This past week’s Iron Crafter challenge was to make something around the theme “winter.” I contemplated all manner of crafts and finally settled on the handbag I’ve been dying to make. Guy pal bought me some wonderful boots a while back and I wear them any time it’s even remotely cold. They’re 100% sheepskin uppers with natural rubber soles and a pair of wooden beads for an accessory. I feel so beautiful when I wear them in addition to warm from the calves down. Unfortunately, the only handbag I had was a bright orange striped one I got at Old Navy back in middle school. The bag is in great shape for being about 14 years old, but it doesn’t go with my winter clothes at all.

My favorite part of winter themed crafts are the snowflake motifs. I don’t do all the religious themed goodies for Christmas, so for me winter is about family gathering together and the cold of a Colorado winter. I’ve looked at hundreds of snowflake motifs in intarsia, stranded, quilted, cabled, and appliquéd. Oddly, the one I like the most isn’t considered a snowflake at all. The pattern, Brea Bag, is supposed to look like a lotus flower. BS I say! It looks like a broken snowflake to me. Given all my health issues, I have a particular affection for other broken and cast aside things, so a broken snowflake is perfect for me.

I’d been given some alpaca yarn off of freecycle last year that’s been marinating in my closet. I used only one ball of the natural white alpaca to make the body of the bag. After seaming, I had only a few yards of yarn left. It was just the right amount. The pattern calls for holding light worsted yarn double, but since this is more of an aran, I just worked one strand throughout. I also made some minor changes to the side/bottom gusset of the bag because I didn’t like the way the pattern did increases/decreases for the strap over so many rows. Mine is more compact. This project does take a ton of attention while knitting. I was super proud to be able to work on it during the Super Bowl party at Green Valley Weavers on Sunday and then at my friend’s house afterward. When I finally finished all the cables and the long gusset, I blocked the pieces. Unfortunately, blocking was delayed by nearly 8 hours because of a sick dog. My poor little pup decided the best place to launch her explosive diarrhea was under a bookcase. Everything had to be moved, taken apart and cleaned. Between cleaning and shuffling the dog around the room, the friend that was helping me managed to scare her while she was on my bed so she peed all over my quilt too. I already had all the towels in the wash, so it took me forever to get my blanket cleaned. It was 4am before I had a quilt to put on the bed! When the dog was finally all set up in the shower with supplies for the night and given her Imodium, she managed one last blast of the shower so I had to clean the whole shower, her, and her evening supplies again. Given the level of pain I was in from dealing with the dog and her messes, I honestly thought I’d have to quit working on the purse and give up entering it in the competition. I was REALLY pissed off. Somehow, I manged. I’m really proud of myself. Since I’d never blocked before, I was really eager to try it. That eagerness to try blocking is what got be back into working on my project again. Here’s a mid blocking shot. The side of the bag on the left is pinned and blocked. The side on the right is not yet blocked. Check out how much this bag grew! I was worried it would be too small with using only one strand of wool, but it came out exactly the size I want.

I just used the kids’ play mat I have and sewing pins since I don’t have any proper blocking materials yet. My next task after seaming the blocked pieces was to make a liner for the bag. Since it is knit on large needles, it’s a little loose. I wouldn’t want a pen falling out, so I most definitely need a liner. I dug through the bin of old clothes I’ve collected from my family. I love reusing the old fabric in something new. I found a pair of linen pants of my mother’s that were exactly the same color as my yarn. I couldn’t believe how perfect a match it is. I cut out the seams and managed to get just enough large pieces to sew a liner. I’ve never sewn a bag liner before, so this was a pretty big deal for me. I’m thrilled with how it came out. It was also my first time sewing in a zipper. I found a metal zipper in just the right color in my box of zippers, also from freecycle.

I took my bag, bag liner, and thread to knitting group and spent the entire time at Panera Bread seaming away trying to attach the liner to the bag. When I got home, I still had more hand sewing to go. Properly anchoring all the corners of the liner to the corners of the bag and getting the zipper edge to attach well to the alpaca while keeping the stitches invisible is quite an undertaking. At some point during the stitching, I came down with the flu. I still feel horrible. I’m sure I looked like a rather silly person struggling to breathe next to my humidifier cranking out the hand stitching and the knitting for the strap.

