A Monster for Baby Francis

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My wonderful friend from my PhD program is having a baby! So to celebrate, I knit her this sweet monster baby toy. This is Gort from the Big Book of Knitted Monsters by Rebecca Danger.

Toys like these monsters are my favorite way to use scraps of yarn. I use larger leftovers for the body and those small offcuts for the stuffing. Unravelling thrifted sweaters produces a surprising amount of yarn scraps – some of the scraps used to stuff Gort were from 2015.

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Speaking of stuffing toys with scraps, I once heard an experienced toy knitter say that the only reliable way to stuff plush and full toys was to use poly-fil (or some sort of polyester batting) specifically for toy use. I’ve never used polyester filling for my toys. I’ve stuffed with lambs fleece, roving, and mostly scraps of yarn and fabric. I have never had a toy collapse or grow lumpy. I prefer to use scraps as it saves them from the landfill and serves a wonderful purpose.

The body is stripped with worsted weight yarn – the dark blue hails from my mother-in-law’s stash while the light blue marl was from a wedding blanket I knit in 2015.

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I decided to embroider the facial features on this monster to make it baby safe. The embroidery process was a bit nerve-wracking, but I pulled myself together and tried my best to plan it out. I think this little toy has a friendly face, perfect for small ones. Though, I did have a bit of a crisis immediately after finishing the face as I feared it could come across as terrifying. Thankfully, everyone who saw the monster disagreed and thought it was adorable and said it was overreacting.

This little monster is going off to meet it’s new family this afternoon! I’m hoping it will fit right in and be a loved for many years.

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Christmas Break Crafting: Wraping Up with the (sort of) Mia Jeans

I have put the finishing touches to every project I had planned for winter break making madness.

My Erin Skirt, Logalong Skirt, Flora Mittens, and Zweig Sweater, are all complete. Finally, I have put the finishing touches on a pair of refashioned Mia Jeans.

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These jeans are a hybrid of the Mia Jeans pattern from Sew Over It and the original pants design. I kept the side zipper and the button closure of the original pants, as well as no pockets. I achieved the right fit using the Mia Jeans – and that’s about it.

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Here’s a high quality shot of me wearing the original pants (kind of a drop crotch going on)…

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I found these jeans at a Goodwill in Cincinnati, I was on the hunt for a pair of pants with enough stretch required for the Mia Jeans but also large enough for me to achieve a high waisted fit. I walked around the denim aisles stretching every pair of jeans to see if I could find a truly stretchy pair. Eventually, I started imagining that some pairs were stretchy, but then I realized I was actually pulling them on the bias… I’m sure I looked a little crazy. Finally, I was shocked to come across the perfect pair of stretch grey trousers from Gap. The key is that the tag in the back actually says “stretch,” making my job much easier.

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Refashioning these was relatively simple, up to the zipper. I don’t know if I like the long side zipper on such a tight fitting pair of pants… but I also don’t hate it. It makes it a bit easier to tuck in tops and prevent awkward bulking in my midsection, but it does stick out.

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I’d like to make another pair of Mia Jeans, however the fabric characteristics (stretch denim) is not the easiest fabric to find while thrifting. I’m on the hunt for some non-stretch pants patterns (like the Lander Pant!) as non-stretch denim and canvas is easier to find used and reclaimed.

Finished Object: Zweig

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Also known as the sweater that was a little tighter than I planned.

This sweater is an hommage to my Minnesotan childhood winters.  The natural white mimics a blanket of snow and the tonal blue reminds me of a the blue skies that can only happen on the coldest days. Would this sweater keep me warm when windchill hits -40 degrees? Probably not by itself. But I would  be super stylish while waiting for the endless winter to end. (Also, -40 is the point where Fahrenheit and Celsius meet… v. cold)

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This sweater is tighter than I planned. I don’t mean uncomfortable or ill fitting, it just doesn’t have as much positive ease as I imagined. I’ve decided that one of the reasons for this closer fit is due to the 100% merino of the body – it’s probably more like a sport weight than a fingering. Second, I made the crucial mistake of swatching flat rather than in the round. While my flat swatch matched gauge – once I started to knit in the round, I no longer had purl rows to bulk up my stitches. The fabric I produced in the round was much tighter than if I were knitting flat. So lesson learned… always swatch in the style in which you will knit. I’ve already fixed my bad habit in my next sweater project.

