Monday, September 29, 2014 1 comments

Knitting: $5 in Paris Sweater for ME!

I spent the weekend knitting myself a sweater. I don't know about you, but I love sweater weather. Unfortunately, most of my storebought sweaters make me look like I gained 20 pounds, all in places I'd rather not gain. So I was happy to find a free pattern for a striped sweater in a flattering fit. It's called $5 in Paris.

This is my second sweater in this pattern, and I already have a third one waiting for me to start today.

I made some significant tweaks to the pattern, so you may want to check out my project page if you want to make one for yourself. I changed the neckline to more of a traditional jewel neckline, rather than the boatneck, almost-off-the-shoulder neckline that is written into the pattern. I also made the sleeves longer by working as many stripes on the sleeves as I worked on the body of the sweater. This came out to 3/4-length sleeves on me.

For this sweater, I used the "I Love This Yarn" from Hobby Lobby in the worsted weight. It's yellow and navy blue. I'm always happy to support Hobby Lobby, and I truly do love the yarn or I wouldn't work with it.

As for the Sherwood Sweater I'm working on, I got a little distracted with these sweaters. I'm 3/4 of the way finished with the second sleeve, so it won't take me long to finish when I get these sweaters "out of my system". :)
Friday, September 26, 2014 1 comments

Trying something new with our homemade AG doll rooms

Recently I saw a picture of a dollhouse on another blog made out of mostly trifold project boards. She added a wooden board to the top (that didn't go the whole way out) and then layered cardboard flooring over that. I didn't think foam board or cardboard could hold that much weight, but it never hurts to try, right?

So I set up the two foam board rooms that I've already made - the cabin and the schoolroom. Then I layered two doubled-up foamcore project boards on top (just because I had them on hand and was experimenting). So far, so good. Ideally, you would keep the heaviest furniture on the floor. But if you keep the heavier furniture upstairs to the outer perimeter, it looks like it should work. I'm going to leave it up for a few days of play and see how it goes.

And yes, this is set up in our living room. Sorry about the distracting background!
Thursday, September 25, 2014 1 comments

My version of a doll's snack cart

This is a project I made last Christmas for my daughter and just haven't shared here yet. I was originally inspired by kkcollect (you can find her on Youtube), but you can see that mine went a slightly different direction once I got going. I appreciated her inspiration, but I like mine better. :)

Kit and Samantha are showing off my homemade, very affordable snack cart.

Here's a better view of the canopy that I made from a gift bag, coat hangers, and a few scraps of PVC pipe. The base of the cart is made from a photo storage box.

It has a mini fridge/freezer, microwave and cash drawer just like AG's version. As you can see, they all stay closed quite nicely. To fill in the space that the boxes weren't occupying, I used a piece of foam board with pieces cut out for the boxes to slide into. I glued everything into place so it wouldn't come apart.

Notice the sink? It's a mini plastic bowl from Dollar Tree with a coat-hanger-end faucet and bead knobs.

The mini fridge/freezer and microwave are made from boxes I got in a set at Dollar Tree. I just covered them with white paper (for the fridge/freezer) and a printed microwave panel (for the microwave).

The cash drawer is made from a large box of matches, also purchased at Dollar Tree. I added a bead as a pull handle and printed doll money (dollars and quarters) to go inside.

Here you can see the food accessories that go with it: juice containers (erasers from Target Dollar Spot), lip gloss soda cans (from Wal-Mart's after-Christmas clearance), water bottles (from Ebay - blogged about these previously), juice bottles (homemade from breath freshener at Dollar Tree), hot dogs/French fries/hamburgers/sandwiches (all erasers from Target's birthday party favor section), homemade fountain-style water and cola drinks. Not pictured: ice cream cones and popsicles (both erasers, both stored in the mini fridge/freezer).

And here's what it looks like from the customer's side.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014 1 comments

Our Doll Family Has Expanded ... And Sherwood Sweater, Day 6

I haven't shown you yet who last joined our doll family via Goodwill ...


She's a Pleasant Company doll, so our local Goodwill didn't think she was a "real" American Girl. (Yes, that's what the sales lady told my husband when he asked to look at her in the glass case.) As a result, they marked her $25 less than they charge for the ones marked "American Girl" on their necks. I had a coupon that made her $5 less, so she was actually cheaper than I could get her on Ebay.

