Saturday, November 6, 2010

Word Smith's Craft

I have not forgotten about my blog and I am still crafting.  It is just that I am just doing a lot of extra word crafting right now in addition to my knitting and sewing.  Thus, the blogging has slipped a bit.  Click here for the whole story!

I promise, there will be more to come.  In fact, I am in the process of finishing up a custom order for my Aunt at the moment.  It is turning out quite well and I'll be sharing it with you soon.  I also have a new hat pattern to post that I hope will be the apple of your eye or at least something that the apple of your eye might like to wear.

Happy NaNoWriMo to you all!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Buddy the T-Rex Halloween Costume

Courtesy of PBS/Jim Henson

I have little boys, currently ages 5 and 3.  Both like dinosaurs and both like trains.  In point of fact, my youngest has a train obsession.  We have 20 hours of steam train documentaries on DVD and they are among his favorite videos. So when PBS and Jim Henson create a television show called Dinosaur Train, you know its going to be a winner at our house. 

I was expecting my littlest guy to ask for a Thomas the Tank Engine costume for Halloween this year but he surprised me several months ago when he began asking for a Buddy the T-Rex costume.  Buddy is one of the main characters in Dinosaur Train.  Asking me to make a costume in July is like asking me to juggle flaming torches, it isn't going to happen any time soon.  However, he has persisted in his request and PBS has a free pattern available on their website.  (Way to go PBS!!!!) Thus, the Monkadoodle gets to be Buddy this year.  (Note:  For those who wish to avoid sewing there are also no-sew instructions to make this costume.)

The boys and I went to the fabric store after school one afternoon a couple of weeks ago to get the fleece to make the costume.  The moment we entered the store, Monkadoodle announced in a loud voice for all to hear, "We came to get the fleece to make my Buddy costume.  I am going to wear it and say 'roar' to scare away all the ghosts!"  Then he made a bee-line to the back of the store where the fleece section is located.  I thought the store clerks were going to die laughing.  Every person we encountered in the store got the same ecstatic declaration.  He was vibrating with excitement.  I loved every minute of it.

Even at home, his excitement continued to the point where I had to do most of the sewing at night after the boys were in bed because Monkadoodle kept 'helping'.  Don't get me wrong, I love that he likes to help.  I love that he is interested in how the sewing machine works and asks literally thousands of questions about the sewing process.  I love that he is so invested in this project.  Most of all, I love every opportunity I have to teach my kids useful life skills and creative crafting.  However, Monkadoodle has been so excited about the project that his helping amounted to situating himself between me and the sewing machine while jumping up and down and pointing at the needle as it worked.  No amount of instruction or attempts to direct his energy were having any effect, and those little fingers kept getting way to close to the working needle for my comfort. 

My deadline to complete the costume was Tuesday, October 26th so that it would be ready for his school's Halloween Parade the next morning.  I finished up Monday night, one day ahead of schedule, and we tried it on Tuesday morning.  It's a bit big on him, which is good.  We use Halloween costumes year round as dress-up clothes at our house.  So Monkadoodle should be able to play Dinosaur Train in his costume for the next 2 years, unless he hits an unusual, above average growth spurt.  He just loves it and went around the house roaring before he decided that a fleece suit and hood worn over jeans and a long sleeve thermal shirt are too hot to wear inside.

I did make a few minor changes to the free PBS pattern.  These are as follows:

1.  I appliqued the blue diamonds that run down the back of the suit so it would look a little more finished and be more durable. 

2.  I put elastic around the ankles of the suit.  I knew it was going to be a little big and, with elastic, the pants legs would stay rolled up better if needed.  Besides, I like how it looks this way. 

3.  I did not attached the mittens to the sleeves of the suit.  While I like this idea, both my boys hate having the gloves or mittens attached to their clothes; so I kept them separate.  Instead, I cut the mittens 1.5 inches longer at the wrist than the the pattern called for and put some 1/4 inch elastic in the wrist edge hem so they would not fall off too easily.  I also added a claw to thumb and the finger section of the mittens to simulate the T-Rex claws on each of their two 'fingers'. 

4. For the hand claws and the toe claws, I made them a little bigger than the pattern called for and stitched as double layers rather than single layers for durability and a more finished look. 

5.  Since Monkadoodle is going to be wearing this costume to go trick or treating (thus, wearing his tennis shoes), I made the feet into spats rather than slippers by leaving the non-slip suede bottoms off the feet and stitching an elastic loop to the bottom hem.  This way he can wear the spats to cover his shoes.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Template for Hemming

Picture by Lil Blue Boo Photography
I love tools and templates that make my life easier and my sewing faster.  I wish I could take credit for this little gem of an idea but I can't.  Ashley at the Lil Blue Boo came up with this dandy idea for a hemming template

I will most likely be making several of these in an assortment of measurements over the course of the next few months.  While Ashley uses poster board or heavy card stock to make her templates, I plan on making mine from the Dritz Quilting Heavy Duty Template Plastic I just happen to have on hand.  It should be quite durable.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

October - The Start of Sewing Season

The air is growing crisp at night. Jack Frost has visited our house for the past three nights. The beautiful, mild, early autumn afternoons find my windows open and my children playing in the sand box. I, however, am tucked away in the basement sewing.

My sewing room used to be located in a cheerful,sunny bedroom located in the north west corner of the second floor. I had a closet and dresser in which to store my stash and loads of natural light from two almost complete walls of windows. When our second son came along in 2007, it soon became clear to me that sharing a room with his big brother was not going to work out. The baby was such a light sleeper that every sniffle and rustle that came from his older sibling left him awake and angry. Since was I was nursing him, I was the one who got up with the baby. The decision to shift my older son to his own room was born of sleep deprivation. It was the right choice for that moment. Unfortunately, it meant that my sewing and knitting would have to find another home. I carved a out a corner of the 'family room' in our mostly unfinished basement. My stash is stowed away in plastic bins which are shoe-horned under my hubby's camo/winter gear, just behind the love seat, and next to my sewing table. There isn't much in the way of natural light, but Hubby loves well-light spaces and installed additional overhead lighting in the basement when we first moved in. It's working out.

