Recent Projects

Life has been busy lately.  We are expecting our first baby in April, so I have been preoccupied with organizing the apartment.  This will be a review of everything I have been working on the last few months.

I finished two pairs of socks and made some mittens.

I made a pair of baby booties to sell with the berries blanket.
I designed a sweater for my cell phone (in case I drop it on the floor).
I finished and blocked my Estonian Summer Shawl.  (I love blocking wires.)

A year after finishing my Slanting Gretel Tee, I was still not satisfied.  I unraveled the top of it to make some changes.  I wanted it to be an inch shorter because it would bunch up when I sat down.  I also made the sleeves longer and rounded the neckline in front so it will no longer ride up over my collar bone.  I feel much more comfortable in it now.

Of course, my current knitting projects are for our baby girl.  I am working on wool diaper covers because we are planning to use cloth diapers, and I am making a baby blanket, which is my first entrelac project.

A Lace Gauge Swatch

After the wonderful experience I had with blocking my Queen Silvia shawl, I was eager to being my next lace project: the Triangular Summer Shawl from Knitted Lace of Estonia.  I decided that this time I would make a gauge swatch and block it before I began my shawl.  I had made gauge swatches before, but I had never blocked one because I was always too impatient to begin my project.  I figured that since everyone recommends it, it must be important.

In an evening I knitted my gauge swatch according to the pattern directions.  I soaked it in the sink for half an hour.  I laid it on the spare bed and pinned it to the measurements specified in the pattern.  It was so pretty.  I left it pinned in place all night.  The next morning I unpinned it but did not measure it yet.  Knitting tends to relax and shrink a little after it is unpinned, so I wanted to give it time for this to happen.  The next day I measured it, and it was the perfect size.  I now knew that the size needles and yarn I was using were perfect for the pattern.
I know some people like to save their gauge swatches, but I am very frugal about yarn, so I decided to unravel mine.  It was hard to unravel something so pretty, but I knew my shawl would be even prettier.  The unraveled yarn was very crimped, so I soaked it in the sink to relax it and then set it out to air-dry.
After it dried it was still a little bit crimped, but much easier to work with.  I loosely wound it into a center-pull ball so I could begin knitting my shawl.
In addition to making sure that my shawl will turn out the right size, the gauge swatch also gave me practice on the pattern stitch, so that I will be completely comfortable with the pattern when I begin my shawl.  Now that I have seen the benefits of proper gauge-swatching, I think I will do it more often.

A New Appreciation for Blocking

In January I talked about my Queen Silvia lace shawl.  I had to set it aside for a month to work on the baby blanket, but I finally finished it.  I had heard that blocking is essential for knitting lace.  Before I had always blocked rather half-heartedly because it usually didn't seem to do much.  However, after reading some blogs and watching videos on the subject I realized that I was not getting my finished items wet enough.  I also learned that blocking wires make it a lot easier to block lace, so I used my money from the baby blanket sale to buy some blocking wires.

Some friends of ours were going to be taking us out to a nice restaurant, and I wanted to be able to wear my shawl.  I was planning to finish the shawl the night before and get it blocked so it could dry overnight.  However, binding off took longer than I had anticipated, so I had to wait until the next morning to block my shawl.
This is what my shawl looked like before blocking.  My blocking wires are next to it.
The next morning I put my shawl in the bathtub to soak in warm water and wool wash while I got ready for work.  After half an hour I drained the water and refilled the bathtub with just water.  This is a technique I heard about for gently removing the detergent.  After another half an hour I drained the water.  I carefully laid my shawl on a towel, rolled up the towel, and squeezed it gently to get out the excess water.  I then carried the roll to our extra bedroom and laid the shawl out on the bed, on top of two big, dry towels.  The next step was to insert the blocking wires through all the points around the edges.  I then pulled on the wires, stretching out the shawl to the measurements given in the pattern, and used pins to hold the wires in place.

See how different it looks than it did before I blocked it?
I finished just in time to rush to work.  By that evening the shawl had dried because laceweight yarn is so thin.  I removed the wires and pins and wove in the loose ends.  I wore my shawl while we walked the few blocks to the restaurant.  I was so amazed by how beautifully it turned out that I wondered if anyone who had seen me working on it would believe that it was the same shawl.  Lace is magical.

Selling a Baby Blanket

I had an interesting knitting experience today.  A co-worker had asked me if I would knit a baby blanket for her grandson.  I was excited, because I saw it as an opportunity to get started selling my knitting.  I came up with several design ideas and knit small samples for her to choose from.  (I was thrilled when she picked the one that was also my favorite.)  After she picked out the yarn, I started knitting.

