Category: Knitting (Page 1 of 4)

I Love Yarn

I like to think I’ve come a long way in the two years since I’ve taught myself to knit. When I first started I didn’t know anything about yarn, I didn’t know there was a difference in the type of yarn used, and I didn’t have a preference. My “collection” (if it could be called that) was mostly harsh acrylic stuff sold at Michaels or Wal-Mart because that’s what I could afford. As time went on and as I began knitting more, I discovered other sites. One I’ve used for a very long time has been Knit Picks. I love some of their yarns, but they also cater to the low budget crowd. Unfortunately I’ve found that over the years the quality has started to lack, or maybe it’s just that I become more and more in love with smaller dye companies.

In any case, once a year Knit Picks has an amazing sale, around the time of Black Friday in the US. I have only bought a small amount of yarn this year, so I saved up for it eagerly.

Turns out, I didn’t actually want that much. I did pick up a set of size 1 metal knitting needles so I can keep making my Christmas ornaments, and I picked up a size 1 set of wooden knitting needles to replace the two that I’ve snapped. I also picked up two skeins of hawthorne that were marked down to $5.50 because I absolutely love that yarn for socks, I’ve already knit a pair in the past, and I picked up two skeins of felici in a colour that I can’t remember. Neutral tones I think. I already have quite a bit of felici in my stash, but why not.

I love yarn. It brings me to a very happy place. I also participated in a yarn exchange on Instagram where you got to grant wishes for people and have one (or many, depending) of your own granted. I found a woman looking for some fiber so I sent her a few ounces of that, and for my wish I requested indie dyed yarn, which another kind soul offered to fulfill. Some companies even offered free shipping if you purchased yarn from them and specified that it was for the gifting which I thought was fantastic and a great way to promote your business. Sometimes, social media can be pretty neat.

I found a cute little sweater with whales I want to make for llama bean this winter before we move to the prairies, and of course I myself could use some mittens, and socks. A never ending supply of knit socks. Right now I haven’t had the time because llama bean has been going through a bit of a stage (I say as I type this one handed) but that won’t always be the case.

All in all I’m happy with my purchase and can’t wait for it to get here!

Star Wars Christmas Ball

I made a lovely practice ball first before attempting what I really wanted which was a Star Wars themed tree ornament. The pattern (found on Ravelry) called for fingering yarn, but I did it with sport, and size 1 double pointed needles. The problem is during the construction of the trial one I snapped my dpn when it came to closing up the ball. Doing those ktog were really difficult on the needles and involved a lot of bending.

I started a second one in fingering – and realized my gauge was way off. There was no way I was going to be able to close the ball up with that size, so I scrapped the entire project and started over, this time using red and green sport yarn. It went much better, but once again I snapped one of my wooden dpn.

If I want to continue to make these adorable little Christmas balls I’m going to either have to replace my wooden dpn with metal ones (and hope I don’t warp them too much) or start using magic loop (I know how to magic loop but I don’t enjoy it, my stitches seem to have long runs that way). I have 21 of the styrofoam balls, enough for a really nice collection of hand knit tree ornaments, themed or otherwise. This year I’m trying to have all my ornaments be hand made as a surprise for my husband when he comes home from depot for Christmas. Me and llama bean are going to be making some salt dough cookie ornaments for the tree this weekend. I haven’t made those since I was in elementary school so I hope they turn out.

I have been taking a bit of a break from knitting my shawl, I worked on it pretty regularly until I got to the feather / fan portion and then set it aside. That will be something I need to pick back up before too long. I just haven’t really felt like dealing with a pattern that I have to follow along with, and I needed a bit of a break. The yarn is an absolute dream to work with so I’m sure I’ll get back to it before too long.

The Importance of Quality

I bought a package of 7cm Styrofoam balls with the idea that I could knit custom made Christmas balls for my tree which is sorely lacking in the decoration department. They would be quick little knits that didn’t require a lot of technical finesse. Or so I thought.

I struggled for hours trying to complete the first ball. The yarn was dragging along my double pointed needles to the point where I was getting blisters from pushing the needles against my fingertips. After reaching the half way point I was tempted to throw the entire project in the garbage, but I kept on because the ornament was pretty cute.

Safe for kids and pets, they were personal to me and I really wanted to complete a test version before dedicating myself to an actual pattern.

By the time I completed the ornament I was completely fed up and doubting my knitting skills. Being self taught means I am constantly learning, and some projects are just beyond me. Then I took a closer look at the yarn I was using. It’s about 15 years old, ancient 2-ply yarn in acrylic.

