Tuesday, 21 January 2014

A Crochet Comedy of Errors

And another pattern finally makes its way off the queue and onto the needles (or hook) in this case.
Why? It was Boxing Day - a day in Australia for shopping (Boxing Day Sales are amazing) and then lazing on the couch watching cricket and yacht racing (the Boxing Day test and the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race). I was almost between projects. (I only had about a 10 cm strip of the flat fox picture to finish and my second longitudinal sock. Yes I know I haven't blogged about them yet. I will soon). It’s ranging between hot-ish and plain damn hot here (40 degrees+) and I needed a summer project that wasn’t too hot to work on on 30 degree plus days. Hence crochet for a change. Though it does seem weird making scarves in summer! And finally, The Women’s Weekly group I belong to on Ravelry is holding a 2 month KAL/CAL to make a scarf or a cowl in January and/or February of 2014. OK, so I started in a little early. I think they will forgive me.

This is the pattern I fell in love with from Interweave Crochet, Fall 2012. It's called  Ruffles Scarf and was designed by Shelby Allaho. I admit I bought a crochet pattern magazine on impulse. I'm so much more a knitter than a crocheter (apart from amigurumi). But there are so many patterns in here I'd like to make. Modern crochet garments are so not your grandmother's granny square poncho or 70's crochet bikini anymore. There are even some really cool crochet socks in here.

The yarn for this a blend of 50% wool and 50% acrylic so it's light and not too sweaty to work with. I bought this on impulse from Spotlight at the end of the winter on a massive discount because I really loved the colour.
And so I began. On the first day I worked the foundation chain and 13 stitch repeats. I dithered about whether the foundation chain was too tight for a while but decided to leave it as the edge is supposed to curve anyway. Messed up third row of pattern and had to unravel a few times because it didn’t look like the picture! Realized I had skim read the pattern not read it properly. I had to remind myself of American crochet terminology as I grew up using the English crochet terms and that's what I'm most familiar with. I decided that American treble crochet stitch (English double treble) which has two loops around the needle before working the stitch is awkward and I need to use my fingers to move the first stubborn loop over the needle, not just the hook!
End of Day 1
I managed to reach the required 91 rows of pattern after about a week or so. After careful consideration I decided that this was not long enough to wrap comfortably twice around my neck so I added another 30 rows of pattern (121 rows total). I started the side ruffle edging and got about three quarters of the way down one side and ran out of wool. OK, I admit to a small bout of swearing, kicking a few things and throwing the scarf in a corner violently in disgust.

Plan B was an excusion back to Spotlight to try to source more wool. There was none available. I wasn't really surprised though. (One shouldn’t go looking for winter weight wool that you bought on clearance at the end of winter on a 40+ degree day in summer). So I did some quick calculations and decide that if I unraveled that extra 30 rows I may just have enough to do the edging.

So I took a photo for prosperity before the painful ripping out process. The scalloped edging was looking really cool. I needed evidence of the hard work before I pulled it out.

I mistakenly thought the drama was all over. But there was still more to come before I finished it. After unraveling back to 91 rows, I re-began the edging and realised that I had been doing it wrong before by carefully re-reading the instructions and looking at the pattern pictures. I had done a scallop every row and it was supposed to be every second row! No wonder I had ran out of wool!

I worked to the end of one side and realised that I was going to have enough yarn to make it a little longer. So I unraveled the edge yet again and added another 10 rows of pattern (now 101 rows long).
I worked the edging along one long side (for the third time!), around the bottom edge, the other long side and top edge and fastened off. I even still have some yarn left! Then I washed and lightly blocked it and it came up beautifully.
Pattern: Tweed Ruffles by Shelby Allaho.
Hook: 4 mm
Yarn: Moda Vera Tweed, aran/worsted weight yarn

The designer has a dozen suggested ways to wear this scarf pictured on her blog here. And there suggested modifcations to make it a cowl or wristlets.

This is the first crochet object I have made from a pattern (apart from granny squares and amigurumi). A major achievement to start 2014! And I am definitely going to do more crochet garments.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

The great sew-up-a-thon!

If you're a long time reader of my blog you may have noted the list of unfinished UFOs on the left hand side of my blog. At the beginning of 2012, I seriously took stock of all the unfinished objects that were hiding in weird places around my house. I dragged them out, dusted them off, photographed them and took note of what still needed doing on them, frogged a few in the process and blogged about them here in these two posts (UFOs and PhDs (a belated New Year's Resolution) and UFOs and PhDs (Take 2)). There were 14 of them at this stage.

It's now the beginning of 2014, and do you know how much attention I have paid these UFOs? That's right. None. They're all still languishing in their bags and baskets and cupboards. So this January whilst I'm on holidays, I'm making a concerted effort at finishing up those projects that essentially just required minimal sewing up and assembly.