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I experimented with bind offs on this sweater. For the sleeves I used Jeny’s surprisingly stretchy bind off and for the hem I used a stretchy bind off (k2tog, tbl). At this point, I prefer the stretchy bind off for ease and overall finished look.

I have a few more sweaters planned this winter – but I’m happy with the first finished sweater of 2018. Here’s to many more!

Finished Object: Logalong Circle Skirt

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Holy Moly. She’s finished.

My dreams of a full circle skirt knit in the log cabin style have been actualized.

I left my last post on this skirt a bit hesitant. I was unsure my design idea could even be realized and not at all confident my planning skills were up to the task. However, after taking a few gambles, I am pleased to say my skirt checks all the boxes. It’s full, flowy, light, high-waisted, and delightful. IT WORKED and I’m not totally sure how.

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Here are some specs:

  • I originally planned for ten triangle segments to make up my skirt, that number shrunk to seven after a layout test.
  • I seamed the triangles together with a three needle bind off.
  • I finished the bottom of the skirt with an i-cord edge treatment.
  • Each triangle uses 40 grams of Brooklyn Tweed Shelter. Overall for the whole skirt I used seven skeins of yarn.
  • I picked up stitches for the waistband and knit a casing for elastic

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The most difficult part of this project was decision making. I have no experience designing – and this was a pretty large and intense way to get my feet wet. I was baffled by the sheer amount of decisions that must be made in a garment. Stitch texture and yarn choice proved relative easy for me, but the waistband was more challenging. For a while I imagined I would knit the waistband separate from the body of the skirt and seam it together, but after mulling over this option for actual days, I determined that fitting a waistband to my body as well as the skirt would be beyond my skill level. So, I calculated the number of stitches needed to fit around my waist and picked up stitches to generally match this number. My waistband is taller than I imagined – but I think this height helps balance the volume of the skirt. It also ensure the skirt falls at a wearable length. One unintended result of my waistband that I love is how the body of the skirt (the triangles) start right at my hip.

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I’m pleased (and surprised) that this skirt has turned out as I imagined. During the construction process I felt a bit nervous about knitting so far out of my comfort zone, but now that I’ve worked through the decision making process I feel quite empowered. I’ve tasted the sweet results of seeing a project from design idea to finished project – and they certainly are addictive. Now I wonder if I can go back to settling for patterns that aren’t quite right (answer: probably not). But I’m not in a rush to give up patterns entirely. I feel quite grateful to Karen Templer and her marvelous idea for the #fringeandfriendslogalong, without which I would be skirt-less and uninspired.

 

The Embroidered Erin Skirt

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This skirt began as a pair of mid-rise wide leg pants. The beautiful herringbone weave fabric with tiny strands of gold were calling out to be transformed into a wearable, everyday item.

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One item I’ve been reaching for constantly this fall/winter is my high waisted denim a-line skirt (seen here). This skirt has been a year round staple since I bought it, ready to wear, about two years ago. I’ve slowly been transitioning from store-bought clothes to homemade versions, and I thought my beloved denim skirt could use a sibling.

The Erin Skirt from Sew Over It is a high waisted button down skirt that comes in a mini and midi length. It’s high waistband is perhaps the only feature it shares with my store bought version. The Erin Skirt has the added details of a button down front, pockets (!) and a more pencil-skirt feel, while my denim version is sans pockets, has a bit more volume and is a bit shorter.

As I mentioned earlier, this skirt began it’s clothing life as a pair of pants. While I loved the pants as-is, they were just a tad too short waisted for my preference. I’ve been leaning toward cropped tops and high waisted bottoms lately; it’s a silhouette I’ve been drawn to in all seasons. While I toyed with the idea of altering the pants to fit me perfectly, I recognized that a skirt would be of greater utility.

