all the stitching we cannot see

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I've been working on the Allongé t-shirt from knitsimple for a while now. I wanted to get it done for 1 August, but I don't think I'm going to quite make it. 

My main excuse is health, which feels odd to say. I had outpatient surgery last January, and a lot of sinus problems since then. I haven't needed time off work to speak of, but knitting and writing are suffering.   

So those are the excuses. Now for the project.  

The top is made in two pieces: a raglan yoke which is knit from the top down, and a body which is knit side to side. The whole thing is knit in plain stocking stitch, except for a narrow ribbed border and a little drop-stitch lace. 

Easy, right? I mean, the sewing- up will require some care, but the knitting is mostly plain knit and purl. 

The eyelets showing where the dropped stitches will be on the back

The eyelets showing where the dropped stitches will be on the back

I had to cast on the yoke twice, because I counted the stitches wrong. 

I had to rip out the yoke after about five rows, because I forgot to do the purl-side shaping on one of the armholes.  

I had to rip out the back to the armhole, because I mis-read the instructions and was putting 20 rows between eyelets instead of the required 12. I didn't catch this until I had just worked the last of the 5 eyelets. 

Worst of all, I'm knitting the body with one 3.75mm and one 4mm needle. I have no idea when I started doing this, but probably it's been the entire back section of the body. The rows aren't visibly different heights, although my row gauge is off. Which, of course, matters when you need to attach a horizontal piece to a vertical one. There is some math in my future. 

Having said all that, the cotton/acrylic yarn I substituted (Cascade Sunseeker) has a lovely hand, and will be a lot more comfortable to wear than the cashmere/merino blend given in the pattern. (Side note: why oh why do magazines feature patterns recommending drastically out-of-season yarn? Even if you take geographical differences into account.)

I'm looking forward to wearing this sweater, but first I need to do a decent job of finishing it!  

#craftblogclub spring gift swap: oodles of cool cards!

Yesterday I blogged about what I sent Zoe in Beckenham as part of the #craftblogclub spring clean gift swap. Today I want to show the lovely cute cards she made and sent to me:

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Each motif is made up of one or more pieces of fabric, which have been very carefully cut out and glued to the cards. The precison on these is what really pulls them off. The cards are, conveniently, left blank inside, which is what I prefer. And, it just so happens, they are all in my favourite colour scheme too! 

Zoe thoughtfully included matching envelopes, so I don't have to worry about finding some in the right size when I use them. I actually collect cool greeting cards so I always have a selecting on hand when one is needed, so this is a much-appreciated gift!

She also wrote up a very clear, detailed tutorial on her blog. Do go take a look if you want to see more photos and learn how to make your own. 

#craftblogclub spring gift swap!

The spring challenge for CraftBlogClub was to make thing for a gift swap, using only materials one already had on hand. Having materials on hand was not an issue for me [glances guiltily around the apartment at all the yarn]. Katie Gets Crafty organised us into swap pairs, and Zoe Roberts at Oodlesofcraft was my swap partner.

Zoe lists sewing, knitting, jewelry making, and card making as her crafts of choice on her blog, so I thought it best not to do any of those. I stuck with crochet, which seems to be my main method of using up yarn these days. Since I didn't want to make any assumption about what Zoe liked and get it wrong, I made a few small things, in the hopes that one of them would suit her:

Hairpin lace scarf:

This is more or less the same as the one I made a few months ago, except in three colours instead of one. This time around, I wasn't sure I had enough of one colour to make an entire scarf, so I went with long, vertical strips joined by a contrasting trim. As before, each strip of hairpin lace is 300 loops each side. The edging is sc, ch 1 to give it some weight without being too rigid.

Tawashi

I found out about these from Pinterest recently. By definition, they're small, crocheted or knitted items you can use for scrubbing dishes. The swirled stripes pattern I made is very popular, but there are also ones in the shapes of leaves, rectangles, cartoon characters... they're sort of like practical amigurumi. There are lots of different free patterns floating around for these, but I think this is the one I wound up using.

