Fall Forecast

Like everyone else in the Midwest, I am sick and tired of our oppressive ‘heat bubble’.  Last month was the hottest ever on record.  I’m longing for cowl weather and hot tea, so to cheer myself up – I’m scouting fall knitting trends to start working on when the weather cools off.   One of the best things about being a knitter is getting to drool over spendy sweaters then scheme how to knit them up for yourself. Here’s are some of my inspirations for fall and how I plan to make them.

I’ve been eying mohair pullovers for a few seasons now and I think I may just be crazy enough to knit one myself.  I’m certainly not crazy enough to pay $168 for this one from Anthropologie.  I know – an oversized sweater in mohair would take forever to knit, but I really do think it could be a wardrobe staple that could be worn a variety of ways. Now the hard part, finding the right pattern.  You’d think there would be a million mohair crewneck sweater patterns out there – but you’d be wrong.  There are plenty of lacy or complicated versions out there, but what I like about this one is the simple silhouette. After much searching I found this pattern by Drops Design. This Drops Pullover is designed for a mohair/wool blend but I’d opt for a kidsilk mohair because I think it looks a little more polished.  I’d also go for a lighter color to show off the sheer quality of the yarn.  It looks like this is a pretty slim fitting pattern so I’d knit the next size up and lengthen it a few inches and add some width at the bottom to achieve the tunic look of the Anthropologie version.

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As the proud owner and operator of an italian style scooter, I can truly appreciate the irony of a sweater with all the edge of a leather biker jacket and the softness of a favorite afghan.  I’m crazy about the asymmetrical silhouette and the buttoned cowl neckline.  This sweater makes me want to hop on my ride and feel the wind, or at least the breeze, in my hair.

This pattern’s a bit of a splurge at $7, but hey – it’s better than paying $168 for it at Garnet Hill. For this copy-cat I think the Twenty Ten Cardigan by Rain Knitwear Designs on Ravelry is just perfect.  I like the texture even better that the original. Get on Ravelry and check her out – I love so many of her designs it’s almost hard to choose.  I’d knit this one in gray and simply make the sleeves full length and add a longer rib at the bottom of the body and sleeves. I like the look of the big full cowl neck folded over so I’d probably double the length of the collar while I was at it.

 

 

There’s something very flattering about the shape of this cardigan.  It’s basically a structured shrug with full length sleeves but with a very clever twist.  If you look closely you’ll see that each side of the sweater is knit with a different pattern.  A pretty lace pattern on the left (her right) and a basic  moss stitch on the right.  I’m kind of intrigued by the design and I’m already thinking of other ways to use it.

 

 

In trying to mimic this look,  I had to find a pattern that’s knit with two separate pieces for the front and back to incorporate the different stitch patterns.  Luckily, I found yet another great free pattern from Drops. This Drops Bolero is a perfect fit for this split personality sweater.  I’d knit the moss stitch side first to get the hang of the gauge and the decreases then calculate how to incorporate a diamond lace pattern into the other side.  That may be easier said than done, but I’m always up for a challenge.  Now all I’ve got to do is track down one of those awesome wood buttons!

So here’s hoping that Fall and inspiration find you soon.  Stay cool everyone.

Pom Pom Phenom Nursery

What do you get when you arm two crafty sisters with a pom pom maker and some felt?  The happiest nursery on the block.  There’s nothing more playful than a hand made pom pom, so what better way to welcome a future knitter into the world?  Here are a few of my favorite touches from my new niece’s nursery.

I don’t think anything but sweet dreams are possible sleeping under this mobile. The pink elephants were cut from craft store felt and assembled with a blanket stitch of embroidery thread.  Next, I threaded the elephants along with a combination of hand felted balls and mini pom poms onto a mobile frame and Voila!  A fiber lover’s dream.

Sure, fabric pennants are all over Etsy and in every baby photographer’s prop closet; but I think pom poms are the new pennant.  We strung pom poms garlands on the crib for color and in the windows.  The window poms are already a big hit with baby Allison.

We even made some giant pom poms to use as toys/decoration.  (Keep your eyes peeled for some really cute newborn photos featuring them!) These will be great for playing catch if Allison inherits her hand/eye coordination skills from her aunt.

