What's quick to make, has endless variations, and keeps your calves warm on bitter days?
The other day, my friend Kadie ordered Chinese and invited me and Robyn over for a little wine and catch-up. Robyn worked with us, but she moved to the city and found a downtown job last summer. It's always great to spend time with her for her jokes and great energy, but an extra bonus is her excellent taste in clothes. I was geeking out over the fantastic motif on her new sweater, and got a picture while she was catching us up.
We've been having a very cold January here in the Midwest, and my friend Dina asked for a headband to keep the snow out of her ears. I had just finished a hat that uses this stitch for a few rows, and I wanted to explore it a little more. I like the crocheted seed stitch effect. Textured crochet is popular right now, and I think this quick crochet headband is elegant and on trend.
Knitting sweaters for other people can be tricky, especially if they're not close enough for regular fittings. Fortunately, the trend of slouchy cardigans means I can make up a gift that will fit most without a lot of shaping.
I love making projects for my boyfriend, because he encourages me to craft. He says that it's cool that I'm always doing something with my hands, and I've never thought about it in such a nice way before. In my mind, I'm just putting fidgeting to a productive use. He's even stopped by our LYS and picked out some wild yarns for me - a silky bamboo blend, a crazy lime green and orange wool, and a lovely bright blue. I would have never chosen them, but I love working with them. Somehow, everything I buy myself is either neutral or purple. How fun to switch it up!
I usually knit with DK, but I tried Bulky and Super Bulky this season. I was pleasantly surprised! It feels so much more solid and cozy, I do understand why it's been so popular lately. I've been researching jumbo yarn, and looking for the right one to make a big floor pouf or blanket. After watching an instructional video by Broadwick Fibers, I learned that there are different levels of quality, and you want something that is spun together.
. If you're like me, you probably compulsively collect every free leaflet you see when you go to the yarn store. Of the dozens I've picked up and stuffed in my yarn drawer, I've only ever made one project, a pair of simple worsted weight knitted leg warmers. I did end up wearing the leg warmers a few times. I would have worn them more often, but unfortunately I had used a traditional bind off for the first one and then decided to use a stretchy bind off on the second. One leg warmer would constantly slip down and the other would be tight around the calf.
Sometimes I get too excited, and this keeps me from executing paired patterns the same way twice. The upside is that sometimes my results are more interesting or unique, if I don't make a globby mess. I give myself permission to be imperfect so that I can reap the therapeutic rewards without pressure. One good trick is using those magic techniques that let you knit two things at once. It's also great for those of us who have an inconsistent gauge at times.
I do want to share a happy silver lining to my sad leg warmer story. I wore them on one of the best trips I've been on, when my boyfriend and I went on a low-key weekend trip to Iowa. We ran with the big dogs at the Malamute rescue, befriended Alpacas, and speluncked at Maquoketa. I can't find the exact pattern online, but here is a similar free one.
If you've browsed Instagram or Pinterest lately, you may have picked up on these trends among knitters. Here they are listed starting from the least complicated going to the most ambitious.
The full title of Amy Palanjian's book is So Pretty! Crochet: Inspiration and Instructions for 24 Stylish Projects*. The introduction comes with a photo of a woman in a striking boxy fringed jacket. Sadly, the pattern for that jacket is not in this book. Below the photo, Palanjian writes, "The innovation in this one category of craft speaks to our growing need to balance our modern, busy lives with physical handiwork." She uses the five words "this one category of craft" to avoid writing "crochet" again. Her phrasing is often awkward as it is here, though I do strongly agree with her next sentence: "More and more of us feel a deep need to make things with our hands in order to feel grounded in the rest of our lives. It helps us to feel a sense of accomplishment - to calm our minds with deliberate (and often repetitive and soothing) work."
Then come the usual background chapters on types of threads, hooks, and notions to buy. I wonder if anyone who would buy a book of crochet patterns actually needs these guides, or if it's just tradition to include them?
The projects were designed by a collection of international artists, and are certainly unique. The cover's petal cap by Jessica Harrington drew me in, and is the only project I'll probably make. One of the oddest designs is a netting for rocks. I'm not sure who you could give it to, or where they would display it. Maybe rocks are a good going away present to someone leaving a beach town? Big points awarded for originality, though most of the dainty necklaces and buntings lack the warmth, timelessness, and solidity I look for in a project.
The collection as a whole is too quick, unfulfilling the promise of repetitive and soothing work from the introduction. Check out the book if you want a quick gift for the kind of person who really likes accessories.
*It was published in 2012, but a good pattern is perennial so a late review is still fair.
On a recent trip to Michael's, I overheard not one, but two, women complaining to clerks that the yarn they needed to finish their projects was out of stock. Hey, we've all been there. Sometimes I buy yarn just because it's on sale or has pretty colors without having a project in mind. Then, when I try to make knee socks, I only have enough to go mid-calf. Or I'll try to make a baby blanket and run out before I can add a scalloped edge. I have a bad habit of losing labels, so I can't find the same yarn even if it is in stock.
Ashley Little has some solid advice, or you could always just stop cold with a yarnless bindoff. Most times, I'll just switch colors like I did in the blue-edged blanket below. I wove in the matching ribbon and tied it with bows at the ends. It was a present for my cousin's second daughter on her second birthday, and she really liked it! Now my cousin is expecting a third, so I'll have to get at least another ball of yarn (maybe enough for a whole blanket).