I’m a big fan of instant gratification, and knitting is no exception.  I
recently purchased a book called One Skein Wonders which has a whole bundle of
quick designs and last night I started a project called the Cashmere Ski
Headband.

  I used

Debbie Bliss Pure Cashmere
in Spring Grass and it is deliciously soft. 
Talk about a quick project!  I’d say it took less than 2 hours to
complete.  I’m calling my version the Spring Headband because I think
it’s perfect for cool spring days when the sun is shining but your ears need
a little extra protection.

The flower is crocheted and attached with a
safety pin, so it is removable.  So cute!

Holly West in Springtime Headband.

I don’t consider myself a great teacher.  I lack patience and sometimes it’s just really difficult to get certain points across.  So when my friends Heather and Theresa asked me to teach them to knit, I had slight reservations.  I’d tried teaching some other friends to knit a few years ago and it really didn’t seem to go that well.   Still, I figured at worst we’d have a fun afternoon, and quite possibly I’d introduce/indoctrinate two more obsessive knitters into the world!

How to Teach Your Friends to Knit

1)  Prepare your lesson in advance.  I tried to keep the first lesson as simple as possible, with an emphasis on the basics and reading knit patterns.  In retrospect, I never even got around to teaching the purl stitch, and most of our time was spent on casting on and knitting the first row.  I’d forgotten how much practice it takes just to learn these two basic steps!

2)  Prepare materials.  Originally we were going to go to Wildfiber, my LYS, and pick out yarn, needles, etc. together.  Somewhere a long the line we decided we’d just use scrap yarn I had around the house.  I didn’t like that idea though so I decided to surprise them each with a knit kit comprised of a skein of Manos del Uruguay variegated wool yarn, a tote bag, a tapestry needle, and size 10 straight knitting needles.  I also threw in a Jughead digest for good measure, which was an impulse buy at the supermarket check out.  I printed out copies of my "lesson plan" and put them in the bags as well.

Knit Kit

3)  Get snacks.

snacks

4)  Drink wine.

5)  Begin the lesson.

The first thing I did was to explain that yarn often comes in hanks and that before knitting with them, you need to wind them into balls using a ball and yarn winder:

Ball winding

Next, I began the lesson in the obvious way, by explaining the cast-on.  I taught them the long-tail cast-on since that’s pretty much the only way I ever do it.

Theresa casts-on.

Then we continued to the knit stitch.  My friend Theresa had already learned to knit a few years ago, but she’d learned the English method.  I taught her the continental method, which she liked better.

My plan was for us to complete a small square, then I would teach them how to bind-off.  Unfortunately, we didn’t even get that far!  There was a lot of unraveling and starting over going on, which is an integral part of the learning process.

We ended our lesson with a plan to get together again soon so that I could teach them more of the basics.

All in all, I think it was a successful afternoon, and both of them promised me they’d practice so our next lesson would be more productive.  We’ll see!

My husband and I are going on a much anticipated trip to Japan in late March to celebrate his 40th birthday. 

In between my daily Japanese language practice (dogs are now lovingly referred to as Kramer san and Stuie san), maybe I can squeeze in the time to knit this:

http://www.knitty.com/issuewinter03/PATTkyoto.html

I have loved this sweater since the first time I saw it a few months ago.  This might be the perfect excuse to knit it!

Sigh.  So much to knit, so little time…

As a jewelry designer, I often give jewelry as gifts, at least to my female friends.  I’d love to make some jewelry for my husband, but unfortunately he’s not the swinging, gold-chain wearing type (or any other kind of chain for that matter), and will only wear his wedding band.

So what’s a Jewelry Girl to do when a holiday like Valentine’s Day comes up?  I decided to make him a "Love Token" to carry in his wallet:

Jewelry Tutorial - Love Token - Holly West

Now before you say, "Hey, that picture is out of focus," please note that I made a couple of errors when stamping the metal, which are explained below.  Instead of a mistakes, however, I prefer to think of them as "design decisions."

Before beginning this project, give some thought to what you want to write on your token.  You can just write "Love" if you want, but give it some thought to make the token unique.

My husband and I met through an online personal ad that I placed way back in 1996.  I no longer have the text for the entire ad, but I started it with Shakespeare’s sonnet #130, which begins:

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun…

And ends with this couplet:

And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

In the spirit of the sonnet, I decided to stamp a sun-like shape at the top of the token, and I modified the closing text to read "My love is rare."

Skill level
Beginner (requires basic metalsmithing)

Materials & Tools

Jewelry Tutorial - Love Token - Holly West - Materials and Tools

1)  Jeweler’s saw
2)  Alphabet metal stamps (1/16)
3)  Emery paper
4)  Sharpie (preferably thin point)
5)  Metal block
6)  About 10 grams sterling silver or gold or at least an inch square sheet of 18g (1 mm) of either metal
7)  Metal file
8)  Emery stick
9)  Hammer
10) Circle template or compass
11)  Rolling mill (not pictured)

Here’s how it’s done:

1)  This being a special occasion and all, I decided to use 18k gold in this project.  Sterling silver will work just as well, and is a lot less expensive, and the process is the same regardless of whether you use gold or silver.  If you use sheet metal for this project, skip to step #6.

