Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Snapshots from December

A busy month. A cold month. A month that started out snowy, then melted into drizzle and fog and damp brown-and-greenery.

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On the Sunday before Christmas I went to cut our Christmas tree. The weather helped set the mood by scattering the slightest layer of snow....

I love searching for a Christmas tree. It's really just an excuse to tramp through the woods and take photos....

This year's tree was decidedly less than perfect, but I fell in love with it and brought it home anyway...

...then fell in love with it all over again once it was decked and lit.

A few days later and the house was full. Small people made Christmas merry and noisy.

Good food and good company made it bright.

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A post-Christmas gift from farming friends:

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A few days after Christmas I took a walk to the prairie restoration project. The snow was long gone, and it looked more like autumn than winter....

Wild grass seeds - perennially fascinating:

The moon caught in a basket of budded branches:

Shadow of a blogger standing amidst the scattered leaves of a spent year:

Since that walk, the mercury has dropped. Temps are decidedly wintry again ... now all we need is some snow to complete the picture.

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I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, with pleasure outweighing stress. :)

Thank you for the past twelve months of friendship, supportive comments, and blogging joy. I wish you all the very best in 2015.

See you next year!

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Limpet Mitts Roundup

Howdy, strangers!

I feel as though I haven't posted anything in a long, long time ... though really it's only been about a week. Work, Christmas preparations, a four-day headache, and the Aged P have taken up most of that time. The weather has been highly unpropitious for outdoor exercise, but excellent for sitting around crocheting while honey caramelcorn bakes in the kitchen. I can see a few extra pounds in my very near future.

In other news, the Limpet Mitts CAL has been a great success. I get such a kick out of the fact that someone, anyone, wants to make a pattern I've designed - it never loses its thrill. So you may imagine with what fond pride I present ... (drumroll please) ... the Limpet Mitts Roundup!

Limpets On Ravelry

1. A lovely pale-gold pair by Hanne-Lore, made from her own onion-skin-dyed yarn:

What a beautiful shade (and very on-trend). Hanne-Lore worked into the Forward Loop Chains of the thumb to create a matching border there.

2. A really striking mitt by aliothsan:

I love the colourwork in these mitts - that contrasting yarn really makes the limpets pop.

3. An elegant silvery-grey pair by cannej:

Cannej also added a pretty border to her thumbs. A lovely detail.

4. A lacy, shimmery mitt by thebeader:

I like the open look of these mitts, and the soft shade of grey.

Limpets in Blogland

5. A warm and cheery red mitt by Teresa:

Teresa and I had great fun emailing back and forth about the progress of her mitt. Though we very often went off-topic, she obviously conquered the pattern. Bravo Teresa!

6. THREE pairs of mitts by Gisela of Un Poquito de Todo (what a great blog name). Soft cream-colour for herself:

And two darling pairs for her daughter, in cream and toasty red:

Notice the creative cuffs - I especially like the lacy v-stitch  on the cream pair.

7. A dainty ivory pair by Anja in Slovenia:

These pretty little mitts make me think of sunny weather and garden parties, with ladies in fluttery dresses and flowery hats.

8. A cosy grey pair by Mere of Mereknits:

Mere tweaked her pattern a bit to get just the fit she wanted around the thumb, adding a bit of extra texture in the process. And just look at her beautiful limpets:

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Many thanks to all who've participated in the CAL thus far, and to the ladies above for giving me permission to post their photos. I love it when people take one of my patterns and run with it, so I've really enjoyed seeing the individual touches these gals have added to their mitts.

If you're working on a pair of Limpet Mitts, and would like to share your photos with an admiring world, shoot me an email (address in profile at right) or a message in Ravelry (where I'm MrsMicawber). I'd love to see your version and add it to a future post.

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So, who's ready for Christmas?

(not me!)

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

MMABO Mitt ~ A Super Simple Free Knit Pattern with Easy Crocheted Bind Off

(So simple you could probably make one in the time it took to read that title....)

It's been pretty darn chilly in Wisconsin lately, and for me cold weather means cold hands - especially when I'm working on the computer. My right hand (or "mouse hand") gets extra chilly, so I like to keep a few fingerless mitts on my desk, ready to stave off mouse-induced frostbite.

Up till now my mitts have all been crocheted, but since MMABO (Mrs. M's Accidental Bind Off) entered my life a few weeks back, I've become rather addicted to it. I've spent way too much time binding off stockinette swatches just to see if the bind off really works (it does), and is really as stretchy as it seems (it is - see photo near end of post).

Then it struck me - if I made one of those swatches slightly wider and longer, and ran a seam up the side, I'd have a dandy little knitted mitt, and a really simple pattern to share.

