It’s been another great week, and I can’t believe it went by so quickly! It’s been a busy week in my non-knitting life, but I have managed to keep an eye on some knitting-related things throughout the week. Thanks to everyone who’s been in touch over the week with comments and feedback on the blog. I’d like to especially thank Acme Comics for mentioning Knitting Daddy and last week’s post about knitting and comic books on their most recent episode of the AcmeCast podcast (tune in to about 42:47 to hear them talk about knitting, baseball, and comic books for a few minutes). Last weekend’s Comic Book City Con was a lot of fun, and I’m glad to hear that it was a success in the eyes of Acme as well.
This Week In Podcasts
In Fiber Hooligan, Benjamin hosted Kelly Lealos from Namaste Bags. As usual, it was an insightful interview, and as a result of listening to it, I added the Oh Snap mesh bags to my Amazon wish list (feel free to buy them for me, lol). They look like they’ll be great to use as project bags, and also good for packing thing — knitting and otherwise — for travel. I’m also really excited to get more information bout the Build Your Own Binder (BYOB) product that Namaste is introducing at Stitches East this year. From what Kelly described, it sounds like it will be a great solution for organizing and storing the wide variety of needles, notions, and accessories I’ve collected in my short knitting career.
A new episode of Never Not Knitting hit my iPod this week as well. Never Not Knitting releases new episodes once a month, and was one of the first knitting podcasts I discovered. One of my favorite features of Never Not Knitting is the listener stories, usually told in the voice of the listener. These stories range from funny to touching to enlightening, and are always entertaining. In addition to sharing another listener story, Alana also talked about her newly released sweater pattern: Sprig. She’s also hosting a giveaway for a sweater’s wroth of yarn from The Nature Conservancy (with three winners!). That looks like great yarn, and I hope I win. So, check out the podcast, but don’t enter the contest!
Dr. Kelly is back with another episode of Ewe University this week. I loved listening to her story of getting frustrated with not finishing some projects, and how she turned her attention to a few quick knits to help satisfy the need to finish some projects. I have definitely been there! Sometimes, it’s great to take a break from the big projects and tackle a few small projects to help feed the need for quick gratification.
This Week In Ravelry
My Secret Pal (Swap Partner? We’ll just say SP) in the Itty Bitty Knits (IBK) group received her package Monday, and by all accounts, was very happy with it. It was really fun to participate in the swap, and it was a great way to get more involved with the group. More details about the ornament I knitted are a little bit later in this post as part of the main feature.
I received a thrilling surprise on Ravelry early in the week when I was given a pattern from my wish list as a gift! One of the members of the IBK group gave me the Opal Sock Yarn Bunny and Hat Set by Susan B. Anderson as a “welcome to the group” gift. It was totally unexpected, and made me very excited. I’m hoping to knit several bunnies — one for Blueberry, of course, and a second one to donate to next year’s Poker For Preemies fundraiser to support Family Support Network of Central Carolina. This is my first experience with the “gift” feature on Ravelry, and it’s a really fun feature.
After Dr. Kelly talked about the 4 hour hat – bulky pattern in the Ewe University podcast, I just had to add it to my Ravelry queue. I considered attempting to knit a few hats while I’m on my fishing trip next week, but I decided that I’d rather spend my knitting time working on projects I already have on my needles. Maybe next year! I also moved the aforementioned Sock Yarn Bunny up to the top of my queue, to help encourage me to get it on the needles sooner rather than later.
This Week On My Needles
It’s been a very busy week in my non-knitting life, so my needles haven’t been clicking very much. Next week, I’m going to be on a surf fishing trip, and I think I’ll have a decent amount of down time. I’m hoping to make some good progress on the gift project that’s currently on my DPNs.
Now that the my ornament for the IBK swap is no longer a surprise, I’d like to spend some time talking about knitted ornaments. When I saw the thread on the IBK group about an ornament swap, a couple of thoughts came to mind. The first was: Ornaments — it’s not even Halloween yet, why am I thinking about Christmas? I quickly dismissed that thought because I recognized that the amount of time required to knit things for Christmas really does require a decent amount of advanced preparation. Even something as simple as an ornament needs to get on your needles early in the season, especially if you are going to send it as a gift to be received before Christmas, so that it can be enjoyed throughout the entire Christmas season. The next thought I had was: Wow — this sounds like it will be a lot of fun!
