Deck the… Balls!

IMG_6419I have become a slight tad obsessed with knitting lately.

Or at least with knitting a certain kind of project, anyway.

We are in the swing of the holiday season right now and for once I haven’t left my holiday knitting until the very last moment. Back in October, I was at the local yarn store and happened to spy a couple of sample ornaments. I loved the look – a clear glass bulb covered in a knitted sphere. I knew I had to try making one.

IMG_6374The pattern was available at the LYS, so I bought it and also picked up a package of the clear glass ornaments at Michaels pretty cheaply. My first attempt at the pattern wasn’t perfect – I began the decreases way too soon and the stitches at the top of the bulb were very stretched out. But my second one was better. And the third even better…

Until now, after finishing TEN ornaments (so far), I am not only feeling like an expert – but I’ve become addicted to making these. They’re quick and easy – good for a project to work on while watching tv or podcasts. And I can make one easily in a night (two at the most if I get knitting time both nights). I plan on using them for gifts for everyone from the girls’ teachers to neighbors and co-workers (shhh).

IMG_5674I think they’re cute – and they’re a great way to use up leftover sock or fingering weight yarn. I joke that I’m making ‘sweaters’ for the ornaments, although Ron says they look like ‘ornament socks’. I have two of the patterns (both are from Kalamazoo Knits) – Deck the Balls and Deck the Balls with Texture. There are several more patterns available (such as Deck the Balls with Lace and Deck the Balls with Aran), but I think I’ll stick with just these for now. I like the lace patterns, but would probably want to try those on colored glass bulbs instead of clear.

Maybe next year. :)

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Off the Needles! Athena Socks – Take 2

AbbisSocks 008Back in January, I set out to knit my oldest daughter a pair of socks. Nine months later – she finally has a pair that fit! And I am planning on waiting a very long time before knitting anything else in pink. ;)

The first pair of socks did not fit Abbi – I think that I actually messed something up in the gusset decreases because while that pair of socks does fit Hannah, they’re very difficult to get over even her heels. And there was no way they were going to fit over Abbi’s heels. So in March, I set out to knit a second pair of the same socks – same pattern, same yarn. The only differences were that I went up one needle size and knit the largest pattern size (Large instead of Medium).

AbbisSocks 007This time, the socks slip over Abbi’s heels easily and they fit her perfectly. Or almost – I deliberately made them slightly long for her feet so she’s got some room before outgrowing them. Although with a shoe size of 8-1/2 already, I can’t imagine that her feet have a ton of growing left to do – but she’s not even 12 years old yet, so who knows.

This particular pair of socks has been hanging over my head for months now. I took a break from them (and almost any other knitting) over the summer and when I picked my needles back up this fall, I knew that I had to make myself finish these before starting anything else. That didn’t quite work – I just plain needed something else to work on for some variety, or I would’ve never been able to get these done.

But they are done! And I am so, so happy. I love this pattern, but after making two pairs of these socks, one right after the other, in the same exact yarn – I am terribly burned out on it. And ready for a new challenge.

Autumn Fern Mobius 003Which I am finding in the way of the Dream in Color Dream Club October 2012 Knit-Along project – the Autumn Fern Mobius cowl. The yarn is so pretty and I love the pattern too. I’ve cast it on and finished one set of pattern repeats. Now that the socks are done, I can really get working on this and also finish up the poncho that I started as well.

And yes, I’ll probably cast on more socks again soon too. I love how portable they are, not to mention useful. Or maybe I’ll try some mittens for the girls for winter. And then there’s holiday gift knitting… Oh the possibilities are endless!

Now if only my knitting time were as endless… ;)

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Crocheted Towel Topper

CrochetTowelToppers 012Twelve+ years ago, I received four dish towels as either a bridal shower or wedding gift. Actually I received more than four altogether, but these four were different – because they each had a crocheted top with a loop and button, so you could hang them on something. I can’t remember who gave them to us (probably one of Ron’s aunts, we think), and for several years they languished in my kitchen drawers.

