the socks that started it all

Here they are, the socks that reminded me that knitting socks is easy and that I love it.

For this first pair, I kept it simple and easy – the so called “plain vanilla” socks: all stockinette, no special features, letting the yarn tell its own story. For these kinds of socks I usually turn to Wendy Johnson’s Socks from the Toe Up book, which helped me make my first steps in sock-knitting and remains a trusted resource. While I have nothing against cuff-down socks, toe-up knitting can be really handy in certain situations, for example when you’re not sure how much yarn you will have exactly. You get the non-negotiable part of the socks (i.e. the length of the foot) knit first, and then for the cuff you can just keep knitting until you run out of yarn.

I really love that Wendy presents a number of different toe and heel techniques, and these kinds of simple socks are perfect for experimenting and finding your preferred option. For these socks I went with the short-row heel, which I think of as “the standard” heel type. The finished heel was fine, but I did find the process rather hard on the fingers (lots of tight wraps to pick up and knit), so it’s not my favourite heel type.

Further experiments in sock construction techniques to come…

winter lines

No posting for almost a year and then I just randomly show up without explanation? I don’t care, I have just made myself the awesomest sweater ever, I’m absolutely silly with excitement and I have to show you and tell you all about it right now!

I had the blog post (complete with photo styling) for this sweater made up in my head before I even started knitting it – more precisely, the moment I chose the colours. Back then, in the winter of 2013/14, I had begun noticing a colour pattern in my favourite winter clothes: navy and red, always and in all possible combinations. Case in point, at the time, my winter coat was bright red, and about 80% of the time I wore it with dark blue jeans. And so when the time came to choose the colours for a new sweater, there wasn’t much thinking to do. I planned to finish it quickly (early progress was promising), photograph it with the favourite coat and jeans, and not take it off all winter. But lo and behold, life happened, and the sweater didn’t get finished until a few winters later. I no longer have that red coat, but luckily my colour preferences have endured (surprise surprise, my current coat is navy :)) and this beauty will fit right into my wardrobe.

Now for the technical deets. The pattern is beautifully designed and technically well written. Don’t you love those sleeves?!

And pockets. Pockets!

I did have some issues with sizing (the sleeves and neckline were way too big for me), but once I buckled down and did some improvising they were easily solved. I do suspect, though, that this is a mod I’ll have to perform often as pattern sizes tend to be based on the bust measurement, which can be quite misleading for other proportions.

The yarn is squishy and smooth, and perfectly comfortable against bare skin. With blocking everything got ever so slightly longer, which was just how I wanted it. I am also quite impressed with the fact that the sweater does not show any wrinkles, despite the fact that it was stuffed in a small box for the better part of 2 years. I guess the credit for that also goes to the yarn.

I am absolutely certain I will be loving this sweater for many years to come!

cascading scarf

When it comes to men’s scarves, I have an exceedingly simple recipe which gives a beautiful result. The only issue is – it is exceedingly boring to knit. Three-by-three rib for hours and hours (and hours) on end, anyone? The solution – add a small and subtle design element which will barely show in the finished product (to make it man-wearable) but will make the knitting process a bit more interesting.

Enter my idea of a “cascading scarf”. Now, this has probably been done before. It’s not exactly rocket science. But I had honestly not seen it anywhere, and came up with the idea on my own: interrupt the endless ribbing with a series of staggered cables, to give a sort of waterfall effect.

Here’s how it turned out.

I have to say, it looks exactly as I had envisioned it in my head, which is exceedingly pleasing! I couldn’t be happier with it!

The wrong side doesn’t look bad either.

And the best part? When worn, no one can even guess that this is anything other than the simplest of man scarves. Mischief managed!

If you would like to replicate it, my adjusted recipe is on Ravelry.

the trouble with sizing

Did you know that there are virtually no sweater patterns for the age of 3? I discovered this curious fact earlier this year, when trying to find a pattern for a friend’s toddler. As I frequently bemoan, I am fairly far away from the majority of the people I knit for, which means that, more often than not, I have to rely on standard sizing for my garments and hope for the best. So imagine my surprise when I realised, while perusing toddler patterns on ravelry, that I couldn’t find a single one which even listed a size for the age I needed! In fact, a typical sizing scale goes something like this: 6 months – 12 months – 18 months – 2 – 4 – 6 – 8 – 10 – 12 years. You may notice that odd numbers of years are conspicuously absent!

