I've got quite a few finished projects to talk about!
And the weddings are all wed, so I can get to talking.
The first finished, and almost the last given, is this lovely square throw. Photo maybe not the best, but listen people, you run out of ways to photograph a blanket and you want to mix it up a little, and sometimes you don't hit it out of the park, but I think you can get the idea!
I chose traditional wedding ivory and used a wool/acrylic blend so the happy couple won't need to worry about washing instructions, or finding a place to dry a blanket in their Brooklyn apartment with curious cats. This blanket was a breeze from start to finish, so enjoyable to knit that I made a second one, which has already appeared in an earlier post here. I went in a totally different direction with the second iteration, making it in grey and giving it a striped border. I love that one, but I also love the simplicity of this one. Both have the central motif that suggests a compass rose to me, which seems an auspicious symbol for a newly married couple. Also I love the bobbles, and the simplicity of the eyelet rows for the border that give the blanket a vintage feel. Yay for Steve and Fran and I wish we could have been at what was, from all accounts, a most lovely wedding full of thoughtful touches.
And since I'm attempting to feature these wedding blankets, but also play catch up, thrown in at the bottom is this little guy:
He's from the Anna Hrachovec's book Teeny-Tiny Mochimochi. Her patterns are great go-tos for quick cute knits, and he was a birthday present for a friend of mine who just turned 4! Congrats Graham! There really isn't anything to indicated scale in this photo, but lets just say he's as big as a large grape. Like, one of the big dark purple dusty grapes that are full of seeds.
I'm so excited to share this project with you because it has been finished since March!
The more I knit, the more comfortable I am altering patterns. I mostly find my patterns on Ravelery, and when I find a pattern I like, I scroll through other people's projects to get a feel for common improvements. I hardly ever do a test run (a swatch). I usually just cast-on for the project and if it is coming out terribly I take it apart, and then again, and then again. I love to jump into a project and then I like to look at the item as it develops and respond to inspiration as it strikes.
At any rate, the net result of plowing ahead is sometimes ending up with a shopping bag full of kinky yarn when you pull the whole thing out. I think it is important to emphasize how many times I take things apart. I know a lot of people view un-knitting as the end, but to me it is just a step towards a project that I will find really satisfying. When I ask someone what they think of a questionable project in progress and they say "yeah, that's fine, you won't notice when you're finished," that drives me nuts, because I will notice, and I don't want to spend hours on a project that is fine! On the other hand, I love the line "no one will notice that from a galloping horse." and I hypocritically give this advice to people all the time. You know if you'll care later, and if you will, rip it out!
This blanket is mostly from a free Lion Brand pattern. For this project, the main divergence from the pattern was doing a wide moss stitch border instead of the more fussy leaf shaped border in the pattern. Deciding about the thickness of the border was one of the reasons I had to take this blanket apart so many times. I also framed out each section of design with stocking stitch and moss stitch sections. These changes made the blanket slightly larger than written, a plus in this case as the groom of this couple (as all the grooms this summer seem to be) is quite tall, and I think the framing of each section made the whole blanket design more modern without losing the heirloom quality.
I made this pattern because I fell in love with the intertwined trees. They are such a perfect wedding symbol, especially for this couple who has grown, both individually and together, through the years. The flower panels were another story, and there was much ripping back, much searching of Ravelry, much testing of different techniques, and much uncertainty. Ultimately I do like the way the floral sections balance the arboreal sections, though I'm curious to hear in a year if there is a problem with snagging .
This blanket is knit with 100% wool, Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool which is an amazing bargain, and so blocking was a must. For the blocking process I took a cue from my recent experience blocking shawls, and wove crochet thread along each edge. That gave me a firm, sturdy string to pull tight to make the edges straight. I did this instead of trying to pin out all the edges strait. So instead of using a gazillion pins I used about 20. I also recently read that the first time blocking is the most important, because it teaches the wool its new shape, and that treatment after subsequent washing doesn't need to be as labored. That makes me feel slightly less guilty about giving 100% wool items. (I can't find that link now though, so don't quote me!)
I love the final result and I hope the happy couple can love it for years to come.
In March I started making a pair of socks for my husband. I came up with a pattern that I thought I liked and made most of one sock while on flights back and forth to the East Coast. I finished the toe of one of these socks over the 4th of July and didn't like it any more. I had started at the top, working towards the toe, and the self stripping yarn had ended in a color that I didn't like on the toe. I put the sock away.
