May 6, 2006

Labor of Love

It's a blast from the past: Jason's Black Watch Plaid socks! You might recall that these were originally gifted at Christmas, but turned out to be a bit big. A "bit big" was a bit of an understatment, and I ended up re-knitting them entirely. I added some ribbing, knit them from the toe-up and, hey, they only took four months!


So why a labor of love? When both socks were finished a few weeks ago, I held them up and realized one was much wider than the other. How could that be? My knitting is crazy loose, but consistently so. Closer investigation revealed that I had knit the first sock in a 2x2 rib, and the second in a 3x1 rib. Idiot!

I was not about to rip out the entire second sock. Well, I could have, but it would have annoyed me so much that I would have had to banish them to the bottom of my pile of knitting until I forgave them (and by "them" I mean "myself"). Goodness knows how long they would have languished. So, I improvised. On the 3x1 sock, I went around and one at a time dropped every third stitch all the way back to the beginning of the rib. Then I used a crochet hook to pick up the stitch and turn it from a knit into a purl all the way back up to the cuff (toe-up, remember). Twelve times I did this, cursing my inattention to detail all the while. It was tedious and the dark yarn almost make me go blind, but it was he's worth it!

Posted by shannon at 10:19 AM | Comments (5) | For related posts: Christmas Knitting 2005, For Jason, Socks

April 3, 2006

be still my beating heart...

The fabulous, non-stop pretzel-eating, diva known as Syd in her Christmas sweater. (Before you ask, her mom said she wasn't wearing the denim skirt and matching legwarmers because it was just too cold that day for skirts!)

Posted by shannon at 3:16 PM | Comments (2) | For related posts: Christmas Knitting 2005, For Sydney

January 5, 2006

Christmas 2005: My One and Only

Isn't the variation between hanks amazing?

These socks were the one and only handknit gift I gave on Christmas Day. They're for Jason, made in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sport in the Black Watch colorway. Black Watch plaid* has a special place in our family's Christmas tradition. Many years ago, my mother gave the family Black Watch plaid flannel pajamas as Christmas Eve gifts -- naturally, we all wore them that very night. Ever since, everybody wears their Black Watch flannel pjs for Christmas morning.

Jason and I were already engaged last Christmas, so my mother bestowed upon him his very own pair of Black Watch flannel pajama bottoms. Since this was his first Christmas as an official member of the family, I wanted to add something else. I managed to knit these socks without him knowing (thanks to the Knitsmiths, my office's cafeteria, and an unusually long hair appointment the day before we left town for Christmas!), so he was really surprised.

Unfortunately, they turned out a bit big so they are currently being reworked. No matter. I've got a year before it's Black Watch time again!

*Here I shall digress. My family is Scottish and I spent a semester there in college, so I've accumulated some general knowledge about tartans and clans and the like. While I was knitting these socks at Knitsmiths, lots of people were curious about the term Black Watch and the more I explained the more questions they asked. So here's my general primer on the Black Watch and its plaid (tartan).
The traditional blue, green and black tartan of the Black Watch.

The last great Scottish revolt against England was in 1745. After the Scots were defeated, the English took steps to pacify the wild Scottish Highlands, where both tartans and rebellion were most prevelant. Highlanders were forbidden to bear arms or to wear tartans or kilts, though Scottish military units loyal to the crown were exempt from these laws. The Black Watch was just such a force; made up of local clansmen to police the Highlands on behalf of the British. A popular theory claims that the regimental name comes from the darkness of its tartan, but nobody's really sure.

It wasn't a good time to be a Scottish Highlander -- "pacification" efforts by the British were brutal and many were pushed off their land. It's a bit ironic that Black Watch plaid is so popular among Americans (LL Bean, Lands End), some of whom are Americans only because their Scottish ancestors fled the brutal repression and starvation of the post-1745 Highlands for the New World. (Not to mention that the Black Watch fought on the "wrong" side in the American Revolution!) In any event, I'd bet it's the easiest tartan to find these days -- certainly easier to find than my own family tartan (seen here as a part of our wedding decorations). And today's Black Watch, now formally known as the 3rd Battalion of The Royal Regiment of Scotland, is very different from its 18th century ancestor. It has distinguished itself fighting in both World Wars and keeping the peace in places like the Balkans. From what I can tell, they are currently either back in the UK or doing a six-month tour with the UN peacekeepers in Cyprus after two tours in Iraq. And that's the current state of my knowledge on the Black Watch!

