Nebula Medallion Vest Pattern

I’ve spent my free moments this week typing numbers into spreadsheets, formatting documents, copyediting, and all those other tedious things you don’t think about when you’re knitting. All for you, because I’m excited to share that the Nebula Medallion Vest pattern is finished!

Ravelry pattern page here.

I’m offering this as a free pattern, mostly because it has not been test knit beyond what you see here. However, it is an extremely simple concept. Basically, you start knitting a top-down hat, but don’t stop increasing. The only fiddly bits are the armholes, and making sure you have enough yarn.

I’ve included yardage estimates for many different gauges, down to worsted weight (18 stitches in 4″/10 cm). I definitely erred in the direction of more yarn; I hate running out of yarn!

Pardon my squinty face. It was really really bright outside!

This is new territory for me. It’s my first time designing specifically for handspun, my first time including this much customization, and my first time including metric. Not to mention that this is my first pattern to make it to daylight in over two years. So I’m a little nervous. But I’m also excited. This pattern and sweater were definitely a gift, so I’m happy to share them as a gift to you.

If you try it, would you let me know? And let me know how much yarn you used! Happy spinning and knitting.

Ten Balls a-Ringing

When I worked at Cloverhill, a co-worker told me about a Christmas tradition she had with her kids. Every year, they picked three things to give away, and they received three presents. (Three for the wise men.) This struck me as eminently reasonable. Not everyone has to do it, of course, and some rule like that isn’t going to automatically take the consumerism and greed out of Christmas for your children. But it’s a tool, among many others, that can be used to teach and add meaning.

Naomi’s a little young to pick things herself to give away. Everything (clothes, toys, tools, etc.) with her is in rotation anyway, and much of it is borrowed or will be handed down to another child in the community. But we did decide to give her just three gifts.

But we cheated a little.

Gift #1 is a set – a set of ten knitted balls, that is. Ten because that’s how many little bells I had on hand.

Aaaand I didn’t exactly finish on time. This is what her gift looked like when she opened it.

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Yeeaaaah… taking advantage of the fact that she’s not really old enough to be disappointed yet. She really enjoyed the foil paper the bag was stuffed with for about ten seconds, then went back to chewing on Bethany’s old toothbrush. (ew.)

Throughout Christmas week, I plugged away at the little shells that would become this gift. The yarn is our own Meritime – white alternated with (clockwise): Sprout Sage, Raspberry Rouge, Golden Delicious, Magentastic, Mystic Mauve, Peach Orchard, Winter Sky, and Nectar.

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Lest you think I can’t count, there were two more. Wonder of wonders, they were finished for Christmas! The collection was completed with two tiny footballs:

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When Naomi gets tired of playing with them, they’ll become her ornaments for this year – commemorating all the Sundays we spent over at Mother Tina’s house watching the Steelers. And I couldn’t give her a Steelers’ colored one without a Redskins one to accompany it… she will have to decide for herself which she likes better. (So long as she doesn’t, like, ask for a Ravens-colored one someday.

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Anyway, back to the little striped balls. I finished the final one, and stuffed and sewed them up on New Years’ Eve. I was exhausted from a long week, so Jared went out and partied while I stayed home, finished little balls, watched Hunt for Red October, and went to bed. If you are supposed to ring in the new year doing what you want to do for the rest of it, I call that Not Too Shabby. And the results were on the floor to greet my little girl on the first morning of 2014.

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Can you see the kick in motion? I think she likes them. The effect of a single jingle bell in each, I have to say, is rather underwhelming. Probably the fact that the single jingle bell is couched in a thick layer of stuffing does not help. Oh well! They are still cute and fun to kick. And who doesn’t love a little rainbow of little knitted beach balls?

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The patterns were, respectively, the 10-Stripe Baby Ball and Baby’s First Football. They are of very similar constructions, being designed by the same person, and are free. I chose them because I really really really wanted to knit them flat. The idea of fussing with a bunch of DPNs ten times made me want to swallow the DPNs instead. I don’t know why; I’m just fickle that way. The instructions were clear and simple; it took me about an hour to knit each ball.