I recently had the chance to be with my father for his birthday. I wanted to make socks for him, and so I started, again, to discover a good formula for a men's sock using self striping yarn. The self striping yarn puts on enough of a show, and so, I think, challenges the knitter to come up with something simple to let it shine. I like the Felici yarn from Knitpicks because it is soft and seems to be long lasting (also it is not too expensive, especially as the color ways are retired.) I'll be linking to the tutorials I use for each section of the sock formula. I've been using some of these tutorials for years.
Before knitting, I pulled enough yarn out of each ball so that I could match up the colors, and then trimmed one off so they matched.
I needed a place to start, I could feel myself getting overwhelmed, so I turned to Toe-up Socks for Every Body by Wendy Johnson for some help on how many stitches to start with for the toe of a man's sock. I did toe-up so I would have more control over the toe color, and after all, on the leg, you can just keep going if you don't like the color it is ending on.
Using the toe from the Manly Aran Socks pattern I made both toes and loaded them onto the needles so that I could make the socks two at a time so I would be sure to finish them. I suffer greatly from Second Sock Syndrome, which isn't really an acceptable excuse to not getting a birthday present finished. For a 9 inch diameter sock, I had 36 stitches on the front and on the back. I didn't want to do a simple 1x1 or 2x2 ribbing, and after poking around online, I found inspiration in a ribbing that had thin and thick sections. I devised something that had thin and fat ribs and would fit into the allotted stitches.
I decided I wanted to use the Jo-Jo heel because it has a similar appearance to a short-row heel, but is a little deeper to accommodate a man's larger foot. The difference is that in the Jo-Jo heel, there are a few rounds that go all the way around all the instep and heel stitches half way through the heel, so there were a few very skinny stripes of color on the front of the ankle, but I'm at peace with them.
I kept going up the leg, and then finished with 1 1/2 inches of 1x1 ribbing, and used a sewn bind-off so everything is extra stretchy.
I was so pleased with the result when I finished my father's socks, that I immediately re-started the socks for my husband, same toe up, two at a time technique. I didn't bother taking the other sock apart, I just knit the yarn as it unraveled. The sock made with the unraveled yarn looks a little looser right now, but one washing and the socks will look the same. I'm sure there might be some tiny difference in tension, but I can't believe that my husband will notice it.
It has become clear to me, (and possibly to you), that I would rather knit than write about it, but then at the same time, I love talking about fiber craft because it is something I love to do, and it is also something I feel like I really understand. I have a friend who is an architect and she can explain how a building is built based on looking at the outside. I find that amazing, and it makes me proud to think that I can do the same thing with a knitted object. I've been reading a lot of Elizabeth Zimmerman (knitting sage) and she has a blanket pattern where she intentionally goes out of her way to make it a puzzle for other knitters to understand how it was assembled. I find this idea delightful for the same reason I like cast-offs that look like cast-ons and seamless construction.
Speaking of Elizabeth Zimmerman, I finally got a chance to try out one of her most iconic designs, the Baby Surprise Jacket. The surprise is all for the knitter because the whole jacket it knit in one flat, misshapen piece and then with two seams at the tops of the arms, it becomes a jacket. My cousin and his wife had a beautiful baby girl at the beginning of the year and I was so pleased to make this for her.
I wanted to do a whole outfit, and so I found this free cute little hat pattern on Ravelry.
And since her name is Iris, I found a free Lion Brand pattern for an Iris and sized it down using smaller yarn and a smaller crochet hook.
For my mom's birthday, I knew I wanted to make a pair of socks, and I wanted to make some that would fit. She wanted some more subdued socks she could wear to work, which isn't usually the direction I go in for her. She loves the Skew pattern from Knitty, and after an abortive attempt with another pattern that came out looking like a Viking boot, I adapted the Skew pattern with eyelets so that the skew is still visible, but without using self striping yarn.
It is great to make things that people have asked for. My brother in law requested a knit necktie, which sounded like a fun challenge. I lined the skinny part by the neck with a piece of grosgrain ribbon. Knitting a long skinny strip of moss stitch takes a lot longer than you would think. This is a modified free Lion Brand pattern.
I love Kate Davies' designs. Her photography is beautiful and her designs are historic and modern at the same time. I bought her book, and the design that captivated me immediately was the Puffin Sweater. Did you know Puffins live in Scotland? I didn't, and I love this fact.
This was a quick anniversary gift for my husband. He loves the TV show Adventure Time and this is a character, Jake the Dog, from that show. I had to do it all at work and sneak the car at one point to go buy the yarn, so all of that is more exciting than the actual project, which was fairly simple. The eyes are regular craft eyes you can buy at the store and then I used whiteout to color in Jake's distinctive pupils. The pattern is on Ravelry.
