Category Archives: Knitting

Casting on for a Blanket

The needles were all packed away on a high shelf in the closet. The yarn had been displaced to make room for fabric.

This winter, rainy days and nights made me wish I had something on the needles to pick up and knit.  My hands found varied uses during my knitting hiatus and rested from too much repetitive motion.  The numbness in my fingers had subsided and I had stopped wearing my hand braces at night.  In truth, I think I had gotten burned out on knitting, and needed a break anyhow.

I saw a garter stitch blanket that I wanted to cast on for right away: Caron Essential Stripes Knit Blanket.  It was the perfect combination of comfort knitting with just enough interesting aspects with the use of three colors, striping, and color blocks. I like that it is knit in five panels.  There won’t be much sewing up to do, and the weight of a big heavy mound on the needles with long rows to get through is avoided.

Which yarn to use and which colors?  I swatched with a few different acrylics and read reviews on yarns.  Some of the negatives I read about were yarns described as scratchy, splitty, and squeaky. Sounds like a cartoon trio of mice!  Another thing to avoid is an acrylic that is “plasticky”.

Why acrylic?  I want a blanket that is easy care, machine washable,  durable, and low cost.

I have never had a yarn squeak, but I did discover some differences in yarns.  Take a look at these two samples:

2 acrylic yarns: top Red Heart Soft, bottom Loops and Thread Impeccable

I have a definite preference in the appearance of the two yarns.  I much prefer the bottom yarn that is matte to the shiny one.  The Impeccable has more heft, looks cottony and reminds me of marshmallows.  It’s also more sturdy and less stretchy.

Besides individual preferences, choosing a yarn depends on whether it will be knitted or crocheted and what will be made from it.  If I were making something to wear, I would be more concerned with drape.  The colors and shades of a color a yarn is made in is also an important consideration.

The pattern was written for Caron One Pound, and the blanket looks very appealing in the pictured colors in the beautifully staged room.  They didn’t have those colors in the store, and I wanted to swatch before deciding on my colors.  I did buy one skein of the One Pound to swatch, and it is also matte, although a little stiffer than the other yarn I knitted up.  It would also be a good choice for a blanket that will hold up through frequent washing.

So for this blanket, Impeccable it is!  After much waffling, I settled on the aran, navy, and soft rose combination.

There wasn’t a photo of the entire blanket, so to see how the sections would look together I mapped it out using my old Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet that I still have installed.  I played around with it and made some changes.  By reading the pattern more closely I also realized that the panels are meant to be laid horizontally (widthwise) with the ridges going vertically.

knitting on size 9 Susan Bates circular quicksilver needles

I’m not on a tear to finish this.  I just love that it’s there waiting to pick up when I want to knit.

Have you left and then gone back to a craft years later?

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Learning to Knit Booklets: Vintage Style

Let’s start with the oldest one from my collection.  It doesn’t have a date on it, but I am guessing it dates from the 1950s or early 1960s.  It features a cute cover, illustrations of a prettily dressed young miss, and a cartoon format to the instructions.

fun way to learn knitting booklet 1950sgirl learning to knit in cartoon form vintage booklet

 

The back cover shows a few simple projects.

back cover of fun way to learn knitting booklet

 

Wait a minute – what is that?  A creepy face on the back of her kerchief!

knitting weirdness - vintage face kerchief

What was the designer thinking?  Well, we need some kind of embellishment to make the hood appeal to the younger set, and what girl wouldn’t want eyes on the back of her head.

I first learned to knit and crochet in 1973 or 1974, and I still have the little booklet from the class.  Those faces on the yarn are  actually cute.

I don't know how to knit or crochet 70s

One of the projects:

1970s owl crochet top

Owls were very popular in the 70s, but I’m thinking maybe that’s not the best placement for the owl eyes.

The Gitche Gumee Headband is another groovy design from the same booklet, although it’s neither knit nor crocheted.

70s headband

 

I  also have a few early 1970s copies of a knitting and crochet magazine called 101 Sweaters.  Seventies fashion wasn’t just ponchos –  although the hairstyles and makeup are dated, many of the patterns hold up well.

