Elegant Babies Need Elegant Blankets

I know what you're thinking. I still subscribe to this blog?!?

Pattern:"Baby Chalice Blanket" by Karen S. Lauger, available as a free pdf on Raverly
Yarn: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted - 100% superwash merino wool
Colorway: Monkeyshines
Mods: CO 103, as suggested by fellow Ravelers
Blocking Dimensions: to 32" x 47"

Plus: The expectant mother for whom I knit this has a rather unusual (and totally AWESOME) color palette for a baby girl: gray, chartreuse, cream, and cranberry. While I was not able to accommodate the last color, I was thrilled to find this very posh color combo in my favorite baby yarn! I love how muted and modern this looks, like an item from DwellStudio. In fact, I kinda just wanted to keep it for me....

Delta: I hate, hate, hate that diamond, argyle, pooling that Lorna's Laces does. I hate, hate, hate that I never learn my lesson and just knit every two rows from a separate skein.

Well, I'm playing around Dallas for the summer, eating lots of Mexican food, visiting with friends, reading, floating in the pool, sleeping in, knitting, and generally being obnoxiously hedonistic. I have tried to balance this freedom and fun with a steady dose of mind-numbing math, since I am prepping to retake the GRE. Current plans are to begin an Education Specialist in Reading and Literacy degree at UVA in the spring after I finish my current masters in Secondary Education. Why I have to relearn the Pythagorean Theorem for that is beyond me.

The only other damper on this summery wellspring of joy is that Jake and I are still apart; he's down in hot, nasty Houston, working for that federal judge. Oh, and we're dirt poor. This is all building character, strengthening our bond, deepening our appreciation for the other's quiet contributions to making one's house a home, reminding us that the best things in life are free, blah, blah, blah. It pretty much sucks no matter how you spin it.


I'm All Traditish!

"Swallowtail Shawl" by Evelyn A. Clark, available for free here
Yarn: Malabrigo Lace (100% single-ply merino)
Colorway: Oceanos

Plus: I made real, live lace! Estonian style. I'm glad I learned how to make nupps (apparently pronounced "noops" not "nuhps"). The first go round, I approached it like a regular bobble but was unable to p5 on the wrong side to close it up, resulting in sweaty, shaking hands and eventually broken yarn. The trick is, as far as I can tell, knit the increase 5 with fingers looser and sloppier than wet noodles. Then, on the way back, stab, wriggle, curse, and grunt until you shove your needle half a millimeter through all five and whisk that sucker through before it realizes you're winning. Repeat. Simple, right? It's worth it for the texture.

While the semi-solid hand-dyed effect muddles the clarity of the stitch, it was probably a good choice for my first lace project. Though I don't see any glaring errors now, I lost count of how many times I fudged the stitches, increasing here, decreasing there, trying like hell to keep the overall graphic images aligned. Also, I started out really suffering on this project, working it on size 4 bamboo. It was so tight and sticky on the needle! I eventually switched up to a 5 on my Knit Picks harmony wood interchangeables, and the difference was PROFOUND. I guess lace of this sort just needs slick, big, and pointy. (hehehehe. I'm so mature.)

I'm sending this to my very glamorous aunt-in-law who is currently undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. I really hope she likes it.


For Sweet Adeline

Pattern: "No Gauge" blanket, hat, and socks by Kristin Spurkland, available in from Blankets, Hats, and Booties to Knit and Crochet
Yarn: Dream in Color Classy
Colorways: Some Summer Sky; Cool Fire; Tea Party; Happy Forest; Chinatown Apple
Mods: Added 1.5 inch log-cabin garter stitch border

The beauty of this "no gauge" pattern is that you can use what ya got! Knit up and out from one tip of the diamond until you use half your yarn, decrease back down to the other tip. I bought two skeins of Dream in Color for the blanket (one for each half), and threw together the hat, shoes, and border with scraps from the stash. Brilliant.

My "cute" idea of adding this border gave me a great deal of trouble. The blanket fabric is super stretchy, and I had to experiment with how many stitches to pick up along the side. 1 for every row--too tight. 2 for every row--too loose and ruffley. 11 for every 10 rows--too tight. 6 for every 5 rows--finally!

Well, lot's been going on around here! Jake got two full-time jobs for the summer. One is as a PAID research assistant for a W&L professor, work he can do from anywhere. The other is as an unpaid intern for Judge DeMoss of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals!!! That is especially exciting because Jake dreams of becoming a federal judge; he basically couldn't have found a more perfect job than working for one all summer. It is especially depressing, however, because the judge works in Houston, and they need him starting the first week of May. My last day of work here in Lexington in June 7th. That leaves FIVE DREADFUL EMPTY HORRIBLE GODAWFUL weeks of being here alone. Lord help me.

