Category Archives: knitting

2016: the year in review

My 2016 “best nine” according to IG.

2016 was a whirlwind year. I loved. I worried. My heart shattered. I got sick. I figured some things out. I remembered “authentic self” stuff that has helped me re-engage with my values and interests. And so I got better at being me. I worried some more. I got better. I loved.

Now, as with most December 31sts, I feel quieter, more restful, more peaceful than celebratory, or loud, or exciting. These are long, cold days. As a species I think we’re supposed to be lying low, eating root vegetables, and conserving energy to get through winter. Still, in a little while, I’ll probably pull on my giant fuzzy snow boots and be with the smiling, happy people.

In 2015 I traveled. I felt blocked creatively, and so to occupy myself, I tried to say yes to all of the people I loved, and even liked, and ended up making a few long road trips and even made a solo detour on a trip to visit my best friend and ended up seeing more of the Oregon coast than I’d ever seen before and felt small next to the tsunami warnings and did wheel pose in the warm sand with my mom, whom I love so much.

I felt like my urgent travel mode was coming to an end in 2016, but I still ended up traveling a lot. I flew to Louisiana. In February, I road tripped back to Utah through Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado (in the snow!). Then I flew to Houston for a conference that ended up being a good bonding experience with my colleagues, even though I was also really emotionally raw during that trip. I made a quick trip home for my nephew’s birthday (a date I rarely get to make because of my work schedule). Later in the month, I attended another conference in Atlanta. The conference was great, but the trip felt a little solitary. When school finished up, I took off to the high mountains of Idaho, and then made my annual trip to Oregon, came back to Idaho, and then I did another quick trip to Utah.

Before school started, I road tripped to Phoenix by way of the Grand Canyon (a first for me!), Flagstaff and Sedona. In Phoenix I ate some of the best pizza of my life, drove on to the Saguaro National Park outside of Tucson, where I had last been 15 years earlier on my way to a school trip to Mexico. That trip, and the saguaros, left an indelible mark on my psyche, and my return to them did not disappoint. After having my face melted off by a lovely little jazz quartet, I went on to Las Vegas, where I ate at the Peppermill because it’s iconic, and I had recently seen Jerry Seinfeld interview George Wallace there for his show.

After school started, I did a quick long weekend in Seattle to visit the loveliest of people, where I felt the humid, highly oxygenated air wash over me, and after that I went back to Las Vegas for a nice little conference that also felt quite solitary, and after that I went to San Diego for another conference, but this time I also got to walk along the warm California beach and see some of the city and just detoured (quite) a bit in general.

So, there was a lot of travel, and I was grateful for the good company I was able to keep, and I felt highly motivated at times, editing, grading, book reviewing, and proposing all manor of scholarly work. I also rested. I ate tomatoes and zucchini that I grew myself. I knitted, and I read, and I put seeds out for the birds. There’s more of course, but for now, this is probably all I need to say about 2016.

round 5: knitting a baby blanket (with pattern!)

Through the winter months, on road trips from Utah to Louisiana and sitting on couches in Oregon with family, I knitted this baby blanket. It’s one of my favorite blankets to date (and I know I keep saying that), but I’m getting better at the knit stitch, and this time the yarn also made a huge difference. I used “Ocean” by Paton Colorwul, which is 100% wool, and I absolutely loved it. Wool yarn is expensive, and it can be scratchy, but when it’s done right, no other yarn compares. As I am wont to do, I ran out of skeins and had to frantically track down the last one from a Michaels across the valley. I’ve been trying to be more careful about buying skeins with matching lot numbers, but when you run out of yarn, you aren’t left with many choices.

13662233_10210349025268434_5866919687175656328_o.jpg

close up of knit stitch in “Ocean” by Paton Colorwul

The blanket was finished just in time to serve as a gift to a friend who gave birth to her son last month. I have identified somewhat with her journey to motherhood (i.e., she’s had love, life, travel, education, and a career before she very actively chose motherhood), and so I liked giving her an extra special gift.

