DIY Yarn Swift!

Today I’ve got another DIY for you – how to make your own yarn swift from things you can pick up at Goodwill!

DIY Yarn Swift with green yarn on it

I’ve needed a swift for a long time, but it never seems to make it to the top of the supply list, so I thought for quite a while about how I could just make one with stuff I had on hand or could pick up used. My first idea was an upside down umbrella, but I couldn’t quite figure out how to make the yarn stay where I wanted. My next thought was an expandable wine rack, which is actually what I went to find at Goodwill, but they didn’t have one, so I ended up with the coat rack instead, and I think it actually worked better. If you’d like to make one, please read on!

To make this project, you will need:

1 Expandable Coat Rack,

4 Large Pegs (I used these Shaker Pegs that we found at Home Depot, but any pegs that are about 3 inches or longer will work)

1 Lazy Susan (Mine is a 15 inch from Ikea. I wouldn’t go any larger than that but smaller would be fine.)

6 screws (The thickness will depend on how thick your shoe rack and Lazy Susan are; you will be screwing two of them into both pieces to hold them together, so you’ll want the screws to be long enough to get through both. Mine were about two inches.)

A drill (While this project could be done with just a screwdriver, it would take a lot of arm power and time. I don’t recommend it!)

I found my pieces in my own hoard of junk, and Goodwill. You could certainly buy each piece new, but I’m not sure it would save you a significant amount. My swift ended up costing about $14, as I already had a Lazy Susan, the drill, and the screws. I bought a coat rack (that was originally $30 at World Market) for $8 at Goodwill, and the pegs were about $6 new at Home Depot.

So, on to making your swift! Start with your coat rack and pegs.

Expandable shoe rack and four wooden pegs (start of DIY yarn swift)

You’re going to be replacing the short peg on each corner with a longer one. Take your drill and make a pilot hole in each peg, like so:

Putting a pilot hole in a wooden peg

Then, take the short pegs off of the corners and replace them with long pegs:

Shoe rack with two pegs replaced with longer ones (part of a DIY yarn swift)

You may be able to reuse the screws that you already took out, but in my case, the short pegs were held on with flat ended screws (rather than the more usual pointed end), so I had to use different ones. Now, see that lone short peg on the very end of the coat rack up there? Go ahead and just turn it around – it might catch the yarn when you’re winding. There’s no need to cut anything or get fancy with it (unless you want to), so just switch the peg to the back. When you’re done, it should look like this on the back:

Back of shoe rack (part of DIY yarn swift)And like this on the front:

Shoe rack with 4 long wooden pegs (part of a DIY yarn swift)

You’re halfway there! Now take your coat rack and center it on top of the Lazy Susan; it doesn’t have to be exact, so I just eyeballed mine, but you could measure if you’d like.

Making a DIY yarn swift with a lazy susan and expandable shoe rack

Then clamp it down so there’s no sliding around while you’re trying to drill.

Making a DIY yarn swift with a lazy susan and expandable shoe rack

Take your drill and put two more pilot holes on the bottom middle rungs, where the pink arrows are pointing in the above picture. You want to put them as far from the very middle as you can, so that you don’t drill into the base. Then drill your screw into each hole; if you find that the pointy end reaches down far enough to touch whatever surface you’ve got your swift on, it’s too long! You want it to go through the coat rack and the Lazy Susan with only a little of the pointy end poking through on the bottom. It should look like this when you’re done:

Making a DIY yarn swift with a lazy susan and expandable shoe rack

And you’re finished! The coat rack part of your swift should still contract in and out, so it should be able to accommodate most skeins of yarn. I tried it out with some Hawthorne Fingering from Knit Picks, and it looked great!

DIY yarn swift made from an expandable shoe rack and a lazy susan

I don’t have a ball winder either, so I use an old medicine bottle, and to show you how to do it, we made a video! It’s my first one, and we accidentally filmed in portrait (not knowing that all editing software turns it into landscape – oops!), but I think it’s got some good info and will teach you how to wind yarn, starting from the very beginning; most of you knitting veterans won’t need it, but I thought it would be a good brush up, or a place to start for newbies!

I hope this helps at least a few of you, and if you end up making one, I’d love to see it on Instagram or Facebook!

