Monday, December 30, 2013

Tillie baby blanket

What do you know? It's baby season again. A colleague just announced her pregnancy, and I have two other friends with a bun in the proverbial oven now. Time to fire up the ol' baby-knitting engine and get some gifts in the works before the showers hit!

Luckily, I just finished writing up a pattern from the LAST baby avalanche I went through, in which a bunch of the expectant parents opted to find out the baby's gender on the day of delivery. While I totally respect the decision--and even admire it, as I wouldn't have the willpower to resist finding out--it does throw a bit of a wrench in the works when it comes to almost any kind of baby gift. I am seeing that there is NOT a lot of gender-neutral stuff out there past the plain white onesie. Even the items that come in yellow or pale green (which are apparently, and respectively, the classic and contemporary code colors for gender-nonspecific baby gear) tend to have some coded gender references. You know, ladybugs or lizards, that kind of shit.

Knitting patterns aren't much better, although the silhouettes are at least more non-aligned. Where you hit the wall with those is in the baby-yarns section of the LYS, which just looks like Tinkerbell's toilet to me. LOTTA pastels on that wall, folks. Don't babies need basic black and classic navy too? Or, you know, teal and tangerine and deep, rich earth tones?

If anyone knows a better way to style a baby blanket than draping it on a chair, please tell me.

I'm not saying I've totally solved these problems, but along with the Peabey Bear stuffed animal (which is nice because it's soft and baby-safe, especially if you knit it up in and stuff it with organic cotton) the Tillie Blanket pattern is my stab at it. It's got a bit of eyelet texture, so it's not so boring to knit, and there's a subtle flounce at the edge, yet the overall effect is not so lacy and ruffly as to be categorically girly-girly. It works just as well in blue or pink as it would in yellow or soft green; I opted for a nice sandy neutral, which should go with pretty much anything (but coordinates especially well with burp stains). It's worked up in an easy-care sport-weight yarn that comes in a wide range of colors--including a fabulous tangerine orange, rich red, chocolate-y brown, and yes, basic black, if the baby in question has a daring fashion sense or artsy parents who would go for that. No more waiting 'till the baby comes out to cast on and start knitting!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas blues!

Dear Santa,

It's great that you came early this year with a set of those new Caspian interchangeable needle tips from Knit Picks, because I'm still clinging to the idea that I might fulfill my New Year's resolution to seriously bust some stash in 2013. New needles are going to be just the thing to help me settle in with a few pounds of wool and all ninety-one hours of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and crank out stuff for everyone's stockings before the clock runs out on my promise to myself!

I really am absurdly pleased by these babies. Something non-knitters, or new knitters, often find surprising is the intensely personal--and contingent--nature of one's choice of needles. (Actually, what non-knitters seem to find most surprising that there is more than one kind, since point sticks are pointy sticks, right? I can't tell you the number of times I've been knitting in public on circulars and seen that puzzled look on someone's face that comes immediately before they ask, "What does that string in between the sticks do?")

(Image from WoolFreeandLovinKnit--thx!)

Me, I've been through 'em all, practically. As a kid, I first learned on the kind of metal-capped, size 8, pastel-coral-colored plastic straights that look so nice arranged in an antique jug in your sun-drenched craft studio. I knitted on and off throughout my teens and twenties, mostly with a few pairs of hand-me-down plastic circulars from my mom's 70's-era collection (possibly Bryspun, but I've never been able to verify that conclusively). I didn't know anything about gauge and was pretty cavalier about things like fit and finish, so the results weren't always great, but at the time I did like the way they felt in my hands--springy, with nice sharp tips that slid neatly in and out of the stitches. The plastic finish was smooth, but not so much so that the needles were always slipping out of the live stitches at inopportune moments or during transit.

When I got more serious about knitting in my late twenties and early thirties, I discovered that gauge was a thing, and that you actually get better results when you use the right size needles (see, kids? College, graduate school, and then more graduate school really do make you smarter!). So I started buying needles as needed for various projects: Lantern Moon ebony circulars, Chiao Goo bamboo dpns, the odd pair of Addi Turbos. I developed a wee obsession with Brittany birch dpns for a while there--I liked that there were five in each set, instead of four (having lost a couple of those extra needles to cat-chewing incidents over the years) and the smooth blond wood spoke to me, especially in the shorter lengths they offered. But I will freely admit that for a long time I was a promiscuous knitter--I'd still go with just about anything that came to hand, and my needle library was a real hodgepodge of different brands, styles, and sizes. Given the only common feature, which was that they were mostly sizes 4-6 (with just the occasional 8 or 9), you really could say I knitted like I dated...

So perhaps it's no coincidence that when I moved to Texas in 2006 with my new husband, I was finally ready to settle down with one kind of needle, the one that was just right for this here Goldilocks. Turns out the Knit Picks Options interchangeable tips in the Harmony wood finish was THE NEEDLE FOR ME. Other Harmony knitters will know exactly why: Super-pointy tips; smooth but still toothy finish on the wood; fine, flexible cables with unobtrusive joins; very reasonable price point. The only thing I didn't love about these needles was that they were...purple.  I don't hate the color; obviously, it's not a dealbreaker, since I've been knitting happily on these needles for years now. I have a plum-colored dress I quite like, and a dusty lilac one, too. But I'm not really a purple person, and deep down in my heart, I confess, I have wished for these needles to be a different color. (Different, that is, from any of the OTHER three finish options these needles come in, which include a nickel-finish metal, Zephyr clear acrylic, and Sunstruck blond-wood laminate, none of which are so much better than the original purple for my purposes that I've felt it worth switching...perhaps since they all come with the signature purple cable.)

Lo and behold, they come out with these Caspian needles! They're a beautiful peacock-tail blend of blues and greens, with lovely deep-teal cables. I heart them so much; they're just what I've been wishing for all these years. To paraphrase Dean Martin: Santa may have brought you some stars for your shoes, but Knit Picks kindly gave me the blues...the ocean-colored, emerald-cabled Caspian blues.

I'll be wishing all of you the best for a warm and joyous holiday season, and for a bright and bountiful year to come!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Winter Bride

Thanks for checking in--I'm back, and with a new pattern, too! Winter Bride Gloves just went up on Ravelry, and is perfect for your holiday giving projects (fancy! but easier than they look) as well as any New Year's nuptials to which you might be invited (buttercream frosting will blend right in on these babies).

I've missed knitting, but putting together a new pattern was fun, and I'm really pleased with how these turned out. It's almost enough to make all those false starts from the last year feel more like sketches than failures. (A recent home-office clean-up effort ended with me surrounded by a pile of half-finished and aborted and unraveling attempts at all kinds of things, in tears and feeling like they were a self-portrait of the artist as a young fuck-up...and honestly, I'm not even that young!) With luck, these will be the first little flurries that turn into a proper snowstorm of creativity. Watch this space!