Saturday, April 30, 2011

Rainbow Bunnies!

Drumroll please.... :) Here they are! A cheery rainbow of bunnies.
All with pink pom-pom tails :)
I was out in the late afternoon sun photographing them & my neighbours came over to see them (as the rainbow was quite clear, even at a distance).

They're all about 4" tall (with some slight variations). I used Rebecca Danger's Bunny Nuggets pattern, & go into more detail about the modifications I used on the pattern in this post. I'm so happy they're done!
Plus, the rest of the DK yarn is in, so I can start to finish the Grandala cowl!! :)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Some beginnings...

Well, I've had a lot of ideas lately, & they've added up to starting three different projects, but as my crafting time is divided between these three projects, I have no idea when they'll be done! (Not to mention that there's a new set of Guild Wars over at Ravelry's Ankh-Morpork Knitter's Guild...) So I thought I'd share the works in progress.

At top is my lately-much-used basket of KnitPicks Swish DK superwash wool. I was inspired by Alice's Do You Dare to Wear Granny Square post to start my own granny square cowl. I decided to use her Grandala Square instead of a regular granny, though, extending it a bit to be the right size. (On a side note, my 9th-grader son has been studying geometry in school & decided to work-out the area of the whole Grandala, & then the areas of the circle in the middle & the square on the outside, just for fun. I wish I could do that...) I made green, blue, & purple squares, but have decided to wait on the rest (Alice used 7 squares for her cowl) until an order of additional colours of yarn comes in.

Also in the basket are one completed & one half-finished Bunny Nugget, which I found from following a link on Alice's blog to this blog.
These bunny nuggets are so cute, I just had to start making a rainbow of them for myself!
I did change the pattern, which has you make it on 3 double-pointed needles, bind-off the top of the head, knit the ears separately, then sew them on. I am a relentless fusser, & prefer to knit as much all at once as I can, rather than sew things up. So here's the orange one with the first ear still on the needle. First I made it on 2 circular needles because I prefer this technique (I used size 1 needles because I knit very loosely & this pattern calls for a firm gauge). I basically stopped where she has you bind-off, knit the first 3 stitches of the next round, put them & the last 3 from the other needle on a piece of yarn (you can see it there), do a 3-needle bind-off on the middle stitches, fudge the last bind-off so there are 3 stitches remaining on each needle, then continue around on 6 stitches for 15 rounds. After finishing the first ear, I pick up the 3 on each side on the 2 circular needles, plus one along the bound-off edge (which I knit together with the first stitch in the round) & knit the second ear the same.
Then I added button eyes,embroidered the nose, made the pom-pom tail, stuffed it, & sewed an overcast seam on the bottom. The bunny sits up because of the tail. I think I'll make the eyes with different buttons, so they have some personality :)

The third project is my next pair of lacy socks!
I am very psyched about these. I plugged the Vine Lace pattern from Barbara Walker's 2nd pattern treasury into my basic sock template (mentioned here) & I really like how it's coming out. One thing I'm discovering is how difficult it is to photograph lace knitting. When I got close (to see the pattern) with my flash camera, the flash made the picture washed-out, so I tried to use my iphone camera, but it's kind of dark. I'll keep experimenting, because this lace is so pretty! I'm using KnitPicks Stroll Tonal sock wool in Gypsy (which is on sale right now!) & I just really like it.

So much to do. I'll keep you posted as to my progress :) 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lacy Socks: My Own Design!

While I was recovering from my back surgery in January & February I rediscovered my love of knitting lacy socks (as detailed in this post), & was particularly intrigued by cookie a's lace sock designs. This inspired me to design my own lacy socks again (I was particularly into this back in the early 90's when I first began to teach knitting & began spinning my own yarns). So I worked my way through Barbara Walker's A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns and charted-out on graph paper any lace patterns that looked likely. Since I usually knit my socks on 2, size 0 circular needles, with 64 stitches around, for a gauge of ~6.5-7 stitches per inch (my foot is a pretty standard women's size 7), I was looking for anything with a repeat of less than 16 stitches.

One of the hurdles I face as a lace knitter is that I'm left-handed. I learned a long time ago that I have to reverse the decreases in any lace pattern or the lace won't turn out right. Also, although following charts is a bit easier (since the decreases are indicated by way the decreased stitches slant), I still have to decide which way I'm going to follow them- from right to left (as intended) or left to right. It gets very confusing, although I was able to work almost all of cookie a's charts by working them right to left (which made her left sock my right sock). So, in some ways, it's a lot easier to just design my own, with charts that read left to right. (This has led me to put some thought into making charts that can be read from both directions- stay tuned for this...).

