All the Spinning, All the Enthusiasm

Thank you, thank you, for your kind comments and your willingness to spread the word about how to prevent sand hole collapses. I’ll leave the comments on that post open until next Wednesday and then will use the Random Number Generator to see who will receive the handspun yarn (or something knit from it).

Now that I’ve started blogging again, I might as well continue, right? And while I do have some knitting to show you, I thought I’d instead show you what I’ve been obsessed with lately.

HansenCraft miniSpinner

HansenCraft miniSpinner

I got this beauty for my birthday last month. It’s a HansenCraft miniSpinner, in cherry wood, with a Woolee Winder. Oh mercy, y’all, I love this thing. I’d been kind of wanting one for awhile, and after doing some investigating and talking with some spinners who have them, I decided it would be the perfect addition to my spinning tool collection. I just didn’t realize how perfect.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, the miniSpinner is an electric spinner – meaning it requires no foot power (treadling), leaving you free to focus entirely on drafting. It’s powered with a foot pedal and is plugged in to an outlet or car charger (it can also be plugged into a battery pack, which is my next hoped-for acquisition). The portability is unparalleled. In years past, I have frequently loaded one of my spinning wheels into our car for long trips. But this time, I was actually able to spin while en route!

spinning in the car

spinning in the car

I love treadling, so I wasn’t sure if I would really love spinning without treadling, but I do. It’s fantastic to be able to focus more completely on the drafting, and I feel like my spinning has already improved as a result. And my production has increased exponentially.

In the last month since I got the miniSpinner, I’ve spun the following:

Southern Cross Fibre,

Southern Cross Fibre, “Breeze” on Finn

Spunky Eclectic Wensleydale,

Spunky Eclectic  “Octarine” on Wensleydale

Southern Cross Fibre

Southern Cross Fibre “Nobby” South African Superfine

Hello Yarn

Hello Yarn “Gobbler” on Cheviot, skein 1

Hello Yarn

Hello Yarn “Gobbler” on Cheviot

I’m working on a sweater spin of the Hello Yarn “Gobbler” for this year’s Tour de Fleece. I think it will make a perfect fall sweater! And in the first six days of the tour I’ve already finished two skeins and gotten nearly halfway done with the third.

Hello Yarn

Hello Yarn “Gobbler” on Cheviot

Like I said, the increase in my productivity with this thing is pretty amazing. In all of last year, I spun up 40 oz. of yarn. In the month since I got my miniSpinner, I’ve already spun up 20 oz (and more than 1/3 of that month included zero spinning because of more intensive traveling) . I know I won’t keep that pace year-round, but it’s exciting nonetheless.

Now if only I could figure out a way to make my knitting needles move as fast as my new spinner, I’d be set!

So Guess What I Made Next…

After completing five pairs of handspun handknit socks in a row (with a brief break to make a baby sweater), what do you suppose I made next?

If you guessed more handspun handknit socks, you’d be correct.

My Old Man’s son had a birthday in February, and it had been awhile since I made him anything (he believes that I now direct all my gift-making energy towards his girlfriend, and he may be right). Around the time I was completing my second pair of socks for myself, I realized that the yarn I had on the wheel at the moment would be perfect for socks for him.

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This is Hello Yarn Targhee in “Bracken and Gorse,” the November 2014 fiber club, which I spun up as 280 yards of light worsted weight 2-ply. I had initially been thinking to weave with it, but my recent handspun sock obsession shifted my thinking.

As soon as I was done with my Munhacke Campfire Socks, I cast on:

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At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have to marvel again at how quickly worsted-ish socks grow:

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They grow so fast!

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Of course I used David’s Toe-Up Sock Cookbook, this time with no afterthought heel or anything unusual at all, other than throwing in my beloved 3×1 garter rib for the leg. If you want to do ribbing for a sock but want it to be as fast and easy as possible, go with garter rib. Though if you are like me, you will forget that’s what you were doing and accidentally switch to regular rib for the second sock. I did this for two of my last three pairs of garter rib socks.

