Fancypants neck brace, a knitting pattern

knitted neck brace, ready to be stamped on a coin

The first neck brace scarf was so quick that I was inspired to make another one. Usually I’m all about elaborate crafts that involve at least a year of delayed gratification, which I think makes me very vulnerable to the finished-object high. More more more!

I probably could have stopped before adding the fuzzy ruffle thing, but I wanted to make it weird. My vision was jellyfishy, but unless jellyfishes have a European royal court I’m not sure that really comes through. More of a bizarro-Elizabethan neck brace.

Here’s a snapshot through a dirty mirror that shows the front, and also, incidentally, a quite accurate representation of my personal idea of what I look like.

knitted neck brace, dirty mirror, self image

The creature itself looks like this.

neck brace laid out

Some patterns for knitting one.

  • Knit a long triangle. The decreases don’t have to be evenly placed.
  • I used random-width welts to make the fabric firm enough to stand up. (Alternating stockinette and reverse stockinette stitch.)
  • The main piece used about 50g of worsted weight yarn (one thrifted ball), on 4.5mm needles.
  • The ruffle took a few yards of mohair-esque stuff (again, thrifted and unlabelled) on 5.5mm… could have used much fatter needles for an airier ruffle.
  • I tried it on to place the buttons (actually a long cufflink-thing made out of two pearl beads and some embroidery floss), and to mark the start and end of the ruffle.

knitted neck brace / hall of mirrors

Purple neck brace, a knitting pattern

heroic knitting moment

I made this neck warmer in one afternoon, with no counting. Hooray! It even ended up with half a Darth Vader collar that I like, and made a couple dents in my crafting stash. Time for heroic poses in the bathroom mirror.

I was remembering this tapered neckwarmer and this scarflink (scroll to Oct 27, 2002) while I knitted.

It looks like this on its own, if you want to make something similar.

knitted neck brace laid out

This pattern is such a non-pattern that I insist on writing it formally, because it is funny.


  • 100g (60m) of thick and thin wool
  • 12mm needles
  • 2 buttons and thread


CO 22 sts.

Work in garter stitch, decreasing one at each end of random rows (approximately every 4-6 rows), down to 2 sts. K2tog.

Pull yarn through remaining stitch and leave the tail hanging out as a fastener.

Weave in the cast on end.

Sew or tie the two buttons together to make a cuff-link type thing. Button it into the outside layer of the scarf and wrap the tail around it to fasten. (Move or flip the button at will.)

The end.

reversible buttons for a scarf

All the ingredients have stories. Past projects, hand-me-downs, gifts, inheritances. That feels good.

Ready the moisturizer

This sensory-deprivation floating tank sounds like something I could make at home, using my accidental stockpile of Epsom salts. (I tend to buy supplies, then come home and discover I’ve already bought some. Ask Galen about the quantities of cornmeal we amass before I remember to make polenta.)

Why have I never thought to make a super-floaty bath? Saturating a bath with 10 pounds of Epsom salts would be a good way to use up that part of my craft stash.

Having made several small projects without putting a noticeable dent in the stash, I’m remembering that my original intention with the stash manifesto was to make huge craft projects. Things you can only accomplish with ten pounds of origami paper, not small things here and there. Floating tank, several pints of Epsom salts… I think it counts.

Mossy scarf (with free knitting pattern)

Mossy scarf

Yikes! This classically headless blogger-photo was clearly taken in the fall. Hopefully last fall and not years ago! I found it during an expedition into one of the dustier corners of my hard drive.

It’s a scarf I made from some thrift store yarn.

I tried a few different stitch patterns before settling on this. The pattern made me happy immediately and I still think it really suits the yarn. It reminds me of Old Man’s Beard lichen in a big way.

Dropstitch garter is the True Destiny of skinny, gray-green, wool boucle. Who knew?

If you can’t work out the pattern from the photo, it goes like this (very easy and straightforward).

Mossy scarf

Gauge, needles, etc: whatever, it’s a scarf. Aim on the loose side.

CO 20 (or more)
Rows 1 and 2: K to end.
Row 3: K, wrapping yarn twice. Drop extra wraps on next row.
Repeat these three rows until scarf is desired length.

