Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holiday Gift Updates and Other Trivia

I am very happy to report that my handmade holiday gifts met with much enjoyment - Madison looked adorable in her party dress (and being a complete idiot, I forgot to take my camera with me, and therefore have no pictures to show) and also LOVED her knitting dinosaurs; my Dad called to say how much he loved the Intricate Stag pillow; and my little felted Xmas Trees were enjoyed by all who received them. Thank you, everyone, for your appreciation and for being part of my life - I am very fortunate to have such wonderful friends and family.

I am still working on the Delft Pillow for my mom, which wasn't intended to be a Xmas gift. I took it with me when I went down to see her over the holiday and she was pleased with how it looks so far in it's current half-finished state. While the linen and cotton aren't the easiest things to work with for a stranded design the finished fabric is very appealing - it's more upholstery fabric-like in feel, than knitted, which certainly suits the pillow idea very well.

As the Delft Pillow is not exactly conversation-friendly knitting I started a long-pondered new project to have on hand for those times when my mind needed something more, well, mindless. I have long loved Amanda Blair Brown's Fringed Stripe scarf from Interweave Knits, but was not crazy about all that 1x1 ribbing together with intarsia in 7 colours. But I also had some luscious but no longer available vegetable-dyed alpaca yarn in just the right number of colours to do the scarf with. I finally took the plunge and started in the fringe sections.

Much to my surprise, the fringe sections are knitting up with surprising speed so I am feeling less trepidacious about actually finishing the whole thing. As I am short, I don't intend to make the scarf the entire 96" length specified so that helps speed up the knitting as well. Instead of making the fringed section approximately 20" long on each end, I am going with about 16", and keeping the center intarsia section at 50" as specified. That will give me a more manageable 82" in length; better suited to my pipsqueak stature, I think!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

All the best.......

I'm a bit off this week on my blogging schedule, it seems. It's such a treat to be on vacation for a couple of weeks and I was having too much fun to remember what day it was, and simply forgot to post on Sunday as usual. But, today, on Christmas Eve, I wish everyone the very best, whatever holiday you celebrate (or not). I am so grateful for my family, my friends, and for the wide, wonderful, and woolly community of knitters out there. Thank you all for being a part of my life.

My holiday knitting wasn't extensive this year, but it's great to see one of my gifts already in use. I gave my friend Bonnie one of my felted Xmas Trees, trimmed with vintage buttons, and she promptly realized that it made a perfect festive hat for her Ugly Doll, Poe. The tree is from Mason-Dixon Knitting - Outside the Lines (their 2nd book) and is easy easy easy, and so cute when done. I made several of them, each in a different yarn and with different buttons. By all reports Poe is extremely proud of his new hat, and also to hear that he would make a guest appearance on this blog.

Once they were all done, the Prehistoric Pals for Madi were also really cute. (Some of them looked really odd while in process; it wasn't until they were all complete that they really got cute. If you try the pattern, be patient.) They all benefited from a trip through the was to felt them slightly after they were stuffed and all the details added. The pattern is very easy to knit, if a bit fiddly with all the finishing, but not nearly as much so as I feared. I'm glad I chose a wool yarn instead of cotton as I originally planned to use; all of the seams and joinings would have been harder to do neatly without the forgiving nature of wool, and they certainly wouldn't have been able to be felted to help smooth away a lot of the little irregularities.

So instead, I chose to use cotton (and linen) for my next project, the Delft Pillow from Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2008 issue. Mom has been wanting some pillows for her couch, as it's a bit too deep to sit on comfortably without a little extra cushion behind her back, and she loved this pattern when I showed it to her. She had some Manos del Urauguay Cotton Stria yarn left over from a vest I made her some time ago that was a perfect shade of blue for her room, and I had some natural flax coloured Euroflax Linen yarn in my stash, which looked great with the couch, so we were all set on yarn without having to shop for more (not that I ever mind shopping for more!)

The pillow is constructed in an intriguing way so I'm very glad to have an excuse to try it out. The first step is an i-cord, which then becomes the piping along the bottom edge. The stitches for the pillow body are then picked up along one edge of the i-cord and the pillow is knitted in the round from there up, with a corded edge running up each side. This makes for a very tight turn on the edges of the pillows so it requires the use of 2 circular needles to work the pillow. This was really making me crazy; I have never liked the 2-circular needle method for socks or other things, so I finally switched to using a 60" needle from my Knit Picks Options set, and doing something like a Magic Loop technique.

