Monday, November 25, 2013

A Little Pumpkin

Knitting seems to have ground to a halt, here in "We Just Had a New Baby" land..... and while I understand that this is a good thing, I sure miss my de-compressing, de-stressing, relaxing vigil of late night crafting.  However, all is not lost!  My hubby graciously agreed to hold the little one for a couple of hours so that I could knit this darling (and oh so seasonal) little hat!

The only problem?  I specifically, and apparently very deliberately, ordered the wrong weight yarn from KnitPicks.  I got the right weight for the stem (in Knit Picks Wool of the Andes, Superwash, Bamboo Heather in worsted) and the wrong weight for the pumpkin body (Knit Picks Wool of the Andes, Pumpkin in sport weight).  Too bad almost the entire hat is knit in the orange!!!

After some fiddling and swatch testing (and guessing), I hit upon the perfect solution.  I cast on 80 stitches (the amount suggested for the medium sized hat) on size 6 needles.  I can't tell you how many times during the course of its construction that I looked at it and thought..... "There is NO WAY that is going to fit her... It's going to be SOOOO BIG!"  But.... now it's finished....

And it fits perfectly!  Just in time for Halloween and the Thanksgiving holiday (might as well get two holidays out of it, after all!)  Here's my project page on Ravelry.

There's just something about a baby in a hat that resembles a piece of fruit... you know :)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Of Socks & Sacks....

I love project bags... there is something so satisfying about a line of little bags stuffed full of knitting-in-progress lined up beside my favorite chair..... I like them with handles...... I like them with drawstrings... and I like them with zippers..... but my NEW favorite project bag is kind of a cross between all three...


This little beauty has a drawstring top that doubles as a handle when you are knitting on the go... and a cute little zippered pocket on the front for stashing your notions, pattern, and doo dads (and keeping them secure).  And the best part?  There's a free pattern for it, only a click away, by Terry Atkinson.

All you need are 2 fat quarters (1 print, & 1 main color) and one 9" zipper (or longer).  NOTE:  This particular pattern DOES HAVE A ZIPPER (I want to make this very clear for all of you zipper-phobic sewers out there), but because of the way the bag is constructed, it is very simple to put in.  The only modifications I made to this pattern were to add an inner lining to the bag (I like my bags to look "finished" on the inside) as well as an inner lining to the pocket. 

So far, these little bags have held up great for protecting my 2-at-a-time magic loop socks plus any needed notions... and they are just so cute and fun (I'm pretty sure every knitter needs one, or two... or three :) !!)

And if this little bag doesn't suit your needs... why not try one of my other favorite bag patterns; A Bevy of Project Bags, a Triangle Bag, or try an embroidered bag like "Baa Baa Black Sheep", "Got Yarn?" or "Here Kitty Kitty?".  So many bags... sew little time!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Colorful Patchwork Socks & A Free Pattern!

Some time ago, I knit my son up some colorful, crazy, scrappy socks (in his chosen colors, of course)... and they have been well loved. 

We are going to define well-loved here as worn for days at a time, worn outside in a pinch to retrieve forgotten objects, worn over other socks for added warmth... bascially the important word here is WORN.  As in.... worn completely through.  I thought about trying to darn them.. I really did!  But after watching countles You-Tube videos on the art of the darning... and then looking at these poor socks, it occured to me that it would be faster (and MUCH more time efficient) to simply knit him another pair.  And thus the "Colorful Patchwork Sock Pattern" was born.

I've always been a fan of the Blender Sock recipe on Ravelry (more here), but I've been on a color work kick lately, and I wanted to incorporate some random color work into the whole blended scrappy look.  My go-to cast on amount for the 2-at-a-time magic loop socks I prefer is about 64 stitches, so I designed some simple 4 stitch repeat color work patterns in Excel (here is a great tutorial about this process, in case you care to try it yourself) to work into the new socks.

Apparently, the key when adding in color work sections is to be careful not to pull the floats too tight (I was only doing a 4 stitch repeat pattern, so each float was well secured), and to be careful to keep any complicated color work out of the "instep area" on the sock... as this can make it a challenge to pull them over your foot!

I let my son dive through my bag of sock yarn mini's (I always wind and label my leftover sock yarn so that I have mini's ready for swaps, projects, etc) - and he picked out all of his chosen colors.  After about 3 days, I had his new scrappy socks ready for a test drive!  They only needed a steam treatment on the sock blockers to help even out the blended areas, and the slight puckering from the colorwork.