Turns out there are reasons for this: from what I could gather from the experts (i.e. parents and pattern designers), children either don’t grow too much between certain ages or their growth is so unpredictable so as to make standardised sizing impossible. You are advised to assess their size and see which of the measurements fit them better, the one for the age above or below them. As this was impossible for me (did I mention I also like to produce my knits as a surprise to the recipients?), I resorted to some other techniques.

In fact, I did a little bit of investigating. I compared the numbers for sizes 2 and 4 of my pattern, and it turned out that they differed only in the length of the body! Everything else was exactly the same for both sizes. Turns out kids don’t change much between ages 2 and 4 either! So, following this, I decided to knit the size 2 with 1 extra inch of length in the sleeves and body (i.e. length somewhere in between sizes 2 and 4).

The result? When the kid tried it on, he definitely had “room to grow”, to put it diplomatically. :) But he wasn’t swimming in it so much to make it unusable, and it will definitely fit him for a couple of years, so I’m calling it a win. :)

Pattern: Weekend Pullover by Andrea Sanchez (The design is like a child Cobblestone, which I love. The pattern is flawless.)

Yarn: Cascade 220® Heathers in colourway 2448 (This may be my all-time favourite yarn.)

baby gift set: milo and the simple baby hat

Speaking of simple baby stuff and good old patterns, here are two patterns I keep going back to when I’m in need of gifts for new parents. (Excuse the terrible photos, these are really quite lovely in real life.)

I tend to knit Milo and Simple Baby Hat as a baby gift set. I’ve done three pairs so far and I have no intention of stopping any time soon. They both call for more or less the same yarn and gauge, and are equally simple to make. Moreover, they can serve as wonderful blank canvases to experiment with whatever you want – embroidery, colourwork, striping…

Finally, they are both extremely quick to make, and parents tell me they’re super practical. So, if you need a win-win solution for the next baby shower you’re invited to with a few days’ notice, I’d highly recommend these two!

finished object: little thorpe

This knit started in a fairly standard way: my friend’s 2-year-old son needed a good hat that would stay on. After combing through dozens of children’s hat patterns I went back to good old Thorpe – it is such a great shape for keeping warm and its top-down construction means it’s also very easy to modify the size.

However, I came to learn quickly that it is very difficult to imagine what a good size for a 2-year-old head is if you don’t have any 2-year-old heads nearby. I ploughed on through the pattern eyeballing the size, with the help of my mom, An Experienced Award-Winning Three-Time-Mother and Two-Time-Grandma. You’d think she’d know. We were quite happy with the outcome up until I tried to put it on my own head and found it to be too big even for me.

fran2

Luckily this hat has a top-down construction (you start from the crown of the head), so if you need to make it smaller, you just have to rip back a few increases, until you get to a more appropriate number of stitches and then re-do the rest. The most fiddly part anyway is the cast-on and increasing, so with that out of the way ripping and re-knitting is a breeze. The second version I knit ended up fitting the boy like a glove. I really cannot recommend the Thorpe pattern enough if you are aiming to make a hat with a perfect fit (especially if you have the recipient’s head nearby for trials)…

fran1

Stay tuned, folks, this issue of babies/kids and sizing is going to become a recurrent theme on this blog, let me tell you…

Kindle cozy pattern published

Well, I finally got off my sorry ass and released the Kindle cozy pattern out into the world! You can find it on Ravelry here, for free.

I hope you like it, and if you end up making it, pleeeease send me some photos, I’d loooove to see :) And if you find something that I totally messed up, pretty pretty please let me know so I can fix it.

I would like to use this opportunity to say a huge huge thank you to my amazing test knitters, who not only provided useful feedback on the knitting and advice on phrasing things clearly, but also an inordinate amount of moral support when things were looking topsy-turvy and I was ready to cry, hide under my desk and pretend that I had never even tried putting together a knitting pattern. (Yes, pattern writing is that stressful. For me at least.) Thank you so much, Sarah, Franca, Dona, Thea, Abbey and Elena. You were awesome.