A ho-ho-hat

DSCN4439 My latest crochet finish: Well, if ever there were a photo that needs no explanation, that’s the one!

(Despite having just said that, one detail to add. This hat comes with a quirky twist. I’ll post about that separately once I have a few last adjustments done.)

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(Oh, and barring schedule glitches, I’ll pop back in sometime this week to share a quick how-to for those crocheted holly leaf appliques. They’re quick and easy, I promise!)

Do you have any festive seasonal items on your WIP or just-finished list this week? Description, photo, and pattern links are welcome!

Busy as a beaver, part III

DSCN4002And here it is, folks, the final installment of Christmas Display 2014/Mechanical Beaverware. This group: the knits.

I’ve chosen to share the most time consuming items last, which is exactly the opposite of how they were planned and produced. As soon as I was asked to make new outerwear for the Christmas beavers, a rich, dark variegated yarn from my leftovers stash (the photo at left) and this sparkly white yarn (below) leftover from my swimsuit coverup project over the summer came to mind.

IMG_1763I cast on the variegated scarf first. I decided from the get-go to do it in rounds, not flat, since the end product is so much neater that way. What I didn’t bargain for was that, duh, that produces two complete layers, which of course costs double the time to complete.

In the end, this scarf took me more than a month to finish. In fact, I got so tired of that endless spiral round that I started and finished 8 of the other items during breaks from this scarf. Part of the reason for that was, I was determined not to return a tiny, mostly unusable ball of this pretty yarn to the leftovers bin. So I kept going ’round and ’round until it ran out. The finished scarf (not including the pompoms) measures a full 45 inches long.

I’m not sorry. It came out absolutely stunning.

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DSCN4110Here’s the hat to match, made from a pattern I’ve used many times before. For the record, the hat went waaaaaay faster than the scarf.

DSCN4000The pompom yarn was missing its label, a full skein pulled from a discount bin for one dollar some years ago. I’m pretty sure it’s Caron–a super, super soft light acrylic. Isn’t the color just a perfect complement to the main yarn?

So that was the first Beaverwear set started, but next to last to be finished. Now, the second knit set:

DSCN4329The chessboard-looking scarf pattern is from a Leisure Arts book. It’s one of those knit items that looks intermediate but is really not at all complicated to make. The hat is what I got when I blended the chessboard stitch pattern from the scarf with another Leisure Arts pattern called, simply, “basic hat.” They worked together very nicely.

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DSCN4327My only hitch with the hat came when I was about to start those decreases at the top. I almost never need stitch markers and had no idea where I had stored them when I came to the first spot in the pattern that called for them.

You know what they say, Necessity is the mother of invention.

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DSCN4324Yep. Seven stainless steel washers (brand-new and sparkly clean, of course) across a row made for a very, very heavy knitting needle, but they were precisely the right size for marking these +10s. In fact, when I cast off, I put those washers snug in my knitting caddy just in case the missing real markers don’t turn up before I need them again!

That brings the final tally for Beaverwear 2014 to 7 hats, 11 scarves. Put another way, that’s 4 knitted items, 2 crocheted items, and 11 sewn items.

And while I did get bored with long stretches of those spiral stockinette rounds on the variegated scarf, still, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy every. last. stitch. of the whole project. Making stuff just feels good, doesn’t it?

What are your current projects, either just completed or in progress?

Busy as a beaver, part II

IMG_1272Here’s the second group of items I made for our local Christmas display 2014–with a very slight twist. The Mechanical Beaverware project took to the road with this hat-scarf set.

Crochet is a perfectly portable craft. With only two colors of yarn to juggle, choosing this set as my take-along when we went on vacation was a no-brainer. The vast majority of these rows and rounds were born far, far from home, at my mother’s house across the country, or at high altitude while getting there.

It was a fun project, as crochet almost always is. I didn’t have to think too hard to hook up with a pattern that doesn’t exactly look like peppermint, but suggests it. Which is, of course, perfectly holiday appropriate.

The scarf is as simple as they get, double crochets spaced by chain stitches. I did use a double row of solid single crochets at 10-row intervals in the stretches of white, and there are the color changes, but really. Beginner level simple.