The strap is knitted from a softer alpaca from the same box of yarn on freecycle. I really love this yarn. It’s alpaca from the source; all the tags are in Spanish and from a farm in Peru! Since the pattern didn’t have a felted handle but rather a leather one, I knit a swatch, felted it, then figured out the number of stitches for my strap. It was so hard to knit the strap when I just wanted to sit with kleenex attached to my face instead. I felted it the lazy style, in the washer, because I felt so bad I couldn’t stand over the sink to felt it even, much less use my arms for any kind of scrubbing.

I can’t tell you how good it felt to stitch the handle onto the D rings. I’m finished. I tried this project once before, earlier in the fall when my pain was so out of control that I couldn’t keep track of the numbers of stitches or cables. I’m so psyched that now, on the new pain meds, I can actually keep track of my stitches and do complex projects! I can’t wait until I’m healthy enough to go out. This flu virus sucks. I’m really hoping to pull it together enough to go on a first date this Friday night to a small film festival here in town. I met him on okcupid and am itching to meet him. Plus, this film festival promises to be wonderful. Just think how beautiful I’ll be downtown walking up to the theater in my sexy wool boots, my charcoal grey peacoat, stylish cashmere lined black leather gloves (that are seriously worn out unfortunately), and this stunning bag. I’ll be so hot the snow will melt under my feet and men will break their necks snapping around to catch a glimpse of me!

Here’s some finished shots of my new bag:

In real life, the strap matches the boots perfectly. It’s still a little damp from felting though so that makes it appear darker. I’ll get a better photo when it’s dry, but I was under a deadline for Iron Crafter! This snowflake winter handbag is so wonderful, it just had to make it in under the wire for the winter competition. I’m really coveting the winter badges, but i have to admit, the best thing is having my winter handbag done and ready to go out with! I feel so nice just holding it. With all the alpaca, it should even help keep my water bottle from freezing and my medication at a more appropriate temperature if I go outside for any length of time or have to drive around in a cold car. This bag is just so perfect in so many ways.

 

Advertisements

Week 3 300 Stitch KAL

August 17, 2010

This week we’ll be only doing 3 swatches for a total of 6 points since last week we had 8 points. Here’s the plan:

Swatch 15 Knit and Purl Diagonals: cast on 20 stitches and work for 20 rows. Note: this with require working 2 charts and a half rather than just a complete number of charts.

Swatch 16 Lozenges stitch: cast on 20 and work for 20 rows. Here you will also do 2.5 repeats of the chart. It looks best if you do 2 stitches of the chart, the two full repeats and then 2 stitches of the chart to break your half into two one-quarter sections of the chart.

Swatch 17 Squares within squares: cast on 36 and work in pattern for 48 rows. Due to size, this should be your most time consuming swatch this week.

Get ready for next week as it’ll be a bigger challenge. We’ll be working stitches 18-20 and they’ll all be rather large swatches due to the large pattern repeats. I’m getting so excited. We’re almost half way through the first chapter. I’m really eager to get to some harder patterns, cables, and lace.

I’m working on a zombie swap on Ravelry. This little zombie doll I made long ago had been helping me. She’s been trained to assist me in my crafting much like a zombie in “Fido.” I still haven’t decided if I’ll toss her in the box to my spoilee or not. We’re knitting something epic to say the least. It’s a custom pattern and custom chart I wrote just for my spoilee. I’ll post the pattern when I’m done or add it to my shop after making a few more size options and only after my spoilee has received her box. As I was knitting I realized we’re using Umbrella Corp colored knitting needles! Is this not the most epic of all epic wins? I have a zombie helping me knit a zombie project with zombie colored knitting needles!

I’m still not doing as well as I’d like, but I finally managed to get the pictures off my camera and onto the web. Here’s the main shot with my last batch of dyeing in the back. You can see my recent work is a good deal darker. Pain really keeps you from feeling the bright, summery colors.

