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?

Saturday, May 14, 2016

16 Shades With Grey

I've been working on a project all month, trying to get it finished in time for a baby shower this morning. And having to work on other projects around the baby's mom, one of my good knitting friends. I finished it just before midnight last night, and am about to wrap it up and head out. I'll schedule this post for later so as not to spoil the surprise. That is, if I haven't managed to already.

This is a variation on the Vivid Blanket I made a few projects back for a colleague who was expecting. I knew I'd have enough yarn in all those colors for a second blanket if I choose a different color for the garter stitch borders on each square. It fit so neatly into my schedule of gift knitting for this spring's births and retirements. Cue The Circle of Life! Or squares, as appropriate.

I'm not one to get wound up in the nonsense of genders and colors. The heart and the eye like what they like. Any neutral would go well with all these bright and pastel shades. I chose grey because that's my favorite neutral, and it makes the colors stand out just enough. And I think it's absolutely appropriate for a little girl. I have a few knitting and blogging friends who have touted the magic of greyness. I'm looking at you, Janelle and Snowden. I just think that grey is that perfect tone to set off the other colors. Not so somber and adult-like as black, but not as likely to show grubbiness as cream or white.

I knit a shawl between these two blankets which used a super-stretchy bind off that I really liked. So instead of using the bind off called for in the original Vivid pattern, I used the one from the shawl. Well, part of the reason was that I liked it. The fact that it was still in the active part of my brain and I couldn't be bothered to revisit the original pattern was another.

I'm torn as to whether this was a good idea. I definitely noticed a difference in the blocking. In the original, the squares shrank back in on themselves about an inch even after thoroughly soaking, blocking and drying. This new even stretchier bind off allowed the squares to keep their shape better. However, it took more yarn, to the extent that I was concerned whether I'd ordered enough of the grey. I ordered six balls, and in the end I used five and a half. Not exactly a squeaker, but I'd planned to have over a ball leftover.

This bind off also made sewing the squares and attatching th i-cord a bit problematic. It created a chain that almost looked like it was floating on a row of crochet posts. It left a little row of holes around the perimeter of each square. I tried versions of mattress and whip stitch to join them, but they ended up looking too "stitchy" -- like the joins of Frankenstein's monster's body parts. So I ended up using a tracing technique across seams, much like weaving in ends. I think it matched the overall effect well enough.

So excited for this little one's arrival. But not as much as her parents and big brother! Now to get this wrapped and get to the party!