But this pair, I got just right.

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I will admit that, once I tried them on, I really kind of wanted to keep them for my own self.

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They are so soft and cozy! But since I had just made two pairs for myself already, I managed to give them away as planned.

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The recipient seemed pleased!

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And the fit seemed pretty spot on.

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I am very, very happy with how this pair turned out.

Handspun Bracken and Gorse Socks

Handspun Bracken and Gorse Socks

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After I was done, I still had roughly 90 yards of the yarn left. I briefly experimented with turning into more socks, striped with some Stonehedge Shepherd’s Wool:

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But I wasn’t loving it, and I soon came up with another idea of something I want to save it for. More details on that another day, but – believe it or not – it’s not socks.

More Socks for My Own Self. Or, How I Sat in the Snow in the Dark and Created Something I Love but Failed to Take Any Notes.

Immediately after finishing a pair of handspun knee-high-ish socks for myself, I cast on for another pair, using my handspun Hello Yarn Superwash BFL in Mochi, the first yarn I finished in 2014:

Hello Yarn Superwash BFL, "Mochi"

Hello Yarn Superwash BFL, “Mochi”

I adore those bright, warm colors, which I spun up as another chain-ply (205 yards light worsted, out of 4 ounces). When I originally spun this up, I was thinking mittens, but lately I’ve been all about the socks, so that’s what I went with.

I decided to do the toe on this pair differently:

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Basically, I pretended I was making a wee top-down hat. While I love the figure-eight cast-on I usually use to start a pair of toe-up socks, this cast-on was the simplest, fastest start I’ve ever had. Plus, I love the look of the toes. And the fit is perfect:

sock toes

sock toes

Next, I decided to do some arch shaping, to accommodate my high, narrow arch. I’ve done this once before and was very pleased with the results. That was a few years back, but fortunately I made some notes on my Ravelry page that helped me get an idea of what I wanted to do.

arch shaping

arch shaping

Because I’m in love with an afterthought heel, that’s what I did for these socks. I knitted in a line of waste yarn where I wanted the heel to go, and then I just kept knitting a tube. Good grief that’s such an easy and fast way to make a sock. I put some of the brown parts of the yarn aside for the contrast heel, and then just kept knitting my tube.

When I got to where I thought I would need it, I started some calf shaping. And then before I knew it, I was done with the first sock, and I finished off with some brown for the cuff. I cast on for the second sock immediately, and when I was done with both tubes, I went back and added in the heels with the brown yarn.

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I took this project with me on a winter campout with a Boy Scout troop my son is thinking of joining. I’ve got to say, sitting outside in the snow, watching the sun set, and knitting a sock is an experience I’d never had before. And I liked it!

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It was a cold and snowy weekend, and we spent most of the afternoon and evening outside, around a campfire. Knitting a sock with an afterthought heel was basically the perfect project for this, because I was just knitting a simple tube. I continued knitting on into the night, because I didn’t really need to see what I was doing.

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The thing is, I had intended to release this as a free pattern. And sitting outside in the cold, in the snow, in the dark, with the scouts, I totally failed to make notes about what I was doing. And now, more than a month later, I don’t know if I can remember exactly what I did. So at some point, I will need to study the sock and/or make another pair.

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The truth is, I want to tweak the heel just a bit (this is another hat/bullseye heel like in the pair I showed you yesterday). So knitting another pair is probably the way to go anyway.

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In the meantime, I have very happy feet (though I do need to back and close up that little gap at the heel on the right sock). (Also, I know more now about how to prevent that from happening in the first place, so I want to incorporate that knowledge in my next pair.)

sock blocking

sock blocking

I should add that this pair is cat-approved as well.

As with the pair I showed you yesterday, I managed to magically make a mostly matching set of stripes from one sock to the other:

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That comes, I think, from how I spun the yarn. I split it as evenly as I could, straight down the middle, and then spun each half from the same end, and then chain-plied. I ended up with one skein of 101 yards and one skein of 104 yards, as close a matching set as I have ever managed to spin.

