Archive for the “gifts” Category

That secret gift I mentioned in my last post is a neckwarmer/cowl for Grandma! I knit it with a yak/silk blend that I spun a couple of years ago, but didn't know what to do with it... until now. The pattern is Polyphylla, which is available for free on Ravelry.

A cowl, with a ruffled edge at the bottom, knit in handspun yarn. The colours are stripes of dark and light red, blue, and green.

I really enjoyed knitting this pattern, not to mention knitting with my own handspun yarn of silky warm softness. It's well-written, though I was a little bit unsure about the instructions to shift the stitch marker for the beginning of the round. Fortunately it's so easy to see where one is in the pattern by looking at what's already been knit, so I got around the confusion easily enough. The bindoff makes a really nice edge, but as I mentioned in my previous post, uses up a lot more yarn than I expected!

The cowl used one skein of my handspun yarn, and I am absolutely loving the self-striping effect that I produced! The only thing is, I had two... and they had slightly different yardage, and I don't know if this was the 118-yard skein or the 140-yard skein. I'll have to remember to re-measure the remaining yarn before I start another project with it, just to be on the safe side.

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This project is a gift, so I can't share pictures of the whole thing yet. But holy wow did I ever cut it close on the yarn! The project called for a long-tail cast on over two needles; I overestimated the amount of yarn I'd need and had nearly a yard of tail remaining. Laziness said "it's 168 stitches, you don't really want to start over - and besides, it's handspun yarn and super soft, what if it gets fuzzy when you pull it out and do it again?" I definitely didn't want that to happen, so I just started knitting.

The beginning of a knit project, showing nearly a yard of yarn trailing from the starting point.

You see where this is going, right?

I knit the project, convinced even up to the last round that I would have plenty of yarn. But then I came to the bind-off, which is a really nifty one that I hadn't tried before, and which took up A Lot more yarn than I expected. As I worked my way around, I started to get worried... so I worked faster, because that's how that goes, right? Knitting faster means you might outrun the end of your yarn.

I finished with five inches of yarn left over.

The end of a knit project, showing five inches of yarn trailing from the ending point.

I'll share more details about this one after the gift has been given!

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Northern Virginia is starting to open up again, and I guess that means I might have to leave the house... so out came the sewing machine, and I made a couple of masks for Michael and me. The fabric is leftovers from the curtains we made when we first bought the house! I used this tutorial and found it pretty easy to follow. First I made Michael's mask, then adjusted the pattern to better fit my face, and made one for myself.

Pirate models a mask sewn from a cute flowery fabric.

The mask would fit even better with a nose wire, so I went in search of pipe cleaners in my big box of art supplies. I didn't find any, but I did find this vintage knitting nancy in a bag of mixed threads, along with a small booklet on how to knit. It suggests holding the right needle as one would hold a pencil, which seems very awkward to me - I wonder how many people failed to learn from these instructions!

A vintage white cord-knitting device with six small nails on top and a bit of cord emerging from the bottom sits next to vintage "how to knit" instructions.

And... grandma has received her long-distance surprise hug! It fits her perfectly (I mean, it's a blanket/wrap, of course it does, but still--)

Pirate's grandma models her new teal and brown wrap.

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It came up in conversation with my mom that my grandma is cold all the time. So I decided to crank out a wrap on the machine, using yarn that I already had in my stash, and send her a surprise bit of warmth in the mail. The first attempt was less than successful, but the second attempt worked out just fine!

A teal and brown knit wrap displayed on a purple bedspread.

For this wrap, I used Loops & Threads Impeccable in the "Tropical Storm" colourway (originally purchased to crochet a blanket, but... no). I cast on 110 stitches, which is the full width of the machine, and knit for about 400 rows, putting a hem at the top and bottom. For the sides, to try to prevent curling, I did a three-stitch bias border - moving stitches 2, 3, and 4 out to needles 1, 2, and 3, and then picking up a stitch for the now-empty needle 4. It helped, but not really enough. I think for something this wide, a more significant border might be required. Ultimately I crocheted it down with slip stitches to make kind of a rolled hem up the sides, and I think that looks rather nice. It doesn't completely eliminate the curl, but it helps.

Closeup of the detail of the edge seam of a teal and brown knit wrap.

I have a bunch of this yarn in my stash, but it seemed like none of it was the same dye lot, so I didn't bother trying to match up the colour progressions. Some of the plances where I changed skeins are kind of jarring to the way the argyle was playing out, but I think it will be just fine. I'm going to fold this up as small as possible, wedge it into a flat rate box, and mail it off. Hopefully this will help Grandma stay warm - at the very least, I'm sure she'll think of it like wearing a hug from me. :)

A teal and brown knit wrap draped artfully on an oversized, overstuffed chair.

