Wednesday, 1 January 2014

12 Months, 12 Projects

For my New Year's Day post I thought I'd do a round-up post of all the knitting projects I completed in 2013. For this post I've included links to the patterns, specified the yarns used (when I knew what the brand names were), posted pictures of the finished items, and written a little blurb about the process of making the sweater. I hope the resulting post is interesting and worthwhile, but if not... screw it! It's my blog and I can do a vanity post once a year if I want to!

I made twelve items this year (with a thirteenth project 90% done and a fourteenth 40% done), which isn't at all as much as I had planned to do. I usually average at least one project a month, and technically did this year, but then half the items are small ones. I should have been able to make all the sixteen items that were on my to do list, but I never had such a year for making mistakes as I did in 2013. There were items I must have knitted 2-3 times over because I couldn't seem to do anything right the first (or the second, or the third) time.

I must apologize for the quality of my photos. I am a rotten photographer, and I also didn't have anyone to ask to take photos of me in the items (between the wardrobe changes and my being both plain and vain, it would be a time-consuming process), so you’re getting to see items I made for myself on my dressmaker's dummy instead of modelled by me. Though this may actually be a plus.

Looking over the post now that I've gotten it written, my projects seem like an undistinguished lot. I'm a practical knitter and tend to be cost conscious. I often pick patterns based on what will suit the yarn I have on hand rather than knitting the kind of things I'd most like to knit. And I make a lot of missteps in the decision-making process (things just don't look as good as I'd envisioned!) and in adapting patterns, as I tend to freely modify patterns without really having the technical mastery I need to make complex modifications work. However, my project almost always turn out to be at least usable and I'm trying to learn from my mistakes so that I at least won't make the same mistake again, so it's not all that dire. I just wish the gap between my conceit in setting myself up as a critic of knitting patterns and my lacklustre personal projects wasn't quite so apparent.

These are the patterns I used for my next project, or rather my next three projects. The pictures above are of the Panda Jumper and Sweater, designed by Linda Cyr for Family Circle Easy Knitting's Winter 1996/1997 issue. I used these patterns to make my grandniece's birthday present. Let's call my grandniece Cauliflower (because I actually do call her Cauliflower — it's a pun on her name). I found this pattern so cute I have been waiting for Cauliflower to grow into the smallest size, a 4. Cauliflower turned 4 this year, so the time was finally ripe and I set to work to make my own version of this outfit.

Here's the dress. As you can see, I've departed from the pattern. For starters, I knitted it in a DK yarn (Sirdar Country Style) rather than in a worsted. I also changed the colourway. My niece adores pink and dresses Cauliflower almost entirely in pink and has also decorated her bedroom in pink. So I always make or buy Cauliflower non-pink clothes to give her a little variety. For some reason, red with a brown and cream panda seemed the natural choice.

I modified the pattern to make a short-sleeved dress instead of a jumper. I could just imagine those straps stretching out and falling off Cauliflower’s shoulders and looking generally sloppy and somewhat dated. I decided a short-sleeved dress would look much smarter and also save my niece the bother of having to find a coordinating t-shirt on hectic mornings. I used a garter stitch trim at the hemline and the bottom of the sleeves instead of ribbing, and crocheted a picot edging around the dress’s neckline. Although you can't see the buttons that fasten the shoulders in this photo, they are teddy bear buttons which I scoured the net to find. I was pleased with the end result, a cute yet sensible dress that Cauliflower can wear almost anywhere.

The choice of a panda design turned out to be fortuitously appropriate, because I've since been told that Cauliflower's school mascot is the panda. Her junior kindergarten classroom has a stuffed toy panda which all the children take turns taking home overnight. There are assigned panda-related tasks to be completed at home with this panda, and then the next day at school, the child has to talk to the class about the panda's visit to his or her home. My niece sent Cauliflower to school in her knitted panda dress on the day it was her turn to give her panda presentation. I'm imagining whispered comments about "that brown noser" among her classmates during the speech.

Here's the dress with its matching cardigan. I thought the jacket also needed a few tweaks because I didn't like the pocket flaps or the pom poms or the way the neck or waistband looked. It was all too rough-looking. I instead finished the cardigan with bands of garter stitch, and crocheted picot edgings around the neckline (as I did with the dress). I also fixed the dropped shoulders. Alas, I cut the armholes too deeply and also messed up the button placement so that I had to omit the top button. I would have ripped out half the front pieces to fix these matters but I wouldn't then have been able to get the project done in time for Cauliflower's birthday so I let it go. Looking at this photo makes me want to kick myself, because I should have gotten two such simple things right. The armholes at least won't show so much when the sweater's on.

This is part trois of Cauliflower's birthday ensemble. When I make a dress or a sweater for a little girl it's my practice to whip up a little purse or hat to go with it. It doesn't take much yarn or much time and the little girl in question usually gets much more pleasure out of the accessory than she does out of the garment. It's more truly hers; she can only wear the sweater or dress when her mother says she can, but she can use or play with the purse or hat whenever she likes.

