Vessel — a pattern by Sheryl Hill

Every knitter needs a useful pot to put things in.  And here it is, easy-peasy.
an open box made of felted wool

VESSEL  Designed 9/22/2006 on Burntside Lake, Ely, MN, by Sheryl Hill

Size:  Height is knitter’s choice: count on knitting at least two-times as much height as is desired (i.e.: vessel will be half as tall after felting)
Before Felting: 6-1/2 inches wide by 6-1/2 inches deep
After Felting: 5 inches wide by 5 inches deep

Materials: 250 yds bulky weight wool, or 500 yds of worsted-weight wool held together (NOT superwash)

Needles: 24″ 10-1/2 US / 6.5 mm circular needle

Gauge: not critical  to success

Make Square Bottom:  CO 18 sts.   Knit in Garter Stitch for 36 rows (18 Ridges).

Build up the Sides: with circular needle, pick up 18 stitches at each side and CO 3 stitches at each corner (84 sts).  Working circularly: St St on the 18 side sts and PURL THE 3 CORNER STS.  Work at least double the expected height of your vessel.  On the LAST ROUND, BIND OFF the 3 corner PURL sts. Keeping the 18 side sts on each side live.

Edging: Cast on 5 sts.  Do a 5-Stitch I-Cord Bind Off around the top of your Vessel.  Note: A contrasting color works well. Seam the last sts of the i-cord bind-off to the beginning of the i-cord for a continuous join.

Finishing: With yarn matching the vessel’s sides, pinch outward the 3 purl stitch corners and sew the sides together at each corner.  The column of purl stitches will create a standing seam which will add stability for the walls of your vessel.

Decorate your vessel “walls and bottom” with your contrast color using a crochet hook and a simple “chain stitch”.  Weave in the ends.  Felt to desired size.  Smooth vessel into shape and air dry.
a wool felt box on its side
The wonderful thing about this pattern is the flexibility: choose any felting yarn, needles to match, and set about making vessels of various sizes and personalities.  Run out of one yarn?  Dig through your stash to find another yarn to finish it with.  Let yourself experiment with unexpected color combinations.

three wool-felt boxes

Many warm thanks to Sheryl for permitting me to share her pattern with the world.


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How to block knitting: colorwork

I recently completed a pair of colorwork mittens for a friend. The yarn is a superwash wool from my LYS, pt5 sport.  The pattern is a dear little twist on tradition: Peace and Love Mittens by torirot design.

Fresh off the needles, you can see the stitches of these mittens are rather bumpy and rough looking.  There is puckering at around the heart on the mitten on the left, and both points are rather goofy  looking.

colorowork mittens before blocking

You know what would smooth it out?  Blocking.  For these mittens, I’ll use steam blocking.

Wet a dish towel and wring it out so that it is not sopping.  Cover the mittens with the damp cloth.

cover the mittens with a damp cloth

With an electric iron set to the Wool setting, hover lightly over the damp cloth.  Do not press down, just skim over the surface. Copious amounts of steam will burrow through your knitting, allowing the wool to relax into its newly knitted configuration.  Move the iron to steam every bit of this side of the mitten.  If your mitten has a ribbed cuff, you can skip that part. Then, remove the cloth, flip over the mittens and have at the other side in the same manner.  And don’t forget the palm-side of the thumb.

steam blocking knitwear

While the mittens are still warm, smooth out the fabric if any stubborn bumpy spots remain.  Resteam as needed until you are satisfied. Some puckers cannot be steamed out; in such cases, check your floats are not too tight.

Here are my freshly blocked mittens. Ta da.

freshly blocked colorwork mittens

Steam blocking is generally just necessary just after knitting, to create a smoother fabric.  When the mittens are washed, they can be smoothed flat and allowed to air dry.



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How to Read while Knitting

Knitting can sometimes be really boring: get a pattern with not much changing from row to row, and there really isn’t anything for the brain to do.  Listening to music or NPR is always a good option, but sometimes I would rather read.  For those of you who want to keep that brain active, even through the depths of garter stitch, I have devised a recipe for How to Read while Knitting.

You will need:

  • a trade paperback book
  • a banana
  • a flat armrest
  • a simple knitting project

Settle yourself in your favorite knitting spot; mine happens to have a flat armrest.  Place the book open on the armrest, weighting it into submission with the banana.  If your spot lacks an armrest, try putting a pillow on the cushion next to you as a book stand.  Now your book will happily stay open, leaving your hands free to pick up your knitting.

