I Brioched and I Loved It

Photo of two-color brioche knitting

I made my dad a hat for his birthday.  He is not into bright colors and energetic motifs.  I could have knit him a very plain watch cap, but I settled on an idea to spice it up, for my own sanity (?).  What might appear to the untrained eye, a very simple hat, is, in fact, two color brioche in the round.  Wheeeeee!

Photo of two-color brioche knitting

I knit it in two colors of Happy Fuzzy Yarn American Worsted, “Shadow” and “Moss.”

Dad is not a cold-weather kind of person so gifts of warm clothes are always appreciated.

Picture of a man in a hat

OMG, I love this hat so much!

I need to make one for myself.  Doncha think?

Picture of a brioche hat

I used the Brioche Hat pattern from Weekend Knitting and sadly the directions for the crown decreases are confusing.  And this is NOT a reversible pattern, although you will be tempted to think it is until near the end.  That, I can live with, but I want to find a pattern with clearer directions for the crown.

So what’s a girl to do?  Nancy Marchant, the living expert, doesn’t appear to have a published pattern for a straight-forward two-color brioche watch cap.  Anyone have a pattern they’ve used to recommend?

What do you have a craving to cast on?

Magic Blankets

Photo detail of machine quilting

Around here, magic blankets are not something you can buy in a store.  You’ve got to know the right people.

Photo detail of machine quilting

Back when our first baby was born, we took swaddling seriously (shout out to Harvey Karp, he’s spot on), but the things sold in stores as receiving blankets at that time were little better than oversized burp rags.  No exaggeration!  So off I went to the local big box craft store and bought 5 one-yard lengths of flannel in fun prints.  A couple straight hems and BAM, we had a pile of swaddling blankets.

Our first child loved swaddling and we got a lot of use out of the big blankets.  When he got to be about 2 years old, I sewed two blankets end to end, then another two end to end, then quilted those together with a made-up meandering stitch.  Without a walking foot.  That’s what we call a labor of love, friends.  I sewed the fifth blanket into a pillowcase that is still in use today (on the pillow that is propping me up while I write this, in fact!).

Photo of the pillowcase made from a flannel baby blanket

My son loved this blanket as only a child can unconditionally love the wonky things we make for them.  He declared it the magic blanket and, eight years later, it is still a cherished possession.  So much so that my younger child was eventually jealous.  I needed to make her magic blanket, and soon, lest she stage a Leverage-style attack to take permanent possession of her brother’s blankie.

Photo detail of machine quilting

Of course she also had 5 (no, 6!) one-yard lengths of flannel that she used as a baby — although she was not one who liked to be swaddled.  No, instead she wanted to be held constantly.  For three months.  Not that I am scarred or anything.

Ahem.

Photo of quilts from flannel baby blankets

For her blanket I got fancy.  I did a bunch of math (cooped up much?) and decided that 9″ squares would make the most efficient use of my fabric.  I cut the blankets up and sewed them back together in an eye-blistering pattern of colorful delight that is different on each side.  I ran out of patience at this time and quilted the whole thing together with straight lines, and machine bound it with commercial bias tape.

Thus was balance restored to our universe.

Photo of quilts from flannel baby blankets

I take deep satisfaction in upcycling, but this project took it to the next level because of how much my kids love having something I made just for them and having something that is a direct connection to their early years.

I toyed with the idea of writing this up as a sort of tutorial, but the real message is: just sew that shit together!  Your kids will love it, you will learn some things, and whatever you make will be NEW and get used, rather than gather dust in the basement or sadly slip away to a marginal existence in a thrift store.

My Inner Child Wants Everything to Be Rainbow-Colored: Afghan Edition

Photo of a crocheted afghan in rainbow stripes

Raise your hand if you remember me starting a scrap project to use up the yarn left over from the scrap blanket I made for my daughter when she was born.

Yes, I am a serial scrap blanket maker.  I pull out a pile of yarn (or fabric or cut up t-shirts… my desires to both thrift and make things feed each other), decide I am going to use it all up on a scrap project, choose a project, start said project, run out of something and go buy more materials, finish said project, and then — and only then — realize that I have more materials left than when I started.  Doh!

