Friday, September 28, 2012

Tiny Snowy Owl

On the Itty Bitty forums, a new swap idea has taken hold.  The group is growing, faster than I can keep up with.  I'm trying to remember the new members but I have so little time on Ravelry any more to peruse the forums, I'm having trouble with that.  A lot of people are coming out of the woodwork because of this new swap trend.

The big swaps that Mel organizes each month are awesome.  People put a lot of thought and care into their swap package and really try to personalize it to the person who is receiving.  But for some, especially newer members of the group, these swaps are a bit intimidating (they are a very friendly, welcoming place, but I can see their point of view).

One member of the group has taken it upon herself to organize mini-swaps.  These are called the "Single Ornament Swaps."  The idea is that you get your partner's name (it's kept a secret), and you're allowed to create one ornament for your partner and ship it off to him or her.  You're allowed some leniency if you choose to add an additional small item, but it's not supposed to be a really big package.  It's meant for the swaps to be approachable, especially to those who are new or don't have the time or money to dedicate to the larger swaps.

That's where this knit came about.  I was trying to find a pattern that I could knit as an ornament.  At the time, I wasn't feeling any of the holiday ornaments that were on Ravelry.  There are some great patterns but you know when you get in that mood or funk that unless it's exactly what you're looking for, you really just can't knit something else?

Enter the Big Snowy Owl.  This is a free pattern from The Purl Bee.  The original patterns calls for bulky weight yarn and is intended to be something like a pillow-sized owl.  I've loved the owl on their site for a long, long time and thought it would be perfect as an ornament.  And I was especially drawn to the colors they chose for their owl.  I looked through other project pages and nothing called to me quite like the soft gray owl with giant blue eyes.  :)
I searched my stash (no need to buy new when it takes so little yarn!) and came up with sport weight yarn in the appropriate colors.  Knit on US 2s, I had hoped this would be a sweet little owl that would hang happily on a tree.  Well...the thought was good, but my execution was a little off.

My version is much smaller than the original.  This sweet fowl is about as tall as my hand is long, and perfect for little hands.  But, in my opinion, much too large for a tree.  So we kept him at home, Lovebug is quite attached. (I think it's the eyes...)  I am in love with how he turned out, just bummed he wasn't small enough.  I am planning to attempt this again, but with either fingering or lace weight yarn. And tinier needles.  Eventually I'll get it right.

So what else is good about this pattern might you ask?  It's incredibly fast.  Even if you knit the larger size, you're using bulky yarn and big needles.  This was two days tops and only because I had to tend to the kids. :)  The stitch pattern adds visual interest, but plain stockinette would be just as cute.  If you made the larger version you'd need a lot of fiberfill.  Even this little guy took a lot because I wanted him to be firm - too squishy and he wouldn't hold up to being played with or squooshed.

There are actually three patterns in this series.  A pig, a bunny and this owl.  I want to knit all 3.  I'd like to knit them in bulky weight, but I may just see what's in my stash and find the appropriate needles.  I think that Lovebug and Squishy need the full set. :)

As an aside, the eyes are crochet.  It's very simple crochet, but I know a lot of knitters are intimidated by the crochet hook.  So if you like the pattern but don't want the crocheted eyes, you should be able to find a pattern that tells you how to knit circles.  Honestly, it's the eyes that really make this pattern.  (The beak construction is pretty neat too.)

This is an idea I encourage all knitters to explore.  Is there a toy pattern you really like but it's too big or too small?  Consider adjusting your yarn and needle sizes accordingly and you have a whole new outlook on a project.  I'd really like to try this idea on some of Susan Anderson's patterns - specifically the Giraffe.  I'd love to make it in lace weight and see what size he comes out.  I may even have something perfect in my stash....

Friday, September 14, 2012


One of the goals I set myself awhile back was to learn how to do colorwork knitting.  I’ve dabbled in a few projects including the Plaid Hatter and the Mini Motif Baby Mittens.  These both seemed small and really just a drop in the bucket compared to what’s out there for colorwork. 

I challenged myself for Ravellenics to complete a pair of colorwork mitts.  I scoured the patterns, trying to find a pattern that both appealed to my sense of style, and something I thought was attainable.  I eventually ruled out mittens as I really wanted a pair of fingerless mitts.  It was down to the Transition Gloves and the Endpaper Mitts. 

The Endpaper Mitts won out because there were no really long floats, which tend to be harder to do well.  A successful long repeat cannot be too tight or too loose, it must be just right (or fairly close at least).  If you’re too loose, the fabric won’t be right and the stitches will be sloppy.  If the floats are too tight, your motif won’t show up and your knitting will pucker in bad ways.  So, as much as I liked the Transition Gloves, I figured they were best saved for another time. 

