Knitting Recipe Remixes: Shetland Pony Drink Cozy + Handbook Fingerless Chevron Mitts

Recipes. I use them all the time in cooking—I’ll certainly be consulting a few for the Thanksgiving dishes I’m making next week. However, I usually see the ingredients and directions as more suggestions than mandates. And I often combine elements of different recipes to get the final results I am looking for. I like to remix my recipes.

Lately, that’s what I’ve been doing with my knitting as well. It’s finally knitting weather here in California, and I have been working on projects big and small. But I can’t resist remixing the recipes—combining elements of two patterns to get the finished object I really want. It’s one step above following a pattern with a few modifications, which is easy but can only transform the pattern so much. And it’s one step below writing your own pattern, which is great for creating exactly what you want but takes a lot of time and effort to do properly.

I’ve got two remixed knitting recipes for you. Both are small, relatively quick knits.  They all involve bits of colorwork, so they are perfect for stash busting. They also make great gifts—and you won’t find them anywhere else!

Shetland: The Pony Drink Cozy (ravelry)

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If you have not seen the video of Shetland Ponies Wearing Cardigan Sweaters, you should really go do so now. I’ll wait.

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My friend and fellow knitter, who loves shetland ponies and this video in particular, had a birthday recently. This was the gift I gave her.

Ingredients

20-25 yds main color, worsted weight

10-15 yds contrasting color, worsted weight

2-3 yds scraps of three colors for sweater, sock or lace weight

knitting needles (sz 7 or whatever gives you gauge)

tapestry needle (I used metal not plastic)

Patterns Used

f. pea’s beer cozy (raverlyblog)

Jóhanna Hjaltadóttir’s Hestapeysa sweater (ravelry, pdf)

Directions

The basic idea is to knit the beer cozy pattern FLAT with the pony chart from the sweater centered in the middle. Cast on 32 stitches and work in ribbing as directed for beer cozy. (I don’t have many in-progress shots but you can at least see how it looks flat):

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After work the ribbing from the beer cozy, start the pony chart. To center it, do some basic math:

32 (beer cozy width) – 18 (pony chart width) =14 stitches /2 = 7 stitches of main color on each side

Complete chart (I added one contrasting color stitch extra on the head to give it that shetland mane look). Add 3 more rows, then finish with top ribbing (if you skip these rows, the pony’s head gets squished into the ribbing). Bind off in ribbing and leave a 12-15 inch tail for sewing.

Thread your tapestry needle with one of the sweater yarn scraps (if you have different thicknesses of yarn, start with the thickest). Outline the outer edge of what will be the cardigan, stitching around the lower neck, partway down the front legs, and half way down the back. With the second color, stitch several parallel lines diagonally across the sweater. With the third color, stitch several lines perpendicular to the first set of lines. This will create the illusion of a sweater. Be careful to keep the tension on the yarn as even as possible, because the whole thing needs to stretch over a glass.

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Weave in and cut all the ends except the long main color one at the bind off edge. With tapestry needle, use kitchener stitch to connect the two edges of the beer cozy. Weave in and cut this end, then admire how your drink sweater is a pony wearing its own sweater!

Handbook: Fingerless Chevron Mitts (ravelry)

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A few weekends ago, I went to this conference, where all of the presenters were contributors to an upcoming Oxford Handbook. As I listened to the presentations, I worked on these fingerless mitts. Much like publishing a handbook, with these fingerless mitts I had to take a lot of different pieces—different colors, different lengths—and try to blend them into a seamless finished product.

Ingredients

100-120 yds main color, worsted weight

5-20 yds each of four contrasting colors, worsted weight

double pointed needles (size 6 or whatever you need to obtain gauge)

tapestry needle and patience

Patterns used

Maggie Smith’s Fingerless Mitts (ravelry)

Kat Lewinski’s Those Zig-Zag Mittens (ravelry, blog)

Directions

Just a heads up—this recipe involves a lot of weaving in ends! But other than that its fast and satisfying. I had never done a chevron (zig zag) pattern before, and I really enjoyed it.

Before you cast on, decide how many chevron rows you want of each color and the order that you want them in. You may want to place strands of each yarn next to each other to see what you like best. Make sure to include at least one section of the main color!

