Category Archives: projects

JP’s Hobby Horse!

The hobby horse for my nephew is essentially done! And by essentially, I mean that I still need to finish stuffing it, weave in two ends, re-sew up the ears, and find a cane/dowel/broom handle to use as the ‘body’ of the horse. But that’s not really so VERY much left, is it? Right.

I do not have all that much experience knitting fair isle, so this was a really fun opportunity to experiment with color and tension while carrying yarn around back. My approach was to twist the two colors I was using around each other after every two stitches, to keep things nice and even. This worked out well, and now the ‘horse’ feels very thick because there is a double layer of yarn, so to speak. The pattern called for eyes to be sewn on using duplicate stitch, but I thought that buttons would be more fun and really pop.

I also changed the colors a bit. The pattern uses a full rainbow of colors, with an oatmeal/tan color as a neutral. While my nephew is turning two next month and might not mind a rainbow-colored toy now, I worried that in a few years he might feel like he shouldn’t have toys with rainbows on them, or be made fun of for playing with one. I struggled with this decision, because these kinds of stupid social pressures that we put on children (or really people in general) bother me a great deal, and part of me said, “I should teach him that it’s ok to be a boy and play with a toy that is rainbow-colored.” Ultimately, however, I concluded that he is two years old, this is a gift for him and not a political/social statement, and it is more important to make something that I think he will like than to ‘teach him a lesson’ with it. So I compromised and switched out purple for chocolate brown. The effect is to make the horse look more colorful than rainbow-y (I think, anyway. I don’t know, you guys let me know if I’m just being crazy here.)

Brandon thinks I should make the mane a little bit fuller than the pattern called for, as right now it looks a little like the horse is balding, or maybe like he has a mohawk. I’m still debating whether to add more or not, so if you have an opinion on the matter, please leave it in comments!

After working on my lace shawl for so long, this project felt like it knitted up in seconds, and my size 10 needles felt ginormous in my hands. I loved everything about this pattern – it was complex enough to be interesting and fun, but simple enough to not be frustrating. It is a very adaptable pattern, with a lot of room for experimentation with color or form. I considered doing something else for the ears besides knitting them on, for instance – maybe a piece of soft leather sewn on? – and there are plenty of other places for extra little touches to be added, such as the button eyes. The sky is the limit with this pattern!

I used Lamb’s Pride worsted weight yarn, 85% wool/15%mohair from Brown Sheep Company. One skein of each color was way more than enough, and I am now using the leftovers for a few fun little projects that I will be blogging about at a later time. The one thing about using this yarn that was a little annoying was that it is variable in its thickness, so at some parts of the horse there are little gaps where the yarn is thin. Other than that, I absolutely loved working with it, and I am planning to buy more for other projects in the future. If you are interested in buying some, there is a link to the company’s website here.

The pattern I used was in the Fall 2012 issue of Interweave Knits, my favorite knitting magazine, as discussed in a previous post. A link to pictures of all of this issue’s projects – and to subscribe to the magazine if you would like – can be found here. Finally, here is a picture of the magazine’s original hobby horse, which can be compared to my own take on it.

So, what do you guys think?

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Filed under Crafting, goals, knitting, projects, Uncategorized, Unfinished Projects

Ladies and Gentlemen…

Ladies and Gentlemen….at 1:06 this morning…..the shawl is completed.

I am in a sleep- and food-deprived daze…I have been knitting for 12 hours straight today, my homework is not submitted, and I have to be up at 6:00am (that’s five hours from now, for those of my readership who were not blessed with stellar math skills.) But the shawl is made. I can hold it and wrap it around myself and it is warming me up right now, and I don’t really feel capable of forming a coherent sentence right now I am so excited and confused. It’s taken almost three years to complete, six months of work, tens of thousands of stitches, hundreds of hours, but this piece is finally done, and I cannot wait to show it to you.

Even though the knitting is done, I still need to weave in ends, wash it, and block it, so I have made the decision to not share pictures until it is in its final, completed, beautiful form. The one thing I will share right now is this:

The Last Stitch

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Filed under Crafting, goals, Jane Sowerby, knitting, lace, Life, Lost shawl, portfolio, projects, shawl, The Cap Shawl, Uncategorized, Victorian Lace Today

My Nephew’s Birthday Present

Today was a great day! Why? Because I went to work for 8 hours and then followed it up with an hour of filling out tedious paperwork! Just kidding, it’s because my fall issue of Interweave Knits arrived in the mail, and with it, an idea for my nephew’s birthday present! My nephew is turning 2 in September, and picking out his present is a big freaking deal. Not only is he the most adorable, clever, fun, and sweet nephew ever (other than my other nephew, Riley), but he lives three and a half hours away, putting me pretty close to the top of the list of World’s Most Terrible Aunts. I don’t get to see him that often, and when I do, I feel like we just start to form a bond and then I have to leave again. It breaks my heart every time. Which is why picking out the perfect birthday present is so important! And I am hoping I found it.

