Baby Sleeping Sack

February 5, 2013

Another year, another baby to make a knitted gift for! Very exciting! I've traditionally made baby blankets for friends. Blankets are easy and versatile: they don't have to fit like clothes, babies don't grow out of them for years (well, maybe months), and everyone is always happy to have an extra warm thing around to wrap their little one in. I went to the local library and checked out a couple of books about baby knits looking for inspiration. I really liked 60 More Quick Baby Knits that was full of cute little things. They did have a few blankets, but what caught my attention was a baby sleeping sack. In the book they had a picture of one with a baby in it and it was adorable. A friend even agreed to lend me her baby for the photo shoot, but I didn't finish the sack on time to take advantage of the offer, so my pictures are conspicuously missing a young child where it's supposed to be. I'm hoping that when the intended recipient of the gift arrives in a couple of months I'll get pictures with her in the sleeping sack that I can share here.

I only had a couple of weeks to complete the project and figured I'd try making it on the knitting machine. Unfortunately, this didn't work out. Made with just one strand of yarn the sack was too thin, and my machine couldn't handle double strands. Fortunately, I'm a pretty quick hand knitter (when I want to be). I also decided that I would follow the pattern exactly to save time on calculations, even though my yarn didn't match the gauge from the book. I figured that my sack would turn out a little bigger than the listed dimensions, which wasn't the end of the world. I normally use patterns for ideas more than actual instructions, but this one was so simple and perfect that I didn't want to mess around with it. However, staying true to myself, I changed at least one thing - the number of buttons. Instead of 16 I used only 12 to save a busy parent a few seconds buttoning their baby in and out of the sack. I did find some of the instructions in the book a little confusing: they had some complicated way of making a button hole, for example. But overall, it was easy and straightforward.

As usual, I was the only one with a hand-made gift at the baby shower. It was well received and now we're all anxiously waiting for the new baby girl to try out her new sleeping arrangements. Hope she likes it.

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Honeycomb Baby Blanket

February 13, 2011

A couple weekends ago I went to a friend's baby shower. The Monday before I was contemplating what to get her as a present (I had previously promised to crochet a stuffed animal for her baby girl, but knew I wouldn't have time to finish it before the shower). I looked through her registry on Babies-R-Us and declared to my husband that we would be going shopping for a baby gift on Saturday. He looked back at me and said "Why don't you make something? Weren't you thinking about making a baby blanket of some sorts?" I was (and baby blankets are my number 1 gifts for baby showers - see the previous two blankets I made here and here). But that was months ago when I thought I would have plenty of time to make one. With less than a week to go, I wasn't so sure I could pull it off. However, since I already had a few ideas in my head from lazily thinking about it, I didn't want to dismiss this possibility. The rest of Monday night was spend brainstorming ideas further, picking one - a honeycomb blanket, drawing hexagons (which involved revisiting such trig concepts as cosine and tangent), setting up my knitting machine to facilitate the process of making these hexagons, and looking up hours of a local yarn store. I went from being unmotivated to do anything to being completely consumed by my new project in a matter of minutes.

Tuesday night started with a mad dash to the said local yarn store to pick up the nicest brightest yarn for the blanket. I got a few skeins of Tree Frog Yarn in golden yellow and carrot orange because they had the most vibrant colors. Who says baby blankets have to be pastel? Back at the house, I embarked on the process of making 19 hexagons - that took 3 days (6 pieces on Tuesday, 5 on Wednesday, and 8! on Thursday). Thursday night was also devoted to getting more yarn (I couldn't estimate from the start how much I needed and ended up having to get more), getting felt from a local fabric store, designing bees (first on the phone at the store, then on paper, then on a Wacom Bamboo Fun tablet, then on paper again for final touches), and finally cutting bees out of the felt. I would not have had such awesome bees had it not been for my husband, who put an artistic hat on and dove into designing and later into sewing them.

Saturday came and I needed to get cranking on assembling the pieces - both hexagons and bee parts. It took some time to figure out how to join the pieces together. I knew I wanted to crochet them together with a contrasting color so the final blanket could look like a real honeycomb instead of sewing them with an invisible seam, like I did with the soccer ball. Looking online for ideas, I came across this page and immediately knew that a seam involving a combination of chain and slip stitches was worth trying. And it looked amazing when I joined a couple of pieces. As I stitched hexagons together (and mind you, it's a looooooong and somewhat mindless process), my blanket slowly transformed from a pile of rags into a beautiful whole (check out the timelapse slideshow below). After the pieces were all put together, it was time for the border. Turns out, 19 hexagons (well, ok, only 12, 7 are enclosed in the middle) have a really long perimeter, and making a scalloped edge (which means crocheting every 4th stitch 3 times) took hours. I sewed the bees onto the blanket on Sunday morning and finished with less than an hour to spare. Talk about time management!

