Monday, 2 January 2017
12 Months, 17 Projects
It's time once again for me to do the annual round up post about all my completed personal knitting projects from the past year.
My first completed project of 2016 was a sweater for my grandnephew Bug's third birthday. Bug's still so little that his sweaters can be easily made from stash yarn. I searched Ravelry for a cute pattern for a little boy's sweater, decided on the Night Owl pattern, designed by Berroco, then rummaged through my bag of worsted weight yarn for some suitable colours. I chose a palette of more woodsy and owl-like colours than were used for the sample. I won't provide the links for the kinds of yarn I used as I usually do because they were just your basic inexpensive acrylic worsted. I did end up having to buy one extra ball of the main colour for $4, but that was the only expense for this project. This pattern is out of print, which meant that I had to recreate the design by charting the owl stitches and using the schematics from a size four child's sweater pattern. This took a little time, but it was free.
Here's the completed sweater, in a size four. I'm more or less pleased with it. I added a stripe to the neckline, waistband, and cuffs because the design looked a little too plain to me. When I was at the mid-owl chart point of this project, I regretted my colour choices because I wasn't liking the way they were playing out, but now that the item is finished I think they look acceptable. I do wish I'd shaped the sleeve tops a little because they sit slightly oddly, but the sweater will do as is. When accompanied by some sort of toy, of course, because three-year-old boys don't care very much about new sweaters, especially if they're to get them in July.
Even allowing for the remains of the one new skein of worsted I bought, this sweater used up 110 grams of stash yarn.
For some time I'd had my eye on the knitting pattern for these little numbers, which is the Knotted Slipper, designed by Julie Weisenberger. I do love a knitted slipper with a bit of style, as these definitely have. They are made with fingering yarn, and I have plenty of that sitting around, so this year I thought I'd whip up a pair of slippers for my little sister for part of her Christmas present.
This is the finished pair of slippers, looking as crumpled and unimpressive as they're capable of looking. To photograph these slippers to any advantage, one needs either a pair of antique shoe trees or a pair of photogenic feet, and alas, I have neither.
The finished pair of slippers on an improvised model -- a pair of my flats. The yarn is Bouquet Sock & Sweater yarn, which according to Ravelry is discontinued. Perhaps five or six years ago a former co-worker of mine gave me quite a large bag of Bouquet Sock & Sweater yarn in blue, gray, and burgundy that she said she was never going to use. So far I've made two children's sweaters and this pair of slippers from it -- which has barely put even a dent in the total amount. It's a good thing yarn keeps!
This pattern whipped up very quickly -- I was done in a few evenings -- and used just 60 grams of stash yarn.
This is the 2016 version of the slippers I make for my father every year. I believe this is the eleventh pair I have made. Dad has a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis, and his knees and feet are especially affected. These slippers, with their specially cushioned soles, give my father some comfort. The pattern is a Vogue Knitting pattern from 1996. I modify it by knitting two soles for each slipper (one in the yarn used for the upper and one in tough-as-nails craft yarn), slipping two felt insoles between the one of each kind of sole, crocheting them together around the edge, and then knitting the upper up from the crocheted edge. I also elasticize the heels with thread elastic. Dad wears each pair of slippers to shreds within a year, so I go with an inexpensive yarn, or even better, with whatever bulky weight yarn I happen to have on hand, and if I have to piece out the yarn with a second yarn to make it do, that's fine with me. The yarn used here is from a small lot I got at a thrift shop several years back for three dollars. It's an acrylic/wool/mohair blend labelled as Infitex "Stop Cumbre", was made in Spain, and judging from the graphics and font on the ball band, was probably spun in the seventies. It's not in the Ravelry database, at any rate. There was enough to make the uppers for the 2014 pair, the 2015 pair, and most of the 2016 pair, so that was $3 well spent.
This project used up 150 grams of stash yarn.
This project's starting point was my desire to use up the 230 grams of Diamond Luxury Collection Llama Silk I had left over after making a coat from it last year. To find out what pattern options I had that would suit that quantity and type of yarn, I searched Ravelry for patterns that used that quantity and type of yarn, then browsed the possibilities. I can't be grateful enough for Ravelry's wonderful search functionality. Whatever your specific pattern needs are, Ravelry makes it easy for its members to zero in on the perfect one. I chose the pattern modeled in the photo above, the Amber's Cape pattern, designed by Cherry Darling. I thought it would be useful as I could wear it as either a cowl or a capelet.
And here's the result. I'm fairly well pleased with it, though I haven't quite been able to figure out how to style it. It needs to go over something with clean lines and without much of a collar, and of course can only be worn with certain colours. But it's no big deal if I don't wear it much, as it took me just a few evenings to make it and cost so little -- I only had to buy the pattern and the buttons for it.
