Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Knitting--Small Scrap Shawl with Collar

This was truly a scrap project, using many weights and textures of predominantly brown-tones, in a garter stitch pattern of double increases along a center stitch. It needs a shawl pin of some sort. I may put fringe along the bottom. Sorry, but I didn't keep any counts along the way and have no pattern.

Christmas Presents--Knit Bolero-Style Cardigan

Three skeins of the antique rose (see a few posts down, where I report on 19 skeins of yarn bought for $5). This is the "Bolero Style Cardigan" from the Crystal Palace yarn site. It's one of those origami style patterns, where one knits one rather ungainly piece that is then folded into shape, and held together by a neckband. The horizontal lace pattern of the back is twisted up into a vertical pattern on the front.
Don't make it, though. The pattern is so badly written that it's nearly impossible to tell how to accomplish this, with nothing at all said about where to sew, and how to form the neck. I finally resorted to writing to the designer, who didn't answer. In desperation, I just finished it by trial and error (and ripping). I actually changed the buttons after the picture was taken, to some bigger, flatter ones, which hold it all together much better than these metal ones. It's for one of the girls. Size 40 across the chest.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Pattern: One-Row Guy Scarf

It's hard to photograph scarves, because if someone is wearing it, it's usually too far away to see the stitch pattern, but if it's just flat on the table, it really doesn't show the finished product very well. I hope you can visualize the full thing from this small sample.


There are a lot of one-row scarf patterns, and I really like the symmetry they provide in a scarf--reversable, simple, yet textured. I think they're great for the men in our lives.

Materials: Worsted weight yarn. I used one skein of Woolease from the stash. The ribbed pattern breaks up the variegation and makes the scarf look rather tweedy.

Needles: US 9. You can use a 10 if you like, as a looser knit makes this scarf drape nicely.

CO 30.

Pattern: *K2, P* to last three stitches. K3.

Repeat until scarf is as long as you like. It makes a ribbed scarf with a finished-looking edge. It really looks much more complex than you would think. You'll love it!

Newsboy Cap & Lacy Scarf--Two Crocheted UFOs

This slouchy newsboy cap is another UFO that languished for more than a year, to my embarrassment. The problem here was that after I finished the cap (out of some rummage sale yarn), the instructions said to stiffen the brim with plastic before sewing together. I wasn't sure how to do this, and just put it aside. Recently, a friend was telling me how she cut up a milk carton to make some bobbins, and a light went on in my little brain. Ahhhhhh-- what an obvious source of thin plastic. It took about two minutes to trace the bill onto the side of the carton and cut out a piece. Luckily, I had left a long tail of yarn. In another minute, it was sewn shut. Voila! It was sent out today with a bag of Christmas gifts to the teen shelter. The styro head is a little small to show this hat off to its full advantage. It's quite cute.
Next, I had started a lacy little scarf out of the very thin pink cone yarn left after I made the vest for my MIL last year. I don't know why I stopped, but suspect I realized a scarf just doesn't go well with such a vest. When I needed a few more gifts for the girls at the shelter, I took it out, added about 10 more rows, blocked it, and wrapped it up.
It's so satisfying to get stuff out of this cluttered house.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Done at Long Last

These half-finished socks have been stuffed in a plastic bag for years. I was seduced by all of the new self-patterning sock yarns and started these before I realized how ugly the colors looked. That along with the simple, boring style just made me lose interest. So, they remained a UFO until last week when I was going to babysit and had nothing to take along except secret Christmas knitting, so I grabbed them. It's a relief to have them done and out of the knitting bag.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Filigree Bowl--Cotton Thread Doubled

If you're like me and always wanted to make one of those crocheted doily bowls, this pattern is for you. It's the "Filigree Bowl" from the Coats and Clark website ( It's meant to be made with a little heavier thread, and I was able to double up on the #10 bedspread cotton from my stash. Using an F hook, it took an evening to make. The hardest thing, actually, was finding a bowl of the right size to use as a mold. You stiffen the crocheted fabric with sugar water or commercial stiffener and shape it over a bowl covered with plastic wrap. A few days later: voila! A fruit bowl. It really sets up as hard as glass. Very magical.
One of the girls is getting this for Christmas.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mitre Square Blanket

There's a thrift shop run by a small Lutheran church in my town, and it always has several bins of very small balls of yarn, which sell for a nickle each. A nickle! Obviously, I couldn't resist diving in. My plan is to make a large blanket of mitred squares, using mostly many, many tones of blue, but with an occasional red square just to perk it up a bit. I bought all the blues they had in the bins the day I visited, and added them to the several blue worsted weights in my stash.

