Tuesday 5 March 2024

12 Months; 13 Projects


Here at last is my round up post of all my 2023 knitting projects. I'm late getting it done and posted, of course, but not as late as last year, when I didn't post my 2022 project post until July 2023, so I'm counting this early March post date as a win. I also completed thirteen projects in 2023, which is quite an advance on the seven or eight projects I've been doing each year of late years. Let's get started on our review of them, shall we?

In the fall of 2022, when I dropped by the office of a professional associate and friend named Greg, I was amused to see his moose collection had grown since what it had been in the spring of 1994, when as a 20-year-old college student, I first met Greg and did a six-week work placement as an editorial assistant in his office as part of a Book & Magazine Publishing program I was taking at Centennial College. We've stayed in touch through the nearly 30 years (!!!) that have passed since then, and he has always been very kind to me and helped me out many times by giving me freelance work, referrals for freelance work from other organizations, references whenever I've been applying for work, sage advice, and the occasional lunch, which he always insists on paying for. That six-week college work internship was unpaid, but he gave me some paid work during that time. When I got my first job in publishing he was one of my references, and after I was hired, the manager who hired me told me, "Greg is a great reference for you -- he RAVED about you." When I was applying for a full-time job last August he was one of my references for that, and he said to me, "I told them that when you worked on that big ESL modules project last year, you were the most effective of the 85 editors I had working on it." Alas, I didn't get that particular job, but a year and a half later that piece of high praise never fails to have a bolstering effect on me whenever I think of it.

But about the moose. Having "a thing" for a particular animal, and collecting items on that animal theme, is definitely "a thing" in North American culture, and in Greg's case he has a thing for moose. Back in 1994 he had a few toy moose and other moose-themed items in his office. On the day I visited his office in the fall of 2022, I saw that he had a dozen or so stuffed moose lined up in the windowsill by his desk, and while they were almost all commercially made, one was crocheted. While walking home that day I got the idea of knitting a toy moose for Greg as a thank you gift for everything he has done for me over the many years since I first met him. I have always thanked him verbally for everything he has done for me, but it was long past time I thanked him in some sort of concrete way.   

That evening, I searched Ravelry for a cute moose pattern, and very quickly zeroed in on the Juniper Moose, designed by Rachel Borello Carroll, for the obvious reason that it's adorable, though it didn't hurt that it's also a free pattern. The one modification I decided to make was to nix the wreath, as I thought it had a somewhat Christmassy look that wasn't culturally appropriate for Greg, who is Jewish. But the moose definitely needed to have a substitute accessory of some kind, so I decided I would make it a scarf instead. 

I searched through my stash to see what I had that would be appropriate for this project, and soon came up with two colours for the moose and two more for the scarf that I thought worked well together. I didn't have any safety toy eyes on hand, but when I looked in my button tin I found two black plastic shank buttons of a kind that I've often bought to use as the eyes for stuffed toys. I also had a bag of polyfill stuffing. I even had a suitable gift bag to put the moose in when it was done. This project would cost me nothing but time and effort.  

The finished moose toy, which I completed in January 2023. I don't really like making toys -- I find them aggravatingly fussy to work on -- but this one had clear directions and came together pretty quickly. The colours of yarn I used aren't as pleasing as the pretty caramel and white the designer used for her sample moose, and the brown yarn was a worsted when it should have been a bulky, but then I needed to work with what I had if reasonably could, and the result is acceptable. But you can see what I meant when I said this moose needs an accessory. He looks naked without one, and even appears to be rather embarrassed about it.  

The scarf. I used a teal blue and a rust, and also some of the grayish taupe I used for the moose's antlers and hooves. The three colours worked well together and including one of the moose's body colours gave the scarf a visual link to the moose. I used a rib stitch to make the scarf reversible.


The finished and accessorized moose. I was reasonably pleased with this project, and it made a nice surprise gift for Greg, who exclaimed, "I see antlers!" when he first peeked into the gift bag. The moose is cute and even a little sporty-looking. He looks as though he shops at the Gap and wouldn't at all mind stopping by your backyard to hang out, kick around a football, and maybe have a few brewskis. But then when one stands up to 6.5' tall at the shoulder and weighs up to 1600 pounds, one can shop anywhere and hang out anywhere one wants, or say, trash a person's car if they look at one funny. It's all in a day's experience for a Canadian moose, and getting used as a thank you present is even more so. 

This project was made entirely of stash yarn, and I used up a total of 75 grams of yarn on it. 

