Thursday, February 26, 2015

Learning to Knit

What's that you say?  You see pigs flying?  Hell froze over?  Well, I might know why.


I used to joke that crocheters and knitters were like the Sharks and the Jets (please see West Side Story if you don't get that joke), but then I started "meeting" lots of crocheter/knitter double threats on Ravelry.  Crocheting and knitting are apparently compatible.  Who knew?!  My one disastrous attempt at learning to knit in my early 20's had given me the idea that knitting was WAY harder than crocheting and that I just wasn't coordinated enough to handle two needles at a time.  But, OH!, those beautiful knitting patterns I kept seeing float across my computer screen... After Christmas crocheting season was done, on January 1st, I picked up knitting needles and gave it a try.

My first few swatches turned out great, so I dove right in to my very first dishcloth.  BOY, was that humbling.  It took me FOREVER and I hated how it turned out.  To top it all off, I ran out of cream yarn near the end and just decided to finish it with a different color, making it even less attractive.  Without further ado, I present MY FIRST KNITTING PROJECT:

Oof.  I got the pattern out of my 10-20-30 Minutes to Learn to Knit book, and it drove me nuts, switching back and forth between knit and purl stitches.  My brother suggested that perhaps I had bitten off more than I could chew with this first project, but honestly, it is the very first project presented in this book, and I think there's no time like the present to dive in feet first.  Still, I took his comment to heart, and for my next project, I found a WAY simpler pattern.

This Basic Adults Knitted Beanie is a fantastic learner project.  You work the hat flat and seam it up at the end (with a yarn needle), so there is a seam that any experienced knitter would consider a pattern deal-breaker, but for a beginner, I say it's fine.  I even bought a Clover brand pom-pom maker after deciding that wrapping yarn around cardboard and then spending the next hour trimming the pom-pom into shape was not good enough for my first knit hat.  Sonia chose the yarn-- can you tell?

I next decided that I wanted to try my hand at cabling.  This simple Diagonal Owl Dishcloth pattern looked like a good idea, but it was poorly written and didn't include any stitch count checks in the middle, so all my cabling, while done correctly, looks wonky due to losing count of my rows.  I gave this dishcloth to Sonia to use in her play kitchen.  Good riddance!

For my next project, I decided to see what my favorite Knit/Crochet designer goddess (Margaret MacInnis) had for me to try.  She teaches people to knit in her Ravelry group, and I have crocheted a bunch of her patterns before (including Niki & Corey's afghan), so I knew she wouldn't steer me wrong.  I found this cool Hazelnut Stitch Dishcloth and gave it a try.  The hazelnut stitch pattern is really beautiful, but unfortunately, I chose yarn that is WAY too busy to show off the pretty texture.

Here's a slightly better picture of the "hazelnuts".  Aren't they cool?

Armed with more knitting confidence, I gave another of Margaret's beautiful dishcloth/afghan block patterns a try.  This time, with a much better written pattern to follow, my cabling efforts were successful!  I can almost hear these owls hooting.

While I was doing these other knitting patterns, I was lurking in a knitting thread on Margaret's Ravelry groups' discussion board.  I watched as knitters posted pictures of this Turtle Ford dishcloth/afghan block pattern that Margaret presented as a mystery knit along.  After I finished the waffling owls dishcloth, I screwed up my courage, bought the turtle pattern, and got to knitting.

How hilarious is this little turtle?!?!?  He pops right off the dishcloth.  At the request of the teacher, I brought him in to show Sonia's kindergarten class, and the kids were enthralled.  They just finished up a learning unit all about fabric, so I was showing them how I knitted my own fabric.

Ok. So, I think I'm hooked on knitting.  I still love to crochet a lot, too, but expanding my yarn-maniuplating skill set to include knitting is absolutely thrilling.  Margaret put out a call for testers on a new series of garden-themed dishcloth/afghan block patterns, and I shyly put up my hand an asked if I could help.  She kindly let me join in the fun, and I dove right in.  These patterns are beautiful, amazingly written, a ton of fun to knit.  And, just for kniter/crocheter double threats like me, Margaret includes an optional crochet boarder for each pattern!  Here are my attempts at knitting the Garden Series:

Block 1: Beetle Mania

How cute are those beetles?  Hilariously enough, the back of the dishcloth is just as cool as the front:

Block II: Raindrops (don't look too closely-- there are several mistakes-- but at this point, I hadn't yet learned how to rip out my mistakes without having to start the block over from scratch, so I left them in)

Block III: 'Brella (loooooove the purl stitch rain drops!!)

