Ten MORE of the nerdiest crafts I have made

Project #5 preview: My DNA is showing!

Project #5 preview: My DNA is showing!

In 2012, I shared a list of the Top Ten nerdiest crafts I have made. Recently, I realized I have made enough nerdy crafts since then to have a second top ten list. (And who doesn’t love a good listicle? I am a total sucker for them.)

Here’s the list! I have written about most of these before, but #5 and #1 are brand new projects!

10. Harry Potter Cat Toy20120821_174144Details: Knit in August 2012 for a couchsurfing host, first blogged here, based on this pattern.

Nerd Alert: The recipient had two cats named Harry and Ron (brothers!), so of course their cat toy had to be knit in Gryffindor colors. I also gave it a mane, because of course I did.

Bonus Pics:

Harry caught the snitch, er, mouse in his mouth.

Harry caught the snitch, er, mouse in his mouth.

Honorable Mention: I recently knit a purple washcloth with the Knight Bus on it. Maybe the pattern did not turn out very visible…OR maybe, the Knight Bus cannot be seen with muggle eyes. You decide.

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9. Sweatered Shetland Pony Cozy

2014-11-17 13.24.17Details: Knit in November 2014 for a fellow knitting friend, blogged here, pattern details here.

Nerd Alert: Many knitters make sweaters. A select few knit sweaters for Shetland Ponies. But to my knowledge, I am the only one who had made a sweater for a knitted pony on a beer cozy.

Bonus Pics:

one pint of ale, please.

one pint of ale, please.

8. Katniss Cowl

2014-03-29 17.54.23Details: Knit in March 2014 for myself, blogged here, ravelry pattern notes here. Based on the cowl the main character wore in the second Hunger Games film.

Nerd Alert: Did I wear this to see the most recent Hunger Games  film? Yes, yes I did. Also, it’s still held together at the side with my cable needle.

Bonus Pics:

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7. TARDIS PillowTime And Relative Dimension In Spacebigger on the OTHER side!Details: Knit in December 2013 for my brother, blogged here, pattern details here.

Nerd Alert: You don’t have to be a Doctor Who fan to enjoy this pillow across all of time and space…but it helps. I blame/thank my brother for introducing me to the show. (Also—notice how it’s bigger on the other side!)

Bonus Pics:

just a little blue box

6. Adventure Time Washcloth

IMG_1935Details: Knit in December 2012 for my brother, blogged here, pattern from here.

Nerd Alert: Confession—I haven’t seen Adventure Time. I know this is Finn. His face is a little gray but he doesn’t seem to mind.

5. DNA Double Helix Legwarmers

2015-01-07 16.49.17Details: New project! Knit in January 2015, pattern details here.

Nerd Alert: That’s right—that’s a double helix cable! Expertly charted, or so I have read. The original pattern was for a scarf, but I added some ribbing to the top and bottom, knit two of the pattern at a time, and stitched them together in the back to create legwarmers. (And yes—I wear these! To the gym! In public!)

Bonus Pics:

Bringing back the 80s.

Bringing back the 80s.

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4. Battlestar Galactica T-Shirt

2013-10-01 14.36.33Details: Made in August 2013 for myself.

Nerd Alert: Not only did I stencil the signature phrase “So Say We All” from BSG onto a t-shirt—I also made a second shirt for my friend with the phrase “Nothing But the Rain,” an even more obscure reference. Nerdy stenciling at its best.

Bonus Pics:

Starbuck, what do you hear?

Starbuck, what do you hear?

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3. Sonic Screwdriver Chapstick Cozy

2014-01-22 10.54.33Details: Knit in January 2014 for myself, blogged here, pattern here.

Nerd Alert: Not only did I make Doctor Who’s sonic screwdriver to hold two chapsticks…I may have shown it to a cosplaying Tenth Doctor I ran into. Just saying.

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2. Cylon Potholder

20130101_113650Details: Knit in November 2012 for the friend who introduced me to Battlestar Galactica, blogged here, pattern here.

