Monthly Archives

February 2016

When Blocking IS a Good Idea

When blocking is a good idea and basically rescues your project from certain death.

Call me a hypocrite. I know. I can’t even follow my own advice on the matter. I didn’t want to block this cowl because I feared the honeycomb stitch would wither flatly away. Before blocking, it was so plump and dimensional. And I loved that.

When blocking IS a good idea. A compendium to a prior post on why blocking is NOT a good idea.

I developed this cowl in a big, fat loop because I wanted to avoid grafting. While I have FINALLY done enough grafting this past year to remember how to do it without re-watching the YouTube tutorial every stinking time, it’s still not my favorite thing to do. It requires a lot of concentration. I know myself well enough to know that my brain is not currently capable of such undivided focus.

My big ol’ loop construction created a problem. Of the devastating variety. My simple ribbed edges were folding in on one end, and the cowl was rolling a bit on the other end. The honeycomb was so luscious, but my cowl seemed fatally flawed.

I thought for sure it was going to require scissors. Or something drastic. Again.When blocking IS a good idea. A compendium to a prior post on why blocking is NOT a good idea.

I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I didn’t want to do much. I sat with it for a week or so, picking it up now and again to ponder. I felt lazy. I didn’t want to cut the darn thing or unravel the cast-off. I just didn’t.

So I blocked it. Come as it may. What the hek.

I hereby offer this post as a compendium to my former opinion.When blocking IS a good idea. A compendium to a prior post on why blocking is NOT a good idea.

I was EXTRA careful to wring out all of the water before laying it flat to dry. I hoped this alone might spare my beloved stitch.

It didn’t. My plump honeycomb wasn’t quite so voluptuous. BUT my edges were behaving themselves and my cowl was rescued for a perilous fate as a cat blanket. Good thing too, because it’s a cashmere blend (Madelinetosh Pashmina Worsted in Dried Rose).When blocking IS a good idea. A compendium to a prior post on why blocking is NOT a good idea. Now that all the drama is over and I’ve  come out the other end all smiles and sunshine, I love this cowl. It’s long enough to loop twice perfectly. The worsted yarn gives it enough heft to stand firmly in front of my neck, showing off what’s left of the honeycomb luscilicious with just the right pizazz, snuggle, and warmth.

I am happy.

Which just goes to show, sometimes you can be standing on the brink, fearing all is lost, drowning in the dark morass of knitting hell.

And then you block, that magical formula of wool and water that, with a bit of luck, has the uncanny ability to make all right in the realm of yarn and needle.

Knitters and Baby Hats

Simple baby hat made with love and a clean, I-cord cast on.

Our town librarian is about to have a baby. In a small, rural town like ours, I would wager the librarian is the single, most significant person. She keeps us connected to the bigger universe, opens our children’s eyes to reading, and never complains when Reed pulls out ten books from the shelves before returning them all to the wrong places.

Bless her heart.Simple baby hat with an ICord Cast On

If I were to put my finger on one single knitterly obligation to the human race, it would be knitting baby hats for the brand new among us. Sure, some knitters get ambitious with blankets, layettes, and the like (okay, so knitting options for babies are basically adorably endless…), but I have thus far primarily stuck with baby hats because I almost always have some suitable yarn laying about. Plus they are a quick project.

I personally recommend always having a pile of completed baby hats at the ready, as pregnant woman seems to pop up like spring tulips. One days there’s none. The next day, they are everywhere.

A knitter must always be prepared.Knitted hat for a baby.

This hat is a simple I-cord cast on and stockinette all the way up. I made it a while back when I was trying to perfect my preferred technique for cleaning joining an I-cord cast on in the round when I was developing Samoa. (As a general rule, I would recommend baby hats as an efficient way to work out details for adult-sized patterns.)

I hithered and dithered a bit about the color. Is grey suitable for a baby? I decided yes, plus it’s neutral. Like so many women I know, this future mom is going to be surprised by the gender of her child. As an ardent planner, this irks me to no end. (I hear they are now predicting gender at 12 weeks with the genetic blood screening instead of making suffering future parents wait to the 20 week body scan?!?! Oh the times!) Advanced knowledge of gender results in a more refined color selection for the knitted baby gift, which is of course paramount in priority to any sort of “surprise.”

