Fingerless Mitts, Cables, and Gussets – Oh My!

How’s everyone’s 2020 going? Doesn’t it feel like we’re living in the future, even though it’s the present? It’s late February and I’m still adjusting.

After Christmas, I took a small hiatus with projects but all the sales hit and I succumbed to buying some items that helped kick off some new WIPs for 2020. I started a poncho (this one, to be exact), a little amigurumi that is green and baby/child-esque from one of the biggest movie franchises in history, and to keep my brain extra challenged, a pair of knitted fingerless mitts that also has a cable pattern. (For in-progress photos of the green baby, you can check my Instagram, I have a story highlight on that one.)

Not surprisingly, I finished the knitted mitts first, although 2017 Zoe would have found that hard to believe. I thought I might finish the amigurumi doll but I’m taking my sweet, sweet time with it. The mitts presented several new-to-me challenges: making cables and thumb gussets, mostly, although I was slightly worried I would have Second Thing Fatigue. That’s where you make the first of two items and then are exhausted by it and never make the second half of a project. I had that happen to me when I tried crocheting a pair of socks. Turns out, crocheting a ton of single crochet in the round for hours on end is extremely tedious, and I never made the full pair of socks. I was thrilled that didn’t happen with the knitted mitts! Knitting in the round is more soothing and goes pretty quickly, especially working with a chunky yarn like I was. Next time I do a pair of these, I will try “TAAT” or two at a time.

For my mitts, I used a pretty hand-painted aran-weight yarn from Knit Picks called Muse, colorway Vitalize. I liked all the yellows and greens with flecks of red.

For the most part, despite being an intermediate pattern, I found the pattern relatively easy to work up. I did have to do some math that scrunched my brain a bit, since I decreased the number of stitches in order to get gauge. I cast on 36 and I knitted these using magic loop. I’m just not a double-pointed needle kinda gal. I used my brand new cable needle to help me, watched some handy YouTube videos to make sure I was on the right track, and knitted away. There are definitely ways to have more finesse in cabling but for a first-time project, this wasn’t bad at all. My mitts don’t look as refined as some of the other linked projects but that’s okay. It gave me enough confidence keep trying cabled projects.

Humanity Fingerless Mitts

The trickiest part for me was making the thumbs. I was fine with slipping the thumb stitches onto scrap yarn but I also had to learn the backwards loop cast-on which is so simple it’s hard. At least initially. After casting on those extra stitches, you complete the hand and bind off. (I used Jeny’s surprisingly stretchy bind-off.) I also had to pick up stitches, which is made easy only with a crochet hook, at least for me. I do not have even or pretty thumbs on these mitts but they’re chock full of lessons learned. The yarn is sorta stretchy because it’s a superwash wool but next time, I think I would like to go with a merino/nylon blend, or something with a tad more stretch. The chunk to the yarn helped me knit them up more quickly, though, so that’s something.

Overall, extremely pleased with these and they’ll be great for the transitional seasons when it’s not too chilly but chilly enough to need a hand warmer. Plus, the fingertips being free means being able to use anything with a touch screen.

If you’re a fellow knitter, I’d love to hear about any successful fingerless mitts patterns you like, cables or not.

Until next time, friends!

Sweet Little Tree of Mine

Happy holidays, everyone! I know not everyone celebrates Christmas or is into Christmas trees, but if you are, this is the post for you!

I finally delved into my pattern trio from Lalylala (Lydia Tresselt) and made the Christmas tree (the other two are angel and candle)! It’s amazing how when I buy patterns, I have every intention of making the item RIGHT NOW and it rarely ever happens. Timing is important when it comes to crafting, it seems.

Anyhow, I decided I would make up a little tree for my office’s holiday gift exchange and thought it would be festive and cheery enough that most people would like it, whoever ended up with it.

I’ve made enough amigurumi that the actual doll itself didn’t take too long – a handful of hours. The sewing of the beads with invisible thread was the task that took a lot of patience. Thankfully, if you do it while you’re watching holiday movies or something, it doesn’t feel like a chore. So I would say this pattern is advanced beginner, depending on your sewing skills. Of course you don’t have to sew anything onto it. The tree itself is adorable as is.

Here’s my first little tree doll — I bought more beads so I can make more of these cuties. Makers, have you tried this pattern yet?

Happy holidays to you, whatever you celebrate! (Or don’t! Merry Whatever!)

Milla Mouse + Shop Update!

Hi, folks!

