Bump in the road.

Shawl in Progress

Originally uploaded by fireflowerknits

I have been speeding along on the anniversary shawl, knitting something in the realm of 1200 stitches a day. I was just getting into the 288 stitch section when something started to niggle at the back of my mind. Something wasn’t looking quite right. You really can’t tell in the quick picture I was able to get this morning in the dim light in my apartment, but I somehow managed to mess up the lace pattern at the third or fourth round of the 288 stitch section. It wasn’t an obvious error for quite a few rounds because I managed to make the same mistake consistently all the way around that pattern round. I checked the chart. It wasn’t the chart. The chart is accurate. It was probably the consequence of some late night knitting after the kids went to bed a couple nights ago. There’s really nothing to do but rip back. Ah well, in the vast scheme of things, what’s a couple days knitting ripped for the sake of beauty in something that will ultimately be an heirloom? I’ll go back to the increase round and thread some cotton thread through the knit stitches and yarn overs with a tapestry needle, then rip back.

Lace in the Window

Lace in the Window

Originally uploaded by fireflowerknits

This is the classic “lace in the window” shot for the shawl as it was on Wednesday, in its brief ultra-photogenic stage. It now is becoming increasingly shapeless and blob-like as the circumference increases. At the moment it is in time out while I consider whether I want to drop down stitches a few rows to fix a mistake or tink back. I think I will try dropping down stitches and then I can always tink back if necessary. I am still in love with the project. I am starting to be on guard lest my enthusiasm suddenly wane, because while my deadline is the end of December, I know that the 288 stitch rounds and the 576 stitch rounds will take a lot more knitting than the 144 stitch rounds. After that point, there will still be the edging to knit on. I haven’t picked an edging pattern yet, but I am still trying to sort out how the thirty rose lace motifs will be arranged in the 576 stitch section. Probably I will leave out 6 increases in the last increase round and make the last section 570 stitches. That makes 30 segments of 19 stitches to put the roses in. Edgings with 4, 6, 10, or 12 rows will work with the stitch count (for those interested in the knitting math, 1 stitch is bound off for each 2 edging rows and 570 is divisible by 2, 3, 5, and 6), but that doesn’t rule out all that many edgings. I’ll have to look through Barbara Walker’s Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns and Sarah’s collection of vintage edgings and see which ones I think will suit the rose lace best. Well that’s enough math for one post. Who knew prime factorization would turn out to be so useful?

For your web-surfing pleasure I will include a few links I have enjoyed this week:

If by some crazy chance you haven’t yet discovered the podcast “Cast On”, I have been listening to the old episodes this week and finding them a real pleasure.

Garnstudio has a huge directory of knitting patterns available in English (UK knitting terms) on their website which are fun to browse through.

The Summer of Socks has a Flickr Group which is fun to look through. This would be a great way to discover a new pattern, technique, or yarn for knitting socks.

Techknitter’s Subject index is a treasure trove of technical advice about many aspects of knitting. I am in awe of this method for joining circular knitting.

Hope you find at least one in those that is new to you and that you enjoy. If you find anything on the blog useful, helpful, enjoyable, or even erroneous, please send me a comment. It’s nice to know what’s working for the readers and what isn’t. I aim to please (except when I don’t feel like it).

Anniversary Shawl Beginnings

Anniversary Shawl Beginnings

Originally uploaded by fireflowerknits

This is the beginning of the Anniversary Shawl for my parents. It surprised me to find how much I love knitting this. It is a Pi shawl, which means that the stitches are doubled at increasing intervals and you can just knit even in a lace pattern in between. I love radial symmetry, I love lace, and I am really loving how the yarn is behaving. It is soft, naturally colored, and ever so slightly fuzzy. For me making this shawl is like diving into a mandala or a kaleidescope, and it really makes me happy. I would think that the notion of giving this away at the end would bother me, but really, I’m just thinking how much fun it will be to design one for myself so I can have the pleasure of making a round lace shawl all over again. I am really excited about being able to give this to my parents at the end of all the knitting, in honor of all their hard work to stay together over all these years. This New Year’s Eve they will have been married 30 years. I think they deserve an heirloom. I envision it thrown over the back of the sofa, wrapped around Mom’s shoulders for an evening out with Dad, and keeping them both warm on chilly nights while they watch a movie together.

When I was a teenager I crocheted piles of doilies while watching TV. Thread was cheap, I loved working in the round, and the patterns were interesting. It was almost entirely process oriented. I really had no interest in covering every surface with doilies, didn’t overly much care what happened to them when they were finished. Mom, however, loved my doilies. To this day she has a doily (some vintage some mine) on nearly every table in the house. No matter how many doilies she had, she always expressed regret when I gave one away. So, when I started to think about what to make in honor of my parents three decades together, it occurred to me that she would love a big lace shawl, effectively a giant doily to wrap up in.