One lace pattern that seemed very promising was the "Japanese Feather" pattern, on pages 285-286 of The Second Treasury. I really liked the way that the lace makes wavy selvedges & thought it would look really neat in the round. It wasn't very difficult to plug the pattern into what I think of as my sock template & I was very psyched to get knitting once it was all charted.
This is the first sock finished & (as you can see from the top photo) I don't have much more to do for the second. I was really surprised by how easy it was to memorise this pattern, as it's 28 rounds for a full repeat.
You can see how the waves in the pattern turned-out- I really like it!
I used KnitPicks Stroll Tonal in the "Queen Anne" colour.
I tried to get a close-up of the lace but the camera flash made it kind of washed-out :(

Anyhow, I am very pleased, & have 2 more pairs of socks designed, which I can't wait to try out. If all goes well, I'll probably post the patterns for free on Ravelry. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

ipad cozy

Hello! We've just arrived home (late last night) from a 4-day trip to Florida to see relatives. You may recall that I've been bemoaning the lack of Spring here in the NE US, so it was lovely to be Warm for a few days. Of course, it snowed here this morning... But I'm remembering this:
It's good to hold some warmth in the heart, isn't it?

In preparation for the trip, I realised that I needed to make something to cushion the ipad in the bag I'd chosen for it to travel in. The bag is a Keen messenger bag made from recycled rice bags :) but the ipad rattled around a bit inside. So I crocheted a simple cozy from Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride bulky wool & a K/10/6.50mm hook. I wanted it to look a bit more interesting than the usual single crochet, so I used the extended single crochet that I learned when I made the Sycamore Poncho. I think it made a really nice fabric. I experimented a bit & then settled on a 25 stitch foundation chain, with 24 stitches as the width of the cozy.

I wanted defined edges, so I made the back, with a flap to wrap over (measuring it against the ipad) & 2 simple loops on the final row, evenly spaced. Then I made the front to just cover the ipad. I crocheted the whole thing together along 3 sides, added 2 buttons (mother-of-pearl ones that I bought a very long time ago), & it was done. It fits quite snugly inside the bag:
and it worked very well on the trip! The bag has 3 pockets for various cords (we were traveling with an iphone & ipod as well), plugs (car & wall converters), the back-up power source, & our earphones. It all worked really well & was lightweight to boot. The cosy took less than a day to make- good thing, since I didn't realise I needed one until Friday & we were leaving on Sunday!! 

Friday, April 15, 2011

More Dish-cloths...

I thought the 3-D-ness of this one might make it like a scrubby :)
Spring is finally springing here in the NE US, but it's been cold (brrrr) more than it's been warm. Even though the flowers are exploding out of the chilly ground, I'm still feeling the need for colour, so here are  more dish-cloths made from motifs & from the yarn leftover from the colourful crochet vest.
They're all from the Harmony Guide- crochet stitch motifs book put out by Interweave Press. I used an E/4/3.50mm  needle to make them & added embellishments to all of them to extend their size. The flower one is the smallest, about 7" across, & the others are about 8-9" across.
I am being particularly careful with the weaving-in of ends, since they'll get some hard use as dish-cloths, & I find hanging ends even more unsightly than stains as dish-cloths get older...

And, even if it's a cold Spring outside, I have a warmer one in my kitchen:
Forced forsythia & other branches to help the season along :)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Colourful Crochet Vest

Hello again! I finished this vest about 3 weeks ago, but it got lost in the sauce, blogging-wise, so here it is at last :)

It's one of four sweaters/poncos that I started last Fall & then put aside for a few months, due to the holidays & back surgery. Some time in March I got in a finish-up mood, and it was really fun to finally see the child of my brain come to life. I made it to extend the life of some of my dresses, which always get kind of tired & spotty over time, especially around the bodice. I wanted something light enough to wear over the dress without my getting over-heated, & colourful enough to distract from tired-dress syndrome. I thought that maintaining the bright colours for the full length might be a bit much, so planned for the skirty part to be in one, harmonising colour.

I chose to make it in KnitPicks Simply Cotton Sport & used an E/3.5mm hook. The bottom colour is Prussian Blue, & the rest is made in enough colours that I didn't have to repeat any of the motifs exactly :) I used Motif #020 from もチーフ*エジング300, the wonderful book of crochet motifs that I use all the time. The skirty part is my own design. I used 3 skeins of the Prussian Blue for the skirt & 1/4 to 1/2 of the other 12 or so skeins. (The leftover yarn explains the recent dish-cloth explosion around these parts...)

