Sunday, September 21, 2014

Knitting Yarns: Writers On Knitting

When my Aunt gave me the book Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting edited by Ann Hood for my birthday I didn't know what to expect.  I wondered if it was a novel, because it certainly did not look like any knitting book I'd ever seen.  It turns out that this brilliant book is a compilation of essays and personal true stories on what knitting has meant in the lives of many famous writers.  The back of the book lists many names that I'm familiar with, including Sue Grafton, Barbara Kingsolver and Ann Pachette.

Last December, 2 month old Lucky didn't give me a lot of time to read for pleasure, so I saved the book until this spring.  I like to read a few chapters while I take a bubble bath.  I think that I am stretching this book out as far as I can go.  I am delighted to read the way that knitting is so important in the lives of other people, and it is especially nice to read these stories written by people who really know how to spin a yarn (oh yes, I went there!)

I don't want to spoil anything from the stories themselves, but I will share that the book comes with 6 knitting patterns. Since this book is printed on conventional book paper, there are no pictures and correspondingly there are no images to accompany these patterns. I turned to Ravelry to see if I could get a better peak.  (Besides, I realized that I needed to add this book to my pattern library.  I love being able to search for patterns that are in books/magazine issues that I already own, but I digress.) The patterns provide a little bit for every knitter: socks, fingerless mitts, coffee cozy, lacy wrap, sweater and a head wrap.

Please keep in mind that these knitting patterns aren't intended to be a learn to knit book.  Think of them as the sweet icing on top of the delectable multi-layer cake of this book.  I can't wait to keep reading!  I've discussed the role knitting has played in my life in interviews and a bit here on ChemKnits, but from reading this book I'm considering working on my own piece.  What has knitting meant to you?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Breaking KoolAid Grape Yarn

"Breaking" Dye is when you start with a single color of dye and you see different hues in your final yarn.  Food coloring based colors that frequently break are purples and blacks becausee they contain a mixture of blue and red dyes which bind to the yarn at different rates.  

In the past I've seen some great pictures of yarn dyed with Grape KoolAid that has broken into reds and blues, but when I tried it myself I got a fairly solid color.  Of course, this first attempt was using a 20% wool blend AND I was adding wet yarn to a dyebath that was heated slowly.  My more recent expreience with breaking yarns has come trough adding dry fibers to a hot dyebath so that the reds will strike the parts of the fiber that enter the bath first.  I decided to give this a try in my most recent dyeing experiment.

I mixed 4 pack of Kool-Aid Grape Unsweetened Soft Drink Mix in 10 cups of water.  100g of KnitPicks Palette bare yarn.  As you will see in the video, the colors started adhering to the yarn almost immediately.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

No Sew Pillows

I have always been amazed by people who can sew.  I am a HUGE Project Runway fan, and what these people can create in the span of a day is incredible.  Closer to home, my Aunt M has been given me quilted gifts for years, including an amazing ocean themed quilt for Lucky.  My cousin H got a sewing machine a few years ago and she has made herself dresses, bags, wall hangings for her classroom and applique bibs for Lucky.  My mom made many of my costumes while growing up, but her first quilting project was a science themed quilt for Lucky, compete with the periodic table and physics equations.  

See how pretty!

I have a lot to live up to... but am I going to break out the needle and thread?  I might have some amazing fabric, but I am going to make some No Sew Pillow Covers.  I found a wonderful tutorial on How to Make a Pillow with Glue and decided to give it a shot.  Gulp.  In my standard lab notebook style, I took pictures of each of the steps so I would have something to turn to if I tried this again.  

The secret to this project - Dritz Unique Stitch Adhesive 

This project requires no sewing thanks to the Dritz Unique Stitch Adhesive.  I feel like this is something that I could manage on a sewing machine, but I do not have one available to me and I do not want to stitch these by hand!  

There are two main goals for this project.  1) Create something for Lucky's nursery with my own two hands and 2) accomplish this without breaking the bank.  I found some great 20" down pillow inserts from Ikea for $5.99 (as of July 2014).  

Fabrics purchased from

From the comments on the tutorial I see that she used 18" pillow inserts and made the glue 1" from the edge.  I think I will make my squares 22"x22" and 22" x 17" (versus the 20x20 and 20x15 in the tutorial) to accommodate for my larger pillow insert size. 

as I prepared to make my first cuts I was really nervous.  Thankfully with fabric 1.5 yards x 44" I knew that I had plenty of space to err.  Gulp!  

The cutting went better than I thought.  I used painter's tape to mark my place before starting to cut.  After, I folded the first two pieces over the diagonal and it lined up very well.  Wahoo!  At this point I have two 22x22 inch squares.   I have to decide if I want the fish to be the front of two pillows or one.  I think I'm going to make three pillows with these two fabrics, 1/2 with the waves on front and 1/2 with the fish on front and waves on back.  

Which way do you like better?  So far I'm thinking I will do 2 with waves on front.

