For my last post of 2014, I have done a round-up post of all my own knitting projects from the last year. (I did the same thing last year.) Like last year, I feel I completed fewer projects than I should have. Though I finished 15 projects this year in comparison to last year's 12, I had hoped to get at least two more projects done. My project list for 2015 is an insane 23 items long, and this year I've beaten myself to the punch by accepting that I won't get much more than half of those items done.
My first finished knitting project of 2014 employed this pattern, Phoebe's Vest, designed by Daniela Nii. It's fresh take on the argyle vest. I loved the subtle colourway and the careful finishing and shaping of the design.
And here's my version of it. I used Drops Baby Alpaca Silk and Mini Alpakka yarn for this project.
I'm really not thrilled with the colourway I went with, or to be precise, with that orange-red. The store where I bought the yarn didn't have the light apricot shade I had wanted, so I settled for the orange-red, and now I wish I'd kept looking in other stores for the third colour. I had fondly imagined this vest would go with a couple of print blouses that I own, but it turns out it won't. This vest doesn't even go all that well with the dark brown skirt in this photo. Oh well, I do have a pair of wool trousers that will go with this vest, and at least it's done. This was a time-consuming item. I think it took a good three evenings just to darn in the ends.
This is the Chloe's Vest pattern, designed by Josie Mercier, and I added it to my favourites on Ravelry when I reviewed the Spring 2013 issue of Interweave Knits.
And this is my version of the Chloe's Vest design. The colour is less electric blue that it looks in this photo and more of a robin's egg blue. The pattern called for a 4-ply fingering cotton wool yarn. I used El. D. Mouzakis Butterfly Super 10, a 100% mercerized cotton DK, because I already had it on hand, or should I say in my dresser drawer. Perhaps five or six years ago I had knitted myself a sleeveless top out of this cotton yarn. I designed it myself, or more accurately, made up the pattern as I went along. It didn't turn out badly but I wasn't thrilled with it. It wasn't unattractive in itself, but it wasn't flattering to me because of all the horizontal garter and lace lines on it, and because I made it before I clued in that all my sweaters ought to have waist shaping. I don't think I ever wore it more than half a dozen times. Eventually I just took the top out of my dresser drawer and put it into the chest that holds my yarn stash to be taken apart and reknitted.
This seemed like a good pattern for the yarn. The pattern did have to be rejigged for the substitute yarn. The pattern calls for two strand knitting through the body and one strand in the lace panel. Because I was using DK yarn rather than fingering, I knitted the body single strand, and chose 2.5 mm needles because I wanted as fine a gauge as possible. It turned out that the 2.5 mm needles gave me the right gauge for the lace panel as well. The increases in the lace panel are worked as yarn overs instead of by another method, which made the diagonal lines in this version lacy instead of solid as they are in the sample shot. As you can see, my substitutions have made very little difference to the overall look.
There was one problem... I did not have enough yarn. I'd thought the yarn that made one sleeveless top would make another of the same size, especially when I also had a extra small ball of the yarn left, but no. I was able to finish the front, back, and lace panel, but the tiny ball I had left at that point was not going to be enough for the ribbing around the neck and sleeves. I had to go downtown to Romni Wools where I had bought the yarn to see if I could get another skein. They still carried the yarn and the same colour, but (naturally) it was in a different dye lot and was one shade lighter than the original yarn. Because it was to be used for the ribbing, I thought I could get away with using that slightly lighter new yarn. The result was livable. Although I notice the difference I don't think anyone else ever will, and once the old yarn was knitted and blocked it looked just as good as new.
It did make me a little cross that the new skein turned out to be very expensive. It had felt satisfyingly frugal and stone soup-ish to be making something nice out of an old, unsatisfactory item at no cost... and then I wound up having to pay $16.94 for a skein of yarn in order to finish it. The yarn was priced at $10.99 a skein when I first bought it. I'm told cotton commodities have gone way up. I do have 100g or so of the yarn left that can be put into another project sometime.
I made the skirt seen here as well, about seven years ago. This top also works well with my denim and khaki skirts, pants, and shorts.
