Thursday, October 8, 2015

Interview with ChemKnits

This title might be confusing.  An interview with ChemKnits, but you are ChemKnits!

I realized when I conducted an interview with Sarah E. White that some of the interviews I've given in the past are no longer available online.  Why not answer the questions I asked Sarah for you guys today?  I share little bits of my past and history through the blog posts, but I thought it would be fun to tell a bit of my story here today.


When did you learn to knit? 
I first learned to knit from my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Fox, when I was 10 years old.  On days with poor weather, she pulled popsicle sticks with our names written on it and let us select an activity (computer games, board games, etc.)  Knitting happened to have two slots available, and my friend Lindsay and I chose to learn how.  We learned to cast on, bind off, knit and purl.  Shortly after this lesson my mom took me to the store where we purchased some straight and circular needles.  (I actually still have the 16" size 6 needles that I got over 20 years ago and I still use it on hats today!)  Knitting spread through the class and everyone was making short headbands - cast on in the round, knit about an inch and bind off.  We were "collecting" different colors and it was all the rage.  During story time (a lot of Goosebumps back then) we would sit and knit.

What was the first thing you ever made?
I started, and stopped, a lot of scarves back in that era.  I don't think I finished a scarf until high school. I did make a lot of winter headbands (double layer to cover ears) and donated a bunch to the local Women's shelter.

If you had unlimited time and no deadlines, what would you start knitting? 
Afghans.  No question about it.  I LOVE knit afghans and granny square crochet blankets.  I find myself saving patterns all the time.  Ultimately, I neither have the time to make myself huge cozy afghans nor do I have the space for them in my house.  Hmmm... I actually have a house now versus an apartment... maybe I DO have more space now.

Where did your inspiration for Colorwork Knitting come from? Well I can't exactly answer this question as written since I did not write the book Colorwork Knitting!  Instead I will talk about the inspiration for my designs.

I get inspiration in a lot of places.  You can see that my designs vary a lot.  I make a lot of beer cozies because they make wonderful gifts for friends plus they are a fun way to test out different stitch patterns.  With a lot of my amigurumi I would start knitting a new shape and then see the shape of a different cartoonish bug and immediately sketch out a new pattern.  Other designs, such as my colorwork stockings and vest, take a lot of planning and I'll spend weeks sketching out various shapes to create something perfect for my family.

Your latest book is all about different types of colorwork, which is your favorite technique? Again, not my book but I am a HUGE colorwork fan and use it in many of my designs.

I love stranded colorwork.  My blog header is stranded, the Christmas stockings I designed for my family are stranded.  I started using a lot of stranded techniques when I was trying to use up yarn in my stash.  I wanted to make some hats for friends but didn't have enough of a single color to complete the hat.  Two balls of yarn + a fun design = a one of a kind gift!

What is your favorite yarn to knit with? 
I knit with KnitPicks Wool of the Andes worsted weight yarn the most, and it is probably my go do workhorse yarn.  I love that I can get it in 50 g balls and there is a huge variety of colors.  It is also comfortable to work with.  If I had the budget, I would work with alpaca 100% of the time, but this isn't practical for every type of project.  My favorite weight of yarn to work with is fingering weight.  I love the drape and versatility of the thin yarn.

Now that I have a toddler running around, I'm using more superwash yarns so his knit items are washable.  I prefer 100% wool to blends, and I've been really happy with cascade 220 superwash so far.  What are your favorite washable yarns to work with?  I always love recommendations.

You have hundreds of designs! What are your favorites? Dozens in my case, no hundreds, but I still have a lot of designs!

As of today, my favorite design is the Snowy Penguin Set.  I wish I could have written the vest pattern in multiple sizes, but I'm not yet sure how sizes scale with growing babies.  I spent longer working on getting the snowflakes and penguins just so on the vest design than it took me to knit the actual garment!

Another favorite is my 14 cable hat.  This was my first complex design, and I was proud enough of it that I even wrote an entire blog post dedicated to the design process.  Now that I know more about the theory of cable design I think I want to update this pattern with new charts and cables, but I'll have to find time around settling into my new home!

I have a whole notebook dedicated to design ideas.  It is hard sometimes for me to keep up with knitting patterns I find that I love and taking the time to design my own patterns.  I am committed to offering many designs for free here at ChemKnits, but the longer I've been running this blog I've come to realize the value of purchasing patterns from designers I respect.  If a design requires a lot of design effort, I will now offer it for sale to help keep this blog running.

