Friday, September 23, 2011


Mittens for babies and toddlers are really fun to make because they turn out looking so charming and miniature, and are gratifyingly quick compared to, say, a sweater. Plus, unlike with adult-sized mittens, you don’t have to worry about knitting that pesky thumb. I don’t know about your babies, but my girl has a miniscule thumb that wouldn’t possibly stay lodged in a mitten-thumb anyhow. So why fuss with gussets?*

The mittens in the photo are
the special Noro ones I mentioned last time, in my “back in the land of the knitting” post. What sweet little hand-warmers! I dug up some pretty, eggplanty** Lamb’s Pride wool for the cuff and tip of each mitt, used up my hand-dyed Noro leftovers for the body of each mitten, and worked a four-pointed star at the tip of each – that being about as much intarsia, Dear Reader, as I can gracefully handle.

The fraternal mitts are attached by the prettiest silk ribbon on earth, which is long enough to thread through the sleeves of Bee’s winter coat. Expensive Japanese wool? Silk ribbon? I know, by January these mittens are totally going to end up lost in a filthy puddle of melty slush in the street, as every toddler mitten eventually does and must. But I’m not worried. I want my daughter to be surrounded by things of beauty, and to know that she’s worth the work of creating them.

That being said, I’ve just finished a second, slightly less over-the-top pair of mittens as back-ups. And because I happened to have wool in exactly the right colors lying around, this pair matches Bee’s winter coat with ridiculous, matchy-matchy precision. They’re a bit more utilitarian than the Noro pair (and identical rather than fraternal!), being made with some standard light worsted, but they’re still kind of terrific, I think. I’ll finish them after a day or two of nap-knitting, and then you shall see them in all their splendid orange-and-magenta-ness.

For both pairs of toddler mittens, I improvised a pattern that I’m unlikely ever to post here, as I know for a fact that the majority of knitters do not enjoy working from hastily scrawled, error-laden patterns created by the frazzled mothers of young children.

* Truth be told, I love doing gussets. For socks and grown-up-sized gloves and mittens, they’re necessary and pretty fun to do. But not having to add a thumb to baby mittens makes them really fast to knit, and I do respond well to that sort of semi-instant gratification.

** Indeed, this eggplanty yarn is left over from when I knitted (yep, you guessed it) an eggplant. I’m telling you, some Christmas down the road, Bee is gonna unwrap the best collection of stuffed play food EVER.

Friday, September 09, 2011

I am so happy.

Leave it to a knitter to effuse over how much she loves a particular knitting pattern, and then outline the many modifications she made while knitting it.

The first project I cast on – after realizing that I could knit while Bee naps in my lap!!!* – is this fine-gauge little red cardigan. It’s Carole Barenys’ seamless yoked sweater (Rav link), which has been knitted up by about a zillion Ravelers, in part because it has the fantastic asset of being both seamless and top-down.** So: almost no sewing (just buttons, and there’s a certain conclusive thrill to button-sewing), and, in theory, you can try the sweater on its recipient to determine, periodically, how much longer to make the body and the sleeves. My model, though, is under a year old, and immensely wiggly. I wonder if Tyra Banks wiggles around this much when being wrangled into designer dresses? Also, does she chew her socks?

Anyway, regarding mods, I added length and a sixth buttonhole, and picked up extra stitches at the armholes, working 40 stitches for each sleeve rather than the suggested 30-something. I wanted the slip-stitch design on the sleeves to match the yoke, so I did three repeats of the slip-stitch design at the end of each sleeve, with two stockinette stitch rows between each set of two slip-stitch rows. I also lengthened the garter stitch edge of each sleeve (P1R, K1R three times), because I like the look of a generous cuff. And, anyone still with me here?, I created a bell sleeve by omitting the sleeve decreases; the pattern calls for decreasing to 36 sts, and then to 32, but I just knit straight. And since garter stitch is wider than stockinette, the garter stitch cuff creates a slight flare. Easy, sweet bell sleeves, with no need to increase!

The only headache I had with this sweater involved adding stitches under the arms: the pattern calls for you to pick up stitches, but what you really want to do is pick up and knit. There is a difference, and if you use the wrong technique, the result is a set of ugly, stretched stitches under the arm. So I had to frog. I ripped out the first sleeve twice, actually, before figuring out the difference.

The pattern being easy, and knit all in one piece (and mostly flat!), I started a second one before the sock-weight red one was even finished (which it now almost is… nothin’ left but button-sewing!). The second one (photo at left), also for my many-sweatered daughter, is thicker and warmer. I used worsted-weight and what I thought were size five needles (because they were marked size five needles!). Well, they’re actually fours,*** so this is a very tightly-knit garment indeed. Aaaand since I never, ever learn my lesson about employing unidentifiable stash wool of limited quantity, I’m going to run out of this sweet, heathery, mulberry-hued wool (of which I cannot procure more) before the project is done. Time to grin and add some stripes, I guess! Actually, joking, I have a different secret plan, which I’ll elucidate later when I’ve started to put it into action.****

Next! I started, and then completely frogged, this cute toddler vest (Ravelry link) that’s going to have three owls on the front. Owl cables took the knitting world by storm last year, for real, and now Ravelry’s got them on gloves, vests, hats, adult-sized sweaters, kids’ raglans, everything you can think of. Owl cables OWL OVER THE PLACE! And I’m certainly not saying I was the first to do it, but my father-in-law does have in his possession a certain winter cap that has warmed his head since the Christmas of 2007. Anyway, this owly vest is technically not on the needles anymore, because I didn’t like the vintage stash yarn I was using and am going to begin anew, but I’m actively looking for a new yarn for it, so it counts as an active project in my book. I’ve been referring to this toddler garment as Vestination Unknown, because I’m not sure who it’s for yet. No, really! I’m serious, it’s not necessarily for Bee! It depends on how large or small this vest turns out, because if it’s not gigantic I’d like to see it on the new baby boy who has recently graced my circle of friends.

