Today this blog is six years old. SIX! I can’t believe how far back it seems when I impulsively got a Typepad account, and stuck with it all these years. I’ve often toyed with the idea of stopping, partly from blog-fatigue or too much work, but always continued because it was a lot of fun. I’ve just picked up the needles again after yet another excruciatingly long summer and cast on for a hundred different things. But this anniversary, it’s time for a change. I haven’t updated in a while anyway, and the anniversary is as good a time as any to sign off with a flourish!
I’m not tired or bored with the blogging – although baby and full time work have heavily truncated my knitting and blogging time. Instead, I’m moving to a new blog and location. Here is a link to Dhaage Dore, my new Marathi blog. This blog not only kept me sane when I was in the US academy, but also put me in touch with some wonderful people from all over the world. I am very thankful for these enduring relationships. But one of the best things I have learned through Desiknitter is the ability and freedom to effortlessly write on mundane matters, on anything and everything that comes to mind, away from the refuge of academese. And yet, I like to think that it has also improved my academic writing, making it less turgid and jargon-dependent. As I write more and more in Marathi, I hope to do the same with it on the new blog – it will be a place to bring together my scattered Marathi writings from here and there on this and that, to explore workable idioms for narratives of different sorts, and continue my crafting adventures in a new vein. “Dhaage dore,” after all, is “threads and strands.”
If you read Marathi, do hop over to give me feedback. Even if you don’t, there will still be pictures of knitting, food and travel as always! I hope you will continue to vist and say hi. Thank you, as always, gentle readers, for your encouragement and fellowship over these years.
(These are Regia self-striping socks, toe-up, with 10 stitches magic cast on and 44 stitches total….and the baby is nine months old, trying desperately to let go of my hand and walk by himself.)
On a long (but duronto!) rail journey across the country, watching the sashaying bogies from the window as the train went along a curve, it was most appropriate that I was knitting a cotton train of sorts myself:
Pattern:Caterpillar by Kimberly Chapman Gauge: 5 spi / 6spi for the navy Needle: size 4 US (3.5 mm) dpns for the blue and purple balls, and 1 US (2.25 mm) dpns for the navy ball, and the applied I-cord edging Yarn: Leftover little balls of cotton yarn, I’m not really sure what brands they were.
This is the simplest, quickest toy to make – cast on, join in the round, increase a few times, knit straight for a few rows, decrease equal number of times, stuff, repeat, and decrease all the way down in the last one. You can adapt it to any gauge, and also stuff as you go to see how large you want it. You can add or subtract the number of balls. You can even change the needles to keep to a similar size if you use different-weight yarns, as I did. I also ditched the legs and just made two I-cord antennae and sewed on eyes. Thank you, Kimberly Chapman, for a great free pattern, and lots of inspiration!
Nilu and M are already best friends. He is just learning to turn on to his side and fall on his tummy, and wraps himself around the toy, koala-bear style, as he does it. Generally, he seems to like long, tubular toys, so my mind is abuzz with pattern ideas for similar shapes. In the meantime, I hope Nilu is durable and patient, because it looks like he is going to get some rough treatment in the coming weeks.
There’s an Amigurumi knitalong/crochetalong going on over at the South Asian Crafters group on Ravelry, with folks making lots and lots of really neat little toys. Most of them so far are crocheted, but I decided to make a knitted toy I have wanted to make for a long time: Ruth Homrighaus’s brilliant Sheldon the Turtle.
I don’t know how it happened, since I used thinner yarn and tinier needles than the pattern called for, but my turtle, somehow, has a much bigger head and stumpier legs compared to its body and shell, and looks rather like a wannabe tyrannosaurus:
This is my first knitted toy, hopefully the first of many. This particular one had a lot of small parts, lots of different techniques and a LOT of finishing, some of which I botched and had to redo several times, but it’s a very detailed and carefully drafted pattern (not surprising since Ruth is an editor!) so it was not difficult to figure out. A second Sheldon will be a lot easier. The applied I-cord edging was easy once I actually tried it out, but getting it to look neat and elegant will take more than the two tries I gave it.
