Clap your hands if you feel like a room without a roof

Posted March 7, 2014 by donnadb
Categories: Knitting

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Pattern: Irish Coffee (rav link) by Thea Colman
Yarn: Dream In Color Classy (100% superwash merino), colorway Nightwatch
Needles: U.S. 8 Harmony wood Options 40″ circulars (magic loop style)

Christmas is a time to say I love you, as Billy Squier reminds us every year. Knitters say I love you with little accessory projects like the ones I blogged about two months ago. And then, at least in my case, we say I love myself with big satisfying garment projects.


Like this top-down cabled tunic vest. It’s not the biggest project; it used under 1000 yards of yarn. That’s why I chose this pattern. I had 1000 yards of yarn that was the yarn I wanted to use, and I wanted to make something in the sweater category, but that’s not enough to make most sweaters for a gal of my size. I was sweating as I approached the end of whether I’d had enough to finish even this, but I finished with maybe 100 yards to spare; not really close.


A sweater of any kind can’t be too relaxing; you’ve usually got multiple counts going on as you do raglan increases and measure the depth of the front notch and ribbing and set up for cables and do waist shaping and all that, at the same time or in rapid succession. (My awesome Sirka counter, a Christmas gift from Noel, made it easy.) But I upped the challenge for myself even further by alternating skeins of this hand-dyed yarn. First time I’ve done that; I used the technique (and placement) for switching from this video. My switch point was right before (thus, working top-down, to the right side of) the front cable panel. I didn’t bother switching until I got to that point, since pooling (if it were to occur) would be noticeable mostly in stockinette. It turned out to be easy and effective.


The other thing that gave me a few moments of anxiety was the fit with superwash yarn. You hear a lot from knitters about their superwash garments “growing” (because the yarn slides through stitches freely and doesn’t cling to itself, having been treated to remove the scales from the fiber) during wear, or in the wash. After I finished knitting, I took a deep breath and machine washed this on cold, then tumbled it to a damp-dry condition before blocking. Perfection. I had notice in my swatch (which I treated the same way) that washing worked like magic to smooth the fabric, rendering the stitches so even you’d swear it was done by machine. The professional look after washing was striking. Here it is just off the needles (with CG gesturing as she explains what she likes about it):


And here it is blocking:


I’ve worn it a dozen times, and it holds its shape perfectly and looks (dare I say it) smashing.


Sometimes what you start doesn’t turn out to be what you need. More often than I deserve, I get exactly the boost I’m looking for from the knits I finish. I love the way they make me look and feel. I take pride in being able to clothe myself, to flash some style beyond the bare minimum I default to in my infrequent shopping trips. Thanks to an irresistible yarn and the perfect pattern, the time I invested here was transformed into pure joy.

I just need to catch my breath

Posted December 31, 2013 by donnadb
Categories: Crocheting, Knitting

Tags: , , , , , ,

Has everyone gotten their Christmas packages yet? Probably not; I know at least one went astray and might not be reunited with its recipients until the calendar flips over. Nevertheless, how can I let the year end without wrapping up what I made for the holidays?


Pattern: Luxe Cowl by Margaux Hufnagel
Yarn: Lion Brand Martha Stewart Crafts Roving Wool (100% wool), colorways Snowdrift and Persimmon
Needles: U.S. 13 Harmony wood Options 16″ circular

I actually made two of these, the other in a winter white. This red one went to my mother-in-law Libby; the white one I hope will soon be in the hands of my niece.


Pattern: Crocheted Square Washcloth by Stacey Trock
Yarn: Red Heart Eco-Cotton Blend (75% cotton, 25% acrylic), colorway Vanilla
Hook: Tulip Etimo 5.0mm (H)


Pattern: Waffle Knit Dishcloth by Debbie Andriulli
Yarn: Aslan Trends Pima Clasico Cotton (100% cotton), colorway White
Needles: U.S. 6 Sunstruck straights

Libby also requested some easy-care, throw-em-in-the-wash, bleach-the-heck-out-of-em dishcloths. I dug around in the stash, found some non-colorful cotton, whipped ‘em up.


Pattern: Rikke Hat by Sarah Young
Yarn: Knit Picks Gloss DK (70% merino, 30% silk), colorway Robot
Needles: U.S. 4 (band) and 7 (body) Harmony wood 16″ circular (half-magic-loop style)

My lovely model is lovely, but I wish I’d gotten a picture of this hat on Noel. I made it for nephew Daniel, and it is a terrific style on a fashion-forward man.


