Monday, November 23, 2015

This week's gift instructions are for the felted bag.  I make a lot of them, carry one myself, fall in love with each new one I make and have to persuade myself that no, it goes to the shop when it's done.  Before I start one, I look at the yarn I've got around, particularly "odds and ends" of wool left over from other projects.  I'm always knitting one thing or another, often from wool, so there's no shortage of project yarn.  What I want for a bag though is not just odds and ends, but a unifying color to carry through.  The tweedy bag with the purple top at 3 o'clock in the photo has a light brown yarn carried through with all the other colors, at 9 o'clock, there's a green theme going on, and in the dark bag with the exposed pink lining, there's black, blue, green and purple - no yellow or red, though a little rose and metallic crept into the mix.

Holding two strands together and using a size L crochet hook, chain 10. (Note that one is your main color - you're going to carry that one or a similar one all the way through.  The secondary color - in this case the purply one, changes when it's used up or you're tired of it.  One sc in second chain from hook and next 8 chains, then 3 sc in the first CH, turn work, and sc back into other side of that foundation chain.  When you return to the first space, sc twice more into that space, then continue by working a sc into the top of the first sc you made.  Now you're off and running - crocheting in a spiral - one sc into each sc of the row below, two or three into each "corner" as needed. 

As mentioned before, change yarns when you run out of one or feel like it.  At some point, you might go back to your stash and pull out something else that just might go.  There are no mistakes here.  Remember the eventual felting will blur color combinations.  When the bag looks large enough, stop increasing and keep working even.

Moving right along here, I kept adding different yarns.  I guess there was some yellow and an orange that came as part of something else.  Some of these were seemed-like-a-good-idea at-the-time decisions.  I mostly eyeballed the size of the bag, working until it seemed big enough.  When I started the handles, the bag dimensions were

about 15 inches high  by 17 inches across

which was a little surprising, because it looked about even to me, but, okay. 
About those handles.  I wanted them to be sturdy, which meant wide and durable after felting.  For these, I used the linked double crochet, building each stitch upon the previous one and the final (of 50) at the place where I wanted the handle to attach.  You can find a tutorial on the linked double stitch here -

- and if you crochet at all, you'll get the idea quickly.

When the bag is done, cut the yarns, pull the final end in, and then it's time for felting.

The easiest way to do this, particularly if you've got only one item to felt, is to put it into the washing machine when you're doing a regular (colored) wash.  About four times, maybe more.  It's done when your crocheted bag has shrunken a bit, and the stitches are no longer completely distinct.  Dry it.  Flatten it on a flat surface and cut a doubled length of fabric about an inch wider and longer at both ends than the flattened out crocheted bag.  I also took a shorter length of fabric, as wide as the long doubled-over part, and hemmed it to make pockets.  I stitched the pocket to the lining fabric, cleverly leaving both ends of the pocket even with the sides so they could be finished with the seaming.  Each time I do this, I also stitch the pocket a few times along its length, effectively creating three or four pockets, often including a tall, narrow pocket for pens and pencils.  (Or crochet hooks).  With right sides together and the pocket on the inside, I sew the doubled length of fabric, turn down its upper raw edges and press them, and without turning the lining, whose finished side is going to be the inside of the bag, stuff it inside and pin it to the inside of the bag, at least half an inch down from the bag's upper edge.  This gets hand-sewn from the inside. 

Total time to make the bag - about six hours.  A reasonable amount of time for a special gift, and particularly pleasant if you're listening to a book on tape. 

These were popular at the first crafts sale of the year, barely looked-at at the one this past weekend.  But I somehow doubt I'll have many left when the crafts sale season is over. 

And why am I doing so many crafts sales this year?  Bill was wondering, too.  This is why.  Do you have any idea how much a new roof costs? 

Funny, I didn't either...

Thursday, November 12, 2015

First - everyone wins - I've got enough prizes to go around!  So if Stephanie will email me with her street address (everyone else's I've got) your prizes will be in the mail soon!

Second - I'm posting earlier this week because

we're going to a crafts fair this weekend.  That's Moe, Larry and Curly sitting atop a pile of fingerless mitts waiting to be labeled to go into the bin.  We're going to the "Believe" bazaar at St. Mary's of the Lake, the pre-eminent pre-Christmas crafts fair in Watkins Glen.

