The Panda Owl

The Panda Owl

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Smitten with Mittens

One of the few clothing items that my parents have kept from my childhood are a pair of salmon pink mittens that were knitted by my paternal grandmother. My grandmother wasn't exactly the cookie baking type, but she scored a domestic home run when she presented the mittens to me (and an identical, smaller pair for my younger sister). I had these special mittens in mind when I embarked on my own mitten making adventure.

One bigger for the older sis, one smaller for the lil' miss 

Nowadays pretty mittens can be purchased at most clothing stores; I'm sure Gap and JCrew make nice ones with embroidered animals or snowflakes. However, I don't think anything quite matches homemade mittens in terms of coziness and satisfaction. See my results below.

Silver and sparkly!

I'm impressed they turned out looking quite professional (meaning they look like they could be sold in a store), but they are super special because I made them myself (which means they would make great gifts!). I definitely experienced one of those OMG! knitting moment where everything works out well and I was in awe that I crafted something so amazing (I know, I know, I'm tooting my own horn, but I was super excited!).

The only problem was that there were small holes at the point where the thumb joins the body of the mitten. The pattern had asked that I slip 7 stitches onto waste yarn for the thumb and continue knitting the body of the mitten. Then, when the body was completed, go back and pick up 9 stitches around the thumb opening opposite the slipped stitches. I followed these instructions to a T, but it was pretty obvious before I had even finished the thumb that I would have some holes.

One of the holes where thumb and body join is circled 

(1) These were the stitches that were picked up
(2) Hole is formed where the thumb and body join
(3) The stitches underneath the thumb were the stitches saved  on the waste yarn

I have heard of 2 ways to correct this problem. (1) Leave a long tail when picking up stitches. Use the tail to weave around the stitches near the hole and pull to tighten and reduce the size of the hole. (2) Pick up more stitches than necessary around the thumbhole and reduce by the same number of added stitches in the next round. If you forget to reduce, the thumb will be too wide.

I tried Method 1, but unfortunately, since the holes are on opposite sides of the thumbhole, it only worked to close up one of the holes (and not very well at that). Next time I will give Method 2 a try; I will let you know what happens!

Mittens for all!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Story of the Never-Ending Blanket

Back in October of 2011, I promised my friend I would make him a knitted blanket for his living room. We went to A.C. Moore and found some soft, acrylic-wool blend yarn that worked well with his room's color scheme. I found a simple blanket pattern that would create a checkerboard motif. Off I went, fully intending on getting the blanket done in time for his birthday in December. It's now July of 2012 and I am finally close to finishing! Granted, I've only been working on it sporatically, but I contend that blankets take forever to complete for a couple of reasons.

First, it's easy to fall into the "it could be bigger" trap. Like the guy who is obsessed with finding the absolute largest TV that will still fit into his home media center, I found myself justifying knitting a few inches more. I thought if it was just a few inches longer, my friend could use it as a cover if he falls asleep on the couch. As it stands, the blanket is probably big enough for him and his 2 huskies to huddle under with room to spare!

Second, since blankets are such large projects, when you make a mistake, unraveling and correcting it becomes a herculean task. Try unraveling a few rows of 107 stitches. It's enough to make one pull their hair out and quit. Many a night (including one disasterous incident when I was SO CLOSE to being finished and I dropped a stitch and almost burned the whole thing out of frustration) I just had to stop working and go to bed.

Third, many blankets are knitted on larger needles. The pattern I used called for US Size 17 needles. While this did make the knitting go faster (larger needles ususally create knitted fabric quicker) I found that I had to use bigger hand and arm movements to accommodate the larger needles. This really tired me out (sometimes my shoulders ached after working on the blanket). Maybe I'm doing something wrong, but I probably looked like (and definitely felt like) I was conducting an orchestra.

Even though it took a while, the finished product is quite attractive. And the pattern is a real testament to how little by little, simple stitches can create a textured motif that looks fancy, but isn't too hard to do. Below are a few pictures of the finished product.

The blanket was so large, I had to scrunch it on the bed so it would fit into the picture frame 

Close up to highlight the garter stitch border and the checkerboard texture 

The blanket already has a fan!