Archive for November, 2007

Knitmas

The Knitting Bug was passed to me in October of 2006, but it didn’t actually become virulent until after Christmas.  (I guess there’s an incubation period!)  So, this will be my first Christmas as a knitter.

I’ve already succumbed to the obvious: the need to incorporate the act of knitting into the holiday season as much as possible. Am I motivated by the opportunity to bestow priceless handmade gifts instead of tossing manufactured knick-knacks onto various piles of loot?  Or is it actually a rationalization to knit, disguised as ‘preparation for the holidays’?  After giving it some thought, I see it’s the latter … sigh.  I decided on my Christmas knitting plans way back in May and tried to keep the scope of the project within reason.  Knowing that my skills would not be up to making a gift for every person on my list, I decided to make a small decorative lace scarf for each of the women in my immediate family.  Five scarves at 4-5 inches wide and about 36 inches long?  Perhaps ambitious, but if I didn’t reveal my plans to anyone then I could bail out at any time!  That was the motivation to pore over and experiment with different lace weight yarns and stitch patterns all year.  That’s right, the idea wasn’t selfless at all … it was a shameless act of knitting obsession with a focus on lace.  I admit it.  Bad knitter!

But the rationalization was good, real good.  First, I told myself, each gift was made with the recipient in mind.  Much of the time I spent studying colorways and patterns included thoughts of the future owner.  Would she like this pattern? Is this a color she wears?  Hmmm, maybe the younger ones would like a slightly heavier yarn so they can get more casual use out of their gift.  And so forth!  Second, our whole family has been moving away from the craziness of rampant gift-giving.  For the last couple of years, we’ve been talking more about handmade gifts, regifting a good book to someone who would like it, sharing recipes and other more personal attempts to connect.  Handknits fall into that category, don’t they? (Pleading eyes await your confirmation …)

So, with those thoughts in mind, I begin the last of the five Christmas lace scarves today.  Oh, and did I mention that I’ve already planned out next year’s gift agenda?  Cable scarves for each of the fellas.  There would be six of those, so I will need to get started sooner …

The Bagulator

(This picture has nothing to do with anything, just felt an obligation to decorate my post.  This is Bagheera, who lies around like this.  He is congenitally cute.)

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Plait Cable Scarf Pattern

Just under the weather wire! A new scarf is up for winter duty before the cold sets in:

Plait Cable Scarf

This scarf will be warm in another way: it carries memories of family. It was my primary travel project over the last three weeks. We flew to Kansas to visit my sister-in-law and, although I had a more compact lace project with me too, this is the one I pulled out. Simply put, I could work it in poor light and/or without glasses! For some reason the cable needle didn’t feel cumbersome. I guess I’ve gotten used to the motions of grabbing it, using it, and wedging it away (I tuck one end under a leg so it stays put). By the time of our Thanksgiving visit to my family the scarf was 3 feet long … but that was train travel. It’s less cramped than the plane.  Edit: I mentioned in an earlier post that I was working out my purl technique and so the stockinette part of this scarf is a little flaky looking.  It definitely looks smoother at the end (yay!).  I’m sure your scarf (if you choose to knit one) will look even better …

Alright, alright, let’s get to the meat of this post: the pattern!  The Plait Cable Scarf pattern is now officially added my Free Patterns page. I’m no expert, so there could be ambiguities.  And I did use my own abbreviations for the cabling process.  I will gladly explain or clarify and apologize in advance for the possibility of errors.  I’ve read and re-read it, but you never know … please share any suggestions for improvement; it will help me write better patterns in the future!

EDIT on 3/11/08: There was an error in the original plait cable scarf pattern which I corrected a while ago but the link above still pointed to the old version.  I’m sorry about that and have fixed the link.  If you’ve printed the pattern out, please double-check that you have the new one.  The name of the newer file is “plait-cable-scarf-v2.pdf” and there is a red note (kinda like this one!) at the end of the printout.

Chinese Dragon Lace Scarf (finished!)

Yes, the Chinese Dragon Lace Scarf (formerly known as the Zig Zag Vine Lace Scarf) was finished on schedule, just before Thanksgiving!  Here’s a picture that more or less captures the color.  It’s the best I can do on a rainy day … will take a better one for the record in a couple of days when the sun comes out:

Chinese Dragon Lace Scarf

There wasn’t a whole lot of time for knitting over the holiday … hey, you can’t knit with food in your hand and that seemed to be the case for most of the weekend!  I did make some progress on the Plait Cable Scarf and also worked the first Menehune Cobblestones sock through most of the gusset:

Menehune Cobblestones Sock

It’s time to start the Fleurette Lace Scarf too … maybe tomorrow …

edit: 2/5/2008 … I discovered that the stitch pattern for “Vine Lace Zigzag” is documented on knittingfool.com, so thought I’d mention it here!  All I did to make the scarf was 4 repeats of the pattern with a little garter stitch at beginning and end.  I knit the pattern with #2 needles and cast on and bound off with #4.  The yarn was Knit Picks Shadow (lace weight, 2-ply merino).

