Archive for December 2007

If you wanna believe

December 30, 2007

Pattern: Dashing by Cheryl Niamath
Yarn: Classic Elite Renaissance Heathered Colors (100% wool), worsted weight, colorway 7193
Needles: U.S. 6 32″ circular Harmony Options (Magic Loop)

Talk about warm! Fingerless or not, these mitts would serve Arctic scientists well as they twiddled the knobs on their Arctic machines.

I started these after the Fetching marathon of Ought Seven, in love with fingerless mitts and selfishly wanting a pair for myself. Dashing is billed as “a guy-friendly version of Fetching” — fewer cables and those more architectural than decorative, a plain top edge rather than picots.

In this heathered blue-gray yarn, they are strictly business. The cables tighten the fit on the wrist, the fabric is snug (knit one needle size down from the ballband recommendation). With the mitts on, one feels like harnessing Clydesdales, or scratching out one’s memoirs with a quill pen in an underheated garret.

The four-stitch cables and the loosely plied, lofty yarn dissuaded me from going cable-needle-free. And there weren’t many of them — six cables total in each glove — so picking up and putting down that double-point was no big deal.  They were completed during our Christmas trip to St. Simons Island, Georgia — the first one completed, and the second one knit from cast-on to bind-off in just a couple of days.

I made a bunch of mistakes, but the yarn and pattern were forgiving.  I messed up the ribbing in one place by switching a knit and a purl for five or six rows.  There’s a hole at the base of the second glove’s thumb where I didn’t manage to tighten the picked-up stitches enough.  And some of my finishing on the wrong side led to messed-up-looking stockingette on the right side.

But I love them ’cause they’re mine.

Next up: a fingerless glove knit-along (KAL) with some Ravelry buddies, clearing out some yarn from the stash.  I enjoy knitting mitts much more than I anticipated.  They are as portable as socks, but fly by more quickly because of the weightier yarn and bigger needles.  And the result is both comforting and impressive in construction, much like socks.  The only downside is that they’re more seasonal than socks — although around here, I only wear socks six or seven months out of the year.

When I started knitting just over a year ago, I thought gloves were something I could maybe try in five years, and I wasn’t really sure that they were something I needed or wanted to knit.  The moral of the story is that if you try something new, you just might fall in love — and you’re almost sure to find out you can do a lot more than you think you can.


Christmas givens

December 29, 2007

I’ve been knitting for just over a year. This is the first Christmas I’ve made handknit gifts for anyone. I didn’t exactly go into knitgiving in a big way — two teacher’s gifts and two scarves for members of my family — and maybe that’s why it was so rewarding.

I decided to knit scarves for my older brother and sister-in law when I latched onto a Noro Kureyon sale at Little Knits back in October. Browsing Ravelry for pattern ideas, I came across so many beautiful scarves that I wanted to make … but it seemed indulgent in the extreme to knit myself two scarves when I have several wonderful scarves already, some handknit for me as gifts. That’s when the e-mail my dad sent not long before, telling all the family members whom we had in the Bowman gift exchange, swam into my consciousness. It seemed that the relatives on our gift list — my hip brother, the founder and principal of a private school, and his warm, youthful wife — would appreciate these beautiful yarns.

They did.

Karen rocking the Short Row Rib

Dwayne all suave in the Multidirectional Scarf

Karen couldn’t get over the scarves. The whole previous day she’d had a narrow Christmas scarf looped around her neck, a terrific casual look, giving me an inkling that I had judged correctly — she’s a scarf person. She spent all of Christmas day wearing my gift — both of them did. They immortalized the scarves in the family photos we took the next day on the beach, and remarked aloud how well the colors popped against the blue sky and white sand:

That colorway 182, the rainbow hues of Karen’s scarf, is probably the signature Noro colorway, and I love the way its brights cycle through the short rows in those long repeats. But I’m especially proud of the colorway I picked for Dwayne: 162, ambers, greens, and muted blues. I thought it looked masculine without being boringly monochromatic. And just look how it works with Dwayne’s russet hair.

My other two knitted gifts were the pairs of Fetching I knit for the kids’ teachers, and I got nice cards and in-person comments from both of them, going out of their way to tell me how much they liked them. (Archer’s teacher, who got the Deep Ocean version, noted that blue is her favorite color, much to my delight.) I must admit that I can’t imagine any other outcome, since I liked them so much that I resolved to make myself a pair as soon as possible.

And since I’ve been a very good knitter this year, Santa brought me Cat Bordhi’s new book and some sparkly yarn to play with. Time to start contemplating those Renumerating It Advancewise items I promised to make in 2008 …

How deep is your love

December 19, 2007

Pattern: Fetching by Cheryl Niamath
Yarn: Knit Picks Swish Superwash (100% superwash wool), worsted weight, Deep Ocean colorway
Needles: U.S. 6 32″ Harmony Options circular (Magic Loop)

My second pair of these fingerless gloves in the space of a few weeks, these were destined for Archer’s first grade teacher (along with a Starbucks gift card and a Christmas-y foam door hanger Archer made himself).

