Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Two Baby Blankets Awaiting Nephew

A few weeks ago, a knitter friend and I took part in our area's Yarn Crawl. As knitters we are blessed with an embarrassment of riches with no less than eight yarn shops within easy driving distance. We quit our tour after the fourth shop, but not before I had done some damage to my credit card and made some increase in my yarn stash. Fortunately, I had plans for much of what I bought and decided this week to put some of the yarn to use.

My niece and nephew are expecting their first baby in January so finally I have a relative to make baby things for as well as for those babies at charities that my knitting group donates to.

So far, I've finished two baby blankets.

Knitted Blanket

This one is knitted out of three skeins of Plymouth's "Encore Colorspun" worsted weight in colorway #7659 "Grape Ombre." The pattern is Lion Brand Yarn's "Knit Diagonal Pattern Baby Blanket," a free pattern on their website. I especially like this pattern because if you're not sure how much yarn you need for the blanket you just divide what you have in half, knit the first half of the pattern's increases, then knit the second half of the pattern's decreases. I used my scale to determine when I had used up half the yarn so I would have enough to finish the piece.

I still had some yarn left so I crocheted a scalloped edging. The pattern is "Shell Edge" from 150 Crochet Trims by Susan Smith (St. Martin's Griffin, 2007, pg. 48). I like adding a crocheted border to a knitted piece as it helps to stabilize the edges and to keep the piece's shape. Of course, the edges on a garter stitched item usually behave and don't roll like stockinette does so this time the crocheted edging was mostly to add a bit of interest to an otherwise simple square.

Crocheted Blanket

The other blanket is crocheted using Plymouth's "Encore Colorspun" worsted weight in colorway #7722 "Very Bright Kids." Do you see a pattern here? Encore is my goto yarn when I need the easy care of acrylic but want the yarn a bit nicer than 100% acrylic. Encore is 75% acrylic and 25% wool and is machine washable and dryable, making it perfect for baby things. And I think the wool softens the feel of the yarn.

The pattern is a simple one of rows of double stitches with occasional chain skips to create holes in the middle of three rows. The completed blanket is approximately 36" by 36".

Here's my pattern info (I realize since I'm not a professional crochet designer, some instructions might confuse...feel free to ask me to clarify anything):

In my example the number of stitches I used are multiples of 12 plus 10 more stitches plus 3 stitches for beginning row 1. For my blanket I chained enough stitches to have 94 stitches on each row, plus I included 3 extra chains to begin the first row of double stitches.

Row 1: ds in 4th chain from the hook and ds in all the remaining stitches, chain 3, turn.

Row 2: ds in stitches 2-10, skip 2 stitches, chain 2. Continue 10 ds, skip 2, ch 2, ending with 10 ds. Chain 3, turn. This results in 7 holes separated by groups of 10 ds.

Row 3: ds in stitches 2-10, 2 ds over previous row's ch 2. This closes the hole you made in row 2. Continue in this fashion to the end, chain 3, turn.

Repeat Rows 1-3 to desired length.

You can be as flexible as you like: put more solid rows between the hole rows, put more stitches between holes, put fewer stitches between holes, put holes randomly through the piece, etc.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Off the Needles: Grey and Silver Dropped Stitch Scarf

I'm back to working on non-State Fair projects. While working on another scarf that didn't quite turn out the way I wanted, I learned this design technique. Putting aside the disappointing project for a later time, I knitted this scarf to incorporate this interesting ribbing design. 

The mid-weight (sport? DK?) grey and silver yarn is Studio Samples by Nicole purchased at A. C. Moore and the fiber listed on the label is "mixed fibers"... probably the grey is acrylic with polyester silver thread adding sparkle. I used five 50-gram balls of the yarn for my scarf.

The scarf is knit in garter stitch with some of the stitches dropped on the last row, and then picked back up with a crochet hook in a fashion similar to making a crocheted chain. After all the dropped stitches are chained and back on the needles, the last row is bound off as usual.

I cast on 37 stitches using the long tail cast on method. 
For the first stitch of each row: move yarn to front, slip 1 stitch as if to purl, move yarn to back, and knit to the end of the row. This gives the sides of the scarf a smooth, neat edge. Continue this pattern to the desired length. 