It wasn't until the mother-to-be started opening the presents at her baby shower that I realized that not only did I nail the execution, but I also nailed the theme - Winnie the Pooh... Honey... Honeycomb... It was perfect! (Maybe next time I'll save myself some trouble and pay a little more attention to the items in the gift registry). The blanket was well received and greatly appreciated. I hope the baby will like it too.

Mother Bear Project

September 22, 2010

I made an adorable little crocheted bear for a charity called Mother Bear Project. This organization sends hand-made knitted and crocheted bears to children affected by HIV and AIDS in emerging nations. The way it works is like this: they sell patterns and kits to make bears, volunteers make the bears and either send them back or drop them off at participating local yarn stores. The bears are then batched and sent off to children.

I'd never heard of Mother Bear Project until I came across their booth at Stitches West. It was tucked away on the last isle of a huge conference hall (or maybe the first isle, depending on which end of the hall you started at, I happened to start at the opposite end) and by the time I got there all the knitting kits were already gone. There were a few crochet kits left, however, and I picked one up determined to make a child somewhere in the world a little happier.

The kit contains everything you need to complete a bear: different color yarns for different parts, crochet (or needles), and instructions. The instructions are very simple and easy to follow. You can stick to the exact measurements listed or you can improvise with color, shape, and size. If you purchase a pattern without a kit, you can use your own yarn in any color you want - leftovers and scraps are perfect for this project. The basic pattern is a bear wearing pants and a shirt, but you can make any other clothes and accessories for it: skirts, collars, scarfs, etc... I had a bit of yarn left after completing the basic bear, so I added a little scarf and a skirt.

It took me less than a weekend to crochet the bear. I was excited to get it done and get it sent off. I stitched the seams, stuffed the bear, tied the scarf around its neck, threaded the yarn into a tapestry needle... and that's where everything stalled. For 4 months. I've mentioned earlier that I'm not a sewer. I'm especially NOT an embroiderer. I was put off by the prospect of making the bear face. I was lamenting the fact that I couldn't just slap some buttons for the eyes and nose, like I've done for my other crocheted toys - Spider, Sheep, Moose, and Giraffe. Somehow the bear ended up stashed away in a yarn basket not to be seen again till last weekend.

I picked it up again on Sunday and it made me sad that I abandoned this project for so long. I didn't get any better at or more amenable to embroidering, but I buckled down and did it. It took several tries to make the face look somewhat face-like, but I succeeded in the end. I happen to live not too far from Green Planet Yarn, one of the participating Mother Bear Project stores, so I went there to drop the bear off. There were already a few bears, both crocheted and knitted, sitting in a basket near a window, and mine joined them. Hopefully soon it will be on its way to a child.

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What's New

August 16, 2010

Many things have happened since I last updated this blog. Here is an overview of what's been going on.

The 2 most significant developments are:

moving my blog to a different blogging platform
You may notice only a slight difference in the layout of the blog, but it took many hours of work to make it look exactly the same as the previous Wordpress version. I now have full control over the source code of my blog and will hopefully be able to do a bunch of cool things with it.

getting a knitting machine
I started thinking about getting one about 2 years ago but didn't make up my mind until January this year. I'm now a proud owner of a Silver Reed SK280 Punchcard Standard Gauge knitting machine. More on it in a separate post.

In March I attended Stitches West - this was my first knitting convention. I was after coned yarn for my knitting machine, but there were so many more things that I liked there that I ended up with a few individual patterns, a number of knitting magazines, and of course, many pounds of yarn (coned, hanked, and skeined).

I have been working on a variety of projects as well. Most haven't made it into the site yet but will soon. Just to give you an idea of what's coming, here are the things I've made in the last few months:

Crocheted Android - I love my Android phone and its little green robot-mascot. I had to make one.

I knitted 4 sweaters on my knitting machine. 2 of them were designed by me; the patterns for the other 2 I got from knitting magazines and converted to the instructions for a knitting machine.

I used one of the individual patterns that I got at Stitches West to make a tunic top.

In addition to catching up on posting all the projects that I've finished, I have a bunch of other ideas for the site - tutorials, yarn converters, pattern generators. I hope to get to it soon.

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Needles!

