Saturday, August 20, 2016

FO: Big Bad Bubbles Baby Shawl

Today I am super pleased to share that I finished the big white blanket.

 The pattern is a very old one from Patons. Like the original pattern suggests, I knit the shawl in 3ply, but instead of using Patons I used Bendigo Woollen Mills in Luxury 3ply in Frost (about 180g of a 200g ball). I used 4mm needles. 

There were a few things that I did in this shawl that I would do differently if I did it again. When I cast the shawl on, I had just moved and I didn't know where any of my crochet hooks were (I still don't - I ended up buying a new set). Therefore, I used Tin Can Knits' directions for a circular cast on that uses knitting needles instead of crochet hooks to do Emily Ocker's cast-on. I'm sure the fault is with me and not the instructions but my cast-on is really loose and looks a bit gappy in the middle of the shawl. I wish I'd waited till the crochet hooks arrived and I'd started the way I'm more familiar with.

 The construction of the shawl is quite easy. In the centre panel, you increase eight stitches every second row until you have 220 odd stitches. You then use the principle of the Pi Shawl and double the amount of stitches in one row and then just knit until you get to the edging, so there are no increases in the feather and fan pattern at all. While I was knitting that section, I used four stitch markers, with one marking each quarter of the shawl. That was super useful and allowed me to catch mistakes when they happened. Then, once you have finished knitting the 440-odd stitch rows to the desired length, you knit about an 880ish row knitted on border.

I hated knitting that border. Flipping a giant blanket back and forth every eight stitches almost 900 times was not fun! I powered through most of it in a few marathon podcast sessions (thank you Knitting Go - the first and only video podcast I have ever watched but I wouldn't have been able to finish without it) and ended up three stitches short. I knew I'd started with the correct amount of stitches, so I'd obviously lost three stitches along the way. The thought of undoing the border made me want to cry so I just fudged it and hoped they weren't very important stitches. Once I blocked it, it was pretty easy to see each of the three stitches I dropped (in the middle right and bottom right of the above picture). However, since the recipient is a non-knitter and so they won't know it's a mistake, I've decided to call it a design feature and let it go.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with it. It looks all pretty and shawl-y now it's blocked and stretched but, once it's been washed a few times, it'll be soft and round and more blanket-like, which is perfect for a baby's security blanket. I just hope the mum-to-be (since she's American, really mom-to-be) likes the Bubbles Baby Shawl as much as I do.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Little Sister Baby Dress (2016 FO #4)

As I sat down to write this post, I logged into Ravelry so I could check how many FOs I've posted this year. According to Ravelry, I have only completed four things so far this year... oops! I've made a ton of stuff, big and small, and simply neglected to write about it and, in many cases, even to photograph it!

To begin the catch-up process, I'm starting with a little FO. As I wrote here, before moving I sorted out all of my yarn and projects. In theory, this should make finding yarn and knitting following moving easier. In practice, however, due to how things were packed and the order in which they were moved, in the two weeks after moving where we were sorting through boxes and deciding where to put things, I only had easy access to one of boxes - the box of 4ply. As I wrote here, I wasn't very happy with the baby blanket I knit for a blanket for a friend whose baby is due in September. So, I thought I'd take the opportunity presented to me by pure necessity and whip up a little baby something out of the Cleckheaton Merino Bambino I have had marinating in my stash for about eight years. Sometimes the universe tells you you are onto a good thing, and about 10 minutes after I decided to do this I checked my Feedly and saw a new post from Olivia at Dreaming all the Time where she talks about knitting a variety of patterns for her niece, including the Little Sisters Dress, and I was thusly inspired to cast on for one straightaway. Two weeks later, the dress was done.


Six weeks after that, I finally got around to sewing on the (adorable) buttons and the dress was finally ready to be photographed. 

Ravelry tells me that this pattern has been made over 5,100 times and there is not really very much I can say here that hasn't been said before. It is simple, easy and very cute. I spiralled two colours of the yarn on the body to avoid pooling and instead ended up with a funky flying saucer colour repeat. If I did it again I would omit the buttons, as they are just for effect and I am lazy (although, who doesn't love an opportunity to add itty bitty buzzy bees?). The Cleckheaton Merino Bambino is delightful to work with, as always, and I hope the baby-to-be gets lots of wear out of this adorable little garment.

