Sunday, June 25, 2017

Addictive useful potholder instructions

These are really, really good pot holders/trivets/coasters and I've been obsessed by them for months.  I've nearly always got one in progress in my purse, even if I can only put in a few stitches here and there while I'm waiting for something else to happen, or after dinner if, as usual, I've finished first - or whatever.  For the past six months or so, I seem to be working on them in spare moments, with the result that I've finished quite a few - and I have more in progress.  Lately I've been working on other things, so it was great fun to turn back to this project today.  Here are two finished ones.  The one on the left was made from thinner cotton yarn, the left-overs from a table runner explained on my shop's last FB post (look for graceful arts fiber studio on Facebook and you'll see it).  The one on the right was made this afternoon, using some of my hand-dyed originally-sugar-and-cream cotton, which I turn into a variegated where the colors don't pool - more calico in its final effect than blotches.  When it was done, I suddenly realized that in order to explain how to make one from its beginning, I needed to start yet another.  Oh, good!  any excuse will do, actually!

In the thinner cotton, I began by chaining 32.  In the thicker cotton,  (pictured above) I began by chaining 24. (I use a smaller hook than I'd use for other projects - an F for the DK weight, a G for the worsted weight cotton.)  Either way, make 3 single crochets in the second chain from the hook, one SC in each chain across, then 2 additional SC in the last chain.  Turn the work, and you can see I've begun making one SC per space on the opposite side of the CH.  When I say "per space" in this context, I mean one between each SC of the first side.  When you reach the end, you continue in a spiral, one SC in each SC of the row below.  No joining rounds or rows, you simply keep going.  Pretty mindless.  Which is why I often get a row or so done while singing vocal exercises at the beginning of a rehearsal.  When we have to start reading music, of course, all bets are off and I put it away...  but not too far away because sometimes the tenors have to practice a few lines while the rest of us wait.  So you want to keep going until you have a bag that looks approximately like this when it's flattened.

At the point when you've got about half as many rows as you have stitches on one side of the bag, you start checking to see if this production makes a square when you flatten it this way.

Ummm....  Not quite.  A few more rounds are needed.  Note that because you want to flatten it out this way, which by the way, as you can see, puts one side crosswise to the other, which adds a lot to the strength and stability of the whole, you've got to end in the middle of one side (i.e., when it's flattened as in the previous photo.

Then you can sew it together.  Play with it a little, pulling the corners out until it lies flat.  (See the top photo for reference).  This makes a good, useful, hand-protecting pot-holder, and you might have a small amount of yarn left over.  So after you've made potholders for all your friends and family, you can put together the interesting leftovers, much as you'd do in the kitchen with supper remnants from the past two days, and make something terrific for yourself from the blend. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Mitten instructions & tutorial

Time for me to start a year's worth of mittens again - and I'm hoping to persuade others to join me.  Most of the mittens I make go to children in the younger age range for Seneca Santa (a local charity for needy kids in Schuyler County, NY).  The idea is that warm mittens will probably be accepted most readily by littler kids...  while older ones might just prefer "magic" gloves, which could come from anywhere, unlike homemade mittens which could potentially identify them among their peers as having received a charity gift.  Or maybe some older children don't mind and just want to be warm, which is what we want for them when we knit.  You can, of course, crochet warm mittens, but knitted ones are differently stretchy and conform better to small hands.  Seneca Santa gives gifts to children newborn to 10 years old.

These mittens are for 4-5 year olds, the target audience.  I like using two strands of yarn for extra thickness and warmth.  These are variegated knitting worsted and a yellow baby yarn held together.  The red ones at the end, for a slightly  larger/ older child, are knitting worsted.heavy sport weight held together.  I'm putting in stitch counts for both; use a smaller needle than you think you'd need and knit loosely.  size 7 or 8  needles are great; you'll also need two stitch holders and a yarn needle for sewing.

Cast on 24/27 stitches.  K1, p 1 ribbing for 12/14 rows.  On the next inside row, increase 5 stitches across in purl.  knit one row, purl one row for four more rows, ending on the right side.  (The red mittens are more traditional: I purled one row, knitted a row and began increasing traditionally for a thumb gusset on three right-side rows each time I was at the 12th stitch from the end.

 When I got to 9 stitches, I put the thumb stitches on a holder).  For the yellow mittens, knit 12, increase 1, knit 5, increase 1, knit 12.  Purl next row.
Last thumb gusset row on the yellow mittens: Knit 12, increase 1, knit 7, increase 1, put the thumb stitches on a holder and knit to end of the row.  Purl the next row, picking up one stitch above the thumb to close the gap.

It looks stubby when it's flattened out for the photo, and the stitch holder is a lot larger than it needs to be.
Knit and purl until you have 11 rows above the thumb stitches.  This part goes pretty quickly!  On last row, K 1, K 2 together across.  Cut yarn, thread through a yarn needle and take off all stitches, pull tight and fasten with one buttonhole sewing stitch.

