Knit Bag Essentials

Summer involves a lot of traveling, so I keep my knit bag stocked with key things I need. Here’s what comprises my travel knitting essentials. 

The Bag

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A gift from my cousin, it’s made from recycled fabrics by ScrapSacks(TM) in Lowell, MA. It’s a good size with a zipper closure so there’s no need to worry about anything falling out.

The Craft

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Right now I’m working on a pair of socks, so I have my current skein of yarn and the project is on Takumi size 3 double-pointed needles.

Ruler

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The sock pattern I follow doesn’t provide instructions in counts of rounds, instead it’s done by inches. Hence why I need a ruler. My grandma gave me this ruler when I started knitting, it’s a lightweight plastic. It features the US Presidents and their terms on the front and back; the list ends with Lyndon B. Johnson’s term starting in 1963.

Stitch Holder

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I’m working on a sock, so when I get to the heel, the stitch holder will really come in handy. This one is a large loop with a white plastic stopper. It used to be my great-grandmother’s.

Stitch Markers

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I keep a small collection of stitch markers handy, because it seems that when I don’t have them I need to use hair ties until I get home. The little pouch came with a knitting kit I bought at the Gore Sheep Shearing Festival this spring.

Scissors

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My grandma gave me these travel scissors. They fold up to enclose the blades and fit neatly in this little pouch.

Crochet Hook

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Nothing grabs a dropped stitch faster than a crochet hook. This one is a size 5 or F.

The Pattern

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This book is compact and light enough that I can carry it with me. My other go-to is to print or photocopy the pattern so it’s easy to take with me. Sometimes I jot down notes and take those with me as well.

Two Knitted Gifts

Knitting is one of those fantastic pastimes in that it’s portable. When you’re busy and on the go, your knitting goes with you. (Obviously, not talking to you, arm-knitted blanket in extra-super bulky yarn).

The spring was super busy, but my knitting went with me in my purse and I finished two cool projects that I wanted to share with you.

Most importantly, I FINISHED MY FIRST SUCCESSFUL PAIR OF SOCKS!!!!

I’m quite proud of this, can’t you tell? I knit a pair of large, men’s socks for my Dad for Father’s Day. His grandmother (my great-grandmother) had knit him a pair of wool socks ages ago. These socks are at least 30 years old, if not older, and they were falling apart. When I first started knitting my mom gave them to me to darn, but let’s be real, you can’t darn socks when you’re still learning the difference between a knit and a purl stitch. I gave it my best shot, but it couldn’t save them. So I decided I wanted to make Dad a new pair.

I found a super-helpful book at the library, How to Knit Socks that Fit by Donna Druchunas. This book is basically how I learned to knit socks. I loved it so much, I went out and bought my own copy.

The socks came out great, and my Dad was really excited to receive them. I don’t think he was expecting them (although I had been knitting during both my brothers’ graduation ceremonies this spring). I kept it a surprise from everyone except my Grandma. It was less pressure that way in case I wasn’t able to make them.

The other adorable project I finished was a newborn baby’s cap. A friend’s baby is due this summer and she had a Winnie-the-Pooh themed baby shower. I love Winnie-the-Pooh, so I knit a cute, simple Pooh hat with little ears. I didn’t follow a pattern for this one I just made it up as I went. It was a fun and quick, whimsical knit!

I’m working on another fun knitting project that you may have seen on Instagram, it’s another cool pair of socks!

2016 Crafting Roundup

There’s been a lot of hate for 2016 online, but for me personally I had a great year crafting. I tried out new projects, tested out some new methods, and kept the Etsy shop going despite being very distracted by my day-to-day life. Here’s a look back at some of my favorite crafting moments of the year.

Knitting Lacework Short Rows

The wedding has inspired me to tackle my most ambitious pattern-knitting to date: The Waiting for Rain Shawl. This pattern features beautiful lacework done in short rows, and it’s the first time I’ve really worked with either of those elements. I’m almost finished the second lacework section and seeing how the pattern comes together is really exciting.

Check out the Waiting for Rain Shawl pattern by Sylvia of Softsweater Knits on Ravelry (where I purchased mine) or visit her website.

Working with Wire

I’ve been playing around with wire a lot more recently in my jewelry making, although none of these wire-wrapped pieces have made it into the Etsy shop yet. Last year I bought new round-nose pliers, which are perfect for creating fun curlicues and wrapping. I still have room for improvement, but that’s a goal for the upcoming year.