I cut 3 of the square pieces and then needed a break.  This isn't so hard, and I"m now feeling confident cutting.  Crap.  I just realized that I don't have enough fabric to do the job.  At least not 3 pillows.   I can cut 3 front pieces and 5 back pieces, leaving me short on back piece.  I really don't know how I miss calculated... maybe I assumed the orientation of the patterns would be different?  Either way, I would recommend having 2 yards for 3 pillows.  1.5 yards is enough for 1 pillow with space for a cutting error.  

The pieces for 2 pillows

On day 2, I "hemmed" the edges with the glue.  I didn't quite make 1" hems, which maybe means that I could have cheated with 16 or even 15" wide pieces for the back.  I DID make sure at the last minute to hem them in a way such that the fish would be looking in the same direction on the back of the pillow.  It would have bugged me forever if I had fish swimming upside down!  

There is a lot of overlap on the back of the pillows.  I easily could have made them 14" wide.  This would have meant that I could completed the project in 1.5 yards. I  hope this won't make it too hard to insert the pillows...  

When it was time to glue the pieces 

I thought cutting was the hardest part of this pillow project... but the hardest part was waiting for the glue to dry so I could stuff the pillows with the inserts!  

I turned the cases right side out, and carefully slipped the insert into one pocket before flipping the other over.  

Voila!  Two awesome pillow covers.

Now I just need to wait for the fabric to arrive so I can complete the third matching pillow for this set.  I'm also waiting for the chair-and-a-half to arrive that these pillows will live on, but that is a whole other story.  

My happy boy is really loving his room!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Woobie Giraffe for Samoline

Woobies for my besties!   As soon as I created the woobie bear for Baby G I needed to cast on for Samoline's baby giraffe. Why so soon?  The baby isn't due for another 7 months!  Well I wanted to let part of all of the woobies cuddle together, they are pals after all!  Mama-to-be Caroline loves giraffes, and as soon as I saw this woobie pattern I had it earmarked for her future child. 

The Pals woobies all together, at least in-progress.  (It is kind of fun, only 2 of the babies were "in progress" at any one time, too!) 
I used shine sport in Clementine (Orange), Mongoose (Brown) and Dandelion (Yellow).  I would have liked a paler yellow but there wasn't an option for that.  This little boy will LOVE his brightly colored giraffe, so I'm not worried.  (And I think his mama will be pretty thrilled, too!)   Like the previous woobies, I used size 3 needles to complete the project.

Notes from Construction
  • Can I please cast on enough stitches in one go this time?   Clementine ball 1 weighs 35 g.  I tried to OVER estimate the long tail I'd need.  If I did too much it is okay because of the orange fringe on top in the end.  4th time's the charm, right?
  • I did not knit one round before starting the increases since I used a long-tail cast-on rather than provisional.  
  • Clementine ball 1 finished at the end of round 11.  Ball 2 weighs 49 g.  
  • You would honestly think that since this is my fourth woobie that I would have my act together.  Nope.  I kept messing up the increases and decreases.   Now, this is mainly because I decided to work on the project at crochet club, airports and other public places.  This means that I kept forgetting to click my row counter resulting in loosing track of whether I was on an even or odd row.  Thankfully this will be a little easier to keep track of once I start on the main section after the picot edging.  (Don't worry Caroline, I went back to make sure it would be perfect!!  Nothing but the best for baby Samoline.)  
  • I do my decreases a little differently from the way they're written for Rnd 13 (more like the instruction for Round 1 of main blanket.)  On a decrease round, I slip the first stitch and then knit until 2 stitches before the marker where I make a cdd.  The slipped stitch becomes part of the last cdd of the round. I realized that I don't think I've ever written this down, and given that this is my 4th woobie you would think that I'd have mentioned it before!  
  • Row 22, switched to Mongoose (50 g) to pick up the cast on edge.  (Note that like the bear the contrast stripe is 3 rounds.) 
  • Row 25, switched to Dandelion (49 g) to work on the body.  In crochet club I lost track of whether I was on an odd or even for a few times in the rows that followed, but I was always able to make things work in the end.   Hurrah for catching mistakes before it was too late!  
  • Yellow Ball 2 (49 g) joined half way through round 48.  
  • I knew from the bear that round 63 is where the extra decreases should start.  After row 55 I have 41 sts between each marker so I am right on target.  I love it when I'm on target!
  • After row 62 I have 35 sts between each marker and am ready to begin the additional decreases.  I love how I had to put this project down multiple times and I was able to get my stitch count correct, but the first two times I made a woobie with FEWER distractions (i.e. no baby Lucky) I messed up.  I made mistakes along the way on this giraffe, but I caught them in time so I was able to go back and fix them.  I guess being aware that I was going to make mistakes was helpful after all.  
  • I am having so much more trouble on this woobie!  I think that having a baby has really altered my focus.  Thankfully I've been catching my silly mistakes, as I want this to be perfect for baby Samoline!
I moved into a new apartment in June, and this project was the only knitting project I had accessible.  (NO DISTRACTIONS!  MUST FINISH BEFORE BABY GETS HERE!!)  As I was nearing the top of the head at the end of July, I realized *gasp*, I don't know where my fiberfill is!  Thankfully I had it listed on the packing inventory so I knew what box to look in.

