Knitting for bikes, crafting for sheep

Ever wanted to knit a sweater for your bicycle?

Have I got the project for ewe!

2017-05-06 16.36.30 Last weekend was Tour d’Davis, where my flock and I celebrated this costumed bicycle tour of town with our “yarnbombed” bikes. I am particularly proud of creating this countryside scene for my top tube, complete with sheep grazing on the hillside and a matching pouch for my cellphone. The entire thing is my own design. I call this cozy pattern Pastoral.

2017-04-27 22.29.24If you want to do this project on your own bicycle, you’re in luck—it has a very low baaaa-r to entry. All yarn used here was leftover from other projects:

Materials: Scrap yarn, knitting needles, yarn sewing needle (or crochet hook), measuring tape, binder clips or clothes pins, and imagination!

Instructions: Measure your top tube width and length, then check your knitting gauge for an exact fit. You can also eyeball it for an approximate fit that works pretty well too. Cast on in the most creative colors you can find! Stockinette stitch works well. When binding off, leaving a long tail so that you can sew it around the top tube. Use the binder clips or clothespins to hold the knitting in place as you sew up the seam. Don’t worry too much about the neatness of the seam, or weaving in ends, as neither are that visible.

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Colorways and patterns of the bicycle cozies above, from left to right: Unicorn, Dark Unicorn, UCD, and Co-Op Stripe (not pictured: Captain Picard, a red and black pattern). Below is Rogue One, my first bicycle cozy.

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Some of these cozies went to Team Sheep bicycles, but a few lucky cyclists on the tour got the extras!

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Several of my fellow sheep team members likewise rocked their yarn creations throughout the day! Here’s a shot of most of our yarn creations before installation:

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Many of these were for bicycle decorating, but we also did some yarnbombing, aka public yarn art instillations at stops along the Tour:

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Some on craft crew even did some more knitting and crocheting during the tour!

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So much goes into hosting our stop for the event, from the food and drink prep, to game design, to structure set up— I wish could capture all the creativity that goes on behind the scenes. But since I was on craft crew, I mainly have photos of our costumes and other sheep-themed decorations.

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If you want to be a cheap sheep, be a cotton ball sheep! We hot glued cotton balls onto T-shirts for the main part of our costume.

Materials: white T-shirts, cotton balls, hot glue guns and hot glue, cardboard to place in between shirt layers.

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Instructions: Glue cotton balls to your shirt! You can do them in neat rows or in a more natural fashion. Just don’t burn your fingers. Also, be patient, it takes an hour or more.

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When you have finished a shirt, it’s time for sheepy accessories:

2017-04-29 16.19.21We searched through DIY sheep ear tutorials on the internet to come up with a simple head piece. Not baa-d, right?

Materials: Wide plastic headbands, white and black felt, white duct tape, cotton balls, and hot glue.

Instructions: The best order of operations is to hot glue the ear felts together, pinch at base, tape the ears to the headband, then hot glue cotton balls on the top. If you’re making a lot of these, cut ear templates out of cardboard first!

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I didn’t get great photos of all the other costume details, but you can see in my photo that we had bell necklaces, sheep face makeup (black eyeliner), and ear tags (paper gift tags cut down to size and hot glued on). I also made black poster board hooves at the last minute, which didn’t last that long on the bicycles!sheep1

All the white duct tape also had another important use: it went towards the creation of the red and white barn doors! 2017-04-29 14.59.18

Materials: four red poster boards, one roll of white duct tape, and a buddy.

Instructions: Lay out the boards so they overlap. Tape together horizontally and then vertically, using a friend to help hold the tape straight. Outline the entire door in white tape. Add the Xs at the bottom last.

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I hope this inspires many a bicycle cozy and sheep costume! (And if you need even more sheep patterns, check out the Baa-ble hat I made last winter.)

 

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Winter knits

It is cold! The perfect weather for knitting. Here are a few projects I have finished in the last few months.

Baa-ble Hat (minus the bobble)

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I’ve been eyeing this sheepy pattern for a long time, and I finally made it. In fact I’ve had this pattern so long that when I got it, it was a free pattern, but now it costs about $4. My version included very few modifications besides casting on 2 fewer stitches in the ribbing (added back in before the colorwork).

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To get gauge, I used size 3 needles and worsted weight wool yarn for the green grass, gray sky, and black parts of the sheep, and white DK yarn held double for the white parts.

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The colorwork was pretty fun—I had to pay attention more, but It was also more rewarding to see the sheep emerge.

