i hate sewing on buttons

…but I got down to it last night and afterwards thought to myself contentedly: “Aaaah, now it’s at least done!” And then this morning I got up and saw this.

And this.

The knitting is fine. The button placement is not. ALL three will have to go out and in again (I’ve checked, moving just one won’t do it). Well, at least it’s ONLY three. Or so I keep telling myself. But it’s definitely not DONE.

Argh.

p.s. Have a good week, everyone!

elephant duo

This was not in my knitting plans at all. One day, I simply found myself picking up the gray and yellow yarn, thinking that they go well together, and from there onwards there was no stopping me. I guess that’s what photos of cute babies do to one.

The duo was initially meant to be a trio, including a pair of gray booties. But to my great distress I had discovered that my favourite bootie pattern has in the meantime been taken off Ravelry, which led to trying out another one and failing miserably several times. I kept ending up with two different-sized booties, no matter how many times I ripped and re-tried. Yes, baby knits are great because they involve few stitches and are thus quick. But the fact that they involve few stitches also means that a difference of 3 or 4 stitches in a row makes a huge difference in the size of the finished object. And thus I decided in the end that an elephant trio would be too matchy-matchy anyway and that no self-respecting baby boy would match more than two items of clothing like ever. And therefore it actually would have been totally silly to give him booties as well, right? Right.

The hat pattern is Gooseberry, which I love for its simple elegance and stretchy practicality. My only objection was the lack of specificity about the size. The pattern simply indicated it was a “baby size”, which in my book is anything between 0 and 12 months, and therefore not terribly helpful if you’re aiming for anything more specific than that and do not have the intended recipient on hand to estimate as you go along. As a result I ended up playing around with the numbers and hoping it fits. I’ll let you know when I find out.

The vest is Milo, which is just a godsend blank canvas for an adorable baby gift. There are so many lovely versions available to draw inspiration from, ranging from cables to colourwork to rainbow striping… I could spend hours just looking at all the different ideas on Ravelry and planning dozens of different Milos to knit up some day. The only thing I didn’t like about the colourwork here was that, done in merino yarn, it looks pixelated rather than with nice round edges. This led to people not always recognising what the pattern was supposed to be (“Such cute piglets!”, my mother exclaimed upon seeing it, for instance). But I still did not yet dare knit something wooly for new parents, the last thing they want to be doing is worrying if the wool is chafing their baby’s cheeks and the last thing I want to be doing is wondering if the baby drool is going to make the vest felt (let’s not even talk about handwashing, I dare not utter that word in their company… ;)

gray is all around me

I’m busy busy busy with my Xmas knitting, and I’m enjoying it too! This evening I decided to take a break from life to do things that refill my batteries instead, and used the time gained to photograph some of the things I have in progress (albeit in crappy artificial light). I was a bit surprised to discover that all of them contained at least a little bit of gray! It seems to be my colour of choice for knits this season! Here’s the proof…

You’ve already seen Millwater (which, in the meantime, has been finished). Then there’s another completely gray item.

And after that there’s all sorts of gray combos.

Medium gray and dark red.

Baby gray and baby yellow.

Dark grey and dark purple.

You’re getting detail shots only on purpose. All of these are gifts, so more to be revealed in a few weeks… But considering the amount of gits I’m knitting, this is going to be one busy blog after xmas day!

Have you noticed any patterns in your colour choices this season?

Oh, handsome

Free patterns have been rocking my world lately! I am not one to shy away from buying a pattern I really like, but my credit card has been sporting a bit of a sad face lately, and this has led me to explore more the free patterns I already had on my queue. One great source of free patterns is Pickles, a Norwegian duo who sells yarns and provides a bunch of free crafting resources. If you haven’t been there yet it’s definitely worth checking out. I like their philosophy very much: they always provide one size of a pattern for free, and they alternate between sizes “to make it fair for everyone”. That’s a very cool approach.

The project I’ve been eyeing the longest on their website is Oh, handsome - a toddler sweater pattern which comes both in a summer and a winter version. The one-size-free idea worked perfectly for me here, because I didn’t have a specific recipient intended for the sweater – I just wanted to try out the pattern. So I just knit whichever the free size was (in this case, it was the 2-year-old size).

