Friday, April 29, 2011

Simple Can Be Good

I got me some new yarn in the mail. As if I have time to knit anything else while working on that big ole blanket! But I saw this stuff and really wanted to make something out of it--it is Sprout by Classic Elite and it's 100% organic cotton. It's very light and has a fun texture. Plus it comes in these beautiful colors, which just happen to go very well in my home decor scheme. I got this from Kaleidoscope Yarns, which was the first place I ever bought yarn online, many years ago. I got free shipping and a free pattern for a baby blanket, which is what I intend to make, only I'll use it as a small throw. 

The pattern is pretty much "knit in garter stitch and change colors every other row until you are out of yarn," with the addition of leaving a fringe on the edges. Very simple. Some would say mind-numbingly so.

But, I don't say that. I am going through a phase where simple knitting feels good. I like building those easy mitered squares in the color-changing yarn. And I have a feeling I will like knitting a nice rectangle with this lovely textured yarn, too. And why not? Just because you CAN knit complex things doesn't mean you always have to. Knitting is not a race, as I tell students, nor is it a competition. My wish for all knitters is that they make projects that bring them joy and pleasure.

I was making so many complex things in the last few years that it was beginning to feel like a job, and I felt pressure (mostly internal, I assure you--no past knitting associates need get upset) to do better and better--to knit fancier projects in fancier yarn. I was being pretty hard on myself when I failed--like when I tried ten times to get that lace shawl to transition to the next level, or when my Shetland shawl self-destructed and I fell apart. Why do that to myself? I like knitting. I like using knitting to zone out and meditate. So, why not make some projects in garter stitch? It can be fun, and the results can be beautiful--I think this color combination will make for beautiful stripes. 

And I am making a sock when I need to do something portable. It is toe up, and with NO patterning on the foot. Just knitting. But look at this yarn! Whoa! It's Creatively Dyed Calypso, with 15 different colors that don't repeat regularly. Stockinette is what looks best with a yarn like this.

I'll probably do a simple rib for the legs. And I will enjoy it, especially since I also, on a whim, got two new types of size 0 needles to see if I like them. One's Kinki Ambari circular bamboo needles. They have a very flexible, clear cable and the bamboo is very, very nice. Haven't started using it yet (thus you see the old Hiya Hiyas in the photo--my Knitpicks size 0s broke when I um, accidentally whacked them in the hospital). The other ones are little teeny Addi Lace turbos. I hadn't tried the little ones yet. I will use those on my other socks in progress, shown here with broken needle and started many months ago:

It's Cookie A's Devon, in Fleece Artist Somoko. I started these last July, then went into knitting hiatus, so there has not been much progress. My bad. Can't do anything with them at all with THOSE needles, anyway! If I get a hankering to do something with yarn overs, I can switch to these, though.

(Ignore the Foo Fighters CD and mosquito repellent in the photo. I didn't style much. We can't find where all the mosquitoes are coming from in our house, but I am SICK of them, I tell you.)

I did want to share one more simple knitting idea for any of you who also want to see what you can do creatively with garter or stockinette stitch. One of the members of an email list I am on but am a bad ole lurker for send the link to this blog post from Annekata. It shows experiments the blogger has done knitting with sewing thread. Doesn't it look ethereal and different? And all it takes is simple stitches--it's the material that is interesting!

OK, I blogged again. I am so proud. Now I think I shall knit.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Blanket Notes and Synchronicity

I realized something when I was showing my students how to do the mitered squares last night. I realized that, in garter stitch, to get a nice edge by slipping the first stitch, you need to do the yarn like you would switching from purl to knit in seed stitch or ribbing--after you slip the first stitch, move the yarn between that stitch and the second one rather than behind the slipped stitch. You want it to look like what you see in the image at left.

When you are doing stockinette stitch (K one row and P the next), the yarn is already in the back when you slip the stitch, so this is not an issue. With garter stitch, you need to move the yarn.

There is another way to do it, which is to move the yarn to the front then slip the LAST stitch on each row. It's easier to remember to do it right this way, or so I am told.

Anyway, I have revised yesterday's post and the PDF to have information on how to hold the yarn when you slip the stitches. If you see anything else that needs to be added, just let me know.