This summer for the most part I've been working on Wedding Blankets. We have so many dear friends that are getting married and we don't have the wherewithal to get to most of the weddings. Only one of the weddings has happened so far, so I'll only post one of the blankets. The pattern is one I bought from Bernat and is worked from the center and I used a slightly obscure Elizabeth Zimmerman cast-off from The Knitters Almanac around the edge with a variegated yarn.
When we were having colder weather, and before I got moving on these wedding blankets, I was slaving away on this monster, a dream sweater for my husband from an out of print Dale of Norway book. I love it and I can't wait to start working on it again in the fall.
I'm playing photo catch-up again. Click the image for a link to the pattern.
It feels good to be friends with my knitting again! On Friday there was no knitting because my husband and I went up to San Francisco to go to one of SF Sketchfest events. We saw Ronna and Beverly live. It was a fun night, and a late night driving back, but totally worth it. If you live in the bay area, there are various Sketchfest events going on all through February, so check it out.
The most thrilling part of Friday for me, however, was that I ordered Kate Davies new book, Colours of Shetland, and the yarn to make the Puffin Sweater. Yes, in those colors, I wish I was wearing it right now already!
The yarn is literally coming from the Shetland Islands, (famous for their knitting, as well as tiny horses, for those not in the know.)
Pretty much everything about ordering from the UK is charming to my American ears, so the fact that I ordered from Jamieson & Smith Shetland Wool Brokers is just like icing on the cake. Also the international shipping was the same as what a local would have paid in value added tax, so, excepting the longer wait, I've already had a great customer experience.
Also, let it be known that despite the fact that the extra cable for my Addi Clicks arrived, I have not started Wedding Gift Blanket: The Return. (Although that makes it sound like it is a wedding gift you can return, which we all know is the major kind of guilty failing of handmade gifts: the giftees have to keep them. How about Wedding Gift Blanket 2: Knitting Boogaloo?) Anyway, the cable arrived, but I was so comfortably ensconced in Wedding Gift Blanket one that I didn't even feel tempted to start.
Upon ordering the Kate Davies self-gift basket, I knew I had better dig in to these Mom's Birthday Socks (which started my tizzy in the first place), and, in fact, yesterday I finished one. So one more to go, well on schedule. The second sock should take only about 1/2 the time of the first, because most of the time spent on this sock was spent trying to figure out the heel instructions, which, I don't know, they weren't really badly written once I figured out what they were trying to say, but they did confuse the heck out of me, so there is that against them.
In knitting news: I persevere with these continental purls. I did catch myself doing purls continental style once by instinct, but I've also caught a few English purls cropping up when the going gets tough.
In non-knitting news: I've been lead to reading Mrs. Miniver through another blog I read, Jean's Knitting. It turns out there is a free copy of the book available on-line and I am just so totally charmed by it. Honestly, who can resist:
In childhood the daylight always fails too soon -- except when there are going to be fireworks; and then the sun dawdles intolerably on the threshold like a tedious guest.
Hooray for Joyce Maxtone Graham, the author, who, apparently sometimes signed her letters Joyous.
Oh you guys! I'm beginning to understand what blog after blog has been telling me. I'm beginning to have a desire to go to Iceland. After all that priming, I guess all I needed was a bag of surprise yarn and this postcard below to convince me.
The caption on the post card say:
A woolly coat comes in handy in most parts of Iceland, and the wool from Icelandic sheep is famous for its dual quality of warmth and lightness. A protected breed, the Icelandic Sheep has remained genetically the same for over 1000 years. Sheep roam freely all over the countryside in the spring and summer months, and are only rounded up in the fall.
Work continues on the wedding gift blanket, and that cable I ordered in my fit of pique has almost arrived, which means I could start wedding gift blanket #2, but I think I'm almost ready to return to mother's birthday socks, which is what threw me into the tizzy in the first place :)
I forgot to say yesterday that I also devoted time on Sunday to getting a handle on doing a consistent continental purl. I turned to a favorite knitting resource, knittinghelp.com. Here is a link to the page of videos on purl stitch techniques. Perhaps necessity is the mother of invention, or maybe it is just luck, the wedding gift blanket has a lot of purling, and so I've been able to practice my technique. I don't think what I'm doing can completely be called a continental purl because I'm not wrapping the yarn around my finger extra times to maintain tension. I don't do this with my continental knit stitches either. I can see that I seem to be getting much closer to the same tension now on my knit and purl rows in stockinette stitch (my English style purls were looser than my continental knits, you know, no so you would notice, but I knew).
