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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25 May 2007

Market bag madness

Last year, my friend Gina knit a market bag from a free pattern she found online. (She even used the yarn called for in the pattern!) It turned out great, and she has since knit a few more. At the beginning of this month, I got the market-bag itch myself and proceeded to crank out three of these suckers in quick succession, making some slight modifications to the original pattern. The first one, knit in four different colors of leftover dishcloth cotton, ended up with handles that were far too long for my liking. The original pattern called for 20-stitch-long handles. Gina did this on her first bag, and I thought the handles were a bit short. So I decided to extend them...a lot. In a burst of overzealous handle-making I cast on one hundred stitches for each handle. The result doesn't work for me...but turned out to be just right for Katie, to whom I gave the bag (though I left the ends for her to weave in). The second bag I made, the green one on the right here, was knit in Shine Worsted; the third bag, knit from dishcloth cotton, is slightly shorter because I was experimenting with length in an effort to find the right balance between "big enough to be useful at the farmers' market" and "not so big that it bounces off my butt when I walk." Both of these are planned as gifts for swap partners. This is a great pattern and one that's extremely easy to remember. Somewhere between one and a half and two balls of dishcloth cotton is what you'll need for this, so it's by no means an expensive project. And the best part is there's no seaming, grafting, Kitchener stitching, or whatever (though you do have to pick up some stitches around the flat base...).

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08 May 2007

Happy birthday to me

Yupper, today is my birthday--just two days after Sylvia's. Two years ago, when we were anxiously waiting for her to hurry up and get born already, Jan and I were worried that she'd end up sharing my birthday, which also happened to land on Mother's Day that year. Talk about a triple whammy. Fortunately, she arrived two days earlier (one week after her due date), thus ensuring that she gets her very own birthday--which I think is important, since it's awfully nice to have a birthday that's your own special day, don't you think? In addition to the niceness of having family around to celebrate my birthday, I was also fortunate enough to receive several wonderful gifts, many of which were knitting/craft related. Simple Sewing: Patterns and How-To for 24 Fresh and Easy Projects by Lotta Jansdotter and Knitted Flowers by Nicky Epstein now grace my bookshelves, and a tote with seventeen (yes, that's right--seventeen) pockets on the outside alone will insure that I don't lose my crafting supplies. My friends Gina and Todd gave me a Louet kit for handpainting sock yarn. It contains some incredibly soft wool sock yarn (enough for a pair), three different color-coordinated dyes, and--thank goodness--instructions. I am very much looking forward to trying this! Last but not least, my Dutch father-in-law gave me a terrific set of knitting supplies. He doesn't know anything about knitting, so he went to his local yarn store, a place called Charmant that's in the next town over from his, and said, "I want to get something for someone who knits." Fortunately, he was helped by someone who knew what they were doing (though I'm not surprised--I've been to this shop and was very impressed by how knowledgeable the staff were). She guided him toward the spring/summer 2007 issue of Babymode (Phildar No. 465), a set of 3.5mm needles (which is what most of the patterns call for), and twelve balls of a very soft cotton-acrylic blend Dutch yarn that's pretty indistinguishable from Rowan All-Season Cotton. There are lots of great patterns in here. I'm especially looking forward to making the two-toned cardigan with the tomten hood. Unfortunately, all of the written instructions are in Dutch--which I don't read or speak. But I'm hoping that with the help of the pictures and schematics (not to mention Babelfish) I can figure them out!

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01 April 2007

A zig and a zag

Via Craft I found this fun project: Tricia at Bits and Bobbins has posted a "pattern" for a fun and funky zigzag scarf. I say "pattern" because her instructions have a lot of "however you want to do it" flavor to them--which isn't a bad thing, 'cause this project could have a gazillion variations. This looks like a great project for using up odds and ends of stash yarn (which is what Tricia is doing). And if you don't have enough yarn in your stash to get the variety of color and texture that you'd like...well, there's a good reason (as if one is needed!) to do some yarn shopping.

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28 March 2007

End-of-winter knitting tidbits

For the last days of this winter (or for next winter, if you're planning ahead), try these knitted pants for little ones. Just in time for Easter (for those of you who celebrate it)--and for anyone who thinks that baby chicks are too darn cute--use this pattern to knit a whole flock of 'em. This random stripe generator gives you an idea of what a stripe pattern will look like before you start your knitting. When I get plastic shopping bags from the grocery store, I return them on my next trip there so they can be recycled. Lately, though, I've been hoarding my bags and cutting them apart to make "yarn" from them. (My plan is to use them to knit--oh, irony!--some sort of market bag out of them.) I made up my own technique for slicing and connecting the bags, but this one is much better. If you find your hands or arms cramping up while you knit, you might want to give these square knitting needles a try. I bet they're also useful for people who are tired of chasing after runaway needles rolling off tables... The Spring 2007 Knitty has a great article on creating your own handpainted yarn. There's some KnitPicks Bare in my stash that's just waiting for me to give it a splash of color... I've used the long-tail cast-on only a couple of times (when a pattern specifically required it), and I've never really cottoned to it. After looking at this video from Knit Like a Man, I may give it another try. Via Craft, these skull-patterned stockings may interest those of you who want to get a jump on your Halloween knitting.

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07 March 2007

Spring is here!

At least according to the folks at Knitty: their spring issue is up! So what are you doing still hanging around here?

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17 January 2007

Winter knitting

Winter has finally arrived, after battling its way through the unseasonable crazy-warm temperatures we've been having for the last couple of months. If you want to do some cold-weather knitting, but are tired of simple hats and scarves, nervous about thumbs for mittens and gloves, and reluctant to commit to a big sweater, then wrist warmers (a.k.a. fingerless gloves with holes for your thumbs to stick out) might be just the ticket. Here's a handy-dandy page that generates a pattern for you when you type in your wrist circumference, gauge, and needle size. This could be a great way to use up some stash yarn! And if you're saying to yourself, "Hey! I want to knit more hats! And I have no fear of thumbs!" then this may be the pattern for you.

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