Sometimes when one is planning a knitting project, one starts with a pattern one wants to make, and sometimes one starts with a yarn one wants to use. This project was one of the latter. I bought the yarn you see above at Value Village in 2012 for $4. It is Nuvoletta by Filatura Di Crosa, it is 70% mohair and 30% acrylic, and from what Google tells me, this brand of yarn has been discontinued since the early nineties so this yarn is over 20 years old. There were five 50g skeins of it. The colour didn't photograph very accurately and the yarn is actually a rich warm teal, not the electric blue you see here.
I assessed this yarn to be between a worsted and a DK weight, and thought there might not be quite enough of it to make a sweater. This has usually been the case when I've bought a lot of yarn from thrift shops: you get a small lot and there is no possibility of buying any more of the same kind. I've often had to do things like knitting the cuffs and collar in a coordinating yarn to get the resulting project done.
After some searching on Ravelry, I chose this pattern for the Nuvoletta. This is the Pull Me Over pattern, designed by Andrea Black. It's available for $5.50(USD). It appeared to be just the right tension and, even better, it had both a cap sleeve and a long sleeve option and a top-down construction that was perfect for a project for which I might have insufficient yarn. I could make the body and see how my yarn was holding out before deciding which sleeve length to go with. Moreover, how cute is this sweater?
Here's the result. This project was a total pleasure to work on. The yarn was lovely to work with, the pattern was one I enjoyed making, and the project proceeded smoothly with no mistakes. Finishing was a snap as there was no seaming to be done and only maybe ten ends to be darned in. I was done in three weeks and never got tired of it nor took a break to work on something else as I usually do. Moreover, not only did I have enough yarn to make the whole sweater with the long sleeves, I also have nearly an entire skein left over, which should easily be enough to make a hat. Mohair does tend to go far because it's so light. That was $4 well spent.
The concept for my grandnephew's first birthday present grew out of my plan for his older sister's birthday present. My grandniece Cauliflower (not her real name, though I do call her that) also got an aquatic-themed birthday present. Then when it came to deciding what I was going to give Bug (not his actual name, though Cauliflower calls him that), I thought it would be fun to extend the theme to him, and to use the same yarns and colours for both project. I thought something in a sailboat theme would be perfect, and accordingly searched Ravelry, where I found this Ships Ahoy sweater, designed by by Zoë Mellor, and published in her Adorable Knits for Tots: 25 Stylish Designs for Babies and Toddlers.
And here's the sweater I knitted for Bug, in size 18 months. He turned one last July, so it will fit him all this winter. As you can see my version is virtually identical to the sample featured on Ravelry. I used Smart Superwash yarn from SandnesGarn in teal, dark blue, and white, as well as a small amount of red yarn that was left over from knitting a dress for his sister last year. The gold yarn for the fish actually came from the tapestry yarns leftover from a needlepoint kit, as it seems I practically never knit with any tones from the yellow family and had no yellow knitting yarn whatever. But I knew I was keeping those leftover tapestry yarns for a reason.
Then I decided it would be fun to make Bug a little sailor's cap to go with the sweater. (In Orange Swan-speak, the words "it will be fun to" always translate to "I am going to spend many hours of work on".) I searched Ravelry for a little sailor's cap pattern in size 18 months. I didn't find quite what I wanted, but I thought this little Newsboy Hat, designed by Lucia Liljegren, would do. It's a free pattern.
Here's the hat I made. It would look better modelled by an actual little boy, but since I didn't have one of those around an old margarine tub had to suffice. I had wanted to put little anchor buttons on it to make it look a little more like a sailor's cap, but couldn't find the right kind of buttons. Then I thought about knitting an anchor on the front, only to decide I didn't want to add another symbol to the outfit given that I already had both a sailboat and a fish on the sweater. In the end I scaled down the sailboat image I'd used for the sweater and added it to the front, using the Swiss darning/duplicate stitch technique.
The last component of the present was a toy, which of course also had to fit in with the theme. Toys R' Us didn't have a sailboat toy that I liked, so I went with this whale bath toy. It shoots water out the top.