Maybe no one but me is interested in making handspun, toe-up, hat-toe, arch-shaped, afterthought heel, hat-heel, knee-high-ish socks. But they are fun to knit and a delight to wear, I assure you!

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Handspun, Handknit Socks for My Own Self. Or, How I Got Through Winter.

I like winter a lot. Even really cold ones, like the one we just had. But that could be because I know the secret to staying warm and cozy. (My husband says my other secret is that I’m never the one who shovels the snow….)

Last month, I showed you the handspun socks I made for my menfolk for Christmas. As I made those socks for my guys in December, I promised myself a little reward if I could get them all done – the next pair of handspun socks would be for me.

So in January, I made good on my promise. For starters, I pulled out one of my loveliest yarns:

spun :: Hello Yarn Finn
This is 240 yards of light worsted chain-plied Hello Yarn Finn in “Winter Storage” (September 2009 Fiber Club), a fiber I loved from the word “go.” When I first received this fiber, I knew I wanted to chain-ply it, but I had only been spinning for a few months at that point, and I didn’t feel very skilled in chain-plying. So I waited until I felt confident I could get it the way I wanted, which turned out to be a few years (I’m slow I guess). And at last, in 2013, I pulled out this fiber and managed to get it exactly the way I had in mind:
spun :: Hello Yarn Finn

I knew from the beginning that this was destined for socks. What I didn’t know was that it was destined to become knee socks. What a happy surprise!

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As usual, I used David’s Toe-Up Sock Cookbook, my go-to for handspun socks. With my worsted gauge and my narrow feet, not only did the socks knit up very quickly, but they turned out a lot taller than I’d anticipated.

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It might be a bit of an overstatement to call them knee socks – they don’t actually go all the way to the knee. But they are pretty long socks, and very cozy, and extremely happy-making.

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I’m still kind of in awe of how well the stripes matched up between the two socks. With handspun, I just assume that fraternal socks will be my default. But look at that matchy!

With this pair of socks, I did an afterthought heel, which is one of my favorite ways to make socks these days. It keeps the stripes of the sock continuous, and it allows me to more easily plan for a contrast heel. This time, I decided to do a heel I’ve never made before – a “hat” heel or “bulls-eye” heel. Basically, I decreased for the heel the same way I would if I were making a brim-up hat. And this might just be my new favorite thing:

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I love the fit, and I love the look.

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Y’all, this was the fastest, most fun pair of socks.

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So here is my secret for a happy winter: handspun, toe-up, afterthought hat heel, knee-high-ish socks. Both the making and the wearing. If you can wear a pair while making more, even better.

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Something for My One-Sock Wonder

Yes, it’s more handspun socks. I had a goal in December – to make a pair of handspun socks for each of my three guys. I finished a pair for Tiny Dancer. I finished a pair for My Old Man. And I finished one sock for Little Buddha.

That’s right, just one sock. With the other two sock projects, I was using handspun that I already had in my stash. For Little Buddha, I had to acquire fiber in the colors I knew he would like and then hurry up and convert it into yarn. So, with four days left till Christmas, I spun this up:
"City Park" on Polwarth, by a thing for string fiberworks. 2oz, 104yds worsted chain-ply, for kid socks. Still spinning the other half of the fiber while igo ahead and cast on this half. #handspun #spinningyarn #yarn

This is “City Park” on Polwarth from a thing for string fiberworks. Polwarth wouldn’t be my first choice for socks, but these are so his colors and I couldn’t resist.

So I spun up the first two ounces and made a single sock.

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And I washed it and blocked it and let it dry and then the next day was Christmas. So I gave him the sock.

The funny thing is, we have been calling him “One-Sock Wonder” since he was little, because ever since he was a toddler, he has had a tendency to go around the house in just one sock. At some point we realized it was because his twin brother was always yanking one of his socks off. Eventually, it just became his preference. And now at the age of 10 now, it’s just his thing. So I didn’t feel too bad about giving him just the one.

