Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Project Wrap-Up

Whew.  As much fun as it is, it's still good to have the busy-ness of Christmas over.  I'm happy to have relatively guilt-free craft time, again-- time when I can crochet or knit or whatever on any project that strikes my fancy, without feeling that twinge of "I really ought to be working on Secret Project #9..." 

This has been quite a year for (mostly non-polymer clay-based) secret projects, by my standards.  I don't think I've ever crocheted more Christmas gifts than I did for 2011-- and that's not even counting the doilies I crocheted for a few birthdays and other special occasions earlier in the year.   While working on these Christmas projects, new ideas presented themselves, so I already have a few more handmade gifts nebulously planned for 2012, and I'm excited to get started.  (I'm aiming to start early, this year, but don't we always make such plans?)  However, first I want to do a little write-up (and yes, show-off) of the Christmas gifts-- and my first post-Christmas project will be a completely selfish one-- something just for me, just because I want to try the pattern.

First, the Christmas Project Wrap-Up!

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Lollipop Fingerless Handwarmers

Secret Projects #1 and #2 (+1)
Lollipop Fingerless Gloves

I made a pair of these for myself earlier in the year and liked them.  I had a few extra skeins of the same yarn (in the same colorway, even), and thought maybe they'd make nice gifts.  I started out making just two pair, but at the last moment decided to make a third one so I'd have pairs for my mother and both my sisters.

True, the colors are kind of crazy (the yarn was on clearance and might not have been my first choice, otherwise), but I think it's fun, and even if you're particular about the colors you wear, certainly they're fine for less dressy occasions or around the house/yard.

I think this pattern is great, but I did modify it fairly heavily.  I start out with a round of chainless foundation single crochet (for its superior stretchiness), begin with more stitches than called for (34), work the cuff to make it longer (15 rounds in addition to the foundation round), and shorten the thumb and finger portions to make them shorter.  It's easily adjusted up or down, though, and I find the herringbone half double crochet very effective-- easily picked up and fun to crochet. 

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Cafe Latte 

Cafe Latte


Secret Project #3
 Cafe Latte for Granny L.

I made this PK doily for my maternal grandmother (along with another one, further down the list).  I have a hard time remembering much about the making of most doilies, unless they cause me lots of headaches.  From what I recall, this one worked up pretty quickly and easily, though I did make one of those careless mistakes that cost me an evening of crocheting.  Also, according to my project notes, the last round was somewhat time-consuming, even without any mistakes.  (There are different types of picots, I think, and the pattern took me a little longer to memorize than usual.)  There's not a ton of  Patricia Kristoffersen's signature "crusty" texture in this one, but still, it's a pretty pineapple doily, I think.

I didn't get any good photos of the two doilies I made... I'm not great at photographing doilies.  Neither do I really enjoy blocking them.  Too bad I don't know someone who loves blocking and photographing doilies.  It would be nice to crochet them and then just hand them off to someone else for the bits I don't like...

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Japanese Flower Doily

Japanese Flower Doily


Secret Project #4
Granny L.'s Japanese Flower Doily

Another doily for my maternal grandmother-- this time a Japanese charted pattern from Pierrot.  I admired this pattern right away and was happy to have a chance to make it.  It's one of those doilies that doesn't have any raised texture, but the "positive/negative" areas of thread create a floral motif.

This doily is hard to block perfectly, in my opinion, but then again, I'm not an expert blocker under the best of circumstances.  Usually, even a lazily blocked doily will look fine once it's on a table, underneath a lamp or what-not.  If I were going to make one to frame and hang on the wall, though, it probably wouldn't be this one, since it's tricky to get the scallops even and smooth.

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Nyan Cat Scarf


Nyan Cat Scarf


Secret Project #5
Nyan Cat Scarf

When my youngest sister tweeted about a crocheted Nyan Cat scarf, I filed away the idea for future reference.  ;o)  At that time, there was at least one free pattern linked on Ravelry for a similar scarf, but when I finally got serious about making one, the pattern was no longer free.  I think there's a different free pattern, now, but back when I started this, it was either pay for a pattern or figure it out for myself.  I went for the latter.

I used (Attic24) Lucy's Neat Ripple pattern for the length of the scarf, making one row per color.  To add a little texture, I crocheted in the back loop only, so there was a little ridge along the top of each ripple of color.  That was easy enough.  Then came the amigurumi portion of the project-- the poptart cat him(?)self.  I'm not that familiar with how to make amigurumi, but I figured it out.  My version of the Nyan Cat isn't perfect, but it should certainly be recognizable, and I think my sister was happy with it.  :o)

I considered making the cat portion removable, but in the end, I figured that anywhere Kimberly would be unlikely to want to wear a Nyan Cat scarf, she would probably be just as loth to wear a loud rainbow scarf sans amigurumi poptart-cat, so I attached it to one end and put rainbow fringe on the other.