If you are feeling the need to immerse yourself in lace and radial symmetry, the basic pattern for the Pi shawl is in Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitters’ Almanac and also in Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s Knitting Rules.  For lace patterns, I am using Barbara Walker’s stitch pattern treasuries.  I love the yarn I am using, which is KnitPicks Bare Peruvian Wool in fingering weight. It feels wooly, but not scratchy, like petting a lamb.

I am savoring this rare knitting moment, where pattern, yarn, love, and inspiration all come together into something nearly perfect. These are the moments that keep us knitting. I hope that you also find yourself in one of these moments very soon.

Baby/Toddler Scarf-and-Hat

Pooh in Baby/Toddler Scarf-and-Hat

Originally uploaded by fireflowerknits

Whenever the end of July rolls around I get the knitting mama heebie-jeebies. To me August means that fall will be here any second and I start planning how to keep my kids warm during the cold weather. Here’s an idea I came up with for a way to keep my little guy warm this fall. It’s an all-in-one scarf-and-hat. The keyhole scarf is attached to the hat in the back. This keeps the hat on without posing a strangling hazard. It hasn’t yet been baby-tested, but I thought I’d share the pattern in case you’d like to make one for your own child or grandchild. This one fits both my 9 month old and my 4 year old, so that gives you an idea of the size range.

Baby/Toddler Hat-and-Scarf

200 yds (approximately) of yarn that knits at 3.75sts/in
(I used some leftover Bernat Soft Boucle)
double pointed and 16″ circular needles to achieve gauge (I used US8/5.00mm)

Begin with top of hat by casting on 6 sts in the round.  (I use a figure 8 cast on).
Rnd 1: knit.

Rnd 2: *knit 1, make 1; rep from * around. (12 sts)

Rnd 3: *knit 2, make 1; rep from * around. (18 sts)

Rnds 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16: knit.

Rnd 5: *knit 3, make 1; rep from * around. (24 sts)

Rnd 7: *knit 4, make 1; rep from * around. (30 sts)

Rnd 9: *knit 5, make 1; rep from * around. (36 sts)

Rnd 11: *knit 6, make 1; rep from * around. (42 sts)

Rnd 13: *knit 7, make 1; rep from * around. (48 sts)

Rnd 15: *knit 8, make 1; rep from * around. (54 sts)

Rnd 17: *knit 9, make 1; rep from * around. (60 sts)

Transfer stitches to circular needle and work even in k2, p2 rib until hat measures 8″ from cast on, or to desired length to cover ears of your child.  Cast off loosely (I used an I-9 crochet hook).

Cast on 14 sts.
Knit in garter stitch (knit every row) until work measures 4″.
Work buttonhole of your choice across center 8 stitches.
Knit in garter stitch until work measures 24″ from cast on.
Bind off.

Using tapestry needle and yarn used for hat and scarf, whipstitch back half (about 8 “) of hat to center 8” of scarf.

Place hat on childs head with scarf at back.  Thread end of scarf through buttonhole at opposite end.  Hat stays on head, ears and neck stay warm.

Please e-mail me at fireflowerknits”at”gmail”dot”com with any questions about the pattern, or any errors you may find.  Thanks.

Diversion from the Real Issue

Socks That Rock

Originally uploaded by fireflowerknits

Yes, I know, this is not a knitting picture. This is not even a picture of yarn I am presently knitting with. There will be pictures of things I’m presently knitting. It will happen. Just not right now. In the mean time, I wanted to post something, anything, even if not present-day knitting. This is beautiful yarn I got at Black Sheep Gathering. It’s STR LIghtweight in the Backstabber colorway. The color name sounds awful, doesn’t it? But it’s a really lovely range of deep magenta and raspberry red and plum purple. If you are knitting for the Summer of Socks, this might inspire you. I am so taken with it that I’m really tempted to make something other than socks with it, so I can show it off. Although I do love wearing really beautiful handmade socks.

We have all had a really awful stomach bug in the last week, and there has not been a lot of knitting done. I really should have posted a picture of saltines and gingerale and a plastic trash bucket, as that would have encapsulated the week quite well. I have had a brilliant flash of motherly knitting inspiration, the fruit of which I will share tomorrow. In the mean time, go forth and knit something and enjoy.

Down a Rabbit Hole

Check out Etsy.com. Go ahead. Run a search. Think up something. Try “Roving“…or “Handpainted yarn” or “spindle” or “sock yarn” or “knitted shawl pattern” or “silk lace yarn“. You can buy beautiful handmade items of all kinds from individual artisans all over the world. Or, if like me, your yarn budget is spent for the month, you can dream.