This project used up 215 grams of stash yarn. I have a very small ball of the yarn left, which is a good thing because I'll be able use it to mend the coat or the cowl should I need to.
The plan for this project began to form when I saw a little less than 50 grams of blue Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo and perhaps 85 grams of some orange Berroco Pure Pima in my box of cotton yarns, and thought how pretty and fresh they looked together, especially when combined with some of the odds and ends of cream yarn that were also in the box. I began musing on what I could do with them and came up with the idea of a cream, blue, and orange summer top. I began to search Ravelry for sweater patterns that required three colours and DK weight yarn.
The pattern pictured above, which is the Autumn Flurries pattern and a Drops design, was ultimately my choice. I decided that I would make it in a standard top length instead of the tunic length shown here, and that the snowflake pattern, which is rather wintry, would pass for a more summery floral pattern when rendered in the orange Pima.
And here is the finished top, made in a size 38. I bought 300 grams of a cream-coloured cotton wool blend to use for the main colour, but for the life of me I can't remember which brand of yarn it is or find the skein band I thought I'd saved for the purpose of writing up the project. I'll have to get the name the next time I go to Romni Wools. This documentation snafu aside, the top turned out quite well and knitted up quickly with no problems and I am pleased with it. It'll look well with both the tan khaki and denim skirts and shorts I have in my wardrobe. I had just a small amount of each of the blue and orange yarns left, and some of the cream, and this project had resulted in a net stash decrease of -60 grams.
This project plan began with a need: I needed a hat set that would go with a dark brown jacket of mine as well as a certain velvet coat I intend to make (I have the pattern and all materials for it). The velvet is printed with a subtle green and plum floral print on a dark brown background. (That may not sound very attractive, but it really is.) I thought plum would be the colour to go with, because it would also go with an olive velvet jacket I have. Besides, I've developed a real thing for plum in the last couple of years, and have so far acquired a sweater, a rain jacket, and a long-sleeved T-shirt in plum. Now I have a plum hat and scarf.
I selected the pattern above for the project, which is Lórien, by Ann Kingstone, and figured I could whip up a matching glove pattern for it. I bought three skeins of mauve King Cole Merino Blend 4 ply in the bargain basement of Romni Wools in August 2015. Then I didn't get around to starting the project until January 2016. When I did, I made the hat, and decided I wanted a scarf rather than gloves to go with it. I thought I might have enough to finish the scarf, but I ran short. Uh oh. But perhaps, with some luck, I could get another skein from Romni Wools? I went down to Romni in February and discovered they had no skeins of that shade left and that, further, they weren't carrying the yarn any longer. Oh no. I turned to the internet, and checked Ravelry, with no luck. I found that it was possible to order more of the same yarn from two different places in England, but that neither company had the same dye lot.
You know how two different dye lots can be: they can be virtually identical, or they can look like two completely different colours. If I ordered a skein, it could work out well, or I could wind up with a completely different colour of yarn that I'd have to figure out how to use. It was risky, but on the other side of the equation, I had knitted two-thirds of that scarf in a complicated ruched pattern in a fingering weight. I held my breath, and placed the order. I bided my time until the day the skein arrived.
...And the dye lot was a perfect match to the one I had been using. And yes, the photo meme above is an excellent representation of how I reacted when my gamble paid off. Except that the cuteness factor was dialed down by an order of magnitude.
Here's the finished scarf and hat. I really liked the Lórien pattern, but it did turn out to be a rather tricky and time-intensive project. It's easy to make a mistake, not notice it, and wind up having to rip out a couple of days' work. And again, this set was done in a fingering yarn. But ultimately I felt it was worth the work, as I was quite pleased with the set. Another issue that arose was that the instructions said that blocking was not recommended for this project, but the hat turned out to be quite unattractively close-fitting on me. It seemed better to risk blocking than to resign myself to a very unflattering hat that, realistically, I am too vain to wear. That risk paid off too, as blocking gave the hat the drape it needed, and it didn't seem to hurt the texture at all. I went ahead and blocked the scarf too. Given my high risk internet order and rebel blocking, I don't think anyone can say I don't live dangerously.
As you can see, the scarf is just the ruched pattern from the hat worked flat, and I crocheted around it to make the edge look more finished.
Though I bought this yarn last year, it was one of the two lots of new yarn that I bought in 2015 but didn't include in last year's stash calculations, which means it must count as new yarn this year. The leftover yarn from this project therefore counts a stash increase of +10 grams.
In late 2015 my friend Lindsie told me she was expecting to have a baby in May 2016. I started planning the standard baby gift set I usually give to close friends and family: a handknitted baby blanket and booties, a sewn stuffed bear or bunny, and a story book. My first step in getting the gift ready was to turn to Ravelry, where I researched baby blanket patterns.
