Sunday, July 29, 2012

Itty Bitty Baby Booties!

Recently a complete stranger, a non-knitter, asked me to knit some baby booties for her to give to a friend. See, I am such a hardcore knitter that here in Austin lots of people I don’t even know know I knit (It’s a long story but the short version is that I often knit in public, and there’s a well-known DJ that likes to talk about my knitting on-air, and also I sometimes knit “premiums” to folks who make donations to support my various blogs).

Well the baby booties in the picture she sent me looked so cute and seemed like they’d be easy enough. Plus I like the challenge of trying to figure out a pattern before I actually break down and resort to hunting down the original. Well dagnabit if figuring out how to make these did not elude me. Try as I might, I could not create a proper prototype. I found a similar pattern at ETSY, but when I bought it, it seemed way, way too complicated for what I guessed would be a super quick project once I figured out the trick to the kimono wrap.

Fortunately, I did track down the actual pattern for these booties eventually. And sure enough, they were quick to make, to understate the matter-- this despite the instructions are in French. Aren’t they super adorable? I did them in green since I don’t know the gender of the baby who’ll receive them. (Besides, I don’t like the old pink/blue assignations for girl/boy and try to avoid those colors even when I do know the gender.)

I’ve made baby socks in the past, and I think socks are even more adorable. But considering how wickedly fast newborns grow out of this stuff, I confess this crossover booty is a much smarter choice—no turning the heel. I mean, not that it’s that hard to turn a heel on an itty-bitty sock. But not turning a heel is quicker still!

What about y’all—any favorite baby patterns? And when you make something for a baby who has non-knitting parents, do you emphasize how much work went into the project, and offer washing advice, and strongly hint they should keep the item as an eventual heirloom? I’ve made a number of gifts (especially blankets) that just seem to disappear and I wonder what happened to them. Has this ever happened to you-- The Mystery of the Disappearing Handknit Gift? Do tell!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Process and Progress

A couple of months ago I told the tale of how I have been knitting hats for a pair of young sisters I know ever since before each was born. The picture above is of the finished products, the latest in a series of hats I hope to be knitting for them well into their future. This time around, Annabelle, the older sister, came up with the design-- "a lemon with legs." I was so pleased with the silly results, that I went again and copied it in orange for her sister Clementine (get it -- orange for Clementine?).

Then I knocked out a pair of my famously mis-matched socks using some obscenely lush yarn from Alchemy. And then, sort of to my own surprise, I actually did set out to knit a Pi Shawl as designed by Elizabeth Zimmermann. At first I told myself not to get too crazy, to go with the simplest version she describes. But then I decided what the heck, I would go for the trickiest version. I knew, going into it, that mistakes were inevitable. This left me feeling challenged and not without some dread. I hate frogging and have been known to plow through when really I should go back and fix things.

With the shawl, I got many thousands of stitches on before I really hit an error, and the error didn't become apparent to me for another several hundred stitches. So then I had to make a judgement call. I knew I might regret it down the line, but I chose to plow through and rationalized that my mistake would be consistent throughout the pattern (since I started x stitches too far over) so I would rely on that handy old excuse, "It's a design element!"

I've made other errors along the way, but the truth is, I know my process-- and I've come to know my process really well. I know some knitters can knock out flawless work the first time around. But I find that for my head to really understand how something works, I just have to rough my way through a prototype. Then the next one I make will be much better because I will have a clear idea of how the pattern works.

Right now, I just bumped up to the next ring on my Pi Shawl, which has lots of lace in it. As you can see below, my partner, Ori, enjoys pretending that the the shawl is actually a hat that might net him a role in a Shakespeare play. Stay tuned for more updates. Despite the sundry errors I am super pumped that I have pushed myself to the next level.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Inspiration in the Hen House

A friend once told me that she'd read an article that suggests that when we are out shopping, odds are very high that whatever we buy will match the clothes we're wearing. Who knows if this is true, or how (or WHY) researchers even study this stuff? But I recalled the story as I recently took on the terrifying (to me) Pi Shawl Project.

I was probably about 5,000 stitches in before it dawned on me that the MadelineTosh hand dyed yarn I'm using for the shawl looks an awful lot like... my chickens. Yes, that's right, I have a flock of backyard chickens and I think I was subliminally coerced into buying Terra Verte, this black/green hand dyed merino light.

Three of my chickens are Australorps, at least I think that's what they're called. And the friend I bought them from pointed out that, those these girls appear to be all black, if you look straight down on them from above (bird's eye view!) you'll see a green sheen. And so it's true! These gals are gorgeous and shimmery (and they lay tons of eggs-- thanks ladies!). Similarly, the yarn is mostly black, but appears green at certain angles.

I'm grateful to have such inspiration close at hand. Truth is, I'm not especially good with figuring out colors that go together or even monochromatic color/pattern combo. And if I relied on the clothes I wear to guide me-- ha! Let's just say I'm not exactly a fashion plate. So I believe I will continue to rely on nature to guide me. I've also got three black and white chickens-- perhaps something houndstooth next.