After I had been working on the blanket for about a week, I realized that it was going to take longer than I had thought.  I began to wish I had charged more for it.  I enjoyed working on the blanket, and I loved people's enthusiastic reaction to the pretty design, but I couldn't help missing my own projects that I had set aside.  As I threw myself into working on the baby blanket every spare moment, I kept thinking about the half-finished lace shawl waiting for me.

When I cast-off the bottom edge and put the blanket in the bathtub to soak, it hit me that this knitting experience was coming to an end.  As I pinned out the wet blanket, I was pretty stoked about what I had created.  The next day I took the pins out, and that's when I really fell in love with my project.  The lacy blanket had blocked beautifully.

I started working on my shawl again, and the baby blanket lay on our guest bed for a few more days.  Last night I told my husband, "The blanket will be leaving us tomorrow."  "That's sad," he said.  I thought so, too.  This morning I folded it and handed it over to its new owner.

Being blocked
After blocking

My Adventures with Double-Pointed Needles

Ever since I learned how to knit with double-pointed needles, I have thought they are awesome.  I like watching people’s expressions when I pull out a dpn project.  Half-finished gloves and socks look pretty funny with needles sticking out all over.  My adventure with dpns began in August of 2007.  I had been knitting for five months, and I loved learning new skills.  I had discovered that the yarn aisles at craft stores sometimes have free patterns.  One of the free patterns I had was for making baby hats, and my cousin was having a baby soon.  My only obstacle was to learn how to use dpns.

I went to the library and perused some knitting books, studying the explanations and pictures.  After I felt like I had a pretty good grasp of how it works, I went home to try it.  I will never forget my first day of experimenting with dpns.  I had a cat who had been my friend for 14 years.  She was suffering from liver failure and had to be put to sleep.  Our last afternoon at home together, I sat next to her and knitted while she slept.

I didn’t get that baby hat started before I went back to college, but while hanging out with my friends I did begin a pair of mittens for my sister’s Christmas present.  This was my first circular project.  I learned that when you knit stockinette stitch in the round, the right side is on the inside.  This project was also my first time using markers and stitch holders.  After Christmas I finally made that baby hat.

My next project was different.  I had graduated from college and moved back home, and my boyfriend and I were long-distance.  For Valentines’ Day I knit him a teddy bear and mailed it to him.  All the limbs were made separately on dpns, stuffed, and then sewn together, complete with embroidery for his face.  My boyfriend slept with him the rest of the semester.
The following winter I was working in a bank drive-up in Minnesota, and my hands got pretty cold, so I knit myself fingerless gloves.
The winter after that we were married, and I made my first pair of socks.
I then made gloves for my husband’s birthday.  (You can see the finger in progress and the others on stitch holders.)
I also made several tiny items.  In December of 2009 I made Christmas tree ornaments as presents for my family, and the next fall I made a little pumpkin and acorns.
Mini mittens

Snowmen Albert and Franklin

 I have been using dpns for over 3 years now, and I still have trouble with ladders (small gaps in between the needles).  I have heard the magic loop method is the solution for this, and I am interested in learning it because I am always eager to add to my knowledge of knitting techniques, but I don’t think I could ever completely give up dpns.  They are too much fun.
My current collection of dpns: sizes 8-000

Knitting in Public

When I was a kid, I hated sitting in the car doing nothing.  It was so boring, so I always brought a book.  One day in second grade, I wanted to start reading books on the bus, but I was self-conscious.  I thought maybe the other kids would think I was weird for reading books on the bus, or that they would make fun of the book I was reading.  The first day, I held my backpack in my lap and read my book secretly while it was still inside my backpack.  I probably looked silly staring into my backpack, but at least no one could see what I was doing.  After a few days of this, I finally ventured to bring the book out of my backpack and read it openly.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that no one had any reaction.  I was now free to spend the boring bus ride pleasantly occupied.

When I first learned to knit, there was no way I could have done my knitting around other people.  Forming garter stitch took every ounce of concentration I could muster.  My friend who taught me said she enjoyed knitting during movies, and that completely astounded me.  I tried to knit a row every night before bed, and it seemed to take me forever.  After a few weeks of practice, my friend and I went on tour with our college band, and I brought my knitting.  Sitting on the bus that first day, I felt like a second grader as I slowly took my knitting out of my bag.  The bumpy bus ride made things challenging, but I didn’t lose a stitch.  A few months later I was knitting during movies with my friends, who were in awe of me.

I like to take my knitting with me wherever I can: in the car, to friends’ houses, or sitting around at home with my husband.  I like that my hands are always busy.  I once had an embarrassing knitting-in-public experience.  I was riding a city bus in Minneapolis, and I brought my knitting.  I had been knitting for a while when my ball of yarn rolled out of my lap, onto the floor, and towards the front of the bus.  That attracted some attention.  I would have chased after it, but it rolled past the yellow line at the front that people aren’t supposed to cross while the bus is in motion, so I had to wait nervously.  When the bus made its next stop, my yarn rolled down the steps and out the door, so I had to get off the bus to collect it and re-wind it.  I then realized I had gotten off the bus a few blocks early, so I walked the rest of the way, my yarn safely tucked away in my bag.

