Sunday, December 29, 2013

Fo: Quick Fuzzy Cap

Here's a project that I finished a while back and only needed to seam the sides together and do a loose pom-pom. This is a one day project. One day. One day....

I put this "Quickie Fuzzy Cap" pattern up really cheap in the Ravelry Shop (just 1.99)  in case that "one day project" notion is still ringing in your head.
Let's see how many patterns I can name "the Quickie" something or another. As a busy mom, I just need projects that I can enjoy and cast off quickly so that I don't have a mountain of WIPs sitting in a basket. I feel more accomplished because I can't spend a whole bunch of time on them when I'm in full music-mode teaching or composing.

Yarn: 1 skein Bernat Softe boucle yarn (or any boucle yarn)
Needles: size US 11 Circular Needles & darning needle 
Optional: large pom-pom maker

Size: M-L women's cap
Only $1.99!
Meanwhile, once in a while I get a certain email or Ravelry message that really inspires me to pull out a project from, say, 2008, and get 'er finished because of the anticipation of that pattern. I get requests once in a while on projects that should have the pattern out (mostly my "Punk Rock Tunic"), but isn't out yet because my hard-drive ate the pattern, or some reason or another, and I have to redo the entire thing.

I found that I have this, eh hem, "project" nearly completed, as well as the pattern and it should be done early in the New Year. Don't worry, I'll give you a photo update soon on this secretive project.
Life's no fun without a little teasing and guessing.

Oh, by the way, if you happen to browse through my Ravelry Pattern Shop by chance, you'll probably notice that I brought back something free and reduced the prices of all of my patterns, and PDf'ed by "Quickie Plastic Bag Holder". :) Happy New Year to all! 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

FO: Woven Scarf 2

I finished my other 3 year old's woven scarf on Christmas Eve, in time for bracing the cold weather while we visited both of their grandparents.

These scarves are addicting. A toddler scarf will only take a day. For an adult size, it would only take a weekend. I see many, many scarf gifts in my family's future.
Read here to learn more about the blue woven scarf.
1/2 or less skeins of Mackintosh Yarns' Skye Sock Yarn in "Spring Greens"
Trivial amounts of Mackintosh Yarns' Skye Sock Yarn in "Gun Powder" (blue)
Trivial amounts of Bernat Satin Solids in "white."

WARPS: 28 warps
5 white-1 blue-5 white-1 blue- 4 white-1 blue- 5 white- 1 blue- 5 white

LENGTH: 44'' long
I think that the striping effect with the warps of blue and white yarn made it look stunning. The blue got toned down and looked almost green in the process. I really like the stripes with the white and variegated greens when you look closely.

Jake was wearing the green one, so I was getting mighty nervous when he was wearing it for 3 days...tugging and pulling on it before the official photo-shoot! The weaving is on the loose side, so it did get a little pulled out of order during the time which the child in question was wearing it.
While weaving this scarf, I paid close attention to how I wrapped the ends so that they did not get all puckered weirdly while weaving. It is a great improvement from my first woven scarf.

I hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful Christmas. And to the ones who don't celebrated it, I hope you had a relaxing holiday.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

FO: 1st Cricket Loom Scarf

Wham bam thank you 'mam! This project took under 24 hours! I assembled the loom yesterday and then worked most of it until late last evening, and finished the last inches this morning before the inevitable toddler chaos truly started.
Read pt.1 here.

I don't know what's better than instant gratification. Maybe instant gratification from an object that is as thin as fingering weight?

 The blue colorway has an ocean wave effect from being woven around white yarn. You could almost get lost at sea!
1/2 a skein or less of Mackintosh Yarns' Skye sock yarn in fingering weight (colorway: Gun Powder)
Some scrap white yarn from Bernat Satin Solids in white

WARPS (the vertical threads that run the length of the scarf):
28 warps
Don't mind the PJ shots! It's Christmas Eve morning! We stay comfy around here.
 The scarf is 44 inches long. Perfect for a toddler that's 3 or 4. Heck, maybe up to 5 years old.
I'm not quite sure who is going to like the blue one more, but there will be a green sibling that is even more artful than it's brother.

