Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Hat for Little Nephew Based on His Favorite Video Game

In my stash, I had a ball of practically-neon green yarn that I didn't use for a project and had no idea what I would ever use it for until Little Nephew (A-train) was talking about his favorite video game Minecraft. The color reminded me of those creeper thingees that lurk around (I know less about this game than I do about rugby), so I thought I'd put those onto a hat. I couldn't find a pattern for exactly what I wanted, but I did find this one for the colorwork part (which is really all I needed).

I like the look and feel of a double-thick brim so I started off making that (using the same method I described in Big Nephew's hat), and then incorporated the pattern chart a couple rows into the stockinette section. I reeeeeaallllly like how it turned out.

There were only a few sections of long floats to trap, and it's only a nine row chart, so this section went quite quickly (and on 16-inch circulars it was easy to keep the colorwork at a good tension).

I did not like the look of the decreases in the pattern online, so I knitted even to where it looked right, and then just did some evenly spaced decreases.

And here's the whole hat--

He looooooooved his new hat, and said to me last week (in such a sincere manner I felt it in my heart...but everything he says is so sincere) "Aunt Bee, let me tell you. I would not be making it through this cold weather without this hat. It's nice and warm and fits perfect" (we had a wicked cold snap last week).

Following up on this, I got a phone call one night. "Aunt Bee. Could you please make me....gloves with the tops cut off...and this little flippy thing to make them mittens? And can you make them so they kind of match my hat?"

I found a simple enough pattern on Ravelry to base these on (I made my wrist ribbing longer instead of using stockinette, and didn't do the finishing work she did). I didn't think I had enough green left to get both mitts, so I went with black yarn (for these, what he further described as, "ninja mittens"). Oy. Let me tell you. I rarely (as in almost never until now) work with black yarn for anything beyond straight knitting for the same reason I hate sewing with black fabric--it's really tough on the ol' peepers. What should have been a few evenings of work took a good bit longer because working with black yarn in lower light is rough (at least for me). Plus I have this perfectionist streak in me so I frogged some and thought way too long on some parts. But, they ended up just how I hoped they would. 

So here they are in what is apparently ninja form--

And here is one converted for comparison--

I needed to incorporate the little creeper guy from the hat somehow, so I duplicate stitched one onto the back of the mitten, so when you unbutton the flip top he appears--

As this was my first time making these there was definitely a learning curve here, and a few things I might change up (I'd make the ribbing at the top of the mitts longer, and make the flip top a row or two longer as well). But I'm largely pleased with them, and more importantly, A-train loved them. He said, as he gave me a hug, "You deserve this hug, Aunt Bee." I am fine with this as a payment method.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Hat for Big Nephew Loosely Based on His Team's Logo

After knitting this sweater, I had a TON of yarn left over (in everything but gray). And after knitting that sweater, I felt like knitting only small projects. I enjoy knitting hats, but there's only so many hats one person can have (I know, that's an arguable point, but as a person who generally does not wear hats it seems nonsensical to keep piling them up). For some reason, I rarely make things for my nephews. I think it's because they have that "growing boy" thing going on for so long I worry that they'll outgrow what I'm making before I finish. But hats? They stretch. A lot. So they'll last a while to make a few evenings of knitting worth the effort. Especially when the colors you have are somehow perfect for their interests.

First I'll show you the one for Big Nephew, my Z-man (who will be seventeen soon, and that just makes me feel so old I can't even say any more about that right now). He's a typical teenager, very few words, constantly losing his phone charger, and quite tall and handsome. He's been playing rugby for a few years now, and while I don't understand what's happening generally I know that the ball looks different from a football, and the huddle is a scrum (I think--feel free to correct me). His team has a web store, but no knitted hats available, so I made him one in the team's colors (because in worsted weight yarn I would not have had enough room to make a good-looking logo). So here's the team logo--

--and here's the hat.

I made it with a folded brim for comfort and warmth, and went for a small band of stripes so it would be a little more low-key. My original plan was to make the whole thing ribbed, and I don't remember right now why I decided against it when it came to the stripes...I'm going to say it would have something to do with the decreases lining up.