What type of project do you recommend for first time knitters?
Hats.  100%.   Scarves seem simpler, but often in the course of endless garter stitch a new knitter will give up feeling like they'll never finish the project.  You can make a simple rolled brim hat with casting on, the knit stitch and K2tog.  In a hat you see your progress much faster and you can get to a finished object much sooner.

If you aren't a hat person, another good beginner project is a dish cloth.  These small cotton squares are forgiving (since you are going to wash dishes after all) and you can practice different stitch patterns.  They go quickly so the new knitter can have a sense of accomplishment and feel the high of finishing a project.


I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about me.  Do you have any questions you'd like to ask me?  If I get enough I will do an interview part 2!

Monday, October 5, 2015

I have an announcement to make!

The ChemKnits family is growing!

I have an announcement to make... the ChemKnits family is growing!  Early next winter another baby will join the ChemKnits family, given me the opportunity for a ton of new baby crafts.

Lucky's 2013 pregnancy announcement

For Lucky's pregnancy announcement, we did a cute guitar family photo.  A baby guitar, mommy guitar and daddy guitar.  (Indy wasn't super left out, he had his own instrument)  Why the guitar?  Well this was the first thing we purchased for baby Lucky when we discovered that I was pregnant.  It turned out to be one of his favorite toys, too.

This announcement was inspired in part by the Snowy Penguin Set that I designed for Lucky last fall.  I liked the idea of expanding our penugin family to incorporate my latest WIP.  I modified the following mosaic lowercase chart for the lettering and a separate chart for the numbers.  I decided to add a 5 stitch border around all edges because I wanted to make sure the colorwork could be photographed with a decent border.

The chart (including empty space) is 67 sts x 47 rows.

I used KnitPicks Chroma Worsted in Galapagos (27.1 g, 53.3 yards) and Berroco Peruvia color #7145 (10.3 g, 17.4 yards) on US size 3 needles for  this cute little announcement. These are both yarns that I had in my stash and have been used in many other projects.  It feels good to use something that I had to create something as special as a pregnancy announcement.

I put off starting this project until I was almost 15 weeks pregnant.  We announced with Lucky when I was 13 weeks.  We certainly weren't in a rush this time!

Cast on 67 sts in Chroma.  Start knitting in stockinette with a purl row.  The chart starts on row 6 with the bottom of the numbers and is knit. I knit the bottom stranded except for after the top of the toddler penguin where I did an intarsia/stranded hybrid. 

When chart was complete I knit 5 rounds in stockinette and then bound off knitwise.  Some light blocking and my little announcement was ready to go.

I wanted this photo to become my cover photo on facebook, but I knew that the aspect ratio of the knit announcement was a little off.  What should be in the blank space?  I filled the blank space with a little dinosaur outfit we picked up for our little baby.  One of the first outfits we purchased for Lucky (before knowing the sex) was a set of dinosaur jammies, so it was nice to do the same thing for this little one.  Plus, we're going to create a dinosaur themed nursery so that is our little hint with this announcement as well.   With a little adjustment in photoshop (reducing the color saturation from the clothing) and the announcement was ready to go!  

These knitting pattern was created by ChemKnits for your personal or charity use. You are not to sell, distribute or reprint this pattern without the permission of ChemKnits. © 2015 ChemKnits

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Search for Thanksgiving Crochet Patterns

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and not just because of the amazing feast my mom creates. I enjoy the opportunity to relax (by cooking in a hectic kitchen) and spend time with my family. There is no better way to get into a holiday by bringing crafts related to that holiday into your home. In this post, I share a number of free Thanksgiving themed crochet patterns that you can use to get into the Thanksgiving spirit.

Free Turkey Crochet Patterns

  • Turkey Talk Afghan
    This beautiful crochet afghan is in fall colors and has tiny decorative turkeys on it. (Very tastefully done.)
  • Turkey Hand applique
    "[The designer's] applique tribute to the time honored Thanksgiving tradition of the hand-outline turned Tom Turkey." This turkey really is shaped like a hand.
  • Turkey Butt Pin/Fridgie
    There is no face to this turkey, it is pretty much the silhouette of the back of a turkey (a circle with the feathers around it.)
  • Crocheted Turkey
    A simple, cartoonish amigurumi turkey.
  • Thanksgiving Turkey Crochet Pattern
    This turkey toy contains more shape definition, it has a neck, wings and a fan of a tail.
  • Turkey Flake
    It's no snowflake... it's a turkey flake! The snowflake morphs into the turkey's tail.
  • Bev's Turkey Fridgie 
    "This cute turkey can be made to wear as a pin or for a fridgie magnet. Give them as gifts to brighten someone’s day."
  • Surly Turkey Kitty 
    This turkey crochet pattern amuses me. Instead of a turkey body, you have a cat body with a turkey tail! You will need to create a free Ravelry account to view this pattern.
  • Gobble-gobble Turkey Applique 
    A quick and tiny 2D turkey crochet pattern.
  • Tom Turkey 
    This stuffed turkey toy contains more substantial wings and feet than some of the other toys.
  • Crochet Turkey 
    It appears as thought this 2D turkey crochet pattern requires the fewest number of stitches of any of the patterns in this list.
  • Gobble Coaster 
    A coaster in the profile of a turkey.
  • Fall Leaves with Turkey Wreath Free Pattern 
    This 2D turkey is completely 2D (rather than having a 2D body with a 2D head sewn on top of it.