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another blurry shot!

Actually, I gave him a sock and a half. The first two ounces made more than just the one sock, but I couldn’t quite eke out two whole socks from it.

At any rate, the day after Christmas, I packed up my wheel and hauled it the 800 miles to Georgia, so I could spin up the rest of the fiber on vacation. I accidentally spun it slightly bulkier than the first two ounces, so the cuff of the second sock fits a bit more loosely than the first. But whatever, I finally finished my Christmas knitting.

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You can probably guess – but I’ll tell you anyway – I used David’s Toe-Up Sock Cookbook to make these. Once again, a great fit. (Though from the looks of it, he will be outgrowing these very soon!) (Which is fine, because they also fit me!)

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It felt really good to have a thick cozy stack of socks to give my menfolk for Christmas.

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And it feels even better to see the three of them actually wearing them. There is really no feeling in the world quite like seeing something you’ve made used and loved by someone else.

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Squoosh!

 

Handspun Hurry-up Holiday Socks for Hubby

My husband is one of the most low-maintenance people I’ve ever known. He almost never wants anything more than what he already has, and he rarely feels he needs anything either; he certainly never wants anyone to go to any trouble for him. As someone whose temperament is rather the opposite of this, I find this quality in him admirable. However, it makes gift-giving a huge challenge.

This includes gifts of the handknit variety. In a decade of knitting, I have made him the following: 2 hats, 1 sweater, and 1 vest. The end. That’s it. The only reason he let me make him two hats is that he lost the first one (sometime after I made the second one, he found the first one; he tried to give the second one away, since he didn’t feel he really needed it, but I wouldn’t let him). The sweater, early in my knitting career, was an unmitigated disaster, though he did try to make me feel better by wearing it once or twice.

I wanted to knit him something for Christmas, but the question was what. I didn’t have the time for a sweater, he doesn’t like mittens at all (they are not utilitarian enough for him – he wants basic, functional gloves), and he has less than zero interest in a pair of slippers. When he’s not wearing nice dress socks for work, he prefers to walk around the house barefoot (this is a thing with all three of the guys I live with, and I will never understand it). Regardless, I decided to knit him a pair of socks.

I selected a yarn I spun in 2013, one of the first on my then-new Cherry Matchless.
Tour de Fleece :: Day 1

176 yards chain-plied Pigeonroof Fiber Studios Superwash Merino in “Calico.” I had intended to spin something finer than aran weight, but I was still getting used to spinning in double drive (something I still don’t feel super-comfortable with – I spin almost exclusively in scotch tension).

I dug this yummy yarn out of my stash, made a gauge swatch, and then used David’s Toe-Up Sock Cookbook, as I usually do, to determine all my sock numbers. I’ll tell you what, aran weight socks on size 5 needles with 36 stitches are fast. I decided to make them even faster by employing the same technique I used with my son’s socks – I made the cuff 3×1 garter rib. Five days later, BOOM, a pair of socks.

handspun hubby socks
Here they are Christmas morning (hence the Christmas mess in the background). He opened them and immediately began wearing them.

I did that thing again, where every modeled shot I took was either blurry, or had poor lighting, or both.

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But you get the idea.
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I love, love, love the earthy tones of this yarn.
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I was very, very happy with how these socks turned out. I have never gone wrong using David’s sock calculations. The fit of these is absolutely spot-on. And I’m thrilled with how they look.

in situ

And the best part is, he wears them all the time. They have been totally perfect as housesocks during this cold, cold winter. He totally loves them.

We were both a bit surprised by how much he loves these socks. All this time of knitting, and I could’ve been making him socks, but neither of us had any idea he would like them or wear them. So not long ago, I was enthusing over how, now that we know, I can make him handspun, handknit socks all the time. Perhaps I should have expected his low-maintenance response: “Why? I already have a pair.”

