Holiday Compatible Knitting

No, I’m not going to write about holiday-rushed knitting. That post may yet come, but not quite yet. Rather, I’m thinking about knitting projects that are compatible with the holidays. Specifically, holiday visits.

I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year, which means my in-laws are flying in tonight and my parent and kids will join us for the festivities. We’ve got several days’ worth of fun activities planned, and I can count on having at least some time to knit, particularly when everyone’s recovering from food comas and we’re watching football. So, never mind what’s to eat. What’s to knit? I rifled through my knitting basket and surveyed my options.

Well, there’s Meteliza.

Meteliza progress

Meteliza isn’t terribly difficult, as far as Orenburg lace goes, but I do have to follow a chart. Chart-following can be difficult if I’m trying to do that and have a two-way conversation about Great Aunt Whatshername’s various ailments. So, Meteliza is fine to have on hand when things are quiet, but it’s not completely holiday compatible.

Then, there’s the Norwegian star hat.

Star Hat progress

Like Meteliza, it has a chart. Not a hard chart, but a chart nonetheless. Plus, I’m about ready to do the crown decreases, so this is going to be off the needles pretty soon. It’s fine for football-watching, but if a conversation becomes too involved, I’ve got to put this one down.

And then there’s the sock:

Nob Hill progress

A nice plain vanilla sock, this is holiday compatible, for sure, right up until I have to turn the heel. At that point, I’ll need more football, less conversation.

So, with those projects all in varying degrees of holiday incompatibility, I decided to cast on a super-simple shawl:

Twizzle Weigh It started

This is Susan B. Anderson’s Yowza Weigh-it Shawl pattern, only I’m knitting it up in Mountain Colors Twizzle in Thunderstorm rather than the yarn called for in the pattern. Ridiculously simple, plus it’s fun yarn. I can knit on this when I get to the heel-turning part of my sock, and never miss a beat about Great Aunt Whatshername.

With that problem solved, I turned my attention to another knitting dilemma: what to knit during an upcoming weekend car trip. I can start with the Norwegian star hat, but it’ll probably be finished when we’re 100 miles from the nearest yarn store. I need something else. Meteliza is a little fiddly for car knitting. And although socks tend to be everyone else’s favorite travel project, I tend to drop DPNs, so I keep sock projects tucked away when I’m in cars or airplanes. Instead, I decided to cast on Pretty Thing in some alpaca I’ve been anxious to get on the needles:

Alpaca PT started

This will be my third Pretty Thing, and the first one I’ve knit that’s for me. It’s a fairly simple pattern that I can knit on car-compatible circulars.

And with all that resolved, I can cook and bake tomorrow, knowing that I’ve got some good knitting projects on the needles that won’t interfere with our conversations.

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Super Freaky-Fast Super Bulky

I’m staring down the toothy maw of the holidays, and I’m starting to panic, but just a little. This weekend was to be a quiet time in which I could do some prep work for Thanksgiving and even Christmas, because the guys were supposed to go camping with the Scouts. The campout was cancelled due to extreme cold, so instead of having me a nice, quiet prep weekend, I ended up with quite the opposite when my husband decided to invite over several dozen people from Scouts for a party — sort of a consolation for not going camping. While the result was fun, I’ve gotten no prep done and now I have exactly one weekend betwixt me and Thanksgiving, and about all the time from Thanksgiving through New Year’s is spoken for.

All of which makes it even more crazy that I decided to cast on yet another project in the midst of all the pre-holiday rush. Last year, I made this super-bulky weight shawl from Imperial Yarn Native Twist in Teal. It’s casual and blankety, just like I wanted.

Easy Teal Shawl 2

I ended up with almost an entire skein of yarn left over. I debated making matching mitts, which is my favorite thing to do with yarn left over from shawl-making, but tabled the idea, because by the time I’d gotten around to it, spring was getting on and the last thing I wanted to do was to hold heavy, wool yarn in my hands as the weather warmed.

Fast-forward to now, and with an arctic cold front bearing down on us, keeping high temperatures in the single digits (Fahrenheit, so I’m being serious here), I decided that a quickie, warm project was in order.  In three knitting sessions, I had me a pair of mitts:

Bulky Teal Mitts

 

The pattern is Leftover Mitts.