I was a bit nervous wearing it for the first time, so I asked a friend if it was too "young" for me... she replied that it has that colourful-hippy-60's look (which goes so well with my long hair :) & in her opinion it looks fine on me. Whew! 
It was a lot of fun to make (& finish!!) & it does the job I hoped it would. What more could I ask for? :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My New Rug!

I'm quite excited, as you can tell by the exclamation point :) My front door rug, a once-lovely rag-rug,  has been in a state beyond disrepair all winter, unable to be washed because it would disintegrate if I did. I have been thinking, in the back of my brain, for some months about the replacement but all I knew was that I wanted to make it myself. Then I had back surgery in January & my mind was on things other than rugs... While talking to my friend Momo some weeks ago (by skype, since she's in Japan :) she showed me the new kitchen mat she'd crocheted from cotton yarn, & it hit me that I could crochet my new rug. Up until now I have knitted them all, log-cabin fashion, in garter stitch with 3 strands of cotton worsted. This sort of rug would be too thick to fit under the front door when it opened, which was another hitch in my rug-ruminating. So it all slowly came together in the weeks following my conversation with Momo (thanks!!). Crochet stitches are thicker by nature than knitted, so I wouldn't need triple strands of yarn to make a sturdy rug. I wanted something absorbent, so cotton was indicated, & machine-washable, since they all get washed regularly. Last week I finally decided to order yarn for it & chose KnitPick's CotoLin sport weight, in 2 shades of red. I estimated I'd need 6 skeins total, 3 of each colour.
photographed against a lighter floor to show contrast...

Our front hallway is floored with tiles that were painted long-ago, & it was painted red when we moved in nearly 18 years ago.  We've had it repainted in a chocolate brown (to better match the woodwork), since we discovered that the layers & paint can't be removed to restore the tiled to their original glory :(
Part of what had been holding me up was the question of colour(s) for the new rug, in light of the dark brown floor. The old rag-rug was basically an indigo colour, which I loved, but it wasn't really distinctive. I thought it would be nice to have the new rug be pretty, & the contrasting colours of red really look nice together. I was just going to granny it, but my research into crochet motifs that make good dish-cloths led me to try using motifs at the centre. I chose motif # 023 from the wonderful book of crochet motifs from Japan, and as I made & attached them I measured it against the old rug, going for the right rectangular shape (I used a size G/6/4.0mm hook, too).  Then, when I had the right centre rectangle size, I just grannied it the rest of the way, finishing (when I was just about out of yarn) with a round of single crochet for stability. My estimate worked well- I have 4 tiny balls of yarn leftover. I soaked it & lay it flat to dry, & it measures ~23"x33".
here it is in front of the door

I really like it!!  It was fun to make, too, with the motifs being technically interesting & then the mindless granny bit soothing. Somehow I feel like I've leveled-up, rug-making-wise. Maybe it's a good thing my kitchen rug is getting scruffy... (hee, hee)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Motif Dish-cloths

The Guild Wars over at Ravelry's Ankh-Morpork Knitter's Guild have gotten me in the mood to make kitcheny things, & also made me aware of the state of the kitcheny things I already have... So when I noticed that a couple of my dish-cloths were getting disreputable I decided to make some new ones. I have always knitted my dish-cloths, so I thought it was time to crochet some. And since I think it's better to make things pretty & colourful while I'm at it, I decided to look through my crochet motif books & find some that would work well as dish-cloths. I was looking for ones that weren't too lacy & had some substance (since you need some cloth in a dish-cloth :), plus they needed to be big enough. I have lots of KnitPicks Simply cotton sport weight yarn in lots of colours, leftover from a project that I just realised I haven't blogged yet! Yikes! Stay tuned...

Anyway, cotton sport-weight yarn, when crocheted, has a similar body to my worsted-weight cotton, knitted dish-cloths, so I decided it would work. The motif at the top is my adaptation of the Royal Square on pg. 94 of The Harmony Guide, crochet stitch motifs. I changed it because I wanted the flower & petals to be in different colours, & the way the motif is presented it's all one row (petals & leaves). It's nearly 9"x9" square & a good size for a dish-cloth, & is now in use :)
This one is your basic granny square, nothing fancy except the colours. Because of the colour sequencing, it ended-up on the smallish side (about 7" square) but I'm going to try it out anyway. It will certainly cheer us up on cloudy days...