For the blanket pattern, I chose the Baby Tree of Life Throw, designed by Nicky Epstein. It's a free pattern. I asked Lindsie what her nursery colours and theme were, but it turned out she didn't have one. She was keeping her baby preparations as low key and simple as possible, saying (quite rightly) that parents really do decorating for themselves rather than for a baby who's too young to notice or care. She hadn't painted the baby's room but left it the white it was when she and her partner moved into her apartment. Her diaper bag was a backpack that would be useful after the baby no longer wore diapers, she'd bought a changing pad that would go on top of the chest of drawers in the baby's room rather than a changing table, and she had kept the baby paraphernalia to a minimum in general. Since she was knitting the baby a blanket herself, I questioned whether she would even want a second baby blanket, but when I said as much to my mother, who raised eight children (five biological, three foster), she said, "When Lindsie finds out how often everything needs to be washed, she'll realize that two baby blankets are minimal." The blanket plan was therefore on, and I looked for a bootie pattern to go with it.
I decided on the Leaf Lace Booties, designed by Jacqueline van Dillen. This pattern was published in 60 Quick Baby Knits: Blankets, Booties, Sweaters & More, and I used it last year when making a baby gift for my niece's baby girl.
And here's my version of the Tree of Life afghan and the Leaf Lace Booties. I used Patons' Decor yarn in Oceanside, which is a decent quality yarn with some wool content but is still machine washable and dryable as a baby blanket should be. It also comes in beautiful colours. I chose this soft grayish blue because it seemed attractive and yet subtle enough not to clash with anything else the baby might own. I managed to get the yarn for a very reasonable price because I printed several "40% off one item" coupons off Michaels' website and made three trips to the store to get enough skeins. (The things you'll do when money's tight...) The blanket required slightly less than 250 grams of yarn. I goofed up during the tulips section, didn't read the pattern carefully enough, and assumed the "leaf" effect was created after the blanket was finished. I didn't discover this error until the main section of the blanket was done and I was sewing on the leaf border, and I was not going to rip out that much work if I could help it. I found a way to recreate the leaf effect by stitching it on with a darning needle. This really is a lovely pattern and I'd make it again -- but I will take care not to make that tulip goof again.
A closer look at the Leaf Lace Booties. It turned out that I was just 10 grams short of the yarn I needed to make them once the afghan was done, and I didn't want to have to buy another 100 gram ball, so instead I finished the slipper off with some burgundy-coloured yarn I had on hand. Thus this project, which was to be knit from new yarn and might have been expected to add to my stash size, instead resulted in a net stash decrease of -10 grams.
Some years ago I bought 750 grams of a turquoise worsted yarn at Value Village for perhaps three or four dollars. The yarn was wound into several balls and plainly had been knitted up before. I have no idea what brand of yarn it was, though I was fairly certain it was a cotton. I originally planned to knit the yarn into cushions for one of the bedrooms in my house, but I ended up going with another stash yarn for that project. Then I didn't know what to do with the turquoise yarn -- until I caught sight of it in my cottons box some months ago and began to see it as the perfect yarn for a little girl's jacket that could in turn make a nice gift for my grandniece's seventh birthday. A search of children's jacket patterns on Ravelry produced the Lavanda pattern, designed by Elena Nodel. It really is lovely, and almost romantic in style.
This is the finished jacket. It's knitted up in a child's size eight. I had a little trouble knitting the yarn up because there were many cuts in the yarn and there was some discolouration that meant not all the pieces were a good colour match, but as is usual with the tremendously forgiving medium of yarn, once the project was done, washed, and blocked it didn't betray its humble origins at all. It was also something of a challenge finding buttons to go with the sweater because turquoise is hard to match and I wanted some cute, characterful buttons, but I think I managed it. I predict that the buttons will be my grandniece's favourite feature of this jacket, like they were the time I made her a teddy bear dress with teddy bear buttons on it.
This project subtracted 550 grams from my stash, and now I get to figure out what to do with the remaining 200 grams of this turquoise yarn.
The plan for this project had its genesis in the fact that I had a turquoise cardigan in my sweater cupboard that I didn't like very much and wanted to reknit. I made it back in the day when I used to design by making things up as I went along. It didn't look bad, exactly, but I've spent the last 3.5 years as a knitwear design critic and my "on the fly" design effort no longer met my standards for acceptable design. When I took it apart and was wondering why there were so many yarn joins, I remembered that the yarn had actually been reknitted once before, from a wrap cardigan that turned out not to sit right on me. I decided this third knitting had better be the last, for the poor yarn's sake. The yarn was Patons Kroy Sock yarn, a fingering weight. I decided I would like to make another cardigan with the yarn.
After the obligatory Ravelry search, I found this cardigan pattern, which is Matomoko, by Cheryl Chow. I liked the beautiful stitchwork around the bottom and the cuffs, the shape was good, and it called for the right amount of yarn. There was another sweater I liked better but that I had to pass up because it would have taken more yarn than I had.
