Its fleece was white as snow

August 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

People, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is: I’ve had the second part of the Mitten saga mostly done and in draft form for about a month, and with handing in my Bachelor’s thesis, the urge to procrastinate and write 1700 words on mitten cuffs has sort of evaporated. I’ll try and get to it sometime soon, I promise.

The good news is: not only did I get the Gryffindor mittens as far as I wanted to in time for Adam, but it was a very good thing I didn’t entirely finish them: I had to rip back the tips and add almost 2 cm to each hand to make them fit. I can’t even imagine the pain of unpicking the woven-in ends and splicing new yarn to the whole shebang.

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It’s really hard to find a flattering pose for both gloves and the recipient’s face. I managed to fail on both counts.

The best news is: within two hours of arriving in Leipzig in the middle of the night (i.e. 6.42 am) last Friday, Adam had learned the knit stitch, and over the next days proceeded to knit like a madman, first on a little green garter stitch practice swatch, then on a project that made not only me go ‘holy shit, now that’s one hell of a first project!’: Susie’s Reading Mitts. Even with substituting the picot edge for a more manly straight edge, those mitts have it all: working in the round on DPNs, knit, purl, increase, decrease, yarn over, counting rows, fixing mistakes, casting on and binding off, sewing a hem down on the wrong side… and probably a couple of other things.

When knitters will have taken over the world, I’ll have done my part. Nobody spends more than a couple of hours here without at least trying a couple of knit stitches, but to say that he took to it like a fish to water is sort of an understatement.

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I remain suitably impressed, as I wistfully glance in the vague direction of my abomination of a holey, green cotton garter stitch first-time scarf…

But yeah. Apart from showing him around the city (and boy, did I go all-out on that. I think the walking tour around the city center took a good three hours), I tried imparting as much knitting wisdom as I could: from how to use stitch markers to the brilliance that is the Yarn Harlot, from medieval knitting guilds to the boyfriend sweater curse, from how to wind yarn cocoons to washing your woolens, from the story behind the Spanish Armada shawl to how to spend more time on Ravelry looking at patterns instead of actually getting any knitting done. Although come to think of it, he didn’t need all that much instruction for that last bit…

I also took him for an afternoon at Annelie’s, where I quickly plied my yarn and then proceeded to coo over the baby and tell her the story of Bilbo and the thirteen dwarves, switching between English and German every time I was distracted or needed for some light interpreting, because I could never remember which language I’d started off with. My sanity didn’t take too well to the constant language mix – it’s a good thing I’m not becoming an interpreter after all. But spinning always makes the confusion a bit better. (Also, shininess.)

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Anyway. I had a wonderful time, and I hope he did as well. There’s a slightly upsetting lack of photos, since he doesn’t have a camera and I seem to have very localized dementia when it comes to gadgets, but I made sure to get at least a couple of us, over the roofs of Leipzig.

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And let me just say: I’ve never had quite as much alcohol in as short a time period as the last week. Holy moly.

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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.

***

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.

… and it’s gonna be totally awesome

November 24, 2010 § 9 Comments

I haven’t been posting; I think it’s mostly due to the fact that I got a new paper journal that I love writing in – yet another Moleskine. The third over a relatively short time. Used to be that I thought they were pretentious, now I appreciate their simplistic design and rounded corners.

Speaking of rounded corners. Last night, my old laptop broke, which was a kind of a shame and kind of a relief. I liked Graham, I really did, but I’d had nothing but trouble with him in the last months – freezing, especially, and overheating, and freezing some more, and more random shit that was just annoying. Then last night, he wouldn’t recognize the fact that he was plugged in. I tried the usual – pull the plug out, stick it back in, thump it on the back – nothing.

So I rather hysterically backed everything important up onto my external harddrive, transferred some money, and bought a Macbook today. The Macbook I’ve been planning on for… a while. Ever since summer, I guess, since Graham started acting up more and more.

I was a bit afraid of the Big Bad Apple, but so far I’m loving it. It’s friendly, it’s streamlined, it’s simplistic. I’m sure I’ll encounter some problems at some point, but right now, I’m very much charmed. Oscar (i.e. the Macbook) isn’t quite as big as Graham, which might put a damper on watching movies, but seriously… if that’s all I have to complain about, I’ll take that any day.

Status updates on the Frantic Christmas Knitting: 30 days to go, Girl Friday halfway done, Henry around 60 %. I’d post pictures but it’s at a point where it just looks… more of the same, basically. Which isn’t very exciting as photos go. (Also I don’t have anything on this computer yet.)