Every since we had our first child, October has been a sewing month for me. If nothing else I am making Halloween costumes. In 2005, it was an infant-sized panda costume. In 2007, it was a Green Giant costume (for Hubby) and a Sprout costume (for my son). In 2009, it was Hubby and son Tiger costumes. In 2006 and 2008, my oldest chose store bought costumes, so I had a reprieve from fur and felt and worked on curtains instead. Our Halloween costumes are part of year round dress-up play so we get our money's worth, regardless. In 2009, I followed up the costumes with a new pair of flannel PJ's for my oldest. So October has become a traditionally busy sewing month and the start of a busy sewing season which doesn't taper off until after Christmas.

Now it's October again. My oldest boy is going with a store bought costume this year but my youngest wants to be Buddy the T-Rex from Dinosaur Train, which no one sells so far as I know. Good thing PBS has a free pattern out there. I printed off the 51 pages of pattern last Sunday so I can start putting this thing together. Add to that the Thomas flannel that my little guy latched onto at Hobby Lobby the other day as he begged for new PJ's. He did need new PJ's and the flannel was on sale. So the PJ's are just about finished, the Buddy costume pattern pieces are being assembled, and I am thinking about an adult panda costume this year to use up the black and white faux fur in my stash. Yep, its October. Good thing too. I needed a bit of a break from my knitting needles.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Baby Bib - Modified Pattern

I picked up a copy of Easy Baby Knits by Claire Montgomerie at Half Priced Books a couple of years ago.  It is a compilation of patterns for clothing and accessories for babies up to 3 years old.  The designs are lovely, basic, and elegant with a classic/vintage feel.  The only negative comment that I have is that you have to be very aware of gage and double check it against the intended size of the pattern.  Of course, this could just be an issue idiosyncratic to my knitting.  I had the sizing come out a bit funky on the Overalls pattern, even though I have met gauge, and have had to frog back quite a bit to make some adjustments to get it  back on track.  Of course, it could be the yarn I chose too - Caron Simply Soft, which I am beginning to hate.  Once it is used up out of my stash, I'll never buy it again.

The second to the last pattern in this book is Special Baby Gift Bib (page 116).  It is a basic, fast, very easy knit and I love it.  It would be a wonderful first pattern for a beginner knitter.  Most people would not think to knit a bib for a gift so you know that it will be a unique handmade thing to give.  Also, if made with a standard cotton yarn like Sugar'n Cream or Peaches & Creme, this is a nice absorbent dribble catcher that covers most of baby's torso, which is the whole point.  Speaking as a mother of two, I can tell you absorbent is nice, especially during the teething phase when my little ones wore their bibs every waking moment.

Me, being me, I did not like the pattern's original hook & loop closure arrangement.  This is, strictly, a personal preference.  I am tired of having hook & loop items go through the laundry and come out stuck on to sweaters and fleece, regardless of prewash prep.  The pattern as it is looks great and the original design would cover baby's shoulders, but I just can't get past the hook & loop.  I suppose you could use a button or a snap instead but then you might loose some of the "grow-with-me" potential.  A good bib is something baby can use from birth to preschool. So I chose to get rid of the hook & loop by altering the original pattern to include I-cord ties instead.  Below are my alterations. 

I cannot, nor do I want to, reprint those parts of the pattern that I did not modify.  So you have to get your own copy of the original pattern. 


Hynek's Handmade Alterations for Claire Montgomerie's Special Baby Gift Bib

Work as directed by original pattern until you get to Row 5 of the Shape Front Neck Section.  This is the place where the front neck edge bind off is complete and the stitches for the right and left shoulders are still on the needles.  I work both sides at the same time instead of putting the right side onto stitch holder as directed.  I also used an ombre yarn instead of working stripes. 

Work both sides as follows:

Row 5 - Seed Stitch 4, K7, Seed Stitch 4
Row 6 - Seed Stitch 4, P7, Seed Stitch 4
Row 7 - Seed Stitch 4, Sl-K-psso, K3, K2tog, Seed Stitch 4
Row 8 - Seed Stitch 4, P5, Seed Stitch 4
Row 9 - Seed Stitch 4, Sl-K-psso, K1, K2tog, Seed Stitch 4
Row 10 - Seed Stitch 4, P3, Seed Stitch 4
Row 11 - Seed Stitch 4, K3tog, Seed Stitch 4
Row 12 - Seed Stitch all
Row 13 - K, P, K2tog, P2tog, K, P, K
Row 14 - Seed Stitch all
Row 15 - K, P, K, P2tog, K2tog
Row 16 - Seed Stitch all
Row 17 - K, P2tog, K2tog
Row 18 - Seed Stitch all
Row 19 - Seed Stitch all

Place one side on a stitch holder.  Switch the other side to 2 DPN needles and work a 3 stitch I-cord until it is 15 inches long and bind off.  Then work the other side in a 3-stitch I-cord for 15 inches and bind off.  Weave all ends.

I need to test knit it one more time to be certain of the stitch counts.  However, I think you'll get the general idea once you get it on the needles.  I tried to maintain the integrity of the seed stitch pattern border.  It turned out pretty well I think.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Testing Patterns and Products

Original pattern had velcro closure
I have always been a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) kind of gal. Mom started teaching me to sew and to use her sewing machine when I was around 8 years old. I started with doll's clothes and progressed to making clothes for myself. My knitting was a nice augment to my sewing. Variety is a good thing and this is a useful skill set.

Now I am beginning to branch out from using other people's patterns to making my own. I started by tinkering with existing patterns to modify them to my style and preference. Now I am starting to simply make a sketch and then pull out my calculator to figure out the number of stitches I need to cast on my needles or the yardage of material I'll need. The first few times I did this I was a little nervous about wasting my time and materials budget on something that might not work out. So I started out on things that were for use in our home: curtains for my sons' rooms, EVE pillows for Christmas, and a new sweater for an old Pooh are good examples. Every time I look at these things I see what I would change or do differently the second time around - but that is just my design process.
A new sweater for an old Pooh

There is something incredibly liberating about crafting 'without a net' and on the fly. So what if I screw up, I'll just take it apart and start over. So what if some material gets mucked up, I just add it to the scrap bag and it will get used by another project. The hard part now is to remember to journal what I do so I can write down the pattern and instructions to improve or reproduce the product. Some of these on-the-fly patterns are very spur of the moment, like my Bottle Cozy pattern, or simple experiments in texture and materials like The Ashton Hat or Lorica's Toque. However, judging from the number of hits that those particular blog pages get and the fact that some other pattern sites are beginning to link to my blog, I think I am having some small successes.
EEEVAH! for Xmas
Improvement and reproduction is the kicker in pattern development, particularly if I want to publish the pattern or a tutorial as a freebie on the blog, or maybe even begin to do pattern sales via Ravelry and Etsy, one of my goals. How many times do I need to test knit something and in how many different sizes before it's good enough to put out there for other people to use? How will my product hold up to use and wear? How much testing should I do before it's something worth selling? It's one thing to make something and give it away. It's something else entirely to sell it. I want people to get their money's worth. Then there is money itself. How do you place a value on your development time and production time? These are just a few of the cares and worries I have in selling my work and making things available on my blog.

