For some inexplicable reason I have suddenly gotten stuck on cowls. Never mind it is already spring and summer is on the way. I seem to only be interested in cowls, scarfs and socks. I put the socks onto the back burner last week and dived into cowls.
I have had this nice pink yarn for a few months now, and couldn’t seem to find the right project. Dream in Color“Perfectly Posh” yarn: it is made of merino wool, mohair, silk, and cashmere not that I’m letting that intimidate me. Then while poking around the patterns at my local yarn store I discovered a nice pattern for a lace cowl that looks a little like a scarf with the back point tied to the front. That’s a look that I really like, so I bought the pattern Zuzu’s Petals. Here’s the finished product.
See, it looks just like a little scarf, but it is a cowl with a narrow back. Perfect to wear over tops with a cardigan or jacket.
Well, it was hard to not notice that the original cowl pattern was designed to display yarn that changed colors gradually, so I just had to buy a couple of cakes of Freia Handpaint Yarn even though I have more yarn in my stash than I can knit in my lifetime. I ended up with the colorways Conchinilla and Blue Velvet .
I just love the way the colors change in the cowl.
I can’t help but wonder what the cowl will look like with beads added, so tonight I started another version of the same cowl in the Blue Velvet colorway of the Freia yarn. Hey, it is a cowl study. I’m just surrendering to this thing without giving it too much thought. I wonder what I can find in my yarn stash for the next cowl after the beaded one? I think that I have some silk/wool yarn that I got on sale a couple of years ago…
Wow. This week I was definitely stuck in the baby bootie knitting rut. I went ahead and made two more pairs for friends of my original customer; kind of a ripple out effect. While I was making them I realized that while the pattern is pretty simple and straight forward, it is hard to visualize what is happening. So here is the pattern, exactly the way that it was taught to me, with picture support. The booties in the picture are being made on 2.25mm double pointed needles with Broncos Football colored fingering yarn that I bought at my local yarn store. In case you haven’t guessed, this is Broncos Country since I live in Colorado.
Cast on 10 stitches. Knit each row (this is garter stitch) until you have 18 ridges on each side.
You have knitted a cute little rectangle that is going to be the bottom of the baby bootie. Now things get a little tricky as you need to bust out more double pointed needles. You already have 10 stitches on one needle. Without cutting the yarn, turn the rectangle and pick up 18 stitches on the closest long side of what you just knitted with a new needle. Use a 3rd needle to pick up 10 stitches along the bottom of the rectangle, and a 4th needle to pick up 18 stitches on the final long side. This is what you now have.
Needle management is an issue as you knit these booties. I use square metal needles, which hold the yarn fairly well, but you may want to use wood or bamboo needles as they grip the yarn nicely and won’t fall out. I am using 6″ needles in these pictures, but if you have smaller needles you may want to use those.
Mark the start of the round, and knit four rounds of purl stitches, then four rounds of knit stitches, then four rounds of purl stitches, then four rounds of knit stitches, and then finally four rounds of purl stitches. Got that? You just knitted up the side of the bootie, and it should look like this.
Now we are to the part where I always got lost and gave up. My mom would just say, “Now you knit back and forth from one end catching a stitch from each side as you go.” Say what? What she should have told me it that starting with the 10-stitch end I just knit across, turn the bootie and knit back across the stitches with the toe of the bootie towards you. Knit the 10th stitch on the needle together with the stitch on the side needle closest to the corner. Turn the bootie with the heel towards you and purl back across the 10 stitches, and purl the last stitch on your needle with the stitch on the side needle closest to the corner. You are creating the toe box for the little baby foot, and you are knitting stockinette stitch.
Continue doing this until there are only 10 stitches left on each side needle. Turn the bootie and knit one round across all 4 needles. To make things clear let’s call the toe needle #1, and the other needles are #2, #3 (the heel), and #4 as you knit around. You will be starting the round with the toe stitches on needle #1.
As you arrive at the needle #1 again after the first round you need to do some trickiness to close the gap so you won’t have a hole. You can pick up a stitch in the gap and knit it with the first stitch on the toe needle (#1), but I pull up the stitch below the last stitch on needle #4, place it on the tip of needle #1, and then knit the two stitches together. Sweet! If that seems confusing just pretend we didn’t have this discussion, pick up a stitch, or close the hole with a little yarn on a needle when you have finished the bootie. No one will know the difference.
Knit two more rounds, and then create the holes for the bootie’s tie during the 4th round this way: (K2, YO, K2together), repeat until you have finished the round. Knit 20-25 more rounds (until you think it looks pretty good), and bind off. The top will roll. I think that this top looks pretty good if your yarn is really busy.
