Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Waves and Piers Socks

Christmas has come and gone, which means I can write about the socks I made as a gift. My sister always has handmade socks on her list; between myself and a couple other knitters in the family, I think she receives a pair more years than not. This was one of those years.

It was after Thanksgiving when I knew I’d have time to knit a pair of socks, but that means I no longer had much time for yarn shopping. In my stash, I found two balls of Plymouth Yarn Dancing Toes that I had dyed with Kool-Aid for previous projects. One has speckles of color while the other features long stripes. The colors aren’t an exact match, but they could potentially work well together.

Knitting Socks with Kool-Aid Dyed Wool Yarn

I knitted with both yarn balls at once, alternating every two rows, making bright and playful stripes accented by slipped stitches in the Whirlpool Socks pattern by Laura Nelkin. The downside was that this yarn felts easily, forcing me to make the socks a bit larger than I usually would. I was just rounding the heel on the first sock when I came to conclusion that I wouldn’t have enough yarn to finish.

Back to square one with the Christmas deadline coming up quickly, I pulled together some other coordinating yarns in purples, grays and blacks. I switched to a chevron pattern: Waves and Piers Socks by Charlene Schurch and Beth Parrott.

Wearing Socks Knit with Purple Chevron Stripes

I had small quantities of at least six yarns — there was no way I was going to run out of yarn with this combination! By splitting each color into two roughly equal balls, I was able to follow the same basic color pattern on each sock. Once again, I alternated colors every two rows to create stripes.

The pattern incorporates a forethought heel, which I had attempted once before and disliked because of the many needles and yarn ends involved. I made it through the process on both socks this time. It will never be my go-to heel technique but, like so many other things in life, it gets easier with practice.

Wearing Socks Knit in Chevron Pattern with Purple Yarn

I haven’t spoken with my sister yet as I write this, but I hope she’s as happy with the socks as I am. And I hope she doesn't mind seeing photographic evidence that I tried them on before giving them to her!

I’m still thinking about the brighter color combination. Who knows what that might become by this time next year?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

This is awkward.

I spent the week furiously making a Christmas gift, but I can’t write about it yet in case the recipient happens to read this blog.

I will say this: My husband liked it so much that he was trying to convince me to keep it for myself. I held firm; it’s wrapped and on its way to the intended recipient. I promise to write about that project in a future post.

Now what? Well, to backtrack a bit, some family came to visit with us during the week of Thanksgiving. Before my aunt’s arrival, she mentioned that she’s going to start a quilt — I believe it’s her first — and she wanted my input to help her choose colors to coordinate with her existing room colors.

There’s a local sewing store nearby that hosts the area quilt guild meetings. I haven’t made it to a meeting yet, but thought the store might be a good place to start. I knew they sold sewing machines, and was pretty sure they sold fabric as well. If not, they would know where to send us.

Sure enough, they sell two brands of sewing machines plus an assortment of quilting fabric and supplies. I think I even saw some vacuum cleaners. I’m extra excited to have found this store since I’ve already determined that there aren’t any local yarn stores. Ordering supplies online is convenient, but when it comes to fabric and yarn it’s so much nicer to shop in person; I like to touch the fiber and really see the colors.

My aunt was able to find everything she needed for her quilt top, right down to the thread. I found a couple of fabrics I liked, too:

I picked up a yard (almost a meter) of the piggy fabric on the left. It’s from the Harmony Farm line by Shawn Wallace for Riley Blake Designs in the color Harmony Hog Wash Brown. The playful little pigs make me smile.

I also bought three yards (about 2.75 meters) of the sheep fabric on the right. The line is All’s Wool That Ends Wool by Maria Kalinowski for Kanvas in association with Benartex, LLC, in the color Sheep Thrills Cream/Multi. Each round wooly body is about 2 1/4 inches (5.7 cm) in diameter, so this will either end up as a statement fabric cut into large blocks or as a quilt backing.

I haven’t quilted in a long time, and these fabrics make me want to get back to it. But not yet. We have holidays to celebrate first!