So far, with my free patterns, I have done the test knitting myself. I would love to have a friend or family member test knit them as well but I don't see that happening in a timely enough fashion to make it a viable form of proofing prior to posting. When I get to the point of selling patterns, I'll pay for a professional technical proof reader. However, while my patterns are free, I just can't swing that; but, if I get useful feed back regarding these patterns from other knitters, I will definitely incorporate it.

Product testing is tough for me when it comes to baby things because I don't have babies any more. I do gift things but I always take any feedback I get about these gifts with a grain of salt because most people are loathe to criticize, in particular, handmade gifts. However, experience as a mom and with knitting in general has given me a good feel for what works versus what doesn't. Still, feedback is nice.

Cotton-hemp soap sack in beta testing now
Lately, I have been experimenting with non-clothing items such as reusable produce bags and home spa products. These require more product testing. I have to make sure my produce bags can be ultra light weight and still stand up to holding a bunch of broccoli. My family and I have been and will be using these beta models for awhile before I make them publicly available. I am probably going to send my cousin and my mom a couple of things to try for a while too. Product testing is a definite kink in my product release schedule of late but, hopefully, it makes for a better product.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Yarn of Fiber... or Fiber of Yarn?

When I began knitting as a child, I loved studying how a single strand of yarn could be woven through and around itself to create texture, pattern, stretch, and shape. Even now, 26 years and millions of stitches later, I am still fascinated and amazed by this art. The history of knitting and crocheting and their predecessor arts, such as naalbinding, is very interesting.

Oetzi Iceman's Shoes

Textile development is one of the primary factors in a society's technological evolution. Anthropologists study it in detail. This study goes beyond the mere method of weaving to include the type of material of which the textile is composed. Our ancestors wore a variety of things, including be not limited to leather, assorted plants, wood, feathers, and hair. The clothing of the famous Oetzi Iceman are a nice example. Our modern textiles are not so very different from those of yesteryear, though, perhaps more refined and sometimes augmented with synthetic materials.

As a child, I was limited to the budget that my allowance, babysitting, and lawn mowing money would allow when came to buying yarn. This meant that I typically stuck with the standard Red Heart acrylic worsted yarn. I splurged on the yarn I used to knit my mom a sweater for Christmas one year. I went with Caron Dazzleaire, which seemed so much softer than the Red Heart worsted.  Mom still wears that sweater to this day.

As an environmental engineer, an eco-conscience woman, and a whole and organic foods nut, I am quite interested in natural fibers. This along with my interest in history and my knitting has led me to experiment with different yarns over the last year. My stash is developing into quite an eclectic assortment.

Synthetic Fibers

Red Heart Super Saver - 100% Acrylic

Acrylic is the modern synthetic most extensively used in yarn today. With modern spinning techniques some acrylics are very soft and comfortable to wear.  There are quite a few yarns that blend natural fibers with acrylics.  I freely admit that most of stash is acrylic or a blend which includes acrylic.  Acrylics are typically machine washable and safe to put in the dryer.  They are also hard to beat when it comes to price.

Nylon is a common addition to yarn.  It is strong, durable, and lightweight.  It also has a nice stretchy quality.  You see it in a lot of sock yarns but it's in other types of yarn as well.

Polyester is a also a common addition to yarn and is easy to care for.  The new glamour yarns and fun furs are often polyester or a blend thereof.

Caron Dazzleaire - 80% Acrylic, 20% Nylon

The use of rayon has increased over the last decade. Technically, rayon is not a synthetic because it is produced from naturally occurring polymers found in cellulose fiber. I saw a yarn this week that indicated it's rayon was produced from bamboo but really it could come from any cellulose source. It is, however, a man-made material and thus, in my mind does not qualify as natural. 

I am sure there are a plethora of other synthetics used these days but these are the ones I see the most often.

Animal Fibers

Swish Worsted - 100% Superwash Merino Wool

As a knitter, I have a great appreciation for wool. It is a truly wonderful fiber. Even the Iceman had it in his clothing; so humans have been appreciating wool for at least 5000 years. Wool is flame retardant and will keep you warm even when it wet.  As the mother of two small children, I also value machine washability and a great many wools are hand wash only, unless you are looking to felt your knitted item.  I am still experimenting with brands and types but I picked up some Knit Picks Swish Worsted, a superwash 100% merino wool, the other day and it is my new favorite.

Cashmere and mohair come from goats. They have very similar properties to wool but are more luxurious and soft. Definitely a high end yarn. You will see these included in yarn blends as well. Very nice stuff, though unfortunately I don't have any in my stash.

Silk is also at the high end of the yarn spectrum for me. So far I have not knitted with it and really haven't planned any projects for which it would be appropriate. It is supposed to be a good insulator in the winter, though I think I'll stick with wool. It's also supposed to keep you cool in the summer, so maybe I'll do a summer shell out of silk some day. At the moment, I'm too interested in exploring wool, though I have seen some silk-wool blends worth drooling over.

Alpaca, llama, camel, and angora are all wonderful fibers that are often used to create some wonderful fiber blends in yarn. Angora is a rabbit fur which has been used in yarn making for a long time. It's bunny softness is a nice mix with wool; but it's always handwash only and definitely more expensive. Though alpaca, llama, and camel have been used in textile making in their native lands for thousands of years, they are relatively new additions to the main stream international yarn market. These fibers have a hollow core which adds to their insulating value. I have an alpaca blend in my stash, that I picked up on sale, waiting to become a cabled winter cowl. It's wonderfully soft stuff.

