Last year, my good friend Tara started learning to knit. (Pick it back up, lady!) Her husband wanted to get her some knitting “stuff” for her birthday and wondered if I had any ideas. Oh man, of course I did! I’ve been knitting for a long time and have built up quite the array of tools to choose from, but here are some of my favorites.
These are the best darning needles and the little case they come in is very helpful to prevent the immediate loss of said best needles.
2. Chart keeper
This is the best tool to keep things straight when knitting lace or colorwork from a chart. You attach the chart with magnets and use other magnets to keep your place. When you are using it, it stands up like a little easel, making it easy to check your place often. It folds in half, keeping everything nice and secure, for when you want to take your projects on the go.
These are my favorite stitch markers, especially the smaller ones included in this package. I find stiff stitch markers to be annoying, but these are pliable and allow you to transfer them from one needle to the other with ease.
I use both this physical counter and an app on my phone, depending on what project I’m working on and whether or not I have any physical counters left. This clicky type is way better than those where you have to turn the small dials and comes with a lock to prevent it from getting clicked when you put it in your bag. You can also use it for other things. Gavin used one to count his running laps when he lived in Chicago.
Interchangeable circular needles forever! I stubbornly love DPNs but for everything else, give me a circular needle – no straights! These are my favorite because the points are very sharp, the cables are extra-bendy, and the metal tips are super slick. I hate wood needles, but these do also come in various colors of laminated birch for those who prefer something stickier. I’ve had my set for about seven years with no problems.
I had to leave this Harvest cardigan at home during our trip to Colorado, but before we left I got a lot done! It’s going quickly – I’m almost to the bottom and then will just have the sleeves to finish.
I’m reading Murder on the Orient Express, my first Agatha Christie novel. As part of getting ready for our trip, I loaded a ton of library books onto my Kindle. That way no matter how long we’re stuck somewhere, I have enough to read without having to carry anything heavy. I’m sold! On our trip, I also read As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley, Run by Ann Patchett, and Upstairs at the White House by J.B. West. And I finished The Prodigal You Love by Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble, which was sitting unfinished with just part of the last chapter to go. Lots of reading!
In December I decided I needed a big, bulky, cream-colored cowl and spent several hours perusing all of the cowls in my queue and favorites on Ravelry. I wanted something simple and preferably knitted in the round. I wound up choosing the Annie Cowl, which is knit flat, but still met all of my other criteria.
I knit it up in some Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Bulky in Bare that’s been in my stash forever.
This VERY simple (maybe a little too simple) cowl knit up very quickly over the holidays, but it took me a few days to get around to blocking and finishing it.
I’m happy with the finished project. In a neutral it goes with just about everything and is very warm, which has been great the past few weeks as we’ve actually gotten some winter weather mixed in with a lovely spring.
I’m getting started on a selfish knitting project and it’s time for serious sweater swatching. For small or non-garment items I often just start and use that as a swatch (I’m lazy!), but sweaters require the proper swatching and washing and blocking and measuring. Time consuming, but I know worth it. I’m hoping my gauge will work out and I can start on a Harvest cardigan.
One of my reading goals for 2016 is to reread more of my favorite books after almost two years of only reading books for the first time. So I’m rereading Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin, which is an interesting read about habits and types of people. I pretty much love any book that categorizes people so this is right up my alley.
The Killer of Little Shepherds is about a serial killer and the start of forensic science in France. I read The Poisoner’s Handbook last year which is a very similar book about the birth of forensic science in America, so it’s been interesting to compare them.
When I ordered this Knit Picks Hawthorne during the Big Sale in 2014, I knew that it was destined for Gavin. Seeing this hat, the Blue Star Beanie, in the right weight, for the right variegation of yarn, just sitting in my ravelry library was all I needed to finish my planning.
Knitting it though, was a test of will. I asked Gavin if he would like a longer brim so he could fold it up, and of course he said yes. Plus it’s 3×3 rib, which I meant that it wasn’t as natural to me as 2×2 rib and required more focus during the most boring slog. I didn’t like the increase round to ready for the cable pattern and I missed the (fairly hidden) direction to shift the start of the round by one stitch so I wasn’t happy with the way the stitch pattern was lining up with the ribbing. And I always find knitting cables tedious even though the finished pieces are some of my favorites.
If I were to knit it again, there are a lot of changes I would make. I’d knit the ribbing as the full number of stitches for the hat, but on smaller needles, and keep my modification of knitting a longer brim for folding. Then I’d increase my needle size instead of increasing the number of stitches. And I’d make sure that I lined everything up.
BUT. The hat is nice.
It’s a nice change of pace from grey hats and I think the light weight will be nice for Gavin to wear this spring. When you fold up the brim, you can’t tell that the stitches don’t line up properly. Plus that’s a detail only I (or maybe another knitter) would notice.
So: the hat is nice. Knitting it wasn’t. It’s done, and I’m happy.
