Botanical Knits & Crafts, Original Knitting Patterns, Uncategorized

Nature Inspired Wedding Pillows

If I came to your nuptials in the last 2 years, you got a hand-knit pillow inspired by nature as a wedding gift.

Pillows are underrated knit gifts. They’re nice for the knitter, because they knit up quicker than a garment, use up stash yarn with ease, and require no sizing other than a gauge that will work with your choice of pillow form. And they’re nice for the recipient, because they can be personalized and heartfelt while still being functional.

Since I already blogged about the Lovebirds Owl Pillow, I’ll focus on the two others.

Twinning Trees

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Pattern:  Twining Trees by Sarah Bradberry (Ravelry link)

Yarn:  Cascade 220 wool, Spring Green (leftover from my Mrs. Darcy cardigan project)

I had this beautiful pattern in my Ravelry queue for 5 years, just waiting for the right project! I love the intertwined cables— so fitting a gift for two people growing together.

I made this for J + K’s wedding, which took place at a Northern California winery and was just as green and beautiful. But the actual inspiration for the pillow was a road trip through Oregon this summer, with plenty of passenger seat time to work though all those cables. Despite the wildfire smoke, we saw lush greens everywhere.

I have found that the best backing to a knit pillow is a repurposed sweater! This one was a green sweater tank in a matching shade. I pinned and cut two pieces to over on the reverse side, making it easy to slip it off the pillow form and wash it.

It’s a little tricky to sew through both pieces on my sewing machine, but the results are worth it.

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Bonus knit! J+K also requested quilt squares from guests for a wedding quilt, so of course I incorporated some knitting there too! My square was inspired by a summer afternoon of cherry picking that we had all recently enjoyed.

I used the “how to knit a flat circle” ravelry tutorial for this one, which I highly recommend.

Joshua Tree

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Pattern: My original design!

Yarn: All stash yarns—gray wool/mohair blend from stash, brown wool from my Owl Mittens, green from my repurposed Argyle Wall Hanging, and beige from my Katniss Cowl.

When I heard that A+M were getting married in Joshua Tree National Park, I knew what was going on their pillow! Only trouble was,  no such pattern existed! Cactus, sure, but no Joshua trees. I hadn’t been to the high desert for years, and couldn’t even remember if I’d seen one, so I looked at photos for inspiration to start. I eventually got to see the real thing! They were just as weird and majestic as I imagined—even more so at twilight.

I originally sketched a Joshua tree with many branches, but I had to scale it back to three for simplicity’s sake. I opted to keep the tree to one side, giving me room to add their initials and the year. If you make a pillow like this, take the time to sketch it out on a grid, to get an idea of the layout!

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Intarsia knitting worked best for this kind of colorwork, although I also did some stranding between the branched and the letters & numbers. I know that many knitters shy away from colorwork, but pillows are a perfect test project! It doesn’t have to stretch over a body or a head, so you can practice getting the right tension. Here’s the front and back of the complete piece.

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After pouring over too many stitch dictionaries, I decided the easiest way to approximate the long pointy leaves was to do a crochet chain embroidery stitch on top of the completed work. That way, I could control the angle and give the tree a three-dimensional look. I followed a simple video tutorial (here) since crochet is not my forte.

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And of course, I used a gray sweater as a backing. This time, I chose a cardigan, so I could incorporate the buttons for easy removal.

2017-11-21 22.43.00I am quite happy with the way this pillow turned out. The muted color palate captured the feel high desert, and it matched A + M’s  home decor!

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Botanical Knits & Crafts, Nerdy Knits & Crafts, Original Knitting Patterns, Tweaks & Alterations

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!

Nerdy Knits & Crafts

Three blue knits…including a TARDIS pillow!

I’ve been working on two big knitting projects and one small one in the last few months. It just so happens that all of them were gifts, and all of them were blue. Now that they are all completed, I can share them with you!

A different kind of blue box: the TARDIS pillow!

