Reading and Knitting (and watching the games)

Last weekend while browsing the shelves of Barnes and Noble, I came across a new book: Plum Dandi Knits by Alicia Plummer and Melissa Schaschwary. The photographs really drew me in, the designs are simple, stylish, and wearable. Ultimately, the deciding factor was my favorite yarn brand was the yarn used in one of patterns I liked best. I took that as a sign, and brought the book home.

Eager to try one of the patterns, I started with Exeter, a fingerless gloves pattern that seemed fairly straightforward. After all, there was a large sporting event on February 4th that I intended to knit while watching; I couldn’t start anything too complex!

Exeter mitts by Plum Dandi

Love these simple mitts, in a neutral color like this they’ll be good transitional gloves for New England weather.

Since the pattern doesn’t call for much yarn, it was a perfect project to use stash yarn. I went with Paton’s Kroy Sock yarn in Flax, working through the leftover skein and a smidgen from a sock project last year.

Between the Puppy Bowl, Superbowl, and Beanpot Hockey Game (BU v. Harvard), I finished the first mitt. The games weren’t too distracting – although I did accidentally knit the thumb inside-out and needed to redo that. The second mitt took the remainder of the week to finish, since I primarily worked on it during my commute.

The trickiest part was repeating an error I made in the rows switching from the smaller needles to the larger. Instead of ending on row 1 I ended on row 2 in the two-row pattern repeat; which resulted in a noticeable knit row line at the cuff. I didn’t catch the error until almost bind-off, and didn’t think it was worth the effort to undo so much work. Hence, while working on the second knit, I needed to repeat the error to make it look intentional!

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Warm and cozy!!

In the end, I’m happy with the finished mitt project and I’m totally in love with this book. I’m really excited to try out more of the patterns in here!

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Rolling on with River

My latest work in progress is the shawl pattern, River, by Softsweater Knits, Sylvia McFadden. I love her work; pretty much my entire Ravelry queue right now is made up of her patterns.

River Shawl

Weaving in the ends as I go was a smart idea

I’m working this shawl in Berocco’s Folio yarn in green and blue, two of my favorite colors. This yarn is so soft, easy to knit with, and affordable without feeling like I’m compromising quality. I’ve been very happy with Folio yarn in the past; I used it to make my wedding shawl.

What I love about this pattern is the repetition. It’s repetitive enough that I can watch a show or knit on the bus during my commute, without needing to check the pattern every few stitches. However, there’s enough variation that I don’t totally zone out either. It’s a good balance.

River shawl

The colors match well with my yarn bowl

I find the simplicity in this pattern very soothing and meditative. That’s one of the reasons I am so drawn to knitting: it’s a very relaxing hobby. I’m the type of person who needs to be productive. It’s hard for me to “turn off”, but with knitting, I can relax but still feel as if I’m accomplishing something. It’s great way of satisfying that need in my personality, while also taking time to recharge.

Cowl Complete!

It always feels great to complete a project. This one was especially fun, because B and I kept pace knitting together. The past few times we got together, we sat and chatted for hours knitting along on our project. I made the majority of my progress on this project while hanging out with her.

The yarn is so soft, which is needed since this project rests so close to the skin around the neck. I especially love the soft gradients in the yarn; it shows off the stitches beautifully. This is the first time I’ve knit with a hand-dyed yarn of this quality, and it was such a treat!

Cowl

Is this the top or the bottom?

I haven’t quite figured out which way is the top, so I’ve experimented wearing it both ways. It’s great to wear on cold days in place of a scarf, which sometimes get blown out of position in the wind, giving the face and neck a blast of icy air. My hair also doesn’t get as tangled, because the cowl doesn’t shift as much as a scarf does. Downside, because the neck is narrow, it’s not ideal for nice-hair events and will create static.

Cowl close up

Love the way the yarn makes this pattern pop!

I loved learning new stitches during this project. My favorite segment was the alternating small holes. It knit up quick and the pattern was very sweet. The mock cable section was also beautiful, but I prefer standard cables because they’re honestly easier for me to conceptualize.

Overall, I’m happy with how the cowl turned out, and I’m happy that I’ve completed another project on my Ravelry Goals!

Project Details:

Sunny Yellow Hat for Winter

The first completed project of 2018! This hat, made of super bulky yarn, is heavy and intensely warm, making it a great hat for cold winter days.

Free rapunzel hat

This hat is so warm!! Perfect for spending a lot of time outside on a cold day.

The pattern I used for this hat is called Free Rapunzel by Tiny Owl Knits.  For Christmas last year my friend B gave me the pattern book, Woodland Knits by Tiny Owl Knits in which this pattern is featured. The book has a lot of cute, whimsical designs.