One 50g ball made a very, very long scarf. I wear it folded in half, wrapped twice around my neck and it still hangs to my waist.

Mossy scarf

Bride of the Unicorn necklace

Bride of the Unicorn necklace

I’m not sure whether all green and white jewellery would look bridal, or whether it has to involve tiny pearls and botanical clusters. This necklace ended up with an overpowering resemblance to a wreath of ivy and grapes. It is a hairband for a unicorn, or better yet a wedding bower for fairies. I can’t wear this. I am not bethrothed to a pegasus, and I feel it would give the wrong impression.

I started to get misgivings before I even finished making it— same method as yesterday’s necklace— but I was determined to keep up my stash-into-treasure momentum. I gave Bride of the Unicorn a couple of weeks and tried it with different outfits, but no dice.

I figure if I can find a big unicorn pendant to hang off one side of this, I might be able to bring it back from the edge of whimsy, back into territory controlled by the Empire of Irony. (Just thinking about the necklace is apparently enough to shift me into the conventions of epic fantasy. Thus begins the Age of The Reluctant Bride and her Pearly Necklace!)

Space Race: a necklace

My new necklace, plus some bananas

I’ve been getting the feeling that turning my entire crafting stash into finished objects is not really going to be about emptying my stash closet. Plunging into the bead portion of my inventory is making this even more clear: this endeavour is about generating masses and masses of treasure.

I suddenly have three necklaces to my name, and the stash has not gotten visibly smaller. It doesn’t take many beads to make a necklace, at least in the context of my 15 pound supply. Either I need to make a lot of necklaces, or I need to reconsider my decision not to make another beaded curtain.

This is copycat jewellery

I copied this necklace

The first necklace to come out of my stash is my attempt at copying something that caught my eye at the Starving Artist Bazaar. The original was fluorescent red and blue, which triggered my spider senses from afar.

I haven’t attempted to make jewellery since I was about 8 years old, so I’m still getting my inspiration really directly and obviously. I like to think of this in the spirit of sketching from masterpieces.

I’m excited to figure out how to make more things up out of my head, though. All those neck bones and cords to work with!

Basic ingredients and method

I used two units of stash:

  • a bag of about 50 pointy, purple, glass beads
  • a collection of 5 aqua blue, glass beads

Then I went and ruined it by buying more crafting supplies!

  • a length of black cord (used half)
  • a spool of silver wire, which has definitely settled into stash status
  • a set of clasps

It took about an hour to make this, mostly spent figuring out how jewelry works.

I settled on twisting the wire around a pencil to make a long spiral and threading beads onto that. Then I threaded the black cord into the spiral (easy), and pulled the wire at both ends to tighten it against the cord. I poked some of the beads around and made an extra loop to create that bump of blue, then clamped on the clasps.

I judge this a success

I’ve been wearing this a lot. The colours and the blue orbs remind me of retro visions of space. Space Race: a Necklace!

Focus on: Space Race necklace

Jellyfish dress (made from stash)

Presenting: the jellyfish dress As explained last week, I have moved from an obsession with dressing like a jellyfish to action!

I made this comfy dress to remind me of puffy bodies, ruffles and streamers. I was pretty sure it was possible to make jellyfish shapes into flattering clothes, but it’s good to confirm that kind of thing. This is the dress that prooves my concept (to myself). The age of cnidarian wardrobe staples has begun!

Progress on the stash manifesto

The best part! This dress ate the following out of my stash:

  • One fitted floral bedsheet I bought in 1999 to cover a geodesic dome at Burning Man. It didn’t fit my bed, and it had a big hole torn in the middle, but I squirrelled it away, lo these seven years.
  • A length of elastic I bought in 1999, intending to make y-front underwear
  • Three blue buttons from a jar Galen’s mum gave me in 2002
  • Some hook and eye fasteners my gramma gave me for my birthday in 2003, as part of a sewing kit

The only thing I bought was extra thread. (I hope the scope of my stash is becoming clear to you, along with the motivations for my stash manifesto. Ripped bedsheets? Seven years? My collection is ripe, and must be harvested.)

Basic procedure

I used the same strategy I like for web design: make the smallest thing that could work, and add things as necessary. I don’t know much about sewing, so I just tried on pieces in the mirror a lot, to see how they might fit together.