Sew Together Bag

It’s probably been made clear by now that I love a wide variety of crafts, which means I have a whole lot of accessories to go with them. For several years, I’d been making little kits of the things I thought I’d need for whatever hand projects I was working on (stitch markers, scissors, thimble, etc.) to throw in my bag when I was taking said project on the go. The only problem with this system is that it doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for bringing more than one work in progress, and I was constantly losing little things like my needle case when I changed out the kit. I needed a place to put all this stuff…

Pile of sewing and knitting notions

…without it getting jumbled together. Enter the absolute perfect solution: the Sew Together Bag.

Sew Together Bag made with Far Far Away Fabric (zippered bag decorated with green frogs on yellow lily pads with pink binding)

This is probably one of my favorite makes of all time, both because it’s made from some of my precious stash of Far Far Away fabric, and because it’s so freaking useful. The inside features three zippered pockets and four open ones, and the whole thing closes up with a long zipper that becomes the handles. Genius, right?

Sew Together Bag made with Far Far Away Fabric (zippered bag with pink binding and three zippered pockets)

All my stuff fits inside with room to spare, and the separate pockets means I can keep each craft separate.

Inside of Sew Together Bag with notions inside

The middle open pockets are perfect for a spool of thread and even some circular needles, and the outside open pockets fit my scissors and little measuring tape (that’s what the penguin in the earmuffs is!) just right.

Inside of Sew Together Bag with circular knitting needles and other notions

The pattern calls for interfacing on just one side (the exterior pieces), but I used it on both the exterior and linings, and I’m so happy I did, because I can put my cable needle in a pocket without worrying that it will poke through:

Pocket inside Sew Together Bag holding knitting notions

It also made it a little more stiff, which means that if I throw it into my bag or backpack, it doesn’t lose it’s shape and become a crushed mess. In hindsight, a lighter fabric was probably not the best for something that’s getting so much use, but really, who could resist these little froggies?

Close up of Sew Together Bag with green frog on yellow lily pad

The handles turned out a little lopsided (totally my fault, not blaming the pattern at all for that one!), but I don’t really mind, and I’m not sure anyone else has even noticed. I haven’t tried using it to tote around a hexie project yet, but I suspect it will be perfect for that, and I’ve already had a couple of requests to make ones with vinyl on the inside (one for makeup and one for art supplies). I highly recommend this pattern to anyone who needs to tote around smallish stuff, for any reason; it’s not a super difficult pattern, it only takes a few hours, and it’s so helpful!

Claire’s Shawl

Recently, a good family friend was elected to be a judge. This is, obviously, a very big deal, and I wanted to make something that would attempt to equal the occasion. Meet my version of the Albertine pattern from The Knitter Magazine (special thanks to my lovely friend Aliya for agreeing to be my model for this one!):

Green lacy shawlI picked up some Dream in Color Smooshy with Cashmere (this color is Irish Spring, which it seems from their website might no longer be available) on our last trip to Ashland, and it was perfect for a special occasion gift. I keep saying that I don’t normally go for variegated yarns, but I guess I need to stop, because I’ve bought quite a few lately! It was just too gorgeous to pass over, and the yarn is made of Merino wool and cashmere, so once I picked it up, I just couldn’t bring myself to put it down. It’s amazing to knit with; so, so soft, no splitting, and no breakage (the label says it has a little nylon, so I’m guessing that’s why). I loved it so much that I’m going to buy more (in a different color) when I get around to making my next lightweight sweater. I was actually kind of sad when it was done!

Girl with red hair wearing green Lacy Shawl The shawl turned out a little bit bigger than the one in the magazine, which was just fine with me – I prefer ones that are big enough to wrap (as opposed to just draping, although those are great too!).

Girl with red hair wearing green lace shawlThe only problem is that we only have carpet in one room now, so I’m going to need to invest in some blocking mats at some point. I fudged it by just trying to go around the furniture in the guest room (I also can’t find whatever box I threw my blocking wires into, but luckily the edge turned out pretty straight anyway):

Green lace shawl blockingBy and large, I would recommend this pattern, but  (and I’ve mentioned before with this magazine) I probably wouldn’t attempt it as a new knitter. It wasn’t difficult, but as with most lace knitting, it requires a lot of attention to detail and careful counting, and there was a small discrepancy for me in the third row of eyelet increases. It may have been just me, but I frogged and re-knit it a few times and couldn’t get it to have the right number, so I ended up just adjusting the row to match what it should be. You couldn’t tell in the end, but it’s definitely to sort of thing that could really frustrate someone with not much lace practice.