I have at least 5 other motifs from the Harmony Guide bookmarked, so I plan to make more. I got side-tracked by a bigger project (soon to be blogged :) so I hope to make a few more dish-cloths from motifs soon. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Magrat's Amulets Pot-holders/Trivets

Another quick post today. This is my third offering to the Ankh-Morpork Knitter's Guild Guild Wars 2 over at Ravelry. I call them "Magrat's Amulets Pot-holders/Trivets. Magrat is a witch-turned-queen on the Discworld, created by Terry Pratchett. The Guild Wars are a lot of fun & inspirational to boot. My other contibutions to GW2 are here & here. As my son & husband are also reading Pratchett's Discworld books these days, the crafting has become fun for the whole family :)

I was inspired to make these by Alice's Granny Triangle Pot-holders over at Crochet with Raymond. They are continuing to fulfill my need for colour during this cold, rainy Spring we're having. I'm so glad Alice shared this tutorial in her blog!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Granny Mandala & Tea Cozy

Hello! For some reason I have felt starved for colour lately (perhaps the non-existence of Spring round these parts...) so I finally made a couple projects that I've been wanting to do for a while. Alice over at Crochet with Raymond has some nice tutorials for her own designs, focusing on wonderful, colourful granny designs. I have been salivating over her Spring Explosion Tea Cosy ever since I saw it a couple of months ago, but decided to start small & work up :) First, I had to discover the US equivalent for New Zealand 8-ply wool, which is DK weight. Then, since I usually work in fingering, lace, or worsted weight yarns, I had to order a rainbow of DK weight yarn (I went for KnitPicks' Swish DK superwash wool, dunno why superwash, I ordered it about a month ago...). Then, I had to find my 4.0 mm hook (in a basket of Noro sock wool, go fig...). Then I was ready!

So, of course, I started with one of Alice's Granny Mandalas in Knitpicks Comfy Cotton sport weight with a size F/3.75 mm hook.
I like the chromatic progression of colour up to & including the dark green, but then I just didn't have the right shades to pull it off. It was good practise though, & I'll probably make a smaller one in wool to go under the tea cosy.
For the Granny Tea Cosy I used the DK weight wool & 4.0 mm hook. I adapted Alice's pattern a bit as I went along, making 2-row stripes instead of one-row (gives it a rick-rack look :) and I also did it in the round at the bottom (she fastens it with a button), which fits over my tea pot just fine (this is one of my larger tea pots, too). You can see the knob on top just peeking out here, which is one of the details that sold me on this pattern. I like the chromatic progression of this yarn much better. It just took me an evening to make, so it was a very quick & rewarding project! And colourful!!! 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Naturally-Dyed Gallery

Hot on the heels of my recent natural-dyeing adventure posts, I thought I'd put up a gallery of things I've made from yarns that I've naturally dyed over the past few years. It was kind of like a treasure hunt, looking around the house, in the winter woolies basket, & on the bodies of my son & husband for things to photograph.

The photo at the top is of some Latvian-style mittens (patterns from Lizbeth Upitis' Latvian Mittens book) that I made about 7 years ago. Most of them were given as gifts or to charity knitting projects. They are a mix of indigo, cochenille, & yarrow-dyed yarns, & naturally brown & white yarns. (On a side note, I'm really glad that I have been photographing things on-and-off over the years, because I absolutely don't remember making these. I remember getting the book & getting all fired-up about making stuff, but have no real memory of making this many pairs of mittens...)

Another of the older photos that I found is this one, taken on a beach in California during a 2004 family trip to San Francisco. It's my version of the Mobi-Q Shawl, designed by Margo Carr, from Handwoven's Design Collection 19. I wove it on my Mighty Wolf loom from all handspun & naturally-dyed yarns & it's one of the crowning glories of my fibre-life. I had always wanted to weave something useful like this from my handspun, & the natural dyeing was just icing on the cake. I used all of my usual plant-based dyes and most of the wool is Corriedale spun on my Lendrum double-treadle wheel over a few years.  I took the shawl apart after a few years because it wasn't as functional as I'd hoped & is sitting in lavender-soaked cotton balls, waiting for an idea to strike for it's next incarnation.
This is the last of the real oldies, & the only photo I have of the Gansey sweater I designed & made for Brendan when he was 8 years old, specifically for this sailing vacation around Cape Cod. I indigo-dyed Lion Brand Fisherman Wool yarn & put Gansey patterns Brendan chose from a book on the front. When he outgrew it 3-4 years later, my mom wanted it (it fit her :) so she has it now.
Here's the vest I made for Charlie for our 20th anniversary in 2008. Many of the yarns are from the experimental dye pots from the summer of 2007, including birch bark, rhubarb leaves, & alkanet. He has a list at work of which stripe is which plant material because some folks like to know :) Also, I decided that just striping it would be boring, hence the patterned edges on each stripe.