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I originally wanted this to be slightly loose and slouchy, but that’s just not the way the pattern was designed, and the tight, thick knit the pattern creates works best in its original shape.

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This is the warmest hat I own, and it has the added bonus of just barely fitting under my bike helmet.

Ice skate ornament

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I happened to finish the sheep hat while I was at home for Thanksgiving, so naturally I used the leftover scraps to make an ornament for the Christmas tree. I liked the clever use of a paperclip for the blade in this pattern! I decided my version would have laces, and straight stitches were the easiest to add.

Tiny Sweater Ornament

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Once I made the ice skate, I was much more interested in knitting another ornament as a gift. I ended up deciding on this pattern because it looked like it wouldn’t take too long and the front of the sweater was customizable.

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I also liked the clever use of twisted wire to create a hanger in this pattern! Between the wire and the green wool, it stood up on its own.

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But of course, in order to stand out against a green tree, it needed some red. I used a slightly shortened R pattern from this alphabet chart to do the duplicate stitching. I like this chart because it worlds well for small scale knits like this one.

I kept thinking of the Christmas jumpers Ron Weasley always got from his mom in the Harry Potter books when I was making this tiny sweater. As it turns out, there’s a free Weasley sweater pattern if anyone wants to give those a go!

Mustard Color Miette Cardigan

Last month, I finally finished the sweater I have been working on—just in time for Fall! Also, a near perfect color match for the yellow pear tomatoes in my garden. Always dress to match your produce, I say.

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The pattern is Andi Satterlund‘s Miette, which is available as a free Ravelry download. It’s a cropped cardigan with 3/4 sleeves and eyelete edging along the button, neck, and wristbands. It looks really fantastic over dresses:

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For once I used the recommended yarn for a pattern: Cascade Yarns Sierra (in the gold colorway, a cotton.wool blend, which is of course now discontinued. Right from the start, I made a major modification: I used the directions for the 42″ large to get a 34″ small with  gauge of a little over 5 st per inch. I was nervous about this approach, but other ravelers made it work, and it was clearly the right call.

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I made several other modifications so the cardigan would fit me better. 1)  I cast on five stitches at the armholes for my shoulders. My last cardigan was a bit snug on my shoulders.  I also did waist shaping at the sides instead of bust darts, with a decrease of sl1st, knit, knit, k2tog beneath each armpit every 4th row.  I did bust darts on my  first cardigan, but I have since realized I really didn’t need them. Finally, I added one repeat of rows 70-80 for length, because I have a long torso and I didn’t need this cardigan to be super cropped.

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I was quite fortunate to find great buttons for this cardigan! They were 3/4” buttons instead of the recommended 5/8” but I wanted completely matching buttons, and these were the best ones. I used the same video tutorial to make sure they would be secure.

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After all of this work, it felt like the blocking took forever! I guess the cotton/wool blend yarn is not as fast to dry as some other yarns.

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I think this is my favorite sweater that I’ve made so far. And all though it took me a little over a year to finish, I got it done just in time for Autumn colors and cooler temperatures.

Here are more dorky photos of me wearing this great sweater:

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I really like it.

 

 

 

Harry Pottercraft!

In honor of Harry Potter’s birthday (July 31), the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and my recent trip to Harry Potter World, I’m doing a quick post on pottercrafts!

Deathly Hot: The Hallows Tank Top

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Just before leaving for Los Angeles to visit the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Hollywood, I decided I needed a DIY top appropriate for the 100+ degree F weather of LA in July. Luckily (felix felicitously?), I found this great Deathly Hallows cutout tank tutorial on YouTube. I made my lines extra sharp by using an X-Acto Knife instead of scissors, but either will work. Just swish and flick!

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You can still kind of see the chalk lines here. They faded eventually, but I’m probably going to get more chalk on it, seeing as how this is a great top for the rock climbing gym.

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See that high stepping move? Definitely the (hor)crux of the boulder problem. 🙂

House Colors Headband -Gryffindor version

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The other item I wore that weekend was a headband, in lieu of a house scarf. Even though the Sorting Hat has placed me in Ravenclaw (and my cat too!), I figured that Gryffindor colors were the way to go here. I drew inspiration from the scarf pattern seen in the 4th Harry Potter Movie. But what I’m most proud of is the fact that I made this on the car ride down from Northern California! I actually finished it in the dark!

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It’s a little wonky because of that, and the fact that I had no pattern, and the fact that I forgot scissors and cut the back threads with a pocket knife, but I’m sure Dobby would still wear it.

