Despite the couple of sweaters you’ve seen lately, I really prefer making toys for babies. They have a longer life, given how quickly babies outgrow garments, and they allow for some fun and experimentation. They also are great for using up leftover bits of yarn and they’re just darn cute. I’m always favoriting toy patterns on Ravelry, and recently I came upon the Amish Puzzle Balls.
I’ve seen these puzzle balls as sewn projects as well, but I had a feeling crocheting them would be a million times easier than sewing one up. And I was right—these are mindless fun to make, and the results are so lovely. I had plenty of leftover Mrs. Crosby Carpet Bag yarn after finishing the entrelac bolster, so I made two, one the inverse of the other (color wedges or gray wedges). They’re not very large (they’re about 5 inches in diameter), but hopefully that means they’re good for little hands. The only “tricky” part of these is figuring how densely to stuff the wedges, and trying to put the same amount of stuffing in each. I definitely just did it by feel and it was fine. And as a note: These do not make for good group stitching nights. The wedges are made by increasing in every row, which basically means you are constantly counting. This was my plane crafting on the way to TNNA, but I discovered quickly there was absolutely no way to work on them while trying to have a conversation. I can watch TV with them, if the TV show is mindless, but anything requiring additional brain power rendered me useless. No Jeopardy while making these, for example.
(Though, I posit that trying to count while also trying to recall trivia might be the best kind of brain exercise there is! I was shocked at how difficult it was, actually.)
Sadly I used up all the gray I had, but there’s still plenty of the 4 other colors, and I’m considering some two-toned balls next!
Every time I wear this cowl when around people who know me, I get a surprised reaction. People say things like “It’s just not very . . . you.” When strangers see me in it, however, they go out of their way to compliment me and say they love the colors! I stepped far out of my comfort zone with these colors, and it’s been pretty rewarding.
Neon has been a trend lately, and though I’m not one to clamor to follow trends (my trend-following is mostly subconscious, which yeah, I know), for the magazine we highlighted neons recently. And we put some Manos—to me, a traditionally rustic, wooly yarn—in screaming neons on the cover. Which meant I had a skein each of a bunch of highlighter shades. Last summer when I was in Wisconsin, I threw the yarn and a crochet hook in my bag and started on a long chevron scarf. I finished it soon after the trip and started wearing it this past fall, but never got any pictures of it.
I confess I now have no idea what I did exactly but it was nothing special or outlandish as far as chevrons go. I wanted a pretty shallow zig zag, and I worked it in the round. I rotated through the three colors until it seemed tall enough. I might have made it taller. It’s long enough to double up, but it’s not snug to my neck so it’s best worn on transitional weather days, like I’m having while on a trip to the Pacific Northwest. I wore it while sightseeing in Seattle this week—and I have loads of pictures to share with you of all I’ve seen here!
I’ve been crocheting. I have no idea where this project came from, really. Years ago (in 2010!) I loved my friend Diana’s Frida skirt. I had knit several skirts and bought the same yarn as her to make my own. In a khaki color. That is not dissimilar from my own skin tone. In truth, I know what I was thinking: I have a khaki skirt that I practically lived in for years each summer until holes finally separated the waistband from the body of the skirt, and I thought to knit myself a staple that I’d wear just as much. I knit nearly the entire thing before getting up to the waist and worrying that it wouldn’t fit. Apparently instead of really trying it on and making a decision, I shoved it in a bag and hid it at the back of the yarn shelf.
Last week in a fit of pique I decided to straighten up the bookcase I use for a few yarns, ones that haven’t been packed up and stored in the closet properly. The piles were meant to artfully mimic those in a yarn store, but what I was ending up with was a waterfall of yarn that threatened to spill over any time I touched it. Some cleanup was in order. And lo and behold I found a few nearly finished projects languishing at the back, complete with needles in the stitches. One was this skirt, which I pulled off the needles and tried on. And it was terrible. The color looked horrendous on me, and while the waist was definitely destined to fit OK, I knew I would just never wear it. So I plopped down and ripped the whole thing out.
But what to do with such a yarn? No garment would make sense, as I do not want to wear that color on my body. Maybe a sophisticated baby blanket. Yes, that’s an idea. The yarn is lusciously soft and buttery so despite being cotton I think it would make a nice blanket. So I flipped through some crochet books and settled on a motif in Edie Eckman’s Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs. I happened to pick a square one, ha. It’s easy to memorize, I can bang out a half-dozen in an evening, and I feel pretty empowered to make a whole (baby) blanket (something I’ve never done before). We’ll see how long I last before I bore of the squares!
