Monthly Archives: July 2013

Christmas Knitting: Gents

We can’t forget about the dudes!  Sometimes they’re a little harder to knit for, since they (typically) don’t go for fancy lace and pompoms and such.  But, here I’ve dug up some pretty neat (and manly!) projects for the guys in your life:

Bus Hat by Kylie McDonnell-Wade

bus hat


Handsome Scarf by Spilly Jane


Modified Army Gloves by Selyn Birnbaum


Socks With Pints On by Spilly Jane


Christmas Knitting: Ladies

Holy crap, Christmas is coming soon!  (Even if you don’t do the whole Christmas thing, there’s always an excuse to do some gift knitting.) So, what to make?   This week, I’m trolling Ravelry for ideas for gift knitting projects.  Follow along if you’re looking for something, too.

Let’s start with knitting for the ladies in your life.  Mothers, friends, sisters, aunts, daughters, mothers-in-law, coworkers, the lady down the street that waters your plants when you go out of town.  I bet they’d all appreciate any one of these quick (and girly) projects:

Baktus Scarf, by Strikkelise


Toast, by leslie friend


Meret, by Wooly Wormhead


Christmas is coming

ChristmasTreeChristmas will be here in 5 months from yesterday.  If you’re planning on doing knitting for Christmas gifts, you should start thinking about it now.

You have been warned.

Coffee Sweater

coffee sleeve

Keep your coffee comfy and cozy with this cup-sized sweater! If you’re as caffeine-addicted as I am, you know how important it is to keep your coffee nice and hot, while avoiding burning your fingers.  This coffee cup sleeve is super-fast to knit up, and the addition of a few simple cables will keep the attention of even the most caffeine-addled knitters. Since it’s a small project worked with worsted-weight yarn, you can make several from a single skein of yarn, making the Coffee Sweater a great pattern for gift knitting.

Get the pattern here:

Coffee Sweater


Gather ’round boys and girls, and let me tell you the tale of the Green Yarn and the sweater(s) it became.  Our story begins in the year 2008…

A hopeful young knitter named Allison found a beautiful pattern called the February Lady Sweater.


It was gorgeous… cozy, comfy, lacy, and a beautiful shade of green.  She had to have it.

As a graduate student, Allison went the cheapest route and bought a whole pile of white yarn from Knit Picks and dyed it with food coloring.  It turned out… with varying results.  Some of the skeins were greener, some were browner, and one even had bright red blotches in it.  It was odd, but it wasn’t going to defeat our knitter.  She went ahead and meticulously knit up the February Lady Sweater, carefully using each skein for only a few rows to mix the slightly different yarns throughout her sweater.  After months of work, and weaving in hundreds of ends, she was done!  She tried on the sweater and!

It. Looked. AWFUL.

It was chunky, too big, and looked like the worst, most stereotypical maternity clothes.  Allison wore it twice (out of stubbornness) and threw it to the bottom of her closet, where it was never thought of again.


In the summer of 2010, Allison got the itch to knit another sweater, and remembered that green yarn from two years ago, and went to go dig it out.  She found the terrible sweater, and tried it on again (just in case).  It was still ugly.  So, she ripped out the entire thing and balled it all up into a million golf ball sized skeins of yarn.

In the years since she had first knit the sweater, it had sat at the bottom of the closet becoming permeated with dust.  Unraveling the sweater and rolling up the balls of yarn caused both Allison and her husband to have massive allergy attacks.  So, out of spite, she hid the yarn away again, refusing to knit with something that made her sneeze like she had rolled around in a pile of cats.

Around Christmas 2012, Allison got it into her head that she wanted a new sweater.  Something plain, with nice long sleeves, and maybe a simple cable down the sleeves (because why not).

The idea rolled around for a while, until she purchased a book called “The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters” by Ann Budd.  “Perfect!” thought Allison, looking at the pattern for a basic saddle-shoulder sweater.  “I’ll make this!  It will be quick and easy, and I’ll be able to use that green yarn that’s been following me around for the past five years.”

She cast on, carefully spit-joining the ends of all her little skeins of yarn.  And, before she knew it she had the top half of a great pullover: sleeves, crew neck, shoulders, and a good 10 inches of body.  Excited, she tried it on:  the sleeves looked perfect, the neck was great, but the body of the sweater was way too big.

