Knitting Baby Stuff: Marguerite & Madeline

There’s an apparent baby boom going on among my friends at present so I’m in (yet another) flurry of knitting activity trying to make sure I have something for all the new arrivals. I was running a little bit behind schedule when this little lady made her entrance in such a hurry that she was (unexpectedly) delivered with help from her dad and 000 in the bathroom! Not that the dramatic (and fortunately safe) circumstances of her arrival are any excuse for my late knitting. She was actually right on time.

img_9932

A relatively quick knit for a little girl who also likes to do things in a hurry.

So having knit old favourites recently, I decided to go with something new for this little lady.

img_9934

Skew-whiff lace.

Pattern: Marguerite by Helen Rose

Cost: $5 USD

Source: Ravelry download

Yarn: Madelinetosh Feather in Over the Ocean

Needle: 3.25mm and 4.5mm 16″ circular and 4.5mm DPNs

Before I get on to the pattern—which I’ll say now made me a little grumpy—the yarn I used for this is fast becoming a favourite. Delicate, soft and subtly shimmering colour. Having not known it existed a few months ago, I am becoming a firm fan of single ply yarn for anything light and soft.

So, while this is a sweet little lacy top which is very simple to make, some aspects of this pattern irked me and my perfectionistic tendencies and I’m not sure I’d make it again without making a few corrections.

My first gripe is that the lace repeat is not symmetrical. Instead of working ssk on one half of the repeat and then k2tog for the other side, as one would expect in a lace pattern, all the decreases are worked as k2togs. To me the whole thing looks a bit skew-whiff as a result.

img_9940

Despite a thorough blocking, there is some visible laddering due to the beginning of the round running up the middle of the back.

The second foible, which I didn’t realise until I was well underway, is that the beginning of the round is positioned in the middle of the back of the garment. This isn’t a big deal in the lacy section, but despite my very best blocking, there is a clear ladder in my stocking stitch bodice at the point where the round began. It would have been far better for this to be under an arm, out of sight.

The pattern includes instructions to use stitch markers to help keep track of the lace repeats. However, with the inclusion of various increase rows which shift the location of the markers, this involves putting the markers on only to take them off again a few rows later. While this is all very clearly described in the pattern, it’s quite a to-do and I would probably have been better just to work without the markers all together. The repeat is pretty simple so it’s not too complicated to work out where you are up to if you lose your place on a lace row.

img_9935

A poorly executed bind off.

The last irksome feature of my finished object is of my own doing. I initially started to cast off the bottom of the bodice using a simple chain cast off in purl, but felt that there wasn’t any stretch in it and that it might be too tight to pull onto a wriggly baby easily. So I ‘ffo-tsac’—not my favourite knitting manouvre—and instead used Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off. While it is, as advertised, surprisingly stretchy, I wasn’t as even in my technique as I would like and as the beautiful stitch definition of the yarn isn’t very forgiving of poorly executed stitches, my cast off edge leaves a little to be desired. I used the same technique for the ribbed sleeve cuffs where the aesthetic issue is fortunately far less conspicuous.

So, although it’s slightly wonky looking and laddered, this is a soft and lovely lacy top which knit up very quickly for a very lovely little lady who also likes to do things in hurry.

img_9936

Lovely stretchy cuffs thanks to Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off.

Knitting Baby Stuff: Classic Cardigan

A very, very dear friend of mine welcomed a new baby to her family a few weeks ago and while I was one of the first people to know that she was expecting, the gender was a surprise to everyone the day baby arrived.

Having had a bit of revelation recently that knitting things in newborn size is results in them being packed away very soon after they are received, due to babies’ phenomenal ability to grow before one’s eyes in those first few months, my criteria for baby knits have been refined and clarified. A size for older than 6 months. Useful and practical garment. Easy to put on a wriggling baby. Machine washable yarn. And in this case, gender neutral!

img_9761

Playdate Cardigan is classic and simple and seriously cute.

Pattern: Playdate Cardigan by Tin Can Knits

Source: Ravelry download (aren’t they all these days?)

Price: $7 USD

Yarn: Madelinetosh Feather in Favourite Pair

Needles: 3.25mm and 3.75mm circular & double pointed needles

When my Madelinetosh yarn arrived, I could not believe how deliciously soft it was. Shimmering and delightful. I’d chosen blue (I firmly believe it is gender neutral!) but the shimmer had me almost fearing that it might be too ‘pretty’ should it’s wearer be a boy.

img_9771

Some suitably masculine buttons.

