Saturday, May 21, 2011

On the art of balancing...

Just a quick note to explain my absence...

Blogging is actually rather time's happy time, but time none-the-less. And recently, I've been considering the fact that I may spend so much time making things FOR my kids that I'm not actually spending that much time WITH my kids. And all though they are certifiably rotten...I kinda like 'em.

So today, Belle celebrated her 4th birthday with her friends. And the only thing that was homemade for her party were the husband made them. Yep, that's right. Plastic goodie bags from the party store filled with books and magnifying lenses and colored pencils, a ruffly dress from good ole Tarjay, pizza from the local Little Caesar's, and not a decoration in sight. And you know what? I think she had a great day. And even better than that...I had a great day. And even better than that...we had a great week leading up to the shindig!

So instead of sewing like a maniac for the last week to get everything ready, I played Candyland....lots of Candyland. And I think I'm ok with that. And I'm pretty sure Belle is too.

Balancing all the various parts of your life is a challenge. It just is. So if I go missing for days on end, just know that I'm probably stuck in the Licorice Forest or maybe visiting Gramma Nut. And don't worry, I'm sure to turn up again soon:)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Teach Yourself to Knit in Just ONE Day - A Somewhat Tutorial for which I can claim NO credit

Once upon a time, I taught myself to knit. I HATED it and promptly vowed to never again pick up a pair of needles.

But, then I started to feel frustrated at the lack of options available to those of us who prefer to crochet. Those knitters got all the cool patterns, and I was a just a tiny bit jealous.

Go the pic to buy this super cool pattern! After a couple weeks of practice you'll be ready to try it:)

So, I decided to try again (mainly so I could use that pattern up there!).

And guess what...I LOVE it! I'm officially hooked and have been knitting up a storm. In the last few days I've completed two cowls and started a third. I've visited the craft store to pick up additional needles, and even scored a bundle of great yarn on $0.99 clearance (YAY!).

So here's how I learned...please note that NONE of this is my own work! I'm by no means an expert after a grand total of 6 days of knitting. But, because the learning process is so fresh in my memory, I thought that you might benefit from seeing the process I followed. I hope the following links, posts, patterns, etc. are helpful. And if you have any questions, shoot 'em my way and I'll see if I can answer them, find an answer, or locate a video that will help.

So here goes...

You will need:

*a #9 circular needle that is 16"

*a stitch marker (if you want to save a couple of bucks, get a small rubber band or hair band...just something small and round that will fit over your knitting needle to mark your place)

*a skein of SOFT worsted weight yarn (at least 150 yards) - read the package info if you aren't sure if you have worsted weight, and yes, SOFT is important...your finished product will be cuddled up next to the soft skin of your don't want something scratchy

Here is a link to the pattern that we will be using to create a cowl (that's a short scarf that doesn't have ends). It's from Confetti Creative Knitting and can also be found on Ravelry. Some of the pattern directions will be summarized in this post, but you will need the actual pattern to be able to follow along. This is the very first pattern I attempted. I chose it because it uses only the two most basic knitting stitches, the knit and the purl. I also like the fact that by knitting in the round and using a stitch marker, you don't need to do much counting. Always a plus when I tend to knit while chatting with Belle or snuggling with Bee.

First you will need to cast on. This is how you get your first round of stitches onto your needles. There are a gazillion ways to cast on out there in the world. After auditioning MANY of them, I recommend the "gun" method. It was the easiest for me to figure out and actually remember for the second project. NOTE - Some patterns will specify a particular type of cast on, so as you move on to other patterns, make sure you check that. So, now go view this video and it will get you started.

Now because we are going to be knitting in the round, you will need to know how to join the ends. MAKE SURE THAT YOU DON'T ALLOW YOUR STRING OF STITCHES TO TWIST! Here is your video to show you how to join.

Now it's time to start stitching. Because I began as a crocheter (is that a word???), I really don't like the traditional method of knitting. It feels awkward and clumsy. So, I received a tip from a family friend (thanks, Mrs. Starr!), that I should try the "Continental" method. Well, folks...that's what did it for me! As soon as I began to use the continental method, I fell in love. It has the same easy rhythm as crocheting, but allows me to use those cool patterns that made me so jealous before. So, the videos in this quasi-tutorial will teach this method.

Be sure to use your stitch marker to mark the beginning of each round. You use it by simply slipping it over your right needle before the first stitch of each round.

The pattern calls for you to begin by purling 3 rounds. Here is a video to show you how to purl continental style.

Now you will need to knit 2 rounds. Here's your continental knit stitch video.

From here, you will be able to follow the pattern through the remaining rounds until the binding off. When you are ready to bind off, use this video to see how it is done. She isn't knitting in the round or using the continental style, but you should be able to see how the bind off works.


Disclaimer: This was most likely your FIRST attempt at knitting. If you crocheted in a previous life and have some idea of how to control the tension on the yarn, then you are likely at least somewhat pleased with your end result. BUT, if you've never stitched before, then the whole tension thing is tough, and your cowl may be a little wonky. First, it will still keep you warm in the snow. Second, each one you make will get a little better. My first attempt (even with years of crochet experience) resulted in such mismatched tensions from the top to the bottom that it actually looks like I added some extra purl rounds. But my second one only had one small section that was a little crazy. And my third is looking GREAT so far. So stick with it and keep does get easier and faster as you go.

Now...if you're in love, be sure to visit Elisa McLaughlin Designs on Etsy. Her projects are quick and so fashionable. And she has been incredibly helpful as I try to pick out patterns that are actually manageable for a newbie like me. That's her head wrap up go click on it, ok!

Monday, May 2, 2011

All Dressed Up...

I've been working on some accessories for the dolls, especially the boys. It just didn't seem fair that the girls got wear frilly little skirts, and even eye patches, and the boys were left without extras.

So now, a valiant, medieval knight can spend his days jousting with his friends.

And the resident super hero can save the day every now and then.

What do you think? Would your little boys appreciate the chance to accessorize??