It worked out pretty well:

Here's the super simple pattern:


~ Any yarn you like with the appropriate size needles
~ Crochet hook the same size as your needles or slightly smaller
~ Darning needle

Leaving an extra 10" tail, using long-tail cast on or your preferred stretchy cast-on, cast on enough stitches to fit loosely, but not floppily, around your wrist.
K 4 rows.
P 1 row.
Continue in stockinette (K 1 row, P 1 row) until piece measures 5½" (or to desired length), ending after K row.
K next row (WS facing).
Using a crochet hook the same size as, or smaller than, your needle size, bind off with MMABO (click here for tutorial). Bind off will be done RS facing.
Cut yarn and join top edge stitches with Invisible Join or preferred join.
Bring side edges together. Using starting tail, working RS facing, sew edges together to form a tube, leaving an opening for the thumb. (Use invisible garter stitch seam on first 4 rows, and mattress stitch seam on stockinette rows. Click here for an excellent tutorial on both techniques.)
Weave in ends and block as desired.

P.S. Disciplined knitters will block the mitt before seaming.

Some tips, ideas, and pattern notes:
  • You can of course use any stitch pattern you like for the body of the mitt.
  • A row of reverse stockinette worked just before binding off helps tame the curl of stockinette.
  • If you're handy with the dpns or circulars, work the mitt in the round to bottom of thumbhole, then back and forth to desired height of thumbhole, then in the round to the end.
  • A seaming option: leave a 6" tail at the top, and seam down to the top of the thumbhole, then use starting tail to seam from the bottom edge to bottom of thumbhole.
  • For a super simple MMABO coffee cup cozy, make a shorter swatch - say 17 or 18 rows - and seam it all the way up.
  • Lavender mitt was made with Plymouth Encore yarn, size 6 needles, and a US F/5 3.75mm hook to bind off. Mitt is 30 stitches wide x 35 rows of knitting tall (with bind off, 36 rows). Finished measurements after blocking: 6" tall by 6" around.
  • Green hand-dyed mitt was made with Superwash Merino DK by Ogle Design, size 7 needles, and a US F/5 3.75mm hook to bind off. Mitt is 27 stitches wide x 35 rows of knitting tall (with bind off, 36 rows). Finished measurements before blocking: 5½" tall by 5½" around. (I haven't blocked this mitt yet, as the yarn is so delightfully squishy it looks fine to me without blocking.
If you love to embellish, that smooth field of stockinette would make a lovely backdrop for some buttons, appliqué, or embroidery.

And did I mention that MMABO truly is stretchy? Here's an illustration:

MMABO Mitts are fun to make and fun to wear. They're perfect for a quick and custom gift - so get out that special bit of hand-dyed from your stash and whip up a pair today!

(Or, like me, you can make a single one for your mouse hand.)

You may do whatever you like with the items you make from this pattern, but you may not sell the pattern or reproduce its text without permission. Links are always welcome.

Thanks for viewing, and happy knitting (with crocheted bind offs)!

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Two Cold Walks

Yep, it's still cold here.

I fear that my outdoor posts will soon take on a January-like sameness. We've had so much more of this than we're used to at this time of year:

And it hasn't gotten any warmer. I believe there was one balmy near-40° (F) day last week - enough to melt off the top layers of ice - but the thermometer quickly dropped again, sending us back into a Siberian chill.

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Walk #1: Thanksgiving Morning

Ten of the clock and food prep done, I snuck out for a quick breather. The marshy lake-around-the-corner was festooned with icy grasses:

Cattails shivered despite their velvet-and-fur coats:

A tiny remnant of the brief thaw:

The start of the trail, snow-dimpled and leaf-spattered:

Icing lay on brown oak branches:

Queen Anne's Lace raised tiny hands in surrender:

A short walk, and a cold one. On the way to Dad's I snapped this photo out the car window:

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

The day ended with dinner and laughter and 3° outside. It was good to get home and under the warm covers.

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Walk #2: Monday Morning around the Park

Monday was a day of bitter cold and iron wind. Having spent the weekend sitting around knitting and eating cookies, I really needed some exercise. I set out to do my usual two miles, but nearly turned back before I'd gone even a block. Dang, it was COLD. Finger-numbing, nose-hair freezing, photography-discouraging cold. So, although I completed the walk, there aren't too many photos!

Feathery grasses at the park entrance:

Christmas lights on the public convenience:

Pine-shadows on the ice:

Goldenrod in frozen elegance:

So wintry, and it's not even winter yet.

On the bright side, my sister recently remarked that in three weeks the days will start getting longer again.

C'mon, Earth, tilt! You can do it!

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Someone is bound to ask what I've been knitting, so I'll spill: mitts. Mitts for Mr. M (rather fiddly as I am custom-fitting them to his hands, which has involved lots of frogging and re-working and deep-delving googling of myriad knitting techniques). As a break from the fiddly mitts, and an excuse to practice my new bind off, I've designed a ludicrously simple but cute-as-the-dickens easy mitt for myself. (Because I don't have enough mitts already.) Pattern coming in a few days!

What are you making?

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Friday, November 28, 2014

A New Bind Off for Knitted Projects?

