A Squad of Stegosauruses

Sweater and leg warmer knitting has fallen by the wayside over the past month—it’s starting to get hot enough here that all I want to do after work is lock myself in the bedroom with the window AC and try not to melt.

In my search for compact, lightweight, not overly complicated knitting projects that didn’t involve sitting under piles of wool, I decided to embark upon a mission: knit a squad of dinosaurs.

Why dinosaurs, you ask? Because they’re awesome. Why a full squad? This summer coincides with the pregnancies of two friends and the birthdays of all three of my niblings, meaning I have five opportunities to make a tiny kid’s day with a squishy, fuzzy, wondrously plated knit stegosaurus.

Dino #1

I had high hopes of cranking all five dinos out and then doing a cute photoshoot with an artfully handcrafted jungle-themed background, but then I realized: a) I’m not that kind of blogger; b) I already gave one away; and c) ain’t nobody got time for that.

Instead, I present you with a handful of iPhone photos of (adorably!) disembodied dino parts:

Dino head

Dino feet

Dino feet

Dino head

Watching these take shape has been so fun. Right now, I’ve finished three of the bodies and am partway through the second set of feet/plates. I’m getting great practice working with double-pointed needles, and they’re so cute that I can’t stop myself from AWWWWWWWWWING every now and then. Which I’m sure thrilled the other knitters at brunch a couple of weeks ago.

Pattern: Katie Boyette’s Dinosaur Jr. on Ravelry

My Ravelry notes are here: Dinosaur Jr. #1

Bonus: a very detailed discussion of appropriate dinosaur terms of venery!

Super bonus: fascinating Wikipedia article on the Bone Wars of dinosaur fossil discovery

A Serge(r) of Delight

The weather in Boston this year has been record breakingly terrible, and despite the fact that multiple snow days and dark, cold evenings should theoretically mean lots of incentive to curl up with a project indoors, I haven’t really been…feeling it.

I’ve cast on a couple of projects and have a couple of others languishing in my studio, but my sewing machine has been almost silent for months. A few weeks ago, though, I finally worked up the courage to delve into new crafty territory: the world of sergers.

Over Christmas, my wonderful in-laws gifted me a serger that once belonged to Mr. Jones’ grandmother. I was thrilled but also a bit apprehensive: sergers are notoriously scary beasts, with four (as in, three more than normal) threads to thread and sharp knives that will chop off the tip of your finger (or, less drastically but perhaps equally sad, the wrong bits of your fabric) if you’re not careful.

2015-03-14 17.49.25
Behold: the terrifying innards of a serger

I’m only barely starting to get a handle on tensioning using my regular sewing machine; the thought of trying to navigate four different tension dials plus something called “differential feed” while simultaneously worrying about injury and potential project ruin was daunting enough that I carefully set the serger box on my sewing table and then avoided looking at it for several months.

Then I saw that Gather Here was offering an hour-long “Serger Basics” class, and I womaned up. Turns out: sergers aren’t that scary, as long as you’re willing to spend some time fiddling with your settings and make sure to test everything (maybe twice, to be on the safe side) before jumping in. I came home and began the grand unboxing.

After I set everything up, I turned Helen (named after the “Helen’s Hilltop Fabrics” label I found on the front of the machine) on and gave her a whirl. Guess what? She’s in perfect condition.

serger practice

I have a couple of project ideas in mind, but I’d love to know what others recommend as first serger projects: simple knit dresses? Leggings? Let me know!

Pac-Man Hat: Finally

I finished knitting this hat longer ago than I want to admit, then went back and forth on whether to line it. Points in favor:

  • All of the colorwork inside would probably benefit from being shielded by a layer of fleece.
  • Lining a hat is a cool skill I’d like to learn.

Points against:

  • It’s now officially springtime where the hat wearer (my brother) lives, and expecting him to sport a layer of polar fleece in addition to a knit hat seems…cruel.
  • My dark blue thread kept breaking when I tried to handsew the lining to the hat, and I gave up.