Cast on—you can either cast on 44 stitches as the Zig Zag patterns says, OR you can cast on in a higher or lower multiple of 11 for bigger or smaller hands. Just know that chevron is very snug, so it can’t be too small as it won;t stretch as much as stockinette. I have small hands and I knit loosely, so I cast on 33 stitches and then did only three total repeats of the chevron pattern, not 4: (k2tog, k3, M1L, k1, M1R, k3, ssk).

Important tip! On the end of first round of a new color, knit in pattern to the last stitch, then grab the tail/non working yarn from where you joined the new color, and knit that together with the working yarn on the last stitch of that first round. It will help reducing the hole that tends to occur at the color change. (I didn’t figure this out until rather late in the knitting process.)

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After you switch back to main color, do one more round in the zig zag mitts pattern. Then switch back to the fingerless mitts pattern to make the thumb increases. But instead of doing increases until you get to the designated number of stitches as that pattern says, just add 14 to whatever number of stitches you started with. In my case, 33 + 14 = 47 stitches is when I did the bind off for the thumb.

Now you have a choice—you can increase or decrease your stitch count to a multiple of four and then do the ribbing at the top like the fingerless mitt pattern says, or you can keep your stitch count and do a small repeat the chevron stitch at the top instead. That’s what I did.

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If I had to do it over again, I might have begun the bind off a bit sooner. Just make sure to do several purl rows before you bind off, as knit stockinette will tend to curl. I haven’t blocked these yet so I’m hoping some of the curl in mine will come out.

Further option:I also added a few more rounds at the thumb—two knit rounds, four purl rounds, then bind off.

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Are you ready for the least fun part? Because While your fingerless mitt will look like this on the outside…

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It will look like this on the inside. So: get your tapestry needle and start weaving in all those ends. If there are any gaps occurring where you changed color, now is the time weave through those spots so they are less visible. Have patience, it will be worth it.

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I was too excited and I photographed these mitts before blocking—but look at those lovely colors! There’s something about chevron that looks classier than stripes. It’s nice to have a stash busting project that uses the leftover bits of colorful yarn that I love.

 

 

Remembrance Knits: Cardigan Sweaters from The Great War

Three years ago—on November 11, the anniversary of World War I’s end—I started this blog. Every year since, on what is known as Veteran’s Day in the U.S. and Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth, I have shared free knitting and crochet patterns from my thrifted 1918 copy of Fleisher’s Knitting and Crocheting Manual (16th edition), which dates to the era of the Great War. (Check out the 2012 post and the 2013 post for more patterns.)

I’m continuing the tradition this year with a special post of all cardigan sweater patterns. There’s a little something for everyone—knitting and crochet, children’s and adult’s sizes. I decided to share all sweater patterns partly because it’s National Knit a Sweater Month, and partly because I have finally seen what one of these 100-year-old sweaters looks like in color! Way back in February, Cassandra of Knit the Hell Out knit the Pensacola Sweater from this knitting manual (You can read about why she made it and how she interpreted the pattern here). You should really check it out!

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Sweaters are inspiring me this year. So without further ado: this year’s free knitting patterns!

Bobby Sweater and Rosemary Sweater (knit)

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Have some little ones? Then check out these adorable mini cardigans for children. Like most of these patterns, there are no sizes listed. The “Germantown Zephyr” yarn was a probably a DK or worsted weight yarn and a ladies vest took about 6 balls to make, if that helps. As the Bobby Sweater requires only 4 balls, I would guess it’s probably more of a toddler size, and the Rosemary Sweater at 8 balls was probably intended for preschool to early elementary school age children, but again, it’s hard to say.

I love the simplicity of Bobby—only 3 big buttons!  But I also love the details on the Rosemary, with its fun collar, interesting stitch pattern, and off center row of buttons.

Athol Sweater (knit)

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Who can say no to Angora cuffs? Ok, that’s not really the biggest appeal of this women’s cardigan to me. What I like about Athol is the stitch pattern, which looks easy enough but is eye-catching with its ribs and ridges. I also really appreciate that sweater model is making use of those pockets.

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Athol also comes with a handy schematic of for sweater construction. It looks pretty straightforward—back, set in sleeves, two front pieces. (Guess you’re on your own for attaching the collar.)

Northwoods Sweater (crochet)

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One of the interesting things about this Fleisher’s Manual is how many crochet patterns it had. Northwoods is a boy’s cardigan done in crochet with a worsted weight wool yarn. I think every detail of this sweater is nicely done—the pockets, the cuffs, the shawl collar.

