Santas’ Workshop

I was in my 20’s when I started knitting. I plodded along through the early disappointments, of which there were many. I learned to chalk them up to the learning curve, retreating back to what dish towels after the especially painful setbacks. It’s been a while, now, since I was in my 20’s and I’ve knit a lot of things between then and now besides lots (and LOTS) of dishcloths. I’ve knit socks and sweaters and mittens and hats and scarves and toys, and even a willie warmer. I’ve knit cables and lace and stranded colorwork.

But I had never knit intarsia on such a large scale, or possibly ever, though I vaguely remember being frustrated by the twisting yarns and the idea of intarsia has always inspired a sense of dread that I can only attribute to one or more failed attempts that I buried deep into my subconscious. I definitely had some yarn bobbins at some point which indicated some interest or intention to learn the technique, but I cleaned them out because I was never going to use them anyways. Hobbies and clutter, am I right? I am overwhelmed by stuff but anticipating what may or not be useful or when is a crapshoot.

I saw this pattern on ravelry and decided I was not going to be intimidated any more. I wrapped my yarns on cardboard and it worked just fine. Just fine in this case means I had to untwist everything ever couple rows because it quickly became a rat’s nest, but that’s the nature of the beast. The knitting itself, I was happy to discover, was surprisingly easy, if fiddly.

There were a lot of ends to weave in:

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I left all those ends on the first one because I thought I’d have tension issues that would need fixed. I didn’t and got smart and wove them in as I went on the 2nd sweater.

A vital blocking:

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Blank Santa faces

And a fair amount of embroidery and finishing:

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Buttons and bobbles and chain stitch, oh my.

And some sewing up:

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I often lament that it’s gone out of style to knit sweaters in pieces.

Add a collar and viola!

IMG_9923I am completely chuffed with myself. These may not be to everyone’s taste, but I am thrilled with them (my kids, on the other hand, not so much! But I don’t hang my sense of knitterly worth on their opinions) and I feel so accomplished. I had built intarsia up to be my last knitting frontier and it turned out to be just… knitting.

Santa Baby

I don’t know how to introduce these projects. They reveal some part of my person and general cheeseball-ness that I try to keep under wraps.

I love kitschy Christmas. I’m too self-conscious and unorganized to go all out, and my decorating scheme probably looks more like a lack of effort than a preference. Christmas red in my house is a true red, not burgundy, green is, well, green, not lime or forest. I thought about buying a tasteful wreath this year, but why should I when I already have one made of multicolored Christmas balls? I prefer colored lights to white and tinsel to popcorn. Our stockings are handmade. They don’t match, nor do our ornaments and I always felt kind of bad for trees whose ornaments do. A coworker once told what was to her a funny anecdote about how how excited she was when she moved into her first house to have an all-matching Christmas tree and how her mother undermined her efforts by sending her a box of her childhood ornaments. I had always considered trees with matching decorations soulless and associated them with department stores. I’d had no idea it was something anybody would want in her own home.

Different strokes for different folks. Not everybody wants a kitschy mishmash, not everybody wants matchy-matchy, only a few would make her children matching kitschy Santa sweaters.

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Pattern: Santa Claus by Sue Stratford
Sizes: 7 & 5
Yarn: Valley Yarns in worsted superwash & non

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There are lots of reasons not to make your children matching Christmas sweaters, especially if you’re as bad at laundry as I am. I don’t know which is worse: wondering if they’ll even wear them or wondering how long before an ice cream or chocolate stain ruins them. Time will tell which fate will befall these sweaters. If I had to wager a guess I’d say the blue will never be worn and the pink will be stained before we leave the house. That’s OK. I don’t mind. Knitting is my love language.

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More on the making another day.

 

Peas and Carrots

Every year Hallmark (it’s headquartered here, don’t ya know) hosts a craft-type fair that features Hallmark employees and their arts, crafts, music, side-hustles, what have you. It is awesome and there is a lot of talent on display, but it’s a closed community of participation so you expect to see familiar faces and familiar wares which was why I was surprised to come upon a yarn booth this year.

“You weren’t here last year,” I said, side-eyeing the proprietor suspiciously. She hadn’t been, she assured me. I gingerly approached the yarn. I played it cool. I like yarn, but I’m also a price-sensitive recovering stash addict. I didn’t let on that I’m a dedicated knitter. I did not divulge that stumbling across an unexpected yarn booth made my day. Uh-oh, no prices. I would have to ask. I hate asking. Having to talk to someone is sometimes too much work to bother. But the yarn was nice and I like to support indie dyers so I did ask even though I worried I was setting myself up for embarrassment if it was too expensive for me. It wasn’t and I let my guard down. I admitted I was a knitter. I confessed I liked her yarn very much. And then I broke an informal rule I’ve adopted and bought yarn from her even though I had no project in mind for it.

