Category Archives: gift knitting

The most wonderful time of the year.

I can say this to you because we’re friends: I love Thanksgiving with the fire of a thousand suns, and Christmas floats my boat, because who doesn’t love a thoughtful gift? But this time? After Christmas and before I return to work, when it’s okay for me to sit in my pajamas and a handknitted sweater looking at knitting on the internet and thinking about spending the day knitting? That might be my favorite time of all.

Noro Striped Scarf, finished I have rallied from baby knitting disasters and am prepared to finish 2009 in a big way, so I have a few things to show you. First up, perhaps my favorite FO of 2009, my Noro Striped Scarf. Tubular cast on, sewn bind off, about 3/4 of two different balls (S245 and S87; details here) of Noro Silk Garden sock yarn gave me a scarf that was 74 inches long. Honestly, I love Noro yarns (so all you haters of Noro can stuff it), but I think making socks out of Noro Silk Garden Sock is a fool’s errand; they would last about 5 minutes, because it’s not exactly a hard-wearing yarn, you know? So a scarf is perfect.

Next up in the “parade of FOs in delicate yarn” is a pair of plain vanilla socks in Handmaiden Casbah, colorway Ruby. I was not Casbah Socks completely swayed by the lure of a merino/cashmere blend, because it’s kind of splitty and slightly tempermental, like it will pill or fuzz if you look at it funny. But these were for my mom, because you do not turn 70 every day, and even though she’s a knitter, she is not a sock knitter. I originally started these as a pair of Wendy Johnson’s Trilobites in Arucania Ranco Multi (or Multy). I was not a happy knitter; this was the last skein of yarn I bought before embarking on 9 months of Cold Sheeping, and it was knitting up suspiciously like kitchen cotton: not soft, not mom-worthy. So I gave it away, and broke my Cold Sheep streak after 290 days (I checked) with Handmaiden Casbah, the yarn equivalent of dating a supermodel. They fit beautifully, and Mom is happy – this is a craft project that’s way better than a macaroni necklace. As an aside, this was the first pair of socks I did two-at-a-time on one needle, and after completing my Nancy Bush mystery socks two-at-a-time on separate needles, I am completely in love with knitting two socks at once – that is perhaps 2009′s biggest discovery: the banishment of second sock syndrome (except for one tiny exception – I’ll definitely take care of that).

Newfoundland Mitt minus Thumb My final project for 2009 might give you a clue as to what 2010 holds: this is the Newfoundland mittens, queued in Ravelry October 7, 2007; one skein of Brown Sheep Shepherd’s Shades and one skein of Noro Kureyon (color 170, still a favorite). I have 280 things in my Ravelry queue, and it’s time to knit some of them up. I mentioned here that I’d like to try 10 new techniques in 2010, including installing a zipper in a knitted garment (#32 in my queue) and thrumming (#4 in my queue, and I have a pile of thrums waiting). I might even finish a pair of baby booties before my littlest cousin’s arrival. So happy new year to you and your needles – here’s to knitting on with confidence in 2010, just like Elizabeth recommends.

The opposite of fun.

What kind of knitter am I? I love challenges, use deadlines as motivators and think knitting for other people is noble and worthy, as long as I also get to knit for myself. Still with me? I also know my eyes are bigger than my stomach, knitting-wise, since it takes me four years to finish a sweater and my Ravelry queue is ten pages and holding – no matter how hard I try to restrain myself, there’s always something new and lovely to knit, there’s always a reason to knit faster, and if I’m not careful, I could get myself into a lot of trouble.

Take, for instance, three weeks ago Saturday.

The scene is my cousin’s wife’s baby shower, to be held three hours from my house in Ohio – I had dutifully started a Baby Surprise Jacket as soon as I had talked myself into baby knitting (“Can I finish a knitted gift? Probably not; I shouldn’t even try…But it would be so cute – and I love Elizabeth Zimmermann, even if I always forget to add the extra N – let’s knit this thing!”) which took a week or so, time I could have spent knitting, but didn’t because I was finishing these Nancy Bush Fox Faces socks (which I love, and are great – Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Select highly recommended). Nancy Bush SKA Mystery Socks, Finished Long story short, the BSJ hit a snag (an inexplicable section of stockinette – how hard is it to knit garter stitch?) and I knew it would not be done in time for the baby shower, thanks to obligations like a job, which seemed to be getting more than full-time by the minute.

As an alternative “gift garnish,” for this kickass diaper bag, I started a pair of Saartje’s booties the Bockstark way two days before the shower. Shower Saturday dawns bright and clear, and my plan is working, but I’m running out of time. Booties are done, except for buttons and button loops. My sainted husband offers to drive me to Michigan for the shower so I can finish the booties. How long could finishing take? I pictured a quick bit of knitting followed by a chatty car ride.

