Monday, January 29, 2007

Ian's Chullo is Gifted!

Ian had a blast of a party and he loved the hat! Once again, send me any corrections or improvements on the pattern. Be sure to send photos of your own Ian's Chullo as well!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Playground Mittens

Last Updated Nov. 2008

As a mother of small children, I know that while mittens keep small hands warm, kids need their fingers available. It is hard for small fingers to zip jackets or tie shoes, and it is practically impossible to cross monkey bars with mittened hands. Most children solve this problem by simply removing their mittens, and this is how many mittens get lost. Moms have responded to this by threading mittens on string through coat sleeves, or clipping mittens to the wrists. I came up with a different solution. I started with a regular convertible mitten, but decided that it was too much bulk for tiny hands and too much effort for a busy preschooler. Playground mittens are mittens with a slit, so that kids can slip their fingers or even their entire hands out of their mittens without actually taking them off. Adding a flap keeps the palm completely covered for warmth without adding too much bulk.

Playground Mittens are a modification of any basic mitten pattern, for any size or gauge. I used Ann Budd’s The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns (Interweave Press, 2002) as my source, but any basic recipe would do*. At the end of this pattern is a list of links for such basic mitten patterns available online.

This is my first pattern, and while I have knitted it twice, it has not been test-knit by other knitters. Please feel free to contact me with errors and constructive suggestions, and send any pictures of finished Playground Mittens!

Playground Mittens, To fit sizes 4-6 years/about a 6” hand circumference
Gauge: 5 stitches = 1”
Finished mitten circumference = about 7”
5 dpns (US6 or whatever size to get correct gauge)
100 yds of worsted weight yarn (sample knitted with less than one skein of Noro Kureyon)
stitch markers
waste yarn
M1L: Left leaning raised increase: with left needle, lift strand between the needles from front to back. Knit this loop TBL.
M1R: Right leaning raised increase: with left needle, lift strand between needles from back to front. Knit this loop TBL.

Pattern for LEFT Mitten**:
First, knit the flap. CO 12 stitches. Using two dpns, knit back and forth in K2,P2 rib for 4 rows. Set aside completed flap on one dpn.
CO 32 stitches. Divide evenly over three dpns and join for working in the round, being sure not to twist your stitches. To make cuff, knit K2, P2 rib for 2”.
Switch to stockinette stitch and increase one stitch in the first round for 33 stitches.
Next, knit the thumb gusset:
To set up thumb gusset, K16 stitches, PM, M1L, K1, M1R, PM, knit to end of round. Knit two rounds even.
Then, knit gusset increase round as follows: K to first M, sl m, M1L, K to second m, M1R, sl M, knit to end.
Repeat the last 3 rnds until you have 9 gusset stitches between the markers, 41 stitches total.
On next round, place gusset stitches on waste yarn, remove markers, and CO1 stitch over gap using backward loop method, and place marker to mark the beginning of the round. 33 stitches total
Next, you'll make the slit in the palm of the mitten, and attach the flap.
K 2 rounds even. Next round, K2, bind of 12 stitches, knit to end of round. This forms the slit.
K2, then K12 flap stitches from the set-aside dpn over bound-off sts, K to end of round.
K even for 3”, then decrease 1 stitch evenly. 32 stitches.

Decrease for top of mitten as follows:
(K6, k2tog) to end.
K 1 round even.
(K5 k2tog) to end.
K 1 round
(k4, k2tog) to end.
K 1 round.
(k3, k2tog) to end.
K 1 round.
(k2 , k2tog) to end.
(K1, k2tog) to end.

Break yarn. Using darning needle, thread yarn through remaining stitches and pull to gather closed.

To finish thumb, take 9 stitches off waste yarn, and pick up 1 stitch from the gap. 10 stitches.
K 6 rounds even.
k2tog, K1 to last 4 stitches, k2tog, k2.
K 1 round.
K2 tog, K1.

Break yarn. Using darning needle, thread yarn through remaining stitches and pull to gather closed. Using darning needle, weave in all the ends. Pay special attention to tacking down the top edges of the flap to ensure a gapless fit.

