Christmas Craftin'

Posted in Knit & Crochet , on December 8, 2007

My Christmas projects are coming along nicely, and there’s been so many little ones that I’ve not been able to keep up post-wise with it all. Here’s a photo to give you an idea of where I am right now. I’m still working on my tiny toque Christmas ornaments for my family members back in Indiana, and I’ve got lots of gluing left to do to finish making all of the Christmas cards I plan to send this year. Admittedly I am sending out less this year than before, but I think that’s because I have better contact with so many people now via Facebook instead.

I am especially fond of the tiny toques. Not only because they’re cute, but because they play a role in my 2nd annual Canadian Christmas tradition. Last year I was unable to go back home to the states for Christmas, so I made my family members a stuffed moose — something that represents Canada — to send in my place for hugging. I’ve decided to extend that, and this year I am making the tiny toque ornaments as my “Canadian item” of the season for family members. Last Christmas they got moose, this Christmas they will expand their vocabulary by learning about the wonderful word ‘toque.’ I plan to attach little vocabulary notecards to each ornament with the definition of a toque and its proper pronunciation and whatnot for fun ;) The big difference this year, though, is that we will be home for Christmas — yay! Lucas and I are really looking forward to our Christmas trip to Indiana in a few weeks.

The Calgary Festival of Crafts last weekend was a blast! There were so many awesome crafty items to browse, and I even picked up a very unique item made here in Alberta… a Christmas tree ornament crafted from recycled computer parts! This is going to make a great gift. And speaking of gifts, I’ve added a few more things to my knitting to do list/works in progress. When I was at the craft fair, I got a really fun rubber-ducky-in-soap that I’d like to package together with a ducky washcloth for Somer. That means I need to make a ducky washcloth, lol. I’d also like to try my hand at making a second (and better) version of the plush knitted duck to go along with that. I still need to block the blanket for Lucas’ mom, but I hope to get that done this weekend. And I learned that my cousin and his wife will be home for Christmas as well, and I’ll finally get to meet their 4 month old son. If I have time, I’d love to whip up a cute baby Santa toque to give him when I meet him. I found a great pattern in Erika Knight’s book, Simple Knits for Cherished Babies that I borrowed from the local library. Wish me luck!

One last note of importance… I finally got my Ravelry beta invite! I was so excited that it was hard to do anything else but dig through the site and see what all I could do. It’s an obsessive compulsive organizer’s dream. I’ve not had enough time to thoroughly comb the site because there’s so much that it seems overwhelming at first, but I have gotten the basics set up and plan to spend more time perusing once my Christmas projects are done. I’d also love to do a more detailed write up on it and my experiences there when I get a chance. For now I need to make some other Ravelry friends — my screen name is pinktoque, so be sure to add me or say hi if you’re also enjoying the beta! More on that to come ;)

A Finished Blanket and a Marriage Proposal

Posted in Knit & Crochet , on November 27, 2007

I know it seems that all has been quiet on the blogging front the last few weeks, but I can assure you that real life behind the scenes has been anything but!

This past weekend was especially busy; Lucas and I got engaged on Saturday and then we hosted Thanksgiving on Sunday for a few friends. It was a whirlwind of excitement! We went out into the Canadian Rockies to check out Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park, and Lucas got down on one knee and pulled a ring out of his pocket there along the shore of the lake and proposed. It was perfect and completely unforgettable. You can read all of the details and see photos on our personal blog: lookatusgo!