I’ve admired this pattern for a long time.  There are endless color combinations to make the pattern really pop.  Or can be subtle and use colors that are very similar to one another.  You could make 10 pairs of these and they’d all have a different appeal. 

I chose a dark turquoise (Midnight Heather) and a deep fuchsia (Fuchsia) in Knit Picks Palette, knit on US 0/2.0mm and US 3/3.25mm needles.  Knit Picks Palette has a nice selection of colors which can be used for colorwork projects, but I don’t find the yarn as next-to-skin-soft as I do some of their other fingering weight yarn.  I chose Knit Picks because it’s less expensive and I’m usually pretty happy with their yarn lines.  For my hands, it’s not bad and the density of the fabric will keep my hands warm.  I probably wouldn’t use this yarn for a cowl or scarf, though.
I would call this knit a success.  I was able to practice short floats, practice reading colorwork charts, and watch the magic that happens when you properly soak and block your knits.  My floats were pretty decent, nothing too tight or really loose, but they were a little puckered when the knitting was finished.  After a good blocking, that all went away and I have a nice, smooth pattern that emerged. 
Now, I don’t know if I can explain the next part right…the two colors I chose seem to have the same “value” when looking at them.  Although one is more pink/bright and one is blue-green/dark, at first glance, it’s not easy to see the pattern.  But once your eyes adjust, you easily see the diamond pattern and that’s when I truly marvel at colorwork.  I’m very happy with these mitts. 

(And in case you wondered, these are for me, all me!  But now I have the confidence to make colorwork items for others!) 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lost Banner Hat

Continuing on with my Ravellenics projects, today I'm sharing the Lost Banner Hat.  This is a Susan B. Anderson pattern and qualified for our team prize drawing during the Ravellenics.

Susan knit this hat for herself from her own gradient handspun (a Loop batt maybe?) and eventually included a picture wearing said hat in her blog banner.  Her daughter wore it to school one day and it was lost, hence the name.  This was a pattern Susan never intended to publish, but instead something she whipped up for fun.  She had an overwhelming response to the hat, finally relented and released the pattern.  I'm glad she did because I really enjoyed the knit!

With a long, ribbed brim, this hat is really cute because you can flip all that ribbing up over the stockinette portion.  I knit this with my own handdyed, worsted yarn in Snowcone and Lollipop Guild. I then mailed it to Carol to be donated with the other charity items collected.  It should make for a fun kid's hat with all the bright, vibrant colors.  I'd really like to knit another hat for myself out of some gradient yarn.

I put the hat on Lovebug and tried to snap a few shots, but she would have none of it.  (She's very anti "things-on-my-head" right now.)  Squishy modeled it for me briefly, but he too wouldn't leave it on his head.  He is still very attached to his green apple hat from Debby (knittinggrandma) that we received in a swap a while ago and doesn't think he needs another at the moment.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ravellenics 2012

I suppose it's about time I launched into the Ravellenics knitting that happened this summer.  Ravellenics (previously known as Ravelympics) coincides with the Olympics, so every two years knitters and crocheters and fiber artists gather their fiber and tools and get to work.  There are events and badges, goals and accomplishments, and it is really neat to see what we as a community can do in a short amount of time.

I participated in a few events which included the Frogging Trampoline and the Hand-Dyed High Dive. I also entered items into the charity knitting event, one skein wonders, the mitten event and the hat event.  That sounds like a lot, but it's not really.

For the frogging event (Frogging Trampoline), the requirements were that the item to be frogged (unraveled) must be at least 25% complete, and that you take a before and after shot.  I frogged two items.

First up, the Bathrobe.  I've talked about this knit a lot but never really got anywhere with it.  It'd been languishing on the needles, untouched, for too long.  Every time I went back to the pattern I spent half the time trying to figure out where I left off, and then getting frustrated because the pattern instructions were unclear to me.  Aside from that, the Bathrobe was meant to be for Squishy, who is now closer to 4 than 3 years old and the pattern size I was knitting was 24 months.  Too small!! And too big at the moment for Lovebug.
(I apologize for the quality of some of these photos.  
They were taken on my phone in bad lighting!)
The second item I frogged was Evie's Sweater.  I almost had her sweater reknit after frogging it once already, but I just couldn't come to terms with the density of the fabric.  I was trying to use yarn that was too heavy, even going up a couple needle sizes the sweater was thick and hard to maneuver.  It never would have been comfortable for her to wear.  I really want to knit her this pattern because it would cover the majority of her body and neck and give her tiny body warmth in the winter.  Perhaps I can get myself in gear and get this knit for the coming winter...with the proper yarn!
I also competed in the Hand Dyed High Dive.  This was for yarn and/or fiber that was dyed during the Ravellenics.  I dyed two skeins of fingering weight wool.  One for a prize drawing for Team Itty Bitty Knitters and one as a yarn swap with a friend.