The Materials:
-6 skeins of “Ocean” by Paton Colorwul
-Knitting needles, US 10.5

The Pattern:
-Cast on 76 stitches.
-Knit purl, knit purl, purl knit, purl knit until the row is finished.
-Then reverse it: purl knit, purl knit, knit purl, knit purl until the row is complete.
-Continue this pattern until you’ve got a few inches of a ribbed border.
-Then, knit the rest of the blanket until the last few inches or so.
-Finally, repeat the pattern from the beginning (knit purl, knit purl, purl knit, purl knit; then reverse it on the next row) to create a ribbed border again at the other end.

13701237_10210349013868149_2341488862930066767_o.jpg

nearly finished baby blanket

The finished product should be rectangular, with a ribbed border at each end. I’m getting better at making even stitches, and so the wobbly edges of my previous blankets are starting to disappear (though not entirely).

My idea for the ribbed border on the ends was actually difficult to keep track of. There is an easier way to do ribbing, but I wanted the ribs on this border to be a little thicker. Normally, I like very absent minded knitting (for which baby blankets are perfect). But, these borders were knitted and torn out a few times before it was all said and done. It still ended up a little uneven in places. The take away: if you’re looking for an easier border, there are easier patterns out there. If you’re looking for the perfect yarn for a baby blanket, look at the Paton Colorwul selection.

knitting scarves and headbands in basket weave

This year I made a few headbands and scarves to give away as Christmas gifts. I’ve done this before, but this year there’s a marked improvement in the quality if my stitching. I’m using better yarn (wool and wool blends) and experimenting with different stitches. This year, I learned the basket weave stitch, which is featured here.

For the basket weave, you cast on the number of stitches that you want. (It has to be a number that is divisible by four.) Then you knit four, purl four, knit four until you’ve reached the end of the row. You turn it over, and you repeat: knit four, purl four until you’ve reached the end of the row. In each new row, you’re actually knitting and purling the opposite of what you stitched in the previous row. Repeat this knit/purl pattern for four rows, and then reverse it. Purl four, then knit four until the end of your row. Continue switching it every four rows until you’ve reached the end to create the basket weave texture.

The end result should look something like this:

12496298_10208685273635683_3237265430737643510_o.jpg

basket weave

For my first attempt, I made a scarf that had about seven inches of basket weave on both ends and regular knit stitch for the rest of the scarf. I didn’t love the way it turned out. In addition to the ends, I think continuing the basket weave stitch along the sides of the scarf would’ve created more continuity throughout the piece. So, I’ll continue to experiment with that.

Here’s a picture of the first attempt that paired basket weave paired with a regular knit stitch:

12489378_10208685271595632_5758091019624433059_o.jpg

scarf and headband with Patons Classic Wool (worsted) in Dark Grey Mix

What I think really turned out well was the scarf done entirely in basket weave. For it, I used Patons Classic Wool worsted in Jade Heather and US 7 (bamboo) knitting needles. I made a headband first, and then used the remainder of the skein on the scarf (which could’ve been longer).

Here’s a picture of the scarf and headband that I liked the best:

12469438_10208685274755711_2153974380356381323_o.jpg

scarf and headband in Patons Classic Wool (worsted) in Jade Heather

For the headband, I cast on 16 stitches, and then proceeded with the basket weave until it fit snugly around my head. Then, I cast off and stitched up the ends of the headband with the loose ends of the yarn and tied it off with a simple knot.

For the scarf, I cast on 32 stitches (and this width was absolutely perfect). I then proceeded with the basket weave until casting off at the end of my skein.

I’ll definitely continue with the basket weave. Once you get the hang of it, you can do it pretty mindlessly (while watching tv, road tripping, etc.), and the end result creates a lot of nice texture and depth.

round 4: knitting a baby blanket (with pattern!)

For years I did not like crafting. It seemed like the antithesis of art, and art was what I was after. However, that’s shifted for me in recent years when suddenly things like tying knots with sticks and stitching little squares into aida cloth has seemed strangely satisfying and important. I’ve even developed a few philosophical justifications for crafting. (And I’ve been delighted that people in my own field of study have taken up the subject as well.)

