Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Hexagon Project: Blocks 10-13

It’s time for my monthly update on my English paper piecing hexagon flower blocks. I'm still maintaining a pace of one block per week.

4 Hand Sewn EPP Hexagon Blocks Arranged Together at an Angle

I’ve learned that it takes me about 45 minutes to baste each of the 19 hexies, then 75 minutes to stitch them together into a block. Let’s not forget the time it takes to choose the colors, and to decide the orientation of each piece within the block. I’m easily spending more than two hours on each block at this stage.

Hand Sewn EPP Hexagon Flower Block 10

On a different note, I initially cut out 200 paper templates. For EPP, the templates are supposed to remain in place until all sides of a piece have been sewn to neighboring pieces, which means that each of my hexagon flower blocks is retaining 12 templates at this point.

Hand Sewn EPP Hexagon Flower Block 11

Based on the number of templates left in my sewing bag, it looks like I’ll run out of them during the coming month. The math bears this out; I should be able to get 16 complete blocks from 200 templates if I remove 12 from circulation with each block.

Hand Sewn EPP Hexagon Flower Block 12

I’m also noticing wear on the card stock templates that have been used more than once. The needle pokes the surface of each template as I baste. When I sew the blocks together, the edges of the templates are also poked by the needle, and the inner hexies for each flower block develop creases as I fold them to align the outer pieces for stitching. It’s only a matter of time until some of the templates lose their shape or stability and need to be replaced.

Regardless of the reason, it's time to cut more card stock hexagon templates. Starting with this new batch, I think I’ll mark the templates as I use them to get an idea of how many times I can reuse each one.

Hand Sewn EPP Hexagon Flower Block 13

All of the blocks have a dark center with, relatively speaking, either a light middle ring and a dark outer ring, or a dark middle ring and a light outer ring. Although I’ve been randomly selecting each pre-grouped set of hexies, to date I’ve made six with a dark outer ring and seven with a light outer ring — right on track for an even balance between lights and darks.

4 Hand Sewn EPP Hexagon Blocks Arranged Together Straight On

I now have 13 completed blocks and, even though I still have quite a way to go, I’m starting to give more thought to how I’m going to bring them all together. Look for another update on The Hexagon Project in about four weeks.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Nontraditional Meida’s Mittens

I’m still working through my leftover wool sock yarn, knitting winter accessories that I’ll give as gifts this holiday season. This time, I decided to knit a pair of mittens.

To be honest, I really wanted to knit a pair of gloves. I’ve only ever knit one pair and would like to try my hand at it again — pun intended, ha! — but giving gloves as a gift can be a challenge because they’re fitted and hand sizes can vary widely. Guessing on the size for a pair of mittens is about as far as I want to go.

A Pair of Meida's Mittens Knit with Nontraditional Colors

The pattern I chose is Meida’s Mittens from the book “Folk Knitting in Estonia” by Nancy Bush. I based the size on my own hands.

While the book shows some lovely examples of brightly colored mittens, the yarn colors I chose are not traditional. Typically, the colored motifs are created by knitting two or more high-contrast solid or semisolid colors of yarn into detailed stranded colorwork patterns. I changed things up by using solid and semisolid colors alongside variegated and self-striping yarns with fluctuating levels of contrast, as follows:
  • Dream in Color Smooshy in the green colorway Happy Forest
  • Shibui Knits Sock in the pink colorway 1765
  • Cascade Yarns® Cascade 220® Fingering in 7827 Goldenrod
  • Cascade Yarns Heritage in 5618 White, dyed with Strawberry and Orange Kool-Aid
  • Plymouth Yarn Happy Feet in #4 Red
  • Plymouth Yarn Dancing Toes in the undid colorway 99, which I dyed with Kool-Aid in a self-striping pattern of seven colors/flavors

A Pair of Meida's Mittens Knit with Nontraditional Colors Viewed from the Cuff to the Tip

The pattern knit up smoothly and quickly. The stranded colorwork is all at the cuff, leaving most of the mitten as straight stockinette stitch.