Honesty, folks.

Anyway, now that I’ve cleared up that debate, I’m finally ready to mail it off to its new home.

Pac-Mac Hat

Pac-Man Hat

After my sister unwrapped the ear flap hat I made for her, my brother asked if I’d make him one, too. Only beige, he asked, and maybe with Pac-Man ghosts on it?

Challenge accepted!

I started with the same Norwegian Star Earflap Hat pattern, then combed the interwebz for Pac-Man ghost inspiration. This friendship bracelet pattern served as a good starting point:

Pac-Man ghost pattern

The hat is knitted in the round, with 112 stitches total. The original snowflake pattern is 15 rows of 16 stitches each, making for 7 repeats. I tweaked the Pac-Man pattern (originally 12 rows of 11 stitches) to be 14 stitches wide and 15 high (and proudly pranced around the kitchen waving my homemade colorwork chart in Mr. Jones’ face until he acknowledged how awesome this accomplishment truly was), and then I got down to the messy, messy business of actually knitting it.

All the tangles

Ooof. With the background and the white and black for the eyes, I ended up working with four colors. I’m pretty sure this…isn’t a great idea for beginning knitters. Side note: I’ve seen a lot of tutorials on how to handle working with two colors, but nothing on using four colors simultaneously. Is this a ridiculous thing I did? Do people not do this? Is there a magic way to avoid having to stop and untangle your balls of yarn every twenty stitches?

Despite the tangles, I managed to finish the colorwork portion of the hat on Monday with only minor puckering, which I think I’ll be able to fix at the blocking stage. I now have ghosts!

Pac-Man Ghosts

My brother asked for a “dull blue” as the accent color, which—I realized belatedly—means that these adorable creatures have no official name (and that the eyes don’t show up very well in pictures). I’m still kind of in love with them, though, and I’m looking forward to finishing up the crown of the hat and mailing it off soon. Hooray!

Lastly, and importantly: do you remember when Google made a playable Pac-Man doodle? No? Good thing I reminded you, then. Take three minutes today and see if you can beat my high score of (wait for it) 200.

Google Pac-Man Doodle

Winter Makes + What’s Next

I had high hopes—so high as to be delusional—of hitting the ground running after Thanksgiving and making Christmas and Hanukkah gifts and decorations galore. Instead, I came down with a cold that had me at home in bed for over a week.

I manage to pull myself together by mid-December, though, and finish a couple of projects. I’m recording these more for posterity than for inspiration: the photos are few and grainy, and only of the end results, not of the process.

Christmas Jammies

First up: a gift for Mr. Jones, who politely requested “adult footie pajamas with a hood and a zipper and a flap” for Christmas. It’s surprisingly hard to find a single pattern with all of these features. I looked at Simplicity 2853 (hood and zipper, no footies) and Simplicity 1731 (drawstring hood and zipper, patch pockets, no footies) before settling on Kwik Sew 3713, which has no hood and no zipper and no flap, but has footies and pockets.

I bought and downloaded the PDF version, which was…challenging (Step one: download and install a proprietary viewer. Step two: download a license for that viewer. Step three: download three different pattern files. Step four: weep as they print.). Indie pattern designers, you definitely win this round.

Mr. Jones and I scouted out both online and in-person shops for the appropriate fabric, but the one print he liked—check out the amazing deer/Fair Isle below—was sold out. At this point it was roughly December 17, and I decided to table the footie pajamas in favor of something a bit more realistically accomplishable before our planned gift exchange on the 19th.

Amazing Christmas jammies, you were sadly not to be.

Amazing Christmas jammies, you were sadly not to be.

Enter: the lobster pants. One free PDF pajama pant pattern from Simplicity and three yards of lobster-print cotton from Fabric Corner later, we were in business.

Lobsters!

Hello, you creepy cockroaches of the sea.

