Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Blanket Statement

It's been all about the blankets since returning from our trip. One for us, and one for a friend. First, the friend.

Rhonda asked me if I would knit something for a great-niece that she is expecting to arrive later this month. I don't always "take commissions" (as if I did this professionally!), but Rhonda is such a good friend to us. And I'm more comfortable with non-garment requests where I don't have to worry so much about fit. We sat down and discussed fabric and style, and I ran some ideas past her. The little one is going to be named Rose, a family name, so she wanted something that evoked ideas of rosiness. We settled on a pattern called Bounce from Tin Can Knits. I've already knit two of their blanket designs this year and was pleased with the results, so I knew this would work well. We settled on some Knit Picks superwash, which I'd also been using quite a bit this summer. The colors here are Dove Gray, Rouge and Carnation.

It's not a very complicated pattern. It's a 12-row repeat, with the first four rows garter-stitched in the main color (Dove Gray), and the other 8 done in a simple lace pattern. The edges are done in garter stitch (an easy thing to screw up) to keep the edges from curling. Unusually, this lace pattern has shaping on the wrong side, too, making the decreases that much more angled. The two-stitch decreases that create the rib lines also pull in the gray to make the whole thing look like it's draped with bunting. Or like icing on a cake. Especially with all this pink. I quite like it.

I made the crib size blanket, which is supposed to be 30" x 45", but in order for the 3 Rouge / 2 Carnation pattern I set up to come out symmetrically I had to add a few stripes, making it closer to 30" x 48". It's the biggest baby blanket I've ever made, that's for sure. And because superwash can behave unpredictably when wet-blocked, it did stretch out a bit. I was able to tame it during blocking, but it wants to be even bigger.

I've also been working on the Shady Marmalade Blanket that I started way back in June. The plan is to make a lap-sized coverlet, for two laps, that will go with our orange sofa. I'd only plugged away at it sporadically, but I've been focusing on it during these strange rain-soaked cool August days that have miraculously arrived. They're easy to work and I really don't have to think much while knitting them. If anything, their mindless ease has led to me ripping out unneeded rows as I've gone too far. I seem to have the gauge down better now, unlike earlier when I had several that were noticeably larger than the others. I've made 29 as of today. Only 34 more to go to hit my goal of 63 squares in a 7x9 configuration.

So, lots of knitting in these cool rainy days that in most years are so unbearably hot I can hardly think about knitting. I've also recently cobbled together some colors of a discontinued yarn to make Jeff a sweater. It should start arriving next week. I'm hoping that I can have it finished in time to take advantage of truly cooler weather. Like the immigrants convinced by Great Plains land speculators and railroad developers that rain follows the plow, I'm gambling that my knitting will bring on the autumn and winter. A surer bet, but still, you're welcome.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

German Knitting Adventures

Jeff and I were fortunate to be able to get away this summer to visit my brother's family in Germany and take a beautiful side trip to Slovenia. Not as much knitting activity took place as I'd planned. I brought yarn to work on squares for the Shady Marmalade blanket I've been working on, but I only completed three or four squares. We were so busy that I didn't have a lot of quiet, still time for handwork.

Still, I did have one great knitting-related day. I got to meet Andrea and Andrew of the Fruity Knitting podcast! You may remember from a previous post that I got to be on their Knitters of the World segment in episode 7. I got in touch with them and they graciously set aside part of a very warm afternoon to have lunch and to visit a few yarn shops in Frankfurt. Andrea and I even got to spend a bit of time knitting together in a park -- I wish I'd taken some photos of that. It was such a lovely afternoon and I can't thank them enough for their hospitality. I loved hearing Andrea's passion for design and colorwork and style and all the things that bring her to knitting. I can't thank them enough.

