Archive for the “gifts” Category

To bring 2016 to a creative finish, I knit this quick floppy hat for a friend. She ordered the yarn and had it sent to me, and I knit it up in a few days. It’s amazing how fast knitting goes when one doesn’t have to spend eight hours in a cubicle away from the project, isn’t it? The yarn is Cascade 220 in a surprisingly sedate gray (I’d expected her to choose a bright pink), and the pattern is the Basic Hat Formula that I keep using because it just works. The hat got a soak in some expensive hair conditioner and dried on the boot-and-glove warmer, and though it’s still a bit stiff now, it will get more floppy the more it’s worn.

Michael also finished his own floppy hat (same pattern as above, same Cascade 220, but in a muted heathery blue). Of course that means that his lost hat will turn up at any moment, as is the way of lost hats.

After the hat, I think his fingers must have been itching for something to do, because he pulled out the sock yarn and half-a-sock he’d started knitting almost a decade ago. It had a few problems, primarily that it was going to be too large (blame me for that one; I’m the one who suggested the stitch count) so we frogged it, wound it into a skein, and left it to soak. He got started on a new sock with the second ball of yarn while I recharted sections of the still-nameless colourwork hat design.

By the end of the long weekend he’d finished the ribbed cuff and was moving on to the stockinette leg of the sock. He says he’s doing this so that he’ll have something to keep him occupied when we fly out west in a few weeks (snowboarding trip, woo!) but I’m starting to think he enjoys the process enough to keep going even when we’re not on an airplane.

Meanwhile, with the house to myself again, I’ll have the quiet I need so that I can concentrate on getting each of those four colours into the right place. I adjusted the chart to see if I could avoid a nasty jog at the start of each round, and I *think* it’s going to work, but only actually knitting the hat will prove my theory. More pictures should be coming later this week, when it actually looks like something!

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The pattern for Sheep Etu suggests first pinning the stuffed feet to the body of the sheep to get the right balance before sewing them on. I didn’t bother doing that, since Wee Sheepie is going to ride in the car and won’t need to stand up on its own – and I saved myself the effort, as none of the feet ended up exactly where I thought they would go, anyway. Perhaps my sewing-together skills could use some improvement, but the feet were so tiny and awkward, and moved around a bit as I worked.

Anyway, once I’d crocheted the fluff on, it didn’t much matter…

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I started at the top of Wee Sheepie’s back with just single crochet, but it wasn’t fluffy enough, so I soon switched to mostly double crochet – “mostly” because I added in some extra stitches here and there, as needed, to round out the sheep’s shape. The Buttercup yarn is really tricky to work with! I dropped the hook a few times and had a hard time picking up a loop, as the floofy fibres completely obscure the stitches. But without too much cursing, I worked my way around and around until Wee Sheepie was no longer naked.

There’s enough Buttercup left over for a second sheep. The first one is so cute, I’m more than a little tempted to make another!

Taking a good picture of a fluffy white sheep is another challenge altogether. It’s much cuter in person than most of my photos showed! So instead of more sheep shots, here’s a picture of Sparkplug, the cargoyle I mentioned on Monday, which inspired my brother to request a sheep in the first place.

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Michael had mentioned that his Fleeps were starting to get thin in places again, and after Thanksgiving I took them home with me for their third repair job… which was really just a sneaky excuse to take some measurements and observations so I could knit him new ones. I worked from my notes from his first gloves, combined with the constructive feedback that he’d provided and checking to see where the old ones had worn out.

The new ones have longer thumbs to prevent a gap, seed stitch flaps rather than ribbed so they won’t pull in quite as much over time, and duplicate stitch reinforcements at all the corners where the flaps attach to the body of the gloves. It looks as if the mitten-top is crooked, but they’re lined up with the hands rather than the wrists, so they fall straight when the gloves are actually on.

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They’re also a grayer kind of gray; his first pair was a darker gray with red tweedy flecks, but I couldn’t find the darker colourway. The yarn is Jo Sharp Silk Road DK Tweed, which wasn’t available in the US for a while but now WEBS is carrying it again. I used Peppercorn for Michael’s Fleeps, and bought two balls of Serpentine for another future pair.

