Archive for July 2009

You can dance if you want to

July 31, 2009

Pattern: Fish Hat [Dead Or Alive] by Thelma Egberts
Yarn: Plymouth Encore Worsted (75% acrylic, 25% wool)
Needles: U.S. 7 Harmony wood Options circles, magic loop style

Pattern: Knit Coffee Sleeve by MissKnittyPants
Yarn: Knit Picks City Tweed HW (55% merino wool, 25% alpaca, 20% Donegal tweed with viscose naps), Jacquard colorway
Needles: U.S. 6 aluminum straights

As WIP Wrestlemania 2009 enters its last hours, I have two final finished objects to show for my labor. Archer’s fish hat has been waiting for its felt and embroidered eyes since late March. The coffee sleeves (gifts to be sent to my teaching assistants with Starbucks gift cards to thank them for their assistance in my freshman final exam competition this spring) were simply waiting on a final grafting session. (Not pictured: the Malabrigo sleeve already given to Karyna, since I had dinner with her earlier this summer).

My tally: Out of 11 works-in-progress I tagged in June to be part of the competition, I completed nine. One was over two years old. Six only needed finishing (ends woven in, buttons sewn on, etc.).

I know I never would have finished the Dragon Sleeper baby blanket if it hadn’t been for this three-ring circus of a Ravelry event. And I’ll bet a few of the others that just needed the finishing touches would still be sitting with bags of notions at their sides, while I indulged in knitting instead of the sewing they required.

So I’m enormously grateful to WIP Wrestlemania 2009. And I’m proud of my record. But oh, the cast-ons that will be coming tomorrow! First up, I’m thinking novelty hats for the kids’ birthday party in three weeks … a Hello Kitty hat and a Chain Chomp hat … I have everything I need except for black yarn …. [and so the yarn buying cycle begins anew. It is nature’s way.]

I’ll let Archer’s magnadoodle have the last word.

It’s like I’ve waited my whole life

July 29, 2009

Pattern: Lettuce Coat by Wendy Bernard, from Custom Knits
Yarn: Malabrigo Merino Worsted (100% merino wool), Violetas colorway
Needles: U.S. 9 Harmony wood Options circular needles (flat for body, magic loop for sleeves)

Malabrigo. It’s legendary among knitters. A single-ply yarn, minimal twist, maximal loft and squishiness. Kettle-dyed colors that add depth and dimension to the fabric. Made by hand in Uruguay.

I’ve knit with a few single hanks before — gifts from kind and discerning friends. But to make an entire garment out of Malabrigo … luxury, indeed.

Once I started, back in April, I couldn’t stop. The sweater-coat grew and grew, but I simply put it in bigger bags and lugged it around nonetheless. Brioche stitch — the ribbing in the coat’s skirt and on the cuffs — became second nature. I was supposed to change needle sizes at a couple of points, but I sailed past them without even noticing.

At the end of June, I made my button selections and set the coat aside to be finished during WIP Wrestlemania. Three days from the deadline, I finally got out the thread and sewed everything up. It took me two full hours to do the finishing. On the wrong side of those shank buttons on the bodice there are little flat buttons to help stabilize them in the fabric.

Like all garments, the coat needs a good soak and block to be all it can be. But oh, the love that emanates from this softest imaginable sweater. The indulgence of its warmth, style, and comfort. It’s everything a present to yourself should be.

It’s the same as the emotion that I get from you

July 25, 2009

Pattern: Woven Ribbons Blanket by Mary Ann Protus
Yarn: TLC Baby Amore (acrylic and nylon)
Needles: U.S. 8 plastic straights & Harmony wood Options circular (knit flat)

I was a new and enthusiastic knitter in May of 2007. I had made scarves. I wanted to knit something I could sink my teeth into for a while, like a thick summer beach read. My best friend was going to have a baby in a few months. After some research into free baby blanket patterns to be had on the net, I chosen a Coats & Clark freebie and ordered the specified yarn after a trip to Hobby Lobby didn’t turn up a likely substitute to my inexperienced eye.

Fast forward two years. No, two years and change. The baby is now about to turn two. The blanket has been stuffed into a storage cube since her birth. This now older and wiser knitter had been hipped to her mistakes by Ravelry: the squeaky acrylic yarn with the appalling sheddy texture (“it’s like you’re knitting with ramen noodles,” a co-worker observed), the fourteen-inch plastic needles now laboring to shift the weight of 2/3 of an entire blanket with every stitch. She’d long since moved on.