Printing Patterns

Also, people have said they have trouble printing the blog post with the pattern in it. Here is how I print blog posts from others: I select all the text and images, then I open Microsoft Word and paste all the content into a new document. I can then tweak the font, margins, etc., to my liking, and print it. Hope this helps! Of course, I don't mind emailing the PDFof the mitered square blanket pattern to anyone who asks. And a lot of people have! How nice!

Something Else

I thought I'd show you part of a nice gift I received from my Canadian friend Ramona (who you will note has also not been blogging as much lately). It really helped to lift my spirits as I get used to life without my Dad. But, the story of the gift is what is so cool, and why I truly love the Internet.

It turns out that, unbeknown to me, Ramona had friended my spouse on Facebook and asked him what I liked. That had explained why the unexpected package in the mail smelled so wonderful--it was full of rose scented soap. What was not explained was the return address--it wasn't from my friend. The return address was only a couple of blocks away from the house where I had spent my really wonderful childhood, in Gainesville, Florida (very far from Toronto). I tried to figure out what old neighbor might still live there!

When I opened the package, I saw so many wonderful things, including the ceramic mug shaped like a ball of yarn and luscious hand-spun yarn that you see here. These were made by a very talented ceramicist, soap maker and fiber artist, who sells on Etsy and knew Ramona from another friend...insert Twilight Zone music. Yes, Haldechick lives where I lived over 40 years ago, and sees my old playhouse and the amazing camellias and azaleas my dad planted nearly every day when she walks her dog! When I told her what happened, she sent me a lovely email, and when I told my knitting friends in Gainesville (and I am there because my high school friend and fellow knitter Kelli invited me!) they invited her to join their Facebook group of local knitters. What a wonderful set of sychronicities! I get goosebumps thinking about what a small world I really live in.

When I start to feel alone or isolated, I realize what a wide net of friendship I have cast via my online activities. I have so many wonderful knitting friends from blogs and Ravelry. I have hundreds of friends around the world from my job at the nonprofit organization. And so many of my relatives, plus my old friends from high school, college, grad school and my early jobs are still in touch thanks to Facebook! And to be honest, I am pretty sure I stay in touch better with my local friends via Facebook than any other way--we have lots of fun.

So I am happy with the Internet, and truly thankful for ALL of the kind words and thoughts I have received over the past few weeks.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mitered Square Blanket Pattern

I got a lot of requests for the pattern for the blanket I am working on. So, I tried to write this out in a format that my beginning knitting students might also be able to use. There is probably far more detail here than an experienced knitter needs, but you can skip any part that's completely obvious to you!

Here are generic instructions for making a rectangle out of mitered squares. You can choose the yarn, colors and arrangement of squares to suit your taste. The photo at left shows a blanket made of worsted weight squares arranged in a 4-patch pattern with solids and variegated yarns. Extra technique explanations are given so the pattern can be used with new or beginning knitters.

Materials and Gauge: Any weight of yarn that you want to use. This project can consist of small squares from sock yarn, up to large squares from a bulky weight. Use something you have a lot of. You can use solids, self-striping or other types of yarn, and can use one color or multiples.

Needles: Use needles that give you a nice, solid garter stitch with the yarn you choose. I’d recommend for the average knitter, size 2 or 3 needles in fingering, 4 or 5 in sport, 5 or 6 in DK, 6-8 in worsted, and 8-10 in bulky weight. Use what you think looks good. You can use straight or circular needles.

Abbreviations and Techniques:
K = knit
K3tog = Knit three together OR any double decrease that appeals to you. I like [sl1, k2tog, PSSO (pass slipped stitch over)] and [Sl 2 tog as if to knit, K1, PSSO]. For a uniform look, pick one decrease style and stick with it.
Sl = Slip: move the next stitch to the right needle without knitting it. Be sure to move the yarn between the first and second stitch. This creates an easy edge for picking up stitches.
Pick up = Picking up stitches means to build a new row of loops on the edge of a piece of knitting. Usually, if you have slipped the first stitch of each row, you can create one stitch for each loop along the side. To do this, put the needle under the edge loop, wrap yarn around it, and bring it up, creating a stitch. Do this for each look. To get started, double the yarn for 2-3 inches and bring up the first look with from the loop this created, then for the first two or three stitches you pick up, use both pieces of yarn to anchor it. You can weave the rest in later.

