Zau. Ber. Ball.

ZAU.

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BER.

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BALL.

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You know you want to chant it with me. ZAU. BER. BAAAAALLLLLLL.

I mean, what else is there to say? I’ve been wanting to make socks from a skein of Schoppel-Wolle Zauberball 100 since the first time I laid eyes on one of those beautiful things.

If you’re not in the know about the glory of Zauberball, I highly recommend you visit their site, where you will be confronted with the craziest color combinations in sock yarn you’ve ever seen, all performed with slow fades throughout the skein. You can get one looooooong ombré from one color to another, or crazy parrot-clown-unicorn stripes, or anything that you can think of in-between. When I saw that McNeedles (a lovely little LYS in Lacombe, LA, that is now sadly, tragically closed) had a little basket of Zauberball lovelies to try, I knew that I had to take my chance, because it’s not a yarn that you see often out in the wild, due to the sheer ridiculous amount of colorways that they have.

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I chose colorway 2229 Sphinx, with its lovely rusty oranges and teal/royal blue combinations, going through several different dark and cool grays in its transitional moments. I wanted to do something just sort of lightly-patterned with it. Not completely stockinette because I thought I’d get bored, but not so pattern-y that the ombré fades would get lost.

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I ended up choosing the Merino Lace Socks pattern by Anne Woodbury from the Interweave Favorite Socks book that has served me so well during all of these sock-knitting years. It was originally written for the two-circular needle technique, but I’m a DPN sock knitter all the way, so some futzing had to be done.

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Although the pattern itself is lovely, I think that if I get another chance to Zauberball it, I’d go with a plain stockinette or ribbing, because I do think that there’s something lost in the fade with a pattern here.

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But I do really love them regardless! They are so freaking warm, and the colors really pop in the sunlight in a way that I’ve never really seen before in an un-plyed yarn.

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And those fades…oh they look very, very special straight down those lacy panels.

Really, the only thing that trips me up here is how the ombré gets broken by the heels. I’m not sure how on earth I’d be able to accomplish something different, unless there is a specific sock pattern written specifically to keep this in mind, and this is also a very nit-picky (knit-picky? ha!) complaint here. They are lovely, truly, and I am overly critical.

I mean…look at them.

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That blue is just a show-stopper.

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And they fit in well with my other handknit socks, yes?

I think I need a bigger sock drawer.

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Silver Newbury

Remember when I made a beautiful denim-blue tank top last year and stated that I wanted to make one in every color after I was done?

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Well, I wasn’t kidding.

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The Newbury top is back, baby. This lovely pattern, designed by Amy Palmer for Berroco, just really lit a fire in me, I guess.

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I’m not normally a sleeveless top person (as evidenced by my extremely obvious farmer tan), but these silky tank tops are just too good. And what’s that?

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A fancy-pants border? Since I can’t simply knit a pattern as written? Yes!

This border comes from Hitomi Shida’s Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible, a fantastic addition to any knitter’s library, especially those who can’t just allow rolled stockinette borders to occur. This is pattern #230, tweaked a tiny bit in the stockinette sections to fit the proper stitch count.

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I feel like it jazzes it up just enough. It mimics the diagonal lines of the upper back lace panel so that it looks harmonious, but not too matchy-matchy.

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Or maybe I’m just full of crap and wanted to do something different for no good reason.

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Also, no boob stripe!  I diligently switched colors every row to avoid my previous hubris-filled mistake.  And I am proud.

Sadly, tragically, and non-surprisingly, Berroco Mantra Stonewash, the wonderfully drapey silk yarn used here (color 4498 Earth), is fucking discontinued. I do not understand how this keeps happening to almost every single yarn that I fall in love with, but I guess that’s just life.

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I did manage to get an order in for one more colorway (4497 Mountain) before the supply seemingly dried up everywhere, but I am desperate to finish this silly nonsense pledge that I made. So, if anyone can find 4 balls of color 4495 Cloud or 4499 River (especially this one, it’s gorgeous!), please drop me a line! Before anyone suggests Ravelry, there’s tons stashed, but no one’s got it listed for sale, probably because they also know that it is such beautiful stuff that they should never let go of it.

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It’s just the perfect top to endure the crazy whipping wind on the Pontchartrain Lakefront in, don’t you think?

A Handsewing Interlude

Remember when my amazing boyfriend bought me a sewing machine for Christmas, and I vowed to use it every second of every day? Well, that didn’t really happen, but I did want to open up a whole avenue of sewing for myself.