Here's the finished project. I made just a few modifications. The stitchwork at the bottom was supposed to be 10.5" deep, which wasn't going to work with my figure (it would sit partly over my bustline rather than under it), so I decreased the depth to 8.5". I also didn't like the way the directions said to do the buttonholes, so I used a two row buttonhole technique rather than in a single row. These are not the buttons that were on the old cardigan, as they were too small and there were only six of them. I bought a new set of buttons, and was very pleased that I only had to buy six new ones as I already had two identical ones sitting in my button tin -- I no longer remember what those old buttons were purchased for, which means it was quite some time ago.
And I'm vowing to never reknit this beleaguered yarn again. But then there shouldn't be any reason to. It's a well-designed piece that suits me and that won't either go out of date or become too young for me.
This project subtracted 340 grams of yarn from my stash.
I've knitted my niece Cauliflower a dress with an accompanying matching purse every year since she was born. But the "knitted dress with matching purse" is a very little girl look, and given that Cauliflower has just turned seven, I decided that this should be the last year I do it, and that starting next year, I will be knitting her sweaters and sewing her dresses. I further decided that this seventh and last knitted dress must be extra special.
The first step was to search Ravelry for a special little girl's dress pattern. I chose the Seamless Flower Dress, by Ewelina Murach. It's an attractive piece of contemporary design, and it's quite simple and wearable -- it's not too dressy for school.
The pattern called for a DK weight yarn, and I also wanted wool. As to colour, my niece loves pink and has dressed Cauliflower in pink and decorated her room in pink ever since she was born. I've never before made Cauliflower anything that was pink as I thought she ought to have some other colours in her wardrobe. However, Cauliflower is now old enough to have her own favourite colours, and her favourite colour is... pink... with red running a close second. This last special knitted dress really ought to be in a colour she loved, so I decided the dress should be pink or red. I visited Romni Wools during their 20% off sale and found just the right yarn in their bargain basement: the discontinued Debbie Bliss Blue Faced Leicester DK in Rose.
And here's the finished dress and purse. I made the dress in a size 8, which was the largest size the dress pattern ran to. The dress has an unusual construction: one begins by crocheting the centre of the floral device and then knitting outwards until the flower is completed, places the sleeve stitches on holders, knits the skirt, knits the sleeves, and knits an I-cord finish on the neckline. I didn't modify this pattern at all. I do have my qualms about those eyelets, which will mean Cauliflower has to wear a slip or some sort of underlayer. I suppose little girls generally wear undershirts in cold weather anyway and it won't make much practical difference to Cauliflower.
This pink was a very difficult pink to match. I couldn't find a pink button for it (the Queen Street West button store that was my go-to source for hard-to-match items closed down this year because the owner retired, sob), so I wound up using this white button with iridescent pink streaks that I had in my button tin. It stands out too much for my liking but doesn't actually look bad, and it'll be hidden under Cauliflower's very long hair anyway.
The dress's purse, for which I used the Squircle pattern, and some pink ribbon that goes but doesn't quite match. I visited a shop on Queen Street West that carries nothing but ribbons and this was the closest match they had. I wish I could have matched the ribbon's colour to the dress's button instead of going with this off-shade pink, but I bought the ribbon before I realized I wasn't going to be able to find a pink button -- but again, the button is going to show very little.
I made the ribbon rose you see here and also a corresponding one for the other side of the purse using some internet tutorials. Making ribbon roses is a very useful little skill (store bought ribbon roses are only available in a few colours and sizes), and pretty easy once you get the hang of it. I do wish I'd taken the trouble to make the bag design more like that of the dress -- I could have added some eyelets, for instance. Knit and learn, I guess.
And I'd wax sentimental about this last knitted dress... but for the fact that there are other little girls in the world for whom I can make as many little dresses and purses as I could possibly find time and materials for. Thank heaven for little girls.
This dress and purse was made from newly purchased yarn. I had just 20 grams left over, so that's +20 grams.
My next project plan began when it became necessary to reknit an existing sweater. Back in 2010, I knitted myself a Schiaparelli Bowknot sweater from the iconic 1920s pattern out of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool in burnt orange, and Sublime Yarns Cashmere Merino Silk DK. Then, because the sweater didn't seem to go with anything I had in my wardrobe, over the course of the spring and summer of 2015 I made a skirt in a material and a style specifically selected to go with the sweater. And then, just when I'd finally gotten a whole outfit together, what happened? Moths happened. And they, or more accurately their larvae, ate about four holes in my Schiaparelli Bowknot sweater.
