People who know me know that I sit still badly. I have to have something in hand to do when waiting, watching TV (or listening to music), or while on planes or trains. Or on vacation. Nothing says vacation to me like sitting somewhere beautiful and taking in the scenery, abetted by needlework.
The past several weeks have been quite a rush, tumbling together major triage on our Pune apartment, pre-packing, relocating back to the US from India (sans The Resident Male, who follows next week); then having only a couple of days home to set things to partial rights, before heading out with the kids and a kid-friend for our annual week on Cape Cod. Now it’s pulling up the reins on our primary residence and getting it back under saddle, fixing two years of little annoyances, putting the cars back into full health and legal compliance, and the mother of all spring cleanings to dispatch the carnivorous dust bunnies now lurking in every corner.
So who has time for knitting? Well… I do. It’s mindless knitting, but it’s a comfort none the less.
I present Swirly – my own off-kilter take on the standard 10-stitch modular concept. Except that instead of one color, endlessly spiraling around itself in 10-stitch wide strips laid out in a base square, I’ve made some changes.
First, I’m using two yarns, one multicolor (Poems Sock), plus one variegated green (Zauberball), using a US #5 needle to make a light and airy garter stitch throw – a perfect “small something” to have on one’s lap while reading. For the record, both are machine washable/dry flat wool/nylon blend yarns, so laundering will be easy.
I started with the multi, working a 10-stitch wide strip, eyeballed for length. Then, leaving my active multicolor stitches on a holder, I worked a four-stitch wide strip of green around three sides of the multi. Then I put the green on the holder and switched back to the multicolor, working a short-rowed mitered corner, then two rows of plain garter, and another short-rowed mitered corner to establish one end of my center area. Then it was marching down the length of the green-outlined strip to the other end, working across the end (with mitered corners where appropriate). When I caught up to myself, I resumed the green, also mitering its mini-corners where needed. And I’ve kept going ever since.
What you see here is almost two balls of the Poems Sock, plus almost one Zauberball – all I had left in India, the last of the sock yarn stash I brought with me. When we got back to the US I managed to order more of each (lucky me – three more balls of multi, one more of the green!), so the blanket will continue to grow. As is, at this point, the thing is plenty big enough to be a baby blanket, so if anyone is looking for an unusual shower gift for parents who are not enamored of traditional pastels or sex-assigned color sets, 200 grams of multicolor sock yarn plus 100 grams of solid color are sufficient, provided no edging or supplemental finish is desired.
I’m not sure how big it will become. It will be done when I think it’s big enough. And I’m not sure how I will finish it off. The slip stitch selvedge edge stitches are a bit flabby to leave all on their own. I’ll either do I-cord all the way around, or invent (or find) a nice, simple edging to give it a more polished final appearance.
So far I’ve enjoyed this mindless bit of knitting immensely. I worked on it in the evenings while I was packing. I knit more on our flights back home. It was already large enough to cover my lap when we were stranded in Heathrow and spent the night perched on chairs in the main International ticketing hall. I kept going with it on the Cape, watching the tide march in and out, measuring the time intervals by garter stitch production. And I’m still working on it, relaxing with it on my favorite chair each night. (I missed that chair while we were away).
There’s no moral to the story here, other than suggesting that in uncertain and confused times, an anchor – even a soft fuzzy one – can keep one from drifting.
A quick bit of knitting to keep the fingers occupied.
Using some of the yarn I got during the Wild & Woolly’s close-out sale, I started an improvised modular blanket. I’ve seen lots of these on line, knit in small units with a double decrease providing the shaping. Some are worked in modular style as the piece grows so there is no seaming later, others are produced one unit at a time and then stitched into the final form. Because of the directionality and relatively small width of the individual squares, they can be used to show off a gradient, long repeat, or self striping yarn.
I’m not using a pattern, I’m just noodling this out as I go, knowing that others have done so before me. This isn’t invention, it’s reverse engineering on the fly.
I chose the simplest of shapes – the square. It’s fifteen stitches on a side, worked in garter stitch, with a center double decrease providing the fish-scale or tree-leaf spine. I also chose to use the modular knit-on style.
I started by making two single unit squares (the rightmost two on the bottom row). Then I made the dark top square just underneath the needle, starting it by picking up stitches along the top edges of the two established squares. Having established a diagonal direction of working, I then picked up half of the stitches to make the middle square on the right edge, casting on the remaining half. When I finished that one I broke the yarn and started another diagonal row of squares to the left of the finished ones. You can see that I’m mid-way through yet another diagonal run right now.
I’m using JC Brett Marble Chunky, a very soft all-acrylic that comes in large 200g/341 yard (312m) puffballs. It’s slightly reminiscent of Lion Homespun (also made in Turkey), but in nicer colors, and without the annoying thread binder that tortures Homespun into its crinkly shape. Marble is machine wash in cool water. I’d dry it flat to keep its texture.
I’m working on US #11 (8mm) needles in order to get a nice drape on the finished item. It’s a quick knit – about 15 minutes per square, so this should move along at a good clip. The yarn is interesting, with the shading of the two constituent plies meandering from rose to deep maroon, with side trips that introduce a little bit of orange and purple. I like the loft and texture of the finished garter stitch on the #11s. I had tried this on smaller needles (the label recommends 6mm – US #10, but the fabric was too stiff for a blanket, although adequate for a sweater). However, I am not fond of the yarn’s tendency to shred and split. It’s relatively softly spun, and needle tips – even massive #11 needle tips – catch on stray bits as I work. This makes ripping back difficult, especially on the center double decrease (slip 2 tog knitwise, k1, pass slipped stitches over). Still, the annoyance is mostly passed, now that I’ve decided on what to do with the stuff, and what size needles to use.
As usual, I’m bungee-jumping here. The particulars are being decided upon as I go. I’m not sure how big the final piece will be, or whether I’ll stick with the established pattern of squares throughout, or even how big this center area (if it ends up being just a center area) might be in relation to any framing or edging elements. I may add edge triangles to norm the zig-zag sides, then do something else for an edging. There are several possibilities once the thing is a nice, even rectangle:
- A couple of rounds of concentric I-cord, or perhaps double I-cord
- Another round of some type of modular units
- Narrow strips knit perpendicular to the blanket’s body, so that the yarn’s gradients show well, probably with mitered corners, just for fun.
- Some kind of edging that uses garter texture and diagonals, to echo what will be happening in the center area.
Why a blanket now, and not continued work on the lace-in-process? Well first, new yarn burns a hole in one’s pocket with an urge to cast on SOMETHING. Of the yarns I’ve gotten at the sale, this is the only project that would be quick enough to complete before my return to India, and all of the yarns I’ve gotten are too massy to fit into my luggage. Also, aside from three warm days, it’s been rather cool here for spring in Massachusetts. A nice, cozy throw just appealed to me.
Finally, the last point of pondering… ANOTHER blanket? Who’s going to get this one? Younger Daughter has piped up, so it may end up being hers.