Back in 2012, one of my knitting projects was a red worsted cardigan. The yarn I used for it came from a red hoodie I'd made circa 2010 and had only worn a few times because I found it too bulky and unflattering. I thought I'd get more wear out the cardigan. However, this proved not to be the case because the cardigan's collar didn't sit right and the sleeves were too long. I always meant to fix those things, but never got around to it. One day in the fall of 2022 as I was tidying up my sweater cupboard, it struck me that rather than fixing that sweater (which, after all, I didn't need) I could take it apart and use the yarn to make something I would otherwise have to spend money on: a sweater for my grandniece Cauliflower's 14th birthday present in summer 2023. The red would suit Cauliflower quite well, the sweater(s) had been so little worn that the yarn was still good as new, and I'd be sure to have enough given that I was going down two sizes and had an untouched 100 gram skein of the yarn in my stash to boot.

I searched Ravelry for a suitable pattern and came up with the Cabled Yoke Pullover, from Patons, which you can see depicted above. It's classic enough to be a safe choice, detailed enough to be interesting, and also a free pattern. 

The construction of the sweater was rather interesting. The directions say to knit the cable shoulder strip first, seam it together at the ends, pick up stitches around the top of the cabled strip to make the collar, then pick up stitches at the bottom of the cabled strip to knit the body of the sweater. My version, which I made in a woman's size extra small/small, knitted up relatively quickly and without incident, and I was contented with the result. This sweater used up 673 grams out of the 900 grams of red worsted I had started with. 

And then I realized I still had 227 grams of the red yarn left. What should I do with it?

Two hundred and twenty grams is more than enough to make a hat, and I thought Cauliflower might like a matching hat for her sweater (she can wear it for her figure skating lessons), so I searched Ravelry for a suitable tam pattern in worsted. I looked specifically for a cabled design that would work with the pullover. I chose the Sweet and Slouchy Hat, designed by Kim Haesemeyer. I was able to check a copy of the book the pattern is in out of the Toronto Public Library and work from the book. 

Initially I thought I'd make two of these tams: one for Cauliflower, and one for me. There was enough yarn for two tams and it'd be nice to get all that red yarn finally used up. But then I began to think about what I would wear the red tam with, and when I couldn't seem to imagine it working with any of my coats or outfits, I decided that I was unlikely to ever wear it and therefore shouldn't make it. The rest of the red yarn can remain in my stash until I have a genuine use for it.

Here's the finished tam. Ironically and exasperatingly, after deciding not to make this hat twice, I did end up knitting it twice, because the first time I made it, I was less than ten rows away from completion when I switched to DPNs and realized that I had knitted the entire thing on the wrong size needles, and that it was too small. Such a stupid error, but it's the kind of bone-headed mistake I make when I'm tired.

This hat took 90 grams of yarn, bringing my total yarn stash decrease for this project to 763 grams.

One day in mid-February 2023, I received the happy news that I was to have a new grandniece in May 2023. With only three months' notice, it was clearly time to fire up the knitting needles. By the time I went to bed that night, I had the baby's birth gift planned and knitting patterns selected for it. I decided I would make Baby Swan a baby blanket and a pair of matching booties, and also buy her a storybook. 

For the baby blanket, I selected the Dreamland Adventures Baby Blanket design by Mary Triplett. It's a very pretty and not especially time-intensive knit.  

Then I searched Ravelry for a baby bootie pattern that would be a good complement to the baby blanket design. The My Fairy Booties design by Drops seemed to fit the bill, as the teardrop lace stitch on the anklet and the garter stitch in the feet and at the top are quite similar to the teardrop lace and garter borders of the blanket. And it's a free pattern.

When it was time to shop for yarn, I went to Michaels and looked for a DK weight yarn with some natural fibre content that was machine washable and dryable. They only had one brand of yarn that fit my criteria, and it only came in three colours, only one of which was at all attractive, so I only had one real choice, but hey, I only needed one suitable yarn, and it was on sale for 25% off. The yarn was Loops & Threads Luxe Merino in Bridal Rose, or what I would describe as a shell pink, which is slightly warmer and richer than the standard pastel baby pink. 

The completed baby blanket. This knitted up fairly easily. I had some difficulty reading the patterns because my old printer didn't print them well, but that's on my printer, not on the designer, who had provided *three* versions of this design's chart in her pattern in an impressively all-out effort make it as clear and readable as possible.

A close up of the baby booties. They have a crocheted picot edging on the top that I had to buy a 3 mm crochet hook for, but then it doesn't hurt to add another size to my set of crochet hooks. When I went through my ribbon cannister to see what I had that I could use for the ankle ribbons, I didn't have any pink ribbon whatsoever (not surprising, as I never wear pink and don't often work with it even as gifts for other people), but I did have some cream ribbon that looked well with the pink yarn. 

I had a few qualms about how frou-frou this baby blanket and booties are, and how it would look in my nephew's household. From what I'd seen of my nephew and his wife's house via photos on Facebook, while it's nice and well-kept, it has a very plain and spare aesthetic, with very little colour or detail, and there's nary a bit of pink, lace, or ribbon in sight. But they have since then had a baby girl, I'm sure there's some sparkly pink princess stuff in their house by now, and if this is the most frilly thing they ever receive for Holly, she'll be nearly as sensibly turned out as her parents and her big brother.  

