Saturday, January 2, 2021

No favorite weapon

 “You should not have a favorite weapon. To become overfamiliar with one weapon is as much a fault as not knowing it sufficiently well. You should not copy others, but use weapons which you can handle properly. It is bad commanders and troops to have likes and dislikes”. Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings

In my opinion, these samurai’s teachings directly apply to knitting (as many of his other maxims that I recently discovered after reading his book). There is no wrong way of making something in knitting if you get the result you are aiming for. Sadly, teachers who teach others to knit on the Internet (of which there are myriads) often forget to mention this fact. 

Yet, if you know how to make German short rows, and know it well, you should always use German short rows, no matter what designer tells you to use in the pattern. Why? Because knitting is a skill that you acquire through repetition. The more you repeat a technique, the more automated it becomes. After thousands of repetitions you get to the point when the finished project is flawless. Well, almost flawless, because with a handmade there is always something that doesn’t go as planned, but I am speaking in general.

After having read Musashi’s book, I tried to summarize my ideas about knitting and came up with two main rules:

1) don’t be afraid of trying anything that you want to try. You are not a student but an apprentice, you are not graded, and you can always unravel and start all over. I remember discovering fairisle by looking at my friend’s sweater that her grandmother made for her and wanting to recreate something similar in my favorite colors. No one told me that the fairisle technique was difficult so I didn’t consider it as such;

2) when you learn a technique, use it as much as possible – practice makes permanent. Or, as Miyamoto Musashi put it, “you must pursue the value of this technique through training”. “It may seem difficult at first but everything is difficult at first.” 

This year I made only two Christmas gifts: a shawl/wrap/stole for my daughter and a zippered jacket for my husband. Both projects took a while to finish because 

1) I spent a considerable amount of time on planning them before even starting to knit;

2) I spent even more time on finishing them the way they were planned.

The vital element for a successful knit is the sufficient amount of yarn (said the person who almost always runs out of yarn at the end).

I had enough of Cascade Yarns Kid Seta mohair in two complementing colors in my stash to make Plaid, please by Amy Miller. After buying the pattern, I learned that I needed 115 yds in a third color and ordered one ball of Gepard Garn Kid Seta that has 229.7 yards (to use the yarn doubled) from a seller on Etsy. Till the end I wasn’t sure that I had enough yarn in this color but since there was no time to order and receive one more ball I just plowed through till the end. It turned out the designer gave the exact yardage needed. After crocheting the vertical stripes I had about only 20 cm of leftover yarn. Thank you, Amy Miller, but unfortunately it doesn’t happen all the time, keep it in mind and, if you are a worrying kind, better buy 2 balls.

The vertical stripes are crocheted after the whole wrap is finished. To make my life easier, I purled stitches that had to be crocheted later to simplify the finishing.

The shawl was washed in Eucalan with added hair conditioner to prevent excessive shedding and then blocked. It is light, airy, and really warm. My daughter in England got it on time before Christmas and loved it.

I started knitting it cooped up inside during a severe storm called Eta which gave its name to the shawl.

My second gift is called a Hoodless Hoodie. Last year in Scotland my husband finally discovered the advantages of the Scottish wool: how comfortable it is and how well it protects against wind, cold, and even rain. During our long walks in Glen Finglass he described a jacket of his dreams – a zipper (a must!), maybe pockets, and sleeves not too long (he always has problems with sleeves in outdoor garments). I suggested a hoodie but he explained that he never used or needed a hood so he definitely didn’t want a hoodie.

During our memorable trip to the Perth Festival of Yarn 2019 I bought lots of Hebridian wool by the Birlinn Yarn Company. Since my husband not only drove me to Perth but also waited for me for several hours while I was shopping, I thought that it would be only fair if I used the yarn from the festival to make something for him. 

I had 5 balls of Hebredian wool 4 ply in Speckled Hen colorway (more than 1900 yards altogether) which would be enough for a man’s hoodie (with a hood). 

My inspiration came from an unexpected place: an old Phildar magazine with patterns for children. I saw this jacket and figured it would look well in Speckled Hen wool. However, I needed a contrast color. Fortunately, there is Birlinn Yarn Company’s website where you can order wool and rather promptly get it in the US. I picked Peaty Brown colorway that happens to complement my main yarn perfectly.