First of all, let me just say that a subscription to a good magazine is one of the best gifts I can think of (though this is NOT the gift I’m getting for my nephew), which is why I am so happy that I was given a subscription to Interweave Knits for Christmas. In my opinion, they produce some of the best content, and some of the best, cutest, and – most importantly – most wearable* clothes of any knitting magazine I’ve seen.  Add to that their great online presence with excellent free content and videos, along with their attention to other crafts in addition to knitting, and I think they offer the best bang for your buck. Plus, there is the major point that I consistently like their patterns more than most other magazines, which tend to be hit or miss for me.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t overly fond of many of this issue’s patterns because they just didn’t happen to be my style, but the ones I liked I fell in love with. And one of these, is going to be my nephew’s birthday present. What is this magical item, you ask? It’s a hobby horse, and it’s freaking awesome.

For those of you who do not know what a hobby horse is, the ones you buy in the store look something like this:

Image

You can purchase this one at http://www.sunny-bears.com/inv/gund/hobby-horse.php

And the ones you make at home look something like this:

Image

This one can be found at http://www.ms-notsoperfect.com/2011/04/bugz-horsefly-costume.html

Mine was named Trigger; he was made by my mother and was loved to death. We still have him, but I think he’s missing a few facial features at this point. The point of this toy is that a small child with a humongous imagination will straddle this stick, hold it with one hand and the ‘reins’ with the other, and gallop around on his or her ‘horse’, having all kinds of dangerous and wonderful adventures. I loved this toy, and I am hoping my nephew will as well. It is coming at a good time, I think, considering his new fascination with ‘skipping’, which tends to look more like a gallop anyway.

I will post a pic as soon as I can, but for now suffice it to say that this one is very colorful, with a fair isle motif in big blocks of color all over it, and a funky blue mane sticking out the back!

*By this I mean that many knitwear designers either go too simple with their clothes, so they’re boring to knit and to wear, or too complex so the clothes just look silly and no one except a super model or movie star would actually wear them out in public (I’m looking at you, Vogue Knitting.) Interweave Knits strikes a good balance by featuring beautiful clothing that is complex and interesting, but has classic lines and styles that anyone would feel chic and comfortable wearing. This, I think, is the mark of truly good design.

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July 27, 2012 · 1:52 am

In The Middle

I am familiar with being in the middle. Born the middle of three daughters, I am of the opinion that the middle is a great place to be. At the very time that I was driving my older sister crazy, I knew exactly how she felt because my little sister was doing the same to me. When I was a jerk to my little sister, I knew what she was going through because my older sister had treated me the same way. This has given me a unique perspective on life, and I feel it has made me better able to see different points of view, and has made me a more compassionate person. However. Being in the middle is not always the best thing.

Anyone who has ever undertaken a lengthy project can attest to this: the middle sucks. You’ve already figured out how to accomplish what you need to, and now you’ve lost interest completely. You’ve already put hours/days/weeks/months of work into it, with the same or more left yet to do. What once was exciting and new is now boring as hell, and the idea of stabbing yourself in the eye with a spoon is preferable to spending one more minute on this stupid godforsaken project that you never wanted to start in the first place.

I have now been working on my Capstone project for two months, and we have two months left to go. And it shows. Morale is low, motivation is even lower, and the stress and craziness of finishing school and finding a job is sucking up all the time and energy we have, leaving none behind to work on our project. As producer, I am tasked with getting my team out of this bog, while I’m drowning in it right alongside them. I’m in it so deep it’s hard to see the way out, and harder still to drum up the motivation to start the long, hard slog. So what’s a girl to do? As with most things in life, I turn to knitting.