I didn't follow a pattern for this as it's the most basic of hats. Provisional cast on, knit the brim twice as long as you want it, then pick up the cast-on edge and do a three needle join (like a bind-off except you're not binding off). Knit the hat until it's as long as you want it (generally about seven inches), and then do some evenly placed decreases. Boom. Done. I do like the swirly look of individual leaning decreases instead of the straighter look of paired decreases.

I really like how you can be staring at a thing and not see the fuzz on it until you go to post the picture. It's my favorite.

And just for obligatory good measure, here's the inside of the hat:

I suppose it's reversible depending on the look you're after (and as he's a teenager I don't know if he'll care if it's inside-out or not....or even notice, really).

I'm going to do Little Nephew's in a separate post as he threw in a special request and you'll be here all day if I put it all in one post, and I'm sure you have better things to do (though I can't imagine what they could be).

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Intarsia Sweater (The Thing That Tried to Kill Me)

Um...hello? <tap tap> Is this thing on?

Isn't it funny how almost four months can go by without a post and you don't even notice it because time flies, and then one day it hits you that it's been ALMOST FOUR MONTHS since you last posted, and how does that happen and what have you been doing with yourself anyway? It's the first year I haven't posted anything Christmassy, or gone on and on and on about how much I love Christmas lights, or how I can't believe how big the nephews are, and so on and so forth. But I very recently gifted a sweater to someone, and thought "I must remember to blog about this" and then thought "Hey, I haven't done that for a while!" So here we are.

So this sweater. I feel like I've got my sea legs when it comes to stranded colorwork, but intarsia was still twisting my gut and causing a "Gah! NO!" reaction. But when someone says "Hey, is this a thing you can do?" and it's someone you care about, you say "Of course I can!" and then hide all the angst because where did this overconfidence come from? I made a few practice swatches, carefully selected my yarn for color, ease of caring for it, and suitability for color work, and then set to.

The sweater pattern was simple while having just enough detail to keep it interesting. I used the Harvard Square Pullover from Lion Brand patterns, which has a great big stockinette front that was perfect for intarsiafying. I had my requested graphic--

This is Vault Tec guy or something like that from the Fallout video game

I used the Stitch Fiddle pattern-making site to get my chart (after carefully counting and figuring the size that would be best and all other sorts of mathy things that raised my blood pressure). And then I had other people cross their fingers (I couldn't cross mine--I had to knit) and got down to business. After a LOT of swearing and muttering of phrases like "I am going to burn this" and "No wonder there's a boyfriend sweater curse" I was as finished as I could be if I hoped to maintain my sanity.

Intarsia itself is not the absolute worst I found (once you get your yarn management sorted--I used those little plastic bobbins you can find in almost any craft store that carries knitting supplies). The issues I had came from inexperience and there are definitely things I would do differently next time (yes, I said next time, but not for a long time because this was enough for a while). For example, I'd go with a thinner yarn to get a lighter weight sweater, which would also allow me to use a MUCH more detailed chart that would give me a picture I'd be happier with. So then I wouldn't have to embroider a face in sock yarn so that it wouldn't scare small children.

I'd also look for a top-down pattern as I was very worried about the length of this (even though I measured like a lunatic) and I like the option of making something as long as you want.

I love that 'broken rib' stitch on the sleeves--it added some nice texture, and when I sewed everything together it came together really neat.

For the collar, I didn't want to leave the ribbing raw, or unfinished, as I personally find that scratchy. So I made it twice the size it was supposed to be, and then sewed it down for a nice soft edge.

I contemplated doing the graphic in duplicate stitch, but didn't want a heavy weight blob on the front center; in retrospect I'm glad I didn't as it would have looked too puffy. Besides, the inside looks kind of neat.

I probably overdid the weaving in of the ends, but as this was a wool/acrylic blend (I used Plymouth Encore) I wanted to make sure they were really in there). Better safe than apologizing for a sweater falling apart, amiright?

