Crochet, knitting, astronomy & life in general.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Crafty craziness

I've been crafting like a madwoman over the last few days. I have a couple of friends getting married on August 8th in my hometown, so I'm making their wedding present, and my dad asked me to make him a laptop case for his swanky new 17" MacBook Pro, which he wanted me to finish before he leaves on a trip on August 10th. I want to finish it before I travel back to the townships because I have to sew a lining and I don't want to have to carry all that extra material.

Anyway, first the wedding present, because I find it the most exciting. I wanted to make some potholders because I figure it's a nice utilitarian thing for a newly wed couple. Of course, I didn't want them to be boring traditional potholders, so I thought first that I'd make the "Skullholders" by Kacy Fallon from the Happy Hooker. Skulls aren't really their thing, however, so I thought I'd play the nerd card and make them Star Trek potholders, since they're both fans. I found only one Star Trek logo chart on all of the interet, but it was too big, and the grid lines weren't scaled properly, so I made my own! I'm using double knitting because even though this chart is better sized, I think knit stitches are smaller than crochet stitches with the same yarn... and in general, colourwork with knitting is cleaner looking. At any rate, here's what I have so far, on both sides:

I'm using Lily's Sugar 'n Cream, which is very reasonably priced and very pleasant to work with. Also, it's cotton, which is a good material for something that will be handling hot objects. I'm not sure how I'll finish it off yet (probably with a crocheted border), but I'll probably post the chart as a free pattern at some point.

Next, the laptop case. I sent a few designs to my dad for him to choose his favourite, and he picked Phazelia's laptop case (only available on Ravelry, unfortunately). The design is very simple. It's a bunch of interlocking hexagons which are crocheted together to make a case. The inside is lined and it uses a velcro closure. The pattern didn't have much information, so I graphed out the hexagon placement for myself, just to get it straight in my mind:

As you can see, it requires 17 hexagons. I've finished about eight of them, and I'm already getting sick of it. I mean, it's not very interesting... just rounds and rounds of single crochet. It doesn't help that I feel really rushed. I'm planning on making the trip next Tuesday (in 6 days), so I have to get all the hexagons done this weekend. Anyway, here's what I have so far... despite the easy construction, it's pretty neat looking:

I also finished off a couple of really easy and fast projects last week, and started a new one besides those mentioned above. I made "Slouchy" by Alexandra Tinsley with a good portion of the rest of the Marble Chunky I used for the cloud bolero. I like it a lot, though it's a little warm for this weather (not that that's stopped me).

I also used up some scraps I had lying around to make a cute little headband using the Simple Lace Headband pattern by Mellissa Mall. It turned out ok, though my colour choice wasn't brilliant (not that you can see that from the picture).

Finally, I started making a Skylla by Dale Hwang from The Anticraft book. It's bright green and awesome, and I've done everything except for the tentacles, but it's going to have to wait until I'm done all that other stuff.

There's some weird stuff going down in that picture... don't even ask...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Grandma's flowers

My father's mother has always prided herself on having a beautiful garden. When we were up there last weekend, I took a few pictures. Here are some of the better ones:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Finished Cloud Bolero

The Cloud Bolero by Ysolda Teague is another one of those projects, like the icelandic turtleneck, that requires absolutely no seaming. The only finishing I had to do was to weave in two ends and decide what kind of fastener I was going to use for the front. I love that! So, without further ado, here it is!

I love how the self-striping in the yarn follows the waves in the pattern. At first, I thought that maybe the yarn would overwhelm the lace pattern, but it seems like they complement each other nicely. I tried to get a good picture of the colours last weekend at my grandparents' place in the morning sun:

As for the frontal fastener, I used a cameo brooch my paternal grandmother had given me years ago as a high school graduation present, I think. It works surprisingly well with the bolero.

Overall, I think this pattern is a success. I loved how fast it was (I finished it in 10 days), which I partially attribute to the chunky yarn and large needles, and how elegant the final product looks. I wore it to a family party last weekend, and got tons of compliments on it. Yay!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Icelandic (Non-)Turtleneck wrap-up

So I finally finished the armwarmers for the Icelandic turtleneck and I can put that project in the over-and-done-with pile!

