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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21 March 2007

A better boatneck

Three of my friends are pregnant. Babies are due to arrive in May, June, and August. Needless to say, the knitting projects that are occupying my time these days are of the baby-sized variety. Since I ordered the yarn for these projects, one of the three has learned (and announced) that she's having a boy, but the other two babies will remain mysteries until they are born. I chose the same yarn for all three items: KnitPicks Shine Worsted (a machine-washable mostly cotton blend that handles and drapes beautifully) in the Terra Cotta color, which I think would look nice on any baby. For my friend Liza (May), I decided to knit an old favorite that I've made several times before (including twice for my own daughter): the simple boatneck sweater from Baby Knits for Beginners, by Debbie Bliss. For the 6-9 month size (plus the gauge swatch), I ended up using well over three balls of yarn. I made a couple of modifications to the original pattern, including the use of the three-needle bindoff on the shoulders. (I am a huge, huge fan of this technique and use it all the time now. What a great way to get bombproof, neat, tidy, perfectly-lined-up shoulder seams!) Here's what the sweater looked like about a month ago, right before the tendonitis really kicked in and I had to put it away for a while. My wrist is feeling much much better, though, and the problem seems to have gone away (though I still wear the wrist splint during most of the day and all night, just to be cautious). For the past few days, I've felt mended enough to knit and even do some seaming. So I've finished putting together this sweater, and I am mighty pleased with the result. The other modification I made to the pattern was in how I attached the sleeves. Rather than knit the sleeves separately from the bottom up, then sew them into place, I picked up the stitches at the shoulders and knit the sleeves from the top down. This meant I had to reverse engineer the sleeve a bit, figuring out how do the decreases that are usually increases when coming from the other direction. Again, I ended up with a very sturdy, tidy seam. One thing I really like about this pattern is the little bit of garter stitch at the hem and cuffs. This detail isn't busy enough to distract from the sweater as whole (and probably doesn't even get noticed most of the time), but it's a nice little variation from the sea of stockinette stitch around it. I did knit a gauge swatch, but the sweater seems a little big (this always happens to me, even when I dutifully check for gauge...). I'm not worried about it, though. It's intended to fit a child who will be around five or six months old when the cool weather returns, and since Liza and her husband are both very tall people (and their first baby wasn't tiny!), I suspect this baby will need all the extra sweater he or she can get!

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