Crochet, knitting, astronomy & life in general.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Annual X-mas crafting review (Part 1)

The Newtonmas presents have been handed out, the wrapping paper has been cleaned up, and the traditional holiday dinner (home-made pizza in our house!) has been eaten. That means that it's time to show the world what I made everyone for X-mas now that I don't have to be all secretive about it! This will likely be a very long post, so I'll start with the knitted gifts and save the rest for another post.

I'll start with the big one: this year, I knit my first man sweater. My dad expressed an interest in getting a hand-knit tennis sweater... you know, the v-neck cabled cardigans, usually white with a navy blue stripe around the collar? (Something like this.) It had to be a cardigan, because Dad gets hot easily. I couldn't seem to find a pattern I really liked that was free or in a book I already owned, so I designed my own! This is how it turned out:

I actually worked this sweater in pieces because I couldn't think of a good way to do it seamlessly at the time (though I thought of some later after I'd already started). Designing the sleeve caps and arm holes was interesting, since I decided to go with a set-in sleeve, but the sweater design section of Debbie Stoller's Superstar Knitting came in handy. There are a few elements I'm really proud of, as well. I'm a huge fan of these pockets, for example:

I'll probably post this technique as a tutorial on the Happy Seamstress at some point, but it's essentially an afterthought pocket with more forethought. Yeah... that makes sense. I'm also quite proud of the button band. I did a double-knit button band using this tutorial. The buttons I acquired whilst at the Buttons and Needlework Boutique in Victoria.

The oatmeal-coloured yarn is Diamond Yarn Galway Heather, an aran weight pure wool yarn that was very nice to work with (though it felts extremely easily). I have two balls left which might become a laptop case for the boyfriend. The red yarn is KnitPicks Wool of the Andes, which was gifted to me by Joanna. (Thanks a bunch, Joanna!) She had some left over from her cupcake kits.

Most importantly, Dad seems pretty happy with the sweater. The fit is good, and he's actually been wearing it since he got it, which is a good sign. Here he is, showing his approval:

The second hand-knit gift I made were these lovely soft cuffs for my Mom.

The pattern is Mrs Beeton by Brenda Dayne and the yarn is some stuff I got at the Knitty Yarn Round Table in September called Heaven's Hand Silke (pure silk, nom nom nom!) and the leftover Filatura Di Crosa Baby Kid Extra from the cowl I made Mom last X-mas. I used some iridescent purple beads from my bead stash. I really liked knitting this pattern... it's super cute, and pretty clever. And working with the Silke was amazing. I wish I had a bathtub of the stuff.

Here's a funny video I took while she was posing at the piano and didn't know I was filming:

The last yarny gift I made this year was this cute little teddy bear for my friends' baby:

I pretty much just made up the pattern as I went... and I'm not sure I entirely remember what I did, but it turned out awful cute, right? I used some yarn from Mom's stash and she also knit the little scarf. And of course, here's the mandatory cute baby picture, taken by her parents and not by me. She's very studious:

Next time I'll show pictures of the shinier presents I made. Stay tuned!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Jewelry for your knitting (or crocheting)

Ah, the holidays! Endless hours of time wastage! At least that's what mine have been like so far. It's wonderful... Speaking of the holidays, my knitting group had their holiday party a couple of weeks ago. Besides eating way too much, drinking way too much, knitting a ridiculous blanket, and watching the rotisserie channel (yes, this is a real thing), we had a gift exchange! Since I can't bear the thought of facing the mall and going shopping this time of year, I used my crafty skills to make something: stitch markers!

I had decided that the necklace I made at the Creativ Festival was really not something I'd ever actually wear, so I took it apart. The components are really great, so I used some of the beads (Swarovski crystals!) and the leftover wire to make these, essentially just a head pin and a loop to slip onto your knitting needles.

I used the instructions from this website to make the spiral head pins, but I'm not sure I'm a huge fan. They don't sit as flat against the bead as I'd like them to.

I wasn't entirely sure who'd be receiving these stitch markers, and we do have some crocheters in the group, so I also made the above crochet stitch markers. I think they look kind of like earrings. My friend Alia was the lucky recipient of all these, and apparently she's really enjoying using them. Huzzah!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

They love me! They really love me!

Well, Lynn over at Sweet Little Stitches, who is a good friend of mind and a crocheter from my weekly knitting group, loves me. She gave me the Liebster Blog Award, which goes to a blog with fewer than 200 followers. The idea is that when you receive the award, you then pass it on to five other bloggers.