I’m really proud of today’s amigurumi reveal. The designer, My Krissie Dolls, is very thorough with her patterns, as you can see from a previous doll I made of hers. I worked on this doll off and on for about two months and I’m really happy I took my time.

What I loved about this pattern–and what was most challenging–was that you are given an option to knit the dress and collar or do it in crochet. Because I wanted to challenge myself with the knitting, in addition to preferring the overall look, I opted to knit them. However, I did not want to make something flat and have to seam it, so I used magic loop. I also used worsted weight yarn, whereas the designer calls for sock weight yarn. I prefer my finished dolls to be more sizable and huggable. 🙂

The other options for this doll include shaping the toes and adding some kind of blush or rouge for added color and dimension to the face and ears. I did not tack on eyelashes or make the teddy bear for Milla, but those are all details you can decide on if you take on this pattern.

First up, some photos. Then an update on the shop below!

Now that you’ve surely fallen in love with this mouse doll as I did, there’s good news on that front. She is for sale!

Not only is she for sale but she’s listed on the new shop page! You’ll see in the main menu links above that there is now a “Shop” link, which I will be keeping updated with what I have in stock and ready to go. Shipping is free within the domestic U.S. but if you are an international shopper, you’ll need to message me beforehand so we can square up the final details in a separate listing.

I’m not ready to take custom orders the way I did on Etsy but I imagine I’ll get there. Speaking of Etsy, I still have the shop and a handful of listings there but ultimately, I will only be keeping it up to let people know to head this way. The bottom line is, as much as I love Etsy and continue to support other artists there, it’s not good for small hobbyists like myself who are selling infrequently. The costs have gone up way too much. At the end of the day, I pay a not-so-cheap annual fee to have this website and it would benefit me (and any buyers) to sell directly from a website I already pay for and use, versus having to charge more for all of the fees Etsy takes out now. I didn’t imagine I would even have an Etsy shop for over five years, so I consider it a really good run.

Questions or comments? Email me at zavvycreations[at]gmail[dot]com or leave me a comment on this post!

Twinning in Tweed

When I last updated, I included a green and brown tweed hat as part of my hat-knitting streak.

I’m happy to report I was able to turn around and make another one with the same colors, just in reverse order of the first. They’re soft and lightweight and absolutely perfect for fall.

So now I’ve got two tweed knit hats that would fit anyone from a child through tween/teen and it didn’t scare me off from working with tweed, even with the neps! 😀

I haven’t listed any of the knit hats in my Etsy shop yet; I haven’t decided if I want to do a whole shop restock when I amass a certain number or whether I want to do a trickle of listings.

did decide to list the knitted cowl I completed a little while back and an amigurumi squid I completed over the weekend. Check ’em out! Everything ships free within the United States.

Hope you all had a lovely weekend. It still feels like summer in my neck of the woods but we’re supposed to have actual fall temps a week from now. I can’t wait!

Knitting Frenzy

I have knitting news!

I invested in a couple of short circular knitting needles last weekend and in one week’s time, I was able to accomplish knitting two hats AND a pumpkin.

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat.

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Remember when I first started learning to knit and all I wanted was to knit a hat? Well, I accomplished that via the magic loop/half loop method a while back, but then once I got my hands on some good shorties (I bought two bamboo ChiaGoo 16″ needles from a local yarn shop), I discovered how much more I enjoyed knitting in the round on the short circular and transferring to magic loop for decreasing. That’s not to say I won’t be using magic loop for sock knitting or making mitts down the road–those are still goals!–but for now, I seem to have unlocked a reliable method to whip out some hats.

I was also on the struggle bus with a rather simple knit pumpkin pattern but after some tries and fails, I busted out the new short circulars again and that helped a lot. (Plus, the designer was kind enough to answer my newbie knitting questions!) I didn’t think the acrylic yarn did as well on bamboo; a bit too much texture going on. But wool glides really well on the bamboo needles. That said, I understand why people amass a collection of different types of needles. I still want to get some more red lace ChiaGoo 16″ needles, among others.

Blue knit hat: women’s XL done in Knit Picks Chroma Worsted. Colorway is Weathervane but I believe it’s discontinued. Simple pattern from the Craftsy/Bluprint class on magic loop with Lorilee Beltman.

Green and brown tweed hat: unisex medium (would fit child/teen/petite woman) done in Knit Picks City Tweed DK. Colorways are Chipmunk and Sage — unsure if either or both are discontinued. Pattern is a FREE one from Ravelry called Bankhead and is quite popular!