Plant Fibers
Tahki Cotton Classic - 100% Cotton

Cotton is the most prevalent plant fiber used in textile making in the world. I admit I like knitting with cotton. I haven't experimented much with different kinds or brands of cotton but I probably will. It's just a very comfortable yarn. So far I've only used the standard Peaches & Creme and Sugar'n Cream brands in my work but I do have some Tahki Cotton Classic in my stash waiting for the right project to come along.

Linen fiber comes from the flax plant. The Egyptians used the amazing flax plant much the same way the American Plains Indian used the buffalo. No part of the plant went to waste. Thus, woven linen fabric has been around for thousands of years. I have yet to see a linen based yarn but I know it exists. Maybe some day I'll get to try it.

The Wool Peddler 100% Hemp Yarn
Hemp may just be my next favorite fiber. This much maligned plant does not deserve the odious reputation with which it has been saddled thanks to it's cousin marijuana. Hemp was once a wonderful cash crop from which an incredible number of goods were made: rope, canvas ships' sails, paper, cloth, and yarn just to name a few. Any products made from hemp sold in the USA these days are generally imported from Canada or Europe. Hemp is wonderful fiber. It is extremely durable, strong, and mildew resistant. Modern fabrics and yarn made from it are similar in texture to that of linen. So far I've only incorporated hemp twine into my knitting for home spa items. If I can find some hemp yarn that doesn't break the bank in cost, I will be knitting with it.

I am curious about bamboo. I've been drooling over some bamboo yarn I saw the other day but so far have resisted the urge to add it to my stash. It is lovely, soft, fuzzy stuff just begging to be a baby hat. Bamboo has antibacterial and ultra violet protective properties as well. The down side is that it all seems to be hand wash only and, I've heard, that it can be splitty making it more difficult to knit.

Soy is another new fiber I've read about. I have not had the opportunity to look at or feel yarn made from soy protein but it's an interesting idea and it does come from a renewal resource.

There are a whole host of other fibers available, both man-made and natural. I've even heard of people spinning their own yarn out of cat and dog hair. As my journey in knitting continues, I am certainly looking forward to trying as many different things as I can. Who knows perhaps I'll take up spinning and create my own fiber blends and yarn.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Homemade Hat Models

I have learned a lot since opening my Etsy shop.  Things are off to frustratingly slow start. The search for sales has lead me to reading and research on how improve my shop.  My cousin, whose Noodles & Milk shop has been quite successful, has been a great help and so has the Etsy seller's forum.  So I am pecking away at my improvements and knitting to build my inventory.  The theory is that if you build it, the sales will come...eventually. 

A large part of my learning curve deals with improving my product photos.  Pictures are extremely important when trying to sell something via Internet.  Lighting, backgrounds, and angles are everything.  I have been experimenting and learning a great deal.  You can see, or at least I can see, a marked difference between my early product photos versus those that I take now.  I am continually trying to improve.

One key aspect is how the product is modeled.  I make a lot of infant's and children's hats for my Etsy shop.  They are fast knits and I am trying to build up some inventory before branching out into longer term projects like sweaters and blankets.  Right from the start, I have had a dilemma in how to model my knitted hats for photos such that they look nice.   A picture of a knit hat laying flat on a table just doesn't quite do it.  For the best results, you really need to find a way to pose the hat such that it looks as though it is on a head. 

Initially, I approached the problem creatively. I tried using balls of yarn, dolls, teddy bears, glass vases, and anything else I could think of to try to achieve a head-like shape.  The vase and the yarn balls worked the best but they were still just off enough that I was unsatisfied with my results.  I am able to get my kids to model some of my hats.  However, as most parents can attest, it is tough to get preschool age children to stop moving and smile long enough for a good clear picture.  Also, this does not solve my dilemma for baby hats and little girl's hats.  (I am blessed with little boys.)
I decided what I needed was a mannequin, or rather several mannequins in different sizes, preferably gender neutral for maximum usability.  So I did a little Internet surfing for infant-, child-, and adult-sized mannequins and discovered that they are expensive.  If I had a brick and mortar store, then it might be a good investment but for a cottage industry, Internet shop, I just cannot justify that level of capital outlay yet.  So then I searched for just head forms.  My grandmother gave me a Styrofoam head form upon which to store my favorite fedora hat when I was in junior high.  I thought, perhaps, I might be able to find those in assorted sizes.  Well, you can't, or at least I can't.  I have been able to find them in adult sizes but evidently they don't make them in child or infant sizes. 

Then one day I am walking down one of the arts and crafts aisles at Walmart when I see a potential solution - Styrofoam balls of assorted sizes.  You know the kind; you paint them and string them together to make solar system models.  So I picked up two, one that seemed approximately 4 year old head sized and another that seemed approximately baby sized, and brought them home for about $5. 

When I got home I discovered that I still had a bit of a problem, Styrofoam balls are round and a human head is not.  My hats just did not fit on the balls very well.  So with not much to lose, I measured my oldest son's head, got out a steak knife, and began shaping the largest Styrofoam ball to match the measurements.  The whole process was horribly messy but  the serrated edge of my steak knife allowed me to shave off small increments for gradual shaping.  I took my time and eventually created a child-sized, head-shaped, hunk of Styrofoam in the the measurements I wanted.  Then I dug some unbleached muslin out of my fabric stash.   Using straight pins as anchors, I covered the newly carved Styrofoam head in fabric.  It turned out much better than I had hoped.  Thus encouraged, I grabbed the smaller Styrofoam ball, carved, and covered it as well.
Homemade Head Forms

Modeling Child- and Infant-Sized Hats
I have since added two ready-made adult Styrofoam head forms to my collection as well.  One of these is second hand and has been "decorated" by a child so I plan to cover it with some of my left over muslin before I put it to use.  You can pick these up new at Sally Beauty Supply, or some other similar such place, for about $4 each.

At some point a better method for modeling my smaller hats will present itself. Until then, my homemade, muslin covered head forms will do just fine. Now, perhaps if I am a really, really, good girl and pinch my pennies till they scream, Santa will bring me a  really nice 35mm digital SLR camera.  Well that is not really in the budget for this year, maybe next.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lorica's Spring Toque

This is a variant of a hat I came up with several months ago.  I like this version much better and it's drawn some immediate interest on Ravelry so I am feeling pretty good about it.  The inspiration for this design came from my cousin's two little girls, who both love pink and purple and all things ruffly, lacy, and girly.  They've just moved to the Las Vegas area so cotton seemed the best choice of yarn.  It does get cool enough in the evenings in the desert to warrant a light weight hat during the winter months so I am hoping these do the trick. 

