Sunday, January 30, 2011

The last handmade holiday gift this year...

Here's the felted water bottle holder I mentioned in my last post.  The pattern is very very basic. It did not include instructions for a strap so I made one up and luckily the length turned out well in terms of sizing for an 8 year old. It would have needed to be much longer for an adult.  You can find the patten here.  I'm going to include pre-felted sizes for you so if you want to try this pattern, you'll have some idea of how big to knit the holder. So here's the before pic:

knitted water bottle holder prior to felting
I double stranded the same two colors of Patons "Classic Wool" that I used on the clogs with the same size 11 US needles. I was knitting to fit a Camelback BPA-free hard plastic water bottle holder (about 8 1/2 inches to the top of the lid by 9 3/4 inches in circumference) so if you've got a larger circumference bottle you may want to size up a bit because the dimensions I'm about to give just fit perfectly for this bottle.  So here are the pre-felted dimensions:

Base square= 4 inches
Bag length= 12 inches
Bag width (laid flat and measured straight across) 6 inches
I-cord strap= 8 inches

The strap was knit with 3 segments in size. I started out by picking up stitches on the edge of the bag to do a knit/purl rib of 7 stitches. Then I sized down to 5 then down to 3 so that the ending would be easier to tie through the loop of I-cord I knit for the other side. I decided to do this because I really wasn't sure how much the strap would shrink and if I'd knit the end of the strap to the other side of the bag I'd have been stuck with whatever came out and if it was too short or too long I'd have had to cut it and figure something else out. With the design I used, the length of the strap could be adjusted a bit.  Quite frankly, I was convinced that the length I knit was going to be super long even after felting but I was completely wrong.  Lesson: If you are going to felt a strap, err on the side of knitting something way way longer than you think you'll need.

Strap length, total= 64 inches
7 stitch rib portion= 36 inches
5 stitch rib portion= 12 inches
3 stitch rib portion= 16 inches

You can see this step pattern in the "before" picture above.

I felted the holder in a lingerie washing bag along with some towels (lesson hadn't been learned about not using towels for felting- see the previous post) in the washing machine. I pre-soaked the holder in a pot of boiled water on the stove for about 1/2 hour or so then dumped it all into the washer. It took about 4 agitation cycles to get it down to where it seemed the right size.  I think the bag length is a little long and if I do this pattern again, I'll make the length about and inch shorter. I did not allow the bag to go through the spin cycle as this can put unwanted creases in the material that is really difficult to get out. I pulled the bag out of the washer and hand pressed it in some towels to get the worst of the water out then I put the water bottle in and left it alone to dry. Here's the result:

The finished holder, slightly used.
You can just make out the stepped decrease on the strap. It's not unsightly at all.
This photo was taken about a week after I gave it to my stepson and he'd had a chance to use it and for the dog to chew on it, etc.  He likes it and it seems to be working well. Unfortunately, I found what looks like a chew mark on the i-cord strap and it looks like it might rip through. If that happens, I have plenty of repair yarn left over and I'll plan on needle felting the repair.  We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Holidays Survived! Now the Craziness Really Begins!

Well, the holiday season was relatively low-key, for which I am eternally grateful. Now, work at the Heard continues and the weekend events schedule is heating up, classes have started, friends are coming from far away, clients are calling, and I am desperately trying to eek out a day in the studio once a week.  So- it's business as usual :-)

I had so many people sign up for my Wednesday night enameling class that we were able to split it into 2 nights, which makes for a much more pleasant working environment for me and the students.  I have been doing very freeform enamel pieces, and I will chronicle from start to finish soon but right now, I feel like showing off some fibers!

As some of you know, I am also an avid knitter (and novice weaver) and I worked on some handmade knitwear for holiday gifts last year.  My mom has everything she wants so it's really hard to buy gifts for her and I gave her major jewelry last year so I thought something fine in fibers would work this year. I opted for a knitted scarf.  It took me a year to make because I initially started with a sampler pattern and a very fine lace merino but I knit so loose and the sampler pattern was written for much fatter yarn so I kept running into problems of getting the width right and getting the yarn knit tight enough to actually see the lace pattern!  Did I mention this was my FIRST lace attempt EVER?????

Well, after a multitude of false starts, I picked a fatter yarn and selected just one pattern from one of Barbara Walter's Knitting Treasury called Diamond Mesh, if you want to look it up.

Diamond Mesh lace shawl
~60 inches long and 10 inches wide
Charcoal gray heather Merino wool

So here's the shawl.  Not the greatest photo and not the best lace attempt in the world but not too shabby if I do say so myself.  Blocking it was tricky because I didn't have a good location to pin it out. I had to wait until my stepson was at his mom's for a couple of days so I could use his bed and I also bought those long lace blocking needles, which, as a metalsmith I should have been able to source cheaper than what I paid at the yarn store (they are just thin stainless steel rods), but it was worth it to just go get them ready to use. Blocking lace intimidated me at first, but it was surprisingly easy. 

My other fibers projects were felted clogs for my hubby and stepson.  I used the Fiber Trends Pattern AC33e with Patons Classic Wool. I had tried this pattern before with a charcoal grey Lamb's Pride yarn and the darn stuff would not felt, no matter how much I tried. Very discouraging. But a good friend had done up some lovely clogs with the Patons so I decided to try again and it worked wonderfully. I do like this wool for felting. I will say, if I were to knit some up for myself, I think I'd alter the pattern and raise the back up to make more of a shoe. I have such a hard time keeping shoes on because they are always too wide. I think this would help make the clogs more user friendly for my foot.

Clogs Before felting. The ones with my foot on them (women's size 10 1/2) were for my stepson. I knit them up for a women's size 10 and they fit him by the time they were done! The ones on the left were for the hubby.

Aiden's clogs, felted
Aiden's clogs with my foot again for size comparison. The hubby has started destroying his so I'm not going to show them here in their current state.  If one didn't wear them OUTSIDE and step on the heel so that it was deformed and crushed, they would hold up just fine....
I also made my stepson a felted water bottle holder with the leftover yarn from the clogs, which turned out very well.  I'll post those pics when he brings the thing back from school, hopefully tomorrow.

I learned a very useful tip while watching Knit and Crochet Now on PBS and that is to NOT felt with towels. They shed lint which gets embedded in the wool and it's nigh impossible to fully remove.  Lesson learned AFTER I felted all my holiday projects, of course!