Random Things + Swatching A Cable Pattern

I'm a little bit frustrated with my swatching efforts, so before I get to that, two random things to start your morning.

1. I just discovered the NYT's Only Ice Cream Recipe You'll Ever Need, and it is a keeper!  Even better, they have a chart of the best way to do add ins. I wanted to make basil strawberry ice cream, and it would never have occurred to me to whiz up the sugar and the basil in the Cuisinart before adding it to my custard mixture.  Genius!


2. I just discovered that my Mom, in her late 70's, is now on Instagram.  How do things like that happen? Will I be this cool when I'm her age? (Probably not.  I'm not that cool now.)


3. Swatching.  It's a little bit perplexing to try and count all those mashed in stitches when you are swatching for a cabled pattern.  I do like how my swatch has improved with proper care, though!  Here it is as knit, all scrumbled up together. This is for one of the new sweaters in Rowan 58, Glacier.


Here it is after blocking, all relaxed and happy.


The best I've been able to figure is to put a gauge over the swatch, pin its edges, and then stretch the swatch apart to count stitches.  And, doing this makes me happy, because I am good.  Pattern gauge is 20.5 st = 4' and I'm getting 20 stitches to 4", so I think I can work with that. Row gauge is good as well. True confessions: A lot of the knitters I know are amazing and really good at this stuff.  I'm not, but I'm okay with that.  I'm a working Mom of four.  I give myself permission to do my best and enjoy the process of knitting even when I flame out. But, I adore this yarn (Snug Bulky from The Plucky Knitter) and I have high hopes for this project.  I WANT this sweater.


Although I want to knit some on the last square this weekend (and I did sneak in the cast on of a new project I'll show you when it's a little further along late last night), I'm also going to cast on Glacier and get to work on the first piece next week.  I can't wait!


My Cables & Lace Capelet: Not A Success Story, At Least, Not Yet

Cables and Lace Capelet was a pattern I wanted to knit as soon as I saw it.  It had this Outlander/Scottish Highlands vibe and looked like it would be great to throw on as I walked out the door for yoga or coffee with friends.  The pattern photo looked great.

image from images4.ravelrycache.com
(c) Berroco

I walked into this one with my eyes wide open.  There were a couple of red flags: The pattern was an older freebie and of the 15 finished projects besides the sample, virtually everyone commented on size problems, as in the finished project was way too small. One commenter said it fit her 10-year old.

When my gauge swatch, properly blocked and all, revealed that I was going to have an extra 10" or so around, I figured that would make the fit just right.  And, of course, I was wrong.

It looked good finished and blocking. (Blocking tip: I no longer weave and clip my loose ends before blocking, they will stay in place more firmly and look neater if you wait until after you block.  So you can see my tails hanging in various places).


I was still a bit worried about the length, but I was delighted by how the lacework opened up and how good the stitch definition on the cables was.  The biggest worry, though, was the collars.  I had carefully knit them to pattern legnth, but upon wet blocking, the weight of the yarn seemed to urge them onward into expansion. They looked huge. I carefully patted them back into shape, but they insisted upon growing, no matter what I did.


As it turns out, they're at least twice as long as they should be.  And the shoulders too are overlarge.  As you can see below, they slip off, instead of giving a nice snug fit.


And I mentioned that the collar had grown ridiculously long, right?  It's a horror show.


Despite these flaws, I love the capelet and I love the yarn (Madeline Tosh).  And, I'm incredibly glad I didn't do the finishing work on the collar before blocking so that I can try to fix it.

My dilemna is choosing among the two potential solutions I see.  The yarn is superwash, so I could just pop it in the dryer and hope for the best.  I've never done this before, but I know that it works in theory.  My biggest concern doing this is that I'll lose length, which is perfect right now, as opposed to circumference, which is the problem.  And, really, does anyone think that donkey ear collar is going to shrink enough?  I should have known that a yarn this bulky would expand beyond what the swatch predicted.

My Second option is ripping back to before the start of the collar, faking another lace repeat with reduced stitch count to give me a better fit in the shoulders, and then knitting a collar that is about half what the pattern calls for, knowing it will block out.  This is probably the safer option and I'm leaning that direction.

So what would you do, gentle knitters?  Any advice about superwash yarns and the folly of knitters who don't trust the pattern and listen to what their gauge is telling them?  At least future knitters for this pattern will know that in my case, the pattern was written perfectly and the proper gauge, properly blocked in the small size would have produced a perfect fit for my size medium body.


In Defense of Single Skein Projects — Why We Knit

We can't all be the girl who knits incredibly intricate Estonian lace in her spare time, producing immaculate shawls of haunting beauty.  And we shouldn't feel bad about it.


I love knitters who are accomplished and precise, and I enjoy celebrating their work.  But that doesn't, and shouldn't, in any sense take away from the accomplishments of new knitters, intermittent knitters, or knitters without time for larger projects.  There is virtue and integrity too in smaller, simpler, single skein projects.

