Tag Archives: gift knitting

Heels and toes

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It’s mid-October, so I thought a Soctober update was in order. Mostly, I think, I’m on track.

My first priority this month was to finish these Stepping-Stones socks for my mom, and I’m only a couple of inches from starting the toe decreases, so if all goes well they’ll be in the mail by the end of the week.

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Indigodragonfly Superwash DK in Fringe Over Troubled Water. I changed skeins part way through the foot of the first sock, so I’m interested to see if the difference between socks is noticeable.

 

If you’ve never knit socks or are looking for a speedy pair, I can’t recommend Clara Hughes Parkes’ pattern highly enough (I can never get the name right on first type – this is why). These socks knit up quickly, are more than just plain stockinette but don’t require too much attention, and are a free pattern to boot. This is the second time I’ve knit these socks and I know more pairs are in my future because, honestly, in Canada we need thick socks. I also plan to knit the large size in lighter-weight sock yarn, because I like the way it breaks up the colours in variegated yarns.

Second on my list is Saltburn. These are the official start of my Christmas knitting, so I can’t say too much about them. I will say, though, that I’m planning to shorten them. The recipient like ankle socks, and while those aren’t super practical in the winter, I don’t want to knit socks so high that they won’t become part of the regular rotation. To compromise, I’m knitting the cuff as written and then three (rather than five) chart repeats. The leg is 3.5 inches right now, which is probably as high as they need to be, so when I pick these up again I’ll be dividing for the heel!

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The white is Tanis Fiber Arts Blue Label in Natural and the blue is Jill Draper Makes Stuff Splendor Sock in Cobalt.

That makes these socks just about 1/4 finished, which is a nice surprise. I usually knit the legs of socks to somewhere between 5 and 7 inches, and only knitting to 3.5 makes these ones feel super speedy!

I’ve been trying not to get ahead of myself planning- and execution-wise, which is something I absolutely tend to do, especially ahead of the holidays. I’ll cast on four things and then wonder why I’m not seeing any progress. This year, I’m trying a more measured approach and working on no more than two projects at once: one that requires attention and one that’s more mindless. Saltburn is my current attention-requiring project, but since I’m almost finished my mindless Stepping-Stones, I decided it was time to wind the yarn for the next mindless knit.

Dragonfly Fibers Djinni Sock in Mushroom Hunting. I can't get enough of this colourway.

Dragonfly Fibers Djinni Sock in Mushroom Hunting. I can’t get enough of this colourway.

I haven’t yet decided on a pattern for L’s socks, but I’m thinking they’ll be something kind of plain. The yarn is gorgeous all by itself, and he’s not sure he wants anything fancy, so I’m going to keep it simple: 72 stitches knit up as… well yeah. I have three basic options, I think: a) 1×1 ribbed cuff into 3×1 ribbed sock; b) 1×1 ribbed cuff into 1×1 mistake rib (one row 1×1, one row knit); c) 1×1 rib cuff and stockinette.

What do you think? Do you knit man socks? What gets the best reviews? I’ve knit lots of socks, but never for L, so I want to try and get this right.

Marriage mittens

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A little while ago, I read Nancy Bush’s Folk Knitting in Estonia (yes, read; there’s a lot of front matter on customs and traditions  before you even get to the patterns) and I was amazed by the role mittens played in Estonian traditions, especially marriage. For example: by the time they were brides, women were expected to have at least 50 pairs of mittens in their dowry chest. And not just regular mittens, either, fancy mittens they could present as gifts to their wedding party and their groom and his family and the guests. Mittens were also traditional gifts for an Estonian bride because, as Nancy Bush says, in Estonia people would often go through three or more pairs of mittens a winter.

I read all this after having knit a pair of mittens as a wedding gift for my friend Carmen last year. They were the fanciest mittens I’d ever knit and, for reasons I couldn’t quite express at the time, seemed like a perfect wedding gift for an October bride.

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This October, my good friend Jacq is getting married. I knew I wanted to knit her a wedding gift, and after reading Nancy Bush’s book, I knew that mittens would be perfect.  She is someone with a deep appreciation for tradition, especially where women’s work and wisdom are concerned, and I knew she would appreciate not only that the mittens were hand knit, but also that they relate back to marriage tradition – albeit, one from a country and culture that neither of us are related to.