IMG_1274And the hat isn’t much more complicated. Decreasing to shape the top was the only part I had to pay attention much, just to long enough to count to keep the spacing even. Otherwise, the whole thing was mindlessly pleasant.

IMG_1280I had just exactly enough red yarn to finish the fringe and pompom. Literally nothing but four under-2-inch scraps was left at the end. Meant to be, right?

IMG_1276And about that yarn? Both the red and the white are leftovers from previous projects. Free and free.

This was the only beaver set I did in crochet, but it really came out exactly as I’d imagined with no fuss whatsoever. I’m happy.

With crochet added in, the Beaverware tally stands thus: 5 hats, 8 scarves. Only knit to go!

What’s the simplest, yet most satisfying crochet project you’ve done lately?

Busy as a beaver, part I

DSCN4210A month ago, I mentioned I’d been busily completing a bunch of stand-alone projects in between the blocks for the afghan crochet-along. That’s sort of accurate. Actually, many of those stand-alones were individual pieces of one rather large project.

Remember last fall when I made outerwear for a bunch of animatronic penguins? (Here’s just the last post in that series, which links in turn to the earlier ones.) Well, this year the beavers who populate that same public Christmas/winter display got huffy and demanded new duds, too.

Instead of keeping the individual pieces fairly uniform as I did for the penguins, I had fun with variation this time. Some were patterns from books, others patterns I worked out myself, others just mindless stitch-until-the-length-is-right. Obviously, that meant some flew off in no time whereas others felt like an eternity to finish.

Seems like the best way to group all the finish-off photos is by craft type. So–today, here’s the fastest bunch, the ones that were sewn. The ones I pulled off in under 30 minutes each. They nicely improved my project-completion average when the others started dragging.

I used a chunk of donated fabric for the gold-and-red hats and two scarves. It’s a heavy woven cloth with some variations in the thickness of the threads, which makes it durable and interesting to look at, but also super easy to work with. These pieces all zipped together in spare moments over just a couple of days.

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This model is a stuffed beaver who just happened to be available for the job, not the actual recipient of the hat. The animated beavers are much larger than this one.

The ball fringe is also donated material. Some odd bits of thread and fluffs of felt along the anchoring strip betrayed that it had been salvaged from some previous item. Giving the trim a second life in this beaver-wear made my thrifty heart happy.

DSCN4004Two more hat-scarf sets came from a length of fabric I got via Freecycle. The cloth has a rough, uncomfortable texture I’d never use to clothe a living human, but for faux-animate critters, it fits the bill–as do those wacky bright stripes!

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DSCN4009The yarn that went into the pompoms and tassels is a bunch of leftover bits too small for their own projects. Score.

DSCN4204Finally, this trio of scarves (without matching hats) was a last-minute addition to the public display project. They were made for some tiny human animatronic characters, not beavers. These little folk needed scarves to hide some exposed wiring. So I guess you could say that even though they don’t actually provide warmth, these scarves are utilitarian.

The lightweight broadcloth they’re made from came from my own scrap bag. All three colors were left over from my kids’ last few years’ Halloween costumes. As for the fringe, if it looks familiar to you, you have a great eye and memory! It’s a scrap from last fall’s doll dress project.

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DSCN4370So there you have the quick finishes. The Christmas display tally so far: 7 scarves, 4 hats.

What are your favorite quick-finish projects lately? Links to pictures are welcome!

Keep calm and block on.

crochet afghan blockIt’s been crazy busy around here this past month–work, work, work plus the kids’ school schedule plus church projects plus unexpected complications with the house, vehicles, and pet. Blogging is the first thing to drop off the end of my to-do list when time gets scarce.

But the crafting continues nonetheless. Even on the most harried days, I can usually find a few unscheduled minutes to throw in some stitches. I’ve completed several knit and several crochet projects that way–a round here, a row there–since July. I’ll get around to posting about them all as soon as life lets me.

Between those separate projects, I’ve managed to keep up with Moogly’s afghan crochet-along. I just finished block 21 of 24. That’s the block you see above, my palette’s version of Cocoa Puff by Melissa Green. It’s a bold, pretty one!

