Thowback Thursday: Tank Top Tutorial

This post is a true throwback—it’s the first complete garment I ever knit! I made this tank top about 11 years ago, after several failed attempts at other items (a not-long-enough scarf, a hat so pointy even Peter Pan wouldn’t wear it). I didn’t even have a pattern! And yet somehow, it turned out well, and I still wear it to this day:

2014-07-08 10.05.45

I received this yarn (which has long since been discontinued) as a thank you gift for cat sitting while my hometown neighbors were in Italy on summer. I knit the tank top by taking my measurements, checking my gauge, and making up the rest as I went a long. I remember writing down a few important numbers on a sticky note, which has long since been lost. I have reverse engineered my own work (as best I can) so I can give you a tutorial on how to make it. It’s quite simple, knits up quickly, and shows off a variegated or multicolor yarn well. I’m calling it Piena Estate, which loosely translated means “high summer” or “midsummer” in Italian.

Piena Estate: a Tank Top Tutorial

2014-07-08 10.03.16

(Quick note—please ask my permission before reproducing any of the content here, and when you do, cite me as the source! I don’t mind sharing this pattern as long as it’s for non-commercial purposes.)

Materials

Yarn:  I believe I used close to 3 balls of Mondial  Il Cotone Mexico (50g and 100m per ball), a two ply-yarn that I think was probably sport weight  (60% acrylic, 35% cotton, 5% nylon). It looked like this:tank top yarn

My guess is that a variegated sock yarn or DK weight yarn could also work for this top, especially if it is a cotton blend. Yardage will depend on your measurements and your gauge.

One circular knitting needle, at least 24 inches long, size 6 (or size needed to obtain gauge)

Optional but recommended: two double pointed needles in the same size, which will make the I cord part go much faster.

needle and thread

Gauge

16 sts and  30 rows = 4 inch square. Since you calculate the number of stitches based on your gauge, it’s ok to have some variation here. The suggested gauge for this yarn was originally 18 sts and 25 rows for a 10cm (4.5in)  square, but I was a very loose knitter back in the day. Don’t knit too tightly on this one unless your yarn has a lot of stretch!

Directions

Casting on:

Take your measurements at your bust, waist, and wherever you want the hem of your tank top to hit. If your yarn has a good amount stretch as mine did, you won’t need to add to this, and you can even have a slight negative ease. Then make sure to measure the distance in length between these points too. I made this top short by my standards (12 inches total length in the body section), and the place where I wanted the hem to fall was about 30 inches, so I cast on 120 sts. I would suggest making a longer top if you think you have the yarn for it! If your cast on number of stitches is odd, add or subtract a stitch so that your ribbing will line up.

Ribbing: Join sts in the round and place a stitch marker (this will be the center front of the top). Knit in a 1×1 rib (k1, p1) for 1 inch (or more if you want a longer ribbing).

2014-07-08 10.09.36

Body: After the ribbing, you’ll knit every stitch in each round from here on out.

Wonky math time! This is when you have to decide how to shape the garment if you would like shaping for the waist and the bust, and decide how to spread out your decreases. For example, I wanted to decrease from 30 inches around at the hem to 26 inches around at the waist, and these were 6 inches apart (since I had the 1 inch ribbing, I was now 5 inches from the waist). So I wanted to decrease from my original 120 stitches to 104 stitches (26 x my gauge of 4 st per inch) over 5 inches. I needed to space out 16 decreases. Since I knew that 30 rows was 4 inches in my gauge, 32 rounds would be a little over 4 inches. 32 divided by 16 =2 decreases per round. So I knit a few rounds without any decreases, then started decreasing twice in each row after that until I was 6 inches from the hem of my top.

The math here is only guestimated because I did it so long ago (where did I put the decreases? I think on the sides, far from the center stitch marker, but I’m not certain).

Once you have made it to the waist, you’ll need to do the same wonky math to figure out how spread out your increases between the waist and the bust. By now I’m sure you’re a pro! And remember, the best thing about knitting a garment in the round is that you can transfer the working stitches onto some waste yarn and try it on as you go.

Once you have come to the bust, continue knitting in the round until the piece is long enough to fully cover your bust with the waist in the right place when tried on. (You can add some decreases near the top of the garment if that helps it fit better, I didn’t because I have a broad back and I wanted to keep the width). Cast off, making sure to take note of where your center stitch is.

2014-07-08 10.10.12

Straps: I did not have best technique for attaching my straps back then, so I have given instructions for what is the proper way to do it here.

Lay out your garment flat and find your front center marker. To place your straps, I suggest measuring the width at the top of the garment and dividing it into thirds. So if your top is 15 inches across, you have three sections of 5 inches each. The two outer thirds (the 5 inches on the left and 5 inches on the right) are where you will pick up stitches for the straps. The center marker should be in the middle of the middle 5 inches of the stitches.  I’ve tried to illustrate this below, with knitting needles marking the 5 inch sections:

2014-07-10 12.26.56

Pick up an even number of stitches within that left third of the front of the garment with the wrong side facing you. I ended up picking up 16 stitches which was about 4 inches not 5, because that looked better to me when I tried it on. Knit one row.

Starting with a right side row:  k2tog, k to last two stitches, ssk. Continue in this manner, decreasing two stitches in every row until you have 4 stitches remaining.

I cord:  To make the strap, do the following, switching to the double pointed needles if you have them.

Knit across, do NOT turn.

Slide stitches to the other point of the needle.

Knit across, do not turn, slide stitches to the other point of the needle.

Continue in this fashion, once again trying on the top as you go to see when the strap is long enough to attach to the back. It will probably about 15 to 18 inches from the picked up stitches (mine is 18 in, but I have a long upper torso). You can either attach this left strap to the corresponding  place on the back for a regular style tank top, or attach it to the opposite side of the back for the racer back style. I tried the regular way first, but the I cord straps rolled around too much for my liking, and it stayed in place much better when I switched to the racer back, which is what I recommend.

Once you have enough I cord, cast off, leaving a long enough tail to sew the end to the back of the garment.

Repeat the same process for the other strap. In the back my straps are attached about 7 inches apart. Then if you have made a racer back tank, take your needle and thread and stitch the I cords together where they cross. It’s not required but it really helps them stay in place. Weave in and trim all remaining ends.