I eagerly cast on. I was a little nervous to ‘waste’ yarn swatching as I only had 420 yards and my pattern called for 400, so thinking myself rather clever, I decided to use the pockets as my gauge swatches. Two birds with one stone. Look at me and my expert level knitting go!

Having nailed my gauge first try, I picked up my smaller needles and cast on the ribbing for the body. Deciding to be very clever, I calculated row numbers based on my gauge for the lengths given in the pattern so I could keep track with a row counter and not be reaching for my tape measure—which I always forget to take with my when knitting on the move. My measurements—which I checked occasionally—were almost correct. I added a row or two (or if I’m completely honest, three or four!) here and there without thinking much of it. It wasn’t until I reached the back, where the pattern reminds me to use my larger needles when rejoining that I realised I had knit the whole project on the smaller needles! So, despite my too-clever-by-half swatching, I’d knit a very long and skinny cardigan on the wrong needles!

img_9760

Trying to convince myself that all would be well—a phenomenon I call the gauge delusion—I pressed on and completed the back of the cardigan. Before joining in the right front, I took a long hard look at myself and my very skinny cardigan, and conceded that this was not going to be the useful and practical cardigan for a child over the age of 6 months that I dreamed of unless I pulled out and started fresh. So, I frogged.

Rip it. Rip it.

img_9768

I cast on again and quickly regained my rhythm. Though having already knit most of the cardigan, I started to get itchy fingers and took a not-so brief hiatus while I focussed on my Peachy shawl instead.

With my friend’s due date looming, I returned to this gorgeous project and finished it off without incident. Not to mention 30g of yarn to spare!

Screen Shot 2016-09-24 at 12.24.25 PM.png

Blocking in progress.

The pattern is beautifully written and quite easy to follow, though I did need to get my paper and pencil out to calculate how to work button holes ‘evenly spaced’ along the button band.

img_9786

Madelinetosh ball band lent itself quite nicely to being made into a care label.

I’m very pleased with the result. It’s light and seriously soft. It will be wearable throughout much of the year with a bit of layering. It’s machine washable. Useful. Practical. And with some lovely simple wooden buttons, not even remotely too ‘pretty’ for the beautiful boy who joined us recently.

 

 

Knitting: Breaking Into Brioche

A while back, I got sucked into a particularly deep Ravelry rabbit hole and discovered the talented Susanne Sommer’s page with so many gorgeous, truly modern knits. Having added nearly everything on her page to my Ravelry favourites, I then decided I simply had to cast on soon and decided her Peachy shawl would be the place to begin.

 

img_9326

“Brioche and Garter are a match made in heaven” – Susanne Sommer

Several long nights were then spent, whilst nursing my newborn, hunting online for the perfect yarn combination. I wasn’t able to get what I wanted in Australia, so ended up getting some delicious Hedgehog Fibres Skinny Singles shipped from Stephen & Penelope in Amsterdam! It is really the most delicate and delightful yarn I have ever had the pleasure of holding. The urge to cast on was irresistible. Despite the multiple works-in-progress already filling my knitting bin, I really could not wait!

img_9346

The finished product

Pattern: Peachy by Susanne Sommer of Sosu

Source: Ravelry download

Price: €6

Yarn: Hedgehog Fibres Skinny Singles in Teacup (A), Genie (C) and Jelly (D) and Madelinetosh Eurosock in Antler (B)

Needle: 4mm long circular

This pattern used a few techniques I didn’t know, including i-cord tab cast on, two colour brioche and i-cord bind off. The cast on was tricky! I watched Susanne Sommer’s video several times over and cast on several times before I got the hang of the manoeuvring required.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-3-21-53-pm

My hideous unevenly tensioned mess and rather complicated counting system.

Once, I got started, I then felt like my knitting looked like a hideous unevenly tensioned mess. Nothing like the beautiful close ups of the finished product I’d seen on the Ravelry page. In desperation, I frogged and cast on again several times before giving up and asking for help on the brioche forums on Ravelry.

Much to my delight, Susanne Sommer herself responded, reassuring me that all would come together with the blocking. So I took a leap of faith and pressed on.

Two colour brioche is a clever technique in which each row is worked twice, once with each colour. The first time the row is worked, half the stitches are slipped with the working yarn making a yarn-over loop which is paired with the slipped stitch. The second colour is then worked into the previously slipped stitches together with their yarn-over, while slipping the stitches and creating a yarn-over for those stitches already worked in the first colour.