Nerd Alert: Before I saw BSG, I dismissed it as Top Gun with Robots in Space. That is, until my friend convinced me it was about luch more than that (like the ethics of what it means to be human—I was sold) and I gave it a chance. To thank her for this, I made her a potholder that not only had a creepy red glowing cyclon “eye” but the words “FRACK” and rounded corners at the top. It’s a terrifying potholder. I’m that kind of friend.

1. The Dungeon Master’s D4 Dice Bag2014-12-21 14.33.06Details: New Project! Knit in December 2014 for my brother, pattern here.

Nerd Alert: I’ve never played Dungeon and Dragons, but my brother leads several D&D groups and has need of dice transportation! Not only did this project require maths to get the exact size of triangle, it also required sewing a zipper. I stitched the numbers in different embroidery threads to make it extra colorful!

Bonus Pics:

(You should be able to get an idea of how to sew the zipper in from these photos)

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While I enjoy making things for myself, the best part of being able to knit something nerdy is having something fun to give to the lovely nerdy people in my life. Here’s to ten more nerdy knits!

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2015: Out with the New and In with the Old!

2015-01-11_154351The title of this post pretty much sums up my goals for the making of things in the coming year. At its most basic, “out with the new and in with the old” means as much as possible, I’m going to try to use what I’ve got on hand or what I can get second hand to knit, sew, costume, or otherwise craft, instead of buying new materials. Not exclusively, but as much as is feasible. I already do this a lot, but I wanted to be more intentional about it. (I promise this won’t become one of those smug greener-than-thou sort of projects. If I need to buy new buttons, I’ll buy some new freaking buttons!)

Here’s what this kind of making has looked like this month:

Creative Stash Knitting

challenge: How to knit with what you’ve got when your yarn doesn’t fit the pattern.

2015-01-11_162626When you have been knitting for many years, you develop a yarn stash. Extra yarn left over from previous projects, yarn that friends or family gifted you, yarn that you bought for a purpose never fulfilled—they all live in the stash. My stash lives in a small underbed storage box.

I’m trying to get even more inventive with the ways I can knit from my stash. This hat is one of those projects. I knit with small amounts of a wool-and-mohair-blend yarn I had in a few colors in my stash. I used the quick and very lovely pattern easy ombre slouch hat by Paul S Neary. Well, sort of. I weighed the yarn on a scale realized I did have enough of the green yarn to do the full pattern. So I just did the colorwork pattern until I ran out of green. And it still looks good.

The only disadvantage to this strategy is that I’m going to have to be flexible with the outcomes. My hat came out far less slouchy because I omitted extra rows of the pattern. I’m going to soak and block it, but it doesn’t seem to quite fit over the sheer volume of my hair now.

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I think it may need to be a gift to someone else, and I’m ok with that.

Thrifted and Salvaged Crafts

challenge: How to make useful and beautiful things without buying new stuff.

2015-01-11_141850I think the hardest thing about trying not to buy new things is that I have to be patient. I have to forgo the instant gratification for the long game of keeping an eye out. It’s probably not a bad trait to work on. At any rate, being patient was what led me to find and refashion these chairs.

2015-01-11 12.38.25I had been using folding wood chairs in my kitchen for years when I spotted this guy and its twin at my dumpster. I hauled them inside just before a rainstorm. They were not in good shape. But my neighbor friend had assured me that wooden chairs with fabric covers are easy to re-cover.

2015-01-11 12.39.34-1I found my “fabric” at the thrift store. It was a large pillowcase with a green tree print that I bought for 60 cents.

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If you want to do this project, make sure you have a screwdriver that fits the screws on the underside of the chair, scissors, a staple gun, and enough staples. (I borrowed the staple gun and ran to the hardware store to get staples). A seam ripper and an iron are also handy if your fabric is being repurposed. And a flashlight or headlamp is a plus if your screws are hard to see.

2015-01-11_132940I didn’t “measure” exactly but I did make sure there was enough fabric to cover both seats.

