Thursday, June 26, 2008

a finished object and a freak-out

First the finished object. Actually objects.

Yes, I made a little baby suit, called the Interworld baby suit after the Neil Gaiman children's sci/fi fantasy novel about parallel worlds.

Baby clothes always take more yarn and more time than you expect. These two pieces used five balls of Cascade Pima Silk, the cotton/silk blend I fell for when making the baby wash cloths. Each 50 gram ball contains 109 yards. I used #7 (U.S.) needles to get a gauge of 5 stitches to the inch, because I don't like the fabric as much at 4.5, which is the gauge suggested on the ball band.
Neither of the two patterns I used called for this gauge, so I had to make a bigger (jacket) and smaller (pants) size to get a finished size of (I hope) 3-6 months.

I want to thank two generous and ingenious designers for posting these free patterns on line. The Baby Sachiko Kimono by Erika Flory is from the online publication The Love of Yarn, which I've never heard of. All the issues seem to date from 2007, so maybe it is no longer active. But there are a lot of very cute baby patterns on there. The Baby Bell Bottoms pattern is from The Blue Blog of Alison Hansel, author of the Harry Potter knitting book, Charmed Knits. I found both of these on Ravelry. The Ravelry pages are here and here.

Regarding the baby in question, at the time I started these, the sex was unknown. I picked out this periwinkle blue as a somewhat neutral color. By the time I finished, I knew it was going to be a girl. I thought I could girly up the jacket and even the pants with some trim, embroidery, or applique. But I'm not sure that I will now. I kind of like the simplicity of the designs.

Now for the freak-out. All morning long, this was in my garden.

Here it is chomping my hosta.

Now I realize that this is no news to those living in the suburbs or in the country. But I live in CHICAGO. How is this happening? I was on the phone talking to my daughter in the suburbs who was telling me about the nest of baby skunks under her front porch, when my husband came in the house pointing to the back yard. He had been in the garage smoking a cigar, when this pretty doe poked her head in to the open doorway.

Actually, we live about 3 blocks from a city nature preserve that has a large and increasingly worrisome deer population. A city girl's impulse is to be thrilled that actual wildlife has picked her very garden to chomp, but in truth, this could get to be a problem. I need a deer repellent.

Compounding the problem is the fact that coyotes are sometimes seen in Lincoln Park, and a cougar was recently cornered and killed in a gangway not far from Wrigley Field. Those who know Chicago will know that this is a densely populated neighborhood, much more so than ours. That is scary. The presence of deer can attract predators, and cougars kill more than deer. Read The Beast in the Garden by David Baron about a cougar who ate an 18-year-old man near Boulder, Colorado. Sensationalism aside, this is a thought-provoking story about the intersection of man and nature.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

deeper into the seventies

Last week I visited a local yarn shop (Knitters Niche on Southport) and, with help from the shopkeeper Mary Ann and my friend Diane, picked out some yarn for a new project. Here is a picture of it. The darker blue (which is a bit slatey in real life) was a hand-me-down from my friend Linda. It is a vintage superwash wool. I have ten skeins of it. The light blue and green were thought by all to spark up the dull, though pretty, darker blue. The lighter yarns are Cascade 220, also superwash. I bought 2 balls of each.

The project I had in mind for this yarn turned out to be ill-advised, ill-conceived, and a crappy idea. So with a mind full of seventies lore, what do I reach for but the Learn to Knit Afghan book by Barbara G. Walker? This is a 1997 reprint of the seventies classic published by Schoolhouse Press.
Like I really need another project. But I have always been fascinated with this afghan, and the heart does not listen to the head. There were four major factors that played into this decision.

  1. The seventies

  2. I had most of the colors. But I had to buy one more color (dark purple, on its way) and more of the light blue and green. The original idea was to save money since I had the dark blue already. I ended up spending a fortune.

  3. I love projects that are in squares or other units, because you can get a sense of completion over and over again.

  4. The biggest factor: I saw two real life examples of this afghan made by Diane and they were beautiful, much more so than the picture on the cover. There are some extreme beauties on the Ravelry page as well. As usual, I like the ones made of many uncoordinated colors less and the coordinated ones more. Props to the Scarlet Knitter for her beautiful coordinated version which is used to illustrate the project.

So there you have it. I figure this can be a long term project with a square made every now and then. Of course I have been neglecting everything else the last day or two to knit squares. The one below is already finished and another one started. I've always been a fool for basketweave.

Monday, June 16, 2008

era knitting

At the public library where I work I usually organize the popular music displays. I mainly do it because I am the person in my department who is the most interested in non-classical music but also because I am an unregenerate rock fan. One of the most successful displays I have done I call era rock. One month I highlight sixties rock, the next month seventies, and finally eighties. I don't do nineties. I need to study that more. I have noticed that I clearly prefer seventies rock above all the rest. The music of this era is, to me, the most classic of its genre, the most hip.

