Rip It, Rip It

So I started up another Brick Stitch Dishcloth yesterday, this time in Christmas colours instead of Halloween. The variegated yarn contrasted so beautifully with the solid colour in the pattern’s photos that I was inspired to use red yarn alongside red/white/green multicolour yarn.

Well, that didn’t look nearly as nice as the pattern’s photos. It looked a hot mess, really, with the red from the variegated yarn blending into the solid red and confusing the pattern. I think that the operative word for a piece like this is “contrast”, i.e. the two yarns should not contain any of the same colours, although they should be complimentary.

I know a lot of people are probably thinking right now, “Who cares? It’s just a cloth. It will be used for wiping up messes and will probably be stained five minutes after it is first used.” That’s probably true. But I still care, I can’t help it. Perhaps I am too much of a perfectionist when it comes to knitting. I am the kind of knitter who will frog way back to a mistake even if it’s imperceptible to anyone but me — even if it’s “just” a cloth I’m knitting. (One of my absolute favourite bloggers, the Yarn Harlot, is this way, so I do not feel quite so alone.) I figure it could have been much worse, since I decided that I hated the colours/patterns together fairly early on in the project. Ah, well. Lesson learned.

Link’s Tunic

My eldest daughter’s birthday is coming up, so I wanted to make her something extra-special as a gift. When we went to ComicCon this year, Thing 1 kept spotting foam replicas of Link’s Master Sword (from The Legend of Zelda series) out on the sales floor, and she asked me if she could have one every time she found one. My response was that it was too expensive; I had given the girls a budget of $20 each to buy something, and the swords usually came in between $30 and $35. Instead she came away from the con with a chain necklace with a pendant shaped like a Golden Snitch, which also lit up from inside with a tiny LED, and she seemed quite satisfied.

However, I had two days at the con without the kids along, and in my browsing I managed to find a competitively-priced Master Sword, along with a cheap plastic Hylian Shield. I stashed the sword and shield away for a few months to save them for her birthday. But I also figured that I could take the gift up a notch and make her a play costume to go along with the pre-made items.


McCall’s M6224

To me, a play costume is one that I don’t spend a huge amount of time or money on because there’s a good chance it won’t last all that long, since my kids are allowed to wear play costumes whenever they want and to do whatever they want in them. This is why most of their play costumes are second-hand finds, hand-me-downs, or bought on the 90%-off sales after Halloween. To that end, I used McCall’s pattern M6224, which I already had in my stash from ages ago. (Although I didn’t use this specific pattern to make the girls’ ComicCon costumes this year, I should note that one-piece pajama patterns are great to adapt into costumes.)


Cutting the pattern.

This time I didn’t use the one-piece pajamas and instead went for option C, which is a short-sleeved pajama top reminiscent of the scrubs one would wear for working in a hospital. I lengthened the top a bit to make it more of a tunic than a shirt, which will eventually be belted into place. I used fabric from my stash as well, which was the remnants of a dark green sheet that I’d used parts of for some craft or other years ago.

As the pattern envelope promised, the pattern was really easy to make. I think it only took me about two hours from unpacking the pattern to ironing the final product. Now, it looks a little big to me, but pajamas and tunics both are meant to fit loosely, and anyway it will be belted in. If worst comes to worst, I can always take it in. Strangely, my biggest worry is that the neck hole may not be large enough; the fabric has absolutely no stretch whatsoever, and Thing 2 has a massive noggin, just like both of her parents.

Die-hard Zelda fans probably are looking at the tunic and thinking, “Isn’t that supposed to have lacing, and a collar?” Yes, I suppose it is, if I was going for true accuracy. I kind of went for a look between adult Link in Ocarina of Time (what with the length of the sleeves, not to mention the sword and shield) and Four Swords Link (with the V-neck tunic). As much as I love 100% accurate costumes, I didn’t think it was necessary to play dress-up at home. Also, generally the more accurate the costume, the more time and money it takes, neither of which I wanted to spend on something that would probably get food and dirt smeared all over it.

The next step is to get a belt and a long-sleeved shirt to go underneath, as well as to make Link’s cap. Hopefully I’ll get it all done in time!

Gifts of Food

I love to give food as gifts. I figure that everyone has to eat. Even those people it’s really hard to buy/make gifts for, those people who seem to have everything they need or want (or have expensive tastes way out of my budget), food is something that they constantly need to purchase. It is, after all, a consumable.