I did do just that, but just not as much with the machine as I originally thought.

When we were putting together the craft room, way back when, I discovered a little lap quilt that my grandmother had previously been working on before she passed away. She was about one-quarter of the way through the binding, but everything else was finished.

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Cute, right?

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She still had the sewing needle left in it. Big feelings in a little tiny quilt right there.

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So, I took what I had learned about rolled hems for skirts and dove in. I really like seeing our stitches right next to each other. Hers, a teeny bit wonky because she had been sewing quilt bindings forever and knew that no one will even take a second glance at the back of the quilt. Mine, ridiculous in how much I wanted each one to be perfect and even and straight.

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But I think I did a pretty good job.

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I even taught myself how to go around the corners, just by looking at the one corner she had done. Not too bad!

It’s tiny, only exactly big enough to go on your lap while you’re sitting on the couch, but it’s lovely and now it’s a usable item when it wasn’t before. The cats have claimed it as their own, of course, and love to perch on it while sitting on the coffee table.

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After completing that project, two serendipitous things happened. Number one, Bernadette Banner’s lovely handsewing book came out.

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Number two? My SewStine 2022 Dumpster Fire pocket arrived! If you don’t follow SewStine on YouTube and you’re a fan of ridiculous niche, beloved crafting projects, you really should. She creates painstakingly detailed machine embroidery projects, often replicating historical garments, and her stuff is just so beautiful and fun. This weird wonderful stand-alone pocket is no exception.

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She offered the kit, which includes the silk outer fabric with the embroidery, twill backing fabric, bias tape, and twill tape for making a waistband, originally in 2020, but made a limited amount earlier this year, and I jumped all over it. When it came, I sat down with Bernadette’s book (and her extremely useful pocket kit assembly video) to put my pocket together.

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I backstitched like a champ.

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I pinned out all that bias tape ribbon, around curves and slits and points, and took a deep breath, knowing that my grandmother somehow inadvertently prepared me for this.

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And I did it! A million tiny binding stitches, both front and back, to keep my pocket strong.

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To say I am proud would be a profound understatement.

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Now I have a little crafting friend, to hold scissors or thread or a ball of sock yarn while I work on a project and flit about the house. And it has a literal dumpster fire on it. It’s perfection.

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I promise I’ll get back to the machine eventually. And the knitting needles. (Psst, I already did and this is just silly storytelling cliffhanger stuff. But you know that already.)

Spectacular Tentacula

Anybody in the mood for a picture of me grinning because I have made myself a very technically-interesting, but ultimately very silly hat? Yes!

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Oh, I am very aware that I am cute. Don’t worry about telling me about it.

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This little project started its life as something very different, initially. In late 2020, I got this lovely skein of Quince and Co. Puffin in a holiday yarn trade (color 152 Kumlien’s Gull, for those who need to know [and yes, of course I looked up who Kumlien was {and yes, it has to do with birds}]) with a bunch of crafty friends, but I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I do not knit with bulky yarns very often, and I only had just the one skein with its 112 yards. It had to be a small project that showed off this fluffy loveliness and used as much of the skein as possible. {Anybody else really enjoy all those nested brackets? Me too.)

Last summer, I saw this video from historical maker extraordinare, Morgan Donner, and I had a moment where I knew that this would be the perfect project for my squishy 100% wool Puffin skein. A nålbinding hat! I had never tried nålbinding before, and in my quest to learn everything about all of the fiber crafts, I thought that this would be a fun treat.

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I used this great tutorial to help me get started, and this guide for more info about joining in the round. I made a good little go of it after practicing with some scrap yarn. Things were looking good.

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And then I just completely lost interest.

Nothing against the craft of nålbinding AT ALL, I am simply just not cut out for it for some reason. I find the hand position difficult to hold comfortably. I had a hard time figuring out where I left off and getting my thumb back in the right configuration if I put it down for any length of time longer than 30 seconds. I find the fact that you can’t quickly “undo” things very hard to deal with, since you’re essentially just tying knots over and over. And the constant splicing since you can only work with a short-ish length of yarn at a time? Oh, this is just not for me, and it was a sad discovery since I really love the way that nålbinding fabric looks.

Back to the drawing board, then. My dinky little coaster-sized attempt sat there on my desk judging me for several months. But then, last month, I was scrolling through Tumblr (if you guys aren’t onto knitting Tumblr, you are seriously missing out), and I saw the loveliest, weirdest hat with the loveliest, weirdest stitch pattern ever.

