Cthulhu Dice Bag a.k.a. Project Pincushion

My friend Peter had a birthday last week, and in honour of this occasion (and the fact that he loves the works of H.P. Lovecraft) I decided to knit him a Cthulhu Dice Bag, pattern by A.A. Leavitt-Reynolds.

This was called “Project Pincushion” as to finish it in time I had to knit in the presence of the intended recipient, who naturally asked what I was knitting. My inspired answer was as follows: “Erm… a really small cushion… for sticking pins in… A pincushion! Yes, that’s what I’m making.” *facepalm*

I decided to be unoriginal and stick to the black and luminous green colour scheme, using 100% acrylic DK yarn and 4mm needles (straight and circular). The first stage is to knit a moss stitch square for the base. I cast on 18 stitches instead of 15 to get a squarer bag – the pattern later asks you to pick up 70 stitches, and 70/4 = 17.5. Therefore I felt that a stitch count of 18-17-18-17 would make a slightly more regular bag than 15-20-15-20.

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The above photo shows my first attempt at picking up stitches off the completed square. I did manage to use just a knitting needle to begin with, but I switched to using a crochet hook later on.

Then I knit a few rows before starting the stranded knitting chart (also known as fair isle, but I’m calling it stranded knitting here as the pattern definitely is NOT fair isle in the slightest). This was my first attempt at stranded knitting, and I was a bit nervous after reading lots of dire warnings about keeping the floats loose. As one tutorial said to always pick up the next colour from underneath the current colour, I ended up knitting the live yarn continental style whilst holding the non-live (dead?!) yarn out of the way in my right hand. This is also first time I’ve attempted to knit continental style as well – there’s a lot of firsts in this project! I got into the habit of it after a while, using this tutorial to learn how to wrap yarns over long stretches. After a while, Cthulhu began to emerge from the depths…

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Constantly swapping between the two yarns resulted in a tangled mess as they wrapped around each other. I had to untangle this every half round or so, easy enough as it just involved suspending the project from the tangle and watching it unspin.

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Eventually it was finished and I knit a 16″ long piece of I-Cord to finish it off. The pattern asks for 20″, but as I used DK yarn throughout instead of aran weight, the shorter length was more than enough. So here is the finished bag inside out showing the floats:

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Right side out:

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All that was left was to fill it with some dice and give it to the birthday boy! Fortunately, the people at Q workshop do a good line in H.P. Lovecraft themed dice.

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It went down well with Peter, so I’m counting that as a success! Some of the Cthulhus look a little deranged (there’s one which is a bit lopsided, and another with massive black eyes) but Cthulhu is a monstrous Elder God the mere thought of whom can send people insane, so I reckon a bit of deranged-ness is quite appropriate. Not so easy to shrug off is the I-Cord. I did it in a hurry and there were some random half-loops sticking out the sides. I’m not sure if that’s where I’ve split the yarn, or where I wasn’t knitting tightly enough. The pattern also called for a crochet edging which I didn’t have time to do. I’m telling myself it would have been OTT to have crochet edging as well though…

Greenleaf Baby Hat

As previously mentioned, I made a hat to go with the sprout blanket. I chose the Greenleaf Baby Hat pattern by Evelyn Uyemura due to the leaf motif. The parents told me that they have lots of hats but most of them are too large so, using the same yarn as the blanket, I followed the instructions at the end of the pattern for the smaller size using a 4mm needle.

I don’t own any 4mm double pointed needles, and only have one 4mm circular needle, so I used the magic loop method to knit in the round with that one circular.

In the end, it looked something like this:

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It’s a very pretty hat and I managed to finish it in a weekend which is a record. Unfortunately, it was a bit too small after all that! So last week I made a Hat Mk II, casting on with 8 more stitches but still using 4mm needles and trying to “knit loose”. This time it was a success, confirmed to me with (extremely cute!) visual evidence of baby in said hat. Yay!