Answer? We may never know, because when it comes to button loops? I suck under pressure. Despite this great video, I made ugly button loops the size of basketball hoops, and in a fit of frustration, with just 20 miles or so to go before arriving at the shower…I cut them off the end of the bootie straps, snipping one of the straps in the process, and causing it to unravel. It was at about this point that I unraveled as well, out of frustration.

New Knitting Rule: If you have to count the car ride to the event as part of the time needed to finish your knitted gift, you’re probably screwed, knitting-wise you should definitely have a backup plan.

I returned home, full of shower cake, and not a little sad that once again I had gotten myself in a knitting pickle. I make my knitting deadlines just often enough that I talk myself into setting them, again and again. But knitting is supposed to be fun, and these two failed projects were the opposite of fun

Noro Striped Scarf, ProgressYou know what’s fun? Deciding on a whim to start a Noro striped scarf, and knitting away, stripe after stripe. I have been monogamous to this thing since October 25 as “failed baby gift” therapy, and you know what? It’s as tall as I am now, more than 5 feet and growing. Apparently, I can knit, I just have trouble knitting to a deadline.

Which, of course, is why I signed up with some knitting friends to participate in the Ravelympics in February. I probably will have forgotten all about this debacle by then. Also, I’m seriously considering stacking the knitting olympics deck by knitting a (quite lovely) sweater on size 15 needles.

25,354

Haven’t you always wanted to be one of those cool knitters who ends up as “and friend” in a picture next to Stephanie Pearl-McPhee at the Madrona Fiber Arts Festival? Or with book publishers plying you with free swag? Or as someone with a super-secret knitting project for a shop, or even better, a book?

Secret Project, closeup I am gobsmacked to find myself doing some super-secret knitting See? that’s some RYC Wool Silk DK, right there my friends: 700 yards of Rowan-y goodness, due to be completed mid-March. First project with Rowan yarns, but it won’t be the last – I am believing the hype about how great Rowan yarns are. I can’t wait to tell you more about this – it will be worth the wait, I promise.

Other things are on hold right now: my Jaywalkers, last seen here, await a second heel and foot; the Lizzy cardigan’s last piece awaits waist shaping – but I do have two FOs completed before SecretMania 09 began, both chips off what feels like a huge stash of Classic Elite Lush.

Primordial Hat, Done This is Roxanne Wood’s Primordial Hat – the pattern is a fun mix of garter and ribbing which I thoroughly enjoyed, though I unexpectedly ended up with a huge hat. Huge! I’m guessing that I’ll need to go down 2 maybe 3 needle sizes to make this the proper size for version two, but it will be worth it, because I think it’s a totally fun pattern.

Because my cousin still needed a hat to match her Basketweave Scarf, I cast on right away for Thea Coleman’s Stashy Hat – ahh. Regular readers will know how I am a fan of the broken rib, and the shot of added texture did not disappoint me. I received word yesterday that the hat fits, and we have a little cold weather for my cousin to get some use out of it, so yay.

Stashy HatLet’s be honest here: as soon as I got the hang of the super-secret project and realized I had a lot (a lot!) of knitting to go before I was finished, I wanted to cast on for something new badly enough that it took my breath away. (Noro stripey socks, anyone?). I am resisting, because it’s hard to call RYC Silk Wool a second choice, but I have an ulterior motive.

How am I doing on the “20,000 yards project”? Right now I have (you guessed it) 25,354 yards of yarn stashed away. Last year I knitted about 4100 yards’ worth, but don’t forget, I lost a fair amount of true knitting time to the seaming of the Greensburg afghan. I have swapped, Koigu for Fearless Fibers [see?], and a completed Banff for a sweater’s worth of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool – but I have not purchased. [For the judgey who think I have thrown my first sweater under the bus, consider that the recipient loves it, and while I couldn't bring myself to frog and reknit it, I can think of three things I could start today with the Silky Wool. Er, after I finish the super-secret knitting. - ed]

The size of my stash concerns me enough that I am seriously considering having someone else make the plain socks I would make for myself. Hey, that’s 400 yards on my feet instead of in a box – I think it’s a win-win. *wink*

Was this a good idea, or what?