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I mostly wore this headband when I went on rides, but once again, I forsee using it quite a bit for rock climbing:

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Perhaps it will help me be braver when bouldering! At any rate, I know Dumbledore would approve of this knitting pattern. Need proof? Here it is, book 6:

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By the way, this the first Harry Potter themes knitting I’ve done—that would be the Lion Cat Toy from a post in 2012.

Also: bonus photos!

Wizarding World of Harry Potter:

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Me as Hermione in 2007:

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Lovebirds: An Owl Pillow

What gift do you give to two crazy lovebirds (known to friends as the Owls) when they get married in a spectacular DIY ceremony in a field behind a farmhouse? Well, if you are me, you give them this:

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An Owl Pillow, complete with button eyes, a leafy tree, and the date of their wedding.

As with nearly all of my knitting projects, this one is cobbled together from several different patterns and adapted on the FLY. When a knit has to fit, I measure and gauge swatch and carefully plan everything out. When it doesn’t well—I WING it.

Pattern notes and bird puns below!

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To begin, I used this free calendar numbers chart to place the date at the bottom: 5 * 29 * 16. I was knitting from my stash, trying to use up the brown and green wool from Farmhouse Yarns that my aunt gave me nearly a decade ago (same yarn that I used for my Owl Mittens!). Since I had two dye lots of brown, I decided that the ground, tree and owls would be the darker brown, while the border and the sky would be the lighter brown. It worked. WHO is pretty good as guestimating yarn? I am.

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The main pattern I used was Dr. Owl from Rowan, which is available for free. But since I was doing colorwork and adding the date at the bottom. I had to make a lot of adjustments, let me tell you. The date at the bottom was stranded knitting, but the tree and the owls were intarsia. The leaves were knit separately and sewed on. And did I mention the original pattern is in the round and I knit this flat? Keeping track of all the various yarn balls and the altered stitches was not exactly a HOOT.

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Furthermore, I added a second owl to the pattern. I couldn’t have just one for a wedding pillow—I needed  a PARLIAMENT! When the piece was as tall as it was wide, I finished and blocked it. It was about 14 inches square—conveniently the size of a pillow form.

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Sewing on the leaves and eyes was pretty easy and really made this piece SOAR. However, I had no time or yarn leftover to knit a second panel for the back, so it was off to the fabric store for a pillow form and some brown fabric remnants.

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Confession: I am a crappy seamstress. It’s just not really my thing most of the time. But I managed to get two wonky looking back panels, which are held together with velcro, so that the whole pillowcase can be removed for washing if necessary. And it OWL came together a few hours before the wedding!

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And there you have it. The flappy happy couple texted me later to say that they loved it—sometimes it’s risky to make a knitted gift without input from the recipients, but in this case it worked out.

As a side note, I didn’t realize just how long it had been since I posted in this blog! I was thinking it had been 2 or three months, but it’s more like 7. I’ve been teaching a lot of courses and I just don’t have the time on the weekends that I used to in grad school. But I have a few more little projects that I will share here in the future!

World War I knits—the annual free pattern post!

It’s my four-year blogiversary, and even though I an swamped with work, I can’t forgot my annual tradition of sharing WWI era knitting patterns! Since I started this blog on 11/11/11, which is Veteran’s Day in the US and Remembrance Day in Canada and the UK, I have been sharing patterns from my 1918 copy of Fleisher’s Knitting and Crocheting Manual (16th edition).

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For previously posted free patterns and instructions on needle size, yarn, and gauge, please see the posts from 2012, 2013, and 2014.  And now onto the pattern book!

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(things I love about this introduction: all service wear has been “approved by competent authorities”; scarves are apparently “growing in favor,” and US knitters and crocheters are collectively known as “yarn users of America.”)

First, up: The Red Cross Afghan.

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This is a crochet pattern, which I suppose makes sense, given the heft of blankets. But note that cross here is done in “khaki” yarn, not white!

Somerset Afghan

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Another crochet afghan, but this one has an intriguing colorwork design. Is it some sort of leaf or vine? I’m not sure, but part of me wonders if it could be adapted into a nice knitting colorwork pattern as well.

Woman’s Glove

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I love the little details on this glove, especially the cable. Of course I doubt I’d attempt these, as I’ve never made gloves and these patterns are often a bit vague on the details.

Savoy Sweater

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Look at this long full coat! I don’t even want to imagine how long with would take me. I’d at least ditch the belt. I do like the pleats though.

