The Zen of Garter Stitch

My Local Yarn Store (LYS) is Bluebird Yarn and Fiber Crafts. Sophie has run some different charity knits over the years – hats for Russian orphanages, blankets for Afghans for Afghans, nests for birds for Wildcare. This time, she is partnering with UCSF Children’s Hospital to make some blankets for babies and children.

I was in a bit of a knitting slump, so tackling this project was a kind of palette cleanser. The optional pattern was to cast on 80 stitches and then knit in garter through all the colors. While I like a basic garter stitch pattern, that was going to drive me crazy, so I pondering a bit, then remembered this project I knit a long time ago for Afghans for Afghans:

EZ Baby Blanket

complete with a lovely garter stitch border and cat inspector.

EZ Baby Blanket edging

It’s a garter square baby blanket by Elizabeth Zimmermann in Knitting Workshop. Aside: buy the book, like many of her books, there are pithy directions for good projects, you can choose your yarn and gauge and have fun! Plus there’s a lovely new color version that I might have to buy.

The major work in this project was upfront: figuring out what size to make each square ahead of the actual knitting. I am a notoriously lazy knitter, so I wanted to only knit each square once, which meant  I had to use math to calculate this. Fortunately, the photo of the basic garter blanket in the optional pattern gave me the information that I needed to do this.

In looking at the directions, I understood that 80 stitches were cast on, and in counting in the photo, there were 18 garter ridges in each color. Multiplying these two terms, it meant that there were 1440 knit/purl stitches in each color (a one-stitch garter ridge). Since my pattern is a perfect square, I took the square root of 1440, and came up with 37.95, which I – to 38 stitches for two reasons. First, I was pretty sure there was leftover yarn from the 18 garter stripes from the blanket in the photo. Second, the EZ pattern has you stop before the edges to give a slightly rounded corner, so less yarn is used.

And it worked! Yay for math. I put the complementary colors opposite each other diagonally, and used the red for the garter stitch border.

IMG_1711-0.JPG

The blanket came out about 25 inches square, and is a nice cushy fabric for a little one to cuddle under!

IMG_0419

Download PDF

iPod Cozy Redux

Almost exactly five six years ago, I posted and published a free iPod cozy pattern for the nano that I owned at the time. Together, they looked like this:
iPod Cozy 1a

The nano fit perfectly into the cozy, and for the time I had the nano, all was well, which lasted maybe a year and a half, when one winter night I had to leap out of my car suddenly, and then it fell out and I might have crunched it up. Yeah, a sad end.

So a new iPod Touch came into my life, and it was lovely although bigger than the old nano – I could tweet, and send email, and listen to podcasts and music too. It pretty much got me through my bout of chicken pox that I got before the last (and final) Sock Summit – being able to tweet, email and listen to audio books from my bed was great.

IMG_0409

But eventually it became obsolete – no Twitter, no email, no calendar, and I was running out of room for my playlists for music for my aqua classes. But the cozy lived on,although I had to replace the I-cord button loop with some Cascade 220.

Last summer I upgraded to a 5th generation iPod touch – basically an iPhone 5 without the phone (and without the expensive data plan). I love this one too, and because it’s now used a fair amount at the pool, it needs a shockcase, and even then, it’s still bigger than the old iPod Touch, so now we have a problem:

IMG_1705

The cozy is pretty much toast. Mind you, the cozy has lasted me longer than 2 generations of iPods, so I’m not complaining, but even felted wool has it’s limits on stretchiness and durability:

I’ll tinker with the old pattern, and some up with something that fits this new generation of iThings. Stay tuned!

Download PDF

Knit, rip, repeat.

Have you ever looked and worked a knitting pattern as though you are a little drunk? That’s how I felt tackling size is about right for a single skein of loveliness, and variegated yarns can work with it, given there is a lot’s of garter stitch, and some ribbing. Take this little bit of the shawl:

IMG_0390

I must have cast-on this part about 5 times. Yeah, I am good at skimming over directions that I think I understand, only to find out that you actually have read and knit what is actually written. This is not “hard” knitting, just very specific knitting.

Then, I realized I was knitting loosely on my needles, so I thought to weigh the yarn at the half-way point, and I was about 1 gram low on about 50 grams of yarn left to finish the shawl. So I knit it tighter. About 80 percent of the way done I laid the whole shawl out and I realized that while I would have enough yarn, the difference in the gauge meant that some parts looked different – the second half was tighter and brighter. The early stitches were loosey-goosey and not-so-fine.

At this point I took a really deep breath. This yarn, although lovely, is not in my colors, it will be a gift (to someone) so I won’t have to live with any imperfections. In addition, the yarn is an almost single of wool and silk, so the re-knitting can take a toll on the yarn. But I really didn’t think it was up to my standards, nor to the quality of the yarn.

So I pulled the entire thing out, yes, 80 percent of the way through the project, I went back to the beginning. Some of the early yarn that had been knit 5 times – I cut it off because it was too frazzled, but it was only a couple of yards.

