Knitting on the Brink

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Writing Is Not Knitting March 2, 2009

Filed under: musings — reichenbachfalls @ 3:52 am

I miss knitting.

My fingers itch for the comfort of building something to specifications that will, when complete, likely work as predicted.

Imagine a knitting universe in which the pattern was always changing, necessitating frogging because who said anything about cables, and this isn’t lace at all, and what happened to the last forty (or four hundred (or four thousand))) rows, anyway? And the yarn is a different color now. And this was actually a crochet pattern, oops.

I didn’t know, until my knitting grew so infrequent, how much I treasured the orderliness of knitting. I thought the gauge swatches, the measuring, the careful counting of stitches, were tiresome. But knitting has a beginning and a middle and an end, and I know when I am done, and when I am done I know what I have.

Writing is fast becoming my life. I’m tremendously lucky that I’m able to do it as much as I can. It’s the thing that I should be doing, and I love it.

But it’s not knitting.

So, tonight, I’ll close the laptop and handle a little Malabrigo.


Nobody Knows the Gauges I’ve Seen June 16, 2008

Filed under: hats,mission complida,musings,pattern!,Uncategorized — reichenbachfalls @ 1:52 am
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I have knit my third Fierce Baby Hat, and I think it is the best yet:

Best Hat

In my journey to Hat #3, I learned so many things.

Did you Know?

  • Gauge matters.

    The blue hat and the orange hat were both knit in Malabrigo Chunky. Difference: Blue Hat was knit on size 11 needles at about 3.25 stitches to the inch; Orange Hat was knit on size 10.5 needles at 3.75 stitches to the inch. Orange Hat is the perfect miscellaneous baby-size; Blue Hat fits my ridiculously large head and is even too big for my 8-year-old.

    • Yarn matters.

    The green hat is knit from ShiBui Knits Highland Wool Alpaca, a single-ply alpaca. The orange hat is Malabrigo Chunky, a three-ply merino. The hats both stretched to a similar size. Orange Hat’s stockinette portion is more elastic, “bouncing back” better after being stretched. Orange Hat’s cables are also better-defined, and hold their shape better. It’s not a value judgment — the hats just look different. As a matter of taste, I prefer Orange Hat. For hat #4 (!) I’ll use more Malabrigo Chunky.

    As someone who tends to snap up a skein of Malabrigo Chunky at a time, hoarding the individual colors just because they are pretty, this pattern is a FAT stashbuster. I had forgotten I had this much m.Chunky.

    I need to get back to my regularly-scheduled knitting, but I have been enjoying these 48-hour projects. There are more babies out there who (will eventually) need hats, so I’ll probably make two more Fierce Hats before taking a sweater break.


    Everything I Know I Learned Today June 13, 2008

    Filed under: hats,Knitting,mission complida,musings,pattern! — reichenbachfalls @ 11:05 pm
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    Things I learned in the last 24 hours, while casting on and completing my second Fierce Baby Hat (mostly on public transportation):

    1. The total number of double-pointed needles I have in a particular size is usually equal to (n-1), where n= the number of needles I actually need to complete whatever project I am looking for. This rule also applies in cases where I only need a single needle for I-Cord or cabling; (n – 1) will inevitably equal zero.

    2. A different gauge makes a different sized hat. Apparently, making a Fierce Hat with Malabrigo Chunky (color: Indigo) and size 11 needles produces a fabric with a gauge of 13 stitches and 20 rows over 4″, which makes an adult-sized hat that stretches to fit a 23″ head:

    big head woman

    It is too big for the watermelon, but it’s easier to see the cabling here.

    3. I can cable with no cable needle. For some reason I had forgotten this. It makes cabling with fat needles not horrible at all. (I can knit a hat with no cable needle. No cable needle. No cable needle.)

    4. If you are boarding the train late at night, whether or not you also have a stroller with a sleeping toddler in it, three shopping bags, an exhausted eight-year old, and a diaper bag containing diapers, a half-knit hat, but no wipes, always board the front car. There is a Weird Guy on every other car. Always.

    5. I changed to a circular needle after increasing. It hadn’t occurred to me until I casually did it without thinking about it. Then I used a random thing for a stitch marker because there is some other sort of mathematical rule involving stitch markers: where S equals the number of stitch markers I need, S = 0.

    6. If Lime and Violet’s Daily Chum (!!) links to your first ever pattern, you may freak out for 20 minutes. My husband can fill you in on the details.

    7. I like lists.

    Summary: The Fierce Hat for Grownups is born!! Now I need to update the original pattern to include my new knowledge.

    Notes: It takes EXACTLY one skein of Malabrigo Chunky. This is the greatest day of my life.


