Friday, November 30, 2018

another batch

I'm wrapping up November with another batch of Christmas balls. They look a little bit like cookies out of the oven, don't they? 

These six are: Poinsettia, Christmas Bells, Selbu, New Snow, Hospitality, and Decorating the Tree out of the 55 Christmas Balls to Knit book. I believe this makes 13 so far. That's almost 25% of the book! I've found some favorites for sure; Halling Border, Selbu, and New Snow being a few of them. I also really like how the checkered skirts on the tree decorating people look.

The yarn I'm using is just an acrylic Loops & Threads dk weight from Michael's. I'm pretty sure that's the store brand. It's really soft and pleasant to work with and I'd totally use it for other projects too. I'm filling with polyester fiberfill I had in my closet, which I need more of now that I've made a bear and 13 julekuler. Wool yarn and batting would be nice too, but this is just what was affordable and accessible when I was looking around for materials. This batch brings me almost to the end of a ball each of red and white - a little goes a long way! I did go out and get one more of each, so there will definitely be more on their way though I am going to set these aside and work on something different next. (!!!)

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


These things are like Pringles. Once you pop you can't stop. They even stack up nice and neat. I wonder if they'd fit in a Pringles tube.... For serious though, these Christmas balls are so much fun to make. I expect this space to be filled with pictures and posts of these guys well through the holidays. Maybe even into January. 

They are the perfect instant gratification project that is also skill building. I can finish a ball in just a couple of hours and each time I work a different pattern I try different ways of working the stranded knitting, even sometimes within the same ball. One strand on each index finger, holding only one strand at a time, holding both strands on one finger, continental style, english style.... you get the idea. I find that I'm quickest with one strand on each index finger when there is a lot of color switching going on but that the backs of my hands start to hurt sometimes when I do it that way. I think it all just takes practice to feel comfortable, kind of like when I first learned how to knit and it felt totally foreign compared to a crochet hook. 

The way I've done these so far is to knit up a stack of them along with their hanger loops and then sit down and stuff a bunch of them all at once. For someone who never liked the finishing stage (weaving ends, blocking, closing holes, etc.) it's really quite satisfying to finish these little guys up and get them hanging. I think they have changed me!

After a nice steam and a stuff they are ready to hang up. A single one is impressive, but I think they look rather fun in groups. Herds? When starting out, I thought these would be small, but they end up actually quite big, about 4 inches in diameter, which makes them about the size of a typical glass ball ornament.

So far in addition to Squirrel I've gotten six more done: Dovre, Reindeer, Rudolph, Halling Border, Mittens, and Christmas Stocking are the pattern names from the book.

The way I knit each ball takes up about 15 grams or so of yarn, that's about 40 yards in the kind of yarn I'm using. I haven't done that many with the black (just the one) but as I do more I think the black will make additional appearances. I also have some sparkly embroidery thread that I'd like to play with as well, probably just for duplicate stitching rather than trying to knit with it. Paired with the black and white that might make for an elegant ornament. Until next ball update, here's my happy little pile. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

tomorrowland teddy

Tomorrowland is the name of this Regia color way. It is also an area of Disney's Magic Kingdom, which was what I thought it was referring to when I bought it. Bright colors, space-ish and fun. Works, right? Well it turns out that Tomorrowland is ALSO a music festival. Not just any festival, an electronic dance music festival in Belgium. I guess Regia made a line of festival inspired colors and an EDM festival managed to make the list. This is awesome. 

The other thing that is awesome is this teddy bear. When I got to the point where the legs and arms are attached, all was looking good and actually like a bear even if it was just a little bit creepy. I was worried at the outset that I was going to have to deal with annoying holes at joints similar to whenever I make fingers or thumbs on gloves and mittens. It's like my least favorite thing about knitting. The way this pattern works though, that isn't even an issue. I was really pleased when I got to the body and the legs just went on like magic. There is a seam to close, but it's not trying to not be a seam which is my issue with the annoying between-finger-holes.

The going got tougher for me when I started stuffing. I may have filled up to a level that was too close to where I was working and so it just got physically harder for me to knit because the fabric was less flexible. Next time I'll try keeping things more flexible by stuffing less full at each point and filling more in later, but you do get to point with closing up the head and snout where it just is a pain in the neck and you have to tough it out. 

The super neat thing about the way this pattern is written is that it makes you look like such a pro. I was wondering from all the pictures how the join with the arms and body had those continuous stripes that were all matched up through the chest and shoulders. I didn't even have to think about it to get it to look like that. But sshhhh we won't tell. 

