Tuesday, September 24, 2013

For the Knitting Friends...

Around this time of year (actually, usually exactly at this time, every year) I get an itch to sew, and/or knit. I think the sewing part comes from the ritualistic sewing of Halloween costumes for my three kids, and the terrific memories that come not only from that holiday, but all the others that are coming up. It's funny, but as a Floridian anything can make it feel like fall is coming- something as simple as a slightly lower slant of light in the afternoon or one percent drop in humidity can get me all giddy with excitement for the coming season, my favorite. I know, pitiful...I was born in New England, and clearly am clinging to any season I can get, however small it may be. It goes from 95 with 85% humidity to 90 with 80% humidity and I run to the fabric store to buy yarn....

Anyhow, that's how it is. Well, and also when a baby is coming. That seems to get to me too. I've made so many smocked baby dresses and baby bubbles and all kinds of baby blankets, for my kids and for friends'. When my third child was about to be born, I had bought all this baby blue yarn thinking I'd knit him booties while I was in labor.... True story... After 2 kids already you would have thought that I'd have learned not to read the "What To Expect When You're Expecting" book  and truly expect that I'd be able to do that. As soon as the IV went in my hand, that plan was down the toilet. And honestly, even without the IV, after about an hour I was in no mood to knit. ...And thinking I'd finish them when he was already born with two other little ones, well, that was just a fantasy. My husband still won't let me live that one down to this day.

So this year, it happened again-kind of suddenly actually, I was watching a show on tv and there was a gorgeous knit blanket with giant wide red and white stripes. I could immediately see something like that here at home. I looked online to see some of the basic guidelines- I had made a blanket before but without a pattern, and it was a smaller, baby blanket. What I couldn't figure out were the colors. Should I do the red and white? Blue and white? Everything seemed like it was turning into sports team colors, and I couldn't choose.

I found an amazing pattern! Not only did it have the big, wide stripes that I wanted, but it had them in all different colors, and the palette was amazing! I thought that would be great- to mix up the blanket colors from cools to warms with a neutral in between. Here is the project for anyone who'd like to do it too:


I went to the store to find yarn for the project, hoping to find something similar. Decided not to make it out of wool, for a few reasons- mainly because of the washability and expense. I would have had to order the skeins online, and they are much more expensive at $15 each (plus shipping) vs. $3 at my local Joann Fabrics with a 50% off coupon for the yarn I chose. Granted, you only need one skein of each color, and therefore could work one at a time, but I thought acrylic might just be more usable. I chose to buy the Lion Brand "Heartland" yarn since it had the same gauge that the wool yarn in the pattern called for, was a similar weight, and was more than enough yardage in each skein so I could still just use one for each color. We'll see how it holds up-

Speaking of Joann Fabrics, if you have an iphone, there's an app for Joann Fabrics which gives you coupons- and also get on their mailing list to get more! - I started just buying my first two colors and went back and got all the rest within another day with all the coupons I had!

However I will say that the yarns at the Purl Bee (see link) are truly exquisite in color and quality that I can see. Apparently their colors they showed are not always in stock. In my case, the yarn that I chose to use did not come in all of the colors they had shown, so I had to take that into consideration. I was disappointed that there was no "Stratus" which was a sky blue that had 'clouds' on it (But that was also probably a leftover from the baby blanket that this was modeled after, so I let that one go.) also, no hot pink. That was a disappointment. But they had a delicious medium pink that was even better than the Purl Bee's two pinks combined, and I stuck in a red. The lineup I had turned out like this: From left to right I chose "Black Canyon", "Olympic", "Gs Mountains", "Acadia", "Denali", "Redwood" and "Sequoia".
Oh yeah, it's gonna be cool. It probably won't be done for another 10 years, but it will be gorgeous! 

So, I started. My biggest issue was working with circular needles. I've never had to do that before.I think if I were knitting in the round, I would have been ok. I watched all of these videos on how to work flat on circular needles, and it seemed SO EASY. In the videos, they would cast on 10 or so stitches, then knit to the end of the row, and say, "So now, simply turn your work." and they'd switch needles- like you would with straight needles. Well, let me just tell anyone who is doing this for the first time, what they should have said instead was, "So now, YOU BETTER TURN YOUR WORK OR YOU ARE GOING TO SERIOUSLY SCREW UP!!!!"It gets quite confusing when the circular needles are full of yarn and you don't remember - it's pretty tempting to just keep on knitting and you end up knitting in the round. I did that for 2 rows. and then realized what I had done and had to pull the whole thing out. 142 stitches....

Here are some photos of what to do NOT to screw up, just in case it helps anyone out there. I realize this may look obvious, but if I messed up I'm thinking someone else can learn from my mistake.

 So when you reach the end of the row, (above), even though the needles are CONNECTED by the wire, switch the needle that was in your right hand to your left hand (below).

 I know, it looks ridiculously obvious. Trust me, it's easy to mess up! The photo below shows the beginning of the next row, which the pattern calls for a 'slip stitch edge'. So, begin the row as if you are going to knit, but simply slip the first stitch from left needle to right, and continue knitting.

Good news is that I took another look at the finished size after I ripped out those first two rows, and realized I didn't want a "lap blanket", I wanted more of a throw blanket... So the second time I cast on an extra 48 stitches, for an extra foot of width. However, The Purl Bee pattern just calls to use each skein up for a 6" band of color. There is quite a bit more yardage on mine, but I am kind of just hoping that it works out because I haven't actually done the math as to whether the extra yardage on my skeins will be enough to get the 6" bands of color. So, kind of winging it, but I figure if my bands are thinner and I need the blanket longer I'll tack on another color at the end. (Either that, or hope there's still enough yarn in the same dye lot left at the store when I discover where I am after the first color! ) 

So what about all of the other projects I'm doing? Like the ABC children's book, and the pastel work, and the watercolor work, and the oodles of terrific kids I'm teaching? Well, it's fall, and sometimes, you gotta knit when you gotta knit. It'll all get done eventually. Granted, I never finished the booties, but that was 16 years and a lot of learning ago. I think, after almost 25 years of marriage, even my husband is starting to figure out that I do finish what I start, most of the time, even if there's a lot of projects happening at the same time--he even came with me to get all of the yarn at the second trip, which was not a comfortable environment for him (he came out saying he felt like he needed to go to the auto parts store).

Well, I don't know when I'll finish the blanket, but it sure is fun to knit again. And I'm happy to have his vote of confidence. Maybe it's because I've gotten 2 out of our three kids raised and out of the house- 2 points for mom!  Even though he DID just remind me that we still have that baby blue bootie yarn in a bag somewhere!! But who SAYS they're undone!? I'm planning for grandkids! LOL!


  1. A note here for those reading this: although it was gorgeous, in the end, the blanket turned out wider than it was long, actually wider than it needed to be, especially since the yarn and the stitching ended up with so much of a stretch. I should not have cast on those extra stitches - It would have been better without! Also, the yarn I picked out from JoAnn Fabrics was flawed in many cases- several of the skeins had places that were almost completely unraveled. You get what you pay for, as they say. I am in for a new project now with some fancy expensive yarn, hoping for much better results on a shawl for my daughter's wedding, and sticking to a pattern. I am clearly not experienced enough with knitting to know when cutting corners is ok!

  2. and also, just to clarify it all, it didn't take 10 years as I had feared! I even had it done before it was sweltering hot again. It really goes fast with the straight knit stitch.