Thursday, February 12, 2015

Entirely too cute.

Any day now our newest nephew will be born, and in expectation of his arrival, I've been working on a little blanket for him. When we found out my sister- and brother-in-law were expecting, right away I knew that whatever I made would be gender-neutral, not only because it was too early to know the baby's sex, but because I thought the parents would prefer it.

You can almost tell what they're supposed to be.

I wasn't sure what I wanted to make - I've made plenty of hats and stuffed toys for my legion of nieces and nephews, but I was in the mood for something different, so I thought a blanket might be the way to go. And after a good, long Ravelry search, I hit upon just the right one: Villi Pohjola by Terhi Viinikanoja. It was so cute! Knitted abstractions of arctic critters in easy-to-knit squares. The only trick was that the pattern was written in Finnish, so I had one window of my computer open to the pattern text and another window open to Google Translate.

I think this otter is my favorite.

The animals on pattern were a bunny, a reindeer, a brown bear, a badger, a lynx, and a fox. Since this new baby was going to grow up in North Carolina, I decided to modify the pattern to show critters found there. I changed the reindeer to a deer, the brown bear to a black one, the badger to a raccoon, and the lynx to a river otter. All it took was a few sketches on the handy graph the designer supplied and I was in business. The knitting went really quickly as it was stockinette stitch in worsted-weight yarn. Since this was a baby gift, I chose Cascade 220 Superwash for its ease in care. I don't think that new parents are going to want to deal with anything that isn't machine washable.

The fox is pretty cute too.
Once I got the knitting done, the seaming went pretty fast too. I used my favorite seaming tutorial from Twist Collective, and had the blanket put together in short order. Appliqueing the eyes was a different story. I had been putting it off for awhile, because the size of the blanket meant that I was going to have to clean all the mail off my dining room table if I wanted the eyes to look right. Thankfully, a gloomy, rainy day inspired an idea: I'd take the blanket to the coffee shop and work on it there! The tables would be clean, someone else would make hot drinks for me, and I wouldn't have to clean my dining room. Awesome!

And who wouldn't love this sweet bear?

Once all the critters had eyes, it was a lot easier to get going on the noses and mouths. The noses were all done in duplicate stitch (except for the racoon, who doesn't have a nose) and then I used a chain stitch to get nice curves for all the mouths. I improvised the deer's antlers - the pattern called for crocheting them, but my crochet skills are practically non-existent, so I knit them in garter stitch to keep them from curling up. I added some black trim to the fox's ears and called the blanket done. It turned out to be just the right size for a stroller, so I hope he'll get lots of use from it.

I'm not sure the deer is happy to be here.

Well, that's it for now, Friends. I have to get this package in the mail!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Adventures in Stash Knitting, or, Another Lesson in "You Should Know Better By Now"

So, the whole point of knitting from stash is, you know, using up stash yarn. I mean, I have yarn. Not as much as some folks, but enough that I'm not going to run out any time soon. And as I've got all this yarn, I want to knit it up. I haven't gone cold sheep (it's like going "cold turkey," but, well, knitters) or anything, but I am making a point of being mindful about what I'm buying.

Anyway, some time ago, a couple of my friends were doing a little destashing, and  I acquired a whole lot of Cascade Eco Wool. A few skeins in cream from my friend Holly, a few skeins in chocolate from my friend Tonya, and a couple random skeins of each from my friends Colleen and Jan added up to something like 6000 yards of bulky-weight yarn. That's more than 3 miles of yarn taking up a whole lot of space in my stash.

The first project I made from this stash was the Walnut Snood from the awesome Japanese knitting magazine Amirisu. I ended up using a little more than a skein for this cabled infinity scarf. Looking over my project notes, it looks like it took me less than a week to complete it, and I've worn the hell out of it since then. It's my go-to scarf, and I love its versatility: on the occasions when I've neglected to wear a hat, it's come in really handy as a sort of hood and even as a balaclava. I can't say enough good things about it.

The next project was Streymoy from the Winter 2013 Knitty. I think I documented the sweater pretty well here, so you know all the trouble I had with it. But, really, the whole reason I chose that pattern was because I thought I'd be able to use up all this yarn. It used up quite a bit, but sadly, not all of it. I had to think about what I was going to do next.

I didn't have anything specific in mind, just using up this yarn! I did a Ravelry search based on the gauge I was knitting, the yardage I had, and the necessity for colorwork since I had two colors of this yarn. After looking through what felt like a million patterns, I settled on the Northern Lights poncho from a Vogue Knitting book. It had been published 10 years ago, so I was a little worried I wouldn't be able to find it, but it turned out that my local library had a copy. It was a quick, fun knit. That, again, didn't use up all the yarn.

Ugh! Seriously, I was getting pretty sick of knitting so many brown and white projects (including the projects I made with some really cool locally-grown Shetland wool), but I was determined to use up this yarn. Since I didn't want to make another poncho, I got going on another Ravelry search, this time deciding I had just the right amount of yarn to knit Boreal by Kate Davies, and knit it in time to wear it for Christmas. Yeah, I don't know what the hell I was thinking, either.

Based on the amount of yarn I had in each color, I really should have done the sweater with the light color on the bottom, but I decided that for my body type, it would look best with dark on the bottom half. So with a little trepidation, I cast on. The knitting went quickly since there was so much stockinette. Once I made my way through the bottom half, I started getting a little nervous that I was going to run out of dark yarn for the top half. I had a bad feeling about it that only got worse the further along I got. On December 18th I ran out of the chocolate yarn. A week before Christmas! What was I going to do? There are only a couple yarn shops in the area that carry Eco Wool, so I was really sweating it. It wasn't necessary to have a new sweater in time for the holiday, but I really wanted one.

So one night after work, I braved the crazy traffic by the malls to go to the shop that I thought was my best chance of finding the yarn. I had a 20 minute window to get off the bus, cross something like 10 lanes of traffic, walk to the shop way at the far side of the parking lot, find the yarn, pay for it, and catch the bus to get home. The shop had exactly one skein of the yarn I needed. It wasn't the same dye lot, but I was pretty sure it wasn't going to matter with the color work, so I snatched it up and hurried to the checkout where there was a woman ahead of me who had a million little individually-priced stems of fake wreath-making stuff and nearly as many coupons. All I had was the one skein, but I was 30 seconds too late getting to the cashier. After roundly cursing her out (in my mind, though, not out loud), I took a breath and hoped I'd be able to make my bus. It was a Christmas miracle! I paid for my precious, ran for the bus stop, and thanks to the ridiculous traffic, I had time to spare before the bus arrived.

Once I got going again on the sweater, I was able to finish it in practically no time at all. From beginning to end, the whole thing took 10 days. And I had yarn left over, which kind of bothers me, but I just can't bear the thought of yet another Eco Wool sweater. I only ended up using about 100 yards out of the new skein of yarn, so I still have a healthy 400 yards left, in addition to nearly a full skein of the cream. I'd really like to use it up, but I think I'm going to give it a year or so. It'll keep.

Well, that's all I've got for tonight. Thanks for sticking with me over my long holiday break, Friends. Until next time.