Sunday, January 26, 2014

Greyson - 3.0

I love how much my kids like hand knits! It's such a pleasure to knit for such an appreciative crowd.

My most recent finished project was a long requested sweater for Little Man. He was quite envious of Baby Boy's Greyson that I knit in the summer and felt quite left out that he didn't have a mama knit pullover for himself. When I was in the thick of the holiday crafting I promised that in the new year when I could get to the yarn shop in the city I would get the yarn for his.

I really love Julia Stanfield's patterns. They really are my first choice when I start thinking about knits for the little ones. This is actually my seventh project from her Little Rascals E-book. Besides the two other Greyson (both for Baby Boy last year - the first one met with a tragic incident involving the wool chewing dog) I've also knit two Hotshots and two doll sized Hotshots. Her patterns are well written, practical but cute and quick as a wink to knit given their top down seamless construction.

I picked up the yarn on the 10th, got Little Man to wind it on the 11th and cast on the 12th. I cast off exactly one week later and Little Man was able to wear it to school last Monday morning. Instant gratification. You just can't beat it!

Winding his wool  - Very serious work!

Little Man has some pretty high (unrealistic) expectations for this mama's knitting abilities. At one point we had the following conversation when I pulled out my knitting to work a few rounds during a rare quiet moment in the afternoon:

Douglas:  is that my sweater, Mommy? Is it almost done? Can I try it on?   
Me: oh sweetie, it’s not ready yet. It’ll take me at least a couple of days… 
Douglas: (with tragic desperation in his voice) NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Don’t say a couple of days! I wanted you to be done it today! I need it!  
Me: but I just started it last night…
So the pressure was on. No lazing about on this one. Little Man is a harsh task master. Thank goodness it was a quick knit. I'm not sure how things would've gone if it wasn't. I suspect a fair amount of moaning and distress. The way he was going about you would think the poor lad had to walk about naked normally. I assure you that isn't the case - he has enough clothes for about half a dozen four year olds, he just didn't have a v-neck pullover exactly like his brother's.

He was so happy when I cast off and had to try it on the second I finished weaving in the final end
of yarn.  He wore it the rest of Sunday, Monday to school and a handful more times in the last week.  Good thing it's knit in my "go to for kid knits" Berroco Vintage, which is easy care machine wash.

Greyson 3.0 - in action
I've got a few other things on the needles right now that I can focus on now that Greyson is finished. I've been working on a pair of simple rib and cable socks from veteran sock designer Nancy Bush and have blocked and washed my gauge swatch for Braid Hills, a beautiful intricately cabled cardi by Scottish designer, Kate Davies. I am working up my nerve to dive into that one - I will admit looking ahead at the pattern has me a bit intimidated.  Beyond that I'm obsessing over a pair of colour work socks.  I can't decide between Water for the Elephants or Butterflies are Free (both by Rose Hiver), but a trip to the yarn shop is in my future next week when I'm in the city. Maybe I'll decide when I see what colour selection they have in stock. I just know that one of these designs will be knit, by me, starting next weekend.

How about you?  Anything you're dying to get started on?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Wear All The Wool

We've had some pretty cold days here on the prairies this winter, which has made me want to knit all things and wear all the wool.  But it's ok. I'm a knitter. I'm expected to wear all the wool. Or, at least, I assume I am.

Last spring, my friend Sally sent me some beautiful hand spun yarn. I had over 300yds of DK weight loveliness to use, but no idea what to use it on. I didn't want to waste it on something not worthy of hand spun so it waited, tucked away in the drawer, until such time as I found a pattern that I deemed to be the right one.

Of course I found a pattern I loved right when I was in the middle of holiday crafting, but I was good. I waited until after Christmas to even wind my wool so I wouldn't be tempted to cast on.

On December 28th, as the beginnings of a blizzard swirled outside the window, I hunkered down, cozy and warm inside and cast on my Knotted Pine hat. The instructions say to use a tubular cast on, which would have been grand, except I could not, for the life of me, get it right. I would get about 80 stitches in and completely mess it up. I tried. Oh how I tried. I restarted six times. Then I gave up. I realized I could keep restarting and never get my hat actually started or I could cast on with a different method and actually have a new hat sometime within this lifetime. Five minutes after making the decision I was well on my way.

