Archive for July 2008

I’ve got my imaginary friend

July 27, 2008

Pattern: 8-Trick Pocket Hat by TECHKnitter
Yarn: Knit Picks Swish DK (100% superwash merino wool), colorways Peach Cream, Terra Cotta, Hollyberry, Frost, and Dusk
Needles: U.S. 5 Harmony Options 32″ circular, U.S. 3 Nickel Options 32″ circular (at top)

The garden gnome is an elusive creature. About the only way you can lure her out of the shade on a hot summer day is to offer her a new hat.

I’ve had this knit-along pattern — intended to teach several new techniques — in my queue since early in the year. When I finished off all my heavier-weight, bigger-needle knits last week, and found myself blearily peering at sock yarn deep into the shadowy night, I knew it was time to cast on something a bit chunkier.

Did I rock the new techniques? Well, to be honest, knowing that I was planning to three of these babies made me sloppy. I didn’t try to do everything perfectly the first time out — I treated hat #1 as a learning opportunity. Here’s the verdict:

Jogless join-in-the-round: Crummy. I started my usual long-tail cast-on before noticing that there was a new trick to try here, so I really didn’t do this one at all. (However, I remedied my omission when starting hat #2 just an hour ago.)

Reverse stockingette tubular knit-on hem: Awesome. Well, as far as the tubular knit-together part went. Talk about a cool trick — making a hem with no sewing! Just knit the bottom edge together with the live stitches, and off you go. But I twisted my join-in-the-round … or one of the early rows … or something, so I had an ugly patch of stretched yarn and jaggy edge right at the start. Again, knowing it was just practice, I blithely let it go.

Jogless back-join color change: Improving. I didn’t pay close enough attention the first couple of times. I read over the instructions, figured I’d gotten the gist, and boldly gave it a go.

Hm, still a jog, not right. I also didn’t “travel” the color changes to the left as I went … again because I didn’t bother to read that part carefully. By stripe #3 I’d gone back to see what I missed (slipping stitches in rounds 1 and 2), and tried it the correct way:

Still not sure it’s exactly as intended, but definitely closer — after a blocking the comma-dip-down at the change may be less visible.



Flat top for a ribbed hat:
Well, given how pointy this hat is, I’m not sure it makes much difference. But I did pretty well at my Kitchenering at the end. This next time I’m making the watch cap size, so the flatness will be more noticeable. As cute as my gnome hat turned out, Noel probably does not want a hat with a “reservoir tip,” as he put it.

It was a crafty weekend all around at our house; the oppressive heat made it inadvisable to do anything other than stay inside. So I busted out these fuse-beading kits I’d gotten on clearance at Hobby Lobby last weekend and let the kids go to town. You put the tiny beads in pattern on a pegboard, then fuse them together with a hot iron to make a solid object.

Cady Gray made an owl.

Archer was proud of his caterpillar.

Another successful sibling bonding activity!

What will it take till you believe in me

July 19, 2008

Pattern: Just a plain ol’ garter stitch scarf
Yarn: Baby Bee Dreamy Chenille (90% polymide, 10% acrylic), Carousel colorway
Needles: U.S. 10 1/2 wooden straights (custom-made)

A few weeks ago, Cady Gray came out of her room to ask for something after bedtime. I was knitting my Clapotis. “Is that a scarf?” she asked. “Is it for me?” When I said it wasn’t, her face crumpled. I promised to knit her a scarf in her favorite color — rainbow — and the very next day we went to Hobby Lobby to pick out the yarn.

We got six or seven different kinds of multicolored yarn off the shelves, and this is the one she picked: a bulky chenille in colors one might describe as more fluorescent than rainbow. Pretty much every color you’d want in a highlighter is somewhere in there — blue, pink, yellow, green.  Yarn Bee and Baby Bee are the Hobby Lobby store brands.  The hardest part was putting all the other selections back up on the shelves.

I got started on a garter stitch scarf right away, casting on 25 stitches and knitting as fast as I could. When I got near the end of the first skein, about four or five feet in, I asked her if it was long enough. “Nope!” she replied gleefully. How much longer do you want it? “This much longer!” she exclaimed, holding her little arms out as wide as they could go.

When she finally approved, she wrapped the scarf around herself as many times as it would go. Then she put it over her head and pretended she was a princess. Then she spread it out on the floor and asked me to watch how fast she could run its length. A demanding customer, but every designer should have such an enthusiastic connoisseur of fashion to model her creations.

This is what I think they’re thinking of

July 14, 2008

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Pattern: Absorba, The Great Bathmat (Ravelry link) by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne
Yarn: Peaches & Creme Double Worsted (100% cotton), Daisy Ombre colorway
Needles: U.S. 15 Knit Picks nickel Options 24″ circulars (used as straight needles)

It’s ridiculous to fall in love with kitchen cotton.

Repeated plumbing failures and the general shabbiness of our bath linens — it all added up to a desperate need for a new bathmat. Now bathmats are not items of covetous desire. They are not pearls of great price. Nobody notices a bathmat until they are not there. (Hotels that spend big money on room decor should consider bathmats; how annoying is it to have to use what amounts to a miniature towel awkwardly spread out on the floor?)

