posts tagged: knitting

let me talk to you about my hot water bottle

pepperknit | knit hot water bottle cover

Because I’m obsessed with it.

I didn’t know that it was something I needed in my life—I’d never had one before a few years ago—but truly I would not want to live without it. It was actually a gift, from Mohair South Africa, and it was in a lovely felted gray case with mohair in it. I put the water bottle aside and kind of forgot about it, to be honest. But then one month I had bad cramps and thought to fill it up with super-hot water, and I was immediately hooked. I probably use it every month of the year. It turns out mine is kind of on the small side, but I like it just fine. Someday I’ll upgrade to a big one like this.

It also comes in handy when I’m chilled and just can’t get warm, something that’s been happening a lot this winter. It’s fitting that I’m writing this on the first day of spring—when it snowed all day and we got a few inches of snow! I fill it up and put it in my lap, or at my feet, under a blanket, and within moments I’m toasty warm. When we went on the knitting retreat to Cape Cod for Presidents’ Day this year I brought it along because I was terrified that the summer-oriented rental house would be cold. I made the right call, and I tucked it, full of fresh boiling water, at my toes every night, like Laura Fricking Ingalls Wilder, only less potentially flammable.

pepperknit | knit hot water bottle cover

(Turns out you’re really not supposed to put boiling water in a hot water bottle, and you’re not supposed to fill it to full, so now I’m pretty much terrified that it’s going to combust at any minute. But I like it nice and plump and verrry hot!)

I decided it was time to knit it a special cover. Scraps of Malabrigo Worsted in fluorescent pink and yellow fit the bill. I used this pattern as my template, ultimately casting on 32 stitches on a side using Judy’s Magic Cast On and increasing to 36. (Confession: I cast on for this about three hundred times, fussing over the right number of stitches and then getting the math wrong several times once I’d decided on a course of action. It was something of a comedy of errors.) I wanted the colors to transition in a random ombre, which meant a little more fretting. Pam suggested I use an ombre stitch chart she’d worked up for one of her patterns (which I cannot find on her Ravelry page), and it is lovely but wasn’t as random as I wanted, so I used it as my jumping-off point… I’m so pleased with how it came out!

pepperknit | knit hot water bottle cover

aranami shawl

pepperknit | aranami shawl

I’ve always loved this shawl, ever since Olga first released it. But I never had the right yarns in my stash, and I knew I wanted something perfect. It took years before I found it! At VK LIVE this year, Tania and I were browsing booths together and the shawl came up—turns out we’ve both been itching to make it. So we started looking at yarns in the booths with it in mind specifically, and what did we find but Neighborhood Fiber Co’s ombre kits. We debated colors, debated the shades within colors, and ultimately decided to split this batch of teals. I took the yarn home with me because I knew I’d likely tackle it first, but I had no idea how fast I’d complete it!

Since each scallop is a single motif (you pick up stitches for each one), this shawl breaks up into small components and is thus entirely addictive. Eventually I timed how long it took to knit one scallop, and I clocked in at something like 28 minutes. Which means it was so easy to say “oh, just one more.”

pepperknit | aranami shawl

I didn’t weave in the ends as I went, because the method I was using didn’t seem to be creating the cleanest results. But every few days I’d weave in ends instead of knitting another scallop, and so in the end I didn’t have too many to deal with. I’ve never been so responsible about ends on a project before! But I was savoring every minute working on this shawl. I loved the yarn, and I was sad to be done with it when I finished.

pepperknit | aranami shawl

Mine seems to have come out on the small side, height-wise, but it plenty wide. I’m actually not even sure what size needle the pattern calls for—I basically grabbed what seemed right for the yarn and forged ahead. I think it’s perfect.

I shot the shawl on an absolutely freezing, wind-battered Cape Code shore in February, which is part of why the pictures are so random and not very good. I could barely feel my hands and was trying to move quickly! That is ice, and frozen froth, around the shawl. It was a gorgeous landscape, though, and me, Caro, Pam, and Specs took photos (Pam even did an FO shoot for a sweater! She took off her coat!) before dashing back to the car and the fireplace in our rental house.

frozen cape cod beach

frozen cape cod beach

frozen cape cod beach

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?

entrelac bolster

I’m an experienced knitter, not afraid of any technique, from steeking to intarsia. But I’d never entrelaced. Which is weird, because I’m friends with Rosemary Drysdale, the expert on the subject. And her newest book features a round swatch of entrelac that was, I thought, crying out to be made into a nice round pillow. Back at TNNA in June, I was given a few skeins of the new yarn Mrs. Crosby Carpet Bag, and I decided it was just the thing for my round pillow, so I cast on and got going.