I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Furniture: Refurbished

Last year, my husband inherited his grandfather’s office desk and chair. They’re not valuable antiques, but they bring with them happy memories of days when my husband helped his grandfather on the family farm. This fall, we were able to bring the set home.

Writing Desk Before RenovationChair for Writing Desk Before Renovation

The desk and chair had sat mostly unused in an outer room for about five years, so the first step was a thorough cleaning and waxing. I didn’t know that so many spider eggs could be found on the bottoms of furniture! Checking the undersides of furniture will definitely become part of my cleaning routine.

The next step was to spruce up the desk and chair. The general construction of the desk was sound, complete with dovetail joints, but some details were less so.

Exterior Knobs on Writing Desk Before Renovation

The exterior of the desk had two knobs on the drawers and a yellow plastic hook in place of a third knob on the cabinet door. We found some brushed bronze knobs with a subtle University of Alabama logo and a simple handle. A lot of the old hardware had darkened over time, but the locks still held some shine. A light brush of flat black paint over the locks brought the hardware colors together.

Exterior Knobs on Writing Desk After Renovation

The original knobs had thick shanks that set into the wood, leaving a lot of wiggle room for the screws that came with the new knobs. Flat washers stabilized the heads of the screws inside the drawers, while finish washers supported the ends of the screws and the knobs themselves by nesting into the holes from the outside.

Large Hole in Drawer from Old Knob ShankFinish Washer Filling Hole in Drawer Left by Old Knob Shank

On the interior of the desk, two drawers had newer wooden knobs that looked out of place against the old wood and two basic L hooks were inside one cubby. Simple brushed bronze knobs replaced the wooden ones, and safety cup hooks seemed like a more secure way to hang important items such as keys.

Interior Knob and Hooks on Writing Desk Before Renovation

Interior Knob and Hooks on Writing Desk After Renovation

The faux leather writing surface, which covered the lock and hinges, was cracked and peeling. We replaced it with a piece of black vinyl — still going for the look of leather without the price tag — but cut around the hardware to avoid stretching the vinyl out of shape.

Writing Surface on Desk Before Renovation

Writing Surface on Desk After Renovation

With the desk complete, it was time to move on to the chair. We knew that the seat was in need of refreshed padding and upholstery. When we removed the seat, we found that the plywood base was delaminating, causing layers the wood to peel apart. After cutting and sanding new plywood, we stapled a lining over two inches (5 cm) of padding then stapled the upholstery fabric in place and reassembled the chair.

Top View of Writing Chair Before Renovation

Top View of Writing Chair After Renovation

We didn’t set out to choose a yellow upholstery fabric. Between the vintage look of the print and the one flower that almost matches the carving in the chair back, we knew this fabric was the right choice.

Closed Desk with Chair After Renovation

Open Desk with Chair After Renovation

We made it through with only a few cuts and blisters, and are looking forward to using the updated desk and chair. The pieces have been made more valuable by the extra layer of good memories we shared in working together on this project. We're looking forward to using the desk and chair for years to come.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Hats and Ornaments

To begin with, I made some more hats for the Little Hats, Big Hearts program that I wrote about last week. I returned to the Creative Preemie Hat pattern by Laura Reavis, but with Lion Brand Heartland Thick & Quick in colorway 113 Redwood. It’s a Super Bulky acrylic yarn in a two-tone red. The combination of the preemie pattern with the thicker yarn resulted in hats that are a standard newborn size of about 14 inches (35.5 cm) in circumference. I have ten hats complete now, in a variety of baby sizes and soft, red acrylic yarns.

Red Knit and Crochet Baby Hats for Little Hats, Big Hearts

Going back a couple more weeks on the blog, I wrote about rediscovering a drawer full of forgotten kits. Did I mention that a good number of them are Christmas kits? I suppose that’s part of the reason I’ve been holding on to them for so long. For me, the window of interest for working on Christmas projects is small — and extra time is already in short supply during the holiday season.

