Saturday, January 24, 2009

Anne on Knitting for Baby

I'm very fond of Melanie Falick's Knitting for Baby: 30 Heirloom Projects with Complete How-to-Knit Instructions. It would probably bore any of you experienced knitters out there to tears, but it's ideal for a beginner. It teaches knitting, one step at a time and one chapter at a time. For example, the first chapter teaches the knit stitch. Then it says, okay, if all you can do is knit (no shaping, no color changes, nothing), here are some projects you can do. And they're actually decent things someone might want! There's a hat I've made that's done as a rectangle with no shaping, and it's actually adorable. Then the book takes you through the other basics: purling, shaping, colorwork, etc., with projects to do as you learn. It's really great, and I like the look of the book, which is very wholesome and earthy with nice pictures of real-looking babies. It, along with a couple of skeins of baby yarn and some knitting needles, would make a great gift for a pregnant mom.

When I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to knit for my baby. I also knew, however, that my mother would want to knit, too, and that her blankets and sweaters would undoubtedly put mine to shame. So I focused on hats and booties, which I've never known her to knit, and which are a specialty of mine, as I've made many in the past few years for pregnant friends.

Two of my projects came out of Knitting for Baby. I used a nice soft baby yarn (I think it might have been Simply Soft Baby) trimmed with some leftover Lion Brand Jiffy. Yes, I know, acrylic is yuck, but I like it for baby items. Actually, I like it in general, so there. I made both of these projects over a couple of days while on vacation in Michigan with my parents.

The first project were the Beginner Booties. Here they are, modeled by Rosie:

I really like this pattern; they're knit on straight needles and seamed, so I was able to avoid my hatred of knitting in the round. I've made them loads of times, and my only problem has been that they come out too big. So I modified the pattern. I really have no business modifying patterns, I have no idea what I'm doing 90% of the time, but this worked out. They're now perfectly sized for a 3-month-old; you can see my modifications on my Ravelry page.

Next I made the Garter Stitch Cloche:

Again, this is knit on straight needles and seamed. It uses some very clever short-row shaping. It was quite lucky that I was with my parents at the time, because it was my first experience with short rows and I was a bit confused. Fortunately, my mother was in the middle of her sock knitting frenzy and was therefore a bit of an expert on short rows, so she taked me through it. The top of the hat came out a little bit hole-y, so I stuck on a pompom to cover it up. Plus, pompoms always jazz up baby items.

Monday, January 19, 2009

look what i did

Yesterday, without much thought, I sat down and made this:

I am thrilled with it, especially since I love projects that use up odd balls of yarn. If I had thought and thought about what I should be knitting, I would never have come up with this project. Of course I know there are no 'shoulds' in kitting, but you know what I mean. At least you do if you are something of a planner like I am.

The idea must have come from two sources: Mason Dixon Knitting, of course, for the log cabining idea and a fellow blogger for the color scheme. I admired the use of reds and browns together in this pair of socks designed by Susan of 3 Sleeves to the Wind (love that blog name). The colors must have jogged the log cabining idea from the back of my mind. And I suppose that the catalyst of it all was afghans for Afghans, which had just posted a new campaign specifying the need for, among other children's things, child-size blankets, of which this will be one.

Log cabining is quick, easy, and relaxing. I might have to log cabin all the time. You keep binding off and picking up stitches to make strips, in garter stitch, around a central square. Easy peasey lemon squeezie as I recently heard someone say. The technique lends itself to all sorts of creative variations. This Flying Geese blanket from the first Mason Dixon Knitting book is a variation and, I think, one of the most beautiful knitted object I have ever seen, made in my favorite color combination.

Thank you Mason Dixon Knitting. This book and its sequel are idea books more than pattern books, although they have patterns too. Thanks to this serendipitous project, I had to take down the book, and now I'm going to read through it again from cover to cover. Perfect January knitting and reading.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

point of comparison

Being obsessed with knitting, I am naturally obsessed with knitting needles, maybe even more so than with yarn. Needles have been on my mind since I considered knitting in the round the headwarmers I recently made. Of course I quickly squelched that thought, being quite willing to sew a five inch long seam. But before I dropped the idea, I attempted it with an Addi Turbo 16 inch circular. This post is thus mainly about needle tips.

Now Addis cost a fortune, but are supposed to be the ultimate in needles. The metal surface of the needle is smooth, enabling your knitting to move "faster" according to the ad. Problem is, you can't get the tip of the needle into the stitch, it is that blunt. It's like knitting with bowling pins. I took some photos, which I'll post below, but they didn't come out too well. What you will see is the Addi below and the humble and underrated Boye Needlemaster circ on top, both in size 8/5.0 mm.