I really enjoyed the pattern with its unique construction; it utilizes short rows on the ribbed band so it doesn't bunch up at the back and is knit straight up then the crown is shaped with a few quick stitches after it has been grafted together. There is also enough going on in the pattern that there's no chance of losing interest before it's finished!

Once I'd completed the hat I realized two things. A) I had no mittens to match and B) I had plenty of yarn left over. Hmmmmm. What's a knitter to do? As the temperatures plummeted to a forecast of almost -50C with the windchill I cast on using Ann Budd's basic mitten pattern. I used a contrast cuff as I wasn't sure how far my yarn would stretch and knit the mitten using a half twist stockinette stitch and a column of honeycomb stitch to mimic the Knotted Pine hat. I'm still debating if I should knit liners for the mittens for extra warmth. I'm thinking something in alpaca or an alpaca blend would be soft and toasty warm.

After casting off my mittens I still had yarn left over, and alas, how is one to wear all the wool if one does not own a matching cowl? I'm all about cowls this year it would seem. (Last year was small triangular shawls. What can I say? I'm fickle.)

I knew my yarn wouldn't be enough for an entire cowl, but I wanted to showcase it somehow, so simple striping wouldn't suffice. I also wanted to have it match the hat and mitts in pattern as well as yarn. I cast on, and started knitting. I used Tincanknits Oats (that I'd knit for N for Christmas) as inspiration - I liked the simplicity of how it had just a small section of garter stitch running up the front rather than an all over pattern and once again used half twist stockinette and honeycombs to tie it all together.

I'm really pleased with how my set turned out. It's cozy and warm not to mention kind of fun that I actually match when I'm wearing all the wool!


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Better Late Than Never : A Holiday Crafting Round Up

I've been meaning to get to this post since Christmas, but just haven't had the time yet. The little boys have been plagued with illness after illness since Christmas - colds, stomach bugs, ear infections, even a trip to the ER to celebrate the New Year. It's been insane. However, better late than never, I'm finally sitting down to do a round up of the holiday crafting of 2013.

This year I was determined to accomplish two things. Increase the amount of handmade gifts and to not have a major meltdown as a result of it.  I'm thrilled to tell you I succeeded on both accounts.  Not one single tearful, gnashing of teeth, toddler worthy tantrum and over thirty crafts made for gifting.  I was the queen of calm this year. I actually enjoyed the gift making.  Really enjoyed it.

So, without further ado, here's what I was up to during my absence from the blogging world.

"Accessories"

I went a little mad with the accessories this year.  Hats and mitts and scarves oh my!  My favourite, I think, are the Lotus Mittens I knit for Mom.  She almost didn't get them.  I was sorely tempted to keep them all for myself.  Such a pretty pattern! Oh! But I also loved Salt, the cowl I knit for J's girlfriend M and then there was the Give 'em the Slip Mitts I knit for Little Man's preschool teacher.  He chose the pattern and the yarn for them and the purple Cafe au Lait mitts I knit for his other teacher. I also knit a pair of Cafe au Lait for M's stocking. J had requested an Inishmore Cap like I'd made for N last year - little did he know I'd been planning it all along! It's a great look for my big boys!  I also knit a Fisher Cable Hat for G's boyfriend B's stocking. I had a slight issue with that one. Something went a bit wrong with the decreases and in the end I ripped back and reworked them using a online decrease calculator instead of how it was written and I couldn't be happier. It looked much more hat like and much less tea cozy like.  A few other things that made their way into Christmas stockings were Amaranth, a headband I knit in linen, and Boot Candy boot toppers for G, a neck warmer using the Oats pattern for N and a simple garter edged toque for M. Phew. I think that covers the accessories...


"Dancing Queens"

I decided early on this year that I really wanted to make dance bags for three of our little nieces who all take dance classes and G had already asked for a new dance bag on her Christmas wish list so it was just a matter of deciding what design to make.