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The Tentacula Hat, dreamed up by the wonderful hat-designer Jenny Noto, contains a stitch pattern that really requires you to trust the process and dig right into your knitting with a spare double-pointed needle since you didn’t feel like getting off the couch to find a crochet hook. Those crazy swoops? Done by drawing out loops from five rows down from your working row, on both sides of your needle. It’s a tricky thing, but it feels like magic when you get it right and the tension is perfect.

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It’s pretty nifty, right? The pattern comes with directions to make the hat with four different yarn weights, and the “light super bulky” instructions were perfect for my Puffin, with just the tiniest bit left over.

Now, most people who are making this pattern, and beanies in general, are topping them with super-trendy, elegant, dignified faux fur pom-poms. You know the ones.

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Not in this house. Pom-poms aren’t meant for elegance or dignity in here. Pom-poms are supposed to be silly. They are supposed to be big and weird and floppy, and there was no way I was going to pass up the chance to make a big weird silly pom-pom for this awesome hat. I bought the biggest pom-pom maker that I could find.

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I wrapped it with the last few yards of the puffin, plus some leftovers from past projects from a million years ago (Filatura di Crosa 127 Print in color 27 Olive Multi, and Noro Kuryeon in color 213), just to add some fun color pops.

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BAM. Or rather, POM.

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It got a bit of a bath and a trim, but I was (and still am) digging the differing textures in the more unfinished result. It’s sort of a raggedy mess, and it’s exactly what I wanted.

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I feel like I need about 18 more of these technically-demanding, yet intensely silly hats for no good reason. Any one else want one? Pom-poms on me?

A Cabled Beast: the Handsome Chris Pullover

Remember that mis-crossed cable from a few months ago? I will probably never forget, but it’s okay if you guys did.

Anyway.

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BAM.

Check out that super-sexy-sitting-on-a-rock-in-95-degree-heat-on-the-Lakefront-in-New-Orleans-in-June-in-the-blinding-sun action, while your super-awesome Bob Ross socks steal the show, all for the love of a sweater. I am just that dedicated.

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I mean, so good, right?

If anyone is not familiar, let me bring you up to speed. In 2019, a little movie came out called Knives Out that had some of the most wonderful modern costume design in recent memory. It especially charmed knitters and crafters with its proliferation of lovely handknits, in various states of care and disrepair, depending on the character, which leads us to this glory:

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I mean, come on. The beauty that is Mr. Christopher Evans (whom, as we all know, I have a completely normal and totally rational undying love for) wearing an obviously lovingly-made and extremely skillfully-designed cabled fisherman’s sweater, complete with the holes and rips that his character, Ransom, would have completely not given two shits about. It’s a masterwork of costuming. The combination of the time-consuming handmade object with the neglect of the spoiled rich brat. So good. Every knitter who saw that movie can’t deny that they felt the profound hurt of seeing those holes, but also a deep, deep envy inside that could only be sated by making that sweater for themselves.

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Luckily, an intrepid knitwear designer by the name of Caryn Shaffer took the time to reverse-engineer this cabled beast and put it out free into the the world for everyone to enjoy as the Handsome Chris Pullover pattern. (And I just saw that she has a sock pattern with the same patterning! Hooray!) It’s not a strictly-written pattern, more of a recipe that combines the design elements for different sizes (and it goes all the way up to 3XL, which is awesome) but leaves a lot of the tailoring and persnickety bits up to the maker.

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It gives you all of individual cable patterns so that you can mix-and-match them as you like or play around with the spacings to get your perfect size and proportion of scale. It gives suggested lengths, but the repeats are easy enough to keep track of so that you can modify the length as you like, plus with a dropped-shoulder construction, you can easily modify sizing without messing up how the whole thing fits together.

Here are my pattern changes for my short and extremely square body, just in case you are also 5’3″ with linebacker shoulders and a need to have all of your sweaters cover the top half of your substantial rear end:

I used the sizing for the 48″ chest (the size marked as large). I used the cable pattern as written, but I first charted it all out for my size on its own separate graph paper, rather than attempting to switch between all of the printed pages every time the pattern changed.

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That way, I had the whole thing transcribed with all of the elements together, and I could use my magnetic chart keeper to keep track of the rows. However, it can still be a little bit tricky due to the fact that each set of cables has a different row repeat (4 vs. 8 vs. 12 rows), but when the repeats were offset, I could use two different sets of magnets to help me.

