February 25, 2014

14 My First Home Deco Design! The Chainlink Cushion

Lucky for me, my samples of the new Rowan yarn "Pure Wool Worsted" came with a design contest!  This is good.  I should design more, but of course I knit more instead.  But with the carrot (yarn prize) dangling from the stick (knitting needle) once again, I had to have a go.  (Keep this in mind if you want something from me...  WINK WINK.)

Chainlink Cushion: Free download here!

The aim of the contest was to use 1-3 100g balls for a beginner/intermediate pattern based on home decor.  I couldn't resist picking 3 different colors... but I knew colorwork might be a bit too advanced.  So, I went through the internet looking for "slip-stitch" patterns.  These are magical colorwork patterns that only use one color per row.

Wow, there is a real treasure-trove out there.  Check out here and here, to start.

Just a part of the "multi-coloured stitch" menu on freestitches.com

I picked a simple chainlink fence-y one, which I had seen before and loved.  It turns out that this stitch is not only easy to do, but takes about half the time to knit because you slip most of the stitches.  Excellent.

With this slip stitch pattern, be careful about how tight you pull the yarn over the slipped stitches.  Be nice and loose.  Don't worry, blocking will stretch it out beautifully.  Here's what it looks like from behind, unblocked:

The pattern is for a small back/neck-support pillow, as I was limited by having only 1 ball of main color yarn.  But it's so easy to make larger, just keep knitting to double the height!

Check out some other Chainlink Cushion projects on Ravelry to see the endless possibilities in color and size.

See RachaB's Chainlink Pillow here

You can stuff it with anything you like, but I used polyester quilt batting because I like how it isn't lumpy like fiberfill.  Here it is folded into a roll:

Many people want to know how I seamed the cushion.  That's always a good question.  The pattern is written so that you sew 3 seams inside out (I used my favorite method slip-stitch crochet, but any kind of stitch works):

Make sure to match the slip motifs.

You then stuff and finish off the last short side with mattress stitch.  I like using these seam clips to help keep the pillow closed over the stuffing.

The mattress stitch side looks so neat -- practically invisible.  So, in retrospect, I recommend that you sew the two long edges only and do both short sides in mattress stitch.

A funny photo session: I had taken tons of pictures in my apartment, but then when I was taking out the garbage I found this amazing blue velvet chair on the walk that matched the stripe!

I think I saw the previous owner of the chair watching me while I was photographing amongst the trash.  He was probably expecting me to take it away, but no, this chair is not my style.  Don't feel bad for the stray, it was gone within an hour -- quick thinking, D., yeah!

The Yarn: Pure Wool Worsted

Rowan has pulled out all the stops trying to make inroads into the "work-horse" worsted yarn market.  You probably know Cascade 220 as the go-to worsted yarn, and it comes in hundreds of shades.  However, their superwash 220 wool has had less success (one of the complaints has been stretching after washing.)

Pure Wool Worsted is available in 50 shades (no, they're not all gray!).

To really get to the Cascade level they would need many more nuances of color in my opinion, but this is a good start.  My Chainlink Cushion pattern is in light gray Moonstone, dark gray Granite and Mallard -- all really beautiful colors.

I've ordered some Mustard and Rosy, too.

 The Rosy is for this fab free pattern, Cambern.

Download the free pattern by Kathy Zimmerman, here.

I would say this is a great yarn to knit with.  An easy worsted, soft and smooth.  I find that some colors are scratchier than others, oddly, but I've been told that I have a sample balls from before large-scale milling.  I also see that there will be some pilling to take care of.  It's minimal so far, but I have definitely been picking at my pillow, which gets used daily.

The good news is that I will be getting a big batch of the current PWW from Rowan and I'll really be able to tell you all about it.

First there's my prize for being published by Rowan!  Do you remember my last one?  It was really good.

This time I will get 5 balls of Pure Wool Worsted as a consolation prize, but Jen Geigley will get her much deserved whatever-she-wants prize for her winning design, the Moonstone Cushion.

