Inside the Knitting Bag: Impatient

Every now and then I reach a point in a project, whether it’s a section or the whole object, where I just want it to be finished. . After browsing some really cool inspiration this week, including a crocheted Predator Halloween costume and a collection of Harry Potter inspired knits, I’m anxious to start a new project. However, I’m in the middle of three right now, so I won’t let myself start a new one.

Keene Sweater

Status – Home Stretch

Location – On the couch

Three inches left! That’s it, only three inches left and this sweater is done. I’m on the collar, which is done half in fisherman’s rib and half in reverse fisherman’s rib (it folds over). I’m so close to finishing this sweater, I’m making it a goal to finish it before I see my Grandma tomorrow. I need to show it off for her, obviously, which is good motivation.

Hubby Socks

Status – Neglected

Location – On the bookshelf

The first sock was finished and photograph. The second sock was started while on vacation by the beach. And then I came home, and really focused on the sweater, and sort of forgot about the socks. I really should try and finish these by Christmas. It’s hard when your husband has large feet.

River Shawl #2

Status – Active

Location – In my backpack

My mom finally asked me to knit her something for Christmas this year (she doesn’t know I already made her a hat for her birthday). I needed a lightweight project for traveling to Japan, and had enough extra yarn for this shawl, so I started knitting it again. I’m actually using the same skeins for the first River Shawl I knit, since I bought too much yarn (or was supposed to hold it double and didn’t?). Since I won’t need two of the same shawl, I figured I’d give this one to my mom for Christmas since I made her wait four years before I knit her something.

Christmas Knitting

Status – Looming

Location – Sketchbook

Once Keene and River are complete, I’ll really need to start focusing on my Christmas Knitting. My Mother-in-Law has requested something with Owls, and I have a superhero hat design sketched out for my nephew. I don’t have patterns for either of these, so there may be some trial and error involved. I’d like to get them done by the end of November in case the family Christmas party is early this year.

Selfish Knitting

Status – Dreams

Location – Ravelry Queue

There are so many things that I want to knit, but as I said earlier will need to wait. One of those is another sweater. I already have the yarn for it, so I want to start knitting it as soon as the Christmas Knitting is done so it’ll still be sweater season in time to enjoy wearing it. There are also a few adorable Ravelry patterns that I’d love to do, like the one with the gnomes on the front page from a few weeks ago. I’d also like to try my hand at pattern designing.

Happy Knitting!

 

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Seven Do’s and Don’ts of Travel Packing for Knitting and Crochet

Oftentimes I travel by car, which offers the flexibility of space that simply isn’t found when traveling by plane. For my recent trip to Japan, limited to a suitcase and carry-on for two weeks, I needed to be more focused with my packing methods when bringing my knitting along. Based on my experience from this trip, I compiled a list of seven Do’s and Don’ts of packing a knitting or crochet project(s) for travel.

Travel Knitting packed items

These are the knitting project items I packed for my two-week trip to Japan. I only finished half of the pattern (River by Sylvia McFadden) during my travels.

Do Pack Lightweight Projects

When travelling internationally it’s always a good idea to pack light, especially since you’ll likely need to carry your luggage at some point. Extend this principle to your knitting or crochet and pack a lightweight project, ideally smaller needles or hooks and lighter yarns, that don’t take up too much space in your carry-on.

For my trip, I chose to knit with DK weight (size 3) yarn, bringing along two skeins of Berroco Folio (exactly how much I needed for the project). The pattern I chose also called for only one set of needles.

 

Don’t Over-pack

Be realistic when packing, now’s not the time to include five patterns that you might work on. Pack only enough yarn for the current project(s) that you can reasonably complete during your travels. Think through the project(s) you want to bring and what materials are required.

For my recent trip, I packed only one knitting project to work on start to finish. Even though I was certain I would finish the project on the flight there; I reasoned that if I finished the project I could buy yarn at my destination and work on something new. I am very glad I set that limit, because I overestimated how much time I would knit during transit: I only completed half the project during the entire trip.

 

Do Pack TSA Approved Tools

Always check TSA guidelines before traveling. They have a handy search function here, which informs whether an item is safe to carry in your carry-on, checked luggage, or if it’s prohibited. Other countries may have additional restrictions, so be sure to check those too.