[edited to change the first link above – it should now be more direct. Getting to the actual pattern from ravelry is very circuitous!]

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And how did the decision to knit little balls happen in the first place? … I am not really sure. I think it evolved from looking through a list of fun activities with a 10 month old, and seeing one idea for chasing a rolling ball. But one thing is for sure – Naomi knew just what to do with them! I’m hoping these will be her ammunition of choice when she learns how to throw…

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Seven Pairs of Wolfies

More wolves today! As Mom described in yesterday’s post, my little sis has been into wolves for a long time. She has also developed a blazing love for cats, and her own beloved Kirby-dog is about as un-wolfish as they can get. Basically, if you are a member of the animal kingdom, this kid is on your side. But wolves are still high on the list.

This is my third or fourth year making something wolf/dog-themed for Bethany for Christmas. But this year she is 12, entering into teenagehood in a few short months. She’s almost as tall as her other older sister, and is starting into that awkward phase where self-consciousness and insecurity sometimes seem like almost insurmountable foes. I think even our own strong-willed little B will have struggles weathering that storm we call coming-of-age.

I still remember being in college the first time our middle sister, Leah at age 12, confronted me with “stop treating me like a little kid!” I was thunderstruck, and stopped indeed. I find myself determined avoid the same mistake with the youngest sibling.

So this year, I wanted to find something wolvish that was a little more grown-up. You can imagine my surprise and delight, then, to find just the ticket in a beautiful fair-isle hat based on a Little House book.

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Pattern Review: Laura and the Wolf is a simple, tasteful, beautiful fair-isle hat. It has the added benefit of being free. It’s the designer’s first pattern, and she did a great job of selecting and balancing colors, and creating attractive motifs. Fourteen wolf faces stare out from the first fair isle section, and I decided to make them dark brown. My one warning is to watch yourself at the crown decreases; she uses an unusual symbol three blocks wide to represent a centered double decrease. I would have been saved ripping back the first few crown rows several times if I had just read the key, of course.

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It is a beautiful crown pattern, though, and quite worth getting right. I used some of my Jamieson & Smith leftovers from Sheep Heid and The Sweater, which are custom-made for something like this. I did regular ribbing on the band instead of twisted ribbing, but only because I (again) didn’t actually read the pattern.

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Merry Christmas, B! I pray that growing up brings you new joys, and that you are always proud of your dearest passions, even as they change along with you.

Five More Hats!!!!

This is everybody’s favorite verse, I think. Eddie Izzard certainly thinks so. (a bit of swearing in that link, be aware of who’s in the room before you click.) FIIIIIIIIVE GOOOOOLD RIIIIIIINGS!!! Right?

Anyway, today the rings are around heads, and have tops, because they are hats. And I’m celebrating with a free pattern, so keep reading! (Or scroll to the bottom. Like a punk.)

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It all started with the boys’ cowls. Em had requested hats first, then changed her request, but I was already thinking haberdashery thoughts. And I had plenty of yarn left. So, I kept telling myself, I’ll make the hats if I have time… I’ll have time… Sure I will… The cowls were already made, so I procrastinated on their hats to work on other gifts. Another ribbed hat was first in line.

My brother in law was my designated victim in the Osborn siblings’ secret santa. He had intimated that he might like a “hipster hat,” which from what I can gather is a ribbed hat with a long brim that you wear with the end hanging off your head. I don’t quite understand it, but Carina loves hers (though she makes everything look good, stinker), so I complied. I found a manly version and knit it up post-haste in one of my favorite colors of Ultra Alpaca. I confess a not insignificant temptation to keep it for myself.

The body of the pattern, Graham, is knit in a sort of mistake rib that is mostly purling. So the pattern had the extremely good sense to have you knit it inside out. Maybe you think it’s wrong to be prejudiced against purling, but I only am a little bit. Don’t judge me. Anyway, this meant that it looks like this when you’re done knitting it:

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But like this when it’s worn:

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I like. Here is Jeremy looking masterfully unimpressed. That’s what hipsters do, right?

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So did I knit the little boys’ ribbed hats yet? Nope. That’s right, I’m dragging this story out longer than the seventh time singing FIIIIIIVE GOOOOOLD RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINGS!