I used a Peaches & Creme ombre to make these and I just love how the yarn's color pooling worked out into a candy stripe effect.  I did one in pink and the other in purple.  The girls can, or perhaps my cousin should, decide who gets which color.  For those who are interested but don't knit, I will be making more of these for sale in my Etsy shop but I am certainly able to take custom orders for color requests. 

Note: I have test knit this pattern 3 times; however, I have not had a second set of eyes or hands review or test knit it yet. So if you find an error or if something is not clear in the instructions, please let me know so that I correct and/or improve the pattern.

Lorica's Spring Toque

You will need:
  • 29-in circular needles US #7 (or size to obtain gauge)
  • 16-in circular needles US #7 (or size to obtain gauge)
  • Set of 4 DPNs US #7 (or size to obtain gauge)
  • Yarn needle
  • Stitch marker

Yarn:  Worsted weight yarn (~150 yards) Samples pictured here were made with Peaches & Creme #183 Lilac Ombre and #144 Strbry Cream by Pisgah Yarn & Dyeing Co., Inc. - 100% cotton)

Gauge: 4 1/2 stitches per inch in stockinette stitch on US#7 needles

Size: 0-6 months (6-12 months, 1-2 years, 2 years+)

Beginning and Ruffled Brim:
Cast on 256 (288, 320, 352) stitches using the 29-inch circular needles.  Mark the beginning of the round with the stitch marker and join the ends of the round, being careful not to twist the stitches.
  • Round 1 - K2tog to the end of the round. 128 (144, 160, 176) stitches remain.
  • Round 2 - Switch to 16-inch circular needles.  K2tog to the end of the round. 64 (72, 80, 88) stitches remain.
  • Close-up of the lace pattern
  • Round 3 - Knit all stitches.
Lace Pattern:
Begin the lace pattern knitting as follows:
  • Round 4 - *YO, K2tog, repeat from * to the end of the round.
  • Round 5 - Knit all stitches.
Repeat Rounds 4 and 5 until piece measures 5 (5.5, 6, 6.5) inches from the start of the lace pattern knit.

Decrease Sequence:
Begin decreasing as follows:
  • Round 1 - *YO, K2tog, YO, K2tog, YO, K2tog, K2tog, repeat from * to the end of the round. 56 (63, 70, 77) stitches remain.
  • Round 2 - *K5, K2tog, repeat from * to the end of the round. 48 (54, 60, 66) stitches remain.
  • Round 3 - *YO, K2tog, repeat from * to the end of the round.
  • Round 4 - Knit all stitches.
  • Round 5 - Switch to DPNs.  *YO, K2tog, YO, K2tog, K2tog, repeat from * to the end of the round. 40 (45, 50, 55) stitches remain.
  • Round 6 - *K3, K2tog, repeat from * to the end of the round. 32 (36, 40, 44) stitches remain.
  • Round 7 - *YO, K2tog, repeat from * to the end of the round.
  • Round 8 - Knit all stitches.
  • Round 9 - *YO, K2tog, K2tog, repeat from * to the end of the round. 24 (27, 30, 33) stitches remain.
  • Close-up if finished decrease sequence
  • Round 10 - *K1, K2tog, repeat from * to the end of the round. 16 (18, 20, 22) stitches remain.
  • Round 11 - K2tog, repeat to the end of the round. 8 (9, 10, 11) stitches remain.
Cut yarn leaving a 5 inch tail.  Thread tail onto yarn needle and pull it through the remaining stitches.  Pull tight to close ring completely.  Thread the tail to the inside of the hat and weave the end.  Weave the end at the cast on edge.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Ashton Hat

My cousin is pregnant with her second child, a little boy this time.  I am very happy for her. Watching her prepare, via blog, for the new little guy has been fun. She is a very creative and talented woman and I am very proud of her.

My own kids are now past the baby stage so knitting tiny clothes is no longer something I can do for them. I just love knitting baby things though, so I try to do gifts for friends. My cousin's new baby has given me an excuse to test knit my Bottle Cozy pattern; a chance to begin experimenting with knitted bibs; and a reason to design a new baby hat pattern.

I elected to make this one 100% cotton because my cousin lives in Texas and it just doesn't get cold enough for wool there. I used a Peaches & Cream blue ombre that I already had sitting in my stash and I love how the color pooling created a striped effect through the seed stitch portion of the pattern. I will have to make a second hat with this yarn to see if it will pool that way again or if I just got lucky. Regardless, I love how this hat turned out! It's very cute and fast to knit and the textures are great.

Note:  I have not had a second set of eyes or hands review or test knit this pattern yet. So if you find an error or if something is not clear in the instructions, please let me know so that I correct and/or improve the pattern.

The Ashton Hat                            
You will need:
  • 12-in circular needles US #6 (or two sizes smaller than size to obtain gauge)
  • 12-inch circular needles US #8 (or size to obtain gauge)
  • Set of 4 DPNs US #8 (or size to obtain gauge)
  • Yarn needle
  • Stitch marker
  • Worsted weight yarn (I made the one shown here with Peaches & Creme #133 Shaded Denim Ombre by Pisgah Yarn & Dyeing Co., Inc. - 100% cotton)
Gauge: 4 stitches per inch in stockinette stitch on US#8 needles

Size: 0-6 months (I have yet to pattern test for larger sizes)

Beginning and Rib Cuff:
Cast on 64 stitchs using the small circular needles.
Mark the beginning of the round with the stitch marker and join the ends of the round, being careful not to twist the stitches.
For the first 1 1/2 inches, knit using K2, P2 pattern (2X2 Rib).

Seed Stitch Section:
Switch to larger circular needles and begin Seed Stitch pattern as follows:
  • Rnd 1 - K2tog, *P1, K1, repeat from * until 1 stitch remains, K1 (63 stitches remain
  • Rnd 2 - *P1, K1, repeat from * until 1 stitch remains, P1
  • Rnd 3 - *K1, P1, repeat from * until 1 stitch remains, K1
Continue in Seed Stitch pattern by repeating Rnd 1 and Rnd 2 until piece measures 4 1/2 inches from cast on edge.

