Finger Knit Basket

Finger Knit Basket 8

I know, it’s been a long time coming.  I promised to show you what I ended up doing with those long felted strings of finger knitting I made back in October.  Well here it is.  So my carpal tunnel in my wrists right now is so bad I can’t actually do real knitting for longer than ten minutes before my fingers go completely numb.  I’m getting massage therapy for it and it’s helping, but the road to recovery is slow.  As a result of this, I still haven’t finished the Atlas blanket that I was making for Krystopf and Atlas for their wedding.  I needed a sort of stop-gap present to keep them appeased (not that they even care) until I was ready to present them with the real thing.

After I felted that one ball of finger knit merino wool, I went on to do five more; in total, I had two black strings, two maroon strings, and two olive green strings.  The Pie actually finger knit one of the green strings all by himself, grumbling and complaining the whole time.

Then I felted each one by chucking it in the washing machine — and then the dryer if it was needed.  The green ones felted differently from the rest, despite being the same wool — so there was a longer string of green than anything else.

Finger Knit Basket 1

I tied each matching string to its partner and rolled it up in a giant ball.

Finger Knit Basket 3

Then I braided them all together.  This took a very, very long time, because I kept having to move the balls around while I was braiding.  I found it was easier to keep the balls from rolling all over the place and unraveling if I put them in saved produce bags from the grocery store.

Finger Knit Basket 4

Finally I had a huge thick braid. The idea is to coil it all together, like so.  This would be the bottom of the basket.  Then sew the braid to itself, like you would a braided rug, or that doily I made last year.

Finger Knit Basket 5

When I got enough of a base going, I started to loop the braid on top of itself, to form the sides of the basket.

Finger Knit Basket 6

I kept the basket relatively narrow, not letting it get too wide (though that would be neat, too), and so I was left with a lot more braid once I’d gotten the basket to a size I liked.  I just tied it off and sewed it down and that was that.

Finger Knit Basket 10

And that leftover green string?  I actually finger knit the felted finger knit, forming this tight little braid, the perfect length for a handle  Tada!

Finger Knit Basket 7

I sewed that into the top of the basket and now we’re good to go!

Finger Knit Basket 11

Finger Knit Basket 13

Have you tried Finger Knitting?

Finger Knit

Seriously, have you?  It’s fun and super easy and you get some really quick results.  Definitely something you can do with kids.  It produces a long chain of stockinette-like loose stitches that remind me of what used to come out of that weird plastic crochet-tube thing we were given as kids.  Remember?  Maybe not.

Finger Knit

Anyway, if you’d like to try it, get yourself some yarn.  A huge chunky knit will give you the best results, but I am planning on felting my strings so I’m going with some merino wool.

Finger Knit

Find the end and drape it over the space between your thumb and forefinger.  You may need your thumb to hold that tail in place for the first few rows, but you can let it go after that.

Finger Knit

Take the yarn and bring it in front of your index finger, behind your middle finger, in front of your ring finger, and around behind your little finger.

Finger Knit

Then bring it in front of your little finger, behind your ring finger, and so on, until you’ve woven it back to the beginning.

Finger Knit

Then pull it around your index finger and do that again, so you end up with two loops of yarn on each finger.

Finger Knit

Now take the lower loop on your little finger and pull it up and over the upper loop.

Finger Knit

Repeat that with all your other fingers until you’re left with one loop on each one.

Finger Knit

Take another full pass with your yarn, in, out, in, alternating on the way back.

Finger Knit

Then pull the lower loop over the upper loop again on each finger. Keep going. Eventually something like this will start coming off the back of your hand. It will look a bit different depending on the size of your fingers, the tension and thickness of the yarn, and all that jazz.

Finger Knit

If you get tired or bored while you’re doing this or you need to do something else, just jab a pencil through your loops and put it down. Come back to it later.

Finger Knit

Finger Knit

When you’ve got a chain as long as you want it to be, you can cast off. After doing your last row of loops, leaving you with one row only of loops on each finger, take the loop on your little finger and put it above the loop on your ring finger.

Finger Knit

Pull the lower loop on your ring finger up and over the one you just added.

Finger Knit

Take the loop that is left and put that onto your middle finger.

Finger Knit

Hook the lower one up and over, and put the remaining loop onto your index finger.

Finger Knit

Hook the lower one up and over and then you’re left with one loop!

Finger Knit

Then it’s a simple matter to thread the end of your yarn through and tie a knot.

Finger Knit

This is a finished chain. You’ll note I’ve reinforced the knots at both the beginning and end. Next to it is one that I felted by running through the wash and then the dryer.

