September 27, 2017

A Green Shirt

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: this is not just a knitting blog. Knitting may be my craft of highest expertise but I love working in other media, too. Today I am proud to share a very recent project, a green top I sewed over the first few weekends of this fall semester. 

Photo by Katy Laliotis
When it comes to sewing garments, I have lofty goals but lack the skills, practice, and confidence to make the enterprise feel worthwhile. Of course, that really means I need to attack the learning curve head on until I feel more comfortable sewing my own clothes! Since childhood I have romanticized the self-sufficient domesticity of sewing and knitting all my clothes, baking all my bread, growing my own vegetables, cooking and eating delicious slow-food California cuisine meals, and having chickens roam the yard. I credit this fantasy partly to my childhood love for book series like Little House on the Prairie, but also because local production is a more sustainable way of living, by cutting down on shipping and packaging, support of questionable labor practices, etc. 


I am stoked how well my current off-campus house and housemates fit in to my idealized domestic DIY aesthetic: we bake all our bread, have some veggies growing in the backyard (and get a CSA share from a local farm and on occasion, raid the student organic garden), co-op the dinner cooking, and my housemate Kiana is a crocheter, sewer, and knitter, and brought her sewing machine to college!! Kiana has quite a bit more experience sewing clothes than me and generously let me use her sewing machine and offered her expertise when I was confused or stuck. Much of my non-quilting sewing knowledge comes from my grandmother, who was always so involved in the sewing process that I never learned enough to sew on my own. Before this project, I had never followed a commercial pattern, added interfacing, or even cut out a pattern without Grandma's watchful (but sometimes overbearing) eye. 


So Kiana's sewing machine and expertise were available to me, I had a wee bit of spare time at the beginning of the school year that was sure to disappear, I wanted more sewing experience, and I also had a practical need for more professional solid tops to pair with my patterned skirts. Of course, in theory I could procure said type of shirt from a store, but present trends of pastels and wonky cuts (crop-tops, open backs, etc.) do not vibe with my style. So DIY we go! I selected a pattern online, and then went to JoAnn Fabrics to retrieve said pattern (Simplicity 8061, if you're really curious) and pick out some fabric, which always takes so much time. I was looking for a bold, solid, emerald green cotton-poly blend, but kept getting distracted by fun patterned fabric and couldn't find what I envisioned in the garment fabric section. I was just about to give up when I resorted to pass through the entire fabric inventory when I finally stumbled into the wall of cotton-acrylic blend solids. All the supplies for the shirt checked out at less that $15! These days, handmade clothing often costs more than something factory-made, but not this time :)


I mostly stuck with the pattern but deepened the neck and back. The neck cut is traced from a shirt of mine from H&M, and the back is traced from a dress I bought at Macy's. While of course, sewing a shirt from a pattern was a new skill for me, I reveled in the fact that I could modify it further to my tastes!


The sewing process took more hours than I'd like to admit. My seam ripper didn't assume a starring role until I got to the sleeves, but my cautious approach slowed things down. Also somehow cutting out the pattern pieces takes a really long time? Time passes so quickly when sewing! I learned how to slip-stitch hems by hand to render the seams invisible, how to attach a sleeve, and re-learned how to sew darts in the bust line. Kiana's assistance was invaluable. The fit is a little tight in the chest region, restricting mobility of my arms a little, but several other shirts I own are the same way. And that's partly due to choosing fabric that isn't stretchy.


So here it is! The Whitman Student Engagement Center recently had a free LinkedIn professional head shot event, and I showed up for the photo shoot wearing this shirt, partly to get some solid photos that didn't involve a derpy iPhone self-timer bedroom selfie like the one above. Good thing the shirt also works for professional purposes!

Photo by Katy Laliotis

All in all, I could not be more stoked on the outcome of my first big garment sewing project. My goal is to also sew an article of clothing next semester, and of course many, many more items to come in life! I can't wait to get better at sewing my own clothes.