The blanket is slow going, though. Each square is made up of two different colors, and, since the squares are about six inches square, the final blanket design will probably run to more than 200 squares.

The good thing, of course, is that with mitred squares there is no sewing together at the end. I'm trying to tuck in the ends after every two or three squares, just to keep that chore under control.

Below is a very dark snap of the blanket-in-progress. It's about 30 squares in size now, and will probably be done in a year or so, since it's already too large to carry around in a knitting bag.

I have no idea where all those tiny balls of yarn come from, but assume there is some sort of group at the church that makes charity goods and rolls up the ends of yarn left after a project is complete.
They also sell magazines for a quarter there, and I've bought quite a few knitting and crochet magazines there, so it's a fun place to visit when I manage to get there during their short hours.
Reading note: I just finished The Friday Night Knitting Club, and really enjoyed it until the very sad ending had me in tears. I think the ending is a mistake, actually, as it overshadowed everything that had come before. But that's me. Don't let me put off anyone from reading it. It's good.

Monday, November 16, 2009

MRI Potholders

Ricardo had to have some lengthy tests at the hospital, and I wanted to sit with him. So, I needed a project small enough to fit into my sweatshirt pocket. The night before the tests, I rolled some cotton into small balls, stuck a size G plastic crochet hook through one, and stashed them away in my pocket.

These potholders were the result. During the morning hours I made the lacy tops out of some scraps of blue and pink. During lunch and the afternoon session I crocheted solid backs. That night, while we watched TV, I crocheted them together and did the fancy business along the edge. I got four done--three square and one round. Two are already grubby.

I'm Back!!

Hello Again, and Best Wishes to Everyone! I quit blogging some months ago, because I more or less fell into a big stash of yarn and wasn't sure how to deal with it under my $20 plan. Also, my hubby wasn't doing well healthwise, and there was just too much to deal with.

But I missed blogging. Barbara (from I'm Crocheting to Keep From Smoking) and I have been working on a charity project---more of this later---and she urged me to get back to the blog. So here I am, and I have lots of projects to share.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Welcome to Year Two of the $20 Budget Challenge!

For Lo, the Winter is past...
Well, it's still 21 degrees F up here in the frozen northland, but the sun is out today and there's a promise of spring in the air. It's a good time for a new beginning.
Rummage season is a few months in the future, but I answered an ad on Craigslist and bought a bag of yarn, sight-unseen, for $5. It turned out to be 19 complete skeins of the yarn shown here---of course, it's a rather pinky shade called "antique rose", although I'm telling myself it's sort of a dusky mauve. It's acrylic, but very soft with a bit of a sheen. Certainly enough for an afghan, and not dirty or musty or anything unacceptable. There was also a tangled skein of some white cotton, which I can use for a few cloths. All in all, a good beginning.
I also recently made a nice purse out of some chennile gifted to me, paired up with some snazzy wooden handles and a button, both salvaged from a thrift shop purse.
It's just two hexagons crocheted together. I used a double strand of yarn and crocheted the motifs very tightly, then just put them together with a bit of a decorative seam with bobbles on each corner. It's thick and spongy and doesn't need a lining, although I prefer a shoulder strap.
My biggest decision right now is whether to award myself the entire $20 for the new year, or try to get by on less, considering the fact that I have some stash left from my last year's budget. I'm just going to wing it for awhile until I see what kind of bargains are out there.
I saw a wonderful documentary recently about the Hamlin fistula hospital in Ethiopia, and was curious about the patchwork shawls many of the patients were wearing. A bit of googling resulted in the knowledge that these were made by a group of Methodist women in the UK, along with some Australian knitters. It was very cool to find out that the residents--who stay at the hospital for several weeks--are now knitting the shawls themselves for the new arrivals. I love a good knitting story. It seems that there is no end to the number of good causes out there that needlewomen around the world contribute to.
My own little charity--Christmas hats for teens in the shelter here--is already shaping up for new year. I've decided to make all the hats in a black/cream color scheme, and am putting any appropriate yarn aside. The 2009 hats will be earflap hats, both in knit and crochet. I wanted to do something a little more "hip" (do people still say that?) than I did this past year. I already have black and cream yarn enough for about four or five hats, thanks to Barbara and Lisa. It's a good project to carry around in my purse when I'm babysitting or socializing.
The "Sweet Scallops" blankie is finally done, and will be up here in a few days. It's so big, I want to get out on the porch to take a proper picture. I still need one more blankie for all the upcoming babies, but I'm tired of big projects right now and want to work on some thread projects first.
There's so much to look forward to! Life is good. Hugs to all.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Coming Full Circle

It's been a year this week since I quit buying "new" yarn, and, incredibly, I ended the year with a profit.