That's right. Another one is already halfway done on the loom! Want a teaser?

WIP: 1st Cricket Loom Scarf

Do you know this doorbell chime: the one where you haven't the slightest the clue who it could possibly be at a certain time of day, but answer it and find out it's the package you've anxiously been awaiting? I certainly had that feeling today!

I treated myself to a 15'' Cricket Rigid Heddle Loom from Schacht last week, mostly paying for it with all the birthday money I received and two (yes!) discounts. The online Lion Brand store had a sale on it for 12% off, which knocked off 20 dollars, and I also found a 15% off coupon online (it's always good to check!) that knocked off $22.50 just for liking them on Facebook.

15'' Cricket originally $169.95
-12% discount= $150.95
-15% like-me discount= $127.46
+Shipping= $12.95
TOTAL= $140.41

If you feel like you have to run online and buy this loom (which I don't blame you, I felt the same way), I highly recommend you spending the extra 20 bucks on the 15'' rather than the 10'' because you can weave much larger objects (like a table runner that's wider, or a bag, etc.) to your creative heart's content. I should get free yarn from them for doing all of their advertizing, shouldn't I?

Great video tutorials for beginners:
Quick & Concise from Blick Arts
The Crochet Crowd's Loom Weaving Lessons

Before you can beat your first row on your project, you have to come to terms with the fact that you need to assemble your loom. I know, I know, anti-climatic when you open your box and you want to just start right away! As a lady who always passes her "assembly required" projects onto her husband, I was indeed proud of myself when I got my hands dirty and assembled it myself. With nothing but the instructions, a screw-driver, and sub-par intellect at using the instructions.

It took several inches to get the hang of proper tension. I'm not too concerned because this scarf is for one of my boys. The important thing is to not "beat" it too hard. I do several light pats and then move on.

 Because my yarn is fingering weight, it takes about 16 rows for 1''. It's slow-moving, but I'm taking my time so I get the hang of things and enjoy the process. Sometimes I just stop and admire the woven goodness.

This is a great way to use up all your delicious sock-yarn and scrap yarn at the same time!

The scarf is approx. 35 inches long so far. I only have 15 inches or less to go. I'd say that's a great beginning to many, many spectacular scarves. My husband has already put in his request.

I ended writing this post at midnight! Things are getting kind of blurry here!  Merry Christmas Eve, folks! You still have time to participate in my CD giveaway at "Anna Maliszewski Music" on Facebook!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas 2013 Give-away!

I'm feeling in the mood to bake my several batches of cookies (ginger, kolachke, mocha ball, chai-spice and butter pecan) and also to give away three *digital* copies of my Christmas Album!

All you have to do is tell us your greatest Christmas memory or the greatest act of kindness that you witnessed during the Christmas time! 

The digital copy will be emailed to you, so if you win, send me a message at with your preferred email address. Happy story-telling!!

Comments will be accepted right up until before the winner(s) announcement on Christmas day, and winners will be selected at random.

1 winner will be selected Christmas Eve evening
2 winners will be selected on Christmas day

You must comment on the Facebook post so all comments are kept together:

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Christkindlmarket, Chicago 2013

Chicago is a beautiful place around Christmas. It's COLD, but beautiful and bustling with holiday cheer.

My husband and I took a day trip sans kids to Chicago to celebrate my birthday early and to do a little Christmas shopping in the city.

At first, after leaving the train station, we were dissapointed that everything along the way to Macy's was closed on a Sunday (even Starbucks!), so we figured that our only highlight of the trip would be Macy's itself. However, as we walked to State St., we stubled upon the 2013 Chicago Christkindlmarket! We browsed through the little German shops and got mugs of hot mulled wined! It was blistery cold at times with the wind... but it was great! It gently snowed the entire time, which made it all the more special to shop and sip on our drinks. I would love to visit a German village during Christmas time! We later went to Macy's then the Art Institute and had to come back to get more hot mulled wine, potato pancakes, and wiener schnitzel.

