Archives for category: last minute knitted gifts

“Most of all, he saw her waist, just where it narrowed, before the skirts spread. . . . He thought of her momentarily as an hour-glass, containing time, which was caught in her like a thread of sand, of stone, of specks of life, of things that had lived and would live. She held his time, she contained his past and his future, both now cramped together, with such ferocity and such gentleness, into this small circumference.”

– A. S. Byatt, Possession: A Romance (You can use Search Inside on the Amazon page linked here to read the whole passage.)

The scene this quote is taken from is quite possibly my favorite passage of all time, in my favorite book of all time. Maybe not–there are plenty of other wonderful books in competition with this one, after all. I have yet to encounter anything that sent chills down my spine quite like this, though. The way the timeline and plot of the entire book swung around this pivotal scene on the beach; the way the symbols, images, and linguistic references fell so neatly into place, like the pieces of an intricate and wonderful puzzle; the way Byatt captures that wonderfully bittersweet feeling of being gloriously happy, but knowing the feeling cannot last.

With that in mind, I bring you the Hourglass Pullover, finished at last.



We walked downtown on Saturday, clad in handknits, and admiring the glistening sculptures of ice-coated bushes here and there, watching squirrels and the first early cardinals searching for food in the melting snow, breaking off icicles from car bumpers and fencing with them before throwing them down on the pavement to shatter.

These photos were taken on the Indiana University campus, which was quiet and peaceful, it being the first weekend of Spring Break. We stopped again, a bit further on, and took pictures of ourselves in front of the Sample Gates, the iconic entrance to campus, at Kirkwood and Indiana.

We enjoyed some of our favorite Bloomington pleasures: going to the public library to get our fix of free books and DVDs, stopping in at the yarn shop and bookstores downtown, having lunch at Roots, the vegetarian restaurant on the square, buying beer and chocolate at Sahara Mart.

While we were at Roots, I spied something interesting across the street–sadly, didn’t get any pictures of it, but it turned out to be a big brown falcon that had caught a pigeon and was perched in a tree outside the courthouse, eating its lunch as we ate ours. It was our second interesting brush with birds that day: I woke up to the sight of two fat, fluffed-up mourning doves perched on my bike basket on the balcony, directly outside the French door to our bedroom.

We saw our friend Jeff on our walk home, just as it started to snow again, and he gave us a ride the rest of the way home. At home, we watched about 20 minutes of The Motorcycle Diaries before switching to a documentary about three-toed sloths (both courtesy of the Monroe County Public Library).

And yesterday, Sunday, we rode our bikes out to run errands in the cold, and later, went to a jalapeno-filled potluck dinner at our friends Steve and Jeanne’s house, with their friend Dan and our friend Charlie, and had drinks and Girl Scout Cookies and played Super Smash Brothers on the Wii (I’m abysmal at it, despite usually liking fighting games).

On balance, we’ve been very happy in Bloomington. We’ve had so many wonderful, simple pleasures to enjoy; our town is peaceful, quiet, small, easy to navigate; best of all, we’ve made great friends here, whom we run into randomly around town, or with whom we can make last-minute plans without the transportation/logistics issues of a larger city. I get to work at home at the moment, doing useful work for a company with wonderful, interesting, intelligent coworkers. It’s been a real pleasure making friends with local knitters through the internet and meeting up every couple of weeks to knit and chat and admire each other’s projects.

It’s been bittersweet, though, because we know it can’t last. Rahul is wrapping up his MBA, and even if we stay in town longer (a possibility, since he’s applied to a Ph.D. program here) it won’t be the same, since our best friends here are all, or almost all, moving away at the end of the year. We’re going up to UW-Madison later this week–another possibility for a place we might be in a few months–hopefully stopping in Chicago to see some museums and/or drink some green beer on the way back. I don’t know where we’ll be in a few months, or what we’ll be doing.

Again from Byatt:

“Let us not think of time.”

“We have reached Faust’s non-plus. We say to every moment ‘Verweile doch, du bist so schoen,’ and if we are not immediately damned, the stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike.’”

Here we are, then, in the narrow waist of the hourglass, watching our days slip by, with such ferocity and such gentleness, as the snow melts and spring edges in.

Whatever we do next, I’m sure it will be fine, as well, but I can’t help but look around, and think of how lovely it has been to be here, now.