 

They were on and off the needles before I even knew it, and now I have mitts to go with my shawl:

Mitts and Scarf

I don’t use super-bulky yarn that often, and this project made me question that practice.  I should probably keep a few skeins of super-bulky around for those times when I need an instant-gratification project for personal sanity or for a last-minute gift.

Ordinarily, I’d cast on another project to celebrate, keeping with my on-the-needles, off-the-needles rhythm. But these aren’t ordinary times. I really want to finish Chris’s sweater by Christmas, and the only way I’m going to eke out the knitter-hours between now and then is to knuckle down and knit that last sleeve. There’ll be plenty of time to give into startitis beginning on December 26th.

 

 

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Easy Come, Easy Go

My son wandered over to where I was sitting, quietly frogging a sock. “Are you taking out that whole thing?” he asked, surprised.

“Yes, I am,” I answered calmly. “There was so much wrong with it that it would never be useful, so I’m taking it all out and will re-do it.”

“Gee,” he responded, “if Dad and I had to re-do that much work on one of the cars, we’d be swearing and stuff.”

“Well, I was pretty upset last night when I realized this sock wasn’t going to work, but I’ve figured out what I need to do differently this time. It’s best that I just unravel the work and get started again while I’m in a decent frame of mind.” Chris wandered back to the garage where he and his dad were working.

I sat there, alternately frogging and re-winding the yarn, thinking about our conversation. Although I’d been somewhat upset at the thought of frogging over eight knitter-hours’ worth of work, I wasn’t terribly surprised at that outcome. Much of my knitting is experimental in nature, and this sock was no exception. Sometimes, my experiments work out and I wind up with a nice finished article and new skills, to boot. There are lots of times, however, when they don’t. When I am faced with a failed experiment, I try to collect all the data I can from it and adjust for my next attempt, or determine that I need to go an entirely different direction. Every project teaches me something, if I just stop and listen.

This was my very first sock. I’ve been knitting for nearly 20 years, and have never made socks, for reasons which deserve (and will get) their own blog post. So: first sock. What could possibly go wrong?

I decided on some plain and simple socks, so I pulled out the Yarn Harlot’s book, Knitting Rules, knit up a gauge swatch, and cast on, using her cheat sheet. Sixty-four stitches would yield and 8-inch sock. Fine, I thought. They’ll fit somebody.

IMG_1642

Yarn: Hawthorne by Knit Picks, colorway Nob Hill.

I knit and knit and knit, finally getting to the heel flap, which I duly knitted into a square, then turned it, and picked up the stitches for the gussets. In my zeal to begin the decreases, I read the directions for the decreases, and didn’t see the all-important following information: “knit every other row plain.” I was off and running, decreasing every single row.

Only when the decreases were done did I see that second line of the directions. I debated what to do. I considered leaving it as-is and then trying the sock on to see how screwed up the foot would be with the steeper gussets. I thought about ripping out the gussets and picking up the stitches.

IMG_1641

Really, that would have been the best solution, if the rest of the sock had gone well. I decided it hadn’t. I measured the sock. Eight inches in circumference, just as it should be. But it looked too large for any of the women in my family. While we all have just about 8-inch legs, the sock, I feared, would droop, as it really needed some negative ease. It probably needed to be about a 7-inch sock for any of my petite folk.

Then, I looked at the fast-decreasing ball of yarn. Did I even have enough for a second sock? I weighed it, and the sock-in-progress. The answer? Probably not. I’d probably run out of yarn after the gussets on the second sock.

I considered my options. Either find a one-legged woman with a largish, odd-shaped foot, give up altogether, or frog the thing and start over smaller. Smaller would get me socks that would fit someone in the family and I’d have enough yarn to eke out a pair.

I held the sock for a good while, turning it over and examining it from every angle, as thoughts turned over in my mind. I’d learned a lot from this project. I learned that socks do make good purse projects. I learned that I liked this particular sock yarn. I learned that the sock could have done with a bit of ankle shaping, and I know how to do that for Take 2. I learned that turning a heel is no scarier than short-row shaping for a shawl. I learned that picking up stitches for gussets is even easier than picking up stitches for the neckline of a sweater. And I learned (and alas, not for the first time) to read, read, read the directions all the way through.

Hoping that Take 2 is going to work out better:

IMG_1651

 

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