Time And Relative Dimension In Space

I started watching Doctor Who at the beginning of November and I got totally into it (yes I realize I’m a little late to the party). My brother is also a fan and when I was home for Thanksgiving, he suggested I could knit him something Whovian for Christmas. I showed him the myriad of free patterns on ravelry and he chose this one by Rebecca Norton, a tiny tardis print. Interestingly, the only project on ravelry was the original, so I was going into uncharted (ha!) territory. But as the pattern says…Allons-y!

just a little blue box

This was one of the funnest swatches to knit. If you aren’t familiar with colorwork, this is not a bad pattern to learn on. The pattern was pretty easy to remember after a while, and even when I messed up the window placement on one row and didn’t notice it till the end, it was easily fixed with duplicate stitches to get the proper colors. The pillow uses the intarsia technique for each TARDIS, so I had a short bobbin of blue yarn for each. However, after knitting one side of the pillow, I realized I was going to run out of white yarn. It was stash yarn and I had no idea what it was or where it came from. So I improvised…

bigger on the OTHER side!

And came up with this pattern for the reverse side. I didn’t get too detailed here—no public notice, no “police box” lettering—but I think it came out really well for a TARDIS pattern I wrote on the fly! I used  garter stitch to create the illusion of doors, and each grouping of six windows only used a small bobbin of white yarn. I would write up the pattern but I didn’t save all my notes on it, but I did write down what I could remember on my ravelry project page. If you try to do it and it doesn’t work out,  trust me, there are like six million patterns on ravelry for some version of the TARDIS if you want it.

(EDIT: If you want another blue Doctor Who knit, check out my Tenth-Doctor’s-Sonic-Screwdriver-as-Chapstick-Holder knitting project!)

Baby blues: Newborn booties!

tiny feats for tiny feets

My cousin and his wife had a baby in December, and so over Christmas break I decided to whip up some of my favorite baby booties in the newborn size. Baby items are great because they knit up so quick. I also like making them in colors other than the traditional pastels. Previously, I have made them in a bright purple tweed:

Lelly's booties!

The booties are constructed with short row shaping, so they are knit on straight needles. In the past I sewed them up so that only garter stitch was showing, but this time I decided that having the stockinette part on the outside actually gave it a better shape.

no pastel colors allowed

I highly recommend this pattern, but I should point out that I have always modified the increases to be “knit front and back” because I’m more used to that. I don’t think it changes the pattern, just putting that out there.

Socktober blues: Magic loop toe-up socks!2013-11-24 13.58.18

Way back in October, I started making socks for my friend’s November birthday. I had this really cool sock yarn, the self striping kind, and I was eager to use it. And I also wanted to knit these socks at the same time. So I decided to learn the magic loop method for small diameter circular knitting.

Ever year I try to do a new knitting technique—it’s a slow learning process but it works. I could probably devote a whole post to what I learned and didn’t learn doing magic loop. First of all, you should NOT do what I did, which was 1) switch patterns more than once when I was part way through, so I was constantly readjusting. I initially started out using the free Knit Picks pattern  Two at once, toe up socks but I quickly discovered that it was going to be tough to follow for someone who was new to magic loop. Another thing you should NOT do is 2) connect several interchangeable needles to get the long circular needle needed for this technique, because the metal connecting piece will be a constant pain when you have to slide it through a bunch of stitches. Bite the bullet and buy the exact size circular needles you need.

harder than it looks

What I DO recommend you do if you are learning this technique is watch videos on how to do magic loop. My favorites were from KnitFreedom— Liat Gat’s 2-at-a-time toe-up socks video series. I’m sure it would be best if you were using her pattern, but I found them helpful regardless, especially the videos for casting on and the first increase round. I also suggest practicing magic loop with larger needles and yarn than you’d use for socks, because starting the toe is a bit challenging at first. Ok, a lot challenging.

socks in the sink

I wish I took photos at the start, because it would show you what looked like some pretty bad laddering at the sides that ended up being ok in the end. The Knit Picks pattern has an afterthought heel, and KnitFreedom’s pattern has a fleegle heel, but I wanted I heel I was familiar with, so I did short row heels using the technique described by HeidBears in part 1 and part 2 on her blog. Not a video, but I have done short row heels before and the illustrations were all I needed to translate it to magic loop socks.

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After blocking, you could still see the ladders on the sides of the socks (especially at the heel) and the loose part of the toe where I almost made the socks too big when I switched patterns (thankfully my friend has the same size feet as me and I tried them on and discovered the problem early). BUT despite all the problems and irregularities, I am really proud of these socks. The blue stripes are so cool! And most importantly, their recipient was happy with them.2013-11-24 13.58.02