2014-07-08 10.07.58

Hope you enjoyed the tutorial! Let me know if you find a good yarn to substitute for my discontinued one.

personalized little knit gifts

I’ve let almost all of June go by without a post! It’s been a busy month of researching and writing, traveling and celebrating. I have knit two little gifts for friends that I’ve been meaning to share—both are cotton, quick to knit up, and personalized, which for me are the best things to make in these warmer months.

However, I have not been taking the best notes on my knitting, nor have I been taking good photos of my work! With apologies for the quality, here’s what I’ve been making.

Couples chalk bags

2014-04-26 11.29.28

Recently, some very cool friends of mine got married. As it happens, they had also recently gotten into rock climbing, but they did not yet have chalk bags. So I used some of the rudimentary designs from my chalk bag pattern Beta (ravelry) to make them some matching chalk bags in this bulky cotton yarn from my stash. Because the yarn was so thick, they knit up super quick—I made them the day before the wedding! I took that blurry photo above just before heading to the ceremony.

2014-05-13 20.26.02

Here they are in action! I think I would probably make the drawstrings shorter if I had it to do over again—I meant for them to be tied in bows, but the yarn is a bit too bulky, it doesn’t work as well as it does for the original pattern. I didn’t keep track of the number of stitches or rows here because I was in a hurry, but I did do a gauge swatch so I could figure out how to make these bags close to the dimensions of the original pattern.

2014-05-13 20.28.332014-05-13 20.28.30

It’s hard to get a non-blurry action shot of gym climbing, but you get the idea. I used the smallest size needle that would work with this yarn so that they could be used without a lining. I think unlined knit chalk bags work best with a tight gauge and a chalk ball inside as opposed to loose chalk. And of course, couples chalk bags work best when you’re climbing together. ;c)

Footnote washcloth

2014-06-16 00.45.27I have a musician friend who is having a birthday this week, and when I knew I would get a chance to visit him shortly beforehand, I decided to knit him something. One of the most unusual things about his music is that he wrote and can perform a song on guitar where he plays using his hands and his feet:

Jimplayingwithfeet

I decided that his knit gift should include some colorwork with both a foot and a musical note—a footnote if you will. This piece is my own design and yet again I put it together rather quickly (hence the funky spacing). I’m actually quite pleased with how the color contrast came out. I’m also somewhat proud of my creative combination of instarsia and stranded colorwork knitting, which you can see on the reverse side:2014-06-16 00.45.39

I didn’t write down the pattern for this knitted cloth, but I didn’t invent this pattern out of thin air either. I looked at a charts of footprints (here) and music notes (here) for inspiration. But in the end, I made my own version that deviated from the other patterns that inspired me. Like a guitar song played with feet, this bit of knitting ended up being rather unique.

The Oregon Trail game of your childhood, DIY style!

If you were in elementary school in the United States any time in the past, oh I don’t know, 40 years, you probably played the Oregon Trail computer game. The most old school version looked something like this: River Crossing at Big Blue

Several weeks ago, a group of my friends and I got the chance to recreate part of that Oregon Trail gaming experience, in live action form, for about 200 people (all grown ups, mind you!). And of course, we took a do-it-yourself approach to the task. Join me on an image-heavy DIY journey full of Bison Hunting, River Fording, Dying of Dysentery, and more! 1782479_10152423001246354_2419330697076540521_o

The Setting First, a little bit of background. We were part of an all-day event that could best be described as a moving/progressive party, with costumes, on bicycles. Everyone was in teams, the teams had themes (hence the co-ordinated costumes), and at each place we stopped for food and drink, one team hosted and the other teams competed in games. So as Team Oregon Trail, we needed to provide food, drinks, games, and of course, ambiance for our guests.

Since we were hosting at a rather rustic venue down an unpaved road, we took advantage of the opportunity to make it part of the trail, with painted cardboard signposts and gravestones: 2014-05-02 19.42.06 2014-05-02 19.40.46 2014-05-02 19.37.41

I’m so bummed I didn’t get a close up of the headstones, because I figured out a really cool way to make them look like stone: I found this speckled stone spray paint! I used gray primer and then gray stone spray paint, then we pasted printouts with epitaphs on them in courier font. To stick them in the ground, we taped them to those little signal flags—the kind you see to mark gas or water lines in construction sites—and pushed the metal parts into the ground.

Then of course, for the travelers who made it through alive, we needed a watering hole. So we made a bar! 2014-05-01 17.24.17

Using the backing of a warped bookshelf that was left at the dumpster and some acrylic black paint, we created this sign. Making the sign involved looking at some Old West style fonts online, blocking and sketching them out onto the wood, and filling it in with paintbrushes.

2014-05-02 19.21.03

Some of out team members had a tall table that was already rather DIY to begin with (the top was an old door), so we nailed the sign to the front of it.

2014-05-03 12.00.03

It made for a great bar! Not pictured is the table off to the right with lemonade and water. (If you were to re-create this event for children, I’d suggest sticking to those).

2014-05-03 12.32.08

2014-05-02 21.03.10

For food, we had chili, cornbread, chips, watermelon, and trail mix (the last was my idea—I couldn’t resist the pun!) Have you ever wondered what chili for 200 people looks like? Would you believe that this isn’t even all of it??

The Activities  We debated what our official game should be for some time, but in the end, we decided that it would be hunting. Just like in the Oregon Trail game, you would have to shoot at pixelated animals. But with a twist! (or to be more exact, a twister.)

But first, a look at the animals:

2014-05-12 11.31.30

2014-05-02 19.46.43

We had a rabbit, a bison, a deer, a squirrel, and a bird. All of them were done on cardboard with either acrylic paints or markers. For the pixelated style, they were filled in with squares of color instead of smooth lines.

2014-05-02 20.11.05

2014-05-02 20.11.312014-05-02 19.43.05

Ironically, from a distance they looked normal! They were attached with string to poles out in a field, kind of like a laundry line, but with animals.

2014-05-03 12.25.02

The actual “hunting”  game required players to shoot the animals with airsoft guns from a distance. To add an element of challenge to this game of skill, my idea was to add some possible handicaps based on all the bad things that can happen to in you in the original game—like dysentery, for example. Players from the competing teams had to spin the twister spinner and see if they would have to shoot with a handicap. There were eight such things that could happen, so I put all of them onto a twister spinner with my label maker, and then made list of their handicaps:

2014-05-02 19.47.28

Whenever possible, I made them roughly correspond to the disease or injury—for dysentery, you had to squat while shooting.