The reviews of this pattern on Ravelry weren’t all that bright, though. Many different people had many different complaints, but I decided to brave it, thinking that I would solve any snags as I went (and encouraged by my success in dealing with this poorly written free pattern). In the end, however, I had no major difficulties. (And if you followed that link above, you know I wouldn’t hesitate to tell you if I had. ;)) There were a few places where it could have been polished out a bit, things that were just plain impractical – like the bit where you separate the fronts and the back, which has been widely commented on, and rightly so, but which takes about 15 seconds of thinking to come up with a better way of doing it. Overall, there was nothing that would give one much headache and I would recommend this pattern without hesitation.

The one thing that could be improved is the formatting. Before setting off to knit, I copypasted everything into a Word document, removed all the unnecessary bits and converted all measurements to centimeters. I ended up with a pattern that fit on half of an A4 page and which was much easier to follow visually than the one on the website. But you could say that that’s just personal preference. I tend to do that with patterns a lot.

If you look at my project page, you’ll notice a fair amount of modifications. Their purpose, however, was not to change the design (I really loved it as it is), but to reduce the amount of seaming as much as possible. In the end, the only thing I had to seam was the bottom of the collar, and it pleased me very much that I had been so clever with that! If you’d like to make this pattern and you’re as lazy about seaming as I am, I think you could find my notes helpful. Let me know if anything needs clarifying.

The detail that I am very proud of are the sleeves. Look, look how nicely set in they are! :) Instead of knitting them separately and then attaching them (which I dread), I went in the opposite direction, picking up stitches at the armhole and knitting down. I was a bit too lazy to do the calculations for short rows, so my sleeves don’t have shoulder cap shaping like proper set-in sleeves, but I reckon it doesn’t matter too much on a sweater for a 2-year-old. The good thing about baby and toddler sweaters is that perfect fitting does not matter as much as it does on adult ones!

Oh, and then there’s the collar. I looooove the collar. Well, let’s be honest, it’s the only interesting bit of the sweater – the rest of it is basically just a plain vanilla stockinette sweater. The collar is so distinguished though. So cool. So unusual for a toddler garment. So so SO! I am completely in love with it.

And the best part is that it would probably even eliminate the need for a scarf, since it goes high up the neck and closes in snugly. Thus putting the dot on the i of this perfect little warm winter sweater. Now just to find a model… :)

more gray

I’ve definitely been developing an obsession with this particular gray yarn (ISPE Padova Serenada). Which is kind of unexpected seeing that I didn’t buy the yarn on my own initiative at all. I had bought a huge quantity of it when I was struggling with making “the male scarf”. The recipient had requested gray and this was the best gray I could find, and since it was fingering weight I bought double the amount with the intention of getting my intended gauge by holding it double. After experimenting with it, though, I was not happy and abandoned the yarn completely, regretting my purchase and hoping that some day, a long time later, I could find some use of it, but not really believing that I would.

Then came along the Little Sister Dress and the recipient again requested gray – I was happy that I could use at least some of my stash and plodded along. I still wasn’t terribly impressed. But once it was finished, the magic of blocking decided to interfere. Something happens to this yarn after you give it a nice warm wash. The stitches seem to bloom a little and hug each other tightly, the fabric becomes smooth, the texture pops out. I know these are things you could say about blocking most yarns, but something very tactile happens here, I can’t really explain it without letting you touch it. In the end, it’s it’s what made me fall in love with it after all that time. (I guess all this speaks, as so many other things do, of the importance of washing and blocking swatches – something I’m afraid I still fail to do.)

(The white spots are not colour variations – but remnants of weighing the sweater in our kitchen scales… It’ll have a proper wash soon.)

This particular pattern called for a fingering weight yarn to be held double, something I had never seen so expressly requested in a pattern before, but since I was so eager to use this yarn again, it was the perfect match. And of course, held double the knitting flew by. It came out looking just as I thought it would and I am so pleased that my beloved gray yarn has been turned into another charming toddler item. As you can tell, I haven’t been too keen to get on with the finishing, but when I do, I’ll get better photos and be sure to tell you more about the pattern as well.

honey

As promised last week, today I present to you The Vest Of Podcast Fame: Honey. Though Honey was finished a while ago, it took some time for all the elements to coincide properly so we could take photos. Considering the amount of effort I put into it, I wanted to have really good photos and didn’t mind waiting. The credit (and a big hug) for them goes to my best friend, who is steadily becoming my official photographer. We’re both learning as we go and having lots of fun at it. And every time we shoot something, I can’t wait for the next time!

Now, I’ve wanted to knit myself a vest for so long now. I love the idea of them. When I was 7 years old, I had a vest that I used to wear to school (first grade, eek!) all the time. When I think of vests now, I see an image of a nice warm colour paired with a white shirt, for a professional yet casual look. These are all the things I was thinking of when I was looking for a vest to knit.

