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Help me get my needles clacking
January 8, 2014 2:30 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for recommendations for non-sweater hand-knit items that you love and cherish and use all the time. Basically I want to know what knit things that you've made or received that you wore out.

I love knitting, and my skill level probably ranks between intermediate and advanced. I have zero interest in making sweaters, and the amount of yarn I'd need to cover my fat gut would cost way, way too much anyway.

This is a problem. I don't want to knit anything unless 1) it will be loved 2) it will be legitimately useful, because I have some kind of yarn-guilt disorder. Even making things like scarves saddens me a little, because they get packed away 8 months of the year.

I already have donated a considerable amount of knit items to our local hospital & shelters. I don't knit certain things like shawls because, while they are beautiful, I know I would never, ever use it and therefore can't justify the time or cost sink.

We are swimming in hats, mittens, scarves, socks, and dishrags already, but I wouldn't turn my nose up at anything from those categories!

And yes, I use Ravelry, but often get lost in the sea of beautiful items and end up in some kind of rabbithole where I spend 3 hours looking at baby receiving blankets and I don't even know a baby in the first place.
posted by Syllables to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (46 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
 
I had the best scarf ever knit for me by one of my dearest friends that I cherished for years. It finally gave up the ghost but thanks to a not so subtle conversation on my part I hear I'm getting another one soon! But yeah I used it all the time in Chicago's winters and feel sad for the first time in a long time to be using something else.
posted by Carillon at 2:33 PM on January 8


Socks! I'm slowly replacing all of my socks with rediculously stripy handknit socks. at this point, I basically only have work out socks that are non-hand knit. (I do find that hand knit socks are not indestructible, and I do end up having to darn them if I wear them regularly. which sucks, but then I pour myself a scotch and sit and darn like a crazy lady and all is right with the world)

and I too hate how long sweaters take (and I'm tall so EXTRA YARN AND MODIFICATIONS), but tbh, I wear the 3 I've made all the time.

I've also made a GIANT smooshy cowl that I'm constantly wearing this winter.

I don't quite have your shawl problem, since I wear them hipster style over t-shirts in the year round and keep a spare one at work in summer when the ac gets turned up to Artic.
posted by larthegreat at 2:35 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


A felted cat cave would get used roughly 23 hours out of every day all year 'round. If I could knit, I would make nothing but these.
posted by jamaro at 2:36 PM on January 8 [21 favorites]


I live someplace where it's punishingly cold and I am a miser with the thermostat. A friend knit me a sleep hat out of very soft and fuzzy wool. It's basically a cap that fits my head and is extra long so it goes down over my eyes and I am wearing it threadbare. Other knit things I have enjoyed in the past

- little balls for cats to shred
- slippery things with some grip on the bottom so I can wear it in my (cold) house
- one of those neck gaiter things
- cool looking fingerless gloves (these are named after me!)
- little snug sleeves for glasses or phone
posted by jessamyn at 2:37 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


Hats hats hats hats hats.

There are a few great things about hat knitting which keeps me coming back all the time:

1. They are quick to knit and scalable to different skill levels. I have seen some super difficult hat patterns, despite the fact that there's also a lot of totally mindless entry level ones out there.

2. They call for small amounts of yarn, which makes them cheap to knit.

3. Everybody wears hats! I come from a warm climate, so most knitted items don't make great gifts. But even among my warm-weather folks, there are always chilly mornings, camping trips, midnight bonfires, cold snaps, etc. where a hat is a great thing to have. There are also plenty of fashionable hat patterns out there for wearing when it isn't particularly cold.

4. You really can't have too many hats.

5. I find that hats get lost much more rarely than mittens and socks.
posted by Sara C. at 2:37 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


This Christmas I received a pair of hand knit slippers (well, actually super duper thick ankle socks that I use as slippers). They are amazing and I wear them all the time at home.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 2:40 PM on January 8


It doesn't use much yarn, but I made some felted coffee cup cozies and my friends were quite pleased to get them.
posted by mogget at 2:44 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


I have about a half dozen pairs of sweater sleeve/arm warmer thingies with thumb holes that are the only useful non-full-sweater hand knit things I have ever received.
posted by elizardbits at 2:44 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


Have you explored the wonderful world of felting? My mom made me some felted potholder/trivet thingies that I love, and a big floppy felted 'market bag' that I use for carrying pies. It doesn't matter that it's the only thing I use it for, I love love love that I have a beautiful handmade item for carrying pies.
posted by hungrybruno at 2:45 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


My sister in law knitted me a lovely cowl that I wear all the time. It's just the right length (hits just below my clavicle and isn't too bunchy.
posted by vespabelle at 2:47 PM on January 8


Have you thought about knitting your own dog or cat?