This came together super quickly, despite the fact that I may or may not have cut one of the pieces out backwards, almost had a meltdown trying to turn the drawstring inside out with a safety pin (lesson: use a chopstick), and realized after I had completely finished that the elastic waist was too big, meaning I had to rip open the waistband, cinch things up, and resew.

All that mess (which, thankfully, Mr. Jones didn’t witness) aside, these turned out pretty well:

2014-12-18 22.25.08

Sadly, by the time we made it from Massachusetts to Michigan to Kansas, the thread I used (Mettler 100% Cotton All Purpose) had started to break in several places, opening up the seams. Has anyone else had this problem? A bit of research tells me that a cotton-wrapped polyester might have been a better choice. After another pass over the seams (thanks, Mom!), they seem to be holding up fine for now.

Snowflake Hat

Next up: knitting for my sister, who asked for an earflap hat. I couldn’t bear to buy one, so instead I swung by Gather Here’s Saturday knitting circle armed with the free Norwegian Star Earflap Hat pattern from Tiennie Knits on Ravelry.

This was my first time using DPNs (though I only used two at a time, so it wasn’t as exciting as it sounds), my first time knitting an i-cord, and—most thrillingly—my first colorwork attempt. Once I got the hang of the earflaps (which require you to pick up the loop between two stitches and knit into that in order to increase), this came together quickly: a couple of evenings, and it was done (slightly more detailed notes are on Ravelry, in case you’re interested).

ear flap hat

I have the earflaps knitted for a second version, this time for my brother, who saw my sister’s version and got a little jealous. A sign of knitting success?

Next Up

I came back from winter break with a loooooooong list of things to make, including both projects I’ve had sitting in my studio for months and brand new ones, inspired in part by the gift of a serger (!!!) from Mr. Jones’ parents, pillow forms and a great bulletin board for organizing my notes and bits of ideas from my parents, and yarn from both sides. I’m toying with making that list public as a way to motivate myself to work through it, but I’m a little nervous about broadcasting my laziness so publicly. Is anyone else struggling with how dark it gets, and how early? These days, I come home from work and want to curl up in bed right away. Any thoughts on how to beat this, aside from “take your knitting to a tanning bed”?

Braided Cable Wedding Cover-Up

In case all the posts referring to wedding stress haven’t tipped you off, I got married! On November 1. In Maine. In a strapless, tea-length dress.

Did I mention the wedding was in November? In Maine?

I realized pretty quickly after I bought my dress that bare shoulders weren’t going to cut it, and I started knitting Jami Brynildson’s Braided Cable Hug in a soft, fuzzy blend of ivory yarns to wear over the dress in case I got cold.

The cables came together fairly quickly, given that I’d never done anything more complicated than stockinette before (total time: approximately one and a half seasons of Witches of East End). From there, the pattern instructed:

With RS facing, graft the ends together using a darning needle, taking special care to match up cables and maintain a neat RS fabric.

Furious Googling and Ravelry forum combing for “seam together cables” and “sew cables together knitting” revealed that a) the correct term is “grafting”; b) in order to do so, I should have used something called a “provisional cast on” (whoops); and c) grafting together cables is apparently WAY HARD. Also, contrary to the pattern instructions, one should block before grafting, rather than after. So: I blocked it on my new fancy foam blocking mat and hoped for the best.

Blocking: really hoping I did this the right way.

Between researching cable seaming and blocking, I also moved, and by the time I got back around to the project, I had kind of given up on “maintain[ing] a neat RS fabric.” Sorry, Jami Brynildson. Instead, I seamed the two edges together in an extremely obvious line and decided I’d wear that part at the back. Done.

After a few rounds of ribbing at the neckline, it was time to rock and roll. Witness, me looking very chilly (and excited) sans cover-up:

brrrrr

And much warmer, once properly attired:

warmer!

