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.

 

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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.

Here is a knitting survey that is going around…

Bold for stuff you’ve done, italics for stuff you plan to do one day, and normal for stuff you’re not planning on doing.

Afghan/Blanket (baby)
I-cord
Garter stitch

Knitting with metal wire
Shawl
Stockinette stitch
Socks: top-down
Socks: toe-up

Knitting with camel yarn – not in the budget yet
Mittens: Cuff-up
Mittens: Tip-down

Hat
Knitting with silk
Moebius band knitting – seems overrated
Participating in a KAL
Sweater
Drop stitch patterns

Knitting with recycled/secondhand yarn – yay freecycle!
Slip stitch patterns
Knitting with banana fiber yarn

Domino knitting (modular knitting)
Twisted stitch patterns

Knitting with bamboo yarn
Two end knitting
Charity knitting
Knitting with soy yarn
Cardigan
Toy/doll clothing

Knitting with circular needles
Knitting with your own handspun yarn

Slippers
Graffiti knitting (knitting items on, or to be left on the street)
Continental knitting
Designing knitted garments
Cable stitch patterns (incl. Aran)
Lace patterns

Publishing a knitting book
Scarf
American/English knitting (as opposed to continental) – but I HATE it
Knitting to make money

Button holes
Knitting with alpaca – a current project is 100% alpaca
Fair Isle knitting

Norwegian knitting
Dying with plant colors – I have so many dried flowers I’ve been saving for this purpose

Knitting items for a wedding – it wouldn’t be any different from regular gift knitting as far as I’m concerned
Household items (dishcloths, washcloths, tea cozies…)
Knitting socks (or other small tubular items) on two circulars
Olympic knitting – only if someone makes a really cool team
Knitting with someone else’s handspun yarn
Knitting with DPNs
Holiday related knitting
Teaching a male how to knit
Bobbles – going to have to learn in the bobbles and leaves chapter in the 300 Stitch KAL
Knitting for a living – I’m trying to get there now!

Knitting with cotton
Knitting smocking – going to have to as it’s in the 300 Stitch KAL
Dying yarn
Steeks
Knitting art
Fulling/felting
Knitting with wool
Textured knitting
Kitchener BO
Purses/bags

Knitting with beads – it’s in the 300 stitch KAL! Yes!
Swatching
Long Tail CO

Entrelac – again it’s in the 300 stitch KAL
Knitting and purling backwards
Machine knitting
Knitting with self-patterning/self-striping/variegating yarn
Stuffed toys
Baby items

Knitting with cashmere – believe it or not, I’m not that into it to pay for it BUT I may be forced to make gifts…
Darning
Jewelry

Knitting with synthetic yarn
Writing a pattern

Gloves – I picked the pattern yesterday!
Intarsia – in the KAL

Knitting with linen
Knitting for preemies
Tubular CO
Freeform knitting – but it wasn’t intentional
Short rows
Cuffs/fingerless mitts/arm warmers
Pillows
Knitting a pattern from an online knitting magazine

Rug
Knitting on a loom
Thrummed knitting – I may make this swatch 301 in the KAL to fill any gaps in the afghan assembly
Knitting a gift
Knitting for pets

Shrug/bolero/poncho
Knitting with dog/cat hair – Sketch wool is the best!
Hair accessories
Knitting in public – pretty much EVERY time I go out, do I get extra points for spinning in public?

Not bad for a beginning knitter. I’m actually proud of the mass of bold. There really isn’t anything on this list I wouldn’t try, and more things that I’ve tried that aren’t even on here! Where’s the two-at-a-time socks? The size 0000 needles? Knitting with magnetic tape from old VHS? Knitting for swaps? Self-taught? The super stretchy cast off? Kitchener stitching up a seam and the funky cast on that goes with it? Taught someone more than a decade older than you to knit/a new technique? Inventing a new method for dyeing protein based fibers? Been named the “Yarn Doctor” at Michael’s Arts and Crafts to help folks at their yarn events? Been there, done them…and I want extra bold for ’em!

And yes, guy pal had to learn to knit. He only does knit stitches, and only enough to add a few stitches of extra love to each hat I knit.

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!!!

Mondye July 26, 2010

July 26, 2010

Right now I need to focus more on listing the past two weeks worth of dyeing and less on new dyeing. Plus, I ran out of yarn! Rest assured, more yarn has been dyed and you can get your Mondye fix.