Using the Sewing Machine

Creating costumes for PAX East was definitely a larger undertaking than I anticipated, but my favorite part was reconnecting with the sewing machine. I have only limited experience with the sewing machine, basic skills taught to me by my grandmother, but these costumes gave me a chance to work those skills and become more confident. There were definitely some moments that I had to learn the hard way, but I was still learning and that’s the important take-away.

PAX is coming up soon!! Check out some of the CosPlay posts if you want to get ready, including making Lucina’s Mask, Resetti’s Mask, Chrom’s Tunic, and costume design tips.

So what’s up next for 2017?

Well you can definitely bet to see more on the lacework short rows, since I plan to finish the shawl before the wedding. Also, expect to see more experiments with wire; I want to try wrapping stones in different ways and get really creative with it. I also have a real urge to do more with the sewing machine, but access to the machine is hard to come by since I don’t own my own. I’d really love to get more into sewing projects to make things around the house and also DIY/improve some of my clothes. Another big thing on the 2017 craft list is paper crafts. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’ll involve handmade flowers…

Wishing you all a happy new year!

The Knitting Bag – Holiday Weekend edition

Hope the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend was lovely for everyone.

Waiting for Rain Shawl

Current Status:  Short Row Take II

Reached the second section of lacework short rows in the car traveling to Thanksgiving festivities. I need to count my stitches to ensure I have 294 before I start the section… counting requires concentration which is (un)surprisingly hard to come by on a holiday weekend.

Here’s a close up of the short row section.

Check out this pattern by Sylvia of Softsweater Knits on Ravelry (where I purchased mine) or visit her website.

Ninja Turtles Inspired Child Hat

Current Status:  Complete

Met my goal of finishing the hat last week. Once I had the color sorted it came together really quickly. I love knitting child hats because they’re such quick knits and they’re so cute. The eyes gave me a little trouble, because I couldn’t figure out what size I wanted them to be. I experimented while watching Netflix’s and eventually came to create a pair that look like a nice match and a good size. I stitched them to the hat, and it’s complete! Super excited to have finished this project.

See a photo of the completed hat here.

Still working on writing up the pattern, since I need to figure out how I actually made those eyes…. I may need to recreate them again to be sure I’ve done it correctly.

The knitting bag

Waiting for Rain Shawl

Current Status:  Commuting

 

I have three more rows to finish before making it to the next short row section. I was hoping to finish more of this shawl during the week, so I could work on the lacework this weekend, but best laid plans never tend to go that way. Aiming to get through the next three rows by Wednesday… we’ll see how that works out.

Check out this pattern by Sylvia of Softsweater Knits on Ravelry (where I purchased mine) or visit her website.

Ninja Turtles Inspired Child Hat

Current Status:  Found the perfect blue!

 

Finally found the perfect shade of blue at the craft store when my yarn stash failed to deliver. It’s great for that classic animated Leonardo blue. I’ve been making good progress on the hat this weekend, I’ve added in the two-inch blue for the bandana, switched back to green, and now I’m at the decrease rows. My goal is to finish this hat this week.

I decided today that I would write down this pattern as I’m making up. Even though I’ve made up my own knitted creations in the past, I’ve never written a pattern down for others to use. I’m pretty excited to try it; I like challenging myself.

The Knitting Bag

Probably most (if not all) knitters have more than one project going on at once. Here’s what’s currently in my knit bag.

Waiting for Rain Shawl

Current Status:  Commuting

 

The short rows were a success!! I’ll post a picture on Instagram soon. The lacework was definitely a challenging section, but with (a lot of) focus I got through it. I even felt like I was starting to get the hang of it by the end. Back to knitting on the commute, I’m about halfway through the next garter stitch section now. The garter stitch frames the lace work short rows so prettily. I’m totally in love with this pattern.

Check out this pattern by Sylvia of Softsweater Knits on Ravelry (where I purchased mine) or visit her website.

Ninja Turtles Inspired Child Hat

Current Status:  Goldilocks

 

I have scoured my yarn stash and none of the shades of blue I have match Leonardo’s bandana. One shade was too dark. One shade was too light. This perfect shade of blue was too lightweight and thin. This other perfect shade of blue was too thick. I think at this point, I’m going to have to buy a small skein so the project can progress. There doesn’t seem to be another option if I want to have the hat done in time for the holidays.