When I was searching for a dress design to use for my grandniece Cauliflower's fifth birthday, a search of Ravelry turned up this one, the Mermaid Dress, designed by Harpa Jónsdóttir. The pattern had been published in the February 2011 issue of Yarn Forward Magazine, and unfortunately wasn't available for sale. If I wanted to make it, I'd have to recreate the pattern using the picture as my guide. I put the project off for a few months because it was easier just to get started knitting something I had a pattern for than to spend time writing a pattern first, but when July arrived it was time to get cracking, as Cauliflower's birthday is in early August. And as so often happens when I finally get around to something I've been procrastinating on, it wasn't so bad a job. After an hour or so of sketching equations and diagrams and charts on a piece of graph paper, I was ready to go.
Here's the resulting version of the Mermaid Dress in a child's size six. I used Sandnes Garn's Smart pure wool DK weight for it. As you can see, I made some changes to the original design. I wasn't able to find four shades of blue that worked together, only three, so I used white for the bodice and sleeves. The neckline in the sample shot was a little low for my liking, so I made it higher. I couldn't quite tell what stitch had been used on the hem, so I used this wave stitch pattern. I think the sleeves in the original are elasticized at the wrist, but I used a drawstring instead, tacking them in place at the sleeve seam so that they can't fall out and be lost. I was fairly pleased with the result.
I also whipped up this little purse to go with the dress, using the Squircle pattern, by Kylie Brown, which is available as a free download. The Squircle pattern is modified a little too. I omitted the band of garter stitch that's supposed to go around it and instead worked the fish pattern into it. I crocheted a shell edging around the top as I'd done around the hem, neckline and sleeves of the dress, and then crocheted the drawstring (so much faster than knitting I-cord). I wish I'd gone with different colours, though. I think a dark blue bottomed purse with a white top, or maybe a pale blue bottom with a white top, would have looked better with the dress. C'est la vie... et c'est l'artisanat.
Then I made this little necklace to go with the outfit. I chose blue beads that had the changeable, iridescent colours of the sea, and silver starfish charms. I bought some silver shell charms to use as well, thought they wouldn't work when I was lining up beads on my bead tray, and then regretted not putting them on once I was done. Oh well. There are so many different directions to go when one is designing something and I suppose it's nearly impossible not to have regrets. The necklace goes very well with the dress and I made it about 18" long so that Cauliflower will be able to continue to wear it until and after she's full grown if she likes.
Cauliflower's birthday gift included an Eloise snow globe. Her middle name is Eloise and on assorted past Christmasses and birthdays I've previously given her the five story books written by Kay Thompson, DVDs of the two Eloise movies starring Julie Andrews, and an Eloise in Paris doll. This is probably the final Eloise item I will give Cauliflower as she'll soon be too old for Eloise stuff. It doesn't quite fit in with the aquatic theme but it took me a year of tracking Eloise snowglobes on eBay before I finally got one (they don't make them anymore), so I was bloody well going to include it, and hey, it does have water in it.
This is the Reversible Diamonds afghan, designed by Shari Haux and published in Easy Afghans for Knitters, which I knitted this past year for the second time.
I first made this afghan for my bedroom back in 2008, and though I like the pattern I made the mistake of choosing the wrong yarn for it. I used an acrylic worsted, TLC Amore in "Vanilla", which is more accurately described as a very pale peach. It was pretty enough, but was so light and thin it had no warmth to it at all, which is not exactly a desirable quality in an afghan intended for use in a century-old Toronto house that is heated by a 1991 furnace. So even on the day I finished the peach afghan (and I still remember the relief and delight with which I cast off that last stitch with exactly 6" of yarn to spare!), I knew I'd have to eventually make another afghan for my room.
Introducing the new version of the Reversible Diamonds afghan. However, I think I've again chosen the wrong yarn for it. This time I used Phentex Fashion Twenty-Three in "Icicle White", a super bulky blend of acrylic, polyester, mohair and wool. I bought eleven 100g skeins of this yarn from the Zellers in my area circa 2011 for one dollar per skein, plus tax. Then I discovered I had two more identical skeins in my stash that I'd bought a number of years before as seconds. This afghan therefore cost me under $15 to make. This is not why I decided I'd chosen the wrong yarn.
The yarn proved to be something of a drag to knit with, because there was so much resistance from the fluffy texture, and mohair always does mat together. It's no fun to have to fight with your yarn at every stitch. I initially began this afghan in February 2014 and it wound up being one of those projects I could not keep myself at and kept putting aside to work on anything else, until mid-August, when I took it up with grim resignation and told myself I could not work on anything else until it was done. However, that "hard to knit with" quality is also not why I feel this was a bad yarn choice for this afghan, because obviously that's a time-limited drawback.