At least I think so.

Who knows, maybe there is something cosmic about placing a hand knit hat atop the soft head of a babe that increases the odds they will enjoy knitting later in life. It’s our unofficial recruitment strategy for the trade.

 

Saving the Tricky Bits for Last

Knitting from the bottom-up can be tricky. It gives you the false sense that you know what you are doing.

Beginning a top at the bottom and working your way up to the neckline can be risky business, especially if you are like me and decide to knit bottom-up patterns (like Dolores and Waterlily) that start out all stockinette and roses before turning into some complicated swamp of lace at the top. Knitting round after round of stockinette at the outset leaves one with the false reassurance that everything will be okay–the project will be easy, even. The truth of the matter is you are facing a Real Life challenge not unlike Matt Damon stranded on Mars in The Martian. That is, you are likely screwed and facing Certain Death. Strangulation by yarn. Stroke from stress. Stabbing by needle. Something not at all good.

You just don’t know it yet.Bottom up knitting: saving the tricky bits for last.

 

Waterlily started out rough for me because I chose to knit it in linen against my better judgement. I quickly discovered I don’t like knitting with linen. But I stuck with it anyway. I am persistent like that. Once I got into the swing of things, the project went swimmingly. A few rounds of (twisted) stockinette here. A few rounds of (twisted) stockinette there. Until: bam! Time to figure out the Latvian Braid and start on the lacy bit.

Now, the Latvian Braid didn’t go as bad as I had feared, which was comforting. Furthermore, while slow at the outset, the lacy bit didn’t go too horribly either.

At first anyway.

Then came that fateful night when I just wanted to be done and move on to other projects, like Rosemont. The end was in sight. I had been staring at Waterlily since last July, and it just seemed to be taking FOREVER. I figured I had a couple more nights of knitting to wrap things up. There I was, happily sitting on the sofa, the house quiet as everyone slept and I caught up on Downton Abbey, knitting the lacy bit for the front and ACTUALLY THINKING that the tricky thing about knitting lace isn’t the right side rows with all the yarn overs and k2togs and such. No, no. The tricky bit is the wrong side. That is when all those yarn overs like to sneak off your needles lickity split the way a teenager sneaks into the freezer for the container of ice cream. Poof! They’re gone.

Just like that.

I must have manifested my own knitting purgatory because just as I was thinking this very thought: POOF! The darn yarn over jumped off my needle like an Olympic pole vaulter and exploded down a few rows. There I was: glancing between Lady Mary and my Exploding Lace Disaster (again! gosh darnit!). I won’t rant further on the matter except to say I considered unraveling. I considered abandoning ship and moving to Tahiti. I considered it all. In the end, I tinked back (for three hours, mind you) and did my best to fix the whole mess without unraveling further. It doesn’t look quite right, but I am hoping it looks passable.

See. Certain Death.Dangers of bottom-up knitting: saving the tricky bits for last can be regretful.That’s not all.

I know you are supposed to read the whole pattern through first before you start, and I do. The thing about saving the tricky bits for last is that the final tidbits of instructions never seem to make sense in the beginning. It’s like those school days past when you’d open up a fresh math text book on the first day and all the chapters in the second half looked like Greek on steroids.They just didn’t make a lot of sense. Sure, the symbols were familiar. You recognized the digits. But it was all new. Uncharted. All you could hope for was that if you took the lessons one by one and paid attention, the jibberish toward the end of the text book would fall into place when you got there.

This is how I feel about these bottom-up tops with the lacy bit saved for the yoke. I read the whole pattern and just hope the instructions at the end will make more (some) sense when I get there.

Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t.

Or sometimes, as the case may be, I can’t tell left from right–a problem of mine my entire life. To this day, I hold out my two hands to see which one makes the L when I extend my thumb to indicate the left-ward direction. And I still get it wrong half the time (just ask my poor husband). Or, when I was 16 and took my driver’s test, I actually wrote L and R on my two hands to make sure I didn’t flub the two up.

