Saturday, November 21, 2009

Nesting ... or un-nesting

Being this is the third time around with the baby making and everything, enthusiasm hasn't been quite as high as the first two times. And I have to admit, I was wanting the third, and most likely last addition to the family to be a girl, maybe even a real girl (monkey pants is quite the tom boy). So, being told this was another boy after just having a boy in a relative short time wasn't as exciting as I would have liked. I've gotten over it though and I'm moving on, picturing sweet scenes of two little boys causing havoc, playing and conducting experiments by flushing things down the toilet together.

Anyway, when I was still delusionally hoping to have another girl, I was already starting to make a collage of colors, fabrics and decorating nick nacks in my mind for the new baby's room. After the ultrasound, I had to abruptly purge those images from my head and wipe the slate clean. But I haven't really come up with anything new for a baby boy. I just did a baby boy room. So what I'm trying to say is there has been no joyful buying and collecting of baby items. This poor baby is just doomed to received all hand-me-downs from the older brother. I think he might even receive the entire room from his brother being that the little guy just recently learned to climb out of his crib and will no longer need it by the time the new baby arrives in February.

So needless to say, my nesting instinct has not been activated ... at all ... what so ever. With the first two, I started collecting things before they were even conceived. BUT, just last week, I had an overwhelming need to clean up my craft studio (it's just a room, but I like to call it a studio), spurring up the need for several visits to IKEA for organizational items and obligatory manual labor from my husband. I haven't felt like cleaning or organizing anything lately, so when I got the urge, I just had to run with it. I'm much happier with my craft studio now. And despite the fact that the window sill still hasn't been attached and there's one small piece of baseboard missing two years after finishing this room in the basement, I'm still quite pleased. One of these days (in the next five years) I plan to take pictures of it to post.

After putting this room in order, I realized that maybe this is my misdirected way of nesting. Yes, the nesting instinct really is kicking in, just not in a directly baby related way. So now, I've suddenly had another misdirected nesting instinct to get rid of all my maternity clothes. It may not make a lot of sense, since I am currently wearing maternity clothing, but I just feel like getting rid of it, cleaning out my closet and getting new stuff.

Plus, I saw this nifty Photoshop action on a blog and I had to try it out. I think this is really what finally gave me the little bit of motivation for the dreaded task of getting all the clothes out of the bins and photographing it. (Unfortunately, I didn't have as much motivation to press it all. But whatever, it's still a nifty effect). And although I've listed them on a local classified site, if you can't resist one of these lovely maternity pieces. I'm willing to ship USPS Priority $4.95.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Newsboy Cap

Pattern: Crazy Easy Textured Newsboy Cap
Designer: Ele -Nutella Dreams Late Night Crafts
Materials: Knit Picks (a) Comfy Worsted; (b) Shine Worsted cotton blends
Amount: (2) 50g ball (a) October; (b) Caution
Needles: J 6mm (US10), E 3.5mm (US4), D 3.25mm (US3)
Cost: (a) $2.79/ball approx. $5.60; (b) $2.49/ball $5.50
Size: Adult size to fit 2 year old average head
Start Date: Nov. 15, 2009
Finish Date: Nov. 17, 2009

I saw this cute cap at a yarn store and immediately knew I wanted to make it for my little boy who could still use a couple more hats. Unfortunately, I was told it was crocheted which I don't know how to do. But I got the pattern and figured there was no reason I couldn't learn. After all, who hasn't made a long crochet chain when they were seven, right. So I did. I learned how to crochet -a little, just enough to make this cap.

The first attempts were pretty ugly as I didn't have a clue what I was doing. First, I thought it was supposed to be worked with a double strand of yarn. Finally, I decided that just didn't look right. I had to watch a couple of web videos to recall how to even make the slip stitch and then for the other couple of stitches used in the pattern. Despite that, I realized on the second cap that I didn't even start the first one off correctly as I couldn't conceptualize how making the stitches through the center hole was done. And, for some reason I had the hardest time ending up with the right amount of stitches after the initial increasing rows. Either, I just can't count or I kept inserting the crochet hook in the wrong place. That took a lot of unraveling and starting over.

Of course, after the first one was made, all these concepts seem to have no difficulty at all. It's just a matter of getting over that little learning curve or hump as it may be with me.

I tried to heed the pattern recommendation to just use the recommended 100% cotton yarn, but after visiting my local craft store and finding the right brand, I couldn't bring myself to choose from their expansive variety of three colors. They just didn't appeal to me at all. So, I took a chance and made yet another order from KnitPicks. I got both the (a) Comfy Worsted which is 75% pima cotton and 25% acrylic in "October", a burned umber and the (b) Shine Worsted which is 60% pima cotton and 40% modal in Caution, a mustardy yellow. I thought the Comfy might work better than the Shine but I like the rich yellow color better than the burnt umber which turns out to be a lot more brown than orange. (The colors in the photos are kind of all over the place. Caution is also more ocre than orange).