I had two skeins in my yarn stash of Bernat’s size six bulky yarn in a gorgeous yellow color that I used for the hat. It was great to use up stash yarn, but there’s always the risk of running out and being unable to replace in that dye lot. I came close enough to the end of the second skein to be nervous.

Cables Free Rapunzel Hat

Still in awe of how pretty these cables are, and how hard they were to knit!

First, the cable brim is knit flat. The bulky yarn made the brim very thick. It shows off the cables stitches beautifully, but knitting cables in such a thick yarn is difficult. I needed to take frequent breaks because it would hurt my hands trying to shift the stitches across the needles.

When the brim was completed, the two ends are seamed together. Then stitches are picked up from the side to create the crown of the hat. The crown is knit in the round; I started with a circular needle and later switched to double pointed needles. I needed to modify the pattern at this point for two reasons: 1.) I’m petite and the hat may not have fit me if I didn’t hasten the decrease rows and 2.) I was running low on yarn.

free rapunzel hat

Love this pom pom!

The pattern calls for two earflaps with long braids, but I didn’t make these. The brim covers my ears quite well, and I didn’t have enough yarn. Instead I used the small amount of excess to make a fluffy pom pom for the top. The pom pom is so cute, I’m really happy with it.

This was a fun project to start off the new year, and perfect for winter. Stay warm and happy knitting!

Knit-Along Kit – Festival Cowl Update

Our cowls are coming along nicely, other than a slight snafu around the holidays in which B and I mixed up our knitting bags and each took home part of each other’s project. That caused about a two-week delay until we saw each other again for New Year’s. Now we’re back at it!

I discovered more about this pattern since I last wrote. It’s called Scaldacollo Todi by Carla Positano Designs. The pattern is available for free on Ravelry if you want to check it out.

Cowl

A benefit to this project is that mistakes are easily hidden.  Good luck trying to find them!

The garter stitch section came out gorgeous, although I think I prefer knitting garter stitch flat than in the round. In order to achieve that look knitting in the round it requires alternating rows of knit and purl, and I’m slower at purl stitches.

Purl rows also require more focus from me, and I had a minor crisis when I dropped a stitch that then dropped about three rows. Mild panic ensued, but I was able to mostly fix it with a crochet hook. The error is more noticeable than the perfectionist in me would like, but I didn’t want to undo 4-6 rows in two colors of yarn to fix it. I figured that when the cowl is worn, it won’t be noticeable so I’m not going to worry about it.

Cowl close up

Love the way the green yarn (Malachite) knits up. It adds such dimension to the stitches.

The next section was a mock cable. I love cables, but this one was not my cup of tea. The cable row was a twist stitch, and maybe I was doing it incorrectly, but it took about as long to do that one row of twist right every three stitches as it did to do the other four rows of p1 k2. The mock cable was only for four repeats, so I was able to get through it and it looks fantastic, which makes the effort worth it, but I probably wouldn’t want to do this cable repeat on a larger project.

After another sequence of garter stitch, I’m on to the last large section of this pattern: alternating small holes. I’ll let you know how it goes! Happy knitting!

2018 Ravelry Project Challenge

The start of the New Year is perfect for goal setting, and Ravelry’s Project Challenge helps users keep track of their knitting and crochet goals.

Ravelry has a new tab in the notebook, called Challenge, which allows users to track project goals for the year. First set an overall project completion goal for 2018. Next plan out the year’s projects by using the Queue feature. Patterns in the queue are displayed here with completion deadlines (if you choose to set them). Completed projects are displayed right under the goal number. The Challenge tab measures progress in percentages as projects are completed.

Since it’s the start of a new year, I thought it would be fun to try. Last year, I completed six projects: the wedding shawl, two pairs of socks, and three christmas ornaments. To push myself, I set my project completion goal to seven this year.

First up on my list are the three current projects from yesterday’s post. The other patterns currently in my queue are by Softsweater Knit’s Sylvia McFadden. I bought a bunch of her patterns during her after-holiday sale in December. I chose two hats (Pebble and Anchor) and two shawl patterns (The Sun and The Elder Tree Shawl).

I love knitting hats, they’re quick and fun to make. These hats are both published in Stone and Sea and feature lace detailing which I haven’t tried in a hat before. Two shawls may be a bit ambitious, but I already have the yarn for these projects and I’m anxious to use it.

I don’t usually plan out my projects for the year like this, and as a result I may need to adjust my project queue if it becomes a little unrealistic or I’m inspired by another pattern as the year goes on. I’m excited for this Ravelry challenge and a year of fun knitting in 2018! Happy New Year!