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2015-11-11 16.33.59This is a child’s crochet sweater, but I’d rather like it in a grown up size. I think the off center buttons are such a nice touch.

Bernadetta Scarf2015-11-11 16.35.35I think this might be more accurately labeled a shawl due to its size, but it’s hard to see the full shape from this photo. Nevertheless: what a lovely chevron piece!

Miscellaneous stitches 

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I complain a lot about the vague directions and unclear photos in this book, but it reality these is a little section that’s part stitch dictionary and part closeups of stitches used in the patterns. (I still don’t know what “narrow” means as a stitch though…)

Hope these World War I era patterns are useful to you!

p.s. I still wear the red crochet poppy I shared in my very first post:

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The Seven-Year Sweater

In 2008, I started a PhD and a sweater. This year, I’m finally finishing both of them. Starting with the sweater!

2015-07-02 14.20.02Do you know the Six Swans fairy tale? The one where six brothers are cursed to be swans unless their one sister knit them shirts out of stinging nettles without speaking—and it took seven years? I would have so failed at that task. Here’s what I had a year and a half in:

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My version of the ironically named Easy Weekend Pullover was made with cotton yarn. If you’re not a knitter, you should know that cotton has a bit of a reputation for being hard on your hands. Think of it like running with a weighted vest on.

So I would get really into this sweater for a while (like, for a month in 2010), finish part of it, and then get tired and forget about it again.

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But I as a wrote at the start of this year, my DIY goal for 2015 was to finish my unfinished objects (UFOs), and this sweater fit the bill.

2015-05-08 22.42.14So in May, I dug it back out. I had a front piece and half a back piece at that point. Keep in mind that this is my first bottom up, set-in sleeve sweater, so I didn’t even know if the pieces would fit together well.

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I knit the sleeves two at a time.

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And I had to redo the shoulder portion, because it turns out that I did not remember that I was knitting the smallest size!

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So the sleeves are a bit on the loose side, I but I can live with that.

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I am proud of myself for learning a new skill to finish this sweater: setting in sleeves! I highly recommend watching a video tutorial before attempting it (this one is good, as is this one).

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The shallow armscye seemed like it would be a problem for my broad shoulders at first, but it actually worked out fine because the neckline is so wide. The neck is probably my favorite part of the sweater.

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It was 90 degrees when I took these pictures, but I was so happy to have this knitting project done, I didn’t want to wait for a cooler day.

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I hope this can be an inspiration to other people with creative projects that have been on the back burner for waaaaay too long. I went from liking the weird salt-and-pepper yarn to hating it to actually kind of loving it. I went from certain I would finish, to certain I would NOT finish, to being determined to finish, even if the whole thing turned out completely weird and unlovable to anyone but me.

There’s probably a metaphor for writing a dissertation somewhere in there.

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What was my point again? Oh yeah—just finish it! Finish all the things!

 

 

 

 

The Quick and the Head: Knit Headbands!

Headbands! Lots of headbands. That’s what this post is about. Headbands with names. And possibly superpowers.

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(Forgive the lack of posts, I’ve been busy!)

Last summer, I knit my first headband. Then this winter, after finishing the green sweater, I reverted back to headband making. They are quicker than a big project, they are great for using up odd bits of yarn, and they’re great for playing with new designs. Most of these are my own patterns. Here’s how I made them, in the order that I made them.

Rocknasium

2014-07-25 10.55.35This is a multicolor garter stitch headband in cotton that gets a lot of use at the rock climbing gym. I knit it flat, in long rows on circular needles, then sewed the two short ends together. Make sure you use a stretchy cast-on and bind-off method. There isn’t a pattern besides knitting garter stitch, but you do need to measure your gauge and your head circumference so you can knit it in long rows and get the horizontal stripes. I’d recommend going a few inches down from your head size as it will stretch.

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The color pattern above is one row gray, one row orange, two rows green, one row orange, one row gray. The one below I made for a friend, and that one was two gray, one blue, two green, two gray, one blue, one gray. If you don’t want a break in the color stripe, you can knit them in the round or leave a yarn tail of each color and weave them in as I did.

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These are the easiest of headbands! And they will definitely help you with the crux of that overhung 5.11b project. This is just a fact.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Headband

2014-07-19 10.00.38The next headband I made was way more complicated! I got really into honeycomb brioche stitch and was determined to make a huge headband from it. The colors and the shapes somehow remind me of ninja turtles, hence the name. Bonus points if you know the names of the turtles who wore the orange and blue masks!*

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For this headband you will need three colors of cotton yarn and size 5 needles or whatever will get you a gauge of 8 stitches per inch unstretched/ 6.5 stretched. I know that’s kind of specific but that’s how I accounted for the fact that headbands have to stretch. If you have a smaller head you should adjust your gauge as needed. You’ll also need a crochet hook.

