Hah! You thought I was gone for good, didn’t you?

Here I am, back again after a really long break.  There has been knitting.  There has been moving to a small town in the Cascade Mountains.  Now, there is extremely cold weather with snow.  My little weather gadget places current conditions at 11 degrees F (that’s -12 Celsius).  This has me thinking about covering all available people in warm wooly things.  Over the summer I made a gift for a very small person who I hope is now warm and cozy.  Here it is:

Baby Surprise Jacket

A Baby Surprise Jacket knitted in oddballs of worsted weight wool on 4mm needles (US 6).   It came out charming and about 6 months to 1 year size, which is what I was going for. Of course the pattern is from Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitting Workshop.  I knitted a collar and longer sleeves, and its been a long time so I don’t remember exactly how I did it, but you can find the relevant information for the collar at the KnitWiki’s BSJ page. I think for the sleeves I started out with a provisional cast-on at the start of the pattern (which is knitted all in one piece), then at the end knitted down until the sleeve length matched the length of the sleeves on one of Little Fox’s baby sweaters. You can find information about obtaining the pattern and how it goes together on the KnitWiki page I linked to above.

The recipients are fiber people (Baby R’s mama knits and spins), and are gung-ho for wool, so I knew this would be well received.  They live on a farm in an old farmhouse in Multnomah County which is frequently damp and chilly, so I thought the little one should have something warm and cozy.  This fit the bill nicely and was great fun to knit.  I am looking forward to another opportunity to knit a BSJ as soon as someone has a baby and I have some notice. Every time you knit one there’s a chance to play around with it and do something new and different.  Next time I think I’ll play with stripes some more.  On this one the stripes came out a bit more subtle than I had envisioned.

Bear has asked me to knit something for a couple of his colleagues with new babies, but there’s no time for two BSJs in the next month, so I’m planning to do a couple of cute baby hats.  Ravelry keeps me up to my eyeballs in interesting patterns.  I’ll post some more finished projects from the break soon.

Crochet, anyone?

Crochet Motif

I learned to crochet as a child, and spent my teens making lots and lots of doilies. I loved making lace, and my mother, grandmothers, and various favorite teachers were happy to receive it. Now crochet seems to be undergoing something of a renaissance and I have enjoyed seeing all the lovely new designs coming out. Following along the lines of an idea from Doris Chan’s “Amazing Crochet Lace” I am playing with thread crochet motifs and edgings using bigger yarn. The process is quite intriguing. Knitting, even fairly complex lace knitting, usually proceeds in orderly rows or rounds, but crochet, particularly crocheted lace leaps and pirouettes in loops and spirals. This motif is from Dover’s “150 Favorite Crochet Designs”, which contains a lot of interesting edgings and motifs which have been beckoning to me to translate them into something besides tablecloths or placemats in cotton thread.

I don’t have time just now to dig really deep into crochet design, but it’s fun to play. Here are some links to patterns from various places around the internet:

A pretty scarf based on an old edging pattern. This picture from Katy really sold me on it.

A lovely lace stole pattern, complete with charts, from Elizabeth.

Lixie’s pattern for a crocheted yarn cake holder which looks extremely useful.

A tiny crocheted elephant also available here for any non-Ravelry types.

This tree frog from Brigitte (who designed the Pocket Elephant) is also really cute.

A pretty lacy sweater pattern.

A serendipitous page of links to free sweater patterns by Doris Chan.  Also check out her new blog, I’m really enjoying reading it.

Progress on wavy rib socks and some free sock pattern links

Progress on Wavy Rib Socks

It’s been an age since I posted about my wavy rib socks. They had a little adventure on their own when I left them behind the couch at Bear’s parents’ place on a visit a couple of months ago. Recently my MIL found them and sweetly mailed them back to me. A weekend trip allowed me some rare uninterrupted knitting time and I’m back in the groove of working on them.

For those who’d enjoy some free pattern links, here are some I’ve found recently:

Magic Mirror Socks by Jeannie Cartmel
This is a really intriguing toe-up sock pattern with a great stitch pattern.

Slippin’ Stripin’ Socks by Tina Lorin
Here’s a pattern that features really appealing color-blended stripes using slip-stitch patterns and two colors of laceweight.  Available for download on Ravelry.

Fluke by Laurie Lee
This is a really lovely sock pattern using an unusual lace motif I haven’t seen before.

Franklin of The Panopticon had something really good to say in this post.  I encourage you to read his latest essay if you haven’t already.