Cold Weather = Knitting Weather

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s pretty cold in Massachusetts right now. Like really cold. Like record breaking cold. Like so cold my usually unbearably warm apartment is cold enough I thought the heat wasn’t working (it is).

So today I’m definitely going to be a hiding inside and knitting kind of day. After spending a morning on Ravelry under the weight of a million blankets, I’m feeling inspired to work on all three of my knitting projects. Yes, three. Why three at once? Well…

There’s the Free Rapunzel Hat by Tiny Owl Knits. I started this hat in the fall, my friend B gave me the pattern book for Christmas Last year. I’m working it in a fun, yellow chunky knit yarn. I was knitting using size 13 needles, but the yarn is so thick my size 13 double-pointed needles couldn’t hold it. I needed to wait for my Christmas present (a new set of circular needles) in order to have the right size to finish the project. I’m so close to done I can’t wait to finish it!

Then there’s the Cowl by Carla Positano Designs that I got in a knitting kit at a festival this year with B. We’re both working on this project and it’s been fun to have a knitting partner to compare project notes.

Finally, there’s the River Shawl by Softsweater Knits Sylvia McFadden. I got this pattern during one of Sylvia McFadden’s promotions over the summer and have been anxious to try it. After the wedding, my husband and I stopped at The Yarn Sellar in York, ME and I bought some new yarn for this pattern.

The wind is howling something fierce outside, so stay warm everyone and happy knitting!

Knit-along Kit – Festival Cowl

Last spring my college roommate B, a fellow knitter, and I attended the Gore Sheep Shearing Festival at Gore Place in Waltham, MA. We each purchased a knitting kit from the Sonder Yarn’s booth for a cowl. (Sonder Yarns has rebranded as Flying Finn Yarns) The kit featured three skeins of yarn (we got to pick the skeins from a large basket of options), pattern instructions, and stitch markers.

Flying Finn Yarn Balls

My yarn bowl is my favorite coffee table decor item.

What really drew me to this kit was the gorgeous colors and softness of the yarn. Malachite, a vivid green, completely won me over. I also chose the pale grey Cirrus and a soft blue (the shade is called comfy jeans, but I couldn’t find it on their website).  B chose pinks and purple tones.

Flying Finn Cowl Kit

Only about a third of the way through the pattern

The cowl pattern is knit on size 2.5 needles (circular or double-pointed). Neither of us have this size, so we’re using size 3 instead. I prefer bamboo needles (Clover’s Takumi are my favorite), while B prefers metal needles.

Cowl

Close up on the basketweave section, almost done this part…

The fun part about this pattern is the variety of stitches involved. It begins with a simple rib pattern, then transitions to stripes, and then to basketweave. There are more stitches to come, but I haven’t gotten that far in the pattern yet. B is a little ahead of me, she’s on the garter stitch section now.

Cowl

Switching yarns and stitch types keeps this pattern interesting.

The cowl knit kit may have been an exclusive for the sheepshearing festival, because I haven’t found a mention of it on their website. I’m anxious to see what comes next in the pattern.

I’ll keep you updated as B and I knit-along this fun kit!

Cute Christmas Ornaments

This project idea started when one of my friends asked me if I could knit her a cactus. Now that I finally have free time on my hands again, I started with that project. The body of the cactus I designed myself after a little trial and error, and the cactus branches I knit with a simple i-cord.

Knit Cactus

Knitted cactus – this little guy is only 3 inches tall!

I had actually never knit an i-cord before, so I turned to Teeny Tiny MochiMochi‘s instructional guide at the end on how to do that.  I’ve mentioned Anna Hrachovec’s books before, and I find the instructions so easy to follow with practical resources in the end.

Since I had the book open, I started flipping through for more inspiration. I knit the cupcake pattern next – it came out so cute! It was also a super fast knit, I completed it in an evening.

Knitted Cupcake

Doesn’t it look good enough to eat!?

I only made two modifications to the pattern. First, I used size 5 needles and worsted weight yarn, which yielded a larger-sized cupcake. Second, I embroidered the eyes and sprinkles before I stitched the frosting to the cake base and stuffed it. I found that made the assembly a little easier for me, because embroidery is not one of my strengths.

The third ornament, the pear, also came from Teeny Tiny MochiMochi. I just love this pattern, I thought it was so cute.

Knitted Pear

Totally love this finished piece!

Similar to the cupcake, I used size five needles and worsted weight yarn. My colors don’t exactly match those in the book, but they’re close enough. That’s one thing I enjoy about projects like these, they’re very forgiving if you make a mistake. They’re also a great stash-buster when you have a lot of leftover yarn! Knitting these was a nice quick little break in-between larger projects.

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.