The above picture is my submission for the Project Teeny Runway contest hosted by the lovely ladies at Mason-Dixon Knitting. This is undoubtedly one of the most pointless things I've ever made, but I had fun with it and I learned a few things:
1. Elann sonata (DK weight 100% mercerized cotton) is pretty crappy yarn. I had a couple skeins on hand that I think was originally intended for a baby project before I realized how stiff and cheap it feels (you get what you pay for). It was perfect for this kind of project because I didn't feel like I was wasting nice yarn, and the mercerized cotton had the right texture for a tux (if there can be such a thing, of course).
2. It's fun to knit on the fly and make things up as you go along. I am terrible at design sketches, so I didn't even try. I just measured the seal and cast on and held up the knitted piece every few rows and it worked out fine. There was surprisingly little frogging.
3. Not only is it hard to photograph something made out of black yarn, it's doubly hard to photograph something made out of black yarn worn by a white stuffed animal with a snowy background. I took a few dozen pictures outside and had to delete most of them because the white was totally washed out and the black was a blob. These shots are the best I could do (not that I'm a professional or anything).
The rules state that you can only submit one picture, so here are a few extras to show off some of the details.
Here is the seal's yellow bowtie, the impetus for this entire idea. The now-defunct show Arrested Development has a plot development in which a seal wearing a yellow bowtie bites off Buster Bluth's hand when he goes swimming in the ocean to defy his mother...okay, there's no point in trying to explain this whole thing if you haven't seen it. Just go rent the DVDs; you won't be disappointed. Anyway, a few months ago a little girl gave this seal to my son Daniel out of her own stuffed animal collection. I suspect her generosity was fueled by her parents' insistence that before she could spend her allowance on a large stuffed penguin, she had to reduce her toy stash by the equivalent volume. Ach, now I'm rambling. Just look at the bowtie: ribbed rectangle with an i-cord and hidden snap closure.
Do you think this seal pup is stylish enough to pull off tails? Yes, I think so. He's all ready for the Antarctic prom.
Last, the collar detail. This was the only part of the design that gave me trouble. It took several tries to get a collar that didn't look like total ass. This was the best I could do, and because it's st st, I had to sew it down so it wouldn't curl. However, the portions down the v-shaped front are done with shortrows, a technique I don't have a lot of experience in, so I'm rather proud of that.
This project took a few weeks, but mostly because I kept putting it down. It was fun and interesting, but I'm glad I'm done, partly because I didn't particularly like the yarn, and partly because I'm ready to knit exclusively for people again.
The first time was quite literal. See, we've had some nasty weather here lately, as in an inch of ice followed by several inches of snow followed by below zero temperatures, which adds up to some truly hazardous road and sidewalk conditions. We're running out of places to put the snow, the ice is too thick to scrape off, and it's too cold for salt to melt it. It makes for some nice scenery...
...but buddy you better watch your step. I went to a local yarn/coffee shop this morning. It was (still is) fraking cold outside and the roads aren't great but I had been stuck inside with the kids for two whole days on account of the weather, and we had to get out anyway to go vote (doin' my civic duty, you know, plus I rather like this Obama fellow) and drive Stu to work, so once we dropped him off, I just kept going since I had them both bundled up and in the car anyway. Well, the sidewalk leading up to the shop's entrance was covered in about an inch of solid ice, and I was being as careful as I could, but I still slipped and fell and dropped both Daniel and Anya. Anya, fortunately, was still strapped in her carseat, so she wasn't hurt at all (though she was already screaming because she was hungry), and neither Daniel nor I was actually injured, but he still fell down hard on the ground and I think he bumped his head or got the wind knocked out of him or something. It all happened so fast I'm not sure when I let go of him or how far he fell. I felt just awful about it, of course, and then on top of that I had to walk into this place with both my children wailing their heads off. The staff was very sympathetic, and eventually Daniel calmed down and drank a bunch of hot cocoa and played with some crayons and Anya had a nice long nursing session and we were all happy again.
