what’s been keeping me

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Yup, dear friends, the three dreaded letters: R S I

I had had brief and informative encounters with the beast before, but they were always short bouts which would disappear completely after 3-4 days of being a bit more careful with my hands. Not this time. A week after I noticed the first symptoms, the pain was still there, and getting worse. After 10 days of desperation I bought a wrist brace (pictured), which only resulted in moving the pain from my index finger and wrist to the elbow and shoulder. For a few days I didn’t know if it was my mind or my body which had gone mad (with the pain jumping back and forth, seemingly at random, around my arm and hand). And then I finally went to the doctor. The most I could get from him was reassurance that nothing was broken or sprained (I was happy to hear that, at least), and a long-term referral to a physio to learn some preventive exercises.

A few weeks down the line, I am mostly better, though still feeling twinges of discomfort every now and then. But one thing’s for sure – there won’t be any knitting or crocheting for a while, as the idea of that dull incessant pain coming back is still terrifyingly fresh in my mind. When this started happening, one of my crafting buddies (no doubt responding to my incessant complaining – I am not good company when I’m sick or injured) said something along the lines of “Oh poor you, you must be missing knitting so much.” I knew what she meant – I had thought that would be my primary concern as well. But when every movement of my right arm, hand or fingers was painful, I came to fully realise for the first time ever the extent to which I use every each one of them every single minute of the day and what incredibly valuable tools they are. When things like brushing my teeth (with my right hand), cutting bread for a sandwich (with my right hand), opening doors (with my right hand) became difficult, feeling sorry for myself because I couldn’t craft was really the last thing on my mind.

I will say one thing though (in response to another friend’s query) – knitting was not to blame. It was my office job which consists of, well, typing and scrolling, from 9 to 5. Knitting is innocent, I swear! ;)

Take care of your valuable tools, my friends. Hugs!

5.5mm needles are the best!

One week later, this is how far I’ve gotten with my Spring Lines.

One week ago I hadn’t even separated the sleeves yet! 5.5mm needles rock. I think I’ll have a finished sweater to show you much sooner than I had expected!

Do you like my hanger-taped-to-the-wall contraption? ;) It collapsed about 5 seconds after I took this photo. But it didn’t take any plaster off the wall so I’m counting that as a win. ;) Luckily, lighter days are coming and hopefully there will soon be an end to blurry artificial lighting photos in weird locations…

monstrously cute

I know what you are all going to say. But trust me when I say this, I really do not like knitting toys. To say that I like knitting toys would imply that I enjoy the process, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. I can say, with no exaggeration, that I pretty much hated every single stitch I knitted for these. The tight gauge. The small circumferences in the round. The constant colour changes. The endless number of ends. The fiddliness. Blargh.

But the product, aah the end product, is the reason I keep going back to them. They are just monstrously cute. So there you have it. It can’t always be about the process. Sometimes the product is worth it.

(Don’t get me wrong, this is not in any way a difficult pattern. All the techniques are simple, well explained, and accessible to slightly adventurous beginners. The pattern is great and delivers just what it promises. I recommend it.)

If, like me, you are swayed by wanting to get to that end product, my main piece of advice to make your life easier is to knit the baby first. It’s smaller, quicker, and less fiddly because there are no colour changes. But the overall construction is the same, so you can use it to test out the pattern, experiment with any modifications you might want to make, and get ready for the bigger monster. I found it very helpful.

In the end this was one of the gift knits which I got to deliver in person. It was very enthusiastically received by both the 6-month-old to whom it was gifted and her 4-year-old sister, who immediately started playing with the pocket, putting the baby in and out, and seeing if her other dolls could fit in there as well. As I watched their smiling faces, I forgot all the pain… Yes, it was worth it. :)

Mignon

Actually, as Life would have it, after my big announcement to be selfish in knitting from now on, I haven’t had any time to knit at all in the past week. Hah! Luckily, I still have some FOs in my backlog, so at least I have something to blog about in the meantime. Today’s FO was one of those love-hate scenarios, though luckily ending up on the love side of the spectrum…

The design

I fell in love with the Mignon design the moment I saw it. Loop used to be my local yarn shop when I lived in London and I still try to pay it a visit every time I go back. They have amazing yarn, a wonderfully welcoming space, helpful staff, and the shop is always, always, adorned with the most beautiful baby knits showcasing the scrumptious yarns available there. So when I saw that one of those would actually be released as a pattern, I was thrilled.

However, already reading other Ravelers’ notes made me aware of some issues, specifically in terms of sizing. Many many Ravelers pointed out that this was much closer to a cropped bolero than a cardigan, as the pattern description (and the rather vague photo) would lead you to believe. I was also worried about the shaping, especially in the shoulder area, as many of the project photos seemed to indicate that the shoulder shaping worked better for a clothes hanger than for a baby. So I hesitated for quite a while, but in the end I couldn’t resist the adorably simple cables and decided to give it a go.

The pattern

It was clear, easy to follow and error-free. I have no complaints about its technical aspects, thought the problems I had anticipated above were definitely present.