The more I thought about it the more I was convinced that the problem didn’t actually lay with me at all, but my issues stemmed from using a poor quality product. The yarn was like trying to slide wax up and down the needles, and by the end my fingertips were bloody. It was horrible.

So the next day I bravely started a second Christmas ball, this time in the stash colours I wanted, using “good” yarn, or at least better. Still acrylic, but much newer.

It made a world of difference.

I’m on the colourwork portion already and the Christmas ball is just flying along. I’m not having any of the difficulties in doing my increases that I was previously. The yarn glides along the needle easily (as it should) and I’m not fighting with it. Of course that being said, I DID break a size 1 dpn because I was stressed out and gripping it too tight. Even our supplies have their breaking points (har) it seems. I’ll need to get  myself a new one before too long, I use them for socks. It was disappointing, but I was incredibly pleased that the knitting itself is going very well and as it turned out I was right. The problem wasn’t me, it was the quality of the materials I was using.

Just because you fail at something doesn’t mean you should completely give up. Sometimes, changing just a single aspect can yield a very different and far more enjoyable result.

Shawl Progress

I took a few days off from knitting. As much as I enjoy the cold fall weather, my hands have been giving me some pretty bad aches and pains, so I’ve been trying to get them feeling a bit better before I did very much more. My shawl is slowly coming along though. It’s worked in two sections, first you knit the center panel which is just plain knit stitch with a few knit-front-back and yarn overs that increase the size of it slowly and leave a really nice boarder along the wingspan, then after I’ll be doing some lace work, a fan pattern. Since I’m working with worsted yarn instead of lace or fingering it should be a nice good size, and since it’s an amazing 100% marino from Malabrigo it feels like I’m knitting with clouds in my fingers.

This is the first time I’ve knit with a “good” yarn, a fancy one. I’ve stuck to brands from Wal-Mart or Michaels or Knitpicks ever since I started knitting because that’s what I could afford. There’s nothing wrong with those yarns, you should knit within your budget – this stuff was an amazing gift from a friend and I had been looking for the perfect pattern to use it on. I’m hoping to be able to wrap myself up in this oversized shawl in my reading corner with a good book come winter. It will depend on when I actually finish knitting it though, of course. I think the longest part will be knitting the center as I’m doing now. I’m just over 50% of the way through. I am restricted to knitting nights and during naps because my son is in the “oh that’s fascinating!” stage of life where he wants to play with everything, including pulling and eating yarn. I know I’ll get there, it will just take some time. In the mean time, I can’t help but squish and play with this yarn and go on and on about it. It’s just that beautiful.

Dusting Tom Thumb

Not too long I bought my first spinning wheel. I didn’t know enough about buying them at the time, but I was impatient and bought it anyway. It was a used wheel called a “Tom Thumb” which is from around 1980, made in New Zealand. It’s missing a few parts, most notably four knobs that match the two I have. One goes to the orifice hook, one goes to the second lazy kate, and the third goes to.. I can’t remember what. The maiden head was cracked and my husband managed to sand and repair it last year. We had intended on refinishing the entire piece and getting it running properly, but then kiddo made his early appearance and it got put aside.

I took it out today to give it a bit of love, shine it up and make sure she still runs (which she does). I have it set for double tension right now, but I need a piece to hold the footman to the wheel, I’m using a paperclip right now and lets just say it’s awkward. Ideally I’d like some sort of nut or bolt along with some felt so that the footman doesn’t rub and make a lot of noise (like it does now). I also bought a new orifice hook for it, it won’t match exactly, but that’s alright. In the meantime I set out to see if I could find a woodworker who could make matching knobs for me. I’d like to restore this wheel to her former glory, it’s an incredibly solid wheel that I’m sure has seen some good years.

Ideally, in the (far) future, I’d like to purchase a new wheel. Maybe an Ashcroft Traveller. I also own a few drop spindles (one wooden and two 3D printed) that are a lot of fun to use. In order to get better at spinning you need to practice practice practice practice – and I just haven’t had the time on top of everything else. If it’s a hobby you enjoy though, to make the time and find it some where. So that’s what I’ll do. You can see the yarn I’ve spun so far over on my Ravelry page – some people have amazing yarn. That’s the level I want to get to, and I will, with practice.

Knitting Hats for Winter

It’s getting pretty close to winter here in British Columbia, Canada and my kid has out grown all of the cute little newborn hats that he got last year when he was born. I made him a handful, a little pumpkin and some plain ones. He was so small that in the NICU his hat could have been worn as clothes.