I wasn't as upset as you might expect. I had been considering redoing the sweater anyway, and it was almost a relief to have the matter decided for me. The fact was that I had never really been satisfied with my Schiaparelli Bowknot sweater because the twenties-era lines of this sweater were too shapeless and unfinished-looking to suit my figure or my taste. Years ago I used to think I loved 1920s fashions, but when I did some reading up on it and paged through actual twenties designs, I discovered that what I had actually loved was our contemporary costume designers's recreations of twenties clothing, and that authentic 1920s clothing looks shapeless and unflattering. And as I continued looking through books on twentieth century fashions, I discovered that it was the 1930s, with its beautifully shaped classic clothing and clever detailing, that was my favourite fashion decade. I've made two sweaters from vintage 1930s patterns that I am thrilled with because they have both great shaping and great style, and I just didn't feel the same way about my bowknot sweater. With only four moth holes, the yarn I had used to make my Schiaparelli Bowknot sweater was still worth reknitting, but I definitely didn't want to reuse the same pattern for the reknit, and I turned to Ravelry to find a new look for the yarn.
After some searching to find a pattern that called for two colours of fingering yarn in the amount I had, I settled on this design, which is the Amande Tee, designed by Atelier Alfa. It's a contemporary pattern, but I thought it had a certain 1930s vibe to it. Knitwear of the 1930s often did have Art Deco-inspired artful stripes. The construction is unusual. One begins by knitting each shoulder patch from the centre out, and once the two patches are complete, picking up and casting on more stitches for the front and back until one is knitting the body in the round. It was a bit of a challenge to make this sweater, but a worthwhile one.
And here's my completed version of the Amande Tee. I am much happier with this sweater than I was with its former reincarnation. It has a far more polished and flattering shape and looks much more current, and it's visually striking. And, of course, it is entirely moth-hole-free.
This sweater is a reknit and counts as stash yarn, and so making it subtracted 305 grams from my stash.
It is with reluctance that I turn to this next project, which did not end well. I never posted about this one on Modwardian or even posted a photo of it to my personal Facebook page as I usually do, and I'm only including it here so as to make this post an honest and complete representation of my projects from 2016. This item began well, with my deciding I'd take apart a certain cap-sleeved spring green sweater I'd had for years and do something else with the yarn, as the original version was a nice piece but didn't have a flattering shape for my figure. Once I got the old top apart and added the small amount of yarn I had left in my stash, there was 220 grams of DK weight green yarn (I don't know what brand it was). I needed to combine the green yarn with a second yarn in order to have enough for a sweater. I searched Ravelry for a pattern that required two colours and a DK weight, and settled on the one pictured above, the Kaleidoscope Yoke, designed by Katie Himmelberg.
The next step was to find the second yarn for the sweater. I took a ball of the yarn down to Romni Wools and scoured their (large) selection to find something that looked right with such a bright colour. There were only a few that did, but I fell in love with the Manos del Uruguay Alegria, pictured above with a ball of the green yarn. It was a fingering weight, but I thought I could make it work by adjusting the number of stitches as I transitioned from the yoke or cuffs to main colour. Once I had a yarn and a pattern I loved, it was full speed ahead on the project I was confident I would love too, once it was done.
Alas, this was the tragic result. Good God, do I hate this sweater. It looks just plain sad, partly because it didn't photograph well, but it doesn't look much better in real life, for two reasons. The first reason is that, as much as I love the Alegria yarn, it wasn't the right choice for this design, which called for a self-striping yarn. The weight discrepancy also didn't help the looks of the piece.
The second problem was that the green yarn didn't spring back the way yarn usually does when reknitted. I've re-used yarn plenty of times and good quality wool yarn -- which this green yarn was! -- has always looked like new once it was washed and blocked. Not this time. I ran this sweater through the washer and blocked it twice each and the green stockinette still looks this ratty. I can't stand the sight of this sweater, hate the way it looks on me, will never wear it.... and so a new project plan is born. Sometime in 2017, I shall take this sweater apart and reknit the Alegria yarn into something else. I've picked out a pullover pattern for it that requires two yarns, but I won't be using the green yarn again, which means I'll have to buy a third coordinating yarn to go with the Alegria yarn I originally bought to go with the green yarn. This is becoming a vicious cycle, isn't it?
This project should have subtracted 200 grams from my yarn stash (i.e., the weight of the green yarn used minus the weight of the Alegria left over), but instead it added 200 grams of Alegria to my stash. Arghhh.
This (much happier fated!) project began when I decided it was time to reknit a certain cream cotton top that I'd made years ago, back before I clued in to what shapes suited me, which meant that the result had been a cute top that looked like hell on me. I thought a slightly too short and narrow and tragically empire waisted cap-sleeved knit top would easily make a sleeveless top of the right size, and I also had half a cake of the yarn left in my stash. I searched Ravelry for a suitable new pattern for 250 grams of cream cotton blend fingering yarn, and chose the Canyon Lace Tank, designed by Kristen Ten Dyke. It called for the right weight and amount of yarn and is a very attractive and flattering piece.