Until next time, happy fall and happy crafting!
--Elizabeth

August 24, 2017

Scandinavian Summer Trivet

You may have forgotten, but "The Craft Lizard" is not a knitting blog, or even a hat pattern blog. It's a craft blog. So I am happy to share something more unique from me -- a crocheted item!


I first learned to knit, teaching myself how to single and/or double crochet a couple years later. But crocheting never took -- with every attempt to whip up some crocheted fabric, I could never keep the number of stitches in each row constant. Following a few more sporadic attempts, I quit crocheting and focused on knitting. In middle school, when I organized a group of local retirement home folks to make hats for preemies at the local hospital, several of the ladies crocheted their baby hats (thank goodness they could figure it out themselves because there's no way I could help them). After the group disbanded, a couple ladies gave me their crochet hooks, figuring they were done with the project, and these hooks proceeded to collect dust in my knitting needle caddie for years.


Ever since my SITW hat project ended in January, I've been feeling fairly uninspired in the knitting realm. It's total first-world problem; I'm not fishing for any pity. Over the last few years, I've knitted a lot: seven sweaters, about 20 hats, a couple scarves, socks, and more. My personal stash of knitwear is at capacity--I literally can't store/regularly wear another sweater--and almost all of my close friends have something in their closet that I made them. I'd poured over Ravelry's selection of free patterns so many times that I could no longer find projects that were both challenging and aesthetically interesting. I needed to restructure my knitting by focusing on bigger and more challenging projects to reduce my overall output, or just continue making quick-ish projects for charity.


I thought learning to crochet could rejuvenate my excitement for the tactile productivity of crafting. So, one spring afternoon when I had plenty of other things to do, my fingers were itching for some needlework and I whipped out some scrap yarn, a hook, and pulled up the wonderful black hole that is the YouTube craft tutorial section. Only an hour into a stream of stitch tutorials, it took--ten years prior, I had struggled profoundly, this time around it was easy peasy. I made a few granny square swatches, but didn't start any formal projects.


This summer, I was lucky to have the opportunity to study abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. While generally engrossed in my urban sustainability coursework and travel, I didn't want to miss out on the inspiring and prolific knitting world of Scandinavia. I insisted on visiting a yarn store when in Bergen, Norway to see all of Drops' yarn in full glory, and finally visited a Copenhagen yarn store to see Ístex yarn and purchase some Danish yarn as a gift to myself. It turns out summer is the off-season (shocker!) and knitting fades to obscurity when it is nice enough to go outside and soak in some rays.



Nevertheless, I can't go a whole summer without yarn! I stopped in Søstrene Grene, a household goods store on Strøget, the famous walking street in Copenhagen, and picked out some teensy skeins of cotton yarn. I was originally thinking of making some softies, and nearly finished crocheting up a pumpkin, but ehh, I wasn't feeling it. It turns out I can go most of a summer without making anything...


A few weeks later, as I was bored, procrastinating, and subsequently, browsing through Ravelry as you do, I stumbled across this crocheted Drops doily/potholder/coaster/trivet thing. I hoped it could be a housewarming souvenir for my parents if I could make the whole thing on the plane--surely a 10 hour flight is sufficient to whip it all up?!


Almost. Between getting distracted by my first clear, day-time view of Greenland (above) and not wanting to crochet for six hours straight, I managed to complete the orange top layer and over half of the teal backing. The rest was completed in the backseat of the car on the way to a family camping trip a few days later (classic). 


All told, the pattern was a perfect skill-builder for my beginner crochet level, more more advanced crafting level considering my knitting background. I do have a critique for the pattern though: the teal backing did not sufficiently increase at the end, and by maintaining the same number of stitches for too long, it puckers a bit when connected to the top orange layer. Definitely annoying for aesthetic reasons, but doesn't deter functionality.

A pleasure to crochet! Find this project entry on Ravelry.

Happy Crafting!!
--Elizabeth

July 23, 2017

Nina's Hat | SITW Hat Series

This post is part of the Semester in the West Hat Series. Catch up on the latest hats and free patterns below. 