Thus, in the spirit of the award, here are five blogs that I really like to read, and are deserving of this award:

1) Jori Baldwin - Sketchbook, as you might have guessed from the name, is a collection of sketches made by my friend Jori, who is quite a talented illustrator. I have a few of her pieces adorning my apartment, this one and this one to be specific.

2) Cassandra's Tears is my mom's blog on which she posts short stories that she has written. I think she's pretty talented, though she doesn't post nearly often enough.

3) Chez Emilie is my friend Emilie's blog. I knew her when I was doing my undergraduate degree in Physics. She's pretty amazing... she has two beautiful daughters and a lovely husband (whom I also studied with), and on top of that, she does quantum physics! She mostly blogs about her adventures in sewing, which I think she's pretty awesome at.

4) Iris is not exactly a blog (though it does have a blogspot address), but I thought it deserved a shout-out anyway. It's a fantasy and science-fiction zine that a few of my Lennoxville friends contribute to (and edit and publish), and you should go read some of the stories right now.

5) Last but not least, Sneaky Milk is my friend Jenny's blog. She's a comedian and story-teller, and a very funny writer. Her blog is mostly just about her life in Toronto. She hasn't written much in a while, but hopefully that'll change.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pay-It-Forward socks (or two down, two to go)

I'm slowly working my way through the projects I agreed to do for that Pay-It-Forward thing. I finished these socks for Joanna back in September, but I guess I just never got around to blogging about about them. In exchange, Joanna made me some pretty sweet pants (which I unfortunately don't have pictures of).

These were made using the Ornamental pattern by Nuoska on Knitty. I love the heel construction best of all, I believe... that cable that goes around the back of the heel just looks so cool.

The yarn is Mary Maxim's Step It Up in the Oxford Blues colour-way. I actually quite like this yarn... it wasn't as soft as some sock yarns I've used, but the colours are lovely, and it gives quite a nice finished sock. The yardage is quite good too... with the leftover yarn, I was able to make a pair of short socks for myself.

I used the Bloody Socks pattern by Kimberly Dijkstra from Vampire Knits, though I made a couple of modifications. I did a short-row toe, and an afterthought heel because I didn't want to break up the colour changes on the top of the foot. I also added an extra 3 stitches to the lace pattern and to the bottom of the foot because my feet are a little wider. And, I tried to get the colour changes in the yarn to match up on both feet, but as you can see from the above picture, it didn't work. As Brenda Dayne once said, "This way lies madness."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Spinning straw into gold

Or in this case, spinning clown barf into beautiful variegated yarn. While at the Creativ Festival this year, I picked up some roving from a huge grab bin that was really really colourful.

Actually, I mostly got it because I thought it would be hilarious to spin up some really weirdly colourful yarn, and I didn't think too much about how the spinning process would change the colours. As it turns out, the process of drafting it causes the colours to mix together in the most wonderful way, so what I got was a lovely gradual blend of colours. Here it is as a single ply:

And then when I plied it, my little skein of rainbow yarn became a thing of true beauty. All of the different colours melded together, and the strands change colour at a different rate. Come to think of it, it's probably the most evenly-spun yarn I've done to date...

I can hardly wait to see how it knits up!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Wine bottle cozy pattern

It's been a little while since I've posted a free pattern, so here's something quick and easy for you. I whipped up these crocheted wine bottle cozies a few hours before some friends' wedding party to cover up a bottle of port and a bottle of homemade white wine which we were bringing as gifts. This is the label for the home-made wine, by the way:

The label says "Sam's Beard Estates WINE BITCHES!" Yeah... not totally family-appropriate, but we had a hoot making them. The reddish shape is the silhouette of the boyfriend's beard as seen from the side. If you stare at it, you might get it, but it's meant to be a little abstract.

Anyway, on to that pattern! I used two thirds of a leftover ball of Knit Picks Telemark for the purplish one, and then some mystery worsted weight for the white one. The grey yarn is Bernat Berella 4 Solids & Ragg, which is a worsted weight yarn, but I think you can probably use anything from sport weight to worsted for this pattern, since the double crochet is fairly stretchy.

  • About 50 grams of a sport to worsted weight yarn
  • a 5mm crochet hook
  • a darning needle to sew in the ends

Gauge: Approximately 3 sts per inch, but it doesn't matter too much


Make magic ring (you can find a good tutorial here). Ch 3 (counts as 1st dc).

