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.

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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.

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(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.

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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.

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Ooh, baby it’s cold outside

May 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Yesterday I knit a hat and a pair of socks.

It isn’t every day you get to say that, and this absolutely instant gratification is one of the reasons I’ve been bitten by the baby bug big time. Apart from alliterations, this induces major squee from all sides and even more frantic work that’s resulted in two jacket-hat-bootees outfits that are both as heartbreakingly cute as they are quickly knit. Also, being able to squeeze a whole matching set out of one ball of yarn? Is pretty fantastic, not to mention frugal.

However, before I start showing off my super-cute baby knits at length, I’d like to say a word about casting off. (Not a tutorial though; there are people who do that far better than I ever could, e.g. TECHknitting.)

Now, I’m a relatively loose knitter, which is why it always comes as a surprise to me that I’m a fairly tight binder-offer. This surprise is usually coupled with a tedious undoing of the cast-off edge, which is why I switched to the ssk-bind-off as a standard bind-off, i.e. [k2, * insert left needle into stitches on the right needle, perform the ‘k’ part of ssk, k1, repeat from *], and I’ve never had to worry about a too-tight cast-off ever since. But last night, I came across something I didn’t think I’d ever see in my life.

A cast-off that was too loose.

I was making Saartje’s Booties, which, by the way, are the manifestation of cute – except that the first one didn’t come out quite as cute as the ones in the pictures. Which was a shame, really, because we’re after all talking about bootees that are supposed to look like this:

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Anyway, in a rare moment of maturity I decided not to blame the pattern, but instead wondered whether it was maybe my fault. And also, because these things take two hours at most to whip up, I decided that I could always make three. And it turns out that what I got was this:

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That’s the first bootee on the bottom and the second one on the top. They’re identical except for the cast-off method. It doesn’t look like that big a difference, doesn’t it? Those couple of millimeters the cast-off was looser (and looser is better, right? Right?!) should barely be visible.

Well, let me show you the two of them side-by-side.

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So, what do we learn from this, I wonder? Well, first, trust your instincts. If it looks too loose, it probably is too loose. Second, sometimes the simplest approach is the right one. And third, for  future reference: If a pattern goes to the length to specify a cast-on or cast-off, by god, listen.

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Anyway, so this is what the rest of the outfit looks like:

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That’s the BSJ I made back in March, then a Heartbreakingly Cute Pilot Cap from Knitting Outside The Lines (to keep in lines with the origami theme, albeit not with the garter stitch), and to finish it off, Saartje’s Booties (sans buttons). It’s all very plain, cute in its simplicity and clean lines (or so I like to think), and in a rather dreamy Scottish wool/linen blend I got in Berlin. I still have what feels like 25 g or so left, which is always nice.

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And that’s the other one! I’m not usually one to mix crafts – mostly because I hate crochet with a fiery passion that hasn’t abated much with work on this set, but it was totally worth it. This set’s even tri-craftual, with a bit of (very basic) embroidery thrown in just for kicks.

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Or tetra-craftual, if you count making Dorset buttons. Which, by the way, are super-fun, dirt-cheap, easy to make, always a perfect match for your yarn, and very well explained in this tutorial.

I might have mentioned the Heart Hat that gave me so much trouble – mostly because I’m a dolt who can’t read patterns – but it turned out rather well in the end, and I’m quite enchanted by it. It’s hopelessly anachronistic in its bonnet-style, but at least I didn’t make the one with the hilariously padded ruffle. (Now that I think about it, I might have to make that one though. I already pity the kids I might have someday.)

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And, of course, the wee shoesies. Those are rather ingenious, if I may say so myself – they’re mostly regular socks, except they’re knit flat (because I hate garter stitch in the round) and near- invisibly seamed up along the side.

So, yeah. It’s all slightly ridiculous and probably much too warm for the coming summer months, and by the time the weather will be appropriate, the kid will have almost certainly grown out of them. But I’ve had the pleasure of making them, and oh, what a pleasure it’s been.

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Now excuse me, I have some booties I’d like to cast on like a madwoman.

I feel the Earth move under my feet

May 16, 2011 § 2 Comments

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Do you know like we were saying, about the earth revolving? It’s like when you’re a kid, the first time they tell you that the world is turning and you just can’t quite believe it ’cause everything looks like it’s standing still. I can feel it – the turn of the earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at a thousand miles an hour. The entire planet is hurtling around the sun at sixty seven thousand miles an hour. And I can feel it. We’re falling through space, you and me, clinging to the skin of this tiny little world. And, if we let go… That’s who I am.

These days I barely realize how fast time flies by, until another week has gone by and I’m going square dancing and barbecuing and doing yarny stuff over at Annelie’s and taking guided tours around my neighborhood and having business lunch with my friends and climbing up church towers and saving our little grill from the sudden downpour. My Ravelry project page certainly reflects that – I just updated it with a shawl I finished on April 4th, but other than that I just have a ton of half-finished projects flying around. I did finish the socks I started when I needed something to knit for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I back in, uh, November, and I’m almost done with a precious little baby set in red and yellow – it’s funny how Elizabeth Zimmerman’s patterns totally work if you actually follow them.

