Monday, March 30, 2009

FO: The Mother of Invention -- DVD/CD Drive Sleeve (with free pattern)

So I have a beautiful MacBook Air that I got last June and simply adore. It's featherweight, it can slide into a manila envelope, and it's perfect for travel and for presenting at conferences. Of course, that incredible thinness and lightness comes at a price -- it lacks a built-in DVD/CD drive. Consequently I bought a featherweight USB DVD/CD drive made to go with it. But since I carry it around in a mere sleeve on a strap (a fabulous laptop sleeve made by Waterfield Designs, which makes THE best laptop cases EVER), and the drive is just a little too big for the gear pouch that clips on to the sleeve, I had to carry the drive inside the sleeve with the computer. I kept a few odd papers in the sleeve to separate them and keep them from scratching one another, but that lacks a certain chic.

So what does one do with a naked DVD/CD drive?

What a knitter does it go to the stash and whip something up. C'mon, the thing is square, so how hard can this be?

No problem! Here's the recipe:

MacBook Air DVD/CD Drive sleeve

5 DPNs US size 4 (3.5 mm)
One pair size 4 (3.5 mm) straight needles (optional)
Elann Sonata cotton yarn (or other DK yarn of your choice)

Gauge: 21 stitches over 4 inches

Cast on 60 stitches over 4 needles (15 stitches on each needle) using a cast-on of your choice. Join, being careful not to twist the stitches. Knit two rounds, purl one round, knit two more rounds, purl one round, then continue knitting in the round until the work is long enough to cover the drive (about 5 1/2 inches). Holding the work flat, do a two-needle bind-off. This is a little easier if you slip the stitches onto two straight needles, 30 stitches on each needle, and use one of the DPNs to work the bind-off. Or, if you want to really amaze your friends, graft the ends together using kitchener stitch so that the sleeve appears completely seamless.

Cord strap: About 2 1/2 inches from the top edge, pick up and knit four stitches in the middle of the sleeve. Work these 4 stitches until you have a strap about 1 1/2 inch long. Bind off and stitch to the sleeve OR graft the live stitches to the stitches on the sleeve.

Weave in ends. Slip in your drive. You're off and running.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

FO: Presto, change-o, it's a bear!

First you knit a long strip of fabric like this:

Fold it in half and sew the sides together just near the fold, pick up some stitches and knit two more strips:

Keep sewing and stuffing, add some embroidery, and voila! It's a bear!

This is the third year that a fellow at our university who does service learning has organized a collection for the Mother Bear Project, collecting hand-knitted bears, all using the same pattern, to send as comfort toys for AIDS orphans in Africa. The pattern is available for a $5 donation, and can be shared among people in a group who are all working together.

Gizmo says, "I can has bear, too? Iz nice bear."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Moe: Lots of cute premie hats to go! (with free pattern)

Lent: it's not just for giving up candy for 40 days! The Lenten season is a time for spiritual growth, which does involve sacrificing luxuries to learn discipline, and can also involve service. My knitting group made preemie hats for a service project recently and decided that since they're fun and quick to make, and there's an ongoing need, that we'd continue supplying our local hospital with hats. Since Lent was approaching, several people decided to make a pledge to make and donate hats. I figured that since the hospital needs about ten a month, I could probably turn out that many in 40 days. As it turned out I completed a nice even dozen, here posing in an egg carton. Very seasonal, n'est-ce pas?

I started out with these red ones in four sizes, using some Lion Brand Microspun sport-weight acrylic that I had left from another project. I call 'em Eeenie, Meenie, Minie, and Moe:

I started with a simple roll-brim hat pattern from Knitting on the Net and adapted it for preemie sizes. For each size you will cast on some multiple of 9 stitches. Here's how to make them:

  • Sport weight or DK weight yarn. (Ask to talk to the NICU at your local hospital about fiber. Some want NO acrylic, some want ONLY acrylic, and some will take any fiber so long as it is washable)
  • Size 4 DPNs

Between 5 and 6 stitches per inch, depending on the yarn that you use. Don't fret the gauge too much. Just make lots of hats in lots of sizes. They'll fit someone sooner or later.