One of the eyeglass cases I gave away last fall ended up in the front desk of a new office building, holding the rectangular plastic key cards the employees use to move through the building. Soon after, I got an email asking me what I would charge to make more "keycard holders" for the other departments. I quickly made six more, completely out of scrap yarns.
I also sold the gossamer scarf featured here a few months ago.
So, I spent $20 this year on yarn, and made more than three times that amount from the scrap yarns I purchased. Now, I need to decide whether or not I can spend that money on YARN, or stick to my budget for another year. [Note: several people gave me lovely yarn as gifts, and I was careful not to make anything for sale from that yarn. It just didn't seem right.]
Some really good yarn is left---the blue cone yarn and the bag of cotton boucle are still awaiting proper pattern ideas. Additionally, I got wonderful orphan skeins in swaps with Jami and Lisa, and a box of Softee Chunky from Barbara (I used most of this, but there's still enough left to make something nice).
The year had a lot of high points. In November, I was (big surprise) knitting in the hallway of the courthouse and chatting with a woman as we waited for the court to return from lunch. She told me that she managed a group home for eight foster teen boys, and that none of their families had left them any gifts to open on Christmas morning. She was hoping to find some donations. Due to the generosity of Barbara and Jami and the yarn they sent, each boy got a Christmas hat! [There are many, many wonderful charities distributing hats, scarves, afghans, and the like, but if anyone wants to knit or crochet items for the local community, just google Catholic Charities to find your local office and give them a call. They have group homes that serve all sorts of people---including the teen mothers and babies that I've been knitting for throughout this year.]
This was also the year I rediscovered crochet, after many years without holding a hook. My hands are arthritic, and sometimes get too stiff to knit. At such times, it's easier to crochet for a few days. Gosh, it's fun! Crochet just lends itself so well to small, multicolor projects.
My most popular project (by the number of emails I received asking for the pattern) is the knit "overlapping scallops" baby blanket. I was so glad to make the two baby blankets and finally use up most of my baby yarns. And, thanks to Lisa, I was able to finish the neutrals afghan. Now it just needs some sort of border.
There are so many projects that I didn't post patterns for, because I found that writing down patterns was a lot harder than I originally thought it would be. I've resolved to post the baby blanket pattern this week, and several other winter patterns (mittens, hats) ASAP.
Right now (and I really mean RIGHT THIS MINUTE) I'm trying to finish a set of Jack and Annie dolls (the Magic Treehouse books). I'm adapting them from an old pattern I have of Jack and Jill, and struggling to embroider the necessary eyeglasses on Jack. He also needs a backpack! They'll go to my youngest grandson's first grade classroom, where the kids act out the stories. I knew all that pale pink worsted would come in handy.
It's been a good year. Thank you all for being there. Hugs all around.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Valentine Tie for My Honey---Rummage Sale Yarn

I bought some yarn a few weeks ago at a Lutheran Charities sale. Three small bags of vintage sock yarns for a quarter a bag! I think I went a little over $20 for the year with this purchase, but only by a few cents.
The yarn used in this tie was wadded together and tied with string. It was a skein and a half skein of "Bucilla 3-ply fingering yarn", 100% wool, loden green heather.
Ricardo has been mourning the loss of his favorite tie, which he bought years ago during a long stay in Portugal, and recently ruined in a greasy food mishap. As I am less than eager to hand wash socks, it seemed like a better idea to use this yarn to knit him a tie for Valentine's Day. It was quite a success---he loves the tie. (I got flowers, which are sitting in splendor on the dresser right in front of me, still looking fresh and beautiful!)
Some tips on tie-making, if any of you are interested: 1) don't be taken in by patterns that are knitted flat. I've tried many different tie techniques, and the only successful knitted ties I've made are knit in a tube, then steamed flat. 2) The only yarn that seems to work is sock weight (fingering), wool or wool and silk. I use #1 dpns, knit the bottom part in a texture pattern (here, in moss stitch), then change to stockinette for the neck and back, reducing the stitch count in half at the neck. Yes, there are lots and lots of stitches, but most of the tie is only about 20 stitches around and goes quickly. Also, You really can't use synthetics and get a nice flat blocking job. 3) leave the bottom open until the tie is blocked. The tie will often stretch quite a bit, and you will want to shorten it by a few inches. 4) keep another tie nearby as you knit, and measure them often against each other. Ties are picky. 5) unfortunately, I've never successfully crocheted a tie. Even with thin yarn, it's too bulky and doesn't drape well.
If anyone wants me to write down the pattern, just let me know.
Hope you all had love in your heart, this week and always!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Project: Newborn Booties--Worsted Scraps