One of the shops we stopped by was Maschenwerke. Andrea introduced me to Heidi, the shop owner, who showed me around, pointing out the amazing variety of yarns she carries, mostly from the UK and Japan. She also had an amazing number of pattern books -- more than I think I've ever seen in a shop in the states. She flipped open some Japanese pattern books with some really cool men's designs and showed me how the patterns were written slightly differently. She seemed pretty fearless. Her knowledge of the economics of importing yarn and how she looks at quality was so impressive. I love hearing people discussing things they're passionate about, and Heidi was no exception. She clearly knows her stuff. And I also admired her drive to try new fibers in interesting combinations. It was infectious.

So much so, that I decided to knit a scarf pattern that she'd whipped up, using two fibers I'd never think to put together. Both are from the Japanese company, Ito. One is Sensai, a mohair/silk blend (60/40) in an electric blue color, the other is a flat navy ribbon-like cotton yarn, Gima 8.5. The pattern is called Schal Sommerbrise (Summer Breeze Scarf?). Every row is knit with the Sensai, and then the Gima 8.5 is brought in from time to time and knitted together with the Sensai to make beautiful stripes. The effect was quite beautiful in the shop sample she had. It will be fun to play with these new fibers and, though it might not be quite me, it will make a great gift.


Meanwhile, off to the side, Andrea was showing Jeff some nice men's sweater patterns from some Rowan design books. Jeff doesn't always care for handknits, mostly because of my preference for wool. But I think Andrea may have convinced both of us to branch out a bit, so be on the lookout for a future project that I think we'll both be happy with. Thanks, Andrea!

I did try to visit some yarn shops in Ljubljana when we were in Slovenia, but the two I had identified weren't around any more. The first had closed up it's city storefront and was now based in a small town many kilometers away. And the other seemed to have shut down for the summer. As near as we could tell from the sign in the shop window, the owner was saying she'd be back in January. So much for Slovenian knitting. I didn't see a single soul knitting in Slovenia. However, a few days earlier, on one of the hottest days  in a city on the coast, I did see a woman crocheting in the shade on her rooftop terrace. She looked so relaxed and peaceful...


Since I've been home over the past week, I've been able to work one last baby blanket for the summer. It's soaking right now and getting ready for blocking. More on that later.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Me & Ewe

I've not been terribly attentive to my knitting at the end of this busier-than-I-would-have-thought first summer semester. I've been poking along on the Shady Marmalade throw, and planning out a final (I swear!) baby blanket for the year. But with the semester ending Wednesday and a having a little bit of time to catch my breath before heading out on a big summertime adventure, I took the opportunity to explore a local yarn shop I'd yet to visit.

Me & Ewe has been open for a little over a year. It's on Woodrow Ave., just off of 49th and Burnet Rd., very close to where the old Omelettry location used to be. It's a little tricky to figure out. Until a month ago, the shop was in the house right on Woodrow Ave., but they recently moved into the larger structure behind the house, with more room for yarn, fabric, and teaching spaces. In fact, classes are a big part of what this shop does, with all sorts of classes for every level of skill, including drop-in options.


I stopped by to pick up a few skeins for a surprise, and found the great t-shirt (above) with the shop's logo on it. I love that graphic, especially the little buttons between the words. Also, it's gray. So of course I had to get one.

I also got to meet and cuddle with Me & Ewe's own little version of Swatch from Project Runway! And her name, awesomely, is Purl.

Purl was seen scooting all around Austin on neighborhood forums several months ago and managed to make quite a journey before ending up at a construction site near Me & Ewe. She seems to have settled right in and was just the cutest little store mascot. She's quiet, doesn't disturb the merchandise, and you might not even know she was there. She was quite patient with me handling her and posing for a selfie. Pona & Kate were predictably put out with me when I got home for having stepped out on them.


Thanks, Purl. And thanks, Ella, for the nice chance to visit and for showing me around your shop. I hope I can be back soon.

As you can see from the stack above, I've been working slowly on my squares for the blanket. I'd finished about 14 when I noticed that the first 5 or so were noticeably bigger than the rest. I seem to have settled in at a tighter gauge, and because I noted that this newer smaller gauge lets me get exactly three squares out of each gray ball of yarn, I decided to rip out the first 5 and re-knit them. This means my blanket will be smaller unless I knit extra squares, but I couldn't see blocking out 58 squares to be bigger just to match the first 5. I've almost got the re-knitting wrapped up -- just 1 to go -- but it did set me back time-wise.