Eenie (Large, about 10" circumference -- nearly full-term)
Cast on 54 stitches on three needles (18 on each needle). Join without twisting.
Knit around until piece measures about 3 to 3 1/2 inches, then begin decreases.
R1: *K4, K2tog* repeat for the entire round
R2: knit
R3: *K3, K2tog* repeat for the entire round
R4: knit
R5: *K2, K2tog* repeat for the entire round
R6: knit
R7: *K1, K2tog* repeat for the entire round
R8: knit
R9: K2tog for the entire round
You now have 9 stitches (3 on each needle).
R10: *K1, K2tog* repeat for entire round.
You should now have 6 stitches.
For a round-topped hat, cut the yarn and use a tapestry needle to run the yarn through these last stitches. Pull tight and fasten off.
For a "stem" on top, K2tog around, reducing the last 6 stitches to 3. Knit i-cord with these last three stitches to the desired length. Knit the last 3 stitches together, cut the yarn, and pull it through the last stitch. With a tapestry needle, run the yarn down the length of the i-cord, then cut.

Meenie (Medium, about 8 inches in circumference)
Cast on 45 stitches (15 on each needle). Join without twisting.
Knit around until the piece measures about 2 1/2 to 3 inches.
Begin decreases from R3 of the Eeenie pattern and continue as the Eeenie pattern directs.

Minie (Small, about 6 1/2 inches in circumference)
Cast on 36 stitches (12 on each needle). Join without twisting.
Knit around until the piece measures about 2 to 2 1/2 inches.
Begin decreases from R5 of the Eeenie pattern and continue as the Eeenie pattern directs.

Moe (Micro, about 5 inches in circumference)
Cast on 27 stitches (9 on each needle). Join without twisting.
Knit around until the piece measures about 2 inches.
Begin decreases from R7 of the Eeenie pattern and continue as the Eeenie pattern directs.

Now that you've got the basics, would you really like to knit up a load of smiles for the NICU? Get out your leftovers and see what your color combinations inspire. Check out these ideas (most of them done in Elann Sonata, an all-cotton yarn left from my Pondemonium project):

Watermelon: Two shades of green for the "rind," red for the flesh, and the "seeds" done in duplicate stitch with black yarn. This would be even cuter with a seafoam green instead of the yellow-green I had for the lighter shade, and a pinky-red.

On the left, a two-tone denim hat done in Rowan Denim. On the right, a patriotic red, white, and blue. I might try that one again in time for 4th of July, and use multiple narrow red and white stripes:

Here's a lovely cloche for some tiny diva. The leaf is Just a Leaf, a pattern from Ravelry. I made it a few rows smaller than the original pattern. The purple is Takhi cotton, another good choice for all-cotton hats since it comes in lots of brilliant colors.

Keeping the boys in mind, I made these two boyish hats, one in green and blue, the other in blue with three one-row white stripes:

And what's cuter than a bug? How about a ladybug hat? The spots are done in duplicate stitch, though they could be knit in with stranded knitting. To make the two antennae, when I had six stitches after the decreases I divided them between two needles and knit i-cord on each needle. Near the end, I increased in each stitch (by knitting in the front and the back of each stitch) then immediately reduced back to 3 stitches by knitting two together three times. After knitting all three stitches together, I cut the yarn, ran it through the last stitch, then used a needle to run the end of the yarn down through the i-cord and tugged until the slightly pointy ends turned round.

Now, what else could we have? Flowers for spring, pumpkins in the fall, oh, there are lots of ideas once you get started!