I'll bet you went, "Awwwww." These are so tiny and sweet. They were the featured pattern on "Knit and Crochet Today" on PBS a few days ago and I couldn't resist making them immediately. The pattern isn't up yet on their site, but I watched Kristin Nicholas make them, and she just knit two four-inch garter squares and folded and stitched them up. They can be made from a very small amount of any lovely yarn (or, in my case, some plain old pink worsted). The ones on the show were striped, but I liked the "Tiny Dancer" look of the plain pink.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

This Week OTN: Blankets!!

I've been making blankies. This one is almost done. It's an overlapping scallop pattern, made with doubled baby yarns. With the complex pattern, the color changes, and holding the yarn double, it's a bit taxing, but I've been trying to do two bands a day. Nice and big, though, and cheerful looking.

The second one is done. It's a round pattern I found on ravelry, crocheted out of TLC baby yarn. Not as big as I'd like, though, but fine for a newborn and fun and easy to make.

The last one is something I've been adding to all year. I call it the "neutrals afghan". It's just a large granny square. I'm 41 rounds into it, and need about 60 rounds to have a decent sized throw. Now that it's getting larger, I need larger amounts of each yarn to make the circuit. I think I've used about 11-12 different yarns so far. The last five or six rounds will be off-white, so that will take the pressure off somewhat. It's going into hibernation until I can find some additional neutral-colored yarns (beige, ecru, cream, gray, silver, etc.) It's actually much paler than in the photo.

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Pattern: Felted Roses--A Lisa Ponytail Holder

Felted Roses
Worsted weight wool, about four yards
Size J crochet hook
Hold yarn doubled. Chain 26. Hdc in second ch from hook, then work two dc in next 22 ch. Work sl st in last chain, to bring yarn down to bottom. Twist into rose, using yarn ends to secure bottom.
I felted these in my salad spinner, in the sink. Just fill the spinner half-full of hot water and a few drops of detergent. You can get good agitation. Rinse under the tap, squeeze out and dry flat.
I made a round circle for the base, leaving a 3 stitch hole on each side. You could use a rectangle, also. The base is also felted.
The stick is made from those free take-out chopsticks (which also make fairly nice knitting needles). I cut off about two inches, sharpened the point slightly in the pencil sharpener, sanded it to remove the rough bits, then stained it with furniture polish.

I now have a number of felted roses, to add to purses or whatever. It's a good way to use up small bits of wool.

A Project: Two Year Planner Cover

Calendars have hit the discount bins, and I was able to get a two year planner for a dollar. This one even had a nice plastic sleeve. I took out the staples and removed the cover, then turned it over so that there was a smooth white surface to decorate with some of the tiny doilies I've been making out of thread and floss. All it took was a thin coat of Elmer's Glue.

The possibilities really are endless. If I can lay my hand on a metallic marker I plan to fill in the empty spots with some small designs, and maybe gild the edge. The outer plastic cover gives it a nice finishing touch. I chose not to staple it back together, but instead tied some threads around the spine and left a little tassle on the bottom.

Does anyone want the tiny doily patterns? They are just two- or three-row bits and pieces. Let me know if I should write them down.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lots of Little Projects Done

Hi, Everybody! Thanks for the lovely comments while I was off line, and for the mails sent. All the snow and ice and cold had me feeling a little blue, but I was called on to babysit last week and came home feeling my usual self.

One of my New Year's resolutions was to go back to those big bags of thread and baby yarns and either use them or give them to the charity shop. As luck would have it, our town had a citywide "baby shower" day today (isn't that a great idea?), and many people donated beautiful hand crafted items to babies in need. I finished two sweaters and a hat, and Ricardo was tickled that when he dropped the stuff off, they put my hat on display. I really don't have a good picture of the knitted sweater, as I was still finishing it this morning, but it was made of a "denim" printed baby yarn, with cables up both sleeves and along the button band.

This crocheted jacket--shown here--was made with some nice vintage pompador baby yarn. I had one skein of "pistachio", one of "pistachio print" and one of white, all three with that little sparkly thread. I used almost all of it. It was supposed to have a hood, but I didn't have enough yarn.