We;re heading to Germany next week to visit family, and I still haven't decided what to take in the way of knitting, whether these small squares, or the baby blanket that I'd like to get started on. Still have some time to decide, but I know I'll be taking something. I'll try and post something from the road while I'm gone.

Hope everyone is enjoying their summer!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Knitter of the World


Most knitters I know are pretty generous with their time and talents. They're willing to help with suggestions or opinions, to help others learn a new skill, and to just be there. I've made some wonderful friends through knitting, both near and far. And I love seeing all the creative ways that knitters get the craft out there. One of my favorite new knitting things is the Fruity Knitting Youtube podcast.

Fruity Knitting is Andrea and Andrew, a couple of ex-pat Australians living in Germany. Every few weeks, they post a video about knitting. It covers patterns, skills, projects they've made, their history with the craft, interviews, field trips, and more. One of my favorite segments is Extreme Knitting in which they and their daughter Madeline and their dog Jack head out into the world and knit on hikes and walks. Points for their extreme knitting at the end of Episode 1 in which they climb and knit on Snowdon in some rather nasty weather. Much of the podcast is done in a very conversational style. It's like sitting and knitting with friends.

Another segment they do is Knitters of the World (love the BBC-like graphic!) in which they shine the spotlight on knitters and some of the things they've made, with a focus on their knitting environment. Episodes have included knitters from Finland, Ireland and Germany. And now, Texas! Several weeks ago, Andrea contacted me and asked if I would send a submission. How could I say no? I agreed and then promptly fell off my bicycle. I had to postpone shooting for a few weeks while I healed, which they were quite gracious about. All I needed was a director / cinematographer / acting coach / lunch companion. Staci stepped right up. She knows a thing or two about knitting and video. Thanks so much, Staci!

We headed out into one of the muggiest days of the year to talk about knitting. It was quite fun, but because of the heat, much of the footage is indoors. Which actually represents knitting in summer for me. Kate even makes a cameo appearance! I sent all the clips to Andrea and Andrew, and they spliced it all together into a coherent whole along with some pictures of things I've made and some nice music. I'm amazed at how people can stitch what seems like a jumble into a coherent whole. Hmmm. Video editing is kind of like knitting, it seems. Thanks to Fruity Knitting for making me look so good!

I hope readers will take a look at this video podcast. It's great to just hang out and knit to. I learn so much from each episode. And, if you watch a few minutes past my segment, you'll note that Andrea mentions I'll be in Germany in a few weeks. It's true -- and not far from them. I do hope I can manage to meet them and thank them in person.

Here's the whole episode, Episode 7, below. (Or, if you prefer, you can jump to the part I'm in.)


Saturday, June 04, 2016

Shady Marmalade

It looks like I'm in a blankety mood these days. After the recent spate of baby blankets, I decided it was high time I made one for us, sans babyness. Ever since we got our orange couch last summer and had our walls painted gray, I've been knocking around the idea of knitting a cozy color-coordinated throw to drape across the back of a couch or chair -- and across our shoulders in the cooler months. Janelle, always looking out for me, sent me a batch of potential pattern candidates last year, all of which were very "me," and I chose one knit by yet another friend. This blanket is getting cozier by the minute!

I'm doing a variation of Staci's Log Cabin Scrap Blanket. I got the idea from Ravelry user bommeline's Blanket II (link requires Ravelry login). Rather than knitting a half-sized rectangle after the central square, I made another identically sized square, then two squares twice as long , then one three time longer. And, of course, unlike a traditional scrap log cabin motif, I used the same color. And they ain't scraps. They were bought for the express purpose of making this blanket. Because I'm using orange with two tones of gray, I've named this blanket Shady Marmalade.