You’ll see this baby has some talented crocheters in her life as well. I really love the little pink elephants, almost enough to learn to crochet.

 

 

This baby comes from a long line of crafty ladies. Everything else in this nursery was made especially for her too.  Her grandma sewed the curtains and bed linens, her auntie made the footstool and the paintings and her mama hand cut the paper garland around the top of the room. Even her daddy helped hang the custom wood trim around the room to match her furniture.  This nursery was a family affair for a much loved addition to the nest.

A very lucky girl indeed.

 

Coming Home

There.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  To say I’ve been doing some baby knitting lately would be an understatement.  When my beloved sister who taught me how to knit told me she was expecting a baby girl – we set into motion a plan to outfit this baby in all things adorable and knitted.  She’s been collecting baby pattern books for years, but when she decided to bring a rambunctious yarn-eating puppy into her life, I was appointed Head Baby Knitter.  I’ve been stockpiling said baby knits in order to showcase them in the best possible way – on an adorable baby.  Thus begins the first of many blog posts centered on my beautiful niece,  Allison May.  She was all of 48 hours old for her first photo shoot.

Coming home from the hospital is like starting your first day of Junior High, it is ALL about the outfit.

The coming home dress should of course be precious, but let’s face it: she’s going to wear it once.  There’s always the possibility it will be handed down to future relatives, but it seems silly to spend a fortune on fancy yarns and overly delicate patterns.  And because Allison was due to be born during one of the worst heat waves the Midwest has ever seen, cotton seemed the most reasonable yarn choice. This whole ensemble was made with just one skein of Lion Brand Cotton Ease.

Here are the patterns:

Hat: the aptly named Quick and Easy Baby Hat by Emma Walker.  I cheated and knit it on straight needles because I so dislike double points.  It’s designed with eyelet holes for a ribbon to be threaded around the brim, but the ribbon kept the brim from stretching so it was promptly discarded. Also, I added one extra row of garter stitch ribbing.  Not on purpose, just because my brain stopped working and I forgot how to translate a knit-in-the round pattern to straight needles.

The dress: a custom variation of the Baby Ribbon Dress by Tami Olsen made to match the Quick and Easy hat. I made it quite a bit shorter due to the heat wave, and used the border from the hat as the detail for the bottom hem and bodice of the dress.  This was a nice easy pattern to adapt and it happened to fit perfectly.

The booties: Quite possibly the most brilliant bootie pattern ever written.  The Chaussons Mignons, which translates “cute slippers”.  These are absurdly easy to make and quick enough that you won’t even care if they don’t fit (which these didn’t).  My sister and I are both petite but apparently this little lady inherited her feet from her 6’2″ father.  Thankfully she was kind enough to let us snap a few pictures of them before she kicked them off.  Garter stitch, simple shape and clever construction, what’s not to love?  I’m planning to make a big stockpile of these slippers using all my leftover yarn scraps to have for last minute baby gifts.

The nurse who escorted her out of the hospital was overheard commenting “That is the cutest going home outfit we’ve ever seen here“.

Mission accomplished.

 

Boy Genius

Everyone,  I mean everyone I know is having a baby right now.  That means a lot of baby shower knitting, and while there is an abundance of cute knitting patterns for little girls, I think the boys sometimes get the short end of the stick (or needle in this case).

You can imagine my delight when I came across this handsome pattern Baby Sophisticate by Linden Down on Ravelry.  It knits up really quickly with any worsted weight wool and it’s perfect for all the hipster babies you know.  This pattern is well written and totally chic; but I found the one thing I think it’s been missing…

 

 

Tiny leather elbow patches.  It’s what all the future professors will be wearing this fall.  And, my grandmother has supplied me with a lifetime stash of sustainable leather scraps.  Years ago she started collecting random leather vests and jackets from thrift stores then washed them, presumably to remove all the biker sweat, and cut them into leather scraps to use for crafting projects.  Love this idea – it’s cheap, chic and easy recycling.

I enjoyed this pattern so much I’ve already made it twice.  It’s now my go-to project when the next friend announces  “it’s a boy!”

