Blanketed In Love

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So my brother got married early in 2015, and I spent most of that year knitting this blanket, which I presented to him & his wife at Christmas of that year as their belated wedding present. I’d known I wanted to knit them a blanket, but I didn’t pick out the pattern until about a month before their wedding, and as you can imagine, this thing was a huge amount of work! For their actual wedding, they got a card from me and a picture of the yarn with an “under construction” label. Here’s the whole finished object:

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The pattern is Hue Shift Afghan by Kerin Dimeler-Laurence; it’s a KnitPicks pattern. I knit it in KnitPicks Wool of the Andes Sport, and I followed the “Rainbow Version” color suggestions, though I had to substitute a few of the recommended colorways because they were out of stock. I also followed Mariangello’s directions to increase the size of the blanket to fit a queen-sized bed. (If you do this, be sure to buy more yarn than KnitPicks suggests, of course!) It still came out a little small for a queen-sized bed, though; here it is being just about adequate for a full-sized one:

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I loved this thing so much that it was reeeeeaaaallly hard to give up, and I just might make another one for us to keep one of these days! One thing that’s cool about knitting it is that you do it in pieces, so it never suffers from that huge-blanket problem where you have to keep the whole thing in your lap at once while you’re working on it. You make the squares in strips, and these add up to 4 separate large squares which you eventually have to seam together:

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That’s the only seaming you have to do, though. After this, you pick up stitches at the edges to do the border. As you can see, there are eleventy-billion ends to weave in when you’re done. You can carry one color up per column, but each square generates two new ends to weave in for the other color. 😦

I over-purchased the yarn because I was terrified of running out, and I ended up with about a ball and a half left of each color. So I made a baby blanket for my friends Jackie and Robin! (Jackie made my wedding dress, as you will recall from my last post.)

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I’m pretty proud of this, because I made up the pattern myself, using math to figure out how to get the most out of my remaining yarn. It’s knit in strips, and I attached each strip to the next one as I went by picking up an edge stitch from the previous strip to avoid having to do seaming later. Totally seamless, baby!

Here it is with my body & bookshelves for scale:

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I deliberately made it pretty big for a “baby” blanket, because it’s totally not machine washable, so I figured the parents might not want to actually give it to their kid until she’s old enough to keep her bodily fluids inside her body where they belong. Also I wanted to use up all of that dang yarn!

Since I have so very much ground to cover in order to get caught up, I’m going to share with you one more blanket that I’ve made while I’ve been gone. This is a much smaller baby blanket, knit in machine-washable yarn:

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I knit this for my friends Tia and Reid in freeform log-cabin style, a blanket-construction method I fell in love with a few years ago, when… holy smokes, it turns out I never shared the finished object from this project with you, either! Okay, I’ll show you that in just a minute! Anyway, the above blanket was knit in Berroco Comfort held double on huge needles, to create a very thick and squishy blanket that could also work as a playmat for “tummy-time,” something that I gather babies are into. (I am very childless, as you may have figured out by now.)

One more blanket, then! As the link in the above paragraph explains, in mid-2013 I inherited some vintage 1970s yarn from my mom’s basement, and I started a freeform log cabin project with it since I wasn’t really sure how much yarn I actually had. Here’s the finished product, which I must have completed sometime in 2014:

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It’s got some creases in it from being folded up on our couch; this is very much a workhorse blanket that keeps me warm when we’re watching TV in the winter. Look how handsomely it goes with our new turquoise sofa!

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I knit those pillows on the sides, too, natch. #allkniteverything

Zeldaphant

IMG_5688We photographed a new shawl today, but looking at the pictures in my camera I remembered that I never blogged about this little guy, who I finished knitting a few weeks ago. So the shawl post will come later in the week; for now: Zeldaphant!

I call him that because I knit him for my friends’ little girl’s first birthday, and said little girl is named Zelda. The pattern is Elijah by Ysolda, and it’s as good as everybody says it is. It’s one of the most popular toy patterns on Ravelry, and while I don’t have a huge amount of experience with knitting toys, I’d definitely say this was the clearest, most sensible, least annoying pattern for a toy I’ve knit so far. The key to getting the trunk to curl for me was to stuff the whole head pretty densely, because you need the trunk to be very densely stuffed so you can pose it, and if the head isn’t packed very tightly then the trunk stuffing will migrate into the head.

