Simple, Soothing Squares

I am at a stage in life now when friends and family members are starting to have babies. Last year I made a baby blanket for my new nephew (the pattern is Bounce by TinCanKnits and I used 5 shades of Anchor Bay).

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This year I am making a blanket for my new niece. I am using another TinCanKnits pattern, Vivid, and I am using Anchor Bay yarn again (partly because it’s wonderful, and partly because I had a fair amount of yarn left over from my nephew’s blanket). Whereas Bounce is knit in rows, Vivid is comprised of many separate squares that are seamed together at the end. I’m using grey, purple, cream, and the two yellows from my nephew’s blanket. This is my planned layout:

Thalia's Dahlias2

The blanket squares only take a few hours each and are super satisfying to knit: the centers have just enough lace to be interesting without being overwhelming, and the borders of each square are calming garter knit in the round. By weighing my squares and doing some quick math I calculate that I should be able to get all 5 squares of each colour out of 1 skein. 

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I’ve just finished my fourth square: 1 each in grey, purple, cream, and light yellow. Do you think I can get this done by Christmas?

Hiking

My husband and I recently decided to start hiking again. There are so many beautiful trails within a few hours drive from us, and with Coronavirus being a fact of life now, hiking is a good way to get outside and exercise while staying away from people. Our eventual goal is to hike the entirety of the Foothills Trail in northern South Carolina.

The last weekend of June we hiked a section of the Foothills trail from Highway 107 to the trailhead at Oconee State Park. The hike was 4.6 miles each way, and we planned to camp overnight somewhere in the middle.

We started out with heavy packs and light hearts, and walked our way slowly to the trailhead. This section of trail is very beautiful. Green, somewhat hilly, and there are even a few sections of temperate rainforest with the most lovely flowering trees!

About a mile before we reached the trailhead we saw a sign for some hidden falls. We completed the first half of our hike, then retraced our steps for a mile and hiked the additional mile and a half to the falls.

What a beautiful place to rest! Our feet and legs were tired and sore, having walked over 7 miles that day, and it felt so good to soak them in the cool water.

My husband built me a small fire, and even though there wasn’t an official campsite, we set our tent up on the small patch of level ground we could find.

In the morning I knitted to the sound of the falling water.

Then it was time to pack up our gear and hike out. The 4.5 miles back to our car wasn’t bad, but we were both exhausted from our long hike the day before and from not sleeping well. We were glad to get off our feet and go home. Over the course of 2 days we had hiked just over 11 miles.

Note to Self

Note to self: when picking up a project that you haven’t worked on in 6 months, read the directions.

Exhibit A: I pulled my husband’s sweater out of the UFO pile this week. I last worked on this in December in hopes of it being ready in time for Christmas. Both fronts, the back, and one sleeve are finished. I would have finished it before the end of 2019 if I hadn’t injured my shoulder by working on it so much (note to self: when knitting a lot, I have to get some exercise to keep from getting injured). I wrote the pattern for this sweater, and I remember knitting the first sleeve, so I jumped right in, figuring I knew what I was doing.

WRONG! I worked six inches past the cuff, merrily increasing every 6th row. When I looked at the directions for how many increases to do, I saw that I was supposed to start out the sleeve by increasing every 4th row.

Riiiiiiiip. It’s amazing how quickly a sweater can be reduced back to yarn. What’s the old saying, the second time is the charm?

What to do with Swatches?

Several years ago I started saving my swatches. At the time I had some notion of how this could be a tangible record of past projects, especially items that were given away as gifts.

But as I accumulated more and more swatches I started to wonder if there was something I could do with them other than keep them in a shoebox. I pondered the conundrum and gradually an idea began to form: I could sew my swatches together into a patchwork blanket.

Obviously this won’t be an ideal solution for every swatch since some are oddly shaped or 3-dimensional, but I love the idea of taking something that would normally be discarded and making a memory blanket of sorts from it.

The upside of this plan is that the knitting is already completed, and all I have to do is the finishing. It also turns swatching into a part of an existing project, and not just a hurdle to clear before starting something new. The downside of the plan is that all the fun knitting is already done, leaving me with a million ends to deal with, and just as many seams to sew.

What do you do with your swatches?

2019 Year in Review

This is the time of year when so many of us take time to look back on what we did last year and plan ahead for the coming year. Here is what I made in 2019.