If you enjoy scrappy socks, and want to knit up a couple pairs of your own, I've written a simple pattern for these socks that you are free to download!  This pattern is appropriate for someone who is already comfortable with sock basics (try this pattern or this magic loop tutorial if you need a refresher course on how to knit a pair of simple top-down socks), and includes the color work charts I drew up as well as suggestions for touches like afterthought heels, etc.  I hope you enjoy knitting up some scrappy socks as much as I did :)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Lace Beware

Although I had been crocheting for years, I had always wanted to learn how to knit.  It seemed like all of the cutest patterns were for knitters... AND then I could knit SOCKS!!!  My mother was a beginning knitter, and she started me out with a simple dishcloth, but since my goal was to become a sock knitter (TA-DAH!), I quickly began doing what I always do when I want to learn something new.. and that's RESEARCH!

I googled, and watched You-Tube videos, and googled some more until I found Kelley's Sock Class by KnitPicks.  This let me cast on my very first pair of worsted weight socks... and I was off!  Of course, I assumed that I would be knitting worsted weight socks, and ONLY worsted weight socks until the end of my days.  I mean... have you SEEN those teeny little needles and fingering weight yarns that the experts use to knit socks?  I was sure that I would NEVER be able to master that (and if I attempted it, they would take approximately 2 years). 

After several rounds of worsted weight socks, I did in fact begin to venture into the world of fingering weight yarn (albeit with size 2 needles- and since I am a very loose knitter, these were some big stitches, indeed!)  What I quickly became aware of, though, was that I was building myself quite a stash of one-of-a-kind (read no match) socks, that had ladders up the side, and were almost always just a little too big.  This lead to research of a different sort... how to conquer these problems!

Enter the "Two-At-A-Time" magic loop method, as well as a tutorial by Stacy of VeryPinkKnits. (By the way, I highly recommend all of her video tutorials... very helpful!)  This solved the "One Sock Syndrome" as well as those pesky ladders you can get using DPN's... and going down a size or two on the needles helped with my other sizing problem.

I thought I had it made!  I knitted socks, socks, and more socks.... all in plain vanilla stockinette.  I mean, I had done my research on Ravelry.. and I knew there were oodles and oodles of pretty sock patterns on there... but they all looked so HARD (and lots of them had LACE!)  Surely a textured pattern couldn't be THAT bad, though... and so I took the plunge and started knitting textured socks.

 Textured socks were fun... and they even had the added bonus of making my knitting look a little more complicated (like I actually KNEW what I was doing!)  And it even got to the point where I could knit them in the car.. or even while the littles were talking to me... or even while doling out spelling words and teaching math.  And that was fine for a while...  but I remembered when I had FIRST started knitting socks, and I had seen this gorgeous pattern by Cookie A.  I remember how I thought to myself, "You will NEVER EVER be able to knit something that complicated!" 

By now I had been knitting for a little over 2 years.  I had made baby sweaters with cables, lace shawls with picot borders, colorwork sweaters and hats.. I had started dyeing my own yarn, and even designing some of my own patterns.  Maybe... just maybe... I could knit lace socks.  (Maybe).

So I decided to take the plunge.  I figured that I would have a better chance of finishing what was sure to be a v....e.....r....y long project if I used some expensive, gorgeous sock yarn... so I picked up a skein of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Bittersweet.... and (gulp).  Cast on.

The first evening, I knit the cuffs of both socks (anticipating the dreaded lace part).. and the next evening I decided to tackle those little triangles.  I carefully counted each row... made little hatch marks for each part of the lace pattern I completed... and then a funny thing happened.  I started to realize that I didn't need the paper... I didn't need the pattern.... this lace was intuitive, and even (gasp) FUN TO KNIT!  In fact, since I had a whole day of doctor appointments coming up, and a 2 hour car ride to get to said dr's and back... after 4 days, I realized that THE SOCKS WERE DONE!  Teeny little stitch socks (size 0 for the heel and foot).. with gorgeous lace down the leg, with no ladders.. and even (get this) A MATCHING PAIR :) 

This blew me away... I mean... it was as if I had inadvertently reached an item on bucket list, and almost didn't realize it, lol!  I mean, if I could knit THOSE socks... maybe I could knit other lace patterns... or maybe I could even take a lace pattern I liked, and make up my OWN sock pattern... hmmm.....  which lead to a piece of graph paper, a couple skeins of Happy Feet sock yarn... and these beauties:

This whole time I had been psyching myself out.  All I needed to do was apply the same rules I used in every other aspect of my life.. when I wanted to learn a new skill, or try something new.  RESEARCH, PRACTICE, and JUST KEEP TRYING :)  So just in case you have a lace phobia, or whatever your hangup may be... this post is for you.  You Can Do It!!!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Knitcation Part 2

For the second part of our Knitting Vacation, we ventured into the wilds of Portland, OR.  Well.... I just navigated and my husband drove so I could knit, of course!  Our first stop?  Happy Knits on 1620 SE Hawthorne Blvd. 