2014-05-03 12.25.38

But since not all 200 people could play the hunting game, we had a few other activities. First up: Fording the river!

2014-05-03 12.23.30

We made the “river” out of two blue tarps, held down by rocks on the sides (we changed the layout a little bit after the photo below to make it a wider river).We left out a sign, a few pieces of cardboard, and instructions for getting across (you can only have as many pieces of cardboard as you have people on the water, and everyone has to be in the river before the first person can reach the other side):

2014-05-02 20.05.28

Then we pretty much let people fend for themselves and do whatever they wanted. They could just play it like a version of “the floor is lava” and have a good time. I think everyone made it across safely…

2014-05-03 12.33.26

…But for those who wanted to see how they died on the Oregon Trail (and who didn’t?) we had the Wagon Wheel O’Death:

10330508_2405945231432_957716917925018948_n

The Wagon Wheel O’Death was exactly what it sounded like. It was made from an actual bike wheel (minus the tire and tube), mounted in the center to a piece of wood, which allowed it to spin freely. Each of the eight wedges (brown paper painted with acrylic paint) had one of the ways you could die on the Oregon Trail on it.

2014-05-02 19.46.31

2014-05-03 12.23.47

Anyone could spin the rim of the wheel, and whatever the rattlesnake’s tail (i.e. the quick release lever) pointed to, that was how they died. And then they got a sticker! A really cool sticker.2014-05-25 22.17.29

Wanted to know how I died on the Oregon Trail? Now you know.

 The Costumes  No Oregon Trail game would be complete without travelers and their means of transport! Humans and bikes both underwent some nifty transformations in preparation for the journey. Here’s most of our crew at the start of the day:

1524353_10152423001011354_482348430029231463_o

My costume included a bonnet, a dress, an apron, and a cotton corset top and shorts underneath (which came in handy because it was a hot day!)

2014-05-01 22.28.18

The dress was a thrift store dress that I altered—I wish I had take a before picture. It had long sleeves and huge, ugly silver button and trimming on the waist and wrists. I took off the buttons and trim, shortened the sleeves, and used the sleeve material to add a single hidden pocket to the full skirt.

2014-04-30 17.58.05

I sewed the bonnet myself, using scrap fabric and this tutorial a friend showed me. It was pretty useful, although it’s helpful to have some minimal sewing knowledge, like using interfacing and such. The tutorial only really lacks descriptions for two parts: how much and what kind of elastic to use (I used 6 to 7 inches of 1/2 inch elastic, guessing from the tutorial photos) and how to match the head part to the bonnet brim. To do that you need to do a basting (loose) stitch around the head piece, pull the ends of that threat to gather it, and then line it up with brim, so it looks like this:

2014-04-29 23.37.092014-04-29 23.37.19

I made mine a bit too big (I went a little bigger than the suggested dimension because I have thick hair),but it worked. I opted for ribbon ties instead of fabric ones.

2014-05-03 10.25.07

Bonnets were a popular choice for the Oregon Trail team! The one on the left in the above photo was also homemade. Our assortment of bonnets and western hats proved quite practical in the heat.

Some of also stayed out of the sun under covered wagon bikes!

10382123_10103102274793253_6345158705518214501_o

10317809_10103102274962913_8887227195104037651_o

The covered wagon bikes certainly made us stand out. I was not directly involved in their creation, but I can describe some of their basic construction. For bikes that had back baskets/racks and straight handlebars, the wagons were attached directly with clamps. For those that didn’t, two by fours attached to the bike held the wagon frame in place (a special, large drill bit was needed to drill a hole large enough for the wagon frame to fit):

10264071_10103102274039763_3635522649387505989_o

10257251_10103102274488863_4520575390980139602_o

I should point out here that the bloomers above were also home made from a sheet! Anyway, the wagon frames were made from flexible thin plastic tubing. If you want to try this, you’d probably want to play around with different types of flexible PVC pipe—the tubing we had was freely available to us, but it was rather thin and not that sturdy, and the wagon frames tended to list to one side after a while.

1504471_10103102279543733_2043966733327771208_o

The wagon coveres were sewn from sheets. The front end had a casing a little wider than the tubing, kind of like what you would sew for a curtain rod. The back was simply gathered together. We discovered that they needed some vents in the sides so that the wind wouldn’t make cycling too difficult for the cyclist inside (I think it also helped with visibility on the sides somewhat). We also had a mini version of the wagon on one of the bicycle baskets:

2014-05-03 13.13.51

No wagon train would be complete without some beasts of burden! Some of us decorated our bicycles as oxen or horses using paint and cardboard (and one of our team members dressed as an ox as well!).  We all made these separately, so there was a lot of variety in appearance.  Some of them were realistic, like these oxen, Oxford Comma and Margaret Thatcher:

2014-05-02 22.46.45

And some of them were very simple and cartoony, like my oxen, Oxnard and his buddy (I forget if we named him—I call him Ollie Oxen Free):

2014-05-01 13.11.34

We even had a pixelated horse!

IMG951678

We also got a few real life tumbleweeds from nearby fields and attached them behind bikes with string:

10321523_10103102279184453_3580585545826617831_o

2014-05-03 11.34.12

Putting this event together was a lot of work, but it was also a ton of fun. It gave me a whole new appreciation of how talented my friends are in arts, crafts, and DIY endeavors! Here’s to Team Oregon Trail 2014!

2014-05-03 14.19.15

Animal knits!

I haven’t had a lot of time for new knitting —different large craft projects are taking over, but I can’t share them yet! So today will be a Throwback Thursday post of previously unblogged knit projects from the 2000s. All are either for animals or feature animals! (Sadly, nothing knit BY animals. Yet.)

Stashbusting Kitty Bed

DSC01208

This is my version of the Princess Snowball Cat Bed. Next week is National Pet Week, and it also happens to be my cat Josephine’s birthday. I adopted Jojo nearly six years ago, and I quickly discovered that she loves to snuggle …and steal yarn.

Photo 202

When I first got her, I often found her curled up on the sweater I was knitting, which gave me the idea to knit the cat bed. It’s worth picking up the Stitch N’ Bitch book from your local library for the pattern, though if you know how to make a large garter stitch circle, you could probably come up with your own pattern.

