Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Halloween 101

BOO! Tired of the same old Halloween decorations? Looking for something fun and different? Time to roll back the clock to a Very Vintage Halloween.

A few weeks back I found the Vintage Halloween Swap being hosted by Heidi at Foxgloves, Fabric and Folly. This was not a knitting swap but a craft swap. I was intrigued. I wanted to play too. My small problem of not being "crafty" was allied by the rules allowing the purchase of your swap gift.

Voila~ I'm in. I just have to buy the main gift and then have fun (i.e. no pressure) knitting something Halloween oriented and I knew just what I was going to make. Halloween fingerless mitts. Was that not a cool idea? I could see them in my mind's eye. They would be fun, practical, and fit virtually anyone. They would be styled similar to this Mac and Me pattern only using orange and black yarn and adding a few more stripes. I loved the idea which is a good sign for choosing a gift.

But then Murphy's law kicked in. What are the odds? I was introduced to my swap partner (who will be revealed on October 8th) who promptly advised that she's allergic to wool and all animal fibers. Isn't that special. I guess the Halloween fingerless mitts are out? This wrinkle completely threw me because, as I mentioned, I'm not "crafty." So while I was comfortable with making the fingerless mitts, I was not at all comfortable sua sponte coming up with another idea which did not somehow involve wool or animal fibers.

I know it's not on the same level as world hunger but, after some anguish, I did the only rational thing and that was to take my problem to my knitting group. After all a problem shared is a problem halved. And they came through with a pretty cool suggestion (to my mind) and that was to make a cotton Decorative Duplicate Stitch Dishcloth. And here it is.....

While making this dishcloth it occurred to me that this might make a nice hostess gifts or keep a teenager occupied on a rainy afternoon. Hence, I have written out the very simple instructions.

Decorative Duplicate Stitch Dishcloth


1 skein heavy worsted cotton (I used Kollage Hope Chunky - color Eclipse);
Small bits of different colored yarn for decorative duplicate stitch (I used Noro - Silk Garden color No. 84);
small piece of chalk or other soluble marker
1 pair of US 8 needles
1 tapestry needle
1 crochet hook (optional)


1. Cast on 35 stitches (using long tail method)

2. Knit 5 rows

3. Next row: K3, purl 29, K3

4. Next row: knit all stitches

5. Alternate steps 3 and 4 until desired length (I knit a total of 33 rows)

6. Knit 4 rows (to match cast-on edge)

7. Bind off in knit stitch. If you wish to add the decorative loop stop on the middle stitch and using crochet hook make a chain to desired length and reattach final loop to middle stitch and continue binding off as usual.

8. Block gently to make a smooth surface on which to apply decorative duplicate stitch.

9. Create a stencil using the blocked dishcloth as a guide for dimensions. Simply draw the shape you want and then cut it out. I say simply draw the shape. In point of fact it was Steve who drew the cat because I can't draw for toffee. In the picture below, those are his hands cutting out the stencil. As I mentioned above, a problem shared is a problem halved.

10. Once you have positioned your stencil, using chalk outline the image. Keep in mind that with duplicate stitch you will not be able to make fine embroidery stitches - but it will help to have even a rough guide for your image.

10. Decorative duplicate stitch embroidery is explained here on Lion Brand Yarn's website. I think this would also look cute with a red background and a green Christmas tree in the duplicate stitch. Just saying.

Despite the little wrinkle with what to make, I really did have fun making my swap partner's package. Halloween is a whimsical holiday and a nice opportunity to decorate your home and get into the spirit of the upcoming holidays ~ no matter what your age!

You will have to tune in on October 8th to see what my swap partner sent and the rest of the gift I sent to her!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ode to Fall

Fall begins and I enjoy the cooler days

I love the swirling leaves that
decorate the sky

Inside I sip apple cider and cheer on the Fighting
Irish of Notre Dame

A pumpkin sits on my doorstep I wonder what
ghosts and goblins it will attract

A harvest feast of bounty
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect

Why must the magic of Fall ever pass

By Mr Puffy

I wish you could have seen my mother's face when I brought home these skeins of yarn. I was so excited at having found yarn positively ablaze with Fall color - how lucky was I! It was with barely repressed glee that I spilled the yarn out onto the dinning room table. I waited for the exclamations of oohs and awes. They were not forthcoming. Perhaps she thought the yarn was too bright?

