Knitting Baby Stuff: A Beanie for Bugsy

I have been so busy knitting things for newly arrived bairns, that my own gorgeous not-so wee one didn’t have a single hand knit item in his current wardrobe. Feeling—albeit a little irrationally—guilty about this, I dug out my stash to find something I could quickly turn into a warm winter beanie as the cold weather finally set in.

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Katia Montezuma in #105. An impulse buy from House of Yarn.

I found this gorgeous impulse buy from House of Yarn, measured W’s seriously large head, and cast on.

This is a very quick knit, but I still managed to pick up some new skills along the way. I had never come across a provisional cast-on before. This is a nifty technique for keeping your cast-on stitches ‘live’ so you can come back and knit onto the other side of them later. A quick YouTube got me up to scratch. I watched this and this to figure it out. In this pattern it is used to allow a kitchener stitch grafting rather than a seam to complete the beanie tube.

I have to look up kitchener stitch every single time! Knit, slip, purl, purl, slip, knit.

I knit this up within a day and had just enough yarn left over to make two delicious tassels. I worked out how to do that by watching the video here.

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Getting my provisional cast-on on.

 

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His urge to take the beanie off matched only by my wish for him to keep it on.

Pattern: Pea Green Beanie by Michelle Dupont

Source: Twoandsix blog (found via Ravelry)

Price: Free!!

Yarn: Katia Montezuma in colourway #105

Needles: 7.5mm

So, it turns out toddlers can sense your level of enthusiasm—even when you try very hard to act neutral—for them to love something and respond by immediately generating an equal measure of dislike! It took more than a month of offering this beanie before it was finally voluntarily donned! I should have known this given the number of times the nemesis dressing gown has been worn! But, I managed to finally get it on his head for some photos yesterday. Super cute, super warm. Even if it spends much of its life in a cupboard.

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Knitting Baby Stuff: Lessons & Lifelines

So, there’s a lot of catching up to do on the knitting I’ve been doing over the last few months.

As my due date for B.’s arrival approached, I became nervous that all that awaited him was a not-quite-half finished blanket, so put down my swaddle blanket project in favour of some quicker projects. I also realised that my own looming due date meant that the due dates of several friends expecting at the same time as me were looming too, and got further side tracked making sure there is something knit for their little bundles too. Here is what I learnt along the way.


Happy in Blue

This is a gorgeous frontless cardigan from Kelly Brooker designed for newborn skin-to-skin cuddles when they are brand new and it also stays out of the high risk zone when they inevitably chuck up a tummy full of milk all over their recently donned outfit. I made one in a variegated green for a friend and having some blue yarn which didn’t quite work in its intended project, I decided to whip one up for my then baby-to-be.

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Happy in Blue

The issue was, according to my husband’s baking scales, I only just had enough yarn. Just. So, I needed to be very scrupulous with my measurements and not knit a row more than absolutely necessary.

I did, however, become completely engrossed in a gripping plot line on Downton Abbey and knit my cardigan too long.

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Narrow edging due to yarn shortage.

Lesson #1: Retrospective Lifelines

Needing to unpick knitting is tedious. The cautious among us ‘tink’ back through the stitches one by one. But this was several rows and I had a gripping plot line to follow. Tinking was not an option.

The fearless among us will whip the needle out and rip back the rows, trusting in their ability to rethread the needle several rows back without twisting or dropping stitches. I am not fearless.

So, I did a quick Google and found this very handy link on how to insert a retrospective lifeline. Probably not a realistic option for lace knitting—where lifelines are a must in my book—but for quickly and safely ripping stockinette stitch back, this is a gem.

Lesson #2: Calculating when to cast off

Having successfully completed the body and sleeves of the cardigan with my yarn, I knew that my collar and front border was where the compromise was going to have to be made. I needed to calculate how much yarn was required for a row, so that I knew when to call it and cast off.

To do this I measured out my yarn in arms-length sections, hooking a stitch marker through the yarn at each section, then counted how many sections I used up in kitting one row of the edging. It was not a whole number. I can’t recall how many it was exactly, but it was that many and a bit. So, when I got to having ‘that many and a bit’ of yarn left, I commenced my game of yarn chicken and started to cast off.

