Hey, I actually finished something (so I’m casting on for something new, oops)

Remember that baby blanket that I’d calculated completely wrong? Finished!

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This seemed to go much more quickly than the first half of the blanket of miscalculation, which was a relief. And I think the recipient liked it? It’s always a little hard to tell how much of a reaction is real and how much is politeness. I was a little worried the colors would look drab and not sufficiently cheerful for a baby, but I chose the colorway because the baby’s nursery is grey and yellow (grellow!), and the soft stony grays and beiges-shading-to-yellow seemed just right. The mom seemed to like it, anyway, which is what matters.

Personally, I find myself walking a fine line between beneficence and arrogance with knitted gifts – on the one hand, I want to give people I care about a hand-knit item because it’s personal, made just for them, with affection and care and consideration. I put work and skill into that item.

On the other hand, there’s definitely a part of me that wants to give  hand-knit gifts to show off: look what I can do! look at the pretty thing I made! And I worry that what I give ends up determined by what I can/want to make, more than what the recipient really likes/wants/needs.

But I’m pleased with this one.

As I mentioned in the earlier post, the pattern is Smooth Sailing by Tanis Lavalee (it was very clear and easy to follow, and a fun, easy to read stitch pattern), and the yarn is Malabrigo Rios, which is superwash merino. I know I should disapprove of superwash, because (in my not very technical understanding) it destroys the natural scale found on wool and coats it with some kind of plastic, to keep the scale open and ensure that the yarn won’t felt in the wash (because the scales can’t stick to each other). It also has a slightly droopy, floppy quality sometimes. But I loved this yarn for its softness, and after all, it is for a baby, so both softness and ability to go in the washing machine are important.

(But who am I kidding – I love those things for me. I really want to buy enough in the Aguas colorway to make myself a Lipstick sweater, or a Liv. I’m not going to – at least, not right now – because I have LOTS of yarn, and LOTS of WIPs, and even more in the pipeline, and, honestly, not that much use for worsted weight sweaters. But I still really want more of this yarn. To distract myself – because I totally couldn’t do that with any of my current WIPs, now, could I? – I’ve actually cast on something else:

IMG_1235It’s actually quite a bit bigger than that by now, but more about that another time!)

In totally unrelated news, I somehow thought it would be a good idea to wear a tank top on my walk today, around noon, in the hopes of evening out the slight farmer’s tan I’ve acquired from wearing tee shirts the rest of the time. I didn’t really think about how I usually walk in the evening, when the sun is very low on the horizon, and that even though it’s September, it’s still hot here because the sun is still very strong here. I have lobster shoulders now. Ow.

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Oh dear

IMG_0879 I should probably begin by pointing out that my current career requires minimal math skills, and my previous career required minimal math skills. They’re both fields where when you do have to deal with numbers, you may well get it wrong the first time, and you may well then say something like “There’s a reason I went into field X, because I’m bad with numbers.”

Of course, knitting frequently requires at least minimal math skills. Like, it would be expected that you can look at the amount of yarn a pattern requires, and look at the amount of yarn in a single skein of the yarn you’re considering, and figure out how much of the latter you need for the former.

Or you could be me, and figure out halfway through your “baby” blanket that you have one skein left, you had originally bought five, each skein is 210 yards, and for some reason you thought that five skeins at 210 yards a skein would get you to the 1,950 yards the pattern requires.

Even though I knew I was knitting the largest size of this blanket (not “lovie,” not “stroller,” not “crib,” but “throw”), for some reason I was sure that five skeins would be enough and it would nonetheless end up a nice baby-sized thing.

In any case, late last night – after I had spent much of the day binge-watching Anthony Bourdain and speed-knitting – I finally, finally figured out my error. Since I’d had a baby-sized object in my head, and what I’d produced was pretty much that size, I had convinced myself I was nearly done (after all, I was using up the yarn!), and realizing I had basically a whole other baby blanket left to knit was…depressing.

I faced two choices: buy more yarn, keep knitting, and produce something very not baby-sized; or frog what I’d done, and start over with a more reasonable-sized project. It seemed really sad to consider frogging all. that. work, but I had pretty much the same amount of knitting in front of me either way. And buying more yarn was going to be expensive.

RIPPPPP.

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(Of course because I’d alternated skeins, ripping back got me into a huge tangle to begin with, so that was fun, too.)

I’ll admit, though, that I couldn’t face continuing on with the original pattern I’d chosen, the Harvest Moon Blanket. This has absolutely nothing to do with the pattern, which is perfectly clear (both in general and with regard to size and yarn requirements – apparently I just can’t read) and produces perfectly lovely results (I particularly liked the border texture). It’s more that after already knitting the equivalent of a whole baby blanket in that pattern, I couldn’t bear to do another one. (Not being a regular blanket knitter, I found those rows lonnng.)

So I’ve started over, with Tanis Lavallee’s Smooth Sailing. (Some day I am going to buy some of her gorgeous yarn, too.) The nice thing about this pattern is that the reverse side looks prettier than on the Harvest Moon Blanket, and I actually think that the stitch pattern works better for my yarn, which I’ve decided is a little too variegated for the Harvest Moon Blanket anyway. (So all that wasted work was for the best, right???)

IMG_0888It’s a good thing it won’t get cold here for – well, it doesn’t get truly cold here, but it won’t be chilly enough for a blanket for a while. Hopefully I can at least beat winter.