I changed all ribbing lengths to be only 2″ (which was 14 rows in my personal gauge). I also knit the back to only 24 3/4″ long after 14 center panel repeats (rather than 26″ and 19 repeats, due to the aforementioned shortness and squariness of my personage). That put the neck shaping on the front piece at 21″, at the start of the 13th center panel repeat. Then, with the sleeves, I knit them two-at-a-time and only to 9 center panel repeats, again due to having super short arms. Just a lot of short squariness all around.

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The yarn that I used was Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in worsted weight, in the color Fern (23433). With all of my modifications, that ended up being 19 skeins, or a little over 2000 yds. This stuff is heavy-duty, 100% Peruvian wool, ready for all of the cables that you can throw at it. With personal experience with the yarn in the past, I know that it does have the tendency to pill a little bit with extensive wear, but it’s so inexpensive and such a good value for the stitch definition and rustic fisherman sweater feel that you’re getting that it’s totally worth it to give it a little extra love and care now and then.

With this yarn, you can splice the strands together, so that there’s no end weaving-in, which was just a little stroke of genius that I had there. I can’t imagine finishing this and having to weave in the ends from 19 skeins into the cable pattern. I would have crumpled it up and shamed it in a corner until I was mentally ready, probably. Who knows, thought, because I’m so damn smart that I avoided the problem all together. Hooray, conceit!

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The cables all blocked beautifully, as we knew they would. Then the seaming started.

And, can I tell you? It just feels really good to line up those cable elements right next to each other so perfectly.

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A simple pleasure, but a powerful one.

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When I finished the picked-up neckline ribbing, I was so excited I had to run into the bathroom and get a picture right away. And then ripped it off almost immediately because it is so freaking warm that I will no longer need a coat in the wintertime, whatever small amount of winter we have down here.

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After it was fully steam-blocked, Dan and I braved the terribly oppressive June sunlight to get some pictures.

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Bonus shot of what I look like attempting to gracefully exit the rocks, which you get as a present for making it this far into the post:

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I am so proud of myself of sticking with this glorious monster for 4 months.

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Cable after cable. Yarn splice after splice. Tender fingertips and the sheer massive weight of the thing on my lap for many, many nights. It was definitely worth it.

SQUARES SQUARES SQUARES

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OOOOOOOOOOOHHH. That’s some good square action.

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So. In November of 2020, deep into the pandemic doldrums, I may have had a bit of a *falling down* at the Knit Picks annual sale.

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Those eagle-eyed among you may notice the fixins for the Rainbow Hue Shift Afghan and my Handsome Chris Pullover (still on the needles, but at least I’m at the sleeves!), but what is up there at the 12 o’clock position? A whole boatload of Brava Worsted in various jewel tones? What on earth could that be for?

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Is all that yarn just begging to be knit up in a bunch of small rectangles?

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You bet your sweet bippy it was.

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(If anyone knows what a sweet bippy is, please feel free to let me know in the comments. It sure is fun to say. Or type, I guess.) (And also, can we talk a little bit about how moss stitch is the greatest and most attractive of the basic knit-purl stitch combos?) (Is this the first time I’ve done consecutive parenthetical statements?)

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During the Knit Picks sale, I bought up a whole bunch of Brava Worsted when I noticed that it was less than $2.00 a skein. I thought, what project could I make with a whole boatload of cheap, but nice quality, acrylic yarn? Another blanket? Wait…that reminds me of something. A blanket that I made seven years ago for my brother and sister-in-law, but always wanted one for myself? Yes.

The pattern is the Warm Up America! Afghan by Evie Rosen from the book Knitting for Peace, which I have loved dearly for many, many years. The colors of Brava Worsted are Sky (28451), Tranquil (28454), Tidepool (28453), Peapod (28443), Hunter (28435), Silver (28450), Freesia (28433), and Sienna (28449). I really lucked out that all of these colors look freaking awesome together, in all of their jewel-toned glory, as I was kind of limited in terms of stock by the time I got to the sale.

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There are eight different stitch patterns listed in the pattern, so I made one of each with one of each of the eight colors, ending up with a 64-block blanket, rather than the 49-block original. Knitting each square is super portable and simple.

But the finishing…oh, the finishing.

Since each square (and yes, I am aware that they are rectangles, 7″ x 9″ to be exact, but the word ‘rectangle’ is not nearly as fun to say) has slightly different dimensions and behaviors due to the differing stitch patterns, they need to be aggressively steam-blocked to size after the knitting.