So I give food as gifts for birthdays, Christmas, and other special occasions. I try to keep the recipients’ tastes and food sensitivities/allergies in mind, of course, although sometimes I know I don’t quite get it right (but that can happen with any kind of gift, really). I always label all of my homemade food with every ingredient I’ve used, just in case I’ve missed or forgotten something. I like giving hard-to-find items that may require a trip to a specialty store, or foods sold as part of fundraisers. When it comes to home cooking, casseroles and baked goods are traditional. Additionally, I especially like giving home-canned goods, because I can do large batches when the food is in season and dole it out over the rest of the year. Canned goods are especially good when I don’t know when the recipient will want to actually eat the food, since shelf-stable canned goods last a year or more. There’s always a lot of food involved in holidays anyway, so I can’t always assume that a gift will be consumed immediately; to this end, foods that freeze well are also a great option.


A recent gift of food: Mikado milk chocolate biscuit sticks, Maple and Oatmeal Loaf (Bread Machine: How to Prepare and Bake the Perfect Loaf (Jennie Shapter, 2002), page 95), and Girl Guide cookies (chocolate/vanilla mix). Not packaged very prettily, I know, but it had to survive a ride on the back of my bike.

I also like to give food to people I care about who are going through a rough time. A new baby in the home (a joyous occasion, but a time-consuming and stressful time as well), a death of a loved one, illness, marital troubles… In this case it’s less of a matter of celebration, and more a matter of trying to help out. When you’re in the middle of personal difficulties, the last thing on your mind is eating properly. You have neither time nor inclination to cook, so you rely on whatever is cheapest and easiest, which isn’t sustainable in the long run. I want to help out, but in so many cases there’s not much I can really do to fix the problem. I feel helpless, and I hate to see someone I care about hurting, so I fall back on making food — something I know I can help with. I want to show that I care, but I don’t want to intrude, and popping by to drop off a casserole or a loaf of bread only takes a few minutes.

Where did this mindset come from? Is it regional? Familial? Personal? I’m not sure. I’m from Maritime stock, and I’m told this is very common on the East Coast (also the Southern USA, but I don’t have any ties there). I grew up around potluck gatherings of every kind, that’s for sure. I’m pretty sure my paternal grandmother was of the traditional “bring food around” mindset; possibly it’s part of the whole “hostess gift” tradition? Whatever the reason, what I’m trying to do with a gift of food is show that I care, and that I want to make your life easier, if only for one meal. And hey, if I end up giving you a dish that you absolutely despise, I was trying, okay?

Janeway / Sisko Baby Sweater Pattern

As this week is the lead-up to ComicCon, I thought it appropriate that I re-post my pattern from my old blog for a Star-Trek-inspired baby sweater. Back in June of 2013, friends of mine were expecting their first child at any time, so I wanted to knit them an appropriately-geeky baby gift. The couple was particularly fond of Star Trek, specifically The Next Generation (TNG) and Deep Space Nine (DS9). I knew what I wanted to knit, but I couldn’t find an appropriate pattern online, so I had to come up with one myself. We didn’t know if the baby would be a boy or a girl, so I thought that a sweater based on a uniform would be most appropriate. Most notably, I used photos of Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway and Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko as references.


Sweater modeled by Thing 2, who was 18 months old at the time, and who comfortably wore a size 2. The sweater is a bit too short in the arms and body, as well as being snug. I would say it’s actually about a 12-18 month size, but as you can see, it does have some stretch.

I used Fringe Association’s tutorial for how to improvise a top-down sweater — which is full of invaluable information — as a basis for my pattern. I really needed the help, especially since at the time I’d only ever knit two other baby sweaters, and that was years prior. I had some difficulties with getting the sizing right, to start. The first two tries were disasters, the first yielding a neck that wouldn’t fit a preemie, and the second one that was too big for my four-and-a-half-year-old. Try three gave me the size I wanted: 12-18 months, with a nice stretchy neck and short collar to accommodate a baby’s big head and short neck.

Without further ado, here’s the pattern for a 12-18 month size for the sweater:

Janeway / Sisko Baby Sweater
Size 12-18 months

Materials
– 25g (half a 50g/125m (1.76oz/137yds) ball) of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in colour 340034 (cherry)
– 140g (just under three 50g/125m (1.76oz/137yds) balls) of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in colour 340300 (black)
– one set of 3.25mm (US 3, UK 10) circular knitting needles in a length comfortable for the magic loop method (I recommend 75cm/31.5″ or longer)
– 10 stitch markers

Gauge
– 29 stitches and 44 rows = 10cm x 10cm (4″ x 4″) worked in stockinette stitch

Instructions

Neck:

– Using the cherry yarn and the stretchiest cast on you know, cast on 80 stitches. Tillybuddy’s Very Stretchy Cast-On for Double and Single Ribbing is the best cast-on I’ve found for this.