October 6, 2008

After 4 months of work, I’m launching a store, selling hand-made knitting needles. The idea came to me when I was perusing knitting magazines in search of nice-looking needles to give as gifts. A few pairs came very close to what I wanted – wooden needles with fancy metal, glass, or carved wood tops – but they were not quite what I had in mind. Then I read a number of blogs where people described how they made their own needles using wooden dowels, baked sculpey, and even acorns. Inspired, I decided to make my own too.

I had the perfect source for the tops of the needles: a glass artist friend of mine agreed to create a number of different colored glass tops for my needles on his torch. Deciding on the colors turned out to be really hard: when you’re presented with a few dozen choices of glass that can be combined in so many ways it’s nearly impossible to narrow your choices down to 5-6 basic color combinations and patterns. I finally picked my favorite styles and moved on to experimenting with making my own needle bodies out of various hardwood dowels. I found that for the right amount of slipperiness regular pre-fabricated bamboo needles worked best. It was just a matter of disassembling them and attaching the glass tops before the new needles were ready. And they looked awesome!

I set up the store using Google Checkout, which works admirably for small online stores. It puts customers who already use Checkout just a few clicks away from purchasing the needles.

I’ll be happy to hear your comments on what you think about the needles. Can’t find the exact needles you’re looking for? Please let me know and I may be able to add them to the store in the future.

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Project Soccer Ball

September 24, 2008

New project: knitting a realistic looking soccer ball!

When I came up with an idea of making a soccer ball, I thought it was going to be pretty simple and straight forward. However, I failed to consider the following fun facts about a traditional soccer ball:

  • it consists of 32 panels (20 white hexagons and 12 black pentagons)
  • there are 90 seams connecting these panels

Knowing this helps you realize that you may be signing yourself up for a bit more work than you expected. On a positive note, the panels you need to make are only a couple of inches wide (or if you want to be more technical – 4.5 cm to a side), the seams are short, and when you start sewing it turns from an ugly monster to a real beauty after a few dozen stitches.

It’s surprisingly hard to find all the necessary information about the dimensions of soccer balls online. For example, even the wikipedia article about “Football (ball)” failed to tell me how big the panels have to be. I could have tried to infer it from the given circumference of the ball, but it was so much easier to ask a colleague – avid soccer fan – to bring his soccer ball for examination.

All sides and angles measured, it was time to knit some sample panels, which took a few tries to get exactly right. Hexagons were a bit easier to make because once you figured out how to knit the bottom half, the reverse of it would give you the top half (hooray for the x-axis symmetry). Pentagons were a bit more of a challenge, angles being slightly more acute and symmetry running only along the y-axis. But even than it didn’t take more an an evening of fiddling with stitch increases and decreases.

I finished most of the panel knitting on a 10-hour flight to Europe and then another one back to the US. It turned out to be a very convenient project to bring on a plane: you can use very short needles because none of the panels are wider than 16 stitches, you don’t end up dragging something bulky half way around the world in your carry-on, and you can take a break every 15 minutes when a panel is finished and still feel like you accomplished something. The only drawback was using really tiny dull scissors, since you can’t bring a real pair on board.

Sewing the panels together was probably the most fun and the most tedious part at the same time. Tedious – because this is just a lot of sewing and I’m not a huge fan of it. Fun – because I took it upon myself to figure out how to stitch the panels together using the least number of seams (there are a total of 90 seams, but you can stitch a couple sides at a time with the same length of yarn). I was actually surprised that sometimes my plan to stitch 3 consecutive seams wouldn’t work, or that I would end up with a lonely unfinished seam among the stitched panels. It took a full 3 evenings to finish stitching the ball, stuff it, and weave in the yarn ends.

The ball turned out looking relatively realistic (except maybe slightly larger than life-size). The biggest difference between my ball and a real soccer ball is the weight – no matter how much fiberfil I stuffed in it, it just didn’t want to weigh 400 g.

Will other balls follow, you ask? Perhaps, but not in the forseeable future.

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Brioche Hat The Beginning

July 8, 2008

I had been eying a brioche hat design for about a year and a half before I actually tried to make it. I had made a few plain looking hats before and was ready for something new, so I got a book that described how to make a brioche hat, which looked completely different from what I had previously made. And then … I sat on it for over a year. The description just looked so complicated that I didn’t even bother trying to wrap my brain around it. So, the hat wasn’t happening.

Last February I was going to be on a plane for a few hours and wanted to bring a small project to work on. I got the book with the brioche hat out again and decided that I will give it a try. For real this time. Airport environment didn’t prove very conducive to following complicated instructions, but I had hours to knit and unravel what I knitted until the first 4-5 rows started looking like the picture. I think at that point I was more excited that I finally got around to making it than about the hat itself. I can follow instructions and figure things out on my own pretty well, but it’s hard for me to get motivated to do things.