Pattern: The Hourglass Sweater, from Last Minute Knitted Gifts

Size made: Small (33 inches)

Yarn used: Fleece Artist Blue Face DK, a 100% bluefaced Leicester yarn, in Periwinkle. I bought this on sale–30% off, I think–from Ram Wools. I used perhaps 1.4 skeins of this, or about 700 yards (it comes in a giant put-up, 250 g/450 m)

Needles used: US size 7/4.5 mm and US size 10/6.0 mm circulars

Date started: November 14, 2007 (cast on as an airplane knitting project for my trip back home for Thanksgiving/San Diego)

Date finished: March 3, 2008 (it took me ages! All that stockinette, and the never-ending giant skein of yarn, was disheartening)

Mods: My main modification was the gauge: I got 19 sts and 23 rows to 4 inches, so I had to adjust the number of rows throughout. 7 rounds between body decrease rounds, 11 rounds between body increase rounds; 30 rounds between sleeve decrease rounds, 13 rounds between sleeve increase rounds.

I didn’t adjust the even/decrease rounds in the yoke, but I did work 2 extra sets of decrease/even rounds to reduce the neckline size, winding up with 10 sts at the top of each sleeve instead of 14.

I knit the sleeves first, magic-loop. I used a provisional cast-on for all lower hems, and knit them up into the live stitches. I used a size 10 needle to do this for the sleeves, but forgot to bring it with me when I was knitting up the body hem, so the body hem was knit up with a size 7. My reasoning for this was that the hem always tends to pull in the row of stitches where it’s been knit up, so using a larger needle size would allow for more yarn in that row of stitches, compensating for the additional length the yarn needs to go through the hem stitches in addition to the body stitches. It seemed to work fairly well–you can see in the pictures that it seems like the sleeves have pulled/ruffled less than the lower hem on the body of the sweater.

For the neckline hem, I figured it would be too fiddly and annoying to sew the live stitches down to the body, so I just bound off using *k2tog, place st back on left needle* and then used the long tail from the bind-off to loosely whipstitch the neckline hem down to the inside of the sweater.

Notes:

The pictures above aren’t great, but they’ll do, unless I get the urge to do a new photoshoot.

Check the errata (PDF) for the sweater before you begin. If you follow the directions as written, the increases and decreases won’t stack up on either side of a central stitch, but will migrate to one side or the other.

The yarn did pool quite a bit, and as I’ve mentioned in previous entries, it turns out I’m not crazy about the hand-dyed, variegated aesthetic when it comes to sweaters, but I love this pullover anyway. It’s very comfortable and soft, with a slight shine to it almost like unbrushed mohair, and from what I know about BFL, the yarn will probably wear well, with minimal pilling. I think the overall shape of the sweater–boatneck raglan with waist shaping and bell sleeves–is pretty flattering, and the boatneck is just the right size for me, not too high, so it’s comfortable to wear, and not too low, so it doesn’t slip off my shoulders. Along with the Leaf Lace Pullover, it’s a useful, casual pullover that will make a great addition to my wardrobe.

I started using a new technique to count rows on this sweater. I find it less obtrusive than using a row counter and easier and faster than stopping to write down hash marks on a separate piece of paper–my two other usual techniques for counting rows. (I also sometimes use a row counter made of a piece of waste yarn tied into loops, one for every row I want to count, and move down one loop as I finish each row, but that technique doesn’t work well if you have, say, 10 even rounds to every decrease round, because you need such a long, dangly row counter.) So this method is incredibly simple, but somehow it had never occurred to me before. Here it is:

Counting Rows with Two Stitch Markers

Place one stitch marker at the beginning of the round as usual (the pink pearl marker in the picture below). Now place one more stitch marker next to it. Every time you come to the end of the round, move the second stitch marker (the blue glass/pearl stitch marker in the picture below) one stitch to the left by removing it, knitting one additional stitch, then replacing it. When you’ve completed the appropriate number of even rounds, work your increase or decrease round, remove the second marker altogether, work back to the beginning of the round and place the second stitch marker back in its starting position next to the first one. To figure out which round you’re on, count the number of stitches between the first and second marker. No stitches means you’ve just completed an increase or decrease round and you’re currently on the first even round. One stitch means you’ve completed one even round. And so on. So in the photo below, I have completed 4 rounds even:

I knit one more round and move the second stitch marker to the left: five rounds completed:

And so on. The first marker never moves, and your increases/decreases will still take place around that marker (the pink pearl marker, in this example). And, my demo photo aside, this method of counting will most likely not work if you’re working lace or cables in the zone between the markers. But it’s simple, you don’t have to pause to pick up a pen or fiddle with a dangly row counter, and it works well for plain stockinette.

