Tuesday, March 5, 2024

A Bewitching Project

In July 2023, when I gave a knitted doll and an accompanying wardrobe of seven outfits to my honorary niece Olivia, there was an eighth outfit I really wanted to include with the rest but couldn't because it wasn't quite finished. Now that it finally is, I'm going to include the outfit in Olivia's birthday present in May 2024, and give her the ballerina outfit I made for her doll in late 2023 sometime in 2025. That way, Olivia will get one new outfit for her doll per year, and I get to take 2024 off from making doll stuff. 

When I was going through Sarah Gasson's library of doll outfit designs to pick out the ones I want to make in future, the Witch outfit was an automatic yes. I love witches, the outfit is cute, and Olivia would surely enjoy having a nice Halloween costume for her beloved Rainbow Sparkle Unicorn-Animals. 

Then I decided that if Olivia was going to dress up her baby as a witch, Rainbow really ought to have a familiar. A cat seemed the obvious choice, as Olivia's family has three cats and she is cat-obsessed. I searched Ravelry for a suitable small cat toy design, and ended up deciding on the Wub Chub Cat Ornament, by Button Willow Knits. 

As for the yarn for these two projects, I looked in my stash and found that I had 70 grams of a tan DK that would make a good broomstick, 50 grams of assorted odds and ends of cream DK that would do for the trim on the dress and the paws, chest, and muzzle of the cat, and 40 grams of black DK that could be used for the dress and cat, though of course I would need more than that. I went to Michaels and bought three skeins of Patons Astra in Black and, when the only orange DK in stock proved to be a Dayglo/pylon type orange, one skein of Patons Astra Hot Lilac for the accent colour on the witch outfit.  

The completed witch outfit on Ms. Rainbow Sparkle Unicorn-Animals. It turned out satisfactorily. I think the one change I made to this ensemble was to use a wooden dowel rod instead of a straw for the broomstick. It should stand up better that way. 

I really was very close to getting the witch ensemble done in time to give it to Olivia last July -- I just hadn't assembled the cat. But I didn't want to give Olivia the doll's witch outfit without the cat to go with it, so I held it back.

The cat. I can't believe how long it took me to make myself finish this thing. I had done all the knitting by the end of June 2023, and then all the pieces sat in a little plastic bag in my workbasket with me putting it on my to do list every day for months until I finally finished assembling it in March 2024. I don't really like making toys to begin with, and this one involved a lot of very fiddly details. I also made the most unwelcome discovery that my embroidery skills, which I've always thought of as basic, actually rank below that in a class I can only describe as "they suck". 

I didn't want to go to the expense of buying plastic cat eyes, so I embroidered the eyes. I couldn't make the claw embroidery stitches look right despite five or six attempts, so I didn't do those at all. 

The result, while not great, isn't so terribly bad for a toy for a eight-year-old, and at least Rainbow is going to be a properly equipped little witch with her very own black kitty cat.   

When I was finished this project, I found I had used up 25 grams of the tan, 33 grams of the cream, and all of the new black yarn plus 26 grams of the stash black yarn I had. I was left with just 10 grams of the new lilac yarn. That's a net stash decrease of 74 grams, which isn't so bad for a little project like this.  

Thursday, January 11, 2024

A Plum of a Pullover

This project plan began when I decided I wanted a plum sweater to go with a velvet skirt I made for myself some years back. This sweater is the second plum-coloured thing I made for myself in 2023, and it was only after I'd finished the first project (a striped summer dress) and was well into working on this one that I learned that Viva Magenta was Pantone's Colour of the Year for 2023. My 2024 project list is all set to go, so looked up Pantone's Colour of the Year for 2024 to find out if I was unwittingly in accord with it too. The 2024 colour is Peach Fuzz. All I can say about that is there is one project out of the twelve I have planned for 2024 that uses a little peach yarn. 

For a pattern, I turned to one of my slightly battered back copies of Vogue Knitting. The design you see above is from Vogue Knitting's Fall 1992 issue. It's Pattern #03, the Diamond Cable Pullover, designed by Michele Woodford. I liked its lush texture and its collar. I didn't love the long, oversized, rectangular shape that was The Thing in women's fashion in the early 1990s and that flattered no one, but of course I could easily reshape and resize the sweater. I often reshape knitting patterns anyway, and this kind of reshaping is often necessary when one is using vintage knitting patterns. Proportions change, and what was considered a stylish shape in one era can look simply dated, frumpy, awkward, and/or unflattering in another. If you knit up a vintage pattern exactly as it was written, you may find you're not happy with the result, but a simple tweaking of the shape/proportions can update the garment into a piece that retains whatever qualities you found attractive in the original version and that looks current and flattering. 

