Marsha Knits

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Name: Marsha Brofka-Berends
Location: US

Marsha knits . . . and reads and cooks and edits and gardens and hikes and thinks and eats and photographs and sings and writes and travels and plans and hopes and . . .

04 June 2007

Pinwheel sweater

Last Sunday afternoon I decided I really wanted to knit a child-sized pinwheel sweater using the free pattern from Elann. I'd never made one of these before (though I'd seen a similar one, based on a Vogue Knitting pattern, worn by an adult friend), but I'd come across the pattern the day before and found myself possessed by an insane desire to knit one of these things immediately. The pattern calls for Elann's own worsted-weight 100% wool yarn. I've never used it before, but I did have several balls of KnitPicks Wool of the Andes worsted on hand. So I planned what I hoped would be an eye-pleasing combination of colors and cast on. A few hours later, I was already in the middle of the third "donut," right at the spot where the first armhole is created. For some reason, the pattern tells you to start a new ball of yarn here. I couldn't quite understand why, but I did it...and then once I had cast on stitches for the other side of the armhole, I realized that starting a new ball of yarn was completely unnecessary. So when I got to the second armhole, I just kept plugging along with the ball of yarn I was already using, and everything worked out just fine. I did have some trouble with the crochet provisional cast-on, though. This was the first time I'd ever done one, and when I went to pick up the stiches for the sleeves later I found that I hadn't cast on to the correct loops of the crochet chain. So instead of unzipping like the top stitching on a big bag of rice (anyone out there know what I'm talking about?), the yarn refused to budge. I had to remove each loop from the crochet chain separately. Fortunately, there were only eighteen loops, so this didn't take very long. This is a very interesting sweater. The child-sized version is supposed to fit someone as small as six months old to someone as large as four years old. My daughter, who's modeling the sweater here (with some coaching from her dad, who helpfully shouted, "Now point to the stove and the refrigerator at the same time!" as I took the first photo), is two years old. You can see that the sleeves are rolled up a bit, so she's got plenty of room. (And because the bottom two-thirds of each sleeve is done in k1p1 ribbing, it stays put when it's rolled up--very helpful if you want to put it on a short-armed baby.) The sweater has eight sections, and the sleeves are separated by two sections one way and by four sections another. (This layout is very visible in the third photo here.) So, depending on how the sweater is put on, you get either a long sweater with a short collar (the first photo) or a short sweater with a long collar (the second photo) that could even be used as a hood for a small baby. In both orientations, the sweater kept sliding off of Sylvia's shoulders--especially in the long-collar-short-sweater direction. (Note that this sweater has not been blocked. I guess it's possible that blocking might help with this problem.) So I'm thinking about putting some I-cord ties or maybe even some sort of button in the front. If I stick a closure right in the middle, across from the armholes, it should line up properly when the sweater is worn in either direction. This sweater was a pretty fast knit in #9 needles (#8 for the ribbing on the sleeves). I started it on a Sunday afternoon and was finished (including weaving in the ends!) the following Saturday evening. It also didn't use much yarn: I used less than one skein each of the red, blue, and white and just under two skeins of the gray. Wool of the Andes is $1.99 per skein, so this sweater cost under ten bucks to make (and there's still plenty of red, blue, and white to knit a donut of each in another sweater!). (I should point out, though, that I decided to omit the funky I-cord loop edging that the pattern calls for. I seems like the sort of thing a toddler would get caught on everything and end up pulling on the sweater.) At the end of the photo shoot, once Sylvia had finished identifying all the major appliances in my kitchen, I spread out the sweater on the floor for one last photo. Sylvia rushed to get her own camera and lent me a hand!

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05 March 2007

Review: A Guy Who Knits

When I first saw two of Lucinda Guy's books of handknits for children in a catalog, I was utterly charmed--so much so that I bought one of them, Handknits for Kids, sight unseen. Last week, I finally got my hands on its sequel, And So to Bed..., thanks to my local library. Both books are beautifully designed and feature patterns for clothing, blankets, and stuffed toys suitable for ages two to five or thereabouts. The designs for girls are girly, but mostly in a heavy-on-the-pink way and not in a frilly-curlicues way; similarly, the designs for boys are boyish but not obnoxiously so. Handknits for Kids is divided into four "chapters," each defined by a season. Each chapter includes a blanket (one has trucks and cars on it, and one is completely pink, but the other two aren't gendered), a stuffed toy (dog, bird, mouse, cat), and a sweater for a girl; three chapters also include sweaters for boys. The designs are clever and fun--stuff I could actually imagine children wearing (and enjoying!) without looking ridiculous. You can see photos of all the projects in the British version of the book here. (It contains the same projects and has the same design as the American version; only the title and surely some spellings are different.) Look at the Jack Frost Jacket in the last chapter--isn't that adorable? I'm giving serious thought to making one of those for Sylvia...maybe even in the pink that the pattern calls for. (I am not a big fan of lots of pink, so that's saying a lot about how much I like this design.) And So to Bed... is equally charming in its presentation (like Handknits for Kids, all of the illustrations are photographs of the knitted objects against cartoon drawings--there are no photographs of people wearing these handknits). The projects here didn't appeal to me as much, though. They're all bedtime-themed (clever idea!), and include blankets, pajama cases, robes, and cases for hot-water bottles. (All of the projects can be seen here.) But, aside from the Dream Cardigan and the stuffed owl, I had a hard time imagining myself knitting any of this stuff. I should mention that this book is from Rowan and thus features only Rowan yarn. Beautiful stuff, to be sure, but holy cow is it expensive. The Dream Cardigan I mentioned would cost about eighty bucks if I used the yarn that is called for. Ouch. Unless I can score an exceptionally good deal on eBay, when I'm ready to start these projects I'll definitely be substituting other yarns.

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