The Unbearable Cuteness of Baby Knits

Tiny shawl collar cardigans, wee work socks, miniature sweater vests. Yup – super cutey cute cuteness. There’s no denying it. I’m as guilty as anyone of scrolling through a highway of Pinterest posts, saving, queuing, liking, and cooing over dozens and dozens of sweet little baby knitted stuffs.

AND I now have two, not one, but TWO, precious little grandchildren…cute as bugs in a rug, tugging at my heart strings (especially the ones attached to my internal knitting needles).

So why oh why do I hesitate to knit baby stuff?

I know. You are at this very moment emphatically telling my blog post that I HAVE knit baby things. In fact, more than a few. But really, the honest truth is that I could have knit waaaaaay more than I have. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more.

Despite all the purchased and queued patterns, despite the pretty stacks of woolly skeins, something thwarts my motivation to actually cast on and knit. However, after writing and rewriting this post, and a smidge of self analysis, I may have sussed it out. I think, maybe, possibly, perhaps, I don’t, way down deep in my heart, believe that knitting baby things is really worthy of my time. There, I said it. (I’m going to get mail over this)

Here’s my (admittedly lame) argument. While baby things are cute, take small amounts of yarn, and are mostly reasonably quick knits, how practical are they really?

Babies grow fast. Unfreakingbelieveably fast.  Even if I make stuff a size or two bigger than the current size of the baby, realistically the baby will only wear the item a handful of times before it can’t anymore. And, I also have a sneaking suspicion that the adult recipients of the baby knits I gift are reluctant to even let the little drooly, spit-uppy nibbling wear the semi-precious hand knit – despite my insistence that it’s at least, in part, machine washable.

I don’t know. My pragmatic side just can’t get onside with using up all that precious knitting time for something that, while appreciated, is so briefly useful. Ya hear me?

However, having said all that, there is the unbearable cuteness factor. Watch how perfectly decent knitting is transformed when wrapped around a bouncing bundle of joy:

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Purl Soho’s Clean + Simple Baby Dress and the Meredith Baby Cardigan. Nice, yes?

Now, hold my martini and watch this:

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Infinitely more cute, right? And besides, so maybe it only gets worn once or twice…

I’ll have these photos forever.

Cheers,

Knicoleknits

Steek Learning Curve

I am such a smarty-pants-know-it-all. Patterns, shmatterns – when you really know what you’re doing, they are just guidelines, right? Sometimes, even the smarty-pantsest of us need to follow direction and take advice. Especially when doing something we haven’t done before…

Steeks.

That sounds a lot like EEEEEK for a reason.

In case you’ve never encountered this term before, allow me to enlighten you. A steek is a panel of extra stitches added to the center front of a cardigan, which allows knitting the body in the round from hem to neckline. Then, when you’re done knitting, you cut up the center of the steek panel to turn what looks like a pullover into a cardigan.

Did you catch that? You CUT through your knitting. Scary scary deal, even when you know what you’re doing.

The pattern is The Little Dude, and I knit it for my super sweet first cousin-once-removed. His mom and her sister are a generation younger than I am and have been more like my nieces than my cousins. They rock and I love them and their off-spring and they deserve nice things.

Here’s what the knitting looked like before and after cutting the steek open:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yup. I cut right up the middle of that steek – and it didn’t go as well as it should have. Despite my prudent reinforcement by machine sewing through the stitches on each side of the center steek stitch, stuff unraveled way more quickly than I expected. In the end, I made it work and I learned some things, but there was much sweating and grumbling under my breath in the process.

There are two things I could have done to make my life, and this steek, easier to handle. The first one is that I should have followed the pattern designer’s oh so wise advice to NOT USE SUPERWASH WOOL when you’re going to cut through a steek. You see, there’s a reason those wooly fuzzy Fair Isle sweater are fuzzy and wooly. That fluffy halo you see on Shetland-type yarns is what gives the yarn a natural tendency to felt (which is why tossing your wooly knits into the washer and dryer will turn them into tiny, cardboard-like versions of themselves). That felting helps the stitches stay put and not want to slither out of formation the minute you turn your back. Superwash wool, however, has had the feltiness treated right out of it, so you CAN toss it in the washer with (sort of) wild abandon.