Stockinette Section:
Begin Stockinette Stitch pattern as follows:
  • Rnd 1 - Increase in the first stitch by knitting in front and back of the same stitch, knit to the end of the round (64 stitches)
  • Rnd 2 - Knit to end of the round
Continue Stockinette Stitch pattern by repeating PatRnd 2 until the piece measures 5 1/2 inches from cast on edge.

Decrease Sequence:
Begin decreasing as follows:
  • Rnd 1- K6, K2tog, repeat to end of the round (56 stitches remaining)
  • Rnd 2 - K5, K2tog, repeat to end of the round (48 stitches remaining)
  • Rnd 3 - Knit
  • Rnd 4 - Switch to DPNs. K4, K2tog, repeat to end of the round (15 stitches on 1st needle, 15 stitches on secnd needle, and 10 stitches on third needle - 40 stitches total remaining)
  • Rnd 5 - Knit
  • Rnd 6 - K3, K2tog, repeat to end of the round (32 stitches remaining)
  • Rnd 7 - Knit
  • Rnd 8 - Knit
  • Rnd 9 - K2, K2tog, repeat to end of the round (24 stitches remaining)
  • Rnd 10 - Knit
  • Rnd 11 - K1, K2tog, repeat to end of the round (16 stitches remaining)
  • Rnd 12 - K2tog, repeat to end of the round (8 stitches remaining)
Cut the yarn leaving a 5 inch tail. Thread tail onto yarn needle and pull it through the remaining eight stitches. Pull tightly to completely close the ring. Thread tail to inside of hat and weave end. Weave end at cast on edge.

Hat can be worn with ribbed cuff up or down.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Baby Bottle Cozy

I love baby projects. They are small and cute but then everything in miniature is cute. The best thing about baby projects for me personally is the fact that they are fast. I am someone who loves instant gratification and baby projects provide fast, almost instant gratification because their size dictates that they don't take long.

I am always trying to think of something unusual to make for baby gifts to friends (and, to be quite frank, something that might sell well from my Etsy shop). While I love baby hats, everyone makes them; the same goes for baby blankets as well. A knitted baby bottle cozy though, now that's much more unique. It's practical too.

Baby bottles can get a little slimy, what with little hands coated in mother's milk/formula, teething drool, and baby urp-up grabbing the bottle to 'help'. This can make that bottle not so easy to hang on to, especially during those 3AM feedings where mommy is half asleep herself. A nice bottle cozy made of worsted cotton yarn absorbs the moist sliminess and adds traction for mommy's hand. It may also help keep that warm bottle warm just a bit longer for those slow eaters and, I think, it looks pretty darn cute.

To be honest, this wasn't my original idea. I saw a crochet version in a book and thought it was a great idea so I sat down and came up with my own knitted design. It's very easy and, this is the part I like, it's very fast. I can whip a couple of these in an evening. This pattern is sized to fit the standard Gerber-style baby bottles, plastic or glass, with a 2-inch diameter (measured at the bottom, since they kind of taper at the top). You can vary the length as noted to fit the 8-ounce bottle or the shorter, 4-ounce bottle.


Baby Bottle Cozy

You Will Need:

  • Worsted weight cotton yarn
  • 1 set of 4 double pointed needles, size US7
  • 1 16" circular needle, size US7
  • 1 stitch marker
  • Yarn needle
Gauge: 4 1/2 stitches per inch in stockinette stitch


Cast On 224 stitches onto Circular needle. Use stitch marker to mark the end of the round.

Join being careful not to twist the stitches and work in the round as follows:

  • Round 1 - K2tog to end (112 stitches)
  • Round 2 - K2tog to end (56 stitches)
  • Round 3 - Switch to DPNS. K2tog to end (28 stitches)
  • Round 4 - Knit
  • Round 5 - *YO, K2tog, Repeat from * to end (the eyelet row)
  • Round 6 - Knit (28 stitches)
  • Round 7 - *K2, P2, repeat from * to end
Repeat Round 7 to work piece in 2X2 rib until piece measures 6.5 inches from eyelet row of 8-ounce bottle or 3.5 inches from eyelet row for 4-ounce bottle.
  • Next Round - K2tog to end (14 stitches)
  • Next Round - Knit
  • Next Round - K2tog to end (7 stitches)
Cut a 4 inch tail and thread yarn needle. pass the yarn end through the remaining stitches and take them off the needles. Cinch the hole closed. Secure and weave end on the inside of the piece. Weave the yarn end at starting edge.
Next make an I-Cord drawstring tie as follows:

  • Using two DPNs, cast on 2 stitches.
  • Knit the stitches but do NOT turn the work.
  • Slide the stitches to the other end of the DPN. The yarn now comes from the last stitch.
  • Bring the yarn around the back and and knit the stitches. Once again, do NOT turn the work. Simply repeat the process of sliding the piece to the other end of the DPN. You will be essentially working in small tight round using two DPNs.
  • Continue until I-cord is 24-inches long.
  • Periodically pull down gently on the cord as it forms to help the stitches fall in place and prevent kinking.
  • Bind off then cut the yarn and pull it through the last stitch to secure it.
  • Weave the ends by pulling them back up through the middle of the I cord using a yarn needle.
Weave the I-cord through the eyelet row. Insert baby bottle into cozy and tie I-cord in a bow to secure the cozy to the bottle.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Monkadoodle's Stocking Hat

My youngest son, then two, grabbed a skein of Lion Brand Home Spun yarn out of the bin while we were at Walmart several months ago and said, "Mommy, can I have this one? I like this one. Can you make me a hat please?"

I was in a hurry and trying to stick to my shopping list that day. Thus, I almost said no but he had such a big smile on his face, his eyes were shining, and he had never asked me to knit him anything before. So I said, "OK, buddy. One Monkadoodle hat. Are you sure you want that yarn? You can pick any other yarn here if you want or we can go to the yarn shop and get something really nice."

He stood that for a moment looking at all the different yarns and colors around him in the aisle, walked up and touched different skein, then, shaking his head, turned back to me saying, "No, I want this one."

Out of curiosity I asked, "Why that one?"

He grinned and said, "It's soft and BLUE!"