Looking around my apartment, I see a dozen projects that are waiting patiently for me to finish them after I put them down for ‘a short break’ during that boring middle section. Here’s my wall of shame:

The beginning of a sweater.
A scarf I started last week.
A scarf to match some fingertip-less gloves I made.
Detail
A lace scarf I started in high school.
A lace shawl started several years ago.
A lonely mitten.
A silk scarf for my mother.
Same scarf for my mother.
Musical gloves for my mother – sorry Mom!
The sleeve from the Sweater from Hell – look for this
again in an upcoming post!
Had to bring knitting to see Star Wars
Episode 1 in 3D, and this was it.
I only got this far because I ran out of yarn 😦

So clearly, I have been defeated by the dreaded middle a time or two in my day – this doesn’t even cover the projects sitting at my parent’s house! So, here are my three tips for getting over the hump and actually finishing projects, knitting and otherwise:

1. If you can afford to, give yourself a break from it; however, avoid giving yourself an open-ended break. Set a time or date when you will get back to it, and make sure you stick to it.

2. Try to remember the things that you loved about the project in the beginning – make yourself fall in love with it all over again. Staying enchanted can help you finish it!

3. Try looking at it from a different angle. Sick of that stupid cable running up the front of your sweater? Put that part on a stitch holder and get cracking on those sleeves you’ve been dying to try. Getting bogged down in paperwork? Switch to a more hands-on part of the project for a bit until you’re refreshed and ready for another go. When becoming bored and/or frustrated, working on a different part of the same project can help to keep you interested and sane.

How do you guys get over that hump in the middle of a big project? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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Filed under Advice, college, Family, In the Middle, knitting, Management, projects, Senior Team, Thoughts, Unfinished Projects, yarn

The Point of Counted Cross Stitch

At first glance, counted cross stitch seems like kind of a silly pursuit. Explaining it to someone usually starts off enthusiastically, and then trails off towards the end once the incredulous stares of the listener have broken through my outer crafting haze.

“So, I’m going to look at hundreds of tiny little boxes with different symbols in them on a big piece of graph paper, find the color thread that corresponds with that symbol, and then create an exact replica of the graph paper, box for box, on a piece of cloth with tiny stitched ‘x’s!” Right…

There are times when I am working on a cross stitch piece that I am baffled. ‘Why exactly am I doing this?’ I ask myself, ‘and why is it so freaking fun?’ It doesn’t look, sound, or in any way remotely seem like it would be an enjoyable pursuit. This craft can cause pain in the wrists and hands and inflammation in tendons from repetitive movement. It strains the eyes and can cause back and neck pain from bending over the cloth. This is a craft of patience; larger pieces require hundreds of hours to complete and often go unfinished for years. It is not a craft for the faint of heart.

And yet… I have gone for weeks at a time happily cross stitching for 8-10 hours per day, every day. I have used up whole vacations on cross stitching, and I sometimes find myself staying up until 3:00 in the morning with a looming 7:30 wake-up call, zoned into my work completely. Its simplicity is addictive, its rhythm mesmerizing.

Unlike knitting, where the end of a row can easily be used as a good stopping point, calling for a break in cross stitch is much more arbitrary. It is easy to get into a mindset of “just one more stitch, just one more” or “I’ll go to bed after I finish this section, this flower, this color….” Before you know it, five hours have gone by – and your piece looks practically the same as it did that morning.

Finishing a big cross stitch project is like running a marathon: you feel completely relieved, proud of yourself, and like you probably won’t do something like that again for a long while. But, as with those addicted to the rush of a good run, we cross stitchers inevitably get the itch in our fingers, start taking down the pattern books and idly flipping through pages. We are driven by the promise of a good cross stitch pattern – a rewarding finish, and a fantastic journey.

Below are some pictures of my current cross stitch project – a medieval sampler by my favorite fantasy cross stitch designer, Teresa Wentzler, in her book, The Best of Teresa Wentzler: Fantasy Collection. It’s got everything I like in a pattern – a story, a lot of detail, and an eye-catching finished piece.

A portion of the pattern
What the finished product will look like
My progress so far
Detail

 

Fun Fact: The only cross stitch piece I’ve done that I still have (read ‘have not given away’) is a tiny image of Henry Vlll that I picked up at the Tower of London last spring; it hangs on the wall of my apartment. The one of Queen Anne, still in its wrapper, sits un-stitched on my bookshelf after my boyfriend’s mom pointed out that it would probably be some sort of bad karma to have those two hanging up side by side in our place of residence.

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Filed under Cross Stitch, projects, Thoughts, Unfinished Projects

The Knitter’s Next Journey

I think it’s time. It’s been coming on for a while now, but I think the time might actually be just about here. With each new craft project I complete, I feel a sense of extreme happiness, pride, and relief, followed almost immediately by a feeling of shame and guilt. The words, “I didn’t really create this” scroll across my brain and I dump the shawl/scarf/hat/sweater into the closet. Whenever people compliment my knitting and say that it’s amazing that I can do stuff like that, all I can think to myself is that I’m a liar.