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Also, this week Annelie and I finally got around to dyeing some yarn, with easter egg dyes, Kool-Aid and onion skins. There was a whole rainbow of little skeins of wool that she’d inherited from her great-grandmother, and then five big skeins that we met up to untangle and wind into balls just yesterday.

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(from top to bottom: kool-aid, easter egg dye, onion skins first skein, onion skins second skein. yes, I am aware of the fact that these are only four skeins; Annelie had already started winding one)

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I love winding yarn into balls, or in my case flat yarn cakes that don’t roll around quite so absurdly. It’s a very social thing, absolute teamwork, with one holding the skein and the other one winding the ball, and while you’re connected to thousands of years of history, you have tons and tons of time on your hands to just talk. And with five 130 g skeins of fingering-weight yarn, that’s quite a lot of time. Good times. We split the onion skeins fraternally (or sororically) and are planning on a glove KAL; the blue-and-green skein is mine and mine alone, yes yes my precioussss, and Annelie promptly cast on another Baby Surprise Jacket with the Kool-Aid skein.

I cannot stress how heartbreakingly gorgeous the first onion yarn is. The second, paler one is still quite pretty, but the first one… It’s like spun gold. Which quite frankly I hadn’t expected from onions. Of all things, really.

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And so, life goes on and on. Down from the road where it began. (speaking of which, today is the first day of Sherlock shooting in Cardiff. I can’t wait for the second season!) There are two weeks left until the Wollefest, two months minus one day until I have to hand in my Bachelor’s thesis. And before I’ll know it, summer will be over and done with, and the leaves will turn to gold, and nothing gold can stay. I feel the earth move under my feet…

Oh, thou who changest not

January 23, 2011 § 2 Comments

I know I haven’t blogged in a while. Mea culpa, mea culpa. But while I’m sure y’all would be much more interested in the Watson Sweater (mostly done, I’m only missing about half a sleeve) or the Spanish Armada (on first row of the print o’ the wave), I’m gonna have to delay talking about those until I have decent pics. And instead come back to the Bootees.

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As you could probably tell from my last post, I mostly made them for fun: because they’re small, and cute, and I’d always wanted to make bootees of some kind.

Pregnancy is such an abstract concept for me; I’ve never been around pregnant women enough to pay close attention to the whole shebang, and it’s just… you know. She’s pregnant. Whatevs. It’s such a bizarre idea that there might be a human growing inside another one, you know.

And this afternoon, Annelie popped over and we spent a very pleasant day knitting and talking and drinking tea, and somehow, something changed. Maybe it was the way she just kind of casually referred to her baby kicking and liking the music (it was Doctor Who, how could she not?). Maybe it was how we were talking about keeping a journal (kind of hard not to, with the half-shelf of journals staring you right in the face from my bed), and how she was keeping a pregnancy journal for her kid and how she’d written about the bootees.

And I realized, holy cow, there’s a tiny person whom I gave these bootees to.

And that tiny person is going to grow, until someday, in twenty years, when she’s graduated high school and is almost as old as I am now, she can hold those wee bootees in her hand, and marvel at how tiny she must have been to fit into these… and I’ll be the one who knit these, her first, bootees.

And no matter how old she’ll ever be, I’ll always be the one who knit her first bootees.*

What a crazy place this world can be.

* I know I’m wildly overestimating my own importance in the life of others here, but wow, in my head this is huge.

And now someone else is getting all your best

January 9, 2011 § 3 Comments

I think most people have a bit of a soft spot when it comes to babies, and I think most knitters have a bit of a soft spot for knitting baby clothes. And why not? They’re small, which makes them relatively quick and affords you the chance to try new things, and also they’re adorable.

The only problem I had, until now, is that I didn’t know any babies. Or pregnant women. Which is a shame, really, because there are tons of adorable baby things on Ravelry (like the Baby Yoda Sweater, which has been in my queue forever), and I simply didn’t have anyone to give them to, since all my friends, for some reason, refuse to have babies despite my insistent bribery with the promises of baby things.

So when I went to the Strickcafé last Wednesday, I was overjoyed to meet Annelie, who is pregnant, and even more overjoyed when it turned out that she is a terrifically nice person, that we get along swimmingly, and that finally, finally I’d found someone I could knit baby things for.

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Exploding ovaries all around. Seriously, they’re the most adorable thing I’ve ever knit. I think it may be all the garter stitch, and the tweediness, and the folded-over shaft, and the fact that both of them fit into my hand at the same time. Both my roommates went gaga over them as well.

And who can blame them? All the while I was knitting them, I couldn’t stop myself from mumbling ‘oh my god, aren’t they just the cutest things ever? just look at the wee little bootees! most adorable thing ever!’

For those who want to know, they’re Knitgirl’s Mother’s Stay-On Baby Bootees, in an experimental tweed version of Zitron Trekking Handart, color Nepal, on 2.25 mm needles (15 cm DPNs are just long enough). They have a very interesting construction involving short rows, but it’s pretty much necessary to fudge a bit with the seam, as it tends to be a bit on the pointy side. However, due to the garter stitch, you can sew the seam invisibly by sewing through the purl bumps at the edge; I was surprised at how many of the project pictures had bulky seams at the back.

I think I may have to make one to just have one, and to go gaga over whenever I feel like it.

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