You would think I would have that figured out by now. But I don’t.

I think this was a contributing factor in the neck line I knitted backwards before realizing it didn’t look quite right, unknitting the neckline (1 hour), and finishing it off properly (another hour).

I understand that top-down knitting has its critics (something about seaming and structure), not that I am among them. I have decided I would rather face the tricky bit first. Get it over with. Abandon ship sooner rather than later, should it be necessary.

This way, in a worst case scenario, I would have avoiding spending six months working on the bottom half before realizing I was too directionally challenged to figure out the tricky neckline finishing. Quit while you’re ahead. That’s my policy, and I am sticking to it.

Joining Ginny’s Yarn Along and reading The Japanese Lover.

Love Your Toddler with Socks

Simple ribbed toddler socks.

Somewhere between wearing these simple ribbed socks for the first time to take these photos and washing these (so beautiful!) new socks for the first time, one of Reed’s toddler socks made its way into the dryer. (I think the zipper on the laundry bag wasn’t quite shut.)

Now I have one toddler sock and one newborn sock. It didn’t felt, but it did shrink. A lot.

I suppose I now have no choice but to shrink the other sock (hopefully it will come out the same?) and regift to someone with a baby. Preferably someone with a baby who knits and will appreciate just what it means to have a pair of hand knit toddler socks. (I think I have someone in mind…)

Whoops.

Ribbed toddler socks

I fully admit that this photo shoot required bribery involving one “organic” lollipop. Before noon. I think this may seem equally scandalous as drinking before noon (mimosas and bloody marys are exempt, of course).

I used my leftover yarn from my Blueberry Waffles #2 socks and modified this free pattern that I used for Reed’s first pair of toddler socks by maintaining a 2 x 2 ribbing down the entire sock, hoping I would proudly be able to boast that I discovered the secret to hand knit toddler socks that do not slip down around busy ankles.

Knitting mothers everywhere would applaud with a joy never yet seen in the knitting universe.

In my mind, it made perfect sense that the tighter circumference resulting from the ribbing would grip his leg better. I don’t know why things always make more sense in my mind and less sense in Real Life.

Fail.

While the slipping was reduced, I did notice (on their one and only wear) that they still slid down his toddler legs.

Ribbed toddler socks.

Reed and I spend an inordinate amount of time in the car each week, commuting from the Middle of Nowhere to work and preschool two or three days each week. This past week, I endured a solid hour of interrogation surrounding Why Did the Dinosaurs Go Extinct? (And the way he pronounces “extinct” is so adorable that it makes you want to have fifty more kids!) I patiently explained, time after time, how no one really knows for sure…scientists hypothesize an asteroid may have hit the earth…so much dust…no sun…cold…no food…and all the dinosaurs went to sleep and never woke up. My detail was so precise (and so repetitive) that I went hoarse. But why? Over and over again. I explained the whole dinosaurs extinction business so many times that I was forced to ponder this dominant hypothesis of sorts, my own mind finding the whole theory more and more ridiculous sounding and seemingly impossible with each rendition.

Ribbed toddler socks.

Whenever I finish a knitting project in the wee hours of the night, I always leave my yarn scraps out for Reed to discover in the morning. He loves them! He will come upon bits of yarn on the coffee table or sofa with sheer delight. For me? And he then proceeds to play with these strings of yarn like a little kitten. He fishes with them. He uses them as foundations for his ever-intricate Monster Traps. He ties the dog up (poor dog). He tucks them in his pocket like a little treasure, and I find them again when I put away the laundry, jumbled up with all the clean clothes.

Ribbed toddler socks.

I love this kid. I hope he wants to learn to knit someday (soon?!?). In the meantime, at least we had matching socks for one morning. It was worth it.

