Archive for the “gifts” Category

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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The pattern for Sheep Etu suggests first pinning the stuffed feet to the body of the sheep to get the right balance before sewing them on. I didn't bother doing that, since Wee Sheepie is going to ride in the car and won't need to stand up on its own - and I saved myself the effort, as none of the feet ended up exactly where I thought they would go, anyway. Perhaps my sewing-together skills could use some improvement, but the feet were so tiny and awkward, and moved around a bit as I worked.

Anyway, once I'd crocheted the fluff on, it didn't much matter...

20161018_sheep

I started at the top of Wee Sheepie's back with just single crochet, but it wasn't fluffy enough, so I soon switched to mostly double crochet - "mostly" because I added in some extra stitches here and there, as needed, to round out the sheep's shape. The Buttercup yarn is really tricky to work with! I dropped the hook a few times and had a hard time picking up a loop, as the floofy fibres completely obscure the stitches. But without too much cursing, I worked my way around and around until Wee Sheepie was no longer naked.

There's enough Buttercup left over for a second sheep. The first one is so cute, I'm more than a little tempted to make another!

Taking a good picture of a fluffy white sheep is another challenge altogether. It's much cuter in person than most of my photos showed! So instead of more sheep shots, here's a picture of Sparkplug, the cargoyle I mentioned on Monday, which inspired my brother to request a sheep in the first place.

20161018_cargoyle

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Michael had mentioned that his Fleeps were starting to get thin in places again, and after Thanksgiving I took them home with me for their third repair job... which was really just a sneaky excuse to take some measurements and observations so I could knit him new ones. I worked from my notes from his first gloves, combined with the constructive feedback that he'd provided and checking to see where the old ones had worn out.

The new ones have longer thumbs to prevent a gap, seed stitch flaps rather than ribbed so they won't pull in quite as much over time, and duplicate stitch reinforcements at all the corners where the flaps attach to the body of the gloves. It looks as if the mitten-top is crooked, but they're lined up with the hands rather than the wrists, so they fall straight when the gloves are actually on.

michaels_second_fleeps

They're also a grayer kind of gray; his first pair was a darker gray with red tweedy flecks, but I couldn't find the darker colourway. The yarn is Jo Sharp Silk Road DK Tweed, which wasn't available in the US for a while but now WEBS is carrying it again. I used Peppercorn for Michael's Fleeps, and bought two balls of Serpentine for another future pair.

I used a combination of the Cigar and Gnomittens patterns, adjusted for the shape and size of his wrists and hands. Both patterns are free, but I found that they needed quite a bit of customization to make them fit perfectly. The cuffs would have been too large around as the patterns are written, so I took some stitches out of them, and then had to add width back in for the hands. I was very glad to have taken such careful notes on the first pair; it made it much easier to make the second set fit to perfection as well.

The gloves were done enough for me to wrap them up and give them to him on Christmas Eve, but I hadn't had the chance to sew on the snap-magnets (which is the most annoying, fiddly part of the whole project). I'll do that today, and then they'll be the last project on the books for 2015!

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