Put thumb stitches on the needle, knit across, adding one stitch to the end of the row.  I knit in my end, having left a tail of yarn long enough to knit three stitches with.  Knit 8 more rows.  Cut yarn, thread through a yarn needle and take off all stitches, pull tightly, fasten off and sew thumb seam.  Fasten off again at the join between thumb and hand, then run the tail through the purl stitches, trim flat.  Sew the  hand seam.  You can start from the tail left from casting on, meet in the middle with the tail left from finishing the mitten top.  Run all tails through the purl side of the mitten, a few stitches in one direction, then zig zag back in the other direction for security.  Trim all tails.

Here are two pairs of  finished mittens.  Not sure yet what I'll do about matching hats.  Variegated yarns make really nice- looking mittens; the "louder" variegations like the Christmas red/white/green that often show up in yarn donations can be toned down a bit with a solid.   Having these cool colors is also  frankly more fun for the knitter, too. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

This year I've decided to spin a lot, knit a lot, crochet a lot, tat like crazy - and finish projects.  And off to a good start, I think.  I managed to complete this only about five months later than intended.   I got permission from the mom of this sweet charmer to show the sweater on my favorite baby.  It was a race to the finish - I kept adding more stitches to each part of the sweater while the little sweetheart did her best to try to outgrow everything before I finished.

 I added a little more to the sides and I'm really, really glad she got the sweater last week, because this week could have been too late... 

This week, among a bunch of other things, I decided to make some pussyhats.  I dyed my favorite super-bulky yesterday, and today, since it was dry, I wound balls and began knitting.  Here's the first one, using the pattern for superbulky from the website, the top left is the second hat in progress...

I figure it will go to DC when I can't, and it's a small way to stand up and be heard.  And just possibly, we need as many of those as possible.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Spent a lot of time this year making presents - here are a few that went to some close family members.  I have to say each of these was my favorite when I was working on it.

Antique redwork embroidery made this old-fashioned-looking lap quilt. 

I stockpiled fabric with a tea theme for several years to be able to make this one!

A whole bunch of Christmas fabrics went into this one

And this one, which uses some darker holiday-themed fabrics.  Finally, I made this one

for the person who's something of an elegant minimalist...  but I wasn't done.  There were still Bill's red socks to knit - I took them everywhere and added a stitch or a round whenever I had a few spare moments; and then, needing some quick small gifts to go into holiday cards, I made these extremely simple bookmarks

by crocheting a chain onto a charm with doubled-size 10 thread, then finishing the chain with a tassel.  Folded into a holiday card, I gave them to people in my newest bone-builders class.  It was fun to see who picked which!

New Year's resolutions - and I'm starting already, because having resolved, I see no reason to wait - I'm going through my studio, paring down.  Having a few quilts planned for the winter, I thought it was time to get a bit more organized, so when the recipient of the redwork quilt offered to help me sort, I spent a day going through quilting fabric.  She took home a little, and another box worth was slated for giveaway.  So there's just a bit less to deal with as I begin winter projects!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

the season turns...

Today is Thanksgiving, tomorrow is the open studio day... We've had a little snow to remind us we're  transitioning towards winter and the holidays, so here is a stocking to hang for someone moderately good.  Not quite a joke...  haven't you noticed that stockings seem to get bigger and bigger, so that they're either filled with lumpy, not-very-significant gifts or they're stuffed like sausages, distorted and weigh a ton? 

Call this an elegant step backwards.  I knitted it on four needles - large ones - size 9s,  using Paton's Shetland chunky, one of my favorites of the commercial yarns I carry in my shop.

.  Cast on 36 stitches - 12 on each needle, and knitted down five inches, mostly in the main color, though I noodled around with changing colors a bit - two of each color for the first three bi-color rows, offsetting the stitch by one each round.  Then a round that was just the second color, and a final, fifth bi-color round alternating colors every stitch.  I was going for a random pattern, but someone saw it as a string of reindeer.  cool.

After another inch and a half (this was part of the original 5 inches), I divided the stitches with half of them (18) on one needle, 9 on each of the other two.  I added the second color in for the heel.  Because this is a Christmas stocking, not one to wear, it could be straight back-and-forth, knit-and purl  for two inches, then I knit 12, knitted two together, turned, purled back and when there were six stitches left on the other needle, purled two together and turned, repeating the process with 5 on the other needle, then 4, 3, 2 and then the last stitch was knitted or purled with the stitch before it.    At this point, the second color is temporarily finished.

Returning to knitting in the round, pick up stitches from the side of the heel using the main color, decrease one stitch on either side of the heel until you're back to 12 stitches per needle, (with a little redistribution).  I knitted straight for about 2 1/2 inches or so - your choice, if you'd like to make the foot longer - then end the main color and switch to the second color to finish the toe. 