Until I had toddlers – and realized that ‘pull the towel down’ is one of the very best games ever. To the toddler, that is. Not so much to the parent who wants to keep things like dish towels hanging up off the (not always clean) kitchen floor. Not long afterward, I discovered that these towels were one of the best things I’ve ever been given. Over the years since the girls have outgrown the game, but any time I try hanging regular towels from our oven door handle, they invariably do still end up on the floor (apparently cats and toddlers like similar games, lol). So these are still my go-to towels and are used on a daily basis.

For the past few months, I’d had in mind the idea to try and make new towel toppers – the original towels are threadbare and falling apart. Plus they don’t match our kitchen and never really have. I do crochet, but wasn’t sure of how to get the holes in the towel to start the process, and had never found a new dish towel that I really liked that would match our kitchen well. But, this past week I finally found a new dish towel at the store that I really liked – so I decided it was time to figure out how to make a topper that would work.

I’d looked at the original towels pretty carefully and determined that they really were half a towel, instead of a full towel – they’d simply been cut in half, which makes sense because once you add the crochet part to it, a full towel would probably drag on the floor.

Between a Google search and a few various YouTube videos, I found and adapted a pattern that worked out very well. You can find the original pattern here – my main change was that since we don’t own an awl, I used an alternate solution to put the holes in my towels. In a couple of the videos I watched, a yarn needle was used to create the first row of stitches, that were crocheted into later – and this method worked very well for me.

Here are the steps that I used:

CrochetTowelToppers 0011) Choose your materials – you’ll need a dish towel (one where the pattern will look ok once it’s cut in half to make 2 towels), worsted weight yarn (something sturdy and washable, like acrylic or cotton), crochet hook(s), yarn needle, button, scissors, iron, sewing machine, thread, and hand sewing needle.

2) Fold the dish towel in half (putting the short sides together) and cut the towel in half to create two towels that are each the same width as the original but half as long.

CrochetTowelToppers 0033) Fold a short hem (1/4” or so) along the cut edge and iron in place. Use sewing machine to stitch along this hem. Alternatively, you could hand-sew the hem if you don’t have access to a sewing machine. Or you could use double-sided tape or another method to make sure the hem stays in place so that the towel doesn’t fray along the cut edge over time as the towel is used and washed multiple times.

CrochetTowelToppers 0054) Thread a yarn needle with a length of yarn that is 2-3 times the width of your towel in length. It’s better to be left with extra than run out, so be generous. Start with one of the top corners of your towel, along your newly-created hem, working on the back side of the towel. Push the needle through in the corner from back side of towel to front, just at the bottom of your hemmed edge.

5) Bring the yarn almost all the way through the towel, leaving a 4-5” ‘tail’ hanging on the back side of the towel. Bring the needle up over the top of the towel and back to the back side, then push the needle through again, along the bottom of your hemmed edge, about 1/4” or so from your first hole. Pull the yarn through – but before you pull the yarn all the way tight, pull the yarn needle through the loop you created in the direction that you’re going with your holes.

CrochetTowelToppers 0046) Continue by adding additional holes along the bottom of your hemmed edge, about 1/4” apart, and pulling the yarn needle through each loop before you pull it tight, to create a running ‘blanket’ stitch along the top of your towel.

7) Once you reach the opposite corner, pull the yarn needle through the loop one last time to create a knot. Cut the yarn, leaving a 2-3” tail and use the yarn needle to pull the tail back through the stitches you created in the opposite direction. Tie a knot back at the beginning corner, cut a short tail and weave it through the first few stitches you created similarly.

8) Pick up the end of yarn attached to your ball or skein and create a slip knot several inches from the end. Insert your crochet hook into the loop of the slip knot.

Note: I find that using a smaller crochet hook for this first row works best – I used an E hook then switched to a G hook for all subsequent rows.

