your take on a tool: the teeny tiny needle

Last week I was at a work conference in a part of town where I don’t usually go. Lucky for me, it also happens to be the part of town which is home to a good yarn shop. I had been struggling with the project I had on the needles because my DPNs were terribly long. Imagine DPNs the length of regular straight needles (the ones on which you can only knit back and forth – remember those? ;). I don’t know why they were so long (I think the lady at the shop where I bought them ages ago had mentioned something about knitting sweater collars) nor why on earth I had them (they were probably the only ones the shop had in stock at the time). In any case, knitting 15 stitches in the round on them was a pain in the ass, and finding myself in the vicinity of a solution, I dived in. But it turned out that I had no idea what I was heading towards. After I explained my problem to the shopkeeper, she came back with something that you might say comes from the very opposite end of the spectrum.

This set of 6 (!) KnitPro Symphonie DPNs is only 10 cm in length (I guess that’s why you need 6 of them, otherwise no stitches would fit). The shopkeeper was very positive about them and claimed that they were so short that you could tuck your sock-in-progress in your pant pocket and not even notice it was there. My first concern when seeing them was about whether the stitches would keep falling off the ends, but she assured me that this was not the case, and I can confirm that the grip on these needles is unbelievable (even a bit too strong for my taste, but in any case – you can rest assured nothing will fall off!).

However, something I hadn’t anticipated was that these needles would poke me! It turns out that I hold the needles in such a way that I hug them with my whole palm. With an extremely short needle like this, however, this results in the non-working end of the needle poking me somewhere in the middle of my palm. Needless to say, this is not pleasant. I tried and tried to change the way I hold them, grip the needles closer to one end or the other, change the position of my hands, but it was all just uncomfortable.

I later remembered I had had a similar problem with a circular needle with short tips – in that case there wasn’t so much poking (what ended up in the middle of my palm was the join where the tip meets the cable, which is relatively round and soft), but some stability had been lost. As the non-working end of the needle rests on my palm, this provides me with a firmer grip and more control over my needle’s movement. Losing this, I had resorted to gripping the other end of the needle firmer, which led to pain in both my fingers and wrist.

I finished my project with the long DPNs. They may be a pain in the ass in terms of fiddliness, but at least they’re not physically hurting me like the short ones. Looking back on these two experiences, I think very short needles are simply not for me. What’s your take on them? Do you like using them? Am I missing some vital piece of information/instructions? Do tell!


a story with a happy ending

Hello. My name is Socktopus. I am from the planet Sockturn. Recently I was sent on an expedition to explore the Universe, and on my first stop I landed on Earth.

It was a bit of a rough  landing, and it took me a few moments to shake off the space dust off my many feet.

But as soon as I caught my breath, I decided to go for a walk and look around.

I saw what looked like an Earthling dwelling, and decided to go for a visit. There were some signs about it being forbidden for Dogs (which my Sockturnian space translator helpfully translated), but I didn’t know what Dogs were and I was pretty sure I wasn’t one, so I decided to go ahead.

I crossed the fence.

But I may have made some wrong movements or something, because all of a sudden I heard someone shouting “Oh myyyyyy, it’s a space invader! Ruuuuun!”. I guess extraterrestrials can look scary to Earthlings…

I pushed on, hoping I could explain to them calmly that I come in peace. I went to knock on the window, but I found there a horrible creature making extremely loud noises and demonstrating unbelievably sharp teeth.

So that’s what Dog is! No wonder they’re forbidden, those things are scaaaaary!

By this point, I was cold, tired, lonely and horribly frightened of Dog, so I just crawled into some sort of a shelter and cried myself to sleep. You may think extraterrestrials are scary, but we have feelings too!

But after a while, I was awoken by someone crouching down next to me and speaking softly. It was a female Earthling . At first, considering all my awful experiences on Earth so far, I was suspicious, but she turned out to be quite safe and kind. She offered to take me for a warm drink, which I accepted with joy! 

