Monday, December 21, 2015

The "Twelve gifts of Christmas" project begun on the shops Facebook page officially comes to an end with this post.  The fingers have been busy with a multitude of projects...  Like this rug.

I think I might have posted about the rug process before.  You'll need about 21 ounces of super-bulky wool and a size N crochet hook.  Begin by chaining 12 stitches or thereabouts, crochet twice into the second chain from hook, once into each of the rest of the chains, then twice more into the first chain (three stitches total in the end chain).  Then continue back along the other side of the chain, with one stitch between each of the stitches on the other side, ending with a third stitch tucked in where the first two appeared. 

Then keep crocheting around and around in an oval version of a spiral, adding  two stitches at the corners of each side (but offsetting these increases so they occur at a different place in each round).

Change colors every round or two for variety, make fewer increases as the rug gets larger, if it looks a little wavery on the floor.  And you'll know this, because each time you put it down, you'll smooth it onto a flat surface like the floor to check.  Keep going until it's large enough.  If you noted the crochet hook tucked into the work in the top photo, you'll see that one is not quite large enough for me.  When it's done, before it goes to its permanent place, it will have to be gently washed - more of a soak-and-spin process in my top-loading machine so it doesn't felt.  When still damp, it's blocked by being patted flat on a floor to dry.  That's the only kind of "dry flat" instruction that really works with a rug.

Some of the rest of the multitude was inspired by the wish to give a small, practical present to each member of the exercise class I teach locally every Tuesday.  I made some melt-and-pour soap, then thought about presentation.  By crocheting a cotton soap-bag, I created a container for the soap that could also be used as a personal scrubby or washcloth, then re-used later with other soaps.
 I used a knitting-worsted-weight cotton (I think this one was one of the "twists" which is a variation on a single color theme - in this case, pink)  and a size G crochet hook.  Begin by chaining 6, join last chain to first, and tighten.  Chain 3. Crochet 11 treble stitches, which counting that first chain (where you'll join to the top stitch) effectively looks like 12 stitches in the ring.  Chain 3 again, then one more.  Treble in the same space.  Treble, chain, treble into each space between two stitches - and when you get to the end, crochet a treble, chain, treble over the first chain instead of ending the row.  This enables you to continue crocheting in a spiral for the length you need - about 5 to 6 rounds high, working this "v" combination of two trebles with a chain stitch between them into the Chain 1 space of the round below.  There it is in progress, on my lap.

When it's long enough, crochet a double, chain and another double in place of the next treble v stitch, then a half-double chain and half double into the next chain space; then a single crochet into the following one.  Finish the bag by continuing around with a single crochet, followed by two chains  into each space between two stitches.  Cut the yarn, fasten off and use a yarn needle to pull the end in.  Chain 65 stitches, cut the yarn leaving a long tail, and pull this chain through the chain spaces left between the single crochets of the previous round.  Knot the two ends together - I added more strands for tassels.

I've got enough now - with some others I made earlier -  to give out one to each person in my class.  The soap came in that color, the shape comes from being poured into a silicone brownie mold. 

Still on my family present agenda is a t-shirt quilt, a shrug and a pair of red knitted socks.  There are officially three more days, counting Christmas eve, to get them done.  Wish me luck!


Monday, December 14, 2015

This week's post (last week's post?) got delayed because I was here

Knitting socks like these, only in red.  (The sunny, 70 degree weather did not inspire anyone to want to buy warm woolly things, which means I now have an oversupply of warm hats, mittens, silk scarves and felted bags.  People patted them as they walked by, commented, "Warm" and went off to look at pottery and jewelry. )  This means you are going to need to knit your own warm woolly things...  or come talk to me.  Let's assume you're the sock knitter.  Using bulky-ish yarn, in this case intended for size 10 needles, you'll need two skeins plus four size six double pointed needles.

Using a long-tail cast on, with a very long tail, put on 12 stitches on the first needle, 12 on the second, and 13 on the third.

 Move that 13th stitch to the first needle, knit that last stitch and the first stitch together, and then, holding the tail together with the yarn from the ball, continue around in a K2, Purl 2 rib.  For about 8 inches.

At which point you'll re-distribute your stitches for the heel.

