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FO: Handwoven Zipper Pouches

I hope that I am not totally alone among the multicraftual knitters out there in really genuinely worrying about the emotional impact of my neglect on my lesser-loved hobbies. I would feel less crazy if I had company.

I really like weaving. It's fun. Handwoven fabric is amazing. It eats through my yarn stash at a very satisfying rate, and that makes me happy. But, for whatever reason, I just forget to do it. That is one reason that when I plan my gift crafting, I include woven projects. The other reason is because it's way fast, and I know myself well enough to expect at least some procrastination. 

These woven zipper pouches were gifts for my daughter's kindergarten teacher and classroom aide. Both women are really wonderful influences on my kid, for very different reasons, and I wanted to show my appreciation by putting a little extra time into their Christmas gifts.

I used a skein of my own hand dyed sock yarn, in a colourway I named after the most beautiful place I have ever been. I miscalculated a bit on the amount of yarn needed for warp, but managed to get enough fabric for 2 squarish bits about 11"x11". Before cutting the fabric, which could easily unravel due to the superwash wool content, I ran a zigzag stitch on my sewing machine beside any intended cuts. It was rather like steeking knitting, actually. After that, I simply sewed flat bottomed lined zipper pouches (just google that if you're interested in a pattern, I didn't follow anything specific). I lined one with pretty quilting cotton, and the other with a sturdier decor weight sample.

A few tips for working with shifty sock yarn weight woven fabric:

  • treat it like a stretchy knit. 
  • use a heavier weight lining for structure and body.
  • use lightweight, sew-in interfacing, on the woven fabric side of your work rather than the lining. It keeps the seams and corners in order, without limiting the motion and softness that makes your fabric special.

Have you ever cut into your handwoven fabric? It's so worth it! I dare you to try.

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FO: Afterthought Heel Bramble Socks

Hello again! Things have been pretty wild around here for the past week or so, the upside of which is that I have a job! It's my first normal (read: not self) employment since I finished university and had my daughter. It's also the first of 2016's goals checked off the list. Wish me luck! My crafting has been a little sparse in the meantime but things are still finishing up at a decent rate. See exhibit A:

These socks were a simple knit, but damned if they didn't take ages to finish. I started them way back in October, and just finally got the heels in. If you're curious about afterthought heels but have never tried a pair, may I suggest Laura Linneman's pattern? It was a great help for my first attempt a few years ago. By this point I prefer a true afterthought heel, where you simply knit a tube and then cut the knitting to make space for a heel. It means you can knit almost the whole thing without thinking, provided you are smarter then me and make sure they are not too tight to begin with (I had to re-knit the entire first sock). If you are curious about fit, afterthought heels fit like short-row heels in that the lack of gusset means there will be issues if you have a high instep. Otherwise, the malleability of knit fabric does a lot of the fit-work for you.

I knit the heels two-at-a-time, in the magic loop style. To be perfectly honest, it was bloody awful. I thought it would be a good way of combatting second heel syndrome (I'm fine in the second sock department; heels are my weakness. I'm like Achilles that way, I suppose), but it just made me want to light the whole mess on fire. If I ever consider knitting things two-at-a-time again, yell at me until I come to my senses.

The yarn is Patons Kroy in the Bramble stripes colourway. I tried to take a nonchalant approach to matching the stripes (because socks shouldn't need to match!) and accidentally ended up with almost matching stripes. It has less an air of careless quirkiness than of simple incompetence. Oops.

Oh well. They fit nicely, and they'll wear well, and I like the colours. We can't all be charmingly quirky.

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FO: Christmas Knitting For the Menfolk

Knitting gifts for men can be tricky, predominantly because it's hard to balance the extreme simplicity of the styles most guys appreciate with the knitter's desire not to be bored out of their freaking mind. Luckily, some of the men in my life will put up with a little bit of colour.

May I present the fifth annual pair of hand knit socks for my father-in-law. Socks were a huge hit the first year I made them, and have been requested yearly since. They get worn, they get loved, they get washed properly. That's knit-worthy, if anything is!

I used one of Regia's new Pair-fect colourways (07118 orient). Regia has simplified the task of knitting gorgeous socks beyond even self striping and faux fair-isle by marking these skeins with a bright yellow starting point. If you knit from the designated point, following the instructions on the ball band for when to turn your heel, you will have two perfectly matching socks. I knit these to fit a men's 10, and had enough yarn left that I could've made an 11, or even perhaps a snug 12. I knit 72 stitch rounds on 2mm (US 0) needles, with a standard top-down heel flap and gusset. I love european workhorse yarn, and the colourway was as pleasant to use as it was pretty (which is to say; very).

