Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Preemie Hat

It's pretty easy to tell how long it takes me to make something. I start a new project the same or the next day after I finish the last one and I post the project here on the same or the next day after it's finished.

That's how it usually works.

These preemie hats were knit within hours of each other. The green one was started at about 10pm last night and finished in the wee hours of this morning and the purple one was started at about 8 this morning - before I went to walk dogs and was finished about a half hour ago. I have put aside working on an afghan (which will take a while to finish) because we have a task to complete for Loyola Hospital in Maywood. They have a preemie unit with almost 30 babies and they need hats. StitchCraft's most prolific knitter has made about twenty of them but she lives in California. So, I am stitching some of these cuties to give to the hospital next week so they have some on hand until the shipment arrives from the left coast.

The pattern for the hat came from Knitty Gritty and Stitches From the Heart. They are super cute and super fast to make with size 6 needles and a little worsted weight yarn. Now, I admit that, as usual, I have made some changes to the pattern,

For the most part, I knit it as is - except I gave away my straight size 6 needles, so if I'm knitting flat, I use size 7. Then, I'm always concerned about the softness of a preemie's head, and how irritating the seam could be. So, I knit it in round and don't have to worry about the seam at all.

This is a great way to use up remnant yarn because it hardly takes any and it serves a purpose to bring comfort to those little darlings who enter the world a bit earlier than they should. It also provides a keepsake for their parents. This little hat does so much.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Prayer Shawl

This is the standard prayer shawl we use to in the Prayer Shawls 4 Fallen Soldiers project and those we sell at our United Methodist Women Bazaar. They are soft, easy to make and care for and they are very popular.

My sister was reading the blog and wanted to see a photo of the prayer shawl because I talked about it in an earlier post. But here's the thing: I've never made one. We have a knit goddess who makes the bulk of our shawls and she lives in California. She sends them to us a dozen or more a pop so we haven't had much need to make them in Chicago. However, after I finished my last project the next project up was from The Prayer Shawl Ministry (eerie how that works) and so I got out 3 skeins of Lion Brand Homespun yarn, my size 13 circular needles and started making my first prayer shawl. And here is it.
It didn't take all three skeins, more like 2.5 but an easier pattern you will not find.

If you are interested in making prayer shawls for soldiers' families, please follow the link to get more information. We need as much assistance as we can get. There are over 3000 names and we have only gone over the 300 mark. We have a long way to go and many more shawls to send.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sawtooth Throw

I don't know what it is: I'm always excited to start a new project and always glad when it comes to an end and then I just pick up a new project and begin again.

This throw probably took a little more than a week to make. I still need to block it and because it's stockinette, I will steam block it even though it's acrylic to ease the roll.

This was made with my favorite worsted weight yarn, Caron by the Pound in lilac, deep violet, and jonquil. It used about half a skein each, maybe a little more on the lilac because it's used a little more. There's a crocheted border on the longer sides because I didn't want to pick up stitches like the pattern called for.

The pattern (taken from Easy Afghan for Knitters) also calls for bulky weight yarn. I don't have a bulky weight yarn I really like so I used worsted weight and it came out ok, though I think it would be more vibrant if I used Kente colors like reds, purples, and blues. I used size 10.5 circular needs. It's more of a rectangle than a square but it would still be good enough to take the chill off the toes and legs while sitting on the couch. It's about 60 inches long and 45 wide.

The sawtooth is created by slipping stitches for two rows. This one slipped a stitch every third stitch, but you can create your own by slipping more of less often and over more rows. I'll have to try a swatch of that to see how it comes out.

So what will become of the throw? It will find itself heading to the right coast to my sister in Maryland where I hope she will get some comfort and warmth out of it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Doggie Sweater

This sweater is way too small for Duke, but fits Sashi just perfectly. This dog sweater was done before I even knew it. Talk about your quick knits and that's exactly where I got the pattern from a book called Quick Knits ~ Cool Patterns
from the House of White Birches.