I used a combination of the Cigar and Gnomittens patterns, adjusted for the shape and size of his wrists and hands. Both patterns are free, but I found that they needed quite a bit of customization to make them fit perfectly. The cuffs would have been too large around as the patterns are written, so I took some stitches out of them, and then had to add width back in for the hands. I was very glad to have taken such careful notes on the first pair; it made it much easier to make the second set fit to perfection as well.

The gloves were done enough for me to wrap them up and give them to him on Christmas Eve, but I hadn’t had the chance to sew on the snap-magnets (which is the most annoying, fiddly part of the whole project). I’ll do that today, and then they’ll be the last project on the books for 2015!

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I had the bright idea to crochet a snowflake as a Christmas gift for Michael’s mom, who is a crocheter herself and appreciates these things. So I pulled out the #10 thread and a wee steel hook, and set to work on the Savannah Snowflake, which is a free pattern available on the Snowcatcher website.

It was not an easy project. The thread was slippery, I wasn’t sure about where to place some of the stitches, and the original plan to wrap the flake around a colourful ornament was scuttled when it didn’t turn out to be large enough. But the more rounds I did, the better I felt about how it looked, especially as I worked my way around the final round to create the points of the flake.

The snowflake then took a starch bath. I mixed a quarter-cup of cornstarch into a cup and a half of cold water, and brought it up to heat on the stovetop. It didn’t take long for the mixture to become thick and translucent. When it had cooled down enough to touch, I got the flake thoroughly saturated with the goop, and then patted off the excess with paper towels before pinning it out on cardboard to dry. The next morning, it was completely solid and only a little bit stuck to the cardboard, but it came right off with some help from a kitchen spatula.

Then I completely forgot to take a photo of it before wrapping it up and giving it away. But here it is in its place of honour on the tree:

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My next door neighbours, Morry and Shirley, are quite probably the best neighbours anyone could ask for. We trade off cat-sitting services (although I feel as if I ask them to feed Floyd and Kipling more frequently than they ask me to look after their cats) and occasionally trade baked goods. When I asked them to take care of Floyd and Kipling over Christmas, I brought them freshly baked chocolate chip cookies… and was presented with a quilt. A quilt! A handmade quilt, full of adorable kitties, with a cute bicycle backing. Wow!

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Immediately, I knew I wanted to knit something for them. I picked up two coordinating skeins of Cascade 220 in Lake Chelan Heather and Cordovan Brown Heather, and after a little bit of pondering decided to knit them semi-matching Jacques Cousteau hats. I’ve made the pattern once before and enjoyed knitting it. Plus, the stretchiness of the knit three, purl two rib is great for a surprise gift hat when one doesn’t know the exact size of the recipient’s head!

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I knit in the car on the way to Winterlude; I knit while we played Cards Against Humanity; I knit on the trip back. Shirley’s hat was finished the day I got home, and Morry’s was done a few days later. I brought the hats to them in late February, the day before yet another snowstorm was due, and hope that they’ll help my wonderful neighbours to be nicely warm for many winters to come.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of them wearing the hats… but they fit well and the pointiness of the top goes away when the hat’s on a head! The Cousteau hat is a great pattern and I would happily knit it again.

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My friend Teresa, Ship’s Cook of HCPS Tygershark, loves black and silver. I’ve only ever seen her wear black and silver – maybe a little bit of white, sometimes, when silver can’t be found.

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About a year and a half ago, she mentioned something about armwarmers, and I filed the thought away in my head with a note that I had to find black and silver yarn for the project. Not long afterwards, I bought a skein of Kraemer Sterling Silk & Silver. It just seemed fitting to use real silver in something I was making for Teri!

I was going to give these to her last year at Pennsic, but I didn’t end up going – so unfortunately, they were set aside for other projects. But I finished them during the Olympics (hooray! a WIP completed!) and mailed them off, and just heard from her that she’s received them, so now I can post about the project!

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The pattern is Lacy Fingerless Gloves, available for free on Ravelry. It was and easy and quick project which took less than half a skein to make. The armwarmers are worked flat in rows of alternating fan-shapes, edged with a round of single crochet, then seamed up the side with a hole for the thumb. I like the construction and would use it again with another stitch pattern!

Kipling tries to be in all the pictures (look at those adorable paws!) but it’s a good closeup of the shape of the fan stitches. The silver strands are even more obvious in real life; the camera didn’t really capture how they shine.