Very soon afterwards we had become good friends, and she asked me if I wanted to come live with her. I was delighted! I am happy to say I like Earth a lot more now and am looking forward to staying here for a while and exploring. If you meet me, please don’t be scared! Come say hello, we can have a caramel macchiato together and I’ll tell you all about Sockturn!

p.s. Caramel macchiatos are awesome!

WIP Wednesday: every last bit

I chose the pattern because of its low yardage requirement – and I had enough of this beautiful yarn in my stash. It was supposed to be quick and there was no risk that I would run out – in fact it wasn’t that I had enough, I had more than enough.

But then things started happening. The pattern, as written, knitted up extremely quickly. I read a few comments on how the design was actually a cropped length, rather than a full-sized cardigan.

And then I started thinking. About how it would be nicer if the baby got a proper cardigan that would keep her warm, rather than just a cute accessory. About how the yarn I’d have left over wouldn’t be enough for anything, and about how that’s a pity, because it’s really gorgeous.

And so I decided to lengthen everything, and use every last bit of the yarn. I used measurements from another pattern to estimate how much longer to make the body and sleeves for a 6-month size. I knit the body as long as that pattern said. And I intended to use whatever was left of the yarn to knit whatever length sleeves I could eek out of it.

That’s where my kitchen scale came into play. She is one of the most valued and heavily used objects in my kitchen. I am happy to say she was just as helpful for my knitting.

I weighed the remaining yarn. There was 14 grams. I attached one end of it to the ball winder, while keeping the rest on the scale. I wound until the scale showed 7 grams. I cut the yarn and then reweighed each tiny ball – happily they were indeed 7 grams each. And now I can proceed to knit the sleeves, knowing they will both be the same length, and that I will have used every last bit of the yarn. 

Sometimes, just sometimes, it’s good to be obsessive about our knitting. :)


Happy Monday everyone! You may have noticed that I’ve been trying to start up an FO Monday habit on this blog. It doesn’t alliterate as nicely as FO Friday, but in practical terms it makes more sense for me – as during the weekend I have much more time to take photos and think up a post. And it sure is a nice way to start off the week – while I’m still bleary-eyed and a bit shocked to find myself back at the office, it’s a little achievement already in the books and I get to show you something pretty (just in case you’re also bleary-eyed and shocked ;).

Of course my knitting is not nearly as productive to produce an FO a week, but the silver lining of last year’s knitting and blog freeze is that I have quite a few projects in the back log – waiting for some finishing touches or even just a photo session. Take this one, for example. It was knitted up in three days during the 2012 (yes you read that right) Xmas holidays, and gifted a few days later, but photos never happened. Until this weekend.

Hendreary is another Ysolda gem, and it came as part of her wonderful series Whimsical Little Knits (part 3). I knew I had to make it the moment I saw it. And it was just what I had imagined it to be – fun, addictive and fast to knit up, with an utterly adorable outcome. If you’re looking for your first Fair Isle project, this would be a very good one to start with.

I used Cascade 220, the non-Heathers variety this time, which I think is a bit heavier than the Heathers tones (and softer as well) – has anyone else had that experience? In any case I loved it, and as you can see after a solid year of wear (including a tough winter which lasted up until about the beginning of June), it is holding up very well. Another point for the Cascade team!

All in all a quick and enjoyable process with a bright and cheerful result! I hope those epithets are true of the week ahead as well!

sleeping baby’s castle blanket

Let me just say this right at the start: I do not knit baby blankets for just anyone. I am currently at an age when and in a place where everyone seems to be procreating. And I am happy for them all. But no matter how much I like my colleagues (three of whom are pregnant just this very moment, with countless others having recently become parents), or how much I care for family ties (my cousin’s baby is very cute indeed), baby blankets are way over the top to be just your ordinary I-m-so-happy-for-you gift. No, I save my baby-blanket energies for those special babies, for whom I hope to be called an honorary auntie, about whose colics and pooping habits I hope to be hearing on a daily basis, and whose small and great achievements I hope to be sharing in for years to come. Those babies – they get the best I’ve got to give. A thoughtful plan, a good-quality yarn, and loads and loads of patience and love built into every stitch.