Pattern: Sheldon the Turtle Gauge: I didn’t measure Needle: size 1 US, 2.25 mm dpns, and size 4 dpns for the applied I-cord edging Yarn: Elann Esprit, approx half a skein each in brown and off-white.
1. A cotton/elastic yarn is probably not the best yarn for a stuffed toy because no matter how tight the gauge, the stuffing does have a tendency to show through the stretchy fabric.
2. Finishing is not my forte. I don’t mind a round of crochet and weaving in of ends, even picking up stitches for a neckline, or buttonband. Zippers are probably the outer limit of my adventurousness with such things. Crochet, a lot of sewing, applied-Icord, stuffing, and weaving in of ends was, therefore, quite the uphill trek. Totally worth the view at the end, as it were, but still.
3. In these small, somewhat complicated techniques, it’s best to follow the instructions closely. Like starting to stuff the body when it says you should, rather than waiting till the end when the opening is too small.
4. I need to figure out a way to make the neck stuffing firmer. No matter what I did, or how many times I restuffed it, Sheldon’s neck is like a stereotypically shy bride’s, a bit downcast.
5. I dispensed with the plastic eyes, and embroidered them on with the off-white CC instead. Just in case M takes to the toy, and wants to chew on it sometime.
He is still rather suspicious of Sheldon, but who knows? They might be friends in the future.
Thanks for all your comments on the Syllable Vest! The excitement of making things for M is also making me try out new patterns of my own, however simple in look and construction. Here is another one, made hurriedly during a trip to the hills where it was a lot cooler than I had expected:
It’s a cardiganized version of the “seamless hybrid” pattern – a mix of a saddle shoulder and raglan – from Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitting Without Tears, sized for a 6-9 month old baby, with some stitch detail. I worked it from memory, since I didn’t have my copy of the book with me, but it worked out alright, except that in this baby size, the saddle ends up rather short. I worked two small 2-stitch twists into the sleeve pattern extending into the saddle shoulder, one twisting right and the other left, hence the “Doubletwist” name.
I have written out a rough pattern below mostly for me to remember what I did this time round – I’d like to make another version of this, because this one turned out rather sloppy at the end. I tried to “kill” the acrylic into shape by wetting and ironing the patterned buttonband. But a moment’s distraction while the iron was hot meant I held it on the right buttonband for too long. Thanks to the slipped stitch at the edge, the band got overstretched, and now gapes at least a couple of inches longer than its counterpart. It doesn’t matter so much since there are only 3 buttons, but those too look gapey and unsightly.
Doubletwist Cardigan Quick Notes:
Pattern: Improvised cardigan based on EZ’s Seamless Hybrid. Needles: Size 4 bamboo circular. Gauge: 6 spi. Yarn: Vardhaman acrylic (approx 3 skeins). Size: To fit baby 6-9 months.
Finished Dimensions: Chest – 20″; Total length: 11″, Armhole depth: 4″
LT: Knit two stitches together as if to SSK. Pull yarn through both stitches, but before dropping them off the left needle, knit into the first stitch once more, then drop both stitches off together. RT: Knit two stitches together as if to K2tog, Pull yarn through both stitches, but before dropping them off the left needle, knit into the first stitch once more, then drop both stitches off together.
Sleeves (2): C0 38. K2, p2 for 10 rows.
Setup Row (RS): K 14, p2, k2, p2, k2, p2, k 14.
All WS rows: knit stitches as they appear.
Next row: k14, p2, LT, p2, RT, p2, k14.
Knit 7 more rows as established.
Next row and every 6th row hereafter, inc 1 stitch each at both ends of the row.
Continue till you have a total of 50 stitches on the needle.
Knit 7 more rows even after the last increase row.
Cut yarn. Put the first and last three stitches on each sleeve on a piece of waste yarn, and set sleeves aside.
