Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Sweater No. 10

My grandnephew Bug celebrated his tenth birthday this summer, and of course there had to be a sweater made to mark the occasion... the tenth I have made him in his life.

When I searched Ravelry for a suitable pattern for a ten-year-old Canadian boy, I quickly narrowed the search down to this one, which is the 452 Round Neck Zip Sweater, from Bergère de FranceIt's a free pattern. It's more contemporary in style than the patterns I usually go for, but I thought it rather sharp, and it looked so good in the sample shot that I decided to replicate its colour palette rather than selecting one myself, something I don't often do. The one thing I didn't like about the design was the zipper, which I thought looked rather crude, so I decided I would make Bug's version with a buttoned placket.

Once I'd selected the pattern, I searched my DK stash box to see if I had some of the contrast colours on hand. I did indeed have more than sufficient amounts red, cream, and charcoal yarn on hand that would do. I had no black (I never wear black and seldom work with it, even when making gifts), and I had to buy the main colour yarn. From Romni Wools in Toronto, I purchased 300 grams of Estelle Double Knit in shade Q65503, which I would describe as a sort of slate gray, and 50 grams of Drops Karisma Uni Colour in shade 05, which I would describe as black. And I also bought a card of three buttons from Fabricland.    

Here's the finished item, in a size 10. This was quite a straightforward knit, even with the added complication of my having to wing the button placket modification. The body pieces are just stockinette, and the sleeves are mostly just a simple stripe pattern with the chevrons added in duplicate stitch.  

I did run into one snag in that I had not enough gray yarn for this project. I used a little more than the designer intended to do the placket, of course, but I wouldn't have had enough even if I had made the sweater with a zipper as the pattern directed. And I needed just 10 grams of the extra 100 gram skein I had to buy, sigh. To make this sweater, I used 10 grams of charcoal yarn, 10 grams of cream, and 10 grams of red that all came from my stash. I had 90 grams of the new gray yarn and 30 grams of the new black yarn left, so that's a net stash increase of 90 grams for this project. 

As for the rest of Bug's gift, I bought him a solarium kit from Dollarama. He'll be assembling and painting it himself, which he should enjoy, and it might be a fun way for him to learn the names and positions of the planets. Bug loves Harry Potter, and while I refuse to buy any new Harry Potter merchandise given J.K. Rowling's rampant transphobia, when I came across a perfect condition Harry Potter notebook at a thrift shop, I decided I could buy it for him in reasonable conscience, as she won't make any money from its resale. 

I also picked out a gift bag with an outer space theme to go with the solarium kit, and then decided the gift was complete and Bug's tenth birthday had been duly marked. 


Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Introducing Miss Rainbow Sparkle Unicorn-Animals


Shortly after my honorary niece Olivia was born in 2016, I came up with the idea of making her a doll and a little wardrobe of outfits and accessories for the doll. I decided to save the idea until she was old enough to really enjoy and appreciate having a doll like that, and I designated four as the ideal age. Olivia turned four in 2020, but I didn't get to the project at all that year. In 2021, when Olivia  turned five, I began doing some work on the project, but I didn't get that far. In early September of 2022, when Olivia was nearly six and a half, I began working steadily on the doll project with the idea that Olivia would get it for Christmas that year, but though I spent four months straight working on it, the end of the year found the doll knitted but not assembled, and three of the outfits not quite finished. It wasn't until early summer of 2023 that I finally finished making the doll and her wardrobe of seven outfits, and then in July 2023, I visited my friend Lindsie's home for two days for the first time since October 2019, and gave her seven-year-old daughter the doll and its accompanying accoutrements. I suppose seven isn't such a bad age for such a gift -- Olivia should still have about three doll-enjoying years ahead of her -- and at least the thing finally got done.  

All through my doll-making endeavour, I thought of the doll provisionally as "Little Olivia", with the expectation that Olivia would want to name her doll herself. I looked forward to seeing what that name would be, and was gratified when Olivia promptly named her doll... wait for it... Rainbow Sparkle Unicorn-Animals. Lindsie tried unsuccessfully to get Olivia to go with a nice Scottish name, such as Isla, but while that would have been a pretty and suitable name, Olivia's choice is peak seven-year-old girl in a way that makes me crack up whenever I think of it. And, now that Miss Unicorn-Animals is finally finished, duly named, and enjoying life with her mommy, let's take a tour through the process of making her and of her completed wardrobe.  

