Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sleepy Monkey

I have wanted to make this blanket pretty much since it came out. I love it so much. Things just kept holding me up somehow. It's knit in a cheap yarn, Valley Yarns Superwash from my very own WEBS, but somehow it required lots of balls and wasn't going to be cheap. Also, I didn't really know what baby it was going to be destined for... Anyway, a post on Mira's knitting blog made me think of this blanket again (see the comments on that post.) Then, when I was in Kentucky, I found out that Superwash was on sale, and I made Snowflake go out and buy it. And then, finally, I started the blanket.

This blanket is just great. (It's the Sleepy Monkey Blanket by Mary Ann Stephens, by the way.) Each side is done as a colorwork tube that is then steeked: one side with monkeys, one more colorful side with rings. Then stitches are picked up all along the perimeter of each side and the two sides are knitted together. Then you work a colorwork border along one side, pick up stitches from the other side, and work the same colorwork border on the back. Then you knit those two borders together, and finally finish it all up with a garter stitch border. Quite complex, and at a thickness of two layers of stranded worsted-weight wool, this is a very warm blanket.

I did the monkey and ring sides, and then I stalled on the blanket because I realized that you really do need three 40-inch circular needles to do this. (Actually, if any of you are thinking of doing this, an even longer circular needle might make this more comfortable.) I am always finding myself short on cables anyway, so I ordered two more sets of 40" cables, along with some other stuff. (If you're interested in Knit Picks interchangeable needles, just ask me, I am full of opinions.) Then, when the cables came in, I sewed and cut the steeks and finished up the blanket.

Now for the final question: who to give the blanket to? Well, my good friend Li-Mei was visiting, and we decided to give some of our mutual friends a call. They live in the area, but somehow I hadn't been in touch with them in a year or two. So, we sent them an email, and surprise! They had just a had a baby, two days before we sent the email and two days after I finished the blanket. Magic! We delivered it to them the next day and got to meet their adorable baby and catch up with them and their two-year-old.

Here's a link to my sleepy monkey blanket on ravelry.

Poplar and Elm

Ok, so I haven't blogged in almost a month. Maybe you think this means that I haven't knit anything... hehehe, that would be incorrect. But I think I can still keep to the one blog post, one project thing.

Today I will tell you about Poplar & Elm, a truly lovely sweater from Twist Collective. This one caught my eye immediately -- I'm sort of obsessed with the idea of wrap sweaters like this, but there is often something unsatisfactory about the pattern. Poplar & Elm has the shape of a wrap sweater, but is actually fastened by two buttons, one on either side. This is a great idea, I think, because knitting and belts often don't go together as well as you'd like.

This sweater has two lace patterns: the Poplar pattern on the back and fronts, and the Elm pattern on the sleeves. They are really the same pattern, except that where the Elm pattern has yarn overs, the Poplar pattern has right- and left-leaning increases. The result is the same look, but more open sleeves. A simple, elegant idea, I think.

I modified this pattern pretty heavily, just in the way it was constructed. I don't like to set in sleeves, and I've recently figured out how to modify a set-in sleeve pattern to be done without the seam, and so I've been trying to do that a lot. This was no exception. I did the fronts and back in one piece up to the armholes. My intention was then to knit the arms in the round up to the armholes and combine it all into a sort of yoke with set-in sleeve cap shaping. However, very soon after I started the sleeves, I realized that if I wanted to do them at the same time, I was going to have to do them flat, or else do some extreme fiddling to make the lace pattern work. So I ended up doing the sleeves flat. Then, when I got to the point where I joined them to the yoke, I basically pretended that they were done in the round and proceeded from there. I sewed up the sleeve seams at the end. The only other seam was to attach the back neck edge to the back neck, and there was a small graft at each underarm and a three-needle bind-off at each shoulder. Finally, I just sewed the buttons right onto the sweater, rather than putting the inside button on a string (crochet chain) as the pattern suggests. The point of this was probably to have the inside button attach to the strong side seam, rather than the weaker main part of the fabric, no matter where you wanted the button to actually meet the buttonhole. Since I didn't have side seams anyway, this wasn't really relevant for me.

The only thing that stressed me out at all about this project was the gauge. I was getting a little under gauge, and I did the instructions for a size up to compensate. However, I was still scared the whole time that the sweater would turn out too small. As it is, I think it's fitted, but not too small. Success! The yarn I used was Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine, when I probably should have used Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light. The pattern calls for a sport weight, and WEBS lists Fine as a fingering weight and Light as a DK. I also misread the gauge: it says 34 sts/5.5 in, and I just assumed it was 34 sts/4 in, a fine gauge for fingering weight. Also, the Fine was on sale, so I went for that. Now I think the Light would have gotten gauge better. Also, when I bought it, I didn't realize that Fine had 20% nylon in it, making it a different fiber content from the other yarns in the Ultra Alpaca family. I wasn't really a fan of the 20% nylon, it made the yarn feel less nice than the Ultra Alpaca I've worked with in the past. But hey, maybe it will be stronger.

All in all, I was a little stressed while knitting this, but I'm pleased with the result.