And then I went to look at the yarn.
And I fell down again, or fell off the wagon, or whatever metaphor you care to use.
It was all just so pretty and soft and I've been wanting to knit sweaters for both of them (even though I sort of vowed to finally knit a sweater for myself because my only nice handknit sweater, while warm, is a little frumpy and starting to pill) and I almost never go to this shop, so I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity while Daniel was (finally) being nice and cooperative and not running away and agreeing to carry the shopping basket for me...sigh.
(By the way, the first picture is some Dale of Norway Lerke, a deliciously soft merino/cotton blend in a DK weight. I chose a dark lavender color for a spring sweater for Anya. The other two are Queensland Collection rustic wool in a nice heavy worsted weight. I plan to make simple raglan sweaters with buttons up the sleeve seam for both of them for next winter.)
THE YARN HARLOT IS GOING TO BE HERE IN MADISON, WISCONSIN AT THE END OF APRIL!!!
I can't wait to meet this woman, even if it's just for a few seconds to have her sign a book with a million other people who want to meet her and have her sign their books, too. She's just so funny and inspiring and she even likes other stuff I like (such as biking and beer).
I'm so excited! (obviously) And perhaps in need of a life.
No progress on my Project Runway entry today. It's just a little too fiddly to work on when my attention is divided between knitting and kids. Since Stuart is taking a class this semester (on top of working full-time), he spends most of the evening doing homework and I am on constant Anya-duty before we go to bed. It's not a big piece of knitting, so it shouldn't really take very long, but I have to think about what I'm doing, so I think I'll just save it for the weekend.
This morning, my beloved little knitting group met at the home of our eldest member, J. (You may recall I made a mini-sock/Christmas ornament for her in December when she was recovering from surgery; she's doing very well now, though she will be schedule for another surgery in a couple weeks.) She's 71 and has been knitting for decades. This morning we got to talking about the socks she made for her husband back in the 1950s, for which she still has the pattern. When I asked to see it, she also brought out some issues of Vogue Knitting from the 1950s and 1960s! Truly vintage, those. We all had a ball leafing through them and looking at the things people made. There were some really stunning sweaters, lots of sheath dresses, a few swimsuits (including one pattern for a man's swim trunks), and some children's things which ran the gamut from adorable (lace baby sweaters) to really awful (boy's jumpsuit adorned with crocheted flowers, I shit you not). Most of the patterns called for horrid yarn (who wants a dress made from Red Heart acrylic, I ask you?) and the sizing and instructions, from what I gathered at a quick glance, are pretty cryptic.
Oh, and the models? Think Scarlet O'Hara waistline. I don't know why women were shaped like that back then, but they sure aren't now. And this was before Photoshop, so wherever they found those models, they really looked like Barbie dolls with pointy boobs.
In any case, these old magazines intrigued me. I want to try and decipher one of those old patterns and perhaps even make one of them. I don't know exactly what yet, but it's fun to peruse and scheme. I'm thinking the man's swim trunks won't be entirely practical. I want to get my hands on more of these magazines, but I'm not sure how; our library doesn't have them. I suppose I could get them from ebay (I've never bought anything on ebay before, if you can believe it), but I hesitate to buy old magazines sight unseen. Any other ideas out there?
Perhaps if I ask very nicely and promise to make photocopies very carefully and return them immediately, J will let me borrow the ones she has. A batch of freshly baked bread might help, too.
Well, I don't want to leave this post without a picture, so here's a progress shot of the red scarf I started a little while back:
Believe it or not, that's a pretty accurate representation of the color, even though red is really hard to photograph. Right now it's mindless st st with a 6-stitch rib border on either side until this puppy is 31" long. Then I have to divide for a slit (it's one of those keyhole deals) and do the cable upside down to finish it up.
Thirteen baby hats for Afghans for Afghans. All garter stitch, all out of yarn I had leftover from other projects. The simplicity of the knitting was therapeutic for me, but I think I'm ready to move on to another project, perhaps a sweater for me? Perhaps a sweater for Daniel?