More determined than ever, Allison ripped out the body (again) and reknit it, this time decreasing on the sides to bring the size down.  She tried it on (again), and was dismayed to find out that the sweater looked even worse than before!  The body fit around the waist, but now there were weird puffy bits in the armpits of the sweater.  Not good!

She ripped out the body once again and reknit it, this time adding k2p2 ribbing panels on the sides.  She held her breath as she tried it on once more.

It fit!  It looked good! Hooray!

She flew through the remaining 6 inches of body and bound off as quickly as she could.  She blocked out the sweater that night, and kept coming back to look at it as it dried.

Two days later (Seattle is always slightly damp, even in summer), the sweater was cozy and dry!  Allison excitedly put on the “finished” sweater, and was heartbroken to realize that the sleeves, after blocking, were a good 4 inches too long.  After a bit of pouting, she ripped the cuffs back and reknit them in an evening.

Finally!  The sweater was done!  It had been five years since she had purchased the yarn, she had tried two patterns, and had at least 4 major froggings, but at last she had something to show for her work.




So, the moral of the story?  Never, ever, ever, give up.  That’s the great thing about knitting.  No matter how bad you mess up (unless you set your yarn on fire or something), you can always remake a pattern, fix your mistakes, or totally reknit your yarn.


Oh Yeah! Dying With Kool-Aid


Dying is super fun and rewarding (and surprisingly easy).   It’s a great way to play with yarn when it’s too hot to sit around with a big pile of sweater on your lap.

There are a million ways to dye yarn, but this is the easiest one I’ve found.    You probably have everything that you need in your kitchen right now. I’ll do further yarn dying posts about more complicated dying processes later, but this should get you started (and you end up with a whole bunch of fruity-smelling yarn).

Please note, this will only work with wool or animal fibers (cashmere, angora, silk, etc.).  Dying other fibers (cotton, linen, anything synthetic etc.) takes a lot more effort as well as some fairly toxic chemicals, so I don’t bother with that.  But doing this is super easy and fun.  It’s a little like making magic potions, and you can do it with kids, if you’ve got some around that want to help.

You’ll only need a couple things to dye your wool:

  • Wool.  Duh.  You can use a wool blend, but know that the wool fibers and the acrylic (or whatever) fibers will take up the dye differently, which can give you a heathered look.  Superwash wool works well, and you won’t have to worry about your yarn getting felted in the process.  You can dye colored yarn or white yarn, just know that if you start with dark yarn, you’ll never dye it so that it ends up lighter.  If you’re trying to get bright or pastel colors, start with white.
  • Kool-Aid (in the color of your choice) I’m using “Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade”.  Get the kind in packets, not the kind in the big tubs with sugar pre-added.
  •  Water-From the tap.  Nothing fancy.
  • A non-reactive pot in which to do your dying. A stainless steel, enamel or non-stick pot works well if you’re trying to get a solid (or mostly solid) color.  Copper or cast iron pots can cause weirdness when you try to dye in them.

So how do you do it?

  1. Soak your yarn in warm water.  Make sure it’s nice and wet through.  If the yarn is wet to start with, it will take up color more evenly.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  2. Mix up your dye.  Just add a packet or two (or three or four) of Kool-Aid to a pot full of water.   It’s better to err on the too light side than the too dark side, since you can always add more color, but you can’t remove it.  I’m going for a pastel blue color, so I’m going with just one packet of color.  Heat up your dye until you just barely start to see little bubbles.  Don’t actually boil the water, but get it close.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  3. When your dye is steaming hot, and just about to start simmering, turn the heat way down and throw in your yarn.  Submerge all your yarn at once, and poke it around a little bit, so that each strand of yarn gets plenty of exposure to the dye.
  4. Set the color.  Keep your dyepot nice and hot, until the color transfers from the dye water to the yarn.  You know you’re done when the water is no longer colored.  Adjust the temperature to make sure that the dye stays nice and hot, but make sure not to burn or boil the yarn.  (Most Kool-Aid flavors will end up turning totally clear.  I picked one of their lemonade flavors, which they put something in to turn the water cloudy.  You’ll never get lemonade colors totally clear, but as long as the water turns white instead of blue (or yellow or whatever), you’re good to go.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  5. Carefully (without burning yourself) move the yarn to a colander, and rinse the yarn under hot water from the tap.  Slowly lower the temperature of the rinse water until you can touch it without burning yourself.  Don’t immediately shock the yarn with cold water, because it can damage the yarn and cause felting.  Once you can touch the yarn without screaming in pain, keep rinsing out the yarn, gently flipping and turning it until no more color rinses out of the yarn.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  6. If you are happy with your color, hang up the yarn to dry.  If you want to add more color (this is called over-dying) go through the steps again with more dye.
  7. Knit something fabulous with your new hand-dyed yarn.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


