Mar 21, 2010

Spring Equinox in Northern Wisconsin

Before we moved from Kansas City to northern Wisconsin I was seriously into gardening. That interest has faded a bit over the years.  It may be, in part, because I had a hard time adjusting to 6+ months of winter. In all fairness it is a bit of a climate change. (Last year we didn't even have a summer season, just extra helpings of winter and spring.) It might be that, after all those years of weeding and watering I just got tired of playing in the soil. Truth is I lost a lot of my enthusiasm for gardening about the same time I became wool-obsessed.

This weekend marks the beginning of spring and, even though that means very little up north I found myself down in the basement digging out the old gardening flats, pots and soil mixes. I know! What is going on? And, I was right in the middle of charting and knitting a fantastic fair Isle tissue box cozy too. The sun shone through the window and onto my graph design and before I could say, "Wait until I finish this row" I was elbow-deep in potting soil.

I seeded two flats of tomatoes, basil, lobelia, and African daisies. It's not going to be much of a garden compared to the crazy days of yesteryear but it is a small step away from the spinning wheel. (It appears I actually plan to spend some time outside this season. Yay!) 

So, once the flats were seeded I bagged 'em. I want a successful germination so I have to keep these little cherubs nice and warm. The only consistently warm place in our house:

I placed the bagged seeds on top of the furnace next to the boiler in our basement. I'm guessing in a week to 10 days there will be some sort of sprouting action to report. Then I'll move the tiny plants under lights! When the growing season is as short as ours is up here you have to take advantage of an early, indoor start. (Please note: no matter how many lights you have or how early a start you make, never try to grow cotton in northern Wisconsin. It's a fool's game.)

But that isn't all! Look at these bread boxes I found at a thrift store (below):

Are these not perfect little green houses for propegating?
The bread boxes keep conditions warm and humid for these little impatiens cuttings. They should sprout well here and be full-fledged plants by June when it's finally safe to actually plant living things in Wisconsin, outdoor window boxes.
When I lift the lid it is decidedly warmer and far more humid inside the bread boxes.

Well, that's it on the gardening front. Time to get back to the serious business of treadling wool. I need to spin up a bit more yarn pronto. (After all, this latest tissue box cozy isn't going to knit itself you know.)

Mar 19, 2010

Free Knitting Pattern Tissue Box Cover Cozy

As is customary of "The Treadler" I do have my yammerings to share  but FIRSTLY,  Let's have a go at this pattern shall we?


One upright, (squarish) naked tissue box in need of cozying.

U.S. size 5 / (or 40 cm)  16" Circular knitting needles OR a set of 5 double pointed knitting needles OR well, you know, there are a great many ways to knit in-the-round so choose your favorite and follow me.

Crochet hook size  1/2 .75mm to embellish the top (optional).

Yarn:  By the new weight standard you want to use #3, Light Weight (the old alias for this yarn size is DK Light-Worsted.) At this point I've made 3 cozies and none of them weigh more than 2.5 ounces. You can safely complete a cozy with less than 3 oz. of yarn.

4 place markers (I just use scrap yarn in a slip knot) One should be of a different color than the others to mark the beginning of each round.

NOTE: The above boils down to, "use the needle size and yarn that gives you approx. 21 stitches per 4 inches across. You will control the height as you knit. AND, remember you are dressing a tissue box. It is not going to refuse to wear your cozy or complain that the cozy is too baggy or too tight, makes it look fat, etc...

I spin my own yarn particular brand endorsement from me except to say, "Come on and start spinning! You'll love it!" Also, you can use wool so that if the cozy is too big for its box there's the option to felt it down a bit.

CAST ON: You'll be knitting around to make a square. Cast on 88 stitches. There are 4 sides to the tissue box so that's 22 stitches per side. (We'll use the stitch markers to tell us where the corners are.) 

Round 1: Place a marker at the beginning (It should be a different color than the other 3) and  join your stitches. Be sure that your cast on stitches aren't twisted or you'll be in MOBIUS land. (K 22, place a marker) 3 times then K22 = 88 total stitches.

Round 2: (This round is what you will be doing most of the time)
(K 4, P 2, K 4, P 2, K 4, P 2, K 4) Repeat 3 more times, or at the start of each marker, all the way around.

Repeat all of round 2  four more rounds.

Cabling Round: (Time to make the pretty twisties.)  
*K 4, P 2 (Slip next 2 stitches onto cable needle and hold them behind your work, K 2 stitches, now K the 2 stitches from the cable needle, P 2) Repeat everything in parenthesis once more, K 4. One side is complete

Repeat from * all the way around (3 more times). If cabling is new to you check out this link:

Note: You don't need a special cable needle, you can use a dbl pointed needle OR, be a brave little soldier and try this flying trapeze method:
This is fast and easy but, can be a little scary for folks afraid they might drop a stitch.

CONTINUING ON: For the entire body of the pattern you will knit Round 2 Five times then complete a cabling round. Keep doing this until your knitting will cover the height of the box. Depending on your particular knitting style the number of rows will vary. Your tissue box is about 5.5 inches tall (14cm) so be sure your knitting is just a little bit longer than that. Now you are ready to decrease at your 4 corners to knit over the top of the box and to the center opening.

DECREASING ROUNDS (In essence you are starting at a corner):
(K 1, K2tog, K to the last 3 stitches before your next corner marker, Slip one stitch as if to knit, slip the next stitch as if to purl, slide the left needle back into them and knit them together from the back, K last stitch) Repeat 3 more times all the way around your box.

Questions about decreasing? Here's a good link for ya:

These decreasing rounds are pulling in the 4 corners of your box. You are decreasing two stitches at each corner or 8 stitches per round.

First round of decreases will take you from 88 total stitches to 80
the second round will bring you down to 72 and so forth.
I like to complete 7 full rounds of decreases for all my tissue box magic. IF you are using a circular needle for your work you will want to switch to double pointed needles as the project shrinks down.

By the end of the 7th round of decreases you will have a total of 32 stitches left. Bind off these last 32 stitches but do not break the yarn. 

CROCHET Embellishment for top (This is optional but, really jazzes up the top of your box with a ruffley opening for the little tissues):

ROUND 1: Place crochet hook in that last bound off stitch and ch3, Double stitch all the way around in each of the bound off knit stitches and join.

ROUND 2: Chain 3 and *Dbl crochet in first stitch, 2 dbl crochet in next stitch, repeat from * all the way around. You have increased your stitches dramatically (every other stitch) creating a bit of a ruffle in this opening. Join.

ROUND 3: Ch1, sc in first stitch, (*ch3, sc) Repeat from * all the way around.

Bind off and work in all the loose ends. Mission accomplished!

Above is a picture of my fluffy fibers before they were spun into yarn. You can see I blended the wool to slowly change color along the way. I think it is fun to make the tissue box become lighter and lighter as it gets to the top. That fluffy, white tissue peeking out really POPS. But, you can do anything you want...

Create yourself a box that is all one color, or heathery, or twinkled, or has a smaller opening, or has a different cable design in the middle of each side or...well, the possibilities are endless. I never dreamt I'd be all up-into making tissue box cozies but, here I am sending Claxton to the drug store on mega-tissue runs and planning cozies for everybody on my holiday gift list (act surprised). Sad? Yes! But, this entire web log is laden with similar obsessions so at least I have the comfort of consistency.

And there you have it! A lovely, free pattern just in time for allergy season!  Whoah! I may have just had an epiphany whilst typing this. What say you to a fair Isle tissue cozy? Would that not be the coolest thing ever? Bohus cozy? (Clearly, we will be needing more tissue boxes.) To the Spinning Wheel AWAY!