In order to avoid jogs where colors join, check out the Jogless Stripes article on TECHKnitting.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mothers, Fathers, Daughters, and Knitting

This is my museum piece, which properly should be wearing a label stating: "My First Knitting Project." That's what it is, all right, the very real project I knit, a basic V-neck raglan sweater in burgundy sport-weight lambswool, because this was the very late 70s, well past the Age of Avocado, and burgundy was trés chic. Over the years it's been badly washed and has gotten a little felted and has shrunk in length, but with some aggressive re-blocking I may get it back into wearable status.

The very, very first thing I ever knit was a lopsided pale pink rectangle in garter stitch. I was in third grade and for some reason my brothers were curious about knitting, and I, being the youngest, wanted to do what they were doing because if my brothers liked it then it must be cool. We had knitting spools, plain wooden spools with four nails in the top, that we made lengths of i-cord on (though we called it spool knitting, not i-cord). Why we were suddenly on a yarny kick I have no recollection. I only recall that at one point both my middle brother and I were struggling with some scrap yarn and needles to make simple garter stitch that our mother showed us how to make. I eventually folded mine in half and made a doll's purse out of it. The yarn must have been left over from the days when Mom did some knitting (she knit argyle socks when that was all the rage, and took a knitting class when I was in Kindergarten -- I remember her three-ring binder with swatches of different stitches stapled to the pages and carefully labeled -- but I don't remember seeing her knit anything after that). I still have a homemade circle-shaped knitting loom that my father made out of plywood, and a store-bought plastic knitting loom kit, both of which I fiddled with for a while. I was more interested in felt, beads, and embroidery, and while my mother would supply me with felt squares from the dime stores and embroidery thread left over from when she embroidered, she never bought me any additional yarn. So knitting went by the wayside for a while.

In Junior High I took a sewing class at school and learned to sew things for myself. I made many trips to the fabric store with my mother after that to pick out fabric and patterns, and whipped up quite a number of nice things for myself. My mother would get frustrated with me when I took sewing shortcuts, because her own mother and sister had been very detail-oriented, and their criticisms of her work ended up coming out of her mouth. But though sometimes she would complain that she wished she "had time to just sit and sew," she did support the idea of me making my own clothes as an economical way to increase my wardrobe.

Then when I was in high school I had a hankering to knit. I don't recall why now, but I really wanted to try my hand at knitting a sweater. My father took me down to the beautiful yarn shop that we used to have in town and helped me pick out and buy several skeins of burgundy wool. I borrowed needles from my mother and set to with a will. No one told me that I should do a scarf or a dishcloth or a hat as an easy first project. I figured that it's all knit, purl, increase, and decrease, so how hard could it be? I was good at following written directions, so I followed them, took my time, and ended up with a pretty nice sweater.

Only recently it struck me: my father took me to the yarn store and helped me buy yarn. My father encouraged me to make a sweater. Where was my mother during this project? I don't recall her showing me how to cast on or take my first stitches; rather, I had instruction books with good pictures that she'd handed on to me at some time because she hadn't knitted in years. I remember my father praising my progress, but not my mother. Why?

Over the holidays I was at my mother's house for dinner (alas, my father passed away several years ago when he rolled the tractor over) and was working on a knitting project as we sat and talked. At one point my mother talked about trying knitting again and how she had knit some baby blankets for her new husband's grand-babies, but she'd given up on it. It was uncomfortable on her wrists, and besides, she didn't like making things just to make them, she only liked to make things that had a purpose. It was an odd comment, since I was busy knitting on a vest for myself. I thought about other comments she'd made when I was knitting in her presence. Sometimes she said she'd thought about knitting something nice but always feared that she'd "mess up" and the yarn and effort would be wasted. Sometimes she said that it didn't really interest her, but in a somewhat defensive way. Often she talked about how her mother and sister had been so highly critical of her work, pointing out errors and urging her to be painstaking.

There I think was the crux of it. She as a child and young woman had been so strongly criticized by her mother and elder sister (who was sixteen years her senior) that her dominating emotion regarding creative work was fear. What if I mess up? What if I don't do it right? What if someone notices and makes a comment? What if someone criticizes me? Consequently, though she made stabs at sewing, knitting, and embroidery, she gave each one up, never satisfied with her own work because there was that nagging, paralyzing script in her head: it's not perfect. Interesting that she supported sewing (for its practicality, perhaps?) but knitting in my hands seems to arouse something defensive in her -- especially if I'm making up the pattern as I go along.