The pattern is written exactly right, but I won’t lie. I struggled mightily with Round 10. I fought it for more than two hours total (over two days, so it seemed even longer!). I frogged it back to the first side of the block at least half a dozen times before I finally made it to the end of the round.

And then I counted the stitches and they still didn’t add up.

It wasn’t until I ripped out the entire round, counting as I went, that I found where the mistake was. I’d misread the pattern at only the SECOND stitch of the round.

Lo and behold, starting fresh did the trick. I worked up that whole round correctly in 10 minutes the last time.

I hereby chalk up those lost hours (and poor reading that caused them) to fatigue!

This block fits in with the theme of the previous blocks, yet it’s a nice texture contrast, too. The navy part of the flower here is super heavy whereas the flowers in the other blocks are lighter and lacier.

afghan block close-up

This block–and the three others I’ll be making from this pattern–will add a nice weight and warmth to the afghan.

I have finally completed a few other blocks from this crochet-along, too. I guess now’s the time to slap those pictures up before I disappear from the ‘Net again!

I’ve shared my color take on Flower Tile Afghan Square by Marta Chrzanowska before, but it now has three sisters. Here are the two color variations (I made a pair of each) together:

afghan block afghan block

I now have all four of my Lion’s Mane by April Moreland blocks done, too. This is also one you’ve seen in singular form before:

afghan blocks

Your eyes are not playing tricks on you. These four blocks are not exact pairs. I think once they’re mixed into the afghan, though, the fact that I departed from my notes won’t matter a bit.

And finally, all four of my finished More V’s Please by Melinda Miller blocks can now be pictured together:

afghan blocks

Just in case you’re  seeing all this and thinking I’m some wonder of productivity, lemme clarify. I did not make all 13 of those blocks PLUS the other projects I mentioned (plus achieve life in general) between July and today. I’d had to put aside a bunch of these blocks for long enough that I forgot they weren’t finished. Several of those finishes consisted of adding only the last round–and that’s the part I did recently.

I’m (inordinately) proud to check my crochet-along project bag today and see that I now have exactly ZERO previously started crochet-along blocks incomplete. So–on to block #22!

How about you? Are you currently participating in a crochet-, knit-, or sew-along? Tell me about it–and you’re welcome to share links to your progress photos, too!

Long time, no sew

swimsuit cover-up…actually, there’s been a decent amount of “sew” over here, and a boatload of crocheting and knitting, too. Just no blogging. Too busy to take the time.

I’m not sure I have the time now, but there’s a lot to share, so let’s make a dent today with just one story. The one that I must show now, before summer is entirely gone.

I had great hopes when I set out to make this pattern, a swimsuit cover-up from Rachel Choi. She’s pulled off a neat design–clever simplicity, if that makes sense. I was fired up to start as soon as I saw the pattern. I happily ordered a bright white yarn with a little shimmer to it, thinking that would look festive in the sunshine.

What I didn’t know until it arrived was that though the yarn was labeled 3-weight baby yarn, it was actually pretty bulky.

I started working the pattern anyway. The first five or six rows made it pretty obvious if I continued with this yarn as the pattern directed, I’d end up with something nearly 1.5 times the size I needed. At the time, I had water plans on the schedule, though, so I wasn’t about to rip back to the beginning. Instead, I switched to a smaller hook for a few rows, then narrowed the stitch pattern for the next few rows, then switched to yet a smaller hook once more. With those adjustments, by the time I got about a third of the way up, I was on point with measurements again. (And–whew–I didn’t lose any time to do-overs.)

That did mean that my version of the cover-up, which is supposed to hang straight, instead finished in more of an A-line shape. That little flare added up to a pleasant adjustment, though!

A-line skirtThe only fly in the ointment is, our plans changed. We didn’t make it to the beach or pool or any other wet place a single time this summer. It’s not likely we’ll make it during the still-warm early fall, either.

I guess I’m prepared well ahead of time for next June!

bodice and shoulder strapWhat about you? Did you make a garment especially to fit your summer plans? Show it off! Share links to your pictures!