Third - the pattern for the cowls

The rainbow-colored one at the upper left is simple - I had a limited amount of this gorgeous multicolor eyelash yarn.  I cast on 14 stitches on size 11 needles, knitted in garter stitch until I ran out of yarn, bound off and sewed the bind off to the cast-on edge.   In a novelty yarn, you'll never see the stitches, so you might as well knit in garter stitch. 

And garter stitch also works in the other cowls.  The silky one used two strands of silk and silk-rayon yarn and size 11 needles; the blue one is a super-bulky chenille knitted on size 13 needles.  Instructions are for the blue cowl, with the multi-strand silky counts in parentheses. 

Cast on 19 (25) stitches and knit one row, using the tail yarn together with the yarn from the ball to double the beginning.  Really, you just need an odd number of stitches, at least 19, but you could use a LOT more.
Even rows: slip 1, K 2 together, K 6 (11) YO, K1, YO, K6 (11) K2 together, K1
Odd rows: slip first stitch, K across.

You can see by the picture the knitting quickly takes a pointed arrowhead shape.  I left that one squiggle of tail thread hanging out to remind me to I'm on an odd numbered row when the squiggle is to the right.  You can also see my knitting needles, which are the same size, don't actually match.  Which doesn't matter.

Keep knitting until

You've got about 22 inches done, then bind off.  Cut your yarn leaving a length for sewing.
Fit the pointy part at the end into the notch of the beginning and sew the scarf ends together.  Sew in that squiggle, its work is done.  As with the first one, if you've enthusiastically knitted to 26 inches or so, which couldn't happen with the first one because I ran out of yarn, you could alternatively give one end a twist to create a Moebius shape.

Note: the gifts of Christmas, as well as Moe's cousins and a bunch of other good stuff, will be at the shop for a Thanksgiving weekend crafts sale.   Which means between now and then - and beyond - the needles keep moving...

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Whoo-hoo!  This is my 100th post...  which is pretty exciting!  In honor of this event, I'm going to send a small prize to a randomly-chosen (by Bill) person who comments on this post by noon next Thursday (the 12th).  Tell us what you're knitting for the holidays?

And here is part of this past week's fingerless mitt harvest.  There are at least three different ways to make plain fingerless mitts, and this photo shows two of them

 with the tools of the trade, in this instance, double pointed needles.  Look closely and you'll notice there's a range of sizes and materials (birch, metal, bamboo) ranging from 6" long to 10 " long.  A few knitters were discussing this today and our consensus was that we prefer using 10 inch long double pointed needles to circulars for their versatility.  The longer the needles, by the way, the more likely the work in progress will stay where you want it.  And a confession - the longer I knit, the less attention I pay to uniformity in size of needle.  I'm happy with the results when the needles are more or less in the ballpark of the same size as each other.  The yellow and dark purple solid-colored mitts are  Kraemer's Mauch Chunky yarn (100% wool, $7.50/100 gram skein/ size 9 needles); the multicolored ones are "Big and Beautiful" ( a hand-dyed-by-me line, 50% superwash merino, 50% nylon, super-bulky, knits like butter, $16/100 gram skein, size 10.5 needles).

Using a long-tail cast-on the Mauch Chunky, cast on 27 stitches on three needles: 10 on the first needle, 8 on the second, 9 on the third.  (In the B&Beautiful, cast on 25 stitches on three needles - 8, 8 and 9.)  Take the last stitch and move it to the needle with the first stitch.  Holding the yarn "tail" with the yarn from the ball, knit those first two stitches together with the doubled yarn, then purl the next stitch with the doubled  yarn, continue around alternating a knit stitch with a purl stitch to create a stretchy ribbing.  Continue in ribbing with the usual single strand when the tail has been used up.

***  Here is an alternate method for those who don't have, or are daunted by using all those double pointed needles.  Knit the whole shooting match on straight needles, adding up all the rows and knitting them in ribbing until the bind-off.  You'll shape the mitts in the sewing-together part and you'll get nearly the same result (only you'll have a seam).  Using the double pointeds, of course, you don't need a seam.  ***

When you're 20 rounds from the cast-on, turn your knitting so the inside faces you and knit three needles back (in the "wrong" direction) with the inside facing you.  This is creating the thumb opening.  Turn the knitting again and knit three needles the other way.  Knit back and forth for 9 rows, then on row 10, continue around on the right side for 8 more rounds.  Bind off.