I really can't post without a picture. (We'll see how long that lasts...) So here is a "picture" of the wedding gift blanket.
I'm 60% finished! Three horizontal patterns down, two to go. Perhaps I should be working on other projects that have sooner due dates, but after the recent bout of craft dis-pleasure, it feels good to be getting along on something.
I spent yesterday up in Oakland with my friend Amynta while our guys were on a fishing trip. I did about 1 inch on my wedding gift blanket and provided moral and technical support to my friend while she finished a Hansi Singh octopus that I helped her start on a Yosemite camping trip in 2010. Hansi's patterns are challenging, but so worthwhile. I credit them with bringing my own knitting skills along much faster than I think they would have otherwise progressed. They use every shaping and grafting technique in the book, and at the end you have a lovely little toy.
I won't post pictures of the wedding gift blanket, maybe some close ups in a little while, but here's a picture of what it looked like when I took it apart the first time. Perfect may be the enemy of the good, but I can't knit what I don't enjoy, as should surely be apparent from yesterday's post.
I'm posting this picture to emphasize that I take every project apart at least once. I'm just going to have to learn to celebrate that fact, cause it's reality.
This blog has been silent for a little while, while I try to figure out what to do with it. I've decided that an exercise in daily writing is a good way to get out of this indecisive phase, and as an example, the following is writing from Friday night and Saturday night. I've thrown in some photos of finished items for the last little bit of time to keep things light :) Each photo is linked to the pattern if you're interested. Here we go...
Oh my gosh, knitting frustration! I have at least 9 work-in-progress projects going on right now. And I don't want to work on any of them. Is the solution to start a new project? It certainly seemed hopeful. The first project I tried to start called for size 13 circular needles. I checked, and I have no regular set of 13 circulars. I have two interchangeable needle sets, one of which goes up to size 11, and the other one does have size 13s. Good news, except that I only have the shortest cable available for that set. It is 9:30 pm at this point, so I can't run to the store. Husband points out that I could order another large cable. This wouldn't help me in the moment, but, I tell myself, I can endure this crazy for a few more days, so I order one from Amazon. But I still want to knit to relax and I still don't want to work on any of my current projects.
Maybe I could start something else that is ready to go. Maybe a hat that I bought the yarn for last Christmas. Let's see, that wants size 10 double pointed needles. I don't have those, but I can come up with two size 10 circulars on the short cables between the two interchangeable sets. Let me just check gauge before I'm off and running on this... oh, I have 8 stitches per inch instead of the 6 required by the gauge. And, the fabric already seems like it is too loose, and when you stretch it, you can see through the "holes", no good for a hat. Going up in needle size to get the right gauge would make the fabric even looser. Could I hold two strands of the yarn together? Yes, but then I wouldn't have enough yarn to finish the project, and this yarn is actually discontinued I've had it in my stash for so long.
Hm, maybe I should start some complicated doily, because I finally have some size 30 thread. No, I know that is a bad idea for what is now 10 pm. I'll just work on this reversible project that I started in 2009 and picked up again recently. It is a little tedious because there are so many stitches per row, but it has a certain appeal. You know, after the gauge being so off on that hat, maybe i should just check it on this for a lark. Oh, I'm 2 stitches off on the vertical and horizontal gauge, oh, and I also just learned a much prettier way to join the sides. So, I guess I should take it apart? but each row takes around 20 min. I don't want to take it apart, but on the other had, I still have much further to go on the project than I've already gone.
After a morning of continuing to bemoan my situation, I awoke from a nap to a mail delivery of the most lovely Icelandic yarn from a friend who just came back from a trip.
The colors are beautiful and the sentiment is charming. Alright, I'm feeling better. I planned to go to a bagpipe jam session with my husband that night, and had thought I would bring a project to while away the hours, but in my current state I was beside myself as to what that project would be.
Ultimately I decided to go back to a wedding gift project that is due in August that I hadn't worked on since October (a conservative estimate). What a good project to return to! Cables to keep things interesting, 100% wool yarn, one eye calming cream color. Pleasant music, and a lovely bunch of German women who happened to be there who lavished my project with ego boosting praise and then descended upon me trying to show me how to do a continental purl stitch.
There were three women, two were mother and daughter, and each had her own slightly different continental purl technique and each felt her own way made the most sense, and it was such a nice moment of knitter fellowship and so charming to be literally hugged from behind by one of the women while she grabbed my hands and attempted to lead them through her version of a purl. So i'm back in the game, inching my way back to relaxing knitting.
And that's why i need to write every day here, because the experience of knitting is so mercurial to me and I want to try to document it, maybe for 2 weeks?