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.

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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: Rainbows & Meadows

I’ll start by putting it out there. I could have done better. And if I didn’t have a ‘to knit’ list as long as my arm and several fast approaching deadlines (also known as due dates), I probably would have frogged this and re-knit it. But here we are and it is the way it is. I’m hoping it still finds a very happy home.

My gorgeous rainbow mini skeins from Gradient have been realised this sweet little dress.

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Rainbows & Meadows.

Pattern: Meadow Sweet Baby Dress by Marianna Mel

Source: Ravelry download

Price: Free!

Yarn: Rainbow Mini Skeins in 8ply from Gradient Aus (used ~120g)

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Needle: 4mm (I knit on circulars as you end up with 164 stitches at one point)

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Not happy with my colour change timing. The skirt starts visual on the increase row but I didn’t change colour until the start of the 4 row lace repeat.

The main reason for contemplation of frogging here was the way I divided the colours. I used a new colour every 17 rows on the bodice and every 4 repeats (16 rows) on the skirt. Given my time (and yarn) again, I would use one colour for the whole bodice, change to the first skirt colour for the increase row (row 33) and change colour every 3 or 4 repeats for the skirt. The change in colour mid-bodice looks strange and the skirt starts visually on the increase row but I didn’t change to a new colour until the start of the lace repeat resulting in a slightly awkward look.

The pattern calls for the first stitch of most rows to be slipped, which I did purl-wise—an inspiration from my Pekapeka knits—giving a very neat vertical edge. I also used markers during the bodice to help me knit the raglan sleeves without having to concentrate too much on my counting.

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Gorgeous rainbow cascade.

I’ve also been exploring the world of the ‘loose cast-off’. Patterns often call for this and I’m never quite sure I’m achieving it. So a quick Google sent me here where I found two techniques for ensuring a loose bind off. I used the ‘yarn-over’ method for this project as the skirt is ruffly and a super loose cast-off helped it show off its ruffles! The description of this technique puzzled me slightly in terms of how to get started.

I knit the first stitch, then did a yarn over and knit the second stitch. I then passed the yarn over loop over the second knit stitch and then passed the first stitch over the second stitch. Then did a yarn over and knit the next stitch. I continued in this way always putting the yarn over loop over first. Is that a better explanation?!

The other new thing for me with this knit and my Little Boy Blue was trying a different (gentler) technique for blocking. I recently bought some blocking mats from Knit Picks so after years of spreading beach towels over guest beds and then poking holes in them with my sewing pins—much to my husband’s dismay—I was able to neatly lay things out on my purpose built mats. The box came with instructions on how to block and I was rather surprised to see I’ve been doing it wrong!

I have always drenched my knit in warm water, often giving it a good few squeezes to get the water into the knit, then squeezing it again to get most of the water out. I think this has been beating my knits up a bit. I did notice recently that one of my Composite cardigans, done in a delicate silk blend yarn looked considerably more fuzzy and little worse for wear after blocking. The results with this new technique were much nicer!

The Knit Picks instructions are as follows (paraphrased for brevity):

  1. Soak knit in basin of lukewarm water until completely wet (usually at least 30 minutes). Very gently squeeze out any air bubbles.
  2. Remove from basin and put into sink to drain. Avoid wringing or twisting. Once most of the water is out, gently press knit between two towels to remove additional water.
  3. Carefully lay project out onto blocking mats away from direct sunlight or any heating vents. Shape according to pattern and use pins to secure project in place.
  4. Allow to air dry before removing pins.

Now to find some suitably gorgeous and girly buttons for the back!