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!