I learned that the height difference of my fingers forms a sharper angle than the pattern decreases at the tip of the mittens, which meant I had to rip back and reknit a couple of times to get the size just right. Instead of beginning my decreases at the tip of my pinky, I needed to hold off on decreasing until I had knit a little past that point. This wasn’t strictly necessary since the yet-to-be-determined recipient could have an entirely different hand shape, but knowing the mittens fit at least one person well makes me feel better about them.

The Cuffs of a Pair of Meida's Mittens Knit with Bright Nontraditional Colors

The way the colors came together in the cuff reminds me of a spring garden in full bloom, and I can’t imagine a more cheerful reminder that warmer days are coming. I like how the colorwork motifs aren’t fully visible at first glance, but become apparent upon further inspection — just as a path in a garden might be hidden from the sight of a casual passerby but known to a frequent visitor.

I used up the self-striping Dancing Toes yarn in the stockinette portion of the mittens, but didn’t make much of a dent in the other fingering weight yarns. That leaves me with options for a coordinating piece of some sort. Let the planning begin again!

How do you feel about making traditional patterns in nontraditional colors?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Oliver Bear

Fall is here! And for me that means Allergy Season 2. Moving to a new climate has brought out seasonal allergies I never knew I had. In between sneezing and coughing, I needed a little comfort project this week.

Hand Knit Wool Teddy Bear Resting Against the Side of a Basket

In my basket of extra sock yarn, I have a ball of light gray wool that lost its label long ago. It’s super soft and a little fuzzy. But it’s a little too thick to play well with fingering weight yarn, and a little too thin to play well with sport weights. I needed a small project to use this yarn by itself.

I started looking through my copy of The Knitted Teddy Bear by Sandra Polley, and couldn’t resist Oliver. The pattern calls for fingering weight yarn and US-2 (2.75 mm) knitting needles; I used my slightly thicker yarn with US-1 (2.25 mm) needles for a denser fabric.

The knitting was quick and easy — but the finishing! Sewing those tiny pieces took a lot of focus, although I admit I’ve had little to spare this week. I broke up the hand sewing into small blocks of time so I could get each element just right, particularly his face and ears.

Detail of Hand Knit Light Gray Wool Teddy Wearing a Red Sweater

I didn’t have any stuffing on hand, so I cut thin strips of cotton quilt batting to use for stuffing. It’s the first time I’ve stuffed a toy with cotton, and I like how Oliver is holding his shape so far. He’s still squeezable, and he doesn’t have any wisps of polyester filling creeping past his seams as my plushies usually do.

The pattern also includes instructions for a wee sweater to fit Oliver. I used US-1 needles again with Ella Rae Lace Merino in colorway 209, which is red blended with deep browns and grays. I like the way the color and texture of the sweater complement the fuzzy light gray teddy bear.

Hand Knit Light Gray Wool Teddy Bear in a Red Sweater on a White Background

Oliver has round black buttons for eyes. His nose and mouth are embroidered with black yarn. I just noticed I never stitched claws onto the ends of his paws, but he doesn’t seem to mind. To secure his sweater, I added a little black star bead that shimmers like hematite.

Because I used a smaller needle size, my teddy bear is a little smaller than in the pattern; this Oliver is five inches (12.7 cm) tall when standing. He’s been great company as I’ve been curled up sipping tea in between doses of medicine, when he's not frolicking amongst the fabric scraps.

Hand Knit Wool Teddy Bear Resting in a Basket Full of Cotton Fabric Scraps

What types of projects do you like to make when you’re feeling under the weather?

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Scandinavian Hat in Two Colorways

This week I’m excited to share two finishes with you. I knit two hats from the same pattern in different color ways. Originally, each was going to have its own post. But the timing worked out, and the color differences are so dramatic that they really need to be seen together.

Red and Purple Versions of the Knit Stranded Colorwork Scandinavian Hat

The pattern is #03 Scandinavian Hat by Deborah Newton. I’m still on my quest to use up leftover sock yarn, and this pattern calls for light fingering weight — perfect! I also like that the motifs are set up in separate sections. It gives me visual breaks where I can change the colors if necessary as I’m working through these smaller quantities of yarn.

