Catch-Up Time, the Last: a Plethora of Kimono

Here it is, our last catch-up post for the fall and winter of 2019.

You remember my dear friends Jonathan and Rebecca? Of course you do. Just last year, I knit them some socks to keep them warm during their cold Bay Area nights.  This summer, I got the exciting news that they, too, were expecting a baby, although she wasn’t due until at least January.

Now, I don’t know if I’ve fully explained just how important these people are to me on here before. Jonathan is my oldest friend. I know that we all have people that we follow on Facebook and check in with occasionally from elementary school and high school, and of course we consider them friends, but Jonathan is the friend who has always been a major part of my life, despite multiple moves and life shifts by the both of us all across the country over the past 22 (is it 22?!) years.

I was sitting here trying to figure out how to sum up how we became friends and stayed close all of these years, but really, it’s not necessary. Just know that he has shaped who I am today and that I love him dearly. Rebecca makes him sublimely happy, and she accepted me and embraced me immediately when we first met, so she deserves the world.

So, as you can see, this baby coming into the world of two of my very favorite people was a big deal. So big that only one knitted item wasn’t going to be nearly enough to show just how happy I was for them.

20191203_153431

And so we have here, a plethora of kimono.

20191203_125754
When I told Dan about the baby, he said, “Oh, you need to make one of those baby sweaters that you made for Dani that time.” He was talking about when my friend Dani in Colorado was expecting for the first time, and I made her two little sweaters, based on the fantastic pattern One-Piece Baby Kimono by Cristina Shiffman, part of the seminal classic knitting book, Mason-Dixon Knitting. At the time when I made those sweaters (here and here, if you want to see how cute they were!), Mason-Dixon Knitting was still a relatively new blog/phenomenon. I was delighted to find out that they are still going strong, now selling their own beautiful yarns and pattern kits.

20191203_153521

However, sometimes it just doesn’t get any better than the classics.

In this case, I went with my own stockinette-based tweak of the pattern. When you modify the pattern so that you do it this way, you can get a whole sweater out of only one ball of Cascade 220 Superwash, my very favorite yarn for baby stuff, plus it just looks super chic and elegant this way, yes?

20191203_153532

Yes.

20191203_153546

After you knit one, which seriously only takes an afternoon if you’re motivated, you can’t help yourself and need to keep going.

20191203_153619

And going.

20191203_153656

And going.

20191203_153806

They are just too much cuteness. You can only really consider stopping after five.

20191203_125747

The colors I chose, in descending order here, are Cascade 220 Superwash in #1946 Silver Grey, #873 Extra Creme Cafe, #905 Celery, and #1949 Lavender, and Berroco Vintage in #5101 for the white.

20191203_153356

Dan picked out the ribbon colors, and I think he did a wonderful job. They are all 1/2″ satin ribbon from Offray, and there are so many colors out there, you’re bound to find a great match.

20191203_153446

Weaving and sewing in the ribbon is a particular bit of fiddly business that I enjoy. In the original pattern, they only recommend sewing in the ribbon in ties on the side.

20191203_153707

I can’t ever help myself, and I always have to go a little bit further. For mine, I wove the ribbon in and out of the eyelets, skipping two bars on top and one on the bottom. If you try to just weave it in-and-out of each hole, this width of ribbon starts to crumple and fold over in an unattractive way. By skipping holes on the top to create a larger “bump,” everything lays flat and lovely and shiny.

20191203_153600

See?

20191203_153458

After these were blocked and be-ribboned, they got sent off to San Rafael with all my love, just a few weeks ago. I’m glad I sent them early, because Jonathan and Rebecca’s birthday baby girl decided to come over a month early! She is perfect and beautiful, and I hope that she understands just how much she is loved, not just by her amazing parents, but by those of us across the country, sending our love and good wishes and warmth in the form of teeny, tiny handknit sweaters.

—–

So that just about wraps it up for this fall and winter. I am still exhausted, mostly in the brain area, but taking the time to sit and write these out has helped me to see how much I accomplished this year that wasn’t just assigned to me by professors.

In real life, I am a fairly prickly person. I am slow to friendship. I am exacting and organized and suspicious. Those people around me, the ones who love and care, deserve so much more love and appreciation than I am ever able to fully present with just words. So, I make things with my hands. I try to infuse the good thoughts and warm feelings that lurk deep within so that they can see them, finally, on the surface. And I hope that they understand.

Catch-Up Time: Mending

I am a staunch believer in the idea that knitted (and most handmade items, in fact) are meant to be used, not just observed from afar. I try to make it clear that I want people to wear their hats and socks and scarves and sweaters until they are hanging on by their last stitch.

However, since I have only been knitting for the past 20 years (only!), and I am typically a huge yarn snob that shells out for the good stuff, I have yet encounter a need for a repair.

(You can just feeeel the foreshadowing, right?)

20190125_151708

Cue the sad trombones.

Dan noticed two tiny holes in his beloved vest earlier this year, and after a few moments of heartbreak, I knew what I needed to do.