I completed my first 10k race. It was so exhilarating, so empowering, so emotional. It's hard to believe that after 27 years of being a sweat-phobic couch potato, I've been able to strengthen my heart and legs to this point within just a year. I can't wait until I can start training for my first half marathon! It's a whole new world. And that world has a much perkier butt.

I also sang with the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra and 250 choral members from the Shenandoah Valley area in a performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony. As I try to capture how magical this experience was, I find words are terribly inadequate. Suffice it to say, I will have to continue this practice of singing with community choirs. I need more art in my life.


A Spiritual Quest for the Perfect Poncho

Pattern: "Lace Cotton Ponchette" by windloop, available as a free pdf here
Yarn: Rio Grande Hand-dyed Superwash Merino Sport, purchased here by my lovely mother-in-law while on vacation

So...my m.i.l. is a big ole hippie. After requesting a poncho in vague terms for several years (which I pretended not to hear...in fact, I shuddered just think of it) she returned from a trip to Taos with two heavenly skeins of sport weight merino. Great! Shall we make a socks? A scarf? Gloves? I'm sorry, you want me to make a whole poncho from this?! HECK NO!

Well, I spoke too soon, because the knitting stars aligned once again for the perfect project to meet the perfect yarn. I had less than a yard leftover after seaming up the edge, and some of the required length had to be coaxed into reality through the magic of blocking, but doggonit, we made it happen! And you know what, I think it's pretty cool. It's TOTALLY the kind of thing one wears a bra under.

Delta: There's definitely a major error in the written instructions. The chart is fine, and you can find the errata in the Raverly pattern comments. Just a heads up. And sorry for the crap pictures. Blame the husband.

An Oldie but Goodie

Pattern: "Rusted Root," by Sarah Johnson, available on Ravelry for a $6 download
Yarn: Misti Alpaca Pima Cotton and Silk (83% cotton/17% silk)
Colorway: Papaya

I actually finished this way back in November, but--being a self-conscious girl in general--have been loathe to dress up and do a proper photo shoot. I've been wearing it like crazy, however. I found it especially comfortable and appropriate in Dallas, where a cozy, short-sleeved, breathable sweater is exactly what the doctor ordered on a "cold" (read 50 degrees) evening. Now that it's spring here in Virginia, I plan on it becoming my official wardrobe.

Though I felt pretty daring and conceited while knitting a medium in this pattern, I think I could have gotten away with a small, or at least done more decreases to the waistline. Now that I've lost 63 pounds (!!!) that's actually a big problem when it comes to my handknits. I've tossed out 3/4ths of my wardrobe in favor of trimmer duds, but when it comes to a sweater I've painstakingly knit by hand...let's just say, I'm hoping to find them good, adopted mommies.

I have an Ingenue knit up to a 41" bust with a few extra inches of length; a Split-Neckline Cap-Sleeve Tee at 41" with many extra inches of length; and a 41" February Lady Sweater (version for broader shoulders). Any takers? Swappers? Barterers?


Designers Who Hypenate Their Names

Pattern: "An Unoriginal Hat," by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (my bff in an alternate universe), available for free on her blog here
Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick and Quick in Apricot (80% acrylic/20% wool)

Plus: I've been meaning to use up the rest of this plasticky crap for years. Yay.

Delta: I guess my row-gauge (something I never bother to measure) was off, because I ended up with a really LONG hat. It looks okay on my big 'ole head, pulled way down over my ears and eyebrows, but when my friend Temple tried it on, she used the word "conehead" and I silently thought "condom." Unsurprisingly, It was not adopted by anyone this Christmas and went right back into the "potential gift drawer."

Pattern: "Incognito" by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark, available free on Knitty here
Yarn: Spud and Chloe Sweater (55% wool/45% cotton)
Colorways: Splash, Grass, and Chipmunk

Plus: I am really pleased by how this came together. I used all three tiny leftover bits from Kellan's baby blanket, and once again, I think these colors rock. Spud and Chloe knows adorable. I was worried that the stripes would fight the mustache as focal point, but the 'stache won, hands down (you duplicate stitch it with the yarn doubled for a really plump look). This pattern has so many nice touches, particularly the knitted-in turned hem. It has a tailored, rather than hand-made, charm.

Delta: The sewn-in turned hem is much tighter and less stretchy than the knitted-in one (duh), and I wish I had embroidered the mustache on the knitted end. I didn't like that the inflexible part pulls right across your mouth.