Back in 2012 I declared 2013 the year of sewing clothing. I failed! I sewed 3 garments, all with quilting cotton so they’re not particularly stellar examples of handmade clothing. Even though I didn’t actually accomplish much in this area, I started subscribing to garment sewing blogs by the dozens, learning a lot about construction, fit, and even fabric choices. I started purchasing fabric with garments in mind, and I feel comfortable that 2014 is going to have some clothing!
Here are highlights from the year, and it’s definitely not everything that I made. Several here need blog posts still, a few still need photo shoots! And I have a few knits that I know I photographed but I have searched everywhere and cannot find the shots, so I’ll have to do new photo shoots for those.
I’m excited to report that after a consultation with a hand surgeon (who wrote this awesome book with his wife (affiliate link)) and some exercises with this (the red one), my hands have been in much better shape! If I were actually diligent about doing the exercises I think I could be actually cured by now. Instead it’s taking a bit longer to get back to 100%, but I can knit again! I actually bought a sweater’s quantity of yarn at Rhinebeck so hopefully I’ll feel ready to get started on that soon, plus finish up all the WIPs that have languished while I was on the DL.
So here’s to healthy hands and even more creating with them this year, and for many years to come.
I almost didn’t do a wrap-up this year, but I just realized that I have done one every year for many many years now and why should I suddenly stop? First up, my knitting accomplishments for the year:
Who knew I was able to complete so much while at the same time whining about not being “able to knit” because of my thumb pain? There really isn’t such a dearth of knitting, is there? There are two missing projects: one is a design I did for a book that’s not coming out for a while yet so I probably shouldn’t show it to you anyway. I also knit a hat for a work giveaway that I didn’t document at all. Those coffee cup cozies were a little thing I did for Knit Simple magazine. They assigned me cozies, and I couldn’t decide which pattern to submit, so I showed Editor in Chief Carla Scott all of them, and she said “yes! we’ll do all three!” Ha.
I like that you can see how I used the same yarn for my Buckwheat as the hat for Carol; I should start making hats out of all my leftover yarn! Thanks again are due to Caro Sheridan for the photo shoots we were able to do this year, for Buckwheat, the Bulky Topper, and the green hat!
I’d declared 2012 “the year of the quilt” and I wasn’t wrong. It was definitely a year of sewing. With my injured thumb, it was far less painful to sew, so our entire dining room area was pretty much unusable as a place of eating. (“Be careful! Don’t spill on that!” gets old fast.) Here are all my quilty endeavors (plus an embroidery project that I never blogged):
That lion embroidery? I made that for my dear friend’s baby; because mom and I met while taking yoga together 6 days a week for a few years, I added “simhasana” to the embroidery (the Sanskrit for lion pose) and stitched the little lion’s tongue sticking out (like you do in the pose). Just a little touch of something personal, and a really cute result. The one in the lower right has yet to be shot in daylight, but that will come soon, and the one in the middle on the bottom actually is basically finished and has been in use but has never been photographed! I need to get on that. The quilting that I did this year was mostly on my tiny machine, but I did do a mix of machine and hand quilting on the star quilt that hasn’t been blogged. I feel really confident in my skills as a quilter now, too, so I’m really happy with what I did this year.
Earlier in the year the last of my bees finished up, so I have some bee blocks in my catalog of finished stuff:
I wasn’t good at documenting these, actually. And in fact, I may have never fully finished the Dresden plate in the bottom middle, but I don’t remember where I put the blocks-in-progress! (This is what happens when I actually clean the apartment.) I’m so glad that I participated in a total of 3 bees. You really gain so much skill and knowledge so quickly. I know that bees are tricky—I mean, you’re trusting other people to have the same standards and skills as you—but I also enjoyed being exposed to so many different kinds of blocks and ways of approaching a quilt. Actually, in my finished quilt mosaic are two of the bee quilts that I had made: the picnic blanket came from my Twitter Bee, and the stars (the unfinished one in the mosaic) was from KBeeC, a bee among my KBC friends. The third bee, the Solid 6, comprises most of my finished bee blocks in the mosaic above… But I picked a block for everyone to make that it turns out I really don’t like very much. I’m torn as to what to do with the blocks that were made for me, so I’m sitting on them until the right idea comes along.
What’s up for this year? Well, the month of January is going to be basically a rest from quilting. I’ve got two business trips, we have houseguests, and I’m just, I must confess, tired. I like having a clear dining room table! I’m enjoying just sitting on the couch watching TV when I get home—plus lately I’m so busy I get home late from work. But I’m sure when I’m back from TNNA things will come back—I intend this to be the year of sewn clothing! (Something that, despite having taken classes on the subject more than once, I am still quite intimidated by.) But I still have a bunch of quilt ideas swirling around in my brain that I can’t wait to make real. There will always be knitting, too, of course, don’t worry. Just this morning I bound off on a long-suffering project—stay tuned!