My Redeux hat, pictured above, was a relentlessly simple knit that any beginner could finish in a day or two since it calls for a single skein of bulky yarn.  It has given me an enormous amount of pleasure, to say nothing of the warmth it leant my husband during our trip to Iceland.  It was easy, it was simple and it is red and beautiful.  I value this hat as much as any project I've ever knit.


Similarly, this Rainbow Twist Cowl is easy enough to be the perfect first attempt at cables for a knitter who has never done them before.  Plus, it has the advantage of color.  Anything knit with Malabrigo's beautiful Arco Iris colorway is guaranteed to become a cherished favorite.  Again, a quick simple knit that was infinitely satisfying and produced a remarkable result.  I know this to be true because my teenage daughter stole it away as soon as it came off of my needles and will not return it.  This must mean it is a thing of grace and beauty.

Ollie hat

This is a basic ribbed knit hat, Rib-a-Roni, knit from a single skein with the addition of a few leftover scraps to form the stripes.  This hat brought me such a feeling of accomplishment.  I googled and mastered jogless stripes so that the joins look even.  The ribbing was meditative.  The recipient was ecstatic.  He is still wearing it in summer.

We all know that as knitters, there is a tremedous amount of pressure to constantly innovate our craft. And I like that.  Last year I picked up lacework for the first time and enjoyed the results. But there is a special virtue, and no shame in working with these easier, baby-bite sized kind of one-skein projects.  They take skill too.  We sometimes forget that to non-knitters, we all look like rocket scientists. Don't be afraid to turn off the pressure and enjoy a simple knit.


Afghan Love

My Afghan is done.


I am very happy with it.  Very.


I started this project after falling in love with a cheap acryllic afghan in a high-end design store, and thinking, "I can knit that.  And not in acryllic either!"


I could not have done it without the help of my Cousin Ann, who turned me on to a wonderful book about cables, that made it possible for me to write a simple pattern that gave me exactly what I wanted.


Sitting on this chair, it reminds me that I've always wanted to knit this.

Knit chair

It would be just perfect in our bedroom!  Perhaps my next big project.


This yarn did everything I expected of it.  It's soft, it's warm, it holds its shape.  I love the combination of silk, alpaca, and merino.  There is definitely an advantage to dyeing your own yarn, writing the pattern,  and getting exactly what you wanted –  a sort of soup to nuts approach to knitting. 




Hermione Loves Ron

This might be the cleverest pattern ever for a knit hat.  It's a simple ribbed watch cap, but the knit rows are cabled and the purl rows contain a simple lace pattern.


The pattern is available as a free download on Ravelry and its called Hermione loves Ron because it was inspired by the hat Hermione wore in the Half Blood Prince movie in the Harry Potter series.

The yarn I'm using is Classic Elite's Princess, a blend of 40% Wool, 28% Rayon, 15% Nylon, 10% Cashmere and 7% Angora.  I was intrigued by that blend when I saw the yarn on sale at my LYS.  It has been really nice to knit with, although it is not as soft as I would have expected with the Cashmere and Angora content.  I'll be interested to see how it feels after it washes up.

Partway ellie

I've completed three of the four and one-half repeats the pattern calls for before going to decreases.  Although this is meant for my oldest child, it looks like he is going to have to fight off his younger sister to get it, and really, it is a bit more of a "girl pattern" than I anticipated when I began it.  I'm starting to think about a more teenage boy friendly version that omits the lace pattern on the purl portion of the rib.



Afghan Progress



I've made it through two full repeats of the 14 row cable pattern, and am into the third.  I've used about four of the 16 balls I dyed for this project, so based on the size I'm feeling increasingly confident I have enough for a good sized blanket.


I tried tarting up the contrast on this picture in Photoshop so you could see the cables a little bit more distinctly.  I've chosed to do a very basic eight stitch cableover reverse stockinette, with four stitch bands of stockinette separating the cables.  Although I had a little bit of cable anxiety, this patterning is so easy that after the first repeat, you can just read the stitches and put the pattern away. 


The yarn is wonderfully soft.  The Merino content is giving it good stitch definition, but it's warm (I'm guessing the Alpaca) and very soft (must be the silk).  I could have knit this on larger needles to get a loser gauge I suppose, but I'm fairly enchanted with the firm, structured fabric flowing out of this uber-bulky yarn on size 11 needles.  As it gets cooler here, I'm trying to knit faster.  This is a piece of knitting that is definitely going to get a lot of love and use.



A New Favorite Yarn

I have a new favorite yarn — Malabrigo's Rasta.  It's extra bulky, single plied (or unplied, depending on your point of view), and extraordinarily soft.


Knit up in the Mirror, Mirror Reversible scarf pattern.


I liked both the pattern, a simple, wide cable, and the yarn so much that I'm contemplating a Meathead Hat from it, and perhaps a sweater for Ollie to wear this fall.  This is definitely knitting nirvana.