One down, seven FOs to go!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

WIP Wednesday: Blinded by the White Edition

Lace is a good thing to knit. It looks fantastic, it's fun to knit and there's always a bit of magic in the transformation from lumpy spaghetti monster to an elegant, lovely piece of art. However, it's not a great-looking project on the way to the finishing line. You knit, knit, knit and knit and the piece gets bigger but it is basically impossible of its final size or look from the WIP on your needles.

Case in point:

I am halfway through the edging and at this stage it does not look like it is going to end up as a flat circular blanket. You just have to have faith that 1) the designer knew what they were doing and b) you have not massively cocked something up. Fingers crossed!

 I have to admit that I am not particularly enjoying knitting the edging on. Because I am knitting the shawl in the round while the original was knitted flat, I have made some modifications to the pattern. I cast on provisionally, using a cable from my KnitPicks interchangeable set to stand in for waste yarn. I then started knitting...

..but I just wasn't happy with the look. When you turn the knitting after joining the edging to the main yarn and reducing one stitch, the pattern instructs you to slip the first stitch. I had been doing that with the yarn in front.

Here, you can see the difference. On the right of the picture, I had slipped the stitch with the yarn behind. On the left, I had slipped the stitch with the yarn in front, which then formed a visible stitch.

So I ripped it back, started again and am much happier with the new border. But it's still just the same 8-12 stitches, back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth (and so on).

I am also not enjoying knitting with white yarn. It is so boring! Especially when combined with the relentless grey of the Melbourne winter sky and the bleakness of day after day of overcast weather. After two weeks of non-stop white in the middle of winter, I just couldn't take it anymore! So, I cast on a pair of socks in the brightest yarn I could find.

The relief is palpable. Thank God for colour.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

WIP Wednesday: The Welcome Back Edition

Hello! It's been a while since I posted. The last two months have been busy! I moved house, which is always insane. Even now, five weeks after moving in, I still don't know where all of my stuff is. The funniest thing was as soon as we moved, people wanted to just drop in. The day after I moved in, I had a guest pop over uninvited who wanted to stay for a chat. This is what I looked like that day (in the mirror on the middle left):

It was not a good day to visit and I was not a gracious hostess! Now, though, everyone's welcome - the more the merrier.

In the last five weeks, I also found out I am going to be a step aunt. It's an odd situation - my dad, who lives in France, married a woman who also lived in France but whose children live in America. I have met my dad's wife, but not either of her children, who are my step sisters. One of them is up the duff (do they use that expression in America?), so I thought the step sisterly thing to do would be to make her a baby blanket.

Because the blanket needs to be mailed, I wanted something lightish but still pretty. I settled on the Baby Bubble Shawl, which I think is both pretty enough to be ornamental but not so lacy that it is only good for special occasions. 

I am using Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury 3ply in Frost. As always, it's lovely to work with. Plus, it's machine washable, which is super important for babies.

Because it is so very white, I wanted a really strong, protective project bag to hold it, so I popped an old rice bag in the washing machine, dried it thoroughly and Bob's your uncle (do they use that expression in America? I clearly need to do some research).

I have now done 14 of the 18 repeats of the lace panel, then I just need to do the 900 rows of the edging I'm done. I need to get it in the mail by 1 September, which I should be able to do without problem but it is so relentlessly white I might need to do something with a bit of colour just to take the edge off.

Lucy kind of hates it, but she hates everything at the moment because it's winter and she's not allowed outside. Poor little thing :)

Friday, June 3, 2016

2016 FO #4: Dreams of Granada Baby Blanket

A while ago, I wrote about a baby blanket that I'd finished but wasn't happy with. This is a picture of it unblocked:

Here it is blocked:

I was originally concerned about how raised the centre section is. It definitely deflated a bit after blocking but is still clearly raised:

I considered ripping it back but in the end decided to leave it as is. I figured that a) a non-knitter will probably think it's supposed to be like that and b) it's going to have a baby spew and wee on it, so                                         
it's not worth getting too het up about.