I used size 17 needles (the largest size I will use, by the way, because I have small man hands) and Lion Brand Thick & Quick yarn. It's in a simple rib stitch and rates as a beginning project. There is some shaping, button holes and yarn-overs, but nothing difficult to master. There's also a matching human hat and scarf pattern, but I think if I make them at all, they will be a stand alone project.
I'm pretty sure I didn't use a full skein because I used it from an afghan I started but for some reason don't want to complete. I wish I could show you the buttons in greater detail because they have this cool looking hologram image. The entire project didn't take three hours. Alas, it will not stay on Sashi but will be sold at the next pancake breakfast and craft sale in May. But perhaps Sashi will attend and buy it for himself.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Prayer Shawls 4 Fallen Soldier's Families

In an earlier post, I shared with you the national program Prayer Shawls 4 Fallen Soldier's Families. In short, we are sending a prayer shawl or afghan to the next of kin of every soldier lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a painstaking endeavor. We have sent out over 300 items already, but there are more than 3400 on the list. We have a long way to go.

And though we try to make sure we send the shawls to the right address, we don't know that it always makes it to the right place or the right person. And we never do it for the thank yous that may never come - but every once in a while, you get a blessing back for a blessing offered. I received this letter yesterday:

Thank you and the United Methodist Women for my prayer shawl. I received the shawl on Jan. 15, on my birthday. What a gift to receive. I put the shawl on as soon as I opened the box. I felt the love that went into this shawl. Later that night, I was taken out to dinner for my birthday and to my surprise, I got engaged. Truly when your congregation blessed this shawl, they really blessed it! I am writing this letter with the prayer shawl wrapped around me. Thank you and your church for such a priceless gift. Also my son, Torry, would thank you for the love you, and your church has shown his family. Please share these words with your congregation.

Linda C.

Wow, we really can do some good in this world.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

It's Cool to be Square

So, what have I been doing the past few days? Besides making a cute little doggie sweater (as soon as I put the buttons on it, I will put a photo up), I have been making squares. All kinds of squares. These squares will go into at least two different afghans.

The white squares are Aran cables. Seven have been completed so far and there are five more to go. The other squares will all be framed in a wine colored rim and there will be some solid wine colored squares to pull them all together. There will be about 30 - 36 squares to form one huge afghan.

I am using two sources for the square patterns: The Little Box of Knitted Throws for the aran squares and also 200 Knitted Blocks for the rest of the squares.

What's the great thing about squares?
  • You can express yourself with color and/or texture.
  • They are wonderful take along projects - even if you have to add a cable needle.
  • You can test out new stitches without making something big like a sweater or even a scarf. A block is usually not that big and you can see how the stitch will come out without a big time commitment.
  • You can play around with design and stitches. You can put them together the way you want to and if it doesn't work out, pull the pieces apart and redesign or undo the square - they don't take that much time or that much yarn. You can indulge whatever muse is sitting on your shoulder.
  • Great opportunity to use the scrap yarn. A few ounces of leftover yarn can make a square and if you use a stretchy stitch, you can block it even larger.
  • If you want to get started in mission or charity knitting, there are places that will take the squares (such as Warm Up America) you make and turn them into blankets to distribute to those in need. So, if you're a fan of the knitting, but not so much of the sewing, you can have your cake and let someone else have theirs.
The web is full of stitch patterns and patterns that use squares to make afghans, scarves, even jackets - do a search, find a pattern that excites you, and let your imagination go wild!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

StitchCraft - United Methodist Women

We're packing up prayer shawls to send to the next of kin of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's part of a national mission called Prayer Shawls 4 Fallen Soldier's Families.

StitchCraft is a group I co-founded two years ago as part of the local United Methodist Women's organization at First United Methodist Church of Oak Park. It's interesting how a group that was started with one intention evolved into another group that serves more of a purpose than originally thought of.

StitchCraft was supposed to a knitting group that made items to be donated to community organizations. We've done that: we've donated baby hats to Children's Memorial Hospital and we have plans to do other things, but this has turned into quite a social group as well. We have knitters and crocheters, but also sewers, stampers, and even an artist! We also decided to sell our wares as a way to raise money and raised more than $1000 in 2007 with no sign of slowing down.