20190125_151306

These, for the untrained, are felting needles. They are the sharpest things you will ever meet, and they have teeny, tiny little barbs running up the edges of their star- and triangle-shaped stabby bits. These barbs catch onto the natural “shingles” of the wool hair follicles, and when you punch them up and down enough times, cause wool fibers to “felt” and bind together.

Now, usually people use these guys to make little felt sculptures or appliques, working with the unspun wool roving itself. However, since Dan’s vest was made out of Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, a yarn made with a distinct “woolen spun” texture that leaves the fibers loose rather than tightly plied, I figured that I could use these bad boys to fix up the holes and reattach the yarn ends, rather than having to stitch up a repair.

20190125_152056

It’s kind of hard to see because of all the texture going on, but dead center in the button band, you can see a purl stitch that’s been separated right at the middle of the purl bump. Due to Shelter’s texture, the hole didn’t really unravel at all, which is really just one of the billion reasons why you need to make something out of it already.

20190125_152443

I snipped off a tiny piece of yarn from the leftover bit of skein, maybe 0.5cm long, and laid it across the broken purl stitch.

20190125_152702

And then I carefully stabbed it about a thousand times.

20190125_153849

There were two broken stitches here, and now all you can see is moss stitch and button holes! I was pretty damn pleased with myself.

However…(bum bum buuuuummmm)…that wasn’t the end of the mending needed this year.

For some reason, this is also the year that decided that a whole bunch of our handknit socks were all going to break stitches in almost the exact same place.

20190125_161038

20190125_162655

20190125_163649

You might be thinking, Jinger, do you have a terrible moth infestation? Or, do you have a horde of tiny mice with scissors who hate you?

But, I’m thinking that these were all about human error. Where is each hole? Right near the top, where you grab the sides to hike up your socks, of course. Turns out that Dan and I are just monsters with sharp, pointy hands, who like to destroy the things we love most.

Felting needles were definitely not an option here, with multiple broken stitches, a little bit of unraveling, and varying fiber types. How to repair these wounds?

20190125_160747

I choose to believe that it’s a testament to my knitting skill that I hadn’t had to buy a darning egg before, but I think it’s more likely that I knit mostly for people who live in warm climates and only wear their knitted socks once or twice a year.

Anyway, time to get down to business to save our precious lizard, helix, and complement socks.  I had never done this before, but I looked at the instructions on the back for an abnormally long amount of time, plus several different tutorials online. And then I shoved them all back in a drawer and waited another week until I could stomach it.

20190125_162949

20190125_163224

Now, the technique I’m using here is the “grid” method of darning socks, helpfully explained in detail here by the Radical Homemaker. You spread the area that needs repair over the darning egg to flatten everything out and make sure that you can see the stitches clearly.

20190125_161512

Then you run your darning thread in vertical lines, catching each side of the hole with a little bit of allowance on each side so that they are firmly anchored in the stable areas.

20190125_162207

After that, you do the same thing running in horizontal lines, anchoring the stitches and weaving in-and-out of the grid lines exposed.

20190125_162530

When you’re done, you have a little patch that’s stable, frayed ends that are trapped in the grid and unable to unwind any further, and a pretty cool-looking scar to show the sock’s rightful battle wounds.

20190125_163545

20190125_164315

Really, if you have a penchant for variegated yarns and stripes, you really can’t see much of anything at all. The area is no longer quite as stretchy as the rest of the sock, but our scars act the same way, right?

20190125_165023

Even when they aren’t visible, they serve as a reminder for the things we’ve been through and the harm we’ve survived. They remind us of our weak points and the parts of ourselves that we’ve built up to be stronger.

And in this case, they remind us that the things that we make for ourselves and others are meant to be incorporated into our daily lives. Used so aggressively and lovingly that they fall apart and need mending. Trusting that what made them strong in the first place is what will help them to come back to life.

Catch-Up Time: Night Sky Saurey

For our next catch-up post, we have a real labor of love.

20191031_123650

Not that it was a difficult thing to make at all, but it was a project infused with love from the start.

You remember my lovely friend Kelli?

20180104_140901

Of course, you do! She is a glorious ray of sunshine in my life, and when she told me that she and her husband Taylor were having a baby, I immediately got to work finding the perfect baby blanket pattern for her. After finishing up a happy dance around the kitchen, of course.

20191031_122953

Kelli is a very stylish lady. She effortlessly surrounds herself with handpicked items that suit her perfectly, without ever looking too very. She taught herself calligraphy, and it is always a treat getting hand-addressed letters and cards from her in the mail. She loves the handmade and the one-of-a-kind, making her the ideal person to grace with a truly loving handknit project.

I’m pretty sure it was only a few days (maybe even the next day?) when I starting prying her for details about her perfect baby blanket. Cables? Stripes? Intarsia?

20191031_123418

Lace? Bingo. Introducing our Night Sky Saurey.