Free Thanksgiving Crochet Patterns

Free Pumpkin Crochet Patterns

If you want to get ready for Halloween, too, then you can add a face onto these pumpkins to convert them to Jack-o-Lanterns.

When the platform Squidoo existed, ChemKnits did multiple focused free knitting and crochet pattern searches.  These "lenses" were migrated to Hubpages at the end of 2014, but the Hubpages platform does not like Hubs that contain multiple links, especially if these links go to the same site (such as Ravelry.)  I am reposting the search here on ChemKnits.  I did all of the searching to find this list myself, and the descriptions are of my own writing unless otherwise noted.  Please let me know if any of the links are broken, I am working to migrate many pattern searches at once and may have missed one.  

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Knitting Beyond the Edge

Are you on the edge on your seats for this book review?  You should because we're Knitting Beyond the Edge!  Knitting Beyond the Edge is the third book in a series by Nicky Epstein.  I reviewed Knitting on the Edge and Knitting Over The Edge years ago (almost 5 years ago!)  After that review I slowly added them to my knitting library, so when I realized that there were another two books in the series (Crocheting on the Edge - to be reviewed shortly) I knew that they should join my collection.

This book includes samples of cuffs, collars, corners and edges and closures.  There are amazing cabled button holes and ways to start (or finish) sweaters and mittens.  And knit frog closures!  There are delicious amounts of inspiration in this book that I could see turning into some designs I share here on ChemKnits.

The book does contain some patterns which incorporate fancy collars and cuffs.  The Belle Epoque Jacket (cover) features peplums, cuffs and cord frog closings.  There are three other sweaters before you find a really darling Deep V-neck Sleeveless Sweater (crop top!)  This sweater isn't my style, but it is certainly in fashion right now and the ruffled neckline is really hot.

Finally, there is a section to the book called "necklines &  patterns" where Nicky Epstein discusses how to incorporate some of the edgings in the book into a different pattern's neckline.  This way you can try to use this book to help modify existing patterns versus start designing a new sweater from scratch.

Knitting Beyond the Edge is a great knitting stitchionary that you should add to your library if you have any interest in knitting design or modification.  I've already mentioned that I'm feeling inspired and I cannot wait to play with some of these techniques in my designs.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Space Dyeing a Cake of Yarn with Easter Egg Dye Pellets

Easter egg dyeing kits are so much fun for dyeing yarn.  The food coloring is packaged in little dried pellets with some citric acid and are perfect for space dyeing yarn.  I love making asymmetric cake dyed yarns but I've never tried it out while using Easter Egg dye pellets (PAAS Color Cups).

I've always wanted to put dye in the middle of a cake of yarn.  With liquid dyes the only option would be to use a syringe or something to apply dye to the center.  The Easter Egg Pellets are a perfect solution, if I slip some inside the cake then more dye will penetrate the yarn.  Watch the video to see how it turns out!  (Or check out the spoilers below.)

If you want to try some space dyeing of yarn cakes, what can you do if you can't get your hands on Easter Egg dyeing kits?  Why not try freezing some concentrated food coloring to insert into a cake of yarn.

Top of the cake
Bottom of the cake
I am really excited with the way this yarn came out.  Can you think of any other fun experiments I could do with these Easter Egg Pellets?  I still have more kits to play with in my stash!
The final asymmetric gradient

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Another Crochet Market Bag

I just couldn't help myself.  I loved the first market bag I crocheted so much that I had to make some more!

There are many other free crochet market bag patterns out there, but I decided to stick with the Crochet Grocery Bag pattern I used last time.  (You will have to check out to download the pattern, but no payment is due since the cost is $0.00)  This time I also used a single skein of  Patons Kroy Socks FX in the colorway Cascade Colors (49 g, 163 yards) and size E (3.5 mm) crochet hook for the project.  This yarn has been in my stash so long it is almost the foundation of my stash!  I cannot wait to put this pretty yarn to good use.