Great knitting books that don’t cost a fortune

Some favorite knitting books

There are some great out-of-print knitting books out there, especially in the area of colorwork. Many of them are still available from your local library, or you can pay shocking prices on Amazon or Ebay. But I wanted to highlight some great books that are still in print and don’t cost a fortune.

Sheila McGregor’s Traditional Fair Isle Knitting and Traditional Scandinavian Knitting are both excellent books. They are full of colorwork charts and information about how the traditional sweaters (as well as hats, mittens, and gloves) were constructed. They do not feature lots of glamorous photographs, and they do not contain any line-by-line patterns.  They are not coffee table books showing professionally modeled high-fashion knitwear in spectacular settings.   Rather, they are fairly highly technical and mostly in black and white, the photographs appear rather dated, and the writing is rather dry.  What I love about them is that they give me tools I can use to create my own works of knitting art.  They include enough charts to keep me busy for a lifetime, alongside a wealth of information about traditional construction techniques.  They leave me free to sort out details of yarn choice and color, to design something that uniquely expresses my own aesthetic, while making use of time-tested techniques and taking inspiration from the wealth of creativity and experience in the Fair Isle and Scandinavian knitting traditions.  If you are looking to explore knitting stranded colorwork, these are both books I would recommend.

Cheetah Couture

Cheetah Couture

A cheetah sweater. Isn’t it cute? What? You don’t knit sweaters for your children’s toys? Whyever not? Makes the kid happy, and if you’re inventive, replaces a gauge swatch for something else. Quick, easy, and if the fit is not terribly precise, who’s to care? Also, the cheetah will never outgrow this sweater, will not decide that it’s too itchy to wear, and will not develop a sudden aversion to the color. I think I might do some more of these as gauge swatches or to test out pattern stitches in a super small project. I’m pleased that, unlike socks or mittens, I only have to knit one.

A little progress, and some great tutorials to explore

Japanese Feather Scarf progress

As you can see in the above picture, there has been some knitting. The scarf is now about halfway done, despite a significant mishap involving Little Fox and both cats that required ripping out several rows, picking up dropped stitches, and splicing the yarn in three places. It’s lucky for me that the Malabrigo Laceweight is super easy to splice since it’s a softly spun single. It’s also really lovely. This is my favorite laceweight I have worked with thus far. It is soft, fuzzy, subtly variegated, and I am completely charmed with it. Little Fox and Willow have colds, so there has been sniffly, achy, miserableness that has needed extra mothering. Since reading is one of the few activities readily compatible with comforting a sick toddler, there has been a plunge into knitting books, a whole bunch of knitting books. I’m thinking a series of book reviews would be appropriate blog fodder for sometime soon. At this point, suffice it to say that I love my public library system. I’m still fantasizing about colorwork, and also about spinning. I’ve been playing around with charting using Excel, thanks to Marnie’s fabulous tutorial. Marnie’s tutorial series is really amazing, and if you are doing some designing, whether for some form of publication or just for yourself, I bet you’d learn something new from these. For me, there’s probably enough material there to keep me playing around for a year or two.

Knitting Daydreams

There has not been much knitting.  Little Fox loves is intrigued by my knitting and loves to come and pull on it, and so unless he is asleep or otherwise occupied, I can’t make progress.  I have to hide it somewhere out of reach or he pulls it out of the bag and plays with it, sometimes collaborating with the cats, resulting in tangles,  dropped stitches, and yarn strewn across the whole apartment.  The Japanese Feather Lace scarf is about twice as long as it was the last time I posted, but it is my only active project and looks about the same as it did in the last picture.  To console myself and you, I will post some links to things I have been fantasizing about while occupied with the little guy.

First, Kauni sweaters have been going around the knitting blogs, but I was never much taken with the original blocky pattern.  I’ve been seeing some really gorgeous ones on Ravelry over the last few weeks in other patterns.  For example this one from Freddy and this one from laknitgirl.  This brings me to Jessica Tromp, whose website has lots of great stuff including a ton of knitting charts.  Be sure to browse around the site, as many of these would be suitable for this sort of project.  The Kauni cardigan from laknitgirl makes use of one of Jessica’s charts, as does this one from Knitternutter.  I like some of the alternate colorways people are using, especially Babbz’ which combines pinks and purples to lovely effect. (I’m using links to people’s flickr pages instead of Ravelry links so everyone can access them easily, but please let me know if Ravelry links would be preferable.)