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Once you get all of these perfect little rectangles…then the sewing begins.

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It’s really important for me, for some reason, to make sure that things are random, but that there were no repeats of a stitch pattern in a row, and no duplicate colors next to each other. It’s pretty much impossible to do this without repeating a stitch pattern in a column for this, without making a perfect little diagonal rainbow situation, so there’s two areas in there with stitch patterns too close for my comfort, but we’re all about learning how to let the little things slide around here, right?

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I sewed up the columns first, mattress-stitching all of those short ends together.

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I mean, purple and turquoise together? Every seam was a joy.

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Then, the vertical seams. A daunting task, since it’s really ideal to sew the whole thing in one 6-foot long go. A whole lot of Anne with an E and Degrassi were consumed during this process.

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This was the first perfect corner that I experienced during this process. And normally, who cares, right? The edges lined up. Big whoop. But no, this is a real triumph, considering that each block is a completely different number of rows and you need to try to make them match up seven times over the course of the column, using the same strand of yarn for sewing.

I was so delighted whenever this happened, that I took a picture of it nearly every time.

Want to see? Yeah, you do.

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Now, some are more perfect than others, but each one is just a microcosm of lovely saturated colors and squishy texture that just makes me so freaking happy to be able to make a blanket, you know?

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Like, I can use my hands to make something to keep someone warm. After more than 20 years of knitting, it still blows my mind sometimes.

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There were an intimidating amount of ends here. (Do you want the math? Of course you do! 2 per block is 128, then the two each every time I had to change skeins, so 32 more. Then the sewing up is 2 more per short-end join, which is 14 per column, so 112 there. Then two more per column, so 14 more. And the crochet border is 2 more. 128+32+112+14+2 = 288. Dang.) So I kept sewing them in as I went along, doing one column at a time. Also, I did the messiest, half-assed-est job ever because it’s a blanket just for us and the cats, and who gives a shit, really?

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The border is three rows of single crochet, just to give it a nice solid finish, plus I wanted to use up as much of the yarn as I could.

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This is me wearing it last night right when I was finished. And then today the border got steam-blocked so it could get its glamour shots.

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Oh yeah.

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I have long subscribed to the theory of juicies and blahs set forth by the good ladies of MDK, but somehow this thing ended up almost all juicies.

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And it looks so fucking good.

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It’s super fancy neon disco farmland, and it’s all mine.

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Disaster Averted

It was extremely tempting to title this post “god fucking dammit” because that’s what was coursing through my brain over and over. But, I wasn’t sure if swearing as much as I do in real life belonged in my titles? Just imagine a whole string of profanity in the background of this one.

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So, here is my current project, the Handsome Chris Pullover, a delightful little (little?! ha!) bit of intense cabling nonsense created by the fabulous Caryn Shaffer. As those eagle-eyed among you can tell, it’s a lovingly reverse-engineered version of Ransom’s sweater from Knives Out, a sweater that I instantly fell in love with (along with every other knitter on Earth) when I saw that movie. Doesn’t hurt that my undying love for Chris Evans still burns as well, yes?

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Anyway, it has been just a joy to knit. The cable patterns all have different repeat rates, and the overall look is so balanced and pleasing. It brings me fiddly knitting joy nearly every day.

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However.

Sometimes things go wrong, and I am able to feel the universe shift within 2 seconds of making a mistake. This time, something went wrong, and I kept on blissfully knitting for several more inches, none the wiser.

Until I saw it of course, and then I went on knitting really, really angrily for a few more rows until I decided what to do. You all can see this mismatched cable cross, right? That outer left strand is supposed to cross under the oncoming strand, not over. Dan argued with me that it was barely noticeable, especially where it was located, which would be high up on the left shoulder. I argued that if I left it that way, which I was sorely tempted to do by sheer laziness and the fact that the mistake was on a panel only 1 stitch in from the edge of the garment, that I would be tormented by it for the rest of my life.

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It’s not surprising who won that argument, is it? I am so freaking anal retentive about most things, but knitting most of all, so it comes as a surprise to absolutely no one that I stopped my angry knitting to angrily drop some stitches and angrily cable them right back up.

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I placed that stitch marker on the incorrect cable cross, then dropped the stitches off the needle…

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…and unraveled the whole cable portion all the way down, keeping the last edge stitch intact.