This yarn came in 150 gram skeins, which I wasn't thrilled about, because it makes it difficult to buy an appropriate amount of yarn. I had 110 grams of yarn left when I finished this project. Had I been able to buy the yarn in 50 gram skeins, I would have had just 10 grams left. 

The baby blanket and booties weren't the only baby things I made in 2023. I also had a baby-sized Christmas present to knit. I do like knitting baby clothes. The projects are so cute, and they are so small that they can be both quickly finished and often made from a few skeins from one's stash.

For Holly's Christmas present, I turned to Ravelry to find a dress pattern. I found the Nandi pattern, designed by Triona Murphy. It's quite cute and also very sensible. I have a whole box of worsted odds and ends, and after looking them over, I selected a skein of Bernat Super Value Solids in Forest Green (this was one of two skeins left over after I made my sister a Christmas afghan and matching throw pillow) and a skein of Loops & Threads Meandering in Dark Salmon. The salmon was a DK, but I liked the combination of the green and salmon so much that I made it work by knitting with two strands of the salmon. 

The completed dress, made in size 6 to12 months. I try to learn something new with each knitting project. This project involved a few new knitting experiences for me. I am not sure if I've ever used the mosaic technique before, and I enjoyed trying that out. I don't believe I'd ever used a yarn double to increase its weight before either, and that's a good option to keep in mind. But the most valuable lesson I learned from this piece was that I finally figured out how to pick up wrapped stitches without having them show. The trick of it is that when you're knitting the wrap and a live stitch together, you must make sure that the wrap stitch is on the wrong/under side of your work. You might have to rearrange the stitches on your needle to get them in the correct orientation, but that's easy enough to do.

For the single button on the back of the neckline, I found a button in my button tin, keeping the material cost of this project at $0. (I did have to buy the pattern.)

For this stash yarn project, I used 30 grams of salmon and 167 of the green, or a total stash decrease of -197 grams.

Back in 2013, I made my grandnephew Bug the sweater you see above, in a size six months, using the Diplodocus pattern, designed by Kate Oates. I just put together some odds and ends of white, kelly green, and navy worsted from my stash to make the sweater for nothing, but the colour scheme could hardly have worked better. I also bought Bug a little stuffed toy at Toys R' Us that was supposed to stand in for a dinosaur, though it was actually a Disney brand anthromorphic alligator character that was standing on its hind legs. My family was kind enough to agree that it looked very like a dinosaur.

The dinosaur sweater and dinosaur-passing toy were such a cute and well-received gift that I decided to reuse the pattern and theme for Bug's cousin Sawyer's 2023 Christmas present. I checked my stash hoping I could put together some odds and ends to make the sweater for nothing again. I wasn't quite as fortunate this time. While I had 70 grams of an unlabelled rust wool, and 50 grams of Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash in Turtle that I thought worked well together and would be usable for the contrast colours, for the main colour I had to buy a skein of Lion Brand Wool Ease in Linen for (with the use of a Michael's coupon) $6.32. But that's still pretty inexpensive.

Here's the completed sweater in the Sawyer version, in a size 2. This colour scheme is attractive too, and will suit Sawyer, who has blond hair and hazel eyes.  

This time around Toys R' Us had no dinosaur or even dinosaur-adjacent toy that was suitable for a toddler, so I ordered this one online. 

This project used 40 grams of the rust and 40 grams of the olive stash yarns, and all of the new linen yarn, so that was stash decrease of 80 grams for this project.   

My grandnephew Bug celebrated his tenth birthday in the summer of 2023, and of course there had to be a sweater made to mark the occasion... the tenth I have made him in his life.

When I searched Ravelry for a suitable pattern for a ten-year-old Canadian boy, I quickly narrowed the search down to this one, which is the 452 Round Neck Zip Sweater, from Bergère de FranceIt's a free pattern. It's more contemporary in style than the patterns I usually go for, but I thought it rather sharp, and it looked so good in the sample shot that I decided to replicate its colour palette rather than selecting one myself, something I don't often do. The one thing I didn't like about the design was the zipper, which looked rather crude to me, so I decided I would make Bug's version with a buttoned placket.

Once I'd selected the pattern, I searched my DK stash box to see if I had some of the contrast colours on hand. I did indeed have more than sufficient amounts red, cream, and charcoal yarn on hand that would work as the accent colours. I had no black (I never wear black and seldom work with it, even when making gifts), and I had to buy the main colour yarn. From Romni Wools in Toronto, I purchased 300 grams of Estelle Double Knit in shade Q65503, which I would describe as a sort of slate gray, and 50 grams of Drops Karisma Uni Colour in shade 05, which I would describe as black. And I also bought a card of three buttons from Fabricland.    