When I was in the early stages of planning this project, I kept an eye out for suitable knitted doll patterns and ideas for its wardrobe. I set up a Pinterest board entitled "Little Olivia and Her Wardrobe" to keep track of the cute knitted dolls and doll outfits and other ideas I came across. When it came time to plan more definitely, I searched Ravelry for knitted doll patterns. Its database contained some real cuties, but I soon zeroed in on the "Knit a Teddy" constellation of designs by Sarah Gasson. Gasson has designed an entire collection of stuffed dolls, bears, cats, bunnies, etc., with numerous outfits designed to fit them all (the stuffed toys are all the same size through the body and the patterns have options for adding tail and ear openings if one is knitting for a stuffed animal). The dolls are darling, with hair that can be styled in multiple ways, and the outfits are amazing, with outfits for every day as well as a number of theme outfits. One can start by knitting the basic doll and then proceed to make any number of outfits. If you want to make a cheerleader, firefighter, nurse, doctor, paramedic, police officer, soccer, golfing, graduation, elf, fairy, bride, superhero, princess, Christmas, or Halloween outfit, Sarah Gasson has you, or at least the stuffed toy you've made, covered.   

Prior to beginning this project, I'd been wanting to make a doll and a wardrobe for it for awhile. Whenever I did my weekly tour of the thrift shops in my neighbourhood, I would often see an array of those "collectable" porcelain dolls (i.e., of the type intended more for display than for playing with) on the shelves among the knickknacks, and I would think about how much fun it would be buy one, take it home, and then research, design, and make some period accurate wardrobe for it as a gift for one of the little girls in my life. And then I would remind myself sternly that I have very limited physical and mental energy due to my chronic fatigue issues, that I'm not making a living, that its costs would add up, that there is so much that needs doing around my house, and that I don't like sewing or knitting in the very small scale at all, and I keep walking. But then the same scenario would play out again the next week.

This particular doll and wardrobe project seemed like an acceptable way to scratch that "I want to make a doll wardrobe" itch. I'd only be working on it in the evening when I don't have the energy to do much else anyway, and it wouldn't take much research, or much money. It would be easy and fun to plan it and come up with little creative touches for it, it wasn't on such a small scale that I would mind working on it, and it would be a good way to use up my boxful of odds and ends of DK yarn. 

So, I bought the Sarah Gasson doll pattern, and some of the outfit patterns, and got started.  

The above photo is the sample shot from the Pink Stripy Dress design. I wanted this doll to have some everyday type outfits as well as some theme outfits, and this was one of the first of its everyday outfits. 

I wanted the doll, or Rainbow as I suppose I should call her, to look as much like Olivia as possible. Little girls mother their dolls, and they tend to especially like having a doll that looks like them. This doll's facial features being set by the pattern, I could only make the doll look like Olivia by simulating Olivia's colouring. Olivia, who is a strikingly beautiful little girl, has gorgeous long brown curly hair with lots of blond and lighter brown highlights, as well as a slightly reddish tone to it, olive-coloured eyes, and a slight olive tone to her skin. I used two different shades of brown yarn for Rainbow's hair and tried to choose skin and eye colour yarns that were as close to Olivia's colouring as I could get them. The result, while not photo realism accurate, wasn't bad. Lindise commented that the doll really did look like Olivia.

I goofed on the hair by knotting it much too thickly over the back of the doll's head. The pattern called for 50 grams of yarn to be used on the hair, and I used 110 grams of yarn. I suppose it's not such a bad thing for Rainbow to have what we'll call very luxuriant hair, but it's not as easy to style the doll's hair when it's this thick, so if I make another doll like this one, I will not put as much hair on it. 

The body of this doll was knitted from a single 100 gram skein of Premier Anti-Pilling Everyday DK in Linen, which I purchased for this project. (I did also make the mistake of ordering 200 grams of another skin tone-like shade of that yarn online that I didn't like at all when it arrived at my house, but that hapless new 200 grams was accounted for when I used up a good chunk of it in the sweater I made Olivia for Christmas last year, so I won't add it to the tally for this one.) For the hair, I used up 40 grams of Sirdar Country Style DK in 530 Chocolate that I had in my stash, and when that proved not to be enough, I bought two 50 gram skeins of Debbie Bliss Rialto DK in 23005 Brown. The eyes were done with a unmeasurably small amount of green yarn of unknown make that I had in my stash, and I used embroidery floss that I had on hand to do the eyelashes and mouth. When the doll was done, I had 25 grams of the new linen yarn and 35 grams of the new brown yarn left, and when I subtract the 40 grams of stash brown I used, I find that this project added 20 just grams of yarn to my stash. Not bad.    

This striped dress, bloomers, and shoes outfit was made entirely from stash yarn. I made the dress from spring green and coral yarns, which used up all the coral. I then made the bloomers and the shoes in the same green with cream trim, and to pull the outfit's colour scheme together, I crocheted a cream flower with a green centre, and tacked it to the waistline of the dress.  