When it comes to choosing the perfect baby blanket pattern, however, things get kinda tough. Apart from the mother telling you that he or she likes to kick a lot, you really have no idea about who the baby will be or what he or she will like. The only thing to do, then, is to come up with something that the parents will love. For this baby, I spent hours and hours browsing blankets on Ravelry. I came up with a few I-guess-that-will-dos, but nothing that really made me light up. And then I spotted the Sleeping Baby’s Castle Blanket and my heart stopped. This baby’s parents are into fantasy (literature, movies, games, you name it). The search was done.

Now, I have a lot to say about this project, and it’s all great. So get ready for a wave of positivity here.

The pattern was an absolute pleasure to knit, and working on it got me excited, no, make that thrilled, about knitting after a full-on 6-month-long break. That’s got to tell you something. The pattern is simply awesome. It is superbly written, and completely error-free. Even though I am comfortable with charts in general, I very quickly decided to follow the written instructions on this one because the chart is huge (it spreads out over two full pages). I did not find a single mistake in the whole written-out instructions, which I believe is amazing. I really appreciate and admire the effort that went into this pattern.

I knit everything exactly per pattern, apart from eliminating one turret pattern repeat at the bottom and one at the top, as many Ravelers commented on the blanket coming out too long. The final measurements are 80 x 92 cm, which is a pretty perfect fit for a baby cot.

As for level of difficulty, it is really mostly just knit and purl, with the occasional yarn-over and cable, very simple. You do have to pay attention to what you’re doing when you’re on the castle motif, but it never gets overly complicated. And there are some really nice details thrown in there, little stitches that are so clever and so well placed that you just have to smile to yourself and marvel at them.

In terms of what yarn to choose, I hesitated for quite a long time. An Aran weight for a baby blanket?! It just sounded like it would be waaay too heavy and unmanageable. (I am happy to report that it is perfectly fine.) And then not that many companies make Aran-weight 100% superwash merino yarns. (I am happy to report that Drops came to the rescue, as usual.) And then which colour to choose? Something not too conventionally baby-like, yet something bright enough to show off the beautiful motif. I settled on this grayish-blue. (I am happy to report that the parents were delighted to have finally received something blue for their boy, it was the very first!)

In the end, I am absolutely thrilled with how the DROPS Big Merino worked out. As I learn again and again, Drops provide amazing quality for a very good price. I have only words of praise for them. And I can hardly believe how crisp those stitches are!

So that’s it. We’re ready for you, baby Aleks!

just as I had imagined it

Here’s my first WIP of the new year: a man scarf based on an earlier “recipe” I had developed. I’m using the same yarn, the same needles, the same stitch pattern, but I’ve introduced a detail of subtle “cascading” cables. So far, it’s working out just as I had imagined it in my head, which is immensely pleasurable! I hope your first WIP is giving you just as much joy!

(My photos, on the other hand, are NOT working out as I had imagined them, please bear with me.)

a successful grownup sweater

I’ve knit a few grownup sweaters before, but mostly I just try to knit sweaters and end up abandoning or ripping them at somewhere about 70% of the way. The few I did finish (for myself) I’ve only worn a few times, out of some sense of obligation (I spent money, time and effort on it, it looks nice on the hanger, so I really should wear it, even though in fact I don’t like how it looks on me or I in it). For a while this meant that I was quite discouraged from attempting any new sweaters. But somehow, this fall, after defeating my lack of knitting mojo, I felt strong enough to go for it.