CrochetTowelToppers 0069) If you look at the top of your towel, your running blanket stitch had created a series of sections right along the top, running horizontally along the top edge of your towel, in between each of the vertical stitches where you had pierced the towel. The gap between these horizontal stitches and the top of your towel are where you’re going to create a row of single crochet stitches along the top of your towel, from one top corner to the other, with the front side of the towel facing you.

Note: In the first and last few stitches, I also made sure that the sc stitch picked up the yarn ends that I’d woven through. This will keep them more secure and less likely to unravel over time.

10) Do not cut your yarn. Switch to the G size crochet hook. Here is where I used the free pattern that I found online – I will list the 15 pattern rows or you can view or print the entire pattern here. The only change I made to this portion was to add two additional repeats of Row 6 for a total of 15 rather than 13 rows.

CrochetTowelToppers 007

Row 1 – ch 3, turn, dc in each sc across.

Row 2 – ch 3, turn, * dc in next dc, skip the next dc, dc in next 2 dc, skip next dc, repeat from * all the way across.

Row 3 – ch 3, turn, * skip 1 dc, dc in next dc, repeat from * all the way across.

Row 4 – Repeat Row 3.

Row 5 – ch 3 (counts as first dc), turn, 6 dc all evenly spaced across the row (total of 7 dc).

Row 6 – ch 3, turn, dc in each dc.

Rows 7-13 – Repeat Row 6.

Row 14 – ch 3, turn, dc in next 2 dc, ch 1, skip 1 dc and dc in next 2 dc (button hold made).

Row 15 – ch 3, turn, dc in next 2 dc, dc in ch 1 space, dc in next 3 dc.

Fasten off yarn. Weave in all ends. Hand sew on button.

CrochetTowelToppers 011And there you have it – one crocheted towel topper that will keep your towels from slipping (or being pulled) off and onto your kitchen floor. :)

I think I’m going to try making more of these – they’d be really fun holiday gifts, especially if made with festive towels and yarns. And they’re a quick project – I made the two towel toppers (from the one original towel I purchased) in one day.

Just a couple of quick notes – you may have to go back and tuck the yarn tail through the very first blanket stitch you made in order to have your stitch run right to that first corner where you started with your yarn needle. Also, make sure that your button is going to fit through your buttonhole before sewing it on. :)

Enjoy!

A portion of this pattern is not of my own design, but comes from a free pattern I found on http://www.freecraftunlimited.com. I have noted where I’ve made changes or adapted the original pattern for my own use. You can find the original pattern at http://www.freecraftunlimited.com/dish-towel-crochet.html.

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Summer Knitting

Enjoying beautiful weather on this Sunday by knitting out on the deck. :)Yes, I know -it’s been forever and a day since I posted over here.

Not that I haven’t been knitting… Although I do find that during the summer I don’t generally do as much knitting as in the colder months. It’s just too hard to knit when your hands are sweaty.

But I did actually knit more this summer than usual – probably because it was SO hot out that we spent practically the entire summer inside, in air conditioning. And then 3 weeks on vacation – and yes, I did take my knitting with me. And I even worked on it. For a few minutes here or there. Sometimes. ;)

I only finished one project over the summer though, and you can see all about it in the review that I did post back in June, for the Fair Isle video e-book from KnitFreedom. And I have another project that’s just about half done as well – I’m trying a poncho from a book that I purchased, called More Knitting in the Sun. It’s my first foray into lace knitting and is a very simple pattern that’s extremely repetitive – which is making it a very easy knit. The poncho is knit in two panels that are then attached – I have the first panel completed but am waiting to start the second.

CabledSocks 002The reason I haven’t started the second panel for the poncho yet is because I still have that pesky pair of pink Athena socks left to finish for my oldest daughter. I’d knit a pair last winter/spring which turned out to be too small – I’m not sure how I miscalculated, but even my 9-year-old has trouble getting the socks over her heels to put them on and take them off.

This second pair that I’m working on seem to be better – I finished the gusset decreases last week at Hannah’s soccer practice so am to the point of just working on the foot length. I am so tired of this pattern though – one reason why I’m making myself finish these socks before starting anything else. Poor Abbi has never had hand-knit socks yet, while both of her sisters have. Whoops.