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I kept each line as it was unraveling in order in my hand, as I was fearful that they would somehow tangle up, but I needn’t have worried. The yarn I’m using here is Knit Picks Wool of the Andes, which is a workhorse-and-a-half of a wool yarn and extremely sturdy. No tangling here.

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After the section was unraveled to the problem area, I slipped that last stitch off the needle and held it on the stitch marker. If this section had been directly on the edge, involving that last stitch, I honestly don’t know what I would have done, because I’ve never tried to fix a dropped edge stitch. If anyone ever has, please let me know about the magic of your ways, because it seems downright impossible.

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I threaded the dropped stitches onto another circular needle, the next size down, just to help with ease of threading. Then I proceeded to re-knit the entire section, with the proper cable twists, on those smaller needles, trying to not pull too hard so that the stitches remained even, ever so often tugging on the work horizontally and diagonally to ensure that the tension wasn’t getting too wonky with the smaller needles.

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Knitting in this way is pretty strange, as with every row, you are constantly running out of yarn until you have a mere centimeter for the final stitch. At the end of that first row, I just slid the circular needle all the way back over, and I did the wrong side rows as though they were on the right side, which was pretty simple for this particular pattern since there are no cable crosses on the back.

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I just kept working each row like that, following the chart, right-side versions only and sliding the needle over each time, like the fanciest i-cord ever, working each unraveled bit of sweater back into place in order, grumbling the entire time.

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And then, suddenly, it was done. I put the edge stitch back on the needle, finished the last row in the traditional way, and gave it a few more tugs to even out the tension before calling it a day. And I’m so glad that I did, because I doubt that I would have ever been able to wear that sweater without pointing out the mistake to every person and animal that came across me. I would have felt it burning a hole of shame into my left shoulder for all of eternity. Now, just to finish the damn thing with approximately eleventy billion more cable twists to go. It’s so worth it.

I feel like I can honestly now say that I am no longer terrified of my sewing machine…the Blue Daisy Apron

I only have a completely normal, healthy level of completely understandable apprehension now, guys! Yay for me!

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So I made an apron! And you guys, I am so proud of this dang thing. This is the first thing I’ve sewn that has notions involved.

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Notions! (Tiny snaps also involved but not pictured because…I forgot.)

And drafting an actual pattern! On real paper!

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Are we tired of exclamation points yet?!

If you’re completely new to the sewing process, please take this tip from me (And I’m pretty sure from Bernadette Banner and Morgan Donner, who I’m 95% sure I stole this from): get yourself a giant cheap roll of wrapping paper with the 1″ grid lines on the back. That way, you don’t need to measure out perfect straight lines or right angles, you just need to be able to count squares. It’s amazing.

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I think part of my problem with sewing has been that, unlike knitting, you can’t often jump right into a project once you have your materials (we don’t count the process of making a swatch here, because at least that’s still knitting). You have to do a fair amount of prep work, like washing, drying, and ironing your fabric to make sure it doesn’t warp. And cutting out your paper pieces. And then, somehow (!) having to iron everything again approximately 1000 times over and over again during the whole process. It is a truly disturbing amount of ironing.

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I was so determined to get this damn thing right and be patient, so I followed every instruction to the letter. Pattern is the Cook’s Apron from the Liberty Book of Home Sewing, if you’re so inclined. (Apologies for the Am*z*n link, I couldn’t find it on B&N.)

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I dutifully measured and pinned and ironed everything to within an inch of my sanity, and do you know what I discovered?

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It makes the damn sewing so much freaking easier.

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For years (years!), I have sat and wondered why I had such a hard time with sewing. I wondered why I couldn’t hold things in place properly, why my hands and fingers seemed like they weren’t long enough or smart enough to do this, why it seemed so easy for other people? Turns out, people who sew have eleventy-billion tools to help them with the damn sewing for a reason! Who knew?

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Now, this is devolving into just a bunch of pictures of things with pins in them and then stitched together no longer with pins in them, but that is mostly because I don’t really have the vocabulary to describe the process here. I’m sure it is super simple for people who know what they’re doing, but for me it felt like a miracle. To make things short and sweet (like me!), you basically are just putting borders onto the sides of a basic apron shape, folding them over and stitching them down almost like the facing to an edge, but doing it backwards, so you end up with these lovely long lines of border with no raw edges anywhere.

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I think my very favorite part is that I had the thread loaded the wrong way in the machine, so that the bobbin thread and top thread ended up contrasting with my colors, but I liked the way it looked so much that I left it that way. I really like seeing the stitch lines on the inside, almost like the contrast stitching on denim.

