Sunday, January 8, 2017

Knitting for winter.

January is the perfect time to get some knitting in, if you're so inclined. It's usually cold (in the Northern Hemisphere), so just stepping outside provides a vivid illustration of the worth of the craft -- as well as a reminder about the projects you should have gotten to before the mercury dropped so precipitously.

I did get one cold-weather thing done: this hat. (Sorry for the frowny face. I was trying to get a good shot of the button and kind of forgot to smile.) The yarn was an impulse buy at the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival last fall. It's by Shalimar Yarns and it's superwash merino, cashmere, and silk: cuddly and warm. It's also bulky weight, which is thicker than regular worsted weight yarn, which means the project knits up quicker. Anyway, the colorway, Skyline Drive, was created by Shalimar for the festival, and I liked it a lot. I also happened to have that big moon button, so I stuck it on the hat.

After I started wearing the heck out of the hat, I thought about how nice it would be to have a cowl in the same yarn. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough left. Fortunately, my daughter Amy had bought a skein, and she gifted it to me at Yule. (Thanks, Amy!)

This is where my poor planning comes in. I didn't cast on for the cowl until tonight. It's supposed to be really cold again tomorrow, and I won't have this done. But I've made progress, as you can see, and I'll definitely have it done for later in the winter. (That's Mr. Wommy in the background. People on Ravelry often post photos of their work together with their cats, and people who don't have cats sometimes ask why we get our cats to pose with our work. What they don't understand is that there's no coercion involved; the cats simply show up.)

Under the cowl, and to the right, you can see my other work-in-progress: a Wrought Iron shawl, which I referred to on Facebook yesterday as the Endless Colorwork Shawl of WTF Was I Thinking. It's a long rectangle -- 320 non-repeating rows -- and I'm almost half done. The "non-repeating" part is important; with a lot of knitting patterns, once you've done a few repeats, muscle memory takes over and you can watch TV or even have a conversation while you knit. With no repeats, you have to concentrate all the time. I can't tell you how many rows I've had to rip out when I've gotten to the end and realized I miscounted somewhere along the way. In other words, it's slow going.

It's also slow going because I'm doing both continental and English knitting in the same project. These terms refer to the way the stitch is made. Most people learn to knit English style, which is where you hold both the yarn and the working needle in your right hand; you stick the needle through the old stitch and wrap the yarn around the tip of the needle to form the new stitch. I, however, learned to knit continental style, in which you hold the working needle in your right hand, but the yarn in your left hand; you make a stitch by poking the needle through the old stitch and catching the yarn with its tip. I find that continental style gives me more control over the tension on my yarn. But I have a relatively new problem with English style: I'm flexing my right wrist a lot, and it's causing my carpal tunnel syndrome to flare up. Yesterday I did ten rows on the ECSofWTFWIT, and this morning I needed ibuprofen for my right hand.

And then, too, the directions call for knitting the shawl in a long tube; when the colorwork is done, I'm to cut the tube open and add a border all around. I've done the technique before, but it just adds another layer of complexity. Bottom line: It will be a while before this project is done, but it's going to be beautiful.

Compared to all that, the Oak Park was a piece of cake. The pattern is by Laura Aylor, and the design reminds me of the Eden Prairie shawl I made a few years ago -- although this one is more Mondrian than Frank Lloyd Wright. You can make it as either a scarf or a cowl; I opted for the cowl. It turned out well, as you can see, but it's wider than the other cowls I've made, and I need to figure out how best to arrange it when I wear it. The Mondrian-like blocks kind of lose their impact when they're all bunched up around my neck. But I may wear it tomorrow, even though it doesn't match my hat. It's going to be cold!

These moments of chilly knitting blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

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