Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Big 33

Around Saturday I decided it would be very appropriate if I happened to be on row 33 of the Eunny Jang vest pattern on my thirty-third birthday, so I got just to the middle of that row and set it down in favor of other projects. On Monday I had a very nice birthday indeed, including a very thoughtful gift from the family (see the next post), and a lovely dinner out at a local restaurant we used to enjoy often but had stopped frequenting. Not on purpose, just because it's so hard to go out with two kids, and when you've gone to the trouble of getting someone to watch the two kids, then you want to go someplace really special and/or new and/or expensive. Anyway, Nana was just as good as we remembered, the patio out back just as pleasant and relaxed, and the downstairs bathroom space just as exotic.
Since then, I've been working at the sweater quite a bit. The argyle pattern is as intuitive as she said, and I am just thrilled to think that I'm about to start the v-neck steek. I explained to Ian (I think not for the first time) that every stitch on this sweater brings me closer to his EZ cardigan, because I have to prove to myself that steeks work before I can commit myself to the beautiful Aran sweater.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Baby Easter-egg hat

I've gotten a few compliments, and I love compliments, on this one, so here's my first honest-to-goodness attempt to write a full pattern:
Gauge is approximately 5.5 sts/inch on size 4 needles with Paton's cotton yarn, but I knit loose so others would probably do better with size 5s. Because this was a hat for a new baby, head circumference 14 inches or so, I was much more comfortable on 4 dpns (knit with a fifth) than on a circular needle until I got to the two ruffle rows and BO at the end.
Cast 4 sts onto a dpn and work an I-cord (keep sliding the sts over at the end, like a typewriter) for 4 rows.
K1, M1 (I use the backward loop cast on, as suggested by Elizabeth Zimmerman; it seems counterintuitive, but it does not actually leave a big hole) add new needle, K1, M1, add new needle, K1, M1, K1, M1 (4 incs, 8 sts total, 2 on first two needles, 4 on third needle)
Knit 1 row plain
(K1, M1) around (16 sts total)
Knit 1 row plain
(K2, M1) around (24 sts) Here would probably be a good time to add the fourth dpn so that each needle now has 6 sts.
Knit 1 row plain
(It is fairly easy to identify the M1 stitch from two rows earlier, and right after that is where the new M1 will happen. It is also very easy to recognize the M1 st on the needle, so that helps keep straight whether it is an inc row or a straight row.)
Continue to repeat these two rows (next will be K3, M1 around) until you get to K7, M1. After this row you will have 80 sts, and that is the total needed for the new baby hat. If you want a larger hat, keep increasing at the eight points.*
Keep knitting around until hat measures 4 inches from last increase (if you're making the hat for a larger size head, you probably need 5 or 6 inches). The easiest way to end a hat like this is a roll brim, which would involve about 8-10 more rows and the binding off, but if you would like a ruffle, get out a hat-sized circular needle, K1, place marker, KFB, [K1, KFB] around. You'll know you're done when you have 1 st before the marker.
Next row: K1, slip marker, KFB, [K1, KFB] around.
Next row: BO.
That's pretty much it. Add stripes and Fair Isle designs at your whim.
*This is pretty much how I make all my top-down hats, either starting with 4 sts, and then making 8 points of increase or starting with 3 sts and making 6 points of increase. I like the way the I-cord looks, and I guess I like increasing a tiny bit better than decreasing. I would say that there seems to be a more pronounced danger of making the hats too fat and droopy this way, and that it can be a slight pain if you're doing earflaps, but I just love the feeling of starting with such a small number of stitches and watching the knitted fabric grow.
I started doing hats top-down instead of bottom-up partly because I was so enchanted with dpns and partly because I believed that I wouldn't need to do a gauge swatch because I'd know how many sts I had to the inch before I needed to stop increasing. I'm not sure that's true. but I will probably continue to make hats this way.
Abbreviations, in order of appearance: sts=stitches; dpn=double-pointed needles; BO=bind off; K=knit; M1=make 1; inc=increase, KFB=knit into the front of the stitch but don't slode it off the needle; knit into the back and now slide it off (1 st inc)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

