Thingamabibs & Hats

When I heard that one of my dearest friends was having twins, I knew I had to do something Thing 1 & Thing 2 themed. This is the first intarsia work I ever did, but I’m pleased with the result. The hats are a modified version of another designer’s very cute pineapple hat, credited in the pattern.

ThingamaBibs and Hats (Click to download or print).

To Hang a Fleece

Here’s a tip about washing fleece in a small apartment: do it in warm weather. Not that it was particularly warm when I washed the first batch, but we hadn’t turned the heat on yet. We were still sleeping with the window open, and the smell of wet wool and lavender detergent was delightful to me. After being cooped up in poorly circulated air with the other part of the fleece…I don’t even know what I was thinking.

Not that clean wool smells bad, per se. The lavender scent is just lingering longer than I’d like and there’s the faintest whiff of barnyard under the cloying floral scent that I am looking forward to shutting up in a plastic box.

I know I already posted once on how to wash a fleece, but I have a new piece of brilliance to add to the process. When I washed the first batch of this fleece, I spread it out on a cheap sheet on the floor and rotated the towels above and below it. For two weeks. While cats slept on it and pranced feltingly above the damp coverings. It came out unscathed, but the system did not encourage me to make washing another batch a high priority, especially during the holidays when the apartment is already full of decorations and presents waiting to be given. We just don’t have enough floor space to add a giant sheet full of damp fleece to that chaos.

Once we got settled back into normality after the holidays, and during my vacation from the kidlings, I found myself with a bit of time and energy. I decided to wash the fleece, but instead of spreading it out on the floor, John and I came up with this clever rig:

My lovely fleece hammock there is made of two square dowels and a section of nylon screen from Home Depot, held together with flat tacks. My initial idea was to rest the dowel across the tub and somehow weigh them down, but the only good way to do that would have required me to build a frame. I may eventually actually turn this into a full frame, because the way the fleece hangs in the middle isn’t really conducive to fast, even drying. A frame, however, would be bulkier to store and potentially more annoying to deal with when we move in the nearish future, so that’s one of those “once we buy a house…” projects.

You might have spotted another problem with this hammock. “Don’t you guys only have one shower?” you might ask. “And doesn’t a fleece take, oh, like a week or more to dry?” Yes and yes, and yes: that turned out to be a problem.  I washed the fleece on a Friday before a long weekend during which John and I specifically planned to do absolutely nothing other than eat takeout and play Skyward Sword (yes, I know, we’re awesome). Even so, I couldn’t stand how badly I needed a shower by Monday morning and the fleece was clearly not going to be dry enough for us to shower before work on Tuesday, so I came up with this:

The store hangers are particularly good for this application since you can turn the hanging bit to whatever angle works best. The nice, deep indents for tying the string securely are also handy. Now I can transfer the fleece between the tub and the back of a door as quick as a whip.

If only I could deal with the smell so easily.

Spinning, My Head is Dizzy


Okay, well not completely from a sheep. I didn’t shear the sheep or skirt the fleece. But I washed this fleece, carded it, spun it on a spindle, plied it, and finished it. I’ve seen these shirts that say something like: “Knitting: It’s not a hobby. It’s a post-apocalypse life skill.” To this I say, true, but you know what’s even more useful? Spinning. Someone make a spindle-oriented shirt with that saying, and I will buy it. (Well, provided it’s soft and has a baby doll fit–I have no interest in your crappy, iron-on, boxy, stiff man-tees, internet.) If you only know how to knit, you’re only useful until all the yarn stores have been raided clean or destroyed. But if you know how to spin, well. Maybe you won’t get eaten when the canned soup runs out. Spinners can turn sheep into sweaters without killing them. It’s amazing.

This first yarn of mine, unsurprisingly, is terrible. It’s uneven and lumpy and thick and scratchy, which I am trying very hard not to be discouraged about yet. There’s a fair amount that happens between spindle and finished skein–I just wish I knew which parts of the process are in most need of modification.

This is the yarn before plying:

I wound it from my spindle with the ball winder John got me for Christmas. (Oh, by the way, have I said Hallelujah! yet? I love that thing.) I was astonished to find that my yarn did not break even once. This worried me, especially considering how much moving around yarn does in the finishing process. Spindle to ball, ball to spindle, spindle to niddy-noddy…

John and I made this niddy-noddy. It has…issues. I’m a little worried that this is one of those cases where I tried to be cheap by doing something myself and end up spending not only the time and money on the DIM project (oh, apt acronym), but then eventually the money on a professionally-crafted item.  This one was not standing up well to the forces put upon it when I tried to take the yarn off, but I did somehow manage to get the yarn from the niddy-noddy into the bath.

Wait, what? You want me to put my WOOL yarn into a hot bath and agitate it? Are you crazy? Do you know how much time I spent spinning that stuff? And now you want me to subject it to the ever-feared felting conditions? Yes, apparently. Yes. I have decided that knitters greatly exaggerate the ease with which wool felts in order to put the fear of felt into non-knitters who become responsible for painstakingly crafted wool garment. That being said: Cho, if you put those gloves through the wash, I will beat you with whatever comes out.

Somehow, through all this abuse, fleece manages to survive and emerge strengthened into this:

Did I mention that I made that?

Casing the Joins

I am a cheapskate. If I can spend less money by doing something myself, I’ll waste my time before I waste my money. I do try to be realistic about the types of task I am capable of accomplishing. I also try very hard to consider the costs–if it’s cheaper to buy exactly what I want, that’s what I’m gonna do.

I recently bought myself a set of interchangeable circular knitting needles, which I’ve been wanting for a year or so. I find circular needles to be a royal pain to organize, so the concept of being able to pick my cord length and pick my needle size is just downright sexy. The set I bought comes with a plastic pouch to store everything in, but let’s get real here: I love my tools. My shiny tools deserve better than to languish in crinkly plastic pouch, no matter how well it’s constructed.

I was actually almost delighted when I opened the box and found that the zipper pull had broken in transit. What luck! The fact that I had purchased materials to make my own case was justified by the shoddy craftsmanship of the standard pouch. I whipped out my sewing machine (love that birthday present, Mom!) and went to town.

The design is my attempt to reverse engineer something like the Della Q cases, I won’t lie. I love their stuff, but again: I’m cheap. The materials for this cost me less than ten dollars, and since I had fun with the project, I consider my time and labor free. I won’t be selling these things, ever, because my ability to sew in a straight line is severely challenged, but for my personal use, I’m quite pleased.

I used broadcloth for the lining and pockets. From finished edged to finished edge, this is about 12×16 inches, the top flap being two inches shorter than the other sections to allow room for the button. Once I had ironed the hems down and pinned the top together, I sewed the pockets only to the lining by the dividing seams and the bottom seam of the top pocket.

The tie is composed of two pieces of the lining fabric, sewn up with an angled tip and reversed. I pinned them in between the outside and the lining and sewed them in as I sewed the two pieces together. Instead of turning the top upside-down over the pockets and leaving a hole to reverse it through, I laid the hemmed top and front together as they go and sewed all around the edge, using a green thread that matches the outside. The final piece was the shell button, which fit nicely in between the two pockets.

These instructions don’t quite qualify as a pattern or a tutorial, I know, but hopefully they’re useful for other fabric rookies a start on a simple project. If you want quality, I’m sure the real thing is worth the asking price, but if you’re a cheapskate who doesn’t mind a few imperfections, this project worked out pretty well.