Instead of buying him a new hat that he would just outgrow in another year I decided to knit him one. Hats are fast knits and it’s rewarding to see something you’ve made being worn. He’s too young to appreciate anything fancy, so I picked a simple pattern by Tin Can Knits called Barley.

There’s an issue with the pattern before the decreases. You end on a knit row and continue with another knit row to establish the decreases when you should end on a purl row. That’s the weird wonky line at the top before the hat starts to curve. It doesn’t affect the warmth of the item at all and it’s something my kid certainly won’t care about so I decided to just leave it be and finish knitting it. It’s made from an extra soft acrylic yarn from KnitPicks called Might Stitch. The hat is (of course) too big for him but I figure he’ll grow into it. Hopefully not too quickly.

Crafting Pet Peeves

Hey, it happens. Sometimes things bug us or rub us the wrong way. Today while I was working on my scarf I came across a pretty big pet peeve. In the screenshot above you’ll see one skein of yarn that transitions between pink /purple / blue and various shades of those. It’s ‘chroma’ by knitpicks, and it also varies in thickness from thick almost bulky, to thin, almost lace. The problem is smack dab in the middle of that picture where it abruptly shifts colours with no transition even though the rest of the scarf has transitions.

Turns out the yarn was split in two places, and it threw everything off.

This is a huge pet peeve of mine. I don’t mind the thick / thin consistency as it’s advertised when you purchase the yarn, but I don’t like splits in yarn, and I don’t like the issues caused by those splits. In this case that bright pink should have slowly transitioned to a light purple and then to a blue but instead a huge chunk was missing (all of the blue, and two purple transitions). I didn’t have enough yarn to fix the problem manually so because I was already near the end of the scarf I decided to just try to ignore it and cary on.

I’ve been working on this scarf since August 19th. Scarves are a LOT of work – and this is probably the first and only time I’ll make a scarf in fingering weight (she says unconvincingly). It is much quicker to knit something in bulky weight yarn, or at least worsted. I tend to like fingering weight yarn because it’s lovely sock yarn which is my favourite thing to knit. My yarn stash has a LOT of fingering weight (you can find me over on Ravelry as Stargrace, of course). Thankfully, the scarf is now done, and it looks great on me. We don’t get a lot of really cold weather here, so I wanted to finish it in time for fall to get the most use out of it. It’s one of the only pieces I’ve actually knit for myself.

Do you have any knitting or crochet pet peeves? What do you do to combat them (if anything can be done) and how do you avoid them from happening in the first place? Let me know in comments!

Knitting / Crochet Goals for… 2018?

I like goals, and I like lists. There are lots of crafty projects I wish I could do that I haven’t mastered the skills for yet. In case you’ve forgotten, I’m completely self taught when it comes to both knitting and crochet. I’ve been knitting for two years this September, and crocheting off and on for a number of years. I find crochet very difficult, knitting was much easier to pick up. As such I’ve included a list of ‘goals’ that I’d like to accomplish when it comes to my two crafting passions for 2018. Hopefully I get a few of them done, but we’ll just have to see.

  • Two sided knitting. Oy. How many tries have I given this one now? How many failed attempts? My brain just can’t seem to wrap itself around this form of knitting. It’s a shame too, because it’s absolutely beautiful and I have the yarn for a magnificently geeky blanket if I could ONLY double knit. I want to learn this more than anything else. Practice, practice, practice and then practice some more.
  • Crochet more than single crochet. I can do granny squares (I did make a granny square blanket after all) and I can do simple single crochet, but that is as far as my crochet skills go. I don’t seem to be able to keep track of half double crochet, or triple crochet, or any of that. I get a few rounds in and then my mind goes blank and I end up reverting back to single crochet. Every time. I want to learn the more complicated stitches.
  • Crochet more amigurumi. Pictured above is my small collection (minus my octopus which is on my desk living happily). The “teddy bear from hell” is a very failed experiment when I was first getting started but I still love it. Norbert the unicorn is my pride and joy, and I’d really like to attempt more cute little guys to add to my collection.
  • Fix my first ever knit socks. This is just a matter of finding the socks, and finding the time. I knit them before I knew how to do the kitchener stitch and the toes are completely wonky to the point of being uncomfortable. I’d like to rip back the toes, re-stitch them and close them up properly. If I can remember where they are. Maybe in my yarn bin…
  • Fix my first ever knit shirt. I love the shirt, it fits, and it’s lovely except for one major issue. I used a non-stretchy bind off, which means that there’s no give when you try to wear it around your waist or when you put it on or take it off. Having some give is absolutely essential otherwise you’re just wearing a tight piece of yarn around your hips. I need to first make sure I have some spare yarn, then remove the current bind off (just a regular plain one) and find and learn a stretchy bind off. Once that’s done I’ll have a new shirt I can wear. Again this one comes down to time.