Here's the finished item, in a size 10. This was quite a straightforward knit, even with the added complication of my having to wing the button placket modification. The body pieces are just stockinette, and the sleeves are mostly just a simple stripe pattern with the chevrons added in duplicate stitch.  

I did run into one snag in that I had not enough gray yarn for this project. I used a little more than the designer intended to do the placket, of course, but I wouldn't have had enough even if I had made the sweater with a zipper as the pattern directed. And I needed just 10 grams of the extra 100 gram skein I had to buy, sigh. To make this sweater, I used 10 grams of charcoal yarn, 10 grams of cream, and 10 grams of red that all came from my stash. I had 90 grams of the new gray yarn and 30 grams of the new black yarn left, so that's a net stash increase of 90 grams for this project. 

Usually I can remember how I came up with the idea for a project: whether I had a genuine need for the item, or I had supplies on hand I wanted to use up, or I came across a pattern I loved. I can't remember the origin of my seventh project from 2023. Did I come across the pattern I loved for this one first, or did I decide I wanted to use up some yarn I had on hand before I found the pattern, or did I initially decide I needed a cotton summer dress in plum? In this case, it could have been any of the three. 

However it came about, I definitely wanted to use the design you see photographed above, which is the Simply Striped design by Arenda Holladay, to make myself a striped cotton dress. The shaping is flattering and classic and the dress is one that could be worn in a number of different settings. The only thing I didn't like about it were the three-quarter length sleeves, as that's an unflattering sleeve length on me, but that was easily remedied.

As to the yarn, I had the contrast colours on hand. In 2017, I knitted a green and cream cotton shawl for myself that I never once wore (I am simply not a shawl person, and there's no use my pretending otherwise), and sometime in 2021 I decided I would resign myself to inevitable and take it apart and use the good quality cotton yarns that had been used to make it to make something that I would use. I really liked the idea of a plum dress with cream and green stripes. It took me about a year and a half after that to find the right yarn for the main colour. 

I've become a devotee of plum in recent years. To be clear, I should probably begin by describing what I mean by plum, because what I call plum is probably more commonly described as magenta. It's a shade that's neither purple nor pink but occupies its own territory between the two. Some years ago I had a cognac brown leather Fossil wallet with a plum-coloured lining. While initially I wasn't thrilled with the lining colour of the wallet, I would see it every single time I opened my wallet, and it began to grow on me. I don't usually wear purple because it's a cool colour and it doesn't suit me, but plum is a warm shade that does work on me and with the autumn colours in my wardrobe. I began to think I would very much like to have some items of that colour in my wardrobe, and to keep an eye out for it when shopping. It's not often that I find anything in plum, because it isn't a common shade. Usually the things I find are too pink or too purple. It didn't help that my plum-lined Fossil wallet got stolen out of my backpack by some shithead one day when I was shopping in Value Village in March 2019 -- it had been so helpful to have a colour sample of that shade in my bag to whip out and show sales associates when necessary. 

Anyway, all this is to say it wasn't easy to find some yarn for this project. But eventually I found something that would work, and purchased 500 grams of Sirdar Snuggly Replay DK in Currant Fun for this project. It was a lighter shade than I really wanted, but I liked it well enough, and it went with the green and cream yarns I had set aside for the contrast yarns. Which, for the record, were 100 grams of Cascade Yarns Ultra Pima in Sage, and 100 grams of Berroco Modern Cotton DK in Sandy Point.     

The finished dress. As mentioned above, I shortened the sleeves, and I also moved the waist shaping down a bit so it would sit at my waistline. I also changed the stripe pattern so that it involved more and narrower stripes. I ran short of the cream yarn, scoured the yarn stores of Toronto for more, and when none of them had any skeins of that yarn in that shade, ultimately had to order another skein from The Creative Knitter in Fort Erie, Ontario. (The shipping cost was more than the price of the yarn, sigh). When I finished the fourth stripe of green with just 15 grams of that yarn left and that wasn't going to be enough to knit a fifth, I finished off my stripe pattern with two stripes of cream and a coordinating second stripe of cream on each of the sleeves. I'm happy with the effect, and with the dress as a whole. Stripe patterns are more interesting if they're irregular in some way, and this is quite a flattering as well as a practical, comfortable dress for me to have in my wardrobe. 

I used just under half of the plum yarn I bought for this dress, returned five of the ten 50 gram skeins I bought to Romni Wools, and have just 5 grams of plum left. I used 85 grams of the green yarn. I used 100 grams of the cream stash yarn, and have 60 grams of the new skein left. So, that's 185 grams of stash yarn used, and 65 grams of new yarn left to tuck away in my yarn stash boxes, which is a net stash decrease of -120 grams.   

