Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Ainsley’s Blankie

Ainsley is my niece. She turned three on Thursday last week. When my sister in law Noelle was pregnant, I hosted her baby shower. I thought it would be a neat idea to have everybody coming to her shower help to knit her a baby blankie. I sent a ball of Berroco Plush to each person and asked them to use a size 10 US needle, cast on 30 stitches and knit every row until they reached the end of the ball. Obviously, every person had a different gauge, so when I got back all 9 of the squares, they were pretty different in size. I took a ball of Plush Colors and crocheted the squares together. Not your typical perfectly square or rectangular blankie, but a really adorable freeform semi-square. And of course, Plush is THE softest yarn ever, and just perfect for babies. Noelle loved it.

Noelle was not a knitter. On one of her visits to Vermont during her pregnancy, I thought it would be a good idea to teach her to knit. It was on a busy Saturday in the wintertime, and I had her spend a couple of hours upstairs in the classroom with Barb. Barb taught her all of the basics. After the class, she bought some Plush in 6 or 7 different colors. She loved the blankie so much that she wanted to make another smaller one. Obviously Plush is not your basic beginner's yarn. I tried to get her to start with something like Cascade 220, or even Manos. But she wanted Plush. Each time she sat down to knit, she became frustrated with how slippery it was. And so that blankie never really materialized. Noelle, who WAS not a knitter then, IS not a knitter now.

Enter Ainsley, on May 25, 2003. The patchwork blanket we made her became her all time favorite. She took it everywhere, and so it needed a lot of washing. They followed my instructions – they washed it in a cold wash on gentle. I told them to air dry it, and only if needed, to put it in the dryer on air dry for several minutes. Somewhere along the line, as parents of toddlers often do, they became a little more lax with the washing instructions. The soft and cuddly blankie became a stiff and crunchy blankie. Did it meet up with some bad fabric softener? Did it get fried in the dryer? We’ll never know, but Ainsley still loves the blankie as she did when it was in its prime.

Last summer at our camp in Maine, I joked with Noelle. I asked her how the
Plush blankie was coming along. In a moment of weakness I offered to finish (well, start... and finish!) it for her. I felt awful for Ainsley - she was lovingly carting around a fried piece of nylon. I asked Noelle to send me the Plush, and I told her I'd knit the blankie for her. After all, it was summer, and I generally have a bit more free time in the summer.

My slow time came and went. Noelle didn't send me the
Plush until November. At that point, I was way too busy to knit the blankie. Her bag of Plush would resurface every month or so, as I was reorganizing my knitting projects. My knitting "corner" in the family room tends to grow and grow, and when it gets out of control I have to do a major reorganization. Each time I would find it, I'd feel guilty, and think... "Maybe I can get this done..." but, you know, it never happened.

Last week, just four days before her birthday, I pulled out the bag of
Plush. Kim, one of our sample knitters, had just finished a project. I asked her if she would whip up this blankie for me. Instead of doing patchwork, we did basic stripes. She cast on 105 stitches, and worked in stockinette until the end of the skein. She worked through 7 balls, and brought it in today. It is adorable, and yes, SOFT. I am sure Ainsley will love it, though she is used to the crunchy one now, so you never know.

I sent it to her in Maine and she will receive it tomorrow. She already received one birthday present, and though this one is a week late, I think it will be worth the wait. I included a note with all of the care instructions again. Hopefully this blankie meets with better fate than the other one.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Spring Flings

I’ve been busy lately . . . busy knitting, of course. It began in February, when I started to think about what classes I’d like to teach at the shop this spring. Bundled as I was at the time in lots of layers of wool, the idea of lace—light, airy—was particularly appealing, so I put together several classes based on lace. Of course, I had to knit the items first!

There was the lace shrug in Manos Cotton Stria from Cotton Collection 3:

And lacey socks from the Spring 2006 Interweave Knits. I liked these so much I did a pair in Rowan Wool Cotton and another in Rowan Cashsoft DK:

And a lace washcloth for first-time lace knitters in Saucy Sport:

Then my family decided to spend the kids’ April vacation in Florida—vacation knitting! And because I do not get along with airplanes, I decided to take the train (30 hours!) and meet them there, so that meant train knitting. And of course I wanted to spike my vacation wardrobe with a nice, colorful cotton sweater—pre-vacation knitting! Here’s what I chose:

A striped pullover in Saucy (though to be perfectly honest, I did not finish this in time to take to Florida. It would have been too warm, anyway, but is just perfect for our chilly spring here in Vermont).

For the train, I chose 7 colors of Koigu to make a simple rectangular garter stitch stole. It was very portable and required no pattern to read or remember while bouncing down the tracks.

I also took along several pairs of socks to work on in case I needed a break from the stole. I chose Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Steelhead, Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock in Lakeview, and Lang Jawoll Cotton in a nice tweedy teal.

For beach and pool knitting I wanted something that would be easy and cool to work with in the heat. A lacey shrug in Plymouth Royal Bamboo was just the ticket, and will make a great present for my sister’s birthday next week.

Next in the queue: two-color slipstitch mosaic socks in a Koigu handpaint and a Jawoll solid!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

We're getting a facelift!

Here's a preview of our new look. We have a long way to go - but the change is already pretty dramatic! Now we're not the 4th building on the right... we're the blue building on the right.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Felted Laptop Case

Every laptop deserves a cool carrying case, doesn't it?

I've loved the laptop case featured in Alterknits ever since we had it at the shop on a trunk show last month. Doesn't every laptop need a nice looking and functional case? This one is perfect - it can be made in three sizes. I'm making the medium. We have the small one on our website as a kit and it's been so popular! It is mindless knitting and I love the colors I'm working with: Lamb's Pride Worsted in Aubergine, Roasted Coffee, Raspberry and Bronze Patina. And with all the felting I've done in the past, I've never kept anything for myself, so this will be a first. (Note the great green gardening gloves in the back of the picture. My daylily transplanting that was scheduled for today was postponed. I was not in the mood for gardening in the rain.)

I do need to finish the Blue Sky Worsted vest. It is so adorable, and having seen a lot of the fall patterns, vests are going to be a big thing! The yarn is lovely to work with. The pattern calls for the back to be stockinette stitch and the front is obviously reverse stockinette with a gorgeous - yet simple - cable. We all agree that the whole thing should be reverse stockinette. Remember, just because a pattern tells you do something one way, doesn't mean you can't do it another way.