Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fun with Slippers

Felting really is amazing. Because how else could this:

become this?

The orange pair I made for my mother-in-law. They are from Paton's Classic in the color Spice (I believe). This color is just HER. I love making handknits for her, and although I think I've done it the last four years in a row, she doesn't seem to be tired of scarves or slippers. She is the perfect person to make stuff for because she truly appreciates a handmade gift and really honors the time and thought that go into them. (I guess it helps that her mom is an amazing crocheter and maker of baskets from pine needles; like, state-blue-ribbon-for-Minnesota good.)

The brown ones ended up being for me. They were a pair I started without much forethought--just knew that there would be someone who'd need them. But then I started liking the tweedy yarn more and more, and started to feel sad that someone else might wear them...and then I thought, Merry Christmas to me! And felted them to fit my skinny high-arched feetsies.

So French Press Slippers pairs #3 and #4 have actual documentation, unlike #1 & #2. #2 look basically like #3, though: orange, but with wooden buttons chosen by my son for his afternoon caretaker. Mr. D has become quite the craft assistant and chief button consultant; he also helped me choose the aqua and orange button for my slippers--aren't they fun? The kids like the button aisle.

(Jo Ann has buttons 50% off tomorrow, and possibly through the weekend. I'm just saying.)

Next up: kids' clogs! Will the slipper madness continue?? Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bags and Slippers

This Christmas I decided to try to cut down on the paper waste that always seems to encroach. I used this pattern and a bunch of stashed red and green fabric, plus about 6 yards I bought from the sale bin at JoAnn. My idea was to make red bags and green bags so the tree would look festive & Christmasy, but not red-and-green bags that would look too Christmasy if people wanted to use them AFTER the holiday for shopping bags, which is the intent--reusability and reduction of waste.

As one of my colleagues, an Environmental Science teacher, says: There's a reason "Recycle" comes third on the list.

It went very well, I must say. By the end of the project (e.g. this morning) I was able to cut out and sew a bag in about 20 minutes. If I was assembly-lining them, I think I could bring the average down to about 15 minutes. They're not the sturdiest tote bags of all time--the seams aren't reinforced or anything, but they're great for quick gift bags and would hold some light groceries and shopping.

And, if you make them out of quilting cotton, they fold up small enough to fit in a purse or pocket. Because, I don't know about you, but I have about a hundred canvas sacks that I always forget to take with me. We take them grocery shopping, but I'm always finding myself without them when I'm running other errands, like to the fabric store or for office supplies.

Each bag is made with just half a yard of 44" fabric and very little waste. It's a smart and simple pattern, and very suitable for making with kids. If you have a serger (which I do but have never gotten to work right, grrr) you could serge all of the seams and raw edges for more durability and "finishedyness".

The other sewn gift I made was a pillowcase for my daughter. For Christmas, we had bought her a small sit-up-in-bed-and-read pillow and it was going to be hard to wrap. My first thought was to make a large-size version of the gift bags I was already making, but that seemed impractical. Then, I thought to wrap it in a pillowcase.

My son and I had made him a special pillowcase a few months ago and it was super easy, so I took some leftover fabric from some doll clothes I made last summer and some grosgrain ribbon and made her one, too. I used this pattern. It was, again, very clear and straightforward, but there was more waste than I had hoped for, mostly because the pattern paid attention to the grain of the fabric more than I cared about. If I did it again, I'd cut the large rectangle on the cross grain (full width of the fabric) unless I were using a fabric that would look bad that way.

Adventures in sewing! I don't sew as much as I knit, mostly because hauling all of the equipment out is a pain and knitting is so quiet and portable, but sewing is my first crafting love, and once I get started it's hard to stop. I can see the tote bags becoming a go-to project and keeping stacks of them instead of wrapping paper.

So that brings the craftiness total for Christmas 2009 to: 3 pairs of slippers, a bunch of gift bags, and a pillowcase. Oh, and I almost forgot, I also gifted a hat to my dad that I made a few months ago and kept all this time! (Plus I made a ridiculous reject of a hat that I will need to write about separately.)

What did you make, if anything, for the holidays?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Clogs

Just to keep the slipper love coming, I thought I'd post pics of another gift that'll be on it's way to eastern Washington tomorrow...

This is the Felted Clogs pattern by Bev Galeskas of Fiber Trends (another Washingtonian--go Bev!) Bev is a felting queen and I've seen her a bunch of times on "Knitty Gritty." Last Christmas, I got a yen to knit for everyone and this pattern seemed perfect. I made a pair for my mom (brown and red) and for my dad (blue and green), and then after Christmas, a pair for my husband (black and green).

My brother-in-law is kind of hard to shop for, but he lives in a cold climate in an older house with wood floors, so I thought he'd appreciate wool slippers. My husband loves his and swears they warm up his whole body.