When I searched Ravelry for a nice pattern for Olivia's Christmas sweater for this year, I ended up selecting the very same pattern I had used in 2017 for my grandniece Cauliflower's eighth birthday present: Color Me Pretty, by Elena Nodel. It is a very pretty design, and I already had it in my library, so why not? 

I did go with a different colour palette. Olivia's colouring is very different from Cauliflower's. I gathered together odds and ends of eight different colours of yarn (teal, rust, dark blue, tangerine, aqua, peach, dark green, and orange) from my DK stash box that I thought worked together, made a yarn sampler from them, and took it to Romni Wools during their Boxing Week sale in 2022 with the idea that a blue or a green yarn would go well with the contrast colours I'd picked out. I purchased 400 grams of a nice muted sea blue yarn for it. Then in August, when I took the bag of yarn out to begin work on it, I realized I'd bought worsted instead of DK. I've never made that mistake before and I certainly hope I never do again.

I returned the 20% off blue yarn to Romni Wools and bought 350 grams of Drops Karisma in Light Olive for the main colour at full price. 

The completed sweater, in a size 8. I think the colour scheme works pretty well and will be flattering on Olivia, who has brown hair, hazel eyes, and a slight olive cast to her skin. This design is a good way to use up some odds and ends of various colours, because if you're using eight different colours, you will only need to do two or three rounds in each colour. 

The matching hat. Which I predict Olivia will be more excited about and wear more than the sweater. She doesn't care about clothes at this point -- when she's opening her gifts from me, she just takes the sweater or dress out of the gift bag and turns around to hand it to her mother without so much as a second glance or even unfolding it -- but she does really enjoy the accessories I make for her. 

I used 5 grams each of the rust, dark blue, aqua, dark green, and orange, and three grams each of tangerine and peach, and 20 grams of teal, or 51 grams of stash yarn. (Or so I estimated as best I could when studying the wavering needle on the decades-old thrift shop plastic Weight Watchers scale I was using to weigh my yarns until I received a brand new digital food scale for Christmas 2023). I had 30 grams of the newly purchased olive yarn left, so that's a net stash decrease of 21 grams. 

In the spring of 2023, when I was putting away my winter footwear and getting out my summer sandals and flip flops, I discovered that there were holes in the soles of the much-worn felted slippers that I had made in late 2016. I sighed and added "new slippers for me" to my already overly long list of 2023 knitting projects, deciding also to prioritize them and get them done by October, as they were something I actually needed. 

I did an extensive search of slipper patterns on Ravelry, and ended up deciding that the French Press Felted Slippers, by Melynda Bernardi, which I had used to make my previous pair of slippers, was still the pattern I liked best and that I was just going to make myself a new pair. I'd already purchased the pattern, it is a design with a certain amount of style (that is, as much as one could expect from a pair of woolly slippers), and my first pair had both kept my feet warm as toast and lasted for over six years. I could hardly do better than that. 

But I could do better in terms of colour choice. I had liked my old slippers, but had always regretted making them in a khaki green. In winter, I wear dark brown yoga pants (I own five pairs of them), or olive green khakis or corduroys around the house, and the old pair had really only gone with the latter.  In August 2023, I visited Romni Wools, looking for a dark brown worsted yarn that would go with all my around-home trousers. They didn't have anything in just the right shade in a worsted, but in their bargain basement I found some bulky-weight Linie 231 Filz-Wolle in 12 Chocolate Brown that I thought would do -- I would just have to felt the yarn more to get it down to the right size. Knowing I would probably need more of a heavier gauge weight yarn than the 150 grams of worsted the pattern specified, I bought four 50 gram skeins of yarn to be on the safe side.

When I began knitting the slippers, it soon became clear that 200 grams of yarn I had weren't going to be sufficient. I had to go back to Romni and get two more skeins -- I think they only had three left. When I was finished knitting the slippers, I realized that I should have made the soles with three strands of yarn instead of only two. But this was a mistake I didn't bother to correct, as I wouldn't have had sufficient yarn for it, even if I did go back to Romni and get that one remaining skein -- assuming it was even still there. The two-strand sole was pretty thick as it was anyway, given the yarn I'd used, not to mention of a comically large size. But I must admit that I simply didn't want to redo the soles. It was a relief to have finished the knitting, as I don't like big needle knits. 