DSC01207

I used this pattern as an opportunity to get use up a bunch of left over stash yarn. I held it double to get the extra thickness. I went with colored stripes alternated with white to use up the most possible stash yarn. Each section on the long rectangle is 9 rows. The sections on the circular base are either 6 or 7 rows each, corresponding to the increase/decrease sections of the pattern.

DSC01209

I think the finished object has a rather nautical look to it, which was unintentional but I like it. I did not stuff or sew down the outer ring, I just tucked it under and it worked fine.

DSC01216

The best part, of course, is that Jojo loves it. She loves it so much that I cannot show you a current photo of it, because it is absolutely covered in fur. It’s under a different chair in my living room now (she prefers it to be under something), and she hides there whenever an errant garbage truck or lawnmower comes too close to my home for her liking.

Cat Mat

I had a little less success making something for my mom’s cat Digory to sleep on, but I still think it’s a cool idea!

DSC00003_medium2

This is my own design, and I don’t have it with me so I can’t check the stitch count or dimensions, but it’s basically a placement-sized mat in stockinette with a garter stitch border. I searched for an alphabet chart online for a pattern for the letters (see how many free ones are on ravelry!?) and centered them in the middle. This was a quick stocking stuffer Christmas gift, so I didn’t have time to make a full cat bed.

DSC00059

Digory’s a bit of a stubborn cat, so he wouldn’t sleep on it right away, but I have since seen him on it. Sometimes.

Small Personalized Dog “Sweater”

BabsDSCF0825_medium2

Can you tell I was on a “personalized pet knits” kick for a while? This was a dog sweater of sorts for my friend’s pup, named Barbara Streisand. This and the cat mat were both Christmas 2007 knits. Back then, Ravelry was brand new and in only in beta (and I had not even heard of it), so knitters had way less online resources for patterns! Anyway, this was another one of my own pattern creations. I basically measured/eyeballed the size, then did a stockinette rectangle with ribbing at all sides and charted “Babs” at the top.

babsDSCF0824_medium2

Instead of making armholes and dealing with that whole business, I just connected the rectangle with garter stitch straps—one fit under her stomach, one went under her neck. It was loose enough so that it wouldn’t choke her, but I would still keep an eye on any dog wearing something like this just in case it got caught on something, or else connect the neck strap with velcro. This faux sweater looked rather sweet on Babs! Sadly she is no longer living, but I am glad she had a cozy sweater while she was with us.

LOLCat Blanket Buddy!

lolcatDSC00078_medium2

Moving on to knits featuring animals, I’m rather proud of my LOLCat version of the Bunny Blanket Buddy! The original pattern, which is suppose to be a child’s toy, has long rabbit ears and is pretty cute by itself—I made a half sized version for my friend’s baby shower, in fact:

DSC00069

You can easily shape the ears differently to make a dog if you wanted to. Make sure to grab some stuffing for the head part if you make this!  For the LOLCat version, I shortened the ears and put “O HAI” onto it using a crochet hook and single crochet chains. This was part of a craft swap I did way back in the day, so I made other fun LOLCat themed things like a t-shirt and I-Can-Haz-Cheezburger? style word magnets:

Photo 108

 

Oh the mid 2000s and their memes…

Fishy Potholders! (bonus crochet!)

DSC00568

Who doesn’t love a good pescetarian potholder? Once again, this was for a craft swap back in the day, so I don’t have many photos. For the crocheted clown fish oven mitt, I used this Fish pot holder pattern, with the exception of the top fin, which I eschewed in favor of a full knitted thumb. For the bottom potholder, I just did a really long stockinette rectangle with a charted goldfish pattern that I found somewhere on the internets (I can’t seem to find it now, but you could substitute this one.) I sewed it up on all sides and then added I-cord loops to both so they could be hung up.

IMPORTANT NOTE! To make both of these items safe to use when handling hot dishes out of the oven, you need to line it with insulated material that is heat resistant. I used Insul-Brite, which has a thin metallic-looking layer in the middle that helps keep your hands from getting hot. I cut a slightly smaller version of the fish oven mitt, sewed it together, and slipped it inside. For the other potholder, I cut out a piece and slipped it in before sewing up the final seam of the square.

And that’s all for this Throwback Thursday!

Katniss Cowl: A Hunger Games Knit

Last week I finally finished my version of The Huntress Cowl by LollyKnits! Here is the finished item, which resembles nothing so much as knitted armor:

2014-03-29 17.54.23

I knew that I wanted to knit some incarnation of this piece since I saw Hunger Games: Catching Fire back in December. Non-knitters might not recall what Katniss Everdeen wore in the opening scenes (images here and here), but knitters were all over it.

2014-03-29 17.58.04

I started this project way back during the Ravellenic Games, but it felt like the odds were not in my favor—that is, it took forever to complete it to my liking. However, the two biggest issues with the fit ended up canceling each other out, which left me with a garment I’m actually quite happy with.

My Huntress Cowl

When I started this project, the charcoal gray colorway in the recommended type of Lion Brand yarn was long sold out, so I went with oatmeal instead. I then had to do a lot of adjusting to account for my loose knitting gauge and my long torso. I had never knit in herringbone stitch before and the pattern gives gauge in stockinette, so I wasn’t sure if my swatch was accurate.

cowl in progress

I ended up casting on 60 stitches on size 15 needles instead of 44 stitches on size 17s, and decreasing every other row to get longer, wider triangles for the front and back piece. However, this made the triangles way too long, so when I had about 30 stitches left I started decreasing on every row.

2014-02-27 12.10.06

Pro-tip: After wet blocking, you can tell that your item is dry when the cat decides to sleep on it. You can’t quite see it in this photo, but the piece that Jo is sleeping on came out a little bigger than the other one, because I got better at herringbone stitch as I went along. It worked out fine in the end though.

 

For the neck piece, I decided to use a make a different version from the original by using a tutorial called the Hob’s Collar. I just wasn’t sure about having a super stiff rope collar in a knitted cowl. The image tutorial has detailed instructions, but it basically walks you through weaving the yarn around three circles of fabric, cut from a small shirt.

2014-02-26 16.35.082014-02-26 16.46.482014-02-26 17.15.252014-02-26 21.03.27

I ended up cutting up two shirts, one teal and one white, because my fabric was so thin. I think it worked best to have a white shirt because it makes it harder to see any parts that I didn’t completely cover with yarn. The results looked pretty great! The main downside was that it was even floppier than I imagined—it didn’t really hold this shape when it was around my neck.