She was quite dirty, but it was all surface dirt and all on her vinyl. I'd guess that her original owner never cleaned her for fear of ruining her.

This is what she looked like before I cleaned her.
I'm not sure if you can see the dirt, but it gave her that "old doll" look.

One of her legs is a little loose, but I'm not going to bother with it until it falls off completely. It's an easy enough fix, but re-stuffing her and getting her head on tightly again are a bit more difficult.

Yes, I'm now the 37-year-old proud owner of two American Girl dolls. I tell my family that I'm going to enjoy them now with my daughter, in a few years I'll enjoy them with my grandchildren, and then they can give them to me all over again when I'm senile and wanting to play with dolls. :)

Sherwood Sweater, Day 6

I started on the first sleeve today and got over halfway through it. (I stopped at chart Row 60, but that was only about 50 rows of knitting.) The was pretty good progress for the little time I had to devote to it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 1 comments

AG Doll Find and Sherwood Sweater, Day 5

I have to share a recent dollar store doll find with you. I got a pack of 20 of these Solo-style party cups at Dollar Tree recently. Aren't they just perfect? I've also seen them at Wal-Mart for $1.97 if you're desperate for them and your Dollar Tree doesn't have them. By all means, don't buy them from an online seller who will probably charge you $2 or more (plus postage) for 4 cups! (Yes, I've seen ridiculous prices like that before.)

As for my Sherwood sweater, I finished the front and joined it at the shoulders.

Monday, September 22, 2014 1 comments

Some AG doll things and Sherwood Sweater, Days 3 & 4

I haven't blogged about my daughter's (and my) American Girl dolls in a little while. On Saturday, I finally asked my husband to spray paint the wooden piece we've been using as Paige's (my daughter's My AG) trundle bed. I was planning to do it, but I've never spray painted before and kept putting it off.

It started out as this:

I got it from a thrift store for $4 awhile back. I had been planning to make it a couch, but then my daughter told me she wanted a trundle bed for her doll like the AG version. This has a compartment for the second mattress underneath, so it's perfect.

Ugly as it is, she actually used it for awhile like this. Hey, it worked ...

But now it looks so much better:

And here it is with the bedding on it (but without the trundle mattress yet):

The paint job wasn't perfect because it was so dark to start with, but I told my husband that was just fine. It looks quite shabby chic like this, and I really like it! So does my daughter.

Sweater Day Three

I finished 18 more rows on the sweater today, bringing me to my second time through Row 52. I've already split for the armholes:

Sweater Day Four

I finished the back today:

Saturday, September 20, 2014 0 comments

Knitting: Sherwood Sweater, Day 2

I completed 17 more rows today on the Sherwood sweater, and I'm almost to the armholes. I'm really enjoying this sweater!
Friday, September 19, 2014 0 comments

Knitting: Sherwood Sweater, Day 1

I decided to make the Sherwood sweater by Angela Hahn next. (It's free, as are most of the patterns I use.) It's already seamless, so I don't have to convert it. That's a really good thing, too, if you take a look at the chart for this sweater:

Yes, the symbols on the chart are as small as they look - maybe even smaller - and my eyesight is about twenty years older than I am. But once you start into it, it's actually not as complicated or scary as it looks. It gets pretty predictable after a few rows, but it's still interesting enough to not be boring.

I'm making this in the 10/12 size, since that's the amount of yarn I have to work with. I'm using Lion brand Pound of Love. I know a lot of knitters who turn up their noses at acrylic yarns, but not me.

First of all, this was given to me. You really can't beat FREE, especially when you're working with it just for the fun of making something anyway.

Secondly, I'm not independently wealthy. If I were to buy all natural fibers for all the sweaters I make, I wouldn't be able to make any at all. A child's sweater can easily turn into a $50+ project. I choose to feed my family instead, thank you. (And yes, that's half my grocery money for the week, since the prices at the stores have nearly doubled in the last 2-3 years.)

Thirdly, I enjoy the process of knitting. I'm one of those people who just might knit something and rip it out to re-knit it again if I was stranded somewhere for a long time and had no way of getting more yarn.

Lastly, I actually like the feel of most modern acrylic yarns. Yes, there are some nasty vintage acrylics that I just can't (and won't) work with, but those are few and far between.