A Bit of Sip and Zizzle :: Handspun Kid Socks

Last year, the first yarn off my wheel was this Hello Yarn Southdown, “A Bit of Zip and Sizzle”:

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I chain-plied it with the goal of making socks.  which is what I made with it in December:
handspun kid socks

The fiber was named “A Bit of Zip and Sizzle,” but I always inadvertently thought of it as “A Bit of Sip and Zizzle,” so that’s what I’m calling these socks.

I made these using David’s Toe-Up Sock Cookbook, which is my go-to for all handspun socks. You make a swatch, check your gauge, plug in all your numbers, and you’re ready to go. I made these with garter rib for the cuffs.
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I’m so pleased with how these turned out. I love how they striped up and how well the stripes matched:

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The Southdown (a fiber I hadn’t spun or knit before) is a yummy, sturdy, wooly wool. And worsted weight yarn for smallish feet makes for a very fast knit.

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These socks actually only took half the yarn I made (2 ounces), so I’m thinking I might make a second pair.

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In the meantime, I’m enjoying seeing them on these sweet feet.

Free Pattern :: Charlevoix Mitts

I don’t know how it is where you are, but where I am, it is very cold and there is more than a foot of fresh snow on the ground and I am NOT COMPLAINING. Because I am a knitter. Which means I am happy for any excuse to: a) sit inside and knit, and b) haul out all my woolens and wear them all at once. I’ve been told that the reason I think a cold, snowy winter is so lovely is because I’m not the one that digs our cars out of the snow after it’s all over. And this is true. Because not only am I a knitter, but apparently I am also a princess. A princess who is happy to sit inside in her handknit socks with a cup of hot tea by her side and needles in her hands.

Sometimes those hands need warming up, even when I stay inside. Some people find fingerless mitts to be utterly useless; I find them to be indispensable. Especially if they are the kind that I can also pull up over my fingers while I read. Because wearing mittens inside while reading is ridiculous, but wearing fingerless mitts pulled up over your fists is not ridiculous, it is brilliant.

For Christmas, I wanted to make a special pair of fingerless mitts for my stepson’s girlfriend. She’s a massage therapist with a magical touch (she is SO GOOD, y’all), and her hands deserved something extra-special. So I spun up some prized fiber – a gorgeous silky cashmerino from FLUFF, an amazing but not currently in-business independent dyer. The fiber started like this:

FLUFF Silky Cashmerino in "Artifact"

And then I spun it into this:

light worsted 2-ply

The blues evoked for me the gorgeous Great Lakes, and the silvery browns called to mind the Petoskey stones (fossilized coral from more than 350 million years ago – and our state rock!) that can be found along the lakeshore. Lindsay is a true Michigan girl who loves the lakes and their landscape. I’m calling this simple design “Charlevoix,” after the town where she has spent a lot of happy time beach-going and rock-hunting.

Charlevoix Mitts

I never got a single picture that truly captured the yummy colors and texture of this yarn or these mitts. But as you can probably imagine, the silky cashmerino has a delicious look and feel to it. The mitts are smooth, lightweight, and slightly nubbly.

They are also the most basic possible knit – you just make a tube, as long or as short as you wish – and embellish it with a baby cable as you go.

A baby cable is the simplest cable in the world to make, and you certainly don’t need a cable needle to do it. It’s made over two stitches – every third round, you knit the two stitches together but leave them on the lefthand needle, then knit into the first stitch on the lefthand needle, then slip both stitches off. Offset by a purl stitch on either side, it’s just a sweet, simple little detail. I love baby cables!

These took about half the yarn I spun – so roughly 150 yards of light worsted – which means I have enough yarn leftover for another pair (or a matching accessory). They were extremely fast to make, too, making them perfect gift-knitting (or perfect in-between-big-project-knitting).