Inside the Knitting Bag

Probably most (if not all) knitters have more than one project going on at once. Here’s what’s currently in my knit bag.

Waiting for Rain Shawl

Current Status:  On the coffee table

I first came across this shawl at the shop Yarn in the Farms in Beverly, MA on the day my fiancé and I got engaged. I decided on this shawl pattern for my wedding shawl, because it would be a nice reminder of that day. So The Boy gave me needles, yarn, and pattern as a birthday gift.

Starting the pattern wasn’t easy. I recast probably a dozen times before I felt confident. The garter stitch portion went quickly on my commute. Now, I’m on the first portion of lace work short rows. It’s challenging, because I have to stay focused on the pattern or risk losing my place. This is only my third pattern involving short rows and my first with lace work – I may not be confident yet, but I am determined!

Check out this pattern by Sylvia of Softsweater Knits on Ravelry (where I purchased mine) or visit her website.

Ninja Turtles Inspired Child Hat

Current Status:  Searching for the right shade of blue

I’m trying my hand at writing my own pattern with this hat. I have a vision of what I want this hat to look like, so I’m hoping that I can experiment to bring this into reality.

It’s a fairly simple basic hat, knit in the round on double-pointed needles. After cast-on and simple ribbing the hat is done in stockinette stitch. I’m searching for the blue yarn to make the bandana, so I can continue. Once that’s done, I’ll make eyes to sew onto the hat and I’ve been considering adding the bandana ties to the back of the hat.

Funny Frog Hat

Status: Complete

I found this fun hat pattern on Pinterest, which led me to Cassandra May’s pattern on Ravelry. I knit this hat for a newborn, so the free pattern for a six-month old suited my needs. There are also PDF versions and alternative sizes, such as one or two years, or available on her website.

The hat knit up very quickly, I completed the pattern in four days! (I admit, I was also binge-watching a TV show.) I love patterns knit in the round on double-pointed needles and this was very easy to follow. The details are knit flat and sewn on, the most challenging part of that being not letting the wrong color show through. I love how this hat came out and had such a fun time knitting it!

Going in Circles; How I conquered my fear of knitting in the round

Knitting has always been an effort of trial and error for me, fueled by a fierce desire to teach myself. However, as with many skills sometimes guidance is needed to at least grasp the basics. Take for instance, the purl stitch.

The Purl Problem

Easy right? Can you remember the first time you tried it though? I just couldn’t get the concept of moving both the yarn and the needle to the front, so instead I was accidentally adding a stitch every time. My swatch looked like a bad triangle shape after a few rows.

I had a solid handle on the knit stitch, my grey garter stitch scarf was coming out fine. But I needed to know how to make the elusive purl stitch. So I did what anyone would do – asked a stranger on the bus!

The Girl on the Train Bus

I carried my knitting in a little bag, and scanned the bus after I boarded. I spotted a woman with fiery red curly hair knitting a hat. I sat next to her and pulled out my  scarf and started knitting, stealing sidelong glances at her advanced project. It was a gorgeous hat, brown with a pattern of owls – and she was knitting with five needles.

Immediately intimidated I asked, “Is that hard, knitting with more than two needles?”

“Not at all.” She replied nonchalantly.

I didn’t believe her obviously.

“Can I ask another question? How do you do a purl stitch?”

She demonstrated the second most basic stitch in all of knitting on her own hat.

Next to her I silently agonized about two things: 1.) The trouble it must be to do a stitch that isn’t part of the pattern and then have to undo that stitch. Un-knitting, as I like to call it, was very difficult for me, and here was a stranger willingly messing with their pattern! 2.) I needed the put BOTH the yarn and the needle in front?

From Scarves to Squirrels

A few months later, purl and knit stitches successfully understood, I came across a hat pattern that required ears knitted in the round. It was a challenge I accepted, in a small scale. My needles were all over the place and I had to restart at least eight times, but eventually I had two small ears. Then I graduated to the squirrel pattern in Knitting MochiMochi by Anna Hrachovec.

Knitting amigurami actually helped me get a better handle on knitting in the round. Unlike knitting socks or mittens, which need to be symmetrical and ultimately require accurate gauging, amigurami don’t need any of those requirements. You can use any size needle, any weight yarn; it’s like a knitted free-for-all. With the common pressures removed, I could focus on the technique of knitting in the round and really become comfortable with it.