Body: CO 126 st.
K2, p2 for 10 rows.
Setup Row (RS): Sl1, k1, p2, k2, p2, k110, p2, k2, p2, k2.
All WS rows: sl1, knit the rest of the stitches as they appear.
Next row: Sl1, k1, p2, RT, p2, k110, p2, LT, p2, k2.
Knit as established till work measures 6 inches total.
Join body and sleeves:
RS: K2, YO, p2 (for first buttonhole) knit 25 in patt, put next 6 st on waste yarn, join and knit across right sleeve, k 56 st of body, put next 6 st on waste yarn, join and knit across right sleeve, k29 of body in patt.
Work one row even in patt.
Next row: Work 26 st in patt (right front), pm, SSK, k2, pm, k2tog, work 38 st in patt (right sleeve), pm, SSK, k2, pm, k2tog, work 49 st in patt, (back) pm, SSK, k2, pm, k2tog, work 38 st in patt (left sleeve), pm, SSK, k2, pm, k2tog, work 26 st in patt (left front).
Next row: work even in patt.
Repeat these two rows this way, working in patt to the 3 stitches before the markers, and working the raglan decreases on the RS, for a total of 24 rows (48 st decreased total). IMP: Remember to work buttonholes at the beginning of every 10th or 12th RS row.
Work 32 st in patt, SSK, turn work.
Sl 1, work next 14 st in patt, k2tog. Turn work.
Continue joining right shoulder saddle stitches to the front and back stitches in this way, till you reach the right front pattern button band. Cut yarn.
Repeat for left saddle. Neck: Work 8 rows in patt.
Put on baby, who is happy wearing it with or without a perfect buttonband!
The mercury has been hovering around 40 deg celcius (104 F) the last few days. Even nighttime temperatures have been in the 20s. So the idea of a sweater in any yarn or material, let alone wool or alpaca, is quite simply madness. But the combination of a new tiny person to knit for, a knitting addiction, stir-craziness and spare yarn lying around beats even this rotten heat. So when a longish train journey in an A/C compartment and a visit to a slightly cooler place loomed on the horizon, I whipped up this vest for my baby.
The first syllable of his name is maa (plus that’s who is knitting the sweater for him, get it? get it?), so I adapted it in a stylised motif from the scripts of two of the three Indian languages spoken in our family. The first (the front) is in Bangla, and the second (the back) is in Kannada:
Actually, it can be reversible too: the buttons and shoulder opening, and the V and round necks just change sides. I created a chart for the motifs in Excel, and worked it from there. (I couldn’t figure out how to get the gridlines of the graph to show in the saved file – does anyone know how?) I thought of calling it the Maa Vest, but that sounded too much like Baa Baa Black Sheep, or Paa, yet another of those Amitabh-Abhishek starrer films that I couldn’t bring myself to watch. So “Syllable Vest” it is – I liked charting the letters enough to contemplate charting other letters and syllables for future versions of the pattern. My mother has already asked me to chart M in Marathi and English for one she wants to knit.
I really like the sideways opening of the popular Pebble Vest, but wanted to make something that would stretch a bit and fit him until this winter at least. So I knit a band of ribbing at the sides, and at the shoulders, and made it a bit long. It’s 19 inches, unstretched, across the chest, but stretches a good two inches.
Syllable Vest Notes:
Pattern: My own, inspired by the Pebble Vest. Needles: Size 6 straights. Gauge: 5 spi. Yarn: Harrisville Designs New England Highland (approx 1 skein), and some Indiecita Alpaca worsted, used doubled, approx 3/4 of a skein. In general, you need about 300 yards, 200 in the main colour, and about 100 in the contrast. Also, 5 black buttons, which are not ideal, but which will do. Size: To fit baby 6-12 months. Finished Dimensions: Chest – 19″, can stretch about 2″; Total length: 10.5″, Armhole depth: 3.5″.
