Archive for the 'yarn' Category


Postscript to the summary

I should add one interesting point to my vacation summary: while we were in Vermont, I managed to go into not one but two yarn shops and walk out without purchasing anything.

The first shop was one that we’ve visited before many times. It’s the small shop attached to a historic mill where I bought the local yarn that I used to make Wonderful Wallabies for Jan and Sylvia (well, some of hers–a portion of hers was done in Noro Kureyon). Last year I bought enough of it to make a sweater for myself, and since that yarn remains unknitted in my stash (still looking for the perfect project for it), I didn’t feel a need to buy more. Maybe next year.

The other shop I visited was the famous Kaleidoscope Yarns in Essex Junction. About two weeks before my trip, they were running a free-shipping promotion, so I placed an order with them for some Green Mountain Spinnery Sylvan Spirit. I had purchased four skeins of this in Moonshadow at the spinnery itself three years ago, and earlier this summer started a new project with it (more on that later). Sometime last month I realized that I’d need at least another two skeins of the stuff to finish my project, so I started trying to find some.

I contacted the Spinnery directly, hoping they might have a few skeins of my dye lot squirreled away somewhere. No luck. (No surprise, either. After all, it has been three years.) So I decided to take a chance with Kaleidoscope. I ordered three skeins and crossed my fingers.

When they arrived, I was disappointed to discover that they were decidedly grayish in tone–and I needed something brownish. I contained Kaleidoscope for an RMA number but then realized that at least one of our day trips would take us near there, so I could just return the yarn in person.

So that’s what I did. I browsed around the store a bit but didn’t see anything that I really wanted–that is, nothing that I wanted to buy right then, knowing that I have plenty of yarn to work through at home. So I actually walked out of there with more money than I had when I walked in. How often can someone say that about a yarn shop, right?


Two knitted gifts

After my last knitting-related post, I was still feeling pretty antsy to cast on for a non-sock knitting project. I started two and have already completed both of them.

p6108672bonnetftf.jpgFirst up: a bonnet based on the one Lyra wore in The Golden Compass. The story behind this yarn is a sad one. My friend Gina has a colleague whose mother died recently, and the colleague gave Gina her mother’s yarn. There were two balls of Lion Brand Jiffy Thick-and-Quick, and when Gina was at my house last week telling me the story, she asked if I wanted one. We both decided to knit charity hats with them (part of our admission to Knitters Day Out this fall), and I like to think that her friend’s mother would’ve have liked to see the yarn used this way. This was a very quick knit, done in maybe an hour and a half.

p6108673vestftf.jpgNext, I set out to knit something for Maggie, the daughter of one of my college friends. I’ve knit Maggie a few things already (a jester hat and a novelty-yarn scarf), both of which she’s appreciated. She just turned six in March, so I thought I’d make a foray into full-on garments this time. I started with the vest pattern in The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns: Basic Designs in Multiple Sizes & Gauges (a very excellent book that belongs in every knitter’s library) and tweaked it here and there. I opted for a button-front style (rather than a pullover) and knit it in the round out of yarn I’d gotten in Vermont over the past few years. This was a lot of fun to knit!

maggie1.jpgThe result? Apparently, it was a hit! It arrived on an 85-degree day, and Maggie insisted on wearing it anyway. As you can see, it mostly fits yet still has lots of growing room, so she should get to enjoy it for at least a couple of years!


Now what?

p5268620needlesftf.jpgYes, that’s right: all my Denise needles and cables are in their box. Which means that I have nothing on the needles right now (aside from my usual portable sock project).

I want to start a new project (a sweater for myself, ideally). I want to knit from my stash and not purchase new yarn, but I am having a hard time coming up with something. I don’t want to do a “basic” sweater—not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I am really in the mood to try something more “interesting.”

I’ve been doing a lot of swatching, and here’s what I have in sufficient quantities to knit an adult-sized sweater:

Berroco Ultra Alpaca, 7 skeins. 22 sts over 4″. #8 needles.

Nature Spun, about 10 skeins. 20 sts over 4″. #6 needles.

Lopi, many many skeins. 14 sts over 4″. #10 needles.

Vermont homespun, lots. 16 sts over 4″. #7 needles.

I’m kind of interested in making the Cardigan for Arwen (Ravelry link here) or the Sunrise Circle jacket (here), but both call for a gauge of 18 sts over 4″, which rules out the first three yarns I listed. Think I could make it work with the Vermont stuff?

Any other suggestions?

In spite of what recent posts here may have led you to believe, I haven’t just been taking pictures of flowers these past few weeks. I’ve actually done quite a bit of crafting!

In early spring, I decided to start on my first “real” (i.e., not teddy-bear-sized) top-down raglan. At Christmas I’d received a copy of Barbara Walker’s Knitting from the Top, and after reading through it felt pretty confident that I could knit a top-down sweater for myself.

