Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Owlie Sleep Sack

When I first came across the Owlie Sleep Sack, I thought it was one of the most darling knitting patterns I'd ever seen.  (NB that the pattern says you should never leave the baby in the sleep sack unattended.)  Even if it isn't useful for sleeping, it would make an adorable prop for a newborn photo shoot!

I was super excited to make my first project with owl cables.  As you can see from my pattern search, there are dozens of free knitting patterns that feature Owl Cables.  I used some "remnant" (in quotes because I have hundreds of grams) worsted weight wool/acrylic blend from my SIL on size 7 needles.

I love going to Crochet Club, but I always need to have a simple project to take with me.  I figure that this sleep sack, with lots of stockinette, would be perfect for me to bring along.  It turns out the the Owl cables are at the beginning, so even though CC is tonight I need to cast on fast to get past this section to have an easy project to work on.  

I am using a larger cable (32") to try to magic loop this project.  I do not have size 7 - 16" cicular needles.  (unfortunately KnitPicks doesn't make cables that short.)  Never mind, it looks like the 24" cable will work for most of it.  I can always switch back if it  is an issue.  

I am using some miscallenous worsted weight wool/acrylic blend (brand unknown) that Sherry gave me ages ago.  It is machine washable and there is definitely enough yardage for this project.  There was a break in the yarn so I uses a Russian join!  You almost can't tell. 

The piece measures ~3.75", including the rolled brim, after the 18 owl cable rows.  (And I did finish this in time to go to crochet club without the pattern!)  

I knit a little further than 12" before starting the decreases (a total of 57 stockinette rows.)   This project consumed 85 g of the unknown wool, and measures 14.5" long.  Is this long enough for a newborn?  We'll have to wait and find out!  

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Baby Baby Baby Shawl

The project I've been most excited to make for my future child was a baby blanket.  My husband, Keith, gave me a weekly yarn sampler from Elann and when I felt the Araucania Tolhuaca (Solid Hand Dyed Cotton yarn in color 1202) cotton yarn I knew that it would be perfect for our future child.  (Of course, when I ordered it we were not yet pregnant!)  It was hard to wait through the first 13 weeks of the pregnancy before I finally allowed myself to cast on the "Alpaca Baby Shawl" on size 7 needles.   I knit the shawl on size 7 needles until the bindoff where I switched to size 9.  

The beginning of something magical. I've waited so long to cast on for this project!

Even though all of the skeins are part of the same dye lot, these are hand dyed so there is vairation in the blanket.  I'm not alternating skeins randomly because I don't want striping as much as I want pooling.  I'm just going to need to try to alternate skeins with more blue with those with less blue.  (Washing may also help these issues.)  

While I'm knitting this blanket, it rests comfortably on my growing belly.   Cuddling with my LO already!

Yarn Weights
  • First Ball 99 g - Finished at the end of round 41.
  • Second Ball 97 g - Finished at the beginning of round 60.
  • Third Ball  99 g - Finished at the end of round 73.  
  • Fourth Ball 99 g - Finished 75% of the way through Round 85.  
  • Fifth Ball 98 g - Finished at the beginning for row 96.
  • Sixth Ball 100 g - Finished at the end of round 105 (So glad that I ordered 1 more ball... see below)
  • Seventh Ball 98 g - 70 g remain after I have bound off the baby shawl.  
Yardage concerns.  
Why, oh why do I always let this happen to me?  The original pattern calls for 880 yards, but I was using a thicker yarn.  I had looked at projects using worsted weight yarn when I determined how much to buy.  I was afraid of having an excess.  Unfortuantely, this was a discontinued yarn that I purcahsed through Elann for just under $5 a skein.  When I searched online, I found exactly ONE other retailer selling it - and they have 7 skeins left in my color... $15/skein.  So much for my yarn diet!

By the time I reached row 96, I had finished the 5th ball of yarn.  This ball made it across just over 10 rounds.  There are 11 rounds + a bind off remaining, not enough for one skein of yarn.  I therefore had to suck it up and purchase that extra skein of yarn.  $14.00 + $4.00 shipping.  (Big Sigh.)  I decided to wait to knit with the 6th skein until the 7th arrived so I could decide if I needed to alternate rounds if the dye jobs were extremely different.  We'll see!

Thankfully when the new skein arrived it looks to be nearly indistinguishable from skein #6.  Phew!  In the end, this project consumed 620 g (744 yards).

