Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Capelet

This is my Christmas Capelet and it raises in my mind the specter of dress style for today's couples. Do you have a mate who's idea of getting dressed up is to wear dress shoes with jeans? I do. But I've take the view that one must dress to please one's self. Steve, bless his heart, is just not happy getting dressed up. But, what he lacks in dress style he more than recommences with wit and good company!

I'm calling this my Christmas Capelet because I knit it to wear this Christmas. I wanted something special to wear on Christmas day but not one of those gaudy Christmas sweaters that one finds in the stores. It is unfortunate that Christmas has become so commercialized because the real beauty of the holiday can get lost in all the trappings. About ten years ago we spent our Christmas holiday in South America (Chile). I was struck by the absence of a jolly red Santa on every corner. Instead there were nativity scenes and decorations made from greenery and candles. I think I like it best if there is a balance. Decorations are nice but the spirit and essence of the holiday shouldn't be lost.

I remember we spent Christmas Eve in Puerto Montt, Chile and it was cold and drizzling out. Despite the weather the streets were filled with families all dressed up milling about and the air was filled with excitement and happiness. I asked our hotel if there was an event taking place. But no. Apparently it simply is the tradition in that town to dress up and walk as a family downtown Christmas Eve. I loved being there and feeling a part of their celebration and enjoying the quiet beauty of the nativity scene, the focus of the town's decorations. It felt very special.

It has always been our tradition to take a family walk on Christmas Day. Once the turkey is in the oven we all bundle up and go for a walk on the beach. It's a nice time of togetherness. Coming home we are greeted by the smell of roasting turkey and the beautifully decorated tree. Below is a picture of me and sister walking on the beach on a Christmas morning that has long since past. Yet I still return home and walk on the beach with my parents every year.

Knitting for me is a means of self expression and defining who I am and that's really why I chose to knit this capelet for Christmas.

Particulars: Antonia Shawlette/Capelet a pattern from the Family Trunk Project a collaborative effort explained here. I used Tosh Sock yarn (malachite colorway) by Madelinetosh, US 3 circular needles. My only modification was to add decorative leaf ties as I thought a caplet ought to have a tie closure. You could easily use a satin ribbon instead.

How to Knit Leaf Ties

To emphasize the "caplet" nature of this shawl I added leaf ties reminiscent of what might adorn a cloak. My leaf ties are modeled after the leaf ties on the Cropped Cardigan a free pattern published in Knitty an on-line knitting magazine. I simply adjusted the pattern to a fingering weight yarn and to create a more rounded leaf shape.

Using a fingering weight yarn and using US 2 needles:

Cast on 2 stitches. Knit a 2 stitch i-cord to desired length. My i-cords for this shawl are 15" and 16" respectively. When your i-cord is desired length, form the leaf as follows:

Using a seed stitch pattern throughout:
Row 1: K1, M1, K1 (3 stitches)
Row 2: Increase (knit into front and back) 1 stitch at the beginning and end of the row (5 stitches)
Row 3: Repeat Row 2 (7 stitches)
Row 4: work even in seed stitch
Row 5: K2, M1, K1, M1 K2 (7 stitches)
Row 6 - 9: work even in seed stitch
Row 10: Decrease 1 stitch at beginning of the row using ssk decrease. Continue decreasing (via ssk) the first stitch of each row until 1 stitch remains. Bind off last stitch. Attached your I-cord by twisting into an "S" shape and sew to shawl using a button on the back to anchor the tie as shown in the picture below. The button will help provide some stability.

However, I caution that because shawls are knit into a fine/thin fabric, the tie is largely decorative and for light wear only.

Away for Christmas

We will be away for Christmas and the week following so no Christmas tree for us this year. But still spots of holiday cheer are to be found here and there. This year I've enjoyed making yarn ornaments fashioned after pine cones inspired by Ressurection Fern who has provided a link to all of her tutorials for this and other handmade crafts here.

These yarn ornaments add a festive touch to most everything, or any outing, as Mr Puffy can attest! I simply used odds and ends from partially used skeins of yarn and added a festive ribbon from my wrapping supplies. The yarn ball pictured above is made with Noro's Silk Garden and the one Mr Puffy is wearing in made with Rowan's Kid Classic. These are basically updated pom poms which are a quick and easy yarn project that both kids and adults will enjoy making!