This has to be one of my very favorite stores in Portland... hands down!  The interior is clean, bright, and easy to navigate... with aisles and aisles of yummy, luxury yarns.  They carry a whole selection of KnitPicks needles and accessories, vintage buttons, patterns, as well as many other knitting notions.  My very favorite part of the store, however, is all the way in the back.  They have a wonderful classroom/sitting/knitting space -- complete with child's playroom!  I really can't say enough good things about this store.

All of the yarn is organized into shoulder-high shelves (front and back), and neatly displayed by type (worsted/sock/dk/etc).  They don't carry a lot of workhorse yarns, but they have a wonderful selection of such goodies as MadelineTosh, Jill Draper, Malabrigo, and O-Wool, among others.  So... what did I get?  A skein of Asland Trends King Baby Lama in Grape... to knit myself a pair of Vancouver Fog Mitts.
A quick journey by car, and our next stop was Close Knit on 2140 NE Alberta Street.  This little shop is tucked away in a trendy area full of shops and restaurants... and parking was definitely difficult.  But this shop was worth it! 
 It's a smaller shop, but they do a great job of pairing sample items all knit up with their yarns in order to tempt you!  In fact, they snared me with two of their samples... a darling little newborn sweater knit out of Spud & Chloe sweater yarn, and a knitted tank style toddler dress.  All of the notions are tucked away in very chic drawers and armoires, while the yarn is stored in glass shelves that line the windows.  The seating area is crowded, and pretty small... but the woman at the front desk was extremely helpful and welcoming, and I would definitely visit here again!  I've already worked up the Spud & Chloe into a sweet little newborn sweater for our impending arrival (and I even had enough for a matching hat.. but only just!)

Next stop?  Dublin Bay, 1227 NW 11th Ave!  First off, be prepared to pay for parking if you want to visit this knitting store... but just know that your money will be well spent!  This large, roomy store features yarn from Handmaiden, Three Irish Girls, Blue Sky Alpacas, Fyberspates, Solstice, Lorna's Laces, Malabrigo, Mountain Colors, Sweet Georgia, Yarn Love, Spud & Chloe, and many more!  They have a darling kid's section filled with all sorts up knit up samples (carefully labeled), as well as a comfy seating area, and attentive clerks.  I ended up coming perilously close to my parking time as I browsed their shelves :) 

It was hard for me to decided... but I finally went with a yarn that I have wanted to try for the longest time... Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Bittersweet.  I think these socks are going to deserve a special pattern to show off this luscious yarn!

That is my "short list" of where to visit in Portland (there are many, many other shops in this wonderful city... but these are a few of my favorites!)  Hope you enjoyed following us on our journey, and tune in next time for the final episode of Knitcation: Part 3!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Knitcation.... Part One

What to do with a week completely to ourselves.... with all the littles tucked away at Grandmas?  Why, tour a select number of knitting shops in the great state of Oregon, of course!  In case you ever have a chance to visit our lovely state, and need a list of some fibery stops along the way -- this post is for you!

First, we made a surprise stop in Astoria to Salon Boheme, where my wonderful husband had arranged for a haircut and manicure for me :)  Here's the before and after for my new hairdo!  I have nothing but good things to say about this particular salon -- if you ever get a chance to stop in and pamper yourself, I highly recommend it!

We then started our knitting journey along the Oregon coast, in the town of Seaside -- home of Creative Beginnings.  This store specializes in yarn, as well as beads,  and scrapbook supplies.  They do have several aisles of yarns, along with many samples and garments to admire.  Because they carry such a diverse assortment of crafting supplies, the salesperson may or may not be able to answer any yarn questions you might have.

Several knitted items are also for sale in this store, along with pricing ideas in case you would rather knit your own.  There is a cat that roams freely throughout the store, as well as a small indoor espresso stand.  The aisles are large and easy to navigate, and there is plenty of inspiration if you are in the market for a new project!

Next up is Coastal Yarns in the town of Cannon Beach.  This little store is tucked away amidst the tourist shops lining the street.  They do carry some local fiber, including Blue Moon Fiber arts, and they have a lovely selection of books and patterns with a cozy seating area.  I have visited this store many times, and each time I have been pleasantly greeted by a very helpful clerk.  This particular time, I chose a skein of Noro Silk Garden that exactly matched a luxurious project bag that I am sending to a friend of mine.  In the back, there is a wall of luxury sock yarns that I love to browse through, as well as a fun selection of knitting notions and buttons. 
Directly across the street from this fun little shop, there is Bruce's Candy Kitchen, where they sell some wonderful Sea Salt Caramels, as well as any other salt water taffy, chocolate, or sugary treat you could ever think of (but I'm partial to the caramels!)