If the yarn is a little more sedate I often finish the top by knitting 15 rounds, then 5 rounds of garter stitch (three purl rows), and then casting off with a picot bind-off.
You can use knotted i-cord for the ties like I did here, or crochet laces like my mom did, or even use a ribbon. Happy knitting!
I grew up in the world of knitting. The neighbor was having a baby? Baby booties were produced like magic. I needed a red sweater to match a new outfit for school? Ta-da! It arrived in the mail from my grandma. I didn’t know there was any other type of dishrag than the knitted kind. When mohair sweaters became popular, a fluffy pink one arrived under the Christmas tree. All the women of my family knitted, and suddenly, around the age of 8, I was a knitter too. I made slippers for everyone, made clothes for my dolls, and began to collect my own knitting needles and yarn. There were some off years, but by the time I was a mom myself there was hardly a day when I didn’t find some time to knit.
Hey, it’s not like I had a choice in any of this. This is the fault of my mom, her mother and all those ancestors living in the Swedish countryside who passed down these knitting genes. I think that knitting was probably a survival skill back in Sweden, but once the family was in America and located in the desert Southwest the knitting continued. It’s hot in New Mexico and Southern California, so a lot of that knitting was done for the house (placemats, bedspreads, pillows, and even a tablecloth) and gifts. In general, if there was spare time and you couldn’t read, some knitting got done: obviously a genetic trait!
I received a lot of knitting artifacts from my mother, aunt, and grandmother as the years went by and their knitting stopped. I have antique patterns, old needles and hooks, and even an ancient darning egg. I still have some of the things that they knitted, and a little collection of patterns that my grandmother knit up and sent to my mom over the years. Of all the girls in the family, I am the only one who is a compulsive knitter, and so I got the stash. The knitting gene must be a recessive one I guess.
One of the patterns that I remember the best from my childhood is for a baby bootie that my grandmother used to make. The big deal about the bootie was that it was kick-proof and it stretched as the baby grew so that it could be worn for a few months. My mom and her sister also made these booties, and the pattern (oral tradition only – I never saw this thing in writing!) was explained over and over to me. I’m not an auditory learner, and I never caught on until the booties for my own boys arrived. Then suddenly I understood the pattern as I tied the little booties onto their tiny feet. Clever, clever, clever. The whole bootie is constructed in one piece and definitely performs as advertised. I loved these booties and used them until the boys were walking. Now I make them for other people.
This weekend I made two pairs of the booties for the office manager at my car repair shop, who needs to give them to new mothers as baby gifts. They are just little booties, but they are so much more than that. They are the past, the present and the future all at once. They are my connection to the women of my family who gave me the pattern and the Swedish knitting genes. With each stitch that goes into them the gift lives on.
The baby bootie pattern was written up by Christine Bourquin, a woman about the same age as my grandmother, and was published as a letter to the editor of a magazine in 1989. The pattern and more information can be found online at Fuzzy Galore. There is also a great online tutorial posted by Major Knitter. I wonder if Christine was Swedish?
What can I do? I went to my favorite yarn store over the weekend, and they had this absolutely fabulous sock yarn in colors to dye for made by Zen Yarn Garden . I have a lot of sock yarn already, but sometimes a skein is so unique and perfect that I just can’t pass it by; I just know that I will never see it again. This yarn was called Serenity 20 and it was 20% cashmere, 70% superwash merino wool and 10% nylon. In other words, a yarn that is wonderful to touch, can be machine washed and will wear well. I found a skein that was extremely interesting, put it back on the shelf, and then took it down to look over at least twice more before I decided that it needed to go home with me. It was part of what they call their Art Walk Series, which I think means that the yarn is dyed in colorways that invoke specific works of art. This skein is inspired by Ice Cream Dessert by Andy Warhol.
Not a great shot, but you can sort of see the colors in the picture; the yarn is dyed in these same colors, and these colors go with almost everything in my wardrobe. I love mauve and plum colors, am constantly in denim jeans and darker blues, so the colors are perfect matches. The socks made from this yarn will blend in with most of the things that I wear. To be honest, now that I am retired, everything that I wear goes with jeans!
So, here is the yarn.
The socks that I decided to knit are my old favorite, Chouwa from the book Knitted Socks East and West. I love this book, and have made several of the different patterns, but Chouwa is my go-to pattern. The socks always fit and wear well, no matter what yarn I am using. I know it so well that I can knit away while watching TV or reading. The word “chouwa” means harmony, and what could be a better match for a yarn called Serenity?