Good construction + awful yarn = It’s a wash.

no!I mentioned a few weeks ago that among my recent batch of dishcloths was one I didn’t share because it was “a royal failure.” I know, I know. I’ll keep the drama to a minimum, but I do have a moment to tell the story now.

This cloth was done in a familiar pattern, Reversible Pips, that I like every time I use it. Again, I used oversized needles so it would dry really quickly, but otherwise, the pattern needs no adjustments. I’d picked out a fun yarn,

the yarn AKA  the culprit

Lily Sugar ‘n Cream in “American stripes”

and I had no reason at all to think this would be anything but a quick, satisfying project.

This colorway worked up nicely. The dishcloth ended up with a broad stripe of mostly red on each end and white throughout the middle, with two small patches of blue that wound up slightly off-center, but in a way that made it interesting rather than unbalanced.

I figured I’d keep this prototype cloth and work up a second cloth to give to my mother-in-law when I saw her on July 4–exactly the reason I chose this season-perfect ball of yarn.

And then I tossed my new cloth in a fresh sink full of dishwater.

pink water

I repeat: That’s FRESH dishwater. I did not wash out Koolaid cups or Jello bowls or painting smocks in it. That horrible pink leaching is all from the new dishcloth.

I quickly put off all thoughts of giving away anything made from this yarn. The remainder of this ball is destined to be another serviceable but icky-looking one exclusively for me, I guess.

I’d hoped that after the initial wash, the white would rinse clean and the red would stop bleeding, but here we are, at least a couple dozen dish-washings after, and I’m still getting pink water every time. And no, the pink doesn’t rinse, either.

bleeding dyeUnfortunately, I’ve found the emerald green (“mod green”) I chose for one of the other recent cloths also bleeds pretty dramatically. That yarn, too, is Sugar ‘n Cream. That makes three balls of S’nC in a row that have disappointed me. It has always been a reliable brand for me before. I wonder what changed in their process?

So, I’ve picked out a few colors of another cotton yarn to try. I’ll let you know how they work out–or whether I’ve moved on to try a third cotton option instead.

What about you? What’s your go-to brand choice for kitchen cotton?

A (partial) wardrobe overhaul

newly altered clothingBack in April, I learned about Me-Made May 2014. I loved the concept but did not sign up. I knew that, with everything already on my calendar at the time, I couldn’t hope to finish any new craft challenge that month, no matter how humble a goal I set.

But I couldn’t shake the notion. I DID have plenty in my wardrobe that I didn’t wear. Most of those back-of-the-closet items were store-bought rather than handmade, but regardless, all were things I liked too much to give away even though they just didn’t work for me.

I tried to ignore everyone’s May goals while I kept reading all my favorite blogs. And among them I was regularly seeing new refashion projects on Carissa Knits or references to the Me-Made May challenge on Jennifer Lauren Vintage and thinking, wow! Why can’t I do/don’t I do/didn’t I think of THAT?!

So I gave in. But instead of “me-made,” I aimed for me-altered. And instead of “May,” I took a less ambitious beginning in May.

Here’s the result of my cheater’s take: I’ve returned three pairs of pants, five t-shirts, and two casual-but-nice tops to actual wearing rotation.

Now, don’t expect to be seriously wowwed. I don’t do high fashion, and most of the alterations are basic, especially if you have real sewing experience under your belt. But I’m satisfied knowing these favorite clothes are usable again, not just wasting my drawer space.

First up: Two pairs of casual jersey knit pants.

altered pantsThey were still soooo comfortable, and the perfect weight for our mild spring and fall weather, and they had these great deep pockets I loved. But they were looking S-A-D. The fabric had stretched in width from my last few years’ worth of yo-yo weight. But in the other direction, the fabric had shrunk, leaving the legs a good three inches too short.

The fix was so easy, I don’t know why I didn’t do it long ago. I whacked another five inches off the legs and rehemmed. Capris! To fix the width, I laid the pants out flat and pinned, then stitched about an inch deeper all the way around the U, up one inseam, around, and back down the other. I took an inch deeper in from the seam up the rise, too, then finally trimmed off all the excess.