So this counts as several first for me: First time knitting in the round, first time using the magic loop, and first time making I-cord! The only problem I found with the magic loop method was that the the first stitch you make on each “half” pulls the last stitch of the previous “half” tighter around the cable, so it’s no longer the same size as your needles. On Hat Mk I this left two slightly odd looking columns of stitches (one for each half), but I think it was better for Hat Mk II.

Finally finished!

I kinda went on a hiatus there didn’t I? I blame the clocks going forward, I really do. More daylight hours in the evenings = more time outside gardening, and therefore less time on the blog. I also must admit that various Steam Sales had something to do with it (I can’t find an apt link, so you either know what that means or you don’t – it involves my new PC, the internet and games).

Anyway, the sprout blanket is finally knitted, ends sewn in, washed, blocked and labelled up to go to the recipient, who is now nearly a month old (oops). I got everything together last Friday to finish it off.

Yarn review: The yarn (Patons Cotton Twist Aran) was quite pleasant to use. The resulting blanket is soft and drapey, and the acrylic nicely tames any harshness from the cotton. However, it is a “Z” twist yarn, which according to Doris Chan is better suited for crochet than knitting and I believe her. Basically, yarn is either “S” twist or “Z” twist (to find this out, hold the yarn vertically and see which letter the twist represents). “S” twist yarns have the twist reinforced during knitting, and get unravelled during crochet. “Z”s are the other way round. Therefore I found that the yarn became a bit easy to split with the needle tip, but I reckon if I crochet with it it’ll be fine.

Pattern review: The pattern was easy to follow and not that difficult knitting-wise. My only complaint is the use of pfbs, as these leave a larger loop on the right side of the fabric which to me looks untidy (even when there’s a nice pattern of larger loops). I did make a mistake here or there, the most noticeable of which left a hole in the stem of the central sprout. Oh well. Have some photos!

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Starting off using the long tail cast on. I really like this cast on (was my first time using it). You get a neat edge and it’s very quick to do once you get used to it.

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Adventures in frogging. I noticed I’d made a mistake when I suddenly had the wrong number of stitches and the pattern no longer fit. I tried to fix it from the current row, but it just made it worse so I got a contrasting yarn and threaded it into every stitch of the last correct wrong side row. I chose to go back to a wrong side row as the stitches used were either purl or knit, nothing fancy to think about. The second picture shows the yarn going underneath the right hand “leg” of the stitches.

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Success! The first photo shows one of the sprout tips correctly hung on the lifeline. I was so, so, SO relieved by that. I spent ages trying to work out just which bit was the right hand leg of all those stitches. Patience and logic is definitely the key to success there. I might do some sort of tutorial when I get some time (and can remember what it is I did).

The second photo shows threading the needle back through the loops, following the lifeline (and putting the stitch markers back on when prompted by the yarn ends). And then voila! Back on the needles! Woohoo!

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And there we go, one finished blanket, all ready to go to one baby girl. :) I used a sewn bind off to match the long tail cast on. It’s a reasonable approximation, not exact, but you’d only notice if you look very closely (and that’s probably more to my lack of skill than anything).

To go with the blanket, the parents said that they didn’t have enough hats that fit (their baby is super cute but very tiny) so I decided to make a Greenleaf Baby Hat from the left over yarn (found via Ravelry pattern suggestions which worked very well). I’ll post up about it in more detail later, but until then here’s a photo of the finished article:

DSCF5452I’m going to try very hard to avoid another hiatus. It might be that every couple of days or so I just post up a quick photo and a short line of what’s been going on since I last posted or during the 2 month(!) hiatus. We’ll see.

The seed of a sprout

Not gardening, but the start of a Sprout blanket! I’m hoping to turn the below pile into one over the next few weeks. Cheers to Knittin’ in Britain for the idea!

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The original pattern calls for Spud & Chloe Sweater yarn in the Grass colourway. However, this being an American luxury(ish) yarn, trying to get enough here in the UK to make a blanket in would set me back £33. So I’m using Paton’s Cotton Twist in Lime instead, bought from Pack Lane Wool at a much more reasonable £10.92 for 6 balls (plus one extra they sent me by accident, yay! I did offer to return it but they declined).