– Divide the stitches so that there are 40 stitches on each needle.

– Being careful not to twist, join for working in the round.

– Work in K2, P2 ribbing for 2.5cm (1″).

Yoke:

– On each needle, place stitch markers as follows, with “|” representing a stitch marker, and the numbers enumerating the stitches:

4 | 2 | 28 | 2 | 4

– Additionally, add a different coloured stitch marker at the end of each row.

– Round 1: Knit until last stitch before first marker, KFB, knit until first stitch after second marker, KFB, knit until last stitch before third marker, KFB, knit until first stitch after fourth marker, KFB, knit to end of needle. Repeat for second needle.

– Round 2: Knit. This pattern will increase the number of stitches on each needle by four every two rounds.

– Repeat Round 1 and Round 2 until the sweater measures 9cm (3.5″) from the very start of the neck. Switch the yarn to black yarn in the middle of the back of the next Round 2.

– Continue repeating Round 1 and Round 2 until the stitches on each needle are divided as:

21 | 2 | 62 | 2 | 21

Separate the Body and Sleeves:

– Knit until you reach the first marker, remove the marker, and then knit one more stitch. Place a marker. Remove the next marker.

– Knit until you reach the next marker, remove the marker, and then knit one more stitch.

– Place the next 44 stitches on waste yarn, removing the markers as you go. (These will be for one sleeve.)

– Cast on 4 stitches, place a marker, cast on another 4 stitches.

– Knit until you reach the next stitch marker. Remove the marker, the knit one more stitch.

– Place the next 44 stitches on waste yarn, removing the markers as you go. (These will be for the other sleeve.)

– Cast on 4 stitches, place a marker, cast on another 4 stitches.

– Your stitch count should be as follows: 44 stitches on each piece of waste yarn for the sleeves, and 72 stitches on each side of what will now be the body.

Body:

– Knit until the piece measures 27cm (10.5″) from the very top of the neck.

– Work in K2, P2 rib for an additional 2.5cm (1″).

– Cast off loosely, but not too loosely. I like Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off, but to keep the rib from flaring I only used it on the purl stitches, and I did a straight cast off on the knit stitches.

Sleeves:

– *Pick up the 44 stitches that were set aside for one sleeve on waste yarn, then divide them in half, putting half on each needle. Put a stitch marker between the halves.

– Pick up and knit 8 stitches in the armpit of the sleeve (where you cast on the extra 8 stitches for the body earlier).

– Place a marker halfway. This should yield you 52 stitches total (26 on each needle) on the sleeve.

– Knit the sleeve in the round until it reaches 14cm (5.5″) measured from the armpit.

– At the start and end of each needle, K2tog for one round. You should now have 48 stitches total (24 on each needle).

– Work in K2, P2 ribbing for 2.5cm (1″).

– Bind off in the same fashion as you bound off the body.**

– Repeat from * to ** for the second sleeve.

Finishing:

– Sew in ends.

– Give the whole sweater a hand wash and a good wet blocking.

Spring Edition Rice Krispies Squares

My family has come down with the dreaded annual spring cold. All four of us stayed home yesterday with fevers, sore throats, headaches, and stuffy, runny noses. So I have more-or-less been subsisting on:

Smoothies. Specifically, banana-strawberry smoothies. I know serving rustic drinks in mason jars is trendy at the moment, but that’s not why I do it: this kind of lid is also infinitely practical. We’ve suspended the “no drinks outside of the kitchen” rule while everybody is sick, since I’m happy when I can get any calories into the kids at all. I can give drink containers like these to them without worrying as much that they’ll spill sticky beverages everywhere. As a bonus, I bought the lids on clearance back when Target was going out of business in Canada, so they were quite cheap. I always have jars around anyway, since I do a fair amount of canning come the end of summer. Win/win, really.


Spring Edition green and blue Rice Krispies

So yes, about the Kellogg’s Rice Krispies squares. Tomorrow is the last day before Easter weekend, and my kids wanted to bring treats in for their classes. For Thing 2, that means cake pops to eat and recycled crayons to bring home. Thing 1 has some spring-themed erasers and pencils to give to her class, but we didn’t have enough cake pops to share. Well, I honestly didn’t feel like doing anything too complicated last night, so Rice Krispies squares it was.