I knit the socks while watching Firefly. (I’ve been watching all the old Firefly episodes because I just read some books that reminded me of the show). As it turns out, this was the perfect show to be watching while making these socks. I mean, what else can you watch while knitting socks made with Serenity yarn? Can’t help but think that the crew would have enjoyed some ice cream dessert and that while the socks invoke the harmony of the tea ceremonies that Inara conducts, they would have been a favorite worn by Kaylee while working in the engine room.
So, I’ve gotten a little crazy with the mitt making. I’ve been making them while I watch television or read; basically they are something that I can produce while watching television or reading as they are kind of automatic knitting. Since I have so much yarn in the stash, they are kind of a stash buster at the same time. The only problem with this is that I don’t like making the thumbs as I need to focus a little on what I’m doing to make them. That’s how I found myself with 10 pairs of mitts without thumbs.
Good grief! I had to spend the entire weekend working on thumbs to get them finished. I watched all the episodes of Firefly again and settled into the project. While I was working I started to wonder just how much yarn was in each pair of mitts.
I have a little electronic balance that I use when dying yarn (to figure the amount of dye to use for the weight of dry fiber), and realized that I could use it to measure the number of yards of yarn in the mitts. I had already started using the balance to determine if I had enough yarn left in a ball to knit another mitt by weighing one mitt, and then the ball of yarn. If the ball weighs more than the mitt, there is enough! With a little calculator action and some simple algebra I could use the balance to get my yardage.
Since I had so many pairs of mitts that were made of the same yarn (but different colors…) I was able to weigh all 10 pairs and then figure the average. These mitts (the Darwinian Mitts pattern on this blog) made in Malabrigo Rios yarn weigh 43 grams each. To make sure I was measuring the amount of yarn needed in the construction of the mitt and not just the yarn in the finished mitt I weighed them before weaving in and trimming off all the loose ends.
Now for the math! Malabrigo Rios comes in 100 gram skeins with about 210 yards according to the wrapper. I’m just going to take their word for this. Since my mitt weighs 43 grams, and if I use “X” to stand for the number of yards of yarn in my mitts, the relationship can be expressed as:
Then if I cross multiply so that I can solve for “X” I get:
This can be cleaned up by cancelling out the grams and dividing the 43 by 100 to convert it to a decimal. That leaves:
Which forced me to use a calculator. When I multiplied the numbers I discovered that in this case:
Which is the number of yards of yarn I need to create these mitts. This is great, as I have some skeins lurking in the stash that are right around 100 yards, and I think that I will put some of them on the needles to see what they look like as mitts.
Now that I have worked this out I think that I see the pattern that I can use to do future calculations. If I know how many yards are in 100 grams of yarn, and I weigh my knitted item to get the number of grams in it, I just need to move the decimal place over two places to the left on the weight of my knitted article, and then multiply that number by the yardage in 100 grams of yarn. Fast, easy, simple.
These mitts fit my small/medium sized hands well.
This kind of depends on the yarn you use and how elastic the ribbing is. Slightly stretched ribbing, 8 stitches = 2”
CO: cast on
C6B: slip three stitches onto a cable needle and hold to the back of the work. K3, K the three stitches from the cable needle.
C6F: slip three stitches onto a cable needle and hold to the front of the work. K3, K the three stitches from the cable needle.
PM: place marker
M1L: put strand between two stitches over left needle from front to back. Knit into back of the loop.
M1R: put strand between two stitches over left needle from back to front. Knit into the front of the loop.
SM: slip marker
BO: bind off
Round 1: PM, K1, M1R, K1, PM.
Rounds 2-3: SM, K the stitches between the markers, SM.
Round 4: SM, K1, M1R, K1, M1L, K1, SM. (There are now 5 stitches between the markers.)
Rounds 5-6: SM, K the stitches between the markers, SM.
Round 7: SM, K1, M1R, K3, M1L, K1, SM. (There are now 7 stitches between the markers.)
Rounds 8-9: SM, K the stitches between the markers, SM.
Round 10: SM, K1, M1R, K5, M1L, K1, SM. (There are now 9 stitches between the markers.)
Rounds 11-12: SM, K the stitches between the markers, SM.
Round 13: SM, K1, M1R, K7, M1L, K1, SM. (There are now 11 stitches between the markers.)
Rounds 14-15: SM, K the stitches between the markers, SM.
Next round: Place the 11 thumb stitches onto a piece of waste yarn using a needle while removing the markers. CO 2 stitches using backward loop method. K these two stitches in the following rounds of knitting.
Cast on 36 stitches. Divide the stitches evenly between the three needles (12-12-12) Join to knit in the round carefully, making sure to not twist the stitches.
Rounds 1-4: Work in K2, P2 ribbing on all three needles.
Round 5 – 8 : Begin cable pattern on 1st needle: K2, P2, K6, P2. Continue in K2, P2 ribbing on other 2 needles. Repeat for three more rounds.
