Hitchhiking to Finishedville

I finished my Hitchhiker!!!

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If you have never knit a Martina Behm pattern, you are missing out on a lot of garter stitch enjoyment. Her patterns are reasonably priced and interesting while at the same time usually pretty simple. This is the third time I’ve gone with this pattern and it probably won’t be the last. In case anyone forgot, I used Malabrigo Sock in the color way “Caribeño.” It’s a warm and soft merino wool perfect for the weather I’m experiencing right now. I will wear it a lot this month with my Levi’s denim jacket.

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Yet another sweater in progress

The year 2017 has proven me to be the sweater king. I have finished eight sweaters and I have now started number nine, a purple cardigan. The orange crochet sweater has been done since last week. I just need to take really nice photos of it to go with the pattern I’m writing up as well as to find a time to get the wearer of its brown cousin to model his sweater for me. You might recall that the brown one does not fit me in a flattering way.

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The purple cardigan looks like a crumpled blob right now because it’s yet another top-down raglan. I have been using the numbers from Ann Budd’s The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters as a guide, only modifying the button band, which I preferred to knit along with the body rather than as a final step. This has required some experimentation because I couldn’t cast on any extra stitches for the neckline as the instructions indicate. I decided to double increase along the neckline gradually. We shall see if my decision was a good one or a total fail soon enough! My plan is to knit the yoke in moss stitch and then the rest of the body in stockinette. We’ll see if I tire of purling when the yoke is finished, too.

I’ve dived deep into the depths of my stash for the yarn. It’s Cascade Quatro superwash, a discontinued item. I bought it five years ago (gasp!) and I forgot I even had it (double gasp!) As far as my stash goes, I am being a very good boy. I haven’t added any yarn to it for several months and I actually have an empty plastic container because I used all the yarn it was storing. It’s a good thing because I’ll need it to store the sweaters I’m finishing.

I’m also knitting on a Hitchhiker scarf, the now world-famous Martina Behm design. I’m using Malabrigo Sock in the Caribeño color way. This is my last skein of Malabrigo.

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I made this same exact scarf in the same color as a gift a couple of years ago. I liked how it looked so much I bought another skein to make one for myself some day. Some day is here.

The scarf didn’t see it coming

My blue lace scarf had no idea it was going to be finished. I sort of sneaked up on it and ended this very long project on Tuesday evening. This is also the second Friday in a row that I have an FO. So, I’ve got two reasons to be very pleased with my knitting.

 

 

You might recall that I made a deal with myself to knit one pattern repeat a day to get this finished. A week after I made this pact I did not stick to the letter of its law. It still helped me to make this promise to myself, though, because it was constantly on my mind. I’d be at the supermarket and the voice in my head would nag at me, “You haven’t knitted a repeat on your scarf in a few days!”

This design is called “A Man’s Scarf in Blue to Knit” by Inna Voltchkova. It took me about seven months to complete it. It’s a difficult lace pattern to follow because the repeat is several rows long. Consequently, I did not ever memorize this and had to have the chart in front of me the entire time I worked on it. Although the directions recommend using blocking pins, I simply washed my scarf and laid it out flat to dry on some towels, stretching it width-wise. It held the shape I wanted as it dried and the zig-zag pattern is very clear and crisp. So, if you decide to knit this blue number, you may not need to aggressively block it with a thousand pins, either. I used Zitron Filigran, a merino size 0 lace weight yarn which is very light and soft. A happy bonus with washing it: it gets longer because the wool expands quite a lot after having contact with water. I don’t know about you, but my scarf philosophy is: the longer the better.

A clever thing about this wonderful pattern is that the cables, just like the garter stitch lace, are reversible. The cables are actually k1p1, which allows them to look the same on both sides, as you can see in the photos.

You may not agree with the designer about men wearing this, but I totally do. It’s all mine and I’m going to wear the living daylights out of it. I think it’s suitable for men and women, actually. Anyway, I love to knit lace and tire of having to give it away because I can’t wear it. This is lace a DEWD can wear, if it fits in with his style. I shall wear it with my Levi’s denim jacket, so I think it will look fantastic on me and not the least bit strange.

I hope you knit and crochet a lot this weekend! I certainly plan on it.

One pattern repeat a day

This week, from roughly Wednesday to Saturday, I followed a mantra for my lace scarf: “I will knit at least one pattern repeat a day.” Today I skipped, so I think the mantra shall forever be revised to be this: “I will knit at least one pattern repeat a day, BUT NEVER ON SUNDAYS.”

This mantra of mine is — as I have learned the hard way — like selling your soul to the devil. By Friday I found myself knitting one pattern repeat and then I said, “I will knit the first row of the next pattern repeat and then that will get me ahead on the next day’s pattern repeat. Indeed, the chart’s pattern repeat is rows 23 to 38. On Saturday I felt a bit better about knitting my one pattern repeat because I was ahead of the game and only had to knit rows 24 to 38.

The scarf in question is Inna Voltchkova’s “A Man’s Scarf in Blue to Knit” which is the most beautiful scarf intended for men that I have ever seen in my life. If I were a religious man I’d shout “Hallelujah!” because honestly I have grown tired of knitting lace just to give it away to women who can pull it off wearing it. My readers may question Ms. Voltchkova’s decision to market her pattern as “lace for dudes” but guess what? That’s their problem. I am totally on board with wearing this puppy and I will eventually wear it. I just have to finish the darn thing first.