Kenzie | Collin | Amanda | Thomas | Maggie | Signe | Griffin | Willa | Elizabeth | Ysabel


The story behind Nina's Hat is deeper than just the hat. It is a tale of sincere friendship between two intensely curious and unapologetically true-to-self individuals, if I do say so myself. In other words, a seastar-loving, birder extraordinaire, almost-dairy science major finds a tree-hugging, sustainable urban planning-obsessed, knitwear nerd walk in a bar. When they find each other, they run out immediately, because one thing they agree on is that almost every other place is more interesting than a bar. Okay, bad joke, but let me continue...



Nina is one of those overwhelmingly inspirational humans that one can only expect to run into a few times over a lifetime. Though I happened to be directly behind Nina when we were in line to get our Whitman ID cards on the first day of first year orientation waaayyy back in August 2014, we didn't actually interact enough for her to remember my name until we were in the same WFR course last January. And while I knew a little about her, our friendship didn't begin until she took Willa and me birding at Bennington Lake on our day off during the WFR course after all three of us found out we would be in Semester in the West together. While I continue to struggle to be interested in birding, I was mesmerized by her patience, ability to teach the bare-bones basic, and unapologetic enthusiasm for the muddy, rainy trudge around an oversized puddle in the dead of winter with few birds in sight. 


I could write and write and edit and rewrite many pages about Nina's awesomeness, but I'm afraid even that would fail to accurately portray her incessant curiosity for the natural world and unwavering embodiment of her true self 24/7 and highly impressive accomplishments. During our mini-photoshoot, I figured it would fit Nina's character if she pretended to be interested in the moss on the tree, but--what was I thinking--she didn't have feign interest in one of nature's underrated wonders! She's went off on a Watson year exploring the world under a lens of disease ecology last week, and I can't wait to keep up with all her adventures on her blog, Natural Selections.

Nina teaching me to spin with wool from her 4-H sheep last December!

Nina's creativity in her hat design rivals Thomas's Hat. Nina was quite active in 4-H in her youth and has a more developed appreciation for woolly fiber than I--that is, from raising the sheep to shearing, skirting, and spinning--but her interest stops when it's time for the knitting and design process. So, even considering a background of sorts in fiber arts, she requested "gills" on her hat--like the underside of a mushroom #duh--instead of knowing it's called ribbing, and proposed design ideas completely outside of the typical knitwear approach. But that is why I love this project so much! Fresh ideas, like combining sheep with lightning, have been energizing for me as a knitter to mix up techniques and keep things interesting. It also pushes me to experiment, such as adding mock-bobble (baaahble?) texture to the sheep, which I think adds quite a bit of pizzazz to the already-zany hat design. 

The specs: Yarn is Drops Karisma in Dark Olive, Dark Grey, Light Grey, Navy, and White. I used US 2 and US 7 needles. I started knitting the hat during our week in Mexico and finished it when we were in the Death Valley area.


And it appears the hat is getting some use--the easiest way to make my day! The pictures below are from her blog post, "Humans Who Love Birds Who Love Cacti," documenting some her ecology adventures in the Tuscon, Arizona area. 

   

Well, Nina, your life is just one adventure on top of another. I'm glad the hat I made you gets to join in the fun sometimes, too! 💖

Nina’s Hat Pattern

Difficulty: Intermediate. Recommended experience with three-color stranding color work.
Yarn: Drops Karisma in the following colorways: 0.3 skeins Dark Olive 47 (A), 0.1 skeins Dark Grey 53 (B), 0.3 skeins Light Grey 44 (C), 1 skein Navy 17 (D), 0.2 skeins White 19 (E)
Gauge: 21 stitches and 28 rows = 4 in (10 cm) with US 6 in stockinette stitch
Finished Size: Fits adult-sized head, approx. 7.5 in (19 cm) long
Needles: US 2 (2.75 mm) dp needles, US 7 (4.5 mm) circular (9 in/23 cm) and dp needles
Other Materials Needed: stitch marker, ruler, yarn needle

CO 120 sts with US 2 in A. Connect in the round and pm. Work *k2, p2* ribbing for 1.5 in (4 cm).
Still with A, switch to US 7 and reduce to 90 sts (*k2, k2tog* across round).
Begin working Color Chart 1, repeating each row three time per round.