I had purchased the Spring Edition green and blue Rice Krispies cereal a few weeks ago with the intention of making egg-shaped treats like I’ve seen in a number of tutorial videos. It would be fun to do with the kids! If, of course, the kids hadn’t gotten sick. So instead I waited for the munchkins to go to bed, and then made the microwave version of the recipe clipped from the inside of a Rice Krispies box. I was a little worried that they wouldn’t turn out, since I have in the past burned the marshmallows (when using the stove-top variation) and somehow made rock-hard squares that had to be binned because you could potentially chip a tooth on them. I’m happy to report that this time they turned out fine. Good thing, too, because I do not have the energy for another desperate late-night grocery run this week.

I just hope that Thing 1 and Thing 2 are well enough to go into school. I am well-prepared, so that almost guarantees that they’ll need to stay home.

Ribbed For Her Pleasure Sock Pattern

As with my Minecraft Creeper Blanket Pattern, I wrote this pattern years ago — July of 2007, to be precise. It is actually the first knitting pattern I ever wrote. When I took down my old blog, the patterns went with it, and since then I have had request to re-publish some of my old work.

My Ribbed For Her Pleasure Sock Pattern is a very simple sock that, due to its repetitive nature, is great for working on in front of the TV, while on the bus, or while watching small children. It works well with most sock-weight yarns and showcases self-striping yarns beautifully. This is the updated version from 2011, when I fixed an error in the heel.

Ribbed For Her Pleasure Socks
Adult Women’s Size

Materials
– Two 50g (1.764oz) 152m (166yrd) balls of sock yarn, size 1 super fine
– One set of four size US 3 (3.25mm, UK 10) double point needles

Gauge
– Sock Yarn: 28 stitches and 36 rows = 4″ x 4″ (10cm x10cm) square on US 3 (3.25mm, UK 10) needles

Instructions
– Loosely cast on 60 sts. Divide into 20 sts on 3 needles. Join and work in (K2, P2) ribbing for 1.5″ (3.81cm).

– Work in (P2, K2) for an additional 3.5″ (more or less if taller or shorter socks are desired; make sure you have additional wool if you want taller socks).

Arrange heel sts:

– Slip 6 sts from end of 1st needle onto beginning of 2nd needle, and slip 6 sts from beginning of 3rd needle onto end of 2nd needle. This should give you 14 sts on the 1st needle, 32 sts on the 2nd needle, and 14 sts on the 3rd needle.

– Divide the 32 sts on the 2nd needle onto two needles of 16 sts each and leave for the instep.

– (P2, K2) the 14sts off the first needle onto the 3rd needle. Working on these 28 sts proceed as follows:

– Next row: (WS) K1. P12. P2tog. P12. K1. (27 sts on needle)

Make heel:

– 1st row: (RS) K1. Slip 1. Repeat across row ending row with K1.
– 2nd row: K1. Purl to last stitch. K1.
– Repeat these two rows for 2 inches, ending with 1st row.

Shape heel:

– 1st row: (WS) Slip 1. P14. P2tog. P1. Turn.
– 2nd row: (RS) Slip 1. K5. SL1. K1. PSSO. K1. Turn.
– 3rd row: Slip 1. P6. P2tog. P1. Turn.
– 4th row: Slip 1. K7. SL1. K1. PSSO. K1. Turn.
– 5th row: Slip 1. P8. P2tog. P1. Turn.
– 6th row: Slip 1. K9. SL1. K1. PSSO. K1. Turn.
– 7th row: Slip 1. P10. P2tog. P1. Turn.
– 8th row: Slip 1. K11. SL1. K1. PSSO. K1. Turn.
– 9th row: Slip 1. P12. P2tog. P1. Turn.
– 10th row: Slip 1. K13. SL1. K1. PSSO. K1. Turn.
– 11th row: Slip 1. P14. P2tog. Turn.
– 12th row: Knit. (16 stitches remaining in heel)

Make instep:

– Slip 32 sts for instep onto one needle.

– 1st needle: With RS of work facing and using the heel needle, pick up 13sts. Knit 11 of these sts, then purl 2 of these sts.
– 2nd needle: Slip the two purled stitches from the end of the 1st needle to the beginning of the 2nd needle. (K2, P2) the rest of the way across instep sts.
– 3rd needle: Pick up and knit 13 sts along other side of heel.

– Sts are now divided as: 27-34-13

– Knit 7 sts from beginning of first needle onto end of 3rd needle.

– Sts are now divided as: 20-34-20

– 1st round:
– 1st needle: Knit to last 3 sts. K2 tog. K1.
– 2nd needle: (P2, K2) to the end of needle, ending with P2.
– 3rd needle: K1. Slip 1. K1. psso. Knit to end.

