Monday, December 22, 2014

Off the Needles: Never-Ending Baby Sweater!

I'm totally mixing up my usual blog schedule from now til the end of year (consider this your fair warning!), which is why I'm sharing a finished project today instead of waiting til Friday. Over the weekend, I managed to finish the sock yarn baby sweater that I've been intermittently working on since October. October! I guess that's what happens when you spend the better part of two months ignoring something on your needles.

At any rate, it's finished and I think it turned out pretty well, although I probably won't be knitting the same pattern again. I used a free pattern on Ravelry and let's just say you get what you pay for: my first indication that this wasn't going to become my go-to baby sweater pattern was the vagueness of some of the instructions. I feel competent enough to fill in the blanks and figure it out myself, but I do find it a little annoying - if I wanted to do that, I wouldn't have been looking for a pattern to knit from in the first place, I would have just winged it.

My pet peeve is when a pattern doesn't tell you how to do something such as decrease in a specific way, but instead says "increase x stitches across the row" or something equally vague (I'm willing to kinda let it slide in a free pattern, but it really infuriates me when I come across it in a paid pattern). My second indication that this wasn't the pattern for me was the picot-like effect the instructions for the neckline decreases produced, which I'm not a fan of. It's something I should have just corrected as I worked, but for whatever reason, I didn't.

Despite these of my criticisms, I do think I managed to make a pretty cute little baby sweater with a very special skein of yarn I'd been saving, and it will undoubtedly look adorable on one of my friends' babies which will be making their appearance in 2015.

Thanks for stopping by today - I'll be blogging as usual this Wednesday and Friday, so I hope you'll find some time to come back and see what else I've been up to!

Friday, December 19, 2014

FO Friday: Hoots & Handspun

Earlier this week, I gifted this crocheted owl pillow to my secret santa from my knitting group...none other than Allyson from the Sweatshop of Love!
I used the Owl Pillow pattern from Ana Paula Rimoli's book, Amigurumi at Home, and Swish Worsted, which is a lovely merino yarn from Knit Picks. Turns out it's great for crochet!

Since I don't have an actual work party to attend this time of year, the holiday party that my knitting group throws is pretty much THE celebration of the season for me (other than weekly visits to the Christkindlmarket). It was a great party this year, and my secret santa (Laura from Ink Whale Design - we are a talented group!!) spoiled me with some gorgeous yarn from Hazel Knits and these hilarious gift tags & card:
My other project for this week was answering the call put out on the Spinzilla blog for handspun bows made from yarns spun in this year's event. They'll be using the bows to create a colorful banner display at the TNNA Trade Show in January, and I strongly encourage my fellow #TeamLouet-ers and other Spinzilla spinners to represent! You can find out more here on the Spinzilla blog - there is even a photo tutorial to help you make your bows!

I found that all of my leftover bits of handspun yarn were perfect for the task at hand; here are the bows I'll be sending along:
It won't be long til I can finally reveal the gifts I've been knitting and crocheting. Til then, have a crafty weekend! 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The WIP Wednesday That Nearly Wasn't

I'm in the home stretch of my holiday gift-making; boxes have been shipped out to both Portland and Kansas City, and I have just a few gifts in progress for folks here in Chicago. I'm SO excited to be completely done so that I can start my reward projects!

I've also been trying to steal a few moments here and there to get this forlorn sock yarn sweater off the needles. It's now just two sleeves away from being done, though - that's certainly progress!?
Truth be told, I very nearly skipped writing this post since I'm sure everyone is as tired of seeing the glacial progress on the above project as I am....but then, these arrived on my doorstep:
Aren't they pretty? It's this year's limited edition gift set from Knitter's Pride which features their fancy new Marblz needles (web search "limited edition marblz gift set" to find online retailers who still have the set in stock, or you can click here to purchase from WEBS).
The colors are just incredible, and each needles' pattern is unique. I couldn't resist starting something new right away:
In other news, one of my finished projects from earlier this year was featured this week on the Knitting Daily blog - how cool is that?! Click here to check it out!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Snow Family KAL

File under: better late than never?! Over the weekend, I finally picked up this project and set to finishing it...of course, the official Snow Family KAL has long since finished.

Once I decided what I was going to use to weight down the snowmen, the rest came easily! The pattern calls for balloons filled with beans or plastic pellets, but I ended up some empty round containers that used to contain some sort of lotion or potion; I filled them with beans and then some yarn scraps to prevent excess rattling once inside the snowman. They did the trick and my little guys stand upright with no problems! I also decided to knit two sizes of the trees which I stacked to make one big one; my fake snow is once again provided by some lovely Louet spinning fiber!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Happy National Sweater Day!