2014-02-26 21.02.35

I was running low on yarn at this point, so after picking up stitches around this neck piece, I only increased to 80 stitches for the shoulder connecting piece, even though I have very broad shoulders. And even with loose knitting, it was very tight.

Soooo then I let these three pieces linger in my project bag for like two weeks. I am not a fan of seaming, and knowing that I had some wonky pieces to put together discouraged me. But guess what? When I finally picked up the sewing needle, I realized that I could tuck most of the shoulder piece stitches UNDER the collar, it would make the collar stiffer and take up most of the portion that was tight on my shoulders. There was still plenty of length in the triangles for the whole garment to work. So that is exactly what I did. I did end up sewing some rather wide triangles to a narrow collar, but it worked out pretty well.

2014-03-29 17.59.07

Above, I’m wearing the cowl with the larger triangle in the back. Below I’m wearing it with the larger triangle in the front. I think it works both ways, but I prefer the slightly larger triangle in the back.

2014-04-02 14.06.47

 

In both photos I’m using a cable needle to pin the pieces under my arm. At first it was because I was traveling and that was all I had, but now I kind of like it. When I wear it with the bigger side in front, I have to overlap the pieces differently to get a good fit.

2014-04-02 14.10.25

I had hardly any yarn left when I finished seaming, so if you’re going to make major adjustments bear that in mind! I realize that it’s Spring now and no one is really making wintry knit objects, but it was cool and rainy last week so I got to wear this more than once. If you’re willing to make the adjustments, it can be a really fun piece to wear!

2014-03-29 17.54.45

 

 

 

Green Knits for Spring, Remixed

Happy First Day of Spring! To celebrate the Vernal Equinox, I give you three green knits, each re-imagined in some way and ready for transitional weather:

2012-11-15 23.20.122014-03-17 11.02.262014-01-11 16.56.38

Fingerless mitts: Vancouver Fog

2012-11-15 23.21.59

This is my version of Vancouver Fog by Jen Balfour. Fun fact: this soft, blue green yarn used to be a different knit entirely. A long time ago, back in the loose knitting days I’ve mentioned before, I knit Calorimetry from Knitty’s Winter 2006 issue. It came out poorly:

DSC03420

See how loose it was in the back? It barely stayed on my head, and that was before it stretched out. I even overlapped the ends and did two buttons to try to keep it in place, to no avail.

DSC03415_medium2

Fast forward a year or so and I was planning to make some fingerless mitts for a friend’s birthday. She chose the Vancouver Fog pattern, with its beautiful cable pattern, and I just knew that this was the right yarn for the job. So I frogged Calorimetry and started remaking this muted, spruce colored worsted weight yarn into hand warmers.

Photo on 10-13-12 at 9.42 AM

I remember being disappointed that there wasn’t a gauge for this project, but I had learned my lesson about my loose knitting—so instead of the recommended size 7 needles, I used size 3! I know! I also cast on 4 fewer stitched than recommended. Yes, I went that tight! But the results were spot on:

2012-11-15 23.21.06

These fingerless mitts were a good fit, and I got to practice some cool cabling techniques. I’m quite pleased with my decision to frog the original pattern.

BEFORE

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER

Fingerless mitts are great for those times when it’s too cool out for bare hands, but not cold enough for gloves!

Leafy Skirt or Mini Cape: Entry Level Capelet

2014-03-17 11.02.26

This is a really old project, but the loose knitting didn’t matter with this very simple garment. It’s the aptly named Entry Level Capelet by Haley Waxberg. It’s a good pattern for a hand dyed variegated yarn like this one. The color pooling was not even, but that gives it an interesting self-spiraling effect at the top. (side note: you can tell how old the photo below is by how long my hair was!)

DSCF0354_medium2

However, I almost always wear my version in a different way now—as a skirt! The yarn was just a little too scratchy to be touching my arms/neck, so I made an I-cord and wove it through the top band, then tied the I-cord at my waist. I added some leaves because, you know, I love leaves—I have no idea where I got the pattern for them, but the standard knitted leaf pattern seen here.

2014-03-17 11.04.37

I still wear this skirt fairly often—it’s great with a pair of leggings, and it’s nice when it’s just a little bit cool out.

2014-03-17 11.05.33

Sweater in Progress: Mrs. Darcy Cardigan

2014-01-11 16.56.38

My final green project is still on the needles! It’s the Mrs. Darcy Cardigan by Mary Weaver in Knits that Fit (and unlike most of my knits, this one required checking out a book at the library).With a title like that, it’s only appropriate to do a lot of tweaks to the pattern, right? It may not be obvious from the photo above, but I’m making the arms much longer than the pattern calls for to accommodate my arms and shoulders. I wish I had known before I made these that to get the true twisted rib, others knitters knew to p1 to back on the wrong side, because the pattern doesn’t indicate this and the ribbing on the cuffs won’t look as sharp as it could.

2014-03-19 22.19.10

I’ve since moved on to knitting the body. You’ll have to forgive the blurry action shot here, but at least it captures the true green of the yarn! (It’s Cascade 220, in, you guessed it, Spring Green.) I decided that since I have a long torso that is quite wide at the top, I’d use ravelry user wakenda’s modifications to get a gentler slope on the cardigan’s v neck, which I think will still be quite striking.

2014-03-19 22.19.40

I’m always a little hesitant to blog about my works in progress, but this partway knit green cardigan is too verdant not to share, and cardigans are great for spring weather. Hopefully this post will inspire me to finish it soon!

*bonus postscript announcement* If you read this far, you might enjoy the fact that I recently added categories to the blog, and then went back and retroactively categorized every past post! I created the categories based on what I seem to write about most, so you can find similar posts without having to scroll through past years.

First Attempt at Felting!

I made a gray felted cap—check it out!

2014-02-23 16.54.33

I’ve been putting off the final seaming on my latest knitting project (The Huntress Cowl worn by Katniss in the second Hunger Games movie), so instead I’m going to share my first ever felted item with you. Doing so requires me to reveal the kind of project I never thought I would share on this blog: a bad finished object. That’s right—I’m going to show you a total flop, and how I turned it into a perfect fit.