Every material in this skirt was somehow secondhand. The pants were found at my favorite clothing swap at Perennial, the covered buttons and material come from Cincinnati’s creative reuse store called Scrap It Up. I’ve never used covered buttons before (let alone vintage one’s), but when I came across a six-pack of Prym covered buttons, I realized their versatility was invaluable. After a short rummage through an upholstery sampler box, I found a perfect navy herringbone fabric for a statement button. I think the total cost of these buttons was $.40 ($.25 for the buttons and $.15 for the fabric sampler). The clothing swap fee was $10, but I took away 10 items, making these pants $1. My total cost to make this skirt was $1.40.

I had to do some unique pattern placement to get enough fabric from the pants to make this skirt. First, my front pieces both include the side seam from the original pants (visible in the photos above and below). Second, I used the original waistband, which is double the width of the pattern waistband and includes four belt loops. Because I used the original waistband, I had to mend the original buttonhole – so there’s some mending visible on the front of the skirt. Third, the pants have about four layers of hem (why so many???) and after unpicking all four, the stitching and fold lines were still quite visible around the bottom of the skirt. After mulling over my options to camouflage the original hem, I decided four lines of chain stitch embroidery would do the trick. This thread came from my sister-in-law’s closet clean out, she found them in a box of middle school craft supplies and I was thrilled to rescue them.

Refashioning pants into a skirt was well worth the extra effort. My favorite parts of this skirt (the buttons and embroidery) were only possible because I limited myself to used materials. These limitations, rather than produce something subpar, allowed me to develop my skills and creativity. I’m absolutely thrilled with this skirt.

Finished Object: Flora Mittens

I’ve been excited about colorwork mittens for a while now – and the design of the Flora Mittens stood out miles from other colorwork mittens I’ve seen. This pattern is available in a bundle – five patterns in all (for about $25). The designer recommends that new-to-colorwork knitters start with the first pattern in the bundle and work their way to pattern number 5. Flora is third pattern, not the easiest but also not the most technical. I would consider myself a colorwork newbie, but I decided to jump straight to the pattern that stood out the most. I’m happy to report that it turned out just fine.

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I have been knitting for six years and these are my first proper pair of mittens. Sure, I made the obligatory newby mitten trial pair with acrylic yarn and poorly shaped thumb gusset (that was also back when I was unaware about weaving in ends… I tied everything in knots). I spent two of my winters in St Louis – which has a mild winter according to my Minnesotan climate gauge – in bulky scrappy mittens made from acrylic scraps found in a dumpster. Last Christmas I made my mom a pair of double layer mittens for her winter walks to work. It was this pair of insulated northern style mitten that made me realize I was lacking proper mittens.

Of all the knit items, I think mittens are the best way to show off knitting skill – yes, that’s right, mittens. While sweaters, scarves, and hats are amazing, a beautiful pair of mittens will add color to the dullest of dark winter days. Waving hello to someone with a stunning mitten shocks them out of their winter hibernation coma.

For these mittens I chose to purchase yarn. In my stash of thrifted sweaters waiting for unravelling I have yet to pick up some good wooly options. Trying to find two sweaters in the same weight yarn with colors that would work together was a challenge I was unwilling to take on at the moment. However, after completing these mittens I can say this challenge seems less overwhelming. My curiosity for rustic wools has been growing – and I wanted to see for myself how knitting with and wearing wool compares with my usual knitting projects (which are dominated by merino and alternative fibers).

The yarn I ultimately chose (though it’s lacking in true rustic-ness but the colors are on point) is Blue Sky Fibers Woolstok in October Sky (blue) and Quartz Crystal (pink). The wool is sourced from Peru. I was glad to find that the yarn company has documented the source of their wool in a blog post (you can read it here). The yarn is sold in 50 gram skeins which is the perfect amount for one pair of mittens for about $8. One pair of mittens for $16? I can justify that as a luxury project. Would I use this yarn again? Perhaps, I appreciate that the source of the wool is documented, but it does have to travel quite a distance to reach me. I’d like to explore the colorwork potential of American produced wools in my next pair of mittens. For my usual knitting projects (sweaters and larger items) locally produced ethical yarn are usually out of my budget – but a small project like 100 gram colorwork mittens might be the perfect way to support local yarn producers without breaking the bank.

