May 2008

It’s a sleepy Sunday afternoonish evening, and I’m feeling quite pleased with my lazy day – the first one in a long while.  Oh joy, I spent much time in rounding the bend of the home stretch of the getting-a-little-old-now ribbing to finish my tube vest.  Definitely within reach now – 3 inches left according to the pattern, but I’ll probably do at least another 2-3 extra inches to come within normal waist range on my tall-girl frame.  In any case – I want it to be done approximately now

I actually cast on my airy wrap last weekend, which I said wasn’t going to do yet, but extenuating circumstances called for Plan B: I found myself unable to proceed with my WIP as I had fantasized and was forced to re-assign my captive plane-knitting time to start the new project.  Oh, the tragedy.  Let’s just say I am occasionally 12 years old; in these times my little heart gets all smashed when my (apparently not-so-well-planned) plans get de-railed.  There were tears involved; also an AWOL US 5 circular needle, a poor inventory selection at Michael’s, and then, a rush to the airport.  I think I’d better change the topic in order to avoid post-traumatic stress.  Why yes, I am slightly insane.

Until my fingers can manage to finish the job on the aforementioned belatedly near-completion WIP, I’ll go ahead and update you on another FO from the past year or so.  Today’s happy subject is the Cabled Baby Blanket from Simply Baby, by Debbie Bliss.  The pattern calls for Debbie Bliss Cashmerino DK, and although an alluring idea at first (would be so soft and luxurious against my new niece’s skin! expensive? no, it’s an investment, an heirloom!), enough so that I was narrowing down the color palette, I eventually came to my senses.  I read a couple reviews on Yarndex that made me think about the durability (and likelihood to pill), and then I went overboard reading many, many other reviews about others’ baby yarn favorites:

  • Never use acrylic for baby items!  Don’t you know it’s flammable??
  • Never use wool for baby items!  So many babies are allergic!
  • Always use something machine-washable!  Anything that needs hand-washing won’t get used!

The first two I took under advisement, but it was the third one that made me say, “Amen, sister.”  Sure I’d be happy to have the blanket be considered an heirloom, but more than that I’d like it to be used.  Really used.  Like I’d love it if it became the tattered but beloved woobie over time.  My sister had already birthed another child (who missed out on a baby blanket from me altogether since I couldn’t generate anything from a set of knitting needles at the time she was born – uh, sorry, Maiz);  I’d been around enough to see the mountain of baby clothes, baby washclothes, and baby bedding that she was continually churning through the laundry.  Even with one baby on her hip, hand-washing anything was not going to happen, let alone with a baby and a toddler.

I stumbled across lots of proclaimed tried-and-true favorites in my research  – Baby Ull by Dale of Norway was one that got rave reviews from many, but the gauge was a bit too small for the Debbie Bliss blanket.  I settled on Cascade 220 Superwash, which given my recent tendecy to Cascade everything isn’t surprising, but at the time I hadn’t compared the Superwash version to the regular 220 wool.  I ordered it in a brighter pink than the blushing, softy-soft barely pink colors I’d frequently seen in yarn colorways created “especially for baby”.  I figured my niece was going to come out one sassy chica just like her mama, and no wimpy pink was going to cut it.  I was careful, however, not to stray into the hot-pink range, lest she later think I was stuck in the 80s when I picked out her blanket color to match my neon shoelaces from junior high.

I like the detail in the cabling of this blanket – so pretty, and although I think the stitch looks complex, it’s not.  It’s just right to keep the stitching interesting, and you memorize the pattern quickly enough that you just keep chipping away at it while you’re doing other things without the interruption of pattern checks.  The color is Cascade Superwash 836.  I made it several inches longer than recommended because it just didn’t seem long enough for me at 31 1/2″.  I ordered 5 skeins of the 220 (pattern called for 7 skeins of Cashmerino at 137 yards each) and still had plenty left over.

My tension matched the recommended gauge with the US 6 (in the cable pattern, US 5 for the end borders), but before blocking, the cable stitches seemed too tight to me; not enough space to appreciate the stitch definition, and too tight to be drapey and soft.  Not too worry – blocking to the rescue.  I gently washed and rinsed with softener (I’m such a sucker for Downy – in the original April Fresh scent from the good old days with Mom, not these new-fangled Lavender or Linen scents), towel-dried (I like the roll-it-up-in-a-towel-and-walk-on-it method, at least for a sturdier fiber like this), and proceeded to stretch the heck out of it.  I held the corners and edges taut with many impressive-looking (yet unread, at least by me) hardbound ]books and let that puppy slowly air dry for nearly 2 days.  I think it was good and done within a day, but I wanted the blocking to be perfect, so I just didn’t touch it.

