Knitting Baby Stuff: Two Tone Tidbits

In recent times, I am increasingly becoming guilty of the knitter’s vice of buying yarn for which I have no particular purpose. I find it difficult to wander around a yarn shop without buying a skein or two. I am often drawn to hand dyed and handspun yarn which then sits unused in my front room as I’ve no idea what to make with it!

So in an attempt to compensate for this guilty pleasure, I decided my next baby knit was not allowed to result in buying yet more yarn. The answer was this perfect stash buster from Kelly Brooker. It is particularly fabulous for using up those little tidbits left over from bigger projects.

Pattern: Tidbit by Kelly Brooker

Source: Ravelry download

Price: Free!!

Yarn: Leftover 8ply scraps (various)

Needle: 3.5mm & 4mm short circular and/or DPNs

This is a beautifully simple knit and the pattern detail is very clever in that you don’t need to anticipate your yarn scrap running out as the pattern is achieved by simply slipping the stitches in the first colour for the first two rows of the second colour… no remaining yarn required! It is also brilliant in that the thickness of the band of the first colour can vary without any adverse effect on the aesthetic of the finished project. Absolutely ideal for using up random scraps of leftovers.

I have made two so far. One for my little man due in a few months and one for a little girl a friend is expecting around the same time. I’m very happy with them both and suspect there’s a few more to come given the large bag of leftover 8ply scraps I have accumulated!

IMG_7753

My Two Tone Tidbits from leftover 8ply stash scraps. The thickness of the band of the first colour determined largely by how much of it I had left!

Advertisements

Knitting Baby Stuff: Raspberries & Cream

IMG_7039

Quaintly in DK weight yarn.

At risk of sounding like a broken record, I love Pekapeka patterns!

I had two little one-year-olds to knit for this year. The Little Boy Blue went down a treat and I’m hoping this girly knit is also a hit with the gorgeous Miss L as she celebrates her first year on this wild planet.

This gorgeous wild raspberry variegated skein from Gradient Aus had been sitting in my stash for a while and so I was delighted to discover this larger version of my old favourite, Composite, required just the right amount of delicious pink yarn to make the 12-18 month size.

IMG_7043

My last variegated knit with expanses of stocking stitch. Not a big fan of the smudge effect.

Pattern: Quaintly – DK

Source: Ravelry download from Pekapeka

Price: $5 USD

Yarn: Wild Raspberry from Gradient Aus (100g)

Needle: 3.5mm & 4.0mm circular needles

As for her Composite pattern, Kelly Brooker again has very clear and detailed instructions which make it difficult to go wrong. I used the charts to knit the lace sleeves (something I am still learning how to do well) and apart from one slight error, which would only be noticed on exceedingly close inspection of the capped sleeves, I managed to knit this while watching The Killing with subtitles. Though, I suspect I may have missed less crucial parts of the dialogue.

IMG_7058

The button band is written to be sewn together except for the top button. I’ve left it open so a large baby head can fit through without tears.

The button band is designed to only open at the top button and the remainder of it is supposed to be sewn down, however I left it open to allow for easy dressing. As the mother of a baby with an exceedingly large head, I am acutely aware of the issue of small necklines and I didn’t want to gift a garment that induced crying at every wear! If I’d noticed the mock button band in advance, I would have planned to pop and extra real button hole in. Hoping it doesn’t gape strangely when on.

Despite the gorgeous vibrant colour of this yarn, I think this is probably my last variegated project using big sections of stocking stitch. I’m not the biggest fan of the smudge look and have already been investigating other ways to use variegated yarn. Excited to try a linen stitch scarf and some cool socks, both waiting in my Ravelry queue as experiments in alternatives.

But first to finish that previously frogged nemesis knit.

Knitting Baby Stuff: Rainbows & Meadows

I’ll start by putting it out there. I could have done better. And if I didn’t have a ‘to knit’ list as long as my arm and several fast approaching deadlines (also known as due dates), I probably would have frogged this and re-knit it. But here we are and it is the way it is. I’m hoping it still finds a very happy home.

My gorgeous rainbow mini skeins from Gradient have been realised this sweet little dress.