The lovely yarn used to make the sample sweater had been discontinued. I had to spend some time looking for a suitable yarn for this sweater. I wanted a plum yarn with a halo, such as a mohair or an angora, as I didn't think the stitchwork of this particular design would look nearly as good in a matte yarn. This wasn't easy -- there's very little selection when it comes to yarns and materials in plum. But eventually I found something that would work for me: Garnstudio Brushed Alpaca Silk in shade 9, or Lilla. 

I had to come up with my own estimate for how much yarn I was going to need. To do so, I looked at Ravelry projects that used the Brushed Alpaca Silk in similarly sized projects. I concluded that I probably needed seven 25 gram skeins, or 175 grams total, but should get eight skeins or 200 grams of the yarn to be on the safe side. I purchased seven skeins at Romni Wools in December 2022, and put in an order for an eighth skein. Four months later I received a call from a Romni employee saying that the colour had been discontinued and that my order was cancelled. Uh oh! But I'd begun the project by that point -- I had a sleeve knitted and several inches of the back done -- and I reminded myself that I had thought seven would likely be sufficient, so I decided to forge ahead with it and deal with a yarn shortage situation if and when it arose. Happily, it did not: I was able to easily finish the sweater with the seven skeins I'd bought.   

The completed sweater with the velvet skirt. I made the sweater in a size 38, shortened the length to 23" (as opposed to the 28" inches the sample shot was!), added waist shaping, and added armhole shaping to raise the dropped shoulders. I have almost no neck and high turtleneck collars are not my friend, so I shaped the neckline of the front to be an inch lower and 1.25" wider than the pattern specified in an effort to achieve more of a cowl neck. 

 I'm pretty pleased with the result, which is a nice update of the original design. The sweater is less opaque than I would like, but that's nothing wearing a camisole underneath can't compensate for, and the sweater does go very well with the skirt. 

I had my concerns about whether I'd be able to find suitable buttons for this project, but Fabricland came through for me as they nearly always do. 

This yarn was newly purchased for this project, and I finished with 10 grams of it to spare, so that's a stash increase of 10 grams.

Friday, January 5, 2024

A Ballerina Outfit for Rainbow

In July 2023, I gave my honorary niece Olivia a knitted doll and an accompanying wardrobe of seven little doll outfits as part of her seventh birthday present. Olivia named the doll Rainbow Sparkle Unicorn-Animals, and routinely dresses her up every morning and then changes her into her striped onesie and teddy bear slippers every night before taking her off to bed. What I'd like to do is freshen up Rainbow's wardrobe a little every year by giving Olivia another outfit for the doll every birthday until she's ten or so.

Sarah Gasson's Knit A Teddy pattern collection offers so many varied and irresistibly cute outfit designs that it can be hard to choose from among them, but as soon as I saw the ballerina outfit I knew I just had to make it.

I'm not so much a fan of pink, though I know that pink, white, and black are the classic palette for ballet wear. For Rainbow's ballerina outfit, I chose a 100 gram skein of James C. Brett Double Knitting with Merino in cream and a second 100 gram skein of Wendy With Wool DK in a sage green. Cream and light green are a fresh, pretty combination, and it's not like Rainbow will have some ballet teacher on her case insisting that she cannot deviate from the designated uniform for the class. 



The completed outfit. I wish I had Rainbow here for a few minutes to model it for me, since it would show to much better advantage on her than it does lying on my desk, but oh well. This little ballet tutu, surplice sweater, ballet slippers, and headband were fun to make and only took me about a week. The one thing I had some technical difficulty with was sewing the tutu onto the leotard. I could not seem to figure out how to keep my line of sewing stitches on the same horizontal row of knitted stitches, and I must have made five separate attempts to attach the tutu and gotten it on crooked every time. In the end, I wove a length of green yarn through the stitches of the row above the one I wanted to stitch the tutu to, used the green yarn as a guideline while sewing on the tutu, and then pulled out the length of green yarn when I was done. I wish I'd been quicker to come up with a plan to keep my stitches even. 