Pumpkin: done in Knit Picks Brava Worsted (can you tell I have a lot of Knit Picks yarn to get through?). Colorway is Persimmon and I crocheted the stem in another colorway which I think is Dublin but I’m not 100% on that. Pattern is available on Ravelry and Etsy for a low price. I learned a lot with the pumpkin because I learned how to knit a large tube in the round and then sew up the ends. Nothing wrong with leveling up on sewing skills!

I need to give my hands and wrists a rest but I’m already scheming up what to work on next!

 

 

A Cute Raccoon and an Update on Etsy

Hello, friends!

It’s been longer than I would prefer between updates. Life was pretty hectic for a while and the blog took a longer snooze than I thought it would.

I finished a custom raccoon order back in March and things were so busy at work, I didn’t have time to process the photos I took or blog about it. So now I’m posting the update on that. I was a bit worried that because I hadn’t done a raccoon in a few years, I would find the pattern overly technically challenging, but I was pleased to find it wasn’t. The most challenging aspects of making it were:

  • The color changes on the snout — getting nice, even tension with the changes
  • Placement of the eyes and eye patches and getting everything just so with the symmetry
  • Making sure to stuff properly but not overstuff; the head and body needed a lot for proper shaping!
  • All the sewing

via GIPHY

In the end, though, the pattern and my skills prevailed, and I was just as in love with this raccoon doll as I was when I made the first one. If you’d like to try your hand at this pattern, you can find it in Little Muggles’s shop.

Speaking of Etsy shops…

Between January and July of this year, Etsy has made some pretty significant changes to their platform. There are definitely some pros to what they’re doing for mega sellers. For smaller shops like mine, I’m afraid the overhead costs of having an Etsy shop are proving to be too much. I haven’t officially decided to close my shop because having the potential buyers on such an enormous platform is definitely worth some of the expenses. (Operative words: potential and some.)

Due to the changes Etsy made, I saw a SIGNIFICANT decrease in sales. I was getting the visits, largely due to Pinterest (I’ll save a rant on Pinterest for another time), but almost zero sale conversions. It wasn’t just me. I took to the forums to see if others were experiencing the same frustrations and they are.

I work hard to price my items fairly for my time and quality materials. I am definitely not someone who has all the time in the world to make a bunch of amigurumi and sell them at a discounted price. Nor am I selling at craft fairs. (Maybe someday.) I was also still using promoted listings at $1 a day to get my items in front of buyers. However, even dropping $30-35 a month on promoted listings, I have barely been able to sell anything, and I’m spending that money with zero guarantees that more sales will be forthcoming. On top of out-of-pocket costs, Etsy changed how they bill sellers and are taking a little extra chunk out of the total sales, as well.

The most recent change in the last few weeks is that Etsy has updated their algorithm to favor listings with free shipping. Honestly, I get it. I do. Everybody loves free shipping. But all that means for small-potatoes shops like mine is that we have to include the shipping cost into the price of the item, which makes the items seem overpriced, and I’m not sure free shipping is going to be the clincher to get a sale. If I were to tell someone that the hippos I sell are $45, they might say, “Okay, a bit pricey but seems worth it for a quality handmade toy.” (By far my most popular one.) But when I say they’re $54, I picture eyebrows winging up and a much faster decision being reached that that’s far too much. At least when I was listing shipping fees separately, a buyer could see that I did my best to keep them at $10 or under, and it was because I ship Priority Mail and with insurance.

I’m pondering over all of these changes and wondering what the best route for me to take is. I have had my Etsy shop for five years now and for the most part, it’s been really great. I have enjoyed the process, I’ve really liked having a wee side business that earns some extra spending money, which mostly helped me repurchase supplies for new listings, and I’ve evolved as a crafter and honed some more business skills. But with these latest changes, I feel as if my shop is being swallowed up unless I am willing to invest much more money up front, which I don’t have. If I were churning out items left and right, that would be one thing.

At the end of the day, having this shop is primarily supposed to be for fun. Crocheting and knitting are FUN hobbies for me. I don’t want to equate those activities with the drag of Etsy’s new policies or being a strain on my personal finances.

So what I’ve done in the meantime is keep a handful–and I mean handful–of listings active. I also have the “Request Custom Orders” turned on because anybody can go through my prior sales and figure out what kind of work I do and request something to be made. The listings that are available have free shipping but their prices look higher.