Dad, on the other hand, was a Maker. But his projects weren't sweater-sized. They were house-sized! We worked as a family to build the house we moved into when I was ten, contracting out the big jobs (like concrete work and plumbing) and doing as much as we could ourselves. Dad built the pumphouse and later a two-story shop. He had a bad case of "startitis" (which I've inherited and always drove my mother nuts), but still finished a lot of things -- grape arbor, stone-and-railroad-tie outdoor stairs, fenced-in garden, and more. And he was fearless about it. If he wanted to do a project, then by golly, he dove right in. He made a lot of mistakes, swore a lot over them, then fixed them and went on.

Interesting that Mom's fear and Dad's fearlessness came together around knitting. Mom kept that nagging fear of imperfection -- plus she rarely bought us anything special outside of holiday presents and school clothes and supplies, lest we become spoiled. Dad had no fear of starting new projects -- and enjoyed indulging his kids now and then. Something about the sweater project spoke to him and he stepped in to make certain that I had the materials I needed for my project.

So thanks, Dad.

And Mom, if you don't want to knit -- it's okay.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fresh new patterns for knitters

Knitonthenet just announced its spring issue, and it's loaded with nostalgic glamor patterns. Ooh, I'm liking Joan Crawford, though maybe with fitted sleeves instead of bell-shaped.

If you haven't seen the spring Knitty, take a look. The Shipwreck shawl is aMAZing! I'm neither a lace knitter nor a shawl-wearer and that shawl is just calling out, "Knit me! Knit me!" I'm liking the Sourwood Mountain mitts, too.

Monday, March 16, 2009

On the needles: Blu

What's better for kid-like action than a pair of blue jeans? How about a pair of knitted cotton denim blue jeans for a bitty baby boy that's on his way?

For another colleague who is expecting this spring (there really must be something in the water), I'm working on Blu, itty bitty blue jeans for itty bitty kids. They're done up in Rowan Denim, an all-cotton yarn that mellows, softens, and fades in the wash just like real blue jeans. It also shrinks in the first wash like real blue jeans, but shrinkage is figured into the pattern.

That's the right leg in the photo. I've got the left leg finished now, and they've both been through the wash and are drying. Next comes the embroidery, and maybe some knitted high-top sneakers by way of booties to match.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

FO: Pondemonium!

The li'l white ducks and li'l green frogs and li'l black water skippers and li'l red snakes are all done -- knitted, embroidered, washed, and blocked! Pondemonium, after many false starts and frogging (appropriate, I suppose!) is finally finished! The embroidery itself took three evenings by itself to finish, and of course there was the Weaving In of Ends to accomplish. Since I'd woven many in as I went along, that wasn't too bad.

I used all-cotton Elann Sonata, and knowing that the cotton wouldn't be as elastic as the Rowan Wool Cotton that the pattern called for, I decided to do a button placket in one shoulder. A few rows before finishing the right shoulder, I ran a row of purl stitches, then did six rows of stockinette, then another row of purl stitches, and bound off. I worked four 2-stitch buttonholes in the front placket.

Then I had to find some appropriate buttons. Just plain buttons, maybe in white or blue, would have been okay, but I wanted to find something with a pond theme. Jo-Ann Fabrics has a display of fancy buttons for scrapbooks and craft projects, so I searched their offerings. There were frog buttons and duckling buttons, but all were too big, and complicated enough that buttoning in a wiggly baby would have been a challenge. After some looking, I found these green plastic turtle buttons. No turtles in the pattern, but it still fits the pond theme, and a row of little green turtles marching up one shoulder looks awfuly cute.

The sweater was much admired by the knitting group this afternoon!

blogger templates | Make Money Online