The trouble was, of course, what mittens to knit? There are a lot of patterns out there and I wanted them to be pretty but also suitable for everyday wear. Jacq often walks to work, so they needed to be warm (Toronto winters can get cold), but not so thick that she couldn’t easily hold a coffee cup or use her phone while wearing them.

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I looked at a lot of patterns before remembering how much I liked Rachel Coopey’s Chamomile mittens and hat set from last winter’s Twist Collective. I knit them up in Classic Elite Fresco, which is a blend of wool, alpaca, and angora, making it lightweight and super warm and perfect for stranded colour work. The pattern also suggests traditional lace edgings to me and, although I have not yet seen the wedding dress, I just know it’s going to feature lace detailing.

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Jacq’s bridal shower was yesterday; she didn’t open any gifts during the shower, but she e-mailed me this morning to say she opened the mittens last night, and, in her words, “they’re perfect for me.” Her wedding is in October, and while I hope it isn’t yet cold enough for her to need the mittens, I hope they keep her hands warm and cozy through the first few winters of her marriage, and, when they wear out, I will happily replace them.

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Details
Pattern: Chamomile by Rachel Coopey
Yarn: Classic Elite Fresco in Cornflower and Parchment
Needles: 2.5 mm
Mods: I knit the pattern almost entirely as written. My only real change was to rechart the middle row of the colour work (between the “lace” borders). As written, the charts would make mittens to fit my hands perfectly, but I am probably 7 inches taller than she is, and her hands are thus proportionally smaller than mine. I took nine rows (!) out of each colour work repeat, which shortened the whole mitten by about two inches and the finger area specifically by about an inch, which was perfect. It took me a few tries to figure out a mod that I liked, but after that, the knitting flew. Ravelled here.

Cute because it’s tiny?

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There is something about baby-sized knits that gets me cooing and sighing and smiling before they’re even finished, which is really saying something because they’re so darn quick to knit up! (That being said, they also manage to take longer than I think they will, so what does that say?)

Ta da! this photo really doesn't represent how little this sweater is.

Ta da! this photo really doesn’t represent how little this sweater is.

I finished the Puerperium Cardigan yesterday morning, buttons and all, and I am very pleased indeed. It seems like all our friends are having babies right now (this will be the fourth in six months) and that has given me an excuse to knit up lots of adorable little garments. This little sweater, though, might be my favourite (which is saying something because, remember the pumpkin hat?)

Anyway, this cardigan is a super, super quick knit. Even if you zone out the first time you start and forget to knit the button bands in garter stitch and have to re-start. Ahem. As it turns out, I could have just kept going with that sweater and then knit an whole new one with garter stich button bands and decided which one I liked better because, and I can hardly believe this, the finished sweater only required 81 yards. That’s less than a third of the skein. That’s crazy, is what it is. Babies are so little!

I have buttoned and unbuttoned this cardigan several times, and the star points are not as annoying as I feared.

I have buttoned and unbuttoned this cardigan several times, and the star points are not as annoying as I feared.

You may recall that I was worried about the way the colours were turning out and, while I still worry it’s a little baby-camo (not a look I would normally go for), I kind of love the colours. I was going to take Holly‘s suggestion in the comments and buy two sets of buttons – one girly, one more boyish – and then wait until the baby came along to sew them on and send this off, but when I saw the star buttons I decided they were whimsical and unisex enough to counteract the camo. The stars are also perfect, since the dad-to-be and L were housemates during undergrad and L studies aerospace engineering (with emphasis on space), and thus the stars sort of represent L making this a gift that is clearly from the both of us. I know that seems like a roundabout justification for star buttons, but trust me, they’ll get it.

Can I also just say that I loved knitting with this yarn? Oh my goodness it is soft. It’s 100% superwash merino, so I knew it would be nice, but holy. It makes other soft yarns seem coarse in comparison, and even for babies I wouldn’t hesitate to say it’s good for next-to-skin wear. It also bloomed every so slightly when I blocked it, and I know it will get lots of use. (I am seriously considering stocking up on this yarn, since more babies seem inevitable.)

I think it's the black-ish bits that make me think camo. Otherwise, it's all soft and shifting teals and purples, which I love.

I think it’s the black-ish bits that make me think camo. Otherwise, it’s all soft and shifting teals and purples, which I love.

