Spring Blocking has Sprung

yarn blockingAfter a long grueling winter, fine weather has finally arrived in my hometown.  Toronto is budding with the promise of patio days and backyard barbecue nights.  Every deep breath seems to be filled with possibilities.

I recently picked up a project that has laid abandoned since last fall.  On a particularly dark day in October that held the certainty of a wicked storm, I went to my favourite yarn store and purchased what I can only describe as a stormy coloured skein of Madeline Tosh fingering weight.  It’s navy base and variegated tones match EVERY pair of jeans and the sky just before it rains.  Unfortunately, when I failed to finish the shawl before all the leaves had fallen and the frosts came, I tucked it away for the season.

I just last night finished the Clapo-Ktus shawl.  Too late for blocking, I left it for this morning.  I usually block my projects on a set of rubber mats on my living room floor, but when I woke to warmth and sunshine, I imagined sitting on the newly sprouted grass in the backyard and carefully pinning it out.  In practice, the lumpy uneven ground and blades of grass poking up through the mat joints proved less picturesque than I  had imagined.  I shifted the whole production over to the patio pavers and voila!  I spent a wonderful morning communing with nature AND my knitting.  A perfect combo.

In the warmth and light breezes, my project dried in record time.  I am now ready for the chilly public transit commutes that I subject myself to every morning.  I love my new shawl!  It was a super simple pattern and I highly recommend it.  Easy to knit in front of a good (or not so good) movie, in the car, or on your lunch break.  It looks impressive when done and with only one skein of approximately 420 yards of fingering weight, it produces quite a large finished piece.  I can’t wait to wear it on Monday morning.  And let’s be honest…anything that makes you excited about getting up on a Monday morning is worth eight months of waiting.knit shawl

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Runny Nose, Warm Heart

The second the temperature begins to drop in the fall until the first “shorts weather” day in the summer, my nose runs.  I have a tissue in every pocket of every jacket, jeans, apron and purse that I own.  I’ve become my mother.

Unfortunately, even with superhuman efforts and attention, many a rogue Kleenex has ended up mache’d to an entire load of laundry.  After one such incident, it occurred to me in one of those ah-ha moments that I have some beautiful vintage handkerchiefs in my textile collection simply collecting dust.  They haven’t been able to fulfill their mission in life…keeping my face clean, and my shirts lint free.  So I dug them out, washed them up and started using them.  They are beautiful, they are delicate and they are now so full of holes, they are destined for the bin.  Heart breaking.

My favourite hanky is falling apart

My favourite hanky is falling apart

What is a girl to do?  Well I’ve decided to make my own extensive set of USEABLE hankies.  I’ll start easy and work my way to elaborate.  I want to make sure that they hold up to the wash time and again before I start adding embroidery, crochet edging and painfully picking out threads to fashion hemstitched detail.

Here’s my plan.

I’m going to raid my quilt stash to find some appropriately cute fabric.  I’m going to tear up some old sheets.  I’m going to test different sizes, different materials and different weights, then I’m going to share all of my findings with you.  Soon enough we can all be dabbing our noses like classy ladies.  Or at least not walk around all day with tissue stuck on our backs.  Stay tuned!

The Season of the Sock

patons knit sockToday is just a normal day.  I’ve come home from work exhausted, stuck dinner in the oven and now I’m debating whether or not to take a nap or squeeze in some knitting.  It usually turns out to be a combination of the two.  I raise my eyebrows really high in the hopes of keeping my eyes open while I finish a few rows and then lose the battle, waking to the sound of the oven alarm.

Tonight it’s roasted chicken and a pair of socks.  That doesn’t sound right.  I’m roasting a chicken and KNITTING a pair of socks.  That makes more sense.