I must have been feeling guilty because I took one of the 3 skeins (I didn’t fall too far, see? And the other 2 skeins are a matching pair of buttery yellow I bought with a general idea of a baby sweater. Also I might be forgetting a skein or two, I have mush for brains) and immediately cast on mittens for MJ.

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Pattern: World’s Simplest Mittens by tincanknits
Size: Child’s
Yarn: Knots & Rows Simplicity, Water Lilies
Etsy shop here!

And then a hat.

And then another hat after I frogged the first because it was entirely too large and gobbling yarn at an alarming rate. Did I think to measure the gauge of the mittens I’d made and plan appropriately? No, I did not! Here I thought I was winning when I actually measured the kid’s head instead of just guessing at that, too. One measurement is pretty meaningless without t’other. Ripping is annoying, but worth it if you end up with a perfectly sized hat and enough left over for a bonus! pom.

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Pattern: Barley Light also by tincanknits
Size: Knit toddler size to achieve child
Mods: Knit the garter stitch panel in plain stockinette

We have a matching set for as long as all the parts don’t get separated (so approximately 1 wearing) with enough pink to appease my kiddo even if it’s not the tonal baby pink skein she wanted to buy for her own nebulous 3-year-old purposes.

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I used every scrap of my skein and it was oh so satisfying. Are there knitters, I wonder, who make a point of trying to use all of every skein? I bet there are and I can see why.

Bee in my Bonnet

I adore bonnets. I’m happy to harmoniously co-exist with bees. I often have a bee in my bonnet. Just ask my husband. No, don’t, he might tell you how I go on about how our children’s ridiculous bedtime routines or how much I dislike apples that aren’t baked into pies or crisps or my neighborhood’s impassable, crumbling sidewalks or how antagonistic KC’s drivers and roads are to bikers and pedestrians or any of the other things I rant at him about.

Look at this sweater I made instead. It’s a distractingly bright shade of yellow that I am confident will appeal to bees everywhere.

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Pattern: Beekeeper Cardigan by Marie Greene
Size: 38
Yarn: Stonehedge Fiber Mill Shepherd’s Wool Worsted in Sun Yellow
Mods: Added buttons

I bought this yarn to make a sweater for Hubs. Alas, I never found a pattern for him that suited this yarn’s color or gauge. When the Beekeeper cardigan popped up it was the right gauge, right color, right pattern, right time. Ding ding ding ding! The only criteria this pattern didn’t meet was that wasn’t for Hubs. OH WELL.

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The pattern instructions were comprehensive, detailed, and backwards to what I’m used to with the gauge and sizing information at the end instead of beginning. I just couldn’t grok it. It took me forever – minutes, possibly! – to figure out where to find that info and when I did I skipped over the size information, picked my size based on the finished measurements and got myself into trouble knitting the yoke because I thought the instructions were referring to the former when they were in fact referring to the latter and they were not the same though both were the same number. Confused? I was, too! But it was in no way a problem with the pattern, it was a problem with my reading comprehension yet again. If putting that info at the end was a tactic to make a knitter read the entire pattern before casting on it did not work for me. I am clearly far too smart for that and I knit the yoke 3 times just to prove how good I am at (not) reading and following directions.

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Luckily it was a super quick knit for all that and I’m happy with it. The yarn doesn’t itch at all (this is the 3rd sweater I’ve made out of this yarn for this reason; they’re all winners and I might be getting superstitious), the sleeves are the perfect just-a-smidge-longer-than-bracelet length, the neckline isn’t too wide, every dimension is big enough but not too.

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“Bees & Buttons” is my new name for a haberdashery

The bees have completed their work for the year so I’ll have to wait until spring to see if they like my sweater, too.

Post Apocalyptic

My mother-in-law gave me this yarn years ago. I’m generally happy to accept yarn, even when it’s yarn I’ll be dropping off at Goodwill the next time I (eventually) go. You never know where your next skein of qiviut might come from. Probably not from the hamper of acrylic your co-worker thoughtfully procured from an estate sale, but let’s stoke the fires of optimistic treasure hunting.

My MIL, though, has good yarn taste and knows her stuff and has never given me anything I’m not interested in knitting up. This yarn is gorgeous in a very non-traditionally-yarny way which makes it both appealing and confusing. It’s heavy, dense, cool to the touch, ropey, and has absolutely no give at all. Its unusual qualities are what make it attractive and also make it it hard to know what in the world to do with it which is why, I’m guessing, MIL passed it on to me way  back when. It screams post-apocalyptic dystopia. That or chain mail, a knitting trend that based on a cursory google and ravelry search has not managed to catch on well at all.