I forgot to weigh my odds and ends of stash yarn before I began this outfit, but it weighed 120 grams when completed, so that is a stash decrease of -120 grams.

The second "everyday" outfit that I picked out for Rainbow (after some deliberation, because there are so many cute outfits one can hardly choose) was Sarah Gasson's Flower Pinafore design. 

I built this outfit around an unidentifiable skein of dark green yarn that had been sitting in my DK yarn box for years and years. I had some red and some assorted cream yarn that went well with the green, so I went with that.

A shot of the sweater and bloomers by themselves, since the sweater design isn't visible under the pinafore. Fortunately Olivia will be able to mix and match her doll's outfits somewhat.

This outfit was made entirely from stash yarn, and weighed 180 grams when completed, so that's a stash decrease of -180 grams. 

Olivia's father's last name is Wallace, he is of Scottish ancestry, and he and his family are quite into their Scottish heritage. They talk about it frequently at family gatherings. I asked Lindsie if they do face-painting and kilt-lifting at their family gatherings as William Wallace's men do in Braveheart, and she said, "Thankfully, no." Lindsie's father has only gone so far as taking up the bagpipes, and marching in town parades, all kilted up, with whatever little bagpipe regiment he's in. 

When I saw the Highland Dress pattern among Sarah Gasson's collection, I decided it should be one of Rainbow's outfits, because it would be a nice way for Olivia to celebrate her Scottish heritage. It's adorable as is, but when I made it I did end up adding some tweaks. 

The first change I made was to the tartan pattern itself. I thought it would be nice to make the doll's kilt, sash, and tam in a Wallace tartan if I could. I googled the Wallace tartan, and found that I could get the kilt's tartan design quite close to the modern dress Wallace tartan you see pictured above by simply changing the colours from red, green, and white, to red, black, and yellow.  

I was pleased with my version of the Wallace tartan. Tweak number two was the result of my thinking, wouldn't it be cute if the kilt had a little kilt pin in it? Some online and in person comparison shopping later, I found I couldn't buy a kilt pin of the right size unless I bought a hundred or so of them, so next I looked into the possibility of making a single kilt pin of the right size. In the end, I made one in fifteen minutes using this very helpful video tutorial

I haven't worn a kilt since my elementary school uniform days, so I did some more googling on the topic of correct kilt pin placement. From what I understand, a kilt pin is supposed to be worn clasp down on the right side, and two inches from the bottom hem. I adhered faithfully to the first two sipulations, but had to cheat on the "two inches from the bottom" rule because that would have put the kilt pin more than halfway up the kilt.   


Tweak number three came about because I didn't have any silver or gray yarn suitable for the buttons, didn't want to buy a whole new skein of it when I needed such a tiny amount, and didn't particularly like look of the crocheted ones anyway. I used some tooled metal buttons from my button tin that I thought were just perfect for the jacket.

Tweaks four and five happened when it occurred to me after I'd made the bow tie that Sarah Gasson's design was the masculine version of traditional highland dress. I did a little googling to find out what the feminine version entailed. Did women even wear sporrans, sashes, and bow ties in traditional highland dress for women? According to my googling results (and I could easily be wrong about any of this!), in traditional highland dress, women don't wear sporrans or bow ties, but  they do wear sashes and shawls, and sometimes lace jabots. I nixed the sporran and the bow tie that the pattern called for, made the sash, and cobbled together a lace jabot out of a few scraps of lace I found in my ribbon cannister, using some photos of lace jabots that I found online for reference. I thought the result was, if not up to lace jabot industry standards, pretty decent as a finishing touch on a doll for a seven-year-old.

The finished highland dress outfit. Olivia will be able to take Rainbow along when she goes to see her father play bagpipes in her town's parade, and sit her up at the table when she and her parents are hosting a Wallace family gathering. 

When I was visiting Lindsie and we were watching Olivia with her doll, Lindsie asked me which of the seven outfits was my favourite. I said I didn't know if I had a favourite, but that the Scottish outfit was the one I was proudest of. It wasn't until I was writing this post that I realized that I totally forgot to make the flashings for the socks, which is seriously undercutting that sense of pride, sigh. Well, I suppose if it bothers me enough, I can make some, take them with me when I go visit Lindsie in October, and sew them in at that point.

