Complete project instructions and special tips for Deb’s Dessert Wax Bowl and Water Lily Cushions, designed during the Spring Quarantine Spin-along of 2020.
Dessert Wax Bowl
Finished size: approximately 3″ high (allowing top edge to roll) x 10-1/2″ across, 25″ circumference.
Yarn: 2.6 oz Colorful Colorado Spring BFL handspun (combination drafted, 13 wpi).
Needles: size 5, 16″ circular and needles you prefer for working small circumferences.
Gauge: 20 sts x 28 rows = 4″ in stockinette stitch (St st).
CO 120 stitches, place BOR marker, and join for knitting in the round. Knit 6 rnds and work incr rnd: [k11, kf&b] 12 times (130 sts). Knit 4 rnds and work incr rnd: [k12, kf&b] 13 times (140 sts). Knit until sides are about 3-1/2″ high. Purl 1 rnd to set off bottom of bowl.
You will work bowl bottom decreases in 5 sections, using a centered double decrease (cdd): slip 2 tog as if to knit, k1, psso. On each round, the number of stitches betwen markers will decrease by 2 stitches. It’s easiest to mark each center stitch in the cdd with a locking marker, so that you don’t have to constantly move the BOR marker. Change to dpns, magic loop, or a second circular needle when the bowl will no longer fit on the circular needle.
First decr rnd: [k 23 sts, cdd] across rnd. Knit 3 rnds.
Second decr rnd: [k 21 sts, cdd] across rnd. Knit 2 rnds.
Third decr rnd: [k 19 sts, cdd] across rnd. Knit 1 rnd.
Fourth decr rnd: [k 17 sts, cdd] across rnd. Repeat the decr rnd every round, subtracting 2 sts between cdd, until 10 sts remain. [K2tog] across round. Cut yarn and thread tail through 5 sts. Weave in ends.
Special tip: Blocking an odd shape
Cut a cardboard pentagon about 1/4″ larger on all sides than the bowl bottom to use as a template. If you don’t have a pentagonal-shaped item lying around the house, set the bowl on a piece of cardboard and pin it through each of the 5 corner points. Remove the bowl and draw lines connecting the pinholes. Then enlarge this shape by 1/4″ on each side and cut out.
Steam block the bowl bottom over this template and allow to dry. Let the top edge of the bowl roll. If you want a rigid base for your bowl, trim 1/4″ on all sides of the template and set it inside of the bowl.
Water Lily Cushions
Cushion covers are the perfect place to experiment with stitch patterns. I wanted smooth fabric for the MSB yarn to show off its sheen and ever-shifting colors. Linen stitch produced an extremely dense fabric with the BFL yarn—even with size 8 needles!—because it’s a slip stitch pattern. I also liked the reverse side of the linen stitch and could have achieved a similar result with seed stitch/moss stitch; seed stitch would have produced a stretchier and larger knitted fabric.
As with all handspun knitting projects, it’s helpful to swatch until you’re happy with the results. However, you don’t have to work at a particular gauge unless you want a particular size for your knitted fabric. You’re not limited to the available sizes and shapes of commercial pillow inserts (see the Special Tip below). Knit a rectangle, a square, or even a triangle. Work a circle from the center out and see what happens with your yarn’s colors.
- Finished size: 14″ x 14″.
- Materials & notions: 16″ x 16″ cushion insert, decorator fabric and matching sewing thread.
- Yarn: 3.25 oz Colorful Colorado Spring merino-silk-bamboo handspun (3-ply fractal, 12 wpi).
- Finished size of knitted fabric: 14-1/2″ x 14-1/2″, after blocking.
- Gauge: 21 sts x 30 rows = 4″ in Stockinette stitch (St st), using size 5 needles.
CO 74 sts with long-tail cast-on. Work in St st for 14-1/2″. BO loosely. Weave in ends if you started a new skein; trim BO and CO tails to 2″. Steam block lightly.
- Finished size: 11″ x 12″.
- Materials & notions: 14″ x 14″ cushion insert, decorator fabric and matching sewing thread.
- Yarn: 4 oz Colorful Colorado Spring BFL handspun (3-ply as-it-comes, 13 wpi).
