Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Waiter, There's a Cat in My Potholder

Recently, I took a potholder-making class.  (Check out one tutorial for the pattern we used here.)

I was hoping to be enthralled with making potholders.  "What a great way to use up fabric quickly!  I could make a ton of these and sell them in my Etsy shop!" I thought.

Turns out, it's not really my thing.  I'd rather be quilting.  But I enjoyed the class, hanging out with friends, creating, and learning something new.

I used one of the many cat-themed fabrics and other remnants Sonja gave me last year.

The clever construction of the potholder still left something to be desired in the way it was finished.  Our teacher chose to sew all the pockets or flaps down with a zigzag stitch, and my friend Elisa zigzagged hers and it looked great.

Mine, however, was atrocious.  I blame it on the fact that I only had my otherwise wonderful Janome Gem with me, and my zigzag selection was severely limited.  (It can't be my amateur sewing skills!)

I got out the seam ripper, made mincemeat of the zigzags, then cut out one of my favorite cats from an extra bit of fabric, sewed it onto some fusible web, turned it inside out, pressed it on with the iron, and appliqu├ęd it by hand with blanket stitch, since I didn't want any stitching to show on the back and mess with the charming cat motif.

I had thought this might make a good gift for someone, but it's so darn cute, I think I have to keep it!

It's sitting on the kitchen counter now, all ready for Thanksgiving.

Have a happy one, everyone!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hot Cocoa Mo' Blues

I wish I had looked more closely at what I was knitting every row or two or three.

I thought I was moving along swimmingly, knitting those three different stitch patterns per row, with the decreases and the increases and the knitting into the back loop sometimes and sometimes not, and the purling into the back loop sometimes and sometimes not, and the twisting of stitches and wrapping the yarn clockwise instead of counter-clockwise, and the what-all and the what-not and the what-on-earth-for, keeping track of everything ever so beautifully, only to hold up the sweater back after the armhole shaping last night, and realize, I got off track in two different places, for three or four rows, TWENTY OR THIRTY rows earlier.  Days and days ago.

It doesn't look good.

I encourage people to resist frogging unless absolutely necessary.  Call small errors a design element, and move on.  Live and learn.  It's all practice, right?

I kept looking at it, wishing it didn't look as bad as it did.

"Breathe," I told myself, trying not to despair.

But note how the simple rib in the center section suddenly goes flat.  It looks like someone pulled a thread out of some cloth.

Note how, on the side, the diagonal suddenly stops, as if it has hiccuped or burped, then continues to diagonalize.

Having read other knitters' notes on Ravelry, I know it isn't just me finding this pattern surprisingly challenging, but still, it chafes to make mistakes like this.

I was strongly considering how I might go stitch by stitch down to the Disaster Areas and redo the stitches one by one without ripping out all the rows, but given the fact that some stitches are meant to be twisted and some are not, I could easily make things even worse.

I set the sweater aside--moments of sense and sensibility do occur, I didn't try to fix it at 10 p.m.  I congratulate myself for that at least!

I went to sleep, and then this morning I spread the sweater out to see if those errors really were as bad as I thought after a good night's rest.

Do they bother me still?  Yes.

Do I want to rip it out?  No.

Do I want to wear this sweater with two glaring messes in the back?  After all the work I am putting into this *!#$% thing?  No.

These mistakes don't look like a design element.  They look like crap.

So, I will be spending part of this evening carefully frogging and keeping track of what row I am on, since practically every *!#$% row is different.

"It's the journey, not the destination," I mutter unconvincingly to myself.  "Process, not outcome, progress, not perfection."  Sure, sure--blah blah blah!

I am developing a love-hate relationship with this pattern.  Love the way the stitches look, hate how easy it is to screw it up.  I was hoping to wear this sweater at least once this winter!  Looks like it might be ready in time for November 2014.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Free Pattern: It's Not TV, It's Cable Scarf

This is a basic "mock cable" pattern (hence the name of the scarf).  Plus, it's such an easy pattern, I can watch TV while I knit, with no frogging.  It's one of those versatile stitches that looks great on both men and women.

I made a long scarf for my father with this stitch a few years ago, using three skeins of delectable Plymouth Alpaca Grande.  Two skeins would have been plenty!  Between the alpaca and this cozy stitch, the scarf is so long and warm, he can only wear it when the temperature goes into the low teens in winter.

This does actually happen where he lives now and then, so the scarf doesn't have to stay in the closet all the time.  So sad to think of that poor scarf, sitting cramped in the closet among the heavy coats that rarely get worn either.