Nevertheless, I worked my way through another Christmas-themed plastic canvas needlework kit from the Canvas Capers line by Leisure Arts. This time it was a set of ornaments, #462 Teddy Bear Ornaments, with a copyright date of 1985.

Teddy Bear Ornaments Plastic Canvas Needlework Kit

I have to be honest; although the ornaments are adorable, this kit was not fun for me. There were a lot of small pieces, some less than a half inch (1 cm), and one ornament in particular required quite a bit of work with transparent nylon thread. Tiny pieces and invisible stitches do not make me happy; I was actually caught cursing at the little teddy bear angel.

Plastic Canvas Teddy Bear Angel and Candy Cane Christmas Ornaments

Teddy Bear Plastic Canvas Christmas Wagon and Stocking Ornaments

The kit was a set of eight, two each of four different designs. Normally, I don’t mind making two of the same thing — mittens, socks, etc. — but it was daunting to revisit each of these fussy little guys. Finishing the kit was an act of pure stubbornness.

Set of Eight Plastic Canvas Teddy Bear Christmas Ornaments from a Kit
Proof that I really made all eight ornaments!

Each ornament measures about three to four inches (7.5 to 10 cm) in each direction. Little pieces were attached to a larger main piece to add depth and to cover the backs of the ornaments for a neater finish.

Teddy Bear in a Stocking Plastic Canvas Christmas Ornament on a Tree

With Christmas less than three weeks away, my window for holiday projects is quickly closing and I don’t expect to make more of the Christmas kits this year. I think the break will do me good — particularly because I have (gasp!) a duplicate of this kit.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Little Hats, Big Hearts

If you knit or crochet, you’ve probably seen posts on social media about Little Hats, Big Hearts. It’s a program that joins the American Heart Association and The Children’s Heart Foundation in raising awareness about congenital heart defects and providing resources to encourage family heart health. During the month of February, which is American Heart Month, babies who are born at participating hospitals in the U.S. will each receive a red hat that was made and donated by a volunteer.

Top View of Red Crochet Preemie Hat

When I heard about the program, my first step was to contact the office in my state to learn whether they still need hats. I know that knitters and crocheters are often so enthusiastic that organizations end up overwhelmed. I was told that the program is expanding to more hospitals this year, so they still need hats.

The hats should be made from red cotton or acrylic yarn. Red is the signature color for heart health, while cotton and acrylic can withstand machine washing and drying. I had some Red Heart Shimmer in colorway 1929 Red leftover from a previous project; it’s a (discontinued) worsted weight acrylic yarn with a little bit of sparkle. I was also able to find Lion Brand Landscapes, an Aran weight acrylic yarn, in the color Ruby at a local big box store. Both yarns are incredibly soft, which makes them ideal for baby hats.

The Little Hats, Big Hearts webpage offers pattern suggestions, although any pattern may be used. The hats should be made without extras such as pompoms, buttons and bows because they can be dangerous to babies. I made hats from two of the suggested patterns.

Creative Preemie Hat by Laura Reavis is a crochet hat with two variations. I made one of the main hat, one of the brimless version, and three of the girlie version. For reference, the preemie hats pictured below are on drinking glasses that are about 9.5 inches (24 cm) in circumference.

Two Red Crochet Preemie Hats
In Landscapes yarn, the brimless version of the Creative Preemie Hat is on the left and the main pattern is on the right.

Red Crochet Preemie Hats for Girls
The girlie version in Shimmer on the left and Landscapes on the right. The hat in the front is a combination of both yarns.

The Baby Hearts Hat, listed as Knitted Hat Pattern 2, by Heidi Gustad is a knit pattern that features heart shapes around the sides of the hat. I made the hat with the Shimmer yarn and skipped the pompom. It is shown below on a balloon that has a circumference of about nineteen inches (48 cm).

Red Knit Hat with Heart Details

The hat patterns that I tried were all easy to make, and at such small sizes they worked up quickly. I’ll pick up more red yarn the next time I have a chance.