They’re still casual pants at best, especially given the fading they’ve done since they were new. But now that they’re properly fitted (I kept the weight off this time, yay and knock wood), I don’t feel frumpy when I put them on now.

Next: My old favorite jeans still felt good, but they were no longer fit for public wear given the state of their knees. Cutoffs–what could be simpler?

I didn’t want the shorts to fray so much that they got shorter, though, so instead of hemming, I ran a line of straight stitching about a quarter inch above the cut.

renewed shortsA few washes later, they look artfully frayed without threatening to get me arrested.

I’m convinced I’ll get years more wear from this denim now. (Bonus: I’ve already put part of those cut-off legs to use, too. Remember this project?)

Next, a stack of t-shirts that just didn’t fit. Who bothers to alter t-shirts, right? But these included one special-ordered for a family event, two that were gifts from my family, and two that are colors I absolutely love and wouldn’t want to replace.

Have you noticed how cheap some manufacturers have gotten with fitting? Women’s shirts are built exactly the same as men’s: a long box, with two smaller boxes tacked on for sleeves. No shaping whatsoever. They needed help.

Only trouble is, I don’t have a clue how to measure for a more appropriate fit. It finally dawned on me that I didn’t have to. I have one t-shirt that fits exactly like I think a t-shirt should, so I used it as a pattern over the boxy ones.

resized t-shirts

Pin, re-seam, cut, repeat.

I don’t have a serger, so to mimic serging on the side seams, I put in a straight seam, then went back and sewed a zigzag right next to it before trimming the excess.

I also learned (finally) a little trick that would have let me dare to sew jersey knit long ago if I’d known it: Sew first, then cut. That way, you don’t have to deal with any of that pesky curling. It made shortening these man-length shirts a cinch. I think I did an especially nice job faking the double-stitching along the lower hems, too!

t-shirt hems

So that took care of four of the five shirts. The last needed additional help. The neck was way, way too tight.

I was hesitant, but I went ahead and took my seam ripper to the neck binding. To my surprise, the tiny fold of fabric it had been sewn to felt like exactly the right size. It was only the binding that was too small. Also to my surprise, the fold stayed perfectly in position. All I had to do to finish was run a narrow zigzag over it.

new neck on top

Finally, I had two pretty pointelle knit tops that, unfortunately, suffered from the same mannish shaping as all those t-shirts did. I gave them the same hem and side-seam treatment, again using the well-fitted T as a guide.

With their button detail and slightly sweetheart necklines, though, I thought these tops needed just one more shaping touch.

pretty knit top

I’d never marked darts without the help of a pattern before, so this was scary. And I didn’t get them right on either shirt the first time. But in the end–whew! I can now say that I’ve tackled a bust dart and come out on top. (pun intended)

I’m not quite finished with the wardrobe overhaul yet. Since my darts were successful in those knit tops, I’d like to try to add a couple to my April-finished spring dress to give it a better fit, too, and maybe do the same on the top of a two-piece dress I made ten years ago but haven’t worn since. I’m not sure I’m quite ready to let the sewing machine take over my dining room table again just yet, though. More on those alterations some other time.

Please tell me I’m not nuts for putting this much effort into saving some old clothes. What lengths have YOU gone to refit/refashion/repurpose/otherwise save your favorite clothing?

Rub a dub, dub

crocheted and knitted dishclothsMore scrubbiness to report! This trio of colorful dishcloths has been my now-and-then project between other things the past few weeks.

Originally, all were destined for my give-away stash. Instead, I tossed the last couple threadbare ones from my own linen closet and stacked these neatly in their place. No regrets. I already have new yarn colors at the ready to make more of all three of these patterns. There will be plenty to give away.