So in March I dutifully swatched and found the gauge I wanted for the many skeins of Nature Spun I had in my stash, then cast on. All seemed to be going well at first, and when it came time to set the sleeve stitches aside and continue on the body, I tried on what I’d knit so far and double-checked with some of my knitting friends that it was turning out all right.

But somehow, in spite of my gauge checking and careful measuring and getting a thumbs-up from my friends, something went terribly wrong: in mid-April, when the sweater length was about four inches below the arms openings, I tried it on again and discovered that it was too big. No, “too big” doesn’t do the size of this thing justice. It was ginormous. I spread it out on the table, whipped out a measuring tape, and was astonished to find the width of this thing at 22 inches. That’s 44 inches all around. That’s nearly a foot more than was I was aiming for. I have no idea how this happened. It’s so bad that I’m not even going to take a picture of it. Needless to say, at that point I was feeling pretty discouraged about the whole top-down sweater thing. I’m sure I’ll give it another try, but I need to put this aside for a while first.

p5268618socksftf.jpgFortunately, I have managed to get a good dose of project-completion satisfaction recently. For the last year or so, I’ve taken to having a sock-in-progress with me at all times (well, whenever I’m taking my sling bag somewhere with me). My sock projects fit neatly into the awesome bag that Deborah gave me last fall, and it’s amazing how a-few-rows-here and a-few-rows-there can turn into a completed sock faster than one might expect. The pair of socks I just finished is for me, and I made it out of the fabulous Sea Wool yarn that Chelle gave me a year and a half ago. I loved working with this yarn, and the socks feel very luxurious. They’ve been packed away for the summer, and I look forward to wearing them when the weather turns cold again next fall.

p5268619washclothftf.jpgAnd here’s another recently (as in “two days ago”) piece of knitting. I knit a lot of ball-band washcloths a few years ago when the first Mason-Dixon Knitting book made them all the rage, but then I ended up taking a break from them for a while. Now I make them as gifts for friends, and I really enjoy the process of making something by hand that contains thoughts of the recipient and is likely to be appreciated and used. My latest thing: monochrome cloths. I really like the simple look of these.

p5248481blanketftf.jpgI’ve been doing some experimental sewing, too! I recently did the “seasonal switcheroo” in Sylvia’s room (put out-of-season clothing and bedding into a storage box, make sure the in-season stuff still fits) and remembered that there was still a stack of receiving blankets in one of her underbed drawers. When she was born, we got a gazillion of these as gifts. They didn’t get used for swaddling—partly because Sylvia was born just as spring hit its stride and the weather was warm, and partly because she was ten pounds at birth and from the get-go was just too big for them—and were mostly used by Sylvia when playing with her stuffed animals.

She’s been in need of a light cotton blanket for summer, so when I saw these receiving blankets I figured, “Hey, I can just sew these together to make a big blanket for her.” And that’s what I did. Sort of. My plans to make a huge blanket were foiled when I realized that the dozen or so blankets in the drawer were of two different sizes—and some had been stretched or poorly cut or whatever and weren’t as square as I’d like. So I ended up making two blankets: one with six blankets, and one with four. Here’s a picture of the smaller one (which lives in our den now). I can’t provide a photo of the larger one because it is on Sylvia’s bed—she loves it.

Recycling + something Sylvia will actually use = Hooray!

Where I grew up in the Midwest, people didn’t distribute “goody bags” at birthday parties. That’s a phenomenon I first encountered here on the East Coast, and at first it struck me as a little weird. Since then I’ve come to think of it as akin to [START GEEK ALERT!] the Hobbits’ tradition of distributing gifts on one’s own birthday [END GEEK ALERT!], and I think it can a nice way to teach small children about being hosts and thanking their guests for sharing a special day for them (and not just giving thanks for gifts received).

p5027714goodybags.jpgJan and I wanted the gifts to be something special, so I decided to start by using my newfound sewing skills to make the bags themselves. Each is a simple rectangle with two drawstrings. I went a little nuts and did applique letters (corresponding to the initial letter of each child’s first name) on each bag, too. With her pre-reading skills, Sylvia really enjoyed identifying which bag went to which child and handing them out herself.

p5027716bagsample.jpgEach bag contained a little fairy doll (Sylvia chose fairies as the theme for her party), some multicolored pencils, and a set of mini sketchbooks. The books were a lot of fun to make, not least because I used images from Japanese coloring pages for the covers. Those little animals are just so darn cute!

p5027713ethanbag.jpgSince one of our guests is only 17 months old, I figured he wasn’t quite ready for those items. So I made a stuffed rabbit-thingy for his bag. I winged it, so its ears are as long as its body, but it was fun to make. Experimenting with fabric is a lot faster than experimenting with yarn!

p4267532dolls.jpgThe little fairies were a lot of fun to make, too. I used recycled felt for the bodies and wings, a pipecleaner for the arms (with polyfill-stuffed muslin hands), and polyfill-stuffed muslin for the head. For the hair, I ordered four different sets of hand-dyed Border Leicester locks from Enchanted Yarns. I told her what I was going to do with them, and she suggested using needle felting techniques to attach them to the heads. Amazingly, I was unable to find any local vendors (either large craft stores or local yarn shops) that carried them, and by the time I started on this project I didn’t have time to order them. So I took a chunk of locks and used invisible thread to sew down where the center seam would be, thus creating a “wig” of sorts, which I then hand-sewed to each head. Perfect, no—but I think they turned out all right.

p3046456yarnbox.jpgA few years ago, I started saving my yarn scraps and snippets in a large Mason jar. They’ve proven useful for crafting with Sylvia (yarn cuttings make great hair), and last spring she enjoyed spread handfuls of them outside for the birds to use in nest-making.