Knit Early and Often

Things that make me grouchy:

  1. Not being able to knit every day.
  2. Not being able to walk or exercise every non-working day.  (I just spontaneously bought this GoKnit pouch to finally try walking and knitting socks. I believe this might fall under the category of two birds with one stone. Or, a future broken ankle. Remains to be seen.)
  3. Not enough knitting time every day (yes, this is different than #!).
  4. Lamenting that I don’t have more time to knit, wondering how I can swindle more time to knit, and feeling hopeless that there is no possible way I can come up with more time to knit (also different than #1 and #2).
  5. A lack of a second pair of hands (so I can knit two projects at once).
  6. Lace that unravels explosively just when you are almost finished knitting a long and complicated lace section (I promise to tell you all about this soon). It’s tragically amazing how quickly the light at the end of the tunnel can extinguish into a bleak, miasma of tangled yarn.
  7. Spending eight months working on a top and then the final two weeks fretting that it looks too long (or too…something).
  8. Five active knitting projects on the needles (or close to the needles), all of which are in various stages of incomplete and not quite right. My only upcoming hope for minor knitting success: toddler socks. One must find redemption wherever one can. Even if it is knitting a dish cloth. Or stockinette hat. There is no such thing as a knitting project that is too easy, as long as it is finished.
  9. Insufficient levels of sleep, chocolate, and quiet time, which often lead to failure to correctly read a pattern such at K1, P3 can easily become P1, K3 for 30 rows until you (uh humI) have realized your (my) fatal error.
  10. Not being able to knit every day (yes, this is the SAME as #1 but was worth repeating, in my opinion)

Can you tell I am trying to figure out how to rework my life to wiggle in more time for knitting? So far, it’s looking bleak.

I know self-driving cars are quite controversial, but I really do hope they figure them out soon in a super safe and affordable sort of way. That would add a minimum of six hours of knitting time to my life. Now, that is something I could get behind.

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On the upside (because I am forever the optimist):

The swatch is for my Rosemont Carigan office knit-a-long is complete. My coworker has a head start and is already approaching the arms! Eep! I swore to myself that I had to first finish my Waterlily Tee (this weekend ???) before I can cast on another top. I loved working with Quince & Co. Lark during swatching. So squishy! I am really looking forward to this project. I have already decided that I want to use Lark to knit a second (and properly sized Kitty’s Chemise).

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In the mean time, off I go to prioritize my knitting projects. Time to make some lists. Just soon as I can find my sparkly pink gel pen. Because what knitter doesn’t feel inspired by a sparkly pink gel pen?

Exactly.

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I am proudly joining Ginny’s Yarn Along. Reading Where Did You Go, Bernadette: A Novel (which I absolutely can’t put down…even at 3:00 a.m.)

Valentines Mitts…For Me!

Simple

Happy Valentines Day to me! Happy Valentines Day to me (and you)! Happy Valentines Day dear knitters evvverrrrrryyyywhhhherrrreee! Happy Valentines Day to me (and you!)Simple mitts anyone can knit!

I don’t know how I get side tracked on these tangent knitting projects, but I do. Somehow instead of working on all my other “important” projects, I decided to knit another pair of these mittens from Susan B. Anderson. Except this time I didn’t fret about the color (Malabrigo Worsted in Orchid) being too bright because I like bright.

So there. Simple mitts anyone can knit.

This is a super simple mitten pattern. Definitely a great first-time-ever knitting mittens pattern. Or, my best friend’s birthday was yesterday and I totally need a special gift ASAP pattern.

Whatever works.

I mostly knit these in the car and a dimly lit hotel room. They basically knit themselves. This time, I chose to knit the smallest size because my hands are, uhm, petite.  Simple mitts anyone can knit.

What says Valentines Day more than pink orchid mittens?

Exactly! That’s what I thought too.

I have decided that is perfectly acceptable to give yourself gifts for special (and non-special) occasions. Especially if you make them yourself.

Additional items beyond knitting included in the category of Acceptable Self Gifting: cake (especially varieties involving chocolate or lemon), chocolates (although that’s a bit of work and requires the use of a candy thermometer, which I always find stressful), jewelry, clothing, plants from the garden nursery, and gift certificates for house cleaning conducted by someone other than you. Simple mitts anyone can knit.