No-look project

One of the many things I enjoy about reading to the kids is the opportunity for guilt-free knitting. This is the best kind of multitasking, but it takes a special kind of project (at least for me). No lace, cabling, constant increasing. or colorwork, but straight knitting. I can do ribbing or back-and-forth, but the absolute best is stockinette in the round, row after row. Other things I'm loving about this particular project: (one of) my favorite color(s), size 7 needles, so it won't last forever, it's out of my favorite knitting magazine, and, when I'm finished, I'll have a lovely summer top.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


I started this baby sweater as I was doing Coco's ballet sweater. I was so happy that the pink yarn gave me the exact gauge EZ specified in Knitter's Almanac that I forgot that I didn't love the way lace stitches looked with it. After I finished the garter stitch yoke and a few lace repeats, I did remember, and I also felt quite guilty to be using totally acrylic, artificial yarn on a pattern lovingly written for wool. So, I squirrelled it away and tried to forget about it, but the lace pattern was so soothing, and there were only the two sleeve seams to sew up, and it seems to be raining baby girls, so I pulled it out and finished it, and happened to have the exact right buttons on hand.
Now I can send it on to California.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"It tastes just like the bread we get in restaurants."--CGM

You have new Picture Mail!
Originally uploaded by mariawmcgrath
I'm been off bread for a little while, mostly due to an incredibly disappointing Oatmeal Molasses Bread experience--my fault because I let it rise too long, but then I didn't even like the taste. Anyway, yesterday Coco was home sick, so once I knew we'd be in most of the day, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to use up the rest of the yeast and bread flour. Well, for whatever reason, the quick rises were not so quick, but after twice the time on the second rising, it looked pretty good. It flattened out a bit in the cooking (I again failed to accurately time the 10 minutes at 450), but it tastes quite nice, with a pleasant consistency, too. I was so tickled by Coco's comment, see photo, that I even let the kids spread Nutella on it.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Instant Stash

How thrilled was I when I got my Knitpicks shipment? Let's just say that when I need to calm myself in hectic moments (of which there have been too many lately) I think about the cardigan I will make from this:
Or the v-neck argyle vest, which will be my first attempt at steeking, that I'll make with this:
Or Ian's proper cardigan, that won't hang like a blanket, from my Elizabeth Zimmerman book (The Opinionated Knitter), made out of this:
Or some sort of ribbony shirt for my mom out of this:
Or even a shawl for a dear friend out of this, which makes me think of one of my favorite Enya songs, "Caribbean Blue":

Best wishes to baby Francesca

The Easter-egg-yarn baby hat again, modified this time with a little bit of a fair isle pattern, and a ruffle rather than a roll brim. Given to the baby's big sister on Friday, with hopes that the little one will be out of the hospital very soon. Her mom is a really dynamic parent at Coco's school--a vice president of the PTA, in the schoolyard just about every morning and afternoon.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Super Fudge

I made these booties (from the Zoe Mellor book) three years ago, and when I heard about the arrival of our friends' new baby boy, I chose to make them again. I loved the idea of them and the picture in her book, and I loved making a narrow cable strip. I remembered struggling with the sewing up, but I figured that I had learned a lot about finishing in the last three years. Heck, I even spend my laundry-folding time watching Lucy Neatby videos. Anyway, making the strips was nice, especially in that bright, bright red. Picking up the stitches for the sole was a pain, even though I did some math beforehand to figure how to match 31 to 37. Then, for the uppers, I had the innovative (?) idea to knit the cuff in the round--I was just going to have to sew it up later, so it made sense.
Anyway, my plan is to never make these again. I think they'll look cute on the baby, but only because of the way baby feet are tiny and adorable and would look good with tiny cloth sacks on them. If I do ever make theses again, I will increase the one garter stitch that borders the cable on wither side to at least two. Maybe that's all they need. Or, maybe one day I'll take a finishing seminar and bring a pair. I do love my 50 baby bootees to knit, but I need a lot more specific instructions than "Ease upper shoe to fit round cable strip," and, although I'm quite happy with my mattress stitch, "use a flat seam . . . so that there is no ridge inside to rub against the skin" makes me feel both inadequate and guilty.