Recently in Finished Projects 2008 Category

Conroy the Friendly Ami Dragon

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20090108_ConroyTheMagicDrag.jpgAt long last I can unveil my most significant amigurumi project yet!  This is Conroy, a fierce, but really friendly dragon -- the pattern is on Craftster, and I found him via Ravelry.  You may remember that my sister-in-law loves dragons (the original "Here There Be Dragons" socks were made for her).  So, in addition to the Hemlock Ring Blanket, I wanted to make my beautiful new nephew a toy and guardian symbol.  This Amigurumi project was definitely more complicated than anything I had done previously, but it was still do-able with my modest crochet skills. 

He's been complete for quite some time, but because he was meant to be a special surprise gift (dragons seem to like to make sure their guardian roles will be accepted before they make grand public announcements) he didn't make it up onto the blog after I finished him.  And then, of course, since I wasn't feeling well the night he was packed up to head down to Houston, I forgot to take any pictures of him.  Fortunately, my dad snapped a few photos of him stretching out his wings in the sun after his trip from the north country.

Conroy is made up of quite a few pieces, making him a toy with moving arms and legs.  I encourage you to check out the link to the project to see the pieces and the construction process.  Probably the hardest part for me was embroidering on his eyes.  Since my nephew is a brand new human I didn't want Conroy to have any parts that could be chewed off and ingested by accident.  But my free hand embroidery skills are weak, and I haven't done much embroidery on a crochet surface, which complicates the process a little bit.

He was constructed using Lion Brand Vanna's Choice acrylic yarn and stuffed with acrylic polyfil so that he could be washed if necessary.  Ms. Z picked out the colors (I showed her the yarn and asked her which one she liked best) since I wanted her to have a hand in the project as well. 

This is a fun project and the instructions are very good.  I am always pleasantly surprised when something that probably took a long time to write out as a pattern is available for free.  Of all the dragon patterns I found on the web, for free and for payment, this one was certainly the nicest.

My understanding from my brother is that Conroy was a big hit, so my only disappointment was not being there when he announced his intentions to be my nephews winged buddy.  I hope he has a long and happy future looking out for the sweetest little nephew ever -- and that he is a constant reminder that even though his Ciocia* is far away, she is with him in spirit.

*Ciocha (pronounced like cho-cha) is "Aunt" in Polish.  I'm "Ciocia Theresa" to my nieces and as I've heard it more and more I've come to like it more an more. 

"Easter" Baby Socks

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For me, apparently, baby socks are like potato chips. I can't knit just one pair!  Talk about instant gratification in so many ways.  First off, they are fast fast fast to knit -- if I had nothing else to do, I could easily get a pair of these done in a day, and still have time to work on something else.  Second, Z gets so excited when she gets a new pair "Sockies!  Sockies!" and she runs off with both in her hands.  Nothing like an enthusiastic recipient to encourage more knitting (and her father likes them, too -- given a chance, he'll put her hand knit socks on her over any other socks in her drawer).  So now Z has 4 pairs of handknit socks in her drawer (there's one more pair I haven't shown you yet) and I think with the remnants from previous projects of mine, we can easily get to 7 pairs -- my goal -- one for every day of the week.

By happy chance, these socks almost match -- apparently Z sized socks are almost exactly one stripe pattern repeat in this colorway (Regia 4450 in Kaffe Fasset "Exotic Color Easter") and there is still at least one more if not two more baby sized socks worth of yarn left from the 50g skein. 

20081207_ZInRegiaEasterSock.jpgPlease pardon the cacophany of patterns that Z is wearing -- we're having some remodeling done right now (as a result of a basement crack, not because we really wanted to) and combined with the cold weather we're getting right now in Chicago, it's colder than usual in the house.  Z loves the butterflies ( "Fly flys" as she calls them) and is resistant to wardrobe changes except when they include clothes she likes.  So to get her to wear an extra layer, we bribed her with butterflies.  She doesn't usally have to be bribed to wear hand knit socks -- not only does she run around with them when she gets them, but she will sit still and let you put them on when you tell her what you are doing.  Put all of that together and you get a big print, a small print and stripes!  And happy warm baby feet.  And happy warm baby feet are really what counts!