I made the burned umber one first. I could see the cap was turning out rather small, so I decided to continue the instructions with the adult size. I'm not sure if this was due mostly to the yarn substitution and less in part to my amateur crocheting or if I just crocheted too tightly. I tried to crochet a little more loosley with the yellow Shine yarn and the cap did come out slightly bigger but that has a different fiber content anyway so it doesn't say much.

I was fairly happy with both of them, but the Shine Worsted is rather shiny and I don't know how much I like that. It also split a lot when I was using the smallest 3.25mm hook. It has a heavier drape, it's more squishy, so it doesn't hold the shape quite as well. I thought that might be the case but I had to try. It's a little strange to see how hole-y the crochet technique is compared to knitting. But I do like the richness of the textured stitches. It kind of just reminds me of something yummy like carmel. (It could also be that I'm just pregnant and insane).

All in all, I'm pretty pleased that I've learned a new skill, not too painfully and I'll never need to buy a cute crocheted beanie at the mall again.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Koolhaas Hat ... finally

Pattern: Koolhaas
Designer: Jared Flood
Materials: Knit Picks Wool of the Andes (worsted)
Amount: (1) 50g ball 'Lake Ice' Heathered plus a tiny bit more
Needles: US5 Options Zephyr Acrylics 24" circulars and US7 16" Addi Turbo circulars
Cost: $2.19/ball approx. $4.40
Size: Knit per instructions (4 pattern repeats) except with one size smaller needles and lighter weight yarn.  Finished size fit a 2 year old average head
Start Date: Oct. 29, 2009
Finish Date: Nov. 7, 2009

I really wanted to knit a little winter cap for my little boy.  He's out of hats that fit and the one new one I bought for him through the Land's End catalog was too big and immediately snatched up by monkey pants

I thought Jared's Koolhaas pattern would be perfect.  I thoughtfully looked for a color that would go with his navy winter jacket as well as other outerwear.  I wanted to stay neutral, so he could wear whatever colorful shirts underneath without clashing, but I still wanted an interesting enough color that would contrast with his jacket and brown hair/brown eyes complexion.  I love, love, love the variagated look of the Malabrigo yarn often shown on brooklyntweed, but I don't think it's sold anywhere locally and it looks to be too expensive for me right now anyway.  So I found the perfect compromise at KnitPicks, this light heathered gray color in 100% Peruvian Highland wool.  I would have prefered merino wool, but there were no heathered colors available in that line.  This wool yarn is a bit rough but knit up fine.  It did wear on my fingers a bit. 

The only thing I wasn't too happy with was that the crossing knit stitches look kind of uneven, some little, some big.  I don't know if that's my poor knitting skill or the yarn.  I'm choosing to blame it mostly on the yarn but I won't know for sure until I make another one with a different yarn.

I was so excited to make this hat for my little boy that I didn't even finish my fingerless mittens that were almost done in order to cast on and get this project underway. For days, I couldn't even figure out how to adapt the pattern to make this hat smaller for my two year old.  Not to mention, I didn't know how to read the chart or interpret most of the abbreviations.  Really, it would have been nice to have just a couple of lines of explanations for beginner/intermediate knitters and a tiny glossary section.  I guess, I chose to ignore the intermediate/advanced skill level required for this pattern. But really, once you gain an understanding of these things, which only requires that someone tell you, the hat is not hard to knit at all. It's totally doable for an intermediate knitter.


  • When knitting in the round, chart is to be read from Right to Left on every row, so that each stitch is seen the way the knitting is seen on the needles.

  • When moving on to next row, you will always be knitting knit stitches, and purling purl stitches throughout the pattern. It's only when you get to the end of the final crown decreases that this may no longer be true

  • Although, there are explanations for the symbols used in the chart, as a beginner, I would have found it helpful to have everything spelled out --
    sl = slip
    cn = cable needle
    k1tbl = knit 1 through back loop
    k2tbl = knit 2 stitches through back loop one at a time (not a decrease)
    k2tog = knit 2 stitches together (to form a decrease)
    psso = pass slipped stitch over
    ssk = slip slip knit (knitting these 2 stitches together to decrease)

  • When working decreasing rounds and no longer following chart, remember to refer to chart explanations for the cabled stitch abbreviations

  • I tried to knit up a swatch, but since I was reading the chart completely the wrong way, the stitches were all messed up and it was pretty worthless.  So I decided to just get started and use the trial and error method which I wound up using more times than I would have liked. I think in total, I started this project over four times.  The first time, I was using US4 and US6 needles casting on 88 stitches and it was clearly too small.