Block IV: Picket De'Fence (v1) (I somehow forgot to take a picture of it after it was done, so here is one taken at the 99% point.)

Block IV: Picket De'Fence (v2) (Margaret changed the pattern to add pickets to the tops of the fence posts, so I re-tested this block.)

Block V: Lattice Bud (soooooo pretty!!)

Block VI: Sculpture (This one is absolutely gorgeous when knitted well, but I had a bit of trouble with a few of the stitches.  I am SO trying this one again once my knitting skills improve a bit.)

Aaaaaaand, there's more knitting to come!  Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Puzzle Balls, a Doll, and an SNL Character (oh, no!)

I received a copy of Dedri Uys's incredible Amamani Puzzle Balls book for Christmas, and I am IN LOVE with these patterns.  They are complicated to make, but Dedri's tutorials are amazing and I think all crocheters should give these a try.  I just can't believe how adorable these amigurumi puzzle balls are!!

Elephant Puzzle Ball:

Dedri designed the pattern so the entire thing is crocheted (NOT WHIP-STITCHED!!) together.  Even the adorable ears and the cute little tail. I don't mind whip-stitching here and there, but like most crocheters, I would much rather use my hook than a sewing needle.

The cute little feet make me smile.

Here is the "puzzle" aspect of the puzzle ball: it comes apart into three pieces!  It's a little complicated to put together, so before I give this to someone as a gift, I think I might make a YouTube video showing how to do it.

Because the entire puzzle ball is crocheted together, as long as you use tough yarn (like 100% acrylic), these puzzle balls can withstand a lot of pulling and smooshing as you disassemble and reassemble them. Amazing!!

Turtle Puzzle Ball:

How handsome is this dude?  I didn't get a great picture of his nose to show the absolutely perfect shaping (there's a slight point at the tip), but trust me when I say that Dedri must have studied the turtle form for a long time while designing this guy.  So stinkin' cute!

One of my mother's life-long friends, Sharon, commissioned me to make another of Nipiti's My Summertime Dolls, and I think it turned out SO adorable. Sharon chose great colors and I really enjoyed watching this little doll take shape.  Nipiti's pattern is so fabulous!  I have a third My Summertime Doll about 75% done and will post pictures of it when it's finished.  It might be the cutest one yet!

Weeeeeeell, this last amigurumi isn't all that recent, but I'm going to mention it anyway.  This past summer, to thank my dad for all the work he did on our new (to us) house, I free-handed an amigurumi of one of his favorite Saturday Night Live characters of all time: Mr. Bill.  The reason that I haven't posted pictures of this little dude yet is that I wrote down the pattern and have big plans to present it for free here on Roonie Ranching, but I haven't yet sat down and typed it up.  I'll get on that soon, I promise.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The last few Christmas crochet projects

I am STILL catching up on blogging about all of my Christmas crochet projects.  I'll stop mentioning Christmas soon, I promise.  One of our neighbors still has her Christmas tree up (with the lights turned on every evening!).... We're in a sort of race to see who can make Christmas last as long as possible.

Two more scalloped potholders (numbers 10 and 11) from my favorite pattern:

I was so in love with these hilarious little Christmas stockings that I made four in various sizes. What a cute pattern!

My cousin, Lauren, commissioned me to make four sets of coasters to give as gifts.  I used my all-time favorite coaster pattern, of course.

I found a chart for a map of the state of Michigan, and I knew I had to try to make something out of it for my Michigan-loving brother-in-law, Corey.  I tried to see if it could be a potholder or dishcloth, but it turned out a wee bit big for either purpose.  I gave it to him anyway, and he decided that it would look nice framed.  Then, he had me add french knots to mark some of his favorite places in the state.

Whoa-- I THINK I might be done talking about Christmas crochet projects.  On to the next major holiday!  I whipped up this cute little Rosy Heart to add to Sonia's teacher's valentine card, and despite a pretty complicated pattern (I fudged a bit on the last two partial rounds), I think it turned out great.  Made with worsted-weight yarn, it turned out to be about two inches across.