Please click here to visit the Little Hats, Big Hearts website. You’ll find all of the information you need, including suggested patterns, how to donate yarn or money if you don’t knit or crochet, and how to participate if you live outside the U.S.

I’m not affiliated with the American Heart Association or The Children’s Heart Foundation, but I am an advocate for heart health. I hope this program continues to grow and helps little ones grow with healthy hearts.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

La Grasse Matinée

While I was spinning my Purple Llama yarn, I envisioned knitting it into a flowing, lacey top. I wanted the stitches to be open to highlight the fuzziness of the yarn.

The lacey top didn’t turn out as I imagined it would. It happens sometimes in the world of making that the idea we originally think is the best ends up — well, not the best.

I set aside the top-turned-dress, and used a bit of the leftover yarn to add a block to my scrap sock yarn blanket. Something unexpected happened:

Handspun Yarn Knit into a Garter Stitch Block on a Scrap Blanket

I fell in love with the more tightly knit version of the yarn.

In this yarn’s journey, I had already tried knitting it on US-5 (3.75 mm) needles. The result was fabric that looked both fuzzy and matted. I moved up to US-7 (4.5 mm) then finally US-9 (5.5 mm) needles in order to achieve an airy fuzziness.

I hadn’t thought to try smaller needles until I pulled out the US-1 (2.25 mm) needles that I use on my scrap blanket. I expected a tight, matted fabric but the smaller stitches kept the fuzziness in check for beautiful results.

I set off to find a new pattern for the yarn that called for smaller needles, and decided on La Grasse Matinée by Anna Johanna. It’s a loose top that is knit with US-1 1/2 (2.5 mm) and US-2 1/2 (3.0 mm) needles. And it only uses about 1,000 yards of yarn, which is about all I had.

I decided to knit size L (96 cm bust) on US-2 (2.75 mm) and US-3 (3.25 mm) circular needles, which are the closest needle sizes I have to the pattern directions. The pattern knit up smoothly without any problems, and was surprisingly not boring given how much of the top is plain stockinette stitch.

Eyelet Knitting Detail on a Shirt in Handspun Yarn
There is an eyelet detail on the lower edges of the body and sleeves, and garter stitch minimizes curling.

I had to shorten the length of the sleeves because I was running out of yarn, but otherwise I didn’t make any modifications to the pattern. The fit is great, and I would knit La Grasse Matinée again.

Side View of Top Knit with Handspun Yarn

One of my initial concerns with the yarn was that it would feel scratchy against my skin. I’m happy to say that the scratchiness is minimal. The llama is technically hair and, sure enough, that’s what it feels like. As someone with long hair, I’m already used to a certain amount of hair pokes and random strands getting caught up in clothing fabric; wearing this top felt like more of the usual.

It can be easy to get caught up in thinking the first idea is the best idea, but my journey with this yarn has been a great reminder not to shy away from experimenting. Letting go of preconceived ideas can be difficult, but so worthwhile!

Front View of Top Knit from Handspun Yarn

Have you made any recent projects that ended up completely different from what you originally planned?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Santa Is Here

When we moved earlier this year, I found a drawer full of forgotten kits. One of my new goals is to complete all of the kits — or at least move them along one way or another.

After sorting through the contents of my great-grandmother’s treadle sewing machine cabinet, I’m more mindful of how random our materials and supplies can appear to others, even other makers. I’ve found myself asking repeatedly why she was keeping certain items. Were they important, or did they just end up forgotten in a drawer?

First up is a plastic canvas needlework kit from the Canvas Capers line by Leisure Arts, #427 Shimmer-Ring Santa Claus. To give you an idea of just how forgotten these kits are, this one has a copyright date of 1982. Even after being packed away from sunlight for so long, you can see that the lower half of the instruction sheet has discolored.

Canvas Capers Santa Needlework Kit by Leisure Arts

Over the years, I’ve made projects in a wide range of media — from blown glass to underwater basket weaving — but I’ve never worked with plastic canvas. I discovered that plastic canvas needlework is relatively easy to learn; the entire project took only a few hours to make. The beard stitches presented a challenge to ensure that no extra strands of yarn would show through from the back to ruin the design.