After I’ve finished the socks and the poncho (I’ll post more details about that project when I start the second piece of it), I’m not totally sure what I’ll try next. I do want to have a pair of socks on the needles at all times though, since they’re an easy and portable project. And I think I’d like to try to learn how to knit them toe-up, since I’ve now pretty much mastered the 2-at-a-time method. Other projects I think I’d like to try are:

  • a lightweight, slouchy hat for myself
  • A sweater
  • fingerless gloves/wrist warmers
  • a new Fair Isle project (may be combined with an of the above if I can find a fun pattern)

I also have bought several skeins of the ruffle yarn to us to make scarves for holiday gifts – I know I’ll make one for my mom and possibly for my mother-in-law, although I made her a scarf last year. I might make a couple to use as teacher gifts for Hannah and Becca as well – Abbi has a male teacher this year, so I’ll have to think of something else for him. :) I like the ruffle scarves though because they’re a fun, quick knit that doesn’t look like it takes as little time as it really does. <grin>

Speaking of ruffle scarves, I did teach Abbi how to knit them, and she finished one – which she gave to her best friend as a birthday gift over the summer. I’m working on teaching Hannah, and on getting Abbi motivated to try making another. Maybe I’ll be able to delegate the gift-making for the grandmas to the girls… Hmm, that idea is worth considering!

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Fair Isle Knitting with KnitFreedom

I’m mostly a self-taught knitter – or rather I should say that I’m an Internet-taught one. Although my mom did teach me the basics when I was a kid, it wasn’t until I re-taught myself a few years ago that I truly understood and fell in love with it. Because… I’m left-handed and my mom had taught me to knit ‘righty’, which just was never comfortable. Being a ‘lefty’ knitter has been a little bit of a challenge since all of the instructors I’ve come across haven’t known what to do with me exactly. So when it comes to learning new techniques, I turn to my favorite source of information – the Internet.

FairIsleKnittingReview 002Along the way, I’ve found some very helpful sites, videos and blogs. But the one place where I’ve found the most comprehensive information, tips, and how-to’s has been the KnitFreedom site by Liat Gat. Not only does she post many videos on everything from how to cast-on to how to fix errors, but she even has a series of left-handed knitting techniques. And a weekly tips newsletter. And a Ravelry group. And a wonderful series of video ebookssome of which are even free.

When I saw that Liat was introducing a new ebook on the technique of Fair Isle knitting, I immediately knew that I wanted to try it. I’ve been wanting to try color work for a little while and I knew that the combination of how-to video and text instruction that Liat uses would be an effective way to learn. Plus, having recently gotten a iPad, I was intrigued by the iBooks version she had available that would let me learn on-the-go.

FairIsleKnittingReview 007FairIsleKnittingReview 011

What I love about this ebook (and the rest of the ones she offers) is that it combines text instructions with videos, and takes you from beginning to end through a simple Fair Isle project so that when you finish the ebook, you have a completed project. The pattern is for a felted bag, and although I’ve never really been very interested in felting in general, I appreciate that this pattern is for a felted project so it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes as you’re learning to knit Fair Isle – the felting process hides a lot of beginner errors. And I liked the accomplishment of learning more than one new technique at once – the pattern also includes I-cord handles, so it really was a three-for-one with Fair Isle, felting and I-cord as new techniques I learned from this ebook.

FairIsleKnittingReview 012Over the past several years I’ve used many different YouTube videos to learn knitting techniques, but I can say that hands-down, I enjoy Liat’s videos the most. The video quality is clear and she uses yarn and needle colors that are easy to see. She’s easy to follow and takes you through step-by-step – but it’s her personality that makes these my favorite. If she misses a step or makes an error, she just corrects as she goes and doesn’t make every video take ‘perfect’. Which is a great opportunity for learning, as she’ll throw in little techniques for how to fix problems or mistakes that she runs across.

