You are currently browsing the archives for March, 2010
I have two referee reports to write, several undergraduate and graduate papers to mark, an interesting, but long, book in turgid academese to read and make notes on for next week’s grad seminar, my taxes to do, and myriad other tasks with *deadline* written all over them. But all I could seem to concentrate on in my to-do list in the last couple of days was this:
The third, and for now the last in my baby knits series: a stockinette-y version of the February Baby sweater by Elizabeth Zimmermann. It is testament to EZ’s legendary status in the knitting community that nearly five thousand people have made a pattern that comes without required yardage, finished dimensions or the specified age of the baby and some rather vague directions! For all my railing against the pink-and-blue school of gender stereotypes, I did decide to abandon the lace because this was for a boy. Once I did that it wasn’t as difficult for me to figure out what to do – it’s basically a variant of the five-hour top-down one-piece sweater.
Pattern: Baby Sweater on Two Needles; Practically Seamless (Elizabeth Zimmermann, Knitter’s Almanac)
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash (Wool) in 1919 (green), Lot 7208; Cascade Cotton Club (Cotton/Acrylic), 2702 (off-white). I used 1.25 skeins of the green, and about half a skein of the off-white.
Needles: Size 7 bamboos.
Gauge: somewhere between 4.75 and 5 spi (this was weird, because I usually get 5 spi with size 6 on Cascade 220).
Dimensions: With the increased stitches detailed below, the finished dimensions were 13″ total length, 21″ chest circumference, 5″ shoulder to armhole, and 6″ sleeve length. As you can tell from the pictures below, it fits seven-month-old Sahu fairly loosely, and my guess is these dimensions will be good for a baby up to 12-15 months as well.
EZ’s pattern begins with 50 stitches, and goes up to 148 stitches total at the point where the sleeves and body are separated. I wanted some more, because Sahu’s mum had requested a large sweater that would fit him for a while. So I added 8 more rows in stockinette after the last white garter ridge, and then added 34 stitches evenly across the next row, making the total 182. I then separated the sleeves and body this way: 28 (front)-40(sleeve)-46(back)-40(sleeve)-28(front), making 5 extra stitches between each of the fronts and the back. So after separation there were 112 stitches on the body. I also picked up 5 stitches at the sleeve joins, making each sleeve 45 stitches. Which was probably a bit excessive, and the sleeves were larger than I would have liked, because EZ’s original pattern itself has rather roomy, boxy sleeves.
I am in love with green. I have always liked the mossy, forest greens, but this year I can’t seem to get enough of shades of lime and sage and freshly cut grass. For a commercial yarn, Cascade Heathers has a lot of depth, don’t you think? I initially bought a skein of the white and the green thinking I would do a fair-isle type pattern on the body, but the Cotton Club was much thicker than I realised, so I used it for the garter ridges only. I think it works very well as a design detail – a thicker garter ridge rising up in the middle of stockinette, especially if you use the first knit row of the ridge for your increases.
Stonemountain, as always, delivered with some nice fern buttons, and can you tell how much I love my camera’s macro function?
Two babies in the same building in very different seamless top-down garments, both very very adorable!
Spring is finally here with some gorgeous warm weather. “Here comes the sun” is playing in the cafe as I type this post, the sun streaming through the windows and the trees in blossom outside. The latte is hitting the spot, and despite the grading, taxes, reading and reviewing that I have to finish in the week ahead, I am very happy that it is spring break. My students practically browbeat me into holding class on the grass outside on Friday, and I went on a picnic lunch with Alison, whose visit has been an occasion for more yarn crawls!
I also have another baby project to share with you, a little flowery kimono for Maya, a beautiful one-month-old. I was too terrified to photograph her in it, but Hima, if you’re reading this, do take a couple when she does wear it and send them to me!
This was a lovely, quick project made all the more interesting by the unusual, nubbly texture of the Elann Esprit cotton yarn (which is an identical, poorer, twin of Cascade Fixation). I knit it on size 5 needles, which is a fairly large size for how thin the yarn is, but it still resulted in a fairly firm fabric. I can’t determine whether it’s a purply grey, or a greyish purple, but I decided to jazz it up with the leftover Koigu from the Arch-shaped socks, and also have it sprout some flowers in its grassy texture.