They're not useful, per se.... You can't wear them on your head for warmth, or anything. But they most certainly are useful as things that may be donated to local shelters, hospitals, or charities. There are many children in the world in need of a huggable knitted dog or cat. I've knitted some dogs in my day, and it's quite nice. They're not too big, so they don't use too much yarn. The designs aren't too complex, but they offer some variation. And even though my knitting isn't so great, I've yet to meet a person who doesn't love a knitted dog.
posted by meese at 2:48 PM on January 8 [8 favorites]


I agree with the hats hats hats. I may have a small hat problem though.

I am also knitting my first ever pair of socks. Toe up, even.

I have made 3 of the bandana cowl. It's really warm and useful.

I look forward to seeing what else people suggest!
posted by bibliogrrl at 2:52 PM on January 8 [3 favorites]


I envied someone in this cold snap who had big knit overmittens. Basically they were oversized mittens that fit over other gloves. Awesome.
posted by juniperesque at 2:54 PM on January 8


I'm on my second pair of felted slippers, made from the French Press pattern. I often see my mom and sister wearing the ones I gave them too.
posted by carolr at 2:55 PM on January 8


I think a lot of us are having a hard time understanding how something that gets used for 1/3 of the year is not "legitimately useful" so we continue to suggest winter items. Especially given the winter that we're seeing here in the lower 48 this year.

So I start with cowls, some of which are more for decoration than for looks.

Socks. All the socks. My best friend wore out the pair I made her last year (an impressive feat!) So she and her husband each got three pairs this year. I make all mine in only plain stockinette. For some reason I have never once finished a pair of socks in any pattern that is not plain stockinette. There are so many socks that I cannot bear to link to anything.

Mittens, wrist warmers, fingerless gloves. Irish Hiking wristwarmers were designed to coordinate with the Irish Hiking Hat

Hats in a variety of sizes are popular with charities.

Baby blankets are also popular with charities, if they are machine washable and dryable. (hospitals, foster care, sometimes school fundraisers if your work is extra pretty)

And yes, a thousand times yes to dishcloths. But I use them in the shower for cleaning my body. I give them as wedding gifts, a set of three or four or however many I have time to knit that have a pear on them. Then I enclose a note to the married couple "you two make a great pair!" and we all laugh about that after the wedding. You can find dishcloth patterns for states, animals, words,
nearly any theme you can imagine.
posted by bilabial at 3:14 PM on January 8 [5 favorites]


Hot water bottle covers! I made one in an entrelac pattern a couple of years ago and my feet are snuggling against it RIGHT NOW.
posted by meronym at 3:15 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


Baby sweaters are nothing like adult sweaters and so adorable and fun to knit. My kids wore the heck out of a tiny striped hoody I knit.

Also nthing cowls and handwarmers/fingerless gloves. I wear them indoors and out when it's cold.
posted by rebeccabeagle at 3:18 PM on January 8


blankets. not very cheap, and time consuming, but the best.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 3:37 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


I guess it depends where you are, as a "winter" scarf gets use ten months out of the year for me. So if you want more warm things, one of my favorite was a earmuff and scarf set (made out of the same yarn). The earmuff was sort of like a thick all-around headband.

I'm less sure if my favorite sunhats are knit or crochet -- but if you can find a sunhat pattern, that would be an awesome present. It's so nice to have shade and ventilation.
posted by Margalo Epps at 3:40 PM on January 8


I have knitted cowls and shawlettes for my mom, and she uses them all the time (and frequently tells me about compliments she gets). But then, she also still keeps and occasionally wears the weird, misshapen, lumpy hooded scarf-thing I made her out of crappy yarn when I was just learning to knit, so... anything you make for for someone you love will be treasured

And washcloths are a great idea! A good friend just gave me a hand-knitted washcloth with a bar of lovely soap as a birthday gift.
posted by sarcasticah at 3:43 PM on January 8


I would love it if someone made me socks! Two things I do have and use and treasure that were made by friends:

1) Tom Baker scarf, if you've a Who nerd in your life who would appreciate it. I gather these are quite the undertaking, so you have to reeeeally love whoever you put in the time to make it for. Which is maybe part of why I love mine so much. In the non-scarf seasons, I drape it over one of my curtain rods decoratively, because it is colorful and makes me happy to look at, so it gets all-season appreciation!