FairIsleKnittingReview 015She also demonstrates in both English and Continental styles and shows multiple techniques for accomplishing the same task, so you can choose what works best for you (such as the different options for holding two strands of yarn at the same time). She doesn’t give a left-handed take on this particular ebook, but I found the videos easy to follow anyway – this pattern is a simple in-the-round one where being lefty isn’t a concern.

For my felted bag, I visited my local yarn shop to purchase yarn. This pattern calls for a bulky weight, 100% wool yarn, which I wasn’t able to find. The closest I could get was a bulky weight wool yarn with 15% mohair (Lamb’s Pride Bulky). I was assured that this yarn would felt just fine – it would simply have a ‘furrier’ kind of texture to it. In retrospect, I wish I’d shopped around more and found a different yarn – this one worked fine, but it’s difficult to see the Fair Isle pattern now that the bag is felted, and the yarn was just slightly more difficult to work with, which probably wasn’t the best option for something like this where I was learning a new technique. I’m strongly considering looking for a different yarn and making another bag just to see what the difference is, and to get some more practice with Fair Isle before I tackle a non-felted project.

FairIsleKnittingReview 017FairIsleKnittingReview 019

Overall, I do feel confident that I understand how Fair Isle knitting works after going through Liat’s KnitFreedom Fair Isle ebook. The technique is actually easier than I thought it would be, and I appreciated the little tips and tricks that Liat included in her videos that helped make me a lot more comfortable with it. My next step is simply to practice, so I can learn to get the float tension correct and determine what my most comfortable method is for holding two strands of yarn at the same time. I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to review this ebook and will definitely be looking to KnitFreedom when I’ve completely mastered Fair Isle knitting and am looking to take on my next knitting challenge.

You can find The Complete Video Guide to Fair-Isle Knitting by Liat Gat at KnitFreedom.com. The video ebook is $29.99 and you can watch it on your computer, as well as on mobile devices such as Android tablets, Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet, and iPhone – and if you have an iPad, you can download the iBook version that I used. I loved being able to follow along right on my iPad and it was very helpful to have the pattern and instructions with me in such a convenient way. I also really appreciated that Liat shows how to use an app on your iPad to annotate the pattern chart as you go so you can easily keep track of which rows you’ve done.

I received a copy of The Complete Video Guide to Fair-Isle Knitting for the purpose of review. No other payment or compensation was received for this post. All opinions given here are solely my own.

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Looking for me??

With a busy home and work life, this year I’ve found it necessary to combine my blogging life – since attempting to keep up three separate sites was just too much for me. I still blog about my life as a ‘Mom of 3 Girls’ – I just do so now at my other site, where you can find posts about what’s going on in my pink-filled life, along with a smattering of product reviews and other fun things as well.

Come find me at Just a mom’s take on things… Can’t wait to see you there!

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Four years!

So I figured out completely by accident last night that it’s been almost exactly four years since I taught myself to knit. I was looking through a bunch of photos that I took four years ago to find something for this week’s Wordless Wednesday, and happened to see pictures of my first two knitting projects from way back then.

I was a pretty avid crocheter in earlier years but had started having a lot of pain in my hand when I crocheted, so thought knitting would be a good challenge to tackle. I was right! :)

KnitScarf_001

It was very simple – just garter stitch. I do remember being proud of myself for figuring out how to change colors though. I can’t remember for absolute certain, but I think I’d originally used those colors because I a) had the yarn already in-hand from a baby afghan I’d been planning to crochet and b) thought my husband would be able to use the scarf. I was wrong – the scarf was too short for him (he’s not the scarf type anyway), and the colors weren’t ‘girl’ enough to tempt any of my daughters to wear it. I think this scarf is still buried at the bottom of a drawer somewhere.

KnitHat_001

I still had yarn left after the scarf, so I made a hat to match. At the time I wasn’t ready to tackle knitting in the round, so this hat was knitted flat and then I seamed it up the side. Not very well, as you can see:

KnitHat_002

I did have someone willing at least to model the hat for me, but I don’t think it’s been worn since. It wasn’t a horrible job for a first attempt, but I cringe when I look at these pictures of it now – I’ve learned so much since then!