Now, I knew it would be a cold day, so I planned ahead with wooly clothing made of natural fibers to stay insulated against the bitter, BITTER wind and snow:

-thermal wear pants underneath jeans
-my Gypsy Socks made of wool
-cashmere sweater (I scored this at a thrift shop a couple years back!)
-leather gloves with woolen lining
-my green LT Cap made of merino wool
-my Morning Glory Shawl made of alpaca wool
-and of course my Columbia jacket

And guess what. As bitter-cold and snowy as it was, I managed to stay warm the entire day. Success. That's why it pays to knit with real fibers (or at least a blend-type). Not that I'm a huge yarn-snob...I use my fair share of synthetics as much as the next person, but you wouldn't get that sort of warmth with pure acyclic.

I convinced my husband to layer up as best as he could as well. He's wearing a ribbed hat that I made him years ago. I don't think I posted about it. And now that I'm thinking of it, I made the same version in pink for myself and didn't post about that.

Anyhow, these are all camera photos, so please excuse the blurriness. Below is a ribbed sock that I'm scrambling to finish as quickly as I can so that I can knit it's mate in time for Christmas. It's my own dying in the colorway "Hawkeye" for my MIL who's also a Hawkeye fan. The striping looks so much better in person. I will be very sad to part with the sock when it's done. The blend is merino wool and part silk, so it's very soft and fluffy. The 2x2 ribbing gives it a lot of spring as well.

How's your holiday knits coming along?
Just walking through that sort of cold makes me want to knit sweaters and mittens and finish up my WIP's that have been sitting in my baskets for too many years!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Fo: Katniss Cowl

How many times have we knit a project knowing full-well that we could run out of yarn, but proceed nonetheless?

Picture me, knitting away this week, coming all the way to the end of the pattern and running out of yarn 2 rows before the bind-off! 

You know that panic, the one where you search high and low swearing that there must be another skein somewhere upstairs.

There was some silent cursing, gnashing of teeth...

Maybe some biting of nails.

Well, not for long. Although I was pretty certain that the store had another skein in the same dye lot, I cleaned the kitchen island as usual before teaching piano lessons and lo and behold, one of those yarn angels must have dropped my very last skein there as a reward for cleaning the house for three hours. I just love when little miracles happen. It's like finding money in your jean pockets.

 Read Pt. 1 to the "Katniss Cowl"

Pattern: "Katniss Cowl"/"Hunter Cowl" by Diana Burk (Anaid Design)
(Update: the designer of this pattern is no longer allowed to sell this pattern. Sorry, I am not allowed to email you this copyrighted pattern---it's not mine to distribute!)
Needles: Size US10.5 dpns and size US35 straights
Yarn: 7.25 skeins of Lion Brand Hometown USA Tweed Yarn in "Little Rock Granite"
Start date: 11/27/13
Finish date: 12/4/13

The pattern was fairly simple. I generally only made rookie mistakes from not decreasing in the beginning of certain rows. The cowl is composed of "Herringbone Stitch" to give it that nice woven look. It's a pain to knit that stitch on size 35's with that many stitches, but the look is worth it.

The only thing I dislike about this patten is the I-cord top. It's bulky and awkard and I ended up folding one of them inside so it wasn't so tall.

However, I still stand by my belief that it looks much better than the original.
I look forward to strutting around in it and seeing if anyone recognizes it from the movie "Catching Fire."

Up next: Socks with an original design for my MIL and a fuzzy hat that's just off the needles. (And  maybe something quirky also, for the holidays.)

Friday, November 29, 2013

WIP: Katniss Cowl

I'm sure I'm not the only one who had this reaction, but ever since I sat down in the movie theaters and watched Katniss from "Catching Fire" walk around the big screen in that woven cowl, I knew I had to make one of my own. I scoured the internet for photos, and came across a knitting pattern by Anaid Designs that was even better looking than the original. Every day that passes by, I see more and more buzz about this movie design and Ravelers scrambling to cast on their own. You could almost say that this pattern is "catching fire." Ha ha, good one. I know.