(alternate thumb opening was used in the variegated mitts.  At row 22, I bound off 7 stitches, then immediately knitted on 9 using the cable or knitted cast-on method.  I continued around the mitt for 8 more rows before binding off.  This is essentially creating a large buttonhole opening in the mitt which keeps the base of your thumb warmer.  But it doesn't look quite as nice as the first method.  I try to remember to use the first method, but I don't always remember, and once you've started that buttonhole bind-off/cast on you're sort of committed.)

These mitts are actually fine as they are once you've woven /sewn in ends.  But if you, like me, have some eyelash/novelty yarn left in your stash, it's a neat way to give your mitts a little pizazz.  The one mitt already treated here has two rows of eyelash added in loose single crochet.

It takes me about 2 hours to knit a pair of fingerless mitts.  They are versatile because you can wear them in semi-cool weather on their own, or over a pair of inexpensive "magic" gloves, even mittens,  when the weather is colder.  So there's still enough time to make a pair for everyone on your list...  or are you holding out for next week's easy cowl pattern?

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dishcloths/ personal wash cloths are easy and addictive.  Everyone needs them - unless they've got a maid, in which case, that person needs them.  But they're not just dishcloths - they're spa cloths, wash cloths - and a small one can be a great item on which to rest a bar of artisanal or glycerine soap, which can soak into the cloth instead of making a gooey mess in a soap dish, and THEN be used as a spa cloth, wash cloth or laundry booster.  I have one in my closet I only use when washing my eyes - its distinctive colors make it easy to find.  I crochet them because crocheted cloths are sturdier and don't stretch out and look like rags after laundering.

As you can see from the photo, if you look at the cloth laid out on the far right

you can even use your odds and ends of cotton to good effect.  The shop seems to collect cotton yarns - possibly mostly because I love using them.  There's hand-dyed cotton, which I'm suggesting because I love the diffused punch of its colors; and solid colors, and a few cotton blends in lighter weights, and commercial organic cotton.  Whatever you use,, choose a slightly smaller hook than you think you'll need - I used a size G with the 8-ply worsted-weight cotton (similar to sugar and cream TM) and I really liked the results.  I can relax and make the cloth looser or be less relaxed and make it tighter - it works all the time.

And the pattern is easy because...  you follow the same instructions for every row.  
Chain 25.  
SC in first chain from hook, dc in next ch, * sc in next ch, dc in next ch repeating from the * until you have 24 stitches, going up and down, across the row.

** Turn, ch 1.   SC in next ch, dc in next ch, across the row.  You should be putting a sc where a double was and a dc where a single was - because you've got an even number of stitches.
Repeat from ** until you've got only 4 wingspans of yarn left.  For the uninitiated (to my pattern directions) "wingspan" is the amount you hold between two outstretched arms.

Lastly, you'll want to finish all edges with reverse single crochet around the cloth's circumference.  You can find a you-tube video of reverse sc here

Crochet two or three or five, fold them neatly, tie with a ribbon as shown in the photo, package it up with a bar of soap - and you've got a small (or medium-sized) one-size-fits-all present for appreciating someone on your list!

Please be sure to check out the shop's facebook page (gracefulartsfiberstudioyarnshop) for information on the yarns used as well as shop info...  and the fifth in the "Twelve Gifts of Christmas" series.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The mitten pattern is one that made me pretty excited to come up - because so many mittens follow a set scheme based on a cylinder, and depend on your hands to stretch them into the shape that will fit you.  There's nothing wrong with that - I've knitted a gazillion mittens that follow that shape and they're okay, but I wanted to come up with something that matches the shape of my hand and wrist, the wrist just a tad thinner than my four fingers across the knuckles and the widest part of the hand where my widest part is - across from the lower knuckle of my thumb to the outside edge of the palm.  This one does that!

And it will surprise you, but I promise you, it is logical!
Remember, by the way, this is the same yarn I used for the thinker's hat - that 200 gram skein.  It is enough for the mittens AND the hat.  I used size 9 double pointed needles.  You'll also need two 8" lengths of waste yarn in a contrasting color and a yarn needle.

You'll start by knitting two thumbs.
***Make the sort of slip knot you use to begin a crochet chain or casting on for knitting.  Put the loop of the slip knot over your  first needle and leave the inside of the knot well open.  (YO, put the needle through the knot opening and pull up another stitch. You now have three stitches).  Do this five more times for a total of 13 stitches, which you're distributing onto three of those dp needles - the one you started with and two more needles. **

Knit into every stitch, at the end, transfer the last stitch to the first needle and knit the last stitch and the first stitch together - 12 stitches total.
Knit around even until there are 11 rounds of knitting.
Turn the knitting in your hand and PURL 7 stitches.
Turn it again and knit those 7 stitches, and knit around one more time..  Break yarn, Thread the waste yarn onto a yarn needle and run it through all the stitches.   Set this aside and make a second thumb.