Yesterday I came down with some annoying illness, most likely the flu. Woke up in the middle of the night on Sunday feeling nauseous and wondering if all the double dipping at the Superbowl party we went to might have landed me something terrible. Then I was so wiped out I took most of the day off work yesterday and spent about 10 hours sleeping (between my Sunday night sleeping and my sleeping last night). Now I’m back to work, but feeling feverish, crabby, achy, and tired. I’m hoping complaining will make me feel better!

Anyway–some knitting-related content:

- Here’s a nice little tutorial for making your own DPN WIP holders. Vegan ones, to boot.

- I started up my Hourglass Sweater again during one of the three or four hours I was awake yesterday. I couldn’t handle the thought of anything more than plain stockinette, so it worked out. I finished one sleeve (yay!) and started the second one. I’m knitting it in Fleece Artist BFL DK in Periwinkle and the colors are really gorgeous. I keep hearing all these paeans to the texture of BFL, so I’m interested to see how it looks and feels once it’s all knitted up, washed, and blocked.

- Of possible interest to Bloomington knitters: I stopped by the Textillery factory outlet this weekend. They have many nice, cheap woven throws and blankets; sadly, their selection of coned yarn is of more interest to weavers. There were a couple of nice yarns for knitting, super cheap, something like $10 a pound: some slightly slubby fingering-weight rayon (I swatched some of this in a lace class at Yarns Unlimited and it was actually really nice to knit, reminded me a bit of Sea Silk) that would be good for lace scarves or shawls, and some cotton chenille that would be nice for washcloths, such as the Reverse Bloom Flower Washcloth (pattern in Weekend Knitting, but available for free here). If you’re in the AIT/motel complex and trying to find the outlet, go down past the Quality Inn and all the way to the left.

I love boring colors lately!

Despite my issues with Noro Silk Garden–the price, mainly, and then all the little squiggly white fibers in the yarn that remind me of quinoa–I fell completely in love with its natural colorways, 267 and 269, after seeing 269 on CosmicPluto’s blog. When I was at Article Pract and spotted both colorways in their bins of Silk Garden, it seemed like a great opportunity to support a local yarn store/do some souvenir shopping/cave in to my greed for these colors. So I picked up one skein of each and cast on for another stripy scarf almost immediately.

Noro Kureyon comes in natural colors as well (149 and 211, I think), but I don’t think they’re nearly as nice as the Silk Garden. Kureyon has a matte, felted finish to it, making the colors look almost like flat pigments on the surface of the yarn, whereas Silk Garden has a subtle, rich shine from the silk and mohair, with the color and texture broken up a bit by the little white quinoa-fibers, and consequently the color looks much deeper. I don’t mind the flatness of Kureyon’s texture when it comes to its specialty, rainbow/crayon colors, but I think the natural colors definitely look nicer in Silk Garden.

(If you’re wondering how Plymouth Boku compares, it is very softly spun, lacking the felty, hard quality of Kureyon, and it’s not shiny like Silk Garden–I think the silk content in Boku manifests in small, pale, tweedy flecks in the yarn, sort of like in Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool.)

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed every stitch of this project because of the fabulous yarn. Maybe one of these days, I’ll plonk down $100 and make myself a natural-colored, stripy Silk Garden pullover.

The Birch and Oak Scarf


(I’ve been playing with Picnik!)

Pattern: Child’s Rainbow Scarf from Last Minute Knitted Gifts

Yarn used: 2 skeins Noro Silk Garden, one in color 267 (oak browns), one in color 269 (birch whites)

Needles used: US size 10/6.00 mm

Started: November 24, 2007

Finished: November 26, 2007

Size: 5″ x 53″, pre-blocking, 5″ x 60″, post-blocking

Mods: Mistake rib worked over 29 sts (I don’t remember how many the original pattern uses). I also used a slip-stitch selvage (slip last st of each row purlwise with yarn in front, knit the first stitch of each row through the back loop).

Notes: I had intended to make the scarf for either my dad or my stepdad, since it’s in such nice, neutral colors, but my stepmom, a fellow knitter (less obsessed than I) and lover of yarn, kept gushing “I think that’s the most beautiful yarn I’ve ever seen!” so I think I will give her the scarf instead. She won’t be that surprised by it, since I showed her the scarf in progress when the plan was still to give it to my dad or stepdad, but I think she’ll be pleased by the change in plans. I think my stepdad will get the brown and green striped Forest Rib scarf instead, and my dad will get a scarf in Natural Slate Patons SWS.