I’ve just read and re-read that last paragraph and realised I’ve made it about as clear as mud. The visual learners among you will probably prefer to just watch this video. It’s far simpler than I’ve made it sound.

img_9336

Right side and wrong side displaying the gorgeous effect of two colour brioche stitch.

The pattern is beautifully written with details on the special techniques provided. The only minor flaw is that near the start of the brioche triangles in both sections, a few stitches are written as being worked as though they already have a yarn over, when it hasn’t yet been created. Being a brioche novice, I inadvertently worked two stitches together as a result (e.g. pattern calls for a brioche knit (brk) and I k2tog instead). Given the size of the shawl and the lacy speckled yarn, this error is never going to be noticed, so I left it!

Working brioche was initially rather all consuming and required a bit of concentration, but once I found my rhythm, with a rather complicated counting system—I had three row counters on a crochet hook to keep track of my rows and repeats—it was easy to work this project while also indulging my Netflix addiction.

img_9321

Post blocking beauty.

That is until a slip of my concentration or, worse, of the needle resulted in an error. Fixing brioche is a whole new level of knitting prowess! I must confess, I just made it up. I fiddled with the threads until I thought they looked like they were doing something similar to their neighbours. The use of two very similar coloured yarns in the biggest section of the shawl made this even harder as I could often not see which yarn went where. Fortunately, my perfectionistic tendencies are fading as I age, and I was at no point tempted to frog the whole thing and start again. Though I did occasionally pop a lifeline through the project, just in case a real disaster struck.

I won’t be entering this shawl into any serious competitions as errors abound, but they mostly are hidden well among the rows and rows that I managed to get right.

img_9331

Don’t look too closely. Errors abound.

The i-cord edge of the shawl gives it a lovely softness, but my yarn choice has almost ruined the effect. Given my time again I would use four yarns all of the same composition and type. I couldn’t get my hands on specific Madelinetosh yarn suggested in the pattern, but I wanted the same neutral colour, so I bought it in Euro Sock instead of the recommended Merino Light. I didn’t appreciate that the different structure of the yarn (4ply vs. single ply) would so dramatically effect it’s elastic properties. Indeed, I only really worked out what a ‘single’ yarn was very recently when reading a handspinning book! As a result, the difference in the stretch of my i-cord edge in the first section—where I used the 4ply Euro Sock and a single ply—compared to the second section—where both yarns were single ply—was so noticable that I thought it would ruin the project entirely! Fortunately, some gentle but firm blocking has made the difference far, far less noticeable and I don’t think it will effect the fall of the shawl too adversely.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-3-21-25-pm

World’s slowest, but possibly most lovely, bind off.

The i-cord bind off (lovely photo tutorial here) has got to be the world’s slowest way to cast off. But it is also one of the most lovely. I really love the effect of the bind off in the neon bright pink of the Jelly yarn. Super squishy! It draws a big underline across the bottom of the project and gives it a very finished and polished quality.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-3-21-07-pm

Suboptimal blocking conditions.

Blocking this gorgeous number wasn’t done as delicately as I would have liked due to a lack of blocking mat real estate and also a lack of patience for blocking wire placement on the part of a certain hungry baby. I used wires along the long edge of the shawl, but the shorter edge I just used a few judiciously placed sewing pins. Despite the imperfect technique, the blocking has brought out the absolutely beauty of the brioche, as Susanne Sommer promised me it would, and I have fallen in love with it all over again.

I think this is my favourite knit of all time, which, having knit for the better part of 20 years—the last 10 of them in earnest—is not a minor accolade. I’m so excited to have discovered the diversity and creativity of the Ravelry rabbit hole and as a result, I still have a knitting bin full of works in progress and even more projects I simply cannot wait to cast on.

 

Knitting Baby Stuff: Rainbows & RainDROPS

I’ve had my eye on this pattern for a while after spotting this gorgeous version by kcol on Ravelry. So when a close friend revealed the gender of her baby due this month, I reallocated my gorgeous balls of Knit Picks Chroma in Groovy and instead of making the socks I bought them for, I set about for to recreating kcol’s version of the DROPS b14-27 Jacket.

IMG_9122


The finished product.

I knew from the project notes on Ravelry that this would knit up larger than expected, so I cast on the 6-9 month size in the hope it will fit well for next winter when bub is nearly one year old.