The final WIP I’ve got going on is a set of bitty little mittens made of leftover Noro. No photo today, but if you’re a knitter you surely know what Noro looks like, and can extrapolate. And If you’re not a knitter,***** I’ll just explain that Noro is Japanese and beautiful and expensive. So a set of violet-colorway toddler mittens made of it is indulgent indeed! But, as I mentioned, I have a bit remaining from a sock project of yore, and baby mittens are a good use of yarn oddments.

Lest you think I am a 100% quick and amazing and effective lap-nap knitter, here’s an update on the status of a pink sweater from days gone by. Notice the sad bits of yarn clinging to the tote.

Okay! After almost no knitting tawk for months, there’s your FM of K. I enjoyed it very much, and hope that you either a) relished geeking out with me or b) skipped this post altogether (no offense taken).

Fear not, non-knitters: I imagine I’ll soon be back to criticizing the climate and trying to make sense of motherhood.

* It only took me ten months to figure this out. Knitters are generally quite smart; I may be the exception.

** And cute!

*** You can kind of see where I irritably re-labeled the needles with a fine-tipped Sharpie. Take that, disguised number fours! They’re marred now, of course, and I do like my knitting things to be physically beautiful. But come on. Wrong sizing is so not okay.

**** Knitters always have a last-ditch secret plan for when we run out of an unreplenishable yarn.

***** And if you’re not a knitter, you aren’t even reading this.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

FM of K

I’m still unwilling to admit, Dear Reader, that I might be over-promising when it comes to the “frequent mention of knitting” part of my mission statement. Although I’ve barely blogged about knitting (or actually knitted) since Bee was born, I’m still one of those crazy knitters that thinks about knitting all the time. I’m always a knitter. Even now, I look at patterns and buy yarn and count the days until my town’s new yarn shop opens up (FIVE BLOCKS FROM MY HOUSE!). Knitterhood is part of my identity and I’m cool with that. I’m more than cool with it, actually; knitting is a source of pride and community and creativity and pleasure and comfort – even when I don’t have two free hands with which to clasp needles. But thank god there’s no $5 Ravelry Extra that logs our hours spent pattern-browsing* and yarn-cataloging (with a baby in one’s lap), that’s all I am saying.

Before I was a parent, “frequent mention of knitting” was not just possible – not only probable – but assured. In fact, knitting, and its frequent mention, was pretty much my idée fixe, a pursuit simultaneously requiring a certain elegant logic and allowing a wild inventiveness. Knitting was artistic, time-consuming, challenging, and fun, so I used to knit torrentially. With a complete lack of restraint. I made sw
eaters, stuffed animals, hats, mittens, baby things (for friends’ babies, and then for my own – before she was born, of course), socks, a burger and fries, all manner of cosy. You know. Knitting. All the time. All over the place. Always and forever.

That kind of uninhibited, gung-ho pursuit of a hobby worked out great when I was in my twenties and had, like many young people of my general socioeconomic situation, nothing better to do but work for a badly operated nonprofit, make pancakes for dinner, and go to rock shows with my boyfriend. Later, knitting still fit snugly into my pre-motherhood life, when career became somewhat more important but not all-encompassing. I could work and still knit, be married and still knit, buy a house and still knit, even go back to school and still knit. It was, as we used to say back in the ebullient ‘nineties, “all good.”

Along came Bee, though. Sweet, exacting girl.
Since I basically haven’t set the kid down in the last ten months, there hasn’t been a lot of knitting going on around here, and I now surmise that the Romans’ poena magna refers to the great pain of no longer having time to knit. Every now and then I glance longingly toward my workbasket – I caress my rosewood needles in passing – I ‘favorite’ every garment of seamless construction on Ravelry – I even place a Knit Picks order – but I don’t actually knit.

At least, not until two weeks ago.

Two weeks ago: that’s when I discovered, oh my GOD, that I can knit while Bee sleeps in my lap! (Because every nap of her life has been in my lap. I know, it’s insane, but, trust me, if it could be any other way, we would make it be some other way.) Now, if only I were smarter and quicker and had thought of this knitting-with-a-baby-in-my-lap scheme months ago! I could have been carefully and quietly knitting miles of Cascade 220 socks instead of hustling through the Fairacre series or watching TV on my laptop with headphones.

So, I knit again! And for the last two weeks, I have looked forward to Bee’s lap-naps with high glee, which must be how the parents of normal-napping babies feel every time they put their kid down in the crib to sleep. Coming in the next few days, Dear Reader, is a report on the FOUR active knitting projects I’ve got going on right now. (Four, friends. This doesn’t count some sad hibernating intarsia socks, a closet-living orange hat, and a still-to-be-seamed sweater of old, none of which I can be persuaded to look at.

But here’s an advance glance (“sneak peek” is a trifle overworked, don’t you agree?) at one of the little slip-stitch sweaters I’m making for (of course) Bee. I’ll tell you all about it, and other lap-nap projects, on the morrow. Or the morrow after that.

* knitting > free > construction:seamless > keyword:cardigan. Like a million times.