Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Wearable Circles

One of the things I love about crochet is that it can be so easy to make very intricate looking patterns.
first circular cardigan

 About a year ago, I made this circular cardigan for myself.  I chose this because I really liked the floaty and flared look of the picture on the source pattern.  I also had two large skeins of fine merino wool in these gorgeous autumn colours that were just waiting for the right project.  There should be sleeves on it too, but I ran out of yarn and then got lazy.  Still, it goes really well with lots of stuff and dresses up very simple outfits.

At the time, I'd never followed a crochet chart before and it took me a bit of time to get my head around this format.  I much prefer a chart to a written pattern now, so clearly I'm even more visual than I thought...

Anyway, I was getting heaps of compliments on this circular cardigan, not least because it looks very complicated.  (In truth, it was incredibly simple to make.  Naturally, I rarely admit that!)  I wore it to Christmas Dinner last year and my sister-in-law was super impressed that I'd made it myself.  So, I decided I'd make her one for her birthday.  Then my own sister got wind of that and insisted that I make one for her too, please!
circular cardigan for SIL

I decided that I'd try out a couple of different patterns this time.  For my sister-in-law, I chose a fine merino wool in a blue/purple combination and followed this pattern.  Again, I didn't bother with the sleeves.  Here is the finished product.

I'm still working on the one for my sister.  She's also a fan of autumnal colours, but brighter than my preference.  I found a lovely wool that goes through the colours of the rainbow, but with a kind of darker autumn tinge and has a silver thread running through it.

I had progressed quite far, following this pattern, but I decided that I didn't really like the granny square-ishness of how it was turning out, so I ripped it all back and started again.  I've gone back to the original pattern and I think that the colours are working really well with the open work.  I'm much happier with how this looks.  Here's a couple of work in progress pics so you can at least see the colours.  You can see that this wool  is chunkier than the other two, so I'll probably have to adapt the pattern to position the armholes.  I may even stretch to sleeves this time!

abandoned project
project in progress

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

No seam knitting

The bit I hate most about knitting is making up the garment once I've finished actually knitting all the pieces.  Maybe it's because my tension tends to be fairly loose and the seams end up looking quite holey.  Or it could be my inability to keep the end stitches even in size, so lining up the pieces properly can get a bit tricky.  I decided that I'd overcome this personal headwreck by using circular knitting needles.  Presto chango! No seams :D

Then my son asked me for a hooded cardigan, instead of a jumper.  So bang went my circular knitting plan.  But I figured that I'd try to make it in one piece, working back and forth along the circular needles instead of around.  I don't know if that's actually a thing or not, so I didn't bother looking for any patterns to tell me how to do it.  Instead, I took inspiration from regular cardigan patterns and basically stuck the instructions together in my head.  It was pretty easy until I got to the shaping bits for the sleeves and the front.  That got a little complicated, so I ended up making a chart in excel so that I could more easily keep track of the shaping.

I tried to do something clever to knit the shoulder seams together, but I couldn't quite figure out how to do what I was trying to do, so in the end I had to go old school and actually sew them together, but that was the only bit of seaming that I needed to do.  After that, I knit the sleeves in working from the top shoulder seam down, casting on directly into the arm hole, so again there was no need for separate sewing in.  I worked back and forth on the circular needles until I got from the top of the shoulder down to the join under the arm, then I was able to work the rest of the sleeve down in a single piece without any seams.  (I used a shorter circular needle for the sleeves than I did for the main body!)

Finally, I picked up the stitches around the neckline to work up the hood.  The last test of my patience was the request for a zipper up the front instead of buttons.  The whole point of this exercise was to avoid having to sew anything!  But nothing else would do him, so in went the zipper.  I was terrified that I'd mess up the tension along the zip and end up with either side of the cardigan puckering unevenly along the front.  I pinned the closed zipper in place to make sure that it was even and then sewed it in.  It wasn't quite as awful as I had anticipated.

Bearing in mind that I was not working off any actual pattern, and my son is at that awkward stage where he's too big for children's patterns, but not quite big enough for men's patterns, I was guessing the sizes and holding things up against him to see if they were long enough.  Clearly, I overestimated - or I've got the Irish mammy "He'll grow into it" syndrome - but he likes his sloppy cardigan.  He also likes that the hood makes him look like Emperor Palpatine.

Friday, April 1, 2016

A free form experiment

I decided to try out some free form crochet to make a necklace, which I gave to my sister for Christmas last year.  I was fairly pleased with my first attempt at this but I wasn't really sure if she liked it.  I was pretty excited when she wore it over to my house a couple of weeks ago and even more delighted when she told me that she's worn it out a few times and in work.  It gets lots of compliments too.

Obviously, there's no pattern because it's a free form but here's the gist of how I made it:
I got a wire necklace base and fastener thingie in my local craft shop (I have no idea what these things are actually called).  I used thick cotton thread in Red, Orange, and Yellow and a 1.5mm steel hook.  The trickiest bit was working single crochets (sc) the whole way along the length of the necklace wire.  It was insanely fiddly.  Once I got going with it, it did get easier though.  When I got to the end, I did 3-ch and then sl-st in every alternate sc back to the start.  This was fairly dense, but gave the base of the necklace a really pretty scalloped effect.

Next, was the free form bit, starting from the yellow in the centre and working my way to the outside, changing colours as I felt like it.  I did this with a random combination of single, double, and treble crochets to create an undulating pattern.  I also added in some chains of varying lengths and skipped a few stitches beneath to create the gaps in the pattern.  My main concern here was to make sure that the finished product was mainly flat.  I did get some flares by the time I got the the final round, but I liked how these looked so that was okay (they came out a bit like overlapping petals).  Then I used a combination of single crochets and slip stitches to firmly attach the free form piece to the front centre of the necklace triples.  Et voila!

I think I might make a few more of these as they are really quick and easy - I'd say no more than two evenings' worth of effort.  It'd be really simple to change up the combinations of colours and have a huge range of variations of this.  Next time, I think I'll make the centrepiece a little smaller and the second layer of colour a little stronger.  Still, I've got to say I'm very happy with how this little experiment turned out :)