This yarn does have quite a bit going for it: it feels nice, it looks good, and it certainly can't be accused of not being warm. So what's the fatal flaw? The big drawback is that this yarn is hand wash only, and this afghan is 3'6" x 6'4". I didn't clue into the fact that this yarn is special care until the afghan was half done. Oh well, I suppose I can wash it in the bathtub a few times a year, put it through the spin cycle on the washing machine, and spread it out on towels on the attic floor to dry. And cross my fingers that my cat finds other locations to yak up his hairballs so that the afghan needn't be washed more than a few times a year. Trilby never did put the old afghan (which was machine washable and dryable) to that purpose, so there's hope of that.
Besides refiguring the number of stitches in a row to suit a super bulky yarn rather than the worsted this pattern called for, I accidentally made one other mod. The border is supposed to be done in a seed stitch, but I think I messed that up back in February and when I figured out months later that I'd made that mistake, decided to just go with the stitchwork I'd inadvertently come up with instead. I call it "moss ribbing".
The plan for this project has its roots in a colour theory course I took back in 2001 at George Brown College in Toronto. One night the instructor gave each member of the class a personal colour theory analysis, and I found out that I was not, as I had cluelessly thought, a winter, but an autumn. Even before taking that course, I had been a big subscriber to the seasonal palette wardrobe theory, which essentially holds that everyone looks best in a certain colour palette. I'd found it a sound idea to shop and dress in strict accordance to one palette, because it meant that I didn't need to own so many clothes given that clothes, shoes, and accessories chosen according to a given colour scheme work together so much better. It should also mean one looks one's best, but it hadn't in my case as I'd been building my wardrobe on the wrong damn palette. So a long, expensive process of transitioning to an autumn palette wardrobe began.
I was basically done with the transition process in about four years, but this year I decided to finally get rid of the last lingering black items in my wardrobe. There weren't many. Basically it was just several pairs of track pants, because I could never find any track pants that were dark brown and wasn't about to buy them in, say, orange or turquoise, and a few things I had kept to wear with the black track pants: a black backpack bought in 1998, and a pair of black wool gloves bought around the same time. Both backpack and gloves were, as you would expect, much the worse for their sixteen years of use, and due to be replaced anyway. I ordered two pairs of dark brown yoga pants and a snazzy new leather-trimmed canvas Everlane backpack over the net, and then, when it came to replacing the wool gloves, decided after a quick, discouraging Google search for brown wool gloves that I should make them myself. A rummage through my stash produced a nearly full 100g skein of dark brown DK wool, so I then searched for a glove pattern that required DK weight yarn.
The above pattern was the one I settled on. It's the Hands of Blue pattern, designed by Lucy Hague, and it is available for free.
And here are photos of the finished gloves that I made. The yarn used here is Sirdar's Country Style DK. It's machine washable, which is good as my black wool gloves needed washing regularly. I had bought and used a little of that 100g skein to make a panda bear dress and purse for my grandniece in 2013, and even after doing the gloves there's still a good bit of the skein left. I think I could make another glove out of it, which is good to know in case I should lose one of this existing pair. I still have a single cashmere-lined brown calfskin glove, the mate for which I lost something like seven years ago, that I can't bear to throw away, though eventually I'll probably cut up the leather and use it for trim on some sewing project or for doll shoes or some such.
These gloves are perhaps the third pair of gloves I have ever made. I discovered from my first couple of glove-knitting experiences that I disliked knitting fingers because they're so fiddly, and I found out I still feel that way. It is worth the work, as you can fit the gloves exactly to your hand. Then too, I like being able to make gloves with the long wrists that are harder to find in manufactured gloves, and which make for a clean line at the wrist and leave no wrist exposed to the winter elements. And these gloves cost me nothing at all to make, which was especially gratifying considering that I'll mostly be using them for hiking and shovelling snow.