2015-01-11_141331Stapling is the most fun part. Just make sure that you don’t cover up the holes where the screws are going to go back in.

2015-01-11_1528002015-01-11_1528082015-01-11_153222Screwing the whole thing back together is the most annoying part. Again, patience is key. Trim any excess fabric that is in your way.

2015-01-11_154512It’s kind of ridiculous that this whole project cost under a dollar, considering how much I like the end result.

Repurposing Unfinished Projects

challenge: How to revisit the incomplete objects from the past and find a place for them in the present.

2015-01-11_164450The dirty little secret of any maker of things is the UFO—the unfinished object. We all have at least one— a project that can’t be completed but also can’t be tossed. They are hidden away for weeks, months—or in my case, ten years.

If I am really going to go “out with the new and in with the old,” I have to revisit my UFOs. And I did. To do so, I first I had give up what I had planned for this piece to be back them and think about what it could be here and now.

2015-01-11_162953What you see here is the front piece of a completely imaginary argyle sweater. I knit it in 2005—specifically, in February and March during the weeks I was in the hospital after a really bad car accident. I must have asked someone to bring me some knitting needles and yarn from home, but I don’t remember. I do remember how I spent ages planning and designing and knitting this blue and green argyle pattern in my hospital bed while I was unable to walk. I was completely determined to knit myself a sweater.

2015-01-11_163006But this sweater was never going to exist, because I had no idea what I was doing. I was a beginning knitter and ravelry did not exist (neither did YouTube). You can see how my stitches were uneven, and how the blue and green yarns are thicker than the white yarn and did not stay flat. I also had no concept of how a sweater was constructed. And even I can’t make sense of my knitting notes now, although the argyle chart is pretty solid:

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2015-01-17 11.40.49So I knit this whole pseudo pattern, and then it sat, in a bag, doing nothing. As I got better at knitting, I became convinced it was unredeemable. It was a symbol of knitting failure. That is, until I rediscovered it while cleaning last weekend. This time it didn’t remind me of failure—I looked at it and remembered how much I had loved it and how it had been a bright spot in my life during a really dark time. I also still had the borrowed staple gun in my possession, and I had an idea.

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In keeping with “out with the new,” I went to the thrift store. I found a large framed image there for $2.50. The important thing about the frame was that had a removable back (those little black tabs around the back are always a good sign). I brought it home.

2015-01-11_164425I then lightly steam blocked the argyle piece, stretched it across what had been the print inside the frame, and stapled it into place. With some careful wiggling, I got it back into the frame and secured with the black tabs.

2015-01-11_172355Now my long abandoned argyle sweater project is a framed and mounted work of fiber art on my wall. And I can’t even describe how much joy I feel when I look up at it. Yes, I was crazy stubborn to try to design and knit my own sweater with no experience from a hospital bed. And yeah, it’s wonky and full of flaws. But I love it— I poured myself into it and I can see the beauty in it now. What was old suddenly looks new.

 

The green cardigan of 2014

I knit a sweater! It took forever. But it’s finished and I love it.

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This is my version of the Mrs. Darcy cardigan. According to my ravelry project page, I started it on January 5, 2014. I sewed the final buttons on December 7, 2014.

2014-01-11 16.56.38 The post where I first described this sweater is here.

Everything went quickly at first. I finished the sleeves in January, but I stalled in February because I realized that I would need to modify this short, deep V neck cardigan to fit my long torso. I ended up using Wakenda’s modifications to the pattern. The funny thing is, her version looks very different from the original pattern—the V isn’t very deep. But I also added lots of extra length, so it actually ended up looking a lot like the original pattern!

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Here is it without buttons. I essentially made an extra long size small, blended to a medium nearing the shoulders. It used a little under 5 skeins of Cascade 220.

2014-12-07 22.23.27This was my first time ever sewing buttons onto knitting. I used this video tutorial and it helped quite a bit. You really have to make sure you compensate for the thickness of the sweater when you sew them on, especially if you make a cardigan that fits as snugly as this one. You also have to remove the cat before sewing them on. Obviously.