Finger Knit

Here’s a closeup of the loose weave of the chain I made versus the tight string after it’s felted.  Dog hair may or may not be included.

Finger Knit

Here’s a very long chain I made as well. You can see how easy it would be, especially with a chunkier yarn, to sew the chain together to form a block, a blanket, or a rug. Or whatever. I’m still debating what I am going to do with mine, but I’ll keep you posted.

Finger Knit

Progress Report on the Summer of Blankets

As you may know, the Pie and I are hitting up two weddings this summer.  In June, Doodle marries the Cyclist, and in July, my big brother Krystopf weds the indomitable Atlas.  Both are getting home-made blankets from yours truly as a wedding gift.

Progress Report

The Atlas blanket is coming along well, though it never ceases to amaze me how many times I can screw up a simple knit/purl design.  As much as I try, I doubt I will ever be a practised knitter, though I am getting better at going back and fixing my mistakes.  And fortunately this is something that I can bring with me when I’m traveling, and something I can do while I’m watching television at night.

Progress Report

With these two strips you can start to see the sort of “patchwork” effect that I was going for, with the alternating colours and alternating knit and purled sides.

Progress Report

The place where I bought this gorgeous wool, A Good Yarn, has closed the doors of its physical business and the owner has moved to Halifax to focus on the internet side of the show, so I had to order the next batch of skeins online.  Fortunately, Tanis Fiber Arts has a really comprehensive website and such beautiful colours.  The new skeins I ordered just came in yesterday.

Progress Report

In biodegradable packaging, no less!

Progress Report

If you are curious, this is the Yellow Label DK Weight, which is good for pretty much anything, and the colours I have used are Plum, Olive, Deep Sea, and Midnight, from left to right.  If I knew how to use them properly and/or could afford them, I would buy the whole stock.

Progress Report

Doodle’s afghan is also progressing.  That huge box of seamless sweaters has been reduced now to a blue recycling bag full of carefully cut out oblongs, and a green garbage bag full of scraps of wool.  I don’t know if I will be able to find a use for all the scraps, but I will try.  If you have any suggestions let me know.  I also have a small pile of cardboard cutting templates I need to find a place for.

Progress Report

I have learned that when cutting felted wool with a rotary cutter you end up with a tremendous amount of static-charged wool lint.  Which ends up everywhere.  And doesn’t go away.  I also learned that you can loosen the blade on your rotary cutter so it rolls more easily and you don’t have to press as hard.  Of course I didn’t discover that until near the end.

Progress Report

I may go in a slightly different direction with the afghan, now that it’s all cut out.  I will still do the colour progression on the “right” side as originally planned, but, depending on the number of oblongs I have, I might just randomly sew the rest of them together and have that go underneath, as a sort of double blanket, rather than sewing the wool blanket to a fabric backing.  We shall see.  As well, given the scale of this thing, I think it might be a better idea to sew the whole thing by machine instead of using the by-hand blanket stitch, which, while very secure, takes for-freaking-ever.  The question will be if my machine can handle it, as some of the wool is super thick.  I will keep you posted.

Progress Report

The Atlas Blanket

Happy Leap Day!

The Atlas Blanket

As I said last week, I’m working on two blankets for two weddings this summer.  This one is for my eldest brother Krystopf and Atlas, his wife-to-be.  Depending on how you look at it, it’s going to be both easier and more of a challenge than the one I’m making for Doodle.  Easier, because it just involves knitting, and more of a challenge because I really hate/suck at knitting.

But there you go.

I bought these beautiful hand-dyed, Canadian-made wools at A Good Yarn downtown.  I had jewel tones in mind for this blanket (Atlas likes purple and blue), and Tanis Fiber Arts had exactly what I was looking for.  They’re just gorgeous, and totally worth the price.

The Atlas Blanket

Now, those are skeins, which means that I had to wind them all into balls before I could start knitting.  There is an art to winding wool by hand, but I haven’t yet perfected it.  Mostly I swear a lot as I constantly drop my misshapen ball-in-progress and it goes skittering off across the floor.  Anyway, these ones aren’t bad.

The Atlas Blanket

When you’re knitting with balls of wool, it helps to put the ball in a bowl while you knit.  This keeps it in one place, and not rolling all over the place and getting tangled.  You can even get special bowls designed for knitting, but I haven’t yet reached the apex of ability that means I deserve such a thing.

The Atlas Blanket

I know my limitations when it comes to knitting, so I’m keeping this as simple as possible, and hoping that the simplicity ends up equalling elegance when I’m through.  So I’ve got four colours, and I’m just doing two columns of alternating colours.  This one is green and turquoise, and the other one will be purple and navy.  Then I will stitch the columns together to form the blanket. (FYI, those panels are each 30 stitches long and about 36 rows tall.)