As you might’ve guessed from the photo, I’ve been working hard on the blanket for Lucas’ mom. I was determined to get it done by a personal deadline I set for myself of December 1. I am proud to announce that as of today the blanket is officially off the needles! It’s only set at 99% finished and still listed as a work in progress, but that’s because I plan to block it this weekend and give it a good stretch. The photo is what it looks like now, pre-blocked. I’ll post an updated picture after this weekend with the final dimensions and pattern. It sure feels good to have completed such a massive project! And I have plenty of time to focus on some other projects now in time for Christmas, such as working out the last minute kinks of the moose dishcloth pattern I’ve designed so I can try it out and make some for my grandmas. I’ve also got to get working on tiny toque ornaments. The list goes on and on…

Since I signed up on November 18, I’ve been patiently awaiting my beta invite to Ravelry. I can’t even begin to describe how excited I am about digging into it. From what I’ve read by those already in the beta along with the virtual tour I took and some reviews I read on various sites, I anticipate a new obsession. If you haven’t already checked out Ravelry, I highly recommend it! Right now there are 4905 people ahead of me and 4113 people behind me in line, all eagerly awaiting their invite.

Alright so there are 25 days until Lucas and I head to Indiana to spend Christmas with my family, and so that means 25 days to get all of my Christmas gift projects done. I’m not sure if that’s enough time, but I’m sure going to try! Expect a flurry of activity now that the big blanket project is finished as I work hard to complete a lot of my smaller projects between now and then!

Halfway There

Posted in Knit & Crochet , on November 15, 2007

Thanks to the big sale that’s going on right now at Michaels, I snagged some goodies that I’ve had my eyes on… new circular needles and DPNs that I hope to use when I try my hand at making some socks and toques done in the round. I also picked up some new yarn that was on sale, and Lucas picked out some alpaca yarn for me to make into a neck warmer. And as promised (to myself), I haven’t opened my new goodies to use them yet… not until I’ve finished the blanket for Lucas’ mom, which I’m determined to finish before I turn my attention to any other projects. (As you can see from my WIP list.)

And speaking of the blanket I’m working on for Lucas’ mom… at 135 rows and 20 inches long (without being stretched at all), I’m officially halfway finished with the project. Holy motivation, Batman! It’s taken me just under 2 weeks to get this far, so I am fully confident that I can complete this project before December 1st, my personal goal. In my free time away from the needles I’ve sketched out and planned a pattern of my very own — a raised moose profile dishcloth! I plan to make one each to give to my grandmas for Christmas. The pattern is nearly complete, but like all of my other projects, I won’t be starting on them until the blanket is under my belt. Stay tuned to see those come to life (hopefully soon!) and to get the pattern for yourself… as long as it turns out the way it does in my head ;)

I looked today at some specialized bags and containers that Michaels sells for toting around knitting supplies and works in progress, and I’ve decided (after some encouragement and support from Lucas) that I am going to sew something myself instead. I think a few modifications to my generic tote bag pattern will result in a nice and personalized knitting bag for yours truly. Plus I’d like to make myself a new purse anyway since my summer purse is looking a little out of place now that winter is fast approaching. Chalk up two more projects on my to do list!

Blankets, Toques and Sales, OH MY!

Posted in Knit & Crochet , on November 9, 2007

The blanket slash afghan (what’s the difference?) that I am making for Lucas’ mom for Christmas is coming along swimmingly! I am really glad I switched to circular needles for this project and am doing it all as one big piece — it’s really coming together nicely. As of yesterday I had hit my 50th row. That seems like a lot, but I’ve still got 220 rows to go! At 50 rows the blanket is around 7.5 inches long without being stretched very much, and I’d like the finalized length to be around 40-45 inches. To make me stay consistent on this project I’m setting a goal of 10 rows a day. If I do 10 rows a day every day this month, I can theoretically be done by December 1, which will then give me plenty of time to work on a few much smaller and less time consuming gift projects in time for our trip to Indiana at Christmas. This is totally doable! Some evenings I may have time to do more than 10 rows (at 130 stitches per row and with me being a fairly new knitter, it takes me 9 minutes per row, so that’s putting aside at least an hour and a half every night) and on the weekends I hope to be able to do even more. And as you can see from the photos, I’ve changed up the “pattern” a little bit, too. More about that when it’s done!