For the toe, redistribute the stitches so half (18) are on each needle.  The toe and heel should line up.  In the photo, the heel is shown at the bottom, the finished toe at top.  Decrease one stitch on each side of each needle (4 decreases per round).   It took me five rounds to complete the toe - I Kitchener-stitched the toe, but if the idea frustrates you, you could simply draw the yarn needle through, pull all the stitches together, secure and sew in the end.  

All that's left is the cuff and hanger.  I'll admit I began this stocking by knitting five rounds of the cuff, but I didn't like it.  I'd recommend picking up and knitting the cuff, I think that might be neater.  I finished it with a shell stitch round, then chained up through both layers, crocheted a round of reverse single crochet and chained a hanger-loop. 

This leaves enough yarn for a second stocking.  Or, a hat.  I decided to crochet mine.

Just for a change, I began at the brim by chaining 9 stitches.  Leave at least a six inch long "tail."  Single crocheting in the back loop only, I kept going until un-stretched, the band measured 19 inches.

I threaded the tail yarn through a yarn needle and connected the last row to the first, then crocheted around a long, now connected, side.   Switched to the second color for the body of the hat, adding in the first color, just noodling around, so no one would think I'd forgotten about it.  I think this alternating two stitch pattern looks like flying birds, but it was purely geometric and random.

When the hat was about 5 inches from its beginning, it was looking a little large to me, so I began decreasing by sc two together above every second bird.  Then 3 rows were sc even, before I did the decrease round again.  Added a stripe of the first color for a few rows, and began the decreasing in earnest, over the same places I'd previously decreased.  Finally, I pulled the last few stitches together with a yarn needle and ended it off. 

The finished hat can be worn with its brim up or down - the crocheted ribbing is pretty much as stretchy and as versatile as a knitted one.   And there's still some yarn left for tying packages...

Monday, November 14, 2016


Here are four very easy patterns – three for knitting, one for crochet.  (I ended up with the mug cozy photo insisting on being front and center - couldn't get it to budge.  Maybe it didn't want to be last in this post?) The first two use relatively large needles – size 11s.  And if you read this blog and the facebook page for the shop, Graceful Arts Fiber Studio, you might have seen them each before in a slightly different incarnation.

First the scarf.  People frequently ask whether a single skein of yarn is enough for a scarf, and usually, the answer is, I’m sorry, no.  One generally needs about 300 yards for a scarf.  However, this one seems to take not very much yarn and in fact, I did not go through an entire skein.  I’m estimating about 200 yards.  I put this back into the gifts lineup this year because “shawlettes” have become a popular alternative to scarves; and this will definitely keep your shoulders warm.
Cast on 5 stitches and knit one row across.
Pattern row 1: slip the first stitch, YO, knit to within one stitch of the center stitch (which on the first row, means K1), YO, K1, YO, knit to one stitch before the end (which on the first row, still means K1) YO, K!.
Pattern row 2: K every stitch.
Knit 6 rows in pattern, repeat row 2 five more times.  That’s it, for as wide as you want to go, which doesn’t have to be terribly wide.
Finish with a crochet hook – Y CH6, sc 3 stitches from needle together, repeat from Y across.  Cut end and sew in both ends.

Easy kids’ hats – Hats can help prevent ear aches.  Kids need hats, even when they’re running around so fast a mom has to nearly sit on their child’s lap to put one on.  A local agency in my county gives a new hat and a pair of mittens or gloves to every child under 10; I also partner with a knitter and crocheter, each of whom prefers to make mittens (and sometimes provide “magic” gloves to hats.  So I end up making a lot of hats.  The two layers of knitting worsted make them warm, and they’re also nicely stretchy.  The knitting worsted is acrylic, meaning a busy mother can put it in the wash now and then without worry.  I strongly encourage every knitter or crocheter to make a hat or a pair of mittens and give them away.  Because the best gifts are often anonymous, even better might be to give it to an agency that gives it away.  Many houses of worship have a mitten tree or mitten wall where contributors add mittens and hats given away in December.  It took me about an hour to make each hat and I’m not a fast knitter.  In the middle of making stuff to give to people who give us presents back…  end of sermon.

For the one on the left, meant for a smaller child, cast on 40 stitches.  Knit in a k1, P1 rib for 6 inches.  Then begin decreasing: K and p4, K2 together across. 
Rows after decreases follow the K and P pattern of the previous decrease row.
Then, K and p 3, K 2 together
after a row without decreases, K and P 2, K 2 together
after a row without decreases, K 1, K 2 together.
Cut yarns leaving a 6 inch tail, thread the tail through the yarn needle and pull remaining stitches together tightly and secure.  Then sew down the hat until you run out of yarn, fasten off and hide ends.  Using the left-over tail yarn from your cast-on, sew up the hat from the bottom.  Presumably you’ve planned so you can meet in the middle with a little left over.  Fasten off and hide ends.

for the hat on the right, meant for a slightly larger child, cast on 48 stitches.  Knit in a K2 P2 rib for about 2 inches.  Switch to garter stitch and knit until the hat is 7 inches from the beginning.  Keeping in garter stitch, decrease and finish in the same pattern as the previous hat.