Basketweave Scarf I did promise to give you still more eye candy after dumping my OMG!!HugeFinishedSweater photos here – so here we go. First, my next-to-last FO of the year, the Basketweave Scarf from Knitting Daily, completed with 2.5 skeins of yarn repurposed from my failed Lush turtleneck, seen so long ago. Was this a good idea, or what? So soft! So fun to knit! Such a shame I have only this one photo to show you – there are a few crappy cellphone pictures lurking here and there, but none can capture the lovely, soft reversible nature of this scarf, given to my cousin who had been asking for a scarf (and hat and mittens) as a NotChristmasGift because I didn’t have her name in the family draw but I cannot resist the genuine appreciation for handknits.

First Jaywalker FullIt also helped that my cousin had my name in the family draw, and she gifted me with not one but two colors of Garnstudio DROPS Fabel sock yarn – yay! As soon as I opened my gift I thought to myself: “I guess I’m making a pair of Jaywalkers.” And so it came to pass that I knitted one of the Interweb’s most venerable patterns with my very newest sock yarn, Fun, easy, and certainly the loudest socks I’ve made in a good while – which is just the way I like them, apparently.

Sadly, I’ve gotten in the habit of ravel-ing projects before blogging about them, because I’m fastidious about creating a Ravelry entry as close to the actual start date as possible (rule-follower much?). Anyhoo, I wanted to let you know that in the on-deck circle is a pair of Bells and Whistles socks from IK Holiday 2006 for my mom – lovely, but I’m still in the “shut up, I’m counting” lace knitting phase, so photos will have to wait until later this week when a full repeat is finished.

As for plans and resolutions, you might as well know that when I tallied up my stash after the Christmas frenzy was over, I was alarmed to discover that, instead of the 20,000 yard cap I was aiming for, I ended up with more than 25,000 yards of yarn stuffed in plastic bins (some of this is charming Lizzy, an FO that remains U). So, until I hit that 20,000 yard mark, no more yarn – even though it might take all year. What to knit? A lot more socks: I’d like to make six pairs in 2009, which means (say it with me) a sock a month – totally do-able! Punctuated Rib, Old Navy, Pot Pourri and Rivendell socks are in the queue, plus the Ribby Cardi, and the terrific Primordial Hat [rav link], which strikes me as a delicious companion to the Basketweave Scarf. That should get me close to 5000 yards down – and after all, my cousin did ask for a hat.

(Belated) knitted goods are the first sign of spring. Right?

As the flowerbasket hat approached six heartbreaking weeks overdue (and by “overdue” I mean “later than I had hoped it would be”) I realized it remained undone because I had some sort of finishing anxiety. I would have to get over it tout de suite. Either the hat and mittens fit, or they don’t, but as God is my witness, I have made a good faith effort to ensure they do, and knitting slower will not help (unless by “help” I mean “save me from being crushed under the weight of the guilt”).

Flower Basket Hat and Mittens So, my third finished object of 2007 is the flowerbasket hat and accompanying mittens for my friend Bran’s daughter in exchange for the recently unveiled redesign of this here site. This hat was loosely based on this baby hat pattern and sizing information from The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns; I later discovered (too late!) that TKHBP sometimes underestimates the amount of negative ease necessary, so I made a length of 2-stitch i-cord to thread through the brim to tighten the fit (and add to the cuteness). As I mentioned before, the flowers are from this pattern, and were not only easy but fun. If I were to do this over again, I’d cast on 88 stitches instead of 100 (or 352 rather than 400, because the brim ruffle involves a serious amount of decreasing). I’d also have the recipient’s mom trace her hands and mail the paper to me so I’d have the next best thing to an actual nine-year-old-girl as a reference point.

Whew! I’m glad that’s done, and I’m frankly shocked that it turned out just about as I envisioned it. Say it with me: is knitting cool, or what? Next up, Paws that pop, and maybe even some double-thick mittens made out of sock yarn. And there’s always good old Cable and Rib….

We knit for babies (and for moms).*

I want all the Pigeon books for myselfThere are some people who think a handknit is appropriate for every gift-giving occasion – I, sadly, am not one of them, because if I committed to that philosophy, I would do nothing but knit gifts for others. And yet? I broke my own rule last week when I whipped out this little number for a coworker expecting a baby, to go with one of Knit One Purl Too’s favorite children’s books. The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog is a great work of littratchure in part because the lessons learned (i.e., for true happiness, one must share the hot dog) are not so overt that the book is Teaching Children Something At the Expense of a Fine Story. I’m sneaky; I always think kids learn life lessons a little better if you give them a book called The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog instead of one called Nice People Share, you know what I mean?

