Hope that you can keep it, my dirty little secret
June 9, 2011 § 7 Comments
(A short note before we start: if there’s anyone here who just wants to read the pattern notes or snag the chart, scroll down and click ‘read the rest of this entry’)
Blog, I have a confession to make: there’s a secret I’ve kept from you. Well, I’ve dropped the odd reference to a super secret project here and there, but fact is: the downside of knowing that people actually read your blog is that people actually read your blog, and if you want to keep a secret it’d be counterproductive, to say the least, to put it in your blog.
The thing is, I’m usually a terrible secret keeper. I guess I’d rank only marginally lower on the Most Inept Secret Keepers than Peter Pettigrew, because I love hinting and making other people anticipate whatever it is I’m planning that they can never know about. But this time, I kept my trap shut all the way; I’m seriously proud of myself. Neither I, nor Saskia with whom I collaborated on this, lost a syllable of what was going on. And it was really, really hard, because as the astute among you might have noticed, I’m slightly obsessed with knitting, and yarn, and when I love a project all I want to do is to post photos every other row to document my progress. I usually rein myself in just in time to spare you that painstakingly boring ordeal, but if you can’t tell anyone, the temptation becomes almost unbearable. But I persevered!
And now, you may wonder, what was this secret project?
It was a baby blanket. And it’s one of the most gorgeous things I have ever knit. Which is only fair, considering it’s going to the most adorable baby I have ever seen.
I started knitting on April 21, but the plan to make a baby blanket is a bit older, and developed somewhere around the time we came back from Berlin. I’d found this gorgeous two-color geometric border in a Greek mosaic in a museum, and I kind of wanted to make this double-knit blanket with the border chart I’d created from the photos. This project, ultimately, fell through for two reasons: a) making the blanket in the 6-ply sock yarn I’d planned to use would’ve cost me well over €60, and b) I realized the baby was due the end of May, and the last thing it was going to need was a double-knit wool blanket.
So I put my blanket plans on the back burner and started on BSJs and hats and bootees like a madwoman, and it was all well until after our road trip to the Hamburger Wollfabrik, when Saskia purchased a cone of gorgeous, cream-colored cashmere/merino/silk yarn. And two weeks later, when she was on vacations with her parents, I found the perfect pattern: Quilt (Square Counterpane with Leaves) (or here for non-Ravelry folks), a gorgeous Victorian lace blanket knit in fingering-weight yarn, made in separate squares and sewn together, with a border that was picked up around the edge. This meant short rows and portability (at least for the middle section), and also that Saskia and I would be able to knit at the same time.
So I, and I’m not particularly proud to admit this, snuck over into Saskia’s room, grabbed the cone, slithered back into my room humming the ‘Mission Impossible’ theme, and cast on the first square. And finished that in about a day, then, without breaking the yarn and with every intention of ripping the thing back if she didn’t want to go along with it, I wrote Saskia an email with a photo attached and an explanation of what the hell I was doing with her yarn, and spent about a day agonizing about having to wait for her reply.
Fortunately, she loved it, and contributed not only the yarn and ribbon, but also a couple of squares and a row or two of the border. And even better for her, there’s enough yarn left over for her to make the shawl she’d planned for the yarn as well.
I was a bit anxious that we wouldn’t get done in time – what if the child came before the due date? – but my worries proved to be unfounded, to say the least: instead of two weeks too early, little Anna was overdue by more than a week.
And today, we got to meet her, coo over her, and finally give a still slightly groggy and sore but glowing-with-pride-and-happiness Annelie two bags filled to the brims with two jackets, three hats, a large blanket-pal rabbit with a truly enormous red bow tie (that one’s Saskia’s), several pairs of bootees, a bundle of mini-skeins of back-up yarn in case of accidents, and last but definitely not least, the blanket.
(approx. 300 g of Hamburger Wollfabrik 50% cashmere, 35% wool, 15% silk 3-ply yarn, on 3 mm needles. Final measurements, approx. 1.20 m x 1.20 m. One square weighs about 22 g.)
I’d originally intended it to be something to wrap the baby in, or a pram cover, but somehow it turned out to be this huge, enormous thing that comfortably covers mother and child from shoulder to toes while nursing, which is, you know. Not the worst use for a blanket.