Using handspun yarn, you don’t want to begin knitting hats with a cast-on that leaves a bunch of yarn left over, even if it might potentially be useful later.  I don’t want to use up and potentially waste yarn with sewing in ends, so my handspun hats are Crown Down hats. 

  Start by casting on 6 stitches.  Knit off two onto each of 3 dp needles…I’ll use something between a 9 and a 10 ½ for handspun.  Increase one stitch between each stitch for the first round, then knit a round of these 9 stitches.  Increase one stitch between each stitch for the third round, then knit a round of these 15 stitches.  On the fifth round, increase one stitch between each stitch on a needle, increasing to 27 stitches around.  On the seventh round, and the ninth and the 11th,  increase two stitches per needle.  Work even for a few rounds and eyeball your hat.  You should be up to 45 stitches.  Need another round of increases?  Okay, make one more increase round (that’s 51 stitches), then knit every stitch on every needle until you’ve got about 8 inches of hat, from the crown down.   Now you’re at the decision point for how you’ll finish it.  You could simply keep on knitting and bind off when it feels right.  The brim will roll.  You can decrease a stitch to have an even number and K1, P1 around for a couple of inches for a ribbed finish.  Bind off loosely and sew in the end.  You will have a sturdy, distinctive hat.

I coordinate a raffle project to raise money for our local fire company, auxiliary and the local library, an effort that happens during fire company breakfasts.  This means we’ve got to engage our audience with the raffles quickly – and the raffles need to be something people will really want.  In a basket of carefully selected gift items, I was surprised and delighted to see that what attracted the most attention this year were the cup cozies crocheted and donated by a generous gifter.  It was amazing that everyone bypassed the more expensive things and zeroed-in on the mug cozies with glee – and they were what sold the raffle tickets!

These are great for using up small amounts of yarn and interesting buttons.  After experimenting with knitting and crocheting these, I decided crochet was easier.  Ch 8, then crochet in ”moss” stitch            alternating sc and double crochets across, then on the following rows, make a sc above a double of the row below, and a double where there was a single.  Have a mug nearby to try out the fit.  When you’ve crocheted enough that your strip is about 7 inches long, or goes most but not all the way around the cup, crochet the first 3 stitches of the next row, CH 9, fasten back to the base of the last stitch and end off, sewing in the end.  Sew a button on the other end…  and you’re done!  No more scorching your hands on a hot cuppa - or having the condensation on the outside of your glass of iced whatever spoil a table.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Crochet basket technique

Because a couple of people were having trouble with the transition from the bottom of the basket to the sides, I decided to make the extreme sacrifice of starting another basket so I could demonstrate the technique.   Oh, gosh, I'll have ANOTHER washable basket to stash a project in...  what a pity!  It all came together when I got this great deal on Christmas-colored dishcloth cotton at a bargain store I was writing an article about.  I couldn't be there and not check out the store, right?  I began my basket,
crocheting around both sides of the starting chain using a double strand of yarn and a small hook, until the bottom of the basket was about as large as I wanted it to be.

You'll see in the photo above that the hook goes into the previous row and the crochet is proceeding in the ordinary, usual way.    But then - and this part sounded tricky without the photo, things changed.

I turned the crochet so I was looking at the stitches head-on, the needle goes down from the back and comes back up around each single crochet.  It's still a single crochet, but the position is a little different.   Below, you'll see what this looks like when you've got at least a few stitches started in that new position.  The last row of single crochet before the turn forms a sort of braided edge look.  The basket sides are now proceeding upwards.

 You can see, too that my fingers are dented and battered - this part is hard on your hands.  Do it, then put the crochet down and do something else.  That something else might be fun, not (as you can see from my cuticles) washing breakfast dishes from 168 merry diners who showed up at the Fire Hall this morning for the monthly all-you-can-eat breakfast.  We do have another person who washes dishes, but he doesn't stay all morning, and stuff had piled up by the time we all realized he'd left.  I had dishes from about the last 60 people, silverware from about the last 120 people (after all, who really likes washing eggy forks?) and the food prep stuff.  Luckily, I enjoy running the commercial dishwasher.   At one point, I accidentally - and I promise, it really WAS an accident -  threw the dishwashing brush out the window, but someone quickly brought it back.  

That's about as far as I got with this new basket tonight - I did have other things to work on, with patterns to be posted tomorrow.  Hope this explanation helped!