IMG_6785

Rainbows & Meadows.

Pattern: Meadow Sweet Baby Dress by Marianna Mel

Source: Ravelry download

Price: Free!

Yarn: Rainbow Mini Skeins in 8ply from Gradient Aus (used ~120g)

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.01.00 am

Needle: 4mm (I knit on circulars as you end up with 164 stitches at one point)

IMG_6791

Not happy with my colour change timing. The skirt starts visual on the increase row but I didn’t change colour until the start of the 4 row lace repeat.

The main reason for contemplation of frogging here was the way I divided the colours. I used a new colour every 17 rows on the bodice and every 4 repeats (16 rows) on the skirt. Given my time (and yarn) again, I would use one colour for the whole bodice, change to the first skirt colour for the increase row (row 33) and change colour every 3 or 4 repeats for the skirt. The change in colour mid-bodice looks strange and the skirt starts visually on the increase row but I didn’t change to a new colour until the start of the lace repeat resulting in a slightly awkward look.

The pattern calls for the first stitch of most rows to be slipped, which I did purl-wise—an inspiration from my Pekapeka knits—giving a very neat vertical edge. I also used markers during the bodice to help me knit the raglan sleeves without having to concentrate too much on my counting.

IMG_6787

Gorgeous rainbow cascade.

I’ve also been exploring the world of the ‘loose cast-off’. Patterns often call for this and I’m never quite sure I’m achieving it. So a quick Google sent me here where I found two techniques for ensuring a loose bind off. I used the ‘yarn-over’ method for this project as the skirt is ruffly and a super loose cast-off helped it show off its ruffles! The description of this technique puzzled me slightly in terms of how to get started.

I knit the first stitch, then did a yarn over and knit the second stitch. I then passed the yarn over loop over the second knit stitch and then passed the first stitch over the second stitch. Then did a yarn over and knit the next stitch. I continued in this way always putting the yarn over loop over first. Is that a better explanation?!

The other new thing for me with this knit and my Little Boy Blue was trying a different (gentler) technique for blocking. I recently bought some blocking mats from Knit Picks so after years of spreading beach towels over guest beds and then poking holes in them with my sewing pins—much to my husband’s dismay—I was able to neatly lay things out on my purpose built mats. The box came with instructions on how to block and I was rather surprised to see I’ve been doing it wrong!

I have always drenched my knit in warm water, often giving it a good few squeezes to get the water into the knit, then squeezing it again to get most of the water out. I think this has been beating my knits up a bit. I did notice recently that one of my Composite cardigans, done in a delicate silk blend yarn looked considerably more fuzzy and little worse for wear after blocking. The results with this new technique were much nicer!

The Knit Picks instructions are as follows (paraphrased for brevity):

  1. Soak knit in basin of lukewarm water until completely wet (usually at least 30 minutes). Very gently squeeze out any air bubbles.
  2. Remove from basin and put into sink to drain. Avoid wringing or twisting. Once most of the water is out, gently press knit between two towels to remove additional water.
  3. Carefully lay project out onto blocking mats away from direct sunlight or any heating vents. Shape according to pattern and use pins to secure project in place.
  4. Allow to air dry before removing pins.

Now to find some suitably gorgeous and girly buttons for the back!

Knitting Baby Stuff: A Sprinkling of Rainbow

With at least three expected babies still on my ‘To Knit For’ list, I returned to the Pekapeka Design Studio for some inspiration. I have made several of Kelly Brooker’s Peurperium and Composite cardigans over the recent months and love the seam-free, simple designs. They knit up quickly and are simply beautiful!

IMG_6143

Pattern: Thousands DK by Kelly Brooker of Pekapeka Design Studio

Source: Ravelry download

Price: $4.00 USD

Yarn: Scraps from my stash – 8ply cashmere merino blend in a pale grey (Sublime) and rainbow colours (Morris & Sons)

Needle: 3.5mm & 4mm – I knit on circulars and used double-pointed needles for sleeves

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 1.30.55 pm

Weaving in the ends on the wrong side.