Round 9: Cable pattern on 1st needle: K2, P2, C6B, P2. Continue in K2, P2 ribbing on the other 2 needles. (Twist 1)
Following 9 rounds: Needle 1: K2, P2, K6, P2. Continue in K2, P2 ribbing on other 2 needles. (The cable twists every 10th row of knitting.)
Next round: K2, P2, C6B, P2 on 1st needle. Continue K2, P2 ribbing on 2nd needle. (K2, P2) twice, insert thumb gusset, P2 on 3rd needle. (Twist 2)
Following 9 rounds: K2, P2, K6, P2. Continue in K2, P2 ribbing on other 2 needles working the thumb gusset at the same time on the 3rd needle.
Next round: K2, P2, C6B, P2 on 1st needle. Continue K2, P2 ribbing on other needles while working the thumb gusset on 3rd needle. (Twist 3)
Following 9 rows: K2, P2, K6, P2 on 1st needle. Continue K2, P2 ribbing on other needles while working the thumb gusset on 3rd needle. When the gusset is completed work K2 on the CO stitches to reestablish K2, P2 ribbing on this needle.
Next round: K2, P2, C6B, P2 on 1st needle. Continue in K2, P2 ribbing on the other 2 needles. (Twist 4)
Next 4 rounds: K2, P2, K6, P2. Continue in K2, P2 ribbing on other 2 needles.
Next 3 rounds: K2, P2 ribbing on all three needles.
Last round: CO loosely in pattern. As you cast off you create the 4th round of ribbing at the top of the mitt.
Work exactly like the left mitt with these changes: 1. Replace each C6B with a C6F. This reverses the twist of the cable; it should be twisting towards the thumb. 2. Work the thumb gusset on the 2nd needle in this way: K2, P2, insert thumb gusset, P2, K2, P2. The 3rd needle will be ribbing on this mitt.
Place the 11 stitches on the waste yarn back onto the needles and rejoin the yarn.
Pick up and knit 4 stitches across the body of the mitt: 1 stitch before the 2 CO stitches, 2 in the CO stitches, and 1 after the CO stitches.
Knit 5 rounds even.
Each mitt has 4 ends that you will have to weave in. Do it!
What is blocking? Put on your mitts and go show them off!
I love mitts. I have fat little hands with stubby fingers, and they get cold easily. Mitts are the perfect things for me to wear while reading in bed, working at the computer, working in a cold garage (where all the teacher stuff is stored), or driving in the car on cold days. I even pull them over my mittens when it is really nasty out and I have to shovel snow. They are fast to make, and because they are small I feel OK using some luxury type yarns on them like cashmere blends. They are a fun way to try out new yarns and colors to see how they will work out. I love hand-painted yarns, but sometimes they don’t look the way I think they will knitted up. Mitts are the perfect way to sample without making a big investment.
I found a mitt pattern that was simple but nice on Ravelry. It was ribbed in K2, P2 ribbing with a single cable on the back of the hand. I grabbed my needles, cast on and knitted the mitt.
Oops! The knitting seemed too loose. The cable twisted over too great a distance and wouldn’t stay on the back of my hand. The thumb gusset was too short, and my thumb didn’t have a comfortable range of motion without pulling on the mitt. The mitts were just too dang long on my arm. But I still liked the idea of the pattern.
Obviously, there needed to be some changes. If you consider the original pattern to be the code (DNA) for the mitts, I was introducing mutations into the code with each change. I started knitting again with more stitches on smaller needles. I started the gusset lower on the mitt so that it would start exactly at my wrist and would be in the same place as the twist of the cable. I slowed down the rate of increases; instead of adding two stitches every other row I tried adding stitches every third row. The gusset was moved over so it would begin in the middle of a K2 rib, and after a couple of false starts I had something that looked good to me.
I liked where I was going with the mitt, but I kept on mutating the pattern. I shortened up the ribbing sections at the bottom and top of the mitt so that the mitt would have more room for cable action. I moved the start of the thumb gusset over so that there would be more stitches on the top of the mitt and fewer on the palm; the tension of the stretched palm rib stitches held the cable in place on the other side of the mitt.
I made the cable twist every 10 rows so I could get three twists onto the cable. Now I had about 6 new pairs of mitts, but I had managed to create the pattern for a mitt that I just loved. Natural selection had evolved me a better mitt!
This is the basic design of the mitt that evolved over a number of weeks as I kept trying out new variations of the pattern.
I love this mitt! Did I mention that I wear them while reading? I can also knit them while reading (but not quickly!) I’m now working on writing up the pattern (or the genetic code for this mitt…), which is harder than it looks. 🙂