Rnd 1: Dc 11 sts into ring, sl st into 3rd chain. Pull ring tight. (12 sts)
Rnd 2: Ch 3, dc into sl st, * 2 dc in next st, rep from *, sl st into 3rd chain. (24 sts)
Rnd 3: Ch 3, dc into sl st, * 1 dc in next st, 2 dc in next st, rep from *, sl st into 3rd chain. (36 sts)
Rnd 4-10ish: Ch 3, dc around, sl st into 3rd chain. (until it extends to the beginning of the neck of the wine bottle)
Rnd 11: Ch 3, * dec 2 sts, 1 dc in next st, rep from *, sl st into 3rd chain. (24 sts)
Rnd 12: Ch 3, dc around, sl st into 3rd chain.
Rnd 13: Ch 4, * sk 1 st, 1 dc in next st, ch 1, rep from *, sl st into 3rd chain. This creates eyelets to pass the drawstring through.
Rnd 14: Ch 3, * dc into ch, dc into next dc, rep from *, sl st into 3rd chain.

Fasten off.

With a 12” piece of yarn, twist and fold in half so it twists up on itself, and tie knots at each end. Then draw through the eyelets. You can also use a crochet chain or an i-cord if you want.

You can do this in red, green, and white stripes for a very festive wine cozy, and it adds a nice personal touch to that bottle of wine you bring to a Christmas party. Enjoy!

Edit (April 24, 2012) - Changed row 3 from 32 sts to 36 sts.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Victorian Adventures!

And no, I didn't time travel... I recently spent a few days in Victoria, BC to hear the premiere of my daddy's opera, Mary's Wedding. It was certainly a great success, and I don't think there was a dry eye in the audience. I bawled my eyes out during almost the entire second act... Anyway, while I was there, I managed to do a bit of sightseeing, and yes, of course, visit some of Victoria's wonderful yarn shops!

I know my priorities, so I'd like to first mention that Victoria's yarn shops are all wonderful. There are three in the downtown core (and they were within a 15-minute walk of our hotel!): the Button and Needlework Boutique (whose display my mom can be seen drooling over in the above picture), Knotty by Nature, and the Beehive Wool Shop. Our first stop, the Button and Needlework Boutique was extremely nice, and the ladies there were very very friendly. Also, they had a WALL OF BUTTONS! Mom and I were impressed...

I picked up a skein of a very lovely silk mohair blend called Shibui Knits Silk Cloud (a very apt name, let me tell you) in the wasabi colourway that I just couldn't stop petting...

The next day, we went to Knotty by Nature, which was even more fabulous, if that's possible, and certainly my favourite crafty stop on the trip. Most of the stuff in the store was local hand-dyed and hand-spun yarns, and they also had more roving than I've ever seen in one place. I seriously wanted to buy all of it. The nice fellow who worked there also offered to show us how he uses his drum carder to make amazing fibre blends... I totally need a drum carder now. The finished product totally looked like some sea god's beard, but it was so sparkly and soft and amazing...

I couldn't resist buying a little bundle of blended fibre from them.

The third and final yarn store we visited was the Beehive Wool Shop. It was very nice as well, though after the last two, it seemed kind of ordinary. They had a good selection of very nice yarns, but weren't any more special than any yarn store I could have gone to in Toronto. Even so, I managed to walk away with some very nice sock yarn (Diamond Yarn Luxury Collection Soxy) that was being sold at a very reasonable price. I know, I'm weak...

Besides indulging in all that yarny goodness, we saw a whole lot of Cowichan sweaters...

Had tea and biscuits at the Murchie's Tea store...

Gazed upon the beauty of the Victorian harbour...

And enjoyed some very good food, including this beautiful pumpkin spice latte...

It was a really great trip, and I would certainly visit Victoria again, given the chance. And now, if you're ever there, you'll know where to get your fibre fix!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

No FO left behind...

I'm currently in Victoria, B.C. for the premiere of my Dad's opera. I'll certainly write about the amazing time I'm having here when I get back home, but I felt like writing an entry right now... And then I realized that I have a bunch of finished objects that I never got around to writing about! So here goes...

The first on the list is this Swelligant Scarf (from Son of Stitch 'n Bitch) for my brother because he wanted to have a fancy scarf. I think I never posted about it because I was waiting to get some pictures of it on him, and that never actually happened. So, I apologize for the crummy picture. I used an acrylic/alpaca blend in a fingering weight, which might have been a little fine for this pattern, but it still turned out nicely. The pattern features a reversible cable, which is really neat, and so I'll likely make this pattern again in a heavier yarn (my mom is already on her second).