How could I argue with such an emphatic love of blue. Laughing, I said, "It's good that you know what you like, Monkadoodle. OK, put it in the basket. I'll try making a hat for you with this stuff. I can't promise how it will turn out because I've never knitted with this yarn before but we'll see what I can come up with."

So we got home and I tucked the skein away in my stash and spent the next few months thinking about what kind of hat I could make with Home Spun. I love the color, Montana Sky. It is blue with subtle changes to blue green and it is soft. It's the first #5 bulky yarn I've ever tried. It looks almost like a boucle', except the strand is stronger.

So after looking around online at different projects made with this stuff and scratching my head, I decided that this yarn was not going to give me very good stitch definition so a basic ribbed hat would probably be the best. I also wanted this to be a hat that he could wear for several winters and ribbing makes for a nice stretchy, able-to-grow-with-a-growing-head kind of hat. So this is what I ended up making for him.

This is a very easy, basic hat pattern. There is nothing special about it in any way, shape, or form and there are probably a dozen similar patterns running around out there either free or for purchase. I've made so many basic hats that I don't really look at a pattern anymore and all the patterns I have used are beginning to blur together in my mind anyway. I did not even check gauge on this prior to making it. I just cast on what looked like about the right amount based on other hats I've made and went from there.

You will need:

  • #9 16-inch circular needles
  • #9 DPNs
  • 1 skein Lion Brand Homespun Yarn (but you can probably use
    just about any yarn you want just make sure to adjust needle size and # stitches
    cast on so that it will fit the desired head circumference)
  • Stitch marker
  • Yarn Needle

Gauge: 4 stitches = 1 inch in stock stitch (I did not measure gauge until after I was finished So this is how it worked out.)


  • Using circular needles, cast on 72 stitches. Put a stitch marker on the right needle to mark the beginning of the round.
  • Join, being careful not to twist the stitches and knit every round in 2X2 rib (K2, P2. Repeat to end of round.) for 6 inches from cast on edge.
  • Switch to knit stitch. Knit all rounds for next 2 inches (total of 8 inches from cast on edge).
  • Next begin the decreasing as follows:
    Round 1: K6, K2tog. Repeat to end of round. (63 stitches remain)
    Round 2: K5, K2tog. Repeat to end of round. (54 stitches remain)
    Round 3: Knit
    Round 4: Switching to DPNs, K4, K2tog. Repeat to end of round. (45 stitches remain)
    Round 5: Knit
    Round 6: K3, K2tog. Repeat to end of round. (36 stitches remain)
    Round 7: Knit
    Round 8: K2, K2tog. Repeat to end of round. (27 stitches remain)
    Round 9: Knit
    Round 10: K1, K2tog. Repeat to end of round. (18 stitches remain)
    Round 11: K2tog. Repeat to end of round. (9 stitches remain)
  • Cut yarn leaving 5 inch tail and thread onto yarn needle.
  • Pull it through the remaining stitches and cinch it tightly to close the hole.
  • Weave in the end on the inside of the heat. Weave the end on the brim of the hat being mindful that the cuff will be turned up on the hat.

This pattern is based on the notes I jotted down as I was making it. I have not tested this pattern yet but plan to in the near future. Thus, it may be subject to a few changes in the future. If anyone out there is interested in becoming a pattern tester for me, please let me know.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Caroline's Spring Toque

I was not blessed with daughters but rather sons. I get to make things adorned with pirate flags, dinosaurs, space, trains, trucks, and things that fly. Knitting or sewing something pink and frilly is just not something I do very often, since I myself don't typically wear pink or frills. I am not complaining, mind you - not one iota - and I would not trade my wonderful boys for anything in the world. I happen to love pirate flags, dinosaurs, space, trains, trucks, and things that fly. But every now and then , I wonder what life would be like with a daughter running around. Well, I caught a glimpse of the possibilities this past week.

Caroline, one of the little girls in DS1's preschool class, turned 5 years old last week and invited her friends over to her house for a birthday party after school. The party invitation said 'no gifts please' (and I definitely understand not needing/wanting anymore toys around) but every kid needs presents at their birthday party so I sat down to think of what I could make rather quickly that Caroline might like. She is always wearing pink and purple, sparkly, frilly little outfits and from what I hear she loves playing dress up, so I thought a hat might be in order. But, Spring is springing and its getting to be too warm for a stocking cap and I wanted this gift to be something she could wear before next winter. Lace seemed in order so I came up with this cute little knitted lace toque embellished with a little bit of fun fir.

What is so cool about this hat is that I came up with the pattern on my own. Most of my stuff is based on other people's designs that I modify to fit my own style or material preferences. This is the first time I have flown without a net, as it were. Now, this is a very easy stitch pattern and hats are not all that difficult; but, heck, I didn't even right the pattern down (very unlike me), I just knitted. I really like how it turned out and I will definitely be making a few more of these to put up for sale. In honor of little Caroline's inspiration, I have named the hat pattern after her. I hope she enjoys wearing it as much as I enjoyed knitting it and I hope I'll get a chance to see her wear it sometime. Happy Birthday, Caroline!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lil' Cottontail - Just in time for Easter

I found this adorable little bunny hat pattern in Susan Anderson's Itty Bitty Hats book. (I love and highly recommend this book!) I thought it very sweet but not nearly fuzzy enough to do justice to a child's inner rabbit. So after a brief search at a local yarn sale, I found an relatively inexpensive, fluffy, white, baby boucle' yarn with which to experiment. The pattern was not written to work with a bulky yarn but after a gauge swatch and some math I had a workable modification.
I have never worked with boucle' yarn before and I do not hesitate to say that it is a pain with which to knit. It does not slide as nicely on the needles and keeping yarn tension is more difficult because it tends to bind up a bit as you knit. Mistakes are much tougher to see due to the fluffiness and, since I tend to check my work visually for mistakes as I go, I found this particularly aggravating. However, for all its frustrations, the fabric created from knitting with the boucle' has a very interesting and soft texture. The fluffiness factor is nearly rabbit perfect and it seems as though it will be warm and comfy next to the skin, which is important since this is a stocking cap after all.

