flowergirl knits

flowers, cats and knitting

Category: Knitting

Itsy Bitsy Teensy Weensy Yellow Baby Sweater


There's nothing like a tiny baby sweater to give a knitter a little ego boost – oohs and aahs are pretty much guaranteed.

Pattern: In Threes Baby Cardigan by Kelly Herdrich

Yarn: madelintosh worsted, “Butter” colorway

Notes: A simple pattern with some nice details that make it special. I love the smocking effect around the garter stitch yoke created by the increases. This is knit from the top down in one piece which means minimal finishing (meaning you can whip one up at the eleventh hour in case it, um, slips your mind until a week before the shower….)

What really made this particular little cardigan special, though, is the yarn. Madelintosh is kitten soft, the colors are beautiful and complex and it's washable to boot. It's practical luxury. I had this stray skein in my stash (leftover from my Low Tide Ripples sweater) and it worked perfectly – just enough for the smallest size – so yay for successful knitting from the stash (smug).

The intended recipient arrived about a week after the shower; baby and parents are doing well.



Happy 2nd Blog-o-versary

Another year has slipped by, another knitting year filled with ups and downs.

The year included:

  • 11 pairs of socks
  • 3 sweaters
  • 5 cowls
  • 2 hats
  • 2 pairs of mittens
  • 4 fingerless mitts
  • 1 blanket
  • and 2 lace shawls

Whew! Well, that’s what happens when you embrace the hermit lifestyle! Some goals for next year include knitting down the stash (probably good for several years!), finishing more sweaters and improving my rudimentary color-work skills. No doubt I will be tempted by many gorgeous yarns and beautiful patterns that I can’t even imagine yet – the craft of knitting seems to be constantly renewing itself and yet remains grounded in basic principles that have stood the test of time.

It’s an exciting time to be a knitter – I can’t wait to start the next year!

Back on the Horse that Threw You

Although I haven’t talked about it too much, I’ve been working on a Tangled Yoke cardigan, a lovely, classic pattern from Eunny Jang, for the past six weeks. Things had been going pretty good – I struggled with the waist shaping instructions (as did many people if the comments on Ravelry are an indication) but managed to get through them. The sleeves went very quickly and were soon attached  to the sweater (Tangled Yoke is a cardigan that is knit in one piece from the bottom to the armholes; the sleeves are then attached and the knitting continues with the yoke)

The yoke is probably the most complicated section – a twisting, continuous cable that runs around the sweater, encompassing over 400 stitches in each row. There are 22 pattern repeats; many of these repeats require four cable crosses in each repeat. Yet, it’s only 18 rows – take your time, mark your pattern carefully, put in a lifeline before you begin – it can be done.

Row 12 proved to be my nemesis. The majority of the cabling is done – there is a light at the end of the tunnel! Maybe I got too cocky, too sure that I was going to get through this unscathed. But somewhere in row 12, while doing some tricky decreases, my stitch count got off and off by a lot. My only choice was to rip. That’s when things got ugly.

If you’ve ever worked with Rowan Felted Tweed, you probably know what’s coming. Felted Tweed, glorious and light and beautiful, is also very “sticky” and, once knit doesn’t particularly like to un-knit. Each stitch clings to it’s neighbors and gives in reluctantly. In the course of pulling out the bad row, stitches got dropped and lost. And then the yarn broke. Twice. (Another tendency of Felted Tweed)

Tears were shed. Major ripping ensued. All cabling disappeared. The offending sweater (although it had been an innocent bystander) was folded up and put in a bag and banished to the closet. We needed a break.

That was about ten days ago. During the time out I had company visit, knit on socks, lost one computer and got a new one, spent a lot of time reading about that new computer and, almost against my will, began to miss that sweater. For one thing, I still love the pattern – a simple style with lovely details that really elevate it to something special. And the yarn, the cursed, breaking yarn – I love the yarn. The color, the texture, the lightness, the fabric that it was becoming.