20081120_GetAJobSocksInActi.jpgWhen a knitter's husband loses his job at a particularly bad time for both the year and the economic cycle, what does the knitter think she needs to do to make sure he finds another one?

She starts a pair of socks for him, of course!

I know, I know, the world does not make decisions based on whether John has a new pair of socks, but to give myself something more positive to think about, I convinced myself that if John had a lovely new pair of socks to start a new job with, certainly the job would come.  Of course, they couldn't be just any pair of socks, there had to be some more challenging element about them to reflect both the challenge John faced looking for a job, and the supportive sentiments that I had for him.  At the same time, being man socks, they had to conform to John's standards for socks as well, so the design couldn't be too complicated, and the yarn couldn't be too out there.  The yarn also needed to be thick enough to keep John's feet warm during his downtown winter commute.

20081120_GetAJobSocksShapin.jpgThe yarn was the easy part!  It's Blue Moon Fiber Arts, Socks that Rock Heavyweight in "Thraven" -- just about as perfect a yarn as you could ask for as far as this project and John and the knitter are concerned.  The yarn is thick and warm, the colorway is subtle but still lovely and engaging. 

20081120_GetAJobSocksRelief.jpgFor the pattern, I decided to stay simple.  It's a toe-up stockinette sock until it gets past the heel, and then on each side of the sock there's an X and O cable -- my way of sending hugs and kisses along with him to work in a subtle way, since the element isn't very visible from the front or back of the sock.  To account for the extra stitches taken up by the cabling and to shape the sock better to John's calf, there are also two increase rows, one at the start of the pattern and one at the midway point (STR Heavyweight is pretty bulky for a sock yarn so it doesn't take many extra stitches to give you reasonable increases in circumference).  The cuff is about 2" of K2 P2 ribbing, placed so as to make the top of the cable look a little as if it is extending into the ribbing.

20081120_GetAJobSocksCuff.jpgThe socks have actually been finished for a little while now, but I decided I couldn't do a reveal until John actually accepted an offer. Yesterday that happy moment finally came (we found out he was going to get an offer for one of the jobs he was really interested last week, but it took almost a week for all the details to get nailed down) so the socks get to make their appearance.

I wouldn't let him wear the socks until the offer was almost certain. In typical, very sweet John fashion, he played along and once he got "permission" to put the socks on, they have been on ever since.   I think it's fair to say that he doesn't mind the cables, and he finds the coloration of the socks subtle enough not to be worried about the prying eyes of the sock police. 

20081120_GetAJobSocksStealt.jpgSo he's happy that he has a warm pair of socks that actually go with dress pants and I'm happy because there's a special little detail that I know is there, even if no one else does.  Definitely a successful pair of socks -- in more ways than one!

I love you, babe! I know you're going to rock the new job! I'm so excited for you!

Zebra Striper Dress, Finished

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Well!  This project has been a long time in coming.  At least, the pictures have.  It's actually been finished for over a month or so now and has mostly been awaiting a nice day for photographs.  So here it finally is: the Zebra Striper Dress from Dale of Norway, enjoying it's time in the fall sun.

20081118_ZebraStriperNeck.jpgThis is one of those projects where you had better love the little details because the rest of it is just a slow slog through a lot of stockinette in the round in one color of yarn at roughly the same gauge that you would knit socks.  Since the base of this project starts at about 350 stitches around, that's a lot of knitting after the fun two color part.  That said, I loved trying out the duplicate stitch (which I had never done before).  It's so sweet and so perfect on the little dress.
20081118_ZebraStriperEdging.jpgThe edging for the neck and armscyes is also sweet and delicate and perfect for the design. 

20081118_ZebraStriperHem.jpgOf course, it's really the bottom edging that this project is all about.  It starts with a little lacy scalloped bottom and works its way into the two color stranded work.  It's all easy, but the zebra striping is slow going because the repeat is hard to memorize.  The final result is quite worth it, though.  And having a lot of knitting to do helped me perfect my two handed two color knitting.  If I were to do it again, I would switch hands and hold the white in my left hand and the black in my right so that the black wouldn't look quite as overwhelming.  For my first time out, I feel really good about how the color work worked out.  After blocking, it doesn't pull in hardly at all.

20081118_ZebraStriperInside.jpgNo project like this would be complete without a look on the inside.  See?  Not so bad. 