So that's that. I'm over my fear of intarsia, I've learned a LOT in the making of this sweater, and most important--it fits!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Fimmel Hat

While I do love simple, fast projects, when it comes to knitting I prefer a little oomph. Whether it's self-striping yarn or new techniques I've never tried, I like having something different to look forward to as I work. My knitting goal for the year (is that a normal thing to have? Do other people set those?) is to become...I'll call it functionally color-work. And the Fimmel Hat was a great project for this (as long as we ignore the strands of yarn that kept wanting to get involved with each other instead of minding their own business).

The pattern for this was available only if you bought the kit, and the shop has since shut down, so apologies for teasing you if you were interested (but if it makes you feel better I got the kit on sale). I believe the gold color was supposed to be more of a khaki color, but it still works.

The yarn is 100% alpaca, which was a new fiber to me. I've always read that alpaca loosens a bit and can stretch way out, but this hat is small enough of a project that it wasn't an issue (though I certainly wouldn't make a sweater out of straight alpaca). Anyway, I like the little bit of haze the fiber gives.

I'm always in awe of pattern designers who are geniuses about decreases and increases, especially when color-work is involved. I do they DO that? Look at the crown of this hat (and ignore where I'm pretty sure I messed up a teeny bit, because you still get the idea)--

Now with stranded knitting, the most important thing to remember is to not pull those floats too tight or everything goes kerplooey. I was so focused on this that as I did the decreases and knit the top, I forgot that the hat would be cinched shut, and that those floats could be shorter. So I had to do some fancy fudge work to finish it off (but you can't tell because who turns a hat inside out and looks at the bind-off?).

As I knit more things like this, I realize that one of my favorite things to do is to turn it inside out and look at the floats (in a completely normal and non-gloaty sort of way).

I neglected to take a photo with this on, I'm just now realizing, but it fits just right. The looseness of the alpaca is nice as it keeps the hat from being smashed on my head and is something I can wear without my hair getting that look about it, but it's not so loose that it falls off.

The pattern also came with a design for wristers, but I haven't attempted those yet. There were a lot of colors in this (though no more than two in any row), but they did love to twist and twine, and I very nearly chucked the leftovers in a rage due to far too many detangling sessions.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Broken Waves Shawl

When I went on a knitting retreat back in October, I bought some beautifully squishy yarn. Due to other projects, and certain unforeseen circumstances, it took me a really long time to cast it on for the pattern I had bought to go with it. But now it is finished, and blocked, and the first day of appropriate weather I'm wrapping myself in this and strutting around.

Disclaimer: this color was nearly impossible to photograph accurately.

The pattern is called 'Broken Waves.' I bought a paper pattern, but it's available on Ravelry as well. It's a looooooong triangular shawl, predominantly stitched in garter stitch, with a cabled and ribbed border.

This is probably the closest approximation of the true color.

The shawl is knit as a long triangle (almost like half of a diamond), and then stitches picked up along the edge. Then these picked up stitches are knit, one at a time, as you go back and forth across the border. The cabling is supposed to stop at the point, but I have issues, and I knew that the lack of symmetry would bother me. So I just kept going with it.

The yarn is an absolutely luxurious sport weight merino. The shop had the exact yardage I needed, and even though this color is no stranger to my shawl collection I couldn't resist. Especially when I saw the name of it--

Who can resist a little Alice in Wonderland, especially when you're eternally twelve years old? I'd like to say this shawl was a total pleasure to knit, but it wasn't, until I made a minor change. I say a minor change, but I ended up knitting the body of this shawl twice. As the pattern was written, increases were done on the very edge of the shawl. When it came time to pick up the stitches it made for a very messy edge. And I just couldn't have that. So I started over, but did the increase as a kfb, and did it one stitch in from the edge. This made everything much neater. I also omitted the yarn overs because I didn't like how that looked, either. BUT, once I got going with those changes, this was fun to knit. 

Now back to stitching my sweater. Because while it's steaming outside, one doesn't wait until sweater weather arrives to knit a sweater, amiright?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Hydrangea Wreath

I made this wreath a while ago, and every time I walk by it I think "Yep, must share that" but I always forget. But today I break that streak.