I really shouldn’t start anything new given the number of WIPs I have sitting around, but I think I need something to kick start me back into knitting and crocheting again. That’s my excuse anyway and I’m sticking to it. ;) This WIP really wants me to finish it though, just look at its poor, forlorn eyes…

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Adventures in lace knitting

One of my new year’s resolutions was to attempt lace knitting. I decided my first project would be Jan Eaton’s Leaf Lace Washcloth as a) it’s a free pattern, b) it’s not tooooo lacy and c) washcloths are small and therefore reasonably quick. After a false start due to a very messy cast on edge, I created this over a weekend:

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Yay! It was done using 4mm needles and Wendy Supreme Luxury Cotton DK in something like the Frost colourway. Doing the lace stitches themselves wasn’t too bad actually. I found that the hardest part was following the pattern as I kept mis-reading or skipping stitches. Coincidentally, I am now reasonably good at un-knitting (my definition of this is reversing the knitting motions to un-knit the required number of stitches until I reach the mistake. Not large scale frogging where whole swathes of fabric are unwound in an instant).

I also had my first foray into blocking with this. I pinned out the washcloth to a thickly folded towel laid on the ironing board (using the blocking pins Rob got me for Christmas!) and then waved a steaming iron over it until it was pretty damp. I then realised that I had to move the whole assembly to the sofa as the ironing board blocked all access to the bathroom – not my cleverest move. Note to self – next time lay everything out in its final position before commencing Operation Block. Anyway, it turned out alright, and I gave it to Rob’s Mum for her birthday. I haven’t a clue what she can do with it though! It’s not the most useful of pieces.

Following on from that adventure, I started on a scarf sweater for my Mum. The premise behind this is you knit a long scarf, wrap it around your top half and then sew the ends together to form a sweater. If you can believe this, it was supposed to be a Christmas present! Ahem. Hopefully I can complete it by her birthday (October).

Anyway, I must have had a brain malfunction when ordering the yarn (Debbie Bliss Rialto in light grey) as I got in Aran weight instead of Chunky. After frantically making some gauge swatches with various sized needles, I worked out that if I made the large size scarf with 7mm needles I *might* just be able to achieve the width of the small size and still have enough yarn left over.

Gauge swatch:

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When ripping back the gauge swatch I had to take a photo of the last row as it really resembled a soft, squishy caterpillar:

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Scarf commenced!:

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After measuring, it’s just under the small size by about an inch, but I think that’ll be ok as fortunately my Mum’s quite skinny. ;) I’ll post an update about this soon as the above photo was taken on the 28th January, and I’ve done a bit more since then. :) I’ve also got even better at unknitting, and even had to delve into frogging territory. I can safely say that frogging lace knitting is not my favourite thing in the world to do, but I have at least emerged on the other side relatively unscathed (bar the nightmares).

29 Flowers, 29 Days: The Conclusion

Hello! I’m sorry this post is 2 weeks late – it seems crochet-ing and blogging furiously for a month means I need a mental break from both activites. It took me a week to get around to darning ends, and then another week to take photos in decent light. There’s quite a few photos of various groups, I got a little excited. ;) Please do keep reading to the bottom to find out who won the competition though! So finally, here we have them, all 29 flowers together in one place:

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Here’s the first ten flowers I made:

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Middle 9 flowers:

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Last ten (sorry for the poor quality of this photo):

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Knitted flowers (I didn’t quite manage one a week):

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A pyramid of easy, filler crochet flowers:

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All the roses:

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All the poppies:

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Flowers that most resembled their namesake:

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A bit of a diversion, but I thought I’d make a group of the flowers that are great for wildlife, as our bees and butterflies sadly need all the help they can get (not that crocheted flowers will help them much). The ones in the group are apple blossom, hellebore, aster, scabious, cornflower, borage, buttercup, field poppy, daffodil, daisy, wild rose, scottish thistle and oriental poppy. Although dahlias can be good for wildlife, it’s only single varieties that are beneficial as the double flowers have so many petals the insects can’t get to the nectar (this goes for most flowers – single, good; double, bad) and my dahlia was definitely a double one.:

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Finally, my favourite flowers out of the 29:

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YAY! It makes me so happy to see all of them together, so many bright, colourful things. :D I can’t believe I finished all those. I really do have to thank my boyfriend Rob for all his support over February – he definitely did far more than his fair share of chores during the challenge, and I’m ever so grateful to him for doing all that. Thank you Rob!