For this outfit, I used some white yarn I had on hand, and I also purchased some skeins of Patons Astra DK in Cardinal, Black, and Maize Yellow. I had 40 grams of the black left, and 10 grams of the yellow. I used up the remaining red in one of the other doll outfits, so I won't count that in my tally for this outfit. But I have no idea how much white yarn I used, because it seems I forgot to weigh it before I started work. I have a note on one of my patterns that says a completed sweater of this type weighed 50 grams, so I think it's safe to say that I would have used at least 60 grams of white to make the shirt and socks for this outfit. I'm going to estimate that this outfit resulted in a net decrease of -10 grams 

And we come now to another too-adorable outfit of Sarah Gasson's. This is the Christmas Jumper design. How freaking cute are those little Timberland-style boots? And this is one of those (rare!) nitting design samples that has such a perfect colour scheme that I just have to replicate it.

My version of the Christmas outfit, with which I am very pleased. For this outfit, I used the remaining red yarn from the Scottish highland dress outfit, and I bought more Patons Astra DK in Cardinal, Navy, and White. For the reindeer face and antlers and the boots I used tan and brown yarns from my stash.

When I was done this ensemble, I found I had used 15 grams of the brown, 10 grams of the tan, and that I had 25 grams of the new red and 5 grams of the new navy left. (Whatever white yarn I had left went into an upcoming outfit.) So, that's a +5 gram stash increase.   

This is the Snowflake Gown ensemble from Sarah Gasson's collection. I decided to make this one because one of my nicknames for Olivia is "Princess Olivia of Bolivia". (No, Olivia is not any part Bolivian and yes I am aware that Bolivia is a democratic republic -- I just happen to like the rhyming aspect of it.)

I had to improvise a new colour scheme for Princess Rainbow's outfit out of the offerings at Michaels. I thought a white and a pretty soft second colour would be a nice combination, but they didn't have many options. A lot of the inexpensive acrylic colours are downright crude and ugly. After some traipsing back and forth through their aisles, I bought Loops & Threads Baby Cuddles in Lilac, and Loops & Threads Snuggly Wuggly in White. I also used a very small amount of a light green yarn from my stash for the device on the bodice. 

The tiara is supposed to be sewn to the doll's head, but I didn't want to do that, as the tiara would definitely not go with all, or for that matter any, of Rainbow's other outfits. Instead, I knitted the tiara twice and stitched it together at the ends, turning it into a crown that could be worn and taken off. I also raided my beading box and found some amethyst chips and some purple stone beads, and sewed them onto the crown. I wish I had found a more artistic arrangement of the gems on the crown, but again, and as I often reminded myself while working on this project, this is just a doll for a little girl, not a PhD level dissertation in costuming.   

I used up the white I had left over from this project on my last two projects and I had just 20 grams of the lilac left, so that's a stash increase of  +20 grams for this princess outfit.

Almost from the beginning of this project, I had planned to make the doll some sort of nightwear, such as a nightgown and cap, so that Olivia would be able to put her baby properly to bed at night. When I saw this Onesie pattern in Sarah Gasson's Ravelry store, I knew it had to be one of my selections.

For this pattern I used the white I had bought for some of the outfits you've already seen, and some medium blue, light blue, and old rose I had in my stash, as well as a very small amount of cream yarn and a little dark brown embroidery floss for the detailing on the teddy bear slippers. I had to be a little creative about making the odds and ends of yarn I had picked for this onesie suffice to finish the job. My first attempt at striping this sleeper had me running out of colours so quickly I knew halfway in that I'd never be able to finish, so I ripped out what I had done and began again with a more white-dependent stripe pattern. When it turned out that I didn't have enough of the old rose and light blue left to stripe the sleeves, I made them plain white.

I'm pretty happy with the result, and so was Olivia. When I was visiting Lindsie for those two days, Olivia undressed Rainbow and changed her into her onesie and slippers before carrying her off to bed on both nights, and then she would have her doll dressed for the day in one of her other outfits by the time I came downstairs in the morning. Lindsie told me via email that Olivia has continued to do this since my visit.

For this project I used 15 grams of medium blue, 20 grams of light blue, and 30 grams of old rose, so we'll call that a stash decrease of -65 grams.


This was the last outfit I made. For this one I used the basic sweater, pants, and slippers instructions from my other patterns, and improvised the rest of the design. It was intended to be a sort of Valentine's Day outfit, but it's not so theme-oriented that it doesn't work as just a cute outfit for every day. Again, I had to be a bit creative to make the yarn I had suffice, which is why the pants look a little on the skimpy side. I wish I'd made the last few rows of knitting on the slippers in rib instead of garter, as it would have made their fit more secure.

For this outfit I used the last of the white I bought for the other doll outfits, and (at a guess, because I don't seem to have documented this) 45 grams of blue yarn and 15 grams of burgundy yarn from my stash. I had nothing but a handful of scraps of the three colours left when I finished, so that's a -60 gram stash decrease.