Finally, 10 miles down the coast from Cannon Beach is the town of Manzanita -- home to T-SPOT Yarn & Chocolates.  I adore this store... from the darling way she has her yarns displayed against the back wall, to the wonderful selection of knitting samples and garments she has displayed throughout the store.  This shop also carries gifts, embroidery designs, and gourmet chocolate (we decided to try the "Bacon" variety!)  The owner is very knowledgeable, and pleasantly answered all of my questions.

Stay tuned for Part 2- where we venture into the wilds of Portland, OR to try out some new shops!

Monday, February 11, 2013

(3) Three Willows Cowls

I had the privelege of test knitting this lovely little pattern for  PixeKnits, called the Three Willows Cowl. Knit up with 2 skeins of Cascade Pacific Chunky… it is oh so soft!  I love this wonderful wool acrylic blend (I will definitely be using it again!) My beautiful daughter is modeling it for me, since the recipient in each case was unavailable. Can you tell who I always use as my model, lol?

My first version is with the recommended cast-on of 90 stitches in #44 Italian Plum (Cascade Pacific Chunky): 

The next time, I wanted the cowl to have a little more drape, so I increased the cast on to 123 stitches (you need a multiple of three).  Here it is again, also in the Italian Plum colorway:

The recipient of the above cowl liked it so much, she asked for another one in a different color (taupe). 
If you are in the market for a fast, easy, and elegant looking cowl pattern, give this one a try!  Very versatile, with lovely drape; just what a cowl should be!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Love is in the Air

February is quickly approaching... and you know what that means!  Valentine's Day knitting, of course!!! (or maybe it only means that to me and a select group of my yarny friends). Nevertheless, I have some heart-themed projects to share with you.

First up, some lovely, lacy heart socks knit up 2-at-a-time magic loop with Opal sock yarn.  The free pattern is Love Struck Hearts by Terri Knight, which you can easily download on Ravelry.  The original pattern calls for only 2 hearts down the leg, but I decided to add one more heart to make them a tad longer.  I really love this pattern.. especially with the hearts down both the back and the front.  Here they are modeled by my lovely dd (who only has size 3 1/2 feet, so these women's mediums are just a touch baggy on her).  If you are a member of Ravelry, my Love Struck Socks project page is here.

The other project I have to share with you are my Strawberry Sweetheart Mitts.  This is another free pattern called:  Sweetheart Glovelets by The Rainey Sisters.  This particular pattern calls for DK weight yarn, but all I had on hand was some worsted weight Cascade 220 Paints. 
The Cascade Paints yarn knits up at a slightly smaller gauge than a regular worsted (in my experience);  So…. I went down a couple of needle sizes (from a 3 to a 1) to get the right gauge of 6 stitches per inch. This made a very nice, firm fabric (very comfortable) with a my slighter thicker yarn.

I love the Cascade Superwash paints for their subtle color variation (at least in this colorway).. really adds depth to the finished item! The pattern was easy to follow once I figured out the charts (there is even a chart for the thumb gusset) and the finished gloves are really a nice gift!

I hope this gives you some ideas for your own Valentine's Day themed projects :)  Happy Knitting!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Easy Textured Socks

I have finally begun to accept the idea that until my children are a tad older.... patterns with lace charts and complicated sequences are just going to have to wait.  After 3+ interruptions in the middle of a complicated little bit of knitting, you might as well wash your hands of that row and start over!

Enter, "The SKYP socks".  I've been doing plain vanilla stockinette socks for quite a while now.. and while I love the self-striping yarns, and my own hand-dyed creations, sometimes you just yearn for something a little more complicated (but not TOO complicated... see above!)  This is why I love this pattern, For a minimum of effort in memorization, you end up with a lovely little stitch that sets your socks apart :)  If you are on Ravelry, the free pattern is "Simple Skyp Socks" by Adrienne Ku

So far, I've knit this pattern up in a lovely tonal stripe in Araucania Ranco Solid, in Eggplant:

and also in some Wildfoote Luxury Sock Yarn by Brown Sheep (a more highly variegated yarn):

One other textured sock pattern I really like (and it is also simple) is the free pattern "Hermione's Everyday Socks by Erica Lueder".  This pattern also works well with a self-striping yarn:

I've knit this pattern in some hand-dyed self-striping tonal yarn, too (toddler socks):

So there you have it :)  My solution to the plain vanilla stockinette sock (although I keep plenty of those on hand as well!)  Happy Knitting!