2) A knitted octopus that a friend made for me, which sits on my desk and makes me happy every day.

I am currently working on a crafting swap with a friend - I'm cross-stitching her something and she's crocheting me an afghan for my freezing cold office, where I have a space heater on every day of the year, and will use and love it all the time. It's never a bad time of year for something cuddly and soft.
posted by Stacey at 3:45 PM on January 8


I desperately wish someone would knit me a ridiculously decorative tea cozy for my petite Bee House tea pots, so there's that.
posted by mostlymartha at 3:47 PM on January 8 [3 favorites]


Since I finished this hood/neck warmer, I have basically only taken it off periodically because despite the chill outside I really don't need to be wearing a wool hood in my 78F apartment. Also, it was not terribly complicated and relatively quick to knit up. I have several people hinting at me about next year's Christmas presents already. It is awesome. I unfortunately can't recc yarns because I made it in Knitpicks Cadena and they seem to be phasing that out.
posted by Sequence at 3:50 PM on January 8


I knitted an afghan (more yarn than a sweater, though, so maybe not fitting your criteria?) I use it year round when sitting on the couch.
posted by cecic at 3:51 PM on January 8


Also if someone knit adorable/ridiculous winter clothing items for a pet of mine I would adore them forever.
posted by elizardbits at 4:03 PM on January 8


Yes, socks! I wear (and wear out) all my handknit socks.
posted by Kurichina at 4:09 PM on January 8


How about reusable bags? Here's a pattern from Quincy called the dejeuner bag and one from Knitty called the Everlasting Bagstopper.
posted by mbidi at 4:26 PM on January 8 [4 favorites]


I tried my hand at knitting, thinking that synthetic yarn would get by what I thought was a minor allergy/reaction to wool/natural yarn. Oh no. Seems my problem is with YARN itself, stemming from a childhood trauma.

(Parents of young children: Do NOT let them eat the mittens. Just.. trust me on this)

Color me extremely disappointed. I love chenille with an undying passion, and it's the only yarn I can handle, literally. I'd been hoping to work myself up, skillwise, to it.. and just not gonna happen.

All that said? I wore the heck out of a huge, semi-loose knit chenille throw that I clung to like a security blanket. I need to figure out a way to patch the holes I wore into it. I would kill - KILL - for some really thick, fluffy hand-knit chenille socks...

...but my Holy Grail is a chenille housecoat/robe.
posted by Adelwolf at 4:27 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


I made this throw out of the most gorgeous ultra-bulky orange yarn, and it sits over the side of my sofa 365 days a year, and I love it and use it and get compliments on it all the time.

I recently made these mitts for a friend, and she has declared them the warmest bestest mittens ever.

I made myself felted slippers (not exactly these, but similar), and wear em lots.
posted by Kololo at 4:28 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


Who do you want to knit for? And what would they use?

This is the essential question. I've sent off piles of baby things and blankets and dishcloths, but the things that get used and used up are the things I've made with a person and their particular needs in mind.

For instance, it's cold and windy. So I made a friend a hat with two layers of colorwork over the earband, and he wore it until he lost it and then I made him another one.

Another friend wanted gloves so she could use her phone. My dad lost his thumb and half his index finger, so I made him custom gloves with double thickness around his finger, because that finger got colder faster.

If you want to make something people will really use, you should look at their everyday requirements and plan from there.
posted by mgar at 4:29 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


Oh, also, i should note that the throw that i linked to has a gauge of 5 stitches to 4 inches, so it is MEGA FAST!! (You could also make it my holding 3 or 4 strands together, if part of your goal is to use up your stash of yarn, as you likely don't have a huge trove of super bulky yarn.)
posted by Kololo at 4:32 PM on January 8


Hi - did you already see my perfect knit hat question today? If you're interested in trading sketches/diagrams back and forth with me, maybe we could invent something really interesting. There is at least one other person in that thread who wishes the toque-with-a-huge-folded-band-and-pretty-pattern existed.
posted by amtho at 4:37 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


I make these felted slippers out of this yarn...the yarn suggested in the pattern makes pretty slippers that are too thick and don't get worn (also expensive). I am wearing them now, my cousin has asked for another pair that she can keep at work and my handyman tells me he loves the ones I made him 2 years ago every time I see him. They are fast to knit and really not that hard, though they look like they would be (non-knitters think you're a genius). It's fun to give them to people before they are felted and see the confused expression on their faces though I usually give them at my house so I can coach them through the felting process. The yarn is even on sale now. I usually make them with the Natural color on top and the Nature Brown on the bottom and cuff.
posted by BoscosMom at 5:23 PM on January 8