(Update: the designer of this pattern is no longer allowed to sell this pattern. Sorry, I am not allowed to email you this copyrighted pattern---it's not mine to distribute!)

The pattern starts off with three humongous I-cords knit with size 11's ( I did 10.5), sewing the I-Cords together and then knitting the cowl with US35 needles!  I had to make a couple of special trips to obtain these materials. 35's are hard to come by. I wish I could have found circular needles to these. My other gripe is that I dislike the monotonous knitting of the I-Cord for what usually feels like thousands of inches, and this one was no easier, as it forces you to double strand the yarn on size 11's. Three times. In the original design, the top portion of the cowl is crocheting around rope (or some sort of rope-like material). Maybe garter rows with stockinette divisions would have been more yarn conservative, as well as reduce a little bit of the bulkiness?

"Retrospect update:" after finishing this project, I do not enjoy the bulkiness of the I-cord top. Maybe going with the crocheted rope would be best!

If you read about the original design, it was hand-woven by a couple of people within a week or so (psst, it really looks like it was knit in Herringbone Stitch, which is why Aniaid Designs decided to take that route). You can read more about the Hunger Games and the designs on Capitol Couture.

However, if my project looks anything like the designer's, it will be well worth it. I choose a colorway called "Granite" because it's much richer in depth. I think the Herringbone stitch will really pop in the brown tweed color. All I have left to do is knit the "drape" portion of the cowl and sew up the seam.

Have you seen the movie yet? I believe I like it even better than the first movie. It's pretty rare for a sequel to exceed the the original. I plan on re-reading the Hunger Games trilogy again as well.

See the finished "Katniss Cowl" HERE.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Little Elf Slippers

The Christmas season is upon us.
It's time for cinnamon cookies and hot cocoa, prancing reindeer, snowflakes and jolly "Ho Ho Ho's!"

My little guys needed something woolly to keep their chilly tooties from going frigid while keeping with the spirit of the Holidays.

What's better than felted Elf slippers for Santa's Little Helpers?

Jake loves hugging his brother, by the way. This photo is unbelievably priceless. :)

Project: Felted Slippers by Midnattsol 
Yarn: Paton's Classic Wool, 1 skein of "Leaf Green" & "Plum Heather"
1 skein of each color will make two complete "toddler slippers"
Needles: size US10 straights

Click HERE to see my pattern modification notes and helpful hints. 

The boys loved slipping these on themselves and strutting around like the good little Santa's Helpers that they are.

I did have to bribe them with little M&M candies to stand still long enough for these shots!

It's imperative to use some sort of glue or suede fabric on the bottom of the slippers because felted slippers are very slippery on smooth surfaces. I did little fancy "Ho Ho Ho's" and wavy scribbles on mine. It will take a couple of days to completely air-dry.
Now on to elf ears? 

Have a very happy Thanksgiving Day from our family to yours!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Little Felted Slippers pt.1 (tips & tricks)

With a little trial and error, I'm happy to report that my two little "Elfish" felted slippers are completed and drying at this current moment. The key to working with any origami-like project is preparation and good thinking-outside-the-box skills. Although I had preparation checked off my list with a drawn-out chart of how it's sewn up, let's face the facts: when you fold an object, it is hard to decipher the chart the more you sew.

To reiterate my point, let me tell you a true short-story:
Once upon a time there was a knitter who hated to hand-seam. For this project, however, she felt the need to do tidy sewing, meticulously making sure that the seams were invisible. Things were going smoothly, until the last section needed to be seamed. The slipper looked, well, a little odd. While one side looked perfectly fine, the other seamed "off." Frustrated, the knitter turned the knitting inside out to rip back a couple of seams, but was perplexed at how she couldn't find the weaved-in tail ends. She looked, and looked, and looked, but it was nearly impossible to decipher which ends were knit together and which were seamed. Well, with a little picking around at the back, and many minutes passing by, she finally ripped the seams out and started over. This was one example where invisible seaming back-fired!