I started this project in May, once my sister knew it was going to be another girl; I nabbed the pink yarn, got down to business, and wrapped it up at the end of July before she delivered my lovely niece – E-dot.  Now that E is nearly 9 months old and has a bit more say about which blanket she gets to roll around on (OK, just pretend with me that she does), I’m pretty sure she likes my blanket the best, in comparison to the others in her closet.  I’ve seen the way she drools on it, and I think that speaks for itself.  She knows a nice superwash wool when she sees it.

I spend a lot of time on planes due to travel for work, but rarely am I overcome by the hustle-bustle of airport-hopping to the extent that I dread the need to strap myself into that seat.  I like a nice long plane journey.  There’s something about being trapped in that steel cylinder that makes me happy, and I’m pretty sure it’s to do with the fact that I can knit the entire time without interruption if I so choose.  Where else do you get that kind of sure-thing knit time?

Normally I stealthily avoid chatters on planes.  I prefer the window seat (so I don’t have to get up for someone else to go to the bathroom), and I try to board early, toss my carry-on overhead, buckle up, and whip out the knitting.  Wielding the knitting is very effective.  No offense to the fellow passengers that may end up seated in my vicinity, but I do try to avoid eye contact so I can stay focused on my happy place, the busy needles frolicking in front of me. 

Flight attendants like to ask what I’m knitting, and although it rips me from my revelry to answer the question, I can’t help myself from offering up my growing labor of love for a little touchy-feely.  It’s surprising how often the flight attendant will mention that someone else is knitting back in row 35, a blanket or baby booties or whatever.  Makes me want to raise up my needles in solidarity – you go, sister – before digging back in.  I’m hoping desparately that they don’t start letting us all use phones and the internet on planes…my excuse to knit will be harder to justify if I actually have work to do during that sacred time.

All that to say – we’re going to Phoenix for the weekend, where friends and family will bring on the good times.  Before the airport spits us out into the sauna this evening, it’s so comforting to know that I’ll have quality time with my Periwinkle honey – it’s been a while after a crazy couple of knit-less weeks, and frankly I can’t freakin’ wait.

Since, in my inability to churn out new rows to show off this week I have nothing new to show you, I thought I’d show off a couple of things my sister impressed me with during my last visit (which required a plane ride, which yielded much fun with the aforementioned honey).  For her birthday this year I sent her Amy Karol’s Bend the Rules Sewing, since she is an avid reader of Amy’s craft blog, angrychicken.  In past months she’s raved about Lotta Jansdotter’s Simple Sewing (and with good reason! if you haven’t seen it, you should check it out), so I went for the variation on a theme.

Hello, inspirational!  From Bend the Rules Sewing, Sis made the cutest little things – I went all squealy when I saw them.  The first item is a little pouch-wallet.  Very simple, yet surprsingly I-want-one with her funky choice of fabric.  She finds deals on swatches of fabric here and there and is a very patient shopper of Jo-Ann’s remnants and clearances (unlike me; I have very little ability to resist yummy things when I see them, and it’s very hard for me to peruse fabrics and yarns without buying something that is ridiculously NOT on sale).  Her one splurge was the button, which I love.

The second pattern is a cute little purse – again simple yet endearing.  She found 50-cent pillowcases at a second-hand shop (again I give her kudos for digging up the deals) and used two swatches for this.  The pre-loved cotton made the end result soft and familiar-feeling. 

I like the way one strap is longer than the other so that you can pull the long loop through the short one for a simple closure.  It’s not very big – 5″ x 7″, maybe, although obviously easy to size up – but it seems the perfect little accessory for a stroll on a sunny spring morning when you don’t want to heave the whole enchilada of your leather purse out with you. Tuck a $10er and your lip gloss in your little bag and meander down to the farmers’ market on Saturday morning, dangling your creation from your fingers, stopping for a yummy latte to enjoy along the way.  I want one!  She’s making a few more for a charity craft sale that she and a few other ladies are putting together, which I think is quite a cool thing.

