Saturday, November 3, 2018

Let's Knit an Advent Scarf!

A few years ago, I participated in Tricia Weatherston's advent scarf for 2015-- the "Cables and Lace Advent Scarf".  (The pattern is not currently available, unfortunately.)

Much to my shame, I still haven't finished that project! (!!!)  I think I did all the knitting, but I'm not sure if I ever bound off... I know I was debating whether or not to make it a loop, but I can't recall if I ever decided and bound off!  One thing I do know is that it still needs blocking.  Maybe I'll do that in the next couple of weeks...

In any case, even though I haven't done all the finishing, even after all this time, I really enjoyed the process of knitting that scarf, and so when the designer's advent scarf for this year popped up in my Ravelry pattern suggestions, I gave it a closer look.

The last two years' advent scarves have been in styles/techniques that I either didn't feel up to trying (stranded colorwork) or wasn't really interested in at the moment (mosaic), but this year's theme is intriguing-- Japanese knitting.

Now, I know next to nothing about Japanese knitting, but I've seen (covers of) books of Japanese knitting stitches, and they're beautiful.  How does Japanese knitting differ from other knitting?  I couldn't tell you.  It looks a lot like other (beautiful, textural) knitting to me, but maybe it's distinctive to someone more familiar with knitting stitches than I am.  I'm excited to learn more about it and give it a try!

The pattern page is here-- Advent Scarf 2018-- and there's more information in the Sock Madness Forever group on Ravelry (see this thread in particular).  The pattern will be updated daily between November 24th and December 24th and is generously offered for free during that period.  Very shortly after that, it will be available as a paid pattern (with photos added).

I'll have to see what I have in my stash.  It calls for quite a bit of yardage!  This might be a good excuse for a little yarn shopping... ;o)

I dug out the 2015 scarf and found that I actually already have bound off.  (I grafted the two ends together to make a circular scarf.)  No excuses, now.  Must wash and block it!

I also had a look through the stash, because despite my joke about shopping, I'd really rather not spend money on more yarn, at the moment-- definitely not for a very warm scarf that I probably won't even wear much, given our brief, mild winters.  (But I still want to knit it!  Process over product!)  Frankly, there are just too many other things I'd rather put the money towards.

I don't want to make this from acrylic, because I simply don't enjoy knitting in acrylic.  (Crocheting acrylic is perfectly fine, but when I'm knitting, I prefer the stretch of wool or other animal fibers.)  I tend to buy only small amounts of "knit-friendly" yarn, because I don't make sweaters and other large things-- and this scarf will be fairly large. 

Just about the only yarn I have enough of is the same yarn I used on the last Advent scarf.  It's a relatively rough-textured yarn given to me (in a large quantity) by Donald's mother.  100% wool, I believe, but that's all I know about it.  I enjoyed knitting it, but it is a little rustic, and when I drape that 2015 scarf around my neck... Let's just say I'm not sure I'll ever wear it, if it doesn't soften with washing. 

The first step will be to wash the scarf to see if I can get it to soften up significantly.  If so, great!  I can then make the scarf with more of the same yarn without worrying it will never be used.  If not... I might still knit with the itchy yarn, but maybe instead of making a scarf, I'll double the width and make a couple of throw pillows.  It doesn't matter so much if a decorative pillow is prickly, since it's mainly for looks and needn't come into prolonged contact with bare skin. 

Practically speaking, with our lifestyle and climate, a couple of throw pillows will get much more use than a scarf, so maybe that's the best option, even if the scarf comes out of the wash as soft as cashmere.  ;o)

And then there's the question of whether or not to dye the yarn.  (What color would be best for cushion covers?  Hmm...)

It's all still up in the air, but the first thing I need to do is wash that scarf. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

A Scrabble Bag, Bobbins, and Two WIPs

The silver plastic tile bag that came with our game of Scrabble was falling apart at the seams, so I decided to sew us a new one.  I don't have a lot of experience sewing bags-- or anything "3-D" / not blanket-flat.