For the last row (knit 5 stitches, drop 3 stitches from the needle) 5 times, and then knit the last 5 stitches. Pull the dropped stitches all the way to the beginning of the piece so that you have wide strands of yarn separated by the columns of garter stitch. The dropped stitches will be chained up to meet the stitches remaining on the needle. The dropped stitches are worked in groups of 4 with just the first 4 given a half twist before being chained to the next 4 strands.

The result is a thick line of V-shaped stitches lying against a garter stitch background that makes for a more interesting scarf than simple garter stitch.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

My 2015 NC State Fair Wins

This year I entered nine items in the 2015 North Carolina State Fair. Today I went with my daughter to see how I did. What an exciting experience! Six of my entries won ribbons.

Blue Ribbons (1st place)

Knitted edging on tea towel (my first time entering a knitted piece)

Red Ribbons (2nd place)

Crocheted baby sweater (first time entering a sweater/crocheted)

White Ribbon (3rd place)

Crocheted shawl with beads (first time entering a shawl/crocheted)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Shuttle Cleaning

I spent some time this week cleaning off tatting shuttles so I could start new projects. Usually, I just run off lines of picot flowers to glue onto paper bookmarks as a way to clear off a shuttle, but this time I decided instead to see how many hearts I could squeeze out of the short lengths still left on the shuttles. I managed 15 using Rosemarie Peel's heart pattern. I love this pattern because it's almost all chains so you don't need much thread on the shuttle.

I must have overdone the "pinch" in the process because the next day I woke up with the tip of my left thumb a bit numb. I'm taking a break from tatting to give my thumb a rest.

I'll glue these hearts onto cards and send them to friends on Valentine's Day next year.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

2015 NC State Fair Entries Submitted

Today I entered all my pieces for judging in the 2015 North Carolina State Fair. It was almost an anticlimactic moment for me after all the last minute work to get everything ready. Now I just wait until the fair opens to see the judges' results.

To recap, here's all I entered:

Knitted Shawl

Crocheted Shawl

Crocheted Baby Sweater

Knitted Edging

Tatted Edging on Handkerchief

Tatted Edging on Pillow Case

Framed Tatted Piece

Tatted Edging on Metal Trivet

Tatted Brooch

Monday, September 28, 2015

2015 State Fair Projects: Crocheted Baby Sweater

At last! I finished my final entry for the 2015 North Carolina State Fair -- a crocheted baby sweater. This is a pattern that I've made several times before. It was originally published by Doreen Knitting Books, Volume 100, in 1950 and is available in several places on the Web. It works up pretty fast and there are only two underarm seams to sew up. 

I used some thin yarn from my stash. No labels so I have no idea of the manufacturer any more. Burn test indicated it's wool or some other animal fiber. There were small amounts of four shades of yellow and orange. Because the yarn is thin, I used two strands throughout and created on ombre effect by gradually blending the yarns from solid yellow to solid orange. 

The original pattern calls for a threaded ribbon closure, but I added a loop and this cute button that went well with the colors.

This and the crocheted shawl I posted earlier are my first crocheted entries so it will be interesting to see how I fare against the other entries. I am a bit concerned about the armhole seams in this piece as there were a lot of yarn tails to be dealt with due to all the color changes. I think I'll probably lose points because of the inside appearance so I'm still thinking if there's a way to conceal the little fuzzy ends better. I haven't washed the sweater yet so that might improve the situation. 

I look at the whole entering handwork in the fair experience as a way of challenging myself to (1) finish something on a deadline, (2) work within constraints set by others, (3) practice problem solving when I go beyond the boundaries of an established pattern, (4) see how my skills compare with others using the same techniques.

This time next month I'll know how my work compared with others, For now, it's great to be finished with everything so I can get back to some other projects that I've put on hold. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Off the Shuttle: More Tatted Paper

More tatting on paper shapes completed. These can be quite addictive and, for me, one of the few things I can tat during demonstrations without screwing up. I plan to attach them to cards and mail to some friends who are going through some bad medical issues.