I found a perfect pattern in another old Phildar magazine – a sporty man’s hoodie with saddle shoulders and  pockets – and kept it without significant changes. My main modification was with sleeves. Instead of size XXL I used numbers for size XL and made the sleeves and saddle shoulders parts shorter, comparable in length with the shoulders on the body parts, so it was much easier to sew the whole thing together. The original pattern doesn’t have any ribbing on pockets that I thought was necessary – made them more visible and the whole look sharper.

The ribbed borders along the fronts are knit separately and sewn in by hand as the pattern recommends. My only change was the tubular cast on that made them look more polished (I hope). The ribbing on pockets was also done with the tubular cast on.

After inserting a zipper I knit two additional ribbed borders and sewn them to the insides, to cover the stitches and seams. My husband rarely wears his jackets zippered, so I wanted the borders to look professionally done from inside as well as from outside.

Most time I spent with the collar. After blocking, sewing, and steaming all the parts, I crocheted a thin line with chain stitches along the neckline.

Next, I picked up stitches with Peaty Brown color and smaller needles in each chain of the front on one pair of circular needles and in the same stitches of the chain from inside on another pair of smaller circulars of the same size.
I made 2 rows of stockinett stitch on each pair of needles, then purled both sides together, and then continued in ribbing on just one pair of needles. I made ribbing twice as long as needed, folded it in half and sewn in from inside.

The process of finishing this jacket was almost as long as making its individual parts. Yet, I like the end result so much that it was definitely worth the pain. My husband also was unusually pleased with his gift and even let me take pictures of him wearing the jacket. Normally, he doesn’t like to be photographed,  I cannot explain why.

I am glad that I mastered enough knitting skills over the years to be able to make this jacket exactly the way I wanted. Actually, it felt unusually satisfying. I even started another jacket for him (with a zipper, of course) trying to prolong this feeling. A feeling of power and control! A rare thing in our troubled times.

As for the Book of Five Rings by a famous swordsman and philosopher Miyamoto Musashi that made me contemplate my knitting strategies, I am glad that I found and read it.  I am planning on re-reading it often because it is short, straightforward, and, in my opinion, unbelievably helpful not only for swordsmen.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Salix Alba


As a rule, I don’t do test knitting. Why? I hate deadlines. Plus I imagine that a test knitter’s main reason to exist is to try a pattern as it is, without modifications, and let the designer know when something just doesn’t work. I always change something in a pattern that I knit. Maybe I have a tendency to overthink it, but I always see a way to modify patterns to make them mine.

Last month though, suddenly, I became a part of a test knitting group for Lotta Löthgren of elkmarketyarn. I first discovered Lotta on Instagram and fell in love with her pictures and her writings. And also her jewelry – she makes adorable necklaces and earrings that I am planning to buy all one day. Long story short, when Lotta posted an announcement about a test knit of her new pattern, I promptly pushed a button and filled out a form. 

The pattern seemed to be easy enough – a round yoke top-down with a pretty colorwork – and, looking at its gauge, I thought that I could use up some of my cotton yarn leftovers and help Lotta at the same time. Needless to say that I applied for the smallest size – too often designs are too big and bulky for me. If I were one of these loud, endlessly complaining types that are so popular on the Internet nowadays, I would write everywhere how designers “discriminate” against small people with short limbs. Yet, instead, I just redo patterns making them fit my body. Because that is why I knit – to make custom garments flattering to my body type. And I enjoy the process immensely!

The very next day I got the pattern for Salix Alba – this is how Lotta’s new sweater is called and it didn’t take me long to regret my hasty decision to become a test knitter.

As soon as I saw the actual measurements for size 1 I figured that it would be too tight for me. The sweater is supposed to have a relaxed fit with 10-20 cm of positive ease. In my case the ease would have been negative, and I would’ve felt like wearing a straight jacket without any mobility.

At first, I thought that it wasn’t a big deal and I could use bigger yarn and bigger needles to make it a size or two bigger. Not in this case. I spent 2 days (!!!) making swatches with many yarns from my ginormous stash but none would give me the exact row gauge. And you understand that in a round yoke sweater row gauge is a key to a correctly fitting garment. With bigger yarn and bigger needles my yoke would end at my elbows and I would still be very restricted in my movements.

Since there were only two volunteers for size 1, myself being one of them, I decided to find someone who is even smaller than me for this sweater and ended up with a teeny-tiny college student in Indiana. Sydni is a grand-daughter of one of my knitting friends, and even though I never met her in person, I saw several knits made for her so could approximately figure out her size.

