Friday, October 4, 2013

To Knit or Not to Knit

In the past I have always gravitated to crochet instead of knitting.  Working with two needles always felt awkward to me, and I was nervous about dropping stitches and correcting mistakes.  I'm fairly fast with a crochet hook, so I was certain that knitting would be too time consuming to keep my interest. I had tried one or two projects that were dismal failures and I wasn't keen to pull out the knitting needles again.  As usual, it was my curiosity that got the best of me. Despite my aversion to knitting, I was always curious about techniques that would produce a knit-like appearance. 

My Tunisian Washcloth
 First, I tried Tunisian crochet.  I loved the fact that you can create many different textures (some very close to knit in appearance), but the fabrics I made tended to be very dense.  I was also turned off by the tendency to curl.  Now I know that there are plenty of Tunisian crochet enthusiasts who very skilled at making very light weight - even lacy fabrics and that there are a million tips and tricks for making the end product lie flat, but Tunisian just didn't suit me.  I made a few potholders and washcloths and then moved on.

Baby sweater knitted with a knook

Next, I turned to the knook.  If you aren't familiar with the idea, it is a technique where you use a crochet hook with a long cord attached to the end to knit. This was something that worked for me.  I was finally able to produce truly knitted fabric.  However, I found that there are not that many patterns that are specifically written for use with a knook.  That meant that I had to learn knit terminology and figure out how to translate those instructions for use with my knook.  Along the way, I began to finally understand a little more about how knitting works.  I lost my fear of dropping stitches and correcting mistakes.  I also began to get frustrated with the slower pace and that darn cord. 

My first knitted washcloths!
After experimenting with other forms, I decided to give knitting another try.  This time around I was more comfortable with having a whole row of stitches on the needle because I had done that with Tunisian and the world didn't implode.  I knew that I could fix a dropped stitch with my trusty crochet hook and nobody would call the police.  I took my first timid steps into learning a new technique, and I tried my best to put the pre-judgement and fear behind me.  Lo and behold, the sky didn't fall and I ended up with a new hobby!  I nowhere near expert level, but I am learning and enjoying the process.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

My Sabbatical is Over!

Hello all!  I am just stopping in for a moment to announce that my very long sabbatical from blogging is coming to an end.  I assure you that my crafty little hands have not been idle.  I have made many, many projects over the past few months that I am excited to share with you. 

Here are a few preview pics:

I learned how to spin!
I learned how to dye!

I learned how to knit!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Countdown to Christmas!

I looked at the calendar today and realized that it is now less than a week until Christmas!  I don't know where the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas goes or why it always has to disappear so very quickly.

This year I have been busily crafting away.  I'm sure that several of my projects will end up as blog posts when time permits.  I've made baby sweater sets for two different baby showers, and another for a Christmas gift.  I can't wait to share the patterns that I found!  I have also made a couple of earflap hats that I am mighty proud of.  I've made two 2nd birthday cakes for my little boy (I'll explain later.) I'm also hoping to work in some time for jewelry making over my holiday break.  I've also gotten a request to replicate a vintage baby sweater.

For a preview of things to come, feel free to have a look through my Flikr feed!

In the meantime, please enjoy one of my favorite Christmas recipes.  This is my standby for EASY chocolate truffles.  Folks always rave over them and have no idea how simple they actually are.

Oreo Truffles

1 package Oreo cookies
1 package cream cheese
Chocoloate coating (I usually use Candiquik.)

Open the Oreos and dump them in the food processor.  Kick up the spurs and pulverize those little suckers into dust!  Add the cream cheese and let 'er rip again.  Once the cream cheese is fully mixed in (no more white swirls), it is time to roll them into balls.  I make mine on the small side (about 1 tablespoon) so they can be eaten in a single bite.  It is perfectly fine if you make them bigger, if that is what you prefer.  As I roll them out, I put them on a wax paper or parchement lined pan.  Next, I put them in the fridge or freezer to chill them and make sure they are plenty firm. 

Now it is time for dipping!  Melt the chocolate according to the package directions, and go to town!  I am the world's worst chocolate dipper.  I usually start out with "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" intentions, but end up with "I Love Lucy" results.  I really hate it when my middles sink through the chocolate coating on the bottom, so this time around, I used a two-step process for dipping.  First I dipped each piece halfway and let the chocolate set.  Then I went back and dipped the other half, placing it on the already hardened side to let the top side set. 

Yield:  65-70 truffles. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

I Love Kitties!

I love making crocheted goodies for babies.  I especially love it when I get a chance to make something more challenging than the standard baby beanie hat.  I was browsing through patterns on my beloved Ravelry when I happened upon this Hello Kitty Hat.  I can't say that I really followed the directions.  I mainly used the pattern for the bow.  However, if you are looking for a good pattern, this is the one I'd recommend.  I find that a lot of the homemade Kitty items just don't have the face quite right.  Either the eyes are not the right size or they are set too high on the face.  I did a Google image search to compare with just to make sure I was getting Kitty's face just right. 
I can't say that my Kitty hat was perfect.  I couldn't find the exact shade of pink that I really, really wanted, and I can always find things that I wish I had done differently, but I think it turned out Ok. 

Kitty Hat

It fit our sweet little niece perfectly too!  I hope she enjoys wearing it.  Here she is having a little nap with Miss Kitty.