Santa Claus Decoration from Canvas Capers Kit by Leisure Arts

This decoration is on the large side for a tree ornament with the outer ring at five inches (12.7 cm) in diameter. The length from the top of the hat to the bottom of the ring is 6 1/2 inches (16.5 cm). The thread length for the hanging ring is up to the maker; mine is about three inches (7.6 cm).

I haven’t decided yet where to hang this Santa; we haven’t begun to decorate yet, so I have time. I’m sure it’ll brighten up any area of our home. I mean, look at that face:

Detail of Santa Decoration from Canvas Capers Kit by Leisure Arts

It makes me smile. And that’s something it would have never done from the bottom of a drawer.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Irma Hat

When I spin, I rarely have a project in mind for the resulting yarn. Although I’ve been a spindler since 2010, I still consider myself a beginner. I have the techniques down pretty well, but am still getting a feel how I want to spin different fibers. One fiber might result in a few very different skeins of yarn as I experiment and play. Sometimes I mix fibers together in different ways, and other times I make a small amount of consistently spun yarn.

In 2012, I took a Spinning Samples class with Celia Quinn. Over three full days, we spun samples of 84 different types of fiber. Each sample was spun in both worsted and woolen styles where practical, then finished as both a single and a 2-ply yarn. Rather than continually starting and stopping, it was suggested that we bring some brightly colored fiber to separate the samples along the way.

The fiber that I used to separate my samples was four ounces (113 grams) of 100% wool Kraemer Yarns Mauch Chunky Roving in the colorway Kiwi; I didn’t come anywhere close to using all of the roving. In 2013, I spun it into about 175 yards (160 m) of DK weight 2-ply yarn.

And that brings us to this past week. I was poking around in Ravelry and happened upon the free Irma Hat pattern by Aneta Gasiorowska. I was drawn in by the way the raised zigzag pattern in the body of the hat comes together and interlocks at the top of the crown. The yarn weight from my Kraemer handspun was just right, and I actually had a little more than the amount called for in the pattern.

Knitted Irma Hat in Green Handspun Wool Yarn

The pattern was easy to knit and worked up quickly. Although the pattern is written for one size, there is a note on how to adjust the sizing up or down. I don’t have a big head (ahem), but I do have a lot of hair so I added one repeat of the pattern to make the hat a little bigger.

Wearing Knitted Irma Hat in Green Handspun Wool Yarn

I’m looking forward to brightening up a dreary winter day by wearing this hat. And I’m happy to have found just the right project for one of my handspun yarns.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Talland Tee

Today we’re celebrating Halloween, and I haven’t decided yet whether my latest project is a trick or a treat. There may have been some strange witchcraft involved.

The pattern is Talland Tee by Sonja Bargielowska. I had just over 1,000 yards (914 m) of handspun fingering yarn that appeared to be a good match for the pattern. I knit a swatch and determined that US-9 (5.5 mm) needles would work well; I liked the drape of the fabric after soaking and the knitting held its shape well.

The six inches of positive ease that the pattern calls for sounded excessive to me. I chose a size with two to three inches of positive ease as I normally would.

I have a longer torso and typically need to lengthen patterns. For this pattern, I wanted the bottom edge to land about mid-hip so I knit one extra repeat of the lace pattern chart.

I usually need to lengthen the yoke as well, but I thought this one should fit as written. I knit about 10 fewer rows for the front yoke and 20 fewer for the back to achieve armhole depths that matched the measurements in the pattern.

I added some stitches to the outer edge of each armhole to offer a little more shoulder coverage. I worked those areas in garter stitch instead of stockinette stitch to prevent the fabric from curling.

After the top was complete, I soaked it. This time, the knitting grew — a lot.