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It's rare that I go to a yarn shop and don't sigh over a pile of Zauberball Crazy in all the colours, and now at last I have one of my very own! Friend Monica returned from a trip with this beauty as a souvenir for me: a ball of Zauberball in the "Tiefe Wasser" colourway, which coordinates perfectly with at least 75% of my existing wardrobe. I feel so loved. Next, I get the fun of deciding what pattern I want to knit with it! I'm leaning towards a small shawl - perhaps together with a navy blue, something like Dreambird?

A ball of "Zauberball Crazy" in greens and teals.

Meanwhile, Michael and I are working on plans for a lazy kate. The one I have doesn't fit my WooLee Winder bobbins, and anyway it only holds three. I'd like to be able to ply four singles together, so we're designing a box-style kate much like my current shoebox, but not made out of cardboard or tensioned with a binder clip. I've been admiring plans and pictures on Pinterest, which has, of course, given me more ideas than I have time to accomplish.

Hand-drawn plans for the construction of a lazy kate.

I'm sure the final version of our lazy kate will look a little different from the plans. We'll make at least one rough draft with plywood first as a test piece for both our skills and the design. Then we'll try it with the good stuff, though I'm a little nervous as my primary expertise in woodworking is in making large useful pieces of wood into small useless pieces of wood. We shall see...

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Whooooboy, February really threw me for a loop - a phrase which, now that I've typed it, looks as if it's just a wrong way to assemble a group of words. What does that even mean? In this case, it means that the whole month went wrong. :/ I missed a few days of work to take care of family business and another for a snow day, and spent the rest of the (short) month working late to make up the hours. Now we're into a new month and a new pay period, so I get to have afternoons and evenings again!

I did manage to finish knitting my new red and white hat. I put a lining in, but I'm afraid that I didn't make it tall enough. Unlike the other colourwork hats I've done, this lining was meant to have a full inner hat for extra-extra warmth. Blocking probably won't be enough; I know I'm going to have to rip back and add more length... which is why the hat has just been sitting in my bag, ignored, for the past two weeks.

The lining colour is pretty excellent, though.

A blue lining peeks out from inside a red and white fair isle hat.

Michael and I got the chance to visit my grandma for her birthday, which was a real treat for everyone. She still wears my first real knitting project! It's a basketweave scarf that I made for her birthday in 2005. The thing I remember most about it was how much trouble I had just counting to four, over and over again. I'm just a little better about reading my knitting now. For years, my only picture of the scarf was an in-progress scan, because I didn't have a camera when I made it. Now that I do, I was able to get a proper picture of it. Since it's Red Heart, it looks exactly the same as the day it came off the needles.

A teal and tan scarf with a basketweave texture, artfully arranged on a beige carpet.

I'll make a separate post about my adventures with the knitting machine. I've been working on a new couch-blanket, but there's enough to write about that it deserves a post of its own.

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One of my New Year's resolutions for 2019 was to release more knitting patterns, and I'm happy to share the first one of the year with you! Please extend a warm welcome to the Hollis Hills Hat.

For the past twenty years or so, my aunt and uncle have hosted Thanksgiving as an annual family reunion. Two dozen (or more) of us descend on their house from all over the country, starting our celebration on Wednesday evening and keeping it going straight through the weekend. Since New York can be cold in November, I wore one of my warmest hats to Thanksgiving dinner last year – and my aunt admired it to the point of putting it on her own head and running off to look at herself in the mirror. I asked her (not too subtly) what colour her winter coat was, and then sent her this hat as a surprise bit of thanksgiving.

Check out the Hollis Hills Hat in Ravelry's pattern library, or click the button to add it to your cart there:

Hollis Hills Hat, modeled

The hat is knit with two contrasting colours of worsted weight yarn, plus a small amount of sport weight yarn for the facing. I knit this purple hat with Cascade 220, using approximately half a skein of each colour, and approximately 70 yards of Cascade 220 Sport Superwash for the facing.

The pattern includes charts for two sizes and has an optional facing, which is knit in a lighter-weight yarn on the same size needles. Omitting the facing will result in a looser hat.

Hollis Hills Hat

The beet-red facing feels like a fun surprise, hiding away underneath the more subtle purples.

Hollis Hills Hat, with the brim turned up to show the lining

Half a skein of the 220 sport was enough for a lining that's more than three inches tall, so there's a triple-thickness of wool to keep the cold off one's ears.

Hollis Hills Hat, inside-out

I hope you enjoy knitting this hat as much as I did!

Important Copyright Information: The Hollis Hills Hat knitting pattern is © 2019 Knitting Pirate. You may not sell or otherwise distribute copies of this pattern, but you may absolutely sell the hats you make with appropriate credit given for the design. If you have any questions about what you can or can’t do with this pattern, please feel free to contact me.