To work a mock-bobble (baaahble): knit five stitches into a single stitch. Knit the first stitch without slipping the loop on the left needle off, then slip needle into the back of the same stitch and knit a stitch, again without slipping left loop off. Then knit the third stitch into the front of the stitch, the fourth in the back, and the fifth in the front, finally slipping stitch off the left needle. 
During the next row, the five stitches created from the mock-bobble will be consolidated into a single stitch via knit five together (k5tog).


Once piece measures 7-7.5 in (18-19 cm) or desired length or when you reach Row 35, continue onto to decreases as written in the chart and elaborated below. All decreases are worked with Navy (D).
Round 35: *k3, k2tog,* repeat * to * across round = 72 sts.
Rounds 36, 38, 40, & 42: k across round.
Round 37: *k2, k2tog,* repeat * to * across round = 54 sts.
Round 39: *k1, k2tog,* repeat * to * across round = 36 sts.
Round 41: k2tog across round = 18 sts.
Round 43: k2tog across round = 9 sts.

Color Chart 1

Text Box:   - Color A (Dark Olive)
  - Color B (Dark Grey)
  - Color C (Light Grey)
  - Color D (Navy)
  - Color E (White)
  - Bobble (k 5 sts into 1 st)
  - k5tog (combine 5 sts in 1 st)
  - k2tog (k 2 sts into 1 st)
***Note: Complete all mock-bobbles with Light Grey (C). Complete each k5tog with Light Grey (C), except for the first k5tog of each repetition of the color chart in Row 12 and every k5tog in Row 13, which are to be knitted in Navy (D). Complete each k2tog (the hat decreases) with Navy (D). 

Cut yarn end, leaving an 8 in (20 cm) tail. Thread yarn needle and pass through remaining sts and pull tight. Weave in yarn ends. Block if desired and enjoy!

Abbreviations:
CO – cast on
pm – place stitch marker
k – knit
p – purl
yo – yarn over
k2tog – knit two sts together in the back loops
st(s) – stich(es)

You can get this pattern as a free PDF here. Find this pattern listed on Ravelry here.

Until next time,
Happy Crafting!!
--Elizabeth

June 30, 2017

Ysabel's Hat | SITW Hat Series

This post is part of the Semester in the West Hat Series. Catch up on the latest hats and free patterns below.

Kenzie | Collin | Amanda | Thomas | Maggie | Signe | Griffin | Willa | Elizabeth


Aaaand I'm back with another Semester in the West hat (they're still coming!!) This hat was for Ysabel, our fine Food Manager! She requested an ocean-themed hat with rolling waves and a six-legged octopus (hexapus?) I knitted it the in early November of last year, as we drove two straight days from Big Bend National Park in Texas to Yuma, Arizona (a town near the "international four corners" of California and Arizona, USA, and Sonora and Baja California, Mexico).


Photos are from the last day of Semester in the West, at Whitman's Johnston Wilderness Campus in northeastern Oregon.


Ysabel’s Hat Pattern

Difficulty: Intermediate
Yarn: 1 skein Drops Lima Dark Blue 4305 (A), 0.2 skein Drops Lima Rust 0707 (B), 0.3 skein Drops Lima Red 3609 (C)
Gauge: 21 stitches and 28 rows = 4 in (10 cm) with US 6 in stockinette stitch
Finished size: Fits adult head, approx. 7.5 in (19 cm) long
Needles: US 3 (3.2 mm) dp needles, US 6 (4 mm) circular (9 in/23 cm) and dp needles
Other Materials Needed: stitch marker, ruler, yarn needle

CO 112 sts with US 3 in A. Connect in the round and pm. 

Work 3 rows seed stitch: 
Rows 1 and 3: *k1, p1, k1, p1* across round.
Row 2: *p1, k1, p1, k1* across around.

Work wave pattern with color chart 1. Repeat chart seven times per round.