Yes, it is now a Talland Dress. The stockinette stitch yoke, which was supposed to end about an inch and a half (3.5 cm) above the widest point of the bust, comes down below the bust. The armhole depth exposes the side of my bra. The bottom edge lands just above my knees. Interestingly, it fits well around my body and measures as it should — the extra positive ease was unnecessary after all.

I don’t think I can blame this on the weight of the yarn pulling the stitches down because the growth was apparent while the piece was drying flat. I don’t know why I didn’t have the same results from the swatch. Perhaps, because the yarn is made from different types of fiber, the swatch was primarily one fiber.

I can adjust the armholes to cover my bra and, with the right base layer, wear this as a dress. I need some more time to mull it over. And I don’t have a photo of me in the dress because I’m getting over a stomach bug. Nobody needs that much of a fright this Halloween!

Be safe and have fun.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Project's Journey

I spent a lot of time spinning my Purple Llama yarn, so it stands to reason that knitting a project from it will also take some time. Choosing the right project for this fingering weight yarn has been a journey in its own right.

Knitting Progress of Talland Tee Pattern

After searching through various garment types and styles, always making note of the required yardage to take full advantage of my 1,022 yards (934 meters), I came across a top that I thought would suit the yarn beautifully: Calendula by Hélène Rush.

I thought the drape of the garment would work well with the mix of llama, merino, bamboo and Tussah silk fibers in the yarn. In addition, the Purple Llama yarn has some striping due to how I spun the different fibers together. Between the sideways construction and the lace details, I thought the striping would draw interest while not competing with the stitches.

Based on the yardage amount supplied with the pattern information, I calculated that I would need about 1,034 yards (945 meters) of yarn to complete Calendula. That’s about 12 yards shy of the amount I have — although I round down every time I measure a skein so it could work out. Maybe.

I started to swatch, and needed to go up two needle sizes to obtain gauge, from a US-5 (3.75 mm) to a US-7 (4.5 mm) needle. However, the llama fiber has enough of a halo — that fuzziness surrounding the yarn itself — that knitting this fingering weight yarn on US-7 needles still looked too tight. Instead of the open, draped fabric that I was envisioning, I was getting a much tighter matted-looking fabric. I could move to larger needles and a smaller garment size with the expectation that they would balance each other out, but how would that change the yardage? Theoretically, it should work out fine. But I didn’t want to knit through an entire garment to test that theory.

Reluctantly, I restarted my project search. This time, I landed on the Talland Tee by Sonja Bargielowska. Again it has a nice drape and interesting lace detail. This pattern only calls for about 800 yards (731 meters) of yarn, so I have some wiggle room to make adjustments if I choose.

Bottom Edge of Knit Talland Tee Pattern

The pattern calls for at least six inches (15 cm) of positive ease, which seems excessive. I’m knitting the size I would normally knit, although I went up two needle sizes to US-9 (5.5 mm) in order to get the draping fabric that I wanted. My row height is longer than the gauge specifications in the pattern, so I may need to knit fewer rows when I reach the armholes.

The journey with this handspun yarn isn’t over yet, but I’m optimistic about the final destination.

Oh, and the Calendula pattern? I still love it! It’s high on my to-make list.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Handspun Purple Llama Yarn

The Trailing of the Sheep Festival has been a fall tradition in Ketchum, Idaho, for the past 20 years. It’s five days of lamb cuisine, sheep dog trials, a folklife fair, a sheepherders’ ball, and a fiber festival. There are classes and presentations on related history, cooking and fiber arts. The event culminates in the Trailing of the Sheep Parade on the final day; the streets are filled with sheep as they’re moved down from the mountains to warmer pastures for the winter. Our family had a wonderful weekend when we attended the festival in 2011.

The 2011 Trailing of the Sheep Parade

As you might guess, I was most excited about the fiber festival. Although there was plenty of fabulous wool to be had, at the time I was looking to expand my spinning experience to other types of fiber. One of the purchases I made that weekend was 5.75 ounces (163 grams) of llama roving from Kimknits Fibers.