6th skein Dye Lot 100070 (bottom) and the 7th skein Dye Lot 100076 (top.)  

Before blocking, the shawl measured 33/34" square.  (I did measure it while on a carpet, so it could have "blocked it" a bit.)  There is a whole at the center from the cast on that I needed to close to weae in loose ends.   I'm blocking the shawl this first time, but I'm glad it looks super cute when unblocked.  I cannot see myself hand washing and blocking the blanket each time the baby spits up on it!   (I will machine wash it closer to when the baby is going to arrive.)  

The shawl gained ~4 inches in each direction with blocking.  I had hoped to use my brand new blocking wires, but the YO holes weren't close enough to the edge to use easily with the wires.  It was really quick work to pin the blanket out.  

I love it!  Now we just need to wait for our little Chirphead to finish growing so we can meet him/her!  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Test Fish

Last Christmas, I gave my MIL samples of yarn so she and my FIL could select colors for an afghan.  She has some crochet afghans (granny squares) and requested something with fewer holes.  When looking through patterns, she selected the A Recipe for Fish pattern and wanted a cotton blend yarn.  I knew that Simply Cotton from KnitPicks is soft with great drape and would make a fantastic afghan.  

I am knitting up this test fish to see the size and to help estimate how much yarn I will need for this project.  Thankfully the colors she selected (in May) are still available via KnitPicks!  

I didn't measure weights to start, but instead weighed the final fish.  How long does it take to finish one fish?  Are they annoying to make?  These are the questions I hope to answer.  

I swatched the yarn held double on both size 10 and size 11 needles. The size difference (6 mm vs 8 mm) is pretty big for just a differnece of one needle size.  I will knit the fish on the size 10 because it still is cozy and has decent drape, but also a better stitch size.  

It took me under 45 min to complete one fish.  I decided to make a second fish for the test.  21g per fish.  Each fish was 8.75" long.  Two fish together are an average of 7.5" high.  

I drew a 6x8 schematic - would give us a blanket of 52.5" x 30" (4.375 ft x 2.5 ft.)  Playing around in Excel, I decided that I will aim for a 6 x 12 (or 6 x 11) tile blanket, which would require just over 30 (!) balls of yarn, assuming that each ball of yarn averages 50 g.  If each ball averages 45 g, I would need just over 34 balls.  I'm ordering 16 of each color (since I started with two.)  If I start to run out or consume it faster than expected, I can always order some extra.  

Now I just have to wait for the yarn to arrive and try to finish this by Christmas!  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Natural Dyeing Silk Scarves on Mackinac Island

From the time I was 10 or 11, my family has spent part or all of every summer on Mackinac Island.  I hadn't been back to the island in almost 5 years, which made the trip Keith and I made this summer especially special.  Many things had changed, including a HUGE yarn selecting in the drug store (my mom kept it a secret for years so I would be surprised) and a new art museum that offers different crafting classes every week.  My mom signed me up to take a natural dyeing class, and I was so excited as this has been something I've wanted to try for a long time.  

The silk scarf before I did anything to it.  
Each participant received a silk scarf that had been pre-treated with two mordants (Ferrous Acetate and Aluminum Acetate)... already in a pattern.  I was a little disappointed to not have control over these patterns, since I wanted to try something a little less typical.  However, I was so excited to see natural plant dyeing that I really didn't care that much.

I wanted to try something a little different with my scarf.  When we mixed up the Titanium Oxalate solution (15 g potassium titanyl oxalate/ 300 mL water) I decided I wanted my dip to create some diagonal stripes.  I folded the scarf lengthwise in to quarters, and then accordion folded along the bias.  I then dipped one end into the mordant solution, which resulted in the slight chevron pattern you can see above and below hanging to dry.  

To help the scarves dry, we used hair dryers.  Immediately before putting the scarves in the dye bath, we dipped them in a chalk solution (50 g calcium carbonate in 5 quarts of warm water) to help set the mordant.   I was worried about getting my scarf back, but thankfully I had the foresight to put my initials on the tag before putting it in the dyebath.  

In each pot there was some volume of water with either 67.1 g Weld (yellow) or 37.2 g Coreopsis (orange - the one I used).  The flowers had been collected and dried by the instructor.  The instructor was concerned that there wasn't enough for everyone to use a particular color, but given the timing limitations and the fact that we did not come close to exhausting the dyebath I think everyone could have used the coreopsis if they had really wanted to.  