Now, after two days of swatching, the only two yarns that gave me the correct gauge (stitch and row) were Rowan Fine Lace in Vintage (knitting with three strands of yarn together) and two of my ColourMart yarns in white also hold together. I used exactly 6 balls of Rowan Fine Lace (436 yrds -399 m each) and an unknown quantity of the white yarns.

You see, instead of a fast and easy project for myself with the yarn from my stash I got a challenging task of fulfilling my test knitter’s duties while making a useful and fitting garment for a person that I’ve never met before. Tricky, right?! And this is why all my best intentions of following the pattern to a T went down the drain and I started modifying, adapting, changing, call it as you like. And all the way till the end I was feeling terribly guilty: I wasn’t sure that the designer would appreciate my modifications (why would she, since she wanted me to test her design, not my version of it) and I could only guess what Sydni likes or dislikes in a sweater based on my rather limited knowledge of college students.

Since Rowan Fine Lace is 80% alpaca, it is soft and silky but also extremely stretchy. From my experience, I know what can happen to a seamless top-down sweater with this kind of yarn. It stretches greatly after the very first washing and loses any shape or form. Since I was making it for a young girl in Indiana, I couldn’t possibly keep the original seamless construction. This is why I made the body and sleeves of Salix Alba flat. I kept all the numbers but after the yoke was finished I picked up stitches for the body and sleeves gradually, like for a raglan sweater but in reverse. I hope that seams will keep this sweater from stretching too much and that the raglan mini-seams give some additional mobility to the arms.

Actually, while making sleeves, I had to stop decreasing after the 5th decrease (there are 6 decreases for sleeves in the pattern) because sleeves were getting too tight. I don’t know, I am a swimmer and have strong arms, maybe it was just me.

I spaced decreases in every 10th row. The sweater is supposed to be rather on a short side with ¾ sleeves. I made it as long as possible with the yarn in my disposal, with full length sleeves. After all, it is cold in Indiana.

I used the short rows on the back as per pattern directions but I moved them higher, before the ribbing (I really didn’t like how they looked on ribbing). Also I used 1x1 ribbing with twisted ribs all over the sweater instead of 2x2 ribs for body and sleeves. I did tubular bind off on cuffs and body, and it looks more polished with 1x1 ribbing.

About the collar. I tried to make it following the pattern directions with short rows, but I really didn’t like how it looked and it didn’t fit well at the neck. So I unraveled it, knit 10 rows of twisted ribs, folded it in two, and sewed it on the wrong side.

The colorwork on this sweater requires long floats. I used the technique from this website to trap them: jewelry or sometimes a bras strap can get entangled in a long float. I ruined a sweater this way once (stitches never looked the same after I untangled myself from a float). 

It sounds straightforward and logical when written but the actual process was agonizing.  I felt terrible, couldn’t sleep well, and gave myself a word to never ever do test knitting again. Yet, I kept making changes to the pattern. I absolutely had to make all these changes – I wanted this little sweater to be warm and comfy, easy to wear and flattering to its owner. Remember, my sweater was going to Indiana to a young college student.

Then I took pictures of my handiwork and mailed the finished sweater to Sydni. While anxiously waiting for her feedback, I wrote a long apology letter to Lotta in which I explained all the changes I made, and asked her to forgive me for being such an awful test knitter.

Then I got pictures from Indiana.

Obviously the sweater fits well and Sydni looks lovely in it. Big weight from my chest. More pictures on my Ravelry pattern page.
And then I got a letter from Lotta. What a wise young woman she is! Lotta understands perfectly that knitting is for real people and if there is a need for a modification, a pattern should be modified. I was so relieved, you cannot even imagine. Because I am in awe with designers and their creativity and didn’t want to be disrespectful of the design. And I felt like I failed in my attempt to help her.

So my first crack at test knitting made me a bundle of nerves for a while and to alleviate all this anxious thoughts I started making another Baby Honey Blanket. This time – for myself. I used to have a big warm cabled wool sweater that was never worn since we started going to Florida for winters. I like the color and the texture of the yarn (I don’t remember what yarn it is, something by Ella Rae, I believe) so one sunny day (since most of them are sunny here) I unraveled the sweater, washed and balled the yarn, and put it aside.