Lordy, look at the time.  Gotta pack so I can catch my knitting-enabling machine.

Yikes, where does the time go?  Have been missing my imaginary friends here with the pesky business of life rearing its head every time I try to blog on.

Have been making nice progress on ye olde WIP, the Perfect Periwinkle Turtleneck Tube Vest.  Even though it’s slow going with all of the interruptions, it’s still making me happy because I like the way trusty Cascade 220 is knitting up on size 7 needles, even just in stockinette.  The gauge I used for my Sexy Summer Tank was a bit bigger, and although I didn’t dislike it that way, I’m finding the stitch definition more pleasing to the eye with my Periwinkle sweetheart.  Nice and substantial-feeling, you know?

I’m just beginning the “jump-start” ribbing on the back of the sweater, which I took a few minutes to make sure I was clear on before I started. I did a little poking around on one of the Fitted Knits KALs and confirmed this was on-purpose extra ribbing and not part of the errata (the list of which is unfortunately lengthy…although I can’t say that it makes me like the patterns any less). Since the back ribbing isn’t pictured in the book, I had to check.  And right-o, boss – the ribbing starts a bit earlier for the outer edges of the back in order to fit it nicely. Since I tend to be a bit on the “sway-back” side (Mom’s term: “your bottom isn’t too big honey, it’s just the sway-back that runs in the family”) with a strong arch in my lower back, I think I’ll add in an extra set of ribs after the first inch, and add an extra couple inches in length overall because I have a long torso.  Oh la la, the special needs.

As I was “fluffing” my little WIP so I could take its picture (in my poorly lit hotel room in Orlando, where I was traveling on business), my sweater struck a surprisingly full-bosomed pose, in foolish anticipation of the boobs that would never quite fill that gradiose space.  In doing a quick over-the-head try-on, it actually fits very nicely (even in my not-so-endowed-ness), which was a relief.

Speaking of trying on works-in-progress, does anyone have any tips on how to pull knitting-in-the-round over your head to try something on without stitches falling off of the circular needle? I tried transferring a healthy chunk of stitches over to a stitch holder and leaving the rest on the needle while I tried on, but the stitches on the ends of the needle still managed to slip off because the needle is just the right circumference for the intended diameter.  This just doesn’t include room for my clusmy maneuvers.  I could transfer to a longer needle to try on, but this seems a lot of trouble.  I wouldn’t want to use a longer needle to to knit the rest of the ribbing because it would stretch the diameter of the stitches unduly since the work is joined. Please, oh, please, toss me a comment if you’ve had more luck than I have with the trying-on of a top-down project.

[EDIT after original post:  I’ve got the trying-on thing under control now, guys – a little patience goes a long way.  Most of you already probably had this figured out.  I wrote about it here if you’re curious about my try-on ways and means.]

Squeezer’s Two-Tone Ribbed Shrug is also looking much better.  She’s ready to move the stockinette down each sleeve to the ribbing, and not a minute too soon, because I think she’d not-so-secretly had enough of the KFB and PFB increasing on the back.  I had fun with it, though: upon my foray into these increase-rows when frogging and re-stitching a few misaligned rows for her, I enjoyed the twirly feeling of that stitch.

I’m thinking ahead to my Airy Wrap-Around Lace Sweater, patiently waiting in my queue.  My family has a lake cottage in the Midwest and we’re headed there for Memorial Day to open up for the season.  I’m guessing it won’t be summer enough yet for the wrap-around number (without another sweater on underneath it), but you never know.  I doubt I’d polish it off in time even if I started now, but it’s good motivation.  I’d like to make another trip to the lake later in the summer when the sweater will be a perfect oh-is-it-a-little-chilly-this-evening?-I-just-happen-to-have-a-pretty-wrap-around-to-wear-to-dinner top.  I’ve never done anything remotely lacy so we’ll see how we go.

That’s it for now, homies.  I have so many other witty things to say, but alas, I have squeezed all the time I can squeeze with you for today.  My next blog will include stolen inspiration – I visited my sister and she’s been up to fabulous things with her sewing machine and a few choice cuts from Jo-Ann’s.  She’s the bomb, and I can’t wait for you to get to know her.