Category Archives: Knitting

Making :: Knitted Washcloths

It’s not always easy balancing my “simple living” persona with my crafty, creative side. But, it’s something that I eventually figure out because I have to be creating. I know a lot of parents feel the same way – especially those of us steeped in daily care. However, the maker mindset isn’t limited to parents. I also felt the creative drive as a young working professional – I just didn’t recognize it as such.

Shameless adorable picture of my then newborn and his hand-knitted baby blanket. (He's now six)!

Shameless, but adorable picture of my youngest son with his hand-knitted baby blanket. (He’s now six)!

Regardless, it’s something I need to do because it keeps my mind calm and my hands active. Many years ago, I learned how to sew and I used to be an avid scrapbooker. That was my art and I loved it. But, once I had kids…well, there was no time for multiple hours of crafting, so sewing and scrapbooking took a backseat to the daily demands of young children. Thankfully, my brain took it upon itself to encourage a new craft: knitting.

Blue cotton yarn and size 7 needles. Pattern made up by me.

Washcloth in variegated blue cotton yarn – knit with size 7 needles. “Pattern” made up by me.

I actually tried knitting eleven years ago – before I had my first child – but I found it so boring and tedious that I couldn’t understand how anyone would want to do it for long periods of time. I decided that knitting must not be my thing and went on with my other crafty projects.

But something strange happened when I was pregnant with my second child. I simply had to knit.

I can’t tell you why the time was right – maybe my pregnancy hormones were on overload?
I think I was desperate for something creative, but my tiny house and a very, very active toddler prevented any crafting time. Maybe my brain knew that knitting would be something I could take with me on our daily walks and park play dates? I can’t even claim an internal response to keeping my family warm. We lived in central Florida and were 15 minutes from the beach. It rarely got cold enough for a hat, let alone a wool scarf.

Whatever the reason, I ordered up some chunky alpaca yarn, bought this book and away I went. The first year, I made scarves and a hand-knit baby blanket. Then, I tried my hand at hats. I eventually took a class on intarsia and – with a lot of help – made a sweater for one of my sons.  I had become a knitter.

Hand-made hat - Blue Sky Alpaca Chunky yarn.

A knitter who lives in Florida.

A knitter who has some minimalist values.

Today, my knitting has to have a purpose and be very, very useful. Recently, when I felt that itch to knit, I checked out my small stash and looked at what I had – lots of skeins of cotton yarn. Not so good for hats or scarves, but just perfect for knitted washcloths.

Hand-made washcloth - made from Rowan organic cotton natural yarn. Knit with size 6 needles.

Hand-made washcloth – made from Rowan organic cotton natural yarn. Knit with size 6 needles.

This natural-colored washcloth was knit in Rowan Organic Cotton. I had a lot leftover from when my youngest son was a baby. The pattern can be found here. It’s a simple pattern, very forgiving, but enough to keep me from finding the knitting too tedious. Rows and rows of knit stitch can get tiresome. Thankfully, this pattern is pretty simple and as a result – this is the nicest washcloth I’ve ever made. So, of course, I started a new one which promptly went with us to the park.

Crafting while enjoying the amazing weather? I think that’s a great way to balance creativity with simple living.

Have knitting - will travel. I see a couple more washcloths in my future.

Have knitting,  will travel. I see a couple more washcloths in my future.

 

 

inside

As we are in Florida, our winter attire is, uh, slim, at best. (It's difficult to find coats that are actually for cold weather). Add in a couple of sick kids and a sickness-adverse mama – it just means that we need to be properly attired to venture outside. So, on those days when we've been waiting until it reaches the 60-degree mark, we've found a lot of love for our indoor work.

DSC_0917 

At Ronan's request, we've been painting. Actually, he's been painting. I've been running interference for a very active 10-month-old.  His current painting medium is acrylic paint and printed out pictures of fish, alligators, crocodiles and snakes. (It might have something to do with the fact that he gets to "interrupt" Daddy's work to request more print outs).

I've been finding a little more time in the evenings to snuggle on the couch…and knit. (Listening to a guitar-practicing husband isn't too bad either).

DSC_0924 

That jumble of yarns is a sweater I am making using the intarsia method. That's right. I said sweater. As in a sweater for Ronan – which may or may not get finished in time for him to wear this cool season. (It's part of a class and I am not so good at finishing my homework on time). But, I'm having a blast and learning more about knitting than I thought possible.

Lots of indoor fun to be had, indeed.

Does yarn have a siren song?

Dear luscious yarn,

I'm not quite sure how you made it home with me. Please don't misunderstand, I meant to get some yarn – that's why I was at the yarn store and now that you are here, well, let's just say, you won't be going back. But, I was looking for a lovely yellow yarn with flecks of orange. And, well, you don't exactly meet that criteria.