This is a little blurry, but I hope you can see that the Boye needle is much sharper and somewhat more tapered than the Addi. By the way, the Boye set, sizes 2 through 15, cost about $30. at Tuesday Morning, about twice the price of ONE Addi needle. But I don't care if the Addi is free; I can't knit with it and I don't want it.

Speaking of expensive needles, during the Christmas festival of spending, I treated myself to a Signature Needle, you know, the glitzy ones reviewed by Clara Parkes in Knitters Review. They cost the earth. But they may be worth it. I bought a size 9/5.50 mm with the bell shaped end, which seemed the simplest and lightest to me. I chose the stiletto point. Here is the point pictured below. (Again, it isn't too clear.) The point is just as sharp as it should be, meaning sharp, but the taper is pretty long. Next time I'll try middy, which has the same sharpness and a shorter taper. And there will be a next time, because these needles rock. The feel wonderful in your hand, come in bright colors, and have the needle size clearly printed on each needle. Susan of Damn, Knit & Blast It got a WHOLE SET for Christmas. But I'll just save up and get one at a time.

Over the years I have acquired and inherited thousands of straight, metal needles. The old fashioned metal needles stamped Hero, Boye, and Bates on the ends cannot be surpassed for sharpness and smoothness. The Signature needles are a reasonable facsimile within the currently produced crop, so I plan to get a pair in every size where I don't have a good pair of the old timers.

Here is one more photo - a Learn to Knit Afghan slip stitch square that I forgot to post earlier. I am now working on the last slip stitch pattern, number 24.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

2008 finished objects

It's both fun and not fun to review the past year's knitting achievements. This time it's fun because I produced 21 finished objects (counting 22 afghan squares as one object) as opposed to last year's 15. And the group of objects looks more coherent or something than last year's. It's not fun because everything I made isn't perfect and beautiful. But I'm learning. Among the 21 items are four sweaters, three pairs of socks, two pairs of mittens, one scarf, one shawl, and eight baby items. In the run-down below, I'll link to blog posts, if any, about the item in case you are interested in more details. Most are on Ravelry under my username, beverlyanne.

I first made this as part of my 2006 Christmas scarf project. I re-knit it to have photos to go with the pattern I posted in January.February: Klara Bird

My first learning experience of the year. Under the guidance of a Raveler(Flyingneedle), I heavily modified a printed pattern (Klaralund from Noro Book #2 by Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton). The resulting sweater is made from fingering weight yarn rather than the worsted weight specified, and besides learning from the mods., I learned that I love fingering weight for sweaters.

March: Darcy

Probably through Ravelry, I learned of The Dark House collection of patterns by Kim Hargreaves. I fell for this jaunty jacket, but wasn't in love with the result. Partly, I didn't like the Knit Picks Merino DK I used. Partly, the fit isn't perfect. But the jacket is warm and I like it as Spring outerwear. I have since noticed that Kim Hargreaves' web site gives you such detail and close up photos of each design, that I think I could make some of them without the patterns now that I'm more experienced. Shhh. Don't tell anyone. March: Ann Budd Basic Socks

This was a happy project because I won a contest on the Ruthless Knitting blog and got two socks' worth of Lorna Laces Shepherd sock yarn in the colorway Amish. These were my first socks in thirty years, so I used a basic pattern from the Ann Budd Getting Started Knitting Socks book. The turned out well (in fact I am wearing them right this very minute), but I don't like the shape of the Ann Budd patten. And I think I knit them at too loose a gauge. Cat Boo is evaluating my work.
April: A Thousand Acres

In 2006 I made scarves for all my friends at work. In 2007, I gave them candy and nuts. In 2008, my plan was to make each of them mittens. Emboldened by having successfully made socks, I made these mittens, my first ever. They're ok. I used a Knit Simple Magazine pattern that isn't great, and I messed up a little on the thumb. Since the gift exchange was changed to Secret Santa this year, I ended up sending these to afghans for Afghans in October.

April: Grace

See above. Same thing. One thing I liked about making mittens was that they are GREAT for using up leftover yarn, so I should make some more and better ones in 2009. This pattern was a better one, from Ann Budd's Pattern Book, but the yarn, Patons variegated, was worse. There's a color pool in these that looks like an oil spill.

