Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Mountain Coca Bag for Me

After dusting myself off from my recent gauge disaster, remember the giant sock (?), I decided to whip up a little after Christmas present for me. I have a library book checked out that’s due next week. Stay with me, I'll get to the knitting. Anyway, I’m loving this book! It combines color work folk designs from the Andes Mountains and history - two of my passions. 

So, I paged through the book and decided on the chuspa cordillera, which translates into "mountain coca bag." Chilean workers use these bags to carry coca leaves in the mountains; I’m thinking cell phone, id, and credit card. For some reason I decided on a project in which gauge is not important. Hmm….  I spent a couple of hours knitting, lightly blocked it by steaming, and trimmed it with twisted cords, which I've never made before. (Gotta love the tutorials on You Tube.) Ella Rae classic wool is the perfect yarn for this project. It knits up great and is nice and sturdy.

I decided to turn the bag into a wristlet, which I’ve wanted for a while but never seem to buy. I love the results! Now, I just need to go somewhere to use it... 


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gauge: a.k.a. a Lesson in Humility

I’ve been knitting like crazy lately and tackling projects that have both pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone and improved my skills as a knitter. All have turned out great. Like any proud parent, I post pictures of these projects on Facebook and show them to anyone who will look. All receive high praise and adulation from friends and family. Here’s just one:

So, with my puffed up chest and inflated sense of knitting self, I decided to embark on a new project: a pair of socks for a special aunt. I borrowed a pair from her this summer to keep my feet warm on an airplane ride from Florida to Michigan. How great it will be to return them with a hand knit pair. I text my uncle, who confirms her shoe size on the sly, and I’m off.

Isn’t this yarn great? It’s soft and fun, as well as machine washable. 

I pick a sock pattern I’ve knit 3 times before. I check the stitch count on the band and it matches the pattern. “Hooray! No need to check gauge,” I say to myself. So, I knit happily along, love the yarn, and can’t wait to surprise my aunt. And then, you knew this was coming right, a nagging doubt about size knocks on the door of my knitting cocoon. “The sock does seem a little big,” I think at one or two points along the way. But, then, I banish that pesky thought, reassure myself that her feet ARE 2 sizes bigger than mine, and carry on. After starting my toe decreases, I can’t stand it anymore and let the persistent doubt into my cocoon: I try on the sock.

It’s HUGE! 

I make my husband try on the sock. 

It’s still HUGE. 

I check my gauge.

Yep. Half an inch off. A sense of defeat bursts my knitting bubble, and I swear I hear the soft hissing sound that often accompanies any type of deflation. Hours of knitting down the drain. Seriously, I mean, I don’t know anyone with feet this big. I must rip! 

Lesson learned: Always check gauge! ;)

Humbly yours,

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

“Purls” on… A Stretchy Cast-on and Gum Chewing

I’m a tight caster-oner, which can cause problems when knitting top-down socks and hats - where one wants a stretchy edge. So, I hauled out my trusty reference book, Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book, expensive, I know, but worth it and started surfing. Here, I came across the Cable Cast-on, which according to the editors “forms a sturdy yet elastic edge… perfect for ribbed edges” (pg. 26). This is my new favorite cast-on for projects that need elasticity! This method can be a little tricky with “splitty” yarn, but if you persevere you will be justly rewarded with a stretchy, attractive edge. I’ll attempt to demonstrate with pictures and captions. Here we go…

On the left needle, cast-on (2) stitches in a knitted cast-on.

Push the right needle through the stitches. Wrap the yarn around the right needle and pull through, making a new stitch (reminds me of crocheting, if that helps). 

Put the new stitch on the left needle. Repeat, always inserting the right needle through the most recent 2 stitches on the left needle.

I recently cast on 72 stitches on size 2s using this method for a pair of socks I need to finish by Christmas Eve. Yes, I should be knitting rather than blogging. But, then I wouldn’t be sharing with you my new favorite cast-on. And, a bit of advice for gum-chewers. 

I was waiting in a very long line to check out yesterday at a local store. After I bought a gift on-line via my phone at another store, skimmed all the covers of the tabloids, etc., and made my  moves on Words with Friends, I had nothing left to do but observe my fellow shoppers. Two people ahead in line, I noticed a very put-together women in her late 40s-early 50s. She was dressed very smartly and looked like she could be an executive at a bank or something. I checked out her suit, purse, jewelry, manicure and was ready to give a mental nod of approval; come on girls admit we do this. Until… I noticed… she was chewing gum with her mouth open. Yikes! Like a cow chewing cud (forgive the expression, but that’s what it looked like). So, I’m thinking gum-chewers should check themselves out chewing gum in the mirror and work out an attractive way to chew, or at least a way that doesn’t conjure up images of chewing cows. I offer this bit of advice with good intentions as we all want to look our best, and I would want someone to tell me :) Purl-on.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Baby Santa Hat Pattern

Baby Santa Hat
Designed by: Christina Toppen
Classic Elite Yarns Liberty Wool
  1. skein red (MC)
  2. skein white (CC)
US size 7 
(Circulars or double points - per your preferred method of knitting in the round.)
Tapestry needle
5 sts/inch in 2x rib - in the round. Please take time to check gauge in the round. 
Note: This gauge will give you a hat that will fit up to a 17” head. Add or subtract stitches in multiples of 4 to adjust the size.
CO 80 sts in CC using a Cable-Cast-on (this will give a stretchy yet sturdy edge).
Join, being careful not to twist.
Work a K2P2 rib in the round for 13 rounds.
Change to MC and knit in stockinette stitch for 15 rounds.
DEC RND: K2tog, K39, K2tog, knit 39 (78 sts)
Knit one round in stockinette stitch.
Shaped Decreases:
  • *K9, K2tog. Repeat from * to the end of the round 
  • Knit 4 rounds
  • *K8, K2tog. Repeat from * to the end of the round 
  • Knit 4 rounds
  • *K7, K2tog. Repeat from * to the end of the round 
  • Knit 4 rounds
  • *K6, K2tog. Repeat from * to the end of the round 
  • Knit 4 rounds
  • *K5, K2tog. Repeat from * to the end of the round 
  • Knit 4 rounds
  • *K4, K2tog. Repeat from * to the end of the round 
  • Knit 4 rounds
  • *K3, K2tog. Repeat from * to the end of the round 
  • Knit 4 rounds
  • *K2, K2tog. Repeat from * to the end of the round 
  • Knit 4 rounds
  • *K1, K2tog. Repeat from * to the end of the round 
  • Knit 4 rounds
  • *K2tog. Repeat from * to the end of the round 
  • Knit 3 rounds
Break yarn leaving long tail. Thread end onto tapestry needle and pull yarn through the loops.Sink through the top, pull tight, and weave in the end.
Make a 2” - 2 ½” pom pom in CC. Attach. 
Weave in all ends.
Steam block lightly. Just enough to soften the yarn and help the decreases lay more flat.
Questions? Contact me at: 
© 2011 Christina Toppen. All rights reserved. For private, non-commercial use only.