Archive for March 2008

When she used to rock and roll

March 30, 2008

When you’re not immersed in the knitting world, you don’t necessarily know what everyone else is knitting. But Ravelry makes it unavoidable.

Two thousand, four hundred and fifty-six of the 100,000+ Ravelry members, including me, have knit this design. That makes it the eighth most popular design on the site.

It’s called My So-Called Scarf, and it’s just two lines of pattern, repeated until you reach the desired length. It could hardly be more simple. In fact, there’s so little to it that a Raveler posted a pithy dissent a couple of months ago: “I don’t get why people love this pattern so much. If you love it please tell me why.”

I couldn’t have told you either, although I saw plenty of pretty ones on the site. But some of the folks on that thread talked about the pattern’s preternatural affinity for hand-dyed yarn. And when I was shopping on Knit Picks a month or so back during their yarn clearance, I saw that they have a hand-dyed wool yarn called Buchanan Weathered, in the colors of the Buchanan tartan. Noel’s middle name is Buchanan. I saw an opportunity to test out the claims about My So-Called Scarf, and make him something nice and particularly well-suited at the same time.

Get the Kool-Aid ready. I’m a believer.


Asterisks in for the vowels

March 29, 2008

Pattern: Wee Tiny Swap Sock (pdf) by Emily Ivey
Yarn: Knit Picks Essential Multi, Blue-Violet colorway
Needles: U.S. 0 nickel Options fixed 32″ circulars (Magic Loop)

I’ve been looking for an excuse to knit something wee and tiny. There are some downright adorable patterns floating around for ornament-sized socks, sweaters, and mittens — perfect for using up tiny bits of yarn. When Emily, the mastermind behind Dishrag Tag, announced her second annual Wee Tiny Sock Swap, I jumped at the chance to be hustled into wee tiny knitting. (It’s the way I organize my whole life — obligate myself to someone for something I wanted to do anyway. It takes the “gee, I hope I get around to that” factor right out of the equation.)

The swap is a bit more of a round-robin than a true swap.  (Maybe that’s the way all these things work — I’m a novice.)  I send my WTS to the person whose address was assigned to me.  Meanwhile, my address has been assigned to a third party, who will send me a sock.  (What will I do with a wee tiny sock?  Um … possibly tie a ribbon to it and hang it on my Christmas tree in 8 months.)

It’s a quick turnaround. I got the name and address of my swapee on Friday evening. Today I cast on (man, those #0 needles are smallish) after lunch, got through the heel turn during the kids’ naps, and finished up while Noel and Archer were at the grocery store.

Here’s the full-size sock I made with the same yarn for scale. I didn’t have much of a sense of how wee this was before knitting it.  The generously sized picture in the pattern had me thinking of something closer to a baby sock.  But no — this is more like a gerbil sock.

I followed the pattern as written, cuff-down and all (the toe-up version called for a provisional cast-on and short rows, and I just couldn’t see myself going to the trouble). Somewhere in the ribbing I lost a stitch and had to M1, leading to a slightly sloppy cuff right near the top. The tiny heel flap is nothing short of adorable, isn’t it?

Magic Looping these presented a bit of a challenge when it came time to pick up the heel flap selvedges and decrease the gusset, since the pattern is written for three dpns with the round beginning in the middle of the sole. I ended up rearranging everything after picking up the stitches (with 32″ of cable I had plenty of room to keep three magic loops going to keep my “three needles” straight until we were back in the round), putting all the heel and gusset stitches on the sole-side needle and just remembering that the round started in the middle and the decreases went on the far end, then across the instep flat, the decrease again at the start of the sole-side needle. If you needed to you could put a marker in the middle to divide the sole needle into needle 2 and needle 1.

So here it comes, Monica!  And watch out, gerbil owners — with all the yarn I have left over, your pets will be well shod come winter.

Our hearts were ringing

March 23, 2008

Pattern: Simple Knitted Bodice (Ravelry link) by Stefanie Japel
Yarns: Elsbeth Lavold Silky Wool (65% wool, 35% silk), Vibrant Green colorway (6 skeins); Trendsetter Jester (80% rayon, 20% nylon), Lime/Pink colorway (2 balls)
Needles: U.S. 6 and 4 24″ Knit Picks nickel Options (sleeves Magic Looped)

My first sweater. Reaction #1: I can’t believe I knit the whole thing. Reaction #2: I am master of the universe.