So if you're the world's biggest yarn snob, I may not be your favorite knitter to "follow". If I knit something from a natural yarn, it's going to be yarn recycled from a thrift store sweater. I can afford that! So please don't think that I don't like natural fibers. I adore them! I just can't afford them (or justify the cost) in any other medium than recycled from thrift store sweaters. And when this stash of acrylic is all knitted up, I have a HUGE stash of recycled natural fibers to start working with.

Anyway, back to my sweater ... I finished 55 rows today.  I don't usually figure out how many stitches that is per day, but this one was easy. There are 200 stitches to a row, so that was 11,000 stitches. It sure didn't seem like that many!

Thursday, September 18, 2014 0 comments

Knitting: Cables for Kids, Day 5

It's done! Now that the sleeves are on, it doesn't look quite so squat. But still, I could wear this sweater, and it's supposed to be a child's size 12! I guess it's a layering sweater ...
Wednesday, September 17, 2014 0 comments

Knitting: Cables for Kids, Day 4

I finished the back on a Row 6.

The fronts were easy enough, and I got it all joined at the shoulders and the neckband knitted on.

At this point, I'm beginning to think the ribbed basketweave must really draw the sides in. It's almost comically wide. I love the design, though, so I'm persevering. (I'll probably knit it again in another yarn with the ribbed basketweave on the sides just to see if I'm right.)

Now to the sleeves ... I tried reversing the directions and picking up 63 stitches around the armhole, but that was way too many stitches. It looked like the sleeves were gathered into the armhole. So then I tried picking up 3 stitches for every 4 rows (the usual consensus on how many to pick up), which gave me 56 stitches. It was still way too many. So I picked up 1 stitch for every 2 rows (a total of 38 stitches), and it finally looked right.

At my gauge of about 4 rows/1", I'll be working about 54 rows before the ribbing. Since I'm starting out with about the same number of stitches as I should end with, I won't be doing any decreases.

All of this trial and error took long enough that I could have finished at least one sleeve. But I didn't. I only barely started the first one before bed. Oh well! Sometimes mistakes (like seed stitch where it should be ribbed basketweave) create more problems than you realized. This is just a good learning experience - learning how to adapt as you go because you were too stubborn to rip out 10" of detailed knitting when you realized your mistake. :)
Tuesday, September 16, 2014 1 comments

Knitting: Cables for Kids, Day 3

Today was a busy day, so I didn't get much knitting done. I only have to knit 2” more before the back is done, though.

Monday, September 15, 2014 1 comments

Knitting: Yuletide Yoke finished and Starting Cables for Kids

Day One

I finished the Yuletide Yoke sweater with just a little bit of knitting time.

This is sized quite generously, but my gauge might have been a bit off. I didn't bother to check. (Since it's for charity and someone will be able to fit it, I generally don't obsess about gauge on my charity sweaters.) This is a child's size 6, and I could fit it if the sleeves were longer. That's a good thing, though, because hopefully whoever gets it will be able to wear it for a few years.

So now I'm off to the next sweater project, Cables for Kids from Coats & Clark. It's a free pattern that's written to be seamed, so I'll be converting this one to seamless as well. Here we go ...

Cast on 154 stitches. Work 1x1 ribbing for 2", beginning with a purl stitch and placing a marker after the 77th stitch. (This marker separates the front from the back.) Increase 22 stitches on the last row (about every 7th stitch). Switch to larger needles.

 Since I'm working this seamlessly, I'll work it in the round until 10-1/2" before splitting for the armholes.

I omitted the 4 side stitches this time, so I'm subtracting one stitch from the instructions at each side. And since these instructions are much easier to follow in chart format, I made my own chart:

Not all of these are standard knitting symbols (like the cable symbols), but this is how my brain works, so I wrote them out this way.

It's also helpful to place markers in your knitting where you're supposed to switch from one chart to the next (A,B,C). This way, you don't have to constantly count out the initial 22 stitches in seed stitch, etc. It makes my knitting go much faster.

I got one full 12-row repeat and an additional two more rows finished before bed.

