Death By Cute

Last week, while I was at work, I got a text message from my Mom. “At the hospital with Lara. Might be labour. Hope not.” I panicked briefly when I read this, for two good reasons. My sister Lara, as you may have guessed, is indeed pregnant, and her due date isn’t until November. My initial panic, therefore, was out of concern for her health and the health of her baby. But when I called and spoke to my Mom, who by then had heard from the doctor that things were going to be okay and that Lara was not in labour, I had another reason to freak out. This baby, I realized, could come at any time now, and I hadn’t yet done any knitting for him. 

Fortunately, and especially because I’m on vacation this week, it has taken me almost no time to remedy this. I knit this cute set in about 3 hours, starting last night. The mittens were finished first, started at about 11:30 PM and completed sometime after midnight. When I woke up this morning, I immediately cast on the hat and knit quietly by myself while Keith slept. The hat is one I’ve knit before, but instead of using my preferred magic loop, I knit this hat entirely with double pointed needles. As a result, I’ve avoided creating an unwanted seam down the middle front of the hat. I’m really, really pleased with how these have turned out in such a short span of time. Now all that’s left for me to do for this baby boy is to whip up an adorable little sweater…

Specs:

Pattern: Baby Mitts by Susan B. Anderson and Garter Ear Flap Hat by Purl Soho

Yarn: Knit Picks Capra in Wine

Modifications – Mitts: Used smaller needles, cast on 24 stitches and adjusted gauge accordingly, knit k1p1 ribbing for the cuffs

Modifications – hat: None

 

 

Lil’ Sprout

It’s hard to believe that my niece, Khloe, will soon be a year old. It doesn’t seem that long ago when her moms were anxiously awaiting her arrival, though it did seem like the pregnancy took forever to get though (speaking as someone who’s never been pregnant, natch). However long the pregnancy was in actuality, when Khloe arrived, time seemed to speed up. Every day she changed in one way or another. I remember seeing lots of pictures of a bewildered and unsmiling little thing in the early weeks. She was only able to wear the little socks I made for a few short days, and then, suddenly, they were too small. As she got bigger, she became more alert, and soon she started to smile. When my sister figured out best ways to coax a smile out of her daughter, she inundated us with videos of the process. I used this intel to my own advantage when I met her for the first time this past Christmas, when she was about 5 months old and beginning to show her personality a bit more. Soon, she was laughing, dancing to music, crawling so fast and, now, standing up with the assistance of people and furniture. It won’t be long before she’s walking, and then, look out!

I love my niece, and I especially love making things for her. But here’s a little detail that I’m ashamed to share: I have a terrible track record of making things for Khloe that are way, way too small for her. This happens for two reasons: 1) We live half a country apart, so I don’t actually get to observe her physical growth on a regular basis; and 2) I have basically zero experience with babies and no idea of their dimensions. For Christmas, for example, I made her an Abate pullover with a neck hole that was too small (why are babies heads so huge? WHY?) and sleeves that were too long. As with the socks, she was really only able to wear her sweater for that one day, but not without making her cry as I attempted to stretch that too-small neck over her large baby head.

So, for her first birthday, I resolved to do it right and make her something she would be able to wear for longer than a day or two.

 

 

This here is my Sproutlette Dress, and I believe it to be an excellent choice for the gun shy baby knitter I’ve become of late. The pattern comes in 3 sizes and can be easily customized using simple math to make modifications to the pattern or by switching to a heavier yarn and larger needles. In this case, I opted to make the largest size, 12-24 months, and to use the suggested fingering weight yarn so that she can wear it on or around her July birthday without it being too hot for her. The short sleeves of the dress mean that I don’t need to worry that they’ll be too long for her little arms, either.

 

 

My favorite fit detail is the large keyhole and button closure in the back, which effectively solves the problem of accommodating her large baby head. With any luck, this closure (and, by the way, isn’t that button cute?) will mean that she can continue to wear the dress well beyond her first birthday. The keyhole will, I hope, keep her comfortable in the warm weather.

 

 

I’m also extremely pleased with how the leaf pattern and scalloped edging turned out. Many other versions of the dress have blocked the edging aggressively to better show off the lacy scalloping, but I actually prefer the ruffled look, so I left it alone.