I turned to an old favourite that I had intended to knit years ago (this seems to be my leitmotif lately), and it proved to be a good choice. Cobblestone is probably one of the most popular men’s patterns out there, so I won’t ramble on about it too much. I was happy with how it was written and had no problems with it. A bit more difficult was finding a man who would want to wear it, though. When I first showed the pattern to some male friends, they all judged it too casual, and indeed it’s true that on some men it looks “like they should be working in an organic food store”, as one Ravelry user wrote of her version (I chuckled and agreed). But then my dad lives in the countryside, chops firewood, walks dogs, and even grows some of his own vegetables (organically) so I thought he wouldn’t mind too much.

Good old Cascade 220 was a natural choice of yarn. It is reasonably priced, I love working with it, and the Heathers palette has just the right amount of tweediness to it. When I found this beautiful dark brown with notes of purple (i.e. aubergine) colour, I knew I had my winner. In the end, even the friends who had originally scoffed at the pattern were asking if they could have one too. (That also taught me a few lessons about men’s ability to see past the version in the pattern photos… You know, it’s like it doesn’t even occur to them that it could be knit in a different colour than the one shown!)

A few words on measurements: I had taken detailed measurements of my dad in order to be sure I wouldn’t be missing any key figure when knitting this thousands of kilometres away from him. However, when I compared his measurements to those in the pattern, I had a bit of a shock. It seemed that all of his measurements were much much bigger than the pattern. E.g. for his size the pattern requested 44.5cm from bottom of sweater to underarm, and the measure I took of my dad for that section was a whopping 58cm! So, after thinking it over and concluding that my dad was not a monstrously disproportionate creature, I reasoned that the truth lay somewhere in between what the pattern suggested and what I had measured. I ended up having to make a lot of estimates and trusting my guts. I was also lucky enough to occasionally have access to a model of similar height as my dad, so I tried it out on him. I’d say in the end the measurements I actually knitted ended up being somewhere halfway between the pattern and what I had measured. I was on edge when dad opened his package on xmas and pulled the sweater on, but in the end, it fits like a glove. I can hardly believe it!

And since we’re talking about sweaters and fit, here is one important tip for measuring this sweater: always measure your progress with the sweater hanging, rather than lying flat. This is important especially towards the end, when you’re knitting garter stitch which stretches a lot, especially when faced with so much weight hanging on it. This sweater is heavy, keep that in mind!

In the end, both my fitting model and my dad had the same verdict: they loved the sweater but if they could change anything they would go for a more classical collar. I see their point. This collar is pretty low and requires that you wear a matching shirt underneath, as it will definitely show through at the neck. But hey, I wasn’t about to tell them that it was knit bottom-up and that the collar could be re-knit. I was too busy getting ready to knit some successful grownup sweaters for myself… ;)

mama’s big heart

My mom has just the biggest heart. She would never request anything for herself, the only (small and shy) requests she ever makes are for other people. So when she asked me to make a hat for a good friend and neighbour of hers, how could I refuse? Well, I must be honest and admit that I did mumble and grumble about not having time, about being under pressure to finish other gifts, about not liking to do custom orders for strangers, and all that, but in the end, I thought of my mama’s big heart and picked up the needles.

And (of course) in the end I was glad I did. This little item turned out to be one of my favourite makes ever. It was a great stash-buster, easy to knit, and involved some joint family effort (I’m looking at you, pompom). The finished object is playful and cheerful, and fits great. It’s what knitting’s all about.

The pattern is Thorpe, and it had been in my queue forever. The only guideline the recipient had given me was “the crazier the better”, which gave me a good excuse to play with colours, and Thorpe was the perfect blank-canvas pattern for that.

The pattern is free and well-written. Despite being a simple design, it includes some wonderful details, especially when it comes to finishing.

Even though the hat looked nice when the knitting was done, the finishing details (the crochet edge, the braids, the pompom) took it to the next level and made it look truly polished.

I thoroughly enjoyed both the process and the finished object, and will definitely go back to this pattern in the future. And I’m happy to say the recipient loved it as well!