Adding a silk scarf to the dyebath
The coreopsis pot with my scarf in it.  

A propane camp stove allowed us to do this outside.
Ultimately my scarf was only in the dye for 30-45 min.  I could have left it in the pot overnight, but there would be no good way for me to pick up the scarf the next day (July 4) and I wanted to see how it ended up.  I decided to put the scarf in a plastic bag and leave it saturated with SOME dye overnight so it could get the benefit more time to set the color.

Washing instructions:  Rinse with luke warm water.  When no more color washes out, increase heat to warm and add a little soap.  Wash into rinse water runs clear and then hang to dry.   I washed and washed and washed the scarf, but it seemed like the water never ran clear.  I finally let it soak in the bucket for 30 minutes, and after that it seemed like most of the excess color had been removed. 

I was excited to see that there was some effect from my titanium mordant application.  The overall result is fairly subtle, but the scarf definitely picked up some color in the short amount of time it had in the coreposis dyebath!  Guys, I've dyed something with natural dyes!  

Once the scarf had dried, the colors were a bit more subtle.  Unfortuantely the ferrous mordant dominates the pattern, and it is a little hard to see the diagonal stripes on the dark brown sections.   I think it is really intersting to see an example of how different mordants result in different colors from one dyebath, even if they weren't applied in a way that I would have chosen.  

Am I glad that I took this class?  Absolutely!  It wasn't perfect, but the cost was low and I got to try something I'd never experienced.  I also learned some things about how to lead a better dyeing tutorial.  Some critiques about the class:
  • The class was from 7-9 but the instructor had to leave early to catch a ferry back to the mainland.  She almost left without giving wash instructions on how to remove the dye from the scarves.  
  • Timing issues:  The plants should cook in the dyebath for 30 min (1 hr would be ideal) before adding the scarves, but we did not set up the dye bath first thing.  The modants needed to be completely dry on the scarf before adding them to the dye.  Many of these steps were hard to fit into a 2h class, so I would have started the dyes cooking immediately when setting up so they would be ready to go.  Ideally the scarves would sit in the dye overnight, but we had maybe 
  • The instructor provided a great handout for the mordants, but the handout ended with Step 3 - Dye Scarf.  There were no instructions for what we would be actually doing in the class, or how to wash the scarves after we got home.  
  • If we were only going to apply one mordant to the scarves, I would have loved to do the Ferrous Acetate since it had the greatest effect on the overall color.  Maybe there is something important with the order of application?  This was never really explained so I'm not sure what the reasoning was.  
  • From my limited silk dyeing experience, I knew that you do not want to let the fibers heat much higher than 180 degrees.  When I asked the instructor about this, she said that yes that is the case and that with too much heat the proteins responsible for the sheen start to break down.  She mentioned to me that these outdoor stoves were much harder to control the temperature (which I understood), but never shared with the whole class that ideally we would keep the pots just below a boil.  

My Dry Scarf

Even with my long list of critiques of the course, I loved the opportunity to experience a new technique and can see myself exploring natural dyeing more in the future.  Maybe someday Keith and I will set up a dye garden so I can harvest flowers leaves and roots to do my own natural dyeing.    For now, I will stick with food safe dyes that I can use in my kitchen without any concern.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Here we go, the 8th shawl of 2013!  I received the Trousseau Knitting Pattern as a RAK birthday gift last winter.  I had the pattern queued for a long time and am very excited to finally knit it up.  

I started off with two skeins of KnitPicks Alpaca Cloud in Fox Trot.  880 yards should be more than sufficient.  For once, I am not worried about running out of yarn in this project, I am only worried about it not being as large as I would like.  (Color Affection was really long, but not as deep as I had wanted.)  The times to modify the pattern to make sections larger are as you go, not at the very end.  However, I am sure that it will work out beautifully.  I knit this shawl on size 7 knitting needles.  