I have found it somewhat difficult to wear these socks. They really don't match anything in my wardrobe. This is a good point to keep in mind when selecting yarns. Those skeins that are beautiful twinkling on the shelves aren't always the easiest to wear. Kinda like these socks.

But they look smashing to my eye and are wonderful as house socks! I wear them plopped on the couch with great enjoyment.

Specs: I do not recall which basic sock pattern I used. But if I was going to knit a pair of basic socks I would turn to the iconic Stephanie Pearl-McPhee aka: Yarn Harlot and her free basic sock pattern (this pattern has gotten rave reviews on Ravelry); 2 Skeins Koigu hand painted merino wool; US 1 needles.

And the Award goes to.....

An award for Mr Puffy's Knitting Blog? Really? Look what Hilary at The Yarniad gave Puff and me! It's a Blue Ribbon Award! Thank you very much Hilary :))))

The rules of the award are:

1) Post the award on your blog;
2) Add a link to the person who gave you the award;
3) Nominate at least 4 other bloggers and add their links; and
4) Leave a comment at the recipients’ blogs so they can pass it on.

My nominees are, in no particular order...

Monika at Smoking Hot Needles

Amanda at Fancie Pants

Elin at Byelin

Jillian at Snitty


Anna at Flying Needles

As is my practice, I like to mix up the bloggers I name for these awards so that readers have a chance to meet a variety of the talented knitters in blogland. In practice I actually only read relatively few blogs on a regular basis so please know that if I'm reading your blog - it's because I love it!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Something Old and Something New

It's my BIRTHDAY! Wait a minute. No it's not. It's just feels like my birthday. At the risk of embarrassing my friend Theresa at TDoesWool look what arrived in the mail! I won Theresa's birthday blog contest and this is my present from her. She included beautiful Noro yarn, a Longaberger Basket, a handcrafted key chain from Iron Oak Forge, a bouquet of dried flowers, matching buttons, sea shells, wool wash, tea, and a lovely card. To say I was floored when I opened the package is an understatement! Can we say WOW together!

May I just say that Knitters (please note the capital K) are the coolest most generous people in the whole world and Theresa is a perfect example of this. All of the little extras she included in her gift expresses her giving nature. If you are not familiar with her blog then pop on over and say hi ho to this very special lady. I have been a huge fan of hers ever since she began blogging and just one visit and you will be too!

I'm just thinking aloud. Maybe the Noro Blossom yarn (bulky weight yarn - 3 skeins) should be a Brulee Scarf? A Cloud Bolero? A Mobius? All of these options are free patterns that I think would work well with this artistic and beautiful yarn. I would love to hear your suggestions!

Now for Something Old.....

It's hard to think about old projects when I have such new and tempting yarn in front of me! Nevertheless old projects have been on my mind lately because I have been working on my Cora Shawl again. No groaning out there. It's been a year since we've look at this project and I should think you would be happy to know I'm no quitter.

The mystique of The Cora Shawl and part of it's draw for me is that it is knit with Shetland wool. I love the history and art that is associated with Shetland and Fair Isle and someday I will tackle a Fair Isle project. If you are interested, there are a number of books that discuss Fair Isle and Shetland. I happen to have The Art of Fair Isle Knitting, History, Technique, color & Patterns by Ann Feitelson. I like the personal stories that Ms. Feitelson shares in this book and of course the patterns are all beautiful.

For now I'm content to knit with the Shetland wool and think about the lives of those who made a living from the raising of sheep in this cold desolate region and the hearty crofters who spent their lives there.

I'm currently up to 812 stitches per round so it's pretty slow going. It will be over a 1,000 stitches before I start the edging. Actually, this might be a good time to make a memory - because seeing this shawl just might take you back a few years - as I'm unlikely to finish it anytime in the near future. It's becoming a comfort blanket for me, of sorts.