Today’s book is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  Choosing a book can be an important factor.  Trade paperbacks tend to work best; their flexible spines almost always prop open successfully.  I have had limited success with smaller paperbacks or hard covers.  The book’s content should be interesting, but not too engrossing–I might neglect my knitting if I’m too excited about the book’s narrative.  Save the fabulously inspiring books for a reading-only session.

A banana makes a wonderful book weight.  Their weight and length, even their curvature, is almost uniquely suited to the role of a book weight.  Much of the banana rests in the margins, leaving 90% of the text readable.  The banana requires positional adjustment according to the progress of reading; sometimes it needs to be replaced altogether, if I get a little peckish. For alternate book weights, you might consider using: a knitting notions bag, a stone coaster, or a digital camera.

Choosing a simple knitting project is a matter of individual preference; it must be something you can do without looking at it.  Today, I have chosen the sleeves to my Tweedie cardigan; using just one yarn at a time and decreasing every 12 rows, this is mostly plain knitting.  I can knit for the width of the sleeve (~60 stitches) without looking away from the book. In choosing a simple knitting project, focus on flat-knit garter stitch designs (such as the most basic dishcloth) or in-the-round stockinette stitch patterns (such as a felted shoulder bag).  You’ll be most successful in reading while knitting if your project avoids a lot of K-P changes, cabling, colorwork, or shaping.  Think brainless knitting.

Some beginners have difficulty in knitting without looking.  To build your confidence, try watching a DVD while knitting.  Your eyes can shift from the screen to check on your knitting every little bit, and soon you’ll find you need to check in less and less often.

So here’s a picture of my set up, complete with a Phoebe cat for cuddling:

person with a cat, knitting, open book

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finished: Jacques Cousteau Hat

I recently finished a lovely little hat.  The pattern, Jacques Cousteau Hat, is available for free.

green knit hat

I love this hat for it’s simple, clean shaping.  It was a quick and satisfying knit.

I look forward to making more like this; I’m imagining a stash-busting exercise to clear out oddballs.  This hat is a little small for me, so I will donate it to a local shelter.


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trying new things: Jacques Cousteau Hat and Silo Ice Climbing

I tried two new things on Saturday:  the Jacques Cousteau Hat pattern and Silo Ice Climbing.

The Cousteau Hat has a lovely 3×2 rib, a deep fold-over brim, and a lovely four-section crown.  So I set-to with a ball of yarn I wanted to use up: a weird blend of 70% acrylic to 30% merino (‘why waste the merino?’ is my question).  Knowing I had a road trip coming up, I wanted a simple project to keep my hands happy.  I know I could have traveled with one of my pending UFOs, but I wanted something new.

I knit most of the Cousteau Hat on the road to Cedar Falls, IA for a day of ice climbing with the Dirty-Fun Havers.  The Dirty-Fun Havers are a group of girlfriends who like to go camping and canoeing and such like.  We agreed: Silo Ice Climbing seemed like a challenging and fun way to spend a winter’s day.  Masses of ice are frozen to the side of a grain silo, climbers are given crampons, ice axes, and rappelling gear, and then attempt to climb the columns of ice.  Belayers are there to catch you when you fall, so it’s all pretty safe, but it certainly is challenging.

The guys running the place were very friendly and helpful in guiding newbies in climbing.  A couple of our group were really good at it.  It was fun to watch them scramble up the silo, just as if they’d been doing this all their lives.  I didn’t do very well, but I’m glad I tried it.  And, it was a fun day out with the girls.

Meanwhile, back at the hat: since my chosen yarn was a mite bigger than the pattern calls for, I cast on a fewer number of sts (90 instead of 120).  Since I’m not very good at planning, I later had to change the crown-shaping from 4 sections to 3.  Hopefully that all works out OK.  This’ll be the best hat I never made, that’s for sure.

I plan to finish up the hat tonight, while watching Downton Abbey.

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Christmas Stocking Trio (SR-101)

I’ve released my first knitting design into the world: Christmas Stocking Trio.  It is three stocking patterns of traditional colorwork motifs, with calf-shaping centered at the join on the reverse, a short-row heel, and an optional monogram. Rauma Strikkegarn is the recommended yarn.  These amply sized stockings will hold plenty of goodies.

This pattern is a good choice for a knitter who is new to stranded colorwork.   Small projects like these are the low-stress path to learning a new technique.  Advanced knitters will also enjoy working up these simple socks.

Buy the pattern as an instant download at Denise’s Needleworks.  To find retailers of the recommended yarn, Rauma Strikkegarn, visit the North American Rauma wholesaler, Arnhild’s Knitting Studio.

three christmas stockings designed by stacey ross

Christmas Stocking Trio (SR-101)

(Edited March 2011 to update retail information.)


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