With Thanksgiving looming very near, I am finally coming to my senses and accepting the evidence: December is around the corner, which must mean that January won't be far behind. No, I am not thinking of holiday knitting, at least not seriously. What comes first on the list right now is the afghans For Afghans' current Youth Drive. I have a couple of things ready:
Several knitter friends have made worsted-weight socks for a4A, and I decided to follow their lead. The wool is ancient Cascade Quattro from my stash; I made a hat and scarf for Olivia with this yarn when she was in middle school; she is now halfway through her Junior year in college, so you do the math... I cast on 40 stitches on a size 4 circular and the socks practically knitted themselves.
The mittens were an experiment in striping a slightly garish color (orange) with a neutral (dark brown). I decided that one garish colorway stood out too much, so I added two thin stripes of another garish color (hot-hot pink) as a transition, and discovered that one neutral+two garish colors works better, in my eyes at least, than one neutral+one garish. I do find it fiddly to stripe mittens and I am not too happy with the old jog-less jog technique, however. I need a bit more practice to get it right or to come up with another trick.
These projects were a good warm-up to the sweater project which I have finally solved. A knitting pal was recently sporting this lovely and intriguing sweater which I had coincidentally earmarked a long time ago:
I had a pretty good post-it system back in the day: pink meant a woman's size-pattern I liked, yellow, orange, a baby or child-pattern. Green was for accessories or home projects, and yellow for good articles on knitting techniques. Around 2004 or so, I couldn't find much content to warrant a post-it, and I let my subscription lapse. But 1998, 1999, 2000? Those were Knitter's golden years in my opinion. Hardly a page was without its amply-earned post-it.
I am adapting this pattern for a large child's size, so I used Sweater Wizard software to figure out the math for a basic yoke pullover. I am also changing the bottom from shirt-tail to simple 2/2 ribbing. Once I get to the yoke, I will have to pay attention and figure out how to make the decreases work inside the ribbing... But until then it should be smooth and fast sailing. Just what I crave for this leisurely weekend with family and friends.
My stash of Noro Kureyon was no match for the Mitered Crosses blanket project, so I went hunting for more. In LYS #1, I found three skeins. Two are this color:
Which screams trendy living-room or kitchen, circa 1969 to me. I like the brights, I like the browns, but I don't want them to take over the blanket. I needed to find some other colorways to co-exist with this one, but LYS #1 did not have what I needed, and when I visited LYS #2, I was told that the shop was out of Kureyon for the foreseeable future.
Right at that most vulnerable moment when a knitter is feeling just a bit sorry for herself, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed this:
Crystal Palace Mochi Plus. So pretty! I was smitten right away. I liked the freshness of the colors, the way the green sets off all those blues and pinks and helps them co-exist without looking too baby-ish. Although this yarn has long color repeats a la Noro, the contrasts are more subtle. By the same token, they are less apt to surprise you and to expand your horizons.
I just had to bring Mochi Plus home with me, and once home, I cast on almost right away. Since I had had so much fun knitting a Rambling Rows blanket with Noro Silk Garden, I thought that Mochi Plus would work equally well for this addictive pattern.
This is what I have so far, two skeins into the afghan. And, well, I must say that so far, I like the skeins more than the knitted miters. This looks pretty in a little-girl way, in a dangerously-close-to-cloying way. Now, I know I will like it much better once the project is finished and bordered in the right color -- as of yet undetermined. It will make a nice small blanket for someone. I will finish it, but I can tell the crush is over. It was just one of those things.
Back to a more meaningful relationship now. Me and Kureyon, especially the four skeins I finally brought home today.
One of my longest-lasting knitting fantasies has been to knit my own Kaffe-Fassett project. One day. In the late 90's, I hunted eBay listing for a couple of years for my own set of the Channel 4 series on color with the man himself. I did eventually succeed, and watched the show (on VHS format, alas) over and over again. That was in addition to studying his books on knitting and needlepoint. In spite of his huge popularity, Fassett patterns are not so frequently spotted out and about. To wit, the Kaffe Fassett Lovers group on Ravelry which displays few actual Fassett designs, many of them apparently knitted in the 1980's, the prehistory of modern knitting.
One reason, I would guess, is technical: since the late eighties we have developed other knitting skills and pretty much deserted intarsia, at least on grown-up size sweaters. The other reason is fashion itself: those bold sweaters pretty much require bold, square or rectangular body lines, a very simple canvas for the business of color patterns with next-to-zero shaping or tailoring.