Lastly I would like to share a book I just finished reading, Raven Black, by Ann Cleeves. It's a thriller set - you guessed it - in Shetland. While the plot is certainly not centered on knitting, you will enjoy the references and bits about knitting that form the backdrop and color of the story. It's not literature but it did win the Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award and I found it a very enjoyable read. Mr Puffy and I have agreed upon a total of 4 out of 5 stars!

Edit Update:

I was honored with a comment from the Authoress herself, Ann Cleeves, and since it was addressed to all of us Knitters I wanted to post it on the blog itself where we can all read it:

Hi to all you knitters.

I was delighted to see a copy of RAVEN BLACK on Mr Puffy's blog and to find out that there's so much interest in Fair Isle out there. I spent 2 years on the Isle when I left university and have been visiting friends in Shetland ever since - that's where the material for the mystery novels come from. WHITE NIGHTS, the second book in the quartet is published in the US on Monday, and though there isn't a lot about knitting there, there's quite a bit about sheep. When I was on Fair Isle I learned to knit a bit, but was much better at hand clipping sheep than I was with the needles...The shawl sounds a labour of love.

Did you know that Shetland women knitted their own wedding veils and tradition had it that the work was so fine that it could be pulled through a wedding ring? If you make it to Shetland you must visit the new museum in Lerwick which has fantastic examples of the work.I don't know where you all live, but I'm doing a book tour of the east coast from September 25th.

I'll be showing a DVD of the islands, talking about the books and even handing out Shetland homebake recipes. Check out the events page of my website for details - http://www.anncleeves.com/. It would be lovely to meet you.Thanks again for the mention of the book!

Mr Puffy is hoping those recipes will come with American baking instructions!!!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hats and Small Dogs

I went into Anthropologie clothing store this past weekend thinking I'd snoop around for a design to inspire my knitting just like the talented Hilary at The Yarniad does (ya, right) only to find the cutest sweater jacket ever. Which I immediately bought.

In my defense to knit this sweater jacket would require US 0 needles (for the non-knitter that's a very tiny needle) and it might just possibly have taken me the rest of my life to complete. It was an easy call. Personally, I don't find instant gratification over-rated in the least. Plus I think it suits my newly completed flapper style hat - yeah!

As a self proclaimed "yarn sampler" (i.e. one who enjoys experimenting with different yarns) I like nothing more than to experience the various yarns available through independent vendors. I find it fascinating how yarn can take on so many different characteristics depending on how it is processed and type of fleece used. I like everything from the highly processed to the very rustic yarns.

The Lily Chapeau hat is a Morehouse Original design using their popular 3 ply merino which is what I would call a very rustic yarn and, I imagine, almost like handling an actual fleece (roving). I'm not sure why it's called a 3 ply as it sure looked like a single ply to me. There is little bits of vegetable matter included which I happen to like (in small doses). Opinion: A ruggedly soft yarn that I'll definately use again!

I know there is occasional grumblings out there that I don't knit more for children. Occasionally there's grumblings around here that I don't knit more for for small dogs. I know. I know. But, if you knit for children you won't be disappointed if you pop over to Denise at The Knitting Den (link is to her latest cute hat) or Tiennie at Tienne Knits (link is to one of her many children hats). Both of these knitters knit the cutest hats for children!

Specifications: Lily Chapeau design by in-house designer Evi Westmore. 2 skeins Morehouse Merino 3-Strand in contrasting colors (worsted weight, 140 yards per color). US 6 needles (circular and double pointed). Purchased as a kit directly from Morehouse Farm. The few pattern modifications I made - including how I dealt with the annoying jogging caused by making color changes when knitting in the round - are on my Ravelry page <link here.

Speaking of small dogs......
Sigh. I don't ask a lot. I only asked that Mr Puffy open and sort the mail while I was out. To then come back and find it just as I left it. Well. Such a disappointment.

And to think I had been considering increasing his allowance.