 

But little ribbed hats were still on the brain. So much so that when my aunt told me that my littlest cousin could use a hat, I decided to use the same pattern. I asked for coat colors, just in case I could match, and got the shocking response of “pink, purple, light aqua, burgundy, and white peace signs all over it.” I scratched my head at that a bit, but it took only a cursory look through the stash to find a skein that seemed destined to match just this coat! It’s a fingering weight (label long lost) that I held double. This one I knit plenty long, so the brim could fold up.

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Anna really likes peace signs, apparently. Hey, there are worse cultural symbols to become attached to. I can get behind the groovy.

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Anna’s hat was mostly knit in the dark, in the middle of the night, on the drive to Maryland, less than three days before Christmas. I feel I should get some sort of medal for accomplishing a centered-decrease crown entirely by counting and feel, especially on a 16″ circular contorted into a magic loop. I had to turn the light on for the second-to-last round, though, as something had gotten dropped, but it was a quick recovery.

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With so little time left, I should probably have given up on making hats for the boys too. But  I had reading to get done, and a couple of long car rides on the 23rd. When traffic turned that into nearly three hours on the road, I ended up cranking out most of both brown hats that day. Jared and I stayed up late that night watching old Trek episodes and working on our respective projects, so I was well on my way with hat #3.

 

 

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Christmas Eve was a bit of a bummer, though. Jared was sick, so we ended up staying home from church. We managed to enjoy my family’s tradition of finger foods and a movie. Peter’s hat was finished while we watched Holiday Inn, and the last of the gifts were wrapped while Jared tried to sleep it off. Poor lad. Sickness on Christmas is the worst.

It was more than worth it in the end. All five hats (and cowls, when applicable) were donned immediately upon opening and worn for the evening.

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Here Peter demonstrates that a properly-sized cowl and hat set can act as a balaclava!

 

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I enjoyed knitting both hats and cowls so much that I wanted to record my “recipe” for posterity. It’s nothing terribly original, but it’s very handy for last minute gifts. Or “crap-it’s-the-middle-of-winter-and-I’m-cold” gifts to yourself. Plain 1×1 ribbing is one of my favorite fabrics; the columns of single knits and purls relax into each other to make a thick, airy, elastic layer. Whether you have a colorful yarn that needs a simple pattern, or your knitting has to look boring because you’re knitting for a man (or a woman of conservative taste), this is an old standby that has heretofore resided only in my head. I ran the numbers so you can use any gauge yarn from fingering up to a thinner bulky, and any size from 6 months to large adult. Instructions for both hats and cowls are included. Click here for the Ravelry page.

Merry Christmas!

How to Use a Gradient

This is a basic tutorial on how to incorporate one of our gradient yarn sets into a pattern. The basic idea is to have a brief overlap section between skeins so as to create the illusion of one slowly changing color. (Credit for this technique goes to The Unique Sheep.)

Scroll down to see a gradience version of the Weaver’s Wool Mini Shawl. (The original pattern is by Peggy Pignato. The pattern below was reconstructed without a pattern, as it was unavailable at the time of writing.)

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When incorporating a gradient yarn into an existing pattern, you can use your own judgment as to how many sets you will need, depending on the colorway. Depending on the pattern, you may wish to calculate the number of rows or stitches and divide them into five or six (depending on the colorway you choose) in order to evenly space the colors, or you may decide to wing it. It’s your choice!

The transition section is 12 rows. The color you have been knitting with, I will call the “old color.” The new color you are transitioning to, I will call the “new color.” Work the transition section as follows:

  • Work 2 rows of new color.
  • Work 4 rows of old color.
  • Work 4 rows of new color.
  • Work 2 rows of old color.

You may now cut the old color and continue in the new color only.