So today, I pulled that sweater out of the closet, took a deep breath and put it back on the needles (thank goodness for lifelines) Maybe this time I’ll be a little wiser, a little less arrogant (And also, maybe now I’ll have the sense to put it away late a night when I’m already tired and distracted. That’s what socks are for) Maybe this time the knitting gods will smile and decide I’ve suffered over this sweater enough.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Changes in the Air

There have been a number of changes around here lately.

Weather – a heavy frost Friday and hard freezes on Saturday and Sunday have brought the growing season to a screeching halt. And to add insult to injury, it snowed on Saturday.

A lingering UFO becomes an FO – I finally finished the Spring Forward socks which I’ve been dragging around as my travel project for months.

Death of a computer – my computer crashed, completely and irrevocably, taking most of my files with it for good measure.

new kid on the block

Say hi to my new friend – an Apple MacBook Pro. Going from PC to Apple, desktop to laptop, wired to wireless – well, the learning curve has been a bit sharp at times (for instance, it took me an hour and a half to figure out how to get pictures from my camera to the computer to Flickr. I got it now I think, but it was excruciating.) Exciting, terrifying, frustrating, fun. Change is good – keeps the old brain cells from getting too rusty. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself!

Amongst all the computer stress (good and bad) I did manage to finish some socks, part of my Socktoberfest goal this year.

Pattern: Spring Forward

Yarn: Dream in Color Smooshy, “Cool Fire” colorway

Notes: This is a delightfully simple pattern with very satisfying results. It makes a great travel project because it’s easy to pick up and put down again and not lose your place. The only reason it took me several months to complete is that I set it aside several times to work on other projects.

I’ve switched from my beloved Lantern Moon Rosewood needles, size 1 and gone down to size 0 in less luxurious but still lovely bamboo. (The Lantern Moons don’t go smaller than 1) I’m just too loose of a knitter – I was finding socks knit on 1s were a little too sloppy (though wearable)

The DIC yarn, as always, was a delight to knit with. I was a little surprised that this colorway came out more variegated than I’d expected; usually the DIC sock yarns have more subtle variegation. I think the pattern is somewhat obscured by this colorway, but still acceptable.

I’ve moved on to the TTL Mystery Sock 09 now, using ShiBui Sock. I’m woefully behind with the clues and probably won’t get the finished in October, but I’m ok with that.

As mentioned in the last post, I was knitting a Tangled Yoke cardigan and loving it. Since then, disaster has struck; I shed a few tears, then put it in time-out for a while. I think I am about ready to pick it up and try again; I’ll let you know how that goes next time.

Stashin’ at Stitches

Some serious stashin’ has taken place recently – last week was the great enabling event known as  Stitches Midwest.

Actually, I did pretty good. I went in with a list and I pretty much stuck to that list. Granted, the list was a bit unreasonable – yarn for three sweaters as well as some sock yarn – but I stuck to it and I’m pretty proud of that.  I came perilously close to stepping off the edge though – I literally had two – two! – pattern booklets clutched in my hands and was fondling the yarn needed for two more sweaters when I somehow got a grip and took a step back. I wrote down the name of the patterns and have added them to my Ravelry que (which I use as a holding bin for ideas) and walked away. (Well, I still had yarn for three other sweaters – and some sock yarn – but it could have gotten very messy indeed)

Stitches was great – I’d recommend it to any knitter/crocheter/spinner. My friend Chris and I drove to Schaumburg the day before it started, shopped at IKEA and the Container Store, then spent the night at a nearby hotel. We arrived at the opening day of the market fresh and rested right as it opened. It’s a good thing we’d had a good night’s sleep – the market is exhausting! So many people, so many vendors, so many tempting pretties to see! It’s a bit overwhelming. We both had lists and we’d studied the list of vendors before we arrived which helped immensely, but we were pretty beat by mid-afternoon. A lot of work but so much fun!