I've hemmed some cut-off jeans (hurray for cooler capri pants!), made some pillow shams, pillow inserts for stuffing, dog toys (smaller pillows/tubes), a cover for my old sewing machine, and a couple of extremely simple (but still flawed) bags, but I'm definitely not in my comfort zone when sewing anything that has "shape".  (I'd like to make myself some pj pants and a lightweight kimono-style robe from sheets, but I'm kinda scared of sewing clothes!)

Considering all that, even a small bag was a little intimidating!  I found this video tutorial, though, and thought, "That looks manageable." So I went stash-diving and chose a colorful (even kind of crazy) fat quarter, part of an old sheet for the lining, two smaller scraps for the ribbon-holders, and a lime grosgrain ribbon.

It's not perfect (I can name at least three imperfections), but as someone who's not particularly comfortable sewing bags, I'm proud of the results!  It should certainly do the job, which is the most important thing.

Scrabble Tile Bag

I recommend the tutorial linked above.  It was a big help!  My bag is smaller than the one demonstrated, and I added a zigzag stitch around the top of the bag, but other than that, I followed the tutorial fairly closely.

Here's the other side:

Scrabble Tile Bag

...And this is what it looks like when the bag is open (i.e. the ribbons aren't pulled tight):

Scrabble Tile Bag

We've used it once so far; it seems to work. ;o)

I might even consider making another similar bag or two in the future for project bags, for knitting and crochet projects.  I don't often have a need for project bags, but it might be fun to have a couple available.  I like that this type of bag doesn't have a zipper (which can catch the yarn/thread) and would be silent, compared to the rustling plastic bags I tend to use when I do crochet on the go.

Scrabble Tile Bag

- - - - - - -

The toilet paper bobbins I ordered came last week!

The bobbin out of the bag is one of the few that came with the quilting machine.  It looks like an exact match.  They were supposed to be the right thing (based on description, photos, and reviews), but you never know until you get something in your hands if it's going to be "as described".  These are!


Actually, the photos made it look like these other bobbins might not have quite the same... profile(?) on the top.  They looked perfectly flat, whereas the ones that came with the machine have a slight... I don't know how to describe it.  Not a ridge... A bevel?  There's a slight angle on the flat sides, as you can clearly see in both my photos.  For whatever reason, that wasn't easy to see in the product photo, but they do have that same angle.

I'm not sure if that bevel would matter or not.  I considered some other bobbins that have a hole for the thread to come through, which might be slightly easier to wind (not that this type is difficult to use).  But these had good reviews and would get here faster... And I just wanted to play it safe and get something that was exactly the same (as far as possible) to the ones that came with the machine.


- - - - - - -

I've made some progress on the "Sitka Spruce" hat.  My tension is not perfect.  Those twisted stitches are throwing it for a loop, but I guess it's good enough.  I'll see how it looks after blocking...  Maybe it's even normal for it to look like this-- or at least not uncommon.  I can deal with it.

I'm having fun with this project, for the most part, though sometimes those twisted stitches can be a little harder to work than a plain old-fashioned knit stitch.  (Through the back loop, indeed!  How rude!)

I've glimpsed a project note or two that refer to adding a repeat or at least a partial repeat of the chart to get the hat to the right size, and I suspect I'll need to do that, too.  It certainly looks a bit short, at this point.

WIP: "Sitka Spruce" Hat

- - - - - - -

One more WIP-- "Ahmanet".

It feels like I haven't made a lot of progress on this one since last time, but looking at it, I'm a bit further than I thought.

Rnd 25 slowed me down for a while.  There’s a link to a FB video (I think) demonstrating a special stitch (“special FP-quadtr2tog”) for that round. The link wasn’t working when I tried it, and I was having a hard time visualizing where to insert the hook.

However, I remembered a similar stitch in another pattern and found the PDF photo demo for that stitch very helpful in reminding me what it looks like to insert the hook into a specific “yarn over” in an earlier stitch. For future reference, see the PDF linked in Rnd 23 of “Kalani” (the Y-stitch demo). (That demo shows the hook inserting into a different yarn over than specified in this round of this pattern, but it’s easy enough to count up to the right one.)

There's also been another round of crab stitch since then, as well as some back-post stitches, which can be a little more time-consuming to crochet-- for me, at least. 