 

Note that the pattern runs a little small, but that you can always substitute a bulkier wool.  I used Cascade’s ecological wool for the lighter sweater and I think the sizing worked out great.  And don’t forget to accessorize: be sure to include a tiny leather bound thesaurus and bubble pipe when you’re wrapping up this gift.

Let’s hear it for the boys.

Knitting is no joke!

Unless you’re Tom Hanks.  It’s Friday, so you probably don’t need any more reasons to smile, but just in case you do…I ran across this story and thought it was too funny not to share.

 

Julia Roberts gave the cast and crew on her new movie knitting tips after she turned up to the set one day and found everyone with needles and wool.

Co-star and director Tom Hanks thought it would be fun to pretend everyone had caught the actress’ knitting bug and sent out for needles and skeins of yarn from a nearby knitting store.

He then called on everyone to gather the next morning before Roberts showed up for work and take a quick lesson in knitting so grips, lighting men, extras and runners would all look like they knew what they were doing when his leading lady arrived.

And the prank worked – Roberts shrieked when she saw the cast and crew stitching and purling and offered to give them all tips.

The whole thing was caught on camera and it’s being used to promote Hanks and Roberts’ new film Larry Crowne.

The actress admits she was thrilled: “You walk into a room and 65 men are knitting; it catches your attention.”

Well played Tom. Touche’.

 

Ahoy Summer!

It’s here!  Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of the summer and a day to remember the service men and women who’ve given their lives for our country.  Maybe it’s the fact that both my grandfathers served in the Navy or memories all those sailor dresses my mother loved to photograph me in as a kid, but I’ve always had a soft spot for all things nautical.  So what better way to celebrate the weekend than in this summer top.

The Nostalgia Top by Marina Hayes was designed in a pink and purple color scheme but I thought the stripes and criss-crossed stripes just screamed navy and white.  I used the Knit Picks shine sport yarn that the pattern called for and couldn’t be happier with the results.  It’s soft but stretchy and the cotton/modal blend makes it perfect for summer.

Of course, with every project I make my share of mistakes so here are my words of wisdom in case you venture to make one for yourself.

When you’re figuring out which size to make, remember to take the chest measurement above your bust where the top will hit you. Also, keep in mind that there will naturally be a little give in the ribbing, so if you’re between sizes – I say go for the smaller one.

When you’re grafting the striped rectangle into a tube, pick up an equal number of stitches from the cast off edge and use the kitchener stitch method for a seamless look – here’s the tutorial I used

Also, as you’re picking up stitches along the striped edge for the top and bottom ribbing, instead of trying to figure out how to pick up 146 stitches evenly- just aim for 4 stitches every stripe.  Much easier to remember and a more uniform spacing.

Lastly, I double crossed the straps (unlike the pattern as pictured) mostly because the straps ended up too long when I tried it on.  It helps the top stay up a little better and in the end I think I actually prefer the look.

 

Hopefully these tips make yours the picture of perfection.  Happy Memorial Day and happy summer!

 

 

The Eco Hero

ou compost every table scrap, your bicycle has more miles on it than your car, you look your best in compact fluorescent light and in your vocabulary, ‘disposable’ is a four letter word. You are, an Eco Hero.  And what does every superhero need?  A cape.

You realize that our planet is our most precious resource and that taking care of it should make every day Earth Day. You get up at the crack of dawn to take your recycling to the curb, so who says you shouldn’t look great doing it?

I found a lovely little thick and thin yarn called ‘Refashion’ by Plymouth Yarns and knew it was destined to be a cape.  The versatile open collar makes is fun to wear a variety of ways and it’s bright blues and greens are as pretty as earth from space. This recycled wool and cashmere yarn will make your little green heart go pitter patter.

It’s a quick knit and unique enough that you can share your vision for a better planet with everyone who asks about it. Here’s the pattern in a .pdf

Eco Hero Cape

For more on how to save the planet one knit at a time, check out last year’s Earth Day post…. Happy Earth Day and happy knitting.

Mohair, Mo Patience

My first mohair project was nearly my last.  With thread sized yarn and size 2 needles, it took months to finish. I’m an instant gratification knitter, and a project that takes longer than a few days to finish is worse that writing a term paper.