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There’s an adjustable D-ring set for the neck tie.

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There’s cute beveled edges on the waist ties.

Then, the pièce de résistance:

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There’s a little “hand-wiper” towel thing that you can snap on and snap off!

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Look at it! In action! With cookie scooping! In progress!

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It’s earned a hallowed place alongside my other aprons, for sure. Now, the fabrics I used aren’t super heavy-duty. The pattern calls for twill, which is what my other sturdy workhorse apron is made out of, but I was only able to get plainer thick cotton for this. It’ll be fine for baking and other lighter-type floury things, which is what I’m usually doing anyway. Then I can save my meaty strong apron for things with grease and meat and stuff.

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I mean, look how dang happy it makes me. Or maybe it was the cookies. Who knows?

I promise we’ll be back to our regularly-scheduled knitting content soon, but I just had to be excited for a second. I even have a second apron planned, this one with a (gasp) ruffle involved. I know, I know. Gotta dream big.

And now for something completely different: My First Circle Skirt Adventure

Careful readers may notice that I did not do my traditional yearly round-up post at the end of 2021. The reasons for this are many, but heavily due to the fact that I felt like last year was just a huge pile of crap for me, creativity-wise. Yes, I made a beautiful blanket that I was very proud of, plus some other very lovely things, but most of the time I just felt very lost and aimless. Luckily, Dan swooped in to help save the day, at least a little bit.

In the fall of 2020, Dan and I fixed up a craft room in our house for our various crafting projects, and one of the only things we were unable to achieve was the rehabilitation of my grandmother’s sewing machine from the 1960s. We tried multiple methods to get out that final stripped screw, but nothing has helped yet. So, for Christmas this year, Dan bought me a new sewing machine to cure my heartbreak.

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So, of course, I had to jump in right away! I have very little sewing experience, especially with machine sewing, so I picked a project that I figured would be fairly simple, a circle skirt.

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I used the very handy Circle Skirt Calculator at Mood Fabrics to get my general measurements, picked out some very pretty stretchy knit fabric at JoAnn’s, and got going. After at least a week of staring at the machine and fabric alternately and being terrified to start, that is.

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The thing is, I am fairly afraid of sewing machines. Just in general. They are always trying to grab you and pull you into their pointy stabby bits. It’s like their favorite thing to do.

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I mean, it looks so innocent, but it is very pointy and grabby and stabby, I promise.

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However, with this new machine, I was determined to play nice and make it my friend. I did lots of practice on scrap fabric, practicing threading the machine, winding and threading the bobbin, and getting the thread tension right. I realized that I could adjust the speed and the thread tension so that I wasn’t freaking terrified of the damn thing.

Too bad there were only two machine-sewn seams in the whole skirt. (Don’t worry! I more than made up for this with my next project.)

As those of you who are much better sewists than me, or just have more common sense than I do, know, for a circle skirt, you basically use your waist measurement to cut out a circle of fabric for the skirt, then add a waistband. There really isn’t much to it, but I made sure to make it as slow and complicated as possible, as is my wont.

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I took about an inch out the skirt when it looked like it was stretching way too much (which was a mistake, I really should have left it in and will do in the future, because the waistband is much less stretchy than the circle opening, which is cut on the bias), then after machine-stitching the skirt together and the waistband on, I whip-stitched the waistband facing down by hand.

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And the very tiny rolled hem, which took ages to do.

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I have to say, though, it might be my very favorite part because it came out perfect.

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I really love the fabric, too. It reminds me of when people make sunprints by laying flowers and leaves down on photographic paper.

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So pretty!

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This is the only picture I have where the wind isn’t trying to blow me and my hair and the skirt all over the place, because last weekend was extremely windy just for spite.

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See? Hair everywhere, but skirt lookin’ cute.

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Wind again, but still adorable.

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And here’s me demonstrating the best part of a circle skirt:  twirlability.

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You feel like a poodle skirt fairy princess, even when the wind is trying to take you down.

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We even got some cute little rainbows on it on the drive home, courtesy of the little crystal bunny that lives on my rearview mirror in my car. Overall, just a charming experience. Yes, it’s a little bit too small, but I learned so much even with making something so simple, plus overcame so much sewing-machine-based fear. I may have bought three more stretch knit fabrics this weekend to indulge myself, so stay tuned for more twirly goodness.