Kelli and Taylor weren’t going to find out the gender of the baby ahead of time, and she had already decided on a “night sky” theme for the nursery, so something lacy and reminiscent of the starry, inky night sky was just perfect.

20191031_123428

She picked out the pattern herself, from a curated selection from me, and specified that she wanted it in navy blue.

The pattern? Saurey from Berroco, made in Berroco Modern Cotton. The color Goddard was just the perfect shade, somewhere between navy and royal blue, to evoke those sleepy nighttime nursery vibes.

20191018_125816

Now, I am apparently not the only person who thought that it was just perfect, because it was on back-order from every single online store I could find, for at least 2 months. However, patience won the day, and I ended up with 3 skeins of this beautiful stuff with 2 months to spare to knit the thing.

20191031_123558

And let’s talk about this yarn for a second. Kelli specifically wanted cotton, something that would be able to be washed and beat up a little bit and not get too hot, because regardless of the season, we do live in Louisiana where the weather is trying to murder us at all times. Modern Cotton is a pima cotton and modal blend, meaning that it’s super soft and pliable, not hard and unforgiving like a lot of other cotton yarns, but still very resilient.

20191031_122943

It’s got great stitch definition, even when knit up a little bit loosely, like is required for this pattern. It’s also got a wee bit of a sheen, and when combined with the lace yarnovers and the tiny spaces between the stitches, it makes it look like it’s shimmering when it moves.

20191031_123720

I mean, could there have been a more perfect blanket for a night sky theme? Or a friend more deserving? I don’t think so.

Only two more installments of catch-up posts! More baby stuff, plus something I’ve never done before! Exciting!

Catch-Up Time: the Killer Sandworm Beastie Hat

Almost a year-and-a-half ago, my co-worker and friend Samantha gave me a little book full of knitting patterns for baby hats, mittens, and scarves. And every single pattern features an awesome monster.

20191216_163137

How cute is this?! So freaking cute. (Here’s a link to go get it!)

She was pregnant at the time, and eventually had her son that November. He was the recipient of the extremely awesome Star Illusion Blanket at the time, but with this new book in tow, I knew that I had to get it together and make him a monster of his very own for his first birthday.

20191031_123917

Introducing…the Killer Sandworm Beastie Hat!

20191031_124227

Now, you’re not going to find this guy in the book exactly, but you will find his inspiration, Serrated Shark Hat. However, I didn’t have enough gray yarn to do the entire body and fins, so I had to get creative.

I started matching up other yarn leftovers (and seriously, this book is amazing for using up all kinds of odds and ends), and found a bunch of black Brown Sheep Nature Spun leftover from my Hamilton hats. I’m pretty sure that the gray that I had was left over from Mischief Managed, but I can’t be totally sure, but it matched weight almost perfectly.

What to do? Stripes!

20191031_124041

I also wasn’t the hugest fan of the way that the teeth worked in the original pattern, so I went on YouTube and found a crochet sawtooth pattern that made some hilariously pointy teeth. (Here’s the link for that one!)

20191031_124056

With its goth stripes and bright green eyes, Dan and I couldn’t deny its uncanny resemblance to the stripey sandworms from Beetlejuice.

Quick note:  Snap-in doll’s eyes are great for this, but they have extremely pointy and scratchy ends that end up on the inside of the hat, rather than being hidden inside the stuffing like they would normally be. To combat this, I sewed some little felt patches to the inside of the hat, covering the posts. I didn’t get any pictures of this, but just make sure you’re keeping those baby heads safe.

I got some pictures from Samantha a few days ago of her son enjoying his hat, and they are just so precious I can’t stand it.

received_597586744117440

received_420469262174718

I mean…those crazy pointy toothed ear flaps just make me so insanely happy. I desperately need an adult-sized one right away.

20191031_124257

Stay tuned for more baby-related projects! It’s never-ending!

Catch-Up Time: Cardamom, the friendly dragon, and the Little Dragon Hat

I am very tired.

For the past eleventy-billion weeks, I have been heavily involved in my (hopefully) second-to-last semester of grad school, including performing my DNP project. And working. And writing a million papers. This may sound like complaining, but really, I think that I’ve earned the right just a little bit. It’ll all be worth it when I can make people call me Dr. Jinger, right?

Right.

Anyway, throughout all of it, I have still been working on a multitude of projects, mostly because my loved ones just will not stop having adorable babies and letting them grow up into adorable toddlers. It’s relentless. So, for the first of these “catch-up” style posts, I’ll be featuring two freaking adorable knitted items that I made for one of the super cute babies in question.

My wonderful friend Tobias and his girlfriend Alexis welcomed a baby boy in September, and because these are the dear friends with whom I lived out my D&D adventures for many years, I knew that I had to make them something that was both adorable and adventure-based.

20190816_175649

“Where thou go’est, weary traveler?”

20190816_175156

Presenting, Cardamom, the friendly dragon.