I do like knitting toys but sometimes I hate sewing them up!

So drum roll! Here is the parade of  finished toys....

Stuffed Tropical Bird (sewn up and completed 5th January 2014)

My Mum gave my kids a Women's Weekly Book called "Knit a Square: Make a Toy". This is a combined effort from a few people knitting the squares. All the squares were knitted several years ago - it just needed sewing up. (Is anyone getting the impression this is my least favourite part of knitting toys?) This one is for sale or gifting.
Bits of birdy in early assembly stage. And this is where it stalled....
And this is what it is supposed to look like when it is finished.

 And so I forced myself to finish this one first. I swore and cursed and threw a few things while I was doing it, but about three hours later it was done. I'm proud of how it came together. It stands independently really well.  And then it posed for photos.

Raiding the chook's food

The Nativity Camel (Sewn up and completed 9th January 2014)
This is an addition to an existing Jean Greenhowe Christmas Crib set which belongs to the small grandsons of a friend of mine. The Christmas Crib was knitted by an elderly lady in a nursing home. However, one little boy when looking at the three kings, said "Where's their camel? They need a camel!" The original pattern doesn't have a camel so I'm knittied this one from Alan Dart's Noah's Ark instead. I was hoping the scale will work with the Three Kings.
Again partially assembled camel

This one had stalled because of the legs. Camels have weird knees. The legs are assembled by wrapping the knitted piece around a piece of drinking straw and carefully over-sewing whilst not crushing the straw. This was clearly a scary proposition to contemplate and so I put it aside. But this time I gritted my teeth and just got on with it. I stuffed the straw pieces firmly as well to make sure the legs were strong and stable. It only took a couple of hours to finish this in the end. Then the camel went and played in the weedy patch next to the railway lines.

The Christmas Sheep (Completed January 14th 2014)
This sheep is part of my sister’s Christmas Crib. Once again all the bits were here but I had to sew it up. There was probably only about an hour’s work here. Just finish it will you! (I also need to make a few more sheep, one sheep is lonely, 3 is a flock).
Sheep bits
And on January 14th 2014 in 36 degree heat, I sewed up the rest of the sheep. He is now a finished sheep. The kids think he looks evil but I pointed out that it was for their Auntie and they thought that an evil sheep was appropriate to go with her other evil pets.

The Jean Greenhowe Teddy (Completed 15th January 2014)
This was born from a skein of beautiful hand dyed merino I bought at a craft show. I love the wool and he is just the right level of fuzziness and squishy-ness. But I can't get his face right. He is supposed to have knitted nose and no mouth (see pattern picture below). I have done this but then removed it cos it just wasn't right... Also his back seam is off centre (which makes me cranky).

I knitted the nose and finished embroidering the face on 15th January 2013. The nose is knitted in an olive section of some leftover Trendsetter Yarns Tonalita yarn from the Shades of a Scarf project. He’s now a very woebegone looking teddy. Basically you can here him saying "Hug Me!". He is going into the gift box for the next baby gift.
Bear with no nose....
From Jean Greenhowe's Christmas Special, Reindeer and Polar Bear


Who could resist this face?

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Curating Ravelry: Free Stash Busting Patterns

Well, it's a New Year. May 2014 be all you need it to be. I'm praying for some peace and tranquility for me for this year. Last year was hectic to say the least.

A New Year means taking stock of lots of things. In my case this year it's my knitting goals and aspirations. My first knitting related action of the 2014 (apart from actually knitting) was to join two stash buster groups on Ravelry. My stash is not enormous but I need to make a conscious effort to think about just what's there and try to search out things that I can knit with it before I go and buy more yarn. A lot of what I have in the stash is small bits and pieces of acrylic mainly with a few larger amounts suitable for acessories such as hats and cowls or possibly shawls.

[Now I realise that a lot of you who are reading along with me have already discovered the wonderful online fiber community that is Ravelry. But some of you haven't. My thumbnail sketch of Ravelry for the uninitiated is that it is like Facebook for fibre artists. But it is so much more than that. It's place to join groups of like minded crafters as varied as Harry Potter fanatics who yarncraft, fans of particular knitting magazines, the small but eloquently vocal subset of university level maths professors who knit or simply people who want ideas on how to tame and use an out of control stash.  It has the most comprehensive free pattern database in the known universe (125,374 free patterns as of today (11th January 2014)). You can create pages for your projects, upload photos and share them with people and congratulate each other on your amazing ninja crafting skills. Or you can use it as a tool to manage the stash, Interested? Sign up here: www.ravelry.com]

I thought for 2014, I have a go a curating these 125,000+ free patterns into small bite size digestible chunks for people to use. As it's a year of Stash Busting for me lets start with a  list of patterns for using up little bits of left over yarn using both knitting and crochet. The criteria I used to put this together is that all the patterns be free and readily available on Ravelry (without needing a Ravelry account necessarily to access and download). In most cases they are also patterns that would work with a range of yarn weights. Most of my little bits of stash are DK weight or 5ply. The final criteria was that they had to have that little bit of WOW factor that made me want to make them.

