December 28, 2015

Christmas Stockings

Christmas stockings are one of those things that everyone seems to have, but most are so impersonal it seems. I've had our blank red and white stockings from Walmart on hand for a while now with the intent to customize them with felt... but I never seem to get around to it. This week I decided to change that.

I bought different sheets of felt at the same time as the stockings, so when unpacking my Christmas decorations it was all right there.

I had initially thought to use embroidery thread and sew the felt down, but as that would take more skill and time than I currently had, I reached for the Fabri-tac glue. This stuff is amazing for felt and yarn.

I had ideas in mind already: Lovecraft-y tentacles for the hubby and a christmas Totoro for myself.
I sketched out the shape of the stocking on some old sheets of packing paper and then drew out the design I liked in the space. Then I cut out the template shapes onto the felt and cut out the felt shapes. After about two hours I had most of the large pieces and details cut, with more time for all those tentacle dots.

You might notice that the totoro in the picture above has an embossed pattern in the gray. I decided I didn't like how it looked and simply flipped the shape over and use the plain back.

This whole project was fairly quick and simple, and the certainly look much less boring on the wall now.

Of course I could go back and add embroidery in the future too...

Time to complete: 5 hours + drying time
Difficulty: Easy

December 21, 2015

White and Blue Pyramid Hat

Something about cold weather and rain just makes me feel like making these hats! After my last one with the viking design, I still had almost a full skein of white and a bit of blue. I wanted to use them up and so I looked around at more traditional fair isle patterns that were two color.

I came across a few motifs that I liked, one more traditional and the other more modern. I patterned them out on my hat grid and ended up with the results below.
78 stitches wide, traditional (top) and modern (bottom) designs

For some reason I really liked the bottom, and thought it would look really cool fading from blue into white at the top. Parts of it also reminded me of the symbol for earth from Stargate; one of my all time favorite movies, so I've started calling this one the pyramid hat.

I got through the base and the first row of pattern and realized that having only two colors improved the stretch quite a bit. This hat was shaping up to be at least 2 inches too large on my head. I had been using the same 78 stitches around and 6mm hook as before, but I needed to make a change to get this to fit. I scrapped it and started over.
arm for scale
So I went down to a 5.5mm I hook and took it down to 72 stitches. Taking it down in width also meant I had to tweak the design to fit as well.
72 stitches wide design redo
Keeping the smaller size in mind, I made my new foundation row 66 stitches, my second sc around row increased up to 72 (10sc, inc), leading into Row 1 of 72 waistcoat stitches around setting up the new pattern.

I got a few rows in when I got side tracked from this project by the ear warmers for my sister. I was a little worried that the design wouldn't show up right and in reality my stitches tend to be wider than the grid makes it seem. Surprisingly it seemed to be going well as I got through row 11. As usual, I was getting worried about how little blue I had left at this point, but just kept going and hoped for the best as I knew less of it would be needed as I went along.

design rows finished
This design while intricate looking actually has some fairly repetitive row elements that makes it easy to follow, and since the color changes tend to be 5 stitches wide or less, there is no need to worry about carrying colors along until you get up into row 17 or so.
Can't see the seam even through it is right there!
Front side.
After I finished the design rows, it was simply a matter of following the normal close off for these hats, slowly decreasing each row. This time I tried doing an invisible decrease with the waistcoat stitch, but it doesn't work as well as with amigurumi and normal single crochet.
Of course these hats really do look best with a pom, so I worked up a white one and added it to the crown. I really like how the design sort of fades out into the clean white top. Even the inside of this hat is pretty cool looking...

Something about the simplicity is just so refreshing. I guess thats part of why fair isle is so popular. It really is the most "knit" looking hat I have made to date. Quite a few people keep telling me to just learn to knit again already. The main factor holding me back from this is time... I know this hat took me about 8 hours to work up and that if I tried to knit it, it would be twice as long easily.

Maybe a new years resolution?

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time to complete: 8 hours

December 14, 2015

Sister Earwarmers

Sometimes I worry that I will run out of crochet projects. Inevitably, every time I start thinking that, I get a request. This time is no different.

I was sent a few images of some earwarmers by my sister, who found them cute and who assumed that I could make them "in my sleep". True, to a layperson they might look simple enough, but there were some questions I had about their construction, and images alone aren't really helpful. But she's four hours away, so it's not like I could go pick them up.
I kinda think this is knit...
Going off her picture, I tested a few stitches to see what would look the closest. Though the easiest way in crochet to get ribbing is to work in the back loops only, I knew this was not the case because when you do that you only see one loop on the surface, not the pair like you can see in her pictures. I used a 4.00mm G hook since the rows look pretty small.
stitch options, ended up using a modified version of #1
1. I first tried working alternate rows of back post single crochet and front post single crochets. This stitch forces the top of the stitch to face forward. I'm not sure I liked how the rows had a bit of space between them or how that in my swatch you can see they face different ways each row, though that would be solved by working in the round and I could then use just back post sc, which is what I ended up going with.