Jen Geigley's Moonstone Cushion

I also love Kristen Rettig of Knitionary's Dr. Owl hot water bottle cozy, which is very popular on Pinterest (yay, K!):

All of our chosen designs are part of the "Pure Wool Worsted Home Decor Online Collection" on the Rowan website.  Man that sounds fancy-schmancy.  Do check out our cushion parade, lol!

Stay tuned for my second Pure Wool Worsted design, a whimsical stashbuster... :)

See my Chainlink Cushion on Ravelry

February 19, 2014

9 On A Mission to Find a Good Earflap Hat - The Arbuckle Hat

I invariably wear earflap hats in winter because I hate cold ears.  Actually, 'hate' is not a big enough word, I utterly *despise* having cold ears, it hurts!  Let's all admit it, earflap hats don't look good.  I don't know what it is, but once you add earflaps to a hat, you suddenly look goofy.

All right, all right, I didn't say "add horns".

Is it too much to ask to be warm and yet look Very Serious?

This is the hat I've been using for forever and ever.  It's a free Knitty pattern, Swell, by Kimmie Kemper.  I used a bunch of scrap yarn at a carpal-tunnel inducing gauge.  While not good for my wrists, it's oh-so-good for my ears.

Get the free pattern Swell here

It's also oh-so-HUGE for my ears, and my husband haaaaaaates this hat!

To please him when we're out, I've taken to wearing my good no-earflap hats with "Earbags" underneath.

I know you are laughing, but these things are awesome!  Especially if you run.  Um.  Okay, I don't run, but I'm trying to find ways to convince you that these are really pretty cool, they snap onto your ear and are very warm.

And omg, I just discovered they have cabled versions now, too!

Get some cabled Earbags here

But I lose stuff, and having a hat plus 2 loose Earbags is a dangerous proposition.  So, I'm always on the lookout for an alternative earflap hat, and I came across this pretty little pattern by Alexis Winslow, the Arbuckle Hat.

Buy the Arbuckle Hat pattern here

Look at those modernized earflaps!  Aerodynamic, slim and ladylike... all words I had never considered as adjectives for earflaps.  And of course, the added bonus was the lovely colorwork.  I do like pointy hats and think they often look better, but they don't fit under my hood.  So this pattern really was perfect.

Even better, the pattern is written for a Blue Sky Alpacas baby alpaca yarn, and guess what I had languishing in my Rowan sample skein bin?  These baby Alpaca Colour beauties!

If you remember, I recently made a sweater with bright sunshine-y yellow Alpaca Colour.  You can see that the color shifts in wide bands.

I was eager to see if we could see the color changes in the hat, and you most certainly can!

Very cool, except for one problem... 

Good boy!

Baaaaad boy.

You see, to make the hat, you cast-on and knit 2 earflaps separately, then join them in the round.  The ball must have started during a color transition because the first earflap was a totally different color!

I couldn't handle it.  Luckily when I was done with the hat I ended up in the same place as where I started, the dark blue.

I threaded my needle through the row where the earflaps were connected (easy to see because of the color change).

NOTE: Remember that whenever you knit something in the opposite direction you will always be off by half a stitch.  Just make sure you have the right number of loops, and also make sure that the location looks good in the front where it matters.

I then knit the earflap downward, replacing M1s with SSKs and K2togs.

I could have cut off the original, but I wanted to make sure that the whole thing was a good idea.  I was tempted to keep a double earflap for added warmth actually!  But it stuck out to much from the main hat.

To remove the old earflap, I just took the end that was hanging already (you cut the yarn after the earflap) and picked it out.

It's a much better match!!

You can tell that the hat is kind of wavy because I didn't block it.

I didn't want to stretch it out (I have a small head and this is stretchable alpaca), and I didn't want it to have a fold where I would pin it down.

Should I get it wet and block it on my head?!  NO PLEASE, do not try this at home, kids.  Last time I blocked Alpaca Colour it smelled like Noah's Ark...  we'll just wait and see if it relaxes with wear.