My treasures included:

-highlighter tape for marking your place in charts (similar to using a post-it note, but longer lasting – those post-it notes always lose their sticky for me after a few line changes)

-some funky buttons (I have no idea what I’ll use them for – not terribly smart shopping but I couldn’t resist)

-mouth-watering gorgeous sock yarns from indie dyer Miss Babs (I even picked up a couple skeins of variegated colors – I usually stick with semi-solids – but they were just too beautiful to pass)

-yarn for sweaters – Blackstone Tweed in “Plum Island” for Noisette, Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool in “red-brown” for Slinky Ribs and Green Mountain Spinnery Mountain Mohair in “Rhubarb” for either Portland or Halcyon.

The goal is to knit with as much of this yarn as possible before next year’s Stitches – and considering how much yarn I already have waiting to be knit, this could be a challenge.

Now, my question for you – when does yarn become “stash yarn” (since it’s so noble and uplifting to knit something “from the stash”!) As soon as you buy it? Once you bring it home and store it in your yarn bins or bags? After you’ve catalogued it in Ravelry (so satisfying and tidy)? Is there a time frame – six months, a year? When does yarn step over that magical line and become stash?

My vote is “as soon as you buy it” but I’m willing to hear other opinons!

Knit On

So, a few days ago I was doing a few chores around the house, thinking about writing my next blog post (on trying to hold off a rampant case of Startitis) when I got a phone call that my Mother had had a stroke and was being taken to the hospital. There followed several days of anxious stays in emergency rooms, long drives to the hospital and back, and waiting – waiting, waiting, waiting.

Shetland Triangle, in progress; Malabrigo Silky "Indiecita"

Through it all I kept my knitting with me – two projects – and I thought often of Elizabeth Zimmermann and her wise words: “Knit On, with confidence and hope, through all crises.” I pondered the soothing power of knitting, how the rhythm of one stitch at a time can create calm and focus. I’m a worrier – worry, worry, worry. I can turn a small problem into a big one, and a big problem into a catastrophe quicker and with more creativity than anyone. Knitting allowed me to think through the problems and issues we were facing without panic, it filled that seemingly endless waiting with something useful and productive and it brought a little color and softness to darkened rooms and medical machinery.

Spring Forward sock; Dream in Color Smooshy "Cool Fire"

We are extremely lucky in our crisis; my Mother’s stroke was relatively mild, she received medical attention very quickly and we live just over an hour from one of the best medical facilities in the country. While she has some rehabilitation work ahead of her and we will have to make some adjustments to her home and routines, the prognosis for her to return to her independent lifestyle is very good.

And, thanks to the power of knitting, I didn’t lose my mind.

Knit on.

This Just In – I’m Not French

So, I wore the Forest Canopy shawl to work a couple days ago and – it was not horrible. No one would ever mistake me for one of those effortlessly stylish French women, but it looked pretty good – not too nana-ish and nobody laughed (to my face anyway) It did start to get a bit fiddly toward the end of the day, but that’s kind of par for the course for me. I’m not sure the shirt I wore it with was the best choice, but I’m willing to play around with it a bit and try some variations. And I already have yarn and patterns for some more shawls. Maybe I should look into taking French lessons? Ooh-la-la!

When not flinging shawls over my shoulder I’ve been swatching. I hate swatching. Yes, yes – I know how important and vital it is, how the fate of world peace teeters on whether I knit a gauge swatch and I know that people say knitting a gauge swatch is knitting which is what you love to do anyway and that you’re learning incredibly valuable information about the fabric and pattern and how the item will fit, etc etc.

I hate it when people have unassailable arguments against me.

Even though at the moment we’re having the hottest, most humid weather of the year so far, I have a strong urge to knit sweaters. Several sweaters. I guess I hear “late summer” and I start thinking winter! So, I’ve been busy pouring over my Ravlery queue and my stash and trying to match the perfect pattern with the perfect yarn.

