Archive for the “gifts” Category

It had come to my attention that I’ve never knit anything for my sworn-brother Stephen. When he was living in a mostly-summerish place it would have been unnecessary, but he could certainly use a warm hat now that he’s living in the land of eternal winter. I ran over to Needles in the Haymarket and found some Cascade 220, my go-to hat yarn, in a lovely heathery grey-green. Unfortunately the selection of superwash colourways was limited, so this isn’t a machine washable hat, but Stephen assured me that he would be fine with hand-washing as long as I gave him instructions.

I cast on for the hat while I was waiting for my flight. I knit at the gate, where I met some knitters who were winding balls of yarn. I knit for the full duration of my flight, while sitting next to a woman who used to knit but now prefers crochet. I knit while watching television later that evening, and about 36 hours after I started, I was weaving in the ends of a new hat. This is a speed record for me!

There was already snow on the ground and more fell while I was visiting. I think this expression is, “Take the picture already, it’s cold out here!”

I chose the free Cousteau Hat pattern and made a few adjustments to it. From comments on other projects I knew that the hat comes out large, so I only cast on 100 stitches instead of the 140 called for. I changed the decreases to a simple K2tog, and started doing double decreases towards the top to make the hat less pointy. I should have gone with a K3tog instead of slip, k2tog, psso, and I should have started them sooner – ah well, there’s always next time. Knit and learn, knit and learn!

Of course, when the hat is on, the top doesn’t appear to be pointy at all. I really like how the sections come together in quarters at the top. It’s different from the more spiral decreases that I’ve made on previous hats, and quite distinctive.

I’m seriously tempted to make a matching hat for myself, though the next size down might be a little tight at only 80 stitches, and the fabric might be a little loose if I went up a needle size to compensate. (Or it would fit me perfectly, as I do have a small head, and the hat could always be blocked larger. Besides, it will stretch.) Maybe I would try working the decreases every other row for a more rounded top, but I’m not sure if that would look odd in the way the ribs get cut off by the decreases. It would be worth the attempt, I think, and if it doesn’t come out well then it will be easy enough to rip back and redo.

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When I picked out this “Earth Ombres” colourway of Sugar ‘n Cream, I thought that Michael might like the blues and browns. I was right, so I’ll be giving him this washcloth the next time I see him. I used this free pattern from Linda Bohrn called the Woven Stitch Dishcloth (on the Wayback Machine now, the original is gone) and again I chained a few more stitches than called for. I like bigger washcloths, around 10 or 11 inches square. I got lucky – the number of stitches I ended up with was exactly the right number to give me perfect argyle patterning! There’s a way to figure out the stitch count to make the colours stack or to make the argyle, but it seems like a lot of effort for an instant gratification type of project like a washcloth. I will just be grateful when it happens inadvertently, and not stress about it if it doesn’t. But I bet I’ll be making another washcloth with this pattern and the same number of stitches to see if I can make it happen again – I actually picked this pattern because of the number of projects made with it that did end up argyling. Is “argyling” a word? Well, it is now.

I really like the texture of these crocheted washcloths. They’re knobbly enough to be properly scrubby, but the cotton is soft enough so it doesn’t tear off any skin. The only thing is, they seem to take forever to dry! This is partly because they’re 100% cotton, and partly because I have to keep the bathroom doors closed so the cats don’t get into any mischief in there. If I make some cloths for the kitchen to use as dishrags or counter-scrubber rags, I’ll make them with more holey-space out of leftover acrylic, something like Over the Rainbow from the same author as the cloth I just made. Red Heart is scratch enough to wash with, but not so much as to scratch the dishes. Or I’ll buy some tulle and work with that. Not only will the cloths made of synthetic yarn dry faster, but it’s mold-resistant and won’t harbour any germs, and will stand up to the frequent washing and scrubbing better than an all-natural fibre will. I have heard that the tulle scrubbies are perfect for cleaning glass stovetops, as well.

And now, to pick the next pattern. I’m on a roll here!

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Since I finally finished the Hexagon Blanket and gave it to my friend – who, by the way, absolutely loves it – I gave myself a day off from responsibilities on Sunday and let myself spin as much as I wanted to. I’ve really missed the quiet meditation of spinning. This fibre is some merino pencil roving that I bought at last year’s MD Sheep and Wool festival. Most of it drafts so smoothly, but there are some matted bits that I pull out as I find them. The sections that are dyed the darkest colour are harder to draft, for some reason.

So I’ve decided that I’m not making any more baby gifts when friends announce their pregnancies. It’s not that I don’t like to; I actually really like to make gifts for my friends! I had an especially good time with the hexagon blanket, because it was my first crochet project. I love giving gifts (more than I like receiving them, actually) and I love being recognized as a skilled fibre artist. I love that look of “oh, wow,” when the box is opened.

