Archive for May 2010

Saving all my love for you

May 29, 2010

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Pattern: Tricolour Dishcloth by Ali Green
Yarn: Knit Picks Simply Cotton Organic Worsted (100% organic cotton), colorways Malted Milk, Ginger, Toffee
Needles: U.S. 7 Signature straights

The reward for getting long-neglected works-in-progress to finished status is that you can start new stuff. A lot of new stuff. All the new stuff you could possibly want. You can gorge yourself on starting things.

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Being suddenly free to follow my impulses without restraint, I gathered up all the cotton yarn leftover from recent projects and acquired in bargain bins. I queued up a bunch of multi-color dishcloth patterns. And I was off. First up was this slip-slitch pattern using three of the four colors from my market tote. You could make it quite striking in contrasting colors, or (as I did here) quite muted with neutrals and closely related shades. Either way, it knits up with a nubbly texture and a fascinating interplay between the colors.

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I went on a similar dishcloth kick when I acquired some cotton a few months back. This time I’ve got even more colors and yarns up my sleeve. But this first effort represents a connection with the elegant black and natural theme of those cloths. Like them, it is stashed away for the next time I need a hostess gift or a contribution to a fundraiser. And shortly, I intend for it to be joined by many, many friends, in increasingly bold and striking combinations — even some splashes of bright color.

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The heart is a bloom

May 27, 2010

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Pattern: Montavilla Market Tote by Kerin Dimeler-Laurence
Yarn: Knit Picks Simply Cotton Organic Worsted (100% organic cotton), colorways Marshmallow, Malted Milk, Ginger, Toffee
Needles: U.S. 9 & 10.5 Harmony wood Options 24″ circular needles

On Ravelry, we call it “hibernating.” It describes a project we’ve put aside for awhile, out of our regular rotation, sitting idle and untouched. Sometimes projects go into the deep freeze because we feel they’ve been bad; the yarn was wrong for the pattern, the stitches refused to stay at the right count. Sometimes we shove them aside because they aren’t turning us on any more; we’re tired of them; they’ve become tedious.

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And sometimes, when we pick them up again (with a twinge of guilt), we can barely reconstruct what led us to abandon them for so long. I started this market bag at some point in fall 2009, slaved away at the four-color bottom for a while, then felt like it was going too slow. Six months — at least — went by. I got a hankering to get closure on unfinished business at work and in knitting, and picked it back up. Come to find out I was only an inch away from finishing the bottom. The lace body was done in two days. In less than a week, I had a commodious finished object.  I put 10 50g balls of yarn in it for these photos.

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Working with four colors, changing every round — it’s something of a lot of fuss to go through for a string bag. But what a beautiful result! The woven stitch on the bottom, top and handles is thick, strong, and hypnotically patterned. It’s the essence of knitting, in many ways. A useful object can also be beautiful. A job can also be a joy.

So we float through the streets

May 22, 2010

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Pattern: Old Shale Scarf by Tiennie
Yarn: Knit Picks Imagination Hand Painted Sock Yarn (50% merino, 25% alpaca, 25% nylon), colorway Lost Boys
Needles: U.S. 6 Signature straights

It’s not exactly that I finished all these projects at once. This one has been bound off and blocking for a week. But I took advantage of a sunny day and the availability of my favorite model to get pictures of all of them at once. Today’s featured scarf is the companion piece to yesterday’s hat, a gift for the other teacher in our kids’ lives — Mrs. K., Cady Gray’s kindergarten teacher.

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It was begun in a great hurry. I was headed to Atlanta for four days of non-stop meetings, and I desperately needed a project that would last the whole trip and be easy enough to knit without a pattern at hand. On that trip I finished nearly the entire first ball of sock yarn, and over the next six weeks I picked it up off and on whenever I was in a meeting or presentation. Slowly the second ball disappeared.

This stitch pattern, variously called feather-and-fan and Old Shale, is one of the oldest and most versatile in any knitter’s repertoire. It produces a lacy, textured, rippling pattern that serves highly variegated yarns extremely well. I was utterly befuddled about how to use this gorgeous, idiosyncratic, fuzzy fingering-weight yarn until I lighted upon it — simple, open, separating the colors to avoid a muddy mess, producing strong yet feminine curves to corral the riot of hues.

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Mrs. K. is retiring. My daughter’s kindergarten class will be her last. And it seemed appropriate to give her something with some effort, time, and love in it. Something colorful and bright for a vibrant new phase of her life. Something just a touch flamboyant for a woman who doesn’t have to dress for practicality any more. I hope this long, soft, skinny accessory will suit.