Pattern: Baby Sachiko Kimono (Ravelry link; it’s available as a free Ravelry download).
Needles: size 5 bamboos
Gauge: 6 spi, I think
Yarn: Elann Esprit, cotton/elastic, 1.5 skeins and Koigu KKPM sock leftovers
I have linked to the Sashiko kimono pattern, but I used it just to start at the neck, and then basically worked on the fly as I went along – I didn’t add the side-slits on both sides, and I added buttons with loops instead of I-cord ties. I also shortened the sleeves and decreased a stitch each at both ends of the ‘join’ line of the sleeves at the cuffs, to give it a slightly puffed look. For the red trim, I picked up stitches all around the front edges and neck with the Koigu yarn doubled, and bound off purlwise with a larger needle on the next round. The red trim on the bottom was basically two ridges of garter stitch, then bound off purlwise.
The best part was crocheting the loops on, basically with a chain stitch – a knot on the wrong side with both ends of the yarn holds the loop properly in place. It helped that I found a ladybird-like button to go with the red flowers!
In the last post I said baby knits are difficult because of the odd sizing. I am currently on the third seamless top-down, and I’m also finding that working out interesting variations within the basic seamless raglan theme can be a lot of fun. An interesting design frontier! So far I’ve worked off existing, simple patterns because I’m pressed for time, but I imagine that’s where the design challenge for baby knits lies – you don’t want them too complicated with a lot of finishing because babies outgrow daily wear items fast, and yet you don’t want them to be too boring and repetitive either.
Firstly, check out Manisha’s version of my Stripey hat pattern, her colours are gorgeous!
Secondly, thanks for all the encouragement in the comments a few days ago to finish the blue baby sweater. I went ahead and finished it, and blocked it, and embroidered a likeness of the Cal Berkeley logo on it with a simple chain stitch, am am extremely pleased with the results! The slightly larger front was hardly noticeable, and it ultimately accommodated a very nice baby belly.
There is a saying in Hindi – daane daane pe likhaa hai khaane waale kaa naam (every morsel has its eater’s name etched on it). This sweater, it turns out, was fated for a wearer other than the one I first intended for it. One of my oldest and best friends unexpectedly visited me this past weekend with her daughter, who is quite plainly and simply the world’s cutest baby, and who gurgled and giggled her way into the sweater and my heart. It fit her perfectly, and her mum took away an extra skein of the Inca Gold to add length to it as she grows taller. The only challenge was getting her to be still long enough to take pictures of her in it!
Pattern: Toddler Tunic by Staci Perry of verypink.com (.pdf link).
Yarn: Berroco Inca Gold, pure wool, in 6425 Azul Marina.
Needles: Size 6 (4mm) addi turbos.
Size: 21 inches chest circumference, 12 inches total length, 5 inches armhole to sleeve, 7 inches armhole to bottom.
Gauge: 5 spi.
Babies are hard to knit for! You’d think it’s easy to size baby knits because nothing has to be form-fitting, but sizes and intended ages vary so wildly that it was very stressful trying to figure out just how many to cast on and what length to aim for. I think for the most part one can err on the larger side because they’ll eventually grow into the clothes, but this is not very helpful if you are making something out of wool meant for warmth and by the time the next winter rolls around the baby has outgrown that size altogether. Some patterns are written with 3-month spans (9-12 mths, say) and others, like this one, 12-24 months which seems pretty wide, no? I was aiming for a 9-12 months with this pattern. As it turns out, my gauge was correct, and it fit 8-month-old Mira like a comfy weekend college sweatshirt right now, but her mum assured me it would fit for several months more in width, if not in length. So I am relieved, and am going to use these notes as a guide for when the next baby sizing panic hits me.
Now I’ve cast on with a different yarn and pattern for the baby this was initially meant for. I had thought this would be my spring of socks, but so far it is turning out to be quite the baby knits marathon, which I am enjoying a lot more than I thought I would – despite the fact that nearly all are variations on a seamless raglan theme, there’s a lot of nice baby patterns out there!
When I first put Rocket Singh in my Netflix queue a couple of months ago, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The bag of reviews was mixed; some said it tried too hard to be offbeat, others said it didn’t try hard enough, some said it was boring, others said it was the best, under-rated film of the year, etc. etc. It wasn’t bad at all, even though it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped it would be.
