Archive for August 2009

Perfect smiles unaffected

August 30, 2009

Pattern: Three Tams10 by Angela Sixian Wu (Tam A)
Yarn: Classic Elite Bazic Wool (100% wool), colorway Citrine; Ella Rae Classic Print (100% wool), colorway 77
Needles: U.S. 5 and 6 Harmony wood Options 24″ circular (magic loop style)

When you’re not a very adventurous dresser, it can be mighty hard to imagine how an unfamiliar style — no matter how classic — looks on you. My decision to knit this tam had more to do with frustration about what to do with two pesky yarn purchases, both impulse buys from the last year or so. After I got tired of staring at them during my periodic attempts to turn my stash into knittable packages, I hit upon the idea of using the variegated yarn for “fake isle,” the practice of using a multicolored yarn to produce the illusion of complicated colorwork. I wasn’t really sure the green wool would compliment it — the two yarns have a completely different construction and texture — but in the absence of any other ideas, I thought I’d give it a shot.

Turns out that the combination of colors lends the bluish variegated yarn a jewel-like brightness. The whole effect is of harmonious colors that are nevertheless quite distinctive, given how rarely they’re seen in accessories these days. While reminding myself how to do colorwork, I learned (or made up, I’m not sure which) how to twist floats when the contrasting color had to be carried behind more than five stitches. And although there were a few places where the plies of the Bazic Wool had separated, I only had to cut it once, leaving a minimum of ends to weave in.

Not only am I thrilled with the knitted results, but the way I wear this little tam is a happy surprise, too. If I’ve ever sported a hat of this shape, it was back when I was a girl. Now I see that there’s a reason it’s a fashion perennial. It combines crisp structure with a casual slouch, creating a hat that can go from dressy to weekend with style. And I’m emboldened. If I can wear a tam, who knows what else I can pull off?

Somewhere over the water next to a harbor

August 25, 2009

Pattern: Gloria Cowl recipe by Orinda5
Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock Mediumweight (100% merino wool), Lapis colorway, held doubled
Needles: U.S. 8 Harmony wood Options 16″ circular

Why do people knit for years, decades, and lifetimes? Because there is always something new to see.

Take this beautiful yarn, which I bought at Knitch in Atlanta while visiting the city for a committee meeting. I tried to knit a sock with it. But as so often happens with gorgeous variegated yarn, I wasn’t happy at all with the look of it after a few inches. It was … garish. The colors pooled. The result was unpleasant — not at all what I was hoping for when I picked it out of all that beautiful sock yarn at that beautiful store.

When I ran across pictures of this simple cowl on Ravelry, I thought immediately of this yarn. The idea is to hold two strands of the yarn together, but to stagger them so different sections of the color sequence are next to each other. If the strands are different colors, there will be multiple colors in each stitch, minimizing the probability of pooling.

What a revelation! Watching the big stitches form so quickly on the big needles, watching the complex color sequences recombine and march across the stockingette, it was mesmerizing and magical. Before I knew it, the yarn had dwindled away to almost nothing and the cowl was done.

I refuse to believe that beautiful yarn can’t become a beautiful knitted object. Thanks to a failed pair of socks and an inspiring photograph, I found the one for this very special skein. It’s like a circle of love, formed from color and warmth.

The sun melts the chill from our lives

August 23, 2009

Pattern: Chain Chomp Hat by Knitting Ninja
Yarn: NaturallyCaron.com Country (25% merino, 75% acrylic), colorways Black and Silver Service; Berroco Comfort (acrylic and nylon), colorway White
Needles: U.S. 9 Harmony wood Options 24″ circular, magic-loop style

Pattern: Official Kitty62 Hat by Kitty Schmidt
Yarn: Berroco Comfort (acrylic and nylon), colorway White
Needles: U.S. 7 Harmony wood Options 24″ circular, magic-loop style

His sister got Archer a Mario Kart lunchbox for his birthday, because above all else Archer loves Mario. Her brother got Cady Gray a Hello Kitty lunchbox for her birthday, because above all else Cady Gray loves Hello Kitty. Their mother knit them both hats that celebrate their above-all-else loves: a Chain Chomp hat for Archer, a Hello Kitty hat for Cady Gray. And she rejoiced that the internet gave her such marvels to emulate and give to her children.