2. Next, I tried a free pattern by Little Monkey Crochet for a ribbed earwarmer that I thought might be similar. It uses a foundation half double crochet start with rows of half double crochet worked into the third loop created by the half double stitch. After working a few rounds in my swatch (as this doesn't work well in rows), I realized this was actually pretty close, but I didn't like the space between the rows.

3. Doing a quick internet search for crochet ribbing stitches I also tried a pattern where you alternate rows of single crochet and slip stitch, working into the back of the slip stitch to pop the top of the sc rows up to the front. These ribs looked a bit less pronounced than what I was created by the other option and had an even wider space between rows.

Now I just needed some yarn and some pretty appliqués. I went to Joann's first since they always have the best coupons and sales. After picking out a pair of cream flowers with little clear beads, I chose Lion Brand Wool-Ease in Fisherman, a light cream color, to match.

For some reason, once I had the yarn, I started working up option 3 with my G hook, and once again decided it wasn't right. Then I tried option 1 again, but this time in the round, which meant that I only used back post single crochets on each round, and this time I think I landed pretty dead on the correct look. All the v's are facing the right way and the ribs are snug right up next to each other with no space between. Although this time I thought my G hook was too small, so after pulling out my swatch, I started into the first real ear warmer with a 5.00m H hook.

Ribbed Ear Warmers
With I 5.5mm hook (after doing three, I feel like the extra stretch is needed from an I hook)
Rd 1. Foundation single crochet 80 stitches. Sl st to first, ch 1.
Rd 2-18. Back Post single crochet around each stitch. Sl st to first, ch 1.
Bind off leaving a long tail. Don't forget to use your starting tail to close the foundation row.

Thread your tail onto a yarn needle and connect the bottom of the first row of foundation single crochet and make a knot. You should still have plenty of tail left to now make the cinched area. Fold your wide band on itself a few times then sew the cinch in place going through all the folded layers. Wrap the yarn around the inside and go through your cinch a few more times to secure. Knot and hide your end.

Note: Feel free to adjust the number of stitches in the foundation row or the thickness of the band by doing less rows. It does have a good amount of stretch, but she specifically requested that it not be tight on her head. I know 80 feels loose without the gather, but once you add it, it's good.

I worked up a second one, as my brother's girlfriend also wanted one. And then I made a third to see if I could use of the rest of the yarn. So I got three bands from two skeins, with even a little left over.

Once they were finished, I then attached the appliqués. I used a bit of off white thread and a needle to tack the flowers down over the cinched area. I tried to leave the edges free while securing most of the appliqué down securely. This is because once you add the flowers on that area has next to no stretch anymore. I ended up using the smaller of the two in the package after doing the first with the rose design and it took up so much space that the stretch was significantly hampered. It still fits, but very snugly.

These are pretty cute and easy to make, but sometimes I feel like maybe just handing over the $20 bucks might be worth it. Of course if you have stuff on hand give it a go!

Difficulty: Easy
Time to compltete: Each band took about 3 hours to crochet. Then maybe another hour to finish it off, make the gather and sew the appliqué in place.

December 7, 2015

Go Vikings!

Despite my last four hats of these kind having Totoro on them, it is cool that now that I have the foundation pretty much nailed down, that I can design just about anything onto these fair isle hats.

I've still got half a skein or so of gray Cascade 220 Heathers, and had purchased new skeins of white and blue. This yarn is just so perfect for these hats. Again I used a 6mm hook this time and started with a row of 72 foundation single crochet. Next I increased up to 78 sc around. Then started into the waistcoat stitch and the design.

This pattern evolved over many different instances. I had thought to make it for my husband and have it say CHIEF, for his Norsechief roll. But he hardly ever wears hats like this, so I decided not to. Besides I had made him a totally sweet Viking helmet hat which he does sometimes wear.
Instead I decided to try out making one that I could wear to school games, since I have not made myself a Viking helmet. Plus now that I sort of work there, I thought it would be cool. And I keep toying with the idea of making a few to donate to the Marti Gras fundraising event in the spring, so this would be a good test. So here is the pattern I settled on. 