I am a little disappointed that the boucle' yarn does not knit up with the same stretchiness that worsted weight or even baby yarns have so I do have plans to modify the pattern further (and perhaps beyond all recognition) to a use a different knit pattern, such as a 1X1 or perhaps even a 2X2 rib to try and increase the stretchiness. I will update this post later on once Cottontail version 2.0 is complete to let you know how things turned out. In the meantime, this little hat is quite a fun number and my kids (ages 2 and 4) just love it. Since they are the target demographic for this hat, that is all that is important.

Monday, February 8, 2010

My First Sale

I have made my first sale from my online shop, Hynek's Handmade. A wonderful woman (she must be wonderful because she liked my product) from Elgin, Illinois purchased a little boy's layette, which I had dubbed 'Weigh Anchor'. She made her purchase via PayPal last Friday afternoon, an event which left me momentarily giddy and had my 4 year old son saying, amidst hugs and kisses, "You did it, Mommy! You did it!" Thus, begins my crash course in the nuances and technical requirements of selling and shipping from a web based store.

I use PayPal so as to entertain credit card purchases. I have used PayPal to make purchases for a couple of years now but this is the first time that the money flow has ever been incoming. I discovered Friday afternoon, after the bank had closed it's books for the week, that you have to be a 'verified' PayPal customer to receive payments. This is a process which requires a test 'handshake' between PayPal and your bank account. Thus, I was not going to be able to claim my payment from my first sale until the handshake posted this morning. Already, I am three days later than I prefer in completing my end of the transaction and shipping the product. Not the most auspicious start; but I figured hey, I am new at this. So I penned a quick thank you note, printed up care instructions, gathered up my packing materials, and staged it all to be ready to go first thing this morning. That's when I discovered that the small flat rate box I was confident that I had was no where to be found. Oops.... Well, at least that is cured with a quick trip to the post office near my house. No great delay.

When I first set up my Etsy shop, I had settled on Priority Mail Flat Rate shipping as my method of choice. My thought was that that most of my products were small enough to fit in the smallest of the flat rate boxes which meant $4.95 to anywhere in the USA, a price that seemed reasonable at the time. However, no matter how I folded my little nautical layette, it would not fit in the small Priority box with out mangling the box, a very unprofessional package to say the least. So I located a box that did fit and, with a quick perusal of the USPS website, found that I could still make that $4.95 shipping payment. However, I also discovered that I can probably figure out a way to ship my products for less with a comparable amount of transit time. Ah, but that is a issue I will have to address another time. I must get my beloved first sale shipped to that wonderful woman in Illinois, who is probably already beginning to wonder where the heck her purchase is and why is this seller being such a slacker. I also have to pick my son up from preschool and get all my errands finished before the forecasted snow storm hits trapping me in my house for the next 24 hours; but these are all trivial details.

I walked in to the post office for the second time today, once more giddy with delight at the thought of completing the process of my first sale. The post mistress was great and a font of good information, I wish I could download her brain into my computer. It turns out that Priority Mail does not include package tracking. This is an extra service which costs additional money, beyond the $4.95 that I allotted for shipping. This is the point where I slap my forehead as though I should have had a V-8 and realize that, as a SAHM, I have been away from the business environment too long. OK, so I have had an inept and naive last few days, but I am going to remedy the situation with the shipping comparison spreadsheet that I am building tonight. I am determined to optimize things a bit and make the chaos of today improbable in the future.

The important thing is that the precious little 'Weigh Anchor' set is now on its way to Elgin, Illinois. I hope it gets there alright. I hope my wonderful first customer likes it. I hope it withstands the drool and spit-up to which it will soon be subjected. I hope I measured it right when I sized it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Tending My Knitting

I have been knitting since I was in the 5th grade. I give credit for this to two wonderful women, neither of whom knew how to knit - my mom and my grandmother.

I surprised Mom when I expressed an interest and I remember the look on her face when she told me that it was something that she couldn't teach me. As a parent myself, I now understand what that look meant - "I really wish I could help you, darling, but I just can't. I feel helpless on this one." Seeing my disappointment, Mom suggested what my parents have always done when they did not know something, getting a book. She and I made a special trip to the library and we found a how-to-guide to knitting. Then she dug out her mom's (Grandma Emily's) double pointed sock knitting needles and some old rug yarn which had both been living at the bottom of her sewing box for 25 years or more so that I could practice the stitches pictured in the library book.

A couple of weeks later, I was visiting my grandmother in Houston. She saw me sitting quietly with the library book in my lap practicing my knitting and asked me about it. After I explained what I was up to, she observed that I was running out of yarn. She called a good friend of hers, who knitted, and asked where to shop for such things and got the name of a needle arts store not too far away. I remember walking into that store and being amazed at all the different yarns in the bins that lined the walls from floor to ceiling. Then there were the all the different types and sizes of knitting needles and crochet hooks hanging from the floor displays. I was in heaven.

Grandmother explained to the shop keeper what I was doing and I showed the woman my sampler. She made a suggestion for a real first project, a garter stitch afghan in two colors. She wrote down the instructions, set us up with yarn and a pair of knitting needles. I spent my entire two week summer visit with Grandmother working on my afghan. Grandmother was very proud and told all her friends about my project. I still have it to this day tucked away in the bottom of our blanket storage. It is a study in learning to knit. You can see in the stitches where I finally learned the nuances of yarn tension and consistency.

Until I reached my 30's, I had always been shy about my knitting. I made a sweater for Mom, a couple of scarfs for cousins, and a sweater for a college boyfriend (which took a ton of courage). But for the most part, my projects were for personal use and the frequency of my knitting became few and far between. Then our friends started having babies and I picked up my knitting needles again to discover that I liked knitting baby clothes. The projects are small, relatively quick, and satisfying to complete. The compliments on the handmade layettes I have given away have done much to bolster my confidence.

Now I am a stay-at-home-mom seeking a way to feel as though I can provide something to our financial bottom line. After reading some encouraging articles about other women who have made successful businesses with their knitting, I have illusions (or maybe delusions) of grandeur for my own knitting potential, never mind the fact that such businesses have a much lower success rate than even restaurants. But, I have put together a simple business plan, have been chanting the mantra, "Start simple and small and work up", and have picked up my needles again. In the weeks that it has taken me to organize and build a small inventory, I have learned some new techniques/skills and have experimented with different yarn. I have all kinds of product line ideas and I love the creativity that is flowing. So we will see what happens. In the meantime, you can check out my new online store, Hynek's Handmade, on Etsy.