It stars Ranbir Kapoor as Harpreet Singh Bedi, a young man who barely passes his B.A. exam but is eager to try his luck at the one thing he is good at – making a sales pitch. He lives with his grandfather (a wonderful Prem Chopra, who is enjoying quite the comeback after years of being the snazzy ’70s villain), hangs out with some friends, and applies for a salesman’s job in a company of assembled computers. His eagerness and quick thinking get him the break, but equally quick thinking when faced with a moral dilemma lands him in hot water. He realises that making it in the cutthroat world of sales requires more than smooth talking – there are other kinds of grease that are important to closing deals, and his new boss humiliates him for his stupidity and naivete when faced with a corrupt client. In the doghouse, attacked by jeering colleagues with paper rockets, he fumes and swallows his rage, and then slowly and quietly rebels – he creates a rebel sales organisation within the one he works for, a company that practises all the ideals that his rotten company has eschewed: customer service, deliveries on time, etc. Not surprisingly, a period of dizzying success is followed by dramatic exposure, and then the final confrontation and denouement.
A lot of good, offbeat Hindi films start off very well, many hold their steam for a good bit of the narrative, but very few end well. I don’t mean a happy ending, obviously, I mean the ability to bring the story to an efficient and elegant close. Most go on for too long – this one is rather insipid after the neat buildup. It’s very bare bones throughout, relying entirely on the script and very quick, idiomatic dialogue to carry it through, and that itself makes it totally worth watching. It’s very funny, with some moments of sheer genius – like the one where Harpreet’s immediate boss warns him never to write his real name and affiliation in a company’s visitors’ roster, to avoid the snooping competition. He points to a name on the list – “Vijay Dinanath Chauhan” – and Harpreet nods, his eyes widening in comprehension. A rival salesman has tried to disguise himself and play a trick on his competition by signing his name as the don Amitabh played in Agneepath, but we are left to work that out; it’s to Shimit Amin’s credit that he doesn’t hit us on the head with that joke.
For the most part, I like this genre that is more about dwelling on these everyday conversations, lives and spaces than about a plot or a message. A lot of reviewers don’t quite seem to know what to do with these films – they are clearly not the song-and-dance extravaganzas, the We-All-Live-in-the-West hip romances, the gritty, gangster bloodbaths or serious art-house cinema. A lot of them – Khosla ka Ghosla, anyone? – are simply about bringing a particular neighbourhood slice to life. They are the successors to the Sai Paranjpye movies of the ’80s like Katha or Saeed Mirza’s Nukkad, of course with a lot less political bite than the latter’s films. And their joy is in getting the little things right and striking a chord with anyone who’s ever been in these environs. The office ‘get-together’ in Rocket Singh is cringe-worthy and absolutely spot on, right down to the moment where the songs change and everyone collectively stops dancing just for a second, and then goes yaayyyyy as another favourite film number comes on. It’s all about etching the silliness and pettiness of these moments, and the body language and everyday accents of the characters – grandpa’s Punjabi, the techie’s Dakhni, the peon’s Shuddhh Hindi – rather than any deep psychological exploration or moral ambiguities. We are tempted to read into it a darker story about the moral compromises that petty employment and ambition force on you, and even a reflexive derision at the ease with which some ambiguous choices may be explained away with small gestures: Harpreet’s own cheating of his company, for instance, is explained away by his keeping meticulous accounts to pay it back at a later date.
But for all of grandpa’s shock at his grandson’s activities, he bails him out. If there is no melodrama, there are no wrenching moral choices to be explored either. So after an interesting first half, it flags in the second and remains very superficially focused on the thin storyline, and that’s what separates it from something like Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, one of the funniest, haunting evocations of lower-middle-class Delhi, its consumerist aspirations, its gaudy interiors and its wonderfully flawed, attractive and human characters.
Ranbir Kapoor was surprisingly tolerable and convincing as a well-meaning fellow who grows into his true self when put against the wall, and that too without any of the legendary dialogue to help him ‘emote’ his anger and frustration. This is the first film I’ve seen him in. I can’t get used to how like his mum he looks, though, and I kept thinking of him as a thin, tall and turbaned Neetu Singh. Like it took forever to get the idea of a badly dressed and awkward Sharmila Tagore, when seeing Saif Ali Khan’s ghastly early films. But he didn’t speak Hindi in this fake, I-don’t-really-speak-this-language-you-know kind of English-medium accent that many of the characters in the new urban-chic Hinglish films do. He managed to blend into the gritty, sales world quite well, I thought. The starlet who played his somewhat dumb girlfriend in the film spoke like that, though, and it was very annoying.