Syllable Vest Notes: Body:
1. Cast on 102 st in MC, knit 2×2 ribbing for 10 rows, with CC at rows 5&6.
2. Remember to start buttonhole at beginning of row 3, and every 12th row thereafter.
3. Setup row at row 11: k2,p2,k2,p2, k38, p2,k2p2,k2,p2, k38, p2,k2,p2,k2.
4. Knit 3 rows even in MC, then 2 rows of CC, then 2 more rows of CC.
5. Start motif. Knit 40 rows of motif: start bottom motif at stitch # 60, and top motif at stitch # 10.
6. Start armhole: BO 10 st, k38, BO 10, k48. Next row, BO 10, k38.
Now turn, and first work the back.
7. Next row, sl1, SSK, knit till 3 st left, k2tog, k1. Purl next row. Repeat these two rows twice.
8. Knit 2 rows even in MC, then 2 rows even in CC.
9. K16, turn work. BO 4 st, purl across. Next row, knit to last 3 st, k2tog, k1, turn work and purl across. Repeat these two rows once.
10. Next row: sl1, k1, p2, k2, p2, k2. Knit 13 more rows as established. Bind off all stitches.
11. Join new MC yarn at back neck RS, BO 4 st, knit across. Purl next row. Next row: sl1, SSK, knit across. Purl next row. Repeat these two rows once.
12. Next row: sl1, k1, p2, k2, p2, k2. Knit 13 more rows as established. Bind off all stitches.
13. Join fresh MC yarn at beginning of RS row. sl1, SSK, k13, k2tog, k1. Purl next row. Next row, knit to last 3 st, k2tog, k1, turn work and purl across. Repeat these two rows once.
14. Sl1, knit till 3 st left, k2tog, k1. Purl across. Repeat these two rows once in MC, once in CC.
9. Next row: sl1, k1, p2, k2, p2, k2. Knit 13 more rows as established. Bind off all stitches.
Using CC yarn, single crochet (SC) along the neck starting at left front opening. At the V and U neck joins, use a double crochet stitch. Repeat SC for right armhole, starting at back armhole opening. Repeat also for left front and back armhole openings. Sew on 5 buttons, and weave in all ends.
With motifs, I can never decide whether to do them via duplicate stitch or knit them into the main fabric. Duplicate is easier, but I cannot shake off the irrational idea that it is cheating with the knitting. I like colourwork in general, and enjoyed knitting the motifs into the main fabric, but the wild jungle of loose ends it generates at the back, especially with an asymmetrical pattern across multiple rows and stitches, is a royal pain. But I did patiently weave them all in in the end, and for good measure, added a few duplicate stitches here and there where I felt the Kannada motif could use some fine-tuning.
Overall, am pretty satisfied with the results. The recipient seems pleased too!
A couple of months back, I finished a long-running project: a February Baby. A boy design, my own!
So of course, I had to make a February Baby sweater for him:
Last year I made my first February Baby Sweater but posted about it in March. This year, thanks to the new arrival, I’m getting around to it only in April. Let us see if this monthly progression continues with more FBSs down the line..
Pattern: Baby Sweater on Two Needles; Practically Seamless (Elizabeth Zimmermann, Knitter’s Almanac)
Yarn: Socks that Rock Fingering, in Vancouver Violet, maybe half a skein. Needles: Size 5. Gauge: 5.5 spi in garter stitch. Size:To fit a 7-8 lbs newborn. 7.5″ total length, 18? chest circumference, 7″ shoulder to armhole, 4″ neck to armhole, and 4″ armhole to wrist.
I scaled the pattern down to fit a newborn – started with 50 stitches and went up to 148 stitches in 10 garter ridges. Then I did four pattern repeats, before dividing at the armhole. Then I measured him as I went along for the sleeve and body length. It fit perfectly when he was a week old, and he pretty much lived in it till he was a month old, but as March rolled around, it got too warm to wear. He still wears it occasionally at two months, but it’s now a little short at the sleeves.