After making it a third of the way through the cable chart and realizing I had made a really visible mistake, this hat went into time-out for a little while. Gavin frogged it for me (isn’t he nice?) back to the ribbing and I started again. being more careful about which side of the hat my working yarn was on! The rest of the hat was completed without a hitch.
The decreases look a little funky when the hat is flat, but it looks fine on so all is well.
I have to say that Knitpicks line of Swish yarns is one of my favorites. All of my projects in it (like the mitts for my grandpa, my red and grey Winkel-Winken hat, and more!) seem so delightfully squishy and the fact that it’s machine washable and soft makes it great for gift knitting.
Here’s to many more grey hats in the future!
I can finally share all of my Christmas knitting with you! I had to keep things secret for so long.
First, I knit my granddad two pairs of fingerless mitts. You saw the first pair as a WIP. He was always wearing work gloves in the house, so I thought these might still help him keep warm but have more functionality. I went stash-diving for some neutral colors in a superwash yarn and found Knitpicks Swish DK in Persimmon Heather, Lemongrass Heather, and Grain Heather.
The orange and yellow ones are Paddle from tincanknits. They have a gloriously long cuff, which would make them great for wearing with a coat. No problems with the mitten-coat gap here! I knit these in a size large, but entirely on size 3 DPNs to get a sturdier fabric.
The green and yellow ones are Bird’s Eye Mittens from the book Knitting for Him. I accidentally knit two right mittens, but honestly couldn’t tell a difference so I didn’t frog. I knit them in the round because seaming is the worst.
Next, I knit my aunt (for her December birthday, technically) a hat and fingerless mitts set – the Kilkenny Tam and Kilkenny Mitts. We’re all about being Irish, so anything cabled is a good bet. My mom helped me pick the pattern and advised me to leave the pompom off the top. I used some Wool of the Andes Worsted Weight in Tidepool Heather.
While I am happy with the finished products, I wasn’t in love with the mechanics of either pattern, especially the mitts. I would not recommend that they be your first pair!
Finally, I knit my mom a Selbu Modern. I tricked her into picking the pattern by asking her for advice on what I should knit for my aunt. I’m not sure I actually fooled her (we’re both pretty Sherlock-y) but the finished product is so lovely I don’t think it matters. For this I used Knitpicks Palette in Tidepool Heather and Cream. I logged a lot of time watching Murdoch Mysteries on Netflix while knitting this since the stranded colorwork took a long time to get situated for perfect tension, meaning it wasn’t worth picking up in spare moments, only for marathons.
Happy New Year to you and your family and I hope you’re still enjoying the Christmas season!
I’m knitting some Paddle fingerless mitts as a Christmas present for my granddad. I’m using some stash yarn I’ve had for a long time: Swish DK in Persimmon Heather and Grain Heather. I knit the whole thing on size 3 DPNs since switching to the recommended size 5 made a) a very loose fabric and b) a giant mitt, even for a man. I’m much happier with the results on the smaller needles.
I started reading Ready Player One last night on Gavin’s recommendation. He recently finished the audiobook, but I wasn’t convinced until I saw Modern Mrs. Darcy’s post on books she had to be talked into reading, which included Ready Player One. So I put it on hold at the library and here we are. So far I am really enjoying it!
I often joke with Gavin that he would be happy if I never knit him anything but grey hats. Well, here’s #5.
I’m knitting a Graffiti Hat for him, size large, using two shades of Knit Picks Swish Worsted: Cobblestone Heather and Dove Heather. The first hat I ever knit Gavin was in this darker shade of Swish. I had him go on a scavenger hunt for it in my apartment in Wisconsin. That hat was lost many years ago, and I never got a proper photo of it, but it’s part of my memories of our long-distance times.
I won this pattern as a knit-a-long (KAL) prize from the Designed in Canada group on ravelry. So far, I’m really enjoying knitting it. I think watching those cables stretch themselves over the stripes is going to be addicting. I’m going to post it in the new Colorwork KALs group, whose first KAL is anything with stripes. This certainly fits the bill!
I started Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie this week. I’m really enjoying it and find it to be very thought-provoking. It’s not quite as compelling a read as Me Before You by Jojo Moyes which I finished earlier this week (and hated the end of…) but is still definitely a book I can’t wait to read more of.
I got to the end of the heel increases on his socks and found that they were MUCH too large for his feet, so some frogging is in my future. Boo. At least they’re great TV knitting and easily read. Gavin requested a princess sole (reverse stockinette) on this pair and I wasn’t quite sure how to handle the toe. I left it as normal, so they look a little funny when they’re not on his feet. Oh well.
I’m loving the twisted stitches without using a cable needle on my socks though, at least now that I’ve found my rhythm! They’re quite a fun knit, with enough action to be interesting and enough plain knit stitches to not make me throw them down in disgust: a rare combination indeed.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog is quietly funny and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I recently finished The Elephant Keepers’ Children so I’m apparently on a kick of reading translated books with a teen narrator and bizarre parents.