I had found the idea for the bag online, but of course decided I couldn't leave well enough alone and did my own thing.  Two of the nieces are highland dancers so ghillies were a must on their bags.  The third takes tap, but unfortunately my drawing abilities did not extend as far as tap shoes - they just looked weird, so I went with ballet slippers instead. The bags are lined with an 8" zippered pocket in the lining on one side and two gathered, elasticized slip pockets the width of the opposite side on the highland dance ones and on the ballet one has pleated slip pockets instead.  I decided to do tie handles so that the girls could adjust the length if necessary. A magnetic snap closure finishes each of them off. I knit each little girl a pair of legwarmers to go with their bag, using Beanstalks for the two highland ones and Zeg Warmers for the ballet one.  All yarns were hand dyed Patons Classic.

G's dance bag happens to be my latest test bag for Anna of Charmed Liebling. When Anna sent me the test request I knew right away it was a perfect dance bag. Roomy, lots of pockets and stylish. I'm really happy with how my Rhine Valley Bag turned out - and if you'd like to make one for yourself hop on over to Anna's site for more information.

"Pyjama Party"

Using a few old patterns I created to sets of pjs for gifting.  The first set was matching Christmas Eve pjs for the little boys. I used an old Simplicity pattern for the flannel bottoms and an old Kwik Sew t-shirt pattern for the fleece tops that I appliqu├ęd the bear shape onto to complete the look. The boys were so excited when I surprised them with them.  Little Man was especially appreciative, telling me over and over how much he liked them and how soft they were.

The second set were again made using the same pattern for the little bottoms, but this time I modified to add a contrast cuff.  (BF)G's were made using another Simplicity pattern.  I took the easy route with the tops, choosing to purchase three black t-shirts and one orange one that I cut the sleeve extensions from and attached to the black ones. These pyjamas were a birthday gift for (BF)G, who's birthday happens to fall right after Christmas.

"Perhaps With A Bag to Put Them In"

I love that J's Christmas wish list had two requests that were handmade. One was that he wanted a set of dice for Dungeons and Dragons "perhaps with a hand knit bag to put them in" (the other was the Inishmore Cap) - it made this crafty mama's heart sing to read that I tell you!  So I knit him a little dice pouch one evening while I watched the old classic "White Christmas".

Months ago I'd found the "Bowie Case" pattern on my favourite bag making site, Emmeline Bags. The pattern isn't by Janelle, but by a German designer, pattydo. Janelle sells it  in her shop though and had high praise for the cute little cel phone clutch it makes, so I purchased it with the intention of making G and J's girlfriend M one for each of their stockings. I love this little bag, although it was a bit crazy as the instructions are in a German (with English subtitles) video.  It went smoothly until I was trying to put it all together in the final step. Trying to watch where I was to do the folds, while reading subtitles all the while the video kept pausing and having to load because of a dodgy internet connection. Oh boy! But the end result is adorable.  I so want one for myself!

Our youngest niece doesn't dance yet - she's just three - but I assume she gets dragged along to her fair share of dance classes and competitions, so I thought I'd make her the Playdate Back Pack from Fishsticks designs so she can take along some toys or books with her.  A overwhelmingly pink, girly Barbie one (I'm so not used to overly girly anymore in this house being surrounded by menfolk! ha ha!). I think she liked it.  She wore it most of the evening, Christmas Eve, after opening it.

"Santa"

Every year Santa brings an new ornament in the kids' stockings.  This year I just couldn't find any that I liked. And given I was filling seven stockings now with the addition to our family of B (G's boyfriend) and M (J's girlfriend) I was having a really hard time finding a theme with that many different choices. So I decided to put my crafty little self to work and make them.  I adore these little felt Santas and really loved making them. So much fun!


So there you have it. The round up! I may have left a thing or two off the list, but I think that's pretty much it for Christmas (and one birthday) 2013 crafting.  I'm still so pleased with how everything worked out and how much I enjoyed the process.  I'm already plotting and planning for next year, but for now, I've been enjoying doing a few projects for myself.  It was brutally cold for a spell causing me to feel the urge to knit all things. I'll have to tell you about that another day though.