Monday, June 7, 2010

Baby Who Sweater

One of the members of my broad-minded knitting group (includes an awful lot of quilters for a knitting group) is hugely pregnant. We only meet once a month and don't get a chance to see much of each other in between, so it took us a while to wake up to this fact. Once we did, though, we were pretty quick on the uptake. Hey, wait a minute, we knit (or quilt or whatever)! We could make her something!

To get a little extra time, we delayed our next scheduled meeting by a week on a flimsy but plausible pretext -- hoping she wouldn't surprise us by having an early baby -- and got to work. So, now to pick a project.

Our mom-to-be is a happy-spirited sock-knitter with a boisterous color sense. The colors in this cocktail napkin are in the ballpark, though there aren't enough of them and the whole effect is a little too quiet. (That should give you an idea!) I knew pale baby pastels were not for her. She and her husband had also chosen to be surprised, so there were no clues as to the pink-ness or blue-ness of the imminent arrival.

I wanted to make a little sweater, and after a quick mental inventory, I was certain there was nothing in the house to fit the bill. It needed to be colorful, washable, and worsted weight -- for speed of knitting! And I didn't have time for ordering on-line. I found myself near a new local yarn shop with a few spare minutes and dived in to see what I could find.

After a brief mental dalliance with some wildly colored (but not machine washable) Manos yarn, I came upon a basket of Mochi Plus, from Crystal Palace Yarns. It was a merino-nylon blend. *So* soft, washable, not babyish, and worsted weight. Clearly a winner. Though it wasn't violently bright in color, it had nice long-transition colorways. I picked out three different ones and hoped for the best.

Rooting around for worsted-weight baby patterns, I came up with Jimmy's Baby Gift Sweater Set from the nice people at Jimmy Beans Wool. It's a little top-down raglan that's perfect for multi-colored yarn. And, a great advantage when you're in a rush, no seams to sew! (It couldn't save me from buttons, since I did want to do a cardigan, but you can't have everything.) I needed to make the larger, 1-year-old, size, given the exuberant bloom of our sock-knitting mom-to-be. It was cutting things close, with the 285 yards of yarn I had, but looked like it could be done.

I puzzled for a while over how to combine the three colorways and decided to knit wide stripes of each in sequence. Though I wasn't sure how it would look, I needed to get started, and fast. It turns out that knitting a small sweater in a variety of pretty striping yarns is lots of fun and went quickly. And the wide stripe sequence of the three colorways worked beautifully.

As with most projects, I made a few adjustments. I replaced the garter-stitch hem and cuffs with ribbed ones, which seemed to live more comfortably within the gradually striping colors. I changed the neckband and button-band to mainly reverse-stockinette welts.

Knitting the cuffs at first as written, I thought they looked a little small for chubby baby fists. So I redid them adding a few extra stitches to the wrists.

I couldn't resist picking out some extra bright sections of yarn and using them for contrast color-tipping on all the cast-off edges. And I found some bright shiny red buttons.

I got the little sweater done in the nick of time, sewing on the last of the buttons at midnight the night before our knitting group meeting. It was a rushy evening entirely, what with getting a cake, finding suitable wrapping and card, and finishing a little sweater, but it did all get done.

And we did surprise her. I think I even saw some brimming eyes, before she blinked it away. Our little group came through beautifully, with a pile of handmade goods. A wildly colored pompom-adorned knit hat. A crib quilt and quilted diaper bag. A crocheted beanie. Sweet little appliqued t-shirts.

And a pretty fine-looking baby sweater. :)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Heat Exhaustion?

Hey, I thought they said wool breathes when it's hot! That's what these little guys must have been thinking. Their mouths are hanging open a little, as they try to keep cool in the shade.

The Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival was a scorcher this year. Each year, I hope for cool weather, so everyone can wear something hand-knit. But, once again, in gentle early May, the festival happened to fall upon a very hot weekend.

Late as I am in checking in here after the festival, I'll just blame it on the heat. And, incidentally, I do still make things. There are even some finished objects to show you, but I'll get to that next time.

So, casting my mind now back again to early May.... I tried to take a restrained approach to the festival this year, as I really am trying not to continue accumulating supplies faster than I can use them. Beautiful they may be, but logic says to have faith that, when the time finally comes that I truly have space for more, there will still be plenty of beautiful things to find.

The fleece sale challenged my fortitude, I have to admit, especially since I'd just taken a class on how to choose a good fleece. I wandered around in there for a while examining fleeces, appreciating their color and crimp, looking at the differences among the breeds of wool. But still I managed to restrain myself.

And I consciously managed my MDSW visit a little differently than in years past. I limited my strolling time to a couple of hours, and I focused on some of the events that I normally just go right on past, in my haste to trot from one vendor to the next. Also, as I now have a very portable spinning wheel, I brought it along in hopes of joining the evening Spin-In .

I stopped to watch and enjoy the kids (human) visiting the kids (baby goats from Kid Hollow Farm).

Look at those tiny little horns sprouting. and the ringlets of soft baby mohair. They're just adorable, aren't they?

I spent a little time taking in the sheep-herding demonstration, watching the expert dogs and their human handlers, and the obedient sheep, spooked into compliance .

I wandered over to see what was going on at the auction. Everything from boxes of magazines to spinning equipment was being disposed of with swift efficiency.

Of course I visited the vendors. It just wouldn't make sense to be there for that awe-inspiring assemblage and utterly pass it by. But I kept my acquisitions to quite a modest level. A couple of quarter-pound bags of fiber and some beeswax candles. Just enough to feel I'd partaken of the feast.

The fiber, from Misty Mountain Farm, is awfully pretty, too. In the foreground is Polwarth top, in a colorway called Forest Moss. In the background is super-fine Merino in Raspberry, a color I just seem to keep coming back to.

So, I still shopped and bought a little, but I tried not to make it such a central focus of my trip. Heck, if I keep this up, maybe one day I'll make it over to see the sheep-to-shawl competition. I've always meant to, but have been too busy loading up on supplies and inspiration.

Once the sun went down and the festival closed for the day, I retrieved Miss Muffet from the car and found my way to the Dining Hall (blessedly air-conditioned) for the evening Spin-In. There were about 65 like-minded souls there, spinning and chatting happily away, with wheels and spindles. There were two wonderful women serving as ringleaders and camp-counselors. They organized door-prize drawings, puzzles, and silly competitions. We had timed spinning races for distance, blindfolded, and with plastic bags on our hands. The latter two were, remarkably, not nearly as hard as one might think. In fact, I turned out to be something of a plastic-bag-hands specialist. That was the competition I came closest to winning. And there was a very entertaining 11-year-old boy challenging everyone to see who could make a spindle spin the longest.

It was fun enjoying the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival this year in a different way. I might do it again next time.... unless I can use up all the wool and yarn I have around the house by then. :)