According to my notebook, it took me ten days from start to ears attached. That's not bad at all. I was even working on some other things in there, so I bet I could get one done in a week of monogamous knitting. Knowing that really only matters if I'm making one as a gift on a deadline; it isn't a race after all. I did decide when I got the yarn that I wanted to make one for each of my nieces for the holidays, but I think these may end up being birthday gifts instead given that I still need to do the second one and I'm enjoying some other holiday themed knitting at the moment. We'll see. Either way these will be pretty cool gifts.  

I have to say I was thinking to myself that I was more than a little bit crazy for mentally committing myself to making one of these bears, let alone two, but it has turned out to be much easier than I expected. That's not to say this wasn't a challenge and a learning experience, but look! He's so cute. I'll stitch on his face when I finish the second bear, but I'm calling this one done. 

Pattern: Sock Yarn Teddy Bear from Arne and Carlos Favorite Designs book (my Ravelry page)
Yarn: Schachenmayer Regia Festival Color 4 ply in 'Tomorrowland'
Needles: US 1.5 dpns

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

star chart

I came, I saw, I conquered. This hat took me less than two weeks to make, but boy it felt like longer. The sheer amount of ribbing involved made the going super slow but the end result oh so squishy. It was easy to get into a rhythm since the pattern is pretty simple, but I did still keep track of my rows with a row counter because I'm bad at reading cables for row count. 

The yarn is malabrigo arroyo which is a nice sturdy feeling wool that stands up really great to all the cabling. The color, pleiades, is a really pretty speckled deep deep navy and white. I am a little bit disappointed that the speckled-ness of the yarn didn't come through as well when knitted up. It kind of looks just like a regular variegated skein would work up. It still looks quite spectacular though. Just not speck-tackular. 

We bought this yarn at ReBelle in Lexington on our recent trip to Kentucky. That was the same place where I saw and loved this hat which someone had made for the shop in a green version of arroyo - a great excuse for a skein of my own to hop in the bag. Despite that project and others on Ravelry using just one skein, I did run out of yarn at the very end. I ended up doing about half of the decreasing in some leftover dark gray I had. Not many yards, but enough that there is a little gray 'cap' on top.  

But fear not! I got this pom pom on that same trip (different yarn shop....) and once it got attached I couldn't even see the gray anymore. The pom pom really makes this hat for me. I liked it without it, but I love it with it. This hat has quickly become one of my favorites to wear. It's warm, fits really great, and makes me feel like a rockstar when I've got it on. One drawback is that I don't wear it when it's rainy... I'm not too sure how that pom pom would like it. 

I decided to call it Star Chart to reference but not use the color way name. The Pleiades are a star cluster that I can recall seeing with just my eyes on a clear night up on Kings Mountain with some friends this summer. It's pretty impressive just gazing up, but with a pair of binoculars they are stunning - a fun thing to commemorate! And just for fun, here is a photo of the two of us up in Napa this week, the maiden voyage of my hat. I literally sewed the pom pom on just before we got in the car so I could wear it on this trip. Fun fact, Dave's hat is also a hand knit and includes the SAME gray on the brim that I capped off my hat with. Cute. 

Pattern: Voleur by Beth Kling (my Ravelry page
Yarn: malabrigo arroyo in 'pleiades'
Needle: US 1 and 2.5

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

a necessary trip

When one of your local yarn stores has a 9th anniversary sale, what's a girl to do?? I sent Mom the email notice and asked her if she liked any of the yarns on sale and well what do you know, she sent me a request. Obviously I had to go. 

Believe it or not all of these but ONE has a purpose already. From left to right: blue for the background of mittens for Dave from my new Arne and Carlos book, Mom's yarn request, two balls of Regia sock yarn for teddy bears from my new book, variegated green because it was pretty, and the brown skein is going to pair really nicely with some speckled Koigu for a shawl I've been eyeing for a long time. 

Dave was a good sport - I think secretly he likes yarn shopping with me. Happy Anniversary Uncommon Threads!

Monday, November 12, 2018

ribbing for days

I started my Voleur! I have to say, the tubular cast on is pretty magical - the edge it created is so neat and tidy. My one complaint is that since this is knit on small needles for the yarn weight in order to make a dense fabric, it's HARD to get those first inches done. My hands were very tired from k1, p1 ribbing. I'm sure it would be easier if the gauge was looser. 

I started this out on dpns because I didn't have a circular in the right size. I thought I might be able to work the rest of the hat on dpns once I switched to the larger size needle for the body too, but once the increases were worked I had way too many stitches on the needles to keep that up. So? I got to buy a new set of circulars! These are very pretty grayish birchwood 3 mm needles from a company called Lykke. Not that it's a priority, but they look very nice with the yarn and this little kitten marker that's helping me. I like them very much. 