All that makes good sense, right? So surely I stepped away from my superwash stash and invested in some nice, fuzzy Shetlandy wool for this project…

Nope. I used superwash. I had it right there in my stash…all the right colors…and it’s for a baby, so it needs to be soft and washable…and besides, I wanted to start knitting RIGHT NOW! You know how that goes.

Now, having said all that, I now know that there’s something I could have done that would have made my bold yarn subbery more viable: more stitches in the steek. This pattern only called for 5 steek stitches. That’s one in the middle (that will end up cut in half), and two measly guards on each side. That may be plenty, if your yarn is sticky and fuzzy and won’t slither, but, as I discovered, it’s not enough for uncooperative yarn types. If I knit this again (and I might, cuz it’s cute), I would add at least two more stitches to the steek, probably three. This would allow a much bigger buffer on each side of the cut edge, and it would allow more fabric to roll under and stitch in place on the wrong side, which is very messy and upsetting when all the knitting is falling to pieces under your fingers.

So, there you have it. I made some mistakes, but they weren’t deadly. The sweater turned out quite nicely in the end…

And my cousin-once-removed looks pretty darn cute in it…

 

Next time, I might possibly maybe consider considering paying attention to pattern advice. Perhaps.

Knit well!

Knicoleknits

Stonecutters Saga

 

Stonecutters Cardigan - revised

There are few things more heartbreaking than working so unbelievably hard on something and really really really  wanting and expecting to love it, only to have it not work out the way you’d imagined.

I am sad. Looking at this sweater on its shelf in my closet makes me sad. Putting it on and lifting my arms to find a bazillion like balls of wadded up alpaca makes…me…sad.  Go get your tissue box and settle in for a crushing tale of woe…

It was star-date late September 2012, and I need a cozy sweater suitable for brisk Fall dog-walking. As I invariably listen to audiobooks during dog walks, no sweater without a suitable iPhone pocket would suffice. One lengthy Ravelry pattern search later, et voila! Amy Christoffer’s Stonecutters Cardigan filled all my boxes with adorable little check marks. Click click click…the pattern is in my library and the yarn acquisition begins…

IT MUST BE FOREST GREEN! – my brain declares with great authority.  A little Interweb searching uncovers the perfect hand dye shade in Misti Alpaca Tonos Worsted, but my LYS says the color’s not available anymore. Back to the web I go, and lo and behold, there is it on a Canadian online retail site. I click all the buttons and enter all the numbers and complete my purchase.

Then, I wait…most impatiently.

Finally, October and the yarn arrive together. I gleefully cast on and start knitting my little heart out. It’s one piece to the armholes, lots of little cables and pattern details, shaping, set-in pockets, etc… fun fun, intricate fun.

Stonecutters Cardigan -in progress

By late November, I had finally made it to the armholes…the upper fronts flew off my needles over one weekend, and I even made some progress on the upper back.  Fall was almost gone, but there were still several months of winter weather left. I could do it!

Early January, and I was halfway through my first sleeve! Hang in there Winter…my sweater is coming…!!!

By the third week of January, I was 3/4 of the way through the second sleeve, but found myself constantly distracted by the crappy job I did on the granite stitch on the sides. So unhappy, in fact, that I ripped back the right side panel and made an attempt to re-work the stitch pattern. The photos below are the right and left sides before ripping. Notice the random, ugly gaps in the granite stitch.

Stonecutters Cardigan - right side   Stonecutters Cardigan - left side

So, I ripped the right side first:

Stonecutters Cardigan - ride side ripped

Scary, right!?!  You better believe it.