The sleeve instructions of this pattern, anyway a very loosely worded one, are somewhat ambiguous. Racing to finish the sweater amidst a suddenly, radically changed sleep schedule and a new person to get to know, I totally botched up the picking up of the stitches at the armhole for the body. I picked up too few, and as a result, the sleeves didn’t quite sit flat and right. But the edges folded in very cooperatively, so I just sewed the sleeves in with a seam allowance.
Terrible to do it, I know, and even worse to photograph and blog about it. I should have snapped the picture, frogged the body, redone it with the right number of stitches and detailed the repairs. But honestly, an heirloom object as this first project for my son will likely be, I couldn’t have cared less at that point, and neither did he. I was just thrilled to finish it and put it on him!
The newspapers were already full of detailed updates about his failing health, and after several years of frailty, nobody could deny a sense of foreboding, even resignation about the news to come. After all, Bhimsen Joshi was nearly 90. Life and death themselves are blurred now for weeks on end by ventilators, stabilizers and all kinds of other gadgets. I have also often asked myself if it really matters that Lata Mangeshkar is still alive, or that Mohammed Rafi and Kumar Gandharva are not, when their voices, their music and the magic they made will forever be alive in my ears and heart no matter what their mortal status. But there still comes that moment of silence, finality and emptiness, and it came last week for one of Hindustani music’s giants.
Working through the emotions that have been running through me the last week led to several dispersed ruminations about memory, music and family. The Anecdote (and more generally the Memoir) is arguably the most powerful means of transmission of knowledge about the social world of Hindustani music. Scholarly histories of Indian music often lament this because of the difficulty of corroborating and documenting it, but the personal or familial memory retains a powerful charge, shaping the public discourse and the aura surrounding past musicians, musical culture and their received history. The gharana organization of musical knowledge and history and the scholarly, historical study of gharanas as discrete units have their own pride of place; serious, expert analysis is likewise indispensable. The archive of anecdotes, however, is like a giant set of lively strands from Salman Rushdie’s famous sea of stories that makes up the historical memory of the musical world, and renders the individual musician at once larger than life and intensely personal, both eccentric and everyday.
Bhimsen Joshi’s exploits, in this genre, are legendary, from his incessant roaming of the country in search of a teacher, to his binge drinking, to his craze for cars and love for driving, to his inimitable, bodily style of singing, to his love for food. I need not repeat them here. The best and funniest one in English, even though it doesn’t really make him come off as lovably as many others do, is in Sheila Dhar’s Raga’n Josh, (pp. 142-145) the brilliant, master text of this “Memoir genre” of Hindustani music. But hundreds of people from Gadag to Gwalior to Kolkata to Patiala have a small, marginal, intensely personal Bhimsen story to tell, and indeed, retelling these stories appears to have been a principal means of articulating the sense of loss and sadness these last few days.
From as long as I can remember, we have told and retold anecdotes about Bhimsen Joshi in our family. My father knew him well as a young man, growing up in the same social, and musical circles of northern Karnataka spanning Gadag, Bagalkot, Dharwad, Hubli and Belgaum, his connections forged especially through his guru Shyamacharya Joshi, with whom Joshi also learned and worked in his early years. Shyamacharya was a quiet, retiring man with a genius for rendering devotional Kannada poetry by Purandara dasa and others into the most soulful Hindustani classical tunes; he also had a penchant for deadpan, one-line observations about the local musical world. If my introduction to the signature melodies of raga Kafi or Tilakkamod or Tilang came through his daasara pada compositions, my initial hazy sense of this rich and quirky world of small-town musicians and music-lovers in northern Karnataka to which my family belonged came from my father and his siblings’ retellings of his quips and observations. Bhimsen stories and the antics they all got up to – humbling a pakhawaj player here, singing a really long Darbari there, a really fine rendition of the Marathi natyasangeet chandrika hi janu sung for nearly ninety minutes, the raga Pilu tune composed for a staging of the Nala Damayanti play, the crazy shopping trip in the middle of it all – were central to these.