The other thing I would do differently if I were to make this ballerina outfit again would be to find a nicer, and probably crocheted, flower pattern for the headband. This knitted one looks a little rough and ready.

However, the outfit is very cute as a whole and I am looking forward to giving it to Olivia for her eighth birthday in May 2024. I can see Rainbow doing pirouettes in her little ballerina outfit already.  

I had 25 grams of the cream yarn left and 51 grams of the green yarn left over when I finished this project, so that's a stash increase of 76 grams for this project. 

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Socks For Whooooom?

Awhile back I had a look through the owl patterns in Ravelry's pattern database to see what useful gift ideas I could come up with for the owl aficionados in my family. 

The Owlie Socks, designed by Julie Elswick Suchomel, stood out to me as a cute and suitable pattern. In 2023 I decided to knit my mother a pair for Christmas. As I've talked about before on this blog, my mother is very difficult to buy presents for, but she likes practical gifts and owls, and she would certainly like and be able to use a pair of warm black owl socks.  

For the yarn, I selected a skein of Berrocco Vintage Sock in Cast Iron, or what I would less poetically describe as black.  

The finished pair of socks. I reluctantly opted not to put beads on this pair of socks as in the sample photo. The beads do add a lot to the design, but beads also add a lot of weight to a knitted item and they feel cold against the skin in winter weather, and at 85, my mother prioritizes comfort and practicality over the aesthetic value of something no one else is even going to notice. 

My mother liked the socks when she opened them on Christmas Day, though she commented they were "too thick" for trouser socks and she'd save them for cold days. 

This project was knitted entirely out of new yarn purchased specifically for this project, and there were 30 grams of yarn left, so that's a stash increase of 30 grams.  

Monday, November 13, 2023

The Fraught & Frustrating Felted Slippers


In the spring of 2023, when I was putting away my winter footwear and getting out my summer sandals and flip flops, I discovered that there were holes in the soles of the much-worn felted slippers that I had made in late 2016. I sighed and added "new slippers for me" to my already overly long list of 2023 knitting projects, deciding also to prioritize them and get them done by October, as they were something I actually needed. 

I did an extensive search of slipper patterns on Ravelry, and ended up deciding that the French Press Felted Slippers, by Melynda Bernardi, which I had used to make my previous pair of slippers, was still the pattern I liked best and that I was just going to make myself a new pair. I'd already purchased the pattern, it is a design with a certain amount of style (that is, as much as one could expect from a pair of woolly slippers), and my first pair had both kept my feet warm as toast and lasted for over six years. I could hardly do better than that. 

But I could do better in terms of colour choice. I had liked my old slippers, but had always regretted making them in a khaki green. In winter, I wear dark brown yoga pants (I own five pairs of them), or olive green khakis or corduroys around the house, and the old pair had really only gone with the latter.  In August 2023, I visited Romni Wools, looking for a dark brown worsted yarn that would go with all my around-home trousers. They didn't have anything in just the right shade in a worsted, but in their bargain basement I found some bulky-weight Linie 231 Filz-Wolle in 12 Chocolate Brown that I thought would do -- I would just have to felt the yarn more to get it down to the right size. Knowing I would probably need more of a heavier gauge weight yarn than the 150 grams of worsted the pattern specified, I bought four 50 gram skeins of yarn to be on the safe side.

When I began knitting the slippers, it soon became clear that 200 grams of yarn I had weren't going to cut it. I had to go back to Romni and get two more skeins -- I think they only had three left. When I was finished knitting the slippers, I realized that I should have made the soles with three strands of yarn instead of only two. But this was a mistake I didn't bother to correct, as I wouldn't have had sufficient yarn for it, even if I did go back to Romni and get that one remaining skein -- assuming it was even still there. The two-strand sole was pretty thick as it was anyway, given the yarn I'd used, not to mention of a comically large size. It was a relief to have finished the knitting, as I don't like big needle knits. 