My other man-project is the hat I made for my husband to wear under his bike helmet. Jake's precious bald head is sensitive to even tiny woolly itches, so I chose a skein of Blue Sky Alpacas Melange, a super soft baby alpaca sport weight. I went for bright red, with pale grey stripes from my leftovers basket, to match his bike. The 50g skein would not have been enough for a men's large hat without the stripes to stretch it a few yards further. I used the crown decreases (and little else) from the Hipster Hat by Tin Can Knits, and a 3.75mm (US 5) needle. I love the results, and it seems he does too.

And, after all, a happy gift recipient is the just the best thing.

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FO: Pyrography is Fun!

I love knitting, but I like to try to branch out when I'm making Christmas gifts. Pyrography is the art of burning images into wood (it's a fairly common folk craft) and I first tried it out this past summer. I decorated a cheap ikea cutting board for myself using a Walnut Hollow Creative Woodburner pen, and my family's reaction to it was so positive that I decided they needed fancy cutting boards, too. Eventually I found two really nice chopping boards that fit in my budget (when I'm buying art supplies I like to factor in the cost of potentially buggering it up and having to start from scratch), and then the fun began.

I chose to decorate the boards with food sources the recipients could find in their own back yards. I wanted one side to be a meat and the other a vegetable, for separate cutting zones (food safety is serious shit, yo). For my sister and her boyfriend I chose apples and chickens. I have been known to make the hour plus drive to their house just to pilfer their amazing apples, and the neighbours' chickens certainly sound like they're in their yard. The same neighbours keep bees as well, but I felt that was a bit of a stretch in the meat category.

My parents got blackberries and deer. Their property used to be about 85% blackberry (it has since been cleared, to the benefit of less invasive plant life), and is now about 100% deer habitat. The deer are much maligned, as it turns out they will eat literally any plant to death, no matter how much research goes into deer-proof gardening. However, the next best meat option was the occasional rat, so we went with deer.

I found images I liked, modified them for simplicity as needed, and traced them onto the board using carbon transfer paper. Next, I filled in my tracing with the pyrography pen, using different nibs and techniques for texture. The whole process was relatively simple, and I only burned myself five or six times. I think I have some sort of cognitive block when it comes to don't touch hot things. If you're interested in trying pyrography you'll be glad to know that minor mistakes can be removed with fine sandpaper, but, alas, most marks are there for life. Embrace your flaws, I guess. Finally, I oiled the boards with a beeswax salad bowl finish. Wood cutting boards are quite food safe as long as they're kept well oiled so they don't become too porous. I love the final result and the boards seemed to go over really well on Christmas morning, which is the best part of all.

What do you think?

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FO: Matching Christmas Snowflakes

This weekend may not have been particularly productive (the stomach bugs that get passed around a kindergarten class are killer), but luckily I have a massive backlog of projects to share with you!

My Daughter is almost six (!) and my niece, the only other child in my extended family, is just over a year. They are nearing the end of the stage where we can stuff them into matching outfits without resistance. They are also getting too big for me to procrastinate until mid-November to cast on matching Christmas sweaters for them. Ahem.

I had some grey Berocco Vintage DK in my stash that needed a purpose, so I decided to make Snowflake, by Tin Can Knits, in both the 1-2 year and 5-6 year sizes. Because they have such an extensive size range and I had such an excessive amount of yarn, I considered making one for my sister in law too, but then I came to my senses.

I made the 1-2 year size for my niece (perfect fit as written!), and a slightly lengthened 5-6 for my long, skinny daughter. The only style modification I made was to replace the seed stitch at the neckband, hem, and cuffs with a folded stockinette hem, and to do the button placket in garter stitch. I have nothing but enthusiasm for this pattern as written, but I do love a folded hem. I made a much larger version for myself a few years ago, and the pattern was flawless then too.

In my experience, Vintage DK pills like the dickens, but it's washable and pills can be shaved so I like it as a children's garment yarn. The put-up is excellent for the price, and these two sweaters took less than four skeins together. 

My favourite part of this project is the buttons. I am lucky enough to have a few local stores that specialize in notions, and I was able to find these adorable vintage plastic beauties at the Button and Needlework Boutique in a perfect colour palette for both my ginger child and my dark haired niece.

Cute, eh?

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