My Favorite Things Infinity Scarf - a recipe for a personalized design your own colour-work cowl by Jill McGee. My version of this became the first cast on object for 2014. So far, I have a steaming tea cup, a row of European style houses, a Tardis and some foxes.
Owl Key Chain Pattern by Yarn Artists.
Owls are just so cool right now. This pattern is an awesomely detailed photo tutorial on just how to make these little guys.  I'm planning to make a whole heap of these over the next year to use as tags for Christmas presents.
© Yarn Artists
Have lots of quite little bits of yarn? The general advice is knit a muli-coloured stripey scarf. Why not try the Mini Mania Scarf  and Manic Panic Cowl by Sarah Core. These are just a little bit out of the ordinary using linen stitch to create a woven look fabric.
by LadyDanio
by LadyDanio
Most people think of the stash busting granny rug. (I'm doing the crochet version of this idea myself at the moment very slowly (see my blog post Granny wants a Latte Macchiato). However, I really love this knitted take on a traditional log cabin quilt. Learn to knit a log cabin blanket by Staci Perry.
© Staci Perry
Modular knitting is also a great technique for stash busting. Modular knitting is the idea of constructing a knitted garment from smaller shaped pieces of knitting. The shapes chosen are usually geometric such as squares rectangles, hexagons, circles, etc... These can either be seamed together or more traditionally the garment is built from successively knitting small pieces of knitting onto an existing piece. One of the classic modular shapes is the mitered square. And that's the sahpe used in the Modern Quilt Wrap This one comes from Knitting Daily's free ebook  Knitting Accessories: 7 free Patterns for Knitted Accessories. You will need to sign up with an email address to access this.

by FluffyK Flickr
There are literally hundreds of more patterns out there but I thought I keep these lists short. I'll try to post another one every month or so.

So what sort of free patterns do you want to make? Any suggestions for topics for the next lists?


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

From little things big things grow

It's been a fairly quiet blogging year probably because it has been a tumultuously surprising working year. At the beginning of February, we received the startling news that our university administration had decided to give our campus away to another university thus forming a new regional university. After the initial shock, it's been a year of negotiation and meetings, moments of frustration and despair and lots of fresh new challenges as well as exciting opportunities.

So when we threw open our doors for Open Day for prospective students this year we still didn't have an official name for the new university. The marketing slogan was 'We're growing a new university to help you grow" branded with both university logos and the accompanying advertisements showed a growing tree. This imagery of leaves and trees has reappeared in subsequent marketing campaigns. When I first saw this hat pattern the colourwork leaves reminded me of this. Our new University now has a name: Federation University Australia. And so I give you the only hat I've made for myself this year: Federation.
Knitting is my meditation; my escape from stressful times. The soothing clink of needles and yarn creating things makes tensions and annoyances unwind into the growing object. So for me, particularly this year, certain objects evoke memories of places, times and situations. But rather than these being unhappy memories, the knitted garment becomes almost like a pair of rose-coloured glasses letting me see the events with distance, perspective and insight. Knitted garments are warm and fuzzy objects in more ways than one. (I'm being particularly weirdly philosophical tonight).
So this hat symbolizes the end of the journey and a new beginning. I chiefly knitted this hat over two days of train journeys, up and back to Melbourne for planning meetings for the new year with my new colleagues. I knit on trains - a lot. It makes a 2 hour journey to Melbourne productive and I can still talk to people. This year, I made a psychological major leap forward and bought my knitting out of the closet so to speak and will now knit on journeys in front of my work colleagues. The guys I work with found the fact that I knit colour-work on four needles in the round whilst having an academic conversation fascinating. (The next secret ambition is to work out a way I can feel comfortable dragging out the knitting at meetings).

Pattern: as the leaves begin to fall by Eliza Jarvi (ifandany designs) (Free pattern)
Needles: 4mm set of 4 jumper length Antique Aero needles
Yarn:  For the leaves: Moda Vera Pure Wool 8 ply yellow green. For the background: upcycled 8 ply (DK) op shop wool, alpaca and, I suspect angora, blend in winter white/cream with small gray and black fibres.
Thanks to the boy for his expert photography skills. He always manages to make me (and the knitting) look good somehow.