Posted by shannon at 1:33 PM | Comments (1) | For related posts: Christmas Knitting 2005, For Jason, Socks

January 3, 2006

Christmas 2005: Last Things First, Vol. IV

When I said I would be done the Christmas wrap-up by January 1, I failed to anticipate that we would be so unplugged this weekend that I would scarcely think about blogging. So I've given myself a wee extension, and hope to be done by tomorrow. Speaking of wee...

What a Difference a Year Makes

Christmas 2004
Christmas 2005

You might remember that last year's Christmas knitting had an last-minute addition when baby Sydney arrived a little bit early and a lot bit tiny. This Christmas she's a rambunctious chunk of a girl who is in the 95th percentile for height. Oh, and she started walking at 11 months. But that doesn't mean she's too big to get a hand-knit sweater from Auntie Gringa!

This year Syd's mom, Rachel, put in a request for a brown sweater with a pink heart for Christmas. I took it on the honeymoon, and finished it with time and yarn to spare. I've always thought this sweater would look adorable with a little denim skirt, so when I was trying to think of an appropriate accessory to make with the extra yarn the answer was obvious...

...Leg Warmers

The leg warmers were easy-cheesy, I basically used a sleeve pattern and added some ribbing at the top and bottom. And they came out so dang cute that I had to make sure that she had the full outfit. It just so happened the BabyGap had a denim skirt on sale in her size.

Syd's Outfit.jpg
I can't wait to see pictures of her in this!

Posted by shannon at 1:17 PM | Comments (3) | For related posts: Christmas Knitting 2005, For Sydney, Roll-Neck Heart Sweater

December 30, 2005

Christmas 2005: Last Things First, Vol. III

You'll be relieved to hear that this entry marks the the halfway point of the Christmas knitting re-cap, and that my goal is to have it all wrapped up by January 1. Without further ado, then, let me tell you about...

Doc's Socks

Of everybody in Jason's family, his dad (aka, Doc) seems to be the one most fascinated by my knitting. He's a process guy, more likely to comment on the speed or prolificity of my knitting than on the final product. (Actual quote from his toast at our rehearsal dinner: "...and she knits for everybody in the family!" ) If he thinks I'm fast normally, he should have seen how quickly I churned these out:

Doc's Socks
3x1 ribbed socks in Lorna's Laces Worsted

When I went looking for sock yarn for Doc's Socks, I knew I wanted heavier than usual gauge. After quite a bit of fruitless searching, I found a plastic bag of Lorna's Laces Worsted in Charcoal hidden in the back of a low shelf at a LYS. It was a little heavier than I had initially wanted, but the browny-blackish color was just so perfect I couldn't resist. I bought two skeins (225 yards each), but hoped that I would only need one. I didn't want to make him too-short socks, after all.

I knit them on size 5s, and they just sailed. I barely remember knitting them, though that might have been the hypnotic trance I entered each time I laid my hands on that heavenly-soft yarn. Here's the best part -- when I finished the second sock a week before Christmas, I had a ton of yarn left over... from the first skein. Considering how fast the socks went, I evenly divided the remaining yarn in half, ripped both of the socks back to just before the heel began, and added at least three inches of sock to each one using half of the remaining yarn. Then I did the heels and feet again. And I still had plenty of time to give them to him for Christmas.

Picture 018
A very blurry picture, but the only one that shows that I
really did get two normal-size socks out of one skein of yarn!

Oh yes, I will be using this yarn again.

Posted by shannon at 4:25 PM | Comments (1) | For related posts: Christmas Knitting 2005, For Doc, Socks

December 29, 2005

Christmas 2005: Last Things First, Vol. II

Welcome to the second installation of Christmas gifts by Gringa, better known as...