This blanket was finished in no time. I don’t know why: because I made this pattern recently and remembered the stitches and all the pitfalls, or because it was a soothing and repetitive pattern, easy to follow but requiring enough focus to make me forget my worries. Anyhow, now I have a blanket all to myself and I’ve been using it almost every day. I think, it is the most often used knit that I made this year.  And now the jinni is out of the bottle – I want to make more blankets, maybe even crocheted. They are warm and squishy, and really cozy.

In conclusion: I learned my lesson – never sign up for test knits again. Apparently, I don’t enjoy group chit-chat and have no need to discuss my problems with other knitters. I prefer to find solutions on my own. This is how it works for me and I like it this way. When I knit something, I have to like it no matter who is the recipient of my work. If you decide to make Salix Alba though I highly recommend picking 2 sizes bigger your normal size - it will fit better. You can use my method of making a top-down sweater flat or knit it in the round if your yarn is not too stretchy - in any case, I think you won't regret your choice of pattern. It is very clearly written and easy to follow. 

And on this note I’ll leave you today. I need to finish my last project - its pattern was extremely challenging and I didn’t make any changes whatsoever in it (!). Till next time then…  

Saturday, September 19, 2020

I do it my way, or how I made Deconstruction (twice)

I love patterns with unusual constructions, they intrigue me and make me knit faster in order to get to the point when I can assemble strangely looking pieces together like a puzzle, and something beautiful (or ugly) comes out of it.

As soon as I saw Deconstruction by E-ca on Instagram I wanted to try my hand at making it. 

Have you seen E-ca’s Instagram photos? They are stylish and artsy, professional and impeccable. This designer pays lots of attention to little details and is very meticulous in execution. Which is why, I believe, she doesn’t publish new patterns often. 

Her patterns before Deconstruction were also intriguing but not exactly my style – I mostly avoid super-oversized clothes and have no need for warm accessories in South Florida. Yet, I really wanted to try a pattern from E-ca to see what her extreme attention to details would do to the fit. Because this is what she keeps saying in her Instagram posts (for those of you who don’t understand Russian) – a garment must fit from all points of view and in all places, all the wrinkles and folds must be planned and work for the overall look. And because this is the most important part of knitting for me – to get the right fit in my handmade clothes.

This last design – Deconstruction – seemed perfect for my goal. It is a summery oversized sweater with lots of short rows and other artful tricks to better fit its owner. I bought the pattern as soon as it was published on Ravelry. It has Russian and English versions – fortunately for me, because at the end I used both to understand the design better.

When I read through the pattern for the first time I got really overwhelmed. I cannot imagine how much time and effort the designer spent to create such a detailed and complicated work. The body of the sweater is made out of two pieces of different size and form that are made separately and are sewn together afterwards (there are several detailed tutorials on how to sew them using different types of stitches).

The shapes are created with a clever distribution of specific increases and decreases on both sides of each body part. There are charts at the end of the pattern with numbers of rows for increases and decreases on each side - yes, they are all different. Plus, there are short rows front and back – to accommodate for all of our bodily curves (even if they are not very conspicuous).

Initially, I wanted to use some yarn from my stash to make this sweater. Yet, after taking a look at all the numbers, charts, and tutorials, I decided that I won’t be able to recalculate them if my stitch or row gauges are different. So I ordered the same yarn that was used in the original pattern.

Why did I pick this color? I really didn’t want to make it in black since I have enough black clothes, and it is hard to knit with black yarn. The white color didn’t speak to me either – too much white yarn in my stash already. At the moment I decided to be adventurous and picked this pinkish color (vieux rose) that looked brighter on the picture than in the real life.

A couple of words about the yarn – Feza Yarn Alp Natural. It’s made of mixed fibers – cotton, silk, rayon, linen – and every so often changes its thickness and texture. How is it done? When I got the yarn and was winding it into balls, I discovered that it was made out of short-ish pieces of yarns of different thickness and texture, knotted together. As a result, each ball of this yarn had tons of knots. Honestly, it wasn’t a pleasant surprise. 

My first obvious solution to the problem of countless knots was to make them a part of the pattern, leave them on the front side of the fabric. This way they would add some additional quirkiness to the garment, or so I thought at the moment. 

I also didn’t like the color of some of the parts – they looked too bright or too dull to me. I am a purist and a retrograde, I know, but when I make something for myself I do have some standards.