Pattern: Astronomer by Veronica O’Neil
Yarn: Knit Picks Swish Worsted (100% merino), colorways Black and White (not sure what yarn the gray stripe is)
Needles: U.S. 8 Harmony wood Options 16″ circular (half-magic-loop style)

Boy, this turned out handsomely. I made Bowdoin College colors for nephew Sawyer, who runs cross-country there. The turned hem is a polished touch. And the yarn knit up crisp and even. A professional-looking effort, maybe my favorite of the season.

IMG_1205 IMG_1202 IMG_1204

Pattern: Mini Sweater Ornament With Cables by Emily5446
Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll Tonal (in Gypsy), Knit Picks Essential Kettle-Dyed (in Spruce), Knit Picks Felici (in Arugula), Cherry Tree Hill Sockittome (in Birches, not pictured)
Needles: U.S. 1.5 & 2 Nickel fixed Options 24″ circulars

I made a handful of mini sweaters to put in random stockings. The Birches one (made of leftovers from an as-yet-unblogged Sockhead Hat) managed to hop in a stocking before I had time to photograph it. In 2014 my leftovers are all devoted to hexipuffs, so I hope they enjoyed these last gasps of freedom.

I hope your holiday of giving was as warm as mine! See you next year!

Rising up the mountain, lighting up the valley below

Posted December 18, 2013 by donnadb
Categories: Knitting

Tags: , , , ,


Pattern: The Proverbial Cap (rav link) by Meg Swansen (IK Fall 2010)
Yarn: Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Kettle Dyed (100% Peruvian highland wool), colorway Gold
Needles: US 4 (3.5mm) Harmony wood Options 16″ circular needle (magic loop)

We knitters are more in thrall to our visual sense than we would like to admit. Why do we fall in love with a pattern? Because we see it in a certain color, a certain styling, a certain environment. All that has as much to do with our enamoured state as our good judgment about whether it fits our needs or the occasion.


One of the most senseless instances of this phenomenon is the influence of models. Take this hat. I wanted to knit a gift for my teaching assistant. I browsed hats. The magazine spread for this hat featured a model that reminded me of my teaching assistant. (You can see that photo at the Ravelry link I included with the pattern name, above.) Bam, I decided this was the hat I wanted to make.


Besides, it looked like fun. All this beautiful texture. I didn’t quite appreciate, though I should have from the pattern’s role as a demonstration project for a pages-long explication of twisted-stitches technique, that it would be so painstaking. Twisted stitches are no problem, I thought. I’ve got those down, I thought. Well, these are twisted stitches in bewildering variety and with entirely new methods of twisting than I ever encountered before. On a good night’s knitting I got three rounds done. The hat grew so slowly. But the effect was transcendent. I persevered.


Blocking was necessary, that was clear from Meg’s comprehensive article. I procrastinated until just a couple of days before the final exam period was over, my last chance to get the hat to its intended recipient. On the day I gave it to her, she brought her own first crocheted hat for me to see. It was beautiful. I hope she has room for two handmade hats in her life.

holly hat

Considering how beautifully she wears a hat, she should make herself a closet full of them. Or maybe become a hat model. Then she could inspire other knitters the way that Interweave model (can you see the resemblence?) inspired me.

Paddling out, paddling out

Posted October 21, 2013 by donnadb
Categories: Knitting

Tags: , , ,


Pattern: Currant Cardigan by Margie Mitchell (Ravelry link)
Yarn: Berroco Vintage (50% acrylic, 40% wool, 10% nylon), colorway Cork
Needles: US 5, 6, 7 24″ Harmony wood Options circular needles (knit flat in pieces)

Who can say what it is about a design that draws you in? Maybe you know yourself well enough to understand them. Maybe you know that a certain sleeve, texture, or shape is just your thing. For me, pictures get stuck in my head and won’t go away. The cover image of Interweave Knits Spring 2013 was one of those pictures. From the moment I saw that sweater, I wanted to make it. Was it the cables spiraling all the way to the edges, no ribbing, no collar, no concessions? Was it the curve of the open front below the three strategically-place buttons? Or was it something particular to this sample and this model that I had little to no chance of replicating — the color, her tousled hair, the belted dress underneath, her poise?