Girl with red hair wearing green lace shawlProbably my favorite part of this shawl (apart from the color) is the teardrop shape that forms at the bottom of the last section of lace. It’s so pretty and elegant! My version doesn’t hang quite like the one in the magazine, but I think that’s a function of my gauge more than anything else…I could have sized down on my needles and been just fine (I used size 1 for this one; the label recommends 0-2, but I prefer my gauge to be tighter, as a general rule, so I’d go with 0 if I was doing it again). I’d say definitely try this yarn, and the pattern is great if you’re looking for a little bit of a challenge!

Husband Sweater, Take Two

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but my husband is notoriously difficult to buy presents for. His birthday was in November, and I was (as usual) having trouble finding something, when the idea of another sweater came up. Now, you may remember that I made him one before that took a very long time – it started out as a Boyfriend Sweater and ended up being a Husband Sweater (granted, we got married after dating for 11 months, but still). This time I was pretty determined to actually get it done on time…and then of course he liked one that featured colorwork as the main technique.

Colorwork and I are not friends. I’ve attempted it before on a few occasions and have always put those projects aside. It just seemed so impossible to wrangle all those yarns at once, and things get tangled, and then you have those ugly floats one the back…ick. He really liked the pattern though, and it was only two colors, so I decided it was about time for a challenge and cast on. Not only was it done on time (okay, barely, but it was done!), I think I may have officially conquered my fear! May I present, the finished Husband Sweater #2.

Warwick sweater in light brown and navy tweed Berroco yarn

The pattern is the Warwick Sweater by Sarah Hatton from Issue 76 of The Knitter magazine, which I found to be fairly easy to read and understand, although this magazine in general seems geared a bit toward somewhat experienced knitters; the directions assume that you understand most knitting terms and techniques. I’ve been knitting for quite a while and still have to look things up!

Warwick sweater made with light brown and navy tweed yarn, laying on a bed

It took me probably until the end of the first piece (the front) to be pretty comfortable with how my tension was going – getting all those floats to be somewhat even takes a lot of practice. I still wasn’t all the way sure that they were going to block out correctly, but I think they ended up being fairly even and not too loose or tight:

Inside of Warwick Sweater in light brown and navy tweed Berroco yarn, showing even colorwork floats

I continue to totally dislike how the yarn gets tangled and has to be constantly managed (if anyone has tips for that, please let me know!), but by the end I was getting pretty good at judging when those tangles could be left until the end of the row, and when they had to be worked out immediately. Overall though, it was a fun sweater to work on and fit well while piecing, and the shawl collar is really pretty.

Close up of folded Warwick Sweater in light brown and navy tweed yarn from Berroco

I used tweed yarn for the first time, Berroco Blackstone Tweed in colors Steamers (the light brown) and Narragansett (the navy), and for the most part I felt pretty positive about it. The colors are beautiful and play well together (although I can’t take credit for the colors since Kyle picked them out), and it’s very soft to knit with. My only complaint is that it breaks really easily, which made seaming a bit of a trial, but that’s hard to get away from with natural fibers. The only downside is that we’ve had a crazy mild winter here, so the sweater is a little too warm to wear most of the time! He’s gotten to wear it a few times though, and January/February are usually our coldest months, so hopefully there will be a few more chances before spring hits, because I think he looks quite nice in it :).

Man wearing Warwick sweater in light brown and navy tweed yarn from Berroco

Cowls Cowls Cowls (and a scarf)

I’ve been in the mood to make some simple things lately (probably because I have so many boxes to unpack), so I’ve been using up stray skeins of yarn to crochet and knit a few big, chunky cowls (available in the Etsy … Continue reading

A Few Finished Projects

Happy holidays everyone! I’m over here finishing up Christmas presents and planning our dinner, but I do have a few finished projects to show today. I’ve made a lot of hats in the last month or so, for whatever reason. It … Continue reading

New Pattern: Transenna Blanket!

Meet my newest pattern, Transenna!

Lavender knit blanket with cables

Basically as soon as it started getting chilly and rainy around here, I was itching to start something with cables. I already had a bunch of sweaters in progress, and I’ve wanted a heavier, knit blanket to snuggle up on the couch with for a while now. I poked around for a week or so trying to find a pattern I liked, but nothing was grabbing me, so I made my own!

Lavender knit blanket with cables

I kind of just experimented with cables until I found some I liked, so this blanket uses a combination that ends up looking like an old lead glass window (which is where the name came from!).

