Back in the Fall of 2010, I needed a travel-project for my trip to New York city. Never mind the fact that I had already knitted two simple garter-stitch shawls for myself, one chocolate brown, the other tulip-purple. I had more of that same heavenly Miss Babs' Yummy Superwash baby and sock wool stashed away since Stitches West: two skeins of a gorgeous red and one more skein of the Pewter colorway I had used for the ruffle of the purple shawl.
I cast on with the red wool while waiting to board my flight and zipped through most of the shawl during the trip and again once I was home. Then it was time to do the ruffle, at which point I got distracted. The holidays were coming closer, so was a deadline for the Afghans For Afghans Fall drive. So I switched gears and set my red shawl aside.
In late March, about to fly to New York again, I finally turned my attention to the red pile crumpled in my knitting basket. I also refreshed my memory about the technique that Kay Gardiner had used in order to create a soft ruffle in her own gorgeous versions of the shawl. It turns out that I hadn't done it correctly on my two previous shawls. Kay suggests purling, not knitting, the first row of the edging on the wrong side of the shawl, then proceeding to increase every other stitch on the return (knit) row. Her trick is meant to improve the neatness of the color-change, but I also found that it creates a wavier, more ruffly, for lack of a better word, ruffle, probably because the ruffle is created on a more compact stockinette "base" rather than a spread-out garter-stitch row. The difference is very slight, but if your preference is for a flatter, more contemporary look, I would skip that purl row and change colors and proceed with the increases on a front-side row instead.
In my twenties and thirties, I used to love black and red combinations. These days I find the contrast a bit too harsh, and I prefer dark grey to black. Miss Babs' hand-dyed solid wools are a pleasure to mix and match, and she offers more reds and warm colors than most hand-dyers, if strolling through the aisles of the market at Stitches West is any indication. Her red is beautifully saturated and stable. There was very little bleeding when I soaked the finished shawl in Eucalan before I blocked it.
My one commitment for 2011 was always to have something red on the needles. Not to worry, I cast on for something else that is also red and equally luscious the moment this one came off the drawing board.
I have been a bit too busy to blog lately. There was some traveling, some working, some knitting, some visiting. And now I have a backlog of finished knits to bring up here and on Ravelry.
After I finished Celeste's Santa Barbara blanket two years ago, I had enough yarn left over to make a baby blanket. So I did. Rather than knit my fifth standard log-cabin blanket, I decided to follow the instructions for Mason-Dixon Knitting's Moderne Baby blanket. After the first block, I parted ways with the exact pattern and just kept to the general feel of the blanket, knitting logs of various widths and avoiding exact symmetry. As I did on previous log-cabin blankets, I kept color repeats to a minimum and within one given colorway, I positioned log B perpendicularly to log A, usually a full "round" of logs further along so that the eye doesn't registers an "L" shape in any given color.
(Those two parallel blues aren't similar at all "in real life". One is medium blue, one is more of a blueish green, take my word for it, gentle reader).
The next time I knit this type of blanket, I'll stick to logs either 12, 15 or 18 -ridge wide. The thought occurred to me too late in this project to do this, but I suspect it would yield more attractive proportions. Or I may just be over-thinking this. I love a project when I am making decisions on the needles while still having some kind of organizing principle to tame the random-ness of a stripey, multi-color project. No doubt this is what countless knitters have figured out too and what keeps drawing us back to variations on the log-cabin.
Some knitters prefer to knit their logs as regular stripes, without binding off and picking up stitches at every color-change. Me, I love those ridges. They remind me of the exposed seams that made Sonia Rykiel's knitwear so famous in the eighties and that are again popular in today's ready-to-wear. They give character to that back side, not to mention a convenient spot where to hide woven yarn ends. I can't help thinking that they add stability to this huge expanse of garter stitch, too.
I stopped when the blanket reached 35" X 35". For a contrast with the wide color blocks, I went for a thin border, 3-garter-stitch-ridges in width. I should have taken "Before" and "After" shots of the blanket at that stage; it never fails to strike me how much most blankets -- 95% of blankets in my estimation -- are improved with the addition of a border. It doesn't need to be elaborate, it just needs to be there, to frame the knitting and to convince the viewer that the knitter didn't simply give up at some point. When I am knitting a blanket or an afghan, I fantasize about the borders the same way I fantasize about blocking when I am knitting lace. I don't necessarily enjoy the step itself, but the result brings so much improvement and polish to just about any project.
This FO is smaller than a crib blanket and maybe a tad too large for a stroller, but it could work in a car or on the floor. The yarn, Plymouth Encore Worsted, is ideal for this kind of project: it washes and dries like a dream, feels soft but not limp, and comes in a terrific range of colorways. I just may have enough for another blanket later this year.