Autumntime Catch-Up Time: Ida Newbury

It feels insanely ridiculous to post this project now, even though it’s been nearly 80 degrees for the past three days here in New Orleans in December, but here we go anyway.

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Ooh. She pretty.

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I have a documented history of not really being able to do anything but panic in my brain when confronted with hurricane-type situations, as readers (hi, all three of you!) of this blog will know. (See past projects Hurricane Helix Socks and Hurricane Amanara for confirmation, if you need it.) In order to stave off this panic and prevent it from making me more of a mess than I already am, I often turn to knitting to help occupy my hands and my brain for a few precious hours, long enough for the storm to pass, or miss us completely, which is the way things had been going until this year.

Yep, 2021, in all of its glory, decided that, on top of everything else, that we should pack our extremely angry cats into my tiny electric car in order to drive to Austin to evacuate from Hurricane Ida. And I’m glad that we did, since we lost power for nearly a week, not to mention the entire city taking weeks to get restored to something resembling working order. But, while we were stuck in Austin, with nothing to do but sit and think what an insane situation we were in, what on earth were we to do?

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Go to yarn stores, apparently. Dan and I took a trip to both Hill Country Weavers and Gauge Yarn (where I bought this project) and we found a small bit of peace and clarity. Both stores were remarkably lovely, with equally lovely and helpful staff. This beautiful tank top by Berroco was displayed on a mannequin in Gauge, and I fell in love immediately. I knew that it had to be my evacuation project. Something with really persnickety lace and then miles and miles of stockinette. Something to hold off the bad feelings, even if just for a moment.

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The pattern is called Newbury, designed by Amy Palmer, and the yarn is Berroco Mantra Stonewash, which is just silky perfection. (And those adorable pride heart stitch markers are Birdie Parker Designs, if you absolutely need them now that you’ve seen them, like I did.)

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After a delightfully little fiddly bit of lace knitting that shows up on the upper shoulders, the rest of this thing is just smooth sailing on stockinette in the round, with infrequent increase rows. It’s the perfect thing for when you’re stuck doing telemedicine in a pandemic when there are no pharmacies open across the entire city, while you’re in a another state. I understand that this is not a universal experience, but just trust me when I say it was extremely frustrating.

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Like, look at that crazy lace! Double yarnovers are always something special.

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There’s something art deco about it. Almost architectural.

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This yarn is just a joy to work with, as well, because you end up with this slinky drapey fabric that feels so much more indulgent than plain stockinette stitch seems like it should be.

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I liked it so much, that I nearly knit the thing way too long. Luckily, Dan stopped me before it got too out of hand, and I was able to pull back the last five rows in order to stop it at the right place. Want to know how I did that? Just for fun?

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I threaded the top onto some waste yarn first, to try it on and mark where I wanted the ending border to start. That’s really the only thing I changed about the pattern, as it originally has you end with a rolled stockinette border, and I just wasn’t feeling that.

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Then, after marking that row, I threaded some waste yarn in a contrasting color through that entire row, making sure to catch each loop of each stitch on the same side.

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Then, I pulled out the first waste yarn and let the stitches go live, and unzipped them all the way down to the second line.

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And the waste yarn conveniently caught the stitches and had them lined up exactly right for me to thread them back onto my needle to finish the border, which I just did in garter stitch, to help it lay flat.

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Flat-ish anyway. Pinning out silk is very unforgiving, but it sprung right back to the right shape after I wore it a few times.

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Which I couldn’t stop doing.

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Those eagle-eyed among you will probably notice a giant stripe going across the bottom of the bust line. Here, it’s way clearer here, if you want to see it.

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No, I did not make a dye lot mistake, but I did break one cardinal rule of knitting with “washed” or “distressed” yarns, and that was in working from only one ball at a time. Both the yarn and that pattern recommend that you work from two balls at the same time, alternating every one or two rows as appropriate, to accommodate for the fact that the balls can often differ wildly from each other, even in the same dye lot. I, in my immense hubris, put all of the balls next to each other and said, “No, these all look exactly the same, and I don’t feel like switching off while knitting lace, so I’m not going to do it at all.”

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And now I have that giant stripe to show for it. I did eventually start doing it correctly, which is why there are no other stripes visible, and I could have definitely just done the lace normally and then switched when it switched to stockinette, but that would have made too much sense. Instead, I will wear my mistake proudly.

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Besides, it just gives me an excuse to make one in every single other color, right? Right.