I took the scarf to knitting club yesterday and tried to knit some of it, but I just couldn’t focus to get it right. As a matter of fact, as soon as I started working on row 25 of the pattern repeat a friend at the table said, “what are you knitting?” and I said “something that takes some concentration, I’ll show you once I get through this row.” I showed her my WIP and she almost spit out her coffee. Really, that’s how gorgeous it is. Really, that’s how challenging it looks to knit. She said, after swallowing her coffee, “why on Earth did you bring such a difficult thing to knitting club?” I answered with the truth: “Everybody says all I bring to knitting club are garter stitch things or stockinette in the round, or socks, so I decided to knit a row of this, put it away, and then proceed with a self-striping sock.” That’s exactly what I did. I knitted row 25, put away the lace scarf, and took out my neon self-striping sock project to “kkkkkkkkkk” away on.

Mind you, this scarf, in reality, isn’t really all that hard to knit, but you have to pay attention to the chart. Remember, the repeat is rows 23 to 38, which is a repeat of 15 rows. To add some fun there are two cables and the middle is a zig-zag. The relief comes with the fact that the middle, although zig-zag, is garter stitch, so every even-numbered row is k all the way through the middle, with a chain selvedge edge and k1p1 on the cables. To refresh your memory, here’s a photo of the project (imagine it 70 rows longer):

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My reason for selling my soul to the “one pattern repeat a day” devil? I have found that I start making mistakes after one pattern repeat. If I try to knit more than that, I get to my second pass through rows 23 to 28 just fine, and then I mess up and have to tink because maybe I didn’t yarn over, or maybe on my way back on an even-numbered row I let a yarn over fall off the needle without noticing (usually the latter more than the former). So, one repeat a day, but never on Sundays.

I absolutely am 100% certain of one thing: I’m going to finish this scarf. It’s lace for men to wear! Finally! I want to wear this so bad. It is also part of my evilly selfish scheme to have a million handmade ways to accessorize my Levi’s blue denim jacket. Just imagine, it’s beautiful lace, it’s complex, and it’s “for a man to wear.” I mean really, this scarf was designed for me and only me. BY THE DEVIL.

Cheap and Easy Hooking

If I were a conformist, I suppose this would be an “FO Friday” post. I think the allusion to Debbie Stoller is a bit more fun. It also captures the essence of what I’ve done which is a lot less naughty than the tired old pun I’ve used.

In my last post, I talked about how I found some Caron Cakes on sale. For anyone that is unaware, a “Caron Cake” is a yarn made by the Caron yarn company that is self-striping, plentiful, and is regularly priced at $7.99 at Michaels craft stores. Its fiber content is 80% acrylic and 20% wool. I bought two cakes at $5.00 each, which is even cheaper. A single cake is enough to knit or crochet a scarf.

One of the drawbacks of using this yarn, as I mentioned before, is that the stripes are extremely long and the patterns provided by Caron are rather uninspired and boring (for me). I made up my own basic scarf pattern, or perhaps better said “pattern,” so if anyone wants to have a go at using the yarn in an alternative way, here’s what I did:

First of all, I thought long and hard about whether or not I felt like knitting or crocheting my scarf. I have some new interchangeable afghan crochet hooks so I opted for Tunisian crochet to play with my new toys. Using the interchangeable hook also allowed me to have a very long cable, so I could make the stripes run the length of the scarf instead of the way Caron yarns thinks it should be done. From here I chose a stitch pattern. I decided on Tunisian mesh stitch.

Using the hook size recommended on the yarn label (US H, or 5 mm), I stitched up a gauge of 3 stitches per inch. I wanted my scarf to be 70 inches long, so with a little third grade math I determined I needed the scarf to be 210 stitches long.

This is why there is no real pattern for making this scarf. I’m too lazy to write it up. All you do is buy a Caron Cake at Michaels and, using a size H afghan hook with an extra long cable, chain 210 and crochet Tunisian mesh stitch until you get to the beginning of the last color change in the yarn. Then, instead of binding off, just standard crochet half double crochet (British: half treble crochet) stitches all around the scarf making sure that you half double crochet three in each corner. You will be left with a yarn tail about 5″ long. All the yarn gets used up, basically.

If you want to learn how to do Tunisian mesh stitch, look no further than this video tutorial:

I suppose I should warn you that you will have to aggressively block this scarf when you finish crocheting it. Tunisian crochet just loves to curl up. The nice thing about it is that blocking will flatten it out very nicely and, since Caron Cakes are 80% acrylic, you can steam block it permanently. I have found that wet blocking the scarf first, and then steam blocking it after it has dried completely, is the best way to do this. I tried steam blocking it before washing it and it was too tedious a task to complete. A good washing and drying did the trick.

I wore the scarf this morning. It’s very warm and cozy.

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The thing I absolutely love about Tunisian mesh stitch: the right and wrong sides of it are completely different and pleasing to look at. The wrong side, in fact, looks like knitted garter stitch.

The above photos, as well as the one below, demonstrate that blocking the scarf will make it lie flat.

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Let the yarn do all the work

Last Friday I finished my mom’s shawlette or scarf or whatever the heck it should be called. It’s a Trillian by Martina Behm. As previously posted, I used Schoppel Laceball in the color way Rosa Träume. It was a very relaxing and mindless knit. In fact, I got a bit bored knitting it. Today I got a few nice photos of it outside despite the cloudy skies:

The striping effect is beautifully dramatic and I know my mom will love it. And now my Christmas knitting is complete! Tomorrow is December 1 so it’s time for me to get going on the Grinch-a-long.

A Trillian in Progress

So, last week I said that during the beginning-of-the-school-year rush I took some time for yarn shopping therapy. I bought a few skeins of sock yarn and quite a few skeins of lace weight yarn. Right now my favorite is this one by Schoppel I bought:

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The skeins, simply called “Lace Ball” are 800 meters of self-striping fun. This one in particular has a gradual stripe pattern that goes from bright pink to medium beige. I casted on a Trillian by Martina Behm for my mom a couple of weeks ago and so far here’s my progress:

I want to get this done in time for Christmas. Wish me luck!