Recently a colleague,  who takes crafting above and beyond anything I will ever do, stopped by my office to talk about the stuff we’re making, and I was motivated to put together this post about my last baby blanket. I made it as a gift for my cousin’s daughter. Her son got one when he was born, but I hadn’t made one for the older daughter. My homemade blankets have imperfections (which makes them unique! which isn’t something everyone values!)), so I was delighted when my cousin’s husband mentioned that their son loved his blanket and used it all the time.

Here’s the blanket that I made for my cousin’s daughter. I’ll be using this pattern again. I think it is my best baby blanket to date.

Loops and Looms—Lavender

skein of Loops and Looms—Lavender Blues

I used four skeins of Loops and Threads: Country Loom – Lavender Blues. To start, cast on 73 stitches and knit five rows.  Then, to create the border, knit four (mark) add increase, then knit across for 63 stitches. Add another increase, (mark) and then knit the last four. In the next row, knit four (mark), add increase, and then alternate between decrease/slip, increase/knit stitch all the way across for for 63 stitches. At the end, add increase (mark), and then knit the last four stitches.

increase/decrease stitch border

increase/decrease stitch border

For the body of the blanket, continue to knit four (to the mark), increase, knit across (for 63), increase, then knit the last four. For the next row, knit four, then decrease, purl across, decrease again, and then knit the last four. Continue to alternate between knitting/increasing rows and purling/decreasing rows. Stitch to the desired length. I ended on knit stitch (with increases on each end before moving on to border).

At the very end, knit four, decrease/slip, increase/knit (for 63), then knit the last four stitches. That creates the last border edge. Then, knit the last five rows, and cast off.

finished and folded

finished and folded

round 3: knitting a baby blanket (with pattern!)

In the summer months, it’s harder to knit. It’s hot, and I don’t quite crave the cozy warmth of knitting by lamplight, my legs covered with whatever I happen to be knitting. However, there is still travel and downtime and conversations that stretch on through the long, light evenings that are conducive to good knitting.

My last blanket was intended for my cousin’s new baby boy. When I began his baby blanket, I did not realize that every other woman in my family also intended to make a baby blanket for him. Over the last few months, I’ve seen pictures posted via social media of the various baby blankets that have been sent for this little guy. I almost decided not to send mine because mine was such a mess. (I sent it anyway.)

front of the blanket

here you can see the unintended bunching around the border

I used smaller thread than I had ever used before and really enjoyed working with the finer material. Although it took a lot longer to knit up, it was actually more pleasant to work with than the chunky, bulky stuff that I’ve been learning on.

I used Loops & Threads Impeccable Big in Seaside Ombre. This was a big skein of yarn that stretched 582 yards. I was hoping to do the entire baby blanket in one skein, but it wasn’t quite enough, so I bought another small skein at the end (from a different lot number, no less!)

 

front of the blanket

front of the blanket (smooth surface)

I cast on 125 stitches.

After casting on, I knitted 16 more rows.

Then, I marked off the sides for a border, knitting 12 stitches. Then I purled for 101 stitches across the body of the blanket. I marked it there and knitted the remaining 12 stitches to complete the border on the other side.  For the entire body of the baby blanket, I did a regular knit stitch for the border and then alternated knitting and purling to create a smoother surface.

back of blanket

back of blanket (notice the difference in texture and border)

The blanket turned out to be stretchy and bouncy. As I was knitting, it was difficult to tell if the blanket was long enough because the borders were really bunched up. As a result, it is a little too wide and a little too short—more square-ish than the true rectangle I wanted it to be.

The yarn was a mix of dark blue, light blue, greens, grey, and cream. Using the variegated yarn created a more interesting visual texture to the blanket. The stripes, varied in color, looked thick on one side and thin on the other. Also, the small yarn, which calls for US 8 knitting needles, makes the border stand out much more prominently than it did with the bulkier yarn I’d been using on previous projects.