The year before I made the anniversary vest, decided I wanted to make him a red vest (I usually make Charlie a vest for our anniversary because it's in early December, right when he needs warm clothes :). So I dyed Knitpicks merino worsted yarn with brazilwood (all skeins in the same dye bath) to get the heathered red of this vest. (A side note on the vest pattern: it's adapted from a WW2 Red Cross pattern that I found in Charlie's grandmother's things. I made it longer (he's a tall guy) & adapted it to knit in the round. I love it because the armhole & neck edgings are knit at the same time in garter stitch, so there's no pickup afterward. It's about the only vest pattern I use these days.)
Here are Charlie's snow-shoveling gloves, made from Elizabeth Zimmermann's "Winter Spruce" pattern, from Knitting Around.
And here are this year's winter gloves, made from shibori-dyed Knitpick's Gloss fingering weight yarn, dyed with yarrow & indigo, to get shades of yellow, blue, & green. The pattern is from Ann Budd's the knitter's handy book of patterns. I've placed them in the photo so you can't see the mends :( These gloves are destined to be felted & recycled as something else, as about 4 fingers have either mends or holes in them...

And, last of the photos of Charlie's stuff, a pair of shibori-dyed socks from Knitpicks' fingering-weight sock wool. The plants I used were birch bark & Rose of Sharon. Pattern- my own.

These are the front & back of my Adult Babies & Bears' Sweater from Cottage Creations. I used lots of odds & ends of the usual dyes & combos, & made sure that no 2 colours were next to each other for the whole sweater :)
This mitten & leg-warmer set were made from some yarn I dyed back in 2002. A friend had brought me some skeins of single-ply dk-weight yarn from New Zealand & I dyed them in golden marguerite, onion skins, brazilwood, indigo, & marguerite in indigo for green. These are the mittens I've used this winter, warm but light.
Here's another pic of my big flowers shawl, made with the popular motif from Nihon Vogue's motif book & Lion Brand Fisherman Wool, in lots of natural colours, after the 2007 dyeing. Among the plant dyes used were alkanet, indigo, yarrow, onionskins, brazilwood, rhubarb leaves, birch bark, & safflower.
posted this bag back in September. I made it from Knitpick's bulky weight yarns from dye pots I ran the summer of 2008. I noted that the yarrow dyepot lasted 3 full dyebaths before exhausting, giving very nice golds-to-yellows. The pale red is brazilwood exhaust, with the rusty-red being from the first dye bath. The purple & green were brazilwood & yarrow over-dyed in indigo.

For some other finished examples from naturally-dyed yarns, please see my Shibori 1 & Shibori 2 posts. Let me know if you're inspired to try natural dyeing!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sock Weight for Physical Therapy

Just a quick post today! (I'm collecting & photographing things for a naturally-dyed gallery post, so stay tuned...) Until then, my son suggested that I post today's little project. I am now in physical therapy post reconstructive back surgery (last January) & needed a weight at home for exercising. I knew instinctively that I wouldn't need to go out & purchase weights because there's so much stuff laying around...

Like Brendan's old, felty socks from 3 winters ago, which I then adopted (because, even felted, they were much bigger & fit over my socks). I found some fish-gravel in the basement, usually used for the bottoms of flower pots (we haven't had fish for some years) & was able to fit a kilo into one sock, a kilo being my target weight (for now). I just sewed it shut with some size 10 crochet cotton & voila!

We're nothing if not resourceful around these parts :)

A side note, regarding the felty socks. These socks were made from regular, superwash sock wool (from Knitpicks's Bare line- the fingering-weight sock wool) that I shibori-dyed in indigo. Now, Brendan is known for his ability to felt wool by just looking at it (in a sweaty-footed, growing-kid way) but he's never felted superwash sock wool before this. It's not the only time that indigo-dyed superwash socks have felted, & I've come to the conclusion that the alkalinity of the indigo bath does something to the superwash process (ie: removes it). Good thing we have uses for felty socks around here, huh?