Another idea that occurred to me early on in the project planning phase was that Olivia would need a place to keep all of her doll's clothing and belongings. My first thought was that I would get her a little wooden box, and paint and decorate it in such a way that she could still enjoy using the box after she'd outgrown the doll. I kept an eye out for a suitable box when doing my weekly thrift shop tour, and eventually bought one. But once I began working on the doll's wardrobe, it soon became clear that the box was far too small for such a purpose, so much so that I don't understand how I ever could have thought it would be adequate. (I stowed the box in a drawer in the attic for a few years, with the idea that I would be using it for some other project, and I have indeed come up with a good use for it, which I'll be posting about by the end of this year.)

With the box idea ruled out, my next thought was that I would make Olivia a tote bag for her doll's things, which was an even better idea than a box because she could carry it around with her. And I knew immediately what fabric I wanted to use for it. Back in 2021, I had made Olivia a quilt, and when I went fabric shopping for that project, my first choice of fabric was the one you see depicted above. I thought those interlocking Os in an olive green colour made it the perfect fabric quilt for her. To my disappointment, there wasn't enough of the fabric left on the bolt for the quilt. I did find another pretty fabric for the quilt that I was happy with, but that disappointment was clearly still lurking in my mind, because when I came up with the idea for a tote bag, I was so glad that I had a chance to use that perfect first fabric for something else for Olivia. Back to the fabric warehouse place I went, and I dug around determinedly until I found the interlocking Os fabric. 


And here is Rainbow Sparkle Unicorn-Animals, with all of her things packed and ready to go to meet her mommy for the first time. I put each of the outfits in a separate zippered plastic bag so that Olivia would know what items goes with what other items, although I don't expect they'll stay that way.

 This was a decent stash-busting project. Let's review the numbers:
  • doll +20 grams
  • striped dress outfit -120 grams
  • pinafore outfit  -180 grams
  • Scottish outfit -10 grams
  • Christmas outfit  +5 grams
  • princess outfit  +20 grams
  • onesie and slippers -65 grams
  • Valentine's Day outfit -60 grams
According to my math, that's 390 gram stash decrease. Not bad at all, and I definitely saw the difference in my DK stash box, with a number of odds and ends that had been sitting there for years finally used up. 

This was a seriously time intensive project on a scale I will almost certainly never attempt again. I think this project must have taken a total of six months of my knitting time. Admittedly, I am toying with the idea of making my grandniece Holly a doll like Rainbow in a few years, but she'll only get two or three outfits with it, not seven, and then maybe I'll make her one outfit a year to add to her collection until she's ten or so. And... I will be making Olivia more outfits for Rainbow, but again, it'll be just one a year, and only for a few more years. I also no longer pine over the porcelain dolls I see in thrift stores in the same way, so I consider that itch to be successfully scratched.

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

The Secret Garden Dress


When it came time to plan my honorary niece Olivia's birthday dress for her seventh birthday in May of 2023, I began by ordering three sewing patterns online: one for this year, for for next year, and one for the year after, in order to save on shipping. It was still way too expensive, but I suppose I can at least save the patterns to reuse for my new little grandniece when she gets older.

My choice of pattern this year was the very classic Vogue V1857, view B. I went to the warehouse-type store Fabric Fabric, at St. Clair West and Keele here in Toronto, to pick out the fabrics for it. I found a beautiful cotton print -- the one depicted above -- that I fell in love with immediately. It was so William Morris. It wasn't the easiest print to coordinate because of its offbeat shades of green and blue, but for my contrast fabric I eventually picked out a textured cotton fabric in cream, and then, when I couldn't find a suitable third fabric to use as lining, I bought extra of the textured cream to use as lining. 

Here's the finished product. It's crisply, delicately pretty. The sewing went reasonably well on the whole, though I was stalled for quite a while when I had some difficulty with the sleeves. I had never been able to make the "baste and draw the stitches to gather" technique work for me, but when my usual method of minutely pinning the sleeve didn't work despite multiple attempts, I tried the gathered basting stitch technique, and to my amazement, it actually worked for me for once. 

Whenever I make a little girl's dress, I like to make a matching purse for it. I wanted to make this one out of the print, but I hadn't enough of it left. I hadn't enough left for even the facing. But I did have lots of the cream left, and I made a very simple, plain bag out of that. Olivia will be able to use this purse with other outfits instead of having a purse that's tied specifically to one outfit.