So who won the competition then? Thanks very much to everyone for all the suggestions, but in the end there were two that it was very hard to choose between: Amanda’s blanket and Erin‘s wreath. However, my house is pretty cold at the best of times, and my walls are in absolutely no condition to hang anything on (there’s a lot of decorating to be done at some point!) so I went for the blanket. Congratulations Amanda! You have won five hand-made flowers[1]. As it was so hard to choose though, I’ve decided to give Erin a bonus runner up prize of three hand-made flowers[1]. Congratulations Erin! And thanks again to everyone that suggested, I’m sorry if yours wasn’t chosen (if I get time I might send a small bonus flower your way).

Right, now all that’s done I can write some posts that aren’t about flowers. Well, that aren’t about crocheted ones anyway…

[1]The “flowers” can be any of the patterns (not just flowers) from Jan Eaton’s 100 Flowers to Knit or Crochet, if you go to the Amazon link you can preview the book to see what they are. They don’t have to be different either – if you want three of the same, that’s fine. :) Although please play nice and don’t ask for 5 bunches of grapes or something! Please send me your choices and address through Ravelry-mail (sleeperwaking) and I’ll try make them by the end of March. If you have an opinion over whether you’d like them out of acrylic or cotton, and colour choices, please let me know that and I’ll see what I can do (this is stash reliant though).

29 Flowers, 29 Days: Day 26

On Day 26 I re-attempted my Dad’s flower choice, the snowdrop! This is beginner knitting pattern no. 9. I initially tried it last week using embroidery cotton but that was just a nightmare of yarn splitting and it was impossible to keep an even tension, so at the weekend I acquired some No. 3 crochet cotton (DMC Petra) and 3mm double pointed needles and tried again. The DMC Petra is at least one hundred times easier to use, so much nicer than the embroidery cotton! Anyway, I digress. The first step is to knit three petals:

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Then you combine them into the one (flat) flower by knitting the four stitches from each petal as one row of twelve, starting with white cotton and switching to green after a few rows. Finally, I made a stem. I could have sworn I took a photo at this stage, but it seems I was too tired and went straight to bed afterwards. :( Anyway, the following day I used the ends to tidy up the petal edges (not the neatest knitted things I’ve ever made), seam the flower piece into a tube and attach the stem, and then it was finished!

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You can see a bit of an end in the above photo. I didn’t cut them flush with the fabric as I normally do as the cotton was a bit slippery and therefore felt like it was likely to work loose.

Later on, the snowdrop spotted unitled‘s zombie army shuffling around in the background and, Triffid-like, advanced on the attack…

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I’m well chuffed with this. I did have a lot of doubtful moments during the manufacturing process as the petals looked incredibly scrappy, but a few judiciously placed stitches whilst darning closed up all the gaping holes and tacked down the flailing loops. As a result, it does actually look like a snowdrop! But you can judge for yourself – instead of linking to Google images, I’ve got some of my own reference photos to post up today! The following was taken in my parents’ front garden:

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In Rob’s parents’ front garden:

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Some frillier ones in Rob’s Gran’s front garden:

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And finally, one from my front garden! Look, the bulbs I planted last October actually grew!!! :D :D :D

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I’m so happy that I have snowdrops in my garden. Everything I read said that they often like to settle in somewhere for a year or two before flowering, and here they are flowering a mere 4 months after planting! :) Also, it seems front gardens are the fashionable place to plant your snowdrops. I hope you enjoyed the pictures of real flowers for a change. I have at least three gardening posts to go up just as soon as this challenge finishes, charting my latest successes and dismal failures. But before then I have to get through days 27-29, and speaking of which there’s a special guest post in store for the next flower…