Sunday, July 26, 2009

for the fans

I promised over on my Facebook fan page that I would have a give-away here if I made it over 500 fans. I'm a bit past that now, so here we go!

Gilda - also has a yellow knit vest

I've decided that the give-away prizes will be the fabric toys that have been hanging around my Etsy shop forever. I made these critters ages ago, when I was experimenting with fabric toy design. I only sold 2 of those I made, and I feel bad that these others never found a good home (they're just lounging in a box in the basement, poor things).


So to enter the give-away, just leave a comment on this post, telling me which toy you would like and why. I'll select the winners on Monday, August 3.


As with my other give-aways, it works better if you leave a name, and email address if you feel safe doing so. If you don't leave your email address, remember to check back here in a week!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

converting to the round

I know I must have said it here a few times before, that my little toys are great practice for seaming knitted items. I've done so many now that sewing seams is just a small step to finishing them. However, I know many knitters dislike seaming, or even hate it (I even saw a Ravelry group for knitters who hate seaming)! So I've put together a set of steps that should help you convert most of my toy patterns to be knit in the round.

1. The first step would be your choice of dpns (double pointed needles) or circular needle. Since all the body parts have different numbers of stitches, and some people prefer sets of 4 or 5 needles, I will have to leave it up to you to decide how to divide the stitches between the dpns. However you divide them, you will sometimes have to shuffle stitches between the needles, because the increases and decreases are not evenly spaced around the body parts. As for a circular needle, if you haven't tried the magic loop method, this would be a great time to learn! It's especially useful for knitting things with small numbers of stitches, like toy arms and legs.

2. The next step is fairly simple: convert purl stitches to knit stitches, and every time you see 'P 1 row' you want to work that as a knit round. Also, on the small toy feet, you will need to change one row:
After: k8, [skpo] twice, [k2tog] twice, k8.
Work: k6, [skpo] twice, [k2tog] twice, k6.

3. Lastly, you will need to stuff (and attach safety eyes) before knitting the last few rows of each piece and closing them up. Except for the body, which has a large opening at the neck.

There are a few things that will be different when you knit my toys in the round. First, because all the body parts have an extra stitch along each edge, which are usually taken up within the seam, body parts knit in the round will be 2 stitches fatter.

Second, working intarsia colour changes in the round is rather tricky, although I know it can be done. This makes some of the toys more challenging, such as the puppy or monkey. You can try working the intarsia in the round for these toys, or just knit the heads flat, and the rest of the toy in the round.

Third, many of the clothing patterns are knit flat with seams. Because they are so different from the toys, and each other, it would make this post much too long and confusing to include them here.

one of the clothing patterns that is knit in the round

I've tried to make this post quite simple and general, so it will apply to as many of my patterns as possible. If you are working on a particular pattern, and find a spot where you need some advice or help, we can start a discussion over on Ravelry. This way everyone has access to my tips or other's suggestions for converting to the round. (if you don't belong to Ravelry, feel free to email me for advice too)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

toy trades

I wanted to say thank you for a couple of trades I've done in the last few months. The first was with Alyssa of Penguin and Fish, for a lovely woolly horse for Lev (I traded this bunny for it). It arrived right before we moved, so I never found time to take any photos of it. The second was for a Viking doll from Sandra of Herzensart, for which I sent her this lion. I've adored her toys for ages, and am so thrilled to have one of my own! Both toys are really meant for Lev, and he loves playing with Binky the horse, but he'll have to wait a few years before I'll let him play with Baldrick the Viking (because of the small parts, really). In case you couldn't tell, Mr. Mitten named both toys. I never gives toys silly names.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

mini alien pattern

Okay, I decided to post the pattern a day early, since you seem so impatient to knit them!

There are directions for both circular knitting and flat knitting. I've tried both and the aliens look just the same. Knit with sport weight yarn, they turn out about 1.5" tall. You could knit them with other weight yarn, with appropriate needles, but I'm not sure what size they would be. These knit up super fast, so you can make pocketfuls in just an hour or two!

Mini Alien

Materials: small amount of sport weight or DK yarn; pair of 8 mm safety eyes, buttons or yarn to embroider face; stuffing; darning needle.

Knit Circular: 3 mm (US size 2.5) circular needle, knit with magic loop method.
Cast on 20 sts. Join in the round. K 1 round.
Row 2: [ssk, k2, m1, k2, m1, k2, k2tog] twice.
Row 3: K 1 round.
Repeat rows 2-3.
Row 6: [k3, m1, k4, m1, k3] twice. (24 sts)
Row 7: K 1 round.
Row 8: k1, mb, k8, mb, k13.
Knit 3 rounds.
Row 12: [k2, k2tog] 6 times. (18 sts)
Row 13: K 1 round.
Row 14: [k1, k2tog] 6 times. (12 sts)
Row 15: K 1 round.
Row 16: [k2tog] 6 times. (6 sts)

Break off yarn and thread end though remaining sts. Pull tight to gather, then thread yarn end to wrong side.

