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.