Notes from Construction
  • I am now comfortable with garter stitch tabs, but it was a little difficult to do with such a light weight yarn.    
  • I find it intriguing that all of the increases in the shawl are from 6 increase rows, rather than through the lace patterns itself.  This means that if you have trouble reading lace patterns  you can add stitch markers between each repeat very easily.  
  • ARGH!  I was about to start Chart B (after increase Row #4) when I realized that I had been working GARTER stitch rather than STOCKINETTE.   And I have no lifelines in this work.  Thankfully, since one of the last rows before I did garter by accident was right after Increase Row 3, I should be able to pick up stitches there.  Not such a horrible mistake, but still annoying.
    Before Frogging
    After Frogging
  • Thankfully the frogging went smoothly, and within a few episodes of the office I was able to get to where I was before I had to start over.  
  • The lace charts are really rhythmic to knit.  There essentially two different lace rows that alternate with different amount of spacer stitches on either end.  This means that the rhythm of each row is really easy to keep track of.  This would not be a hard knitting project to take to a social knitting group.  
  • I finished the first ball of yarn in the middle of round 10 in the 3rd repeat of Chart B.  
  • To join the new yarn I tied a knot somewhere in the middle and than knit with two strands together.  for a little.  (Thereby weaving in the loose ends as I go. The knot is just for stability.)
  • When I finally started Chart C I was concerned that my stitches were misaligned, but then I realized that C begins with the opposite slope to B
  • 67 g consumed total (590 yards)

This yarn is SO SOFT, I love working with it.  I kept getting distracted by smaller projects so it took me a little longer to complete than some shawls.  I'm sad to see the project completed.  I soaked the shawl in cool water for 30 min before wet blocking with new blocking wires.

After blocking, the shawl has ~2.5 ft radius.  

When blocking, I used to need to set up a barricade to keep Indy away from the knit project.  He would never eat them, but his claws are sharp and he could easily snag some delicate lace.  After almost 2 years of living with us, he has learned to NOT WALK on the blocking boards, so I no longer need to rearrange the room to protect my blocking.

Another fun note, I won prizes in the 12 Shawls Forever group for both my March and April entries!  (Winners are drawn randomly, so it was not about the quality of my knitting.)  I won my choice of knitting patterns from two different independent designers.  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

People's Favorite Baby Knitting & Crochet Patterns

I love the knitting community!  In May, I told the Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) group on Ravelry that Keith and I are expecting our first child.  I asked that people message me with their favorite baby knitting or crochet pattern.  I thought it would be fun to share the responses I got in a blog post for everyone to see.  It is one thing to research popular patterns, and other to hear personal recommendations.

Free Knitting Pattern Recommendations
  • Little Coffee Bean Cardigan - "Easy knit and it turns out so cute."  This is a darling striped raglan cardigan that would easily work for either gender.  Available as a free download, you may need to create a free account to access this pattern.  
  • Christine's Baby Booties - The message has knit over 30 (!) pairs, "...and I’m told these stay on better than any other booties."  A very classic shape with a draw string bow to help them stay on the foot.
  • OpArt - "if you do this one in black and white it’s very good for a baby’s developing eyes - they love to look at black and white patterns"  This is a very unique striped baby blanket.  The title is very descriptive to the optical patterns you create.  
  • Duck - "Absurdly cute"  My recommender is 100% correct.  These little duck feet booties/socks are absolutely adorable.  Available as a free download, you may need to create a free account to access this pattern.  
  • Aviatrix - "...the cutest stay on hat hands down and fun to make too once you get the hang of short rows and wt."  This earflap hat is really adorable and is available in sizes from newborn to young child!    Available as a free download, you may need to create a free account to access this pattern.  
  • Poppy - "I love to knit baby things! I like the Aviatrix baby hat, the girl’s version is called Poppy."  This is a cloche that has the same style lines as the earflap hat mentioned previously.  Super cute, especially with a button or knit flower ornament holding it "closed."  Available as a free download, you may need to create a free account to access this pattern.  
  • Baby Sophisticate - "Here’s my favorite free baby sweater pattern. Looks a little more boyish, which is sometimes hard to find. A fun fast knit, that’s for sure."  A little cardigan sweater with a bit of a collar.  It reminds me of Mr. Rogers (in a very good way!)  Available as a free download, you may need to create a free account to access this pattern.  
  • The Addictive Baby Blanket - "It knits up so fast and was so cuddly that I had to make a larger one for me because I [gave] mine to a coworkers bun in the oven!"  A simple textured rib baby blanket.  I love that it uses two strands of yarn so it would be a fast project. 

Free Crochet Pattern Recommendations
  • Poly-Fil Pete - "I loved making this bunny for my son - it uses up lots of odds and ends of yarn, very easy and very quick to make" A striped bunny toy, and I agree with the recommendation, it would be GREAT for using up remnant yarns!