To ensure that I stay on track and get my 10 rows a day done and complete this blanket by my personal deadline, I’m not allowing myself to purchase the set of DPNs that I want so badly. I’m dying to knit in the round and give socks/toques a try, especially after hearing how much some of the readers on the knitty coffeeshop forums prefer DPNs or a combo of 16″ circulars with DPNs for such projects. I’ve found a free pattern or two that I can’t WAIT to try and have already picked out what size DPNs I need… but I just can’t allow myself to buy them until I’m done with the blanket. Well… that was my plan. See, I know in my heart that if I pick up DPNs that I will totally allow myself to get excited about breaking them in, and I’ll start multiple projects that I’ll want to work on and those projects will compete with getting the blanket done. I was feeling pretty proud of myself for setting this goal and the prize for reaching my goal would be to reward myself with DPNs, but then I got the Michaels ad in the mail last night, and the plan went downhill… sort of.

Michaels is having a HUGE sale this weekend. The flyer that I got had the normal 40% off any one item coupon, but there were two additional 50% off coupons on the front to help ring in the Christmas craft season, too! The 50% off coupons work just like the 40% one — it’s 50% off any single item in the store, but one is good for this weekend only and then the second 50% off coupon is only valid next Friday, November 16.

The flyer itself is filled with mostly Christmas-y things, but on the back there is a full page spread about how EVERY YARN in the store is 25 – 50% off from November 10 – 16. I can’t pass a sale or coupons like this up! Tomorrow Lucas and I are going to go and I’m going to use my coupons on a nice set of Takumi bamboo DPNs and a matching set of 16″ circulars. Since yarn is on sale, I’d like for Lucas to pick out some yarn that he really likes so that I can make his requested neck warmer and toque from it. However, to stay true to my original goal with the blanket, I’m not allowing myself to USE the new needles or start a new project until I’m done with the blanket first. I will be strong! (But you might want to cross your fingers or pray for me, just in case.)

I have spent some time lately reading and following other knitting blogs I come across. There are so many fantastic and talented people out there from all walks of life and from every corner of the globe, and it’s so interesting to read about their life through their knitting. From this perusing I discovered Innocent beverages’ charity project, The Big Knit. I found out about it too late to contribute this year (The deadline was October 22), but I am SO in for next year! With my online nickname being “Toque” (or “pinktoque”), it’s not surprising that I was quick to follow a simple pattern to make a tiny little pink toque of my very own. And just like the site says, making tiny toques is incredibly addictive. I’ve made 3 this week (shhh, they were super quick and didn’t detract from my blanket work that much, really!) and I hope to have a ton to send in next season. If you’ve not heard about The Big Knit, you really should give it a look. Innocent beverages puts up an easy knitting pattern to make a very simple and tiny knitted hat with their specific size requirements. People all over the world make the little hats and send them in, and they are then worn by the company’s beverage bottles and sold with them. For each little hat that gets purchased, the company donates money to a charity that helps the elderly keep warm this winter. It’s a great cause, and so many people get super creative and come up with amazing variations on the pattern that result in wonderfully unique little toques. I was feeling adventurous and even attempted knitting with more than one color for the very first time, resulting in the dual pink toque and the orange and yellow toque successes. Aren’t they just adorable!? I feel confident that I can knit with multiple colors when I finally get around to knitting a life-sized toque and neck warmer for Lucas now.

Quacking Up Over Knitting

Posted in Knit & Crochet, Sewing , on November 3, 2007

I finally put the finishing touches on the knitted plush duck I attempted a few days ago. It’s based on the pattern by Lion Brand with a few Toque-ish adjustments. The basic idea is that you knit a square — I believe the pattern calls for garter stitch — and then you fold it in half to form a triangle and sew up one side. You then have a cone that you need to stuff with polyfill, sew closed, and add your ducky details. The beak, feet, and eyes are all cut from felt just like in the pattern, (I wish I were savvy enough to have been able to knit them all together as part of the pattern instead), and sewn on. I was really unhappy when I was finished at first; I enlarged the pattern to begin with, didn’t use fun fur like the pattern called for, decided to use a stockinette stitch instead, and somehow it just didn’t look as “cute” and “duck shaped” as the Lion Brand pattern when I was done. Lucas suggested adding a few stitches to form more of a line/definition between the head and neck, and I did. I also decided to embellish on that by adding a ribbon. See what you think! I’ve decided to keep this one as a tester and perhaps use some more “fuzzy” yellow yarn that I found in my assorted box in the basement next time. I’d love to make one for Somer for Christmas. Oliver thought it was pretty fantastic, but he’s a little biased. I think he thought that the duck was for him, lol.