Close up of lavender knit blanket with cables

It’s knit with yarn held doubled in Cascade Yarns Cherub Aran, which remains one of my favorite yarns. It’s so, so soft, but can be machine washed and dried (I don’t recommend drying it, as it can seriously shorten the life of your knits, but the point is that you can). This made it not only crazy warm, but also gave it a gorgeous drape and weight.

Lavender knit blanket with cables

I made this one in lavender (which was very quickly claimed by a friend), then immediately cast on to make one in green for a Christmas present, and I have plans to make another in blue for our new house!

Lavender knit blanket with cables wrapped around dog

It may look really complicated, but I’ve tried my best to break it down into easy to read parts, and the pattern comes with both written and charted instructions. It’s available for download in my Ravelry store. I hope you have as much fun making it as I did designing it, and as always, please let me know if you have any questions!

A Few WIPs

I’ve had some trouble settling on just one project lately; I have Christmas presents to make, but I just can’t seem to concentrate on anything for very long, so I don’t have any finished projects to show this week. Instead, you get a bunch of who-knows-when-they’ll-be-done projects!

First up, I’ve been making applesauce like crazy around here. I normally hate to cook and consider it more of an inconvenience than anything else, but for some reason I love to can and make jam. I got a brand new, giant canning pot, so now I can process a bunch at a time instead of trying to fit them into our little pressure cooker (there’s only 3 in this pot because it was the last of the batch, but I can fit up to 8 pint jars in here!).

Applesauce being canned

In craft project news, I’ve been working on making a Super Grover costume for friends of ours (they have a dog named Grover, so it had to happen) and I’m fairly proud of this helmet I made:

Dog wearing a Super Grover helmet

Zoey is quite rakishly modeling it for me in this picture (she is the WORST model, so she’s being bribed with a tennis ball here), but I’m hoping Grover’s Mom and Dad will send me some pictures when he dresses up for trick or treaters, so hopefully you’ll see the whole enchilada (there’s a cape too) soon!

I’m also working on a birthday present for the husband – he is a notoriously difficult person to shop for, so when he really liked the Warwick sweater from my The Knitter magazine, I decided that would be the way to go. I can’t show the full thing because he reads my blog (hi babe!), but showing the backside is safe, and I’m actually pretty proud of it:

Back of navy and light brown tweed men's sweater

Of course the sweater he liked involves colorwork, which is not a thing I’m particularly good at. After completing the entire back and half of the front, though, I think I might finally be getting the hang of it; my floats are pretty uniform and not totally out of whack gauge-wise. The pattern is well written and fairly easy to follow, and the colorwork is pretty simple as far as it goes, so I recommend it if you like making sweaters and want a bit of a challenge. Now that I’m getting a bit more confident in my technique, I’m eyeing some of the more complicated patterns in that issue – like this adorable sweater vest. Maybe after the new year!

My youngest brother (age 11) has been asking for a hand knit sweater for years, and I always hesitated because 1) he grows SO FAST and 2) like most kids, he’s really hard on his clothes. But, I found this Red Heart “Team Spirit” yarn at Joann’s in red and black (his favorite colors because he’s a huge Manchester United fan), and decided it would be perfect.

Halfway done knit red and black striped sweater

This a great yarn for a kid sweater; it’s totally acrylic, comes in fun colors, and is really bulky. I don’t love knitting with it, but I found some tutorials online about softening up rough yarn, and since it’s inexpensive and quick to knit, it won’t matter super tons if he puts holes in it. I’m using the Flax pattern, with a little modification, and I’m loving how the top-down knitting makes the stripes different widths.

And because I don’t have enough fiber projects happening, I’m also working on a couple of blankets. I can’t show one of them, as it’s a Christmas present, but the other one is just-for-fun crocheted blankie. I started out with a hexagon pattern:

Blue crocheted african flower hexagon, made with Cascade Yarns

But as it grew, I just didn’t love it, so I frogged it and decided to try out a wave stitch, which I am now totally crazy about.

Blue crocheted baby blanket using wave stitch

This is just a small sampling of what I have going on (there’s some other top secret stuff I can’t show yet), but I’m hoping to actually have something finished soon, so stay tuned!