Then came the felting process, another thing I don't enjoy. I have a front loading washing machine with a Fort Knox-like auto locking system, so I thought I couldn't use my washing machine to felt things, but must do it manually. The last time I made these slippers, I did it in a pot on the stove, and it took me five and a half hours to felt them. This time I did some reading up and watching of YouTube videos on felting in advance. I started out using hot water in a cooking pot as the YouTube felter had done, thinking I could at least sit down during the process, but I didn't like that I had to keep refreshing the water as it cooled. I ended up going back to the method I'd resorted to for my last slippers: I agitated the slippers in a large pot of water which I kept simmering on the stove, occasionally rinsing them in cold water at the sink to shock the felt into shrinking. This time it took me a gruelling four hours and twenty minutes, during which I endured frequent splashes of  hot water (it wasn't hot enough to burn me, though it was hot enough to be painful), but I thought was at least an improvement on the last time, and this time around I'd also done more felting in less time because the slippers had been larger to start with. My hands ached so much afterwards that I had to get up in the middle of the night and take ibuprofen, and it took me four or five days to get the brown stains off my fingernails, but it was a relief to think that the felting process was done and I wouldn't have to do it again for years.

With the slippers ready to assemble, I took one of the straps with me to Fabricland to buy buttons for them. It was a pleasant and easy task, I was in the home stretch of finishing slippers I really needed but that I hadn't enjoyed making and then... I lost the felted strap somewhere in the store, and simply could not find it again. And hoo boy, did I look. I must have spent well over an hour looking for it. I retraced my steps through the stores repeatedly. I emptied out and went through the contents of my shoulder bag and the one shopping bag I had with me three separate times. I went through my coat pockets, even taking off my jacket and shaking it in case the strap had slipped down one of my sleeves or something. I told the staff I'd dropped it and they looked for it themselves with a commendable thoroughness and customer service zeal. One young store employee even got down on her hands and knees and crawled around in the yarn area, where I'd been browsing, looking for it. But all of our efforts were for naught. We couldn't find the damn strap. Finally, too tired to look anymore, I gave up, purchased the buttons that had matched the strap while I had it, left my name and contact information with the store staff in the forlorn hope that the strap might yet turn up, and dragged myself home. I waited a few days, and when I didn't hear from Fabricland, I resigned myself to the inevitable, and made a new strap.

At least I had enough yarn left over for the third strap, and it took me less than fifteen minutes to knit a new strap and darn in the ends. Then came the felting part, which took about an hour, but then I hit yet another snag in the process when I realized the new strap and the remaining original strap were two very different shades of brown. I ended up stewing the slippers and the straps in a pot on the stove for five or six hours, which almost corrected the colour of the new strap. There was still a slight shading difference between the straps, but by that point I was too fed up with the whole process to care.   

The completed slippers in a size 8. (The colours didn't photograph that well, and the buttons actually go better with the yarn than one would think given their appearance in this photo.) After all the trouble I had with them, I'm reasonably pleased with them. I think next time I make these slippers I will go with a worsted. These fit fairly well, but they are a lot bulkier than my old slippers. 

I do have a few thoughts on how to make the felting process easier on me next time. First of all, I am going to experiment with using my washing machine to felt whatever material I'm working with, because I've discovered that I can work around the machine's auto lock by unplugging the machine whenever I want to check on or remove the items, as long as I don't let the machine go into spin cycle. If machine felting doesn't work for me, I will use the deep stock pot I recently bought from a thrift shop for the manual felting process, which should prevent or at least reduce the painful splashing. And lastly, in future I vow to be VERY careful with my samples when shopping for notions, especially if the sample is actually a needed piece of the project. 

This project was made from newly purchased yarn and I had just 20 grams of yarn left when it was completed, or a stash increase of 20 grams.

Awhile back I had a look through the owl patterns in Ravelry's pattern database to see what useful gift ideas I could come up with for the owl aficionados in my family. 

The Owlie Socks, designed by Julie Elswick Suchomel, stood out to me as a cute and suitable pattern. In 2023 I decided to knit my mother a pair for Christmas. As I've talked about before on this blog, my mother is very difficult to buy presents for, but she likes practical gifts and owls, and she would certainly like and be able to use a pair of warm black owl socks.  

For the yarn, I selected a skein of Berrocco Vintage Sock in Cast Iron, or what I would less poetically describe as black.  

The finished pair of socks. I reluctantly opted not to put beads on this pair of socks as in the sample photo. The beads do add a lot to the design, but beads also add a lot of weight to a knitted item and they feel cold against the skin in winter weather, and at 85, my mother prioritizes comfort and practicality over the aesthetic value of something no one else is even going to notice. 

My mother liked the socks when she opened them on Christmas Day, though she commented they were "too thick" for trouser socks and that she'd save them for cold days. 

This project was knitted entirely out of new yarn purchased specifically for this project, and there were 30 grams of yarn left, so that's a stash increase of 30 grams.  

In July 2023, I gave my honorary niece Olivia a knitted doll and an accompanying wardrobe of seven little doll outfits as part of her seventh birthday present. Olivia named the doll Rainbow Sparkle Unicorn-Animals, and routinely dresses her up in one of her outfits every morning and then changes her into her striped onesie and teddy bear slippers every night before taking her off to bed. What I'd like to do is freshen up Rainbow's wardrobe a little every year by giving Olivia another outfit for the doll every birthday until she's ten or so. In 2023, I made two more outfits for her doll, one of which I will give her in 2024 and the other in 2025. 