What I’ve been doing lately

Did you ever have pets who did that thing where you’d open the door to let them out, and it was bad weather, and they’d look at you in dismay, then go to another door of the house, hoping that the weather outside that door would magically be better? I feel kind of like that these days. I keep looking out the window thinking, “I’m sure it’s cooled down by now,” and then I walk outside and go, “Nope, still hot.”

So the focus is still on indoor activities over here. Work has been busy, so I have been spending the free time I have on making things, rather than blogging about making things.

My knitting has been fairly monotonous lately, because I am still working on a baby blanket for a friend. Unfortunately I thought I had until September, but the baby decided almost 32 weeks was plenty, and he was coming out NOW. So far he seems to be doing extremely well, and it’s too hot for blankets here anyway, but I need to get it done. One night when I needed to wind a new ball, I cheated with my Talavera, on which I managed to knit 3 rows and then rip back two, so that’s proceeding pretty much as usual.

I tend to be a very selfish knitter and knit only for myself, when it never matters how long the project takes, so sticking to one project till it’s done with a vague deadline in mind is…less fun than my normal knitting. I’m also wondering why I decided I would be all ambitious and knit the “throw” size, when “crib” or “stroller” would have been totally fine. It feels never-ending, and I’m afraid I won’t have enough yarn, but I’m almost halfway done and the only way out is through.

However, while I feel guilty knitting something besides this blanket, somehow other crafts don’t seem to count, because I’ve been spending chunks of the last few weekends sewing. I made a pair of pajama pants in a print I absolutely love:

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Amusingly, if you look at it from far enough away, it looks like the print is actually dark purple alien heads with golden eyes – which I like just as well.

I’ve also cut out the pieces for a skirt in the white fabric below (the bicycles are the right way up on the skirt, I promise):

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It’s really intended as more of a wearable muslin/practice at making a skirt, than as something I would wear regularly; I bought the fabric because I thought it was adorable, and thought I would make another pair of pajama pants (I love pajama pants), but then decided I might as well play around with it.

This weekend I wasn’t feeling focused enough to work more on the skirt, though, so I made what has got to be the jankiest project bag ever:

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It’s a cheap remnant from Jo-Ann Fabrics, I didn’t measure very carefully so I don’t think there are any straight lines/angles, and my seams are terrible, but it’s actually very functional. The baby blanket has got too big for all my other project bags; I also get weird about textures, and the feeling of the soft-but-woolly wool scraping against the cheap cotton I’d used for my other project bags has been sending shivers down my spine. (I can’t bear the feeling of toilet paper or paper towel rolls rubbing against each other, either – it’s like nails on a chalkboard; does anyone else get this feeling?) So I lined this with a polyester lining fabric, and it’s SO much nicer to put the project away/take it out again. The slipperiness of the polyester is a big factor in all the wonkiness, since it slides around so badly, and the edges frayed so quickly, that keeping a consistent seam allowance was beyond my current skills. But again, good practice, since now I want to put a smooth lining in all my project bags.

I have some other, more focused posts I’d like to write, but when I have the free time knitting or sewing always seem to win out. So I guess I’ll get to those later, and end here for now, with a couple of pictures from early morning and twilight in the desert.

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Reboot

I was traveling for much of this week.

IMG_0179It reminded me what it looks like where water falls from the sky on a regular basis.

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IMG_0121And I got to see a cat catch a lizard:

IMG_0096And I bought some shoes.

IMG_0108I also brought some knitting with me:

IMG_0075One of the things I love about travel knitting is how guiltless it is. There’s no concern that you should be doing something other than knitting; you’re away from home, you can’t really put a dent in your to-do list or clean the house, and often you’re trapped on public transport anyway. Knitting transforms tedium into pleasure. Four hour layover? Great, lots of time to knit! So I very much appreciate the opportunity I had to knit the above project.

But as the yarn shrank and the knitted fabric grew, I finally had to admit to myself: I just didn’t like it.

I liked (and still like) the pattern, the Harvest Moon Blanket by Aimee Alexander. (All her blankets look lovely.)

And I like the yarn fine – Comfy Worsted Special Reserve Heather by KnitPicks (in Overcast Heather – much lighter than it looks photographed above). I had wanted to use cotton (or in this case, a blend) because it seemed more functional here in the desert, and I have some fingering weight Comfy, and I thought the acrylic in it would be fine, and help keep it a bit stronger and lighter than all cotton. I looked at the project pictures on Ravelry, and thought the cotton ones looked perfectly nice.

But I just didn’t like them put together. In part, that’s because the Comfy Worsted is fluffy, fuzzy, and soft-edged. The stitches don’t get completely lost, but there isn’t the kind of stitch definition that I think would highlight the pattern best. Beyond that, though, I didn’t love the fabric. It was extremely soft, so perfect for a wee baby in that respect. But it was also supremely floppy. And word choice matters here, I think. If I said the fabric was drapey, that would sound fairly positive, but when I say floppy, that doesn’t sound so good. And it’s not so good. I don’t want something stiff, but I would like a little body, a little bounce. I think that would benefit the stitch pattern, too.

And it matters mostly because this is a gift, and I want it to be as nice as I can possibly make it. In part because I really want my friend to love it, and in part because I want to give her something that looks handmade, but not so much homemade.

So back to the drawing board. I’ve ordered new yarn – wool this time (superwash, because I hope for my friend to use this, and making her handwash it seems cruel). And now that I’m back, will start over again.

(And figure out something else to make with floppy cotton yarn.)