Now, I don’t want to get too cocky, but I fee pretty confident that I’ve done good here. Not only does this dress fix a lot of the fit issues I’ve had with Khloe’s knits in the past, it seems possible that she might be able to wear this right up to her second birthday. Most of all, I hope she loves it, and one day, when she’s older still, I hope that she’ll look back at this dress and know just how much I love her.

Specs:

Pattern: Sproutlette Dress by Tanis Lavallee

Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll Sock Yarn in Peapod

Modifications: Wet blocked flat without pinning the edging

Long Overdue

Readers, I owe you an apology. In my last few posts I’ve complained about being in a creative slump, but I suppose I should finally admit that I wasn’t being entirely truthful. I can think of a few reasons I felt that I was in a slump: winter was particularly long and hard this year; I feel like I’m making the best creative progress when I’m working on large projects, like sweaters; I need new clothes and I’m too cheap to buy them, so I’m feeling panicky about having failed so spectacularly at sweater making recently. But it hasn’t been nearly as dire as I made it seem. I realized yesterday that I’ve knit seven pairs of socks since the beginning of the year (Wanna see? Check out my ravelry page. Also, it’s perhaps a good sign that I feel comfortable enough sharing my ravelry page?). I also started and finished the adorable cardigan pictured above, which was no small feat.

I made this for my pal LeeAnne…. well, more accurately, for LeeAnne’s new baby boy. LeeAnne and I work together and, despite never having met in person (we work in different offices), she’s definitely one of my favorite people in the company. When I learned that she was pregnant, I saw the perfect opportunity to make the Pomander Baby Cardigan, a pattern I’d been hoarding for months.

Let me just get one thing out there: I am extremely pleased with how this turned out. The cable and seed stitch yoke is beautiful and interesting, and I learned a number of new techniques in the making of this: how to read a flat chart with a pattern on the wrong side, how to make a round yoke cardigan, how to do an icord cast off. These are all useful skills and I am a better knitter for knowing them. But readers, make no mistake, this little cardigan took me ages to finish, and the process wasn’t always very fun. This sweater is knit from the bottom up, which isn’t so unusual, but instead of knitting the sleeves separately and attaching them at the yoke, the pattern has you provisionally casting on sleeve stitches that are later picked up and knitted like you might do with a basic top-down raglan sweater. If you happen to be asking yourself right now, “if it’s like a top-down raglan, then what the hell is she complaining about?”, I humbly submit that unpicking a provisional cast on is a special kind of knitting hell for me. By the time I finished unpicking the provisional cast on and making the sleeves, I definitely wasn’t in a hurry to attach the buttons. And so it languished on my dining room table far longer than it should have.

In any case, that’s all in the past. As you can see, the buttons have been secured and the result is a mighty fine looking baby sweater. I’ve even managed to get it in the mail and off to its intended recipient, which Canada Post tells me has been delivered, so I no longer risk spoiling the surprise with my blog post.

Specs:

Pattern: Pomander Baby Cardigan by Sarah Pope

Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in Pearlescent (yes, I’ve been using an awful lot of Knit Picks lately… I’m being a good girl and knitting my way through stashed yarn)

Modifications: none

Fellow knitters: what knitting experiences have both helped you grow and tried your patience at the same time?

On Socks and Slumps

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When I first started knitting, I was very skeptical about socks. More specifically, I was confused by their popularity in the knitting community.  Socks are just about the least exciting garment a person could make, I thought at the time. They’re also among the most expensive compared to other garments: 1 skein of good sock yarn runs about $25 and only makes one pair, but you can make a whole sweater with two skeins of sock yarn and slightly larger needles, and a $50 sweater seems like a way better investment than $25 socks. Money considerations aside, I’ve also been a person who has hated wearing socks for the majority of my life. My socks were always replete with holes after just a few wears, and they’ve always felt rather suffocating next to my skin. 