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I flashed back to last year when I first picked up Mason-Dixon Knitting. There was a pattern for a bathmat in there. It looked like a lot of work — not complicated at all (there are only about 3 sentences in the whole pattern), but so … big. Still, I didn’t want to pick up another thin, disposable bath rug from Target, as I’d just done for the kids’ bathroom. I wanted to solve this problem. I wanted to make it, not buy it. I wanted no compromise.

A Ravelry discussion about the Pisgah online store mentioned the deals to be had on the recommended yarn, Peaches & Creme double worsted. So happens that I liked one of the clearance colors, a white-yellow-gold ombre, and although I was somewhat apprehensive given the garish coloration and sloppy look of some of the ombre versions I’d seen in projects, I decided to go for it. Three one-pound cones (and four bargain grab-bags of odds and ends) were soon on their way to me, along with the size 15 needle tips I needed. (No way I was knitting a three-pound flat piece on straight needles — imagine the strain on one’s wrist trying to lift several pounds with every stitch.)

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Back when I first started knitting my Bagstopper, in the early days of my knitting addiction, I took great though somewhat guilty pleasure in the beautiful, even texture of the garter stitch bottom. Young and inclined to be snobbish I was, I thought garter stitch was for beginners. It surprised me how sublime it was. And as I began my first square — holding three bulky strands of 8-ply unmercerized cotton yarn together, the first time I’d tried to knit with more than one strand at a time for more than a few stitches — I rediscovered that feeling. That nubbly, rustic, yet neat-as-a-pin texture of garter stitch. That crisp, bas-relief definition of kitchen cotton. They were made for each other. I fell head over heels. No more guilt over the fact that the yarn is the lowliest of the low, available at big box stores at bargain-basement prices. Kitchen cotton is beautiful.

The bathmat became my obsession. I wrestled it around the needles every night for two or three hours, gradually learning its secret ways. The log cabin technique gave me a series of intermediate goals, not unlike the dropped stitches of the Clapotis — I wanted to finish a strip, bind off, and pick up for the next strip at a minimum each knitting session. Even though there seems to be nothing gentle about rough kitchen cotton, the yarn quietly told me how to bind off loosely enough to pass the stitches over more and more easily, how to see the loops that made picking up neatest, how to pick up right on the tips of the needles rather than forcing the entire size 15 circumference through the unyielding yarn.

Now that it’s done, I want everyone to have one. There’s no reason any bathroom should be without the embarrassingly simple luxury of a handknit cotton mat. There’s no reason any kitchen should be without a drawer full of handknit cotton dishtowels and scrub cloths. Kitchen yarn is cheap and plentiful. And underneath its workaday familiarity is a flowering of unexpected beauty and pleasure, an easy indulgence no one need forego.

I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier

July 4, 2008

Pattern: Clapotis by Kate Gilbert
Yarn: Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Hand-Dyed (100% Peruvian Highland wool), worsted weight, Graham of Menteith colorway (6.5 skeins, 715 yards)
Needles: U.S. 8 Knit Picks Harmony Options 24″ circular

Pattern: My So-Called Scarf by Allison Isaacs
Yarn: Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Hand-Dyed, Buchanan colorway (3 skeins, 330 yards)
Needles: U.S. 11 aluminum straights

It’s a shame to enter a long holiday weekend without some kind of project — something you’ve been putting off. For me, it’s finishing.

The Clapotis hasn’t been sitting around waiting. I finished it up just a day ago, and broke out the Chibi to weave in the 7 skeins’ worth of ends right away. I wanted to be able to get the finished-object picture as soon as possible. This wrap/scarf exceeded my wildest expectations — it’s absolutely gorgeous. If only it weren’t the middle of an Arkansas summer, I’d be wearing it every day.

The straight sections in the middle are, indeed, a slog. I tried to get 12 rounds done every time I picked it up, so I could have the feeling of accomplishment of dropping a stitch and inching my way toward the other end. I didn’t expect the amazing acceleration when the decrease sections started and I was dropping stitches every 12 rows, one at each end, and the number of stitches was shrinking so fast.

Noel’s scarf, however, has been done for a few months. I was too anxious to get on to other projects to do the weaving-in. Now I can finally get the final pictures of him wearing it. I knew I had to knit it for him when I saw the colorway name — Buchanan, his middle name. He’ll take it to Toronto this September, and its thick fabric will protect him from the Canadian winds while its lovely stitch and color waves will make him the most fashionable critic on press row at the film festival.

I’ll have a couple of other bits of finishing done in the next day or two. Meanwhile … new projects must be started, of course.

The Fingerless Glove Fanatics group on Ravelry has started its July knit-along, and I’m hoping these mitts will be suitable for one of my two remaining pay-it-forward obligations.

Cady Gray has been asking me for a scarf just about every time she saw me working on the Clapotis. What color? I ask. Her favorite color: “All the colors of the rainbow!” So we went to Hobby Lobby today and she picked out this colorful chenille. I got started on a wide garter-stitch scarf right away this afternoon.

And speaking of Cady Gray — here she is modeling today’s two finished objects: