Three Girl Pile-Up

…adventures of our homeschooling family

Category: knitting

Knitter, know thyself.

(thanks to my friend Lauren for sending me this picture of me knitting, and to my friend Nancy for my beloved owl stitch marker happily dangling from that project!)

I’m still finding my way as a knitter, still trying to figure out which projects really work for me.  The trick seems to be in finding the sweet spot, that place where projects are interesting but not too complicated.  Where the process is pleasing but the product is something to be enjoyed, too.  And since I’m also trying not to have too many different projects on  the needles at one time, I’ve become a bit more ruthless at ripping back projects that are at a dead end, and being choosy about which projects I cast on.

I’m realizing that the projects I follow to completion have most of the following traits:

1. Wool yarn.  I prefer wool.  Not necessarily 100% wool, but at least some wool.  Or alpaca.  But not cotton, and not a synthetic.  Often it’s seemed like a good idea, but I just don’t enjoy the knitting as much.

2.  Quick gratification.  Maybe it’s a small project, maybe it’s thick yarn that grows quickly in my hands.  It makes all the difference to feel like I’m getting somewhere.

3. There are milestones. Although socks are not a quick knit (at least in my hands), they have milestones that help built momentum.  Finish the ribbing!  Turn the heel!  Pick up stitches!  Long shawls and scarves are a poor fit for me–it just seems like they just go on and on and on.

4.  It’s a gift for  someone dear to me.  Even when I’m stalled, this keeps me going.  It got me through the Clapotis that would never end, and through the cabled socks that took me years to complete (that picture above is me working on sock #2).  Nevertheless, I’m trying to do a better job picking projects so I don’t have to use this as a fallback.

5.  Yarn that I love. Really love. Soft.  Easy to knit.  Beautiful colors.  Yarn I want to snuggle with.

6. Only a little bit interesting. Just enough that I can feel the thrill of an accomplished knitting project.  But not so much that I can’t have a conversation while I’m knitting, or set it down mid-row and find my way back again.  If it does have a pattern, it’s either repetitive or doesn’t have too many rows.

7.  Did I mention small? Small is good.  Quickly finished is good.  Especially since things other people describe as “quick knits” seem to take me a long time.

8. Very little making up required. I recently found a sweater I had knit for a friend’s baby.  It was knit and blocked, but I never got it sewn up.  Which will take me something like 30 minutes, I think.  The child it was for is now two years old.  Enough said.

I currently have a sweater for Maggie and a scarf for Anna on my needles.  Neither are good for on-the-go knitting; the sweater’s just too big and the sweater is too complicated.  I’m contemplating a simple, straight knitting project to carry around with me…I’m considering socks and a pair of fingerless gloves for myself.  Or perhaps I’ll live dangerously and cast on both.

Yep, really living on the edge around here.

A trio in blue.

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(Yes, that is the edge of my pajamas in the upper corner of the photograph.)

These three knits are gifts for dear friends who are soon to be welcoming a new member to their family.  The seeds for this project were planted a loonng time ago, when my friend Jennifer mentioned that if ever I was going to knit something for her daughter, she would love a hat with a scarf attached, since she had fond memories of one from her own childhood.  Not long after that, I came across Knitty’s Toasty Topper, and put that in my mental queue.  So when I found out that Jennifer was expecting a new baby, I thought it would make a good big sister gift, bought the yarn, and knit it this summer while we were in New York (always a time of super-productive knitting).  And then, having just knit Owlet (scroll down) for my nephew, I was inspired to make a hat for the big brother using those fantastic owl cables.

The girls enjoyed modeling the hats.

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And then I moved on to baby knitting…I went to the (only) local yarn shop in search of inspiration, and found it: a sample of Lillie’s Little Sweater, a top down hooded cardigan knit (hooray!) in one piece.  Although the shop owner thought I was crazy not to just do a baby sweater in acrylic (sorry, but ick!), I went home with the pattern and some lovely blue Misti Alpaca.

Although blue might not be the usual choice for a baby of as-yet-unknown gender, it seemed perfect to me.  I love blue for baby girls, and it is almost impossible to find–seems like everything blue also has trucks or construction equipment or something that says, “I’m a boy!”  I loved the few pieces of blue clothing that my girls had as babies, so I’m always happy when I can gift a girl with something blue.  And if it turns out to be a boy–well, obviously blue works just fine.  Although I will admit to sewing the buttons on the “girl” side even though the baby hasn’t made his/her gender known yet.  Somehow, I don’t think anyone will notice.

I have to admit that this sweater was a more ambitious knitting project than I had intended.  I’ve been trying to stick to accessories and quick knits that I can actually complete.  But my New York knitting groove got the best of me, and I figured that SURELY I could whip out the sweater in time for the new baby.

Which I have, but just barely.  Jennifer, who has always delivered early, is now 38 weeks–and the sweater is ready to go.  I have been dilligently knitting away on this sweater since we returned from New York in August, but progress has been slow.  I have been disciplined about only knitting on this one project, but when I only seem to get a row or two done at a time, the little sweater grew very slowly.  But grow it did, and now it’s finished, ready to cradle that sweet little head when it arrives.

I wouldn’t gift just anyone with a hand-knit alpaca sweater, but I’m so happy to give this to Jennifer.  Although not a knitter herself, she appreciates the love and care that goes into such a gift–and she isn’t afraid of a natural fiber!  (Although I did buy a small bottle of Euclan to include with the knits.)  I also know she will hand this down first to her own babies and then to others who will enjoy this little bit of knitted goodness.  I love imagining this little sweater getting passed around from one family to the next, wrapping new little babies in coziness and love.

In the meantime, getting that project finished has given me a spurt of new knitting momentum.  More to come on that….

A quick little knit–really.

Although you wouldn’t know it by reading this blog, I love to knit.  The thing is, I’ve been held prisoner by working on what for me was a big knitting project: a Clapotis shawl for my mother.  Which I started with every intention to give it to her for Christmas.  And only finished last week to give it to her for her birthday.  Because it’s my inclination to start many projects and finish few, I was determined not to start any new knitting projects until this one was finished.  I just didn’t realize that it would be so many months!

While my knitting queue is still not empty–my overly ambitious Christmas plans also included a still-unfinished pair of socks for my mother-in-law–I found that finishing this big scarf let me itching for a new, quick project.

But here’s the thing–I’m not a fast knitter.  So most of the patterns described on Ravelry as “quick knits” are not so quick in my hands.  In fact, not quick at all.  But then Anna provided some inspiration.  We were cutting pieces of yarn to put out for bird nesting material, and she pulled out a rainbow-colored skein of sock yarn.

“Mommy! Mommy!  Make me a scarf out of this yarn!  I LOVE it!” she said.

I explained that there wasn’t much of the yarn, probably not enough to make a scarf.

“Well, what could you  make out of it?” she asked.

I told her I’d think on it, and I did.  A cowl, maybe?  But I doubted it would actually get worn.  And then I hit on it: this great little amulet pouch from the now-defunct MagKnits.

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Anna loves necklaces and she loves bags, so I figured it had a good chance of actually being used.  I got to play with some different yarn, my beloved size one DPNs, and finish the project less than a day after I started.  Now, that’s what I call a quick knit.

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The recipient gave it two thumbs up, and now there’s a second one on the needles for her sister.

Now if I can just manage to get back to those socks….

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