This sweet little guy was knitted up using the fabulous free pattern Tarragon the Gentle Dragon from Knit-A-Zoo, purveyor of all sorts of cute knitted animals. I loved the original name, but I definitely more of a sweet than savory person, so Cardamom it is.

This pattern really threw me for a loop while I was making it and putting it together, mostly because I just couldn’t get over how freaking cute all of the details were as they appeared. Like, there are little toe bumps on the dragon’s feet.

20190804_134857

Toe bumps!

20190802_192642

The shaping of the head alone gave it so much personality, even before the eyes and spikes got added.

And the spikes!

20190804_155213

Although I had no idea what to expect when I started knitting that little purple strip of spikes (seriously it took me a minute to understand exactly how they would work, but, just trust the pattern, it knows what it’s doing), they sewed in so perfectly and were, by far, my absolute favorite part of the project.

20190804_161507

But, wait! The wings!

20190816_175059

And his little tail!

20190816_175130

So good.

I didn’t really modify anything here, because everything was so perfect. The only thing I did was use my standard felt eyes, rather than the pre-made doll eyes suggested by the pattern, just because I want all of my handmade creatures to look a little bit sad for some reason.

20190816_175145

That face.

20190816_174935

Such a sweetheart.

Now, I had plenty of yarn left over, and I knew that just a little dragon toy wasn’t enough, especially for a future adventure-baby, so I figured that I had to make a little bit of adventuring gear to go along with it.

What better than a little dragon hat to match his new dragon friend?

20190819_131652

20190819_131635

Modeled here so excellently by R2D2 is the Little Dragon Hat, made from the pattern Little Dragon by Fox & Crow. Fox & Crow’s website is a smorgasbord of cuteness and style, albeit all in Dutch, but do go give it a look and feel all kinds of knit-based envy.

20190819_131726

The overwhelming delight of being able to match the hat to the stuffed animal? Almost too much.

20190731_162053

This one was so much fun, even during the little fiddly bits. I have to admit, somewhat sheepishly, that I originally attached the wrong color and knit 2 spikes in green before I realized that something was wrong.

20190816_175415

And then, after I was finished with all the spikes, I had to go back and undo and replace the very first one again, just because it was one stitch off from laying flat with the other ones, and it was going to make me go insane if I didn’t fix it.

20190816_175459

It was definitely worth it to get it perfect. The hat is a little (lot) too big for the baby right now, but I know he’ll get plenty of use out of it later, when he’s venturing out to explore his new world.

20190816_175343

Don’t they make a charming pair?

I knit both of these with Debbie Bliss Rialto DK, but really any DK- or sport-weight yarn would work wonderfully, as long as it’s not too high on the acrylic/viscose/whatever-plastic content. I only say this because you need to do a fair bit of ironing for the dragon’s spikes and for getting your hat spikes perfect and pointy, so you don’t want something that’s going to melt or get weird and shiny. Rialto is a 100% merino with a very fine multi-ply structure, so you get really good stitch definition.

For these projects, I managed to make both out of 3 balls of Apple and 1 ball of Wisteria, but now that I think about it, I don’t even think that I touched the third ball of the green. August seems like forever ago, you guys. Stay tuned for more catch-up posts as I try to piece back together a year that felt like it took 3 years to pass.

Effervesce: A Very Fancy Name for a Very Pretty Sock

It’s my first project of the year! Coming in just under the wire for January, we’ve got Effervesce.

20190125_172350

A fancy name that really does befit a lovely sock, but makes me feel like I’m in a pretentious perfume commercial when I attempt to say it.

Effervesce. By Lancôme.

20190125_171811

But, seriously, those are some pretty things. They deserve a pretty name.

Effervesce. By Dior.

20190125_171859

My friend and co-worker, Kristen, is equally lovely. She is a former dancer and a kickass nurse, and it’s one of my favorite things when I get to give her report in the morning. She’s also a dead ringer for Simone Giertz of shitty robot fame, who is just one of the coolest people in the world. I’m a firm believer that only the coolest people get the coolest doppelgangers, so there you go.

20190125_171828

This pattern, beautifully written and charted by Purrlescent on Ravelry, has so many things that I am just a sucker for. It’s got symmetry between the feet, both in the cable twists and in the overall pattern design.

Effervesce.  By Calvin Klein.

20190125_172214

(Important note: my camera just cannot handle purples, for some reason, so just imagine a sock that is somewhere between all of these disparate photos. Knit Picks Hawthorne Fingering in Goose Hollow is actually a kettle-dyed-style mix of blues, purples, and pinks, and it looks like a cotton-candy wonderland.)

20190125_171848

Effervesce.  By Oscar de la Renta.

Even though I’m making an awful lot of fun of the name, this is one of my favorite sock patterns that I’ve knit in a long while.  It’s just too good. Each sock has its cable twists going opposite ways, plus the enlarging twisted rib detail just kills me. There’s something very satisfying about all those super straight lines.

20190125_172333

Like, look at that! So neat and tidy and orderly and perfect.