Mr Puffy, Steve, and I wish everyone a safe, healthy, and happy Christmas and hope that the New Year will bring good tidings to you and your family. We will be taking a brief break from all things technical here on Mr Puffy's Knitting blog for the next few weeks but shall look forward to seeing you once again in 2010!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Quick Knits and Gift Ideas!

Cowls are not a new fashion accessory of course; they have been around since the middle ages. But this year they are back in a big way and they are hot hot HOT! Even the Wall Street Journal has taken notice, opining Can the Snood Save Christmas? Snood, cowl, or infinity scarf, it's all basically a circular scarf worn about the neck and head.

They are a quick knit, but I haven't knit a cowl for years. I think it goes back to that first experience I had knitting a cowl. Imagine sprinkling itch powder all over a scarf and then wrapping it around your neck several times. The instant I put it on I knew I had a problem. Funny, though, because the yarn didn't feel itchy or scratchy while I was knitting with it. I totally understand now why someone with a martyr complex is said to wear a hair shirt.

But I'm no martyr and I wore that cowl for all of a New York minute. I had knit it in pure alpaca which is waaaay to itchy for a garment worn about the neck. Take it from me, and I'm pretty tolerant to yarn itch factor.

But cowls are once again seen everywhere. Why shouldn't I knit one too? It's quick and not a difficult knit. And yet. Any knit can have it's complications.....

My second cowl also went down in flames. I wouldn't say the yarn was too itchy. It was more that the yarn was too stiff. But enough already, for this third and final cowl I did my homework. I went into a LYS and looked at the cowls in the shop. Those LYS owners know what they are doing! This cowl is designed by Cardigans Knit Shop and is a designer knockoff knit in a soft, stretchy, non-itchy yarn that comes in great colors. Finally a cowl to love!

Particulars: Infinity scarf/cowl named for its construction. It's knit end to end and joined by grafting the live stitches together so there is no beginning or end to the knitting; hence its name infinity scarf. For my provisional cast-on I used Judy Becker's Magic Cast on demonstrated here I then threaded a piece of yarn through the live stitches until needed. It's a free pattern (I'm in the process of writing it up); 2 skeins Debbie Bliss Cashmerino DK; US 10 needles.

There are some beautiful and free on-line cowl patterns. Just be sure to chose your yarn with care! Two of my favorites are the Cable Cowl by Pickles and the Winding River Cowl by Interweave Knits (Winter 2009) [ravelry link].

Gift Ideas for Knitters:

Before I sign off, I've come across some fun gifts ideas that I want to pass along:

Signature Scarf kit:

My friend Murielle of Murielle Knitwear is finally selling kits of her very popular Signature Scarf. She is also making her Signature Scarf pattern available for free on her website Murielle knitwear/free patterns link. All of her kits are one of a kind, but will look generally like the scarfs shown below. These kits are quick to knit, fun to wear, and would make a great gift!

Magic Yarn Ball

I'm participating in a magic yarn ball swap hosted by Theresa of TDoesWool. The idea is simple. Knitters know what other knitters like in a way unfathomable to muggles/non-knitters. I think that's one reason swaps on-line between knitters are so popular. The basic idea of a magic yarn ball is to buy a nice ball of yarn and then roll it up including small items that will be revealed as the yarn is knit. Theresa has given some ideas for items to include on her Yarn Ball blog. This swap is not due until January 31, 2010 so hurry over and you still might have time to join! For pictures of yarn balls and inspiration visit the Flickr Magic Yarn Ball Group. Even if you are not participating in a swap, this would make a fun gift!

Tapestry Needle Case

A tapestry needle case is the epitome of a great gift, i.e. something you wouldn't think of buying for yourself, but are delighted to receive. Knitters use large tapestry needles for finishing work and I have several of these needles that used to rattle about in my craft box, pricking my fingertips as I poked about looking for things. Now they are attractively and safely ensconced in a beautiful needle case and I couldn't be more thrilled. This gift came from Chan of ChanKnits; she has some wonderful vendor friends who donate lovely gifts that she happily passes along on her blog! This needle case is handcrafted using the beautiful and exotic Padauk Wood by ROM Woodworking. If you are on a budget, Clover sells a similar Chibi needle case which comes with a selection of tapestry needles. This is a great stocking stuffer item!

Until next time, be well, love well, bundle up and stay safe as we are all out on the roads more over the holiday season!