The pattern is written for a variegated yarn as the contrast but instead I used scraps from my Rainbow Blanket changing colour after 2 rows. This lead to lots of ends needing weaving in. I tried to use this technique but found that the contrast colour was visible behind the grey when even a small amount of stretch was applied – as will occur when this cardi is wrapped around a little tummy – so instead I wove in my ends like this.

This technique for weaving in ends looks slightly awful from the wrong side but is secure and allows you to hide contrasting yarn in a way that duplicate stitch techniques will not. It also maintains the natural stretch of the fabric so your work won’t pull or pinch.

I use a tapestry needle to slide the end through middle of the wrong side purl loops splitting the yarn so that the contrast yarn stays completely on the wrong side of the work. I work vertically and loop back and forth for 3 or 4 legs to keep it secure.

IMG_6152

I wasn’t sure I’d have enough yarn for the long sleeves, so when I got to that point I used my husband’s trusty kitchen scales to divide my remaining yarn in two with the idea I’d just keep knitting until I ran out for each sleeve – but then, realising this would result in half-length sleeves that would look like a knit gone wrong, I opted for a cute short-sleeve version.

Tricky enough to need my pattern spread out in front of me. Not tricky enough to prohibit enjoyment of  watching Arrested Development while knitting.

Tricky enough to need my pattern spread out in front of me. Not tricky enough to prohibit watching Arrested Development while knitting.

The main issue with this pattern is that it took me a while to get my head around it. The instructions are in the form of charts which work well once you get the hang of them, but I found my sleep-deprived brain struggling a little so needed to have two pages visible to remind me of the direction of my increases while reading the colour work chart on another page. I had to annotate my pattern a fair bit too with reminders about which way to read the chart for right and wrong side rows (probably because I’m not used to using a chart) and I also found myself forgetting to add in buttonholes.


I have realised of late that my 15 years of knitting has been stuck fairly firmly in an 8 ply cashmere merino blend rut. Having discovered the gorgeous Sublime baby knit books among a pile of very dated and oft hideous patterns at my local knitting shop many moons ago, I had thought that Sublime knits were the only modern gorgeous knits out there. I almost exclusively knit Sublime yarn and Sublime patterns for the better part of a decade.

My newly arrived delicious rainbow mini skeins from Gradient.

My newly arrived delicious rainbow mini skeins from Gradient.

It is thanks to the wonders of Ravelry that I have been inspired to get out of this rut and try new things. So, so, so, so many beautiful, modern and vintage knits and so many knitters from across the world sharing their failures and successes. I have recently been inspired by variegated and gradient yarns and am itching to get my newly arrived skeins from Gradient onto my needles. I have also been inspired to get into lighter weight yarns and have bought up a stash of gorgeous sock yarn which I’m hoping to turn into some winter woolies for myself and W.

I’m even in the contemplation phase of my first major lace project. I knit a lace shawl in a fluffy yarn to wear to a friend’s winter wedding many years ago but at that stage had no idea about checking gauge or blocking. Needless to say, it was a mild to moderate disaster. I am looking forward to venturing into lace again with the years of experience and knowledge – and the expert advice of my fellows Ravelers – now in my toolkit.

Knitting Baby Stuff: Composite Colour Craze & My First Frogging

Following my recent mad hurried knitting for a newly arrived babe, I did a quick audit of expected arrivals and discovered I had a lot of knitting to do quick smart! Another arrival came this week, there’s another due any minute, two more in May and another in August. And that’s assuming I haven’t forgotten anyone. With two of my own projects still on the go, it’s a case of too much knitting and not enough time! But you’ll get no complaints from me!

So, digging through my stash and armed with my husband’s trusting kitchen scales, I managed to find enough yarn to turn out these cute little multi-coloured versions of the trusty Composite by Pekapeka. More information on the pattern here.

IMG_5855

Composite by Pekapeka using Louisa Harding Grace Silk & Wool. Leftovers from my wedding bouquet.

IMG_5856

Composite by Pekapeka using stash scraps in Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk DK.

I’m now eyeing off the last remains of my rainbow yarn and wondering whether there’s another Composite there. It’ll either be glorious or hideous. I guess the only way to find out is to cast on!