Last year I bought a kit for a shawl, but didn't really love it, so I used the one set of yarn for this blanket, and then used the remainder to make this wreath, as when I looked at the colors I could think of one thing and one thing only. Hydrangeas.

I found a pattern online (I think it was this one, but it was a while ago so I'm not entirely sure), and just stitched and stitched and stitched until I ran out of yarn (which is Scheepjes Catona, by the way), and was left with a giant pile of hydrangea petals.

I found a styrofoam wreath and wrapped it the yarn that wasn't flower colored. It wasn't that much fun, let's be honest here.

Once the wreath was wrapped, I placed the flowers (and did it again, and again, and then again, because I just couldn't decide) and then finally pinned them down. Then I realized the pins were mighty short, so I added hot glue for extra security.

I ran out of steam, and just did not feel like making leaves for green, so I bought this floral...thing...and then cut that apart and glued pieces here and there.

Not my favorite thing ever, but it's definitely reminiscent of hydrangeas, which is what I was going for, so it's a win, right? I mean...they can't all be gnome wreaths, can they?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Floral Fossil Workshop

My youngest sister follows  a butt ton (an actual measurement, mind you) of local artists on Instagram. She is very much a fan of the various local arts that are trying their darndest to regain a foothold in Philadelphia (at one time Philly was huge in fashion and textile manufacturing, as well as many other things, but those industries left some time ago). At some point, she happened across local artist Ron Nicole, and began...I'll call it stalking...her social media pages for announcements of workshops. When she saw one, she asked if I'd be interested. I love trying new things, even if I might only do it once, so we both jumped to sign up.

The workshop was yesterday down in the City at the Art Star Gallery and Boutique. We had a blasty blast, and left with finished pieces and a lot of new knowledge (and the encouragement to play and experiment and try new things). I tried to take enough photos to show you the technique, and also to remind myself in case I do want to do this again.

Let's start with the obligatory materials shot:

We've got clay, a scraper, the adjustable part of an embroidery hoop, tweezers, a twisted wire hanger, stirring sticks, and a dust mask.

First you roll out the clay until it's a little bigger than your hoop and trim off some of the excess.

Then you select flowers. This involves a lot of trial and error, and the stiffer the flower the better (or so we were told). She had pre-selected what would work best, so we knew we'd be getting decent impressions (but also told us what doesn't work well at all in case we left with any bright ideas).

Laying out the flowers is the trickiest part. It was taking me forever, so I just decided to go for it and whatever happened would be fine.

The part I had difficulty with is that you have to visualize this in reverse. It made my brain hurt trying to do this, and I could see me taking hours on this part if I had limitless time. Once you have your arrangement somewhat figured out, you push them down into the clay. You have to smush them in there good, but at the same time not too hard so you don't go all the way through. A rolling pin helps a little bit. Looking at this now, I can see where it's a little messy looking in certain parts (but again--limited time had me cutting corners).

Once you've done a jolly good smash, you just pull all the flowers back out. They're covered in clay, but actually bounce back much more than you'd ever think.

Pulling them out was a little tense, as I was just absolutely positive I was going to mess things up spectacularly. But you just remove the flowers, and then use tweezers to pull out any of the larger bits that are being stubborn. Some bits were so small it might have ruined the mold to remove them all, so I just left them, hoping for a pop of color in the finished piece.

Then, you mix up your plaster and water, let it sit for a couple minutes, and then pour it into the hoop. She had measured things so precisely that it filled the hoop practically perfectly.

Then we had donuts and chatted for about an hour while this set. When it was cold to the touch, we peeled off the mold and had the most satisfying reveal ever.

Then you unscrew the hoop, neaten up the edges a bit, and voila!

I can certainly see how you need a few tries to work out the kinks. I'd be more mindful of the stems, and you can see where the little bits that didn't want to be removed from the clay decided to scatter themselves around the plaster cast. But the level of detail is amazing.

It's going to take about a week for this to fully set, and then I have to figure out where I'm going to hang it. I had a lot of fun doing this, and I learned a lot. It's a fairly easy thing to do, but you can certainly see how there's a bit of a learning curve with the finer details.

If you're interested in seeing some really beautiful pieces, check out her website here.


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