Details
Pattern: Puerperium Cardigan by Kelly Brooker
Yarn: Indigodragonfly DK Superwash in Fringe Over Troubled Water
Needles: 4mm
Modifications: To be honest, I basically knit this pattern as written. I did one extra garter ridge on the bottom, and I shortened the sleeves (details Ravelled here), but otherwise, this is a tidy little pattern and I didn’t change a thing. The reason I shortened the sleeves is because this is a March baby, and while March can be cold, it’s also a tricky month, and I thought shorter sleeves would be more versatile for layering (also, if it’s a girl, little pink or yellow or whatever coloured shirts and poke out) and will maybe keep this fitting for a little longer. I also suspect it’ll be easier to thread tiny sausage arms through short sleeves, but that’s just me.

What I knit this Christmas

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You’ve heard about it all of it, but a parade of finished and gifted knits is excellent closure. Plus, I didn’t really publish any proper shots of the finished pieces in case there were spies, so now you can see everything in its glory.

First up, the Daphne socks (a Cookie A. pattern) I knit for Jenny using Indigodragonfly Merino Silk 4-ply sock in Don’t You Have an Elsewhere to Be?. They were the first gift I finished and, weirdly, the first to be opened. They fit her very well and she says she can’t wait to go to a party where she can show them off.

I am going to have to knit myself a pair of these very soon I think.

I am going to have to knit myself a pair of these very soon I think.

Actually, technically speaking, L’s hat was the first gift to be opened, but that’s because we don’t spend Christmas day together, and instead exchange gifts on our anniversary the week before. I knit him a hat for his birthday in January (I was about to say last year, but that’s not quite true), and it has been well worn to the point of extreme fuzzy-ness. Thus, a new hat was in order. He requested dark grey, I obliged with Misti Alpaca Tonos Worsted, a gorgeous hand painted alpaca/wool blend in Marcasite. (The pattern is Horatio by Kristin Hanley Cardozo and I will almost certainly knit it again – it’s an excellent man hat.)

L has proclaimed this hat "very warm."

L has proclaimed this hat “very warm.”

My dad’s hat was something I half-planned for a while and then executed at the last minute. Initially, my plan was to design a fair isle hat in subtle greys, but I didn’t do it and then ran out of time, so things changed. I picked up some SweetGeorgia Superwash Worsted in Slate from the shop and, after a quick browse on Ravelry, settled on the Men’s Mock Aran Men’s Hat by Heather Tucker. It was basic enough to be an everyday hat for my dad, but interesting enough that I didn’t resent it during the knitting.

Next time I knit this, I'm charting it.

Next time I knit this, I’m charting it.

After starting a pair of mittens for Connie and then deciding that both pattern and yarn were wrong, I switched to these Lily Mittens by Annemor Sundbo. I ended up using some Louet Gems from my stash (in Willow and Navy) and, honestly, I couldn’t be happier. The Louet was really nice to work with and the finished mittens fit perfectly.

The back of the thumbs are surprise stripes! (The thumbs are also made up because I forgot the chart at home.)

The back of the thumbs are surprise stripes! (The thumbs are also made up because I forgot the chart at home.)

Finally, the tea cozy. What a friggin’ saga. I finished it in good time and then sewed in all the ends and then went to the workroom and sewed a lining before I left. I did think it looked a little big, but my mum’s tea pot is enormous, so I didn’t think much of it. I tried it on the tea pot when I got to my parents’ and wouldn’t you know, it was enormous. Luckily, I had not yet sewn in the lining, so I threw the tea cozy in the washing machine for a little felting action and, when it got about as small as I could make it without risking over-felting, I cut and re-sewed the lining and then sewed it in. Phew. It’s still a little big, but my mum is thrilled anyway because it’s the first tea cozy that’s ever actually covered the entire tea pot.

I don't know why the colours came out like this in the photo. They're much more accurate here.

I don’t know why the colours came out like this in the photo. They’re much more accurate here.

(I think where I went wrong was that, when I took my original measurements, I added in some positive ease when I wrote down the number. When I went to knit the thing, though, I forgot that and added more ease. That’ll teach me to keep better notes.)

I don’t really have pictures of the mittens I gave my grandmother (besides those you’ve already seen) or the foot tubes, because I didn’t have my camera on me when they opened them. The mittens were a perfect fit, and I’ve heard nothing at all about the bed socks, so that’s anyone’s guess. The main thing, though, was that I managed to finish everything on time without going crazy (or becoming a shut-in) in the meantime.

How did your holiday knitting go?