The final cuts looked like this, but I worked it out a little at a time by making the biggest parts first and trying to conserve fabric.

Cutting a ripped, fitted bedsheet to make a jellyfish dress.

The skirt

Jellyfish dress, prancing

The puffy skirt was the clearest part of my jellyfish vision, so I started by sewing a tube using the full length of the sheet, and the width between the hole and the notches.

I gathered each end with elastic to make the tube easy to get on and off and to make sure I could still walk in the cinched skirt. In the mirror, it looked like it needed a ruffle on the bottom, so I added a ruffle on the bottom.

As soon as I tried on the ruffled prototype, I could see how this dress would be both jellyfishy and pretty cute, and there was much excited prancing around in a retro floral potato sack. Galen and Marc get bonus points for being supportive and inquisitive, even though I interrupted the business meeting they were having in the kitchen, and, as they later admitted, neither of them had any idea where I was going with this “it’s a bag/it’s a dress/it’s a man-o-war” design.

The bodice

The remaining fabric had notched corners where I had cut the elastic out of the fitted sheet. I held one notched end up to my chest as a potential bodice, just trying to be thrifty by starting at the end instead of the middle.

The notch happened to make a decent armhole, and the narrow part wrapped around to the middle of my back. That seemed like an easy solution, so after some draping and measuring in the mirror, I cut a matching notch for my other arm.

Rather than mess with facings, I cut a second identical piece and sewed the two together. I.e., I made a something that felt like a pillowcase.

The back and straps

Back of the jellyfish dress

I only attached the bodice along the front of the skirt, to leave room for the elastic to stretch over my hips when I stepped into the dress. To accomodate, I hand-sewed little hooks and eyes under the back of the bodice to keep the skirt up.

This turns out to be a ridiculous fastening strategy, and there is no way I can get it on or off by myself. (The armholes are too snug to wiggle into or out of with the buttons done up, so I can’t twist it around backwards.)

The bodice looked cool from the front, and buttoned together at center back, but the shoulders weren’t attached to anything. Adding straps seemed like the easiest solution.

I thought stubby, straight straps would look like an apron or a work dress rather than glamorously submarine, so I made the straps extra long and let them hang down from the shoulder seams.

When I looked in the mirror, it needed a sash. So I added a sash. I need to learn to tie it in a pretty bow.

If this was knitted, I’d be so uptight right now

Any seamstress could look at these photos and deduce that I have no idea how to sew. Parts of the dress ride up, buckle, wrinkle, tug, sag, etc. I think I learned a lot for next time, especially about bodices (so that’s why side seams are sloped…), and I got a jellyfish dress that fits securely and comfortably out of the experience. Verdict: success! Sewing and I might just become friends.

Double-breasted wool cardigan (stash update)

Photo of me in the infamous double-breasted cardigan

This is the first knitted sweater I’ve actually finished and worn. (I made one up on trains in Europe, but, well, you know how sometimes, when people make sweaters and they don’t know what they’re doing…) Everytime I hit a section of ribbing I stalled out for a few months, so this sweater was in the works for about a year.

Those two facts, taken together, add up to a very proud little lady (formerly a bit of a whiny knitting martyr— when I wear this now, at least one of my friends is likely to blurt out some congratulation/consolation about my hard-won sweater with its miles of double-ribbing. It’s kind of embarrassing that my “hardship” is so memorable.)

It turned out about one size too small but now that it has stretched out a little, I wear it almost every day. It looks babe-a-licious with a dress, in a wholesome, scratchy wool way. All in all: success!

Stash items liberated!

I love buttons

  • Two thirds of a bag of wool yarn from my mum. This came, I think, from the project she was planning when she finally abandoned knitting for good, in favour of sewing.
  • A thrift store knitting magazine from the 1970s. It feels good to actually use one of my vintage patterns, instead of just admiring them with a wistful look on my face.

New purchases

  • Six wooden buttons, had for about six dollars at Gala Fabrics aka The Den of Temptation.

Learning opportunities (ahem)

These are not good buttonholes.

