crocheted amish puzzle balls

pepperknit | crocheted amish puzzle balls

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.

pepperknit | crocheted 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.)

pepperknit | crocheted amish puzzle balls

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!

weaving into the storm

What is it about natural disasters that makes me want to weave? I broke in my 10-inch Schacht Cricket during Hurricane Irene a few years ago, and I haven’t touched it in a while—but I feel as though I’ve only pulled it out during long stretches forced at home. (Let’s not talk about how often I normally have long stretches at home—it’s not as if an incoming storm really changes things!) But the threats of a blizzard—complete with a total subway shutdown and a ban on all cars on roads after 11pm—got me itching to use it again.

pepperknit | woven scarf

This time, I turned to the space-dyed yarn I bought from Jill Draper Makes Stuff while at Vogue Knitting LIVE two weekends ago. I recently saw a few examples of deliberate-pooling woven scarves that were truly gorgeous (this one in particular has me swooning), and I wanted to play with the technique. The colorful skein of Hudson that I got (colorway Deep Breath, Cold Air) was not actually a palindrome skein; two patches of gray were divided by one dark teal and one light. But I went forward, matching the teal sections and the gray sections for the warp. I used this technique and it was quite easy, but I forgot all the steps of warping exactly, and a few strands got quite askew before I started weaving them up (not that anyone would notice).  For my weft I used a solid gray (Mourning Dove) in the same yarn; the result in the color sections is very gridded, and I like it a lot, even if it wasn’t what I’d envisioned happening.

I kept the tension on the warp and the weft rather even, and the end result is maybe a little light and loose—the sproingy yarn didn’t bounce back as much as I thought it would when it was taken out of tension. I really have no clue what I’m doing, but I think I did a good job of keeping my “gauge” even. However, I prefer a heavily beaten look—when the weft is scrunchy in the warp. I think in this case that would have highlighted the weft (solid gray) too much, though, so it’s all well and good that it worked out this way.

pepperknit | woven scarf

I started warping this around 4pm or so the night the storm was coming (I think), and I hemstitched it at around 10pm, including a break to cook and eat dinner (but no other real breaks). I still marvel at how fast weaving can be!

I went the full width of the 13″ loom, and ended up with a scarf 8 inches wide by 64 inches long. Kind of an awkwardly wide scarf but I didn’t want it to be narrow, either. This used up nearly all of each skein of yarn, too, so that was satisfying. The next morning we woke up to find that the blizzard had been all talk and no action; we had a nice good snowfall and some wind but not the three feet of snow that was predicted. I took the scarf with me while we went on a photowalk and set it in the snow to shoot it. Because the snow is so light and fluffy and the temp still so frigid, giving the scarf a good shake removed all the snow from it—and I set it down, snow-free. It was so windy and snowing so hard during the few minutes I was shooting that it ended up nearly covered in snow!

pepperknit | woven scarf


the year of the sheep!

The year of the sheep is coming up in February! Starting Feb 19, it’s the year for yarn-lovers of all kinds, and for those who honor the Chinese lunar calendar. One of my cousins on my Chinese side is expecting her first baby in March, and so I felt that this little girl needed something sheep-themed.

pepperknit | year of the sheep sweater

I used the basic formula I’ve done before for another cousin’s baby: the Placket-Neck Pullover from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts (the pdf is available free online here) with some charted colorwork. I actually sketched this little sheep while at lunch with Amy Herzog at TNNA; I wanted the sheep to have a “puffy” feeling to it. I marched them along the bottom edge (facing each other at the middle front and back to back in the middle back), and added a little contrast band underneath. Because of the legs and face, there was some juggling of 3 colors in a single row for a few rows, and I did normal Fair Isle for the legs, twisting the floats in the gaps, and then when I got to the heads I just cut the yarn and did each face as its own little patch of intarsia. Intarsia in the round normally wouldn’t work, but because the bottom row of the faces is just one stitch, I just pulled the yarn back behind to start the 3-stitch top of the head. A little bit of just “making it work” and it worked pretty well! Here’s the chart I used (using green for the sheep body because I didn’t want to color in the background!).

pepperknit | sheep chart

I knit the six-month size, so hopefully she’ll be able to wear it in the fall, while it’s still the Year of the Sheep. The background yarn is Cascade 220, the sheep’s fluff is Manos (from my Stonecutter), and the legs and face are Universal Deluxe Worsted. I did a three-needle bind-off for the underarms and everything else was done according to pattern. Oh, and I added that sweet little flower to the front in Mrs Crosby’s Carpet Bag.

pepperknit | year of the sheep sweater

pepperknit | year of the sheep sweater

Do you want to knit something sheepy, too? I’ve marked several great patterns on Ravelry and I’m sure I’ll be making more during the year. Obviously you’ll see similarities to my color choices and those in Julia Farwell-Clay’s Welcome to the Flock. I can’t resist all those little stuffed toys too. How will you celebrate the year of the sheep?

adventures in juicing

A few years ago at Vogue Knitting LIVE Chicago, I started trying green juices from a breakfast and lunch spot off the entrance, Freshii. I loved the taste, yes, but I also loved how it gave me a little zing—and while you’re working an event as intense as VK LIVE, well, you need a little zing. This year for the show in NYC, we found a breakfast and lunch spot to deliver that also had juices, and I went overboard: sometimes 3 juices in a day! How was I to go back to my juiceless lifestyle once I was back home? I debated for a few days but bit the bullet and bought a juicer.