Once the new needles came in the mail a week ago, it's basically been 2x2 rib. For days. It's quite ironic that I don't actually like knitting the ribbing parts of projects and yet here I am with a whole hat that's ribbing from top to bottom. The upside is that the pattern is very easy to memorize and work, even when hubby asks you to go with to get the car washed... 

Between this, the Christmas balls, and the birds - all knit on tiny needles - my hands are feeling a little fatigued these days, but frequent breaks for warm beverages are taking care of that pretty well. I'm a little more than halfway through the hat and I'm excited to see it finished up soon. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

birthday birds

The funny thing about Dave's gift to me this year is that it included another Arne and Carlos book! He apparently likes them, too because I got their "Favorite Designs" book that is essentially like a greatest hits album. I also got floral wire and outdoor paint, which took me a beat to realize why... Birds! Dave has sat with me while I watched some of their videos on all the things you can do with their knitted bird pattern. He must have especially liked the one where they showed how to make and paint the legs because he's offered to make some legs for me with the wire and paint. So cool! He's the best. 

Of course that means that the first thing I was making out of the book was a bird. It was surprisingly easy and I can tell this will become habit forming. It's a great way to use up short leftovers - it took me just over 20 yards and a couple of hours to make this first bird. It is going to be my little bird avatar.

They are so stinkin' cute. I was having so much fun with this little guy once it was done. DJ Birdbrain? 

And of course one bird avatar deserves another... one for Dave! I was pretty proud of myself, I actually knitted the second one from memory. The way the pattern is written makes it really easy to think section by section and remember how the increases and decreases go. Again, so cute. This one is a little bit bigger because I used slightly bigger needles - they were handy and the smaller ones were put away. The nice thing is that it doesn't really matter what the gauge is as long as the filling doesn't show through once it's stuffed - a true improvisational project.

Last night I got to sit and knit to my heart's content, a wonderful two bird birthday evening starting with Dave's bird and ending with this larger guy with a red cap. The flock is growing!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018


I opened a birthday present early. 

I've been watching all of Arne and Carlos's YouTube videos lately. They are just a hoot and a half, and I love their approach to knitting: "does it work? does it look ok? then that's how you do it!" They've certainly given me the gumption to try some things that I thought were too hard (ahem, fair isle mittens) and have woken up the creative bug again. This book of Christmas balls (julekuler) is one of their first to be published, and I have been eyeing it ever since I watched their tutorial video. Dave's parents sent it to me. 

When it came in the mail I went out and got some red and white yarn so I could get started. They look really fiddly, but if your'e comfortable on double pointed needles then you've got the hardest part down. They definitely benefit from being steam pressed - don't be skipping that step. I did a lower temperature press because this yarn is acrylic, but it still smoothed out lumps and bumps. Stuffing and finishing is very easy to do despite the fact that it seemed confusing when I read it. Watch the tutorial. 

The first pattern I chose was the squirrel because Dave has been requesting we do a "woodland creatures" theme for our holiday decorating for the last couple of years. I think we might be able to oblige this year! These are super addictive and I'm really looking forward to making more of these. I already know which one I'm doing next. What I really like about this book is, similar to their overall goals as designers, they have included traditional motifs as well as some quirkier and more modern designs so I both learn something about Norwegian knitting and also get to have some fun. More to come!

Monday, November 5, 2018

another kind of stitching

One of the first crafts I can remember learning from my mom was cross stitch. I've done quite a bit of it in the past and finished some pretty cool looking pieces. My favorite was a clownfish in an anemone that I made for my grandpa. It took forever! But it looked so cool. It's not something we see very often anymore, but I have noticed it more and more recently - especially witty motifs in small hoops. Maybe some of those will have to make their way onto my walls!

Along with the unfinished felt embroidery I found in the storage ottoman, I also found a small cross stitch project that was nearly finished. This is one of those wall hanging pieces stitched on plastic canvas. All I needed to do was cut it out, make the red cording, and assemble all the pieces. Quickest finish of the year!

Having gotten a taste of it again, I went looking in my closet for more. It is a great break from knitting for my hands while still giving me something to do in the evenings. I found a couple of options, including some Christmas ornament kits, but I settled on this non-holiday project. 

This is a kit I remember my grandmother giving me. It is a scene of a shelf full of Victorian items. She had already sorted and labeled the thread and started it, but did not want to keep working on it. She did the swan, and now I get to add on the rest! It's a pretty special find, and one that I'll enjoy working on in the months to come. Witty avocado pictures will have to wait.