Felicitously, I got a thank-you note from Cady Gray’s preschool teacher, who got the first pair, the night before I packaged these up and put them in Archer’s backpack.  I was present when she opened them and tried them on, so I was pretty sure she liked them, and her note was pleasantly enthusiastic.  That gave me more confidence as I sent these (which are a darker blue, more my style) off to their recipient.

Aside from a thumb debacle on the left glove — I picked up stitches poorly, knit the stockingette inside out the first time around, and didn’t manage to close the holes well when I ripped it out and did it again — I breezed through these like a pro.  Having knit them twice, modeled them for pictures twice, and fallen head over heels in love with the knitting of fingerless mitts, I immediately cast on for my own, longer versions (Dashing) as soon as the ends were woven in and the bag was packed.

An interesting Ravelry thread (link works for members only) asked today whether it was a good idea to make handknit gifts for other people.  Do our loved ones really want the hats, scarves, socks, and mittens we make?   Are we thinking more about our own knitting pleasure than about what they might like?  Is a handknit gift, in other words, a self-indulgent and unthoughtful gift?

Like storebought gifts, handmade items can be rude and useless, or loving and useful.  I have no doubt that there are folks among our family, friends, and co-workers who wouldn’t want a handmade gift, no matter how carefully crafted for them — just as there are those who wouldn’t want a gift card, or those who wouldn’t want clothing, or those who wouldn’t want a book.  The thoughtful thing to do for those who would find a handknit disappointing, I’m sure, is to get them something from a store.

I tend to think about giving in terms of what I would want to receive — and I would love to receive any of the knitted items I’ve given and plan to give this year.  But I also think about the context of those gifts.  In my family, we rotate the privilege of giving each other gifts.  Each family unit gets the adults in one other family unit, and then we get something for all the children.  Teachers get gifts from most of their children — and how many mugs and apple-themed desk accessories can one person use?

My point is that I’m not going to be giving the same person knitted items repeatedly.  I really see this year as a test case, at least for those in my family who are going to get something handmade.  If the adults I’ll be giving to next year seem excited by what I made for the folks on my list this year — well, that’ll tell me something about what I should do next year, won’t it?

Twin love + 1

December 17, 2007

Pattern: Baby Bib O’ Love by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne (Ravelry link)
Yarn: Lily Sugar’n Cream
Needles: U.S. #7 aluminum straight

One week ago today, our administrative assistant announced that instead of having our usual holiday party after the final grade deadline, we’d be having a baby shower for our student affairs coordinator, who is pregnant with twins.

One week? Plenty o’ time. I immediately began looking for quick baby knits I could make with yarn on hand. A bunch o’ balls of kitchen cotton in my knitting bag, a copy of Mason-Dixon Knitting on the bookshelf, and the assurance from Ravelry that I could do a bunch really quick (and cute ’em up besides), all convinced me that the Baby Bib O’ Love was the project for me.

Garter stitch can be a beautiful thing. I cast on and knit as fast as I could. The first bib (the brown one) took me about a day and a half. The second two I got done each in a single day. Well, when I say “done,” I mean “knit.” The finishing — including weaving in ends and sewing on buttons — happened in a panicked 75-minute rush right before the baby shower. The timeline went like this:

  • 8:15-10:00 am: Grade last-minute papers, turn in all final grades.
  • 10:00 am-10:25 am: Participate in A.V. Club conference call, finish knitting the last strap and a half on the green bib.
  • 10:25-11:35 am: Sew on *&^%& fiddly buttons. (I’m not a sewer.)
  • 11:35 am-12:02 pm: Weave in ends.
  • 12:02-12:05 pm: Take quick pictures, wrap in tissue paper, throw in gift bag.
  • 12:05-1:30 pm: Enjoy baby shower.

I tried three different buttonhole techniques on three different bibs. On the first one (brown), I did the buttonhole as directed (two-row, with a backward-loop cast-on for the top edge). Worked, but sloppy. On the second one (ombre), I experimented with a cable cast-on instead of backward loop for the top edge — not an appreciable difference.

So I tapped the 50,000 Ravelers. A request for members’ favorite buttonholes elicited the one-row buttonhole, recommended by many. I tried it on the third bib (green). It makes a much tighter, neater buttonhole, but I was a little worried that it was too tight — not nearly as stretchy as the loose two-row version. I manhandled it to make sure it would be bit enough for the frog button, and I don’t think it will be a problem.

I’m kind of proud to say that it was the only handmade item at the shower, and got the lion’s share of the oohs and aahs. I’m even happier to say that my week of cotton garter stitch is over, and I can get back to some socks, mayhap a sweater.

And the mom-to-be was (I think) the happiest of all.

Christmas box

December 15, 2007

Santa wears a ribbed beanie this year!

From faraway Columbus, Ohio, the Secret Knitter sent a generous box of goodies for our Christmas cheer. They arrived on a cold rainy day, while the kids were watching the Rankin-Bass Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer. Imagine how warm these treats would make you feel.