Ok, yes, technically I did create the thing that people are looking at. Technically, I picked out the yarn, needles, and pattern and then used my two hands to carefully stitch hundreds of little loops together and create the object that now can be used as a warmth-provider/beautiful accessory. Sometimes I have even spun or dyed the wool myself (I feel a bit better about those). But the truth is that, when it comes down to it, all I really did was follow a set of very well-written instructions. Someone else put tens or even hundreds of hours into writing that pattern – trying different techniques, working out the math, sketching and swatching and probably cursing in frustration at the stupid pattern that simply WON’T come out the way it is in the imagination.
Am I proud when I finish a difficult or particularly satisfying project? Yes, of course. The look on my mother’s face when she opened her cross stitch sampler Christmas present was priceless and I wouldn’t change it.
But in the end, it’s not really my own work. I often can’t sell it, and my sense of accomplishment only reaches skin deep. So, what’s to be done? Wallow in my feeling of un-accomplishment for the rest of forever? Don’t think so.
In less than four months, I will no longer be a college student, but a graduate, an alum, an adult (well, kind of an adult). I will be moving to a new city, with a new apartment and (hopefully) a new job. Let’s focus on the new apartment aspect. In my mind, I don’t really picture most of the apartment, I only have vague images of what it might look like that are a bit fuzzy around the edges. But one room/space stands out clearly in my mind. Lining the walls are bookcases with knitting books and novels, as well as sketch books, how-tos and magazines. Above and around a counter space with a sewing machine are storage spaces, cabinets, and drawers with craft supplies neatly categorized and cataloged. Natural light from a large window splashes onto a large wooden table with graph paper, pencils, and yarn scraps strewn about it, and one entire wall is made up of corkboard with various sketches, swatches, and half-finished pieces pinned to it. Next to the window, a computer screen shows design software with the beginning of a sweater, and a comfortable chair in front of it affords a view of the bustling city street below. The word “studio…” softly whispers its way across my mind whenever this happy daydream takes me, and a sigh of longing inevitably escapes me. This is my next goal, my next step in the knitter’s journey: design.
The first knitted item I created without a pattern –
a felted bag for my Nana to hang from her walker and carry
items with her. Closes with velcro, handles button on.

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Filed under college, Cross Stitch, Design, knitting, New Journey, projects

Knit for Those in Need

The event I put up in the sidebar did not leave a lot of space to explain the project my roommate Liz and I are working on right now, so I thought I would post about it as well!

Living in Burlington, winters become frighteningly cold, frighteningly fast, and anyone walking around downtown can see that we have our fair share of people in need of warm clothing as the temperature starts to drop. To address this problem, Liz and I thought it would be a great idea to combine two things we love – helping people and knitting! To this end, yesterday we went to our local yarn shop, Kaleidoscope Yarns (an AMAZING store, by the way), and picked up a skein each of Cascade Yarns Ecological Wool to get our project going. This is a bulky-weight yarn made of 100% undyed Peruvian Highland Wool; It is soft and warm, and very reasonably priced at $15 for roughly 437 yards. We are both working on simple garter stitch scarves right now, and we welcome anyone who would like to join us!

Our long-term goal is to get a group of people working on this project with us, and, depending on the response we get, try and team up with COTS, our local homeless shelter, Kaleidoscope Yarns, and our school. According to the COTS website, they are urgently in need of blankets for twin- or double- beds, for anyone who is feeling ambitious :). For now Liz and I will simply be walking around Burlington handing out our wearables, and we will take it from there. Our vision for the future involves the yarn and needles being paid for by the school (we’re poor! lol), and an organized group meeting to teach classes on knitting techniques, enjoy each others’ company, and knit for charity together. For now, though, we are just starting small and seeing where it takes us!

If you are interested in helping out:
We are looking for warmth over fashion – no acrylic yarns please! 🙂
Feel free to make anything you would like, in any size you would like – all donations are appreciated!
If you do not want to spend the money on postage to send your knitting to us, feel free to do the same thing in your own area! (Please make sure you are being safe if you choose the walk-around-and-distribute route over the donate-to-local-shelter route).
Level of knitting skill does not matter. Garments need to be functional, not perfect. 🙂
If you do decide to mail your knitting to us, please just put a note in your package specifying that what you are sending is for Knit for Those in Need.

Thanks for your help, and keep knitting! 🙂

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Filed under charity, Knit for Those in Need, knitting, projects