The yarn I used was Caron Simply Soft from my stash — it’s the softest, cuddliest acrylic I’ve found so far, and since this is a gift for a one-year-old I wanted it to be as thoroughly machine-washable as possible. I figure if Zelda likes it, this toy is likely to be both dragged through dirt AND chewed on, and ain’t no mama of a one-year-old got time to lovingly handwash her toys. Like many Ravelers, I decided to make the feet in a contrasting color. And I am INSANELY PROUD of how pretty my embroidered french-knot eyes came out. Check it:

IMG_5687I actually suck at embroidery; my secret weapon was this tutorial. It’s steps 5 and 6 that really set this apart from other french-knot instructions on the internet; pushing the knot down to the fabric before pushing the needle through is the key to making it not come out crappy.

I’ve been meaning to do more WIP-blogging — I feel like a lot of finished objects (like this one) crop up on this blog without you having even seen them on the needles. I also think that more WIP blogging will allow me to talk a little more about knitting as a process, and to share some of my techniques and approaches in more detail. I’m eventually going to try to do more WIP-only posts, but I actually have a backlog of FOs to show you at the moment, because the start of the school year has crowded out most other things in my life for the past few weeks. In addition to this guy and the shawl I’m going to show you later this week, I have another finished shawl that I’m going to put on the blocking board today!

About two weeks ago, I took this picture of my WIPs and recently-finished-but-unblocked pieces. They’re arranged in chronological order of start date, oldest at the left. I call it “Red Shift”:

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It’s kind of amazing: all summer all I wanted to knit was blues, and then sometime in September red seems to have taken over my brain. The yarn on the right is a sweater quantity of Madelinetosh Sport in the Tart colorway that I picked up at Imagiknit in San Francisco on a weekend I was up there recently. I felt like it was a stroke of brilliance on my part to buy a sweater’s worth of Madelinetosh in person, because the skeins are so variable and there are no dye lots. Imagiknit is maybe my favorite LYS in the universe, and it manifested its wonderfulness in the salesperson who went in the back and got all 20ish skeins of Tart that they had in stock, and went through them carefully with me helping me to pick a matched set.

At this point everything on the blue side of this photo is finished, except for the color-block garter-stitch blanket in the middle there (which is going to take about a thousand years), and you’ll see the other projects soon. All the red is still underway, but it’s all been temporarily shelved in favor of two more urgent projects that are neither blue nor red:

IMG_5751They photograph poorly when they’re unblocked like this, because the ribbed gussets make them curl up all weirdly, but these are the Cusp socks that I started as a mini-KAL with my friend Lisa back in April. We knit on them for a few weeks and then stopped, because she’d made some mistakes and had to start over and wasn’t feeling up to actually doing that, which I understood. Then we decided to pick them up again in September and try to finish them in time for the October mystery KAL we both wanted to do, and we both failed at that goal — but as you can see, I’ve come pretty darn close. I figure I can probably finish these at some point in October if I finish any of the mystery KAL clues early.

That KAL is the Boo Knits “Morticia” Halloween Mystery KAL. Boo Knits is the author of Rainshine, which I knit recently, as well as many other dramatic, interesting shawl patterns, so I decided I trusted her to come up with something worthy of Morticia Addams. I also decided to go whole-hog with the “goth” theme:

IMG_5755(I don’t want to show you an in-progress pic in case any of you are doing the KAL and might have the “mystery” spoiled.) It looks kinda blue or purple here, but that yarn is in fact black — Blue Moon Fiber Arts Marine Silk Lace in the “Shadow” colorway. I really like the “Raven Clan” colorways, and thought long and hard about getting a blue-black or a green-black, but ultimately decided to go for a true black so I could wear it with red and blue equally well. The beads are 6mm Miyuki cube beads from Fusion Beads, which I had a lovely experience with & which doesn’t have minimum order sizes, unlike some other online bead vendors. This KAL is still in its first week — it’s not too late to join me!

Summertime Blues

I have finally, finally finished my Basket of Flowers stole. I’d been playing chicken with the end for the last few weeks, wanting to bind off but then talking myself into one more repeat — over and over again. But I’m very happy with the final (enormous) length! It’s ended up, after blocking, at 23″ x 75″.

This was, of course, the huge project that was supposed to occupy me for our whole trip to and two-month stay in Austin, TX this summer. It succeeded at that and then some — though I also finished a small lacy scarf, a large garter-stitch shawl, and a tiny something that I’ll show you momentarily in that time.