From the back, you can see the seam (which has migrated slightly to the right):

back view

After I looked at the pictures, I kind of regretted adding an extra half row of cable—the pattern as written includes three rows of 12-stitch cable, and I added a 6-stitch cable row at the top to mimic a photograph I’d seen on a wedding site. I like the way this looks, but the cover-up ended up coming down below my elbows, which gave the whole ensemble a bit of an awkward penguin look. The piece was big enough that I could move my arms freely, but I think it would have looked more elegant if it had ended just above my elbows.

Now that the wedding’s over, I’m not sure when I’ll wear this again—the length makes it a bit too cumbersome for daily wear, and the style isn’t quite office appropriate for me. That said, it’s so soft and cuddly that I can see myself tossing it on over leggings and long tee for lazy winter days at home.

Readers, such as you are (is anyone still out there?)—have any of you ever tried this so-called “provisional cast on”? Have you ever grafted cables together? Any pointers?

The Wedding Quilts

I’ve been rather quiet here since this summer, which I attributed to wedding planning stress and an unexpected, last-minute move. Those things happened, but they didn’t stop me from making things—the real reason I’ve been so quiet is that my maker energies have almost all been focused on a massive, secret project: the wedding quilts.

When Mr. Jones and I got engaged, we knew immediately that we wanted to give something to our families that would reflect how loved and supported we’ve felt not only in our relationship but throughout our lives. We decided to each take on a project: he would hand-carve and wood burn a series of walking sticks, and I would make quilts. Five of them.

Aside from a couple of cryptic Instagram posts, I managed to stay mostly silent about the project. Now that the wedding’s over and the quilts have been gifted, though, I can finally blog about them!

Mr. Jones and I picked out the pattern together: we chose Purl Bee’s Crossroads Quilt as the base.

Purl Bee Crossroads Quilt

We then tweaked it a bit so that instead of using a print fabric for the “crossroads” overlap bits, we wove the two narrow stripe colors in and out.

Crossroads Quilt: Woven

We decided on white and red for our stripes, then chose five different shades of blue and gray (one for each recipient) for the backgrounds. (Breaking out the Kona Color Card to match our photoshopped pattern to actual fabric: so awesome.)

Wedding Quilts

Once we ordered the fabric, we went into production mode: we washed and ironed all of the quilt top fabric at once, which involved…a lot of ironing. I spent a couple of nights cutting everything up, and then I taught Mr. Jones how to press open seams so we could tag-team the piecing process. Photos here are lacking; please accept this photo of Margot instead.

Margot

We finished the piecing just before the move and picked up the quilting stage once we had settled into the new place. No photos of this, aside from the mountain of double fold bias tape I made one weekend:

bias tape mountain

I took an embroidery class in mid-September, then made custom labels for each quilt with our initials, the initials of the recipient, and our wedding logo (I never thought I’d be the kind of person to have a wedding logo, either. I know.).

Four long months of secret-keeping and blog silence later, we had wedding quilts.

Wedding Quilts!

Flax sweater, bit by bit

I can’t believe we’re already a third of the way through September. I went to see my family and flew home to a new apartment, a new academic year, and a to-do list—technically, at least four competing simultaneous to-do lists—miles and miles long. (Relatedly: Mr. Jones and I went to Home Depot four times this weekend. Four times. FOUR. TIMES.) I still haven’t caught my breath, and I’m pretty sure it’ll be 2015 before I know it.

Still: I managed to carve out a tiny bit of time for myself—in the Detroit airport, of all places—last week to make a thing: the ribbed collar of the Flax sweater.

Flax sweater: collar

I bought the recommending knitting needles, but there was no way my cast on stitches were making it all the way around the cable I was using, so I ended up teaching myself how to make a Magic Loop. Bonus skill acquisition!

Once all the boxes are unpacked and the art is hung on the walls and the apartment feels a bit more like home (fingers crossed!), I’m hoping to find a few more minutes here and there to keep working on this. So far it feels like it will be the perfect thing to wear in New England in the fall—neat, warm, a bit scratchy, but good for the soul.