It's a very flattering pattern, I find, and I'm a huge fan of not having to sew anything together at the end. Cotton, however, might not have been the best fiber choice. It stretches a lot, and doesn't bounce back like a lot of animal fibers do. This isn't a big deal for the top itself, but the armwarmers have become too loose at the top and so are constantly falling down. I thought maybe I could knit a few rows of 2x2 ribbing at the top, and many people suggested I sew in some elastic thread, but the idea I like best is...

... garters! It gives it a very cyberpunk kind of look and I think I like it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New books!

This morning, I got a knock on my door and, hearing my superintendent's voice, I rushed to my room to get some pants on and then back to the door to answer it. He wasn't there to remind me that I hadn't paid rent or to complain about the newspapers that have been piling up outside our door, but to deliver a package! Grabbing it from his hands and quickly thanking him, I slammed the door shut and immediately tore the package open. I knew from the return address that it was the books I had ordered from the Interweave Press hurt book sale.

I had ordered two books, It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons by Franklin Habit, and 101 Stitches to Crochet edited by Erika Knight. In retrospect, I probably should have bought more books from the hurt book sale, since these books appear to be in perfect condition, and the savings were fantastic: from 50% to 75% off (cheaper than Amazon!). But alas, hindsight is 20-20.

Anyway, here's a picture of my new purchases. I'm especially interested in trying out some of the stitches in the 101 Stitches to Crochet. They might give me some inspiration for new patterns!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Summer flowers

I might have said it before: the UofT downtown campus is beautiful in summer. I couldn't resist taking a few pictures of the lovely flowers all over campus, and here are a few of my favourites:

I wish I knew what those fluffy pink ones are called...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The curse of the boyfriend socks

As I briefly mentioned last post, I've broken my sock-knitting cherry, so to speak. I'm knitting the pattern Treads (Ravelry link) by Kimberly Fairchild from Debbie Stoller's Son of Stitch 'n' Bitch for my boyfriend. You may or may not know about the boyfriend sweater curse, where if you knit a sweater for your boyfriend, the relationship is doomed to failure. It sort of makes sense... you work really hard on a sweater and your boyfriend doesn't appreciate all that work, so you feel resentful, and then eventually break up because you don't feel he cares about you. I just hope it's not the same for socks, though I did show him the pattern and the yarn I would be using, and he seemed to like both. Plus, I already made him a hat and scarf, and we're still going strong.

Anyway, the pattern is quite nice. It's very simple and elegant, but it has a cable detail that makes it interesting to knit. This is actually the first time I knit cables as well, so I'm popping two cherries with one stone! The leg of the sock is a simple 2x2 ribbing with two cables that curve down each side of the sock. Here's Kimberly Fairchild's original picture from the book:

And here's a crappy webcam picture of my first sock so far. I've completed two cables!

The yarn I'm using is Araucania's Ranco Solid (previously mentioned in this post) in the "Midnight" colourway. It's quite lovely, mostly black with hints of navy here and there, which looks quite nice when knitted up. I'm still getting used to the fingering weight yarn on 2mm double pointed needles, but so far, I think I like sock knitting... We'll see what I have to say when I need to turn the heel.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Finished object dump

Over the last couple of weeks, I've finished off a lot of projects. First, I finally got around to sewing the satin binding on that baby blanket, and just got it to my colleague before he and his new family took off to Montreal for the summer. He really liked the satin edging because it was so soft, and also that the blanket is washable (babies puke a lot). Here's a picture of the finished product:

Next, I finished that giant granny square blanket. I put an edging around it in a pale pink yarn that I got from my grandmother's stash, using a pattern from the Lion Brand site. After steam blocking it, the fabric has a beautiful drape. I think the edging really pulls it together... but I still have no idea who to give it to. I need to get a pregnant friend who's having a girl.

After that, I finished a doily for my pet bamboo shoot (who I affectionately call Alfred). It's made of bright green cotton thread that was a gift from the mother of a friend of mine who used to be into thread crochet and tatting. I used a pattern from a vintage doily book that I got on ebay (thinking it would be the paper copy, but it was actually a cd with a bunch of pdfs) called "Chic Circles". After blocking it, it looked much better than I expected it to.