I’ve turned off priority listings, which means I’m not shelling out $35 a month for the potential of a sale. Not having as many listings also gives me time to make items in my own time and list them for sale as they become available. One of the options I have been considering is letting all of my listings expire and doing a shop restock when I get 5-10 items made. I’ve also considered selling items only through this website, which I am able to do, but I don’t have the audience, and purchasing options are more limited (e.g. only being able to take PayPal).

If you are an Etsy shop owner or if you are someone who shops on Etsy, and in particular if you’ve ever purchased something from me, I would love to get your feedback. I have found posts from people I follow on Instagram and the like, voicing similar frustrations, with some people actively shutting down their shops altogether. I’m still open…just…but need to figure out a way to make my craft hobby work for me without being subject to these large monkey wrenches.

For now, I’m knitting and crocheting at a leisurely pace and trying my hand at things I haven’t had the time for and I’m enjoying it. I hope you are all enjoying a lovely summer!

Update: this is how the current fee structure breaks down for any given sale in 2019. It adds up to almost 9%, which is not a small chunk, in my opinion: “Etsy charges $0.20 for listing fee, 5% transaction fee, and 3 % + $0.25 payment processing fee.”

 

Branching Out to Baskets with Bernat Maker Home Dec

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A few months ago, I purchased a couple of skeins of Bernat Maker Home Dec yarn because I thought I would make another pillow with it. I had fallen in love with this smock stitch (Tunisian) from TL Yarn Crafts and couldn’t wait to get started.

I sat down to practice with my yarn and hook and didn’t fall in love with making the stitch the way I thought I would. (I may try again, but I impatiently moved on.) I really wanted to make something else as a home decor project that wouldn’t take all day and was as attractive as it was useful.

Enter baskets from Yarn and Chai! I loved the look of the mini bean stitch and once I read through the pattern for her nesting baskets, knew I wanted to get started right away. I flew through making a large basket with the pretty aqua skein. For my basket, I used I and H hooks (5.5mm and 5.0mm) instead of H and G hooks, as I wanted it to be slightly larger than what the basket size would yield. Because the design gives a double lined basket, you don’t have to worry about the spaces between the stitches as much. It’s sturdy and will hold up well. I did not insert the plastic ring in my basket but I will experiment with that down the road. I think it’s a terrific technique that she offers up for making the baskets extra sturdy, in addition to keeping their shape.

I loved working with this yarn, by the way. It’s soft and doesn’t split, due to the cotton/nylon blend. I have another skein in the colorway clay with some aqua leftover. I haven’t decided if I’ll do another basket or if I’ll try my hand at a pillow but I will figure something out soon, considering how much I like it. The yarn also shows off terrific stitch definition, and the mini bean stitch is perfect for it.

Knowing me, I’ll probably put odds and ends in my basket, or I could even put it out in the family room to hold some items. It’s quite eye-catching. I also want to experiment with doubling or tripling the pattern to yield a much larger basket when I get my hands on more of this yarn.

What have you made with it? Do you love it, too?

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“Ocean and Sand” Blanket Using Caron Cakes

As we amble on through winter, I’ve found myself tackling cheerful projects like this precious baby blanket. I bought the yarn on a whim (Caron Cakes in colorway Faerie Cake) and decided to see how it would work up as a blanket. The colors are just so pretty, aren’t they?

This blanket wasn’t done using a pattern — I winged it — but I’ll list the basics of what I did below, in case you want to try something with this line of yarn.

Due to the small amount of wool in it, the blanket feels slightly denser than a typical baby blanket, but it’s not what I would consider heavy. It adds just the right amount of weight and warmth. The stitches hold up well and the blanket has a nice drape. I was able to make a blanket about 28″x 30″ which includes four rounds of a border, using only two cakes.

Hook: H (5mm) 

I started off with a chainless foundation row of half-double crochet stitches and then kept the height by using extended double crochet stitches throughout for the body of the blanket.

For the border, I did one round of single crochet, followed by two rounds of standard half-double crochet, and ended with one round of twisted single crochet, which mimics crab stitch without the headache.

It worked up quickly and prettily — the stripes do all the visually pleasing work, really, although I really do like that edging with the twisted single crochet in the aqua color.

I ended up listing this blanket in my Etsy shop giving it to some friends as a baby gift. I call it the “Ocean and Sand” blanket because of all the shades of “water” it has in this colorway. Of course, being named Faerie Cake, it could be used in any number of magical-themed projects where you need some beautiful shades of blue. Below are the photos with more closeups of the blanket itself.