The stories that I most enjoyed were of Bhimsen Joshi’s sudden, unannounced driving trips to our house in a tiny town near Pune. He usually demanded a particular kind of Karnataka-style avalakki loaded with raw mango chutney and stuffed fried chillies from my mother, ate a mountain of it, and drove off after pronouncing upon its authenticity. I was too young to remember those visits, but can certainly trace my first memory of a live Darbari Kanada rendition to one of his performances in our town. Many such live concerts were to follow over the years as I became a regular at his Sawai Gandharva festival in Pune and became familiar with his early morning signature performances of Komal Rishabh Asavari Todi or Lalit Bhatiyar, but these too did not wipe out the energy and devotion he generated in the room with a Marathi abhanga concert in memory of our school principal. At Sawai one year, he gave my sister and I his characteristic piercing glance, and asked after my father. We were a bit startled that we looked so obviously like our father that Bhimsen Joshi Himself should recognize us and directly address us so, but before either of us could find our tongues he patted me on the shoulder and said, “Don’t waste time at the coffee stall here – Rashid Khan is going to go up next, find a place to sit down and listen to him carefully.”
And yet, as a teenager I also found myself increasingly dissatisfied. The ye olde, and seemingly pointless, stories bored me and what I perceived as excessive Bhimsen devotion weirded me out. My teenage self could not comprehend why my father had chosen to channel his own stellar musical talent into a personal and private spiritual experience. I fervently sought separate musical tastes, musicians who weren’t so obviously popular, others who were more self-consciously high-brow, and still others who were equally popular but just different. Being part of the Pune musical circles in college, which take their love for their favourite artists rather seriously, just bolstered this sentiment. I craved a more serious, technically informed, musical ear for myself that wasn’t, as I simplistically characterised it then, so rooted in “extra-musical stuff.”
Now I cannot believe I listened to so much Jasraj at the time – what was I thinking?! But mercifully, this effort to get away from the Bhimsen-inflected musical memories, bhajans, taans and bandishes also made me voraciously seek out his contemporaries – Kumar Gandharva, Mallikarjun Mansur, Kishori Amonkar or Amir Khan – as well as a lot of younger musicians. It made my musical ear all the richer over the decades, to be sure, even if not as technically informed as I had dreamed. But in recent times I also find myself returning to some old Bhimsen favourites again and again – an electric live Durga, the joyful Shuddha Kedar that inevitably comes to mind after a rain shower – saawan ki boondaniyaan – the incredible richness of his Malkauns, or the way in which only his sombre and reassuring Shuddha Kalyan can drive away my unexplained and persistent twilight blues. I am in awe yet again of the impossible energy of his music commanding those clouds to gather, umad ghumad, pell-mell, and burst with rain, his eyes just as piercing as his voice, compelling us to follow the trajectory of the notes and visualize the gathering storm.
I confess I am still not fond of his interpretation of many Kannada bhajans – the recordings are harsh and abrupt, and the melodiousness of Shyamacharya’s tunes, which captured the essence of the devotional poem for me, are missing in them. The Marathi ones, on the other hand, are sublime – magic is indeed a Bhimsen abhanga in Malkauns.
Our extended family had occasion to remember many of these stories over the last few days, Shyamacharya’s quips and tunes mixing in once again with replays of some of our favourite Bhimsen recordings – both classical, and “light” ones in Kannada and Marathi. As always, these also mixed in with Dharwad-Bagalkot lore, the older generation’s stories of migrating from northern Karnataka to Pune, their initial mishaps with the Marathi language, untranslatable bilingual Kannada-Marathi puns and jokes, and more.
