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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 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.

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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.

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Getting my provisional cast-on on.

 

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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.

Knitting Baby Stuff: Lessons & Lifelines

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.

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Happy in Blue

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.

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Narrow edging due to yarn shortage.

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!

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Sleeve detail

Pattern: Newborn Vertebrae by Kelly Brooker

Source: Ravelry

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.

 

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Sweet heart detail.

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.

IMG_7750Pattern: 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.

 

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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.

 

Knitting Baby Stuff: From Frogs Legs to Loopy Leggings

I’m back!

There’s been a lengthy silence on this blog due to many factors—mostly the arrival of a gorgeous B at the beginning of April—but I’ve never stopped knitting! So we have some catching up to do.

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Master B. joined our family in April.

These scrumptious leggings were finished before B. arrived, but the weather is only just starting to cool down now and we finally got them on to W for a few photos this morning.

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Loopy Leggings modelled by W. highlighting the self-striping rookie error of the leg rejoin.

They didn’t start out so fabulous. Yet again, I failed to swatch (who has time, right?) and then I failed to convert US needle sizes correctly, so used a 6mm needle instead of a 5mm needle for the main knitting. I also failed to measure my child and guessed at a size.

By the time I reached the gusset, I realised I had knit a ginormous pair of pantaloons that could have just about fit me!!

Frogged. Whole process taking far, far longer than it would have to (a) swatch and (b) measure my intended wearer.

So, armed with a needle conversion chart printed and popped into my knitting organiser for future reference, and my measurements, I cast on again. This time, a gauge swatch!

After sorting out my gauge, I got on with it and turned out this lovely pair of leggings. Only hitch being that the yarn is a little scratchy on delicate toddler skin. A thin pair of cotton leggings underneath sorted that out and he’s played happily in them all morning.

Pattern: Lamby Leggings by Sarah Lehto

Source: Ravelry (of course!)

Price: $6 USD

Yarn: Plymouth Yarn Pasea in 1017 (self-striping in red, orange & yellow)

Needle: Would you know after all that I didn’t write it down? Can’t remember what I ended up using! But you’ll be doing your own gauge swatch, right?

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Designed with plenty of room for W’s cloth nappied bottom. They might sag a little sadly over a a slimline disposable.

The pattern is very well written, including photographs to help with some of the less common techniques, such as the double bum short rows. I still struggled a little with getting this to work, but I think that is more my issue than the author’s!

I did spot a few errors—the most costly of which was the instruction in the gusset to ‘repeat gusset increase round 7 times’. This should read ‘repeat gusset increase a total of 7 times’. I repeated it 7 times (after I’d done it the first time, making a total of 8 times) and ended up with 4 more stitches than I should have. Tink tink.

I also ran into issues when I used a knit front & back (KFKB) technique for my increases in the increase round immediately below the waistband. I failed to subtract the stitch I used for the KFKB from the stitch count between the increases, and ran out of stitches prior to the end of the round. Again, my issue rather than the author’s! If I’d used a ‘make one’ technique of picking up the loop between stitches—as implied by the instructions—all would have been fine!

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I knit them a bit long to allow for upcoming growth spurts. The cuff looks cute folded up in the meantime.

My other main failing was due to a lack of finesse in using a self-striping yarn. I should have rejoined for the legs ensuring that the rejoin was the same colour on both legs and ideally the same as the colour joining them on the gusset. I didn’t do either of these things, so there’s a small odd stripe on one thigh and a huge thick stripe on the other. And the legs are not the same. But, hey, they are loopy leggings!