Holiday knitting

This year I haven’t had a solid gift knitting plan.  I’ve been largely off the grid for a long time, not keeping up too much with all the new patterns coming out and new faces coming on the scene.  So I don’t even have a current “quick gift knits” magazine on hand this year.  

But inevitably someone, at least one someone, will receive a knitted gift. 

As usual, I’ll probably be working up until the last minute, but my knitted items don’t have to go in the mail, so that works in my favor.  I’ll be spending Christmas day with my best friend and her family, including her eight-month old baby.  He got a baby blanket from me when he was born, and now he’s getting a grand striped (and slightly speckled) 100% acrylic (100% fun and machine washable) Baby Surprise Jacket.  

I’m hoping to work up some “stay-on socks” out of the leftovers, but they will definitely be fraternal twin socks, since the stripes are too large.  Although… should I be alternating leftover stripe colors to make fun thin stripes???  Perhaps!  I am working with Caron Cupcake yarn, so each cake came with a pompom.  Those might make cute toe decorations… I’m modifying the pattern a bit because the sizing is for a newborn, so I’m adding another 30% or so stitches to the cast-on.  We’ll see how it goes. 

In other gift knitting, on a stopover in Paris, I picked up some lovely lace wool and coordinating mohair silk for some semi-mindless chevron scarf knitting.  Although this WIP didn’t start out with a recipient in mind, I think I have identified someone. 

I knitted another scarf similar to this one a while back out of Stonehenge Fiber Mill’s Crazy, but it has so far not seen the light of day.  Despite blocking, maybe I’m not quite satisfied with the results.  I knitted up two skeins straight through, but maybe I’d like it more if I had done alternating stripes, one of my favorite ways to spice up a simple knit.

Another item that I suspect will not be finished by the holidays has been languishing in the UFO pile for a while, since, while it is decent TV knitting, it turns out I don’t love knitting multiple feet of stockinette in alpaca-silk laceweight on a size 6 needle.  The idea was to knit two long rectangles in different colors, in this case, silver grey and ecru, and attach them near the center in two places, at the shoulders, leaving a hole for your head to peek through.  The fabric naturally has some curl to it, so it could actually be a duo-tone scarf, and it can be twisted and tied in myriad styles.  The advantage of having two long horizontal rectangles is that it can also be worn in multiple styles as a garment, using knots at the corners, and in some cases even forming sleeves.  I took this idea from a Quebecois designer – my best friend and I chanced by her studio a few years back.  My friend served as the model while the designer showed us all the ways to wear the garment; but now, she doesn’t sell this model any longer.  Since we didn’t pick one up back then, the logical option seemed to be to make one. 
(She is smarter than I, though, using a knitting machine to aid her productivity.)

One last eventual-gift that probably won’t make it under the tree this year is a second rendition of my rainbow throw, since I only used around half the yarn for mine.  My aunt acquired the yarn years ago on a New England wool tour with my mother – and it’s quite likely that it’s the same one I went on with them, which means it was over 20 years ago!  I suspect each color segment of a strong wool and a coordinating mohair was intended as a scarf kit, to create something like this.  But when you have six colors to work with, it is much more exciting to think about something BIG!  I finished this throw a couple of years ago and have used it a lot this past year in the chilly weather.  So the plan is to recreate its twin and give it to my aunt.  She willed me a large amount of stash at one point, and in return I planned to knit her some items.  Her knitting has decreased due to rheumatoid arthritis, and it seems only a fair exchange anyway!  Once this project gets started, it will be a delightfully cozy lap-warming TV-knitting project. 

What holiday knitting are you working on this year?

State Fair entries

It is that season, the season of home-made competition.  I haven’t been organized enough in probably ten years to enter anything in any competition, or else I’ve been living overseas or gallivanting around the globe.  Once upon a time I entered a pair of socks into the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair and got a second-place ribbon.  But at least one of my fellow Stitch ‘n Bitchers that I recently left behind when I moved has far overtaken me and has won a number of blue ribbons in the last several years at SAFF and the State Fair.

This time I have plans for one state fair and two Sheep and Wool festivals.  The parameters are all different, so the entries won’t be the same.  Here are shots of four of my five entries that I dropped of yesterday for this weekend’s fair.

I’m really proud of my work, ribbon or otherwise!  [See project links below.]

For one of the fests taking place in two weeks, I have two items planned, and neither has made it to the 50% finished benchmark yet… Also, why did I decide to do a handspun item, when I don’t have all the yarn?  It requires four colors, and fortunately I located three in my stash, but the fourth is still a wild card.