You can guess who won. By about 30 stitches. Turns out ‘and a bit’ is not an accurate way to measure anything. So, having avoided the dreaded ‘tink’ earlier in the piece, I proceeded to ‘ffo-tsac’, which is almost as hard to do as it is to pronounce.

The finished item looks a little weird with its skinny edging, but it still found a lovely place in my newborn’s wardrobe—albeit it short lived due to his amazing ability to stack on kilograms seemingly overnight!

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Sleeve detail

Pattern: Newborn Vertebrae by Kelly Brooker

Source: Ravelry

Price: Free! As so many of Kelly Brooker’s fabulous newborn patterns are.

Yarn: Kiogu Painter’s Palette Premium Merino (KPPPM) in Blue

Needle: 2.75mm & 3.25mm circular needles


Raspberry & Plum Lace Dress

Increasingly my knitting addiction is being closely seconded by my yarn addiction. Having spent so many years of my knitting life knitting in solid colours, I have possibly over-compensated and gone a bit wild on gradient yarn. I love the look of them both in skeins and finished objects. I bought this skein with no particular project in mind, but then thought a lovely long lace dress might be the perfect way to show it off.

 

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Sweet heart detail.

Lesson #3: Knit a gauge swatch …and then use the information it gives you

The issue with gradient yarn is the maximum effect of the beautiful colour gradient is only achieved if you manage to find a project that uses up exactly one skein of yarn. No more. No less. This is a challenge where the length isn’t very flexible, or where a losing a game of yarn chicken is going to be difficult to face. I don’t like to play yarn chicken with a 14 row lace repeat. Throw in the need to do a different 13 row repeat for the last one and, well, I’m not game.

So, despite actually knitting a gauge swatch (see the perils of failing to do so here), I was so fearful of running out of my gradient that I convinced myself that a superwash yarn would stretch a lot with blocking (information I had no reason to actually believe!) and knit the dress using needles I knew would give me a smaller dress than required.

I did plan to play it a little by ear and add extra length if I found I had loads of extra yarn, but my yarn chicken phobia got the better of me and I pulled out of the lace repeats a touch early and missed out on the full beauty of this vampy gradient from Knit Circus as the brilliant hot pink finish did not make it onto the finished object.

When will I finally learn the gauge swatch lesson?!

Lesson #4: Lace Lifelines & Place Markers

This is probably something that lace knitters across the world would roll their eyes at with a collective sigh of ‘Well, duh!’, but it didn’t really cross my mind as a diligently thread myself a lifeline after my first lace repeat. I thread my lifeline through all my stitches and my place markers.

But a few rows on, I realised my error. The lifeline was pulling down with the markers. Not good. I rethread my lifeline skipping the markers as I went and ended up with what I was looking for. A little bit of lace insurance.

IMG_7750Pattern: Helen Joyce Dress by Taiga Hilliard Designs

Source: PDF download from Ravelry

Price: $6.50 USD

Yarn: KnitCircus Corriedale Sock in Vampire Boyfriend

Needle: 3.5mm circular… should have gone bigger.

 

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Matching hat of my own (plagaristic) design made from the delicious hot pink end of the gradient that didn’t quite make it to the main event.

So, despite aggressive blocking,  I ended up with a rather stumpy looking dress. Turns out superwash does not have ridiculous stretch properties. Who knew?!

Despite its shortcomings, my Raspberry & Plum dress found a very happy home. And the mother of its recipient assures me it’s not too ‘goth’ for her gorgeous baby girl.

And I even managed to knit up a matching beanie from the remaining yarn by modifying a newborn beanie pattern and adding the Helen Joyce lace detail to the edge.

 

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!

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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!