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 * * * * *

Weaver’s Wool Mini-Shawl in a Gradient Yarn

 original by Peggy Pignato; reconstructed and adapted by Rebecca Osborn

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Materials: 

  • One 5-skein Gradient Set from Osborn Fiber Studio (545 yards total), either base (worsted or aran weight).
  • US 10 needles, 32″ or 40″ circular recommended.
  • 4 stitch markers

Gauge is not too important in terms of the pattern, but if you are using one of our gradient sets, you will want to make sure your blocked gauge is not larger than 3.75 stitches per inch. (i.e. 4 st./in. is okay; 3 st./in. is not okay). If your stitches are larger, you will run out of yarn before the color transition is complete, which will annoy you greatly.

Size after blocking is approximately 60″ wide and 22″ deep. (Of course, if you do not use one of our gradient sets, you may use whatever yarn you like and it can be any size you like.)

Techniques and abbreviations:

  • K – Knit.
  • YO – Yarn over.
  • K2tog – Knit 2 together.
  • Sl 1 – Slip 1 as if to purl, with yarn in front.
  • PM – place stitch marker.
  • SM – slip stitch marker.
  • RS – Right side.
  • WS – Wrong side.

Notes: 

  • During a transition section, do not cut the two yarns as they switch back and forth, but carry them up. When four rows are done in the same color during the transition rows, you will want to wrap your working around the unused yarn once to continue carrying it up on the wrong side.
  • To avoid having a line of floats very close to the edge of the shawl, do not start a new color with the first stitch. Instead, do the first two stitches of a new color row with the old color (this is always Sl 1, K1), then start using the new color.
  • Keep these carries loose. 
  • You can always tell the right side because the right edge has a stitch marker. You may also wish to place a locking stitch marker on the right side to help you keep it straight.
  • New colors always start at the beginning of a right side row.
  • For the purposes of this pattern, two rows of garter stitch are called a “ridge.” Counting ridges is easier than trying to count rows, especially at the beginning.

Work each color transition section as follows:

  • Work 2 rows of new color.
  • Work 4 rows of old color.
  • Work 4 rows of new color.
  • Work 2 rows of old color.

Directions:

Cast on 29 stitches (any cast on will do).
Row 1 (WS): Sl 1, K to end.
Row 2 (RS): Sl 1, K2, PM, *YO, K5, YO, PM, K1* 4 times; K2.
Row 3: Sl 1, K to end.
Row 4: Sl 1, K2, SM, YO; K until 3 stitches remain (slipping all other markers); YO, K3.
Row 5: Sl 1, K to end.

Continue as follows for the first four colors:
Row 1 (RS): Sl 1, K2, SM, *YO, K to next marker, YO, SM, K1* 4 times; YO, K2.
Row 2: Sl 1, K to end.
Row 3: Sl 1, K2, SM, YO; K until 3 stitches remain (slipping all other markers); YO; K3.
Row 4: Sl 1, K to end.

AT THE SAME TIME, follow these directions for changing colors.
After working 43 total rows of the first color (23 ridges), begin the transition section into the second color.
After working 8 rows (4 ridges) of the second color only (after the transition section is over), begin the transition section into the third color.
After working 6 rows (3 ridges) of the third color only, begin the transition section into the fourth color.
After working 4 rows (2 ridges) of the fourth color only, begin the transition section into the fifth color.

After the transition section into the fifth color is complete, continue as follows:
Work 2 rows as established. On the second row, remove all the stitch markers as you work across.
Row 1 (RS): Sl 1, K2, YO, K1, *YO, K2tog* until 4 stitches remain; K1, YO, K3.
Row 2 (WS): Sl 1, K to end.
Row 3 (RS): Sl 1, K to end.
You should now be on a wrong side row. Bind off all stitches loosely. (Binding off on the wrong side will create one last purl ridge.) Block and enjoy!

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The Progenitors of Invention

Some patterns just… happen, nearly of their own accord. This one was truly the lovechild of necessity and laziness.

Navarre Beach is a beautiful place – but it’s very windy. My haircut is that sort of reverse-mullet, short in back and long in front, which made it nearly impossible for me to read on the porch and beach with my bangs whipping every which way.

Scurry, little sandpipers! You feathered beasts do not have my bang issue...