My formula for Olivia's gifts, either birthday or Christmas, is "something to wear, something to read, and something to play with". This past winter I had the great good luck to score a pristine condition, deluxe edition of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden (shown on the left in the photo above) at my neighbourhood Value Village. It has artistic, interactive inserts throughout it for the reader to enjoy as they read the book, such as postcards, or letters one can take out of the the envelope and read, a drawing of the floorplan of the house, etc. Then, about a week after I bought the book, I came across a copy of The Secret Garden cookbook (shown on the right) at the dollar store. I thought Olivia would really enjoy getting to make some of the foods mentioned in the novel, or the kind of foods the characters would have eaten (that is, if one of her parents is up for such a project), so I snapped up the cookbook. And then I realized the print of the dress, which I'd selected before I bought either the novel or the cookbook and never thought of when I bought the two books, was very much in accord with The Secret Garden theme of this present. How fortuitous is that?

But, you ask, looking at this photo of the dress, purse, novel and cookbook, as fastidiously in thematic accord as it all is, where is the something to play with? A cookbook isn't exactly a toy. Rest assured that there's more to the gift yet to come. The toy Olivia is getting for her seventh birthday is handmade and rather elaborate, so it's getting its own post. Watch this space for that! 

A Fragrant Fourteenth Birthday Present

Back in 2012, one of my knitting projects was a red worsted cardigan. The yarn I used for it came from a red hoodie I'd made circa 2010 and only worn a few times because I found it too bulky and unflattering. I thought I'd get more wear out the cardigan. However, this proved not to be the case because the cardigan's collar didn't sit right and the sleeves were too long. I always meant to fix those things, but never got around to it. One day in the fall of 2022 as I was tidying up my sweater cupboard, it struck me that rather than fixing that sweater (which, after all, I didn't need) I could take it apart and use the yarn to make something I would otherwise have to spend money on: a sweater for my grandniece Cauliflower's 14th birthday present this summer. The red would suit Cauliflower quite well, the sweater(s) had been so little worn that the yarn was still good as new, and I'd be sure to have enough given that I was going to be going down two sizes and had an untouched 100 gram skein of the yarn in my stash to boot.

I searched Ravelry for a suitable pattern for the yarn and came up with the Cabled Yoke Pullover, from Patons. It's classic enough to be a safe choice and detailed enough to be interesting, and also a free pattern. 

The construction of the sweater was rather interesting. The patterns says to knit the cable shoulder strip first, seam it together at the ends, pick up stitches around the top of the cabled strip to make the collar, then pick up stitches at the bottom of the cabled strip to knit the body of the sweater. My version, which I made in a women's size extra small/small, knitted up relatively quickly and without incident, and I was contented with the result. This sweater used up 673 grams out of the 900 grams of red worsted I had started with. 

And then I realized I still had 227 grams of the red yarn left. What should I do with it?

Two hundred and twenty grams is more than enough to make a hat, and I thought Cauliflower might like a matching hat for her sweater, so I searched Ravelry for a suitable tam pattern in worsted. I looked specifically for a cabled design that would work with the pullover. I chose the Sweet and Slouchy Hat, designed by Kim Haesemeyer. I was able to check a copy of the book the pattern is in out of the Toronto Public Library and work from it. 

Initially I thought I'd make two of these tams: one for Cauliflower, and one for me. There was enough yarn for two tams and it'd be nice to get all that red yarn finally used up. But then I began to think about what I would wear the red tam with, and when I couldn't seem to imagine it working with any of my coats or outfits, I decided that I was unlikely to ever wear it and therefore shouldn't make it. The rest of the red yarn can remain in my stash until I have a genuine use for it.

Here's the finished tam. Ironically, and exasperatingly, after deciding not to make this hat twice, I did end up knitting it twice, because the first time I made it, I was less than ten rows away from completion when I switched to DPNs and realized that I had knitted the entire thing on the wrong size needles, and that it was too small. Such a stupid error, but it's the kind of bone-headed mistake I make when I'm tired.

This hat took 90 grams of yarn, bringing my total yarn stash decrease for this project to 763 grams.

With the sweater and tam set done, I made Cauliflower the owl pendant ribbon necklace you see depicted above, as described in an earlier post. She has a thing for owl stuff, and it seemed like a cute, fun, accessory, suitable for a 14-year-old girl. 

The assembled gift components. I spent nothing at all on the sweater and cap, and very little on the necklace, so I also bought Cauliflower a bottle of Kenzie's "So Pretty" eau de parfum from the Shopper's Drug Mart $20 sale display rack. They didn't have a tester for that kind of perfume, and I'm crossing my fingers it has a nice scent to it.

And I also hope that Cauliflower will find these items useful in the fall, when she begins a new chapter in her life as a brand new high school student. But then classic knitwear, cute jewelry, and smelling pretty never hurt anyone's chances of being a social and academic success.  