There aren't that many non-toy/non-baby patterns that will use under 166 yards of sock yarn.  There are some cute fingerless mitts patterns, but nothing I was enamored with.  I am so happy to have found this market bag pattern.  I was nervous that it was a little small for usefulness, but I polled my favorite crafting Facebook forum and everyone thought they would be perfect.  Wahoo!

This time, I started with more yarn.  The ball of yarn weighed 54 g.  I love it when the yardage is underestimated on the label.  A 10% difference is okay by industry standards, although I tend to be upset if a ball of yarn is short by 5 g.  This yardage difference plus the mid-project weights I took last time mean that I can make this crochet market bag a little larger.

When it was time to start the decreases (9 complete rounds from previous instructions), I had 24 g of yarn left.  I decided I would knit at least 3 more rounds before starting the decreases.  After 12 rounds, 19 g remain. Again I will knit some more.  After 15 rounds total in this last step I'm ready to start the decreases.

Before Decreases
After Decreases
On feedback from my fellow Wellesley Crafters, I considered trying to make hte handles much longer, but ultimately this isn't meant to be an over the shoulder bag.  It is supposed to be a reusable evaivalent of what you could carry in a single plastic shopping bag.  And you can't go wrong with a bag you can use to carry a gallon of milk!  (It starts to pull on the hands a bit, but at least the bag isn't going to rip.)

Adding the handles
5 g remain again!  I think I crocheted a little tighter for this bag but it still fits a gallon of milk with ease.  I also didn't finish this one in a single day but it was a nice mindless project to have that helped me unwind during a stressful week.  I cannot wait to make more of these bags!

Who doesn't need a bag that is strong enough to carry a gallon of milk around?  

Saturday, September 19, 2015

My First Sewing Machine

She's here, she's here!  My first ever sewing machine, a Janome 8077 Computerized Sewing Machine.  Name is still TBD, so I'd love suggestions in the comments.

I've been waiting for YEARS to buy a sewing machine, but while we lived in apartments it just wasn't practical.  Where would I keep her?  With Halloween approaching I finally bit the bullet at the beginning of September and purchased a machine.  Why?  Well there is a particular (simple) Halloween costume I want to make Lucky and it requires the use of a sewing machine if I didn't want to torture myself with hand sewing.  So here she is!

If I was ever going to film an unboxing video, this would be my chance.  However, I don't know what have the parts are called so it would be me saying, "Here is this doodad and this thingymagig."  From the labels, it looks like this is the list of what I've got:
  • Zigzag foot A (on machine)
  • Zipper Foot E
  • Satin Stitch Foot F
  • Automatic Butonhole foot R
  • Concealed Zipper Foot
  • 1/4" Seam Foot
  • Screwdriver (flat strange piece)
  • Bobbins
  • two sets of needles (size 12 and 14)
  • Seam ripper
  • Large & Small Spool Holders
  • Spool Stand,
  • Felt
  • Additional Spool pin

Are there any other accessories that would be useful to own?  I'd love advice!

I thought that I'd put on project runway while I was setting up the machine, but I really REALLY need the manual.  I don't know how to wind a bobbin!  The first (brown) bobbin was really wonky, but I didn't realize that I needed to lower the bobbin onto the stand thing.  The black bobbin winding went much better.

When I ordered my machine I also ordered some fabric for the first few projects in the book 1, 2, 3 Sew: Build Your Skills with 33 Simple Sewing Projects by Ellen Luckett Baker (see my review).  Unfortunately the machine arrived before the fabric, so I pressed out some scraps from my no sew pillows and played around with the machine.

Since my first project is going to be Lucky's costume I figured I'd start playing with the wonky brown bobbin and thread. You can't really tell, but I did sew two (fairly) straight seems and even reversed the second one at the end a bit to secure the thread!  Woot woot!  I am sewing on the slowest setting so I can figure out some control.  Of course, working on only one piece of fabric right now I have no idea how I'd use a seam ripper to remove these stitches.

When I was playing with the zigzag stitch (playing with width and closeness) I can tell that my tension is too great for this single piece of quilting cotton.  The tension improved once I started stitch two pieces of fabric together (as one would expect.)  Lower Numbers = less tension!

I also ordered a Fiskars Fabric Cutting Set which has a wide clear ruler, a cutting mat and a rotary cutter.  I'm still waiting on my fabric scissors and seam ripper to arrive in the mail, but those should be showing up any day now.

Well look at that, I'm off and ready to continue sewing.  Now I just need to get my fabric out for my first projects.  Yowza!

Is there anything I should add to my sewing kit to get started?  I'm very new at this so I'm looking for recommendations for basically everything!