Call it lazy, or uncreative, or chicken but more and more I find I have much better luck getting a wearable finished product if I use the yarn indicated in the design. (To make matters worse, I often go with the same color as shown in the pattern!) Ravelry has helped somewhat, especially on really popular patterns, where I can see other yarns that have worked well; I’m still an inexperienced enough knitter that I don’t always pick up on the qualities of a yarn that would make it suitable or not (plys and twists and such)

So, I’ve been swatching, swatching, swatching and have come up with several matches. Some call for lighter, DK weight yarns which I think may be a little more versatile. Of course, I’ve got way more projects than I’ll get done, but I’m quite excited by all of them and eager to get started, although I need to do a needle inventory and fill in some gaps. In the meantime, I’ve got a cotton tank and another shawl on the needles. More on those next time.

Jumping off the Crazy Train

I was going to knit a new Cookie A sock pattern from her book, Sock Innovation, each month until I’d knitted them all.

I got through two months.

Then my easily distracted mind (oooh! shiny!) got distracted and I had a sudden and overwhelming urge to knit some lace.

The “funny” thing about wanting to knit lace is that I’m not even sure I’m a Lace person; I’m a little afraid that it will be another case of Capri Pants Phenomenon.

(Capri Pants Phenomenon: Wherein you notice someone wearing capri pants and think – “Wow. They look great! I gotta try some capri pants” – but when you get into the dressing room and look at yourself in the mirror wearing capri pants your mind screams (not out loud, thankfully) “Get them off! Get them Off! GET THEM OFF NOW!” as if the capri pants were a stampeding herd of spiders)

I tend to be a somewhat restrained dresser – t-shirt/sweatshirt/sweater and shorts/jeans/slacks kind of gal. I like to think of my style as “classic”; many would call it “boring”.

So I’m not sure where Lace fits into my “style”.

obviously, Isabel IS a Lace kind of gal

Nevertheless, I’ve merrily left behind any hope of knitting a Sock Innovations sock each month and am now knitting Lace. Specifically, the Forest Canopy shawl in Malabrigo Silky, “blackberry” colorway.

I can hardly wait to block it.

(Maybe that’s why people knit Lace – not to wear it, but to block it! Watch those points sharpen and the pattern pop! Bit sadistic that…)

But no fears Sock Fans – I have no intention of stopping the knitting of socks. For one thing, there’s an enormous amount of sock yarn in my house, all of which I love passionately. Secondly, socks remain the ideal travel companion – quiet, entertaining and they never argue with you over the window seat. And thirdly, there are several trillion bazillion sock patterns out there that I just have to knit.

Sock knitting continues, I’m just jumping off that Crazy Train that imposes deadline stress and narrows knitting choices to just socks socks socks.

Of course, this isn’t to say I won’t be punching a ticket for a different Crazy Train (or TrainS – I’m pretty good at driving myself nutso) sooner rather than later.

But for the moment anyway, I’m on my own.

Caution: Post May Contain Actual Knitting Content

Look! Actual knitting! Actual finished knitting! Very exciting times indeed.

actual knitting content

Pattern: Sunshine Socks by Cookie A.

Yarn: ShiBui Sock, color “Kiwi”

Notes: Once I got settled on a yarn, these socks went quite quickly. The pattern repeat is intuitive and easy to follow. I like knitting socks with repeating charts like this, since they seem to go quickly. Also, so long as I remember to make a few notes, it seems easier to make the second sock a perfect match.

My main struggle was with settling on the right yarn. The first two yarns I tried turned out to be splitty (I’d never used either before); they couldn’t hold the cable twists and they were extremely frustrating to work with. Both were lovely, so I’ll try them again with a lace or plain pattern.