Day Two

After the second repetition of the 12 rows, I realized that I forgot to switch the Chart A directions for circular knitting. It's supposed to look like a ribbed basketweave stitch, but mine is seed stitch. What threw me off was the fact that many similar patterns have sections of seed stitch in them. (That, and the fact that I had to draw up my own charts and convert it to circular, seamless knitting.) We'll just pretend it's supposed to look like this. :)

I got to 10-1/2" and split for the armholes (changing to back-and-forth knitting) on a row 7.

I was able to work a few inches above the armhole on the back section before bed.
Saturday, September 13, 2014 0 comments

Knitting: Yuletide Yoke, day 2

As I was working on the first sleeve today, I'm glad I thought to measure it before the last 18 rows were up. Sure enough, I was at the correct length after just 7 of the last 18 rows.

I was able to join the sleeves to the body and work both charts on the yoke before bed. It's almost done!

Friday, September 12, 2014 1 comments

Knitting: Fiver Cabled Sweater is done! On to Yuletide Yoke ...

I finished the Fiver Cables Sweater after about an hour's worth of knitting today. Since I've been weaving in the ends as I go, I was finished once I bound off (and wove that end in). I highly recommend weaving in the ends as you go!

I had the next sweater picked out, so I went ahead and started on it. It's another free pattern called Yuletide Yoke, published by Bernat. It's already seamless, so I don't have to convert anything. I love the color work on this one, and I have the same colors as the sample.

I had a bit of time to do mindless knitting, so the stockinette portions went fast. I managed to get to the arm joins on the body of the sweater ...

... as well as the cuff of the first sleeve.

Thursday, September 11, 2014 0 comments

Knitting: Fiver Cabled Sweater, day 6

Today was busy, but I managed to finish 13 of the 17 decreases on the second sleeve. It's almost done!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 1 comments

Knitting: Fiver Cabled Sweater, day 5 + a little detour

Today I knit some on the sweater, but I took a little detour and crocheted a ruffle scarf for a friend who had asked me to make her one.

I find that these are more ruffly when I crochet them instead of knitting them.

I finished the cabling part of the first sleeve and decreased for the cuff by knitting 2 stitches together at the beginning of each knit-4 cable section. Then I did 1x1 ribbing for 2", beginning and ending each round with a knit stitch.

For the cuffs, I also tried to do a stretchy bind-off, but it distorted it again. So I went back to the basic bind-off. Since I'm not usually a fan of 1x1 ribbing, I don't do it often. (I usually do 2x2.) This may be a unique quality of 1x1 ribbing.

I was able to finish the first sleeve today.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014 1 comments

Knitting: Fiver Cabled Sweater, day 4

You may have noticed there are a lot of cables in this sweater. If you knit and work your cables with a cable needle, I highly recommend you learn how to cable without a cable needle. It may seem a bit clumsy at first, but most things are that way. Once you've mastered it, it goes so much faster, and it's easier. You'll have it mastered before you get even halfway through a project like this.

It took 28 more rows of the cable pattern to get to 12-1/2" for the front before shaping the front neck. I ended on a Row 4.

Instead of joining a second ball of yarn, I usually work each side separately. And since I try to avoid extra work, I don't bind off stitches for shaping. I simply quit working them. That means they're still hanging around on the needle and won't have to be picked up to work the collar stitches. I use a jump ring marker to keep my place while I do this.

To give you a visual of what this looks like, here is my work once the first half of the front is done. The stitches to the far right of both markers are the shoulder stitches. The stitches between the markers are the ones that would usually be bound-off for the neck shaping.

Again, instead of binding off the shoulder stitches, I'm going to leave them live and graft them with 20 stitches from the back like this:

Grafting the shoulder, as seen from above
Grafting the shoulder, as seen from the front. (I've already grafted some of it.)
And then when the first shoulder is grafted, it looks like this:

It took a total of 12 more rows (including shaping rows) once I began the neck shaping. Then I repeated the same process with the other side.

Next up was the neckband, simply because I had stitches hanging around on the needles, and it made sense to go ahead and do them now instead of transferring the stitches to scrap yarn and then having to transfer them back again later.

One thing I discovered on this particular neckline: Don't try to use an extra-stretchy bind-off. When I did, the neckline was distorted, almost like ruffles. This particular neckline needs the stability and sturdiness of a regular bind-off.