Finally, I finished the armwarmers for the icelandic turtleneck I was crocheting. Unfortunately, I don't have any updated pictures of that.

In other news, I've started sock knitting! More on that later.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Toronto's Twenty-Somethings

This evening I had my first social knitting experience. Well, maybe not very first... but previous craft evenings were intermittent at best, and there were only ever a couple of us (a maximum of four once) meeting at one of our homes. Today, however, I met up with a group of total strangers at a restaurant. I've been wanting to find some sort of stitch'n'bitch group in Toronto for a while now, and so I searched Ravelry. I found a few, the most interesting being the Toronto's Twenty-Somethings and drunken knitters (who I might join tomorrow night). The former meets at a very nice restaurant on Markham street, just south of Bloor, and that was where I went at 7pm this evening.

They were out on the patio, five twenty-something women, all knitting. I asked if I'd come to the right place, and they welcomed me with open arms! It was such a fantastic experience. We had drinks, discussed each other's projects, and talked about everything from Michael Jackson to vampire novels (though the two don't seem totally unrelated... too soon?). I think I'll definitely go next week! It's so refreshing to have a group of people to knit and discuss my obsession with.

Anyway, I was working on the cloud bolero (pictures here) that I started yesterday. I already have about four inches done because chunky yarn works up fast on 8mm needles (not because I'm a fast knitter). Here's a picture I took this morning, though a lot more is done now:

I'm using James C. Brett's Marble Chunky in the "Landscape" colourway. I can't get over how much I love working with this yarn. It's soft, and the colour changes are fun to watch. Who cares if it's 100% acrylic!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Man's best friend

I recently completed a crocheted stuffed puppy as a gift for my grandmother. It turned out quite well, despite the trouble I have with that fluffy white yarn. I gave him black button eyes, and a cute little curly tail. Here he is in all his adorableness:

I have the feeling she really liked him, since when I gave him to her, she fawned over him all afternoon.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fastest crocheter and pie on a stick

In the same vein as last post, where I discovered the world's fastest knitter, I decided to look up the world's fastest crocheter! Apparently, the Guinness World Record holder for fastest crocheter, at 5,113 stitches in 30 minutes (that's about 3 stitches per second!), is Lisa Gentry, born in Germany, and now living in Louisiana. She is also a successful (I think) crochet designer. Here is Lisa Gentry's crochet speed challenge where she does 24 treble crochets in a minute:

For the second part of my post, I want to talk about pie. I love pie, in all its forms... double-crust, single-crust, meringue-topped... There aren't many pies I'll say no to. I'm even into savory pies, like meat pies and quiche. I was reading Bittersweet this morning and Hannah was presenting a recipe for veaganized Grasshopper Pie. It looks delicious of course, but later in her post, she freezes the pie pieces, puts them on a stick, dips them in chocolate and calls them pie- sicles! What a genius idea! Why hasn't anyone else thought of this? I would buy them by the dozen... however, with Hannah's recipe, I guess I can make them by the dozen... yum yum. Here's her picture:

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fast knitting!

I get newsletters from a few yarn companies, including Lion Brand and Patons, as well as from a couple of craft sites, including Crochet Me and Knitting Daily. In my knitting daily newsletter, there was a really interesting video about getting stripes to line up when knitting in the round, since that technique is really knitting in a spiral.

Anyway, Eunny Jang, the master knitter on Knitting Daily TV, demonstrated her stripe changing technique on a sock, and holy crap can that woman knit fast! She was knitting continental style, and did those needles ever fly. I knit maybe a quarter of that speed. So here's the video, though you don't see her knit until about 4 minutes in.

I wonder if there's a world record for the fastest knitter. According to this YouTube video and this one, it's Miriam Tegels from Holland. She managed to do 118 stitches per minute... which is almost 2 stitches per second. Wow. She also knits continental style, though the second fastest knitter in the world knits English style (a thrower instead of a picker).

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Lacy hat, better picture

This is after blocking. The hat is just dreamy soft, though a little warm for this weather... yay for cotton-angora! I think I'm in love with knitting lace. This (scroll down) is my dream project... drools.