And here's my finished version. I made just one modification to the pattern, and that was to raise the neckline by about two inches. I have a short torso and the designer's neckline specifications would have put too much of my goods in the shop window. But I did run into one snag, and that was that I didn't have enough yarn. Thankfully I'd finished the body with the yarn I had, but I had the neckline and the armhole bands still to knit, and only a handful of scraps to do it with. As for the possibility of buying more, not only had the yarn been bought years ago, but I didn't even know what brand it was, much less its dye lot. But I did know I had bought it at Romni Wools, and made a trip there hoping I'd have some rather phenomenal luck and be able to match it. This, of course, was too much to hope for. I wasn't able to find the original yarn -- I don't think Romni even stocks it anymore. But I examined all Romni's fingering weight cottons in cream, looking for a decent match, and settled on one that was fairly close.
The supplemental yarn is Katia's Concept, a cotton-cashmere blend. (No link to the yarn's Ravelry page because it doesn't seem to be in the Ravelry database.) It's a little creamier in colour than the body yarn, but the difference is quite subtle. I did the armhole and neckline bands in the Concept, and then cut the hem band, which was in the original yarn, off and reknit it in the Concept so that all the bands would match. I'm not a hot weather person, but this outfit does make me look forward to spring. I'm also planning to sew myself an ivory linen jacket that will look great over this outfit.
I used 250 grams of the original cream yarn to make this top and used it all, but then had 30 grams of the supplemental skein of new cream yarn left over, which results in a net stash decrease of 220 grams.
Back in 2012, when I made a panda dress, jacket and purse for my grandniece Cauliflower's fourth birthday present, I had over 350 grams of red Sirdar Country Style DK yarn left over from this project that couldn't be returned. This year when I spied the red yarn in my stash, I started thinking about using it to make a sweater for my three-year-old grandnephew, but I soon realized there was too much of it to make a sweater for him, and it seemed like a shame not to make a larger project that would use almost all of it up at once.
A Ravelry search for a design that would require about 350 grams of DK yarn led me to this pattern, which is the Verthandi's Knotwork Sweater, designed by Catherine Waterfield. I thought it a simple, attractive, and wearable, and definitely the kind of design that suits a bright solid colour yarn. I'm a sucker for a Celtic knot pattern, and I also liked the unusual belled cuff shape that is more commonly found in blouses than in sweaters.
And here's my version of the Verthandi's Knotwork Sweater. It hasn't photographed well here and looks a bit as though it were sized for the Incredible Hulk rather than a slightly top heavy woman, but it looks quite satisfactory in person.
This sweater used up 330 grams of stash yarn.
This project plan began when I fell in love with a design. Four years ago, the Arc-en-Ciel Pullover, designed by Maria Leigh, appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of Knitscene. The pattern has been in my Ravelry favourites ever since, and I bought that issue when it was on the stands because I immediately decided I had to make it. It took me awhile to get to it, though.
In July 2015, I took a trip to Romni Wools to get yarn for this project. I did really like the suggested yarn, which is Noro Taiyo Sock, but Romni didn't have it in the sample colour. So I scouted around for a substitute and settled on the yarn you see pictured above: Drops Fabel Print, in a shade Ravelry informs me is called Red Chili. I ended up being quite satisfied with my choice. While I loved the rusts, reds, plums, and greens of the Noro Taiyo Sock yarn, I wasn't too thrilled with the accompanying strips of gray and mustard yellow. The Fabel Print had the rust, red, plum, and greens I loved in the Noro, but instead of the gray and mustard I disliked, it had some brown, cream and peach that I liked. Though it didn't offer quite the same self-striping effect, I preferred its palette to that of the Noro. It also turned out to be quite a pleasing yarn to work with and wear.
And this is my finished Arc-en-Ciel pullover. The sizing gave me some trouble. It's difficult to assess gauge on a bias-knit sweater. I thought my yarn was a little finer than the Noro, and I was between sizes, as the pattern offered sizes 36 and 40. I adjusted the instructions to make a size 38 and knitted on a pair of 3.25 mm needles to compensate for the yarn weight. The bottom of the sweater seemed to be just the right size, so I stupidly proceeded to knit away until I'd finished the front and the back and part of one sleeve... only to realize that the sleeve was way too big, and then that the chest measurement on the front and back was way off as well -- I think it would have been 45", or maybe more. Upon checking the pages of other Ravelry members who had made this design, I found out the pattern's sizing was off -- everyone was complaining that the size 36 turned out to be close to a 40. Sigh.