One of my two non-impending-arrival projects, is this Debbie Bliss dressing gown for W. I cast on for the 24 month size some time ago and was loving the smooth rows and rows of stocking stitch. More on that here. A nice easy in-front-of-the-telly knit. But as I got further into the project, I started to notice that the yarn was disappearing quicker than I expected. I quickly got online and emailed Loveknitting.com (the source of my yarn) to get my hands on some extra balls from the same dye lot. They emailed me to confirm they had two balls left. But, unfortunately, they are only able to take orders for specific dye lots over the phone. As they are in the UK and I am in Australia and I happened to notice the yarn deficiency on a Saturday morning, it was a long and painful wait until their phone lines reopened Monday morning UK time. In that time, somehow, someone else had got their hands on one of my balls. So when I phoned through first thing, I managed to only get the very last ball of the dye lot and praying that Debbie Bliss’s pattern can’t possibly be out by two whole balls, I kept on knitting.

As I started the first sleeve already using my second last ball, I was hopeful, but not optimistic. As that ball finished up, still several centimetres from the end of my first sleeve my heart sank. A quick stitch count and I realised I’d somehow ended up a stitch out.

Hoping that I could get both sleeves from the two balls if I just increased my tension a smidge, I unravelled the first sleeve and reknit it taking care to give just a tiny bit of extra tension to my work.

But, as I started the second sleeve, already on my last ball, I knew it wasn’t going to work. I knit on regardless. I needed to prove it to myself. I didn’t want to unravel the whole project thinking I didn’t have enough yarn. I needed to know.

But two thirds of the way into the last sleeve, with a disappointingly small ball trailing behind me, I pulled out the kitchen scales once more. I weighed the completed sleeve. 52g. I weighed the sleeve in progress with the needle and the remaining yarn ball. 48g. I weighed my other needle. 8g. No matter which way I looked at it. I had proof that I did not have enough yarn. I was trying to make a 52g sleeve with 40g of wool.

As I set about the task of rewinding balls from a fast unravelling project – much to the delight of W who watched the ball winder with intense fascination – the word “frogged” came to me. I recalled seeing it as an option on the state of a project on Ravelry. Finished. In progress. Hibernating. Frogged. This must be frogging, I thought.

IMG_5847

Ten balls of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran post frogging.

A quick Google confirms that frogging is a term for unravelling a whole project. Apparently derived from the action required. ‘Rip it’ sounds like a frog. I also discovered that to un-knit one stitch at a time, something I do rather frequently when my episode of Law & Order has been too engrossing and I’ve made a mistake, is called ‘tink-ing’. ‘Tink’ being ‘knit’ backwards.

So, feeling like I have truly joined the ranks of the hardcore knitters, having frogged a whole project and expanded my knitting vocabulary in the process, I have cast on for the 18 month old size and am praying that Debbie Bliss’s pattern can’t possibly be out by three balls.

Knitting Baby Stuff: Lace & Simplicity

In the madness of life with an 8-month-old baby and a often busy work life, time got away from me and I completely failed to have a knit ready for the arrival of a friend’s baby girl last week. With no time to order yarn online or get to the yarn shop, I rummaged through my stash and my pattern books and decided on making this gorgeous knit again.

IMG_5732

Simple cap sleeve top with button. I didn’t oversew the button band as advised in the pattern as I had a baby with a massive head and know that neck opening just ain’t big enough for some heads.

I’ve made it once before and been very pleased with it on both occasions. With a little dedication to the cause, I managed to get it finished within a few days and once it’s finished blocking, will get it off in the post on Monday.

IMG_5738Pattern: Composite by Kelly Brooker of Pekapeka Design Studio (she also wrote this pattern… another go to favourite for new arrivals.)

Source: Ravelry

Price: Free!!

Yarn: Stash scraps – Sublime Cashmere Merino Silk DK. I think. Lost the ball band.

Needles: 80cm 3.5mm circular and 30cm 4mm circular – from different sets so they’re easy to tell apart.