**PLEASE NOTE: THESE MITTENS ARE NOT INTERCHANGEABLE. You must make a LEFT and RIGHT mitten. This pattern will make a LEFT mitten. In other words, you knit the flap with the thumb stitches facing to the left. To make the RIGHT mitten, simply reverse the placement of the flap on the second mitten by knitting the flap with the thumb stitches facing to the right.
This pattern is easily modified to fit your child or use any yarn. Simply estimate the number of stitches required for about 3/4 of the palm, and make your flap and slit accordingly.

*Other Basic Mitten Patterns:
Basic Cuff-Up Mitten from P2 Designs (.pdf)
Basic Four Needle Mitten Pattern from Knitlist
Generic Mitt Building Template from Knitty, Fall 2005

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ian's Chullo

This weekend found me puzzling over patterns trying to find something just right to knit for my dear little neighbor Ian who is turning one on Saturday. Something sporty. Something international (he's already been to the Alps for goodness sake!). And something warm since he is happiest when outside. But no pattern in my collection would do. This little guy needed a hat as unique as he is.

Since Ian has not received his present yet, our model is young David who is almost 2-years-old. He was not thrilled to be wearing this hat and thus, we have some blurry pictures. I will post pictures of Ian after Saturday. Enjoy the pattern and please send me any improvements, corrections, or comments about the pattern since it is my first!

Ian’s Chullo
Yarn: 1 skein of O-Wool Saffron [MC], 1 skein of O-Wool Oatmeal [CC]
Needles: US 6 circular needles, 16 inch and set of 5 US 6 double pointed needles
Notions: stitch marker, 2 stitch holders, crochet hook, tapestry needle

The pattern is written to fit a one-year-old – a 17 ½ inch diameter. You should be able to adjust the size by going up a needle size (medium) or by adding a pattern repeat (large).

19 sts / 25 rows = 4 inches in stockinette stitch

sl 2 tog k1 PSSO Decrease
: Slip two stitches together knitwise, knit the next stitch, pass the slipped stitches over. Execute this after the last pattern stitch on the right side of the chart. The knitted stitch in the decrease should always be in the MC.
Single Crochet Bind-Off: Insert crochet hook into next live stitch on needle as if to knit, yo hook and draw loop through stitch, remove stitch from needle, *leaving loop on hook, insert hook into next live stitch, yo hook and draw loop through stitch (2 loops on hook), remove stitch from needle, yo hook and draw through both loops; rep from * until all stitches are bound off.

CO 5 stitches in MC.
Begin Stockinette Stitch.
Make 2 stitches on each side of every right side row until you have 15 stitches.
Knit until earflap measures 3 inches. Break yarn and place stitches on holder.
Repeat for second earflap.

Hat Body
Using a cable cast on, CO 77 stitches in Contrasting Color.
Join for knitting in the round by slipping the first CO stitch from the right needle to the left needle and place marker on right needle. Purl this stitch together with the last CO stitch.
Purl 2 rounds.
Switch to MC. Knit 11 stitches.
Place earflap stitches on a double pointed needle and knit these stitches together with the next 15 stitches of the hat. (Make sure the right side of the earflap matches the right side of the hat.)
Knit 24 stitches.
Attach the left earflap as with the right.
Knit 11 stitches to finish the round.

Knit 5 rounds then follow colorwork chart one, making sure to keep an even tension while stranding the yarns. Alert! Knit Chart One as if the red line was not there. Begin the round from the far right side of the chart.
Knit in MC until hat measures 5 inches from CO edge.

Still in MC, decrease 4 stitches evenly (k17 k2tog, repeat).
Switch to CC. Knit 1 round, then purl 2 rounds.
Switch to MC, Knit 1 round.

Follow colorwork chart two using sl 2 tog k1 PSSO decrease (see notes).
When 8 stitches remain, k2tog around – 4 stitches remain.

Knit these 4 stitches as an i-cord for as long as desired.
Break yarn leaving a 6 inch tail. Thread a tapestry needle with the end, slip stitches from dpn onto the tapestry needles and draw together. Fasten off.

