Friday, April 3, 2015

I'll just design something... My Assemble Blanket - FO Friday

When my SIL and her husband announced that they were having a super-hero themed nursery, I immediately scooted over to Ravelry and searched for patterns with Marvel themes.  I didn't find much, and what I did find wasn't really conducive to what I wanted to do.  What I really wanted was a baby blanket and there were definitely none of those to be found.

I tried to adapt existing patterns to no avail, even cast on a hat pattern, but found it was so poorly written that it wasn't worth following.  I ripped back & wrote my own version of it, that wasn't nearly as confusing.  That will be coming to the blog & Ravelry soon as a free pattern.

After hours of searching, I sighed and thought, 'This is ridiculous.  I'll just design something and be done with it.'

Famous last words.

At least he likes it!

It all looks so cute & cuddly & easy like Sunday morning there.  But how we got there is a much longer story...

First consideration - I want to make a baby blanket.  With more than one color.

I didn't want to sew fabric onto the back, for fear it won't wash/wear like the knitting & pucker.  Also, I didn't own a sewing machine at the time.  The machine I had access to was a bit fussy & wasn't maintaining its tension properly.  After the daydream-turned-nightmare of knitting the whole thing twice because the sewing machine ate my knitting, I shelved that idea.

Also, I didn't want to have floats, even small ones, on the back of the blanket.  Babies have small fingers and they like to grab ahold of things & pull/squeeze them.  Not really conducive to colorwork.  Add that to the fact that I've never done intarsia successfully and that idea was also out.

Solution: Double Knitting. 

I'd never done any double knitting, but I'd seen it, seen the process and after about 30 minutes of watching various YouTube videos, I felt confident I could do it.  Also, I'd been wanting to knit this cowl for ages.  Knit the cowl as a practice garment to learn the theory*, design the charts, knit the blanket before the baby gets here in roughly two & a half months.  Doable, right?  I've knit a sweater in a month.  It's just a baby blanket.

Second consideration - Making circles is hard with knit stitches.

Baby lives in Atlanta, A.K.A. "Hot-lanta", so worsted weight wool is out, especially a double layer.  Cascade 220 Sport was the winner, meeting all the necessary criteria: affordable, accessible, washable, workhorse yarn available in a crazy number of colors. is awesome.  I spent a few weeks designing charts based on the ball band gauge, enough to get an idea of how much yarn I would need.  I tried all my LYS options - no 220 Sport.  The interwebs and a few back-to-school sales took care of that.

Custom handknit baby blanket - some assembly required
Note - this is WAY more yarn than is actually needed to knit this blanket. Oops!

Yarn in hand, my first task was to swatch in double knitting.  I tried the recommended needle size, a US 5-3.75mm, and then went down, down, down.  The closest I came to the recommended gauge was with a US 1-2.25mm needle.  And that wasn't making the row gauge.  When I put my actual gauge into, all my circles & shapes were wonky.

Back to the drawing board, I re-designed all my blanket squares for my real gauge and resigned myself to knitting an entire blanket in sport weight yarn, on SOCK needles.  (The upside here is that the ratio of my sport-weight squares is the same as common 18.5/4" for worsted, so these designs will do double duty. Silver lining?)

I told myself I could do it before baby arrived.  I had 2 and a half months.

Did I mention sport weight yarn on US 1-2.25mm needles?

Yeah.  That combo + tendonitis = lots of breaks between squares, sometimes breaks of a few days or weeks at a time while I worked on other things, giving my hands & brain a rest.

Ellie was tired of sharing me with my knitting.

Then the baby was born.  I told myself, have it done by Thanksgiving, when my in-laws were headed south to meet the baby.  I certainly wasn't going to mail this & risk it getting lost in transit!

The closer it got to Thanksgiving, the more I acknowledged that this was a slim possibility.  So then I told myself if the blanket was already going to be late, I at least wanted to be there when SIL & BIL opened it, so I could see their reactions.

I finished the knitting on 12/15 and blocked it on Christmas Eve.  Nearly 2100 yards of sport weight yarn on 2.25mm needles. 4 and a half months.  25 blanket squares plus crocheting for seaming.

Why yes, butterscotch 'beer' does help with finishing hand knits (it's non-alcoholic)

I must admit, it was pretty cool seeing them open it.  My BIL & SIL are very knit-worthy people:  by knit-worthy, I mean they are good people who appreciate the time and effort that goes into something handmade & show you that.  The look on my BIL's face was awesome - literally, he was in awe. They were both so appreciative, which truly is the best part of any gift knit!

copyright Donita Westman 2014

Bonus - once I started posting teaser photos on Twitter & Instagram (@inagaddadonita), my SIL told me that they bought crib sheets to match the colors in the pictures so the blanket would match his crib. 


*Irony - I still haven't finished the cowl...

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Donita 2015 - Q1 Check in!

Hi, my name is Donita and I have personal & crafting goals.  This year, my mantra is "More of what makes me happy."  I'm trying to choose my focus and hoping my mindset will follow.

The end of March means the end of Q1.  My mind likes clear boundaries of time (too many years spent on academic calendars, I suspect), so even though my job doesn't predispose the end of the quarter to have any significance at the moment, I still feel like I should tie something up and put a pretty bow on it.

So, my super broad goals were:
  • Not yet hit by any vehicles
    • So far, so good!! 
  • Resolve both legal matters from the last time(s) vehicle(s) hit me
    • HALLELUJUAH - ONE DOWN, ONE TO GO!! It was the lesser of the two, but any progress is welcome at this point!
  • Try yoga as the next phase of rehab from when vehicles hit me before
    • This hasn't happened yet, but not due to lack of desire... more lack of availability.
  • Walk more
    • Not as much as I would like, but walking has happened!  My Ellie was so happy to have her pack walking together, she could barely contain herself.
  • Knit more
  • Spin more
  • Design more
    • No progress on this front.
  • Get current design ideas on paper & published
    • None here either.
Work got in the way of life a little bit during the last 3 months, but that phase seems to be coming to an end (Thank God!).  Hopefully, this will allow me the time to get a jump on some of the things I haven't started to tackle yet.

As for the crafting goals, I made those a little more tangible for the year.
  • 20,000 yards in FOs worked
  • More sweaters in my sweater chest
  • Fewer languishing UFOs
  • More socks in my sock drawer
Here's where I am:

4,443 yards in FOs so far - 22% to goal and considering how many things I have progress on that I'm not counting, I'm confident this is doable.

11 FOs so far! All the links lead back to my Ravelry project pages, where you can see info about the patterns, yarns, needles & mods I used.

4 pairs of socks:

2 cowls:

1 shawl:

2 accessories

2 sweaters

I'm actually ahead on my sock goal.  With my progress so far this year, all my other goals have been incorporated!  I can't tell you how nice it was to get that Owls off the needles.  I still haven't even worn it yet - not even tried it on.  But it's done. (We're not speaking at the moment.  It's done but it's still metaphorically in time out.)

I currently have 9 active WIPs (works in progress).  There are 2 sweaters, 4 pairs of socks, 3 wraps/shawls and I'm about 3/4 of the way done with an 8 oz blend of wool/silk from Morro Fleece Works.  As if that wasn't enough, I've got 14 more on deck: 7 sweaters, 3 pairs of socks and 4 accessories.

If you want to see progress pics, follow me on Instagram @inagaddadonita - it's mostly pictures of my knitting, spinning and sewing, my dogs, and things I love like tea, Lo-lo bars, my favorite hippie products, etc...  And if that sounds like something you'd like to see, I'm your girl!