IMG_9123


The gradient of the Knit Picks Chroma works brilliantly for these skinny stripes.

Pattern: b14-27 Jacket by DROPS design

Source: Garnstudio DROPS Design

Price: Free!

Yarn: Knit Picks Chroma Fingering in Groovy & Cascade Yarns Heritage in White

Needle: 3.25mm circulars

This is a very clever pattern which uses short rows to create a flared cardigan knit side-to-side with cast on and cast off to create sleeves. Essentially only two seams should be required. Except knit as written, one must change yarn every 2 rows! So the benefit having only two sleeve seams is overwhelmingly negated by the need to sew in eleventy-million ends. Having cast on and knit a few colour changes, I quickly recognised this issue and in addition to dreading the end weaving, I wondered whether I’d be able to make the finished product look neat and tidy. My end weaving skills are still a work in progress.

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 2.01.07 PM


It quickly became apparent that the clever two-seam construction was going to become completely irrelevant with eleventy-million ends to weave in.

Modification required!

By adding a white border along the bottom, I would be able to carry the yarn for the stripes and avoid the eleventy-million ends all together. Genius!

So, I frogged and cast on again adding a 6 stitch white border to the bottom edge. I quickly refreshed my memory of how to do an intarsia colour change by watching this video and got stuck in.

However, I soon realised that the neat intarsia method I was using was designed only for stocking stitch. I improvised for the wrong side knit row of this garter stitch pattern, but after a few stripes it was clear my improvisation was giving lacklustre results! Further Google searching brought me to this video and —after yet another frogging—I started again. It looked much better!

Once I was (finally) on my way, this knit up reasonably quickly and despite the rows and rows of garter stitch, the short row turns and the gradient colour changes of the Chroma yarn kept it interesting and fun.

The only other small modification I made was to slip the first stitch of every row purlwise to give a neat edge. A trick I learned from Kelly Brooker‘s newborn patterns.

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 2.01.46 PM

Who knew garter stitch could be so fun?

As the Ravelry project page suggested, this is a HUGE cardigan. I suspect that maybe the error is in the given gauge. It certainly seemed way off! The pattern recommends 2.5mm needles. I (rather amazingly) didn’t have any in my seemingly endless needle collection, so I swatched on 2.75mm using the Chroma. My swatch was under size by more than 20%! So I reswatched on 3.5mm. This gave me the right gauge, but the fabric looked looser than I’d like. I compromised and knit my cardigan on 3.25mm needles. Despite being well under given gauge, the resulting cardigan is enormous. It looks more suited to a 2 – 3 year old than a 6 – 9 month old!! Next time, I might knit up on 2.5mm needles just to see what happens.

IMG_9125

The wrong side can be just as beautiful as the right side when you have no ends to weave!

So whether it’s this winter—or more likely the next!—that this cardigan fits, I’m hoping it gets lots of wear. I’m wrapping up these Rainbows & RainDROPS to send to a little girl who made a safe and happy entrance to this crazy world just last week!

 

Knitting: Rainbow at Daybreak

As part of my obsession with all things gradient, I managed to score a beautiful skein of ‘Spring Rainbow’ from the very talented Briony of Gradient Yarn Australia.

Like all gradient projects, the key is finding one with the perfect meterage requirements for just one skein. No more. No less. After much Ravelry trawling, I chanced upon this very simple yet striking design from Stephen West. And seeing as my Spring Rainbow echoed the washed out palette of dawn, the Daybreak shawl was a perfect fit for my yarn in more ways than one! I quickly picked out and ordered a delicious deep blue yarn to complement the colours… and then the yarn sat at the bottom of my works-in-progress bin for an eternity while I necessarily knit things with deadlines.

IMG_8709

Beautiful yet simple striping design is perfect to show off the pastel hues of Spring Rainbow by Gradient Yarn Australia. (And highlighting a mistake I only noticed when inserting this photo in this post! Oops!)

Finally, around the time B. arrived, I had a break in the never ending stream of new babies requiring knitwear and I was very excited to finally cast on this gorgeous project for myself.

Pattern: Daybreak by West Knits

Source: Ravelry download

Price: $6 USD

Yarn: Gradient Main Street 4ply in Spring Rainbow and Garnstudio DROPS Baby Merino in Blue

Needles: 3.5mm circular needle

This knit up surprisingly quickly. Though it may have been the increased knitting opportunities I had in the pre-baby phase of my maternity leave!