To make this purse, I adapted the Squircle pattern, designed by Kylie Brown. I knitted it in stockinette with bands of garter stitch at the top and bottom, recharted the panda design from the dress to make a smaller version, and used duplicate stitch to embroider it onto the purse. Then I ran some brown satin ribbon through the eyelets at the top and sewed the ends together to make a drawstring. It saved me the time it would have taken to knit I-cord and it dressed up the purse a little more. Just as I expected, Cauliflower liked the purse the best of all three pieces.

I cannot for the life of me find the pattern I used for this sweater, though it's on Ravelry, and though I also took a picture of this sweater and the second sweater I knitted from the same pattern for a friend's two young sons, I cannot find the photo either — I think I accidentally deleted it from my camera. Sigh. My excuse is that I made these two sweaters early in 2013, before I had come up with the idea of doing this post, and so wasn't as careful about documenting the project as I would have been. At any rate, the above photo, which my friend was good enough to give me for use in this post, is of my friend's older boy, who is wearing the sweater I made for him.

A few years ago a former co-worker gave me several large bags of blue, burgundy, and gray Bouquet Sock and Sweater Yarn, and since I despaired of ever making that many socks, I hoped making two boy's sweaters in sizes 4 and 8 would use up a significant part of the yarn. They barely made a dent in the total amount. I used not only the same yarn but the same pattern for both boys. I'm not a fan of the whole "dressing siblings alike" practice, but I could only find one pattern I liked that would suit this particular yarn. I did reverse the colourway for the younger boy's sweater, making it in burgundy with blue trim, so at least he won't have to wear the exact same sweater twice.

The left photo above is the Cascade Green Indulgence (W131) pattern, designed by Karen Connor, and the right photo is of the version I made. My only changes were to fix the dropped shoulders and add waist-shaping. This sweater is made from 450 grams of Phentex Merit acrylic worsted in "Aqua" that I bought at a neighbourhood Zellers stores when it was closing out in 2012. I don't knit with acrylic worsted too much anymore but it has its uses. I work at home and my workroom is in the attic of my century-old house, and the attic can get quite chilly in winter. I needed a warm, hard-wearing sweater that would be presentable enough that I need not be too embarrassed to answer the door when the FedEx guy knocketh upon it. This sweater fits the bill and cost about $10 to make.

The photo on top is of the Day's Eye Hat pattern, designed by Kristen Hanley Cardozo, and the photo underneath is of my version, with the scarf I made to match lying folded under the hat. For this project I used 300 grams of Patons Angora Bamboo yarn in a shade called "Scarlet", even though the colour is totally not scarlet, but a coral. For some reason Patons has discontinued their Angora Bamboo yarn, which is a shame, because it's wonderful soft, silky stuff that was lovely to work with and drapes beautifully when knitted up.

I used the interlacing cable pattern from the hat to make a matching scarf, and added a ribbed border that echoes the ribbing around the opening of the hat. The scarf is 6.5" wide and 4'4" long, which is a little short for my liking, but it will have to do. I had just a tiny bobbin of yarn left when I finished this project. This set is for my sister, and will look great against her dark brown hair.

This was the next pattern I used. It is the Vista pattern, which was published by Patons in the 1930s. I posted about this pattern in my very first post on this blog and said it was utter perfection.

And this is my version. The pattern had to be modified considerably. For one thing its largest size was a 36, and I needed a 38. It was also only supposed to be 19" long, which is far too short for me. I made it 23" long, and lengthened the tie and sleeves by a few inches to make them look proportionate to the new length. I cut the neckline down a little, and I added waist-shaping as I do to all my sweaters. This being an antique pattern, there weren't any diagrams of the finished pieces, nor were there any finishing instructions, which meant I had to draw my own diagrams and hope for the best when it came time to assemble the project. I don't think I did too badly at resizing and reshaping the sweater. The result was a top that fits me and that retains the style of the original. But I was disappointed in the yarn I chose.

This is the yarn I used. It's a hand-dyed Fleece Artist merino/nylon 4-ply fingering sock yarn. It looked lovely in the skein but pooled rather badly on this item. I bet it will wear very well because of the nylon content and I can live with it and enjoy wearing it, but I wish I’d chosen a solid colour. Knit and learn, I guess.

This is the next pattern I used. It's the Diplodocus pattern, by Kate Oates.

This is my version of the Diplodocus pattern, which I made as a Christmas present for my little grandnephew, who was just born in July 2013. I'll call him Bug, because his big sister Cauliflower calls him that. (Cauliflower and Bug! Hee!) For this sweater I just used some odds and ends of acrylic worsted I had lying around. Acrylic worsted is good for kids' sweaters because it's easy care and nearly indestructible. It's size six months, which should fit Bug for the rest of this winter. I tried to find Bug a little dinosaur toy to go with the sweater, but had to settle for a plush alligator. My family was kind enough to say that the stuffed alligator looked very like a dinosaur.

It's probably just as well I couldn't find a dinosaur toy. As I made this item I was uncomfortably aware that though this pattern employs what lingers as the popular conception of what a dinosaur looks like because scientists so long believed that dinosaurs were large reptiles, scientists discovered a few shreds of remnant dinosaur skin several years ago and were able to determine through DNA analysis that dinosaurs were actually mammals and had feathers. Dinosaurs, in fact, were essentially very large birds. Bug may never be a paleontologist now and it'll all be the fault of his aged and behind-the-times great aunt because she filled his tiny mind with outdated false images and information.