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I’ve done colorwork before – but the last major colorwork project was this cardigan back in 2015. So deciding to jump into an intermediate colorwork pattern was definitely a risk. On my first mitten I had a couple of blunders – there’s some misplaced stitches that I chose to keep rather than rip back and replace. The second mitten, however, I would describe as perfect. I was expecting this pattern to be difficult and overwhelming, but I was pleasantly surprised how fun it was to knit these mittens. Deciphering the colorwork chart was like solving a scavenger hunt – following clues which create a magical result.

Colorwork involves the new and added difficulty of holding two strands of yarn but only knitting one at a time. I’ve experimented with different techniques including holding one strand in my left hand and the other in my right, wrapping one over my first finger and one over my second, and dropping the strand of yarn I wasn’t using. I finally settled on the Norwegian style of tensioning colorwork – holding both strands on the same finger. As a continental knitter, this method requires more dexterity in my right hand as I pick the correct strand of yarn – but I found it created the most even tension of the four methods.

I now recognize my new love for mittens. These also only took me three days to make. I have four other patterns in the Selbu Mitten Club bundle – and you can bet I will be making more colorwork mittens this year.

 

2017 Gifting: The (Sock) Hat

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I really wanted to knit Kyle a pair of socks. I have been on such a sock knitting binge starting with this pair here, and I thought I could wow Kyle with a pair of his own hand knit socks for Christmas. I bought yarn, making sure it would be soft and easy for him to care for, and I cast on. The yarn is Araucania Huasco Sock in the Toco Tucan colorway. I couldn’t find much about this yarn online. The Araucania website says they’re handdyed by artisans and inspired by Ancient South American Crafts – but I couldn’t find any information on who actually dyes the yarn, where the artisans live, what kind of dyes they use (though my guess is some sort of acid dye process), or where the wool comes from. The yarn is a 75% merino/25% nylon blend. I wouldn’t call this an ethical yarn option, but I chose it because it was the only color option in the yarn store I knew Kyle would like and soft enough for him to enjoy wearing. Would I use this yarn again? Most likely not. As I’ve been learning more about superwash wools and nylon, I want to avoid them more . I’m considering the natural alternatives to petroleum derived synthetic fibers like wool, cotton, and linen. I also want to avoid chemically intensive production processes which rules out materials like bamboo or any superwash wool. I’m quite new to this conversation, and I’ve been learning quite a lot from Mrs. M’s Curiosity Cabinet – one of my favorite knitting podcasts as well as this episode of the Fruity Knitting Podcast.

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Let’s get back to the project.

This sock story doesn’t have a happy ending. It was never even made. I forgot to factor in how specific Kyle is about his socks – very tight, very thin, never falls down. Kyle’s sock preference is the opposite of a hand knit sock. There’s nothing wrong with this, I’m not trying to convince him to prefer hand knit socks over store bought socks – I just wanted to make him something he would actually wear and be proud of. I made Kyle plenty of terrible things when I was learning how to knit, and he accepted them graciously and now doesn’t wear them (neither would I). It’s high time he had something that was actually good.

So we sat down together to find something that would be worn and fit his style. We came across Mawson by Jarod Flood, a trendy and simple hat that has two gauge options. I wanted to use the original sock yarn (we both agreed the colors were perfect), and holding this yarn double I could make the DK weight gauge requirement. After I barely swatched two inches of fabric I decided it was good enough and was off on the knitting race that I arbitrarily set for myself.

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The best part about this pattern is the crown. The decreases are so clever – reversible!!! And the decreases create the loveliest crown design. I love the simplicity and versatility of this pattern, but it’s very clear that this hat (though simple) has been well designed. I will probably knit this hat for everyone who is knitworthy in my life sometime in the near future.

Kyle knew he would only wear this hat watchcap style, so he requested I sew the brim to keep the look permanent. I just used a running stitch with the same yarn to invisibly secure the brim to the hat. It’s still stretchy, the seam is invisible, and it’s exactly what he wanted.

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