Knitting: A Silly Hat for the Silly Season

Having spent the last 12 months as a research fellow and then on unpaid maternity leave, my knitting projects have taken a slightly frugal turn and are, for the most part, directed at using up my current (rather excessive) yarn stash rather than buying new yarn. This has led to some fairly unsuccessful knits (e.g. 3/4 of a stripy sock aborted as I can’t for the life of me work out how to get the stripes to match up around the heel… of course rather insanely trying to knit from a pattern not written for stripes), but this little number is a winner.

Albeit rather silly and completely useless beyond the next week or two.

Pattern: Not Only Christmas Hat by Anna Rauf

Source: Ravelry

Price: Free!!

Yarn: Sublime Cashmerino Silk DK (scraps from stash)

Needles: 3.5mm and 4mm 41cm circulars; 4mm double pointed needles for when the circulars get too big.

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Having a son with an abnormally large head (yes, yes, it’s off the charts in his little Blue Book), I diligently measured his head prior to starting this knit (46cm! Lordy!) in the XS size (41 – 46cm). Despite that, a short way in, I checked the knit by trying to squeeze it on to him and the result was fairly instantaneous crying. Bad mum. So, I unravelled and ended up knitting the M size instead (48 – 54cm) and it fits without crying… just. So, I’d suggest measuring your intended hat wearer and going up a size (or two).

I also didn’t knit the tail of the hat as long as the pattern called for. My tail is about 11cm long, partly due to my stash running short and partly to avoid the tail being sucked and chewed on my the wearer. My pompom could probably not withstand the attack of slobber that would eventuate if W could see or reach it!

Pompoms are something I am no expert in and I find it hard to get them tied tight enough. The result is a pompom that is prone to shedding if pulled. Not ideal. This might also be because of the silk in the yarn making it a little extra slippery. If anyone has good pompom technique tips, please post in comments! I’m all ears!

Knitting: CWA Stash Scraps

I’ve been knitting up some little bits to sell at our upcoming CWA fundraiser. I’ve rummaged through my stash and discovered I’m particularly bad at keeping the ball bands so I have a stack of weird scraps – mostly bought during my trial and error period for my wedding bouquet – that I have no idea what they are made from.

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Crochet wedding bouquet I made for myself in 2013. Follow the link in the text for more information on the pattern and yarn.

I’ve knitted up some cheap presumably nylon acrylic blend into this stripy hat (Did you know there’s no ‘e’ in stripy? I didn’t.) and another incarnation of my favourite puerperium cardigan.

stripy hat

‘Hat’ from vintage Patons pattern and ‘Vintage Racing Helmet’ from a modern Sublime pattern.

Pattern: Hat (they got wildly creative with pattern names in the 70s)

Source: Page 5 of Patons Book 518 Baby Yarn 3 & 4ply – I got a copy from my mum but you can find it online here.

Yarn: 4ply acrylic (?) stash scraps

Needles: 2.75mm & 3.25mm. I knit on circulars as I didn’t have small enough straight needles, but the pattern is not knit in the round.

This was a nice easy knit and is actually a very cute little hat. The main challenge is sewing up and getting the stripes to line up with each other. I make up my knitting using mattress stitch and if not done perfectly it can end up off set a little which with stripes looks rubbish.

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In searching through my stash, I also discovered things I knitted and never gifted – like these booties – so have tarted them up with some ribbons and labels and they look fresh as a daisy.

CWA Knits

Pattern: Two-tone ‘Bovva’ Booties

Source: The second little Sublime hand knit book

Price: I bought this book so long ago… I have no idea. It’s $35 here.

Yarn: Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Slik DK

I did these ages ago and they are far from perfect. The thing that got me with the Sublime bootie patterns is that I found it hard to work out the front and back of the foot when it came to sewing in the sole. I think I actually managed to do one the opposite way to the other in this particular pair – – which may be why they are still in my stash. Hopefully, someone likes them enough to exchange them for a donation to the Balhannah Centre.

Knitting Baby Stuff: Rainbow Honeycomb Blanket

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It’s a pretty little blanket. Perfect for keeping W’s knees warm in the car and in the pram.

Pattern: Honeycomb Stroller Blanket by Terry Kimbrough, Susan Leitzsch and Lucie Sinkler

Source: Ravelry

Price: Free!!