I feel that you knew immediately how I felt about you. It seemed that your lovely strands hopped into my hands and before I knew it, the yarn was on the counter. I walked away from you – assuming that if I put some distance between myself and the fiber – the pull would not be so strong.

And, yet, you knew. Your soft fibers had me pegged me as soon as I walked into the store. Yellow yarn? Ha! We have nothing that you are looking for, but just look at me – I'm aquamarine. Oh, yes, I noticed the fiber content as well: 50% organic cotton and 50% merino wool. Size 7 needles – yes, yes, I can do that size needle.

And, then I picked you up. So soft…such a gorgeous color. It all happened so quickly. And, then you were in a bag and I had bought two skeins. Without a project in mind. I think I might be addicted to this yarn stuff. I am buying yarn without a stated project. Everyone I know will be getting something knitted for Christmas this year. Indeed.

Yarn_stash

So, does yarn have a siren song?

It’s finished – the knitted baby blanket

DSC_1448

As a new knitter, I realize that making a blanket is kind of like making a very, very wide scarf. It's not the new challenge of a hat or socks (eek). You just keep knitting and eventually it will be finished. In fact, this was what kept me from taking up knitting during my first pregnancy.

I saw the seemingly never-ending project as tedious. At that time, I just didn't understand the peace and contentment that I could gain from such a repetitive and relaxing action.

It has taken me three months to finish this blanket. But, during that time it has gone everywhere with me. I've knit at music class, at the playground, and on the long drives. And, I have to say that I am now an addicted knitter (um, I think it's the yarn).

This pattern started out from Debbie Stoller's book, although, I have veered so far from the pattern that it could probably just be called a very large washcloth. It started out as the big, bad, baby blanket which had a seed stitch border and four-squares of knit/purl. I had to modify the yarn choice since this is Florida and even on our coldest days, wool is just too much.

So, I had subbed this yarn in quebracho and cubo (brown) and natural (as called for in the pattern – double yarns) and guessed at the needle sizing – size 8. The seed stitching went well, but when I got to the knit stitches, the yarn was tight and not very fun to knit with. My only (completely uneducated guess) is that I sized the needles right for the seed stitching, but for the knitting, they were too small?

DSC_1450

So, you guessed it – I ended up working the entire blanket in seed stitch. For a more advanced knitter, I'm sure this is completely boring, but for me – it was exactly what I needed…an action that didn't require too much thought and would limit my frustrations.

Regardless, I love this little blanket and I love the feeling I got from working on it. Although, I would probably cast on a few less stitches next time to make it more square-shaped. As it is, I am very excited to cuddle our newest family member in some handmade goodness.

Tales from a knitting novice

Although, I was hesitant to post my utter ignorance, I think it is important to note my perseverance. Thus, onward with our tale. First, the background: I have never knit anything in the round. I vaguely know that for a hat one uses circular needles and for socks one uses double pointed needles (which are scary).

Act One, Scene One: A sudden desire to have a handmade hat on my newborn baby (ETA: mid-April) overwhelms all other instincts.

Act One, Scene Two: Witness me dragging my husband (on Valentine's Day, no less) to the yarn store to buy some yummy yarn for the baby's new hat. I found the pattern online and it looked simple enough. There were a few words which I sort of figured out (dpns = double-pointed needles). Eek!

Act Two, Scene One:  A happy, indie, young yarn store worker offers to help me. I ask for the natural fiber section and then see if I can get the run-down on the dpns usage.

Me: "I've never knit anything in the round before…why doesn't it call for circular needles."

Knitter: "Well, you could start on circulars, but then you would have to move to double-pointed needles because a larger circular needle would make it too hard to knit once you start decreasing." (Or, something close to that effect.)

Me: "Oh, I see." (I'm nodding my head, but I'm not really grasping the concept because I don't really have any reference point for the above-stated information.)

Act Three, Scene One: I get home that night and read through the pattern and cast on my 66 stitches thinking, "Wow, this 7-inch needle is kind of tiny for all of my stitches. Oh well…let's see – knit 10 rows. Great."

Act Three, Scene Two: After I've been knitting for a few hours and I'm feeling quite proud of myself for using size 5 needles (the tiniest I've used thus far), a feeling of doubt creeps in.

Me: "Hmmm, this isn't any different from using straight needles. I wonder why it calls for double-pointed needles. I mean, it says on the pattern to use a tapestry needle, I guess you sew up a seam at the end."

Act Three, Scene Three: Open the Stitch N' Bitch book which sort of explains knitting in the round as the immaculate conception and no pictures (quite unusual for such a great book). Start to get really depressed. Realize that there is not supposed to be a seam. The stitches should be connected. Rip out entire work after much contemplation and decision-making about above seam.

Act Three, Scene Four: Elation at remembering the knitting videos web site. Woo-hoo. The hat is back on. Well, sort of.

DSC_1350

(the yarn is Rowan Purelife Organic Cotton. It's a brown color – not blue as seen here.)