 You'll notice that I was indeed knitting at the crafts sale, and had to photograph the sock-in-progress on a nest of silk scarves.  You want 18 stitches on one needle, the rest distributed on the other two.  You're going to knit a heel flap on the 18 stitches on that one needle, as follows
 Row 1 (wrong side, meaning the inside of the heel) slip 1, (slip 1, purl 1) across, ending with a purl stitch.
Row 2 (right side) slip the first stitch, knit across
Row 3 (again, the inside of the heel) slip 1, (purl 1, slip 1) across, ending with a purl stitch.
Row 4 (right side) slip the first stitch, knit across

Repeat that until you've got a flap about 3 inches high, 2 1/2 or 3 repetitions of the above sequence.
This is called "Eye of the Peacock" stitch or something equally fanciful, but those slipped stitches on the inside surface help the heel last longer.

Turn the heel :
 Knit (or purl) until you're 5 stitches from the end of the row, Knit 2 together (or purl 2 together) turn.
     do this twice.
 Knit (or purl) until you're 4 stitches from the end of the row, Knit 2 together (or purl 2 together) turn.
     do this twice.
 Knit (or purl) until you're 3 stitches from the end of the row, Knit 2 together (or purl 2 together) turn.
     do this twice.  Knit (or purl) until you're 2 stitches from the end of the row, Knit 2 together (or purl 2 together) turn.
     do this twice.
Your heel is now turned, but your sock looks funny.  Your next task is picking up stitches from the side of the heel flap.  12-13 per side should do it.  However, your needles are - temporarily - very crowded.
At each side of the heel, on each round, you're going to decrease one stitch, choosing the decrease method that slants your decreased stitches toward the floor when the sock is being worn.

Eventually you'll be back to 36 stitches, re-distributed to be 12 on each needle.  And you'll be so pleased to see your knitting look much like at least part of a foot held in the air.  Remember though, these socks are bulky, and will probably be worn in the house on slightly slippery floors.  So you'll do a  k 1 purl 1 moss stitch on the 12 stitches at the sole of the foot (take another look at those gold socks) while keeping the upper part of the foot continuing in the k 2 purl 2 ribbing.  I left a few stitches of buffer zone plain stockinette between the sole and the ribbing.

Keep going until the sock is long enough.  How do you know?  I hold it against my own foot.  Is the intended foot bigger, smaller or similar to mine?  If it's the last, I'm ready to start the toe.  If it's smaller, I guessed it was long enough sooner; if it's a larger foot, I keep going.

For the toe, divide the sock into upper and lower halves, and put the stitches on two needles.
Sock toe decreases: round 1 - on each needle, K 1, slip, knit, pass slipped stitch over, knit to within 3 stitches of end, K 2 together, K 1.
                                round 2 - on each needle, knit each stitch.

This is the underside of the sock with those moss stitches showing.  Keep up the good work until there are 8 stitches on each needle.  Then watch this video on kitchener stitching (grafting) the stitches left on each needle together.  The trick is to start the second sock IMMEDIATELY so you won't suffer from "second sock syndrome" and not finish both to match.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Elves on over-drive!  Someone mentioned a dearth of tatting showing up here.  But my shuttles have not been sitting quietly.  I made myself a promise at the beginning of the year that I'd spread more tatting around than previously - and I have.  Today the first of the "bookmark brigade"

made its way to their intended recipients.  Here are most of the ones I made for this group of people.  At a Wednesday Afternoon Club meeting, I offered each person a bookmark for a holiday present.   Each person had brought a contribution to the local food pantry plus gifts for mental health day-patients.  No one expected to actually receive a present themselves, which made it even more fun.  "But who am I supposed to send this to?" one person asked, confused, hardly believing it was a present for her.  Everyone seemed really impressed.  That these are all tatted made them more special.  "I'm putting mine straight in my Bible," said another.

For today's second act, I finished the binding on

this twin-sized quilt for someone I only know as Christmas adoption  "number 23" - an older person without funds and alone at Christmas who had very little on her wish-list other than bedding for a twin-sized bed.  The quilt was pleasant to work on, the pattern was quick, and I had it professionally quilted so I only needed to trim it and bind the edges.

It feels particularly, wonderfully, holiday-spirited to know people are getting good surprises they didn't expect...  But the elves are not done yet!

Monday, December 7, 2015

The bluebird of happiness is hand-made.  And because those who rejoice in doing hand-work have a lot of cross-over skills, it's possible to get from here

to here

and have a lot of enjoyment doing it!  You'll notice I saved the bluebirds for last...  Here they are in their "raw" state, pieces of felt cut out in a bird shape...

