Progress on caps; digression about baby blankets

posted in: Knitting | 1

While I was lying low with a cold, I started knitting baby caps for Caps to the Capitol. My knitting time is usually spent testing and editing patterns, or exploring techniques that I am curious about that ultimately end up as part of the publishing and/or writing worlds I inhabit.

It’s been nice to knit these caps. They’re sure fast! On a trip to Denver on Wednesday for a meeting of the Colorado Authors’ League, I made four. I now have a total of twelve, all knitted from leftover yarn: four peach variegated, four brown variegated, and four in shades of blue, mostly solid with a little variegation thrown in.

20061028_caps2crop_1

I’ve also gotten past "charge the battery" on using this camera, although I don’t have any sense of control over the quality of the images yet. The bear is a friend of the family who lives on our couch. Technically, it belongs to my daughter, but I get to enjoy it, too.

My cap process is this: I cast on
and knit the ribbing for one cap, then move it to the larger needle and
cast on for a second cap on the smaller needle, using a different ball of yarn. I can choose between
stockinette (on the larger needle) or ribbing (on the smaller),
depending on whim. That, and the different colors, keeps the process a bit
more interesting that it might be otherwise and I’m churning out caps without paying much attention.

The brown and peach variegated yarns originally came into my possession because I was designing baby blankets for a collection that Leisure Arts put together to accompany Debbie Macomber’s novel The Shop on Blossom Street. (There’s also a collection to go with Debbie’s other knitting-related title, A Good Yarn, but I concentrated on the baby blankets.)

The deadline was tight and pieces had to be made with yarns made by companies that were members of the Craft Yarn Council of America. Each pattern only needed to be represented by a swatch, sketch, and instructions, not a completed item. I still had to buy all the yarns to swatch with, of course!  I designed four projects in as many weeks (in addition to regular work), three of which were chosen for the final collection. Other people, recruited by Leisure Arts, knitted the sample blankets that are shown in the publication.

Each blanket coordinated with a character in the book. Along with the
regular material, I sent in descriptions of how and why a character had
knitted each blanket (each selected blanket got associated in print
with the "right" character, although the stories in the book aren’t the
ones I sent).

For this blanket, I set myself the challenge of designing a fabric that used two variegated yarns and looked good. Just to see if I could. I was thinking about young knitters and the appeal of variegated yarn and what a kick it could be to watch two different ones changing colors throughout the work. Of course, it would be really easy to produce something that looked awful from yarns that look cool by themselves.

Whatever I came up with needed to be simple to knit, too.

I chose two variegated yarns that I thought would have enough contrast to "read" consistently as dark and light in a pattern. I ended up using Barbara Walker’s "Bricks" pattern (A Treasury of Knitting Patterns, page 62 in my edition and probably also in the new edition, called A First Treasury of Knitting Patterns).

There’s only one color in each row.

Leisure Arts called this one "Alix’s Chocolate Petits Fours." I don’t remember whether I did, too. I might have. I’ve lost my files (hard-drive crash). Here’s the version I knitted later, because I felt very unfinished about the projects, having only taken them to the point where they were ready to knit:

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Although one yarn is "light" and one is "dark," the lightest color in the dark yarn and the darkest color in the light yarn are almost identical. When these bits coincided, they produced interesting effects that didn’t destroy the design because they didn’t last long.

The project looks a whole lot more complex than it is! The same is true of the other two designs of mine that are in this publication.

One that they called "Lydia’s Lacy Blocks" used a bulky, fuzzy yarn—a pseudo-mohair. The original was a sea-green color (I don’t like typical "baby" colors), although it’s shown in the book in pale yellow. The pattern was Barbara Walker’s "Lace Check" (also from the first Treasury, page 191 in my edition). The trickiest part was getting the simple border (of 3-stitch by 4-row blocks) to line up with the inside pattern so that the instructions would be simple and everything would come out even at the end. This is an easy introduction to lace.

The blanket in this set that was the biggest kick to design was called "A Lesson on Color" by the time it got into print. It uses four BRILLIANT tones of a sport-weight microfiber yarn: purple, lime, turquoise, and coral. The pattern, called "Tilting Blocks," is from Walker’s A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns. I worked it with the plain blocks in stockinette (Walker shows it with garter blocks and mentions the stockinette option).

What’s cool about this pattern is that the lace blocks are worked with different types of decreases that pull the fabric in alternating directions, so that both lace and stockinette blocks look like they are set at different angles and all the outside edges end up zigzagged. Crochet around the finished piece and you’ve got what looks like a scalloped edging on all four sides.

I don’t even have the swatches to show, of course. And the only full blanket I knitted was the first, made after the deadlines were all past.

And now its remainders are turning into baby caps. Four each from the blanket’s two partial leftover variegated skeins.

The designing of those blankets was great fun. Knitting the caps is more satisfying. I might need to knit the other two blankets start-to-finish some time, just to complete the thought process with action.

The fourth blanket I designed? They didn’t include it, and I know why. I used the brown variegated yarn, worked in a texture that felt to me like tree bark only of course soft, and finished it with a border of chenille-like dark green. It felt very woodsy. I thought it was fun, but it would not have photographed well. And it was perhaps a too oddly colored for a baby blanket! Although I think some babies would love it.

Designing it did get me thinking along the lines that led to the blanket shown above.

I still have leftover dark green yarn, of course, because all I knitted with it was a large swatch.

I wonder whether it would make a nice baby cap? Or four?

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One Response

  1. Donna Druchunas

    Bummer, what interesting Colorado Author’s League event did I miss on Wednesday? I doubt I could have made it anyway, but I thought I was on some kind of mailing list from them….

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