I was challenged to determine how I wanted to spin the llama. It has a long curly staple length with very little luster. It feels a little too prickly to be something I want to wear against my skin. The color is a medium beige with very little tonal variation.

I worried that any project made from the spun llama would look like a mass of dull brown hair, but I didn’t think dyeing the fiber would bring enough life to it. I did some research on what other types of fiber blend well with llama, then went shopping online.

I chose four ounces (113 grams) of top from Miss Babs that is made up of 50% merino, 30% bamboo, and 20% Tussah silk. The colorway is called Timberline and is primarily purple with a bit of white and brown. I liked that it would bring subtle color to the llama while adding luster and softness.

As far as the spinning itself, I made a point of alternating the purple blend with the beige llama because I didn’t want the colors to muddy. I spun the colors into each single in the same order so they would be more likely to match up when plied.

The colors align more in some areas than in others.

I started spinning this yarn in February 2015. It’s the first time I’ve spun so much of a single type of yarn in a consistent enough weight to potentially make a garment. I have about 1,022 yards (934 meters) of fingering weight yarn and I’m so excited to knit with it!

All but two skeins of my Purple Llama handspun yarn.

This yarn doesn’t have a lot of elasticity and, as I already mentioned, it isn’t something I want to wear against my skin. There will be striping between the beige and the purple, with some areas more pronounced than others. And although the amount of yarn seems like a lot, it’s not enough for most top-layer garments in my size. I’ve been combing through patterns and I think I’ve found a good fit. I’ll have more on that next week.

In the meantime, what are your favorite festivals for fibers and fabrics?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Omnishambles Brioche Scarf

Have you ever knit Brioche Stitch? It’s an interesting technique that involves combining yarnovers and slipped stitches to create a ribbed fabric that is both lofty and warm. While it’s beautiful when knit in one color, you’ll often see it knit in two colors. This gives the piece a different look on each side with the added bonus that it’s easier to keep track of the stitches while knitting.

Scarf Knit in Brioche Stitch and Two Colors of Yarn

Many years ago, I attempted some brioche knitting. The instructions weren’t particularly clear for straight knitting, and were downright nonexistent for the increases and decreases. I muddled through a few small projects but my uncertainty about the stitch has made me avoid it ever since.

I recently tested a pattern by Kate Atherley for a basic brioche scarf — no increases or decreases. The instructions were clear enough that I felt ready to attempt a more intricate scarf pattern: Omnishambles<, also by Kate Atherley.

The pattern calls for a half skein of Cascade 220® in black along with a full skein of Noro Kureyon in color #263. I didn’t have anything close to either yarn in my stash; I placed an order for the black Cascade yarn but went with color #399 in the Noro yarn.

Side note: Have I mentioned that there are no local yarn shops here? None. This area has the basic big box stores, but no place dedicated to immersing oneself in knitting indulgence. The struggle is real, my friends.

Folded Brioche Stitch Scarf Knit in Two Colors

The pattern is easy to follow. Between the initial increase and final decrease sections, it’s a simple matter of repeating the same 24 body rows for as long as you wish the scarf to be. I don’t know whether it was intentional, but on my scarf the color changes in the yarn were about the same length as the pattern repeats. There were a few instructions in the decrease section that made me do a double take, but at that point I understood the pattern well enough that I was able to quickly work out what needed to be done.

Omnishambles Brioche Stitch Knit Scarf in Two Colors of Yarn

With my one skein of Noro Kureyon, I had just over four yards (almost four meters) of yarn leftover after making the entire scarf with nine body repeats. After blocking, my scarf measures just over four inches (10 cm) wide and about 64 inches (almost 163 cm) long.

I’m happy that I decided to give Brioche Stitch another try. Are there any techniques that you’re thinking of giving a second chance?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017


About a year ago, we downloaded the soundtrack to Hamilton: An American Musical and our whole family was instantly hooked. We don’t live close enough to any of the live shows to go see it — and probably couldn’t afford tickets if we did — but most of the story is told through the songs so it gives our imaginations a chance to run wild as we sing along.