To this, you add every embroidery stitch you'd like to play with.  Feather stitch is good, of course.  So are running stitches, lazy-daisy, chains, appliquing other shapes as I did in the earlier ornaments.  You'll see in the bird in the lower right photo

that I'm also partial to the bullion embroidery stitch used in Brazilian embroidery and crazy quilting to create dimensional roses.  Sequins, if you've got any, are easy to sew on with beads, though I've found you need the larger (size 6 ) beads if you want to sew through them.  Other potential "additives" are bits of lace (think tatting throwaways), rick-rack, more beads, buttons, commercial trims.  Finally, you'll put two pieces of the same shape felt together, sew them with a running stitch or a chain stitch or even cross stitches, stuff with a little bit of stuffing before you're done.  Early on in the sewing together part, you'll need about a 12" length of thin ribbon,  Fold it in half and knot it, then sew through that knot when you're sewing together the top part of an ornament.

And then you're done.  You can see two done with running stitches (one was through the chain, with a contrasting thread) and one chain stitched. 

For next week, I'll show you easy socks to wear indoors - find some good chunky yarn - not super-bulky, but something that will have a nice consistency on size 8 double-pointed needles.  Get some of those, too...


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thanks to everyone who came out for small business Saturday and open studio Friday.    Among them was a lovely young man who's a tv reporter, who interviewed me here -

And now I've got an answer to how many child-sized hats I can make out of scraps of yarn in two days and one evening...

And the answer is....   15.  Plus one scarf that was an afghan panel partly started - came with the scrap yarn.  When that's finished and packed, I'm done with crochet for a while to let my hands recover!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Today is Thanksgiving, and for the past few days I've been preparing for an open studio sale in my shop.  (look at the Graceful Arts Fiber Studio Facebook page to see a photo of that).  But in thinking about all the gifts we want to give, I was thinking once again about the ones that go to people we don't know, because we can offer a gift of warmth to someone who really needs it.  If you've read the blog for a while, you know I crochet a lot of warm hats.  My gift to you today is to detail how I do it - and I hope at least some people will be inspired to share their gifts with others, as time and opportunity and resources permit.

Many of us stockpile and stash bits of yarn that cross our paths, no matter how large or small those piles are...  and I have not only my own stash but it's often augmented by other peoples' as well.  For this weekend I'll spend in the shop, I put together two baskets of the smallest balls of yarn, the ones too little on their own to make a hat or a pair of mittens.

First thing I do is sort through them for inspiration.  I like to use at least two strands together for warmth.  Sometimes, if one or two of the strands is a bit finer than knitting worsted, I'll use three together, though the colors need to be somewhat related.  These are children's hats, and many children are surprisingly conservative about what they'll wear!  So on the left in the photo above, a fingering yarn - the close observer will see it was already knitted into part of something else before being abandoned - picks up at least one of the colors of a multi-colored yarn and on the right, various shades of green with a blue and a lavender.  The ball of thread at the lower end of the right side was part of what must have been a 50 gram ball of dk acrylic.

Taking up my trusty size L hook, my standard beginning is to leave a 4-inch tail and make a very loose slip knot and one ordinary CH.  (This is called a magic something-or-other beginning, but I had been doing it for decades before I knew it was called anything at all.)  Then crochet about 8 sc into that first loose CH and tighten it so there's no visible central hole.  Give it another yank, and then as you continue around in a spiral, work that end in so it's anchored (by making at least part of one stitch with that end, then crocheting over the tail).  You'll make two sc into every sc of the center, then continuing around and around, adding a stitch now and then until it looks about big enough.  By the time I added the blue yarn on the left, the hat looked large enough for a child.  If you make the crown too small, you'll have to increase later and the hat might look stocking-hattish or simply pointy - and honesty compels us all to admit this is not currently in style.  Make it too large and you'll need decreases down the road and the hat will be slouchy-looking, which DOES seem to be in style.  How much yarn you've got is one deciding factor.  Around and around you crochet.  Variegated yarns offer the dim entertainment of looking for the next change of color; working with small amounts of yarn offers the equally dim excitement of wondering when you'll be forced to change colors next.  It takes me about an hour to make one hat.  Tonight I spent two hours and made two.

I like to add something special to each one.  The bottom one got some sideways crocheting at the brim and a button.  The upper one got a stitch variation to make the blue stripe, which would go over the ears, just a little thicker.  Reverse single crochet is a good finish.   The church where I teach an exercise class (and also sing) put out a call for warm gloves, hats and mittens to put on the tree going up this Sunday, so I'm challenging myself to see how many I can make, and how many scrappy balls can be used up in the process before the end of Saturday. 

Most communities collect hats and mittens, and sometimes scarves and other warm attire.  These are given out to food pantry patrons, head-start students, to the school nurse, to the Red Cross, to the homeless, to battered-women's shelters, to anyone in need.

May I invite you to give yourself the gift of giving things away to people who can never say thank you?

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...