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!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

400th Post---GIVE-AWAYS!!

(See bottom of post for my WIP knitting project)

I couldn't help but celebrate a little bit after seeing that this post marks 400 posts at this blog. That is huge! I've been blogging since 2007 (although life has really not allowed me to be that connected with you these past couple of years) and it's amazing to look back to see my achievements.

In the spirit of this, and to celebrate the release of my "A Nativity Suite" CD two weeks ago, I'm going to give the first 40 people (you heard me right!) who comments here on this post AND also Like/share's my "Anna Maliszewski Music" Facebook group page a free pattern of their choice from my Ravelry Store. It's my gesture of thanks for you sticking around during these "lean months" on this blog, and for any other support you have given me, and/or emails thanking me for various things. I think this is a big deal, no? (Keep on reading about EVEN MORE give-aways as the post goes on.)

All you have to do is Like/share my Facebook page (which helps get the word out about my music. Social-media is essential for a self-published artist), and then comment here that you did that, and what pattern you would like. If you are one of the 40, write your email address in the same comment OR email me with the subject "KUAS 400" so I can pick you out easily. You will receive the coupon to get a free KUAS pattern in my Ravelry Store via email. That's it!

To the general public, I'm going to give you 40% off any KUAS pattern(s). All you have to do is input the promotional code: KUAS400.

ONE Last give-away...I am going to give away 1 free "A Nativity Suite" CD to the person who shares this post with the most sites (examples: their blog, Facebook, twitter, etc.) Just let me know the site's urls. Please leave me a way to get in touch with you.


Drum-roll's a preview my CD's vocal version that I worked so hard on for 3 months:

It's really been a passion-project of mine all summer. If you're curious, this is what goes into a self-composed and published CD; a project that has consumed over 400 hours to get this ready for a craft fair where I released it October 26th:

First, I had to get an idea of what themes I wanted in the CD and then compose all of the music, (I practiced as much as I could for as little time as I had, which is embarrassingly only several days for most), record the piano (several times--between little practice and using my parent's grand piano, I had to work around any noises in the background and redo it), recorded layer after layer of voicing, and then editing, editing, editing the sound parts (who knew that it took that much editing to get the volume and sound just right?), write up the booklet that comes with the CD, print and collate/staple the pages, burn the CDs, light-scribe each and every one of them (took 30 minutes each!), label them, check that each of them actually work (you should have seem me cook while playing two of them at once in the kitchen!), and insert everything into the cases, do promotional videos/photos for my website & Facebook, edit and finally upload the piano score on WHOO..... that's why I've been so quiet!

A little about the CD: It is a musical reflection on the birth of Christ. It has two versions: vocal & piano and also solo piano. I've made a booklet with biblical quotes on the Nativity Narrative, as well as a little info about certain songs, and some reflection questions in the back of the booklet. My hope is that this CD  helps the listener to reflect on the meaning of the season, and bring some more joy into the house/car. It should be a little different than what's out there already. You may hear some lacing of traditional Christmas music themes in a few songs.

This is an exciting endeavor, and I look forward to what the future holds. If you asked me a year and a half ago that I would compose AND sell my music, I would have laughed. You never know what the future holds.

If you are interested in supporting my work, the CD is on sale for $10 (or 3 for $25) at my Music Website. They make great stocking suffers or Christmas gifts to hand out to friends. :)

The individual piano sheet music, as well as the full score will be available in a couple of days on The site is finishing up processing it right now. :)

On a KNITTING NOTE! I came on blogger initially to write about this!
I've got a cute Christmas project that I'm finishing up right now for the twins. I just have to sew and felt them. Who can guess what this is? Or have I just forgotten how to knit a scarf?! I really want to design a lacy red top to go along with my pencil skirt for Christmas.

October has been insane between the CD, illnesses, illnesses, illnesses, my husband traveling, the craft fair, they boy's birthday party, a piano recital, and their real birthday. Something has been going around town and my family is still catching everything it throws at us. Hopefully we will all be well for Thanksgiving! Prayers please!

The boys turned THREE! Can you believe it? I bet you can guess what they were for Halloween!