Away from the library, I often find myself leafing through my collection of Mon Tricot magazines, published in the mid-seventies, marveling at the relevance of its designs. Maybe I see out of old fogey eyes, but I almost can't find anything in its pages that I think looks dated. Here are some pretty random examples:

Even the hair looks OK. Now you could argue that these are classic designs, but they are (mostly) ALL classic. I think being French helps. Also note the tank above right. An almost identical pattern is in the current Interweave Knits.

Recently I came across an additional seventies resource, also of European origin, this time Deutsch. This is the Make it Yourself crafts library published in volumes (I don't know how many) and distributed in the U.S. by Columbia House. This is also mid-seventies. Not quite as stunning as Mon Tricot, these volumes include sewing, embroidery, and other crafts in addition to knitting and crocheting.

The cover looks aren't that great, but the hoodie and scarf could have been published yesterday, down to the color. Next post, I go deeper into the seventies.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Lately, I've been doing small projects, using up little bits of leftover yarn . Specifically, I made a set of baby wash cloths (or warsh rags as I can't seem to resist typing). Some are pictured above, some are pictured below.

In all, I made six, based on the squares of the Louisa Harding cot blanket that I call Neverwhere after the somewhat gross Neil Gaiman novel. As in Neverwhere, I added the cat and flower of my own design to the heart and star designs proposed by Ms Harding. I used the established 37 stitch/49 row format with the moss stitch edging, but I used worsted instead of dk weight yarn and #7 needles instead of #5.

The resulting squares turned out to be 7" square instead of 6.5 x 6.75" as in the Neverwhere version. I like this size better for wash cloths and maybe better for a blanket due to the squareness. One square turned out a tad bigger. That was the brown one made from the stray ball of Knit Picks Main Line that I test knit a few weeks ago. This is a thicker worsted weight yarn, perhaps too bulky for a baby cloth.

This little project turned out to be a good exercise in the further testing of yarn. The Knit Picks Comfy (pink) that I swatched along with Main Line worked up very soft and comfy-feeling, but it didn't block well as the photo above shows. Too much acrylic (25%) in the mix? I don't know. It reminds me of Lion Brand Wool Ease in this regard. It would work better if the squares were sewn together. I love the color though.

The yarn that really surprised me was Cascade Pima Silk (ivory). I had made a sweater from it at a gauge of 4.5 stitches to the inch (the recommended gauge), and really disliked the fabric: not enough body and too bumpy and uneven. On this exercise however, I got 5 stitches to the inch. What a striking difference! The fabric is smooth, firm, but not too, and silky. I can't wait to try it again.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

now this is a sock

Just braggin' again. I made a sock. It is one of the four- stitch designs from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks. For those unfamiliar with this book, she organizes her designs by the number of repeats in the leg and instep pattern. I took the double moss stitch pattern froom her first book, but I made the short row heel from her second book, More Sensational......, etc.

I made my first socks in March of this year (not counting a pair I made 30 years ago) from the Ann Budd Getting Started Knitting Socks book with Lorna's Laces yarn that I luckily won in a contest on Ruthless Knitting. Although I love and wear my socks, I wasn't thrilled with the Ann Budd prototype. Her sizing does not include negative ease, as I believe it should, and the flap heel and gusset is particularly floppy.

Socks with short row heels look much better to me. I could never find short row heel instructions in either the Ann Budd or first Charlene Schurch book, but I did find some in the the second Schurch book. After trying to follow the instructions, I can see why heel flaps and not short rows seem to be the current sock standard. I could semi-follow the directions, but I could not understand how to make the three-stitch decrease involving a stitch and two wraps. Enter cosmicpluto.

In a post dated October, 2006, cosmicpluto provides an illustrated tutorial on short row heels. The illustrations are good for reassurance, but don't help much. However, the written directions are outstanding. Thank you cosmicpluto. Thanks to you, I have made this sort of beautiful heel.

Although cosmicpluto promises that this is a holeless heel, it isn't, at least not in my version. But that's ok. I didn't mind mending the hole in the corner. With God as my witness, I will never knit a flap heel again.

This sock and heel seems to fit so much better than the flap heeled one. The proof will be in the wearing though. My one fear is a heel that works its way down under the foot as you wear it. If it does that, I will have to change my vow. But for now, I am hurrying to make the second sock so that I can test them out. After that, my next sock will be toe up.

Monday, June 2, 2008

it is good

Behold the finished Kimono Shawl:
Here are more glorious views:

It is everything I thought it would be. It is made of Henry's Attic Cascade Petite (100% silk and shiny) held together with JaggerSpun Zephyr (50/50 wool/silk and matte) on a #6 U.S. straight needle. Thanks to a suggestion from The Scarlet Knitter, I stopped knitting after 17 repeats. The shawl blocked to 22" wide by 68" long - an excellent length. Guided by Laura, I realized that a longer shawl would look like a costume. This one looks, again, perfect.

"More pictures?" you ask. Why yes, I do have more photographs. The one below is of the shawl being blocked on towels which are set upon my nifty new pinable floor squares. The next photo is of the squares themselves laid out in a rectangular shawl configuration. I didn't need to use many pins; I used a yardstick to straighten the edges.

Stay tuned to this space for stories to come featuring short row heels.