Incidentally, making the sprinkles for the poptart taught me that I needn't fear French knots.  I've always been kind of terrified of them.  (I think maybe I failed at making them back when I was a pre-teen doing cross-stitch...)  They weren't that hard at all, with yarn at least.  They were even fun!

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Crochet Hedgehogs


Secret Project #6 (x2)
Couple of Hedgehogs

I wanted a simple, baby-friendly project for my new niece, Clarabel.  These hedgehogs are quick and easy to make-- a great use for novelty yarn-- and cute, I think.  I put rattles (taped-shut Easter eggs with beads/whatever inside) in the middle of the hedgehogs, with poly stuffing all around.

Many of the completed hedgehogs on Ravelry had safety eyes and noses, and those are adorable, but I thought yarn eyes and noses would be better for a baby toy.  (She's at that age where everything goes right in her mouth.) Getting the eyes and especially the noses to look right (to me) was tricky, and in the end, I just had to say "good enough".  Of course, now that it's too late to use it, I've found this neat (and oh so easy) tutorial (PDF) for making "yarn dot" eyes:  Yarn Dot Eyes: Making and Inserting Them.

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Kindle Cozy

Secret Project #7
Kindle Cozy

This was another gift for my youngest sister.  I'd already made my own Kindle a cozy and liked it, and I thought Kimberly might find one useful, too.  I altered the pattern slightly to make it a tiny bit wider, since K's Kindle is in a hard case.  She says it fits, so that's good!

Just as the first time I worked this pattern, it was extremely easy... to the point of being boring... but the final product is a cozy with a fairly sturdy feel.  Using a smaller hook produces very dense fabric, so it's worth a little discomfort and/or boredom while crocheting.  

I used another of my handmade buttons for the closure.  Polymer clay buttons are simple to make.  Have you tried making any?  I might make a tutorial or two, one of these days... They're excellent for knitters and crocheters, since you can make them in whatever size, shape, color, style, and thickness you like.  There's something special about putting the finishing touch a project with a button you've made yourself, and unless you're making huge buttons, you can get several from one 2-oz. package of clay, so they're also very affordable.   Also-- I once tested a handful of my buttons by sewing them to a rag and tossing them in with the laundry every time I did a load.  They held up even better than I expected. 

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Blue "Phannie" Beret


Secret Projects #8, #10, and #11
Phannie Berets

Heh.  Actually, the first of these hat projects (not pictured-- I'll take a photo one of these days) ended up being for me.  I started it for someone else, but after she gave me the wish list I'd asked for and I noticed the colors she specified for some other wearable item, I wondered if maybe she'd prefer a more neutral color for a beret, too, so I made another hat for her.  It was just as well that I did, because I'd been planning to make another of these berets for myself, and now I have one ready to wear!

I'd made this pattern once before, but I used a thinner yarn, and while it fits, I'd decided I'd prefer something slightly larger.  All three of these berets were made with Caron's Simply Soft, which while usually is classified as worsted weight, seems to be a somewhat light worsted. I used the better part of a skein for each hat.  There were about 1.9 ounces left over from a 6-ounce skein. 

The details of exactly how I modified the pattern are on the Ravelry project page.  The berets turned out bigger and slouchier this time around-- big enough to pull down over my ears, which is good, since ears tend to need covering.  Projects 10 and 11 were for my sister Carrie and my mother.

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Crochet Nose Warmer

Crochet Nose Warmer

Carrot-Orange Nose-Warmer


Secret Project #9
Nose Warmers

This was a request from my youngest sister, with a copy of this photo as an example.  (g)  I made three novelty nose warmers for her in a variety of colors (to coordinate with different ensembles, of course ;o)), but I also made one (the snowman's-nose carrot-orange one) to stick in with a "Dirty Santa" gift for the game we always play at my maternal grandparents' get-together.

None of them are made according to the exact same specifications, but I started all four based on Marleen Hartog's Crochet Dodecahedron pattern, of all things.  I just started out making one of the "cones"/points and modified it from there.  (A couple stick to the pattern up to round 10, while at least one of the others was changed to be a bit longer and pointier.)  For a couple of them, I made the final round (and the ear loops) based on Andrea's Crochet Nose Warmer pattern. 

They're goofy-looking, but when I tried them on (to determine how long to make the loops or ties), I did notice that my nose felt warmer... and I have come across several people (online, while looking for patterns/inspiration) claiming to have worn them as children.

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...Then there were a handful of other handmade gives that didn't involve yarn or crochet thread, but they'll have to wait until next time, because I'm all blogged out, for the moment!