You might be wondering where my final shot of the recipient wearing the garment is.  Well, apparently 2 year olds in Norway are absolutely gigantic, because my 16 month old baby positively swims in this thing, which is unfortunate, because I think she would really like to wear it.  I can only hope that when she does grow into it a bit more, it will be cold enough for her to wear it without melting.  Then I promise as many cute pictures of her as I can take!

Project Details:
Pattern: Zebra Striper Dress from Dale of Norway, Favorite Baby Designs Nr. 8101
Size: 24 months
Yarn: Dale of Norway, Baby Ull (Superwash Merino Wool)
Needles: KnitPicks Harmony Circulars

Project Notes:
This is an easy introduction to colorwork.  There's no steeking and all the finishing is relatively simple.  The miles and miles of yellow knitting in the main body of the dress become a little tiresome -- until you have the finished dress, and then it's all worth while.

The only element of the project that I changed was to sew the seams on the top of the straps.  The pattern has you put on buttons and loops to hold them closed, but that seemed like a lot of work for something that could just get caught on things and certainly wouldn't be needed for dressing and undressing a two year old (perhaps it would be helpful for a younger baby, but the neckline is pretty wide, so even then I don't think it's necessary).  The other reason I seamed the tops of the straps together was that I thought it gave the garment a more finished look -- otherwise the cast off edge would have been visible and I didn't like that at all. 

Would I do this project again?  Yes, but definitely only for my own kid.  There's just too much time in this thing to make it as a gift if you're making it for a larger child.  Even the smallest size is quite large, so it definitely falls into one of those "labor of love" project categories. But it is clever and sweet and I really just can't wait to see Zosia wear it -- and fit into it -- for the first time!

Have A Ball

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A few posts back, showed you 4 pentagons worked together and I asked you all to guess what I was working on.  There were several guesses that I was working on a ball.   That is exactly what I was doing.  In fact, I was working the Doddy pattern from the Winter 2007 issue of Knitty. The idea, as you might guess from the fact that it is made of yarn that is very similar to that of the Hemlock blanket, is that it was supposed to be a companion piece for the blanket.

But that is the hazard of knitting toys for another baby when your own baby is running about and very excited about what you are working on.  The project changes ownership. 

20081110_DoddyonHemlock.jpgI do have a few more reasons to justify the change than just the look in a pretty set of blue eyes.  First, it's quite large in the size I made it and unlikely to be the sort of toy that a newborn can manipulate.  By the time he is big enough, I will have had plenty of time to make him one of his own.  Second, I have a couple of other much better projects in the wings for a newborn.  And finally, Ms. Z loves her balls.  It's really hard for me not to cave in and give her things she can identify with words.  Especially when I know there is a long winter ahead and no more likely outdoor play days in the foreseeable future for a toddler who really likes to go outside.

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Doddy Project Specs

Project: Doddy from the Fall 2007 Knitty
Yarn: Blue Sky Alpacas Dyed and Organic Cotton

My own personal touch to this project was to lay out the pentagons such that no two pentagons of the same color touched.  The colors are remnants from the Circles Stroller Jacket, Baby Bobbi Bear and the Hemlock Blanket (I guess that also makes it a fair gift for Z since three of the four remnant yarns are from projects for her). 

This ball looks very round in the picture, but the combination of movable fiberfill and cotton yarn means that it can take on all sorts of strange shapes.  I suspect it will also spend some of its life as a pillow and that round is not something that it will be very often.  But compared to other balls its size, this one is easy for a small person to grab and carry and it is a safe indoor playmate compared to the plastic balls that are also in our collection

Hemlock, Blocked

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Blocking, while not a panacea for every knitting problem, can solve a lot of them.
 
20081109_HemlockBlanketFull.jpgOnce soaked (actually washed on gentle cycle in my washing machine), the fabric relaxed a good deal and I was able to pin it out and tame some of the unruly curvaceousness of this blanket.  As you can see towards the top of the picture, some parts of the feather and fan still have a ruched look, but I am imaging that the baby will not notice these things.

20081109_HemlockBlanketCent.jpgThe center of the blanket is lovely after blocking.  The flower motif really shines and almost looks delicate even in this aran weight yarn.  I definitely learned something when I had to make those openings under each of the petals.