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It knit up at a gauge that seemed to defy all ravelry pattern database records, which is not unusual in itself for the twilight zone experience of gauge, but the limitations of this yarn’s characteristics combined with a gauge heretofore unmeasured in our physical world meant that despite my best intentions and interest this yarn languished. I started and ripped out a project that was’t going to work and wasn’t something I would have worn anyways and proceeded to put the yarn away for , no exaggeration,  another 5 years after that failed attempt.

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I *finally* realized that one of the things holding me back from using this yarn was that there was just so much of it. I didn’t want to make anything with sleeves because the yarn was so heavy and inelastic, but I was unconsciously holding out for a pattern that would use it up. Using some is better than using none, and I finally settled on a simple, appropriately zombie-apocalyptic pattern that required nowhere near the yardage I had on hand.

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Me, looking to alien-infested skies. I don’t know what it is about my husband’s photography skills, but I am not this thin in real life.
Pattern: Slope by Shibui Knits
Size: Cast on smallest hoping for medium
Yarn: Blue Moon Fibert Arts Koi, Indigo Nights (discontinued)
Needle: 4

Gauge remained an issue, but the simpler your garment the more flexible a measurement gauge can be. I cast on the smallest size hoping for something in the middle. In this case it worked fine. It only needed to fit my shoulders and it does. The rest of it is a matter of personal preference.

I flubbed the length measurement. It’s longer than it should be because I was measuring from the wrong place. You can see how a measurement from the front v. side v. back would vary significantly. I also shorted the armholes some by starting the neckline decreases a smidge earlier than the size medium called for.

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And now I am ready for the technological singularity.

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I know it’s been point out a million times, but how can knitwear so prevalent in post-apocalyptic hellscapes and yet nobody has the skill to repair it? So many holes and running stitches. Get it together future-dwellers.

Good Company is Better than Knitting

I went on a vacation, gosh, more than 2 months ago already. I always pack more knitting than is reasonable or appropriate. I’ve finally learned that vacation leisure time is so packed and leaves me so exhausted that it leaves little time or energy for my usual leisure activities. I’ve also learned that my limited trunk space is better utilized by new fabric/yarn/souvenir purchases than lugging around yarn I already own so this vacation I tried to reign it in a bit. I didn’t cast on a new lace shawl, for example, or bring a second lace project in case I finished the first. I just brought along a hat that was already in progress. And a sleeveless top. And some socks. Plus an extra skein of sock yarn in case of emergency. See, very restrained!

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Charming mini skeins bundled together.

The hat was a Blue Sky Fibers kit I bought thinking it might make a good gift for a knitter I know. Then I decided that a hat requiring weaving in 42 ends felt more mean-spirited and burdensome than well intentioned or generous. Laboriously turning 21 mini skeins into teeny tiny little balls of yarn by hand confirmed that I had made the right call.

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So. Many. Ends. It was like a unicorn’s mane in there.

A long car ride is the perfect time to do tedious tasks and now I have a colorful, stripey, slouchy hat for me to keep for myself. I ran out of one color, but it was an easy thing to sub in one of the other 20.

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I don’t know if I’ve ever actually knit with the emergency skein of sock yarn I always bring on vacation. Even still, I never want to be in a position where I need it but don’t have it.

Me-Made-May Week 2

Another roundup of my Instagram dump:

Clockwise from upper left:

  • Day 8: Willamette Shirt. One of my favoritest makes. Perfect marriage of collar and pullover. Yay.
  • Day 9: Wiksten Tova Tunic. While wearing this I remembered this pattern doubles as a dress and that I have the perfect fabric for one. I cut it out last night and am hoping I’ll find matching thread in the tin.
  • Day 10: Sleeveless Matcha Top. Photo features Nova. This shirt makes me happy.
  • Day 11: Short-sleeved Archer Button-Up. Not my most successful make. A bit big, a bit too granny-like even for me, someone who likes pink and florals and handknits and thought she was all about granny-style until that one time when I was 36 and at the drugstore with my kiddos and a woman looked at me very closely before asking if my daughter was my grandbaby.
  • Day 12: Bohemian Tee. It’s knit! But this is a rare case when you may be forgiven for calling it crochet. It’s a bit sneaky like that.
  • Day 13: Alice Top. My first me-make. I’ve worn and washed this so much it’s threadbare and showing its age. I still love it. It might not be suitable for work anymore, though.
  • Day 14: Sugar Pop Top. I don’t wear this one as often as I should. Lovely fabric. A bit of pooching occurs under the collar across the top of my bust. Perhaps the fabric isn’t sturdy enough or maybe I inadvertently pulled the fabric slightly out of shape while sewing. I like the idea of peter pan collars, but I don’t reach for them. This top went beautifully with my gray suit which was a happy surprise. That’s the suit I forgot the zipper was broken on and I sewed it shut for the 1.5 hours I needed the suit. Sewing for the win!