Listening afresh to the retellings and the devotional tunes, I like to think my more mature ear can appreciate how finely the strands of family memory, musical knowledge and community are woven in them. Instead of merely supplementing or sullying an ideal, objective narrative of biography, either of a gharana or an individual musician, these strands challenge the very claims to such singularity beyond the bare arrangement of facts. They are marginal, as in they do not impinge in any significant way on the “track to greatness” narrative of the musician, nor are they especially technically insightful. But they are rich and ubiquitous. They compel us to acknowledge how such an ‘appreciation’ of individual musicians and our knowledge of the social world of music, indeed, musical knowledge itself, produce and reproduce each other at intensely personal, familial and communitarian levels all at once.
The Bhimsen legacy cannot but range freely across all these levels, much like the great man’s own inimitable voice ranged, and will continue to range, across the octaves. Even to write RIP after such a restless life and voice seems pointless.
Thanks, everyone, for the positive feedback on the lace cardigan, here and on Ravelry – I am writing up a pattern as I make up another sample, and will hopefully have one up here soon.
It seems that hardly any time has passed since I sat on my favourite couch at my parents’ in Pune, soaking in the winter sun and posting and complaining about projects and years past and future. And yet, that was two years ago! Much has happened since then, the happiest turn of events being that I can now visit and hang out on this couch more often, being back in India and in the same time zone instead of continents and insanely long plane rides away.
Although the last year now seems like a blur of brown boxes, shipping labels, to-do lists, plane tickets and lots and lots of painful goodbyes and equally painstaking unpacking and fresh relationships, I am happy that it has way more than fulfilled my cautious hope for it last January. What I am most amazed about is that I actually managed a fair bit of knitting through all of that.
If knitting projects are any guide, then 2011 seems to have begun well:
Yes, it’s a Clapotis, in Brooks Farm Mas Acero. I did a total of 10 increases in the initial increase section, and am now in that mind-numbingly boring straight repeats section. I want to make it large enough to wrap around me like a big shawl, though, and I have three large hanks of the Mas Acero, so I shall plod my way through it. Never has an easier and duller process produced such a gorgeous end result, as nearly 17000 projects on Ravelry show!
I thought of a million different projects for this yarn, but somehow, as often happens, it picked its own project. Nothing like 50-50 wool-silk worsted goodness to wrap around myself on an early morning walk. Within a week, I had knit this much, and my plan is to finish it in the next two. I have another ongoing project that is moving rather slowly and not really blogworthy… between that, the Clap and my second lace sample, I think I have my hands full for January.
Finally. I completed one of the most challenging projects I have done to date. No, it’s not an Orenburg shawl, or an Alice Starmore fair isle, or even a Norah Gaughan geometric masterpiece. It’s a simple kid’s lace cardigan, but one that I worked out totally from scratch, entirely my own design from stitch pattern to construction to detail, trying to flesh out a very particular picture of it I had in mind. I was so wrapped up in it that I totally forgot my blog’s FIFTH freaking anniversary back in November!!!!!
Voila Arohi’s cardigan, the end result of many, many swatches, maths calculations and frogged versions:
I mentioned earlier that I first started with this lace cardigan from Knitty, but just couldn’t get the lace pattern to flow, or the gauge and yarn to work. I wanted to use the same yarn, plus I wanted a more intuitive lace repeat, and, if possible, a seamless raglan.
I picked a simple leaf lace motif, the same I had used for the kiri shawl, and cast on from neck downwards. Since the leaves have a fixed number of stitches and I wanted to avoid any bands of stockinette if possible, this was a bit tricky, but it worked out beautifully in the end. I started with one leaf each for the fronts and sleeves, and two for the back, and the leaf shape blended neatly into the raglans, as well as the tiny v-neck:
The best part of all, however, was that the pattern continued seamlessly even at, and past, the raglan joins at the armhole. Figuring this out without gaping holes or lines going awry was the hardest part. But honestly, my – ahem – nimble fingers apart, so much of this symmetry is inherent in the maths of lace patterns that you just have to pay attention and let the motif guide you. I was quite pleasantly surprised when I first realized how the leaves were coming together at the raglan join, then excited, terrified, and supremely pleased, in that order of emotions, as I worked out the decreases.