While nothing can really change the price of hand knit socks, I’ve come to the conclusion that wool socks are different than those other crappy socks that have caused so much discomfort in the past. Wool socks are luxurious. They are uncannily warm or cool whenever you need them to be, and I find them so comfortable now that I’m able to wear them through the night and wake up to find them still on my feet the next morning. I have come to love socks for these reasons, and because of the way they boost my ego. Few things have made me feel more clever than learning how to turn a heel to make perfect fitting socks, and knitting two socks to be as close to exactly alike as possible is something that I get better and better at doing with each pair that I make. So, I hope you’ll forgive me my lack of modesty when I brag about the socks pictured above. These are Light Rye, modified from a pattern by Tin Can Knits and made with Knit Picks Stroll Handpainted in the Constellation colourway. Because the original pattern is written for worsted weight yarn and I wanted to used fingering weight, I cast on more stitches (72, to be exact) to fit a large man’s foot. I think my garter stitch pannel in the front is wider than what the original pattern calls for, but I don’t really mind. In total, these socks took 5 days to make. If I didn’t have a job to go to, they might have been done in 3.

Obviously, I am not a large man, and these socks are not for me. My sock knitting appetite has been whetted, though, so I definitely am making some socks for myself.

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Allow me to introduce my first pair of Cookie A‘s wildly popular Monkey socks, knit in self-striping Drops Fabel. These are my first patterned socks since I made that fancy pair for Margaret, and I completely understand why knitters love this pattern so much (there are 17919 pairs and counting on Ravelry!). The repeats are short and very easy to memorize, making these the perfect travel knitting project: easy, but not too brainless. It’s my first time using Drops Fabel and, so far, I really like this yarn. I can see that marled self-striping yarn might not have been the best choice for a moderately busy pattern, but I love the colours, and the yarn seems sturdy enough that it would survive the washing machine (P.S. any knitters out there able to comment on this yarn’s machine washability?).

My absolute favorite thing about socks right now is that they’re giving me the confidence to try another sweater soon. I mean, if I can do a fancy pattern and turn a heel like a boss, surely I can find my way back to making lovely sweaters that fit the way I want them to, right? So, I’m thinking that Xanti looks like a challenge I’m nearly ready to undertake. There’s plenty of stockinette to balance out the cable and lace details, and I already have some great yarn in a hard-to-photograph bottle green colour that I’ve been saving for the right pattern. It feels great to be getting excited about sweaters again!

Though this might be the end of my sweater slump, I’m still not done with socks! I’ve picked out the next yarn I’ll be trying out, but I haven’t settled on a pattern yet. Any of you seasoned sock knitters have any pattern recommendations that will make the best use of my beautiful yarn?

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Best Laid Plans

Lila

Readers, I am in the middle of a frustrating creative slump. It seems that, lately, I can’t do anything right despite my best intentions. That sweater you see, for example. Isn’t it gorgeous? The pattern, Lila, by Carrie Bostick Hoge, is exactly the sort of simple modernity I’ve been craving in my wardrobe for a long time. The yarn, Malabrigo Rios in the Pearlten colourway, was a dream to work with. I’d heard that it can grow a lot when you get it wet, so I diligently swatched with a few different needle sizes to make sure that I got a perfect fit. Looking at this picture makes me feel both proud and deeply saddened. Why? Because the sweater is too small!!!!

I know exactly where I went wrong with this one: I did the wrong kind of swatch. You see, when you knit a flat swatch for a garment  that is made in the round, you’re bound to run into trouble. In this case, my flat swatch told me that the smaller needles were the ones to use, which turned out to be the wrong decision. The worst of it is that I pressed on with the work even as I worried that it would be too small, ignoring my better instincts. Now, I’m the unhappy owner of a beautifully made sweater that just doesn’t fit. The one smart thing I managed to do was not sew up the arm pits and weave in the ends, so at least the unravelling will go smoothly.

Unfortunately, readers, that’s not the end of it. Assuming that the best way to shake off my failure was to jump back in the saddle again, I decided to cast on a lightweight cardigan. After all, it won’t be winter forever, and it would be great if I could turn some of the raw materials I already have in my possession into a new spring/summer wardrobe rather than buying things that don’t quite fit. After hemming and hawing for a few days, I settled on Jane Richmond’s Grace, a simple top down cardigan with some easy looking lace at the yoke. What could be more foolproof?