The Atlas Blanket

And I will offset my knit sides and purled sides so that it forms a patchwork when I’m done.

The Atlas Blanket

I will of course need to figure out something to do around the edges.  I’m open to easy suggestions (please no i-cord or anything like that).

The Atlas Blanket
But that’s what I got so far!

Doodle’s Felted Wool Afghan

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

I feel kind of bad.  Here I am, third-place winner for Best Blog About Crafting and I haven’t put up a crafting post in an age.  Sorry about that.  But rest assured I’m working hard on two major projects.  They’re just the sort of long-term ones that don’t make for exciting blogging.

Two people who are very dear to me are getting married this summer.  My eldest brother, Krystopf, ties the knot in early July, and my high school best friend, Doodle, gets hitched in mid-June.  I am making both of their wedding presents, and both of them are blankets.

Doodle and her soon-to-be husband, The Cyclist, live in Portland, Oregon, a place with weather very similar to what it is here in St. John’s.  By that I mean, windy and rainy.  So an ideal present would be one that encourages cuddling and coziness, right?  And we know from previous experience that felted wool is the coziest of them all.

When we were in Ottawa over Christmas, the Pie and I scoured the local second-hand stores to acquire as many genuine lambswool, merino, and cashmere sweaters as we could, in a specific range of colours.  Doodle and I agreed on red, white, blue, and black, as sort of a combination of Canadian and American colours (and black goes with everything).  I wanted to do something a bit different with this blanket, and have the colours sort of blend into each other, rather than have a pattern of alternating coloured squares.  So it’s going to be a bit trickier than normal.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

Here you can see our initial haul (and Gren).  This is the colour scheme I am going with.  You can see that the main colours are represented at the corners, and then they blend through the other colours in the middle.  Like a square colour wheel.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

Now, if you feel like undertaking a similar project, I just want to give you a heads-up first.  A lot of up-cycling and recycling projects are economical and a good way to save money.  This is not one of them.  A 100% wool or cashmere sweater, even second-hand, will run you between $9 and $14, depending on the quality and size, and for this project, we will be using approximately 25 sweaters.  So you can do the math there.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

I felted all the sweaters while at my parents’ house (to take advantage of the fact that they were footing the power bill), and we mailed the sweaters back to ourselves in St. John’s.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

Then I dismantled them.  I carefully cut out all the seams, so all the pieces of sweater lay flat.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

I’m saving the seams.  I think they would make good toy stuffing material.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

Here are all the sweaters, officially laid out in their colour wheel.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

The sweater in the middle will serve as my keystone, if you will, and then I’ll use the rest of it to construct some baby toys for some wee ones I get to meet this summer.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

Now I have to start cutting out the pieces.  I want to do it more as a puzzle or interlocking oblongs than as simple squares, so I’m going to have to work out some ratios so that all the pieces will fit together nicely.  I will keep you posted.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

Knitting on Four Needles, the Fourth

Last time we ended with knitting up to the top of the thumb.Now we are going to start decreasing our stitches in order to taper over the fingers.  First, count the number of stitches you have.In this case I had 34 stitches.  You will of course have more if you are making larger mittens, or less if you are making smaller mittens.  You will want to decrease your stitches at 5 different points in your row, as evenly spaced out as possible.  Thirty-four is not evenly divisible by five, so I fudged it a bit.  Here I knit two together at every 7th stitch, with the last going at the 6th.Now knit one row plain.In the next row, decrease again, knitting two together in the same places you did it last time.  Remember that you now have four less stitches, so adjust your count accordingly.  Keep going until you reach the top of your hand.So you have stitches here on 3 needles.We want all the stitches on 2 needles only now, divided evenly, so start sliding stitches from your middle needle onto the other two until it’s empty and stitches on both sides are equal.Like this:Now we start the grafting process. For this you will need a darning needle or blunt tapestry needle.I’m not sure I can explain this properly, so I’m not going to bother.  But here is a pretty clear explanation.  Essentially you use the needle as a knitting needle and alternately purl and knit your stitches off the needle, pulling off every second one.For my first try I didn’t do a very good job.  I think I forgot to stick the needle in knitways and purlways, only doing it purlways, and so my edge is not as good as it could be.Now turn the mitten inside out and stick your needle through.Finish it off with a few hidden stitches and tie a knot.In our final lesson we will learn how to finish off the thumb.  Stay tuned!

Knitting with Four Needles, for the Third Time

If you’ve been following along, you know that my grandmother is teaching my mother and I how to knit mittens on four needles.  Check back for part one and part two of the lesson.