- Finished size of knitted fabric: 11″ x 12″, after blocking.
- Gauge: 18 sts x 34 rows = 4″ in linen stitch, using size 8 needles.
Linen stitch RS: [k1, slip 1 wyif] across row.
Linen stitch WS: [p1, slip 1 wyib] across row.
CO 50 sts. Purl 1 row (WS). On RS, slip the edge st, work linen stitch across 48 sts, k edge st. On WS, slip the edge st, work linen stitch across 48 sts, p edge st. Work linen stitch for 11-1/2″, ending on a RS row. Purl 1 row. BO loosely. Weave in ends if you started a new skein; trim BO and CO tails to 2″. Steam block lightly.
Sewing the cushions
Calculate the fabric size or pillow insert size following the special tip below. Cut the decorator fabric to size. On one edge of the fabric, press under the 1/4″ seam allowance—this is the opening edge that you will hand-sew after stuffing the cushion.
Layer the fabrics for seaming (see special tip below) with RS together. Set the hand-knitted fabric 1/4″ past the decorator fabric along the opening edge; align fabrics along the other edges. Clip or baste the layers.
Press the seams (see special tip below) and turn cushion RS out. Gently use a corner tool or the tip of a pencil to poke out the corners. Insert the pillow insert. Clip or hand-baste the opening edge closed. You can turn under the seam allowance on the knitted fabric, which I did for the MSB pillow. Or you can stitch with the knitted edge on the outside, as a decorative element, which I did for the BFL pillow. Invisibly hand-sew the opening edge closed with doubled sewing thread.
Special tip: Sizing fabrics for pillow inserts
Cover fabrics need to be about 1″ to 1-1/2″ smaller on 2 sides than a foam or fiberfill pillow insert, so that every corner of the cushion gets stuffed. I used fiberfill inserts and resized one of them to fit my knitted fabric. If you prefer foam pillow inserts, you can cut them to size with a jigsaw or an electric bread knife. You can also sew a custom-sized liner for loose fiberfill (it’s harder to sew the cushion opening closed over loose stuffing).
For the MSB cushion, the knitted fabric measured 14-1/2″ x 14-1/2″ after blocking; a 16″ x 16″ fiberfill pillow insert was the perfect size. I cut the decorator fabric to 15″ x 15″, including 1/4″ seam allowances.
For the BFL cushion, the knitted fabric measured 11″ x 12″ so I cut the decorator fabric 11.5″ x 12.5″, again with 1/4″ seam allowances. For this nonstandard size, I cut open a 14″ x 14″ pillow insert and pulled out a lot of stuffing. Then I folded over the cut edges and placed this fold against a seam—not the open edge—of the cushion. All the stuffing stayed inside the cushion and I could hand-sew the open edge easily.
Special tip: Sewing hand-knitted fabric to decorator fabric
Sewing with hand-knitted fabric, either by machine or by hand, requires just a few special techniques and minimal special equipment. You’ll need a sewing machine that lets you adjust the pressure of the presser foot—if your machine doesn’t have this feature, I recommend sewing by hand. Sewing clips will work much better than pins at holding layers together for seaming. If you don’t have clips, plan to hand-baste layers tightly whether you’re seaming by hand or machine.
Layer fabrics so that the hand-knitted fabric will be on top and stretched very slightly to the decorator fabric as you seam. Secure the layers with sewing clips or baste layers together with fairly short stitches.
If you’re seaming by machine, adjust the presser foot’s pressure. Try reducing it by one level and see if the layers will easily feed under the presser foot; if they don’t, set the pressure at the lowest possible setting. Use the most basic stitch set at a fairly long length. (Cushion seams won’t get a lot of rough handling, and if you need to pick out the seam, you don’t want to destroy your hand-knitted fabric.) Stretch the hand-knitted fabric very slightly as you seam, but not enough to have leftover fabric at the end unless instructed to do so.
If you’re seaming by hand, backstitch with a doubled thread and fairly long stitches.
Stitch seams straight down a column of stitches or straight across a row of stitches on the hand-knitted fabric. You can use a water-soluble sewing marker or sewing chalk to draw stitching lines if you wish.
After seaming, press each seam with steam to lock in the stitching. You don’t have to press the seams open.