No, actually, I'm working on something completely zany for Mason Dixon Knitting Project Runway contest. I'll tell you this much: it involves ocean-dwellers and formal wear. Curious? Check back in a day or two and I'll tell you more!
I know this is a knitting blog, not just another venue to show you pictures of my kids, which are infinitely more interesting to me and their grandparents than anyone else...but I just can't help sharing these with the world at large. Yesterday Daniel picked up one of the AFA hats I was working on, and said "You-you! Knit! Knit!" while clicking the needles together. ("you-you" is what he calls himself; 2-year-olds don't quite get the difference between first and second person pronouns.)
Friday afternoon is when I quit trying. We're having leftover chili from the freezer for dinner. I'll do the dishes later. Why? Because it's Friday, we've been snowed in most of the week, Daniel's napping, and all I really want to do is snuggle up with my baby girl on the couch with my new Interweave Knits that just arrived in the mail (I want to make her this someday).
I'll leave you with two snapshots from this week.
Item 1: the Birthday Boy. Daniel turned two yesterday! Our plans to go to the Children's Museum were thwarted by the weather (I. am. so. fucking. sick. of. snow.), so I took him to Borders for hot cocoa instead. He was very excited that he got to take Curious George along. Notice that he's wearing his Twizzle hat and mittens without a fuss.
Item 2: Ten hats for Afghans for Afghans. I am still going gangbusters on these, and these exclusively. Hence the lack of knitblogging material this week. However, I'm starting to run out of odd balls of worsted wool (I've got enough for about three more), and I'm starting to get the itch to get going on a more interesting project, so I'll have something else to show you 'ere long, I'm sure.
Have you read The Kite Runner? It's one of those novels I'd been hearing about and knew I should read, but it took me a long time to get around to it. This is partly because having children cuts into the time one has to read, but mostly, I was a little afraid to read it. I knew that it is a novel set in Afghanistan, and that it came out shortly after the Americans started [another] war there in 2001. I knew it would be depressing, and I guess I just wasn't ready for it.
Well, my friends, I finally read The Kite Runner, and it is a terrific book, but I was right that it was difficult. It takes place in Afghanistan, after all, a place that has been gutted and ravaged by war for decades. In it, terrible things happen, and they happen to children. The Kite Runner is a wonderful, unforgettable book, astonishingly well-written, and the ending is hopeful, but I still had to read it in small chunks, a little bit at a time. There were parts that made my heart ache so badly I had to put it down. I'm not sure why this book hit me so hard, though it might have something to do with the tender emotional state of new motherhood combined with my continuing distress about the destructive nature of my country's foreign policy.
I often feel helpless when I think about all the wrong and unfairness in this world. I also feel protective of my family and vaguely guilty that I don't truly deserve the comfort and security I have. I am lucky, but not deserving.
(or make that very, very lucky)
I believe, though, that a good way to combat feelings of helplessness and despair is to try and alleviate someone else's suffering. Furthermore, I believe in the healing power of creating something with your own two hands. Andre (he's not a knitter, but he's a composer and a swell guy) left a comment with a link to a really good essay about that very thing on NPR (here's a link). So after I finished reading The Kite Runner, I checked the Afghans for Afghans website to see what they need: hats for newborns and, as always, baby blankets.
Last spring, several people contributed to a beautiful baby blanket that I sent off to AFA in May. I have the sense not to attempt such an ambitious project this time around (that was a lot of seaming). But now that I again have a new (7 weeks old) baby myself, the need for baby hats struck a particular chord with me. I've been going ape on baby hats.
(I've made five since Wednesday)
Babies in Afghanistan aren't concerned that I make these hats cute or clever. They don't need flowers or frills or adorable animal ears; in fact, as I understand it, representational images are not okay for some Muslims. They do, however, need to be warm and durable, so I'm knitting the fastest and simplest hats I can out of random leftover wool I have around. I can easily whip through one in an evening, and depending on how needy Daniel and Anya are, I can get part of a second one done during the day. (These are so simple they practically don't need instructions, but I'm including the "pattern" at the end of this post, if anyone's interested).