At any rate these are the two reasons that stop me in my tracks year after year, when I contemplate casting on for my own Fassett project. I have practiced intarsia and taken a class; I have attended a slide-show by the great man himself and emerged utterly inspired and motivated; I have collected all the yarn needed for one specific pattern, China Clouds , after falling in love with a rare specimen spotted "in the wilds" of Stitches West several years ago. I have enlarged and color-coded the pattern, made sample cards with snippets of wool just so I could get started any day ... But I have never gotten close to casting on.
On one hand, we have a gorgeous sweater, which promises the appealing challenge of colorful knitting, every row an adventure, slow progress and some frustration eventually adding up to a cardigan I could be proud of; and on the other hand, we have serious doubts about whether this same gorgeous cardigan will make me look as though I am wearing a rug, a huge swatch of wallpaper, or worse.
Enter the Peruvian Connection catalogue, latest edition. I once received one of their alpaca sweaters as a gift and as a result, every catalogue lands in my mailbox and is subsequently studied carefully before I eventually recycle it. Each issue features a few Fassett designs, under the "Art Knits and Collectibles" category. Usually these are subtle updates of classic Kaffe Designs, Tumbling Blocks, Poppies, Tiles, either in cotton or alpaca and in rather boxy shapes.
This one, though, this one strikes me as different. Simply because of its flattering length, and because of the versatility of a vest as opposed to a cardigan, this one feels more trendy (I mean that in a good way!) and easier to wear at the same time. Not to mention easier to knit! It's all a matter of proportions, and these ones work for me. I am this close to committing. This close.
Six all done, fourteen to go. I think.
So far I have used two random colorways of Kureyon from my stash. I do edit the colors a bit; when I hit a long strand of muddy, dark brown or mostly black wool, I remove it from the skein. The skein above is my own magic ball creation, an aggregate of Noro rejects. Mostly black, but with flecks of dark red, dark purple, dark blue. One day I will figure out the right project for it. But this is not it. There is so much white in this project that I don't want the contrast of very dark patches grabbing the attention away from more intriguing colors.
After Square #7, I will be all out of Kureyon. Time to go shopping for more colors.
So, I frogged the dark purple pullover. First, I tried stripes, then I frogged them, and I tried an all-solid design, and frogged that too. It was the right thing to do. I wonder if this is a liability with so-called charity knitting -- this mindset I was slowly developing of "let's just turn out a serviceable warm, wool sweater." A long time ago, I had read this article which made a lasting impression on me. It led me to an utterly freeing sense of playing with colors or textures within the boundaries of a traditional hat or sweater. My ongoing quest is for the intersection of productive knitting, and fun knitting. "What's in it for me?", I have found, is not such a bad question to ask when I am knitting for others, which is, in truth, most of the time.
The doomed purple sweater had another strike against it, which is the yarn I was using. It is a tightly spun superwash wool, with great stitch definition but a definitely cool touch. This yarn means business. It will look good once knitted up but won't cuddle my fingers with every stitch as I knit. I couldn't quite formulate to myself until I cast on for the Noro Mitered Square blanket which I started last week. The rustic, crunchy warmth of Kureyon together with the delicious softness of the Peruvia that I am combining for that other project, could not be more different from my crisp purple wool. Which is one reason why I often like to work on up to three projects at a time. The contrast keeps me motivated to see them all completed -- eventually.
As those various thoughts were percolating these past few days, I spent my knitting time on more squares; five are now finished and I need to start hunting for more Kureyon as I am about to run out. With this project well on track, I went back to Ravelry in my search for inspiration for the purple sweater, and I stumbled upon a pattern from an old issue of Vogue Magazine, which I had bookmarked right when I bought the issue, back in the Fall of 2000. Melissa Leapman designed this one, a fairly straightforward ribbed raglan pullover with a couple of lovely details: first, an interesting cable-patterning on the bottom of the sweater, and second, an elegant folded collar. Here is the best photograph I could find of this sweater on Ravelry. At the very least, adapting it for a child's size will keep me interested. I have taken a couple of classes with Melissa but I have never knitted any of her patterns until now, so I am looking forward to the experience. A happy frogger, that's who I am.
Just for the sake of slipping in a photograph in this very wordy post, here is my latest FO.
Wild, red fraternal socks pour moi . The aptly-named yarn is Crazy Zauberball. I was going to stripe it for a shawl but that would have been too red and too wild even for me.