I first noticed the Green Day pattern on handpande’s project page. And to be honest, good thing I did. Because if I had come across the pattern page first, I probably wouldn’t have looked twice before clicking the little red x in the top right-hand corner of the screen. I really don’t think the photos there do the pattern justice – especially with one of them (at the very top) not even being available any more. The funny thing is, it’s not the first time something like this happens to me via handepande. Her project page also led me to the Pajunkissa hat pattern – which I made (in three versions!) according to her mods, rather than the significantly different per-pattern version.

The pattern itself, I’m sad to say, is not written much better than its Ravelry page would lead you to expect. It is far from polished. First of all, the pattern is written for knitting on straight needles, even though the designer’s photos show a closed garment rather than a buttoned one. So the knitter is left to his or her own devices to modify the pattern to knit in the round, so as to get what the pattern photos show! That’s pretty illogical if you ask me.

Furthermore, the chart is rather confusing. It is partially duplicated without telling you that what you’re seeing is one and a half repeat rather than one full repeat. This led me to having some really strange twists in my cables, before realising what was going on, and having to rip 4 rounds.

Finally, there are some errors in the English translation. And I’m not speaking about not using the exact English knitting term. Rather, some numbers were copied wrong. Now, I’m a translator myself and I know translators get a lot of gruff for failing to copy numbers correctly and little acknowledgement for other things into which they put a lot of effort, but in a knitting pattern numbers are pretty crucial, I dare say.

So if you’re planning to knit this pattern, be warned: you’ll need to modify it for knitting in the round (unless you want a seam smack in the middle of your front) and figure out where the errors are. However, I’d say that with some experience and knitter’s intuition you should be able to make it work without major issues. I knit mine in the round, made it longer than the pattern stipulated, and worked out all the errors (though some after an attempt or two) – and this was only my third or fourth adult garment ever.

Having said all that, I can hear a little voice at the back of my head, saying “You’re too critical. It’s a FREE pattern. You have no right to demand anything from it.” True, it’s free. I didn’t pay anything for it so I might as well work harder to make sense of it, and, not having paid anything, I have no “claim” to demand better quality for my money. Are we allowed to mention when free patterns are poorly-written at all or is even that rude and ungrateful? I’d love to hear your opinions.

I’d like to note here that it’s possible the designer didn’t even intend to be a designer – she may have just written up her notes  because others asked for them upon seeing her improvised FO. This would explain the failure to polish the pattern to a great extent. So why on earth am I grumbling? Well, here’s the thing: I enjoyed knitting this very much, it was just challenging enough, it was fairly easy to modify, and it yielded a beautiful result. It is precisely for these reasons that I’d like the pattern to be presented better and polished a bit more – I’m sure a lot more people would be making it then, and it’s what the pattern definitely deserves!

rip it again, Sam

There is this vest that has been almost finished for a very long time now. Not because I got bored of it. Not because I didn’t feel like working on it. Not because I ran out of yarn. My problem with it? The neckline. I’ve picked up stitches, knitted it, bound off, and ripped it all twice now. Let’s take it step by step.

I thought this would be the easiest part of the whole project. I love picking up stitches. What a great way to do a neckline, I thought! And I could test it and see if I want it a bit longer, to adjust just how much cleavage I want this vest to have. But then the knitting fairy decided to teach me a lesson.

I don’t have the photo for my first attempt, but the problem was that I ended up with weird holes in very undesirable places around my neckline. The kind of holes that would be the first thing that poked someone in the eye. They were on the neckline, after all! On the front of the vest! On my boobs! Even if I fixed them up with my scrap yarn (and I’m not an expert on fixing holes in knitting), they would be too unseemly. Rip.

For my second attempt, I followed clever advice from The Sweatshop of Love – and picked up the stitches a bit further away from the edge of my knitting. In order to be double safe, I used a slightly smaller needle. And in order to be triple safe, I picked up the stitches much closer to each other. Which meant that I ended up with around 90 stitches more than recommended in the pattern. Are you starting to see the problem?

No holes, brilliant, but I ended up with a, to put it nicely, ruffled neckline. Too many stitches, and in ribbing too, it just doesn’t work. Rip.

And here we are now. The plan for the third attempt is as follows: rip back to first row after picking up, then do one row of [k2tog twice, p2tog twice] to get set up for the proper ribbing. That way I get the benefit of not having any holes + get rid of my surplus of stitches. It seems like a good idea, for now at least. Any problems you foresee? Please tell me now, I don’t feel like another rip.