20081109_HemlockBlanketF&F.jpgBelieve it or not, this is the first time that I have worked a feather and fan pattern into anything.  Easy easy and certainly nice results.  This would also probably be lovely with striping yarns.

20081109_HemlockBlanketChai.jpgI had helped for a more festive photo shoot for the blanket, but it was cold, almost snowy and damp on Saturday so my upstairs balcony was my best option and it was cold enough to keep me from getting too creative with the pictures.  It looks nice draped over the back of a chair, does it not?

20081109_HemlockBlanketEdge.jpgThis edge was incredibly time consuming, incredibly yarn consuming and absolutely worth it.  So pretty!  And definitely something that will provide textural interest for an infant. 

20081109_HemlockBlanketQuar.jpgThe specifics:

Hemlock Ring Blanket

worked in Blue Sky Alpacas Dyed Cotton, "Periwinkle", ~4.5 skeins
needle sizes as specified in Jared Flood's modification of the original doily design

Comments on the Yarn
:
This yarn is suggested as hand wash or dry clean... well, hand washing and dry cleaning are not something any new mom wants to bother with so I washed it in the gentle cycle of my top-loading washer.  It came out looking a little more careworn but not raggedy or shaggy.  I suspect that if I washed it on it's own in a front loader there would be very little wear on it.  I also washed (and dried) Z's Circles Stroller Jacket in the same load with similar acceptable results.  This yarn is a loosely spun cotton, so I do suspect that over time it might end up moving past careworn to more abused looking, but I think it's worth the trade off to be able to put something so soft next to a baby's skin.  This cotton is probably the nicest cotton I've ever worked with (in fact, it almost has a hand like silk).  It's cost definitely makes it a luxury yarn purchase, but for a special baby, it might be a worthwhile splurge, and I whole heartedly recommend it as long as you can accept that it needs to be treated just a little bit more gently than standard cotton yarns and understand that it may have poorer wear parameters than standard cotton yarns as well.

Blocking has definitely made me happy with this project again, and it will be on it's way to its intended recipient soon... well, just as soon as I stop knitting little toys for Z and make a few to accompany the blanket!

Simple Cotton Socks Finally Finished

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Nothing like a 4 hour car ride to lull a toddler to sleep and to help Mama get some knitting finished up.  These socks are nothing complicated, but it's always nice to add a new pair of hand knit socks to the sock drawer.  I like to think that every pair I knit helps to increase the lifespan of every other pair in the drawer since I have more pairs to choose from. 

20080929_SimpleCottonSocksS.jpgIt's interesting to note that I am getting to the point where the handknit socks are beginning to outnumber the commercial socks in my drawer.  Except when it comes to cotton socks.  I really just haven't found enough cotton-based yarns that I like to knit with.  The cotton wool blends (I've tried some Meilenweit and Sockotta and Blue Moon yarn of this nature) end up being a little too stiff for pleasurable knitting and the cotton elastic ones tend to make me a little crazy when it comes to keeping them tensioned and preventing laddering.  The cotton elastic blends also seem like many of them are a bit thicker than standard sock yarn, making wearing them with lighter weight shoes a bit harder.   

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This yarn from Greenwood Fiberworks comes just about as close as I've found to a yarn that I would knit with again.  If I had a wool sensitivity, you can bet your bottom dollar that I'd have a huge stash of the stuff.  It's thinner that the standard cotton-elastic blends (Cascade Fixation, Elann Esprit) and I always think it's a plus to be able to buy from a small dyer instead of a large corporation.  But, truth be told, while it's a lovely yarn that is well dyed and I very much like how it has a little bit of the self-striping action going on, I just don't think cotton yarns are going to end up being "my thing" when it comes to knitting socks. 

Now that these are complete (after more than a year) it's time for me to figure out what will be my next pair of simple stockinette socks.  With winter fast approaching, it may be time to make another pair for my public transportation-taking husband -- a man for whom the temperature of his feet really does determine his overall comfort level.  I've been accumulating a little stash of man-friendly STR for the occasion.  And even when it's almost solid or a very dark colorway, it's hard to complain about knitting with STR.  Especially when it's already met with man-foot approval for cold Chicago winters. 

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