What I don’t love is working to deadlines. I never have. They make me stressed. I can’t enjoy another project when I have a deadline project on the needles; I always feel as if I should be working on it and nothing else. So that’s that – I might make things for babies again, but I won’t be doing it to a deadline. If a particular pattern catches my eye I’ll consider making it in a gender-neutral colour and save it for a future baby. Or I might crochet some toys just to learn how to do it, then give them as gifts.

I want to get back to knitting for myself. I want to work on my own projects and designs without feeling guilty that I’m taking time away from a deadlined gift project. Hopefully it won’t be taken the wrong way. What does it say about me that I feel bad for saying I’m not going to make gifts as a default anymore? Just because I *can*, doesn’t mean I *should*.

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The blanket is finally, finally finished! I crocheted like a madwoman through yesterday afternoon and into the night. This morning I worked the last edge of the border and did a crazy dance throughout the house shouting “It’s done, it’s done! I’ve done it!” And just in time, too – thanks to my incredible speed when I’m crocheting under pressure, I’ll be able to give the blanket to friend Gwen at her “welcome baby” party this afternoon. Perhaps that was cutting it a little close, huh.

Now to apply that sort of dedication to the pink sweater…

I guess it’s Caturday instead of Feline Friday, but here’s your weekly dose of the Dangerous Duo. They’ve been very patiently waiting outside the door for me to finish up the hexagon blanket so I can go out into the hallway and pet them; I think they were disappointed when I pointed a camera at them instead.

The latest adventure of these crazy cats involved an obstacle course around the bedroom at 01:30 this morning. I’m not sure which cat it was, but one of them kicked over a none-too-steady laptop table when he leaped off it. The table fell into a standing lamp, which in turn fell onto our laundry basket and shattered. Phooey! I liked that lamp. Pirate-Husband and I weren’t exactly thrilled to be cleaning up tiny shards of broken glass at that hour. I’ll have to see if I can find a replacement glass for the lamp. Amazingly, the lightbulb didn’t break!

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The management would like to apologize for the lack of content and especially for the lack of today’s Feline Friday. The Pirate is busy crocheting as fast as she can, as the hexagon blanket’s due date is suddenly tomorrow rather than Sunday.

(Not to mention, the cats wouldn’t cooperate for the camera.)

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I had planned to take part in this year’s Tour de Fleece, a spinning challenge which parallels the Tour de France. Unfortunately, there are a few things which are making me think that perhaps I shouldn’t participate this year:

None of the baby gifts are done yet. I’m having a hard time setting aside time to work on them. I’ve been working an extra hour each day to build up comp time for vacation; exercise takes up a good chunk of my evening; and I want to spend time with Pirate-Husband too. He built me a crafts table and we’ve been working together on Mod Podging fabric to it as something we can do together, but also we can’t put it where it belongs until it’s totally finished, and I think he has a sense of urgency about getting this project done since it was slated to be finished some months ago. We put some time into it last night and it’s looking really good, but we ran out of Podge and had to stop.

Another thing is that I’m going to be out of town for the first four days of the Tour. I know that’s not really such a big deal, and I joined the Lantern Rouge team for people who can’t spin daily during the Tour, but I still feel as if it will be a big handicap to overcome for some reason. That’s sort of as silly excuse, but if I don’t get the baby gifts finished by Thursday evening then I will need to be working on those *and* trying to spin daily…

Yet another excuse is that with the craft table set up, I might want to try to do some sewing for Pennsic. It’s been some years since I’ve gotten new garb, but at the very least I have several “new” dresses that I’ve never worn simply because they need hemming. With the new table, I’ll have a place to put the sewing machine and I can take care of that.

The problem is, I *want* to spin. I want to have few other requirements on my time so that I can feel good about setting aside half an hour of every day to sit down at the wheel.

…and the nieceling wants me to make her a sweater for her favourite stuffed animal, Bunny. How can I resist a request like that?

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I spent a good deal of the weekend knitting on the Pink Sweater for Thing Two, and came to the sad conclusion that I’m not going to have it done by Friday. I finished the first sleeve, but not the narrow strip that makes up the front side of the sweater. The second sleeve and front would take tonight and tomorrow evenings. And then I’d still have two lacy front panels to work, not to mention finding twenty tiny-size buttons… ugh. So I won’t be giving them the sweaters this weekend, which had been my hope.

I have two weeks to finish the hexagon blanket I’m crocheting for Gwen’s new baby, if I want to give it to them when I meet the baby for the first time. I think that’s probably the right thing to do. I think I have fourteen or fifteen hexes left to work up, and then the border. It will take some effort and concentration but I am sure that if I put down the sweater and pick up the blanket, that I can get it done in time.