Tawashi are supposed to be made in cheap acrylic so that they can withstand the rigours of pot-scrubbing, but they're so small and cute I thought they might be nicer for washing one's face. I made them in dishcloth cotton so they could be used either way.

Coasters

Crocheted coasters seem to be having a moment. The day I got the ribbon and other packaging materials for the gift swap, I found some commercially-made ones for sale, and patterns for them seem to be proliferating. Summer's practically here, so I decided to make a set of four for the gift swap as well — the night before I had to mail everything off to make the deadline (oops). They were definitely a last-moment decision, but I made all four in one sitting (2-3 Doctor Who episodes watched on Netflix). They're made from the same dishcloth cotton as I made the tawashi from, and flattened out more after I took these photos. The pin I got the photo from leads to here, but the subsequent link seems to be dead — Etsy just displays a lot of "similar items" which aren't similar at all! I just had a good squint at the photo and figured out a facsimile from there. The pattern as I made it is after the photo:

Four stitch tr cluster: *yo, insert hook in next space, pull up a loop, yo, pull through two loops, repeat from * three more times (5 loops on hook in total), yo, pull through all 5 loops, chain 1 to secure. (US four stitch dc cluster)

round 1: chain 6. Join with slip stitch to form a ring.
round 2: 12 sc in round. Join with slip stitch.
round 3: chain four, *tr (US dc) in next stitch, chain two, repeat from * to end, join to original chain four with a slip stitch.
round 4: chain 2, * make one four stitch tr cluster, chain 2, repeat from * to end, join with slip stitch.
round 5: chain 3, *make one four stitch tr cluster, chain one, repeat from * to end, join with slip stitch. Change to contrast colour if desired.
round 6: chain 1, 2sc in each chain 1 space and one sc over each stitch of previous round. Join with a slip stitch.
round 7: chain 1, sc 2, inc in next st, *sc 5, inc in next st, rep from * around, end with sc 3. Inc should be placed on top of row 5's cluster stitches. Finish off.

crochet as decluttering

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About three years ago, I got the Knit that Shit idea, which was intended to focus on both stash reduction and WIP reduction (erm, okay, make that UFO reduction). There have been some successfully finished objects, and some permanent unravellings too, but overall progress has been made. 

One of the items to be finished was a Kaffe Fassett Red Diamonds jacket:

This is one of my favourite Fassett colour patterns, and I had a lot of fun picking through the stash, finding colours that would work. But: in three years, I never made it past what is shown in the photo. Although the knitting is quicker than someone who's not into intarsia might think, I found every time I had to add new colours I wound up pausing for a very long time, getting lost in all of the possibilities and worrying I would have patches which were too dark or too light. I also worried that I wouldn't get a lot of wear out of the finished item. For my own personal tastes, I'd be more likely to get wear out of either a very large, swingy coat in this sort of patterned fabric (such as Fassett himself makes in different colourways and patterns), or else as a shawl. The boxy jacket I'd started wasn't the best fit with my wardrobe.

Add to that the general decluttering drive I've been on and... I decided to throw out the half-piece I had done (sniff) and use another favourite Fassett idea — random stripes — to use up the project yarn in a hurry. I had a lot of different odd balls of reddish and blueish colours set aside. So I did a row of foundation single crochet until I thought I had a nice width for a blanket, then started working rows.

The results thus far are in the large top photo. The idea to use granite stitch came from Erika Knight's Simple Crochet book. The stripe height is determined simply by how large each ball of yarn is — a 100g/200m skein makes about fifteen rows. The only rule I'm sticking to is that the reddish and blueish yarns alternate.

Granite stitch is often compared to knitted fabric. I don't quite agree — the density is still about the same as for single crochet — but it is far more flexible and drapey than regular single crochet, and not as gappy as, say, granny shells or double crochet in general. It looks the same on both sides, and makes a great blanket fabric. Just as well, because the granny square afghan I made less than two years ago is already showing signs of serious wear (and has been mended once). So much for acrylic yarn lasting longer.