This pattern knits up surprisingly quickly and is very pretty with little lace cap sleeves. Given the size, the concentration for the lace is only required for 13 rows so it’s still a suitable in-front-of-the-telly knit, though you may want to watch something not too challenging during the lace rows. There’s a slightly tricky section where you use both the small and large needles simultaneously, which Kelly describes in the pattern as being “a bit like playing with an octopus”, but as she also points out, it only lasts a few rows so it’s manageable.

IMG_5734

Weighing up my chances of finishing the knit with yarn to spare.

I particularly liked that Kelly specified the weight of yarn required for the knit. This meant that by temporarily borrowing my husband’s baking scales I could work out whether I had enough yarn even though I was using pre-wound stash scraps which had been half used.

Pearls:

  • Weighing yarn is a great way to work out how much of a ball you have left and whether you’re likely to finish the project on your scraps
  • Lacework requires concentration, even when simple, so avoid watching anything too in-depth or challenging during those 13 rows!
  • The pattern calls for oversewing of the button band to join the two layers. I didn’t do this, as the button allows for the neck opening to fit over baby’s head and as the mother of a particularly large headed baby (greater than the 98th centile… no seriously, a lot greater!!) I know how frustrating a small neck opening can be.
  • This knits up quite small, but after blocking should be right to fit a baby for their first few months in this crazy world.
  • In writing this post, I’ve discovered the Pekapeka Design Studio page with a bunch of gorgeous free patterns to choose from! You can find them here!

Crochet: But the loveliest of all was the unicorn…

As I mentioned last post, I have been learning on the go making my first crochet stuffed toy for a friend’s baby. A unicorn!

IMG_5356

The loveliest of all was the unicorn.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 2.58.35 pm

I’m sure as an 8 year old, I never noticed the frighteningly sexual flavour to Pony’s sideways glance and perky bottomed posture. (Image from here)

This pattern is based on the My Little Pony dolls which were hideously popular in the late 1980s. As a child of Pritikin bread parents, I am now surprised that I had one, but I somehow got my hands on a glorious purple, blue and pink silky maned creature. Like many things from one’s own childhood the tackiness and awfulness (do ponies really need ridiculously long eyelashes and a coy smile?) is often lost in a sea of fond memories of a more innocent time. I’m sure as a 8 year old, I never noticed the frighteningly sexual flavour to Pony’s sideways glance and perky bottomed posture. The subtlety of this message is long gone, and the modern version of My Little Pony dolls seem to have done away with the pony aspect all together!

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 3.04.44 pm

The subtlety of My Little Pony’s sexuality is long gone. The modern version of a My Little Pony doll. (Image from here)

So, leaving the eyelashes off and adding some silver hooves, I embarked on the creation of a nostalgic, but hopefully not seductive, version of the beloved Pony.


Pattern: Friendship is Magic

Source: Knit One Awe Some blog (via Ravelry)

Price: Free!!

Yarn: Stash scraps. I used Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk DK (apricot, hot pink and light grey) and Morris & Sons Empire 8ply in yellow for the horn.

Hook: 3mm

This pattern is a single crochet version of another pattern. I made this version as the photos looked better. I have no where near enough experience with crochet to have any kind of stitch preference. In fact, I know so little about crochet, I had to look up what a single crochet stitch was as all my books start with double crochet as the simplest crochet. Turns out my books are English. This pattern is American. An American single crochet is an English double crochet, and an American double crochet is something completely different. A handy little conversion chart can be found here.

IMG_5316

A bamboo double-pointed knitting needle holds the head in position while I sew it on.

The benefit of the single crochet version of the pattern, I suspect, is that the weave of the finished product is tight making it good for stuffing without getting visible holes.

The style of this toy is something called amigurumi – a Japanese word which, from what I can gather, essentially means ‘cute crochet stuffed toy’. Not entirely sure one needs a specific word for that, but there you go.

The keys challenges of this pattern, besides getting the hang of crochet in general, were in the making up. It took me a while to perfect the technique for sewing pieces together neatly. Of course, if I’d looked it up, I’d have found a handy tutorial like this one and got it right from the start. I didn’t. So, the back legs are sewn on with the edges showing which irks me slightly. But not enough to try and pull them off and risk ruining the whole thing!