The Red Hat
The red version was first. In this beanie, I used three red yarns:
  • madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in the colorway Tart
  • Ella Rae Lace Merino in colorway 209
  • Handspun in a blend of angelina, bamboo, Blue Faced Leicester wool, firestar, Merino, sari silk, and silk
And two beige yarns:
  • Lana Gatto VIP in colorway 2135
  • A wool yarn which no longer has its label, pulled from a project that was accidentally run through the dryer
Front View of the Red and Beige Version of the Scandinavian Hat

The reds are similar enough to each other that the yarn changes aren’t obvious at a glance, and the same goes for the beige yarns. But some of the yarns are very soft while others are less so. I started with the madelinetosh and Lana Gatto so the softest yarns would be against the wearer’s forehead. After the first few inches of knitting, I made an effort to pair a soft yarn with a less-soft yarn so no single section of the hat would feel rougher than the rest.

Three-Quarter View of the Red and Beige Version of the Scandinavian Hat

The knitting pattern calls for US-4 (3.5 mm) and US-6 (4.0 mm) needles. I tend to knit stranded colorwork loosely, so I opted for US-3 (3.25 mm) and US-5 (3.75 mm) needles.

Side View of the Red and Beige Version of the Scandinavian Hat

Even after vigorous agitation in hot water, the hat circumference is a little over 23 inches (58.5 cm), which puts it solidly in the “large adult” size category. From the brim to the top of the pompom, it measures 17.5 inches (44.5 cm). The hat is a bit big but it’s so pretty, especially when the light catches the sparkles in the handspun.

The Purple Hat
I enjoyed knitting this pattern so much that I jumped right into starting a second hat. For the dark colors, I used:
  • Cascade Yarns® Cascade 220® Fingering in 8885 Dark Plum
  • Regia Blitz Color in colorway 02527
  • Malabrigo Yarn Sock in 808 Violeta Africana
  • Zen Yarn Garden Serenity 20 in the colorway Notebook
The light colors are:
  • Cascade Yarns Cascade 220 Fingering in 8505 White
  • Lana Gatto VIP in the colorway 2135
  • An unidentified ivory yarn
Front View of the Purple, Multicolor, and White Version of the Scandinavian Hat

For this version, I took the needle size down further. My first choice was to use US-2.5 (3.0 mm) and US-4 (3.5 mm) needles, but I somehow don’t own any US-2.5 needles. I wanted to cast on right away so I used US-2 (2.75 mm) and US-3 (3.25 mm) instead.

Three-Quarter View of the Purple, Multicolor, and White Version of the Scandinavian Hat

Because there is more variety in the colors I chose for this beanie, I was mindful of changing the colors with each motif. One notable color choice is that the narrow strips between the wider motifs are all in Malabrigo, with the ivory yarn in the lower two rows and the Lana Gatto in the upper three rows. When the knitting was complete, the beige in the upper rows stood out as darker than the rest of the light colors. But when I soaked the hat, one of the purples bled and the color soaked into the other yarns. By happy accident, the ivory yarn in the lower rows soaked up the most dye, so now the color difference is more balanced.

Side View of the Purple, Multicolor, and White Version of the Scandinavian Hat

This hat’s circumference is about 20.5 inches (52 cm), putting it in the range of a “small adult” or “large teen” size. The length is 14.5 inches (37 cm) from the brim to the top of the pompom, but a good part of the difference in length between this version and the red version is because I accidentally missed one repeat of the first wide motif. That extra repeat would have added another 1.25 inches (3.2 cm) to the length of the purple hat, but it’s still long enough to be a slouchy hat as intended.

Between the two hats, I used up seven yarns! I have recipients in mind for both hats. And I’ve had a request for a third version in yet another color family, so look for that post in the coming weeks.

I’m amazed by how the different colors changed the look of the Scandinavian Hat so drastically. I’m excited to see how the next selection of colors comes together.