Today marks the end of the Save the Children Pins and Needles Challenge, and it also happens to be National Sweater Day! If you missed out on a chance to knit a sweater for someone special during the challenge, don't worry! You can still make the world better with a sweater - just wear your favorite yarny masterpiece and pledge $5 to Save the Children today. It's that simple!

If you happen to live in Chicago, there is a fun celebration tonight at Nina in Wicker Park that's co-hosted by Heidi of the Hands Occupied blog. You can show off your sweater, donate $5 to Save the Children, and enjoy light refreshments and all the yarny goodness you can handle - click here for more details

I ended up making only one mini-sweater during the challenge, and now I need your help deciding which one of my fibery friends will get to wear it this winter. Last weekend, I posted on Instagram asking who wore it best, and now I am opening the floor to you, my lovely blog readers! Here are our lovely contestants: 

Small Squirrel (though he also kinda looks like a mouse?) - pattern from 50 Yards of Fun
Frances the Charismatic Monster
Jerry the Musical Monkey
Stuffed Ostrich from Malabrigo Book 3

Leave your vote in the comments below! 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Forget WIP Wednesday, Here's a Tiny Elf!

I'm coming down the home stretch for handmade gifts, but my dedication to the cause means there really isn't much I can share here on my blog these days. Luckily, I finished a fun project which I can't wait til Friday to share: a Tiny Elf

I whipped this little guy up really quickly in Spud & Chloe Sweater yarn - the pattern is available for free here on Ravelry. There is also a fun photo contest happening here on Ravelry where you can share photos of your Tiny Elf making mischief for a chance to win a grand prize!

So far, my Tiny Elf has....
...ridden an elephant....
...attempted to nab my morning tea...
...and then he tagged along to knit night and nabbed a tater tot as a snack!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Back to Blocking: 5 Favorite Tools

A few weeks ago, I shared a post about blocking handmade gifts; I thought I'd revisit the topic by sharing a few of my favorite time-saving tools to block finished projects with stellar results every time! This is by no means an exhaustive list of every useful item to have on hand - rather, it's a collection of my favorite blocking tools at the moment.
  1. Sock Blockers: Every now and again, I'm asked if it's necessary to invest in a pair of sock blockers. While they aren't exactly essential, it's undeniable that they make finished socks look extra-amazing (more about that here). Not only do I use sock blockers on all of my hand knit socks for gifting, I also use them on my own every time I wash them! 
  2. Blocking Mats: It was years (as in, at least 10) before I got a set of blocking mats. I always figured that using towels and/or clean cardboard was every bit as good as a blocking mat, and couldn't justify the expense. Then, as I started to do more and more loads of laundry, many of which just consisted of towels, I realized that blocking mats were a way to reduce the amount of towels needed for the blocking process. AHA! Now I'm totally in love with my blocking mats and use them constantly! 
  3. Plastic Bags: You read that right! Plastic shopping bags are really great for blocking shapely items. Not too long ago, I knit a pair of baby booties and a matching hat and used some plastic bags to stuff them and hold their shape while they were blocking, and it worked beautifully. Best of all, this tool is essentially free, since most places still insist on giving out plastic bags. While I'm a fan of reusable bags when I do my shopping, I do try to keep a stash of plastic bags on hand for blocking purposes. 
  4. Knitter's Pride Knit Blockers: Anyone who follows me on Instagram knows that I am completely obsessed with this relatively new product from Knitter's Pride. I cannot even impart how amazing they are, but I'll try: picture pinning out a long scarf with T pins. It takes a while, doesn't it? Maybe your back starts to hurt a but from leaning over so much - I know mine does, especially when it takes over 20 minutes to pin out one project. Ok, now picture pinning out that same scarf in 5 minutes. Seriously, that is how long it will take with the Knit Blockers, I've timed myself!
  5. Wool Wash: I am totally on board with a using wool wash for my handmade projects. I find that they are worth the investment for a variety of reasons: first, most of them are no-rinse, which means that they save water AND you don't have to worry about accidentally felting your project while you rinse out the excess suds. Second, they are quite versatile - I've used them to remove stains on my clothes, wash undergarments, and even spot-clean my carpet. Third, they smell nice, and I like using a dedicated product to put the perfect finishing touch on my finished project. My new favorite wool wash is Allure, which I wrote about in greater detail on this blog post. 
What are your must-have blocking tools?