Also, it was hard to calculate my gauge with this yarn. Because its different parts have different gauges – some are really thick and some more on a thin side. Eventually, I went with smaller needles (4.00 mm/US 6 instead of 5.00 mm/US 8) than recommended in the pattern because I didn’t like the look of my swatch with thinner yarn on bigger needles. 

While calculating my size I made a major mistake and picked size M. I won’t bore you with the details why it happened.  Suffice to say that quite a lot of positive ease is already incorporated in the pattern and it is hard to calculate how much because the patterns’ parts are uneven and have irregular shape.

From the very beginning I was really surprised by the recommendation to leave a specific length of yarn at the cast on. I love to leave the longer ends of yarn to seam the parts later and always do it myself when I knit. This is the first time in my life that I see a designer recommend how long the end should be to seam the part later.

The pattern asks for several special techniques: Italian cast on, short rows, sloped bind-off in order to avoid step-ladder effect on shoulders, different seams, and slip-stitch crochet seam. For each of them (with the exception of the Italian cast on) there are detailed tutorials with step-by-step instructions at the end of the pattern.

The only problem for me – I use different techniques to get same results and I’ve been using them for many years now. From the beginning I had to make a choice – either follow the designer all the way and embrace the new techniques and try using them for the first (or maybe second, third, fourth) time or do it my way, the way I usually do.

You can guess what choice I made. Yes, I didn’t take a risk – the whole thing already seemed extremely complicated, I didn’t want to stress over a new technique, and decided to go with my tried old tricks. After all, they served me well in the past. 

Here is the list of my substitutions:

1. Tubular cast on instead of Italian cast on.

2. Japanese short rows instead of wrapped stitches method.

3. A different bind off to avoid step-ladder effect.

4. Knit the side stitches on the knit side, purl them on the purl side to help with the mattress stitch seaming.

5. I tried to learn the crochet slip-stitch seaming but the result looked weird and I used the old method found in Phildar magazine.

There are also different types of decreases and increases that at first I couldn’t understand because I was using the Russian version of the pattern. It turned out I know the English knitting abbreviations better than the Russian ones. Luckily, there was an English version of the pattern that I could understand better. And I didn’t make any changes here – followed the instructions to a T.

The main patterns of Deconstruction are very easy – most parts are knit in plain garter stitch, and one part – just variations of knit and purl rows.

Keeping a tab on all decreases/increases takes a lot of focus but it is also fun in a knitterly perverse kind of way. I was so absorbed and intrigued by this pattern and the yarn changes made me so nervous that I finished all the parts, washed them, and blocked rather quickly. They grew a lot after washing and blocking. It is no surprise with garter stitch but I think the yarn composition added to the fabric stretchiness.

When assembled this sweater was huge and I was drowning in it. It wasn’t a total failure though. Yet, in my opinion, all the finesse and ingenuity invested in the pattern got lost in the final product because 1) it was a wrong size; 2) the yarn was too busy. Eventually, I had to hide all the ends from the knots because they created messiness without adding anything to the style.

As any normal knitter with a failure on hands, I immediately dived into my stash and started a new version of the same sweater. This time – the smallest size and less patchworky yarn. I came to a conclusion that the yarn choice can make or break this pattern. It has to be some sort of yarn that could hold shape. For my second version I used some ColourMart  cotton scraps (main color), some Elsebeth Lavold Bambool, some Sublime Yarns Organic Cotton DK, and some Anny Blatt cotton blend from an old unraveled sweater.

It is especially important for sleeves in this case. You see, in this pattern the sleeves design is a work of a genius. Not only have you got to make different increases and decreases at the sides of the sleeves, but also in the middle. And then you need to reverse the shaping for the second sleeve on your own. Fortunately, at the end of the pattern there was an almost empty sheet “Notes”. I barely had space to fit all my “notes” for each separate part of the garment, see?

And all this work goes almost unnoticed in my first version of the sweater.

What did I do differently the second time? Besides picking different yarn  and size, I sewed all the parts together before washing and skipped blocking completely. I tried to prevent excessive stretchiness and I think that I succeeded. I am in love with the sleeves on my second version. Just looking at them makes my hands itch to start another Deconstruction.