Monday, May 22, 2023

A Dinosaur-Themed Gift, Take Two

When my niece's two children Cauliflower and Bug were very small, I developed a gift-planning formula for their presents. For their birthdays, I gave them each a piece of handmade clothing and some little trinkets which were usually from the dollar store or thrift shop. For Christmas, they would each get a book and something to play with. It's a formula that has worked well, helping me plan gifts that were a balanced mix of fun, useful and educational things, and it has also helped me keep their gifts equitable. (Kids are very quick to notice and to mind when their siblings get more or better presents than they do.) 

I'll be using this formula for my nephew's two children as well, with the difference that they'll be getting their clothing present at Christmas and the book and toy present for their birthdays. Cauliflower and Bug have summer birthdays, and giving them their clothing, which was usually winter clothing, for their birthdays meant they would have it all ready to wear when cool weather arrived in the fall, but Sawyer and his yet-to-arrive little sister have their birthdays in February and May, so it makes more sense to give them their knitted clothing at Christmas, in order to maximize the clothing's wearing time. It would be no fun for a kid to get a warm sweater in May that she has to wait five months to wear.

This is all to say that Sawyer is therefore getting a sweater for Christmas, and this is a post about the one I made for him.

Back in 2013, I made my grandnephew Bug the sweater you see above, in a size six months, using the Diplodocus pattern, designed by Kate Oates. I just put together some odds and ends of white, kelly green, and navy worsted from my stash to make the sweater for nothing, but the colour scheme could hardly have worked better. I also bought Bug a little stuffed toy at Toys R' Us that was supposed to stand in for a dinosaur, though it was actually a Disney brand anthromorphized alligator character that was standing on its hind legs. My family was kind enough to agree that it looked very like a dinosaur.

The dinosaur sweater and dinosaur-passing toy were such a cute and well-received gift that I decided to reuse the pattern and theme for Bug's cousin Sawyer this year. I checked my stash hoping I could put together some odds and ends to make the sweater for nothing again. I wasn't quite as fortunate this time. While I had 70 grams of an unlabelled rust wool, and 50 grams of Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash in Turtle that I thought worked well together and would be usable for the contrast colours, for the main colour I had to buy a skein of Lion Brand Wool Ease in Linen for (with the use of a Michael's coupon) $6.32. But that's still pretty inexpensive.

Here's the completed sweater in the Sawyer version, in a size 2. This colour scheme is attractive too, and will suit Sawyer, who has blond hair and hazel eyes.  

This time around Toys R' Us had no dinosaur or even dinosaur-adjacent toy that was suitable for a toddler, so I ordered this one online. It will certainly do, and I think Sawyer, being older and more aware, will enjoy his dinosaur-themed gift even more than his cousin Bug did.

This project used 40 grams of the rust and 40 of the olive stash yarns, and all of the new linen yarn, so that's a stash decrease of 80 grams for this project.   

Thursday, May 4, 2023

An Owl and a Tree

I recently made the first two ribbon necklaces I have ever made: one for me, one for a gift.

Last year I came across this item in a jewelry display at Value Village, although I think was actually a bookmark. Being that my mother, one of my nieces, and my grandniece are all very into owl stuff, I keep an eye out for nice owl stuff when shopping, and I automatically bought this cute little piece, even though I wasn't sure what I would do with it or whom I would give it to. On the way home I began envisioning the pendant as part of a ribbon necklace. I debated whether the necklace would be for my mother or my grandniece, but soon decided it would go to Cauliflower as part of her fourteenth birthday present, as it seemed more suitable for a young girl. Though my mother will probably threaten to steal it. Life with three owl aficionados in the same family is not without its moments of tension and drama. 

One of Cauliflower's current favourite colours is burgundy, so when I found a piece of burgundy organza ribbon in my ribbon canister (I think it originally came off a wrapped gift someone gave me), I decided it would do for her necklace. I bought metal ends for the ribbon, jump rings, and a magnetic clasp, all in silvertone. When I asked the beading supply store associate about adding a bail to the pendant, he advised against it saying it "would look silly", so I didn't buy one, but then when I was assembling the necklace, the pendant didn't sit right when threaded directly on the ribbon. I compromised by adding a jump ring to the pendant, and running the ribbon through the jump ring. The jump ring is quite unobtrusive and now the pendant sits flat against the chest as it should when worn. 

The necklace isn't very long (just under 16.75"), but it's long enough to be wearable even on me and Cauliflower is quite a bit shorter and smaller than I am, so I think it will do. A big pendant like this one does look better when it sits higher on the chest, where it is visible and well clear of one's neckline.

 The fastening. I do like a magnetic clasp -- so easy to put on and take off.