I wasn’t willing to dither endlessly over whether my selection of sweater-quantity yarns contained an entry with enough yardage to make this in my size; I found a Raveler who seemed to have made it work with less than 1500 yards and decided to trust her experience. I started as soon as my summer linen top was done. And that summer linen top seemed to take forever. I finished it just in time to wear it in August for the first days back to school, and by that time, all my thoughts were of the future. I wanted wool in my hands, something other than hard twisted string. I started August 3, just as the full heat of an unusually mild summer finally arrived. I worked slowly, slowly, slowly, but steadily.


One month later, the back and one front side were done. Then, surprisingly quickly, both fronts, and I was looking worriedly at the two skeins plus 90% of a third left in my knitting bag. Enough for two full-sized sleeves and finishing? Yes, it turns out — but only because there’s only the barest hint of finishing, just two button bands, no neckline treatment at all. I snipped and sewed and attached buttons with about 100 yards to spare.


Cables eat yarn. And this is all cables. All you want is for them to stand up tall and even, to snake in bas-relief across their bed of purls. Here, in this sweater, nothing stops them. It’s as if a cabled fabric was carefully cut and assembled into a sweater. Clean and uncompromising, strange qualities for a material so convoluted and ornamented.


If only it were cold enough to wear this already. It’s no shrinking violet of a sweater, nothing delicate about it, despite the feminine shape. When the time comes, this will take on the chill. I haven’t been willing to wait for anything about this sweater. So thank goodness I won’t have to wait long for a day when the weather justifies showing it off.

I couldn’t get any bigger with anyone else beside of me

Posted June 13, 2013 by donnadb
Categories: Crocheting, Knitting

Tags: , , , , ,


Pattern: The Ultimate Hat by Sun May (Rav link)
Yarn: Oberlyn Yarn Stella (50% alpaca, 40% merino, 10% cashmere), colorway 2055
Needles: U.S. 7 and 8 Harmony wood Options 24″ circulars (magic loop)

When I get in the mood for stashbusting, I cast on hats. When I get in the mood for using the single skeins that I buy as trip souvenirs (a collection that I think of as the Stash of Precious Yarn, or SPY), I cast on hats. When my ears get cold walking my daughter to school in the dead of winter, I cast on hats.


All those impulses came together in this hat, the result of a long search for a cabled slouchy hat with a touch of luxury. I bought the yarn in Montreal during the 2009 AAR annual meeting. The picture above is me modeling it, for a change. I finished this hat in three days, so desperate was I for warmth on those early morning walks, and so happy was I to have this amazing yarn sliding through my fingers.


I can turn up that long brim for a double layer of protection when the wind really gets to howling down Bruce Street. And the yarn is so soft and light that wearing this hat is like wearing a cloud. Perfection.


Pattern: In Bloom Beret by Britney Waterhouse (Rav link)
Hook: U.S. J (6.0mm) Tulip Etimo
Yarn: Stitch Nation Bamboo Ewe (55% bamboo, 45% wool), colorway Sprout

I made this hat for the second annual Craftin’ for CASA sale this past February. My criteria were stashbusting, fast, and appealing to a casual browser.


I don’t remember who bought it, and apparently I didn’t get a picture. It sold, though. The kids these days like ‘em super-slouchy, worn practically hanging vertically off the back of their heads. I can’t fathom how they keep them on.


I’m down to just a couple of hats sitting on my charity/sale/random gift shelf. And I’m in the mood for some stashbusting and indulgent, SPY-based knitting. Time for more hats.

And the kids got coke and chocolate bars

Posted April 14, 2013 by donnadb
Categories: Knitting

Tags: , , , , , , ,


Pattern: Thoreau Hat by Terri Kruse (Ravelry link)
Yarn: Quince & Co. Lark (100% wool), colorways Bark and Nasturtium
Needles: U.S. 7 Harmony wood 24″ circulars (magic-loop)

Sometimes you get on a hot streak, and sometimes you can’t wake up the cards. Early this year I suddenly hit the jackpot on three or four blog contests, all at the same time, winning yarn and books and such. One of those windfalls was this Quince & Co. yarn. I fell in love with its sturdy, honest richness. I wanted to knit it immediately.


Noel needed a hat. I’ve made him a balaclava and a scarf and even a sweater for the frigid temperatures of Park City at Sundance time (he didn’t get to go this year, but I hold out hope for the future). But if he’s going to keep up his walking regimen in even the relatively tame Arkansas winter, he needs a warm hat. The proportions of colors I received in this yarn reminded me of a hat I saw in a magazine, with a pop of color around the brim. I searched and searched, until I found it. Man, do I ever love this hat.