For this sock, the third yarn was the charm – my beloved ShiBui Sock in a luscious lime green. I heart ShiBui! It has a nice firm twist that works beautifully with fancy stitches, it’s soft but sturdy (so far – the finished socks I’ve worn are holding up well) and it comes in beautiful, semi-solid colors. I’ve read some complaints that it pools, but I’ve found that the lighter colors perform beautifully with no pooling and I don’t mind the pooling on the darker colors so long as it doesn’t distract from the pattern.

toe study

I used just two skeins (191 yards each) of ShiBui for these socks. Depending on the pattern, I sometimes need to dip into a third skein to accommodate my long feet. The length of the leg and the type of stitches used makes a huge difference – a shorter leg (Twisted Tulip) takes less while cables or twisted stitches (Pomatomas) takes more. I know – this is Knitting 101, but it seems the light is just dawning for me.

I also struggled a bit with gauge again. I dropped down to a US 0 for these, which isn’t too far out of line (the pattern calls for US 1 1/2; I usually drop one or two needles sizes for most patterns) But I also changed needles in the midst of this project, going from the super-slick Knit Picks Harmony’s to the slightly less slick Clover bamboos and the fit of the socks came out perfect. I’m thinking that the additional drag – minuscule as it is – is just enough to slow down my stitching so that I tighten the yarn more as I go. Hmmmm. Well. That theory might not hold up to scrutiny but I like it, so I’m sticking with it. And with the Clover bamboos.

green sunshine

These socks were knit as part of the Sock Innovations KAL on Ravelry where a different pattern is knit each month. My idea was that I’d knit the chosen sock right at the start of the month, then work on other things – other socks, gift knits, the English Rug, summer knits – in the vast amount of time left over during that month. Ha Ha! I have three days left before the next sock begins…..hmmmm, maybe this isn’t going to work the way I’d planned…. (well, there’s a shock!) but I’m going to continue for now, especially since I really want to knit every pattern in the book. The yarn issues really slowed me down this time, and I’m still spending a lot of time in the garden, but that’s easing up. Maybe this plan will work in the future?! Only time will tell!


I have a confession to make:

I haven’t been working on the English Rug.

I keep thinking, “Oh, now isn’t a good time. Tonight, while I’m watching TV – that’ll be perfect.” Except, when I’m watching TV I just sit there like a lump, or read a book or…..knit. Yes, the lure of intriguing new sock patterns and gorgeous sock yarn has yanked me off the straight and narrow. Cookie A! Madelinetosh! Wendy Johnson! Lavender and yellow!

I am weak. I am helpless.

I am doomed.

I’m trying to not be too hard on myself. The fact is, I put the English Rug away for a reason – it got boring. It’s still pretty boring, but the light at the end of the tunnel – while still just a pinprick – is the motivation to pick it up again. I’m just going to have to go at it a bit at a time. Also, crafting in general has taken a hit now that garden season is in full swing – my attention and energies are needed elsewhere. So it’s not abandoned, just resting.

It hasn’t helped any that the knitting that has taken place has been absolutely mesmerizing. The yarn – Madelinetosh Sock for both – is divine. It is now jockeying for position in my top 5 sock yarns. Just get a load of those colors – heavenly!

And the patterns? Well, they’re both Cookie A which tells you something right away. The lavender sock the the right is Marlene, which I’ve wanted to knit from the moment I set eyes on it. I’ve been using this sock as my travel project, but that might not be the best idea – while it isn’t difficult, I’ve found that I need to concentrate on it or risk major tinking.

The sock on the left is Kai-Mei from Sock Innovations. The leg of the sock is very plain 3×3 ribbing – the fun part starts after completing the heel flap (which I’m just about to begin here) when a traveling lace pattern is introduced. To spice up the large chunk of ribbing I taught myself how to do the Norwegian purl (for Continental knitters, this is a way to purl which leaves the yarn at the back of the work instead of moving it to the front. See YouTube videos for more info!) I’m not sure this is any faster yet, but it sure is fun. Kai-Mei is the May KAL pattern for the Ravelry group “Sock Innovation”, so I’d like to finish this pair this month.

And then there is Wendy Johnson’s new book, Socks from the Toe Up. I’m very anxious to try these patterns and techniques and have even wound the yarn for my first attempt….

The English Rug never had a chance.

Sleep tight, English Rug. I’ll wake you up soon (I hope)