2)  Using your jeweler’s saw, cut at least a 3/4 inch piece of metal.  You can eyeball this–it doesn’t have to be precise.

3)  Mill your piece of metal flat to about 2 mm.  Be careful not to smoosh your fingers.  With a piece that small it’s easy to do.  My jewelry teacher offered to start it for me, so I let him.

4)  Anneal your metal to soften it for further milling.  If you don’t, it can crack or peel at the edges.

5)  Continue to mill the metal to 1 mm thickness.  You can do it thinner if you want, but 1 mm will give the token a solid, coin-like weight, which is what I wanted.

6)  Draw your shape (in this case, a circle) on your metal using the Sharpie.

7)  Using your jeweler’s saw, carefully cut the shape out of the metal.

8)  Using your metal file, emery stick, and emery paper, file and smooth the token so that all sharp edges are removed.

9)  Anneal your token again so that the metal will be easier to stamp.

10)  Using your Sharpie and a ruler (or your plastic template) draw rough guides where your letters will be stamped.

11)  Carefully begin stamping your letters/design onto the token using your metal stamps, hammer, and metal block.

I cannot stress the word carefully enough when you are stamping the metal.  It is very easy to accidentally stamp the wrong letter or to stamp it upside down if you aren’t careful.

Case in point:

Can you see that I accidentally used the "A" in love and the "V" in rare?  Oh, and I just noticed that the "S" is upside down.  Sigh.  Those tiny letters are hard to read on the stamps!

A perfectionist would’ve re-did the token but I am not a perfectionist.  Instead, I re-stamped the V and the A, hoping that the resulting design would give it a rustic, handmade look, which was my intention from the beginning, despite the mistakes.

12)  Using a few different types of hammers, I pounded the token here and there to give it a more distressed, old coin-type look.  I was also hoping to disguise my mistake, which I was only marginally successful in doing.

13)  Polish your work if you want a shiny finish, use a satin finish buff for a brushed finished.  I gave mine a shiny finish, then distressed it some more by putting it in a jar with some quarters and shaking them.

14)  Style variations:  You can do almost anything with your love token.  Try, for example, cutting a shape in the middle of it, or solder a shape (like a heart) in a contrasting metal.  For this project, I came very close to fabricating it in silver and then soldering a gold heart to the top instead of a sun.

15)  Give the Love Token to your honey and then make him take you out to dinner.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Print this tutorial

All material copyright 2007 by Holly West.  The design demonstrated in this tutorial is for personal use only.  Please do not copy the design for re-sale.

A couple of weeks ago I posted some photos of a
WIP
I was tentatively calling
Puppy
Sweater
.  It’s a good thing I didn’t commit to that name because it
turned into an ABC sweater:

In this case, "C" is for Charlie, who turned one on January 23.  While I
did pay attention to gauge, it did turn out rather large for a one year-old, but
I figure that means he can get a year of wear out of it, at least, even if it
comes down to his ankles now.  I’ve still got some weaving-in-of-ends to
do, but by and large, it’s finished. 

Unfortunately, my dog Stuart was really looking forward to the puppy sweater,
and was none too happy when he saw the alphabet sweater:

Since I’m not up to pattern making snuff, I can’t post a
pattern, but here’s how you can make a similar sweater:

1)  Choose a basic child’s pull-over sweater pattern that you like. 
The one I picked is from Hollywood Knits: Thirty Original Suss Designs.

2)  Design your letter on graph paper.  You can make it as big or
as little as you want. 
This site
has some good examples, including the alphabet, of how this works,
and if you’re still desperate to knit a puppy sweater (I know I am), they have
some charts with dogs on it.  The navigation on this site is not the
greatest, but it does have some good content, so look around.

3)  This is
how
to read a chart
, though presumably you already know how to do that if you
completed step 2.

4)  Knit the sweater!

Just to get you started, here are a couple of links to some free patterns for
children’s pullovers which you could probably modify to make this sweater:


http://www.straw.com/cpy/patterns/baby-child/tucson-sunset-child.html

In this example, you would probably knit it all in one color instead of the
stripes if you wanted to add a letter.


http://www.berroco.com/exclusives/keri.html


http://margarethubertoriginals.com/newpage1.htm

I’ve said before that designing my own knit patterns is a big priority for
me, but I’m just not there yet.  I know these aren’t great instructions,
but hey, if I could figure it out, so can you!

There’s something you need to know about me:  I absolutely adore the Bee Gees, particularly, Barry Gibb.  Really, I can’t emphasize enough how much I love the Bee Gees. If you were to get me started, I’d babble on about how they were the greatest pop group of all time and that their song writing is unparalleled… see, you got me started.  At the moment, I am listening to one of the songs Barry recently released on iTunes called Carried Away which is part of a demo compilation he  originally recorded for Barbra Streisand’s Guilty albumCarried Away didn’t make the cut, but it is a great song.  Well done, Barry.

Anyway, all this talk about the Bee Gees has got me thinking about a pet portrait I completed in September of last year:


Buddy, acrylic on gallery canvas, 24 x 24, signed

Buddy is owned by my friend Heather, and she commissioned this portrait for her husband’s birthday.