The yarn

This is definitely a pattern made for showcasing a beautiful yarn. So, if you’re going to make it, I would advise you to find something really special to use with it. The pattern is interesting enough to knit, yet simple enough to put the main focus on the yarn. Sometimes it happens to me that I have a really special yarn, but can’t find a pattern that will really let it sing (without being just a boring all-stockinette kind of thing). This is a pattern that does just that.

I had won the Sweet Fiber Avery Sport yarn in a giveaway from Yarn On The House. The yarn is 50% merino 50% silk and it is a simply heavenly combination. The softness… Aaah. And the colours are amazing. Just a bit of a variegated shine, without any pooling. I was really expecting to run into problems with the sleeves, which are done on much fewer stitches than the body, usually leading to significant colour differences due to pooling in variegated yarns. But this yarn was not having any of that. I can see no noticeable difference between the sleeves and the body. Impressive! I would highly recommend this yarn.

What I did differently

Most importantly, I significantly upgraded the sizing. The body circumference corresponded to 6-month sizing, so I looked up the other measurements (body and sleeve length) for a 6-month size from another pattern and kept on knitting until I reached them. I had to stop with the sleeves when I ran out of yarn, so in the end they might end up more like 3/4 sleeves, but that’s fine.

I picked up stitches for the sleeves to avoid sewing, knit the sleeves in the round, and changed the buttonhole method. Overall the methods suggested in the pattern were fine, but they seemed to be the simplest methods available. I guess the idea was to make it accessible to the least experienced of knitters. But I found that small upgrades in the skill level led to a more polished result. 

What I would do even more differently

I’d definitely add buttonholes all the way down. For me it’s really important to know that a knit is practical, in addition to being pretty. This was the main reason why I wanted a full cardigan instead of a cropped one – I mean a cropped bolero is cute and all, but does it really keep a baby warm? In the same vein, I think this would be more useful if it closed completely, rather than just at the neck.

I would do garter stitch at the bottom edges as well. I decided to knit them as per the original pattern suggestion (ribbed), even though the pattern indicated that it could be replaced with garter stitch. The ribbing made the bottom edge and sleeves flare out, which is just too frilly for my taste. I  managed to mostly fix it with blocking, but next time I’d avoid it all together by going with garter stitch.

What you should pay attention to

Blocking makes a huge difference to this pattern. For example, the issue with the shoulders mentioned above was mostly fixed through blocking. After all, this is a ribbed design, and it will pull into itself no matter what, so it’s really important to block it in the right shape. If you tend to skip blocking, don’t do it with this one.

In the end, what I loved

With some adjustments, I ended up with a beautiful cardigan. I still love the design and the elegant cables that I fell in love with in the beginning. In the meantime I’ve received the photo of the baby wearing it and it fits and looks great. So I would recommend this pattern, though a little bit of knitting experience might be helpful in making it just right.

selfishhhhh

Since the beginning of the year, my knitting has been without exception gift oriented and on a deadline. January tends to be the month when knitters embark on utterly selfish (and I mean this in a positive sense) projects, in a swingback from all the Xmas gift knitting they had done in the last months of the previous year. I, on the other hand, only knitted one Xmas gift this year, but there was a backlog of gift knitting waiting for me in January. With several visits to friends’ new babies and similar activities planned, week upon week I was rushing to start, knit, finish, wash and dry projects in time to pack them up and take with me. I didn’t complain. None of those gifts were requested of me. I wanted to make them, offered to, even insisted. But man oh man, am I DONE.  No gift knitting for a while. The world can wait. This knitter is DONE. For the next few weeks, everybody can just sit back and quietly watch me work on something for MYSELF. And I don’t even want to hear a peep.

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The swatch is done, I love the fabric I got, and I am spot on with gauge, both before and after blocking. Yup, I did this right. I even knitted the swatch in the round. I’ve studied the notes of pretty much every single Raveler who ever even contemplated knitting this pattern, I’ve measured and remeasured myself and made deliberate decisions on sizing. I’m ready to be as selfish as possible.

what can we learn from pattern writing?

In 2013 I had given myself the task to write up one knitting pattern, no matter what. My intention was not to become a famous knitting designer or anything wildly ambitious as that. I just wanted to experience the process of pattern writing, see what skills one needs to do it, learn something new.

And learn I did. It’s amazing how much writing even such a teeny tiny super simple pattern can teach you! Even though I was already highly confident with all the skills required to execute the pattern in question, the process of writing it led me to think carefully and deliberately about every single step we do in knitting.

All of a sudden gauge couldn’t be aaah-well-this’ll-do anymore – other people would depend on my exactness for their project to come out to the right dimensions. All of a sudden I was questioning which bind off is just the right one for this – because test knitters were asking whether they could change it to something else and I had to consider whether it would affect the overall design. All of a sudden I had to think about what information people would really need and what would be just crowding the instructions too much. All of a sudden I had a million modification ideas dancing around in my head, me, who is normally an I-prefer-to-knit-patterns-exactly-as-written girl.

It was illuminating. And in the end, rather than making me a famous designer, it made me a better knitter. Exactly what I wanted in the first place!

At the moment I’m thinking of putting another simple free pattern out there. It would be interesting to see how different the process is this time.

And you? Have you ever written a pattern? Do you want to? Do you think it would change how you approach your knitting?

(This post is illustrated with photos of the Kindle cozy I made while testing my own pattern.)