With 3 dpn, pick up and knit stitches along the right earflap in CC.
Purl the next row.
Using a crochet hook and the single crochet method (see notes), BO all stitches.
Attach earflap edging behind the CC brim of hat.
Repeat for the left earflap.
Weave in all ends and block well.
Begin round in Chart One on far right side. Ignore the red line and the words underneath. Doh!

Follow the Chart directions for where to begin the round for Chart Two -- begin at the red line. I'll try to correct Chart One ASAP!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

XRK Blogiversary Week

I don’t remember the exact first moment that I met Liz, but I do remember the first time we hung out with each other. We were new to Richmond and since I commuted to Williamsburg for work and the BackBou is a complete introvert, we hadn’t found a “tribe” close to home. Our dearest friend, Zen Camel, lived nearby and graciously offered up his people to us. So we hosted a Christmas dinner party for a group of people who had been enjoying ritual weekly dinners, laughter, tears, and inside jokes with each other for years.

We were such the outsiders. They tried to include us. We tried to get the jokes. I even tried to enjoy a CD of music from a show I had never heard of called “South Park.” And then the Playboy came out. A Playboy magazine in my house? Who brought this abomination into my hairy-legged feminist domain? Liz? Seeing that I was about to create a “situation,” the BackBou ushered me quickly into the kitchen and told me to breathe, breathe, breathe … it’s okay, the music will stop, the magazine is not ours, and the people will go home. We gave it a try, it didn’t work.

But the Camel and his tribe kept at us. We were hesitant and yet with every subsequent interaction, my resistance lowered. The disorientation of the Christmas dinner party dissolved into intrigue, enjoyment, and even comfort. We began to look forward to parties and events where we would see the Camel and his people. We discovered Mr. S’s deep love of food and keen sense of humor. We were entranced by Liz’s sharp wit and talent for telling stories. I remember trying to position myself close to her at parties so that I could just listen and laugh for the rest of the night.

Then Rosebud was born; Liz and I began seeing each other regularly at our neighborhood playgroup and at the library. I began to depend on her honesty, insight, humor, reverence … and irreverence. I found myself saying “I can’t wait to tell Liz about this!” almost every day. I knew her number by heart. Ever since I was a young child, and in love with the Anne of Green Gables series, I was alert for “kindred spirits.” I had found one in Liz.

The knitting came later, just three years ago. After watching Liz and Mo compare patterns and yarns at the library for so long, I thought, “If these wise, fun women love to knit, it must be a good thing.” What an incredible gift.

This blog began as an opportunity to nurture my friendship with Liz despite the miles that now separate us – a way of compensating for the loss that occurred when our daily dance of phone calls, playgrounds, and impromptu lunches abruptly ended. I also wanted to deepen my friendship with another kindred spirit, Mo – whose current life schedule never seems to mesh easily with mine now that we have elementary-aged children and all the extracurriculars that this entails.

I love remembering that Christmas party almost 10 years ago. I love recalling my sad certainty that Liz just wasn’t going to work out as a friend. I love how absolutely, completely, and brilliantly wrong I was.

*Stay tuned for more Blogiversary Week Posts with, steady yourself, free patterns!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

XRK First Blogiversary

Dear Ann and Mo,

I wanted to use our blogiversary post to share with you how much Crossroad Knits has meant to me over the last year. XRK came along about 6 months after I moved to Philadelphia. It was so hard to move away from you, and I realize now how bad I was at the goodbyes that Summer. There were the teary farewells over dinner or sitting on the front porch, but I was in serious denial about leaving you.

The two of you were my go-to friends, the people to whom I could tell anything, the people with whom I could be all-me. The first two people I called when my father died. The two people who shared my love of food and laughed their way through the ins and outs of motherhood along with me. I grew to truly love your children, and admire your families. I was most at-home with you. You watched me grow into motherhood, and we enjoyed the luxury of time when we were home with infants, without carpools and committees to keep us busy.