20190125_172137

As you can imagine, having this type of symmetry required a whole lot of charts. Four, to be exact, and they were super clear and easy-to-follow, which can be quite a feat. What a good job. Plus, there’s a bonus recipe for sangria at the end of the pattern, which, although it’s not my favorite thing, is super fun. Who doesn’t love drinking and knitting?

Effervesce.  By Marc Jacobs.

20190125_172247

I’m particularly enamored of the way the cables unfurl into the slipped stitch heel. I’ll be sneaking these into Kristen’s work locker tomorrow, and I hope she feels the same.  And I hope she loves the name as much as I do.  And then we can both stare off into the middle distance and say it in unison.  Effervessssssce.

Warm Feet = Love

A few years ago, my best friend since high school, Jonathan, and his lovely wonderful wife, Rebecca, moved from New Orleans out to beautiful San Rafael, CA.

2012-05-10 026

I miss them all the time.

Ever since visiting them in the middle of summer last year, I am also concerned about the state of their feet. The entire San Francisco area is ridiculously cold at night, no matter what time of year, and I knew that this had to be remedied with some precious handknit socks, post-haste.

20181003_171816

I happened to have a gorgeous skein of Mrs. Crosby Loves to Play Satchel hanging around, an impulse purchase made during a huge sale at my favorite LYS, McNeedles. This weirdly-named yarn is one of my all-time favorite sock yarns, supersoft with gorgeous color saturation and a lovely single-ply twist that manages to still yield some great stitch definition with a soft fuzzy halo around it. This colorway, Peacock, is just absolutely stunning, and Jonathan and I felt like it was perfect for Rebecca.

20170603_122156

20181003_171101

20181003_171314

The pattern is the Cookie A. classic, Monkey. I’ve been wanting to make these since the first time I saw them in Knitty, 12 years ago, and I finally got to add them to my Cookie A. oeuvre.

20181003_171144

Seriously, I have made a lot of Cookie A. socks. Look through the archives, if you don’t believe me, because it’s just now the end of the semester of my second year of grad school, and I just can’t muster up the energy to look them all up and link them here for you. But trust me, there’s a bunch.

20181003_171244

There’s nothing overly twee or clever about these, just a really good, classic sock pattern, with a little bit of lace and mock-cables to keep things interesting.

20181003_171226

20181003_171458

They are so incredibly soft and plush. The perfect thing to keep this wonderful woman’s toes warm this winter.

20181003_171308

The only thing that I might change, if I were to make these socks in the future, is to try them with a yarn that’s maybe more tightly-spun or smoother, because even though the halo of Satchel is glorious, it does obscure the more subtle bits of the patterning. I’d love to see what it might look like in something more defined.

As for Jonathan…well, it would just be really mean to make beautiful, warm socks for his wife and not make him anything at all. Too rude to even think of.

20170605_103156

20181009_104235

How freaking cool is it that I somehow have pictures of both of these people that coordinate somehow with their new socks? Uncanny. (You’d almost think that I did it on purpose, but I didn’t. I swear. I’m just good at picking out sock yarns, I think.  We all have our talents.)

20181009_104632

I’ve had this skein of Berroco Sox in my stash for years, just waiting for the perfect opportunity to use it. You don’t just jump into a self-striping sock without having the perfect pattern and perfect person to use it for. This colorway, the tragically-discontinued Lancaster, was an utter joy.

20181009_104258

20181009_104404

20181009_104648

I mean, that’s a lot of pictures of the same thing over and over, but I don’t know how else to reveal those little flecks of soft browns, purples, pinks, and grays throughout the whole thing. The pattern is my old stand-by, perfect for showcasing crazy stripes and colorfades, the Good, Plain Sock Recipe by the Yarn Harlot.

20181009_104308

20181009_104322

Just a standard 3×3 rib pattern to show off all those tweedy stripes. Such good stuff. It’s hard to not feel like an aspiring Ivy League professor trudging through the fall leaves while you’re wearing these.

20181009_104856

These beauties got packed up and sent on their way to California, where they are doing their important job of keeping the toes warm of the people that I love.

That’s what true love is, right? Keeping your loved ones warm, any way you can, even from across the country? I think so.

Summer of Baby Blankets, vol. 3 – Star Illusion Blanket

The final moment is upon us. The grand finale of the self-imposed Summer of Baby Blankets is finally here! (Want to read vol. 1 and vol. 2?) I know that all two of you have been waiting with such anticipation, so here we go.

20180809_104548

Ooooooooooh. Aaaaaaaaaah.

Now, there are those among you who don’t know about this amazing thing called illusion knitting (or shadow knitting, if you’re super cool). Here is what this blanket looks like when you look at it head-on.

20180806_181341

Seemingly random stripey-ness. Cheerful, and somehow very Spongebob-esque, but nothing much going on, except if you look at it too long, you might get a mild headache.

20180809_095954

However, embedded within those innocent garter-stitch-resembling stripes are a series of knits and purls that transform the picture when you look at it slightly off-kilter.

20180809_104620

See? Ugh, it’s just so good.