 CO 108 in Color A

r1 and r2: k

r3: Color B k1, sl 2 p wise, *k6, sl2. repeat from * to last st, k1

r4: p1, sl 2, *p6, sl2, repeat from * to last st, p 1

r5: repeat row 3 but carry Color A up the side

r6: repeat row 4

r7: repeat row 3

r 8: repeat row 4

r 9 and r 10: color A knit

r 11: k 5, sl 2, *k6, sl 2, repeat from * to last 5 sts, k5

Add Color C here and repeat. Cast off. Sew short ends together.

After casting off: Using a crochet hook and Color A, add a single chain stitch border to the edges. If your headband is seeming like it will be a bit loose, add some decreases (i.e. chain two knit stitches together) to tighten it up.

2014-07-18 18.09.44Your headband should look pretty wonky at this point—make sure to block it before wearing if it does! That’s how I got mine to lay flat.

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Wearing this headband will definitely give you the power to finally defeat Shredder with your mad katana/nunchuck skills …or, you know, keep your hair out of your face during zumba. One of the two.

*Answer: Michelangelo and Leonardo, respectively.

Jessa-Hannah Bluebell Poem

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This is another, smaller honeycomb brioche stitch headband. I started on this design nine months ago, but it took a long time and a fair number of mishaps for it to finally emerge in its complete form, hence the name (It comes from the last episode of  season 4 of Girls—spoiler warning!)

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 I used the same yarn and knitting needles as the big brioche headband, but knit it vertically and with just two colors. Make sure your colors work together! I had to start over when I realized my first, yellow version of this headband looked like a sickly easter egg.

Provisional Cast on: 15 sts in Color A

r1 and r 2: knit

r3:  With Color B, k 1, sl 1 p wise, k 3, sl 1*

r4: p 1, sl 1, p 3

r5: repeat row 3

r6: repeat row 4

r 7 and r8: With Color A, knit

r:9 With Color B k 3, sl 1 p wise, k 3*

r 10: p3, sl 1 pwise

r11: repeat row 9

r12: repeat row 10

You’ll need to join the two short ends to form a headband by ending either after a row 12 or a row 6. Provisional cast on will make it easiest. I used a three needle bind off. Once again, blocking will help the brioche honeycomb stitch look its best.

No matter what you do, the edges will still curl a bit. Overall, I like the pattern a lot, so I decided I can deal with some rolling of the edges. Or, as Hannah put it, “I can’t guarantee perfection, but I can guarantee intrigue.”

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This tiny brioche headband will not help you deliver your own baby or anything, but it will give you a new appreciation for the beauty of little things. What’s more magical than that?

Mahna Mahna

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This is one of the few patterns that is not my own! I used this free cabled headband pattern (also on ravelry). I won’t repost it here, but if you can handle a basic cable this headband will be no problem. I used my own unique yarn blend of two strands pink mohair, one strand recycle red sweater wool (heavily featured in my knit tank top in a previous post). Which is why I call this one Mahna Mahna, because it reminds me of the two Muppets from that one song.

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One of the nice things about making a wide cabled headband: it doubles as an earwarmer! This headband, like the Muppet song, will getting stuck in/on your head. It will give you the ability to feel warm and fuzzy even on a cold dreary day.

Minnesota

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These are two color linen stitch headbands! Linen stitch is fantastic for headbands because it lays nice and flat. These two are named Minnesota because that’s where they went to live.

I used Michelle Lewis’ linen stitch headband recipe, which seems rather underutilized, as a guide for these headbands. But since I was using two colors, this craftsy guide, especially the suggestion for how to avoid color pooling, was very helpful too.

The two-color linen stitch recipe:

Provisional cast on: even number of stitches in Color A

For your first ever row, skip to Row 2 (r 2) to avoid color pooling.

r 1: Knit 1, yarn front, slip 1, yarn back. repeat to end of the row

 r 2: Purl 1, yarn back, slip 1, yarn front. repeat to end of the row

Repeat these two rows with Color B, then repeat them with Color A, etc. When the headband is long enough, sew the ends together.

For the top headband, I used the same yarn and needles as most of the projects here. For the bottom headband, I used size 2 needles and two partial balls of a wool blend, self-striping sock yarn, which created a more intricate looking pattern.