The bib is of the Mason Dixon Knitting variety, made out of stash Bernat CottonTots from one of my very first projects (shh! don’t tell the baby I used yarn I already had!), and though it may look unassuming, I think this is my very first buttonhole experience. Woo! Unsurprisingly, even though this was ostensibly an event filled with co-workers and it was supposed to be a “book shower,” I was not the only giver of a handmade item – someone’s mom had made a swell handmade quilt, so she and I hung out in a group of two handcrafting peeps, ooohing and ahhhing over the fun of making things for babies.

They're done! But that is not my only FO: Because I am versatile, I also make things for moms – my mom to be specific. These are the Mom socks started in December on my trip to San Diego, ripped after discovering her feet were narrower than I thought, and reknitted with a Sherman heel and your basic toe (first seen as part of the 56-stitch, 56 row sock pattern, at least by me). They are not exactly the same as Christine’s, but I find it amusing that we knitted very siimilar socks (note that she started hers after I started mine and still finished before I did – impressively fast!). Some knitting pron for the geeky: a closeup of the heels (this is really the only place the color didn’t match). This is so easy, even I can do it!

Next up? The second half of the Retro Rib leg you saw in the last post; after all, the next item I finish ties me with last year’s lame total of six completed objects. Making New Year’s resolutions is obviously a big contributor to knitting productivity.

*One of my favorite albums is the Oscar Peterson Trio’s We Get Requests, for several reasons: First, the great title which makes one of the all-time greatest jazz pianists sound like a short-order cook. Second? I never get tired of listening to The Girl From Ipanema (right-click and save, if you like). Well, now you know.

It’s already ready already.

I am a Christmas Sock That Rocks Forget all these people and their Socks that Rock – I’ll show you a sock that rocks right here (Jingle Bell Rock, that is). Finished with hours to spare on Saturday, the stocking was a big hit with all parties concerned, including yours truly. I have no illusions that it’s perfect, but I’m not ashamed to give it as a gift, you know? In fact, for all the other projects that stall out or become “the item I like in spite of its flaws”, I liked this project for itself, and for the doors it opened for me. Apparently, my head is turned by all knitting things Norwegian (all those patterns are just so, so organized and tidy!) and two-color knitting is no longer a huge mystery, just a skill to master. Without even knowing it, I gave myself something for Christmas (all together now, “Aww!”). Plus, I do not think anything has impressed Knit One Purl Too’s Expert Christmas Cookie Making Staff (aka my husband) as much as two-color knitting. His exact words? “This is so much better than self-patterning sock yarn – you’re making your own patterns!” If that isn’t incentive to make the Water Garden Fair Isle from IK Summer 00 (I love your work, Ron Schweitzer, call me!) or the Mossbank Pullover from Jaimeson’s Book 3, for him, I don’t know what is. I will be filled with treats by Santa

And now, we bring you a brief cookie interlude, courtesy of Lovely Lemon Cookies:

1 cup butter
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 cups flour
1 t. lemon extract

Preheat the oven to 350. Beat the butter until creamy, then add the lemon extract, sugar and flour. Form the dough into little balls that fit in the palm of your hand and press to flatten into little disks. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes until just brown around the edges. Cool.

For the frosting:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 T butter at room temperature
1 T lemon juice

Combine all ingredients and beat until smooth. Frost cookes and store between layers of wax paper, or begin eating immediately. Theoretically makes 5 dozen.

This is for Tiffany, who was nice enough to ask me to participate in a recipe swap – I was in the middle of Stocking Frenzy at the time; some things fell by the wayside. These are The Official Christmas Cookie of Knit One, Purl Too (though we also think The Barefoot Contessa’s Jam Thumbprints are fabulous).

And with that, off I go through the woods and on the Turnpike to Mom and Dad’s (the Official Parents of Knit One Purl Too) – the post-holiday knitting report will include much Banff progress and photos of my new favorite FO, the Tote-Around. To all a knitting good night!

Why didn’t I start, like, four months ago?

Dear Curtis and Claudia -

It's like a spy photo from Alias, courtesy of my Palm PilotHi. How are you? I am fine. I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing to let you know that you might be able to celebrate Christmas on December 25th with the rest of us because it is entirely possible that I will actually finish the Christmas stocking I promised your son before Christmas. Despite my best efforts to underestimate the amount of time this project would take and knit mistakes into the work which require huge amounts of tedious frogging, I am finished with the heel, which means that with good knitting momentum, I should finish the last motif early tomorrow morning today. Then, just the toe stands between me and a finished Festivus Stocking (or as I am calling it privately, The Project I Should Have Started in July).