Those are the main goals I’d like to accomplish – and I think it’s a pretty reasonable list. We’ll just have to see how it goes. Do you have any crafty goals you’re working towards? Let me know in comments! Tomorrow we’ll have a regularly schedule gaming post.

Knitting for Me

I’ve always wanted to be the type of person who wears scarves like Rory in Gilmore girls. Not just because it’s winter, but also a stylish accessory. Despite this desire, I don’t actually own a single scarf and I decided that should change. Knitting a scarf may seem like a simple thing, but I actually find them to be some of the biggest projects to take on, second only to a blanket. They take FOREVER, they’re often boring so it’s easy to get side tracked, but I can’t deny that once they’re completed they’re beautiful. I made a cable scarf for my MIL a few years ago out of bulky yarn (a faster knit) so why I decided that my second scarf should be done in fingering, I’m not sure.

Pictured above is the scarf I have been working on for myself. It’s knit with Knitpicks chroma yarn which slowly changes colours as you go along. The end effect is beautiful, and it is keeping me interested because I love seeing the colours change. The pattern itself is incredibly simple:

  • Row 1: [knit, purl], repeat [] to end
  • Row 2: Slip first stitch purl wise with yarn in front, [knit, purl], repeat [] to end

That’s it. The end result is a beautiful ribbed pattern that makes a SUPER stretchy soft reversible scarf. No, mine isn’t perfect. When I was first starting the pattern I wasn’t convinced I was doing it properly and instead of frogging it back to the start I just carried on, and there’s a dropped stitch that I ignored for 9 rows that I had to pick up and carry through and fix – but the scarf is still beautiful (to me at least), and I can’t wait to finish it. I’m about 40% done knitting it so far. I heard some where that scarves should be as long as you are tall, so I’m aiming for this scarf to be at least five feet long. I imagine I’ll finish it some time in October which will give me plenty of time to get some good use out of it this winter.

That gives me time before Christmas to get some smaller projects done as gifts (more about that another time). I spend a lot of time knitting for other people, and it feels nice to be making something just for me.

Knitting Progress

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Tom Thumb Spinning Wheel

February has been a pretty nice month as far as fiber crafts go. I have spun about 1/2 of my corriedale on a top whorl drop spindle, dyed the other half, and added more fiber to my slowly growing collection. I also managed to pick up an amazing deal on a Tom Thump spinning wheel. Very little is actually known about these wheels it turns out – but that’s the joy of spinning, wheels may look different, but they all have the same basic parts, that change depending on the type of spinning / wheel they are created for.

In the case of the Tom Thumb, it can be set up for scotch or double drive tension. It’s a single treadle, with a built in lazy kate. Mine came with three bobbins, the flyer and the flyer whorl, and is intact with the maidens, but it is missing a few smaller pieces that I can hopefully replicate. It’s missing the threading hook, and the knob for scotch tension. It’s also missing a pin out of the footman to keep the arm attached to the drive wheel, but that’s an easy fix with a split pin and some washers. The bottom of the wheel is signed “Tom Thumb – Handmade from New Zealand Kauri” and it’s an exceptionally sturdy wheel. I wish I could learn more about it, but as I said I’ve only found one single article that mentions the wheel here. A nice lady was selling it on Kijiji in my area, and I’m glad I picked it up. Once I get it fixed and in working order (basically attaching the footman properly) I’ll be learning to spin the rest of my corriedale, and I’m pretty excited about that.

This month has been a bit slow in terms of finished projects. I did complete my knit-a-long afghan square, it was double seed stitch and a pleasure to knit. I also finally completed the rainbow socks that I had begun in January. I really need to learn to knit two-at-a-time so that I don’t procrastinate quite so much. I’ve been working away on my entrelac scarf, which I may turn into a cowl, I finished my antler hat, and I’ve also been working on the lace shawl mystery kal that I’ve had on-going for some time. I hope to finish that up before too long, I’m just getting to the lace portions. I know I haven’t been as ‘active’ with my knitting as I was in January, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve been learning a lot, spinning a lot (which I really enjoy), learning to dye yarn and all of the rest. I call that some great progress!

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