Then work 3 more rows seed stitch, like above.

Switch to US 6 and k the row while simultaneously decreasing 16 sts evenly around round (*K5, k2tog*) = 96 sts.

Then work octopus (hexapus?!) pattern with color chart 2. Repeat chart three times per round.

After finishing the color chart, continue knitting with A until piece measures 7 in (18 cm) or desired length. Then work decreases:
Row 1: *K4, k2tog* across round = 80 sts.
Row 2 and all even rows: K across round.
Row 3: *K3, k2tog* across round = 64 sts.
Row 5: *K2, k2tog* across round = 48 sts.
Row 7: *K1, k2tog* across round = 32 sts.
Row 9: K2tog across round = 16 sts.
Row 11: K2tog across round = 8 sts.

Color Chart 1
Blue = Color A; Orange = Color B
Color Chart 2
Blue = Color A; Red = Color C
To finish, cut yarn end, leaving an 8 in (20 cm) tail. Thread yarn needle and pass through remaining sts and pull tight. Weave in yarn ends. Block if desired and enjoy!

Abbreviations: 
kknit
ppurl
CO – cast on
dp – double-pointed knitting needles
pm – place stitch marker
k2togknit two sts together in the back loops
st(s)stich(es)

Download pattern as a free PDF here. Access the pattern on Ravelry here

See ya next month!

Happy Crafting!!
--Elizabeth

May 25, 2017

My own SITW Hat! | SITW Hat Series

This post is part of the Semester in the West Hat Series. Catch up on the latest hats and free patterns below.

Kenzie | Collin | Amanda | Thomas | Maggie | Signe | Griffin | Willa


My Semester in the West hat project began with the idea of making myself a hat on the trip for the sake of mixing wonderful, fleeting memories with a more tangible object. You know, a representative of the fun to last longer than the fun itself. Then, being a talented maker of mountains from molehills, I extended the service to the other Westies, too. Classic. Anyway, in the midst of making a bunch of custom-made hats for others, I wanted to make sure I knitted myself a hat while in the field (you know, the original idea). So, while in southern New Mexico, I interrupted the flow of knitting hats for others and hunkered down to treat myself.


One reason why I love this project so much is that the Westies have designed their own hats. Their fresh, original ideas, independent of knitting design norms, have been so energizing and exciting. However, when I sat down in the "backseat lounge" of the car to design my own hat, I was neither energized nor excited. Au contraire; I felt the pressure of proving my own aptitude for design. I spent several hours at the sketchbook, designing several other pieces before finally deciding on my hat pattern.

My knitting and designing nook, the backseat lounge of a Ford Explorer.
Initial challenges aside, I am pretty stoked on the end result. I knew from the start that I wanted to take advantage of all the colors of yarn to which I had access, with a focus on navy blue and also somehow incorporating a tree design. I was inspired by previous designs I'd seen--such as my Afmæli sweater, which I had nearly finished days before Semester in the West started--that reversed traditional roles of negative and positive space. In this reversal, the background is the most colorful. This partly distracts from the foreground, knitted in a single neutral color, but also adds overall depth and interest.


I knitted this hat from October 26-30 while in southern New Mexico, specifically in and around Deming and Carlsbad. The hat involves seven colors, a combination of Drops Karisma and Drops Lima, using US 6 and US 2 needles. I've included hat patterns for both this seven-color arrangement and a two-color arrangement, because I fully understand not wanting to endure the expense of purchasing seven skeins when they won't all be used in entirety.

From left: Griffin, Nina, Willa, Signe, Elizabeth, Ysabel, Maggie, Amanda
On the last day of the program, we took a group photo of most of the Westie hats that I made (sans Kenzie, Collin, Thomas, and Sarah). Evidently, there are a couple of sneak previews of hat patterns not yet published, but I wanted to express my gratitude for so many lovely Westies who were game to support my knitting habit with rad hat designs.


Elizabeth’s Hat Pattern

This hat pattern offers two color options – the seven-color version shown above, and a two-color version. There are separate color charts for each option.