The yarn is “Shimmering” from A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland, CA — a 100% tussah silk yarn. It’s also indigo dyed, and as you can see in this close-up shot there’s a fair amount of denim-like variation in the colorway, which is called “My Hand and Yours.” I’ve very happy with the finished piece — it’s huge and gorgeous, it can function as a giant scarf or as a wrap, and it’s a beautiful color! The knitting did get a little bit tedious towards the end, but for 80% of this project the stitch pattern was varied enough in itself that it didn’t bother me much.

Here’s the other thing I finished recently:

This is Georgie Hallam’s Rainbow Dress knit for a wee babe recently brought into this world by my friends Julie and Tom. I made one of these for my friend Liz’s baby a few years ago and it was very successful, so I figured I’d do it again. This one has a different hem, and I’m totally thrilled with how those pleats came out. The yarn is Madelinetosh DK in the “Wash” colorway, and this used up just about an entire skein for what I think is the 6-month size.

I am also very close to being done with my Semele, but I fear that tragedy is nigh:

It’s hard to tell from this picture, but I really really really might run out of yarn. In fact, I’m pretty sure I will, but the slim chance that I won’t means I’ll keep knitting a bit longer to see how it plays out. I’ll be really annoyed if I do have to rip this back past the halfway point — not only will that in itself be a pain in the butt, but the finished article will be significantly smaller if I have to do the turn earlier. Arrrrrg.

My Summit is coming along swimmingly, though:

I actually haven’t been working on it a lot because it requires a fair amount of brain to count and pay attention, so I generally work on it during documentaries and other slightly boring films. But in the span of a standard film, I can get all the way across and back with the pattern, which adds like 4 inches of length: what you see here is exactly 5 movies’ worth of work.

That’s all for now, but I’ll probably be starting something new soon now that the stole is finally off the needles!

Travelling Light

Pat and I are spending June and July in Austin, TX — so for the last week or so, my knitting time has been dedicated to figuring out what projects to bring with me, and to getting a strong enough start on those projects that I feel confident about my yarn, needles, and pattern choices. Since Austin is very hot and humid, I figured that airy lace was the most realistic plan — I’m not going to want to be knitting huge blankets or sweaters while I’m there. What you see here is Anne Hanson’s Butternut Scarf knit in Sanguine Gryphon Gaia Lace in the “Cornflower” colorway. Last summer, when Sanguine Gryphon announced that it was dissolving into two companies, I snatched up one of the last skeins of Gaia Lace available — and it’s a good thing, too, because neither of the new companies carries it. (Though Cephalopod Yarns’ Nautilace seems to fit a similar profile.) I had initially envisioned using this yarn for Anne Hanson’s Almost Ovals, which was released right around the time I bought this yarn — but after a few days of knitting it earlier this week, I decided that I just didn’t love it. It’s entirely possible that blocking would have cleared up the issues I had with the pattern, but it was looking a little sloppy and the YOs were very asymmetrical (because on one side of the motif they’re between purls and knits, and on the other side they’re between knits and purls). Also the pattern required a little more attention than I’d initially anticipated, and I really wanted this to be a soothing, easy project. Anne’s Butternut Scarf leapt immediately to mind as an alternative — I’d started it twice in the past, and both times I loved knitting it but decided that my yarn choices weren’t right. Now, finally, I think I’ve got the perfect marriage of pattern and yarn, and I’m delighted!

The reason I wanted to make sure the above project was relatively easy is that my main knitting task while in Austin is going to be this:

A huge, intricate stole with lace-knitting rows on both sides. Whee! Chrissy Gardiner’s Path of Flowers Stole, to be exact. I’ve had my eye on this pattern ever since Grumperina sang its praises on her blog a few years ago. Projects this huge and repetitive can be difficult to force myself to finish, but I was inspired by my success with my Autumn Arbor Stole last summer — I deliberately sort of stranded myself on a desert island with it by having it be the only project that I didn’t pack away in a box while Pat and I moved, and I finished it swiftly and uncomplainingly. So I’m optimistic! The yarn is Shimmering from A Verb for Keeping Warm, in the colorway “My Hand and Yours,” picked up at their Oakland shop over spring break a few months ago.

I am also closing in on the end of my Stripe Study shawl, which is also coming with me:

I probably only have enough yarn for one more red wedge after the one I’m working on, but the rows are getting very long and I also don’t work on this very often since it’s my “mindless, knitting-while-intoxicated” project, so it’ll probably be a few more weeks before it’s finished.