I also knit 2 items, a pair of color work fingerless mitts and a hat during that time, but I'll save those for another day.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sorta Scrappy Socks

Do you remember the socks I knit for Sis?  My first pair of adult socks.  After they were done, I quickly cast on a pair for myself using the same pattern from Susan B. Anderson, How I Make My Socks.  They were meant to be for the Scrappy Socks KAL but I didn't finish in time.  The KAL, however, was my driving force.

Mary Rose (smozerose on Ravelry) can truly be credited for the inspiration behind these socks.  They began as an idea I blatantly copied from her.  She posted photos of a sock she'd knit using scraps, but instead of a random selection of colors, she outline each scrappy section with a consistent light, dark, light pattern.  See the sock on the left?  That's what I'm talking about.  I fell in love with that sock.  And then launched my own plans.

My socks are knit with Tanis Fiber Arts, the leftovers from my Whippoorwill shawl.  The colors are Tidal, Peacock, Deep Sea and Midnight.  Of course, I'm not very good at random, spontaneous selection (and I don't have a lot of yarn scraps) and so my socks had to have some rhyme or reason to them.  I decided on a striping sequence and got to work. (Hence, Sorta Scrappy Socks.)

I did run out of the darkest color, Midnight.  I love that color.  It's dark, but so rich - there are slight variations in the color that make for beautiful knit items.  I love TFA yarn - I wish I could afford to use it all the time!  Once I ran out, I switched to using Deep Sea to outline the stripes.  Most people won't notice the difference in the socks.  Probably knitters, or those who see a lot of my feet.  That's not a large number of people... :)  And if knitters notice, they'll understand!

This is my one and only pair of handknit socks.  It's not really been sock weather as it's been so warm and dry here.  I live in sandals all summer long and have the tan lines to prove it!  But at night, when it gets chilly or the AC has been running, this is the perfect pair of socks to slip on my feet.

They are warm and cozy, soft and squishy.  The colors are soothing to your eyes.  Nothing else in my drawer compares to these.  And perhaps that's all in my mind because I made them myself.
It doesn't really matter the reason, what matters is that I love them and they make me happy, and that's really what knitting is about for me.  If I can't enjoy it, then why do it?

Of course, now my knitting queue has at least doubled because I've added so many sock patterns!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Cabled Strap Covers

With about 6 WIPs this month, and 7 FOs I haven't yet shared with you, it's easy to see that I've been knitting.  Am I committed?...Just a titch, but never fear...sometimes that's when my best work appears! :) (It's mostly all self-imposed anyway.)

My WIPs includ 3 shawls, 1 cowl, a hat and 1 pair of mitts.  Also on that list are a few swap items.  My knitting itinerary through October is chok full. :)

Today I'm sharing something that was quick and gratifying and just what I needed at the time.

I knit Lovebug a set of Cabled Strap Covers, by Melissa Schaschwary, for her carseat.  The poor dear had red marks from her straps all the time.  She's already constantly miserable in her seat and I though this would grant her a bit more comfort.

The patterns calls for bulky weight, which I don't really keep much of in the stash.  So instead I doubled up on Caron Simply Soft Brites in the Watermelon colorway.  Knit on US 10.5/6.5mm needles, these took just a matter of hours.

The cables are sweet and are surprisingly crisp in this hot pink yarn.  Don't stare for too long, you may burn your eyes!  My camera had a really hard time capturing this color.

The pattern uses bobbles and buttonholes to attach the covers to the straps but I've found this ineffective.  There is a certain amount of wiggling and fussing we go through before Little Miss is secured.  And it's inevitable that each time she's strapped in, I'm reattaching the covers.  This gets old, fast. So I will be searching for some larger, flat buttons that can withstand the push and pull and friction the straps get, while still laying flat against Lovebug's shoulders.

This problem isn't really surprising and I almost didn't knit the bobbles, thinking I"d just have to replace them later.  Save yourself some time if you plan on making'll want the buttons!  (or snaps or velcro, or whatever!)  Aside from that, the pattern was wonderfully written.  Clear and concise, and a really smart solution to a problem that obviously is not unique to our household.
I've even been scheming on how I could make other covers with different patterns.  I just need to get out my stitch dictionaries and do a little math. :)