Isn't my sister beautiful? Doesn't her camera rock? Don't you wish the rest of my blog looked this fantastic? Well, get over it. You're stuck with me. ;-)

In other news, I've been working on the vocal equivalent of a marathon with the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra Chorus. Good stuff. I get great satisfaction out of participation in ancient rituals. I love the depth of history and feminist traditions linked to knitting. I'm hungry for the mystical knowledge and instincts of motherhood. And I feel emotional and grateful to participate in the sacred rite of resurrecting Beethoven's 9th symphony.

I also got my first blog comment from a crazy person. Now, I feel like I've really made it.


Mitts by Request

Pattern: "Veyla" by Ysolda Teague, available in Whimsical Knits 2
Yarn: Classic Elite Yarns Wool Bam Boo (50% wool/50% bamboo)

Plus: True to form, Teague's pattern was elegant and thoughtful from beginning to end. I truly felt that I was creating a work of art. I took a risk and used a DK weight yarn in this pattern designed for a fingering weight yarn because the recipient wanted something thicker looking. It was a great deal of stress on the hands, but I hit gauge just fine.

Delta: The intended recipient, Jake's law school friend Christina, has teensy tiny midget hands, so these really needed to be modeled by HER. Unfortunately, that meant that I had to put a non-knitting male in charge of snapping the modeled picture. So this is the only shot available to me. Boo!

Pattern: "Susie's Reading Mitts" by Janelle Masters, available as a free download on Ravelry
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Stella (60% silk/20% cotton/ 20% rayon)

Plus: I was really proud of this yarn selection. The recipient, the wife of one of Jake's law school friends, has multiple allergies and particularly struggles with wool. Though I had a hunch that a nice merino wouldn't cause her any problems, I didn't want to disregard her only request. She had liked the organic cotton and bamboo in her local craft store, but I could not see the point in making COTTON mitts, especially in a state that gets a respectable amount of snow. Stella, with it's cotton-y feel and silk-insulated warmth, was the best of both worlds.

Delta: This pattern really disappointed me. Even though I achieved gauge, the smallest size seemed huge, even on my large hands, with the exception of the thumbs which were crazy tight. Since the wrist to hand transition has no shaping or ribbing, it really needs negative ease to fit. I ended up ripping out the entire first mitt and adapting the pattern to have six fewer cast-on stitches but followed the directions for the small sized thumb. That fit pretty well, but her slender wrists might have enjoyed an even snugger fit. Ah well.

Watts' Family Afghan of Everlasting Torment square #36 of 36!!!!!! I made it! I made it! Oh, God! The glory! The relief!!!!


Now I have to sew the stupid thing together.

Late Gifts

Pattern: "Sid Beanie" by Georgie Hallam, available as a free download on Ravelry
Yarn: Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo DK (80% bamboo/20% wool)
Modifications: Many! A long-time friend of my mother's expressed her admiration for this hat on Etsy, but was not crazy about the $45 price tag! (Go figure.) I did my best to improvise the whimsical crown shaping, using the above pattern as my guide on gauge/sizing.

Plus: Look at how cute and happy this fella looks! Thanks to Maria, the proud mama, for the awesome pictures. There are plans for matching mitts in the works.

Delta: I totally picked the wrong yarn. The family lives in Texas, so I wanted something not too hot and certainly machine washable. The bamboo sounded like a good fit, but I think it made the hat too slouchy, rather than springy and sproingy, and there was simply no graceful way to jog the stripes--every technique I tried showed puckering due to the bamboo's inelasticity. Of course, I was also frustrated to have to reknit the crown a few times, but that should be expected when making your own pattern.

Pattern: "Drop Stitch Scarf" by Christine Vogel, available as a free download on Ravelry
Yarn: Cloud City Fibers Sock Yarn: 100% superwash merino wool
Colorway: Daffodil

Plus: This scarf was especially meaningful to me because the yarn I used was locally procured on last summer's amazing trip to Breckenridge, Colorado with my family. It was such a relaxing, restorative week, and every interaction with this fiber, hand-dyed from 40 miles from there, brought little wisps of respite to an otherwise busy day. The pattern is simple to memorize and easy to put down at a moment's notice without losing your place.

Delta: I should have used bamboo rather than metal needles, because I frequently felt that the combination of slippery surface and intentionally dropped stitches gave me a sense of being out of control. I also stubbornly knit every single inch, holding to my premise that there's no such thing as a scarf that's too long....only too make the world's first too-long-scarf. Ah well. A few more wraps about the neck won't kill anyone.

Yes, it's a tad late for reporting on one's Christmas gifts, but I was out of town for the holidays, and January was a really hard month in the Lewis house. Things are better and calmer now, so look for a few more postings in quick succession (especially if my sister emails me the pictures of her cowl and her husband's gloves).