I knew that this kind of friendship was rare, and that I would not easily find another kindred spirit here, especially in the more anonymous and spread-out suburbs, especially as we moved out of our baby years and into the elementary era. I was afraid that time and distance would change our friendship to the point that it was unrecognizable. We had such a day-to-day life together: an impromptu lunch or chance meeting at the farmers market, standing beside our cars in the carpool line, or hooking up at Crossroads Coffee and Ice Cream with a kid in tow, to knit and chat during a stolen hour in a busy day. Once I left, those interactions were gone, and I grieved that dimension of my life deeply.

We talked a lot on the phone, and we've visited several times over the past 18 months, but it is this blog that keeps me in your lives on a day-to-day basis. I see pictures of you, so I know what your hair looks like now. I see pictures of the growing kids, and am reminded of their silly expressions or their unique personalities that they had, even as babies. I've been a part of your home-renovation project and know where you are volunteering. We e-mail or talk because we have "blog business" to discuss.

I love to see what you are knitting, and drink up every detail of your creative process. I love seeing what yarns you choose and projects you attempt. I have this gauge of how your life is going by studying your knitting (or lack of it). It has been a vehicle to rejuvenate my creativity, and a way to meet a wonderful community of knitters.

But XRK has been a gift to me because I feel like we are meeting for knitting and chatting at Crossroads again, stealing moments out of our busy lives, just because we're friends. It is because of XRK that I still have you in my life in this day-to-day way, despite the distance.

And so I thank you for taking on this project together with me. Mo, your great idea to start a blog together has meant more to me than just being able to visualize what you are knitting. It has meant a deepening of our friendships and has reassured me enough of its endurance to finally begin to feel at home here in Philadelphia.

Lots of love,

Friday, January 19, 2007


Spring has been teasing me.

And now I will tease you.

I finished the right hand of the Anemoi Mittens the past weekend. For some reason, casting on the left hand is taking me some bit of time. I will endeavor to have a complete, blocked set of mittens to show you all on Monday -- well, maybe Tuesday ...

Monday, January 15, 2007

Mr S's Arms

** Welcome, Yarnival readers! Thanks for stopping by our blog. Be sure to check back in a few days for shots of Mr. S in his finished sweater.

I have read enough blogs to have read countless posts where people complain about being stranded on Sleeve Island. The interminable dullness of sleeves. That boring sleeve-knitting that makes for boring knit-blogging.

I will hear none of it. I will not read with a sympathetic eye any longer for any knitter suffering through the sleeves of their latest project.

Not until you have knit sleeves for my husband. Two at once. With a K2,P3 rib pattern. For 22 inches. So make that 44 inches.

Mr S has unusually long arms. He has to buy his shirts one size too big to accomodate his almost simian arm length. His arms are as long as my inseam. I know I am petite, but I swear I just knit myself a pair of pants.

As I have plodded along the last few weeks, knitting along on the sleeves for Mr S's sweater, I have been thinking about his arms quite a bit. And I've been cursing them, wondering why in the world I ever complained about knitting him socks for his size 13 feet. Or why I bristle at making him gloves for his big hands. I've asked him several times how he would feel about a vest.

But as I sat to write this post, I thought about how disloyal it has been of me to curse these arms.

Mr S. takes after his late grandfather, a World War II fighter pilot with the longest arms and gentlest heart I have ever known. When Mr S's and my friendship bloomed into romance about a dozen years ago, I remember meeting the gracefully gangly Grandpa, and loving the sight of 6'5" Grandpa walking beside 5'0" Grandma. Mr. S has an old cardigan of Grandpa's, the only sweater with long-enough arms he owns.

His arms were the first to cradle our children with love, while I was strapped down on an operating table, or as with Rosebud, unconscious at the time of her birth. Those arms carried them both as newborns into our home for the first time.

His arms bore my father's casket, three years ago this week. His arms change my mother's light bulbs and clean her gutters and empty her attic. His arms have hoisted many a pint with friends, and usually wear one of his collection of vintage mechanical watches, his one and only indulgence, as he silently approves my many. His arms have helped countless friends move, painted dozens of rooms, and have fixed many things that I have broken.