The back legs were hard to get into a good position and despite following the instructions in the pattern and tucking in the upper edge as described, they still splay a little too much for my liking giving the pony a slight straining forward type appearance. No risk of this Pony having a perky bottomed pose!

I made the eyes from felt. I drew eyes on paper, cut them out and then used them as stencils to cut out felt shapes. I was initially worried that sewing the felt in layers (white then blue then black) would cause a bulky lump of an eye, but I was pleasantly surprised by how flat the eye became as I sewed it. I stitched around the edge using a single strand of white wool for the white and blue pieces and then a single strand of black embroidery thread for the pupil. The little ‘sparkle’ was done with white again.

IMG_5306

The whites of the eyes are sewn on. My hand stitching makes it look a little ‘homemade’. But, not a major issue as it is homemade.

IMG_5310

The blue is sewn over the top. Doubt about pulling this off sets in and I ponder the possibility of having to remake the whole head.

IMG_5313

Surprisingly tolerable result.

IMG_5354

No risk of this pony having a perky bottomed pose.

The mane wasn’t nearly as tricky as I thought. I crocheted it all as one piece with increasing lengths as I went so it ended up short at the front and longer at the back. I’d have liked to do it thicker – as in more strands – but the limitations of using scrap stash yarn struck and I ran out of pink.

Pearls

  • Stuffing this really firmly helped it to stand up even though the legs are a bit wonky.
  • I did this in a spiral style (i.e. no single chain at the start of each round) and used a stitch maker to keep track of the start of each round
  • I found sewing pins to be too slippery when trying to put the pieces together to check positioning prior to sewing. They worked for small bits (eyes & ears) but for positioning larger sections (legs, neck, head) I used a double pointed bamboo knitting needle.

Speaking of nostalgia…

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 4.36.05 pm

Image from here.

While making this unicorn, I’ve had The Unicorn Song in my head. I know it from this Don Spencer LP which we had when I was growing up. I have become slightly obsessed with finding a copy of it for W.

I cannot find it.

In the same way my nostalgia lessens the tackiness of My Little Pony, I am quite convinced that the music of my childhood is no where near as stupid or irritating at the children’s music of today.

In asking friends for suggestions on children’s music that won’t make me pierce my own ear drums with hot pokers, a lot of people suggested I just let him listen to our ‘normal’ music. But, Rufus Wainwright will not teach him the different noises animals make, how to count to ten or let him know that little fishies should listen to their mothers if they don’t want to get lost at sea. Instead, we could send him off to preschool singing songs about cigarettes and chocolate milk. Not ideal.

The best modern children’s albums I’ve found so far are Laura Viers ‘Tumble Bee‘ and ‘For The Kids: Three‘. Both very very (disappointingly) American. I even find myself singing along with an American accent. Sigh.

The Unicorn Song by Irish Rovers
(Lyrics sourced here)

A long time ago, when the Earth was green
There was more kinds of animals than you’ve ever seen
They’d run around free while the Earth was being born
And the loveliest of all was the unicorn

There was green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you’re born
The loveliest of all was the unicorn

The Lord seen some sinning and it gave Him pain
And He says, “Stand back, I’m going to make it rain”
He says, “Hey Noah, I’ll tell you what to do
Build me a floating zoo,
and take some of those…

Green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you’re born
Don’t you forget my unicorns

Old Noah was there to answer the call
He finished up making the ark just as the rain started to fall
He marched the animals two by two
And he called out as they came through
Hey Lord,

I’ve got green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but Lord, I’m so forlorn
I just can’t find no unicorns”

And Noah looked out through the driving rain
Them unicorns were hiding, playing silly games
Kicking and splashing while the rain was falling
Oh, them silly unicorns

There was green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees
Noah cried, “Close the door because the rain is falling
And we just can’t wait for no unicorns”

The ark started moving, it drifted with the tide
The unicorns looked up from the rocks and they cried
And the waters came down and sort of floated them away
That’s why you never see unicorns to this very day

You’ll see green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you’re born
You’re never gonna see no unicorns