First Square
Cast on 41 stitches.
Row 1 (wrong side): K across
Row 2 (Right side): Sl 1, K 18, K3tog, K19
Row 3: Sl 1, K across
Row 4: Sl1, K17, K3tog, K18
Row 5: Repeat row 3
Row 6: Sl1, K16, k3tog, K17

Repeat the pattern you see in rows 2-6. Slip one, knit to the center 3 stitches, knit those together and knit to the end, then Slip one and knit on the back side. Eventually you will have just 3 stitches. Knit them together and fasten off (if you are using one color, there is no need to fasten off).

Rest of First Row
Pick up 21 stitches, starting where you left off the previous square and going down, toward where the k3tog of the first square started (this will keep them all going the same direction—see illustration at the end). The last stitch will be in the corner. Cast on 20 stitches using the knitted cast-on method.

Row 1: K across
Rows 2 and forward: Same as for first square.
Repeat this square until your blanket is as wide as you want it to be.

Second and Subsequent Rows
First Square: Cast on 20 then pick up 21 sts in the loops on the top right square. Start in the corner. Repeat mitered square instructions from the first square.

Rest of row: Pick up 20 stitches down the side of the square you just finished. Pick up ONE stich in the center between the two squares you are working off. Pick up 20 more stitches across the square in the previous row. Repeat mitered square instructions.

Keep building rows of squares until the blanket is the size you want it to be.

It looks nice to finish these projects with a garter stitch border. I usually pick up one stitch per loop across the top and knit in garter stitch for at least an inch in a color that coordinates with the project. Then I repeat at the bottom (you will be picking up from your cast on, but the knitted cast on makes loops it is pretty easy to pick up from. When you are finished with that, pick up across the border, the squares and the other border for each side.

Another option is to do it like a log cabin quilt and do the top, then a side, then the bottom, then the other side, picking up from each border you add as well as the squares.

Weave in ends. If you do this neatly, the back will be nearly as pretty as the front.

This picture shows a blanket in progress. It is made with a DK weight self-striping yarn (James C. Brett Marble) in a variety of colorways, creating diagonal stripes from the squares.

Note that you don’t have to start with 41 stitches. Any odd number that works for you is fine. The idea is to slip the first stitch on each row and knit the center three stitches together on right-side rows while knitting the rest in garter stitch. By increasing or decreasing the number of stitches you start with, you will have larger or smaller squares. You can really be creative with sizes and colors of squares.

 ©2011 Sue Ann Kendall

PS: I'm no longer sending out PDFs of this, because I no longer use that email address. But if you want the pattern, click the Ravelry link above. (February 2016)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Another Year.

I've been a bit of a hermit, taking a cue from my spouse, I guess. Knitting was not bringing me pleasure, so I sorta stopped. I did a lot of singing with Funkatonic, the rock band at our UU church, and hanging out with my family, who have been very kind and patient with me. I've done a lot of internal work and feel a lot better about lots of things these days. Feels good.

I've needed the additional strength. A few weeks after a really lovely 80th birthday party, my dad was in a really awful auto accident, and passed away after two weeks in intensive care. I spent a lot of time in North Carolina, and while sitting by his side or in the waiting room, I finished a pair of socks.
I called these Farewell socks, as they kept me centered while I said farewell to Dad.

I finished the second sock during the week we spent there for his memorial and all the unpleasant business details afterward. My brother and I did really well and held up each other--ELAB and the kids were also really helpful. I got to see many of my relatives, some of whom I had not seen in many years, and that was comforting.

I got some really lovely cards and Facebook messages from knitting friends, and if you were one of them, know how much your thoughts meant to me. I have a story to share about kind knitting friends, too--maybe next post.

Since I have been back, I have wanted to work on something that doesn't tax my brain. I am still a little fuzzy. So, I decided to take all that Marble yarn I bought last year, supplemented with additional colors I got, and make another mitered square blanket.

I am just making diagonal lines with each color of yarn. These are smaller squares than the last one, and thinner yarn, so I will have more squares. When I am done with the squares (I think it will be 8x10), I should have a lot of yarn left over for thicker borders. All nice garter stitch and easy picking up of each square's foundations from previous squares.

I have also been teaching a knitting class as part of the adult classes at the UU church. I had really, really missed teaching knitting, though it has been a challenge, since all the issues with Dad took up the first 4 weeks. Maybe I will get another chance later.

Thanks for reading, if there's anyone still here. I will see if I can pick up blogging again.