When WIP Wrestlemania 2009 rolled around, I was eager to put the finishing touches on any number of projects that had been languishing for a few weeks or a few months. But when I realized what my oldest work-in-progress really was, I had to pause for some soul-searching. Did I want to finish it? Could I stand to finish it, given the eight ends per stripe times 22 stripes not to mention the borders that needed to be woven in? Was I ready to face all the dropped stitches with their accusing stares?

I was. I could. I did.

Thanks to the support and encouragement of hundreds of other wrestlers, I pinned that sucker to the mat and finished him off as an appreciative crowd roared their approval. More importantly, I conquered my biggest knitting demon to date. With an unpleasant, abandoned project lurking in my history, I had two choices. I could dump the whole thing in the trash — I never wanted to use the yarn again and it was hopeless to frog, so no sense even trying to reverse my mistake — or I could grit my teeth and finish what I started. I set about moving the blanket off those damnable plastic monstrosities and onto my wood circs that are such a joy to use, and I devised a strategy of weaving in as many ends as possible as I went. Option B probably saved my sanity, in the long term. I don’t know what the psychological effect of succumbing to failure and futility might have been.

As soon as I can find a local agency willing to accept a donation, a perfectly soft, easy-care blanket will be on its way to a baby in need. It may not have been stitched with constant love, but it was started that way and finished with triumph. I don’t know that I’ve ever been prouder to record an object as finished. Perhaps that pride will inspire the recipient or a fellow wrestler.

With every step you climb another mountain

July 12, 2009

Noel and the kids are away for a few days, and I have lots of big plans on how to spend my free time.  This afternoon the first thing I did after two church services and lunch was to get started organizing the yarn I’ve bought since the beginning of the year.

If I hadn’t gotten tired of standing up — no, scratch that.  If my laptop battery hadn’t run down, I’d be back in the guest room still, sorting skeins, browsing Ravelry, printing out or copying patterns, and packaging yarn and printouts up in plastic or paper bags.  In fact, I brought the Knit Picks section of the stash out into the living room, along with bags, computer (plugged in now) and Sharpie in order to get a little further while I watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 tonight.

Why do I enjoy planning what to knit?  My personal projects club has become almost a religion.  I look forward avidly to revealing the next number.  I strategize ways to make the process more effective.  I look at the boxes of yarn that has accomulated since I resolved to start knitting from stash, and it doesn’t make me ashamed that I’ve bought so much yarn — it makes me happy that I can add some of my new favorite projects to the list that I’m fully equipped to make.

There are certainly many things I could do to improve our living quarters before the family returns on Wednesday.  And I’m going to clean their rooms and straighten some of the piles of randomness around the house, I swear.  Right now, though, the most pleasurable mess there is to sort through is the mess o’ yarn.  And I’m loving every minute of it.

It came to me out of the blue

July 5, 2009

Thanks to WIPs Wrestlemania 2009 on Ravelry, a month-long celebration of getting your knitting from in-progress to completed, I’m smacking down items that have been lying around in various states of unfinishedness for some months. To wit:

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Pattern: Simple Ribbed Handwarmers by Debbie Haymark (Rav link)
Yarn: Zwerger Garn Opal Regenwald (75% wool, 25% nylon), Kasimir colorway (a gift from Libby)
Needles: U.S. 1 1/2 nickel Options 40″ fixed circulars (two-at-a-time magic loop)

I’ve been knitting away on these sock yarn mitts since April 26, every time I needed a take-along project. If you’ve been wondering what fingering-weight yarn would make a simple silhouette into something special, consider jacquard self-patterning!

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Pattern: Baby Genius Burp Cloth by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne, from Mason-Dixon Knitting
Yarn: Peaches & Creme and Sugar ‘n Cream (100% cotton), various colorways
Needles: U.S. 8 aluminum straights

These were my movie class knitting for most of the semester. The green and yellow one on top has already gone to Alli, in partial compensation for all the nifty earrings she’s made for me over the years.

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Pattern: Loosely based on Everlasting Bagstopper by Amy R. Singer
Yarn: Recycled t-shirts
Needles: U.S. 15 Harmony wood circular for garter-stitch base; U.S. 17 for mesh body.

A test swatch turned into the rectangular base of this bag. Each stripe is two rows high. A few rows of garter stitch at the top and two garter-stitch handles, and the tarn that Cady Gray and I started making earlier this summer has finally turned into something wonderful.

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I filled it with Beanie Babies for this photo shoot. But you know what’s in it right now? More t-shirts, cut into strips and rolled into balls. I can’t wait to find out what they turn into next.