Yesterday I posted my back-and-forth thoughts on whether or not to use circular needles to knit the blanket I was wanting to make for Lucas’ mom for Christmas. I decided to take the plunge, risky I know, but it’s going really well! I will admit I probably should’ve chosen a smaller project to serve as my intro into using circular needles, but it was only awkward for the first row. I’m only on the 6th row, but already by the 2nd row I was feeling more comfortable with the setup. I’m really looking forward to this blanket now! I can already see how much better the finished product will be. I’m not doing anything fancy; I nabbed a pair of size 10, 36 inch Takumi bamboo needles for the project and some jumbo skeins of yarn that fades between various shades of blues, which is Lucas’ mom’s favourite colour. On the needles I casted on 130 stitches and plan to go back and forth between knitting a row and purling a row, or stockinette stitch, because I like the way it looks when it’s done. And that’s it. I’m really excited about the final product already, and I’ve got loads of work yet to go. I’ll keep you updated ;)

To Circular Knit or Not to Circular Knit?

Posted in Knit & Crochet , on November 2, 2007

In my last update I was excited that I was about 25% into a blanket for Lucas’ mom for Christmas, and currently I’m 37%. I’ve never knitted a blanket before* and since Lucas’ mom was the one that taught me how to knit, I have been determined to knit her a blanket for Christmas as a way of thanking her and showing her what she had taught me put to use. Not really knowing much meant I somewhat went blindly into the project, and I found from reading various websites out there that a typical way to knit blankets is to knit a series of squares (sometimes referred to as “granny squares”) and then knit/stitch them together in a way that is somewhat seamless. This seemed like a fairly standard method and something I could handle, so I grabbed skeins of yarn that I had** of the same worsted weight and had planned to just make a bunch of random coloured squares to stitch together to make the blanket. But then I learned about the magic of circular needles.

The potential of circular needles is astronomical, at least it seems that way to me now as a somewhat newbie knitter. It never really occured to me that I could knit flat pieces on circular needles, or that circular needles would allow me to knit larger, wider flat pieces than I would be able to accomplish with two regular needles. To me, circular needles were for projects where you needed to knit solely in the round and regular needles were for making flat pieces. Realizing otherwise was like a newfound discovery, and suddenly my whole way of thinking about knitting changed. Using circular needles on the blanket project would cut out the middle men of blocking each individual square AND having to stitch them all together, both being things that intimidate me a little bit. I think that alone would save me an incredible amount of time and stress in the end, though eventually I will need to learn and master both of those techniques. Baby steps!
So now I’m torn. Do I stop now and start over with a pair of circular needles? Do I have time? I currently have 15 knitted squares complete out of a grand total of 40 that I had originally planned on doing, so not quite halfway yet and less than two months to Christmas. I was thinking that I could put the 15 finished squares to good use instead of giving up on them completely — I mean, a part of my heart and soul went into those already, and I’d hate to use them just as random dish cloths in the kitchen. My next thought was to go with a pillow idea like I had once toyed with, and maybe make a knitted pillow for my mom out of the squares. That way both Lucas’ mom and my mom would have something knitted from me for Christmas.
Helping me to discover the potential of using circular needles on a more regular basis is Theresa Vinson Stenersen of Her circular needle technique article blew me away! Not only do I have a good gauge of what size/length of needles I’d need for various projects, but the step by step photographs are incredibly clear, up close, and easy to see. Her intro and explanations are very well written with lots of details and already make me feel comfortable giving this technique a try even before I’ve had a chance to pick up a set of circular needles. I then discovered the Knitty Coffeeshop message board where, alongside of craftster forum, I will be spending a fair amount of time! I’ve also read now in more than one place that using circular needles over time instead of flat needles (now that I know I can use circular needles for both!) is easier on your body because the needles more evenly distributes the bulk of the weight of your project instead of your wrists, which I found interesting.
All of the signs seem to be pointing me to try out circular needles. What do you think? If you’re a regular knitter or someone who is experienced with knitting on both regular and circular needles, what do you recommend? Do you think it’s worth my time and effort with less than 2 months to go to stop at square 15 of 40 and start the blanket over again on circular needles instead? At any rate, I think I will sweet talk Lucas to make a trip over to Michael’s this evening after work, just to satisfy my curiosity and excitement about learning something new in the realm of knitting to improve myself and my techniques. I’ll update later with my decision and post my status with the project after I give circular needles a try. Wish me luck!
* I used a Knifty Knitter flat loom to loom knit a blanket for Lucas a few Valentine’s Days ago, but I didn’t know anything about traditional knitting with needles back then and had no idea what I was doing when I joined the loomed squares together, thus the result looked nice but couldn’t withstand the test of time or everyday use.
** Lucas and I went garage sale’ing a few months ago and came across a steal: someone was selling an entire box of various skeins of yarn in all different colours and weights for $5. So I’ve got this huge box of both new and leftover skeins of yarn in the basement to pick through.

10 Squares Down, 30 to Go

Posted in Knit & Crochet, Tutorials , on October 27, 2007

As I’ve mentioned in a few of my most recent posts, I’ve been working on knitting a blanket for Lucas’ mom for Christmas. Now that my zombie projects are done in time for Halloween and Tom’s event (going on this evening), I am fairly clear until Christmas, so it’s time to turn my attention towards items I’m making as gifts for the holidays. The blanket is probably the largest and most time consuming project on my plate, but definitely something I think is worth it. Lucas’ mom taught me the basics of knitting back in June when she was here visiting us for a few weeks, and so it’s important to me to knit her something to show her what I’ve learned.

Based on a fleece throw we have here at home, I’ve decided that my blanket needs to be about 25 inches wide and 40 inches long. It won’t be HUGE or anything, but it will be something that Lucas’ mom can wrap around herself like a hug. I plan to knit a bunch of squares and then sew them together to form the blanket, and so I made a pattern that’s fairly basic and easy for a new knitter like me to handle. I just have to do it 40 times. As far as the yarn I’ve chosen, I’ve not picked out set colours — in fact, to make it more interesting I’ve decided to make squares out of all of the yarn in various colours I have lying around the house that are all of the same weight. I’m using size 9 (5.5 mm) bamboo knitting needles and 100% acrylic , 4 ply worsted weight yarn. The basic square pattern I’m knitting goes something like this:

– co 20 st
– k 1
– p 1
– repeat x12 (for a total of 13 sets of k 1 p 1, or 26 total rows)
– bo

It’s nothing fancy nor do I know much (or anything really) about gauge, but for me, this pattern creates a square that is approximately 5 inches by 5 inches. So that means my blanket will be 8 rows of 5 squares sewn together if I want to get the dimensions I estimated based on a throw we have in the living room. I’ve just completed my 10th square, so I only have 30 more to go at an hour each (or longer if I’m paying close attention to the television or movie we’re watching) between now and Christmas. I think it’s a manageable project, as long as I don’t let myself procrastinate. I’ll keep you posted on my progress – wish me luck!

Wolf Hat and Tooth Pillow Pocket

Posted in Knit & Crochet, Sewing , on July 29, 2007

So what’s new? This weekend I finished two projects for friends, a Wolf Ear Hat and a little tooth pillow with a pocket.

A good friend, Nanaki (Shane), requested a wolf ear hat, and so I immediately remembered a tutorial I’d seen on Craftster here. I then set to work on making a wolf ear hat, and this is my finished result! It’s made from soft fuzzy polar fleece in a mottled gray and white pattern and soft pink inner ears that are hand sewn in. I hope he likes it! (Model in this photo is Lucas, he was so kind to help me by modeling the finished hat so I could photograph it before I sent it off.)