Confessions of a Loose Knitter

Way back in the summer of 2009, while I was on a research trip in Southern California, I pulled out a ball of gray yarn, size 9 needles, and knit up  Couvercle, a brimmed hat from the summer 2008 issue of Knitty. It turned out way too big:

Photo 290

It stretched out even further after these photos were taken. Some of my errors were those many novice knitters might make—for example, I used a heavy worsted weight wool yarn instead of a bulky cotton yarn like the pattern called for, because I was away from home and wanted to use the yarn I’d brought. Rookie mistake. But even if I’d used the appropriate weight and fiber of yarn, my hat would have still turned out too big —because, as I have since learned, I Am A Loose Knitter.

Photo 291Photo 293

While I hear a lot more about people who are Tight Knitters, I know there are some of us out there who knit loosely. I was a Loose Knitter for quite some time before I figured out that I needed to make some significant adjustments to get the right fit on things. The easiest solutions for me are to go down a needle size or two (or three), always do a gauge swatch, and pick the smaller of two options when I’m in between sizes.These aren’t failsafes of course—I can’t tell you how many gauge swatches I’ve done that seemed like they fit the pattern specs, only to knit the thing and find it stretching out quite a bit over time. But at least I have learned!

The thing is, I still have some finished objects from the early Loose Knitting days. like this Couvercle hat. And since I hated to see it go to waste, I decided it was the perfect chance to try out felting.

The Felting Process

Technically, since that hat was already knitted, the technique I used here is called “fulling.” There are lots of tutorials out there on this process, but the ones I used for reference here are this one from Knitty and this one from Luscious Gracious Studios. I decided to do the washing machine method as opposed to the hand felting process, which worked well because it took quite a while. As per the instructions, I used the hottest water and the lowest water level setting, an old pair of jeans, and a small amount of liquid soap (Method brand in my case). I put the hat in a pillow case and safety pinned it shut to keep the extra fibers from escaping and clogging the washer (fold the top over at least twice before you do this!). And then I put on a timer and checked the hat every 5 minutes until it was how I wanted it, resetting the washer to the beginning of the cycle as needed it to keep it from going through the spin cycle. Here’s what it looked like at each stage:

2013-11-03 14.56.35 After 10 min.

I forgot to take a photo at the first check (5 minutes) but believe me, the hat was even bigger than you see here. This can be disconcerting  when you’re trying to shrink something, but rest assured that in the beginning of the process, it is normal!

2013-11-03 15.08.22After 15 min.

So the hat was still huge at this point, but the spaces between the stitches were getting smaller. A good sign. Also, I should mention that at every check in I pulled any errant bits of wool out of the washer—just be careful as the water is quite hot.

2013-11-03 15.17.56After 20 min.

The hat was getting noticeable smaller and thicker at this point, and it was also trying really hard to escape its pillowcase. I was also worried it would felt to itself and not leave an opening for my head, as I’ve heard can occasionally happen. So at this point I pinned the top center of the hat to the inside of the pillowcase. It worked! Though it did have an unintended consequence, as you shall see.

2013-11-03 15.28.39After 25 min.

Still shrinking very slowly here, where I got a nice shot of the brim. If I had it to do over again, I would have added some more length to the brim because I really like that feature of the hat and it shrunk too.

2013-11-03 15.37.05After 30 min.

Finally getting close! By this point the hat was thick and fuzzy, it just needed to be a little bit smaller. I let it go through the last  five minutes, then allowed the washer to go through the rinse cycle and a little bit of the spin cycle before I pulled it out.

2013-11-03 16.00.38 After 40 min.

Here was the end result! The thickness and the size were now exactly what I wanted. I had a little bit of trouble removing the safety pin however, as the hat had begun to felt around it! That’s why, in the first photo of this post, you can see a little nubbin at the top—that’s where I finally pulled out the safety pin.

To make sure that the hat retained its proper hat shape, I put it over a bowl to roughly mimic my head shape and let it dry that way. I didn’t time the drying process but it was definitely dry in 48 hours.

The Finished Cap

2014-02-23 16.42.37

This hat is actually closer to the intended size of the pattern than my loosely knit one. Since it is a little bit smaller and doesn’t have the stretch of knitting, I usually use a bobby pin or two to keep it in place.

2014-02-23 16.44.25

I count this project as a successful retooling of an unsuccessful knit, as I only wore the original hat out once in 4 years, but I’ve already worn this felted version several times.

2014-02-23 16.45.372014-02-23 16.46.16

I had to do this project at a friend’s house, since the washing machines in my complex are expensive and do not have the best settings for getting hot water and low water levels. I will definitely be doing this again though— I already have another felting project in mind. I’m excited to potentially reclaim more of the stretched out finished objects of my earlier Loose Knitting days.

Quick Winter Knits, Round Two (Valentine’s Day edition)

I’ve been wanting to do a follow up to my 2012 on quick winter knits and my 2013 procrastiknits post for a while now, and here it is! Between getting a cold last week and the 2014 Winter Olympics starting this week(ish), I’ve had a lot of time to whip up some projects. I think any of these would make great Ravellenic Games knits. (As a side note, if you have  qualms about anything having to do with the Sochi Olympics, check out what Leethal is doing on her knitting blog. Pretty genius move.)

One of these projects really is Valentine’s Day themed, but I’m going to say that there’s something for everyone to love here, including a few things for those who don’t care for the holiday whatsoever. So without further ado, here are my finished objects: a racerback tank, neck collar, ear warmer, cowl and chapstick holder. All are free patterns available on ravelry!

Pink Free Fall Tank Top

2014-02-13 16.28.42

This Valentine’s Day, some good friends are throwing a dance party, and they encouraged us to dress for the occasion. Unfortunately, I don’t own any truly pink clothing. But instead of turing to the obvious solution (thrift stores, borrow something), I was like, “I bet I can knit something pink!” So that’s what I did.

2014-02-13 16.31.06

This is my version of Annina Päivärinta’s Free Fall Tank. The amazing thing about this tank pattern is that it only take one skein! This is thanks to the drop stitch in the pattern, which I’d never tried before but loved.

2014-02-13 16.34.56

This photos is probably the closest to the true color of this tank. To get this color, I held together one strand of sport weight red wool I recycled from a thrifted sweater with two strands of a hot pink, lace weight mohair yarn that I have literally had in my stash since my roommate in college gave it to me. I have no idea why I kept it, but I’m glad I did.