Before I was assigned a SP, I went ahead and got the Tiny Top-Down Pullover Sweater and Cardigan pattern and knitted up a tiny pullover out of leftover Spud & Chloë Sweater yarn I had laying about (check out my project page). This was lots and lots of fun! One of the great things about this pattern is that by knitting a tiny sweater, you end up exercising all of the skills needed to knit a person-sized sweater, but you finish much quicker. I was able to knit the ornament up in a single evening, and was happy with the results.
Once I was assigned a SP, however, my plans changed. I learned my SP had a fondness for Russian Nesting Dolls and thought it would be fun to try to make an ornament based on the Matryoshka (Russian Nesting Dolls) pattern from Susan B. Anderson’s Itty-Bitty Toys book. This pattern was not designed to be an ornament, but I thought that I could knit the tiny doll in the set, attach a loop, and create an ornament from it. Once I completed the tiny doll, I started thinking about ways to add the next sized doll, and do so in a way that it would still be able to hang without the bottom falling off. I came up with a couple of possibilities, so I went ahead and knitted the next size up, confident that I would be able to solve the problem when the time came.
From the very beginning, I made adjustments to the pattern. First, the pattern calls for worsted weight yarn. I used Quince & Co. Finch, which is not as bulky as worsted. I also used smaller needles than called for in the pattern, to match my yarn choice. Since I was making an ornament, not a doll, I wanted the end result to be a bit smaller and this seemed to be the way to do it. Once the tiny doll came off the needles, I was starting to get excited about how the whole project would turn out.
For the small doll, I switched from a blue yarn to a red yarn in order to add some variety to the project. The two parts of the small doll knitted up fairly quickly, and it was really neat to see how the tiny doll fit in the base of the small doll. The bottom of my small doll ended up being more hat-shaped than bowl-shaped, but I’m going to call that a design feature instead of an error. I’m not sure what I did to make that happen — was it using smaller yarn/needles, was it how I whip-stitched the border, was it something else? In the end, I was still happy with how it turned out, so I pressed on.
Once I had all the individual pieces together, it came time for the finishing work. Because I had miniaturized the project, the finishing work ended up being especially tiny, which made it a bit more difficult. I think I spent more time on the finishing work than I did knitting the pieces! This consisted of constructing faces for the two dolls and embroidering hair, eyes, and mouths to the faces. I had embroidery thread for cheeks, too, but adding cheeks to work that was so small would have resulted in an overly crowded face. Once all of the embroidering was complete, all that was left was to attach the faces and create a way to keep the bottom of the small doll from falling off when the ornament was hung.
To solve the problem of securing the bottom of the small doll, my first thought was to use two buttons on the bottom piece, with loops on the top piece to keep everything secure. When talking about this with my wife, she suggested that I only use one button, and add a hinge to the back. I thought that was a much better idea — the buttons were going to be somewhat bulky and possibly out-of-place, but by reducing it to a single button, I was able to maintain a simpler look to the finished project. I lucked out at the local JoAnn fabric/craft store and found some small spherical buttons that looked just ornate enough that I could pretend it was part of the Matryoshka’s outfit. I stitched the two pieces together in the back to create a hinge, added the button to the bottom piece in the front, and added a loop to the top piece in the front. In the end, it all came together nicely. To finish it off, I knitted a small length of i-cord to use as a loop and attached it to the top of the small doll. It was a really fun project (check out my project page), and I was excited to get it in the mail for my SP.
One of the things I learned from this project is how fun — and easy — it is to modify existing patterns to suit my needs. The Matryoshka pattern I started from was a toy, not an ornament. But a few simple changes and improvisations turned it into an ornament! So if you’re looking to knit some ornaments, look at the several thousand ornament patterns on Ravelry as a great starting point. But you don’t need to restrict yourself to things that are specifically designed as ornaments. Look at toy patterns and think about what you can do to modify it in ways that will make it an ornament. Let your creative juices flow!
We’re still months away from Christmas, but I’m already concerned that I’m not going to have enough time to knit all of the ornaments that I want to knit. That’s OK, I’ll do what I can, and I’ll look forward to doing more next year. What about you? What are some of the favorite ornaments you’ve knitted over the years? What are you working on this year? Leave a comment about your adventures in knitting ornaments below.
Until next week, keep on knitting for the ones you love!