Favorite Thing Friday: Leaving Cowls

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It’s halfway through September, so that means I’m all tangled up in knitting for Christmas. So far, I’ve got three gifts complete, two of which are the result of my new favorite knitting pattern.

Ravelry is a treasure trove of free patterns if you’re willing to do a little homework. Searching with the right key words and filters will reveal some pretty great patterns. For two of the people on my Christmas gift list, I knew I wanted to make a pretty cowl that would match the hats I made for them last year, so I searched for “knitting, free, cowl, leaves.”

Within seconds, I spotted a pattern called the Leaving Cowl. Beautiful interlocking leaves and simple edging convinced me straight away that this was “the one.” Within minutes I downloaded and printed it out.

Last year, I was smart and stashed some yarn that matched most of the hats I made for gifts last year. By sheer luck, the gauge on the Leaving Cowl matched two of the skeins I had saved. Let the cast on commence!

I made the first cowl using a gorgeous Harvest Yellow, (Paton’s Classic Worsted Wool). The golden tone really enhanced the leaves and made this piece feel extra cozy.

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Harvest Yellow Leaving Cowl

For the second cowl, I decided to make the edges a little more special. I pulled out another stashed skein, Grey Marble (Paton’s Classic Worsted Wool) and paired it with a skein of Plum Heather. The warm tone of the plum gave the leaves gorgeous definition, while the grey marble created a nice contrast.

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Plum Heather and Grey Marble Leaving Cowl

The pattern itself is very easy to read. It provides both a chart and written out stitch instructions. I’d recommend it for knitters who feel comfortable with stitches that go beyond the basics as there a couple of tricky stitches, including slip 1, knit 2 together and pass slipped stitch over. If you’re a beginner looking for a little challenge to build your skills, this is a great pattern to push yourself to the next level.

I love these cowls so much, it’s going to be tough to let them go. At the same time, I know those receiving them will be very happy! I’ll definitely be making one for myself once the Christmas knitting madness comes to an end.

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2014

Favorite Thing Friday: So Many Dishcloths!

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My knitting needles have been very busy this summer! Not only am I working on a beautiful pair of socks and super cute pleated top, but I’m also casting on smaller projects for birthday gifts.

One of the easiest things to make for someone is a set of dishcloths or what I like to call Spa Cloths. Pair them with a beautiful bar of soap and you’ve got a thoughtful gift that is also practical.

I’ve made a total of nine Spa Cloths in the last two weeks, all of which have taught me new lace stitches. Part of the reason I love knitting spa cloths is the fact that I can learn new knitting techniques on a small project. If I make a mistake it’s not a big deal to start over again!

First up is the Baby Fern Stitch, a free pattern I found on Ravelry. It looks really difficult, but it only involves a few simple stitches. This is one I’ll have to eventually make for myself! I love the ridges that define a pattern that is both botanical and geometric.

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Baby Fern Stitch

Next up is the Leaf Lace Washcloth, which is another free pattern I found on Ravelry. Initially, I intended it as a gift, but I loved it so much I ended up keeping it for myself. What can I say, I’m a sucker for leaves.

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Leaf Lace Washcloth

After another search through Ravelry (the array of free patterns is truly astonishing), I found a pattern called Christmas Tree Lot Cloth. This is another one I really wanted to keep for myself, but it’s so perfect for the person receiving it I had to let it go!

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Christmas Tree Lot Cloth

I saved the best for last. When I saw the Elvish Leaf Dishcloth pattern, I was instantly in love. While the stitches are relatively easy, keeping track of the pattern from row to row is difficult. I have no shame in admitting I ripped this project out three times before I finally got the pattern right. The end result, however, was worth all the frustration as it is just gorgeous.

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Elvish Leaf Dishcloth

While I usually don’t wet block spa cloths, I did block both the Christmas Tree Lot and Elvish Leaf cloths to get them to lay flat for gift presentation. Lace patterns in a thick gauge tend to pucker and that doesn’t look very nice in a gift box!

The other spa cloths I made were shipped before I could get a picture (I was running a little late for early July birthdays!). If I make them again, I’ll be sure to post pics!

