Archive for December 2010

They don’t write ’em like that anymore

December 27, 2010


Pattern: Stir Me Up Potholders by Minty Fresh

  • Warm tones version: Pisgah Peaches & Creme (100% cotton), colorways Sunburst and Red; Lily Sugar’n Creme (100% cotton), colorways Camo Pink and Light Blue
  • Cool tones version: Lily Sugar’n Creme (100% cotton), colorways Dark Pine, Light Blue, Soft Teal, Camo Pink
  • Hook: U.S. H/5.0 mm

    Potholders, Noel said. That’s what his mom wanted for Christmas. Is that something you can make, he said.

    Of course. The only question: what technique to use. I’d been wanting to learn double-knitting on a potholder, but with less than two weeks to go before Christmas, would I be able to learn it and churn out more than one specimen? Or should I indulge instead my yen to improve my crochet skills, with a pattern whose mesmerizing spiral has been beckoning me from my Ravelry favorites for months?


    The complicating factor was the need to choose several colors for each potholder. These are for a woman whose ability to choose magically complementary fabric in her quilting fills me with awe. I am worse than a neophyte in colorful thinking. I am ignorant — so clueless that I can’t even trust my own eye. Do those colors look good together? I don’t even know. Resolved for 2011: get some minimal training in color theory.


    I winged it with the only rule I knew, picked up while contemplating what colors I would use for a striped girl’s top. Try three cool and one hot together, the pattern suggested, or vice versa. And while the results don’t have the stunning op-art look of some versions of these potholders I’ve seen, they’ve grown on me. I didn’t screw it up too badly.


    The actual crocheting was easy times four (meaning that I had to make two identical sides for each potholder), with each one taking about an evening. I did my very first crochet seams around the outside to join the two sides, then threw them in the wash on hot and the dryer on high to tighten and shrink them. (It also caused the red around the outside of the hot version to bleed a little into the white, but only on one side; I suggest my mother-in-law hang the potholders in the kitchen with that side facing the cabinets.) Then I ironed them. Yes, I ironed. I never iron. But I wanted these to look professional.

    And I have to say — it was worth it. They have retro charm and perfect functionality. If the colors were a bit more designer-approved, you’d be buying them in your local Restoration Hardware. May they long grace Libby’s kitchen and be put to good use lifting the covers off of Dutch ovens and holding casseroles safely off tabletops.


    With their eyes all aglow

    December 11, 2010


    Pattern: Urban Jungle by Vickie Howell
    Yarn: Rowan RYC Soft Lux (64% Merino, 24% Nylon, 10% Angora, 2% Metallic), colorway Gigli
    Hook: U.S. H/5.0mm

    This is a last minute hat.

    As my class entered the final week of preparations for its service learning project — knitting hats for the teenage clients of Conway Cradle Care and their children — I looked at the thread where we were counting the number of hats we had finished or in progress, and I became concerned. The list of moms, dads, and babies we had gotten from the organizers was a little longer than expected. And our needles and hooks were not keeping up.


    So the Sunday before our Thursday gift-giving deadline, I started a crocheted hat with yarn leftover from my Autumn Leaves blanket, yarn I’d pulled out weeks before as a possibility for a CCC hat. I seized upon the chance to do a right-on-trend slouch hat in puff stitch with just a little sparkle, like the ones I see on dozens of co-eds every day. The puff stitch ate yarn and took forever; I missed the beginning-of-round join about six inches in and had to rip back about a third of the work; and at one point I turned around and started crocheting backwards (a first for me).


    The night before the party, I was more confident that we would not be leaving anyone hatless — but not so sure that I didn’t finish this hat. And a good thing — we had to dip into our backup hat stash (courtesy of a student who had a stack of uncommitted hats already done) to the tune of two gifts, even with this one in the mix. Even better, the high schooler who found this hat in her package gave me the sweetest smile for the camera.