The second necklace, which is for me. I made a rare impulse purchase of this peridot chip tree of life pendant at a beading supply store on Queen street some years back. It was just a few dollars, peridot is my birthstone and suits me, and it was so pretty. The tree of life symbol has also become a meaningful one to me over the past five years or so, reminding me that I can continue to grow and be productive as I age. 

It has taken me quite some time to get around to buying the components for this necklace, but eventually I purchased a length of narrow, spring green coloured organza ribbon, metal ends for the ribbon, jump rings, and a magnetic clasp. One Sunday in April 2023 I sat down and put this necklace and Cauliflower's necklace together.

For this necklace, I did not need a jump ring for the pendant, as its built-in loop has the right orientation to sit properly on its ribbon. I used three strands of the narrow ribbon to give it a more substantial look, as well as more strength. One strand would have looked far too skimpy. This necklace is 17.5" in length -- having bought the green ribbon for this purpose, I had more to work with than I did with the burgundy one.

The back clasp, which I bought in a copper-tone metal to match the pendant. I do like coordinating the colour of the metal findings with that of the other metals on a necklace. It makes the completed necklace look more polished. 

These ribbon necklace each cost less than $10 to make, and they went together so easily and are so pretty I am definitely open to making more at some point. I can hardly wait to wear mine, or to give Cauliflower hers. 

Unplugged and Lying Down

Back in December 2006, when I bought Swan's End, a then 94-year-old house with a 1991 furnace in it, I found some of my very first purchases for the place were those which served to help keep me warm. I have never forgotten the first morning I woke up in my house because of how it felt when my bare foot touched the parquet floor beside my bed. (My unfortunate neighbours must have wondered if their new neighbour was part banshee.) Over the next month, I bought a warm bathrobe, slippers, eight pairs of wool work socks, a rug for beside my bed, and an electric blanket.  

Several years ago the electric blanket stopped working. I couldn't afford to replace it, but it didn't go on my "want" list of things I try to buy as I can because my furnace had been replaced in 2015 and I had made myself a Thinsulate quilt in 2020. I decided I could do without a new electric blanket, nice as it had been to get into a pre-warmed bed on a Canadian winter night. The electric blanket awaited its fate in my linen closet, its electrical cords and controls constantly entangling other items. Last month, when I was putting away some of my winter blankets, I took the electric blanket out of the linen closet. It was time to decide what to do with it.  

My first step was to do some internet research on whether it could be fixed. From what I gathered, while it might be possible to fix the controls, fixing the heating element within the blanket would be a much more difficult and expensive and perhaps not even viable proposition. I tested the blanket and concluded that the controls were working and the heating element was the problem, so I ruled out "fix the blanket" as an option. I hated the idea of just throwing the whole blanket in the garbage, so I began to wonder if I couldn't turn the electric blanket into an ordinary blanket, and use it that way. 

Ultimately, I did exactly that. And I thought I'd post about how I did it for anyone else who has, or who may in future have, a broken electric blanket and would appreciate a few tips on how to do the same. This project wasn't anything like as pretty or as aesthetically interesting as the kind of project I normally post about, but it is very much in the "mend and make do" spirit that is part of this blog's purpose to foster, so here goes.

I began my conversion project by unplugging the controls and setting them aside. Then I had to deal with the wiring inside the blanket. My electric blanket was composed of two layers of fleecy fabric, and there were narrow, vertical channels stitched into the interior. The electric cords ran through those channels, looping from channel to channel at the top and bottom of the blanket, much as the red lines I have drawn on the photo above do, only much less wonkily.:) Originally I expected I'd be ripping out the interior stitching to get the electrical cords out, but I soon realized there was a much easier, faster way to do it.

I opened the stitching on the bottom of the blanket to access to the blanket's interior, and cut the loops between the channels (indicated on the photo by the blue arrows at the bottom of the photo). Then I opened the stitching at the top of the blanket and pulled on each loop (indicated by the black arrows at the top of the photo) until that length of wire came out of the blanket. 

I removed the heating element too (it was near the bottom). Then, once all the electrical components were out of the blanket, I first stitched together the little slit where the heating element had been (it's visible roughly in the centre of the above photo), and then restitched the top and bottom of the blanket. I did the sewing on my sewing machine, using the various stitch options to mimic the style of the original stitching (but one could also do the sewing by hand if necessary). Had I known exactly what I was doing from the start, the entire job would have taken under an hour. Once the blanket was all stitched back together again, I ran it through the wash. 

As you can see from the  photo at the top of this post, I now have a fleecy blanket in very decent condition that will be usable for years to come, and only its former wires and controls will wind up in a landfill.