This alpaca from the Kilblaan farm in New Hampshire agrees!

Another issue to think about is the jog at the start of the round, which is conveniently in the back.  The beginning of the hat matches beautifully because it is a diagonal line.  But when you add the two little blips in the middle of the diamonds, it starts to looks skewed:

SUGGESTION:  When doing those 2 rows, knit into the row below of the 2nd row to try and fool the jog.

Like before, I can't recommend Alpaca Colour enough as a soft, delicate and luxurious yarn.  Using it doubled from stranding really strengthened it.  After seeing the color changes in this hat, I'm thinking a fair-isle sweater might really be worth it!

See my Arbuckle on Ravelry

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February 12, 2014

15 Cut Your Knits to Fit! (Yes, You Read That Right)

I know you guys cringe when you read "cut" and "knit" in the same sentence.  I know it hurts, but sometimes you really just have to treat your knitting like fabric and trim just like a dressmaker would!

Let me tell you what happens when you take a realllllly long time to make something.  According to Ravelry my Stained Glass Madness began in August 2009.  Yes, that was 4 and 1/2 years ago. Thanks to a knit-a-long on Ravelry for old, languishing Rowan projects, I got off my ass and finished up the entire body of the long-sleeved cardigan!

Original Rowan colorway, pattern is Scales by Brandon Mably

But after trying it on, I realized there were some really weird "curves".  The fronts were simply not symmetrical in very distinct places!  I marked with safety pins how much they were off.

Yes, there are parts of the pieces that are significantly larger than they should be.  I checked and it's not a stitch counting mistake, so it must be a tension mistake.  There are many stories of your tension changing depending on circumstances.  Maybe you're stressed or super-excited and knit tighter.  Maybe you are on vacation in Northern Quebec and you have not a care in the world.  :)

Funny thought -- could I use this cardigan as a "stress map" of my last 5 years of life?

The back I did quickly and tightly: 1) I was in a stressful life transition and had a month off, 2) it was just really fun to do.

Then, there was an apparently languid time of my life (relief, perhaps?) where the end of the first cardigan half and the beginning of the next were larger!   This definitely overlapped with Quebec Vacation Time.

The tighter finishing of the last cardigan piece represents my life now.  How DO I feel?  Happy, facing an unknown job/location future, and honestly really busy mentally in my craft and increasingly online life.

:)  Oh fortune teller, what will the sleeves bring?

Free 8-Ball pattern that should be converted to a Magic 8-Ball IMO

So what do you do if your knits don't fit together right?  Get to the cutting table!  This is one of the reasons I LOVE seamed garments, you can really adjust for fit.

Try on your garment and safety pin the seam the way it should look.

Re-sew your seam.

Treat the excess like a steek.  First you secure the stitches.  You can use a sewing machine and do two parallel stitch lines.  My sewing machine is busted and only goes backwards, so I made a line using slip-stich crochet.  I stuck the crochet hook in about every 1.5 stitches.

Get ready...

CUT!  Bonus: look at all those ends you don't have to weave in.  You can use any ends that are around to tack the seam down, if you so desire.

Now, why cut at all you ask?  Well, that excess fabric is going to roll.  This means that your seam will be lumpy, and you don't want that.  Another option is to sew down the excess, which I did in in the too-scared-too-cut days of my Brocade by Kaffe Fassett.

I really don't recommend it, the seams are way too firm and thick.  (I'll need to take a picture of the inside and add it to this post).

Check out some more posts about cutting your knits to fit!  Here is a post about my Staccato coat by Kaffe Fassett where I had to re-do the armholes by cutting.

Also, check out this awesome two-part series by A Pile of Sheep about how she took a knit she knew she would never wear and totally re-worked it.  I had so much fun reading it!

And as for my cardigan -- I know you will say I should just end here and wear it as a vest.  But I've decided I'm going to go through to the end, come what tension may!  I'll update you in a COUPLE OF YEARS.  Bwahaha!

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