2014-02-13 16.33.05

There aren’t a lot of photos of people wearing this tank on ravelry, and I can tell you why—when you knit it in one skein of cotton yarn as directed, the drop stitches make it really revealing. In my version, using three strands of fuzzy yarn, this is not as much the case unless you are looking rather closely.

2014-02-13 16.34.302014-02-13 16.27.322014-02-02 20.31.03

There were a number of comments about the chart for this pattern by ravelry knitters, and I’ll admit, it is a tad confusing. I’d say its an intermediate skill pattern. I made a size small with a few mods based on their comments and my own measurements:  stitch makers to mark all of the yarn overs, several extra inches of length, two stitches cast on at the bottoms of the drops instead of three, and an irregular rib at the bottom for three rounds. I’m really pleased with the results!

Pink Kink Collar

2013-10-01 14.42.19

I made this quite a whole ago, but since it uses the same yarn combo as the free fall tank, it seems a good time to share it. The pattern is Kink by Jodie Gordon Lucas, featured in Knitty 2010.

pink kink 1

This in-progress shot gives you a view of what the strands of yarn look like by themselves! It’s a pretty straightforward pattern that works with a variety of yarns and is not too difficult to memorize. You can also wear it in a number of ways, depending on how you attach your pin or button. I’m thinking about attaching another button so I can wear it differently. If you’re not ready to commit to a hot pink top, this is a good way to use a brightly colored yarn. I  mainly wear this with neutral colors, especially black.

2013-10-01 14.42.25

speaking of black…

Black Ear Warmer

Photo on 2-7-14 at 4.52 PM

If you’re more the type to wear black on February 14, I’ve got two super easy projects for you. The first is this Ear Band pattern, appropriately titled Beginning Ear Warmer. I wanted the most straightforward pattern possible, and this garter stitch band was exactly that.Photo on 2-7-14 at 4.52 PM #2

With my hair I can wear this two ways. My main reason for wanting a basic black ear warmer is for riding my bike—my ears get cold faster than anything else, and I wanted it to match anything I could possibly be wearing so that would never deter me from using it.

Black Drop Stitch Cowl

2014-02-14 11.44.15

The quality of these photos doesn’t even capture how cool this cowl is (black objects + rushing to take photos = not the best idea). The pattern is Abi Gregorio’s Drop Stitch Cowl, which I became determined to knit after enjoying the drop stitch look on the free fall tank.

2014-02-14 11.40.16

Most of the ravelery reviews insisted that this was a lightning fast knit, and they were right. I didn’t quite have enough yarn for the pattern, so in my version I used size 13 instead of size 15 needles, omitted one of the repeats ,and shortened two garter stitch sections. I would have loved if my cowl was  taller and wider, but I’m really impressed that there was a pattern to use up my leftover, super bulky black yarn!

2014-02-14 11.42.33

I’m thinking I will make this cowl again in a color when I get the chance.

Chaptstick Holder

2014-02-13 16.08.44

This is the only quick knit that wasn’t for me. After showing my sonic screwdriver chapstick holder to friends, I got a request for a basic chaptstick holder that could attach to a harness during rock climbing. So I used Victoria Trauger’s Chapstick Holder pattern and made this. I could tell you about how in my version I made some mods to make it fit better (12 stitches around instead of 16, 6 stitches instead of 8 for the flap), or how I love the elephant button I used at the top. But mostly I want to tell you why this is related to Valentine’s Day knitting. I supposed it could be the connection between chapstick, lips, and kissing. But personally, all I could think when I was making this pattern in this color was, geez, this looks really…phallic.

2014-02-13 16.08.28

Nevertheless, this chapstick holder does its job! I attached a key ring to the side and handed it off to its recipient at the rock climbing gym last night. Here’s a blurry action shot of the chaptsick holder on his harness.

2014-02-13 20.10.18

And that concludes this edition of quick winter knits! <3

Beta: a chalk bag knitting pattern for rock climbers!

As promised, I have a new free pattern in my series of activity-related knitting. Last time it was a pattern for a colorful yoga mat bag. This time it’s pattern to make a uniquely colored chalk bag for rock climbing! Introducing, Beta:

2014-01-14 16.31.09

I tried rock climbing for the first time ever in a climbing gym about seven months ago. I was amazed at how much I liked it, and I’ve climbed there almost every week since June. I never thought of climbing as my kind of activity, but I love that it is both a mental and physical challenge. (A side benefit of the latter is that I have actually have some upper body strength now!)

2014-01-14 21.06.22

One of the things that climbers often have on their person is a chalk bag, as chalk can help you get a better grip on holds when your hands start to get sweaty. After seeing someone who had a crocheted chalk bag at the gym (she received it as a gift and didn’t know how it was made), I decided I had to knit my own. I also decided that it should match the other gear I use while top roping. So I wrote a pattern that incorporates the colors of my belay device, harness, and shoes, AND for good measure, loosely mirrors the pattern on the strap of my particular harness ( this one by Mammut) with stranded colorwork. You can kind of see all this in the photo above. Here’s a lovely (blurry) action shot of me “chalking up” with my new chalk bag:

2014-01-14 20.32.49

In climbing terms, ‘beta’ usually refers to descriptions of or advice about a particular route. I thought it was a fitting name for a knitting pattern like this one. I don’t expect that many people will want to replicate the exact colorwork that I have done, because it is so tailored to my climbing gear. But you can use this pattern as advice for how to make a chalk bag in whatever style and color you want.

[EDIT: I almost forgot to include some "in progress" pics!]

2013-12-29 11.07.052013-12-29 13.44.56

The only thing I don’t have good advice on is how much yarn you need, because I used leftovers from the Bernat Handicrafter Cotton that I had from making the yoga mat bag. I would guess that since skeins are 80 yds/50g each, to be on the safe side you’d want to have about 1/2 skein of white, 1/3 skein each of orange and grey, and 1/4 skein of green, but I did not measure or weigh my yarn so I am truly guessing. In the future I will try to take notes!

2014-01-14 16.31.22

I’m going to post the whole pattern below, but for the first time ever I have made a pattern into a free ravelry download, so if you are on ravelry, you can get the pattern there as well, and  post your own finished version!