 

Undercover Blanket

I’ve had some trouble settling on a knitting project lately. Temperatures have been a lot hotter than usual around here, and I find that it really saps my motivation to do anything that has to sit on my lap. But, I can’t sit there without anything to do, either! I decided on a baby blanket, since they’re pretty quick and don’t take up much lap space. I’ve had the Undercover pattern from Beata Jezek in my Ravelry library for a long time now, and I had a stash of Cherub Aran in Denim Blues that turned out to be perfect:

Blue hand knit lacy baby blanket, made with Cascade Yarns

As I’ve mentioned before, I struggle a bit with variegated yarns. I often love the colors but hate how they look on certain projects, so I generally end up using them in blankets with a lot of stockinette, which can get boring to knit. Not so with this pattern! It has a really pretty lacy repeat that looks a little like leaves, but still shows off the yarn colors beautifully. It also knit up in only a few days, which satisfied my need for instant gratification.

Close up of blue hand knit lacy baby blanket, made with Cascade Yarns

And it’s finished with a seed stitch border, also known as my favorite way to end a blanket, particularly a baby sized one – I’m pretty sure I can point to the influence of Debbie Bliss for that one :).

Close up of blue hand knit lacy baby blanket, made with Cascade Yarns

I did find the instructions to be slightly confusing at first, so I wouldn’t recommend this for a beginner knitter. You’ll need some experience to get started, but once you get the pattern established it’s pretty easy sailing, and it’s looks really gorgeous when it’s done.

Folded blue hand knit lacy baby blanket, made with Cascade Yarns

I’m not the only one who loves it, either…I took it outside for a photo shoot, and in the minute my back was turned, Zoey managed to steal it for a cuddle (excuse my shadow, it was too cute of a picture to pass up).

Dog laying on blue hand knit lacy baby blanket

I definitely recommend this one, and Beata has a bunch of other really pretty patterns, so check them out if you’re looking for a new project (or even if you’re not!).

Buried Treasure

I’ve finally unpacked the last of my craft room boxes (it only took 8 months!) and I found some buried treasure that I thought I’d share. First up, a couple of really special quilt tops:

Quilt top with gold birds and indigo clouds appliquéd on it

My grandmother was a quilter, and this is one of a few quilt tops that she gave me several years ago. She had largely stopped quilting at that point, and I had just started. I had them out in my room for a while, but felt much too intimidated to even know were to start quilting them, and eventually they got put away for space reasons. This one is all hand turned and appliquéd, with beautiful golden birds and indigo clouds.

Close up of quilt top with gold birds and indigo clouds appliquéd on it

It’s quite long, and I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to keep it tapestry length, or cut it into two pieces to make a blanket. It would be the perfect size for a baby blanket, and as my grandmother is no longer with us, I like the idea of making our (eventual) baby something that she started.

The other quilt top from her is more of a lap size:

Quilt top made with solid blue squares and blue and white checked squares

Again, it’s all hand quilted patchwork. I think when I do quilt these, I’ll hand quilt them, maybe with a bit of machine stitching in the ditch to stabilize it. I’m just now, some 5 or 6 years later, feeling confident enough in both of these skills to feel like I’ll do them justice.  I’m really glad that I didn’t just use these as practice projects, and I think they’ll be beautiful with some careful planning.

Next up is an apron that I bought on sale right after my husband and I moved in together. It seemed like a good idea to have a cute apron for our brand new kitchen, and this one had a cupcake already drawn onto it (it was a kit, I think from Martha Stewart), so it seemed like an easy project. And it was…3 years later. I found it in the boxes and finally stitched it up, which took about an hour and made me feel really dumb for not just doing it sooner!

Apron with hand embroidered cupcake on it

I also found a baby bunting that I made from a Debbie Bliss pattern:

Baby sleep sack made from yellow wool

This was one of my first knitting projects, and you can tell that I wasn’t so good at seams yet. It’s also made out of wool, which is not exactly the most practical yarn for a baby garment, but at least it’s warm! I think I’ll redo the seams and add snaps in the enclosure rather than velcro, but then it can go to a new home.

Back of baby sleep sack made from yellow wool

And last but not least, not something I made, but treasure all the same:

Stuffed sewn letters spelling out "love"

This was made for me when I was a baby, and was in my room for my whole childhood. It came with me when I moved out on my own, and has lived in whatever space I used for sewing for the last few years.  It’s looking a little worse for the wear, admittedly, but I still love it, and it’s been restored to it’s proper place above my craft desk.

So there you have it, my version of buried treasure! Pretty sure I would have been an excellent pirate :P.