    Fierce Baby Hat “Pattern” June 10, 2008

    Filed under: Knitting,mission complida,musings,pattern! — reichenbachfalls @ 6:19 pm
    Tags: , , , ,

    When I first started knitting, I tried to read Elizabeth Zimmermann’s books and got frustrated. She spends more time talking about knitting than handing the reader neat little patterns, and the patterns themselves are very chatty — some might say a little pithy — and rely on the knitter’s experience to get them sorted out properly. If you are an inexperienced knitter you might find this scary or even, as I did, somewhat annoying.

    Fast forward a few years of knitting, and now I’m really enjoying myself. First I read Knitter’s Almanac, now I’m in the middle of Knitting Without Tears. She’s pretty amazing, I’m glad I’ve kept going back because I think now I understand where she’s coming from.In the spirit of Mme. Zimmermann, I started knitting a hat to blow off steam during last-minute wedding preparations. Here is the pattern (!), composed at restaurants, in traffic, and in a hotel room.

    The fierceness

    Fierce Baby Hat

    Gauge: To paraphrase Mme. Zimmermann, babies come in multiple sizes, so this is the rare event where gauge doesn’t matter much (in my opinion.) A perfect rash of babies are appearing in the rarefied circles in which I move, so I assume some baby can wear this hat.
    For the record, according to my calculations, I got about 15 stitches and 20 rows over 4″ on this puppy. This makes a small, chubby hat, stretching to small baby circumference. I’m going to play with bigger gauges (Malabrigo Chunky, of course) when life quiets down.

    Yarn: I bought some ShiBui Knits Highland Wool Alpaca at Knit/Purl in Portland, Oregon two weeks ago. (Did I mention I’ve been pretty busy lately? Also, they were so sweet there, it deserves a separate post.) It used, oh, 100 yards? Maybe? Color is Peacock, and it’s a brilliant blue-green that my picture does not enhance in any way.

    Needles: size 10.5 DPNs and circular.

    KBF: Knit into back and front (embiggens stitch).

    C2RP: Slip two stitches onto cable needle, hold to front. P1, K2, K2 from cable needle. Great acronym, huh?

    Cable Panel:

    I decided I wanted to make a cable-knit hat. I had 66 stitches on the needles, and I liked this 6-part construction thing, so I unvented an 11-stitch cable pattern. It looks like this. I think the hidden purl stitch in the center makes it especially round and pretty, but I can be pretty stubborn about not ripping back and making 11-stitch cable patterns 10-stitch cable patterns.

    Row 1: K1, P2, C2RP, P2, K1.

    Rows 2-6: K1, P2, K2, P1, K2, P2, K1.
    Wordy “Pattern”
    I got the crown construction idea from Hip Knit Hats.

    Cast on 12 stitches using Figure 8 Cast-On.
    Put 4 stitches on each DPN.

    Row 1: (KBF, K1) 6 times (18 stitches total).
    Row 2: Knit.
    Row 3: (KBF, K2) 6 times (24 stitches total).
    Row 4: Knit.
    Row 5: (KBF, K3) 6 times (30 stitches total).
    Row 6: Knit.
    Row 7: (KBF, K4) 6 times (36 stitches total).
    Row 8: Knit.
    Row 9: (KBF, K5) 6 times (42 stitches total).
    Row 10: Knit.
    Row 11: (KBF, K6) 6 times (48 stitches total).
    Row 12: Knit.
    Row 13: (KBF, K7) 6 times (54 stitches total).
    Row 14: Knit.
    Row 15: (KBF, K8 ) 6 times (60 stitches total).
    Row 16: Knit.
    Row 17: (KBF, K9) 6 times (66 stitches total).
    Row 18: Knit.
    No more increasing!

    Row 19 (cable prep): K1, P2, K2, P1, K2, P2, K1.

    Row 20-26: Work cable panel.

    Row 27-33: Work cable panel again.

    Row 34-40: Work cable panel again!

    Work k1, P1 ribbing for 1.5″ or until sick of hat. BIND OFF VERY, VERY LOOSELY in rib.

    Make a fat pom-pom. Attach to hat. Weave in ends.

    Find a fierce baby to wear hat.


    Commitment March 22, 2008

    Filed under: Knitting,mission completely not accomplished,musings — reichenbachfalls @ 8:41 pm

    Web of David

    Originally uploaded by marcelory

    I’m not great at committing when it comes to knitting. (See: my Warm Shawl.) I get all excited by the first glow of casting on, watching the pattern begin to develop, and then I see a new pattern in Interweave or on Knitty, and suddenly my project (i.e. Warm Shawl) is gathering dust and sending me accusing glances across the room while I cast on another scarf.

    I’m better at the one-week-stands, the hats and scarves. But this is not a project I can abandon. Besides its staggering expense, it is the symbolic house under which my baby sister will be married. It must be finished.