If you’ve been playing along at home, you’ll remember that I had to knit an emergency baby cardigan a few weeks ago. I did finish it in time, but not without some minor absurdity:

That’s the sweater blocking in the back seat of Pat’s car without any ends woven in, about 12 hours before I had to get on a plane to go meet the baby. But everything was finished by baby o’clock!

Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the actual baby, but I think this sweater is probably a little big for him right now anyway. The pattern is the Debbie Bliss Ribbed Baby Jacket, and the yarn is Madelinetosh Vintage in the “Crumble” colorway. After much hemming and hawing, I decided not to put any buttons or other closures on it, in case such things would worry the parents by seeming like choking hazards.

My progress on my own sweater is much slower:

I’d initially hoped to get both sleeves for my Acer Cardigan finished and attached before we went to Austin, figuring that I’d just leave the finishing work (button bands, blocking, etc) until after we return. But after completing one sleeve according to the pattern’s directions, I became deeply worried that it was way too large. So I pinned the sleeve to the body of the sweater as you see here, and lo, it was way too large. My plan is to unravel this sleeve and just do top-down sleeves knit to my own measurements — which I considered doing in the first place, but I decided that it would be “easier” to just do what the pattern told me to do. 😦 😦

I’m not going to do a lick of that until we come back from Austin, though. Not only does working on a sweater in 110-degree heat sound unappealing, but this particular sweater and I need some time apart while I work on addressing my anger issues!

Desert Dawn Scarf

Pat’s anniversary scarf is finished, but he’s too shy to model for you. I love the combination of colors! They’re meant to evoke the colors of dawn in the desert, where we spent our anniversary. It’s just a simple side-to-side garter-stitch scarf, and I wish I’d been able to make it a little wider, but I was using up leftovers here and was limited by the amount of yarn on hand. Someday I’ll make him a bigger and more fully-featured scarf, but maybe not until we move somewhere with more of a proper winter than southern California.

I’ve also gotten halfway through the merino fiber from Seattle that I’ve spinning. My schedule this semester hasn’t left a lot of time for spinning, so it’s been going slowly, but I LOVE the way the yarn is coming out. It’s a soft, bouncy heavy fingering / light sport weight, and I’m going to end up with a little less than 500 yards of it. I’m open to suggestions, if anybody has a thought about what I should knit with it! I don’t think I’d ever spun pure merino before — I always gravitate toward fancy blends, even though they’re more of a pain to spin because the various fibers in a blend always behave differently. But, surprise! Spinning with pure merino is lovely and smooth and quick. Yay!

Last time I alluded to a possible sweater tragedy, because I was deeply worried that my Acer cardigan was going to be too big. But now that I’ve finished the back and fronts and joined them at the shoulders, I’ve tried on this in “vest” form and determined that it’ll be fine. It’ll have a little bit of ease, but I won’t be swimming in it or anything. I contemplated knitting the sleeves from the top down instead of from the bottom up like the pattern says, but I ultimately decided to take the lazy route and just do what the pattern told me. Since the sleeves are knit in the round, I can still try them on as I go, just not with quite as much accuracy and convenience as I could if they were being knit from the top down while attached to the body of the sweater. My one act of rebellion is to knit the sleeves using the magic loop method, because it’s less fiddly than using doublepointed needles. I guess given the title of this blog, I should maybe think twice before pitching my doublepointed needles out the window now that I’ve learned magic loop… but… no.

I also have some new projects to show you:

This is Veera Välimäki’s Stripe Study shawl, knit in Tosh Merino Light in colorways “Amber Trinket” (yellow) and “Saffron” (reddish). Among the things that are awesome about this shawl is that once you get your mind around the basic construction principles, you don’t need the pattern anymore — so it feels like it’s coming directly out of your brain, which is super cool. Pat is unconvinced about the asymmetry, though; he keeps saying things like, “wait, is it just going to be like that? you’re just going to have a lopsided shawl?”

And what you are looking at here is a minor knitting emergency. I woke up on Friday morning and realized that I was meeting a baby in 8 days that I had not knit anything for yet, so I’m banging out this tiny cardigan as fast as I can. I needed something (a) in worsted-weight yarn, so I could finish it quickly, and (b) tried and true, so I decided to try the Ribbed Baby Jacket by Debbie Bliss, which I’ve never personally made before but which has over 3000 projects on Ravelry. The yarn is Tosh Vintage, which is superwash — important for babies! The colorway is “Crumble” and I loooove it. Wish me luck!