Christmas-themed chocolate from Pure Imagination. Two varieties of loose-leaf green tea from TehKu. An Arkansas dishcloth from the hard-working hands of SK himself. And last but not least … Malabrigo merino worsted. Look at that beautiful Bijou blue variegated goodness. That’s totally going to become a special hat for me. I’ve been craving Malabrigo since I read Jenn’s rave.

Friends are people who are nicer to you than you deserve.  Thanks for your friendship, Secret Knitter — and for the Christmas joy!

Warm hearts

December 7, 2007

Pattern: Fetching by Cheryl Niamath
Yarn: Knit Picks Swish Superwash, Capri colorway
Needles: U.S. 6 32″ Harmony Options wood circular

I’m a slow knitter. But even for me, these went fast. And thank goodness, because the last week of Cady Gray’s preschool is coming up fast, and these are meant for her teacher’s hands. I’m going to bag ’em up with a coffeeshop gift card and give the gift of warm hands for Christmas.

There are a lot of ways to knit these little fingerless gloves — they’re one of the most popular projects out there. Almost 3000 folks on Ravelry have them in their project list, and at this very moment there are 208 versions in progress. Purl Diva has posted popular modifications — lengthening the top, doing a few decreases to pull the finger opening tighter, and leaving off the picot edge. A lot of people lengthen the cuff, too. But I had two single skeins of Swish Superwash in my stash — two different colors — and I could find Ravelers who’d knit a pair with one skein of that yarn. Afraid to try yardage-eating mods with little margin for error, I knit them as written.

And I love them as written. They’re flirty and cozy, with those little details that make them look special. (Whether or not you like the picot edge for warmth, it gives the gloves that extra feminine detail and interest that make the style pop.) I’ve started pair #2 (with a little less time crunch — Archer’s school has two weeks to go) with skein #2, and I doubt I’ll change a thing.

Other than feeling my way through my first cables — with and without a needle — the most interesting piece of this project was the afterthought thumb. Abigail posted a very clear tutorial on how to pick up the thumb stitches from the wrong side between the waste yarn loops. I followed her directions exactly and had a stress-free thumb experience. Another first!

Worried about the tightness of the thumb bind-off, but not wanting to do an intentionally loose one for fear it would look sloppy, I gave this technique a try. Hard to tell how stretchy it is from such a small example, but it wears and looks great.

I’m about to the thumb on the first grade pair. And all I can think about is how I have to find another 100 yards of worsted weight in my stash so I can knit a pair for myself as soon as possible.

Cable from an occupant

December 1, 2007

I love it when a plan comes together.

Having completed — well, as good as completed — my family-oriented Christmas knitting, I had only projects for myself on the needles (Diamante socks, and a nascent Simple Knitted Bodice). But meanwhile, the end of the kids’ school terms loomed, and with it the problem of teacher gifts, a deadline in the face of which I usually find myself absolutely flummoxed, waiting to be rescued by a tin of cookies or candy made by Noel.

This Ravelry discussion (members only, still) convinced me I could actually knit them something. With yarn I already have. And with beautiful needles I bought six weeks ago and still haven’t had a chance to use.

Enter Fetching, one of those patterns that nearly every knitter seems to have knitted already five times. But I’m still a novice knitter, and I have never met anyone in person who’s knit them, and I’ve never seen anyone wearing them. I don’t think that translates to overexposed in my book.

A little pair of fingerless gloves in worsted-weight yarn. Even though I’ve never knit gloves before, it’s a tube with only one little finger tube attached — how hard can it be? Except for one thing: it has cables. I’ve never knitted cables. To knit cables, you have to actually knit the stitches out of order, which requires holding a few on a different needle and then bringing them back into the body of the work after knitting a few more, thus causing the knitting to “cross over” itself. Cables are Advanced Knitting. Cables are scary.

But I was too in love with the idea of knitting on the Harmony needles and making the teachers’ gifts myself and trying the glove thing to let cables stop me. And so you see before you my first cables. Simple ones — just four stitches, crossing over only one way.

Yet I still had to fiddle with them. After doing the first two cable rounds with a spare double-pointed needle and really struggling to hold two needles in my left hand, I decided to try cabling without a needle. I had digested Grumperina’s illustrated tutorial a few months earlier, so after a refresher course and a long shower rehearsing the moves and the logic behind them in my mind, I gave it a go. It took three tries on the first cable to get the sequence right (hold the yarn in front while slipping the first two stitches, pick them up from the back after knitting the next two), and a few more to realize the crucial importance of dropping the working yarn while repositioning the midair stitches onto the right needle (so your tension doesn’t pull out the stitch you just made).

Like so many techniques I try for the first time, though, it looks far better than it has any right to. (Not that you can really see it in these pictures, which I took with Archer’s camera since mine is on its way back to Canon headquarters.) I’ll be binding off the top edge tonight and essaying new technique #2: the thumb!