The second is my stripy shawl, which I made for the boyfriend's cousin's wedding, and never wrote about because I was waiting for pictures from other people of me wearing the shawl at said wedding and those pictures never materialized. I used the Dream Stripes pattern by Cailliau Berangere. It was originally written in French, and so the translation isn't amazing, but I was able to figure it out (and knowing how to speak french was a bonus). I used leftover yarn from my dad's Guitar Socks and the leftovers from my brother's scarf.

As you might have noticed, I kept running out of yarn, and so I probably redid the edging three or four times. I started off making it grey, but I didn't have enough yarn for that, and then I tried the white, but that didn't pan out either... And then I did the green, and I had enough yarn for all but the last two rows and the bind-off. I think it probably turned out ok regardless, and I wear this shawl all the time as a scarf. It's super cozy.

Next we have what I like to call my Boobie Cozy, though it's really just a cute little shrug. The pattern is the Minisweater by Stefanie Japel and I used four skeins of Debbie Bliss Pure Silk that were gifted to me by a friend. It was a dream to work with, but since that yarn was much thinner than the pattern called for, I had to do a few modifications. However, since it's essentially just a top-down raglan, it was pretty easy to figure out.

My favourite part is totally those moon-face buttons, though figuring out how to properly place them was a pain in the ass. I ended up making the first button-hole in the wrong place, and had to sew it up and do an afterthought button-hole. Unfortunately, the silk seems to have stretched a bit as well, so it's a little looser now than it was, but I still love it.

Finally, we have this super thick and awesome cowl, which I never posted about because I didn't bother to take nice pictures. I used the Marian pattern (only on Ravelry) by Jane Richmond and a skein of Cascade Magnum. I didn't have any 15mm circular needles, so I ended up knitting it flat and seaming it, which turned out just fine. I absolutely love how fast it worked up (only 2 days of on and off knitting), and how squishy the finished product is. I should knit with big yarn and big needles more often...

Anyway, that's about it for my forgotten FOs. Next I'll write about shiny new things!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Birthday jewelry

As my second hammered wire jewelry project, I decided to make Joanna a necklace for her birthday.

The chain and magnetic clasp (not pictured) were bought at Madame Pickwick, a favourite craft store in my home town of Sherbrooke, QC, and the beads are from my very aged stash. Everything else, including the jump rings and eye pins, was fashioned from copper wire that I bought at Planet Bead in Milwaukee, WI. Here's an in-progress shot:

And just in case anyone is interested, this is what my workstation looks like when I'm playing with wire:

Going clockwise from the computer we have, well, Nikola, my new Macbook pro which adds music and video entertainment (on this occasion I was listening to CBC Radio 2), water for hydration, my bead stash (that I've had since I was a teenager), my flat-nosed pliers (with the blue and black handle), the world's smallest anvil, my round-nosed pliers (with the purple handle), my teeny tiny hammer, my side cutters (with the purple handle), my chain-nose pliers (with the white and blue handle), a crochet hook for making jump rings (I use this method), my needle-nose pliers (with the black handle), my work-in-progress, and my spool of wire.

All in all, I think Joanna liked her necklace. Here she is, showing it off on the special day:

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Creativ Festival and my incredible desire to become an alpaca farmer...

Because really, who could resist this face!

Photo courtesy the Happy Seamstress.

That's Ozzie, the resident alpaca at the Spinning Wheel Alpacas booth. We are totally best friends forever.

Photo courtesy the Happy Seamstress.

Right, so Ozzie (a.k.a. the best alpaca ever) was one of the features at the Creativ Festival, which I just happened to go to this past Saturday with my friends Joanna and Lisa. I didn't go absolutely nuts on the purchases, which is sometimes a problem when presented with so much crafty awesomeness, but I attribute that mostly to having taken a Steampunk Wire-wrapping Jewelry class with June Beach in which I created this crazy thing:

My favourite part is the dangly steampunk button at the bottom. I must admit, however, that my wallet didn't escape the festival completely unscathed. I splurged on this gorgeous sparkly and super soft baby alpaca yarn:

I also picked up this absolutely gorgeous hand-carved shawl pin:

One booth was selling used crafting books (at least I think they were used) for very reasonable prices. I got Nicky Epstein's Knitting on the Edge for a mere $10.

I got a bunch of buttons and beads, some of which were free, and the rest of which were pretty cheap:

The best find of the day was this tin of buttons I got for $5 filled with these really cool vintage-style buttons, none of which I disliked (and you all know how rare that is when you have a random assortment of anything).

I really love those cameo ones...

And now I'm all inspired to make stuff! If only I didn't have that pesky PhD to worry about... sigh.