While I’m not sure what size it is, this patterns also comes with a schematic for how to piece it together. Once you have swatched to get gauge, you could figure out approximately what size you will end up with.

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P.S. There is also a man’s version of this sweater, but it’s missing pockets! Why?? I don’t know, but it just didn’t look as nice as the boys version.

Man’s Sweater (crochet)EPSON MFP image

So instead of sharing the adult Northwoods, I thought I’d share the creatively named “Man’s Sweater.” Man’s is also crochet— not exactly a common phenomenon for men’s cardigans! (I looked on ravlery for crochet men’s cardigans and there are like, six total.) I think the upper pockets are a bit ridiculous (and I swear they are not lined up properly in the photo) but I like the button collar and the overall construction looks very pleasing.

Hope you enjoyed this year’s 1918 patterns! I promise to have some of my own knitting posted soon.

 

 

Costume Extravaganza: DIY Halloween for 2014

It’s that time of year again—Halloween! The perfect holiday for those who love to craftily construct homemade costumes. The holiday for those of us who never got too old to play dress up:

Me and my little bro as pint-sized cowboys

Me and my little bro as pint-sized cowboys

The DIY Halloween costume post has become a little bit of a tradition for me. In my 2012 Halloween costume post, I shared four fun DIY costume ideas (not including those from my top ten nerdiest crafts post), including Patty Mayonnaise, Princess Peach, Holly Golightly and a Carrot. In my 2013 Halloween costume post, I shared six more playful costumes, some for individuals like Radioactive Marie Curie, Ballerina Annie Oakley, and Lady David Bowie, as well as some for groups like Alice in Wonderland, Game of Thrones, and The Great Gatsby.

This year, my focus is on fun, kick a$$, and easy DIY costumes for ladies. Every October, there are news stories about how store bought Halloween costumes for women (and increasingly girls) are pretty much all “Sexy Fill-in-the-Blank.” No problem if that’s what you’re looking for—but now it’s basically the only option out there. On the other hand, every year there are news stories about the amazing DIY costume ideas out there—which are fantastic, but often take a lot of time and/or money to make. This blog post covers the middle ground! So without further ado, here are 6 costume ideas in three categories.

HISTORICAL COSTUMES

The Ghost of Amelia Earheart

2013-10-31 23.03.26 - Version 2In keeping with the creepy-versions-of-historical-women theme of several previous costumes, this was my Halloween costume last year. Famous female pilot Amelia Earheart was the first woman aviator to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. She disappeared without a trace while flying across the Pacific Ocean in 1937. She still haunts people’s imaginations—which is why she makes a perfect ghost.

2013-10-26 21.30.01Most of this costume consisted of clothing I already had—a button-up white blouse, gray scarf, tan pants, brown boots and a brown faux leather jacket. The two items I had to purchase were the aviator hat and the googles. I got both online for relatively cheap—both were found on ebay for about $10. (Apologies for the blurry mirror photo).

2013-10-26 21.30.14Since I wore this costume to two different parties, so I had some time to work on the ghost makeup. The first time I did it very subtle, as in the close up above—white powder on my face, light gray eyeshadow around my eyes, and black lipstick. But the next time, I went for a more ghoulish, undead look.

Photo on 10-31-13 at 7.53 PM #2Here I used black and dark gray eyeshadow and black eyeliner around my eyes, with the light gray eyeshadow on my cheeks. It was a much more dramatic look, kind of like an easier version of the grayscale makeup I’ve seen people do. I like this version better.

2013-10-31 20.54.19This was easily my favorite photo from the party. And the costume was a hit!

Thanksgiving Pilgrim

Photo on 11-23-13 at 1.18 AM #3If you don’t mind skipping ahead one holiday, you too can be a Pilgrim. I realize that pilgrim women wore bonnets and dresses, but I really wanted to wear the buckle hat, so I did.

2013-11-22 15.34.52This costume does require a little bit of sewing. But you only need a small amount of white fabric (felt for the least sewing) and an old shoe lace. You can make a quick collar pattern by folding your felt in half (if it’s fabric, make sure there are two layers of it, then fold in half), then finding a shirt or dress with a neckline that fits you well and folding that in half too. Trace the line of the neck and extend the shoulder line as far as you would like it (the longer the line, the bigger the collar). Then trace a one-quarter circle from the shoulder line to the fabric fold. There’s a good tutorial here.