A friend and coworker has a daughter that is just itching to lose her first tooth; it should be happening anytime now! To help prepare, I designed this little tooth shaped pillow that has a front pocket built in that looks like a mouth, so she can safely keep her first (and future) loose teeth protected for the Tooth Fairy’s visit. I can’t wait to give this to her :)

That’s about it for now, I’ve got some upcoming sewing projects to do, but I just received my official Alberta Professional Teaching Certification, so I’m busy in my spare time getting my teaching portfolio dusted off and ready to go for interviews so I can teach next school year. It’s all so exciting!

Future plans in the sewing realm include a toque section on my store website to sell handmade fleece hats (toques) this season, and a couple of Canadian-related specialty items that I’ve got rolling around in my head. Until next time…

What's New?!

Posted in Knit & Crochet, Sewing , on July 10, 2007

I am ashamed to say that it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything crafty. Since getting back from my trip to the states to visit family and friends, I’ve started working a real job and so I’ve not found as much free time to craft as before. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been creative, though! For more on the other non-crafty things going on in my life right now, check out Lucas and I’s personal blog: Look At Us Go!

While in Indiana I learned how to make beaded necklaces, and my mom and I made several together. They’re fairly simple – just some bead wire with the clamshell clasps and a variety of beads found at various crafty shops. I’ve got some beads that I picked up while in Indiana that are in desperate need of being turned into a new necklace creation, but I just haven’t taken the time to do so.

Thanks to a little help on the kfb, or knit front to back, from the kind people at Make One Yarn Studio (a suggestion from Claire, thanks!) I was able to complete the mini heart knitting pattern I’ve been trying to do forever. Since figuring the pattern out, I’ve made several little plush knitted hearts to hide in various places for Lucas to find. They’re so soft and cute! I’d love to make a whole army of them someday. I tried my hand at felting for the first time, but it really didn’t turn out so great. I think it’s because I tried to felt by hand with hot soapy water instead of using the washing machine, so next time I’m doing a load of laundry I’ll see if my felting turns out any better using that method instead. I just couldn’t justify doing a whole load of laundry just to felt a couple tiny hearts. We’ll see!

And my latest completed purse order was for a friend at Lucas’ work — a black and white polka dotted Banff with dark red interior. I think it turned out pretty cute :)

That’s really about it in the past several weeks. The Indiana trip and the new full time job has kept me pretty busy, though I’ve started up a new little stuffie project that I can’t wait to finish and share — it’s currently a secret, though! Look for it soon :) Happy crafting!

Pouches Galore

Posted in Knit & Crochet, Sewing , on May 12, 2007

Recently Lucas and I were doing some spring cleaning and filling up a bag of old clothes to take to Goodwill. I saved an old pair of jeans and shirt of his that I loved and promised to reconstruct them into something new and useful. This set is what I’ve done with the jeans and shirt so far. On the left is a Canmore Wristlet, and on the right is a Canmore Coin Cube. Each have denim outer fabrics from his old jeans and are lined with his old blue and green “hawaiian” print shirt.

Last night our roommate came home in a panic because he had been invited to a birthday party for his good friend’s young daughter today and needed a gift. He had no idea what to get for a little girl, so I whipped up this Canmore Wristlet for him to give to her, made from Strawberry Shortcake fabric. What little girl wouldn’t love a mini pouch or purse she can carry around all of her little stuff in?

And now I think I really need to focus on my knitting. A few weeks ago, Lucas’ mom was in town and she taught me the very basics — casting on and the basic English knitting stitch. I’m trying to teach myself binding off and increasing/decreasing from and KnitWitch Instructional Videos, but I’ve been so busy making little things and getting prepared for my trip to Indiana that I’ve put off practicing and learning new techniques. I’d love to be able to practice knitting on the plane, but I have a feeling knitting needles won’t be allowed in my carry-on bag. Oh, well.

Updates on my Countdowns!