Sunday, November 14, 2010

Knighthood

I'm officially a prince and a knight, as the above envelope clearly indicates. It's good to be me...

It's a beautiful Sunday morning and, although I secretly resent Sundays simply because they're the end of the weekend, I find them to be wonderfully suited for certain things like napping, knitting and enjoying an entire pot of coffee. Yes, milk and sugar, please. Thanks!

I'm about a week overdue in properly expressing my thanks and gratitude to one of my favorite intrawebs knit buds, Peter, who sent me a fantastic care package! As a dude on a yarn diet for the past ten months, I was understandably twice as excited when I opened it up and found all the goodies inside!


The main reason for the package was to return to me the grey Icelandic top there in the back. For those not in the know, it's essentially a bag of unspun wool, acquired a couple years ago when I thought I would spin myself oodles of gorgeous yarns using only my trusty drop spindle. In fact, it was Peter himself who inspired me to give it a go. I discovered soon enough, though, that spinning just isn't my bag, baby...so I send the grey fluff to him, hoping he might get more spinning use out of it than I did. Peter, however, has been crazy busy, moving cross-country for school and even taking a jaunt to Bali to study their traditional music. Yeah, he pretty much rocks!

So, though the fluff remained unspun (and probably will into the near future), he did include a collection of seriously yummy treats, including those of the edible variety:

It's a thing with knitters...chocolate. Oh, and cupcakes, too, which seem to have been adopted as the official treat of the knitter world. Personally, I like normal cupcakes with a little frosting on top. Recently, though, cupcakeries have sprouted up all over this fine nation, serving what can only be referred to as mutant bastard cupcakes, sometimes the size of a small child's head, filled with oozing, delicious cremes and fillings, topped with metric ton of icing and sometimes with edible sculptures of chocolate, spun sugar and other craziness.

But, I digress. Though the chocolate will be thoroughly and sensually enjoyed, I assure you, the real excitement comes from the other stuff, mainly new yarn! Starting off, we have a beautiful, shadowy hank of the oft-coveted Malabrigo worsted, containing deep hues of blue, green and a bit of brown. It's a popular yarn, a little on the pricey side, but knits up like spun butter, so very smooth. Yum...but what I'm most excited about is this one:

It's a hank of hand-spun done by Peter himself. Seriously, I love this...from the colors to the plying of the various strands. Peter, seriously, you know how to spin some serious fiber, my friend. This makes the third hank I've been fortunate to receive and really, in my opinion, from one knitter to another, a hank of expertly rendered hand-spun is one of the most thoughtful and meaningful gifts. I know how much time is involved in its creation...thank you, Peter, so very much. In other news, 'Ber's Baby Blanket is officially on the needles and speeding ahead! I'm almost ready to add in the first garter ridge of accent...which I'm dying to do if only for the little variety it will give me.

On the upside of repetition: this blanket is great movie/tv knitting! Yes, copious amount of the same, smallish repeat but I've made it through a third of the second season of "Buffy: The Vampire Slayer." No, I'm not kidding...it's like seeing an old friend all over again. Plus, being able to stream it through Netflix and my PS3...nothing short of the single most revolutionary development for homebodies and nesters everywhere. Seriously...it's the solution to over-priced cable and satelite services.

Now, if you'll excuse me...I have a pot of coffee, a bag of chocolates and a baby blanket to work on.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What's Up, Baby Blanket?

I. am. bloody. brilliant!

How's that for a Saturday morning affirmation, huh? Now, to put this all into context, I can also be completely clueless on some counts, especially where math is concerned, which is what makes this story such a sweet little victory.

Since my last post, the elusive chevron pattern needed for 'Ber's Baby Blanket has, well...eluded me. I knew what I was looking for...see? I even sketched it out:

...but I had been unable to find just the right pattern. Some of my online knit buds even tried helping out with suggestions, but they weren't quite right. In order to achieve the V-shape characteristic of the chevron, you need a combination of increases and corresponding decreases, so that when you increase your stitches, you form the top of the mountain and when you decrease, you get the valley. You always decrease by the same number you increased, thus always ending the with the same number of stitches you started with. The problem is that most of the patterns I had so far found involved the use of yarn-overs as the increase method, forming lacy eyelets which could cause a tangle hazard to little people under the age of one.

I wanted a more solid fabric, one without gaps for little hands and feet. I found one that was close:

...and so I sat down and started knitting up a swatch, partially to determine gauge, partially to experience how the pattern was constructed. Knitting and grammar are similar in my mind in the sense that they're only made up of components, replaceable, changeable components. A noun is a noun and you can always substitute one for another. Likewise, a double increase is a double increase...and if you don't like the way it looks, substitute one for another. Once you realize this, whether about grammar or knitting, that one component can always be substituted for another, similar component, creativity begins to really flow freely.


In the lower half of this swatch, you can see the original pattern, which due to the use of a k2tog-ssk combo as the double decrease, creates a vertical gap. For the double decrease: a pair of k1fb. Not bad, not bad...but not what I wanted, not quite. So...switch it up.

Instead of k1fb twice, I opt for k1m1 twice, picking up and twisting from in between stitches to make a new stitch. And, instead of the k2tog-ssk combo? Sl2 as if to k2tog, k1, p2sso. This put the middle stitch squarely on top, giving a nice defined ridge.

Eureka...almost. As I started knitting with this modified pattern, I realized my stitch count was off. Apparently, my improvised pattern didn't need as many stitches as the pattern I was bastardizing. So...this required some figuring, as you can see:

...but I finally got it. I finally fuckin' got it! A solid chevron fabric with no lacy eyelets and a single garter stitch ridge for accent.

...and this is why I. am. bloody. brilliant!

So, going back to the sketch. Remember the sketch? Yup...

...so, the idea is a white chevron field and every 5 or 10 rows, a garter stitch ridge of accent color, cycling between crimson, dusty rose and pink, according to the color scheme 'Ber had indicated. Badda-bing, badda-boom...ladies and gentlemen, I do believe we are ready for take off.