WIP: "Ahmanet" Doily

This is a big doily, and each round keeps getting longer, but it has a lot of variation in it, so far.  It keeps things interesting!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Various and Sundry

Today, I have a couple each of FOs and WIPs. 

First, the most boring of the bunch-- another crochet mesh grocery bag.  I've lost track of how many of these I've made, at this point.  It might be the seventh one. 

The project link above has all the particulars, but suffice it to say that these are handy bags for toting some things (not so great for others, of course, with all those holes), and they work up quickly.  I made this one mainly because I had one final skein of that variegated mercerized cotton and couldn't think of anything better to do with it.  This way, at least it's out of my stash, and it's a useful object. 

Mesh Grocery Bag

Second FO:
Earlier this week, I decided I'd like a box of tissues for my bedside table.  Time to make a kitschy tissue box cover!  This was the fourth such cover I've crocheted (two as gifts), so I was familiar with the pattern.  It works out great every time! 

I pulled four balls of yarn from my scrap bag (the one I'm using for granny squares), selecting two shades of light blue, a cream, and a very pale violet-pink-- all worsted-weight acrylic. 

Crocheted Tissue Box Cover

I opted to add a round of crab stitch (reverse single crochet) to the bottom edge, which ended up a little tight-- almost a built-in cinching at the bottom, to hold the cover more tightly around the tissue box. 

I'm satisfied with the results.  :o)  It's a cozy project, wonderful for instant gratification. 

Crocheted Tissue Box Cover

There's a doily waiting for blocking, but I've also started a new one-- "Ahmanet", which is Grace Fearon's latest release.  I don't often bother with "in-progress" photos of doilies, these days, but this is a fairly large doily, so it seemed a little more worth the effort (and it may be a while before I finish this one). 

I'm enjoying making this, though it did get off to a tricky start!

WIP: "Ahmanet"

I've also cast on a knitting project-- a hat.  The pattern is "Sitka Spruce" by tincanknits. 

It's been months since I knitted!  The last time was probably when I was working on the hedgehog mittens (...which I still need to finish...), so it's been a while.  I'm excited to be knitting again, even though it's not quite my comfort zone, compared to crochet. 

"Sitka Spruce"

This pattern has twisted stitches.  It might be the first time I've knitted twisted stitches.  (At least, making them doesn't seem familiar.)  So far, I think I like them.  They seem to work up faster than cables. 

So, those are the two main knit/crochet projects I'm working on, for now, with the occasional granny square thrown in.  It's hard to choose between them!

Doily FO: "Wispweave"

The third and final doily I squeezed out of those two skeins of Alize Miss Batik (color "3713") was not a Grace Fearon design, for a change!

I crocheted "Wispweave", a pattern by Julia Hart.

Doily: "Wispweave"

This is a pattern for a small doily that works up quickly and has an appealing, floral motif.

It does have some texture (in the form of fp, bp, popcorn, and picot stitches), but it's not particularly difficult, by the standard of a lot of the patterns I've been crocheting lately.  (However, I did find the ch-2 picots a little tricky to make "prettily", for some reason.  If I make this pattern again and remember, I might increase those to ch-3 picots and see if I like that better.)

There's a minor error in the last round of the written instructions.  The repeat is missing a picot that you can see in the sample photo, but it’s easy enough to guess where to put it to achieve symmetry.

Doily: "Wispweave"

I used the same hook as usual (1.75mm Clover Amour), and of course the thread is Alize Miss Batik ("3713"), which I think really shines in this doily.

I love the fact that it just worked out so that the center medallion and the edging are both that glowing chartreuse.  Serendipity!

Doily: "Wispweave"

The pattern calls for a color change for the last round, but since I was already working in variegated thread, I didn't change colors, and I think that works fine.  When crocheting in a solid-color thread, though, the contrasting edge adds a dainty, lacy effect.

Doily: "Wispweave"

"Wispweave" is another great candidate for using multiple solid-color threads in one pattern.  There are already some examples in Ravelry projects, in fact.

Doily: "Wispweave"

Sometimes I see flowers; other times it's more of a starry design.  Either way, it's very pretty!