I got the most basic Breville (which Bon Appetit recommended in the January issue), even though the next step up is only about $50 more. It arrived yesterday, and I gave it its inaugural spin last night. My favorite juice from Freshii and the place in NYC, Al Horno, is one that’s just kale, celery, cucumber, lemon, green apple, and spinach. I didn’t buy spinach so I did it without. Not really knowing anything about anything, I dropped a whole peeled lemon into the chute and went from there. And oh boy was it too much lemon! It was drinkable, but it was quite tart. This morning I set about fixing that.


This is exactly what I put into my juice this morning, and the quantity was pretty spot-on. Not quite a giant glassful, but a filling amount. That’s just half a lemon—perhaps still slightly high in lemon, but not puckering, and I’m probably too lazy to cut a lemon any further. In the future  I will up the kale, for sure, and perhaps up all the green veggies a bit.

my first homemade green juice

I obviously didn’t measure anything precisely, but taking the picture of the quantities will hopefully help me tomorrow morning when I make another juice. I won’t turn this into a juicing blog, I promise—but bear with me as I include a few successes so that I can recreate them for myself! And maybe this will help someone else. With that in mind, a few notes:

  • I found some sites that said “always peel citrus” and others that said “you could get away with about half a lemon’s worth of peel still on.” I asked a friend who loves juice and she immediately told me to peel it. Given how strong the lemon comes through, I’d hate to add a stronger lemon component—and I definitely don’t want the bitterness of the peel. What to do with all the lemon peels? Make candied peels!
  • The Breville product tag has a photograph of a woman holding an apple over the feed chute as if to drop it in whole. I used a whole apple for the photo because it was prettier, but in truth I had cut out the core before putting it in the chute. I don’t know if the core would be too tough for it—some sites I’ve read say to always core apples. Maybe Breville took that picture because it’s pretty.
  • Speaking of apple, this morning one of my apple pieces turned onto its flat side and couldn’t be pushed down into the blades any further—it was the last thing I juiced so I couldn’t push it with something else. In the future I’ll take care to keep it vertical if possible.
  • I bought organic celery, kale, etc., and hope that Fresh Direct continues to have them on sale in the future!
  • In general the juice seems more juice than particles, which I’m used to when I get juice from a shop. This is nice, in that it is a touch easier to drink, but is odd, because I’d really gotten used to that mouthfeel. Eh, it is what it is.
  • As to cleanup: honestly, not that bad. It has more parts than the Cuisinart but isn’t any more annoying to clean, and in fact seems to have fewer nooks and crannies. However, scrubbing the mesh strainer with the brush does take some time. Including emptying the full dishdrain before starting to wash, the process took ten minutes this morning. I’m kind of shocked it took so long, but that isn’t terrible. Because I live in petrifying fear that if the waste sits on the machine for any length of time I’ll never get it clean, I had the filter soaking within moments and had washed it all upon finishing my juice.

Next up, once I get to the store, will be a beet-carrot-apple-ginger recreation of another favorite juice from Al Horno. But for now, one of these in the morning is going to be quite fine.


wip: postage stamp quilt

Back around Christmas, when I was feeling the full weight of my stash, I decided to slash through my scraps a bit, get that bin under control, and start making more things out of leftovers from past projects. So one afternoon—until my wrists started to ache, in fact!—I cut all my scraps into 2.5″ squares however I could.

scrap squares

Of course, not being a sampling of all the fabrics in my stash, there was only so much I could envision doing with them. I’d kept them organized by color, so I thought about slightly organized 9 patches, in coordinated color schemes, which I’ve seen others do and really liked. I arranged and rearranged the blocks a few times and just wasn’t feeling it. So I just set out a 6×6 grid of them, pulled at random, and walked away.

Walking away was really key here because I thought it looked nice when I pulled the fabrics but it was only a while later, when I walked past the table, that the block really sang for me. Seeing it from afar made me happy, and so I sewed it up right away. I dumped all the squares into a bag so I could pull even more randomly, and I made another, and another—in just that one night I made 4 blocks. With each one I’d determine an initial layout quickly, then walk away, sit on the couch for a bit, and then come back to see if I wanted to swap out a block or flip the placement of two.

postage stamp blocks

A few days later, I made two more.

postage stamp blocks

It is amazing to me that I dipped into my scraps, which filled a relatively small plastic bin, and suddenly had the equivalent of a piece of fabric that’s 48 x 24! Obviously now that I’ve started I want to keep going forever—I’m not going to stop at a baby sized quilt; this one will be for me! A highlight of all the fabrics I had in my first years of sewing? What a precious thing. This means that the next time I feel up for an afternoon of cutting, I’m going to sneak off 2.5″ strips from various fabrics that weren’t in the scrap bin, to flesh out the variety a bit more. I suppose I’ll be adding to it in bits and pieces over time, too.

I hope it isn’t too long before I come back to these blocks, and I hope it isn’t too long before I have enough area covered to make myself a blanket!