Pattern for super-simple garter stitch baby hat: You need: about 80 yds worsted weight yarn and size 7 or 8 needles Gauge: anywhere from 4 to 5 stitches per inch for a hat 12-15" circumference CO 60 stitches Knit every row (garter stitch) until the hat is an appropriate length before decreasing, about 2.5-3". If anything, guess long; you can always fold up the bottom for a brim (and extra warmth). Decrease 6 times every other row (k8 k2tog across, k one row, then k7 k2tog across, k one row, etc) until you only have a few stitches left. Pull yarn through remaining stitches, sew up the seam, and you've got a hat.
Boy, am I glad to be done with these! (ETA: This turned out to be a long post. Guess I'm feeling bloggy today. There are some nice pictures at the end if you don't want to read. Just scroll down a bit.)
Pattern: Mitered Mittens (May pattern from Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitter's Almanac) Yarn: Mountain Colors Twizzle (85% Merino Wool, 15% Silk) in the color Sierra Needles/Gauge: 22st=4" in st st on size 6 (4mm) DPNs Comments: I love this yarn. Even though I'm not one for variegated or self-striping yarns, I was befelled by the colors in this skein. They're gorgeous on Daniel (mother's bias, I know). The yarn itself is soft and durable (it took well to frogging...see below). It's also expensive, so I doubt I'll be doing anything with Mountain Colors other than one-skein projects.
Now, about the pattern. The mitered mittens are so clever. Increasing and decreasing every other round to make the points at the base of the mitten makes this project ever so much more interesting than knitting a plain old tube. Plus, it works for any gauge as long as your # of stitches is divisible by four. Alas, these mittens were not without problems...read on...
Little mittens for little hands using an easy pattern? Should have taken me a few days. Instead, it took me several weeks. I partly blame myself for being so easily distracted by other projects, but I was also set back a day or two by the Afterthought Thumb.
For anyone out there unfamiliar with the genius of Elizabeth Zimmerman, let me explain; the rest of you can skip ahead to the rest of the pictures. Elizabeth Zimmerman (henceforth "EZ") came up with this great concept called "the Afterthought," which can be applied to any pouch-like shape in a knitted garment. There's the Afterthought Pocket on a sweater, the Afterthought Heel on a sock, and the Afterthought Thumb on a mitten. Essentially, you knit the garment straight up without creating said appendages, and add them later by cutting a hole (!) and picking up the stitches around it. It's a wonderful concept when you don't know exactly where you want a heel or a pocket or a thumb to be; you just knit merrily along and slap on a thumb/pocket/heel at the end.
I am apparently a bonehead, because I've never seen anyone screw this up before. I thought it looked easy enough from the pictures, but when I cut the stitches out where I wanted the thumb to be, there was a problem: the ends were way too short to weave in, and the mitten would surely ravel on its first wearing. This is what happens when you're only removing five stitches on a small mitten to make a thumb hole. I would like to try the Afterthought on something where more stitches are to be removed, leaving longer ends to weave in. I think it would work fine on something like a pocket.
Either that, or I totally misunderstood the directions. In any case, I had to frog both mittens back to where I wanted the thumb to be, and do a Trick Thumb, which I like much better and makes me feel more secure.
The Trick Thumb is accomplished by working several stitches where you want the thumb to be on waste yarn, then slipping those stitches back on the left needle and working them again with your regular yarn. After the rest of the mitten is done, it looks like this:
Then you take out that waste yarn, pick up the live stitches (which have no chance of raveling once they're on your needles because you don't have any ends sticking out and threatening to come undone) and make your thumb. The end result looks the same as an Afterthought, but it's much less risky.
Daniel likes his new mittens:
They even match his hat:
Even though they took longer than I anticipated to finish, I'm really happy I put the time in to do these right. The mittens fit, they ought to be warm, and, if I do say so, they're darn cute.