When I found out that my friend and co-worker Samantha was pregnant, I knew that I had to make something fun for her. She’s a bright and bubbly person, and she once bought me a book of knitting patterns for tiny monster hats for children, so we definitely have the same inclination towards silliness and whimsy. When I was scrolling through baby blanket patterns on Ravelry and saw this bit of wonderfulness pop up, I knew she’d be into it.

Now, I’ve seen the illusion knitting technique countless times on scarves, usually cleverly hiding secret patterns or pictures or words in there (shout out to my Twitter friend Jen who made an amazing rainbow illusion scarf to go with her TAZ Istus cosplay), but I’ve never seen it in a blanket. It’s just freaking genius on a blanket, because you are almost always looking at the surface at a angle, and almost always with a large part of the right side exposed, something that’s just not always the case with scarves.

20180809_104456

Getting sick of the stars yet? Me neither.

The pattern is Star Illusion Blanket by fidget, or Katie Ahlquist, and it’s just a brilliant piece of design. In the original pattern, you knit three separate panels of stars with varying “blocks” of foreground and background colors and then seam them together, to get this sort of faded stained glass effect in the finished piece.

Now, I basically cannot follow a pattern as written lately, so my version is a little bit different. First, I thought about having to sew those strips together and matching up all of those stripes perfectly, and I had flashbacks of grafting together my Autumn Vindauga blanket, and decided that one experience like that was enough for one summer. So, instead, I cast on for the entire blanket all together (which is 158 sts, if you’re playing along at home).

20180809_104913

For the yarn, I used Plymouth Encore Worsted, because I wanted something super strong and durable with the brightest colors I could find. Instead of alternating in blocks of color for both the foreground and background, I decided to just have one foreground color (Bright Yellow [1382]), and then striped three background colors throughout, carrying the colors up the sides. (Background colors are, in order, Miami Aqua [0235], Serenity Blue [4045], and Royal [0133].). I think it makes for this nice watercolor-y rippled effect, don’t you?

20180809_100016

20180809_095932

I was a little bit worried about the edges looking messy since I carried up the colors and Encore isn’t exactly a “blocking” type of yarn, but I’m thinking it’s pretty darn good. The original pattern has you back the entire thing, plus cover the edges, with fabric, which looks amazing if you know what you’re doing. I am not the world’s greatest seamstress, so the fabric portion just went out the window.

20180809_104754

Besides, who would want to miss out on how freaking cool the wrong side of this thing is?

20180809_095900

I only did two repeats of the pattern, but extended it to row 2 of the next repeat, just to make sure that I ended on a background row on both sides. My need for the slightest bit of symmetry gets in the way sometimes. I would’ve kept going until the next aqua stripe, but I don’t think that I had enough yarn, plus it was nice to have the top and bottom just mirror each other. After it was done, it got a bath with some Soak (mainly just to get the dye smell out), then a little bit of pinning and a gentle steam block, just to make the edges and corners lie down a little bit better.

You’ve got to be super careful messing around with a hot steam iron and acrylic blends, otherwise you’ll “kill” the acrylic, leaving you with a weird limp mess. Sometimes, this is the goal, but usually you don’t want to take the spring out of your yarn. In order to lightly steam-block this, I just held the iron about an inch over the fabric and shot steam down, constantly moving and never touching the surface. I let it dry and cool down, then passed over it again, then unpinned and called it a day.

20180809_105021

Then, I did what any normal person would do, which is take countless videos of me standing over the blanket and crouching down over and over again to watch those magic stars do their thing.  Please, just click on the above picture (or right here), and you can see this for yourself, over and over and over and over again.  You would do the same, trust me. It just never gets old.

20180809_104730

So, thanks to everyone for joining me on this Summer of Baby Blankets journey. We striped and grafted and cabled our way through the summer, and we are better knitters for it. Go and find yourself a technique you want to try and make a baby blanket out of it. You’ll be glad you did.

Summer of Baby Blankets, vol. 2 – Annie’s Levi Blanket

We’re on to the second blanket in our self-imposed Summer of Baby Blankets (make sure you go look back at vol. 1!), and it’s just such an astonishing piece of loveliness that I am surprised I made it.

20180707_094820

I mean, come on. If I didn’t spend so much time with it, watching Flashpoint and Endeavour while navigating its intensely cabled wonderland, I’d swear that I could never make such a thing.

20180707_094134

It’s almost like we should it Impostor Syndrome: the blanket.

20180530_172252

This blanket is going to my friend and co-worker Annie, who is expecting her first child in the next few weeks. She is, to me, someone who exudes a sort of class and grace about her that I can only aspire to, especially when I am concentrating very hard on not spilling something on myself or dropping something very breakable.

She’s lithe and blonde and will undoubtedly have the most beautiful and graceful daughter possible, so I figured she’d want to have something graceful and charming with family-heirloom potential. I clicked around for a long time on Ravelry, trying to find something that possessed those same characteristics. Something in lace or cables, for sure, but nothing that looked like it was an exercise in crazy celtic love-knots or impossibly difficult cabling. Just something classic and simple, but interesting and difficult enough to hold my attention.