If I had to do it over again, I’d add another five inches or so. I end up needing to buy another skein of yarn to finish it. The new skein was only about 100 yards long, and I didn’t use it all because it was hard to tell if the blanket was long enough. In hindsight, I should’ve used it all. Now, I’m left with a blanket that’s just a little too short and a half a skein of yarn that I don’t know what to do with. I’d also use a different pattern for the border–one that doesn’t scrunch up the ends so much. In the end, I think the blanket will be durable, and because of it’s strange shape, will work well for a floor blanket for tummy time.

on being replenished

I have a strong sense of home, which, I think, helps me face the world, move to new cities alone, earn degrees, travel, take (measured) risks, etc. The last few months have been emotionally grueling for me, but I am home now and finally feel like I can really take a deep breath. Suddenly, my priorities come into focus.

Photo: vetch

vetch growing wild in the hay fields

Here there is gathering eggs, checking the under ripe fruit, sitting in the yard under a shade tree reading a Laura Ingalls Wilder book I found, Ginger, Jackson, and the cat, the mock orange, wild roses and yellow and joseph’s coat homestead roses in bloom, the new kind of yellow bird that’s made a nest in the front yard, pelicans, baby cones at Little Bear (C-zers soon to follow), the Subaru loaded down with bailing twine, everyone going 5 miles per hour under the speed limit, long walks down gravel roads, long conversations that last all morning and then go late into the night, fresh lettuce out of the garden, eating raspberries off the bush, running to Food Town for junk food I wouldn’t normally eat, having real dirt come off my hands when I wash them, kiddie pools, popsicles, sheep grazing in pastures, one late calf bawling for its mother, gardens growing so fast you can almost see it, knitting up skeins and skeins of yarn, planning the next batch of soap with Mom, making raspberry jam, knowing everyone I see, trading stories of new babies, divorces, car wrecks, illness, and wedding engagements, people dusting off their saddles for rodeo, the linear pattern of cut hay, geometric bales, the breeze, the sun, the temperature—everything I know so well.

round 2: knitting a baby blanket (with pattern!)

These baby blankets have been really fun to make! They provide a good opportunity to practice knitting. It’s a good way to get really comfortable knitting, purling, casting on, casting off, and joining in a new skein of yarn. They’re not very challenging, but they’re fun and satisfying. Also, as a doula, there are a lot of babies. So, baby blankets it is!

My most recent endeavor is making a baby blanket for a woman I work with who is having a baby within the month. I really loved the yarn I used. It’s Loops & Threads Morocco in the color “Spiced Chai.” I originally bought four lovely skeins on sale, all from the same lot. As I neared the end of my fourth skein, I realized I would need another one. Unfortunately, two nearby stores had discontinued the yarn, which is weird, because I love the color(s). Thankfully, I found a skein out in West Valley, which was, of course, from a different lot. Oh well.

The thread was Loops & Threads Morocco in "Spiced Chai."

The thread was Loops & Threads Morocco in “Spiced Chai.”

For some reason, this blanket turned out a lot more uneven than the last two. The end that was cast off was really pinched and tighter than the other end where it was cast on. I also dropped two stitches (oops!), and cobbled it back together, but I ended up with two holes, the largest being a little less than a centimeter in diameter. Not very noticeable, given the loose stitches I was using, but definitely something you can see if you’re looking.

The Materials:
I used five skeins of Loops & Threads Morocco in the color “Spiced Chai.” I used size US 13 knitting needles on the round. The needles were too big for this yarn, which might be why the blanket turned out lopsided. I liked the loose look of the knit, but in hindsight, it probably would’ve been better to knit it on US 11 needles. I can’t remember what size of needles the yarn called for.

The Pattern:
Cast on about 75 stitches. Stitch for 9 rows. Last time, I only stitched 7 rows and the border on the ends was thinner than the border on the sides, so I tried to make the ends a little bigger by adding two more rows. In hindsight, I probably should have add even more rows because the borders on the ends, were still a bit thinner than the sides.

Row 10: I knit seven stitches, marked it (with a twisty tie!), then purl stitched 61 stitches, marked it, then knit stitched the last seven stitches.