The first finish, this ecru, is done in cotton yarn leftover from Grandmother’s stash. I can’t believe how this one spool of yarn has gone on. I’ve lost count how many dishcloths I’ve gotten from it now, and it wasn’t a brand-new spool when I got it, and there’s still enough left for at least two more besides.

ecru knit close-upThe pattern is Reversible Pips, which I knew I liked because I’ve knitted it before. I decided to make some minor changes this time. I live in a climate that welcomes mildew. Thin dishcloths that dry out super fast are a better bet than one that works up so very thick and heavy, like this pattern yields. So instead of size 8 needles, I used a pair of great big 13s, and I cast on only 30 stitches instead of 44. It sounds like a ridiculously drastic change, but I am very pleased with the resulting cloth. Despite being so loosely woven, it’s still very absorbent and has no shortage of scrubbability. (My spell-check says I can’t write that word. Pffftt, I say.)

This second finish may look familiar, too. Good eye, you!

crochet dishclothFor the same mildewy reason, I worked this Chic Chevron pattern a little more lightly (two hook sizes larger than called for) than I did it originally. I love the results. And that color! Doing dishes cannot be drudgery when I have this cheerful cloth in my hand. It’s Lily Sugar ‘n Cream “blueberry.”

The final one was a challenge–the best kind of challenge. The kind that makes you think and work in a little different way than you usually do, with nice results. The pattern is another of Jill’s Being Spiffy designs, Lemon Swirl.

round knit dishcloth

No, my color choice didn’t fit the description “lemon.” Ah, well.

I had done a dishcloth in the round before, but never a dishcloth that actually comes out round. I thought that alone made this pattern unusual enough to be worth a try. What I did not anticipate was how much extra patience it would take–and how little, apparently, I have.

I did not have two matching circular needles this size, so I worked from DPNs. No problem, right?

Well, I found out quickly just how much satisfaction I get from seeing a pattern take shape as I work. But on a set of 4 DPNs, you can’t see this pattern grow because the stitches remain so closely bunched together. I was able to spread it little bits at a time and peek, but I didn’t get the full effect of the lacy design until I’d finished casting off the first entire needle full of stitches. Here’s about the biggest look I got en route.

dishcloth in progressI admit, I had some anxiety about working all the way to nearly the end without knowing whether I would really be done when I got there. See, this is a pattern that requires a lot of counting. Often, if I count wrong, I notice when I see the mistake show up as a glitch in the design. And because I was using DPNs, this design was not on display.

The upshot was, I counted pretty darned carefully. I also checked my count at the end of every round, which–confession!–I hardly ever do ordinarily. Yet, as far as I can see now, I ended up with no pattern mistakes in the end other than the central stitches being a bit too loose. (Noted for next time: Cast on with smaller needles, then switch.) My husband listened to my monolog about this challenge and dubbed this dishcloth pattern “Blind Faith.” He’s got a point.

My compulsive checking and counting are no reflection on the quality of the pattern and design, which is precise and easy to read and yields a very, very pretty result. I absolutely love my finished Lemon (asparagus? watermelon?) Swirl. I will certainly be making more of these fun, pretty, unusually lacy dishcloths.

round knit dishcloth close-upThere was actually a fourth dishcloth in this mix. It is not mentioned here because it was a royal failure–but that disaster deserves a post of its own. Let us gaze again upon the happy ones!

knit and crochet dishcloths

Until I get around to writing that post, though, I’m always looking for a new dishcloth pattern to try. What’s your favorite, either in knit or crochet, or a combination of both?

Oink, oink

piggy toyWe dubbed this little guy Peter. He was a baby gift for a new cousin.

Isn’t Peter just the cutest? That curly tail is too much! You can find the free pattern here. Many thanks to Debi Y. for sharing His Oinkiness!

The yarn is another little bit from Tillie’s stash, which is kind of neat since my cousin’s family also knew Tillie’s way back when.

The yarn’s 100% acrylic, so Peter is completely washable and will dry very quickly, too. I thought that would be pretty important considering 1) a baby’s chewing habit and 2) the very humid, mold-friendly climate the family lives in. Quick dry is never a bad idea there.

 

more piggy

piggy 3

I had a bit of a hard time letting Peter go, he fits so perfectly in a palm!

 

I’m going to be doing at least one more baby gift, likely a toy, in the near future, so please do tell: What’s your favorite pattern for a knitted or crocheted baby item?

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