The other problem I have with this blanket is the yarn. I bought the same yarn in the same colour used in the pattern, KnitPicks Brava Worsted in Tide Pool. It was cheap! Like $20 for all the yarn needed to make this quite big blanket (I made the smallest size and it is over a metre wide). It was nice to knit with - soft and with good definition. But after only two gentle washes, it is already looking a bit worn. I have enough of the yarn left to make a hat and scarf set, which I want to because the colour is lovely, but is it worth going to all that effort if it is going to wear out halfway through the season? I really wish I'd gone with my first instinct and made the blanket in BWM Luxury.    

What we have here is a mediocre result for a lot of knitting. Next time I make this blanket - and I will be making it again - I will only knit the outside cabled border, not the inside one, and I will knit it out of wool or a wool blend. 2 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

WIP Wednesday: The Big Grey Edition

Last week I shared my directions of how not to start a lopayesa. This week, the knitting process has gone much more smoothly. I may not like the finishing on this pattern, but I cannot fault the shaping directions for the body at all. They are very clear and therefore really easy to follow. I am now about halfway through the third ball on the body. I love working on this - it's just like a giant sock, which is my favourite type on knitting.

I didn't take a good photo of just the sleeves but you can kind of see them here. I decided I really hated the look of the garter stitch cuff (on the left) so for the second sock I used a provisional cast on (on the right). I just started knitting the part after cuff. After I've finished the jumper, I'm going to pick up those stitches and knit down in 2x2 rib. That way I can measure the sleeve and end up with the perfect length for my sleeves. I am happy with how this project is tracking - if I keep up this pace, the jumper will be done in a month.

Because I like to always have something in my handbag to work on, I cast on a simple pair of men's  socks for Sam's brother for Christmas.

For Christmas!! I am going to be so organised this year...

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

WIP Wednesday: How Not to Knit a Lopayesa Edition

Right after I submitted my thesis, I received a very generous gift in congratulations for getting the whole thing finally done. Of course, I wanted to spend the gift on yarn! Inspired by Mason-Dixon Knitting's Bang Out A Sweater knit-a-long, I decided to make a lopayesa. The Stopover they used is not really my style so I decided to go for a more traditional looking Strokkur by Ysolda, whose patterns are always very reliable. I ordered the yarn from Shop Icelandic and in a really quick time, like eight days, the yarn arrived. I made the important first step straightaway (that is, taking a photo and posting it on Instagram) and then things, well, kind of slowed down.  

I bought the pattern and then started knitting a sleeve for the swatch. I decided on magic loop and, after I'd done about 10cm, I gave the swatch-sleeve a decent bath. Then, I waited.

And waited. And waited. And then waited some more. It took about three days for the swatch to dry, by which time I'd moved on to the Big Purple Fluffly Blanket then the Sock Yarn Blanket. There was no room in my knitting enthusiasm for jumpers - it was all blanket all the time.

Last week, the weather (finally) began to act more seasonally appropriate, so I pulled out the swatch again. I got stitch gauge, so I was ready to continue. BUT I had not written down anywhere what size I had cast on. I counted the stitches and compared them to the pattern and it *looked* like I'd cast on for the 38.25 inch size, which seems odd because I am sure my bust is bigger than that. So, without doing anything so silly as remeasuring myself to find out why I made that decision, I cast on for the body in the 41 inch size.

Five centimetres of 1x1 ribbing later, I knew I'd made a mistake. For starters, the jumper was GIANT.   Like, at least 10cm too big but likely closer to 20. Secondly, I hate 1x1 ribbing. I hate doing it, I hate how it looks - why did I think I would like it better just because the designer said to use it? 

So, I went back to the drawing board. 

I ripped the ribbing (sob) and remeasured the swatch. I also remeasured myself. Discovering (as I'm sure I did last time) that I have a 39 inch bust, I decided (as I'm sure I did last time) that I'd rather have a jumper with negative than positive ease, I cast on the number of stitches for the 38.25 inch size. I also did the ribbing in 2x2, ie the type of ribbing I actually like. A few hours of hard graft later, and voila:

A lopayesa of the appropriate size that looks like I want it to.

This whole thing is proof that I am just not a sweater knitter! Kids, don't be like me.

In Other News

Both of the pairs of socks from last week's WIP Wednesday are done. Photos coming as soon as I have the right weather and model to get the job done.