Baby, It’s You

Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to introduce Emily Kathryn! My friends Liz and Jay welcomed her into the world about five weeks ago, and already she is a gifted knitwear model. Just look at that saucy expression, and her studied casual pose!

Look how gracefully she reclines! Liz was gracious enough to take pictures of little Emily modeling the dress and booties that I knit this summer in anticipation of her arrival. As you can see here, the dress is still a little big, which was my intention — I was hoping that it would fit her more or less perfectly when spring comes.

My favorite part of these shots is seeing that the dress seems to match her eyes perfectly. I understand that babies’ eyes change color and tend to darken over time, but for now the matchingness is pretty adorable.

My knitting life lately has been consumed by my Leitmotif cardigan. This shot is really washed out from the bright sun today, but it’ll give you an idea of how it’s coming along:

I’m done with half of the body, and I’ve picked up the stitches at the provisional cast-on in the middle of the back to start the other half of the body. This cardigan has an intensely weird construction, but once you get your mind around it, it makes a certain amount of sense. I continue to be madly in love with this project and convinced that it’s going to be my best cardigan yet.

I’ve also been spinning:

That multicolor Targhee top from Mountain Colors is looking pretty exciting! This is about as full as I managed to get this spindle, and here it is wound up for plying:

This is about half the Targhee fiber. My first batch of handspun yarn — the “Brickhouse” yarn that I showed you a few weeks ago — was very overspun, and in this batch I think I’ve overcorrected and it’s a bit underspun. But this is how you learn, I suppose, and when I spin the second half of both batches of fiber I hope to hit the sweet spot. I’m currently in the process of plying this yarn here, and should have pictures for you in just a few days!

On Sunday, some knitting friends and I are planning to hit up the Southern California Handweaver’s Guild’s Weaving and Fiber Festival in Torrance, CA. It will be my first fiber festival, and I’m super excited! Izznit, other SoCal knitters, if you’d like to meet up there, let me know and we’ll figure it out!

Secrets Revealed: Baby Style

Finally I can tell you about that secret knitting I was doing back in June! It was this babywarming set for my friend Liz, who is having a baby girl in September. We’re all so excited!

This is Georgie Hallam’s Rainbow Dress pattern, which I highly recommend. The pricetag is a little steep, but the pattern is very all-inclusive and adaptable. It’s written for babies through little girl sizes, so you can get a lot of use out of it, and the construction is both ingenious and easy. Trust me, I spent a million hours looking at baby dresses, and this pattern is the winner for cuteness, easiness, and versatility.

The yarn is Bugga! by The Sanguine Gryphon and yes, it lives up to the hype. It’s super soft, super sturdy, and the dye jobs are beautiful. This colorway is “Fairy Wren,” and it seemed like the perfect thing for a little girl. I really really did not want to use pink. It’s a bit thinner than the recommended yarn for the pattern, so I knit the 9-month size hoping to end up with something more like the 6-month size, so the little one can wear this in the spring.

I had a bunch of yarn left over, so I also knit some booties:

These are the ubiquitous Saartje’s Booties. I’m guessing they’re ubiquitous because the pattern is free, they’re worked flat, and they’re super cute. But in truth, the next time I knit baby booties I think I’m going to make some knit in the round, because the seams on these came out a little wonky. This is probably because each bootie took me the length of a single feature film to knit, but that meant that both times I was doing the seaming at the end of the night when I’d had a few drinks. So it might not be the pattern’s fault. And can we all admire the OMG COMPLETELY PERFECT tiny little buttons I found? Because, OMG.

In other news, this is what I’ve been knitting on my vacation:

This is Miriam Felton’s Flutter Scarf, which I’ve been eyeing for awhile. It’s quite a bit different than the other scarves I’ve knit so far, and that made me a little anxious because this is my treasured Louet Mooi yarn, and I didn’t want to knit it into something I wouldn’t wear. It’s a little… ruffly, but I think I can deal with it. This yarn is a bamboo/buffalo/cashmere blend and kind of crazily expensive, but I picked up a skein last summer for 40% off when I was in Mendocino for a wedding and their LYS was having a huge moving sale. You can’t really tell from this picture, but it is divine — super soft, super light, and very radiant.

I have to go, because I’ve gotta get on a plane back to California. Next time we meet, I will probably have a finished Ribs & Lace tank, and hopefully it will be wearable.