So, there’s a lot of catching up to do on the knitting I’ve been doing over the last few months.
As my due date for B.’s arrival approached, I became nervous that all that awaited him was a not-quite-half finished blanket, so put down my swaddle blanket project in favour of some quicker projects. I also realised that my own looming due date meant that the due dates of several friends expecting at the same time as me were looming too, and got further side tracked making sure there is something knit for their little bundles too. Here is what I learnt along the way.
Happy in Blue
This is a gorgeous frontless cardigan from Kelly Brooker designed for newborn skin-to-skin cuddles when they are brand new and it also stays out of the high risk zone when they inevitably chuck up a tummy full of milk all over their recently donned outfit. I made one in a variegated green for a friend and having some blue yarn which didn’t quite work in its intended project, I decided to whip one up for my then baby-to-be.The issue was, according to my husband’s baking scales, I only just had enough yarn. Just. So, I needed to be very scrupulous with my measurements and not knit a row more than absolutely necessary.
I did, however, become completely engrossed in a gripping plot line on Downton Abbey and knit my cardigan too long.Lesson #1: Retrospective Lifelines
Needing to unpick knitting is tedious. The cautious among us ‘tink’ back through the stitches one by one. But this was several rows and I had a gripping plot line to follow. Tinking was not an option.
The fearless among us will whip the needle out and rip back the rows, trusting in their ability to rethread the needle several rows back without twisting or dropping stitches. I am not fearless.
So, I did a quick Google and found this very handy link on how to insert a retrospective lifeline. Probably not a realistic option for lace knitting—where lifelines are a must in my book—but for quickly and safely ripping stockinette stitch back, this is a gem.
Lesson #2: Calculating when to cast off
Having successfully completed the body and sleeves of the cardigan with my yarn, I knew that my collar and front border was where the compromise was going to have to be made. I needed to calculate how much yarn was required for a row, so that I knew when to call it and cast off.
To do this I measured out my yarn in arms-length sections, hooking a stitch marker through the yarn at each section, then counted how many sections I used up in kitting one row of the edging. It was not a whole number. I can’t recall how many it was exactly, but it was that many and a bit. So, when I got to having ‘that many and a bit’ of yarn left, I commenced my game of yarn chicken and started to cast off.
You can guess who won. By about 30 stitches. Turns out ‘and a bit’ is not an accurate way to measure anything. So, having avoided the dreaded ‘tink’ earlier in the piece, I proceeded to ‘ffo-tsac’, which is almost as hard to do as it is to pronounce.
The finished item looks a little weird with its skinny edging, but it still found a lovely place in my newborn’s wardrobe—albeit it short lived due to his amazing ability to stack on kilograms seemingly overnight!Pattern: Newborn Vertebrae by Kelly Brooker
Price: Free! As so many of Kelly Brooker’s fabulous newborn patterns are.
Yarn: Kiogu Painter’s Palette Premium Merino (KPPPM) in Blue
Needle: 2.75mm & 3.25mm circular needles
Raspberry & Plum Lace Dress
Increasingly my knitting addiction is being closely seconded by my yarn addiction. Having spent so many years of my knitting life knitting in solid colours, I have possibly over-compensated and gone a bit wild on gradient yarn. I love the look of them both in skeins and finished objects. I bought this skein with no particular project in mind, but then thought a lovely long lace dress might be the perfect way to show it off.
Lesson #3: Knit a gauge swatch …and then use the information it gives you
The issue with gradient yarn is the maximum effect of the beautiful colour gradient is only achieved if you manage to find a project that uses up exactly one skein of yarn. No more. No less. This is a challenge where the length isn’t very flexible, or where a losing a game of yarn chicken is going to be difficult to face. I don’t like to play yarn chicken with a 14 row lace repeat. Throw in the need to do a different 13 row repeat for the last one and, well, I’m not game.
So, despite actually knitting a gauge swatch (see the perils of failing to do so here), I was so fearful of running out of my gradient that I convinced myself that a superwash yarn would stretch a lot with blocking (information I had no reason to actually believe!) and knit the dress using needles I knew would give me a smaller dress than required.
I did plan to play it a little by ear and add extra length if I found I had loads of extra yarn, but my yarn chicken phobia got the better of me and I pulled out of the lace repeats a touch early and missed out on the full beauty of this vampy gradient from Knit Circus as the brilliant hot pink finish did not make it onto the finished object.
When will I finally learn the gauge swatch lesson?!
Lesson #4: Lace Lifelines & Place Markers
This is probably something that lace knitters across the world would roll their eyes at with a collective sigh of ‘Well, duh!’, but it didn’t really cross my mind as a diligently thread myself a lifeline after my first lace repeat. I thread my lifeline through all my stitches and my place markers.
But a few rows on, I realised my error. The lifeline was pulling down with the markers. Not good. I rethread my lifeline skipping the markers as I went and ended up with what I was looking for. A little bit of lace insurance.
Pattern: Helen Joyce Dress by Taiga Hilliard Designs
Source: PDF download from Ravelry
Price: $6.50 USD
Yarn: KnitCircus Corriedale Sock in Vampire Boyfriend
Needle: 3.5mm circular… should have gone bigger.
Matching hat of my own (plagaristic) design made from the delicious hot pink end of the gradient that didn’t quite make it to the main event.
So, despite aggressive blocking, I ended up with a rather stumpy looking dress. Turns out superwash does not have ridiculous stretch properties. Who knew?!
Despite its shortcomings, my Raspberry & Plum dress found a very happy home. And the mother of its recipient assures me it’s not too ‘goth’ for her gorgeous baby girl.
And I even managed to knit up a matching beanie from the remaining yarn by modifying a newborn beanie pattern and adding the Helen Joyce lace detail to the edge.