Then came the felting process, another thing I don't enjoy. I have a front loading washing machine with a Fort Knox-like auto locking system, so I thought I couldn't use my washing machine to felt things, but must do it manually. The last time I made these slippers, it took me five and a half hours to felt them. This time I did some reading up and watching of YouTube videos on felting in advance. I started out using hot water in a cooking pot as the YouTube felter had done, thinking I could at least sit down during the process, but I didn't like that I had to keep refreshing the water as it cooled. I ended up going back to the method I'd resorted to for my last slippers: I agitated the slippers in a large pot of water which I kept simmering on the stove, occasionally rinsing them in cold water at the sink to shock the felt into shrinking. This time it took me a gruelling four hours and twenty minutes, during which I endured frequent splashes of  hot water (it wasn't hot enough to burn me, but it was hot enough to sting), but I thought was at least an improvement on the last time, and this time around I'd also done more felting in less time because the slippers had been larger to start with. My hands ached so much afterwards that I had to get up in the middle of the night and take ibuprofen, and it took me four or five days to get the brown stains off my fingernails, but it was a relief to think that the felting process was done and I wouldn't have to do it again for years.

With the slippers ready to assemble, I took one of the straps with me to Fabricland to buy buttons for them. It was a pleasant and easy task, I was in the home stretch of finishing slippers I really needed but that I hadn't enjoyed making and then... I lost the felted strap somewhere in the store, and simply could not find it again. And hoo boy, did I look. I must have spent well over an hour looking for it. I retraced my steps through the stores repeatedly. I emptied out and went through the contents of my shoulder bag and the one shopping bag I had with me three separate times. I went through my coat pockets, even taking off my jacket and shaking it in case the strap had slipped down one of my sleeves or something. I told the staff I'd dropped it and they looked for it themselves with a commendable thoroughness and zeal. One young store employee even got down on her hands and knees and crawled around in the yarn area, where I'd been browsing, looking for it. But all of our efforts were for naught. We couldn't find the damn strap. Finally, too tired to look anymore, I gave up, purchased the buttons that had matched the strap while I had it, left my name and contact information with the store staff in the forlorn hope that the strap might yet turn up, and dragged myself home. I waited a few days, and when I didn't hear from Fabricland, I resigned myself to the inevitable, and made a new strap.

At least I had enough yarn left over, and it took me less than fifteen minutes to knit a new strap and darn in the ends. Then came the felting part, which took about an hour, but then I hit yet another snag in the process when I realized the new strap and the remaining original strap were two very different shades of brown. I ended up stewing the slippers and the straps in a pot on the stove for five or six hours, which almost corrected the colour of the new strap. There was still a slight shading difference between the straps, but by that point I was too fed up with the whole process to care.   

The completed slippers in a size 8. (The colours didn't photograph that well, and the buttons actually go better with the yarn than one would think given their appearance in this photo.) After all the trouble I had with them, I'm reasonably pleased with them. But I think next time I make these slippers I will go with a worsted. These fit well, but they are a lot bulkier than my old slippers. 

I do have a few thoughts on how to make the felting process easier on me next time. First of all, I am going to experiment with using my washing machine to felt whatever material I'm working with, because I've discovered that I can work around the machine's auto lock by unplugging the machine whenever I want to check on or remove the items, as long as I don't let the machine go into spin cycle. If machine felting doesn't work for me, I will use the deep stock pot I recently bought from a thrift shop for the manual felting process, which should prevent or at least reduce the painful splashing. And lastly, in future I vow to be VERY careful with my samples when shopping for notions, especially if the sample is actually a piece of a project. 

This project was made from newly purchased yarn and I had just 20 grams of yarn left when it was completed, or a stash increase of 20 grams.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Deck the Holly with Dress and Bunny

I do like knitting baby clothes. The projects are so cute, and they are so small that they can be both quickly finished and often made from a few skeins from one's stash. I got a brand new grandniece named Holly in February 2023, which meant I got to make both a birth gift and a Christmas present. Yay for baby-sized knitting projects!

For Holly's Christmas present, I turned to Ravelry to find a dress pattern. I found the Nandi pattern, designed by Triona Murphy. It's quite cute and also very sensible. I have a whole box of worsted odds and ends, and after looking them over, I selected a skein of Bernat Super Value Solids in Forest Green (this was one of two skeins left over after I made my sister a Christmas afghan and matching throw pillow) and a skein of Loops & Threads Meandering in Dark Salmon. The salmon was a DK, but I liked the combination of the green and salmon so much that I made it work by knitting with two strands of the salmon. 

The completed dress, made in size 6 to12 months. I try to learn something new with each knitting project. This project involved a few new knitting experiences for me. I am not sure if I've ever used the mosaic technique before. I enjoyed trying that out. I don't believe I'd ever used a yarn double to increase its weight before either except with a felted pair of slippers, and that's a good option to have. But the most valuable lesson I learned from this piece was that I finally figured out how to pick up wrapped stitches without having them show. The key thing is that when you're knitting the wrap and a live stitch together, you must make sure that the wrap stitch is on the wrong side of your work. You might have to rearrange the stitches on your needle to get them in the correct orientation, but that's easy enough to do.