For Purchase Knitting Pattern Recommendations - Please note that all prices listed are valid from the time I wrote this post, May - July 2013.  Prices are subject to change based on the individual designers.  
  • Bluebeary Hat - "Here’s my go-to baby shower gift." I initally expected to see a berry type hat, and I did not expect an adorbale fair isle creation with little bears around the size and then bear eyes and nose from looking at the top down.  I can see why this would be a favorite, and as someone who loves Fair Isle I can say that this hat is unique and will be a hit!  $5.00 USD

Thank you, everyone, for sending me your recommendations!  I have a lot of new patterns in my queue.  

    Thursday, July 11, 2013

    DNA Helix Kindle Cover

    My love for science came from a series of amazing teachers, but it always goes back to my Dad.  He brought me into his lab when I was little and helped me create the most amazing science fair projects in elementary school.  When my mom told me that he was hoping that I would knit him a cover for his Kindle, I was thrilled and jumped at the opprotunity to design something just for him.  (He lives in Florida, so finding things to knit for him is always a challenge!)  I decided to make the kindle with a DNA helix cable, something that was still very classy but with a nod to the love of science we both share.

    I wanted his Kindle cover to be perfect, so I actually started off creating a DNA Helix Beer Cozy so I could perfect the chart and scale.  (I will share even more about the design process later.) I hope you enjoy this DNA Helix Kindle Cover!  It has been designed with plenty of love.

    The front and back of the DNA Helix Kindle Cover

    • US Size 6 (4.0 mm) double pointed knitting needles, or circular needles long enough for magic loop.
    • KnitPicks Comfy Worsted Yarn (30 g, ~65 yards) in color Celestial or other worsted weight yarn.  This project would work with many different fiber substitutions.  
    • Notions: Cable Needle, Yarn needle for weaving in loose ends, Beer bottle to measure your progress.  
    • Gauge - 16 sts/3", 22 rows/3" over stockinette.  
    • Finished size - 4.5" x 7.5";  Designed to fit the Kindle Paperwhite 6.7" x 4.6" x 0.36".  Modifications to fit a different model are discussed at the end of the pattern.  

    Abbreviations used in this pattern
    • CN - Cable Needle
    • K - Knit
    • P - Purl
    • S1 - Slip 1 
    • St - Stitch
    • P2tog - purl 2 stitches together.  

    The Pattern
    • Cast on 48 stitches with the long tail cast on method.  Arrange the stitches on 3 needles as follows:  24, 12, 12.  
    • Join to knit in the round, work in 2x2 ribbing (K2, P2) for 3 rows.  
    • P12, Starting with row 1 (from right to left) knit the 24 stitches of the DNA Helix Chart, P12
    • Continue knitting as above until your piece measures 7.25" inches. (In the sample I worked rows 1-26 twice and then Rows 1-2 once more.)  
    • Finishing:  Turn the kindle inside out and graft the bottom together using the kitchener stitch.  (Alternatively, bind off P-wise and then stitch the bind off edge closed.) Weave in loose ends.  
    • Block if desired.  

    The Double Double Helix Cable Chart 

    The DNA Helix Chart.  Each row should be followed from right to left.  The 6 shaded purl stitches are for the side of the Kindle, youcan adjust this number if you would like the cables to be more centered on the cover.  Open the chart in a new window to see a larger version.  
    DNA Cable Knitting Chart Key

    The Kindle Cover over a cardboard mock-up of the Kindle Paperwhite.
    Modifying the Pattern to fit a different Kindle or iPad model.
    Since the DNA helix cable is designed to be off center, this pattern would be really easy to modifty to fit a differently shaped tablet.  Make a swatch to double check your gauge.  To alter the width, increase (or decrease) stitches in sets of 4 until you have the desired number.  (Remember, you want the DNA cover to be slightly smaller than your eReader so it fits snugly.) Add these stitches to the beginning and end of each cabled round.  To alter the height, add continue knitting rounds of the cable chart until the piece measures just over the length of your kindle (you want stretch in the with direction, not the length.)

    I don't have access to the Kindle Paperwhite myself, so I am modeling it on a piece of cardboard that I cut to scale. Hopefully my parents will send me a picture once it is in their hands!

    This this pattern was created by ChemKnits for your personal or charity use. This pattern is not to be replicated, sold or redistributed without permission from ChemKnits. © 2013 ChemKnits