Beta: A climber’s chalk bag pattern
Yarn: Worsted weight cotton yarn in white, green, gray, and orange
(this version was made with Bernat Handicrafter Cotton)
Materials:
One set of double pointed knitting needles, size 4
Yarn needle
Optional: stitch marker for start of round
Gauge:
18 stitches and 26 rows= 4 in. square.
Gauge is not super important as long as you can fit your hand inside the bag.
Chalk bag pattern
Cast on 56 stitches in green, divide onto four needles (14 stitches on each)
Round 1-4: knit
Rounds 5-8: switch to white, knit
Round 9: (k6, yo, k2tog), repeat to end of round
Rounds 10-13: knit
Colorwork section:
Rounds 14-21: Work Chart 1.
Chart 1

Chart 1

Rounds 22-29: Work Chart 2.

Chart 2

Chart 2

Rounds 30-37: Work Chart 1 again.
Decrease section:
Round 38: with white, knit
Round 39: (k2tog, k1) repeat until last two stitches remain, k2tog
Round 40: knit
Rounds 41-46: Repeat rounds 39 and 40 three times
Round 47: k2tog all around
At this point you should have about 6 stitches remaining.
Break yarn leaving a long tail, pull through remaining stitches. Weave in ends.
I-cord closure
With white yarn, cast two stitches onto a double pointed needle
Knit across, but do NOT turn. Slide stitches to the other point of the needle
Repeat until I-Cord is the desired length, approximately 30 inches.  Cast off.
Weave through the yarn over holes.
I-cord carabiner loop
Cast on 4 stitches in green, leaving a long tail (8-10 inches) for sewing
Knit an I-cord as for closure
When I-cord is 3 inches long, cast off stitches leaving another tail of yarn.
Using yarn needle, sew tails of yarn into the bag at the desired location.
 Liner options:
If you sew, you can make a fabric lining for the inside of the bag and stitch it in place. Otherwise, putting a zip closure plastic baggie inside or using a chalk ball will minimize the amount of chalk that falls out. A tighter gauge will also help loose chalk remain inside.

2014-01-14 16.32.42

 If you prefer written instructions to charts, I’ve typed them up below:
Chart 1 written out:
Round 14: knit
Rounds 15-16: switch to gray, knit
Round 17: (k1 orange, k2 gray, k5 orange), repeat to end of round, carrying floats in back
Round 18: (k5 orange, k2 gray, k1 orange), repeat to end of round, carrying floats in back
Rounds 19-20: with gray, knit
Round 21: switch to white, knit
 Chart 2 written out:

Round 22: knit

Rounds 23-24: switch to orange, knit

Round 25: (k5 gray, k2 orange, k1 gray), repeat to end of round, carrying floats in back

Round 26: (k5 gray, k2 orange, k1 gray), repeat to end of round, carrying floats in back

Rounds 27-28: with orange yarn, knit

Round 29: switch to white, knit

Abbreviations used:

k = knit,  yo =yarn over, k2tog =knit two together

As before, you must ask my permission before reproducing any of the content here, and when you do, cite me as the source!

2014-01-14 21.06.49

Happy Climbing!

Sonic Screwdriver Chapstick Holder!

My blog reached 10,000 views today! To celebrate, I’m sharing details about my most recent finished object—the 10th Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, which I have conveniently modified to serve as a chapstick holder!

2014-01-22 10.54.33

 

(Yeah, that’s right, because making a TARRIS pillow was not enough whovian knitting for me…)

This project is a modification of a modification of an original pattern for a Doctor Who sonic screwdriver. That pattern was for the sonic used by the 11th Doctor (Matt Smith), which is different in shape and size. I found this modification from user Cordetta on ravelry that changed the colors and some of the shape to be more like that of the 10th Doctor (David Tennant), which is what I wanted. I have to give a lot of props to her mod for helping me out! But I had to modify it even further to make it shorter and tighter to fit two chapsticks with just a little room on the ends.

To be honest, when I finished this project it was late and I did not record every single detail of my knitting. But I wrote down enough to tell you approximately how I did it.

2014-01-19 22.04.12

10th Doctor’s Sonic Chapstick Holder

materials:
-size 3 double pointed needles (set of 4), yarn needle.
-worsted weight yarn in black, dark gray, light gray, and blue
Cast on 9 sts in black, divide over three needles, and join to knit in the round, being careful not to twist stitches.
Rnds 1-2: k all sts
Rnds 3-5: p all sts
Rnds 6-10: p all sts
Rnds 11-12: k 1 grey, p 2 black*
Change to dark gray
Rnd 13: k all sts
Rnd 14: k1, m1, k to end of rnd (10sts)
Rnd 15: k all sts
Rnd 16: k5, m1, k to end of rnd (11sts)
Rnd 17: k all sts
Rnd 18: k9, m1, k to end of rnd (12sts)
Rnd 19: k all sts
Rnd 20: k2, m1, k to end of rnd (13sts)
Rnd 21: k all sts
Rnd 22: k7, m1, k to end of rnd (14sts)
Change to light gray
Rnd 23-35: k all sts
Rnd 36: k1, k2tog, k 2, k2tog repeat to end of rnd (11sts)
Rnd 37: k2, k2tog, k5, k2tog, k to end of rnd (10sts) 
Change to dark gray
Rnd 38: k all sts
Rnds 39-44: k1, p1, repeat to end of round
Rnd 45: p all sts*
Change to blue
Rnd 46: k all sts
Rnds 47-49: p all sts
Rnd 50: k3, k2tog, k3, k2tog (8 sts)
Cast off loosely.
With blue yarn and yarn needle, stitch a straight line lengthwise up the light gray section.
2014-01-20 10.12.27

*if you haven’t done colorwork before, consider skipping these two rounds and going straight to the gray section, it’s kind of annoying to do. If you chose to do it (I promise, it looks cool!), be careful to move the black yarn to the inside of the work at the end of the last round.

**at this point, if you want to weave any of the ends into the inside of the tube, do it now! It will be too tight to turn it inside out after the final section.

As always, remember that my gauge is looser than most—use your own tube of lip balm as a guide. The way I made mine, both ends are open but they are tighter than the middle section, so the chapstick naturally remains inside until I push it out. I’m sure there are ways you could make a closure at the top or bottom, but I found I didn’t need it.

The sonic screwdriver chapstick holder—it doesn’t work on wood or deadbolts, but it does work on dry lips!