I started on the hat as soon as I got back home from my trip a few days later, and was surprised at how much easier it was to make it in the round than to knit the brioche pattern back and forth which I was doing as my sample. Stitches just came together on their own and I didn’t even feel like I had to keep track of them. Shaping the crown was a bit more challenging, but here instead of mindlessly following the instructions I paid very close attention to how the stitches were reduced and what pattern they formed, and after about 6 rounds I could figure out how to reduce the rest of the stitches without consulting the book. The one problem with this approach was that I didn’t bother checking if what I was doing closely matched the instructions, so when it was time to write the description of how I made the hat, I was unsure if I could get it right. Guess what I did to proofread myself? I made another identical hat carefully writing down instructions for each crown round. I added a fleece lining to this hat to make it a little different and meant to gift it to one of my friends (who didn’t really care about which hat he got, but was very adamant about the fleece lining). Unfortunately, this hat, outfitted with the lining and ready to be given away, is still at my house. I’m waiting to take pictures of it so I can’t let it go yet. When you see a post describing how to add a fleece lining to a hat, you’ll know that this duplicate hat finally found its rightful owner. It may have to wait till the ski season.

One more thing I really ought to mention: don’t try to learn to knit using this hat as your first project. I gave my friend some nice yarn and needles for her birthday and she was interested in learning to knit by making that particular hat (well, I think I was more interested in her making that hat since after two tries I fathomed it to be super easy). We tried long and hard to make the needles and the yarn behave and it just wasn’t working out. So we ended up settling on a two-color scarf instead that’s still work in progress. Brioche hat – not a good starter project! But once you comprehend how it’s made, it’s a lot of fun to knit.

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My First Baby Blanket

July 6, 2008

A little over a year ago I was invited to my co-worker’s baby shower. I wanted to give her something special – I could have gone to Pottery Barn Kids and picked up some overpriced newborn essentials, but that wouldn’t have been memorable either for her or for me. An idea of giving her baby a handmade piece of clothing was far more attractive. Besides, I wanted to get more seriously into knitting so that was my chance.

I poured over at least 2 dozen websites and numerous baby knitting magazines looking for ideas, but nothing I found was all that appealing: little hats and tiny baby sweaters looked alright, but it was summer and no sane baby would have wanted to get stuck with a wardrobe of warm clothing in July and grow out of it by winter time. Cute but impractical. And then I came across a few baby blankets that had a more versatile outlook: with the air conditioning cranked way up during the summer months it could come in handy. Besides, this was something that could be used for many months provided I make it slightly bigger than the size of a newborn. That’s how the Pink Baby Blanket was conceived (pun intended).

I called it “pink,” but in reality it’s actually very pale purple. My co-worker wasn’t into the whole “pink only for girls” trend. In fact, she would have preferred if it was yellow or green. Not wanting to deviate from the traditional girlish pinkness too much and not wanting to offend my co-worker’s tastes, I went with purple. It also happened to be a nice color to look at while knitting the blanket for many hours on end.

Having never made anything like this before, I didn’t know how much time it would take to finish. I was glad I started a month before it was due because I was working on it until 2 hours before it was delivered. I only had a few hours a day, if that, to dedicate to knitting the blanket, so it probably ended up taking about 50 hours total. If I wanted to get paid at least $20 an hour, this would have been a $1000 blanket – not bad for a baby shower gift, huh? I found that knitting the blanket itself wasn’t all that bad: switching between different types of squares kept me somewhat entertained. However, finishing it up was really tedious – it took a long time to fill in the groves with a different color yarn and then tuck all the loose ends (and there were A LOT of them) in.

Once it was all finished, I was amazed as how well the blanket turned out: it was very pretty and soft and a perfect size to last a baby for quite some time. I was even tempted to keep it for myself as a lap blanket – after all, it was sitting on my lap for almost a month in its various stages of development and I grew attached to it. In the end, I did decide to part with it, and the moment of giving the blanket away to my co-worker was priceless. It was worth all the time and effort I put into it to see her and all the guests completely stunned and awed by the fact that the gift I brought was handmade. I didn’t realize how easy it was to impress people with something knitted by hand. I’ll have to remember it for next time.

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Welcome!

April 15, 2008

Welcome to my knitting site! I would like it to be is a place that knitters of all skill levels can visit and find something useful: beginners should be able to come here and browse the tutorials to help them get started and more experienced knitters would find interesting and fun projects that can inspire them to create their own things.  My plan is to add more sections like “Tutorials” and maybe even a “Store” but for now, check out some of the projects and subscribe to this blog.