The problem with all this gift knitting is that I’m starting to dislike my favourite hobby, and that’s really sad. I’ve committed to these projects and I will see them through, but then I might take a break…

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Swish Worsted in Amethyst HeatherI brought the Stripey Striped Sock with me to Canada, because it fit in my purse and was easy to carry around, but I can’t knit fine-gauge work like socks in moving vehicles or I get horrible headaches. I can, however, knit with worsted weight yarn and size 8 needles! So I also brought along this yarn, which is KnitPicks Swish Worsted in Amethyst Heather, to begin the first of the sweaters that I’m making for the soon-to-be twin niecelets, whose due date has been moved up to the end of March. I’m using the free Presto Chango pattern for both girls; one will get this purple and the other will get a matching sweater in Carnation Pink.

The sweater is begun from the back hem and is knit up and over the shoulders and sleeves before splitting for the two front sides; the button-on lace panel is worked separately. I got started on the train up to Connecticut and was able to get about halfway up the back before arriving. I knit a little bit in the hotel while drinking beer with friends, and I knit in the car on the way back from Canada, and I knit on the train coming home.

(I did not once take out the Stripey Striped Sock to work on it. I think I have built up such mental resistance to it that I can’t even stand the sight of it. I *will* make myself finish that damned sock before the year is up.)

The Presto Chango pattern is, so far, quite good. The yarn… that’s another story. It’s superwash merino, but it feels squeaky like acrylic, and it’s incredibly splitty. I had to drop down to correct a stitch and getting the yarn back onto the needles was a real pain. I’ve got it so I’m going to use it, and it’s washable so it’s great for baby sweaters, but I don’t think I’ll ever be buying this yarn again. It’s unfortunate, because it’s inexpensive and it comes in some really great colours, but I’d rather knit with yarn that feels good in my hands.

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Last weekend I finally sewed the magnetic snaps to Michael’s gloves, but there were problems… First I sewed the snaps directly to the gloves. That seemed fine while I was doing it, but in reality when I tested them, there was too much pull on the knitted fabric. So I added wool felt reinforcements to the wrist snaps, but because I haven’t got an instinctive feel for sewing the way I do for knitting, I put them on the outside of the cuffs, between the snaps and the knitting (and then I took a picture, so you can see here how wrong I was).

When I showed Pirate-Husband, as I probably should have done the first time around, he told me the right way to do it would be to use bigger pieces of wool and put them on the insides of the cuffs, sandwiching the knitting between the felt and the snap. I borrowed an x-acto knife from him and I’ve finally got them right… just one day before deadline. WHEW.

Not only do the snaps work better, and I’ve less fear of them pulling out of the knitting, but they look much better too, now that the felt is on the inside. I’m so pleased with the way these came out – and now that I know how best to attach the snaps, I may add some to my own Fleeps! Unfortunately, mine are getting to be a little thin. I might get another season out of them, but then it will be time to knit a second pair for myself. Maybe I’ll hold off on the snaps until then; after all, my Fleeps have been flopping for a couple of years now… and just last night, I found that the top of one finger was wearing dangerously thin. I’ve reinforced it with leftover yarn and all is well again! People often ask me if I’ve worn through any of the socks I’ve knit (I haven’t), but no one ever asks me about these. I wonder why not – they see so much more use.

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At last, the veil of secrecy is lifted, and I am pleased to present the Baby Surprise Jacket that I made for Janis’s StarDemon! It is the second Baby Surprise Jacket that I’ve made out of single-ply yarn from 100purewool, and I noticed the same things: first, the yarn is delightfully soft. Second, about 75% of the way through a Baby Surprise Jacket, one hits a wall of garter stitch and lags on making progress because one cannot imagine the sweater ever truly being finished. But eventually, it is done and seamed and given as a gift, and I am quite pleased to be checking it off my to-do list.

I had the bright idea to knit bobbles for buttons. These are great for baby sweaters because they can never come off to become the world’s worst choking hazard. Unfortunately, the bobbles I knit weren’t big enough to fulfill their function as buttons. Instead, they just slipped out of the buttonholes. First I tried to pass that off (“It’s, um, a cardigan! With useless buttons!”) and then I tried to deny the need to make them bigger (“Oh, he’ll only be wearing it for a couple of months anyway”) but then I gave in to the reality that no, they really needed to be bigger. After a couple of attempts to make them bigger by stitching into them and making French knots around them, I eventually decided to just crochet around them.

I tried to use sections of yarn that contrasted with the colours of the original bobbles. The result looks a lot like flowers! But the next time I want bobbley buttons, I’m going to crochet them on after the fact. Knitting bobbles is sort of a pain, and crocheting around them was just a little bit fiddley. If I can avoid that pain and fiddliness, I don’t see why I shouldn’t!

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