Sarah Gasson's Knit A Teddy pattern collection offers so many varied and irresistibly cute outfit designs that it was difficult to choose among them, but as soon as I saw the ballerina outfit I knew I just had to make it. It's so cute!

I'm not so much a fan of pink, though I'm aware that pink, white, and black is the classic palette for ballet wear. For Rainbow's ballerina outfit, I chose a 100 gram skein of James C. Brett Double Knitting with Merino in cream and a second 100 gram skein of Wendy With Wool DK in a sage green. Cream and light green are a fresh, pretty combination, and it's not like Rainbow will have some ballet teacher on her case insisting that she cannot deviate from the designated uniform for the class. 



The completed outfit. I wish I had Rainbow here for a few minutes to model it for me, since it would show to much better advantage on her than it does lying on my desk, but oh well. This little ballet tutu, surplice sweater, ballet slippers, and headband were fun to make and only took me about a week. The one thing I had some technical difficulty with was sewing the tutu onto the leotard. I could not seem to figure out how to keep my line of sewing stitches on the same horizontal row of knitted stitches, and I must have made five separate attempts to attach the tutu and gotten it on crooked every time. In the end, I wove a length of green yarn through the stitches of the row above the one I wanted to stitch the tutu to, used the green yarn as a guideline while sewing on the tutu, and then pulled out the length of green yarn when I was done. I wish I'd been quicker to come up with a plan to keep my stitches even. 

The other thing I would do differently if I were to make this ballerina outfit again would be to find a nicer, and probably crocheted, flower pattern for the headband. This knitted one looks a little rough and ready.

However, the outfit is very cute as a whole and I am looking forward to giving it to Olivia. I can see Rainbow doing pirouettes in her little ballerina outfit already.  

I had 25 grams of the cream yarn left and 51 grams of the green yarn left over when I finished this project, so that's a stash increase of 76 grams for this project. 

This project plan began when I decided I wanted a plum sweater to go with a velvet skirt I made for myself some years back. This sweater is the second plum-coloured thing I made for myself in 2023, and it was only after I'd finished the first project (a striped summer dress) and was well into working on this one that I learned that Viva Magenta was Pantone's Colour of the Year for 2023. My 2024 project list is all set to go, so I looked up Pantone's Colour of the Year for 2024 to find out if I was unwittingly in accord with it too. The 2024 colour is Peach Fuzz. All I can say about that is there is one project out of the twelve I have planned for 2024 that uses a little peach yarn. 

For a pattern, I turned to one of my slightly battered back copies of Vogue Knitting. The design you see above is from Vogue Knitting's Fall 1992 issue. It's Pattern #03, the Diamond Cable Pullover, designed by Michele Woodford. I liked its lush texture and its collar. I didn't love the long, oversized, rectangular shape that was the prevailing silhouette in women's fashion in the early 1990s and that only someone with a model-type build could carry off, but of course I could easily reshape and resize the sweater. I often reshape knitting patterns anyway, and this kind of reshaping is often necessary when one is using vintage knitting patterns. Proportions change, and what was considered a stylish shape in one era can look simply dated, frumpy, awkward, and/or unflattering in another. If you knit up a vintage pattern exactly as it was written, you may find you're not happy with the result, but a simple tweaking of the length and shape can update the garment into a piece that retains whatever qualities you found attractive in the original version and that looks current and flattering. 

The lovely, luscious-looking yarn used to make the sample sweater had been discontinued. I had to spend some time looking for a suitable yarn for this sweater. I wanted a plum yarn with a halo, such as a mohair or an angora, as I didn't think the stitchwork of this particular design would look nearly as good in a matte yarn. This wasn't easy -- there's very little selection when it comes to yarns and materials in plum. But eventually I found something that me my criteria: Garnstudio Brushed Alpaca Silk in shade 9, or Lilla. 

I had to come up with my own estimate for how much yarn I was going to need. To do so, I searched the Ravelry database for similarly sized projects in Brushed Alpaca Silk to see how much yarn they had required. I concluded that I probably needed seven 25 gram skeins, or 175 grams total, but should get eight skeins or 200 grams of the yarn to be on the safe side. I purchased seven skeins at Romni Wools in December 2022, and put in an order for an eighth skein. Four months later I received a call from a Romni employee saying that the colour had been discontinued and that my order was cancelled. Uh oh! But I'd begun the project by that point -- I had a sleeve knitted and several inches of the back done -- and I reminded myself that I had thought seven would likely be sufficient, so I decided to forge ahead with it and deal with a yarn shortage situation if and when it arose. Happily, it did not: I was able to easily finish the sweater with the seven skeins I'd bought.   