The word Viking is broken up because I wanted the cool helmet logo to be on the front center of the hat when the seam is to the back. I settled on making the hat blue background since I had the most of that color yarn. And I tried to get the decorative edging to also look like little V's.  
I used the same decrease rows from the last few hats, but switched up the colors a little so that I could make another set of the stipe detail on top.
Row 1: in blue still, *decrease, 11 stitches* (72)
Row 2: *decrease, 10 stitches* (66)
Row 3: switch to white *decrease, 9 stitches* (60)
Row 4: switch to gray *decrease, 8 stitches* (54)
Row 5: switch to white *decrease, 7 stitches* (48)
Row 6: switch to blue*decrease, 6 stitches* (42)
Row 7: *decrease, 5 stitches* (36)
Row 8: *decrease, 4 stitches* (30)
Row 9: *decrease, 3 stitches* (24)
Row 10: *decrease, 2 stitches* (18)
Row 11: *decrease, 1 stitches* (12)
Row 12: *decrease around * (6)
Weave in to close.

After closing it off I decided to add a pom to the top, as these hats usually look cuter with one. Since I had very little gray left, and I wanted to use it all up, I decided to make it a mostly gray pom with a little blue and white as well. 

I still of course have a massive amount of white left now, and perhaps 1/3 skein of blue left, so I'm going to have to figure out a nice pattern to use up the rest. 

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time to Complete: 10 hours

November 30, 2015

Sibling Set 2

A friend of my mom, from her bunco group, is having a baby boy. She also has a young daughter, and so my mom thought it would be nice to have a set of items made. We did something similar before for a set of three siblings. She requested a blanket for the new baby boy and a scarf for the daughter.
the finished set
I went through my stash, which has quite a large selection of baby yarns that I have been given, to see what would look nice together. I didn't have enough of one kind of yarn to make a full blanket, but I found a complimentary set of blues. I had nearly a full skein of the lighter one which I decided to use for the main body of the blanket and then use the darker to edge it. I could then use this darker yarn and another to tie into the sisters scarf.
leftover stash yarns to use up
Since I was not sure how much of the light yarn I had, I wanted a pattern that would start in the center and work out so I could see the finished size if I ran out. I figured that meant I would need to make a pretty basic large granny square blanket. But while looking through my pattern Evernote notebook I decided instead to make the Starburst Baby Blanket instead by the blog Creative Jewish Mom. No I am not Jewish, and I am not sure how I found the pattern, but it was pretty, simple and elegant looking. Figured I could easily make the center in the light stuff and then do the same sort of border in my darker yarn. Plus it is a center out pattern just like I wanted.

I have no idea what brand this yarn is that I am using. It is very soft, and I am pretty sure is a baby yarn, but it is a very large skein for baby yarn. That means that a F 3.75mm hook would be probably be alright to use, but since the pattern called for a J 6mm hook, I sort of compromised at a H 5.00mm hook. I know this means my blanket will probably be a bit smaller, but it is a baby blanket.

left is the original join, right is the reworked join
Starting off is pretty standard, but after about 8 rows I realized I did not like how the join area was turning out, so I ripped it out back down to the second row and made each row start with a chain 4 and then slip stitching the end into the third chain making that same ch1 space more defined, like on the other three sides.

I also decided to just stick with the corner pattern we started with rather than alternating between the two corner patterns that she gives options for. This meant that I could fairly easily let my hands run on auto pilot, which was good since I was listening to an audio book which required I pay attention to follow the plot. I used up the entire light skein of yarn for the center.

The border was mostly the same as in the pattern, with rows of sc around to create a thick edging. I used up the larger of the two yarn balls of the darker blue. At this point I stopped the blanket and started the scarf for the sister.
Way to short and wide, so I redid the whole thing.
I used a contrasting variegated yarn for hers in pinks, purple, blues and greens and just did a simple double crochet scarf (pattern below) with two stripes and scalloped edging on each end to tie it into the look of the blanket. By working this scarf now, I could then use up the dark blue yarn needed for the scarf and then safely use the rest for the blanket. It is important to note that since the dark blue I was using was baby yarn also, I had to use two strands held together to get the same thickness as the worsted acrylic variegated girly yarn.

wide scallops
I then finished up the blanket with a few more single crochet border rows and a scalloped edging. The scallops I made cover more area by skipping two sc on each side of the 5dc instead of just one sc. I did this to make the yarn go father and somehow I feel wider scallops are less girly.

finished blanket
Of course when I was done I measured up both these items and realized they both came out a little on the small side. The blanket was fine really, a standard baby blanket is around 32"x32", and mine stretches out to that size easily (unstretched it is 28" x 28"). The scarf on the other hand is 35" long, which is about a foot shorter than the last ones I made. So I frogged the whole thing and reworked it to be 12 dc across instead of 15. Just that small change increased the length to 44" and the width to 4". I think that makes it a better width for shorter necks anyway.

