Using up my yarn and fabric stash, I am working on some button cowls. Pictures in the next post.
I have been MIA while trying to recover fron an ear and sinus infection: even though I still feel the ground rolling under my feet, I wanted to post about the project I just finished for my niece. When I asked my sister what I could make for my niece's birthday (she just turned 5), she replied something along the lines of, "She's really into Frozen right now, could you make her a cape like Elsa's when she goes to the ice castle?" The challenge was set.
I knew I wanted to make her something lacey, yet durable; possibly with a snowflake pattern; and not too heavy as it is currently the middle of the summer. Lastly, something with relatively easy care, at least machine washable, is a must for kids' clothing. I searched patterns online, thinking about a button closure cape, something tied, perhaps, and eventually decided to somewhat make it up as I went.
About the same time, I came across a poncho pattern that was being tried out at the yarn store I work at part time. The poncho was for an adult, but I really liked the look of the lacey waves the pattern created. I decided to use a lighter weight yarn and smaller needles to reduce the size to a hopefully acceptable 5-year old proportion, and picked out some nice pima cotton, dk weight, in a great shade of light blue for an ice princess. I chose needles 2-3 sizes bigger than what the ball band recommended (in this case size 8), as the original pattern did the same with worsted weight yarn.
My modifications to turn a poncho into a cape were as follows: This was knit in the round, so I kept the pattern the same through one repeat of the lacey yarn overs and knit 2 togethers, then cast off only one repeat of the 18 stitch pattern repeat: this would be the center of the front. I then knit back and forth for a couple more repeats of the row pattern, and cast off a stitch patern repeat on each side. I did this again, creating the tiered/staggered look of the front. This meant I had half of the original stitch pattern repeats still on the needles, and I contunued until what was now the back was 24" long, which I had estimated would be about to my niece's knees. 4 rows of purl and a bind off completed the main knitting. The original poncho pattern called for a crochet top, which I did, but also included a decorative picot edging to the top to make it look more like a snowflake/ice cape.
The next step was to block the cape so the lace pattern would be nice and evenly spread. This is a really important step in knitted work, especially if you are working in lace-type patterns, or fair isle where you change colors. Stitches can bunch or tension can change as you knit, this helps your yarn set in the right place. I will try to have a post about blocking in the near future. Essentially, I let the cape soak in lukewarm water, drained it, lightly pressed it in a towel (DO NOT RING OUT YOUR WORK, you can crush your stitches) and laid it out to pin in place. I have awesome interlocking blocking pads from KnitPicks, but there are many ways you can do this- a stretched out towel, etc. I love the pads because I can arrange them in any size I need, and I know it won't move around on me, as a towl or quilt could. An important step is to shape the piece to the measurements you want, and pin it with many pins somewhat close together, to keep the edges from drying with a bowed look between stitches. This cape was supposed to have a scalloped edge at the bottom, and blocking helps bring that out. If you check out the pictures above as I worked ont he piece, and below when it is blocked and finished, you can see the difference.
For anyone reading this thinking, do I have to do this every time I wash something hand knit for me? The answer is no, this is essential for the first time a knit piece gets wet to "finish" it, but you may want to take some care after you wash a hand knit piece to dry it flat in the shape it should be, to give it a chance at a long life.
The next challenge to tackle was to put snowflakes on the cape so there would be no doubt of what I was trying to make for my niece. I found some great crochet thread, white with a glitter/sparkle band threaded through it, and hunted for crochet snowflake patterns. I used a couple I found on about.com, and one ball of crochet thread produced 11 big snowflakes (actually much bigger than I intended, but I like how they look), and I made up my own pattern for smaller snowflakes to accent the front. I stitched them in place, and the look was complete!
My sister has already sent me photos and videos of my niece enjoying her cape, I have included one picture here. It came out a little big in the neck, I was guessing and knew that would probably be the case, but it gives her room to dramatically whip off the cape and toss it in the air at the appropriate moments when she is acting out the movie. I'm ecstatic that she is enjoying it so much.
I just put a listing on Etsy for anyone who would like to order an ice princess cape for their little one- as you can see, a lot of work went into it, so let me know if you would like me to make one, or try it on your own, it was fun!
May your crafting carry you aloft over the waves of a busy life.