Yes, I want more of it. I explained the process of making this sweater in such detail not because I think that the pattern is poorly written and you cannot puzzle it out without my help (because all experienced knitters certainly would). I believe this pattern is great, is much easier than it seems, and is a breath of fresh air in the endless row of top-down seamless designs that gratify the “HOT RIGHT NOW” Ravelry page. I also believe that it should be made from a different yarn, not the one recommended by the designer, on smaller needles, and in a right size. It is a great pattern to use up the multicolored leftovers that accumulate dust in your stash. It is a wonderful experiment with shape and form that keeps you focused and absorbed by the process from the beginning till the end.

While laboring on my two consecutive Deconstructions, I crocheted myself a bag. I saw this bag on Pinterest (and later found out its price) so obviously I had to make myself something like this. Just for fun and to see if I still could crochet anything.

Nowadays all my communications with the outside world happen on Zoom. When I talk I can work only on something mindless. This bag became my Zoom project which is why I called it Zoom bag.

I searched for a pattern but couldn’t find anything exactly like the one on the picture so I made the pattern myself (wrote it down on the project page). However, later I found a pattern, it is free on Ravelry, and I think it is much more detailed than mine. Anyway, I am very pleased with my bag (the yarn was recycled from an old cotton sweater, by the way) and now want to make more bags in different shapes and forms.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Knitting for babies and fighting with yarn

This bird comes daily to take a bath in our pool and meditate upon the frailty of life. It looks melancholy and contemplative and we call him Professor. No, don’t tell me his scientific name because I am not interested. I like our Professor and he likes us (at least I think he does since he comes over every day – no one else does!) even though he expressed a pronounced dislike of being photographed. As soon as he hears a click of a gadget he flies away.
Lately, not only I’ve spent long time observing the Professor, I discovered several other birds’ rituals and habits, learned to distinguish different birds’ cries and songs. Am I becoming a birdwatcher? Hopefully, the answer is "NO", because I still refrain from learning birds’ names. Yet, this is something that I’ve never done before…
Another thing that I suddenly started doing is making jams and marmalades. This year we had an abundance of starfruit (aka carambola) from two starfruit trees.