For my trip, I couldn’t pack scissors in my carry-on luggage. Instead I packed a TSA Approved nail clipper. The clippers had no issues cutting the DK weight yarn.

 

Don’t Pack Favorites

While no one likes to consider this scenario, it’s possible that tools or projects can be lost during the confusion of transit. When travelling internationally it’s not a great idea to pack tools that have sentimental value or are not easily replaceable.

For my trip, I packed an inexpensive pair of circular needles, dollar-store nail clippers, and a drawstring pouch reused from a craft fair purchase. If any of these items were to be lost, I would not have been upset (other than losing a knitting project) because each could easily be replaced for less than $10 and didn’t hold any sentimental value. 

 

Do Pack a Hard-copy of the Pattern

A few sheets of paper do not take up a lot of room or add significant weight to luggage, so it’s better to pack a hard-copy of the pattern so you have access to it at all times. WiFi might not always be readily available and electronic devices can sometimes be required to be turned off or lose their charge. Avoid a situation where you can’t work on a project because you can’t access the pattern.

 

Don’t Pack a Complicated Project

Now is not the time to try learning a new technique. Oftentimes when I’m learning new stitches or techniques, I need to refer to reference books or YouTube videos for guidance beyond the explanation in the back of a pattern book or in the pattern’s stitch list. Unfortunately these reference books aren’t light and WiFi isn’t always available, so rather than risking being stuck and becoming frustrated, pack a project within your current skill set that will be relaxing and enjoyable.

For my trip, I chose a pattern I’ve already completed once (River by Sylvia McFadden). There were no surprises, I knew how all the stitches should be worked, and I knew exactly how much yarn the pattern required for my gauge.

 

Do Stay Organized

Keep all the contents of your project contained in a pouch or a bag. This makes it easy to grab out of your carry-on because all the items are in one location. It also makes it easier to keep track while packing, because you know this one pouch has all your tools, yarn, and pattern. A drawstring pouch works well, because it allows the working yarn to pass through the opening without snagging on a zipper.

 

Bonus Knitting Tip:  Use Circular Needles

Over the past few years of knitting during my commute on public transit, circular knitting needles became my preferred needle type for any mobile project. Circular needles can be used for both knitting flat or in-the-round. It’s very easy to stop mid-pattern without risking dropping stitches, because the entirety of the project can be slid to the middle of the connector cable thus preventing the work from sliding off the needles. Additionally, the cable that connects the needles prevents dropping or losing a needle, which can sometimes happen with straight needles.

 

These Do’s and Don’ts worked really well for me on my recent trip. While it’s certainly not an all-encompassing list, I hope these help as you prepare for your upcoming travels.

Happy Knitting and Safe Travels!

 

The Constellation Quilt: Leo

My favorite block in the Constellation Quilt is now complete: Leo, the Lion! (I might be a little biased, since I am a Leo.) This is the fifth pattern block from the book Fancy Tiger Crafts: Constellations.

Leo block

The Leo block is my favorite so far!

With a few blocks completed, I find that I’m loving the progress of this quilt so far. I love the minimalist design, it’s so serene. I’m also very pleased with the colors, when selecting them I drew inspiration from the quilt featured in the pattern book, but also chose shades that I was drawn to. I like how they’re coming together, and with each completed block it pushes me to continue.

Out of all the blocks completed thus far, this one came together the fastest. I think part of that has to do with me finding a method that works well for piecing together and moving to the next block. I begin by laying out all the strips in pattern order, then place the number of stars onto the appropriate star strip.

When working each block, I always start with the star strips. I mark the star placement on the strip in tailor’s chalk, but don’t cut until I’m ready to pin the star. I also mark the top of each star strip for orientation. Always beginning on the left, I take the first star strip and star pieces to the sewing machine. I’ll make the cut and pin right-side together, always working top-down on the strip. I’ll sew the entire star strip, but when I’m on the last piece of that first strip, I’ll leave it in the machine. Then I’ll take the next star strip, following the same methodology, but will conserve a small amount of thread by chain stitching the second star strip next to the first one still on the sewing machine.  Once sewn, I return the first star strip to its place among the others laid out for the block. I’ll continue in this way until all the star strips are sewn. By always working left-to-right  and top-down, I don’t accidentally confuse myself if I am interrupted.