Begin as you did for the thumbs, following instructions between ** and ** BUT this time you'll end up with 15 stitches.
Knit one round even.
K1 into the front AND the back of each stitch all around - 30 stitches.
Knit even on these 30 stitches until you have 26 rounds from the cast on. 

Now you need one of those thumbs.  Remember each as a 7 stitch section with two additional rows and a 5 stitch section that doesn't.  You want those five stitches first - holding them next to the hand section, you'll knit off one from the thumb and one from the hand, together, as one stitch.  ***Do it again and slip the first stitch on the needle over that second stitch.  Repeat from *** until those five stitches have been joined to the hand and at the same time, bound off.  Then continue knitting around the mitten.

Here's the only very-slightly-tricky part - When you've knitted around the mitten, you're back to the rest of the thumb, just hanging there.  Pick up one stitch between the hand part and the thumb, knit the rest of the thumb stitches, pick up another stitch between the hand part and the thumb on the other side, and knit around once. 

Then count your stitches.  You will have way more than 30, and you do want to get back to 30 for the ribbing you're going to start any moment.  But first, you'll have to knit 2 together on a very occasional basis over the next three rounds of the mitten, to gradually return to having 30 stitches.

Got 30?  Terrific!  Knit around in a K1, p 1 rib for at least 15 rounds for a good, long wrist portion of your mittens.  This should take you about 1/3 of the way up your forearm when you put on the mitten, plenty long enough to tuck into the sleeve of your coat, but if you want to make it longer, be my guest.  Bind off when ready and complete the second mitten the same way.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~copyright Karey Solomon 2015

Friday, October 16, 2015

The "thinker's hat" featured on the shop/fiber studio's facebook page last week ( can be knitted top down or bottom up. The multicolored hat at the bottom and the blue and purple one above it to the left were knitted from the crown down; the one at the upper right was knitted from the brim upwards. What's the difference? If you've got a seemingly infinite amount of yarn, you can do either. But when using handspun or a measured weight of yarn, not knowing how far the amount I had would stretch, hat-wise, it seemed best to begin at the top and then get as long as I could go.
I'm going to present the two methods here, for them who wants them - first, the brim-up method. This hat may be knitted in Aran worsted weight (or chunky), back and forth on single pointed needles, size 8 (or 10) or in the round on double-pointeds. As the knitter, you’ll have to think about your choices. The wearer will have a little ventilation at the crown of the hat to let thoughts blaze a trail all their own!

Body of hat Cast on 72 (60). Knit for length needed – for an adult, this means at least 8 inches. This is stockinette knitting – plain knitting all around if you’re knitting on dps, or knit and purl ONLY  if you're knitting on straight needles.
 Crown of hat 
 K 6 (K 7), YO, knit three together 8 (6) times around.
 Purl one row or knit one round plain.
K 5 (K6) YO, knit three together 8 (6) times around.
 Purl one row or knit one round plain.
 K 4 (K5) YO, knit three together 8 (6) times around.
 Purl one row or knit one round plain.
K 3 (K4) YO, knit three together 8 (6) times around.
 Purl one row or knit one round plain.
 K 2 (K3) YO, knit three together 8 (6) times around.
 Purl one row or knit one round plain.
 K 1 (K2) YO, knit three together 8 (6) times around.
 Purl one row or knit one round plain.
(K1, YO, knit 3 together around
 Purl one row or knit one round plain.)
Cut yarn, leaving a longer “tail” if you knitted back and forth. Run yarn through all remaining crown stitches and secure. If needed, sew a seam down the side of the hat and fasten off. The hat’s brim will naturally roll upwards.

Okay, that was easy enough. But the crown-downwards mode I've continued with the mittens (next week's pattern) seemed safest for the 70 grams of yarn I'd allotted for the hat.

Also, please note, there are more increases to the round on this version, which gets you the circumference you'll want faster! You need double-pointed needles - long ones work best for me.

