But now I have found my addiction. Two skeins of Cotton Fleece yarn will give you hours of enchantment and a pretty good pile of mitered squares. So why stop at two skeins?
Also, one hour of MSNBC equals one square. This political junkie will not lack for blankets come winter.
While my first batch of mitered squares was drying on the blocking board, I made another sweater.
Really thick, really orange, really warm. A sweater this substantial wouldn't get much wear in my corner of California. But it should help to keep a young teenager comfortable in one of the Afghan schools which will benefit from the current afghans For Afghans Youth Drive.
I hadn't knitted with bulky yarn and size 15 needles since the orthodontist removed my braces, back in the post-hippy era where bulky scarves and garter stitch beanies were so cool to make and wear with pride. Next to my big fat bamboo circular, the #6 Addi I am using for my mitered squares feels positively dainty, like a #000 lace needle.
But the yarn, which was generously donated to afghans For Afghans for this express purpose, is really lovely: Blue Sky Bulky Duotones, a cozy blend of alpaca and wool, handdyed in various hues of orange, with strong hints of yellow in some of the skeins. With the help of Sweater Wizard, I knitted it into a yoke pullover, knitted from the bottom up, in order to speed things up and to avoid having to sew bulky seams. All I had to deal with was the grafting under the arms.
If you have never tried a yoke sweater before, you should consider it, at least in a child size. They are easy to make and feature the great psychological boost that comes from going from a wide circumference to a much more manageable one, then on to a collar and bind-off, at a fast pace, as opposed, say, to raglans with their more even and moderate rate of decreases.
Traditional yoke sweaters are constructed with 3 progressively more drastic decrease rounds, the first one, roughly halfway through the sleeve height, and the other two evenly spaced from that point to where you want the collar to be. My apologies for this very sloppy summary; let me point you to Knitting In the Old Way which explains it all much better.
My last drastic decrease round before the collar left something to be desired, namely, a really wide opening for the collar. So I snuck in two more rounds of decreases in the garter stitch neck. To make sure that a child's head could still fit in the collar comfortably, I bound off using Elizabeth Zimmermann's sewn bind-off from Knitting Without Tears.
Another advantage of the yoke design is that the wide spaces between decrease rounds give the knitter a chance for some colorwork. Since the thought of stranding bulky wool on the back of my sweater worried me, I stuck with very simple stripes instead, using some dark brown Cascade Magnum, another unplied wool, similar in weight to the Blue Sky Bulky.
It turns out that I was given enough orange Blue Sky to make at least one other pullover, so I have cast on again, this time with an even fatter and heavier bamboo circular: #17. This sweater will be a ribbed, dropped-shoulder number, a bit less dense than my first effort -- but still really really warm and really really orange.
To celebrate the arrival of the much awaited Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines, I went back to my lovingly worn copy of Mason-Dixon Knitting and decided it was time to give those wild, stripey mitered squares a try. Were they really as addictive as potato chips? Could one indeed not stop at just one?
Stop at four, then? I don't think so. In a couple of days I found myself with 10 squares to block
This photo was taken post-blocking, obviously. In the intervening days, another ten mitered squares have sprouted in my knitting basket. It happens so fast each time that I lose track; the only effort involved consists in counting the 72 stitches that must be cast on -- then I enter a zone of pure knitting bliss. For once I don't ever agonize about color choices; worst case scenario, some squares won't make it to the final blanket, once I decide to wind down my miter production.
For this I am using some Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece that sat in my stash for the last ten years or so, waiting for the right project. Each time I handle this yarn, I remember how much I like it. It is lighter than many all cotton yarns and more substantial. I only wish it came in a wider range of colors; blues and greens are pretty well represented on the color card but warmer shades are a bit underwhelming. I love the pop-art vibrancy of Kay's mitered square blanket and, well, in spite of its many fine qualities, Cotton Fleece isn't exactly vibrant. Still, I have enough skeins in enough colorways to keep me entertained for a while.
With stripes occupying so much of my knitting hours, it was bound to have an effect when I studied the schedule of classes for Stitches West. Registration was today; I signed up for "Fascinating Fibonacci" with Laura Bryant and "Stripes, Stripes, Stripes" with Susanna Hansson. And a technique class or two to, dare I type it, round things up.
My household now numbers seven people -- lots of groceries to be ferried in, lots of laundry to deal with, lots of car trips to orchestrate. I feel like a moderately successful, appropriately stressed (out!) management expert. Of course blogging was the first indulgence to go out the window.
I still manage to knit and even to take pictures now and then, if only to prove to myself that those stolen minutes on the couch do add up to something:
Five hats all done with bits of Manos Stria left over from my recent baby blanket. This cotton can take the abuse of a dryer, even though it takes forever to dry. I don't know of any softer cotton out there...then again, I don't knit with cotton much so I am no expert.
I love it when my knitting can be stacked in a little pile.
I actually have more knitting to show off, but it will have to wait for a quieter household and more time to blog. Meanwhile, here is the link to the 7 Long Project for which these hats are intended.
My new reformed ways as a yarn-stasher mean that 1. I practically never buy yarn impulsively, without a precise plan for it, and 2. I try to come up with ways to use up leftovers from a project soon after being done with it (in case they may multiply if left to their own devices in my stash drawers.)
Right in the middle of my Ravelympics project, I happened to catch a recent Stash and Burn podcast, during which Jenny announced a call for knitwear to be distributed in the pediatric oncology ward where she works. She specifically requested hats made of washable, very soft yarns; Manos Stria immediately came to mind.
I am using the Stria left over from the green, white and blue baby blanket, plus a lone skein of hot pink that hadn't found its place in the blanket. To counteract the lack of elasticity in the yarn, I am knitting it in 3/2 ribbing on a fairly small (#3) circular. I should have enough yarn for another 3 hats or so. The best thing about Stria, besides its softness, is the subtletly of the kettle-dyed colors, so the stripes are keeping me entertained. I hope they will bring a note of comfort and cheer to someone going through a rough time.