If you haven't made this pattern before, I highly recommend it. Unlike the French Press felted slippers, which I talked about yesterday, these felted clogs require nearly no seaming. It's all short rows.

If you follow the directions exactly, it goes like this:

First, you knit a sole back and forth in garter stitch with short rows. It doesn't look like a sole at all, but more like a filleted fish. Then you change colors, join in the round, and make a foot using a spectacular and lengthy series of short rows. Then you change colors again and knit a cuff in reverse stockinette, binding it off to itself in a neat little hem. Last but not least, you knit ANOTHER sole, pick up stitches around the original sole, and knit them together, making a double-thickness. Knitting a contrast "bumper" is an option at this point, too. Finally, you do a bit of seaming and tacking on the soles, weave in your ends, and felt.

It's one of those knitting experiences, like the Baby Surprise jacket, or turning a heel, where you can't quite visualize the results--you just have to trust the directions, keep track of what row you're on, and wait for the big reveal at the end.

Here are my tips for felted clog success:
  1. Knit both soles at the beginning of each slipper. Leave the spare sole(s) on spare needles until needed. You'll have to slip the spare sole onto your size 13 needle at the end, but that's no big deal. I prefer doing both up front because I just find it's easier to knit two of the same thing in a row rather than getting all the way to the end of the slipper and having to knit another sole. I imagine there are a lot of half-finished clogs out there missing just their second sole...
  2. If you got really efficient, you could knit all four soles (for both slippers, two each) in a row.
  3. The pattern calls for both a 24" and a 16" size 13 needle. I've found that I need only the 24" needle; at least for the womens medium on up, the cuff never gets small enough to need the 16". That saved me quite a bit on an unnecessary 16" needle.
  4. The pattern calls for double-stranded worsted wool, like Paton's Classic or Cascade 220. Upon the advice of my LYS, I've made all mine using single-stranded Lamb's Pride Bulky. The mohair makes them a little fuzzy, but it's nice not having to double-strand, and they felt great. As far as I know, there haven't been any problems with holes.
  5. Buy two skeins of your Lamb's Pride in the sole color, and only one in the foot color. It seems counter-intuitive when you look at the finished slippers, but there's actually a lot more yarn in the sole than the foot because the soles are garter stitch and double-layered.
  6. If you gift these, it's hilarious to give them un-felted. The look on people's faces when they open the package is priceless. Both my mom and dad tried to figure out, politely, what the heck they were, and both tried to put them on as hats. ha! Then, you can felt the slippers with them there to try on as you go.
  7. The slippers are done felting when they feel snug on the bare foot. They do stretch with wear, so err on the side of snugness. If the person really wants to personalize the fit, they can wear them for a few minutes while soaking wet before setting out to dry.
The pattern also comes in a kids' version (same idea, just sized down), which I just bought. Miss E and Mr. D picked out their colors--this time I'm going with the Cascade 220, just to see how double-stranded works out for us. I've told them it'll be after Christmas just so they're not disappointed.

So this means that the only person in my family without a pair is... me!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Reverse Bandwagon

Last month, right before Thanksgiving, I saw THIS PATTERN on my friends' activity on Ravelry.

I clicked and was smitten. Bought the pattern with the last $6.99 in the paypal account (I literally got charged $0.01 on my credit card) and set it aside for a couple of days. Bought some yarn and buttons at JoAnn on Black Friday (I was hoping for flannel for PJs and baby quilts, too, but WHOA NELLIE the cutting line was insane at 6:30 AM, so I "settled" for yarn and buttons).

Last weekend I finally got the chance to make my first pair, a gift for my son's teacher, in Paton's Classic marled blue with turquoise buttons he picked out for her himself. "Ms. M loves blue," said he.

(And of course I forgot to take a photo before I gifted them.)



They turned out so cute, and then TODAY I started and finished a second pair, this time for my mother-in-law, and then I caught up with my Google Reader (only 8 million unread blog posts, give or take) and found that while I had been in my little bubble thinking I'd found this little gem of a pattern, it had been HARLOTIZED and now there are approximately a bajillion pairs on the collective needles of the knitting community and once again, just like in college when I started listening to Dave Matthews Band six months before everyone but didn't tell anyone until he was already hugely popular, or like when I had the idea for OnStar when I was about 10 but stupidly didn't patent it (of course, due respect to GM's fine work, my version included floppy disks), I am just slightly both ahead of and behind the curve.

Everyone will think I'm jumping on the bandwagon, when in fact I started up the bandwagon, then got down to go get a cup of coffee and came back to find it several blocks ahead of me.

And I know it's silly to be miffed, even facetiously miffed, because in truth it's a darling little pattern that's fast and fun to make and fun to give, so I'll stop with the pseudo-complaining now. And I'll be sure to post pictures of the next eleventy-million pairs I make. And so should you.