Because I enjoyed using Knit Picks Swish DK so much on two of the baby blankets, I decided to stick with it for this project. I'm using 4mm(US6) needles and doing all the stitches in multiples of 10. Each section is 20 rows long. Each square is about 6.5" x 6.5" square. The little center sections are roughly 2" x 2". I'm planning on making this blanket 7 squares by 9 squares for a total of 63 in alternating shades of lighter (Dove Heather) and darker (Marble Heather) gray. The current plan is to use an applied i-cord to cover the edge. I just love the little pop of orange in the center squares. As I knit them, I alternate between seeing the smiling face of Ann B. Davis and the smirking face of Paul Lynde.

 

 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Dogwood Blanket

I was off work this week and had plenty of time to devote to the last baby blanket for this spring. And before I knew it, I was finished.

This pattern looks complicated, but isn't all that difficult. Mostly knitting and yarnovers, along with some purling and keeping track of which way various one-stitch and two-stitch decreases lean. Like many lace patterns knit in the round, every other round is a status quo round -- knit the knits and purl the purls. The trickiest part was having to switch out needles. I started on a crochet hook for the pinhole cast-on, switched to double-pointed needles, then about a third of the way through switched to 16" circulars and finally finished with a larger set of circulars for the last dozen rounds. I used the stretchy bind-off that I used for the first Vivid blanket I made. There's a description of this method in the pattern tutorial. I really do like it, and might use it for other projects.

After finishing four squares, they're seamed together with an exposed crochet chain. I wasn't too keen on this, because I had reservations about a ridgid, well, ridge, running crosswise through the middle of everything. I tried some other varieties of seaming, but came back to the crochet because it was the best looking after all. I did modify it a bit by pushing the hook through the outermost legs of the edge stitches on each piece, rather than through both legs. It made the chain just a little less bulky. It seems sturdy enough, and does lend a bit of structure and strength to the whole blanket, which could be useful in something that's otherwise rather delicate and flimsy.

This color was so difficult to photograph. My phone's white balance is off on the best of days, and blue-greens are nearly impossible to capture. To my eye, anyway. I'd say this third picture, taken outdoors, is closest to the true color albeit a bit washed out.

At one point I entertained the idea of adding a lace or picot edging to this, but after finishing I thought the stretchy bind-off's chain edging looked just fine. And anything I considered ended up looking like it would fight with the overall pattern rather than compliment it. So I'm leaving it plain.

This little baby arrives in July, so I finished with plenty of time to spare. I'm really not sure what I want to tackle next, but I think I may have gotten lace out of my system for a while!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Six Trumps Eight

A break between semesters and some stormy weather left me with plenty of time to swatch for my final baby blanket of the season. Is it still a swatch if you knit one fourth of the blanket to decide on the needle size? What about doing that twice?

The blanket I'm making is another Tin Can Knits design, by Emily Wessel, called Dogwood. I was drawn to the stylized dogwood blossom and the center-out construction. It looks rather complicated, but it's clearly charted and not difficult to follow at all. And I noticed that the stitch count per quarter is always 4 more than the round number, which makes checking in much easier. For instance, each side on round 23 has 27 stitches in it. I'm always looking for little patterns like that within the overall pattern. It's saved me several times already.

The original pattern suggests Dream in Color Classy, but my LYS had some Madeline Tosh DK in a color I liked, called Undergrowth) so I went with that. It's a silvery blue-green on the heavy side of DK, not quite the worsted called for in the original. I used 5mm (US8) needles as suggested, but thought the result might be too lacy -- if there is such a thing. I decided to finish it, block it, and assess.

I blocked it to 20"x20", which was a bit aggressive. It seemed a bit too formless and drapey, so there was nothing for it but to try another needle size. The second sample (on the left above) was made on 4mm (US6) needles as suggested on the ball band. I like it better. It looks darker in the photo above because it's still wet from its blocking bath, but it has more of a presence and structure, I think. This one is less aggressively blocked to 17"x17". I'll knit three more so that the final blanket will be 34"x34". I'm fine with this smaller size. I keep reminding myself babies are small.

I should have plenty of yarn now that I've downsized. If I get brave and creative, I might even consider adding a picot edging. Anyone have any suggestions for designs they like?