Pattern: Easy Missoni Style Long Moebius Cowl by Haley Waxburg
Yarn: Plymouth Happy Feet DK (90% merino, 10% nylon), colorway 55
Needles: U.S. 11 24″ Harmony wood Options circulars

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been trying to find my motivation to knit in different places. It’s not that I am tired of knitting; it’s that I have a number of stalled projects that are sapping my willpower. I feel like a failure for not taking care of the business I’ve already started. So I look to necessity or to pleasure for motivation. I need a warm hat for my walks to school, or a long-sleeve cardigan for layering — that’s necessity. I want to use a yarn that I really enjoy, or make a type of pattern I’ve long wanted to try — that’s pleasure.


And yet, even when determined to follow these muses, I get sidetracked into my other motivations. Necessity drove me toward attractive accessories Knitwise could sell at its annual Craftin’ for CASA event. The perennial desire to use up stash yarn I’ve had for years, yarn that has been taunting me with my inability to find a pattern suited for it, led me to this DK yarn I bought from the Dizzy Sheep in the distant past. Brilliant pink is emphatically not my color, but it is most definitely the kind of color that will draw the eye when displayed for sale.


The motivations you need sometimes come along as a surprise once the work begins. Held double, this yarn made a decadent squishy soft fabric. I learned the cool moebius cast-on, and could see myself knitting moebiuses (mobeii?) as go-to travel projects. Circular needles (I don’t take my beautiful and expensive Signature straights through airports, since confiscation can’t always be predicted), easily memorized pattern, plenty of mindless knitting for meetings and sessions.


On the other hand, I plowed through this one pretty fast — so fast that I didn’t put down the needle size or how many skeins I used on the project’s Ravelry page. Maybe it wouldn’t last long enough for my travel needs.


It didn’t last long at the sale, either. The lovely Ashley took it home, and CASA of the 20th Judicial District took home the proceeds. Stash busted, children benefited, knitter happy, necks and hearts warmed.

Now this is my turn

Posted January 12, 2013 by donnadb
Categories: Knitting

Tags: , ,

Finished a hat on the plane, gave it to my seatmate Walker, a DePaul senior, with wishes for a warmer Chicago winter.

Pattern: Graham by Jennifer Adams
Yarn: Dream In Color Classy (100% superwash merino), colorway Cocoa Kiss
Needles: U.S. 5 (for ribbing) & 7 Zephyr acrylic Options 36″ circular (magic loop)

As 2012 drew to a close, I was craving pleasure in my yarn. What knitters call “yumminess.” The kind of sensual experience in the hands, on the needles, and in the stitch pattern that feels almost too luxurious to be called work. I took two beautiful skeins of yarn on our post-Christmas trip to the barrier islands of Georgia, and as we were waiting for the plane to whisk us there, I cast on with the worsted weight hand-dyed merino. The kind of substantial yet buttery yarn that the snow we’d left behind seemed to call for.


Almost every second that I wasn’t at the beach, gathering shells and spotting birds with Cady Gray, I had this hat in my hand, knitting inside out in broken rib and admiring the waffle-ish texture developing on the opposite side of the fabric. I started the decreases the day before we left, and found I had miscounted my cast-on, forcing me to improvise an extra set. But by the time we got on the plane for the first leg of the trip home, I was in the rhythm, and didn’t even need to cross off the row-by-row instructions during the flight.


I sat a row back from Noel and the kids, next to a young man in the middle seat who put his head down and politely asked me to get water from the attendant when she came by for drink orders. I couldn’t tell if he were feeling poorly or not. But as I knit the last stitches and used my needles to draw the tail through them, one by one, I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to give him the hat. I had no recipient in mind; in color, texture, and shape it was perfect for a young man; and with his lanky frame and longish blond hair, I thought he’d be the type to wear a hat well. He broke into a huge smile, and told me how much it would be appreciated during the cold Chicago winter as he completed his poetry degree at DePaul. I just had a chance to snap a few pictures with his permission (and Instagram one covertly during deplaning, the top one of this post) before the hat was gone forever, off to its connection somewhere else in the Nashville airport.

I began the hat with the aim of my own enjoyment. I ended it with the aim of a holiday surprise, something completely unexpected that might brighten the day of a chance acquaintance. The pleasure I wanted to extract from the process of knitting became, in the end — and not without a twinge of regret for the loss of the material object and its potential value as souvenir, gift, or fundraising item — inextricable from the impulse to create with it an indelible moment and a connection between people thrown together in their travels. I hope somewhere Walker, the young man who received the hat, is warm and full of hope for the new year.


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