I came across this hat pattern, which is the Pretty Kitty Beret, designed by Amanda Clark, and available for £2.50(GBP), by accident in the summer of 2014. I have a five-year-old Hello Kitty-obsessed grandniece. I had resolved to only knit for my grandniece Cauliflower and her little brother once a year, for their birthdays, as they always have way more clothes and other stuff than they need, but this hat was just so cute and Cauliflower would love it so much that I ended up yielding a point and making it. After all, it's just a hat.
Except of course it ended up not being just a hat. I whipped up the matching mittens using this free Drops design pattern. I had the yarn on hand and don't know exactly what brand it is anymore (the ball bands being long gone) but I think it was Kroy sock yarn. My niece tells me Cauliflower has a black winter coat and a hot pink winter coat, and this turquoise set should look fine with either one. I bought most of the beads and the tiny gauge crochet hook I used to slip the beads on the stitches. The tiny black beads I used for the whiskers have a funny back story. Some years back when my sister-in-law was at my place for the Swan family Easter do, the necklace she was wearing broke and the beads scattered everywhere. With the help of several other family members, she picked up most of the beads, but there were some stray black seed beads still lying about. The next day I picked them all up and put them carefully away in a small bag in my bead box, thinking it would be amusing to incorporate them into a new necklace and give it to her some Christmas. I never did get around to making the necklace, but the black beads proved to be perfect for the whiskers on the hat and mittens that I'm going to give to my sister-in-law's beloved granddaughter this Christmas. You never know what will happen when you leave craft materials behind in a crafter's home.
I made just one mod to the hat pattern, which was to only put one kitty face on it rather than the six or so the pattern called for, as I thought it looked better. Lately I've been trying to make sure I learn something new during the course of every project. This project involved me learning two new techniques: the long tail tubular cast on, and beading. I'm going to be using the long tail tubular cast-on for every hat, glove, mitten, and sock I make from now on (love that stretchiness), and I'd like to do more beading. It is very easy and visually effective.
Best of all, this hat and mittens set earned me a hug from Cauliflower.
These Man's Cabled Slippers were designed by Pat Richards for Vogue Knitting's Winter 1992/1993 issue. I've been using this slipper pattern to make slippers for my father almost since this pattern was published. I wrote at more length about the process (there are a lot of mods involved) and why these slippers are so important to my father's comfort (he has a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis) in my post about my 2013 projects.
Here's this year's pair. I believe it to be the ninth I have made from this pattern. Over the years I've added a number of modifications. I knit two soles for each slipper and insert an insole between them. This year I used foam insoles rather than the felt insoles I have been using because I couldn't find any felt ones, and can only hope the foam will be as comfortable and will last out the year. I knit the bottom soles from craft yarn as, nasty-feeling as it is, it's the most durable yarn on the market, and use a nicer-feeling yarn for the upper soles and upper. I run thread elastic around the heel as that helps the slippers stay on much better. This year I used a needle a half-size smaller than what I have been using as my mother told me to make the slippers a little smaller because the slippers become too big after they stretch out. The green yarn here was some of a small lot of yarn I picked up at Value Village for three dollars a few years back. It's Infitex "Stop Cumbre", which is an acrylic/wool/mohair blend, was made in Spain, and judging from the graphics and font on the ball band, was probably spun in the seventies. It's not in the Ravelry database, at any rate. I came across it last January when I spent part of New Year's Day tidying and reorganizing my stash, and earmarked it for my father's slippers. Besides being the right weight, it's quite good quality and pleasant to work with, it should feel good to wear, and green is by far my father's favourite colour. I have enough left it to make his next two pairs of slippers, so that yarn was another happy thrift shop purchase.
Back in November 2014, after some inquiries on the topic of what my mother wanted for Christmas, she asked me to make her a tuque in "navy or whatever colour I have". I selected this pattern, the Last Minute Slouch, designed by Madeline Tosh. It's a free pattern. I did have some navy yarn that I could have used to make this cap, but since I wanted to also make Mum a matching scarf, that meant I needed to purchase yarn. My mother is allergic to wool, which meant I had to go with an acrylic. I bought 300 grams of Vanna's Choice in navy.
