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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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The loveliest of all was the unicorn.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Surprisingly tolerable result.

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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…

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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

Knitting: A Stocking for W’s (second) Christmas

I had great intentions. They just got started a little late. So when I completed the fair isle part of this stocking at around 9pm on Christmas Eve, I finally conceded that this was not going to be a stocking for W’s first Christmas. His second Christmas would have to do.

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This project was inspired by the rediscovery of my own childhood Christmas stocking, looking a little worse for wear, at the bottom of a box full of tinsel and baubles. I recalled the joy of finding it stuffed with goodies on Christmas morning. My parents, rather cleverly, managed to elicit the delight of many many presents by individually wrapping parts of my present and stuffing them in my stocking – for example one year my stocking was stuffed with many little parcels, each a single brick of Duplo.

Keen for W to share in the delights of a stuffed stocking on Christmas morning, I decided to knit him one. I was after a classic style without too much busyness and something that was his, all his.

photo 3I modified this pattern to incorporate his initial. My first ever self-written fair isle pattern. Given I’m pretty new to fair isle, my execution isn’t awesome and there’s a bit of puckering around the edges. It was only as I reached the snowflake that I thought I’d better investigate techniques for carrying yarn across the back for large spans in fair isle knitting and I found the answer here. As a result my snowflake ain’t too bad. Not awesome, but not terrible.

My big mistakes of this knit were (a) using stocking stitch for the cuff – hello cuff curl – and (b) not increasing the stocking length sufficiently. As I knit this project using 8ply (DK) yarn and 3.75mm and 4.0mm needles, the sock ended up quite big but I didn’t increase the stocking length to compensate so the whole thing is a bit out of proportion.

So, either W will love his imperfect stocking and as he grows older see the imperfections as part of what makes it his, all his. Or my Virgo self will fold and do a different, better, perfect stocking in time for W’s second Christmas.

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Pattern: Nordic Star Stocking

Source: Millamia

Price: Free!!

Yarn: Scraps from my stash – Sublime Cashmerino Silk DK in Christmas colours

Needle: Straight needles, 3.75mm for cuff and 4.0mm for stocking and sock. Accidentally switched to my larger needle prematurely which makes the cuff not quite big enough to fold down over the stocking nicely.

Pearls: Given my fair isle skills are a little of the dire side, I used a life line technique prior to starting the snowflake. Came in very handy once I realised my massive long floats at the back needed fixing. You can find instructions on life lines here.

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: A Foray into Fair Isle

I’ve never done fair isle before. I have been terrified. Probably of discovering that I’m crap at it. I suspected I’d be crap at it. That I’d end up with some puckered and tangled mess. But, it turns out, I can do it! Albeit on a rather small scale at this point. The instructions for this project included the tip of carrying one colour on top and the other underneath and I was very impressed by how neat and tidy my wrong side looked! (Of course, I completely forgot to take a photo of it for you.)

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As well as being my first foray into fair isle, this is also the first toy I’ve made! Not sure it’s quite up to standard for tolerating the rough play of a 4-month-old (though I did sew the eyes with embroidery thread rather than using beads to keep it choke hazard free), I’m hoping that W will eventually have fun with his new mate, Lars. Might need to wait until he’s past the whole everything-must-go-in-my-mouth phase. Suspect Lars’s stuffing may get fairly feral if sucked on.

I blocked rather than steamed the clothing pieces as I made them and my snowballs required a bit of trial and error to get a good shape, but otherwise this was a well written pattern and I’m pretty chuffed with my results.

Pattern: Winter Mice (Lars)

Source: Mary Jane’s Tea Room (via Etsy)

Price: $5.52 (to be quite precise)

Yarn: I used Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk DK in Waterlily (005), Nutkin (275), Skipper (276) and Teddy Red (192) and scraps of some hideous pale pink nylon crap I had in my stash.

Needle: 2.75mm & 3mm straight needles

Now to make Lars a friend…

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.