This is the first of the woobies I've created to have some spots on the blankie portion itself.  They were a cinch to knit but unfortunately my stitching will show up on the wrong side of the fabric. I have a feeling this little boy won't mind, though.  I considered crocheting the spots, but in the end decided to just follow the pattern as written.

I was nervous when it came time to stitch the ears onto the giraffe head.  I wish that there were some step by step photos to help with the placement.   I folded the ears in half and stitched them to the sides of the head.  Then I took the inner side and secured that down so they would be less floppy.

Attaching the horns was much easier after the ears were on.  i'm thrilled with the way the placement worked out.  (and relieved!)

Mane time.  I wonder how this will hold up after machine washing (I have not machine washed Lucky's woobie yet.)

My sassy little giraffe needed a hair cut.

I finished this project 1 day shy of 6 months since casting on.  It used Orange 67 g, Mongoose 17 g, and Dandelion 98 g.

Thankfully there are some photos of the spot placement on the Ravelry page to use as reference.

I am SO GLAD that I finished this project before the little guy comes into the world.  I love you, Caroline and Sam!

"Guess What?  I fed a giraffe!" - Caroline after my bachelorette party.  I love you (and not just because you always read my blog!)

Friday, September 5, 2014

I've been bad...

When I started my Into the Whirled subscription, I promised myself that I would stick to spinning the fiber shipments each month or I would cancel my subscription.  Well then this happened.

Since my move, I haven't even opened the last 4 bags of fiber.  Some of this is due to the move itself, and some is due to the fact that it is summer and I have been doing a lot of travelling.  Well the excuses are over.  It is time for me to open up the fiber and do something with it.  

When I opened up the bags, I was all gleeful with the colors and fibers types presented. (This is why Into the Whirled is so great, the fibers change from month to month.)  I have never spun polwarth before.  I am a HUGE fab of BFL and there is some that is SUPERWASH.  Talk about tempting.  

Oh yeah, there is a 5th bag of fiber that I haven't used yet.  Where did the time go?

My spinning wheel has been calling to me.  Hopefully the very mobile Lucky won't disrupt my spinning.  Which one do you think I'll spin first?  Will I go in order of month or will I pick the one that tempts me the most?  Stay tuned to find out!  

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Blue Beary Hat

When my best friends Sam and Caroline spent a year living around the world, Keith and I visited them in Chile.  This trip was an amazing adventure with my best PALS in the world, and it was also the last trip that Keith and I would take as a two person family.  (Person as in human, we always considered Indy to be part of the family.)  I got pregnant in January and little Lucky joined as the 7th PAL in October.  Now Caroline is expecting her own little boy to arrive any day now, and what would be more special than to create something for him out of yarn I picked up while visiting his mom and dad in Santiago?

This hand dyed cotton yarn Edilio Fabricacacion Chilena is not on Ravelry.  Well this makes the yarn even more unique!  I have no information about the weight or yardage, but I would consider it a super bulky yarn.  

I made a test swatch on a size I hook.  I got 6 DC's in 2 inches and I like the density of the fabric.

I chose the crochet polar bear hat pattern to create a very Blue Beary Hat.  I thought that the variation of color would still look cool with these simple little ears on top of an earflap hat.  No gauge was given with the pattern, so it makes it a little hard to decide what size to make.  The thing with babies is that their heads grow so much.  It is hard when a pattern has no gauge given so you can't tell how big to make it, but I just give it my best shot and try to compare it to hats that fit Lucky over the last few months.  

Some fun pooling as I started the hat

I am making the 3-6 month size.   At 3 months Lucky's head measured 9.5" from eartip to eartip and 16.25" around. At 6 months he was 10.25" from eartip to eartip and had just over a 17" head at the widest point.  After 8 rounds of the hat, the depth was just under 5.5" high and ~15" around.  I'm a little disappointed because I wanted it to fit a smaller baby (due in September), but I did have Lucky wearing cotton hats all winter and this cotton is really thick.  It will fit this little boy at SOME point, even if not when I intended. 

Now there are earflaps to consider.  I am always a little bad at figuring out how short to make hte hat portion when there are earflaps.  I looked through the pictures on Ravelry and decided that it looks good both if the hat is high up on the forehead or if it goes a bit further down.  I know that the baby's parents will love the hat no matter hat.  I decided to follow the instructions and complete 9 DC rounds for the base of the hat.  After the 9th round the depth is closer to 5.75-6".  I think that this is good.  

A third of the wy through round 9 I just stopped.  I replaced the DC round with a SC round so it would be a little shorter.  This brings the hight to 5.5".  I thinkt hat this plus the earflaps should fit well. (I hope.  Worst that happens is the hat is too wide for the height.  The flaps should cover the ears just fine. ) 

I left 12 sts between earflaps and chained 30 sts for the strap.  The final hat is 5.75" long and 8" wide.  

 I used 81 g of this fun yarn and I have 16 g left.  I have a fun idea to make a complimentary accessory to go along with this hat, stay tuned and I'll tell you all about it in the coming weeks.