While on Ravelry recently, I searched for Hamilton-related knitting projects and was happy to find the free HamilKnit hat pattern by Emily Straw. The design has words and phrases from the musical knit around the hat in two type sizes, and a star as in the musical’s logo at the crown.

The stranded colorwork pattern calls for two colors of fingering yarn. I dug through my stash and pulled out some Cascade Yarns 220® Fingering in colorway 7824 Orange and Plymouth Yarn Zino in colorway 8. The Zino has long color changes from purple to gray to orange-brown.

Side View of HamilKnit Knit Hat Inspired by Hamilton Musical

The charted pattern was a breeze to follow, and I was able to knit it up very quickly. The hat is knit in the round, with a tidy colorwork brim that is folded under and knit into place. I only noticed one minor error — in one section, the dashes between the words don’t align horizontally — and that was easy enough to correct as I knit. I love the color combination in this hat, although it’s a little challenging to read the words against the gradient.

It can be difficult for me to determine gauge on stranded colorwork projects because I tend to either knit a little tight or a little loose, and that can change throughout the project. This pattern calls for 27 stitches per four inches (10 cm), and I came close at 27 1/2 stitches. If anything, that should have made the hat slightly narrower, but somehow the circumference is about a half inch larger than the pattern says it should be.

Top View of HamilKnit Knit Hat Inspired by Hamilton Musical

We haven’t worked out yet whose hat this will be, but I have a feeling that eventually I’ll be making enough of these for everyone in our immediate family. As is, the hat fits me pretty well but is too large for our children. If I stick with using wool yarns for future versions, I can felt the hats to make them fit smaller heads as necessary.

Meanwhile, I’ll be singing along with this relevant line from one of the first songs on the soundtrack: “Every action’s an act of creation!”

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Refilling a Beanbag Chair

Do you remember beanbag chairs? When I was a kid, it seemed like every home had one. They were so comfortable for reading, watching television and playing video games on the old Atari system. A couple of years ago, I noticed our youngest liked to sit on a pile of throw pillows on the floor. It seemed like the perfect time to make a beanbag chair.

I started with a Simplicity Home Decorating pattern: #5105 Simply Teen Easy Pillows, view B. Next, I selected a heavy upholstery fabric in a dark color — I wanted this beanbag to be able to withstand any and all abuse. Finally, I picked out a zipper, some muslin and beanbag filling.

If I had followed the pattern directions, I would have ended up with a beanbag chair made from a single layer of completely sewn together fabric. I’ve been a parent long enough to know that spills and illnesses happen, so I changed that a bit. I made an outer layer with the upholstery fabric and added a zipper to the bottom panel, then made an inner layer from muslin that was sewn shut after being filled. By doing that, I could remove the outer layer for washing as needed.

Something I hadn’t considered was the filling losing its puffiness. I seem to remember the filling far outlasting the fake leather on those old beanbag chairs. Yet here we are, just a couple of years later, with a deflated one.

Deflated Beanbag Chair Before Refilling

I decided that if I was going to remove the seam on the bottom panel of the muslin layer, I was going to add a zipper while I was at it. As I considered my options, it seemed the best solution was to hand stitch the zipper into place. I didn’t want to deal with removing and returning the filling, nor did I want to wrestle a half full beanbag through my sewing machine.

Zippers on Two Layers of Beanbag Chair Fabric

Hand stitching the zipper in place ended up being much easier than I expected. For extra stability, I sewed two rows of stitches on each side of the zipper.

Full Beanbag Chair After Refilling

Refilling the beanbag also turned out to be much easier than I expected. The first time around, we lived in a dry climate and it took hours to get the filling into the beanbag. Errant bits of filling were stuck on just about every surface; it was not a positive experience. This time, in a humid area, the filling poured right in within minutes.

The beanbag chair is getting a lot of use again. It could maybe use another half bag of filling, but I don’t want to store the other half so I’m going to give it a little time to compress again.

What sort of filling do you prefer for beanbag chairs, and where do you find it?