What I needed was a headband. I had leftover Zauberball from a project I’m not quite ready to talk about yet, and I had a few hundred pages of reading to do. So it had to be super-simple, and knit lengthwise – I’m not into going back and forth every ten stitches. If I had done that, I would have torn out all my hair by the time it was finished, which would at least solve my bang problem. I didn’t want to muck about with gauge, so I wanted it to tie in the back. That meant it had to have skinny ties, which in turn meant short rows. No prob, bob. This is what I came up with:

This could be the basic template for innumberable headband patterns. That middle band could be lace, or cables, or anything you could think of – just adjust the number of stitches in the middle band to suit your stitch pattern, and do an appropriate number of rows. It’s literally a one-row pattern, so you can make it as wide or narrow as you want, then bind off when you are happy with the size/become bored/run out of yarn.

Then I got clever. Why not make more than one band, so it can spread out over more of my hair without adding any more rows?

Or, to make the process even faster – just do a few stitches in the middle bit, and drop them all at the end.

By the end of the week, I had rather distractedly read most of one book, had three new watermelon-colored headbands, and a new excuse to not really brush my hair. What more could a girl want? Well, possibly more time on the beach.

I put this triad together into something resembling a pattern, and it’s free for your consumption on ravelry: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/three-beach-bands Make wise and virtuous use of it.

Fashion Twelve-ward

… and back to the mundane again. The mundane, but the lovely mundane. After all, we fight the good fight and run the race so that we can have a good home to come back and enjoy normal, human things, right? And, at least in Christianity, becoming more human doesn’t mean becoming less embodied. That’s my excuse for being as distractedly into clothing myself in wool as I am, and I think it’s a darn good one.

This is a project that I finished nearly a month ago now, but never got around to showing off. For Christmas, Mum got me this cool set of mini-skeins, all different textures but dyed the same, and I decided to make them into a scarf-like thing. The pattern was this: Cast on 200 or so, then with each skein, K4 rows, K 1 row wrapping three times, K3 rows. This set was labeled “DK,” so I used US8s for a relaxed fabric. I might added or removed a row here and there so I could use all of each skein that I could.

The ends needed something done to them, and I wasn’t sure how. But I felt myself slowly overwhelmed with a strange and disturbing desire… to crochet. The urge didn’t go away, so when I finished the body of the thing (on Thursday of the first week of Jan terms), I pulled out the ol’ hook and used the leftovers to make a secure little border at the end of a fairly floppy piece of work. It adds a bit of structure, I think.

In crocheting the border, I ended up chaining a few extra to jump across the gaps left by the elongated stitches. On one end, I sewed up the holes this made. But on the other, I didn’t. Because the holes, it turns out, looked remarkably like buttonholes. I ended up buying four big (expensive, but beautifully coordinating) buttons, which makes this little scarf into a shockingly versatile piece.

A note about the pictures that follow: in my mind, this was going to go down a lot differently. I was going to be wearing something hip and fashionable, including actual jewelry and makeup, and I would get a series of hip fashion shots showing all the different ways you can wear this scarf. What ended up happening is that I caught my spouse at the first chance I got, and rushed him out the door to take a few pictures as fast as possible on a cold day. As a result my hip outfit included the fleece with the singe marks on it, and my attempts to look like a suave model mostly just look disgruntled and cold.

Anyway. All that to say, despite what these photos communicate, I’m very happy with my new scarf, and it does actually make me look cool when I put effort into dressing myself.

Style #1: The basic scarf thing.

Style #2: The inappropriately long infinity scarf. You, of course, would remember which way to button it, and wouldn’t cast on quite so many stitches as I did (I think it was closer to 275), so this style actually worked.

Style #3: The less-inappropriate double-looped infinity. Can also be attached as a mobeus, and may in fact be so by accident.

Style #4: Triple-wrap, either plain, or in a slick assymetric fashion.

Style #5: (And the one I actually like to use on purpose): Fold the scarf into fourths, with the buttons facing outward in the center, then put the buttons through both layers of fabric.

Not bad, eh? I think it makes the most of the yarn, and it’s awfully fun to fuss with and think of new ways to wear it.

Coming up next – what mum did with her present. And coming soon: testimonies from my alliterative friends Jonica and Joni.