Sometimes I still feel awkward at first.  I have never liked to draw a lot of attention to myself, and when I bring out my knitting, people almost always ask, “What are you making?”  Our church is one place where I always feel comfortable pulling out my knitting, after the potluck lunch is over and everyone is sitting around talking.  Some weeks one of the women might be crocheting and another sewing while I knit.  It makes me feel like I’ve gone back in time, to an era when women used to gather with their neighbors to knit and teach their daughters.

Knitting in public often becomes an opportunity for a conversation that would not otherwise have come up.  Someone sitting nearby might tell me about her frustrations with trying to knit, or about her desire to learn, or about her grandmother who used to knit.  I think there are more knitters in the world than people realize, and sometimes being brave enough to take out my knitting has made me a new friend.

Knitting a scarf while watching a movie with college friends

My traveling knitting bag

Knitting on a camping trip

Lace Knitting

One of the Christmas gifts I got from my husband was a knitting book I really wanted: Knitted Lace of Estonia, by Nancy Bush.  It talks about the history of lace knitting in Estonia and gives several beautiful patterns for lace shawls.
Lace knitting is really anything that involves yarn-overs (yo) and decreases, creating holes arranged in a pattern.  I had done a lot of things that involved these techniques, but I had never actually done lace knitting with small needles and thin yarn.  I started by knitting two lace bookmarks.  At first, I had to get used to working with the small needles and yarn.

This was good practice.  When I got my book for Christmas, I was ready to start knitting a shawl.  I chose the Queen Silvia Shawl for my first project.  I have always knitted with cheap yarn, but for these shawls wool lace-weight yarn is recommended.  I found some on sale at, and my husband said I could get some for my birthday.  I ordered white yarn for this shawl, and pink yarn for my next project: a triangular shawl from the book.

I am about 1/5 done with my shawl.  For the part I am working on right now, there is a chart that shows the stitch pattern.  The chart is 16 rows, and I am supposed to repeat these 16 rows 20 times.  When reading from a chart, it helps me to color every other row with a different colored pencil.  This makes it easier for me to follow along and not lose my place.
 This is how much I have finished so far.  The colored yarn at the bottom is temporary.  It is holding the stitches that I will later use for making the edge.
This is what it looks like stretched out.  After a lace item is finished, blocking it stretches it out, making the design more open looking.  I am really excited to see what this shawl will look like when it is finished and blocked.

Slippers for My Husband's Cold Feet

For a while I had been thinking about either getting Brad some slippers for his birthday or knitting some.  After Christmas I had some time to take on new projects, so I found a few patterns and had him pick his favorite one.  The pattern he chose has pompoms, but I didn't do that.  (It would not have been very manly.)  I also made his slippers longer than in the pattern.  They are very warm, and he likes them a lot.

Christmas Knitting Projects

The past month and a half has been busy.  My parents visited for Thanksgiving, and we had a good time.  The day after they left, we started packing to move to a different apartment across town.  On December 10th we moved, and then the unpacking started.  We really like our new apartment.  It is a lot nicer than the old apartment, and it is a better neighborhood.  We got unpacked pretty quickly.  I just need to hang pictures.

After I finished my fall garland I devoted my energy to my Slanting Gretel Tee and blocked it the day before Thanksgiving.  I ended up making one more alteration before I finished.  I bound off on the neckline sooner than in the pattern because I don't like my necklines to come up over my collarbone.  I therefore had more stitches when I bound off, so the neckline is wider than in the pattern.  However, I think I might undo some things before I am completely satisfied.  I am contemplating making the sweater an inch shorter and then shaping the neckline differently.  After wearing my sweater a few times, I decided the neck felt rather constraining.  I do love the various design features: the seed stitch stomach, the celtic-looking center cable, and the sleeve cables.

As soon as my Slanting Gretel was on the blocking board, I started knitting a scarf for my husband's grandma as a Christmas gift.  A friend had loaned me an older book, Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Needlework.  In the knitting chapter I found a lacy stitch design I liked.  With the busyness of moving, I found myself rushing to finish it in the last two weeks before Christmas.  A few days after I gave it to Grandma, I was reading online about knitting lace, and I found a technique that would have enabled me to make both ends look the same.  I will have to remember that for next time.

When we visit my husband's family, we always spend a lot of time sitting around talking, so I like to bring my knitting.  I had crocheted a Bible cover a few months ago that I wasn't satisfied with, so over Christmas I took it apart and knitted a different one.  I found a stitch pattern from the same book.  I knitted one long piece and then sewed the pockets closed.  This cover fits my Bible much better than the other one did.