HannahInKnitHat

Do you remember what your first knitting project was? Do you still have it? :)

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OTN: Ruffle scarf!

I just had to share because I know these are becoming really popular and I finally decided that I just had to try making one myself. And it’s such an easy and quick knit – for something that turns out so pretty… Perfect for gift-making!

RufflyScarf 001

The yarn I bought is called Starbella. There were several other types at the yarn store today too – some sparkly or fuzzy ones, but I really like the colors in this one.

The idea here is that the yarn stretches out and looks just about like a net – you knit through the top loops in short rows to create a cascading look…

RufflyScarf 003

This is the scarf that I started tonight – after about 20 minutes it’s almost halfway done! This scarf is 4 stitches per row – you cast-on just by slipping the needle through the holes in the top of the mesh, then you knit through the next open hole at the top and so on, turning after each row.  For a thicker scarf you could use longer rows – some of the samples I saw had up to 8 stitches per row.

The only complicated part is that you have to stretch out the mesh as you go and find the top loops – but the more I work on the scarf, the easier it gets.

RufflyScarf 002

I’ll probably finish this up tomorrow – I can’t wait to wear my pretty new scarf! And my girls are already begging to make their own ruffle scarves – this is easy enough that they should be able to!

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Weekly Update – Feb 6

So it’s been a couple of weeks this time – but here’s what I’ve been up to lately!

And stay tuned in the next week or two for posts about our ongoing family life plus my takes on the new formulation of Moon Dough, a Max and Ruby-themed iPhone app, and the new Honda CRV – and much more…

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Sometimes, I am an idiot.

It’s true. I tend to be a more detail-oriented kind of person, which is very good in some ways but there are times when I kind of tend to overlook the big picture because I get too caught up in the details.

For example…

I received a new knitting book for Christmas and have been very excited to try my first pair of socks from it. The book is 2-At-A-Time Socks(affiliate link) by Melissa Morgan-Oakes and it has a lot of really fun looking sock patterns to try out. My oldest daughter is the only child left in the family for whom I have not yet knit a pair of socks, so I let her choose her favorite pattern from the new book.

She chose the Athena pattern – a really pretty cabled sock that I was looking forward to working on. This book is done with charts – so I’d be learning something new since I hadn’t worked from a pattern chart before.

The chart is fairly easy to follow – like a grid. Start at stitch 1 of row 1 and work right to left and bottom to top. Simple, right?

AbbisSocks 003

As I got further into the pattern, I noticed that my cables weren’t winding around each other the way the pattern shows. I realized that I’d gotten so wrapped up in following each stitch and step exactly as written that I’d forgotten that I knit left-handed. And since I knit left-to-right and I was following the chart right-to-left, I figured I was doing the pattern wrong and should start again, this time following the chart backward, beginning at stitch 28 of row 1 and working left to right and bottom to top.

So I frogged the entire pair of socks. And began again from the very beginning of casting on both pairs of socks.

After (re)knitting the cuffs and getting back into the pattern stitches, it didn’t take more than a few rows before I realized that the cables definitely weren’t looking better – in fact, this time they didn’t even look like cables but rather a jumbled mess.

Thankfully, this time I was able to simply ‘tink’ back those few pattern rounds that I’d already knit (a lot of fun dealing with the cable hook there), back to where I’d started cabling. I looked again at the photos I’d taken of my first attempt and decided that the cables really didn’t look that far off anyway – and if something wrapped to the back when it ‘should’ wrap to the front… As long as everything lines up in the end, it shouldn’t matter.

AbbisSocks 004

So my lesson learned is that I shouldn’t try to second-guess a pattern or analyze why it works or doesn’t – but just accept the fact that the designer knew what she was doing and apparently left-handed or not, I simply need to follow the directions as written.

I may be an idiot – but I do (usually) at least learn from my mistakes!

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