archives: knitting

put a bird on it!

pepperknit | knit bird mobile -- group projectWhen we found out that one of our own was pregnant, the members of KBC started discussions of what kind of group gift to give. A quilt, sure, but not everyone sews. So we brainstormed an additional knit idea, and we eventually decided a mobile of knit birds would be cute and kind of funny—the parents, recently relocated to the East Coast after years in Portland, would be no strangers to the concept of putting a bird on it.

Finding a bird pattern led to much snickering when we settled on a free Blue Tit bird pattern from Lion Brand. Be warned: It is a finicky knit, and there was much swearing by all involved. The pattern is clear, it’s just a pain to knit. My bad; I am the one who found the pattern and decided it was the one! Ultimately one of us decided to knit the branches instead of wrestling the yarn into a bird (fine by me–finding random branches and ensuring they were bug-free was kind of stressing me out). Another took on the task of quilting and binding the group quilt (more on that separately), so in the end we had 7 unique birds!

pepperknit | knit bird mobile

Here’s my bird—knit using a random assortment of Cascade 220 from my stash. When I perched it on the branch I made it more “squished” than its natural state, so it got a little chubby. And maybe cuter than it originally was!

I set to perching them either in flight or on the branches so that they made a balanced mobile and oh boy was that a challenge. I used to make mobiles a lot in high school, so I thought it would be sooo easy. But hello, that was 20+ years ago, my skills were rusty, and most of those mobiles involved PAPER ORIGAMI. Not heavy, various-weighted knit birds! I did learn a fishing lure knot tying technique that I think is pretty sturdy and is good to use with filament thread (though I never really succeeded in making it look as taut and neat as in the video), and I feel really good about the finished mobile. I so badly wanted some birds to sit atop branches, but they were so heavy they’d flip right over; thinking to string the vertical supports through the birds was an inspired bit of genius, I thought!

pepperknit | knit bird mobile -- group project

We finally gave the mobile to the family at Maryland Sheep & Wool yesterday. And cutiepie Hazel, knowing it was her flock of birds, set to claiming it immediately—nomming on one right away!

pepperknit | knit bird mobile -- group project

when everything goes right

The last sweater I knit, back in the fall, was less than a success. I didn’t like the final shape, and the fit wasn’t flattering. I still wanted my envisioned boxy, oversized winter sweater, though, and when Michele Wang’s Cordova came out I knew it would be just the thing.

Oh boy was I right.

pepperknit | brooklyn tweed cordova

I slightly exaggerated the oversize: I made the body longer by a few inches (3) and the sleeves, too. I picked the size that would give 4 inches of ease. The yarn, Imperial Yarn Erin, was a dream to work with: woolly but soft, in a perfect heathered gray. Plus how could I resist a yarn with my name! I debated between it and their Columbia 2-Ply, and Jeanne at Imperial described the differences as coming down to Erin being softer and Columbia 3-ply having more color options. Because I wanted gray, which was available in both yarns, Erin was the clear choice. Because I spit-spliced all the joins, I really had relatively few ends to weave in once it was all seamed up.

pepperknit | brooklyn tweed cordova

This was my first time blocking using blocking wires, and that was really satisfying, too–the wires were even probably too flexible for this sturdy sweater, but they worked great for getting the boxy shape set out.

I love so much about this sweater. This was the first time I knit a sweater with a saddle shoulder, and I love the way the big cable goes up all the way to the neck. The trinity stitch on the sides wasn’t the most fun, I’ll admit (k1, p1, k1 in a stitch, followed by p3togging it? slightly tedious), but the cable was easy and looks so impressive. In fact, on my subway right the day we took these photos, a woman came up to ask if I’d knit the sweater (I was knitting a sock at the time, so I suppose that was a tip-off). She told me the cables were just “stunning.” If only she knew how easy they are! 2×2 crossings only, and a mere 6-row repeat.

pepperknit | brooklyn tweed cordova

Of course, I finished it just as the weather started to turn to spring. Luckily we’ve had some pretty frigid days still, and wearing it without a coat is the perfect thing when the temp is in the 50s. And when I work from home, I get SO COLD—throwing this on was just the thing. I’ve already worn it three times in the week since I finished seaming it!

 

let me talk to you about my hot water bottle

pepperknit | knit hot water bottle cover

Because I’m obsessed with it.

I didn’t know that it was something I needed in my life—I’d never had one before a few years ago—but truly I would not want to live without it. It was actually a gift, from Mohair South Africa, and it was in a lovely felted gray case with mohair in it. I put the water bottle aside and kind of forgot about it, to be honest. But then one month I had bad cramps and thought to fill it up with super-hot water, and I was immediately hooked. I probably use it every month of the year. It turns out mine is kind of on the small side, but I like it just fine. Someday I’ll upgrade to a big one like this.

It also comes in handy when I’m chilled and just can’t get warm, something that’s been happening a lot this winter. It’s fitting that I’m writing this on the first day of spring—when it snowed all day and we got a few inches of snow! I fill it up and put it in my lap, or at my feet, under a blanket, and within moments I’m toasty warm. When we went on the knitting retreat to Cape Cod for Presidents’ Day this year I brought it along because I was terrified that the summer-oriented rental house would be cold. I made the right call, and I tucked it, full of fresh boiling water, at my toes every night, like Laura Fricking Ingalls Wilder, only less potentially flammable.

pepperknit | knit hot water bottle cover

(Turns out you’re really not supposed to put boiling water in a hot water bottle, and you’re not supposed to fill it to full, so now I’m pretty much terrified that it’s going to combust at any minute. But I like it nice and plump and verrry hot!)