Although I have a feeling I’ll regret my offer to wash and block it much sooner this way. Ah, the miracle of life.
Now, I have extensive notes on the miracles you can achieve with some yarn and an array of 3 mm needles, but I’ll put it behind a cut to spare those who aren’t prepared for 700 words of tips and annotations. That’s the kind of benevolent dictator I am.
Now, about the pattern: this is a fully updated antique pattern to which I only made one slight alteration, and that was changing some of the k2tog into ssk. Patterns as old as this don’t usually have systematically leaning decreases, and I like my triangles a little more well-defined, so that’s mostly a cultural/ personal preference than a problem. Ssk-ing also helped me commit the pattern to memory, since you kind of see where the pattern’s going with that.
My only nagging point was that it isn’t charted, but that was the first thing I remedied; if you’re interested, you can find my rather rough, but entirely serviceable chart here. (Note: I am not affiliated with the author of the pattern. However, I’d appreciate it if someone else didn’t claim this as their own.)
However, what I’m glad to be able to say is this: Trust the pattern. It struck me as weird to increase the stitch count by twelve stitches per side or something on the last couple of rows, and yes, the seams are going to look wonky and wavy unblocked. But once you do block it, it turns out that the seams really need those extra stitches for the whole thing to lay flat. So yes, take a leap of faith. Trust the pattern.
I left rather long tails after binding off and used them to sew the squares together. I know you’re not supposed to do this, but it really cuts down on the number of ends you have to weave in. (Note: it also cuts down on frustration if you sew the squares together as you go, and don’t wait for all of them to be finished. That way, all you have left to do is pick up a gazillion stitches and knit the border!)
Following Marianne Kinzel’s advice from the ‘Second Book of Modern Lace Knitting’ and encouraged by my previous experience with my rectangular Swallowtail Stole, I used the overcast stitch to carefully piece them together stitch for stitch; the ssk-bind-off (k2, * insert left needle into the front of the stitches and complete the ‘k’ portion of the ssk, k1, rep from *) produces a nice, clean edge that’s ideal for sewing. This method is not invisible, but produces an interesting effect that I quite liked. Like I said before, the seams are going to be wavy pre-blocking due to the increased stitch count, but blocking will make them lie straight. Although the pre-blocked thing is not entirely without merit.
By the way, if you compare the pictures above and below, you’ll notice that a lot of the sculptural/ textural quality of the center leaves is lost in the blocking. I’m happy to say that after about half an hour of handling and careful use by the recipient, the leaves were starting to ‘pop’ again.
I did the border as follows:
- pick up stitches along the outer edge, picking up 2 in each seam between panels. It’s easiest to use one circular needle for each side.
- k 1 rnd
- one rnd [k2tog, yo] except for corner ‘axis’ stitches which are knit plain
- k 1 rnd
- p3 rnds, yo’ing every other round around the corner stitches which are, once again, knit
- repeat the following two rows 10x:
Row 1: k1, yo, (in later rows: k to 3-st garter stitch panel), p3, k2tog, [k3, sl 1, k2tog, psso, k3, yo, k1, yo] to 8 sts to corner (in later rows, 5 sts to gs panel), k3, ssk, p3, (in later rows: k to corner) yo.
Row 2: k
- p 3 rnds w/o YO
- k 1 rnd
- block with pins in the stitch between the yarn overs.
I added the garter stitch panels with a crochet hook before binding off – don’t repeat my mistakes, it took forever! I found that without them, the corners had a tendency to curl, and I really didn’t want that.
After blocking, I sat down with a large safety pin and 5 m of dark green satin ribbon attached to it and threaded the ribbon through the faggoted row at the beginning of the border, and tied the ends into a big bow. The sides measured about 1.1o m each where the faggoting was, and I added another meter for safety. Which turned out to be good, I cut about 10 cm off the one end and that was it; although granted, the bow is rather big and ridiculous.
Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable knit, made even more so by the obvious delight by the recipient and the fact that I didn’t have to do it all alone. What’s slightly depressing is that this post is longer than what I currently have of my Bachelor’s thesis.