    By the end of the party, a male friend had appropriated it. Who could ask for more in a last minute hat — an exercise in fashion, a hedge against coming up short — that it turned out to be irresistible?

    We’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got

    December 5, 2010


    Pattern: Larch by Tinks and Frogs Rue (Ravelry link)
    Yarn: Arucania Ranco Solid (75% wool, 25% nylon), colorway 102
    Needle: U.S. 4 Zephyr acrylic Options 26″ circular needle (worked flat)

    After a month of hat knitting for our Conway Cradle Care Service project, the coffers were filling and the gift-giving date was approaching. It was Thanksgiving week. The kids were out of school. The grandparents had arrived. I felt like I could knit something of my own choosing.


    And I knew exactly what I wanted to knit — not the exact project, but certainly the genre. I craved a triangular lace scarf in fingering-weight yarn, a one-skein knit to indulge my love of wearing them and to enable me to make one more complex and thought-provoking than my last two easy, mindless Baktuses. I went digging in my sock yarn stash and found this semi-solid green yarn already rolled into a ball, intended for one of those Baktuses a couple of months ago but substituted out at the last minute. Then I went digging in my Ravelry favorites for the tags triangle-shaped, fingering, scarf, lace, one-skein. The picture of the luscious sample (in Dream in Color Smooshy Strange Harvest) for this variation on the popular Multnomah shawlette called to me immediately.


    I cast on Wednesday afternoon. By the time the Thanksgiving turkey was digested, I was done with the garter increases (the scarf is knit from the middle back outward in two triangles with their hypotenuses forming the bottom edges) and had started the border chart. By Sunday morning, the day before my parents left for home, I had finished the two lace chart repeats and was ready to bind off. The body of the scarf took about sixteen hours to knit. The sewn bindoff took four hours all by itself. When done, it was squishy and garter-stitchy and beautifully mottled and disturbingly small, too small to wrap around your neck and have the corners hang down in front for the stylish wearability my mom had admired (midway through the lace portion knitting, she had secured a promise that I would give her the scarf when it was done). Time to block with maximum aggression and wait for moisture and tension to do their magic.


    Magic indeed.  The rustic ridges of the garter stitch relaxed into the subtlest of textures.  The old shale border opened and expanded like a bird taking flight.  Three days of knitting, one day of “stopping knitting” (as Cady Gray’s instruction book amusingly calls binding off), and three more days of blocking. The result: exactly the knit I envisioned — fancy, frivolous, classic, satisfying — and the perfect scarf beyond all my hopes. Enjoy it, Mom!

    Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed

    December 1, 2010


    Pattern: A Hat Fit For A Boyfriend by Stephanie Nicole
    Yarn: Classic Elite Renaissance (100% wool), colorway 7193
    Needles: U.S. 8 Harmony wood Options 24″ circular needles (magic loop style)

    Unisex hats. They tend to be basic; men don’t care for the decorative touches, or so the assumption goes. They’re ribbed. They’ve got an understate cable. They come in gray or navy or black. Nobody gets excited about knitting a unisex hat.


    But the world needs unisex hats. Men need them, and women need them for times when the frou-frou hat won’t do the job. Knitters need to make them. They aren’t the first project we reach for; they sometimes seem to offer less than the fancier, more colorful, lacier, most luxurious, less utilitarian knitting experiences. But they have charms that do not reveal themselves until the fabric starts to grown under the needles.


    See how the ribbing contracts into dense warmth, expands into wide and decorative wales on the head. Watch how cleverly the decreases are placed to bring the crown to an elegant conclusion. Feel the simple, everyday indulgence of wool, and watch the subtle heathers, the neutral shades, deepen as the plies are brought together in the stitching. Think about the man who will receive it, a young father or father-to-be, and remember how much a unisex hat can mean. It is protection, gift, caring — a helm for a warrior sent into battle ready or not, a cap to ward off the cold tugged down over the ears by a mother who never forgets the smallest detail.