The project got a long hiatus -- over a year -- and then I ripped the whole thing out and began again, knitting on size 3.0 mm needles and working according to the instructions for size 36. I also added waist shaping. This time I finished the sweater and though it is indeed a size 40, I think it's just as well for a bias-knit sweater in this style to be a little on the generous size. I am very pleased with this piece and don't even care that it will only look right with a dark brown bottom piece. After all, it's such an interesting piece in its own right, and I have quite a few dark brown skirts and trousers: this suiting skirt, a velvet skirt, velvet leggings, a pair of faux suede trousers, and a pair of suit trousers, so I can dress it up or down. I'm also thinking my little collection of peridot jewelry (it's my birthstone) will look nice with it.
This yarn was the second of the two lots of yarn I bought last year and didn't count in last year's round-up post, which means it has to be considered new yarn now. I had 40 grams left, so that's a stash increase of 40 grams.
Over a year ago, my sister flipped me a link on Pinterest with the words, "Dude. I want this." "This" being a crocheted Sherlock Holmes amigurumi, designed by Vilma Ilona. The doll, of course, is based on the character played by Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC's Sherlock, a show that (if her Pinterest board is any indication) my sister is completely obsessed with. She told me she wanted the doll to keep on her desk at work, so that she "could use it to talk to people".
Yeah, I don't know either.
I dutifully added the doll to my project list, and here is my version of it. The pattern didn't specify which yarn weight to use. Most of the Ravelry members who made it seemed to use worsted or even bulky weight yarn, but I didn't have the appropriate colours in any weight but sock yarn. I worked with two strands so that it wouldn't turn out too small, and I was pleased with the resulting size. I forgot to measure the finished doll, but I'd estimate that it is about 8" long, or over an inch bigger than the designer's sample size. My version has some shortcomings. I didn't quite have the right gray -- Sherlock's overcoat is supposed to be a charcoal gray rather than this medium gray, but I thought it was close enough. I also didn't get the hair right -- this doll's hair looks more like eighties-era Kirk Cameron than current day Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes -- but again I thought it would do.
I can't say I enjoyed making this item. I don't like crocheting and I don't like working on such a small scale, and the combination of the two drove me right up the wall. This little project took weeks because I simply couldn't keep myself at it. It was a huge relief to finally finish it in time, on Christmas Eve, and then to wrap it up with the things I'd bought to go with it and put it under the tree. Originally I'd planned for this doll to be a stocking stuffer, but then it occurred to me to expand on the concept and to make my sister's present a thoroughgoing fangirl kit. I bought first the notebook folder, and then the official Sherlock calendar with accompanying vinyl sticker. I made sure to get a notebook folder with the "Get out. I need to go to my mind palace," quote on it because it's the sort of thing my sister would say in one of her more surly moods. And judging from the way she chortled as she took each separate item from the package, the fangirl kit idea was very much on point. She seemed even more amused by it than by the box of gold and silver stick-on tattoos I put in her stocking (I told her the gold back tattoo had to be saved for some very special and very classy occasion).
It's hard to estimate how much stash yarn this project used because I had to stuff the pieces as I made it and I don't know what the stuffing weighed. The doll weighs 90 grams, so I'm going to assume that 50 grams of that is yarn.
Several years ago, after I launched this blog, I came across a picture of an irresistibly cute pair of slippers on Pinterest. They were the French Press Felted Slippers, by Melynda Bernardi. I already had a pair of rather nice slippers I had made out of a bulky weight wool yarn, but it didn't take me long to decide I much preferred the style of these. I then proceeded to take apart the first pair and knit up a pair of French Press slippers.
And here's the result. This yarn is Patons Classic Wool Worsted, in a colour called Tree Bark Mix. The slippers were knitted with two strands on 10mm needles. It amused me to remember that my pair of 10mm needles were the first pair of knitting needles I ever bought and that I'd used them exactly once before: to make my very first sweater, in a tragically ill-chosen candy floss pink yarn, when I was ten years old.
The knitting part of this slipper project went quickly and easily (last January!) and then the slippers spent nearly an entire year in my work basket, waiting for me to sew them together and then felt them. I had never felted anything before (not on purpose, that is), and kept putting off the task of finishing them the way I tend to do when I don't know how to do something. Finally at about 6:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve I started work on the felting.
I hadn't read anything on felting aside from the instructions in the pattern, which was a mistake, especially given that I wasn't felting the slippers in my washing machine as the instructions say to do. I have a front loading washing machine and didn't think it would work as well as the top loader machine with a central agitator that's supposed to be the ideal machine for felting. I thought I could do the felting in the kitchen sink, and I was making some progress doing it that way, but it was too slow, and as I was using my hands to agitate the knitting, that limited how hot the water could be. I then got the idea of felting the pieces in a measuring cup of hot water heated in the microwave, using a wooden spoon to agitate them. This worked better but I was having trouble keeping the water hot, so I switched methods again and began felting the pieces in a saucepan of water kept at medium heat on a stove burner. Whenever I wanted to try the slippers on for size, I'd lift them out of the saucepan with tongs, douse them in a sink full of cool water, and squeeze the water out as best I could. This method proved fairly effective, but did it ever take a long time. I had initially thought I'd be done the job in half an hour (felting with a machine is supposed to take 20-25 minutes), but I worked on it for four hours, partly because I had taken awhile to hit on the right method, and partly because I made the mistake of doing the slippers in three parts: the straps by themselves, then one slipper body at a time.