Every Friday night, these arms provide me with the most soul-renewing moment of my week, our long, tight hug after the lighting of the Shabbat candles.

Knitting these sleeves was an arduous exercise in endurance, bourne out of love.

Sort of like marriage. And parenthood. And anything else worth the effort.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Cables Completed

Yippee! I have a FO to report. This is the V-Neck Vest from KnitSimple Fall 06. The yarn is Berroco Ultra Alpaca in the Redwood Mix (6281) color.
I have to recommend the yarn. It's just so soft and workable. Plus at about $8.95 a hank for 215 yards, it's a good deal.
I'm happy with the finished product, but as I reported earlier, I had some gauge problems. No matter what needle size I tried, I couldn't hit gauge. I didn't do any hardcore math, but based on some reasonable assumptions, I figured I could make the XS size and I'd be in good shape. I was almost right. The XS is still too big, but I can certainly live with it. I'm not positive, but I think my moss stitch doesn't behave the way it's supposed and leads to some super-sized garments.
Plus, I think I finally learned a lesson we all know, but sometimes ignore. If the design doesn't have waist shaping and looks big and boxy in the photo, that's probably the way it's going to look on the final product. If that's not a look you enjoy, make mods or move on.
Next up, more cables and maybe more vests!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Trying to get it right ...

The wind gods seem to be blowing good gauge vibes through some other knitter's home today. I've been casting on (and casting on) for Eunny's Anemoi Mittens (gorgeous!) but can't seem to get the cuff wide enough. It's almost there this last time around ...

But I will be frogging this and starting over. The good news is lots of other wonderful bloggers (like Carrie, Tiennie, and Knitty Gritty) have blogged their experiences. I think I may go with the Knitty Gritty approach (no, not try to block them while on the needles -- mine are wooden -- but I loved the chutzpa) and go up to a 3 then down again for the colorwork. I'm not sure yet. I've gone up to a US1 since the US0s were so crazy even Sunshine (that's R's new chosen nickname) said, "Mama! Stop, that's not right!" I'm knitting wth Wildfoote Vanilla and Blue Boy -- Blue Boy is my CC.

Meanwhile, I have the Spartan for my TV knitting (and you know I like my Ugly Betty, Grey's Anatomy nights!). That's right, the BackBou is getting another chance after the Aran Incident. It is going well in my Mission Fall 1824 from a great summer sale with Liz. I bought some O-Wool for the CC.

Both of these projects (even with the gauge issues of the mittens) are floating my boat right now. I can't wait for the long weekend and some intense knitting time! Before I sign off, I have to pass along this recent post from Brandon Eats -- it is an extremely fine piece of writing.

Monday, January 08, 2007


2007 has begun on something of a sour note here at the Northern HQ of XRK. The first FO, Fibertrends Felted Clogs, has been felted beyond an inch of its life, but yet still looks like a gaping maw of boiled wool around my foot, that is, when they aren't literally falling off. They just don't fit, and didn't felt right. It adds to the sting that the lovely-and-discontinued Big Kureyon used in its creation has been lost forever, unfroggably felted.


Lots of bloggers use this first week of January to post about their resolutions, or to post about why they don't resolve. I particularly loved Ann's last post, and her always-hopeful outlook on resolutions. I liked returning to resolutions. I liked setting goals. I was also deeply inspired by the StuntFamily's 2007 Word of the Year, especially after having a leisurely morning-into-afternoon with the amazing Stuntmother herself.

Lots of bloggers are committing to Knitting from their Stash. Not for me. I made peace with my stash through the SoSKAL. I'll knit from the stash, for sure. And I'll buy more yarn too. So there.

I considered making 2007 a year for lace, so I cast on Icarus. And managed to screw it up countless times.

I'm returning yet again to frog pond...thank God for lifelines.

Maybe I should make 2007 all about color. Lolly's beginning Project Spectrum 2.0, and the first PS was truly inspirational for me.

Keefely mittens. Way too big. Let's call it a swatch and start over.

