Thursday, January 3, 2013

Valentine's Day Fun!

Even though the Christmas season won't officially end until Epiphany on January 6, are you getting ready to un-decorate your Christmas tree? Have you carefully wrapped and boxed all your decorations and ornaments until next year? Feeling a little depressed about the end of all the holiday cheer? Well, why not work on a very simple, little Valentine project that's sure to please!

Yes! It's a little heart box, about 4 and 1/2 inches wide and about 2 inches tall. 

All you need are size US 8 double-pointed needles, a skein of red or dark pink or whatever color you'd like of 100% wool yarn (NOT superwash!) and a set of nesting heart cookie cutters like these from Wilton, ranging in size from 4 1/4 inches, 3 3/4 inches, 3 1/2 inches and 2 1/2 inches. My set actually has even smaller cutters, but I don't need those for this project. You won't really need the biggest one, either.
Other items necessary are a yarn needle and a bit of white yarn or embroidery floss. Because the heart box will have a nice, large space for embroidery, you might want to sketch out your design on water-soluble embroidery stabilizer first, then pin the design to the top portion of the box.
I sketched this rough little design on my embroidery stabilizer, using the heart cookie cutter as a template for size. Mine is based on an embroidery design from the JF Ingalls stamping catalog from 1886. All the designs are in the public domain. John Governale scanned all the images in for use, which are also in the public domain. Take a look here. You will get lots of great ideas! Remember though, always reserve the right to change your design as you go along ... Be sure you use BOILING (not just hot) water to remove the stabilizer!

So, are you ready?? Let's begin!

Knitted/Felted Valentine Heart Box
 by Anita M. Wheeless
Copyright 2013 Anita M. Wheeless
All Rights Reserved

Please read through all the directions first, just in case there's something you don't understand. Feel free to email me if you have any questions or hesitations! 

You will actually make four (4) pieces ... the top heart shape and the bottom heart shape are the same; however, the rest of the lid portion is different from the rest of the bottom of the box. Let's start with just the heart shapes.
You will be knitting back and forth on just two needles for these, but I like to use the double-pointed needles, anyhow.
Use any method you'd like to cast on 6 stitches.
Row 1: purl 1, increase (purling front and back), purl 4 (7 stitches in all)
Row 2: Knit 1, increase (knitting front and back), knit 5 (8)
Row 3: Purl 1, increase, purl 6 (9)
Row 4: Knit 1, increase, knit 7 (10)
Row 5: Purl
After you've worked to this point, cut the yarn and set this piece aside on its needle. You'll use it again in a minute. Taking a new needle, repeat the directions above; however, this time, when you've reached row 5, don't cut the yarn, instead, knit row 6 and when you've come to the end of it, pick up the other piece that you had worked and knit those 10 stitches on the same needle. You will now have two little bumps of the heart on one needle. Yes, there is a little hole or maybe two at the dip in the heart. Don't worry! This heart is easy to mend! You can see to that later, when you've finished the rest.
For now, let's continue making the heart.
Row 7: purl
Row 8: Knit
Row 9: Purl
Row 10: k1, slip, slip, knit, k14, k2together, k1
Row 11: p1, p2tog, p12, p2tog through the back loop, p1
Row 12: k1, ssk, k10, k2tog, k1
Row 13: p1, p2tog, p8, p2tog through the back loop, p1
Row 14: k1, ssk, k6, k2tog, k1
Row 15: p1, p2tog, p4, purl2tog through the back loop, p1
Row 16: k1, ssk, k2, k2tog, k1
Row 17: p1, p2tog, p2tog through the back loop, p1
Row 18: K1, ssk, k1
Thread a yarn needle with the same color yarn and gather the remaining three stitches onto it. Pull tightly and knot off. You can take small stitches with the yarn to close up any holes in the heart. Make another heart in just the same way. Now you'll have a heart for the top of the box and one for the bottom.

Let's finish the top of the box (the lid) ...
Using any method you'd like, cast on 42 stitches onto a double-pointed needle. Divide these 42 by knitting 14 onto each of three, double-pointed needles.
Round 1: Knit
Round 2: Knit
Round 3: Purl
Round 4: Purl
Bind off, purlwise.
Using the same color yarn and the yarn needle, securely stitch this piece to the sides of the heart, making sure to follow the shape as you stitch. Close up any gaps or remaining holes. This will be the lid of the box. You can set it aside for now.

Now for the Bottom of the Box:
Using two strands held together, and any method you'd like, cast on 42 stitches onto a double-pointed needle. Divide these 42 by knitting 14 onto each of three, double-pointed needles.
Rounds 1-15: Knit
Round 16: Purl
Bind off, purlwise.
Fold the piece over so that you've doubled it. Now, stitch this piece securely to the remaining heart shape. This will be the bottom and sides of the heart box. I like to use two strands held together to make it very stiff and sturdy. In fact, if you'd like, you could use two strands held together for the entire box. Again, be sure to close up any gaps or holes. Now, you're ready to felt!

Put your pieces in a zippered lingerie bag and put this in your washing machine, along with a few tennis balls or jeans or other item that won't give off lint (don't use towels!) ... set the washer for the smallest load and the hottest water ... and the MOST agitation. You should set a timer for increments of five minutes and go back and check on your pieces. Once they are felted pretty well (no stitch marks remaining or, if there are stitches showing, they should only just show faintly and, if possible, the stitches are adding to the decorative nature of the box), take the pieces out, rinse them under warm water and press into a towel to dry. NOW, take the cookie cutters and shape your wet felted pieces into the cookie cutters. Use the larger cutter for the box top and use the cutter along the outside. Place a smaller cutter inside the box top, as well. The bottom really only needs a cookie cutter inside to help shape it. Remember, wet felt is a lot like wet clay. Feel free to pull it, stretch it and mold it into the shape you want. Allow the cutters to stay in and around the heart-box pieces until completely dry, which may take a day or two.

When your pieces are completely dry, you'll see that the box top is the perfect little canvas for embroidery! Choose your design and, if you're using stabilizer, pin it to the top. I used two strands of floss held together and worked a chain stitch outline, surrounded by a series of French knots. The inside flower is made of a few daisy stitches. Experiment! 

VOILA: Your box is finished ... now, all you have to do is fill it with a wonderful surprise!