Happy Sewing!

This post is part of a series, check out other constellations Aries, Taurus, Gemini, and Cancer!

The Constellation Quilt: Cancer

Completed the fourth block in the Constellation Quilt: Cancer, the Crab. The pattern for this quilting project can be found in the book Fancy Tiger Crafts: Constellations.

Cancer block

Those three strips at the end just zoomed together!

After completing three blocks, I finally found a rhythm of laying out the pieces, cutting the strips, and  piecing it together. I’m feeling so much more confident in the process. Working with my hands and creating something feels great, but practicing a new skill amplifies that good feeling.

Staying organized is key for this project. While each constellation is different, I also have been writing the name of the constellation in tailor’s chalk on the back corner of each block so I don’t mix-up the constellation or it’s orientation. It would be so embarrassing to assemble the quilt with a constellation upside-down!!

I also prepare the strips in advance to make the assembly part smoother, and keep them in ziplock bags labeled by Constellation. When I complete a constellation, I fold it and return it to the ziplock bag to keep it clean until all the blocks are done and I’m ready to assemble the quilt top.

Prepared Strips

The note card includes the Constellation name and the word “strips”. When I complete the block, I return it to the bag and cross out the word “strips”.

These little actions help me to stay organized. I learned them from my close-family friend who employs these same tactics to manage her sewing stash. My sewing stash isn’t that large, but as it grows over time I’ll continue to use techniques such as these to keep it orderly.

Happy Sewing!

This post is part of a series, check out other constellations Aries, Taurus, and Gemini!

Keene Sweater Sleeves Complete

Finishing the second sleeve was an exciting moment! I was finally able to put on my sweater for the first time and have it feel like a sweater – albeit one that has a really wide collar at the moment. The sweater is a little over-sized on me, because I went up a size (rather have it too big than too small).

Sleeves

Over-sized and super comfy, very happy the sleeves are complete!

The second sleeve took a little longer than the first, because I didn’t have as much free time to dedicate to it. I also messed up the cast-on, so I needed to undo two rows and start from the beginning.

The sleeves are finished with a cuff done in fisherman’s ribbing, which I love so much. Sometimes when I work K1P1 ribbing, the knit stitches don’t turn out as defined on the right-side, whereas the knit stitches on the wrong-side look very pretty. I think this has something to do with how I purl stitch (maybe I purl tighter than I knit?).  This fisherman’s ribbing solves that problem, because the knit stitches are elongated and essentially stretched across two rows making them the highlight.

Cuffs

I love the fisherman’s ribbing of the cuffs.

In my excitement to show my sweater to a few family members, I found my yarn snagged on zippers and jewelry. Luckily no serious damage was caused, but it made me cautious since I have invested so much time in this project.  I’ve taken to storing it in it’s own tote bag separate from everything else while I finish the collar. The collar is worked in the same fisherman’s ribbing as the sleeve cuffs, which I’m super excited about. I love how the stitches look, it’s just gorgeous.

This sweater is in the home stretch now!

Happy Knitting!

The Constellation Quilt: Gemini

Next up for the Constellation Quilt was Gemini, the Twins. My husband is a Gemini, so this is his favorite block so far (totally not biased). This is the third block in the Constellation Quilt, pattern from Fancy Tiger Crafts: Constellations.

Gemini block

I plan on connecting the stars together with embroidery to show the Constellation’s form. It feels very confusing as just a collection of squares right now.

While working on Taurus, I encountered a challenging section of a bunch of thin strips that kept curling, making it difficult to pin evenly and sew. Well that challenged certainly doubled for this block, there were so many connections of thin strips! Stubbornly I went against my better judgement and didn’t iron again, so I struggled through  it. I think it still turned out okay in the end though.