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Fun fact: since I’m a lefty knitter, the buttons are on the “wrong” side for a woman’s sweater! It’s knit in the round, you see. Yet another quirk of left-handed knitting.

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More pictures:

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from the front.

2014-12-08 16.33.36from the side.

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from the back.

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unbuttoned.

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detail of the bust darts I added (it does seem to improve the shaping) and construction of the shoulder. I had never done a bottom up sweater, so wakenda’s description of joining sleeves was much appreciated.

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I added an extra inch or so at the armpit when I seamed it together, mostly because when I started this sweater I did not have any muscle from climbing, but now I do, and those shoulders were gonna be tight (the forearms are a little snug, but that’s less of an issue).

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It takes me forever to finish a big knitting project like this, but I’m always happy with the results. Here’s to tacking another sweater in 2015!

 

 

 

Three colorwork men’s hats

*Mild Warning—the Reindeer hat is slightly NSFW!*

This is a quick post to share some knit and crochet hats I’ve made. Some of them are things I made a long time ago but never shared (in those cases, sorry about the crappy quality of the old photos!). They all have three things in common—they are hats, they were made gifts, and they involved colorwork. They were all things I made for guys as well, but they don’t have to be for men only—I would wear any one of these hats.

Hats make great holiday gifts—they don’t take as much time or require as much fitting as other projects do, they are super practical, and you can probably make them with yarn in your stash. This patterns, as usually, are all available on the internet for free.

To the hats!

The Striped Beanie (Crochet)

The fastest way for me to make a hat is to crochet one. And the easiest way to make said hat more interesting is to add stripes.

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I made this beanie in a few hours using blue, gray, and black worsted weight wool from my stash. I placed stripes of blue and gray two rounds tall between stripes of black that were one round tall so no one color dominated.

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I do not actually have a pattern for this hat—I have done versions of it several times, and I adjust it to the recipient. But I would suggest using this free beanie pattern if you want to make something similar.

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Here’s a version I made seven (!) years ago, this time out of two colors of bulky weight wool blend, with one stripe 5 rounds tall in the middle:

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(side note—look at how long my hair was then!)

The Swell Earflap (Knit)

Want something a little more challenging and with more ear coverage? Try Swell:

matt_in_hat_medium

This earflap hat has a basic repeating chart to form the wave pattern. You need to be comfortable with colorwork in the round, but once you get the hang of the pattern it’s not too difficult.

I will say that this pattern runs small! I am a loose knitter and I made the medium—it just fit him. Also, it looks best on very short or very long hair, but not so great on my medium-short curly bob:

swell-Photo_318_medium

That’s me trying to keep my hair under the earflaps without success.

In my version, I omitted the peace sign on the earflap and joined the flaps to the hat with knit stitches in stead of purls to make it more seamless.

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Originally I did include the tassels, but the recipient preferred it without, and was able to remove them without difficulty.

The Procreating Ungulant (Knit)

Looking to make a hat with more complicated colorwork and a slightly NSFW motif? The Fornicating Deer is probably what you want:

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This is hat is the full package—it’s seasonal, it’s intricate, and it features two deer in the process of making another deer. It also runs really small. Confession—the first time I made it, I got 3/4 of the way through a size small and had to rip it back. It was awful. But the final product (made with gray and black wool, worsted weight) turned great.

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My version was a weird size—I actually used Swell as a basis for it, sort of. Since the medium sized Swell hat had 88 stitches and did not divide by the 32 stitch chart, I actually started knitting at the beginning of the second tree and ended at the end of the first tree, then did this all over again (total of two times). This gave me a total of 90 stitches, which was close enough to the original swell pattern (I just increased twice before beginning the chart and decreased twice before starting the top decreases). It worked.

Surprisingly, with the colors I chose, the exact activities of said reindeer are not apparent until you really examine it closely. Heh.

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:

2014-09-13 15.41.31

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:

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.