– 2nd round:
– 1st needle: Knit.
– 2nd needle: (P2, K2) to the end of needle, ending with P2.
– 3rd needle: Knit.

– Repeat these two rounds to 13sts on 1st needle, 34 sts on 2nd needle, and 13 sts on 3rd needle (60 sts total).

– Continue knitting as in 2nd round until foot, from picked up sts at heel, measures 5″ (12.7cm). (Alternately, continue knitting until the needles sit at the first knuckle of the big toe when this sock is tried on the foot on which it will be worn.)

Shape toe:

– Slip 2 sts from start of 2nd needle onto end of 1st needle, and slip 2 sts from end of of 2nd needle onto start of 3rd needle. This should give you 15 sts on the 1st needle, 30 sts on the 2nd needle, and 15 sts on the 3rd needle.

– 1st round:
– 1st needle: Knit to last 3 sts. K2tog. K1.
– 2nd needle: K1. Slip 1. K1. psso. Knit to last 3 sts. K2tog. K1.
– 3rd needle: K1. Slip 1. K1. psso. Knit to end.

– 2nd round: Knit.

– Repeat these two rounds until 28 sts remain (divided 7-14-7). Break yarn and graft 2 sets of 14 sts.

Recycled Crayons Tutorial

Back in Girl Guides, we recycled our crayons by melting them in the microwave or in a double boiler, then pouring the different colours in layers into muffin tins (waiting for the wax to cool a bit between layers so they didn’t mix). I wanted to do something a little simpler than that with my kids yesterday — since they are younger than I was when first did this craft, I wanted a process that involved less handling of molten wax. However, this is still an activity that is done with kids, as opposed to setting them up and letting them go.

Recycled Crayons

Supplies Needed:
– old crayons
– molded cookie pans OR silicon molds rated for use in an oven OR muffin tins
– flat cookie pans
– utility knife
– large, heavy knife OR clear zipper bag and hammer
– cutting board

1. Sort through the kids’ crayons and separate out the old, broken ones, along with the ones that just don’t colour well.

2. Remove the paper wrappers from the crayons. The labels can be peeled off with your fingernails. However, the quickest way is to run the blade of a utility knife lightly down the paper to slit it, then peel it off. When I was doing it with my kids, I would cut the paper, and they would take it off.

3. Sort the crayons by colour.

4. Protect the work surface with a cutting board, then use the large knife to chop up the crayons into chunks that are approximately 1cm (0.4″) long. Sharp knives should be handled by an adult. Alternately, put each colour of crayon into a clear zipper bag, seal the bag, and smash the crayons into large chunks with a hammer. This may damage the surface underneath and will be noisy, so I suggest working on a concrete surface with a cutting board over top, and using ear protection.

5. Fill the molded cookie pans or silicon molds or muffin tins with the chunks of crayon. The molds should be almost overflowing, as the air pockets between crayon chunks will be filled as they melt. To create colour-coordinated crayons, fill each compartment with different shades of the same colour. To create more contrast, add chunks of coordinating colours. Be careful not to mix too many colours, though, as the colours will mix and they may turn an unlovely brown.

6. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C) (the oven temperature needs to be low so that the wax doesn’t catch fire). Put the crayon-filled molds on top of the flat cookie pans for support; this is especially important if using silicone molds, which are flexible. Anything to do with the oven should be done by an adult.

7. Bake until crayon chunks are thoroughly melted, 15 to 30 minutes, checking every 5 minutes after first 15 minutes is up to see if there are still any lumps. Remove trays carefully from oven, being careful not to spill the wax.

8. Cool the recycled crayons thoroughly before removing them from the molds. To make removing them easier, place them in the freezer (or anywhere outside in winter in Canada, so long as it’s protected from precipitation) until thoroughly chilled. Wax shrinks when it gets cold, so it will pull away from the sides of the mold and slide out more easily.

When I made these candles, I used three different kinds of molds:

– metal, nonstick Wilton PEEPS Bunny Shaped Cookie Pans ($3.00 each at the dollar store), which released easily
– a silicone Wilton PEEPS Chicks and Bunnies Treat Mold ($4.00 each at the dollar store), which released with a little more difficulty, but cleanly
– a silicone flower-shaped IKEA PLASTIS Ice Cube Tray ($1.99 at IKEA), which stuck to the wax, obscured detail, and were very difficult to remove

All in all, I much preferred the metal pans to the silicone versions.

We packaged these crayons up into little spring-themed bags and put them aside until the week before Easter to give out at school. Of course, we had to leave a few out for the kids to colour with right away, too.