You might be wondering if all the area yarn stores were cleaned out after all the Christmas crocheting I did, but I promise that I left a bit of yarn on the shelves for everyone else.

Friday, February 20, 2015

More hats than you can shake a stick at

Is there anything more fun, satisfying, and relatively quick to crochet than a cute little hat?  Nope.  Here are a few that I have made over the last few months...

This kitty hat was based on the Crazy Cat Hat pattern, but because I wanted to use worsted weight yarn, I incorporated the Crochet Shark Hat pattern and the Hello Kitty Hat pattern. Despite the Frankenstein-ish combining of patterns, I think this hat turned out pretty cute!  I gave it to my beautiful cousin, Audrey, for Christmas.

Sonia modeled it for me, and she almost refused to take it off and give it back.  This girl would like it if I did nothing but crochet millions of hats for her.

When my little buddy, Ike, broke his arm over Thanksgiving weekend, I freehanded this Chop Chop (from Skylanders Giants) hat to send to him.  Sonia happily modeled it for me.

There is a removable face mask part, but I failed to get a picture of Sonia wearing the hat with the mask attached!  Whoops.  Here it is (as modeled by a canister of coffee):

I made another one of my beloved Graph Beanies, and this time I created my own graph!  My Michigan State University-loving brother-in-law received this hat from me for Christmas.

Here's yet another graph beanie, this time with a Longhorn on it!  My daughter's school mascot is a longhorn, and their colors are black and red.  I donated this to the school's annual silent auction, and someone bought it for $10.

I had been wanting to try making the Olivia's Butterfly Hat pattern for several years now, and I finally found someone to make it for-- my adorable neighbor (whom I am teaching to crochet!). I love how the butterfly is created with negative space.  I should have straightened out the butterfly a bit more before taking this picture.  Isn't this such a cute hat?

I love crocheting hats.  LOVE.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Sax Stand Bag (aka a lined drawstring bag)

My dad commissioned me to make a bag to replace the one he was using to hold his saxophone stand.  The one it came with was thin and soft, which did not play well with some rough screws sticking out of the accessories.  The bag was rapidly deteriorating, and he decided he needed something nice and tough instead.

Denim to the rescue!

Dad's Sax Stand Lined Drawstring Bag

Let me back up, though.  It cracked me up that when he was trying to describe the bag to me, he decided a visual was the best way to do it.  So Dad, aka the Man Who Owns a Million Tape Measures, grabbed a couple of them and sent me this picture:

Even better, he decided he had better show me what needed to go inside the bag:

Yes, that weird-looking contraption is a portable saxophone stand, and the two odd black things are for screwing onto the stand so it can also hold an alto sax and a clarinet.

Dad was not only displeased with the flimsy nature of the original bag -- he also felt it needed to be a few inches longer and wider.  Plus, holding the stand (which is pretty heavy) in the bag by just a thin cord wasn't super comfortable.  The new bag needed a handle as well.  The original bag was flat, which seemed dumb if it was going to hold items that weren't flat.  I figured boxed corners would work a whole lot better.

I wanted there to be an additional layer of fabric between those pokey screws and the outside world, so I made sure I lined the bag as well.  I still had another one of Dad's old work shirts lying around, so I cut that up and used it for the lining as well as a strip of decoration stitched onto the front.  Dad recognized it right away.

Dad's Sax Stand Lined Drawstring Bag

Here is the handle, which is on the back near the top.  I used 1" wide cotton webbing and sewed it on as securely as I knew how.  Only time will tell if it holds.  My mom can always repair it if there are any issues.

Dad's Sax Stand Lined Drawstring Bag

When the bag is closed (using the opposing drawstrings rather than a single drawstring with a stopped like the original bag had), the handle naturally pops out for easy access.

Dad's Sax Stand Lined Drawstring Bag

I wanted to make sure I made this bag the proper way instead of just winging it, so I followed a tutorial for a Crochet Project Bag from Gleeful Things.  I altered the dimensions a little, added the embellishment and the handle, and ended up with what I hope will be the perfect bag.  All the other guys in the community band will be so jealous, right?  Or something like that...