The purples pictured here are both Grape Crush, one in worsted weight Peruvian wool and the other in sport weight 75% Merino/25% nylon for socks. The purples up front and the exciting brights in the background are all destined for my etsy shop. Here’s a close up of the new zombie yarn.

I think this will end up going to my spoilee in my zombies and apocalypse themed swap I’m doing with Ravelry’s Odd Ducks group this month (and next). This came out so much gorier than the last batch which is currently on the needles to make some socks as a gift.

July Mystery KAL

July 28, 2010

This month I signed up to do a mystery KAL in my Knitted Toys group on Ravelry. I finally got my little critter done. My original guess based just on the supplies required (black and white yarn) was right! We made a sheep…I’d figured the colorwork for a zebra would unfortunately be beyond too many people’s grasp to make for a good KAL, but I’d have loved to do a zebra. Maybe that’ll be one of my first animal patterns I write. A zebra’s stripes are close enough fair isle would probably work…

Anyhow, here’s my finished sheep! If you need more pictures and info, check out her project page on Ravelry!

I’m calling her Juliana. Her body piece was my first time to every do seed stitch. I only had to unravel one row because it had become ribbing which I think is pretty good for a beginner. I also altered the pattern a bit as it had TONS of seaming. I worked the arms and legs in the round, but not the hands and feet so I’d still be able to stitch in the pipe cleaners I used as stuffing. Her arms have just enough bulk from the yarn and plenty of poses from the doubled up pipe cleaners. I also made her scarf longer than in the pattern and instead of having her knitting on a second scarf, I knit a bitty sock for her to work on. She’s using shortened toothpicks as her double pointed needles.

The little bear beside her is one of those silly little personal things that one keeps on their bookcases. This bear once lived in my little sister’s doll house. When we were playing (mind you I was in college at the time, much younger sister) she said that bear couldn’t play because it had broken it’s leg falling down the stairs. There weren’t even stairs in the doll house! It was two stories, but it lacked stairs. What imagination! I carefully moved the bear, Ruby, to my apartment where I gave my sister some gauze and told her she should bandage up the injuries. This helped, but the bear was still bed ridden. She couldn’t walk on her broken leg. Of course I did the logical thing and built little crutches only an inch tall complete with padded arm rests for Ruby. When it came time for the doll house to find a new home, I just couldn’t pass Ruby along. She lives now tucked amongst my ever growing collection of antique medical texts. It seems an appropriate place. Maybe I’ll have to make Ruby some knitting one day; she and Juliana can have their own KAL.

Here’s the basic rules:

  • Have fun
  • Learn new techniques
  • Improve your knitting skill
  • Make new friends
  • Use stash yarns where possible, however, wool is preferable due to blocking requirements
  • Avoid variegated (except on things like garter/stockinette). Use lighter colored yarns to help show off the stitches. Black and variegated tend to hide your stitch work.
  • Share what you learn along the way, about knitting, about life, or anything
  • Share pictures of your stitches if possible, I’ll repost them here as well.
  • You don’t have to use the same book as I’m using, just a book of knitting stitches
  • Late joiners are just as welcome as original members. If you want to join 5 years from now, great! Feel free to still message me. I’d love to see what you’re doing.
  • You don’t HAVE to meet any deadlines. We play nice here. It’s just to help make sure people keep on their work and actually finish.

I’ve devised a basic points system so we’ll have 7 points per week, one per day. The difficulty rating of a swatch is a point, up to 3 points per swatch based on the difficulty listed in the book. Colorwork and beading doubles the difficulty points. Excessive size adds a point as well. This way, we don’t have 7 huge and complicated swatches in one week and can still have plenty of time for our other knitting.

Each Tuesday, pending life those life crises we’re all prone to, I’ll post the week’s swatches and points per swatch so you can try to keep your knitting on track with one point per day. If you run into any trouble and need to talk through a swatch with someone, by all means ask! We have a ravelry discussion here and we can use the comments section of each week’s blog post as well.

Week 1:

Stitches 001-007 in worsted weight

001 Garter Stitch: Cast on 20 stitches and work for 20 rows (acrylic ok)

002 Four-row welting: Cast on 20 stitches and work for 20 rows (prefer blockable fiber)***While working this welting, I opted to continute working in pattern until the end of row 22 so I would have the same 2 rows of stockinette at the beginning and end of the welting to make it look more balanced in the final swatch. I recommend working for 22 rows instead of 20.