2015-03-03 10.02.11These headbands will give you the ability to travel around the country and/or world having amazing adventures and connecting with inspirational people. Or they will give you the ability to get out of the house on a cold winter evening. Depending on what you need that day.

Heartbeats

2015-03-30 17.25.49I was all ready to write this post a week ago, but then I was like, you what I need to do? KNIT ANOTHER HEADBAND. So I did. I decided to call it Heartbeats, even though it has been pointed out to me the graph of a heartbeat does not follow this neat curve. I was inspired by the Jose Gonzalez cover of The Knife song “Heartbeats.”

I told myself to write down the pattern as I came up with it, but either I forgot or I misplaced it, so I’m going to reverse engineer it for you right now:

Heartbeats recipe:

Provisional Cast on 11 sts in Color A

From here on, the three stitches on either edge are your border stitches—they will always be knit with the pattern Knit, Purl, Knit. The five middle stitches are stockinette and they will have the color work. Here is the chart:

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As you can tell, you need to make sure to finish at the end of a complete chart for your heartbeat to be…complete. And as always, you’ll need to block it well—especially since there is a lot of stockinette. But it looks really cool laid out flat!

20150328_115256This headband gives you the power of the heart—wherever that may take you and for whatever that is worth. (It seemed important to the Planeeters!) It may or may not help you sing like Jose Gonzalez.

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Hope you enjoyed these headband patterns!

2015: Out with the New and In with the Old!

2015-01-11_154351The title of this post pretty much sums up my goals for the making of things in the coming year. At its most basic, “out with the new and in with the old” means as much as possible, I’m going to try to use what I’ve got on hand or what I can get second hand to knit, sew, costume, or otherwise craft, instead of buying new materials. Not exclusively, but as much as is feasible. I already do this a lot, but I wanted to be more intentional about it. (I promise this won’t become one of those smug greener-than-thou sort of projects. If I need to buy new buttons, I’ll buy some new freaking buttons!)

Here’s what this kind of making has looked like this month:

Creative Stash Knitting

challenge: How to knit with what you’ve got when your yarn doesn’t fit the pattern.

2015-01-11_162626When you have been knitting for many years, you develop a yarn stash. Extra yarn left over from previous projects, yarn that friends or family gifted you, yarn that you bought for a purpose never fulfilled—they all live in the stash. My stash lives in a small underbed storage box.

I’m trying to get even more inventive with the ways I can knit from my stash. This hat is one of those projects. I knit with small amounts of a wool-and-mohair-blend yarn I had in a few colors in my stash. I used the quick and very lovely pattern easy ombre slouch hat by Paul S Neary. Well, sort of. I weighed the yarn on a scale realized I did have enough of the green yarn to do the full pattern. So I just did the colorwork pattern until I ran out of green. And it still looks good.

The only disadvantage to this strategy is that I’m going to have to be flexible with the outcomes. My hat came out far less slouchy because I omitted extra rows of the pattern. I’m going to soak and block it, but it doesn’t seem to quite fit over the sheer volume of my hair now.

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I think it may need to be a gift to someone else, and I’m ok with that.

Thrifted and Salvaged Crafts

challenge: How to make useful and beautiful things without buying new stuff.

2015-01-11_141850I think the hardest thing about trying not to buy new things is that I have to be patient. I have to forgo the instant gratification for the long game of keeping an eye out. It’s probably not a bad trait to work on. At any rate, being patient was what led me to find and refashion these chairs.

2015-01-11 12.38.25I had been using folding wood chairs in my kitchen for years when I spotted this guy and its twin at my dumpster. I hauled them inside just before a rainstorm. They were not in good shape. But my neighbor friend had assured me that wooden chairs with fabric covers are easy to re-cover.

2015-01-11 12.39.34-1I found my “fabric” at the thrift store. It was a large pillowcase with a green tree print that I bought for 60 cents.

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If you want to do this project, make sure you have a screwdriver that fits the screws on the underside of the chair, scissors, a staple gun, and enough staples. (I borrowed the staple gun and ran to the hardware store to get staples). A seam ripper and an iron are also handy if your fabric is being repurposed. And a flashlight or headlamp is a plus if your screws are hard to see.

2015-01-11_132940I didn’t “measure” exactly but I did make sure there was enough fabric to cover both seats.

2015-01-11_141331Stapling is the most fun part. Just make sure that you don’t cover up the holes where the screws are going to go back in.

2015-01-11_1528002015-01-11_1528082015-01-11_153222Screwing the whole thing back together is the most annoying part. Again, patience is key. Trim any excess fabric that is in your way.