In the colorwork fantasy vein, I’ve been flipping through my copy of Traditional Fair Isle Knitting, which is a great source for charts and information about how the traditional Fair Isle sweaters are designed and constructed.  (It is also in print and quite reasonably priced.)  I was intrigued to notice that most of the traditional sweaters seem to use only between 5 and 8 colors, with the simplest designs using only 4 colors.  Most of them use between 1 and 3 light colors for the ground and between 3 and 5 darker colors for the patterning.  This really has me thinking, because it opens up a lot of possibilities.  Not every yarn will allow for 18 or 20 (or more) coordinated color selections, but most provide enough color options to allow for a colorway of 5 or 6 colors.  Also, this would considerably simplify the process over knitting up a Starmore or Fassett design.

Sadly, at the moment, colorwork like this is just not doable for me.  Even the simple Japanese lace scarf is probably more complicated than would be ideal.  I shudder to think of the sort of tangles I would wind up with if Little Fox got into a colorwork project of any size or complexity.  Ah well, he won’t be at this age for very long, so I’m just going to try to enjoy it and stick to simpler knitting.  Maybe I can satisfy my urge for color knitting with something like a hat or fingerless mitts in just two colors.

A new lace scarf and some pattern links

Lace scarf in progress

I’ve been working on a new scarf in some Malabrigo laceweight.  The yarn is lovely stuff.  The pattern is Japanese Feather Lace from Barbara Walker’s first treasury, and it’s much simpler than you would think for a 28-row repeat.  There are really only 5 pattern rows.  The wrong-side rows are not plain purl, but they are nearly that simple, a k1 p10 rib across the back.  I made my own chart using Jacquie’s KnitChart applet and my computer’s screen capture program.  The lace pattern has an alternating bias which makes pretty wavy edges without requiring extra work.  It’s always gratifying to find a pattern that looks more complicated than it really is.

I haven’t been doing much blogging these past few weeks, because there hasn’t been much opportunity for knitting.  Little Fox is going through one of those toddler phases where he’s not leaving me much in the way of time to sit and knit.  I’m hoping to go through soon and fix some of the links to patterns from the now-defunct MagKnits archives.  In the meantime, here’s a collection of links to patterns from my Ravelry favorites.

Free Patterns:

A Better Bucket (pdf download)

Feather Stole (crochet)

Inca Alpaca Fair Isle Mitts

Frothy Gothy Wristwarmers

Retro Wedge Felted Bag

Lace Ribbon Scarf

Tipsy Rib Scarf

Ballband Dishcloth Reusable Swiffer Cover

For Sale:

Solstice Bag

Granny Smith Cardigan

Lucy in the Sky Cardigan

Flutter Scarf

Scheherazade Lace Stole

Rivendell Sock

New Sock

Wavy Rib Sock

Here’s what I’ve been doing with my knitting time. This sock has surprised me, it’s just something I doodled together by putting a 2×2 wavy rib pattern into one of the sock formulas from Charlene Schurch’s Sensational Knitted Socks. The yarn is STR Lightweight in the Backstabber colorway. Somehow the combination of the yarn and the simple stitch pattern is really working for me right now. I keep thinking I’m going to come up with another project, stash the sock in the diaper bag for on-the-go knitting, and move on to something big and interesting, but it hasn’t happened yet. I swatch and look through my ravelry favorites and play with different ideas and pull various things out of the stash to consider, and still, the sock remains my sole work-in-progress. I’m amazed how much having nice yarn in my favorite colors and a simple stitch pattern makes sock knitting so much more interesting, yet also soothing. I may yet turn out to be one of those crazy sock knitters. We shall see.

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My new socks

Corded Rib Socks

Here they are. Finally finished. For posterity, they were knitted in Knit Picks Essential Tweed on US size 0 needles from a pattern out of Sensational Knitted Socks. This was the very first time I knitted traditional cuff-down socks with heel flaps and grafted toes and it went pretty well. I used a Twisted German Cast-On which I learned from this helpful video, and I am now a huge fan of this cast-on. If you need a stretchy edge, it is a great cast-on to use. To graft the toes I just followed Charlene Schurch’s instructions in the book, and they were pretty straightforward. I like the yarn and would use it again, except in the non-tweed version. You can’t really see it in this picture but the socks are covered with little tufts of fiber in contrasting colors, which apparently is what makes the yarn a “tweed”, but the tweedy flecks are in bright primary colors, which has a somewhat clownish effect. Still, the yarn is soft and nice to work with, and of course, you can’t beat the price. I’ll have to see how they wear over time.