A Glimpse of the Future (and the Past)

Just realized I never took a picture of the test swatch for Christmas Scarf #5 … as I get to the end of #4 (I will finish it today, I will!), thoughts of the next project to go on the same needles will naturally arise!  So here it is, for inspiration:

Fleurette Lace Swatch

I knitted this while in a moving car, as we drove to and from Montreal for vacation last September.  If it looks a little uneven, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it!  It’s Knit Picks Shadow in “Campfire Heather” and US #2 needles.

I also found a picture on the camera card of me wearing the Swiss Fan Lace Scarf.  The quality of the picture isn’t all that great but I thought I’d share it so you can see the scarf in action. (If you’re debating whether to spend time knitting it, that always helps, doesn’t it?)

Swiss Fan Lace Scarf (in action)

Zigzag Vine Lace -> Chinese Dragon Lace

I ask you, O Fellow Knitter, does this work in progress (very lumpy, not blocked) not put you in mind of a Chinese Dragon?

I think it does.  And so I hereby rename this project to the Chinese Dragon Lace Scarf … and I hope to finish and get it blocked and drying before Thanksgiving travels!

The Sock Gang: Just Good Friends

As always, starting a new project involves quite a bit of thinking before any knitting actually happens.  No matter what project I think I have on the queue, the final details are still very liquid, even after cast-on!  My latest project is going to be a pair of socks, but it was going to be a sweater for quite a while.  I don’t know when it turned into socks.  Pretty recently, I think …

Since I haven’t ever knitted a pair of “regular” socks for myself, I don’t have any tried and true sizing information.  What I had was: two hanks of nice Knit Picks Gossamer “Blue Jeans”, dpns in all sizes except US #2 (another project active on those!) and enough experience in top-down sock basics to be dangerous.  I settled on a pattern and got started but quickly realized that the cast-on count was too small for my (apparently large-ish) legs.  Without enough experience to adjust confidently, I decided to surf around and find a pattern closer to my needs.  Got it!  I’m now well into the first cuff of the Menehune Cobblestones socks from Crystal Palace Yarns.

But during my search, I noticed that one of the sock patterns that made it to my short list, Beginner Socks Knitting Pattern by Kim Goddard, had some very intriguing advice that got the imagination going! At the end of the instructions, it says:

“Now you can make the mate. Handmade socks don’t always match. If you want to, you can create a wardrobe of single unmatched but coordinating socks and wear a different pair every time!”

What freedom!

I, like so many others, have always assumed that a pair of socks is forever bound in a commitment more permanent than marriage. (There is no such thing as sock divorce, is there?) The sock drawer seemed to be a stable community of faithful, perfectly-matched partners all hugging each other tightly as they awaited their chance to protect and adorn. Oh sure, one sock might sit uncomfortably on the outer edge of the drawer area, awaiting a laundry-delayed partner. But a reunion was always expected!  And in the event of a sock loss … its mate became useless and was cast out of the sock community.

But now a Liberal Sock Thinker has proposed that socks need not be mated for life! They may come into this world, proud of their handmade heritage, free to be the unique object that each sock is. No pressure to be a perfect match for some other sock. No ostracizing when a partner is sadly lost. Of course, the sock’s duty to the foot remains its paramount function. But now a foot owner may choose socks according to flexible pairing criteria. Colors, pattern, theme, texture, yarn content, whim … the sock drawer becomes a milieu of friends and acquaintances. There would still be traditional pairings, of course, but loose groupings of favorites  would also form and perhaps  a few independent types would stand alone, challenging the foot owner to try a daring match …

Hmmm, is this too much drama for the sock drawer?  Nah!  Handknits are drama!

What, Only 2 WIPs?? Time to start a 3rd …

Newly on the needles: a first try at “real” socks.  The other sock projects I’ve tried, slipper socks, kids socks and booties, included all the basics for top-down socks but had the advantage of knitting up fairly quickly.  As with the mitten project, I tend to do several tries in order to understand what the heck is happening so smaller projects (or bulky yarn) are handy when in the learning stage!  But now it’s time for some socks to be worn in public.  If I have one done by Thanksgiving (fat chance, that’s a week from now) maybe I can show it around among the relatives and reel in some dupes, um, I mean potential recipients of future sock projects …

Soon-to-be Socks


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