Sing me Spanish techno

May 21, 2010

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Pattern: Slouchy Copy Cat Hat by Terra Jamieson
Yarn: NaturallyCaron.com Country (75% acrylic, 25% merino), colorway Green Sheen
Needles: U.S. 6 and 8 Harmony wood Options 36″ circular needle (magic-loop style)

I hope Archer’s third-grade teacher doesn’t read this blog. I have no reason to think she does. And therefore I’m confident to introduce you to her end-of-the-year teacher’s gift. It’s modeled by my muse, Cady Gray, but rest assured that it fits just as well on an adult head.

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And a stylish head it is, too. Ms. B. is a young woman whose blonde, straight hair should complement this up-to-date shape and color perfectly. She adored the super-bulky scarf I made her for Christmas, so I think I have a handle on her young fashion sense. I picked out the yarn with the hope of achieving maximum drape and sheen, and after a careful blocking, the silhouette of the hat is exactly what I was hoping for.

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It’s a quick knit, but it couldn’t be more on point. The mock cables provide the all-over patterning, the blocked-out crown expands to give it that slouch that’s so current. I can already picture it accompanying her summer relaxation, and I can’t help but think she’ll love it.

We can dance if we want to

May 20, 2010

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Pattern: City Skyline Scarf by hollisqueen
Yarn: Lion Brand Lion Cashmere Blend (72% merino, 15% nylon, 13% cashmere), colorway 113 (discontinued)
Needles: U.S. 10 Signature straights

Sometimes it’s all about the yarn. Especially yarn that you dug out of a bargain bin and rescued from dusty, tangled obscurity. Yarn that called to you even though the last thing you needed was more yarn. “Look at me here among the fun fur and acrylic,” it whimpered. “I’ve been here the last three times you’ve come by. Nobody wants me. You’re my last hope. I know I can be beautiful again. I just need a little love.”

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I’ve always told my students to embrace the disreputable. But it can be a risk. You give your time and your effort to something that everybody else has turned up their noses at. And sometimes you get hurt. Sometimes what you’ve tried so hard to love isn’t worthy, and that can be hard to admit after you kill yourself to make it work.

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But oh, when it works … there’s nothing more glorious. If you could feel this scarf through the computer, you would never want to let it go. Light as air, soft as a cloud, squishy and cozy as your childhood teddy bear. And the alternating columnar lace and garter stitch patterning is sophisticated enough for a Manhattan executive while remaining warm and inviting.

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It’s a lucky college student who will this scarf next February. From yarn nobody wanted comes the perfect luxurious gift to spread love in the world.

Teach me some melodious sonnet

May 15, 2010

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Pattern: Lace Rib Scarf by Kay Gardiner
Yarn: Louisa Harding Hulda (50% wool, 30% acrylic, 20% linen), colorway 11
Needles: U.S. 10 Signature metal straights

I’ve become a broken record. Charity scarves modeled by adorable kindergartener. You’ve seen it before. And by golly, you’ll see it again.

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When I see 200-400 yards of bulky or worsted yarn, I get idea bubbles over my head filled with simple lacy, ribbed, or cabled scarves. I want to pull out my beautiful Signature Needle Arts stiletto-tipped straight needles, memorize a line or two of instructions, and just knit whenever and wherever I am. This particular yarn was picked up on closeout just on the basis of the beautiful color. I cast on almost as soon as I got it home — simple mistake rib for a unisex but profoundly textural scarf with a glorious squish factor and a rustic crunch. And then I didn’t stop until I had exhausted three balls and reached 76 inches.

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It’s my second scarf for this year’s Red Scarf Project. And I must admit that I’m aching to cast on the next one. Tomorrow I’ll be speaking to an adult Sunday School class at a local church about knitting and spirituality, and I think I ought to be knitting as I talk. This is exactly the kind of thing that would be perfect. But then, it’s perfect just about anywhere.

Where nobody dared to go

May 9, 2010

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Pattern: Zurich Scarf by Marilyn Losee (large size)
Yarn: NaturallyCaron.com Country (75% acrylic, 25% merino), colorway Foliage
Needles: U.S. 7 & 8 Signature straights

I can’t stop knitting scarves. It’s a sickness. One that will benefit the Red Scarf Project and a college-age orphan somewhere in the U.S. this winter, but a sickness nonetheless.

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This one sustained me for many thesis presentations and many faculty meetings over the course of a month. I used it to demonstrate to a student how to cable without a cable needle. Every time I pulled it out, I enjoyed the silky sheen and crisp, textural stitch definition of the yarn.

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I enjoyed every inch of the more than 500 yards of yarn I put into this scarf. Whenever I picked it up, I squeezed the remaining plump skeins and looked forward to the many hours to come. When it was time to knit the final border, I put it off for days.

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And what a perfect choice for the Red Scarf Project — a timeless cable design that would look great on a man or a woman, a generous length and width, a deep elegant green like a mature magnolia leaf. When I finished I grabbed another bag of heavy yarn and big needles and started on the next unisex scarf. Nothing’s better for knitting to pick up anytime, anywhere. A benevolent addiction from which I never want to recover.