I re-worked the right side, but still wasn’t happy with it. I tried using kellyjomo’s instructions to make it look all pretty like hers, but it didn’t work for me. I still couldn’t get it uniform all the way up:

Stonecutters Cardigan - right side reknit 1

I hypothesized that my size had a lot fewer granite stitches up the side – in fact, there are only 5 stitches across at the narrowest point – this might account for why I couldn’t get 3 + 1 stitch pattern to balance symmetrically on each side of the center.

I knew it would bug me no end every time I wore it if I didn’t fix it, so I decided to rip it back AGAIN and do what I did on the sleeve, which is work a single stockinette “seam” in the center:

Stonecutters Cardigan - right side reknit 2

All better! Happily balanced granite stitch on each side of the “seam.”  I then ripped and reknit the left side to match.

On February 10, 2013, I finally finished the first version!

I was very happy with my choice of tubular cast on and bind off for all edges.  You can see how spiffy the top of the collar looks:

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I tried about 4 different closures before settling on snap-together jeans buttons I had in my sewing stash. They suited the forest green to a tee. The pattern calls for snap closures, so I didn’t plan ahead for buttonholes. I simply pushed apart the knitting and shoved the tops though. I did consider getting ambitious enough to do Elizabeth Zimmermann’s afterthought buttonholes at some point, just to make it look more finished, but as you’ll see in a bit, that didn’t happen.

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See all that pulling across the bust and hip? That’s because it finished much much MUCH smaller than the 48” it was supposed to be. I can’t recall if I knit a gauge swatch or not. I suspect I didn’t. Serves me right. If I had, I probably would have gone up a needle size. At any rate, it still looked nice enough and was snug and warm, even if it was a little more on the fitted side than I intended.

I wore it several times, and then in early March I made two after-market revisions that took the sweater from pretty good to Ooo-la-la! (at least temporarily)

Mod One – swapped out buttons for a streamlined zipper…less pulling, smoother closure.

Mod Two – ripped back the collar and band and re-knit them together to eliminate the seam…much cleaner and more professional looking collar. Yay!

I also wet blocked it until it begged for mercy, and thus managed to eek out a couple more inches of ease.  The final result:

Stonecutters Cardigan - revised

Pretty darn good looking sweater after all that fuss!  Unfortunately, I soon discovered that I had made a huge and irreparable mistake.

I wore the sweater a few times a week for two months – it did not wear well. The super soft alpaca yarn was simply not up to withstanding hours of vigorous arm swinging. The poor thing was pilling like a pharmacy. I should have chosen something more springy, with a tighter twist. I was so focused on having the right color, that I didn’t pay enough attention to the quality of the yarn. Every time I wear it, I have to scrape off bazillions of underarm clumps of ugliness.

Oh well, live and learn.  This project is indelibly etched in my brain and I will NOT make the same mistake again.

The end.

Good Things Come to Those Who Finish

I’m back.

I apologize for being gone so long. Mental block…no worries, I smashed the block with a hammer. Smile

Further to my last post…somehow, despite all the starting, I did manage to “un-needle” a thing or two. (and, of course, “needle” and finish a few more…posts to follow)

At the very very VERY end of August, I finished my delightful Ravi:

Ravi hero shotRavi backRavi neckline

I thought – HA! – because after the lace yoke, it was nothing but easy peasy garter stitch from here on in – double HA! – that it would be quick quick quick to knit up the rest.
Pfffft…it was exactly the opposite. It felt like I was knitting FOREVER (I know, I said that last time, but it needed to be said again).  And THEN, there were sleeves!!! TWO of them!!!!