If you’ve tried this colorway or Caron Cakes in general, let me know what you think of working with it!

Donation: Knitted Baby Blanket

img_2970 zvcAt long last, I finished my practice knitted baby blanket! By the time I completed it, including giving it a gentle wash, I realized it would make a terrific donation to a local charity or hospital.

I bought two skeins of this sweet yarn that knits up into stripes with little flowers when you do stockinette stitch. For my practice blanket, I did a border of seed stitch. The colorway is Buttercup but if you follow that link above, you’ll see there are tons of different colors! (So hard not to buy more…) I even have some leftover that I think I’ll try a hat with down the road.

The blanket took me a while to complete, since I started it when I was brand new to knitting, and I would pick it up and put it down. Although it could be tedious at times, it really did help me practice my tension with knitting and just becoming overall comfortable with the pastime. There are plenty of mistakes in this blanket but no holes, and it is just the cuddliest blanket, perfect for a baby’s skin to snuggle up with.

I’ve chosen Project Linus to start and if I don’t get anywhere there, I will try Knots of Love next. It feels good to give back and know someone will benefit from the hours of toil I put into this piece.

Have you ever knitted or crocheted for a charity? If so, what have you made and given away?

The Two-Year Knit Hat Project

By now, all seven of you who read this blog know that I started my journey into learning to knit in 2017. I practiced and practiced and practiced. And then I practiced a whole bunch more. I knitted and frogged, knitted and practiced binding off (horribly), and swatched until I couldn’t swatch anymore.

Since knitting hasn’t come as naturally to me like crochet did, I had to work even harder to get a comfortable muscle memory going to where I could knit without wanting to throw something.

I got into making washcloths, then a knit scarf for my husband, a small baby blanket (which I still need to post about!), and even a cowl, which turned out really well. I made so much more progress in the first 18 months of knitting than I thought I could or would.

However.

HOWEVER.

I have watched other people new to knitting start whipping out hats immediately and I’m wondering, what am I not getting? Why can’t that be me? What’s the secret? I basically took up knitting in order to make hats and two years in, nothing.

Part of the frustration for me has been that I don’t want to work with double-pointed needles. I wanted to learn the technique that would allow me to decrease without using a whole bunch of extra sticks. In addition to watching several YouTube videos on Magic Loop, I bought a comprehensive class on Craftsy (now Bluprint) with Lorilee Beltman, one of my favorite teachers I’ve found there, and I proceeded to watch the lessons on getting a hat completed a couple dozen times.

There are so many elements to knitting in the round that present tricky situations: which type of circular needle you use, joining, decreasing, which tools you’ll use to decrease, and finishing your hat so there aren’t any holes, to say nothing of keeping an even tension. A friend pointed out I could have tried knitting flat and then seaming, but I have tried my hand at that with other crafts (Tunisian crochet, for one) and it didn’t turn out the way I wanted. Completing a knitted hat in the round was the goal.

At last, something clicked after I finished some of my other projects, and I felt I was ready to try the half-loop method, followed by decreasing with Magic Loop. I swatched and made sure my gauge would be similar, if not exact, prepared my needles, and got started.

I swear, I almost stopped before I’d even finished round 2, because I had messed up something with the join. It didn’t click until round 2 or 3 but once I was under way, I kept on going and didn’t look back. I was nervous to try decreasing and moving into Magic Loop but I plowed onward.

Somehow, some way, a hat came together. I watched a separate video on Craftsy (a free one for Chemo Caps) on properly binding off the last 8 stitches and sewing the hole shut. Once I did that, I was finished. And then I couldn’t actually believe I was finished.

One final thought is that I found it odd that even though I used a smaller needle for the brim (k2, p2 all the way around for 2.5″), it’s looser and looks bigger than the knitting in the round for the remainder of the hat with a larger needle. That stumps me.

Something else to figure out, I’m sure! (If you’re experienced and can speak to that, please leave a comment!)

For now, I’m reveling in the fact that I accomplished a MAJOR goal of mine with knitting in the first month of the year, so I hope to continue the streak of challenging myself for 2019. Ultimately, I want to do some color work and a fair isle hat someday, but…one thing at a time. I mean, I still haven’t made that wreath I blogged about in 2017, either! (Whoops.)

If you are a hat knitter and can share any favorite patterns, please do!