The sleeves are next, and these are just a little bit trickier because of the cabling pattern and decreasing as you go down the arms. That, and the fact that I'm going to work them directly onto the sweater (shoulder to cuff) instead of knitting them cuff to shoulder and then seaming them on.

I need to pick up 87 stitches around the armhole. (I'm just going to the end of the instructions and working my way back.) I see that I will have to decrease over 68 rows, with an additional 2 rows (since they're starting the decreasing on the 3rd cabling row). That makes a total of 70 rows, which should measure out to 11.2", according to the pattern gauge. I also have to take 2" of ribbing into account at the bottom, so that means I'm up to 13.2" with decreases and ribbing. Since the sleeve needs to be a total of 14.5" long, that means I'll start with 1.25" of cabling before beginning any decreasing.

Does that make any sense? I hope so! It's the best I could do in trying to explain how I reverse things like this. :) It's really not as complicated as it sounds when it's written down. It's just a matter of using math (which is something I happen to enjoy doing).

So what I ended up doing was one complete set of 4 cabling rows. Then, on the second Row 3, I began the decreases.

I finished a 6 of the 17 decreases.

Monday, September 8, 2014 0 comments

Knitting: Fiver Cabled Sweater, days 2-3

Day Two

I worked to where the sleeves split today. It ended up being 44 rows of cabling, ending on a Row 4.

At this point, I switch to back-and-forth knitting (instead of knitting in the round).

Day Three

I knit an additional 44 rows in pattern (ending on Row 4) to get to 15” for the total back length. Instead of binding off, I kept the stitches live so I can graft the shoulder seams and not have to pick up stitches again for the collar.

I started working on the front where I left off. I'll be knitting it until it measures 12-1/2” from the bottom.

This is how far I got before bed. It's going quickly!
Saturday, September 6, 2014 1 comments

I'm back!! Knitting: Fiver Cabled Sweater

Yes, I took an unannounced blogging break over the summer. I needed it, and I figured nobody would mind. :)

But I'm back, and I've been debating the best way to jump into things again. I've decided that I'm just going to blog about my current projects, whatever they may be. You can get a glimpse into my thought process and the progression from start to finish. I won't just be posting "finished objects" anymore.

I had a man donate two big garbage bags full of yarn to me over the summer, and another friend gave me a garbage bag full of craft items, too. So I have plenty of materials to work with for awhile. I decided to start working on the yarn by making sweaters to go in the missionary boxes that our church sends out at Christmas time.

I've already made several sweaters, but I'm going to start back in to blogging with the one I started today (which will actually be yesterday by the time you see this).

I'm using the free Fiver pattern by Susan Mills. It's a beautiful cabled child's sweater. I love cables!

Since I don't enjoy seaming very much, I try to make my sweaters as seamlessly as possible. This means I have to convert most of the patterns I use, since the publishers must really enjoy seaming!

The great thing is that it's usually easier than pie. [Yes, I did say easier than pie. Have you ever tried making a pie crust from scratch? It's not exactly what I'd call easy at first.] All you have to do is find a pattern that's worked bottom-up (most are if they're seamed) and cast on the number of stitches for the front and back combined. Sometimes I'll take off four stitches to account for the stitches lost at the side seams when they're seamed, but usually it doesn't make much difference if you forget. From there, follow the pattern pretty much how it's written.

So let's see what this looks like on this pattern. Since I have plenty of yarn, I'm making this in the 8-10-years size. I cast on 190 stitches (95 x 2), placing a marker halfway through. Since it says to work 1x1 ribbing (starting with a purl stitch), I do that until I reach the marker. I end on a purl stitch. Then I slip the marker and start my 1x1 ribbing all over again, beginning with a purl stitch. This gives me two purl stitches at each side seam, one on either side of the marker.

The other important thing to remember when you're converting a pullover to a seamless construction is that all the wrong-side rows (marked WS) are going to have the stitches reversed. So if it says "knit", you're going to purl. If it says "purl", you're going to knit. That might sound confusing at first, but it's not once you get going.

This particular pattern might look intimidating to a beginner but it's simply a repetition of 4 rows, with 3 of those 4 rows being exactly the same.

This is how much I got done today:

(The color is "off" in the second picture because it was taken at night with artificial lighting. The real color is more like the first picture.)

Since I'm working 8-1/2" before splitting for the armholes, I'm a little over halfway there.