003 Garter stitch welting: Cast on 20 stitches and work for 27 rows so the pattern begins and ends with some stockinette (prefer blockable fiber)

004 Stockinette stitch: Cast on 20 st and work in pattern for 20 rows (acrylic ok)

005: Reverse stockinette stitch: Cast on 20 stitches and work 20 rows (acrylic ok)

006: Seed Stitch: Cast on 15 sts and work for 30 rows (acrylic ok)

007: Moss Stitch: Cast on 15 sts and wrok for 30 rows (acrylic ok)

Ready to get playing? This first week is going to be one of the easier weeks as the stitches are all very basic with easy to memorize pattern repeats. You’ve likely done most of them before, or at least heard of them. Of course it’s ok if you haven’t either. I’m new to all kinds of welting and the moss stitch. The welting is less common of a stitch and interesting to learn. Now we can all do horizontal ribbing in our designs! I do recommend spending time making sure you can read and use the small charts provided in the book on these easier swatches so you’ll be an old hand at it by the time we get to the trickier swatches, like 195 Paisley. (Don’t worry too much about 195, it’ll have PLENTY of points assigned. 3 for difficulty, 1 for excessive size, and 2-3 more for excessive bobbles. It may just end up being a 7. We’ll keep it doable!

Good luck everyone! I can’t wait to see the pictures!!!

Last night I took a short break from swatch making to finish the first fingerless mitt in a pair I’m making. I’m using the pattern Green Thumb by Diana Foss that a raverly friend of mine gave me. While I love the pattern, I felt like it needed some serious colorwork. I altered the pattern to have the colorwork I wanted, green for the leaf and knit stitches and brown for the purls. I used a two-color cast on method so my first row would still match the rest of my pattern. Some of the strands on the thumb leaf motif were a little bit too long (I worked the entire mitt in fair isle) and caused the mitt to bunch up. I ended up cutting the worst 8 offenders and tieing them up and weaving in those ends as well. Now it’s perfect! I love wearing it so much it’ll be hard to take it off long enough to get a shower today!

I ended up learning a bit more about fair isle and colorwork in general on this project. Here’s what my supplies looked like. There were more when I ended than when I started:

I started out with nothing but the pattern, a set of size 3 DPNs in bamboo, and the yarn, Berroco Comfort DK. I got frustrated with the DPNs because the yarn wasn’t sliding well. I’d like to get more Addi Turbo and Bernat Aero needles, or even some more BaleneII. Unfortunately, this is all I have in size 3 so I’m stuck with them for now. I did just buy a square circular size 3 DPN but I’m afraid that it might mess up my gauge on the second mitt. I do plan on using the new circular to make some gift mitts 2-at-a-time magic loop style. As I worked, I added a cute stitch marker I made to help keep track of the beginning and end of the round.

Then I made myself a row counter because I couldn’t find any I liked. The most brilliant addition to my supplies is the little thingy that keeps your yarns from getting tangled when doing colorwork. I picked it up at one of my local shops, and it’s been one of the best purchase ever! I highly recommend them for all colorwork projects. It take a little while to figure out how to get your tension right while wearing one, but it pays off. Unfortunately, I also had to add a small crochet hook to the little kit because I made a few mistakes in the 2X2 rib. I kept my colors right, but when sleepy would mess up the knits and purls. It turns out it’s very difficult to drop a stitch, run it down and work it back up when doing colorwork! Finally, I put the whole thing into the perfectly sized bag that choperena made for me in the Dr. Horrible Swap.

Here’s a few more pictures of the finished mitt for your drooling pleasure. This pattern is tons of fun and I highly recommend it. If you decide to try to tackle it with colors like mine, feel free to contact me with questions. Heck, with any luck after my big swatch project, I’ll be able to make my own leafy mitts that I like more and have even more green leaves! I’d love to see more of the ‘sapling’ knit ribs grow into having leaves and buds on them. We’ll see, it’s back to some special gift crafting and swatches for me in the meantime.