Sweet dreams!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Santa's Baby Set, Part III: The Diaper Cover

I am so excited that I have finished the last of the Christmas photo prop set that I promised to make for our nephew. I will deliver it to him next week, and I can't wait to see how his pictures turn out. I am biting my nails hoping that I got the sizing correct. None of the individual pieces took a long time to make, so I'm sure I could call a "do over" if necessary, but I'd much rather not have to do that.

So without any further ado, here is the completed set! 

Santa's Aviator Set

For the diaper cover, I loosely followed the Newborn Diaper Cover pattern by Casey Braden.  It is listed on Ravelry, and is available on Casey's blog.  Since our nephew is a chunky little monkey of a 3 month old, I adjusted the pattern for a larger waistband and added some width to cover his little behind.  I also added a second button to mimic the buttons on the hat. I really like that the cover is adjustable around the waist. 

In case you missed them, here are links for more information about the other pieces of the set:
Santa's Aviator Hat
The Booties

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Santa's Baby Set, Part II: Aviator Hat

I made this sweet little hat as part of a set for our 3 month old nephew to wear in his Christmas pictures. 

Here is my pattern:

Santa Aviator Hat

I used red worsted weight yarn (I Love This Yarn! from Hobby Lobby) and an H hook.  The trim is fluffy white baby yarn worked with 2 strands held together.  This pattern is mainly worked in rounds.  A specific gauge is not important as long as you measure along the way. 

First, let's make the crown.  This will be the flat disk at the top of the hat that determines the actual size.  We will work in rounds, increasing until we get the size we want. 

A note on size:  I made this hat to fit my 3 month old nephew.  His head measures about 17 inches.  To adjust the size for a larger or smaller head, simple add more increase rounds until the circle is the right size.  In case you forgot your geometry classes:  you can measure across the circle (diameter) and multiply it by 3.14 (pi) to get the circumference of the circle.  At Round 5, my circle was about 5 inches.  5 x 3.14 = 15.7 inches around.  These types of hats stretch, so it is good for them to be 1 to 1 1/2 inches smaller than the actual head measurement.  Trying to guess what size to make?  Here is a great resource for measurements.

Working in Red
Round 1:  Starting with a magic circle, work 8 DC.  Slip stitch to close the ring.  Tighten up the circle.
Round 2:  Chain 2, then DC Increase (2 DC in on stitch) all the way around.  Slip stitch to join.  (16 stitches).  Note:  I count the Chain 2 as the first DC.
Round 3:  Chain 2, then *1 DC Increase, 1 DC* Repeat all the way around.  Slip stitch to join (24 stitches).
Round 4:  Chain 2, then *1 DC Increase, 2 DC* Repeat all the way around.  Slip stitch to join (32 stitches).
Round 5:  Chain 2, then *1 DC Increase, 3 DC* Repeat all the way around.  Slip stitch to join (40 stitches).  Gauge:  At this point, my piece measured about 5 inches. 

Now it is time to add the height of the hat.
Round 6-10:  Chain 2, then 1 DC in each stitch all the way around.  Slip stitch to join.  (40 stitches).  Note:  You can adjust the height of the hat by adding or omitting rows in this section.

Row 1:  Starting from where you left off with the rounds, Chain 2, then 7 DC. (8 stitches)
Row 2:  Chain 2, DC2TOG (Decrease), 3 DC, DC2TOG
Row 3:  Chain 2, DC2TOG, 1 DC, DC2TOG
Finish off and cut the yarn.  Don't worry about working in the tail as we can crochet over it when we add the trim.

To add the second flap, skip over 24 stitches from the first flap and attach your yarn.  Repeat the steps for the first earflap.

Now for the front flap and the trim.
Row 1:  Working in white, attach your yarn 1 stitch away from the earflap and DC across ending 1 stitch before the other earflap. 
Row 2-3:  Chain 2, DC across
Finish off and weave in tail.

For the trim, attach next to the front flap and work HDC all the way around the edge.  You may find it necessary to add stitches in the corners to make the trim lay properly.

Add the strings.
Cut several lengths of yarn and thread them through the center of the bottom edge of the ear flaps, then braid or twist them into one cord.  Tie them off and add pompoms at the end, if desired.
Attach the buttons on the flap to hold it up.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Santa's Baby Set, Part I: Booties

My husband's little sister has requested a set of Santa themed baby items for her 3 month old son's Christmas pictures.  She found a set on Etsy that she really liked and asked if I could do something similar.  I was glad to accept her challenge, and quickly got started.  The set includes a sweet little Aviator hat, a Diaper cover, and these booties.  (I'll post pics and instructions for the hat and diaper cover as soon as they are done!)

Santa Booties!

Believe it or not, I had never made a pair of booties, so I went to my favorite resource for patterns:  Ravelry!  If you knit or crochet, Ravelry is wonderful place to find ideas, patterns, information about materials, and get to know other folks with similar interests.  Best of all, there is no charge to become a member and it only takes a few minutes to set up your profile.  If you are already a member, look me up and send me a friend request!  My username is Chuckjenn.

The pattern I selected for the booties was Assorted Baby Boots by Barbara Bazzocchi.   This is available as a free PDF download through Ravelry.  What I love about the pattern is that it shows you how to take a basic item and make small changes to suit your preferences.  The same basic pattern can be used to make Ugg boots, moccasin boots, or ballerina slippers.  It just depends on what choices you make. 

Using the basic pattern, I worked the soles in black and the upper part in red.  I made the last round of the boot with 2 strands of fluffy white baby yarn.