Knitting stranded patterns in non-wool fibres doesn't make for the easiest or most forgiving knitting, but so far I'm very happy with how it looks. I made a sample using the design for the back and put it through the wash to soften the linen (which I am using doubled to match the weight of the cotton yarn) and it looked good enough to go ahead with the whole pillow. Now that the pillow is about half-way done I am very happy with it. I've just bound off and cast on for the opening in the back, which will later on be closed with a row of small buttons.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Next on my list of things to finish for Xmas are a flock of knitted dinosaurs for my niece. The pattern is Prehistoric Pals from Knitting at Knoon (there are lots of cute toy and children's garments patterns on this website) and is much easier than it might first appear. There are lots of small pieces and sewing involved, but the shaping is simple and well thought out. I used Galway knitting worsted for all the dinosaurs. At this point I have completed three of the four dinosaurs, with one still to go. The last one was what was called a brontosaurus when I was a kid, but is now something like brachiasaurus.

The snowpeople I made a while back, using a free Knit Picks pattern, were finished in a way I hadn't thought of trying before. The bodies were knitted, stuffed, and then felted, so the stuffing provided a little resist and allowed the felting to keep it's shape a bit better than an un-stuffed body would have. After finishing the stegosaurus it seemed that a little felting wouldn't hurt this little guy, either. The polyester fiberfill stuffing showed through the knitting a little more than I liked, and the details, such as the spikes along the back, could use a little more firmness. So I decided to risk a little felting on the finished stegosaurus. This photo is before felting.

This one is the "after" shot. The difference doesn't appear to be that big on the photo but it's just what I was after. The knitting tightened up and got just a little fluffier at the same time. The seams are less obvious, and the pikes along the spine really firmed up. The legs are a bit sturdier, as well.

To do the felting, I put the entire, finished dinosaur into a zippered pillowcase protector, and added it to a load of laundry set to hot wash/cold rinse, with laundry detergents as usual for a load of wash. Once the load was done, I took the dinosaur out of the pillowcase and shaped it a bit (tugging the spikes into nice points; shaping the face and tail, etc) and let it air dry.

While they are in process the dinos don't look like much; I got lots of puzzled looks from my fellow commuters on the ferry while making them! Here's the T Rex before the legs and face were done (who knew that a T Rex head was shaped almost exactly like the heel of a sock?). In the first photo on this post he's in the background; done but not yet felted. He's in the washing machine as I write this post.

Once all the pieces are together, and the eyes embroidered, the dinos really come together. They're very cute in a slightly goofy way; I think they will be perfect for a dinosaur-crazed three year old, don't you? I think this fellow is just asking for my little niece to take him home and play with him.

Monday, 12/15 - A quick addition to yesterday's post. The dress for my niece appeared to have been lost in the mail (gulp) but mercifully turned up in a pile of other packages from my sister-in-law's family in Wales. The dress not only fit, but Madi loved it, so there is hope that she will actually consent to wear it come Christmas Day!

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Instead of concentrating on knitting over the past week I focused on a sewing project - a holiday dress for my niece, Madison. I had some fabric remaining after finishing a project for myself - a beautiful magenta crinkled metallic/cotton, and a magnificent piece of re-embroidered lace I had acquired at a fabric shop where I had formerly worked. Madison is a very girly girl so I think the deep pink tones will be a very pretty colour on her for the holidays. I managed to squeeze the bodice out of the lace, and it looked beautiful over the magenta crinkled metallic. (Sorry; I cannot manage to get that photo to turn right side up so just imagine that its facing the correct way!)

My first intention was to make a ruched ruffle around the lower edge of the skirt, but determined it would be too heavy for the dress. Instead, I made a rose out of one of the bias strips I had cut, added some buds dangling at the end of a bit of covered cord, and had myself one fine little party dress for a 3 year old.

I used a pattern I had already tried out - Burda 3025. I made the dress more or less right by the pattern, with a few exceptions. I left the lower edge of the sleeves ungathered to make a more ruffle-like sleeve, and added a self-fabric piping around the neckline and the waist. As the lace could possibly be scratchy as well as bulky, I replaced the back buttoned facings with a full lining in the bodice. I also used thread loops for the buttons instead of attempting buttonholes through the lace.

I was busting to get the dress done not only to mail off to my sister in law, but even more importantly, to share at the annual Sew group Holiday Party. Since I don't get to too many of the Sew group meetings any more (I live too far away to get to most of them) I never miss the Holiday Party.

And so, with dress in hand, I made it to Menlo Park for my Sew Group Party, and a good time was had by all. It was terrific to be with my friends - I have known many of them for over 20 years now, and they're the best group of friends anyone could wish for. As my contribution to the gift exchange game I included a scarf I had knit with fringe along the sides (I was told by one person that this blog was checked for clues as to what I was bringing, but still managed to surprise a few people. Now now I know to be discrete in my pre-holiday blogging!)

And now I get to look forward to my Knitting Group party on Tuesday (I know, the social whirl is just unending) and my more recent but no less wonderful group of friends. And if any of you are looking at this post for clues for that gift exchange you're not going to find them!