As soon as I knit myself new mittens, we had a heat wave. Fruit trees are booming everywhere I look. I even planted the spring garden with little Reed the other day. Peas, spinach, onions, garlic, kale, chard, cauliflower and three distinct varieties of broccoli. This will be good luck for my mittens, however. This happens every year when the weather warms up mid-winter. I jump the gun thinking we have survived the super cold days and go plant the early garden. Then we promptly get an ice storm and two straight eerily dark weeks months of freezing rain and snow.

There’s hope for these mittens yet.

Knit Your Way Around the World

Knit your way around the world!

It looks like a bomb went off, but we are home, complete with dirty laundry exploding from every which way, suitcases tossed aside precisely where they don’t belong, and and a fridge that offers only mustard, almond butter, and stale sour cream. The return landing may not be pretty, but it was worth the pain.Knit your way around the world!In cased you missed it, we road tripped down to Monterey, California, visiting the aquarium (twice!) and enjoying the perfect beach weather. It was a LONG drive with two adults, one toddler, an elderly dog, a tricycle, and a scooter crammed into one dirty Subaru with a reasonable amount of luggage.

Like any obsessively addicted knitter, advanced research led me to Monarch Knitting, which happens to be a flagship store for the Quince & Co. yarn. It’s part of my plan for the year to knit up a bunch of patterns from Hannah Fettig’s cruelly brilliant  Home & Away: Knits for Everyday Adventures. Somehow I swindled a coworker into promising to knit the Rosemont Cardigan with me.

Miracles. They do exist.

I called ahead to make sure Monarch Knitting wouldn’t freakishly be closed for some sort of renovation and resolved to stop in to select my Rosemont yarn and touch Quince & Co. wool for the first time ever in Real Life (so far, I’ve only worked with their linen).  Knit your way around the world!I wasn’t sure when exactly I would be able to jaunt into Monarch Knitting, so I lugged my copy of  Home & Away with me everywhere we went in my backpack.

Some random beach? It came along.

Aquarium Day Two? Yep.

Better to heft the extra weight than risk arrival at the target LYS without the pattern. I believe that would have fallen under the category of Knitting Blasphemy.  Knit your way around the world!Ultimately, I did make it into Monarch Knitting and selected my Quince & Co. Lark colorway (Wasabi!) in under ten minutes (it was one of the handful of colorways they had with the required ten skeins in stock), along with a spontaneous acquisition of two skeins of new-to-me Woolfolk’s Sno in White/Silver. This yarn is 100% merino wool and is so stinking soft that it just blows my (over-caffeinated) mind. All I want to do lock myself in a (well lit) closet and knit myself some kind shawl/stole/wrappy thing that I snuggle in all day, every day. I am basically going to pet this yarn incessantly until I can finish some projects and allow myself to cast on.

Pet. Pet. Pet. Woolfolk Sno yarn.

Along the way, I did accomplish a respectable amount of car knitting, making progress on my man socks and Valentine’s mittens. There was an unmentionable incident involving a pot hole and an airborne double pointed needle that is now forever lost in the slot between the passenger seat and center console. On the upside, at least it didn’t poke out my eye.

Right?

Right.Woolfolk Sno yarn. So soft! All this travel knitting really got me thinking: wouldn’t it be amazing to knit your way around the world? To venture off here and there (Italy! New Zealand! Borneo!) and whip up this and that along the way. Discover yourself. Discover the world. Pack some yarn from home (just in case) and find some new yarn along the way.

When Elizabeth Gilbert did her whole Eat, Pray, Love bit, she really missed out by not including a section on stopping over somewhere and learning to knit. She could have done the knit journey first and fixed her life right then and there–no Italy, India, or Bali needed (although you might as well visit those places, too…since your suitcase is already packed and no one is expecting you home anytime soon).

Given the three-year-old in my life, I imagine it will be a while before I knit myself around the world. In reality, it is just as difficult to knit while traveling as it is to knit at home. Stolen moments here and there when everyone is sleeping or cleverly strapped into a five-point harness system.