Socks are my new thing.  I’ve always avoided them in the past.  I like quick projects because I don’t have much of an attention span and I’m constantly in a race to finish before I lose interest and the latest project gets added to the dreaded “Projects Pending Completion” file.  Socks use that intimidating skinny yarn too…and those itty bitty needles.  So much work for an item that rarely if ever gets seen.  Nope, socks were not the ideal project for me.  Until…

A friend knitted up her first pair.  Yes Miss Patti, I’m talking about you.  She loved them so much and they were so painfully cute and cheerful.  I eyed her multi-coloured gems, pawing at the soft fabric while I stood there in my yawn inducing grey store boughts.  I needed a pair of my own.  The next chance I got, I ran out in search of sock yarn.  There were so many choices!  Having never made a pair before and anticipating a fairly substantial learning curve, I purchased a ball? skein? I’m not sure what to call it, of Patons Kroy Socks FX.  It seemed a safe choice and the price was right.  I’m going to add here that I didn’t realise that I would need TWO balls of this for a pair of socks.  Burn on me.  I could have gotten some fancy yarn from my favourite boutique for that price!  Oh well, live and learn.  Or don’t learn as the case may be because after finishing my first pair, I went out and bought another two balls of Patons.  I was addicted.

I used a very basic pattern from the Patons Booklet, Next Steps Four, Socks and Slippers.  They turned out great!  I wanted to adjust the pattern a little bit to experiment with shape and size, so I got the same yarn again for the predictability.  I’m so excited that they are turning out perfectly!  The first pair took a couple of weeks and the second pair will only have taken a few days.  I made a mad dash to the yarn store last night to stock up on more adventurous choices for my next two pairs.

I’m a sock knitting convert.  I now have a burning desire to ONLY wear hand knit socks.  Because of this, all other projects will just have to wait until I’ve knit a pair of socks in every wild colour I can get my hands on.  I’ve threatened to wear socks and sandals so that all my efforts won’t have been in vain.  I want the world to see my beautiful socks.  So thank you Miss Patti for starting the obsession.  I’ll think of you with every light and lively step that I take in them.

Oh, and as for that question of nap or knit…from now on, napping will just have to be a project pending completion.

Valentine’s Day Craft Week: Painted Doily Tee’s

There is nothing more old-school Valentine’s Day than doilies.  Here is what I did with my doilies to make a fabulous gift that you can customize just for yourself or for someone special.  A hand painted t-shirt.

materials:

cotton t-shirt

fabric paint

brush or sponge

paper doily

directions:

  1. pre-wash t-shirt and iron if the material is wrinkly.
  2. inspect your doily to make sure that all of the decorative punch-outs are indeed punched out.  if not, poke out with a pin.
  3. place a piece of cardboard between the front and back of the t-shirt so that the paint doesn’t bleed through onto the second layer of fabric
  4. place doily where you would like the picture to bedoily t-shirt
  5. put a small amount of paint on your brush or sponge
  6. while holding doily firmly with one hand, stipple/dab paint over the whole picture being sure to overlap the scalloped edges slightly
  7. gently remove the doily. at this point you could add initials or a heart where there is a blank spot in the middledoily tee
  8. leave to completely dry
  9. your t-shirt is machine washable/dryable
  10. enjoy!doily t-shirt

Valentine’s Day Craft Week: I Love You With All My Knitted Heart

A very quick knit, this little heart is the perfect gift.  Give it as is, or add a magnet or potpourris to make it extra special.  I worked all day to get the perfect shape, so get out your needles and give it a try!Hand Knit Heart

materials:

any yarn that strikes your fancy (I used a worsted handpainted merino)

double pointed needles one or two sizes smaller than the suggested gauge (I used 3.5mm)

stitch holder or waste yarn

craft fill (polyester fill)

yarn needle

instructions:

co 4 stitches

row 1: knit all stitches through the front and the back (8 st on needles)

divide stitches as follows… needle 1 x 4, needle 2 x 2, needle 3 x 2 (needle one will hold all of the stitches for front of heart, two and three will hold all stitches for back of heart) and join to work in the round

row 2: needle one: k1, m1, k to last st, m1, k1  needle two: k1, m1, k to the end  needle three: k to the last st, m1, k1

row 3: k

repeat rows 2 and 3 until there are 40st (needle one:20, needle two:10, needle three:10)DSC_0003

Now divide for the rounded tops. Put the last 10st of needle one and all of the st of needle two onto a stitch holder or scrap yarn.  We’ll work those later.