No doubt, this is old hat to anybody who’s designed anything mildly complicated, but hey, it’s my first time. Also, I badly want to write this pattern up, but my notes scribbled as I went along are now quite indecipherable, and I am terrified again of the calculations. The fact that the beginning of each round of the sleeves kept changing due to the lace pattern was a bit intimidating, and I have no idea how to write out the instructions, let alone graph it. But I would like to, just to learn the damn process, and note down some variations and such, so let’s see. Right now just seeing the leaves cascade down the raglan is putting a big grin on my face.
Pattern: Arohi’s cardigan (lace cardigan for a 3 year old) Yarn: Adreena’s Supreena Pure New Wool, fingering, 75 gms, approx. 450-500 yards
Some random acrylic in deep green for the border, approx 75 yards? Needles: size 4 (3.5 mm) circulars and DPNS Gauge: 6 spi over stockinette stitch, using size 4 needles Dimensions: total length 14″; length from armhole to bottom 9″; raglan depth 7″; neck 6″ wide; sleeves from underarm to wrist 9″; bell sleeves width 6″; chest 26″
This one is all ready to be sent off – and you know you have a good pattern with you when you immediately want to make another one! I think my next one will be in cotton or acrylic, simply because I think these might retain the blocking a bit longer. But this one is whisper lightweight, and I hope it fits the little girl well.
This is a personal milestone for me in my own relationship to the craft and my understanding of how it works, no matter how simple it might objectively be – so it’s quite appropriate that even if a bit belated, it should mark five years of this blog, and my adventures in knitting!
All I’ve done this past month is swatch. Swatch, swatch and more swatch, for a good yarn, gauge and fit for this lace cardigan. Even the left front that I ambitiously embarked on eventually turned out to be just a giant swatch.
A friend of mine asked if I do items for sale, I said no, but I would be happy to knit something for her daughter, and picked this one out, as it seemed relatively simple, yet interesting and dressy for a kid’s cardigan. She liked it, we went back and forth a couple of times about fit and colour and yarn choices, and we decided on the lovely rust Supreena pure wool DK I had just found in a local wool store.
So I began swatching. First with size 5s. It was going to be too large. Then with size 4s. Still too large. Before going down a further needle size I checked the chatter on this pattern on Ravelry and found that pretty much everyone said the sizes ran very large, the 2 year old size fitting 4-6 year olds, and so on. The designer very kindly emailed me a revised pattern, but still cautioned me about the sweater being roomy, so I started over with the smallest size for a 2 year old, even though my friend’s daughter is nearly 4.
But after finishing the left front, I realised that somehow, it wasn’t working. The lace pattern means that blocking the fabric would be both a disadvantage and an advantage for kids’ sweaters, which could be stretched to grow but also turn out huge. But even if I nailed down the sizing, this particular lace motif somehow just eluded me. It is gorgeous, but unintuitive, and for every finished swatch I made, there were potentially several that were frogged midway because I kept making mistakes.
So, I finally decided to abandon this pattern. But the kid’s lace cardigan bug bit me, and I decided to play around with other leaf-like motifs. Plus the idea that kids’ sweaters should involve minimal finishing and fuss is also very deeply ingrained, so instead of separate pieces, am tinkering with a seamless one instead. Yes, that means figuring out diagonal increases and decreases, and… you guessed it, more swatching. The top one is Supreena on size 4s (6 spi stockinette), and the bottom is Bouton d’Or Mango cotton/modal, at 5.25 spi (stockinette).
I realised that I don’t really know how best to measure stitches per inch in lace patterns. Do you pick a stockinette row and measure there, or swatch a fixed number of stitches and then measure the entire swatch? But I may have finally hit upon some workable numbers and instructions, to the extent that I can pretend that the latest iteration is not just a swatch but may even progress into project-hood and escape early termination.
We shall see. What is knitting without some swatching pain?