Sunday, January 25, 2009

Catching up on the New Year

The New Year's knitting has gotten off to a slow start but things are getting back to what passes for normal at Chez The Kneedler. At least I now have evidence that I have really been knitting, at least a little bit. I've been slowly working away on the Striped Fringe scarf that I blogged about a couple of posts ago, and while it is indeed slow going (size 1 needles/1 x1 rib) it's the perfect project for my somewhat slow state of mind these days.

The centre solid section is now about 20" long (the fringes are around 16") and if I follow the pattern the centre will be 50" before I start the fringes on the other end. After holding the scarf as is up to myself, I think I might prefer the centre to be more like 60" but we'll see how well my patience and yarn hold out. I don't want it to be skimpy in length but I also don't want it to drag the ground when I wear it. I also want to navigate the tricky waters of using up as much of the yarn as possible, without running short on the fringes. I fortunately had the presence of mind to weigh several of the balls after finishing the fringes to give me an idea of how many grams I need to leave after finishing the centre section.

The centre section is worked in intarsia, the very idea of which often gives knitters a queasy feeling. The secret to a safe and sane intarsia experience involves two simple steps. If your yarn balls (and centre-pull balls are critical here) are held in an orderly fashion in some way that doesn't allow them won't move around half the battle is won. For this scarf, I have a small bag that is shallow, long and narrow with a zippered top and it fits the bill perfectly. Depending on your project and the number of yarns you are dealing with, , a large ziplock bag or even a shoebox with a lid will work. For the shoebox, punch a hole in the lid for each yarn and thread them through the holes. Needless to say, this method requires that the threading be done before you cast on, not after - and yes, this is the voice of experience talking here.

The second tip is to always turn your work from right to wrong side in a clockwise fashion, and then from wrong to right side counter-clockwise (if you're a lefty it might be necessary to reverse this order, depending on how you knit). These two steps really work wonders on those nasty intarsia yarn tangles.

Granted, this doesn't eliminate all tangles, especially for one as prone as I am to reversing left/right as much as I am, but it's a simple matter to occasionally spread out my knitting, carefully pick up one ball at a time, and unweaving them through the other yarn strands to straighten everything out again. Sometimes it only takes doing this with 2 or 3 of the balls before all the yarns are once again happily in order.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ode to a Knitted Blanket

No matter how beautiful, or well fitting, or skillfully crafted a knitted object is, at their most basic level most knitted objects are utilitarian items destined to a life of glorious service to their creators or lucky recipients. This is no small or inconsequential fate, and it's part of what I love about knitting. While of humble originals, knitting can so easily result in a finished work that extremely beautiful as well as extremely useful.

But there are occasions when a knitted object transcends itself and becomes something that truly makes a difference in the wearer/user's existence. Chemo caps, prayer shawls, charitable knitting, and the like are clearly examples of this. However, on a more personal and private level, may I tell you the tale of my own transcendent piece of knitting?

I finished knitting the Moderne Log Cabin Blanket last September (click on the link for my post about the completed blanket) from the Mason-Dixon knitting book and have enjoyed it as an occasional napping blanket, but mostly have enjoyed it for its elegantly simple beauty. The silk and wool yarn is also truly luscious - Silky Wool by Elsbeth Lavold.

But in recent weeks I have been quite ill, resulting in being both very cold and in need of spending many hours sleeping or simply lying about the house in a very languid state. Most of those hours have been spent snuggled under my Moderne blanket, and I can honestly say I think this blanket has contributed as much to my feeling better as anything else that I have done.

It is simply a perfect thing - it provides just the right amount of warmth without being as heavy as the big bulky comforter on my bed; just soft enough to make me love to snuggle it up under my chin; just the right size to cover as much of myself as I wanted. The yarn is gorgeous, the colours made my heart sing, and the design of the blanket has a quiet elegance that soothed me when I needed soothing. I dragged the blanket around the house with me like a 3-year old with her favourite blankie; when I finally returned to work I had to restrain myself from taking it along to work as well (I might have actually done it if there was any reasonable place in the office to nap, but the floor was my only option and I know how filthy that carpet is - yuk!) I have grown to love this blanket with a passion I don't often reserve for inanimate objects.

May I suggest that if someone in your life your life needs a little extra comfort and warmth that you knit them a blanket? And may I recommend the Moderne Log Cabin blanket in Silky Wool? Your recipient will thank you for years to come.