  • What am I going to do with the leftover yarn? There’s enough to make half a small sweater. I could have just made a bigger sweater in the first place.
  • There are no better buttonholes than E.Z.‘s one-row buttonholes. There is no need to try the technique recommended in pattern books. Next time, I’ll substitute the master buttonholes. What is up with these straggly excuses for buttonholes?
  • No really, change yarn at the seam edges. I have saved so many extra inches of yarn that I don’t know what to do with the remainder, and as a bonus there are minor lumps across my tight little sweater.

I think I will have to work on the stash manifesto for a long time before I can see any change by looking at my stash closet. But the treasure I’m extracting from the craft clutter is very tangible. This makes my closet seem like a magical, bottomless cornucopia that breeds wardrobe staples. That’s ok with me.

Stash dilemma / fear of variegation

Stash item: yarn. 225yds Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Worsted in color 37-forest (greens and blues).

If I were blind, I’d love this yarn

Photo close-up of blotchy stripes in my Clapotis. I like stash stories, so I will note that I scored this yarn as part of a $1 bag of odd balls at a thrift store in Seattle. I reached through a barricade of unsorted furniture and parts of vacuum cleaners for a bag of unidentified but potentially worthwhile yarn. I felt suitably triumphant once I realized it was not only 100% wool, it was brand name artisan yarn. Word. I love thrift scores.

The wool is very, very soft, and machine washable to boot. I understood immediately why Lorna’s Laces had a reputation. Way to go, reputations! Helping me make $1 purchase decisions.

The only catch is that I’ve never liked variegated yarn. It looks lovely in a skein or ball, but the blotchy, broken stripes that happen when it is knitted up remind me of all the knitting I hate. It looks like church sale dishcloths or acrylic slippers.

To me, there’s a reason you never see commercial clothes made from variegated yarn. Tweedy, sure. Striped, sure. Even space-dyed. But blotchy? No. Variegated colourways are one of my warning signs of knitting for knitting’s sake, of knitting things that are only cool to people who know how knitting works, of giving in to the hype.

Can Clapotis save me from variegation?

Since this yarn feels so nice, I decided to keep an open mind and try it out by finally making a Clapotis. Clapotis being another item with a glowing reputation: a scarf with dropped stitches, which uses variegation to create diagonal stripes.

I got through the set-up rows only by virtue of my determination to give this yarn a chance. Blotch city.

After dropping the first stitch to make a ladder down the middle of the fabric, I thought Clapotis might save me after all. The column of stitches left intact was short enough that the variegation looked like real stripes. Most of the stripes stretched across the entire column, without looking too broken. Cool!

But. Once I got about a foot into the scarf, the piece got large enough to start manifesting larger-scale colour patterns and it blotched up again.

Can I save Clapotis from myself?

It was a drag to lose motivation at that point. I’ve had a lot of knitting momentum since the weather became obviously autumnal a few weeks ago. If I had photos, I’d tell you about the cool scarf and hat I invented, but projects with no images are boring.

I had a little executive meeting with myself about this blotchy Clapotis. I couldn’t think of anything else I would want to make out of the yarn, so there was no point saving the yarn for later. It would be silly to try to sell one ball that had been partly knitted up, so again there was no reason to unravel the project.

Someone would probably like this scarf— strangers on the bus said they liked the colours. (Strangers on the bus love to talk about knitting. Oh man. “What are you making there?“) Maybe I should finish it.

It would be satisfying for me to get this entire unit of stash to the fledgling stage, and at that point it would probably find a home one way or another. Mainly though, it would be out of my stash closet.

Most of all, I’m committed to depleting my crafting stash. I love ambitious super-projects such as documenting just how much crafting potential was contained in my closet when I declared a moratorium on new purchases in September 2005. Even a variegated (but reputable) scarf could contribute to the super-project.

Can I save Clapotis and me from my knitter’s ego?

Someone will get this scarf for Christmas, I guess. It will be a lovely present but it seems like a generic choice. And I don’t think of myself as a knitter who gives the gift of variegated scarves. I give the gift of custom-designed complicated shit that doesn’t rely on gimmicky yarn!

Zing— maybe this needs to be an exercise in humility! That is actually more motivational that the prospect of giving this scarf to a loving home.

In summary, priorities are hilarious.