2013-11-22 15.06.34If you used felt, just sew the shoulder seams together, cut the shoelace in half, and sew it to the corners of the collar at the neck. If you used doubled over fabric, bear with me, I’m bad at sewing descriptions and I did this a year ago. Basically you’ll have four pieces of fabric, you need to sew them into two facings. Sew the shoulder seams for each pair together so that you have two complete collars facings. Put them right sides together and sew those collars together around the edges, except for the inner curved neckline. Turn right side in and press. Turn neckline hem about 1/2 inch in and press. Top stitch together, leaving 1/2 inch open spaces at the corners, then thread the shoelace in one opening and out the other.

2013-11-23 14.01.42Now for the hat and shoes! You’ll need construction paper (or large pieces of foam sheet paper), an X-acto knife or scissors, and tape. I used a wide brimmed black felt hat to start. I cut two rectangles of black construction paper and taped them together at an angle and placed that over the top to make it look more like a Pilgrim’s hat. I then cut a rectangle out of yellow foam paper, cut a smaller rectangle out of the center, and taped it to the hat as a buckle.

Photo on 11-23-13 at 1.18 AM #4Make two more buckles and tape them to some black shoes (Mary Janes work well). I paired all of this with some simple clothing I already had—white tights, white socks, knee length black shorts and a black long sleeve t-shirt.

2013-11-22 22.56.11Don’t forget to make a hand turkey! Mine is crossing a busy street, as the local turkeys are wont to do.

additional ideas:

I already blogged about our live action Oregon Trail game, but the prairie girl outfit is another good historical costume! Your Laura-Ingalls-Wilder-loving-inner-ten-year-old will be proud of you for making your own bonnet.

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NERDY COSTUMES

River Song 

2014-10-18 13.10.33I am a total sucker for the cheesy wonderfulness that is Doctor Who, as you probably know from previous posts. But a realistic costume for his fellow time traveling troublemaker River Song was not in the cards for me—her original parachute style dress is outrageously expensive now. So this is my version.

2014-07-16 14.39.29First, the dress. I really wanted to make one that looked like hers, but my sewing skills are not that advanced. Instead I found one in a similar color with the same zipper style neckline on ebay for about $12. It took some searching and it’s a bit loose on me, but you know. I like to think my hair makes up for it.

2014-07-16 14.44.59Now of course, the most important DIY part of this costume is my sonic screwdriver. This is my own original pattern for a sonic screwdriver chapstick holder, which you can find right here! Alternately, you could also just hold a banana like I did in the first photo (and for any fans who point out she wore a different dress when she had the banana…this is probably not the cosplay website you were looking for). Or you could buy or make your very own TARDIS journal—there’s a great tutorial for making one here.

2014-10-18 13.24.56The only other accessories you really need are some brown boots, black tights (not pictured because it’s still like 80 degrees here), and a wide studded belt. I faked it here with the two brown belts put together. A brown gun holster would also be a nice touch.

Ensign Ro

2014-10-18 13.56.32Any other Stark Trek TNG fans out there? Casual viewers may not know this character, but I always had a soft spot for Ensign Ro Laren. I’ll admit, I threw this costume together last minute because I discovered I still had the uniform top in my costume box. I’ve had it since I was like 12! (I’m not sure whether to be slightly proud or slightly embarrassed by this). It doesn’t quite fit as well as it used to, but it works.

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I had some fun making her Bajoran earpiece for this costume. I used a broken necklace, a regular pierced earring and a clip on earring to recreate it. I also made a pip for the collar of my uniform using a thumb tack and an earring backing, just as I did when I was 12. I didn’t get too elaborate with the Bajoran nose—I just used eyeshadow in two different shades of brown to create the illusion of creases.

2014-10-18 13.55.09Truth: I was not quite ready to take photos of myself outside in this, so excuse the blurry mirror photo. This is just to show the rest of the outfit (black leggings, black boots). If I’d had more time I would have straightened my hair and tried to find a red headband. At least there are some stars in the background!

additional costume ideas:

If you can knit the Hunger Games Cowl fast enough, you could be Katnis Everdeen! Bonus: it would be a warm and cozy costume.

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ABSTRACT COSTUMES

Anatomical Heart

2014-03-08 19.05.57Sometimes, I like to attempt non-humanoid costumes. I was particularly pleased with this interpretation of the human heart. Since veins and arteries are often depicted in blues and reds in anatomical drawings, I went with that theme. I painted dots in blue eyeshadow and red lipstick on my forehead, with an earring of each color. Then I found some children’s tights in a discount bin at Target in blue and red. I cut off the feet and stuck one arm in each, tying them together behind my back to form a sort of shrug. It stayed put surprisingly well.