The top photo is of the Bookmark Trio patterns, by Megan Goodacre. The photo below is of my version of the "Horseshoe Bookmark" pattern that is knitted in a rust-coloured yarn and lying on top of the other two bookmarks in the top photo.

I made this bookmark as a thank you present for an American internet friend of mine who did me the great favour of buying and mailing me an item I couldn't buy in Canada. (No, this item was not anything contraband or exciting, but merely a 2014 refill for my beloved ARC planner. Because I’m boring like that.) I reimbursed her for what it cost her, of course, but thought at least a token of appreciation was definitely required. This is probably too tiny a token of appreciation, but having never actually met her, I didn't know what she might like or need or use, while I could be fairly certain she's a reader and will use a bookmark. I fancied up the original pattern a little by crocheting around the edges and adding a bead and a tassel.

This is the next pattern I used. These Man's Cabled Slippers were designed by Pat Richards for Vogue Knitting's Winter 1992/1993 issue.

And these are the slippers I made from the pattern above and gave my father as part of his Christmas present as I do every year.

My father has a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis. His feet are very deformed, so much so that while he took a size 9 shoe until he developed RA in his late forties, he now needs a size 12. He also cannot bend his knees well, which means he has to drag his feet when he walks. He ought to have custom-made shoes, but such shoes cost a lot and he's the sort of man who never spends money on clothes for himself and doesn't think it's worth it. My mother would be willing to buy the shoes (and they can afford it), but Dad simply won't agree to be fitted for them. So the poor (if incredibly pig-headed) man buys the few types of footwear he can get his feet into at all (runners and side-zip dress ankle boots) and goes about in considerable pain until they're broken in.

The only thing I can do about this is make slippers for my father. My mother has tried buying commercially-made fabric slippers for my father, but he said they weren't comfortable and he would never wear them. He wears the hell out of the slippers I make for him. I first used this pattern to make him a pair of slippers for a Christmas about fifteen years ago. I modified the pattern by knitting two soles for each slipper instead of just one, crocheting them together, and then picking up and knitting into the crochet chain to make the upper. I figured Dad could definitely use the extra cushioning and it would mean the slippers would last longer. He loved his slippers. That first pair lasted about six years. Then he retired, and because he was spending so much more time around the house, the second identical pair I made for him only lasted about three months.

I brainstormed ways to make the third pair last longer, and came up with the idea of knitting the bottom sole out of Phentex craft and slipper yarn, which gets my vote for being the nastiest-feeling and toughest yarn money can buy. I knitted the remainder of the slippers out of acrylic bulky weight yarn which feels a little a nicer on one's skin. My father asked me if I could add some elastic to the heel to make them stay on better, so I began threading elastic through the ribbing around the heel (you can just make it out the black elastic in the photograph above).

The resulting third pair lasted nearly a year. For the fourth pair, I came up with the idea of inserting felt insoles between the two soles to add extra cushioning and make them even more durable. That worked well, and my father suggested that adding a second felt insole to each slipper would make them even better. I did that to the fifth pair and have been doing it ever since. Then this year my mother told me to make the slippers an inch shorter as the slippers tend to become too big after they stretch out. I cut down the felt insoles and modified the pattern to be an inch shorter. These slippers cost very little to make because I just use whatever bulky weight I have on hand for them. Whatever yarn is left over from one year's pair gets put into the next year's pair, and if I have to piece out different colours of yarn to get the project done, that's fine with me. You can see here that I've used navy yarn for the insoles as I did not have enough of either the gray or the navy to make both the insoles and the upper.

The slippers you see here may not look particularly attractive or impressive and they may be boring for me to make because I think I've made about eight pairs of them, but they're carefully adapted to suit my father’s needs and they're the most important thing I ever knit. They give my father, a man who is in constant pain and severely disabled because of a miserable disease, a significant amount of comfort that doesn't seem to be otherwise obtainable. He often tells me how much he loves his slippers and how he can't wait to get them on whenever he comes home. I'll be making Dad a pair of these slippers every Christmas for as long as we both shall live.


  1. I so wish you would have some more forgiveness for yourself - your work is lovely! Cauliflower and Bug must be just adorable in their gifts, and not a single person will see the "errors" in the garments before the lovely, accomplished stitch work. Your modifications are really impressive, and I am looking forward to the day when I am knowledgeable and confident in doing the same.

    As far as the pooling in the gorgeous short-sleeved sweater, am I the only one who thinks that's really attractive? I guess being self-taught has benefits, especially considering that I will be happy no matter how unsuited the yarn is that I choose for whatever I'm making. ;)

    Thanks so much for sharing your personal work. It's hard to open oneself up to possible criticism of the things that we made, almost like they are little pieces of our souls. You've inspired me today!

  2. I enjoyed reading this post greatly, especially the story of the slippers that you make for your father every year. That is a project of pure love and impressive evolution.