Row 11: I knit stitched seven stitches, marked it, then knit stitched 61 stitches, marked it again, and then knit stitched seven stitches.

Row 12-?: I continued to knit a regular stitch for the first and last seven stitches of each row, and then I alternated knitting and purling each row until I had almost finished five skeins of yarn. The end result was about 32 inches wide and 45 inches long.

Last 7 rows: I did a regular knit stitch for the last seven rows and then cast off.

The Final Product:

The baby blanket with border with Loops & Threads Morocco in Spiced Chai.

The baby blanket with border with Loops & Threads Morocco in Spiced Chai.

And another one, just because I love this wrapping paper! Here it is. All wrapped up.

gift wrapped

gift wrapped baby blanket

Fyi, a previous baby blanket knitting entry can be found here.

knitting a baby blanket (with pattern!)

I wanted to learn to knit for years before I finally got the chance. It was on my ‘things to do after graduate school’ list. However, I didn’t have to wait that long because in my last year of graduate school a new student offered to teach a group of us to knit. Before the lesson, she instructed me to go out and buy a big pair of knitting needles and a chunky skein of yarn. Later, I would learn that the chunky yarn knits up faster, which is encouraging for new knitters who spend the first few lessons staring at a strange little tangle of knots hanging from a stick. I can’t remember how many times we met (just a few, I think), and, in those sessions, she taught me to knit!

So, I’ve been knitting. In the past few years, I’ve knitted all manner of squares and rectangles and even branched out to a pretty terrible-looking hat (more on hats later). For Christmas, I made a blanket for my nephew, which turned out to be bigger than I originally intended (he’ll grow into it, right?) The blanket was fun through. It was simple, and it didn’t take a lot of concentration—it was something I could do while watching a show or in a meeting. I’ve decided to tackle a few more “baby blanket” projects, and now that I’m a little more confident, I’ve decided to start working more with textures and borders. My first post-holiday project has been a baby blanket for my cousin’s son’s first birthday. Since he’s a year old now, I wanted to make a blanket that was a little bigger than the patterns I was seeing online for newborn baby blankets.

Below is a description of the pattern I created (which is not in typical knitting pattern speak). If you try it out or alter it, please let me know what you think!

The Materials:

I used four skeins of “Loops & Threads Country Loom” in a color called “driftwood.” I chose this color because it has a natural green tone to it that I hope will complement the baby’s current bedding.

driftwood yarn

Loops & Threads Country Loom in Driftwood; image from Michaels

The Pattern:

Row 1-7: I cast on seventy stitches across. Many of the patterns called for 50-60 stitches across for a 32 inch width. Since my blanket is for a one-year old, I went a little bigger, and I’m glad I did because it was none too wide. Back to the pattern: I knit stitched for seven rows. (See notes below for what I would do differently.)

Row 8: I knit stitched seven stitches, marked it, then purl stitched 56 stitches, marked it again, and then knit stitched seven stitches.

Row 9: I knit stitched seven stitches, marked it, then knit stitched 56 stitches, marked it again, and then knit stitched seven stitches.

Row 10-?: I did a regular stitch for the first and last seven stitches, and then I alternated knit stitch and purl stitch until I had almost finished four skeins of yarn. I was aiming for about 36 inches long, but mine ended up being about 45 inches long—which looked about right.

Last 7 rows: I did a regular knit stitch for the last seven rows and then cast off.

Notes: I created this pattern myself, and I really liked the way it turned out. However, if I had to do it all over, I would probably knit ten rows instead of seven before beginning to alternate the knit/purl stitches in the middle of the blanket because the resulting boarder around the edge of the blanket is not quite as long as the border around the sides of the blanket. I was, however, happy with the length of sides of the border, which was the seven stitches that I marked off on either side of the blanket.

The Final Product:

The final product was a bordered baby blanket about 32×45 inches. I should’ve taken better pictures, but I shipped it off too soon! Just trust me that the actual color is a little better than in this photo. Also, the border doesn’t show up very well–though it is a subtle border. Here it is:

20140121_204412

baby blanket with Loops & Threads Country Loom in Driftwood