I live in San Francisco, where there are maybe ten days a year when you can feel safe leaving the house without a scarf. So, I like scarves. Neck gaiters would be nifty. And those flip-top mitten things, whatever their proper name is.
posted by rtha at 6:00 PM on January 8


Seconding (perhaps surprisingly) the knitted octopus. Excellent house decor, and makes a great Xmas tree topper, we found. We also got, from the same person, who is perhaps the best human, a Boba Fett two-tone knit pixel art bathroom washcloth. If you have friends who are the least bit nerdy, knit pixel art is a joy to receive - I don't know about how fun it is to make, though.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:41 PM on January 8


I don't know that you'll find this convincing, but I wear shawls constantly, hipster style, like larthegreat. I think I have half a dozen or so in steady rotation. The pattern plays into it a little, but how you wear it is really key, because one way transforms everyone into a dowdy babushka, but the others can make you look super fly. If you want a foolproof shawl, make a small Holden in a nice semi-solid yarn, block it well, and wear it point front, off to the side a bit. Under no circumstances should you wear it like in the project photos, because that just looks like a hot mess, but I pretty much always receive compliments on this when I wear it out.

My husband also wears the heck out of the many, many pairs of socks I have knit him over the years, although his favorites are inevitably the most vanilla designs. Fingerless mitts have also gone over very well as gifts, which is good, because I'm a big fan of small, portable projects. Gloves have also been useful, but fingers are seriously finicky and annoying. I also gave a friend a set of graduated hats as a baby shower gift once, and she was really, really pleased.
posted by Diagonalize at 7:12 PM on January 8


It's almost a sweater, but vests can be incredibly useful layering items (and you don't have to fit sleeves!). They take about 2/3rds the wool of sweaters, and are most useful in fine wool, so as to fit under things, making them cheaper (if longer to make).
posted by kjs4 at 7:29 PM on January 8


Thirding the shawls worn hipster-style. Instead of a big lacy intricate thing, look for smaller "shawlette" patterns. Less time on the needles, less fussy to wear. I wear my Damson and Citron year-round. (Citron did take forever, but it was worth it.)

I also love knitting socks, and always use them. I don't even mind when they get holes, because then I can make more socks.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:41 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


Homemade socks and slippers. I have had pairs of these knitted out of hand woven undyed thick and chunky style wool, and after a couple of washes I swear I could wear these things over broken glass and not feel it they are so thick and toasty warm.
posted by wwax at 8:36 PM on January 8


Oh Lordy, I would LOVE to have that bandana cowl!
posted by raisingsand at 8:40 PM on January 8


I have a few boxes with knit hats, shawls, socks, and gloves that I tend to rotate depending on which coat I'm wearing and on the weather.

But the one item I always keep around are my fingerless gloves. They are great in spring and fall, so I use them even when a scarf is too warm. A few different colors and weights, and a few different lenghts - some to the elbow - and that way I can switch when the weather changes. I'm trying to get my mom to make me a few more, that's how much I love them.

I also have some lovely knit santas, easter bunnies, a few angels, and other decorations/toys that I like and keep around, and they seem like they would be fun to make.
posted by gemmy at 10:08 PM on January 8


I have a knitted winter hat made by a friend of mine, and it's warm, and cozy, and pretty, and it matches my winter coat, and I love it very much.
posted by stampsgal at 6:50 AM on January 9


Washcloths for the bathroom in different stitches - great way to use swatches, just knit until they are the right size. Cheap kitchen cotton works just as well as more expensive cotton. Great way to experiment with new stitches. A set in 4 or 6 different stitches works beautifully as a gift.
posted by RoadScholar at 7:21 AM on January 9


Amazing responses! I am rather ashamed I completely disregarded shawls because I only pictured them draped over granny shoulders! Forgot that they are worn all hipstery now. I marked a few best answers that resonated the strongest, thanks everyone for your wonderful ideas.
posted by Syllables at 8:27 AM on January 9


If you are still looking for more projects, I would like to have one of these soap cozies that help you save soap and also act as a loofah, but it is something that's wouldn't buy for myself.
posted by rmless at 12:29 PM on January 9


Alpacas and llamas and sheep! Small, fairly quick, and awfully cute.
posted by Lexica at 6:24 PM on January 11


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