I just got up this morning and I realized that I forgot to write a blog post yesterday. I’ve been super good about updating the blog Monday, Wednesday, Friday since the very beginning, but I totally spaced yesterday. Boo. I got caught up at work, and didn’t get home until quite late. (I work at a ceramics studio, and we have a rush order for some custom tiles.)


I promise to get back to our regularly scheduled program on Friday!

Inspiration: Ponies!!

I don’t know how I missed these adorable little guys when they made the rounds last winter, but I just found them again.  How adorable are they?  Teeny tiny Shetland ponies wearing teeny tiny Shetland wool sweaters (or I suppose “jumpers,” since they’re in the UK).  They totally made my day.  Here’s more information about them, if you’re interested. (And, who am I kidding?  Of course you’re interested.)



Want sweaters to match the ponies?  Try one of these gorgeous fair isle creations:

Lissuin, by Ann Kingstone


Dogwood Blossoms Sweater, by Kerin Dimeler-Laurence


Bea Fair Isle Pullover, by Sharon Slarke

bea fair isle

Pattern: Shiny Jammer

When I’m not being an obsessive TV-watching, tea-drinking knitter I like to let out my aggression by playing roller derby. It’s super fun. I play with a local banked track league (Tilted Thunder), and it’s probably one of the most satisfying things that I’ve ever done. (And definitely the most fun I’ve ever had playing a sport, although that’s not saying much.)

Actually, since I’m usually pretty polite and quiet soft-spoken in real life, and I don’t have any tattoos, sometimes people don’t believe me when I tell them I play derby. So, here’s proof:

1044944_10151760344398223_1844534174_nI’m the one in green with the black helmet.  I love this picture because I look kind of terrifying.  Usually in derby photos I just look scared and awkward.

In this picture, I’m giving my jammer (the girl in front of me who wears stars on her helmet) a push to make her go faster.  The jammer is the one that scores points by lapping skaters on the other team.  (I’m a blocker, whose job it is to help our jammer go faster, and stop the other jammer.)  If you are interested in the rules, this is a good overview.

Anyway, a friend of mine, who also plays derby, asked me to make her a jammer hat  for her birthday, and who am I to say no?  I looked through some of the available patterns, and I didn’t care for them, so I made my own pattern.


Now you, too can channel your inner badass with this roller derby-inspired hat.  It’s knit in the round with a simple ribbed cuff and decreases on the crown.  The stars are added using the duplicate stitch after the hat is knit up.  Knit this super simple hat in the colors of your favorite roller derby team to show your spirit.  And don’t forget: skate fast, turn left, and hit hard!

Get the pattern here:

Shiny Jammer

I’m So Lazy…

I’m totally lazy.  I love trying to find  shortcuts and easy ways to do things.  Unfortunately with knitting, there often isn’t an easy way.  (There’s no shortcut for knitting the acres of stockinet for a sweater… you just have to do it.)

Sure, knitting is an effort-heavy process, but don’t lose all hope!  I’ve got a great little trick for making color work super easy.  Let’s imagine that you want to put a nice little fair isle border on the cuffs of your new sweater, or maybe knitting an intarsia heart on a little girl’s hat.  Your project would end up really cute, but it would be a total pain to do.  I don’t know about you, but I like just making plain old stockinet stitch garments (easy!).  So, what’s a girl to do?

That’s where the duplicate stitch comes in.  The duplicate stitch is technically an embroidery technique that you can use to decorate knitted fabric after it has already been knitted so that it looks as if the decorative pattern was worked as the project was knit up.  I like using it for projects that have only a little bit of fair isle (which can be a pain to do for only a row or two at a time), or any pattern that wants you to do intarsia in the round (which is almost impossible).

And, I’ve even made a video for you.  Enjoy, and let me know if you have questions!