2014-03-08 19.05.19Recognize the top? It’s was my Valentine’s Day party Free Fall Tank. It’s a quick pattern that you could totally finish before Oct. 31. I thought it worked well for the heart costume too. The red belt and the black tutu…well, that was more to make it more costume-y for the party. But check out the tights!

2014-03-08 19.06.20These were the tights that actually inspired the whole costume. Ebay tights are the best.

2014-03-08 21.04.31You should know that I served lots of donuts dressed like this. I doubt anyone knew what it was supposed to be, but I knew what it was. In my heart.

Christmas Tree

2013-12-15 02.05.43As I promised that some of these costumes would be very easy, this final idea is one that I executed in about 30 minutes. Technically this was for an ugly sweater party around Christmas time, but it works just as well for the October holiday.

2013-12-15 02.05.12Remember the foam sheets I mentioned for the Pilgrim costume? I got a bag of odd sized ones from the dollar store, and cut them into squares. I used all the green ones to create a Christmas tree with a brown one for a stump, then found some sparkly ones in different colors to be the gifts below. I used duct tape to adhere them to an old sweater and wore it with my brightest red pants.

68877_10101285046722953_685670951_nYou could always go as a grumpy Christmas elf too.

additional ideas:

I think leggings can be a great inspiration for abstract costumes. If I had a chance, I would probably pair these paint splatter leggings I have with an actual paint splattered top.

this 2014-04-06 13.09.322014-04-06 15.23.28 plus this 2014-09-05 22.35.23

 

I hope these costumes inspire some epic Halloween 2014 creations of your own!

NSFW: The Fantastically Phallic lip balm holder

(NSFW: The following post contains photos of a phallus made from yarn and as many phallic puns and double entendres as I could manage. You have been forewarned.)

It’s been a long time since my last post! Let’s skip the part where I explain how busy I’ve been, and get on to the gettin’ busy part—namely, the phallic lip balm holder. Also known as the penis lipgloss cozy. Also known as the chapdick. (I could go on, but you get the idea):

2014-09-13 15.41.58This project didn’t take too long (long!) to finish (finish!), mainly because I was really pressed for time. But I wanted to add a personalized touch (touch!) to my bachelorette party gift for a fellow knitter and crafter. Another friend suggested I knit something as a gift, and I recalled how my version of a chapstick holder that I blogged about back in February looked a bit like a tiny penis, thanks to the color of yarn I used. And so that became the inspiration for Phallicozy.

2014-09-13 15.41.10While I could have used a pattern, because there are some nice free knit patterns here and here as well as a nice free crochet one here, I decided to just wing it. It wasn’t too hard (hard!). I went with crochet instead of knitting and held the yarn double because I knew it would go faster and that the finished project would be thicker (thicker!) I tried to take notes as I went, but I am the worst at crochet patterns because I rarely read them, so they are rather vague.

I started with chaining 5 and making a circle, then increased in every stitch so that each round was 10. I kept crocheting in the round until it was about as tall as the lip gloss I was going to put inside it (put inside it!). Then I decreased every two stitches just before the end, which became the bottom (I wanted it to open at the top but it didn’t work with the shape of the lip gloss). For the testicular formation, I started with the same first two steps, then crocheted one round, then immediately decreased in every stitch in the next two rounds, finally pulling the yarn through the last few stitches at the top. I stuffed each with half a cotton ball, tied the family jewels together and sewed them securely the base. The final result was that it could stand erect (erect!) all by itself:

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If I’d had more time, I would have put a little more effort into the contouring and shaping of said member and figured out a way to give it a top opening. But as it is, I’m pleased with the results. It’s hard to go wrong with a chapdick!

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:

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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

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(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).

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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:

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

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

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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):

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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…

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…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:

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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.

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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:

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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!)

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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):

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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):

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We even had a pixelated horse!

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

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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!

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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”

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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.

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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!

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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:

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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:

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Oh the mid 2000s and their memes…

Fishy Potholders! (bonus crochet!)

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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:

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Fingerless mitts: Vancouver Fog

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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Sweater in Progress: Mrs. Darcy Cardigan

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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.

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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.

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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.