20180529_165215

Enter Levi’s Baby Blanket by Lindsay Humphrey.  Three separate cable motifs, all symbolizing the unity between a baby and its parents.

Braids…

20180707_094237

…keyhole twists…

20180707_094245

…and a set of three heart motifs running up the center?

20180707_094219

Yes, please.

It’s got everything you could want in classic baby elegance, plus a cable chart that’ll knock you over sideways. It’s color-coded, for pete’s sake. Does it get any better?

20180707_094942

I went again with Cascade 220 Superwash Merino, this time in the color Tuffet (02), which is the most amazing cross somewhere between soft brown and gray. Like a really delicious mushroom. Or the color you’d expect Martha Stewart to have in every room of her house.

20180707_095019

When it was blocked, the merino relaxed into gorgeous silkiness, while still keeping perfect stitch definition for all of those twists and turns. I may have shoved my face into it for a second.

20180702_200001

And speaking of blocking, blocking wires are definitely your friend here. They are the perfect solution to making sure that every cable is stretched out perfectly both horizontally and vertically, and in getting those wavy blanket borders to lay flat. I got mine here, and have used them for almost every project since. They are a fantastic investment.

I did make a tiny bit of modification here from the original pattern, in order to make my yarn choice and desperate need for symmetry to work together.  The original pattern calls for a DK-weight yarn, and the Cascade 220 Merino is more of a light worsted, so things are going to be a little different height-wise. Also, I knitted the whole thing on size 6 needles, which may seem small, but really gets those cables to pop right in your face. To accommodate for this, I had to change the ending point of the pattern.

20180707_094448

The pattern calls for three repeats of the chart, then working up until row 56 on the 4th go-around. Because my yarn was larger, I found that I was at a really good length at three repeats, and then I just continued until row 9 so that my top and bottom cable twists on the 2nd cable motif were symmetrical. However, this made me go on to a fifth ball of yarn that I had to frantically special-order. If you’d like to make this pattern in the same yarn, you could probably just stop on the third chart repeat at row 73, then start your border from there. That way, you get your symmetry and you don’t have to scramble for that extra ball of yarn.

20180707_094748

Ugh, even the wrong side is pretty.

20180707_094203

Stay tuned for the exciting finale in the Summer of Baby Blankets, as soon as I finish it. Which might take a little bit. Hopefully we don’t bleed into the Early Fall of Baby Blankets, because it just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Summer of Baby Blankets, vol. 1 – Autumn Vindauga, plus a rainbow friend

It’s the self-imposed “Summer of Baby Blankets” over here at Casa Jingersnaps. This summer, not one, not two, but three of my coworkers are pregnant, and I just couldn’t let those opportunities to make adorable baby blankets pass me by.

20180531_101422

First up, the Autumn Vindauga Blanket.

My friend Christina, who you all remember from her Moderne Baby Blanket a few years ago, is going to have her second baby later this summer, and to say that I am extremely excited about it is a vast understatement. Christina is one of the world’s loveliest people, and she deserves all of the happiness possible in the universe. I try to do my part with general at-work goofiness, but when I get the chance to make things for her, that’s when I feel like I can really show her the love that she deserves.

20180518_160143

In college, I used to take the paint strips from home improvement stores and use them as bookmarks. It seemed like an arty thing to do while in theatre school, but the habit stuck. Dan regularly brings home new paint strips for me whenever he goes to buy gardening stuff, and they dutifully mark my place in all of my novels and textbooks to this day.

What on earth does this have to do with anything, you may ask? Well, when Christina and I started looking at baby blankets on Ravelry, we were struck by how insanely beautiful Astrid Sivertsen‘s Vindauga Blanket was. It’s a huge project, with seemingly 64 different unique colors, all made out of hand-dyed sample mini-skeins that the author made herself. It’s stunning, and absolutely a masterpiece of dying and handknitting skill.

However, I am not a hand-dyer in any way, and I would probably ruin hundreds of dollars of yarn in the attempt to make anything even close to this thing of beauty. What I do have though, is a mastery of the subtle art of drawing things out on graph paper, plus a love of little boxed of color stacked on top of other boxes with white borders in-between.  You see where I’m going with this?

20180425_154247

I sat down with the color chart for Cascade 220 Superwash Merino (a workhorse yarn with amazing stitch definition that still somehow makes one of the softest, squishiest fabrics possible after blocking) and some colored pencils, and I plotted out a plan. Since the original Vindauga pattern is more of a recipe with changeable elements, rather than a strict pattern, I knew I’d be able to adjust things without too much stress. I plotted out 7 rows and columns, 7 colors ranging from brown to green, passing through reds and golds on the way, going through the blanket on the diagonal.