This week I did only 3 hanks of yarn. One is another Orange Crush fingering sock weight yarn. I loved the sample I knit up so much from the first Orange Crush sock yarn, I had to make more right then that night. I also dyed one worsted and one sock yarn each in the Jolly Rancher soda. Each hank was split into 3 smaller, roughly equal hanks and dyed in 3 separate colors to create accent/striping kits for the store. I’m so in love with the Jolly Rancher kits. I’ve still got to package, photograph and list them. I don’t want to though. I just love being able to meander into guy pal’s kitchen and see the colors staring back at me from the drying rack. See what I mean?

This batch of striping sock Jolly Rancher does have one little problem, it tends to go all Packman on you when you aren’t looking!

I’ll be making a sock kit for myself next week and start that just as soon as I’m done with the gift “Punk Entrails” socks I’m working so hard on at the moment. The eyelet rib lace is giving me a bit of trouble. It doesn’t agree well with two-at-a-time on a magic loop. Of course I still was losing my YOs on the DPNs. This will be the last time I EVER do this pattern!

I absolutely fell in love with the mini stripe/accent packs of yarn I worked on dyeing last night. So much so that today I went out to get more wool and soda so I’ll be able to make a few more of my stunning stripe kits. They will still be a very limited run. This is good because I’ll be keeping one at a minimum. I can’t tell you how much I love these colors! I want to make black socks with these soda stripes. I think I’ll even try and make a special stripe kit tag for the packaging honoring my childhood cat, appropriately named Stripes.

I also picked up a ton of Cascade 220 with my $40 shopping spree I’d earned by getting enough punches at my local yarn shop. I plan on  using it to complete a project from my first big and original knitting pattern! This will be one awesome looking pattern sample. I can’t wait to get started knitting it up! Plus, all the leftovers of these stunning wool colors will get to be added to the 300 stitch afghan 🙂 I’ve got to get a few more projects off my plate first before tackling my new pattern.

Today and for much of last night, I’m trying to finish the Knitted Toys group’s July Mystery KAL. It’s shaping up to be such a cute pattern even made of cheap leftover acrylic! Unfortunately, it has way too much seaming. I hate seaming. I’ve already made a few alterations to the little sheep pattern to get around some of it. I’d so much rather work in the round. Pictures will be coming soon, just two arms, a leg, and a mini scarf left to knit. I’ve got to hustle because to be eligible for prizes. The deadline is the end of the month. Fingers crossed for a quick finish to the little guy!

On a final note, I’m about to load up on fresh wool to dye. Any requests? I’m looking at adding some 100% superfine alpaca, some 50/50 silk/Merino blend, and some alpaca wool blends to the shop in lace, sport, and worsted. Is there anything else you all would like to see? More sock yarns? I’m getting bored with just wool. Granted I LOVE working with it as evidenced by the major stashing today at Table Rock Llamas, but sometimes you just need some alpaca under your fingers. I’m also considering some cotton at my mother’s request. Soda dye won’t take to the cotton, but I will be able to get close to some of my other colors, like the tumultuous sea that she loves so much.

Today I managed to score a very limited supply of a new kind of soda and am working on dyeing up some of the most stunning yarns. Since the soda came in only 1L bottles and I only have a couple hanks of yarn on hand to dye, I’m making stripe/accent sets! Each set is still the same 100g of yarn, but split into three 33ish gram hanks. I’m making one in Peruvian Highland worsted weight and one in fingering sock weight (75% Superwash Merino, 25% Nylon). Each set will include 3 separate bottles of soda with just enough of each color to add stripes to your next project or even make up some swatches! I’m probably going to make a few sodas in these smaller sets for myself to use in the Epic 300 Stitch KAL.

I’m so happy with these colors. I also tasted a little shot glass of each soda, and they’re so good! I’m really hoping I’ll be able to get more of these flavors. I found them at a local discount store, but they cost more than normal soda…go figure.

Curious enough yet? I found Jolly Rancher brand soda! I got every flavor they had, blue raspberry, cherry, and my personal favorite Jolly Rancher flavor, Green Apple! Here’s a picture I found online of what the soda’s look like. I haven’t been able to find any of the other flavors, yet.

The worsted yarns are in their bathing process now and look excellent! I love the green and the blue came out so much better than Mountain Dew Voltage, which had to be over-dyed. This set might be my favorite dye job ever. It’s a bit more time consuming to wind up the separate but equally weighted hanks, but I love the colors and the idea of getting 3 littler hanks to play with. What do you all think? I’m hoping to have this batch, a whole 2 sets up in the store by early next week and will make more if I can keep getting the soda.