The only finishing there is to do when you’re done knitting is to sew down two inches of neckline and weave in the ends. Pure brilliance. I can’t wait to start my next sweater, but I gotta tell you — the top-down raglan has won my heart.

This sweater isn’t perfect. I was so terrified of making it too small that I made it a bit too big. I’d be less concerned and more trusting of the stretchiness of stockingette, next time. I committed early to make it in a DK weight yarn, which meant I had to decrease the needle size to make a nice fabric, but I couldn’t decrease down correspondingly in the smaller needle because I didn’t have a #3 needle — and that means the center panel doesn’t pull in as much as it should. I’d love to make it in a yarn closer to the recommended weight and needles closer to the recommended size, to see if I could get something truly fitted.

Plus I’m smaller in the gut than I was when I started this, way back in late October as an early start to NaKniSweMo. (Speaking of which, how about that late finish?) I was terrified of how the fittedness in the waist would look on my bulges. Now I’m much less self-conscious about that area (thank you, flavored water!), and I hope to be confident about something sleek and shapely next time.

What will that next time be? Well, it will probably be a while (maybe November). But Labyrinth, the new Wendy Bernard design from Stitch Diva Studios (the good folks who brought me the SKB), is bewitching, is it not?

Crooked rain

March 19, 2008

I needed portable knitting for my conference in Dallas last weekend, and I was too close to the heel turn on my second Diamante sock for comfort. (I’m not sure whether this is true for other sock knitters, but I have to turn the heel in one marathon session. I can’t stop in the middle. So when I get to that point on a sock, I have to spend an entire evening getting all the way from the gusset to the leg. Not exactly pick-it-up-and-put-it-down travel knitting.)

So the night before I left, I did two magic cast-ons, arranged them carefully on one 40″ circular needle, and got ready to embark on two-at-a-time sock knitting. My pattern of choice? The toe-up version of Grumperina‘s famous Jaywalker socks. I had self-striping yarn in my stash — Knit Picks Felici. That’s all I needed.

In three days I got several inches into the pattern, and look at those chevrons! It’s the first time I’ve tried a pattern that pulls the knitting out of a straight line like these. And I had some anxious moments in the first few inches. The sock features a larger stitch count than normal for my size, because the chevrons create tighter tension, but that doesn’t happen until there’s enough of the pattern to let the directionality emerge. At first it seemed big and floppy, but after about four inches of chevrons later, it’s fitting nicely.

For me this is the perfect combination of yarn and pattern. It’s the first time I’ve knit with self-striping yarn, and just look at the gorgeous green shades forming those V’s. And it’s yet another example of the magic that happens with simple stitch combinations; put decreases and increases in the right place — doing nothing else — and the fabric pulls into these amazing waves.

Now I’m rapidly approaching my one-at-a-time heels. Triple the marathon turning time, please!

It’s time to love

March 11, 2008

Pattern: Easy Mittens by Jessica Meredith
Yarn: Caron Simply Soft Shadows, Pearl Frost colorway
Needles: U.S. 4 and 5 Harmony Options, 60″ circular (Magic Loop, two at a time)

Once upon a time there was snow in the forecast — lots of snow. The mother smelled the crisp bite in the air and noted the gathering clouds. The last time it snowed, she remembered, her children had to go out to make snowballs with tube socks on their hands.

Never again, she vowed.

So she dug yet another skein of acrylic yarn out of her stash (perfect for experimenting, but she had a suspicion it was multiplying in there) and found a quick-looking pattern. While I’m at it, she thought, I’ll learn to knit two mittens at once!

It was not as easy as she had hoped.

By the time the pathetic, barely-ground-covering snows materialized in the morning, she had barely gotten past the cuffs. The weather warmed and everything melted. Spring’s promise was in the air. Students at the mother’s school began wearing shorts.

Still she swore that the mittens would be finished. And so they were. She gave them to her daughter with sadness in her heart, because mitten season had come and gone.

But her daughter’s joy knew no bounds. “I love my mittens! I love my mittens!” she exclaimed for the first five minutes of the family’s walk in the warm spring air that evening.

And before she went to bed, the daughter demanded the mittens again, so she could give them a hug.

The mother, her daughter, and the mittens all lived happily ever after, looking forward to the next winter.