Last time we knit up until we reached the thumb, or the spot where the thumb connects to the hand.For this next part you will need a large safety pin.  You can also use a stitch holder, which is basically a giant safety pin, but the safety pin is smaller and won’t get in your way here.Knit around to your first purl stitch (or if, like me, you apparently knit backwards, your first knit stitch).  Knit that one, then slide the next 8 stitches onto the safety pin (those are the ones between the two purled lines).  Knit the last stitch in the row.Now your thumb stitches are secured and will happily wait until you get back to them.So now you want to knit around the row again until you reach the point where your stitches are hanging out on the safety pin.  Cast on another 6 stitches right here.This is the part that fills in the hole left by the thumb.Now just keep knitting and knitting.  You see how there is now a gap for the thumb to go.Keep knitting away until your rows are even with the top of your thumb.  More on that next time.

Knitting with Four Needles, for the second time

So two weeks ago we learned how to cast on and create a ribbed cuff on four needles for a mitten.

Today we are going to learn how to increase our stitching in order to accommodate for the thumb.

When we cast on, we did ten stitches on the first needle, ten on the second, and then eight on the third.  The third is where this thumb will go.  The unique thing about these mittens is that the thumb doesn’t stick out the side — it comes in front, like it actually does with your hand.  So when you’re making the mitten for the other hand, you would want to reverse the order of your needles, and have it go eight, ten, ten, instead of what we’ve done here, which is ten, ten, eight.  Sorry, I know that’s confusing.  It makes sense later.

Try your cuff on to see if it’s long enough for your liking.

So in the next row, you want to start with the plain knit stitch.  Apparently I knit upside-down, according to my grandmother, so I have to do it in purl.  As you are knitting, you want to increase two stitches on each needle.  I can’t really illustrate this properly, so for good diagrams on increasing your stitches you can look here or here.

On your third needle, the one with the eight stitches, knit the first four stitches, and then purl one, knit two, and purl the last one.  The reason you do the purling here is to mark where the thumb is — it creates a line as it gets bigger and makes the thing easier to find.

So now that you’ve increased you want to knit an entire row (that’s going around the needles twice).  Make sure to keep purling those two stitches to keep the line going.

When  you get to the thumb marking, increase two more stitches inside the purl stitches, and purl the last one as usual.  Knit two rows plain again, remembering to keep up marking those purl stitches.   You can see here what my increased stitches look like.

Next row increase two more stitches in the thumb area and then knit two rows plain and so on until you have 8 stitches between your purl markings.

Continue knitting rows, keeping your purl markings, until you reach the place where the thumb meets the hand.

You can see our thumb line here (from the purling).

More next time!

Knitting with Four Needles

My grandmother makes the best mittens of all time.  There is no question.  And it was her maid when she was a girl who taught her.  Sounds pretty fancy, doesn’t it?  Well these mittens are anything but fancy.  They are comfortable and last for ages.  I still have a pair that belonged to my uncle when he was a child and they’ve held up remarkably well.  My grandmother is also the only person who can make mittens that will fit my tiny carnie hands.  Unfortunately, due to growing pain in her hands due to arthritis my grandmother is no longer knitting, and so my mother and I have taken it upon ourselves to learn all her secrets.

This post is part of the process of learning the magic mitten “recipe.”  First we had to learn how to knit with four double-ended needles.   Easier said than done.  Though she makes it look pretty easy.

You have to keep track of not two but FOUR slippery slide-y needles that will get in your way and cause a ruckus. If you think you can handle that, then we can move on.So you start first with two needles, and you want to cast on ten stitches.Then you want to start to cast on an eleventh stitch, but stop just before you get to the point where you put the stitch on the first needle.Just like that you’re on to the next needle.  Stick another needle through that one and start casting on again.Cast on another ten, and then an eleventh and start again on the next needle.On the third needle we’re just going to cast on eight stitches.This next step is very important.  You take the dangly bit of wool from the first knot you tied when you started casting on and you tie that firmly to the strand of wool you are working with.  What you will see in the below image is incorrect.  As you can see, the cast-on rows are all twisted and higgledy-piggledy, and the knot should be flush with the stitched rows so you have a tight triangle.Make sure the rows on all your needles are facing the same way before you tie a nice tight knot.
Now you can start your knitting, and, because your needles are all connected now you can start where you left off and end up in a circle.  Start knitting, knit two, purl two, switching from needle to needle as you go through, and you will see the cuff of your mitten emerging.It’s hard at first to adjust to the other two needles just sitting there and getting in your way while you work on the first one but you get used to it.  Keep going until the cuff is as long as you’d like it to be.And that, so far, is all I have learned.  Stay tuned!