 I began by wrapping the tail of the yarn twice around two fingers, then pinching the double ring in my left hand. With one needle at a time in my right hand and the yarn from the ball, YO, pick up one stitch three times (six stitches on needle); pick up a second needle and repeat, pick up a third needle and repeat. You will end up with 18 stitches on three needles.
Next round - YO, knit 2 (three times) - on each needle (27 stitches)
next round - Knit every stitch on all three needles.
 next round - YO, knit 3 (three times) - on each needle (36 stitches)
 next round - knit every stitch on each needle
 next round - YO, knit 4 (three times) - on each needle (45 stitches)
 next round - knit every stitch on each needle
 next round - YO, knit 5 (three times) - on each needle (54 stitches)

You can see why it's called a "thinker's hat" - those holes you can see when you hold your knitting up to the light are for an exchange of ideas!

 next round - knit every stitch on each needle
YO, K 6 (three times) on each needle (63) stitches
(for bulky yarn, stop increasing here)
next round - knit every stitch on each needle
(if using worsted weight yarn), YO, K 6 (three times) on each needle (72) stitches
At this point, with whatever weight of yarn you're using, you'll keep knitting in continuous rounds, around and around - and it surprisingly doesn't take long! - until you've got just enough yarn left to bind off with. How do you know? When you look perilously close to the end of the ball, measure off two "wingspans" (that is, the amount of yarn you can hold between two hands stretched in opposite directions with arms wide apart). Then you bind off and sew in the ends. Seriously, you could make quite a lot of these in a week, even if you're knitting onstage, which is known to not be the best place to concentrate on needlework...

Friday, October 9, 2015

I've started a project for the shop I'm calling the "12 Gifts of Christmas" - though stay tuned, there might actually be more! These are quick, fast-moving projects. Some of them - like this first one - get their appeal from yarn with that "wow" factor and simple stitches. The first project came about when I needed to make a comfort shawl, also known as a prayer shawl, for a friend going through a hard time. In creating this pattern I was guided by what Iwould want in a shawl - I'd like it to wrap around me, stay on my shoulders, and feel cosy. I wanted to be extemporaneous, changing between stockinette and garter stitches. I've made a number of these shawls now, including one for the mother of a newborn, who can use hers to snuggle the baby in and nurse discreetly. (But - before I get to the shawl, I'd like to also show off the quilt I made for a special baby, before I knew she was going to be a beautiful girl. I hand-quilted it, and loved every minute of making it... and I was really happy to see the sweet newborn atop her quilt shortly after she was born, when it was still too summery to totally need a quilt.)
Okay, end of colorful digression... the shawl. This was the shop model.
This is a closeup of one just finished, in yarn from my stash (acrylic, mohair, alpaca and nylon) which is the same yarn as a bunch I've got in the shop. With this fuzzy, bulky yarn, you'll need size 13 or 15 needles - I used circulars - and 4-5 skeins, depending on how large you want your shawl to be. You will also need a crochet hook and yarn needle for ending it off. Begin by casting on 5 stitches. Knit one row. First real row: slip first stitch, (YO, K1) four times. {{If you're inclined to use stitch markers, which I generally think of as a royal pain in the patoot, you can put them in at this row wherever you like. Any knitters other than the most diligently conscientious, a.k.a. anal, will quickly lose track of them, because trust me, you don't really need them. Unless you really, really want them.}} row 2 (and all even numbered rows): purl.... unless you'd like to have a garter section, in which case you'll slip the first stitch and knit all the rest except for the Row 3 (and all odd numbered rows) slip first stitch, YO, knit to the center stitch, YO, knit the center stitch, YO, knit until you've got one stitch left on the left-hand needle, YO, knit that stitch.
Here's a shawl in progress. This one, shown at its beginning, with the circular needle curved to show the shawl's shape, has actually progressed mightily since the photo was taken. I'm almost at the end now. You may choose to switch off between stockinette and garter. You can also do a few YO, K2Tog rows for variety now and then, though I saved those for the bottom border. To finish the shawl, I used a smallish crochet hook (a G) to work a single crochet into the first stitch, (CH 3, make a sc by inserting hook through three stitches on left hand needle simultaneously, then finishing stitch as a single crochet) until you get to the middle. "Fudge" here if necessary by working sc, 3 ch, sc in that center stitch. then carry on as before to the end. When all stitches have been worked off the left-hand needle, you might sc or reverse sc along the top of shawl. Use your yarn needle to sew in all ends. Note: the elves are busy and will post more next week...