The last time I began the shawl, it was really easy to knit because by now, duh, I knew how the pattern worked. And I knit the yarn tighter on the same needle, which was really just a bit looser than the original. And finished the pattern with some few yards to spare.

The result: the knitting was evener. But the color thing was totally a product of the hand painted nature of the yarn – about half of the yarn is simply more filled with the bright bits than the other half. Not so much that anyone will notice when it was worn.

Here’s the final product. (See, the right side is brighter than the left!) It is now in the “gift FO” section of my closet, awaiting a person for whom it will be a lovely gift!

IMG_0408

Download PDF

What I Knit on My Holiday Vacation

During my time off (and even before, since I had completed Christmas knitting before December 1st), I got to knit things that are not under any particular deadline, for whoever I wanted. And it turned out they were mostly for me.

I knit a Hitofude cardigan back in the fall for my cousin Rachel, and it fit her really well. I knit the medium for myself, and unusually for me, I actually used the yarn indicated by the designer, Tosh Merino  Light in the Baltic colorway. This is a loosely plied single, so I know going in that the yarn has the potential to pill some, but I really wanted a blue-blue sweater, and finding enough Tosh Merino Light in the right colorway seems to be like finding a unicorn!

Here are the blocking photos:

IMG_1683  IMG_0360

I put the sweater when it was almost dry into the dyers on the very gentle setting for a bit of pulling in, as it seemed a little big, only 5 minutes, and it turned out great! I still haven’t woven in the ends, because I’m enjoying wearing my other sweaters at the moment. It’ll happen, its only about 15 minutes of work.

Vanilla ribbed socks in worsted weight – Rachel’s Significant Other is starting a farm this year (wow, right?) and we talked at Thanksgiving about how great wool socks are. So, I dived into the stash and found this Opal 8-ply that is hardy, thick, and quick to knit. Even knitting for size 11 mens was not a chore in worsted gauge (about 6 stitches to the inch).

IMG_0388

Finally, one of my Christmas presents to myself was the book Sock Architecture by Lara Neel. It’s a great little book about knitting socks, getting them to fit, and a bunch of combinations for knitting toe-up and cuff-down socks. The pattern I really wanted to knit were the Uncommon Dragon Socks — it has a lovely “scaly” stitch pattern, and a new to me heel – the shaped common heel – which turns out to fit me quite nicely. I ploughed through these very quickly, and now they are in the “waiting to be worn” bag in my sock drawer, where finished socks go to wait their turn when older socks are not darnable anymore. I think if I knit more socks, I’ll be doing them for other people because I have three pairs in the bag already! Here’s an in-progress photo where you can see the stitch pattern pretty well,

IMG_0362And the finished pair!

IMG_0366

Now I’ve pulled out more stash yarn (can we see a theme here?) – a lovely skein of Zen Serenity Silk Single for Ysolda’s Marin Shawl. It has been quite the relearning experience in following a pattern’s directions. I have been ripping out a lot because I’m used to simply scanning directions and knitting, but this is not one of those patterns at least for me. Here’s a photo from yesterday:

IMG_0390

And finally, in the “time to pull out a new knit category”, I stopped by Bluebird Yarn & Fiber to pick up a shawl I had knit over the summer, and had loaned to them while it was warm, and they were able to sell yarn because of it. Now that it is more grey and cooler, I’m thrilled to be wearing my Leftie (by Martina Behn)! IMG_0396

 

 

Download PDF

What Renee Knit in 2014

IMG_0348

I’ve started to total what items I completed the year before, just to see what’s what, but in looking I haven’t done this for the past two years. Oh well. Here is my list for 2014 (via Ravelry projects, which is pretty close to what I knit):

Sweaters 5
Dishcloths 9
Socks 32 (lots of baby socks for Afghans for Afghans)
Cowl 1
Shawls 3
Hats 19 (lots of baby hats for Afghans for Afghans)
Mittens 11
Baby bird nests 12
Potholders 2

Non-knitting: Felted dryer balls 18!

I am pretty sure that I have never knit baby birds nests before, and that was a lovely project of Wildcare, my local non-profit that will be moving to walking distance from where I live in a couple of years. The copious quantities of hats and socks was due a baby campaign of Afghans for Afghans (sadly over, but it was fun). Both of these charity knitting adventures helped me to destash a bunch of wool scraps that might have been simply thrown out (except now I know to keep them for the felted dryer balls.

The dishcloths – well, I got on a kick for Christmas gifts for a friend, and then it turned out mine were a wreck, and then my cousin wanted some, so there we have it. They were so fun to knit – one done in an evening.image

And then the unknit project – the felted dryer balls – were a total hit at Christmas.

image

All my relatives thought I was a very hip crafter to make them. Even though I didn’t knit to make them, I did use up some handknit socks that were beyond their useful life to make the cores (cut into pieces), so even that was a very thrifty knit. Wanna make some? Go here.

As I look at my knitting, I realize that most of it is for other people, and that’s ok – I could never use for myself all the projects that I like to make, and as it is I have a ton of shawls that don’t get worn enough because I have so many. It feels good that my knits are being appreciated!

Next post: what I knit on my holiday vacation!

 

Download PDF