The main part of the chomper is light worsted weight held double; the chain is five-stitch I-cord; the teeth are white worsted-weight held single, left over from Cady Gray’s hat; the eyes are felt circles sewn on. When Archer pulled it out of the gift bag, he said, “It’s a hat.” I said, “Do you know anything that looks like that, with teeth and a broken chain?” With a smile slowly spreading over his face, he said, “It’s a Chain Chomper.”

I was so taken by ridiculousknit’s version on Ravelry — it’s even her Ravatar — that I copied it, with her kind help. The eyes and nose are buttons; the whiskers are half-assed embroidery; the bow is leftover Plymouth Encore from her Drive-Thru sweater, knit into a long rectangle which is folded, wrapped with a smaller rectangle, and sewn down.  The pom-poms are the same yarn done up with Clover’s absolutely magical little pom-pom maker in one of the medium sizes. I knew Cady Gray would adore this hat, and she didn’t take it off for the rest of the day.

This is precisely the picture I’ve been looking forward to ever since the beginning of the month, when I started working on these hats. It’s the image I’ve had in my head right down to the last toothy smile. No need to thank me, kids — I’ll thank you, instead, for making my dream of birthday happiness come true.

You should spend your life with someone

August 1, 2009

Pattern: Magic Mirror Socks by Jeanie Cartmel (PDF link)
Yarn: Koigu Painter’s Palette Premium Merino (100% merino wool), colorway P419
Needles: U.S. 1 40″ nickel Options fixed circular (two-at-a-time magic loop style, toe up)

It was the last day of July. For the whole month, cheered on by fellow members of Team Welcome and all the nearly 700 participants in Ravelry’s WIP Wrestlemania 2009, I’d been focusing exclusively on finishing my works in progress — all the knitted items I had going simultaneously, or those that had been set aside to wait for sewing up or grafting or attaching buttons, or those that had been abandoned months or years ago.

As part of that commitment, I hadn’t cast on anything new since June. But in June, I did start a few things … some fresh projects, some knits of a more recent vintage, so that the parade of ancient unfinished objects didn’t get too dispiriting. The random number generator picked 24, and in bag 24 I found this pattern and this beautiful yarn, which I bought in Chicago while there for the American Academy of Religion meeting in November 2008.

I admit that I neglected my older WIPs, the ones the event was designed to help me conquer, because of the siren song of these socks. They progress slowly, a few lines of the chart at a time. Luckily I had many occasions when this careful knitting wasn’t in the cards, and the mindless rows of a baby blanket or a pair of handwarmers were the only activity that fit the bill. Otherwise I probably would have knit little else in July.

Last night I decided that I had enough length on the legs and began to knit the cuff ribbing. The hours ticked by as I knit the twisted rib, first one sock, then the other. I thought I might finish the knitting before Wrestlemania expired along with the month of July, but not the bind-off, which required me to choose a stretchy one at minimum, and find supplies that weren’t beside me on the couch at maximum.

But while chatting in the Luau Lounge with some of my teammates, I began to feel as if quitting with only the bind-off to do would be a crying shame. I could count the socks as done for the purposes of Wrestlemania if I chose, but I knew I’d never be able to live with that; socks still on the needles are hardly finished. And if I had time before midnight, why not go for it and gain a legitimate victory?

At 11:56 pm on July 31, as the judges were getting ready to ring the final bell, I pulled my tapestry needle through the last stitch on the last sock, completing Elizabeth Zimmerman’s sewn bind-off and my socks. I had been worried pretty much since the short-row heel that they were too small, but as July turned into August, I coaxed them onto my feet for a blurry iPhone photo.

One way or the other, these socks would have gotten done; if not yesterday, then today, or tomorrow, or next week. But the benefit of an event like WIP Wrestlemania is that it imposes a certain discipline on the participants. Its austerity pays off in a feeling of accomplishment, and the banishing of disorganization and haphazard approaches to production.

And of course, beautiful, beautiful socks.