Raise your hand if you desperately need blocking to reach your full potential I realize that this note may seem like I am falling down on the job as far as my Fairy Godmother duties go, that even though I am not an official caretaker or role model in your son’s life, I may still serve more as a horrible warning than a shining example in the human behavior department. Lest you worry further that I will fail to complete my holiday task, let me remind you that I am 99 percent sure that FedEx delivers on Christmas Day, and I am even more sure that I will not have to resort to that. Because I am going to finish the stocking. On time. Early, even. Let us not mention the fact that I was forced (forced, I tell you) to start a new pair of socks because a. it would have been foolhardy to try and take the stocking on a cross-country plane trip – I have trouble not making mistakes when I’m sitting still. and b. I left my Retro Ribs (and my knitting box and my ballwinder at my parents’ house over Thanksgiving (I know that this is like “the dog ate my homework” excuse).

Socks for mom - who couldn't love that?What? A vacation, you say? I’ll tell you, a week in San Diego (non-knitting, beach and sun pictures here) seemed a lot more reasonable before I realized that the first week in December is prime Christmas knitting time (yes, I realize I’m going to hell for suggesting that I would forgo vacation to stay on deadline with this nutty stocking project). And yes, not only was I away from the stocking all week, I knitted something else too. (Fortissima Colori Socka Color, #9069, if you care) But they’re for my mom. So I’m in the clear. My mom wants socks, no deadlines, no strings attached, so of course, they fly off the needles. But I swear I haven’t touched them since we got back! It’s been all stocking, all the time since we returned to the land of snow and ice, because I love you two and I love your son.

Love (and I mean that),

Donna

P.S. I’m looking forward to seeing you tomorrow. Please come as late in the day as you possibly can.

You call it Banff, I call it solace.

It's a sleeve, and a good-looking one at that.Reading this site, you might get the idea that all I do is knit, talk about knitting and think about the next time I’m going to get the opportunity to knit. Not quite true, but I am keenly aware that having a knitblog means that blogging about knitting (rather than the cheese sandwich I ate for lunch) is job one around these parts. I don’t start writing until I have some progress to show, and occasionally life intervenes while I’m crafting an entry. In the post originally slated for this space, I started writing about how much I was enjoying two-color knitting with the Festivus stocking – by the time I got around to taking pictures, I was enjoying it less because the pattern was humbling me. These sessions of frogging and reknitting were brought to you solely by my own boneheadedness; though the pattern is written in a minimalist European style, it’s perfectly clear — just read the whole damn thing through a few times before plunging ahead. I was back to enjoying the stocking once more last week, preparing to post away about the joys of knitting for the holiday, when my grandmother died.

Unexpectedly, all I wanted to do was knit stockinette. I am not one for prayer shawls, but I had a need for comfort knitting that could not be denied, and since I am now the Official Knitter in the family, I couldn’t exactly wait around for someone else to cough up a cozy Ene’s Scarf for me (isn’t that version beautiful?). So I turned to Banff. Coincidentally (or perhaps providentially), I had laid in provisions in the event of such an odd knitting emergency – the wilds of EBay recently yielded the perfect yarn at a bargain price. For the record, I am not the kind of knitter who absolutely, positively must knit the item in the yarn recommended by the pattern. But in this case, I’m so glad I can; Tahki Soho Tweed is tremendous stuff. I had to go down several needle sizes to find gauge love; instead of the size 9 I was expecting, I’m knitting Banff on 6s – yes, you read that right. But three and a half stitches to the inch is three and a half stitches to the inch, whatever needle you’re using; I completed the first sleeve in six days, a record for me. And I love it. I can’t wait to wear it, whenever it’s finished (which will probably be pretty soon).

The observant among you will recognize that this means the Lush sweater is even further down in the pecking order with just one sleeve to go. In considering Banff, my thought process went something like:

I want to knit a sweater.
I want to finish a sweater.
I’ve always liked Banff.
I don’t think the Lush sweater is going to fit – it looks too baggy.
The yarn is soooo fuzzy.
I’m not sure I have the skill to set in the sleeves properly yet without working the yarn to death.
Why did I want to avoid seaming so badly?
The Lush sweater looks desperately homemade to me, and I don’t think I’m being overly critical.
Have I mentioned that the yarn sheds like a Golden Retriever?
I could try a different pattern.
I could try a different yarn.
I could knit Banff.

A slightly blurry closeup, because I was in a hurrySo there you have it. My grandmother was not a knitter, not even particularly crafty. But like me, she was opinonated, and as my uncle reminded us in her eulogy, she’d often say to her kids “Why ask me? You might as well go ahead and do what you want, because you’re going to do it anyway.” Apparently that had the effect of squashing childhood urges to do stupid things. I feel like it’s advice to keep right on knitting. Thanks, Grandma. Thanks, again and always, for everything.