And for my last fest of the season, I may have up to five pieces to enter, but again, two of them aren’t finished (and one FO isn’t blocked), for a total of three projects still on the needles across my planned entries.

It is exciting, though, to be motivated to race to the finish line.  After jumping into the deep end this year, I should be familiar with the guidelines and better able to anticipate for next year.   The most permissive competition is the state fair, and I would have entered more than five pieces if I hadn’t missed the pre-registration deadline.  Apparently five is the cut-off when you just show up the day of drop-off.

Have you ever entered any of your handiwork in a competition?

Project links from the photo above:

  1. Hot Pink striped stockinette cardigan
  2. Bouncy lap blanket
  3. Fly Away baby blanket
  4. Xenon lace shawl

Gradient shawl in progress

I’m ignoring the loose loopy-ness on my pink gradient shawl that I showed you a couple of days ago, assuming it will work out in the blocking, and forging on ahead with a lace design.  Here is what it looked like before I frogged some of it. The top stitch pattern didn’t look right, but I ended up with the same results again, so I have modified the stitch pattern to suit my needs.

This photo depicts one and a half lace stitch patterns here, inspired by Barbara Walker’s A Treasury of Knitting Patterns, but modified from their originals to suit my stitch-count purposes.  Whenever this design turns into a pattern, I will be charting them, because as you know, knitters fall into two camps, but we ought to all be in the charted lace camp!

Do you prefer charts or written directions?

Frogging blues

I got into a gradient groove and pulled out my “Xenon” colorway of Freia Ombre Lace, which I loved when I knitted the Dew Drops Shawl a couple of years ago.

The idea I had was to use the construction of my Lunar Eclipse shawl to make a laceweight version, and with this yardage, I would have a larger product and more options to develop a wider edging.  But this yarn does not want to be a garter stitch crescent shawl.

It turns out that the method I used for increasing, which doesn’t include adding any give at the ends of the rows, works in a heavier weight smaller shawl to create that crescent shape.  But when I tried to add a number of additional rows, given this yarn is three times the length (or more) of previous versions, the inner curve becomes too circular.

Maybe this is an interesting design element to explore, but it wasn’t working for me, so I frogged the shawl.  I think I have frogged it three times so far.

So I switched to a traditional triangular shawl construction that I plan to knit in stockinette with a lace edging.  When I worked the Dew Drops Shawl, I had no problems with the final result, having used the prescribed method* for adding yarn give on the edge so there isn’t unnecessary pull fighting with the shape when blocking.

This time around, though, the result seems to be extra loose and loopy.

This needle is a size up from the one I used before, but the result should still be proportional.  Over the weekend, I pulled my needle out of this false start, but then I reconsidered, picked up the stitches again, and for now I am plugging along.

What will this shawl’s fate be?  Uncertain so far.  I’d like to add my own lace edging and pop out another pattern.

*The secret is using a yarnover at the beginning of every row, then dropping it before working the remaining stitches.

What is your go-to shawl construction?

Dew Drops Shawl in Freia Handpaints Ombre Lace

Process knitter is the term people use for someone like me, I guess: I love to knit, but sometimes the finished product is not the motivation.  So, at any given time, I have 5, 10, or 20 projects on the needles, all in different stages of completion.  Over the past few months I have not been very disciplined in completing projects that were not intended for special events or holidays, but I’ve been on a tear recently to make some projects that had reached the bind-off stage actually wearable.  This past week has resulted in the blocking of four projects already, and there is a fifth underway.

Today I want to show you the project that made me fall in love with Freia Handpaints laceweight.  Originally I saw the Dew Drops Shawl worked up in the lichen colorway at Looped DC.  Sadly for me, Lichen was not available, so I chose South Beach instead.


Ravelry project link

I really love how this turned out.  The yarn feels magnificent, stretchy and cozy all at once, but also substantial: I’m not worried about wearing this shawl out and about because I know it can stand up to the wear.  It won’t have to be a special occasion item.  There was so much stretch that I could have taken the top border beyond the edges of my blocking board if I’d had the space.  As it is, the top edge is about 68″ across, and the point of the triangle is deep enough to cover my back, which will be fantastic for any trips to drafty or high-AC restaurants.

As I was knitting, my cat spent a lot of time with me.  I would gaze into his eyes to reassure him of my love – because after 11 years, he’s still a little insecure at times – and I realized that this colorway mirrors his face.  He has an orange-pink nose, blue-green eyes, and light- to medium-grey stripes.  People often comment on his beautiful markings, but he hasn’t let it go to his head because he’s the sweetest cat ever.