Libraries are such wonderful places. Our name finally came up for a turn at the first season of Stargate SG-1, a series Ricardo always wanted to see, so we've been watching two episodes a night. I took out a stack of old Vogue Knitting magazines, and sit and page through them while we munch popcorn and travel the cosmos. I'm also making something I call "tiny doilies." These are one or two inches across, and I'm trying to make them look as much like full-size doilies as I can. Ricardo was a bit incredulous, remarking that full-size doilies themselves are only "marginally useful." But I can see these embellishing a number of items (ball caps? or under a glass coffee table?).

Lastly, I finished a pair of lace trouser socks, using a ball of Lustersheen from my thread bag. They are very delicate, and don't feel like they will last more than a few wearings, although I hope I'm wrong. Not something to wear hiking in the woods, however.

I'm reading Small Wonder, a collection of essays by Barbara Kingsolver (whose fiction is wonderful), making pea soup, and waiting for the sun to come back.


Friday, January 2, 2009

Computer Woes

Please bear with me while I try to resolve my computer problems. It keeps freezing up---so badly that I can't even turn it off unless I switch off the power strip. (And it does this after only a few minutes of use.)

So, I'm trying to get someone to help me back everything up and see if it can be fixed. Until that time, I'm stuck with going to the library to use the computers there, or visiting friends to use theirs. I hope I can learn how to load my photos from my camera into some online program, so I can begin posting again.

Hugs to all. I hope your holidays were wonderful.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Measure, Cut, Sharpen, Sand---and Knit!

Long after I'm gone, my house will probably still be giving up all the yarn needles, dpns, crochet hooks, and various other small needlework implements that have disappeared over time. It's hard to believe that I've brought many, many of these things into this house, yet, when I need something specific, I've never got the right thing. The ducts, the moldings, the window wells, the radiators, and those dark and dusty slits under the bookcases and dressers must all be full of small, pointed things.

For a while, I've been down to three #3 dpns, and have been using a #4 to make up a set. Moreover, the 3's are aluminum and just not very nice. I've gotten spoiled over the years, and my hands have also deteriorated quite a bit. Now, I want bamboo or wood needles. Luckily, there are a lot of blogs out there written by people who make their own needles from dowels, so I decided to give it a try.

I took my needle gauge down to Tru-Value Hardware and went through their bin of dowels. The 1/8" dowel corresponded to our US#3. I was also able to buy a dowel to make a set of #8's, and one to make some 10 1/2. The smallest dowel was 80 cents for a yard. The others were slightly more.

The 36" dowels yield four 7" sticks and one 8". I measured, marked each length with a black marker, and sawed through the dowel with an old bread knife. Then, using a little plastic pencil sharpener, I sharpened each end into a point. I only had one size of sandpaper (most other needle makers use two or three different grades), but it was a very fine grade. I rubbed the sticks between the folded paper, then scraped the points against the paper quite vigorously, to blunt them a bit.

Again, most other people rub the finished sticks with waxed paper, or use some sort of beeswax or other polish. I decided to give the needles a test run first, and they were as smooth and silky as could be. Perhaps the larger needles will need more finishing, but these work great! I can't believe all the money I've spent on dpns, when all I needed was an 80 cent dowel (this one is made of birch wood). I'm addicted! Of course, you can also make single point needles in any length desired, by sharpening only one end, and gluing a button or whatever to the other end.

Honestly, making these took about half an hour (not counting the trip to the store). And I'm not handy with tools.

Back to frantically finishing my Christmas projects. Hugs.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Pattern: Fun and Funky Eyeglass Cases

Eyeglass Case
Materials: One ounce of worsted weight yarn; four yards of fun fur in coordinating color.
Size G crochet hook.
Ch 25. Rows 1 and 2: Sc in each ch space.
Row 3: Sc in first 2 sc *ch 4, sc in next 4* rep to last two stitches, sc in last 2. ch 1, turn
Row 4: Sc in each sc across, pushing ch 4 loops to back of work and pulling stitches together at the base of each ch 4 loop. 24 stitches and 5 bobbles made.
Row 5: Sc in first 4 sc *ch 4, sc in next 4* to last four stitches, sc in last 4, ch 1, turn.
Row 6: repeat row 4.
Repeat rows 3-6 for pattern. See picture above for how the diagonal rows of little bumps should appear.
Repeat pattern for 6 inches (6 pattern repeats). Sc in each sc for two rows. Fold case in half and work a row of Sc down side and across bottom. Fasten off main color.
Attach fur to top of case and work two to four rows sc. Fasten off.