101 Sweater Magazine

 

 

The magazines also have a section for men’s patterns:

1972 photo of knitting patterns for men from 101 Sweaters magazine

The guys on the left are cool, but could the guys on the right be any more dorky in those outlandish sweaters?

That wraps up a look at the good, the bad, the ugly, and the weird knitted and crocheted patterns and fashions of yesteryear. Do you like to collect old patterns or make things from them?

 

 

Something About Knitting

folded chevron towelI recently finished reading the book “The Knitting Circle” by Ann Hood.  All of the characters in the book have dramatic stories of loss and grief.  The main character, Mary, is struggling to get through her days after the sudden death of her five year old daughter, which is the same tragedy the author experienced and which provided the inspiration for the book.

When Mary can barely function, and can’t concentrate to read, write, or work, her mother suggests that she take up knitting.  She tells her daughter, “There’s something about knitting.  You have to concentrate, but not really.  Your hands keep moving and moving and somehow it calms your brain”.  When Mary joins a knitting circle, a fellow knitter tells her she will finish her scarf in a couple of days: “That’s how it is at first.  You knit to save your life”.

For several years, I was a daily knitter. Some of the virtues of knitting are the portability, and creating useful items while working with beautiful yarns.  As I get older, I especially appreciate that unlike other crafts and needle arts, neither good lighting nor good eyesight is at all necessary to knit.

After reading this book I asked myself if I took up knitting “to save my life”.  While I can’t make such a dramatic claim, when I think back I do remember that it was a time of anxiety for me.  My mother, who I had taken care of, had passed away, and I was changing my life, taking classes, and ultimately looking for a new job.  During these years, I took my knitting with me to hospital and doctor office waiting rooms, as well as in social situations.   Knitting very well could have been a type of therapy – meditative, soothing and rhythmic, using hands and mind together in harmony.  Crocheting, the sister yarn art to knitting, provides a similar experience. One of the things I like about knitting is that you work the stitches as you come to them, passing the stitches from one needle to the other, while in crochet you have to see where to put the hook.

I’ve knitted sweaters, hats, and scarves, but living in Southern California, even during some winters (like the current one with temperatures in the 70s and 80s) I don’t need those warm, cozy items.  So one thing I enjoyed knitting was dishcloths – small projects on which I could try different patterns and techniques.

Dishcloths VarietyAmong those pictured are the basic and popular grandmother’s favorite dishcloth, ballband dishcloth, and the chinese waves dishcloth.

I knit the pretty doily style dishcloth from the inside out on two circular needles.

doily style dishcloth

And I loved knitting the slip stitch pattern of the linoleum dishcloth.

Linoleum DishclothWhile I enjoyed the process of knitting dishcloths, I don’t use them to wash dishes.  I decided to knit bigger versions to use as my kitchen towel on the oven handle.

I took out my circular needles to knit up the soft cotton knit dishcloth from The Purl Bee.

Knitted Striped Towel I loved the simplicity of knitting simple garter stitch with the added element of stripes.  For the second towel I used the chevron stripe pattern found in this baby blanket.  The two row pattern uses a multiple of 14 plus 2 stitches.

Chevron Dishcloth Side B

For those who knit, what do you like about it and what places have you taken your knitting?  Has knitting, or another needle art or craft, “saved you” from a hard time in your life, or helped you through a situation?

 

A Bold Cable to Knit

I used to knit every day.  When my hands went numb I decided it was time to mix it up and branch out.  Winter coldness made me get out my needles again for this useful accessory.  It’s the free Uno Cable Headband from Ravelry.

So I got out my favorite circular needles and the little cable needle.  I was a little rusty and had to look up how to do the make 1 increase.

My sides are not identical.  I slipped the first stitch as if to purl on both sides as the directions didn’t specify.  I love the way the cable pops out from the garter stitch background.  The eight stitch cable crosses every ten rows.  I omitted 2 stitches from each side. It was simple and fast to knit.

uno1c

I’m pretending to read, but I’m really just thinking-  is the cable showing…when is the camera going off…

It’s just what I need to keep my ears warm when I walk my dog.