The pattern warned me regarding the need for a looser tension on the edges to prevent it being too tight to block and I probably didn’t pay enough heed. When it came to blocking, one edge was significantly tighter (and therefore shorter) than the other. With some diligent (read aggressive) blocking the difference ended up being only a matter of a few centimetres and is completely indiscernible when the shawl is being worn.

IMG_8719

‘Decorative’ edging due to my accidental knitwise increase on wrong side.

Having foolishly ignored this pattern note, I then completely failed to read the next one and used a knitwise increase for all my rows both right and wrong side. I only noticed the instruction to work wrong side increases purlwise when I was well and truly on my way, so I kept my error consistent throughout and decided to think of it as a ‘decorative’ feature rather than a demonstration of my ineptitude!

The benefit of a shawl when using a gradient yarn is that there is a little room to move in terms of using up all your yarn. Even more conveniently, the difference between a medium and large shawl in this pattern came down to the last few rows! So I ended up working it as a large shawl (20 stripes), but then cut short the purl ridge edging to five ridges (instead of seven) when I pulled out of my game of yarn chicken just in the nick of time.

IMG_8714

Five purl ridges rather than seven

The final hurdle was in the blocking. The pattern calls for lace blocking wires—which I found here—which are threaded through the edge of the shawl and pinned out to create a smooth curved edge. After wiping down the wires to remove a greasy residue, I set about threading them through the edge of the shawl. The process was slightly arduous and I was never entirely sure I was doing it right. It then almost ended in tears when a delivery man failed to notice my beautifully laid out shawl on the ground in our front room and trod on it with his big work boot! Fortunately, the result was no worse than a couple of bent pins. Though I may have traumatised him slightly with my sudden screeching!

When it was all blocked and beautiful, I was excited to discover that shawls don’t have to be draped over one’s shoulders—something that makes me look dowdy and decidedly round shouldered—but can be worn in a number of ways. Great post on how to wear a shawl here.

I like to wear mine like this!

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 4.51.15 PM

 


 

Having discovered West Knits by way of this shawl, I got sucked into a Ravelry rabbit hole and found this beautiful design by Susanne Sommer, which then sucked me in deeper and deeper until I found myself breastfeeding at 3am while ordering yarn from Amsterdam on my phone!

So, having just finished one, my just-for-me can’t-wait-to-cast-on project has been replaced with Susanne Sommer’s Peachy shawl and some amazing yarn from Hedgehog Fibres via Stephen & Penelope. It’s all in brioche stitch—something I had never heard of before—and I can’t wait to cast on!

Knitting Baby Stuff: A Beanie for Bugsy

I have been so busy knitting things for newly arrived bairns, that my own gorgeous not-so wee one didn’t have a single hand knit item in his current wardrobe. Feeling—albeit a little irrationally—guilty about this, I dug out my stash to find something I could quickly turn into a warm winter beanie as the cold weather finally set in.

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 8.01.06 PM.png

Katia Montezuma in #105. An impulse buy from House of Yarn.

I found this gorgeous impulse buy from House of Yarn, measured W’s seriously large head, and cast on.

This is a very quick knit, but I still managed to pick up some new skills along the way. I had never come across a provisional cast-on before. This is a nifty technique for keeping your cast-on stitches ‘live’ so you can come back and knit onto the other side of them later. A quick YouTube got me up to scratch. I watched this and this to figure it out. In this pattern it is used to allow a kitchener stitch grafting rather than a seam to complete the beanie tube.

I have to look up kitchener stitch every single time! Knit, slip, purl, purl, slip, knit.

I knit this up within a day and had just enough yarn left over to make two delicious tassels. I worked out how to do that by watching the video here.

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 7.26.20 PM

Getting my provisional cast-on on.

 

IMG_8855.jpg

His urge to take the beanie off matched only by my wish for him to keep it on.

Pattern: Pea Green Beanie by Michelle Dupont

Source: Twoandsix blog (found via Ravelry)

Price: Free!!

Yarn: Katia Montezuma in colourway #105

Needles: 7.5mm

So, it turns out toddlers can sense your level of enthusiasm—even when you try very hard to act neutral—for them to love something and respond by immediately generating an equal measure of dislike! It took more than a month of offering this beanie before it was finally voluntarily donned! I should have known this given the number of times the nemesis dressing gown has been worn! But, I managed to finally get it on his head for some photos yesterday. Super cute, super warm. Even if it spends much of its life in a cupboard.