Don’t let yourself be fooled by the one-move single-stichedness of garter. You may be doing nothing but knit stitch, BUT (and it’s a big but) what one needs to remember is that garter ridges like to snuggle together, essentially causing the row between the ridges to vanish (ooooo…magic…or is it voodoo???) What this means is that it takes almost twice as much knitting to get to your goal length. I would knit for, like, hours, then measure to find a mere inch or two gained, if that…grrrr….whimper…sigh…resignation, and knitting would resume. It’s like that. And knitting garter with teeny weeny fingering weight yarn only compounds the issue. Just sayin’

Fortunately, I had incentive. Carol Feller (the pattern’s oh-very-talented designer) offered the chance to win a prize if one’s finished Ravi was posted on the Ravelry group forum by midnight August 31, 2012.  I made with deadline with about 30 minutes to spare, but, sadly, I didn’t win (snivel, weep)  However, I did have my lovely Ravi to wear for the rest of summer and fall…and wear it I did…and the compliments were plentiful. Happiness. Smile

Note: my one mod (that’s modification for those who aren’t up on their knitter’s jargon) was to duplicate stitch with dark turquoise over the light turquoise I-cord edging around the neckline. Excellent way to make the contrast yoke look more on purpose and less like I ran out of yarn.

Here’s a link to the pattern on Carol Feller’s page:  Carol Feller’s Ravi

Here’s a link to my Ravi on Ravelry: NicoleKneedles’ Ravi

Next item off the needles, Shaken Not Stirred Scarf:

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Once Ravi was done, I picked up the Shaken Not Stirred scarf and began to knit that in earnest. Again, I had a deadline to meet…my de facto Mother-in-Law’s 90th birthday (as noted in previous post, she and I have shared many a martini over the years). I had just over a month between finishing Ravi and the delivery date in early October.

Now, what possessed me to knit TWO projects in a row with fingering weight yarn, I will never know. Regardless, I did knit and knit and knit this little number until my muscles were raw, and managed to get ‘er done in time.

Throughout the process, I remained concerned about where-o-where I was going find a good olive-like button or bead to place inside the sweet lace martini “glass.” I searched high and low and even hither and yon before realizing that such an animal did not exist (I know what you’re thinking, but by the time I started searching, it was too late to hunt and shop the Interwebs).

Eventually, in abject desperation, I forced my brain to think outside the proverbial box. As I stood confounded in a bead store with no olive bead in sight, it occurred to me that somehow perhaps I could fashion what I wanted out of two or more different beads.

Et voila! Not even a minute later, I had the following beads in my hot little hand:

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Do these beads not simply scream olive with pimento to you? Exactly! I knew they would. Here they are in place on their knitted pick:

Martini Scarf

Again, one mod (there’s that word again) – I added a few extra “olives” in the center of the scarf to give it a bit more length. This scarf is knit in two sections from the ends to the center and then grafted together.

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Because I added the extra length on the fly, with no advance planning, I ended up with a few extra rows between the edge “olives” where it’s grafted. Now that I’ve brought it to your attention, you will see where the gap is on the edge at the graft point. Now forget you saw it. Thank you.

The birthday arrived in early October and the finished item was received (on time) by my de facto mother-in-law with much glee and raving (seriously…much raving…it continues to this day with every phone call).

Warning: This scarf is not for the faint of chart (yes, that was on purpose), as one must follow two lace charts, the edges and the center motifs, simultaneously. There was much ripping back and delay as I am a chronic multi-tasker while knitting and inevitably, errors ensue.

Here is a link to the pattern on Knitters Brewing Company: Shaken Not Stirred Scarf

Here is a link to my project page on Ravelry: NicoleKneedles Shaken Not Stirred Scarf

There’s lot more catching up to do, but I’ll dole it out in several posts instead of posting myself blind.

Don’t forget to knit – it’s good for you. Smile  And knitting opportunities are everywhere:

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Cheers, Nicole

Can’t Stop Starting

It’s official. I have been self-diagnosed with Start-itis. I’m afraid it may be terminal, because the stress is killing me!

 
I can’t seem to stop putting new projects on my needles.  Remember Rivel Cardi and Vestpa? Both in a deep deep sleep – coma-ville, in fact. Vestpa may even end up in the frog pond (ripped out, for those not famliar with the jargon)…I’m just not excited about it anymore.  Still love the design, but the yarn isn’t doing anything for me.  I think it wants to be cables or allover texture, or something…anyway, I digress.