The completed sweater with the velvet skirt. I made the sweater in a size 38, shortened the length to 23" (as opposed to the 28" inches the sample shot was!), added waist shaping, and added armhole shaping to raise the dropped shoulders. I have almost no neck and high turtleneck collars are not my friend, so I shaped the neckline of the front to be an inch lower and 1.25" wider than the pattern specified in an effort to achieve more of a cowl neck. 

I'm pretty pleased with the result, which is a nice update of the original design. The yarn is less opaque than I would like, but I can always wear a camisole underneath it, and the sweater does go very well with the skirt. 

I had my concerns about whether I'd be able to find suitable buttons for this project, but Fabricland's button section came through for me as it nearly always does. 

This yarn was newly purchased for this project, and I finished with 10 grams of it to spare, so that's a stash increase of 10 grams.

Now, for the last project of my 2023 rundown: the second doll outfit I made for Olivia's doll. When I was going through Sarah Gasson's library of doll outfit designs to pick out the ones I want to make in future, the Witch outfit was an automatic yes. I love witches, the outfit is fun, and Olivia would surely enjoy having a Halloween costume for her beloved Rainbow Sparkle Unicorn-Animals. 

Then I decided that if Olivia was going to dress up her doll as a witch, Rainbow really ought to have a familiar. A cat seemed the obvious choice, as Olivia's family has three cats and she is cat-obsessed. I searched Ravelry for a suitable small cat toy design, and ended up deciding on the Wub Chub Cat Ornament, by Button Willow Knits. 

As for the yarn for these two projects, I looked in my stash and found that I had 70 grams of a tan DK that would make a good broomstick, 50 grams of assorted odds and ends of cream DK that would do for the trim on the dress and the paws, chest, and muzzle of the cat, and 40 grams of black DK that could be used for the dress and cat, though of course I would need more than that. I went to Michaels and bought three skeins of Patons Astra in Black and, when the only orange DK in stock proved to be an ugly Dayglo/pylon type orange, one skein of Patons Astra Hot Lilac for the accent colour on the witch outfit.  

The completed witch outfit on Ms. Rainbow Sparkle Unicorn-Animals. It turned out pretty satisfactorily. I think the one change I made to this ensemble was to use a wooden dowel rod instead of a straw for the broomstick. It should stand up better that way. 

I really was very close to getting the witch ensemble done in time to give it to Olivia in July 2023 -- I just hadn't assembled the cat. But I didn't want to give Olivia the doll's witch outfit without the cat to go with it, so I held it back.

The completed cat. I can't believe how long it took me to make myself finish this thing. I had done all the knitting by the end of June 2023, and then all the pieces sat in a little plastic bag in my workbasket with me putting it on my to do list every day for months until I finally finished assembling it in March 2024. I don't really like making toys to begin with, and this one involved a lot of especially fiddly details, so it was difficult for me to make myself sit down and work on it. I also made the most unwelcome discovery that my embroidery skills, which I've always thought of as basic, actually rank below that in a class I can only describe as "they suck". 

I didn't want to go to the expense of buying plastic cat eyes, so I embroidered the eyes using some green embroidery floss I had on hand. I couldn't make the claw embroidery stitches look right despite five or six attempts, so I didn't do those at all. 

The result, while not great, isn't so terribly bad for a toy for a eight-year-old, and at least Rainbow is going to be a properly equipped little witch with her very own broomstick and black kitty cat.   

When I was finished this witchy ensemble project, I found I had used up 25 grams of the tan, 33 grams of the cream, and all of the new black yarn plus 26 grams of the stash black yarn I had. I was left with just 10 grams of the new lilac yarn. That's a net stash decrease of 74 grams, which isn't so bad for a little project like this.  

And that's it for my 2023 projects. When I tally all my stash additions and decreases, I find I have a net stash decrease of 954 grams for the year, which is decent. 

My 2023 project list was eighteen items long. I knew from the outset I would never be able to complete all of those projects (there was a multi-coloured afghan on it! and a multi-coloured fingering weight pullover!), though I did hope to finish sixteen of them. I suppose thirteen is not so terribly far below that goal, especially when I did put quite a lot of time in on finishing up that doll and its seven outfits last year, and then counted it as a 2022 project. My 2024 list has thirteen items on it, and I am aiming to get those done. As of this writing, I am a good 80% of the way through the second project on my 2024 knitting list, so I am more or less on track. 

I've resolved that going forward, I'll be making every effort to keep my annual knitting list down to twelve projects or less. This should be doable given that I am cutting back on how many things I make for myself -- just three of the thirteen projects I made this year were for me. I have some other needlework projects on hand that have been sitting around for years that I'd like to get to, and I also don't like feeling hurried and behind schedule -- that's not what knitting should be about!  

1 comment:

  1. Such an interesting and diverse bunch of projects. Always enjoy your roundup posts, thanks.