And here's the resulting hat and scarf set. There was no pattern for the scarf, of course. I just used the ribbed moss stitch and 2x2 ribbing you see in the hat. I'd never worked with Vanna's Choice before, and I wasn't displeased with it. It comes in attractive colours and it's a decent quality compared to other acrylics I've worked with. I was soon finished and hoped that my mother would be pleased with it and not rip it out and make herself something else with the yarn as she has sometimes done with my knitted offerings in the past. This present did seem to go over fairly well — that is, fairly well considering the usual chilly reception my mother gives presents: Mum said she was going to add some elastic to the hat to make it stay on better, and informed me she didn't need the scarf.
This particular project plan was a convoluted one. It began when I saw this pattern, which is the Sylvi pattern, designed by Mari Muinonen, and I promptly got all "I LOVE THIS I MUST MAKE IT." So the Sylvi pattern got added to my project list for 2014.
My next step was a yarn purchase. When the Toronto Mary Maxim store at Yonge and Eglinton closed this past year because their rental costs became unmanageable, I managed to dry my tears in time to head off to the clearance sale and score the 1500 grams of Diamond Yarn Luxury Collection Llama Silk you see above for 50% off the regular price. I had imagined the coat in a flecked rust (I love the red but couldn't face the thought of all the Little Red Riding Hood jokes), so this yarn was just what I wanted in that regard, and it proved to be a lovely yarn to work with. The "hand wash only" care requirement for this yarn was definitely not a plus (who wants to hand wash a coat?), but I thought I could live with it as the coat isn't going to need washing very often.
Once I had the pattern and the yarn, I began knitting. I knitted a sleeve first. (When I need to know how the gauge of a yarn, I usually do a sleeve first as a sort of cheat gauge swatch. If I get the gauge wrong, I won't need to rip out much more than if I had done a swatch, and if the gauge turns out to be right I've got a few inches of sleeve done.) Then I knitted about half of one of the front pieces. Then, having worked happily away on this coat for perhaps four or five evenings, I woke up one morning and the first thought that came to mind was, "What was I thinking? This design is going to look like hell on me!"
The Sylvi design, gorgeous as it is, has a trapeze shape. I am, shall we say, mammarily blessed. My chest measurement is bigger than my hip measurement. My wearing a jacket that flares out from the largest section of my body is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea. I then spent some evenings trying modify the pattern by adding waist shaping, but soon decided the best idea was simply to choose another coat pattern.
After much browsing of coat patterns on Ravelry, I narrowed my selections down to these two: the Bergère de France coat on the left, and the Winter Wonderland Coat by Michele Rose Orne on the right. Both are wonderful designs and I was torn between them for some days, but eventually I decided on the Winter Wonderland design. The Bergère de France design is so inimitably chic and French, but as I regretfully concluded, I am neither chic nor French. The Winter Wonderland Coat seemed a little more "me", and would probably also work better on my figure as it's less bulky above the waist.
And here's the final result. The gauge was a little strange. The pattern called for an Aran yarn knitted on 4.5mm needles. The Diamond Yarn Luxury Collection Llama Silk is a bulky weight, which should have knitted to a bigger gauge, and yet I had to use 5mm needles to get the right gauge. I also used much less yarn than the pattern called for. The pattern called for 2000 grams of yarn, while I used less than 1300 grams (there are more than two hanks of the Diamond Yarn left over). I'm not complaining about this, as it means that my version of this coat weighs 35% less than the sample coat does.
I made a few modifications, as you can see. I wanted more coverage in the front, both for warmth and to make it easier to coordinate the coat with whatever I wear with it (the less you can see of the outfit underneath, the less well the coat has to match it). I ran the buttons all the way down the front instead of just buttoning the bodice. I also widened the button and buttonhole bands by two stitches as even in the picture the buttons look a little too big for their bands and I was using a slightly larger button than the pattern called for. I raised the neckline by something like five inches. I'm not thrilled with the way my shortened collar looks on the higher neckline, but it will do. And I'm very pleased with how the coat looks on me. Both the colour and the style suit me very well.
Lesson learned from this project is that from now on I'm going to make sure that my project plans have a better foundation than blind love of a pattern, because that has too often led to my knitting something that won't look right on me and/or that I have no use for. It's better that I take a more needs-based approach to project planning, (i.e., I decide I could use a hat and scarf to go with a new coat I just bought, or another easy care cardigan to wear around home), and to then look for the perfect pattern for that purpose.