Not only did doing the pieces separately make the process much longer, it also proved a bad idea because the colour of the felted fabric changed. By the time I was done the second slipper, I realized to my horror that I had two different colour slippers: one was a grayish khaki green, and the other was a dark olive green. However, it was 10:30 on New Year's Eve, I'd just spent hours standing over a boiling hot saucepan incessantly stabbing my knitting with a wooden spoon, and I was NOT going to keep working and trying to fix that mistake that night. I turned off the stove and cleared up a little and left the kitchen to go relax for the rest of the evening.
The next morning I checked the slippers again and found that, besides being two different colours, they still were a little too large for me. I boiled both the slippers and the straps on the stove for an additional hour and a half, checking for size every half hour. After that hour and a half they were a perfect fit... and, thankfully, the same colour again. Though that's a grand total of five and half hours of felting time. I don't think I spent that long knitting the slippers.
As you can see from the above photo of one of the slippers with the leftover yarn it was made from, the finished slippers are a completely different colour from what they were originally. I'm still astounded by this colour change. How on earth did the colour become so much darker and richer? I would have expected it to fade if I'd expected any colour change at all, which I didn't. Fortunately, I like the new colour. Unfortunately, the buttons I'd bought for the slippers looked terrible against the new colour, and I had to make a quick trip to Fabricland to get some different ones. Another problem arose: I was supposed to use unfelted yarn to stitch the end of the straps on, and the stitches were bound to show. I looked in my stash for a similar green but didn't find a yarn that would be less conspicuous -- green is a difficult colour to match. I settled for trying to make my stitches as hidden and inconspicuous as possible. They don't look as bad as I feared, and no one is going to look that closely at my feet anyway.
I'm not sure there's any more felting in my future. I definitely won't tackle another project without first making sure I'm more informed about the process. Even without doing research, knowing about the stove top boiling method and doing all the pieces at once would cut my time in less than half... so perhaps.
The instructions recommend spreading some puffy paint on the bottom of the slippers, for the sake of traction. I am reluctant to do this. Someone gave me a pair of those socks with treads on them for Christmas one year and the treads hurt my feet when I walked on them (Moreover, the treaded socks would not stay on but kept working their way off my feet -- I had to keep reaching down and yanking them back up. I wore them once, for about two hours, and then put them in the garbage.) I'm afraid the puffy paint will be uncomfortable to walk on. On the other hand, I have all wood and tile floors in my home and am very accident-prone. Perhaps there are other traction options.
This project used up 120 grams of stash yarn.
And... that's all she knitted this year. As usual I didn't get through my year's list. There were six projects left that must be bumped ahead to 2017's list. I seemed to lose an unusual amount of time due to the excessive ripping out I had to do. There were several items I spent up to two weeks working on, only to have to rip out everything I'd done and start again -- I think I lost over two months' knitting time this way. Also on my project list, but not included in this post, were two old sweaters that had to be taken apart and re-seamed because they'd been made back before I learned to do seams properly, and a third sweater that had a yarn break in the back, which meant I had to rip out the bottom eight inches, fix the break, and then reknit the eight inches. These three repair jobs ate perhaps ten further days of my knitting time. Oh well. It's not like my hands stopped working when the clock struck midnight on New Year's Eve.
Though I may not have accomplished as much as I hoped, it was a good year for stash busting. When I tallied up all the pluses and minuses, I found that my stash is 2255 grams smaller. The picture gets even better when I add in the yarn I re-homed this year. My mother likes to knit a lot of children's hats and mittens every year for Christmas charity drives, and when she mentioned to me this year that she had used up all the yarn she had, I offered her some of mine. She said she'd be happy to get it, so I went through my stash and picked out odds and ends of worsted and DK yarn that would be perfect for making assorted hats and mittens. I gave my mother 2000 grams of yarn, which brings my total 2016 stash decrease to 4255 grams. By comparison, in 2015 I whittled down my stash by only 660 grams.
Last year at this time I had four boxes and three bags of yarn, plus another three projects in my work basket. As of now, I have four boxes and one bag of yarn, with just one project in my work basket. That one remaining bag holds yarn designated for five projects due to be knitted this year, so it will soon be used up. I'm in hopes I might also eliminate one box this year, but we'll see.