All in all, a friday evening enjoyable spent, with a finished project at the end, too, which I shall blog about shortly…
I decided to make two sweaters for two babies who were born recently, and happen to live in the same building (in different flats, with different parents). I thought it would be nice to make two different raglans, and jazz them up a bit with some embroidery – one for a girl, the other for a boy. I’ll blog about the one I did finish a bit later for the baby girl, but right now I want to vent a bit about the one that is about to retire in disgrace.
Body done, half a sleeve done, an hour’s work away from finishing up the sweater. I thought I would use some of the golden sock yarn I bought last week to embroider a Cal Bears type pattern on it. But I finally realised that what I thought was just the curl of the fabric is, after all, some serious mis-shaping, and proportion gone wrong. The front is wider than the back by nearly an inch.
WTF? I followed the exact numbers in the pattern (.pdf) all the way through. I got gauge (5 spi). I thought it would be a quick, yet interesting twist on the Reliable Raglan. Instead, it’s weirdly baggy in parts. I peered closely at the sample in the pattern and the photos of the finished projects on Ravelry, and oddly enough some of them do seem a bit loose in the front, but none of the 109 people who made this have complained about the bagginess. So maybe it’s just me, and I knit the front more loosely than the back…. I don’t know. See how one edge peers out over the other:
I hate it when such simple things turn out to be more work than they ought. Am also wishing it wasn’t a seamless raglan, requiring me to frog everything back instead of just one piece. After toying with a pattern of my own, I chose this one because it would be mindless plane knitting during my trip to Vancouver. But in the end I think I’m madder because I chose it over the Vancouver Violet sock yarn I was itching to start working on.
But you know what the weirdest thing is? This yarn really makes my allergies go crazy. It’s bizarre. I wound up a new skein last night, and sneezed like it was a contest and I wanted to win the largest-number-in-a-minute race. Having knit with wool for 30+ years, I still cannot believe that I might be allergic to it in this sneezy rather than scratchy way. Other yarns I have worked with recently have also made me congested, but not like this one. I keep looking at it suspiciously as if it’s the evil cause of the horrid allergies ever since I brought it into the house, even though that can’t really be true, can it? It can’t be casting a spell on my sinuses from within its plastic packaging in my closet.
Honestly, I could finish the sweater, block the front a bit aggressively and be done with it – like the baby’s ever going to notice, right? – but somehow I can’t bring myself to do it. And if I, usually of the If-It’s-Not-Glaringly-Visible-It’s-Not-a-Mistake philosophy feel like that, that must mean something. It’s going into the closet for a while as I contemplate a different yarn and project for this baby. And maybe start something with the Vancouver Violet. Like these lovely Maeve socks.
In the hustle and bustle of Stitches West, I almost forgot to post about my Arch-Shaped socks, which I finished a week or so ago.
Possibly the longest I have taken for a pair of socks without any cables or lace. Also a project that involved more frogging than most – as I complained, the mix of distraction and odd wording in the pattern made for lots of confusion, and then the more I tried to get things right, the more they went wrong. But, at any rate, here they are.
I like them a lot – they hug the feet very well, and the rib on the soles also gives a very pleasant, nubby feel on the soles. These are not socks to wear on a long hike, but on a short walk they feel very good. I had been a bit worried about that, but thankfully the ribbing is not annoying.
Pattern: Arch-Shaped Socks, (.pdf link, free!) by Meangirl
Yarn: Koigu KPM Solid, in Rust/1110, dye lot 152, just under 2 skeins
Needles: Takumi bamboo, size 0 DPNs (I also broke 3 needles in the course of this project, so you can imagine how much it stressed me out!)
Modifications: The pattern as written calls for a stockinette arch, but I followed a few others and continued the k3, p2 rib throughout. This is why I needed to pay attention to the increases along the stem of the sole, making sure the m1s were m1k and m1p according to the pattern.