For the single button on the back of the neckline, I found a button in my button tin, keeping the material cost of this dress at $0. (I did have to buy the pattern.)

I also sewed Holly's a velvet bunny for her Christmas present. I used stretch velvet and a pattern I had on hand and just had to buy a pair of safety eyes for $2.53 and a metre of satin ribbon for $1. 

Last year Holly's older brother Sawyer got a brown velvet teddy bear for Christmas, and I made sure to make his sister a bunny and use a different-coloured neck ribbon in order to prevent any upsetting mix-ups and/or tug of war episodes in their household. I chose a colour of ribbon that would go with Holly's dress. It, er, coordinates better with the contrast colour in the bodice of the dress than it appears to do in this photo.

And when completed, my work added up to not a bad little Christmas present for the money.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

An Olive Sweater for Olivia

Christamas 2023 approacheth as Christmas has a relentless habit of doing every year, and that means I need to put together a gift for my seven-year-old honorary niece, Olivia. 

When I searched Ravelry for a nice pattern for Olivia's Christmas sweater, I ended up selecting the very same pattern  I had used in 2017 for my grandniece Cauliflower's eighth birthday present: Color Me Pretty, by Elena Nodel. It is a very pretty design, and I already had it in my library, so why not? 

I did go with a different colour palette. Olivia's colouring is very different from Cauliflower's. I gathered together odds and ends of eight different colours of yarn (teal, rust, dark blue, tangerine, aqua, peach, dark green, and orange) from my DK stash box that I thought worked together, made a yarn sampler from them, and took it to Romni Wools during their Boxing Week sale in 2022 with the idea that a blue or a green yarn would go well with the contrast colours I'd picked out. I purchased 400 grams of a nice muted sea blue yarn for it. Then in August, when I took the bag of yarn out to begin work on it, I realized I'd bought worsted instead of DK. I've never made that mistake before and I certainly hope I never do again. Not only did it mean an extra trip downtown, it proved to be a very expensive mistake for a couple of other reasons. 

I returned the 20% off blue yarn to Romni Wools and bought 350 grams of Drops Karisma in Light Olive for the main colour at full price. In October, when I finished the sweater and had a skein of those seven skeins to return and looked at the email receipt for that purchase for the first time (I don't have a cell phone and can't check the electronic receipt before leaving the store as I always do with paper receipts), I realized I'd been charged for nine skeins of the Drops Karisma instead of the seven I'd actually bought. And I can't expect Romni to correct the error given that I can't prove it at this point. Sigh. Well, I've been shopping at Romni for many years now, and that was the first mistake they ever made on a bill. From now on when I shop there, I'm going to figure out what my purchases should total on my calculator before I go to the cash register, and if the total the store employee comes up with have doesn't square with mine, ask them to double check the bill.  

The completed sweater, in a size 8. I think the colour scheme works pretty well and will be flattering on Olivia, who has brown hair, hazel eyes, and a slight olive cast to her skin. This design is a good way to use up some odds and ends of various colours, because if you're using eight different colours, you will only need to do two or three rounds in each colour. 

The matching hat. Which I predict Olivia will be more excited about and wear more than the sweater. She doesn't care about clothes at this point -- when she's opening her gifts from me, she just takes the sweater or dress out of the gift bag and turns around to hand it to her mother without so much as a second glance or even unfolding it -- but she does really enjoy accessories. 

I used 5 grams each of the rust, dark blue, aqua, dark green, and orange, and three grams each of tangerine and peach, and 20 grams of teal, or 51 grams of stash yarn. Or so I'm estimating. (I do wish I had a more reliable and precise scale to use for weighing yarn than the decades old thrift shop plastic Weight Watchers number I'm using!) I had 30 grams of the newly purchased olive yarn left (plus one skein to return to the store), so that's a net stash decrease of 21 grams. 


Some books and a sort of outfit designer kit that I picked up at the thrift store and Dollarama to go with the sweater and cap.  


The gift so far. There is another component to Olivia's Christmas present that I'm not quite finished making yet, but will be writing up in its own post once I am. Still, even incomplete, it doesn't make such a bad showing.