2015-01-11_154512It’s kind of ridiculous that this whole project cost under a dollar, considering how much I like the end result.

Repurposing Unfinished Projects

challenge: How to revisit the incomplete objects from the past and find a place for them in the present.

2015-01-11_164450The dirty little secret of any maker of things is the UFO—the unfinished object. We all have at least one— a project that can’t be completed but also can’t be tossed. They are hidden away for weeks, months—or in my case, ten years.

If I am really going to go “out with the new and in with the old,” I have to revisit my UFOs. And I did. To do so, I first I had give up what I had planned for this piece to be back them and think about what it could be here and now.

2015-01-11_162953What you see here is the front piece of a completely imaginary argyle sweater. I knit it in 2005—specifically, in February and March during the weeks I was in the hospital after a really bad car accident. I must have asked someone to bring me some knitting needles and yarn from home, but I don’t remember. I do remember how I spent ages planning and designing and knitting this blue and green argyle pattern in my hospital bed while I was unable to walk. I was completely determined to knit myself a sweater.

2015-01-11_163006But this sweater was never going to exist, because I had no idea what I was doing. I was a beginning knitter and ravelry did not exist (neither did YouTube). You can see how my stitches were uneven, and how the blue and green yarns are thicker than the white yarn and did not stay flat. I also had no concept of how a sweater was constructed. And even I can’t make sense of my knitting notes now, although the argyle chart is pretty solid:

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2015-01-17 11.40.49So I knit this whole pseudo pattern, and then it sat, in a bag, doing nothing. As I got better at knitting, I became convinced it was unredeemable. It was a symbol of knitting failure. That is, until I rediscovered it while cleaning last weekend. This time it didn’t remind me of failure—I looked at it and remembered how much I had loved it and how it had been a bright spot in my life during a really dark time. I also still had the borrowed staple gun in my possession, and I had an idea.

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In keeping with “out with the new,” I went to the thrift store. I found a large framed image there for $2.50. The important thing about the frame was that had a removable back (those little black tabs around the back are always a good sign). I brought it home.

2015-01-11_164425I then lightly steam blocked the argyle piece, stretched it across what had been the print inside the frame, and stapled it into place. With some careful wiggling, I got it back into the frame and secured with the black tabs.

2015-01-11_172355Now my long abandoned argyle sweater project is a framed and mounted work of fiber art on my wall. And I can’t even describe how much joy I feel when I look up at it. Yes, I was crazy stubborn to try to design and knit my own sweater with no experience from a hospital bed. And yeah, it’s wonky and full of flaws. But I love it— I poured myself into it and I can see the beauty in it now. What was old suddenly looks new.

 

Knitting Recipe Remixes: Shetland Pony Drink Cozy + Handbook Fingerless Chevron Mitts

Recipes. I use them all the time in cooking—I’ll certainly be consulting a few for the Thanksgiving dishes I’m making next week. However, I usually see the ingredients and directions as more suggestions than mandates. And I often combine elements of different recipes to get the final results I am looking for. I like to remix my recipes.

Lately, that’s what I’ve been doing with my knitting as well. It’s finally knitting weather here in California, and I have been working on projects big and small. But I can’t resist remixing the recipes—combining elements of two patterns to get the finished object I really want. It’s one step above following a pattern with a few modifications, which is easy but can only transform the pattern so much. And it’s one step below writing your own pattern, which is great for creating exactly what you want but takes a lot of time and effort to do properly.

I’ve got two remixed knitting recipes for you. Both are small, relatively quick knits.  They all involve bits of colorwork, so they are perfect for stash busting. They also make great gifts—and you won’t find them anywhere else!

Shetland: The Pony Drink Cozy (ravelry)

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If you have not seen the video of Shetland Ponies Wearing Cardigan Sweaters, you should really go do so now. I’ll wait.

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My friend and fellow knitter, who loves shetland ponies and this video in particular, had a birthday recently. This was the gift I gave her.