I’m sure you could figure out how to make these just from the pictures and my description – knit a tube, make a baby cable along one edge of it – but in case not, I’ve put together a one-page pdf explanation, which includes three sizes. You can find it for free in my Ravelry store: download now

January is for Mittens

Scrolling through my Instagram feed in early November, a pair of handknit mittens caught my eye. They were colorwork mittens, with a contrast hem, and a tree motif – swoon – designed and knit by the inimitable Kirsten Kapur. I was totally captivated and immediately obsessed. Turned out, it was a soon-to-be-released design, and Kirsten was looking for test knitters. I was thrilled to get to test this pattern.

I had some green handspun in my stash (I believe I spun it up three, maybe four, years ago) that was just begging to become trees in this mitten pattern. And who am I to stand in the way of yarn fulfilling its destiny?

Handspun Metasequoia Mittens. LOVE these mittens. Another @throughtheloops winner! #handspun #handknit #mittens

This was a truly delightful knit, from beginning to end. Watching the trees grow out of the cuff, especially in the subtle shades of this handspun, was nothing but joy.

Metasequoia Mittens

Metasequoia Mittens

I also learned how to be more mindful with my colorwork. I had tension issues early on, which resulted in my having to knit back an entire half mitten and try again.

These beauties were worth it.

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The pattern is well-written, clear, and easy to follow, as is always the case with Kirsten’s patterns. If you are new to colorwork, this would be a perfect first colorwork design for you to try.

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The end result is totally cozy and completely charming. The contrast hem inside the cuff is a sweet little detail (I didn’t manage to get good pictures of mine, but it’s done in a rich brown). (The non-handspun yarns I used for the white background and the brown hem were both Stonehedge Fiber Mills Shepherd’s Worsted – have I mentioned it’s made in Michigan?).

But I do have one problem.
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I love these mittens so much that I haven’t been able to bring myself to actually wear them. They are just too precious and I’m afraid of ruining them!

But mittens are made to be worn, so I will wear them, I promise, once I get done admiring them.

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Thanks, Kirsten, for another perfect pattern!

The rest of you need to knit these. You won’t be sorry! You can get your own copy of the pattern here.

Something Else for Our Princess (Handspun Little Sister Dress)

Back in June, our niece had a baby. Back in July, I made her a sweater. Back in August, I got to meet her.

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And for the occasion, I made her a dress, out of handspun.

Handspun Little Sister Dress

Handspun Little Sister Dress

I’d had my eye on this pattern for awhile. It seemed such a perfect use of handspun – mostly stockinette with a great little A-line shape and a sweet garter neckline. It was a fun, fast knit, which was good because I had to knit it twice – the first time I made it, I’m pretty sure it would’ve fit a three year-old.

neckline

neckline, modified to use just a single button

If I recall, I kind of winged things a little, using the pattern as a suggestion and just working with the gauge I had and the amount of yarn I had. The neckline is clearly a bit modified, and I ended up only needing one button instead of two.

I made the dress using some leftover handspun (Hello Yarn Polwarth in “Troll”), the same yarn I used to make a hat last Christmas for my mother-in-law:

Troll Hat

Troll Hat

I thought it would be special for her and her first great-granddaughter to have something made from the same yarn. Coincidentally, I also had to knit my MIL’s hat twice, since I also made it too big the first time. Apparently, this is how I roll.

At any rate, I could not have been happier with how the dress turned out. And then I got to see the little princess in it, and I almost died.

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ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THE CUTE? Sorry to shout, but COME ON. This just kills me. I mean, this is seriously every knitter’s dream, to have a handmade gift look so perfectly adorable on its recipient. And the fact that my niece chose this dress as one of the outfits for her baby’s 3-month portraits just kicked it all up a notch.

And that neckline I loved so much?

sweetness

sweetness

Well, it looks pretty smashing with those baby blues, amiright? Though honestly, I’m so enchanted with her eyes, it’s hard to even glance at the sweater at all.

This is a great little baby knit, with growing room so that it can convert from dress to tunic. I am so, SO pleased with how it turned out, and with how it looks on this little darling. Perhaps I should hang up the knitting needles now, because I know it will basically never get any better than this.

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