    I’ve been married for nearly nine years, and we’ve been together for more than a third of our lives. It’s hard work. We have two loud, bossy, happy kids, a job and numerous hobbies between us. Sometimes time flies, sometimes we’re getting through it from minute to minute. We have built something magic out of the mundane, making loads of dishes and diaper changes into a net that holds us all together, binding us through blood, vows, and love.

    I want this for my sister, too. So I knit a special fabric to cover her and her husband-to-be, as they repeat the same vows we did.

    I knit and knit, taking brief breaks to whip up a scarf. And the chuppah grows. I cast off with a crochet hook and some waste yarn just to see how big it was. It’s about 53″ across at the widest point without any real blocking. And all I had to do was to keep knitting.


    Sparkly Spiderweb Chuppah February 4, 2008

    Filed under: Knitting,musings — reichenbachfalls @ 4:06 am

    This is a story about two strong-willed sisters, a store full of yarn, and a dream.

    From the moment I saw Kat Coyle’s Knitted Chuppah pattern in a recent Interweave Knits, I wanted to knit a chuppah. Not for my long-ago nuptials, of course: too late for that. But for someone’s.

    Then, lo and behold, my sister got engaged last year! Excited, I showed her the pattern. She was uninterested. I cajoled, I guilt-tripped, I forced. No avail. She didn’t like it.

    Inexplicably, a week ago, she asked me how the chuppah was going. I was one big sarcastic question mark.

    I’m of the mind she suddenly changed her opinion after receiving a most excellent knitted cap from me. Anyhow, the point is, now Her Majesty the Dowager Princess wants a hand-knit canopy by June.

    Despite my annoyance, of course, I was excited to finally be undertaking the project. Since she wasn’t fond of the original pattern, I had the happy accident of stumbling upon the Spiderweb Shawl in Victorian Lace Today, a huge shawl that would be even larger and more dramatic if knit in a worsted yarn, say, Malabrigo?

    I presented her triumphantly with a Malabrigo swatch (using the last of my Stone Blue, no less). She thought it was “too fuzzy.” I had washed the swatch, and the yarn had bloomed deliciously. She didn’t like it.

    I took her to Imagiknit. There we disagreed on every kind of yarn. I wanted something chunky, richly-colored, organic; she wanted white sparkly laceweight. I repeatedly explained to her that I was not going to knit a 72″ shawl in metallic laceweight. (The more I knit, the more I know my limits.) I finally caved to her request for Nashua Handknits Grand Opera, although I was still suspicious. Frankly, I like worsted yarn best (it’s DK), and the yarn was sparkly (shudder).

    (One sister has black-rimmed glasses and a house full of Malabrigo, one sister wanted to be Like A Virgin-era Madonna from the moment she could walk. Guess which is which?)

    I swatched it and hated it. I called and let her know I wasn’t going to use it. She seemed disappointed. I felt…guilty.

    I decided to give it one more go and doubled the yarn. Suddenly, it was behaving more like the loosely-plied worsteds (Malabrigo, wah) I love. The thicker yarn shielded my fingers from the metallic thread and created a springy fabric that was fun to pet. Okay, I’m sold. I’ll do it.

    Problem: doubled, this is going to be a very expensive project. I told my sister they better stay married, or else.

    P.S.: I finished the first draft of my novel yesterday, along with the complete outline for the necessary changes to make it actually done. Just had to write that somewhere. No, it’s not about knitting. At all.


    The Sheriff of Yarn Town January 7, 2008

    Filed under: hats,Knitting,mission complida,musings — reichenbachfalls @ 5:05 pm

    Originally uploaded by marcelory

    It was important to me to finish my 30th knitting project within 24 hours of my 30th birthday. No idea why. But I did! Ironically it’s my mother’s birthday present (her birthday is 7 days after mine).

    Stranded kitting with the yarn in each hand feels like quick-drawing Mrs. Smith & Mrs. Wesson in the middle of a dusty town square, facing off the ultimate evils of Tangling and Just General Failing again and again. I am the Sheriff of Yarn Town, a badass using her bad ass powers for good.

    I want to strand everything now, just like I wanted to cable everything before. Perhaps I will strand and cable everything. And knit these fantasy items with Malabrigo.

    Even Malabrigo’s color names are beautiful. The colors in the hat are called Marron Oscuro and Indigo. Glazed Carrot. Burgundy, a deep red with which I will make my first Foliage hat after the Birthday Month is over. Lettuce, a bright spring green that will become a chunky sweater. Rhodesian, the red-brown-orange units making up my stalled Arwen sweater. Paris Night, Rosa Viejo, Tuareg, Olive, Cognac come to me off the top of my head. All are deep, rich colors that imbue my knitted items with a sense of mystery, at least while I’m knitting them.

    I’ve been trying to live in color more over the last few years. Malabrigo yarns provide infinite opportunities for me to do so while luxuriating in surprisingly affordable softness. Thanks guys!