    The second time, I used US4 and US7 needles casting on 96 stitches, thought I was following the pattern correctly, but clearly shouldn't have been knitting while watching TV.  Sadly, after who knows how many hours of knitting, I discovered I had failed to cross some stitches further below.  I slaved so much to get to this point, I didn't want to unravel it so I tried to get my Mom to fix the messed up stitches for me without unraveling the whole thing (I think there's a term for this but I don't know what it is).  She tried, she really did, and I thought she was successful.  I went home to continue, only to realize, there were still issues.  So I unraveled to the rib and started the pattern over.

    That was the third time.  With just three pattern repeats, I finished the hat this time only to realize it was way too small.  On the bright side, it's my first baby knit for my new baby coming in February.  Hopefully this wool is not too scratchy for a newborn.

    So, if you are interested in making this hat as a baby beanie, here's what to do:

  • Use US4 needles for the rib, US6 (I used 7, but 6 would look better for a baby) for the  pattern.

  • Cast on 96 stitches

  • Use a lighter weight worsted yarn

  • Fourth time is the charm, right.  On my last one I cast on the full 104 stitches, used US5 needles for the rib and US 7 on the pattern.  I also, broke down and purchased the correct 16" Addi Turbo circulars at a local yarn store which cost me a lot, but I just closed my eyes and paid.  Trying to maneuver the 24" circulars (there's probably a term for this too and I don't know what it is) from my brand new KnitPick Options set, was only making things harder and the 16" circulars made it SO much easier.  SO MUCH EASIER.

    This time, I really got the pattern in my head, except for maybe when you have to move the marker for the beginning of the row at certain points which is still a bit cloudy.  The final hat took me just three days to make, but I was knitting morning, noon, and night.  Happily, the hat fits perfectly, my little guy looks adorable, and I was very pleased with the result.

    Of course, monkey pants wants a hat just like it, and now my husband does too.  And really, I do want to make it for them, and probably everyone I know, but although I've mastered the chart, the stitiches, and the pattern, it's still very labor intensive.  So I'm moving on to other projects on my list for now.

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009

    Reversible Fingerless Mittens

    Pattern: Reversible Fingerless Gloves
    Designer: Cotton & Cloud
    Materials: Knit Picks Merino Style
    Amount: (1) 50g ball 'Nutmeg', (1) 'Fedora' (dark brown) and assorted colors
    Needles: US6 bamboo DPNS
    Cost: $2.79/ball approx. $5.60 plus assorted colors for stripes
    Size: small
    Start Date: Oct. 21, 2009
    Finish Date: Nov. 4, 2009

    I would have been done much sooner, but started on the Koolhaas pattern when I had the second mitt completely knit minus the thumb and grafting. I was too excited to get started and I really should have finished the mitts first.

    This was a fun project. You knit up two mitts that are stuck together at the wrist and then turn one in so they are double sided and there are no seams. The pattern has an adorable flower embroidered on the solid side. Mine has nothing because these are going to be for a guy. I intend to make an accompanying girl's pair with the flower.

    The crochet cast on was a new technique for me and the tip for using a contrasting color really makes it easier later on when you take the cast on stitches out in order to pick up stitches for the other side of the glove.

    The instructions for these mittens are well worth the money. They have incredibly good detailed instructions with color photos, illustrations, and even video links that show you how to do each technique. So if you haven't attempted these techniques before, this is a great way to learn them. I wasn't sure which size of needle to use, so I e-mailed the designer, Kyoko, and she was very helpful. I did find a few typos in the instructions and I've been meaning to send her an e-mail on those.
    PG 1 Needles: "4mm (US5)" my double pointed bamboo needles say 4mm = US 6 and Kyoko clarified that US 6 was probably the right size
    PG 2
    Figure 4: MIL says "inserting the left needle through the back" instead of "through the front"
    On last "On next row" it says you'll end up with "38" sts for the small size instead of 36 (this messed me up the first time and I actually unravelled it without thinking because I thought I had done something wrong).
    ssk says "as supposed to k2tog" instead of "as opposed to k2tog"
    tbl "through back loop" is not included (I forget what that means sometimes)

    This is the grafting which is the final step to join and finish the top edges of the glove.

    These mittens are really quite clever. My only issue (not with the pattern) was that my dark brown yarn knit up quite a bit bigger. I used the whole skein. But the nutmeg color didn't. So my dark brown is a bit wrinkly when turned in to the inside of the mitt, but it doesn't really matter. If you have small hands like me, you might try a smaller needle if you want them to be a little more fitted.