Project: Felted Slippers by Midnattsol 
Yarn: Paton's Classic Wool, 1 skein of "Leaf Green" & "Plum Heather"
1 skein of each color will make two complete "toddler slippers"
Needles: size US10 straights

Pattern modifications to make a size "Toddler"
***Elfish style*** 
Version 1: Main slipper color: Red    Cuff: Green  
(Version 2: Main slipper color: Green    Cuff: Red)
For version 1, the bottom blocks 1 and 7 will be green, and the rest of the blocks are red.

Toddler Size:  Co 12 stitches; work 24 rows for each square. Leave long tails while switching colors to be used for seaming.
CO with green, work 24 rows. Switch to red and work 120 rows (or 60 ridges). Pick up 12 sts with red for blocks 7 and 8; knit 24 rows each.

This order isn't crucial, but here's some tips I've learned on Ravely for this project:  1.) Seam C 1st.   2.) Seam B   3.) Seam A.   4.) Lay flat with lower left flap still in left hand. Fold up and match F to F and then G to G. Sew them both.  5.) Seam D.   6.) Seam E.

If you are planning on working on these felted slippers in the future, here are some tips that I learned from my mistakes:

1. Draw or print up the chart to the slippers, complete with markings "A," "B," "C," and so on, along with any notes you might need if you are working with a lot of different colors, like: what colors each square will be, or even what square is what part of the foot anatomy (ankle, top of foot, heel, etc.). Next, take markers out and color code where the seams are going to be joined.

2. Now do yourself a HUGE favor, and take this little extra step to ensure that when you start folding up this project to sew, you can still recognize the seaming areas "A," "B," "C," etc by threading different colored yarns into those seaming sections. It would be best if they were the same colors as your chart, but it's not a big deal. In the end, all you have to think is "blue is sewed to blue, green to green, white to white, etc."

3. Keep in mind which side of the project you are sewing. Keep the "right-sides" out and facing you.

4. Make sure all of your seams are neat and pretty (despite my little story in the beginning). When it felts, you'll want there to be nice crisp, clean lines.

 For the cases where one side of the garter touches the top edge of garter (that sounds confusing, check out figure 2), do a combination of threading the yarn through the side bump of the garter edge (the same way you sew garter edges together) while picking up a loop (see figure 1) between the garter ridge and cast-off/cast-on edge for the other one.
figure 1
figure 2

This is how the slipper looks, pre-felted:
Jake testing the slipper out.
5. Felting: an awesome, yet sometimes tricky endeavor. Make sure you knot up your tail ends after seaming extremely well. Unless you want to be like me, who had to do some emergency seaming mid-felting when the machine took a couple of seams completely out. And I weaved in the ends very well.
The machine is only an aid. I eventually took out the slippers and hand-felted to get it thicker and more solid. You don't want any garter showing through.

Tips on felting:
-To felt, the fiber must be 100% natural, like 100% wool. NO blends.
-The water must be hot.
-Agitating the wool (or rubbing the wool together) in this hot water will cause it to frizz and shrink into felt.
-The project must be knit a little loosely to felt well.
-I think it's a general rule that a felted project will felt to about 1/3 the size of the original knit. 
-Drying it in the dryer will cause it to shrink some more, so be careful about how much you shrink it in the washer AND dryer.

The key to machine-felting is: BABYSITTING your project. Check it often. For me, it was a seam-ripping issue, but you'll want to make sure it doesn't shrink too far.

NOTE: unless you want to learn the hard way from the "Yarn Harlot," who let her projects drain and spin in the machine thus leading to an expensive repair bill when the hairs caught inside the machine, DON'T let your water drain until you remove the stray hairs from the washer. I used mini strainer (the size of the top of a mug). Only then should you let the water drain.

Just roll the wet pieces in a towel to drain as much water out.

6. Drying. Dry it a little in the dyer if you'd like. It's not absolutely necessary if you use a towel to get the excess water out, but it takes a LONG time to dry if you don't do this. Keep babysitting it though. It doesn't need to be completely dry. It might be better to leave it a little damp so that you can mold it into its final shape and leave it to set like that.

Check out pt.2, the finished projects tomorrow! Happy felting!