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In early spring, Michael told me that he'd lost the hat I made him some years ago, and one of his Fleeps as well. (For new readers, these are flip-top mittens. It's just more fun to call them fleeps.) But he had another hat, so that was all right, and it was getting to be too warm for gloves anyway. Earlier this month we took a road trip to Boston MA and Providence RI, and of course we stopped at some yarn shops, including Newbury Yarns, where he found a ball of the right yarn in the right colour to knit his own replacement Fleep. And then something horrible happened: the hat he'd knit snuck into the washing machine.

So now he needed a new hat AND a new glove, and he was prepared to knit them both himself. I happened to have a ball of Cascade 220 (superwash, this time) hanging out in my stash, and offered it to him if he wanted to make a hat that would survive accidental washings. Or intentional washings, for that matter.

I also offered to give him a headstart on the hat, because he was going to knit the Fleep first. He knew he could knit the hat without my help or advice, but a glove is a little more complicated. So on Saturday, he got started on his glove and I cast on for a hat. I knit the ribbing, and I kept going, and by Sunday evening... well...

Michael knits while wearing his new floppy hat.

He'd gotten up to the part where he'll knit the individual fingers for his glove, and I'd finished his hat. (To be fair, I did a lot of knitting while he was doing other things, like chopping up a thousand peppers for the relish we made.) Good thing I finished the hat, too, because when I dropped him off at the train station this morning it was only just above freezing. Autumn has finally arrived, even if the trees haven't really started to turn colours yet.

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At Thanksgiving, the annual family reunion, one of my cousins mentioned the rainbow pillow I knit last summer. "Can you make me two of those?" he asked. I tried to explain that just the one had taken me nearly two months of crafting time. "I'll PAY you," he said. I asked if I could maybe sew pillows for him instead. "What's the difference?" he asked - and with that, I knew that sewing would be just fine.

I bought pre-cut strips of fabric from Amazon:

First I pressed them flat...

...then sewed the strips together in rainbow order, and pressed the seams down. (True, pressing them all in one direction rather than open/flat might not have been the best decision. But it worked.)

From each long rainbow, I cut two squares and sewed them together all the way around, and I even managed to set in mostly-invisible zippers on the purple sides, which seem like they'd be the bottom and therefore the most hidden.

(I'm pretty pleased about the zipper.)

My cousin will be buying the inserts, because it's way easier for me to bring him pillow cases than actual pillows. But even unstuffed, I think they look pretty good!

I usually curse and grumble a lot when I'm sewing, but this project went surprisingly well. Both pillows were done in an afternoon (I'm sure if I were better at this, it would take even less time) and I only had to rip out one super-crooked seam and try again. I even have some leftovers to play around with - not enough for a third pillow, but enough for a piece of wall-art or something. Hmmm, if I cut them on angles... and then turn one upside-down... and sew it all back together... that sounds fun, doesn't it?

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To bring 2016 to a creative finish, I knit this quick floppy hat for a friend. She ordered the yarn and had it sent to me, and I knit it up in a few days. It's amazing how fast knitting goes when one doesn't have to spend eight hours in a cubicle away from the project, isn't it? The yarn is Cascade 220 in a surprisingly sedate gray (I'd expected her to choose a bright pink), and the pattern is the Basic Hat Formula that I keep using because it just works. The hat got a soak in some expensive hair conditioner and dried on the boot-and-glove warmer, and though it's still a bit stiff now, it will get more floppy the more it's worn.

Michael also finished his own floppy hat (same pattern as above, same Cascade 220, but in a muted heathery blue). Of course that means that his lost hat will turn up at any moment, as is the way of lost hats.

After the hat, I think his fingers must have been itching for something to do, because he pulled out the sock yarn and half-a-sock he'd started knitting almost a decade ago. It had a few problems, primarily that it was going to be too large (blame me for that one; I'm the one who suggested the stitch count) so we frogged it, wound it into a skein, and left it to soak. He got started on a new sock with the second ball of yarn while I recharted sections of the still-nameless colourwork hat design.

By the end of the long weekend he'd finished the ribbed cuff and was moving on to the stockinette leg of the sock. He says he's doing this so that he'll have something to keep him occupied when we fly out west in a few weeks (snowboarding trip, woo!) but I'm starting to think he enjoys the process enough to keep going even when we're not on an airplane.

Meanwhile, with the house to myself again, I'll have the quiet I need so that I can concentrate on getting each of those four colours into the right place. I adjusted the chart to see if I could avoid a nasty jog at the start of each round, and I *think* it's going to work, but only actually knitting the hat will prove my theory. More pictures should be coming later this week, when it actually looks like something!

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