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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!).
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.
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?
Sometimes it’s just fun to play with your fabric stash along with a color wheel. This mini made last summer—woefully overdue to be sent to decorate a baby’s room—is just four string quilt blocks that follow the colors of the rainbow. Kona Snow marks the center of each string, and a variety of my favorite fabrics are here. Though it’s subtle, each color progression goes from dark to light toward the center. Looking at this again makes me want to get out my stash and start planning color stories all over again!
After I knit the Mama + Baby Monsters last year I was on a bit of a monster kick. I grabbed a copy of Rebecca Danger’s The Big Book of Knitted Monsters and picked a different blobby guy to knit for friends in Colorado. They took in a baby who needed care and love, and I realized that they probably weren’t going to get a traditional baby shower. So I knit Dot up in the same Baby Alpaca Grande Tweed by Plymouth Yarn, and even employed the same technique for making the little eyes. (I opted not to add the “dot” around one eye that gives the original her name.) I striped it to make it a little different and omg how cute is this guy!