For some added perspective, here is the photo on which the above photograph is based:

And finally, Buddy is famous.  Check it out.

If you can’t see the connection between Buddy and the Bee Gees, let me explain.  A couple of weeks ago I was reading one of Heather’s blogs and she’d posted about becoming suddenly (and some would say inexplicably) obsessed with the Bee Gees after watching Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon on The Barry Gibb Talk Show on SNL.  Normally I’d object to anyone or anything making fun of Barry Gibb, but dude, it is hilarious.  If you haven’t seen it, you can see it on YouTube or the NBC website.  A small flurry of emails ensued, during which we (and another friend) discussed the sweet harmonies and generally addictive nature of songs like Nights on Broadway, which is the basis of the theme song for The Barry Gibb Talk Show.

So if it’s not clear yet, I was listening to the Bee Gees, which reminded me of Heather, which reminded me of Buddy, which reminded me of the portrait I’d painted of him.  Frankly, I’d need much less of a connection to blabber on about the Bee Gees.

The other day, I posted a tutorial about how to make these earrings.

Here is a variation on the same theme:

Circle Pendant Necklace with Lemon Quartz

In this example, I used a round mandrel and twisted 22g wire at the "4" mark.  I then completed all the steps in the tutorial with one exception:  instead of lying the jump ring flat against the circle, I soldered it side ways so that the pendant would hang from a chain properly.  This is a bit trickier than doing it flat, but I used two third hands to make it less awkward.  As a finishing touch, I hammered each side of the wire before polishing the pendant.  I think it would also be cool to just hammer one side, sort of like a half moon type look.

One of the things I like best about being a knitter is the ability to knit impromptu projects for upcoming events.  For example, we went skiing in Mammoth over the weekend, and I quickly knitted up a new hat for the occasion.

For some reason, I am obsessed with ski hats.  I bought two more this weekend, one of which has a brim which I found to be quite brilliant at keeping the wind away.  Who knew?

But I digress.  I present to you the Blue Pony Tail Hat, which I knitted for my fun ski weekend:

While in Oregon I had bought several skeins of Lion Brand Microspun, which is incredibly soft.  For this hat I used a double strand and size 10 needles, casting on 67 stitches.  The first four rows are in garter stitch, then in the fifth row I increased evenly to 71 stitches and switched to stockinette for about 5 inches before decreasing evenly to shape the top of the hat.  Basically, I found a hat pattern I liked, then modified it to meet my needs.

When seaming, I added the best part of the hat:

For me, every ski hat has to have a pony tail hole, so I am forever cutting into my hats to accommodate my pony tail.  My next hat will have three holes:  1 for a pony tail, and 2 on the sides for pig tails.

Speaking of my next hat, I am thinking hard about "The Perfect Ski Hat," which I hope to make in time for our next ski trip in early March.

And speaking of skiing, my husband Mick wrote a cool post in his blog:

http://mickwest.com/2007/01/18/top-of-mammoth/

This week I decided to try something new:  jewelry tutorials.  I had a particular design in my head, So I took my trusty camera to the studio so I could photograph each step of the process in making them.

When I got home and viewed the photos, I realized I’d need to bring a better camera if I was going to continue doing this. For now, however, I present to you:

Sterling Silver Circle Earrings with Golden Tourmaline

Skill level:  Beginner (requires basic soldering knowledge)

Materials

2 gemstone briolette beads (I used tourmaline)
5 inches sterling silver round wire, gauge to be determined by size of hole in briolettes.  For my project, I used 26g wire.
2 sterling silver jump rings
2 sterling silver leverbacks with split loop
Silver solder

Tools

Soldering equipment – third hand, flux, paint brush, soldering block, torch, pickle (not pictured)
An object to use as a mandrel (I used a metal punch)
Pliers to hold and shape as needed
Wire clippers

Making the Earrings

1)  Wind your wire around the object you want to use as a mandrel several times

You’ll end up with a spring-like piece of wire like this:

2)  Clip the wire to make individual circles, similar to the way you would cut jump rings.

3)  Slip one of your briolettes onto a circle

4)  Make sure the ends of the circle are touching, and lay it on the solder block.  Using your brush, put some flux on the closed end. Put some flux on a small piece of silver solder, then lay it on top of the closed ends of your circle. 

5)  Carefully solder the ends of the circle closed using a small flame.  Keep the heat as far away from your stone as possible.

6)  Next, you’ll solder the jump ring on using the same solder you used to close the ends (again, use a small flame):

7)  Put it in the pickle.

8)  Using the emery stick or emery paper, smooth the area you soldered, being careful not to scratch your stone.

9)  Polish your work

10)  Your finished component will look something like this:

11)  To finish your earring, open the loop on the leverback carefully, the same way you would with a jump ring.  Attach your component and close the loop.

12)  Repeat process for second earring.

13)  Put earrings on and enjoy!

If you make these earrings, send me a photo and I’ll post it in the gallery.

All material copyright 2007 by Holly West.  The design demonstrated in this tutorial is for personal use only.  Please do not copy the design for re-sale.