I like listening to podcasts while I sew. My husband does other projects in the same room and we listen to a podcast together. It makes for a really fun weekend at home together. Sewing is very relaxing to me, and working on this quilt has been a great way to improve my sewing skills since I haven’t been able to connect with my close-family friend for sewing lessons this summer. I’m hoping our lessons will pick up again later in the fall, but in the meantime I want to make as much progress on this quilt as I can. It’s very empowering to work on a project, even when you’re unsure of your own skill level.

Happy Sewing!

This post is part of a series, check out other constellations Aries and Taurus!

Thoughts on Socks

The first sock is finished! For these Hubby Socks as I’ve taken to calling them, I’m using a basic toe-up pattern from the book How to Knit Socks that Fit, although I’ll admit I’m starting to question the accuracy of that title.

Hubby Sock 1st Complete 1

This variegated yarn (Carlton Yarns) knits up in a really fun pattern!

It’s a very fat sock; I still need work on knitting socks to fit people’s feet. I think I knit this sock about 2-inches larger in every direction than it needed to be. My husband is a good sport about it though and said they will be nice slipper socks (he’s really excited that I’m knitting him socks, so he honestly doesn’t mind that they’re too large). In hindsight, I should have checked the sizing of the sock by having him put it on earlier in the project. Toe-up sock patterns allow for more control with sizing, and I didn’t take advantage of this fact.

The discouraging part with socks, is that the elation of finishing a project is somewhat marred because this is really only the half-way point. I cast on the second sock, but haven’t made too much progress. I’m still working the short-row decreases to build the toe. I haven’t tried the magic loop method yet, maybe for my next sock project I’ll give that a try.

This project makes for great travel knitting though, because it’s so light and compact. While on vacation I’ve been toting this project to the beach. The simplicity of stockinette stitch also makes it a great project for multi-tasking. I can knit while watching a movie and not worry about missing a crucial part of the pattern. I can’t wait to finish the second sock, because I’m curious as to how the variegated yarn will pattern for the mate.

Happy Knitting!

The Constellation Quilt: Taurus

Taurus, the bull, is the second pattern block in the book Fancy Tiger Crafts: Constellations. High on new-project excitement, I completed this second block shortly after finishing Aries.

Taurus block

Two constellations done, only ten to go!

The block is constructed of night-sky fabric in different widths, with one-inch square stars made of yellow fabric. The book provides easy instruction for making the cuts and guidance for the layout of the strips placement of the stars. As a sewing beginner, the book does a nice job of providing me with guidance.

One area I struggled with though, was the mid-section of the quilt where seven thin strips are sewn together in succession. The book instructs not to iron as you piece the block together, which is contrary to what my close-family friend and sewing tutor taught me. Trying to follow the book logic though, I didn’t iron (I also hate ironing, so I will use any excuse I can to avoid it when possible – but really does anyone enjoy ironing??). Without ironing, the thin strips curl up on each other, which makes pinning the next strip a pain and sewing the length more of challenge than it needs to be. If I had my iron set up and ironed each strip as I went, it likely would have taken just as much time as the laborious pinning process.

Happy Sewing!

This post is part of a series. For other completed constellations check out Aries.

Keene Sweater – Sleeves and Proportions

Keene is my first sweater project. The pattern, by Alicia Plummer, can be found in the book Plum Dandi Knits.

The First Sleeve

The sweater project is progressing along smoothly, with one complete sleeve. My progress on this project had been stymied for a week because I didn’t have the right size double-pointed needles: US Sizes 10.5 and 11. Once those were in hand, the sleeve worked up very smoothly.

Sweater Right sleeve 1

One sleeve done, one to go! So much closer to being able to wear this lovely garment!

The sleeve begins by picking up the live stitches (set on scrap yarn earlier) alongside new stitches picked-up from under the arm to join in the round. The project knits the sleeve with the larger needle, and then switches to the smaller needle at the cuff to work the fisherman’s rib. I love the fisherman’s rib on this sweater; it’s simple to knit and looks beautiful! It’s a fantastic touch for the sleeves. I can’t wait to see how it will look for the collar.

Proportions

I knit the sleeve exactly per the pattern, even though that meant that the sleeve will be a little longer than my actual arms. My reasoning though, was to maintain proportions. At the beginning of the project, I chose to knit the Medium-size Sweater, which would be slightly larger on me, because I was between sizes and didn’t want the sweater to be too tight. That was my biggest fear: that I would spend hours creating a sweater that was too tight for me to enjoy wearing.