The simplistic nature of spa cloths is a big reason why I love them so much. When in the middle of large or difficult project, they are nice break that offers a satisfying end result. Aside from that, I love giving handmade gifts.

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2014

Favorite Thing Friday: Weird Socks

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Sometimes I wonder what I was thinking when it comes to certain skeins of yarn in my stash basket. A while back I bought some sock yarn because I was fascinated by the weird combination of colors, (plus it was on sale). I’d never seen anything like it and I was tired of making socks in the same old shades of blue and purple.

The weird yarn sat untouched until I bought a shirt that actually matched one of the shades in the color way. Taking that as a sign, I picked up my needles (yes, needles and not the loom) and pulled a sock pattern I’ve been wanting to make for a while.

The great thing about Ravelry other than knitting camaraderie is the availability of free patterns. I found a pattern called Vanilla Latte socks and I loved it from the start. It combines two different rib patterns and includes three different heel variations so you can truly customize your sock.

Here are my Vanilla Latte socks in Patons Kroy Socks Stripes in Rusty Stripes (yup, that’s the weird color).

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Vanilla Latte Socks in a not-so-vanilla colorway!

I love how they turned out, but I’m still ambivalent about the color. Some days I love it and others I can’t figure out what made me buy it! Either way, I have a very cute top that matches the green stripe perfectly. At least I know they’ll be worn. And who knows, I might find these weird colors match other things in my wardrobe, too.

Aside from trying out a new color, I did realize something rather important with this project. While it’s nice to have more freedom with needle socks (there are so many more patterns available), my sock loom still makes the best sock. The fit is just better, especially when it comes to the heel and toe. I have yet to make a pair of needle socks that fit as snugly (without being too small) as sock loom socks. So, my next pair of socks will be loom socks!

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2014

From Epic Fail to Grand Success

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My journey into the knitting world started with a sock loom and gradually evolved towards using traditional needles. I made more than 20 pairs of socks, 4 hats, 1 scarf, 1 cowl, and 1 blanket before I took on a challenge that was waaaay beyond my skill level. I blame Interweave Knits magazine for presenting a pattern for a super cute camisole. Despite having limited experience with knitting needles, I decided I needed to make the Hashtag Camisole. How hard could it be? Famous last words.

I hunted online for a good deal on the yarn, albeit a different color than the pattern stipulated, (Elsebeth Lavold Hempathy, #28 Blue Pine Green). Once it showed up on my doorstep, I should have taken it as a sign that I was in over my head. Even though it was beautiful, I didn’t know yarn could be that thin and split so easily at the same time. Still, my love for that camisole overtook any sense of rational thought.

Before digging into my pricey stash of yarn, I played it smart by using crappy yarn to learn all the new stitches I needed to master as well practice the chevron lace pattern that dominates the piece from top to bottom. After completing a nice sample, I felt confident in moving forward with the project.

All went well with casting on, creating the hem, and knitting the lace pattern itself . . . until row 28. Disaster! After a routine stitch count, I realized I had dropped a stitch. Worse still, it was near a yarn over, so the hole was huge. I had no idea how to reconstruct the stitch and those that fell apart around it. After more than two hours of trying everything, I thought I had it fixed. I was so wrong. Within seconds, another stitch dropped. Soon after, an extra stitch magically appeared in another section. Don’t ask me how this happened because I still don’t know.

I ended up ripping out every row in a mad fury of frustration. Then, I grumbled as I wound the yarn mess back into a little ball. Grrrrrrrrr!

After two days, I decided the pattern and the yarn were not going to win. I picked up my needles and started over again. This time, I was more careful about placing markers and counting stitches. I think my initial mistake was over-excitment with a dash of biting off more than I could chew. Not one to go down easily, I made the choice to learn from my mistakes. I took my time and went about my work one stitch at a time.

In two months, I had a beautiful Hashtag Camisole without a single dropped stitch. It fits like a glove and actually looks identical to the picture in the magazine (just in a different color).

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My Hashtag Camisole!

Completing this project was an odyssey to say the least, but I’m glad I stuck with it and didn’t give in to frustration. I even got a little bonus when the designer of the pattern favorited my finished project on ravelry.com. If that’s not awesome, I don’t know what is!

Knit on!

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c.b.w. 2013