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Michael requested a hat of a very specific shape and size, so it would settle over his ears and flop down just so, and over the course of last week I knit it for him. It’s made of Cascade 220 Quatro in two shades of grey, and is exactly what he wanted – or it will be, after it’s washed and softened up so it’s a little more floppy!

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When he sat down to model the hat, Kipling decided that he wanted to be in the pictures, too. He’s a total ham for the camera. Good thing he’s so cute! (The hat isn’t bad, either.)

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Last weekend, to kick off the Tour de Fleece, Michael and I stopped at the Mannings on our way from Connecticut to Virginia. (If I’d known it was actually only about 90 minutes from home, I would have gone there sooner!)

We looked at the wheels and the looms and the gorgeous weaving projects in progress…

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…and then the yarn. I didn’t want to leave without a souvenir skein or two, and eventually chose a ball of Austermann Step in a grayish-greenish-blue-ish colourway, and a skein of Cascade 220 Quatro in greys to make a hat for Michael. He wanted something very specific and so I was glad to have him there to pick out the exact yarn he wanted.

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Here I am being indecisive, but I’ve already got the ball of Step in my hand.

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We saw this crocheted spare tire cover on our way out. Very cool!

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Well! I am back, after a completely unplanned and unexpected hiatus. I haven’t been doing very much knitting (or spinning or crocheting) lately, to be honest… and I think that’s a rotten thing. So I’m getting back into it! There’s something finished to show off:

Rook Scarf

Way back in 2008 I bought three skeins of Noro Silk Garden at WEBS. For the longest time I didn’t know what to do with them. I thought of making an entrelac scarf, I thought of making something with stripes. I thought of lots of things, but none of them seemed right. And every time I looked at the yarn, I thought “These really are Grandma’s colours, aren’t they.”

So I went looking for a suitable pattern and found the Rook Scarf. Then I had to run out and get a set of larger crochet hooks, and there was no waiting – I was so excited that I made a special trip to the artsy-crafts store for them.

The scarf took under a week to crochet, and then it lived on my mantel (where no cats could shed on it) for a while, waiting for its ends to be woven in. Pirate-Ex came by the house for one reason or another and I showed him the scarf without any more comment than, “Look what I made!” His first response was, “That’s nice, but… those are really much more your grandma’s colours than they are yours.”

And so they are.

Grandma's Scarf

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It had come to my attention that I’ve never knit anything for my sworn-brother Stephen. When he was living in a mostly-summerish place it would have been unnecessary, but he could certainly use a warm hat now that he’s living in the land of eternal winter. I ran over to Needles in the Haymarket and found some Cascade 220, my go-to hat yarn, in a lovely heathery grey-green. Unfortunately the selection of superwash colourways was limited, so this isn’t a machine washable hat, but Stephen assured me that he would be fine with hand-washing as long as I gave him instructions.

I cast on for the hat while I was waiting for my flight. I knit at the gate, where I met some knitters who were winding balls of yarn. I knit for the full duration of my flight, while sitting next to a woman who used to knit but now prefers crochet. I knit while watching television later that evening, and about 36 hours after I started, I was weaving in the ends of a new hat. This is a speed record for me!

There was already snow on the ground and more fell while I was visiting. I think this expression is, “Take the picture already, it’s cold out here!”

I chose the free Cousteau Hat pattern and made a few adjustments to it. From comments on other projects I knew that the hat comes out large, so I only cast on 100 stitches instead of the 140 called for. I changed the decreases to a simple K2tog, and started doing double decreases towards the top to make the hat less pointy. I should have gone with a K3tog instead of slip, k2tog, psso, and I should have started them sooner – ah well, there’s always next time. Knit and learn, knit and learn!

Of course, when the hat is on, the top doesn’t appear to be pointy at all. I really like how the sections come together in quarters at the top. It’s different from the more spiral decreases that I’ve made on previous hats, and quite distinctive.

I’m seriously tempted to make a matching hat for myself, though the next size down might be a little tight at only 80 stitches, and the fabric might be a little loose if I went up a needle size to compensate. (Or it would fit me perfectly, as I do have a small head, and the hat could always be blocked larger. Besides, it will stretch.) Maybe I would try working the decreases every other row for a more rounded top, but I’m not sure if that would look odd in the way the ribs get cut off by the decreases. It would be worth the attempt, I think, and if it doesn’t come out well then it will be easy enough to rip back and redo.

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