  • Knitting:
    • Finished Items: I finished 4 knitting projects in 2019, which is significantly lower than in past years. I’ve had a lot going on with work last year, which has cut into my crafting time. Also I’ve been doing a lot more non-knitting crafts and making a larger variety of items.
      • Cobbled Hat
      • Bounce Baby Blanket
      • Headset Hats for my work team
      • Secret Shawl (More details are coming later this year. Patience is a virtue.)
      • Various washcloths – this is an ongoing project as we wear through our existing stash of washcloths.

    • In Progress:
      • 3 shawls
      • 2 sweaters
      • A hat
      • Socks
      • Slippers

knitting in progress

  • Weaving:
    • Finished Items:
      • Hand towels – these were a log cabin colourwork pattern using worsted weight cotton, and I gave them to my mom before I got photos.
    • In Progress:
      • Handspun/mohair wrap

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  • Sewing:
    • Finished Items:
      • Checked Blouse
      • Sashiko Square
      • Plaid Circle Skirt (I have yet to blog about this, but rest assured, details and photos are coming.)
      • Regency era chemise
      • Small embroidery

    • In Progress:
      • English Paper Pieced Quilt
      • Burgundy Linen Dress – this is a mashup of a circle skirt, and a vest pattern that I adore.
      • Red Sleeveless Blouse – I started this before I got married. It’s time it was finished.
      • Converting a skirt to a tunic – I’m not sure if this project can be rescued, but I am determined to try!
      • Regency era short stays

  • Other Crafts:
    • Finished Items:
      • I have baked a lot of bread! My focus this year has been on sourdough.
      • My sister and I collaborated to make a Narnia-themed mobile for my nephew.

2019 has been a busy year! I can’t wait to see what 2020 holds!

I Finished the Blanket

I usually have a hard time getting large projects done. Having a deadline helps with that because it helps me push through that stage where I just can’t stand to look at the project anymore. That’s what it was like with my nephew’s baby blanket. I bought the yarn (Anchor Bay by Cascade) and pattern (Bounce by Tin Can Knits) and got started. The first colour sequence went satisfyingly quickly.

The second set of stripes went a little more slowly, and by the time I got to the 3rd stripey section I was ready to put the blanket down for a while.

Only, at that point the baby was due in less than a month. So I powered through and made myself work on it when I had time. I live far away from my family, so one of the main ways my nephew will know me is through my knitting. Knitting is important. Knitting is love.

I finished the knitting a week before my Sister-in-Law’s due date. That’s when I realized I had a massive problem: 80 ends to sew in.

Here again I wanted to throw in the towel. I thought about leaving a decorative fringe on one side of the blanket, but realized that could be dangerous. So I took a deep breath, turned on a movie, and got to work. It took me several evenings to sew all the ends in, but like everything else in life, if you work on it consistently it will eventually get done.

The yarn I used is a 50/50 cotton/superwash merino blend and is meant to be laundered like normal clothing. This is a huge reason I chose this yarn. Babies make messes, and cleanup needs to be as easy as possible. Once I finished sewing in the ends I screwed up my courage and put the blanket in the washer and dryer. It didn’t shrink or felt. In fact, it looked great coming out of the dryer…except that a few of the yarn tails had worked their way to the front. I didn’t see a long-term solution to this problem, so I left things as they are. With any luck this blanket will be chewed on and dragged around so much that a few visible ends will be the least of anyone’s worries.

Tiny Creatures Everywhere!

Last time I wrote, I told you about the blanket I was making for my nephew. I am pleased to tell you that he was born last week, and both he and his mother are home and doing well.

A while ago I asked my Sister-in-law if she wanted anything for her nursery, and she asked for a Narnia-themed baby mobile. I’d never made a mobile before, but I asked myself, how hard can it be? and dived right in. I saw 2 main options: knitting or felting. Felting seemed the faster and more detailed route, so that’s what I did.

I made a lion…

Lucy Pevensie…

Mr. Tumnus…

and a book.

I made the frame of the mobile with a medium and very thin dowel and some hemp cord.

I think it turned out quite nicely!

When I finished with it I sent it to my sister, who makes the most adorable tiny knitted animals.

She added a hedgehog and a rabbit…

a sheep…

and a bumblebee.