In the meantime, the dream lives on. Maybe you’ll join me.

Joining Ginny’s Yarn Along. I just finished reading You Should Have Known and really enjoyed it in a real page-turner way. Now I need a new book.

Knit Dispatch From the Road

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It has been a beautiful, busy weekend, with much more to come. We’ve left the drippy weather up north and headed south in search of sun, arriving in lovely Monterey, California. There has been a bit of car knitting, a bit of knitting by the dim lit morning light of the hotel window while the rest of the family dreams on, and a little bit of Knit Tourism with a quick, quick, quick stop into Monarch Knitting  where I was able to touch my first Real Life Quince yarn. Such a lovely shop, bright and airy and full of all things dreamy and woolful. Husband lingered in the car with the sleeping babe, so it was just a quick in and out for me. Onward we traveled to the sunny, warm beaches with silky white sand that seemed to go on for ages, interrupted only by the craggy rock ledges of the California coastline. The adventure continues tomorrow, with the promise of more car knitting and sunshine. Knit on. image

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Man Socks

For some reason, knitting socks for men is more complicated than knitting socks for women. Maybe because they are simply bigger...

This post constitutes (most) everything I have learned (so far) about knitting socks for men. It all comes down to this, which I realize is overstating the obvious: men have bigger feet than women. Be warned.

The Cast On

  • Knowing 52 stitches were just about perfect for Lady Socks, decide it is safe to assume a pattern requiring the cast on of 64 stitches will likely be perfect for Man Socks. Notice keyword: likely.
  • Cast on 64 stitches (Madelinetosh Sock in Plaid Blanket) using 9 inch (2.75 mm) circular needles. Immediately decide to switch to the magic loop method.
  • Overcome irritation about slight pooling of the emerald green color (it does improve after the ribbing) and generally try not to think disparaging thoughts about one of my favorite yarn suppliers, which would obviously result in bad Yarn Karma. (Yes, that’s a thing. I promise.)
  • Fret that the subtle stitch detail in the pattern is lost in the busy yarn. Further fret that the color might be too loud. Tell yourself that none of this would be an issue if you were knitting socks for a woman instead.
  • Decide all that fretting was for not. The stitch detail is apparent. The color is perfectly suitable. But yes, knitting socks for a woman would be preferable.

Everything you ever wanted to know about knitting man socks.

Sizing

  • After several inches, fretting resumes. The socks are HUGE. While the intended future sock recipient (an uncle) is male, he is on the slighter side. Foot size unknown, but there is still time for investigative research to that regard. Insist husband try on the socks. They fit him, but husband surely has wider ankle diameter than uncle. Ponder and plot about best way to assess width of uncle’s calves and ankles. Come up with zilch.
  • Briefly contemplate frogging the project but decide to stick with it. If socks turn out too big for uncle, husband will just have to wear them. Or else.
  • Wonder how to maximize length of each sock without running out of yarn at toe of second socks. It would be just like me to run out of yarn just shy of toe of second sock. That is exactly the kid of luck I have in life. Yes, skein can be weighed and each sock can be weighed, but (a) I cannot remember where I hid my kitchen scale and (b) that won’t tell me when I should start the heal flap.
  • Conclude SCREW IT ALL and forgo weighing. If I run out of yarn, I will just buy another skein. New Year’s Resolution be damned. Confirm, yes, WEBS has more in stock. Just in case. Plus the hypothetical remainder of the hypothetical second skein could hypothetically be used to knit Reed another pair of socks. Hypothetically.
  • Note the socks are so big they could be a woman’s sweater sleeve. I just might need 400 m PER sock! One skein each! Everything you ever wanted to know about knitting man socks.

    The Future

  • Keep knitting. For eternity.
  • Decide future socks for the male specimen should be limited to children. They are cuter. And they have smaller feet. (They may have dirtier faces and hands, however.)

Super cute kid (with a dirty face) holding mom's yarn.

Joining Ginny. Still reading She Should Have Known. 

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