The life-resolutions began to stack up too:
- eat more fruit and vegetables, more organic and local, less processed food
- wake up earlier
- listen more, talk less (don't laugh)
- make breakfast every morning for Mr S
- organize the family photos
- remodel the master bath
- more family adventures

And at the same time, I began adding obligations to the calendar, dates already committed. I got Rosebud and Pepe to school. I kept up with the groceries and the cleaning and the errands and the never-ending laundry. I contended with a three-year old son caught up between being a baby and being a big boy, all dissonance and disorganization, wanting the softie all day but wanting to cross the street without holding my hand. I wrote thank you notes and put away the fragile ornaments and fancy silver of Christmas. We changed banks and updated our insurance and planned home renovation projects. I ate more fruit.

All this left little time for much knitting. And with every project, I struggled.

As the to-do list became longer and the knitting became less and less satisfying, it became clear. I have enough responsibilities in my life. I don't want knitting to be another one, another category of obligation.

So in 2007, I will let knitting be the place for whimsy in my life. I will cast on whenever I feel like it, for whatever I want. I will finish. Or not. I will buy yarn when I want. I'll knit some socks. Some mittens. Some sweaters. I'll challenge myself, except when I crave the simple. I'll knit some gifts. I'll probably design a bit.

But I will not be responsible if I don't want to be. I don't want to achieve. I just want to knit.

Friday, January 05, 2007

A New Year for Knitting

I hereby resolve ...
I love New Year’s Resolutions. I think it’s great to have a time of year to reflect on current behavior and make a commitment, no matter how half-hearted, to further align my actions with The Big Picture. I almost always resolve to eat less and move more, be less judgmental and more compassionate, pick up a new skill, and meditate more. This year the new skill will be Scottish Country Dancing and I also resolve to see more live music – the BackBou and I have made a great start by purchasing tickets to see Gilberto Gil in March.

And now I will have Knitting Resolutions!

I hereby resolve in 2007 to …

Knit a toe-up sock
Take a drop spindle class
Knit a sweater for myself
Knit a lace shawl (even if I don’t ever wear it!)

Reasonable, no? I have lots of other desires for knitting in 2007 – ways to improve the stash and the knitting library – but the above seem like more respectable resolutions.

What are your knitting resolutions for 2007?

Meanwhile …

I knit up some mittens with that great yak yarn I found in my stocking. The BackBou acquired it at The Yarn Lounge sans ball band, so I will have to go in to find out more information about it.

Yak Attack!
Ann Budd Mitten Pattern

This yarn was so much fun to knit. I have some left over that I am going to use to trim a hat some day. I love the smell -- quite beastie -- and the lanolin (is it called that from a yak?) seasoned my wooden needles and my hands as I knit. I knit on US7s with a gauge of 3st/inch.

I’m out of town this weekend, but when I return … a look at a sweater in process for the BackBou and hopefully the beginnings of a “Head, Hands, and Heart” ensemble for the Richmond Waldorf School Auction (the first step are the mittens).

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Out with the Old, In with the New

Just a quick update on my final 2006 FOs.

Dasha's Playtime Pullover
Pattern: my own, with guidance from One Piece Knits That Fit by Margaret Hubert
Yarn: LionBrand WoolEase Sport, one 435 skein total

A quickie top-down raglan for my newly-adopted niece. It was a design-on-the-fly project with some guidance from an excellent vintage knitting book. It provides a great framework for your own inspiration. This book was recommended to me by the amazing Spiderwoman, who seems to have been M.I.A since the Fall. Anyone know where she is? I am officially worried, and would love someone to let me know she's OK.

This discontinued yarn (figures...) had lived in the stash since Spring 2005, and out of this enormous ball of sport-weight yarn, I got this whole sweater! Now, I am not usually a fan of the Lion Brand, but my brother and his wife are not a fan of the hand-wash or special-care item. And all in all, I am pleased with the soft, sturdy fabric the yarn created.

I also finished Playground Mittens, v. 2.0, but they need a bit more work before they are perfect (anyone know how to make a perfectly rounded mitten top?) I will be working up a tutorial for these kid-mittens in the next week or so, though.