First there was Squeaky, the quilterly knitted blanket I made for my daughter (ostensibly to use up random balls of Wool-Ease) while I waited for her to spring, fully formed, from my womb.  Which, she pretty much did if you’ve ever heard THAT story.  Oh and I ended up buying a lot of yarn to make the colors in the blanket work.  Wool-Ease has a weird palette.

About six exhausting months later, I lit upon the idea to crochet an afghan to use up Squeaky’s leftovers.  I had spied a pattern that was basically a giant granny square, but looked like an Around the World quilt.  I’m not much of a hooker, but I can handle a granny square.  So I lined up my leftover Wool-Ease and soon realized I had a rainbow palette.  Well, almost.  I just had to buy a bit more yarn.  [Cue scary music.]

Four and a half years later, the rainbow afghan of my dreams and nightmares is finished.

Photo of a crocheted afghan in rainbow stripes

 

What else do I have to say about this project?  I didn’t work on it constantly.  In fact, years passed sometimes between putting hook to wool.  It was really fun at first because crochet is FAST.

Also, I am never actually sad to buy more yarn, which this project amusingly and repeatedly required to be completed to my spec of 4 repeats.  It has 13 different colors, 12 Wool-Ease, 1 Plymouth Encore (light blue) because Lion discontinued the delft colorway.  (Why do companies get rid of good, basic, timeless colors like baby blue?  It’s Lion’s loss ultimately because now I have seen the Plymouth Yarns website and know what an amazing palette their wool-acrylic blend Encore has.)

About 2/3 of the way through this project, the rows became very long, hours to finish just one, and it was a slog.  I just wanted to be done.  I could have stopped at any time, but stubborn ol’ me wanted to stick to The Plan.

So I did.  And now the rainbow afghan lives on my couch and gets fought over — when we’re not all four crammed together with it draped over us.

When Life Gives You Lemons…

handknit doll blanket

…you knit a doll blanket with ridiculously cutesy yarn!

handknit doll blanket
Just…one…more…stripe…tonight…

Today I went to the yarn shop — with my preschooler — thinking to indulge myself in a single beautiful skein of something to make something with.  (I was deliberately keeping my options open.)  And there she was, being such a good girl in such a grown up store, skipping down all the aisles, pointing out every single pink skein and squealing with delight over them all.

The conclusion was obvious and I am really enjoying this diversion knit.  I thought I was busy last year, with a husband in grad school, both of us working, a kid at home, and a kid in school, but we have managed to take it up a notch this year.  Oy.

I have been reduced to hiding in my bedroom on a Friday afternoon, knitting pink yarn, and watching Downton Abbey.

Of course when I write it down it doesn’t sound bad at all.  Perhaps I do have a sense of self preservation.

The yarn is Plymouth Encore Colorspun in the poetically named color #7722.  Now, if you don’t mind, the blue stripe is waiting…

Snow Day

Moss Stitch Scarf

The Orphan Foundation of America Red Scarf Project is wrapping up in the next month.  The deadline on the OFA is December 15 (two more days!) but the Ravelry group lists in bold letters that the deadline has been extended until the first week of January.

I am going with the extended deadline, otherwise there is no hope for me.

Moss Stitch Scarf

I am making a moss stitch scarf in a heathery burgundy shade of Patons Classic Wool.  This is actually a picture from October – the scarf is now about a foot and a half long. I had hoped to make more than one scarf but so far this looks to be it, even with the extended deadline.  Too many chilly heads and hands and feet in my house need attention also (I am on fire to knit myself seventeen different hats and five cowls).  I might churn out a garter stitch red scarf if fancy strikes me after Christmas, which is also after my last work deadline for a while.  I know, I KNOW a real vacation at the end of the year for once.

To my surprise, all schools in our county were cancelled today.  The snowfall yesterday was not tremendous compared to what we have seen (4-6 inches in our neighborhood) but the temperature dropped quickly in the past 48 hours to just above zero degrees F (-10 windchill).  Sadly, we still had to pry ourselves out of the house to go to the dentist today.  Dentists don’t have snow days, far as I can tell.

Neither do stay-at-home parents.  Or freelancers.

Back to working on my hat (Lisa’s Beret in Yarns of Distinction Licorice Twist “Meadow”).  Toddlers don’t sleep for long and tomorrow morning will be a bitter walk to school in the morning.  Maybe I should drive.  For my daughter’s sake.  Yeah, that’s it.