In February I learned that my daughter, Anne, was expecting a baby in the Fall. I wasn't allowed to start knitting however until the pregnancy was in a secure state, past the first trimester. My first project was this blanket from Louisa Harding's Natural Knits for Babies and Moms. I love her understated crunchy, organic style. The name of this blanket is probably unfortunate, being from the disturbing Neil Gaiman novel that I listened to as I knit.

It took about five months of on and off knitting to finish this. It is the design from Folk Shawls by Cheryl Oberle that I most admire. It is really beautiful. In one of the posts that featured this shawl I vowed to never make another shawl and then I immediately took back the vow. You know what? I re-vow it. I have never worn this. June: Six Baby Washcloths

I so loved Louisa Harding's baby blanket squares that I made them into baby washcloths. I took the squares I liked best, the heart and star, and added the two that I invented, the cat and flower. I used part of a Knit Picks summer yarn sampler along with the original blanket yarn to make them.
June: Interworld Kimono

Now I'm really getting into baby knitting. I thought this free pattern was one of the cutest Kimonos available. I didn't yet know that the baby was a girl, so I thought this would do for either sex. I love the color. I'm also into Neil Gaiman, naming this and the matching pants below for one of his children's stories.

June: Interworld Baby Bell Bottoms (see blog post above)

Another free pattern, this one from Alison Hansel of Charmed Knits fame. Again, I thought this was the cutest pants pattern available.

July: Anouk

Talk about cute. I have always wanted to make this pattern. It is perfect.

As I have discussed at length in my blog, I had made one pair of socks with a flap heel and didn't like the fit. So I tried a short row heel here and like it much better. But despite my undying love for Charlene Schurch, I had trouble following her directions. I found clearer ones on line, detailed in the blog post.

This looks a lot better in the pattern, which was a free one from Berroco. Partly it might be the yarn, Lion Brand Cotton Ease, which I try to like, but it always disappoints. I think it might look cute on baby though. Of course, what wouldn't?
July: Temptation

I named this after a Val McDermid thriller. I also named it Temptation because I was tempted to try an Elizabeth Zimmerman pattern. This so-called baby but really toddler sweater became the occasion for a critique of EZ and all of her works.

September: Ravelympics Child's Sweater (also see previous post if interested in brioche stitch)
I like how this came out. I am tempted to try the contrast saddle shoulder and brioche stitch for an adult cardigan. This made a warm sweater to send to afghans for Afghans.

November: Refined Cardigan

This is my own design based on an idea that I've had for a long time. This is version one, because there are some problems with it, although I like it in a way. It approaches my idea. I have some more yarn, in a different color, to produce version two.
November: Big Boy Baby Kimono
For a friend's baby. I embellished the Mason Dixon Knitting design by adding little white squares. It's Cotton Ease again, but it looks better in garter stitch than in stockinette. The baby was born a few days ago. November: 22 Learn to Knit Afghan Squares (and many other posts showing individual squares)
I started this toward the end of June. I placed it in November, because I think I made my last square of 2008 in this month. This project has been a blessing, affording me the satisfaction of completing a project, albeit a little one, and teaching me a lot about a number of stitch patterns.
I have 41 squares to go.

December: The Weaver (and 3 other headbands) Thanks to the Learn to Knit Afghan book, I was able to design this headband based on one of the slip stitch patterns Barbara Walker gives. I made this and three others from a Knit Picks alpaca yarn sampler. This was the best one. The Weaver pattern is given in its blog post.

December: Piney

Last FO! I finished these in time for Christmas even though I had to rip and re-knit them because I made the wrong size. If you have read this post, thank you for bearing with me. I won't burden you further with elaborate 2009 knitting resolutions. I have decided a few things though: 1) I will knit more mittens because they are quick and use up left over yarn; 2) more socks because hand knit socks are wonderful to wear; 3) sweaters only of my own design (or others ripped off) because that challenge is the only reason to knit a sweater since I don't need any more; 4) no more shawls and few or no scarves; 5) always afghans.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

addendum: sock yarn

I forgot to include this additional use of sock yarn in yesterday's socks post. After seeing a friend's version of these, I impulsively decided that I needed a pair. I use fingerless gloves for knitting, because it is usually cold in the living room where I park myself to knit. The pair I had, machine made, was all stretched out. But then I had the unusual idea of washing them and they sprang back into shape, so I really don't need this unfinished pair. However, they are ribbed all over, so they do cling nicely.