Cute knitting-related anecdote: One of my classmates was wearing this stylish beret, so I asked here where she got it. Her answer? Ravelry! So Saskia and I squeed a bit, and started chatting about knitting, and the pattern (Meret/Mystery Beret by Wooly Wormhead, by the way), and yarn, and the whole shebang. It was nice, having a little outpost of normality in the ‘real world’. The Bunter November yarn market (the little brother of the Wollefest each May) was, of course, right on the mainland of the Wondrous Land of Knitting, and I spent a couple of hours deliriously petting yarn, knitting and chatting with people I knew from Ravelry or the Strickcafé or didn’t know at all, at least not their faces (hallo, Jana!).

Why I never posted about this? Well, of course I’d forgotten my camera (figures), and I just haven’t felt like posting yarn porn. Shocking, I know. I’ll post ’em one of these days, when I’ve figured out whether Oscar is compatible with Bobby the External Harddrive. But first, Glee.

Nothing equals the splendor

December 15, 2009 § 2 Comments

Christmas is coming up with huge steps – and I can almost lean back with a satisfied sigh. Almost. Everything I can buy, I’ve bought, which includes tea, coffee, books, and a pottery dragon.

The only thing left is finishing my gran’s Baktus – about a quarter left – and grafting my mom’s scarf together. It’s blocked and everything. Thank god. Inexplicably, though, one side is 10 cm / 4 inches shorter than the other one. I’m stumped, but I actually couldn’t care less at the moment.

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I finally finished the mini-sweaters for my host family; they’re kinda late, but I’m optimistic they’ll at least make it before they take down the tree.

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Saskia’s socks have been done for some time now, which is very very good and making me feel rather accomplished and like I actually didn’t start at least a month late on everything. Christian’s Bitch/Jerk washclothes are all done, too – put in an evening of work last night and a couple of minutes here and there today. I love instant gratification.

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Maybe I’ll go to Lush and get some soap to go along with those. And a little basket. I don’t know.

So, yeah. It’s nine days to Christmas and I’m not caught in any kind of Christmas rush. Not like last year. I’m so proud of myself.

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Sales a escena y eres immortal

December 11, 2009 § 3 Comments

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It’s funny how my life seems to alternate between insanely productive and absolutely lazy days.

The day before yesterday was a really productive day. In fact, I cut my WIPs on Ravelry down to two – though I do have to admit that I moved the HSJBTM socks in the hibernating section. Oh well.

In any case, I finally sewed the buttons onto my Tempest cardigan!

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This means that only eight months after I finished knitting the thing, it’s finally done. It only took an hour. I can’t believe I haven’t been wearing that thing for months now.

Anyway. I also worked on the Baktus for my grandma some more:

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I believe I’m about halfway done with it, but I couldn’t get myself to get up, which is why I put it aside and instead continued with my slip-stitch socks.

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Usually, I’d say they’re too colorful for me, but man… these are the perfect rainy-day socks. Plus, with the slip-stitch, they feel about twice as thick, and they’re all squooshy, and of course them jewel colors… I’m very much enchanted. I love them.

But, here’s what I hate about holiday season. I mean, apart from the fact that I don’t really know what to do with my Fridays, since there’s no new Grey’s Anatomy or Supernatural on.

It’s the vicious cycle of Christmas Knitting.

You start to knit something, and it’s all good, and then you realize you’d rather work on something else. But you can’t, cause you’ve got that deadline hanging over your head like a sword of Damocles, which makes you start to loathe whatever Christmas present you’re knitting. Which makes it harder to force yourself to knit it, and knitting makes you loathe it even more, but there’s Christmas, and oh god, only two weeks, and…

I just wanna knit some socks.

Instead, I finally started the Christmas ornament mini Weasley sweaters for my host family back in the US. Three weeks late. They’re tiny (14 sts wide, 21 rows high), they’re easy, they’re technically entertaining, they’re technically great TV knitting… and I can’t stand the thought that even though I’ve already finished two, there’s four more to go. Ugh.

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At this point, I’d rather work on Ruba’iyat. Or, you know, the sock. Or study vocab.Which reminds me, I need to block my mom’s scarf.

I’m so, so ready for Christmas to be over.

Hey you! (shalalala)

November 8, 2009 § 3 Comments

See, here’s what I love about knitting.

You sit down on a Sunday afternoon, hang out in sweatpants, drink tea, and a couple of Supernatural episodes later, you have something like this:

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That’s Waves of Grain in Zitron Lifestyle, on 5mm, my Christmas present for my mom. (At least I hope so; if I don’t get done in time, it’s her birthday a month later)

And the best thing about it? Apart from the smooshiness and the softness of 100% extrafine merino, and the fact that I’m done with the edging already, and that the pattern’s really intuitive and easy to memorize?

It’s only 47 stitches across.

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