Robbie Cleans Up

Picture 247
'It's Christmas. Spoil me, please!'

As the newest member of the clan, it's only right that Robbie made a killing for Christmas this year. When we made our 8-hour visit to New York on the 27th, his mom told us that they hadn't even had time to finish opening his gifts yet. Not to miss out on the fun, we added to his haul with a couple toys, and -- of course -- some knitted goods!

Robbie's mom Lauren loves sea turtles, and when she was expecting Robbie she painted his nursery blue and gave it a sea creatures theme. A few weeks after Robbie was born, I was flipping through a Patternworks catalog and found a felted turtle kit*. I'd long wanted to try felting, but since wool in most forms doesn't feel pleasant to me (see: wool allergies) I could never bring myself to make and felt a handbag that was meant to be carried close to the body. I know, I'm weird. Anyway, this was a perfect opportunity to felt something and to give a gift that I was sure would be well-received. And would you just look at these guys?

After felting, you just add some stuffing to make them squeezable and eyes to give them some personality. The pattern recommends buttons or googlie eyes, but since these turtles will be hands-on toys I decided to embroider the eyes to minimize the choking hazard. I knew they were a hit when Lauren threatened to keep one of them for herself!

Finally, I gave Robbie his definitely-not-a-Christmas gift. Remember when I swore that his blocks were definitely NOT coming back to Massachusetts with me from Thanksgiving? I busted my butt to get all of the pieces knit and blocked, and sewed them all together in time but the foam blocks that I'd had cut at the fabric store were crooked. It's difficult to get straight lines on such small pieces with a foam cutter, but these were particularly bad. And since Lauren had shown such genuine enthusiasm for these blocks since well before Robbie came along, I just couldn't have them being crooked. So they came back to Boston with me after all, and I got new (straight) foam cut. Almost five months to the day after he was born, I finally gave the little guy his blocks... and he promptly tried to shove the R block into his mouth. There's no greater compliment than that!

Picture 012

*It's actually a Felted Turtle & Starfish kit!

Posted by shannon at 2:54 PM | Comments (5) | For related posts: Christmas Knitting 2005, For Robbie, Robbie's Blocks

December 28, 2005

Christmas 2005: Last Things First, Part I

Finally, I can share my Christmas knitting with the world!

We had Christmas in two waves this year: first with my parents on Christmas Day, and then with Jason's family yesterday (the 27th) in New York. First let me tell you about the knitted things I gave away to the out-in-laws, starting with...

A Shawl for Shirley

Jason's mother, Shirley, made our huppah. In fact, she made a huppah for each of her three kids' weddings. Each one of them involved hours upon hours of consulting with the bride and groom, designing, hand-dying silk, and sewing. And though each one of them is a work of art, I'm partial to ours.


Obviously, by the time it was all said and done I wanted to knit Shirley something really special. I knew the Leaf Lace Shawl was the right pattern as soon as I saw it: leaves everywhere -- just like our huppah. And once the pattern was settled I knew it had to be red, since my fascination with the rich, brilliant red of autumn leaves was an inspiration when Shirley was designing the huppah.

What I don't know is why I settled on Kid Silk Haze (color: Liquer) for my first real attempt at a large lace project. I wanted to finish the shawl it in time for the wedding weekend in early October. Hypnotized by how quickly the first 30 or so rows went, I really thought I could do it. As the wedding drew nearer and the rows got longer, I grew more distractable and made more mistakes. Knitting mistakes are normally no big deal for me (just un-do and re-do!) but with the Kid Silk Haze? It's a beautiful, luxurious yarn that makes delightful, gauzy fabric -- but it's a b*tch to rip.

So I Did the Right Thing. I put the shawl down, and didn't come back to it until after the wedding when I could give it my full attention. And when I did, I became a compulsive life-line user, did away with all but the most necessary stitch markers, and printed out a bunch of copies of the lace chart that I could highlight (when I was working on a row) and cross off (when it was finished). In short, I became an enormous lace-knitting nerd.