I decided it was time to knit it a special cover. Scraps of Malabrigo Worsted in fluorescent pink and yellow fit the bill. I used this pattern as my template, ultimately casting on 32 stitches on a side using Judy’s Magic Cast On and increasing to 36. (Confession: I cast on for this about three hundred times, fussing over the right number of stitches and then getting the math wrong several times once I’d decided on a course of action. It was something of a comedy of errors.) I wanted the colors to transition in a random ombre, which meant a little more fretting. Pam suggested I use an ombre stitch chart she’d worked up for one of her patterns (which I cannot find on her Ravelry page), and it is lovely but wasn’t as random as I wanted, so I used it as my jumping-off point… I’m so pleased with how it came out!

pepperknit | knit hot water bottle cover

aranami shawl

pepperknit | aranami shawl

I’ve always loved this shawl, ever since Olga first released it. But I never had the right yarns in my stash, and I knew I wanted something perfect. It took years before I found it! At VK LIVE this year, Tania and I were browsing booths together and the shawl came up—turns out we’ve both been itching to make it. So we started looking at yarns in the booths with it in mind specifically, and what did we find but Neighborhood Fiber Co’s ombre kits. We debated colors, debated the shades within colors, and ultimately decided to split this batch of teals. I took the yarn home with me because I knew I’d likely tackle it first, but I had no idea how fast I’d complete it!

Since each scallop is a single motif (you pick up stitches for each one), this shawl breaks up into small components and is thus entirely addictive. Eventually I timed how long it took to knit one scallop, and I clocked in at something like 28 minutes. Which means it was so easy to say “oh, just one more.”

pepperknit | aranami shawl

I didn’t weave in the ends as I went, because the method I was using didn’t seem to be creating the cleanest results. But every few days I’d weave in ends instead of knitting another scallop, and so in the end I didn’t have too many to deal with. I’ve never been so responsible about ends on a project before! But I was savoring every minute working on this shawl. I loved the yarn, and I was sad to be done with it when I finished.

pepperknit | aranami shawl

Mine seems to have come out on the small side, height-wise, but it plenty wide. I’m actually not even sure what size needle the pattern calls for—I basically grabbed what seemed right for the yarn and forged ahead. I think it’s perfect.

I shot the shawl on an absolutely freezing, wind-battered Cape Code shore in February, which is part of why the pictures are so random and not very good. I could barely feel my hands and was trying to move quickly! That is ice, and frozen froth, around the shawl. It was a gorgeous landscape, though, and me, Caro, Pam, and Specs took photos (Pam even did an FO shoot for a sweater! She took off her coat!) before dashing back to the car and the fireplace in our rental house.

frozen cape cod beach

frozen cape cod beach

frozen cape cod beach

garter rib hat

pepperknit | garter rib hat

There are a lot of amazing hat patterns out there, from people who understand shaping and texture and all that. But somehow, I have not a single “normal” hat in the basket near the door. I have a little beaded slouch, and a great not-knitted store-bought fake-fur-lined hat that I rely on to get me through the coldest days, but I didn’t just have A HAT. One that I could pull on and just wear, no thinking. I wanted to knit it the same way—no frought process, no fussy stitch pattern. Just a hat.

It’s funny, I used to knit basically nothing but hats. When I rekindled my love of knitting in college, it was with a group that knit hats for the homeless. We knit all-stockinette hats with a curled brim or k1,p1 with a folded cuff, and I made a ton—for the group, family, and friends. But that was fifteen years ago, and I don’t know what happened to all the hats I’ve knit myself in the meantime. But all that changed last week!

pepperknit | garter rib hat

This yarn, Primo Aran, was actually given to me by Plucky Knitter herself, when I bought some other yarn. She’d seen me holding this color for a while before deciding to go in a completely different direction. I had made it pretty clear that this was “my color,” and she insisted I take it with me. It was so so nice of her. Last fall I started a hat with it but I picked a pattern that didn’t exactly work with my gauge and stitch count, so I was fudging it as I went. I got into the decreases and it got confusing, so I set it aside.

When I picked it up two weeks ago, I had no idea what my intentions had been with the decreases. So I ripped, cast back on, and planned something simple and dead easy. I grabbed my size 8s, did a tubular cast on, rearranging the 96 stitches to a 2×2 rib, and worked that for 2 inches. then I switched to 2×2 garter rib. No increases after the ribbing, just the pattern shift. When I deemed it plenty long (longer than to be worn tight like a toque, but not too long as to be a giant slouchy thing) I decreased it away. I had a system at the time, one that I surely could not recreate, that involved decreasing evenly within the purls, then in the knits, then pulling it all together. But no matter: it’s a finished hat! A hat!

pepperknit | garter rib hat

In the end, I started the hat on a Thursday and wove in the ends Friday night (after movie night with friends). I blocked it that weekend and the following Thursday, Pamela Wynne took these pictures of me on a cold, slightly snowy day on the Lower East Side. Easy-peasy.