Turn alien inside out and secure this yarn end. Attach safety eyes if you're using them. To make antennae, thread a length of yarn under a couple of sts on the top of the head (on the wrong side) and knot securely in the middle, then thread the yarn ends to the right side. Turn alien right side out. Adjust position of antennae if necessary, then knot yarn and trim to 1". Stuff body. Sew bottom side of body, adding a bit of stuffing to legs before closing the seam. You may need to make a couple small stitches around bobble arms to close any holes. Embroider a face if you like.

Knit Flat: 3 mm (US size 2.5) straight knitting needles
Cast on 22 sts. P 1 row.
Row 2: k2, m1, k2, k2tog, ssk, k2, m1, k2, m1, k2, k2tog, ssk, k2, m1, k2.
Row 3: P 1 row.
Repeat rows 2-3.
Row 6: k3, m1, k6, m1, k4, m1, k6, m1, k3. (26 sts)
Row 7: P 1 row.
Row 8: k8, mb, k8, mb, k8.
Work 3 rows in st st.
Row 12: k1, [k2, k2tog] 6 times, k1. (20 sts)
Row 13: P 1 row.
Row 14: k1, [k1, k2tog] 6 timesm k1. (14 sts)
Row 15: P 1 row..
Row 16: k1, [k2tog] 6 times, k1. (8 sts)

Break off yarn and thread end though remaining sts. Pull tight to gather. Sew back seam, then follow finishing directions given above.

k = knit
k2tog = knit 2 sts together
m1 = make one by picking up loop between stitch just worked and next stitch, and knit into the back of this loop
mb = make bobble: kfbf, turn, p3, turn, k3, turn p3, turn, k3tog.
kfbf = knit into front of next st, then knit into back of the st, then into front again. Makes 3 sts from 1.
p = purl
ssk = slip 1 st, then slip the next. Insert left needle into the front loops of the slipped sts and knit them together through the back loops
st or sts = stitch or stitches st st = stocking stitch


A couple of little aliens came to visit today. Shall we see what they got up to?

"Hello there!"

"Mind if we have a look around?"

"What interesting building materials! We must study your hieroglyphs."

"What shall we do next?"

"You have a very colourful spaceship, but I don't think it works."

Come back tomorrow for a free pattern to knit your own little aliens!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

change in plans

Remember when I said I was going to cut back my work related knitting to just two projects for the summer? Well, it's looking like even that was too optimistic. I was hoping to have about two hours each day to knit, which would have made my plans do-able. But lately I've been getting more like half an hour a day, sometimes none at all. Partly this is because Lev is at a really fun age, learning and growing so quickly, and I don't want to waste a minute that I could be spending with him. Partly it's because I have chores to do! You know, we like to have clean clothes and home-cooked food. Plus, being able to see the floors requires tidying and vacuuming the cat hair regularly.

After going over all the possible options this morning with Mr. Mitten, I finally decided to put off the secret project I was working on. Progress on it was a lot slower than I expected, and the deadline is in only 6 weeks. You see, I'd wanted to submit a pattern to an online knitting magazine, because getting accepted would mean a lot more attention and recognition for my designs. I choose an idea I'd had for over a year, and picked the issue I thought would be best for it. But I've finally admitted that I don't have the time to do as good a job as I would like, and I would rather be doing more important things. It feels like a huge weight has lifted from my shoulders, so I guess I made the right decision.

I'm still going to be working on the new edition of Fuzzy Knits, since there is less pressure for an exact deadline, and knitting on them is a lot of fun, so it doesn't really feel like work. I also have an excellent idea for a new pattern, which I will try to find a bit of time for over the next few months. That way there will be something awesome and new for you this autumn.

My secret idea that I wanted to submit to the magazine will stay on the back-burner, and I'll work away at it when I feel like it. Maybe I'll submit it to some future issue when I feel it's ready, or maybe I'll just sell it myself.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

summer salad

I haven't shared a recipe in ages, so here's one for a salad we've been eating a lot of lately. The measurements aren't exact, since I never really measure anything. So feel free to mess around with the amounts or ingredients, depending on your tastes and what you have at home.

By the way, quinoa is a South American plant with edible seeds. It's very high in protein and has an interesting flavour. You should be able to find it in the natural foods section of a largish grocery store.

sorry for the crappy photo, my dining room is a bit dim

Summer Quinoa Salad

2 cups uncooked quinoa

1 can of cooked beans, drained and rinsed (I used navy and black beans)
1 sweet red pepper, chopped
1 sweet yellow pepper, chopped

1 English cucumber, chopped
1 cup chopped celery

1.5 cups frozen peas

1/3 cup chopped cilantro (i.e. the leafy part of coriander)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tbsp cider vinegar

3 tbsp lime juice

finely chopped green chili, or hot sauce to taste (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

Cook quinoa according to package directions. Or bring 5 cups of salted water to a boil in a large pot. Add quinoa, reduce heat and simmer until most of the water has been absorbed (~10 min). Remove from heat, cover pot, and let sit another 10 min until all water has been absorbed.

Place the beans, veggies, and dressing ingredients in a bowl. This makes a lot of salad, enough for at least 8 people, so you need a
big bowl. Add the cooked quinoa. If it's still warm, it will thaw the peas for you. If it's cold already, rinse the peas with some warm water to thaw them first. Stir to mix well, and taste for seasoning.

Refrigerate for a few hours before serving (or just eat it warm if you're impatient and hungry).