But, the more I wore that scarf the more I loved the soft airy warmth of mohair and before I knew it, I was scouring ravelry for mohair patterns.

Then I stumbled upon the one…the one pattern that could entice me to pick up that super tiny, fuzzy little yarn and make a long term commitment.

The Mohair Minimalist top by Anna Kuduja has successfully redeemed mohair yarn for me.  The pattern is brilliantly simple and easily sized to fit perfectly. With less than two balls of mohair and knit entirely on circular needles with no seaming, it was a cinch to knit. But, that’s not to say it was without complication.  These complications were entirely user error of course, but I thought I’d share with you the errors of my ways to save you the trouble knitting yours. And so I present…the anatomy of a mohair sweater.

1. You’ve cast on, you’re rolling right along, you’re thinking to yourself…I’m gonna finish this thing in no time.  Don’t get cocky, because, boom…you double your stitches for the shoulders and cut your speed in half.

2. Whew, you made it to the shoulders.  Be sure you cast off the arm holes VERY loosely.  Because nobody wants the dreaded ‘sausage arm’ look.

2.5. You’ve been measuring the length from the arm holes and it looks like you just might finish using only one skein!  You start hunting for new patterns to use that second ball of mohair – well don’t. You’ve still got quite a ways to go.

3. Alright, the length from the arm hole seems plenty long right?  I bind off loosely, or so I thought. I can barely get my head through it.  I rip out the bind off edge, but not before the mohair puts up a valiant fight.  Ok, I bind off again with a size 11 needle so it’s extra loose.  Yikes, it’s a crop top!  The mohair and I go one more round while I rip the edge out again and continue on.  It’s at this point, that I refer back to the pattern which suggests the top to bottom length is about 60 cm, or 23.5 inches.  That’ll teach me to knit without reading directions.

4. I add another 7 inches and bind off for the last time with size 11 needles.  Full success!

Lessons learned: be patient, read the directions, and when those directions say bind off loosely..they really mean it.  All in all, I love this pattern and this sweater and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to try their hand at mohair.  Learn from my mistakes and you and mohair may just start a relationship as warm and fuzzy as this sweater.

 

 

the Organic Mushroom

One of my first designs ever was the Holy Cowl.  Next, because I had leftovers and because every good project deserves a matching accessory, came the cuffs.  And now, to top off this epic trilogy (pun intended)…

It’s the Organic Mushroom.  An original knit requested by blog follower Susie. This slouchy beret knits up in no time and completes your matching set.

Knit with Lion Brand’s lovely Natural Choice Organic Cotton (made in the USA and with all natural dyes), this hat is as cute as it is sustainable.  The perfect gift for your eco-smart friends.

for your knitting pleasure… The Organic Mushroom

Thanks again Susie for your inspiration, enjoy!

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When no Comliment is the best Compliment

Here in the Midwest we’ve been pretty well snowed in for over a week.  Sure, cabin fever begins to set in after a few days, but the bright side?  Plenty of extra time to catch up on knitting.  This lovely sweater, Cloudy Sunday by Hilary Smith Callis has been in my Ravely queue forever so I set out to check it off my list.

First, let me say this is one of the best patterns I’ve ever worked from. It has great descriptions and diagrams and it made this sweater a cinch to knit.  I love the huge cowl and the little cap sleeves and it requires almost no seaming or blocking. I finished it on Saturday night and wore it Sunday morning. And, upon wearing it I recieved the ultimate compliment – Several people told me that I looked nice but no one, not even my knit-literate friends asked me if I’d made it myself! 

I used about 1 1/2 hanks of Cascade Yarns Ecological wool to finish this sweater and the gauge swatch was very important.  This yarn has a smaller gauge that the pattern calls for so my swatch came out to 3.5″ rather than 4″ so you’ll need to knit it up a size to get a good fit. 

If you’re looking for a chic and easy sweater that will get noticed, this is your sweater.  The hardest thing about it will be resisting the urge to blurt out “I made it!” while wearing it. 

Aw heck, go ahead and claim it. After all those hours of knitting, you’ve earned it.