I really like the finished set. The blanket is just interesting enough to not be boring but still is a very usable item. Sometimes I worry baby blankets are too fancy or too large and are intimidating to then want to use for messy kids.

Difficulty: Easy
Time to complete: 20 hours

Scarf Pattern:
1. In main color yarn, Foundation double crochet 12 across.
2. Chain 2 and Turn, 12 dc across. Switch to blue at end of row.
3. Chain 2 and Turn, 12 dc across in blue or accent color yarn. Switch to main yarn.
4-5. Chain 2 and Turn, 12 dc across in main yarn. Switch to blue yarn at end.
6. Chain 2 and Turn, 12 dc across in accent/blue yarn. Switch to main yarn.
7-77. Chain 2 and Turn, 12 dc across in main yarn.
78-81. Repeat rows 3-6 for other ends stripes.
82-83. Chain 2 and Turn, 12 dc across in main yarn.
Scallops: Switch to blue or accent color and ch 1. Skip 1, and do 5 dc in next, skip 1 and slip stitch in next. Repeat two more times across for a total of three shells on the end. Bind off.
Go back to other end, attach accent yarn and complete three shells on the other end. Bind off.
Work in ends to finish.

November 23, 2015

Brown Phryne Mitts

Lately I have been concerned that I am amassing too much yarn. I'm sure this is a concern shared by crocheters and knitters alike. I try not to buy yarn until I have a project in mind for it. However, I have been given a lot by friends. And if something is on clearance sale at Joann and I want it, I usually pick up a few skeins.

Starting off small though, I have one skein of Kroy Sock yarn in Flax. Not sure how it got here or why there is only one skein, when most pairs of socks take two skeins, but I started looking around Ravelry for what I could do with what I had.
the finished mitt
There was a pattern for a pair of gloves that caught my eye. The pattern is called Phryne Purple Mitts by Vintage Crafts. Unfortunately the pattern is in French and no one else has made any. The blog post on it does have a chart, in Japanese (but it does help), and being an intelligent person I could kind of piece out what the pattern said, but uncertainty makes for wonky items.

Luckily I attended an excellent college, full of interesting people, who like languages! One of my acquaintances happens to be a bit of a linguist and does knit and crochet too. So, a huge Thank You goes out to Beth, who translated the pattern for me and then proceeded to test it as well.
Next time I would start with a foundation single crochet. You can see the thumb opening here.
The pattern calls for a 3.00mm hook, but after testing it, Beth recommended a larger hook. I know I have larger hands and so I went up to a 3.75mm hook for these mitts. The yarn has a bit of stretch and so does the pattern, so you might be able to go with a 3.5mm hook, but I liked them a little roomier.
Finished mitt and finger opening. Arm detail next. Obvious where the thumb opening is. (it's the wonky rows)
The pattern itself is a tiny bit confusing but once you get that it is a grid it makes more sense. The arm opening has these lovely little flowery shapes with picots.
Arm opening detail
The pdf pattern download from the blog does not have instructions for a thumb, but her pictures do. So once the main body of each mitt was made I just sort of made up and added a thumb around the opening left for it and then added a few shells on top to make it match the finger opening.
Finished mitts!
One final thought is that her mitts look shorter to me than mine, which makes me wonder if perhaps next time I couldn't use half double crochets to make it a little more compact and warm.
Anyway, the pattern used up just about all of the yarn perfectly, just like I hoped.
One less skein on the pile.

Time to complete: 6 hours
Difficulty: Easy +
Finished size: 10" long from hand to arm opening, a little less than 8 inches around un-stretched, but expands to fit over arm and hand nicely.

November 16, 2015

Freelance Design

I was looking back through my folders and realized I actually do quite a bit of random freelance design. Whether it is family, friends or work acquaintances, it is a broad category. Since it is always something new, it really keeps me growing and thinking. Thought I would use this post to share a few.

Inspirational Gift: Teachers need gifts that are both meaningful and cost effective. A personal poem that you share with your class is a great way to do it. With a little creativity, the line you love, is art.
Wedding Invites: I was asked to mock up some designs for a county themed wedding. Figured I would just share the bare bones, but you can see that these were pretty cool.

Dinner Party Invites: My brother and his girlfriend love to have dinner parties. Since they both work for country clubs, these are legit parties complete with formal invites and menus.
Webcomic Logo: A friend started a comic and asked for help designing the logo for the comic as well as general art and blog tips. Unfortunately, life got in the way of his comic continuing, but it was fun.
T Shirt Logos: These were for a support group on a t-shirt. Simple two-color baseball design for the group Line Drives for Lilly.

There are quite a few more, but I think you get the idea. I like turning people ideas into more polished versions of themselves. This concludes the design posts for now. Hope you enjoyed seeing a little of what else I can do.