The main thing is keeping track of these decreases and increases. This is not something I should have so much difficulty with, really, but I knit the pair almost exclusively while watching back-to-back episodes of Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes episodes (Netflix Instant Watch zindabad!), and it was often a few rows before I realized I had forgotten one increase or decrease and had to frog back. Also, m1 on a purl is extremely fiddly when you have to twist the yarn picked up between two stitches, twist it and purl through the back loop.
But this arch shaping style does offer a lot of design possibilities. If I make them again, I would cast on fewer stitches, like my usual 60. I followed the given number – 65 – because I wasn’t sure if modifying the stitch count would mess with the pattern later on, and now I know it doesn’t. (Note to self: reading a pattern through before starting is not such a bad idea!) 65 made it a little loose on the cuff and ankles for me; it was only much later that my maths-challenged brain realised that I could have cast on 60 and still stuck with the ribbing pattern. It would have just reduced one multiple. Duh.
Ah well. Warm, well-fitting, comfy socks. Do I really care that the decreases at the top centre are not the tidiest? Trust me, I tried, many times, to get them to be neater, but somehow, they look a bit ragged. Again, that’s not the pattern fault, I should have planned ahead to make one of the k3 bands flow smoothly from cuff to toe in the very centre, and worked out a neater formula for the arch-ribbing to flow into the toe. By the time I got to the toes I was so done with the frogging that I did it a bit half-heartedly. Anyway. Next time!
It’s Holi, and do I have some colour for you!
This was possibly the best Holi celebration ever. Well, the one when my roommate and I drank just enough bhang to waft around campus in a gentle breeze and the food tasted a lot better and we sang a lot of songs and found everything very funny was pretty spectacular. But it was a long time ago, and this year I had no bhang. This year I splashed around in some unbelievably rich and deep colours, and I didn’t even have to wash them off myself. What’s more, instead of holding my head and wishing everyone wouldn’t talk so loudly, a day later my hangover from Stitches is still a happy glow.
It was a lovely crisp day, and I saw a lot of dyers, vendors and designers I haven’t seen before. Kauni, Jordana Paige, Cheryl Oberle… and many, many others. One of my favourites was Tess’s Designer Yarns, which was like the perfect Holi colour stall with colours spilling all over, except nothing got on your clothes (photo taken with the booth-owner’s explicit permission for posting on the blog):
Manduka, who just finished her first ever sweater to wear in time for the convention, got an amazing number of compliments for it, which is really the best thing about such gatherings. I spotted at least twenty February Lady Sweaters, including two identical ones worn by two friends. I met Fickle Knitter, which was great – after years of reading each other’s blogs, it’s no surprise we plunged right into chatting. A couple of people recognized me, and more importantly, my Ogee tunic from the blog, which was totally awesome.
The best part, though, was seeing Laura, friend and fibre artist extraordinaire, after many years. She is still making magic in many different colours, and I was happy to take some of her yarn off her hands! I bought “Sydney”, a DK merino in a pale green.
So what else did I get? Sock yarn, sock yarn, sock yarn. Socks that Rock in Vancouver Violet (for the Olympics!) and since I’m going up there next week for a conference, I thought this was most apt for the plane knitting. I also got two gorgeous shades, Denim and Terra Cotta, from Anzula Luxury Fibers who truly had an exceptional palette. The one with just a hint of sage, is Tess Yarns’ Super Sock.
Finally, my coveted Blackwater Abbey yarn! Funnily enough, Marilyn of Abbey yarns had read on my blog that I was looking forward to getting some at Stitches, and so she went out of her way to make sure that I got the yarn and colour I wanted. I got some of their new sport weight instead of the worsted, in a lovely blue-purple called Indigo. I cannot *wait* to get started on it. Thanks, Marilyn!
I stepped outside the box this time, and consciously avoided the warm reds, maroons, pinks and browns I usually reach for. My eye kept catching the cooler greens, blues and purples and I went for some paler shades – partly to try something new, and partly to try a lot of the lovely cabled patterns out there that look better in these shades. My Ravelry queue is bursting with projects, and my fingers are itching.
As we drove back and I headed to a Holi dinner party at a friend’s house, my head swirled with ideas and colour, and the full moon rose gracefully in the sky. Really, as I hummed aayaa holii kaa tyohaar jhuume rangoN kii byochhaar.. to myself at night (trying to put the image of Sandhya’s weird dancing out of my head!), I didn’t miss the bhang at all.