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Felted Mittens

10 Oct

I’ve never done any felting before, so this is my first felted knitting project.   There are three key elements to felting – you need 100% wool yarn, hot water, and the knitted object will be very large, since the process of felting shrinks the fibers.  This  may explain what happened to that wool sweater that came out of the wash machine half it’s size, and all fuzzy.

As you can see, the mittens I knit might fit the likes of Paul Bunyan.  This was not a mistake!

I used my top loader washing machine to felt the mittens, while consulting this tutorial on knitty.com.  The key steps to setting up were:

  • 1 Tablespoon of soap
  • Wash machine set to:
    • smallest load setting
    • hottest water setting
    • highest agitation setting (heavy duty, heavy soil, etc)
  • Mesh bag or pillow case to collect extra fuzz

I was all set up.

Once the wash machine had finished filling, and started the wash cycle, I set a timer to check the progress in five minutes.  I was surprised to see that the felting and shrinking had already begun.  Here’s what they looked like at the five minute mark:

I threw them back in, turned back the machine setting to the beginning of the wash cycle to prevent it from moving into the rinse cycle, and waited another five minutes.  Here was the progress after another five minutes:

Even though it was pretty close in size, I wanted the fibers to felt more, so I decided to let it go for another five minutes, knowing I could stretch and reshape the shrunken mittens while they were still wet.  Here was the result on my hand after the final 5 minutes (a total of 15 minutes of agitation):

This seemed good to me, so I went ahead and drained the soapy water, and let cold water start to fill the machine for the rinse cycle.  I stopped the machine once there was enough cold water to cover the mittens and swished the mittens around to get the soap out.  It’s important to stop the machine at this point, because I didn’t want any more agitation to occur.  After this, I skipped the machine setting forward to the spin cycle to remove the excess water.  I pulled out my mittens, and did some final shaping to them before laying them out to dry.  Here’s the final result:

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Got Yarn? 2.0: Yarn Wreath

4 Oct

This series is about finding ways to bust through my yarn stash.  I’ve seen yarn wreaths on Etsy and Pinterest, and thought it would be a fun project. My bare front door needed a little something for the autumn season, and I knew that this would use up a good portion of left over yarn.  This seemed to be the perfect project!

When I got to the store, I wasn’t exactly sure what size wreath would look right on my door, so I picked up two different sizes and styles to make the decision at home.

The straw form is 18″ and a bit bulkier.  Price was $5.99

The foam form was 12″ and priced at $6.99

I decided bigger was better, so went with the straw form.  I had also picked up some felt in fall colors, with the plan to embellish the wreath with some felt flowers or fall leaves.  The next step was to go through my stash.  I pulled mostly neutral colors that would go with the autumn colors, and decided to line them up against the front door to see what spoke to me.

I thought the white/cream one popped the most, and also had an idea to make the embellishment interchangeable for other seasons/holidays, so white would probably be the most versatile for year-round use.  One final look at everything together and I was ready to get going!

I started wrapping the yarn around the wreath and was really wishing that this yarn was thicker, which would require less time and yarn, so I went back to my stash and tried out other thicker yarns, but just didn’t like the look as much.  I briefly considered going out and buying some thicker yarn, but quickly realized that would really defeat the purpose of busting through my stash.  So onward I went.

I have to admit it was kind of awkward trying to wrap yarn around a wreath. Not very swift or graceful, by any means. I quickly found that the best strategy was to pin the wreath between my knees, so I could do a double hand pass of the yarn back and forth around the wreath form.  I also quickly realized that entertainment would be needed to complete this project, so I moved to the family room to stream a couple episodes of The Wonder Years, while I assumed the yarn wrapping position.  Who doesn’t love a good Kevin Arnold flashback?

My optimism failed me (yet again), as I came to the end of the skein of yarn, and hadn’t even gotten half way around the wreath. I knew I could move to a second skein of the same brand yarn that was a light beige. Maybe a monochromatic look would give it a little more interest.  And busting through two skeins of stashed yarn wouldn’t be such a bad thing. I crossed my fingers and went for it, knowing very well that the second skein would probably not make it the whole way around. By the time I got through the second skein, I still had about a quarter of the wreath left to cover, so I moved on to the next closest weight and neutral colored yarn, which was a darker brown. Even though it would be a pretty dark color, I decided I would probably cover this section with the felt embellishment.

The next step was to create the felt flowers for a fall embellishment.  I picked up a few sheets of felt for $0.34 each in fall colors.  To make the flowers I cut out circles from the felt by tracing different sizes of  circular items: a cd, tupperware lid, and a water glass.  I then cut the circles into spirals and rolled them into flowers.  To complete the flower, I used a glue gun to glue the end into place.

I also played around with adding different shape and texture by cutting rounded petals into the circle before rolling up the flower.

The last texture I tried was by cutting small triangles around the edge of the circle.  This made the most texture.

I finished creating the flowers out of the red, brown, beige, and yellow sheets of felt.  In the end I chose not to add the yellow flowers to the grouping.  To put the flowers together, I traced the shape of the brown section of the wreath onto another sheet of felt, and glued the base of each flower onto the large piece of felt using my glue gun.