 
The Start-itis all started back in late May when I accidentally happened upon Carol Feller’s 100th pattern celebration knit-a-long (KAL) of Ravi . I’ve never done a KAL before, and this pattern was so intriguing and looked like a relatively easy knit to keep up with, so I signed on.  Here’s the photo of the finished deal from Carol’s site, Stolen Stitches:

Here’s my progress as of a couple of weeks ago. I’ve done several inches more of the body since this:

The pattern calls for more of a sport weight, but I’m using fingering (Adirondack merino fingering [dark turq] and Sirino [light turq], which is a silk blend). Due to the lighter weight, it’s taking FOREVER to get the length I need in the fingering weight. I’m going to incorporate some of the darker blue into the neckline…it’s going to be very cool, people…wait and see…

The Ravelry notes for my Ravi are here: NicoleKneedle’s Ravi

So, while I was waiting (impatiently) for the first KAL clue to arrive, I started this little number from some sale yarn I bought at the Button Boutique when I worked there during the month of May.

This is Peggy from Sublime Yarns book #647 – The 2nd chic Sublime bamboo & pearls dk book:

I’m doing it two-tone dark brown and off-white.  Here’s what I got done before I cast on Ravi:

I would have loved to have used Sublime’s Bamboo and Pearls, but they only had goofy colors available to my LYS, so I’m using some Panda Silk DK. It’s crazy soft and drapey. Yum.

My notes on Ravelry are here:  NicoleKneedle’s Peggy

Theeeeeennnnn, at the end of June, we went on a road trip to the Okanagan, and I thought (pffft….as if I was thinking at all….pffft) that I could quickly whip up a little white shrug to wear over my navy blue dress at a wedding on July 7th.          HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!       I know.  Here’s the pattern I figured was totally doable in a week while travelling and whatnot:

This is from the same book as Peggy.  It’s called Gina:

Gorgeous, is it not?  I’m using Paton’s Grace in pure white.  I thought it was a bit stiff at first, but it’s turned out to have good drape and body.

Here’s what I have so far – not even one-half done to date:

I suppose it’s possible that it will be finished before the summer is out, but I doubt it.  Which is just sad, really, because it will look awesome over that navy dress. Sigh.

Aaaaaand, last but not least, I’ve cast on the Shaken Not Stirred scarf by Wendy Gaal, which I need to finish before my almost mother-in-law’s 90th birthday in early October. I thought I’d better get it moving along because it really needs to be done on time, so it needs to move up the food chain pronto.

Here’s the photo from the pattern (the scarf name above is a link to the website):

And here’s where I’m at so far:

I’m using ShiBui sock yarn in the colorway Anime. I’m actually just a smidge farther along today after getting a bit of car-knitting done. My gorgeous, inspiring mother-in-law and I have shared many a martini over the years, so this is a special project for us both. I’ll be very excited to post the finished item in a month (or two at most, gulp).

So there you have it – four new projects on the needles in less than two months…AND I came this close to casting on a hemp dishcloth a few weeks back. I think I might need an intervention…

I’m very anxious to have the finished garments to wear.  The KAL will push me to get Ravi finished, but I don’t know how I’m going to complete the other two AND finish the martini scarf in time, unless…

…I stop sleeping at night. Sleep is overrated anyway.

Until next time, with NO NEW PROJECTS and progress updates on the ones on the needles.

In the meantime don’t forget to knit – it’s good for you!  (and I hope my raging case of Start-itis isn’t contagious!)

Cheers, Nicole

 

Knit it. Love it. Wear it. Part One

How do I know I’m going to love – and wear – what I’m knitting?

A bit of trial and error over the years, but I’ve also learned to LOOK IN MY CLOSET. Right. Duh. There are clothes you love, and wear the most, hanging in your closet or resting in your dresser drawer. Knit them.