Have I mentioned before how much I love striped scarves, especially manually striping self-striping yarns?

All scarves have 2-row stripes with the unused color carried up the side. From left to right:

WIP: Earth and Ocean bias stripe scarf. Misti Alpaca Chunky in Peacock Melange and Natural Brown, on size 10.5 needles, garter stitch on the bias.

FO: 1×1 rib striped scarf in Plymouth Boku.

FO: Forest Rib scarf. Plymouth Boku in mistake rib.

FO: Child’s Rainbow Scarf. Patons SWS in Natural Plum and Natural Navy in mistake rib, pattern from Last Minute Knitted Gifts.

More photos of these in my Flickr or on my Ravelry pages. Let me know if you want the colorways or other specs on these scarves.

Up above: Two skeins of Noro for yet another striped scarf.

Also, here’s my cute little fork deer. Isn’t he the best?

As you can see, I finally have my camera back, and I’ll have more projects to show you soon!

We had a pretty nice weekend, I think, full of many of the simple domestic pleasures I missed in our studio apartment in Cleveland. Yesterday morning we biked up to the farmer’s market and bought a few things. Jennie and Rebecca were there, though without any yarn or roving to buy (and the sportweight alpaca lady wasn’t there either!). We chatted about spinning briefly, and I bought some plump Pink Lady and small dark Brandywine tomatoes, and a huge, fragrant, flowery bunch of basil with sharp pointed leaves–it looks like Thai holy basil, but green, not purple. They threw in a small round watermelon along with it. The folks from Wibs were there for the last time this year with their loudly chugging red enameled mill pouring out cornmeal, so I stocked up: 2 lbs buckwheat flour in a white cloth sack, 2 lbs white cornmeal, and 4 lbs whole-wheat flour. The fresh sage at another booth looked so nice, I had to pick some up despite having no plans for it. And it was mainly the thought of having to carry anything else on my bike that kept me from going crazy over the huge variety of summer heirloom tomatoes. We went to the library, I divested myself of three trash bags full of clothes at Goodwill, and I made whole wheat rotini with fresh tomato sauce (seasoned with hot peppers from our Thai bird pepper plant, which grew insanely huge and leafy under Jeanne’s care over the summer).

Today, I made John Thorne’s buckwheat pancakes–I think the recipe is from Serious Pig–which we ate with maple syrup and melted butter. Not bad, not great either. I think fermenting longer would help. I uncharacteristically attempted to clean the bathtub. Then we went to the Bryan Park pool and I went down the two waterslides about a million times. The sun is shining, cicadas are buzzing, Bloomington looks green and fresh and summery still.

We went on a Bret Michaels Rock of Love bender last night and watched the marathon for about five hours straight. (Tried to make up for the shame today by watching Unknown White Male) I made a pair of garter stitch fingerless mitts from handspun, Kool-Aid dyed yarn, disliked the bulkiness on my hand once I’d made the first one, and promptly frogged them–reknit them into a garter brim Kim’s Hat with earflaps from Last Minute Knitted Gifts, using the toddler-sized pattern, but the size 10 needles and bulky yarn made for a fairly charming adult-sized hat. I only knit to about 4″ before starting the crown decreases. It was nice to get something off the needles so quickly.

I’ve been swatching and futzing with charts for my new pattern. I also decided today to give up on the swatches I’d been working on for a hemp summer scarf and linen sweater. Not that I’ll give up on the projects, necessarily, but I don’t feel like I have enough time to get everything swatched to my satisfaction and prepped for the IK deadline, and I don’t want to rush my first submission to them. I don’t like feeling snowed under–would rather concentrate on a few things at a time and fully enjoy working on them instead of thinking of what I need to do next.

Oh, and with my new, handy ball winder, I got around to recycling a bunch of bulky-weight wool yarn from a giant, musty, gray, white, and red Greek sweater I bought from a garage sale. Because it was knit in three colors, I’m not sure if I’ll have enough of any one color for a full garment; I might just use it for accessories. The bulky weight yarn was used for seaming, too, which made it really easy to take apart. It was very old and dusty indeed–as I was cutting seams and frogging, I had some serious allergies, sneezing and itching, but I think it’s nothing a good wash won’t fix.

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