Once the glue was dry, I trimmed the base piece of felt so the edges wouldn’t show.  When I placed it on the wreath, I noticed the flowers gapped away from each other, exposing the base felt, and just looked a bit messy.  To remedy this, I used the glue gun to glue the flowers together on the sides where they made contact.

As I mentioned earlier, I decided to make the  embellishment removable, so I could use the wreath for other seasons.  My original idea was to create felt straps with velcro to wrap around the back side of the wreath to hold the flowers in place.  I didn’t have much of the brown felt left over, so I decided to try using the brown yarn to fasten it to the wreath.  This would be pretty camouflaged, and easy to remove for a seasonal change-out.

I took my yarn needle and wove the yarn through the underside of the flowers in four different places, while wrapping the yarn around the wreath.

I wove the ends through the back to meet and did a double bow knot to make it obvious where to safely remove the yarn when I’m ready to change it out.

I used some brown ribbon that I had on hand for hanging the wreath.  All in all, I successfully used up 2 1/2 extra skeins of yarn that were taking up space, and I only spent about $8 on the project. A win, win!

Here is the grand finale on my front door!

Chunky Knit Cowl

20 Sep

Ok. It seems I’m into cowls. After I completed my infinity scarf last week, I went ahead and knit a fun cowl this week.  And I have yet another version of a cowl on another set of needles that I’ve been stitching here and there since spring. I may need an intervention!  But hey, we have a number of cowl friendly months ahead.  Because it uses chunky yarn and large needles, this was a quick and easy knit, and I learned some new knitty things as well.  This would be a great beginner’s project or quick knit gift idea when you are in a pinch. I probably logged about 3-4 hours from start to finish.

I used this free pattern that I found on Ravelry – If you are a knitter or crocheter, and you haven’t checked out Ravelry, get over there now! Membership is free and it is nothing short of awesome!  I used Lion Brand HomeSpun chunky yarn and size 15 needles. The pattern called for size 17 needles, but I figured 15 would be good enough…if you haven’t noticed yet, that’s usually the way I roll.

This pattern calls for a provisional cast on – this was a new concept for me.  It basically has you cast on using scrap yarn, and then you start knitting with your project yarn.  This allows for you to remove the scrap yarn at the end, and stitch the edges together to close the cowl into a seamless circle or round.  I found this video to be very easy to grasp the provisional cast on instructions.  This was such a nice cast on, that I might consider using it as a regular cast on in the future. Here you can see my purple scrap yarn as a temporary edge:

Once I finished knitting the piece, I pulled out the purple scrap yarn, and thread the loops back onto my needle.

With my two edges back on needles, I used kitchener stitch to graft the two edges together with my yarn needle.

When complete, you really can’t even tell what was once the beginning or end. Magic!

The coolest thing about this cowl, is that it can be worn in several different ways.   I tried hooded, scrunched, cowl necked, turtle necked, and around the shoulders.

I’m sure one could think of more ways!

The Silver (or…baby blue) Lining

14 Aug

My go-to handmade baby gift is to knit up a hat.  They are cute and little, which usually means they are a quick and easy knitting project.  And my go-to baby hat book is Itty Bitty Hats by  Susan B. Anderson. My knitting group could probably start a fan club for the Itty Bitty Knitting books.  I think we all own at least one copy from her book collection, if not more.

I decided to go for a classic Ear Flap Hat (Inca Snowflake in Itty Bitty Hats) for my friend B’s impending arrival.  There’s nothing like some good ol’ road- trip-knitting to get me started (reason #357 why I love to knit: it’s mobile!).

Sometime’s I choose to skip the extra finishes in patterns, but I decided to go for the crocheted edge this time – as you can see below, it really helps the hat hold it’s shape (see the left earflap with edging vs. the messy curly right earflap) – and was also a good excuse to get reacquainted with my crochet hook (we’re long lost friends).

I also decided to line this hat with fleece to make it extra warm for Minnesota winter.  Did you know that fleece stretches only one way?  I learned this the hard way after cluelessly lining my nephew’s hat with fleece and then couldn’t get it on his sweet little head.  It’s important to plan your lining to accommodate some around-the-head stretch and room to grow.

To line the hat, I fold the fleece in half, and pin my hat to the fabric with one edge of the hat lined up with the fold.  Then I simply cut around the hat, leaving a small allowance (1/4″ or so) around the edge, and leaving the fold untouched.  The folded edge allows you to only  have one seam in the fleece lining, which I put in the back of the hat.

I then cut straight across the top of the lining, about an inch down from the top of the hat – this just keeps it simple.  Nobody sees the inside, right?

Once I have my lining cut out, I flip the hat inside out, and pin the lining in, trimming any excess fleece where my allowance was too much (better to have to much to trim, than to be short!).  Using a regular sewing needle and thread, I whip stitched my way around the outside, whip stitched the back seam of the fleece, and then did some pretty loose stitches across the straight top of the lining to allow for some wiggle room up there.

The lining not only gives a good dose of coziness, but it also adds some solid structure and color contrast to the finished piece.  For any yarn connoisseurs, this was my first time using Malibrigo (Rios Superwash Merino), and it lives up to it’s high user ratings.  Soft texture and a smooth knit!

Even if you’re not a knitter, crocheter, or general hat-maker, it’s easy to make any hat warmer by adding some fleece –  a simple band that goes around the lower ear-covering portion of the hat would be an easy fix for those day long snow fort adventures!