Now, knitting in the round with five needles has become one of my favorite ways to knit. I even become confident enough to bring this type of knitting on the bus, which really challenges my coordination. Next up is learning this so-called “magic loop method”.

Until next time, happy knitting!

Free-Style Knitting – The Coozy Mitten

 

The knitted coozy-mitten started out as a joke. After taking up knitting a little over a year ago, my family has been generous with their ideas of items I could knit for them. Their suggestions vary from scarves and sweaters to blankets embroidered with their face or a knitted Charizard toy. My cousin P suggested the knitted coozy-mitten idea over Thanksgiving.
After the commotion of the holidays settled down, I found myself ready to take on new projects. My cousin P’s birthday was approaching so I figured, why not give it a shot? I had a set of new double-pointed size 8 needles and some red yarn. Perfect time to experiment.
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Cold beer, warm hands.

I don’t have a pattern for these coozy mittens, so I decided to make one up. I’ve also never knitted mittens before, so this was truly an experiment.
After cast-on, I did simple ribbing and then stockinette stitch in the round. When I reached the point for the thumb gusset, I decided to divide the stitches in half, securing half on a stitch holder and dividing the remaining sitches across four needles. Then, with the live stitches I once again joined in the round with an increase row and continued around.
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About halfway through the project, part of the hand completed and starting the other half.

At about the halfway point I bound off and then picked up the stitches from the holder, rejoining the yarn and knitting another identical side. When I reached the point that the two sides were equal and would fit around my test can of ginger ale, I bound off and sewed the two ends together to make a continuous loop on the inside. The bound-off edges sewn together created a pretty stitch detail that I hadn’t anticipated.
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In-process stitching the bottom of the coozy-mitten.

 To finish the piece, it needed a bottom on the mitten to prevent the can from sliding through. Using two of my double-pointed needles, I cast-on 6 stitches and continued with knitting in stockinette stitch, increasing on the knit side by 2 stitches each row until I came to the center row, then I decreased the stitches by reversing the pattern.

 

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The finished coozy-mitten, with my trusty test can of ginger ale.

The finished coozy-mitten came out better than I could have expected. I was so thrilled to complete my second pattern design. It may not be perfect yet, but I expect this won’t be the first cozy-mitten I make. And best of all, my cousin liked his birthday gift!!

Until next time, happy knitting!

Spinning yarns: Exploring the books on knitting

As someone fairly new to the realm of knitting, and also a bibliophile, I’m naturally drawn to the craft aisle in the bookstore. I love the pictures of beautiful handmade garments and complex stitching.

But the surplus of craft books can feel intimidating at the same time. I read patterns all the way through, just to be sure that there won’t be any surprises midway of some intensely complex stitch that’s lightyears above my skill level. One day, my goal is to be able to read patterns with confidence, sure that I understand from start to finish.

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In-process pillow for my living room following the pattern from Project #7 from The Very Easy Guide to Cable Knitting by Lynne Watterson. This is the book that taught me how to cable knit. I’ll share my love of this book in a later post. 

The best books for learning techniques tend to have clear instructions with good corresponding photographs. That’s how I first fell in love with Lynne Watterson’s  The Very Easy Guide to Cable Knitting (1). It’s a fantastic book for learning cable knitting techniques and I highly recommend it.

Some books are definitely better than others, as I’ve had to find out the hard way. I purchased a book of patterns at the library book sale and then tried to knit my first pair of socks.

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The Sock Fail: It started out promising with a cute cable design, but once I reached the heel this pattern was toast!

The pattern started off bad with a miscalculation in the number of cast-on stitches to the number of stockinette stitches used after the ribbing was complete. I started over three times before I realized the pattern was wrong, not me. (It was also my first attempt knitting in the round AND knitting a sock.)

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My small collection of craft books. I often take advantage of the large selection available at the local library. It’s a great way to sample patterns and different authors.

Even though I like to experiment and create my own patterns, I love to also read books and try out patterns designed by others much more skilled than me because it helps me progress my skills. This becomes a way for me to learn, practice my techniques, and find a a great way to relax. Over the next few weeks I’d like to be able to share the books that I love, in the hopes that others will also find these books as enjoyable as I do.

 

  1. The Very Easy Guide to Cable Knitting by Lynne Watterson, 2010, St. Martin’s Press, NY