If you look closely, you’ll see that the whole thing is plotted out like a crossword puzzle, with diagonal symmetry, pairing the darkest with the lightest color, then the next darkest and lightest, then the next set, until everything meets in the middle. Those among you that enjoy these things can then catch out the inconsistency if you wish. Give up? The center block doesn’t follow these rules, mostly because I just wanted an extra block of that gorgeous burnt orange, so that throws off the whole thing a tiny bit. Oh well, it was worth it.

20180531_101216

For those of your who’d like to make your own with the same autumn colorway, here’s the colors: Rich Brown (03), Raspberry (22), Burnt Orange (06), Golden Yellow (05), Artisan Gold (08), Dark Moss (10), and Tree Top (15), with the “frame” color of Cream (01). You’ll need 1 skein each of each of the window colors, and 2 of the border color, and you’ll be knitting it up on size 7 needles, or whatever gives you the fabric you desire. My Prismacolor pencils weren’t exactly the right shades, but you get the idea.

After all of the colors were picked, then I knitted the strips for the blanket. Because the original pattern calls for 2 strands of what I assume is something sort of fingering-weight held together, I had to make some modifications to adjust for the light worsted I was using. Each vindauga (window in Old Norse!) is 24 sts wide and 14 ridges high in garter stitch, with the frame borders 3 ridges high.

20180519_113745

I was in love with my little garter stitch sushi rolls.

After all of those strips were knit, there were a lot of ends to weave in.

20180519_113841

See? A lot.

20180519_114252

It’s hard to see, but because of how stretchy the garter stitch fabric is, I chose to weave in each end by following the stitch lines, mimicking the last row of stitches to both conceal the ends, but also to allow for the blanket to stretch and move without working out the ends accidentally.

20180519_121648

If you’re following along at home, that’s 7 windows per strip, plus 6 border areas, which means 26 ends per strip. Not to mention the ends still to come with joining the strips together. It’s a little maddening. You just have to keep thinking good thoughts.

20180523_184034

Then came the process of grafting the strips together. I’m sure that the process used in the original pattern makes sense, but I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Instead, here’s what I did. I picked up and knit 2 rows of cream onto the sides of each seam. Then, I held the right sides together and grafted them together with Kitchener stitch, but I treated both rows like the right side. That means, for each stitch, I pulled the yarn through knit-wise to take the stitch off, and then pulled through purl-wise to leave it on, rather than switching between the two depending on their needle position. This will make more sense when you’re in it, trust me.

20180523_191746

20180531_100814

That way, I ended up with perfect purl bumps right in the middle of the frame. It took a bit of perfecting over time, especially with keeping the tension just-right, but after doing 6 of them, each 116 stitches long, it became second-nature.

20180531_100805

Ugh. So pretty. What a cool way to join strips. What a cool way to make a blanket in general. Astrid, you’re the coolest.

As for the border, the pattern has you do provisional cast-ons, and you leave your stitches live at the tops of each strip, so picking up your stitches is so much easier than you’d think. I picked up 2 stitches per “frame” section between the strips, just to keep things nice and even.

20180531_100904

In the corners, you increase two stitches on opposite sides of the corner each time to keep the corners flat and pointy. I just did bar increases, leaving the little row of knit stitches in place to mark the corner lines. I really like how it makes it look sort of “beveled” there, but you can do whatever increase strikes your fancy.

20180531_101304

Then, you weave in all of those remaining ends. Of which there are…26 more? I think? So 208 ends? I’m glad I didn’t know that before I started, or I might not have had the strength.

And then you can block it, which is really just a magical experience with the Cascade 220 Superwash Merino, because it just turns into this gorgeous silky stuff with amazing drape, while still keeping your garter stitch ridges all popped and perfect.

And then, just marvel at the thing for a while.

20180531_101252

20180531_100753

20180531_100728

20180531_100912

20180531_101041

And then wonder if you have the inner fortitude to make a queen-sized one, because you want to cover every horizontal surface in your house in those perfect little garter-stitch windows. They’re so good.

Now, if you did yours the same way that I did mine, you’ll end up with a tiny bit left over of each color. Just enough to make you think that you need to make a extra something special for the big sister. I’m a big proponent in getting presents for the other kids when there’s a new baby, so they don’t feel left out of the celebration.

Enter I Can Knit a Rainbow, a puffy little piece of adorableness designed by Clare Doornbos and featured in Knitty‘s First Fall 2014.  I used each color, moving from greens to brown, accidentally leaving out the Artisan Gold, but then ultimately not being too broken up about it because it came out so dang cute.

20180703_150620

20180703_160703

Look at that 70s modern kitchen color template action. All that mustard and burnt orange and avocado. Turns out, I can knit a 70s rainbow, and it’s even cuter than I thought it would be.

20180703_173933

20180703_174232

It’s so soft and squishy and adorable. I want to make a million more of them and hand them out on the street to everyone. The more rainbows, the better.

20180707_094656

And so ends the first installment of the Summer of Baby Blankets. But don’t worry, there’s plenty more cables and colorwork and nit-picky pattern adjustments to come.