Keene sleeve close-up 1

The Fishermen’s Ribbing of the cuff is so perfect for this minimalist sweater.

When it came time to knit the sleeves, I was afraid that if I made the sleeves shorter to fit my arm it would throw off the proportions of the sweater entirely. I considered shortening the fisherman’s rib cuff from four-inches to two-inches, but when I reached the two-inch mark, I stepped back and thought: “nope it needs to be four”. I’d rather have an all-over bulky sweater, than just a bulky-body sweater.

On the Horizon

Now I am a few rows in on the second sleeve. A few rows in, I ran into a snag and had to start the sleeve over from the beginning. I have trouble picking up stitches sometimes, and accidentally pick them up from the incorrect point in the stitch, which resulted in a large, unsightly gap under the arm. Since I was only a few rows in, I figured it would be worth the extra time to start it over from the beginning of the sleeve, rather than trying to figure out a patch later. So I tinked the sleeve and cast on again – much better results this time around. Hoping the rest of the sleeve goes smoothly.

Happy Knitting!

The Constellation Quilt: Beginning & Aries

After a few months of actively working to improve my sewing skills, I came across a pattern book that really inspired me to pursue a somewhat ambitious project.

The Book

While browsing the craft books in Barnes and Noble, I found: Fancy Tiger Crafts: Constellations: 12 Pieced Astrological Blocks, 8 Personalized Sewing ProjectsThis slim pattern book actually features 13 celestial patterns, all 12 constellations of the zodiac plus Orion (one of my favorite constellations). In addition to the constellation patterns, the book also includes patterns for working those blocks into home decor, clothing, and accessories. For this project, I will be following the pattern for the quilt using the pattern blocks for the 12 zodiac signs.

Each constellation is created as a single block, constructed of strips for the night sky and small squares for the stars. The instructions for creating the blocks are very clear and easy to follow. It features the precise measurements, cuts, and diagrams in an organized fashion. While I’m comfortable using a sewing machine, I’m certainly not an expert. I have had no issues thus far following the patterns in this book independently, and would recommend it for others looking to begin a quilting project.

The Fabric

Choosing the materials for this project was a fun shopping experience. I used the measurement estimates for a Queen-sized quilt, and bought an absurd amount of blue fabric in Kona cotton’s “Indigo”. (Seriously, they just gave me what was left on the bolt, it was like 9 1/2 yards.) For the stars, the book recommended using a few shades of yellow to create a twinkling effect, which is exactly what I did. I purchased 1/2 yard each of three different solid yellow cotton fabrics (I wanted 1/4 yard, but 1/2 yard was the smallest amount the store sold).

Book and Fabric

The pattern book, bolt of Indigo fabric, and little stars organized in small bags.

Cutting fabric to size seems to take just as long if not longer than actually sewing pieces together. I spent close to three hours one afternoon preparing materials to get started. Primarily this involved making the stars by cutting the yellow fabric into one-inch squares; I didn’t cut the entire 1/2 yard of each, just a portion of it to create a bunch of stars. Then I prepared the night-sky strips of blue fabric for the first few blocks in the book. Always be conscious of your posture while cutting fabric, I forgot this and my back was sore the next day.

Prepared Strips

I keep prepared strips and finished blocks organized using individual ziplock bags.

Aries

Aries, the Ram, was the first constellation in the pattern book. I was so eager to create this first pattern block. I laid out all my prepared strips and selected stars from my three prepared colors, aligning them at the appropriate points per the pattern.

Aries block

Completed Aries block, slightly wrinkled but will be ironed prior to assembly for the final quilt. Also, I plan on connecting the stars with embroidery in yellow thread to emphasize the constellation’s shape as part of the quilt-top finishing.

It took me a little while to align the strips and stars appropriately per the book, since I wanted it to be perfect. Sometimes perfection can be an enemy, and I forget this. Since this project is my first independent quilt project, I also didn’t want to make any silly mistakes. I’m really happy I took my time with it.

This post is the first in a series where I will document my progress on this quilting project. Look for more installments soon.

Happy sewing!