And what do you know... it worked. Know what else? I now understand why knitters get so. excited. when they block their lace shawls. After a half hour with the water sprayer and blocking pins I discovered that inside the shapeless, tangle-prone mass I'd been wrestling with for two months, this had been hiding all along:

Two balls of Kid Silk Haze, and it's 60 inches across. No, really.
Leaf Lace Shawl on Chair
Bathed in sunlight
Leaf Lace Shawl
Clearer view of the red leaves

Shirley was pleasantly surprised to get the shawl, and immediately got the connection between the red leaves. I hope she enjoys it!

Pattern: Leaf Lace Shawl
Yarn: Two (!!) balls Kid Silk Haze (Liquer)
Lessons Learned

Posted by shannon at 4:05 PM | Comments (8) | For related posts: Christmas Knitting 2005, For Shirley

December 19, 2005

Take A(n Irish) Hike, Lazy Elves!

What do you do when the scarf you're knitting for your office's annual Yankee Swap isn't done in time? Easy, blame it on the elves!

Dearest Yankee Swap Recipient:

Due to the mediocre time management skills and general laziness of the elves assigned to knit this scarf for you, it is not quite finished. They have promised that if you give it to Shannon, she will see it is completed and returned to you in time for Christmas.

Please accept my sincerest apologies, and rest assured that the elves in question have been dealt with harshly.


What you can't see in the too-dark picture is that the note is tied to a half-finished Irish Hiking Scarf knit in Wool Ease. I chose Chestnut Heather, a sort of coppery-red, in an attempt to make it pleasing to either gender without being black, brown or green. It ended up in the hands of a new employee who was attending her first ever company holiday party and, accordingly, had none of the alcohol-related expectations I discussed last year. Perfect! She gave it back to me at the end of the swap on Thursday night, and I took it home to finish up over the weekend.

Jason was out most of the day on Saturday, and when he returned we suddenly had two Irish Hiking Scarves in the house.

Picture 011

He'd given the nurse he works with a ride home that afternoon, and she'd left her scarf behind. Though the picture is a bit blurry, her scarf (on the right) is a smaller-gauged version of the very scarf I'd just finished (on the left)! Failure to meet a deadline notwithstanding, I really enjoyed this pattern and can see why Irish Hiking Scarves are sweeping the knitting world this holiday season -- it's the old "knits-easy-but-looks-complicated" trick!

The elves made up for last week's indolence by really powering through some Christmas knitting and finishing over the weekend. In just a few more days when the gifts are distributed, I'll be able to share pictures and details!

Posted by shannon at 3:27 PM | Comments (3) | For related posts: Christmas Knitting 2005, Christmas Scarves

November 22, 2005

Like Mother...

Remember the Mommy sweater I knit for Jason's sister, Rachel? No? Let me jog your memory...

The rest of the story is here

You may also remember that Rachel is mommy to Syd, who despite being born at under four pounds is an adorable butterball as she approaches her first birthday. An adorable bald butterball, that is. Much to Rachel's chagrin, and despite the fact that she dresses her in the girliest of girly clothes, Syd is routinely referred to as "he" and "him" by strangers. (Rachel to a supermarket employee: "She's wearing a tutu for God's sake -- she's a GIRL.")


So is it any surprise that when Rachel decided that Syd needed a handknit sweater for Christmas, it would (1) involve a pink heart, and (2) incorporate Rachel's favorite color combo of pink and brown? The pattern is from Knitting for Baby and the yarn is the super-soft Cashmerino Aran. I had to make some adjustments for gauge difference, but the sweater went very fast (cast on in Granada, finished before we got to Seville!). The only thing keeping me from the seaming -- besides laziness, of course -- is trying to decide if the roll-neck is too long. I knit it exactly as long as the pattern calls for but it seems awfully bulky, especially for Syd, whose sensitivity to animal fibers is still an open question.

There's enough yarn left for an accessory, and I have just the thing in mind. I'll post it once I'm sure it's going to work -- but if it does, it's going to be so fabulous.

Posted by shannon at 11:52 AM | Comments (0) | For related posts: Christmas Knitting 2005, For Rachel, For Sydney, Long-Sleeved Chocolate Tee, Roll-Neck Heart Sweater