Yarn: 8ply merino in lots of different colours

Needle: 4.5mm

I must acknowledge significant inspiration from Duschinka on Ravelry who made this rather drab looking pattern into something amazing! This pattern is surprisingly easy. The honeycombs are made by slipping two stitches from the neutral coloured row while knitting the band of colour and then knitting them again as you reach the next rows of neutral colour… if that makes sense.

Besides making honeycombs, the other new skill I learned doing this knit was twisting two colours together so that I could knit the border which had a vertical edge up either side without getting a gaping hole. This is called intarsia apparently. There’s a little video tutorial on it here.IMG_4124

Everywhere I go with this blanket – which is everywhere as it’s a favourite of W’s – I get compliments and assertions that I should make more and sell them on Etsy. Unfortunately, I’m not the world’s fastest knitter so to make it worth my while each blanket might need to retail for $500. The other drawback would be that it would get in the way of trying something new! Which is indeed one of my favourite things about knitting.

That being said, I am starting to think about making a new honeycomb blanket, maybe in different shades of the same colour, maybe in blues or greens. But first, I must knit the yarn I already have. Wonder if I can make a funky spin on the honeycomb blanket from my stash scraps…hmmm?

Pearls:

  • Knit the border as you go – I did this by knitting seven rows of garter stitch (114 stitches) to start, then knitting 7 stitches at the beginning and end of each row to form the borders up the sides then finishing with a further 7 rows of garter at the end.
  • Use the scraps from this project to make lots of rainbow gear – – nothing cuter than a little rainbow hat and romper suit! The hat is from this book and the romper suit was a slightly imperfect variation of this pattern. I knit with smaller needles and a smaller ply yarn in an attempt to make a newborn size from a 3 months size pattern… resulted in a very small outfit that W got very little use out of. Which is a shame. Super cute.
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I made this hat and romper from the blanket scraps. The romper was gorgeous but a bit of a failure (too small to get more than two wears out of it) and the hat was a failure due to the massive head W was born with. I think he wore it once!

20 Dec 2014
Addit: Here’s a picture of the wrong side to show the intarsia, sewn in ends and border a bit better.

wrong side

Crochet: The Country Women’s Association & An Owl Hat

So on Thursday evening I did something I never thought I would do. Indeed, it had never even crossed my mind that I would not do it, that’s how much I thought I would never do it. I joined the CWA. Yep, you heard me, the Country Women’s Association.

But before you envisage me in a hall full of purple-haired nannas in tartan box-pleat skirts munching on some egg and lettuce sandwiches and cup of luke-warm milky tea… let me set the record straight.

I have joined a bunch of young mums who have recently revived a local CWA branch as a way of getting out of the house (and away from the kids) once a month and organising social events and learning new skills. So, along I went to the pub on a Thursday, my knitting tucked under my arm.

Five of us (unfortunately, the 21 people who had RSVPed for the planned cheese & wine night—cancelled due to the cheese lady getting the flu—didn’t feel so enthused by a pub meal) met up for a rather good dinner, a glass of wine (thank you Feed Safe) and a natter over some knitting. And, for a CWA meeting, I had a spectacularly nice time!

The only official business of the night was deciding what we’ll enter in the crafty competitions the CWA are running. Competitions are not what our branch is really about. We’re more wine and cheese types, but the call for a “crochet novelty item” has me submitting this little number.IMG_3699

Unfortunately, I made this with left over cotton (from some delicious blankets I made… will have to post about them sometime!) which has very little stretch. Resulting in a fairly unforgiving fit when W was born with a massive head! Even if it had been the right size, the lack of stretch means it sits rather than fits on one’s head. A mistake I would not repeat. Next version will be in wool.

Pattern: Newborn Owl Hat (by Sarah from RepeatCrafterMe.com)

Yarn: Morris & Sons Avalon 10ply cotton (gorgeous yarn… not recommended for this project)

Also on the list of items for entry – a crochet coat hanger! Can I bring myself to do it? Inspiration here. We’ll see.