over.
What are some of your biggest knitting blunders, and how did you fix them?
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.”
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:
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.
If you have a recipe or pattern for making enough time for your hobbies, patent it. You’ll make a fortune.
The reason I haven’t added a blog post in far too long is that I haven’t had much time to set aside for my hobbies, which means I haven’t had any new projects to post. And when I did have a few spare hours, dry cracks and sores on my hands kept me from working with yarn.
But when my niece asked if I could make a baby-sized version of the cupcake hat I made her for Christmas, how could I say no?
The pattern is deceptively simple, so the adorable little hat shouldn’t have taken me so long to knit. If it weren’t for the cracks in my hands, I could probably have finished this beauty in two days.
Even before I started that cupcake hat, I finally cast on for a sweater coat I’ve been wanting to make for a couple of years. I’ve actually had the yarn since way back when I was a knitter-blogger for Patons Yarn. You have to commit a lot of time to such a large project, and I never had the time to spare. But earlier this year I decided to start anyway. This is where I was at six weeks ago…
…and I’m still not quite to the 21.5″ point where the next pattern step kicks in. You’ll also notice at the left of the photo that a couple cables are twisted in the wrong direction. By the time I spotted the mistake I’d invested too much time to rip it out, so the flaw will remain. After all, handmade does not mean perfect.
Knitting is like any other hobby. You have to make time for it. Thankfully, unlike a lot of other hobbies, knitting can done while watching TV (although you might risk the occasional twisted cable, ahem), chatting with friends, or while waiting for someone.
Another reason to wish I had more time to knit? An ever-growing backlog of projects I want to make – several to use up scrap yarn from past projects. Yet I keep finding new patterns to try. Like a pattern for a cowl I spotted when looking up links to include in this post.
I’m sure it’s the same feeling people get no matter what their hobby is. There’s always something more to do or make, a new skill to perfect, and more joy to feel with that next level of accomplishment. Do you have a hobby? How do you make time to pursue it?
I’m a bit ashamed that two months have passed since I’ve posted anything new. The truth is I’ve had an onslaught of assignments for several clients throughout August and September. Since I’ve already turned in three of six projects due this week, I decided to sneak in a new post.
Even with a heavy workload, I made time to work on projects most evenings — usually staying up far later than planned just to finish a piece or complete a section. I made a Sock Monkey Bag for my niece’s birthday and a Creeper pillow for my nephew’s birthday. The unseasonably cool weather over the past week must have put every knitter around here in knitting mode. After finishing a pair of socks for a cousin I needed another project. I had the yarn and pillow form, so I made another Impromptu Pillow:
I developed the pattern last year because I wanted to make a chunky knitted pillow for a Christmas gift. Inspired by some gorgeous knitted pillows on Scandal, and knowing the recipient likes that show, too, I bought some super bulky yarn and started playing. The first Impromptu Pillow, in cream, turned out really well, with a beautiful texture you can’t help but run your hand over again and again:
The problem? I didn’t take notes when making the first pillow. I remembered using the seed stitch, and the size 13 needles recommended by the yarn. I also remembered my gauge swatch was a bit large, so I wound up using fewer stitches to make a 16″ square.
I knew I’d crocheted the edges closed — a super easy and clean way to assemble a pillow, and a good reason every knitter should know some basic crochet stitches — and added a simple (single crochet, chain three, skip one, repeat) edging to finish it off.
For the first attempt at the second pillow, I tried 35 stitches, which was too wide; 33 was a perfect fit. Your own results will vary depending on how loosely or tightly you knit.
This is called an Impromptu Pillow because you only need to make two squares large enough to fit your pillow form — in whatever stitch pattern you like — and join the edges around a pillow form. The crochet edging is optional.
Has the knitting or crocheting bug bitten you a bit early this year? If so, what’s on your needles – or hook?
I’ve had foot problems my entire life. While Morton’s Neuroma is the most annoying issue with my feet, hypersensitive skin is a close second.
Because my skin is so annoyingly sensitive — contact dermatitis, allergic rashes and relentless bouts of eczema are common — I have to avoid most natural and synthetic socks. Cotton is the one fiber that doesn’t irritate my feet.
Despite that sensitivity I can still knit with other fibers because the yarn doesn’t smother my skin so it can still “breathe.” (When my hands do get a little irritated, I just set the knitting aside until they’re better.) In fact, I had so much fun making wool-blend socks for other people that I decided to find a thin, smooth cotton yarn and make my own socks.
I bought a few skeins of Cascade Yarn’s Ultra Pima Cotton (color: Syrah) and made my own socks…just in time for Spring. I know. My timing could be better.
I’m wearing them for the first time right now. While they’re a perfect fit. I can feel every stitch. These may end up as layering socks, with a smoother store-bought pair of socks underneath, but I still love having a handmade pair of socks for my very fussy feet.