Put the remaining live the stitches onto three dpn’s as follows… starting with the stitches from the original 1st needle, needle 1 x 6, needle 2 x 8, needle 3 x 6  and join to work in the round

row 1: k

row 2: *k3, k2tog* repeat (16 st)

row 3: k

row 4: *k2, k2tog* repeat (12 st)

row 5: k

row 6: *k1, k2tog* repeat (8st)

with yarn needle, draw tail through the remaining 8 stitches to bind off

Put the stitches from the waste yarn or holder back onto the dpn’s.  Again starting at the outside edge of the heart, needle one x 6st, needle two x 8st, needle three x 6 st

Repeat the same pattern as for the first side stopping mid-way to weave in all ends and stuff your heart with fill before your heart is all sealed up.

There will be a small gap left between the two bumps of your heart. Two little stitches will close up that gap.  Weave in the last end. You’re done!

Wow your loved one with the warmth of a fuzzy knitted heart 🙂

Valentine’s Day Craft Week: Gifts for the Bath Lover

Valentine’s Day is only nine days off and you’d like to gift something super special.  Maybe it’s for your mum or your girlfriend or co-worker.  Maybe it’s for your man.  Goodness knows he could use a fresh scent and some glowing skin too!  Here are two ideas easily accomplished in one short evening.

The Classic Washcloth:DSC_0054

This is the diagonal knit garter stitch dishcloth that everybody’s grandma knew how to make.  It can be made as big or as small as you’d like.  Small ones are easier to wash your face with and larger work well for the bath.  These can be thrown in the washer and dryer and get softer over time.  Be careful with the strongly coloured options as the colours run a tad in the first few washes.

materials:

100% cotton medium weight craft yarn (I used Bernat Handicrafter 42.5g/68yds)

4-5mm knitting needles (I used 4.5mm)

needle to weave in the ends

cast on 4 st

row 1: knit

row 2: k2, yo, k to the end

repeat row 2 until it’s as big as you like it!  I went until 44st on the needle, resulting in a 7″ square cloth. Then to start reducing…

k1, k2tog, yo, k2tog, k to the end

repeat this row until 4 st remain. bind off.  Weave in the ends. Enjoy!

Scented Bath Salts:DSC_0028 (2)

materials:

3 c. epsom salts

1 c. baking soda

scent of choice in either flower and/or essential oils

storage jar

directions:

mix together salt and baking soda, breaking up any lumps. mix in your scent, only using a few drops of oil so the salts don’t get too soggy.  you can add a few drops of food colouring if you like, but I prefer to leave as is so you can see the flower petals.

put into your jar.  I like Mason jars because they seal thoroughly and look super cute.  be careful around the tub with glass though.  you can use plastic, but the oils can sometimes react with the plastic. yuck.

I put extra rose petals and lavender on the top to make it look pretty.  not a lot though because you don’t want too many of those going down the drain.  Use your creative skills and make a personalized label, tuck a square of pretty fabric under the lid or wrap it in decorative twine.  I’ve used a vintage jar with glass lid, so I left mine as is.

Scent Ideas:

vanilla

citrus

sage

rosemary

chamomile

What to Do When You Screw Up One of Two

Ah, the familiar debate of the frequent crafter.  You dive into a “pair” project, meaning you’ve gotta turn out two.  Two socks, two mittens, two pillow cases…you get the idea.  You have a plan, but when number one turns out not so perfect, what to do with number two?

It all depends on how I’m feeling that day, and how involved the project.  You’re left with three choices…make a second identical to the first and live with the less than perfect.  Scrap the first and reuse the materials to make a superior product with the second following suit.  Or do as I so often have, make a complete second set learning from the lessons of the first and keep the oddball attempt in a closet or at the bottom of a basket somewhere.

This is the dilemma that I am having right now.  Having thought that I’d left my mittens at my brother’s house, and desperately needing a pair for the crazy cold weather we’re experiencing right now, I decided to knit up a quick pair.  I tore through the first at record speed only to discover that it is the tiniest bit too, well, tiny!

What to do, what to do… Did I mention that I found my original mittens safe and sound in the car?  Maybe I’ll make the decision to make the decision another day.

Maybe you can help me out!  Whatever you decide, I’ll do!