This year we decided to kick our bird-aiding efforts up a notch and made a little box to hold the yarn bits. I covered this Barilla pasta box with packing tape (to make it a bit weatherproof), and Sylvia decorated it with stickers that she thought the birds would like. I punched holes for a little perch and punched yarn holes. She then filled the box with yarn from the jar, and pulled some strings through the holes to give the birds a hint. (I think of this as akin to the “suggestive change” in a busker’s open instrument case.)

We hung the yarn box on the dogwood tree outside our dining room window. It’s just a branch away from the birdhouse and a different branch away from our new goldfinch feeder. All of this is easily visible from the dining room, so I hope this spring nature will provide us with some mealtime entertainment.


Free lunch: Dog-related knitting

Who knew there were so many free patterns for stuff to knit for dogs? I have to wonder, though, just how many dogs are compliant when people try to make them wear this stuff.

Here are some doggy mukluks (with matching socks for a person to wear). If coordinated dog-and-person outfits aren’t nauseatingly cute, I don’t know what is.

This vintage balaclava pattern from 1916 wasn’t originally intended for dogs. But hey, this page has a photo of a dog wearing one, so it counts for this list.

If I had a dog, and if said dog wouldn’t object to wearing handknits, and if I had more time and yarn than I knew what to do with, I might actually knit this little Hearts and Bones* dog sweater.

And for those of you who are so nutso for your dog that you want to wear handknits made from your dog’s own hair, look no further. Here’s a page that tells you how to stockpile the hair for this endeavor and offers links to instructions for spinning and places that will make the yarn for you.

*This is also the title of one of my favorite Paul Simon songs, with one of my favorite lines ever: “Mountain passes slipping into stone.” I’ve been in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of New Mexico, and that phrase describes them perfectly.


Headed to the frog pond

p1185802scarfftf.jpgAfter finishing the B.O.B. Sweater, I decided to knit a scarf for myself. I’ve had a copy of Scarf Style from Interweave for some time, and whenever I look through it I find that I like patterns that I disliked the last time, and dislike those I liked the last time. So as you can imagine it’s hard to me to settle on any project from this book.

This time, though, I had just finished looking through my stash, and when I came across the Midwest Moonlight scarf (Ravelry link here) I remembered that I had the exact yarn it called for: Cotton Comfort, from Green Mountain Spinnery. I love this yarn. I’d bought five skeins of it on a trip to Vermont a couple of years ago and used about two-and-a-half skeins for a baby sweater. The scarf pattern calls for three skeins, but I figured that two and a half would be fine. I don’t really need a scarf that’s seventy-two inches long.

Nor do I need a scarf that’s full of holes, apparently. This is technically a lace pattern, with yarnovers and k2tog and ssk all over the place. But it seemed substantial to me—certainly not flimsy lace. After knitting several inches of this scarf, though, I’m finding that I just don’t love it. It’s pretty enough, but just not me. And I firmly believe that, considering how limited my time is for all the things I want to do, I don’t want to waste any of it on something that I don’t really like. So I’m frogging this sucker.


Stash enhancement

Yes, I have recently acquired more yarn. But I didn’t buy it! (I am continuing last year’s practice of knitting only from my stash and purchasing new yarn only on very rare occasions.) I won it in a contest held last month on It’s a Shantastic Life! (Shannah is a hoot. Stop by her blog sometime and you’ll see what I mean.)

p1285927contest.jpgThe prize package arrived the other day. It contained the sock yarn I was expecting (in very bright colors—this is quite a change from my usual brown/grey/green tones) as well as a little make-a-cat-out-of-pompoms kit and one of the coolest coffee mugs I’ve ever seen. Can you see the texture on the outside of this thing? That’s right: knit stitches and purl stitches—and cables, even. I am totally going to enjoy some good coffee in this when I cast on these spring-colored socks. Thanks, Shannah!


New yarn! (sort of)

After frogging that ill-conceived ruana and using a niddy-noddy to wind the yarn into skeins last summer, I carefully put all ten or so skeins of that Nature Spun worsted into a basket…and promptly forgot about it. The yarn recently resurfaced, and I determined to get it into usable shape soon.

p1205870yarnftf.jpgSo yesterday morning I filled the bathtub with enough cold water to soak all this yarn, squeezed out the excess water, and hung up the skeins to dry. I’m guessing they’ll be ready in a day or so. In the meantime, the bathroom smells like a wet dog.

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