But don't cry!  The scarf pictured here is knitted more sensibly out of worsted weight wool.  This is actually some of my handspun, and it was lots of fun to knit with it!

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© 2013 Reyna Thera Lorele
Ravelry: captainhook

The pattern is a multiple of 5 sts plus 2.

For chunky yarn, 200 yds or so should be enough, with size 10.5 needles.
For worsted weight, I used about 270 yds and size 7 needles.

For chunky yarn, CO 27 sts.
For worsted weight, CO 32 sts.

Row 1 (RS):  p2, *sl 1 as if to knit, k2, psso, p2*, rep from * to * across.
Row 2:  k2, *p1, yo, p1, k2*, rep from * to * across.
Row 3:  p2, *k3, p2*, rep from * to * across.
Row 4:  k2, *p3, k2*, rep from * to * across.

Repeat these 4 rows until the scarf is the length you want, or you run out of yarn, or both.

CO = cast on
k = knit
p = purl
psso = pass slipped stitch over
sl = slip
st, sts = stitch, stitches
yo = yarn over

If you like this pattern you might also like this free pattern:  Able Cable Cowl

or these inexpensive patterns:
Christina Cowl
Milan Lace Scarf

Christina Cowl

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Free Pattern: Big Guy Beanie

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A recent commission for a hat had me searching for a simple pattern that would work with my gauge using Noro Obi yarn.  It's a blend of wool, silk, and a small amount of mohair, fairly pleasant to work with as there isn't enough mohair to shed all over the place.  It is a thick-thin yarn, i.e. in some places it is thicker than others.

Noro usually gives a range of recommended needle sizes for all their yarns, which is probably more sensible than just saying one size as most yarns do, since everyone knits with a slightly different tension.  Some of us are looser than others.  Not sure what that says about personalities: there doesn't seem to be a correlation between uptight or anxious and a tight knitting gauge, but I don't think this has been scientifically studied!

Still, it's annoying when the range of needle sizes is given as #8 to #10.  Is it worsted weight or is it bulky?  You decide!

I went for a #9, did the dreaded gauge swatch, and came up with a stitch gauge of 3.5 per inch.  I liked the way the resulting fabric looked.  Onward to knitting the hat.

I was hoping to find a free pattern that had already done the math for me, but when that failed, I came up with my own.  You could adapt this for a smaller head, but if you decide to cast on fewer stitches, do it in multiples of 4 since you are starting with a 2 x 2 rib.  You could use a smaller needle instead, or in addition.  Then you might not want to knit 8.5 inches from the cast-on edge.  You might go 7.5 or 8.  But you still have to get that hat to cover the crown of the head!  Sometimes you just have to do the math!

This pattern is for a large size hat, hence the name:


1 skein of Noro Obi yarn (or about 125 yards chunky yarn)
#10 needles, 16-inch circular, or size to get gauge
#10 dpns, set of 5
Stitch marker
Tapestry needle

3.5 = 1 inch in stockinette

CO 76 sts, place marker on R needle, and join.

Begin K2, P2 rib every row until you have about 3 inches (about 16 rows or so) from CO edge.

K one row.

K2, P2 rib for another inch.

Change to stockinette st, i.e., k every rnd until hat measures 8.5 inches from CO edge.

Transfer sts evenly to dpns now, or a little later, as you decrease to fewer total sts.
Begin decreases as follows:
Rnd 1:  k8, k2tog around (you will have a few sts extra at the end of the rnd, just k them.
Rnd 2 and all even rnds: k
Rnd 3:  k7, k2tog around
Rnd 5:  k6, k2tog around
Rnd 7:  k5, k2tog around
Rnd 9:  k4, k2tog around
Rnd 11:  k3, k2tog around
Rnd 12:  K2, k2tog around
Rnd 13:  K1, k2tog around
Rnd: 14:  k2tog around

Cut yarn, leaving around 6 to 8 inches of a tail.  Using a tapestry needle, weave tail through remaining sts on dpns, then remove dpns.  Pull yarn to tighten, poke needle through top of hat, turn hat inside out and weave in ends.  Turn hat right side out again, fold up the cuff and you're done!

CO = cast on
dpn(s) = double pointed needle(s)
k = knit
k2tog = knit 2 together
p = purl
rnd = round
R = right
st, sts = stitch, stitches

Feel free to contact me with questions or comments!

© 2013 Reyna Thera Lorele
YIYO Designs