The pattern is available free through Ravelry and is called Ruffle and Rib Fingerless Glove. It is a simple pattern made on #3 double pointed needles with about 200 yards of sock yarn. I added a pre-planned afterthought thumb at about 5 inches up from the ruffle, since there was only a thumb opening in the pattern.

The whole point of this is about the yarn. It is a new Knit Picks handpainted sock yarn called Imagination of 50% wool, 25% alpaca, and 25% nylon, soft and warm. All of the colorways look good on the Knit Picks site. This one is called Damsel.

Now in ranting mode I have posted before about Knit Picks variegated yarns and my dislike of their colors. Partly it's because I remain ambivalent about all variegated yarns, often disliking how they look knitted up (but not always). I compared the colors in this yarn to meat, but that was a euphemism for what I really thought it looked like: viscera. So part of the reason I used this yarn for gloves to wear around the house was because I wanted to use it up.

The outcome here is not that I have grown to like the color. I haven't. But I don't think it's as bad as I did at first. The lesson is that Knit Picks variegated/hand painted colors really are off base. By its name, I take it that this yarn is supposed to look feminine. To my eye it just looks darker that it should be and a tad muddy. The photo above actually shows it in its most flattering light. In reality, it looks more like this:

Not a EW, but definitely a MEH.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

of socks and sock yarn

I am taking advantage of a rare Saturday off to organize my 2008 finished objects for a 2008 finished object post. That will take a few days, so in the interim, I thought I'd show off the very last finished object of the past year. TA DA! Its Piney, the sock.

I surprised myself by finishing these on December 23rd, just in time to wash and block and give away on Christmas Eve. They fit my husband's short, wide feet perfectly, and he likes them. Incredible. He wore them last week.

My husband tends to over wear his socks. When I finally got to wash them a second time (by hand), I noticed a little pilling around the heel and a bit up the leg. The yarn is Knit Picks Essential Sock Yarn, made for socks of course, of 75% superwash merino and 25% nylon. This yarn is the perfect fingering weight, not too thick, not too thin, and very soft. Time will tell how well these socks hold up, but I didn't like seeing that pilling. All soft yarn tends to pill, which is OK if it doesn't affect wear.

Stats on Piney are 1.75 balls of Knit Picks Essential Sock Yarn, color Pine, for a sock 9 inches wide and 9.5 inches long with a 7.5 inch leg including a 1.5 inch 2 x 2 ribbed cuff. The leg and instep are knit in garter rib (from Charlene Schurch), and the foot bottom is stockinette with a classic short row heel. The sock was knit on 2.25 mm wooden sock needles at a gauge of 8 stitches to the inch (in stockinette). Each sock took 72 stitches around.

These are the socks that I had to frog and re-knit because I mistakenly made them too narrow. In a comment on that post, Amy (weezerscaddy) asked for the sailor's rib repeats. Here it is with a scanned close up of the pattern from Schurch's More Sensational Knitted Socks:
It is a five stitch repeat with 4 rounds

Rnd 1 - *p1, k2, p1, k1 through the back loop, rep from *

Rnd 2 - *p1, k2, p1, k1, rep from *

Rnd 3 - *p4, k1 through the back loop, rep from *

Rnd 4 - *p4, k1, rep from *

Schurch adds the last stitch in the repeat one time as the first stitch in the round to even out the number of stitches on the instep.

Even though this stitch seems simple enough, I had a hard time remembering the repeats. It came out nice-looking, but not nice enough to be worth the trouble, so I changed to a simpler pattern when I re-knit them.

In other sock knitting news, I started a new pair of men's socks, this time for a big foot, in another Knit Picks sock yarn, Risata. This is an unusual yarn, a little heavier than I like fingering to be, made of 42% cotton, 39% wool, 13% polyamide, and 6% elite elastic, so it's stretchy in the skein (but not so much in the sock). I am using the color Ash, a medium/dark grey. Here is a progress photo. The stitch pattern is Swedish Block.

Do I like it? Not sure yet. I know I like the color. Finally, I know that I love my orange Schurch socks, the second pair I knit and the first time I tried a short row heel. The yarn is Dream in Color Gaia which I think is now sold as Smooshy. It has already been washed repeatedly, mostly by hand, and when I compare it to Knit Pick Essentials I see how well it has worn. But, I'll be damned if the color hasn't faded. I guess the fading is kind of subtle, because I had a hard time showing it in a photo, but it IS there:
This photo shows it best. The reality of the difference is seen in the strands of yarn laying across the surface of the sock.