Grace Fail

 

Well, as it happens, lots of other top down sweaters. Because, unfortunately for me, the simple lace in this cute little number actually requires some attention to detail rather than the autopilot I set myself on. I’ll concede that maybe I’m just too picky, but those mistakes in my lace, starting about a quarter into the yoke, are too much for me to ignore. So, I’ll have to start over. I really would like to finish this cardigan eventually, but we need a bit of a break from each other until I can get some of my confidence back.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to focus on socks:

These are what I’m calling my Antidepressant Socks. I bought the yarn, Phildar Folk 100, at the height of winter when I was feeling as though a burst of colour would be just the thing to break me out of the winter sads. The colourway (Perroquet), however striking in the skein, turned out to knit up into some pretty ugly fabric, so I let these languish for longer than I should have. They’re done now, though, and they actually photograph much better than they look in person. And, like all hand knit socks , they’re pretty darn cozy, so I suppose I don’t have much to complain about.

And, what am I working on now? Well, this amazing shawl for one. I’m nearly at the end, about a quarter of the way through the cabled border, but I’m taking my time with it in an effort to not screw it up. I’m also making a pair of fingering weight Rye socks for Keith’s Dad, just because. The yarn is Knit Picks Stroll Tonal Sock in Constellation:

Rye

Sometimes it’s nice to make things for others for no particular reason. And, who knows, maybe the good karma will break me out of my sweater slump!

Fellow knitters: how do you deal with your knitting when it seems like you just can’t do anything right?

Labour of Love

ImageThough I have no children of my own, I love to knit baby clothes. Not only are knitted baby items, and their wearers, always painfully cute, they also satisfy my ego’s need to be able to complete something quickly and easily, especially as I slog away on larger or more complicated projects. It never occurred to me when I first started knitting that I would enjoy making tiny sweaters and socks for small children. For one thing,  I have no desire to have kids of my own. I certainly don’t dislike children, but I’ve known for a long time that being a mother is not something I want for myself. And besides, my reasons for taking up knitting have been mostly selfish. I want to make myself clothing that I like and that fit me well. Now that I have a new niece and another nephew on the way, though, I’m finding myself really enjoying the idea of clothing my new family members in soft, beautiful hand knits that will keep them warm no matter how cold it gets in whatever frosty part of Canada they find themselves in.

ImageThis pullover, my own original design, will shortly make its way to my brother and his wife for their first child together, a little boy whose name starts with an “E” (to be revealed with his birth in the fall). The design is a complete accident born out of necessity. I started out intending to make this cardigan with two balls of Knit Picks Swish DK in the Dove Heather colourway I had in my stash, a beautiful, light heathered grey colour that has become a favorite of mine. I cast on for this sweater before I knew the sex of the baby, figuring that I’d brighten it up with some colourful buttons once I knew whether the baby would be a boy or a girl. I quickly realized that I didn’t have nearly enough yarn to finish the sweater I had original cast on for, but some stash diving revealed two more balls of Swish DK in a beautiful deep red colour (Garnet Heather, in case you’re wondering). With two balls of yarn in the wrong colour, and not wanting to be a suck, I changed my plans and set out to improvise a pullover, and above is the result.

I have to say that I’m really pleased with how this little sweater turned out! Because I am still very much an imperfect knitter, there are a few small mistakes and things I might find a way to do differently in the future. Unfortunately, I didn’t take great notes when I was working on this, so I won’t be able to share a pattern (assuming there is any interest in seeing a pattern, that is) anytime soon. But I can point out the new things I got to try out in making this sweater, like the applied i-cord edging around the collar and my very first foray into stranded colour work. In any case, this sweater is soft and warm and, very importantly, machine washable (you’re welcome, Duncan & Jessica!). 

Oh, and, uh, did I mention that I’m participating in the Summer Sweater Knit Along? Well, I am. 

ImageFeast your eyes on my version of Veera Välimäki’s Still Light Tunic, which is about 50% away from completion. It’s taking a while because of the fine gauge of the yarn I’m using, but I’m confident that it’ll be ready to wear when it starts to get cold. Is it crazy to be knitting a sweater in the summer? Maybe. But I know for certain that I won’t regret having knit this in the summer heat once I’m wearing it in the cool of the fall. And, besides, it’s nice to have a head start on this year’s sweater knitting. I’ve got big knitting plans for when the weather gets cold, people!

What are your fall/winter knitting plans this year?