This knitting circle has become an important part of the organization and an important part of the church because we make afghans and prayer shawls for members who are ill, for members who get married, for children when they are baptized, and to our senior high schoolers as they go off to college.

We meet once a month and then plan some special get-togethers when we need to have extra sessions. We don't have a set structure on what we make: everybody makes what they feel like making and we always seem to have an abundance and variety of items to sell. We price our items to serve both the organization and the community. We set a price so that we can recreate the exact same item again and then put in a percentage more to go towards our mission work. We never charge for labor because that's part of the love and the mission. It has served us well as we have been a very successful group. Being a part of a knit group is a way to serve and have fun at the same time.
Contact me if you're interested in starting one. Contact me if you're in Chicago and interested in joining our group. We'd love to have you.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Nomad Hat and Scarf

So, you would think that being in Chicago and being a knitter, I would have all manner of hats and scarves.
WRONG! It occurred to me during this recent and early cold snap, I had neither hat nor scarf. I have made plenty of them and they have sold very well at our bi-annual sales, but like the cobbler whose kids have no shoes; I, a knitter, had no hat and scarf.

Until today.

I decided Thursday evening that I would make myself a hat, a scarf, and some mittens (I don't have those, either.) Friday morning I went in search of a pattern for each and had already decided on a pattern for a scarf when I pulled out a copy of Interweave Knits I received from a book distributor and inside was this photo of a hat AND scarf all knit into one.

I decided to make it. Fresh off the needles and onto the light fixture that's about the size of my head is my version of the Nomad Hat and Scarf designed by fellow blogger Kat Coyle. It is now very early Sunday morning and it is a warm accessory.

I used 2 1/2 skeins of Lion Brand Jiffy in wine with size 10.5, 11 & 13 straight needles and it knit really fast. I did make some changes to the pattern. I couldn't get the hang of the cast on so I cast on my way and closed the hole at the top. (It's knitted from the top down) and the gauge was a little different so I had the length the pattern calls for before all the rows were completed, but I like a nice, long scarf, so I did the number of rows (about 140) for each side to make super long ear flaps, lastly, my bind off was a little wonky so I picked up the stitches for the ear flap scarf along the bind off edge to hide that flaw. The result is this really awesome scarf that falls about a foot and half more than you see in the photo. It almost makes me wish for colder weather...almost.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Drop Stitch wrap - Blocked

Here's the Drop Stitch Wrap I wrote about on 12/30. This same wrap is twice as long as it was when I knit it. It's hanging in the bathroom because I did a wet block.

Blocking is shaping a garment. Sometimes it's essential; sometimes it's optional. I wanted to block this wrap because it's a stockinette rectangle which means it has that roll around the edges that happens with stockinette. (The person who creates the yarn that won't have that roll is going to be wealthier than Oprah - well, maybe not that rich.)

I put the wrap in the sink with tepid water and a drop of soap, agitated it around, rinsed it, blotted out the excess water and then hung it. the weight of the wet wrap will keep the length even as it dries - which should be sometime before midnight.

I block some pieces this way, even though the conventional school would say to dampen as oppose to soak. But I like this method especially when using 100% acrylic yarn because it can take it and because it's almost like a mini wash of the item. If it doesn't look like I want it after it dries, I'll pull out the ironing board and work a little steam magic.

For a quickie run down of blocking, check out what has to say.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Introducing Our Kid - Duke

Here he is: the super dog out playing in the snow.
This is Duke and he will be eleven years old on May 25. We tell him this, in fact, we have told him his age for the past few years and he does not believe us.

So, even though he has ruptured a tendon and even though he has had nodules removed that have been called a 'slow growing cancer', he continues to live the life of a puppy. This seventy pound dog will climb up in my husband's lap the way he did when he was years younger and pounds lighter.
He's a dog. All he knows is to do what his instincts tell him, and what our training says he can get away with. So, if he's out frolicking in the snow it's because some two legged alpha opened the door, let him, and then grabbed the camera to capture it.
You can't blame a dog for living his life.


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