Does anyone remember the old Reese's Peanut Butter Cups commercials? Person A is rollerskating while nibbling on a chocolate bar. Around the corner strolls Person B, eating peanut butter by the spoonful from an open jar. A collides with B, dismayed accusations are hurled ("You got chocolate in my peanut butter!" "You got peanut butter on my chocolate!") - then they each have a taste and discover to their surprise that chocolate and peanut butter make a pretty good combination.
That's how I feel about crochet and knitting. I love to blur the lines between the two crafts, introducing knit-like stitches into crochet, and using elements of crochet in knitting. Sometimes the results are surprising.
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A few days ago, I was searching the internet for a stretchy bind off to use on a fingerless mitt for Mr. M. Though I found several (bind offs I mean), and practiced them diligently, I wasn't completely comfortable with any of them. The fault was not in the bind offs, but in the knitter. I'm just not very good with the needles.

So I took my crochet hook, thought about some of my favourite stretchy crochet stitches, and started to improvise. That's how I stumbled on what I think may be a completely new bind off (or new to me, at any rate):

Mrs. Micawber is pleased to announce
the birth of a new bind off

I call it Mrs. M's Accidental Bind Off, or MMABO. (If it's out there already under another name, please let me know in the comments or via email, and I'll gladly give credit where credit is due.)

  • Quick and simple (especially for crocheters who don't knit much - like me)
  • Thicker and softer than a standard (chain) bind off
  • Stretchier than a standard bind off
  • Easy to do, using a SMALLER(!) hook than the knitting needles used for the project
  • Subtle when worked from the RS, and decorative when worked from the WS
  • Easily frogged :)
  • Adaptable to knitting needles for those who aren't comfortable with crochet hooks (but really, who wouldn't want to bind off with a hook?)
I've used MMABO on stockinette, garter, and seed stitch, and it worked equally well with all of them. I haven't tried it on ribbing - though MMABO can be purled, its chunkiness may not adapt well to a k/p transition. (If you try it with ribbing let me know how it works!)

The photo above shows the RS view of MMABO worked RS facing. Here's how it looks WS facing on a stockinette swatch:

WS view

MMABO can also be worked WS facing, giving a very textured edge on the RS:

Worked WS facing on stockinette, viewed from RS

Worked WS facing on stockinette, viewed from WS

And as you can see, it's fairly stretchy!

How about a demonstration?

MMABO Videotutorial

Phototutorial with Instructions in Plain English

Believe it or not, MMABO actually works better with a hook that is smaller than your knitting needles. If that makes you nervous, try it first with a hook the same size as your needles - and if it comes out too loose, you can easily frog it and try again with a smaller hook.

Setting Up for the Accidental Bind Off:
With crochet hook, knit first stitch.
Knit second stitch (2 loops now on crochet hook),
then pull the second stitch (top loop on hook) through the first stitch (bottom loop on hook).

Stop for a moment and look at your stitches. You will be inserting your hook in the stitch just below the stitch you just made:

Working the Accidental Bind Off:
*Insert hook from front to back through the stitch below the loop on your hook,
yarn over and pull up a loop:

Insert hook knitwise through next stitch on knitting (left) needle,
slip stitch off needle (3 loops now on crochet hook):

Yarn over and pull through all loops on hook. First MMABO complete!

Repeat from * across project.

If you're working from the right side, here's how it should look after a few stitches:

And here's how it will look when you've done a lot of stitches:

When all stitches have been bound off, cut yarn and finish as usual.

Remember, you can work MMABO from either the right or the wrong side. Here's a sample worked WS facing over seed stitch rows:

(A shock of orange after all that soft lavender. This must be Mr. M's mitt.)

How to Knit the MMABO (though using a crochet hook is MUCH quicker)

Warning: Instructions are not written in official knitting language as I don't speak it very well!

Setup: Knit first 2 stitches, insert tip of left needle into farther (first) stitch on right hook, pass farthest (first) stitch over nearest (second) stitch and off the needle.
Begin Accidental Bind Off: *Insert tip of right needle from front to back through stitch below, yarn over and pull a loop through and to the front (2 loops now on right needle), insert right needle knitwise through next stitch on left needle, slip stitch from left needle (3 loops now on right needle), insert left needle through 2 farther (first and second) loops on right needle (left needle should be in front), pass 2 farther loops over nearest (third) loop and off the needle. (If passing both loops over is awkward, you may pass them one at a time, starting with the middle stitch.)
Repeat from *.

A Further Note to Knitters: Not being much of a knitter myself, I haven't been able to invent a coordinating cast-on. (Perhaps it will happen by accident some day.) But if you MUST have matching edges to your knit projects and would like to use MMABO, use a provisional cast-on. Then you can frog the waste yarn when the project is done, and bind off the live-loop starting edge using MMABO. (Edited to add: the provisional cast on suggestion was not my own idea. I got it from reading TechKnitter's excellent post on matching cast ons to bind offs. Sorry I forgot to credit her before!)

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If you have any questions, or find a mistake in the tutorials, please let me know in the comment box below. You can also email me (address in Profile at right) or reach me in Ravelry as MrsMicawber.

Thanks so much for viewing, and happy knitting AND crocheting!

Now for a cup of tea and a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup....

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