Ingredients

20-25 yds main color, worsted weight

10-15 yds contrasting color, worsted weight

2-3 yds scraps of three colors for sweater, sock or lace weight

knitting needles (sz 7 or whatever gives you gauge)

tapestry needle (I used metal not plastic)

Patterns Used

f. pea’s beer cozy (raverlyblog)

Jóhanna Hjaltadóttir’s Hestapeysa sweater (ravelry, pdf)

Directions

The basic idea is to knit the beer cozy pattern FLAT with the pony chart from the sweater centered in the middle. Cast on 32 stitches and work in ribbing as directed for beer cozy. (I don’t have many in-progress shots but you can at least see how it looks flat):

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After work the ribbing from the beer cozy, start the pony chart. To center it, do some basic math:

32 (beer cozy width) – 18 (pony chart width) =14 stitches /2 = 7 stitches of main color on each side

Complete chart (I added one contrasting color stitch extra on the head to give it that shetland mane look). Add 3 more rows, then finish with top ribbing (if you skip these rows, the pony’s head gets squished into the ribbing). Bind off in ribbing and leave a 12-15 inch tail for sewing.

Thread your tapestry needle with one of the sweater yarn scraps (if you have different thicknesses of yarn, start with the thickest). Outline the outer edge of what will be the cardigan, stitching around the lower neck, partway down the front legs, and half way down the back. With the second color, stitch several parallel lines diagonally across the sweater. With the third color, stitch several lines perpendicular to the first set of lines. This will create the illusion of a sweater. Be careful to keep the tension on the yarn as even as possible, because the whole thing needs to stretch over a glass.

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Weave in and cut all the ends except the long main color one at the bind off edge. With tapestry needle, use kitchener stitch to connect the two edges of the beer cozy. Weave in and cut this end, then admire how your drink sweater is a pony wearing its own sweater!

Handbook: Fingerless Chevron Mitts (ravelry)

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A few weekends ago, I went to this conference, where all of the presenters were contributors to an upcoming Oxford Handbook. As I listened to the presentations, I worked on these fingerless mitts. Much like publishing a handbook, with these fingerless mitts I had to take a lot of different pieces—different colors, different lengths—and try to blend them into a seamless finished product.

Ingredients

100-120 yds main color, worsted weight

5-20 yds each of four contrasting colors, worsted weight

double pointed needles (size 6 or whatever you need to obtain gauge)

tapestry needle and patience

Patterns used

Maggie Smith’s Fingerless Mitts (ravelry)

Kat Lewinski’s Those Zig-Zag Mittens (ravelry, blog)

Directions

Just a heads up—this recipe involves a lot of weaving in ends! But other than that its fast and satisfying. I had never done a chevron (zig zag) pattern before, and I really enjoyed it.

Before you cast on, decide how many chevron rows you want of each color and the order that you want them in. You may want to place strands of each yarn next to each other to see what you like best. Make sure to include at least one section of the main color!

Cast on—you can either cast on 44 stitches as the Zig Zag patterns says, OR you can cast on in a higher or lower multiple of 11 for bigger or smaller hands. Just know that chevron is very snug, so it can’t be too small as it won;t stretch as much as stockinette. I have small hands and I knit loosely, so I cast on 33 stitches and then did only three total repeats of the chevron pattern, not 4: (k2tog, k3, M1L, k1, M1R, k3, ssk).

Important tip! On the end of first round of a new color, knit in pattern to the last stitch, then grab the tail/non working yarn from where you joined the new color, and knit that together with the working yarn on the last stitch of that first round. It will help reducing the hole that tends to occur at the color change. (I didn’t figure this out until rather late in the knitting process.)

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After you switch back to main color, do one more round in the zig zag mitts pattern. Then switch back to the fingerless mitts pattern to make the thumb increases. But instead of doing increases until you get to the designated number of stitches as that pattern says, just add 14 to whatever number of stitches you started with. In my case, 33 + 14 = 47 stitches is when I did the bind off for the thumb.

Now you have a choice—you can increase or decrease your stitch count to a multiple of four and then do the ribbing at the top like the fingerless mitt pattern says, or you can keep your stitch count and do a small repeat the chevron stitch at the top instead. That’s what I did.

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If I had to do it over again, I might have begun the bind off a bit sooner. Just make sure to do several purl rows before you bind off, as knit stockinette will tend to curl. I haven’t blocked these yet so I’m hoping some of the curl in mine will come out.

Further option:I also added a few more rounds at the thumb—two knit rounds, four purl rounds, then bind off.

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Are you ready for the least fun part? Because While your fingerless mitt will look like this on the outside…

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It will look like this on the inside. So: get your tapestry needle and start weaving in all those ends. If there are any gaps occurring where you changed color, now is the time weave through those spots so they are less visible. Have patience, it will be worth it.

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I was too excited and I photographed these mitts before blocking—but look at those lovely colors! There’s something about chevron that looks classier than stripes. It’s nice to have a stash busting project that uses the leftover bits of colorful yarn that I love.