I found that entrelac is super easy, but to get it to look really nice you have to be just a touch fussy, picking up sometimes more stitches than you need to ensure all holes are closed. I learned when you work in the round if you accidentally miss one segment you are screwed and have to frog days and days of work. And I also discovered that you can’t just keep sizing up, or you’ll end up with a rippling mess.

entrelac fail

This shouldn’t have surprised me: you can’t make a circle by doubling each round and expect it to stay flat. But I for some reason didn’t anticipate quite this much rippling—I figured I could wrestle it into a pillow with enough stuffing. But this was untenable, and it had to be abandoned.

Instead, I went with a basic entrelac, only I wasn’t satisfied with the successive rows of color that is standard. If the point, I figured, of entrelac was to make it look as if the bands were woven together, then the color should stay with the band, not the row. So I devised a color plan that would actually show the colors interlacing.

planning entrelac

I had a really hard time trying to draw this, also I wanted to be able to test different sequences, so I actually cut strips of paper and wove them together!

Just a few rows of entrelac high—I was excited for a low, wide pillow. I changed the color scheme for the second side slightly. Seaming them together posed a stumbling block, as joining the bias edges didn’t look neat no matter what I tried. In the end I did a round of hdc on each piece and the joined them with a flat crochet join. I don’t mind the gray “seam” that runs around the whole thing.

pepperknit | entrelac bolster


pepperknit | entrelac bolster


pepperknit | entrelac bolster

Then I started stuffing it. And stuffing it. And stuffing it. The yarn, a merino-silk blend, is soo lustrous and soft, but it is supple and took to a lot of stretching, and I was definitely not feeling up to sewing a small inner pillow out of fabric to contain it. So I just stuffed until it was nice and full, and in the end I got a significantly sized bolster! (I think it’s at least 2 feet long.) It lives on the couch and is so delightfully squishy and nice to curl up with. Sometimes I use it as an actual bolster, using it as a prop for some gentle yoga on the floor while watching TV. I love it!

2014 in review

How is it that two years in a row I declared it the “year of garment sewing,” but I have only one measly finished garment from 2014 to show? Oh well—maybe 2015 is the year? But even if I didn’t make much clothing (in fact, I had an epic failure of a Moss Mini Skirt), I have plenty of finished handmade goodness to show off! Much of it of course is still not blogged—how is it I resolve every year to blog more and then utterly neglect this space by the end of the year? Anyway, I scrolled through my Lightroom and mentally assessed my whole apartment and discovered I’d made a load of things this year!

pepperknit | finished knits in 2014

Let’s talk knitting. Not much, it’s true, given the continued pain I have in my hands. My first magazine cover, though, which was a particular thrill! I wholeheartedly enjoyed knitting Stonecutter, but the more I think about it the more likely I am to give it to my mother, who will wear it proudly when I am likely to ignore it in my sweater drawer. Those squishy monsters are hopefully making some cute babies happy, and though I really didn’t like my Follow Your Arrow upon completion, I wear it regularly! That pillow needs blogging…

pepperknit | finished sewing in 2014

Boy did I sew more quilts than I thought I did. Three full-sized quilts: two for wedding presents, one for us. Two baby quilts (one yet to be blogged, that I’d like to make into a pattern if I could get my act together to do so). Three minis, a set of coasters, and I threw that one garment in here because it’s made of fabric. I’ve been spending the end of the year slashing through my stash, trying to make a dent in the bins that are full to bursting! I am looking forward to making lots more in the coming year, as I think i’ve really got the hang of this quilting thing now. A year ago I was feeling confident but still like a novice; at this point, I think I know my stuff. My technique for basting still needs some work, and as a result I need lots more practice quilting items, but I do think my entry-level sewing machine is at least partly to blame here. It’s time to start saving up for something bigger and better.

pepperknit | finished embroidery in 2014

But what I hadn’t anticipated upon starting this look-back is just how much embroidery I did in 2014. I love how satisfying it is to complete a project; plus it’s so comparatively fast (not like knitting or quilting!). Some of these are the elaborate quilt labels I made, others were just to be framed on their own, and others were part of a group project—they’ll be incorporated into a quilt or wall hanging. My embroidery supplies are in a completely terrible jumble in a Ziploc bag because it seemed like a lark of a craft, but it seems I do it a lot more than I thought, so I ought to get that organized. Tucked in the corner there are two of the onesies I made for the baby shower of my friend; these are complete no-sew projects that are great activities for a shower!

I don’t think I can express more strongly how surprised I was at my turnout this year when I gathered all the photos together today. Before I figured out how much I’d knit, I started to write my paragraph about it and I could think of only two things off the top of my head. Then I started actually looking, and I found that I finished 9 things!? One of them a highly complex cabled sweater? Yeah, I knit quite a bit. How did I not crochet anything, though?

Here’s to more making in 2015! It’ll be a #yearofmaking!