Pooh in Baby Surprise Jacket

Pooh in Baby Surprise Jacket

Originally uploaded by fireflowerknits

This is a Baby Surprise Jacket I knit for my son when I was first pregnant. It was made with Koigu KPPM on size 3 needles. It was a joy to knit, but it is tiny, I would say newborn to 3 months size. It fit my son for about a month. Still, it is beautiful and I love that it is in bright, happy, unconventional colors. If I were doing it over I would use sport or dk weight yarn and size 5 or 6 needles to get a larger size and also lengthen the sleeves before sewing up. Two skeins of Koigu were just enough, though I probably could have eaked out enough to make the sleeves just a tad longer.  Watching a strange, angular blob of knitting turn into a charming baby sweater is a pleasure.  Just thinking about it gets me started thinking of making another one.

The pattern is available in Elizabeth Zimmermann’s classic Knitting Workshop.  It is also available from Schoolhouse Press which is still run by EZ’s daughter Meg Swansen.  More information about the Baby Surprise Jacket pattern is available at the marvelous KnitWiki article. Glampyre and Yarn Harlot have recently knit lovely BSJs. And you can see a whole bunch of lovely versions on Flickr . This pattern would be great for using up oddballs, making a gift or a charity knit.  It works in solids, handpaints, or a combination.  You could work it up in any yarn between fingering and worsted weight and it would fit the baby sometime in the first year.

Rose for Mama

Rose for Mama

Originally uploaded by fireflowerknits

This is the prototype lace motif I mentioned before which I am working on for an anniversary shawl for my parents. This one is top-down so it would appear right side up on the border of a round shawl. I am working with red crochet thread I had on hand, but for the actual shawl I intend to use natural color fingering weight superwash wool from KnitPicks. The yarn is out of stock, so while waiting for it to come in I am playing around with my ideas. I am fairly happy with this. It does look like a stylized rose, which is what I was going for. Mom’s wedding flowers were cream colored roses, and I am thinking of putting little glass pearl beads into the edging, since the thirtieth anniversary is traditionally the pearl anniversary. The cotton is hard on my hands, so I do just a little at a time. I think I will try today or tomorrow with two sets of leaves instead of just one. We’ll see how that looks.



Originally uploaded by fireflowerknits

These are growing right outside my door. They are called Oregon Grape or Oregon-grape to differentiate from true grapes. They are the berries of the Oregon state flower. A book I have says that the berries are edible, but tart. Apparently they can be used for making jelly or homemade wine. I don’t think I’m going to try it this year.

In other news, I have finished spinning the roving from before and now I need to set the twist before I find out how I am doing as far as making knitable yarn. Hopefully I’ll find time for that soon. It has to be in the early morning, though, because otherwise it is just to hot to do anything that involves simmering in hot water. I am also working on a lace motif for an anniversary shawl for my parents. I am cobbling together a couple of patterns from Barbara Walker’s stitch treasuries to come up with a border containing thirty roses in honor of their thirty years together. Hopefully the light and the children will cooperate so I can post a picture later of my prototype motif. Right now I am thinking of a 60″ diameter round shawl with a center motif, a simple ground, a rose border, and then a beaded edging. I haven’t decided whether I want a Pi-style shawl or one with evenly distributed increases every few rounds. Anyway, it’s nice to get into the creative design side of things, in the midst of working through the Liesel chart where I am merely following someone else’s design.



Originally uploaded by fireflowerknits

This is the difficult-to-photograph scarf which I mentioned in my last post. It is too dark in my apartment to get a photo without the flash, and too sunny outside in my tiny courtyard. The pattern is available free online.  The yarn is soft and lovely.  Any worsted or dk weight yarn would work with the pattern.

I am making peace with the chart now, though I still don’t have it memorized.  Someone else might find it easier.  Still, it is progressing along, and I am in a fairly nice rhythm.  Of course I am always dealing with a life full of interruptions from small children and playful cats.  I am in a strange place with my knitting.  I have tons of handknit scarves.  I use them a lot in the fall and winter, but in a small apartment with minimal storage I regularly question the wisdom of making more.  Still, I hardly wear the shawls and wraps I have made.  I have a couple of sweaters near completion which are on hold because they need some detail work in the finishing, and cat-free kid-free time for sewing-up or blocking is in amazingly short supply.  I should really make more socks, but it’s amazing how little sock-appropriate yarn I have in the stash.  Bear keeps giving me alpaca and alpaca blends.  He brings me boxes of yarn instead of flowers for special occasions, which I really love.  He gravitates toward collections of two or three balls each in several colors.  His color sense is charming, but I haven’t totally settled on what to do with a number of my yarn “bouquets”.  Oh well, it’s something to puzzle over.