Doily: "Wispweave"

I think this is the first time I've crocheted a pattern by this designer, but it shouldn't be the last!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Doily FO: "Poppy"

Last FO post, I mentioned that I had a lot of the second skein of Alize Miss Batik left over from that doily ("Emma").  I decided to start another of Grace Fearon's doily patterns-- this time one that others have already crocheted (with great results) with that same line of thread.

Here's my "Poppy":


Again, the thread is Alize Miss Batik (colorway "3713").


So much fun to watch the colors change as you crochet!  And the results are one-of-a-kind, since even using the same thread can yield distinctive results, depending on where in the color change you start.


I used the same hook as (almost) always-- 1.75mm Clover Amour steel hook.


This was a fun pattern, and it doesn't use that much thread, really, so it's a good choice for partial skeins where you have a decent bit of thread left over.


This would also be a good candidate for build-your-own colorways (changing color every round or section, using a variety of single-color threads).


This is another "advanced" pattern.  I didn't make detailed notes, but looking at the photos of the finished doily, I can see a few potentially tricky spots for beginners... Nothing too hard, if you're used to textured doilies, though.


There are a lot of finished projects for this pattern on Ravelry, so you can get an idea for how it looks in numerous colors-- and there are also some to help you figure out where you might want to change colors, if you do try the "color block" style.


There's still one more finished object in this thread!  Next time!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

You're Weird, Amazon...

Um, I think Amazon might be a little... confused.

I was looking at bobbins-- you know, those things that you use in a sewing (or quilting) machine that provides the bottom thread?  They come in a few variations, but those metal spools on the left of the photo below are a typical example.

Well, I guess Amazon's computer brain (?) thinks they look like rolls of toilet paper, because look at the recommendation at the bottom right of this first photo!

Amazon is Confused.

"Try Presto!, Amazon's Choice for Toilet Paper".

...Eh, maybe not right now, Amazon...

Then on another product page, for a different type of bobbin, there are these "sponsored products related to this item".  The first four are all good.  Ooh, ahh!  Pre-wound bobbins!  A "classic wooden magnetic bobbin holder"!  Even more bobbins!  And then... an "aluminum restroom etiquette sign"?  "DON'T FORGET TO FLUSH".  ...O-kay...

Amazon is Confused.

(Ah, well, I thought it was funny!  It gave me a good laugh, but maybe I'm just silly and easily amused.)

Amazon needs to send its computer brain to the optometrist. ;o)

WIP: Scrappy Granny Squares

Writing this post title reminds me that I have yet to take photos of the last scrappy granny square afghan I crocheted.  It was finished in March of this year, but I still haven't taken photos of the completed afghan.

Actually, after it got to a certain temperature, I made the decision to wait until cooler weather returned to fuss about with blankets.  The only problem is that autumn has been very (very) slow to arrive, this year.  It looks like it may have finally ventured this far south, now, so I hope it won't be too much longer before I feel like taking some beauty shots!  (I'm not using it until after the photo shoot, to keep it pristine!)

...Anyway, you may recall that I had a number of granny squares that didn't make the cut for that afghan.  I just looked at the color mix and decided that I didn't like that one hot pink with the other colors, so I left out any squares in which it appeared.  Then there were some that had outer rounds of a color that had too little contrast with the medium-dark grey I chose for joining.  They, too, were rejected.  Poor things...

But their day has come!  They were the seeds to start a new scrappy granny square afghan, and this time, they will not be turned away!

Scrappy Granny WIP

I'm following my usual pattern for granny squares and just happily adding to the pile, one square at a time.  It's going to be another scrappy afghan, so all colors go, and I'm not following many "rules"-- just trying to keep a pleasing contrast between adjacent rounds.  I've been working through a bag of acrylic worsted-weight leftovers, but at some point selection may get limited.  If that happens, I'll put it into hibernation until the scrap stash recovers.

Scrappy Granny WIP

I love making scrappy granny squares!  They're the perfect relaxing project for vegging out in front of the TV or computer.  They don't take much brain power, if you're feeling frazzled, and by the end of an hour-long program you can feel like you've accomplished something, with your little handful of colorful squares.  (I'm taking my time, but you can really churn them out, if you're motivated.)

Long live the scrappy granny!