Difficulty: Intermediate
Yarn: 7-color version: 0.5 skein Drops Karisma Navy Blue 17 (A), 0.1 skein Drops Lima Grey Blue 6235 (B), 0.1 skein Drops Lima Goldenrod 2923 (C), 0.1 skein Drops Lima Rust 0707m (D), 0.1 Drops Karisma Dark Brown Mix 56 (E), 0.1 skein Drops Lima Green 205m (F), 0.1 skein Drops Karisma Red 48 (G)
2-color version: 1 skein Drops Karisma Navy Blue 17 (A), 1 skein Drops Karisma Light Grey 44 (B)
Gauge: 21 stitches and 28 rows = 4 in (10 cm) with US 6 in stockinette stitch
Finished Size: Fits adult head, approx. 7.5 in (19 cm) long
Needles: US 2 (2.75 mm) dp needles, US 6 (4 mm) circular (9 in/23 cm) and dp needles
Other Materials Needed: stitch marker, ruler, yarn needle

For both color versions, CO 120 sts with US 2 in A. Connect in the round and pm. Work *k2, p2* ribbing for 2 in (5 cm).

Switch to US 6 and work one more row with A, simultaneously decreasing 24 sts evenly around round (*K3, k2tog*) = 96 sts.

Continue onto desired color chart (see below), repeating chart six times for each round.

Work decreases, starting with round 35. Switch to dp needles when desired. Decreases are elaborated in written form below:

7-color version: (Color Chart 1)
Round 35: k1F, *k2togF, k2F, k2A, k2F* across round, ending with k1F = 84 sts.
Round 36: *k4F, k3A* across round (no change in st cnt).
Round 37: k1B, *k2togB, k2B, k1A, k2B* across round, ending with k1B = 72 sts.
Round 38: k4B, *k1A, k5B* across round, ending with k1B (no change in st cnt).
Round 39: With E, k1, *k2tog, k4* across round, ending with k1 = 60 sts.
Round 40: K across round with E (no change in st cnt).
Round 41: With E, k1, *k2tog, k3* across round, ending with k1 = 48 sts.
Rounds 42, 44, & 46: K across round with A (no change in st cnt).
Round 43: With A, k1, *k2tog, k2* across round, ending with k1 = 36 sts.
Round 45: With A, *k1, k2tog* across round = 24 sts.

After Round 46, 24 sts remain. Finish with Round 27:
Round 47: With A, *k2tog* across round = 12 sts.
Then see finishing instructions.

2-color version: (Color Chart 2)
Round 35: k1B, *k2togB, k2B, k2A, k2B* across round, ending with k1F = 84 sts.
Round 36: *k4B, k3A* across round (no change in st cnt).
Round 37: k1B, *k2togB, k2B, k1A, k2B* across round, ending with k1B = 72 sts.
Round 38: k4B, *k1A, k5B* across round, ending with k1B (no change in st cnt).
Round 39: With B, k1, *k2tog, k4* across round, ending with k1 = 60 sts.
Rounds 40, 42, 44, & 46: K across round with B (no change in st cnt).
Round 41: With B, k1, *k2tog, k3* across round, ending with k1 = 48 sts.
Round 43: With B, k1, *k2tog, k2* across round, ending with k1 = 36 sts.
Round 45: With B, *k1, k2tog* across round = 24 sts.

After Round 46, 24 sts remain. Finish with Round 27:
Round 47: With A, *k2tog* across round = 12 sts.
Then see finishing instructions.

Color Chart 1

Color Chart 2
To finish, cut yarn end, leaving an 8 in (20 cm) tail. Thread yarn needle and pass through remaining sts and pull tight. Block if desired and enjoy!

Abbreviations:
k – knit
p – purl
CO – cast on
dp – double-pointed knitting needles
k2tog – knit two sts together in the back loops
k1A – knit one st with color A
st cnt – stitch count
st(s) – stich(es)

You can find this pattern as a free PDF here. You can find this pattern on Ravelry here.

Until next time, 

Happy Crafting!!
--Elizabeth