I used some of the fruit to make starfruit jam for the first time in my life and the rest – to make starfruit chips. Yes, I spent 6 hours in the kitchen making these chips – I couldn’t believe my own culinary zeal.
 One day we put mangoes in our InstaCart order and got a whole lot of lemons instead. What do you do when universe (or an InstaCart shopper) gives you lemons? Right, you make lemon marmalade!
I don’t even remember when I made jam or marmalade for the last time – 25 or 30 years ago most likely. When I needed some jam, I usually would buy it in a supermarket. Yet, now, stuck on a beautiful but isolated subtropical island I perused several recipes and ended up mixing two of them to make this beauty.
Now the starfruit chips are all gone (6 hours in the kitchen!!!), one jar of the marmalade is also gone, we have one more jar though and some leftovers of the starfruit jam. I wonder what other culinary endeavors are ahead of me because it looks like we are going to stay put for a long while.
Among all these “firsts” in my life, I made a baby blanket. Normally, I don’t knit for babies. Babies rarely appreciate our knitting – they are ungrateful creatures. Most of the time their mothers also don’t appreciate hand knitted gifts – they are so proud of themselves having produced a new live human being that everything else they see as not important.
I know and admire lots of knitters who make mostly baby clothes for charities. Even though baby clothes are easy and fast to make, I still prefer to knit for adults.  Because babies are messy, they outgrow these handmade clothes only too fast, and because, in all honesty, babies in general are overrated. Here, I said it; you can throw stones at me now. 
Before we moved to the United States, I never even thought about making something like a baby blanket by hand. It seemed a lunacy to me – why would one spend many hours lovingly creating something that would get a seriously rough treatment: be constantly cleaned, washed, and dried, plus constantly abused by a baby? Maybe my children, when they were babies, were exceptional? Anyway, the idea of knitting a baby blanket never even popped into my head. Until I started going to various knitting groups. I would say half of my knitting mates in all the groups that I frequented over the years were making baby blankets. Of all possible sizes, colors, and shapes. I am not sure I’ve seen as many babies in my life as I’ve seen baby blankets.
This year – exceptional in many ways – I began listening to birds’ songs and making marmalades so the headway into knitting a baby blanket came quite naturally.
Since my own children refuse to reproduce I decided to adopt someone else’s baby. My daughter’s friend is expecting and I had some amazing yarn – Mungo by Rosa Pomar – that could be used for a blanket. What a happy coincidence! Then I found the pattern – Baby Honey Blanket by Craftling Designs – that looks striking (at least to me), and the rest is history.
This blanket was finished quickly. It was such a joy to work on it! The hexagons are positioned randomly, there is no order or symmetry in the pattern which is why it is written row by row and you’ve got to pay attention and count your rows to succeed.
I don’t like sugary pinks or blues for babies, I think that babies rock neutrals (and look cleaner in them).Plus, babies are super-cute and adorable (at least, at first) and need no extra embellishments. This heathery grey is appropriate for a baby, don’t you think?
I got a bit carried away and also made a tiny hat from the yarn leftovers and baby booties in beige (see on my Instagram). Now I understand the lure of knitting for babies – it was hard to stop and not make something else. These tiny 
garments are so easy to make!
Since working on the blanket required constant focus and attention, I started another project to work on while talking to people on Zoom. This is my only source of communication with the world now and I am really grateful for its existense. Otherwise our life in isolation would have been much less bearable.
This yarn –Maggi’s Multi Llinen from MaggiKnits Irish MK Collection - was given to me by one of my knitting buddies our first winter in Florida. Honestly, I would never buy a yarn like this myself – too fancy for my taste. But I couldn’t refuse such a generous gift and I sort of felt bound to knit something from it. After all it was presented to me with a request of making something beautiful out of it.
A tough ask! I looked everywhere and tried many patterns with this yarn. My swatches were so long I could use them as a scarf. Nothing really worked and the yarn didn’t agree with any pattern. It is part cotton part linen, a bit shiny, variegated (mix of blush pink with bluish greys), thick and thin non-plied yarn. It produces an uneven fabric with rustic vibe and is difficult to work with since it is non-plied. Basically, there are three different strands of yarn to knit with, they don’t stick to each other, and have a tendency to separate and slide from needles on their own volition.
If you think that working with this yarn is nothing for a person who makes jams, marmalades, spends several hours in a kitchen, and listens to birds’ songs, you are totally wrong. It was hard, painful, and frustrating.
The pattern I picked is from an old Pingouin magazine. It is knit in one piece sideways from sleeve to sleeve and has only two side seams. This kind of short batwing sweaters used to be fashionable in the 70s and 80s but I think they are getting back into fashion now. Anyway, big sleeves are all the rage nowadays, aren’t they? And this sweater has ginormous sleeves.
Believe it or not, I was attracted to this pattern mainly because of its jumbo sleeves (plus the main design with slipped stitches – it looks pretty in this yarn). Silly me, I was hoping to use up all the yarn on this oversized sweater, didn’t want to deal with leftovers. In reality, the yarn turned out to be rather long and the sweater – rather short. Fortunately, my other knitting buddy agreed to take all the leftovers from me so I don’t have to deal with this yarn ever again.
Working on this sweater was painful and frustrating but not difficult. The pattern is easy and straightforward. I modified it just a bit – made cuffs larger, used tubular cast on and cast off everywhere, worked the ribbing through the back loop to make it look neater, and went down several sizes in needles for the ribbing. The best part about this sweater is that it is light and airy, made out of cotton/linen mix, and can be worn in Florida (starting October, I hope).
I think the main attraction of finishing a garment nowadays is the subsequent photoshoot and the possibility to wear normal clothes (unlike my daily uniform of t-shirts and shorts). This time I decided to fully enjoy the experience and even included a change of pants (unfortunately, it is too hot for pants here now).
My quasi-rationale for the change of clothes was that it allowed demonstrating the versatility of my new sweater that can be worn with all sorts of garments. But let’s be honest. I really wanted to wear “grown-up” clothes at least for a little while, even in this scorching heat.
Actually, this sweater looks great with shorts as well as with a skirt because it is short, but not too short and could be worn both ways – tucked in or untucked.
I called it Pink # 1 because I am planning to knit a series of pink sweaters. I was surprised to discover several pink yarns in my stash: the shades of pink are different, yet, they all belong to the same color family. The inspiration comes, as usual, from the environment.
This time of the year in South Florida pink is the king. In the evening everything looks pink here – the ocean, palm trees, clouds, sand, even the moon.
So…get ready for more pink knits. I hope that one day I’ll have an opportunity to wear them not only for a photoshoot.