Writer, teacher, designer, Sally Melville’s motto:  Wear what you knit and knit what you wear (or is it the other way around?) Either way, it means that once you’ve figured out what your wardrobe staples are, there’ s no need to get all fancy, just find (or design, or modify) knitting patterns that duplicate those garments and you will find yourself blissfully wearing your knitting.

(p.s. I love love love Sally, so click on her name up there and check her out! I will be talking about her…a lot)

For example, I have concluded that a fitted knit vest over a dress shirt is a fast, professional, no effort way to dress myself for work. I have a handful of store-bought knit vests in my closet that I wear often – so, why the heck haven’t I knit one???  An excellent question – and a situation that I am remedying as you will see a little further along.

This is a sweater I made a couple of years ago from Vogue Knitting magazine. It’s the closest example I have to a knitted vest over a shirt. You can find all the details and my modifications on Ravelry here:  NicoleKneedles – Eyelet Blouse

See what I mean?  Comfy, yet stylish and office-worthy. This pattern would work quite beautifully modified into a vest…hmmm…I smell a new project….

 

Vest – I will knit, love, and wear.

This is the start of a fitted vest called “Vestpa” by Samantha Roshak – Check out her website…lots of well-designed and wearable patterns.

The photo below is of the back in progress, which is being worked from the bottom up. The cast on row is still “live” – the stitches are waiting patiently on a spare circular needle. When the front and back are complete, the side seams are joined and then the live stitches are picked up and the ribbing is knit from the bottom edge down in the round. The original pattern is plain knitting front and back. I explain my modifications below.

The original pattern has some really cool cabled twisted ribbing detail, but it’s too plain in the body for my taste, and I need something entertaining in the middle of all that stocking stitch, so I’m modifying the pattern by carrying a few repeats of the ribbing pattern up the center front and back. This was a bit tricky at first because the ribbing pattern is a twisted rib cable designed to be knit in the round and has only 5 rows between the repeats, which means that I had to do the cable crosses on the wrong side on every second set of cables.

After doing this for about 6 sets, I finally got smart and figured out that if I did 6 rows instead of 5 between the cables, I could do them all on the right side.

If you look very closely at the second pic below, you can see a very slight difference between the 5 row sets and the 6 row sets, but you really have to look closely.

Here’s the link to the pattern info on Samantha’s website: KnitQuest – Vestpa

 

Sidebar: I’m also training myself to lever knit while doing this project, so it’s coming along a bit more slowly than normal…but, if what the claims about lever knitting are true, the next project should be done in a flash!  I’ll go into more detail about lever knitting later – if you’re really curious, just google “lever knitting” and you’ll see many videos and blog posts on the subject. The Yarn Harlot calls it “Irish Cottage Knitting,” so you might look that up too.

 

Cardigan – I will knit, love, and wear.

I also have about a half-dozen light cardigan sweaters in my closet – again that I wear over dressy shirts or tees for work.

So, here is an interesting and very wearable cardigan pattern I’m working on – although it’s sitting dormant right now while I decide whether to start over in a smaller size – more on that below.

Below is the back of the Rivel Cardigan by Miriam Felton – You can see it on her website here:  Miriam Felton – Rivel Cardigan

(P.S. Miriam also designed the Rill Scarf which you can see on my first post)

The reason I’m contemplating frogging this baby and starting over is that I’ve lost 20 lbs and counting since I started this sweater…

I know! Go me!

…However, this yarn is waaaay too delicious to “waste” on a garment that I could be swimming in by the time it’s finished.  I really like the fitted look of the photo on Miriam’s website, and that’s how I want mine to fit.  Sooooo…the painful decision is… do I rip it out and wait until I’m at goal weight to start over…or…do I carry on and live with a beautiful sweater that’s oversized?

Comments?  Help me out here, people, if you are so inclined.

 

Okay, stopping now, because the knit-what-you-wear thing is a multiple-post topic.  Next time I’ll show you some knits from my closet that I intend to copy.

Until then – take good care…and Knit! It’s good for you.