I couldn’t be more pleased with how the mobile turned out. I hope it sparks my nephew’s imagination for a long time to come.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

In August of 2017 I started knitting Portage, an open-front textured cardigan. I knit the first 6 inches of the raglan increases before I lost my place and couldn’t figure out what row I was on or what my stitch count should be. In the interest of sanity (and because I enjoy knitting and I didn’t want this to spoil it for me) I set the sweater aside for another day.

raglan-portage

This year I decided that the time had come to restart this beautiful sweater. I love the yarn and I’m always cold at work, so this would be such a useful item to add to my closet (ok, let’s be real – it will live at my desk). So I ripped my stitches out and re-swatched to make sure my gauge hadn’t changed drastically since the last time I cast on. Then I started the sweater again, and this time I used ALL THE STITCH MARKERS to make sure I didn’t lose my place (My mom sent me these Llama/Alpaca stitch markers. Isn’t she sweet? HI MOM!!).

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Friends, I am ecstatic to tell you that I finished the raglan increases correctly. Just to make sure I wouldn’t have to redo them again I ran a lifeline through the last increase row. You know, just in case. Now I’m working down the body slowly but surely. I am trying really hard to enjoy the knitting, but have a love/hate relationship with cables (I love to look at them and wear them, but hate to knit them), and the 1/1 cables that make up the whole back panel are driving me a little crazy. But I am soldiering on because this sweater is going to be so warm and cozy and I will have made it and it will be mine.

Ok, back to the grindstone. If I keep knitting on this maybe it will be done in a few years….

New Pattern! Drosseln Hat

Friends, I am so excited to tell you about my newest pattern, the Drosseln hat!

colorwork hat

This pattern was begun when the owner of my yarn store gave me a book of Medieval German embroidery patterns for my anniversary. As I flipped through the pages I was astounded at the beauty of the designs our foremothers used to portray the world around them. When I came to a page depicting two thrushes (drosseln) in a field of flowers I knew I had come upon something I wanted to knit. I used my own handspun and yarn from my honeymoon to create the first version of this design, and marked my place with Jane Austen stitch markers.

The pattern is written for a finished hat circumference of 21 inches (53.3cm) to fit head 21 inches (53.3cm) around. The patterned portion of the hat is extra thick, causing it to fit as if it has a small amount of negative ease. Sample gauge is included to make a smaller or larger hat (18 and 22 inches/45.5 and 58.5 cm).

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You can use a light fingering weight yarn held double or a light worsted weight for your CC, making this hat a great stashbuster. The colours really pop if one of your yarns is lightly variegated, or you can use solid or tonal colours for both yarns.

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From now until Christmas you can get the pattern for 25% off with the coupon code LoveMyLYS.

Finished Object: The 5-Year Hat

5 years is a long time. 5 years ago I had just graduated from college and gone on a trip to Europe: I was broke. It wasn’t a great time for jobs, so I was working part time and sharing a 1-bedroom apartment with 2 other girls (my “bedroom” was actually the dining room and my “door” was a curtain).

I was a new knitter, so I barely knew what I was doing and had no idea what good yarn was. But I was passionate about knitting, so I made do with what I had and somehow not everything I knit during that period was crap. I had found Ravelry by this time and I adored Tin Can Knits (I still adore them. They’re fabulous!). It was Christmas time, so I bought their Sitka Spruce hat pattern and some KnitPicks yarn (Wool of the Andes Superwash) and began to knit (note that I did not swatch).

knit beret

I had trouble with the pattern – not because it wasn’t a good pattern (Tin Can Knits patterns are awesome), but because I was a new knitter and I was still figuring the whole knitting thing out. By hook or by crook I finished the hat and then realized it was too big. It probably would have fit a giant perfectly. I stuck it in the washer and dryer and hoped it would shrink some…no dice. So I threw it in the bottom of my stash and started something else. I was really sad though. I had spent so much time (and a decent amount of money to me at the time) on this hat, only to have it not fit. I knew it was my fault because I wouldn’t take the time to swatch…but it still hurt, and from time to time it niggled at my brain.

handknit beret

I did a few google searches and found out that I could sew elastic thread inside the brim to tighten it up, so I bought some elastic thread and set to with gusto. I got halfway through hat surgery and tried it on to see how I was doing, only to find that now my beautiful hat was too small. The Horror! The Irony! The knitting goddess was really trying to beat this lesson into me: For the love of wool, swatch before you start! (For the record, I swatch pretty religiously now. I still dislike it.) I threw the hat and elastic back in the stash and there it has stayed for the last 4 1/2 years.

sew elastic thread into knitted brim

Today I pulled the hat out and found the elastic, determined to fix the darn hat once and for all. First I loosened the elastic I had already sewn in, then I sewed elastic into the rest of the brim. 30 minutes was all it took. Why did it take me 5 years to do 30 minutes’ work? Next time I need to amend my knitting remind me of the 5 year hat.

handknit beret